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Posted on: March 9, 2010 11:22 am
Edited on: March 9, 2010 11:23 am
 

Joe Nathan out for the Year??

Joe Nathan to get second opinion?


By Christopher Torola
Twins fans have been eagerly awaiting big news out of spring training, with the speculation that the Twins' management and Joe Mauer are near to finishing what will most likely be a 10 year deal. I was hoping for that to be my first BLOG on the 2010 season; instead, we get the news that Joe Nathan, Twins' All-Star closer, has headed back to MPLS. Nathan is considering getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who did some unrelated work on Joe's elbow during the off-season. All signs point towards Tommy Johns surgery for the hurler.

It would be a bad way to start the season, as there is no sure fire back up to move into the closer role. The Twins bull pen has been a bit of a trouble area the last few years, with the exception of Nathan.
Category: MLB
Posted on: November 23, 2009 6:19 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2009 6:27 pm
 

WONDER BOY - Joe Mauer

Wonder Boy Joe Mauer Wins MVP

By: Christopher Torola

 

Minnesota Kid Makes Good On Promise! 26 year old Joe Mauer was named the American League Most Valuable Player today, prompting me to take a brief look at his career to date, as well as a peak into the future.

In the 2001 MLB player draft the Twins used the number 1 overall pick to draft Joe Mauer right out of high school. This was considered by many at the time as an attempt to save money. Mark Prior was tagged as the consensus best player in the draft. Although Joe was a local kid, hailing from St. Paul Minnesota, criticizers of the pick claimed that the Twins drafted Mauer because the team wouldn't spend the money to sign Prior. Some went on to say that they had no intention of signing Mauer, who also had signed a letter of intent to play Quarterback for Florida State University. 

Obviously the Twins were able to sign Joe, and he sky rocketed through the Twins minor league organization and being names Minor League Player of the Year in 2003.

After the 2003 season the Twins traded All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants to make way for Joe. A.J., then just 26 years old, was coming off a .312 batting average season. In his first season with the big club, 2004, he played in only 35 games due to a knee injury. Notably he hit 6 home runs that year in just 107 at bats. In spite of the injury, the Twins had seen enough and signed Joe to a multi-million dollar deal on the off season. In 2005 Joe played in 131 games in which he batted .294. The power that look so promising before his injury did not seem to be there, but Joe had an eye for the ball and was able to do plenty of damage with the base hit.

In 2006 Joe had his coming out party. He was selected to his first All-Star game, won his first Silver Slugger Award, and was the first American League catcher to win a batting title... ending the year with a .347 batting average. The Twins rewarded Mauer with another off-season contract. Re-working his deal with the Twins for a reported $33 million through the 2010 season.

2007 was a bit of a down year for Joe comparatively. He has a stress reaction in his leg that caused him to miss some games. It also, caused the Twins to rest Joe on a regular basis. As a result Joe only played in 109 games. He hit for .293 batting average, his lowest average as a major leaguer.

In 2008 Joe played in 146 games, was a starter in the All-Star game for the first time, won his 2nd batting title, his 2nd Silver Slugger and his 1st Gold Glove. This was a Joe's best year for personal accomplishments; however, the team missed the post season by losing a 1 game play in game to the White Sox.

The start to Joe's 2009 season was not a good one. He had off-season kidney surgery that bothered his back as the start of the season was nearing. Mauer ended up missing almost a month of the regular season. With his first swing of the bat this year, Joe sent went into the bleachers. He was on fire his first months back. He was named MLB's player of the month in May. Mauer went on to hit for career highs in home runs - 28, hits - 191, RBI's - 96, and batting average .365. All that in an injury shortened season. 

Joe Mauer and the Twins garnered a lot of national attention towards the end of the regular season, as all the play off spots except the AL Central were already decided. The Twins made an amazing come back to force its second 1 game play in game in as many years.  Although, they were swept by the eventually World Series winning Yankees in the first round, Joe had one of the top years ever by a catcher. As a result he won his 1st MVP trophy today. This to go along with his 3rd All-Star game, 3rd batting title, 3rd Silver Slugger, and 2nd Gold Glove.

