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 Wolves draft news

Twins lose fourth straight, lose another player, plus other random thoughts

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 25, 2011 - 10:26 PM
I spoke with two former Twins in the Brewers' clubhouse tonight, after the Brewers won, 11-1, to give the Twins their fourth straight loss.
LaTroy Hawkins said the way Delmon Young jammed his foot against the base of the leftfield wall, he wouldn't be surprised if Young has a more serious injury than the Twins suspect.
The Twins said Young has a sprained ankle, and Young said he doesn't think the injury is serious, but let's see if further tests reveal more.
And Carlos Gomez told me he wasn't trying to show up Francisco Liriano after hitting a long home run, even though Gomez tapped his helmet when rounding third.
``I felt good and excited about it,'' Gomez said. ``They know it's nothing personal about it, especially when I have my best friend on the mound, Liriano. He's one of my best friends. And it's tough when you face your best friend, but tha'ts your job.''
Gomez also told me that his recent struggles haven't changed his opinion that he'll someday be a big-league No. 3 hitter.
``Believe it,'' he said. ``I always work every day for the future. I"m not seeing that I'm a leadoff hitter, because I'm not going to be able to run all my life. I have 220 pounds and I think they know I can hit a home run, but this is the last ability you get. I'm 25 years old, I'm going to still learn how to hit, and when I get my approach right, I think I'm going to be a 3-hole hitter.''
For now, Gomez is sharing centerfield with Nyjer Morgan.
 
-While I'm intrigued by the Wolves' talent, wouldn't they be far more exciting if, instead of taking Wes Johnson, they had taken DeMarcus Cousins?
A lineup of Cousins at center, Kevin Love at power forward and Derrick Williams at small forward would be dynamic. Teams would have to consider doubling Cousins, an excellent passer, and Williams, if Williams is as explosive as I expect him to be. Love could hit open jumpers and crash the boards. Ricky Rubio wouldn't have to launch his broken jump shot often playing with those guys, and the Wolves would simply need to add a good shooting guard (and a real coach) to be competitive pretty quickly.
 
-Joe Nathan pitched the bottom of the eighth. His fastball looked straight and was coming it at 91 and 92 mph, and his breaking pitches didn't show a lot of bite. It turns out this is going to be for him what it is for just about everyone else, a year of getting used to pitching again after having Tommy John surgery.
If the Twins can stay close enough to the division leaders to justify trading for help, a righthanded power reliever is going to be at the top of their list.
While we would have considered the loss of Justin Morneau and Delmon Young devastating at the beginning of the season, neither has produced much this year.
So let's call the Twins' ideal lineup for mid-summer this: Denard Span in left, Casilla at 2b, Mauer at catcher, Cuddyer at first, Kubel in right, Valencia at third, Thome at dh, Revere in center and Nishioka or Tolbert at short.
That's not a powerful lineup, but it could be good enough if the Twins' starting pitchers dominate.
 
-The Twins scored eight runs in the first inning of the first game on the road trip. They've scored seven in the 35 innings since.
 
-Nishioka is raising real concerns. He has a terrible approach at the plate. He doesn't keep his legs under him, which is an approach that works for only one person on the planet, Ichiro. He's miles from being a productive big-league hitter.
-Liriano mentioned after the game that he didn't think the pitch he threw to Gomez was the right choice. Another shot at Mauer's pitch-calling?
 
-Upcoming: I'll be in the MIller Park press box for the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk tomorrow, from 9:30-noon on 1500ESPN. We're hoping to feature Derrick Williams, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and Milwaukee radio host Drew Olson as guests.
-My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
 

Wrapping my head around Mauer-Mijares, BS-Kahn, Wild-Setoguchi

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 25, 2011 - 2:03 PM

Greetings from Milwaukee. It's a beautiful day here, spent the morning walking down to the lakefront, running into dozens of Twins fans wearing their gear.

Milwaukee always feels, to me, like a smaller, slower Chicago.

I've read a bunch of excerpts from the Bill Simmons interview of David Kahn. Where else would Kahn cut open a vein, but on the BS Report?

The funny thing is, if there's anyone who has criticized Kahn more than me, it's Simmons. But Kahn is desperate to appear legitimate and to defend himself, and he can't find a bigger audience than by speaking with Simmons.

What's amazing is that Kahn can change his story from minute to minute. His first year on the job, I wrote about how I didn't think the triangle offense was a good fit for his team, and particularly Jonny Flynn, and he called me to explain that the offense wasn't necessarily the triangle and...well, I dozed off after a while, so I'm not sure what else he had to say.

