Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021

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Zimmer “Tired” of Special Teams Woes


Mike Zimmer expressed frustration with the Vikings’ special teams after last night’s 19-13 win over the Bears in Chicago.  Cordarrelle Patterson ran a kickoff back for a 104-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 13-7 third quarter lead.  In Minnesota’s previous game against the Lions, Zimmer saw his team have two punts blocked.

“We weren’t very good tonight (on special teams),” Zimmer said on KFAN. “We weren’t supposed to kick the ball to Patterson and we did, and that was bad. We’re going to have to really look at our personnel on that. See if we can change some things up. This is not good.  It’s been bad the last two weeks, and quite honestly I am tired of it.”

Patterson, the ex-Viking who goes by the nickname “Flash,” might be the best kickoff returner in NFL history.  He just whizzed by defenders on his long run, with the last potential tackler Viking kicker Dan Bailey—a total mismatch.  As Zimmer watched on the sidelines he was livid.

Without the kickoff touchdown, the game wouldn’t have been close.  The Bears produced two field goals with their inept offense that relies on replacement players because of injuries.  A first down was worthy of high-fives from Chicago fans.

Zimmer took advantage of the incompetent Bears with blitzes.  He wasn’t hesitant to ask his inexperienced secondary to cover one-on-one.  He said after the game on the radio those players and the entire improving defense is gaining confidence as the Vikings earned their third consecutive win.

Kirk Cousins

Nobody on the Vikings looked more excited toward the game’s end than quarterback Kirk Cousins who for the first time in his career was on the winning team for television’s Monday Night Football.  He was pumping a fist and showing thumbs up as the Vikings kept playoff ambitions alive while his MNF record improved to 1-9.  He completed 25 of 36 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns (both to Adam Thielen).

The 4-5 Vikings play their next three games in Minneapolis against the Cowboys (2-7), Panthers (3-7) and Jaguars (1-8).  After last night Minnesota clearly has momentum and a favorable path to a 7-5 record by early December.

“We’ve got three in a row.  Keep it stacking, and get back to it,” Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said on KFAN last night.

St. Paul Saints Deal Pricey

After talking with sources, it looks like the Minnesota Twins might have to write at least one large check to make the St. Paul Saints their Triple-A affiliate starting in 2021.  Sports Headliners speculates a deal could be finished by January 1, with the Saints ownership holding most of the leverage in negotiations that may see ownership transferred to the Twins.

Although a deal is not for sure, it’s a perfect move for the Twins to have their highest minor league affiliate located within a bike ride from Target Field.  Saints Triple-A call-ups could arrive at the big league ball park within 25 minutes from downtown St. Paul.  The Saints are presently members of the American Association, a league that has long operated without MLB affiliation.

Any new Saints owner would project continued sellouts at CHS Field where offerings include low price tickets, quirky promotions, sun-splashed beer-drinking and baseball players (cheap payroll) not wanted by big league clubs.  A wise move by the Twins, if they become new owners, will be keeping prices for tickets and concessions at 2020 levels.

Throw in creative promotions and a big upgrade in baseball talent where Twins fans can see the organization’s future stars, and it seems the Saints could continue to be profitable.  And that doesn’t begin to factor in the business synergy of having two franchises with the same ownership in the same market where there can be crossover ties in ticket sales, radio-TV rights, corporate sponsorships, promotions and advertising.

But what’s in this for the Saints ownership whose public face is Mike Veeck?  He is 69 now and “Mr. Fun Is Good” has worked hard building the Saints into a model minor league franchise.  Veeck has been at this since 1993 and hit a “home run” convincing St. Paul and other public officials to build CHS Field, allowing them to abandon archaic Midway Stadium.

It’s logical to believe Veeck and partners will walk away from their ownership stake if the Twins or someone else will meet their price. A sports industry source told Sports Headliners the Saints ownership paid about $1 million for a franchise startup fee in the independent Northern League back in 1993.  Today he thinks the franchise, despite losing a lot of money because of the pandemic this summer, could command $20 million as a sales price.

That’s a big number but check writing doesn’t stop there if the Saints are to transition from their status of a baseball independent in the American Association to a MLB affiliated Triple-A operation.  There is a cost that MiLB (Minor League Baseball) and MLB are working out for franchises to switch from independent status to affiliation with a big league club.  An estimate right now is $10 to $20 million.  It seems preposterous to think the Saints present ownership would be interested in paying $10 million or more for that status and continuing to operate the St. Paul franchise.

MLB teams do own minor league franchises so a Twins operation in St. Paul wouldn’t be unprecedented.  But the move to St. Paul (the Twins have severed ties with their Triple-A Rochester, New York team) could be predicated on a spending spree by the Twins Pohlad ownership group that might total $30 million or more.

Maybe there’s a buyer other than the Twins for the Saints.  In that scenario it would be prudent for the Twins to cover much of the franchise fee needed for the transition of the Saints to Triple A.

Worth Noting

Last fall after the Vikings lost 16-6 to the Bears in Chicago, star wide receiver Stefon Diggs made news expressing public frustration with the offense.  Now, following an offseason trade to the Bills, Diggs is playing with a hot quarterback in Josh Allen and could finish the season leading the NFL in receptions and receiving yards.

In Wednesday night’s NBA draft the Timberwolves, with the first overall choice, will take Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards and then with their 17th pick in the first round will acquire Memphis forward-center Precious Achiuwa, per yesterday’s SI.com mock draft.  With their second round choice at No. 33, the Wolves are projected to choose former Hopkins standout Zeke Nnaji, the forward-center who was a freshman last season at Arizona.

Tre Jones

The Nets, with the No. 19 pick in the first round, will take former DeLaSalle star Tyrell Terry, a freshman guard at Stanford last season.  Former Apple Valley and Duke point guard Tre Jones is projected at No. 35 in the second round, going to the Sacramento Kings.  Daniel Oturu, the ex-Cretin Derham-Hall and Gopher center, will be drafted at No. 42 in the second round by the New Orleans Pelicans, per SI.com.

The cell phone mailbox of David Holmgren is full and not accepting messages these days.  His son, Chet Holmgren, is the nation’s No. 1 or 2 senior prep basketball prospect while playing for Minnehaha Academy. Chet is waiting until next year to announce a college choice, with minimal likelihood (my opinion) he plays at dad’s alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Because of COVID-19 don’t expect Monster Jam and AMA Super Cross, two popular events scheduled at U.S. Bank Stadium in February, to take place.

Also because of the pandemic no season media passes are being issued for Gophers men’s hockey; only single game requests on a restricted basis are being granted.

Today (Tuesday) is the deadline for WCHA men’s hockey members to announce opting out for the coming season because of the pandemic.  Alaska Anchorage isn’t competing in any winter sports including hockey, leaving the WCHA as of now a nine-member league for 2020-2021.  Could the University of Alaska also opt out?

Don’t expect regular coverage of this “sport” here, but a Belgian racing pigeon was auctioned off for $1.9 million Sunday, per the Associated Press.

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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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