Introducing… Frank Viola

A former World Series MVP and Cy Young Award winner, Frank “Sweet Music” Viola was one of the top workhorses in the Majors during the 1980s. It wasn’t a trick for the southpaw from St. John’s University to log 250 innings a season. As a member of the Twins during their peak, Frank was their staff ace and the face of the pitching staff for many years. When the Twins built their dynasty during this time, they had the offense and defense with guys like Gaetti, Puckett, Gagne, Brunansky and Hrbek, but Sweet Music was their pitching staff. Viola led them to a World Series title over Whitey Herzog’s Cardinals in 1988.

A second round pick in 1981, Frank was rushed to the Majors and made his debut the following year. Not the type who set the league afire after his summons, Viola struggled with an ERA above 5.00 his first two Major League seasons. He finally put it together in 1984 when he won 18 games with ten complete starts. Frank also logged over 250 innings and kept his ERA down to 3.21. An 18-game-winner again in 1985, Frank’s peripheral stats weren’t as sharp as he gave up plenty of hits and too many homeruns.

The southpaw began to post some rather sharp strikeout-to-walk ratios beginning in 1986 when he fanned 191 batters with 83 walks. Even better the following year, Sweet Music whiffed 197 batters on just 66 free passes. The Twins of  ’87–managed by Tom Kelly–reached the heights of baseball as the Metrodome Boys rushed to a World Series title. Viola had one of his finest years that season. He won 17 games, posted a trim 2.90 ERA and logged in the excess of 250 innings for the third season. He won one ALCS game against the Tigers and then turned back the Redbirds in two Fall Classic contests. For his fine postseason worksheet, Sweet Music was awarded the World Series MVP Award.

Although the Twins failed to win their division in 1988, Frank enjoyed his finest season that year. He led the American League in wins (24) and winning percentage (.774) while he posted his career best 2.64 ERA. Frank was named to the AL All-Star team, posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio close to 4-to-1 and was named the league’s Cy Young Award winner. The Twins fell to .500 in 1989 and with Allan Anderson as a younger star in the rotation, Minnesota felt comfortable to trade Frank to the Mets for some much-needed pitching depth. From New York the Twins got future star closer Rick Aguilera, solid pitchers David West and Kevin Tapani and relief pitcher Tim Drummond. The trade worked for the Twins and they made their way back to the postseason but Viola would never again pitch on the grandest of stages.

In his first full year in the National League, Frank won 20 games for the 1990 Mets and made his second All-Star team. He paced the league in innings pitched and finished third in Cy Young Award voting. Frank found Shea Stadium to his liking as he posted a terrific ERA of 2.67. Although his win percentage fell below .500 in 1991, Sweet Music nevertheless made his third All-Star team and posted his ninth consecutive season with 230 or more innings of work. Granted free agency after the season, Frank returned to the American Legaue and signed with the Red Sox. He was sharp at Fenway his first two seasons in Beantown with ERAs of 3.44 and 3.14 but an elbow injury suffered in 1994 all but ended his career. He hung on for two more unsuccessful seasons before calling it a career.

THE NUMBERS

W 176/L 150/PCT .540/ERA 3.73/G 421/CG 74/IP 2,836/H 2,827/BB 864/SO 1,844/SHO 16

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