Three thoughts from the weekend about three local teams at much different points of existence:
• The Twins since 2014 have committed well into nine figures of guaranteed salary to veteran starting pitchers — namely Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and Ervin Santana.
Pelfrey was a low-cost flier in 2013, and then the Twins brought him back for two more years in 2014-15. Nolasco and Santana commanded big salaries immediately. Hughes signed a more modest deal and cashed in after a wonderful Twins debut season in 2014.
Pelfrey made 64 starts for the Twins and won 11 games with a 4.94 ERA. Hughes regressed in 2015 and is still looking to recapture the magic in 2016. Santana missed half of 2015 with a drug suspension. Nolasco, with a 5.34 ERA with the Twins entering Sunday, has probably been the most disappointing.
It’s safe to say the failure to get more return on investment from veteran starters has been high on the list of the Twins’ woes in recent seasons. And it’s also safe to say the pitching matchup Sunday at Target Field — Pelfrey, now with the Tigers, vs. Nolasco, getting another shot in the rotation with the Twins — was a double shot of painful reminders for the paying customers.
Pelfrey labored through four-plus innings, needing 98 pitches to get a dozen outs in the midst of eight hits and five runs. It was vintage Twins-era Pelfrey.
Nolasco, the Twins’ most consistent starter in 2016, was one out away from continuing that trend. Instead, he gave up a three-run home run with two outs in the sixth — a vintage Nolasco blowup inning.
• The Vikings have had two sustained eras of playoff contention in their existence — one a stretch of excellence and the other a stretch of good play that became a crescendo.
The first was from 1968-1978, when Minnesota under head coach Bud Grant made the playoffs in 10 of 11 seasons — including four Super Bowl appearances.
The second was from 1992-2000, when the Vikings under Dennis Green made the playoffs in eight of nine seasons — including NFC title game appearances in two of the final three seasons.
It is not too soon for Vikings fans of a more recent vintage to start thinking that a third such era is on the way, under head coach Mike Zimmer. An honest analysis of the roster and salary cap situation following this year’s draft reinforces the opinion that the Vikings are built to contend in 2016 — and into the next decade.
• While the Twins are sliding backward again and the Vikings are pushing forward — both with an eye on the long term, with varying degrees of confidence — the Wild is at a crossroads and in need of a jolt from an offseason coaching search.
The wrong move could leave the franchise stuck in neutral, or worse. The right move could provide a jolt to an inconsistent team that nevertheless has made the playoffs four years in a row.
Bruce Boudreau — fired by Anaheim on Friday — might not be the right move. But he might be the best shot at the right move.