It takes a strong regular season to get a team into the playoffs, but once a team actually gets there, all bets are off. Just ask the Twins.
Consider that the first World Series championship in club history came in 1987, when the Twins were barely above .500 in the regular season (with an awful 29-52 record on the road) but got hot at the right time to win both the American League Championship Series and the World Series. Then consider that Minnesota had two of its best regular seasons in 2019 and '20 but doesn't have a postseason win to show for them.
Still, there's nothing in professional sports quite like the grind of Major League Baseball's 162-game marathon, and there's something to be said for emerging from that war of attrition with a strong record -- often a testament not only to a club's top-end talent, but also to the depth of its roster construction. Let's remember the five best among those regular seasons in Twins history.
1) Year: 1965 | Record: 102-60 (.630 win percentage)
Even a cursory look around this roster should make it no surprise that this club had the most productive regular season in Twins history. The lineup was anchored by future Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, AL batting champion Tony Oliva, Bob Allison and AL Most Valuable Player Award winner Zoilo Versalles, while Mudcat Grant, Jim Kaat, Camilo Pascual and Jim Perry made for a formidable starting rotation -- all with ERAs of 3.35 or better.
A 22-9 record in July opened up a considerable lead on the remainder of the league, and the Twins held firm to win their first AL pennant -- in just the fifth season since the franchise relocated to Minnesota. They came within one win of the first World Series title in club history, but a three-hit, complete-game shutout by Sandy Koufax in Game 7 gave the Dodgers the edge. In fact, Koufax pitched shutouts in both Games 5 and 7 after famously refusing to make the Game 1 start on Yom Kippur.
2) Year: 2019 | Record: 101-61 (.623)
The year of the "Bomba Squad" won't soon be forgotten. Forget about those Metrodome teams of the 2000s predicated on contact hitting and small ball -- these new Twins were defined by tape-measure blasts and home run power at every spot in the lineup. Once left fielder Eddie Rosario expressed his love for hitting "bombas" in an interview, the club's moniker was born.
They had the clout to back up that nickname and the air raid siren that would blare at Target Field every time a Minnesota hitter went deep. The club broke the Yankees' old record for homers in a season (267) before September even began and edged the Bronx Bombers on the final day of the regular season to set a new MLB record at 307. Eight Twins hit 20 or more homers that season, the most players on a team to ever do so in one year. Still, the club fell in the AL Division Series in a three-game sweep to the Yankees.
3) Year: 1970 | Record: 98-64 (.605)
Rod Carew was lost for most of the season with a knee injury, but the Twins still got plenty of production from Killebrew, Oliva and outfielders Brant Alyea and Cesar Tovar, alongside a starting rotation that featured Perry, Kaat, 19-year-old rookie Bert Blyleven and Luis Tiant (between his Cleveland and Boston tenures). All that talent led to the Twins winning the AL West by nine games over Oakland, but future Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer led the eventual World Series champion Orioles to a three-game sweep of Minnesota in the ALCS.
4) Year: 1969 | Record: 97-65 (.599)
This was a similarly talented team in the final year of manager Billy Martin's tenure. It boasted the MLB home run leader in Killebrew (49), the AL batting champion in Carew (.332) and the Majors' hits leader in Oliva (197). Not a bad trifecta to have. Same story in the playoffs here, though: Following a dominant regular season and an AL West title for Minnesota, the 109-win Baltimore buzzsaw cut through the Twins in a three-game ALCS sweep before the Orioles famously lost that World Series to the "Miracle Mets."
5) Year: 2006 | Record: 96-66 (.593)
The 2006 Twins really didn't skimp on star power. When all was said and done, Minnesota claimed the AL Cy Young Award winner in Johan Santana (2.77 ERA, 245 strikeouts), the AL MVP in Justin Morneau (.934 OPS, 34 homers), the AL batting champion in Joe Mauer (.347 average, .429 on-base percentage) and one of the best closers in baseball in Joe Nathan (1.58 ERA, 36 saves). That also happened to be Francisco Liriano's legendary rookie season in which he won 11 of 13 decisions following his move from the bullpen to the rotation -- a season cut short when he blew out his arm. Unfortunately for Minnesota, this campaign also ended in a playoff sweep -- this time to the A's -- contributing losses 4-6 to the club's active 18-game postseason skid.