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 WNBA

Series of Random Thoughts as I head to Target Center

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 30, 2011 - 5:54 PM
Covering the Lynx game tonight, my column on the team will be in tomorrow’s paper.
Someone remind me how you write about a winning team again?
If any of the Lynx players come down with bilateral leg weakness as I'm sitting courtside, then we'll know that I'm the carrier...
Spanning the globe, or at least the part of the globe threatened by hurricanes, earthquakes, recessions and stick food:
-Chester Taylor’s departure was overrated, and the potential of him returning was overblown. Backup running backs, even good ones, are easy to find. While I think the Vikings reached when they used a second-round pick on Toby Gerhart (because he’s just a backup running back right now), he’s better at this point in his career than Taylor is.
If there’s anything more overrated than a backup running back, it’s an older backup running back who averaged 2.4 yards per rush last year at the age of 31. Gehart and Lorenzo Booker can handle anything Adrian Peterson can’t, and Gerhart will have to prove his worth as a starter if anything happens to Peterson.
Who, by the way, could have an immense season. Think about it: A healthy, eager Peterson in a contract year in a power-running offense. If he stays healthy, I could see him buying Jim Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan and Visanthe Shiancoe Rolexes at the end of the year, along with the offensive linemen.
-I spoke with Justin Morneau after Sunday’s game, during which he ran around like a maniac on the bases and in the field. Now he’s sitting out in Chicago because of more concussion-related symptoms.
That’s about the worst thing I’ve heard all year. Here’s a guy who was trying to set an example for his teammates by hustling, and he once again raises the specter of an injury that just won’t go away.
As for Joe Mauer, I’m developing a pet theory after talking to lots of people in the Twins’ organization: I think he’s depressed about something. Seriously. If you’ve ever been depressed, or read about depression, or known anyone who has battled depression, you know that in depression’s throes, a person is much more prone to have the common cold turn into the flu, and is much more prone to having a minor injury become a major setback.
I don’t say this lightly. If Mauer is struggling with something in his personal life, that would explain a lot.
-I read with interest reports of the University of Kentucky sports information department banning a student reporter from interviews with basketball players because the reporter contacted two walk-on players without going through SID channels.
I went through that while covering the University of Missouri basketball team, coached by the cantankerous Norm Stewart. Norm heard that I had tracked down a player on campus to follow a lead, and he stopped speaking with me. (Of course, I’ve caused a few people over the years to stop speaking with me, including a lot of people I now really like. Including Jerry Burns, like Jerry Burns.)
My situation was slightly different than the current Kentucky dust-up. Stewart didn’t ban me from interviews with players or restrict my access, he just stopped giving me bonus time with him. He was well within his rights to do so, and I didn’t complain because I had no basis for complaint.
The Kentucky situation is a little more complex than many national media reporters are making it seem. While I agree that no SID or school should ever restrict a news organization’s first-amendment rights, all Kentucky did was restrict the reporter from a round of interviews that were not available to all media members. While I would put up a fight if I were the Kentucky student newspaper, sometimes we (reporters and columnists) simply have to accept that if we aggressively pursue information, we’re going to forfeit opportunities to receive help from PR people.
I’ve had a lot of people turn down interview requests from me because I criticized them or they didn’t want to discuss the topic I was interested in, and that’s their right.
-I’ve been saying this on the radio all week: The Vikings’ offense really reminds me of Joe Gibbs’ Super Bowl winning offenses when he was in Washington.
What’s good about that is that Gibbs didn’t need a great quarterback, running back or deep threat to win Super Bowls. He won Super Bowls with three different non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks and three different featured running backs.
Eras have changed, and quarterbacks may be more important now than they’ve ever been, but Gibbs’ philosophies should hold some promise for today.
He likes power running, multiple tight ends (or H-backs), and softening the defense up for the long pass. Those tenets should be pretty timeless.
-The consensus among local media outlets seems to be that the Wolves’ coaching job is Rick Adelman’s for the taking. I can’t say that’s not true, I can only say that I think owner Glen Taylor wants to take a good hard look at hiring Sam Mitchell, and Taylor is free to trump David Kahn’s judgement on this hire if he wants to.
While the long, torturous process has turned off a lot of people, I actually think the Wolves are in good shape here. Adelman is an excellent coach, although he may be reaching a time of his life – he’s 65 and reportedly his wife isn’t keen on him coaching this year – where basketball might not be a consuming passion. Mitchell was an NBA coach of the year not long ago and is the lone candidate who can bring back memories of the Wolves’ competent years and might be the best candidate for toughening up a soft roster. And Don Nelson, while likely to flame out quickly and head back to Hawaii, would at least make the Wolves more fun to watch.
Personally, I’m pulling for Mitchell because I like him and think he would look at this as the opportunity of a lifetime, instead of just another paycheck.
-Michael Vick’s contract, even when simply looking at guaranteed money, seems like a huge risk to me. There is no guarantee his speed and skills will survive the beatings he’s taking as a running quarterback, and no one knows how he’ll react to once again having a lot of money in his pocket. I wouldn’t have signed him to this deal, especially since the Eagles’ coach, Andy Reid, is so good at developing quarterbacks.
It's obvious the Eagles are going for it this year, but I still think they're maybe the third-best team in the NFC, behind the Packers and perhaps the Saints. (I see the Saints reounding this year.)

