Is Kirk Cousins going to finish his career with the Vikings?

Good morning from South Minneapolis – from my house, which I’ve rarely strayed from except for essential trips and exercise during the last 2 1/2 months of a global health pandemic … which sits about 20 blocks from the smoldering wreckage of Lake and Minnehaha … and about 30 blocks from where George Floyd died in police custody.

No, things are not normal.

On Wednesday – after Floyd’s death, after an initial wave of protests spurred by justified anger, but before the world started watching the Twin Cities burn – we recorded the latest episode of the Access Vikings podcast.

Some of it focused on what this NFL season might look like given the coronavirus pandemic. But the last 15 minutes or so addressed a host of questions from listeners via Twitter – and the vast majority of those were about football and an assumption (or at least a hope) that things would be normal-ish during the 2020 season and beyond.

One of the questions we tackled was regarding quarterback Kirk Cousins and his future with the Vikings – a subject that became front-brain for fans seemingly the minute he signed here in 2018. The question read: “Kirk’s final year in 2022. $45 million cap hit. What are the team’s most logical options when that approaches?”

Less than 48 hours after that question arrived, the notion of whether sports do more to bond us or simply distract us – one I grapple with constantly already – is even stronger.

If you were so inclined, you could draw a line from an economic system that pays someone tens of millions of dollars a year to play football while others struggle just to survive and get pretty uncomfortable about how that inequality contributes to the pain and anger spilling out in our cities.

But … we also live complicated lives that allow us to compartmentalize and care about wildly disparate things. You can care about climate change and reality TV. You can care about coronavirus and whether the NHL season will resume. And you can care about both what is happening around you in this moment and the distant future of the Vikings’ quarterback position. The proportion is key, but it can be done.

If you have room in your life today for both the truly important and relatively inconsequential, and would like a break for a few minutes from endlessly scrolling through your news feed, here are a couple extra thoughts about the Cousins contract:

*One point of important clarity regarding his two-year extension: though it wasn’t fully guaranteed, the final year of the deal in 2022, which carries a $45 million cap hit, becomes fully guaranteed by the third day of the league year in 2021. Barring a disaster in 2020, it’s hard to imagine Cousins not being here by then. So you might as well mark him as realistically signed through 2022. ESPN deems him one of the most locked-in QBs in the league.

*As our Ben Goessling and Andrew Krammer noted on the podcast, though, the new deal did not include a no-trade clause. It’s plausible that if things aren’t working out, or there is a regime change, the Vikings could seek to trade Cousins – most likely after the 2021 season, when there would “only” be $10 million in dead money counted against their salary cap. If they tried to trade him after 2020, the hit would be $20 million – a steep price to pay.

*But the reality that seems most likely is that Cousins is here for the long haul and that the Vikings two years from now do what they did earlier this offseason: restructure Cousins’ deal with another medium-length extension. That, of course, becomes far more likely if Cousins performs well in 2020. And that, of course, is dependent in part on what exactly happens with the NFL season in general.

A quarterback graded No. 6 in the NFL by Pro Football Focus in 2019 sure seems like he’s here for a while – and quite possibly through the end of his career, if he keeps signing a series of extensions. There are worse things if you’re a Vikings fan.

And there are far worse things in life.

Is there going to be a baseball season?

I’ve lost track of the number of things that are more important than billionaires and millionaires trying to figure out the financial and health logistics of how to play sports in the midst of a global health pandemic, but in terms of distractions from the world around us the status of Major League Baseball’s season will have to suffice.

If there were hopes that a ticking clock on starting a season that has already been delayed by more than two months would nudge owners and players closer to an agreement, the opposite seems to be happening right now. Both sides appear firmly entrenched on a fundamental disagreement: players say they agreed to prorated salaries back in March; owners say those salaries must now be revisited because return-to-play proposals don’t include fans in the stands — and therefore far less revenue.

