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.

Find him on Twitter

Posts about Gophers spring football

Looks like a long, nasty night at Target Field

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 22, 2011 - 5:54 PM

Tonight's Series of Random Thoughts, from an enclosed press box at Target Field, watching umbrellas sprout like dandelions...

-I understand that owners want to appear sympathetic as possible during the lockout. But the idea that they will cut the average NFL employee's salary by 12 percent to save money during the lockout should embarrass each of them.

These are billionaires who make huge profits with their latest plaything, an NFL franchise. The average fan might not realize this, but an NFL team's offices contain lots of mid-management and grunt types who are not being paid all that well. To cut their pay as a way to save a few thousand bucks or to make the owners' plight seem worse than it really is, is the height of arrogance.

Zygi Wilf shouldn't engage in this stunt. He's been a good and generous owner for the Vikings. He should be better than this.

-I ordered an IPad2, and Michael Cuddyer was gracious enough to show off his original Ipad to me in the clubhouse.

Friday afternoon, having returned from a road trip to Baltimore, he was using it to show me pictures he took of Camden Yards (he's a pretty good amateur photographer) and the weather radar. He also watches other games live on MLB.com, and said sometimes his son will ask to watch a West Coast game on the IPad when he's going to sleep.

Just about then, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel came over to Cuddyer's locker to tease him about his inability to hit Fausto Carmona, the Indians' scheduled starter for Friday night.

Cuddyer has made another for-Twins-only t-shirt. It shows the father figure from the movie ``The Incredibles,'' with his lantern jaw, as Jim Thome. The caption reads: ``Jimcredible.''

-The St. Paul Pioneer Press ran a feature on Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie playing tennis with the Williams sisters. I love it. What could be better for McKinnie than a sport that requires conditioning and footwork? Plus, it shows that he's dedicating himself to improving, even during a lockout. Maybe there's hope for McKinnie after all.

-I've never seen a team as depleted as the current Twins. Think about the caliber of players they're missing right now: Two former MVPs (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer), a Japanese league All-Star (Tsuyoshi Nishioka), one of the best run-producers of 2010 (Delmon Young), an All-Star closer (Joe Nathan, who is effectively without a role right now) and Kevin Slowey, who could have helped this team as a versatile righthander.

They are lucky the White Sox and Tigers have played almost as poorly as the Twins have so far. I still don't see the Indians or Royals lasting long. I did get a chance to chat with Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton, who raved about the influence of Orlando Cabrera on the young Indians.

Cabrera is one of those players who seems to have a greater impact on teams than his statistics and limited range would suggest. The Twins loved him when he helped them win in 2009. He is a highly competitive personality, something the Twins could use right now as they shrug and shiver their way through April.

-Great to see bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, the longest-tenured coach in Twins' history, back in the cliubhouse on Friday. He missed spring training and the beginning of the season with a series of retina surgeries.

-Kevin Slowey has altered the Twins' plan for his rehab work in Florida. I don't know if I've ever seen a player work harder to alienate everyone in an organization. The Twins regret not trading him this spring when they had the chance.

-Upcoming: I'll be covering the Gophers spring game (or scrimmage, or practice, or whatever) on Saturday, then the Twins' game on Sunday. Tom Pelissero and I will host the Gardenhire Show at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by Sunday Morning Sports Talk from 10-noon. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

More Mauer...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 21, 2011 - 12:28 PM

Received a number of interesting emails in the wake of our Joe Mauer package in today's paper. (Yes, we still print a newspaper.)

The most interesting came from a reader who noted that a position change wouldn't necessarily keep Mauer off the disabled list. After all, players at positions other than catcher get hurt, too.

While that's true, I'm basing my premise - that Mauer needs to shift positions to be an everyday offensive force - on years spent around Mauer, observing his routine and his habits. I see a guy who invests an incredible amount of time and thought in catching. I see a 6-5, 235-pound man with a long history of leg ailments. I also believe that modern athletes over-train.

While we all make fun of the odd pro athlete who proves to be an irresponsible slacker, most modern athletes are remarkably dedicated. They spent 12 months a year working on their bodies and their jobs. Mauer is such a modern athlete, and I think getting out of the crouch, and spending fewer hours every day, all year, would allow him to fulfill his offensive potential.

Here's a guy (to borrow a phrase from Frank Caliendo mimicking John Madden) who has won three batting titles and an MVP without even concentrating on his offensive capabilities. His current numbers are remindful of Rod Carew's, and I believe that relieved of the burden of catching, Mauer would become one of the greatest average/on-base-percentage hitters in baseball history, and he may even increase his power production.

