Here we go again.
As I said to a friend some time ago, watching the Twins play the Yankees in the playoffs is like watching a video of your kid getting into a car accident. Actually, for me, it’s too horrible to watch. I knew what the outcome would be, so I found other things to do when the Twins were on. Work. Clean out the basement. Catch up on emails. Go to bed early. Just avoid watching that car accident.
Going into the series, it really was easy to predict the outcome. I know the sportyak radio was dominated by talk about how poor the Yankees’ pitching looked at season’s end. And it’s true that over the last two weeks of the season, Yankee starters had an ERA of 6.68, worst in the majors. But you know who was second-worst? The Twins at 6.31. And while the starters stinking it up for you guys were not the guys starting in the DCS (OK, Pettitte, but he was pitching himself back into form), each of our three playoff starters had 6+ ERAs (Duensing 6.11, Pavano 6.55, Liriano 7.56). And there is the small matter about the Twins’ best player having a bad knee and second-best player out with a concussion. Imagine the Yankees with Cano playing on a bad wheel and Tex or A-Rod on the DL, with a rotation of Vazquez, Burnett, and Moseley. That’s why this seemed preordained to Twins fans.
Then there’s the whole caliber-of-play thing. The Twins won a division that had two teams playing over-.500 ball. The AL East had four. In our division, the third-place team’s No. 3 starter had a 5.53 ERA and they had only one player with over 15 homers. In your division, the third-place team was the Red Sox. The Yankees’ record was harder to come by than the Twins’.
But yeah, there’s more to it than that. The Twins under Gardenhire are now 18-57 against the Bombers. That’s not just bad, that’s historically awful. This year’s Pirates were the worst team in the majors. Their winning percentage was .352. You probably remember the terrible 2003 Tigers, who went 43-119, good for a .265 winning percentage. They wrote books about the 1962 Mets, who went 40-120, a .250 winning percentage. The Gardenhire Twins against the Yankees have a .240 winning percentage. Over the course of a season, that would put the Twins two games BEHIND the ’62 Mets. Marvelous Marv, Choo-Choo Coleman, a rotation with two 20-game losers…they played better ball than Twins have over the last 9 years against the Yanks.
So what is it? Don’t give me the Yankee mystique thing. We got that monkey off our backs when Killebrew hit the last-of-the-ninth, two-out, 3-2 count home run the day before the ASB in ’65. (Okay, I know, most of you probably weren’t even alive then, but play along with me here.) Twins as chokers? Well, maybe, but you don’t win six division titles in nine years by choking. Bad luck or timing? Losing Morneau for the season (and we hope not longer) on a freak play, and having Mauer hurt his knee in the season’s closing days, didn’t help, and we lost our closer before the season started. But would those three have bridged the 10-run gap over three games?
Nah, I go for the simple answer. As many of you probably know, the only two teams to have lost four Super Bowls are the Bills and Vikings. I once read a book about the Vikings’ misadventures. The author concluded that while the Vikes should’ve beaten the Chiefs in 1970 (I refuse to do the Roman numeral thing), their losses against the Dolphins in ’74, the Steelers in ’75, and the Raiders in ’77 were against the three dominant franchises of their era. Simply put, the better team won. I think the same thing is going on when the Twins play the Yankees. I can’t explain the .240 winning percentage, but I certainly can explain the losing record, and the oh-fer in the postseason. The better team won.
Just don’t ask me to watch it.
Rob Mains is a native Minnesotan who started attending Twins games during the Kennedy Administration. As he is not blond, Lutheran, or a hockey fan, he was banished to the state of New York in 1980, where he has been subject to a daily bombardment of Yankee iconography ever since.