HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

October 23, 2006

Fact or fiction- Silva will pitch for the Twins next year

By Jesse Menden

Four statements, four answers: fact or fiction.

The Twins’ Terry Ryan will bring back Carlos Silva (11-15 5.94 ERA).

Fact. If you had asked me that question in August, I would have said absolutely not.

But Silva threw well in two consecutive starts in September that showed he can still pitch. It is a sad state when Twins fans get excited about two good starts out of 30, but with a young staff, his contributions were much needed.

The Twins will bring back Silva for three reasons. One, he is still young and has upside. When Silva came over from the Phillies in 2004, he had just one major league start under his belt. He is still finding his way as a starter and he could be much better next season if he stays healthy.

Second, free agent pitching is expensive. An average pitcher could receive much more than what the Twins would have to pay Silva. They can bring him back for just over $4 million, this would be a cheaper route for the thrifty Twins to take.

Third, decent pitching is hard to find. We have taken that for granted in the past few years. But many got nervous with all of the injuries, when the Twins’ staff wasn’t so deep.

Silva did have a decent season just last year. He had an earned run average of 3.44 in 180 innings. Okay, so he did give up a league-high 38 home runs, but every team could use pitching, why not hang on to him? Pitching coach Rick Anderson might be able to help him if Silva is willing. It would be a low-risk move; if Silva does not work out, the Twins are not on the hook for much.

The Minnesota Vikings will make the playoffs.

Fiction. As expected, this defense is good and is of playoff caliber. But I would rather watch grass grow in a drought than sit through another Vikings’ drive. It can’t pass the ball, it can barely run the ball, it just can’t score points.

They do not have enough talent on the offense to make it to the playoffs. It took almost a miracle for the Purple to beat the lowly Lions two weeks ago. The defense has to play an almost perfect game for the Vikings to win, and there are only so many touchdowns left in the defense’s pocket to bail out the offense. The Vikings will still win eight or nine games, but they are not in the NFC’s upper echelon and will not make the playoffs.

Jeff Burton, currently leading halfway through NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup, will win it all.

Fiction. Consistency and staying out of trouble rules in NASCAR, and that has been Burton’s method of operation so far during the Chase. His average finish during the Chase is an impressive eight, and is the only driver in the top 10 to avoid major trouble thus far.

But it will be difficult to keep the others behind him down. Matt Kenseth has had tons of bad luck so far during the chase, but has survived to be in second place. He had four wins during the season and an amazing 14 top 5’s. Compare that to Burton, who has just one win and seven top 5 finishes. It will be difficult to keep Kenseth down for much longer.

Other ‘Chasers’ such as Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are in the hunt, but can’t afford to make any mistakes if they want to catch the leaders. Mark Martin’s involvement in a crash at Lowe’s Motor Speedway put him back in a negative state of mind, saying a championship wasn’t meant for him. Look for Burton to stay out of trouble but Kenseth to do better and win the championship.

The Wild’s Marian Gaborik, will win the goal-scoring title in the NHL this year.

Fact. Gaborik scored 38 goals in 65 games last season on a team that was offensively challenged, in which he was one of three good scorers. With improved talent on every line, including the NHL’s best power play, the game will be more wide open for Gaborik. Defenses will not be able to focus solely on him, and there will be good, veteran players like his fellow countryman Pavol Demitra setting him up.

Last year the title went to Jonathan Cheechoo of San Jose with 56 goals. Gaborik is sitting on a break-out season. He is one of the top 5 offensive talents in the league.

With his speed and quick wrist shot, there is little excuse why he can’t score the most goals in the NHL.

However, there is one reason why he might not win the title, health. Last season, he missed almost 20 games to injury. In the 2003-2004 season, Gaborik played just 65 games in an injury-shortened season. We will find out this season if his streak of injuries is a trend or just a mirage. If it is indeed a mirage and he plays a full schedule, look out.