P.J.R.: 2014 will be better for TC sports fans. Really.
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The irascible Todd Dubish demanded on Twitter this week that I rate the success of our major league teams over the next five years. I refused in the spirit of Christmas, and also due to the futility of such an exercise.
Throw in the two Gophers teams that create a national image for a major college sports program, football and men's basketball, and I do feel as though there is hope to reverse the horrendous period the local sporting public has endured since Oct. 6, 2010.
We remember that Wednesday, right? It was the day that the 94-victory Twins opened a three-game playoff series in their magnificent new ballpark against the Yankees, and that it became official Randy Moss would be making a triumphant return to the Vikings.
As it turned out, it was also the day that put the most-important elements of Minnesota's sports scene into what largely has been a death spiral.
The Twins were swept by the Yankees, and have followed with records of 63-99, 66-96 and 66-96. By winning percentage, this is the worst cluster of three seasons in the 53-year history of MLB being in Minnesota.
Moss set new standards for being a jerk, was fired after four weeks by coach Brad Childress, who was then fired himself three weeks after that. The Vikings finished at 6-10 in that chaotic season. They are 17-30-1 (counting a playoff loss) in the three years since, with one game remaining for the 2013 season, the Metrodome and coach Les Frazier.
The Wild started the 2010-11 season one night after Twins/Moss Day and lost to Carolina. The Skating Ws would win 74 and lose 90 over the next two years and stretch their streak of non-playoff seasons to four.
They would come back from the lockout in 2013, win 26, lose 22, finally return to the playoffs and get dismissed in a quick five games by Chicago.
The Timberwolves would go 17-65 in 2010-11 (a two-game improvement over the previous season), fire coach Kurt Rambis and bring in Rick Adelman. They would show promise coming back from the lockout, lose rookie Ricky Rubio to a knee injury and finish 26-40 for 2011-12. More injuries and inadequacies put the record at 31-51, and the streak of non-playoff seasons at an NBA-leading nine, in 2012-13.
The 2010 Gophers football team was coming off a Big Ten opening loss to Northwestern on Twins/Moss Day. They would follow with losses to Wisconsin and Purdue, and Tim Brewster would become the first-ever Gophers coach to be fired in midseason.
Interim coach Jeff Horton would take over and finish a season at 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten. Brewster's replacement, Jerry Kill, and his staff are getting much hype for this season's 8-4 record, even as the 4-4 in the Big Ten leaves Country Jer's conference record for three years at 8-16.
The 2010 basketball Gophers made a run to the Big Ten title game in March 2010, creating high hopes for the 2010-11 season. What happened that season and the two that followed became a frustrating pattern for Tubby Smith's time in Minnesota:
Strong play in November, a cruise through a nothing schedule in December, early promise in the Big Ten and then a collapse.
Smith's last three seasons in Minnesota showed a 41-8 record in non-conference and postseason play, and a 20-34 record in Big Ten regular-season play.
I've often been accused of being an over-the-top optimist, of course, but it's not out-of-line to say sizable improvement is upon us.
The Twins finally became sick of their ineptitude this offseason and have created favorable options with their starting pitchers. And in today's baseball, you have as much chance to win without competent starters as you do without quality quarterback play in the NFL.
The Twins aren't going to catch Detroit, but they should get back to being competitive ... and with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano around the corner.
The 2013-14 Wild isn't scoring goals on the road, but there's a long siege of home games coming up, and the Ws are going back to the playoffs. They also have the NHL's story of the winter in goalie Josh Harding, due back from his MS tuneup in Winnipeg on Friday.
The Timberwolves have had moments of excellence for the first time since the spring of 2004. They also have kicked away enough games to sit at 13-15 one-third of the way through the schedule.
Playoffs? Get back to me when the eight straight winnable games starting Friday are completed.
Also Friday, the football Gophers get to beat up on a lousy Syracuse team (not one but two 56-point losses), finish 9-4 overall and end Minnesota's five-game losing streak in third-tier bowl games.
Kill's roster has shown the physical play to compete in the Big Ten. Now, the Gophers need some skilled players on offense to make this a true turnaround.
Rich Pitino has energy at 31 that we didn't see at the end from Tubby, a coach twice his age. And Barn goers have been quick to appreciate the anti-Wisconsin style that the kid has brought to town. There's a solid chance he'll take the Gophers to the NCAA tournament in his rookie season.
Finally, we have the Vikings, with a major rebuild on defense and two years of late-fall freezing at TCF Bank Stadium in their future. Right now, things look a bit depressing, but if a quarterback lands in their lap in the draft -- especially if he's Johnny Manziel -- Purple Fever will be running high once again.
--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.