Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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I'm at the Xcel Energy Center for Game 4. I picked the Wild to win in seven. Now I'm picking them in six. I think they win tonight, something like 3-1. The Wild seems stunningly confident of their ability to not only win the series but withstand the Blues' physical play, and you hear a lot of subtle digs at coach Ken Hitchcock from the Blues' lockerroom. If the Wild withstands the expected early, physical, assault, I think they win this one.
A reader asked me an interesting question the other day: If Andrew Wiggins, coming off one not-so-great college season, can come into the NBA and play as well as he did as a rookie, why couldn't Byron Buxton join the Twins now and learn how to hit major-league pitching while in the majors?
Having covered baseball for 22 years and having heard the usual explanations so often, I hadn't really reexamined the issue from this perspective. It's a great question. My answer?
Good NBA players are intelligent, but basketball is an athletic and activity sport. If you possess great athletic ability, as Wiggins does, it should show up over 48 minutes of constant activity. If you can dribble past and jump higher than opponents, your advantages are going to show up, as Wiggins' did.
Buxton is comparable to Wiggins when it comes to fielding. He has tremendous speed, tremendous range, the bravery to challenge fences and an exceptional arm. Those advantages would show up in the big-leagues, even if he has more to learn.
Hitting is different. Buxton would spend about four minutes a day taking major-league at-bats. The rest of the time he would be thinking about hitting, and if he got off to a slow start - probable, since he's not even hitting AA pitching yet - he would have an immense amount of time to analyze and over-analyze his swing, his approach, his pitch selection.
I've seen good big-league hitters tie themselves in knots with overanalysis. If Buxton, or any rookie, got caught in that trap, it could set him back months and damage his confidence, at least temporarily.
So while I'm in favor of calling up Buxton because of his fielding and speed, I don't think it's reasonable to think that his exceptional athletic ability would make his transition to hitting big-league pitching easier. Offensively, it would be best to bring him up when he's hot and confident.
The reason I wrote that the Twins should consider bringing him up soon is that I think he will start hitting AA pitching soon, and that may be the right time to give this team a real centerfielder.
Latest 3 podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Strib basketball writer Jerry Zgoda, Minnesota United FC defender Brian Kallman and Strib hockey writer Michael Russo. Next: Me and Russo from St. Louis on Friday afternoon before Game 5.
Had Twins general manager Terry Ryan on my podcast last night, and, when he wasn't talking about his long red hair or his rambunctious days as a failed Twins prospect, he offered a final perspective on his managerial search.
Molitor was always a top, and perhaps the top, candidate, but he wanted to do due diligence with outside candidates, and was highly impressed with Torey Lovullo.
Ryan said Gene Glynn, who managed Triple-A Rochester last year and will be the Twins' third-base coach this year, finished second in the search. He ranked Lovullo third and Doug Mientkiewicz fourth.
On Mientkiewicz, Ryan said, ``I just didn't think he was quite ready. I do believe that Doug Mientkiewicz is going to be a very good major league manager in the very near future.''
As for Glynn, Ryan said, ``Gene was in the final three and it wasn't because it was just a charitable situation. Gene was very impressive. He's got a good feel for everything we do and believe in.''
Ryan told some great stories and talked about his upbringing and his battle with cancer, as well.
That and all of my other podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
My column for tomorrow's paper (and online, of course) will address the Twins' managerial search. I have a nomination.
For the moment, though, let's acknowledge that what happened this afternoon was remarkable.
A pro sports organization fired a longtime manager, then held a press conference where the guy who did the firing and the guy who got fired sat next to each other, and the guy who got fired made bald jokes about him and his former boss.
The guy who got fired brought two of his kids to sit in the front row as he said his goodbyes.
The guy who got fired said he agreed with the decision.
At the end of the press conference, the guy who got fired got up, walked away, turned back and said, ``I'll see ya, boss.''
I think the Twins made the right decision. It was time for Ron Gardenhire to go.
For the moment, though, let's enjoy the uniqueness of this afternoon.
Gardy cracking jokes. Terry Ryan speaking bluntly about why he fired his old friend, and why he thinks he should stay on the job. A media relations department that set it all up on the fly.
My column will get into my evaluation of the organization and what it should do next.
For the moment, let's give the Twins and Gardenhire credit for being so remarkably gracious and blunt on what had to be a painful day for all involved.
Knowing how much losing eats at Gardenhire, and that he has had health scares over the years related to high blood pressure, it's my hope that he takes at least a year off and rests before his inevitable return to the dugout.
