This is a new feature in my blog that will take a look at former Twin players and where they are now. For the first few months I will look at players from the 1987 and 1991 Championship teams. The first player we will be looking at is Tom Nieto.
For those of you who have not seen the 1987 Twins Win video, Tom Nieto’s interviews may have been my favorite part. Nieto was a class act who was a great fielder, a fun guy in the clubhouse, but was a sub par hitter (and that's being nice).
Nieto came up with the Cardinals and they believed he would be the successor to Darrell Porter. After batting .279 his rookie season they had high hopes. Nieto’s day in the sun came in 1985 in game four of the World Series. In a two strike count, Nieto laid down a suicide squeeze that scored the third and final run of a 3-0 victory for the Cards. Although the Cardinals went on to lose the series, Nieto would get another shot at a ring a couple years later with the Twins.
After signing with Montreal in 1986, Nieto was thrown in a trade with Jeff Reardon the Twins in 1987. Perfect timing for Nieto as the Twins went on to win the AL West and eventually the World Series. Nieto finally had his ring, although he did not have a single at bat in post season.
In 1988 Nieto went on to have what could be the worst season in major league history. He batted .067, going 4-60 with no extra base hits, one walk and no RBI’s. He did score one run that year. Another interesting fact about Nieto’s career is that he never stole a base. He finished his career with zero steals in three attempts. After trying to think of a reason why you would steal Tom Nieto, I tried to think of other major leaguers who could have finished their careers without a stolen base. Cecil Fielder? Nope, he had two steals in eight attempts. Ernie Lombardi? Nope, he had 8 career steals. Johnny Bassler? He also had 8 steals. Boog Powell? Even he finished his career with 20 stolen bases. As I looked through the slowest players by decade, I could not find a player who finished his career without ever stealing a base.
Nieto wrapped up his career with two more sub .200 seasons batting. His numbers just kept getting worse. After batting .279 his rookie year, he hit .225 in his only full season behind the plate. Then he hit an even .200 the next two season and never reached the .200 mark again.
So where is Tom Nieto now? He is coaching baseball in for the Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State league. The Cardinals finished the season 73-61 in Nieto’s second season as their manager and had a season full of excitement. They played 50 one run games and had 11 comebacks in their final at bat. The previous seven years Nieto had spent coaching in the Yankees organization. Nieto has spent a lot of this time developing young catching prospects as he was a great defensive catcher himself. He is now 43 and still enjoys baseball as much as he did when he came up in 1984. Who knows, maybe we will see him in Fort Myers leading the Twins to another championship someday.