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
Fort Myers, Fla.
I use my column to delve into meaty topics. Here, I'll hit you with quick observations after a few days in Fort Myers:
1. Torii Hunter, as I wrote this morning, loves being a leader. He spends lots of time talking to Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks at their adjacent lockers, and pulls hitters out of the cage on the back field to offer tips. One thing he emphasizes is ``loading'' weight onto the back leg to generate power.
2. With Hunter and Guardado back as full-time employees, the clubhouse, deathly quiet for most of the last four springs, is suddenly loud. You hear lots of laughter. Both go out of their way to engage young players.
3. Twins manager Paul Molitor said of pitching prospect Jose Berrios, ``He's 20 going on 35.'' Berrios is remarkably fit and polished. He has great stuff. He could rise quickly in the organization.
4. This might mean nothing, but Mike Pelfrey looks like he's throwing hard in bullpen sessions. He could fit into the staff as a fifth starter, long man or short reliever. Twins general manager Terry Ryan calls him ``a wonderful guy,'' and appreciates that Pelfrey wants to make good on his contract.
5. When Ricky Nolasco arrived as the Twins' primary free-agent signing last year, he quickly gave the impression that he didn't want to do a lot of extracurricalars. He didn't like giving interviews. He didn't seem to work out hard. He didn't seem to connect with teammates.
Ervin Santana is the opposite. He gets to the clubhouse early, stays late, is friendly to all. His reputation as a likeable professional is holding true so far.
6. In the old days (when I was a beat writer), Latin American players were known for either having visa difficulty or inventing visa difficulty, and often weren't around at the beginning of spring training.
The Twins' Latin American players blow apart that stereotype. They're all in camp, and they're among the most avid and enthusiastic workers. Danny Santana in particular has impressed the Twins with his professionalism and attitude.
7. Torii Hunter spent part of the morning laying flat on his back in the clubhouse, trying to catch his breath. He took Buxton to the Twins' training hill by the minor-league fields for sprint-hill work. Buxton, an exceptional athlete, said the workout was draining.
8. I thought I was being clever, asking second baseman Brian Dozier about Paul Molitor's attention to detail. Turns out he's been asked that ``a dozen times.'' But he still gave me a great answer, which I'll use in an upcoming column.
Today at 2:30 I'm doing a live podcast with Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo at SouhanUnfiltered.com (or Souhan-Unfiltered on IHeartradio). You can listen live or later.
On Friday, I'll begin a series of podcasts with key Twins figures.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
The NFL held its Pro Bowl and the NHL held its All-Star game on Sunday.
Part of my job is to consume as much of newsworthy, noteworthy sports on television as I can. I didn't watch a minute of either.
Judging from today's reports, I didn't miss anything.
Here's how I would ``fix'' the All-Star events, or at least make them more watchable:
NHL: Hockey without defense is a bad idea. Goals in and of themselves are rarely pretty. They're exciting because they occured against a bunch of defensive players trying to stop the puck, or crush the shooter. Hockey requires intensity to be entertaining. So instead of paying each player a nice fee for making the All-Star game, throw all of that money into a pot, add a few million to make it enticing, and give all of the money to the participating players on the winning team.
Wouldn't you love to see the best players in the game playing hard for that last goal?
Basketball: Again, make it a winner-takes-all game, and tweak the rules. Install a four-point line to reward extra-long shots. And make dunks worth four points. Nobody wants to see mid-range jump shots in an All-Sar game, Reward the spectacular.
Baseball: This remains the best of the All-Star games, because it is the only one in which the defense is performing to the best of its abilities. One tweak: Allow players to reenter the game. The flaw of the baseball All-Star game is that the subs are in the game for the deciding innings, and it's possible for both teams to run out of players. If the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team trailing by one, would you rather see the manager forced to use the player scheduled to bat...or would you like to see him call Miguel Cabrera off the bench, even though Cabrera left the game in the third inning?
NFL: Football without fully-engaged defenses might be even less entertaining than hockey without defense. My longstanding suggestion: Scrap the Pro Bowl and make the NFC and AFC battle in an old Superstars-style competition.
