The 2016 Minnesota Twins got you down? Allow us to take you on a trip down memory lane…
I remember it all like it was yesterday…
Sitting in my living room, one of my aunts put her cold drink on the table; on top of my Sports Illustrated.
Who was on that Sports Illustrated? Matt Lawton of the first-place Minnesota Twins with the cover story, “Do You Believe in Miracles?”
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Yes, this issue was from 2001 – the end of April to be exact – and the Twins were riding the wave of a successful start to the season following a near decade’s worth or struggles.
As most remember, the 2001 Twins ultimately fell short of the goal to reach the playoffs but like the story of the 300 Spartans – the movie version is what is in my head – the ultimate failure of the 2001 team led to a revolution of six Central Division titles in nine seasons.
It’s been 15 years since this team opened the season and surely it’s not going to be the team that has any anniversary celebrations this season. That honor will belong to the 1991 World Series team.
Led by legendary Twins manager Tom Kelly – in his final season with the Twins, no less – the 2001 team was loaded with potential and full of future stars.
Young stars like Torii Hunter, Johan Santana, Michael Cuddyer, David Ortiz and A.J. Pierzynski all made appearances that year while veterans like Brad Radke, Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins were part of the team as well.
The Twins began the season on a roll. They finished April with an 18-6 record and ultimately went into the break with a 55-32 record.
Led by future Gold Glover Doug Mientkiewicz, who was hitting .316 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs in the first half, the Twins were taking the Central by storm in the first half.
Most notably to me, Mientkiewicz also played a pivotal role in making my 13th birthday a memorable one. The Twins were playing the Baltimore Orioles at the Metrodome and I got to bring a couple of friends to the game. Mientkiewicz proceeded to hit two bombs in a
A severe dropoff in the second half saw the Twins go 30-45 and run out of momentum as they finished in second place with an 85-77 record losing out to the mighty Cleveland Indians.
Despite the failures against Cleveland, the fire had been lit and the ghosts of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome were beginning to rumble.
No longer would the Twins be the Central’s doormat. They were ready and they were hungry.
The following offseason saw the Twins come under threat of contraction due to their lack of ability to compete both financially and on the field.
If it weren’t for the 2002 team that made it to the American League Championship Series, the Twins may not be part of the majors.
But that 2002 team would not have gotten where it went without the Twins. And that’s why the 2001 teams were ultimately the team that saved baseball in Minnesota.
It wasn’t a World Series team, a playoff team or a team full of stars. It was a gritty team that gave Twins fans hope and brought the fans back to the Metrodome.
So happy 15th anniversary 2001 Twins team. You guys were the team that started the revolution and brought belief back to Twins Territory.
On a more unfortunate note, the success also began the near decade’s worth of success that ultimately shut down the Twins’ Dome days, effectively retiring what I consider to be the biggest part of being a Twins fan…
No more “Dome Dogs,” now it’s just “Twins Dogs.” I would have called them “Open Air Dogs” but you can’t win them all.