Twins to Explore Free Agent Market
Enjoy a Wednesday notes column on baseball, basketball, football, sports wagering and tennis.
Twins president Dave St. Peter said the club will look at the free agent market this offseason, but that won’t be the main path for improving a team that had Central Division title ambitions last spring but is 12 games under .500 with the schedule ending September 30.
St. Peter said in an interview with Sports Headliners this summer that the roster core in the future will be comprised of players with the club now and in the farm system. He expressed confidence in the personnel already under the franchise’s contractual control.
Although the results and impact weren’t significant from the club’s free agent shopping last winter, St. Peter termed the efforts “aggressive.” He also debunked speculation that for whatever reasons free agents aren’t interested in coming to the state and playing for the Twins.
“I don’t think there is anything that detracts free agents from wanting to come to Minnesota,” St. Peter said. “I think that’s a fallacy. I don’t think it’s accurate. We haven’t played significantly in that space (pursuing free agents) so there really isn’t a lot of track record.
“I can assure you this past offseason we spent a lot of time talking to some very prominent free agents and they were all very willing to come to Minnesota. Normally, it comes down to dollars. That’s ultimately the driver.”
A remarkable half century association with St. Thomas ends next spring when Tommies athletics director Steve Fritz retires. Fritz will end an affiliation of 52 consecutive years with the school that began with being a student-athlete in basketball. He has known various roles at St. Thomas including coaching the men’s basketball team to the 2011 Division III national championship.
St. Paul Saints owner Mike Veeck has his team in the finals of the American Association playoffs against the Kansas City T-Bones. This could be the Saints’ first league playoff championship since 2004. The Kansas City, Kansas based T-Bones were originally the Duluth-Superior Dukes.
Veeck told Sports Headliners yesterday morning he was evacuating his home in Charleston, South Carolina and was headed to Florida because of hurricane Florence.
Before Joe Mauer came to the plate last night with the bases loaded, the Target Field public address system played the theme song from the Rocky movie, “Gonna Fly Now.” Mauer responded with a 416-foot home run to center field and later came out of the dugout for a curtain call. After the sixth inning blast, the Twins went on to defeat the Yankees 10-5, ending an eight game losing streak to New York.
The Vikings’ Mike Zimmer after being asked if he ever feels like he has the wind at his back while coaching in the NFL. “No, I always got the wind in my face. …”
When Mark Coyle was the athletic director at Syracuse he was interested in P.J. Fleck. Coyle was looking for a new head football coach in the fall of 2015 and Fleck was among recommended potential candidates. Fleck was coaching at Western Michigan and Coyle told Sports Headliners that people he trusted suggested contacting the young head coach who was gaining national attention.
Coyle said the two had a brief conversation because Fleck let it be known that coaching in the Big Ten was his dream and he didn’t want to pursue the Syracuse opening that ultimately was filled by Dino Babers. Coyle described the talk as a “really good conversation” and appreciated Fleck’s honesty and career ambitions.
The Broncos’ record was 8-5 in 2015 and then 13-1 the next season. That near undefeated 2016 season certainly got Coyle’s attention and on January 6, 2017 the then 36-year-old Fleck was named Minnesota’s head coach.
If there was a negative about the Gophers’ quality win against Fresno State last Saturday night, it was the home attendance at TCF Bank Stadium. The announced attendance of 38,280 was the lowest for a nonconference game in stadium history. It was also the second smallest crowd since the stadium opened in 2009.
Minnesota had an announced crowd of 41,291 for its first game of the season. That was on a Thursday night instead of a Saturday evening like the Fresno State game. The weekend night figured to pull more customers and so, too, did the opponent because Fresno is much better than New Mexico State who the Gophers opened against on August 30.
The Gophers, 2-0 going into Saturday’s home game against Miami of Ohio, have a number of intriguing freshmen and sophomores. Because Blaise Andries plays in the interior offensive line, he is more difficult to observe than many of the other young players but the redshirt freshman guard from Marshall, Minnesoa has caught Fleck’s attention. The coach refers to the 6-5, 315 pound Andries as someone who is “going to be a really great player.”
Part of Andries’ skillset is his intelligence. Fleck said, “He’s going to be an actuary, right. Remember, I didn’t even know what an actuary even was, and he wants to be that.”
Fleck believes Andries could eventually be moved to tackle. That switch would partially be determined by where he is needed as Minnesota also has promising young offensive linemen like true freshmen Curtis Dunlap Jr. and Daniel Faalale.
Former Gophers football player Kim Royston was named athletics director at Southwest High School in Minneapolis earlier this summer. The city school system might be close to naming a replacement for ex-Gopher basketballer Trent Tucker who resigned last winter as AD for all the public high schools in Minneapolis.
Former Gopher football captain Jim Carter is grateful for all the get well wishes this week after being hospitalized and receiving two angiogram procedures. He suffered a heart attack last Saturday with one of his arteries being 90 percent blocked. Now recovering, he texted yesterday that the response from people “has been humbling and somewhat overwhelming!”
Vikings safety Harrison Smith was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week today. In Minnesota’s opening win against the 49ers Sunday he had eight tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery. Smith could become a finalist for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Gopher basketball coach Richard Pitino said on WCCO Radio’s “Sports Huddle” show Sunday he is still waiting word from the NCAA whether Pittsburgh transfer and guard Marcus Carr will be eligible this fall. Carr averaged 10 points and four assists as a freshman last season at Pittsburgh.
Playing tennis added an average of 9.7 years to a person’s life, according to a Danish study reported last week by the Dailymail.com.
Shelley Buck, tribal council president for the Prairie Island Indian Community that owns Treasure Island Resort & Casino, said on a recent segment of TV’s “Behind the Game” that legalized sports betting won’t be as profitable for operators as other forms of gambling already in place. She also said casinos like Treasure Island have the experience and infrastructure to handle sports betting if and when it is approved in Minnesota.
A pro football source predicted to Sports Headliners that the approval of legalized sports betting in Minnesota is only a couple of years off.