Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Joy and Pain -- Mostly Pain

The Twins moved back into the win column yesterday with their first comeback victory that I can remember. Joe Mauer continued his incredible August run by homering twice and improving his seasonal hitting line to a ridiculous .383/.448/.653 while Michael Cuddyer chipped in three hits and Delmon Young once again flashed his power stroke by homering, doubling and driving in four. It wasn't exactly the day's biggest Minnesota sports story, but it was still nice to see the Twins show some life and win a game.

Still, there were plenty of negatives to be drawn from the contest. Carl Pavano struggled again, surrendering five runs over four innings (unbelievable how this rotation has become completely incapable of piecing even five-inning starts with any consistency). Worse yet, Jason Kubel exited after fouling a ball directly into the knee he injured and had surgically repaired several years ago. The injury is being labeled as a contusion, but fans are understandably on edge. Kubel was sporting a 1307 OPS in the month of August, making this timing rather unfortunate.

The Twins are in pretty dire straits right now. Three of their original starting pitchers are on the shelf, and La Velle's blog entry from prior to last night's game made it seem like the recall of struggling farmhand Philip Humber was more out of desperation for a usable arm than any thoughts that he's going to realistically help this team win games. At this rate, they're going to have a tough time staying in even third place.

And just for the heck of it, my thoughts on the Brett Favre situation...

As a person who has followed and cheered for the Vikings for much of my life, of course I have historically rued Favre. And of course, like almost any sports fan, I've grown extremely tired of his indecisive "Will I or won't I?" retirement act after each of the past five or so seasons. I hate the way announcers drool over him, I hate the way he carelessly heaves balls into triple-coverage and gets credited for being courageous, and I hate the way every one of his bonehead plays is passed off as the result of a guy "having fun out there." But, I'm a Vikings fan and I want to see this team win, and I have little doubt that his addition makes this a far better football team.

I have always felt -- and continue to feel -- that Favre is a vastly overrated quarterback. To me, anyone who would claim that he's the greatest quarterback ever to play is out of their mind. But let's keep the facts straight here. He is literally the most experienced quarterback in NFL history, he'll have no trouble acclimating to the offensive system employed by the Vikings, he's still seemingly got a pretty good arm, and I trust him a heck of a lot more to make tough plays in key situations than either of the team's current backup-quality options at the quarterback position.

Detractors can point toward Favre's advanced age and well as his injury-hampered performance late last season, but the fact remains that he was excellent in 2007 and quite effective for the first 10 weeks of last season before his arm ailment became an overwhelming issue. That injury was ostensibly corrected by a recent surgical procedure, and even if his body isn't what it once was, I'd still bet almost anything on him being an upgrade over what the Vikings currently boast. Sage Rosenfels is a similarly mistake-prone pocket passer who lacks the experience and talent of Favre, and Tarvaris Jackson is an athletic but hugely flawed player who has shown very little progress since being drafted. Some might say that this Vikings roster is so stacked with talent that they need only a somewhat reliable caretaker at the quarterback position in order to succeed, but I don't trust Rosenfels or Jackson to be even that. And, apparently, neither does Brad Childress.

The Vikings are an extremely well built team right now, with the league's best running back and a dominating defense. Relying on a second-string quarterback like Rosenfels or Jackson to run this machine would have been fairly depressing; Favre has the tools to run this offense smoothly and keep opposing defenses from being able to stack nine players on Adrian Peterson. He's also got plenty of experience in the postseason, where the Vikings were likely to end up regardless of who was taking their snaps (some might take issue with that statement, but I do not think the NFC North is a particularly impressive division).

If all goes well and major injuries are avoided, the Vikings have a great shot at the Super Bowl, and it could well be that Favre is the guy first guy to grab and hoist the Lombardi Trophy. That might make some fans' blood boil, but I'd welcome it. It would be an incredibly unique story in the history of sports and I'd be proud to watch it all unfold. And while many lifelong Vikings fans won't necessarily be all that ecstatic about Favre's individual success, there will be 52 other players on that Vikings roster that shouldn't be forgotten.

14 comments:

Topper said...

Nick -- agreed, it's a sad day for a baseball team when you call up a pitcher not because you think he'll help, but just because nobody else is available to pitch...

And in regards to Favre, I'll agree that I'm a Vikings fan, so that will have to override my dislike of Favre and his primadonna tendencies. The two things that irk me: if we don't win the Superbowl I think this move is ultimately a failure (with our soft schedule and the rest of our team we'd almost certainly make the post season even without Favre, so he's supposed to be the ticket to push us over the edge). If we don't win the Superbowl, we've only prolonged our search for the answer at QB.