Now he's telling Simmons that the triangle didn't work with this team, and damaged Flynn's progress, which is exactly the point he was trying to shoot down when I made it two years ago.

Kahn also repeats the ridiculous notion that he's still making a decision on Rambis.

I've had colleagues tell me they find all of this highly entertaining. I don't. I see a guy you can't trust running a team I want to care about.

People in my business use the ``Event X will define Person X's legacy'' line way too often, but I"ll say this: Kahn's decision on his head coach could determine whether he'll have the job two years from now.

If he keeps Rambis, he's in deep trouble. If he fires Rambis and make a ridiculous move like the rumored Bernie Bickerstaff hire, he'll be on his way out. If he fires Rambis and somehow lands a legitimate, quality, NBA coach, that coach could take an interesting group of young players, improve the team's record dramatically in part because there is nowhere to go but up, and make Kahn look like he knew what he was doing all along.

For example, what if the Wolves can land Rick Adelman? He's one of the best coaches in the game. I'm not sure he wants to work for this organization or endure a rebuilding project, but if the Wolves could land him, they'd improve dramatically over the next year or two.

But would Kahn be willing to hire someone who could wind up becoming the primary personnel voice in the organization? That's the big question surrounding the Wolves right now.

-Maybe Joe Mauer and Jose Mijares sniping at each other last night means nothing. These things do happen.

Or maybe Mijares' willingness to challenge the Twins' franchise player is a sign that Mauer, in the midst of a season in which many people in the organization have become frustrated with him, no longer commands unversal respect or receives the benefit of the doubt in the clubhouse.

I've always been told by Twins people that Mauer is not an exceptional pitch-caller. But when you hit .340 and throw out runners, nobody's going to complain very loudly about that.

Now, though, Mauer is swinging weakly and throwing poorly and at least some of his teammates have privately questioned whether he's willing to play with pain or discomfort, and now a less-than-established player like Mijares is calling him out?

Does that seem like a coincidence?

There is also the question of why Mijares didn't shake off Mauer if he didn't want to throw a 3-2 fastball to Prince Fielder. That is a good question. Mijares has final say.

But before that pitch was thrown, where would you have placed your faith: In the franchise player who is a veteran catcher, or in the wildly erratic lefty? Kind of like asking whether you want Brett Favre or Bernard Berrian making a call on third-and-5.

-I like the Wild's trade of Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi for a very simple reason:

I like goals. With Burns gone and Setoguchi at forward, the Wild figure to score more, and allow more, goals, and defensive hockey bores me to tears.

Judging it more objectively, I still like it. Burns was a good guy and a real talent, but the Wild trading him when he was a year away from free agency for a talented winger who is signed for three years is exactly the kind of move the Wild needed to make.

-Still lining up guests for Sunday Morning Sports Talk. At this point I believe we'll have Derrick Williams, Chuck Fletcher and Milwaukee radio star Drew Olson. The Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. on 1500espn followed by SMST from 10-noon.

-I'll be Twittering tonight from the Twins-Brewers game, @Souhanstrib.

 

Should rename this blog: More Twins injuries and Wolves' intrigue

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 24, 2011 - 9:45 PM

I'm in Milwaukee for the Twins' series. Before the game, the Twins announced that Justin Morneau will be out until at least August. He'll undergo surgery on his neck to repair a herniated disc that is causing pain and numbness in his left arm.

We all know that the Twins have been decimated by injuries. Let's spin this story forward in two ways:

1. Gardenhire said Mauer is taking grounders in case the Twins need him to play another position with Morneau out. This can only be good. This lineup's lack of run production is catching up to it this week. Mauer needs to be in the lineup every day, one way or another. And in a National League city, with the DH not available, he should be available to play first base.

2. Once again Michael Cuddyer becomes invaluable. He's helped carry this team all month, and now he'll be needed at first, DH and in rightfield, and we know he's willing to play every day, and play with pain, and attempt to lead this team.

I didn't think there was any chance of Cuddyer re-signing with the Twins, but it's such a good marriage, both sides should strive to find a way. He's the kind of guy who should play with one franchise his entire career. He's smart enough to know the grass isn't greener elsewhere, and the Twins' entire organization values him.

And if you didn't think there was a place for him to play next year, well, the Twins can't assume Morneau is going to play 150 games at first base next season. Cuddyer would again be the perfect combination first baseman/outfielder for this team.

-Yes, I liked David Kahn's draft on Thursday night. But you knew there had to be another layer of intrigue, and here it is: There are reports (from Draftexpress.com) that Tanguy Ngombo of Qatar is 27, not 21, and is too old to be eligible for the draft.

That would be a blow to a front office that has been touting its international scouting.

