“The Chicago Blackhawks have gotten in the heads of the Minnesota Wild in a manner that is very remindful of the manner in which the New York Yankees were in the heads of Ron Gardenhire’s Twins in the previous decade.’’
If I have seen this once from the Minnesota media, on Twitter or in comments on blogs and articles, I have seen it 80 times since the Blackhawks defeated the Skating Ws last Friday night in the series opener.
I don’t know about the Blackhawks being inside the helmets of the Wild. My instinct is that Chicago is about the eliminate the Yeozies for the third straight spring due more to Corey Crawford’s goaltending and Patrick Kane’s playmaking than a mental block afflicting our heroes.
Then again, my hockey instincts are suspect, having been so impressed with the Wild’s decisive ousting of the St. Louis Blues that a week ago – in all sincerity – I was announcing that this was the year when Minnesota finally would receive its Stanley Cup.
That’s not my issue here. My issue is what seems to be the ongoing myth that the Yankees beating the Twins four times in a division series from 2003 to 2010 was based on some kind of a hex, rather than the most-basic tenet of team sports:
Best team usually wins.
The operative word is “usually,'' since without the possibility of upsets, sports would not be worth watching.
As it turned out, there were no upsets in the outcome of the division series between the Twins and the Yankees in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010. Let’s review:
2003/ The Yankees won 101 games and the Twins won 90. The Yankees’ starting pitchers were Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells. The Twins’ starting pitchers were Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Kyle Lohse and Santana again.
The Twins won the opener 3-1, with good work from the bullpen, and then scored one run in each of the next three games. Was this a) a hex on the hitters, or b) did it have more to do with Pettitte, Clemens and Wells being the starters? I’m going with b).
2004/ The Yankees won 101 games that season and the Twins won 92. The Yankees’ starting pitchers were Mussina, Jon Lieber, Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez. The Twins’ starters were Santana, Radke, Carlos Silva and Santana again.
This was the Twins’ best chance to win in four tries. They won the opener 2-0 with Santana, and had a chance to win the second game in Yankee Stadium, but Joe Nathan couldn’t hold a lead. And they blew a 5-1 lead in Game 4 at the Metrodome, when reliever Juan Rincon spit the bit.
Still, the Yankees were the better club, as proved by winning those 101 games in the AL East.
2009/ The Yankees won 103 games that season and the Twins won 87, including a Game 163 decider for the AL Central with Detroit. The Yankees’ starting pitchers were C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Pettitte. The Twins’ starting pitchers were Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano.
So the 3-0 sweep that started the Yankees’ postseason run to a World Series title was based on the boys from the Bronx holding a jinx over the Twins?
2010/ The Yankees were a wild-card team with 95 victories, and the Twins won 94 games and another AL Central title. It was the first season in Target Field, and the first time the Twins had the first two games at home in a playoff series with the Yankees.
Still, the starting pitching told the story: Sabathia, Pettitte and Phil Hughes (he was 18-8 that season) vs. Francisco Liriano, Pavano and Duensing. The Twins and Liriano let Game 1 get away, and this was followed by two routine victories for the Yankees and another sweep.
There was a lot of talk about the Yankees’ jinx, about the Yankees being “inside the Twins’ heads,’’ after that sweep.
It was the next season that I was walking through the Yankees’ dugout before they started batting practice at Target Field. There were four players sitting next to one another on the top rung of the dugout:
Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Mark Texeira and Alex Rodriguez.
Promptly, this thought bubble appeared above my head: “I think I have discovered a main ingredient of the Yankees’ jinx over our Twinkies.’’
Seriously. I would like to track down the people bringing up this Yankees-Twins comparison to explain the Wild’s current predicament, place them in a headlock, and give them the middle knuckle to the top of the head, Three Stooges-style.
The Yankees were better, all four times. Rule One in team sports: The best team usually wins.