Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.

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Welcome to Opening Day

Posted by: Jim Souhan under Professional baseball, Ron Gardenhire, Target Field, Twins management, Twins offense, Twins transactions, Vikings, NFC, Vikings coaches Updated: April 6, 2012 - 10:16 AM

Baltimore -

My view on the 2012 Twins: They'll be much better than the 2011 Twins, and still not very good.

The math is simple: The Twins lost 99 games last year. They could improve by 15 games and never be in contention all season.

The early-season schedule, once they leave Baltimore, is daunting, and they're facing that challenge without two of the guys they expected to be in their rotation: Scott Baker and Jason Marquis.

I think the lineup will be greatly improved. I think this team will score far more runs. I expect Joe Mauer to contend for another batting title, and Justin Morneau looks far more optimistic today than he did when I saw him early in spring training.

Twins officials project Chris Parmalee to produce similar numbers to Jason Kubel. Josh Willingham is remarkably slow, but could produce a little more power than Michael Cuddyer. The bench and position-player depth in the organization should be greatly improved. Trevor Plouffe, Ben Revere and Luke Hughes were asked to be starters last year; this year they're bench players. Sean Burroughs should be a nice addition. The shortstop position will be greatly improved, whether Carroll holds the job or Brian Dozier takes it.

But the pitching is a house of cards. They are dependent on Francisco Liriano and Matt Capps coming back from horrific seasons, and dependent on Scott Baker getting healthy and for the second time in his professional life pitching more than 170 innings.

In short, here's my view on this season: The Twins will regain respectability but not contend, not unless the Detroit Tigers implode.

The best-case scenario might be for this team to play well enough to remain intriguing, but not fool itself into thinking that it shouldn't trade the likes of Liriano and Capps at the trading deadline to augment a promising group of young players.

I like this group of position players and the organization depth much more than I did a year ago, but the 2012 team lacks defensive range and dynamic pitching.

As someone who loves covering a contender, I hope I'm wrong.

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I began covering the NFL in 1989. The audio of Gregg Williams instructing his players to knock out 49ers is grotesque but not surprising. I've had similar, although less graphic, conversations with many defensive coaches over the years. Williams just took the concept to an extreme.

I know every time former Vikings defensive coordinator Floyd Peters faced Joe Montana, he wanted Montana knocked down or out. He just didn't use the kind of language Williams did.

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I'll be covering the opening series in Baltimore, then flying back on Monday morning for the Twins' first series. Sunday, I'll co-host the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30 on 1500espn, followed by Sunday Sports Talk from 10-11:35. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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