The Pulse: Is Liriano the key for the Twins?

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions

1. Are the Twins toast without Francisco Liriano?
2. What to do with LenDale White?

The difference-maker?
According to SportsNation, the Twins are in an all-or-nothing spot right now.

Yesterday in this very space the voters of the 'Nation picked Minnesota over the White Sox and Red Sox as eventual winners of the American League wild card race. Sure, they were only eight percentage points ahead, but they were picked to win nonetheless.

Today comes the caveat to that prediction: if rookie pitching sensation Francisco Liriano is out for the season because of arm trouble the Twins will be watching from home come October. The team is optimistic but not certain the left-handed fireballer will be back, but SN has spoken loud and clear about what will happen should Liriano remain on the shelf for the balance of the season.

Will the Twins make the playoffs if Francisco Liriano is out for the season?
82% No
18% Yes

With no Liriano and Santana only pitching one out of five games I can't see how the Twins can win the wild card.
James (Cincy)

Has there ever been a more pressure-packed rookie debut than Matt Garza's tonight? If he can't help fill the Liriano void, the Twinkies are staying home in October.
Stefan (Chapel Hill, NC)

Just as important as the loss of Liriano's contributions on the mound is the mental blow his team takes from losing him, especially if he's not coming back. That's a lot of confidence down the tubes.
Will (Minnesota)

The Twins can survive a few missed starts by Liriano but they're dead if he's out all season.
Stephen (Kalamazoo, MI)

If Liriano's out the pressure becomes even higher on guys like Mauer and Morneau, and who knows if they can handle it?
Grover (NYC)

The offense has been decent and the rest of the staff is not all that bad. Twins will be able to hold off the slumping Red Sox and suddenly inconsistent White Sox.
Walt (Florida)

LenDale White's college career ended on a down note when his USC team lost the BCS championship to Texas in the Rose Bowl, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better since.

White, who rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 26 touchdowns last season for the Trojans, fell into the second round of the draft thanks to questions about his weight, his character and a hamstring injury that prevented him from running prior to the draft, and he has been working in camp as the third-string tailback.

His frustrations seemed to come to a head Thursday when he argued with teammates on the defensive side of the ball then spit in the face of safety Donnie Nickey, sparking a brawl that all but ended practice. The team has not announced any penalties and coach Jeff Fisher said only, "LenDale knows he crossed a line. I assure you it will not happen again."

Perhaps not, but SportsNation would like to see White receive some sort of real penalty for his actions.

Should LenDale White face disciplinary action after spitting at at teammate and causing a fight in training camp?
78% Yes
22% No

First PacMan Jones, now LenDale White. The Titans sure know how to pick 'em!
Scott (Dayton)

After all the questions surrounding LenDale leading up to the draft is anyone really surprised? Fine the guy heavily and keep him on the sidelines for a few days.
Justin (Tennessee)

Not a good start for the USC rookies. Leinart being a jerk with his holdout and now White spitting in a teammates face. Who and what's next?
Jon (Malvern)

If LenDale White doesn't get suspended for one of the most despicable things you can do to another person Jeff Fisher and the Titans should be ashamed of themselves.
Nathan (Oxnard, CA)

The Titans need to send a message to guys like White and PacMan that things like this don't help the team and will be cause for immediate action.
Scott (St. Louis)

What's the big deal? Fights happen in training camp all the time. They make the players tougher and more resilient. Guys are hot, overworked, full of testosterone and competing for their livelihoods. What do you expect
Justin (Blacksburg, Va.)

Thursday's Big Questions

1. What happened to Maurice Clarett?
2. Are the Red Sox fading away in the American League?
3. How will the NL playoff race unfold?

What went wrong?
There was never really any humor in the trouble Maurice Clarett seemed to find with ease in the years following his standout freshman season at Ohio State, but the story settled firmly in the territory of both tragic and toxic following his arrest in Columbus on Wednesday morning.

Expected in court later in the day for a hearing on an earlier incident, Clarett was taken into custody after a chase that ended only when he drove over police spikes. Officers then discovered four loaded weapons, a hatchet and a half-empty bottle of vodka in the car, while Clarett was wearing a bulletproof vest.

