If you’re reading this site, the chances are you are a Minnesota sports fan. And if you’re a Minnesota sports fan, the chances are you are a little bit frustrated by the slow start that the Twins have had to their 2011 season.
But it could be worse. A lot worse. The Twins could be the Vikings.
So far the Twins have played 16 games in the 2011 season, the same number their NFL counterparts played in 2010. Like the Vikings, the Twins have won only six of those games. I figure that this is the perfect opportunity to compare the two. This isn’t intended to be any sort of hard-hitting analysis or in-depth sports writing. I’m just doing this because I think Twins fans could use a little cheering up.
So how the 2011 Twins compare to the 2010 Vikings?
Both teams went in to the season with huge expectations. The Vikings came off a 12 win season in which only a few Adrian Peterson fumbles (and a little questionable officiating) against the Saints kept them out of the Super Bowl. It was one of the most heart-rending defeats in Minnesota sports history. The Twins also were among their league’s most powerful teams, but their playoff exit in 2010 was relatively painless sweep at the hands of the Yankees. Unfortunate, but hardly a new experience.
Both teams now have roofless stadiums. The Twins, of course, play at beautiful Target Field, the newest and arguably best-liked baseball facility in the nation. The Vikings were stuck in the Twins’ hand-me-down stadium, the Metrodome, a facility that is quite literally falling apart. When the Twins play their games outdoors, it is still a novelty and cause for celebration. People were a bit less thrilled when the Vikings played a game outdoors last year. In December. During a snowstorm. At a college stadium that refused to serve beer.
Bad sports is one thing. But take away my beer, pretty soon you have a riot on your hands.
Hall of Fame Players
Both teams feature 40 year old future Hall of Famers on their rosters. But while Jim Thome has had a slow start at the plate, his presence has been a largely positive influence on the team and with fans. Thome took some time to mull over contract offers from other teams, but he managed to join this one well in advance of Spring Training, unlike a certain Viking who sat on his ranch in Mississippi until the preseason was half over. Though Thome has had his share of back problems, he manages to get through most interviews without describing every one of his injuries in gory detail. And, most notably, Thome has managed to make it through 16 entire games without taking a picture of his nether regions and sending it to a reporter.
Third String Players Starting
The Vikings were in a bit of a quandary by the end of the season when both Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson went down with injuries. Rookie 6th round pick Joe Webb filled in, and despite one solid performance against the Eagles, he appeared to be in over his head. By contrast, when Joe Mauer hit the DL and the Twins had to call up Steve Holm as the backup, backup catcher, he responded well.
(By the way, I don’t know how many fans of the show Arrested Development are reading this, but am I the only one who has to fight the urge to yell “STEVE HOLM!” when Holm comes up to bat?)
Ron Gardenhire is not without his detractors – no professional coach or manager is. But he at least has support where it matters, among the players in the clubhouse. Not so for former Viking coach Brad Childress. Chilly, long demonized by Minnesotans for his prickly demeanor and questionable play calling, was criticized and questioned by his players on a regular basis. He appeared to have no control over the team, and thus his firing after 10 games was a sort of mercy killing. Gardy, by contrast, has kept his job for the full 16 and seems likely to be employed for a long time.
Nobody knows what the Twins’ record will be by the end of this season. But at least it seems reasonably likely that the Twins will play those games and even be back next year for more. The Vikings, on the other hand, are stuck in limbo by the NFL lockout, and they won’t play a single down until a bunch of millionaires (players) and billionaires (owners) manage to settle their differences. I’m sure the lockout will be resolved eventually. But I have no idea where the Vikings will play when it does. However good or bad they are, the Minnesota Twins will at least exist in 2012. The Minnesota Vikings may not.
Had enough? I could go in-depth about Sidney Rice’s delaying surgery, Everson Griffin’s arrest, the slave incident, or the unique disaster that was Randy Moss. But I think you get the point. Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s broken leg seems almost quaint when compared to the parade of lunacy that was the Vikings in 2010. To be fair, the Twins still have 144 games left, but I really can’t foresee them becoming as dysfunctional as the Vikings… unless they go out and sign Charles Manson to take over Joe Nathan’s slot in the bullpen.
If you’re a Twins fan, I hope I managed to cheer you up a bit and improve your outlook on the season, if not on life. The Twins fan in me is certainly feeling good right now. Unfortunately, the Viking fan in me wants to drink a whole bottle of whiskey and cry himself to sleep.
Stay tuned in June. If the Twins are still struggling after 82 games, we’ll stack them up against another team guaranteed to be worse: the Timberwolves.