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.
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.
As I mention in today's column, the NFL isn't as unpredictable as it pretends to be.
The Final Eight teams all feature franchise quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Tony Romo and Andrew Luck remain alive in the tournament. Five have won Super Bowls. Two of the remaining three were overall first picks. Romo, as an undrafted free agent who has not made it to a Super Bowl, is the outlier, and he is one of the most productive NFL quarterbacks of the last 10 years.
Romo also led the NFL in passer rating this season.
The complaining about the picked-up flag in Dallas is over the top.
The teams ran 125 plays in the game. There were 14 accepted penalties. The Lions allowed a fourth-and-6 conversion, had a 10-yard punt in the fourth quarter, and scored just 20 points against a weak defense with a high-priced offensive attack.
They also fumbled twice on the last drive.
The Lions had every opportunity to win the game with a big play or two, instead of complaining about one adverse call.
As for a conspiracy headed by the NFL to advance the Cowboys in the playoffs, there are two counter-arguments:
1. If the NFL wanted Dallas to advance, the Cowboys might have won more than two playoff games in the last 15 years.
2. The NFL overturned the suspension of Ndomukong Suh, allowing him to play against the Dallas. Suh's presence could have made the difference for Detroit, if his team had played well enough.
My next live podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com will be Wednesday night at 5 p.m. at Kieran's, across from Target Center. Twins GM Terry Ryan will be my guest. The podcast will stream live or be available later at the website.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
I spent a day with Paul Molitor in St. Paul when he signed to play for the Twins. Here's the story, from February of 1996:
By Jim Souhan
Paul Molitor drives up to his alma mater, Cretin High, parks and
tries to cross the street. Four of the drivers who pass recognize
him and honk. He strolls, bowlegged and unhurried, to the fence and
gazes across the baseball diamonds that nurtured him. You see wire
backstops, knee-high benches and ice-encrusted snow. Molitor sees
The St. Paul native, future Hall of Famer and new Twin
returned to his home state last month. At 39, he bought a house in
Edina, played in an alumni game for the University of Minnesota and
reacquainted himself with Minnesota winters.
Molitor had not returned to his high school, now called
Cretin-Derham Hall, where he shone, or the Oxford playgrounds in the
heart of St. Paul, where he first flickered, until this chilly
Tuesday morning. What he found was what you never lose: dormant
roots and evergreen recollections.
"Some places and routes and buildings have changed, but this
still feels like the place I grew up," said Molitor, who will take
the field for the start of spring training today in Fort Myers, Fla.
"Whether it's cruising through the old neighborhoods or some of the
old stomping grounds, it definitely feels like home."
This is the blue-collar city that produced three likely future
Hall of Fame players - Molitor, Jack Morris and Dave Winfield.
Molitor is poised to join Morris and Winfield, both retired, on the
all-time Twins roster, the culmination of a dream that bloomed in
Molitor's youth and withered in recent years.
"I remember so much about following the Twins as a kid,"
Molitor said. "My dad taking me out in the back yard and throwing
balls just high enough over the fence so I had to jump for them, so
I could be Bob Allison. Taking batting practice with my Harmon
Killebrew T-shirt on, and watching Halsey Hall and Herb [Carneal]
broadcast the games. And being lucky enough to have my dad take me
out for my birthday, getting Knothole Gang tickets and sitting in
the upper deck in left field of Met Stadium.
"I remember '65, when we went to the Series. They were still
playing daytime World Series in those days, so we all tried to talk
our teachers into getting TVs into the classrooms.
"I remember Mudcat Grant and Zoilo Versalles and Earl Battey,
and Ted Uhlaender being the first guy ever to have a big chew in his
mouth. And in '67, watching the race come down to the last two days
with the Red Sox, and losing out and Jim Kaat getting hurt. I
remember trying to get my homework done each day in time to catch
So does his sister, Judy Gergen. "After the Twins went to the
World Series in '65, I was 5 and Paul was 9 and he would trap me in
a room and make me memorize the names and faces of all the Twins on
the baseball cards," Gergen said. "He'd say, `You have to get five
in a row to get out.' To this day, I'll never forget Jim Kaat and
Allison and all those faces."
This year, Molitor's face will adorn another baseball card,
this time framed by a Twins cap.
The family's favorite story: "To help pay for his Cretin
tuition, he would ride into Town and Country to caddie," Gergen
said. "One day he had to play in a baseball tournament, and he told
the caddie master he needed a couple of days off. The guy turned to
him and said, `Paul, you have to decide whether you want to play
baseball . . . or make some money.' "
That was a few millions ago, when Molitor was playing at
Linwood playground and St. Luke's grade school, when he was happy
with a broken-in glove and a stiff, new uniform.
"I was in the fourth grade, and I always thought it was so cool
that the kids that made the baseball team in grade school got to go
home at lunch and put on their uniforms and wear them the rest of
the day when they had a game that afternoon," Molitor said. "When I
got to sixth grade and made the team, I was the only kid who got to
go home in the afternoons. When you're looking to make a move on
with the girls at that age, that matters to you."
