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The Twins are the New Vikings

Posted at 11:26 AM on September 4, 2007 by David Zingler

Following their 90-72 1992 season, the Twins sank into oblivion for the rest of the decade, never posting better than a .481 winning percentage. The Vikings meanwhile, hired Dennis Green prior to the ’92 season and ran off 9 straight non-losing seasons, including 4 division titles and two NFC title game appearances.

The Vikes of the 1990s were loaded with star players: Cris Carter, Randy Moss, John Randle, Randall McDaniel, etc. The best the Twins could come up with after Kirby Puckett retired in 1996 was an incorrigible Chuck Knoblauch and a post-peak Paul Molitor. Yes, the Vikings were the best team in town, but they always let us down. No need to re-hash the specific incidences here.

Today however, their roles have completely reversed. Even including their expansion years, we may be enduring the darkest stretch in Vikings history. The franchise has just one playoff appearance since the infamous 41-0 loss in the 2000 NFC Championship Game and is largely void of star power (a post-peak Darren Sharper??). The Twins meanwhile, are (hopefully) working on their 7th consecutive winning season, a stretch that has included 4 division titles and an ALCS appearance.

The star power is also on the Twins side. Johan Santana, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer are the most popular athletes in town. It was the Twins that gave us our most memorable sports thrill ride since the 1998 Vikings with their amazing run at a Central Division title last season. Remember how excited we all were heading into the playoffs? Remember what happened?

Aside from their 2002 ALDS victory over Oakland, remember every Twins playoff series this decade? Is Ron Gardenhire the new Dennis Green?

Hometown hero is the answer at third

Posted at 11:59 AM on September 4, 2007 by Steve Rudolph

Much has been written recently about solving the Twins’ problems at third base with a Cretin-Derham Hall product. I couldn’t agree more. Jack Hannahan would be perfect for the team.

You thought I meant move Joe Mauer to third? No way. If we’re going to have a St. Paul standout at third, I want one with some power who drives in runs. That’s Hannahan.

For those who don’t know Jack, Hannahan is one of the best players to ever wear the maroon and gold and a great story. Hannahan, who turned around his college career after facing his alcoholism, was a two-time team MVP and was named Big Ten Players of the Year and Big Ten Tournament Most Valuable Player in 2001. Hannahan is also one of the nicest guys I’ve met in all my years of working sports.

After leaving Minnesota, Hannahan excelled in the Tigers’ minor league system, but his only trip to the Bigs lasted just nine at bats last year.

Hannahan wasn’t invited to spring training with the major league team this year and appeared stuck in a numbers game. That changed when we has traded to Oakland last month. Acquired to help fill a depleted roster, Hannahan has batted .281 while playing mostly third base for the A’s.

Sunday, he went 3-for-5 in the A’s win over his former team. Hannahan delivering a walk-off hit in the 10th inning to cap the rally. It was Hannahan’s third RBI of the day and his second walk-off hit of the week.
In just 20 games and 64 at bats, Hannahan has hit three home runs and driven in 13 runs. By comparison, the more famous Cretin alum (the one with the sideburns) has 5 HRs and 53 RBI in 93 games and 360 at bats.

When Eric Chavez returns from injury, Hannahan could once again find himself as the odd man out. Terry Ryan needs to call Billy Beane and see what it would take to bring Hannahan home. It’s an affordable solution at third and keeps Mauer at the position where he belongs – catcher.

It's no exaggeration, Punto's having a bad year

Posted at 8:58 PM on September 4, 2007 by Steve Rudolph (1 Comments)

I was having a little fun when I referred to Nick Punto becoming the game’s first 200/.200 player (more than 200 at bats and a sub-.200 average). As a reader pointed out, there have been about 500 players have that accomplished that feat.

Nick Punto, who had a couple hits over the weekend to lift his average to .198 entering Tuesday's game, is not having the worst season ever by a regular. But it could be among the five worst in modern times for a player who qualified for the batting title. A friend of mine ran the numbers that show it.

Lowest Batting Average (1957-2007)
(Min. 3.1 PA/Team Game)

1. Rob Deer – Det (1991) - .179
2. Ivan DeJesus – ChC (1981) - .194
3. Tom Tresh – NYY (1968) - .195
4. Nick Punto – Min (2007) - .198
5. Jim Sundberg – Tex (1975) - .199

Considering the company he’s keeping, why is Punto in the starting lineup every night? He should be a late-inning defensive replacement. These numbers show that about any other major leaguer would produce more at the plate.

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