The Twins – A Model for Others
Seattle might be the most beautiful city in North America. The restaurants are great, the weather is moderate and the scenery is spectacular. Throw in a ballpark that might be the best in the world and you can understand why I love coming here and look forward to returning later this summer.
I can’t come here, though, without drawing comparisons between the Twins relatively brief Major League history and Seattle’s, which is even briefer. The Mariners are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. Most of their history has been spent bringing up the bottom of the American League West.
When the Twins came out of the abyss to become a competitive team in the mid-80s, the feeling here in Seattle was, "if the Twins can do it, we can do it!". After all, the markets are similar in size. At the time, both teams were playing in horrible baseball stadiums and, at various times, both franchises were threatened with relocation or elimination. Seattle, in fact, had already lost a Major League team, the Pilots, after one season.
As the Twins went on to win the World Series in 1987 and 1991, the envy kept growing here in the Great Northwest. And sure enough…using draft picks wisely and developing homegrown talent soon paid off for the Mariners. A three-year run of winning baseball in the mid-90’s energized the region and confirmed what people had been saying all along…that this was a great baseball city. The new ballpark followed and then an incredible run of success made Seattle the center of the baseball universe. When the Mariners hosted the All Star game in 2001, Seattle was in the middle of an historic regular season. They won an incredible 116 games during the regular season. Ken Griffey, Jr, Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez were all gone, victims of Seattle’s inability or unwillingness to pay them. Instead, aging veterans like Edgar Martinez, John Olerud and Bret Boone led the Mariners to the top of the baseball world. Oh yeah, Ichiro had something to do with it as well.
Which in a roundabout way leads us back to the Twins. The Mariners stumbled in the playoffs and then rather abruptly got old in a hurry. An incredible 30 game drop between the 2003 and 2004 seasons was due largely to Seattle’s inability to replenish its aging roster. Not only could they not replace the future Hall of Famers that left for financial reasons, they couldn’t adequately replace the fading nucleus of their record setting team. A long and painful rebuilding stage followed, one that might pay off in a playoff appearance as soon as this year.
The point of all of this is that the Twins have done an incredible job of maintaining a competitive team as players have drifted off for one reason or another. Mientkewicz gets traded, Morneau wins an MVP. Guardado leaves as a free agent, Nathan emerges as perhaps the best closer in the game. Pierzynski, Jones, Guzman, Koskie…the list goes on and on. It might surprise you that Torii Hunter is the only regular left from the 2001 Twins. Yet they’ve been to the playoffs four times and have put together six straight winning seasons.
In short, they’ve been the model for mid-market teams like Seattle. With the Mariners having bottomed out and perhaps getting back to post-season play largely because of farm products like Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt, it seems like you can hear the old refrain once again, "if the Twins can do it, we can do it!"
Twins Television, Play-By-Play