There is only one explanation for the Twins' futility in Yankee Stadiums new and old over the past eight years: When they enter the Bronx, they become the Minnesota Twimps.
It is one thing to lose most of your games to a dominant franchise that spends far more money on players than you do. It is another to regurgitate all over your spikes when you glimpse pinstripes.
This has become an abusive relationship that has defined the Twins nationally as the nice little team from the tundra that gets spooked by the ghosts of Yankee Stadium and fails to make an impact in the playoffs.
This needs to stop. Not because these three games will define this season, but because the Twins no longer should consider themselves underdogs against anyone.
The 2010 Twins play in one of the best stadiums in baseball and are spending about $100 million on players. They have added veterans who should feel no intimidation playing on a grand stage. They spent $184 million on a catcher the Yankees would have loved to steal. They employ two of the best players in the game, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, and one of baseball's best center fielders and leadoff men, Denard Span.
It is time for the Twimps to stop acting like Midwestern rubes stumbling through Times Square, agog at the neon and bustle, and establish that they won't be pushed around by big-market bullies.
Strangely, the undecorated group of players who turned the Twins franchise around didn't seem intimidated by the Yankees.
In 2001, a young group of Twins with no pedigree for winning stormed into Yankee Stadium, ducked debris thrown at them in the outfield, faced down a group of players who had won three of the previous four World Series, and won two out of three games.
From 2002 through 2009, Twins teams that had proved themselves winners crept into Yankee Stadiums new and old, facing Yankees teams that did not win a World Series until 2009, and invented new and creative ways to lose.
The Twins enter their weekend series at new Yankee Stadium having gone 3-23 in regular-season games in the Bronx from 2002 through '09. They've also lost nine consecutive regular-season games to the Yankees regardless of site. They are 2-9 against the Yankees in playoff games this decade. They haven't swept a three-game series in New York since 1968.
For a franchise that has won five of the past eight American League Central titles, this is not just aberrant. This is embarrassing.
There is only one explanation for a quality team performing like the Kansas City Royals in Yankee Stadium: The Twins have developed a mental block. In sports parlance, they have choked.
These collapses transcend baseball. These collapses indicate a lack of intestinal fortitude.
Since the start of the 2002 season, the Yankees have won 64 percent of their home games against teams other than the Twins -- including the Royals and Orioles. In that span, they have won 89 percent of their home games against the Twins.
Those numbers make two statements: 1) The Yankees are very difficult to beat in the Bronx. 2) The Yankees are not as difficult to beat in the Bronx as the Twins make them seem.
What's gone wrong for the Twins?
"I don't know," said Scott Baker, who will pitch on Friday. "As a pitcher, I try not to carry other games into my next start, but as a position player, that might be different. I don't know.
"But we've got a really good team this year. I feel like we've got all the pieces not only to win the division but to beat teams such as the Yankees. So, we'll see."
Getting swept in Yankee Stadium wouldn't ruin the Twins' season. It would merely bolster their reputation as a team that remains unprepared to star on the game's biggest stages.
The 2010 Twins are talented enough to change that perception. We'll find out this weekend whether they are mentally tough enough to change that perception.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. email@example.com