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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So two on, one out, bottom of the seventh, Indians on the ropes, score is 3-3, your $184-million No. 3 hitter comes to the plate, and...bunts?
I don't get it. I dont' want to get it.
Even if he had beaten it out, I'd be griping. Joe Mauer bunting with the game on the line (and no Justin Morneau batting behind him, not that that really matters in this situation) is like...well, I'd come up with an analogy, but no comparisons are worthy.
He can't do it. He just can't do it. He's got to recognize where he is in his career, who he is, what is role is, what his team needs from him. He can't sign the richest contract in franchise history and then shrug off the responsibility of getting the big hit in the biggest situation in the game.
He can't. But he did.
Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe. Say it ain't so.
I have a theory about sports, and competition in general in any aspect of life: Never make your opponent happy.
If you're the Vikings, don't throw to Tahi when Sidney Rice is available.
if you're the Wolves, don't hire David Kahn as your GM.
If you're the Wild, don't let Marian Gaborik get away.
If you're a newspaper, don't let your best people leave.
If you're Joe Mauer, reigning AL MVP, don't bunt. Ever.
I'd elaborate, but there's nothing more to say.
It was a brutal, dumb, horrific, mindless, mind-numbing decision. What's worst, it hints that Mauer doesn't want to be the guy to decide the game in that situation. Well, wait. I don't know if I believe that. I would like to think it was his roots as a fundamentally-sound player emerging in the wrong place and at the wrong time, causing him to momentarily think that a bunt might load the bases for Jason Kubel.
But that's no excuse for this play. With Morneau out, Mauer should be carrying this team. You don't carry a team with a bunt.
And his decision might have cost the Twins the game.
-We're all sitting here writing on deadline and eating really unhealthy food. (Judd doesn't seem bothered by this.)
-My column for the Friday paper focuses on the Vikings' trade of the 30th pick in the draft. Short version: I like the trade. I'm not sure I like who they traded with.
-There is the possibility that the Vikings could take Jimmy Clausen on Friday. I could be wrong, and we'll know soon, but I don't think so. I don't think Clausen is the right personality type for this team, a veteran team trying to win now. And I'm not as impressed with Clausen as the general public is.
At Notre Dame, his teams generally underachieved and faced mostly poor competition, and he had great receivers who could catch anything near them. I'm not sold.
I also think the Broncos are fools. They essentially traded Brandon Marshall for Tim Tebow. Marshall is one of the NFL's two best receivers. I don't believe Tebow will ever be a good NFL quarterback. And you don't spend a first-round pick on a Wildcat quarterback.
-Here's the column I wrote early in the evening, well before the Vikings picked. We in the business call it an ``early.''
Want to know how immensely popular the NFL has become?
On Wednesday, the NFL commissioner suspended a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in his prime for six games for a sordid incident involving a bathroom, an underaged girl and alcohol.
On Thursday, the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger only added to the intrigue and suspense _ and thus the popularity _ of the NFL draft. Would the Steelers trade Roethlisberger? Which teams would trade their first-round pick for him? Would Bad Ben molest anyone between the announcement of the suspension and the end of the first round?
The NFL is so popular that it has become the first pro sports league in history to lend truth to the phrase, ``Any publicity is good publicity.’’
The draft itself has, over the last couple of decades, morphed from an oddity obsessed over by the kind of geeks who now invent fictitious acronyms so they can sound smart talking baseball into a prime-time television special that promised to garner an immense rating.
I had a buddy tell me he was going to try to put his kids to bed early so he could watch every minute, even though most of the players taken in even the first round of the 2009 draft made little or no impact on their team last season. In fact, looking back at that first round confirms that the Vikings would have been silly to consider anyone other than receiver Percy Harvin, even if they had known then the extent of his migraines.
In 1990, I covered my first NFL draft. I spent two days in the basement of Winter Park, the Vikings’ compound in Eden Prairie. The Vikings had traded just about all of their draft picks to Dallas for Herschel Walker (just thought I’d remind you) and it was pretty much a couple of writers, a couple of camera guys and a bag of chips killing an entire weekend.
At the end of each day, the Vikings’ draft gurus, Frank Gilliam and Jerry Reichow, would come downstairs from their office, shrug a few times, and say that some of the guys they took had a chance to make the team, but who could tell?
Mel Kiper had not yet been invented or laquered, and everyone’s favorite draft analyst was a guy named Joel Buchsbaum, who produced a draft pamphlet that every self-respecting writer treated as a bible, to the consternation of NFL personnel directors.
Thursday night, the Vikings were slated to make the 30th selection in the first round.
