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BEST TWINS PLAYER Minneapolis 2003 - Eddie Guardado

Readers' Choice: Torii Hunter

Torii Hunter has the fat contract, the Gold Glove, and the platinum, pre-scandal Kirby personality. But if you want to know why the Twins are regarded as one of the more admirable, fan-friendly franchises in all of sports, you've got to begin with Guardado. During the dreadful years when the Twins' pitching staff was a revolving door of putrid putzes, Guardado's tenacious willingness to take the mound in meaningless games earned him the moniker "Everyday Eddie." After a series of blown saves by LaTroy Hawkins became the biggest factor in the Twins' fall from contention in 2001, new manager Ron Gardenhire installed Guardado as his closer. Eddie responded with a team-record 45 saves, propelling the team into last year's American League Championship Series. Guardado rightfully objected to management's ridiculously puny contract offer after that sterling performance, but he's made good on his claim that he would put it behind him and not let it affect team morale once the 2003 season started. Everyone knows Eddie doesn't have the wicked array of pitches that fellow Twins relievers like Hawkins, Johan Santana, and J.C. Romero can bring to bear on opposing hitters; he gets by primarily on guts and guile. No pitcher in Twins history has appeared in more games for the ball club. And no Twins player has earned his salary more faithfully and completely.

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