Tagged: Vikings

Starting Off in the ‘Loss’ Column

  • Twins drop opener against M’s, 6-1

Thumbnail image for p1franciscolirianosi.jpgTo be honest, I didn’t really think the Twins were going to win this game.  Not with King Felix on the mound for Seattle.  He is one of the most underrated young pitchers in baseball, and let’s face it, the Twins don’t exactly have the most potent offense in the league (or the division, for that matter).  It was a pretty close pitchers’ duel for most of the game, though.  Aside from a couple of mistakes to Ken Griffey, Jr. and Franklin Gutierrez, Francisco Liriano was pretty effective for seven innings.  His command was much better than during the spring, though he didn’t actually strike out many batters (only three).  Felix Hernandez simply outdueled him through eight innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out six.  Twins hitters were unable to capitalize on the few scoring chances they had, with Michael Cuddyer striking out with runners on second and third in the first and Justin Morneau grounding into an inning-ending double-play with the bases loaded in the fifth.

I still don’t think the Twins will make the playoffs this year, and it’s not because they lost their first game of the season (I have talked about this before).  Even if guys like Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer have career years at the plate, the bullpen is once again going to be a huge liability.  While I do think that Jesse Crain will be a dominant set-up man, and I think that Craig Breslow will prove to be an even more effective LOOGY than Dennys Reyes, the middle relief will still be an issue.  Matt Guerrier, Philip Humber, and Luis Ayala don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters.  R. A. Dickey might prove to be the most reliable of the bunch, and I’m not just basing this on his ST stats.  Dickey was very effective as a reliever for Seattle last season.  While he was awful as a starter, with a 6.72 ERA and 1.769 WHIP in 76  innings, the knuckleballer was much better pitching out of the bullpen, posting a 2.00 ERA and 1.111 WHIP with 20 strikeouts in 36 innings. 

*sigh* Maybe all of the starters will pitch complete games this year; that’s the only way the bullpen won’t be an issue.

The Twins will probably remain in contention for most of the season, even though they won’t end up winning the division.  At the very least they will play some very good baseball and should be a lot of fun to watch (for the most part).  Which is more than I can say about some of our other sports franchises:
 

  • The Vikings have a good chance to contend for a Super Bowl and they’re blowing it

Thumbnail image for Tarvaris-Jackson-001.jpgThe most frustrating part of this whole Jay Cutler trade isn’t that the Vikings didn’t get him.  A lot of analysts and fans don’t think Cutler would have been a very good fit for Minnesota, and they’re probably right.  He is kind of a whiny-pants, and he demands loyalty from an organization, something he certainly wouldn’t get here.  No, the most frustrating part of this whole thing is that the Bears made a bold move to acquire a talented young QB that they can build around, while the Vikings haven’t done much of anything.  In fact, they’ve actually gotten slightly worse.  And it’s really a shame to think that a player as electrifying as Adrian Peterson is going to waste the best years of his career on a team that could be something really special if it were only lead by a decent QB.

Oh, and these people are doing the Lord’s work.

  • The Wild don’t have much of a chance to win anything

detroit_scores.jpgMercifully, the season is almost over.  Not-so-mercifully, the future for the team looks pretty bleak.  They have traded away so many draft picks to try to make a playoff run in the past couple of years that they don’t have much young talent waiting in the minor leagues.  They are about to lose their franchise scoring leader to free agency, and they haven’t had much luck in signing top free agents (not that they have enough cap space to seriously pursue them, anyway).  Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, this team is in rebuilding mode and it will be a long time before they even approach playoff contention again.

I guess it isn’t all bad, though.  Rookie wrecking ball Cal Clutterbuck has been one of the lone bright spots in one of the most boring seasons ever.  He leads the league in hits. He fights with Sean Avery. He is a master of the art of trash talk.  And he scores the occasional goal, too.