What's fascinating about all of this is that noone knows. Not Mauer, not the Twins, not his teammates, not us. Noone can predict exactly how his body will react either to continued catching or a position change. But I'd rather see him change positions than continue to be worn down. And, of course, I get into all of this in today's column.

-Congratulations to Kevin Love on winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

He deserves it. What's strange about Love as a phenomenon is that I don't think I've ever encountered a player who is more celebrated nationally than locally. It usually works the other way around.

ESPN loves love. The Dan Patrick Show loves Love. And yet locally, he's more of an oddity than a celebrity.

This is, of course, another example of how far the Wolves have fallen in the public's eyes. If I had told you a few years ago that a white player would win the rebounding title and run off a remarkable string of double-doubles for the Wolves, you would have thought that the guy would be our No. 1 celebrity.

He isn't, and that's because nothing trumps winning in pro sports. I covered Kirby Puckett in his prime, Dave Winfield and Terry Steinbach near the ends of their careers, and Paul Molitor as he pursued 3,000 hits and a berth in the Hall of Fame, and those Twins teams didn't draw, because they didn't win.

Until Love becomes part of a winner, he will remain, locally, more a pleasant oddity than a star.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn today at 2:40 p.m. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk on the Target Field plaza at 10 a.m., right after the Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. Feel free to visit, but the woman who pressed her chest against the window is not welcome back.

The elderly man who walked up to our poster and shook his cane at our faces, however, is welcome to come in the booth and join the show.

This weekend, I"m covering the Gopher spring football game, where I believe Gopher fans will induct him into the Hall of Fame, and covering the Twins on Sunday. I know, it's Easter, and my kids are mad at me for working, but it's the first-place Indians!

 

Today's S.O.R.T.

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 20, 2011 - 12:37 PM

Today's Series of Random Thoughts:

-Carlos Gomez just made an amazing running catch against the Phillies. If only he could have learned to take a decent at-bat...

-For those emailing today, asking why my column didn't recommend firing David Kahn...well, I've actually recommended that often over the last few months. Today's column was an attempt to figure out how the Wolves could improve if he is retained, which is what I expect to happen.

-I also received a bunch of emails asking why I didn't include the Twins in today's ``prescription'' column. C'mon, can't we have a little perspective? The Twins stink right now. They're awful right now. They've been similarly awful at various points over the last 10 years, and being lousy for a couple of weeks, or a month, or half a season, hasn't prevented them from being very successful overall.

They stunk for half a season in 2003 and won the division. They stunk for two months to start the 2006 season and won the division. They stunk for much of 2008, and much of 2009, and wound up in Game 163s. And they went through a midseason slump last year and won the division.

They have lots of worrisome problems. Right now they don't know what they're going to get from their three best players - Mauer, Morneau and Nathan - or the entire bullpen. But they've been in far worse straits than this and survived. I'd just wait a while before burying them.

They have played as poorly as can be imagined, and yet are just two games behind Detroit and one behind Chicago. That's not exactly a crisis. It would be if the Twins played in the AL East, but they don't.

-Interesting that the NFL seems to have front-loaded its schedule with intriguing games, and rivalry games. Either the NFL brass expects the season to be played in full, or wants to pressure the players by making the public hot for those early-season games to be played on time.

-OK, this is purely selfish, but couldn't the Vikings play in Detroit in September and San Diego in December? Please?

-As I wrote today, Ken Hitchcock would be a godsend for the Wild. He's smart, funny, personable, accomplished and shrewd. He might be able to squeeze a playoff appearance out of this mediocre roster.

If the Wild hired Hitchcock and the Wolves hired Rick Adelman or Sam Mitchell, those franchises would be in far better shape.

-Watching the Sharks-Kings games last night, it occured to me that hockey is at its best when defenses are disorganized or inept. I'll take a wild shootout over a conservatively-played 1-0 game anytime in this sport.

-Been debating with Patrick Reusse on 1500espn how many pitchers the Twins will use this year. He originally said 18, and I said 20, and we might both be conservative. I see frequent callups and a trade or two before the end of August.

-There is a reason NBA players don't play this hard on defense during the regular season: None of them would be healthy for the playoffs. The level of defense in this league's playoffs is ferocious.

-As for the rampant Gopher-fan enthusiasm over the hiring of Jerry Kill, can we at least wait until he proves he can win  the spring game?

