When the Twins hit their 2011-’12-’13 skid, the Detroit Tigers were three-peating as AL Central champions. Yet, I distinctly remember telling anyone who would listen that when Minnesota got competitive again, they would be locking horns with the Kansas City Royals. I turned out to be correct—kind of.
The monarchs of Hosmer, Moustakas, Gordon, Perez, Cain, Butler, and lockdown bullpen vintage rose to prominence a year—2014—before the Twins were ready, and their competitive window didn’t last long enough for much serious Twins competition. But the point stands that the seemingly obvious divisional front-runner isn’t always what a rebuilding club should fret over.
So, when the Twins are ready to string together 90-win seasons again, who will they be battling? I’m assuming—albeit regrettably—that 2022 will be more of a re-tooling year for our bunch. But what about 2023 and beyond?
The easy choice, of course, is the Chicago White Sox. They are loaded with young talent and look to be a force. But did you see how easily they got bounced from the postseason just recently? They were the only team in that tournament with a losing record against winning teams. Maybe some personal bias against crotchety old managers is coming into play here, but until the South Siders find a truly galvanizing skipper I’m not shaking in my boots that their reign will be a long one.
What about Cleveland? As usual, they go out to their starting pitcher orchard every year and pluck some ripe ones. That keeps them hanging around. But like Chicago, they are mired in managerial limbo (will Terry Francona return?) and the organization is not too keen on investing until a new crop of youngsters materializes (if even then). At the moment, though, the soon-to-be Guardians seem like a perpetual 80-win club.
The Royals of current vintage definitely show some spunk, but perhaps are treading water more than anything. Both their bats and arms were ranked bottom-10 in MLB this past year, and that seems like a lot to overcome. Much like the Twins, their starting rotation is a mess—yet with nowhere near the offensive firepower of MN to mitigate that deficiency. It could be a few more years of wandering through the desert for KC.
That brings us to the Detroit Tigers. After three straight 90+ loss campaigns (2017-2019) and a similar cellar finish in the shortened ‘20, the Big Cats exceed expectations (even at 77-85). Of their offensive players, only Miguel Cabrera and old pal Robbie Grossman are north of 30 age-wise. On the mound, starters like Mize, Skubal, Manning, & Boyd have shown promise, and the organization may have finally put together a bullpen (Soto, Fulmer, Funkhouser, Cisnero, Turnbull) that isn’t atrocious. Also, in one of the saddest sentences I’ve ever had to construct: replacing Ron Gardenhire with AJ Hinch really paid dividends.
Thus, it is my prediction that when the Twins ascend the AL Central ladder again, they will be battling for rungs with the Motor City denizens.
What say you on the matter?
Who’s "got next" in the AL Central?
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