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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I wrote about Robert Griffin III, and the Vikings' view of him, for the Monday paper.
I could have written about Christian Ponder's struggles and Bill Musgraves' red-zone calls.
I've given Musgrave lots of credit this year for finding clever ways to run an offense dependent on Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. I've given him credit for helping Ponder look far improved from last year. But Musgrave has a flaw, and it's red-zone common sense.
Too often, as was the case on Sunday, he takes his best players off the field and goes away from his team's strengths near the goalline. Harvin and Peterson should be on the field, even if only as decoys. And Musgrave shouldn't abandon power running and quick hits to Harvin.
As for Ponder, he threw a lot of pitches that even Jim Joyce wouldn't have called strikes. He didn't blame the swirling wind in the stadium - Ponder isn't the kind of guy who makes excuses - but if it wasn't the wind, he merely had a lousy game.
Losing on the road to Washington is no shame, but it does increase the importance of the upcoming homestand. The Vikings will face Arizona and Tampa Bay in a five-day stretch. Sweep, and the Vikings are 6-2 at the break. Lose both, and they're 4-4 with the more difficult half of the schedule remaining.
One thing I marvel at when watching the Vikings live is how hard Harvin and Peterson run, and how often they're hurting when they go to the sideline. Both left, limping, at times on Sunday, and once Peterson went to the sideline shaking his head, then removing his helmet. I don't know if they can last the entire season taking the pounding they are required to take in this offense.
This team has to pray that Jerome Simpson can shake off his back problems. They need a downfield threat, especially when they fall behind. Simpson is the only player they have other than Harvin who can scare safeties.
-Mike Shanahan earned his 168th NFL victory, including playoffs. That ties him with Bud Grant for 14th on the all-time list.
-Griffin's 13 rushes was a career-high, and it came a week after he suffered a concussion.
-His 138 yards rushing marked a franchise record by a quarterback, breaking his record set in Week 2 of 84.
-The total was the fifth-most in a game by an NFL quarterback.
Coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the eighth inning to beat the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Rare, right?
I'm not sure any of realized just how rare it really was.
The Twins provided this nugget today on the comeback: The last time the Twins came back from a four-run deficit against the Yankees to win a game was on May 5, 1997, when they trailed, 5-1, after four innings.
They won that game, 9-8. Before Tuesday night, the Twins had never (since they became the Twins in 1961) come back from four or more runs behind in the eighth inning to win a game against the Yankees.
The last time it happened in franchise history was August 18, 1953, when the Washington Senators trailed the Yankees by seven runs entering the eighth and won, 10-8, in New York.
I know fans go crazy whenever Joe Mauer sits.
Let's take the long view here. He needs rest. He's an oversized catcher with a history of leg problems and injuries who perfoms his best offensively whe he's fresh. It makes sense to rest him occasionally, and the fact that Carl Pavano can't seem to stand seeing Mauer behind the plate makes it easy for manager Ron Gardenhire to rest Mauer when Pavano pitches, which is the case tonight.
But when Mauer is hitting .419 against a pitcher, as he is against Freddy Garcia, shouldn't he DH? The Twins are using Jason Kubel as their DH tonight, with Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer playing the corner outfield positions.
Cuddyer is hitting .242 with no homers against Gracia. Kubel is hitting .636. I'd rather see Mauer as the DH and Kubel in rightfield, with Cuddyer getting a night off.
When we asked Gardenhire about the decision, he said something interesting, something that, if you read between the lines, may be an indication that Mauer himself would rather rest than play on certain days.
Gardenhire isn't about to blame Mauer for wanting days off. His answer:
``Well, I'm like everybody else,'' Gardenhire said. ``I'd love to have Mauer playing all the time. I'm no different than any fan out there, sitting in your rocking chair or your arm chair, saying, ``I want mauer in the lineup all the time.' Believe me, I like that, too.