The latest proposal from owners has the scent of a classic wedge designed to pit players against each other. Basically, it asked players who make more money to take a larger percentage of the pay cut. It seems somewhat reasonable on its face — akin to taxing the rich more than taxing the poor — until you realize that it still adds up to owners who are far wealthier than players passing along what they say are financial losses to their labor.

Pitcher Trevor Bauer had an interesting tweet Wednesday about all of that, even if fellow hurler Max Scherzer (more on that in a minute) drew more headlines for his comment.

Tweeted Bauer: “Hearing a LOT of rumors about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs. If true — and at this point, these are only rumors — I have one thing to say … Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”

Scherzer, a Boras client when he signed a 7-year, $210 deal before the 2015 season, would see his salary dramatically reduced under the owners’ proposal. Scherzer released a statement on social media that read, in part: “After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no need to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. … We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.”

So where does that leave baseball, which ideally would like to start its second spring training in a couple weeks? Well, it sounds like players would like to address the issue of how to divvy up the diminished revenue by … creating more revenue?

Per ESPN.com: The Major League Baseball Players Association expects to counter MLB’s economic proposal by the end of this week with a plan that includes more than 100 games and a guarantee of full prorated salaries for the 2020 season, sources familiar with union discussions told ESPN.

The plan floated by owners is for an 82-game season. They’re reportedly worried that if they can’t jam the season in quickly, there could be a second wave of coronavirus that shuts everything down before the lucrative postseason.

Fun times, right?

I still think there’s a much better than 50% chance a truncated season happens, though my confidence level is lower than it was, say, two weeks ago.

The ultimate factor: There’s still revenue sitting out there, and the differences between the two acrimonious sides are different than they are during, say, a labor shutdown. Some sort of compromise feels within reach.

But until then, it will be more than fair to wonder if there will be a baseball season in 2020.

LeBron, Rashod Bateman and more: The sports world reacts to George Floyd’s death

The death of George Floyd while in police custody on Monday in Minneapolis has sparked outrage locally and beyond.

Powerful video of the 47-year-old Floyd pleading, “I can’t breathe” as a police officer kneels on his neck has led to similarly powerful reactions — including many from the world of sports.

Here are some of those reactions from social media — some from local athletes and others worldwide:

*Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman reacted with a strong yet heartbreaking message.

*LeBron James posted on Instagram to his 65 million followers an image of Floyd next to an image of Colin Kaepernick, with the words: “Do you understand NOW!!??!!?? Or is it still blurred to you?? #StayWoke”

*Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie added perspective with his own message.

*Gophers wrestler Gable Steveson posted a photo with another person holding a “Justice 4 George” sign.

*Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr didn’t mince words, calling what happened in Minneapolis “murder.”

Women’s basketball legend Lisa Leslie — with a message that was retweeted thousands of times, including by former Lynx player Seimone Augustus — challenged her followers to pay attention.

In NHL and NBA restarts, the best teams will suffer the most

The last few months have taught us plenty of lessons, and the most consistent one might be this: everything is subject to change.

This shows up in very serious ways in the midst of a pandemic. In less serious ways, the notion of adjusting on the fly has permeated entities that have typically been change-averse — major United States professional sports leagues.

Faced with a choice of getting creative or having no chance at starting (or re-starting) seasons, leagues like the NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS are basically making things up as they go along.

A realigned, streamlined schedule? Having all games played in just one or two locations? Completely re-imagining a playoff format? Things that would normally take years to agree on are taking weeks.

Whether all this energy being spent on return-to-play proposals is a healthy endeavor — literally and figuratively — is a debate that will linger.

What seems clear at the moment, though, is this: particularly in the NHL and NBA, based on widely reported plans and proposals, the curve running from the worst to the best teams will be flattened in the playoffs.

By necessity, playoffs in a pandemic will level the playing field in unprecedented ways. The best teams will be at the biggest relative disadvantage, and any team with a chance to compete could end up as the champion.

