Despite the fact that a number of other American League teams get a lot more talk, the Minnesota Twins have built a quiet giant over the last few years. Coming off a 101 win season, the Twins have clinched a trip to the playoffs again in the shortened 2020 season. Their players don’t do well in the Q rating, meaning they don’t get a lot of publicity nationally, but they certainly put up numbers. Late in his career and now at age 40, Nelson Cruz continues to turn in All Star caliber play. He blasted 41 home runs and hit .311 last year. He’s got 16 long balls and a .314 average this year. Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton are the core of a young outfield group that is also producing at a high clip. Not only that, but former Dodger Kenta Maeda joined the team this year and has been the most effective starter in their lineup. Rocco Baldelli took over as manager in 2019 and Thad Levine is their current General Manager. The Twins are owned by Jim Pohlad, who inherited the team from his late father, Carl, in 2009.
The Minnesota Twins organization was originally established in 1901, then called the Washington Senators. In 1960, the city of Minneapolis was awarded an expansion franchise, but Senators owner Calvin Griffith lobbied the league to relocate his team to the Twin Cities and award the expansion team to Washington. The league agreed, and a new Senators franchise was born. That team later became what is now the Texas Rangers. In modern times, outside of a 4 year run of losing from 2011-2014, the Twins have been pretty consistent since the turn of the century. They’ve made the playoffs 8 times since 2002 and produced 6 seasons of 90 or more wins. That said, their regular season consistency has not followed them into the playoffs. Only once in those 8 playoff trips did the Twins advance to the ALCS, and when they did, they dropped the series in 5 games to the Angels in 2002. The wins were a lot harder to come by in the 25-year block before 2000, but when the Twins got into the playoff tournament, good things often happened. Their heyday came in the late ’80s and early ’90s, where despite the underdog label, Minnesota claimed two World Series championships. In 1987, they surprised the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games. In 1991, the Atlanta Braves were their victims, also in 7 games. The only previous championship for the Twins came before they relocated from Washington, winning it all in 1924.
Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek were the star hitters for the Twins during their two title runs. Both were career Twins, having never worn another uniform. Puckett, in particular, was a standout with 10 All Star appearances, 6 gold gloves, an American League batting title, and a league MVP award in 1991, the year of their 2nd world series title of the era. Left-handed batting extraordinaire Rod Carew was a Twin from 1967 to 1978. He won the American League MVP award in 1977, the rookie of the year award in 1967, and was an All-Star every year he was with the team. Hall of Fame first baseman Harmon Killebrew played in the organization for 21 years and was with the team when the Twins were established in 1961, after the move from Washington. In more recent years, Joe Mauer was another career Twin, starring for Minnesota from 2004 to 2018. A career .306 hitter, he won an MVP in 2009 and made 6 All Star appearances.
A Giant Steal
The biggest trade in the history of the organization came in 2003 when the Twins sent catcher AJ Pierzynski to San Francisco in exchange for pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Nathan became a 4 time All Star closer and Liriano anchored the rotation for several years, while Pierzynski stayed in San Francisco for only one season.
In another landmark deal, the Twins grabbed future ace Johan Santana from the Marlins in Rule 5 draft-day trade.
Right on Target
The Twins opened up a new stadium called Target Field in 2010. It is the third home for the Twins since moving to Minnesota, but it’s the first time that they won’t have to share it with the Vikings. Upon arrival, they played for 21 years at Metropolitan Stadium, followed by 28 seasons at the Metrodome. Target Field became a reality after a 16 year negotiation between Carl Pohlad and the city, which began in 1994 when Pohlad called the Metrodome “economically obsolete.”