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

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.

---------------------------------------------

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.

Catching up on all the news

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: July 29, 2011 - 10:06 AM

Rapid-fire reactions to some of hte biggest stories in local sports:

-I'm not thrilled by the arrival of Donovan McNabb; neither am I disgusted or concerned. Look at McNabb's track record, and talk to NFL people about his legendary off-season workouts, and I have to believe he'll bounce back to being a pretty good quarterback this year, if healthy.

He's talented, experienced and motivated to prove that last year was a fluke. For what the Vikings need, and what they gave up for him, his acquisition makes sense. Christian Ponder shouldn't be thrown into the starting job under these circumstances.

-The departure of Sidney Rice hurts the Vikings' chances of winning this year, but, when it comes to long-term contracts, I always say that the key factor is trust, not talent.

Do you trust Sidney Rice to stay healthy. to play with pain, to be productive year-in and year-out? He's capable of doing so. I just don't trust him to do so. So while his departure has to sting the Vikings, they may benefit, long-term, by not being stuck with him making huge money.

-I would not trade Denard Span to the Nationals for a relief pitcher. Now, I defended the Twins' trade of Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps last year because of unique circumstances. The Twins looked like they were one bullpen arm away from winning the division and perhaps making a playoff run. Ramos was blocked by Mauer, who had yet to be stricken by bi-lateral-post-concussion-schizophrenia-disorder. Some Twins officials were not nearly as high on Ramos as people who don't watch him play every day.

It was the wrong kind of deal - an every day player at a key position for a reliever - but I understood it.

This one, I would not understand, unless the Twins are getting more than a reliever out of the deal.

What makes Span intriguing to the Nationals - that he's a high-on-base leadoff hitter who is also a pretty good centerfielder and a reliable human - is exactly what should make the Twins intent on keeping him. Span is signed to a reasonable contract through 2015.

With the Twins seven games under .500, in fourth place and six games out of first on July  29, I'd like to see them trade their veterans and re-stock for next season. But Span shouldn't be on the way out; he should be one of the few players the Twins are counting on for next season.

-David Kahn has interviewed a fascinating array of coaching candidates. My quick take:

-Rick Adelman would be a slam-dunk winner. If Kahn can land him, he should, regardless of price.

-Don Nelson would fit Kahn's running philosophy and make the Wolves much better and much more entertaining immediately. I don't think he'd last long, but he'd give people reason to buy tickets next year.

-Larry Brown is old, stuck in his ways, hard on young point guards and expensive. He's a great coach but he's the guy you bring in to win a championship, not to rebuild.

-Mike Woodson would dramatically improve the Wolves' defense. I'd rank him as the second-best long-term candidate behind Adelman.

-Bernie Bickerstaff. I'm not knocking the man as a coach. He's very accomplished. I just hate the idea of hiring someone so he can groom his son. Kahn may not even be around long enough to see J.B. Bickerstaff replace him.

This would be a move that Glen Taylor should block.

-Tim Brewster saying this Gophers team has lots of talent is another way of him telling us how fraudulent and painfully shallow he is. He left Jerry Kill with one outstanding athlete, Marqueis Gray. Otherwise, the cupboard is bare.

It's one thing to be a ridiculous shill, it's another to be a ridiculous shill who continues to lie to the Minnesota sports fan after someone was stupid enough to hire him for a media job.

Shut up, Timmy.

-Upcoming: I'll be running Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero from Boomtown in Mankato on Sunday from 10-noon, following the Ron Gardenhire Show from 9-9:30. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

Also, I got to spend some time with Leslie Frazier in his hometown of Columbus, Ms., and my story on Frazier's life will be in the Sunday Star Tribune.

 

Thursday night draft thoughts...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 28, 2011 - 10:17 PM

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:

-Extremely bright.

-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.

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