Sunday, March 2, 2008

Vikings and Twins notes

-The Vikings made a splash early in the free agency signing period, signing wide receiver Bernard Berrian, safety Madieu Williams, and fullback Thomas Tapeh.

Berrian, a former wide receiver for the rival Chicago Bears, will help upgrade what was one of the worst wide receiving corps in all of football last season. Berrian will join Bobby Wade as the top receivers on the team, with young Sidney Rice supporting both. It is possible that the Vikings will make another splash in the remaining free agent wide receivers since Javon Walker has recently been released by the Broncos.

Williams essentially replaces Dwight Smith, who was released by the team last week. Even if Williams isn't an upgrade over Smith (I think he will be), he is a significant character upgrade on a team that needs strong leaders after some of their recent off the field issues.

Tapeh, a former U of M standout, is the most recent Philadelphia Eagle to follow Brad Childress over to the Vikings. He replaces Tony Richardson, who the coaching staff believed was getting too old. Tapeh has had the privilege of blocking for one of the best running backs in the game in Brian Westbrook, and now he gets to open up holes for Rookie of the Year Adrian All-Day Peterson.

The Vikings certainly aren't done in free agency yet, but this is a solid start to the offseason.

-The Twins just opened Spring Training down in Fort Myers, and while their record isn't great, some things have been encouraging for the young team. One is that Carlos Gomez has one of Peyton Manning's laser rocket arms attached to his shoulder. He gunned down Dustin Pedroia at home plate from center field on the fly, getting him out by a few steps. While some people are skeptical that the Twins new centerfielder (whoever he may be) can replace Torii Hunter both offensively and defensively, I have no doubt that this is a possibility. Hunter had been a declining fielder the last few seasons, and really only won his Gold Gloves by name only. Gomez has an amazing arm, and most likely whoever wins the job will be faster than Hunter. In addition, Hunter's only great season at the plate came last season during his contract year. The rest of Hunter's numbers over his career were anything but spectacular. While Hunter showed modest power, hitting more than 25 home runs 5 times, he also hit under .275 four times. In addition, as a Twins fan over the years, he also seemed to not come up in the clutch (I have no stats to back this up, only years of games watched). He swung at far too many pitches, and rarely did he seem willing to do the things for the team that were necessary to win. I do think that right away that the new Twins CF will struggle to replace Hunter, but he wasn't irreplaceable. The new Twins CF will be a different style player; instead of being a power hitter with a good glove, above average power, a bad average, and quote machine with the media, the new Twins CF will be a good fielding, good average, extremely fast player with below average power.

One other big thing about the Twins spring training is that Francisco Liriano is back! He has been throwing hard, and threw live BP for the first time this since the injury. He made the hitters facing him look foolish, and he will be starting for the first time this spring either Thursday or Friday.

Thats it for now, check back either Monday or Tuesday for an update!

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