Over the next few days, you will read countless well-reasoned pieces on the Twins and what went wrong over the past three games. You will hear about the Yankees' postseason grit, savvy, moxie and clutch play. And you will hear about ways in which the Twins can close the gap, improve their shortcomings and maybe — just maybe — win a playoff game again this century.
All of those things will have merit and elements of truth.
But let's not kid ourselves. The main reason the Twins lost (again) to the Yankees (again) is that they're playing in a system tilted against them.
The baseball economy mirrors the U.S. economy. And the chances of achieving playoff dreams when you're the financial underdog are as lopsided as the chances of achieving the American dream under the same circumstances.
The Yankees have better players and win more often because they can afford better players. They always will as long as baseball decides not to have a salary cap that levels the playing field in terms of how much teams can spend.
The Twins don't spend as much as the Yankees because they don't generate nearly as much revenue as them.
They don't spend as much money as the Yankees for the same reason that you don't live in a house as nice as your wealthier neighbor. (And the chances are greater than ever that your wealthy neighbor's parents had more money than your parents).
The Twins' payroll in 2019, according to Spotrac, is around $124 million — No. 18 in MLB. The Yankees are only the third-highest spenders this year at $218 million, but they still spent $94 million more than the Twins.
In terms of the most recent revenue numbers, it's even more stark. The Yankees had $668 million in yearly revenue per Forbes' latest calculations. The Twins had nearly $400 million less at $269 million. Everyone gets a piece of the national TV money, which has grown significantly, but local media contracts and other local revenue streams in New York dwarf those in Minnesota.
That doesn't mean the big-spending teams always win. The top two payrolls in MLB belonged to Boston and the Cubs, who both missed the playoffs. Dead last? Tampa, which did make it.
But in life and baseball, it's disingenuous to focus on the exceptions rather than the rule. The rule is this: From a fundamental standpoint the Twins will start every game against the Yankees at a disadvantage. Their margins for error will be thinner because the $94 million payroll difference between the teams means the Twins can't afford to miss when they sign big-ticket players. The Yankees? They can just buy more.
Among what still constitute the four biggest-money pro sports leagues in this country, baseball is alone in this disparity.
The NHL, NFL and NBA all have some versions of salary caps. Market factors impact free agency, but you can only spend so much.
MLB has a luxury tax, but it doesn't stop major market teams from routinely cruising past $200 million payrolls while others are well below $100 million.
It's still mind-numbing that the Twins have lost 16 consecutive postseason games, 13 of them to the Yankees (and 11 straight home playoff games dating to 2002 for good measure).
But it's not shocking that the series is lopsided when you consider how the financial deck is stacked.
It doesn't mean the Twins didn't have a chance. And it doesn't mean they should stop trying to overcome their economic disadvantage with effort, intelligence and more carefully curated talent.
In baseball and life, there's a fine line between recognizing not everything is your fault and giving up because the system is unfair.
But in baseball and in life, there is this baseline reality: You can work as hard as you can and still not win when the other side was born on third base.