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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As a longstanding member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, I have a Hall of Fame vote. I often wish I didn't. I'm not sure any of us are qualified to judge who belongs in the Hall. I don't really want the responsibility, and I frequently disagree with my brethren about judging athletes linked to steroids or rumored to have used steroids, and about our fitness to judge the ``character'' of a candidate.
But I vote because I feel it is my responsibility. In recent years, I've been voting for Jack Morris. I felt that even though his statistics make him a borderline candidate, I recognize him as a dominant pitcher who performed his best in big games and ate up an incredible number of innings. I greatly value innings, because having your ace on the mound is a great advantage to your team. Call it VORP: Value over Relief Pitcher.
While I've voted for Morris, I have not campaigned for him, because I understand the arguments against him: He did not dominate in vital categories like ERA and strikeouts, and he pitched for mostly good teams, which elevated him in the dubious category of pitcher victories.
In a piece writte by Stuart Miller for the New York Times baseball blog, Miller notes that Morris may be about to get his lucky break. He's on the same ballot as a number of players tainted by steroid use or rumors. Morris, who received 66.7 percent of the votes last year, may make it because he is viewed as a clean player.
I disagree with that approach. I will vote for players regardless of their reputations because I don't believe I, or any of my peers, are qualified to discern who used performance enhancing drugs and who didn't. We just don't know and we shouldn't pretend that we do.
More interesting about Miller's piece is that he writes something that contradicts what I've heard from many sabermatricians.
The longstanding argument in favor of Morris has been that he pitched just well enough to win, meaning he would pitch to the situation, giving up more runs and hits when he was far ahead, which could damage his stats without hurting his team.
The longstanding argument from stat-heads has been that pitchers do not pitch to the situation, and that there was no proof of Morris doing so.
Here's the key portion of Miller's piece:
``(Morris) has fallen short for 13 years because he is a classic borderline case, with plenty of arguments both for and against him. He never was dominant in terms of E.R.A., WHIP or strikeouts — in the American League, he finished in the top 5 in E.R.A., WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings just twice each — but he knew how to win. That sounds a bit like an intangible, and it is, but Morris won 254 games by pitching to the situation — when his team gave him more run support he pitched to contact, striking out and walking fewer batters, allowing more hits and more runs.
The closer the game, the lower the opposing team’s batting average against him. And most significant, he rarely missed a turn and almost always went deep into games, averaging 33 starts and nearly 7 1/3 innings per start from 1979 through 1992.
That also was invaluable to his teams, since he kept lesser starters off the hill and allowed the bullpen to rest. (This was a guy who rang up 64 complete game losses.) He also led the 1984 Detroit Tigers and the 1991 Minnesota Twins to World Series, turning in one of baseball’s greatest performances with his 10-inning Game 7 shutout in 1991.''
That is the best summation of Morris' career I've ever seen, and it bolsters my reasons for voting for Morris for the Hall of Fame.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey, and on with Tom Pelissero at 6:40. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib
For a variety of reasons - a slow summer, local teams stinking it up, my Olympic excursion - I took a break from the all-important Local Power Rankings. Now, with the NFL returning to action, they're back.
If only Ricky Rubio were healthy, this could team might be the fastest-rising team in the NBA. As it is, the offseason roster improvements, along with Rubio's expected return from knee surgery, will make this easily the best and most fun-to-watch team in town. It's not really close.
What will be most interesting, to me, is to see how Kevin Love, who performed so well at the Olympics, plays this season. He's been able to improve in some way every year of his pro career, and he had to pick up some nuances, or confidence, playing with the world's best.
2. Gopher hockey
This should be a powerhouse team, which means I"ll be fascinated to see how Don Lucia handles the pressure of coaching a team with high expectations.
3. Gopher basketball
Tubby Smith should have his best team. I'm praying that none of his best players get hurt, partly because I'd love to have a fun winter in the Barn watching a good team, and partly because I don't want Smith to be able to cite any easy excuses. Other than his players having to walk outside in the cold to go to practice.
They'll be much better, but how much better? I say they're a playoff team, but as my hockey-minded buddies point out, the LA Kings barely made the playoffs last year, and they won the whole thing. Are the Wild better today than the Kings were last spring?
Maybe I'm crazy, but I see some hope for this franchise. I like Diamond. I like Deduno. I'm tremendously impressed by Cole De Vries' ability to get people out with average-at-best stuff. I think the Twins will re-sign Scott Baker, and Kyle Gibson could give them 100 good innings next year. Liam Hendricks has been awful, but there has to be something there - you can't dominate in the minors as much as he has without being able to eventually function in the majors.
Yes, they lack an ace, but this team went to the ALCS with a rotation of Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Joe Mays and Rick Reed. They don't need Hall of Famers, they need functional big-league starters.
The Twins need to sign one innings-eater and hope Baker can become a staff leader.
A lot has to go right for the Twins to contend next year, but are they really that far away?
You can make the case that this is an improving team with a bright future. You can't make the case that this is a good team now.
7. Gopher football
UNLV stinks, and the Gophers almost found a way to lose to the Rebels. They are lucky to be playing New Hampshire this week.
