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.
Find him on Twitter
Monday morning second-guessing (let's call it what it is):
-Logically, there is no reason for professional head football coaches to have to jog through the maelstrom of bodies on the field after an emotional game and offer a gratuitous and often insincere handshake. It's a silly custom.
Logically, the practice should be banned.
But I'm glad it exists, because it's brought us some great moments, like Bill Belichick dissing Eric Mangini and now Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz almost starting a brawl.
Here's the deal with Harbaugh and Schwartz: They were both wrong. Harbaugh was wrong to show up Schwartz, which he certainly did. Schwartz was wrong to escalate the situation by chasing Harbaugh down.
But I loved it. This is entertainment. It's also a win-or-bust business. Pro football is not for nice people. There are exceptions to that rule, like Tony Dungy, but they are rare exceptions. I love it when high-profile people bare their teeth and souls. So while I wouldn't want my kids or high school coach or even college coach behaving like this, in pro football, I love it when coaches break their usually cliche-ridden molds.
-I'm at Winter Park today, awaiting news on who starts at quarterback. I've been calling for Ponder since the Vikings fell to 0-3, but now I really don't think the timing matters much.
Start McNabb again, to save Ponder from facing the Packers in his first start? Fine with me. That's one of the reasons McNabb is here, to protect Ponder.
Start Ponder to introduce him to the NFL as quickly as possible, to prepare him for 2012 - or just to evaluate him? Fine with me. Why not?
Start Joe Webb? Fine by me.
When you're 1-5 and bound to lose and have so much of the season left, it really doesn't matter anymore.
-I fear for the Gophers. Their head coach is telling anyone who will listen that they're no good, and the players have every reason to believe him, and now they're facing a Nebraska team that will physically whip them. I fear not only for a 60-0 score, I fear for the players' safety. It's a hard game to play when your heart's not in it.
-To me, the Vikings' loss last night was predictable. They never play well in Chicago. Why would a bad Vikings team play well in Chicago when ever the best Vikings teams have struggled in that town and on that surface?
I am surprised it became a blowout so quickly. I keep thinking about all the quality players the Vikings have, but, then, these are the same players who seemed to quit under Brad Childress just a year ago. Maybe their talent level is overrated.
-Gov. Mark Dayton has been very even-handed, smooth and presidential in his handling of the Vikings' stadium debate. Now he's saying that a 1-5 record makes the stadium iniative less popular.
That's a blatant copout, and the kind of statement that makes us hate politicians. Noone, whether stadium proponent or opponent, should base a decision that will affect the state for good or ill for the next 30-plus years on how Donovan McNabb is playing this season.
The Vikings are a state asset. Different people will value their presence in different ways. I'm a sports guy. I value sports and think there are intangible benefits to having a team in state as well as tangible economic benefits. If you don't value sports, I don't expect you to agree with me.
But the decision should not be based on a win-loss record, whether the Vikings were 6-0 or 1-5. The decision should be based on the value of having an NFL franchise in our state. And if Dayton or anyone else wants to argue that we should let the Vikings leave because they're 1-5, I would argue that Minnesota eventually would decide to lure back an NFL franchise, and that acquiring another franchise will be much more expensive and complicated than building a stadium for the current franchise, which, for all of its faults and big losses, has been remarkably entertaining and competitive for decades.
-Since the start of the 2010 season, the Vikings are 7-15. That's the fourth-worst record
Here are the teams that are similar or worse during that span:
St. Louis: 7-14.
-My pick: Rangers in six. Other than Cris Carpenter, I don't think the Cardinals' pitching staff can handle the Rangers' lineup.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. with Reusse and Mackey, then on tonight, perhaps around 6:40, with Tom Pelissero. I'll also be on with Mike McFeely on KFGO in Fargo at 2:35.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
The Twins didn't trade away players at the deadline because they think they can still win the division. They didn't trade for players because they don't want to pay the high prices required for them to acquire a bullpen arm when they're in the fourth place in the division on Aug. 1.