His first homecoming
"After like my first or second year, they asked me to come back
to Linwood when we were in town for a series," Molitor said of his
early days with the Milwaukee Brewers. "We happened to be here for
their first game of the summer, and I went there to throw out the
first pitch. I couldn't believe how much closer the fences
Molitor, the fourth youngest of eight children, moved several
times in St. Paul. "When I first moved, I originally lived on Grand
and Paschal, which is a little west of Oxford," Molitor said.
"That's when I played Little League ball at Highland Groveland. That
was when I was 6, 7, 8 years old. When I moved to Portland and
Oxford, I started going to the Linwood playground, and played pee
"I think my second year I was playing, I was 7, some of the
parents were complaining to the league that I shouldn't be able to
pitch. . . . They always tried to jump me a category or two above my
Carol Rolland, another of Molitor's sisters, remembers an
opponent forfeiting because Molitor was pitching. "When he pitched
St. Luke's to the city championship, the St. Paul Pioneer Press
headline called him `the diminutive righthander from St. Luke's.' He
was just a little thing."
Roland and her family witnessed Molitor's progression from
mighty mite to major leaguer. "When he was really young, he played
catch with my dad in the back yard," Rolland said. "After a while
he'd have to go on the other side of the garage to throw, then he
graduated to having Dad at the other side of the house. We all
watched from the window."
"This has really changed around here," Molitor says as we pull
alongside the Oxford playground, home to the fledgling careers of
Molitor and Winfield. "I played here about six years, from the
seventh grade until I was a senior in high school. I played ball
here at the junior level, VFW, American Legion ball, and for four
summers I had a job here as the groundskeeper.
"Yeah, I'd take care of all the baseball fields. I'd come down
in the mornings, work in the field all day and then just stay here
for games and practices. To say it politically correct, this was the
inner city. It was mostly black kids that played down here. A couple
of years I worked here, one of my jobs was coaching the pee wee
Little League team. I was kind of like the White Shadow. I had all
these young black kids on my team and until I earned their respect,
man . . .
"It was funny. They told me if I didn't make them stop running,
they'd get their big brothers on me."
Oxford is where Molitor began his tutelage under Bill Peterson,
who would coach him in VFW, Legion and high school ball. It's where
he watched Winfield play.
"I was a bit of a rebel when I played here," Molitor said. "See
that hill up there? I was biking to Oxford one year, and I used to
try to coast through Marshall Av., which was pretty busy, without
stopping. I was riding my bike barefoot to practice and I ran right
into the back of a car, flipped over and cut up my toes."
Peterson instituted the "no-barefoot rule," marking the first
time Molitor would have an effect on his hometown playground. He's
glad he survived to have a more dramatic effect.
"One day I was raking the diamond and Bill yelled, `Come on
Molly, let's go,' " Molitor said. "This guy came stalking around
with a gun, looking for someone. We ducked into the building, and
nothing came of it. This was a rough place in those days, but I'm
glad I had the experience of playing here.
"It was a little intimidating. That's one of the reasons I
respected Bill so much. This was a tough area to work in. I think it
helped me, to work and play with the kids down here. That
interracial interaction helped me avoid some of the intimidation
some people have when they come to the major league level.
"I remember when I was in eighth grade, I'd come to practice
and watch Dave Winfield and see 100 to 200 people watching us
practice. You sense that something was special."
Molitor glances at the trees. "I wish my mom were still alive -
she would be perfect to talk about this," Molitor said. "She used to
tell me about going to Lexington Park when she was a kid, watching
the Saints - Willie Mays, Johnny Roseboro, the great players that
came through town. But she used to think she made me nervous at
"A part of the challenge of my games was trying to figure out
which tree she was hiding behind."
At some ballparks, you merely hit a home run. At Cretin, you
achieve status by hitting a fly over the track, up the hill, over
the fence and into the alley that runs past The Nook, the
neighborhood bar. "The Nook was a big target," Molitor said.
"We had a great home-field advantage. Not often can you run down a
curb, across a track, up another curb and up a hill, and still be in
Gergen remembers Molitor as a chameleon: Clean-cut in his
Cretin uniform, bearded and wild-looking during the summer. "He was
usually quiet and serious, but he could be funny, too. When he was
young, Mom and Dad would give him magic tricks, which he loved," she
said. "From time to time I would assist him. But primarily I just
remember folding all the laundry that was created by all of his
Molitor got to Cretin, and later to the `U', by hitchhiking,
because he didn't have a car. "When you had the Cretin military
uniform on, people were more likely to pick you up," he said. "
`Those good Cretin boys.' We fooled them back then, too."
On this Tuesday morning, Molitor, having visited Oxford and
cruised past St. Luke's, returns to Cretin. Someone has hung a
poster of him in a Brewers uniform in a place of honor on the
baseball backstop. "It's been a while since I've been here," Molitor
said. "That's the first time I've seen that up there. It's about
time we got that Brewers logo down, don't you think?"
Then Molitor strolled, bowlegged and unhurried, to his car.
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