HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

June 11, 2007

The major league merry-go-round

By Jesse Menden

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with an old college friend who now resides near Milwaukee. We were talking some baseball, and she remarked that she didn’t recognize many of the names in the current Twins lineup from her days back at the ‘U’.

I thought to myself, “was it that long since we were in college?” In all reality, it has been just a few years, with lineups that have totally changed in a relatively short time.

Here are the Twins that were regularly in the lineup during my sophomore/junior year of college, otherwise known as 2002, also the first year the Twins made the playoffs since 1991.

C- A.J. Pierzynski
1B- Doug Mientkiewicz
2B- Luis Rivas
SS- Christian Guzman
3B- Corey Koskie
LF- Jacque Jones
CF- Torii Hunter
RF- Dustan Mohr
DH- David Ortiz

Wow, what a blast from the past. It seems like at least 10 years ago Mohr patrolled the outfield and Mientkiewicz was digging wild throws from Koskie.

Hunter is the only hold-over from those glory years when it wasn’t so much about watching good baseball, as it was “getting to know ‘em.”

But that is modern baseball. While glancing at other teams from the American League Central, it becomes quite apparent the Twins aren’t the only team that has significant changes to their lineup from just five years ago.

Cleveland has an all new nine and a different manager. Detroit is all different except for Brandon Inge, who is currently on the disabled list. In Chicago, Paul Konerko is the only starter remaining from 2002.

Even with their small payroll, Kansas City has managed to keep one starter in five years, Mike Sweeney. They do get a half-point for keeping it in the family, though.

2002 manager Tony Pena is gone, but his son, Tony Pena Jr., is now playing shortstop for the Royals.

If you look back two years prior to 2002, the Royals had an outfield of Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, and Jermaine Dye. Ouch! How bad do they wish they tried to keep them?

Including Cleveland, there are ten teams that have a completely different starting nine (or eight in the National League) since 2002. That is almost one-third of the entire league.

Of those ten teams, eight reside in the NL. Those teams are Florida, New York, San Diego, Milwaukee, Chicago, Arizona, Los Angeles, and Washington.

The only other AL team to have a completely different starting lineup is Tampa Bay.

The largest number of players one team has kept in their starting lineup since 2002 is three. The Yankees (Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter) and the Astros (Brad Ausmus, Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman) both have showed extreme loyalty in that area.

Seven teams have two starters remaining from 2002. Philadelphia (Jimmy Rollins, Pat Burrell), Baltimore (Melvin Mora, and Jay Gibbons who plays part-time), Boston (Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez), Oakland (Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis), Atlanta (Chipper Jones who is currently on the disabled list, Andrew Jones), St. Louis (Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds), and San Francisco (Rich Aurilia, Barry Bonds) are those teams.

Including the four AL Central teams, the remaining 11 squads have just one player that started in their lineup back through 2002.

Among the highlights is Vernon Wells who still plays for Toronto, Adam Dunn in Cincinnati, and Todd Helton in Colorado.

If you were wondering about pitchers, the trend does not seem to be that different. Minnesota has just two pitchers, reliever or starter, from their 2002 staff. Johan Santana, who started in 14 games and came on in relief 27 times, and Juan Rincon, who started three games and relieved 10 times, are the only two left over from that division-winning team.

Perhaps the permanent campaign for the Twins and all teams should be “Get to know ‘em.”

I just hope that in five years I’m not reminiscing about golden years when the Twins had the likes of Santana, Justin Morneau, and Joe Mauer.