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Thomas U. Tuttle

These Losses Hurt

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

 

The Minnesota Twins lost a couple of ballgames to the Baltimore Orioles heading into the All Star break, hitting the traditional midpoint of the season a couple of games over .500 at 45-43. After staying reasonably competitive to start the second half, the Twins headed out west to visit the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers (71-31) and have been outclassed while paying the price for the visit.

Three straight losses to LA, with blown leads in each defeat and an especially painful loss on Wednesday, have left Minnesota with a stumbling 49-51 record and in danger of becoming irrelevant in the Wild Card race. The Twins are now 5 1/2 games behind Cleveland and four behind the improved Kansas City Royals.

Manager Paul Molitor doesn’t believe this is a time for major concern (“With 62 games to play, no…” he said following the most recent loss) but fans can be excused for catching a bad vibe after this series. The team stays in California to play Oakland and then San Diego, with a strong need to get back on track immediately.

If this isn’t a crisis, it sure feels like one.

On Wednesday, Minnesota struck early and hard, taking a 5-0 lead before dropping the game 6-5. Ervin Santana started and failed to reach his 12th victory, giving up a couple of home runs in what could be considered just a fair start for the Twins ace. Still, they were in position to win before the Dodgers finished off Brandon Kinzler with three singles in the bottom of the ninth.

In the top half of that inning, Max Kepler led off with a double and advanced to third on a ground out. But the lack of clutch hitting that has hurt the club all season showed itself again when Jason Castro and Jorge Polanco struck out back to back, ending the threat.
Get that run across the plate and give a lead to Kinzler and let’s see what might happen?
Of course, that’s woulda, coulda, shoulda stuff…

After a day off, Minnesota faces Oakland with three starters who were not in the rotation, or in Molitor’s imagination, when the season started – Jaime Garcia, “Bert” Mejia, and Bartolo “I’m a young 44” Colon. This has to be concerning; with disappointing Kyle Gibson jettisoned to the minor leagues and starting pitching once again a guessing game, the Twins need a lot of things to go right to stay in the hunt.

Dan Gladden told me at the 1987 World Series team reunion night last week that the first couple of weeks after the All Star break are, in his opinion, almost always critical to a teams success going forward. I agree, and in that that light there is plenty of reason for concern.

While teams like Cleveland (8-2 in last 10) and Kansas City (8-2 last 10) are getting healthy, playing well and pointing for the postseason, there is a growing feeling that the Twins (3-7) are hanging on while trying to stop the bleeding on a fading season.

They play five more games in California before returning home to face Texas, and the likes of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, in a four game set. While Texas is something like 16 games behind front-running Houston (who had the Dodgers and the Astros as the best teams in baseball?), the Rangers feel capable of doing some playoff damage if they can somehow grab the second wild-card spot.

There is a belief that Minnesota needs to get on a winning track right now to remain relevant. There is danger in falling short these days, as the pack around the .500 mark will begin to separate. Blowing 5-0 leads, even against a team as strong as Los Angeles, can shake a teams confidence in critical ways. Now they need strong starts and clutch hits to hang around – items in short supply of late.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Minnesota is no longer the North Pole of the NBA

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By Eric Nelson
July 25, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD
@Ericinminny44

 

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from Timberwolves Nation...

•Trade Demand: Kyrie Irving has had enough of Cleveland. The superstar PG is tired of being solar eclipsed by LeBron James and wants to leave the King’s galaxy. Irving’s goal is to force a trade to one of four teams – Miami, Minnesota, New York or San Antonio…

•Hot Spot: By simply listing the Timberwolves as one of his fab four, Irving gives the franchise legitimacy. Apparently Minnesota is no longer the North Pole of the NBA…

•Butler Bounce: Of course, the T-Wolves can thank Jimmy Butler for this perception change. Once Minnesota acquired Butler from Chicago, the Wolves got instant street cred…

•Young Talent: In the last seven days the Minnesota Twins have gone up against two of the most prolific rookies in recent MLB history. Last week the Twins faced Aaron Judge and the NY Yankees in a three-game series in Minneapolis. This week it’s phenom Cody Bellinger as the Twins and LA Dodgers play three in So Cal…

•Dodger Dinger: On Monday night the Twins found out just how good Bellinger is. Bellinger slugged a three-run home run in the 9th inning to give LA a 6-4 win. Bellinger has 28 taters and 67 RBI this season..

