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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Let's be honest. I don't know if Christian Ponder is going to be a star or a bust. You don't know, either. The Vikings' braintrust, which invested countless hours dissecting his film and background and interviewing him and his coaches, don't really know, either.
But if you stop worrying about where draft experts had him ranked, he has a lot going for him.
According to consensus and statistics, he's:
-Personable. (Personality matters for quarterbacks; they have to be leaders.)
-Accurate (he completed 69 percent of his passes as a junior, and 62 percent as a senior.)
The biggest knock on him seems to be durability, but the Vikings say they thought he displayed toughness in trying to play through his injuries.
My column, in the Friday paper, makes this point: We don't know how good this kid is, but if he can play, we are about to be treated to the best drama in sports: The nurturing of a young quarterback.
For now, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to Rick Spielman and Leslie Frazier. I think Frazier knows what makes an NFL player tick, and Spielman is a tireless worker. I think they feel they landed a guy with great strengths and no glaring weaknesses.
I'll say this: I'm much more interested in this team today than I was yesterday.
-Congratulations to Michael Cuddyer for ripping into his teammates today. Somebody had to say it.
I think this will be Cuddyer's last season in Minnesota - he'll be a free agent and is not likely to want to take the kind of pay cut necessary to keep him here - and I'll miss him. He's honest, team-oriented, selfless and has a sense of humor. And he's responsible and accountable. A few of his teammates should take note.
-Joe Mauer wants to remain a catcher? Then he needs to prove he can recover from injuries and stay behind the plate. At some point, the Twins may have to remind him that he's the employee, not the employer.
-I know, I know, the Twins stink right now. They're a rather pathetic group.
Let me just remind you how lousy a team can look and still win something, though. In April of 2006, the Twins were swept by Cleveland early in the season by a combined 17-8. Then they were swept by Chicago by a combined 23-6. Then they were swept by Detroit by a combined 33-1.
That team, of course, won 96 games.
That's not a prediction of future success, merely a reminder that past failures haven't always been terrible omens.
-Ralph Sampson is declaring for the NBA draft?
Then I'm declaring that I'm about to win $1 billion dollars.
-While other NBA teams conduct their coaching searches, the Wolves...are...still...thinking...about...it...very...slowly...so...as...to...create...the...illusion...of...thoughful...ness.
-Upcoming: I'm outta here. Taking my first real adult vacation in a long, long time. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 tomorrow, then going on a cruise. Tom Pelissero will conduct the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk along with my Strib colleague Judd Zulgad. I'm guessing they might talk about the draft.
I'll be back the following Sunday.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I may tweet from the beach; I may not, but this is a good time to thank y'all for reading, and listening.
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.
I'd like to congratulate Zygi Wilf and the Vikings' ownership team for telling Vikings employees that they won't suffer financially if there is a lockout.
I thought one of the most embarrassing moments in Twins history occured when billionaire owner Carl Pohlad laid off or dismissed employees during the 1994-1995 work stoppage.
Bilionaire owners in billion-dollar industries shouldn't sacrifice five-figure employees during tough times. Most sports employees work ridiculous hours for relatively low pay. They shouldn't take the brunt of economic downturns.
-I can't tell if it's the sunshine or the good company down here, but I just can't get too worked up about the Twins' most notable injuries. And I'm not talking about Michael Cuddyer's mystery wart.
My information is that Justin Morneau is fine, in a medical sense, and only needs to become comfortable with playing baseball and facing live pitching again. I predict he'll be in the opening day lineup.
Joe Mauer getting shots in his surgically-repaired knee doesn't concern me, because Nick Blackburn, who has undergone similar procedures, say the shots work wonders. Also, while I don't expect Mauer to miss any time in April, the last time he did miss time in April, he won the MVP award.
As for Joe Nathan, he's throwing harder coming off Tommy John surgery than he ever has before at this juncture of spring training. If you want to be concerned about an injury, worry that Nathan is such a hard worker that he might not know how to take it easy when he should.
-The Wild continues to be my favorite Minnesota winter sports team. While the Wolves embarrass themselves and the Gopher basketball team underachieves, the Wild are overachieving, given their talent level and injuries. I don't know if Todd Richards is a brilliant tactician, but his guys play for him, which is more important.
