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  • Rod Carew Interview: Part 3 (Hicks, Gwynn and More)

    Over this past weekend, I was in Cedar Rapids to watch the Kernels play. On Saturday night, the Kernels and their fans celebrated Twins Night. TC Bear was in attendance, but the headliner was Twins legend and Hall of Famer Rod Carew. After signing autographs for fans and joining the radio broadcast for two innings, Carew talked to the media.

    In Part 1 of that interview, Carew shared his thoughts on his playing career. In Part 2, Carew provided his thoughts on working with today's players. In Part 3 today, Carew talked about various topics from his relationship with Tony Gwynn to his most recent conversation with Aaron Hicks.

    Carew talked about being very excited to work with the Twins, with Tony Oliva and Joe Mauer, during the upcoming All-Star festivities at Target Field. “It’s a great stadium, they did a heck of a job building the stadium. I know that the Twins are going to do a great job in representing the organization and baseball.”

    He was also asked about his thoughts on Tony Gwynn who just recently passed away. “Very, very upsetting. Tony and I are very good friends. When I was traded to California, he and I became very good friends. We spent time together during spring training. We always talked about hitting. He always wanted to talk to me about hitting. Over the years that I was out there, we just became very good friends. I would call him and talk to him about coming down to the University to help him with the guys. He always wanted me to do that. He was a guy with a big heart. He had a big heart, always willing to help people. He reminds me so much of Harmon, a very humble person away from the baseball field. He would talk to anyone, just like Tony Oliva. Those guys have that kind of personality that you can walk up to them and talk to them about anything and they’re going to take the time to do so.”

    Aaron Hicks said at Twins Fest that he spends a lot of time talking to Carew, working out and hitting with him, in the offseason in Southern California. He said during spring training that he talks to him frequently throughout the season as well.

    I asked Carew if he had talked to Aaron Hicks recently, and how he was doing. Carew noted, “Aaron Hicks, to me, is one of the most talented kids in the organization. I hate to see that talent go to waste. I just spoke to him and chewed him out. I told him, 'you can have all the talent in the world. I’ve seen players with your talent, but if you don’t learn how to play the game, understand the game, and you’re not willing to work hard and get better, then you’re just going to be in the minor leagues.' I had a very father-son talk with him.”

    He was also asked for his thoughts on the prevalance in shifts in the game today. He said, “I’ll tell you. It’s working out. I know they couldn’t put the shift on me when I played because they didn’t know where I was going to hit the ball. But, hitters have to understand that if they’re going to play a shift on you, you’ve got to try to make an adjustment where you can take the ball to the opposite field. If you want to keep pulling the ball and hitting into outs, then you’re going to have 0-3 or 0-4 days. They have to start making adjustments to take the ball the other way.”

    So, who in today’s game reminds Carew of himself? “One of the kids that I really admired since he came up was Derek Jeter. He used the whole field to hit. Played the game the same way every single day. The kid that I look at now is Mike Trout. The same demeanor, comes out every day, plays hard, has a smile on his face, and has a good time when he’s out there.”

    It was truly an honor to get to interview Rod Carew. He proved himself to be a true gentleman. As always if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to discuss.

    Carew photo from AP.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Here's hoping his tough love has the desired affect on Hicks. I agree about the talent. It's apparent. But maybe he just needs to get his energy level and focus up.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I'll be honest. I asked that question and was kind of expecting him to say something like, "He's a bit down, but he's going to be OK. We'll keep working."

      so when he came back with this response, it was quite surprising to me.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Question about Rod Carew for the old guys

      Carew transitioned from 2B to 1B in September of his age 29 season (1975). According to BB-Ref, he had been basically a league average defender. Bob Randall, the guy who replaced him, put up just 3.8 WAR player over < 5 years at 2B...

      Why did he move?

      edit: just found this:

      Back in 1967, Griffith had insisted that manager Sam Mele open the season with a Carew, a 21-year-old out of the Class A Carolina League, as his second baseman. Playing there, he was Rookie of the Year, was chosen for nine All-Star teams and was on his way to the fifth of seven batting titles in 1975.

      The Twins had grumbled, mostly in private, about Carew’s ability to turn the double play after a knee injury incurred on a pivot cost him much of the 1970 season. This was a quarter-century before the “analytics’’ craze, when baseball men could convince themselves turning a double play was more important than having a hitting machine at second base.

      The Twins had fantastic pivot man in Bobby Randall as Carew’s first replacement at second, but that .257 career average wasn’t quite Carew’s .334 in 12 years in Minnesota, now was it?
      Carew played 14 games at first base in September 1975, then spent the final 10 seasons (three here, seven in California) of his Hall of Fame career there. Early on, he was asked about the difference, talked of the baseball aspects and added:
      “You hear the wolves in the stands, too. They yell at everyone and about everything. As a second baseman, I wasn’t aware of that.’’
      Does anyone else remember Carew struggling to t urn the double play? BB-Ref says he was worth +2.4 dWAR from age 21 thru 29...
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Here's your mindblowing stat of the day: Rod Carew stole home 7 times in 1969. Seven!
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "The Twins had fantastic pivot man in Bobby Randall as Carew’s first replacement at second, but that .257 career average wasn’t quite Carew’s .334 in 12 years in Minnesota, now was it?" But the guys Carew replaced at first were John Briggs and Tom Kelly. Their combined average of around .200 was much farther removed from Carew's .334. Better defense at 2nd base and the offense replaced .200 average with Randall's .257. Pretty logical move.
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Does anyone else remember Carew struggling to turn the double play?
      I remember hearing that as an excuse/reason for the move, but I can't say I really saw it. I might not be quite an old enough old guy for the question (I was 10 at the time) and the only time I saw the Twins on TV was when they were on a national broadcast (Mon night or Sat afternoon) or when they played the Red Sox. And it wasn't a 60" HD screen, either. It was 19" black and white with fuzzy reception (before cable.)
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Carew was a good fielder, but he did miss most of one season after getting injured on a double play pivot. As he became a great hitter, the feeling was that it would save his legs and put a better defender at second by moving him to first.
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      I remember him as stringer bell described. They didn't like the runners trying to take him out at second base. They use to go in a lot harder than they do now. Carew quit stealing home after Killebrew missed the sign and swung at the pitch.
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