National optimism about Timberwolves is perplexing, unless …

When deciding whether to write about a list or ranking compiled by someone else, several factors come into play. But usually at the heart of it I’m looking for 1) The credibility of the source publication 2) Minnesota teams and 3) surprises.

As such, I often administer an unofficial “scroll test” (since I’m almost always reading these things on the internet, where a certain 99-year-old columnist at our paper assumes I spend 100% of my time, even while he acknowledges you can find a lot of things there).

For example: If I was scrolling a survey of NFL general managers on NFL.com and found Kirk Cousins ranked somewhere in the 9-12 range among QBs in the NFL, I probably wouldn’t find it all that newsworthy since that’s probably about where he belongs. If I started scrolling and BAM! there he was at No. 4 or … wait … where is he? … No. 24? That’s more interesting, even if it’s subjective, because it doesn’t match expectations.

To that end, I’ve found myself surprised on a good number of “scroll tests” involving Timberwolves rankings and predictions leading up to the start of the season Wednesday at Brooklyn.

Most recently: ESPN put out its initial power rankings for the season of all 30 NBA teams, and quite honestly I thought I’d need to scroll down to at least 25 to find the revamped Wolves.

But there they were at No. 21, accompanied by some pretty optimistic win totals in my estimation: 38, as predicted by ESPN experts; 36 as forecast by ESPN’s BPI; a staggering 44 according to FiveThirtyEight.com (according to its new RAPTOR player rating system, though a more modest 36 using its more traditional ELO model; and an over-under of 35.5 wins in Vegas.

Even if we throw out FiveThirtyEight’s new formula as an odd outlier, those numbers all seem a little high at first glance. The Wolves won 36 games last year with established guys like Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Anthony Tolliver, Tyus Jones, Dario Saric and Luol Deng playing important minutes at various times. Sure it was a weird year with the Jimmy Butler saga and midyear coaching change, but the roster had talent.

All of the aforementioned players are gone, their depth replaced primarily by players either younger, untested or both. And these new players are mixing with the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in a new up-tempo, high-efficiency, three-point shooting lineup that could have a long learning curve and might not be ideally suited the current personnel.

This combination is going to produce more wins than last year?

I’m usually the guy with unchecked Timberwolves optimism, so much so that longtime blog readers often tease that they remember to check their smoke detector batteries annually when my too-rosy and often misguided preseason post comes out.

This year it’s the opposite. I’m trying to figure out what others are seeing in this Wolves team when I mostly see short-term pain (even while believing long-term gain could be the result). Here’s all I have:

*Pundits and projections are buying into the fruits of a revamped system featuring high-efficiency shots.

After being dead last in the NBA two years ago in combined shots taken at the rim or from three-point range, the Wolves actually increased that mark by 7.8 percentage points last season (but still ranked near the bottom of the league at 60.3%). This year, if Summer League and preseason are any indication, that number could vault closer to 75% and put the Wolves among the league leaders.

The Bucks made a similar leap from two years ago (60.7%) to last year (75.9%) and increased their win total by 16. If the Wolves did that this year, they’d blow even optimistic projections out of the water.

But it’s not just as simple as shooting more efficient shots (as the dreadful Knicks and Wizards, who also made double-digit increases in threes/shots at the rim year over year, can attest). And it took Brooklyn until its third season as a high-efficiency shot attempt team to break through from the lottery to the playoffs.

It takes time to learn to play that way, and it takes the right personnel. If you’re skeptical the Wolves will figure it out right away with the shooters they have, then you, me and Patrick Reusse have something in common.

*Optimists are buying a monster year from Karl-Anthony Towns.

It’s easier for me to get on board with this one. Towns is the clear focal point of the offense and will be used in a variety of ways. Combined with the Wolves’ emphasis on early shots and efficient shots, it’s conceivable he could flirt with averaging 30 points per game. If his all-around game, including passing and defense, evolve along with that then the Wolves could have relative success.

*They’re buying the impact of a healthy Robert Covington.

