After losing the World Series in heartbreaking fashion in 2016, the Indians seemed to have a hard time recapturing the magic of that ride when the 2017 season began. As late as June 14 Cleveland was just one game over .500, but before that week was over they had moved into first place, where they have remained for all but one day ever since.
Not much was expected of the Twins after they lost 103 games a year ago, but they have been the biggest turnaround story in baseball. Minnesota led the division for much of the spring and is still in prime position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010. The Royals, meanwhile, are making one last push with the core of players who carried them to the 2014 AL pennant and the '15 World Series title. Kansas City started 7-16 but has dug out of that hole to remain in postseason contention as the year draws to a close.
The Tigers became trade deadline sellers, dealing away outfielder Justin Upton and, most notably, former AL Cy Young and MVP award winner Justin Verlander while playing out the string. The White Sox have been buried in last place all summer but continue to stockpile young talent that should form the core of one of baseball's most compelling teams in years to come.
Created in 1994 when baseball went to a three-division format, the AL Central took the White Sox, Royals and Twins from the AL West and the Brewers and Indians from the AL East. When Milwaukee switched over to the NL for the 1998 season to accommodate the most recent round of expansion that gave birth to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Detroit was moved to the AL Central.
No matter which teams filled out the division, they all shared one thing in common in those early years: looking up at the Cleveland Indians. After not making the playoffs since reaching the World Series in 1954, the Tribe bashed their way to 100 wins in strike-shortened 1995 and followed up with five more first-place finishes in the next six years, much to the delight of a record streak of sellout crowds at their new ballpark, Jacobs Field. The White Sox, in 2000, were the team that interrupted that streak; Chicago also won the division in 2005 en route to its only World Series title sine 1917.
In fact, rebounds have ben a hallmark of this division. Another small-mark darling, the Twins, overcame threats of contraction after the 2001 season to win the first of six division titles in nine seasons in '02. The Tigers lost a modern-AL record 119 games in 2003; three years later they were in the World Series en route to becoming a consistent winner that included four straight division titles this decade. And the Royals, an AL West power in the 1970s and '80s, endured a quarter-century of irrelevance before their recent resurgence that culminated in the 2015 championship.
Chicago White Sox
Division Titles: 5 (1983, 1993, 2000, 2005, 2008)
Division Titles: 8 (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2016)
Division Titles: 7 (1972, 1984, 1987, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
Kansas City Royals
Division Titles: 8 (1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1985, 2015)
Division Titles: 10 (1969, 1970, 1987, 1991, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010