Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Could it be Winnesota?

I was thinking earlier this summer as the Twins continued to surprise and win that we may be on the verge of something that has never happened in Minnesota major sports history.  Well, at least since the Wild came into existence. (Fuck Norm Green).

When have all four of the major professional sports franchises gone above .500.  Or even better, when have they all made the playoffs?

I went to the googles and pored over the history of each of our home squads and made a beautiful (read: ugly) chart to visualize:

The Wolves: Yikes

Just once since the Wild have come into existence have all four teams eclipsed .500.  In 2003, the Vikings went 9-7, the Wild 30-29-3, Twins 90-72 and the Wolves 58-24.  This is what amounts to a good Minnesota sports year.  However, only the Twins and Wolves were in the playoffs.

Let's go back to a better time when I was only partially on my way to a life filled with misfortune and terrible life choices.  Let's go back to 2003.  

For the 2003 Vikings, we were in the midst of the Mike Tice era which should carry its own set of bad memories if you were there for it.  In fact, you can probably play his dumb laugh in your head.  The Vikes looked like world-beaters out of the gate winning their first 6 games, but floundered in their final 10; going 3-7.  Do you remember the last game of that season?  You should...4th and 25 pass to Nathan Poole to win it for the Cardinals 18-17 and murderkill the playoffs for the Vikings.  Paul Allen screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

We did have some fun that year.  Randy Moss had 17 touchdowns and over 1600 yards receiving.  We had Culpepper, we had Moe Williams, we had rookie Kevin Williams and his 10.5 sacks, we had Brian Russell(!) with 9 interceptions.  Good times... but no playoffs.  As an aside, in Minnesota, we seem to have a disproportionate amount of seasons where one of our squads starts out strong as hell and then ends up pooping the bed, no?  Maybe that's just my Gopher football goggles... thank you sweet non-con.

The 03-04 Wild were 30-29-3.  (For the purposes of this exercise I'm going by the year the season started for NHL/NBA)  They were 10th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs.   This season followed an 02-03 season that was one of, if not the best in Wild history.  That year, the Wild beat the Avalanche in 7 in round 1, then defeated rival Vancouver in 7.  In both series, the Wild were down 3-1 before rallying and winning the series.  Alas, J.S. Giguere and the Ducks weren't having it in the Western Conference Finals and swept the Wild.

The Wild entered that off-season with a tight checking defense and an anemic offense.  They selected Brent Burns with the 20th pick of the first round.  (Burns by the way, is now in his prime with the Sharks; he has 56 goals and 151 points over the past two seasons and usually sports a tremendous beard.)

In that 03-04 season, Alexandre Daigle led the Wild with just 20 goals...other names you may remember that were top scorers were Marion Gaborik, Andrew Brunette, Pascal Dupuis and Antti Laaksonen.  Filip Kuba, Nick Schulz and Willie Mitchell were defensive leaders with Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez in between the pipes.

The 2003 Minnesota Twins won their division by going 90-72.  In the prior off-season the Twins released David Ortiz and forever broke my heart by keeping Doug Mientkiewicz instead.  (HE SAVES SO MANY RUNS WITH HIS GLOVE YOU GUYS)

A major turning point in the season was when the Twins traded for Shannon Stewart and formed SOUL PATROL in the outfield alongside Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter.  Stewart hit .322 for the Twins down the stretch helping to lead them to the playoffs.  Hunter led the team in HR (26) and RBI (102).  Pierzynski hit .312...Mientkiewicz hit .300 with 11 homers...Corey Koskie led the team in OPS (845).

The pitching was not great... Brad Radke let the team in ERA with a 4.49 mark.  Guardado and LaTroy were kicking ass in the bullpen. The big bright spot the transition from bullpen to starter for Johan Santana.  Santana won his last 8 decisions down the stretch and started the first game of the ALDS against the Yankees.  The Twins won that first game and then were subsequently destroyed in the next 3.

BTW, found this tidbit on wiki

"Due to Santana's early major-league success with the Twins, a young minor-league pitcher in the Anaheim Angels' farm system also named Johan Santana changed his name to Ervin Santana in 2003 and has also achieved major league success"  

The circle is complete.