Our Chris Hine has a wonderful profile of Covington and his struggles with both his knee injury and mental health last season. Therapy has helped Covington clear his head and rediscover himself, and his knee is feeling better. He can be a huge difference-maker, as we saw last season when the Wolves went on a 9-3 run after the Jimmy Butler trade and with Covington excelling on both ends.

*Perhaps there’s another big move to be made sooner rather than later?

I’ll add this one last because I keep referring back to ESPN’s Zach Lowe predicting the Wolves will make at least two trades — including one involving Covington. D’Angelo Russell is eligible to be traded Dec. 15. Lowe connects those dots and adds the Wolves will “hunt for point guards.”

So maybe don’t fly to Vegas or drive down to Iowa to bet your life savings on the Wolves winning fewer than 35.5 games. But it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the outcome this year.

Astros create a lot of Nationals fans with response to assistant GM’s behavior

Sports Illustrated on Monday night published an account of a scene inside the celebratory Astros clubhouse Saturday after they clinched the American League pennant.

Per SI, most of it was normal. But a key part of most definitely was not: And in the center of the room, assistant general manager Brandon Taubman turned to a group of three female reporters, including one wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, and yelled, half a dozen times, “Thank God we got Osuna!

Osuna is Astros closer Roberto Osuna. As SI’s Stephanie Apstein explains, the timing of the exclamations was odd considering Osuna had given up a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning before Jose Altuve’s blast in the bottom of the ninth gave Houston the win.

And the specific direction of Taubman’s shouts were both meaningful and uncomfortable: Osuna had been acquired by the Astros in 2018 after MLB had handed him a 75-game suspension for his role in a domestic assault allegation.

SI’s story is plausible and credible, requiring only a very basic connecting of the dots to understand.

That is, unless you’re the Astros. After the piece was published (for which the Astros declined to comment and didn’t make Taubman available for an interview, per SI), the team released a statement calling SI’s story “misleading and completely irresponsible” and suggested a different version of what happened: “An Astros player was being asked questions about a difficult outing. Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation … and nothing else.”

There are plenty of things to criticize about that statement (and plenty of people jumped on it as soon as it was posted on Twitter), but the biggest problem for the Astros is that the SI story was almost immediately corroborated by multiple eyewitnesses.

Per a Houston Chronicle story that followed the SI report and the statement:

Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman yelled in the direction of a group of female reporters during the team’s American League Championship Series clubhouse celebration on Saturday, three eyewitnesses — including two Chronicle reporters — confirmed on Monday. … Taubman was holding a cigar and standing with two or three other men when he yelled his comments, two eyewitnesses said. The three female reporters were approximately eight feet away and one was visibly shaken by the comment, the eyewitnesses said. There were no players in the area and no interviews were being conducted at the time.

In the initial version of this post, by the way, I guessed that the Astros and/or MLB would have more things to say about this in the near future, and the hope was that perhaps they would get it right on the second try.

And indeed, the Astros did make another attempt at a statement Tuesday afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much better — and was perhaps even worse.

Owner Jim Crane said a whole lot of nothing about the organization’s commitment to domestic violence awareness.

Taubman acknowledged his comments were “unprofessional and inappropriate,” which was a step in the right direction before he added that his “overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted.” His statement ended with a true classic: “I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions.”

Ah, yes. The non-apology apology. Strike two. I get plenty annoyed with “cancel culture,” but come on.

At least this whole thing created some clarity among neutral World Series viewers who suddenly became big fans of the Nationals.

Loons just the latest Minnesota team to have hopes dashed, flaws exposed in playoffs

When a team is good enough to make the playoffs but flawed enough to create doubts – which describes pretty much every Minnesota team to reach the postseason this decade aside from the Lynx – talking yourself into the idea of a deep run and a possible championship requires equal parts hope and amnesia.

A more likely reality is this: At some point the run will end, perhaps sooner than you would like. And when it does, the culprit won’t be a surprise. Good-but-not-great playoff teams tend to find out that a problem they think they’ve fixed or an issue they hope will go away will show up under the bright lights of the postseason.

