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 news

Twins' Game 2: Know anybody who can pitch?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 7, 2012 - 5:33 PM
I've been saying for weeks that I like the position-player portion of the Twins' roster, and organization. I see depth, health and promise. I think this lineup could score a lot of runs and at last be professional in the field.
The pitching, though, is already a problem. Scott Baker, who had a chance to become the staff ace this year, is babying his elbow again, now looking for a second opinion. Jason Marquis, because of his daughter's injury, is behind schedule. And during our pregame session with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on Saturday afternoon, he asked, ``You guys know about Hendricks, right?''
No, we didn't.
Hendricks is in a Baltimore hospital with food poisoning. So Anthony Swarzak will start on Sunday.
I asked Swarzak how many pitches he could see throwing on Sunday. ``In my mind,'' he said with a smile, ``about 200.''
Swarzak starting isn't such a bad thing in and of itself. He's an admirable competitor. What's alarming is that the Twins didn't make it through the first weekend unscathed.
The Twins' early schedule is brutal, and their pitching staff is short-handed. That is not a good combination.
A couple of Twins employees I spoke with said they're going to need to score a lot of runs early in the season while the pitching sorts itself out. And all of the pitching problems highlight the need for Francisco Liriano to act like an ace in deed and attitude today.
Liriano pitched well this spring after a rough first outing. If he's ever going to put it together, it would probably happen this season. Contract years tend to make superheroes out of ballplayers.
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A decade or two ago, sports columnists as major newspapers covered a variety of national events: World Series, Super Bowl, golf majors, Final Four. These days, not so much.
I covered a handful of Masters, and that is the event I miss covering the most.
Strangely, it's also the event I felt guiltiest about covering.
Augusta National Golf Club has zero female members. I can't condone that. I can't even quite fathom it. But the same members who discriminate against women put on the best sporting event I've ever covered.
I love the tournament and don't think much of the people who run it. That being said, I wish I were there. There is nothing quite like covering enough Masters that you can tell what each roar means.
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Tomororw, I'll be co-hosting Sunday Sports Talk from Baltimore from 10-11:30. We'll also run the Ron Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10. Monday morning I'll head home to cover the Twins' home opener.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

New LPR, highlighting Wolves,Twins,Vikes

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 8, 2012 - 12:01 PM

Here's today's highly irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Ranking:

1. Timberwolves

They're not just the best team in town (in comparison to the competition they face), they're the most entertaining and endearing team we've seen in this town since the 2001 Twins.

Like the '01 Twins, the Wolves are not only good, they are unexpectedly good, and young, and charming. (Can I call professional athletes charming?)

Last night was the rare night I covered a Wolves game without being restricted by writing on deadline, so I got to work the lockerroom at my leisure. It's hard not to like Derrick Williams, Kevin Love, Martell Webster, J.J. Barea and Nik Pekovich. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and each other.

Rick Adelman is positioning himself for coach of the year honors. I picked the Wolves to win 28 games this year and they're much better than that. And as the Wolves rise, the Western Conference suddenly looks vulnerable beyond the No. 1 seed. Oklahoma City is excellent. The Spurs are admirable but hardly spry. The Mavericks are suffering a predictable championship letdown. Who else scares you?

The Wolves have learned how to beat Portland, the Clippers and the Rockets. I love the way Memphis plays, but the Wolves are not overmatched against them. And the Lakers are a mess. Mike Brown might be the only defensive coach who can hold down Bryant, Bynum and Gasol.

If the Wolves can make it to the playoffs without burning out Love and Rubio, they could be dangerous. Now that they're in the 8th slot, they need to make a move so they face someone other than Oklahoma City in the first round. Even moving into the 6th seed would mean a matchup with Memphis or one of the LA teams.

The Wolves are the most interesting team in town, and they're growing more interesting by the day.

2. Gopher hockey

Don Lucia is having a good year. He has a team that seems to be peaking at the right time. But he still needs to prove he can prepare a team for the postseason and guide it to big victories, like he did in the old days.

3. Twins

I'll give them this: They're better than they were last year. But they could improve by 10 games and still lose 89 and finish fourth. Which, after spending time at spring training, is about what I expect.

