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 TCF Bank Stadium

What an awful weekend

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 11, 2011 - 9:09 PM

Let me recap this amazing Minnesota sports weekend:

1. Jerry Kill suffers a seizure.

2. The Gopher football team loses to gawdawful New Mexico State at home one week after inspiring hope (at least for a sucker like me) at USC.

3. The Twins take half-measures, firing two members of the Triple-A staff, while the big-league team continues to bumble around like drunks.

4. The Vikings unveil their new quarterback and offensive coordinator and manage two passing yards in the second half of a 24-17 loss.

Reactions to the four?

1. I wish Mr. Kill well, but please don't try the ``This puts things in perspective'' line on me.

Does that mean that because Kill was stricken in public that we should all pretend the games don't matter, or that sport doesn't matter?

Really? So the University of Minnesota is paying Kill and his staff millions for no reason? The billion-dollar industries that are the NFL and MLB don't matter? Kill's ability to create a great life for himself, his family and the coaches and players whom he values doesn't matter?

Bad stuff happens every day, all over the world. You know how these events help me ``put sports into perspective?'' By making me enjoy and value sports even more.

Sport is not a bunch of kids playing pickup ball while blowing off their homework. Sport is commerce. Sport is human drama. Sport is entertainment. Sport is a means by which many people improve their lives, either directly or vicariously.

Are they overdone sometimes? Certainly. But the only reason they're overdome sometimes is because so many of us care about them, and care about the people who play them.

A man falling ill doesn't ``put sports into perspective'' anymore than it puts theater, or car ownership, or eating donuts into perspective.

I admire Kill because of his story and his gumption. I wish him a speedy and full recovery. And when he's back, I'm sure he'll tell you that his seizure isn't reason to pity him or care less about the games. I'm sure he'll tell you that he's doing what he loves and plans to throw himself right back into the business of trying to win games and influence people.

That's what he's chosen to do with his life. Don't diminish it with this nonsense about ``perspective.''

2. I'm back to what I thought of the Gophers entering the season. They have few outstanding players and will struggle to win five games. Six would be a triumph.

I do believe that MarQueis Gray can help this team more as a slot receiver than a quarterback. I'd make the move now, putting in Max Shortell, and allowing Gray to play multiple roles, including Wildcat quarterback.

Gray was often spectacular at receiver last year. Shortell is the future, for the moment, at quarterback. You're not going to the Rose Bowl regardless of which one plays QB. Play for the future - Shortell's as a quarterback, and Gray as an NFL prospect at receiver.

3. How do you spell ``Bleeechhhh?''

4. I expected the Vikings offense to be somewhat boring. I'm shocked that it was this ineffective in the second half.

Donovan McNabb threw for two yards in the second half. Two. (2). Dos. Brett Favre on his worst day would do better. So would Fran Tarkenton - today.

I don't blame McNabb solely. The play-calling was highly predictable, especially on first down, from the end of the first half until deep in the fourth quarter. I counted running plays called on seven straight first-down plays.

After the game, Percy Harvin hinted and Mike Jenkins came right out and told me that the offense was predictable. (More in my Monday morning column.)

McNabb wasn't the only problem - Charlie Johnson and the lack of speed at receiver were also factors - but he's got to be a lot better than this. The Vikings ran for 159 yards and a 6.1 yard average, and McNabb and his receivers didn't come close to taking advantage.

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I'm hearing the Wolves are negotiating with Rick Adelman. Two things I don't know:

1. Whether they're willing to meet his demands of a long-term deal worth $5 million a year or more, when they're still stuck with Kurt Rambis' contract and the league is in a lockout.

2. Who's their fallback? It's probably either Sam Mitchell or Don Nelson. I hope for Glen Taylor's sake that it's Mitchell. I keep hearing bad things about Nelson's last couple of stints. I think he'd burn out quickly and the Wolves would be going through this again next summer.

Adelman would be a great hire at the right price. Mitchell would be a promising hire and would make sense for this franchise. Nelson? Could be trouble.

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Upcoming: My new slot on 1500espn is 2 p.m. each weekday. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

Slowey. Really?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 4, 2011 - 6:54 PM

When Kevin Slowey took the mound on Sunday, he could have had any number of goals.

He could have wanted to win a game. That's always good. Whether he wants the victory to help his teammates, or to help himself in arbitration, or to enhance his trade value, doesn't matter. You've got to want to win, right?

Or he could have wanted to help his team out, and save the bullpen for Monday, when the Twins have to play a doubleheader with a thin, injury-depleted pitching staff. Saving the bullpen would be a baseball moral victory.

Or he could have wanted to prove that he's a tougher guy than everyone thinks he is, after he bailed to the disabled list earlier this season because he didn't want to pitch in the bullpen.

So Slowey throws 95 pitches through seven innings. He looks sharp. He strikes out four, doesn't walk anybody, and he's down just 2-1.

If he goes out for the eighth inning, he has a chance to get a victory, or at least has a chance to save the Twins' bullpen for Monday.

Instead, he complained of a tight hamstring, forcing the Twins to bring in two relievers to pitch the eighth. The Twins lost 4-1, and Slowey didn't accomplish anything other than fortifying his reputation within the organization as a malingerer.

