Noted racist Torii Hunter admits what everyone already knew: the Twins were scared to play the Yankees in the playoffs in 2003 and 2004.
Hunter on those Twins teams:
Some guys were nervous, all nervous. There were a lot of guys mentally down — like, ‘ooh, we drew the Yankees.’ Just play the game. Once it gets in your head, you’re done.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as how in each of those series the Twins took the first game before the Yanks rattled off three straight victories for a Fake Sweep™.
The culture must not have change when Hunter left the team (prior to ’08 after signing with the Angels), because the Yanks swept the last two ALDS meetings between the teams (’09 and ’10) while outscoring Minnesota 32-13.
Another former Twin, Michael Cuddyer, agreed with Hunter and confirmed my suspicions about the fear remaining:
It was never about talent in those series. We played with them all (14) of those games. I think that’s pretty accurate [what Hunter said].
Cuddyer is right; all but two or three of those eight games in ’03 and ’04 were close (including thrilling 12- and 11-inning affairs), but the ’09 and ’10 series not so much. In fact, the Yanks have won nine straight postseason games against the Twins, with Minnesota’s last win coming in Game 1 of the ’04 ALDS. (For what it’s worth, their two wins in those four series came at (real) Yankee Stadium.)
I appreciate Torii and Mike coming clean and admitting this, but it was clearly evident if you were paying attention. The kicker in the article, though, comes late in the form of a Torii Hunter anecdote:
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 [sic] 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 Gardenhoire [sic] used another kid, Jason Kubel, a left-handed hitter, who Hunter recalled getting jammed. “Kubel wasn’t afraid, but he’s a lefty hitter.”
That is just…wow. I can understand getting psyched out by facing the Yanks, but to turn down a pinch-hit appearance in the playoffs is just mind boggling. Of course nobody wants to face Mo, but for a young player to disobey his manager and bitch-out like that is stupid. That could hurt his standing within MLB and put the kibosh on his career. I really wish Torii would have named names with that story.
The bottom line is the Yanks must have REALLY been in their heads. That’s a Steve Perry-esque psyche out right there.
Who am I kidding? NYY is still paying rent in Minny’s domes; since the start of the 2003 season (regular season only), the Yanks are 45-18 against the Twins with a run differential of 103 (341-238). The team must be licking their chops for the April 16-19 series when the Twins come into town for a four-game set.