Where is an objective jumping-off point to assess the performance of our major sports entities in recent times? The end of the 2004 seasons seems a proper place to look.
The Twins were coming off three consecutive American League Central titles. The Timberwolves were coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals. The Vikings backed into the playoffs at 8-8 and then upset the Packers on the road in the wild-card round. The Wild was headed into a lockout season that would bring a salary cap to the NHL.
The Gophers football team had defeated Alabama for a third bowl victory in a row. The men's basketball team was five years removed from the academic fraud scandal and there were no more excuses.
Minnesota's major half-dozen were all in reasonable shape -- or, at least, on level ground to compete in their leagues.
Here are the regular-season results over the past seven years, going into this weekend:
The Twins are 590-546 for a .519 winning percentage. The Wild has won 267 of 524 games for a .510 percentage. The Vikings have a record of 53-56 for a .486 winning percentage.
The basketball Gophers have a 49-71 record in the Big Ten for a .408 percentage. The Wolves have a 187-387 record for a .326 percentage. The football Gophers have a 17-39 record in the Big Ten for a .304 percentage.
These numbers make it rather interesting that a larger percentage of the sporting public seems to be angry with the Twins than any of the other five franchises/programs that matter the most to Minnesotans.
The latest playoff sweep at the hands of the Yankees in October 2010, and then the fall off a cliff to 63-99 in 2011, has left the Twins in this situation with a large, vocal share of fans:
These folks are going to howl no matter the personnel move that is made.
At Christmastime in 2010, the LVS (large vocal share) was upset that Michael Cuddyer was making too much money -- $10.5 million for 2011 -- and was too favored by manager Ron Gardenhire. At Christmastime in 2011, the LVS is unhappy that the Twins signed Josh Willingham, rather than commit to the average salary of $10 million that Cuddyer received on a three-year deal with Colorado.
At Christmastime in 2010, the LVS looked at Joe Nathan as a pitcher who had missed a year and was at the end of a contract (four years, $48 million) always inflated for a closer. At Christmastime in 2011, the LVS was unhappy the 37-year-old with 14 saves since 2009 wound up in Texas.
At Christmastime in 2010, Joe Mauer was a local sports treasure with merely a few critics for his lack of home runs and durability. At Christmastime in 2011, he is the player the LVS would most like the Twins to find a way to get rid of, along with the $23 million annual salary due through 2018.
In spring training 2011, Twins loyalists who made the journey to Fort Myers had one question for a Minnesota media member: "Do you think we can beat the Yankees in the playoffs?"
You won't hear that question this spring. It's more likely to be a rhetorical, "We're not going to lose 100 games, are we?"
The announcement on Nov. 7 that Terry Ryan was coming back as general manager to replace Bill Smith soothed the LVS and enthused the loyalists, but only for a moment.
The moves made since Ryan took over have been greeted with varying degrees of derision:
Signing shortstop Jamey Carroll: "Might as well be Nick Punto." Signing catcher Ryan Doumit: "Another guy that was hurt all last season." Re-signing reliever Matt Capps: "BOOO!" Signing Willingham; "Cheap Twins should've spent the few extra millions to get Cuddyer."
I can't wait until the Twins trade Francisco Liriano and Denard Span, which I'm guessing (and guessing only) are two moves that will be made in January. If these moves occur, the LVS will insist that Liriano was an ace and Span was an elite center fielder.
The Twins are a solid No. 1 among Minnesota's major teams in recent times for winning. They are also a solid No. 1 on Minnesota's current list of most-reviled major sports entities.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays and 10 to noon Saturdays on 1500ESPN. • firstname.lastname@example.org