So was Clarett's downfall inevitable? A substantial majority of voters claim they never thought Clarett would be a successful NFL back, and most voters don't think he might have kept out of trouble had the NFL allowed him to enter the draft following his freshman season.

  • 58% Maurice Clarett's story would have turned out differently had the NFL let him in draft.

  • 66% Never thought Clarett would be a successful NFL running back.

    Perhaps we should keep things in perspective here. We get so outraged at Barry Bonds possibly taking steroids, or T.O. being a bad teammate. Neither of those things really matter. Assault with a deadly weapon? That does.
    Matt (Washington, D.C.)

    If Clarett was in a team environment for that year or two, he would likely be a more grounded person. Although, he still might be mentally unstable (see: Ricky Williams).
    Andy (Pittsburgh)

    I spent a whole day making fun of the Clarett story, but now I just feel really sorry for the guy? Does everyone else feel the same?
    Stefan (Chapel Hill, N.C.)

    Maurice Clarett has always had problems. It just used to be toned down in Youngstown because he was a star there and was not on the national spotlight. Sad, too, because his dad is an amazing person who does anything for anyone to help. I have seen him volunteering all over NE Ohio.
    Tim (Pittsburgh)

    If Clarett had not taken money and all the other stuff to get him suspended from OSU, he would have played those years. Blaming the NFL age limit is silly.
    Jeff (Kansas City)

    First and foremost, I hope the guy gets necessary treatment for this alcohol and emotional problem. Then he needs to serve his time like a man and try to blend back into society.
    John (Buffalo)

    Even Mike Shanahan said he has never seen so many people reach out to try and help someone, and he was very unreceptive.
    Geoff (Detroit)

    Going in different directions?
    SportsNation voters are still confident Boston's David Ortiz will capture AL MVP honors this season, but they're also increasingly confident he'll have to enjoy the honor as a substitute for postseason play.

    The Red Sox lost to the Royals for the second game in a row on Wednesday, after losing the final two games of a series against the Devil Rays. With Jason Varitek on the disabled list, the team now finds itself falling behind in both the AL East and AL wild-card races.

    Just two days ago, 47 percent of voters thought the Red Sox would earn the wild card ahead of the White Sox (28 percent) and Twins (25 percent). But on Thursday, the Twins soared to the top of the voting with 39 percent, while the Red Sox and White Sox each earned 31 percent support.

    If current division leads hold, which team will win the AL wild card?
    39% Minnesota Twins
    31% Boston Red Sox
    31% Chicago White Sox

    Which slumping playoff contender is in the most trouble?
    50% Boston Red Sox
    30% Chicago White Sox
    20% St. Louis Cardinals

    Who will win American League MVP?
    64% David Ortiz
    16% Derek Jeter
    10% Joe Mauer
    6% Carlos Guillen
    3% Jim Thome

    Start handing out the life jackets in Boston, because the Sox are sinking fast. Four games behind in the loss column in the East, two losses in a row to the Royals. Not good times.
    Jon (Malvern)

    Justin Morneau is the first Twins player with 30 home runs in like 19 years! Last night's win also launched the Twins to the top of the wild card. Darkhorse MVP!
    Justin (New Jersey)

    Is that an S.O.S. I am hearing for the Red Sox ship? If Papplebon cannot get it done that equals increasing bad news.
    John (Buffalo)

    Those loud clicks you heard echoing from the Northeast last night were members of Red Sox Nation pushing the panic button!
    John (Portland, Maine)

    Any team that might be swept by the Royals doesn't deserve to make the playoffs. Period.
    Jeff (Kansas City)

    What does it mean that the Red Sox and White Sox are now behind the Twins? It means that the MVP race opened up, and Justin Verlander has inside track to the Cy Young.
    Justin (Blacksburg, Va.)

    Voters like Nomar's Dodgers
    The playoff race in the National League looks a little crazy at the moment, with almost no team outside of Wrigley Field out of the picture, but SportsNation voters think the game of musical chairs will eventually boil down to four teams fighting for three spots.

    Padres, Reds, Dodgers and Cardinals.

