Ask the Sportswriters

Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times  editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr and former Times intern Logan Marxhausen. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.

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•Question:  It appears the Minnesota Vikings are going to get a new stadium on the HHH Metrodome site, although the city of Minneapolis still has to approve the deal, a near certainty. What do you think of the whole process and how it played out?

-Dorr: I think it showed people how deals get done on the political side of things. The conference committee got together (some say illegally) behind closed doors and the two parties were able to hammer out a deal that was workable enough to get the bill passed. I don’t think we should be patting owners of the Vikings on the back because they agreed to another $50 million from their near-limitless coffers. It’s a great deal for those owners and $50 million is a drop in the bucket to them. Getting a new stadium is a good thing, in many ways, and all the guessing about new jobs is nice, although I fail to see why one industry should get the nod over so many others who are looking for jobs.

-Marxhausen: The Wilfs have been complaining about the condition the Metrodome and its revenue opportunities for several years. Recently, statements by the Wilfs and the NFL have hinted the team could be headed elsewhere if a new stadium didn’t get built. I did not want to see the Vikings leave but at what cost to the citizens of Minnesota? So if the Wilfs get a better stadium, will fans get a better team? The Twins had a solid first year at Target Field before toppling off. Also, the University of Minnesota football Gophers have faltered after claiming new TCF Bank Stadium would lure more talented players to the program. The point is, if the money is going to be dished out for new stadiums, then better performances should coincide.

-Larson:  A month ago I put the odds of the Vikings getting a stadium at less than 50-50. Then, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell showed up at the Capitol and explained to legislators what the NFL is all about…making money, lots of money…more money than the Metrodome can now generate. While legislators denied last week that Goodell’s visit had any effect on the stadium vote, it did. All Goodell had to do was swing a few votes. The stir caused by the costumed, vocal, scary Viking fans at the Capitol picked up a few more. And, presto, the team will get its new stadium. There were reasons to vote against a stadium and the manner in which it will be financed but, in the end, the thought of losing the Vikings was the deciding factor.

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•Question:  SOUND OFF! Feel free to write (rant) on any topic.

-Dorr: Who is there to pick on other than the Twins, unless you don’t like the stadium deal? I usually read a lot of baseball stats while at Twins games and during Scott Diamond’s first seven innings of shutout ball at Target Field on Tuesday of last week, I noticed the Twins had slipped to 30th among USA Today’s rankings of the 30 teams in the majors. No surprise, I guess, although they have won three times since then and may move up. The Twins have taken a lot of heat for not producing players from the minors but the three best starts in the last seven games were by players recently called up from Rochester, And the starting shortstop, Brian Dozier, is from Rochester. OK, enough with the congratulations. Do you ever wonder if the team’s announcers, both radio and TV, are watching the same game as you? Last week the Twins took a 6-2 lead over Toronto with four runs in the fifth. The next three batters starter Nick Blackburn faced had a homer, walk and homer and the lead was cut to 6-5. And as Blackburn was removed from the game, Dan Gladden said Blackburn had pitched well and would get a good hand from the fans. DAN,HE GAVE UP FIVE RUNS IN FIVE INNINGS, a 9.00 ERA. How is that a good game, especially right after your team gives you a nice lead? And then Gladden, in another game, praised Joe Mauer for hitting a weak grounder to second that moved up Dozier who had led off with a double. Other players on the team often don’t get that praise when they fail to get a hit in that situation. The radio guys praised Mauer for his 11 walks in the Toronto series. That’s nice but it would be nice if he would go out of the strike zone once in awhile and drive the ball to the outfield. He’s not getting $18 million to draw walks. OK, a little praise: Ryan Doumit has knocked in 22 runs in his last 23 games. And Matt Capps has been great as a closer, with 7 for 7 (until Monday night). And a sad note: Danny Valencia is struggling at the AAA level. And a hopeful note: StarTribune columnist Sid Hartman noted Monday the team has 70 games left against division opponents and, as bad as the team has been, it’s only eight games in back of Cleveland. OK, I’m with Sid. I’m going tonight (Monday) to see the Twins beat division-leading Cleveland and start their climb to the top. A Tuesday update: The Twins were unable to get that elusive two-game winning streak.

-Marxhausen:  So what are you going to do this summer? Are you going to go to  a Twins game or watch it on television? Maybe neither. The Twins aren’t fun to watch when they are playing this terrible. What happened to the strong, competitive Minnesota Twins? Right now there are two bright spots for the 10-25 Minnesota Twins. The addition of Josh Willingham to take the place of outfielder Michael Cuddyer has been a positive note, with Willingham almost batting .300 (.294) with seven home runs and 21 RBIs. The other bright spot is recently called up Scott Diamond to take a shot in the starting rotation. In the two games he has started, he is already tied for total wins on the Twins with two. He has yet to give up a run in 14 innings of work, with 10 strikeouts and one walk. Besides those two, and possibly Ryan Doumit, the Twins have been way below expectations. The baseball season and summer get real long when the Twins are not doing well.

-Larson:  How bad are things with the Twins? With the team fueling little excitement on the field, Fox Sports North has gone to features like announcer Dick Bremer spending a day with the Target Field grounds crew. That was a blast. And Tuesday (May 15), the StarTribune did a lengthy feature that took readers inside the visitors clubhouse at Target Field. Each day I wake up wondering how things are going in the visitors dugout at Target Field. But, you have to fill up air time and newspaper space with something and the Twins aren’t providing much material.

Luther threw some darts at Dan Gladden. My target is another former Twin, Tim Laudner, a member of the Fox North Sports crew, and the supreme optimist. After a Twins loss (and likely shabby performance), Laudner can be viewed saying, “Don’t worry Twins fans, this team is starting to figure things out at the plate,” or, “These pitchers just need a few more innings before they get into a groove,” or “These guys are showing up every day at the ball park and trying hard.” Picture Laudner on the deck of the Titanic as that ocean liner was starting to go under: “Don’t worry folks, even though there aren’t nearly enough lifeboats, the water isn’t that cold and probably not too deep. And, much of the ship is still above water…and listen to that orchestra!”

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Do you have an opinion on any of this week’s questions? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to editor.millelacscotimes@ecm-inc.com or a note to Mille Lacs County Times, 225 S.W. 2nd St. Milaca, MN 56353. Or comment online.

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