Aside from the geographical rivalry that makes it difficult for any Minnesota fan to root for a Wisconsin team under any circumstances, Milwaukee’s Game 7 National League Championship Series loss at home Saturday could be viewed as a positive for local fans for another reason.
Had the Brewers reached the World Series, we would have heard all sorts of story lines about how a small- to midmarket team without a huge payroll — Milwaukee ranked just 22nd out of 30 teams in MLB in that category this season — can still compete and win big in baseball. Plenty of Twins fans might have bought it.
Instead, we have the Red Sox (No. 1 in payroll according to Spotrac.com) against the Dodgers (No. 3) — an accurate reflection of the inequality that exists in the sport. Baseball was denied the chance to peddle an underdog story to the masses.
We’re left instead with simple truth: The best way to compete consistently in MLB — which unlike the NHL, NFL and NBA doesn’t even attempt to have a salary cap — is to spend big.
This marks six consecutive years in the playoffs and the second straight trip to the World Series for the Dodgers, who have consistently been among the top-five teams in payroll in MLB.
The big-spending Red Sox are in the midst of their 10th trip to the playoffs and fourth trip to the World Series since 2003.
And don’t forget the gold standard Yankees, who have won five World Series, been to two others and only missed the playoffs four times since 1995.
Spending big doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure increases the margin for error.
Similarly, it’s possible to have success in shorter bursts without spending so much. The Royals weren’t lavish spenders in 2014 and 2015, for instance, when they made it to back-to-back World Series, winning once. The “Moneyball” A’s were celebrated for their thrift.
But make no mistake: The national pastime is rigged in favor of the rich more than any other major U.S. pro sports league.
• There was plenty to like from the Vikings’ 37-17 win over the Jets, and after three consecutive victories it is safe to at least say Minnesota is back on the trajectory of a legitimate contender.
For the second time in three weeks, though, a backward pass threatened to undo the Vikings’ success. Against the Eagles, a Kirk Cousins backward pass to Roc Thomas was dropped and led to a turnover — but the defense bailed out the Vikings. And Sunday against the Jets, Cousins threw another backward pass that he was fortunate was recovered by the Vikings.
Let’s make this simple: A swing pass — technically a run in this case — that travels less than a yard backward relative to the point of its release is the absolute worst play in football at any level because of the incredibly low reward vs. high risk.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo should remove that page from his play book, stick in a rocket and fire it toward the sun — forward, not backward.
• The pessimist’s view of Saturday’s college football action: The Gophers managed to somehow have a letdown after a 16-point loss to Ohio State, losing by 25 at previously winless Nebraska — and/or hanging tough against Ohio State is less impressive after seeing what Purdue did to the Buckeyes.
The humorist’s view of the same sequence of events: The Gophers expended so much energy in their moral victory against the Buckeyes that they had nothing left in Lincoln, but they sure softened up Ohio State for Purdue to finish the job.
• After playing in Wednesday’s opener and in Friday’s home opener, Jimmy Butler sat out for resting purposes in the Wolves’ third game of the season Saturday in Dallas.
That’s understandable and probably even smart given a lot of circumstances, but let’s also be clear about this: I strongly doubt that happens if he had participated in most of the preseason, and my hunch is the Wolves would be 2-1 instead of 1-2 had Butler played.