With Joe coming up on the last year of his contract, it would be great to see the Twins extend him this off- season. They are opening a new stadium next season, and after letting go of the likes of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter over the last few years, it would be a travesty for Joe to end up playing for another team, especially after the Minnesota fans and tax-payers were promised a bigger budget to go along with a new ball park. Local insiders have been heard saying that the two side are likely to reach a deal this winter. The Twins seem willing to pay the salary, they just may have to offer a few more years onto the end of the contract.

 

Posted on: November 20, 2009 6:43 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2009 6:58 pm
 

Tastes Like Chicken

The Viking Ship - Seahawks... Tastes like chicken.

By: Christopher Torola


This weekends game between the Vikings and the Seahawks looks like another in a line of easy wins for the Vikings. Seattle's offensive line has had some well documented issues. although they are starting to get healthy. They are still in the bottom 3rd when it comes to protecting their quarterback, meanwhile the Vikings are number 1 in the NFL when it comes to sacks. The Seahawks will also be looking to 2nd year running back Justin Forsett, who had his best game as a pro last week when Julius Jones went down due to injury. 

Before I move on to the Vikings offense against the Seattle defense, I would like to point out T.J. Houshmandzadeh's propensity to make stupid statements. Most recently he told his head coach that, "They would not lose another game this year". During the offseason when looking for a home after deciding not to re-sign with the Bengals, Housh was mainly deciding between two suiters for his services. The Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks. In the end he obviously chose Seattle. He said he made the choice because "...he wanted to win." Between the 3 teams, it looks like he made the worst possible choice; however, I am sure he is comforted by the roughly $8,000,000 he will me making for the next 5 years.

The Seahawks rank 5th in the NFL in run defense; although, this stat may be slightly misleading since they rank 26th against the pass. Both the Vikings passing and running games should shine in this matchup.  Starting cornerback for the Seahawks, Josh Wilson, is likely to miss this game with a concussion. I expect multiple passing touchdowns from Bret Favre, as well as a 100 yards game from Adrian Peterson.

Sidney Rice is coming off his best performance as a Viking, in which he had 7 catches for 201 yards. He was name the offensive player of the week and continues to emerge as a star this year. Make sure not to overlook him when you vote for your pro-bowlers this year.

Rookie of the year candidate Percy Harvin also continues to impress. He is averaging almost 50 yards a game offensively in addition to jump starting Viking drives on kick off returns. All that is very impressive, but possibly most impressive, the rookie has 23 first downs on the year as he has excelled at moving the chains.

Look for another week in which the Vikings high flying offense, number 2 overall,will put up plenty of points, propelling the team to win by 10 or 14 points.

Posted on: November 10, 2009 7:26 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2009 8:43 pm
 

Lions, and Packers, and Bears... Oh My!

The Viking Ship - Divisional Swagger

By: Christopher Torola

The Minnesota Vikings currently have the 2nd best record in the NFC as well as a 3 game lead on both the Packers and the Bears. This week the team squares off with last place divisional opponent, the Detroit Lions, who are a paltry 1-7.

When reading through the recent quotes from Vikings players, I heard both Visanthe Shiancoe and Bryant McKinnie use the term swagger. The more I think about it the funnier that seems, mostly because its true. This years Vikings squad has a certain swagger about them; and it was a 40-year old white boy with a silver beard that is responsible. 

This year Brett Favre has dominated opposing teams in the NFC North. In the 3 games against Detriot and the Pack, Favre had thrown 9 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions. That bodes well for this week at the dome against the Lions as well as in weeks 12 and 16 when he plays the Bears. With Favre mania in town teams may have to stop game planning so heavily against Adrian Peterson. I look to see a big increase in his numbers, starting this week. I wouldn't be surprised to see him as the NFL's leading rusher after facing the Bears in week 12.

