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

Reusse: If you didn't find Mendoza insightful, it doesn't make you a sexist pig

The wintertime dearth for a Twin Cities sports columnist needing a handful of topics per week was the period between the end of the Vikings season and the annual trip to spring training.

I developed a habit of spending several days on the Iron Range searching for columns to help fill the void.

I spent the last week of February 1991 there, with the idea of stopping in Duluth for a fight card scheduled for March 1. It was cancelled. I needed a column. I decided to fill the space with a selection of off-the-wall opinions.

I had watched parts or the entirety of several girls/women’s basketball games that winter. I saw a few where the skill level was horrid and threw in that opinion in the Star Tribune column that appeared on March 2, 1991.

It was there that infamous description – “tip-toed ball throwing’’ – appeared.

I happened to be in spring training when the outcry back home reached its zenith.

On my return, there were hundreds of actual letters and notes recommending many remedies for my idiocy..

I submitted an apology column that was deemed too flippant (that's hard to believe) to run. A later apology effort was deemed acceptable by the editors, if not by all the critics.

Life returned to normal, although there were awards sent my way in the ensuing months, including what I believe was called the “Golden Jockstrap Award’’ from the National Organization of Women.

Four years later, the Women’s Final Four was going to be held at Target Center. I traveled for some national stories that winter:

To UConn, a team with Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Jennifer Rizzotti and freshman Nykesha Sales; to Tennessee, to interview the fantastic Pat Summitt; and to North Carolina, to see the defending national champion, with point guard Marion Jones.

My probation was over, I figured. I was writing features honoring great women’s basketball programs, coaches and players.

The national semifinals were held on April 1: Connecticut vs. Stanford and Tennessee vs. Georgia.

We covered the heck out of it. I had the column off the UConn-Stanford game. Stanford was considered a slight favorite. The Cardinal stunk out the building and lost 87-60.

I wrote a column ripping up Stanford for its no-show … just as I would have after such a performance from a team in the men’s Final Four.

The next day the finalists, UConn and Tennesse, had practices and interview sessions at Target Center. I was walking down the corridor toward a locker room. There were members of the Host Committee for the tournament mingling in the area.

Several committeewomen started complaining to me over the derogatory sentences aimed at Stanford’s play that had appeared in that morning’s Strib.

I didn’t look it up, but I do recall the suggestion that Stanford used “The Tree’’ as a mascot because that’s the way its basketball team moved on the court.

One committeewoman said: “You embarrassed everyone involved. These are our guests.’’

I’ve remembered that, because the idea that women’s basketball players were still guests – more than two decades after Title IX – was more insulting than my column.

That was my view, anyway: That we would take women in sports seriously when we started reviewing the performances of everyone involved as objectively (good or bad) as we did men.

It’s now another 20 years later and I was fascinated with what took place at Target Center in the first two games of the WNBA finals this week:

First, the Lynx lost, and coach Cheryl Reeve went frontal against the officials (no surprise) and our local hero, Lindsay Whalen (big surprise). Second, the Fever lost, and the first-year coach, Steph White, put on one of the all-time, sarcastic complaint fests over the officiating.

Go for it, coaches. This is the Finals.

That same night, ESPN telecast the American League wild-card game between the Yankees and Houston. The announcing team consisted of Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Jessica Mendoza.

It took me a couple of innings to decide that Mendoza had little to offer other than up-to-date cliches – “barreled,’’ “painted,’’ et al. There was zero insight, which is all I’m interested in.

That’s why I can’t stand Harold Reynolds as an analyst and keep the volume turned up when Roy Smalley (or Tom Kelly, when he did so) is in the booth for a Twins’ game.

I sent out a Tweet complaining about Mendoza’s cliches and absence of insight. Immediately, I became an old white guy and sexist pig who couldn’t take change with my precious baseball.

Actually, not.

There were sexist pigs around the country – particularly the radio lout in Atlanta – responding to Mendoza’s mere presence in the booth.

I didn’t object to her being there. I didn’t think she added anything interesting.

Four decades after women were emancipated in athletics, I’m definitely an old white guy, but should be allowed to have that opinion without being a sexist pig.

(Note: If you want to listen to the best sports commentary I’ve heard in a long time on a sports issue, listen to Katie Nolan go off on NFLer Greg Hardy on Wednesday night’s edition of Fox Sports One “Garbage Time’’ show. Fantastic insight.)

