Souhan: Now if the Twins just don't choke...
MINNEAPOLIS -- An open letter to the New York Yankees: I just want to warn you that we Minnesotans have the capability of making you very uncomfortable. First of all, this is what we like to call a BYOBB city. That's right, you have to bring your...
MINNEAPOLIS -- An open letter to the New York Yankees:
I just want to warn you that we Minnesotans have the capability of making you very uncomfortable.
First of all, this is what we like to call a BYOBB city. That's right, you have to bring your own bed bugs. We've got a few annoying beetles, but we, unlike you, keep them out of our sleeping quarters.
Second, when you're cavorting in our ballpark-refurbished Warehouse District, you will not be allowed to throw your refuse on the ground. We Midwesterners keep our trash in tidy containers in our garages; we do not leave large, clear, garbage bags on the curb, like you do. Please take note and act accordingly.
There is even a chance that you, our pinstriped guests, will feel uncomfortable at the ballpark in Minneapolis.
Stop laughing. Just because you've treated the Twins like extras in a mob movie for the past decade doesn't mean past is a prelude. Not necessarily. This time, our pesky Twins might have a chance.
This will be the first time the Twins will have ever enjoyed home-field advantage in a playoff series against you. In 2003 and 2004, the Twins won Game 1, then got swept, losing the last two games of the series in the Metrodome. Last year, the Twins were stretched to a Game 163 and flew to New York smelling of champagne, only to get swept by a better -- and better-rested -- Yankee team, leaving the Twins 2-9 against you Bombers in the playoffs.
But those were the ill-funded, happy-to-be-described-as-underdog Twins. This year, the boys played at Target Field, which funded the first $100 million payroll in franchise history.
Stop laughing. Just because $100 million is cab money for you doesn't mean it isn't a lot for us. That $100 million bought a veteran double-play combination, a Hall of Fame pinch hitter who turned into a Hall of Fame DH in Jim Thome, and the deepest bullpen the Twins have fielded since they went to the ALCS in 2002.
OK, you have a few advantages, too. You Yankees competed in the deeper-than-Deepak Chopra AL East, where the Toronto Blue Jays, maybe one of the 10 best teams in baseball, finished fourth. So, grading on a curve, your 95 victories put you closer to an A-plus than the Twins' 94 victories, which were achieved with help from the Royals and other pennant-race dropouts.
The Twins, though, have to feel that this is the right time and place to change their fortunes against the most entitled team in professional sports.
Stop laughing, for these reasons:
n The Twins not only have home-field advantage, they have home-field advantage in a pitcher-friendly ballpark that might help their arms survive a Yankees lineup more relentless than spam.
n The Twins get to attack you while fully rested, with their rotation set up, and in a short series, and while your rotation is ticking about as smoothly as a Times Square Rolex.
n This has been a charmed season for the locals. They lost two of their three best players, Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau, yet ran away with the division, played as well as anyone in baseball from mid-July through mid-September, and turned the inaugural season at Target Field into one, long celebration. If karma matters -- and bad karma has always mattered against the Yankees -- this could be the Twins' year.
That's why it was such a big deal when Jason Kubel somehow golfed a Mariano Rivera cutter headed for his left big toe into the right field seats at Yankee Stadium to win that getaway-day epic in May, to interrupt Yankee dominance against the Twins in the Bronx.
"I think that kind of got the monkey off our back," Twins infielder Nick Punto said. "Those guys have really dominated us."
The Twins seemed a little nervous Sunday. The manager refused to talk about the Yankees, and the players had football on the TVs instead of the end of the Yankees game.
Most of the Twins are pretending that playing you is no big deal. We know better.
Beating you would mean everything for a franchise that views pinstripes as symbols of excellence and arrogance; that wants to stop being patted on the head like the overachieving little brother in the pickup basketball game with the big boys.
For the first time, the Twins will rest and wait for you to show up in their city for the first game of the playoffs -- and the first playoff game at Target Field.
The Twins are rested and ready, and if they don't choke, they'll have a chance.
Souhan writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.