The NHL playoff plan, revealed Tuesday, offers the most concrete example of this. Among the highlights of the plan, which will go into effect later this summer as long as the league has clearance to resume play, skips ahead straight to the playoffs, adds four teams to each conference postseason mix (from 16 total to 24 total) and puts the top four teams in each conference into a round-robin tournament to determine seeding.

This is great for the Wild, which would have missed the playoffs if the season had merely ended and the top eight in each conference would have been picked. Instead, Minnesota is slated to play Vancouver in a best-of-5 play-in series with two potentially beneficial outcomes: win and advance with momentum; lose and get a shot at the draft lottery.

But what about the best of the best? While those four teams in each conference seemingly get a bye, they really just get the right to skip to the next round while the 5-12 seeds battle it out in best-of-5 series. So they get a bye into what would be the typical 16-team field.

A team like Boston, which was eight points clear of any other team in the East and had a 93.1% chance of being the top seed when the season was shut down in March, now has to play its way into that top spot in the round-robin.

But the biggest overall leveler is simple: With no fans in the stands, and almost all games being played at what amount to neutral sites — one “hub” city in each conference — whatever home ice advantage is gained throughout the course of a regular season is largely negated in the playoffs.

None of the top four seeds in the East is under consideration as a hub city. Instead of having the built-in edge of an extra home game in a seven-game series, they will be playing a series of fan-less games guaranteed not to be on their home ice. As higher seeds, they’ll still have the edge of the last line change during stoppages. But that’s about it.

The NBA is still sorting through its format, but no matter how it arrives at its playoff plan the games themselves are likely to be in an empty arena in Orlando. While the value of home field/court/ice has perhaps eroded a little in recent years because of better sleep and easier travel for away teams, it’s still an edge.

Small sample size evidence shows that even teams that get to play at home in empty stadiums have had their advantage erased. In Germany, home teams have won just three of 22 soccer matches in empty stadiums since Bundesliga play resumed.

That perhaps underscores the biggest unknown in all of this: With little-to-no atmosphere at games without fans, how will even the best teams and players adjust emotionally to compete at high levels?

We’ll probably find out later this summer in playoffs that figure to be unlike any other we’ve seen — and hopefully ever will see again.

Twins’ Class AA team rents its stadium on Airbnb for $1,500 a night

The likelihood of a Major League Baseball season happening in some fashion this year hinges on players and owners getting together soon on a deal. It’s far from certain, but progress at least they’re trying.

What seems closer to a certainty, however, is that any truncated, fan-less season in MLB will leave minor league baseball shut out — while a canceled MLB season would do the same. Either way, more than 100 teams and ballparks in small towns, mid-size cities and large metropolises figure to have a gaping hole on their calendars and revenue sheets in 2020 if there are, as expected, no minor league games this season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

As ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote recently: “Minor leaguers are nervous, and they should be. For the past two months, they have worked to stay in shape and prepare for a season that may never happen. Even if MLB carries a 30-man major league roster with a 20-man taxi squad, that leaves the remaining minor leaguers without games to play.”

This comes on top of the unsettling news that 40 out of 160 affiliated teams are expected to lose their MLB affiliation starting in 2021.

Players are wondering how they are going to pay bills. Teams are trying to keep the lights on — and some are getting extremely creative in their attempts to do so.

Chief among them are the Pensacola Blue Waves — the Florida-based Class AA Twins affiliate — who recently grabbed headlines by listing Wahoos Stadium on the rental site Airbnb for $1,500 a night.

(Photo via Pensacola Wahoos Facebook page).

There’s a bedroom next to the clubhouse that can accommodate up to 10 people, and the rental ad indicates that guests “are welcome to hit from home plate, play catch in the outfield, run the bases, enjoy a picnic in the outfield, or find other creative uses for the field!