-Upcoming: I’ll be flying to LA for the weekend to cover the Gophers at USC and the Twins at Angels. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

Liriano waking the echoes

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 12, 2011 - 6:16 PM

 

The Twins are the best last-place team in baseball. There, I said it.

That, and other observations about the Twins' recent surge, are the subject of my Monday column. The numbers are against them, but it seems foolish to completely write off a team with a great history of comebacks that plays in a mediocre division.

The Twins have won nine of 11, and their starters have an ERA of 1.96 since June 2. The struggling White Sox come to town, then a lousy San Diego team, and the Twins should start getting key players back from the disabled list almost daily by mid-week.

Michael Cuddyer has five doubles, five homers and 18 RBI in his last 26 games. Alexi Casilla is hitting .337 since May 15. I don't know whether their recent success is sustainable, but I like watching Ben Revere and Casilla at the top of the order. Revere has to stay not just in the big leagues, but in the lineup, even after Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Joe Mauer and Jim Thome return.

You can't simply bench Delmon Young. He's swung much better in the last week, and he's too talented to write off this season. But Revere can spell the other outfielders and be a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner. There's no reason to force Span or Kubel to play every day as they come off injuries while Revere's around.

I also believe that Rene Rivera has passed Drew Butera as the backup catcher. Rivera isn't a great hitter, either, but he is a very good defensive catcher and signal-caller, and at least he takes a good hack at the ball.

-My buddy Mike McCollow invited me to his buddy's basement this weekend to see Damon Dotson sing and play guitar. I highly recommend him. Great voice. He plays locally, and you can check him out at DamonDotson.com.

-Had Yahoo's great NBA writer Adrian Wojnarowski on Sunday Sports Talk. He downplayed expectations on Ricky Rubio, and when I asked if I had been too hard on David Kahn, Woj said, ``No.''

Ok, then.

Also spoke with Twins president Dave St. Peter, who hinted that the Twins could be looking at some changes in their scouting operation. Personally, I think they need to take a hard look at their minor-league system. Too often I see (or hear of) guys getting called to the big leagues who haven't addressed their flaws (like Trevor Plouffe's throwing) or have not been taught some basics.

-I enjoyed covering the Lynx's home opener, and then they build a three-game winning streak and beat the defending champs and...take nine days off?

Bad timing. I do think this is going to be a good, entertaining, team, though.

-One thing I've heard from the Twins' clubhouse is that neither the staff nor his veteran teammates want Joe Mauer to return, catch a couple of games, and then start taking days off. They all want to see this guy be a workhorse the rest of the season. Be a workhorse, or find another way to stay in the lineup.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 on Monday, and all week. We'll run Sunday Sports Talk (also on 1500espn) from Target Field again next week.

 

The great debate (for today): Blame Delmon, or blame the bats?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 8, 2011 - 7:57 AM

Picked up on this debate on Twitter last night: Should we blame Delmon Young's error or the Twins' bats for their 1-0 loss at Cleveland?

