Growing up in the 80s and early 90s in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, I never thought I would utter those words. Even during the "lean years" of Twins baseball, I remember trucking over to the Metrodome for Twins/Brewers border battles. Now matter how bad the respective teams were, it seemed like 30,000 + people would attend each game of the weekend series. I remember guys like Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, of course, and other names such as Julio Machado, Greg Vaughn and a young Gary Sheffield, for the Brewers. Playing for the Twins, some lesser-knowns like Allan Anderson, Tim Drummond, Chip Hale and Paul Sorrento come to mind. If nothing else, this was an intense, fun rivalry. Just as with the Vikings/Packers NFC North rivalry, you like one team, but hate the other. I was firmly in the Twins' camp.
Now, 20 years later, after suffering through an absolutely horrible and embarrassing season for the Twins, I could care less about allegiances and purported rivalries. As I have written before, I believe that rivalries are much more for the fans, anyway. We now know that the Twins aren't going anywhere in October, 2011, except where there is golf and beautiful women, I suppose. So, where to go from here? Well, I personally will be pulling for the Brewers. I watched them during the Twins' interleague series this year, and they looked to me like an exciting, talent-filled team that played with energy, and that seemed to enjoy what they were doing. A few weeks ago, I watched on the FOX game of the week as they dismantled New York Mets' pitching (not an amazing feat in and of itself, admittedly), and engineered a 9th inning rally to win an exciting, late season game. Their big sluggers, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, played important roles in that game, just as they have all season. Last week, I wrote about just how productive Braun and Fielder have been, especially when compared to the Twins' 3-4 combo of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. All of this, honestly, has made me somewhat excited about rooting for the Brewers in the 2011 playoffs.
Even as a Minnesotan and Twins fan, there are several reasons to pull for Milwaukee this year: First, their 3 and 4 hitters provide an example, albeit a painful example, of what we wish our 3 and 4 hitters could do. They are simply fun to watch. Second, their front office made a move for ace-caliber starting pitching when they landed Zack Greinke, an aggressive move the likes of which many have championed for in Minnesota since Johan Santana's departure. Third, the Brewers have their own grizzled veteran. No, he's not a slugger like Jim Thome, but he is Craig Counsell, and he just turned 41 last week. This is, of course, the same Craig Counsell that scored the 2001 World Series-winning run for the Arizona Diamondbacks to defeat those bastard Yankees. So he's 41 and a Yankee-killer. I'll root for that any day. Fourth, if you like the potential for team drama, here you go: Before the trade deadline, the Brewers secured Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets. This is the same guy that last year assaulted his father-in-law right at CitiField. When you add Rodriguez' temper to the fact that the Brewers already had a capable closer, John Axford, there is the potential for a little bit of team drama that could be very entertaining. Finally, this team is streaky. At one point in late August, the club had won 20 of its past 23 games. Incredible. Most recently, however, they were swept at home by the St. Louis Cardinals. If a streaky team is on a roll when the playoffs hit, they be tough to stop, even if, on paper, they are not favorites to win a playoff series.
I'm still a Twins fan, of course. But there's not going to be any Twins baseball in October. Rather than being forced to watch the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies for the 40th consecutive year, or even the Rangers or Angels, for that matter, I'll be watching a team that, at least to a small degree, reminds me of what the Twins could be, or, more accurately, could have been, in 2011.