TEMPE, Ariz. -- All these years later, we finally have an admission from a Twins player that the Twins are psyched out when they play the Yankees in the playoffs. Actually, two Twins players.
Ex-Twins star Torii Hunter said some Twins players were beaten before they started, which finally confirms what has long been suspected: that the Twins are intimidated by the Yankees.
How else to explain four wipeouts in the ALDS since 2003, two in three games and two in four, generally following seasons where both teams won fairly similar numbers of regular-season games? Many of the postseason games were close, but the Twins were beaten from the start, according to Hunter. And another ex-Twins star, Michael Cuddyer, now with the Rockies, agreed.
"Some guys were nervous, all nervous,'' Hunter, now an Angels player, said of his former Twins teammates. "There were a lot of guys mentally down -- like, ooh, we drew the Yankees.' Just play the game,'' Hunter said. "Once it gets in your head, you're done.''
Hunter recalled one 2004 ALDS game the Twins lost where they had a runner on third with one out, down a run against the great Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, and Twins manager called on a young righty hitters to bat against Rivera, and Hunter recalled that hitter turning down the pinch-hit assignment.
"You need a righty hitter against Rivera with his cutter,'' Hunter recalled. But according to Hunter, the player shook his head no. So Gardenhire used another kid, Jason Kubel, a lefthanded hitter, who Hunter recalled getting jammed. "Kubel wasn't afraid, but he's a lefty hitter,'' Hunter said.
Cuddyer enthusiastically agreed with Hunter's general claim that the Twins were psyched out. "It was never about talent in those series,'' Cuddyer said. "We played with them all (14) of those games. I think that's pretty accurate'' what Hunter said.
Sometimes it's good just to have the obvious admitted, even if it's years later.