For the younger generation, Superstars would take star athletes and have them compete in events like sprinting, tug of war and the obstacle course. With the winners taking home loot
This format created one of the great moments in non-tradiational sports history. Here's a recap of it by ESPN and former St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Jim Caple:
``The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings met in Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in January 1975, a game that included 16 future Hall of Famers (counting coaches Bud Grant and Chuck Noll), Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, Minnesota's Purple People Eaters and legendary quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw. That game, which the Steelers won 16-6, was not the most dramatic or memorable showdown between the two teams, however. That distinction goes to an epic, 16-minute tug-of-war on the sands of Waikiki held two weeks later as part of ABC's "Superteams" competition. After it was all over and the two teams lay moaning and exhausted in the sand, Dick Button -- yes, that Dick Button, the figure skating guy -- told a Sports Illustrated writer, "Nothing -- nothing, not even my own Olympic victories -- has ever moved me like that."
JEFF SIEMON, former Vikings linebacker: "It was the worst physical strain I've ever been under. It was the most intense, brutal abuse I've ever gone through -- and maybe by far."
DAVE OSBORN, former Vikings running back: "The tug-of-war was the toughest, most physical thing I've ever done, bar none. As far as being tired, I have never been more fatigued. I was always in great shape as a player. Practice was always a breeze. But when you have got to do something for a length of time and don't dare let up, it drains you. It was 16 minutes, but it seemed like 16 hours."
BEV OSBORN, Dave's wife: "You just wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but this was wondering if everyone was going to still be alive when it was over."
I love that incoming baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had the guts to suggest that baseball's defensive shift might be outlawed.
I liked the shift when it was a novelty that rewarded progressive thinking. Now it's a common stratagem that takes away hits. I no longer like it. Make fielders stay in a rough semblance of order. Let's see good hitting rewarded.
Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 105.1 The Ticket's Bob Sansevere and I telling stories about the best characters in Vikings history; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo on the Wild; Twins GM Terry Ryan on his health, past and future; USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero on the Patriots, Seahawks, and the reaction he's received from scientists about the Deflatriots.
Next podcast: Today, 5 p.m. at The Local with Twins president Dave St. Peter.
My podcast network, The Alive&Social Network, now has a house containing a studio, and we're going to start doing live music shows as well as talking about music and sports. Follow @Aliveandsocial on Twitter to keep up to date.
Also, I'll be appearing on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere every afternoon at 3:30.
Had Twins general manager Terry Ryan on my podcast last night, and, when he wasn't talking about his long red hair or his rambunctious days as a failed Twins prospect, he offered a final perspective on his managerial search.
Molitor was always a top, and perhaps the top, candidate, but he wanted to do due diligence with outside candidates, and was highly impressed with Torey Lovullo.
Ryan said Gene Glynn, who managed Triple-A Rochester last year and will be the Twins' third-base coach this year, finished second in the search. He ranked Lovullo third and Doug Mientkiewicz fourth.
On Mientkiewicz, Ryan said, ``I just didn't think he was quite ready. I do believe that Doug Mientkiewicz is going to be a very good major league manager in the very near future.''
As for Glynn, Ryan said, ``Gene was in the final three and it wasn't because it was just a charitable situation. Gene was very impressive. He's got a good feel for everything we do and believe in.''
Ryan told some great stories and talked about his upbringing and his battle with cancer, as well.
That and all of my other podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Ok, let's call this more of an infant working theory than any kind of proclamation.
Our local teams are not exactly pinning championship banners on top of championship banners, but this year of seemingly perpetual losing feels different. Doesn't it?
There is no David Kahn, hopelessly overmatched and somehow oddly entertaining.
There is no Tim Brewster talking about hot chili or scoring last.
For a bunch of struggling teams, suddenly our towns have a lot of leaders you can believe in.
The Vikings are 4-5. But...
Mike Zimmer has already made players like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd better. Harrison Smith is playing better than he was a year ago. Xavier Rhodes has improved. Josh Robinson ,when healthy, has been better.
Norv Turner is missing the two most important pieces of his offense, Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph (who I thought would be the biggest beneficiary of Turner's arrival), yet has squeked out four victories while breaking in a rookie quarterback behind a surprisingly horrid offensive line.
