There is no greater myth in Minnesota sports than suggesting the Vikings were done in by a hex when going 0-4 in Super Bowls played from January 1970 to January 1977. The true reason for the Vikings’ failure to win pro football’s grand prize in their period of excellence was facing the AFL/AFC at its zenith.
The teams encountered in those Super Bowls were Kansas City, Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland, and all superior to our noble Purple warriors. One can argue that wasn’t the case with the Chiefs, but decades later those 12-point underdogs from K.C. have eight players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame compared to six for the 1969 Vikings.
Minnesota’s baseball fans are not nearly as devoted to excuses for failure as are Vikings loyalists, but many have seized another myth:
The Twins are burdened by a hex, or a curse, or a jinx, when facing the New York Yankees in the postseason.
The reality is the Twins have the same problem as did the Vikings against those representatives from the AFL/AFC: Every time they face the Yankees, they are facing a superior force.
Admittedly, there is something spooky about the Yankees beating the Twins for the 13th straight time in the postseason on Monday night, since baseball isn’t a game made for 13 straight of anything.
An overflow crowd of 41,121 showed up for the first playoff game at Target Field in exactly nine years. That was a 5-2 loss that put the Twins in 2-0 hole on the way to being swept by the Yankees, and this was a 5-1 loss that completed another Yankees sweep of the Twins.
This also made the Yankees 6-for-6 in eliminating the Twins since 2003. The series was 3-1 in 2003 and 2004, and it has been 3-0 in 2009, 2010 and now 2019. Plus, there was the one-and-done wild-card loss in 2017.
It is permissible for Twins followers to contemplate the odds of losing 13 straight individual ballgames to the same team. As for losing five series and being eliminated six times by the Yankees, there is no mystery whatsoever.
Superior team generally wins. That simple.
A vivid example of the misplaced wonderment over the Yankees’ dominance came in the first go-round in this ballpark in 2010.
Public ardor for the Twins was at its highest point since Jack Morris’ 10-inning shutout (1991). The paid attendance was 3,223,640 in the new ballpark as they pulled away from the White Sox to win a sixth AL Central title with a 94-68 record.
The Yankees were a wild card from the East, so the Twins were at home for Games 1 and 2. Even though Justin Morneau had been lost to a concussion in the middle of a tremendous season, veteran Jim Thome had provided a sizable spark and there was optimism.
Twins President Dave St. Peter might have said, “This is the year to slay the dragon,” although I’m not certain.
Looking back was there any hex involved in that Yankees’ sweep?
Or was it using CC Sabathia (21-7), Phil Hughes (18-8) and Andy Pettitte (11-3) as the starters, with Mariano Rivera as the finisher, while facing Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing for the Twins?
Was the sweep part of a Yankees’ curse, or was it the lineup that had Alex Rodriguez driving in 125 runs, Robinson Cano 109, Mark Teixeira 108, and also Derek Jeter?
The 2010 Twins had a shot for five innings in Game 1, leading 3-0 with Liriano looking strong. Then the Yankees scored four and that was it.
Reporters covering the Twins in the spring training of 2011 heard one question from fans visiting Fort Myers: “Can the Twins beat the Yankees this year?’’
The Twins couldn’t beat anybody that year, finishing 63-99. It was in the dreadful days of late August that I went to the visitors dugout for Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s media session.
Three players were perched on the ledge of the dugout bench: Jeter, then Cano, then Teixeira, all in their prime. The suggestion in the next morning’s Star Tribune was that the source of the Yankees’ jinx had been discovered.
Finally, at the end of this decade, serious regular-season winning resumed for the 2019 Twins: 101 wins, an MLB-record of 307 home runs (one more than the Yankees) and the return of a homer hankie, now red and reading “Bomba SZN.’’
Someone questioning manager Rocco Baldelli’s use of relievers when Game 1 of this series was close suggested SZN stands for “Stashak Zack Nada.’’
Funny, yes, but second-guessing your way to scenarios that would have allowed a Twins to get past these Yankees is futile.
In the end, there was no hex, jinx, curse or game-losing moves. Only the familiar:
A Yankees team with better pitching, more clutch hitting and not giving away extra bases in the field.