Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 11/5/13

MIAMI - OCTOBER 22: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig takes questions from the press prior game four of the Major League Baseball World Series between the New York Yankees and the Florida Marlins on October 22, 2003 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
As recently as March 2002 Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig believed that there was a chance the Minnesota Twins would be contracted, eliminated from baseball.  Since that time the Twins have won six AL Central titles, including three straight from 2002-2005 and back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. While the Twins made it to the ALCS in 2002, the club would not advance past the ALDS in any of their next five playoff appearances. Since last winning the division in 2010, the Twins have finished last in the AL Central twice and fourth once, in 2013, although their record was identical to 2012. Ron Gardenhire is still manager, Terry Ryan resumed GM duties after several years away from the position, and the Twins opened a new ballpark, Target Field, in 2010, but the team has lost at least 96 games three years running. Bullpen Since he moved to the bullpen full-time in 2011, Glen Perkins has a 2.45 ERA in just under two hundred innings. In 2013, his second year as the Twins’ closer, Perkins put up a 2.30 ERA, 32.1% strikeout rate, and a 77/15 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The lefty saved 36 games for the 63-win Twins this season. Casey Fien appeared in 73 games for the Twins and struck out 29.9% of the batters he faced. With a 3.92 ERA and a 73/12 K/BB, the right-hander proved to be a solid relief option in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. Throwing two-thirds of his innings in the eighth inning, Jared Burton had a 3.82 ERA for the Twins with a 61/22 K/BB in 66 innings of work. Less successful was former starting pitcher Brian Duensing. Opposing hitters batted .283/.346/.404 against the largely ground ball pitcher, although he did strike out a career high 20.9% of batters, suggesting that a permanent conversion to relieving may prove more beneficial in the long run. Duensing did get his moment in the sun on Aug. 8. Together with Jared Burton, Duensing pulled off a prank, a staged fight in the Twins bullpen, and became the second Twins pitcher to win two games in one day. Rotation Unlike the bullpen, the Twins rotation didn’t have its share of successes. Once a hallmark of the Twins winning ways, the likes of Brad Radke, Johan Santana, and Francisco Liriano did not walking to the pitcher’s mound in 2013. Sam Deduno was the only Twins starter to have an ERA under 4.00 at 3.83. He struck out just 14.5% of batters while walking 8.9% of his opponents. A ground ball specialist (59.7%), Deduno kept the ball on the ground and gave up just 31 extra base hits out of the 105 hits he allowed. Very little went right in 2013 and while the White Sox still finished behind Minnesota, and may in 2014 as well -- the Twins aren’t a match for the Tigers, Indians, or Royals. Mike Pelfrey, Scott Diamond, and Pedro Hernandez had ERAs of 5.19, 5.43, and 6.83 across a combined sixty-five starts. Vance Worley, acquired from the Phillies for Ben Revere during the offseason, put up an ERA of 7.21. Prospect Kyle Gibson made ten starts and allowed 37 runs in 51 innings while striking out just 29 batters. The only other bright spot was free agent acquisition Kevin Correia who had a 4.18 ERA despite a 12.8% strikeout rate, and a WHIP of 1.49. His 101/45 K/BB ratio in 185 innings wasn’t terrible, but Correia is a back-of-the-rotation guy who lead the team in innings. When that happens, it’s not a good sign. All the while Francisco Liriano, traded to the White Sox in 2012, was part of the reason the Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs. Offense When the Twins were going right they counted on the M&M boys: Justin Morneau and Joe Maurer. Since making their respective debuts in 2003 and 2004, the two lefty bats have combined for two MVP awards, ten All-Star Game appearances, and 326 home runs. The story of Justin Morneau is a one of triumph and tragedy. After hitting a scorching .345/.437/.618 through 81 games in 2010, Morneau suffered a concussion that would cost him the rest of that season and parts of 2011 and 2012.  He never fully recovered or returned to the form that made him one of the elite first baseman in the American League. In the final year of his 6-year, $80-million dollar deal, the Twins traded the former star (.259/.315/.426 to that point) to the Pirates. After hitting 17 home runs with the Twins, Morneau failed to hit even one while in Pittsburgh. Joe Mauer, the Twins’ lone offensive force in 2013, was off to a typical Mauer season (.324/.404/.476) before the worst nightmare for the Twins came true: a concussion. As a catcher, Maurer had been exposed to increased injury risk every time he got behind the plate and a few foul balls of his mask did enough damage to end his season.  While Maurer is now symptom-free, and wasn’t rushed back to play for a last place team, it’s an open question whether his days behind the plate are numbered. Without Justin Morneau, first base is open. Josh Willingham had a fantastic 2012: .260/.366/.524 with 35 home runs, his career high. Unfortunately, little of that success carried over into 2013. Willingham hit just 14 home runs and dropped his triple-slash line to .208/.342/.368. With 1-year and $7-million dollars remaining on his deal the Twins need to see more out of the slugging outfielder. Second baseman Brian Dozier put up a .244/.312/.414 line with 18 home runs, leading the Twins in homers during his first full season. Dozier hit just 16 home runs in four years in the minors. While he primarily played DH and right field, Ryan Doumit still made 43 appearances behind the plate, giving his .247/.314/.396 a little more respectability when compared to fellow part-time backstops. Not known for his defense, a greater share of the catching duties in 2014 should Maurer begin to transition away from the position might expose his limitations. After hitting .370/.407/.644 during spring training, Aaron Hicks went on to hit just .192/.259/.338. Still just 23, Hicks’ struggles don’t mean he won’t hit in the major leagues, but the Twins, even when losing nearly a hundred games a season, can’t afford they type of a black hole at any position. Conclusion The Twins are a bad team right now. Very little went right in 2013 and while the White Sox still finished behind Minnesota, and may in 2014 as well -- the Twins aren’t a match for the Tigers, Indians, or Royals. Joe Maurer, fully recovered, is a star when he’s behind the plate and still very good if he’s not. Miguel Sano is topping prospect lists and working his way to the majors, but he and Maurer will need help. Pitching help. After a successful run in the 2000s the 2010s are looking like a lost half decade for the Twins, but help is on the way. See related posts: Did the Milwaukee Brewers Have a Successful Season? Did the Chicago Cubs Have a Successful Season? Did the Seattle Mariners Have a Successful Season? Did the Arizona Diamondbacks Have a Successful Season? Did the Los Angeles Angels Have a Successful Season? Did the Philadelphia Phillies Have a Successful Season? Did the Washington Nationals Have a Successful Season? Did the Kansas City Royals Have a Successful Season? Did the Baltimore Orioles Have a Successful Season?

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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