Sometimes it’s dramatic (see: 2009 Vikings and Brett Favre limiting interceptions all season until the last possible moment). Other times it’s a slower but equally damaging burn.

The freshest illustration of that point regarding local teams came courtesy of Minnesota United on Sunday.

The Loons ascended to the Major League Soccer playoffs for the first time in three seasons in the league thanks in large part to a defense that allowed just 43 goals after giving up 71 the year before.

That was good enough to get Minnesota United the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and a home matchup Sunday against a flawed L.A. Galaxy team.

A lot of United fans, still shaken by shoddy defenses of the past, had to wonder if this improvement would hold up. And if they talked themselves into that, there was the concern about a team better at creating chances than finishing them.

The Loons were the better team in many ways Sunday, but the playoffs are about finishing. The Galaxy exploited two defensive lapses while the Loons squandered glorious chances. The 2-1 final was earned, if disappointing.

Not to take you down too far on this tortured history path, but Twins fans had similar concerns heading into the playoffs this year against the Yankees.

Could the revamped bullpen hold up and match the Yankees? Would an offense that set an MLB record with 307 home runs keep pace with New York? There was optimism, to be sure.

The answers were no and no – and so was the answer to the biggest fear-based question of all: Could the Twins shake the Yankees curse?

It was just a couple years ago that Vikings fans talked themselves into believing the team’s offensive line, a season-wrecker in 2016, could maintain its adequate play from the 2017 regular season all the way to the Super Bowl.

But those pesky weaknesses have a way of reappearing. The Vikings led the NFC title game 7-0 and had the ball near midfield when Case Keenum’s arm was hit as he threw. A pick-six completely changed the tenor of what became a 38-7 Eagles rout in which Keenum was pressured on 48% of his dropbacks.

(Note: This cautionary tale should be remembered as this year’s Vikings continue to get improved play from a once-leaky offensive line).

Last but not least: The 2016-17 Wild finished as the NHL’s second-highest scoring team in the regular season and gained the home-ice edge in the opening round against St. Louis.

In the back of everyone’s mind, though, was the perpetual question: Could the Wild continue that surprising and balanced output in the playoffs?

Five games, four losses and eight goals later, we had our answer and the Blues had a series win.

And the Loons’ output Sunday was enough to make the more cynical among us dub them the “Soccer Wild,” at least for now.

Health of Patrick Mahomes could have huge impact on Vikings, NFC North race

NFL fans will be watching the injury recovery timetable for Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes with general interest given what a dynamic player he is.

But fans of the Packers, Vikings and Bears will be paying particularly close attention to Mahomes’ recovery from a dislocated right patella suffered Thursday in a win over the Broncos.

The AFC West is the conference crossover division against the NFC North this season. The Chiefs, with a healthy Mahomes, already knocked off Detroit earlier this season (the Lions were 2-0-1 at the time, and since Kansas City rallied to beat them 34-30 the Lions haven’t won a game).

Kansas City’s next game? At home Sunday night against the Packers. While it sounds like Mahomes is progressing nicely, head coach Andy Reid said Monday it would be a “stretch” to think the QB could return for that game.

And right after that? The Chiefs host the Vikings. Mahomes’ availability is very much up in the air for that one.

“I don’t think you put a timeline on this thing,” Reid said. “You go off how he feels and what the doctors say and go with it.”

Still, the injury was initially reported as a three- or four-week setback once an MRI was complete. The Vikings game would be about 2.5 weeks after the original injury.

I can’t imagine the Chiefs are going to rush their franchise QB back from a major injury. With Kansas City sitting at 5-2 while the biggest preseason division threat Chargers are down at 2-5, it’s reasonable to guess Mahomes would miss the Vikings game as well — though that’s far from guaranteed.

The Chiefs are obviously more than just Mahomes, but if the Packers and Vikings both dodge the injured QB — or if he’s able to return against Minnesota while missing the Packers game — it could have a big impact on the division race.

But barring any setbacks or further injuries, it’s almost certain Mahomes would play Week 16 against the Bears in Chicago. That’s the same week the Vikings play the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium, and it’s a week before the Vikings/Bears showdown.

