Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.
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A few of you might recall that five years ago we made our first venture into video on the Startribune.com web site -- a show called "Good Sports." It was a ton of fun, we made several "episodes," but it was also usually pretty labor intensive and wasn't picked up for a second web season (or else we just kind of stopped doing them because summer ended and things became really busy. Hard to remember which it was).
In any event, of all the memorable moments -- playing horseshoes (and quoting Lebowski) with Adam Weber, golfing with Corey Brewer (version 1.0) are among them -- one of the best and strangest episodes was not at all planned.
We needed a show idea, and something fell through, so we headed to the Dome -- yes, the Twins still played there -- before a game in 2008 to engage some fans in some Twins trivia. We solicited questions from blog readers, and life was good.
Well, pretty much the first person we ran into was Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. And we ended up spending the whole time with him doing Twins trivia. So in honor of the mayoral election and the changing of the guard, here is that video (embedded that the top of this post, and also linked here).
The latest addendum: Follow the bouncing ball from the original trade that netted the Twins several players, including Carlos Gomez ... watch it flow to the Brewers, where the Twins sent Gomez for J.J. Hardy ... and watch the bouncing ball settle nicely into the gloves of Gomez and Hardy, neither of whom are still with the Twins -- but both of whom won Gold Glove awards on Tuesday.
For Hardy, a shortstop, it was his second honor after also taking home the award in 2012 with the Orioles. You'll recall that the Twins traded Hardy to Baltimore for ineffective short-term reliever Jim Hoey instead of paying him in free agency. That started the Tsuyoshi Nishioka downward spiral, so let's stop thinking about that.
For Gomez, it was his first award. His range has never been in question, but his all-around season -- .843 OPS, national prominence -- likely aided him here.
You'll remember that both Hardy and Gomez were also All-Stars this year.
We'll just have to wait and see if there are more exciting chapters to the trade.
Game of the week: 7pm today (FSN): Wild at Chicago
For years, the NHL tried various ways to promote old-school, 1980s-style rivalries in the league. They tried weekend series, kind of like college hockey; they tried making divisional opponents play each other roughly 22 times each per year.
All this led to was fifty million Calgary-Edmonton-Vancouver road trips for the Wild, with rivalries nowhere to be seen -- except for Vancouver, a rivalry bred by the playoffs. And Colorado, a rivalry bred by the playoffs.
You can, of course, see a theme developing here. Rivalries happen because of the playoffs, and because of proximity, and not just from sheer repetition. It's like baseball trying to set up the Padres and the Mariners as an interleague series; no matter how many times MLB makes the teams play six games every year, Seattle and San Diego will never see each other as rivals. It just won't happen.
The NHL has finally figured this out. Let the Central Division rivalries begin anew -- starting tonight, when the Wild visit Chicago for the first time this year, a series that happens to be a rematch of a playoff series from last year, and a rematch of a thousand North Stars-Blackhawks battles.
I couldn't be more excited. Let's get this thing going again. And in conclusion: Secord sucks.
What else to watch this weekend
6:30pm today, 7pm Sunday (FOX): World Series: Listen. Pretty soon there's going to be no baseball and 10 feet of snow on the ground. Take some time out to enjoy there being baseball and no feet of snow on the ground.
7pm today (ESPN): #12 UCLA at #3 Oregon. Somebody may slow Oregon down this year. It could, theoretically, be UCLA. In the soon-to-end extended playoff of college football, we need to keep our eyes open now, because Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State have playoff games every week.
8:25am Sunday (NBCSN): Manchester City vs Chelsea. Friend of the blog Dana Wessel insists that these are the Premier League's two best teams, making this one of the marquee games of the season. Given that Chelsea is involved, it'll probably be a dull 0-0 draw, but you never know.
1pm Sunday (FSN): Gophers vs. Boston College. Something about afternoon hockey usually gets the Mariucci Arena crowd going, and Sunday's game -- after Friday's 3-3 tie between the #1 and #5 teams in the nation -- should be a barn-burner.
What to read this weekend
If you missed Mike Bates at SB Nation absolutely destroying the Twins, their front office, and really everything the franchise stands for, then I encourage you to take time out and read it, because unfortunately he is right about everything and the truth hurts.
