Monday, October 22, 2012

#232 Tom Brunansky - Minnesota Twins

This is Tom Brunansky's first solo Topps card as he was part of a three player rookie card as an Angel in the '82 set.  Bruno is showing good form with his head down on the ball.  The dugout and dark shadow in the background makes Tiger Stadium the likely setting.  Check out Bruno's classic 'stache  in the inset. 
Player:  Tom Brunansky was part of an impressive core of Minnesota Twins who emerged in the 80's that included Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and Frank Viola all of whom were key parts of their '87 championship team.  It's easy to forget that Bruno came up with the California Angels.  In fact he was the Angels opening day leftfielder in 1981 but was sent down after he whiffed ten times with just five hits in 33 at bats.  The former first round pick couldn't crack the veteran laden Angels roster in '82 and was struggling at AAA Vancouver when he was traded to the Twins with Mike Walters and cash for Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong on 5/12/82.
The Twins used Brunansky in rightfield and he had an impressive rookie year with a .272/.377/.471 stat line and 20 homers in 127 games.  He didn't garner any ROY votes competing against a bumper crop of Wade Boggs, teammates Hrbek and Gaetti, and eventual winner Cal Ripken.
Brunansky was a consistent source of Power for the Twins but he never hit for a high average with his mark usually settling in the .240-.250 range.  The next five years he hit between 23 to 32 homers and drove in 75 to 90 runs a season.  Bruno wasn't one dimensional as he provided good range and a strong and accurate right field arm.
When the Twins won the AL West with 85 wins in 1987, they were underdogs when they faced the Tigers who surged at the end of the season to win the East with 98 wins.  Brunansky went the 7 for 17 with 4 doubles, 2 homers, and 9 RBI as the Twins upset the Tigers in the ALCS.  Teammate Gaetti, who also hit two home runs, was named ALCS MVP but it's hard to imagine a better series than Bruno's.  He came back down to earth in the World Series knocking just five singles but the Twins knocked off the Cardinals in seven games. 
Brunansky got off to a slow start in '88 and was traded to the Cards for Tom Herr in May.  He kept up his slugging ways with two 20 HR seasons in St. Louis.  He was traded by St. Louis in early 1990 to Boston for closer Lee Smith.  Bruno's power was never returned to the level he had as a Twin but he was consistent if nothing else.  He had three remarkably similar years for the Red Sox hitting 16, 15, and 16 homers with 71, 70, and 74 RBI.     
Brunansky left Boston via free agency after the '92 season and landed in Milwaukee.  He struggled greatly with a .183 batting average in 80 games for the Brewers which earned him a bench role for the '94 season.  After just 29 plate appearances in two and a half months he was sent back to the BoSox for Dave Valle.  He had a bit of a power surge upon returning to New England with 10 homers in 48 games.  Brunansky retired after the '94 season with 271 HR, 919 RBI and a .245/.327/.434 line. 
Flipside:  Believe it or not, Brunansky was offered a scholarship to Stanford to play wide receiver on the football team. While he doesn't conjure up memories of a swift runner but he did have two inside the park homers noted here on the back of his card as well as two 20 SB seasons in the minors.

Oddball:  Despite having that speed in his youth he wasn't a good base runner when it came to stealing bases.  Perhaps his managers thought he was faster than he was-although he stole 69 bases in his career he was gunned down 70 times.      
Bruno's inside the park grand slam is the only one in Twins history.  That must have been a terribly frustrating moment for the Brewers as Brunansky's ITPGS came with two outs and was preceded by two Paul Molitor errors and a walk. 

History:  Brunansky was one of those players who seemed destined for stardom.  Following some excellent minor league seasons he had a fine rookie year.  However he peaked early and although he had a decent career he never lived up to the hype laid on him while an Angel prospect.  As pointed out in this article on High Heat Stats, Brunansky is one of 27 batters who had an OPS+ of 125 or greater in one of their first two seasons and finish their career with an OPS+ of 110 or less. 
Brunansky is remembered by most fans as a Twin from the '87 team.  He also played in one All-Star game in 1985 but went hitless in one at bat.  Following his playing days Brunansky managed high school ball for a while before returning to the minors to coach. 
Brunansky was named the Twins new hitting coach on 10/22/12.

By the way, you can now follow me on Twitter @989baseball. Besides notifying followers of new posts, I tend to tweet off-the-wall comments and other things about baseball, sports, and life in general.

1 comment: