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Those three things got us thinking about a list of the superstars who have played in Minnesota since I’ve been an adult — more or less, since Kirby Puckett’s final regular-season game in 1995.
It’s unscientific, but it’s thought out. Patrick Reusse was consulted. There are 13 in all, and they are measured both by their on-field impact and how they resonated with fans.
1) Kevin Garnett: For the combination of longevity (12 years the first time), greatness (MVP award, a top-10 player in the league for many years) and the intangible of being the face of the franchise, nobody tops KG. Some came close, but nobody tops him.
2) Randy Moss: Rookie Randy is about as crazy as it gets for sports fan mania here, and his entire (first) seven-year run was electric.
3) Adrian Peterson: I thought he had a great chance to wind up at No. 1 on this list someday. Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
4) Joe Mauer: Say what you want about the rise and fall of Mauer, but the St. Paul kid still has a mighty imprint on the state. Oh, and he also has three batting titles and an MVP award (with the chance to write a better ending and move up this list with some improved seasons in 2015 and beyond).
5) Lindsay Whalen: She galvanized the state with the Gophers women’s basketball team’s Final Four run in 2004. And she brought pro women’s basketball to prominence in Minnesota, helping the Lynx to two WNBA titles. She embodies exactly how the vast majority of Minnesotans want an athlete to play: with charisma, grit, selflessness and modest flash.
T-6) Brett Favre/Bobby Jackson: I lumped these two together because their tenures were remarkably similar: both had two seasons (sure, Jackson played with the Wolves for a bit, but let’s stick with the Gophers here). One of those years was irrelevant. And one of those years was among the best Minnesota has seen in the past 20 years — Favre with the Vikings in 2009 and Jackson with the Gophers’ Final Four run in 1996-97.
8) Johan Santana: He didn’t quite resonate with fans the way other superstars have, but his greatness (two Cy Young Awards) constantly had fans in awe of his ability.
9) Torii Hunter: When someone asks, “Who was the identity of the Twins when they turned it around in the 2000s,” Hunter is the name and face that comes to mind. The stats weren’t other-worldly, but the flashy glove, improved hitting and affable smile won him many fans.
10) Zach Parise: Another athlete who still has time to move up this list. Like Whalen, Parise embodies how we want our star athletes to play.
11) Justin Morneau: Averaged 30 HR and 118 RBI per year from 2006 to 2009 and won an MVP award. His reception at Target Field for the Home Run Derby left no doubt about how fans feel about him.
12) Maya Moore: The 2014 WNBA MVP’s best years are still ahead of her, which is a scary proposition.
13) Kevin Love: He’s not at the bottom as a cheap shot. Love’s ability is not in question, and his numbers say he was a star. But he accomplished less, team-wise, than any other Minnesota superstar of this era. It wasn’t all his fault, and he made sure we knew it.
The Chicago Bulls went 62-20 in 2010-11, making it to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the Heat. The unquestioned catalyst and leader of the team was Derrick Rose, who averaged 25 ppg and won the NBA MVP Award in just his third season and at the tender age of 23.
Chicago and Rose seemed primed for years of greatness, with an NBA title (or more than one) a very reasonable and attainable goal. What has happened since is a tale of sports cruelty that those of us in Minnesota probably can’t fully comprehend.
Rose tore his left ACL during the first game of the first round of the 2011-12 playoffs after another great regular season. The Bulls, who went 50-16 in the lockout-shortened regular-season, lost their opening playoff series to Philadelphia (yes, before the 76ers committed full-time to tanking they were pretty decent).
Rose missed the entire 2012-13 season; the Bulls won 45 games without him, but again came up short in the playoffs. He came back for the 2013-14 season, but he ended up playing just 10 games because of season-ending torn meniscus in his right knee. The Bulls still won 48 games, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, Rose came back again and had the Bulls looking like a contender. They are 36-21 … but now, again, they will be without Rose for the rest of the year because of more damage to his right meniscus. The Bulls will probably again make the playoffs, and probably again make a quick exit.
If so, that will be four consecutive seasons derailed by an injuries to the same superstar — not just a great player, but an MVP when fully healthy. We’ve tried to fathom that and put it into Minnesota sports terms, but there really isn’t any comparison.
For all the bad luck Minnesota teams have had (self-inflicted and otherwise), their star players have been remarkably durable during good times.
Kevin Garnett in his first go-round with the Wolves was an iron man. Randy Moss missed just three games in seven seasons with the Vikings in his first go-round. Johan Santana averaged 228 innings pitched from 2004-07, his prime with the Twins. Justin Morneau, pre-concussion, was extremely durable — averaging 151 games played from 2005-09. Even Joe Mauer, who has the reputation for missing games, averaged 576 plate appearances per year from 2005-10.
Adrian Peterson? He missed just seven games in his first seven seasons and famously came back from a shredded knee to destroy teams in 2012. Even Percy Harvin, for all his problems, only missed three games in his first three seasons with Minnesota and was never to blame for derailing an entire season with an injury. The Lynx, during their run of prominence the past four seasons, have been gifted with generally good healthy among their top players.