``But catchers need days, and this is a great opportunity to give him one, at least, a week, with Pavano pitching. Then to say, `DH him,' well, that's not really a day off, because he hits more than most peopole and he runs around the bases. It's about his legs,a nd giving him a day off is to keep him off the field.'' How do they decide when Mauer will rest? ``I always check with him every day,'' Gardenhire said. ``If he gives me one of these, `Let me get up and move around and see how I do,’ then I pretty much know he’s sore and he’s going to have to work his way through it.'' I'm like those fans. I'd love to see Mauer in the lineup tonight. I think he should be in the lineup tonight. But the default position among many vocal fans is to blame Gardenhire every time he rests a player. In many cases, those players have proven in the past that they need rest to be effective over the course of a long season. Or, in Mauer's case, the player has indicated to the manager that he wants or needs a day off. Should the manager force the player to play? In a perfect world, or a theoretical world, sure. That's just not the way modern sports work, though. If Mauer had walked into Gardenhire's office this afternoon and demanded to play, I'm sure he'd be the DH tonight. -------------------------------------- Gorgeous day in New York today. I got away from the tourist areas and took the subway to the meat-packing district, then walked over to Union Square. Right now, it's cloudy and threatening. There is a chance of rain tonight, although I'm sure the game will be played. ------------------------------------- The middle of the Yankees' lineup is frightening, but this is a team with serious holes. Freddy Garcia in the rotation? Phil Hughes struggling to find velocity? Jorge Posada as a full-time DH? A.J. Burnett looking as erratic as ever? I think the Yankees will be very good this year. I believe that because they are bound to trade for a starting pitcher to combine with C.C. Sabathia at the top of the rotation. I'm tweeting from Yankee Stadium at @Souhanstrib.
``But catchers need days, and this is a great opportunity to give him one, at least, a week, with Pavano pitching. Then to say, `DH him,' well, that's not really a day off, because he hits more than most peopole and he runs around the bases. It's about his legs,a nd giving him a day off is to keep him off the field.''
How do they decide when Mauer will rest? ``I always check with him every day,'' Gardenhire said. ``If he gives me one of these, `Let me get up and move around and see how I do,’ then I pretty much know he’s sore and he’s going to have to work his way through it.''
I'm like those fans. I'd love to see Mauer in the lineup tonight. I think he should be in the lineup tonight.
But the default position among many vocal fans is to blame Gardenhire every time he rests a player. In many cases, those players have proven in the past that they need rest to be effective over the course of a long season. Or, in Mauer's case, the player has indicated to the manager that he wants or needs a day off.
Should the manager force the player to play? In a perfect world, or a theoretical world, sure. That's just not the way modern sports work, though. If Mauer had walked into Gardenhire's office this afternoon and demanded to play, I'm sure he'd be the DH tonight.
Gorgeous day in New York today. I got away from the tourist areas and took the subway to the meat-packing district, then walked over to Union Square.
Right now, it's cloudy and threatening. There is a chance of rain tonight, although I'm sure the game will be played.
The middle of the Yankees' lineup is frightening, but this is a team with serious holes.
Freddy Garcia in the rotation? Phil Hughes struggling to find velocity? Jorge Posada as a full-time DH? A.J. Burnett looking as erratic as ever?
I think the Yankees will be very good this year. I believe that because they are bound to trade for a starting pitcher to combine with C.C. Sabathia at the top of the rotation.
I'm tweeting from Yankee Stadium at @Souhanstrib.
You can't use the word ``bravery'' in sports without separating athletic bravery from real-life bravery. You can't compare what athletes do to what soldiers and firefighters do.
But there is an element of bravery in sports, and Denard Span and Orlando Hudson displayed plenty of it late Sunday night.
Jon Rauch came on for the Twins with a three-run lead in the ninth. With two on and two out, Vlad Guerrero hit a fly to shallow center. Hudson sprinted back. Span sprinted in. They both dove for the ball. Hudson hit Span in a sensitive area. Span's leg caught Hudson's left wrist.
Both lay on the ground in pain. After a few moments, Span rose. Hudson stayed down longer, finally getting up and walking off the field without help.
It was a strange and worrisome way to end a pretty good homestand.
