All in all, the 60-game season was the best we could have done. Still, I am somewhat conflicted about this series with the Astros, which apparently simply means that I could and should be a happier person. But enough about me.
As many of you have suggested (and I suggested myself in a piece a couple of weeks ago), I’m pleased we are not playing the Yankees. I mean, enough is simply enough, and frankly, it’s been more than enough. Also, having the opportunity to end the Astros’ season is outstanding, given that…well…everyone now properly despises the cheating Astros. This allows the Twins to get the kind of universal acclaim that they seldom receive from the national media. Everyone (maybe even some in Houston) will be rooting for the Twins.
The fact that a former Dodger, Kenta Maeda will be starting game one….makes it even better. Though, given the stakes, he must resist the urge to plunk the first nine hitters he sees. He seems on the surface to be a person who can forgive and forget, or at least not hold a grudge, so I’m confident his ego and superego will properly control his id. Now, if Sergio Romo were starting game one....I might have a different take (and I like Romo, and I’ve completely exhausted my knowledge of psychology in one sentence, so I’ll leave it at that).
Now, on to the negative. The Astros finished 29-31. They are the sixth seed. There is a lot wrong with both of those previous sentences. Obviously, most of the criticisms leveled at the 16-team playoff format are vividly illustrated by the Astros. They had a mediocre, at best, season, and now they have a chance in a three-game series to knock off a team that had a good season. Las Vegas has opened with the Twins at -120 and the Astros at even to win the series. While that obviously makes the Twins the favorites, they certainly aren’t overwhelming favorites…and why should they be, in a crazy three game format? Anyone can truly win a three-game series. Does anyone think Kansas City is better than the Twins? Of course not. Does anyone not think they could win a three-game series? Nobody thinks that.
But that said, I expect the Twins to win the series against the Astros. We all expect the Twins to win (which is terrifying as a Minnesota sports fan from a historical perspective). But this isn’t history, this is the present, and the Twins have the best home record in the majors this season. The Astros were terrible away from home. The Twins are simply the better team, and if this were a seven-game or even a five-game series, I think the oddsmakers would favor the Twins more than they presently do. But this is our reality. The pressure on winning the first game will be even greater than a typical series, and losing to the Astros would almost (almost) be as depressing as losing again to the Yankees.
I’m not really complaining about the 16-team playoff format this year, given the constraints that MLB faced, still, I’ll be complaining loudly if the Twins should happen to lose to a 29-31 team in a three-game series. The premise is deeply flawed. A 29-31 team shouldn’t be in the playoffs. And a short series definitely imposes a bit more potential randomness into the mix. Both of those things are disturbing. But, as long as the Twins win, as they should, there will be no reason to harbor long-term bitterness.
If the unthinkable occurs, I’m going to be very disappointed in this particular playoff format, and next I’ll be writing about the absurdity of this entire year, and how I wanted to play the Yankees all along.