Why am I a Twins fan?

p1.kirby.puckett.3.si.jpgScott over at I’m Not a Headline Guy wrote a lovely entry explaining his devotion to the New York Yankees.  And it got me to thinking about my beloved Twinkies, and, well, why they’re my beloved Twinkies.  Of course, a lot of it has to do with the 1987 World Series, which I am just barely old enough to remember.  Nobody expected the ’87 Twins to win it all, and with good reason I might add.  They finished with a mediocre 85-77 record, which was good enough to win the weak AL West division, but was the worst winning percentage of any playoff-bound team in history (a record that would stand until the 83-78 Cardinals won it all in 2006).  The 98-64 Detroit Tigers were heavily favored to win the AL pennant, with most analysts predicting a sweep of the supposedly hapless Twins.  Instead it was the Twins who nearly pulled off a sweep of their own, beating the Tigers four games to one to clinch the ALCS and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1965.  Once again, the Twinkies were up against a heavily-favored opponent in the St. Louis Cardinals, who were about to make their third World Series appearance in six years.  And once again the Twins would pull off a stunning upset, beating the Cards in seven games and clinching their first World Series title since moving to Minnesota in 1961 (and second in team history).  Frank Viola, Kirby Puckett, Dan Gladden, Gary Gaetti, all those guys on that team would become great heroes in Minnesota sports history.

And then there was the ’91 World Series, the greatest World Series of all-time.  This Series had everything:  dramatic walk-off home runs, fantastic pitching performances from youngsters Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and veteran Jack Morris, wrestling (Braves fans still haven’t quite gotten over that one), a new MLB record for extra-innings WS games, and two teams that had finished in last place in their respective divisions the previous season.  This time around the Twins weren’t exactly considered underdogs, having finished the regular season with a 95-67 record.  They steamrolled over the Blue Jays in the ALCS, winning four games to one on the way to their second World Series title in four years. 

The Braves would prove to be a much more challenging opponent, however, and the Twins would have to grind out five one-run games and three extra-innings games before clinching the title.  The most dramatic game of the series, however, had to be game six.  The Twins were facing elimination, having dropped three straight games to Atlanta, including a 14-5 blowout in game five.  The Twins took a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning, when Atlanta 2B Mark Lemke scored on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to tie the game.  The score remained even until the bottom of the eleventh, when Kirby Puckett untied the game with a solo shot off of Charlie Leibrandt to left-center field.  That shot, and Jack Buck’s now-famous call, has to be the single greatest moment of my entire childhood.  The Twins would go on to win game seven in ten innings, with a walk-off bloop single by Gene Larkin.  Jack Morris pitched a ten-inning masterpiece (yes, you read that right, ten innings) in that game, which to this day is one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen.  Good times.

There’s been a lot of other good stuff since then, too.  The 2002 team was amazingly talented, and looked like they were going to bring us another championship.  Alas, it was not to be.  The Angels made sure of that.  The 2006 team made an incredible late-season run to win the division. Unfortunately that was as far as the Twinkies would go, as they would then get swept by Oakland in the ALDS.  They really got under Ozzie Guillen’s skin that year, too.  That’s always fun.

And of course, there’s this guy:

Thumbnail image for mauer.jpgCome on, admit it.  You know you love him.  Even if you aren’t a Twins fan.

  •  I love the Wild, too, even though I complain about them a lot

Hockey in Minnesota is like hockey in Canada.  Or football in Texas.  It’s just what you do.  It’s what we’re good at.  If your hockey team has any Americans on it, chances are pretty good that they’re from Minnesota.  Or that they once played for the Golden Gophers.  I started off as a North Stars fan when I was a little kid.  They weren’t very good for the most part, though they did make a run for the Cup in 1991.  But then a very bad man decided to move the team to Dallas after the 1992 season.  I was heartbroken.  I cried like a little girl (of course, I was a little girl, but that’s beside the point).  And I was also torn.  I wanted to cheer for my Stars, even though they weren’t really my Stars anymore, because they took Mike Modano with them.  And I loved him.  But, like any other bitter divorce, the animosity I felt for my ex-team was too great and I just couldn’t get over it.  I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for any other NHL team either.  It just didn’t seem right.  I was a die-hard hockey fan without a team.

So I decided to fill the hockey void in my life with my hometown Gophers.  I mean, they’ve done some good things:

It just wasn’t the same as having a professional hockey team, though.  So when the NHL granted Minnesota an expansion franchise to open for the 2000-2001 season, I was absolutely thrilled.  Though I wasn’t crazy about the team name (what the heck’s a wild?), or the logo (or the home unis, blech), I was excited to have an NHL franchise back in Minnesota.  And though the team itself hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations, it’s been better than most of the old North Stars teams.  And we have new heroes now:

  • I root for the Vikings, and to a lesser extent, the Wolves, too

Tarvaris-Jackson-001.jpgWhy? Because somebody has to, that’s why.  Oh there was a time when the Vikings were good.  The Vikings of the late ’60s and early ’70s were some of the best football teams to never win a championship, but that was before my time.  I remember the 1998 Vikes, though I’ve spent the past ten years trying to forget the NFC Championship game.  And the current team is actually pretty good, it’s just missing a few key pieces.  Like a starting QB.  And special teams that can, um, not give up so many touchdowns (I mean really, when your punter is trying to make a tackle you know you’re in trouble).  And some decent play-calling (which, by the way, helps out the starting QB a lot).

