For the third year in a row and fourth time in five years, the Twins sat at home as they watched a Central Division foe represent the American League. The Detroit Tigers in 2012, the Kansas City Royals in 2014 and 2015 and the Cleveland Indians this year have all gotten cracks at calling themselves the league’s champion while the Twins have floundered in mediocrity.
Ever since Target Field opened in 2010, a common accusation was that the Twins didn’t spend enough money on their payroll to remain competitive. Though we did see the cumulative total of players’ salaries at its highest in franchise history, the payroll increase has stopped and the team has become much worse. Many have argued that the solution was spending even more, but honestly the Twins were getting hurt (pun not intended) by injuries and ineffectiveness from the players intended to help the team. Part of this was bad luck but certainly some of it came from simply acquiring the wrong players, such as Ricky Nolasco.
However, there is hope on the horizon. Not only should changes come with new president of baseball operations Derek Falvey, but specifically the last three years should offer hope for Twins fans. Once again, the American League has been represented the last three years in the World Series by the Royals and Indians, two teams that no one would lump in with the biggest spenders in the majors.
Since Target Field opened, the Twins have eclipsed $100 million in salary four times and they’ve never been below $82 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The Royals broke $100 million for the first time in franchise history last year and actually were up to $131 million at the start of the 2016 season, but they made it to the World Series in 2014 with a payroll of just $92 million. As for the Indians, well, take a seat for this. They have never had a payroll over $100 million. This season they maxed out at $96 million.
In the case of the Royals, they rode a strong bullpen, elite defense, and an offense that didn’t strike out in an era where strikeouts have skyrocketed. The Indians have found success with a strong rotation, plenty of role players, and some savvy acquisitions late in the season to bring in reinforcements.
This isn’t to say that the turnaround is going to be easy. The Twins’ problems have gone beyond poor decisions from the front office as players haven’t developed and untimely injuries have struck on top of the accumulation of inadequate players. But, with the right changes the Twins will certainly be able to make the return to being competitive.