Did the Yankees purposely tank their 2010 division title chances to set up another postseason matchup with their favorite punching bags from Minnesota? I see why GM Brian Cashman’s comment could be construed that way, but that’s not how I’m reading it.

On Sunday, Cashman was explaining why he supports baseball’s decision to add another wild-card team to each league.

“We’re exhibit A,” he said, according to the New York Times. “We conceded the division two years ago because of the previous setup. I don’t want to take anything away from Tampa Bay’s Eastern Division title, but we didn’t try to win the division. We tried to line ourselves up for the playoffs, and that worked. We wound up sweeping Minnesota and going to play the Texas Rangers two years ago because we got our guys healthy and ready to go.

“The division title in essence, the way that wild-card situation was sitting, it was rendered meaningless. Whether you were a wild card or a division champ, it really meant nothing more than a T-shirt and a hat.”

The Yankees knocked the Twins from the AL Division Series in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010. The last two were sweeps, and New York now has a nine-game postseason winning streak against Minnesota.

To my knowledge, Cashman never has said a disrespectful thing about the Twins. He praised them before and after each of those Division Series victories and showed complete class each time the Yankees moved on to the ALCS. Regardless who they played, the Yankees learned it was more important to enter the postseason healthy and set up their rotation than to fight for division titles and home-field advantage.

Cashman’s comment simply explains why the new system will be better. Instead of diluting the pennant races, it should help enhance them. A team that doesn’t fight for its division title, purposely settling for a wild card berth, would risk having its entire season derailed in a one-game showdown with the other wild-card team.

Baseball has until March 1 to decide whether to move to a 10-team playoff format for this fall, and it’ll definitely be in place for 2013. The sooner the better.

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