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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Was off for the holidays last week, so I haven't offered my second installment of the all-important LPR: Local Power Rankings of our mostly-woeful revenue sports teams.
Here's Round 2:
1. Minnesota Wild:
Impressive that Mike Yeo could get this team to respond after a two-game losing streak, and on a back-to-back with a goalie who got pulled the night before. Right now Yeo might be the best coach/manager in town, and he's still getting used to having his own parking space at the X.
Also: Cal Clutterbuck, long a favorite of mine because of his toughness and hustle, was outstanding last night. As was Mikko Koivu and Backstrom. This team continues to overachieve, and in this town, if you overachieve you're an easy No. 1.
2. Minnesota Gophers men's hockey team
We're seeing some slippage here. They've slipped to No. 5 in the national rankings, and the specter of all of Lucia's recent underachievers is rising into view. In this town, they're still easily No. 2, but they have to prove they can win games while they're under pressure. This has been a soft, soft program for a long time.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
That's right, just planning to practice within the next two weeks moves the Wolves to No. 3. In this case, the devil you don't know is better than the devils you know. Plus, the 66-game schedule almost ensures that the Wolves won't lose 50 games again.
4. Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team
What does it say about Tubby's program that one injury can destroy all expectations for an entire season even before the Big Ten schedule begins?
Actually, it says a lot.
5. Minnesota Twins
The signings of Doumit and Carroll are good, common-sense moves that could solve glaring problems. What's more impressive is the way Terry Ryan (and Bill Smith before he was fired) started fixing the baseball operation. The hiring of Wayne Krivsky (Smith deserves credit for that one), the re-hiring of Ryan, and the hiring of Gene Glynn as Triple A manager are moves that might not affect the 2012 standings but should help the Twins regain their respectability and set them up for future success.
The Twins would also benefit from luring Smith back into the fold. He has many skills that can benefit the business side of the operation. He's been a good soldier for this organization for a long time and should be treated as such.
6. Minnesota Gopher football team
Three victories against a weak schedule is not impressive, but Kill and his staff at least coaxed some improvement from Gray.
7. Minnesota Vikings
This team is an imperfect storm of lousy personnel and poor coaching. I think personnel depth is the bigger problem, but a team with Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Percy Harvin in their prime should have more than two victories.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 with Reusse and Mackey, and at 6:15 with Tom Pelissero. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
I'm still in the process of figuring out exactly how to use this blog. Today I'm going to start a pretty silly but topical feature I'll call Local Power Rankings.
This will assess the relative merits and strengths of the seven local major revenue sports. I'll plan to do this every Friday, as a way to offer brief commentary on developments on the local sports scene.
My inaugural Local Sports Power Ranking:
1. Minnesota Wild
Spent some time this week with Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo. They're pulling a neat trick, getting younger and yet improving on the fly. The young D has been impressive, the goalies have been spectacular, but I think Yeo is the MVP of the team so far. He's developing a gritty, unselfish team that can win even when it's not scoring many goals. This is miracle work, for the Wild to be in first place of the Northwest Division with this team, and these injuries.
I wrote about this topic for the Sunday Star Tribune.
2. Golden Gopher hockey
The Gophers have been more dominant than the Wild...but this should be the best college hockey program in the land, and only postseason success should be deemed real success. I like the fact that this team looks tougher, mentally and physically, than a lot of Don Lucia's recent failures. But I have to wait before doling out too much credit here.
Still, a fantastic start for the Gophs.
3. Gopher basketball
It's a measure of the lousiness of the local sports scene that Tubby's guys can climb this high without playing a meaningful game. These have been nothing more than exhibitions, and I still don't see that he's solved his ballhandling or scoring problems.
Still, this team should be competitive, which puts it ahead of most of the local competition.
Not playing games puts the Wolves right in the middle of the pack, because they at least have the promise of Rick Adelman and Derrick Williams. I still haven't given up hope that the lockout will end in the next two weeks and the season begins by January. Or Christmas.
