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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Amazing how our quiet, borderline-depressing sports scene continues to make news. A month ago, I feared a summer in which the Twins were irrelevant and the NFL was dormant.
Now I expect the Twins to play meaningful games all season, the NFL to start on time, and the Wolves to be much more interesting by this fall.
I'm not sure what they're thinking.
They pushed Jacques Lemaire out. Lemaire's message may have gotten old, but he's a hockey genius. They replaced him with Todd Richards. Fine, you went with a young coach and planned to be patient while he developed. But then you fired him after two years, probably just as he was adapting fully to the job.
And then you went looking for a veteran coach. Craig MacTavish? Sounds good. Ken Hitchcock? Love it.
Now, I'm not predicting that Yeo will fail. Maybe he'll be a great coach, and Chuck Fletcher has made a brilliant, insightful, move. That wouldn't be shocking.
But this is a strange progression, from veteran brilliant coach to long shot to...long shot.
Because what Fletcher doesn't know about Yeo is exactly what he didn't know about Richards - how he would react to the pressure, the speed, and the players of the NHL.
This smells like a money-saving move. Yeo is thrilled to have the job. MacTavish and Hitchcock would have wanted money and influence. For a franchise needing credibility and a way to keep fans interested, this is a puzzling move.
Whatever the Wolves' problems, they may be close to passing the Wild in terms of intrigue and watchability.
-Wolves' exec Tony Ronzone told our Jerry Zgoda and other reporters today that the Wolves plan to hold onto the No. 2 pick and take the best player available. That is exactly the right approach. Derrick Williams is the right choice at No. 2. He might be talented enough to make Ricky Rubio look good.
After speaking with a few people around the NBA, I believe that if the Wolves take Williams, they'll need to trade Michael Beasley. Beasley is a nice enough guy, and he can score, but he doesn't play defense and doesn't get his points in a structured, reliable, way. You don't want Williams having to share shots with him. Williams could become a star.
-I'm rooting for Rory McIlroy. Golf needs a magnetic, charismatic, brilliantly-talented star to capture the imagination. Martin Kaymer doesn't cut it. And Phil Mickelson looks like he'll never win another major.
-Joe Mauer spoke today. He looked lean and tanned, and he handled the tougher questions very well.
He was asked about people who have criticized him for an unwillingness to play hurt. He called the critics, ``Misinformed.'' That's a logical response, but what he should know is that his slow recovery created critics not just in the media, but throughout his organization and in his clubhouse and among former players.
The percentage of Twins' employees rolling their eyes about Mauer's timetable was about the same as the percentage of fans screaming about him.
-Wrote my Friday column on the Twins' latest improbable victory, and Ozzie Guillen's latest nickname for their lineup. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 Friday.
-My prayers go out to E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who is recovering from a stroke. I listened to a bunch of hair bands with my high school buddies until one day we were driving around, and this sax break played over the radio, interrupting a song featuring lyrics about life, and death, and redemption, and I could never listen to Styx again.
Clarence played that sax, and as much as I love Springsteen, the best moments of his glorious concerts always feature Clemons, as soloist or foil. I stopped listening to ``Jungleland'' years ago...except for Clemons' amazing, emotive, expressive solo, during which, in concert, Springsteen always walks around the stage, pumping his fist, leading cheers for the Big Man. As it should be, and I hope someday will be again.
Thursday night, I watched the Twins and Rangers from the press box, while watching the A's and White Sox on my Ipad, while tracking the NBA game on espn.com, and then got to the Twins' clubhouse in time to ignore Michael Cuddyer's post-game interview while watching the NBA finals on one of the big-screen TVs that hang over the players' lockers.
So, for a moment, Alexi Casilla trumped LeBron James.
Even if this stretch of competent baseball winds up meaning nothing, you had to sense, if you were at Target Field last night, that seeing Alexi Casilla drive in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth, then run to first with his right fist in the air, brought back a lot of memories.
As horrid as this team has played for most of the season, this is the same manager, coaching staff and system that has produced three of the greatest comebacks in franchise history in the last eight years. The Twins were buried at the All-Star break in 2003, in early June in 2006 and by a few games in the waning days of the 2009 season, and won the division all three times.
If you care about math at all, you'd have to write this team off. They're 11 games out of first in mid-June, and 10 games behind a loaded Detroit team, and most of their quality players remain on the disabled list, and their bullpen, whatever its recent results, remains a tire fire.
If you looked at any other team this far out this far into the season, you'd write them off. Nobody would take Houston or the Cubs seriously in this situation.
And yet, the Twins are making themselves compelling once again, even though they have the second-worst record in baseball.
If you want to spend the summer watching meaningful baseball, this is wonderful news. If you think the Twins' farm system needs help, this is dicey. The worst-case scenario here is that the Twins play well enough to prevent them from trading for prospects in July, and yet not well enough to truly contend for a playoff spot.