Reusse: Twins fans came back -- and Plouffe also should come back

The official attendance for the 2015 Twins (83-79) was 2,220,054. This will be labeled for history as a decline from 2,250,606 for the 2014 Twins (70-92).

This has caused folks to observe that Minnesota’s sporting public didn’t really get into the Twins’ improbable and ultimately failed attempt to claim the second wild card position in the American League.

In truth, the locals did take a much-increased interest.

The Twins entered 2014 coming off three seasons in which they were a combined 96 games under .500. Yet, the good fortune of the All-Star Game being played in Target Field (with season-ticket holders having priority to buy tickets) allowed the Twins to sell 17,000 season tickets.

As a team, the Twins once again were also-rans and the no-show numbers among those 2,250,606 ticketholders were large. The Twins confirmed this, although it wasn’t necessary. All you had to do was look at the missing thousands when they announced crowds of 25,000.

The season tickets fell to 13,000 this season. That’s 4,000 unsold tickets per game, or 324,000 for the season, from 2014.

There was a very good chance the Twins weren’t going to reach 2 million in official attendance – and much less in actual bodies – if this season had gone as poorly as the previous four.

The Twins confirmed that the no-show rate was down substantially in 2015, thanks to a competitive club and also to a tremendous summer for weather. Oh, and the Red Cow burgers and Barrio tequila bar in the lower deck of left field seemed to help, too.

Again, confirmation from the Twins was appreciated but unnecessary. All you had to do was look and see that the number of people in the ballpark was much closer to the crowds being announced.

There were also more people watching on Fox Sports North ... an increase of 25 percent in the ratings.

Basically, this winning season came along just in time for the Twins. If the 1-6 start in April had become the Twins’ reality, they would have been fighting to sell 2 million tickets and season tickets would have taken another dive for 2016.

Now, after seeing some of those Miguel Sano home runs, a glimpse of Byron  Buxton’s amazing speed and range in center field, and an attitude that eclipsed their talent … well, the Twins should be able to halt the season-ticket slide.

Baseball crowds are fascinating in the 2010s. By my observation, there are 15 percent know-it-alls, and 20 percent who love the Twins and stretch their budgets to take the family to three or four games a summer, and 5 percent to see the visiting team, and 60 percent who are there because they are looking for something to do on a nice day, and they heard the Twins were better this year, and there’s beer and food, so what the hey.

You’re right. I’m in the 15 percent.

And all the feedback I get – by e-mail, Twitter or in comments – comes from other members of that 15 percent.

We’re only three days removed from season’s end, but the fellow know-it-alls seem largely united on these points:

One, manager Paul Molitor and his boss, GM Terry Ryan, want Sano to play in the field rather than settle in as a designated hitter early in his career (he turns 23 in May); so two, Joe Mauer is making $23 million per year for three more years and thus he’s not moving off first base; meaning three, the Twins have to trade Trevor Plouffe to make room at third base.

The know-it-alls not only accept these points, they seem excited about the prospect of unloading Plouffe … mostly because of a fixation with the fact that he raps into a high number of double plays (28 in 2015).

Be careful what you wish for, know-it-alls.

Plouffe led the Twins with 80 RBI in 2014 and with 86 RBI in 2015. Don’t believe what Brian Kenny tells you. Runs batted in are meaningful. No matter how many times you get on first, second or third base, somebody almost always has to get you home.

The GDPs aren’t the only complaint about Plouffe. He wound up hitting .244 -- not good, but today .244 (with power) is the new .264. Check out the batting averages for the Houston Astros, now quarterfinalists in the 2015 World Series tournament.

Plouffe will be 30 next season. He’s turned into an adequate third baseman, and he brings power to a lineup that needs it – even with the addition of Sano.

Here’s the biggest thing: It’s Sano, who weighs 255 pounds (or more). He had to lose 20 from spring training to get into the 250s for this season.

A baseball man who watched Sano play third baseregularly at Chattanooga during the first half of this season said: “He’s remindful of Michael Cuddyer as an infielder.’’

That wasn’t a compliment.

And at this size, you put Sano at third base with its every day physical requirements in the major leagues, and he’s going to spend additional time on the disabled list.

If you trade somebody for a pitcher, make it the spare center fielder, Aaron Hicks.

Plouffe should stay. Mauer has to stay. And the solution is Sano plays 20 games at third and splits time (50-60 games) with Mauer at first.

That’s being offered from one know-it-all to many others.

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