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 Target Field

Walters, Morneau overcome Twins' mistakes

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 11, 2013 - 10:35 PM

P.J. Walters is now the Twins' ace.

Seriously. The guy is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA and has shown the aptitude known in the big leagues as ``pitchability.'' Tuesday, he limited Philadelphia to one earned run in 7 1/3 innings by throwing his breaking pitch as slow as 73 mph. ``That makes his fastbal look like it's about 95,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Justin Morneau (the subject of my Friday column) went 3-for-4 with the game-winning hit, and Jamey Carroll broke out of a slump with two hits and a walk, and Glen Perkins recorded his 14th save and lowered his ERA to 2.66.

But there were a few mistakes that shouldn't happen on a major-league diamond.

Brian Dozier ran into a doubleplay in the fourth inning, ending a rally that had already produced two runs. He was on first with one out when Clete Thomas hit a chopper to second and ran into the tag so the Phillies could turn an easy double play, preventing the runner on third from having a chance to score.


Shortstop Pedro Florimon has looked good compared to many of his teammates this season, but he made a low throw that was ruled an error on Morneau when the ball went under Morneau's glove, and was playing Ben Revere up the middle when Revere's single went into leftfield to produce a run.

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Miss Aaron Hicks? You should. While Clete Thomas made one spectacular catch on Tuesday, he couldn't get to two balls that Hicks routinely catches.

Sometime in the next two years the Twins hope to field an outfield of Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia. Arcia made a fine running catch in left on Tuesday. Hicks is an outstanding centerfielder, and Buxton could become the best centerfielder in the game.

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Spoke with Morneau before the game. He's gone 168 plate appearances without a home run ,and he admits it bothers him. He was gracious when speaking about it. That column will be in the Friday paper on on the web site.

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I'll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 and 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow.

 

Ryan says Gibson close, but not quite ready

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 24, 2013 - 3:00 PM
I was speaking with Twins general manager Terry Ryan about a column that I’ll have in the Sunday Star Tribune when I asked about a more topical subject: Kyle Gibson.
Gibson is the best pitching prospect at Class AAA Rochester. He’s 3-5 with a 3.25 ERA. He’s pitched two complete-game shutouts. The Twins have opted to call up Sam Deduno and P.J. Walters instead of Gibson in the last week. Deduno is a journeyman with good stuff and poor control; Walters is a grinder whose stuff is not considered good enough for him to succeed over the long term as a big-league starter.
Gibson is a former first-round draft pick. When a team calls up lesser prospects, the team is accused of trying to save major-league service time to avoid losing the player a year earlier in free agency, or paying the player more because they become a ``Super 2’’ player who qualifies for free agency a year earlier than their service time would otherwise allow.
I asked Ryan whether the decision not to promote Gibson was made for baseball reasons, or financial reasons. He noted that if he was worried about service time, he wouldn’t have been so eager to put Aaron Hicks on the opening day roster or call up another rookie, Oswaldo Arcia, so early in the season.
``If I was worried about all of that, I wouldn’t bring up Hicks and Arcia,’’ he said. ``Any GM in any organization knows you’re always going to get that question. In every decision, it comes down to baseball factors first. Can you bring up Gibson now? Yeah. Sure you could. But I guess you’d be sending him back pretty quick, and I don’t want that to happen.
``There’s no hiding a guy who’s in your rotation. I’d like to tell you when we bring up a young guy that it’s for good. Gibson is getting there. He’s been inconsistent. His last outing was very good and I’m hoping he’ll back that up with another one.
``Every start for him is important, and so far he’s been good, bad, good, bad, good, bad. He’s close, but he’s not quite there yet. We’re looking for him to string together four or five of those good one. That would give us confidence that it’s time for him to come up here.
``I saw him recently and he hit a wall in the fifth inning.''
Whether coincidence or planning, Ryan's baseball judgement will align nicely with the Twins' long-term financial interests. By the time Gibson pitches well for four or five starts in a row, he will likely have missed the opportunity to be a ``Super 2'' qualifier in arbitration two years from now.
 

Touching 'em all

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 1, 2013 - 1:33 PM

Yes, I stole that line from John Gordon. Saw Gordo in Fort Myers, and he's doing well.

To the new stuff:

-Good luck, Pedro Florimon. With Florimon started at shortstop today, the Twins haven't had the same starting shortstop in consecutive years on Opening day since Cristian Guzman had the job in 2003-2004.

