1. With the All-star break over, what is your prediction for the Minnesota Twins for the rest of the season?
Nate Leer: I expect them to fade to black. I hope it happens sooner than later so they have time to trade their best veteran assets before the trade deadline 2 weeks from now. I know the team has given fans a glimmer of hope but management should absolutely refuse to mortgage the future to try to make this team into a contender. Do not trade away SS prospect Nick Gordon. Do not deplete the minor league pitching depth. To be fair, I have a feeling that the guys in charge will take the long view on building a quality franchise. If the Twins could flip SP Kyle Gibson for another upside pitcher who has struggle, fine. Otherwise, they just need to be patient and enjoy the development of young talent.
Kras: I think the Twins will likely do what they have been doing and that’s barely remain relevance. They have been on the cusp of doing exactly what Nate Leer suggested and that is fading to black. They have a 12 game home stand and they end up losing 8 of those games to make a person think they are going to come crashing back to earth. They will then go on the road for 12 or so games and manage to win 9 of those games to put themselves back into the division picture. The Twins have the talent in the everyday lineup to compete but they lack the quality rotation that it takes to be serious about the postseason and any impending run. As Nate Leer pointed out, any major move to obtain a quality SP move would surely ship out prospects that are much need for the future of this club. I hope they do remain relevant but I don’t want to see them jeopardize the next 5 – 10 years for this 1.
2. Being less than a month from training camp, are you satisfied with what the Vikings have at O-line and are they further ahead at this point than the previous year?
Nate Leer: Honestly, no and no. I am hopeful that the players they have can be solid to good but that is EXACTLY where they were last year at this time, hoping it works. Once again, an injury to the LT or C could cripple any progress. Plus, I don’t think LT Riley Reiff even has the upside, especially in pass pro, of last year’s LT Matt Kalil. There is a little more depth but it looked like they had some depth last year as well. I would like them to bring in another LT who has had success at the NFL level even if that player appears to be over the hill. That would at least provide some competition and depth on the left side.
Kras: AGREED! I believe the Vikings are 1 injury away from being in the situation they were in last season and that is complete disarray. The problem for the Vikings at this point is the free agent talent pool is void of any talent. With guys Such as King Dunlap and Jake Long retiring, it further depletes what may be available bodies. Mike Adams, Ryan Clady, and Will Beatty are free agent LTs that the Vikes could give a look to add some veteran depth. None of these guys are going to be more than 1, maybe 2 year solutions at best. O-line is a grueling position and to think that what they have enough to endure the season is foolish. It’s possible that they get through the season without injuries or even ineffective play but it is highly unlikely. They may add another body to the O-line but to date I don’t think they have done enough.
3. Did the Timberwolves get a good bench fit in SG Jamal Crawford and is there anything else they can do to improve before the season?
Nate Leer: I do think Crawford fits well. He may have been asked to do too much in LA last year and he dealt with injuries. If he can be no more than a 25 minute per night player, he can hopefully stay rested and healthy. That should allow him to knock down open treys and have the ball in his hands to run the O for stretches if needed. Considering what the Wolves would have had to give up in assets and money to get SG CJ MIles, I think this move made more sense. They keep C Cole Aldrich who is relatively cheap front court depth and they keep the 1st round pick they got for Ricky Rubio. I think they could still use forward depth. A a cheap 3 and D combo forward would be ideal but bringing back Shabazz Muhammad would also help. Free Shabazz!
Kras: I am bit worried that we could see Crawford’s numbers slip even further this coming season like they have for the 37 year old over the past 2 seasons in L.A. with the Clippers. That said, I think he is a good fit for the Wolves. The Wolves needed a shooter and that’s what Crawford is and to that point, you have to take the good with the bad. Crawford is an accomplished shooter in his NBA career. I think there will be less pressure on him here in Minnesota when he is on the floor as he should have some open looks when he is on the floor with guys like Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns. The Wolves have had a quality offseason but they could use more shooting and anyone who will to play D.
1. What team got the best value in NBA free agency?
Nate Leer: San Antonio got a sneaky good value in Rudy Gay. He is still a damn good player who averaged almost 19 points, over 6 boards, along with a block as well as a steal and a half and almost 3 dimes. He still shoots good percentages across the board even with a high volume of 3s. Gay is the perfect type of player to add for facing smaller teams in the West with scorers all over their lineups. Gay is a long defender who might be best suited to playing as a stretch 4 for long stretches. A lineup of PG Patty Mills, SG Danny Green, SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Gay and a skilled C in Pau Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge could match up with the Warriors at least enough to make a series interesting.
JJ Benz: Golden State no doubt got the best value signing Kevin Durant way under the amount of a super star’s value. By getting Durant at a discount they have the opportunity to give Steph Curry for 200 million and got the role players signed. The money in the NBA is so ridiculous that a player like Durant has no problem taking less money because it’s still 20 some million. Even though the Warrior’s benefited from the discount, other teams are crying foul.
2. Which of the MLB league leaders is more likely to be in the World Series?
Nate Leer: I think the Dodgers are more likely to make it than the Astros. I just don’t trust the Astros starting pitching. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have had stretches of dominance but both have missed time with injury this year and in past years. So, as these 2 teams are currently constructed, I like the Dodgers chances. However, if the Astros add a solid SP – I prefer a consistent SP such as Johnny Cueto for them over a risky upside SP in Sonny Gray – they may get the edge. Of course, that could be negated by LA acquiring a bat like OF JD Martinez. Hopefully we see lots of trades this year and these 2 teams should be right in the thick of the action.
Kras: The way both teams have played this season it is possible they both end up in the World Series. Having to pick 1, I pick the Astros. When healthy, McCullers and Keuchel are as good as any 1 – 2 starting combo in baseball. If SP Joe Musgrove can return to his 2nd half form from last year that will be a big boost to the rotation as well as added production from Charlie Morton who has pitched well as of late. The Astros also have a stellar lineup that include hitters Jose Altuve and George Springer. I think this is the Astros year to not only make it to the World Series but to win it all!
3. Who is your pick to walk away from Royal Birkdale G.C. with the Claret Jug and win the 146th Open Championship?
JJ Benz: Royal Birkdale is not a course that can be overpowered. Being in the right position is the key to going low at R.B. I think it’s a good chance the trend continues with first time major winners. Rickie Fowler is playing good golf heading into the third Major of the year. Rory McIlroy is normally a favorite at the Open. However, he has missed 4 straight cuts. The weather factor can change things drastically. I would expect at least 1 of the 4 days will be windy and rainy. Those conditions normally favor local players like Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if an older player starts the tournament fast (Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson) but run out of steam come the weekend.
Kras: As JJ Benz stated, Royal Birkdale cannot be overpowered. Accuracy and ball striking ability will matter particularly if the weather becomes unfavorable and turns to wind and rain as is predicted. With those factors in mind, I am picking Sergio Garcia to win the Open Championship this coming weekend. I think, with finally winning a major, Garcia has felt the pressure and understands how to deal with it come the weekend. Garcia has also been playing good golf this year. He has finished no worse than 30th in his 5 tournaments since winning the Green Jacket. Over the last 3 Open Championships, Garcia has finished inside the top 6, albeit at different courses. With Garcia playing well, coupled with his history of being in the hunt on Sunday at the Open Championship, I think this is the Garcia’s year. The Claret Jug would look good next to the Green Jacket in Garcia’s trophy case and surely mark a career year for the veteran.