The Angels wanted Pujols bad enough in the offseason after 2011 to give him a 10-year contract worth $240 million. The Cardinals did enough to make it look like they wanted to keep their slugger at such a high price, but in the end they didn't top the offer. He walked.
And somehow ... St. Louis is way better off for it?
Pujols had a solid but unspectacular first season with the Angels. He was hurt for a good chunk of 2013 and looks to be a shell of his former self. The Angels are a total of 5 games over .500 in the past two seasons combined, with zero playoff appearances.
The Cardinals? Well, they took Michael Wacha with the compensatory pick gained by letting Pujols go. He is yet another great young pitcher for the Cardinals, and after being named NLCS MVP he pitched well in helping St. Louis even the World Series at a game apiece last night.
And it was another reminder that if you are looking for an organization to emulate, Twins fans, please look south at the Cardinals. Their payroll generally gives them enough flexibility to spend without getting out of whack -- normally somewhere in the $95-110 million range, where the Twins' should be during competitive seasons. They make shrewd decisions. And the deftly combine player acquisitions with player development.
Now, we're not suggesting the Twins necessarily should have pulled a Pujols with Joe Mauer a few years back. Mauer's ultimate contract was worth about the same annually as Pujols' was ($23 million vs. $24 million), but he plays a more valuable position, he was 28 going into the first year of it vs. 32 for Pujols, and his deal was for 8 instead of 10 seasons.
We are saying that if the Twins hope to return to relevance, the roster makeup in St. Louis is the one to emulate. Pay to keep your stars but don't overpay. Supplement with cheap young talent and valued free agents. Make trades that make sense. It sounds easy. It obviously isn't, but it is the way out of this hole here in Minnesota. Make the "Twins Way" the "Cardinals Way" and all will be well.
We asked you on Twitter to rank the four major men's pro teams in town in order of LEAST dysfunctional to most dysfunctional. (The Lynx are not part of the discussion because they are CLEARLY the least dysfunctional organizatoin in town).Here are the results (and our thoughts below):
Of 29 Twitter votes among those who voted for all 4:
*21 picked the Wild as the LEAST dysfunctional
*7 picked the Wolves as the LEAST dysfunctional
*27 of 29 picked the Wolves either No. 1 or No. 2
*26 of 29 picked the Wild either No. 1 or No. 2
*18 picked the Vikings as the MOST dysfunctional
*9 picked the Twins as the MOST dysfunctional
*28 of 29 picked the Vikings No. 3 or No. 4.
*25 of 29 picked the Twins No. 3 or No. 4.
If you want another shot at voting, you can go to our startribune.com poll.
Our order, which is based primarily on problems that surfaced (or continued) two years ago and each team's ability or inability to solve them:
1. Wolves. The Timberwolves won just 17 games in the 2010-11 season, and while there were many problems, a big one that continued to vex the team the next two seasons was the lack of a reliable true shooting guard. That problem appears to have been corrected with the free agent signing of Kevin Martin, and the Timberwolves -- with their roster assembly and head coach -- arguably have the most potential of any of the four.
2. Wild. The glaring weakness? Well, basically the objective of the sport: scoring goals. The Wild offense struggled in 2010-11. The next season, 2011-12, the team scored 166 goals, by far the fewest in the NHL. Despite the additions of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and others since then, the Wild entered play Thursday ranked 25th in the NHL in goals scored with just 21 in their first 10 games. Based on scoring chances and potential, however, the Wild could be on track to fix things as the season goes along.
3. Next we have the Twins, whose starting pitching was a major problem in 2011 when the team went from 94 to 63 wins. The team ranked 26th in starters’ ERA that year. Modest attempts to fix that have flopped, with the Twins ranking 29th in starters’ ERA in 2012 and 30th – dead last – in 2013.
4. And finally we have the Vikings. They entered 2011 knowing they needed a quarterback of the future. They drafted Christian Ponder in the first round and floundered in 2011 with a 3-13 record. Even a 10-6 playoff season in 2012 didn’t quell skeptics, and rightfully so. The team is right back where it started, at 1-5 in 2013 and with no discernible quarterback of the future.