The five biggest offseason questions for the Twins

Every offseason is important in the arc of a franchise, but the one coming up for the Twins feels particularly so. After an extremely fun 101-win season in which many things fell into place but still ended with postseason disappointment, here are the five biggest questions facing the Twins heading into 2020:

1) Is there a path to a No. 1 starter?

Phil Miller and I batted around this question a week ago, examining the plausible ways to add a front-end starter to a rotation in flux. Jim Souhan wrote about how he’s conflicted as to whether the Twins should try to spend big to solve the problem.

The answer to the big-picture question might prove to be the answer to some of the other five questions on this list, but let’s take a stab at it anyway.

The gist is this: Nobody in-house is trending toward being an ace, at least not in 2020. Jose Berrios has looked the part for stretches, but aces look the part all the time. You’d like to hope he becomes one, but hope is not a plan. Brusdar Graterol could develop into one, but he’s never thrown more than 102 innings in a professional season. Asking him to be an ace next year, at least from the get-go, is unreasonable. Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda pitched like top-of-the-rotation guys for parts of 2019, but both are free agents (more on that in a minute) and neither would make you feel great going against Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer.

But to be a true threat in the playoffs, the Twins need more top-end rotation talent. Three games against the Yankees notwithstanding, the Twins have an offense ready to contend for a championship. If they think there’s a realistic path to getting an ace — whether it’s spending big, making a splashy trade or unearthing a good pitcher and making him great — they need to go for it.

Names that intrigue me: Free agents Gerrit Cole (but good luck with both price and preferred team) and Zack Wheeler (but does he move the needle enough?) and trade targets Noah Syndergaard (but will the Mets ask too much) and Matthew Boyd (but does he really project as a No. 1 starter on a good team?)

2) What do they do about Odorizzi and Pineda?

If you spend big on a free agent or acquire a high-priced guy in a trade, can you still afford Odorizzi — who is in line for a multi-year deal worth at least $15 million a year? Did the way Pineda’s drug suspension (which will cost him the first 39 games of 2020) torpedoed the 2019 season mean he’s off-limits to re-sign, or is he an option still?

It sure seems like they need to keep Odorizzi for the sake of some stability, given that Pineda, Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez could all be on the way out. But that’s not always how shrewd mid-budget teams operate. The prudent move might be to work on unearthing the next Odorizzi and Pineda — relatively low-cost moves (Odorizzi via trade and two years of team control and Pineda via a two-year deal while he rehabbed an injury) before the 2018 season that paid off big-time for most of 2019.

3) Are they willing to deal Eddie Rosario or another core everyday player?

The fashionable thing is to want to trade Rosario and prospects for pitching help. I tend to think of Rosario as a heart-and-soul guy who has clubhouse value, doesn’t shy away from big moments and has upside beyond a poor on-base average. Translation: He might have more value to the Twins than any other team, and therefore might not be as much of a trade chip as you think.

But it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Twins dangle a position player for pitching help. Maybe it’s Rosario, but I can’t help but wonder if Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez is a viable enough defensive combo up the middle for years to come.

4) Do they want to spend on the bullpen?

The good news for the Twins is that a lot of guys who emerged in the second half of the season as key bullpen pieces like Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and Zack Littell are inexpensive labor in 2020. To have a next-level bullpen, though, might the Twins need to dole out at least one expensive contract for a *dramatic pause* proven reliever?

5) Do they need to prepare for a less home-run dependent offense?

It seems increasingly clear that the baseball being used in the postseason is different from the one used during the home run binge of 2019. Even Twins catcher Mitch Garver came out of Twitter hibernation to comment on it.

Commissioner Rob Manfred is of the mind that the ball from 2019 needs to be changed going forward. What might that mean for the Bomba Squad, which set an MLB record with 307 home runs?

Consternation over football/soccer doubleheader at Allianz is a sign of the times

It’s a perfect storm of ingredients: In a very successful first season at Allianz Field, Minnesota United is set to host a Major League Soccer playoff game Sunday against the L.A. Galaxy.

