The Twins have a title to defend this spring. They missed the 2011 Grapefruit League title by a single game in the standings to Kansas City, but they won the most important competition of the Spring: the Lee County Mayor’s Cup Championship.
The Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins happen to have Spring Training stadiums in the same city, Fort Myers, Florida. And while that town is probably big enough to hold them both, it cannot do so without a fierce rivalry, albeit one that people only tend to think about for part of a month each year. Whichever team manages to win more of their head-to-head matchups emerges as victor and wins bragging rights all over the Lee County metroplex for a year. They also get a chance to solve one of the biggest mysteries in the sports world: why is it called the “Lee County Mayor’s Cup” when a mayor is the leader of a city and the cup is awarded by the county?
The cup has a storied history that stretches back almost two decades, but very few people seem to care about that history. The only source I could find on the win totals was a column by Lavelle Neal of the Star Tribune noting that the Twins had a 10-8 edge going into the final Boston-Minnesota showdown last season. The Twins went on to win that game in a thriller – they scored six off Bobby Jenks in the 9th for a 9-8 victory – so the total now stands at Twins 11, Red Sox 8.
Prior to the 3-2 series victory in 2011, the Sox had dominated the previous four contests: 5-2 in 2010, 3-2 in 2009, 3-2 in 2008, and 2-1 with one tie in 2007. In 2006 the Twins had secured a solid 4-1 grip on the Cup. Unfortunately, the Twins website does not show Spring Training results prior to 2006, and the internet seems to have a gaping hole in its memory where old Mayor’s Cup results should be, so we’ll have to use our imaginations about how the Twins won their first nine Cups.
The battle for this year’s cup starts in earnest on March 4th when the Twins send a split squad over to JetBlue Park, the brand new Sox stadium that looks like a cross between Fenway and a futuristic airport terminal. The Sox come over to Hammond Stadium the next day for a rare evening Spring Training game. After that, there’s a break of over a week before the next meeting, March 16th, when the Twins send another split squad to JetBlue. They have a full squad at Jet Blue on the 19th and another split squad effort at home against the Red Sox on March 30th. If the Cup isn’t decided after that, it should be resolved after the April 1st meeting at the Red Sox’ park. The two teams recently added another game to the schedule, a “B Game” on March 1st, but that game probably will not count toward the Cup total, since B games are not official (to be honest, I don’t think they even really bother to keep score).
Thus, there are six meetings between Boston and Minnesota. Just like a World Series, if the Twins can take four of them, they’ll emerge as champions. Of course, given the awful season the Twins had last year after winning the Cup, maybe they shouldn’t try too hard.