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 training camp

Goodbye Cuddyer? Or is it hello again? And other stuff

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 15, 2011 - 2:50 PM

I know we tend to react strongly when a winning team doesn't draw well, and the empty seats at the X have been troubling, given the outstanding performance of this year's Wild team.

My take: Don't sweat it. If this continues to be a good team, and I think it will, the fans will arrive. Probably after football season and the holidays pass, and the NHL standings become more meaningful.

Wrote about the Wild for the Friday paper. A quick preview: This team is overachieving right now, given the injuries and difficult recent schedule, but I think this organization is set up to win for a long time. GM Chuck Fletcher has done a masterful job of giving this year's team a chance to win while also acquiring young talent.

The Wild is four good goalies deep, meaning Fletcher may be able to trade one for value. About all the Wild seems to lack moving forward is a signature scorer, a 40-goal guy. If Fletcher could somehow land Parise, this team could become a championship contender.

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One thing I've heard from a lot of people around the Wild is that Martin Havlat's departure was a key for this team. He was quite disliked in the lockerroom, and he was not an end-to-end player. If he had played for the Wild this year, Mike Yeo would have had to make an example of him. Chuck Fletcher spared Yeo the trouble.

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I think the signing of Josh Willingham rules out the Twins' re-signing Michael Cuddyer, and here's the catch for those who want to see Cuddyer brought back at any price:

If the Twins are willing to pay Cuddyer what he wants, about $10 million a year, that could be a sign that they don't think Justin Morneau is going to be healthy.

If Morneau is healthy, the Twins don't have a huge need for Cuddyer. If Morneau isn't healthy, then Cuddyer could be the starting first baseman.

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Saw two Wolves practices this week, and was struck by how much better this coaching staff is than its predecessor, and many in Wolves' history.

You've got Adelman, one of the best coaches of his generation, and Jack Sikma coaching big men, and Terry Porter coaching guards. I heard from a lot of people last year that not only was Kurt Rambis challenged as a head coach, but his staff was awful. Bill Laimbeer mailed it in. Reggie Theus was looking for his next job. Dave Wohl was not well-liked.

This staff will get the most out of this roster.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn from 6-8 tonight with a bunch of guests, including Jared Spurgeon, Toby Gerhart and probably someone from the Wolves from Mankato. Also joining me will be Brian Allee-Walsh, an old friend who has covered the Saints for decades.

Also, I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow with Reusse and Mackey, and Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon before the Vikings game on Sunday.

My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

 

Catching up on rest of sports world

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 15, 2011 - 12:32 PM

The Wolves really are cursed. They finally inspire hope with the hiring of Rick Adelman, and now they might not have a season.

My knee-jerk, Twitter-enabled reaction to the NBA players union shunning the owner's latest offer was that the players are being foolish. They're giving up huge money that they'll never make back while fighting over terms many of them don't even understand. (I'm not insulting their intelligence; I don't understand most of these deep financial negotiations, either.)

But I should be more even-handed. The owners are just as much to blame as the players. They were on the verge of a great deal for them, and by trying to wring the last dime and concession out of the players that they could, they did the worst thing they possibly could have done: They pushed the players into shutting down negotiations and lawyering up.

Whether it's divorce or sports negotiations, it's never a good sign when one or both sides invest heavily in power lawyers. Because power lawyers aren't there to get a fair deal. They're there to prove their worth by crushing the opponent. They're there to rack up billable hours.

I could still see a deal getting done in the next three weeks, could see the owners realizing they pushed too far and working to save the season with a reasonable deal. But now it's a long-shot, and David Stern is just as much to blame as the players.

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It's nice that the Gophers basketball team keeps beating overmatched opponents, but the measure of a Tubby Smith Minnesota team is whether they can win a close game against a decent Big Ten team by running a real offense in crunch time. Until I see that, I'm not going to be impressed.

