By Matthew Curtis | Enzian Theater October 3, 2006 at 4:59AM
Unbelievable! Simply unbelievable! In a turn of events no sane person could have predicted, the Minnesota Twins won their fourth AL Central division title in the last five years. To do so, they had to come from 12 1/2 games back and overtake the Detroit Tigers. Detroit was the best team in baseball for most of the year, and just had to win one game in their final home series against the Kansas City Royals, record-wise the worst team in baseball by a long shot. So what happens? The Royals proceed to sweep on the road, coming back from a 5-0 deficit on Friday and a 6-0 hole on Sunday, finally winning in 12 innings and sending the TIgers to the Bronx as the Wild Card to play the Yankees (the Twins will stay home and host the A's). And even though the Twins game against Chicago (which they had to win to have a chance at the division crown, and did so, 5-1) started an hour later than Detroit, the team and 35,000 fans that hung around got to watch the last couple of extra innings of the Tigers/Royals together on the Jumbotron at the Metrodome--what a fun (and nervewracking ) experience that had to be!
A couple of months ago John Pierson (an avid Orioles fan by the way) had admonished me for expressing the desire to just knock the White Sox out of the playoffs and having no faith that the Tigers could be caught. I should've listened to the man--he knew what he was talking about. After six months and 162 games, the Twins were in first place exactly one day--and they got there on the last day of the season.
To top it all off, Twins' catcher Joe Mauer went 2-for-4 to finish the year at .347 and win the AL batting title over the Yankees' Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano (I was actually getting bat-by-bat updates by phone from a devoted friend in NYC where the Yanks/Blue Jays game was being televised). Mauer not only led the majors in hitting, but he became the first catcher in American League history to lead the league. Only two other catchers (in the National League) had ever won a batting title, and it hadn't been done since 1942. That'll certainly earn him some MVP votes, but I still think first baseman Justin Morneau is the most deserving of the honor. But the Twins are still small market and Morneau won't be as sexy a pick as Jeter or Big Papi (David Ortiz) from the Red Sox, so I wouldn't be surprised to see either of them get it.
Major League Baseball--huge suckups that they are--want to show the Yankees in prime time for the first two playoff games Tuesday and Wednesday, so Minnesota vs. Oakland will be played at 12 noon (Central time) both days. What the hell is that? So my VCR will be crankin' away and I'll try to avoid sports radio and websites (and incriminating e-mails) to the best of my ability until I make it home to watch the games in the evening. So please--wait a day to call me or e-mail with your analysis or commentary. I really appreciate it. Playoff baseball...can it possibly top what's happened these last four months?