I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I do have a soft spot for the Timberwolves.  I kind of feel sorry for them because they suck so bad.  It’s not their fault, they’ve been mismanaged for years.  And before Al Jefferson went down they had a pretty good shot at being a mediocre team this year.  At least they aren’t the worst team in the league, so there’s that.

Sometimes it’s really hard to be a Minnesota sports fan

Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away

I love every single one of our sports franchises.  And I like to think that they love me, too.  After all, they are always telling me how much they appreciate my devotion (not to mention spending money).  But sometimes they have a really funny way of showing it.  Between all of the losing seasons, bad trades, shattered playoff dreams, and threats to leave me for someone else I sometimes wonder if they really do love me after all.  I mean, how much heartbreak is one fan supposed to take? 

I’ve asked myself, how much do you commit yourself?
 

They’re always breaking up with me, too.  Not just players, the franchises themselves sometimes decide they want to start seeing other people.  The Lakers (probably the best franchise Minnesota ever had), North Stars, and now (probably) even the Vikings have all moved on to bigger and better things.  The Twins claim to be in it for the long haul, but they’ve threatened to leave so many times I’m not sure if I can trust them anymore.  

Do I love you, do I hate you, do I got a dyslexic heart?

Minnesota-Vikings-Logo.pngThe Vikings are the NFL version of the Cubs: there’s always a lot of preseason hype that this is going to be the year.  The year our long championship drought comes to an end.  And then they usually find themselves out of contention by week 5.  Even if the Vikings do somehow manage to sneak into the playoffs, they always get sent packing in the first round.

I love the Vikings, and I want to believe in them.  Owner Zygi Wilf certainly isn’t afraid to make bold, expensive mistakes moves to improve the team.  He wants to win, and I admire that.  But every year there’s something, some gaping hole the front office failed to address while overspending on something else.  Last season, the Vikings spent a lot of money upgrading their receiving corps, and made a huge trade for Jared Allen to shore up their swiss-cheese like defense.  But then they forgot to get a decent quarterback, and the Eagles made them pay dearly for it in the playoffs.  This season they’ll probably put all of their efforts into finding a quarterback, but neglect other needs such as oh, I don’t know, special teams or something.

Our memories, they can be inviting.  But some are altogether mighty frightening

wolf-logo.gifI’m not going to lie, we’ve had some good times.  There was the 2004 Western Conference finals, for example.  Even though they lost to the infernal Lakers (curse you, Kobe Bryant!), the very idea that the Wolves could win a championship title was exciting.  And with all of the talent on that team we thought they’d be right back in it again the next year.  Ha!

And who could forget this magical shot by former All-Star Isaiah Rider, the high point of an otherwise forgettable season:

But the good times never last.  Just when things have started looking up for our Wolfies, we get the
worst news ever.  That’s right, Big Al, the Wolves’ All-Star leading scorer and overall best player,
is going to miss the entire season with a torn ACL.  Oh, he’ll probably be fine and he should be back next season, but I wonder if this team is even going to win another game without him.  Probably not.  Looks like we have yet another high draft pick to look forward to.  Yay.

I am trying to break your heart. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy

Minnesota_Wild_logo.gifUgh, last night’s game was one of the worst I’ve ever seen.  It didn’t start out that way, though.  The Wild looked really good in the first period after they took a 3-0 lead over Ottawa at the X.  But then they got lazy and allowed the Senators to score 5 unanswered goals, two of which were shorthanded!  I’m not trying to take anything away from Ottawa, they do have a lot of young talent and are a very hot team right now.  But the Wild really gave the game away and it was just brutal to watch.

I’m not the only one who’s upset, either.  I have never seen Jacques Lemaire so angry before:

http://wild.nhl.tv/team/embed.jsp?catid=844&id=33719
Let’s face it:  the Wild aren’t going to make the playoffs this year.  And we will look back on this game as the one that killed their chances.  Yes, they dug themselves a massive hole in December, when they went 3-9-1 and were dead last in the Northwest Division.  But they were starting to really come together and play well as a team; they were starting to show some fight and it made us all hope that they could make it after all.  And that’s really the most frustrating thing about this team: they can play like an elite hockey team if they choose to do so, but more often than not they just don’t.

