Twins face ?familiar foe? in playoffs

Travis Kriens

Travis KriensSports Genius

It can be easy to over look the baseball playoffs now that the NFL and college football seasons are in full swing. Especially if your team has been out of the race since June. But, for those fortunate few that have a rooting interest in this years, or any years, quest for the World Series, it is a special time. A time that makes watching 100 plus games over six months worth it.

The MLB playoffs are the most special in all of professional sports for one simple reason: they are the most exclusive. Only eight out of 30 teams get a chance to play meaningful postseason games. Compare that to the NBA or NHL where more teams make the playoffs (16) than miss them (14), or to the NFL, where every team but seven has made the playoffs at least once in the last five years and every team but three in the past eight seasons (Lions, Bills, Texans).

Baseball may be called America’s past time because it’s easy to watch a game and enjoy yourself without getting too emotionally invested. If your team loses, no big deal. There’s another game tomorrow and the next day for the next five months.

While football has surpassed baseball as the nation’s number one sport sometime in the past 30 years, a 162-game baseball season doesn’t have the urgency or importance that seemingly every game of every NFL week does. Except in the playoffs.

No longer can you sit back and let the game play out like you can in the middle of July. Your team gets down 2-0 early in the second inning? No problem. You still have seven innings to come back. In the playoffs? Each inning is its own game. Each playoff game has to be managed like it’s the only game of the week. The season depends on it.

The greatest game I have ever seen in any sport was last year: a one-game playoff to decide the AL Central between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. It’s amazing to think that after six months and 162 games, two teams could finish with the same record.

It was a game that had a football feeling to it, in the sense that every play could change the outcome of the season for one of the teams, because that’s exactly what was on the line. A four-and-a-half hour classic where neither team had more than a one run lead in the final six innings left my voice hoarse the next day. Something usually reserved for a Minnesota Vikings playoff loss.

After experiencing the disappointment of a 1-0 one game playoff loss to the White Sox a year earlier, this Twins victory was as great and special as any Twins win since their last World Series in 1991.

This brings me to the 2010 MLB playoffs. The Twins find an all too familiar foe in the New York Yankees.

While this may be the Twins best team in the past two decades, I still don’t see them overcoming New York.

The Yankees have question marks on their pitching staff after you get past C.C. Sabathia. Future hall of fame closer Mariano Rivera is not invincible anymore, but after seeing the little team from the Midwest struggle against the big city bullies over the past few years, I am of the opinion that when it comes to Twins vs. Yankees, the Twins are already defeated before they step on the field.

Minnesota is 2-9 all-time in the playoffs vs. New York (0-5 at home) with a 3-16 record at New York since 2006.

Playoffs games seem to come down to which teams’ starting pitcher can keep them in the game and whether or not your bullpen can hold a lead. That means close games in high-pressure situations. The Twins have lost 16 of their last 18 games vs. the Yankees in one-run games or in extra innings, including a pair of back-to-back 1-0 losses at Target Field earlier this season.

Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable to image talking about Minnesota in the playoffs, let alone being any better than a .500 team. Growing up on the Twins of Todd Walker, Matt Lawton, Ron Coomer, Marty Cordova and Brad Radke, the MLB playoffs where such an after though. They may as well have been played in Saudi Arabia.

Presently, it is a disappointing year when the Twins don’t win their division. But maybe we fans have become too complacent. I hate to be greedy, but it’s about time for Minnesota to win a series or two and actually accomplish something in the playoffs instead of turning into the American League version of the Atlanta Braves.

In no sport is a 2-16 post-season record acceptable (0-8 at home) for any team, no matter how much of a Cinderella story everyone thinks they are.

Gone is the little team that could win with the payroll in the bottom quarter of the league getting by on infield hits, great defense and taking the extra base.

These Twins have a different look than any Twins team in its history. Their payroll now exceeds $100 million, putting them in the top 10 in baseball. To put that into perspective, their payroll was $24 million in 2001, last in baseball and the only team not to have an average salary over $1 million.

Never before had Minnesota put together more than three straight seasons over .500. They have now done it in nine of the past 10 seasons.

With big money players, a new ballpark, record attendance and popularity near an all-time high, the time is now for the Twins to give a new generation of fans that World Series memory.

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