As the Minnesota Twins know very well, nothing is set in stone with nearly three weeks remaining in the Major League Baseball season. However, barring a recent- San Diego Padres-level meltdown from one of the top teams in the American League, it looks as if the AL will be represented in the playoffs by the Twins, the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, and Texas Rangers. Minnesota has a six-game lead over Chicago, Texas an eight-game lead over Oakland, and no one is within seven games of the Yankees or Rays for the wild card or AL East. Thanks to Major League Baseball's rule prohibiting teams from the same division playing each other in the opening round of the playoffs, if the playoffs started today, Tampa Bay would host Texas, and Minnesota would host New York. Therein lies the problem for the Twins and fans of the team.
I've said before that other than Red Sox fans, you'd be hard-pressed to find a group that hates the Yankees more than Twins fans. It's no secret that the Yankees have owned them during the regular season and post season the last several years. The Twins have made the playoffs five of the past nine years. Three of those five trips, including last year, the Twins have been sent packing by the Yankees in the American League Division Series. The Twins have only won two games in that span to the Yankees' nine, including none in the Metrodome. This seasons, the Yankees have taken four of six from the Twins, two in New York and two in Minneapolis, and both Twins wins were aided by grand slams by Jason Kubel. The Rangers, on the other hand, recently swept the Yankees, albeit in Texas, but they got the job done against a team that has done nothing short of demoralizing the Twins in recent years.
So, with the season winding down, Twins fans may find themselves doing something unfamiliar: pulling for the Yankees. If the Yankees come out on top of the AL East, the Twins will host the wild card Rays. While Minnesota has only played marginally better against the Rays this year, going 3-5, the Rays don't nearly have the same psychological advantage as the Yankees do over the Twins. The Rangers, on the other hand, have momentum against the Yankees after recently sweeping them, and should the Twins and Rangers meet in the ALCS, the Twins have owned the Rangers this year, especially at Target Field. So while it may be a novel concept, the Yankees playing well down the stretch- especially if they and the Rays exhaust themselves down to game 162 or 163- would be an ideal situation for the Twins.
-Ben Anderson-Smith, contributor.