Besides, a last-place finish probably would have been good for them.  At least this way they could’ve gotten a higher draft pick.  For a team that doesn’t have a lot of assets, and is set to lose at least one, if not two of its biggest stars via free agency, having an off year wouldn’t have been such a bad thing at all.

Sweet dream baby. How long must I dream?

 
twins-logo.gifI was nine years old the last time the Twins won the World Series.  Kirby Puckett’s game winning bomb off of Charlie Leibrandt in the bottom of the eleventh inning in game six was the second-greatest moment of my childhood.  The greatest moment, of course, was Gene Larkin’s bloop hit (What else? That’s how the Twinkies do it) to left center that scored the winning run in game seven that clinched the Twins’ second World Series title in four years. 

I love the Twins, I really do.  And nobody wants to see them win another championship more than I do.  But nobody is more realistic about their chances this season than I am, either.  They have a lot of young talent, but this team as it is constructed right now just isn’t going to get the job done.  Other than Justin Morneau, there isn’t another hitter in the lineup that makes opposing pitchers nervous.  And other than Francisco Liriano, none of the pitching staff strikes fear in the hearts of opposing hitters.   The bullpen should be better this year, but even that’s a big question mark.  The division will probably be up for grabs again this season, and I’m sure the Twins will probably win it.  But I’m afraid that’s all they’re going to win.

Thanks to Kathy over at redbirdchatter for inspiring me to express my feelings towards my beloved sports franchises through song.

I am so old…

birthday-cake.gif

Today is my 27th birthday, and man I feel like an old lady. Part of it is because I am sort of a non-traditional college student, so I go to school with a bunch of 18-year olds and they have a habit of making you feel old.  I have also come to realize that pretty much the entire Twins team this year is younger than I am.  I’m older than every single one of the starting pitchers, half of the infield, and most of the outfield, too.  While this is good news for the team, it’s kind of bad for my ego.

Plus, I found some grey hairs not too long ago. As I have written elsewhere, it’s probably from being a Minnesota sports fan.  Or it could be because everyone in my family has started to go grey before they turn thirty.  Nah, it’s gotta be the sports thing.

Reflecting upon all of the stuff I am actually old enough to remember doesn’t really help matters much either. For example:

I am so old I can remember both of the Twins’ most recent World Series titles (although I just vaguely remember the ’87 Series).  Good times.

I am so old I can remember when guys like Scott Stahoviak and Pat Meares were considered key pieces to build the team around.  Thank goodness things have changed.

I am so old I can remember the last time the Vikings were actually favored to win the Super Bowl.  Losers.

I am so old I can remember the last time the Wild came close to winning the Cup.  They were known as the North Stars back then (and Mike Modano was only in his second NHL season!  My how time passes!)

I can also remember when basketball returned to Minnesota.  People were really excited about it, too.  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, anyway.

I am so old I can remember the Montreal Expos, Vancouver Grizzlies, Houston Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, and the first incarnation of the Cleveland Browns.   I remember when the Rams were still in Los Angeles.  I’m not quite old enough to remember the football Cardinals being in St. Louis, though, which makes me feel a little better.

I remember when they were still called the California Angels, and not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or whatever it is they call themselves these days.

I remember when Florida didn’t have any baseball teams, let alone two.  I remember that they kept threatening to steal ours, though. 

I can remember a lot of important things, too.  I remember when the Berlin Wall came down.  I wasn’t really old enough at the time to grasp the historical significance of it, but I thought it was cool that people were smashing things on television.  And I really liked David Hasselhoff’s leather jacket.

Yeah, I know.  Don’t ask.

I kind of remember a time when the Soviet Union was our biggest enemy.  I also remember when the Soviet government collapsed under its own weight.  I remember that people were really scared, because everything was in such chaos and nobody knew what was going to happen.  I also remember that the Soviet people felt this overwhelming sense of hope, that they could look forward to a future free from the tyranny of the Communist regime.  Yeah, good luck with that.

I don’t want to sound too much like an old fart, but technology has really changed since I was a kid.  Most people still didn’t have computers in their homes, even when I was in high school.  They were just too expensive.  Same thing with cell phones.  They didn’t have all that fancy stuff like cameras, or email, either.  I don’t even think you could download ringtones back then.  I kind of miss those days.

