Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019


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Van Clemens


Who Is Minnesota Twins MVP So Far?

 

Enjoy a Sunday notes column starting with the AL Central Division leading Minnesota Twins and a couple of interesting questions about the club.

The Twins are among the surprise teams in baseball and one of the biggest success stories. As of early August, who is the club’s MVP?

Talk about a question with no consensus answer. A Sports Headliners baseball source said shortstop Jorge Polanco and right fielder Max Kepler are deserving of co-MVP recognition. Another authority chose Kepler, then hesitated when reminded about the contributions of staff ace Jose Berrios and bullpen savior Taylor Rogers.

Polanco, Kepler, Berrios and Rogers. Who to choose? “You could make a case for all four being deserving,” a source said.

But wait.

The sources referenced here were contacted a few days ago, prior to DH Nelson Cruz making baseball history. Last night he hit three home runs in Minnesota’s Target Field victory over the Royals—becoming the third man in MLB history to have two three home run games within a 10-day period. The 39-year-old, who four times this season has driven in five runs or more, is now tied for the club lead in home runs with 30. A clubhouse leader, he has to be in the forefront of any MVP discussion.

Polanco has been hitting over .300 most of the season, has solidified the team’s up the middle defense and played for the American League in last month’s All-Star Game. Kepler, with critics wondering if he was a bust last year, has experienced a career season leading the Twins in RBI with 76 and is tied with Cruz in home runs at 30, while not only playing outstanding defense in right field but being available to sub in center.

Berrios has won 10 games with a 2.80 ERA that ranks among the best in the majors. Rogers has saved 16 games and his effective work at the end of games has helped balance off a bullpen with shaky middle innings performers. “He’s been fabulous,” a source said.

There are other names worth considering for MVP, too, regardless of whether balloting was inside or outside the clubhouse. Left fielder Eddie Rosario has just four fewer RBI than Kepler and is a fan favorite. Pitcher Jake Odorizzi, who has dropped off in performance after a lights out start to the season, still leads the team in wins with 12, a total among the best in baseball.

And here is the other question for the day: in a playoff series, who should be Minnesota’s third starter after Berrios and Odorizzi? A couple of sources didn’t recommend Kyle Gibson who has won 11 games, the second most on the starting staff.

“I am not a big Gibson fan,” a source said. “He is almost afraid to throw the ball over the plate. He is a picker, and throws too many pitches. Every time he pitches I get nervous.”

Martin Perez and Michael Pineda received more support as the  third starter in a playoff series. Perez is 8-4 and Pineda 7-5 on a starting staff Twins fans hoped the front office would bolster before the July 31 trade deadline. With Berrios and Odorizzi, Gibson and Pineda all being right-handers, the left-hand throwing Perez could be the choice as the third starter in a playoff series. However, he needs to improve his work having allowed eight home runs in his last four starts, after giving up seven in his first 18 appearances of the season.

Reliever Sam Dyson, acquired from the Giants last Thursday at the trade deadline, has allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning and has an ERA of 81.00 in two games.  It was announced this morning the Twins have placed him on the 10-day Injured List because of bicep tendinitis in his right arm.

Former Twins closer Joe Nathan and club president Jerry Bell are inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame this weekend. Overdue for inclusion, too, is the late Halsey Hall, the former Twins broadcaster and master storyteller who delighted radio and TV audiences in the early years of the franchise.

Possible names under consideration for the Minnesota Wild general manager’s job: Chris Drury, Ron Hextall, Dean Lombardi, Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Zito.

Mike Modano, hired earlier this year as an executive advisor for the Wild focusing on business operations, probably isn’t interested in the GM job because it’s so time consuming.

Mike Zimmer

Quoting Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on a fan he encountered at Canterbury Park: “…A guy says, ‘If you win the Super Bowl, we’re going to elect you governor.’ I said, ‘I don’t want to be governor, that’s the last thing I want to do.’ “

The Vikings, who along with other NFL teams opened training camp late last month, have until August 31 to reduce their rosters to 53 players each.

The first of three Golden Gophers football practices open to the public was yesterday. The other two are August 9 (4:30 p.m.) and August 16 (4:15 p.m.)—with both on the outdoor fields at the Athletes Village.

The Big Ten Network will report on all 14 Big Ten Conference training camps, including Minnesota’s August 16.

Among the early leaders to win the Gophers’ placekicking job is sophomore Brock Walker from Sioux Falls. Coach P.J. Fleck said on WCCO Radio’s Sports Huddle a week ago that Walker, who was an All-State defensive back and 4.0 student at Washington High School, had an impressive offseason.

Those anxious for the start of college football can get an “early fix” watching Villanova and Colgate August 24 on the CBS Sports Network. The Gophers have one of the earlier starts in college football, hosting South Dakota State August 29. FS1 will televise the game.

It will be interesting to see if the basketball Gophers offer a scholarship to 2020 Rochester Mayo shooting guard Mason Madsen. Rivals.com reported last Thursday Madsen has offers from Cal Poly, Colorado State, Furman, Green Bay, Northern Iowa, South Dakota, Southern Illinois and William & Mary. Rivals also reported Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin have expressed interest in Mason whose twin brother Gabe Madsen is on the Mayo team coached by their father, Luke Madsen.

Gabe, also a shooting guard, is the more highly recruited of the twins, with offers that include Iowa, Green Bay, Marquette, Minnesota and Northern Iowa, per Rivals. Will the Gophers eventually be interested in offering scholarships to both players?

With the state financial crisis in Alaska, it’s still not known if the men’s college hockey teams from Anchorage and Fairbanks will be competing next season. Bill Robertson, men’s commissioner of the 10-member Twin Cities-based WCHA, is waiting word on both programs, while making contingency league schedules for 10, 9 and 8 teams.

The National Sports Center in Blaine generated more than $89 million in visitor economic impact from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, according to an annual report from NSC.

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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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