Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you every weekend. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
Baseball's Winter Meetings are this week, and I think you're about to see a split in the Twins fan base - one that pits fans of the 2013 Twins against the fans of the 2015 Twins.
The 2013 Twins fans expect Terry Ryan and company to come back from the Winter Meetings with at least the beginnings of a competitive starting rotation for next season. The Twins are woefully short on starting pitching and everyone knows it; they have only Scott Diamond set for next year, and he's no more than a #3 starter, at best. 2013 Twins fans know that the team needs to fill the top end of the rotation, and so they're looking towards guys like Dan Haren and - even though they know this is hope beyond reason - Zack Greinke. They figure that the Twins, who have around $70 million committed for next year, have $30-40 million to spend in free agency this year, and they expect it to go towards putting the team back to the top of the AL Central next year.
The 2015 Twins fans, however, are mostly hoping that Josh Willingham gets traded this week. They see that pitching has so far been outlandishly expensive on the free-agent market this winter, and as Nick Nelson at Twins Daily points out, the kind of high-dollar, high-risk signings the Twins need to make would leave the Twins with zero room for error. For these fans, it's time to deal Willingham for any pitchers, minor-league or major-league, that they can get, and to operate with an eye on restocking for three years down the road. These fans will be less concerned with another 90-loss season, and more concerned about Kyle Gibson's development and whether Joe Benson can bounce back and the possibility that Aaron Hicks could make his major-league debut in 2013.
Neither side is right and neither side is wrong, but they represent two very different ways of looking at the future. The 2013 Twins fans can't stand the losing, and are less worried that the wrong moves now could doom the Twins for a decade; the 2015 fans wish to plot for the future, while ignoring the worry that this would be the beginning of a Royals-style 25-year rebuilding project.
*On with the links:
*Grantland's Katie Baker made a visit to what she called "Eden, or as it's more popularly known, Minnesota," to watch some Gopher hockey - both men's and women's. I don't suppose that many of the people reading this are NHL fans but not college puck fans already, but if there are, I just want to say to those readers that there's plenty of room on the Gopher hockey bandwagon for all of you.
*I really cannot get enough of the Vikes Geek writing sarcastically about Christian Ponder. Discussion question: if all else were equal, would you take the perennially terrible Alex Smith over Christian Ponder? If you're even thinking that over right now, there's your answer. [Proprietor note: And by "perennially terrible," Marth means 30 TDs and 10 INTs for Smith over the past 1.5 seasons].
*Michael Weinreb is writing about Big Ten expansion in this column, but for me the interesting thing was a pair of charts showing the per-capita population of football recruits in America, by state. For Gopher fans, I must tell you, they are terrifying.
*And finally: Is anybody really sure what what pass interference actually is anymore? (Clearly, NFL referees, especially the refs in last week's Bears-Vikings game, are a little weak on the concept.)