•Fun is Good: The St. Paul Saints continue to be one of the best sports bargains in the Twin Cities. Scenic CHS Field is a gem, the ball club is highly successful (34-27 and 1 game behind Winnipeg in the AA North) and the goofy, in-game shtick is comical. The Saints hallmark is baseball mixed with entertainment and they pull that off that better than anyone…

•Lowertown Boom: This is year three for the Saints at CHS. They are part of the reason why Lowertown St. Paul is now a hip spot. There are cool parks and trendy restaurants near CHS and a good vibe in the area…

•Oh Maya: Not many athletes have a trophy case with more hardware than Minnesota Lynx G Maya Moore. On Saturday Moore collected another trophy after being named MVP of the WNBA All-Star game in Seattle. Moore scored 23 points to lead the West to a 130-121 win over the East. It’s the second straight season Moore has been ASG MVP…

•Vanishing Act: There are plenty of things to focus on as the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp this week in Mankato. One focal point is second year WR Laquon Treadwell – who had just one catch last season. Treadwell was persona non grata as a rookie and the Vikings need to get much more from their 2016 first round draft choice…

•Done Deal: Even though this is just the start of training camp for all 32 NFL teams, one thing is certain – New England will win the AFC East. The Patriots have won eight straight East titles and 14 since 2001…

•Name Game: Golden Valley, MN-based Allianz Insurance Company has acquired naming rights for Minnesota United’s future stadium in St. Paul. Allianz Field becomes the 1st Allianz-sponsored stadium in North America and 8th in eight countries on four continents. The soccer specific venue opens in 2019 and will cost $200 million. Capacity is 19,400…

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Twins among MLB’s surprise teams

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By Larry Fitzgerald
July 13, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

An old cliché that has stood the test of time is “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” With this in mind, look at the two best teams in baseball as we have reached the mid-summer classic.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are on fire with the best record in the big leagues, 61-29, winners of 26 of their last 30 games. Pitching ace Clayton Kershaw is 14-2 — that’s tops in MLB.

Rookie sensation Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees with 30 home runs is the talk of baseball. The slugger has hit several long home runs. For a franchise with a history of legendary sluggers, the buzz has many dreaming and comparing him already with the past greatness of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle.

Houston has the best record in the American League, 60-29, with a 16-game lead in the AL West. The Dodgers are 39-11 at home and are +163 in runs scored. The Astros are +162 and 33-11 on the road. Both the Dodgers and Astros are clearly playoff-bound.

The 2017 All-Star Game is in Miami, Florida. The 45-43 Twins are two and half back of Cleveland in the AL Central and have three All-Stars this year. Third baseman Miguel Sano has carried this team; he leads the team with 21 home runs and 61 RBI.

Ervin Santana, 10-6, has been lights out, the ace of the staff. His ERA is 2.99 and he leads the Majors with four complete games. Closer Brandon Kintzler has 22 saves, among the best in baseball. Joe Mauer leads the team with seven game-winning RBI. His back has flared up on him, and he is currently on the disabled list.

With 30 teams in MLB and only 12 of those having winning records, the fight for the playoffs will be the story of the season’s second half.

I would like to see some of the teams that were expected to be in the playoffs play better, like the Chicago Cubs, who won 103 games last year and the World Series. So far they have been a major disappointment, 5½ games back of Milwaukee in the National League Central.

We have a long way yet to go, and I pointed out, it’s not always how you start but how you finish. However, some teams have dug some deep holes to climb out of in the second half. Just five teams in the National League have winning records. The Cardinals, Pirates, Blue Jays, Texas and Baltimore have not played consistently this year.

The Twins will have a chance to stay in the race in the second half; however, they need Mauer back healthy.

Pitching and defense have carried them so far. Young Jose Berrios is 8-2 and looking good. He and Santana give the Twins a solid one-two punch at the top of their starting rotation.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Chuck Foreman has Hall of Fame credentials

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By Eric Nelson
April 5, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Wheaties...

