Saturday mailbag: Who is to blame for Vikings’ struggles?

Happy Saturday to readers of The Forum. October has entered like a lamb today. My guess is it will leave like a lion, but I hope not.

There are a lot of things on my mind today, and it did get me thinking: I’d like to do a weekly Q&A, maybe every week on Saturdays. I’ll open it up on my own this week, but in future weeks, feel free to fire me a question at hgoethe@forumcomm.com and we’ll see how it goes. If I get some response, I’ll keep it going.

Who is to blame for the Vikings’ second-half stumbles?

I think it has to start with the head coach Leslie Frazier. Seems obvious, but I feel like he is getting a bit of a free pass right now. It’s up to coaches to make second-half adjustments at halftime. And the Vikings have clearly failed in that regard.

But if I had to blame one unit, I’d blame the offense. The Vikings have failed to generate a touchdown in the second half this season. I think the offense’s inability to move the football and keep drives alive has forced the defense to be on the field way more than it can handle. I don’t think this Vikings’ defense is deep enough for that.

In a league that has become pass happy, the Vikings are really struggling in the air. Percy Harvin is one of the team’s two best playmaking threats, and he needs the ball in his hands a lot more than it has been. Same goes for Adrian Peterson really. If Donovan McNabb can’t find Harvin, the Vikings need to put in a quarterback who can.

So why did Tracy Stallard talk?

I’ve fielded this question almost every time I told one of my friends the long story about tracking down the man who gave up Roger Maris‘ 61st home run in 1961. Now 74, Tracy Stallard lives in Wise, Va., which isn’t far from where he grew up.

I did a couple of different interviews with Stallard for my Saturday story. He has become notorious for his ability to avoid the interview, leading to some major publications – including the New York Times – to publish stories about him not returning phone calls during Mark McGwire’s pursuit of Maris’ record in 1998.

I think there’s two reasons why he chose to talk to me. 1) He was in Fargo for the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament in 1987 and had a good experience talking to The Forum reporter who interviewed him at the time. 2) He said our first interview went well and that, “You’re the only one I talked to and the only one I’m going to talk to.”

I’ve had some cool assignments while working at The Forum. I’ve met and interviewed Cy Young-winning pitcher Johan Santana, NHRA legend John Force and NASCAR Cup champion Kurt Busch. And I’ve interviewed tennis stars Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick over the phone. But tracking down Stallard and getting a story from him is one of the things I’m most proud of.

What would I do if I were in charge with the Twins?

I’ll have to expand on this in an upcoming post. First off, I don’t re-sign free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. I know that’s a tough pill for some Twins fans to swallow in Cuddyer’s case, but that’s how I feel. He had a great season, but I’d thank him for it and move on. The Twins would be buying high on Cuddyer after his 2011 season, and I think the team has done way too much of that lately. He just doesn’t fit into my blueprint for the type of team I think the Twins need to win a title at Target Field.

To build a winner, I think the Twins need swing-and-miss pitching (which they don’t have), speed in the outfield (which they have some of), and solid defense and run producers in the infield (which when healthy they have a little of). So there’s a lot of needs. Fortunately, though, the Twins should have about $30 million to play with.

My main focus would be starting pitching help. Gone are the days where simply having strike throwers like Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey is enough. It’s time to bid good-bye to these guys (I can’t believe I’m finally giving up on Slowey). This area must be upgraded. And the Twins need to take a page from the Tampa Bay Rays and figure out how to rebuild that bullpen in one year.

Week 4 NFL picks

I had a 3-2 week last week to put me at 8-7 for the season. Here are my picks for this week:

Cleveland by 1.5 vs. Tennessee: Browns

Buffalo by 3 at Cincinnati: Bills

New England by 6 at Oakland: Patriots

Baltimore by 3.5 vs. New York Jets: Jets

Indianapolis by 10 vs. Tampa Bay: Colts