They need to trade this guy. The problem is, he's got a 5.31 ERA and a bad reputation. The Twins need to wait until teams are looking for pitching help this winter, and trade him for the best offer.

---------------------------------------------

I can't mention any names because of the sources of my information, but I was told that three different Twins were laughing or giggling or smiling in the late innings on Sunday, as the Twins lost 4-1.

It's amazing how a bad farm system has taught a bunch of young players that losing is the norm, and that there's no reason to get down about it.

That's one of the subjects of my Monday morning column.

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I keep hearing people saying that Rick Adelman and Don Nelson are better candidates than Sam Mitchell.

Well, Adelman is an excellent coach, but he's 65. When is the last time a 65-year-old coach took over an NBA rebuilding project and wound up being the right guy? (I'm sure there are examples. I'm also sure there aren 't many.)

The more I talk to NBA insiders, the more I hear that Nelson would be a ticking time bomb who would quickly fall out of favor with ownership and the front office. He might not last a season.

Mitchell may not be the first name you think of when you decide you want to hire an NBA coach, but he shouldn't be dismissed, either.

He was the NBA coach of the year in 2007. His winning percentage with the Raptors was .452. Not impressive? Well, consider the context. The only Raptors coach who has done better was Lenny Wilkins, at .459. Mitchell's replacement, Jay Triano, won at a .380 clip. I can only wish Dwane Casey, the classy former Wolves coach, luck in turning that franchise around.

Mitchell is 48. He's experienced but not old. He fought his way to the NBA with a gritty style of play that hid his lack of talent. He is an experienced NBA assistant. He'd force the Wolves to play with fire, and to play defense. If he had success, he wouldn't use this job as a golden parachute into retirement or a steppingstone to a better franchise. He'd stay.

He'd reconnect with Wolves fans who remember this franchise when it was competent and competitive. He'd be a credible connection to potential free agents. He has the right personality to make owner Glen Taylor feel included without allowing Taylor or anyone else to impinge on his authority.

Would he succeed? I have no idea. Circumstances are more important than will in some cases. But he seems to me to be the best fit out of all the candidates.

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My favorite moment of the day: FSN's Robby Incmikoski asking Twins manager Ron Gardenhire if he took solace in the fact that his rotation is settled.

Gardenhire looked at him like he had cotton candy leaking out of his ears.

Settled? Gardenhire has one member of his original five-man rotation healthy: Carl Pavano. His other starters this week will be reliever Anthony Swarzak, Rule 5 draftee Scott Diamond, TBA (probably callup Liam Hendricks), Pavano, and the out-of-favor Slowey.

The Twins' rotation is about as settled as the San Andreas Fault.

Sometimes I hear the stupid questions people in my business ask and I hate the media, too.

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My thanks to Gophers coach Jerry Kill for joining Sunday Morning Sports Talk. For once, I see Gopher fans falling all over themselves about a new coach, and I think they might be on to something.

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Interesting week coming up for me: I'll be in Green Bay on Thursday night for the Packers opener, then heading to San Diego for the Vikings opener. I guess I could drop by Target Field, too, but I don't like being lonely.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Follow me, Kevin. Please.

 

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.

 

A Monday SORT from Upstate New York

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 25, 2011 - 1:11 PM

Today's deep question: Should one game in July dramatically affect a big-league baseball front office's approach, or philosophy?

One baseball game in July shouldn't be so dramatic, but this one might have been.

Had the Twins beaten the Tigers on Sunday, they would have reduced the division lead to five games entering a tough stretch of schedule. With their roster getting healthier, their front office could have justified trading assets to help this group try to make a run.

A loss leaves the Twins seven games behind the Tigers, and in fourth place. The website Coolstandings.com gives the Twins a 2.1 percent chance of making the playoffs.

I completely disagree with the vocal fans who have argued that the Twins should sell rather than buy because this team might not be capable of making a run in the playoffs if it is able to qualify. That's defeatism. Baseball postseasons are too unpredictable for any franchise to sacrifice the opportunity to win it all.
 

But if the Twins continue to flail this week, as the July 31 trading deadline approaches, selling might be a nod to realism, not an act of defeatism.

I've been arguing for a month that the Twins owe it to the fans who fill their ballpark and the taxpayers of Hennepin County to try to win when they are positioned to do so. If they were five or fewer games out, that would continue to be my argument.

Buf if they're seven or more games out as the weekend approaches, should they really trade prospects when facing such long odds?

Probably not.

So I would recommend that the Twins make a deal something like the one they made for Matt Capps last year. No, I'm not advocating giving away another top prospect. I'm saying that the Twins' lack of bullpen depth will be a problem again next season, so if they can make an intelligent deal for a reliever who would remain under their control for next season, then I say make a deal.

But the team will have to close the gap on the division leaders to justify a win-it-this-year kind of trade. Sunday's loss makes that kind of a deal less likely, especially when we know that Detroit, the best team in the division, is likely to add help for the stretch run.

-So the Big Ten writers voted, and they rank the Gophers as the worst team in whatever their division is called these days. Does this mean that Sid didn't have a vote?

