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Twins Clinch, But Division Victory Not Unusual in Year 1 of New Stadium

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More than one-third of baseball franchises win their division in first year of new stadium out of 20 teams since 1989; only two have finished in last place

Nearly nine years ago, a Pioneer Press / MPR poll of more than 400 likely voters in both Minneapolis and St. Paul each found by more than 2:1 margins that its residents opposed "significant public financing" for a new Minnesota Twins stadium.

Although 71 percent of Minneapolis residents and 62 percent of St. Paulites were opposed to such funding in that October 2001 survey, a stadium deal did eventually get signed into law at the Capital a few years later and year one of Target Field is now nearly in the books.

And now, with the Twins clinching on Tuesday night their 11th division title since the franchise moved to the Twin Cities in 1961 - and their sixth in the last nine years - one wonders how much public opinion about the stadium has shifted after the fact.

The Twins shot out of the gate in April, hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, then rallied strong despite losing their biggest bat in Justin Morneau, in large part due to the play of Sports Illustrated cover man Jim Thome - who Smart Politics named the most productive Twin of the season early this month.

But while clinching a division title before Game 162 has fans feeling optimistic about October, it is unlikely a division title alone will be sufficient to call the Twins' season a success.

Nor should it be.

A Smart Politics analysis of Major League Baseball historical records finds that since the new baseball stadium boom began just over two decades ago, 7 of 20 teams have won their division in the inaugural year of their new stadium.

Baseball has seen 20 new stadiums built since the Toronto Blue Jays opened Rogers Centre in 1989. The Jays went on to win the AL East that year, finishing first out of seven teams in the old two-divisions-per-league alignment.

Other subsequent division winners in their first year of a new stadium are the Texas Rangers (in the 1994 strike-shortened year), the 1996 Atlanta Braves, the 2000 San Francisco Giants, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, the 2009 New York Yankees, and the 2010 Twins.

By contrast, just two teams have finished in last place in Year 1 of a new stadium: the 2001 Pittsburgh Pirates (with a 62-100 record) and the 2008 Washington Nationals (at 59-102).

Is it the sell-out crowds? The fancy new facilities? The extra buzz in the city? The increased payroll?

It helps, of course, that the Twins and each of the aforementioned six division winners did have winning records in the year prior to opening the new stadium. So, this is not an overnight rags to riches story.

But the Twins, who won 5 to 1 hosting the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, are raising eyebrows, boasting a .605 winning percentage, at 92-60, with 10 games to play.

That means the Twins are now on pace to have the second best record in its inaugural season at a new ballpark of the 20 teams who have received new stadiums over the past generation.

Only the 2009 New York Yankees, who finished at 103-59 (.636), are out of reach.

If the Twins win 6 of their remaining 10 games they will also eclipse the 2000 San Francisco Giants (97-65) and the 1996 Atlanta Braves (96-66).

It is also worth noting that two of the last four teams to open new stadiums in Major League Baseball won the World Series that year: the '06 Cardinals and the '09 Yankees.

Will the Twins make it three of five?

Record in Year 1 of New Baseball Stadium, 1989-2010

Team
Field
Year
Record
%
New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium
2009
103-59
.636
Minnesota Twins*
Target Field
2010
92-60
.605
San Francisco Giants
AT&T Park
2000
97-65
.599
Atlanta Braves
Turner Field
1996
96-66
.593
Cleveland Indians
Progressive Field
1994
66-47
.584
Baltimore Orioles
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
1992
89-73
.549
Toronto Blue Jays
Rogers Centre
1989
89-73
.549
San Diego Padres
Petco Park
2004
87-75
.537
Chicago White Sox
U.S. Cellular Field
1991
87-75
.537
Philadelphia Phillies
Citizens Bank Park
2004
86-76
.531
St. Louis Cardinals
Busch Stadium
2006
83-78
.516
Detroit Tigers
Comerica Park
2000
79-83
.488
Seattle Mariners
Safeco Field
1999
79-83
.488
Texas Rangers
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
1994
52-62
.456
Houston Astros
Minute Maid Park
2000
72-90
.444
New York Mets
Citi Field
2009
70-92
.432
Cincinnati Reds
Great American Ball Park
2003
69-93
.426
Milwaukee Brewers
Miller Park
2001
68-94
.420
Pittsburgh Pirates
PNC Park
2001
62-100
.383
Washington Nationals
Nationals Park
2008
59-102
.366
* Through September 22, 2010. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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1 Comment


  • The Yankees lost tonight, so now we're tied for the best record in baseball! GO TWINS!

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