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'm at the Xcel Energy Center for Game 4. I picked the Wild to win in seven. Now I'm picking them in six. I think they win tonight, something like 3-1. The Wild seems stunningly confident of their ability to not only win the series but withstand the Blues' physical play, and you hear a lot of subtle digs at coach Ken Hitchcock from the Blues' lockerroom. If the Wild withstands the expected early, physical, assault, I think they win this one.
A reader asked me an interesting question the other day: If Andrew Wiggins, coming off one not-so-great college season, can come into the NBA and play as well as he did as a rookie, why couldn't Byron Buxton join the Twins now and learn how to hit major-league pitching while in the majors?
Having covered baseball for 22 years and having heard the usual explanations so often, I hadn't really reexamined the issue from this perspective. It's a great question. My answer?
Good NBA players are intelligent, but basketball is an athletic and activity sport. If you possess great athletic ability, as Wiggins does, it should show up over 48 minutes of constant activity. If you can dribble past and jump higher than opponents, your advantages are going to show up, as Wiggins' did.
Buxton is comparable to Wiggins when it comes to fielding. He has tremendous speed, tremendous range, the bravery to challenge fences and an exceptional arm. Those advantages would show up in the big-leagues, even if he has more to learn.
Hitting is different. Buxton would spend about four minutes a day taking major-league at-bats. The rest of the time he would be thinking about hitting, and if he got off to a slow start - probable, since he's not even hitting AA pitching yet - he would have an immense amount of time to analyze and over-analyze his swing, his approach, his pitch selection.
I've seen good big-league hitters tie themselves in knots with overanalysis. If Buxton, or any rookie, got caught in that trap, it could set him back months and damage his confidence, at least temporarily.
So while I'm in favor of calling up Buxton because of his fielding and speed, I don't think it's reasonable to think that his exceptional athletic ability would make his transition to hitting big-league pitching easier. Offensively, it would be best to bring him up when he's hot and confident.
The reason I wrote that the Twins should consider bringing him up soon is that I think he will start hitting AA pitching soon, and that may be the right time to give this team a real centerfielder.
Latest 3 podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Strib basketball writer Jerry Zgoda, Minnesota United FC defender Brian Kallman and Strib hockey writer Michael Russo. Next: Me and Russo from St. Louis on Friday afternoon before Game 5.
Sprinkling the infield and correcting frequent misperceptions...
1. This is the best Wild team in franchise history. Better goaltending, a defensive system that leads to offensive chances, most depth at forward ever, and excellent leadership. The team that went to the conference finals was an average team that played admirably when it mattered most. The Gaborik-Rolston Wild didn't have thsi depth or goaltending. This team has a chance to become the second conference finalist in franchise history.
2. That Reds manager Bryan Price should think that it's the media's job to support the team isn't surprising. I run into that from team employees, players and fans all the time. What's really shocking to me is that Price was stupid enough to embarrass himself on tape with an unprofessional outburst. He's the face of his franchise. He wanted that job. He made himself and his organization look ridiculous.
I'm also frequently shocked by how little teams and media directors do to inform their employees how this is supposed to work. I've had to explain the real dynamic to many athletes and coaches, and here's the deal: We work for our organizations, not the teams we cover. It's not our job to help the team win, or to make the team comfortable. It's that simple.
But I understand the confusion. The lines have been blurred by fan blogs, team web sites, sycophantic team partners and mainstream journalism shills. There are people in my business who should be professional, if not completely objective, and who act like fans. So while I blame Price for his unprofessionalism, I'm not shocked that either his organization or some of the people who cover the team gave him the impression that reporters should be there to help him.
3. Wrote about Steve Ott's buffoonery today. The Stanley Cup playoffs are phenomenal, but the way the game is officiated and overseen is often a joke. If a player is on the ice late in the game solely for the purpose of starting trouble, he should be suspended for the following game, minimum, and his coach should be suspended as well, and the general manager should face a six-figure fine. That's all it would take to stop this nonsense.
4. Will talk about Ott, the Wild, Minnesota sports and general and the Minnesota United FC in particular with United defender Brian Kallman tonight at 5 p.m. at Kieran's Irish Pub, across from Target Center. Can listen in person, live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com. First 50 to show up and get a free pint of Guinness, plus a couple of other gifts. Follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib for updates.
Thanks for reading and listening.
Walked Augusta National today. Saw a lot of salmon-colored shorts, pink-striped seersucker shorts, and heard this:
``Is that real grass?''
Yes, yes it is. That is real grass.
Picking the winner of a golf tournament has been silly since the days when it was reasonable to pick Tiger Woods against the field, but here are the golfers I think have the best chance to wear the green jacket (which does not go well with seersucker shorts):
-Rory McIlroy, the subject of my Thursday column, is the easy pick, for all the right reasons. He can hit a high and far, he can work the ball, he can putt, and he knows how to win under pressure. He has to be the favorite.
-Jordan Spieth: Playing well, contended last year at The Masters, great putter, wants to be great.
-Dustin Johnson: Seems to have straightened out his personal life, hits it as well as anyone on tour. The big question: Can he think his way around a course that will challenge your decision-making?
