23 Feb 19
This weekend’s acquisition of utility player Marwin Gonzalez for $21 million shows the Twins are serious about catching Cleveland in the American League Central Division.
Charley Walters (Pioneer Press)
“We have the utmost respect for Cleveland — they certainly have been the class of our division for the last handful of seasons,” Twins general manager Thad Levine said Saturday. “Our goal all along has been to put ourselves in a position to win the division, not just to vie for a wild card.
“We want to bring home (playoff) games to the Minnesota Twins fans. So all the decisions we make from this point forward are with that goal in mind.”
The Twins finished a distant second to the Indians the previous two seasons.
Gonzalez, who turns 30 next month, received market value from the Twins for the two-year deal. Levine said there was no difficulty in getting approval from owner Jim Pohlad.
“We’ve had his support all along,” Levine said. “I know there’s been a lot of commentary this offseason about our payroll. It’s just the nature of these markets as they’re going later and later. It’s challenging for fans, but you really have to assess what the team has invested come Opening Day, almost, now instead of just opening day of spring training.”
Only Cleveland has better odds (4-to-7) to win the AL Central than the Twins (3-to-1), according to BetOnLine.ag.
Between the Orioles and Dodgers last year, Manny Machado, 25, hit .297 with 37 home runs and 107 runs batted in. Last week, he reportedly agreed to a $300 million, 10-year contract with the San Diego Padres.
In 1987, the year the Twins won their first World Series, Kent Hrbek, then 27, hit .285 with 34 homers and 90 RBIs. His biggest contract of a brilliant 14-season career was $16 million for five years.
“I wish I were still playing,” Hrbek, 58, said last week.
If Hrbek were still playing, how much would he be making?
“Who knows — at one time I was one of the better players in the league,” he said.
“I probably would have signed for $200 million, what the heck — they would have gotten me cheap,” he said.
Hrbek was worth more than $16 million, that’s for sure.
“But look at (ex-Twins) Harmon (Killebew) and Tony (Oliva) and those guys, too — they were worth more than what they got,” he said.
In slightly more than two weeks, Vikings fans should find out whether Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Anthony Barr, Mike Remmers and Andrew Sendejo will be returning or have contracts restructured.
Several players have bonuses due by mid-March if they’re still on the roster. March 13 is the trigger date for assorted NFL player contract deals as well as free agency and open trading.
It’s unlikely that Barr and Sendejo will return. It’ll be interesting whether Green Bay shows free-agent interest in Barr, who ended Packers QB Aaron Rodgers’ 2017 season with a controversial hit resulting in a broken collarbone. Regardless, Barr could be in for a $50 million, four-year contract that the Vikings currently cannot afford.
New Vikings offensive line-run game coordinator Rick Dennison essentially is the replacement for Tony Sparano, who died last July.
Dennison, 60, who was an offensive coordinator for Gary Kubiak with the Denver Broncos, back in the day was named Colorado State’s outstanding male student-athlete and has an engineering degree in fluid mechanics.
Had he not chosen football as a profession?
“Air pollution control is what I (studied in college and) really wanted to do,” said Dennison, who also was a NFL linebacker. “I built a wind tunnel for a guy to test air pollution; that’s kind of what I was angling towards,” he said.
Now, he said, “the furthest I go is teaching my kids a little bit of math.”
Some people feel that if the Vikings can sign a center in free agency, they could shift Pat Elflein to guard.
It’ll be surprising if Dan Bailey returns at the Vikings kicker; he was too erratic last season. The Bears are making Cody Parkey available, but the Vikings’ interest seems unlikely.
The Vikings also will search for a third receiver. It hasn’t worked out with Laquon Treadwell.
Contrary to speculation elsewhere, there is no chance that QB Case Keenum, who will be released by Denver, will return as a Vikings backup to Kirk Cousins. Keenum is still under contract in 2019 for $18 million, of which $7 million is guaranteed.
