When Torii Hunter asked the Twins to make him a contract offer, they came up with a three-year, $45 million deal, which the All-Star center fielder turned down in late August.
Hunter has asked the Twins to negotiate with his agent Larry Reynolds, and new General Manager Bill Smith has had more than one conversation with Reynolds since the season ended.
The Twins are reluctant to give Hunter the five-year deal he is asking for but might go to four under the right circumstances. The Twins likely will wait until the start of free agency signing period to see what other teams offer him first before making any other offers themselves. But at the same time, Jim Pohlad and the other owners of the Twins are willing to do anything they consider reasonable to sign Hunter.
The Twins have not yet exercised their $6 million option for 2008 on closer Joe Nathan, but they have until within five days after the end of the World Series to do so. Meanwhile, Smith has been talking to Peter Greenberg, the agent for free-agent pitcher Carlos Silva.
The Twins have signed infielder Tommy Watkins to a minor-league contract. Watkins earned his first major league callup over the summer but got hurt and was dropped from the 40-man roster after the season.
Infielder Alejandro Machado, the Rule 5 draft pick who spent the entire season on the 60-day disabled list because of a shoulder injury, accepted an outright assignment to Class AAA Rochester.
No excuses on block
In Sunday's 24-14 loss at Dallas, Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell had a 48-yard field-goal attempt blocked in the third quarter, and the ball was returned 68 yards for a touchdown by Pat Watkins. It was a critical point in the game that saw what could have been a 17-14 Vikings lead instead become a 21-14 deficit.
There was some talk that Cowboys defensive lineman Chris Canty, who blocked the kick, lined up directly over Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler, which is illegal. But Loeffler had no complaints.
"It's a new rule that was implemented a couple of years ago in the NFL, that you can't line up directly over the snapper's head, and there's a fine line of how it's been called," said Loeffler, who in his fourth season is one of the best long snappers in the game. "And they've done a really good job at it, and in all honesty the Cowboys just had a really good rush. They did a good job and obviously I have to get down lower and try and hold my ground, whatever the front may be, regardless of what the rule is.
"It's such a hard rule to enforce because it's such a quick time period of when it's broken or not broken. It's hard to see and it's not an easy call to make."
However, Loeffler pointed out the call was made the previous week when Chicago visited Green Bay. On fourth-and-3 from the 18-yard line, Chicago kicker Robbie Gould made a 36-yard field goal, but the Bears were awarded first down because Packers defensive tackle Corey Williams was flagged for illegal formation. Two plays later, Chicago got a 10-yard touchdown run from Cedric Benson.
With the price of steel rising, Twins officials and representatives of M.A. Mortenson Co., the stadium construction manager, held a long meeting Thursday to talk about possible cost overruns on the team's new ballpark. Right now they are on budget, but there is a good chance that the Pohlad family, which is responsible for overruns, will have to cough up more money if they want to build the park according to plans.
Twins Vice President Eric Curry, also an NCAA Division I men's basketball official, again has been assigned to do games in the Mountain West and Big Ten conferences.
Kelly Holcomb, who spent training camp with the Eagles before getting traded to the Vikings in August, had praise for Philadelphia fullback Thomas Tapeh.
"Thomas Tapeh's a good football player," Holcomb said of the former Gophers and St. Paul Johnson athlete. "He's a physical fullback and he allows Brian Westbrook to run the ball the way he does. Very smart, he's good in the passing game and he can catch the ball. ... Thomas is one of those football players where whatever you ask him to do, he does it and he doesn't bicker about it."
Antoine Walker, the veteran forward the Timberwolves acquired from the Miami Heat, has four seasons and $38.8 million left on his contract. But only the next two years are guaranteed, for a total of $17.87 million, with the Wolves having an option for the 2009-10 season. Walker had a poor relationship with Heat coach Pat Riley that resulted in a four-game suspension last year because he was out of shape. I don't believe the Wolves would have made this deal unless they had another trade in place for Walker. After all, Ricky Davis, the key player in the trade for Miami, is in the last year of his contract. ... The first-round pick the Wolves got from the Heat is lottery protected for this year, meaning the Wolves will get it in 2008 only if Miami makes the playoffs.
Devoe Joseph, a highly rated point guard from Ajax, Ontario, is trying to decide between Virginia Tech, Kansas, and Vanderbilt, and he will visit the Gophers on Nov. 9.
The latest member of Bud Grant's family to succeed as a coach is granddaughter Gretchen Fritz, who was named the Class 1A, Section 6 girls' soccer coach of the year in her first year as coach at Waconia High School. She teaches second grade at Bayview Elementary in Waconia.
Even though former Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is 0-7 as St. Louis coach this year, Rams President John Shaw has said that Linehan's job is not in danger. The Rams have had a number of injuries, especially on the offensive line, including to former Gophers guard Mark Setterstrom and ex-Vikings lineman Adam Goldberg.
Former Minneapolis Lakers star Vern Mikkelsen suffered a slight stroke after having a hip operation in August and is making a good recovery.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. firstname.lastname@example.org