The New Year's festivities have died down after a long weekend of drinking and partying with friends and family.
2011 looks to be another promising year for the Minnesota Twins.
Another year of high expectations after a decade in which they have won six American League Central Division Titles.
So being 2011 now, I think it's time to look back to 10 years ago when a young Twins squad was turning the corner to being contenders, and setting the stage for one of the best runs of success for the 50-year-old franchise.
After the 1991 World Series, the remaining years of in the 90's nearly sunk the franchise. Gone were stars Hrbek, Puckett and Knoblauch.
Gone were the fans as well.
The Twins had the lowest payroll in baseball to finish up the 90's. They were drawing around 12,000 fans a game, and finishing at the bottom of the standings on a yearly basis.
Terry Ryan, the Twins' General Manager at the time, had been slowly building up the farm system. During the 90's, he drafted numerous players who would impact the 2001 season. Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Jacque Jones, Matt Lawton, Corey Koskie, AJ Pierzynski and Latroy Hawkins were all among the fruits of his labor.
Ryan was also busy wheeling and dealing established veterans for young players that could help the squad in the future. Among the acquisitions were David Ortiz, Cristian Guzman, Johan Santana, Kyle Lohse and Mark Redman.
The 2001 Twins began the season at a feverish pace. They sat at a 30-13 record after a May 22nd win against the Seattle Mariners. When the All-Star break hit, the Twins sat at 55-32, and were five games ahead of the pre-season favorite Cleveland Indians.
The Twins had multiple All-Stars for the first time in a while that season. Pitchers Joe Mays and Eric Milton both made the team for the first time, and shortstop Cristian Guzman appeared as well.
The second half of the season didn't go quite as well for Tom Kelly's final team. After the All-Star break, the Cleveland Indians outpaced the Twins by 11 games to win the division by six over the Twins. The Twins finished with a winning record that season at 85-77, and set the tone for the next nine years of Twins' baseball.
The Twins that year showed a knack for throwing strikes, and playing great team defense behind the pitchers who would throw to contact. The team also was built more on speed, then power. Playing in the Metrodome payed dividends for the team, winning 47 games at home.
The Twins' model for success led to back to back to back AL Central Titles in 2002, 2003, and 2004.
Also of Note
During the 2001 season, Terry Ryan made a decision that still has huge ramifications today. The overwhelming number one choice for the 2001 MLB Entry Draft was USC right handed pitcher Mark Prior.
Ryan went with a pick that many people thought was a money saving decision by going with hometown high school catcher Joe Mauer.
That "cost saving" pick has now turned into an eight year, $183 million dollar player.
But no one is complaining about that.
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