This was not how the Twins‘ 2011 season was supposed to go.

Coming off consecutive AL Central Division titles, and on the 20th anniversary of their last World Series championship, this season was supposed to be the year they stepped up and finally made it past the divisional round of the playoffs.

Currently tied with the Kansas City Royals at 23 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers, the Twins are poised to accomplish the exact opposite in 2011—going from winning 94 games and finishing first in the AL Central in 2010 to finishing last.

Since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager in 2002, the lowest the Twins have finished in the division is third—in 2005 and 2007.

On Sept. 10, 1991 the Twins were 85-54 with an eight-and-a-half game lead on the rest of the American League West. They would finish with the best record in the AL, at 95-67—second only to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This was a 21-game turnaround from the previous season when they finished last of the seven teams in the AL West.

I compared the rosters and the performance of the Twins to uncover what changed to propel them from the depths of the AL West in 1990 to the pinnacle of baseball in 1991. Surprisingly, there were only a few changes in the starting lineup and starting pitching rotation that would see the side catapult from last to first in a single season.

Can the Twins learn anything from that historical reference that might help turn around their dreadful 2011 season, and hopefully return to championship form in 2012?

Here’s a look at what changed in 1991, and what the Twins could do for 2012.

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