Both are culpable, of course. But while all teams and hitters will have a bad night, and sometimes will simply be overmatched by a good or hot pitcher, all Major League leftfielders should be capable (and interested in) bending over to pick up a bouncing baseball.

I saw someone defend Young because he smashed a double. That is missing the point.

A year after generating hope that he could become an MVP-type player, Young has been an embarrassment this season. He's played horribly in the field and has produced a stat line that would make Matt Tolbert giggle.

I'm not a big fan of the stat OPS for precise measurement of offensive capability, but it does provide a good snapshot into a player's performance.

Consider these OPS totals:

Alexi Casilla: .653

Rene Rivera: .620.

Matt Tolbert: .578.

Delmon Young: .534.

The Twins are getting no offensive production out of a player whose fielding has suggested that he can be valuable only if he is an exceptional offensive player. If you're determined to prove via your fielding that you are nothing but a designated hitter, you might want to get a few hits.

The biggest, strongest Twin now has six extra-base hits in 151 at-bats.

At this point, my chosen outfield for the 2012 Twins would be Ben Revere in left, Denard Span in center and Jason Kubel in right, with the hope that Joe Benson makes a push to be a contributor or the first player called up in case of injury.

Now the Twins have to hope Young can at least play well enough to bring value in a trade.

And while he's here, Young should at least be moved to leftfield. He has a strong arm and limited range. That would make him a perfect fit for right field at Target Field.

-A new report alleges that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor made $40,000 autographing memorabilia. I hope he saved some of the money.

Pryor is skipping his senior year at OSU to enter the draft. His problem is, he's not a very good quarterback, and he won't be a good pro quarterback, and he's not gifted enough to make a living at another position.

I don't blame college athletes for wanting to make a little money while they're generating tens of millions of dollars for their schools. I just hope for Pryor's sake he has positioned himself to make a living outside of football.

-It's interesting that the Golden State Warriors hired Mark Jackson shortly after hiring Jerry West as a consultant. When Jackson was a Wolves' candidate, I kept hearing from my NBA people that Jackson had a terrible reputation as a selfish player and clubhouse lawyer, and that the Wolves were lucky they didn't hire him.

Now Jackson will take over a skilled team that plays almost no defense. Is he really the right man to fix that problem? I tend to doubt it.

-It's fascinating that lame-duck Wolves coach Kurt Rambis is now trying to publicly position himself to return, considering the disdain with which he treated everyone in or near the Wolves organization last year.

If he comes back, I hope he does so with some class. I've had more than a few people in the Wolves' organization tell me that he is the worst, most arrogant guy with whom they've ever worked. I don't think he coached well enough to deserve to return, but there has to be a good basketball brain hidden somewhere behind all that unearned smugness. Who knows? Maybe coming close to getting fired would be enough to jolt him into the right mindset for coaching a young team.

I'd still rather see Dwane Casey or Sam Mitchell running this team.

-I covered the Lynx home opener on Sunday, and I thought it was a good time. The atmosphere felt different than most sporting events, and I kept trying to figure out exactly what was different.

Then it hit me: I didn't sense any anger from the stands. Usually when you attend a pro sporting, or a major-college revenue sporting event, there is an undercurrent of angst and anger. Particularly at basketball games, you hear fans cursing the refs and opponents.

The people at the Lynx game just seemed happy to be there, happy to support their team. The Lynx players seemed unified and gregarious.

I think this is going to be a really good team, and while most people in my business mock the Lynx and the WNBA, I would love to see them make a run at a championship and give us all reason to pay more attention.

-LeBron James remains a mystery. He's the best player in the game in part because of his unselfishness and passing ability, but it is so strange to see the best player in the game content to let other people dominate the ball at the end of close games.

James was incredibly passive last night, and that's one big reason why the Mavs won Game 4. I'm still picking the Heat in seven games, but if the Heat had played with a little more intelligent and and intensity at the end of Games 2 and 4, it might already be over.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, as long as the Twins' game ends in time. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Tom Pelissero and I are starting to make plans for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500espn. We'll run the show from the St. Thomas Mobile Press Box outside Target Field.

 

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