Target Field continues to shine. The place is just beautiful. The Twins are 30-20 and in first place. (My column for the Monday paper points out that the Twins are off to one of their best two-month starts in recent history, and I give much of the credit to Hudson and shortstop J.J. Hardy for solidifying two positions that have been in flux for most of the past eight years.)
But Hudson and manager Ron Gardenhire seemed worried about Hudson's wrist after the game. I asked Span if he was worried about Hudson, and Span quietly said, ``Yeah...Yeah, I am.''
One reason Hudson and Hardy have been so pivotal is that the Twins just don't have much depth at those positions, especially with Brendan Harris struggling. Now either Harris or Alexi Casilla may be called on to play second every day. Because Harris is struggling and isn't known for his ability to turn the doubleplay, I would expect Casilla to get the call if Hudson can't play on Monday.
-The Twins' hitters can complain about the home runs they're losing in Target Field, but a home-field advantage is a home-field advantage. The Twins are 18-9 at home.
-I played club lacrosse for years, and the Duke-Virginia national semifinal on Saturday was one of the best games I've ever seen. Or at least one of the best finishes, with Duke scoring in the final seconds to beat No. 1-ranked Virginia.
Duke plays Notre Dame on Monday for the national title.
-I'm taking vacation time from the newspaper the next couple of weeks, so this space will probably be pretty slow for a while.
-My pick: Lakers in 7. I just feel that Kobe Bryant will find a way to win enough close games to win the series, and that the Lakers will be better prepared for the Celtics after losing to them two years ago. But what I really hope for is more post-game interviews with Ron Artest, just so I can see that vacant look in his eyes. Priceless.
-I've been told that Kyle Waldrop is the minor-league pitcher the Twins think can be of most immediate help. I could see Jeff Manship being added as a long man. With Brian Duensing and Jose Mijares looking good, Ron Mahay may not have a role as an extra lefty.
-Hockey pick: Chicago in five. I think Chicago has an edge in goaltending and goal-scoring, plus home-ice. For once I think the better team wins a postseason hockey series.
-For what it's worth, after all the discussion of Yankee superiority, the Twins and Yankees have exactly the same record.
-Is it just me, or does a football player leave the Gophers every five minutes? I have a feeling Tim Brewster's last season is going to be a disaster.
-I still don't see this season ending well for Jon Rauch. He is very hittable. I give him credit for throwing strikes, but I'm afraid those strikes are going to start landing in bleachers with more regularity.
-Is there a better setup man in the game than Matt Guerrier? He's durable, dependable, he wants the ball, he pitches with guile and intelligence, and he's even been affordable. The Twins will have to spend some money on him this winter. This is one guy they can't allow to leave.
Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe grabbed a reporter's mic and told us he likes one Shania Twain song today. Along with 50-cent, Maroon 5 and some of his own compositions.
So I asked the logical question: Shania Twain?
Shiancoe laughed and hit me on the shoulder. I don't know what that means.
Shianc also revealed his game-day breakfast: Egg whites (``It's like pulling teeth to eat that stuff; not very tasty''), oatmeal (``With nothing on it'') and a protein shake (``Best one you've ever tasted.'')
He did not exactly seem tight. He promised to get 10 hours of sleep on Friday, because rest takes two days to register with your body. Or so he tells me.
The guy is a beauty. We spend so much time overanalyzing pro football that it was refreshing to end the week with an interview with a guy this lighthearted.
It was a loose lockerroom all around. Ryan Longwell told me he believes Brett Favre is primed for a big game (his quotes will appear in my Sunday column), and Antoine Winfield said ``These kinds of games are the reason you play the game.''
Let's face it - when the Cowboys come to town for a big game, the game has a different feel. I covered the Cowboys in 1989 before moving to Minneapolis, and even when they were 1-15, they were fascinating. In fact, I think the most fascinating year I've ever had on a beat occured in 1989, when I covered Jimmy Johnson in his first year in the NFL, Jerry Jones in his first year as an owner, Dave Wannstedt as the defensive coordinator, and Troy Aikman as a frustrated young player who did not trust Johnson at that point.
