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Minnesota sports, as seen elsewhere

Another view: Twins are 'tagging along'; success won't continue

Give Grantland's Michael Baumann credit for an entertaining approach as he points out why the Minnesota Twins are not the title contender you may want them to be.

We'll send you to his full piece for the cultural references, but here are some quick takes from Baumann on why the Twins' 28-18 start isn't the beginning of a road to glory in 2015:

"The Twins have brought up pitcher Trevor May, who’s been below average, and outfielder Aaron Hicks, who’s been terrible. But top prospects Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, J.O. Berrios, and Alex Meyer remain in the minor leagues. The major addition to last year’s 92-loss team was the wilting, desiccated husk of Torii Hunter, a nostalgia trip who seems ill aware that his days as a superstar are a thing of the past.

"So how in the world are the Twins sitting 10 games above .500?"

Baumann cites some of the data also used in La Velle E. Neal III's story about the team's success. Some of the numbers explain why the Twins are winning -- and also fuel skepticism about whether the Twins can keep winning.

"Despite the breakout 2014 seasons from Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe carrying over through the first two months of this year, as well as Hunter turning in a 117 OPS+, the Twins rank 20th in OBP and 17th in slugging percentage," Baumann writes. "And while new manager Paul Molitor is calling for bunts far less frequently than his predecessor, Ron Gardenhire, that’s a marginal thing at this point in the season.

"On the mound, Phil Hughes turned from the greatest control pitcher ever back into something approaching league average. The Twins are 16th in ERA, 21st in opponent OPS, and — true to their reputation — last in K/9, almost three-quarters of a strikeout per game behind 29th-place Colorado.

"What you’ll notice, however, is that while the underlying numbers paint Minnesota’s success as a fluke, there’s not really one area to which we can attribute the Twins’ punching above their weight."

Baumann builds his case with more statistical evidence from the first quarter of the season and concludes that the Twins, despite being tied for the third best record in baseball, are pretty much just tagging along with more talented teams.

"This 28-18 start isn’t for real," he writes. "But something doesn’t have to be real to make you feel good. There’s something to be said for just tagging along."

You can read the full piece here. You may not like it, but it's worth going there.

Wooly Mammoths? Bison Slayers? UND narrows school nickname list

At first, there were 1,172 different nicknames suggested for the University of North Dakota's replacement of "Fighting Sioux."

Now there are 63.

We suspect the new UND nickname will not be the Bison Slayers, Warriors of the North or Wooly Mammoths, which are among the survivors.

A consulting firm hired by the school suggested 27 of the nicknames and a committee put together by the college, which includes Twins president and UND graduate Dave St. Peter, added another 36.

According to the Grand Forks Herald: "The committee went through this first round of elimination by viewing each name quickly and voting yes or no; if even one committee member voted 'yes,' it was kept for consideration."

So someone liked "Fighting Sundogs."

The committee eliminated "Flickertails," which was the school's nickname up until the 1930s.The Herald reported that the most-submitted nickname was simply "North Dakota," which was the choice of 1,005 people who made a suggestion during April.

Before the process continues, the school is looking into whether "Nokota" can stay on the list after it was originally placed among those that were considered inappropriate or legally unavailable.

The Herald reported "Committee member and United Tribes Technical College President Leander 'Russ' McDonald said the word 'Nakota'—spelled slightly differently—is a Native American tribe and UND General Counsel Julie Evans said it was excluded because of NCAA stipulation that prohibits the use of Native American imagery."

But the Nokota is a breed of horse that was designated as the state's honorary breed in 1993 and, as long ago as 2007, a North Dakota sports blog was touting the choice in the event a change was necessary.

One letter, big difference.

After the list narrowed further, the finalists will be put to a public vote. You can read the Herald report, which includes the full list of nickname candidates, here.

Above: A Fighting Sioux logo on the University of North Dakota hockey arena in 2006. Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune file

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