Last year, the perennial little team that could, the Minnesota Twins fell just one game short of the playoffs.
Actually, it was in their 163rd game, a play-in game with the division rival Chicago White Sox in a game played controversially at "The Cell" in Chicago's Southside.
Since the epic 1-0 finish, with a Jim Thome home run being the deciding factor, the rule, which awarded the game to Chicago via a coin flip has been changed to what it should have been all along, the better record amongst the teams involved, in head-to-head matchups host the deciding game.
Once again, the small-market Twins find themselves going up again a familiar foe, this time in the form of the Detroit Tigers. I previewed this possibility on July 6 when I wrote the following article: "Don't look now. Justin Morneau is carrying the Twins....again."
Only this time, due to a season-ending back injury they don't even have him, yet winners of 12 of their last 14, they continue to overcome the odds baseball stacks against them.
I've also discussed the very real possibility of home town hero, and likely MVP winner Joe Mauer playing his final days in a Twins uniform. How sad would it be to not only close out the Metrodome's 27-year history with three meaningless regular season games against the "we-don't-even-try-until September" Kansas City Royals, but also have a league MVP and batting champion sitting at home in October?
This could be Mauer's last chance to represent his town, his team, in the playoffs before he becomes just another bastard Red $ox. Now, I never really got too attached to cheering for Mauer since I never saw him staying with the team, but personal feelings aside, all the other Twins fans deserve to see this through until he really is out the door.
The Tigers, however, have baseball's fifth higest payroll entering this season at $115,085,145 with an average salary of $4,110,184—while the Twins check in 24th at $65,299,267 with the average player earning $2,251,699.
If they are lucky enough to survive a late season collapse that saw Detroit leading the American League Central by seven games as late as Sept. 6 (the day before Labor Day for those of you keeping track), we're going to have to hear all about "poor Detroit" and how a World Series win would do wonders for the fading city in this economy, and the health of legendary former Tigers broadcaster, Ernie Harwell, this year's version of Harry Kalas as in an endless rendition of "Win this one (as in the next game they play for as long as they play) for Ernie!"
Well I, for one, am sick of hearing about Detroit.
Not only is "poor Detroit" so 1945, as its population has been declining ever since then, much like the state as a whole, but more importantly there are other parts of the nation that have been hit just as hard or harder, yet don't receive half the coverage because they lack the long standing economic staples (i.e cars) that Detroit does.
You didn't see the Arizona Cardinals say "Look at us!" throughout their 2008 Super Bowl run despite the fact that the Phoenix area has been notoriously hard hit in home repossession in a most staggering housing market decline.
Thirdly, beyond the payroll and economics factor, the Tigers lack intriguing players since its basically been Edwin Jackson and Justin Verlander carrying them pitching-wise and Miguel Cabrera offensively. How's that Aubrey Huff addition been working out for them? .194, 2 HR, 13 RBI since coming to town almost two months ago.
If just another big city market is what you are after, then by all means cheer for the lowly, boring Tigers, who don't even deserve to be where they are after practically blowing their late lead.
You've already got the a-hole Yankee$ and their No. 1 $201,449,289 ($7,748,050 average) payroll. How can you idiot fans sleep at night knowing its not really a team, but a bunch of hired guns? Of course you made the playoffs, you're supposed to. Where's the intrigue?
You've got the junior Yankee$, their cousin$, the Bo$ton Red $ox and their No. 4 $122,696,000 ($4,089,867 average) payroll. If you can't beat 'em join 'em, right fellas?
You've got the $113,709,000 ($4,061,036 average) Angels who are sixth in the American League in total payroll.
No. 1 Yankee$, No. 4 Red $ox and No. 6 Angel$. Really fun, especially if you add the No. 5 Tiger$. Wow, that's gonna be super. Who's gonna win the pennant? The one that spends the least? That's comforting and that's just the American League.
Sadly, I probably would be cheering for the frugal-by-comparison, Angel$ throughout if only to be spared yet another forced-down-our-throats Yankee$ vs. Red $ox from the ESPN Hype Machine. I swear if that happens, I'm boycotting the ALCS and so will a lot of sickened fans.
Hey, Bawstonians and New Yuckers, the league does NOT revolve around you!
National League stakes
In the National League we've got the hot-dogging Los Angeles Dodgers with their tired Manny mantra and over-used Joe Torre nostalgia. At $100,458,101 ($4,018,324 average) we've got the ninth ranked, and last of the triple-digit payroll teams in the playoffs.
Nine out of 30. Thirty percent of the freaking league has a payroll in excess of $100 million. While in the NFL where this is common place, let's not kid ourselves for there is real parity each year. We could see a Cincinnati Bengals vs. New Orleans Saints Super Bowl. Don't laugh.
In Major League Baseball, that's roughly equivalent to the Kansas City Royals vs the Washington Nationals.
Ain't gonna happen.
We aren't going to see that preceded by a winner-take-all Pittsburgh vs. Washington NLCS or Kansas City-Minnesota ALCS. Baseball doesn't want that, never did.
Bad for business.
No. 1, No. 4, No. 5, No. 6, (AL) No. 7, No. 9, No. 13 No. 18 (NL) as of now.
In addition to the Hollywood Dodgers who coudn't even change their name despite the fact that the name originated as is more appropriate to the trolley dodgers of Brooklyn, we see that the seventh ranked Philadelphia Phillies at $113,004,048 ($4,185,335 average) have all but clinched the East. Awesome. Do we even have to mention they are the defending champs?
The Central will be represented by the St. Louis Cardinals and their 13th ranked $88,528,411 ($3,278,830 average) payroll complete with Albert "I haven't been caught yet" Pujols.
Finally, the Wild Card race pits the No. 18 ranked Colorado Rockies, $75,201,000 ($2,785,222 average) against the No. 11 Atlanta Braves and their $96,726,167 ($3,335,385 average) payrolls. Don't even get me started on the fair-weather fandom of the metro-Atlanta "fans" or their tiring 14 consecutive division titles yet 1/5 showing in the Fall Classic.
So baseball fans, its your choice:
Do you want:
No.1 $201,449,289 $7,748,050 vs. No.5 $115,085,145 4,110,184
No.4 $122,696,000 4,089,867 vs No.6 $113,709,000 4,061,036
No.1 $201,449,289 $7,748,050 vs No.24 $65,299,267 2,251,699
No.4 $122,696,000 4,089,867 vs No.6. $113,709,000 4,061,036
No.9 $100,458,101 4,018,324 vs No.11 96,726,167 3,335,385
No.13 $88,528,411 3,278,830 vs. No.7 $113,004,048 4,185,335
No.13 $88,528,411 3,278,830 vs. No.18 $75,201,000 2,785,222
No.9 $100,458,101 4,018,324 vs No.7 $113,004,048 4,185,335
I'd say we should all be cheering for the Twins and Rockies to finish the deal and meet in the World Series for the good of the game, lest we be forced to suffer the agony of a boring, economics-fueled, World Series with six of the top nine payrolls already represented.
Selig's joke revenue sharing finally hit him in the face and it will be exposed by historically low ratings if this is the case.
Turns out all the $&$*# Yankee$ needed to end their nine year World Series Championship "slump" was a brand new $1.2 billion dollar palace. I can read it now.
Enjoy it Yankee$ fans, its not like you earned it.
You have bought it.
And Major League Baseball wouldn't want it any other way.
Let's just hope the Twins postseason fate isn't determined by a mere pitch like last year.
After all, what are the chances?