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Patrick Reusse

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Stanozolol delivers another spring training gut punch to Twins

FORT MYERS, FLA. – There were a couple of Star Tribune reporters in the Twins clubhouse early on Sunday morning and we wound up in a conversation with coach Gene Glynn, initially about the NCAA basketball tournament and then about the fielding problems experienced by shortstop Jorge Polanco in exhibition play this spring.

Glynn’s basketball interest can be traced to his high school days in Waseca, where he was named as Minnesota’s first Mr. Basketball in 1975. As for Polanco, Glynn is the Twins’ infield coach, and received credit for helping Jorge to overcome shaky fielding in the early portion of exhibition play in 2017.

Glynn had many sessions hitting ground balls to Polanco. Glynn is also a confidence booster by nature, and the optimistic messages had to help Polanco to believe in himself as a shortstop.

“It looks like you might need a couple of extensive ground-ball sessions with Polanco,’’ I said to Glynn on Sunday.

Glynn shrugged it off. “Jorge’s going to be fine,’’ he said. “He’s dropping his arm slot a little and that’s causing some throws in the dirt. He went through that down here last year and then found consistency with his throws.

“He’s getting to the ball. He made a play behind second base the other night that was spectacular.''

This was 8 a.m. in Fort Myers. And it’s being offered to confirm this:

The Twins were not aware prior to mid-morning Sunday that Major League Baseball was ready to issue an 80-game suspension to Polanco for testing positive for the steroid stanozolol.

That’s the same steroid that got Ervin Santana at the end of spring training in 2015, putting him under suspension for the first 80 games of his four-year contract.

Polanco and Santana are both from the Dominican Republic, and stanozolol — a steroid that has been around since the early 1960s — has been the culprit in most suspensions for ballplayers from the island.

The Twins have been waiting for MLB to issue a verdict on its investigation into the accusation that Miguel Sano grabbed a volunteer photographer at a promotional appearance in 2015.

Sano and Polanco grew up a mile apart in the Dominican and were signed at the same time by the Twins. They are opposite in personalities: Sano as the extrovert, Polanco as more of an introvert.

The Twins signed Erick Aybar, a 12-year big-league veteran, on Feb. 24. This was puzzling, since they already had a pair of excellent backup infielders in veterans Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza.

My theory was the Twins wanted to look at Aybar, in the event Sano would receive a suspension. That would put Escobar in the lineup at third base, and would leave Adrianza as the lone backup infielder with experience. Aybar would give the Twins another one, if he showed that he could be helpful.

Then came MLB’s announcement late on Sunday afternoon: Polanco was suspended for 80 games for a positive steroid test.

Did this have anything to do with signing Aybar? Nope.

Sunday’s early-morning conversation with Glynn, and also what I’m told of the reaction of Twins officials when they were informed later on Sunday morning, says this was every bit the surprise gut punch that was Santana’s suspension three years earlier — for Terry Ryan and the previous baseball administration.

What we might have is an explanation for Polanco’s shoddy play in the field in recent games. The player and the players association are informed of the positive test earlier in the process. Polanco was playing for a while knowing this was coming.

This statement was released in Polanco’s name after the MLB announcement:

"Today, I have regretfully accepted my 80-game suspension for testing positive for stanozolol. To be clear, I did not intentionally consume this steroid. I now know, however, that my intention alone is not a good enough excuse and I will pay the price for my error in judgment.

“The substance that I requested from my athletic trainer in the Dominican Republic and consented to take was a combination of vitamin B12 and an iron supplement, something that is not unusual or illegal for professional athletes to take. Unfortunately, what I was given was not that supplement and I take full responsibility for what is in my body.’’

So, the Twins have lost their shortstop and they still await word on the result of the Sano investigation, and that positive spin from the arrival of two starting pitchers and a slugger in the past month …

It hasn’t taken a 180-degree turn, but it’s certainly 90 degrees in the wrong direction, and with the season opener now 10 days away.

Cousins' exit strategy from Washington was brilliant -- and, yup, I missed it

Mark me down as one of the more naïve followers as to what was going on between the Washington Redskins and Kirk Cousins in the contract disputes that came into effect after his four-year, $2.74 million rookie deal expired after 2015.

