As we head into 2020, we reflect on the past decade in the HRL Twin Cities.
From Hjal's dramatic walkoff to win the Gothams their first Cup, to Cheerio hitting a bomb for the ages in the only Game 7, big moments have defined a decade of great wiffleball in the Home Run League.
Over the past ten years, many men and women have stepped into the rinks and tried their hand at smacking plastic, but these 20 individuals did it just a bit better than the rest.
Here are the top 20 Wifflers of the Decade. *Qualification: 5 league seasons
Collaboration by: Psych, Dr. Suess, Coach
We begin the list with one of the HRL’s most well known figures, H8R. Known primarily for his ability to beat you with his banter, a deeper dive into H8R’s actual on field performance this decade is eye opening: His 278 homeruns this decade would put him 5th on the HRLs all time homer list… for the entire existence of the league. During his peak run with the Gothams, H8R went 35-5 on the hill with an ERA in the low 2s, and famously no-hit the Reds in the deciding game of the 2012 Eagan division round of the play-offs. He also was instrumental in the Gothams winning back-to back Cups, homering 3 times in the 5 World Series games against the Red Sox. https://youtu.be/kGVkb-09TJ0?t=177
If you are wondering what the model of consistency looks like in the HRL, look no further than Rocket. In this decade, the Yankees went as Rocket went. He was a 3x All-Star, and MVP candidate in multiple years. The five time Amon(cust) award winner consistently led the Yankees to the postseason. After beating the Reds in 3 games, Rocket and the Yanks came close but got swept by the eventual Champion Dodgers in the Eagan City Finals in 2019. His will to win, and passion for playing the game has helped him put together solid teams year in and year out. We expect Rocket to continue his model of consistent great play into the next decade, and hopefully one day raise the cup high into the air.
18. Huck Finn
Huck has been the heart of the Rays/Biscuit dynasty. Huck has seen his teammates win the majority of the league awards over the past few years, but in 2019 Huck's 15 wins gave him his first Cy Wiffle award. Huck sports a 2.34 regular season ERA, with a 2.09 postseason ERA. It is safe to say Huck has been the league’s most underrated player this decade. Although the 3x All Star has become known for his bending breaking ball, his clutch postseason hitting gets him on the list. Numerous walk offs were a key reason the Rays were able to run rampant through the 2018 postseason, and sweep in the World Series. Huck now takes over as vice-commissioner of the league. https://t.co/pidiTNo05w
Throughout the decade JC was a fixture as a top pitcher in the league. He amassed 70 wins on the rubber while only suffering 20 losses. JC was a perennial All-Star making four appearances, and capped off the decade strong with an MVP and CY Wiffle in 2018 in which he put up a ridiculous 0.79 ERA in Hopkins. He may have gone back to back if not for Huck Finn in 2019. JC and co. didn’t reach the World Series this decade, but knocked on the door in multiple city finals. With the formation of a superteam, will JC and gang get over the hump, or will they fall just short yet again?
Box is one of the most decorated players in HRL History. His two MVP’s this decade ties him for the most, and seven All Star games is ridiculously consistent. He also picked up three Sticky paw awards over the course of the decade. Box’s consistent great attitude toward wiffle has made him a league wide favorite. He was a playoff fixture with the Pilots and Marlins, but never made a deep postseason run. Great men like Ben are the reason we have the greatest league in the country, and make it fun to show up at the Rinks 18 weeks out of the year.
One of three HRL players ever to be elected to the Hall of Fame, Tugboat was his typical dominant self in the five seasons that he played this decade. Tugboat helped lead the Red Sox to their second HRL championship in 2010, winning back to back Cy Wiffles, and capping off his historic career with another MVP award in his last season as a full time HRL player. Tugboat’s last HRL season was a memorable stint with the Blue Jays, where Tugboat threw 34 dominant innings over two games against the Reds in the 2014 playoffs, bringing the Blue Jays within one game of taking down the eventual Eagan champions.
