There are a number of quotable players in the Twins’ clubhouse, but there is only one Michael Cuddyer. The 30-year-old right fielder hits home runs—he clubbed 32 last season—and no one in the game does better card tricks, but more than anything he knows how to respond to a reporter’s queries. Cuddyer did just that when Minnesota visited Fenway Park earlier this month.
David Laurila: Are you the most interesting person in the Twins’ clubhouse?
Michael Cuddyer: Man, I don’t know. It depends on what you would classify as interesting. I think [Jon] Rauch is a pretty interesting guy because of the tattoos that he has on his body and what those tattoos mean to him, each individual one that he’s got. To me, that’s pretty interesting.
DL: Has he told you what each one means?
MC: He’s told about a few. Some of them he doesn’t talk about, some of them he does. I also think that talking to a guy like Jim Thome is interesting, because of the teams that he’s been with and the history that he has in this game. He’s going to go down as one of the best hitters of all time—definitely one of the best power hitters of all time. To me that’s interesting, so it depends on what your definition of interesting is.
DL: Who is the funniest person in the Twins’ clubhouse?
MC: We’ve got a lot of characters in here, but for me it’s probably Matt Guerrier, mostly because he doesn’t really try to be funny. He’s just funny. His antics—not just what he says, but the way he says stuff and some of the things he does around the clubhouse… yeah, he’s a funny guy.
DL: Is he straight-man funny or is he kind of goofy?
MC: He’s a goofy guy; he’s pretty goofy. I think that [Kevin] Slowey tries to be funny—sarcastic, quick-witted and things like that. Guerrier is just goofing around a lot.
DL: Who’s smarter, Slowey or Brendan Harris?
MC: I don’t know. I think we’d have to sit them down for a test to figure it out. But it depends on what you’re talking about. I think Harry is smarter in the political realm and Slowey, maybe, in general knowledge. With Jeopardy questions, Slowey might have the edge. But if you tried to get on “Crossfire” on CNN, then Harry would definitely have the edge in that realm.
DL: Who is the most opinionated guy on the team?
MC: Harry is definitely opinionated. I’m definitely opinionated. Slowey is opinionated. Orlando [Hudson] is pretty opinionated. And none of guys I just mentioned are scared to state their opinions, either.
DL: Can you give any examples?
MC: Well, if we’re having a conversation about the history of the game of baseball and trying to compare generations, or something like that, I’ll believe in X and Orlando will believe in Y and we’ll never agree. At the end of the conversation we won’t even agree to disagree. We just straight up disagree on everything and it’s because we’re both opinionated. Once we see that the other is going in the opposite direction, it’s like we pull harder.
DL: Who in the clubhouse knows the most about baseball history?
MC: That’s a good question, too. I think our bench coach, Steve Liddle, knows a lot about baseball history. I take great pride in knowing a lot about the game—about the history of the game. We have little quizzes and tests all the time, kind of trivia questions. Rick Stelmaszek, our bullpen coach, knows a lot about the game. We have a lot of baseball buffs in the clubhouse.
MC: Unbelievable. I mean, to be able to just sit and talk with them… and Thome as well. To be able to sit and talk with guys who are in the Hall of Fame, or are going to be in the Hall of Fame, and it’s not just, “What were you thinking in the batter’s box?” or “Look at my mechanics.” It’s the stories they have. It’s listening to Tony talk about the three home runs he hit in Kansas City back in the day, and how he should have had four. He’ll tell you that every time you talk to him. Hearing those stories is what makes having those guys around special.
DL: Athletes sometimes claim they don’t pay attention to what is written about them. Who in your clubhouse can be believed when he says that?
MC: To an extent, I think there are quite a few. I think Orlando doesn’t read much about what is written about him. I don’t read much of what is written about me and it’s purely because I believe in the philosophy that if you read it too much, you’ll start believing it—good or bad. In this game you don’t want to let outside opinions start affecting the way you think about yourself or the way you play the game.
DL: How do you play the game?
MC: I try to play the game the right way. I try not to make mental mistakes. I try to come through in situations that I’m asked to, whether that’s getting a guy over or trying to get a guy in. I feel that I give it 100 percent every single time I’m on the field. Whether I hit a ground ball to second base or I hit a ball in the gap, I’m going as hard as I can the whole time. I also like to think of myself as a guy who will stick with his teammates.
DL: Just 100 percent? A lot of guys say they give 110 percent.
MC: You can’t give 110 percent. There’s no such thing as 110 percent unless you’re talking about something like the amount of calories you can take into your system as opposed to what the daily allowance is.
DL: How hard is it not to use clichés in the typical baseball interview?
MC: It’s difficult, because clichés are around for a reason. Most of the time they’re true, and they’re safe. They’re there, and obviously they’re been invented over the course of many, many years and many, many interviews, for those two reasons. I don’t think there is anything wrong with clichés. I know the general public probably doesn’t want to read them, because they’ve read them a thousand times, but there is a reason you’ve read them a thousand times.
DL: Which of your teammates is most likely to say something totally off the wall in an interview?
MC: Denard. Denard Span. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but at the end of last year we were coming in against the Tigers and he said something… I can’t remember exactly what it was. But he’s definitely the type of guy who isn’t going to use a cliché. He’s different.
DL: Given the intense media scrutiny in today’s game, are players more hesitant to be colorful than they once were?
MC: I think so. I think guys are more careful with what they say, a little more guarded in the things they say. But I don’t think it has necessarily taken away the colorfulness. Maybe it has in the fans’ perception, because the media is the direct liaison between the players and the fans, and sometimes when players are a little more apprehensive around the media, the fans don’t get to see their true selves.
DL: How different is a big-league clubhouse once the media leaves?
MC: It’s not terribly different. I think that when the media isn’t in there, it’s closer to game time, so it’s a little more serious because you’re getting prepared. The only other time the media isn’t in there is directly after the game, and if you win it’s usually a little more jovial and if you lose it’s probably much more subdued.
DL: Who on the team is most likely to know his stats, if not his advanced stats?
MC: A few years ago that would have been me, but I’ve gotten away from that now. Morneau. [Justin] Morneau knows his stats; he knows numbers. I think that everybody knows their stats to an extent.
DL: Why have you gotten away from stats?
MC: It’s funny, because I play fantasy football, but I think fantasy sports are starting to ruin the images that fans have of players—the way they perceive players. If they’re not scoring them X amount of points a week in their fantasy league, they automatically think they’re not a good player. I understand that baseball is derived around numbers, and that it is a stats game, but there are a lot of instances on a baseball field that you can’t translate to fantasy stats. They can’t help your fantasy team and because of that, some really good players don’t get the credit they deserve. Sometimes they even get skewed because they don’t steal the bases like fantasy players want them to steal. Or they don’t hit the 40 home runs like fantasy players want them to do. You can’t put a fantasy stat on getting a runner over from second base with none out. You can’t put fantasy stats on running balls out as hard as you can, or playing good defense.
DL: Who is better than most fans perceive him to be?
MC: I think that a lot of guys are underrated, and I think that Nick Punto is greatly underrated. The public, because he’s not a guy who goes out and hits .330, but he does everything right on the field and he plays the best defense of anybody on our team, at whatever position you put him at. But because his fantasy numbers aren’t what the fans want them to be, they think he’s a bad player. That’s totally unfair. As players, we know better.