Friday, December 16, 2011

Farewell Michael Cuddyer

Yesterday, the Twins made it official by signing free agent OF Josh Willingham to a three year deal, worth $21 million. Today, we saw Michael Cuddyer and the Rockies agree to a 3 year, $31.5 million deal, officially ending his tenure as a Twin. Moving forward, this appears to be the best deal for the Twins as they will receive a first round pick and a sandwich pick between rounds 1 and 2 in the draft as well, in addition to the money they saved by signing Willingham. But as we look ahead to what Josh Willingham will bring to the Twins for the next three years, I want to step back and reflect on what Michael Cuddyer brought to us for the past 11 seasons.

People forget or for that matter never realized, that Michael Cuddyer was drafted 9th overall by the Twins as a shortstop out of Great Bridge High School in Virginia. He was then moved over to third base and advanced up through the system. Late in 2001, Cuddyer got his call up to the big leagues, but unfortunately spent the following two seasons going back and forth between the Twins and AAA-Edmonton. But by 2004, Cuddyer had earned his way in as a regular, filling in at just about any position possible, but primarily third base (He had been road blocked by Corey Koskie until his departure following '04).

Following the '05 season, Cuddy was moved to the outfield, and his career really took off from there. He drove in a career best 109 RBI in 2006, and then after two sub par seasons, he lead the Twins with 32 home runs in 2009, while carrying them to a Central Division crown. During his time here, Cuddy helped play a part in all 6 divisional titles under manager Ron Gardenhire ('02, '03, '04, '06, '09 &'10). And finally in 2011, he earned his first career all star game selection as he lead the Twins in most major offensive categories.

But as we all realized over time, Cuddy was not going to win us over with flashy stats. What he did do right was play baseball, "The Twins Way". And perhaps no one was a better example of that than him. He could play almost anywhere on the diamond (He even made a relief appearance in a game against Texas this year). He was sound defensively (I loved watching him play a ball off the baggy in the Dome and gunning out a runner trying to get a double). He became a clubhouse leader in the later years. And above all, he had tremendous hustle every single day (The best example of this is his triple in game 163 in the 10th inning).

Also keep in mind, Cuddyer was tremendous in his outreach to the to the community. He held an annual Twins Celebrity Waiters Event where all the proceeds went to his favorite charity, the Boys and Girls Club of the Twin Cities. In 2006, Cuddyer was the Carl R. Pohlad award recipient on the Twins (Most outstanding community service), and was the Twins nominee for the Roberto Clemente award in 2006 and 2011.

As you can see, on the field or off the field, Michael Cuddyer was the real deal. And in the last few seasons, he was the heart and soul of the Minnesota Twins. But now, his time in Twins Territory has come to an end (The saying goes,"All good things, must come to an end"). Its time to stand up and applaud what Cuddy has given us for 11 seasons. Because frankly, this team does not win 6 division titles in 9 seasons with out him. Perhaps no one has played baseball "The Twins Way" more better in the history of the Twins, than Michael Cuddyer has. He gave us everything he possibly could. In the end, all we can really say is thank you and good luck...

Thank You Cuddy

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