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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Fort Myers, Fla.
I use my column to delve into meaty topics. Here, I'll hit you with quick observations after a few days in Fort Myers:
1. Torii Hunter, as I wrote this morning, loves being a leader. He spends lots of time talking to Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks at their adjacent lockers, and pulls hitters out of the cage on the back field to offer tips. One thing he emphasizes is ``loading'' weight onto the back leg to generate power.
2. With Hunter and Guardado back as full-time employees, the clubhouse, deathly quiet for most of the last four springs, is suddenly loud. You hear lots of laughter. Both go out of their way to engage young players.
3. Twins manager Paul Molitor said of pitching prospect Jose Berrios, ``He's 20 going on 35.'' Berrios is remarkably fit and polished. He has great stuff. He could rise quickly in the organization.
4. This might mean nothing, but Mike Pelfrey looks like he's throwing hard in bullpen sessions. He could fit into the staff as a fifth starter, long man or short reliever. Twins general manager Terry Ryan calls him ``a wonderful guy,'' and appreciates that Pelfrey wants to make good on his contract.
5. When Ricky Nolasco arrived as the Twins' primary free-agent signing last year, he quickly gave the impression that he didn't want to do a lot of extracurricalars. He didn't like giving interviews. He didn't seem to work out hard. He didn't seem to connect with teammates.
Ervin Santana is the opposite. He gets to the clubhouse early, stays late, is friendly to all. His reputation as a likeable professional is holding true so far.
6. In the old days (when I was a beat writer), Latin American players were known for either having visa difficulty or inventing visa difficulty, and often weren't around at the beginning of spring training.
The Twins' Latin American players blow apart that stereotype. They're all in camp, and they're among the most avid and enthusiastic workers. Danny Santana in particular has impressed the Twins with his professionalism and attitude.
7. Torii Hunter spent part of the morning laying flat on his back in the clubhouse, trying to catch his breath. He took Buxton to the Twins' training hill by the minor-league fields for sprint-hill work. Buxton, an exceptional athlete, said the workout was draining.
8. I thought I was being clever, asking second baseman Brian Dozier about Paul Molitor's attention to detail. Turns out he's been asked that ``a dozen times.'' But he still gave me a great answer, which I'll use in an upcoming column.
Today at 2:30 I'm doing a live podcast with Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo at SouhanUnfiltered.com (or Souhan-Unfiltered on IHeartradio). You can listen live or later.
On Friday, I'll begin a series of podcasts with key Twins figures.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
The NFL held its Pro Bowl and the NHL held its All-Star game on Sunday.
Part of my job is to consume as much of newsworthy, noteworthy sports on television as I can. I didn't watch a minute of either.
Judging from today's reports, I didn't miss anything.
Here's how I would ``fix'' the All-Star events, or at least make them more watchable:
NHL: Hockey without defense is a bad idea. Goals in and of themselves are rarely pretty. They're exciting because they occured against a bunch of defensive players trying to stop the puck, or crush the shooter. Hockey requires intensity to be entertaining. So instead of paying each player a nice fee for making the All-Star game, throw all of that money into a pot, add a few million to make it enticing, and give all of the money to the participating players on the winning team.
Wouldn't you love to see the best players in the game playing hard for that last goal?
Basketball: Again, make it a winner-takes-all game, and tweak the rules. Install a four-point line to reward extra-long shots. And make dunks worth four points. Nobody wants to see mid-range jump shots in an All-Sar game, Reward the spectacular.
Baseball: This remains the best of the All-Star games, because it is the only one in which the defense is performing to the best of its abilities. One tweak: Allow players to reenter the game. The flaw of the baseball All-Star game is that the subs are in the game for the deciding innings, and it's possible for both teams to run out of players. If the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team trailing by one, would you rather see the manager forced to use the player scheduled to bat...or would you like to see him call Miguel Cabrera off the bench, even though Cabrera left the game in the third inning?
NFL: Football without fully-engaged defenses might be even less entertaining than hockey without defense. My longstanding suggestion: Scrap the Pro Bowl and make the NFC and AFC battle in an old Superstars-style competition.
For the younger generation, Superstars would take star athletes and have them compete in events like sprinting, tug of war and the obstacle course. With the winners taking home loot
This format created one of the great moments in non-tradiational sports history. Here's a recap of it by ESPN and former St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Jim Caple:
``The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings met in Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in January 1975, a game that included 16 future Hall of Famers (counting coaches Bud Grant and Chuck Noll), Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, Minnesota's Purple People Eaters and legendary quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw. That game, which the Steelers won 16-6, was not the most dramatic or memorable showdown between the two teams, however. That distinction goes to an epic, 16-minute tug-of-war on the sands of Waikiki held two weeks later as part of ABC's "Superteams" competition. After it was all over and the two teams lay moaning and exhausted in the sand, Dick Button -- yes, that Dick Button, the figure skating guy -- told a Sports Illustrated writer, "Nothing -- nothing, not even my own Olympic victories -- has ever moved me like that."