And that naivete continued earlier this week, when it became clear that Cousins was headed to the Vikings, and on a three-year, $84 million deal that would be fully guaranteed.

I was spouting that the contract certainly would carry a clause that would prevent the Vikings from placing a franchise tag on him for 2021, after this deal expired. It does prevent a transition tag (a lesser amount), but if the Vikings would choose to franchise Cousins four seasons from now … go for it.

Why? The tag will be worth a $40 million salary by then.

What a dummy -- me, not Cousins, and certainly not Mike McCartney, the low-key, prescient agent behind this strategy to win guaranteed dollars from the money-stealing operators of NFL teams.

As it turns out, the franchise tags were never a problem for Cousins and McCartney. Rather, they were means to a triumphant end.

Cousins was taken in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, the same one in which the Redskins took quarterback Robert Griffin with the second pick. The expectation was that Cousins would watch Griffin become a star, and then move on in a minor trade near the end of his rookie contract.

It didn’t work out that way. Griffin was injured and became a bust. By 2015, Cousins was the Redskins’ quarterback, starting the 16 games and putting up large passing numbers.

With the rookie contract expiring, it has been reported that McCartney gave the Redskins a proposal: three years, $58.5 million, fully guaranteed. The Redskins shrieked in horror at that last part and kept Cousins with a franchise tag costing $19.95 million for 2016.

Cousins followed with 16 more starts and continued big numbers. Any contract offer from Washington now had to be for many more millions – and again, fully guaranteed.

The Redskins tagged him again, leading to a salary of $23.94 million in 2017. Why was I goofy enough to think the Redskins using back-to-back franchise tags must have been an irritant to Cousins?

The tags were driving his salary to wonderful heights. They were perfect, as long as the quarterback won the bet on himself to stay healthy.

There was a third franchise tag available for Washington on Cousins for 2018. It would have been for an estimated $34.5 million.

The best guess is that all along – from that first tag for just shy of $20 million – MCCartney was advising Cousins that the franchise designation would get too exorbitant for the Redskins and he would wind up on the free-agent market as a coveted quarterback before his 30th birthday.

The storyline became that Washington’s failure to deliver a satisfactory multi-year deal was based on the team’s uncertainty that Cousins was the quarterback to lead a long-awaited return to glory.

Wrong, again. It was about guaranteed dollars – not some of the millions, not most of the millions, but all of the millions. And those franchise tags weren’t a lack of respect for Cousins. They were favors.

The Redskins wouldn’t fully guarantee a large contract, and they finally had to blink at that third franchise tag for $34.5 million, give or take a few hundred thousand.

On Thursday, Cousins was introduced as the quarterback of the Vikings on a three-year, $84 million contract that, amazingly in today’s NFL, is sure to pay him $84 million.

And if it gets to be 2021, and Cousins has success here, and the Vikings don’t want to fully guarantee, say, a three-year, $110 million extension, McCartney and Cousins can accept happily a third and final franchise tag – that $40 million mentioned earlier.

Thursday was a great day in American sports. An NFL player got his money … all of it.

Of course, the Vikings at the same time were putting a vise on running back Lattavius Murray to take a cut for the second season of his alleged three-year, $15.5 million.

The Vikings did this not because Murray failed to meet expectations in 2017, but because that’s what the NFL teams do whenever possible: make a deal, then take back as many dollars as possible, even if a player has performed to the standards of the contract.

Sheldon Richardson, the new defensive tackle, and his agent also might be ahead of the curve on contracts. He took a one-year deal from the Vikings, with $8 million guaranteed and $3 million in incentives.

Why take a three-year, $30 million contract with $10 million guaranteed, when a team is going to come back and steal 40 percent of the Year 2 salary and maybe all of the Year 3 salary?

Play one season, get paid $10 million, and hit the market again in 2019. In Richardson’s case, he’s now 27, and with a strong season, he could do this all over again … for more guaranteed money.

The millions are much different at other positions, but Cousins might have set a good example for players in their prime:

Bet on yourself with deals that put you back on the market as soon as possible, because NFL management is determined to rob you on the longer deals anyway.

Ask Lattavius Murray. Heck, ask the now-retired Chad Greenway, and he’s going to end up jn the Vikings Ring of Honor.