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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When Kevin Slowey took the mound on Sunday, he could have had any number of goals.
He could have wanted to win a game. That's always good. Whether he wants the victory to help his teammates, or to help himself in arbitration, or to enhance his trade value, doesn't matter. You've got to want to win, right?
Or he could have wanted to help his team out, and save the bullpen for Monday, when the Twins have to play a doubleheader with a thin, injury-depleted pitching staff. Saving the bullpen would be a baseball moral victory.
Or he could have wanted to prove that he's a tougher guy than everyone thinks he is, after he bailed to the disabled list earlier this season because he didn't want to pitch in the bullpen.
So Slowey throws 95 pitches through seven innings. He looks sharp. He strikes out four, doesn't walk anybody, and he's down just 2-1.
If he goes out for the eighth inning, he has a chance to get a victory, or at least has a chance to save the Twins' bullpen for Monday.
Instead, he complained of a tight hamstring, forcing the Twins to bring in two relievers to pitch the eighth. The Twins lost 4-1, and Slowey didn't accomplish anything other than fortifying his reputation within the organization as a malingerer.
They need to trade this guy. The problem is, he's got a 5.31 ERA and a bad reputation. The Twins need to wait until teams are looking for pitching help this winter, and trade him for the best offer.
I can't mention any names because of the sources of my information, but I was told that three different Twins were laughing or giggling or smiling in the late innings on Sunday, as the Twins lost 4-1.
It's amazing how a bad farm system has taught a bunch of young players that losing is the norm, and that there's no reason to get down about it.
That's one of the subjects of my Monday morning column.
I keep hearing people saying that Rick Adelman and Don Nelson are better candidates than Sam Mitchell.
Well, Adelman is an excellent coach, but he's 65. When is the last time a 65-year-old coach took over an NBA rebuilding project and wound up being the right guy? (I'm sure there are examples. I'm also sure there aren 't many.)
The more I talk to NBA insiders, the more I hear that Nelson would be a ticking time bomb who would quickly fall out of favor with ownership and the front office. He might not last a season.
Mitchell may not be the first name you think of when you decide you want to hire an NBA coach, but he shouldn't be dismissed, either.
He was the NBA coach of the year in 2007. His winning percentage with the Raptors was .452. Not impressive? Well, consider the context. The only Raptors coach who has done better was Lenny Wilkins, at .459. Mitchell's replacement, Jay Triano, won at a .380 clip. I can only wish Dwane Casey, the classy former Wolves coach, luck in turning that franchise around.
Mitchell is 48. He's experienced but not old. He fought his way to the NBA with a gritty style of play that hid his lack of talent. He is an experienced NBA assistant. He'd force the Wolves to play with fire, and to play defense. If he had success, he wouldn't use this job as a golden parachute into retirement or a steppingstone to a better franchise. He'd stay.
He'd reconnect with Wolves fans who remember this franchise when it was competent and competitive. He'd be a credible connection to potential free agents. He has the right personality to make owner Glen Taylor feel included without allowing Taylor or anyone else to impinge on his authority.
Would he succeed? I have no idea. Circumstances are more important than will in some cases. But he seems to me to be the best fit out of all the candidates.
My favorite moment of the day: FSN's Robby Incmikoski asking Twins manager Ron Gardenhire if he took solace in the fact that his rotation is settled.
Gardenhire looked at him like he had cotton candy leaking out of his ears.
Settled? Gardenhire has one member of his original five-man rotation healthy: Carl Pavano. His other starters this week will be reliever Anthony Swarzak, Rule 5 draftee Scott Diamond, TBA (probably callup Liam Hendricks), Pavano, and the out-of-favor Slowey.
The Twins' rotation is about as settled as the San Andreas Fault.
Sometimes I hear the stupid questions people in my business ask and I hate the media, too.
My thanks to Gophers coach Jerry Kill for joining Sunday Morning Sports Talk. For once, I see Gopher fans falling all over themselves about a new coach, and I think they might be on to something.
Interesting week coming up for me: I'll be in Green Bay on Thursday night for the Packers opener, then heading to San Diego for the Vikings opener. I guess I could drop by Target Field, too, but I don't like being lonely.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Follow me, Kevin. Please.
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.
Coming back to town after a quick vacation to San Francisco. This is the first time I've ever left a sunny day in California dreading that Minnesota is much hotter.
We went to the Dodgers-Giants game on Monday night, and I believe this was my first visit to AT&T Park since the 2002 World Series.
This might be the one ballpark you'd want to visit if you've already been spoiled by Target Field. Because it has the one thing that Target Field doesn't have: A bay.
It's a beautiful setting, and if you head up to the upper deck, you can see the bay, and the lit-up Bay Bridge, and the kayakers, and the lights of the city. The Giants, like the Twins, play a Journey song during seventh-inning stretch, but theirs is ``Lights,'' a song about the bay.
