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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Posts about Twins offense

On Molitor, Wild, X and MnUnited

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 20, 2015 - 10:34 AM

Last Monday, the Twins played horribly in their home opener to drop to 1-6. They had lost Ervin Santana to a suspension and Ricky Nolasco to an injury.  They were playing poorly in the field.

Then they won four of five to win two series on the homestand.

What changed? Often, fortunes change in baseball for no reason other than randomness or pitching matchups. A couple of players told me last night, though, that this change of direction may have been aided by manager Paul Molitor’s talk with the team after the home-opening loss.

According to the players, Molitor spoke of the inevitable ``storms’’ every team will have to weather, and that how a team handles such storms will determine its fate. He was calm, the players said, at a time when the team was frazzled.

That talk may have led to a winning homestand. Remember, the 2006 Twins turned their season around after Ron Gardenhire pulled Justin Morneau into his office for a meeting in Seattle. Morneau had been partying with his Vancouver buddies. Gardenhire merely asked him if he was dedicated to becoming a great player. Morneau went on to win the MVP award and the Twins were the best team in baseball for four months after that.

The right words at the right time can mean a lot in a clubhouse.

Two slumping Twins were rested on Sunday – shortstop Danny Santana and centerfielder Jordan Schafer. These are two very different cases.

The organization remains high on Santana and doesn’t want to  move him from shortstop or keep him out of the lineup. Schafer, though, has compounded his erratic play with an erratic approach. Shane Robinson has impressed the Twins with his gamesmanship and has a chance to at least temporarily win the job.

I rarely write about home team advantages, because usually it’s a trite subject. I wrote about the Wild’s home-ice advantage today for two reasons: 1) It made a big difference in the playoffs last year and 2) the Wild was a lousy home team for most of this season.

The Wild regular-season crowd can be quiet and critical when the team isn’t playing well. I think the reason for the Wild’s poor home record this season is that the team has struggled on the power play, and when the power play doesn’t click immediately at the Xcel Energy Center, the crowd can become restless, even yelling ``Shoot the puck!’’ when doing so might not be the best idea.

That will probably change tonight. Sheer crowd noise made a difference during home games last year and should make a difference again this playoff season.

I picked the Wild to win in seven games. But given the Blues’ recent struggles in the playoffs on the road, and the Wild’s strong play the last three months, I wouldn’t be shocked if it were five or six.

Tuesday at 5 at Kieran’s Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis, across from Target Center, I’ll have Minnesota United FC defender Brian Kallman on SouhanUnfiltered.com. Unlike some previous podcasts, we’ll have the show broadcasting live for those in attendance, will be giving away prizes and will take live questions. Show up, listen live or listen later at SouhanUnfiltered.com

Live from Augusta ...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 7, 2015 - 5:45 PM

Augusta, Ga.

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:

-Bro

-Bra' (not the garment, the Valley Boy/hipster pronunciation of ``Bro''

-Mashed potatoes

-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.

@Souhanstrib

Way-too-early 1st game 1st impressions

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 6, 2015 - 5:30 PM

Detroit

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.

@Souhanstrib

On Santana, Plouffe, Arcia, Opening Day

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 6, 2015 - 11:25 AM

Detroit –

Notes and thoughts from Opening Day in Detroit…

-Great to see Hall of Fame baseball writer Tom Gage in the press box. Tom covered the Tigers a full-time beat writer for 36 years, and was elected the winner of the 2015 J.G. Spink Award, presented annually to a sportswriter for ``meritorious contributions to baseball writing’’ during the National Baseball Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown this summer.

The Detroit News took Gage off the beat this year, which is stupid for all of the obvious reasons, but also stupid because the paper could have gotten great PR out of Gage covering the Tigers during the summer of his induction. Tom hooked on with FSDetroit.com. He’s sitting right in front of me during batting practice. Tom is a wonderful guy and a wonderful writer, and it’s sad to think there was ever a chance he might have missed opening day.

-Now that Ervin Santana is suspended, here are my keys for Twins’ overachievement in 2015:

I expect Danny Santana, Brian Dozier, Kennys Vargas, Kurt Suzuki, Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer have to quality seasons. The swing players in the everyday lineup for me are Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia and whoever plays in center.

