Now that we’ve gotten the negativity out of our system with the Minnesota Wild’s early playoff exit, it’s time for some sports optimism in this state.
After all, athletes say they can’t be afraid to fail. They have to give it their best effort and see what happens. For fans, the same can be said. Minnesota sports fans need an attitude adjustment, especially with the Super Bowl coming here next January.
The local fan base spends much of its time waiting for its team to fail, expecting the worst possible outcome and waiting the other shoe to drop. After all, when something good happens, it’s usually followed by an injury, arrest or stretch of bad play.
That said, here are four reasons to be optimistic about the Minnesota sports scene.
— MLB (@MLB) May 1, 2017
It was hard to sell any Minnesota Twins hope last year after an 0-9 start. The Twins finished April 7-17, and never really became relevant last summer on the way to losing 103 games. What a difference a year makes.
The Twins beat the Royals 7-5 on Sunday to finish April 12-11 in 23 games. Miguel Sano hit his seventh homer of the season and have five RBI to finish with 25 in the opening month. That’s a pace for more than 120 RBI for the season. Sano is also hitting .316 to lead Twins starters, and he’s spraying the ball all over the field. When a pitcher makes a mistake, he’s ready to send it into orbit. Sano was named the American League Player of the Week on Monday.
What’s been almost as fun to watch is the Twins’ pitching and defense. You read that correctly. The Twins starting rotation is at least keeping them in games, if not silencing bats. The pitching staff as a whole is ninth in Major League Baseball with a 3.93 earned run average. And the days of multiple errors in a game are gone. The Twins are paying clean baseball, and that’s something that didn’t happen much last year. They are third in the big leagues with just eight errors in 23 games. We don’t know how long the Twins will stay relevant this season, so enjoy it while you can.
The Minnesota Lynx held its media day on Monday and this season will have a bit of a different feel, though the expectations won’t change any. The Lynx will call Xcel Energy Center home this summer while Target Center goes through upgrades. The team came up just short of winning its third WNBA title in five seasons last year, losing to the L.A. Sparks in five games in the WNBA Finals.
The Lynx most recently won WNBA titles in 2015 and 2013, and have been to the finals in five of the last six seasons. As long as their current corps stays together, they should be favored every year to win a title. They’ve got the nucleus in stars Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen. They’ve got the supplemental pieces in Sylvia Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson and Renee Montgomery.
And they’ve got one of the best coaches in the game in Cheryl Reeve. The Lynx put together one of the best regular seasons in history last year with a 28-6 mark, but coming up short to the Sparks should serve as motivation for the season ahead. When it comes to the Lynx, they usually don’t need to search very hard to find motivation.
— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) April 28, 2017
It’s been hard to ignore the enthusiasm surrounding Gophers football since P.J. Fleck took over as head coach in January. He’s all over social media, promoting his program to the younger generation that had largely lost interest in the Gophers. Fleck inherited a team that finished 9-4 and beat Washington State in the Holiday Bowl. Fleck recruited his current team in less than a month and was able to keep many of the players from leaving during the coaching turnover.
Fleck now has the “Row the Boat” trademark in Minnesota, and the Gophers’ recent spring game was a big hit among fans. Now we have to wait until fall camp and the start of the 2017 season to see how the transition has gone. Fleck took Western Michigan to an undefeated 2016 regular season and a battle against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Can he bring the Gophers to a Rose Bowl? We don’t know and probably won’t for a while, but he’s appealing and entertaining to the fan base. Now we just have to hope that the football part does its job to bring fans to TCF Bank Stadium.
Minnesota United Soccer
The soccer fans in Minnesota couldn’t be happier now that the state has Major League Soccer. The Minnesota United FC is playing its inaugural season at TCF Bank Stadium while their stadium gets constructed over in the Midway area of St. Paul. The season got off to a bit of a rough start as they lost their first two games by a combined score of 11-2.
The Loons got their first win back on April 1, 4-2, against Real Salt Lake. Through nine matches, Minnesota United is 2-5-2 and is ninth among 11 teams in its conference with seven points. The Loons are led offensively by Christian Ramirez’s five goals, including one game-winner. Kevin Molino has three assists on the season.
Minnesota United hosts Sporting Kansas City this Sunday.
— Minnesota Softball (@GopherSoftball) April 29, 2017
Extra: Gopher Softball
They might be the best team in the Twin Cities right now and very few are aware of it. The University of Minnesota women’s softball team is on fire. The Gophers are one of the best teams in the country at 48-3 overall. They’ve won 19 straight games and are 18-1 in the Big Ten with one series left before the Big Ten Tournament. They travel to Penn State, needing one win to secure at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title and two wins to take it outright.
The Gophers had sellout crowds for their final home regular season series against Purdue. Minnesota won all three games in the series by a combined 29-3. They’ve dominated all year, and they’ve been led offensively by Kendyl Lindaman. She’s hitting .430 for the season with 18 homers, 64 RBI and 117 total bases.
So while some teams have failed us, there is still plenty of reason to be excited and optimistic about Minnesota sports.