|Start date 1996|
General manager Terry Ryan
Local radio WCCO
|Manager Tom Kelly|
Owner Carl Pohlad
Local televisions WCCO-TV, Fox Sports North
|Similar 2006 Major League Baseball, 2002 Major League Baseball, 2009 Major League Baseball, 2010 Major League Baseball, 1996 New York Yankees|
Prior to the spring training, the 1996 Minnesota Twins were projected to be a contending team. The team's chances significantly worsened on March 28, 1996. Kirby Puckett, the team's franchise player, had been tattooing the Grapefruit League (spring training) for a .360 average, but that morning woke up without vision in his right eye. He was eventually diagnosed with glaucoma. Several surgeries over the next few months could not restore vision in the eye. Puckett announced his retirement from baseball on July 12. After beginning the season under the melancholy cloud of the Puckett situation, Manager Tom Kelly's team finished the year with a 78-84 record, which put it in fourth place in the American League Central Division.
Individual players on the team did excel. Paul Molitor had a standout year in his first year back with his hometown team, playing as the regular designated hitter and winning a Silver Slugger Award at that position. He played in all but one game and hit .341 with 113 RBI and a league-best 225 hits. On September 16 in Kansas City, he collected his 3,000th hit, a triple off of José Rosado. He is the only player to obtain his 3,000th hit via a triple. Along with Molitor, Chuck Knoblauch also hit .341. Among the hits were 35 doubles. He also stole 45 bases. Marty Cordova had a respectable year, driving in 111 runs.
The pitching did not match the offense. Brad Radke, Frank Rodriguez, and Rich Robertson (the three R's) all spent the whole season in the starting rotation and had losing records. The team's experiment moving Rick Aguilera from the closer's role to the starting rotation was not a successful one, as he started only 19 games. Scott Aldred also started seventeen games for the team. Radke had the lowest ERA among the starters at 4.46. The rest were over five. Dave Stevens got the most saves at 11, but he was not an effective closer. Mike Trombley and Dan Naulty had effective seasons out of the bullpen, but nobody else had an ERA under five. Epitomizing the pitching woes, Mike Milchin had an ERA of 8.31 but the team still let him pitch in 26 games.
The only truly regular starters in the field were Knoblauch at second base, Pat Meares at shortstop, and Cordova in left field. In a less-than-encouraging sign for the team's postseason prospects, Scott Stahoviak saw a majority of the time at first base. Dave Hollins played 116 games at third, with Jeff Reboulet and Todd Walker also seeing time. Greg Myers and Matt Walbeck platooned at catcher. Rich Becker had the unenviable task of replacing Puckett in center field and played 121 games there. Right field was a mish-mash, with Matt Lawton playing 60 games at the position, Roberto Kelly 54, Denny Hocking 33, and Ron Coomer 23.
Starters by position
Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in
Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in
Other post-season awards
Outfielder Kirby Puckett won the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the Major League Baseball (MLB) player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team", as voted on by baseball fans and members of the media.