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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Tonight's Series of Random Thoughts, from an enclosed press box at Target Field, watching umbrellas sprout like dandelions...
-I understand that owners want to appear sympathetic as possible during the lockout. But the idea that they will cut the average NFL employee's salary by 12 percent to save money during the lockout should embarrass each of them.
These are billionaires who make huge profits with their latest plaything, an NFL franchise. The average fan might not realize this, but an NFL team's offices contain lots of mid-management and grunt types who are not being paid all that well. To cut their pay as a way to save a few thousand bucks or to make the owners' plight seem worse than it really is, is the height of arrogance.
Zygi Wilf shouldn't engage in this stunt. He's been a good and generous owner for the Vikings. He should be better than this.
-I ordered an IPad2, and Michael Cuddyer was gracious enough to show off his original Ipad to me in the clubhouse.
Friday afternoon, having returned from a road trip to Baltimore, he was using it to show me pictures he took of Camden Yards (he's a pretty good amateur photographer) and the weather radar. He also watches other games live on MLB.com, and said sometimes his son will ask to watch a West Coast game on the IPad when he's going to sleep.
Just about then, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel came over to Cuddyer's locker to tease him about his inability to hit Fausto Carmona, the Indians' scheduled starter for Friday night.
Cuddyer has made another for-Twins-only t-shirt. It shows the father figure from the movie ``The Incredibles,'' with his lantern jaw, as Jim Thome. The caption reads: ``Jimcredible.''
-The St. Paul Pioneer Press ran a feature on Vikings tackle Bryant McKinnie playing tennis with the Williams sisters. I love it. What could be better for McKinnie than a sport that requires conditioning and footwork? Plus, it shows that he's dedicating himself to improving, even during a lockout. Maybe there's hope for McKinnie after all.
-I've never seen a team as depleted as the current Twins. Think about the caliber of players they're missing right now: Two former MVPs (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer), a Japanese league All-Star (Tsuyoshi Nishioka), one of the best run-producers of 2010 (Delmon Young), an All-Star closer (Joe Nathan, who is effectively without a role right now) and Kevin Slowey, who could have helped this team as a versatile righthander.
They are lucky the White Sox and Tigers have played almost as poorly as the Twins have so far. I still don't see the Indians or Royals lasting long. I did get a chance to chat with Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton, who raved about the influence of Orlando Cabrera on the young Indians.
Cabrera is one of those players who seems to have a greater impact on teams than his statistics and limited range would suggest. The Twins loved him when he helped them win in 2009. He is a highly competitive personality, something the Twins could use right now as they shrug and shiver their way through April.
-Great to see bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek, the longest-tenured coach in Twins' history, back in the cliubhouse on Friday. He missed spring training and the beginning of the season with a series of retina surgeries.
-Kevin Slowey has altered the Twins' plan for his rehab work in Florida. I don't know if I've ever seen a player work harder to alienate everyone in an organization. The Twins regret not trading him this spring when they had the chance.
-Upcoming: I'll be covering the Gophers spring game (or scrimmage, or practice, or whatever) on Saturday, then the Twins' game on Sunday. Tom Pelissero and I will host the Gardenhire Show at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, followed by Sunday Morning Sports Talk from 10-noon. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
Received a number of interesting emails in the wake of our Joe Mauer package in today's paper. (Yes, we still print a newspaper.)
The most interesting came from a reader who noted that a position change wouldn't necessarily keep Mauer off the disabled list. After all, players at positions other than catcher get hurt, too.
While that's true, I'm basing my premise - that Mauer needs to shift positions to be an everyday offensive force - on years spent around Mauer, observing his routine and his habits. I see a guy who invests an incredible amount of time and thought in catching. I see a 6-5, 235-pound man with a long history of leg ailments. I also believe that modern athletes over-train.
While we all make fun of the odd pro athlete who proves to be an irresponsible slacker, most modern athletes are remarkably dedicated. They spent 12 months a year working on their bodies and their jobs. Mauer is such a modern athlete, and I think getting out of the crouch, and spending fewer hours every day, all year, would allow him to fulfill his offensive potential.
Here's a guy (to borrow a phrase from Frank Caliendo mimicking John Madden) who has won three batting titles and an MVP without even concentrating on his offensive capabilities. His current numbers are remindful of Rod Carew's, and I believe that relieved of the burden of catching, Mauer would become one of the greatest average/on-base-percentage hitters in baseball history, and he may even increase his power production.
What's fascinating about all of this is that noone knows. Not Mauer, not the Twins, not his teammates, not us. Noone can predict exactly how his body will react either to continued catching or a position change. But I'd rather see him change positions than continue to be worn down. And, of course, I get into all of this in today's column.
-Congratulations to Kevin Love on winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
He deserves it. What's strange about Love as a phenomenon is that I don't think I've ever encountered a player who is more celebrated nationally than locally. It usually works the other way around.
ESPN loves love. The Dan Patrick Show loves Love. And yet locally, he's more of an oddity than a celebrity.
