By Mark Martinez
It amazes me that we have a cluster of American League Central Division teams below .500. With the American League East being so competitive, and the complete opposite, I guess some division has to be that way.
Looking back at last year’s standings, the Cleveland Guardians won the A.L. Central while the Chicago White Sox finished 2nd, with an 81 and 81 record. The Minnesota Twins seem to be the team, this year, that will win the division outright.
In 1995, Major League Baseball expanded to three divisions in each league. In the last 28 seasons, believe it or not, the Cleveland Guardians have had the most division wins with eleven. If you follow baseball, you know the Cleveland Guardians were the laughing stock for a long period of time. From 1995 to 2001, they won the division 6 times. The Guardians put some great players on the map. There was Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Grady Sizemore, and C.C. Sabathia, just to name a few. Before researching this topic, I honestly didn’t expect to see such dominance from one franchise.
The Minnesota Twins rank 2nd, in the same time frame, with 8 division wins. The Twins are a smaller market team. In all the years the Twins have won the A.L. Central, only one time, in 2019, did the payroll exceed over 100 million dollars. In fact, the Minnesota Twins payroll, in 2002, was just 40 million dollars.
What I noticed about this division is the cluster. A franchise gets hot, for a few years, steady. The pattern seems to be if you win one year, you will probably win the year after, as well. The shocking part of this division, besides the under .500 factor, is how much the Kansas City Royals do not actually win. From 1995, until the present day, the Kansas City Royals have only won the A.L. Central one time. The only year the Royals actually won the division was in 2015, going on to also win the World Series that year. When you think of the Royals, you think of a small market team automatically. The Minnesota Twins are basically in the same position of being a small market franchise.
Although 4 out of the 5 teams will finish under .500, you have to guess that eventually the tide will turn, and 4 out of the 5 will be above .500. Playoff contention for 80% of one division makes every game critical.