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 Gophers players

Today's LPR

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 2, 2011 - 9:30 AM

Today's LPR, my Local Power Rankings of revenue sports, sees little change. For good reason.

1. Minnesota Wild

While most local sports fans were reveling in the Gopher basketball team beating a mediocre, unranked opponent at home, the most impressive victory on Wednesday night was the Wild coming back from a 2-0 deficit in Edmonton to win in a shootout.

Now the Wild needs to survive a stretch of the schedule in which 20 of its 29 games are on the road. They won't have the best record in the West at the end of that stretch, but if they can remain in the middle of the playoff pack, they'll be set up well for the stretch run.

Mike Yeo has got to be the coach of the year in the NHL right now, and Chuck Fletcher has to be among the leading candidates for executive of the year, given that his trades improved the Wild's prospects for the future as well as improved the team this year.

2. Golden Gopher hockey

Time for this team to prove it's not going to fade away like so many other Lucia products. They've proven they have plenty of talent; now they have to show some grit.

3. Golden Gopher basketball

Nice win on Wednesday, but the level of cheerleading among local media members is a bit embarrassing. It's our job to put things into context, not do backflips over every victory. Yes, there were positives, like Julian Welch playing well at the point and Elliott Eliason showing great court-sense, and Rodney Williams looking comfortable at power forward.

Here's the proper context, though: Tubby Smith has beaten highly-ranked teams from Louisville and North Carolina during the non-conference schedule during his tenure at Minnesota, and those victories did not catapult his team to great heights. Beating Virginia Tech at home doesn't prove a whole lot more than this team can beat Virginia Tech at home.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

I don't like to see arena workers losing paychecks, so I can't be thrilled that the NBA went through a lockout and will play a shortened season. But from a selfish standpoint, this is perfect. Early-season NBA games can be horrid and meaningless. Now we get a 66-game season that will really get rolling right about the time football wraps up, and any winning streak the Wolves can muster could actually make a difference in the standings.

I'm most intrigued not by Ricky Rubio, but by how Rick Adelman will coach a bunch of players with a certain amount of skill but no real idea of how to play the game.

5. Minnesota Twins

Terry Ryan, Wayne Krivsky and Gene Glynn are all good hires, and Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit were good, subtle, acquisitions. But the pitching staff is a mess, and without Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel the outfield will be, too.

I'm highly intrigued to see if Ryan make a bold move or merely hopes for improvement within the current roster.

6. Golden Gopher football

They haven't lost in, like, two weeks. Is that some sort of record?

7. Minnesota Vikings

I wrote about Leslie Frazier and the Vikings' front office for the Sunday paper. If you really care about this team, all you should be hoping for now is positive developments in the stadium chase, a healthy end of the season for players like Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, and the highest-possible draft pick.

In other words, lose, baby, lose.

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A follow-up to my column today on the ills of high-profile college coaching: I prefer pro sports to college sports. Pro sports are inherently honest. You win or you get fired. You produce or you get cut. No one is pretending to be Mother Teresa. I admire high school and small-college coaches who obviously aren't in it for the money, who actually do have a positive effect on their kids and sometimes their communities.

Only in large-revenue college athletics do you have the disconnect of rich, domineering coaches who, when they lose, want to tell you that they're molders of young men. Only in large-revenue college athletics on insular campuses could men like Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine be able to use the auspices of a program to lure victims, and not get caught.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today for my regular appearance on Reusse & Mackey, then I'm filling in for Joe Soucheray on Garage Logic on the same station from 3-6. I'll also be on Tom Pelissero's show at about 6:15.

My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

Enjoy the weekend.

 

Catching up on rest of sports world

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: November 15, 2011 - 12:32 PM

The Wolves really are cursed. They finally inspire hope with the hiring of Rick Adelman, and now they might not have a season.

My knee-jerk, Twitter-enabled reaction to the NBA players union shunning the owner's latest offer was that the players are being foolish. They're giving up huge money that they'll never make back while fighting over terms many of them don't even understand. (I'm not insulting their intelligence; I don't understand most of these deep financial negotiations, either.)

But I should be more even-handed. The owners are just as much to blame as the players. They were on the verge of a great deal for them, and by trying to wring the last dime and concession out of the players that they could, they did the worst thing they possibly could have done: They pushed the players into shutting down negotiations and lawyering up.