    Those are the only four NL playoff contenders (other than the Mets, who have the NL East all but locked up) that voters rated as "Contenders" in a SportsNation poll. The rest of the crowd? They all got the "Pretender" tag.

    96% St. Louis Cardinals
    89% Los Angeles Dodgers
    82% Cincinnati Reds
    68% San Diego Padres

    91% Milwaukee Brewers
    91% San Francisco Giants
    88% Florida Marlins
    86% Colorado Rockies
    85% Atlanta Braves
    77% Philadelphia Phillies
    72% Houston Astros
    55% Arizona Diamondbacks

    Being a lifelong Cubs fan, I can now admit I am rooting for the Reds to take the division and hope Tony La Russa spends his October on a golf course.
    Matt (Chicago)

    For the first time all season, I like the Reds chances of making the playoffs!
    Kevin (Cincinnati)

    Did Nomar coming back from the DL have anything to do with that Dodgers streak ending? Maybe there's a little more to the reasoning of why the Sox traded him away.
    Jon (Malvern)

    The Brewers TV announcers jinxed a no-hitter again. Dave Bush had a no hitter though nearly six innings until the announcers discussed it.
    John (Wisconsin)

    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. Future: What challenges confront Roger Goodell?
    2. Present: Is this the start of more T.O. drama?
    3. Past: Is Curtis Martin's career at an end?

    Is Roger Goodell the right man for the job?
    SportsNation's message to new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is quite simple: Keep the teams playing on the field and keep the players from getting into trouble off the field. Of course, accomplishing both of those things might not be so simple for the man picked by NFL owners to replace Paul Tagliabue.

    The NFL occupies a lofty position in the American sports scene. As recently as March, more SportsNation voters picked the NFL as their favorite league than voted for the MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR ... combined. And when Tagliabue announced his intention to retire, 74 percent of voters said the impact of his tenure was greater than the impacts David Stern, Bud Selig or Gary Bettman on their respective sports.

    So what challenges will Goodell face in living up to Tagliabue's legacy? SportsNation voters think the biggest challenge is keeping labor peace. And while the current extension could conceivably dissolve as soon as 2008, 70 percent of voters don't think there will be a serious work stoppage in the next decade.

    After keeping the labor peace, voters have a hard time getting worked up about other issues. Figuring out the Los Angeles market ranked second to labor peace, but two out of every three voters also think it's "not important at all" to have a team in that market.

    What is the biggest issue facing new NFL commissioner Roger Goodell?
    47% Collective bargaining agreement
    24% The L.A. market
    21% Performance-enhancing drugs
    8% Competitive balance

    Do you think there will be a significant NFL work stoppage at some point in the next 10 years?
    70% No
    30% Yes

    How important is it to the NFL's future success to place a team in the Los Angeles market?
    64% Not important at all
    24% Somewhat important
    11% Very important

    Which is a bigger image problem for the NFL right now?
    90% Off-the-field legal issues
    10% Performance-enhancing drugs

    Performance-enhancing drugs are only picking up steam. Just because its harder to tell how big a guy is in pads shouldn't be the reason this issue has not been tackled (no-pun intended) head on in the NFL. With the rest of the world stripping titles and legacies because of steroid use, can the NFL continue to turn a blind eye? Are we taking a stand in acceptance of something everyone else is saying is immoral and unsportsmanlike? Then again, the bigger the guys, the more intense the game, and in the end that's what its all about.
    Roman (New Jersey)

    The league has made huge strides in the operations of the game; however, the increase in revenue for the league has lead to the increase in salaries as well. More players each year loose connections with their fans and this will soon become a hardship for the league. Players need to re-connect with the fans that pay their salaries and give back more.
    Dennis (Los Angeles)

    Overall, the NFL is in good shape right now, but I see a major problem down the road for Roger Goodell if he does not come up with some creative and innovative ideas with the next CBA to address the concerns of the smaller market teams like Cincinnati and Buffalo. Other than that, he will probably continue that success and profitability that the NFL has enjoyed for about the past 46 years.
    Jeff (Burnsville, NC)

