The Wild and Wacky AL Central

What is there to say about this division other than it's the most unstable division in baseball. Every year, the team that is picked to win fails and another team crashes the party. The American League Central division is like a dysfunctional family in ways. The division was formed in 1994 and was first made up of the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins. The Cleveland Indians won all three division titles during that alignment from 1995-1997. In fact, the 1995 Cleveland Indians are still to this date the only American League Central division club to win 100 games. The Cleveland clubs of 1995-1997 were very successful in the playoffs also. They captured two American League Championship series titles, but lost both of their World Series appearances during that three year span.

During 1998, Major League baseball expansion saw the Detroit Tigers moved from the American League East to the Central and the Milwaukee Brewers were moved to the National League. Since 1998, the American League Central division has consisted of the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins. From 1998 through 2001, the Cleveland Indians continued to have their way with this division by winning three of the four division titles during that span. The lone exception was the year 2000, which was won by the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox were the only team besides Cleveland to win the AL Central in the first seven years of its creation. Only the 1998 Indians made it past the divisional round of the playoffs as they fell to the New York Yankees in the ALCS. The Cleveland Indians owned the AL Central winning six of the seven titles in the first seven years. Still, no AL Central team had won a World Series during the three division era.

The year 2002 saw the rise of the Minnesota Twins franchise on the AL Central scene. The Minnesota Twins went on a three year tear and won the 2002-2004 AL Central division titles. The Twins were never able to turn those three titles into much playoff success though, as they only made it out of the divisional round one time and failed to make it to a World Series. The New York Yankees stopped their 2003 and 2004 teams in the divisional round and in 2002 the Twins fell to the Anaheim Angels in the American League Championship Series.

The 2005 Chicago White Sox stormed through the AL Central, winning the division by six games over Cleveland and then they rode that storm right into the playoffs. The White Sox swept Boston in the Divisional round and beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 in the ALCS. The White Sox proceeded to sweep the Roger Clemens led Houston Astros in the 2005 World Series for the AL Central's first ever Wolrd Series title. During the Wolrd Series, White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle made World Series history by becoming the first pitcher to ever to start and save consecutive World Series games. Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen earned American League manager of the year honors for his first managerial World Series title.

The 2006 season saw the Minnesota Twins win the AL Central title and, for the first time ever, the second place AL Central team won the wild card spot into the playoffs. The Detroit Tigers finished just one game behind Minnesota in the AL Central, but was able to win the wild card race. Minnesota would go on to lose to Oakland in the divisional round, but Detroit would get hot just in time to make a deep push in the playoffs knocking off the heavily favored New York Yankees in the divisional round three games to one before capturing the ALCS by sweeping the Oakland Athletics. Pitcher Kenny Rogers led the team with strong postseason pitching performances throughout the 2006 playoffs. The Tigers met their match in the World Series though as they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals four games to one. It was the second consecutive year and AL Central team had played in the World Series. Detroit manager Jim Leyland won American League manager of the year honers and Minnesota or Detroit players swept the biggest players awards that season winning the MVP, Cy Young, Batting Title and Rookie of the Year honors.

Cleveland was back on top in 2007, winning the AL Central division for the seventh time in franchise history and they returned to the ALCS after dispatching the New York Yankees in the divisional round. Cleveland would eventually fall to the World Champion Boston Red Sox four games to three in the ALCS. The Chicago White Sox were back on top of the AL Central division in 2008, but the White Sox fell three games to one in the divisional round to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Minnesota grabbed a stranglehold on the AL Central again winning both the 2009 and 2010 division titles. This gave the Twins six AL Central titles overall which is second only to Cleveland's seven titles. The Twins were swept both years in the divisional rounds by their nemesis the New York Yankees. The Yankees have beaten the Twins four of the five times they have made the playoffs since the 2003 season.

The 2011 season has seen almost everyone predicting the White Sox, Twins or Tigers to win the AL Central division. Yet, after the first couple weeks, it's the Cleveland Indians who sit atop the division with an 8-3 record and the very surprising Kansas City Royals currently in second place while both the Tigers and Twins have gotten off to slow starts. As we have all learned through the years though is that the AL Central division is as unpredictable as the weather at times and as this season comes and goes we can all relish the wild and wackiness we can see by watching this race play out. So, please fasten your seatbelts and be ready for another rocky ride that this division is about to take us on.

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