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If you enjoyed watching the Lynx, like women's basketball or just like to watch a talented athlete of any gender or age develop, I recommend watching the Gopher women and freshman point guard Rachel Banham.

She's a dynamnic ballhandler who can shoot, finish and set up here teammates. She's the most talented player the Gophers have had since Lindsay Whalen left.

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With the NBA locked out and the football teams stinking it up, we're pretty close to becoming a hockey town. (Or hockey cities.)

What's encouraging about the local hockey teams is that the Gophers look like they're much tougher physically and mentally than they've been in years. They don't wimp out around the net or in the corners, and they bounced back from a tough loss at Wisconsin with an impressive victory.

And while it's always risky to jump to conclusions at any point of the long NHL season, it appears Mike Yeo has the presence of a winning coach. It's funny, too, that the way they're playing now reminds you a lot of the way Wild played under Lemaire - responsible defensively, and making the most of the few goals they score.

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You are entitled to be underwhelmed by the Twins' signing of shortstop Jamey Carroll, but this is the kind of reasonable, subtle, important move that the Twins need to make.

No matter what their payroll, they're not going to outspend big-market teams for premier talent. They have to use their money wisely, and Carroll, while limited, is a great upgrade over everyone who played shortstop for the Twins last year.

Now the Twins need to sign someone who can either catch 140 games if needed, or can move around the diamond and sub at catcher for Joe Mauer.

If only Trevor Plouffe could catch....

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Aaron Rodgers is so good that, for the first time since I started writing about the NFL in 1989, I'm startled when a pass falls incomplete.

He completed 23 of 30 passes on Monday night. The web site Profootballfocus.com reported that of the 27 passes he tried to complete (wasn't spiking or throwing away), he completed 23, and his receivers dropped three of his four incompletions.

I know a lot of Minnesotans love to hate the Pack, but I like watching greatness no matter what color it wears. This is greatness.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. 

Good day for tying up loose ends

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 1, 2011 - 11:18 AM

There are certain questions I get asked repeatedly. Let me provide a few answers:

1. I don't write headlines. If you love the headline, I don't get the credit. If you hate the headline, I'll take the blame if you like, but I didn't write it. And while we have a dedicated team of editors who do their best to capture the spirit of a column in the headline, please don't read the headline and fire off an angry email. The opinion expressed in the column might be slightly different, or less vehement, than the headline suggests.

2. I don't write ``articles.'' I write ``columns.'' The difference, and my business does a terrible job of differentiating these things, is that articles are supposed to be based in objectivity and reporting, while a column allows the auithor to express opinions and his or her perspective. It's my job to write opinion pieces, so if you're shocked to see me writing opinion, well, we in my industry haven't done a very good job of explaining to you that that is my role.

The line has blurred over the years, with more beat writers (people assigned to cover specific teams or leagues) writing more opinion pieces, but essentially my job is to do my homework and then tell you what I think. A beat writer's job is to bring you the news.

3. I don't dislike Jerry Kill, and I wouldn't be surprised if, in three years or so, he's fielding a competitive Big Ten team. In fact, I like the guy. I like open, honest, intense people.

I criticized the timing of his contract extension because it looks to me like another amateurish decision by the overseers of Gophers athletics. I'm not calling for him to be fired; I'm saying that he should be forced to prove himself like anyone else in any line of work before he's rewarded.

Sorry, a one-point win at home over Iowa doesn't justify the extension. It was a nice moment and a sign that Kill hasn't lost his players, which is a positive development. But as I've said before, if beating Iowa at home is such a monumental achievement, why didn't Jeff Horton get the job?

4. I haven't been as hard on Leslie Frazier as many of you would have liked because I had low expectations for this team entering the season. I figured this was a 7-9 team, and I wouldn't be surprised if that's about where this team ends up.

