Monday, February 9, 2015

Worst Twins of All-Time Series: Don Cooper

Welcome back to one of the most popular off-season series here at NoDak Twins Fan, the Worst Twins of All-Time. There have already been ten profiles of some players that played their worst while wearing a Twins uniform. Luckily most of the players went on to have careers beyond their time in Minnesota. 

Today's edition to the series played two sub-par seasons in Minnesota after not making his big league debut until age 25. He'd go on to a successful coaching career in baseball but he wasn't very good during his Twins tenure. Welcome to the dubious club, Don Cooper.

Cooper was born in New York City so he must have been excited to be drafted by the Yankees in the 17th round of the 1978 MLB June Amateur Draft. There would be some bumps and bruises on his way through the Yankees system but in 1980 he posted an impressive 12-7 record with a 1.93 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. He was close to making his debut.

After the season, New York failed to protect Cooper on their 40-man roster and this allowed Minnesota to swoop in and select him in the Rule 5 Draft. The Twins had to keep him at the big league level for the next season and he played in 27 games with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. He stuck out one more batter (33 SO) than he walked (32 BB).

Cooper would spend most of the 1982 season at Triple-A before being a September call-up. He was knocked around in most of his appearances by allowing 12 earned runs in just over 11 innings pitched. He walked 11 and struck out five with his WHIP ballooning to 2.21. Minnesota traded him to Toronto for Dave Baker following the season. 

According to FanGraphs, Cooper is the fourth worst pitcher in Twins history with a -0.8 WAR. All of that was accumulated in the 1981 season. Baseball Reference gives him a slightly positive WAR for 1981 (0.1 WAR) but a -0.4 WAR for 1982. His Wins Above Average (WAA) during his Minnesota years is calculated to be -1.0 above an average player. 

Cooper spent most of the rest of his career bouncing from different team's Triple-A affiliates. He'd play in Toronto, New York, and Baltimore before his career was through while making 11 more big league appearances with Toronto and New York. His playing career was over after the 1987 season with the Rochester Red Wings.

After retiring Cooper jumped right into the coaching ranks, He served one season as the pitching coach for the Single-A South Bend Silver Hawks in 1988. Following that year, he'd be moved up to High-A Sarasota where he'd be from the next three seasons. In 1992 he moved to Double-A, the Birmingham Barons, just a few years before Michael Jordan played there.

From 1993 through 2002, Cooper was named the White Sox minor league pitching coordinator. During that time he also served as the pitching coach for the Triple-A Nashville squad in 1995-96. He has served as the White Sox pitching coach at the major league level since 2002 and was part of the team's World Series Championship in 2005. 

He became the 38th manager of the club while serving in the role for the final two games of the 2011 season after Ozzie Guillen left the team. Chicago would go 1-1 in those two games and the club would hire Robin Ventura in the off-season. Cooper was kept on as the pitching coach.

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