This franchise is a mess right now, but Terry Ryan has made two reasonable, surgical signings in Carroll and Doumit. Ryan alone gives me hope for this franchise.
6. Gopher football
Tough choice between Gopher football and the Vikings for the bottom slot. I would argue that the Vikings are more disappointing and have earned the bottom. I actually think Jerry Kill will eventually make this program competent.
I didn't think this would be a good, but even so, I picked it to finish 7-9 before the season started. I was a raving optimist, bhut not as much as Leslie Frazier and the people who thought this should be a playoff team.
Everyone in this organization should be on notice. If this is a rebuilding job, are these coaches and personnel experts the right people to do the rebuilding?
As I said above, I like Terry Ryan's first two moves. Carroll can catch the ball and get on base, which makes him light years better than anyone who played shortstop for the Twins last year. Ryan Doumit can catch, play first base and rightfield, meaning he could be the perfect complement to Joe Mauer in a season in which we have no idea how often Mauer will play and where he'll wind up.
Most of the people disappointed with these moves expected the Twins to spend $100 million on someone like Jose Reyes. Not gonna happen, people. Be realists. Spending ridiculous money on the best free agent on the market (Mauer) is exactly how the Twins wound up in this mess.
Congratulations to Dan Monson on his team's upset of Pitt. Monson's not a bad guy or a bad coach, he was just a terrible fit for Minnesota. Dan: My apologies for taking cheap shots at you. Best of luck at Long Beach State, which is probably just the right kind of program for a good coach who doesn't like the Midwest or unrealistic expectations.
After getting 8 million emails telling me the Penn State child rape scandal is none of the NCAA's business, the NCAA is now investigating the program for lack of institutional control.
Which is exactly what should happen.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. today, and again at 6:15 with Tom Pelissero. Sunday, we have Chuck Fletcher lined up for Sunday Morning Sports Talk (10-noon) as well as Kevin Seifert and possibly another guest.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
I've seen and heard a lot of arguments against what I wrote in the Friday Star Tribune - that Penn State should cancel the rest of its games this season and be investigated by the NCAA, which should consider the death penalty for a program that enabled the raping of young boys in its lockerroom.
I believe more than ever that the Penn State game on Saturday in Happy Valley against Nebraska should have been cancelled. Saturday in Happy Valley was not the time or place to celebration the program that provided a haven and hunting ground for Jerry Sandusky, and a massive stadium should not have been provided as a forum in which to cheer for the program or ousted coach Joe Paterno.
For those saying that the NCAA doesn't rule on criminal acts, but only on matters of competitive balance, don't you think that a coverup of heinous acts that, if uncovered, would have damagd recruiting and possibly led to the ouster of the winningest coach in college footbalt gave Penn State a competitive advantage? Shouldn't the NCAA be concerned with the coverup of crimes within a big-time college football program, if not the crimes themselves?
I thought playing the football game was a pathetic display of priorities. But I expect nothing more from college football and the corrup and sanctimonious people who run it.
My colleague Phil Miller pointed this out today, as we were waiting for the Gopher-Wisconsin football game to start:
In 2008, the Twins signed Adam Everett to play shortstop. In 2009, they traded during the season for Orlando Cabrera. In 2010, they signed J.J. Hardy. In 2011, they signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka. In preparation for the 2012 season, they have signed Jamey Carroll.
That's five straight seasons in which the Twins have been forced to find a starting shortstop outside of the organization. That's an embarrassing stretch for a franchise that prides itself on drafting and developing players.
Who could have imagined the Twins missing Jason Bartlett this much?
For the record, I think the signing of Carroll makes sense. He's affordable, he catches the ball and he gets on base. He's a reasonable if unexciting signing.
Note to NBA players: Stop trying to make us feel sorry for you. You make too much money. Sign the deal and play, or get a real job. That is all.
Upcoming: I'll be in the 1500espn studio with Tom Pelissero for Sunday Morning Sports talk, 10-noon on Sunday. We'll both be in Green Bay to cover the Vikings-Packer game on Monday. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05, my normal time slot, with Reusse & Mackey. (Mackey's the rational one.) (I can't believe I just said that.)
