Friday, February 8, 2019

The Soul Patrol II

Before the 2003 trade deadline, the Twins traded Bobby Kielty to Toronto in exchange for Shannon Stewart and a PTBNL. Stewart was the professional hitter and veteran presence the young Twins needed to make their playoff push. He joined a pair of homegrown Twins in the outfield, Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones.

All three players could hold their own in the field, ran the bases efficiently and intelligently, and hit the ball hard all over the field. With an infield known as "The League of Nations" with players from all over the world, the outfield decided to dub themselves "The Soul Patrol." They were in fact the second incarnation of the name, as Jones and Hunter previously teamed up with Matt Lawton in 2001 under the same nickname.

From the moment of the July 17th trade, the Twins went from 8.5 games back to first place by the end of the season. Stewart hit .322 and clubbed 22 doubles and 6 homers out of the leadoff spot following the trade. Stewart also brought patience at the plate, something the team's previous leadoff hitter, Jacque Jones, was not known for. His OBP of .382 in the second half was a big improvement for the top of the lineup, allowing Hunter, Jones, and the rest of the Twins' big boppers to focus on driving in runs.

Hunter was already a team leader, carrying the torch handed over by Kirby Puckett. Hunter and Jones came up to the big leagues together, along with most of the infield - Koskie, Mientkiewicz, Luis Rivas, and A.J. Pierzynski were all Twins' farm system products. Hunter was in the middle of his third straight Gold Glove campaign (he'd win 9 in his career). The addition of Stewart was another veteran in the clubhouse, leading the still young Twins to a Division Championship.

Jacque Jones was a free swinger, and was a less than prototypical leadoff hitter. He did have some very memorable moments in the lead-off spot, and held the team record for career lead-off homers until Brian Dozier passed him recently. Jones added some decent speed on the bases (double digit steals in 4 seasons) to his power bat. The trio of Shannon Stewart in Left, Torii Hunter in Center, and Jacque Jones in Right made the Twins solid defensively and dangerous at the plate. Though the Yankees bounced the Twins from the playoffs in the 2003 ALDS, Stewart did what he could. He hit .400 in the series, and made a great catch in Game 1.

Torii Hunter hit .429 with a homer in that series as well. Jones was just 2 for 16, but would fare better in 2004 hitting .300 in the rematch. Torii hit .353 with another homer in '04, and Stewart, hampered by plantar fasciitis, hit just 4 for 20. The Soul Patrol would be broken up when Jacque Jones became a free agent following the 2005 season. Shannon Stewart moved on to Oakland after the 2006 season, Torii Hunter would go the Angels in free agency after 2007.

1 comment:

  1. Just watched a highlight reel this morning that contained a really nice grab by Hunter. This post made me realize that I really should go out and add his signature to my collection.