-Bubba Watson: The course is perfect for his game, but I can't believe he's going to become one of the rare players to repeat at The Masters.
-Jason Day: He's approaching best-player-to-never-win-a-major territory. Can he putt well enough on these tricky greens?
-Henrik Stenson: Had the flu all week. Can't imagine him having the stamina necessary to win.
Yes ,this course requires stamina. While golfers get picked on for not being great athletes in term of cardiovascular capabilities, walking 72 holes up and down hills under intense mental and emotional pressure will wear anyone out.
This is a beautiful course. It is also a challenging walk.
The Twins are 0-2. They lost to a great pitcher on Monday in a clean game. They looked horrible in a horrible game on Wednesday. They have yet to score.
Now, I believe the suspension of Ervin Santana had an emotional impact on the team, and also forced Ricky Nolasco, who should be a fourth starter, to take the ball in game 2. I believe Santana's suspension takes this team from having a chance to win 80-plus games to probably winning 76-78.
Outfield defense and bullpen depth are both concerns that played out poorly today.
-No team's fate is determined after two games. The '91 Twins were lousy for two weeks, and that turned out OK. If this were an NFL season, we'd be in the middle of the first quarter.
-This team finished seventh in the big leagues in runs last year largely because of contributions from Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, who will be in the big leagues all year. Santana can hit. Dozier can hit. Mauer, when healthy, can hit. Vargas can hit. Plouffe has been relatively productive the last three years. Hunter should be fine. Arcia is a question mark but has lots of talent. Buxton and Sano could be in the majors by midseason.
I think the Twins will have to make a change in centerfield, and the bullpen will be a work in progress. But this team should score runs, and anybody who panics after two games should be watching a different sport.
In my latest podcast, Doug Mientkiewicz tells some stories I've never heard before, including what Terry Ryan said to him and Ron Gardenhire during a private and emotional meeting, all at SouhanUnfiltered.com
This is one of my favorite weeks of the year - covering the beginning of baseball season and The Masters.
Got to Augusta just in time for the aftermath of a shower. The forecasts are for intermittent showers all week, which should benefit long, high-ball hitters. So, yes, you should pick Rory McIlroy to win if you're in an office pool.
One of the first things I saw on the course today was a marshall cautioning a ``patron'' not to run. The ``patron'' - that's what Augusta National calls fans - turned and said to the marshall, ``Sorry, bro'.''
At The Masters, you may not carry a cell phone, run or lay down.
This is the rare case when I believe there are too few rules in play.
``Patrons'' should be ejected for using the following words:
-Bra' (not the garment, the Valley Boy/hipster pronunciation of ``Bro''
-You da man
The first time I saw Tyus Jones play, he was in eighth grade and starting at point guard for Apple Valley High. He spent most of the game throwing brilliant passes, but his team fell behind in the fourth quarter. I was about to ask the person next to me if he could shoot, when he started taking, and maknig, three-pointers, leading Apple Valley to a comeback victory.
Last night, in the national title game, Jones looked like exactly the same player.
If he declares for the draft, Jones would probably go in the middle of the first round.
I'd like to see him stay in college, become more of a focal point in Duke's offense, and get a little stronger. I could see him developing into a player with the same skill set as Steph Curry.
Now, that's a little ambitious. Curry is one of the best players in the NBA. But Jones reminds me of him, and at the least should be a quality point guard in the NBA.
Twins fans: You're not allowed to lament an Opening Day loss in which the Twins played a clean game.
You are allowed to lament the following:
-Santana's suspension putting pressure on the rest of the rotation.
-Santana's suspension placing more stress on an unproven group of middle relievers.
-Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson trying to play centerfield and produce offensively.
I'll be filing at least two stories a day all week at The Masters to the paper and Startribune.com.
I also just uploaded my latest podcast to SouhanUnfiltered.com: Former Twins manager Tom Kelly on Molitor, his stroke, broadcasting and spring training. Plus some old-time baseball stories.
The first of 162 games is more symbolic than meaningful, but there were a couple of things that stood out in the Twins' 4-0 loss at Detroit on Monday:
-Danny Santana has tremendous range at shortstop. He easily caught what could have been a difficult popup in short right, and he made another difficult play - ranging far right on a ground ball and throwing out a runner at third - look routine.
-Jordan Schafer better play Target Field's angles better than he played Comerica Park's. He leaped into the wall on a home run he had no chance to catch, and he slammed into the wall on a fly that he maybe should have caught.
-David Price was very good, but I thought the key moments in the game were not results of his dominance. Yoenis Cespedes' robbery of what should have been a Kurt Suzuki home run and Ian Kinsler's robbery of what might have been a double or triple for Santana allowed Price to work stress-free, and...
-Home plate umpire Joe West has to ask for help on the check-swing call on which he rung up Torii Hunter. Kennys Vargas against Joe Nathan with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth could have been very interesting.
-Hunter was still steamed long after the game. He wanted to win this one badly.
I'm headed to Georgia for The Masters. Still trying to determine how to handle podcasts from down there, but I will be updating the SouhanUnfiltered.com site soon.
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