I remember Johnson pulling a few of us aside to explain the Herschel Walker trade, and you could tell how shrewd, cutthroat and driven he was. Jerry was always entertaining. Aikman was driven to be great. I remember one day after the '89 season, I was walking through the Cowboys lockerroom, and they didn't have a great weight room at the time, and Aikman was doing lunges with a huge weight across his back all the way across the lockerroom and back.
He's turned into a fine analyst for the same reason - he does his homework, and he's a sharp guy.
I remember having a conversation with Wannstedt during that 1-15 season, and he made football sound awful simple. I was asking him how he could be confident when his defense was so horrid. He told me something like, ``If you can get off the field on third down, all those stats change. If you can get off the field on third down, it changes field position, time of possession, and if you have a good offense, it can mean a lot more points on the board. You can go from 1-15 to 8-8 very quickly, and then you see how good you are.''
Jimmy's staff won three Super Bowls, even though Barry Switzer got to be the figurehead for one of them.
My picks for the weekend: All home teams. I think the Chargers will win by 10 or more over the Jets. I think what people are forgetting about the Cardinals is that they would have lost that game to the Packers if Aaron Rodgers had thrown his last pass anywhere near a wide-open Greg Jennings. I'm taking the Saints in a close one.
I'm taking Peyton Manning over the Ravens, because I never bet against Peyton Manning. And I'm taking the Vikings, 31-27, over the Cowboys. All of the analysis of the Vikings' weaknesses is right on. I just think we're forgetting that the Cowboys have similar weaknesses (particularly in their secondary) and the Vikings' pass rush will benefit from the noise in the Dome.
I see Favre, Harvin and Jared Allen having big games, with Adrian Peterson making big plays in the passing game and...to go out on a limb...Benny Sapp making a pivotal play at some point.
In an even matchup, I favor the home team, for lack of a better reason.
Upcoming: I'll be at the FSN studios tonight to conduct my weekly debate with Jim Petersen. The show starts at 6:30; I'll be on about 6:35-6:40. You can vote for me by texting 234234 then Souhan.
I'm hosting Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday on am-1500, and I have a few of my Dallas buddies and a national guest or two lined up to talk about the Cowboys and the NFL.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.
While working on my Monday column (which will appear on 1A of the paper, or what some sports fans call ``The Wrapper''), I crunched a few numbers.
Brett Favre finished with the best passer rating (107.2) of his career, and the lowest interception rate (1.3) of his career. For all the concern every rational observer had about his health and his recklessness, he performed with admirable restraint and finished the season healthier that could have been expected.
He passed for 4,202 yards, and was particularly successful at home.
On the road, he completed 68 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. At the Dome, he completed 69 percent for 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Let's face it - the guy was phenomenal, and his interactions with teammates in the lockeroom, on the field and on the sideline make it pretty clear that he was very popular even if he didn't spend a lot of time off the field with his teammates.
I asked Jared Allen to sum up Favre's season and he said, ``Ah, phenomenal year, great guy, great teammate, great season. What more can you say?''
``The guy has played great,’’ said Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. ``I’m happy for him on a different level.
For whatever reason, everybody wants to root against him, say, `Well, here’s why he’s washed up.’ It’s good to know he’s still playing at this high level. There are a lot of people here who had confidence he could do this.’’
Someone asked Favre how he was able to escape the pocket to make big plays. ``Speed,'' he said.
-Suddenly the Vikings' playoff chances look much better, for these reasons:
1) The bye will allow Favre and the Vikings' injured players the best opportunity to be at full speed. The bye should particularly help cornerback Antoine Winfield and defensive tackle Pat williams.
2) The Vikings will get to play a home playoff game after the bye. The Vikings are 8-0 at home; 4-4 on the road. No elaboration necessary.
3) The Saints looked terrible the last month of the season. If they lose their first playoff game and the Vikings win theirs, Minnesota would host the NFC title game.
-Again, I'll be on am-1500 with Reusse at 6:40 a.m., and on WJON at 7:14 a.m. You can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib.
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