The starters: 2005 Jason Bartlett; 2006 Juan Castro; 2007 Bartlett; 2008 Adam Everett; 2009 Nick Punto; 2010 J.J. Hardy; 2011 Alexi Casilla; 2012 Jamey Carroll; 2013 Florimon.

And somewhere in there someone named Nishioka played a few games, too.

-Justin Verlander has never won on Opening Day, although he had a lead that was blown last year. The Tiwns' hope today is that he's overly emotional after signing his new contract and a combination of emotions and cold keeps him from being himself.

Verlander is 0-1 with four no-decisions in five Opening Day starts. He's pitched more than six innings only once, when he went eight innings last year.

-Tigers manager Jim Leyland pregame on expectations: ``I've managed some teams people didn't expect to do very well at all, and we didn't let 'em down.''

-Spoke with Torii Hunter, who raved about the Tigers' ``first-class'' operation. He noted he's been as healthy the last two years as he's ever been, and said he undergoes ART therapy on his muscles, and that has kept him feeling loose and healthy. He's cut out heavy weight training.

``I haven't had an ache or pain the last two years,'' he said. ``Except when I ran into that wall.''

It's Active Release Therapy, and Hunter described it as chiropractic for muscles.

-Joe Mauer batting second is a good idea. It's also been a good idea for a long time. Mauer might be the big-league player most-suited to batting second. Having anything but a good on-base-percentage hitter in the 2 hole is a terrible idea.

-As listeners to Sunday Sports Talk and my noon hits with Judd&Dubay on 1500ESPN know, I'm glad Flip Saunders didn't take the Gophers' job, and I don't mind waiting another week or two for Norwood Teague to land a coach. What matters is the result, not the process.

Teague was hired because of his exhaustive knowledge of college basketball. To settle for a 58-year-old guy who is not a college basketball coach would strike me as giving in to public sentiment, which is usually a bad idea.

-Jim Leyland smokes in his office. That's got to be a violation of some kind. Then again, in baseball, you're grown men are allowed to spit in the faces of umpires.

-Leyland, looking typically grizzled, said that nobody who works in baseball - including writers and broadcasters - should look good the last day of the season. ``If you're not tired at the end,'' he said, ``you probably didn't do your job very well.''

-Yes, expectations are low for the Twins this season. My sure-to-be-wrong prediction is 73 victories. But at least the Twins have a better lineup than the Yankees for the first time I can remember.

-I'll be running Sunday Sports Talk this week by myself, with Tom Pelissero on vacation, so I'll take calls and do a little different show than usual. That's 10-noon Sunday, preceeded by the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30 on 1500ESPN.

I'll be doing noon appearances with Judd and Dubay on 1500ESPN all week, as well. Thanks for listening.

 

Molitor on Birk

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 20, 2013 - 12:17 PM
One element of my conversation with Paul Molitor that didn’t make it into my Wednesday column: His appreciation for what fellow Cretin High alum Matt Birk experienced this year.
Molitor grew up in the Brewers’ organization, and made a painful decision to leave Milwaukee for Toronto. As a Blue Jay, he won a World Series ring at the age of 37.
Birk grew up in the Vikings’ organization and was forced out of the organization, in part by then-head coach Brad Childress. They didn’t get along. So Birk signed with the Baltimore Ravens, and this season, at the age of 36, he won a Super Bowl title.
Molitor said he doesn’t know Birk well. ``But we have met a couple of times and like most people that meet him, I think he’s an impressive guy,’’ Molitor said. ``I admire his humility and intelligence and I respect his opinions and his outspokenness. I played in his golf tournament a couple of years ago.
``His is just a story of perseverance for a guy who wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he got pushed out of here, and he got a chance to reach the top. I can relate to that, his first championship coming late in his career. I’m happy for him.’’
And one more thought from Molitor on his current ``special assistant’’ position, in which he works primarily with minor-league player development.
``I’ve got talented people to work with, in terms of our other player development people,’’ he said. ``As part of the organization, I’m hoping that we’ve hit bottom and that the trend forward continues. It’s nice for me to see some of these kids on the verge of getting the opportunity to play in the big leagues.’’
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My new radio schedule: I'm on 1500ESPN at 12:20 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with Judd Zulgad and Jeff Dubay. Sunday Sports Talk remains the same, 10-noon on Sundays. We'll host the Ron Gardenhire Show again this year from 9:30-10. Thanks for listening, as always.
 

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.
 

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