These are the questions received by me for the Star Tribune's columnist week for the Sports Mailbag. Few but meaty -- and not a surpise for the subject presented by the leadoff man.
Q: “Why do you hate Coach Fleck so much? What did he do to bother you? You never covered him, yet bash him for no reason.’’—Ron P.
A: Hate is an intense and passionate dislike for someone or some thing and has become vastly overused in modern nomenclature. “Hater’’ has turned into a throwaway term in the internet age to label anyone with a differing sports opinion.
I give Mr. Fleck full credit for raising the Gophers from the 9-4 team with an upset bowl victory in 2016 that he inherited to an 11-2 team with an upset bowl victory in a mere three seasons. The key, of course, was finding a coordinator in Joe Rossi to take full advantage of those defensive leaders and NFL draftees -- Antoine Winfield Jr., Carter Coughlin and Kamal Martin – recruited by Tracy Claeys.
Q: “For long-suffering Vikings fans, how would you describe The Purple for 2020: Rebuild? Reboot? Reborn? Rebuke?’’--Howard the Doc.
A: I would not describe Vikings fans as long-suffering, not when considering your team has spent its entire history in the same division as the Detroit Lions. You want long-suffering? The combined record of Mike Tice and Brad Childress, the first two coaches fired by The Zygi and entire Wilf family, had a 16-1 record vs. the Lions.
Two years ago, the Vikings pulled off one of the greatest playoff victories in NFL history, and played in another NFC title game.
As for 2020, my guess is Rick Spielman was betting on the pandemic destroying this NFL season and stockpiling for the future. It also should be noted there are more suspects than hot prospects among those 15 selections – with a half-dozen at No. 203 or later that makes them glorified undrafted free agents.
The cynical side that I occasionally free from its shackles also tells me Spielman already has a three-year contract extension in his pocket, and the Vikings aren’t releasing that news because they don't want Coach Zim to feel bad.
Shorter answer: reboot.
Q: I would love a column regarding your Dad and Fulda baseball recruiting and Satchel Paige?—Carol C.
A: My father Richard was the manager of the Fulda Giants and major hustler to find players in 1949, but the Kansas City Monarchs hurler brought to Fulda was Hilton Smith, not Satchel. Hilton was inducted into Cooperstown as a standout from the Negro Leagues in 2001, the same year that Kirby Puckett and Dave Winfield went in together.
I talked with Hilton on the phone on one visit to K.C. with the Twins, with a promise we would have lunch the next year. He died before then. I did meet his family in Cooperstown. Great folks. His son played Little League in Fulda in 1949 and remembered having a priest (seminarian Doug Gits, a fine second sacker) as his coach.
Q: What do you think would have happened to the Twins 2011 season if Target Field hadn’t been constructed? Perhaps share Miller Park with the Brewers until the Dome roof was repaired in August?--Michael A.
A: It would have been tough to lose the home field advantage for Gardy’s Gang – streaking as it did to 99 losses by closing the season on a 19-50 blitz. Strictly from a Minnesota baseball standpoint, if the world is required to suffer a cataclysmic pandemic that kills, closes and cancels once per century, that would have been a better year for it than 2020.
Kepler, Donaldson, Cruz, Polanco, Sano, Rosario, Garver, Buxton, Arraez … I anguish over not seeing that bombastic Twins’ lineup.