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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By late last night, when I was done talking to people about Terry Ryan's return to the general manager's job with the Minnesota Twins, I got the sense that Bill Smith was ready to step down.
I don't think he had the stomach for making sweeping changes in the organization, for apportioning blame to people he liked. I think the Pohlads wanted answers, and a plan, and Smith wanted to stay the course and hope that better health would fix what ailed the franchise.
As I wrote in today's paper, Twins employees were heartened by the look in Ryan's eye. I know when I spoke with him privately he looked and sounded intense. He feels it is his responsibility to fix this franchise.
Smith was viewed differently by people at different levels of the organization. Those who worked closely with him admired his work ethic and appreciated his low-key management style. Those above him stopped having faith in him as a No. 1 decision-maker. And many of those below him found him scatter-brained, distracted by his willingness to fill his plate with disparate tasks (he'd sometimes interrupt a meeting about free agents to discuss work that needed to be done on the spring training ballpark in Fort Myers), and difficult to communicate with.
In all, Smith did about as well as could have been expected for an administrator in a position that usually demands personnel expertise. He presided over three highly successful seasons. But as the Twins' organization became less a product of Ryan's philosophies and handiwork and more a product of Smith's tenure, we all saw problems arising.
Minor-league players came to the big leagues unprepared to compete, and sometime unprepared to hit a cutoff man. Players lingered on the disabled list. Joe Mauer went soft without being called on the carpet. Smith signed Nishioka as much for marketing reasons as baseball reasons, and it wound up backfiring horribly on two fronts: Nishioka couldn't play, the player he was supposed to replace, J.J. Hardy, had a career year in Baltimore.
Ryan brings personnel expertise to the job. He also brings leadership. I don't see him being able to fix the Twins in the short term, but he will move them back towards respectability, both on the field and throughout the organization.
Joe Paterno should not coach this weekend, and if he is as guilty of inaction as he appears to be in the Jerry Sandusky case, he should never coach again.
He failed as a leader. He failed as a human. He should go away, quickly and quietly.
If the Vikings ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that values its reputation, and if the Wilfs can even remember issuing the ``Code of Conduct'' in the wake of the Love Boat, and if Chris Cook is found guilty of strangling his girlfriend, the team needs to cut ties with him.
Let due process take its course. If Cook is found guilty, the Vikings can't have him on their roster. Not if they ever want to be taken seriously again as an organization that cares about its reputation.
What Cook allegedly did is much worse than anything that happened on the so-called Love Boat. Violence against women can't be tolerated by a responsible group of owners and team executives.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. today. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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.
Before I get to the news of the week, I'd like to share a thoughts from Tom Kelly that didn't fit into my Wednesday newspaper column.
I spoke with TK on the phone yesterday. He was at home, and that was a reminder that Kelly retired when he could have easily kept working and making $1 million a year or more. His friends have always told me that he's managed his money extremely well. The last time I visited Tom at home, he showed off an amazing backyard garden that he and his wife must spend hours on, and he seemed remarkably relaxed and happy.
Meanwhile his old friend and sparring partner, Tony La Russa, has padded his resume to the point where there's no doubt he'll be in the Hall of Fame, even if he keeps making mistakes the way he did on Monday night.
When I asked Kelly about the fact that some national writers are comparing this World Series to the 1991 classic, Kelly didn't seem too impressed. But then he mentioned something I didn't expect.
``I thought we pitched pretty well in '91,'' Kelly said. ``Scotty Erickson had some trouble, but we all know he was pitching with a bad elbow. He went out there when maybe he shouldn't have, and that's something I'll have to live with.''
It is well-known that Erickson pitched through elbow pain. And after dominating in 1991, Erickson was never quite the same. I thought it was remarkable that after all this time, Kelly would still feel regrets about Erickson putting himself at risk.
Next time you want to celebrate that '91 team, you might want to remember Erickson's guts, as well as Puckett's homer and Jack Morris' glare.
My old Dallas Morning News colleague Blackie Sherrod used to write a Sunday notes column called ``Scattershooting.'' Well, ``colleague'' is too strong a word. I don't know if Sherrod knew who I was.
