Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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No option: Change has to be in offing for Twins

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: September 17, 2014 - 6:29 AM

There was more traffic than anticipated near Target Field an hour before Tuesday night’s game. A young lady who we old-timers would suggest was “dolled up’’ was heading away from the ramp elevator that leads to the ballpark and toward one that leads to the nearby arena.

“Is there a concert next door tonight?’’ someone asked.

She responded that Eric Church and Dwight Yoakam were at Target Center, then crinkled her nose as if detecting a foul odor and said: “And I think there might be a Twins game.’’

The reaction was similar to what took place decades ago, when my friend Mark Whicker was in town on some newspaper business and we were having dinner on the deck of a Lake Minnetonka restaurant.

The Twins of ’82 or ’83 were playing a game somewhere on the East Coast, and Whicker found it amusing that none of the several TVs in the bar area was featuring the local team on an August night.

So, Whicker kept asking members of the wait staff as they passed by, “Could you check and find out the Twins’ score?’’ The young ladies found this request so annoying that I feared we were going to be asked to leave the establishment.

The Twins of 2014 find themselves in similar condition with the public. The mere mention of the Twins makes faces crinkle into a frown. People become annoyed at the mere mention of them.

It's nothing to do with off-field behavior that has the Twins at this low ebb. It is their on-field behavior that has the Twins in this situation.

We often use the word apathy to describe the team’s current standing in the Twin Cities, but it's worse than that. I think the public's attitude is closer to disdain.

The Twins are winding down another season where they maneuvered into also-ran status before the All-Star Game, and then fell into a state of collapse afterwards.

These Twins were 44-50 at the All-Star break. The mid-summer baseball celebration was held in the Twin Cities, yet this did nothing to enliven the home team.

The Twins went are 20-37 since the break after Tuesday night's 4-3 comeback victory over Detroit. That’s a winning percentage of .351. That compares with these post-All-Star numbers of the prior three seasons: 2013, 27-43 (.389); 2012, 30-47 (.390); 2011, 22-51 (.301).

Teams that are rebuilding are supposed to show improvement in the last couple months of a season. No rebuilding took place in the previous three seasons, and the won-loss columns indicate that’s the case again in 2014.

You give me Danny Santana, Kenny Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia, I’ll give you .351, the worst post-All-Star record since this disaster started in the final 10 weeks of the 2011 schedule.

You give me Phil Hughes and a 15-10 record with a 3.56 ERA, I’ll give you 11 other starting pitchers with a 30-55 record and a 5.40 ERA.

This season ends a week from Sunday. The Twins have to give the public something. With no concrete indication of rebuilding, with only another sad, post-All-Star march to the finish, the something has to be change.

I’m not firing anybody here. I’ll leave that to the Pohlads.

Due process is a good thing, not a Vikings' excuse

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: September 15, 2014 - 5:35 PM

The Vikings are untrustworthy folks. They have proven that with their conduct in the financing of their new stadium.

The people at the State Capitol that pushed through this billion-dollar edifice – including Gov. Mark Dayton – did so in the belief that the Vikings would make modest demands on their season-ticket holders when it came to putting up front money for seats in the new structure.

The Vikings then turned it into a needless and wild-eyed money grab … an anticipated $125 million in seat licenses. The fact that Michele Kelm-Helgen and her pals on the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority approved this gouge makes you wonder why they wound up as such lackeys for the Vikings.

Adrian Peterson is a knothead. He has proven that with idiotic comments through the years, such as comparing NFL players to “slaves,’’ and suggesting he has no trouble with gay people as long as he doesn’t wind up in a locker-room shower at the same time.

And let’s face it: The evidence is fairly clear that Adrian’s concern for protection is as indifferent in intimate situations as it is in pass blocking.

Peterson lost me a year ago, when he accepted condolences from NFL players and the public after the death of a son as if he had spent countless hours tickling that 2-year-old under the chin.

Within a couple of days, we found out Peterson had never met the child … never made the short drive from Mankato to Sioux Falls last summer to meet the child. He didn't see the child until the 2-year-old was on life support.

My reaction was, “It’s official. Our hero Adrian is a fraud.’’

That young lad was beaten to death by another man, and nine months later, Peterson was taking a switch to another son – a 4-year-old visiting from Minnesota – as a form of discipline.

That’s about as stupid as you can get, I agree.

A doctor saw the marks on the boy during a routine visit back in Minnesota, and alerted authorities. After a process of several weeks, Peterson was indicted at the end of last week in Texas for negligent abuse of a child.

The Vikings announced later in the day that Peterson would be deactivated for Sunday’s home opener vs. the Patriots. Peterson went to Houston and turned himself into authorities on Saturday. He posted a $15,000 bail and was released.

There were demands from an outraged public that the Vikings release Peterson. There were suggestions that the Vikings indeed would release him – mostly because this would be a good excuse to get out from under his large contract.