    Plain and simple, it's a mockery of a professional sport organization the longer you don't have at least one team in Los Angeles or the surrounding counties. NBA (2), NHL (2) and MLB (2). If the Clippers can stay in L.A. and the NFL can't, that's a freakin' shame and comical. How many professional football players come from a California high school or college? From the Beverly Hills to Compton, Friday thru Saturday people are in the stands watching football. 12 years without the NFL is a joke on them and is not Los Angeles' fault.
    A fan (El Segundo, CA)

    I love the NFL and I watch every minute every weekend, but the play on the field has been mediocre since the 1995 season. The salary cap has hurt the play on the field, without a doubt. The league has become too commercialized and geared toward gamblers and bookies. It is no longer about the play on the field. The days of the 49ers/Cowboys star-studded classic battles in the playoffs are over and it is sad! The league continues to try and sell the Patriots, who were a field goal kicker away from being three-time Super Bowl losers! Anyone who tries to compare the Patriots to the Cowboys, 49ers, and Steelers dynasties should never be allowed to comment on football again.

    Jake (Ames, IA)

    Terrell Owens
    Bill Parcells doesn't want people talking about it as news, but whenever you get Terrell Owens and a hyperbaric chamber in the same room at training camp, people are going to pay attention.

    So is the latest news out of Dallas, where T.O. will apparently miss at least the first preseason game and has brought in his own medical staff and equipment to treat a sore hamstring, just the first in a season full of typical T.O. drama? Not so fast. SportsNation voters are split on whether T.O.'s treatment constitutes a reasonable move.

  • 77% Bill Parcells is more important to Cowboys' success than Terrell Owens

    What do you think of T.O. bringing in his own medical staff to assess his hamstring?
    50% Reasonable move
    50% Typical T.O. drama

    Curtis Martin
    Much of the talk about the Jets in the offseason centered on whether or not quarterback Chad Pennington would be back on the field this season; now it appears the question mark in the backfield is Curtis Martin.

    Reports are circulating that Martin, who is currently on the physically-unable-to-perform list in training camp, may retire after an 11-year career that saw him rush for at least 1,000 yards in 10 consecutive seasons and amass more total rushing yards than anyone but Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.

    So where does Martin rank in NFL history? Voters are sure he's one of the top 10 of all time, but the lack of a Super Bowl ring may hurt him in comparison to backs like Jerome Bettis.

  • 62% Curtis Martin is one of the 10 best running backs in NFL history

    Who rates higher on your list of all-time great running backs?
    53% Jerome Bettis
    47% Curtis Martin

    Bettis became a short-yardage back in his later years; Martin was durable and more consistent for a long time in terms of running back careers.
    Clinton (Indianapolis)

    I am a Jets fan, but in an unbiased opinion, Martin was better because he was ridiculously consistent.
    Bill (New York)

    As someone who has watched every Steelers game over the last 10 years, Martin is the better back. Bettis is useful, but his repertoire consists of pounding the line and falling forward for four yards per carry.
    Max (Philadelphia)

    Neither is a top-10 back of all time (in my opinion), but I'd go with Martin. More versatile.
    Gene (Boston)

    Jerome's got the ring, so I've gotta go with him. Although Martin was the more consistent and effective runner.
    Jay-Moon (Buffalo)

    Don't forget, when Martin was getting his feet wet in New England, Bettis was running people over in Los Angeles.
    Hende (Ohio)

    Jerome Bettis meant more to this city as a player and a person than Martin ever could have for New York or New England.
    Andy (Pittsburgh)

    Rings don't mean a thing in this case. The Bus did not carry the Steelers to their Super Bowl win. Big Ben and Hines Ward did. Martin was the better back.
    Henry (New York)

    Tuesday's Big Questions

    1. Is Larry Johnson a 2,000-yard back?
    2. Are the Vikings a playoff team?

    Will L.J. run all the way to 2,000 this season?
    Chiefs running back Larry Johnson was perhaps the biggest breakout story of last season with his 1,750 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, and there is considerable talk that he may crack the lofty 2,000-yard plateau in 2006.

    SportsNation is split right down the middle on whether or not Johnson can get two large on the ground this season but there is little doubt Kansas City is headed for big things under first-year coach Herman Edwards. A vast majority thinks Edwards is a better coach for the Chiefs than predecessor Dick Vermeil, while more than 60 percent of SN thinks the team will win at least 11 games.