-My hockey people tell me that while the Gopher hockey team has been underwhelming for much of this season, this is a team that could surprise in the postseason. Kent Patterson gives them stable goaltending, and a group of young, talented players seems to be getting better as the season progresses.
That would be a great sign for Don Lucia and his program, if his team could actually overachieve for the first time in years.
-Upcoming: I'll run Sunday Sports Talk from the press box in Fort Myers, starting 10 a.m. on Sunday. Partner Tom Pelissero will be in Indianapolis at the NFL scouting combine. We hope to have on Twins' general manager Bill Smith and 1500espn Timberwolves writer Dana Wessel, and we'll hit the Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Gophers basketball and Wild. And maybe even NASCAR. Or maybe not.
I've done some homework on the possibility of the Twins trading ace Francisco Liriano, or signing him to a long-term deal.
After talking to a few people, I believe that the Twins have no intention of trading Liriano - or signing him to a long-term deal.
Liriano will start the season with the Twins. The only way they'd trade him this season is if they fall out of contention and a contender makes a great offer for him.
The fact that they had trouble even agreeing on a one-year deal for Liriano this year is one of the many indications that the Twins aren't going to give him big money long-term, at least not right now.
The Twins are over budget, so if Kyle Gibson continues to impress and the other starters stay healthy this spring, they could deal one of their righthanders - Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn or Kevin Slowey - before the end of spring. My guess would be Slowey going to a National League team.
-If Twins manager Ron Gardenhire hadn't casually mentioned that Joe Mauer was getting a shot to lubricate his surgically-repaired knee, we may not have ever found out about it.
Mauer hates talking about his injuries, and has been remarkably successful, in an era when most sports news breaks with minutes, at downplaying his ailments.
But Gardenhire did mention that Mauer received a shot in his knee and on Wednesday morning Mauer confirmed that he will receive a series of four shots.
I don't think there is any reason to be alarmed in terms of this season. Remember, the year Mauer missed all of April because of a back injury, he went on to win the MVP. I think keeping him from behind the plate in spring training is a good idea.
Long-term, this is the latest sign that a 6-5, 230-pound catcher may not last forever at the position. While he needs to play catcher to help justify his $23-million a year salary, I highly doubt that his knees will last too many years at the position.
Michael Cuddyer is likely in his last season as a Twin. Jim Thome could be gone after this season. (He told me the other morning, ``I know this doesn't go on forever.'' The Twins will have to make a decision on Jason Kubel after this season. And Delmon Young is a volatile stock - he could become an All-Star...or relegate himself to DH duties if he has another poor season in the field. And none of this even considers the possibility of further problems for Justin Morneau.
So there will be openings for Mauer to play in the field if he has to shift from catcher in the next few years. I don't see it happening in the next two seasons, but at some point, those knees are going to get tired of squatting beneath all that weight.
-Gotta love David Kahn. After trading for Anthony Randolph, he explains that the Wolves need Randolph to match up with Western Conference power forwards like Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin.
Because, you know, when it's the seventh game of the Western Conference finals, that Randolph-Gasol matchup could be vital.
My god. Kahn's brain may be headed to the Western Conference finals, but the team he put together is putting together the most embarrassing season in the history of a frequently-embarrassed franchise.
Pau Gasol will be long gone by the time the Wolves have to worry about matching up with the Lakers in a big game. And by gone, I mean he may have perished due to natural causes.
-Another stunningly beautiful morning here at Hammond Stadium. The weather in Fort Myers has been incredible. Not trying to make you jealous, just expressing my appreciation for spring training. This is quite a gig.
-As I tweeted last night, Sunday Sports Talk generated huge ratings the last couple of books. Thanks to everyone who listens. This Sunday, partner Tom Pelissero will be in Indy at the NFL combine and I'll be in the press box at Hammond Stadium. The show is 10-noon, and we'll have at least one Twins guest, and probably an NFL figure or expert.
-Because we couldn't get the games on TV last night at the Star Tribune rental house in Fort Myers, I was following them on GameCast with La Velle. Late in each game, here was my best guess:
-The Gophers would blow the lead.
-The Wild would gut out a victory.
-The Wolves would play a lousy fourth quarter and lose.
Now, I'm wrong a lot. Anyone who makes predictions and frequently states opinions is going to be wrong a lot. But these were pretty easy.
-My twitter name is Souhanstrib. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today with Phil Mackey and Patrick Reusse.
Again, thanks for listening, and reading.
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