It sounds like the idea has been a hit. An interested renter said on the team’s Facebook page recently that she tried to make a reservation but that every date was blocked off. The official team account replied:

Our available dates are currently booked. We are waiting to hear more on the 2020 season and what the Blue Wahoos schedule will look like. We’re remaining in constant communication with the Southern League and Minor League Baseball about the resumption of the season. When we know more, we’ll open more available AirBnB dates between July-October.

This has played out mostly as a heartwarming and fun little story, which in part it is. But a part of it also feels … uncomfortable? Like stories about fundraisers to cover medical bills or co-workers pooling vacation time to help a co-worker care for a loved one, this one leaves me both applauding the ingenuity and human spirit in the face of a crisis and also feeling an underlying anger that such an undertaking is even necessary.

While the big leagues battle over what’s left to be had of $10-plus billion in annual baseball revenue — much of it from TV/media contracts that simply don’t exist at such a scale at lower levels, which rely heavily on gate receipts — the minor league affiliates that support the talented players along the way are left to hold the equivalent of a bake sale. No, really. They’re selling meal kits in Pensacola, too.

Those coming up with the creative ideas should be lauded for doing what they can to safely generate revenue and give people a sense of community. That’s not the issue.

Pensacola’s ballpark also had a movie night (Frozen II) and fireworks night, which with proper distancing would have been a hit with my household. The team is co-owned by golfer Bubba Watson, and he recently showed up to design and help host a nine hole disc golf tournament in the stadium.

“It’s a stadium for baseball, but there are so many more things going on,” Watson said recently, adding: “We’re going to figure out something else to do here … maybe get some go-karts out here.”

Again, sounds like fun. But …

One thing that has been particularly ugly and unsettling about the pandemic is how it has highlighted the class warfare inherent in our socioeconomic system.

Given that backdrop, there are plenty of possible reactions to an entire minor league organization joining the gig economy — but surprise shouldn’t be one of them.

Five reader questions: Best coach ever, ‘Dead Zone’, DH and more

I asked recently for some reader questions because, let’s face it, we all have some time on our hands to try new things.

Here are five of them that particularly intrigued me. The rest of you did a good job, too. Just, you know, not as good as these five. Here we go, with the tweets and answers:

A: That’s a tough one because there are plenty of candidates. Bud Grant had a very long run of excellence with the Vikings. Unfortunately, his teams tended to come up short in the biggest moments. (Not-so-fun-fact: The Vikings have never scored a point in the first half of the Super Bowl, which really helps explain the 0-4 mark).

Tom Kelly has two World Series titles to his credit, and former Twins players swear by his tactics. But the Twins had eight consecutive losing seasons from 1993-2000. Even if Kelly didn’t have much to work with in many of those seasons, those losses go down on his record.

The best combination of sustained excellence and championships gives us the answer: Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. Minnesota won four titles and went to two more finals series from 2011-17. The Lynx’s playoff record during that time: 40-15. She had great players, but maximizing that talent was Reeve’s greatest achievement.

A: Have to say, I did not see that question coming. Perhaps I would have if was ALSO CLAIRVOYANT like Christopher Walken’s character in the movie.

I’ll deviate from the horror script to answer this question. If we’re talking purely about a Minnesota sports figure for whom I’d like to know how this all turns out in the future … I’d say Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck. Was last season as good as it gets, or in five years are we going to be talking about Minnesota as a perennial Big Ten (and therefore national) contender? I’d love to know.

Runner-up: Byron Buxton.

A: The short answer, I think, is that under the proposed schedule there wouldn’t really be a National League and American League was we know them in 2020. Instead, teams would be aligned geographically in groups of 10 — Central, West and East, based on the AL and NL divisions in each case.

If you’re going to play by one rule, it’s probably best to use the AL rule (even if I dislike the DH). Otherwise guys like Nelson Cruz are going to have awfully short seasons if a quarter of them (games in NL parks) don’t have a DH.