Wole is known best for his time with the Reds, and the many postseason runs. He ends the decade as a 5x All-Star, 2016 Yellow Slammer, and 2016 HRL Champion. Nightmare began the decade as a part time wiffler, and ended it 7th on the HRL’s all time homerun leader list. Once known primarily for his free swinging ways, Nightmare is now widely regarded as one of the most dangerous hitters in the league, and also possesses one of the league’s best arms as well, finishing top three in Cy Wiffle voting as recently as 2019. His ability to hit in the clutch is legendary, as his bat turned multiple losses into wins during the Reds mid-decade Series run: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qPE8qK97dc
One of the most feared sluggers in HRL history, Hondo’s decade of dominance included 158 HRs, a 1.273 OPS, four consecutive World Series appearances, and three HRL titles. Launching 22 bombas in 55 career postseason games, Hondo earned the nickname of “Mr. September” due to his elite performance when it mattered most. During the Nats 2014 HRL Championship performance, Hondo’s homers were the deciding runs in half of the team’s World Series victories. https://youtu.be/PX1YOkh5bGA?t=1124
Possibly the best pure power hitter in HRL History cemented his Legacy this decade. TJ set an HRL record for single season HR’s in 2012 with 56. In just 5 league years, he blasted 199 homers and was a member of the 2011 Champion Orioles. With a career sub-2 ERA, the power hitter was able to win back to back MVPs in 2011 & 2012. With more time, TJ may have been in the discussion for greatest to ever step foot in the rinks.
In six full seasons, Aquaman put up astonishing offensive numbers. He currently resides 3rd all time in AVG, and hit a then single season record .485 in only his second year in the league. In four postseason appearances, Aquaman hit 14 homers, and was a crucial member of the 2011 Orioles and 2015 Nationals. In the 2015 World Series, Aquaman returned for game 3 with the series tied a game a piece and went 4-6 with 3 bombs off Nightmare. With both offenses struggling in a crucial game 5, Aquaman took over with the deciding 2-run HR, which lead to a Nationals victory in 6 games. Much speculation is swirling that the two time Champion may come out of retirement in 2020, but for now he resides as a top 5 hitter the league has ever seen.
10. The Man
What better way to kick off the top 10 than with The Man himself? The Man captured a record four City Championships this decade, including a 2010 HRL Title with the Red Sox. To close out the Dynasty’s second HRL Title, the man went 3-4, driving in the game winning run in the 5th inning to defeat the Braves. The Red Sox would then drop the next 3 World Series’ including one of the greatest duels in HRL History in 2012 against the Gothams. With both offenses struggling in the 2012 World Series, a crucial base running error would cost The Man and the Red Sox dynasty their third Title. The later parts of the decade saw the Man have to take a step down in his full time involvement in the league, but anytime he steps in the rink, he can still take over and win any game he plays in.
In 7 years, Griz amassed one MVP, two Yellow Slammers, two Sticky Paws and played in two All-Star games on the way to back to back Titles in 2017 and 2018. Griz proved he may be the best current hitter in the league as he hit .424 for 41 Home Runs in 2019. The Biscuits fell one game short of a three peat. In their seven-game World Series vs the Dodgers, Griz posted 7 home runs, including 4 in game 3, which turned the series around. In the 2018 World Series Griz walked off an 11-inning game one, on their way to a second straight sweep. He has made his living hitting big time dongs in critical moments in the postseason. The Biscuits will be more than formidable as long as they keep their core, and Griz may end the next decade with a hand full of rings.
Sticks played a vital role in 3 World Series appearances with the dynasty that was the Nationals. His regular season record of 65-6 is that of legends, and his career ERA of 1.22 and 0.690 WHIP are each good for third best in league history. Sticks won three consecutive Cy Wiffles from 2013-2015, a span that also saw him lead the Nationals pitching staff to two HRL Championships. Sticks also boasted a competent bat, OPSing .911 over the decade, and memorably walking off the 2015 World Series with a liner off the chain link in the decisive Game 6 of the championship.
Many current HRL and NWLA aficionados would say Smallpox is the best deep threat the HRL has to offer. Since winning rookie of the year in 2013, he boasts an all time best .412 AVG, and has played a vital role in the Rays’ two Title runs. The 6x All-Star has accounted for a ridiculous 228 Home runs in seven seasons, and has hit 11 over the past three postseasons including 6 in 2019. His defining moment came in game 4 of the 2017 World Series, as he went 4-5 with 2 dongs to complete the sweep over the Eagan Champion Kardinals, and bring the collection of Fridley Factors their first HRL Title. It’s rather safe to say by the end of the next decade, he will be a member of the 500 club.
