Picking My Battles: Twins or Tigers in ALDS?
"So who would you rather play in the ALDS?"
I think the only set of 9 words I've heard more often than this is "Thank you for your submission to our publication. Unfortunately..."
But in the last week, the pending ALDS opponent has been like a bag of PopSecret stuck in the penant race microwave, with this simple "Minnesota or Detroit" inquiry popping up faster and more insistently with every passing second.
I've said approximatley 23,012 times how loathe I am to assert a preference in these types of situations, because it's a very subtle form of jinxing. Like jinxing twice-removed or something. It's funny--sort of--since this exact same issue was floating around this exact same time in 2006.
And every Yankee fan was THRILLED when it was decided our opponent would be Detroit rather than the Twins. None of us banked on Kenny Rogers, looking every bit his age of 82, would practically pitch a perfect game against us.
Eh, what the hell. Here it is: I want Minnesota.
Part of me wants to go the reverse psychology route. It's one of those things where it's almost too obvious. I have a midwestern buddy who's a big Minnesota fan, and during the season, he'd write me things like, "Who makes the schedule? How is fair that the Yankees have to play us? It's just sad." Or worse, during a 4-game series in the Bronx, the Yanks not only swept the boys from Minny, but won the first 3 of those games in walk-off fashion.
The Twins just don't historically fare that well against the Yankees. This isn't to downplay their talent by any means. The way I see it, every team's got one. The Twins have the Yankees. The Yankees have the Angels. The Angels have the Red Sox...
It's like some kind of Krebs Cycle-like chain of nature. Circle of "Sonnuvabitch!"
That said, there's a first time for everything. Cough, 2004, cough. No team gets owned forever, and at some point, the little guys strike back. Who's to say the Twinks won't use the ALDS to have their "Dare to Be Great" moment?
On the other hand, there's a part of me that overrides this poetic justice element of the series, and focuses more on something I like to call Justin Verlander.
There's the power of inexplcable fate...and then there's the power of a triple-digit fastball. And, to be honest, it's probably easier to hit the ghosts of Twinkie fortune, than it is to hit Verlander's 2-seamer.
And, of course, you can always point out the MVP shoo-in Joe Mauer. But, let's be realistic. Joe Mauer does not equal the sum of Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge, and Aubrey Huff.
Here's a topline breakdown of what we're up against:
But here's the bottom line. No matter who we're playing, a 5-game series is the full moon of baseball playoffs. Wacky things happen. And personally, I'd like our chances against a team who's been trotting out all their big guns, A-game, and otherwise last-ditch-moves-of-must-win-desperation.
An exceptional performance from someone on short rest is always a departure from the norm. Because the fact of the matter is, no one plays better when he's tired.
Well, with the possible exception of Mariano Rivera, who never seems to actually have fully woken up from his nap once he's summoned from the bullpen.