 

•Overdue Honor: It’s unbelievable that Chuck Foreman is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The greatest RB in Minnesota Vikings history has HOF stats and deserves to be part of the galaxy of stars in Canton, OH. It’s a miscarriage of NFL justice that Foreman hasn’t already been inducted into the Hall…

•NFL Trailblazer: Foreman was the first great multi-talented back in NFL history. He was a trend setter who paved the way for guys like Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk. Number 44 could run with power and speed, and could also catch the ball like a wideout. Foreman was remarkably gifted and his signature spin move made opponents dizzy. He was clearly one of the most exciting players in the 1970’s…

•Impressive Resume: Foreman’s career stats are comparable or better than other HOF backs such as Gale Sayers, Terrell Davis or Floyd Little. In eight seasons he ran for 5,950 yards, had 350 receptions for 3,156 yards and scored 76 touchdowns. Foreman also played in three Super Bowls and five Pro Bowls…

•Purple Apathy: Unfortunately the Vikings are not pushing Foreman for the HOF. This makes no sense and needs to change. Foreman was a key player on the outstanding Minnesota teams of the 1970’s. Without him the Vikings would not have made three Super Bowl trips in four years (1974, ’75 and ’77). Foreman’s impact on the Viking offense was huge and he elevated the play of Fran Tarkenton, Ahmad Rashad, Sammy White, Ron Yary and other Minnesota stars. It is mind-boggling that the Vikings do not promote him as a legitimate HOF candidate…

•Good Start: It’s only one game, and there are 161 left to play in a marathon regular season, but Minnesota’s 7-1 opening day win over Kansas City was a positive first step. The Twins had sputtering starts in 2015 (1-6) and 2016 (0-9), so any kind of positive mojo is good. The Twins had not won a season opener in nine years

•Ace-Like: P Ervin Santana was brilliant on the mound and got the win. Santana limited the Royals to just one run and two hits in seven innings. The Twins hope this is a precursor to the kind of season Santana is going to have…

•New Era: The LA Dodgers celebrated their 60th year in So Cal on Monday as they crushed San Diego 14-3. It also marked the beginning of the post-Vin Scully era. The legendary Scully retired last season and no longer vividly describes the action from the Dodger Stadium broadcast booth. According to the LA Times, Scully spent the day paying bills, going to the post office and washing his car…

•Singing the Blues: They would never admit it publicly, but my guess is that Minnesota would like to avoid St. Louis in round one of the NHL playoffs. Facing Blues coach Mike Yeo is a can’t win proposition for the Wild. As a higher seed Minnesota is expected to knock out St. Louis and it would be embarrassing to lose to Yeo – who was unceremoniously dumped by the Wild last season…

•Smart Move: NHL players will not be a part of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. This was bound to happen and makes sense from the NHL’s standpoint. Why shutdown your product in the middle of the season for three weeks and subject players to possible injury on the Olympic stage? A lot of NHL players are unhappy with the decision, but it is logical from the owners perspective…

•Pioneer Spirit: Denver’s Jim Montgomery is the winner of the 2016-17 Spencer Penrose Award, presented annually to the Division I Men’s Hockey Coach of the Year. Montgomery is the first NCHC coach to win the honor in the conference’s four-year history. Denver (31-7-4) has the most wins in college hockey and has reached the Frozen Four in 2016 and 2017…

•Soccer Salute: Minnesota United finally cracked the win column. The Loons won their first-ever MLS game last week, knocking off Real Salt Lake 4-2 at TCF Bank Stadium. Christian Ramirez (two goals) and HC Adrian Heath were named to the MLS week 5 team of the week. Minn U (1 win, 1 draw, 3 losses) plays at Dallas (2-1-0) on Saturday night at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The LA Rams better hope first impressions aren’t lasting impressions 

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By Eric Nelson

January 2, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

 

LOS ANGELES – Sports Nuggets from La La land…

•Quick Honeymoon: It didn’t take long for the Los Angeles Rams to ruin a good thing. The Rams return to So Cal after a 20 year absence was a disaster as they finsished with a 4-12 record. The Rams were the NFL equivalent of an  earthquake, wildfire and mudslide combined – which doesn’t play well in Los Angeles. Their 44-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at the LA Coliseum was an embarrasing punctuation mark to their inaugural season. If first impressions are lasting impressions, then the Rams are in trouble with their fan base…

•Star-less Power: To garner support in LA, teams have to win and win with style. The Rams accomplished none of that this season. Rookie QB Jared Goff and marquis RB Todd Gurley generated little against Arizona because the Rams offensive line was physically dominated by the Cardinals defense. Arizona had seven sacks and Goff (120 yards passing) and Gurley (40 yards rushing) did not have a Happy New Year…

