Darren "Doogie" Wolfson

Darren "Doogie" Wolfson has a passion for sports, but not a consistent forum in which he's allowed to spew his thoughts. Well, now he has one. Darren spent 12-plus years with KFAN Radio, wearing multiple hats - from producing and technically directing, to reporting and hosting. He spent a majority of his time working with Sid Hartman's son, Chad on the 'Chad Hartman Show.' Read more about Darren Wolfson.

Central parked no longer: Division race over for Twins

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson under Twins management, Twins pitching, Twins rumors Updated: June 1, 2011 - 12:23 AM

This season, the Twins have more blown leads -- 18 -- than they have wins -- 17. Worse: eight of those 18 blown leads have come after being up after seven innings. They have the worst run differential in the American League by more than 50 runs (-91). They have scored the fewest runs, and given up the most runs, in the American League. They have yet to win a three-game series.

 
That said, they may still approach 75 wins because the offense is capable and the starting pitching can tease us enough. But defensively, in left field and right field, and at second base and shortstop, they don't represent well enough, especially when they lack enough strikeout-type pitchers. They are incapable of running the bases well and lack the ability to steal bases (12th in A.L. with 24). Plus there is an inability to score from first on balls to the gap and poor judgement from third base coach Steve Liddle. It all adds up to one simple conclusion: any hope of making the playoffs is over. 
 
Yet, all their issues pale in comparison to the bullpen. I can see why the Twins' brass thought they could get by with this collection. In the nine previous years with manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson shaping and molding the relievers, the worst they ever finished in collective earned run average was 6th-best in the A.L. They had always found a way before. But this year is different. Even with minimal success in the remaining 109 games, there is a decent chance that this collection will finish as the worst bullpen in Twins history.
 
I don't fault Smith for not offering free agents Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch multiple-year deals. Where he failed was not signing a few viable alternatives to one-year deals. Relievers can always be found on those type agreements. For example:
 
  • Kyle Farnsworth - 1 year, $3.25 million with the Rays
  • Al Alburquerque - 1 year, $400,000 with the Tigers. They were ripped for giving him a major league contract, but savvy work by general manager Dave Dombrowski's scouts has manager Jim Leyland with a solid seventh-inning option.
  • Matt Albers - 1 year, $875,000 with Boston.
  • Todd Coffey - 1 year, $1,75 million with Washington.
  • Chad Qualls - 1 year, $1.5 million with San Diego.
Statistical analysis, particularly with Coffey and Qualls, suggested that they would have bounce-back years. No level of analysis presented very positive data that Jim Hoey, Dusty Hughes, Eric Hacker, or Jeff Manship could provide any level of decency this season. In addition, reliever Billy Wagner is the exception when it comes to post-Tommy John surgery success. It was ridiculous to think that Joe Nathan would be adequate one year removed from that type of injury. 
 
It is not, however, all doom-and-gloom for the organization. Heads shouldn't roll in the front office or in the dugout. Six division titles earns Gardenhire, et al., the equity to return. This year should convince them that major player-personnel changes need to take place. The Twins haven't drafted and developed a shortstop in over 20-years. Jose Reyes will be a free agent this winter. Sign him. Like relievers, corner outfielders can be found on short-term deals in free agency -- Johnny Damon, Jeff Francoeur, etc. It's time to cut the chord on Delmon Young. Get what you can for him before making the mistake of investing big dollars and a lot of years. Michael Cuddyer is a stand-up guy, and an easy guy to root for, but his numbers since the start of 2010 trump everything else. Not an easy decision considering all that he does behind-the-scenes, but it's time to move on. Offering Jason Kubel arbitration is an easy call. Bringing him back on a one-year deal is a no-brainer, but he'll likely say no, sign elsewhere, and 2012 draft picks can be had. At the non-waiver trade deadline, offers need to be considered for Cuddyer, Young, Thome, Kubel (if the offer is better than draft picks), Matt Capps, Carl Pavano, and others.
 
Until then, all I can ask for is entertaining games. The Twins have at least provided that in the last few weeks. 46 more wins from June 1 on, and they can avoid being just the second team in history to have a $100 million payroll and lose 100 games. 