I frequently butted heads with Gardenhire over the years. I wasn't a fan of many of his strategical moves, and I thought he got too emotional in the late innings.
What I'll always appreciate about him is his sense of humor, his work ethic, his loyalty to his staff, and the way he treated people who can easily be mistreated in baseball clubhouses - the clubbies, the organizational worker bees, and women.
In the early 2000s, one Twins player said a few things to a female reporter that were inappropriate, at best. Gardenhire immediately addressed the player and apologized to the reporter, who wasn't even offended.
Having met plenty of Gardenhire's friends, I came to like Gardy the human much more than Gardy the manager.
So I hope he gets to spend a little time being a human before he subjects himself to the rigors of managing a big-league team again.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 on Tuesday, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
London -- The first wave of the Star Tribune contigent - photographer Carlos Gonzalez (@CarlosGphoto) and me - arrived in London this afternoon (or morning, Minnesota time.)
The Vikings will arrive Tuesday morning, and we'll cover their first press conference here. Chip Scoggins and Mark Craig will join us Tuesday afternoon, and we'll provide stories, columns, notes, blog posts, photos and videos all week. Please pick up a paper or follow us on Startribune.com.
So far, I've checked into my hotel, eaten lunch at a Lebanese restaurant and taken a walk that led me to Paddington Station, which is kind of like London's Grand Central Station.
I asked a young man with a heavy beard working at the "ee'' phone store whether there was excitment in London over the Vikings' game on Sunday against the Steelers.
Here's a rough recollection of how the conversation went:
Me: Anybody talking about the NFL game?
Him: "Not really.''
Me: Do people here care about the NFL?
Him: "Not really. People here are into football, or what you call soccer. American football isn't really followed here, and it's on at odd times - late at night, when people are sleeping.''
Me: Will you watch the game?
Him: Probably not.
The time change is six hours, so the Vikings' noon kickoff (CST) will begin at 6 p.m. in London.
That's really not that late. The impression I got from the young man at the phone store was that he just didn't care about American football, and so hadn't bothered to think about why he didn't care for it.
I wrote about the Vikings' coaching staff and their impending arrival in London for the Tuesday paper. I picked up a bunch of local newspapers, and didn't see a mention of the Vikings-Steelers game or the NFL at all.
I still view the marketing of football in Europe as misguided greed. The NFL is incredibly successful in part because of its size. There are 32 teams grouped in divisions of four. While Jacksonville is a weak link because of city size, stadium quality and poor management, there isn't a franchise that can't thrive if managed intelligently.
Expand to Europe, and you add exhausting travel to the physical challenges facing NFL players. You'd probably have to alter the way the schedule works. You'd have to play games at a time that would be inconvenient either for local fans or the prime TV audience.
While I love having an opportunity to spend a week in a great city like London, I don't even think it's right to play a regular-season game here. The Vikings sacrifice a home game and add a difficult trip to their schedule, and for what?
I'm really not sure.
1500ESPN got me a phone I can use for international calls, so I'll be keeping my usual radio schedule: Noon(ish) each day with Judd@Dubay, plus calling in to Sunday Sports Talk and the last Ron Gardenhire Show of the season, 9:30-noon on Sunday.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Thanks for reading.
Here's the good news for local college football fans: Two of the best games of the day are in Minneapolis and North Dakota.
Here's the bad news for national college football fans: Two of the best games of the day are in Minneapolis and North Dakota.
College football might be the most compelling and atmospheric sport in existence when it's good. Today is evidence that it's not very often good.
It's late September. The weather is beautiful. This is the best time of the year to be a college football fan, when you can sit in the stands on a gorgeous fall day even on our wintry tundra and enjoy a game.
So how can Gophers-San Jose State be one of the better games of the day?
Because college football, despite constantly threatening to reform itself, still packs its schedule with throwaway games.
Colorado State-Alabama? Please.
Ohio State-Florida A&M? C'mon.
Georgia-UNT (and I'm not even sure which UNT that is, University of Northern Toledo? University of Nonsensical Theology?) Stop it.
College football is the rare sport that can be great and chooses often not to be.
So I'm lucky to be in the press box at one of the more interesting games in the country today, even if it shouldn't be.
After two weeks on the road, I"m back in the 1500ESPN studio for Sunday Sports Talk tomorrow, 10-noon. We'll run the Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10 then move on to our show, with Scott Korzenowski and Tom Linnemann. Working on a surprise guest.
Heading to London to cover the Vikings on Sunday.
Thanks for reading.
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