Let's not overlook the business of baseball, though. The Twins will be much more willing to carry a hefty payroll next spring if they sell a lot of tickets this summer. You'd like to see the Target Field honeymoon last for more than a year and a couple of months. With Ben Revere and Casilla playing like latter-day piranhas, at least the Twins are making us watch right now.
-I want to believe that Ricky Rubio will be a decent NBA player, but he's stinking it up in Spain right now, and while he stinks it up, the Wolves continue to fail to make a decision on Kurt Rambis.
I want to believe that this group has some chance of making the Wolves competent, but I just don't think there's anybody in a decision-making position in the organization who can make a good decision. How can the status of their coach remain undecided this close to the draft? How can Rambis have a chance to keep his job after the way he coached the last two years?
-I love that Billy Beane fired manager Bob Geren today. Here's a guy who pretends that managers don't matter, and yet he fires his manager before the movie ``Moneyball'' can make it into theaters. Will the release of the movie be delayed until the A's are out of last place? Will theaters even exist then?
-Only caught a bit of the NBA game, but saw enough to catch LeBron doing what he so often does: Putting up an impressive stat line without making big shots down the stretch.
I picked Miami in seven games, and I'm sticking with that. My guess is that these tremendous playoffs, this tremendous Finals, will culminate with James taking the game-winning shot. Despite lots of evidence suggesting otherwise, I'm guessing he makes it.
Of course, I wrote that before I saw this statistic from ESPNStatsInfo on Twitter: ``Dirk Nowitzki has now outscored LeBron James 52-11'' in the fourth quarter this series, including 8-2 on Thursdahy night.
-Wrote about Joe Mauer for the Friday paper. I'm not sure I've ever heard so much criticism of a popular local athlete of great accomplishment who hasn't broken any laws or called out any teammates. Mauer simply has given people reason to believe that he's putting his own personal comfort over the needs of his team. In the sports world, that's a bigger crime than a DUI.
-Had a chance to speak with Leslie Frazier this morning while working on an upcoming story. I've had the opportunity to have a couple of lengthy talks with him, and I can see why he'd be so good with players and fellow coaches. He's one of those guys who has ``It,'' that combination of confidence, charisma and friendliness that compels people to follow.
-I'm passing on a note I received from Harmon Killebrew's longtime PR rep Molly Mulvehill Steinke:
``Although the Kwik Trip Harmon Killebrew Classic is sold out, there is still a chance for the public to honor Harmon on his 75th Birthday.
In Twitterland (@Souhanstrib), I was chatting with Tim Linnemann and others about the brilliance of Kurt Rambis. Not as a coach. As a Larry David-like (thanks, Tom) creator of awkward situations meant to play out in his favor.
Rambis keeps showing up for Wolves events, and today he told reporters that he doesn't know what the future of his job holds, and that he wouldn't have handled the situation this way, but, dang it, he has a job and he's going to keep showing up and doing it until further notice.
Which is exactly the right way for him to handle this. He's making himself look willing and shrewd, and David Kahn look either weak or manipulative. If Rambis had coached as well as he's playing this situation, he wouldn't be in this situation.
This is where owner Glen Taylor needs to step in and remind Kahn what happened the last time he went into a draft without a coach.
-When Shaquille O'Neal retired, my first thought was: Where have all the fun athletes gone?
Kirby Puckett was fun to be around. So was Torii Hunter. O'Neal, even though he could be childish, displayed a sense of humor, a sense of fun, that few modern athletes possess.
Think of the greats in each sport:
Golf: Tiger Woods. At his best, rarely took off his game face.
Baseball: Albert Pujols, Jose Bautista, Alex Rodriguez...boring, boring, used to be egomaniacal but has learned to be boring. And then there's Joe Mauer...
Basketball: LeBron James. Was fun with Cleveland, with the pre-game rituals and funny commercials. Now he's no fun at all.
Football: Peyton Manning is boring in interviews, but he's great on Saturday Night Live. Tom Brady must lead an exotic life, but he doesn't show much of himself during the season.
Hockey: Sidney Crosby is boring, and Alex Ovechkin has learned to be boring.
Maybe being great requires what Denny Green used to call ``that real, fine, focus.'' Maybe the demands of stardom cause most stars to withdraw. Whatever the case, we should miss Shaq as much for his sense of humor as for his dominant play.
-This is what I love about the NBA playoffs: If you don't coach well and your key players don't make good decisions, athletic ability will not carry you through.
Last night Eric Spoelstra blew his timeouts too early, Chris Bosh forgot to foul with a foul to give against Dirk in the final seconds, and the Heat offensive structure disappeared under pressure, and the Mavs pulled off a 15-point comeback.
Dirk is becoming my favorite NBA player, and making a case for himself as one of the all-time greats.
-Giants GM Brian Sabean is getting shredded nationally for ripping on the Marlins' Scott Cousins for injuring Buster Posey in that infamous play at the plate.
