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.
Gophers baseball coach John Anderson said he got ``emotional'' on Wednesday afternoon, when talking with old Gopher teammate Paul Molitor about managing each other in the Twins' first game of spring training.
Molitor said, ``It was fun, especially once I got into the flow of the game.''
It was Molitor's first game as a manager. ``I was out there flashing signs the whole game, which is different,'' he said. ``Once I settled in, it was really enjoyable.''
The Twins used to open play against local Edison College. Then, because of the relationship between Ron Gardenhire and the Concordia staff, Concordia visited, even it for a scrimmage on the back fields.
Playing the Gophers is an upgrade in all sorts of ways. It gives more Minnesotans reason to visit Fort Myers. It pairs two famous Gophers - Molitor and Twins closer Glen Perkins - against their old school and their friend Anderson. It gives them a college opponent with high-end talent.
Some observations on the game, a 3-1 Twins victory:
-Perkins was fired up, saying he had more adrenaline than he's ever had in early March before. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
-MIguel Sano has tremendous bat speed. But we knew that. What was impressive was his foot speed. He stole a base and looked a little like a defensive end running a stunt when he steamed around second base.
-Byron Buxton hit doubles in his first two at-bats. The first was a hustle double on sinking liner to right-center. The left was a pulled shot down the leftfield line.
Molitor did address a mistake Buxton made, pulling Buxton aside after he scored on Kennys Vargas' two-out double in the first. Buxton coasted home, creating the possibility that if Vargas had been thrown out at second, Buxton may have crossed the plate too late for the run to count. ``He broke down a little early,'' Molitor said. ``You can't do that in that situation.''
-I felt sorry for the kids who had to face Michael Tonkin in the ninth. Tonkin has very good stuff, and it's time for him to be on the big-league staff.
-Watching Vargas take batting practice before the game, he responded well when asked to react to situations. Asked to foil an imaginary shift, he hit line drives the other way. Asked to advance runners, he produced ground balls to the right side.
-The Twins wil run something close to their ``A'' lineup out tomorrow in the true home opener against Boston at Hammond Stadium.
-My last 3 podcasts from spring training: Dave St. Peter, Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter, all at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Keep getting asked why it's such a big deal that the Patriots deflated footballs.
The questions I'm hearing:
-Why does it matter?
-Is it really an advantage?
-Isn't it just because the Patriots win, and nobody likes Belichick?
These questions are irrelevant.
If you cork your bat and strike out, you still corked your bat. If you take steroids and fail to perform, you still took steroids.
And there is a benefit to deflating footballs. It makes them easier to throw and catch. And if the Patriots knew they were going to play with deflated footballs, I'm sure they practiced with them all week.
The Patriots would have beaten the Colts with any form of ball in play. That doesn't mean they didn't cheat, or shouldn't be punished for cheating.
Ricky Rubio is belatedly becoming in danger of being not only a draft bust, but a contract mistake.
He's been out for months with a sprained ankle. He does not appear close to returning. It's time for the young man to act like he cares about playing basketball.
The best thing that could happen to the Wolves at this point would be further tests on his ankle that reveal something more serious is wrong. Otherwise, this is the worst sprained ankle in sports history - or Rubio isn't particularly interested in playing basketball and fulfilling his contract.
After their comebacks fell short against Ohio State and Iowa, Gophers players were crushed. They had played brilliantly late in the game to force dramatic endings.
Today, if they're still talking about being one shot away from a victory, they should be ignored.
They were within a shot of Nebraska last night because Nebraska played horribly all night. The Gophers lost because they played even worse. That wasn't a dramatic loss - it was a horrific loss. Neither team deserved to win.
That might have been the most important game of the season. Had the Gophers won, they would havre moved to 2-5. They would have had a two-game winning streak, with an easy upcoming schedule. They could have made a strong move toward .500.
Now they're just a lousy team in a mediocre league.
