The N.Y. Yankees finally have an opponent in the ALDS as they will face the Minnesota Twins who beat the Detroit Tigers in a crazy game that was a great game on the field and a terrible one from the broadcast booth. Unfortunately, Chip Caray follows the Twins to Yankee Stadium in a series that will make you glad to hear Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in the ALCS. Let's preview:
Infield: Just like in the Phillies series, there an area that one team is better than the other. Now, the Twins have good infielders in Michael Cuddyer and Orlando Cabrera, but losing Justin Morneau makes this easy. Cuddyer isn't in Mark Teixeira's league where Morneau is a push, Derek Jeter has the advantage over Cabrera (though not in a romp) and Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano are enormous differences over Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto. Advantage Yankees
LF: Delmon Young vs. Johnny Damon- While the Yankees have an all-time great infield, the outfield is not as good and we start at left field. Damon has had a fine year and his swing is built for Yankee Stadium, however he has struggled in the last month and needs to bounce back. Meanwhile, Young had the exact opposite season, starting very slow, but has been hot for the past two months, getting big hits in lifting the Twins. If you ask me in July, it's advantage Yanks, but I can't ignore the fact that is seems like Young is starting to get it and realize his potential. Even
CF: Denard Span vs. Melky Cabrera- The interesting thing about both players is that they can be moved to left field for defensive purposes, not because either guy is poor, but because left field must be addressed late in games. Great bounce back year for Cabrera and he early on had a bunch of walkoff hits. Span is a very good ballplayer who can bring speed both with hitting and defense. These two really are the same player except for Span's speed and hitting, but Melky is the 8th man on the Yanks where Span is the 3rd or 4th guy on the Twins. Advantage Twins
RF: Jason Kubel vs. Nick Swisher- Swisher has been one of the catalysts in the loosening up of the mid-2000s Yankees as his personality is more like one of the Red Sox "Idiots" from the 2004 title team. Kubel has been clutch in the past month with big HR's, picking up the slack for Morneau's injury. While Swisher's role in the clubhouse is important, he hits just like Jason Giambi, has power and plate discipline, but can't hit for average. Hitting for average is overrated though as long as your on-base is good and that certainly applies for Swisher. Advantage Twins
Catcher: Joe Mauer vs. Jorge Posada/Jose Molina- The reason Molina is here is because of A.J. Burnett, otherwise he's on the bench group. While Molina turns the Yankees into a National League team, Posada can still rake if needed, though not the same degree. However, Molina controls the basepaths better than Posada can. Wait a minute, why am I spending time on this, Joe Mauer is the best player in the AL and only Pujols could be better in baseball. Advantage Twins
DH: Jose Morales vs. Hideki Matsui- This is another reason where losing Morneau hurts the Twins; before you have Cuddyer in right field and Kubel as DH. Morales just doesn't stack up when compared with Matsui, who has hit as well as he has since four years. Advantage Yankees
Starting pitching: The Yankees can pitch only three guys, the Twins need to pitch four. None of the Twins starters can dominate like CC Sabathia or even A.J. Burnett. Carl Pavano is prominently involved and is cited as a positive for the Twins. Burnett gets to use his personal catcher for his starts, so he better pitch well, since Andy Pettitte will only start one game. Advantage Yankees
Bullpen: Unlike the starters, the bullpens are much closer mainly because Joe Nathan is, if not as good as Mariano Rivera, he's at least one notch below. They also have four relievers in Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Ron Mahay and Jose Mijares who have pitched very well on the Twins. Obviously, the Yanks have Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and David Robertson who have done well and perhaps the Yanks will see the old Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen. Even
Bench: The Twins bench has more speed than power, and is more likely to steal a base than get a big hit with guys like Alexi Casilla and Carlos "Does my run last night even out the Johan Santana trade" Gomez. The Yankees I have to say have their best bench in years with Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. and counter the speed with Brett Gardner. Advantage Yankees
Manager: Ron Gardenhire vs. Joe Girardi- Girardi to be fair has done a good job on this Yankees team, though I think he could have handled this Burnett-Posada situation better. Naturally, because I follow the Yankees all year and the Twins I barely watch, I will be picking more nits with Joe than Ron. I just watch the Twins year in and year out and they are just the same and that has to do with Gardenhire. Plus, he's managed in postseason, while Girardi is now in his first. Advantage Twins
Intangibles: The word intangibles in the dictionary has a picture of the Twins. The Yankees looseness is the best I can come up with. The Twins have the momentum of a 17-4 run that put them in the playoffs, while playing without Morneau. I said before how Morneau is a big loss; well the Twins don't realize that yet. Also, I know the Yankees have played well in the Metrodome, but right now, that place has a magic that's hard to just write off. Advantage Twins
The Twins will win if: Murphy's Law prevails for both teams. Unlike any other series, the Twins must have each of the following happen: CC continues postseason struggles; Burnett blows up in Game 2; each Yankee in the lineup goes on a slump, leading to more A-Rod in postseason talk; the Metrodome proves to be a huge home-field advantage; Mauer plays MVP-like and their hitters follow suit.
The Yankees will win if: Anything from the above doesn't happen. Let's put it this way, if the Yankees lose this series to the Twins, only the Red Sox in 2004 would be a worse loss. Almost every advantage belongs to the Yankees and they must win this series or people should be fired.
Prediction: Yankees in four