Monday, December 21, 2009

Twins Conclude Team's Most Successful Decade

The decade of the "00s" concludes in a few days and the Minnesota Twins have just completed the team's most successful ten-year span since moving to Minnesota in 1961.

The numbers bear this out:
  • Team Record: 853-755
  • Winning Percentage: .530
  • Home Record: 472-335
  • Home Winning Percentage: .585
  • Run Differential: +310
  • Division Titles: Five
  • Attendance: 19,705,865

The team's record is the best of any decade other than the 1960s, when the Twins recorded a winning percentage of .542. Of course, if one includes the team's final season in Washington, 1960, the winning percentage drops to .536, still better than the 00s, but on par. The 853 victories is a decade-high mark for the Twins, as are the 472 home victories and the attendance figure. Although no World Series appearances were made in the 00s, the team won an unprecedented five division titles and lost a tie-breaker game in still one more season. 

For a decade which started out with the Twins riding a streak of seven-consecutive losing seasons, plus still one more sub-.500 season in 2000, the Twins certainly righted the ship. Threats of franchise contraction abounded in 2000 and 2001, but the Twins had a solid core of young players which were given opportunities to learn at the Major League level in 1999 and were emerging by 2001. Players such as Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman, Doug Mientkiewicz, Eric Milton, and A.J. Pierzynski (and Johan Santana in 2000) formed a solid nucleus of talent which would lead to three-consecutive AL Central Division titles between 2002 and 2004, plus another in 2006. Manager Ron Gardenhire replaced longtime skipper Tom Kelly after the 2001 season, and the Twins have won five division titles under his tutelage.

The decade of the 2000 also featured just two losing seasons (2000 and an injury-plagued 2007 campaign), which is the fewest in any decade since the team moved to Minnesota.

The Twins of the 1960s featured a potent lineup of Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Bob Allison, Jim Lemon, and later Rod Carew, and they played a solid brand of baseball in their new market. The 1960s saw the Twins win an American League pennant, the first AL West Division title, and sport the best win percentage (.542) and run differential (+763) in franchise history. However, the 1960s also featured three losing seasons, and three finishes lower than third place. The 2000s featured five division titles, only three finishes lower than second place (I am aware that the 1960s featured no divisions until 1969, while the 2000s had the Twins playing in a five-team division the entire decade. Still, a sixth or seventh place finish in the 1960s compares to a third place finish in the 2000s), and the best home winning percentage (.585) in franchise history. Add to that two AL MVP awards (Justin Morneau in 2006 and Joe Mauer in 2009), two AL Cy Young Awards (Santana in 2004 and 2006), and three batting titles (Mauer in 2006, 2008, and 2009), and the individual awards mirrored the success of the decade.

The Twins of the next decade will move out of the sterile environment of the Metrodome to a spectacular outdoor stadium in Target Field. The atmosphere will be second-to-none, and the Twins should have a good product to feature on the new grass field. However, the Twins of the next decade have a tough act to follow.

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