 

Big(?) Game Tonight at The Barn

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 10, 2011 - 4:57 PM

Here's what I hope happens tonight at the Barn:

I hope the Gophers play hard. All of them, not just Blake Hoffarber and Chip Armelin.

I hope Armelin starts at point guard, although I don't think Tubby Smith agrees with me. His loss.

I hope Trevor Mbakwe makes more contact with the Illinois front line than he has with ex-girlfriends who have restraining orders against him.

I hope Ralph Sampson steps foot in the paint.

I hope Rodney Williams offers evidence that he's in the arena.

I hope Tubby Smith does not again link his players' softness with the hardship of having to walk across the street  - in the cold! - to lift weights. I'm sure Bud Grant would emphathize.

I hope the Gophers don't completely collapse, and miss the NCAA Tournament. (I like going to the NCAA Tournament.)

I hope this team has more than false hope to offer the rest of the way.

----------------

Should the Twins trade Francisco Liriano? Yes and no.

No, they shouldn't trade him just to trade him. He's their best pitcher, and by some statistical measures he was an elite pitcher in the American League last year. No contender should trade its best pitcher unless it receives equal value, and receiving equal value for Liriano would be difficult right now.

That's the way a fan, or a writer invested in this season, would think.

Here's the way the Twins are thinking:

Liriano is valuable. He's more valuable today than he has been since 2006. By next season, if he pitches decently this year, he will be expensive. By next season, when he is a year away from free agency, he may be difficult to trade for value. Most important, he is a constant injury risk.

So while anyone focused on this season would not want to see Liriano traded, anyone worried about the long-term health of the franchise might want to move Liriano, for value, before he flops or gets hurt again or fails in more big games, damaging his value to the teams that might be interested in trading for him.

It's a tough call, which means the Twins won't trade him just to trade him, but might be willing to trade him if they receive excellent value - say, a power arm for the bullpen and a top pitching prospect.

As with any trade rumor/speculation/report, what really matters is what they would get in return. I wouldn't call for the Twins to trade Joe Mauer, but if the deal happened to be Mauer for Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, I'd be all for it.

Last year, I called for the Twins to trade Delmon Young for an ace. I was accused of being mean to Young. Not at all. I was paying him quite a compliment: That he had improved his value to the point where he could be exchanged for an ace like Zack Greinke. Trades are only insults if you trade someone just to be rid of them.

Trading Liriano just to be rid of him would be foolish. Trading him for good value would just be sound management.

Looking back on the Johan Santana scenario, the Twins wound up making the worst possible decision - they traded Santana for detritus and lost his services for the '98 season.

We now know that they should have either traded him a year earlier, when he would have had more value, or carried him into the season, knowing they could move him at the deadline - or allow him to help them win the division, enjoy having him pitch in Game 1 of the playoffs, and then collect the draft picks.

Investigating deals for Liriano is only logical. The Twins have six starters, plus Kyle Gibson on the cusp of the big leagues.

It all depends on what they would get in return.

------------------

The Wild is becoming a fun team to watch. Which is strange for me to say, because generally I prefer hockey teams with star power and spectacular scoring.

The Wild, though, is becoming one of those teams that is easy to like because of its grit, depth and teamwork.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has told me he believes this team will make the playoffs because while it lacks star power, it can offer four solid lines and good goaltending. And teamwork.

This team has surged because it is playing better than the sum of its parts. Fletcher says Mikko Koivu remains his best player, but Brent Burns might be his most talented player, and Cal Clutterbuck might be his most emblematic - a gritty, hard-hitting player who contributes scoring.

This team has already exceeded my expectations. And, as Fletcher says, if this team gets into the playoffs and Backstrom is hot, it could give any team trouble.

--------------

Upcoming: I'm on 1500espn from noon-2 on Friday, with Strib hockey writer Michael Russo as my co-host. We'll have on Strib writer Phil Miller to talk Gophers football and Jerry Sloan's retirement - Phil covered Jerry for years on the Jazz beat before repairing to Minnesota.

Michael is also lining up a hockey guest - I believe Matt Cullen. We'll also take calls.

Sunday, Brad Lane and I will run our last Sunday Sports Talk together. With Brad shifting to program director of the station, Tom Pelissero will be my co-host starting on Feb. 20, when we'll broadcast from Twins spring training in Fort Myers.

My Twitter name is Souhanstrib. You should follow me. It's very entertaining, since I really don't know what I'm doing.