But ``scattershooting'' is a good way to get to the news of the day today...
1. It's easy to bash Bernard Berrian today. He deserves it. He's been an unproductive pain in the butt for too long. But before we all rip the Vikings for ever signing him, let's remember that he had a very good season in 2008 while playing with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson. He caught 48 passes for 964 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging an impressive 20.1 yards per catch.
His career turned when Brett Favre came to town and decided he didn't trust Berrian a whole lot. If Favre had thrown to a wide-open Berrian in the NFC championship game, instead of forcing a pass to Sidney Rice that was intercepted, Berrian could have been a part of a Super Bowl winner.
I'm not excusing Berrian's play or behaviour the last two years. He deserved to get cut. I'm just saying that the guy wasn't a complete bust until 2010.
2. The Vikings made the right move, suspending Chris Cook without pay. I don't know if much more needs to be said.
3. After speaking with a few people, I think Joe Nathan probably is gone for good. I sense that he wants to pitch for a winner, and I don't think the Twins currently qualify. I also think that once he hits the open market his feelings of allegiance to the Twins will disappear. Just a guess at this point, but that's the guess I'm going with.
4. Yes, the Jerry Kill contract is a joke. The man agreed to five-year deal. Then he started 1-6 while his team was embarrassed in every Big Ten game it played. Also: He suffered a seizure on the sideline.
I think the University should have stuck to its five-year deal. Adding two more years, and offering a raise, is foolishness.
5. Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey.
6. I'm hearing Game 6 of the World Series will be postponed. There's also rain in the forecast for tomorrow night. This could be a long week, and I think the longer it lasts, the more of an advantage the Cardinals have, because every day of postponement is a day of rest for ace Chris Carpenter.
7. Tom Pelissero and myself will conduct Sunday Sports Talk from Carolina on Sunday. We'll be there to cover the Vikings game, and will be on from 10-noon locally.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib, and I"ll be tweeting from Winter Park today.
Chatted with Tom Kelly before the game tonight. He told me he has no plans to become a full-time broadcaster. He considers himself a temporary substitute for Bert Blyleven and not a candidate for future openings.
``No, no, no,'' he said. ``I'm going to do this game, and then I'm going to do two more in Kansas City. I don't think, with the traveling and all of that stuff, I don't think I need that anymore.
``I understand Bert’s doing some things regarding the Hall of Fame and needs a few days. I was hopeful that guys like Timmy (Laudner) and Ronnie Coomer and Roy (Smalley) would do more games. Why they want me to do it, I'm not sure.
``I'd like to see those people do it. I think they handle themselves very well. They're very knowledgable.''
Agreed. But Kelly has been excellent in the booth, not only for his knowledge but for his willingness to criticize players. I hope FSN at least keeps Mr. Kelly in the mix.
-I'm hearing that Sam Mitchell may pass the field to become the Wolves' next coach. He's a strong-willed guy who elicits strong reactions. I know people in town who love the guy, and I know people in town who don't want him setting foot in town.
What would be fascinating about Mitchell coaching the Wolves is that he is not the kind of guy who's going to kiss up to David Kahn. And while Kurt Rambis tired of Kahn, Mitchell might throw Kahn through a window.
In other words, I hope Mitchell gets the job.
Seriously, I think Kahn is at least positioned to make a decent hire. Now that Rick Adelman is treating the Wolves like the drunken uncle he only talks to after five beers at the family picnic, Mike Woodson is the safest pick. But I think Mitchell's ties to Glen Taylor and the Wolves might land him the job.
-We had another discussion with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire about Joe Mauer's ``position flexibility'' (I offer that for the millions of you who miss Brad Childress' phraseology).
Gardenhire said Mauer has started to realize that playing another position keeps him in the lineup and saves his legs. (As an aside, let me offer this: ``Duh.'')
Gardenhire also rightly noted that the Twins' moves this winter will frame his decision on how to use Mauer next season. I could see Mauer catching 100, playing first base 10 (presuming Morneau is healthy enough to return to playing 150 games a year), and playing rightfield 50.
Rightfield is smaller than left, and requires a strong arm. Mauer has a strong arm.