I remember when I was in high school and my best friend and I used to spend hours listening to records.  I used to make him listen to Mudhoney:

He used to make me listen to Big Black (Uhh, some of the language is NSFW):

We thought we were soooo cool because we liked music that nobody else we knew liked.  Having indie cred was really important back then. If you weren’t the first person to discover a band, or at least a fan since the very beginning, then you were a poser (a front-runner, if you will).  I’m not sure anyone really cares about that stuff anymore.

That was back when recording an album was actually kind of important.  The internet has changed all of that.  There’s no point in making a masterpiece like Let it Be anymore, when all people want to hear is “I Will Dare“.  I remember when I was excited about the internet and how it was going to totally revolutionize the music industry.  I grew up in a rural area, and it was really hard to find the music I liked.  If MTV didn’t play it (yes, believe it or not there was a time when MTV actually showed music videos) then the big-box stores didn’t carry it, and you were out of luck.  But the internet was going to change everything, it was going to be so much more democratic.  The little bands were going to have just as much of a chance at being heard as the big bands.  And that’s kind of true.  But people have lost patience in the meantime, and now refuse to sit through an entire album when they really only want one song.  Even if the entire album is actually worth listening to.

Ok, now I’m really depressed.  I think I’ll go back to bed.

Front-runners

funny pictures

Now that the Arizona Cardinals are playing in the Super Bowl, there’s been a lot of talk about how their fans are all bandwagoners. Cardinals fans have been mercilessly mocked by bloggers and the mainstream media alike because apparently they didn’t exist before this season (that’s not exactly true, they do have at least one devoted fan).  A lot of people are wondering where all of these people have been in the last 20 years, when the Cards were terrible.  Because, you know, true fans stick with their teams no matter what, through the good times and bad.  Neither rain, nor snow, nor a 13-game losing streak prevents real fans from cheering on their beloved teams.

I admit it, we Minnesotans are notorious front-runners.  I remember about a decade ago, whenmarlins_baseball.jpg the Twins were routinely losing at least 90 games and the Dome was like a ghost town.  Back in those days you could actually sit there and count the number of people in the seats (which was often more interesting than the action on the field).  Sometimes I look at all the people in the stands now and wonder where they were before 2002.  The Twins aren’t the only ones who’ve had to deal with fickle Minnesota fans, either.  The Timberwolves continue to struggle to fill seats, even though they had the best record in the NBA in January (yes, you read that right).  Although Minny is considered a football town, the Vikings have had a lot of trouble selling tickets to games these past eight years, when they would barely finish above the Lions. This season, of course, when the Vikes made a big splash in the free-agent market, and then went on to win ten games and make the playoffs, you couldn’t even buy tickets if you wanted to.  Fickle, fickle, fickle.

The exception, of course, is the Wild.  Wild games always sell out, no matter how pathetic the team might be.  It’s not just because Minnesotans are crazy about hockey, either.  It’s because we have already suffered the loss of one hockey team. We’re not going to make that mistake again.

It’s not that we only support our teams when they’re winning. We love them all anyway, even when they suck. We wouldn’t spend so much time complaining about those losers if we didn’t care about them. It’s just that we Minnesotans are cheap a thrifty bunch.  We’re not going to spend $60 a pop for nosebleed seats to watch the Vikings stink up the field.  Not when we can watch them stink from the comforts of our own homes (or not.  And if the game does get blacked out, well, that’s all the better).  And why should we?  If the team is terrible, but people go to the games anyway, the front office has no incentive to make improvements.  If people continue to buy a crappy product, management will continue to produce it. By boycotting games, we fans are sending a strong message that we disapprove of the quality of the product on the field and the idiotic moves the front office has made.  Eventually, this boycotting pays off and the front office puts together a quality product (or moves it to a more lucrative market, whichever comes first).  It’s not a coincidence that the Twins, Vikings, Wild, and now even the Timberwolves have finally put together winning teams.  We fans haven’t given them much of a choice.    

Lions_fan.jpgI also have no problem with people who finally get fed up and just give up on their teams.  I mean really, how long are fans of the Lions, Pirates, Chiefs, and Maple Leafs supposed to suffer?  These teams have been dishing out emotional abuse on their devoted fanbases for decades, and I don’t blame these people one bit if they simply refuse to take it anymore. Good for them, sometimes a divorce is the only way to fix a bad marriage.

Of course, when and if your team decides to win again, I’m sure they will be more than happy to welcome you (and your money) back into the fold. No hard feelings, and no questions asked.