Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Busy Wolves and Twins Make Quiet Vikings Look Relatively Competent

As the Minnesota Vikings begin year two on the Wilf Calendar--six years into a failed three-year McCombs' plan, two years into Wilf's failed one-year plan, and one year into Wilf's new three- to four-year plan--the Vikings' local sports enterprise brethren are making the dysfunction that has been the Minnesota Vikings look downright promising.

Yesterday, as the Vikings introduced newly inked, first-round running back Adrian Peterson to the fans at the Vikings' training camp in Mankato, the Twins' front office was doing its best to keep pace with the woefully inept Timberwolves' front office. And, when Tuesday morning arrives and Minnesota sports fans have had a chance to wipe away the bad taste left by moves made off of the field, there will be no doubt which of the three Minnesota teams playing in Minneapolis will be left the least tarnished.

Welcome back to the top Minnesota Vikings!

How did it happen so quickly? It wasn't easy. Or, it was easy, just not easy for most fans to conceive. The Timberwolves started the day off by letting leak the news that they were on the verge of trading their lone asset on the court, veteran forward Kevin Garnett--a player who preferred to stay in Minnesota and who had played his entire career with the Wolves--to the Boston Celtics for one promising, young player and some moldy beans.

Prior to the NBA entry draft, the Wolves had been in discussions with several teams about trading Garnett. At the time, Boston, home of McHale's only friend on the planet, former co-lousy GM of the year Danny Ainge, was said to be dangling the number five pick in the draft along with everyone that the Wolves are now purporting to be getting in the draft. Boston was also said to be resigned to taking off of the Wolves' hands either Marko Jaric or Troy Hudson.

That was then. This is now.

The new trade proposal is said to include two of Boston's future first-round selections along with virtually every player on the Celtics' roster not named Pierce. That leaves Minnesota with approximately 87 players heading into the season, out of which two are purported to be scorers, one is purported to be a "shut down" defender, and one is said to be an inside presence--when healthy. The rest are purported to be very wealthy and very happy onlookers.

One would think that with all the Boston garbage that the Wolves have agreed to take--said to be enough to patch any current and future holes in the Big Dig--the Celtics would be willing to take at least one piece of our garbage. Apparently, however, that is not the case. Where the Celtics were once willing to take The Stress of Both Worlds, they now are willing to accept only Garnett.

The kicker, of course, in addition to those to the gut already mentioned above, is that Boston's number five pick this year, the one that Boston once was offering but, of course, no longer has, was probably worth considerably more than will be two of Boston's future first-round selections, given what projects to be, at worst, a top-15 team in Boston for the next few seasons, with Garnett joining Ray Allen and Paul Pierce.

Thus, as Boston prepares for a much more promising season with two quality people and two quality players arriving to join Pierce, the Wolves will be looking forward to a season with no notable team leader, no face to the organization, little reason for optimism, and little of significance gained from the trade of their most important player in team history, other than the possibility of some cap relief in 2008. And even that limited relief from what probably will be judged as a primarily one-sided trade in the Celtics' favor, assumes Trader McHale opts not to trade away the rights to salary cap baby Theo Ratliffe at the 11th hour, as he is known to do if the right (read "wrong") offer comes along.

All that and the Wolves still have, in Ricky Davis, Troy Hudson, and Jaric, the three guys on their roster that they most desperately hoped to jettison after last season, with no respect intended the departed Mike James.

That's pretty depressing stuff for the handful of remaining Wolves' fans.

The Twins had no chance to top the Wolves on Monday, but Terry Ryan, who, until Monday, had never been one to wave the white flag before all the votes were tabulated, gave his best effort. By trading a decent lead-off player in Luis Castillo to the Mets for a bag of beans that might transform into a Denny Hocking-like player in the future, the Twins took a giant dump on their fan base on Monday.

As manager Ron Gardenhire attempted to hide his sense of betrayal, others on the team were less generous in their assessment of the deal with the generally cerebral Joe Nathan mincing no words in criticizing the deal, joined, not surprisingly by Torii Hunter, a player never fond of dealing a Twin.

What Gardenhire implied through his words and gestures to reporters and Nathan and Hunter outright stated, even the most loyal Twins' fan can not now escape feeling. The Twins dumped Castillo to save $2 million in salary.

Ryan suggested that the Twins made the move to free up space and or money to make other moves. But Twins' fans have heard this song and dance before. And, usually, the Twins fail to add the piece for which they purportedly had worked so hard to create a position. Expect the same this year, not because the Twins will get bested in their bid for a player, but because this move was all along intended as a salary dump.

The best case scenario out of the Twins' move on Monday is that one or both of the low-level players that Ryan picked up in the trade will make it to the majors or provide some other equally valuable return to the Twins somewhere down the road. But it is difficult to see how that can help the Twins this year or next year, particularly when the Twins have removed from their everyday roster a player with a respectable OPS and batting average and a player that plays as part of the team. No chance Alexi Casilla--who has already failed in one appearance this season--is ready to assume that role yet for the Twins. Nor, clearly, is Nick Punto.

The Twins didn't outshine the Wolves in this day of suspect trades in Minnesota sports, but they did place their footprint on the stench map. And, on a day when "everyone went at it real good" down in Mankato, that was more than enought to propel the Vikings back to most-favored-son status in Minneapolis.

At least for one day.

Up Next: Training Camp News. Plus, around the NFC North.

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