Ricky (Rubio) Business is Risky Business

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson under Wolves guards, Wolves management, Wolves players Updated: March 28, 2011 - 10:17 PM

Let me try this: "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there... with Ricky Rubio in a Wolves uniform!"

If only it were that simple. But, as Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn has said for months, Rubio will be here this summer. When asked by the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda in late January, Kahn said he remains "absolutely" certain that Rubio will be here very soon.
 
My initial thought is: what else should Kahn say? The truth is that team executives lie to us a lot. Think of the many times you've heard "They are the best team we've seen this year or [insert coach's name here]'s job is safe." Look at what new Arkansas basketball coach Mike Anderson said as recently as March 17: "I'm staying at Missouri, and that's the bottom-line."
 
But when Kahn continually states "absolutely," he couldn't be more certain. And when the Wolves recently used a radio spot promoting early deals on season tickets for next year, they voiced the line "More Rubio sightings." They are not hiding the idea that they are very sure that he is coming.
 
Because he has to make a decision before July 1 -- the presumed start of a lockout -- is one reason the Wolves believe that Rubio will be here. Keep in mind that he will have to reportedly pay $900,000 of his $1.4 million buyout. And if the lockout lasts for a lengthy period, he could lose money in the short-term and, more importantly, miss out on a key developmental period because there will be no interaction with the coaches, no summer league games/practices, a potentially shorter training camp, etc.
 
In a recent interview with Spanish sports publication Marca, Rubio was quoted as saying, "If I had to leave (Barcelona) at any time, I would talk to the club and the NBA franchise, which is currently Minnesota." A senior member of Rubio's camp -- his agent, Dan Fegan? Hmmm -- said in January to the New York Times: "The bottom line is, why would he want to play in Minnesota? He’ll continue to say all the diplomatic things, and Minnesota needs to keep his value up for trade purposes, but the family’s preference is to be on the East Coast, specifically New York, Miami or Boston. He wouldn’t be troubled if he has to stay another year.”
 
But then on Monday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Rubio has informed the Wolves that he is open to coming before next season. So, who's bluffing? What’s true, and what’s not? We don't know, and that's the problem. Based on his public comments, albeit mostly to the Spanish media who have a biased interest, Rubio has never definitively said that he will sign with the Wolves this summer, but he's also never said that he doesn't want to be in Minnesota. In other words, we have no idea what is going to happen. So why are the Wolves so confident? Obviously, they have to spend a lot of time talking to Rubio, but is it dangerous for them to take him at face-value? For the sake of maintaining his trade value, is there any other option besides confidently stating that he will be here? Does that even matter when multiple teams would presumably make offers for him if he's made available?
 
If the current collective bargaining agreement rookie stipulations continue, it will make financial sense for Rubio to stay in Spain for one more year because he wouldn't be tied to the rookie salary scale starting with the '12-'13 NBA season; thus, he could sign a larger first contract. Logic suggests that won't be the case with the new CBA, but Rubio might be willing to roll the dice.
 
Just like the day the Wolves drafted him, it just seems that there are more questions than answers about his future.
 
"State Farm is there... with protection from our ticket-buying fanbase backlash!" might eventually have to be Kahn's next public statement.

Tubby's Ski-U-Blah season accepted

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson under Gophers coaches, Tubby Smith, Gophers injuries, Gophers post season Updated: March 8, 2011 - 11:07 AM

When Gophers coach Tubby Smith told the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman in Sunday's paper, "I'm not going anywhere… I'm going to finish my career here," my first thought was: why would Arkansas, Georgia Tech, or North Carolina State want a soon-to-be 60-year old whose worst professional stretch came this year? My second thought: did Sid hear Tubby correctly? For sake of this blog, I'll assume yes.

Fact: against everyone in the Big Ten except Iowa, Smith is 26-40. He also has yet to do what former coach Dan Monson could: finish a conference season in the top 4.
 
Opinion: the program is in far better shape than when he took it over, and to think that the "U" could do better is foolish (Flip Saunders hasn't recruited since the mid-80's).
 
