For the 2010 season the Minnesota Twins spent big money.

Their payroll, usually closer to the bottom of the league than to the top, is now the eleventh highest in Major League Baseball at $97.6 million.

They signed Joe Mauer to an eight year $184 million contract extension that will land him among the top five paid players in Major League Baseball in 2011.

All this and a new ball park has the expectations higher than ever for this perennial AL Central contender.

Yet, there is a hint of concern in the air of Twins fans.

Mauer is currently battling a slump with his average at a season low .303. If the season were to end today, it would be the third lowest in his six years for the Twins.

His lowest batting average of .293 in 2007 followed the season of his first batting title in 2006.

With a batting title and an MVP award last year will the drop-off be even greater? Mauer is already held to a higher standard than average players, or even All-Star players, and with big money comes big expectations.

So far for the Minnesota Nine Target Field is playing larger than it’s dimensions—almost the exact opposite as to how New Yankee Stadium opened last season.

There have been 50 home runs hit a Target Field, yet only 19 of these from the Twins, only two from the MVP tandem of Justin Morneau and Mauer—and none from last year’s batting champ and MVP.

So how does the 2010 version of the Minnesota Twins compare to the previous teams?

Looking back at the Twins’ record after 70 games to 2003, the season before Mauer was called up, may hold some surprises.

With a record of 40-30 going into Wednesday night’s games against the Milwaukee Brewers, this is the best record the Twins have had over the last eight seasons. 

Their previous best was 39-31 achieved in 2004 and 2005.

One game better? The expectations are much greater than that.

In 2005 they finished third in the AL Central at 83-79, 12 games behind division champions Chicago White Sox, the eventual World Series Champions.

With four division titles since 2003 (five if you go back one more year to 2002) the Twins appear to be sitting in familiar territory.

However, with a little more than half the season remaining, the Twins have the worst record among American League division leaders, while the Yankees have the best.

It looks exactly like every other playoff year—ending with a divisional playoff loss in four games.

As the summer heats, and the winds shift from the South, perhaps the Twins’ bats will heat up, and the Twins will make a run worthy of their payroll. With a key roster add before the trading deadline the Twins could still change their fortunes and October baseball in Minnesota may still be a possibility.  

If not, 

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