Josh Donaldson’s first year with the Minnesota Twins didn’t go as planned. After signing a four-year, $92 million contract, he was limited to 28 games due to a calf injury. While there are plenty of numbers that quantify a lost season for the 35-year-old, perhaps the one that contributed the most was 24.
With Eddie Rosario occupying the No. 20 that Donaldson has worn for the majority of his career, Donaldson reluctantly chose 24 for the 2020 season. There’s a lot to say about a player’s superstitions, but for the Twins, the No. 24 jersey has carried bad luck dating back to 2004.
That’s the year that the Twins dumped David Ortiz in favor of Matthew LeCroy. LeCroy produced a .287/.342/.490 line with 17 home runs and 64 RBI, which convinced the Twins to let an injury-prone Ortiz walk prior to the 2004 season. While Ortiz became a legend with the Boston Red Sox, LeCroy began the downward spiral for the No. 24 jersey.
With Ortiz out of the fold, LeCroy crashed back to earth, hitting .264/.339/.435 with 26 HR and 89 RBI over the next two seasons. Following a productive 2005 season (.260/.354/.444, 17 HR, 50 RBI) the Twins decided not to offer LeCroy a contract and signed Rondell White in free agency.
White brought with him his No. 24 jersey from his two seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He hit .290/.342/.470 with 31 HR and 120 RBI in his two seasons in Detroit, but couldn’t stay on the field in Minneapolis. After he opened the 2007 season with a .174/.235/.321 line, the Twins designated him for assignment after 38 games.
As White departed Minnesota, No. 24 was about to strike another free-agent victim. With the Twins trying to fill a void at third base, they signed Mike Lamb prior to the 2008 season. Lamb’s stint in Minnesota was a disaster. He hit .233/.276/.322 with one home run and 32 RBI in 236 at-bats. After 81 games, he was designated for assignment.
No. 24 stayed at the hot corner the following season. Minnesota hoped Joe Crede could go from Twins killer to Twins hero. Instead, the former Chicago White Sox third baseman battled injuries and hit .225/.289/.414 with 15 HR and 48 RBI in his lone season in Minnesota.
It was also his final season in the major leagues.
After bouncing around failed free-agent signings for a majority of the 2000s, No. 24 found a long-term home with Trevor Plouffe. The 20th overall pick in 2004 spent seven seasons in Minnesota, putting up a solid line of .247/.308/.420 with 96 HR and 357 RBI.
While he produced at the plate, Plouffe bounced around the diamond. He began his career at shortstop, moved to third base and then to right field. He was an impact player but never made an All-Star Game and signed with the Oakland Athletics in 2017.
In an effort to fuel a postseason run in 2017, the new front office led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine made a mid-season move to acquire Jaime Garcia. The left-hander was supposed to solidify the rotation but made one start before the Twins went on a losing streak and flipped him to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline.
In 2018, two players wore No. 24. Ryan LaMarre donned the cursed digits out of spring training but was designated for assignment in July. A few weeks later, Logan Forsythe put on No. 24 after coming over in the Brian Dozier trade. The veteran hit .258/.356/.292 in 50 games before signing with the Texas Rangers in the offseason.
The Twins filled No. 24 that winter after claiming C.J. Cron off waivers. In Cron’s first 71 games, he hit .280/.341/.530 with 17 HR and 52 RBI. But the curse struck in the form of a thumb injury that limited him to .222/.267/.401 with 10 HR and 31 RBI in his final 59 games. With Cron due a projected $7.7 million salary in 2020, the Twins non-tendered him, which made the No. 24 available for Donaldson.
Could shedding No. 24 be the difference for Donaldson? It’s no wonder he took back No. 20 once Rosario was non-tendered this winter. A number change may not bring Donaldson back to All-Star status, but the Twins have championship aspirations, and ridding themselves of the No. 24 jersey is a good place to start.