Since there is not too much to say coming off a bye week and about to play the lowly Lions, lets look forward another Vikings victory and another step in the direction of a first round bye in the play offs.

Posted on: November 2, 2009 5:39 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2009 10:07 pm
 

Flying High Into the Bye

The Viking Ship - Smooth Sailing

By: Christopher Torola

The Viking's season is officially half way done. After a solid victory over the Packers in Green Bay this weekend the Vikes are now 7-1 and heading into an easy part of their schedule in which they will play home games against the Lions, the Seahawks, and the Bears. If they win those games, which they should, they will have the NFC North all but locked up, and have a clear view at a first round bye come play-off time.

With the bye-week coming up, it seems like a good time for a mid season report card.

Quarterback: Brett Favre - Has exceeded all expectations this year. He has thrown for a league leading 16 touchdowns, while only throwing 3 interceptions, two of which bounced of Vikings receivers hands. There are only 4 QB's with higher quarterback ratings than Favre - Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. Grade: A+

Running Backs: Adrian Peterson - Is second in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and that is with the much improved Vikings passing game taking away a lot of red zone touches. The numbers are good, but they don't do justice to watching All Day just run through defenders. The only possible complaint with Adrian is that he has been held in check against a few opponents. Look for an even stronger second half from Peterson. Grade: A

Wide Receivers: Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, and Percy Harvin - Bernard Berrian has been slowed down all year with multiple injuries, and has never really been in sync with Favre. Look for Berrian to play better as he gets healthy and spends more time working with his QB. Sidney Rice has stepped up in a HUGE way, coming in at number 6 overall in receiving yards to date. Rice seems to have his QB's trust and is emerging as a young start in the NFL. Percy Harvin has stepped into the role of an NFL receiver far better then could have been expected. 21 of his 28 receptions have been for first downs, and 3 have resulted in touchdowns. For a smallish receiver, Harvin has proved hard to get down. As a kick returner he is 2nd in the NFL for average yards with 30.7, and has scored twice. Grade: B+

Tight Ends: Visanthe Shiancoe - Shiancoe has score 6 touch downs this year, that is second best in the NFL behind only Vernon Davis. Shiancoe has been an extremely reliable pass catcher the last year and a half and does not look to be slowing down. Grade: B+

Overall Offensive: This years Vikings team is currently 1st overall in scoring, but have played 2 more games then the Saints. The Vikings are an amazing offensive threat this year, despite starting slow in several games at the beginning of the season. Grade: A

The Defensive Line: Ray Edwards, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and Jared Allen - Minnesota's D-line has done everything the team has asked of them. They are holding teams to under 100 rushing yards per game, and haven't allowed a 100 yard rusher since 2007 (the longest current streak in the NFL). So they are stopping the run. They also have a league leading 31 sacks, including 10.5 by NFL sack leader Jared Allen. The next closest team is at 23, so they are getting to the QB as well. Grade: A

Line Backers: Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, and Ben Leber - EJ and Greenway are the teams top tacklers. Leber has helped out in rushing the QB with 2.5 sacks on the year. The Vikings linebackers play well, but in the zone that they play they end up allowing too many catches, instead of breaking them up. Greenway is the standout so far this year, who has 2 interceptions, 2 fumbles recovered, and should develop into a pro bowl player. Grade: B

Secondary: Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Madieu Williams, and Tyrell Johnson - This is the weakness of the Minnesota Vikings, especially later in the game. Good teams have been able to pass on the Vikings. So far they have been able to get stops when they need them, or the offense has bailed them out. The problem with the Vikings secondary is not wholly their fault. When the team builds a league, the coaching staff puts the secondary into a "Soft Zone" to "prevent" the big play, instead allowing teams to march right down the field with intermediate passes. If you'll notice that all of the Vikings starting secondary is near the top of the team when it comes to tackles. To me this means that they are being forced to play off the receivers to stop the long touch downs instead of challenging them to stop the reception. Grade: C.

