Not much has changed in the NL East

With the Minnesota Timberwolves struggling, the Minnesota Wild on the outside of the playoff field looking in, and an NFL lockout ongoing, I’m going to start hammering out some Major League Baseball previews.

First, though, I would like to mention that I will be joining host Dom Izzo on “Dizzo’s Den” at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) on 970-AM WDAY radio. We’ll be talking Twins baseball, with Opening Day just more than a week away.

I plan to do a division every day, then look at the Twins in-depth before making a typically unsuccessful World Series prediction.

Let’s get started in the National League East, which I think is one of the easier divisions in baseball to figure out.

Cliff Lee should strengthen an already tough Philadelphia Phillies rotation. Associated Press

The Philadelphia Phillies have become a perennial playoff team and World Series contender, and the return this offseason of Cliff Lee after a brief hiatus in Seattle and Texas should help their cause in 2011. The pitching staff is as nasty as they come, with Lee joining Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

Yet many Phils fans are nervous. Jayson Werth left in the offseason to sign with Washington. Chase Utley has a troublesome knee and will likely begin the year on the disabled list. Brad Lidge has battled tendinitis and is now just working his way back.

Does that open the door for another team to overtake the Phillies? I don’t think so.

That’s no offense to the Atlanta Braves. I like the addition of second baseman Dan Uggla, and I imagine the Braves as well as any other team can make up for the retirement of closer Billy Wagner. Bobby Cox is retired, but Fredi Gonzalez had decent success managing a small-market team in Florida. The Braves will contend for a playoff spot.

The rest of the bunch doesn’t do much for me. The New York Mets are a mess on and off the field. The Florida Marlins, as always, have some good pieces, but I’m not sure if the team as a whole is ready to compete yet. The Washington Nationals are no longer buzzworthy, especially with stud pitcher Stephen Strasburg out for the season after Tommy John surgery.

So, with this division, I’m guessing it will go much like it did last season.

1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. New York Mets  3. Florida Marlins
4. Florida Marlins 4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals

Vikings reaction, NFL picks and a radio teaser

Through four games, the Minnesota Vikings have one win. If that doesn’t make Vikings fans shake in their boots, the way they lost Monday probably does.

Brett Favre

Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre really seems to be struggling with that throwing arm of his. Associated Press photo

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Brett Favre is starting to look his age. But it’s not just that he’s 41 years old. The problems he’s having with that throwing arm of his are pretty obvious, notably on that fourth-quarter pass that went well above the outstretched arms of a wide-open Percy Harvin on what could have been a game-winning drive.

I know there’s at least one colleague of mine whose been officially eliminated from the Vikings record pool with his gutsy – yet misguided – 14-2 prediction.

I fear it will be a long season for the Purple Faithful, unless Favre magically gets that arm healthy again. The guy had a career year last season and it still wasn’t enough. What record will the Vikings finish with if he continues to play at this pace?

But one good note for all of you: At least your starting QB is active. I watched Todd Collins – who looked more like a never-will-be than a has-been – nearly throw away the Chicago Bears’ victory Sunday with four interceptions. Where have you gone, Jay Cutler?

The Vikings are the only team in the NFC North whose starting QB is still playing. Cutler and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are both recovering from concussions, and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford injured his shoulder in Week 1 and hasn’t played since.

Reviewing the NFL picks

Not a bad week for the weekly NFL picks. Third time this season I went 3-2, and this time I took the favorite against the spread in all of my picks. I got the Bears, Lions and Falcons right. But the Cards and Raiders ruined my picks of the Saints and Chargers.

Overall this season against the spread I am 11-9.

Radio teaser

Tom Mix and I will be joining WDAY’s Dom Izzo on “Dizzo’s Den” from 6:30 to 7 p.m. tonight on 970-AM WDAY radio. This will be the first radio appearance for either Tom or myself since the cancellation of “Sports Talk” so it should be fun.

We had planned to talk Twins the whole 30 minutes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have some Vikings reaction too.

My hope is to reveal to the world my thoughts on what the Twins need to do to shake their playoff doldrums.

I assume you take part in the show the same way as you did on “Sports Talk” and that’s by calling 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mailing talk@wday.com

On the radio one last time

For the final time, I’m hosting “Sports Talk” from 1:10 p.m. to 2 p.m. today on 970-AM WDAY. For those who hadn’t heard, the show was canceled, and this is our last week.

On the show today will be the best baseball writer in the country – Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated – to talk Twins-White Sox, the state of the Royals, Pete Rose, and whatever other baseball topics come to mind.

I would like to thank everyone who tuned in every day, especially every Wednesday when I was on. It was a pretty cool experience for someone who never had any formal training in radio. It was definitely one of those opportunities in life I never thought I’d get. So to all of our listeners, thank you.

To take part in today’s show, call 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com Or if you have a question for Posnanski, feel free to leave it in the comments section of this blog post.