This column was written well before the Vikings made their first selection. In this case, you didn’t know who the Vikings took to know that their selection probably wouldn’t make much difference in 2010.
If they took a defensive back or an offensive lineman, that player was not likely to start Game 1 in New Orleans. If they surprised everyone (or maybe just me) and selected a quarterback, that quarterback would be at least a year away, and perhaps more, from being expected to contribute.
And that is the greatest compliment you can offer the Vikings’ braintrust: They have pieced together such a strong roster that the 2010 draft should be seen as a way to bolter future teams moreso than the current squad.
The Vikings have excelled in free agency, adding Bernard Berrian, Brett Favre (yes, he counts), Anthony Herrera, Steve Hutchinson, Ben Leber, Ryan Longwell, Visanthe Shiancoe, Pat Williams and Antoine Winfield since 2004.
Under Rick Spielman, the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel, the Vikings have excelled at hitting home runs at the top of the draft.
In 2006, Spielman & Co. took Chad Greenway and Cedric Griffin in the first two rounds. In 2007, it was Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice.
In 2008, the Vikings traded three of their first four picks for Jared Allen, a brilliant move, and chose Tyrell Johnson _ a starter although not a standout _ in the second round.
In 2009, The Vikings took Harvin in the first round and Phil Loadholt in the second.
All of those move guaranteed that anyone the Vikings selected at the end of the first round on Thursday would play a supporting role.
-Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is complaining about the NFL preempting the NBA playoffs. Way to be a free-marketeer, Mark.
-On 1500ESPN with Joe and Pat at 2:35 Friday, then on at 6-ish with Joe Anderson before the Twins play the Royals. I have tomorrow off from the newspaper.
A video I shot with Mr. Reusse should be up at startribune.com.
You can follow me on twitter at Souhanstrib. If you followed me today, you know I think Jon Gruden is a fool when it comes to draft analysis. If I hear one more ``analyst'' try to tell me that Tim Tebow will be a good NFL quarterback because of his character, I'm going to regurgitate.
Ben Roethlisberger is a jerk, and he won two Super Bowls.
-I'm back to write about the draft Saturday for the Sunday paper, then on Sunday we've got the Gardy Show on 1500ESPN at 9:30, followed by Sunday Sports Talk with myself and Brad Lane. Trying for Twins and Vikings guests.
Ok, anyone who owns a TV can offer a thumbnail analysis of the Vikings.
The safeties don't make plays. The linebackers aren't nearly as dynamic without E.J. Henderson in the middle. Antoine Winfield is not himself. The pass rush has been thwarted by quick passes. The offense is lacking the big plays that send defenses reeling.
Or...we could simplify our analysis.
The 2009 Vikings are 7-0 at home and 4-4 on the road.
They are 9-1 on turf, and 2-3 on grass.
They have lost their last three games on grass, and their last two in cold weather.
On the first two pass plays of the Carolina game, Brett Favre slipped. Many times on Monday night, Adrian Peterson or Percy Harvin either slipped, or eased into a cut for fear of losing their balance.
The Vikings are a speed team, a turf team. Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Peterson, Chester Taylor _ they all look like different players when they can sprint and cut on turf. Favre looks more sure of himself in the Metrodome, and his cold-weather record on the road is undeniable even after his dramatic second-half comeback on Monday night.
The problem is, the Vikings now are in a position where they could find themselves playing a road game in the second round of the playoffs, or in the championship game if they make it that far. And they are not a good road team.
They also aren't strong against the pass of late, and every team likely to make the NFC playoffs can throw the ball at will.
All of which means that the Vikings are in big trouble. I wouldn't be surprised to see them beat the Giants at the Metrodome _ I don't think this team lacks gumption _ but I think that game will be meaningless in preparing the Vikings to win a road playoff game.
And after falling behind the Eagles in the playoff seeding on Monday night, they probably will have to win a road playoff game or two to advance to the Super Bowl.
-As I wrote in my column for the Tuesday paper, the negatives that led to and resulted from the loss to the Bears were trumped by watching Favre lead a dramatic second-half comeback. Isn't that why you watch sports, to see moments like that _ fourth-and-goal, 22 seconds left, Favre lofting the ball to Sidney Rice?
-Nice piece by our Myron Medcalf on Ralph Sampson III and basketball-playing sons in the Tuesday paper. Also a bunch of interesting quotes in Jerry Zgoda's Wolves feature on Al Jefferson's new view of the Triangle Offense.
Jefferson can be moody, but when he's in the mood to talk, he's a great quote, and a lot of Timberwolves people have told me he treats team employees better than 99 percent of the players who have come through town - which is a much better way to judge an athlete than by the way he treats the media or his superiors.