-While it's easy to rip the Twins for dumping J.J. Hardy, the real problem is the process by which they did so.
I'm fine with trading Hardy. It's obvious now, though, that the Twins didn't get the bullpen arm they needed (because Jim Hoey isn't good enough) and that Tsuyoshi Nishioka isn't a big-league player.
If you had traded Hardy for an endgame reliever and replaced him with a competent shortstop, this deal wouldn't look so bad.
Yes, the Twins could have simply kept Hardy. That would have been for the best. But at the time I understood their reluctance to pay a guy who didn't seem intent on playing through nagging injuries last year.
This is how bad Nishioka has been: Gardenhire can't wait for Alexi Casilla to return, so he has a competent middle infielder. ``I wish we could say we made a mistake, he's not hurt,'' Gardenhire joked.
-Cool note from Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune: Texas' Derek Holland has four shutouts and an ERA of 4.14. The last pitcher to have at least four shutouts and a 4-plus ERA was the Twins’ Geoff Zahn in 1980.
-Former Twin Randy Bush was telling the story about Kirby Puckett walking into the clubhouse before Game 6 of the World Series and yelling for everyone to climb on his back.
I pointed out that many witnesses remember Puckett saying that pretty much every day of his career.
``Yeah, I kind of left that out,'' Bush said. ``He did say that quite often. It wasn't like it was out of the norm for him to say that. But he did back it up a lot.''
-Tom Pelissero and myself will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk from the 3M Championship. Gardy Show starts at 9:30, followed by our show, on 1500ESPN.
Today is one of the two saddest day of the sports calendar. Today and Wednesday are the only two days of the summer that there are no Major League Baseball games available to us, and the only two days of the entire year on which there are no major sports leagues competing.
What's worse is that while the All-Star game used to captivate me, and the home-run hitting contest used to fascinate me, we have reached a point where neither is worth watching.
This spring, I went out to dinner with a bunch of writers. We were surrounded by big-screen TVs. We had our choice of the NBA, hockey and an old home-run hitting contest featuring our favorite steroid-ridden sluggers.
We couldn't take our eyes off the home-run derby.
Tonight, we will witness the worst of both worlds: A home-run hitting contest without stars, without steroids, and with Chris Berman.
Baseball needs to cancel this event. It's long, boring and filled with Bermanisms, the mindless utterings of an announcer who doesn't like or know baseball. Berman needs to take his shtick back-back-back-back-back to the NFL, the league that he admitted, in the new ESPN book, that he bends over backwards, forwards and sideways to please.
Without steroids, the home-run hitting contest is worthwhile only as a means of placating people who want to buy tickets to the All-Star game and can't find or afford them. It's become bad TV.
But it's better TV than the actual All-Star game. If Michael Cuddyer weren't participating tomorrow night, I probably wouldn't watch.
Last year, 82 players got to call themselves All-Stars because of all of the injuries and defections from the roster. This year, the number rose to 84, including Derek Jeter, who was healthy enough to get five hits the other day but didn't feel like flying to Phoenix.
I've heard the excuse that these players want to rest so they can help their teams down the stretch, or that they need to heal minor injuries, but the reality is that many of the players pulled out because they're so rich and pampered that a chartered flight to Phoenix, where they will be feted and celebrated, is too much of a hassle for them.
Post-steroid baseball is an interesting game on a daily basis, but it lacks the cartoon-character figures we found so compelling. The best slugger in the game is Jose Bautista, who is the least-interesting and most-suspicious guys to ever hit 50 homers. The starting pitchers are Roy Halladay and Jered Weaver. Both are fine hurlers. Both are more interesting in the context of the regular-season than as beacons of their leagues.
Baseball used to have the only All-Star game that emulated meaningful games. The NBA, NHL and NFL don't play defense in their All-Star games they way they do in real games. Baseball was different. Every pitcher, fielder and batter wanted to perform his best, and the games yielded matchups that couldn't be seen at any other time.
Now many of the best players in the game don't even bother to show up. So why should we?
-I'll be running Joe Anderson's show tonight from 6-7 on 1500espn, talking baseball, soccer and serial TV.
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