Lead announcer Mike Goldberg ham-handed his way through Sunday’s Vikings-Lions broadcast on FOX, then sparred with fans on Twitter afterward.
Goldberg was scheduled to call the Vikings-Bills game this Sunday in Buffalo, but has been removed from the crew. Tim Brando will replace him. Brendon Ayanbadejo, who also worked with Goldberg for the Vikings-Lions game, remains the analyst.
Ayanbadejo was certainly no wordsmith at Sunday’s game, but it’s likely that Goldberg’s crime, in Fox’s eyes, was his unprofessional behavior on Twitter.
Goldberg is the former TV play-by-play guy for the Wild, and made his name nationally calling UFC.
It’s not hard to listen to comments from Terry Ryan and Dave St. Peter in two different venues — a recent conference call with season ticket holders, and again in interviews with the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller — and reach this conclusion: 2015 will be more of the same from the Twins, by design.
Or, in perhaps more flattering terms: the Twins are going to hope that 2015 is the kind of year they had hoped 2014 would be, and they are a year behind schedule in their rebuild because of injuries to key minor league players and the underperformance of players on the major league club.
How else would one react to quotes from Ryan such as these?
“I don’t want to punt on 2015, but it’s still going to be a struggle.”
“Sometimes you make decisions that ultimately are going to benefit you down the line that don’t look exactly like what you want right now.”
The Twins have decided they aren’t going to budge much on payroll from 2014 to 2015, meaning it again will be around $85 million and that almost all of it is already tied up in existing players. We don’t necessarily think this is a bad idea, but let’s be clear: this is a choice, and an artificial spending cap. If the Twins wanted to spend more, they certainly could (remember, 2014 was the start of a major bump in national TV revenue for all MLB clubs).
Ryan is right when he says spending foolishly could set the club back even further (at least if they guessed wrong on big-ticket, long-term deals). He is also right when he notes that teams can be competitive with payrolls comparable to what the Twins project to have next season.
But what it adds up to is a season of hoping, not realistically expecting, that things will not devolve into a fifth consecutive 90-loss season. There were good signs last season, particularly with young hitters and Phil Hughes, but without the influx of more established players via free agency, Minnesota will be banking on two guys who will make up between 40-45 percent of the payroll combined (Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco) to live up to their contracts and for other young players to make meaningful contributions (while the ones who made strides this year avoid a step back, which is easier said than done).
Before Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and others essentially lost the 2014 season, we imagine the Twins’ blueprint was something like this: ride improved pitching and young hitting to a .500 record in 2014, get onto the fringe of contention in 2015 and then really make a run in 2016 and beyond. Now we have to imagine .500 is the goal next year, and we can clearly see the Twins don’t intend to try to spend their way to a few more victories.
It’s not right or wrong, but it is the choice they have made.
Each week, beat guy Matt Vensel will highlight five Vikings stats that really mean something.
14 — sacks allowed by the Vikings in their past two games.
I think most of our readers are aware that the Vikings have allowed 14 sacks the past two weeks, with eight of them coming in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. But that point is really hammered home when you consider that it is more sacks over the past two games than it is Vikings points (13). The play of the offensive line has a lot to do with that, but other factors, such as running backs in pass protection and receivers not getting open, have contributed to it. There is no debating, though, that pass protection is a major issue. With 22 sacks allowed, the Vikings trail only the Jaguars (27).
Five — straight games in which the Vikings allowed a TD on one of their first two drives.
Another negative trend continued Sunday when the Lions marched 80 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive. That makes it five straight games in which the Vikings allowed a TD on one of their opponent’s first two drives. The trend started with Patriots running back Steven Ridley’s 1-yard run in Week 2, which wasn’t much of a drive. The Saints scored touchdowns on their first two drives. The Falcons and Packers went three-and-out on their first drives and scored touchdowns on their second. This team isn’t built to play from behind, so the early scores have been huge.
Three — passing touchdowns for the Vikings’ quarterbacks this season.
In the first five quarters of 2014, one-time starting quarterback Matt Cassel tossed three touchdown passes. He connected with wide receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Kyle Rudolph in the opener and hit running back Matt Asiata on the first drive of the Patriots game. Since then, the Vikings have used three starting quarterbacks, and none of them have thrown a touchdown pass. Bridgewater has zero touchdown passes in his first two NFL starts and Christian Ponder had none in his one start (though each has rushed for one). The Vikings now rank last in the NFL in this stat.
Negative-5 — turnover differential for the Vikings through six games.
On the next column over in the passing ledger, the Vikings have thrown nine interceptions, which is the most in the NFL. Interestingly, those nine interceptions came in three games and the Vikings didn’t toss any interceptions in their other three games, two of them victories. Throw in Asiata’s Week 5 fumble, and the Vikings have 10 total turnovers. On the flip side, they have forced just five turnovers, which is tied for 23rd in the league. Overall, the Vikings ranked 27th in the NFL with a negative-five turnover differential. Only the Saints, Jets, Jaguars and Redskins have been worse.
40.7 — passer rating of Vikings quarterbacks when targeting Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson has just two catches in each of the past three games. The coaching staff has talked about trying to get the ball into Patterson’s hands more, but when it comes to throwing the ball to him, it has not gone so well. Vikings quarterbacks have thrown four interceptions when targeting Patterson, including two of Bridgewater’s picks on Sunday. And with 17 catches for 204 yards and no touchdowns to go with those four picks on 29 targets, they have a 40.7 passer rating when targeting him. That ranks 84th out of 85 qualifying NFL wide-outs, according to Pro Football Focus.