A look at who or what is trending up and down the past week in Minnesota sports, including retired MVP catcher Joe Mauer, recently elected to the Twins Hall of Fame, and the All-Star case for Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards.
Joe Mauer, Twins Hall of Famer (UP ⬆)
The inevitable happened last Friday. Mauer was elected to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame. He’ll officially become the 38th member in an Aug. 5 ceremony ahead of a Twins-Diamondbacks game. Now, a new wait begins for the 2009 American League MVP and three-time batting champion, whose No. 7 jersey was retired by the Twins in summer 2019. Next on the check-list: A plaque in Cooperstown. Mauer will be eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time in 2024. He’s not a shoo-in to make it on the first ballot – heck only two catchers, Johnny Bench and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, have that prestige – but his case to eventually be immortalized is strong. From 2006-13, Mauer was different. He won three batting titles in four years, picked up three Gold Gloves, five Silver Slugger awards and earned his All-Star stripes six times. Mauer also placed top 10 in the AL MVP race in four out of eight seasons. Overall, the Minnesota-born Twin was a force in MLB for 15 years. Mauer wound up hitting .306 with a .388 OBP and a slugging percentage of .439 over 1,858 career games. He had 601 extra-base knocks and 923 RBI. His K% was 13.0 – three times it was below 10% – and never surpassed 18.5 in a single season. Among the 19 catchers already in the HOF, Mauer possesses the seventh-highest WAR (55.2) and fifth-best WAR7 (39.0). He might be lacking the postseason accolades or longevity of other candidates, but his resume is valid.
Pro Bowl recognition for Vikings players (UP ⬆)
Everybody loves to hate the Pro Bowl. Why? It’s a popularity contest – this is partially true. Rosters are equally determined by votes of fans, players and coaches. It’s also been a historically bad product. Obviously, people still watch. But games in recent years have been intensely scrutinized for being played at half-speed. Fans felt cheated. Players looked disinterested. That’s a huge reason why the NFL changed its all-star format this year, switching to a flag football game and new skills challenge. OK, now, the point of this blurb: The Minnesota Vikings are going to be well-represented Sunday, Feb. 5 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. Originally, the Vikings had five players – QB Kirk Cousins, LS Andrew DePaola, TE T.J. Hockenson, WR Justin Jefferson and OLB Za’Darius Smith – voted to the 2023 Pro Bowl Games. That five increased to seven when Dalvin Cook and Danielle Hunter were tabbed as subs for injured Cowboys RB Tony Pollard and OLB Haason Reddick of the Eagles, who advanced to Super Bowl LVII. Amazingly, there’s just three teams, Buffalo, Dallas and Philadelphia, with more players receiving Pro Bowl recognition of some kind – i.e. as starters, or injury/Super Bowl replacements. The Chiefs and 49ers have seven, as well. Is the Pro Bowl that significant anymore? No. But it’s cool to see Vikings players get well-earned props.
Minnesota Gophers hoops (DOWN ⬇)
It’s lonely at the top – er, bottom. Ben Johnson’s Gophers have dropped five in a row dating to Jan. 16 and are 1-7 overall since the calendar flipped to 2023. That lone win, a 70-67 upset of Ohio State on Jan. 12 counts as Minnesota’s first – and only – conference victory this season. In addition to upsetting the Buckeyes, the Gophers have defeated Western Michigan, St. Francis (NY), Central Michigan, California Baptist, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Chicago State. Five of those squads carry a negative SRS rating, which takes into account strength of schedule and average point differential. California Baptist sits at 1.72. Ohio State, for what it’s worth, has a 16.08 designation. In layman’s terms, Minnesota’s resume is disgraceful.
Ryan Hartman, Wild forward (DOWN ⬇)
An undisciplined Hartman was a healthy scratch Jan. 26 against the Flyers. Bench boss Dean Evason decided to sit down the 28-year-old right wing after he recorded 21 minutes in penalties in three skates from Jan. 19-24. In his return Saturday, on Hockey Day Minnesota, Hartman registered a -1 +/-. Overall, he’s endured a tough season. Hartman has 14 points and 47 PIM in 26 games, a steep decline from 2021-22 when he was whistled for 95 PIM (82 GP) and had personal bests in goals (34) and assists (31).
The All-Star case for Wolves guard Anthony Edwards (🤷♂️)
The case has been made here, and here and here. Edwards is deserving of All-Star status. But stranger things have happened than the Association overlooking one of the sport’s brightest young stars – take for example, the 2020-21 Rookie of the Year ballot. Edwards was robbed by LaMelo Ball, who played in 51 games to Edwards’ 72 and averaged four fewer points per contest. Edwards was a borderline All-Star last season when he upped his averages to 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists on a playoff squad. There’s no question he belongs with the best of the best in the NBA this year – yet no one is counting on it. In part because the West is stacked with playmakers. On Thursday night, the league is scheduled to reveal which seven players from each conference were selected by coaches to round out the pool of All-Stars participating Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City. Edwards’ competition is stiff. It includes Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox, Oklahoma City's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Utah’s Lauri Markkanen, Memphis’ Ja Morant, Portland’s Damian Lillard, the Lakers' Anthony Davis and Phoenix's Devin Booker. It’ll be a shame if Edwards gets left out, but not the end of the world. Remember, he’s just 21 years old.