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Freeman, Cassel or Ponder? QB situation getting complicated

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The Vikes will be mixing it up with Carolina at Mall of America Field Sunday and the Panthers will have to prepare to face Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman, or possibility all three.

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The Vikings inked the disgruntled Freeman Sunday to a one-year contract and now the Minnesota quarterbacking picture is really going to become muddy.

Freeman will probably work out for a couple weeks before he gets a start, but it’s a cinch they did not bring him in to handle a clipboard.

If you go by victories during the 2013 season Cassel is the obvious choice. He was running the offense in London when the Vikes topped Pittsburgh 34-27 for their first win of the year.

Cassel had a quarterback rating of 123.4 which is a rating Ponder has only been able to dream about this year. Cassel went downfield well as evidenced by the fact that Jennings and Jerome Simpson had a total of 10 catches and 216 yards. After losing Percy Harvin to free agency one of Minnesota’s biggest challenges was coming up with some receiving weapons.

Freeman is not Peyton Manning, or Drew Brees but he tied Andy Dalton for seventh in the NFL last year with 27 TD passes and ranked ninth in passing yardage with 4,065. That is a lot better than either Cassel or Ponder did.

As important as it is to put points on the scoreboard, the Vikes are going nowhere this year unless they start playing better defense. They have been giving up points like a Tommy gun spits bullets. The Vikings would be 3-1 right now if their defensive people were doing their jobs well.

Gardenhire will be back but who will come along to save Ryan?

I like the fact that the Twins are bringing back Ron Gardenhire but like many others I am a bit surprised.

Gardy has always been popular with the fans but after three straight pathetic seasons there were plenty of people who thought he might get the gate. Some would even have welcomed his dismissal if meant seeing the last of pitching coach Rick Anderson. The fact that these two guys held the same jobs when the Twins were making the playoffs regularly has been forgotten by a lot of the fans but apparently, not by the Twins organization. It looks like the front office is taking responsibility for providing Gardy with more minor leaguers than major leaguers.

Terry Ryan gets another chance this winter to show us what a good general manager does when his team stinks. His dealings last winter would have probably cost a younger GM his job. Vance Worley, Mike Pelfry, Kevin Correia were supposed to give the Twins a stronger starting rotation. They won 15 games between them. At the same time, Ryan had to do something.

The free agent pickups were all duds but they had nothing on some of the starters they joined.

Our 2012 ace, Scott Diamond, went from 12-8 to 6-13. Kyle Gibson, who had a “can’t miss” tag on him before his arm surgery, was 2-4. A ton of pitchers got starts and a couple surprised but it was not good. The Twins finished the season with a team ERA of 4.55 which was 29th among 30 major league teams.

While Minnesota’s starters were terrible some of the relievers did all right. Glen Perkins had 36 saves and made the American League All-Star team. Caleb Thielbar posted a 1.76 ERA.

What was not fine was Minnesota’s hitting. The Twins batted .242 as a team and scored only 614 runs. This not hard to understand when so many players were striking out. Josh Willingham, Brian Dozier, Oswaldo Arcia, Pedro Florimon and Trevor Plouffe managed to top the century mark in strikeouts. Justin Morneau, the player who drove in the most runs (74), was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Joe Mauer’s .324 average was the only notable one officially. Unfortunately, the American League’s No. 2 hitter drove in a paltry 47 runs and played in only 113 of the team’s 162 season games.

That brings us to what the Twins considered the real problem of 2013 – injuries. Mauer suffered a concussion along with Plouffe, Ryan Doumit and Wilkin Ramirez. Willingham was another DL player and a very notable one after hitting 35 homers and driving in 110 runs for Minny last year.

What the 2014 teams needs are some veteran standouts. The Twins have to go after a first baseman, a couple of top drawer starting pitchers and some proven outfielders.

One thing is for sure, by taking Gardy’s head out of the noose with the two-year extension, Ryan has put his head into it and Minnesota’s GM is going to have to produce a winner in very short order.

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Brian Hansel
(218) 631-2561
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