Overall Defense: It is hard to rank them too low, as they have done enough to win on a consistent basis, and a lot of the short comings are a result of the style of defense the team is asked to play. Grade: B-

Coaching Staff: I think that Brad Childress has done an amazing job as a personal guy since taking over as head coach. His one mistake was Tavaris Jackson, but since then he has brought Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Percy Harvin, Madieu Williams, and Brett Favre to the team. He has also passed on guys like Jay Cutler and Matt Castle. His biggest mistake lately appears to be letting Darren Sharper go, although he wasn't able to prosper in the Vikings style of defense under Leslie Frazor. All that being said, I do not like the Vikings red zone play calling at all. Too often the will get into the red zone and give Adrian Peterson a break for a couple plays. This is when the team seems to end up settling for far too many field goals. The Vikings are tied for 4th in the NFL for 3-pointers. It is hard to be too hard on Chilly when the team is winning, but until they learn to put together a game plan that allows then to close out a game, the best grade I am willing to give is... B-.

 

Here is to another amazing half of football and a deep run into the play offs... S'kol Vikings, Let's S'Kol!

 

Posted on: October 23, 2009 11:44 pm
 

Can the Vikings Steel a Win?

The Viking Ship - Week 7: Steeling a Win

By: Christopher Torola

This weekend the Vikings will travel to Pittsburgh's Hines Field to take on the Steelers, were coach Mike Tomlin will face his old boss Brad Childress. This should be a high scoring affair. Both teams have been the victims of fourth quarter collapses, although the Vikings have been able to hold off all their challengers all year. The biggest challenge this week will be for the Vikings to get their ground game going., which they have been able to do against AFC teams this year. This week will be harder then the Browns and the Ravens though... the Steelers are tied with the Vikings for the best run defense, allowing only 3.3 yards per carry on the season.

Some Things to watch this week.

- Will Adrian Peterson stay on track against an elite run defense, which should include Troy "Hair" Polamalu returning from a knee injury?

- Will Heath Miller continue the trend of opposing tight ends scoring big yards and touchdowns against the Vikings secondary, or will he need to stay in and help block Jared Allen and the Viking's sack-happy defensive line?

- Will Brett Favre continue to keep his cool, and the ball, or will he return to forcing balls into tight spots against a tough Steelers defense?

- Will Big Ben Roethlesberger be able to "keep the play alive" long enough to complete his signature pass' or will he fall victim to the Vikings continued success in the turn-over battle?

- Will Antonie Winfield be able to take the field, or could the Steelers be able to take advantage of a match up against a back up cornerback.

 

In a game that will likely come down to the wire, with plenty of scores... we should see another Viking win as they continue to fight for the top spot in the NFC.

 

Posted on: October 15, 2009 5:35 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2009 8:08 pm
 

Buy Low , Sell High - Fantasy Time.

Time to start making those trades!!!

By: Christopher Torola


Hello fellow fantasy football junkies. Right now is that magical time of year when you look at your roster and think one of a few things. Hopefully, "Wow! My roster is stacked, is it time to start looking at playoff match ups?". Then there are those thinking, "My team is so close, if I could just rearrange my talent a bit." And of course there are those of you thinking.... "If I don't put together a big winning streak... I'm done." Or maybe your like me and play in way too many leagues, so your facing all of the above.

No need to worry. I have decided to put together a list of some players that will make your team better as the year goes on, as well as a list of guys that you may want to sell high on. I'll go position by position, and list a few guys in each category.

Quarterbacks: Buy Low

- Matt Cassel is a great buy low option. He has increased his numbers week by week as he has regained his health. The Kansas City Chiefs defense is terrible so he is likely to still be throwing the ball late in games, Larry Johnson has proven ineffective this year, and he still has games against 7 bad teams, including the Bills and Browns during the 1st two rounds of most fantasy play-offs (weeks 14 and 15).