Since joining the league in 2012, Taco has made six straight City Final Appearances, including four World Series births. Taco made six All-Star games and finishes the decade as one of the most feared pitchers in league history sporting a sub-2 career ERA. Taco was instrumental in his second World Series with the Nationals, hitting two 2-run bombs in game one, and picking up two victories on the mound to help the Nats reclaim the Cup in 2015. Taco has been a fixture in postseason wiffles since he joined the league, and three Championships this decade is good enough to tie him for the most.
5. Hjal (H9K)
Were it not for a three year HRL sabbatical, it’s entirely possible that the boots kicking, jams wearing HRL legend would sit atop the HRL’s all decade list. As dominant as the 2013 Eagan MVP was in the regular season, Hjal’s ability to raise his game when the lights shone brightest was highlighted by his incredible numbers during the Gothams back to back HRL Championships in 2012-13. In 5 postseason appearances, Hjal amassed 27 home runs this decade. Hjal went 5-2 on the mound with 90 Ks, allowing just 6 runs in 44 postseason innings. Hjal capped off the incredible 2012 Gotham season with a walk off homerun in the deciding game of the World Series, which to this date stands as one of the greatest moments in HRL history: https://youtu.be/kGVkb-09TJ0?t=624
Since entering the league in 2013, Mippey5 has taken home two Cy Wiffles, three Sticky Paw’s and been an MVP, while consistently finishing top 3 in voting every year. In two Title runs, Mip was the Rays’ ace on the mound, and most clutch hitter. In game 3 of the 2018 Hopkins City Finals, Mip broke up a 4-4 tie with a blast off Shirls to send the Rays to their second straight World Series, in which the Rays would sweep the Dodgers. In 2019, he walked off a 22-inning battle against the Americans en route to a round-one sweep. But his late game heroics in game 7 of the World Series were not quite enough to pull off the three peat. Over the course of his career, Mip sports a 1.86 career ERA going 78-14 on the hill. The 6’8 shirtless bastard anchors one of the best 5-man lineups in league history, and will find himself pitching in more big games in the decade to come. https://t.co/f3FgXy4Ugx
3. Dr. Suess
Suess cemented his Legacy as a top pitcher in league history winning seven Cy Wiffles this decade. The Reds returned to the World Series after a four year drought in 2014, but came up short to the Nationals in back to back years. Suess put together one of the best postseasons ever in 2016, launching 7 bombs in 11 games, and going 5-0 on the mound with a 0.94 ERA. In the 2016 World Series, Suess put on a virtuoso performance, and launched the deciding 3-run HR off Taco in game 6 to give the Reds their fourth HRL Championship, an all time record. https://youtu.be/PX1YOkh5bGA?t=275
At the beginning of the decade, Beardface went toe-to-toe against the defending, two-time champion Red Sox, pitching two masterful games against The Man, and producing at the plate in the deciding game 3 of the 2011 Finals. Beardface continually surrounded himself with all-time great talent including TJ, Aquaman, Shants, Taco, Hondo, & Sticks among many more. He was a key member of the Nationals Dynasty, and pitched well enough to earn Two MVPs and a Cy Wiffle. The 3x Champion boasts a career 1.91 ERA, .370 AVG, and .430 OBP, cementing him as one of the greatest all around talents to take to the rinks.
1. Web Gem
Web may be the most skilled player in league history. The father of twenty eight (current estimate) grew amongst his peers this decade, and ended among the most accomplished in all the league. While bouncing around to five teams, he was a 7x All-Star and managed to win two MVP’s. He began the decade hitting a mere .212 for 12 home runs, and ended the decade hitting .400 for the second time. During the Gothams era, Web found his groove in the biggest games on the rubber, matching the Red Sox. Web threw eight innings, allowing only two hits in game 2 of the 2012 Finals, and threw a no-hitter in the clinching game in 2013 to stake the Gothams in the history books. The Gothams may have been the best 3-man in league history, and may have had the most lethal lineup of the decade, and Web Gem cemented himself as being far more than simply, “That other guy on the Gothams. Who is awesome.”
He is the HRL’s Wiffle Ball player of the decade.
With only 20 spots on our list as we head into 2020, these men helped shape the decade that was, but find themselves just on the outside…
Sanchez, Chops, Hardball, Edgar, Tootin, Two-bat, Shirls, Old Yeller, Boom, Rex, Pooh Bear, Palpatine
What kind of moments will the next decade of great wifflers bring us?