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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Time for the too-early-to-possibly-be-right-but-predictions-are-silly-anyway Twins predictions for the near future:
I’m seeing so much young talent in Twins’ camp, and so much pitching depth, that I’m ready to be overly optimistic.
I see the 2015 Twins winning 84 games.
I see the 2016 Twins winning 90.
I see the 2017 Twins winning 93 and having a chance to make a postseason run.
Look at it this way: When the Twins traded Denard Span for Alex Meyer, they did so because they desperately needed to rebuilding their farm system and organizational pitching depth.
This spring, Meyer might have the best stuff in camp (with the possible exception of Jose Berrios). And he might not even win the fifth starter’s job. He may wind up in the bullpen.
Throughout history, the Twins have won when their starting staff has given them nothing more than quality starts. The team finished seventh in the big leagues in run scored last year even with Joe Mauer having one of his worst seasons. Danny Santana is already a polished big-leaguer. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton should debut later this season.
I never blamed the Twins’ losing on Ron Gardenhire or his coaches, but I do believe the clubhouse atmosphere had grown stale and unproductive.
It’s unpopular to say this given the Twins’ horrific four-year stretch, but this is a team on the rise. While so many people focus on payroll, farm systems are usually what win championships. Within the next five years, I believe you’ll see the Twins, Astros and Cubs vying for places in the World Series.
So, I had Torii Hunter on my podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
He told me about the time Corey Koskie hid in his car after a game, and Hunter almost stabbed him.
And what Eddie Guardado used to wear while pitching. (Think Victoria’s Secret.)
And how he became friends with Magic Johnson.
That and more available at SouhanUnfiltered.com (or subscribe for free on Itunes ,or listen at Souhan-Unfiltered through IHeartRadio).
I’ll have Eddie Guardado on later today to let him fire back at Hunter.
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.
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.
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.
I'll admit it: Even I, a lifelong newspaper person, sometimes blow off the morning paper.
I figure I"ll catch up on my phone or laptop later, and I usually do, scanning the major headlines and checking Twitter for updates.
Here's why that's stupid, for me and for you:
When I (or you) read the actual newspaper, I find things I would never seek out or notice online.
This morning, the front page of the Star Tribune featured a piece by veteran reporter Randy Furst on a Brooklyn Park man being accused of trying to overthrow the Gambian government.
It's a fascinating read, and not just because the code name he gave one of his cohorts was - I'm not making this up - ``Dave.''
The United States government is prosecuting a Gambian man who tried to overthrow what he believes to be a corrupt and sinister government in is home country. It's a movie plot spelled out on the front page of your local paper, with great details provided by Furst.
Also on our front page: Oil dipping below $50 a barrel, which could mean - get this - American families could have $115 billion more to spend this year in disposable income.
Also on the front page: Science proves that cold weather does indeed increase the strength of cold viruses.
In sports, on a slow news day, we have a perspective piece by David La Vaque on the dearth of female high school hockey coaches in girls hockey, and Phil Miller's interview with the always-entertaining Eddie Guardado on his inclusion on the Hall of Fame ballot.
On Page 2, we have a Nuggets nugget from Michael Rand on one of my favorite topics: Modern coaches' efforts to re-think traditional approaches. NBA and NHL teams hold shoot/skate-arounds the mornings of games in part to keep their players from staying out all night. Now the Nuggets are finding that their players are staying out anyway, and considering scrapping the morning shootaround so their players have time to sleep.
Here's my grander point:
None of those are stories I would have sought out online, and they may be my favorite stories of the day.
Somewhere along the line, newspapers became uncool. So my suggestion to modern readers is to look at the newspaper not as a newspaper, but as an amazingly cheap service: A printout of online stories you might love, and might have otherwise missed.
I've read a lot of studies that make the case that people are far better informed when they read the newspaper than when they rely on other outlets for information. It's easy to see why.
-On a completely different note, I found the words ``panic button'' in at least two stories this morning.
People: There is no such thing. I've never seen one. Asking an athlete or coach if it's time to push ``the panic button'' is inane and pointless. What is the best possible answer you will get to that question? Stop it. Thank you.
-Interesting week. I'll be at the Gophers-Ohio State game tonight and at Wild-Blackhawks on Thursday. It's rare to have two important games in hockey or basketball in early January, but these qualify.
-Wednesday night, Twins general manager Terry Ryan will be my guest at Kieran's Irish Pub, across from Target Center, at 5 p.m. for my podcast. You can listen live or anytime to that and my other podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thank you.
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