The 2003-04 Timberwolves season was the best in the franchise's existence.  MVP Garnett with 24.2 pts, 13.9 rebs, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.2 blocks per game.  Sam Cassell making big shots and running around holding his imaginary gigantic balls in front of his shorts.  Latrell Sprewell flying and angrily dunking while yelling "motherfucker".  It was the best.

The Wolves finished first in the Western Conference with a 58-24 record.  They beat the Nugz and then won an awesome seven game series against C-Webb and the Kings.  The lost in 6 games in the conference finals to Shaq, Kobe, Old Man Karl Malone and Old Man Gary Payton-led Lakers.  This is the last appearance by the Wolves in the playoffs....until this year?


Our Twins are currently in line for one of the two wildcards in the American League this year.  Their opponent will be the Yankees in New York for one game if everything bears out as it is today.  The Angels are only a game and a half behind the Twins though and what's more fun than a total collapse?

If the Twins do make it though... revenge for 2003 in the making?  I mean, probably not, but a man can dream.  These bats can get hot, but the Yankees have some quality pitching that can stymie the best of offenses.

The Vikings are the biggest questions mark out of the four major squads in my opinion.  Before the year, I would have said its the Twins, but they seem to have proven me to be an idiot once again.  After week one, the Vikings looked like a strong squad with playoff potential written all over them.  Week two comes along and Sam Bradford's trick knee starts acting up and the wheels eject off the wagon.  The season's playoff chances come down to that knee being okay and okay soon.  There is the ghost of a chance that Zombie Bridgewater rises from the murky depths and takes over mid-season, but it may be too late by then.  Dalvin Cook looks like a beast.  The defense is fun and makes plays.  The o-line... well, they have to be better than last year, right?

The Wild are coming off a season where they were 2nd in the division to the Blackhawks and were seeded 2nd in the conference in the playoffs.  However, because nothing matters, including home ice in the NHL playoffs, they were bounced in the first round by the filthy St. Louis Blues.

Coming into this season hope springs anew for a good season and a better playoff run.  Last years points leader with 69 (nice), Mikael Granlund returns to lead a second line that seems to keep improving with Nino-Granlund-Zucker.  Eric Staal had a nice bounce back year in his first withe Wild last year and will likely center the top line with Parise and Chuck Coyle. The Wild shipped out under performer Jason Pominville as well as Marco Scandella for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foglino (Fog-LINE-oh).  Ennis was a 20+ goal scorer before being hurt all the damn time, so maybe he can do something on the third line with Koivu.  Devan Dubnyk is back in the net to kick some ass too.

I'm a Timberwolves homer and I always have been.  If you're in the Ukraine you've probably read my 2011-12 Wolves preview on this site many times for some reason, wherein I urge you to "come aboard" because "it's happening" and so forth.  It didn't happen, you guys.  BUT NOW ITS REALLY HAPPENING

If you are a Wolves fan, you can already probably taste the playoffs.  The acquisition of Jimmy Butler along with young studs Karl Towns and Andrew Wiggins makes this Thibs-run squad something to watch.  Rubio was shipped off and pick and roll maestro Jeff Teague was brought in as well.  And while I'll miss all that Rubio brought with his magician-level passing and under-appreciated defense, I am excited to see a PG that can get and make a shot and force the defense to be a little more honest instead.

Look, Butler and Towns are both top 15 players with Towns' star on the rise and no limit to its metaphysical heights.  Wiggins, for all his flaws elsewhere is an exceptional scorer and has put the team on his back at times.  Free agent acquisition Taj Gibson is a gritty defender at the power forward spot and will help lead an run this Thibs defense.  Gorgui is still here and if he's off the bench with Jamal Crawford and Shabazz Muhammad and Tyus Jones you have the makings of a solid second unit.

Vegas has this team around 48 wins for an over/under which puts us solidly in the 4-5 seed range for the playoffs.

So to recap:  Twins - pretty much already in.  Wild - should be in.  Wolves - we're back baby! Vikings - inject all of the platelets into Sam's knee.

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