Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Twin Season of the Past - Shane Mack 1992

Shane Mack was my little brother's favorite player.  It was perfect because Kirby Puckett was my favorite and Mack was almost like the little brother to Puckett.   Well, maybe that isn't perfection, but it is poetic if nothing else.  Regardless, in most cases, there comes a time when the little brother "catches up" to the big brother.  They start to be more competitive in head to head sporting events, they get taller/bigger and they get more confidence.   Often, you can tell who grew up with big brothers, as they tend to be surprisingly athletic, due to competing against older kids as they grow up.

By 1992, you could make the argument that Shane Mack was just as good a baseball player as Kirby Puckett.  Some will scoff at that sentence and shut their laptops too strongly, breaking the escape key.  Some will immediately run to baseballreference.com to see if I am crazy. 

Are you back?

I'm not crazy, right?  Here is a chart for those who are too lazy to hit ctrl+t and then type in baseballreference.com, search Shane Mack, then hit ctrl+t, type in baseballreference.com, search Kirby Puckett, then open Microsoft Excel, create a chart with some stats, then move Google Chrome to one side of your screen, move Excel to the other, then start filling in the chart:

Shane Mack
Kirby Puckett

1992 was a freaking great season for the Twins left and center fielders.  Mack was every bit as good as Puckett.  He was probably a better outfielder by this time, but you can't just move Kirby Puckett off of center.  Mack got on base at a higher rate, stole more bases and was 4 years younger.  Kirby Puckett was 2nd in MVP voting that year; Mack didn't receive a single vote.  Mack was the younger brother after all.  George Bell received some votes that year.  Go look at his stats if you want to get a good laugh.  Puckett was robbed that year and should have been the MVP of the league.  Dennis Eckersley won, and he looks like Gallagher. 

MVP arguments aside, this was the second consecutive monster season for Shane Mack.  He was only going to be 29 years old in 1993 and the Twins were coming off of two straight excellent seasons.  Unfortunately, things did not play out as one would have expected in 1993.  Mack didn't play as many games, didn't steal many bases, didn't add any power and was just generally less exciting.  1994 was better statistically, but he only played 81 games that year.  He did hit 15 home runs and post a 147 OPS+ that year, but that means a lot less over the course of a half season.   Although, it wasn't like he was injured the whole time, as most of that season was lost to a Player's strike.

Then, Mack signed a monster deal to play in Japan.  I was only 12 and my family didn't get the newspaper.  We didn't have time, what with all the TV we had to watch, so I have no idea why he signed in Japan.  Now, I know it was a pretty big contract and there was some speculation that the strike could last for a long time.  By the time he returned to the U.S. , he was older and not really a full-time player. He also was not a Twin, so I didn't care. 

Mack's 1992 is very interesting to me.  The MVP vote shows that he was not a player that was strongly appreciated nationally.  He had just played for a World Series championship team and was one of the better players on that team.  He had a great balanced game, with power, speed and defense.  He is the type of player that would likely have been more appreciated now, with advanced statistics and metrics being more mainstream.  He played in the shadow of one of the greatest Twins of all time, but by 1992, he seemed to be reaching his equal.

I can't really remember if Shane Mack was appreciated in 1992.  I was 10.  My brother doesn't remember either.  He was 7.  I am sure there were some fans that appreciated him.  My brother did, although neither of us can remember why.  I do know that if anyone wants a fairly large volume of Shane Mack baseball cards, I can give that person my brother's number.  

No comments:

Post a Comment