JEFF SIEMON, former Vikings linebacker: "It was the worst physical strain I've ever been under. It was the most intense, brutal abuse I've ever gone through -- and maybe by far."
DAVE OSBORN, former Vikings running back: "The tug-of-war was the toughest, most physical thing I've ever done, bar none. As far as being tired, I have never been more fatigued. I was always in great shape as a player. Practice was always a breeze. But when you have got to do something for a length of time and don't dare let up, it drains you. It was 16 minutes, but it seemed like 16 hours."
BEV OSBORN, Dave's wife: "You just wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but this was wondering if everyone was going to still be alive when it was over."
I love that incoming baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had the guts to suggest that baseball's defensive shift might be outlawed.
I liked the shift when it was a novelty that rewarded progressive thinking. Now it's a common stratagem that takes away hits. I no longer like it. Make fielders stay in a rough semblance of order. Let's see good hitting rewarded.
Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 105.1 The Ticket's Bob Sansevere and I telling stories about the best characters in Vikings history; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo on the Wild; Twins GM Terry Ryan on his health, past and future; USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero on the Patriots, Seahawks, and the reaction he's received from scientists about the Deflatriots.
Next podcast: Today, 5 p.m. at The Local with Twins president Dave St. Peter.
My podcast network, The Alive&Social Network, now has a house containing a studio, and we're going to start doing live music shows as well as talking about music and sports. Follow @Aliveandsocial on Twitter to keep up to date.
Also, I'll be appearing on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere every afternoon at 3:30.
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.
If the United States does indeed open the gateway to Cuba, the sports world could change dramatically and for the better.
Cuba produces tremendous baseball players, and would become a new, open, hotbed for talent.
Cuba possesses more than 11 million people, almost all of them baseball fans. If baseball can expand to Canada, surely it can expand to Cuba ,which would probably offer more support to a big-league baseball team than Miami does.
The NFL is eyeing London as a franchise destination, hoping to carve a niche in a market dominated by soccer and even cricket. Cuba offers 11 million people who don't have a lot of other entertainment options.
Cuba could work for basketball. Hockey wouldn't seem to be a likely export, but if you can put a team in South Florida, you might be silly enough to put one in Latin America.
I've traveled extensively in Latin America and the Caribbean. I've always been told that if Cuba were open and economically vibrant noone would ever bother going to Hawaii. Cuba is supposed to be that beautiful.
I hope that in my lifetime, we see American professional sports, even if only baseball, taking residence in Cuba.
Today I asked Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater what quarterback he wanted to emulate when he was young. ``Brett Favre,'' he said.
He loved Favre's toughness and production.
Now we just need to get Bridgewater to give Favrian press conferences.
I'll be at The Local in Minneapolis tonight at 5 for a podcast with Twins great Roy Smalley, who is a great storyteller. Come by, or listen live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
It was easy to tire of the incessant coverage of Derek Jeter's last season, easy to grow weary of the gift-giving and testimonials, but Derek Jeter again rose above hyperbole and the grotesque sentimentality that can coat Yankee Stadium like an early frost.
Jeter again delivered in the clutch.
When Kirby Puckett retired, Tom Kelly sat in front of a microphone and his farewell speech went something like this: ``How lucky am I, that I got to see every one of his at-bats?''
Well, how lucky are we, that Jeter came to Minneapolis for his last All-Star game?
How lucky are we, that every great moment these days is televised?
In his first at-bat in his last All-Star game, at Target Field, Jeter delivered an opposite-field double with his patented inside-out swing.
In his first at-bat in his last game at Yankee Stadium, while fighting emotions he'd never before had to fight, he delivered a double.
Then he took the field for the top of the ninth. His team led by three runs. He would likely never bat again in Yankee Stadium. He fought back tears. Announcers wondered whether he would be removed for a final curtain call.
That wouldn't have been a true Jeter curtain call, not at Yankee Stadium.
This was: The Orioles miraculously rallied for three runs, tying the score. Jeter would bat third in the bottom of the night.
The Yankees put a runner on second with one out. Jeter came to the plate.
He smacked another patented hit to rightfield, rounded the bases, and was as we will remember him, jubilant in victory.
He didn't want to come out of the game. And he delivered.
What did we expect?
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