We really only have one-season “what-ifs” here when it comes to injuries. What if Sam Cassell hadn’t hurt his back in the 2004 NBA playoffs. Could the Wolves have won an NBA title? What if Francisco Liriano had stayed healthy in 2006 — could the Twins have done some major damage in the playoffs? What if Morneau hadn’t been injured in 2010? Would the Twins have gone further in the playoffs? (Granted, that was more than a one-year issue, but even a fully healthy Morneau couldn’t have stopped the slide from 2011-present). What if Brett Favre’s ankle wasn’t 50 shades of purple after an illegal hit from the Saints in the 2009 NFC title game? Would he have run for yards instead of throwing an INT in the closing moments of regulation?
But imagine having a star player, with a very good supporting cast around him, getting hurt year after year after year after year. Imagine KG, Moss or Peterson in their primes, leading championship contenders … only to have each year end in shambles because of an injury.
That’s the cruelty in Chicago right now.
The Gophers women’s basketball teams’ mid-year swoon, which included four losses in five games to drop their Big Ten record to 6-5, has given way to a torrid stretch as Minnesota heads down the stretch run of its regular season.
The Gophers have won five consecutive games — scoring at least 85 points in every victory (and allowing at least 77 in every game, too) — to sit at 11-5 in conference play, tied for third in the standings.
As a result, Minnesota has moved up in the NCAA tournament bracket projections as well. The Gophers were still teetering a week ago as a No. 10 seed in ESPN’s projections; this week, after big wins over Iowa and Michigan, they’re a much firmer No. 7 seed.
With two more games to go — at likely NCAA tourney teams Nebraska and Iowa — Minnesota figures to be locked into the NCAA field.
The big question now is whether the Gophers can finish in the top four in the Big Ten and make their conference tournament path easier. That will be difficult considering their two tough road games to finish the year, but the Gophers have also shown all year that — in spite of losing Rachel Banham — they can’t be counted out.
There is a nagging suspicion that Adrian Peterson, even as he approaches 30 in a month, is primed for a strong 2015 season. Peterson has always been best when motivated (see: his rookie year of 2007 after getting passed over in the draft and 2012, coming off the major knee injury), and this year he has the added benefit of rest.
(The counter-argument is that rest=rust and Peterson might not be in prime shape, but it’s a long time between now and September).
The practical Vikings fan might think, “If Peterson has 1 or 2 more good-to-great years left in him, it sure would be nice if they were in purple instead of another uniform.” With Teddy Bridgewater on a rookie contract, the Vikings aren’t paying their QB much and could theoretically afford to keep a running back with a very high cap number.
Another bit of logic — and history, since it happened with Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Percy Harvin — suggests that once a relationship sours between the Vikings and a player, the next course of action is to part ways.
This might be a relationship damaged beyond repair on both sides. The Vikings are probably still uneasy about some of the public relations battle that would ensue by bringing Peterson back. Peterson — who brought all of this on himself, let’s not forget — is battling through a perceived slight from the Vikings because they apparently didn’t stand by him 100 percent as he faced scrutiny for whipping his young son.
Right and wrong is not hard to discern here, but it doesn’t matter much. Peterson’s stance gives the Vikings the “out” they quite possibly wanted anyway. It might make trading him a little harder, but it could make their decision even easier.
And maybe, as crazy as this would have sounded at this time last year, the two sides are simply better off moving on from each other.
P.S.: KG is with the Wolves, Torii Hunter is with the Twins and Peterson could soon be gone from the Vikings. Just another reminder to never say never.
B.J. Upton has had a terrible couple of years with Atlanta, hovering below or near the Mendoza Line while putting up positively Punto-esque OPS numbers.
So now B.J. Upton is going by Melvin Upton. But it’s not because he’s been terrible or needs a fresh start (except that it probably is).
“This has nothing to do with starting a new chapter,” he told reporters. “I just wanted to. My father thought enough to give me his name, so why not?” Upton will use his birth name this season after long going by B.J., short for Bossman — his father, Manny’s, nickname — Junior. Upton’s full name is Melvin Emanuel Upton. Upton said Monday that most of his friends already call him “Mel or Melvin.” “Nobody really calls me B.J., except at the stadium,” he said.
That all makes sense, but … still, it will be nice for him to tell people, “I hit .184 in 2013? Nah, wasn’t me. That was B.J.” The sad face in all this is that his brother Justin Upton, who hasn’t been terrible and who used to play for the Braves before signing with the Padres, will get tangled up in all the name confusion.
|Montreal||0||2nd Prd 13:32|
|Sam Houston St||76|
|Stephen F Austin||83|
|Miss Valley St||66|
|Jackson State||58||2nd Half 2:52|
|Miss Valley St||61|
|Central Conn St||53||FINAL|
|Mount St Marys||87||FINAL|