Souhan: Twin Cities sports teams headed in the right direction -- really

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 29, 2013 - 10:54 PM

It might not always be obvious, but Twin Cities teams seem headed in the right direction.

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Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and head coach Leslie Frazier.

Any fool can read the standings. Only a fool would stop there. We define our sports teams by wins and losses, as we must, but standings don’t come equipped with directional indicators or context.

Not all good teams are the product of sound organizations (see: Florida Marlins, 1997), and not all losing teams are doomed (see: 2000 Twins and 2011 Vikings).

There are five major-revenue sports outfits in the Twin Cities: The Twins, Vikings, Wild, Wolves and the Gophers athletic department. Here’s my highly subjective ranking of them as well-rounded, well-run organizations, judging them on everything from winning percentage to locker room atmosphere. These standings are all about directional indicators and context:

1. Vikings

Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman have turned an organization that for decades seemed intent on embarrassing itself into a model for how pro sports franchises should operate. The Wilfs have matured into patient owners who will spend what it takes to win.

The Vikings’ stars are remarkably likeable and accessible, and the team will, in a few years, begin playing in an architectural marvel that should transform lower downtown. Adrian Peterson is the foremost symbol of this franchise, a stunning athlete who is loved by his teammates and goes out of his way to do good deeds.

Last year, Frazier oversaw an improvement of seven games in the standings while navigating a difficult division. There’s no guarantee his 2013 team, with questions remaining at quarterback and on defense, will win 10 games again, but he and Spielman appear to be building a sustainable program.

2. Twins

They have stunk up Target Field for the past 2½ years, angering fans who invested in expensive tickets at a new ballpark.

First, the crowds turned ugly, then they disappeared, but the Twins are far better off than the average angry fan wants to acknowledge.

The same people who built them into one of baseball’s most admired franchises not long ago are in place. Terry Ryan is one of the game’s most respected general managers, and he’s surrounded by proven talent evaluators. The manager, Ron Gardenhire, was named American League Manager of the Year not long ago, and the minor league system, after a nasty lull, is again one of the best in the game.

The Twins have a great ballpark, two of the best position-playing prospects in the game in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano and a slew of young pitchers who should fill the rotation in the next year. The clubhouse lacks the charismatic personalities that made this franchise so endearing in the 2000s, but Sano may help in that department while hitting 30 or so home runs a year.

3. Wild

The toughest choice in making this list involved ranking the Wild and Timberwolves. The Wild gets the nod because it made the playoffs last year and has its three best players — Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin — under control for years to come.

But the biggest reason for the Wild getting the edge over the Wolves is the owner. Craig Leipold’s willingness to take the financial risk of signing Parise and Suter to 10-year contracts gives his franchise a chance to contend.

4. Timberwolves

The owner, Glen Taylor, hasn’t used his billions to buy a clue. The general manager, Flip Saunders, is at best unproven. The star, Kevin Love, might be eyeing a life on the coast, and the franchise’s steady deluge of bad decisions is always accompanied by truly horrendous luck.

Rick Adelman is an excellent coach, and this should be the year the Wolves improve, maybe even make the playoffs, but we said the same things last year. And the year before that.

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NY Mets 2 FINAL
Washington 0
Pittsburgh 7 FINAL
Detroit 3
Miami 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Boston - WP: K. Couch 11 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: C. Reavis 8
NY Yankees - LP: M. Tanaka 1 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: T. Milone 3
Tampa Bay 4 FINAL
Baltimore 3
Philadelphia 6 FINAL
Toronto 10
Chicago Cubs 15 FINAL
Texas 10
Cincinnati - WP: M. Lorenzen 10 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Chicago WSox 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 1
Seattle 6 FINAL
Cleveland 8
Oakland - WP: J. Fuller 13 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: B. Loconsole 10
Texas 7 FINAL
Arizona 8
Houston 8 FINAL
Atlanta 5
Kansas City 4 FINAL
San Diego 1
Atlanta 95 FINAL
Detroit 105
Indiana 106 FINAL
Brooklyn 111
San Antonio 95 FINAL
Miami 81
Golden State 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 106
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 3
Carolina 2 FINAL
Washington 4
Florida 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Ottawa 2 FINAL(SO)
Detroit 1
Tampa Bay 1 FINAL
Toronto 3
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Vancouver 5 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
UT Martin 66 FINAL
Evansville 79
Miami-Florida 60 FINAL
Temple 57
NJIT 61 FINAL
Northern Ariz 68
Stanford 67 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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