Tonight at 5 p.m. at Kieran's Irish Pub, great local rocker G.B. Leighton will be my guest for my podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Thursday at 3 p.m., Strib hockey writer Michael Russo will be my guest. Friday at 5 p.m. at O'Gara's, USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero will be my guest. Monday at 5 p.m. at The Local, Twins president Dave St. Peter will be my guest.
Thanks in advance to all of these people who have been so generous with their time. You can listen to the podcasts live, or anytime later, at the website.
And thanks for listening.
I’ve been interviewing people for a long time. The hour or more I spent with Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant might represent the best on-the-record conversation I’ve had in 30 years.
Grant said he’s contemplating retirement, so he can write books. He may write about race relations, after watching the demographics of Eden Prairie change dramatically during his tenure. He may disappear into the woods with his father, Bud, the legendary former Vikings coach.
He also told me that his father came close to never playing sports or coaching football. When Bud graduated from high school, he told his father he wanted to live off the land, to hunt and fish and forgo college. Instead, he attended the University of Minnesota on the GI bill, subsisted on five-for-a-quarter candy bars and a all-you-can-eat-for-a-buck spaghetti at Café di Napoli in Minneapolis, and lived off the generosity of Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman.
Bud is 87. Mike is 57. Mike says he wants to spend time hunting with his father while he can, and that may mean leaving a program that is trying for its fourth straight and 10th total state championship tonight at TCF Bank Stadium.
``My dad didn’t want to go to college,’’ Mike said. ``He got out of the war he wanted to go hunting. He just wanted to go live in the woods. My uncle tells the story of him and my grandfather arguing, fighting, my Dad saying, `I want to go into the woods and hunt. That’s it.’
``His brother says it’s truly what he wanted to do. He would disappear for days when he was 15 or 16 and be gone hunting and fishing, where he has his cabin now. My grandfather would say, what, you want to be a `Hunyuk’ your whole life? I don’t know what that is. Whatever a Hunyuk is, it can’t be good.’’
I’m writing about Mike’s future and Bud’s past tonight. It’ll be in the Saturday paper and online at startribune.com. If you want to hear our full conversation, in which Mike weighed in on race, Jerry Kill, college recruiting, Red McCombs, Rick Spielman, high school coaching, hungry kids, Tim Brewster, Glen Mason, Jeff Diamond, Sid, Tom Kelly and John Gagliardi, you can find it on my podcast at Souhanunfiltered.com, along with conversations with Paul Molitor, Michael Russo, Mark Craig, Ross Bernstein and Sean Barnard.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
Jerry Kill inherited a terrible football program. On Saturday, his team was far better coached and better conditioned than Michigan, and blew out the Wolverines in the Big Quiet House.
Mike Zimmer took over a losing team, had his top free agent shot in a bar, lost his franchise player to a suspension, and on Sunday beat a talented Atlanta team with a rookie quarterback.
This was one of the most impressive weekends in memory for Minnesota football coaches.
Kill and Zimmer are building programs that should win for years.
You can see Kill's touch in his team's physical play. Michigan's strength is stopping the run, yet the Gophers ran all over the Wolverines. His roster is visibly stronger than it was when he arrived, and his defense could teach NFL teams how to make plays on balls in the air.
You can see Zimmer's touch in the way his teams limit top offensive players. The Vikings made the Rams look more inept than they really are. They limited Jimmy Graham and Julio Jones, keeping either from making game-breaking plays. The only receiver who has dominated the Vikings was Julian Edelman in Week 2, shortly after the Adrian Peterson news broke, and that probably happened because the Vikings figured Xavier Rhodes could handle Edelman one-on-one, and Edelman proved too elusive for him on that day.
Zimmer and Rick Spielman also seem to have done extremely well in the draft together. Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater are keepers.
Kill and Zimmer are teachers who have hired excellent staffs. What might be best for Minnesota football fans is, neither seems to be looking for their next career move. You get the sense both could be here, and winning, for a long time.