On Monday morning, the Vikings sent out a release that Peterson had rejoined the team, that he would resume practice Monday and was likely to play on Sunday at New Orleans.

The Vikings mentioned "due process.'' Good. I'm a believer in due process.

I don’t buy that it’s some kind of sacred “privilege’’ to play in the NFL, and that players should be held to a higher standard of behavior than other workers. It’s a job, like any other job, only a heck of a lot more grueling than nearly all of them.

I also see a difference between the Peterson situation and the Ray Rice situation (or the Chris Cook situation). When you beat up a woman (wife, fiancée, girlfriend or stranger), your motive is to beat up a woman.

As stated previously, I believe Adrian Peterson is a knothead. And maybe his motive in giving a “whopping’’ to that lad was because he enjoys beating up kids. But I don’t believe you can flat out say that, without a full look at the facts -- from the prosecution but also from Peterson's attorney Rusty Hardin.

Meantime, Peterson should be allowed to go to work.

An oldtime passion for baseball in St. Paul

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: September 14, 2014 - 7:02 AM

Ken Staples died on Monday at 87. I found David Anderson’s latest literary effort in the Star Tribune mail at the same time. This was the common thread: guys who grew up in St. Paul with a love of baseball.

Staples was a 1946 graduate at Humboldt High School on St. Paul’s West Side. Anderson was a ball field rat at Arlington Playground on the East Side.

Kenny was an outstanding athlete and fiery coach. He coached baseball and hockey in Robbinsdale (first Robbinsdale High, then Cooper). I got to know him as a kid reporter at the St. Cloud Times, when Kenny was managing the St. Cloud Rox in the short-season Northern League for the Twins.

My less-than-demanding boss, Mike Augustin, and I would slap together the Times sports section by 9 a.m., then have breakfast most every summer morning with Kenny (when the Rox were in town).

The highlight would be Kenny going to the pay phone for his daily call to Twins farm director George Brophy. Soon, you could hear George bellowing through the phone that he wasn’t going to sign some 22-year-old former Gopher to play second base in a rookie league; that the 18-year-old draft choice that Kenny insisted “couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie’’ was going to continue to play.

Staples did win enough arguments with Brophy to take three straight Northern League pennants with the Rox.

I became aware of David Anderson one Saturday morning late in 1984, when opening my mail at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Inside, there were a few copies of “Quotations from Chairman Calvin.’’

Anderson had compiled what he described as the “Collected Wit and Wisdom of Calvin Griffith, former Minnesota Twins President and Chairman of the Board.’’

The Calvin quote on the cover hinted at the treasures that waited inside Anderson’s wonderful pamphlet: “I can’t tell you exactly what I intend to do, but I can tell you one thing … it won’t be anything rational.’’

Anderson now has published a fable titled “Johnny Baseball Seed,’’ the story of a man who retires and sets out to save sandlot baseball. You can find it on Amazon.

Plus Three from Patrick

Top responses to a recent question on Minnesota’s all-time best golfers:

Gary Anderson: “1-Patty Berg. 2-Les Bolstad, all he did for Minnesota golf. 3-Tom Lehman, higher if he could putt.’’

Lee Glenna: “1-Tom Lehman. 2-Patty Berg. 3-Chris Perry, [litany of feats including] 14 PGA Tour top 10s in 1999, second to Tiger Woods’ 16.”

Dick Edstrom: “Can’t argue with your choices [Berg, Lehman, Bev Vanstrum], but make room for Howie Johnson at 3½.’’

'U' volleyball star brings musical treat to Pavilion

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: September 12, 2014 - 5:55 PM

There will be an intriguing national anthem for early-arriving volleyball fans at the Sports Pavilion on Saturday at 10 a.m. The Gophers will be facing Milwaukee in the Diet Coke Classic, the second of their three matches in a tournament that also features Tulsa and Iowa State.

The anthem will be played on a trumpet by Elias Santana, the father Daly Santana, the Gophers’ 6-foot-1  junior outside hitter. Elias has been a well-known musician in the Caribbean, first in his native Dominican Republic and then in Puerto Rico.

This will be Elias’ first visit to Minnesota to watch his daughter play collegiate volleyball. Daly was asked if she expects an anthem with a salsa twist from her father.

“Not salsa, merengue,’’ she said. “My dad played trumpet with a famous merengue orchestra in the Dominican … El Conjunto Quisquella.’’

The reporter from Minnesota’s Murray County gave Daly a blank stare. “I’ll spell it for you,’’ Daly said, and then she did so, with a laugh.

Paula Gentil from Brazil was one of the greatest Gophers and a charming character a decade ago. The volleyball team has another player from a different land with a same trait in Santana:

Spend 15 minutes in a conversation with this athlete from Puerto Rico and she has you cheering for her.

First off, Daly is pronounced Dolly (“Very Spanish,’’ she said), and she is thriving here, even if her first two winters in Minnesota were extra-harsh.

“I can’t say I’m a fan of freezing weather, but I’ve done OK with it,’’ she said. “How much am I really outside? We’re either practicing, or I’m in class or studying.’’