 

Big(?) Game Tonight at The Barn

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 10, 2011 - 4:57 PM

Here's what I hope happens tonight at the Barn:

I hope the Gophers play hard. All of them, not just Blake Hoffarber and Chip Armelin.

I hope Armelin starts at point guard, although I don't think Tubby Smith agrees with me. His loss.

I hope Trevor Mbakwe makes more contact with the Illinois front line than he has with ex-girlfriends who have restraining orders against him.

I hope Ralph Sampson steps foot in the paint.

I hope Rodney Williams offers evidence that he's in the arena.

I hope Tubby Smith does not again link his players' softness with the hardship of having to walk across the street  - in the cold! - to lift weights. I'm sure Bud Grant would emphathize.

I hope the Gophers don't completely collapse, and miss the NCAA Tournament. (I like going to the NCAA Tournament.)

I hope this team has more than false hope to offer the rest of the way.

----------------

Should the Twins trade Francisco Liriano? Yes and no.

No, they shouldn't trade him just to trade him. He's their best pitcher, and by some statistical measures he was an elite pitcher in the American League last year. No contender should trade its best pitcher unless it receives equal value, and receiving equal value for Liriano would be difficult right now.

That's the way a fan, or a writer invested in this season, would think.

Here's the way the Twins are thinking:

Liriano is valuable. He's more valuable today than he has been since 2006. By next season, if he pitches decently this year, he will be expensive. By next season, when he is a year away from free agency, he may be difficult to trade for value. Most important, he is a constant injury risk.

So while anyone focused on this season would not want to see Liriano traded, anyone worried about the long-term health of the franchise might want to move Liriano, for value, before he flops or gets hurt again or fails in more big games, damaging his value to the teams that might be interested in trading for him.

It's a tough call, which means the Twins won't trade him just to trade him, but might be willing to trade him if they receive excellent value - say, a power arm for the bullpen and a top pitching prospect.

As with any trade rumor/speculation/report, what really matters is what they would get in return. I wouldn't call for the Twins to trade Joe Mauer, but if the deal happened to be Mauer for Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, I'd be all for it.

Last year, I called for the Twins to trade Delmon Young for an ace. I was accused of being mean to Young. Not at all. I was paying him quite a compliment: That he had improved his value to the point where he could be exchanged for an ace like Zack Greinke. Trades are only insults if you trade someone just to be rid of them.

Trading Liriano just to be rid of him would be foolish. Trading him for good value would just be sound management.

Looking back on the Johan Santana scenario, the Twins wound up making the worst possible decision - they traded Santana for detritus and lost his services for the '98 season.

We now know that they should have either traded him a year earlier, when he would have had more value, or carried him into the season, knowing they could move him at the deadline - or allow him to help them win the division, enjoy having him pitch in Game 1 of the playoffs, and then collect the draft picks.

Investigating deals for Liriano is only logical. The Twins have six starters, plus Kyle Gibson on the cusp of the big leagues.

It all depends on what they would get in return.

------------------

The Wild is becoming a fun team to watch. Which is strange for me to say, because generally I prefer hockey teams with star power and spectacular scoring.

The Wild, though, is becoming one of those teams that is easy to like because of its grit, depth and teamwork.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has told me he believes this team will make the playoffs because while it lacks star power, it can offer four solid lines and good goaltending. And teamwork.

This team has surged because it is playing better than the sum of its parts. Fletcher says Mikko Koivu remains his best player, but Brent Burns might be his most talented player, and Cal Clutterbuck might be his most emblematic - a gritty, hard-hitting player who contributes scoring.

This team has already exceeded my expectations. And, as Fletcher says, if this team gets into the playoffs and Backstrom is hot, it could give any team trouble.

--------------

Upcoming: I'm on 1500espn from noon-2 on Friday, with Strib hockey writer Michael Russo as my co-host. We'll have on Strib writer Phil Miller to talk Gophers football and Jerry Sloan's retirement - Phil covered Jerry for years on the Jazz beat before repairing to Minnesota.

Michael is also lining up a hockey guest - I believe Matt Cullen. We'll also take calls.

Sunday, Brad Lane and I will run our last Sunday Sports Talk together. With Brad shifting to program director of the station, Tom Pelissero will be my co-host starting on Feb. 20, when we'll broadcast from Twins spring training in Fort Myers.

My Twitter name is Souhanstrib. You should follow me. It's very entertaining, since I really don't know what I'm doing.

 

      

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