The second thing is that I think any relevance Childress has is shattered. His "deadlines" were lies, his votes of confidence in his two QB's were full of s***. And if he fails this year with Favre at the helm, there had better be some reckoning for a guy who's shown himself to be one of our most boneheaded coaches ever (yes, I haven't forgotten about Tice or Green...)

Army of Dad said...

You may not have forgotten about Tice or Green Topper, but you seem to have forgotten Les Steckle!

Anonymous said...

I think it's important to give Delmon some props today. He's been playing well, and his postgame interview made me realize just what a model citizen he's been with the Twins. At least in the public eye, he's taken his lumps and said the right things. Last night, he had a great performance and he gave all the credit to his teammates. And when Robbie pointed out Delmon's contributions, Delmon credited Joe Vavra with helping him find his swing. It was nice to see. I'd really like to see him become a force in the lineup.

Nick N. said...

If we don't win the Superbowl, we've only prolonged our search for the answer at QB.

Really? Unless you truly believe that Jackson was eventually going to be the answer for this team at QB, the Vikes weren't going to be any closer to having an answer at that position at the end of the year than they are now.

The second thing is that I think any relevance Childress has is shattered.

I think Childress' desperation to land Favre represents a basic admission that he has failed to put a usable quarterback in place while building an otherwise very good roster. Such an admission of failure might strike some as a downfall, but coming from a guy who has been so arrogant and stubborn over most of his tenure, I actually find it a little refreshing. Favre strung Childress and the Vikings F.O. along at his leisure, and the Vikes had no choice but to play along. So it goes.

I think it's important to give Delmon some props today.

Fair enough. Young has slugged .558 this month while displaying a really impressive power swing at times, but unless he can make this last through the end of the season (and improve in other areas -- he still has a .296 OBP this month), I'm not going to get overly worked up.

Topper said...

Agreed about Delmon, and yes, I did forget about Steckle.

Nick, I didn't necessarily think TJack was the future. But the Vikings seem to have felt Sage might be -- otherwise I don't think they would have handed him a nice 3-year contract paying him more than back-up money.

It would have been nice to know what Sage could do so that we don't sit on our hands and think that once Favre leaves town either he or JD Booty is our future only to be disappointed at that point and let AP and Jared Allen's prime years slip even farther while we scramble for another answer.

But this could all be just me worrying, maybe he'll prove me wrong and bring us that championship...

Nick N. said...

Nick, I didn't necessarily think TJack was the future. But the Vikings seem to have felt Sage might be -- otherwise I don't think they would have handed him a nice 3-year contract paying him more than back-up money.

It's a sad state of affairs if your quarterback of the future is a 31-year-old career backup.

Eisenhower McSteele said...

In terms of the baseball impact of the Favre signing, I said over at my blog that the Twins should be really grateful that the media circus that will follow Favre will make people forget very quickly about the Twins' pathetic season. The way that September is shaping up to be for the Twins, they should be on their knees thanking Favre for taking the heat away from the Twins.

Nick N. said...

The way that September is shaping up to be for the Twins, they should be on their knees thanking Favre for taking the heat away from the Twins.

No kidding. It's going to be an ugly September for Twins ticket sales and TV ratings, I fear. A just send-off for baseball in the Metrodome, I suppose.

Matt P said...

The whole Favre saga creates an interesting juxtaposition between Minnesota's two biggest franchises. The Viking's got their stadium denied while the Pohlad family got a very large gift from the city. The Viking's have showed that they want to be perennial contenders by bringing in marquee players to fill holes in their squad; the Twins have not. It's sad to see the Twins organization run by such a parsimonious businessman. Especially when the big trade for Young & Harris backfires. Other attempts to plug the hole in the dam fail year in and year out (see every player above 30 signed in the past four years, sans Cabrera). Every season I feel like the Twins will be a threat in their division, but never in my lifetime, albeit limited, have I felt like the Twins will be in the World Series. The reason is that they address their deficiencies, but never significantly improve on them. I'm hesitant to throw in the white towel but the Twins are in a state of true disarray. Even more unfortunate is to have the incredible seasons of Mauer, Morneau & Kubel mired in the midst of sub-par teammates. For a while I never thought Mauer would consider leaving, however I also never thought the team would tempt him with that decision. Maybe Mauer should have taken over as QB of the Viking's, he'd have a lot easier time winning a championship with an organization that shares his goal.

Nick N. said...

That's a great take, Matt.

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