JUPITER, Fla. — For the life of me, I can’t envision a scenario where someone would despise the Minnesota Twins, a Midwestern team that usually flies so far under the radar that National League fans — read: me — occasionally forget it exists over in the Junior Circuit, which is worst trait of all in pro sports. They don’t wear flashy uniforms or flaunt successes or offend traditionalists’ sensibilities, especially since they fled the Metrodome, one of the most godawful places MLB has ever staged the game.
I don’t hate the Twins. I don’t even dislike the Twins. But I do hold a terrible grudge against them.
Had they not played in the Metrodome, with its fake outfield walls and piped-in crowd noise, the 1987 World Series may have turned out differently. Three decades later it’s tough for Cardinals fans of a certain age to view the ’87 champions through a lens of fairness and competition, even though the Twins had great pitching (Frank Viola, the series MVP; Jeff Reardon; Bert Blyleven; the aging Steve Carlton was on the roster, but didn’t pitch in the postseason) and an impressive lineup that centered on Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti. It’s an irrational, if not unhealthy, belief that certain Cardinals fans have about those two weeks in October, that the Twins won not because of the Cardinals’ mistakes or the Twins’ excellence, but because Minnesota had a home-field advantage — in scheduling and physical reality — that made the whole affair patently unfair. Which is bunk, of course, but we feel that way nonetheless. That Game 7 was tied, 2-2, after five innings is a memory I’ve never packed away, vivid and painful still, given that the Cardinals were that close to yet another world championship. That it came two years after St. Louis’ 1985 World Series debacle deepened the wound, not to mention the thought that the Whiteyball Cardinals ended the decade with only one WS victory instead of a remarkable three in six years.
That packed-away disappointment flooded back a bit Monday when the Twins came to Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium here in Jupiter for a spring matinee against the Cardinals. These weren’t the ’87 Twins: no Puckett, no Viola, no Hrbek. These were the 2020 Twins, who last year won 101 games to claim the American League Central, but were rudely dismissed in the playoffs by the New York Yankees, who had won 103 games and would be tossed aside in the ALCS by the Houston Astros. And this year, the Twins are supposed to be better.
The day ended in a 6-1 Cardinals victory, meaningless as it was. The Twins fans I saw were perfectly polite, clad in jerseys bearing the names and numbers of Minnesota greats like Rod Carew and Tony Oliva and Joe Mauer. In another life I could imagine cheering for a unoffensive team such as the Twins, an anti-Yankees, anti-Dodgers, anti-Red Sox, anti-Cubs outfit whose history that harkens to the original turn-of-the-century Washington Senators isn’t insignificant. But as is the case with the Cardinals’ near victory in the ’87 World Series, that’s just a dream, a what if best left alone.