(Although it sounds like Journey's Steve Perry first wrote the song about the lights of ``LA,'' but didn't like the sound of that and changed it to ``the bay.'' Which is good editing.
Anyway, I"ll be home tonight, then leaving for Cooperstown on Thursday, preparing with photographer Carlos Gonzalez to cover the weekend festivities culminating with Bert Blyleven's induction into the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
A few points on the Twins, from afar:
-No, calling Kevin Slowey up to start one game of the doubleheader made no sense. He hasn't pitched well at Triple-A yet, why would he be ready to beat the Indians?
-Much of the Twins' dominance of the division over the last 11 years is due to pitching depth. This is no time to whine about them being forced to start Anthony Swarzak and Scott Diamond. And both pitched well enough to win, had the Twins taken advantage of the Indians' weak pitching that was lined up for Monday.
-The Twins hoped to go 8-4 on the post-All Star-break homestand. If they take 3 of 4 from the Tigers, they will have done so. Even if they split with the Tigers, they will be positioned to chase these teams until the last weekend of the season.
Yes, they'll have to beat good teams to do so, given the difficulty of the upcoming schedule. But shouldn't you have to beat good teams to make the playoffs?
A few points on the Wolves:
-You could do worse than Mike Woodson. The guy teaches half-court offense, ball movement and strong defense. The Hawks apparently stopped listening to him after a while, and he failed in the playoffs, but he's young enough and ambitious enough to benefit from those lessons.
Actually, Woodson might be ideal for the Wolves, because he would fight back against David Kahn's ridiculous notion that the Wolves should run more.
I think Don Nelson would be a hoot to have around for a year or two, before he drove everyone in the organization crazy and alienated a couple of key players. I don't think he's a good fit for the long haul, but he'd hasten the Wolves' return to relevance.
A point on Tiger Woods:
-It's not unusual for celebrities and sports stars to go through scandals and personal problems. What offends me more about Tiger Woods is that he always seems to be looking for a scapegoat.
He got rid of swing guru Hank Haney, and now he's fired caddy Steve Williams. I'm not a fan of either man's work. I felt Woods won despite Haney, and Williams could be a cad when he was on Woods' bag. But neither are the cause of any of Woods' current problems.
Upcoming: I'll be blogging and tweeting from Cooperstown all weekend. I'll also be doing Sunday Morning Sports Talk from Cooperstown. The Gardenhire Show is 9:30 on Sunday, followed by SMST from 10-noon, with Tom Pelissero in the studio.
I can't believe it was only a few weeks ago I feared there would be nothing interesting to write about this summer.
Then the Twins got hot, David Kahn started scheming and by midday Thursday we had the news that Kahn plans to fire Kurt Rambis shortly, and Joe Mauer is out again today, this time because of a stiff back.
I've heard some of my radio colleagues suggesting that the Twins should cover for Mauer, saying he was given the day off. But there's no winning here. If Ron Gardenhire says he's just resting Mauer, then he gets hammered for failing to put his best hitter into a weak lineup. If it becomes known that Mauer is complaining about a stiff back shortly after returning from the disabled list, then he looks bad.
Well, he looks bad. Again. Maybe his back is really killing him, but don't you want your franchise player to fight to get into the lineup?
Then Kahn allows word to leak that he's about to fire Rambis, interrupting one of the best public-relations weeks in recent Wolves history. They hold a Ricky Rubio press conference and start selling his jersey and ticket packages tied to his jersey number, and they're about to make the highest draft pick in franchise history, and now the firing of Rambis looms over their draft party.
This is management malpractice.
Now we can only hope that the rumors aren't true, that Kahn isn't about to hire a 67-year-old coach whose last winning season as a head coach came in 1998 and whose peak season came in 1989.
Bernie Bickerstaff is considered a good guy, and a smart guy. But the idea of hiring him to shepherd the team until Wolves assistant J.B. Bickerstaff is ready is lunacy, and would occur only so Kahn, nearing the end of his contract, would not feel threatened by the man on the bench. He would know that Bernie would have no grand designs on taking over the primary decision-making role in the organization, and that Bernie would do everything he could to get along with management so that J.B. would remain his successor.
J.B., similarly, would be very much under Kahn's control.
We don't know whether this rumor is true or not. But it smells like something Kahn would do to maintain his power within the organization after his teams utterly failed on the court during his first two seasons.
Let's go pro-con on Kahn.
He blew the hiring of his first coach. He blew the assembling of the first coaching staff, too, since I'm told Bill Laimbeer and Reggie Theus are not quality assistants.
He blew his first draft pick, Jonny Flynn, and we're still a ways away from finding out whether he blew his second first-round draft pick, Ricky Rubio. He drafted Ty Lawson for the Nuggets, and, of course, it turned out that Lawson is the best of the three players, at least at this point in their careers.
