In 2001, the Minnesota Twins (along with the Montreal Expos) were threatened to be contracted from Major League Baseball.
Take a look at where this team has come in the time since.
Rather than folding like a cheap suit, the Twins have risen back to becoming a potent catalyst in the sport in the last decade.
The 2010 season was a special year for the Twins, as highly anticipated Target Field opened for business.
The Twins took the division and ran away with it in September, winning 94 games and finishing six ahead of the hated White Sox.
Fans reached a seemingly all-time high in happiness, and merchandise and ticket sales were through the roof.
There are several factors on why they have been the team to beat in recent history, and why they will continue this trend in the 2011 season.
This might be shocking to some, but I don't honestly see the Twins losing a step to the rest of the division by giving up some of their better-known players such as Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and J.J. Hardy (and possibly Carl Pavano, Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome, as well).
The offseason proceeding the 2011 season has been one of the most busy in recent history. Teams are shipping their superstars for up-and-coming prospects, and vice versa.
There has been no lack of signings in the AL Central, as even the Twins have acquired highly-touted Japanese shortstop Nishioka Tsuyoshi.
The Detroit Tigers signed catcher Victor Martinez, and in doing so acquired one of the most well-rounded at the position.
The Cleveland Indians have signed just about everybody that they needed to during this free agency period.
The Kansas City Royals have gotten rid of long-time outfielder David DeJesus and 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke just signed with the Brewers last night. On the flip side, they have agreed to two solid deals with former 26-year Atlanta Braves in Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur.
So why do I still believe in the Twins having a shot?
First Off, They Have the Best Farm System In All of Baseball
If you name a current Minnesota Twin, their is a decent chance that he came up with the team. Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, Danny Valencia, and Scott Baker are just a handful of many who have called the Twins organization home since their beginnings.
In all honesty, I could go all day naming players on other squads who called the Minnesota farm system home first. Johan Santana, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, David Ortiz, Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski are just a few current pros who highlight the many who were brought up by Ron Gardenhire's club.
What does this have to do this year's team though?
Easy; it just means that the Twins have a greater chance to develop players like Ben Revere and Brian Duensing into the major leaguers that they have aspired to be since they were toddlers.
This is of course based on the fact that new talent develops, and in Minnesota there isn't much doubt that it will indeed happen.
Still want to argue with that "best farm system in all of baseball" comment? I didn't think so.
Secondly, They Time and Time Again Destroy the Division Competition
The Minnesota Twins have dominated the American League Central Division in the last decade.
As previously stated, they have won six division titles: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2010 (don't forget that in 2008 the White Sox needed 163 games to eliminate Minnesota).
The White Sox and Indians each have a pair of titles in that same period, and the Tigers and Royals have been empty-handed (although the Tigers did have a World Series appearance in 2006).
The Twins have been more successful than most of the league in the last 10 years. They have won 888 games in this period, totalling more victories than the rest of their divisional foes: the White Sox had 850; the Indians put up 795; the Tigers totalled 731; and the lowly Royals have won just 662.
Why isn't there a reason to believe they can win it in 2011?
The White Sox always seem to be better on paper than the Twins, but Minnesota always knows how to beat the White Sox, especially later in the season.
Finally, the Twins Play Their Best Baseball from July On
Year in and year out the Twins play their way seemingly out of the division race by May, only to rise up and defeat the competition in the final 90 games or so.
Whether they were pitching back-to-back-to-back complete game shutouts (as they did a few years back against the Royals), or sweeping the White Sox in September, I as a Twins fan expect a burst like that every year.
With the team developing players like no one else, beating the competition better than almost everyone, and playing flawless ball from July on, it seems no one in the division will stop the Minnesota Twins.
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