Friday, May 20, 2011

Who's the All-Time Greatest Twins Player?

Who's the greater player, Killebrew or Puckett? (Photo: AP)
Yesterday, I wrote about a question that I was asked by Seth Stohs of Who are the all-time top five greatest Twins players? I dissected the franchise records for batting and pitching to get a grasp on the men that should be featured in the top five. I started the countdown yesterday with players three, four, and five. This means there are two players left to debate for the top spot as the All-Time Greatest Twins Player.

Both Harmon Killebrew and Kirby Puckett have their place in hearts of Twins fans.  With Harmon Killebrew's passing this week, both of these players are no longer with us. Making the separation between these two players is no easy feat.

Let's take a look at some of the major statistical categories and how these players rank on the Twins All-Time Players List:

Batting Average: Puckett (#3)
Killebrew (Not in the top 10) 

Games: Killebrew (#1) 
Puckett (#2)

At-Bats: Puckett (#1)
Killebrew (#2)

Runs: Puckett (#1)
Killebrew (#2)

Hits: Puckett (#1)
Killebrew (#5) 

Total Bases: Puckett (#1)
Killebrew (#2)

Doubles: Puckett (#1)
Killebrew (#7)

Triples: Puckett (#3)
Killebrew (Not in the top 10)

Home Runs: Killebrew (#1) 
Puckett (#5)

RBI: Killebrew (#1) 
Puckett (#3)

Walks: Killebrew (#1) 
Puckett (#7)

Stolen Bases: Puckett (#4)
Killebrew (Not in the top 10) 

There are other similarities and difference between these two stars. Each player was elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. Killebrew was elected his fourth time on the ballot and Puckett was elected in his first appearance. Both players had double digit All-Star Game appearances. Killebrew was selected to the Mid-Summer Classic 11 times and Puckett made the trip 10 times.

Out of the two players, only Killebrew was selected as the MVP of the American League. The closest Puckett ever came to an MVP was the 1992 season when he finished second to Dennis Eckersley. Puckett excelled on the defensive side of the ball and was awarded with six Gold Gloves. Killebrew was never fortunate enough to be honored specifically for his defense.

Killebrew and Puckett were both great leaders who fought for their teams to win at the highest level. Killebrew qualified for the playoffs three times and the closest he came to winning a series was the 1965 World Series. Puckett's teams only made the playoffs twice but found a way to win the title in both of those years. The heroics of Puckett in those series has been well documented.

Killebrew's Playoff Statistics
Games: 13
BA: .250
HR: 3
RBI: 6
BB: 14
OPS: .944

Puckett's Playoff Statistics
Games: 24
BA: .309
HR: 5
RBI: 15
BB: 8
OPS: .897

Killebrew and Puckett meant so many things to generations of Twins fans. It has been equally hard to see each of them pass on before their time. In this debate either player can be seen as a winner. They each provided the franchise of the Twins with attributes that will never be forgotten. As I wrote about earlier this week, Killebrew was the grandfather of this franchise. He paved the way for Puckett and all of the other Twins players that followed. 

As all of the statistics show, Puckett was the better player on the field. Even with a shortened career, Puck combined power, average, and defense to be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. Killebrew was the face of the franchise for generations. Killer was a great player but he was an even better man. 

It's great to have two players that can be cross-generational. I know I will tell my future children tales of both of these men. That's what is so great about this game of baseball, the eternal story that is passed from one generation to the next. There will always be a new greatest player, but there can only be one first greatest player.

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