Here's today's highly irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Ranking:
They're not just the best team in town (in comparison to the competition they face), they're the most entertaining and endearing team we've seen in this town since the 2001 Twins.
Like the '01 Twins, the Wolves are not only good, they are unexpectedly good, and young, and charming. (Can I call professional athletes charming?)
Last night was the rare night I covered a Wolves game without being restricted by writing on deadline, so I got to work the lockerroom at my leisure. It's hard not to like Derrick Williams, Kevin Love, Martell Webster, J.J. Barea and Nik Pekovich. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and each other.
Rick Adelman is positioning himself for coach of the year honors. I picked the Wolves to win 28 games this year and they're much better than that. And as the Wolves rise, the Western Conference suddenly looks vulnerable beyond the No. 1 seed. Oklahoma City is excellent. The Spurs are admirable but hardly spry. The Mavericks are suffering a predictable championship letdown. Who else scares you?
The Wolves have learned how to beat Portland, the Clippers and the Rockets. I love the way Memphis plays, but the Wolves are not overmatched against them. And the Lakers are a mess. Mike Brown might be the only defensive coach who can hold down Bryant, Bynum and Gasol.
If the Wolves can make it to the playoffs without burning out Love and Rubio, they could be dangerous. Now that they're in the 8th slot, they need to make a move so they face someone other than Oklahoma City in the first round. Even moving into the 6th seed would mean a matchup with Memphis or one of the LA teams.
The Wolves are the most interesting team in town, and they're growing more interesting by the day.
2. Gopher hockey
Don Lucia is having a good year. He has a team that seems to be peaking at the right time. But he still needs to prove he can prepare a team for the postseason and guide it to big victories, like he did in the old days.
I'll give them this: They're better than they were last year. But they could improve by 10 games and still lose 89 and finish fourth. Which, after spending time at spring training, is about what I expect.
If only they had lost that silly game at Washington, they'd have the No. 2 pick and a couple of wonderful options: Drafting Robert Griffin III or trading him. I've thought for months that Griffin has more upside than Andrew Luck. He's a greater risk, but I was not impressed with Luck's throwing motion this season, and I wouldn't want to spend the first pick in the draft on a so-called game manager.
5. Gopher basketball
The coach should be fired, and yet the Gophs rank ahead of two other teams in town. That's sad.
6. Gopher football
Nothing new here.
7. Minnesota Wild
I like Yeo. I like Fletcher. I think they're both sharp. I think Fletcher has a credible plan for rebuilding with dynamic young scorers. But right now this is the most pathetic team we've seen in this town since...last year's Twins.
Congratulations to Glen Perkins. He's shown great humility and flexibility while rehabilitating his career and his relationships within the Twins' organization since filing a grievance against the team.
Twins signed him to a contract extension today because he's become a dynamic pitcher while proving that's he's grounded, and a good teammate, and that he's invested in the organization. It's remarkable how quicky he's gone from problem child to franchise cornerstone.
Upcoming: Tom Pelissero and I will host a rare double-headed, live-and-in-studio version of Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon Sunday on 1500espn. Lots of talk about all of the above, including Tom's look at NFL free agency and the Vikings' plans, and my thoughts on my trip to spring training and a week with the Wolves.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
The Star Tribune staff has done an excellent job chronicling the Vikings' pursuit of a new stadium. But if you don't want to sift through all the information and quotes, I'll save you some time:
The Vikings, the governor and the mayor of Minneapolis have agreed upon a deal that would build a beautiful new football stadium in Minneapolis, potentially revitalize one of the more run-down portions of the city, and keep an important state asset in Minnesota for the next 30 years, and they aren't going to raise anybody's taxes.
If you argue against this deal, you are short-sighted and selfish. This is a good deal, and I commend all parties involved for their patience. Zygi Wilf has been very fair and even-handed throughout, has refused to threaten to move when most humans would have been tempted to threaten to move, and has been willing to change sites to make a deal happen.
This deal should happen.
-B games are generally meaningless, but there was one important development today in Fort Myers: Righthander Carlos Gutierrez couldn't even get through one inning. I've had Twins officials tell me that he has to develop a soft pitch to set up his hard stuff, but on Thursday, he couldn't command any of his pitches. That's a terrible debut for a guy who I thought would compete for a big-league roster spot.
-Had a great time hosting Matt Birk on a tour of the Twins' spring training facility today. I've known Matt since 1998, and he made me vomit a lot during a workout with him and Matt Morris a few summers ago, so we've got that going for us.
He has a house in Naples and brought his wife and six kids to Fort Myers. He met Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire and said what I think every spring: If you want to visit spring training, do it before the games begin, and you can watch workouts and not have to fight crowds to get close to the players.
Birk hinted he wants to come back for one more year with the Ravens, and NFL players tend to become more optimistic about the future as they heal during the offseason. I think he'll sign a one-year deal with Baltimore and take another shot at getting to the Super Bowl.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn with Tom Pelissero tonight at 6:40, and will run Sunday Sports Talk with Jeff Grayson. Jeff will be in studio, I'll be in Fort Myers. We're going to do a long show running up to the Twins' game against Boston, so we'll be on from 10-12:30 Central time.
I'll be covering the Twins' game at Boston and will be getting my first look at lil' Fenway.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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