It’s fun to think about Minnesota natives playing for Minnesota professional teams. It’s even worked out in plenty of cases. A few examples: Jack Morris came home and helped the Twins win a World Series; Joe Mauer was drafted by the Twins and became an MVP; Lindsay Whalen has won three WNBA titles with the Lynx; Zach Parise signed with the Wild and has helped Minnesota become a consistent playoff team.
But the constant drumbeat of “Minnesota should sign or draft Player X” every … single … time a Minnesota player is available gets a little bit old.
Minnesotans don’t have a monopoly on provincialism. I’m sure this happens in other markets (though maybe not as intensely)? But it definitely happens here.
Two very recent examples: wide receiver Eric Decker, a Cold Spring native who played for the Gophers, was released Monday by the Jets. Vikings fans of a certain mindset have turned their attention to the possibility of signing Decker. Now, on a certain level it makes some sense. Before an injury-marred 2016 season, Decker averaged close to 1,100 yards receiving and 10 TDs from 2012-15. He’s a big target at 6-3.
But the Vikings might already be at their limit on wide receivers and have already filled their quota of Minnesota natives at the position this offseason by signing Michael Floyd. Granted, Floyd’s contract is minimal, but the Vikings also have Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell on the roster. Plenty of other teams have greater needs — CBS Sports listed a bunch of them in a piece detailing nine potential landing spots for Decker, none of which were the Vikings.
The other example? Burnsville pitcher Sam Carlson, who was projected as a first- or second-round pick in the MLB Draft. The Twins could have chosen him at No. 35 or No. 37 but instead they opted to go another direction. The Mariners grabbed him at No. 55 Monday, and as the Twins were getting drubbed that night by Seattle there was a steady diet of “why didn’t the Twins draft the local kid” comments in various online venues.
That’s not to say it wouldn’t have been a fine pick or that it’s not fun to see local athletes play for local teams. But maybe we can adjust our reflexes so that we’re not clamoring for it every single time it’s possible — and instead simply hope local teams make good personnel decisions regardless of an athlete’s hometown?