Whether it's divorce or sports negotiations, it's never a good sign when one or both sides invest heavily in power lawyers. Because power lawyers aren't there to get a fair deal. They're there to prove their worth by crushing the opponent. They're there to rack up billable hours.

I could still see a deal getting done in the next three weeks, could see the owners realizing they pushed too far and working to save the season with a reasonable deal. But now it's a long-shot, and David Stern is just as much to blame as the players.

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It's nice that the Gophers basketball team keeps beating overmatched opponents, but the measure of a Tubby Smith Minnesota team is whether they can win a close game against a decent Big Ten team by running a real offense in crunch time. Until I see that, I'm not going to be impressed.

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If you enjoyed watching the Lynx, like women's basketball or just like to watch a talented athlete of any gender or age develop, I recommend watching the Gopher women and freshman point guard Rachel Banham.

She's a dynamnic ballhandler who can shoot, finish and set up here teammates. She's the most talented player the Gophers have had since Lindsay Whalen left.

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With the NBA locked out and the football teams stinking it up, we're pretty close to becoming a hockey town. (Or hockey cities.)

What's encouraging about the local hockey teams is that the Gophers look like they're much tougher physically and mentally than they've been in years. They don't wimp out around the net or in the corners, and they bounced back from a tough loss at Wisconsin with an impressive victory.

And while it's always risky to jump to conclusions at any point of the long NHL season, it appears Mike Yeo has the presence of a winning coach. It's funny, too, that the way they're playing now reminds you a lot of the way Wild played under Lemaire - responsible defensively, and making the most of the few goals they score.

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You are entitled to be underwhelmed by the Twins' signing of shortstop Jamey Carroll, but this is the kind of reasonable, subtle, important move that the Twins need to make.

No matter what their payroll, they're not going to outspend big-market teams for premier talent. They have to use their money wisely, and Carroll, while limited, is a great upgrade over everyone who played shortstop for the Twins last year.

Now the Twins need to sign someone who can either catch 140 games if needed, or can move around the diamond and sub at catcher for Joe Mauer.

If only Trevor Plouffe could catch....

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Aaron Rodgers is so good that, for the first time since I started writing about the NFL in 1989, I'm startled when a pass falls incomplete.

He completed 23 of 30 passes on Monday night. The web site Profootballfocus.com reported that of the 27 passes he tried to complete (wasn't spiking or throwing away), he completed 23, and his receivers dropped three of his four incompletions.

I know a lot of Minnesotans love to hate the Pack, but I like watching greatness no matter what color it wears. This is greatness.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today with Reusse and Mackey. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. 

Wrapping up the weekend in sports

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 25, 2011 - 6:35 PM
BLOG…
Congratulations to the Lynx for winning the Western Conference Finals. This sets up a big basketball week for me despite the lockout – I’ll be covering the Lynx in the WNBA finals, and Rick Adelman’s introductory press conference.
It’s nice to be able to say this about Glen Taylor’s operation without a hint of sarcasm: This is a great time to be a basketball fan in Minneapolis, even with a lockout.
On to the Vikings’ latest collapse. My column in the Monday paper will deal with the Vikings’ quarterback situation. Right now I’ll deal with the decision to try for a first down on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17 with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings led, 20-17, at that point. They hadn’t scored in the second half. The field goal unit ran onto the field, then was waved off. Donovan McNabb handed the ball to Toby Gerhart, who was lined up as a fullback ahead of Adrian Peterson, and Gerhart was stopped.
There are a number of problems with this sequence. Wouldn’t you rather give the ball to the NFL’s best running back? Yes. Of course.
But the first second-guess is the best second-guess in this case. The Vikings should have kicked the field goal. (And, by the way, I believe in first-guessing. So you can go back and see on my Twitter timeline that I said, before the play, that I’d kick the field goal.)
Even with Peterson carrying the ball, here’s the problem with going for it on fourth-and-1 from the 17: Even if you make the first down, you aren’t guaranteed an eventual touchdown. Odds are, you’d just wind up kicking a field goal, anyway. And you could turn the ball over, or take a sack, or get penalized, and wind up farther back than you started.
Kick the field goal, and the Lions have to score a touchdown to beat you. The Lions didn’t score a touchdown the rest of the way, winning the game with two field goals in regulation and one in overtime.
But if you’re going to go for it on fourth down, wouldn’t you want Jimmy Kleinsasser leading Adrian Peterson? Don’t you want your best player making the deciding play?
Lost in the loss is the outstanding play of the Vikings’ defensive ends, Jared Allen and Brian Robison. They dominated the line of scrimmage.
Both came into the season facing questions. Allen started slowly last year. Robison is considered undersized, and I wondered whether he’d hold up over the course of a game. Both have been excellent and relentless.
That’s the troublesome part of the Vikings’ struggles: They have a lot of admirable veterans who are seeing their last good year(s) wasted because the Vikings can’t get decent play out of the quarterback position.
I don’t doubt the effort or will of many of the Vikings’ veterans - Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Allen, Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Steve Hutchinson. But the NFL is not about willpower; it’s about coaching, design, and offensive skill players. Discovered this stat as I was researching my Monday column: As offenses explode all around the NFL, the Vikings and McNabb have produced just one pass play longer than 24 yards. It was a screen pass that Toby Gerhart carried 42 yards.
That’s pathetic.               
Gophers football coach Jerry Kill is having more health problems.
I mean this seriously: He should take off the rest of the season. He needs to get control of his health. He also needs to understand that nobody ever wants to see him writhing on the sideline again.
His health issues aside, the Gophers have lost to New Mexico State and North Dakota State at home. Kill and his staff deserve blame, especially for their handling of the quarterback position. I’ll also blame Tim Brewster. He was supposed to be a great recruiter, yet the Gophers do not have better athletes than New Mexico State and North Dakota State. And their best athlete, MarQueis Gray, is playing out of position.
Max Shortell hasn’t won the starting quarterback job, but Gray has lost it. Start Shortell, start developing him, and put Gray at a position where he can help this team – slot receiver. You’d be improving two positions at once.
 