It's just time to realize that Smith has had a really bad year. Not only did he miss out on top-flight recruit Cory Joseph (Texas), but he also swung-and-missed on Trevor Releford (Alabama), Ricky Kreklow (Missouri), and Alex Kirk (New Mexico). The freshmen he brought in who played – Mo Walker, Austin Hollins, Chip Armelin, and Maverick Ahanmisi - might have promising futures, but did little this season.
 
Center Colton Iverson regressed, while center Ralph Sampson III and forward Rodney Williams Jr. didn't improve.
 
Smith struggled mightily to design plays in clutch situations, failed to find the right balance countless times with his substitution patterns, and couldn't keep Devoe Joseph interested enough to not transfer.
 
If this blog sounds a bit negative, it is. By the end of Smith's fourth year, I expected at least one NCAA tournament win. But I also realize that a) the Gophers were two injuries - Al Nolen and Walker - from likely becoming the first team in program history to make three consecutive NCAA tournaments, and b) Smith is still a capable coach, in spite of what many have suggested in the last few weeks.
 
Maybe this season will rejuvenate Smith. Based on recent recruiting trips to California, Tennessee, and Illinois (more than normal over a two week stretch in-season), maybe the fire still burns; maybe he's not here just to collect large paychecks and allow his son, Saul, to work alongside him.

Maybe he'll eventually win an NCAA tournament game here.
 
I'd like to say next year is make-or-break, but it's really not. By the end of Smith's fifth year, the bar has to be raised at least a little. But I am willing to except this year as a hiccup. But know this: if Smith chooses, he can coach here until he retires. He is beloved by those above him. And would you really expect athletic director Joel Maturi to do anything drastic with his contract up in 15 months?
 
I am just curious if Smith's iconic, Hall of Fame-esque history will ever come to fruition while with the Gophers.

Wherefore art thou, Tubby accepting blame?

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson under Tubby Smith, Gopher coaches, Gophers post season Updated: February 23, 2011 - 12:37 PM

So... let me make sure I have this right: Gophers' center Ralph Sampson III couldn't grab a key rebound with 30 seconds left against Michigan State on Tuesday night because of, what, all the snow this week? Would it be too much to ask him to walk across the street to lift weights with 10+ inches of snow on the ground?

There are rumblings that Gophers' coach Tubby Smith badly wants a practice facility; that he quietly wishes that "The Barn" would be replaced; and that North Carolina State and/or Georgia Tech will call soon. But what about evidence that he's getting better at designing plays; that more guys than not improve under him; or that he has some semblance of an offense?

I am not yet ready to offer Colorado State's Tim Miles his dream job, or to beg Flip Saunders to come back home. Despite a 26-37 Big Ten record against all schools not named "Iowa," I will not be calling for Tubby's head like some misguided souls on Twitter. I am only slightly bothered by Tuesday night's collapse; the worst in Smith's three-plus years here. I just want some accountability.

“I can’t say enough about our lack of ball-handling,” said Smith after their sixth loss in the last eight games. “We’ve been doing ball-handling work in practice, trying to be strong. But I guess we have to do more of it.”

Tubby on forward Trevor Mbakwe: "He's got to learn to post up and hold his seal."

Just once, I would love to hear him say, "I did a poor job of preparing my team, and could've done a better job in-game." Smith was said to be very soft-spoken and short with his responses. Why do you suppose that is? This year is not all his fault, but to suggest that he is blameless is asinine. That's why, just once, I would like to hear him accept some responsibility.

Reality: Tubby is having a bad year coaching. It's hard to remember any key play out of a timeout even appearing as if it had a chance to succeed.

The Gophers have three consecutive single-elimination games. Win them all -- which is possible -- and Smith will likely accomplish what none of his predecessors could: take the Gophers to three straight NCAA tournaments. According to the Big Ten Network, the entire conference has just four non-conference wins vs the RPI Top 25. Two of them belong to the Gophers: North Carolina (11) and West Virginia (21). But slip just once, and a below-.500 Big Ten record will produce a date with the National Invitational Tournament.

Maybe at that point Smith would accept blame for failing in a college basketball season where more teams than ever -- 68 -- make the only tournament that matters.