•Early Exit: So Cal sports fans have a reputation for arriving late and leaving early to games. On Sunday many left in the third quarter because they could not tolerate the Rams ineptitude. The announced crowd was 80,729, but there probably weren’t more than 55,000 in the Coliseum at kickoff, and it was more like 30,000 by midway throught the fourth quarter. Maybe the Rams did Missouri a favor by leaving St. Louis…

•Losing Zip Codes: It doesn’t matter if the Rams are playing in the Gateway City or Tinsletown, losing has been their trademark in the new millenium. They have not made the playoffs since 2005 and have only been in the post-season five times since Y2K. The franchise has been in free fall mode since their pinnacle moment – a 23-16 win over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV on January 30, 2000…

•Sticker Shock: The Rams better start winning ASAP if they want fans to pony up money for their new $2.6 billion playpen that opens in 2019. They will soon be asking for PSL deposits just to reserve the right to buy tickets for the tajmahal. Those could cost north of $50,000 per seat – which does not include the tickets. That won’t cut it in LA where there are countless entertainment options. Forking out big dough to watch a sub-par NFL team is not high on the priority list when there is a desert, mountains, ocean and tons of cool things to choose from…

•Rain Proof: The venue is under construction and will be located in Inglewood, CA. The facility will have a glass roof which makes no sense because So Cal weather is spectacular most of the year. Of course, you can’t take a chance that a rare raindrop will fall on the big wigs who will be the only ones who can afford to go there. The stadium will host Super Bowl 55, and the way the Rams are going they will be lucky to get tickets to the game, let alone play in it…

•Throwback Stadium: The Rams temporary home is the historic LA Coliseum, which opened in 1923. Despite its current shortcomings – lack of luxury suits, distant sightlines and aging infrastructure – it is a treat to see games at the Coliseum. Any venue that has hosted two Olympics, two Super Bowls, the Beatles, JFK, Billy Graham and many other major events is worth seeing…

Los Angeles Coliseum

Los Angeles Coliseum

•Postcard-Like: There are fabulous panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Mountains and other So Cal sights from the upper levels of the Coliseum. The iconic Hollywood sign is even visible from parts of the stadium…

Los Angeles skyline from the LA Coliseum

Los Angeles skyline from the LA Coliseum

•Trendy Team: On New Year’s Eve, I saw Los Angeles defeat San Jose 3-2 in an NHL game at Staples Center. This is the Kings 50th season and thanks to their recent Stanley Cup success they are more popular than ever. Los Angeles was part of the NHL’s second six, joining the league in 1967 with the Minnesota North Stars, Oakland Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues…

•Minnesota Salute: One thing you can’t miss when seeing an event at Staples Center are all the championship banners for the Kings, Lakers and Sparks. Even the Minneapolis Lakers have a banner in the arena, which salutes their five NBA titles in the Twin Cities…

•Trendy Spot: If future travels take you to So Cal, check out LA Live. Located just a couple blocks from Staples Center, it is chockfull of bars, restaurants and nightclub spots. There is even an outdoor skating rink that made for a festive holiday scene…

 

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Magic Johnson sees playoffs in the Minnesota Timberwolves future

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By Eric Nelson
October 25, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the North Star State…

 

•Magic Endorsement: NBA legend Magic Johnson thinks the Minnesota Timberwolves are trending up. The Former LA Lakers great – who now owns the WNBA Sparks and is part-owner of the MLB Dodgers – is high on the Wolves. “They have the pieces now,” Magic said. “Everybody’s a year older. You can never underestimate experience. Now everybody will know what to do and how to do it…”

•Playoff-bound: Minnesota has not been in the post-season since 2004 – the longest current playoff drought in the NBA. Magic is high on Andrew Wiggins and Karl -Anthony Towns, and believes the Wolves are ready to end their post-season dry-spell. “It’s a complete roster and a complete team,” Magic said. “You have to be complete to make the playoffs. I see a complete team and they are ready to challenge now…”

•Tom Terrific: Magic gave a glowing review of new Wolves HC Tom Thibodeau. “This dude can coach,” Magic said. “I love him and I’ve always promoted him because he’s so super smart. He’s one of the best in the game at making in-game adjustments. A lot of coaches can coach but they can’t see something ahead. He can see ahead and he can make great in-game adjustments…”

•No “D”… No Play: Defense is Thibodeau’s hallmark and Magic says anyone playing for him better be good in that phase of the game or they won’t get much playing time. “You don’t play d,” Magic said, “you’re going to be sitting down…