    The Chiefs went 10-6 and missed the playoffs last season but the 'Nation says they are headed to the postseason this year.

    Will Larry Johnson rush for 2,000 yards this season?
    50% Yes
    50% No

    Is Herm Edwards a better coach for this team than Dick Vermeil?
    69% Yes
    31% No

    The Chiefs went 10-6 last season; how many games will they win this season?
    62% 11 or more
    32% 9-10
    5% 7-8
    1% 6 or fewer

    Will the Chiefs make the playoffs this season?
    80% Yes
    20% No

    2,000 might be a bit much, especially with the retirement of Willie Roaf, but there's not doubt L.J. is the best running back in the league and will lead the team deep into the playoffs.
    Angie (Kansas City)

    We all know how good the offense is in KC but the defense is improved dramatically from just a couple years ago. Derrick Johnson and Ty Law mean postseason football at Arrowhead Stadium.
    Chris (Topeka, KS)

    I love the contrast between Herm's no-nonsense approach and Vermeil's teary speeches. Herm's just what this team needed to give it a kick in the pants and get it over the hump.
    Abraham (California)

    What happens to the Chiefs if L.J. or Trent Green gets hurt (knocking on wood while typing)? If either happens the season is over.
    Will (Northern California)

    I'm just waiting for Herm's first press conference blow up of the year. "You play to win the game!"
    Luke (New York)

    Brad Johnson doesn't exactly inspire SportsNation's confidence.
    The names and faces in the Vikings lockerroom have changed quite a bit. Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and Mike Tice are all gone and fans are left wondering what the upcoming season holds.

    Culpepper is now in Miami after suffering a severe knee injury last season in Minnesota, but nearly half of SportsNation would be more optimistic about 2006 if Culpepper were still wearing purple and Brad Johnson were still on the sidelines. Chester Taylor has been brought in as the new No. 1 running back and SN is split on whether he will succeed in the role, despite improvements to the offensive line.

    Nearly 40 percent of the 'Nation thinks the Vikings will win at least nine games this season but an even 50 percent see them as a .500 team or worse. Which means it should be no surprise that the citizens of SportsNation see Minnesota missing the postseason.

    How would you feel about the outlook for Minnesota's season if Daunte Culpepper was still with the team?
    48% More optimistic
    26% Less optimistic
    26% About the same

    Will Chester Taylor be a success as the No. 1 running back?
    52% Yes
    48% No

    The Vikings went 9-7 last season; how many games will they win this season?
    36% 9-10
    25% 6 or fewer
    25% 7-8
    14% 11 or more

    Will the Vikings make the playoffs this season?
    61% No
    39% Yes

    Letting Daunte get away is the worst mistake the team has made in a long time. Do you really expect to belive the ancient Brad Johnson is a better option?
    Smith (Twin Cities)

    I like the cleanup going on as it pertains to the image of the Vikings and I like Childress as a coach, I just don't think they have enough difference-makers on offense to be a serious playoff team.
    Roland (Minnesota)

    Chester Taylor? C'mon. No way he's better than Michael Bennett or Moe Williams.
    Scott (Laredo, Texas)

    Why no love for the Vikes? No Culpepper, no Bennett, no Burleson, no Chavous, but those guys contributed almost nothing to a 9-7 team a year ago. They improved the line dramatically and we can't assume Johnson won't make it through a season. So why won't they win the NFC North?
    Dan (Appleton, WI)

    The Vikings might have the best O-line in the league with McKinnie, Hutchinson, Birk, Hicks and Marcus Johnson.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    Monday's Big Questions

    1. Do you believe Floyd Landis?
    2. Which team is college football's preseason No. 1?

    Landis has had little to celebrate in recent days.
    Floyd Landis has now tested positive for unnatural testosterone twice after his 'B' sample came back positive, meaning the Tour de France winner may have to forfeit his title.

    Landis has maintained his innocence since his initial positive test was made public on July 27. He has offered myriad reasons his tests came back positive, including cortisone shots taken for a degenerative hip condition, thyroid medication, a naturally high testosterone level, even drinking whiskey the night before he was tested.