I'll be on 1500espn-am at 12:15 from Winter Park. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
What a week. I thought Minneapolis and Target Field put on a great show all week, from the Futures Game through Glen Perkins getting the save last night.
All week, Perkins talked about pinching himself, that he wasn't sure this could be real - a local boy pitching at an All-Star game in his home ballpark.
Here's the link to the column I did this spring on the turning point in Perkins' career:
Or, if you prefer text, here's the text:
FORT MYERS, FLA. – Glen Perkins is an All-Star closer who has spent his entire life in Minnesota. He is the rare Twins player who lives in state year-round, has become a centerpiece of the Twins’ marketing campaign and has vowed to play for them as long as they will have him.
It’s easy to forget that three years ago the Twins considered trading him, and only Perkins’ intervention led to what he calls “a great life.”
Perkins butted heads with his coaches at the University of Minnesota, then quarreled with his Twins bosses. He was on his way to becoming another first-round bust when, late in the spring of 2011, he walked up to Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday,” Anderson said. “He came to me right here and said, ‘Can I talk to you? I was born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire life in Minnesota, I want to be a Twin. I want to be a better teammate, I want to be a better pitcher, don’t give up on me.’
“There was some talk of making a trade, then all of a sudden he saw the light.”
Perkins remembers traveling from Fort Myers to Clearwater, Fla., with the Twins and not pitching.
“That’s the first time that had ever happened to me,’’ he said. “I was angry.”
He walked into manager Ron Gardenhire’s office and asked why he hadn’t been informed he had made the team.
“I told Gardy, ‘I want to play here, if you’ll have me,” Perkins said.
Gardenhire said he would call Perkins later in the day. Perkins figured that was a brushoff. He picked up his father-in-law and headed to Sanibel to fish.
“The phone rang before we got to the causeway,” Perkins said. “Gardy said, ‘Pack your bags, you’re going north with us.’ ”
Perkins had a similar experience with the Gophers. The Stillwater High School product made lousy grades during his first semester in college. The Gophers redshirted him, and he spent his second semester “figuring out how to be a college student.” One day, Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes called him about a rumor that Perkins wanted to transfer.
Perkins said that if he was going to leave, he already would be gone.
“I think that was the moment for Todd where he said, ‘OK, he’s committed, he just needs to figure out how to do it.’ I never had any more trouble.”
Why so much conflict? “I guess it’s a character flaw of mine,” Perkins said.
Now he’s Mr. Minnesota, or at least hangs out with someone vying for that title.
Perkins and Joe Mauer played for the USA in the World Baseball Classic and for the American League in the All-Star Game last year. They could play in the next All-Star Game, at Target Field.
With Mauer having twin daughters and wintering in Minnesota instead of Fort Myers, the two were able to enjoy the Polar Vortex together. “We played hockey,” Perkins said. “Well, it was more like ice dancing. No sequins, though.”
They talked about their kids. They talked about their futures, with Perkins signed through 2016 and Mauer through 2018. They talked about how losing feels, and what winning at home would mean.
“We agreed that if we had crappy season after crappy season it would be worth it if just once we could win it all here,” Perkins said. “That’s the carrot dangling in front of us. The experience of winning a World Series in your hometown — what Kent Hrbek did — makes it all worth it.
“I want to be the closer of this team when we get to the playoffs. I got to see Joe Nathan do that a whole bunch.”
In the last few days, Perkins became the centerpiece for Twins television and radio commercials, and has dined with the Gophers baseball staff, with the team playing in Florida. One conversation changed him from an anti-authoritarian trade chip into a representative of all that is right in Minnesota sports.
“Either I hinted to them that I didn’t want to be here, or they got that impression,” Perkins said. “I think they appreciated what I had to say. For a guy to say, ‘This is where I still want to be,’ no matter how rough the going was, I think they respected that.”
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