If Keenum were to sign elsewhere as a backup for, say, $5 million, that money would be offset with his $7 million — he wouldn’t get $5 million and the $7 million. So it might be worth it for him to sit out next season while collecting his $7 million.
It looks as if ex-Viking free agent QB Teddy Bridgewater could end up as a one-year stopgap next fall in either Miami or Washington.
And that former Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson, a free agent, returns to the Redskins.
Insiders say the fifth-round pick the Wild got in last week’s trade of Charlie Coyle to Boston for Ryan Donato will become a fourth-rounder in June’s draft if the Bruins advance to the second round of NHL playoffs.
It looks now like the trade will be good for both teams.
In Donato, the Wild received a potential 15-to-20-goals scorer. The 6-foot forward, just 22, is talented in the offensive zone, especially near the net. And the Wild are desperate for goal scoring.
Coyle, 26, will play either a wing on David Krejci’s second line or center the Bruins’ third line. Boston has lacked at those positions.
Donato played at Harvard for coach Ted Donato, who is Ryan’s father and who also played for the Bruins.
A couple of former Twins icons, Jim Rantz and Wayne Hattaway, celebrate big birthdays on Sunday. Rantz, the longtime minor league director, turns 80. Hattaway, the longtime clubhouse attendant, turns 79.
Hattaway, who lives in Mobile, Ala., is retiring after 66 years in professional baseball.
“Been in the game too long,” he said. “The game’s changed. When you give a guy (Machado) $300,000 million, and some other guy (Bryce Harper) is going to get $400,000 million, it’s not the same. I can’t take it anymore.”
Hattaway, who will return to Minneapolis on June 15 for Joe Mauer’s Twins jersey retirement ceremony, said he has witnessed some 10,000 professional baseball games.
“I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said.
Deephaven’s Tim Herron, a four-time PGA Tour winner who turned 49 this month and is a year away from playing on the Champions Tour, is playing well this weekend in the $3 million Puerto Rico Open.
For the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June, Hazeltine National will play at 6,807 yards.
New head baseball coach at North St. Paul will be Tony Schrepfer, who coached at Minneapolis Edison for nine seasons.
Some 28,000 tickets have been sold for the North Dakota State-Butler football game Aug. 31 at Target Field.
St. John’s, St. Thomas and Bethel, in that order, are the MIAC baseball coaches poll preseason favorites.
Pro Football hall of famers Bud Grant and Paul Krause on Saturday evening at the NFL Alumni Minnesota Chapter children’s fundraiser banquet in downtown Minneapolis were to lead a tribute to Bill Brown, the beloved Vikings running back who died last November at age 80. Nearly three-dozen former NFL players were to attend.
My guess is that Tony Oliva finally will be elected to baseball’s hall of fame when veterans committee voting takes place next December. But if the former Twins star (three batting titles, .304 career average) doesn’t make it this time, he’ll have to wait another five years for election.
Tony is 80 now. Oliva’s former teammates, Rod Carew and Bert Blyleven, are expected to lobby strongly for him. Hall of fame former Twin Paul Molitor might also be named to the 16-member veteran committee that votes.
Former Hill High first baseman Jerry Cognetta, a member of the famed Maplewood slowpitch softball national championship teams, this weekend goes into the Wisconsin Fastpitch Coaches Hall of Fame.
WCCO-AM’s franchise personality, Dave Lee, will do Twins play-by-play on Tuesday for the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Fort Myers, Fla.
DONT PRINT THAT
Nobody is taking the Wild’s indifferent play harder than owner Craig Leipold, an ardent fan.
You have to wonder whether the Vikings have quietly extended the contracts of general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, both of whom were believed to have just next season on their deals. Otherwise, why would a package of seasoned assistants, including former Super Bowl championship coach Gary Kubiak, accept jobs with the Vikings with such tenuous security? Either they got more than one-year deals or salaries that were worth the gamble.
