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Twins showing good early signs

Major League Baseball, being the original American pastime, is full of clichés like “Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint” — 162 games over six-plus months. Last season locally was a long season indeed. The Twins were 59-103, the worst record in the Major Leagues. Longtime general manager Terry Ryan was fired.

So far in 2017, a month and a week into the season, the Twins are playing better baseball. At no time during last year’s season did the Twins have a winning record. In fact, they started the 2016 season by losing their first nine games.

The American League Central Division might be the toughest Division in baseball. In fact, the last three years the Division Champion has reached the World Series — Kansas City in 2014-15, and last year Cleveland lost the 2016 World Series to the Chicago Cubs after leading 3-1.

This year the Twins are 15-14 and so far are hanging tough with 17-13 Cleveland, 15-15 Detroit, 15-15 Chicago, and last place 10-20 Kansas City. The Twins are playing great defensively, making the plays in the field and committing only 10 errors in 29 games, the fewest in the American League.

The Twins are getting a lot of walks, also. Their hitters have been disciplined and are not swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. The Twins’ fielding is tops in the American League at .992.

The rest has fallen on the heroics of S & S — Ervin Santana and Miguel Sano. Santana is 5-1; until Sunday his ERA was 0.66, and after Sunday’s loss it’s now 1.72. Sano was the American League Player of the Week last week. He’s hitting .300 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs, which leads the American League. Left fielder Eddie Rosario has had a team-best 15 game hitting streak and is hitting .302 for the season.

Manager Paul Molitor has made some changes in his coaching staff, and this young team has been playing consistent baseball. The starting and relief pitching for the most part have been good this season. The team ERA is 3.94, good for sixth in the American League.

Consistency and getting good pitching are the keys in baseball. We have a long way to go this season, but so far what I see I like. The Twins are showing the signs of a good young team working hard, sticking to the plan laid down by the coaches, and playing smart baseball.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

Vikings make decisions, right or wrong


When you miss the playoffs and you don’t even have a number-one pick in the next Draft, it can lead to dire straits, slumped shoulders and limited optimism. The NFL Draft can be a life-changer.

As ex-Minnesota governor turned actor, Jesse Ventura said, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Not when you’re hosting Super Bowl 52. The Vikings continue to move forward, leaving the painful memories of a blown 5-0 start and third-place finish behind.

General Manager Rick Spielman made the best of a tough position. He identified the Vikings’ needs and desires in the Draft and worked his plan. Only seven offensive lineman were drafted among the top 64 players. That’s a record low.

Since 1961, no NFL Championships in Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago (been there, done that) or Detroit with one playoff win since 1957. The Vikings believe they are close to being a championship football team. They were 8-8 in 2016 and have not been in this position since year four for Head Coach Mike Zimmer with zero playoff wins, Dennis Green in 1992-96. Green made the playoffs four straight years, yet the Vikings were 0-4 in the playoffs.

The Vikings went into last weekend’s Draft without a number-one pick knowing they had eight picks starting with number 48 of the second round. Spielman traded with Cincinnati to move up to number 41 and take Dalvin Cook, the gifted junior running back from Florida State.

“We’re very excited to get the quality of running back we were able to get,” Spielman said. “As we looked and he kept coming down the board, we felt that he was just too talented of a player not to take a swing and try to go up and get him. We feel that we have great value for where we were able to land Cook in the second round.”

He’s the highest drafted running back the Vikings have taken since Adrian Peterson in 2007. In three years, he rushed for 4,484 yards and 46 touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He’s versatile with 5,399 all-purpose yards, a game-breaker and a deep threat out of the backfield.

Character is important. Cook has been a follower. You ask why he was available and dropped in the Draft.

Questionable choices raised character issues at Florida State. The Vikings believe they did their homework into his background and history. Time will tell if they were right or the teams that passed on him were wrong.

Spielman and company obviously worked hard adding depth and wound up drafting 11 players total over the weekend.

They include center Pat Elflein (Ohio State), defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson (Iowa), linebacker Ben Gedeon (Michigan), wide receiver Rodney Adams (South Florida), guard Danny Isidora (Miami), tight end Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech), wide receiver Stacy Coley (Miami), defensive end Ifeadl Odenigbo (Northwestern), linebacker Elijah Lee (Kansas State), and cornerback Jack Tocho (North Carolina State). All the players will be in town this week at Winter Park for Mini-Camp.

This Draft can best be described as risk-reward. The Vikings have added several talented young players with lots of potential.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

Making the case for NBA MVP

OK, by a show of hands, your choice for NBA MVP is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, right? He led the NBA in scoring with 31.9 per game. He averaged a triple double for the season — 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists over 80 games.

He broke Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record of 41 triple doubles with the new high mark of 42. Oscar Robertson is a legend of an era where the big man dominated the NBA. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Willis Reed all led their teams to titles.

Guards like the “Big O” Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Walt Frazier did not get the attention back then compared to what guards receive today. Back in the 1961-62 season, Robertson, while setting the NBA record of 41 triple doubles, finished third in the MVP voting to Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. Russell was the MVP with 18.9 points, 23 rebounds, and averaged five blocked shots per game.

Philadelphia’s Wilt Chamberlain that year averaged 50.4 points per game and was the runner-up to Russell for the MVP that season. That’s something for you to think about before you assume Westbrook has locked up the MVP Award. History has shown that the MVP award usually goes to the best player on one of the league’s top teams.

For example, last year Stephen Curry of Golden State led the Warriors to an NBA regular-season record 73 wins while scoring 30 points a game. He won the honor the previous season also by leading the Warriors to 67 wins; again, they had the best record in the NBA.

Westbrook, as dominating as he was, led Oklahoma City to a 47-35 record, good for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference. Most people think James Harden of Houston, with 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and leading the NBA in assists with 11.2 per game, could grab the MVP trophy because Houston was 55-27, third-best record in the NBA.
I think the vote will be real close. Curry, the winner the last two years, averaged 25.4 points, his new teammate Kevin Durant averaged 25 points, and the Warriors had the best record again with 67 wins.

Kiwai Leonard of San Antonio averaged a career-best 25.7 points per game while leading the Spurs to 61 wins, second-best in the NBA the year legend Tim Duncan retired after 18 seasons. Boston’s Isiah Thomas led the Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference and tied Harden, averaging 29.1 points per game.

LeBron James and Cleveland slipped to number two in the East, but as defending NBA Champions and averaging 26.4 points per game. The King, a four-time MVP winner, will get a lot of votes also.

I tend to lean to the best player on the best team. That formula seems to be the way the voters go, and history shows that whether it’s 1961-62 or 2016-17, it’s still a team game. The best player on the best team wins MVP honors just about every year. We will soon see.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.