This is, of course, another example of how far the Wolves have fallen in the public's eyes. If I had told you a few years ago that a white player would win the rebounding title and run off a remarkable string of double-doubles for the Wolves, you would have thought that the guy would be our No. 1 celebrity.
He isn't, and that's because nothing trumps winning in pro sports. I covered Kirby Puckett in his prime, Dave Winfield and Terry Steinbach near the ends of their careers, and Paul Molitor as he pursued 3,000 hits and a berth in the Hall of Fame, and those Twins teams didn't draw, because they didn't win.
Until Love becomes part of a winner, he will remain, locally, more a pleasant oddity than a star.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn today at 2:40 p.m. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Morning Sports Talk on the Target Field plaza at 10 a.m., right after the Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. Feel free to visit, but the woman who pressed her chest against the window is not welcome back.
The elderly man who walked up to our poster and shook his cane at our faces, however, is welcome to come in the booth and join the show.
This weekend, I"m covering the Gopher spring football game, where I believe Gopher fans will induct him into the Hall of Fame, and covering the Twins on Sunday. I know, it's Easter, and my kids are mad at me for working, but it's the first-place Indians!
-Isn't releasing the schedule for an NFL season threatened by a lockout like planning how you're going to spend your lottery winnings?
-Must be something wrong with the Vikes' schedule. Shows only one game in Detroit, no games on Tuesday and none at TCF Bank Stadium.
-Rick Adelman might not be the best possible coach for the Timberwolves, but he'd be an upgrade. Then again, so would Randy Wittman.
David Kahn will have a dozen good candidates to replace Kurt Rambis, including Adelman, Dwane Casey and Sam Mitchell. I'm sure he'll go for name recognition, though, and hire someone like....Kurt Rambis. Or Pee Wee Herman.
-Bunting in the first inning: I'm never in favor, even when it's Matt Tolbert in the 2-hole putting down the bunt. Play for the big inning early in the game. Please.
-Remove frustration from the analysis, and the Twins' slow start isn't that surprising. They had injuries in spring training, they rarely play well against the AL East, they aren't a particularly strong road team, and their home games were against a very good pitching staff (Oakland) and a team you'd rather play later in the season than early, when they still believe in themselves (KC).
-Today's NBA playoff prediction (I'll change this every day for a few months): Oklahoma City over Miami in the finals. (Yesterday, it was LA over Miami in the finals, but the Lakers looked lost in Game 1.)
-60 Minutes did a great piece on Blazers and Seahawks owner Paul Allen, who ripped into Bill Gates in his new book. Allen owns the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock, a massive yacht with its own submarine, and still has dozens of billions in the bank.
And guess what Allen said in the interview: He's still hopeful of meeting someone with whom he can start a family. All those billions, and yet at that moment I felt sorry for him.
-First, my 1500espn radio partner Tom Pelissero said he believes the Vikings are targeting Jake Locker. Now Peter King is agreeing with his mock draft. I don't believe a lot of what I hear about the draft this time of year, but I am starting to believe that Jake Locker will be wearing purple this fall.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 Wednesday. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
So am I happier today than I was all winter because baseball season is beginning?
Or because it's spring and the sun is shining and Minneapolis looks beautiful?
Nice debate to have, after the winter of bad weather and worse sports we had.
To catch up on what's going on around town, as I sit in the Target Field press box waiting for the home opener to start:
Wolves: Yes, Kurt Rambis has to go. It's not his fault that the Wolves are a joke. But it is his fault that a roster that is not devoid of talent played without intelligence or intensity most of the season.
But if Rambis goes, a few other people should go with him. Like, everyone above him in the Wolves' hierarchy.
Wild: I don't know if Todd Richards is a good NHL coach, or whether he will be a good NHL coach in the future. I do know that just two months ago he was pretty impressive. I can't flip from thinking he was a good, young coach to thinking he's deserving of being fired in this amount of time.
I just think the Wild lacks top-end talent and scorers and a productive farm system. Those are things the coach can't control, and things the organization can't change overnight.
Gopher football: Can we wait for Jerry Kill to win one stinkin' game against Macalester or somebody before we get all excited? Please?
I like the guy, but you don't learn anything about a football coach until he has to deal with real games, real game-plans, real problem-solving.
NCAA basketball: It's an ugly sport with a brilliant format.
The Masters: I miss being there. I love covering the tournament. But with Tiger less interesting, I just feel less compelled to spend my entire day watching. I wish that weren't true, but it is.
The Twins: Nishioka's hurt, Hughes rarely stays healthy, and Casilla has not impressed. This will be another year where the Twins try to figure out their middle infield all season.
Here's a fascinating lineup, though: Span, Mauer, Morneau, Young, Kubel, Cuddyer, Thome, Valencia, Casilla. That's with Cuddyer playing second base, where he's taking ground balls today in case he's needed.
You couldn't use that lineup every day, but I'd love to see it.