I think Frazier is learning on the job, and that should be expected. To me, the key to his tenure might be how his offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, handles the offense now that Christian Ponder is in place. Musgrave is highly respected around the league as a quarterbacks coach. Now he has to prove he can run an offense effectively. Sunday was a start, with Musgrave using Percy Harvin creatively and getting Adrian Peterson involved in the passing game.

5. I haven't been as hard on Ron Gardenhire as many of you would like because I think the average fan is nuts when it comes to evaluating managers. Take the World Series. Both managers made egregious strategical errors, and yet Ron Washington almost guided his team to a title, and Tony La Russa won the title with a team that shouldn't have even been there.

All managers, even the greats, make moves that make us scratch our heads. And no manager can win without pitching depth and talent.

I didn't see Gardenhire performing any differently this season than he did when the Twins were considered baseball's model franchise. He's not the X factor.

6. Don't take my predictions any more seriously than I do. After all, I thought the Twins were going to be good last year.

7. I'm hearing that the NBA lockout will end within three weeks, and that the owners will get pretty much the deal they wanted all along. They always planned to make the players miss a paycheck or two, knowing that would bring them all the leverage they need to finalize a deal.

8. I don't expect the Twins to re-sign Joe Nathan or Michael Cuddyer. The Twins value them both, but once a player hits the open market, someone is going to bid more than the Twins. That's just reality. If the Twins really wanted Cuddyer back, they wouldn't have offered him $16 million over two years, which was bound to insult Cuddyer's agent if not Cuddyer himself.

9. Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. today, and all weekdays, with Reusse and Mackey. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Make it stop, please

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 18, 2011 - 6:01 PM

It's silly to pretend that a city or state's sporting teams are all somehow linked by anything other than geography. The Twins don't affect the Vikings who don't affect the Gophers who don't affect the Wolves, and so on.

But this is getting a little creepy.

The Wolves are on one of the most remarkable five-year runs of ineptitude in NBA history. The Twins are headed toward 100 losses. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and, I believe, TC Bear are all done for the season. The Wild has fired two coaches since it last made the playoffs. Gopher football lost last week to New Mexico State, which just lost at home to UTEP.

Sunday, the Vikings blew a 17-0 halftime lead to lose, 24-20. They've now been outscored in second halves this season, 41-3.

Since Brett Favre threw that fateful interception, the Vikings are 6-12, including 3-5 under Leslie Frazier.

In an easier division, starting 0-2 might not be such a big problem, but the Vikings probably have the fourth-best team in the NFC North.

I'm not sure I've ever seen two poorer performances from a quarterback who didn't throw an interception than I've seen from Donovan McNabb the last two weeks. He's the anti-Tarvaris: He isn't making killing mistakes, he's just a little off, whether in timing or accuracy.

He threw for 228 yards and no interceptions on Sunday, but made so few positive plays in the second half that the Vikings lost again.

It's hard to lose when you run for 186 yards, throw for 228 yards and commit zero turnovers. But an inability to pick up the occasional first down under pressure is almost the same as committing turnovers.

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Maybe I should be more sensitive, but I have a hard time believing that Joe Mauer couldn't play another game this season.

Let me ask you one question: If Derek Jeter had the same illness as Mauer today, do you think he'd take off the rest of the season?

Me, either.

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I said this on Twitter earlier, and I believe it: The Wolves' hiring of Rick Adelman makes them the biggest winner of any sports team in town this week.

How often, over the last few years, could the Wolves have said that?

Given the state of disrepair of all the other teams in town, I could see Adelman making the Wolves one of the most popular draws in Minnesota. I believe he can immediately improve the Wolves from 17 wins to 30-some wins, and this town will embrace a young, fun, up-tempo team in the heart of our downtown.

I went to see the Gear Daddies at the Fine Line on Friday, and, as someone who doesn't spend a whole lot of weekend nights downtown, I was stunned at how many people were on the street around midnight. (Or later.)

That's the Wolves' demographic. I've gotten the feeling the last couple of years that there are tens of thousands of people who will pack Target Center if the Wolves can just give them a little hope. And I think Adelman represents hope.

