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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Did we learn anything during the Twins' Opening Day loss in Chicago?
Let's kick it around anyway.
Maybe my first and foremost takeaway from Opening Day is that it didn't feel like Opening Day. Two bad teams opening in one of baseball's worst ballparks on what promised to be (but wasn't) a cold day - that's a really bad idea.
Major League Baseball has flourished in a lot of ways under Bud Selig, but starting the season in Australia has robbed the openers in the continental US of their specialness.
Let's start this with a Top 15 list of places the Twins should open each season:
1. Miami. The Marlins' ballpark is funky, the weather is almost bound to be good (even if there is a little of the customary southern Florida light rain), and it's a two-hour drive from Fort Myers. A Twins fan could watch the final spring training games, then attend the season opener. Perfect.
2. Tampa Bay. See: Marlins. The Rays play in a terrible ballpark, but it is indoors, so Opening Day will at least occur on time.
3. Houston. Warm weather, easy flight, and a team the Twins might even have a chance to beat on Opening Day.
4. Texas: See: Houston. Except for the part about winning.
6. Cincinnati: Risk of colder weather, but Opening Day in Cincinnati should be the real opening day every season.
7. Yankee Stadium. Risk of colder weather, but what's better than Opening Day at Yankee Stadium?
8. Boston. Unless it's Opening Day at Fenway.
9. San Diego. Long flght to the coast, but perfect weather and a pretty good ballpark.
10. Los Angeles: See San Diego.
11. Anaheim: See Los Angeles.
12. Queens: A watered-down version on Opening Day in Yankee Stadium.
13. Baltimore. It's become a great baseball town again, with a great ballpark.
14. D.C.: Not a great ballpark, but an interesting team.
15. Pittsburgh. Perhaps the only ballpark in America that is remindful of Target Field, and better than Target Field. (Although part of the reason it's better is that it's bordered by two rivers.)
Back to the Twins' opener, and the hints that may have appeared within:
1. Joe Mauer did not look natural at first base. I think he can win a Gold Glove there, but he whiffed on one tough grounder and bobbled an easy one.
2. Josh Willingham's bat looked slow all spring, and he looked overmatched in his first at-bat against the exceptional Chris Sale, but he drove three balls to the outfield, and hit a couple of them pretty well. That's actually an encouraging sign.
3. Aaron Hicks, the subject of my Tuesday column, got two hits, but still has to prove he can hit big-league pitching from the left side.
4. Ricky Nolasco was disappointing. He should be a solid pitcher for the long run, but he didn't show great stuff or presence on Monday.
5. The Twins have to be really glad they didn't dump Anthony Swarzak last spring.
6. Brian Dozier has developed into a nice player, a quality defender who can drive the ball. He is not a leadoff hitter. He doesn't get on base enough.
7. The Twins have better prospects than the White Sox, but the Sox look like they're better prepared to make a jump in the victory column this season. Abreu could be a force, and the Sox have a real ace in Sale. The Sox might have the best combination of speed and power they've had in a long time, after years of looking like a slow-pitch softball team.
I hope Mike Zimmer isn't going to let Johnny Manziel's flamboyance dissuade him from drafting the kid. I don't think the Vikings will have a shot at Manziel, anyway, but writing off Manziel because of his personality may be like the Falcons trading Brett Favre because he partied too much.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 12:15 with Judd & Mackey.
Rick Spielman had his choice of coaches, and types of coaches, when he began his search after firing Leslie Frazier.
He chose Mike Zimmer, a longtime defensive coordinator with a knack for getting players to achieve their potential.
This is why the Vikings' signing of Everson Griffen should not surprise anyone. Griffen is a talented player who has not fulfilled his potential. You can imagine Spielman, while doing his due diligence and interviewing Zimmer, having an ``Aha'' moment.
In that moment, Spielman envisioned Griffen becoming a dangerous every-down pass rusher, and easing the loss of Jared Allen. That is probably the moment Spielman decided to hire Zimmer.
Zimmer hasn't had a chance to make many decisions that will shape his tenure as Vikings head caoch. Two he has made stand out:
1. He encouraged Spielman to spend big money on Griffen.
2. He handed his offense to Norv Turner.
Zimmer's reputation will eventually be formed by his game management skills and his - and Spielman's - ability to find and develop the right quarterback.
So far, we can give him kudos for hiring Turner, and acknowledge that he was brought here to wring improvement from players like Griffen.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. all week,and on @1500ESPN at 12:15 or so. I'll have a column on the Gopher basketball finale in the Monday paper. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Speaking with writers who have covered him and various NFL people this week in New York, I’ve heard great things about new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.
The consensus: Zimmer is a tough, genuine guy, demanding but likeable, and forthright with the public and press. And that he’s also an excellent coach.
As the Vikings found with Leslie Frazier, having a likeable, respected head coach is a great organizational asset.
So why are the Vikings screwing up Zimmer’s first few weeks as head coach?
Zimmer has already hired all, or nearly all, of his assistant coaches, but the Vikings haven’t announced the moves. By the time the Vikings holds a press conference to introduce the staff, the news will be old, the Vikings will look silly, and the introductions will seem stilted.
By delaying the announcements, the Vikings look hopelessly slow and obtuse.
Zimmer’s success and failure will depend on wins and losses, but it doesn’t hurt to make a good first impression, and the Vikings are making no impression at all right now.
I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. tomorrow, and on 1500ESPN in the Twin Cities at noon. We'll run Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon Sunday.
The Vikings' hiring of Mike Zimmer isn't going to fuel the imagination, the way Chip Kelly did in Philadelphia, or win any virtual awards for the best hiring of the offseason. This is a routine NFL hire, a team that struggled on defense hiring a defensive expert to breathe life into the team.
That said, I like the hire. He's succeeded as a coordinator in a lot of places, with different schemes and different talent levels. He's turned long shots into stars. He's motivated players. At 57, he's both tough and mature.
In the brief time since his hiring was announced, many of his former players have tweeted their excitement.
Zimmer is known for creative defenses and creative use of the language. Those who saw him on Hard Knocks know he can cuss like a late-night cable comedian.
I believed Leslie Fraizer would have won if he had been given a good quarterback and good cornerbacks. Zimmer will need Rick Spielman to find him a good quarterback, and he'll need to either hide the Vikings' defensive flaws or overhaul the entire unit.
Given the nature of the NFL, if Zimmer can handle the rigors of being an NFL head coach, he could contend in his first year. The Vikings have plenty of offensive talent and plenty of young talent. Whether or not he wins the press conference, Zimmer will have a chance to win next season, assuming the Vikings' quarterback position is functional.
I'll have more expansive thoughts in the column I'm writing for tomorrow's paper and Startribune.com.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd Zulgad to discuss the hire, and we'll continue the discussion on Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon, on 1500ESPN.
Thanks for reading.
I have my short list for the Vikings, and it's very short.
HIre Darrell Bevell as your head coach. Draft Johnny Manziel to play quarterback.
Wouldn't that be perfect?
Bevell served as the buffer between Brett Favre and Brad Childress, even when the two hated each other. He can handle Manzeil's wild persona. He can also coach and develop an unconventional quarterback, as we've seen with Russell Wilson.
I also like Charlie Strong and Jack Del Rio as candidates, but I'm not sure anything would be more fun or productive than a Bevell-Manziel alliance.
Rick Spielman will probably spend 300 hours on the coaching search. I could save him a lot of time.
Thanks for reading and listening this year. I"ll be back on the radio Thursday morning at 7:15 a.m. on WJON in St. Cloud, and at noon on 1500ESPN (AM-1500 KSTP in the Twin Cities.)
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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