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 Vikings off the field

Ponder this

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 21, 2012 - 9:44 AM
By Jim Souhan
Christian Ponder traveled to Wisconsin on a December Monday to get married.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Other than the timing and the location.
It was the day after one of the most important games of his career. It was six days before what he calls the most important game of his career.
He is the Vikings’ quarterback. He plays a position synonymous with leadership, a position said to require more attentiveness and study than any other in team sports.
His team’s season hangs in the balance. So does his career. With two impressive performances over the next eight days, he could propel his team into the playoffs and establish himself as the starting quarterback for the 2013 season. With two poor performances, he could ruin a suddenly-promising season and force the Vikings to seek his replacement.
The nature of modern media, social media and the way sports intertwines with both means that the public would become aware of Ponder’s marriage and react strongly to the timing of it.
Why couldn’t he have waited until the end of the season, which might have required just two more weeks? Why the rush? Can he properly focus on the most demanding job in sports while tending to the details of a marriage, however perfunctory the ceremony might have been?
They’re all fair questions for an NFL quarterback, because to be an NFL quarterback is to invite attention and scrutiny.
Just because we’re entitled to inquire about the marriage doesn’t mean we should actually care.
Players do all kinds of crazy things with their time off. Many of them make headlines and police reports. I guarantee that while Ponder was driving to Wisconsin, an NFL player somewhere, and possibly in Minnesota, was getting irresponsibly drunk. An NFL player somewhere, and possibly in Minnesota, was getting stoned. An NFL player somewhere, and possibly in Minnesota, was breaking a more serious law, perhaps driving drunk or getting into a bar fight.
Ponder's timing may not have been great, or understandable, but there's no way his performance this week will be negatively affected by his trip to Wisconsin. If he throws an interception on Sunday, it won't be because he got married on Monday.
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I'll be on 1500ESPN at 2:05 with Reusse and Mackey. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on Sunday morning. We'll be in Houston for the Vikings game and Joe Schmit from Channel 5 will moderate from the studio in the Twin Cities. And Dana Wessel will continue to have fabulous hair.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
 
 

More on Vikings win

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 24, 2012 - 10:34 AM
 
I wrote about the obvious trust between Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph in today’s paper.
This might sound trite, but trust matters in the NFL. It matters a lot.
NFL teams ask their players to risk their health during short careers for the good of the franchise. For players to be eager to do so, it helps if they have reason to believe in the key people in the organization. And, during the season, the two people they have to trust the most are their head coach and quarterback.
Who knows whether beating the 49ers will mean anything in a few weeks? If the Vikings get whipped in Detroit, and that is a very real possibility, with Calvin Johnson facing a still-suspect secondary, then we may wind up viewing this victory as an aberration.
But it could matter no matter what happens this week, because Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder gave their team reason to trust them on Sunday. Frazier’s vision of a physical team that wins with a running game and a stout defense materialized against the NFL’s gold standard in those departments. And Ponder displayed the ability to make clutch plays and beat a good team in his 13th start in the NFL.
His peers on the roster – young teammates like Kyle Rudolph and John Sullivan – rave about Ponder’s leadership abilities. But if you don’t win, the whole team won’t buy in. Ponder and Frazier moved closer to instilling faith in the roster on Sunday.
-One of the reasons I wrote about Ponder's three touchdown plays today is because so many NFL games turn on one, or two, or three big plays. Had Ponder executed poorly, or made poor decisions, on his three touchdown plays, the Vikings could have wound up with three or six points. Instead, Ponder produced 21 points. That's how upsets happen.
And had Ponder's worst pass of the day turned into a 49ers' touchdown, we might be talking about a loss today.
That's why the NFL is so unpredictable. And that's why I don't bet on sports.
-I can't remember being less interested in a Yankee-Twins series since 2000.
-Stat geeks favor Mike Trout as the AL MVP. Players and old-school writers favor Miguel Cabrera.
I think Trout is the more valuable player in theory, because he does everything well while playing exceptionally well in the field at a pivotal position. But within the context of this season, Cabrera's more valuable, simply because Cabrera has been exceptional while playing in more games. He's simply produced more for his team.
It's not Trout's fault that he wasn't with the Angels from Opening Day on. But the time he missed made him a less-valuable commodity over the course of a six-month season. And while Trout is far superior in the field, Cabrera's willingness and ability to play third base, however poorly, opened up first base and DH for the Tigers, making them a stronger team. That mitigates his fielding woes.
Cabrera has produced far more runs that Trout this season. He has a higher slugging percentage. Their on-base percentage is a virtual tie. And while stat geeks are correct when they say that RBI is not a good statistic for evaluating offensive efficiency, it is a very important stat within the context of a season, and an MVP race.
Games are won and lost based on whether a hitter can produce runs. Cabrera has excelled in that category over six months. He's the MVP.
-I’ll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
 

Bullying the bullies

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 23, 2012 - 6:50 PM

The Vikings' 24-13 upset of San Francisco might have been their most impressive performance since they beat Dallas in the playoffs in 2009. Their upset of Philadelphia in Philadelphia in 2010 was surprising, but those Eagles turned out to be a very flawed team, and with the game being postponed by weather, it never felt like a normal game.