Arcia put on a show during batting practice, and he is a great variable. He has the power to hit 30 home runs. He has the potential to strike out 150 times, compile a low on-base percentage and be well below average in left field. If he does the former, the Twins’ lineup could be remarkably productive. If he does the latter, there middle of the order could become easy to pitch to.

As for centerfield, let’s be honest: The Twins are waiting for Byron Buxton. Until he arrives, the position will be somewhere between a project and a mess.

-When the Twins return home next week, you’ve got to watch Eddie Guardado hitting grounders during fielding practice. Good thing he was a pitcher.

--Trevor Plouffe is 28. He has less than four years of service time.He is making $4.8 million this year. He has been slightly disappointing as a big-leaguer. If he can improve slightly in the field and produce more runs this year, he very soon could make himself a bargain.

He has hit 24 homers in a season. He has hit 40 doubles. He has driven in 80 runs. He’s capable of having a big season. If that’s ever going to happen, I would think it would be this year, under Paul Molitor.

-If it were up to me, I’d bat Joe Mauer second and Brian Dozier third. Mauer has a higher on-base percentage and better bat control. Dozier has more power.

-By August, here’s what I hope the lineup looks like: Santana ss, Byron Buxton cf, Mauer 1b, Dozier 2b, Vargas 1b, Miguel Sano 3b, Hunter rf, Plouffe/Arcia lf, Suzuki/Pinto c.

 -I wasn’t too worried about the Twins’ bullpen until the Santana suspension. Now I think an inexperienced group of middle relievers could  be overexposed. Molitor has talked about using Glen Perkins for a few extra outs. He may need to pitch three innings a day.

-Watch Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday. He has a tendency to fall off the mound to the left during his motion, which robs him of power and causes his fastball to rise in the zone. If he’s falling to the left in the early innings, things could get ugly.

-Schafer’s career on-base percentage is .311. His career slugging percentage is .310. He’ll have to hit a lot of singles and steal a lot of bases to be a worthwhile player. It is the worst in a series of bad signs that Aaron Hicks couldn’t beat out this guy.

-Phil Miller and I will be providing lots of coverage from Comerica Park today. Please check in to startribune.com for all of the stuff.

-The Twins should be allowed to sue Ervin Santana. He signed  four-year contract for four years and $55 million. He will be unable to pitch the first half of this season. If his past success was due to performance-enhancing drugs, he may be unable to pitch to the standards that earned him this contract. At some point, teams have to start holding players more accountable for their actions.

@Souhanstrib                                                                                                                   

On Meyer, Tonkin, and Opening Day

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 21, 2015 - 11:36 AM

I started covering the Twins as a beat writer in 1993. As a reporter covering spring training, you crave news.

When someone pressed Paul Molitor this spring over what his Week 1 rotation would be, he looked up, blinked and said, ``That's news?''

Well, it's spring training news. People are interested, and there isn't much else going on.

One thing I learned over the years was that most spring training ``news'' is aimed at what will happen on Opening Day. Who will be in the lineup? Who will be on the big-league roster? Who will be sent down? Who will take the mound?

It's all interesting stuff. A lot of it has little to do with what the roster will look like by April 15, or May 1, or June 1.

This week, the Twins sent Alex Meyer and Michael Tonkin to the minors. I think Meyer and Tonkin will be important players for the big-league team this season. They just won't be with the team on Opening Day (barring other injuries between now and then.)

Meyer. Tonkin. Miguel Sano. Eddie Rosario. Josmil Pinto. Maybe even Byron Buxton.

All could play key roles for the Twins this season, and all have been or probably will be optioned to the minors during camp.

The Opening Day roster is a function of the front office's hope. It hopes Aaron Hicks will prove he deserves to be an every day player. It hopes that Mike Pelfrey, or Tommy Millone, or Trevor May can hold down the fifth spot in the rotation. It hopes the team will stay relatively healthy.

By May 1, or June 1, you will have a much better idea of the best big-league roster the Twins can muster than you will on Opening Day.

----------------------------

Latest podcast (think radio on demand) at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Gophers senior associate athletic director Dan O'Brien, on Jerry Kill, what Kill thinks of me, his son's battle with cancer, and the future of Gophers athletics. Great stuff from a really good guy.

Other recent podcasts: Quincy Lewis and Michael Russo.

Next podcast: 5 p.m. Monday with old friend Tom Linnemann, the former St. John's quarteraback and world traveler.

@Souhanstrib

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