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 The Big 10

Slowey. Really?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 4, 2011 - 6:54 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

A Monday SORT from Upstate New York

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 25, 2011 - 1:11 PM

Today's deep question: Should one game in July dramatically affect a big-league baseball front office's approach, or philosophy?

One baseball game in July shouldn't be so dramatic, but this one might have been.

Had the Twins beaten the Tigers on Sunday, they would have reduced the division lead to five games entering a tough stretch of schedule. With their roster getting healthier, their front office could have justified trading assets to help this group try to make a run.

A loss leaves the Twins seven games behind the Tigers, and in fourth place. The website Coolstandings.com gives the Twins a 2.1 percent chance of making the playoffs.

I completely disagree with the vocal fans who have argued that the Twins should sell rather than buy because this team might not be capable of making a run in the playoffs if it is able to qualify. That's defeatism. Baseball postseasons are too unpredictable for any franchise to sacrifice the opportunity to win it all.
 

But if the Twins continue to flail this week, as the July 31 trading deadline approaches, selling might be a nod to realism, not an act of defeatism.

I've been arguing for a month that the Twins owe it to the fans who fill their ballpark and the taxpayers of Hennepin County to try to win when they are positioned to do so. If they were five or fewer games out, that would continue to be my argument.

Buf if they're seven or more games out as the weekend approaches, should they really trade prospects when facing such long odds?

Probably not.

So I would recommend that the Twins make a deal something like the one they made for Matt Capps last year. No, I'm not advocating giving away another top prospect. I'm saying that the Twins' lack of bullpen depth will be a problem again next season, so if they can make an intelligent deal for a reliever who would remain under their control for next season, then I say make a deal.

But the team will have to close the gap on the division leaders to justify a win-it-this-year kind of trade. Sunday's loss makes that kind of a deal less likely, especially when we know that Detroit, the best team in the division, is likely to add help for the stretch run.

-So the Big Ten writers voted, and they rank the Gophers as the worst team in whatever their division is called these days. Does this mean that Sid didn't have a vote?

Honestly, the best thing that could happen to Jerry Kill would be the continuing downplaying of expectations.

At least Tim Brewster finally fulfilled his promise to Gophers fans. He filled TCF Bank Stadium. All it took for him to do that was the arrival of U2.

-Spoke with Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer after his partner, Bert Blyleven's, induction speech on Sunday in Cooperstown.

``I'm honored that he mentioned me,'' Bremer said. ``But I think he got the order wrong. He mentioned God and his family before me.''

Yes, Bremer was joking. He also said: ``I thought he did a wonderful job with that speech. I know how worked-up he was about it, and I know how nervous he was, and I thought he really pulled it off. I'm very happy for him.''

It will be interesting to see if Blyleven, with all of the earning opportunities available to Hall of Famers, will keep his gig as a full-time broadcaster after this season. With John Gordon retiring, I could see the Twins reconfiguring both their radio and TV booths, and there are all kinds of candidates positioning themselves for those gigs.

-The more I look at the Vikings roster, the more I see a team that will need Christian Ponder to be an instant star if it's going to be good. And there is so much we don't know about Ponder at this point.

We had him as a guest on Sunday Morning Sports Talk yesterday, and he sounded poised and bright, just as advertised. But he is facing a tough job here, trying to take over a veteran team without offseason workouts. I still think the Vikings are caught between being a veteran team that feels the need to win now, and a team that needs to work to fill holes and replace older veterans. If Leslie Frazier can win in his first year, he'll deserve some consideration for coach of the year. (At least, that's the way it looks to me before anyone puts on a pad.)

-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today to speak with Mackey and Reusse.

 

 

The great debate (for today): Blame Delmon, or blame the bats?

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: June 8, 2011 - 7:57 AM

Picked up on this debate on Twitter last night: Should we blame Delmon Young's error or the Twins' bats for their 1-0 loss at Cleveland?

