Herald Journal Columns
September 18, 2006, Herald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch

90 wins is no guarantee for Twins

By Matt Kane

The Minnesota Twins are on the verge of winning their 90th game of the season, as they head into Boston Tuesday for the opening game of a three-game series with the Red Sox, and the fourth game of a 10-game road trip.

Ninety wins has been somewhat of a rarity for the Twins since they moved to the Twin Cities from Washington, D.C. in 1961. The franchise has matched or exceeded the 90-plus wins total 11 times in the past 35 seasons, with the current squad sure to make it a dozen.

But just getting to that 90-win mark doesn’t guarantee anything when it comes to qualifying for the postseason.

The Twins won 90 or more games each season from 2002-04, and claimed three consecutive American League Central Division titles in that span. But, prior to that run, the team qualified for postseason play just three times out of the remaining eight 90-win campaigns.

In 1991, the Twins went 95-57 in the regular season and went on to the franchise’s second World Series win. In 1969, the Twins won their first American League West championship with a 97-65 mark, and, in 1965, they won the American League pennant (there were no divisions) with a 102-60 record.

The Oakland Athletics defeated the Twins in the 1969 American League Championship Series, and the Los Angeles Dodgers needed seven games to beat the Twins in the 1965 World Series.

You might be wondering about Minnesota’s other World Series title in 1987. Although they won it all, the Twins failed to reach the 90-win plateau that season.

They finished 85-77 that season, a record worse than eight other teams in baseball, four from the American League East. (There were only two divisions in 1987.)

The Twins came up short of postseason berths in five seasons in which they won 90 or more games.

In 1988, they became only the second defending World Series champion in Major League history to miss the playoffs despite improving their record. The Twins finished 91-71 in 1988, six games better than their 1987 mark, but didn’t come close to winning the division. Again, they were victimized by Oakland, which finished with a 104-58 record, to finish 13 games ahead of the second place Twins.

The only other defending champion to not make the postseason after improving its record was the 1954 New York Yankees. That Yankees team posted a 103-51 record, but finished second to the Cleveland Indians, who were 111-43. The Yankees won the 1953 World Series after a 99-52 regular season.

Besides 1988, the other fruitless 90-win seasons were in 1962 (91-71-1, second place in the AL), 1963 (91-71, third), 1967 (91-71-2, second) and 1992 (90-72, second in the AL West).

With the Detroit Tigers currently leading the American League Central, and the Chicago White Sox breathing down the Twins’ neck for the wild card spot, it doesn’t look like another 85-win season will get the Twins into the postseason. They reached that win total Sept. 12 thanks to a comeback 7-5 win over Oakland. That meant the Twins would need just five more wins in the remaining 17 games to reach 90.

That feat should be feasible, and better be if Minnesota wants to play beyond Oct. 1. There is a good chance the Twins will have to win a few more games than 90 to hold off the White Sox for the final American League playoff spot, so why not shoot towards the century mark?

A 100-win season after limping back to the Metrodome June 9 with a 26-33 record following a 3-7 West Coast road trip? It’s possible. The Twins have gone 59-26 in their last 85 games (through Tuesday) to take the wild card lead with an 85-59 record.

If Minnesota can reach 100 wins, it would be the second time in team history. The other team — the 1965 squad — of course, went to the World Series.

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