4. Vikings

If only they had lost that silly game at Washington, they'd have the No. 2 pick and a couple of wonderful options: Drafting Robert Griffin III or trading him. I've thought for months that Griffin has more upside than Andrew Luck. He's a greater risk, but I was not impressed with Luck's throwing motion this season, and I wouldn't want to spend the first pick in the draft on a so-called game manager.

5. Gopher basketball

The coach should be fired, and yet the Gophs rank ahead of two other teams in town. That's sad.

6. Gopher football

Nothing new here.

7. Minnesota Wild

I like Yeo. I like Fletcher. I think they're both sharp. I think Fletcher has a credible plan for rebuilding with dynamic young scorers. But right now this is the most pathetic team we've seen in this town since...last year's Twins.

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Congratulations to Glen Perkins. He's shown great humility and flexibility while rehabilitating his career and his relationships within the Twins' organization since filing a grievance against the team.

Twins signed him to a contract extension today because he's become a dynamic pitcher while proving that's he's grounded, and a good teammate, and that he's invested in the organization. It's remarkable how quicky he's gone from problem child to franchise cornerstone.

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Upcoming: Tom Pelissero and I will host a rare double-headed, live-and-in-studio version of Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon Sunday on 1500espn. Lots of talk about all of the above, including Tom's look at NFL free agency and the Vikings' plans, and my thoughts on my trip to spring training and a week with the Wolves.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

My take on Vikings' stadium proposal

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 1, 2012 - 6:12 PM

The Star Tribune staff has done an excellent job chronicling the Vikings' pursuit of a new stadium. But if you don't want to sift through all the information and quotes, I'll save you some time:

The Vikings, the governor and the mayor of Minneapolis have agreed upon a deal that would build a beautiful new football stadium in Minneapolis, potentially revitalize one of the more run-down portions of the city, and keep an important state asset in Minnesota for the next 30 years, and they aren't going to raise anybody's taxes.

If you argue against this deal, you are short-sighted and selfish. This is a good deal, and I commend all parties involved for their patience. Zygi Wilf has been very fair and even-handed throughout, has refused to threaten to move when most humans would have been tempted to threaten to move, and has been willing to change sites to make a deal happen.

This deal should happen.

-B games are generally meaningless, but there was one important development today in Fort Myers: Righthander Carlos Gutierrez couldn't even get through one inning. I've had Twins officials tell me that he has to develop a soft pitch to set up his hard stuff, but on Thursday, he couldn't command any of his pitches. That's a terrible debut for a guy who I thought would compete for a big-league roster spot.

-Had a great time hosting Matt Birk on a tour of the Twins' spring training facility today. I've known Matt since 1998, and he made me vomit a lot during a workout with him and Matt Morris a few summers ago, so we've got that going for us.

He has a house in Naples and brought his wife and six kids to Fort Myers. He met Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire and said what I think every spring: If you want to visit spring training, do it before the games begin, and you can watch workouts and not have to fight crowds to get close to the players.

Birk hinted he wants to come back for one more year with the Ravens, and NFL players tend to become more optimistic about the future as they heal during the offseason. I think he'll sign a one-year deal with Baltimore and take another shot at getting to the Super Bowl.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn with Tom Pelissero tonight at 6:40, and will run Sunday Sports Talk with Jeff Grayson. Jeff will be in studio, I'll be in Fort Myers. We're going to do a long show running up to the Twins' game against Boston, so we'll be on from 10-12:30 Central time.

I'll be covering the Twins' game at Boston and will be getting my first look at lil' Fenway.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Minnesota basketball, the good and bad, and a new LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 29, 2012 - 8:38 AM

Rick Adelman has been to the Timberwolves what Tubby Smith should have been for the University of Minnesota. He makes a difference in such obvious ways.

Last night, the Gophers held Wisconsin to 16 first-half points and still found a way to lose, because finding a way to lose is what Tubby's teams have done the last two years.

Last night, the Timberwolves beat a good team on the road, whipping the Clippers in LA with a powerhouse fourth-quarter performance, in part because Adelman has a feel for when to play his players, and because he has tremendously upgraded the Wolves' offensive intelligence and defensive tenaciousness.

