Four thoughts as we officially transition fully into football season in Minnesota, at least a month later than most of us expected:

Under new management

The Twins went into the final day of the 2015 regular season ranking eighth in the American League in runs scored and 10th in ERA. After losing 6-1 to Kansas City in Sunday’s finale, they wound up on the wrong side of the runs ledger for the season: 696 scored and an even 700 allowed.

That they finished a couple of games over .500 could be attributed to fortune and a decent showing (21-20) in one-run games. Or one could say that manager Paul Molitor, in his first season with the team, squeezed some extra wins out of a team that finished 83-79, at least 13 games better than any of the previous four seasons.

It’s a difficult thing to assign praise or blame, but most would agree with this: Molitor, at the very least, made some moves this season that it would have been difficult to imagine his predecessor, Ron Gardenhire, making.

Putting Trevor May in the bullpen to shore up that leaky unit … keeping a shaky Glen Perkins out of the closer role after he came back from injury … experimenting with lineup combinations based on matchups (even batting the pitcher eighth in National League) … those were new things.

Again, it’s hard to say if he pushed the right buttons or had better buttons to push. The answer, I suspect, is a little bit of both.

QB conundrum

A day after the Gophers were shut out 27-0 at Northwestern, with freshman QB Demry Croft replacing ineffective Mitch Leidner, coach Jerry Kill naturally tried to downplay the shake-up. Kill was quoted as saying “it’s not as big a deal as everybody will make out of it,” adding that Croft played because “we’ve got to have a backup quarterback ready to play.”

There’s quite a bit of truth sprinkled in with that diplomacy, though there is also this: Any time you remove a starting QB and put in a backup, it’s a big deal regardless of your stated intentions.

Spread the love

It’s hard to say which number is more surprising: the fact that Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson combined for just 14 points in Sunday’s WNBA Finals Game 1 loss to Indiana, or that they combined to take just 16 shots.

Sylvia Fowles provided a nice complement with 21 points to Maya Moore’s 27, but the Lynx are going to need to get more production from the other members of the “Big Four” beyond just Moore if they are going to grab their third WNBA championship in five years.

Tough but predictable

The Vikings are improving in many phases, particularly on defense, but they remain very vulnerable against teams with a strong pass rush — and it proved to be the difference Sunday in a tough 23-20 loss at Denver.

In pass protection, they have the dreaded three-headed monster: an offensive line that can be described as inconsistent at best; a starting running back who still struggles in pass protection despite having been in the league since 2007; and a second-year quarterback who still (at times) holds on to the ball too long.

MICHAEL RAND