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Twins Need Dominant Santana in NY

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September 26, 2017

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To most of the baseball world, the Twins look like a “just happy to be here” team going into next Tuesday’s anticipated playoff game against the Yankees in New York. The Twins have lost four of six to the Yankees this season, have an inferior overall record (82-74 versus 87-69), and a roster of key players who are young and inexperienced.

Max Kepler (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins).

In a one-game playoff young Twins hitters Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario could nervously be chasing pitches they shouldn’t be offering at. Add Miguel Sano, if healthy enough to play, to that list. None of those players have ever been in a Major League postseason game and their inexperience might lead to mistakes in the field and on the bases, too.

It appears all but certain the Twins and Yankees will be the American League’s two wild card entrants. For Minnesota to reverse the disaster of postseason failures against the Yankees in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010, the Twins will almost certainly need a special performance from their expected starting pitcher, 34-year-old Ervin Santana.

Santana’s anticipated schedule has him starting Thursday against the Indians, then resting and preparing for the Yankees. His experience and skills give the Twins a chance in their playoff game. A win this Thursday will be his 17th of the season and set a career high. He goes into the game with a career-best 3.36 ERA.

Santana, who is among the American League leaders in wins, is paid to have big seasons like 2017 when he was honored with a place on the AL All-Star roster. He has postseason experience and earns $13.5 million annually, according to Cot’s baseball contracts.

The club’s best paid player, $23 million a year Joe Mauer, is also a veteran presence and has played in nine playoff games. He is hitting over .300 for the first time since 2013 and has committed only two errors at first base.

Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer hasthree errors, and has started 37 more games than Mauer. Hosmer is the favorite to win the AL Gold Glove award for first basemen.

Worth Noting

After the Vikings’ 34-17 win over the Bucs Sunday, Profootballfocus.com gave its five highest grades among Minnesota players to quarterback Case Keenum, wide receiver Adam Thielen, offensive tackle Mike Remmers, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and cornerback Trae Waynes. The website said Keenum, substituting for the injured Sam Bradford, “had the game of his life as he torched the Bucs secondary up and down the field.”

Sam Bradford (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

With Bradford sidelined with a knee injury, the 2-1 Vikings only have three offensive starters who were regulars on last season’s team—Diggs, Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Yet the Vikings rank second in the NFL in total offense at 400.3 yards per game, trailing the Patriots at 440.7.

Marcus Sherels, the former Gopher and Rochester, Minnesota native, turns 30 on Saturday. He has developed an impressive career with the Vikings as a punt returner and reserve cornerback. Sherels, acquired by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2010, holds the team career record for most touchdowns returning punts (five).

The Cowboys were the only NFL team worth $2 billion five years ago but now all but five franchises are at that level and more, according to a September 18 Forbes.com article. Forbes released its annual valuations of the league’s 32 teams including the Cowboys valued at $4.8 billion. The league average is $2.5 billion and the Vikings are valued at $2.4 billion.

Ticket prices range from $35 to $140 for Saturday’s Gophers-Maryland game at TCF Bank Stadium. For the Nebraska game November 11, prices start at $90 and go up to $235, while the range for Wisconsin two weeks later is $80 to $210.

Former Gophers Nick Rallis and Adam Weber are working in the football programs at Wake Forest and UCLA respectively.

Former Minnesota Mr. Football J.D. Spielman, now a redshirt freshman and wide receiver at Nebraska, had his first college touchdown reception last Saturday in a win over Rutgers. Spielman also has a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown this season.

Saint John’s and St. Thomas resume their football rivalry in Collegeville next year on October 13. The Tommies will host the Johnnies October 19, 2019, presumably at O’Shaughnessy Stadium in St. Paul but don’t be surprised if talks surface regarding another site after Saint John’s and St. Thomas drew a Division III record crowd at Target Field of 37,355 last Saturday.

Will the Johnnies consider hosting the game at a large neutral site stadium like St. Thomas did this year? “I can guarantee we’ll always play at (our) Clemens Stadium,” Saint John’s athletic director Bob Alpers told Sports Headliners.

Alpers is also the Johnnies golf coach and his team was playing in the Twin Cities Classic on Saturday so he missed the historic football game.

The Division III game last Saturday had a larger attendance than 28 FBS games including home crowds for Maryland and top 20 ranked Washington State. A St. Thomas spokesman also said there were “17,000 hits” on the school website’s streaming the game. A typical Tommies game might have 1,000 to 1,500 hits, while the previous all-time high in hits for a St. Thomas football game was 9,000 last year in a playoff game against UW-Oshkosh.

The WNBA Finals involving Glen Taylor’s Lynx will cause him to miss the Timberwolves team flight to China. Taylor told Sports Headliners he and wife Becky will fly to China after the finals that continue tonight with Game Two at Williams Arena against the Sparks and could go through October 4. The Wolves, who Taylor also owns, will play exhibition games in China starting October 5.

Taylor will participate in an NBA meeting while in China. He owns printing and software businesses in the country.

Taylor said the installation of temporary air conditioning at Williams Arena for the finals will cost about $1 million, and because the expenditure wasn’t budgeted for the Lynx franchise might not make a profit this year. “It won’t help, that’s for sure,” said Taylor who approved the expenditure for the benefit of players and fans.

Taylor remains friends with former Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman who is retired and spending time with family. Adelman’s son, David Adelman, who used to work for the Wolves, is an assistant with the Nuggets.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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