Last week, I brought you the top 10 Minnesota pro sports teams on the past decade. This week, I bring you the top 10 worst Minnesota pro sports teams of the decade. Let’s have a look:
- 5. 2001 Minnesota Vikings (5-11): The Vikings never got their feet beneath them after dealing with the loss of Pro Bowl offensive lineman Korey Stringer during training camp. His death cast a pall over the season. Certain events can put sports into perspective. This was one of them.
- 4. 2000-01 Minnesota Wild (25-39-13-5): First off, how ridiculous were NHL records back in the day when there was wins, losses, ties and overtime losses. What a mouthful! Anyway, want to take a guess at who was the top point-getter for the first-year Minnesota Wild in 2000-01? Marian Gaborik? No. Wes Walz? Sorry. Darby Hendrickson? Wrong again. It was Scott Pellerin and his 39 points!
- 3. 2000 Minnesota Twins (69-93): The Twins began their turnaround in 2001, but the path getting to the resurgence was not pretty. No Twins player hit 20 homers. No Twins player stole 30 bases. The Twins’ top ERA from a starting pitcher was Brad Radke‘s 4.45. The Twins were 11th among the American League’s 14 teams in ERA, dead last in homers and 13th in runs scored. But there were bright spots. The Twins hit a respectable .270. The bullpen was pretty good. Cristian Guzman had 20 triples.
- 2. 2008-09 Minnesota Timberwolves (24-58): The Wolves last season ranked in the bottom third in the league in scoring average and opponents’ scoring average. Not a pretty sight. And when Al Jefferson was lost for the season after 50 games, this team was as unwatchable as any Wolves team since …
- 1. 2007-08 Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60): That’s right. The year before was even worse! The Randy Wittman-led Wolves of two years ago saw Marko Jaric start 56 games, Sebastian Telfair start 51 games, Rashad McCants start 24 games, Michael Doleac start 8 games and Mark Madsen start 6 games! Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?
I’m not going to lie. I completely forgot last week about my plans to run a Top 10 list every Friday morning on this blog. So it’s time to get back on my game.
This week, let’s take a look at the top teams of this decade. I feel like I’d be opening a can of worms by including area colleges like NDSU, Minnesota, UND, and the like since, well, if I included last year’s Bison basketball team, people would ask, "Why not the volleyball team?" or "Why not the softball team?"
Plus, I plan to do a worst teams of the decade, too, and I don’t want colleges or high schools included in that either. So I’m just going to look at Minnesota pro teams for this. And I’ve decided to leave out the 2009 Vikings. Their place on this list can be determined when their season ends.
Here we go. The top five Minnesota pro teams of the past decade:
- 5. The 2000 Minnesota Vikings. Led by head coach Denny Green, the Vikings finished 11-5 to win the NFC Central division. Daunte Culpepper, Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Randy Moss helped give the Vikings a dominant offense as the Vikes finished fifth in the NFL in scoring that season. The defense, however, was ranked 24th. Minnesota had a first-round bye in the playoffs, then defeated New Orleans 34-16 in the NFC divisional round, giving the Vikes a matchup against the New York Giants with a Super Bowl berth on the line. All that needs to be said is "41-0." It was a Vikings loss that lives in infamy.
- 4. The 2002-03 Minnesota Wild. The Wild’s run to the conference finals might be considered the most thrilling postseason run in this decade by any Minnesota team. The Wild finished third in their division to get a playoff berth. They won their first two playoff series in seven games apiece against the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks, but they were swept by the Anaheim Ducks and red-hot goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the Western Conference finals. The likes of Richard Park and Wes Walz remain fresh in the minds of Minnesota hockey fans after their unlikely playoff run.
- 3. The 2002 Minnesota Twins. Twins manager Tom Kelly put the franchise back on the map in 2001 thanks to a second-place finish in the AL Central. It was the Twins’ first season with a winning record in nearly a decade. In 2002, threats of contraction hung over the team after it was reported that in November 2001 owners voted 28-2 in favor of contracting the Twins and the Montreal Expos. Many of the Twins players viewed the 2002 season as their last chance to play together, as an injunction prevented MLB from contracting the team before the season. The Twins won their first division title in 11 years in 2002 and defeated the Oakland A’s in a thrilling five-game AL Division Series. Minnesota won Game 1 of the ALCS against Anaheim before losing the next four. The ALDS win remains the last playoff series won by the Twins.
- 2. The 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves. Finally, the Timberwolves had their breakthrough. Behind NBA MVP Kevin Garnett, the Wolves won a postseason series for the first time, having been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous seven seasons. The Wolves knocked the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings out of the playoffs before facing the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals. The Wolves were eliminated in six games, and that postseason remains as the last playoff appearance made by the franchise. One note: It’s the only team in Wolves history to allow fewer than 100 points per game for a season.
- 1. The 2006 Minnesota Twins. Never have I felt so strongly about a Minnesota team winning a championship this decade as I did about this team. The Twins were red-hot going into the playoffs, having won the AL Central division title on the final day of the regular season after winning that Sunday, then watching Kansas City defeat Detroit. The Twins boasted a ton of talent. There was the AL MVP (Justin Morneau), the AL batting champion (Joe Mauer), a perennial Gold Glove center fielder (Torii Hunter), the AL Cy Young Award winner (Johan Santana) and the stud closer (Joe Nathan). The Twins won 96 games that season, the most they’d won since 1970. Up first were the AL West champion Oakland A’s, a perennial playoff team that, as history’s shown, was making its only playoff appearance in the last six years. The A’s, led by a pitching staff of Barry Zito, Esteban Loaiza and Dan Haren, held the Twins to just six runs in a three-game sweep that proved deflating for area baseball fans.
I know a lot of you are probably wondering how I can pick a team that didn’t win a playoff game as the best team of the decade. It was a tough call, but it’s hard to dispute that the 2006 Twins team was loaded. Their playoff flop is how baseball works. The season’s a marathon – 162 games long – but it can all end in three games. The Twins offense slumped, and the season was over quickly.