What's really fascinating is that if you spell his name backwards, you get Yugnat Obmogn.

-Jose Mijares continues to be a major disappointment. Or maybe we just expected too much from him.

The guy has a career 2.73 ERA, and yet you can't trust him.

-Spoke with former Twin LaTroy Hawkins, one of my favorites, before the game. He underwent shoulder surgery last year, and has allowed just one run this season. His ERA is 0.47.

 

``I'm sticking around, trying to get some guys out,'' he said with a smile. ``Surgery was tough. Missing a lot of last year was tough. But I couldn't be mad. I went a long time without having surgery.

``I think the hardest part is rehab. Rehab sucks. I mean, rehab sucks. It threw mjy whole offseason out of whack.

``But you know what, you go through it and it makes you stronger and makes you appreciate your talent. It's not like I didn't take care of myself the first time, but you do take extra steps to give yourself a second chance to play the game.''

-Twins lose, 4-3. Key moment is Ron Gardenhire's decision to take Scott Baker out and have Mijares pitch to lefty Prince Fielder, one of baseball best and hottest hitters.

Fielders kills righthanders, but he also hits well against lefties.

My default position on this remains the same: I favor the Twins' starters, who have been the key to their turnaround, staying in the game as long as they can. I would much rather have Baker decide the game than Mijares. In any situation. Against any batter.

-My Milwaukee colleagues tell me that Delmon Young worked out at Miller Park for the Brewers when he was eligible for the draft in which the Rays took him first overall.

They said he put on the best power hitting display they've ever seen from an 18-year-old, bashing homers to all fields. Then the Brewers told him he could hit in the first group of batting practice, with the scrubs, and he insisted on hitting with sluggers like Richie Sexson. And he put them to shame.

Which is another reminder that Young should spend more at-bats trying to knock down a scoreboard and fewer trying to bloop a single to right.

-Upcoming: We're aiming for Wolves and Twins guests on Sunday Morning Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday, following the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30 on 1500ESPN. Also, Milwaukee radio star Drew Olson will join us to talk Brewers, Packers, Bucks, etc.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Wolves nail the draft

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 23, 2011 - 11:05 PM

OK, we here in the media room at Target Center have decided David Kahn is making all these trades to avoid coming down here and talking about Kurt Rambis.

Other observations from draft night:

-This is the first event I've ever covered where Twitter is light years ahead of the ESPN coverage. Let's face it, ESPN owns the NFL. ESPN does not own NBA coverage. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo is killing the Worldwide Leader, as usual, and his tweets usually beat ESPN's TV coverage by 10 or 20 minutes.

-I am completely in favor of Kahn drafted, and keeping, Derrick Williams. I'm even intrigued by the addition of salty ol' Brad Miller, although I'm not sure Miller is as much a leader as he is a crotchety old guy. It will be very interesting to see how he meshes with the youngsters. Somebody's gotta buy the beer.

-Great Stu Scott question about one of these prospects: ``What is he like, as a player?''

incisive as always, Stu. Always make it clear that you're not asking about their cross-dressing habits.

-Phil Mackey's great line of the night, via Twitter: ``David Kahn reminds me of my little cousins who pick up a Playstation controller for the first time and just start mashing buttons.''

-Baseball is amazing. Tom Kelly always used to worry when a light hitter hit a home run, because he'd start swinging out of his shoes, trying to hit another one.

So here are the Twins getting eight hits in their first eight at-bats to start the San Fran series, then hit the wall. They scored eight runs in the first inning of the series, two runs in the next 27 innings.

-Twins could be in for a tough trip. The Brewers are loaded. The Twins are lucky to miss Zack Greinke, who is starting to fire bullets.

-The Twins' miracle run might be coming to an end for a very good reason. Eventually, this team, with this bullpen, will have to win by scoring runs. Until Joe Mauer comes around and some of the power hitters become healthy and productive, this team will have to rely on small-ball. And any team that relies on small-ball is at the mercy of the opposing defense and clutch hitting.

-David Kahn got booed twice while announcing the Derrick Williams pick. But the pick itself was cheered.

-I put together a 3-D model of the Wolves' moves tonight. It is a ball of twine.

-Kahn came down for a very brief press conference, saying he needed to get back upstairs to deal with another draft pick. I think he came down at that time specifically to avoid getting grilled.

He denied that the Wolves were making trades to amass money to pay off Kurt Rambis. I almost believed him.

-In summary: I think the Wolves had a really good draft. Derrick Williams and Malcolm Lee, with Brad Miller thrown in? I like it.

If only they had a coach...