Trading Liriano foolish unless an established commodity is the return

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson under Francisco Liriano, Twins management, Twins pitching, Twins rumors, Twins news Updated: February 14, 2011 - 8:47 PM

I really wanted to blog the absurdity of Iowa fans taking a picture with the Insight Bowl trophy this weekend or the impossible feat that director Adam McKay pulled off with "Step Brothers" -- making a movie with Will Ferrell unwatchable.

Instead, I will focus on the Twins and a trade idea.

It was a simple question via my Twitter account (@DarrenWolfson): Who says no to this trade: pitcher Francisco Liriano, outfielder Ben Revere, and prospects Chris Parmelee (1B) and Adrian Salcedo (P) to Arizona for outfielder Justin Upton?


Some of the 38 responses:

 

  • From @winegarden13 -- I want to believe but please convince me that Upton trade wouldn't be Garza/Young part deux.
  • From @SixHoleMN -- MLB is not a video game. How about Kubel and 8 best prospects for Pujols and Wainwright? Who says no? Dumb.
  • From @Skiumah_Smokers -- why are you targeting an OF. It's the easiest position to fill. If Liriano's gotta go, get a SS prospect.
  • From @CoreyEttinger -- I'm all about getting Upton, but your deal seems like a significant overpayment.
  • From @fran_the_man -- Already likely overpaying just with Liriano. He'd be best pitcher in NL, outside of Philly.
  • From @cjloken -- Almost every scout, baseball expert or GM would say that Upton for Liriano + 3 prospects is a great trade for #twins. #MLB
  • From @mission1619 -- Liriano for a guy who OPS'd .898 with 26 hrs and 20 stls and great D in his age 21 season. I'll take it.
  • From @minnemike -- If Liriano gets traded, we better get some nice arms back.
  • From @rolson21 -- I don't think that is enough for J. Upton. Gonna have to be Liriano-Hicks +, J. Upton is gonna be a top 5 guy and soon.
  • From @MNTwinsGUFS -- whoa... our #1 pitcher and 3 of #Twins top 15 or 20 prospects for Upton? What are you smoking?
  • From @oscardagrouch27 -- Twins giving up way too much.
  • From @T_Charbonneau -- I have concerns about Upton's health.
  • From @consigliari51 -- No conversation about Upton to the Twins can occur without Sano in the package.
  • From @rpwhales11 -- no way minny makes that deal, just stupid.
  • From @ben_gundy -- Love it. Liriano goes to the NL, Cuddy doesn't re-sign and we spend all that cash next year on an ace.

 

According to Aaron Gleeman, only six players in the last 50 years -- Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Boog Powell, and Cesar Cedeno -- have gotten at least 1,500 plate appearances by age 23 and posted a higher OPS than Upton.


He can run, hit for power, make good pitchers look ordinary, and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. He also has a team-friendly contract that runs through 2015. Why Arizona discussed him in trade talks at the winter meetings makes about as much sense as Lady Gaga's alien-like egg costume at the Grammy Awards.

 

Adding, or even slightly overpaying, for Upton is a no-brainer for any team. So why not put together a package for him headlined by Liriano? This basic idea is how Twins general manager Bill Smith should be thinking when talking with teams.

 

For reasons mostly unknown, two reports last week -- the Star Tribune and 1500espn.com -- indicate that Liriano is not in the Twins' long-term plans. Talking to one baseball insider this weekend, there is concern among many organizations that Liriano's violent delivery will eventually catch-up to him again. The Twins probably feel the same way, plus Liriano isn't exactly Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay on the dedication scale. 


Being two years away from free agency, Liriano's trade value will never be higher. Personally, I would keep him for myriad reasons, mostly because he is the only Twins' starter with electric stuff. Everyone else gets by on guts and guile. Scott Baker occasionally teases us, but not enough to move Liriano for two or three B+ prospects. But if a trade of Liriano is inevitable, Smith should stay away from a package of minor-leaguers, no matter how tantalizing they are. Move Liriano for an already-established player. If Smith has to sweeten the offer with his own prospects, then he should.

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