Armed with a nasty split-lingered fastball, great control and pitches clocked consistently around 90 mph, Rick Aguilera of the Twins is one of the premier closers in the game. But his skills are wasted on a terrible team—Minnesota was 12-31 at week's end—that doesn't look as if it will get better anytime soon.
Over the last two years other clubs have approached the Twins about acquiring Aguilera, but Minnesota wasn't interested in trading him because he's not only one of its few good players but also its most marketable, after outfielder Kirby Puckett. Still, Aguilera has more trade value than even Puckett, especially to teams like the Braves or Red Sox, both of whom may be looking for a closer down the stretch. The financially strapped Twins say they will not deal Aguilera just to unload his salary ($3.8 million this season), but if a team offers a couple of young players who would be able to help them soon, they would consider a trade.
On July 7 Aguilera will have 10 years of major league service, including the last five with the same team, which gives him the right to veto a trade—and, believe it or not, Aguilera says, "I don't see any reason why I'd let them trade me. I'd need a good explanation, like if they said, 'We won't be able to sign you next year.' "
Under terms of Aguilera's contract, next year Minnesota has the option of keeping him at a salary of $4 million, while Aguilera has the option of leaving as a free agent. Aguilera says he already talked to the Twins about restructuring his contract so that he would take less money in 1996 in exchange for an extension beyond that season.
"It would be different if I was a young guy who'd never been to the World Series, but I have two Series rings," says Aguilera, 33, who as of Sunday had saved eight of Minnesota's 12 wins this year. "I make my home here. I like my teammates, my manager and the coaches. I want to win as much as anyone, but you can't be in a pennant race every year. If I can ride out a couple years, what a great thing it would be to be part of winning here again."
So Long, Zip
One of baseball's great characters, Don Zimmer, retired on June 6 at age 64 after spending 47 years in the game as a player, coach and manager. He was serving as bench coach to Rocky manager Don Baylor when he quietly left the dugout in the fifth inning of a game against the Cardinals and walked out of Coors Field. Our two favorite Zim stories:
?In 1982, while managing a horrible Ranger team, he aired out his players in Chicago after yet another loss. In the middle of his tirade he suddenly stopped and said, very sincerely, "I'm sorry. What am I doing? I shouldn't be yelling at you guys. You stink. I can't expect you to win. You might not win another game this year."
?That same season, while Texas was mired in a 12-game losing streak, a young baseball writer complained to Zimmer that covering the Rangers wasn't as much fun as he thought it would be. "Why don't you shut up?" Zim said. "You're young, and you've got your whole life in front of you. Look at me. I'm old, I'm fat, I'm bald, I'm ugly, I got a plate in my head. I'm the one with the worries."