Minnesota has one good sports rivalry: Vikings vs. Packers. Sadly, the Twins just cannot match that intensity with any team. There isn’t a Wiley Coyote to counter the Twins’ Roadrunner. Whether or not you buy my (facetious) argument that the Astros will become the Twins’ archenemies in the near future, the fact remains that there isn’t one team you can get good and angry at right now.
Let’s check out the best rivalry candidates:
Many people would say the White Sox are probably the Twins’ biggest rivals. They are the closest rival geographically: the 413 miles from Target Field to U.S. Cellular Field edges out the distance to Kansas City’s Stadium (440 miles). Though the two clubs have never met in the postseason, there is some October history between them. The Sox edged out the Twins in a tense 1-0 game to end the 2008 season. But there isn’t a long history of rivalry between Minnesota and Chicago. I do not recall any rivalry with the Sox at all when I was a child watching the Twins. Unless I’m mistaken, this rivalry didn’t really heat up until both teams were succesful in the 2000s. And even then, a lot of the tension was due to the friendly but competitive relationship between Ozzie Guillen and Ron Gardenhire. Now that Guillen has fled to Florida, that might take some of the bite out of this rivalry.
Another division rival, the Tigers have taken the Twins to some photo finishes in recent years. In 2006, the Tigers led the division almost all year until the Twins passed them on the season’s last day. Three years later, the two teams required a 163rd game to settle the score, which the Twins won in extra innings. Go back about 24 years, and there’s a playoff matchup between Minnesota and Detroit; the Twins had to upset the Tigers to reach the 1987 World Series. This matchup definitely has some good history. But if the two teams keep finishing at opposite ends of the standings, as they did in 2011, it could deflate very quickly.
Another promising candidate. The Twins and Yankees create an always-popular David vs. Goliath story when they meet. The four playoff defeats in one decade sting Twins fans as much as the Yankee domination of the Dodgers hurt Brooklyn fans in the 1940s. The Twins have identified the Yankees as the one team they must overcome in order to win it all. Or, at least they did before the 2011 disaster season. Still, the Yankees already have too many rivals. The Red Sox, Rays, Dodgers, and Phillies all have a better claim as Yankee rivals than the Twins do.
Indians and Royals
Both are division rivals, but neither stirs up intense feelings in the hearts of Twins fans. It’s hard to work up a good head of steam at the Royals, because they’ve been bad for 20 years. The whole time the Twins were winning in the 2000s, the Royals were in the basement. Likewise, the Indians and Twins have very rarely been good at the same time.
This is an intriguing matchup. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, the Twins and Athletics were the cream of the crop in the AL. When Minnesota won the World Series in 1991, they had to unseat Oakland, the three-time reigning AL Champion. In 1988 and 1992, the Athletics won the AL West with Minnesota finishing second. This rivalry actually grew in the last decade. The Twins beat Oakland in the 2002 ALDS, a moment forever commemorated in the book and film version of Moneyball. The A’s returned the favor in 2006 by sweeping a very talented Twins team. If you want to pick a rival based purely on postseason history, the A’s are the best choice. But the two franchises have moved in different directions. Minnesota jumped into the top 10 MLB teams in total revenue with the construction of Target Field. Oakland remains in the MLB poorhouse, a perenially-rebuilding team in a rundown ballpark.
At 335 miles from Target Field, the Brewers are the closest geographical rival of the Twins. But they play in the National League, which all but disqualifies them. It’s hard to maintain a rivalry with a team that you only play six times in a season, especially if your team will never have to compete against the other team in the standings. The only way the Twins could really be the rival of an NL team is if they had met in the World Series. Which brings us to…
Dodgers, Cardinals, and Braves
The 1965 World Series was nearly a half century ago. It’s fair to say that the Twins/Dodgers rivalry has gone cold. The Cardinals made a good opponent in 1987, but the Twins really aren’t in the same class as this organization that has 11 titles. The Braves are the most promising of these three. 1991 was such a good World Series that I think of it almost every time I see the Braves play. If the two teams had met in the World Series again any time in the last two decades, that would have sealed the deal. Instead, the Braves continued to be very good while the Twins suffered for the rest of the 90s. This rivalry isn’t dead, but it isn’t breathing, either.
What’s your opinion? Who do you think is the Twins’ biggest rival?