Alas, both teams find themselves on the wrong side of the success cycle after matching disappointing seasons, and as a result, they've had to shed a lineup of players who have made the games so compelling.
Twins fans will have to get used to the White Sox without Ozzie Guillen or Mark Buehrle. They'll probably miss the former more than the latter, as Guillen lavished the Twins with compliments and marketing ideas, whereas Buehrle, with his 27-19 lifetime record, won more games against the Twins than he did against any other team.
But so far this offseason, the Twins' losses in this rivalry carry a far greater impact. Here are the key departing players from last year's Opening Day roster:
- Delmon Young: Traded to Detroit last August.
- Jim Thome: Traded to Cleveland last August, signed with Philadelphia.
- Joe Nathan: Signed by Texas.
- Jose Mijares: Non-tendered.
- Kevin Slowey: Traded to Colorado.
- Michael Cuddyer: Signed by Colorado.
- Jason Kubel: Signed by Arizona.
That is a lot of rivalry history lost, especially with those last two players. For Kubel, 22 of his 104 career homers came against White Sox pitching. The Cleveland Indians are second with 12 homers allowed to Kubel, which gives you some idea of what he saved for the South Side. Cuddyer played in 145 White Sox-Twins games, growing increasingly annoying as the years went along. He had no problems with the latest group of White Sox starters, hitting .356 off Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Jake Peavy.
Robin Ventura might be the big winner in all of this, because he gets to a chance to make his mark on the rivalry while the Twins are reeling. The White Sox won eight of their last 10 games against Minnesota last season, and they'll head into 2012 with far fewer Sox-killers. Not only are familiar foes like Cuddyer, Kubel and Nathan gone, but the ones who are left have lost some of their luster for various reasons.
Below the jump, I made an attempt at compiling power rankings for the most loathsome of the remaining Twain, but few players stand out to me, so I'm guessing the order will be up for argument.
No. 2: Joe Mauer. He's hit .321/.387/.493 against the Sox, and he's still a guy nobody wants to see at the plate in a big situation. Looking at the big picture, though, an accumulation of ailments threaten his catching future. And if he posts another .729 OPS at a non-premium position while making $23 million a year through 2018, he will be too big an albatross to get mad at.
No. 4: Glen Perkins. He's one of the few strikeout pitchers on the Twins' staff, so he's good enough to be annoying. He's also one of those Minnesota pitchers who only happen to hit White Sox. He's hit five batters over the last two years, and Carlos Quentin and Juan Pierre have each been plunked twice. That's not necessarily odd, except one time he threw at Quentin intentionally.
No. 5: Denard Span. He's hit the Sox to the tune of .301/.388/.399 hitter, but concussion problems limited him to 70 games last year.
No. 6: Justin Morneau. Went 0-for-7 against the White Sox last year, which are smaller struggles reflecting his greater battle with concussion aftermath. It's more sad than anything. He tops this list easily when he's 100 percent (or close to it).
No. 7: Nick Blackburn. Three of his seven wins in 2011 came against the White Sox, and he's 7-2 against the White Sox in his last 10 starts. Looks eminently hittable, but that doesn't mean much.
No. 8: Brian Duensing. He was 4-0 against the White Sox before they tagged him for a loss the last time they met on Aug. 7. Like Blackburn, he has a habit of giving up an enormous amount of hits, but a respectable amount of runs, making it extra frustrating.
No. 9: Alexi Casilla. His numbers against the White Sox are fairly close to his career numbers, but in his career, he has oscillated between terrible and acceptable. His low points probably make him seem worse than he is. He gets extra points for ending Mark Buehrle's consecutive batters retired streak
No. 10: Scott Baker. He didn't face the White Sox last year, and while the Sox don't exactly rough him up, they don't let him last too long, either. He only has four quality starts in 14 tries.
No. 11: Danny Valencia. Showed potential after hitting .325 against the White Sox as a rookie in 2010, but he dropped below the Mendoza Line last year, and he's not a favorite of Ron Gardenhire, which usually means good things for rivals of the Twins (see Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett).
That list really isn't as daunting as it used to be, although I'm counting on Jamey Carroll making his presence felt. He has an .852 OPS against the White Sox over 116 plate appearances, and if that isn't enough, he's armed with a diminutive stature and a creepy smile.