•Vin’s Void: Magic wants to see a statue of iconic broadcaster Vin Scully put up outside Dodger Stadium and hopes that Scully comes back someday to do a guest inning of play by play – no matter what the cost. “He is Dodger baseball,” Magic said. “The sweetest voice we’ve ever heard. He’s going to be so missed because the fan base associated Vince and the Dodgers. Now you just have the Dodgers and that’s going to be a rude awakening for our fan base. Even if our team was struggling, people would tune in just to hear Vince call the game…”

•Minnesota Makeover: The renovation of Target Center is underway. The $130 million project has been going on for 5 1/2 months and is expected to be finished in one year. The new video board is already installed along with some major upgrades to club/suite areas. Twin Cities-based Mortenson Construction is handling the renovation. Mortenson has built many sports venues, including Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, US Bank Stadium and the Xcel Energy Center. Target Center is the first sports facility Mortenson ever built, so the company has come full circle…

•In Demand: Mortenson is currently working on 170 sports and entertainment projects totaling $9 billion, including the Milwaukee Bucks new arena…

•Eclipsed by success: The Chicago Cubs-Cleveland World Series match up takes some heat off the NFL teams who play in those two lakefront cities. The Cubs and Indians are generating plenty of attention, meaning that the woeful Bears (1-6) and winless Browns (0-7) won’t be getting ripped as much as normal. The Bears are anemic and the Brownies are baked…

•Windy City trip: The Bears might be just what the Minnesota Vikings need to get back on track. Minnesota and Chicago play next Monday night at Soldier Field. The Vikings (5-1) lost their first game of the season last week in Philadelphia, 21-10…

•200 Club: Miami RB Jay Ajayi gashed another defense on Sunday. Ajayi ran for 214 yards in the Dolphins 28-25 win over Buffalo, becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to log back-to-back 200 yard rushing games. Ajayi – who is in his second season – is a well-traveled guy. He was born in London, UK, played HS football in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, TX and went to Boise State…

•Crunch Time: Minnesota United lost at Carolina 1-0 on Saturday 1-0, dropping to 5th place in the NASL. Minn U (41 points) hosts the New York Cosmos Saturday night in the last game of the regular season. A Minnesota win combined with a Rayo OKC loss, would put the Loons in the playoffs for the third straight season…

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Podcast

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Gameday Gold Radio – September 14, 2017 – s.3

Cleveland Crushes; Will Gopher Revenge Be Sweet?

Segment 3: Can anybody cool off the Indians?  Thursday marked the team’s 22nd consecutive win, an American League record.  Does this bode well for Cleveland returning to the World Series?  Plus, the Gopher football team can exact some revenge for the men’s basketball team?  Middle Tennessee comes to town for this week’s contest.

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Gameday Gold Radio – August 10, 2017 – s.4

A Title-Series Collision Course?

Segment 4: The Dodgers and Astros are running away with the best records in their respective leagues.  But will they meet in the World Series?  Eric and Larry discuss any other contenders that could derail the potential showdown.  They also look into the participation decline in golf after yet another Minneapolis city course announces it will (at least partially) close.

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Gameday Gold Radio – July 28, 2017 – s.1

With everything going on in the world of sports, here comes the NFL.  Eric and Larry are ready for the added weight, as they bring us all of the headlines from the Downtown Minneapolis studio.  There’s a ton to cover this week, including the rumors of Kyrie Irving as a Wolves players, the Twins’ slide down the standings, the Dodgers’ NL dominance, the Vikings starting up Training Camp, and more.  We get more insight on the Purple’s last trip to Mankato when legendary Viking Chuck Foreman joins the program.

Are the Wolves Becoming a “Destination” Team?

Segment 1: So, why would All-Star and NBA champion Kyrie Irving have Minnesota on his short list on teams to be traded to?  Eric and Larry have their thoughts on whether the Cavs’ point guard might actually move to the Twin Cities.

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Gameday Gold Radio – July 21, 2017 – s.3

Vikings Gear Up For Last Go ‘Round in Mankato

Segment 3: It’s the heat of Summer, which means Training Camp talk couldn’t be hotter (OK, I’ll stop now.)  It’s almost here, and it’ll be a bittersweet one for the Vikings.  Our hosts discuss the impact of the team’s last camp in Mankato.  They also explain how things have changed over the years.