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A Twins team with a Vikings problem

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When a team’s strength is the rest of the league’s weakness

Jacksonville Jaguars v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Do not adjust your computer or smartphone screen. You have not been accidentally transported to SB Nation’s Daily Norseman blog for the Minnesota Vikings. You are still—for better or for worse—within the confines of Twinkie Town.

However, with the Twins struggling mightily a month-and-change into the 2021 season—and especially the way in which those struggles have occurred—there is an obvious parallel to be drawn between Minnesota’s diamond denizens and gridiron gang.

Right now, there are many facets of the Twins ball club that can be criticized. Manager Rocco Baldelli has perhaps been a little shaky, the bullpen has been a mess, and the starters have been prone to meltdown innings. Yet, it has been the disappearance of offensive production that has been the most egregious for this team.

Detroit Tigers v. Minnesota Twins
Donaldson misses the sphere and loses the bat—a apt metaphor for 2021 thus far
Photo by Harrison Barden/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The ‘21 Twins are batting .239 as a team, with a .730 OPS. Somewhat remarkably, those numbers still place the squad in the top third of MLB in both categories. Even their 147 total runs scored is tenth overall. So why should we be complaining?

Well, although the Twins have tried to slowly upgrade the arms race, they are still a squad that largely lives and dies by the batsmen. Though no longer the revered Bomba Squad by any reckoning, this ‘21 edition needs players like Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano to knock the ball around the yard a bit more than is currently transpiring—regardless of league averages.

Essentially, the Minnesota Twins are a team built upon an engine of offensive production in a baseball environment that seems to only reward pitching at the moment.

If you also happen to follow the Twins’ Minneapolis compatriot Vikings each fall Sunday, this might sound like an awfully familiar refrain. For years—ever since Mike Zimmer took over head coaching duties in 2014—the Vikings have focused on defense and running the football as their franchise cornerstones. The problem? Most successful NFL teams currently make deep playoff runs by chucking the pigskin all over the field and only requiring a “non-disastrous” defense.

NFL: DEC 13 Vikings at Buccaneers
The basic image of Zimmer-ball, for better or worse
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thus, like the current Twins, the Vikings have been a fish-out-of-water for years in terms of organizational philosophy and league environment. Using my roughly fourth-grade understanding of ratios, there is a 1 : 1 equivalence— “Being a hitting-dependent club in MLB’s most pitching-rich era since 1968” : “Wanting to pound the rock and play defense in the NFL’s era of wide-open offense”.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli could not be more different personality-wise. Yet, if sat together to discuss their respective squad’s fortunes, I feel like they’d have much to commiserate over at the moment.