But a day earlier, St. Thomas and St. John’s are playing the first football game on that same field, which could wreak havoc on it.

Oh, and did we mention the grass playing surface has been completely replaced in the last few weeks after problems during the regular season — including complaints from Galaxy players when they played here earlier in the year.

How did we get here? Is this really a big deal? Let’s sort through it:

*United could have avoided at least part of the problem with the playing surface by not scheduling a football game in the first season at Allianz Field.

That’s second-guessing in hindsight, and a late change in the MLS playoff format (combined with the Loons earning a home game) are the main culprits in the dual-sport weekend dilemma.

Planning for the football rivalry game was no doubt a long process. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the St. Thomas/St. John’s game at Allianz wasn’t officially announced until early December of 2018, at which time media reports about the MLS format change had already surfaced.

But playing different sports in stadiums has become a money-maker and a novelty. TCF Bank Stadium has had hockey. Target Field has had football. A college football game at Allianz is just another sign of the times.

*The consternation over the playing surface and the reaction of some Loons fans aghast that football is sharing a field with the soccer team is most certainly another sign of the times.

You don’t have to be that old to remember a time when pro teams in different sports routinely shared grass fields.

In fact, the NFL’s Raiders and MLB’s A’s still did it this season in Oakland (for the last time, alas, with the Raiders set to move to Las Vegas and deny us the image of September football games on dirt infields).

And New York City FC, the top seed in the MLS Eastern Conference, shares a home field with MLB’s Yankees. NYCFC has a bye to the conference semifinals next week, and if the Yankees are still alive in the postseason the soccer playoff game could be moved to Citi Field, home of the Mets. But they’ve managed to play soccer and baseball at Yankee Stadium for the last five overlapping regular seasons.

*Those with a bent toward history should consider how things played out on the Twin Cities sports scene in 1976:

The Kicks hosted the North American Soccer League conference semifinals and conference title games on Aug. 21 and 25, respectively.

The Twins had a home stand that lasted until Aug. 19 and then returned home for a game Aug. 30.

The Vikings had preseason home games on Aug. 22 and 28.

All of that happened on the grass of Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. I don’t recall complaints about the field (to be fair, I wasn’t born yet), but all the games were played so I can only assume the field held up.

A Division III football game and one MLS playoff game? That shouldn’t be a problem and wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow a generation ago.

*The stakes are higher in sports nowadays, of course. Athletes make millions. Team owners are worth billions. Keeping fields in pristine condition is the expectation, and any deviation is upsetting.

Back in April, L.A. Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic took a divot out of the soft new Allianz turf and then chucked it back in pieces toward the hole he created. Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham called the condition of the field “terrible.”

United is trying to fix that before this weekend. Let’s hope any controversy about the playing surface fades into the background and is a non-issue that doesn’t distract from what could be a pretty special two days in St. Paul.

Maybe the Vikings’ second-half road slate isn’t as tough as advertised?

The Vikings had what felt like a “swing” game against the Eagles on Sunday, and they wound up winning emphatically. There’s another opportunity Sunday at Detroit — where a win over the mad Lions would leave Minnesota needing only a Thursday night home win over Washington to close out the first half of the year 6-2.

That sort of first-half mark figured at the beginning of the season to be a prerequisite for any chance at the playoffs given how tough the second half of the schedule looked.

But while it’s still probably the tougher of the two halves given all the prime time matchups and long road trips, the quality of opponents doesn’t seem quite as daunting as originally advertised.

The outlook on the gauntlet of road games at Kansas City, Dallas, Seattle and the L.A. Chargers — all playoff teams a season ago — has changed recently. The Chiefs have lost two in a row, both at home. Dallas has lost three in a row, including a stunner at the Jets. Seattle is a legit 5-1, but four of its wins have been by four points or fewer. The Chargers, a 12-4 team last season, are 2-4 and have lost their last three home games.

It’s certainly possible all four will be on an upswing by the time the Vikings face them. It’s also worth noting that three of the four are night games and that playing on the West Coast tends to be hard.