My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
By late last night, when I was done talking to people about Terry Ryan's return to the general manager's job with the Minnesota Twins, I got the sense that Bill Smith was ready to step down.
I don't think he had the stomach for making sweeping changes in the organization, for apportioning blame to people he liked. I think the Pohlads wanted answers, and a plan, and Smith wanted to stay the course and hope that better health would fix what ailed the franchise.
As I wrote in today's paper, Twins employees were heartened by the look in Ryan's eye. I know when I spoke with him privately he looked and sounded intense. He feels it is his responsibility to fix this franchise.
Smith was viewed differently by people at different levels of the organization. Those who worked closely with him admired his work ethic and appreciated his low-key management style. Those above him stopped having faith in him as a No. 1 decision-maker. And many of those below him found him scatter-brained, distracted by his willingness to fill his plate with disparate tasks (he'd sometimes interrupt a meeting about free agents to discuss work that needed to be done on the spring training ballpark in Fort Myers), and difficult to communicate with.
In all, Smith did about as well as could have been expected for an administrator in a position that usually demands personnel expertise. He presided over three highly successful seasons. But as the Twins' organization became less a product of Ryan's philosophies and handiwork and more a product of Smith's tenure, we all saw problems arising.
Minor-league players came to the big leagues unprepared to compete, and sometime unprepared to hit a cutoff man. Players lingered on the disabled list. Joe Mauer went soft without being called on the carpet. Smith signed Nishioka as much for marketing reasons as baseball reasons, and it wound up backfiring horribly on two fronts: Nishioka couldn't play, the player he was supposed to replace, J.J. Hardy, had a career year in Baltimore.
Ryan brings personnel expertise to the job. He also brings leadership. I don't see him being able to fix the Twins in the short term, but he will move them back towards respectability, both on the field and throughout the organization.
Joe Paterno should not coach this weekend, and if he is as guilty of inaction as he appears to be in the Jerry Sandusky case, he should never coach again.
He failed as a leader. He failed as a human. He should go away, quickly and quietly.
If the Vikings ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that values its reputation, and if the Wilfs can even remember issuing the ``Code of Conduct'' in the wake of the Love Boat, and if Chris Cook is found guilty of strangling his girlfriend, the team needs to cut ties with him.
Let due process take its course. If Cook is found guilty, the Vikings can't have him on their roster. Not if they ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that cares about its reputation.
What Cook allegedly did is much worse than anything that happened on the so-called Love Boat. Violence against women can't be tolerated by a responsible group of owners and team executives.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. today. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Crazy night in Charlotte. At dinner with the boys when I get a text from Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Minneapolis band The Jayhawks. They were about to take the stage at Spirit Theater a few blocks away.
So I head there with photos Jerry Holt and Carlos Gonzalez and videographer McKenna Ewen, and halfway there, I realize I'm wearing a Jayhawks t-shirt that I bought at their First Avenue shows this winter.
Great show, intimate theater, and we even had the pleasure of watching a drunk guy hit on two women sitting in front of us, before he passed out right in front of me and missed the encores.
This morning I'm in the press box at the Panthers' stadium. It's a beautiful day, and I'm about to start Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero.
Among the topics:
-Should anyone ever listen to anything Donovan McNabb has to say?
-If beating Iowa at home is such a big deal, why isn't Jeff Horton still coaching the Gophers?
-Yes, I really do like Jerry Kill, but I'm not backing off the notion that it was silly to give him a raise and an extension before he won a Big Ten game.
-Christian Ponder and Cam Newton are proof that a promising rookie quarterback brings more promise than anyone at any position in sports. These teams are terrible in terms of record, and yet I can't wait to watch this game. I did not feel the same way when McNabb was starting.
-Check out startribune.com later for postgame video as well as game coverage from me, Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig, plus the work of Holt, Gonzalez and Ewen.
-I'll live tweet as internet allows, at @Souhanstrib.
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