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My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. weekdays, plus on at 6:15ish on Monday and Friday (Twins schedule permitting) with Tom Pelissero, my Sunday Morning Sports Talk partner, who will be hosting a nightly show from 6-8 p.m. on the station.

 

Sam Mitchell?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 9, 2011 - 8:43 PM

I'm hearing that Sam Mitchell has emerged as the frontrunner for the Timberwolves' head coaching position.

To me, this is a sign that Glen Taylor has exerted his influence on the hiring process. Mitchell is an old favorite of Taylor's, and in the absence of a sure-thing candidate like Rick Adelman (who appears to be ready to sit out next season), Mitchell, with his local ties and tough-guy persona, makes a lot of sense.

-It's been a brutal year for the Twins and their medical staff, so let me point out something nice:

Ryan Hedwall, the athletic trainer for the Elizabethton (rookie-league) Twins, has been named as the minor-league athletic trainer of the year for the Appalachian League. Hurry to the bigs, buddy: This team needs lots of healing.

-Baseball is so often wonderfully strange. The Twins had drawn just one walk in their previous 182 plate appearances before Tuesday's game. They drew four walks in the first inning against Red Sox starter Erik Bedard. Including a bases-loaded walk by Delmon Young. I'm not making this up.

Ball four to Young looked like a strike. Young's reputation for patience must have won over home-plate umpire Tim McClelland.

-It was a blast catching up with former Twin Gene Larkin on the radio on Sunday. Gene was always one of my favorite players, a pro who never complained about anything and took great pride in preparing himself to play.

-I believe this trivia question originated with ESPN's Jayson Stark, and the Red Sox beat writers were kicking it around before the game: Name the five active big-leaguers who have hit 20 or more home runs with four different teams. The answer is at the end of this post...

-What are the Twins going to do with Tsuyoshi Nishioka? He struck out in his first two at-bats on Tuesday, looking helpless each time. He's hitting .213 as I write this. If I were the Twins, I would offer to buy out part of his $6 million-plus in remaining salary, and let both parties off the hook. This has to be tremendously embarrassing for a guy so revered in his home country.

-This from Twins' PR wizard Dustin Morse: Jim Thome now ranks eighth all-time in homers and walks. He has 10,003 career plate appearances (through four innings on Tuesday night), with 1,708 walks and 598 homers. That means he has homered or walked in 23 percent of his big-league plate appearances.

-Believe it or not, I agree with the Twins' decision to call up Kevin Slowey, my old pal, and stick him in the rotation, now that Scott Baker is headed to the disabled list.

Slowey won't or can't pitch out of the bullpen. If this were a contending team, I wouldn't want a guy with his attitude around. Now that this team is no longer in contention, allowing Slowey to reestablish his trade value by pitching in the big leagues makes sense.

If he can pitch decently, Slowey should be able to bring a reasonable price in a trade this winter. A lot of teams are looking for affordable bottom-of-the-rotation help in the winter.

-Beautiful night at Target Field, whatever the outcome. There is something relaxing about going to the ballpark and knowing the game doesn't mean anything. It's like spring training in August.

-Trivia answer: Jim Thome, Alfonso Soriano, Mike Cameron, Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew. (I didn't do very well on this one.)

-I'm really hoping Jim Thome hits his 600th home run at Target Field. A lot of fans are paying a lot of money to watch bad baseball this year; seeing Thome reach that milestone would be a nice reward to them.

But if he can't hit it at Target Field, I'd like to see him hit it in Cleveland, where he started as a rawboned third baseman who heard Charlie Manuel, then the Indians' hitting coach, barking in his ear.

Even in this awful season, Thome remains the nicest man in baseball.

-Upcoming: I have columns on the Vikings, Gopher football and Lynx in the works, and I'll be in the studio on Sunday for the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk, while Tom Pelissero checks in from the road.

 

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