When two teams from Minnesota and Wisconsin get together, it usually means bragging rights are on the line.
Battle lines are drawn when the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers get together. Someone is sleeping on the couch when the Minnesota Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers get together. Anthony Edwards stole Wisconsin’s W’s when the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Milwaukee Bucks last season.
Yet when the Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers meet at Miller…I mean…American Family Insurance Field this week, the worst thing that could happen is if a Brewers fan hands a Twins fan a warm Miller Lite.
So why doesn’t the Twins-Brewers rivalry have the same intensity as its counterparts? And is there a way that Major League Baseball can give this rivalry a little more kick?
A lot of it comes down to location. The Twins and Brewers are just five hours away from each other but have only been in the same division for seven seasons. After being founded as the Seattle Pilots in 1969, the team moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and became the Brewers.
Milwaukee played in the AL West for the 1970 and 1971 seasons before becoming a full-time member of the AL East in 1972. The Brewers stayed there until MLB realigned in 1994. For four seasons, there was a chance to establish a rivalry with the Twins.
But that rivalry never got off the ground. The Brewers went a combined 276-306 – a .474 winning percentage – during their time in the American League Central. The Twins weren’t much better. With a 255-326 record and a .438 winning percentage, Minnesota was light years out of contention, and the Brewers moved to the National League Central in 1998.
Since then, the Twins have only played the Brewers in interleague play, with Minnesota posting a 65-51 record (.560 winning percentage). Even with their dominance, there’s no animosity between themselves and their interleague rival because they’ve never been good at the same time. After arriving from Washington in 1961, the Twins finished either first or second in the American League six times before the Brewers came into existence in 1970.
But the Twins were mired in back-to-back last-place seasons when Harvey’s Wallbangers led the Brewers to the playoffs in 1981 and the World Series in 1982. Five years later, the Brewers won more games than the Twins during the 1987 season. But Milwaukee was in the loaded AL East, and the Twins won the AL West, upsetting the Detroit Tigers on their way to their first World Series Championship.
When the Twins won their second World Series title in 1991, the Brewers were mired in mediocrity. They went 83-79 and missed the playoffs.
Both teams suffered a dead period in the 1990s before the Twins exploded for six division championships between 2002 and 2010. The Twins averaged 89.2 wins during those nine seasons. However, the Brewers averaged 75.2 wins at the time, making the playoffs just once.
The Brewers finally became a title contender in 2011, marching all the way to the National League Championship Series. But the Twins couldn’t hold their end of the bargain, cratering to a 63-99 record. The same thing happened in 2018 when the Brewers were one game away from the World Series — the Twins missed the playoffs at 78-84.
Then there was last season, where the Brewers won the NL Central and lost to the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The Twins went 73-89 and were done by May.
The only stretch where the Twins and Brewers made the postseason together was during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Even that feels like cheating, though. The Brewers finished fourth in the NL Central but made the playoffs thanks to the pandemic-influenced 2020 season.
With a history like this, it makes sense why Twins fans would be more interested in the tailgate than what’s going on inside Miller…I did it again…American Family Insurance Field. But baseball is taking steps to make things more interesting.
Beginning this season, Major League Baseball is expanding the playoffs to six teams, which increases everyone’s odds of making the postseason. Imagine if the Twins and Brewers got hot in the same postseason and met in the World Series. I-94 might not be able to handle the traffic, but it would be enough to add a spark to any rivalry.
MLB is also changing the way it schedules the season. Starting in 2022, MLB teams will play all 29 teams at least once during the regular season. While this gives Twins fans a chance to check out Coors Field or Busch Stadium, it also guarantees six games with their interleague rival. More games could mean more weekend series, which should create more animosity.
There’s also the chance that MLB will decide to do away with the current AL-NL format. If MLB went to conferences like the other three major sports, the Twins and Brewers could meet in a Western Conference championship. However, that would also make the baseball purists throw up in their Miller High Lifes.
There are a lot of ways to make the rivalry more intense. Still, what if the Brewers are too likable to hate? Bernie Brewer used to slide into a mug of beer after home runs. Their stadium used to be named after a beer company. Their tailgating is magnificent, and Bob Uecker must be protected at all costs.
Hell, one of their best players was born in Minnesota. Paul Molitor, who grew up in St. Paul and then starred for the Gophers, is a legend in Milwaukee. If you think of it that way, maybe the Brewers are actually one of us. Then again, perhaps I’ve gone too far.
The rivalry isn’t quite a rivalry, but it’s still a blast for Twins and Brewers fans. Maybe one day the two teams can meet in a World Series matchup. Until then, just try to eat for the sausage cycle* and enjoy the games.
* The sausage cycle consists of eating a hot dog, Italian sausage, bratwurst, and polish sausage during a single Brewers game. Do not try this at home.