2010 was the final time that the core group of Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Young, and Span would fight for a World Series. Everything seemed to fall apart rather quickly when 2011 rolled around. Let’s look at how long each player spent with the team.
- Justin Morneau (traded mid-2013): 11 seasons in MIN
- Michael Cuddyer (traded mid-2011): 11 seasons in MIN
- Jason Kubel (FA after 2011): 7 seasons in MIN
- Delmon Young (traded mid-2011): 4 seasons in MIN
- Denard Span (FA after 2012): 5 seasons in MIN
- Francisco Liriano (traded mid-2012): 7 seasons in MIN
- Scott Baker (FA after 2011): 7 seasons in MIN
All of these players were pivotal in a group of playoff runs from the early 2000’s to 2010, but sadly that group could never reach the World Series. Let’s review the final playoff season they spent together.
The Twins unveiled their new stadium, Target Field, in 2010 with plenty of promise for this team to make a playoff run. They had acquired left handed slugger Jim Thome in the offseason and this lineup was looking good with Mauer, Morneau, and Thome. On March 22nd the Twins announced that former MVP Joe Mauer was given an 8 year, $184 million contract, the largest in team history. Well deserved.
The first ever regular season game at Target Field was against the Red Sox and the Twins won 5-2 with Carl Pavano going six strong innings. This would be the first of 94 wins and the AL Central crown.
After two months, everything was going perfectly for the Twins. The new stadium had opened, they were going to challenge New York for the AL Pennant in October, and they were 11 games over .500 with a 4.5 game lead. Unfortunately, inconsistent pitching and injuries to Morneau, Mauer, and others hurt the Twins in June. They stumbled their way to a 46-42 record at the All Star Break, suddenly 3.5 games out of first place. They had also missed out on acquiring SP Cliff Lee.
The Twins were represented at the All Star Game by Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mauer was the starting catcher and Morneau was on the bench. This was the finall All Star Game appearance for both of them.
As the second half got started, the Twins desperately needed a spark to get them back into first place. They got just that, as an 8 game win streak from July 24th to August 1st put the Twins back into a great position. They built up the division lead until a pivotal game on August 17th when the White Sox came to town. The Twins were leading the division by three, but they were trailing Chicago by one run in the bottom of the tenth inning when Jim Thome stepped to the plate...
#OTD in #MNTwins history, Jim Thome hit the first walk-off home run at Target Field!— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) August 17, 2018
Join in on the celebration of his Hall of Fame career on August 25th: https://t.co/TkWjeI52Oc pic.twitter.com/Xy61NWNJh2
I feel like this was the true turning point of the season that everyone remembers, and the Twins went on to clinch the division on September 21st.
Of course all of this was being done without Justin Morneau, who suffered what would end up being a career altering injury. He was looking like he could be on his way to another MVP award, hitting .345/.437/.618 (1.055) with 18 HR and 56 RBIs after 81 games. Would he have gone on to win MVP? Could he have led the Twins to a playoff win? It’s one of the biggest “what if” stories in recent Twins history.
The Twins would of course go on to face the Yankees in the ALDS, because of course they would. The Twins were actually the home team for this series in their new ballpark, but it didn’t matter.
Game one was lost after Liriano gave up a huge RBI triple to Curtis Granderson after five shutout innings. The Twins actually had tied the game at four runs apiece after six innings, but a Mark Texeira two run bomb would give the Yankees game one.
Game two saw the Twins get completely shut down by Andy Pettite, losing 5-2. An Orlando Hudson homer and Danny Valencia sac fly were the only runs scored and Mariano Rivera shut them down for the save. The Twins lost their first two playoff games in the new ballpark.
Game three was once again more of the same, as Phil Hughes shut down the Twins for a 6-1 Yankees win. Hughes went seven shutout innings, and once again Mariano Rivera came in and shut down the Twins. The Yankees swept the Twins (again) and were moving on to the ALCS. The Twins were sent packing and little did anyone know this would be the last playoff game for the Twins until 2017.
Was this team good enough to win a World Series? If Morneau stayed healthy would things have been different? What if the Hicks/Ramos for Cliff Lee rumored trade had gone through? Comment your thoughts on this fun playoff year for the Twins!