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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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.
Good get by ESPN's Ben Goessling, landing the Adrian Peterson interview.
Peterson told Goessling that he's not thrilled with the way the Vikings handled his suspension, and uneasy about the idea of wearing purple again.
That's a problem, in two ways.
First, it means that the Vikings may not be able to keep a very valuable player. I have a hard time believing Peterson will refuse to play next season in Minnesota, but his attitude could complicate the situation, or at least the relationship between team and player.
Second, it means that Peterson suffers from a syndrome a Twins employee long ago referred to as the ``Princess and the Pea'' problem. Peterson has been praised so often in his life, has been such a success, that the idea of someone questioning his character is not only repugnant to him, it's foreign to him. Instead of recognizing that the Vikings have to answer to sponsors, fans and the NFL at large, he wants to hold Vikings bosses responsible for not supporting him more fully. That is a special kind of entitlement, a special kind of crazy.
At this point, given all of the possible permutations, I've come around to believing that what's best for the Vikings is simply to pay Peterson's full salary next season, and try to win while he's still in his prime. My original position was that Peterson should be punished severely...and he was. Losing 15 games, virtually a full season, of his prime is a stern punishment for a despicable act.
All Peterson has to do now is appreciate that key Vikings figures want him back, understand the predicament he put them in, and go back to being a great player who will have to face a protest or two. It's that simple.
If Peterson can't see that, he needs to improve the quality of his entourage, and of his thinking.
Got a little blowback for praising the Wolves' acquisition of Kevin Garnett.
I would not be defending the trade of Thad Young for KG in basketball terms. Young is a useful player in his prime. Garnett is a formerly great player nearing the end.
I'm praising it because basketball doesn't really matter right now in the Timberwolves' world. The games are meaningless. All that matters right now is developing Andrew Wiggins, and encouraging him to believe that, if and when he becomes a superstar, he has reason to considering staying in Minnesota and trying to win championships here.
Garnett isn't the only person who can make that argument to Wiggins. But he may be the only person Wiggins would have reason to listen to on that topic.
Tonight, the SouhanUnfiltered.com podcast is live at O'Gara's Bar and Grill off Snelling, at 4:30 with guest Bob Sansevere. (I'm also doing daily radio hits with Bob on 105.1 The Ticket at 3:30 each afternoon.)
My band, The Bar Chords, will play at O'Gara's Shanty at 7:30 or so, and live karaoke starts at 9 with Le Bang. Stop by and say hello.
You can listen to this and all podcasts live or later at SouhanUnfiltered.com, or at IHeartradio via Souhan-Unfiltered. (note the hyphen)
Wrote about why I love the Wolves' trade for Kevin Garnett for the Friday paper.
Here's another way to look at the deal:
It means Flip Saunders blew it when he spent a first-round pick on Thad Young.
I didn't like that deal at the time. I came around to thinking it was sensible, until I watched Young try (or not try) to play defense. Then I hated it all over again.
Young was who we thought he was: Kevin Love Lite. He produced decent numbers but wasn't a winning player.
So I'm glad the Wolves dealt him for a player who could be the perfect mentor for Andrew Wiggins. But Saunders overestimated Young, and this team's ability to win.
Last podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com was with Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve at Kieran's Irish Pub. Reeve talked about how she got her start in coaching, and how she constantly sees flaws in MVP Maya Moore's game. Next podcast: Friday, 4:30 p.m. at O'Gara's Bar & Grill with old friend Bob Sansevere. My band, The Bar Chords, will play at 7;30ish at O'Gara's, leading into live karaoke.
Saturday, Strib hockey writer Michael Russo and I will do our latest podcast from the Alive&Social Network studios in Minneapolis.
Then I head to spring training.
Thanks for reading and listening.
On Jan. 10, the Wild lost a home game to Nashville while looking completely helpless. After the game, I wrote that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher should not try to save the season, that doing so would cost him prospects or draft picks and probably not provide enough help to salvage a horrible season in which his team was damaged by illnesses, the deaths of family members, injuries, the failure of young players to develop, and, of course, terrible goaltending.
Fletcher wisely did not listen to me. He traded a third-round draft pick for Devan Dubnyk and saved the season. Even if the Wild failed to make the playoffs from here, Fletcher will have been proved right. He gave his team a chance, a chance I didn't think existed.
I'm going to write about this topic more in the near future: It's heartening when a local talent evaluator makes the kind of move that the average observer could not have envisioned.
Fletcher saw something in Dubnyk that was not readily apparent to most of the population. It might be his most impressive move to date.
I'll be covering the Wild-Panthers game tonight with colleague Michael Russo.
You can find recent podcasts by myself and Michael at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Just don't tell anyone about the stuff Michael says on the podcast. It will get him into trouble.
Also, I'll be appearing every weekday afternoon on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere. Please check it out.
The Vikings' promotion of Kevin Warren to chief operating office is probably a good move.
I can't offer a more definitive opinion because most of what behind-the-scenes NFL executives do remains...behind the scenes. If Warren were a great or terrible administrator, we may never know, and his performance might not ever affect the team's on-field performance.
This much I do know:
When the Vikings held consecutive press conferences last September to address their handling of Adrian Peterson's case, the only person who took the podium who seemed capable of offering a measured and nuanced statement was Kevin Warren.
That makes this promotion understandable and perhaps vital.
As I've written many times, the Vikings have grown into a big-league organization. However the Wilfs handle business in New Jersey, they have been good NFL owners. They have supported the franchise financially, pushed to win, yet been loyal to key employees through difficult times.
The Vikings have become excellent in terms of fan relations and media relations. They have engaged with their great players of the past, although I've heard from some former players that they could do even better in that regard.
What they have lacked in recent years is a key executive who could handle the inevitable difficult press conferences. GM Rick Spielman is personable in small groups and one-on-one but looked like he was being electrocuted during his press conference about Peterson last year. He and coach Mike Zimmer are football guys who should not be expected to handle a press conference on a topic as sensitive to the public and sponsors as child abuse.
Warren can handle that. He gives the Vikings a chance to look as professional on the podium as they have become in other aspects of their business.
I'll be appearing every afternoon at 3:30 on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere. Catch my podcasts, including the last few with Michael Russo and Roy Smalley at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thank you.
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