If you can set aside his personal views, you'd have to admit that Mike Priefer is very good at his job. (Although Chris Kluwe is better than Jeff Locke. No contest.)
Rick Spielman has made a dozen shrewd moves the last couple of years, including trading Percy Harvin at the right time for the right value, and, along with Zimmer, identifying Barr as a worthy use of the ninth pick in the draft.
The Wolves are 2-5. But...
I love the enthusiasm Flip Saunders has brought to the job, and the way he has used his young players.
I picked this team to win 25 games this year. Maybe they're better than that. What really matters is that Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Anthony Bennett develop into quality NBA players. LaVine has acquitted himself far better in Ricky Rubio's absence than I would have expected, and Saunders seems to have a good working relationship with Rubio. This is a team worth watchng, if only because Wiggins is going to make more and more astounding moves as the season wears on.
The Wild is 7-7. But...
I don't fault Mike Yeo or Chuck Fletcher. I like this roster. Maybe they overestimated Thomas Vanek, but if Zach Parise had stayed healthy, Vanek's struggles might not have been as costly.
When Parise was healthy, I thought this team was continuing the play like it did down the stretch and in the playoffs last season.
The Twins are...never mind.
It's been four terrible years, and I know people are tired of my saying that Terry Ryan is one of the best GMs in the business, but that's what I believe. I also will continue to say that if Byron Buxton, MIguel Sano and Alex Meyer can stay healthy and get to the big leagues, they'll lead a resurgence that will have the Twins contending in short order.
I loved the hiring of Paul Molitor, the smartest player I ever covered. So far, I like the staff - Tom Brunansky did good work last year, Gene Glynn has always been one of my favorites, and Rudy Hernandez, born in Venezuela, could provide an important language link to Sano and other young players from Latin America.
I'd love to see Eddie Guardado hired as the bullpen coach.
The Gopher football team lost to Illinois, and Richard Pitino didn't make it to the NCAA tourney his first season, but...
Both were well down the original list of candidates. The Gophers chose wisely/lucked out with both. Kill has put the football team in position to play big games in November two years in a row. Pitino has brought energy and an entertaining style to the Gopher hoops program.
I don't know how successful any of the current cadre of coaches and managers is going to be. But there is a wealth of intelligence and expertise around town these days. That's a start.
I'll be doing my first podcast for @aliveandsocial network today at 3:30 from O'Gara's in St. Paul. Molitor will be my first guest, and I"ll also speak with local author Ross Bernstein about the ways we researched stories about Randy Moss in the past. We have different stories to tell than ESPN.
Planning on doing the second podcast at The Devil's Advocate on Friday night at 7. May even break out the guitars after that one.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Between the Wolves' shootaround and their opener in Memphis, I spoke with a handful of people connected to the Twins' managerial search. No hard news to report, but here's a summary of what I learned...
-Paul Molitor definitely wants the job. This is not a situation where he's being passive aggressive, or saying, ``I'll do it if you want me to.'' He knows this might be his last, and best, chance to be a manager, and perhaps his only chance to manage his hometown team. He's all-in as a candidate.
-If Terry Ryan has made a final decision. he hasn't told many people, even in the Twins' inner circles. His search, or at least his decision-making process, appears to be ongoing.
-Even if Ryan came to a decision soon, the Twins would not likely hold a press conference on Thursday, when the Wolves will be holding their home opener. Friday is Halloween. Unless news leaks and the Twins feel they have to rush to throw together a press conference, next week makes more sense in terms of timing an announcement.
-Ryan is known in scouting circles for his due diligence. This is the first time he has displayed it during a managerial search. The last time he chose a manager, Ron Gardenhire and Molitor were the front-runners, and Gardenhire became the choice in part because of his long tenure as a coach, and in part because key people outside of baseball operations believed that Gardenhire would be ideal as a friendly face of the franchise ,and someone willing to do all of the media relations and marketing outings the Twins value. That is one question about Molitor: Will he be willing to submit to the media and marketing grind? Managers have brutal schedules even without all of the extras.
