COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins have a loyal fan base. As one of Major League Baseball's small-market franchises, they've done everything imaginable to ensure they have a competitive team.
Five division championships in the past 11 seasons doesn't do anything to hurt that reputation, and for fans of other small-market teams, the Twins are the model of what their favorite team could become.
But wanting to become a Twins fan is a case of being careful what you wish for.
While the success of the 2000s and two World Series championships look nice, there are several reasons why a level of tolerance that needs to be reached in order to cheer for MLB's little engine that could.
1. The recent run of success has given several Twins fans a sense of entitlement.
Prior to the 2001 season, the Twins hadn't seen much success as a franchise. They had won two World Series championships, but, as a 14-year-old at the time, I had become accustomed to 90-loss seasons and high draft picks such as B.J. Garbe and Adam Johnson that had never worked out.
Then came the renaissance for the franchise, as they scorched out of the gates with a 15-3 record in 2001. Even the national media was paying attention as outfielder Matt Lawton was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
The Twins were back ... and so was everybody else.
Twins hats popped up everywhere, and people who hadn't watched a game since the Twins defeated the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series started dusting off their Kirby Puckett jerseys and marching to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to see what all the fuss was about.
It would be a decade-long stretch for the Twins that goes down as the most successful in franchise history, as they won five division championships and gave Twins fans everywhere a false sense of entitlement.
Suddenly, Twins fans everywhere became angered that star closer Joe Nathan could shut down the weak lineups of the American League Central but not the New York Yankees.
Then, they started pointing the finger at catcher Joe Mauer because he wasn't hitting well over .400 and therefore wasn't worth his $23 million a year salary.
And that was when the Twins were winning the division.
The Twins would take a fall from grace after 2010 and lose 195 games over the next two seasons. Mauer didn't help his case by missing half the 2011 season with bi-lateral leg weakness, and suddenly the torches and pitch forks were out in Twins Territory.
They pleaded with Terry Ryan to do something, and became offended when other teams refused to take their garbage. Top free agents also spurned them because they had finished in the basement of the AL Central the past two seasons.
Still, some asked, "How dare they?" as the Twins are still an elite organization in their eyes despite the fact they haven't won a playoff game since 2004.
As a loyal fan from the days where I just wanted to see Kirby Puckett come to the plate in a half-empty Metrodome, I cringe when I hear a spoiled Twins fan chew out Mauer for being injury prone despite playing in a career-high 147 games last season.
I guess to the victors, go the spoiled.
2. The Twins believe that winning the American League Central is like winning the World Series.
Fans of every organization in MLB dream of winning a World Series. The thrill of October is like nothing else when your team is involved, and for Twins fans they've seen plenty of postseason baseball.
It just hasn't been of the quality variety.
That's because the Twins have been obsessed with winning the division rather than focusing on a deep run into the playoffs.
For years, the Twins have looked impressive in their handling of the division, only to come unglued once they run into the New York Yankees in the American League Divisional Series.
A lot of that has to do with the handling of the team by manager Ron Gardenhire. When the Twins clinch the division, the team goes into shutdown mode where everyone is "emotionally drained."
To counter that, Gardenhire lets his starters sit on the bench for several games at a time to make sure everybody is ready for the big postseason series ahead.
The end result is a three-game sweep.
Perhaps one more playoff run will change their thinking, but the Twins are a team that hears Queen's We Are The Champions a little bit differently than everybody else...
We are the American League Central Division Champions, my friend.
And we'll keep on fighting until we win the division.
We are the American League Central Division Champions.
We are the American Leage Central Division Champions.
No time for losers, cause we are the American League Central Division Champions...of the world!
3. The Twins never keep elite talent.
Jerseys are expensive. Going to the ballpark to shell out $125 for a replica Johan Santana jersey was one of the biggest clothing investments of my life, but I figured it would be worth it because he was a key piece to the Twins' success.
However, the marriage between the Twins and their last true ace went sour just a year later, and next thing I knew Santana was a member of the New York Mets.
That's when I learned that nobody stays around in Minnesota for long.
Since the Twins came back from the baseball dead in 2001, the Twins have grown their own talent and watched them walk out the door to become key staples for other teams.
The Twins treat their players like high-priced chips at a poker table. The organization claims that their the Kenny Rogers of baseball, knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em but in a lot of cases their moves backfire.
There was the decision to trade J.J. Hardy after one ineffective season because former general manager Bill Smith thought Tsuyoshi Nishioka was a better bet to hold down shortstop.
There was the other decision to let Torii Hunter walk because they thought at the end of a five-year contract, he'd be a shell of himself at 36 (he's currently hitting .361 for the Detroit Tigers after a productive tenure with the Los Angeles Angels).
It's a trend that's likely to continue with 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau on the trading block, and super prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton rising through the system.
Odds are that the front office will deem Buxton and Sano too expensive to keep around, and trade them for a bunch of prospects that will likely flame out like the trade that sent Santana to the Mets.
4. The Twins always play for the future instead of going all-in.
Once every year, you see a team go all-in on a player because they think that it's the final piece to building a championship roster.
Unfortunately, that team never seems to be the Twins.
Instead of realizing their time is now, the Twins always believe that their time is two or three seasons down the road.
As they let quality players walk out the door for greener pastures, the belief is that the younger players in the organization are ready to step in and seamlessly fill in their spot.
That's why you never see the Twins step up and offer a massive contract to Zack Grienke even though their starting rotation looked worse than your beer league softball team.
It's also why you'll never see them offer a pair of top prospects to get an established second or third baseman rather than praying that Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe will hit above .230.
This aspect becomes extremely frustrating when the Twins are in the mix to be something more than American League Central division champions of the world, and sit on their hands while a fellow contender swoops in and picks them up for an affordable price.
5. The Pohlad family is incredibly cheap.
When the Twins came to Minnesota in the spring of 1961, they were owned by Calvin Griffith. He was a man that liked to value a dollar, and it resulted in several teams that were ok, but not World Series contenders during the early years of the franchise.
The Griffith era lasted throughout the 60s and 70s before Carl Pohlad stepped in and bought the team in 1984. With a large bank account, some could have guessed that some of these star players would be kept and the franchise would rise to baseball's elite.
That didn't happen.
While the Pohlad era netted two World Series championships in 1987 and 1991, the era was also known for getting rid of key players and refusing to cave into the increasing price of contract demands around MLB.
He also threatened the Twin Cities by agreeing to move the team to North Carolina in an effort to get a new stadium. When that didn't work, Pohlad decided that the next best thing was to eliminate the team completely and pad his already fat wallet by another $150 million.
Of course, neither of those ploys worked and the financing for what would be known as Target Field was finalized in May 2006.
Pohlad would never see the new crown jewel of Minneapolis (he died in 2009), but his children have picked up right where their father left off, jacking up ticket prices with the arrival of Target Field in 2010 and dropping payroll every year after.
There have been exceptions with the Twins giving catcher Joe Mauer one of the richest contracts in baseball history, but overall the Pohlads have refused to foot the bill for building a contending franchise.
Maybe they're just waiting for the future so they can sell them off again, and thus goes the cycle of being a Twins fan.
Chris Schad is a lifelong Twins follower that has spent a majority of his life cheering them on through the dark '90s and success of five American League Central championships in the 2000s. His work has been published on Bleacher Report.
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- American League Central