Both are culpable, of course. But while all teams and hitters will have a bad night, and sometimes will simply be overmatched by a good or hot pitcher, all Major League leftfielders should be capable (and interested in) bending over to pick up a bouncing baseball.

I saw someone defend Young because he smashed a double. That is missing the point.

A year after generating hope that he could become an MVP-type player, Young has been an embarrassment this season. He's played horribly in the field and has produced a stat line that would make Matt Tolbert giggle.

I'm not a big fan of the stat OPS for precise measurement of offensive capability, but it does provide a good snapshot into a player's performance.

Consider these OPS totals:

Alexi Casilla: .653

Rene Rivera: .620.

Matt Tolbert: .578.

Delmon Young: .534.

The Twins are getting no offensive production out of a player whose fielding has suggested that he can be valuable only if he is an exceptional offensive player. If you're determined to prove via your fielding that you are nothing but a designated hitter, you might want to get a few hits.

The biggest, strongest Twin now has six extra-base hits in 151 at-bats.

At this point, my chosen outfield for the 2012 Twins would be Ben Revere in left, Denard Span in center and Jason Kubel in right, with the hope that Joe Benson makes a push to be a contributor or the first player called up in case of injury.

Now the Twins have to hope Young can at least play well enough to bring value in a trade.

And while he's here, Young should at least be moved to leftfield. He has a strong arm and limited range. That would make him a perfect fit for right field at Target Field.

-A new report alleges that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor made $40,000 autographing memorabilia. I hope he saved some of the money.

Pryor is skipping his senior year at OSU to enter the draft. His problem is, he's not a very good quarterback, and he won't be a good pro quarterback, and he's not gifted enough to make a living at another position.

I don't blame college athletes for wanting to make a little money while they're generating tens of millions of dollars for their schools. I just hope for Pryor's sake he has positioned himself to make a living outside of football.

-It's interesting that the Golden State Warriors hired Mark Jackson shortly after hiring Jerry West as a consultant. When Jackson was a Wolves' candidate, I kept hearing from my NBA people that Jackson had a terrible reputation as a selfish player and clubhouse lawyer, and that the Wolves were lucky they didn't hire him.

Now Jackson will take over a skilled team that plays almost no defense. Is he really the right man to fix that problem? I tend to doubt it.

-It's fascinating that lame-duck Wolves coach Kurt Rambis is now trying to publicly position himself to return, considering the disdain with which he treated everyone in or near the Wolves organization last year.

If he comes back, I hope he does so with some class. I've had more than a few people in the Wolves' organization tell me that he is the worst, most arrogant guy with whom they've ever worked. I don't think he coached well enough to deserve to return, but there has to be a good basketball brain hidden somewhere behind all that unearned smugness. Who knows? Maybe coming close to getting fired would be enough to jolt him into the right mindset for coaching a young team.

I'd still rather see Dwane Casey or Sam Mitchell running this team.

-I covered the Lynx home opener on Sunday, and I thought it was a good time. The atmosphere felt different than most sporting events, and I kept trying to figure out exactly what was different.

Then it hit me: I didn't sense any anger from the stands. Usually when you attend a pro sporting, or a major-college revenue sporting event, there is an undercurrent of angst and anger. Particularly at basketball games, you hear fans cursing the refs and opponents.

The people at the Lynx game just seemed happy to be there, happy to support their team. The Lynx players seemed unified and gregarious.

I think this is going to be a really good team, and while most people in my business mock the Lynx and the WNBA, I would love to see them make a run at a championship and give us all reason to pay more attention.

-LeBron James remains a mystery. He's the best player in the game in part because of his unselfishness and passing ability, but it is so strange to see the best player in the game content to let other people dominate the ball at the end of close games.

