I was listening to the
carnage game last night with my son's godfather, who happens to be the best Twins fan of any of my friends or acquaintances. He's also old enough to remember the opening day roster of the 1965 Twins. As we sat watching the last remnants of the sunset dwindle into darkness over Lake Mille Lacs, we evaluated the team.
He said, "This is a competitive team, but it's not like the '91 team. It's not a championship team."
I replied: "This team is at least as good as the '91 team, just that the competition has gotten better."
He didn't argue with me, but acknowledged that this team might have been a championship team in the early '90s, but it has a long way to go to beat teams like the Yankees. The team has to play flawless baseball and catch a break or two to beat teams that are experienced enough to play flawless baseball in the playoffs and make their own breaks.
What has happened to the competition in baseball since '91? The Yankees have happened. Some time in the mid-90s, George Steinbrenner decided to spend whatever it takes to build a championship team. From 1996 to 2010, the Yankees have been almost as great a dynasty as they were from '25-'40. The only thing keeping the Yankees from winning every year is teams like the Red Sox, who made all the right moves and spent almost as much as the Yankees to compete with them.
The Yankees "spend whatever it takes to win championships" approach is bad for teams like the Twins, because it seems impossible to compete with it, even with a new stadium. But it also is good for baseball in the sense that it raises the bar for what a championship team is. It forces every team to build as good a team as the Yankees or face elimination in the playoffs. This series was merely a wake-up call for the Twins to go back to the drawing board and build a better team, one that won't crumble under pressure and will get the big hit when needed.
I can see both sides. I honestly don't know whether the Yankees are good for baseball or not. Their monpolisitic practices lead to despair in the smaller markets. But you can't argue with the level of play we have seen since the mid-'90s--a better brand of baseball than we have had ever in my opinion.
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