 
 

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.

 

Torii, Mauer and Sam

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 2, 2011 - 10:34 PM
So I’m talking with former Twin Torii Hunter in the Angels’ clubhouse on Friday afternoon, and he starts talking about how he insisted on staying in the lineup early this season even though his quadriceps muscle was killing him, and killing his stats.
Hunter kept saying that he felt he owed it to his team to play. ``I’m making $18 million, I’ve got to be out there,’’ he said.
About three hours later, a guy making $23 million decided he didn’t need to be out there. Joe Mauer begged out of the lineup with what the Twins described as an upper respiratory infection.
As someone who grew up on Sudafed, let me tell you what an upper respiratory infection is. It’s a cold.
It doesn’t shock me that a professional athlete is soft. It does shock me that someone who is as important to his team and as sensitive to criticism as Mauer is would put himself in position to take this much heat.
If you were Mauer, wouldn’t you play, rather than subject yourself to more bashing?
It is very difficult to mention Mauer’s name to anyone in the Twins’ organization these days without seeing them roll their eyes.

 

-My full column on Hunter's retirement plans and view of the Twins is in the Saturday paper and on the website.

I know I’m in the minority here, I know everyone else in town believes that Rick Adelman will either get the Wolves’ coaching job or least get an offer, but the more I talk to people, the more I think that Sam Mitchell may get the job.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that the Wolves fired assistant GM Tony Ronzone. That move dovetails with what I’ve been hearing, that Ronzone was a disruptive force within the organization.
So let’s see, David Kahn made two big hires in his first two years on the job: Ronzone and Kurt Rambis. Now both are gone, and Kahn has yet to pull the trigger on his next coaching hire.
Could this be a sign that owner Glen Taylor is asserting his authority within the organization? If so, Mitchell has a real shot at the job.
Before he hired Kahn, Taylor was known for his loyalty to people he liked, with Kevin McHale being the prime example. Of all the coaching candidates, only one – Mitchell – has a preexisting relationship with Taylor.
Taylor likes being courtside. He likes being on the inside. Mitchell is smart and charming enough to make Taylor enjoy being an owner again.
If you were losing this much money on your team and you were an elderly billionaire, wouldn’t you want to at least enjoy hanging around the team?
While Adelman is an excellent coach, he butted heads with management in Houston, just as Don Nelson did everywhere he went. Does Taylor really want to deal with that at this point?
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As I’m talking with Torii, a guy brings over his paycheck. Torii hands it to a rookie sitting next to him. ``I always let the young guys open my paychecks,’’ Hunter said. ``It motivates them.’’
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Great piece by my friend Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register on the price paid by hockey enforcers: http://tinyurl.com/3t2chqq
I’ll be at the Gopher football game at USC tomorrow, then back to wrap up the Twins’ series in Anaheim on Sunday.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

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