A: I think you might have answered your own question. The Bucks seem like the biggest candidates. They had the NBA’s best record (53-12) when play was halted, and even if the season resumes and Milwaukee finds a way to win a championship I think any titles won in the Covid-19 era are going to come with an asterisk attached.

Oh, you won in front of no fans and with players going at 80% emotion, tops? Good for you.

A: That’s actually not me (shirt pictured above), but my good friend “John Sharkman” wearing that shirt. The image is from 2016, when he bought the shirt and wore it out a couple times — including a Timberwolves game. A reader notes that you can still buy it for 16 bucks American. Even in this economy, that feels like something you can’t afford not to buy!

The 10 most notable measures in MLB’s safety proposal

Major League Baseball recently put together a 67-page manual outlining safety protocols that will need to be followed if players and other team personnel are going to return to play in a few weeks for training and in early July for a truncated season.

The reported measures range from the mundane to the seemingly extreme to the borderline impossible, and they all underscore the fundamental question: Is this worth it?

That can be viewed through two lenses: Is it worth having a season if all these measures — which we’ll get to in a bit — need to be followed?

To that, I would answer with a measured “yes.” If MLB and players are determined to have a season, they must do so in the most responsible way possible. If that means exhibiting what seems like an overabundance of caution, so be it. That’s what the coronavirus pandemic calls for.

The other lens, though, is more complicated: If MLB needs to draft a 67-page (and likely ultimately longer) set of safety guidelines just to hold a season, is it really safe enough — and ultimately worth it from that perspective — to have a season? That’s a fundamental question players are wrestling with, and for good reason. Baseball is not an essential service. It’s a luxury. If there wasn’t so much money at stake, would there really be such a scramble to re-start sports?

To understand both sides of this question, here are 10 of the most notable measures in the safety proposal, as reported by a variety of sources (the manual itself has not been published in full), along with a comment on each:

*Those not participating in a game would sit 6 feet apart — possibly in the stands or other auxiliary seating areas — and they would be wearing masks. That seems like common sense and easily doable, even if the optics while watching on TV might seem strange.

*No high-fives, fist-bumps, hugging, spitting, chewing tobacco or sunflower seeds. If all those things wind up being part of the final protocol and a season really happens, it seems like some of these would be both hard to enforce and could detract from some of the spontaneous emotion that adds to the environment of a game. I’m trying to imagine a walk-off home run under these conditions, even if they are created with good intentions.

*No mascots or bat boys. Maybe the Twins don’t need a new T.C. Bear, after all? Then again, do you really need a mascot if there aren’t fans in the stands?

*Temperature screening at least twice a day. Again, this one is common sense. And it will become part of a player’s routine. But a lot of little things probably will add up and make everyone involved hyper-aware of the conditions under which they are playing and which we are all living. In ensuring everyone’s physical health, how will it impact their mental health?

*Players should wash or sanitize their hands after every half-inning. Pitchers won’t need sandpaper to doctor a baseball. Their dry hands will be enough. But again, if you set expectations at a high level then some lapses will still leave everyone relatively safe.

*No use of saunas, steam rooms or therapy pools. That could get tricky for players rehabbing injuries or simply trying to do their daily maintenance routines. In addition to other clubhouse rules, it will probably lead to a pretty sterile — literally and figuratively — atmosphere among teammates.

*When the ball is out of play or in between pitches, fielders are encouraged to retreat several steps away from the baserunner, per The Athletic. If this applies to things like trying to keep runners close at second base, I don’t like it. If players are going to be second-guessing the way they play the game, it won’t work.

*Every ball put in play gets tossed out, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who wrote an excellent piece about what could be the new day in the life for an MLB player. Fine. There are more than enough baseballs to go around.

*Postgame showers are discouraged. Gross. Seems like they could figure out a way to stagger them, at least for those who played in the game. But again, it’s probably safest if everyone showers when they go back to their homes or hotels. Speaking of which …

*Players would not be allowed to leave hotels while on the road without approval. At home, they would be asked to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Seems extreme. Then again, if there’s no season the players will probably just be at home.

