Nothing is normal or certain in 2020, least of all next week’s newfangled, way-too-many-teams, way-too-short-a-series, best-of-three first round of the Major League Baseball playoffs.
The best team in each league and the eighth team might as well flip a coin to decide who moves on to the bubbles in Texas and California, where the real, best-of-five and best-of-seven part of the postseason will be conducted.
Baseball playoffs are not meant to be decided this way. Sure, there have been one-game wild-card showdowns since 2012 — although not this year — but non-division winners earned that sort of precariousness.
Division winners deserve better. Better teams deserve better.
This makeshift, COVID-19-driven system invites chaos and unfairness even as it gives baseball’s TV partners extra content to make up for the games lost to the pandemic.
There is one exception, though: the Twins vs. the Yankees.
In a world turned upside down, there is no greater certainty in life than a Twins-Yankees playoff series, which is why as the Twins and White Sox battle for seeding this week, every Yankees fan knows which way to root.
New York wants the Twins. New York needs the Twins. New York deserves the Twins.
It has been more than 8 ½ years since the metropolitan area celebrated an MLB/NFL/NBA/NHL championship — the Giants’ win in Super Bowl XLVI — which already is the longest such drought since 1905-21.
With the Islanders out of the playoffs, the Giants and Jets a combined 0-4 and the NBA and NHL uncertain when next season will start, the Yankees are our only hope for keeping the stretch from growing to 9 ½ years.
So, the Twins it must be. You know the drill. Everyone in Minnesota does, too.
The Yankees play the Twins in the postseason, the Yankees win.
They are 16-2 all-time against Minnesota, including 13 victories in a row. Thirteen! (Overall, the Twins have lost 16 consecutive playoff games.)
In 2003 and 2004, the Twins won 90 and 92 games, and lost the ALDS in four games to the Yankees.
Their one victory in 2003 was started by future Met Johan Santana and won by future Met LaTroy Hawkins. Their one win in 2004 was won by Santana, after which the Yankees won three in a row — and haven’t lost since.
In 2009 and 2010, the Twins won 87 and 94 games, then were swept by the Yankees in the ALDS. In 2017, they won 85, then lost to the Yankees in the wild-card game. In 2019, they won 101, then were swept in the ALDS. By the Yankees.
The Yankees are plus-53 in run differential in their 18 postseason games against the Twins, almost three per game.
Here we are in the truncated 2020 season, and naturally the Twins are good again. They were 34-22 entering Wednesday night, and were 22-5 at fan-free Target Field.
Nelson Cruz, at age 40, was batting .314 with 16 home runs. Miguel Sano had 13 home runs and Eddie Rosario 36 RBIs. Kenta Maeda had a 2.52 ERA and 71 strikeouts, and Taylor Rogers nine saves.
The Twins are a good, solid, deep-playoff-run worthy team.
What about the White Sox, the Yankees’ other most likely potential first-round matchup? They never have won a single game against the Yankees in the postseason. But they never have played them.
This is no time for unknowns like that for Yankees fans. The Twins it is. Of course, there is no logical reason for them not to succeed against the Yankees, especially if they get the higher seed and host the first-round series.
But they are the Twins. The Yankees are the Yankees. It is the one thing we can count on, even in 2020.