October revelations

Published 8:23 am Thursday, October 22, 2009

Our Twins have come and gone. The season is over, but it was fun while it lasted. Now what am I going to watch in the evenings? My wife can happily go back to Law and Order and NCIS, but I’ll have to wait for the weekends with the Gophers on Saturday and the Vikings on Sunday.

After the miraculous comeback to win the division, the Minnesota Twins lost three straight and the division playoffs to the New York Yankees. It was disappointing as the Twins had all the makings of a team of destiny, but it was not to be.

All of the deep-dish analysts including the Twin Cities papers accepted the loss easily and after first chewing out our baseball troops for their ineptness and stated, what could you expect? These were the New York Yankees, after all. The results were preordained before the first pitch. Several, in fact almost all of the columnists seemed almost eager to follow the party line of the mighty Yankees easily defeating the lowly Twins. I’m going to be the lonely turtle sticking my neck out and disagreeing.

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I am continually amazed how small occurrences can affect a game, a series and a season. Granted, the first game was lost to the Yankees almost by default with rookie Brian Duensing starting the next day after the most exhausting game I’ve ever watched. However, if Joe Nathan had pitched to his usual standard, the Twins win the following game at Yankee Stadium.

I think someone should note this: Nathan was not the Nathan of old during the last two months of the season. Bloggers had stated, and I agreed, that many times the Twins’ best pitcher never got into games and that Ron Gardenhire needed to use Nathan more. Well, Gardenhire did. He used Nathan for two innings in a tight game the Twins eventually won. Nathan threw over 50 pitches and from that point on, his fastball seemed less effective. Maybe Gardenhire knew what he was doing earlier.

That and a brain cramp by Nick Punto may have kept the Twins from winning two out of three games. I think the second game was the turning point and if the Twins and if Nathan could have won that game, the Twins may have won the series. I’m not disputing that the Yankees have the better team, only that the Twins could have won.

Our Gophers were shut out by Penn State and coach Joe Paterno. Afterwards, Minnesota coach Tim Brewster said the team was outplayed and he was outcoached. He was right on both counts. One of the Big Tens’ best passing quarterbacks these past two seasons looked feeble. Adam Weber has been given a new offense and told to use a different style of throwing.

Every coach has his own system. Dennis Green, once of the Vikings, was a strong advocate of his system, not the personnel in the system. His belief was that the system made the quarterback not vice versa. He may be partially right and I know that coach Brewster is learning on the job, but he needs to find a system and stick with it for more than a year or two. If he doesn’t have one, take a couple of months off and learn one. Coaching is not all recruiting and his coaching should include an offensive and defensive philosophy. To me a system should also allow changes within it to accommodate players’ skills.

To use a basketball analogy: a team with a good shooting seven foot center would not be wise to use a fast break system. Thus, if the Gopher football team has a good passer, use a system he is comfortable with, or at least tweak the current system to recognize his skills. Don’t try to force a round peg in a square hole.