-I'll be on am-1500 at 6:40 with Reusse, then on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:14. I'm on with Matt Thomas on am-1500 at 7 p.m. Tuesday _ it'll be my last appearance with Matt before he leaves for Houston.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib.
My latest SORT (Series of Random Thoughts):
-It has been fascinating to listen to the back-and-forth debate over Bill Belichick's fourth-and-2 decision against Indy.
This is where I would defer to the theory espoused by Malcolm Gladwell in ``Blink.'' Your gut reaction is often the right reaction.
When I saw Belichick going for it on fourth-and-2 from his own 28, my gut reaction went something like: ``Are you kidding me?''
Given time to intellectualize the decision, some analysts have defended Belichick, saying that this kind of innovative, non-traditional risk-taking is what has made him the greatest coach of his generation.
Here's what my gut told me, and what I still believe: One factor that coaches and managers must consider that the average stat geek ignores is what effect a decision will have on the psychology of his players and team. Often I disagree with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire on statistical and strategic grounds, and yet agree with his decision because he has to live with and guide his players over 162 games. Egos matter. Atmosphere matters. Relationships matter, in sports and in every other business.
I not only believe that statistically the Patriots had a better chance of winning by punting, I believe that Belichick told his defensive players that he didn't trust them with that decision.
Talk to football players enough, and you realize that trust _ trusting your coaches, trusting your teammates, having faith that you are putting your limbs and joints at risk for a worthy cause _ is inherent in the culture of winning teams. I'm not sure Belichick and his defensive players will have the same relationship now.
No, one questionable decision doesn't make Belichick a failure or a dunce. It just proves that even the smartest of us miscalculate, whether we're talking about the barons of Wall Street and Washington, or the brightest minds in football.
-One interesting matchup to watch when the Gophers play at Iowa on Saturday will be veteran and legendary Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker against first-year Gophers offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. This could be a mismatch for the ages.
Tim Brewster has little margin for error if he wants to keep his job. If he is fired in the next week, his key mistake will have been dismissing Mike Dunbar and hiring Fisch.
-I know that Brandon Jennings' early-season success has again cast doubt on the Wolves' ability to draft, but let's keep this in perspective.
The Kevin McHale Wolves might have been the only team in the NBA willing to trade Brandon Roy for Randy Foye. Most NBA teams would have chosen Jonny Flynn over Jennings, and we won't be able to make a true comparison of the two until Flynn is given more freedom in Kurt Rambis' offense.
Even if the decision is proven to be a mistake over the long haul, this would be an understandable mistake.
-I'm debating with my colleagues whether Joe Mauer will sign for more or less than $20 million a year. They say no, because the Twins won't want to commit more than 20 percent of their projected payroll on one player. Few teams that have committed that percentage to one player have won.
I say yes, the Twins know that signing Mauer is vital to their marketing, to their brand. Symbolically, they cannot afford to lose him. In terms of goodwill and ticket sales, they cannot afford to spend next season hearing more about Mauer's pending free agency than the wonders of new Target Field.
The question today is the same as it was when I wrote about Mauer this summer, and Justin Morneau and Mauer's family members said Mauer wouldn't want to play for the Twins if they aren't committed to winning: Would Mauer actually leave the Twins if he felt they weren't willing to spend more money in free agency, or is that a shot across the organization's bow?
Only Joe knows.
Vikings receiver Sidney Rice was just named NFC offensive player of the week. He deserves it. Nice guy, hard worker, popular with his teammates. He may be the least egomaniacal of all successful NFL receivers.
Follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. I wrote about Brad Childress' public persona for the Wednesday paper, and I'll be in Iowa this weekend for the Gophers game, then back in time for the Vikings-Seahawks game.
Nerves? What nerves.
Aaron Rodgers looked scared, tentative and amateurish in the first half. True, he dealt with a pass rush, but he was tentative and invited a rush with his indecisiveness.
Brett Favre, meanwhile, was again brilliant. He threw maybe one poor pass in the first half, leading Percy Harvin a tad too much toward the sideline during the two-minute drill. Otherwise, this was like a Favre highlight film, if he had worn a white-with-purple-trim jersey when he played in Green Bay.
He went 11-for-15 for 97 and a touchdown and no interceptions in the first half, and he not only didn't look nervous, he was composed enough to look off safeties before making many of his best throws.
His 14-yarder to Sidney Rice in the two-minute drill _ Favre looked right, then came back quickly to Sidney and threw a laser that beat double-coverage.
Packer fans booed their own team more loudly at the end of the half than they did Favre at the beginning of the game.
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