Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2001 Twins: A Wild Card Team?

Should the 2001 Twins have been a playoff team? (Photo: Getty Images)
On Monday, I wrote about the planned expansion for the Major League Baseball Playoffs. Some members of the Twins have offered interesting perspectives on the changes that are coming in the future. The Twins recent history has included some great Game 163's and it is interesting to contemplate if these games needed to be played with the new playoff format.

Jason Stark of ESPN took an interesting look at all of the teams from each league that would have been the second wild cards following the new playoff format. The list of teams stretches back to 1995, the wild-card era, and it includes only one Twins team, the 2001 Twins.

2001 American League Final Standings (*Play-off Qualifier)
*Seattle 116 wins
*Oakland 102 wins
*New York 95 wins
*Cleveland 91 wins
Minnesota 85 wins
Chicago 83 wins
Boston 82 wins

That 2001 Twins squad was full of young players that would be pivotal to the Twins run of Central Division Championships. Doug Mientkiewicz led the team in batting average, Torii Hunter had the most HR, and Corey Koskie drove in over a hundred runs. That team may have been able to qualify for the playoffs but a rough stretch in the dog days of summer was the beginning of the end. In that stretch of games the Twins lost 14 out of 16 games including eight loses in a row. A young team crumbled in the late summer sun.

The 2001 season was also Tom Kelly's last season at the helm for the Twins. It is great to think that the Twins could have given Kelly a playoff appearance to end his career. Under the new playoff format the 2001 Twins would have been able to give Kelly his swan-song.

In 2008 and 2009, the Twins had to compete in a decisive game for the right to make the playoffs. In each of those seasons the Twins were close to making the playoffs. But how close would they have been in the new playoff format?

2008 American League Final Standings (*Play-off Qualifier)
*Anaheim 100 wins
*Tampa Bay 97 wins
*Boston 95 wins
New York 89 wins
*Chicago 89 wins
Minnesota 88 wins

Following the new format for the playoffs the 2008 Twins would have finished one game behind the New York Yankees for the second wild-card spot in the American League. This shows how important one game can be when it comes to qualifying for the postseason. The Twins were one game short of a division title and one game short of the second wild-card spot.

2009 American League Final Standings (*Play-off Qualifier)
*New York 103 wins
*Anaheim 97 wins
*Boston 95 wins
Texas 87 wins
*Minnesota 87 wins
Detroit 86 wins

The Twins were lucky enough to win Game 163 in 2009, but it is again interesting to think about the possibility of another wild-card team in the AL. If the Twins had lost their game against Detroit, they would have still fallen short of making the playoffs. The Texas Rangers would have been the final wild-card team to qualify for the playoffs. The Central Division would have been left with only one representative in those expanded playoffs.

It is fun to look back at what could have been for different teams in Twins history. Could the 2001 Twins have won the World Series? Most likely this wouldn't have happened. But in the game of baseball weirder things have occurred. Two 100-win teams fail to live up to their potential or an underdog team from Arizona upsets the mighty Yankees. Each of those things happened in 2001, so why not a Twins World Series? 

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