It was the spring of 2005. I was wrapping up my senior year of high school. I sat in front of the TV, watching the ESPN MLB season opener. To the surprise of no one, the New York Yankees were hosting the Boston Red Sox, and the pregame coverage was getting heated.
The Red Sox had just broken The Curse of the Bambino, and the Yankees weren’t happy about it. They traded for Randy Johnson and were hell-bent on getting back to the World Series. Just as John Kruk and Tim Kurkjian were about to have a compelling debate on which team would win the World Series, ESPN played a hype piece to get ready for the game.
The rapper Fat Joe entered our screens and bellowed these words that still haunt me to this day.
“YO JOEY, CRACK YA DONE UHHHH!” The man who brought us “Lean Back” screamed. “YANKEES GONNA END THEIR FIVE-YEAR CHAMPIONSHIP DROUGHT YEEEEAH!!!”
Back in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the whole conversation was adorable. The Minnesota Twins hadn’t won a World Series since 1991. Five years prior, New York had TWO teams in the World Series. How could these clowns possibly endure more pain than we have? Little did I know it was just the beginning.
Fast forward 17 years. The Twins haven’t won a playoff game since Shannon Stewart robbed Hideki Matsui in Game 1 of the 2003 ALDS. Their 18-game losing streak is the longest in the history of Major League Baseball.
Not only that, it’s the longest in the history of North American sports. That’s right. MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL. No team has been more futile than the Twins with a championship on the line. And who else would be in the middle of this streak? You guessed it — the Yankees.
The Yankees have been responsible for 13 of the 18 losses in this streak. Whenever the Twins have a glimmer of hope, the Yankees stand in their way, and this year is no different.
The Twins headed to New York feeling optimistic. Although they dropped two of three games to the Chicago White Sox, they moved into a tie for first place with the fading Cleveland Guardians. Minnesota still has 14 games combined against the White Sox and Guardians, meaning they control their destiny.
Enter a trip to Yankee Stadium. Since 2002, the Twins own a record of 13-50 in the Bronx. These games include a list of “greatest hits” where Minnesota has crumbled at every turn.
In Game 2 of the 2004 ALDS, the Twins took a 6-5 lead on a 12th-inning home run by Torii Hunter. Joe Nathan had already thrown two innings of relief, but Ron Gardenhire rolled the dice to try and close the game out. The move backfired as the Yankees rallied for two runs in the ninth to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
The Twins were deadlocked at 3-3 in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS when Joe Mauer ripped a double down the right field line to lead off the 11th inning. Phil Cuzzi didn’t see it that way, declaring a foul ball that landed 4-to-5 feet into fair territory.
Mauer settled for a single, and the Twins eventually loaded the bases. But they couldn’t capitalize, and Mark Teixeira hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th to put the Twins in another 2-0 hole.
The 2017 AL Wild Card Game presented the best chance for the Twins to end the streak. Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario homered off Luis Severino. and the Twins jumped to a 3-0 lead. The Yankees laughed and tied the game with a Didi Gregorius three-run homer. New York dominated from that point on and handed the Twins an 8-4 loss.
In Game 2 of the 2019 ALDS, the Twins sent Randy Dobnak to the mound. Dobnak had only made five career starts and spent the previous offseason as an Uber driver. The bleacher creatures got a hold of this information and tormented Dobnak as the Yankees cruised to an 8-2 victory.
These games don’t even mention the Twins’ trouble with New York in the regular season. Earlier this year, the Twins hammered the Yankees’ starting pitching staff, making Nestor Cortes and Gerrit Cole look like Dobnak in the Bronx. Despite their success, the Twins could only muster one win in a series where they should have earned a sweep.
That was a much different team than the Twins are now. Byron Buxton finally succumbed to his injuries and landed on the injured list. Jorge Polanco is also dealing with a troublesome knee. Ryan Jeffers has a broken thumb, and Royce Lewis tore his ACL for the second time in 15 months.
That’s just the lineup. Tyler Mahle, a trade deadline acquisition, landed on the injured list for the third time in the past two months with shoulder problems. Sonny Gray is dealing with a hamstring injury. Kenta Maeda isn’t going to pitch this season, and Josh Winder and Bailey Ober are trying to get ready for the stretch run.
The Twins don’t seem like a team ready to exorcise their demons, let alone one that can split a series in the Bronx.
The saving grace for the Twins is that they’re catching the Yankees at a good time. Once on a pace to set an MLB record for wins in a season, the Yankees have crumbled. They are desperately holding on to their lead in the super competitive AL East. Maybe the Twins can take advantage of this. However, they’ll most likely wind up as another punchline on the back page of the New York Post.
All this has Twins fans quoting another famous New York rapper in that all they know is pain. Minnesota needs to find a way to at least earn a split with the Yankees if they want to compete in the Central. Otherwise, they’ll just be another team that got blasted in the Bronx.