FORT MYERS, FLA. -- The Twins let it be known that they planned to make an offer to Yu Darvish, the No. 1 starting pitcher on the free agent market in this offseason. It always seemed much more likely that Darvish would wind up with one of the game’s half-dozen glamour franchises of the moment.
That’s what happened on Feb. 10, when Darvish agreed to a six-year, $126 million deal with the Chicago Cubs.
The Twins’ return to the playoffs after a six-season absence – for a one-game, wild-card stay – last October reduced the number of cynics among the Minnesota sporting public only slightly.
There is still a popular perception that the Pohlad family does not properly finance a winning effort.
Derek Falvey and his new brain trust had an impressive week in late February, acquiring starter Jake Odorizzi through a trade and signing power threat Logan Morrison as a free agent, but the angle didn’t change for many:
“Should have signed Darvish. Proves again the Pohlads are cheap.’’
There is a parallel situation taking place with the Vikings:
The key element on a championship baseball team is an A-plus starting pitcher. There might be only 15 of those in major league baseball. The key element on a championship football team is an A-grade (not necessarily plus) quarterback. There are a dozen of those in the NFL.
Darvish was one of the A+ pitchers. And Kirk Cousins is one of the A-grade quarterbacks.
And, yes, the quarterback is more important, since the A-plus pitcher will have the ball for 13-14 percent of his team’s innings, and an A-grade quarterback will have the ball for 98 percent of his team’s plays.
The parallel is this: If Cousins doesn’t wind up in Minnesota, will the Vikings face the same wrath for not getting the quarterback as did the Twins for not getting Darvish?
In truth, the Vikings should face much more.
The Twins were always long shots for Darvish. The usual sources have started to describe the Vikings as the favorites to sign Cousins.
We all can agree on this, right? Coach Mike Zimmer’s comments last week in Indianapolis about not breaking the bank for a quarterback in order to keep the young studly defenders on the roster was intended more as a message to Cousins than to Vikings fandom.
Zimmer might as well as have said, “Hey, Cousins, the only reason you’re going to come here is this is your best chance to win, and to keep it as the best chance, we need Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter on defense and receiver Stefon Diggs to sign second contracts with us.’’
Jason La Confora, a plugged-in NFL reporter, now has it down to two teams: the New York Jets or the Vikings.
The Jets’ contract would be six years for $180 million. The Vikings don’t want to pay that much – as Zimmer made clear during last week’s amusing press session at the combine.
Question, Vikings fans:
Are you going to be upset at the Wilfs, Spielman and everybody else in those plush new digs in Eagan if the Vikings don’t get Cousins, as the Twins’ critics have been about not getting Darvish?
Yes, and then some.
Darvish could have increased the Twins’ chances to once again be the fifth best team in the American League. Cousins would make the Vikings at least the equal of Philadelphia as the best team in the NFC.
Get it done, Purple, or Zygi and his family must become the “cheap Wilfs.’’
IT WAS A SIDE SESSION with reporters at the combine when Zimmer got his back up over the issue of preventing quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski from moving to the New York Giants as the offensive coordinator.
Zimmer lauded himself for his loyalty to Stefanski and the offensive staff during the low-rated seasons of 2014-16.
Which was rather humorous, since Zimmer got his first shot as a head coach in 2014 and lobbied energetically to get Norv Turner to come in and teach him how to construct an offense, and then Zim ran off Turner seven games (and five victories) into the 2016 season.
And the idea pushed then that it somehow came at Norv’s request – that he had decided to walk away from coaching – was proven to be false early this year, when Turner signed on as Carolina’s new offensive coordinator.
The gold star that Zim gave himself last week for loyalty to the offensive staff came with a short memory.