State of the Team
1994 Record: 53-60, 4th in the BRAND NEW AL Central
1994 Overview: STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-RIKE!
1995 Outlook: Will there be a season? If so, where will Shane Mack be?
Players Lost - Free Agency
The seeds for the 1994 off-season were planted in 1993 when the (at the time) current collective bargaining agreement expired without a new agreement. A strike was a legit possibility and looked more and more likely as the 1994 season continued. On August 12, 1994, the strike began. On September 14, 1994, Commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the rest of the season and the playoffs/World Series. He was World Serious.
So, the 1994 off-season was super weird. No one was really sure how long the strike would last and some players retired and some left for other baseball pursuits. Kent Hrbek retired, which sucked. Shane Mack left for Japan, which sucked. The Twins lost two of their four best offensive players and they really weren't very good before that.
Welcome to the Scott Stahoviak era! Don't get too comfortable.
The Twins also lost Jim Deshaies and Rich Garces. Deshaies was a dishaster and Garces was a failed prospect who had a four-season stretch of effective pitching about four years later.
Players Gained - Free Agency
The Twins didn't really sign anyone of note, although they did sign some players who I had heard of. First, the Twins brought in Kevin Maas, likely in an effort to replace some of the power that was retiring/leaving. Maas didn't play in the Majors in 1994 and really, he barely played in 1995. He made it through 22 games before being cut loose and signing a Minor League deal to return to the Yankees. He never reached the Bigs again.
They also signed Greg Harris, a starter who had some relative success earlier in his career. Harris threw 32.2 innings, posted a dope 8.82 ERA and was gone by August. He will be forever remembered by me like this:
Jerald Clark was another '94-absent player, although he actually produced for the Twins in 1995. He hit .339/.354/.550 in 113 plate appearances. He hurt his knee in mid-June and never played MLB baseball again.
Finally, the Twins signed Riccardo Ingram, who had 10 plate appearances in 1995 but will be best remembered for having a cool name.
The strike brought one of the weirdest trades in MLB history and one that would have literally made the Twins Daily forums explode with vicious and delicious rage. Dave Winfield was traded on August 31, for a player to be named later. When the season was cancelled, there was no real reason to complete the trade. So, some executives from the Indians took some executives from the Twins out to dinner and paid the bill. AT THE HENNEPIN COUNTY TAXPAYERS EXPENSE, probably.
The Twins claimed Rich Robertson off of waivers from the Pirates. In 1995, he threw 51.2 innings and had a 3.83 ERA. Not bad! However, as we learned from American Beauty: look closer. He walked over 5 batters per nine innings and he barely struck out more than 6 batters per nine innings. Not surprisingly, Robertson was a train wreck of an earthquake of a disaster in 1996 and 1997, starting 57 awful games and posting an ERA around 5.5. Ah, the mid-90s.
Shane Mack left for Japan after the 1994 season. He likely made that decision at least partially because of the strike. I have no idea if the Twins tried to keep them or if they were allowed to try to keep him, but it would have been great if he had stayed.
My Own Personal Heartbreak
Back to Mack. I retroactively loved Shane Mack. I didn't appreciate him as a kid because I was Team Kirby and Mack was like his second fiddle. I should have made room in my heart for Kirby Puckett and Shane Mack, but that is my regret. I'll work it out in shock therapy. Had Mack stayed with the Twins for even three more seasons, he probably would go down as one of the best Twins of all-time. He was still a very productive player during his two seasons in Japan and he was even still pretty good when he came back to the States in '97 and '98. He dealt with a lot of injuries, but he played well when healthy. It's a shame that the strike stole Shane Mack from us. I blame everyone.
That being said, if he were to ever appear at Target Field, with this song playing...
I'd lose my mind applauding. I'd probably break both of my wrists and all the tiny bones in my hands.
Return of the Mack was released in February of 1997. Shane Mack returned to MLB shortly thereafter. It's not a coincidence.
Arbitrary Overall Assessment: F
An F for the Twins and an F for baseball. Seriously, there was no 1994 World Series. I mean, how do things get that bad? Labor strife and management control over employees are historical problems, but we're talking about a professional sport. Millionaires and Billionaires and blah blah blah. I'm just glad that things have been relatively peaceful ever since. Sports strikes are among the most baffling occurrences on Earth, at least to me. I understand crop circles better. I understand Sasquatch sightings better. I understand Matthew McConaughey better.
The Twins get an F, but I'm not sure what more they could have done differently. The strike sucked, to state the obvious.
Next week, we'll look at the 1995 off-season. See you then!