But it also feels like a split of those four is far from impossible. And if the Vikings could do that, we might be talking about Weeks 16 and 17 (home games against the Packers and Bears) being part of a push for the NFC North title instead of just a wild card.

Criticism of NFL referees reaches new levels after Packers steal win

People have been complaining about how sports are officiated for as long as there have been sports. In the first footrace at the Olympic Games nearly 3,000 years ago, one can imagine angry spectators throwing stones at some poor timekeeper.

The voices have grown louder and angrier, it seems, in recent years. Maybe officiating is getting worse? Maybe (probably) we’re more sensitive to missed calls because high-definition TV and slow-motion replays give us a better look, in many cases, than the officials? Maybe the magnitude of controversial calls, given the millions (and in some cases billions) at stake gives them more impact and makes them seem more pervasive?

Whatever the case, the anger seems directed at two main sources: Balls and strikes in MLB games (where that little box makes us all instant umpires); and pretty much any flag that comes out during an NFL game. The former is a problem, but beyond some momentum for “robot umps” it feels mostly like background noise in baseball. Nobody rational would say the work of home plate umpires is ruining the sport.

In the NFL, however, there is an increasing sense that the rules and how they are enforced — including the addition of reviewable pass interference this year — is tainting the product. Even Tom Brady, who tends to have the most milquetoast opinions, took a break from being a robot to tweet during a Thursday Night game earlier this year, “Too many penalties. Just let us play!!!”

About 2.5 more penalties per game are being called this season vs. last season, per this tweet.

It seems to be a trend that the rage increases during primetime games, when everyone watching football has just one option. And it felt like it reached a fever pitch Monday during the Packers’ larcenous 23-22 victory over Detroit.

The gifts to the Lambeau faithful are too numerous to run through one by one, but the biggest complaints were about two phantom illegal hands to the face calls that significantly hindered the Lions. What’s most important is that after the game, even those with skin in the game — including the mild-mannered Tony Dungy! — were jumping into the fray to get in their $.02.

Former Packer Desmond Howard was the most aggressive, insinuating that the game was fixed.

Another former Packer Clay Matthews, now with the Rams — who himself was flagged incorrectly last season, costing Green Bay a win over the Vikings — hopped into the fray.

The aforementioned Dungy tweet was more level-headed but still spoke to a fundamental problem.

Barry Sanders, the former Lions great and like Dungy another mild-mannered guy when it comes to expressing opinions, had plenty of outrage.

And the Detroit Free Press won Twitter.

What’s the solution? Well, I’m not sure MORE officiating is the answer but a lot of well-intended football folks tend to like the idea of a “sky judge” — essentially another official working in the booth who has the benefit of replays and can help fix obvious mistakes in real time.

Like the pass interference reviews, I imagine this might have some unintended consequences and bog the game down. And the more you review things, the more you invite people to take sides. Clear and obvious sounds good in theory, but what’s clear and obvious isn’t the same for everyone.

How about this: A reboot of the officiating protocols with only the most egregious of every type of call getting made. Even the old standard of 16 penalties per game seems like a lot. I could live with half that many and still favor review (and maybe even a booth official) for the obvious ones that were missed.

Fewer calls means less influence over an outcome in most cases, which means Desmond Howard probably won’t be calling for criminal investigations. Let the players play, and there will be a lot less complaining from everyone.

If Twins ever play deep into October, get ready for some freezing cold weather opinions

 

Alternating between cursing at snowflakes and shivering at the whipping wind this past weekend sent me scurrying for an indoor-based activity: obsessing about what it might be like for the Twins to play meaningful baseball into late October in the cold, bold North.

After all, if the Rays had won Game 5 against the Astros (they did not) and the Twins had managed to finally knock off the Yankees (they most definitely did not), Games 1 and 2 of the American League Championship Series would have been scheduled for this past Saturday and Sunday at Target Field.

Game 1 probably would have needed to be postponed for snow/common decency, and all the live shots of flakes falling in the Twin Cities on Oct. 11 would have added to the national perception of what life is like here while re-fueling the “why doesn’t Target Field have a roof?” debate.