Volleyball has been the No. 1 program in university athletics for almost two decades, when you factor the number of Division I programs and the high-test competition these Gophers face on a weekly basis in the Big Ten.

Coach Mike Hebert made volleyball that way at Minnesota, and Hugh McCutcheon is in his third season trying to maintain that tradition. Santana was in his first group of freshmen in 2012, and moved into the lineup early that season.

Santana was a unanimous selection on the Big Ten All-Freshmen team in a season that ended with a loss to mighty Penn State in a regional final. As a sophomore, Santana increased her production in a season ended with a loss to Stanford in the NCAA’s round of 16.

This is an autumn of turnover for McCutcheon. Five players who were in the rotation in 2013 are gone, including stars Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman. Santana now has a large responsibility to help lead a team heavy with freshmen and sophomores.

That group includes freshman libero Dalianliz Rosado, Santana’s friend from Puerto Rico.

“We’ve known each other since we were young kids, getting started in volleyball,’’ Santana said. “My teammates are like family to me, but with Dalianliz, it’s like having family from home.’’

Daly says that it is the most-difficult part of being 2,400 miles from home – the limited time she gets to spend with her robust family. Her father has seven children, ranging from 34 to Dariana, a 7-year-old sister described by a member of the Gophers’ traveling party as “hilarious.’’

The Gophers were playing at Yale’s tournament in  New Haven, Conn. last weekend, and Daly’s mother Magdaly Morales was in attendance, along with Dariana, kid brother Elier, two older sisters, and family friends.

Now, she’s getting the first visit from Dad.

You can find performances from Elias Santana and his Y Su Orquesta on You Tube. Elias doesn’t work the music club circuit as in former days, Daly said, but he does start hopping before Christmas.

“The people love my dad’s Christmas music,’’ she said.

Is the musical talent a family trait?

“I play the piano and my teammates think I can sing,’’ she said. “I’m not sure about that, but salsa dancing … I can do that.’’

Final question: What is No. 1 misperception we sheltered northerners have about people from Puerto Rico?

Daly Santana thought, then said: “I got one. ‘Puerto Ricans like spicy food.’ We don’t. Not all of us. There. That’s the idea that bothers me.’’

Hey, we Minnesota rubes must rate OK with Daly Santana. A mistaken idea on food preference is a minor complaint, when you consider she has been transplanted from a home with an average winter high of 80 degrees to this Frozen Wasteland.

Talented, tough and smart is fine football formula

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: September 7, 2014 - 3:39 PM

The St. Louis Rams offered a theory as to how they would remain competitive without quarterback Sam Bradford: They would use a big, mobile front to key an extra-physical defense, and they would get quarterback Shaun Hill in favorable yardage situations with a strong running game.

Sorry about that, Jeff Fisher.

The most-impressive aspect of Mike Zimmer’s first regular-season game as the Vikings head coach was the manner in which his team outmuscled in every area an opponent that was bragging about its muscle.

And to have the Purple do this on the road – after a season in which it was 0-7-1 on the road – had to double the pleasure for the Minnesota TV audience.

The Vikings were leading 34-3 at the two-minute warning and that was more than a rout. It was an accurate reflection of the difference in talent, toughness and brainpower of the two teams.

As they wilted inside the Dome, the Rams became dumber and dumber. As the Vikings rose up, they became sharper and sharper.

We heard more in training camp and exhibitions about the creativity that crusty old coordinator Norv Turner would bring to the offense, but more eye-catching on Sunday was the creativity that the crusty old defensive whiz, Zimmer, brought to that side of the operation.

Right away, there was safety Harrison Smith coming off the far left edge to flummox the Rams, force and punt and leave Hill to mumble, “I wish they still were playing those two deep safeties that we saw on tape from last year.’’

Later, Smith would get a sack on the futile backup, Austin Davis, and later still, he would sit back for an interception and then go 81 yards for the Vikings’ final points.

Fisher’s decision to kick a field goal with 1 ½ minutes left, to make it 34-6, might have been the finest display of foolish pride since Bud Grant’s second game as the Vikings coach in 1967.

Bud had Fred Cox kick a field goal in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 32-0, and admitted that the reason was that he didn’t want the L.A. Rams to enjoy a shutout. This led to the Rams adding on a touchdown to make it 39-3.

Who knows what Fisher had in mind? Maybe he’s a believer in Tim Brewster’s “we scored last’’ theory.

The Vikings’ blowout in St. Louis came with this bonus:

The Packers came out of Thursday’s opener in Seattle overwhelmed and injured. The Bears managed to lose a home opener on Sunday against Buffalo … yup, Buffalo. The Lions have to wait until Monday night to start disappointing their fans for a 57th consecutive season.

All of this definitely made Zimmer’s Vikings the kings of the NFC North for a day. And it could be longer, because that’s a mighty fine football formula – talented, tough and smart – when maintained.

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