One of the things I remember vividly about the 2016 World Series was all the talk about the weight of history on the shoulders of the Cubs. This was a team that had become synonymous with losing, whose mythos revolved around billy goats and black cats keeping them from the top of the baseball world.
The thing about the 2016 Cubs was, they were too young to worry about history: Anthony Rizzo was 27, Kris Bryant 24, and Javy Baez 23. The players that eventually won the whole thing didn’t have a frame of reference for a century of Chicago failure. How could they be consumed with a legacy that started before their grandparents were born?
Rizzo actively made light of the weight of history:
I reference the Cubs because the narrative around history being in their heads is starting to pop up in a similar way to discussions around the Yankees’ ALDS opponent, the Minnesota Twins. I’m not going to name names because this is a public platform and I don’t want to make it look like I’m targeting fans, but just search some combination of “Yankees Twins own” on Twitter, or go through any preview post on PSA, and you’ll see this attitude in full.
Of course the Twins have a history with the Yankees. New York beat them four times in playoff series in the 2000s, and again in the 2017 Wild Card Game. History is on the Yankees’ side, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean much of anything for this Twins team.
The best players on the Twins are too young to care about history. Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler are 26, Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton are 25. The stars of the Twins were kids, living in Puerto Rico and Germany, when the Twins were losing in the playoffs to the Yankees. It just doesn’t matter to them, they have no frame of reference to allow history to get “in their heads”.
Since 2006, the Yankees have beaten the Twins three times in the playoffs. I’m using 2006 as a very specific benchmark; the Yankees were eliminated by the Detroit Tigers that year in the ALDS. Since then, the Tigers have bounced the Yankees from the playoffs three times in total: 2006, 2011 and 2012. The Yankees have as poor a playoff history with the Tigers as the Twins have with the Yankees!
Now, if the Tigers had made the playoffs this year, and were drawn against the Yankees, does anyone think that a 2006 ALDS loss would be haunting Aaron Judge or James Paxton? Of course not.
The Twins are a highly talented young team. They’re going to be tough to beat next weekend. Even though the Yankees are—rightfully, I think—the favorites to win the ALDS, if they advance past the Twins yet again, it’ll be because they beat them, not because of some ghost of 2003.