- Donovan McNabb is another that may be had for cheap. He was hurt yet again, but he seems to already be recovered from that. The Original Campbell's Chunky Soup Man has already had his bye, has 2 running backs that will catch the ball, and a couple talented young wide outs. He has put up his numbers against bad teams, but he still has plenty of those left, and just look what Kevin Colb was able to do with the Eagle's weapons when he was running the team. McNabb may play even better if he thinks he has to worry about losing his job.

Quarterbacks: Sell High

- Joe Flacco. Of the teams remaining on his schedule, at least 6 look to be tough match ups. His receiving core is old, and not that good anymore. Both Todd Heap and Derrik Mason tend to get banged up. A few of his touchdowns have come off passing plays to Willis McGahee in the redzone. You shouldn't expect that to keep up. As the season goes on Ray Rice should continue to mature and turn passing play calls into rushing ones.

- Tom Brady is an odd choice for sell high, as he has not been meeting expectations this year; however, if you act fast you may be able to trade him to someone who thinks that he is still knocking the rust off. I think that what you have seen from Brady so far, is what your going to get this year. Over the next 2 weeks he plays the Titans and the Buccaneers, but after that he has a bye followed by 5 straight quality passing defenses. If you can still find someone willing to pay top value for Brady.. cash in.

Running Backs: Buy Low

- Pierre Thomas. Thomas was hurt to start the season and missed the first 2 games. Since he has been back he has averaged more fantasy points per start then Adrian Peterson. I know 2 games is a small sample size, but look at what he did the end of last year. Another interesting note is that as Thomas has preformed, Brees has cooled off. It seems the Saints will be willing to get a quick lead and then run the ball with Thomas. He is still being listed on the injury report and limited at practice... you should be able to get him for a song.

- Steven Jackson. Jackson has been running hard this season, but has been unable to find the endzone. That is the difference between Jackson being a decent #2 and a fantasy darling. With a return of Marc Bulger on the horizon, Jackson should see a little less of the 8 and 9 man fronts. He also has a great play-off schedule, that feature the Titans, Texans, and the Cardinals.

Running Backs: Sell High

- Willis McGahee. McGahee has seen a huge amount or red zone success this year, and the Ravens have a line built for running, but there just too many chefs in the kitchen. So far McGahee has seen almost all of the touchdowns, and that is unlikely to continue. Ray Rice is playing amazingly, and is the future of the team. If you can find someone to buy his NFL leading 7 TDs as anything more than an anomaly, trade with them quick.

- Rashard Mendenhall. He is coming off to very productive weeks, and there are a lot of people out there who think he is going to become the guy in Pittsburgh. It seem like almost the only people saying otherwise are the Steelers. This is a risky sell high, because if he does hold on to the starting job, he will put up good numbers... but I think a job share with Willie Parker is much more likely. If you can get good value for him, play it safe and deal him now.

Wide Receivers: Buy Low

- Roddy White. He is coming off a huge week, so it may already be too late to get him cheap. I am assuming the reason for the slow start was his hold out. He played very poorly the first 3 weeks, but as soon as the team had the bye week off, it seems as though Matt Ryan and WHite synced up, and should continue to put up solid numbers.

- Brandon Marshall. Here is another guy the secret may be out on already.He is coming off his 2 touchdown game against the Patriots, but get him if you can. He has posted better numbers each week this season, which makes sense after getting kicked out of practice this pre-season. Marshall may be turning into T.O. Jr, but with the attitude comes the talent.

- Braylon Edwards. Take a chance on him as a player with upside. Don't pay for his 2007 numbers, but look for better then his 2008. It is suppose to take a while for a wide out to make any impact on a new team, but Edwards caught a TD in his first game as a member of the Jets. He actually caught 2, but the refs blew a challenge and reversed the second.

Wide Receivers: Sell High

- Terrell Owens. T.O. isn't as much of a sell high, as an abandon ship. If you have him, you know how bad it is. There still might be someone in your league who hasn't got burnt by T.O. yet, find him and see what he will give you for him. Don't give him away for nothing, but if you can find someone who will give you a viable #3 or low end #2... it might be time to cut your losses. 

