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Position matchups: Twins vs. Yanks10/03/2004 7:00 PM ET
By Michael Bauman / MLB.com
CATCHER EDGE: YANKEESJorge Posada vs. Henry Blanco or Pat Borders -- Blanco is a superior defensive catcher, but neither he nor Borders can be expected to provide much offense. Twins catcher of the future Joe Mauer is still out with a knee injury. Posada is a fine all-around catcher, a clutch performer with much more pop than the Minnesota catchers.
FIRST BASE EDGE: TWINSJohn Olerud or Tony Clark vs. Justin Morneau -- Olerud has revived his career after being let go by Seattle. Clark has also had his moments for the Yanks. But Morneau, although he is far from polished defensively, has tremendous power potential. This is an offense-first position, so the edge goes to the Twins.
SECOND BASE EDGE: TWINSMiguel Cairo vs. Luis Rivas -- Cairo has been steady for the Yankees, and that's all they require with stars everywhere else. Rivas has been bothered by an elbow injury, but if he's sound, there isn't much difference in offense between these two, and Rivas can be an outstanding defensive player.
THIRD BASE EDGE: YANKEESAlex Rodriquez: vs. Corey Koskie -- Koskie is a fine defensive player, who, while he didn't hit for average this year, still supplied valuable pop. But this is A-Rod, one of the giants of the game, who used his world-class athleticism to make the transition to third base a smooth one.
SHORTSTOP EDGE: YANKEESDerek Jeter vs. Cristian Guzman -- There is nothing wrong with Guzman, whose offense is adequate, who can steal a base, and who can be superb defensively. But we're talking about Derek Jeter, the Captain, practically Mr. October for the 21st century.
LEFT FIELD EDGE: YANKEESHideki Matsui vs. Shannon Stewart -- These are two very solid players. On a generally free-swinging club, Stewart is one Twin who will patiently work counts. He is more of a threat on the bases than Matsui, but Matsui, while he has not exactly been Godzilla stateside, is solid in all facets of the game and provides more run production potential.
CENTER FIELD EDGE: TWINSTorii Hunter vs. Bernie Williams or Kenny Lofton -- Williams doesn't throw as well as he once did. Lofton has lost some range. Hunter is the best defensive outfielder in the American League, capable of astounding defensive plays, and he has more power than either of the Yankees.
RIGHT FIELD EDGE: YANKEESGary Sheffield vs. Jacque Jones -- Jones can field, he can run, he has some power. His only drawback is that he is probably still not selective enough at the plate. But Sheffield, always a very dangerous hitter, is having a remarkable season, even by his standards. He has performed at an MVP level this season and he has done so with a separated left shoulder.
DESIGNATED HITTER EDGE: TWINSLew Ford vs. Ruben Sierra, Jason Giambi, Williams, or Lofton -- Sierra has worked out for the Yankees as a spot run producer. And perhaps Giambi, attempting to come back from a benign tumor and other ailments, will turn out to be the wild card of the postseason. But strictly on run production this season, Ford has been invaluable for the Twins. He can run after he reaches base, too.
BULLPEN EDGE: EVENThe Twins struck gold when they discovered that Joe Nathan was a closer. He's been as good as any ninth-inning pitcher in the American League. Plus, he has very able setup men in Juan Rincon and J.C. Romero. As good as this bullpen is, it would normally be the pick over anybody. And in this case, Paul Quantrill, the ultimate reliable workhorse, has still been a workhorse, but has not been as reliable as usual. But Tom Gordon has been terrific and Mariano Rivera is still Mariano Rivera. Over time, he has been peerless in the postseason.
BENCH EDGE: YANKEESThe Yankees have greater depth and far more experience. Michael Cuddyer has emerged as a versatile, useful performer for the Twins, but the Yankees have numbers and players with playoff experience ready to come off the bench.
MANAGER EDGE: YANKEESRon Gardenhire vs. Joe Torre -- Gardenhire has managed three seasons and won three division titles. He is shrewd, scrappy, knows how to motivate, and warms to the underdog role. He is, in other words, perhaps the perfect Minnesota Twins manager. But it is impossible to pick against Torre, who has mastered the demanding role of Yankee manager and who has been down this road before and has won while making the journey.
INTANGIBLES EDGE: YANKEESThe Twins have terrific collective makeup. Against almost anybody else, you would give them the edge. What they don't have is a record of success playing the Yankees. That, and the fact that this is supposed to be the Yankees' time of year, and the Yankees truly believe that, gives New York the edge.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.