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Division Winner May Be Determined by Kansas City


Harold Reynolds Recently made Twins Fans Uneasy for the Upcoming Season


One game separated the two clubs last year so, barring some drastic acquisitions, the race for the division title would promise to be nip and tuck as we prepared for the 2021 season. The expectations for a two-team race quickly diminished when, less than a month after the World Series, one team quickly strengthened its roster.

The Chicago White Sox seemed to more than make up that single game deficit by hiring manager Tony Larussa, who had already led twice led teams to World Series Championships. One of those team was, in fact, the White Sox, who were now hoping to win a second title with Larussa as skipper.

That move alone was enough to convince many baseball experts, such as Hot Stove co-host Matt Vasgersian, to concede the American league Central to Chicago. Before the new calendars were being hung, the White Sox made Vasgersian even more certain of his prediction by greatly improving their roster as well.

In late November they traded with Texas for veteran starter Lance Lynn, and the following week they signed steady right hander Liam Hendricks to a free agent deal. Those two arms will join a rotation already anchored by Cy Young candidate Lucas Giolito, and then Chicago began improving its lineup to support those arms.

They brought free agent Adam Eaton back to the North Side, where he had been an All-Star outfielder for the first half of his career. Yesterday All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy was signed, providing a solid backup for Yasmani Grandal.

Just when nearly everyone was writing in Chicago as the favorite, the team that has won the division for the past two seasons began to improve its roster as well. The Minnesota Twins signed highly-coveted shortstop Andrelton Simmons as a free agent, and then they brought back veteran slugger Nelson Cruz.

In spite of these deals, Vasgersian stood by his prediction that the White Sox would take the A.L. Central. His co-host Harold Reynolds, who had just two years before foretold of Minnesota's rise to the top, cast doubt on the odds of Chicago's dethroning the Twins.

Reynolds stated that the two clubs were pretty even, and then he predicted that the champion of the division would be decided by a different team in the division.

“The championship of the A.L. Central will be determined by the Royals,” Reynolds said during the Hot Stove broadcast on February 4. “Kansas City is a lot better than they were last year, and they will play Chicago and Minnesota nineteen times each. Whichever one takes the season series from the Royals will win the division.”

If this statement of Reynolds is accurate, it probably bodes ill for the Twins. For some reason Minnesota has struggled against Kansas City, a trend that has continued long after the Royals won successive pennants in 2014-5.

Last year, when the first place Twins finished 24 games over .500, they managed only a split of their ten against the Royals. An August 7 trip to Kansas City resulted in a three game sweep for the home team, which actually knocked Minnesota out of first place.

On their first meeting with Kansas City at Target Field on August 15, the Twins had rebounded to get a three game lead over second place Chicago. The Royals swept that series as well, reducing Minnesota's lead to just a half a game. Less than a week later, a visit to Kansas City saw the Royals take the opener 7-2.

While the Royals were dominating the Twins, the White Sox were dismantling the Royals. In the ten meetings between Chicago and Kansas City, the White Sox won nine of them.

If the trend against Kansas City stays the course for both teams in 2021, Reynolds's prognostication on Hot Stove will rattle optimistic Minnesota fans. On the other hand, if the Royals do indeed keep the Twins from defending their Central division title, at least they will not have to worry about extending their dubious postseason losing streak.

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