-So the Wolves take Tanguy Ngombo with the 57th pick. His name is an anagram that can also be arranged to read: ``David Kahn thinks I'm a power forward.''

As my buddy Ray Ratto said, ``They said this was a weak draft. Making up Dr. Seuss names is just the next metric.''

-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 tomorrow to disagree with Reusse.

-My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

 

Our sports market remains Crisis Central

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 23, 2011 - 2:49 PM

I can't believe it was only a few weeks ago I feared there would be nothing interesting to write about this summer.

Then the Twins got hot, David Kahn started scheming and by midday Thursday we had the news that Kahn plans to fire Kurt Rambis shortly, and Joe Mauer is out again today, this time because of a stiff back.

I've heard some of my radio colleagues suggesting that the Twins should cover for Mauer, saying he was given the day off. But there's no winning here. If Ron Gardenhire says he's just resting Mauer, then he gets hammered for failing to put his best hitter into a weak lineup. If it becomes known that Mauer is complaining about a stiff back shortly after returning from the disabled list, then he looks bad.

Well, he looks bad. Again. Maybe his back is really killing him, but don't you want your franchise player to fight to get into the lineup?

Then Kahn allows word to leak that he's about to fire Rambis, interrupting one of the best public-relations weeks in recent Wolves history. They hold a Ricky Rubio press conference and start selling his jersey and ticket packages tied to his jersey number, and they're about to make the highest draft pick in franchise history, and now the firing of Rambis looms over their draft party.

This is management malpractice.

Now we can only hope that the rumors aren't true, that Kahn isn't about to hire a 67-year-old coach whose last winning season as a head coach came in 1998 and whose peak season came in 1989.

Bernie Bickerstaff is considered a good guy, and a smart guy. But the idea of hiring him to shepherd the team until Wolves assistant J.B. Bickerstaff is ready is lunacy, and would occur only so Kahn, nearing the end of his contract, would not feel threatened by the man on the bench. He would know that Bernie would have no grand designs on taking over the primary decision-making role in the organization, and that Bernie would do everything he could to get along with management so that J.B. would remain his successor.

J.B., similarly, would be very much under Kahn's control.

We don't know whether this rumor is true or not. But it smells like something Kahn would do to maintain his power within the organization after his teams utterly failed on the court during his first two seasons.

Let's go pro-con on Kahn.

He blew the hiring of his first coach. He blew the assembling of the first coaching staff, too, since I'm told Bill Laimbeer and Reggie Theus are not quality assistants.

He blew his first draft pick, Jonny Flynn, and we're still a ways away from finding out whether he blew his second first-round draft pick, Ricky Rubio. He drafted Ty Lawson for the Nuggets, and, of course, it turned out that Lawson is the best of the three players, at least at this point in their careers.

We can debate how he did in his second draft. I preferred DeMarcus Cousins, and still do, because I believe his talent overwhelms his problematic personalty. Wes Johnson is less talented but far more reliable. We can wait another year or two before forming a final opinion.

Dark Mlicic? I say that's a swing and a miss. Martell Webster? Not as good as Kahn thought he was. Trading Al Jefferson? Not a thrilling deal from either end. Keeping Kevin Love? My sources tell me Kahn considered trading Love, so I don't know how much credit to give him for keeping Love. But you can mark that down in Kahn's win column, regardless, because he did indeed keep Love.

Dealing with the firing of McHale? Kahn gets an F, for waiting until after the draft to hire McHale's replacement. Firing Rambis? Kahn gets an F for playing it out so long and allowing it to ruin this week.

What Kahn's supporters will point to is the dramatic upgrading of talent on the roster. Remember, McHale gets the credit for acquiring Love in a fantastic deal. So Kahn doesn't get credit for the best player on the roster. He's also acquired two talented enigmas, in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, whom other teams gave up on.

Do the Wolves have more talent today than they did two years ago? Yes. But what we don't know, especially after watching Kahn make so many mistakes in this job, whether he can choose a coach who will meld that talent into a winner, and whether the talented players he has assembled can play team basketball, or a lick of defense.

If raw talent was all that mattered in the NBA, the Mavericks not only would have failed to win the championship this year, they may not have made it out of the first round.

Kahn has acquired long, lean athletes. But if he can't hire a good coach, that won't matter at all. If he can't find real basketball players, this group will peak as a poor version of the exciting-but-unaccomplished Golden State Warriors.

-Upcoming: I'll be in Milwaukee this weekend to cover the Twins and Brewers. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. Friday. I'll be in the Brewers' press box for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, from 10-noon on 1500espn, and for the Gardenhire Show, from 9:30-10.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib, and I'll be tweeting from the Wolves' draft tonight.

 

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