We can debate how he did in his second draft. I preferred DeMarcus Cousins, and still do, because I believe his talent overwhelms his problematic personalty. Wes Johnson is less talented but far more reliable. We can wait another year or two before forming a final opinion.
Dark Mlicic? I say that's a swing and a miss. Martell Webster? Not as good as Kahn thought he was. Trading Al Jefferson? Not a thrilling deal from either end. Keeping Kevin Love? My sources tell me Kahn considered trading Love, so I don't know how much credit to give him for keeping Love. But you can mark that down in Kahn's win column, regardless, because he did indeed keep Love.
Dealing with the firing of McHale? Kahn gets an F, for waiting until after the draft to hire McHale's replacement. Firing Rambis? Kahn gets an F for playing it out so long and allowing it to ruin this week.
What Kahn's supporters will point to is the dramatic upgrading of talent on the roster. Remember, McHale gets the credit for acquiring Love in a fantastic deal. So Kahn doesn't get credit for the best player on the roster. He's also acquired two talented enigmas, in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, whom other teams gave up on.
Do the Wolves have more talent today than they did two years ago? Yes. But what we don't know, especially after watching Kahn make so many mistakes in this job, whether he can choose a coach who will meld that talent into a winner, and whether the talented players he has assembled can play team basketball, or a lick of defense.
If raw talent was all that mattered in the NBA, the Mavericks not only would have failed to win the championship this year, they may not have made it out of the first round.
Kahn has acquired long, lean athletes. But if he can't hire a good coach, that won't matter at all. If he can't find real basketball players, this group will peak as a poor version of the exciting-but-unaccomplished Golden State Warriors.
-Upcoming: I'll be in Milwaukee this weekend to cover the Twins and Brewers. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. Friday. I'll be in the Brewers' press box for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, from 10-noon on 1500espn, and for the Gardenhire Show, from 9:30-10.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib, and I'll be tweeting from the Wolves' draft tonight.
After all of his fourth-quarter failures, after LeBron James choked in the same building where he celebrated like a champion before ever playing a game with the Miami Heat, here is what James had to say late last night:
According to the Associated Press, James said this of fans who ridicule him:
``All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point."
James is telling everyone who doubts him that they are losers with lousy lives. Once again, he has proved he has no sense of timing on or off the court.
The man celebrates a championship before he wins one. He disses Cleveland with his TV special. He fades in the fourth quarter.
He and the Heat should have the ability to win a handful of NBA championships if they can add talent and depth to the roster that almost won it all this year. But will James ever be a go-to-guy again? While he may be able to improve his game, especially on the low post, will he be able to alter a personality that had him passing up good shots and missing many of those he took in the fourth quarter of a Finals in which Dirk Nowitzki made him look like a chump?
I don't know, but I do know it's time for me to go be happy for a few months before facing the real world again.
-I don't know if I've ever liked a champion athlete as much as I like Dirk. I"ve admired many. I've been awed by a few. I don't know if I ever got to the end of a championship game or series and admire anyone more for so many reasons.
Nowitzki played hurt. He played sick. He made big shots. He overcame difficult shooting nights. He called out his teammates without losing their respect. He led. He excelled. He demonstrated the fruits of his long hours in the gym and dedication to his craft.
-I keep hearing NHL fans and writers say that the NBA celebration pales in comparison to the Stanley Cup handshake line. They're right. Too bad you have to sit through so much boring hockey to get to the handshakes.
I will watch the NHL finals tonight. I would appreciate them keeping me awake with the occasional, legitimate, scoring chance, and I would appreciate seeing a few clean, pretty, goals.
-Our hockey guy Michael Russo writes that Craig MacTavish could be closing in on the Wild head coaching job. I've been pushing for Ken Hitchcock, but MacTavish is a good, accomplished, candidate. He'd bring credibility and a strong personality, and an ability to reach players.
-Derek Jeter has reached 2,993 hits. I used to love baseball milestones. I don't know why, but I don't care much about this one.
I don't know if that's a reaction to baseball's steroid era, which blew up so many meaningful records. I don't know if my loathing for Yankee entitlement has diminished my enthusiasm for this particular milestone. I don't know if it's Jeter's sense of outrage over the Yankees' unwillingness to pay him $30 million to be a mediocre shortstop.
But I just don't care as much as I used to about players reaching numerical milestones.
-Wrote for today's paper about the Twins' chances of getting back into the race. I don't know if it's possible, but what I always root for, as a daily newspaper columnist, is meaningful games. If the Twins can play meaningful games in September after their lousy start, I'll consider this season less of a failure.
-From my twitter feed (@Souhanstrib): Ricky Rubio has another chance in the Spanish finals to pull off a Rubio double-double: Two points, two assists.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. today.
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