This was different. This was the Vikings beating the 49ers at their own game. Here's what stood out to me:

1. A young Vikings roster that I don't think is talented enough yet to play with the league's big boys took it to the 49ers. They ran the ball. Percy Harvin, as usual, took it to defensive backs. Christian Ponder played with poise. The defense stifled the 49ers' power running game and pressured Alex Smith.

This is the way Leslie Frazier wants to win, and Sunday marked the first time you could see his vision played out on an NFL field against a superior team.

2. Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season. I know, I know, he's had a few dropped, and the 49ers could have changed the game by holding onto Ponder's one terrible throw in the fourth quarter,

Good quarterbacks thrown interceptions, too, though, and good quarterbacks have apparent interceptions dropped. The numbers, in this case, are accurate. Ponder has been careful with the ball and has completed 70 percent of his passes. After 13 NFL starts, he looks about as good as the Vikings could have hoped at this stage of his career.

3. Randy Moss looked like he didn't want to get hit. He short-armed a high throw and didn't appear interested in another pass that whistled by his head. He played sparingly in the fourth quarter of a game where the 49ers were desperate for a deep threat.

After all this time, Moss is pretty much everything everybody has ever said he is. He's a great receiver. He's one of the most unique talents in NFL history. He's a pain in the butt. And he is untrustworthy.

4. Ponder held a weird postgame press conference. He sounded like he wanted to pretend to be mad at everyone who didn't pick the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. But he's such a nice, reasonable guy, that he couldn't maintain the fake anger and kept making jokes.

He did keep bringing up the Super Bowl. Make of that what you will. I do think that Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan, Matt Kalil and the other young offensive players believe they're building something here. The question, for me, is whether they will be ready to win big while Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin are still healthy and in their prime.

Even in a game we all know if violent, Peterson and Harvin are exceptions. They run with exceptional effort.

5. Chad Greenway is having an outstanding season. He's shown up in the pass rush and in pass coverage. He's been a strong performer against the running game for years, but the man does work at his craft and you can see improvement across the board this year.

6. Sportswriters and radio hosts pick games because picking games can make for interesting copy and fodder. But we really shouldn't. We don't know who's going to win. If we did, we'd all live in Vegas. In penthouses in Vegas.

We don't. I proved that again today. I thought the 49ers would win by about 10.

Please don't ever take the advice of a sportswriter when betting. Nothing good will come of it.

Other stuff:

-Restaurant recommendation of the day: Lola's Pizzeria in Southwest Minneapolis, on Xerxes. Great food and atmosphere.

-Tailgated outside TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Nice atmosphere. Not as rowdy as some college campuses, but I think that's a good thing. People were friendly and calm, and the band sounded great.

-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m.

-Luckily for me, I'll be covering the Ryder Cup in Chicago this week. It's one of the few things I haven't done as a writer that I had always wanted to do. Next wish: The British Open at St. Andrews one of these years.

 

Souhan: That was disgusting

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 10, 2012 - 11:04 PM

Here's what went wrong during the Twins' 6-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday night:

-The Twins fell to 8-23, worst record in the bigs by 2 1/2 games.

-Starter Jason Marquis threw 39 balls in 87 pitches and lasted just four innings. He was brought to Minnesota to throw strikes and eat innings and did neither.

-Trevor Plouffe, in the first game of a tryout at third base that could determine the course of his career, ran into a tag play at second base and failed to call for a popup that he should have caught, a popup that fell between him and Marquis.

-Centerfielder Denard Span forgot how many outs there were.

-Erik Komatsu failed to pick up the third-base coach and, with the ball in rightfield, stopped at second before getting thrown out at third.

-Alexi Casilla got a forceout at second base and forgot to look home to prevent a runner from scoring.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he saw things that you don't see ``in high school ball.''

This was disgusting. This is a flat, unintelligent team filled with guys who shouldn't be in the big-leagues.

Plouffe is not a winning big-league player. Casilla is not an everyday big-league player. The starting rotation is awful, and the best competitor among them, Carl Pavano, hasn't cracked 90 mph this season, indicating he's probably pitching with an injury or in pain.

The bullpen has actually been pretty good. Brian Dozier looks like a player. Josh Willingham has produced. Joe Mauer has stayed healthy.

Other than that, this season has been a washout.

