The MLB Playoffs begin today, kicking off an annual tradition for many sports-minded New Yorkers: rooting against the Yankees. Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn has added motivation this year, given that his beloved Minnesota Twins once again drew the Yanks in the first round; in preparation, he’s already composed an official Twins fight song called “Don’t Call Them Twinkies.” He’ll be paying close attention despite the fact that Thursday’s Game 2 will most likely overlap with the band’s notably upscale gig at the Beacon Theater, celebrating the release of this year’s slightly more mature Heaven Is Wherever in palatial digs far removed from their bar-rock/party-pit roots. Given this confluence of events, it seemed like a good idea to call Craig up and chat about the Twins’ chances, the most hate-able Yankee, the propriety of onstage TVs, and whether or not Carl Pavano as your #2 starter is a good look.
I thought I’d talk with you mostly about baseball, if that’s alright.
Yeah, I’m cool with that.
So setting aside your personal feelings, without being a homer or anything, what are, pragmatically, the Twins’ chances here? Give us your Series Breakdown.
I think, you know, it’s gonna be tough for us, with our pitching. We can hit. I think it’s a new park, so I think in some ways the history of our struggles against the Yankees has an opportunity to be erased. That’s an emotional answer, but the pragmatic, statistically based answer is that it’s gonna be a really tough series. But the Twins are a resilient team, and they’ve won often when they shouldn’t have, so. Maybe that’s what we’re hoping for.
Do you hate the Yankees more than, say, the Tigers or the Indians or the Red Sox or whoever? Does their Alpha Dog status, at least media-wise, make them more contemptible, or are they ultimately just another opponent?
No, I think they’re more than another opponent — I think the way they play the game in the offseason is different than other teams, or at least different than most teams. It’s sort of like an arms race, more so than it is Xs and Os on the field, or moving a batter around, or anything strategic — they’re assembling the best player at each position at any cost. So that’s different, that’s just different. But you also, it is a game, so you can’t really let it ruin your day.
Are you a life-long Twins fan?
Pretty much. My dad was a Red Sox fan, so I was kind of a half-hearted Red Sox fan for a while, but then we moved to Minnesota, and then in ’87 it really perked up: It was the St. Louis World Series, and it was the fall I got my driver’s license and a girlfriend. It was kind of a trifecta.
Was she a baseball fan as well, or was she just tolerant of your interest?
Tolerant, but it was just another good thing that was happening that fall.
As a transplanted New Yorker, did you feel any pressure or inclination to succumb to the Yankees or the Mets? Was your allegiance ever tested?
Nah. I guess everyone had their allegiance tested after 9-11 and that series, but after that year, I kinda went back. The Mets, I have a lot of Mets-fan friends in town, so I root for them, somewhat passively. I like them. If they went to the World Series for the National League I would definitely be excited for them.
Doesn’t seem like that’s gonna happen anytime soon.
Yeah. Ten years from now, maybe.
Do you take a lot of shit about this, being a Twins fan? Are you ever menaced in your own neighborhood?
Uh, no. People think that — I went into some store, and there’s like a teenager working, and I had a Twins hat on, and he was asking me if it was like ironic or a joke. He hadn’t ever met a Twins fan, and he didn’t believe that I would feel emotional about the Twins. He was kind of a young kid, but still, it was pretty weird. I do not feel that among Yankees fans, the Twins are regarded as a threat.
Do you think you were successful in convincing that kid that you were sincere?
Yeah, eventually. I told him I was from Minnesota — he hadn’t really thought of that.
Does this apply to other Minnesota sports? Are you a Brett Favre guy, then?
I am a Vikings fan, but I’m very guarded about it — I don’t give my heart like I gave my heart to the Twins. They will disappoint you any chance they get. It’s one thing after another, on and off the field.
The Sex Boat.
The Sex Boat, yeah, exactly. The Sex Boat, Randy Moss driving with a cop on the windshield – I like Randy Moss, I was sad to see him go [and now he’s back!], but that kinda stuff, it’s all the time. It just doesn’t seem like they’ve ever had the right coach, or at least not in my lifetime.
Are you at all considering going to Yankee Stadium for a game? Would you show up in full Twins gear and cheer for them, or is that suicide?
No, I think that’s obnoxious anyways. But I would go and I have gone. I was at Game 1 last year. Didn’t go our way. I’ve been to a couple. But you know what, I don’t really understand the point of wearing all the stuff and then getting in some sort of quote-unquote “good-natured argument” with the guys in the row behind you. Because those are the guys I don’t want to talk to.
Who is the most hate-able Yankee?
Oh, A-Rod, I guess, probably. Although I did really like the whole thing when he got caught for doing steroids, and his defense was that things down in Texas were “a little more loosey-goosey.” I really like the “loosey-goosey” defense.
And it seemed to work!
Yeah, they forgave him pretty quick, as long as he kept hitting home runs. My favorite though, I think before A-Rod, Jason Giambi was really unlikable. Also for the Steroid Monster thing, and that weird apology he gave where he wouldn’t say what he did wrong. That was awesome.
So it looks like you’re gonna be onstage most likely at the Beacon during the latter half of Game 2. What’s the game plan, there? Is there a strategically placed TV? Will roadies update you?
I think we’ll go with roadies updating — I don’t think it’s probably appropriate to have TVs. Though I’ll probably be watching until I walk onstage. I think we play around 9 that night, and it starts at 6 or something, there’ll be a ton of commercials, I’m sure. It’ll go on forever. Maybe we’ll be ahead by enough by then. Carl Pavano beating the Yankees would be an awesome story.
It sure would. Is that your #2 starter? Oh, dear.
Yeah. Liriano/Pavano. And then Brian Duensing.
Yeah. I know. This is what we’re looking at.
Will you possibly announce the score from the stage? Does being onstage in, you know, New York City affect your thinking there?
You know, I haven’t decided. I was actually thinking about that. Because in the past I’ve mouthed off about the Twins in places, and generally, I want us to be a unity band, and that just seems to be dividing.
I really liked your Twins fight song, “Don’t Call Them Twinkies,” but you do realize that basic playground psychology suggests that asking people not to call you something is the single fastest way to get them to call you that.
Yeah, that’s a good point, but I wasn’t planning on it really being heard outside of Minnesota. That was probably shortsighted thinking on my part. You do raise a good point. But I think the reason I wrote it is it irritated me that a lot of Twins fans called them Twinkies. Like “they’re so cute,” and I was kind of like, “These are grown men.”
In the unlikely event that the Twins are eliminated, who would you root for, who’s your runner-up?
Tampa in the A.L., and either the Phillies or the Reds in the N.L. If the Reds caught fire I’d have a hard time denying them. Though I’m in Philly as I speak, so I’m catching a little bit of the Philadelphia enthusiasm, which seems pretty high, the level of pumpitude for the playoffs seems pretty high.
Well that’s good – they’ve already won a recent World Series, so you’d think they’d be more nonchalant.
No, I think they’ve tasted blood.