    Landis has since backed off many of his explanations, saying he was compelled to offer them because the World Anti-Doping Agency and Union Cycliste Internationale broke their own rules by releasing the results of his positive test to the public. He has also said the WADA and UCI have "some kind of agenda" against him and suggested he may be the victim of a conspiracy.

    What does SportsNation make of the mess? Given the facts so far nearly three-fourths of the 'Nation is convinced Landis is not innocent, though roughly the same percentage believes he has not been given a fair shake by the organizations handling the case.

    Do you believe Floyd Landis is innocent?
    72% No
    28% Yes

    Do you believe the UCI and WADA agencies have been fair to Landis?
    74% No
    26% Yes

    Excuses, excuses, excuses. Give it up, Floyd. You've been caught so just own up to it like a man and stop all the absurdity.
    Ryan (Pennsylvania)

    Floyd Landis blamed his lawyers and others for all the different excuses he had, and suggested people were tampering with his pee! Laughable!
    Tim (Pittsburgh)

    There was a debate after the Tour about whether Landis' win was better than any of Lance Armstrong's seven Tour titles. Well, Landis tested positive and Lance didn't. 'Nuff said.
    Sherry (Orlando, FL)

    Floyd Landis' eight other tests during the Tour de France were negative. For some reason I am starting to believe that he is innocent.
    Josh (Lansing)

    What should the WADA have done? Called Landis and told him to get ready for the fire storm and given him a chance to come up with a plausible defense. As it is, he's forced to use speculation and innuendo and is not innocent until finally proven guilty.
    Will (Northern California)

    Floyd is geeing killed in the media and being forced to defend himself, yet the WADA and UCI haven't really been heard from. Who's hiding something here?
    Paul-Diddy (New York City)

    How is it that someone is being unfair to Floyd in this case? He's the one who cheated and in my book cheaters don't deserve any kind of courtesy or advance warning.
    Daniel (Amarillo, Texas)

    Let's face it: the French couldn't bring down Lance Armstrong so the Tour and the doping police needed someone to take a fall, and that someone was Floyd Landis. Guilty or not, Landis is the one paying for Lance's success.
    David (Connecticut)

    Speedy WR Ted Ginn is a key cog in Ohio State's offense.
    ESPN.com kicked off it's college football preview on Monday with a look at the state of the game and a quick glance at the top teams entering the 2006 season.

    Which teams does SN like heading into fall practice? SportsNation's voters agree with the preseason USA Today poll and put Ohio State and its explosive offense at the top of the list right now, followed closely by Notre Dame. After that, it gets a little murky. Nearly 20 percent of voters like a team other than the four options offered, leaving the last two national champions to fight for the scraps.

    Which team gets your vote for preseason No. 1?
    33% Ohio State
    30% Notre Dame
    19% Other
    12% Texas
    7% USC

    How can you not like Ohio State to win it all? Big Ten should be a little easier than last year, Texas doesn't have VY, USC lost a ton of talent and, well, everyone knows what the Buckeyes did to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
    Sean (Columbus, Ohio)

    I saw Ohio State scrimmage itself and the defense didn't let the offense score. They might never give up a first down!
    Mike (Ann Arbor)

    If Ohio State beats Texas early in the year the Buckeyes will walk over everyone else on their way to the title game.
    Jason (Illinois)

    Notre Dame has shored up the defense and Brady will throw a record number of TD passes to Samardzija. Notre Dame is all the way back this year. Thanks, Coach Weis!
    Grant (Indiana)

    The Irish have some swagger back and also have the best passer in the nation. The title is theirs to lose, if you ask me.
    Kevin (SoCal)

    How can Texas not be the preseason No. 1? Don't they deserve to be No. 1 until they lose this year?
    Will (North Side, Chi-town)

    USC will reload and roll over the rest of the Pac-10 again this year and set themselves up for yet another title in the Carroll Dynasty.
    Eric (L.A.)

    What about West Virginia, the team with the most momentum coming into the season? I'll take Pat White and that offense any day.
    JD (Nashville)

    Watch out for Auburn. Irons is back at RB, the rest of the offense is more experienced and the defense will be stout as usual.
    Bobby (Deep South)

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