Honestly, the best thing that could happen to Jerry Kill would be the continuing downplaying of expectations.

At least Tim Brewster finally fulfilled his promise to Gophers fans. He filled TCF Bank Stadium. All it took for him to do that was the arrival of U2.

-Spoke with Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer after his partner, Bert Blyleven's, induction speech on Sunday in Cooperstown.

``I'm honored that he mentioned me,'' Bremer said. ``But I think he got the order wrong. He mentioned God and his family before me.''

Yes, Bremer was joking. He also said: ``I thought he did a wonderful job with that speech. I know how worked-up he was about it, and I know how nervous he was, and I thought he really pulled it off. I'm very happy for him.''

It will be interesting to see if Blyleven, with all of the earning opportunities available to Hall of Famers, will keep his gig as a full-time broadcaster after this season. With John Gordon retiring, I could see the Twins reconfiguring both their radio and TV booths, and there are all kinds of candidates positioning themselves for those gigs.

-The more I look at the Vikings roster, the more I see a team that will need Christian Ponder to be an instant star if it's going to be good. And there is so much we don't know about Ponder at this point.

We had him as a guest on Sunday Morning Sports Talk yesterday, and he sounded poised and bright, just as advertised. But he is facing a tough job here, trying to take over a veteran team without offseason workouts. I still think the Vikings are caught between being a veteran team that feels the need to win now, and a team that needs to work to fill holes and replace older veterans. If Leslie Frazier can win in his first year, he'll deserve some consideration for coach of the year. (At least, that's the way it looks to me before anyone puts on a pad.)

-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today to speak with Mackey and Reusse.

 

 

Post-Memorial Day SORT

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 31, 2011 - 10:39 AM

-I kept telling people ``Happy Memorial Day'' yesterday, then finally realized that doesn't sound quite right. My father was a vet, and I've read a lot of military history, and I'm not sure anyone who hasn't fought can comprehend just how horrific war is.

My father never even wanted to talk about it, and his silence told an awful story.

Now, on to the silliness of the sports world...

-Delmon Young update: The biggest, strongest man on the Twins' roster, the guy who produced 112 RBI and 68 extra-base hits last year, has four extra-base hits in 119 at-bats this season.

It's sad, really. The guy has so much power, such great hands, such great potential. He showed up at spring training with massive arms, and the Twins' internal fear was that he would become a DH - a power hitter with no interest in playing the field.

Turns out, that was the best-case scenario. Now he's a poor fielder who has trouble hitting the ball out of the infield.

This is a product of stubbornness. All he has to do is look back at how he hit last year, and he could break out of this. And he will, eventually, break out of this. But this is the latest reason for the Twins not to give him a long-term contract. You don't know what you're getting month to month or year to year.

All players slump. But a player as talented as Young shouldn't slump this badly for this long.

Speaking with Roy Smalley earlier this season, and again two Sundays ago on my radio show, he broke down Young's swing brilliantly. (Smalley's the best.) Young has too much weight on his front foot, leaving him to hit with only his hands, like a hacker with a reverse-pivot golf swing.

Again, it's sad, because this guy could be a perennial All-Star.

-ESPN's Ric Bucher points out that Rick Carlisle and Eric Spoelstra were both under fire earlier this season. Now they're in the NBA Finals.

-Jim Tressel getting fired reminds us that Glen Mason had a chance at the job. That choice reminds us of the challenge of being a college administrator. They could choose Tressel, a dominant coach followed by whispers of impropriety, or Mason, a good coach who was thought to be absolutely clean.

Ohio State took the high-risk, high-reward choice, and was rewarded...and ultimately punished.

I'll say this: Two of the last three Gophers coaches - Mason and now Jerry Kill - have pristine reputations when it comes to recruiting.

-My buddy Tim Kawakami, A San Jose Mercury News columnist, is an excellent NBA analyst, and he's picking the Heat in five games over Dallas.

He points out that teams with an advantage in point-differential, field-goal percentage differential and overall rebounding percentage are 5-0 over the last 10 years.

The Heat holds advantages in all three categories over Dallas.

You can find Tim's analysis here: 

-So Winnipeg gets a team. How long until the city opens a Michael Russo Marriott downtown?

-My take on the controversial play in the Twins' game yesterday: Yes, the umps got it wrong. The runner should have been placed on third base. But would it have hurt Young to throw the ball in quickly, to demonstrate that the runner was a long way from scoring?

Why throw your hands in the air and leave it up to the umps to make a judgement call?

-Happy Ricky Rubio day.

Just so we're clear on this: I would love it if the Timberwolves became competitive. I'd love it if Rubio became a star, along with Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley.

My fear, though, is that Rubio's lack of shooting ability and quickness will doom him in the NBA game. I could see him becoming a useful player, but the Wolves need him to be a transformational player.

Good luck with that.

Star Trib Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda makes it sound as if the Wolves could and probably will sign Rubio to some kind of futures contract that would bring him to Minnesota by next year.

If so Rubio ,will enter a league filled with dynamic point guards.  Even at his best, can he be a top-10 point guard in this NBA?

I hope so. But I doubt it.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today.

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