James was incredibly passive last night, and that's one big reason why the Mavs won Game 4. I'm still picking the Heat in seven games, but if the Heat had played with a little more intelligent and and intensity at the end of Games 2 and 4, it might already be over.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, as long as the Twins' game ends in time. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Tom Pelissero and I are starting to make plans for Sunday Morning Sports Talk, 10-noon on 1500espn. We'll run the show from the St. Thomas Mobile Press Box outside Target Field.

 

Post-Memorial Day SORT

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: May 31, 2011 - 10:39 AM

-I kept telling people ``Happy Memorial Day'' yesterday, then finally realized that doesn't sound quite right. My father was a vet, and I've read a lot of military history, and I'm not sure anyone who hasn't fought can comprehend just how horrific war is.

My father never even wanted to talk about it, and his silence told an awful story.

Now, on to the silliness of the sports world...

-Delmon Young update: The biggest, strongest man on the Twins' roster, the guy who produced 112 RBI and 68 extra-base hits last year, has four extra-base hits in 119 at-bats this season.

It's sad, really. The guy has so much power, such great hands, such great potential. He showed up at spring training with massive arms, and the Twins' internal fear was that he would become a DH - a power hitter with no interest in playing the field.

Turns out, that was the best-case scenario. Now he's a poor fielder who has trouble hitting the ball out of the infield.

This is a product of stubbornness. All he has to do is look back at how he hit last year, and he could break out of this. And he will, eventually, break out of this. But this is the latest reason for the Twins not to give him a long-term contract. You don't know what you're getting month to month or year to year.

All players slump. But a player as talented as Young shouldn't slump this badly for this long.

Speaking with Roy Smalley earlier this season, and again two Sundays ago on my radio show, he broke down Young's swing brilliantly. (Smalley's the best.) Young has too much weight on his front foot, leaving him to hit with only his hands, like a hacker with a reverse-pivot golf swing.

Again, it's sad, because this guy could be a perennial All-Star.

-ESPN's Ric Bucher points out that Rick Carlisle and Eric Spoelstra were both under fire earlier this season. Now they're in the NBA Finals.

-Jim Tressel getting fired reminds us that Glen Mason had a chance at the job. That choice reminds us of the challenge of being a college administrator. They could choose Tressel, a dominant coach followed by whispers of impropriety, or Mason, a good coach who was thought to be absolutely clean.

Ohio State took the high-risk, high-reward choice, and was rewarded...and ultimately punished.

I'll say this: Two of the last three Gophers coaches - Mason and now Jerry Kill - have pristine reputations when it comes to recruiting.

-My buddy Tim Kawakami, A San Jose Mercury News columnist, is an excellent NBA analyst, and he's picking the Heat in five games over Dallas.

He points out that teams with an advantage in point-differential, field-goal percentage differential and overall rebounding percentage are 5-0 over the last 10 years.

The Heat holds advantages in all three categories over Dallas.

You can find Tim's analysis here: 

-So Winnipeg gets a team. How long until the city opens a Michael Russo Marriott downtown?

-My take on the controversial play in the Twins' game yesterday: Yes, the umps got it wrong. The runner should have been placed on third base. But would it have hurt Young to throw the ball in quickly, to demonstrate that the runner was a long way from scoring?

Why throw your hands in the air and leave it up to the umps to make a judgement call?

-Happy Ricky Rubio day.

Just so we're clear on this: I would love it if the Timberwolves became competitive. I'd love it if Rubio became a star, along with Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley.

My fear, though, is that Rubio's lack of shooting ability and quickness will doom him in the NBA game. I could see him becoming a useful player, but the Wolves need him to be a transformational player.

Good luck with that.

Star Trib Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda makes it sound as if the Wolves could and probably will sign Rubio to some kind of futures contract that would bring him to Minnesota by next year.

If so Rubio ,will enter a league filled with dynamic point guards.  Even at his best, can he be a top-10 point guard in this NBA?

I hope so. But I doubt it.

-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today.

Looks like a long, nasty night at Target Field

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 22, 2011 - 5:54 PM

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.

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