While the news was a bit mixed concerning one of our favorite major league baseball players this week, we were happy that he has landed a good contract with a team that needs his skills and his experience. We just wish that team had been the Twins.

Craig Stammen will return to the San Diego Padres as a middle-inning relief pitcher. He pitched for the Padres last season, following a year-long rehab from a forearm injury while with the Washington Nationals. He was drafted out of the University of Dayton by the Nationals in 2005 and made his Major League debut in 2009. He had spent nearly six full seasons with them before the arm injury. Last year was a wonderful comeback year for Craig as he settled back into his reliable right-handed middle-inning relief role, leading his team with more than 80 innings of relief pitching. He was often brought into game situations with runners on base and proved to be stingy with allowing opponent’s runs.

Craig is married to the daughter of our good friends Elmo and Julie Volstad. Audrey, of course, is a YME High School graduate (Class of 2003) and former St. Olaf College volleyball player, She has had her own career as the head volleyball coach at Hamline University and later as a top assistant volleyball coach at the University of Maryland and then at the University of Dayton. That last coaching stint is where she was introduced to Craig, during his off-season training.

The Twins really could have used his reliable arm and his years of experience. But in the weird world of professional sports negotiations and contracts, that was not to be. Instead, they will settle in with the Padres where he now has a new two-year contract and where the young manager and young team will build for the future with the help of his steady pitching skills. We saw the Padres last year when they played the Twins at Target Field but this year they won’t be closer than Milwaukee or Chicago. That may have to inspire a short trip to the east this summer. 

When the crud was spreading its wonderful welcome to the New Year through our house last week and the bone chilling weather was keeping most of us inside, I got into thinking about what’s to come this year. New Year’s predictions can be about as fashionable as New Year’s resolutions but they are fun to think about. With the January thaw this week and more cold weather here by the time you all read this, I thought I’d jot a few of these down. Some may be predictions while others are just some wishful thinking or dreaded outcomes.

Sports results are often something many try to predict or wish for. For now we’ll stick to that topic and maybe later get into some other fun areas. We will avoid trying to predict what may or may not happen in Washington D.C. this year. We’ll leave that to the talking heads. Rest assured it will be tumultuous.

Meanwhile, the January thaw that I mentioned earlier has me in spring fever mode so we’ll start off with the Twins winning the American League’s Central Division this year. How about that? Even, better, they will actually advance beyond the first round of the playoffs, falling just short of getting into the World Series and leaving us thirsting for more from their young and talented team. (They should have signed Craig Stammen!).

The Vikings will excite us in the next couple of weeks and will actually become the first team ever to play in their home venue during a Super Bowl. I won’t predict the outcome of the big game other than to say that we will not be surprised and that the east coast interests always seem to have some say about these matters.

The Minnesota Lynx will win the WNBA once again (no surprise) and the Timberwolves will make the NBA playoffs and advance in the playoffs for the first time in years. The men’s Gopher basketball team will not do as well but will play above some newly-lowered expectations. The Wild will play much better in the second half of the season and make a nice payoff run but fall short of getting into the Stanley Cup finals.

Picking up good experience, all YME sports will do better than many expected and will spur new interest in school sports.

Let’s hope that some of these prognostications actually come true, and let’s hope a couple of them miss the bull’s eye.