-Ryan is in Arizona, where he watched top prospect Byron Buxton break his finger. Ryan could certainly fly home quickly to hold a press conference, but there were no indications as of Wednesday afternoon that he planned to do so.
-I've thought all along that Molitor should and will get the job, but the longer it goes, the more I have reason to doubt that he will be the hire.
One thing a few key people said to me today: A lot of the national speculation has been off-base, because few know what's going through Ryan's head right now.
Jerry Zgoda and I are in Memphis covering the Wolves' opener tonight. Just spoke with coach Flip Saunders, who said that Kevin Martin has a sore ankle, and that he might be replaced in the starting lineup.
Saunders is in good spirits. He said this is an unusual situation because this is his first team that won't be judged by wins and losses, but by gradual improvement of younger players.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and on 1500ESPN at a different time tomorrow - 9:45, while I'm on a layover heading back to the Twin Cities.
|Professional baseball (162)||Vikings (258)|
|Gopher coaches (54)||Gopher quarterbacks (14)|
|Gopher recruiting (3)||Gopher road games (4)|
|Gophers disciplinary action (3)||Gophers injuries (1)|
|Gophers recruiting (3)||Gophers spring football (4)|
|TCF Bank Stadium (24)||The Big 10 (26)|
|NCAA: football (17)||Gophers coaches (64)|
|Gophers players (44)||Tubby Smith (39)|
|Williams Arena (17)||Gophers post season (8)|
|Gophers roster moves (5)||Golf (38)|
|Soccer (4)||Twins news (39)|
|WNBA (8)||Wild news (59)|
|AFC (14)||Bears (35)|
|Ex-Vikings (29)||Football on TV (118)|
|Lions (31)||NFC (96)|
|NFL draft (47)||NFL post-season (54)|
|Packers (65)||Super Bowl (67)|
|Vikings coaches (137)||Vikings defense (68)|
|Vikings fans (49)||Vikings injury report (19)|
|Vikings management (91)||Vikings off the field (36)|
|Vikings offense (77)||Vikings quarterbacks (46)|
|Vikings road games (16)||Vikings rookies (4)|
|Vikings roster moves (3)||Vikings special teams (2)|
|Vikings training camp (6)||Off the field (6)|
|On the road (26)||Quarterbacks (44)|
|Rookies (7)||Roster moves (1)|
|Vikings draft (42)||Ron Gardenhire (122)|
|Target Field (158)||Twins fans (166)|
|Twins management (217)||Twins offense (116)|
|Twins transactions (97)||NBA playoffs (42)|
|Wolves coaches (77)||Wolves draft news (34)|
|Wolves guards (42)||Wolves injury report (10)|
|Wolves management (84)||Wolves players (65)|
|Wolves trade talk (16)||Wolves training camp (13)|
|All-Stars and honors (95)||Fighting (2)|
|Wild coaching (48)||Wild management (60)|
|Wild off-season news (12)||Wild player moves (9)|
|Adrian Peterson (84)||Anthony Herrera (2)|
|Antoine Winfield (16)||Ben Leber (1)|
|Bernard Berrian (7)||Brad Childress (30)|
|Brett Favre (58)||Brian Robison (3)|
|Bryant McKinnie (3)||Cedric Griffin (5)|
|Chad Greenway (18)||Chester Taylor (5)|
|Chris Kluwe (3)||Darrell Bevell (8)|
|E.J. Henderson (4)||Jared Allen (29)|
|John Sullivan (6)||Kevin Williams (6)|
|Leslie Frazier (55)||Madieu Williams (2)|
|Pat Williams (3)||Percy Harvin (29)|
|Phil Loadholt (3)||Ray Edwards (1)|
|Ryan Longwell (9)||Sage Rosenfels (1)|
|Sidney Rice (10)||Steve Hutchinson (7)|
|Tarvaris Jackson (12)||Tyrell Johnson (2)|
|Visanthe Shiancoe (5)||Brad Childress (30)|
|Darrell Bevell (8)||Leslie Frazier (55)|
|NHL news (11)||2010 Winter Games (13)|
|Olympic curling (1)||Olympic hockey (8)|
|Olympic skiing (5)||Olympic speedskating (1)|
|Olympic village (11)|