To me, Sabean went too far with his rhetoric. He shouldn't demonize a part-time player who thought he was doing all he could to win a game for his team.
But the gist of Sabean's comments are correct: Cousins broke the letter of the rule by going outside the baseline to vault into Posey. The play was wrong. While I keep saying headlines questioning why baseball would change such a long-standing rule, what you have to understand is that the rule is already on the books: You may not go out of the baseline to collide with a player for the purposes of dislodging the ball at home plate any more than you could do it at first base.
Baseball has every right to enforce this existing rule, and should. If a catcher hasn't moved into the way of the plate, he isn't fair game. Sabean's rhetoric is overheated, but his opinion is right on.
-Upcoming: Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk from the studio this week. The Gardy Show is at 9:30 followed by our show from 10-noon.
So Ricky Rubio is coming to town. I’ll have more on this in the Friday paper. Here’s my capsule view:
I don’t think he’ll be great. Even if he’s just pretty good and can run an offense and a fast break, he could upgrade the Wolves’ weakest position and make his teammates better.
But I don’t want to see Kurt Rambis coaching this kid. I want to see a coach who handles young players well and is not married to the Triangle Offense. Which means just about anybody other than Rambis.
-I think Kevin McHale has a chance to be a good NBA coach. He has the charisma and knowledge to do the job.
But he faces obstacles and challenges. Does he really want to work this hard? Good coaches are grinders who study the game. Is that really Kevin at this point in his life?
And can he really coach better than Rick Adelman, one of the best coaches in the league?
I don’t doubt McHale’s ability to coach well. I doubt his ability to coach well for any length of time.
-If hockey players are so tough, why do they react like such whiners when they get hit, and why does Alex Burrows think he can get away with biting an opponent’s finger?
There are things I like about hockey, but when you see the overreaction to legal hits and moments like Burrow’s Overbite, hockey loses credibility.
-The Twins are pathetic. I've watched a lot of bad Twins teams, but I've never seen a team this inept.
Nice effort, Delmon.
-Kevin Love’s Twitter response to the Rubio signing was classic: ``I’ll believe it when I see it.’’ Think he’s been worn down by The Wolves Way?
-I’m probably like a lot of Americans. I don’t need another sport to watch. I’m not particularly interested in soccer. But the ManU-Barca final the other day intrigued me, and I watched, and I enjoyed it, and now Fox is saying that the game drew 4.2 million viewers in the U.S.
For me, soccer is like hockey: I need to see stars and scoring opportunities and a game with something on the line to watch. This game qualified.
-Poor Christian Ponder. Doesn’t he know that the Vikings don’t know what to do with a quarterback who shows up earlier than he has to?
-Upcoming: I’ll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, and Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk from the studio at 1500espn. The Gardy Show starts at 9:30 followed by our show from 10-noon.
No rush, David. You've already embarrassed your entire organization, if that's possible, by letting Rambis dangle for so long in employment limbo that he showed up, uninvited, to your pre-draft workouts.
I'll have more on that subject in the Sunday paper.
For today, let me ask this question:
How are American sports fans going to feel if LeBron James wins it all?
He's widely hated for ``The Decision,'' but it's increasingly clear that he made the right decision, and that he's eminently capable of doing the two things that we doubted he could do:
-Win a championship.
-Win a championship while becoming a great closer, taking and making almost all of the big shots.
James was brilliant last night, as he has been throughout the playoffs. If we could ignore his tone-deaf off-the-court comments, what we would see is a superior defender, an unselfish distributor, a guy who (other than that elimination game with the Cavaliers) seems to always play hard, and now a superior clutch player.
He is the best player in basketball, and the NBA finals matchup pitting him against Dirk Nowitzki will provide a compelling end to a compelling playoffs.
-With the Twins facing the Angels this weekend at Target Field, I'm reminded of the time that Torii Hunter took a swing at Justin Morneau, and accidentally hit Nick Punto.
Now, I'm not advocating violence, but right about now I wouldn't mind seeing a prominent Twin taking a swing at a teammate. OK, I guess I am advocating violence.
The Twins need an intimidating presence in their clubhouse, and since none of these players seem capable of playing that role, they may have to adjust their coaching staff this winter to add a former player who can get after malingerers and whiners.
Paul Molitor? Dan Gladden? Tom Brunansky? I'd take any of them. Molitor is the smartest player I ever covered. Gladden has just the right personality to be a clubhouse enforcer, and has the cache of two World Series titles with the franchise. Brunansky is on the fast track through the Twins' minor-league organization.
I like the current staff, and they've been part of a lot of winning teams, but when a season starts to go south this team needs someone who can play enforcer. My information is that manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson are the only two members of the big-league staff who can and will upbraid a lax player.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn from 3-6 today, working with Reusse from 3-4, then running Garage Logic from 4-6. Sunday, Tom Pelissero and I will run the Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10, then Sunday Morning Sports Talk from 10-noon.
My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
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