It appears Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, 36, with Kubiak as a major resource, is being groomed for the head coaching job.
Don’t discount the Gophers men’s basketball team’s chances of getting into the NCAA tournament, despite its 17-9 record entering Sunday’s game at Rutgers. There are 36 at-large selections to be made, and some teams with even 18 victories could get berths. Minnesota was 10-1 in nonconference games.
The Wild are considering adding former North Star Mike Modano to the organization, not so much for his on-ice acumen but for civic marketing purposes. Modano was spotted in St. Paul with Leipold last week.
Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino entertained a Dunkers breakfast gathering at the Minneapolis Club last week saying he likes to kid Jordan Murphy that if he didn’t get his own rebound after shots, he probably would average only three a game. Pitino credits the 6-foot-6 Murphy, who is No. 2 all time in Big Ten rebounding, with having great hands.
Pitino also made a point that fans should celebrate the high school players who commit to the Gophers instead of talking about the players who go elsewhere. Minnesota has seven in-state players on its roster, three — Daniel Oturo from Cretin-Derham Hall, Amir Coffey from Hopkins and Gabe Kalscheur from DeLaSalle — who start.
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Pitino’s father Rick last week coached the Panathinaikos team to the Greek Cup championship.
It’ll be surprising if Minnesota’s Murphy isn’t among college seniors chosen to compete in a national three-on-three tournament April 5-7 at Mall of America for a $100,000 team prize.
The way it looks now, former Apple Valley point guard Tre Jones of No. 1 Duke and former DeLaSalle power forward Reid Travis of No. 4 Kentucky could return home for the NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis in April. Unfortunately for Travis, who is a physical force for the Wildcats, he suffered a knee sprain against Missouri last week.
Jones, a freshman, is averaging 8.7 points and a team-leading 5.4 assists. Travis, a senior, is averaging 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.
That was Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson attending the Gophers men’s basketball team’s loss to Michigan at Williams Arena last Thursday. Thompson is a member of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee.
It was Thompson who nearly a year ago presented Michigan coach John Beilein the trophy for winning the NCAA West Regional at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
On March 4, 2017, Thompson presented Nevada coach Eric Musselman the trophy for his team winning the Mountain West Conference. Exactly 20 years earlier, March 4, 1997, Thompson presented Musselman’s father, Bill, the trophy for winning the Sun Belt Conference with South Alabama.
The San Diego State men’s basketball team that upset No. 6 Nevada last Wednesday, reportedly before 30 NBA scouts, is coached by Brian Dutcher, son of ex-Gophers coach Jim Dutcher. Nevada is coached by Eric Musselman, son of former Gophers-Timberwolves coach Bill Musselman.
Jim Dutcher, who coached the Gophers to their last Big Ten championship in 1982, turns 86 in April.
Brenda Frese, who left the Gophers for Maryland as women’s basketball coach 17 years ago and whose Terrapins snuck by Minnesota last Thursday, is 453-122 at Maryland. In her lone season at Minnesota, she was 22-8 with Lindsay Whalen as her sophomore guard.
Marlene Stollings, who left Minnesota as coach after last season, has Texas Tech at 3-11 in the Big 12. In Whalen’s first season as coach, the Gophers are 8-7 in the Big Ten and averaging 5,690 spectators per game.
The Gophers men’s team averaged 10,689 through 14 home games this season.
Former Gophers men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith is off to a 7-6 record at High Point (N.C.) in his first season in the Big South Conference.
Leading players to become this year’s Minnesota Mr. Hockey are Blaine forward Bryce Brodzinski, who is committed to the Gophers, and forward Ryder Donovan, who signed with Wisconsin.
There’s little doubt that Augsburg long-range shooter Booker Coplin is the MIAC men’s basketball MVP.
Look for Jim Kaat’s Twins broadcasting package this season to range from 10 to 15 games.
New Vikings special-teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf, asked what he looks for in a kicker: “Ideally we like football players who happen to kick.”