Darko is not a good player, yet Adelman has used him to good effect twice against the Clippers, particularly in keeping Blake Griffin from the basket. I know Adelman won't win the coach of the year award, but I'd consider him.

In light of last night's developments, here's my latest high-irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Rankings:

1. Timberwolves

I left the No. 1 slot vacant in my last rankings because I couldn't reward the Wolves when they were playing poorly, and no other local teams had earned this spot. The Wolves, having won five of six, easily reclaim this spot. This is a likeable and surging team.

 

2. Gopher hockey

Four straight victories: That's impressive, but we all know we're going to judge this team by the way it performs in the postseason.

3. Minnesota Vikings

The last two seasons were abysmal, but I'm seeing signs of hope. The farther I get from last season the more willing I am to give Christian Ponder the benefit of the doubt as a rookie quarterback playing with a limited supporting cast. Add Matt Kalil, then find a starting cornerback and a speed receiver either in free agency or the draft, and this team could quickly make strides, especially if Ponder learns from last season.

4. Minnesota Twins

I don't think this is a good team, but there's no way it can suffer as many injuries as it did last season, and the infield defense is guaranteed to be better.

5. Minnesota Wild

Other than the Nick Leddy trade, I like all of Chuck Fletcher's moves. He's aggressive and forward-thinking and I do believe he's building a winner. I just think the young scorers he's drafted and acquired are going to have to make it to the X before the record will support that assertion.

6. Gopher football

Nothing new here, although I continue to hear from Minnesotans about how much they like Jerry Kill. If that vibe works on recruits, we may have something here.

7. Gopher basketball

And your new last-place team in the LPR: I give you the Minnesota Golden Basketball Gophers.

Tubby Smith loses games he should have won, then blames the administration, or his players, or nightlife in Minneapolis. He did take the blame for one mistake: Moving Blake Hoffarber to the point last year. Otherwise, he's a finger-pointer of the first degree.

He must go. But does the new president and his 98-person advisory committee think he should go?

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Upcoming:

I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 from Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers with Reusse and Mackey. I'll also be on from the stadium for Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500espn on Sunday morning.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Weekly LPR, plus Super Bowl stories

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 3, 2012 - 6:09 PM

I've covered seven Super Bowls, and I'm ambivalent about missing them these days.

I hate the pack journalism and inane questions. I also hate not being in the eye of the storm, at the game that commands everyone's attention.

Two favorite Super Bowl coverage memories:

1. At my first Super Bowl, SB XXIV, the Joe Montana/Jerry Rice 49ers blew out the John Elway Broncos 55-10. You might think that the game was boring, but it wasn't, not for me. I was fascinated at the precision of the 49ers. A friend of mine was the 49ers' pool reporter that week, and he told me on Friday, `If you could watch them practice, you'd know why they're so good.'

Also, it was my first Super Bowl, my first big trip on an expense account. Eating New Orleans cooking and drinking Abita beer was a blast, although I learned that following such a diet by eating the chocolate mint on the Hyatt pillow was like lighting a match near a munitions factory.

Also: I remember being in a French Quarter bar with a bunch of writers late at night, and hearing someone yell, `The Doctor is in the house!'' And he was. Dr. J walked in, acting and being treated like royalty.

2. My favorite Super Bowl in terms of coverage was XLI, when the Colts beat the Bears in Miami. The game wasn't very inspiring, and if the Bears hadn't busted a coverage and allowed Reggie Wayne to get open for a free touchdown, who knows what would have happened? Maybe Peyton Manning wouild have joined Dan Marino as all-time great quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl.

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, I was able to spend time with Rochester native Tom Moore. Moore had recruited Tony Dungy to the University of Minnesota and now was Dungy's offensive coordinator and Manning's personal mentor. Seeing Moore, such an anonymous yet influential figure, sitting at the back tables of the media scrums, refusing to call attention to himself, made me admire the man even more than I had previously.

Time with Moore was one reason covering that Super Bowl was worthwhile. Another: By some quirk of late deadlines and pure luck, I wound speaking with Manning alone at his locker long after the game, and he started talking about the difficulty of playing with a wet football. It had rained early in the game.

Manning explained that he had prepared for rain. During breaks in practice, he would make his longtime center, Jeff Saturday, dunk footballs into a full bucket, so they could get used to snapping a wet football.

