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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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.
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?
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.
-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: http://bit.ly/ilr5yY
-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.
Tonight's Series of Random Thoughts, from an enclosed press box at Target Field, watching umbrellas sprout like dandelions...
-I understand that owners want to appear sympathetic as possible during the lockout. But the idea that they will cut the average NFL employee's salary by 12 percent to save money during the lockout should embarrass each of them.
These are billionaires who make huge profits with their latest plaything, an NFL franchise. The average fan might not realize this, but an NFL team's offices contain lots of mid-management and grunt types who are not being paid all that well. To cut their pay as a way to save a few thousand bucks or to make the owners' plight seem worse than it really is, is the height of arrogance.
Zygi Wilf shouldn't engage in this stunt. He's been a good and generous owner for the Vikings. He should be better than this.
-I ordered an IPad2, and Michael Cuddyer was gracious enough to show off his original Ipad to me in the clubhouse.
Friday afternoon, having returned from a road trip to Baltimore, he was using it to show me pictures he took of Camden Yards (he's a pretty good amateur photographer) and the weather radar. He also watches other games live on MLB.com, and said sometimes his son will ask to watch a West Coast game on the IPad when he's going to sleep.
Just about then, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel came over to Cuddyer's locker to tease him about his inability to hit Fausto Carmona, the Indians' scheduled starter for Friday night.
Cuddyer has made another for-Twins-only t-shirt. It shows the father figure from the movie ``The Incredibles,'' with his lantern jaw, as Jim Thome. The caption reads: ``Jimcredible.''
-The St. Paul Pioneer Press ran a feature on Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie playing tennis with the Williams sisters. I love it. What could be better for McKinnie than a sport that requires conditioning and footwork? Plus, it shows that he's dedicating himself to improving, even during a lockout. Maybe there's hope for McKinnie after all.
-I've never seen a team as depleted as the current Twins. Think about the caliber of players they're missing right now: Two former MVPs (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer), a Japanese league All-Star (Tsuyoshi Nishioka), one of the best run-producers of 2010 (Delmon Young), an All-Star closer (Joe Nathan, who is effectively without a role right now) and Kevin Slowey, who could have helped this team as a versatile righthander.
They are lucky the White Sox and Tigers have played almost as poorly as the Twins have so far. I still don't see the Indians or Royals lasting long. I did get a chance to chat with Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton, who raved about the influence of Orlando Cabrera on the young Indians.
Cabrera is one of those players who seems to have a greater impact on teams than his statistics and limited range would suggest. The Twins loved him when he helped them win in 2009. He is a highly competitive personality, something the Twins could use right now as they shrug and shiver their way through April.
-Great to see bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, the longest-tenured coach in Twins' history, back in the cliubhouse on Friday. He missed spring training and the beginning of the season with a series of retina surgeries.
-Kevin Slowey has altered the Twins' plan for his rehab work in Florida. I don't know if I've ever seen a player work harder to alienate everyone in an organization. The Twins regret not trading him this spring when they had the chance.
-Upcoming: I'll be covering the Gophers spring game (or scrimmage, or practice, or whatever) on Saturday, then the Twins' game on Sunday. Tom Pelissero and I will host the Gardenhire Show at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by Sunday Morning Sports Talk from 10-noon. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
Received a number of interesting emails in the wake of our Joe Mauer package in today's paper. (Yes, we still print a newspaper.)
The most interesting came from a reader who noted that a position change wouldn't necessarily keep Mauer off the disabled list. After all, players at positions other than catcher get hurt, too.
While that's true, I'm basing my premise - that Mauer needs to shift positions to be an everyday offensive force - on years spent around Mauer, observing his routine and his habits. I see a guy who invests an incredible amount of time and thought in catching. I see a 6-5, 235-pound man with a long history of leg ailments. I also believe that modern athletes over-train.
While we all make fun of the odd pro athlete who proves to be an irresponsible slacker, most modern athletes are remarkably dedicated. They spent 12 months a year working on their bodies and their jobs. Mauer is such a modern athlete, and I think getting out of the crouch, and spending fewer hours every day, all year, would allow him to fulfill his offensive potential.
Here's a guy (to borrow a phrase from Frank Caliendo mimicking John Madden) who has won three batting titles and an MVP without even concentrating on his offensive capabilities. His current numbers are remindful of Rod Carew's, and I believe that relieved of the burden of catching, Mauer would become one of the greatest average/on-base-percentage hitters in baseball history, and he may even increase his power production.
What's fascinating about all of this is that noone knows. Not Mauer, not the Twins, not his teammates, not us. Noone can predict exactly how his body will react either to continued catching or a position change. But I'd rather see him change positions than continue to be worn down. And, of course, I get into all of this in today's column.
-Congratulations to Kevin Love on winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
He deserves it. What's strange about Love as a phenomenon is that I don't think I've ever encountered a player who is more celebrated nationally than locally. It usually works the other way around.
ESPN loves love. The Dan Patrick Show loves Love. And yet locally, he's more of an oddity than a celebrity.
This is, of course, another example of how far the Wolves have fallen in the public's eyes. If I had told you a few years ago that a white player would win the rebounding title and run off a remarkable string of double-doubles for the Wolves, you would have thought that the guy would be our No. 1 celebrity.
He isn't, and that's because nothing trumps winning in pro sports. I covered Kirby Puckett in his prime, Dave Winfield and Terry Steinbach near the ends of their careers, and Paul Molitor as he pursued 3,000 hits and a berth in the Hall of Fame, and those Twins teams didn't draw, because they didn't win.
Until Love becomes part of a winner, he will remain, locally, more a pleasant oddity than a star.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn today at 2:40 p.m. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk on the Target Field plaza at 10 a.m., right after the Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. Feel free to visit, but the woman who pressed her chest against the window is not welcome back.
The elderly man who walked up to our poster and shook his cane at our faces, however, is welcome to come in the booth and join the show.
This weekend, I"m covering the Gopher spring football game, where I believe Gopher fans will induct him into the Hall of Fame, and covering the Twins on Sunday. I know, it's Easter, and my kids are mad at me for working, but it's the first-place Indians!
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