Would that perception have been fair? How would Target Field fare during a deep October playoff run? Well, here are some facts that seem relevant an interesting:

*There has never been an outdoor MLB playoff game in Minnesota played later in the year than Oct. 14 (which also happens to be Monday’s date). So in that sense, we don’t really have much historical context.

That was Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, so long ago that there weren’t even divisions. Just one team from each league made the playoffs, which sure shortened up the postseason.

Baseball Reference says that game (a 2-0 Dodgers victory) at Metropolitan Stadium was played during the daytime in dry conditions and at 50 degrees on the first pitch – perfectly nice fall baseball weather, which it also would have been Monday on the shared date. (It also lasted 2 hours, 27 minutes, which will get you to the fifth inning of a playoff game these days).

*There were divisions by the time the Twins made it back to the playoffs in 1969 and 1970, but they were swept both times by the Orioles in the ALCS and didn’t play at home past Oct. 6.

The Twins’ next seven postseason appearances, including two World Series that went the full seven games and lasted deep into October, were inside the Metrodome (though everyone in Minnesota can tell you exactly where they were a few days later in 1991 for the Halloween snowstorm).

Since coming back outside, the Twins have had home playoff games in 2010 and 2019. Both were sweeps, and both times their last game at Target Field was Oct. 7 (but the weather sure was nice this year!).

*Game 7 of the World Series this season would be Oct. 30, and in the recent past the postseason has lasted into early November.

If that happened … well, it might not be as bad as you think. According to usclimatedata.com, the average high temperature in Minneapolis on Oct. 30 is 51 degrees and the average low is around 35. That’s actually better than it is on April 1 (50 and 31, respectively), around the time the regular-season schedule starts. In general: October has the weather you think and wish April had.

But … wasn’t it brutally cold for a lot of early-season Twins games this year? (Yes). And wouldn’t the World Series almost certainly be played at night as temperatures were closer to the low mark than the high one? (Yes). So isn’t there a chance it might snow and/or be really cold? (Yes).

*The Twins look like they’re building a team — plus one or two top-level starting pitchers — that could finally play deep into October again.

I guess we just have to file all this under “good problem to have” and/or “cross that bridge when we get there and hope for the best.”

Next Saturday looks pretty nice …

Eagles LB Zach Brown getting roasted after ripping Kirk Cousins then dodging questions

When it comes to selective memory recall, the late former Vikings head coach Dennis Green apparently has an equal: current Eagles linebacker Zach Brown.

Green was famous for many things, including an ability to treat a recently completed loss as “the past” and quickly move on from it during a news conference just minutes after the game ended.

Brown, who made headlines last week for calling Kirk Cousins the “weakest part” of the Vikings offense after being teammates with Cousins in Washington, decided Sunday postgame to quickly move on after the 38-20 drubbing at the hands of the Vikings.

Per the Philadelphia Inquirer, the second question postgame for Brown was about Cousins and he wasn’t happy about it.

The quote and tone per the paper: “I’m here to talk about the game. Any other questions, besides about Kirk Cousins?” Brown demanded.

ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, not immune to over-the-top reactions, said Monday morning said on First Take that Brown’s response postgame after “running his mouth” last week “might be the weakest thing I’ve seen a football player do in years. … Yes, in the game, Zach, Kirk Cousins annihilated your defense.”

To be fair, the Inquirer did have a second quote from Brown after more prodding about Cousins: “He did a great job today. He played good, you know? Hats off to him.”

For his part, Cousins said he didn’t know about the slight from Brown until after the game Sunday — as detailed by our Andrew Krammer. Cousins threw for four TD passes, a 138.4 passer rating and a 91.4 total QBR that is tops in Week 6 so far.

ESPN’s Tim McManus had a helpful suggestion for Brown: Maybe don’t provide bulletin board material to an opponent when your own defense has massive injuries in the secondary.

Eagles blog Inside the Iggles, meanwhile, noted that: As they have their own handful of issues to deal with, it’s probably best if their players tone down the trash talk for a bit as they continue to clean up their own problems.