The safety proposal really brings home just how different things would feel to players. The two things they would basically still get are pretty big, though: The ability to compete on the field with few if any meaningful between-the-lines changes … and, of course, getting paid at least a portion of their 2020 salaries.

Is it worth it? Players individually and collectively will interpret that question and decide for themselves in much the same way a lot of us will make decisions about what we’re comfortable with in our jobs and personal lives in the coming months.

This weekend felt like a shift in the return to live sports

The sports world shut down abruptly right around March 11, with the NBA suspending play after Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test and other leagues soon following suit.

The return to sports, on the other hand, is coming in fits and starts — bits of information, toes dipped in the water, leagues navigating countless issues as they formulate plans. That said, these past few days felt like a shift, of sorts.

There is far more chatter about multiple leagues formulating plans for coming back. On Sunday, I watched bits and pieces of THREE live sporting events: A Bundesliga soccer match from Germany, a charity golf skins game and a NASCAR race. Then there was the final two episodes of “The Last Dance” on Sunday night.

It almost felt … normal?

Then again, on a normal Sunday this time of year, with NBA and NHL playoffs going on and baseball about 50 games into its schedule, I probably wouldn’t have watched any of that. But after two months of zero or very limited options as far as live/new sports programming, having options felt relevant. Other people clearly felt the same way: The Bundesliga did huge TV ratings relative to more crowded sports weekends — even if soccer with no fans in the stands felt quite strange at times.

Chatter coming from various leagues also feels relevant.

The NHL is at least talking about the parameters for resuming its season — one which could include an expanded 24-team playoff field, which would include the Wild.

The NBA sounds increasingly optimistic about finishing this season and crowing a champion. The WNBA, too is working on a lot of scenarios to start and play its season.

Major League Soccer has had at least early talks about a tournament for all 26 teams in Orlando. The English Premier League voted Monday to resume training.

And MLB is the furthest down the road with its planning — though that also means, perhaps, that baseball is also providing the biggest cautionary tale for how tricky all of this will be to pull off. If it takes a 67-page manual to outline safety, is it really worth it?

We’ve gone, at least, from vague notions that sports could return — or might not return — to concrete discussions, plans and in some cases even returns to action. It also feels notable that there seems to be collective momentum from all these major sports leagues. Some might be more cautious or less firm with their planning right now, but every major U.S. league is proceeding with some form of cautious optimism about playing.

That’s a far cry from a month ago. Or even 10 days ago.

Should remote offseasons become part of permanent NFL plan?

Back in a completely different era of professional sports, training camps were a time for players to get in shape after the offseason. The notion of an “organized team activity” — a particularly jargony word for an offseason practice pioneered by the NFL — was laughable.

Pro athletes 50 or 60 years ago commonly held second jobs to supplement their income. As a Cleveland Plain Dealer story about the era notes, pertaining to the NFL: “It was also a time when the NFL schedule was more conducive to squeezing in a second job. Teams played no more than 14 regular-season games. Once the season ended, coaches didn’t expect to see the players for another seven months. Players would clean out their lockers and not return until summer training camp.”

Even in 1970, the minimum salary for an NFL veteran was a mere $10,000.

Obviously the financial stakes are much higher now. Pro sports teams have mushroomed into billion dollar valuations, making owners obscene profits and setting up a lot of players for life.

If anyone works a side job now, it’s more of a novelty than necessity. NFL players spend offseasons staying in shape. Teams with returning head coaches can start their offseason training programs in mid-April, just a couple months after the Super Bowl and more than three months before training camps begin.

Between mid-April and mid-July, there is a smattering of OTAs, minicamps, rookie minicamps, weight training and injury rehab. Much of it requires players, coaches and support staff to be in attendance at team facilities.

