Bring on the Evil Empire?
Image courtesy of © Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsAs of Friday, the Twins have a one game lead on the Yankees as the No. 4 seed. The Bronx Bombers have won eight straight games, hitting a ridiculous 27 home runs. It’s absolutely possible, and maybe even likely that the Twins will have to travel to the Bronx for the entirety of the first round. That’s… not ideal. The Twins are 2-17 at Yankee Stadium since 2015.
The case for wanting to face New York
Slaying the dragon
The Yankees’ ownership of the Twins in October is one of the most well-visited fads in all of sports. The Yanks are 16-2 against Minnesota in the postseason, including 13 straight wins. The Twins’ 16 game playoff win drought is tied for the longest in North American sports history. Even as an incredibly passionate fan of the team, this is laughable. It’s hard to be this bad in October. It will end, I promise. What better time than now? What better opponent than them?
It’s unlikely the Twins will win the division in 2020. If they beat the Yankees in the playoffs, who cares about the division? That would make the entire up-and-down rollercoaster season worth it. Even a defeat in the ALDS would be taken lighter if the Twins could eliminate New York the round before. Beating the Yankees would be worth two series victories, arguably.
It’s not an entirely terrible matchup
Gary Sánchez was a massive part of the Yankees offensive attack in 2019. He’s been mostly absent in 2020. Sánchez has been worth negative 0.3 bWAR and Gerrit Cole likely won’t be throwing to him in game one. Another 30 home run hitter in 2019, breakout Gleyber Torres has just three in 126 plate appearances. It helps that the Yankees’ best hitters, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Torres, Luke Voit and Gio Urshela are all right-handed. That’s good news for Kenta Maeda, who has dominated righties for five straight years.
The most impactful development of all has been the implosion of New York’s once all-world bullpen. They rank 20th in baseball with a 4.51 ERA, a group sunk by the efforts of Adam Ottavino (6.91) and Aroldis Chapman (4.15). Tommy Kahnle has been out for all but one inning after Tommy John surgery. At least so far in this shortened campaign, the Yankee bullpen hasn’t been scary at all.
The case for wanting to avoid New York
Imagine this: the Twins get swept by the Yankees again, extending their postseason drought to 18 games. Two games and poof, the Twins are gone, once again at the hands of their rightful owners. That would be a nightmare. For an entire offseason, we hurt and wreath in the bath of Yankee domination. We again ask ourselves: “will this ever end?”
Maybe even more painfully, let’s say the Twins battle and win one of the first two games. Game three is a heart-wrencher, tight until the very end when Aaron Judge ropes a three-run homer off Taylor Rogers to send New York to the glorious (or not so) bubble in California. I’m already crying. Can we handle that again? The answer of course, is yes. But do we want to have to handle that again? Maybe we’d rather lose to someone else for a change.
Their stars shine bright
DJ LeMahieu was already a stud before signing with the Yankees. Now he’s a full-fledged superstar. LeMahieu had a case to win A.L. MVP in 2019, hitting .327 with 26 homers and 33 doubles in 145 games on an injury-riddled team. The 2020 Yankees are also injury-riddled (and LeMahieu hasn’t escaped unscathed) but the utility infielder has hit a nutty .373/.421/.627 with 2 fWAR in just 39 games. Luke Voit, after missing the playoff roster in 2019, leads baseball with 20 homers. A healthy Aaron Judge is a menace on both sides of the ball. Giancarlo Stanton has a 195 wRC+ in 16 games. That’s, uh, really high.
Gerrit Cole is also a major puzzle. The $324 million man has a 0.90 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 20 September innings. Outside of (maybe) Shane Bieber, there’s no worse matchup for any team than Cole in the A.L. He’ll be dialed in and ready to rock in game one. The beauty of baseball, and why so many people hate the new format, is that anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Cole’s start guarantees nothing. Also, the Twins could just go win the next two if he dominates in game one.
What do you think? Do you want to face the Yankees in round one?
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