- Calvin Johnson. Thats right, Megatron. This has more to do with his and his QBs injuries then anything else. I will not be surprised if he misses more then just last week with his thigh and knee injuries. Mix that with the possibility that he will be going with either a banged up rookie or a washed out veteran throwing him the ball, and it may be time to move on him. I am still a big Calvin Johnson fan, but I don't think this is his year. You may want to try trade on his name for big value while you still can

Tight End: Buy Low

- Jason Witten. The talent is still there and the scores will come. As teams start to game plan against the Cowboys running game, we should start to see Witten sneaking past the line backers for 20 yards up the middle on a regular basis. Get him while owners are worried about the demise of Tony Romo and the Cowboys passing game.

Tight End: Sell High

- Heath Miller. Miller has traditionally been a hot starter, but tends to disappear as the year goes on. This could have a lot to do with Big Ben usually getting killed in the pocket, and the Steelers looking for extra blocking. As the Steeler look to build up their running game, Miller will become less and less of a factor in the passing game.

I hope this helps some of you out there. Feel free to throw out some more names, talk about the ones I suggested, or just call me an idiot. Feedback is fun!

Posted on: October 14, 2009 5:09 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2009 9:13 pm
 

Can The Ravens Challenge The Undefeated Vikings?

The Viking Ship - Week 6: Bird Hunting

By: Christopher Torola

 

A lot of the chatter about the Vikings has been that they are only 5-0 because they have played an easy schedule. True, they have played weak teams, beating the teams they were suppose to beat. The Vikings outscored the Rams, Lions, and Browns by at least 2 touchdowns each. They also beat the Packers quite handily. The game was not as close as the final score indicated, as the Cheese closed the gap by scoring garbage points against an ill-advised Vikings "prevent" defense. The Purple were also able to make a last second come-back against a 49ers team that until last week looked as though they could be a contender. Weak schedule or not, the Vikings have yet to fail to meet a challenge.

Some things you may not realize about the MIGHTY Vikings is just how good they have been playing. They are #1 in scoring in the NFL, even averaging higher than the Giants, who seem to be placed atop most of the power rankings. The Vikes are plus 8 in take-aways against give-aways, also the best in the NFL. The team's defense has totaled more sacks then any other team, and are tied for 6th in interceptions. 

The Ravens have lost the last two games they have played, and have yet to beat a team with a winning record. The 3 teams they have defeated are a combined 3-11. The Raven's offense, behind 2nd year quarterback Joe Flacco, is 4th overall in scoring. The defense is 10th in yards per game allowed, but 16th in scores allowed. This would leave me to believe that they have a hard time holding teams to field goals once they reach the red zone.

This weekend's game will feature two of the better offenses in all of the game, however, both teams rely heavily on establishing the running game... and both teams are known to have run stopping defenses. Last week, Bengals' running back Cedric Benson ran for over 100 yards against the Ravens. He is the first to do so since the 2006 season. The Vikings have not allowed a 100 yard rusher since the 2007 season.

One of the biggest differences in this week's game will likely be the play of the quarterbacks. Veteran quarterback Brett Favre has always been known as a gunslinger, willing to take risks with the football to make plays happen. So far this year he has only thrown 2 picks, and only one of those was his fault. He has been much more patient and willing to take a sack instead of trying to force a ball into a tight situation. It probably doesn't hurt being able to hand the ball to Adrian Peterson. Joe Flacco on the other hand has tossed 2 interceptions in the last week alone. He has totaled 5 on the year, and as previously stated, the Vikings have been taking advantage of the turn over battle this year.

I expect a hard hitting game which could lead to high emotions, especially after the Ravens last 2 losses. This could just as easily be a grind it out game as a shoot out. If the Vikings come into this game prepared to battle, I expect them to win it, but they probably can't afford the slow start they've had in the first few games of the season.

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com