This year, of course, has necessitated all sorts of changes on the fly. Virtually everything is being done, well, virtually in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

None of it qualifies as ideal. At the most, in this moment, teams are making the best of a bad situation.

But maybe some of what’s happening right now should be adopted next offseason and beyond — in whatever qualifies as normal times?

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did a video call from his ranch in Kentucky on Wednesday. In a regular year, he would certainly spend some offseason time there. But he would also be grinding away and working long hours at the Vikings facility for big chunks or April, May and June.

This year? Zimmer is hanging with his family, including son Adam — also a Vikings defensive staffer.

Today, I woke up, I got a skid steer [loader], I went in the back, and did some work way back there,” Zimmer said. “Then I came back, we had a defensive staff meeting, offensive meetings with the players, and then I took a break, that was this afternoon after the defensive meetings. … I got on the tractor and got the fields ready to plant and then I came up here for a defensive staff meeting. And then in the evenings we just kind of hang out, build a fire, get takeout. Adam loves smoking stuff on the smoker. He’ll go jump in the hot tub, and I’ll watch some ‘Chicago P.D.’ or something.”

That sounds like a pretty good work-life balance — one that some of us, during our best stay-at-home days, might be able to relate to. Part of what’s happening right now is completely stressful, but imagine that kind of workday and balance, at least some of the time, during a less stressful time.

Colts GM Chris Ballard seems to be realizing the benefits of that very thing, even if he was thrust into it by our current situation.

It’s been interesting just with my family being home these last three-and-a-half weeks,” Ballard said around the time of last months NFL draft. “I almost forget – we have dinner tonight. We have dinner every night together. Our lives have been taken over by youth sports – they really had for the good. All of our kids are active. They have been in youth sports and so it was hard to get us all together at any point just to spend time together as a family, to eat dinner – little things you kind of take for granted that we’re doing now every night. … To watch my kids – it’s almost like when I grew up – to watch them have to go out and play in the yard and play baseball in the yard and find time with each other. That’s been rewarding. I’m not gonna lie, that’s been very rewarding.”

Players are doing virtual workouts and studying. Whatever is being lost in technique and nuance might be gained in the decompression of mind and body from the grind of a long year.

I’m not suggesting that players leave in January and come back in July like the old days, but maybe there’s less of a need for everyone — even the ultra-serious NFL — to rush around and fill up schedules.

Maybe at least a lot of what happens this time of year in the NFL can and should be done virtually?

Think of it as necessity being the mother of re-invention.

Twins could be virtual playoff locks with expanded playoffs, short schedule

Even under the most routine and expected circumstances, the Twins would have been headed into the 2020 season with a strong chance to at least make the playoffs after last year’s 101-win season and AL Central title.

But the proposed format for a truncated, oddball season in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic will only enhance the Twins’ playoff chances.

Any slight ding from playing half as many games — leaving less margin for error for a poor start — will be more than offset by two factors:

1) The playoff format reportedly being proposed by owners expands the field from 10 to 14 teams. That would mean four total additional wild card teams — meaning nearly half of MLB’s 30 teams would qualify for the playoffs.

2) If the schedule really is geography-based, with teams in the American League Central and National League Central facing each other for all 80-plus games in order to reduce travel, the Twins figure to play a lot of mediocre-to-bad teams.

Baseball Prospectus projected the Twins in March to win 93 games. No other team in the AL Central or NL Central is projected to win more than 86, while three of those 10 teams are projected to lose 90-plus games.

It’s hard to imagine the Twins not being among the best 14 teams in MLB, particularly if they don’t have to face some of baseball’s other top teams during the regular season.

An online oddsmaker recently gave the Twins 1 to 6 odds to make the playoffs under a 14-team postseason format — meaning you’d have to wager $600 just to win $100. Only the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers are bigger playoff locks.

The flip side is that additional playoff teams means more playoff rounds and could make it harder to advance deep in the postseason — which, if we’re being honest, should be the Twins’ goal this year beyond just making it.