Talking Bison, Twins on Sports Talk radio today

“Sports Talk” returns for the first time since Saturday’s big victory for the North Dakota State football team. I’m hosting the show, and I’ll be joined by Forum staffer Dan Haglund. Show techinically starts at 1 p.m., but it doesn’t usually get under way until 1:10 p.m. That’s on 970-AM WDAY.

We’ll talk about the Bison football victory against Kansas. How has it changed your view of the team’s potential this year? Did the defenses dominate the offenses, or was it simply a case of two inexperienced offenses not finding their footing? Where does this win rank among Craig Bohl’s upsets? And how does NDSU keep beating these FBS schools (isn’t that four FBS wins in the last five years)?

We’ll be joined from the get-go by WDAY-TV’s Dom Izzo, who was in Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday to cover the game. Then, we’ll talk to NDSU AD of marketing Troy Goergen to discuss the victory and what wins like this do for the school in terms of attendance and enthusiasm surrounding the program.

Dan and I will also talk some Twins baseball and Boise State football if time allows. I was at Sunday’s victory and watched the Legends Game. I have a few thoughts on that. And what a win for those Broncos, out to bust open the BCS.

We’ll take your calls at 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or send us an e-mail at talk@wday.com

On the radio today

I will be hosting “Sports Talk” from 1-2 p.m. today on 970-AM WDAY radio.

Joining me in studio is Forum reporter Ryan Clark.

We’ll be joined by University of North Dakota football coach Chris Mussman, whose team lost its season opener 45-0 last night to Idaho.

Clark and I will also discuss the Twins-White Sox race in the AL Central. I’m working on a guest that I hope can help with that, but I haven’t gotten confirmation yet. I’ll update the post when I do.

UPDATE 11:07 a.m.: That guest is confirmed. It’s Chicago White Sox beat writer Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. He’s in Boston for the start of tonight’s White Sox at Red Sox series, which means the return of Manny Ramirez to Fenway Park. We’ll talk Manny for the first segment.

We will take your calls at 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or send us an e-mail at talk@wday.com

On the radio today

I make the first of two appearances this week on “Sports Talk” from 1-2 p.m. on 970-AM WDAY.

Joining me in studio is The Forum’s sports editor, Kevin Schnepf.

Today, we’ll be talking to AP sports writer Jon Krawczynski. We’ll discuss the latest news on Twins first baseman Justin Morneau and what to expect from the Vikings’ final preseason game tomorrow.

We’ll also talk to Kansas football beat writer Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal World. NDSU faces the Jayhawks in the season opener on Saturday.

And, as always, we’re taking your calls at 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com

Morneau news is discouraging

Minnesota Twins fans waiting for some good news regarding the recovery of first baseman Justin Morneau will have to keep waiting.

Morneau was told by doctors to stay home for the next few days rather than go to Target Field to work out and watch the game from the dugout. The 2006 AL MVP had been doing this from time to time recently as he recovers from a concussion suffered nearly two months ago.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that the news shouldn’t be considered as a setback, but it’s certainly not good news.

The hope of getting Morneau back on the field at some point this season is dwindling.

Shameless plug: We’ll discuss Morneau’s status and other Twins and Vikings topics with AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski on “Sports Talk” from 1-2 p.m. Wednesday on 970-AM WDAY.

Twins president on Sports Talk today

Minnesota Twins President Dave St. Peter will make his second appearance on "Sports Talk" from 1-2 p.m. today on 970-AM WDAY.

Joining me in studio will be Tom Mix and Ben Karkela of The Forum.

We’ll ask St. Peter about Justin Morneau‘s injury and the banged-up Joe Mauer, plus maybe we’ll find out if yesterday’s catwalk-aided win has him missing the Metrodome.

If you want to take part in the show, call 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com

As always, if you have a question for St. Peter you want asked, feel free to drop it in the "Comments" section of this post and I’ll try to get to it.

On the radio today

I make my weekly appearance on "Sports Talk" from 1-2 p.m. today on 970-AM WDAY radio.

Joining me in studio is Forum colleague Ben Karkela. Today, we’ll be talking to poker pro Jason Senti of Grand Forks, N.D., who has reached the final table of the World Series of Poker’s main event, guaranteeing him at least $800,000. Senti and the rest of the November Nine will play on national TV to determine a winner for the $10,000 buy-in event.

We’ll also be talking to NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace, who will be racing at Red River Valley Speedway tonight.

And we’ll take phone calls on the Twins, Terrell Owens signing with the Cincinnati Bengals and whatever else is on your mind. Call 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or talk@wday.com

On the radio today

I am back on "Sports Talk" from 1-2 p.m. on 970-AM WDAY radio.

Joining me in studio is The Forum’s Ben Karkela. We’ll discuss Joe Mauer‘s decision to lay down a one-out bunt with two runners on base late in Tuesday night’s loss to Cleveland. Should a guy making $23 million be laying down a bunt against a reliever that was struggling in that particular game?

We’ll also talk to Fargo driver Donny Schatz regarding the news late last night that Tony Stewart will be making a second trip to race at Red River Valley Speedway next week.

To take part in the show, give us a call at 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com