When I finished speaking with Peyton, I ran into his father, Archie, outside the lockerroom, and told him the story. ``Wet ball drills, huh?'' Archie said. ``He really does think of everything.''

I never would have had those conversations with Moore or the Mannings if the Star Tribune hadn't sent me to the Super Bowl.

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On to this week's highly irrevelant, completely subjective and yet mildly annoying Local Power Rankings:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Didn't like the way they let the Pacers push them around. Hate the fact that the starting lineup features one guy who shouldn't be in the starting lineup (Luke Ridnour) and two who might not belong in the NBA (Wes Johnson and Darko Milicic.) But even in defeat I find this team interesting and entertaining.

It will be interesting, at this point, to see what Rick Adelman does with his lineup, and how Rubio reacts to teams that have been able to thoroughly scout him. His steals are down lately.

By the way, I rank the Wolves ahead of other teams not because of their place in the standings, but because of their combination improvement/likeability/promise/entertainment value.

2. Gophers hockey

They finally swept an opponent last weekend, and have this weekend off. What will be interesting is to see how the new athletic director will react if the Gophers flop in the postseason again. It would be tough for a new AD to fire Don Lucia. It would also be tough for a new AD to be overly impressed with Lucia if his team flames out again.

3. Minnesota Wild

I covered the team on Tuesday, and that was one of the most gut-wrenching days a coach or an organization can have: First a highly-paid veteran rips the coach, then the team blows a three-goal third-period lead and doesn't even salvage a point.

The Wild came back to win in Colorado on Thursday, more proof that fans probably invest more emotion in outomes than do players, who have been winning and losing games all their lives.

4. Gophers basketball

The Wild is still in eighth place in the West; the Gophers may have fallen out of the prospective NCAA bracket with their loss at Iowa. Most people in my business have analyzed the end of the game; i say when you score three points in the first 10 minutes of a game, you should have been thrown off the floor long before time ran out.

5. Minnesota Twins

Nothing new to report here, so I'll repeat myself: I think Terry Ryan made a bunch of sensible, strategic moves to bolster his roster and give this team a chance to compete, but the Twins need Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer to be healthy and Francisco Liriano to be outstanding if they're going to win this division.

6. Minnesota Vikings

The Giants give other NFL teams hope that patience can be rewarded. They stuck with Eli Manning when he sometimes looked lost, and he could give them a second Super Bowl victory on Sunday. They stuck with Tom Coughlin when the tabloids were calling for his firing, and he, like Manning, could win a second Super Bowl in five years. The Giants failed to run the ball as well as they should this year. They patched together an offensive line. They used multiple backs. They had a long-shot receiver (Victor Cruz) become their difference-maker down the stretch.

In other words, you can win in the NFL without setting passing records and being innovative offensively, which is good news for the Vikings.

7. Gophers football

Jerry Kill probably has the perfect personality to appeal to Minnesota high school coaches and recruits. I'm not going to rate his recruiting class, because all that matters is the scores of the games in which these recruits wind up playing.

As for the departure of MInnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, I'll offer a series of thoughts:

1. I never thought he was a big-time athletic director. He was a reactor, not an actor. He often made the decision that was easiest for him, not the one that would lead the department in the right direction. Some people just are No. 1s. It's not his fault; it's the fault of the guy who hired him.

2. Why is it that every time an important sports job comes open in Minnesota, everyone suggests that a Minnesotan be hired? Please. Minnesota should hire the best AD candidate they can find, wherever that person currently resides.

3. Minnesota needs an AD willing to take on lots of big, daunting problems. What do you do with Tubby Smith if he misses the NCAA tournament? What should be done with Williams Arena? How can funds be raised for a basketball practice facility? What happens with Don Lucia if his program flops again?

Minnesota athletics needs a CEO. Mr. Maturi was more like an HR director.

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Upcoming: I'm writing a Super Bowl prediction column for the Sunday paper. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon Sunday on 1500espn. Hoping for a special guest, plus we'll talk about Tom's season-ending Vikings film work, preview the Super Bowl, do picks along with Tom Linnemann, and check in on the rest of the sports scene.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

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