To think the Twins played this poorly the day two key players were demoted - Francisco Liriano to the bullpen and Danny Valencia to AAA.

It may be time to trade Denard Span. The Nationals are still interested and have a surplus of pitching. Make the deal.

And if the Nationals want Plouffe or Casilla or a part-time outfielder, so much the better.

-I'm hearing the Twins like Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton in the June draft. While the Twins are desperate for pitching, Buxton projects to be a big-league star.

-Wrote about the Vikings' stadium for the Friday paper. My take: Minnesota will have an amazing array of sports venues once ZygiDome gets built.

-Joe Mauer is hitting .270 with one homer. Being healthy doesn't help a whole lot if he can't swing the bat with authority.

-Bring up Ben Revere. If you can write a lineup with Komatsu and Darin Mastroianni, you can find enough playing time for Revere.

-I'll be on 1500espn at  2:05 tomorrow for my daily update with Reusse and Mackey. Tom Pelissero will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Sports Talk from 9:30-noon on Sunday.

-If the Twins keep looking for competent outfielders, they could give Matt Carson a look. He's a veteran minor-leaguer who's hitting .295 for Rochester.

-Thank you, Tiger Woods, for making me feel better about my golf swing.

-I really wish the Twins had been lucky enough to land Bryce Harper. This team needs someone who competes like that.

-The Timberwolves, when semi-healthy, were so much more entertaining than most of the teams in the NBA playoffs.

-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Torii Hunter excited for Torii, Jr.

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 12, 2012 - 10:35 AM

Chatted with Torii Hunter this morning. Last night, he hit his head against the rightfield wall...and then hit a grounder up the middle and turned it into a double with hustle.

Most players get hit in the head these days, they are sent for tests and observation. Hunter's name was in the lineup Thursday morning before he even got to the clubhouse. Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows Hunter always wants to play.

``Man, I'm like a '64 Impala, with no seat belts,'' Hunter said. ``Old-school.''

True. After a little baseball talk, Hunter started bragging about his son, Torii, Jr. He has a lot to brag about.

Hunter says Torii, Jr., got a 27 on his first try on the ACT, and about 1,600 on the SAT. ``He has a 37-inch vertical, runs a 4.48 40,'' Hunter said.

Torii, Jr., is deciding whether to play football or baseball, or try to play both. Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Arizona have offered him football scholarships. He's considering Stanford and Minnesota for their baseball programs.

Arkansas might have had an edge before Bobby Petrino got fired. ``His uncle went there, his Momma went there, I signed there, and they have a really good engineering program, and that's what he wants to do,'' Hunter said. ``But Stanford is one of the best in that area.''

I got the feeling that Hunter was quite impressed with Stanford's campus and academics. ``We went there on a recruiting visit,'' Hunter said. ``Just 6,500 students. They have the students live with the athletes, which I like. The way they set up everything on the recruiting visit kind of sold us. We're sitting in the weeds, waiting to make the decision.''

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The Vikings just sent out a press release about long-snapper Cullen Loeffler awarding an equipment grant to Ingram High in Texas.

From the release: Minnesota Vikings long snapper CULLEN LOEFFLER and USA Football will donate a $1,500 equipment grant to football programs within the Ingram (Texas) Independent School District, which Loeffler attended as a youth.

 USA Football named Loeffler to its 2011 All-Fundamentals Team last December, honoring 26 NFL players who employ proper technique for younger players to emulate. Each All-Fundamentals Team player is awarded a $1,500 equipment grant...
I spoke with Loeffler about this last season. I'm amazed at just how many current Twin Cities athletes involve themselves in charitable efforts.
One of the most striking things about my profile of Carl Pavano last week was how guilty he feels about not doing more early in his career. He's making up for it now.
This might sound strange, given his reputation, but Denny Green made a big difference in this area. He encouraged his players to do good works on Tuesdays, the natural off day for NFL teams, and now all local teams push their athletes to get involved.
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Just got back from Ron Gardenhire's office. He has Joe Mauer catching a day game after catching a night game. Does that mean Mauer feels good?
``Didn't ask,'' Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire said this spring that his new approach would be to assume that his players were healthy and eager to play. If they want out of the lineup, they have to come to him.
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Fun game for the Twins last night. Pavano gutted his way through 6 2/3, and Glen Perkins struck out Albert Pujols with a nasty slider.
Jamey Carroll, Josh Willingham and Chris Parmalee all put together impressive at-bats.
One thing to watch: Alexi Casilla is off to one of his typical slow starts, and Brian Dozier continues to do everything within his power to earn a promotion.
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I'l be on 1500espn tonight with Tom Pelisserro, and Tom and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from the talk box outside Target Field on Sunday. The Gardenhire Show will run 9:30-10 followed by our show, which will run until noon.
Please follow me on Twitter, at @Souhanstrib.
 

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