Mauer is the ideal No. 2 hitter. One thing I hate about traditional managing is the idea that you want a weak, slap-hitter in the two-hole. I want a high on-base percentage guy at No.2, ahead of my sluggers. Mauer will be ideal in that role.
Enjoy the game.
Twitter handle: @Souhanstrib.
This Sunday, the Gardenhire show starts at 9:30 a.m. on 1500espn, followed by Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero and myself. Rick Spielman among guests. Will talk lots of Twins, Vikings draft, Masters, wrap up a few winter sports seasons.
Sunday Morning Sports Talk
Stopping and popping from downtown. Well, OK, downtown Lakeville: -Exchanged emails with Princeton University basketball coach Sydney Johnson, whose team upset Harvard on a last-second shot to make it into the NCAA Tournament. A reader noted that Johnson played two seasons of high school basketball for Moorhead State High School, and Johnson confirmed this in an email, writing: ``
Stopping and popping from downtown. Well, OK, downtown Lakeville:
-Exchanged emails with Princeton University basketball coach Sydney Johnson, whose team upset Harvard on a last-second shot to make it into the NCAA Tournament.
A reader noted that Johnson played two seasons of high school basketball for Moorhead State High School, and Johnson confirmed this in an email, writing: ``
I played two seasons for Chuck Gulsvig at Moorhead High School (my sophomore and junior years in high school). The Moorhead Spuds share the colors of orange and black with the Princeton Tigers...ironic...All the best...’’
Johnson was the Ivy League player of the year in 1997 at Princeton who then had a successful run playing in Italy. He worked as an assistant coach at Georgetown before taking over Princeton.
He became the Princeton coach at 32 and four years later remains the youngest coach in the Ivy League.
He took over a struggling program. His records as a head coach: 6-23, 13-14, 22-9, 25-6.
Johnson gives us one more promising semi-local basketball personality to watch during the tourney. Princeton faces Kentucky in Tampa on Thursday.
Received a tremendous amount of response from my Gophers athletic department column today.
I always get a voluminous response from readers. What’s amazing to me is that every time I write about the Gophers, I hear from so many former players and employees at the U who are fed up with the way the place is being run.
In addition to the decline of the revenue sports, which is detailed in the column, Maturi also presides over the mess that is the golf program, thanks to his hiring of John Harris and Harris’ treatment of associate women’s coach Katie Brenny.
I’ve never seen such a mess. And I cover the Timberwolves.
So now we’re nearing the end of another long Timberwolves season. Let’s check in on David Kahn’s pet projects:
1. Darko Mlicic. He may be a relative bargain for a skilled big man, but how much does he actually produce? Not enough. And does anyone think this man’s heart is in it, or ever will be in it? Can you see him actually caring enough to be a key player on a good team? Didn’t think so.
2. Anthony Randolph. Talented. Intriguing. And I’ll ask the same questions of him that I just asked about Darko.
3. Michael Beasley. Worth what he cost in the trade, a wonderful scorer, but...I’ll ask the same questions of him that I just asked about Mlicic and Randolph.
4. Kevin Love. Obviously, keeping him was wise. He doesn’t play much defense, but he is remarkably skilled and productive. So...why couldn’t Love, who plays facing the basket and loves to crash the boards, play alongside low-post scorer Al Jefferson? I’ve had some outstanding basketball thinkers tell me there is no reason they couldn’t co-exist.
5. Ricky Rubio. Who you gonna believe about his willingness to play in Minnesota, all those Spanish reporters and sources, Rubio himself (who seems less enthusiastic about this prospect every day) or Mr. Kahn?
6. Jonny Flynn. Steph Curry would be the Wolves’ best point guard as well as their missing shooting guard.
7. Wes Johnson. Wes could develop into a nice player. I continue to say DeMarcus Cousins, with his franchise-player potential, was worth the risk.
There is no doubt that Kahn has upgraded this team’s physical ability. But how many winning basketball players has he accumulated?
Yes, Adrian Peterson compared millionaire players to slavery. It was a stupid thing to say. He should avoid doing interviews until the season begins and then he should speak only on football.
But my impression of him, after having been around him for years, is that Peterson is a quality guy. It’s always dangerous for writers to praise athletes, because we rarely know them all that well, but my sense of Peterson is that he’s a good-hearted, standup guy.
So while he certainly said something stupid, I don’t think what he said is a reflection of who he is.
I picked Kansas to win it all, which is strange, because I don’t think Kansas is going to win it all. But I think it’s such a watered-down field that I couldn’t find anyone in the bracket I think is going to beat Kansas head-to-head. So I’m stuck with my arch-rivals (I attended Missouri.)
Working on a piece on St. Thomas basketball and longtime coach Steve Fritz, a great guy who has his athletic department rolling, thanks to his coaching and his hiring of Glenn Caruso as football coach. Also planning to cover the Wild on Saturday.
Putting together the Sunday Morning Sports Talk show for 1500espn. We’ll start at 9:30 a.m. Sunday with the first Ron Gardenhire show, followed by the big show with co-host Tom Pelissero.
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