The 1997 Minnesota Twins will not be remembered as the strongest team the Twins ever fielded. Manager Tom Kelly's team consisted of a few solid players, but mainly past-their-prime veterans and never-to-be-established prospects. One of the few bright spots was pitcher Brad Radke's breakout season. The team finished with a 68-94 record, good enough for fourth place in the league's weakest division.
In 1996, catcher Terry Steinbach had a 35-home run, 100-RBI season with the Oakland Athletics in a contract year. Unfortunately for the Twins, he followed it up with a 12-home run, 54-RBI season with his hometown team. Scott Stahoviak played in half the games at first base but batted only .229. Second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, the team's lone all-star, had a great year with the Twins, batting .291 and stealing a career-high 62 bases. The contrast between his season and his team's season led him to demand a trade, a demand the team obliged by sending him to the New York Yankees the following February. Ron Coomer had a competent year at third, with 13 home runs. He declined to "ride the pines" to protect a .301 batting average, and finished 1 for his last 8 to end at .298. Pat Meares hit .276, an above-average season for him. The primary outfielders – Marty Cordova, Rich Becker, and Matt Lawton – had mediocre seasons. This was disappointing, because Cordova and Becker were coming off of the best years in their careers. Designated hitterPaul Molitor had a good year, batting .305 with 89 RBI, but it did not match his stellar 1996 numbers. Veterans like Roberto Kelly and Greg Colbrunn performed reasonably well off the bench.
Steinbach played well at catcher, backed up by Greg Myers. Stahoviak played in 81 games at first, with Colbrunn in 64. Knoblauch won a Gold Glove at second base in a season that gave no indication of his future throwing problems. Coomer (third base) and Meares (shortstop) were average at their positions. The three outfielders played well in the field.