They're stuck in the middle. I've heard outrage from both sides, that the Twins should have traded their players headed to free agency, and that they should have sold out trying to win this year.
I'm just not surprised that they did neither. To trade an everyday player or a prospect for a reliever could damage their long-term plans without dramatically increasing this team's chances of winning. to trade away Michael Cuddyer, their most valuable player on the trade market, when they're still in contention would be one way of telling fans not to show up at Target Field for the rest of the season.
From a purely logical standpoint, I believe the Twins should have traded Cuddyer. But the Twins care about their clubhouse culture and rewarding the right players, and Cuddyer is the best organizational player they've had, in terms of being a personification of everything they teach and value, in a long time.
We all begin our evaluation of teams by gauging their ability to win a championship, but there is more to sports than that. If keeping Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Matt Capps around gives this team a chance to win the division and encourages people to buy tickets, then maybe this is the right approach.
I'm on record saying I would have sold pieces off to try to rebuild the franchise's talent base. But while I disagree with the Twins' decision, I also, on a gut level, like it when franchises stubbornly insist on winning, and keep trying to keep a good thing going.
As for the Vikings, this is a strange set a circumstances. They have a first-year coach, a free-agent quarterback trying to learn the offense in a short period of time, a new offensive coordinator, and a slew of very good players who might not have many effective years left in their legs.
Like the Twins, the Vikings are stuck in the middle. To win nine or 10 games, they'll need surprising performances from Donovan McNabb, Bryant McKinnie, John Sullivan, Steve Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin, Jared Allen, Brian Robison...just about every veteran on the team.
How many of their best players are sure things, presuming good health? Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Antoine Winfield...and that's about it. All of their other name players are either aging or coming off disappointing seasons or injuries.
So why should the Vikings avoid a true rebuilding process? Because sport is unpredictable. I still don't think the Bears were all that good last year, but they wound up on the right side of the Calvin Johnson ruling, got to face the Seahawks in the playoffs and suddenly found themselves with a chance to win the NFC title game against the team that would eventually win the Super Bowl.
So my attitude toward the Vikings is the same as it is toward the Twins: It might be smart, in a clinical sense, to rebuild, but neither franchise is willing to give up. And there's something to be said for trying to win every year, regardless of the circumstances. Remember: Rebuilding sounds good until you try it and it doesn't work.
-News just broke, via ESPN, that Randy Moss is retiring.
I think the Vikings should hold a ceremony to honor him. He can stand on a podium at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., and then, as he begins his speech, everyone can walk off, and into the locker room.
And then Matt Birk can finally beat him up.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today with Pat and Phil, then on with Phunn in the 6 o'clock hour. I'm also hosting the Phunn House on Tuesday night from 6-8:30 on 1500.
I'm in Mankato until Tuesday afternoon, and I'll tweet as warranted at @Souhanstrib.
The Twins' loss on Wednesday illustrated that not all baseball losses are created equal.
Wednesday, the Twins got shut down by the reinvigorated Erik Bedard. That happens in baseball.
My belief is that in big-league ball, over 162 games, 99 percent of baseball teams are bound to lose at least 60 games and win at least 60 games. It's the fate of those other 42 games that determines whether you're the Yankees or the Pirates.
The Twins' loss on Wednesday, to a dominating pitcher, fell into the category of the inevitable 60 losses. It was the Twins' loss on Monday, when they wasted two home runs from Jim Thome and a late-inning lead, that is the kind of loss that moves you away from 90 victories and toward 70 victories.
The Twins' problem is that they have no margin for error. They can't afford either kind of loss - the devastating blown lead, or the routine, understandable loss.
The Twins are 16-32. They would need to go 74-40 the rest of the way to reach 90 victories. There is no chance of them making that kind of run with this bullpen.
-My colleague Patrick Reusse today suggested that the Twins have been lax in pushing Joe Mauer to return from his mysterious injury (or injuries.)
We'll have to disagree. Nobody in modern baseball or modern society can push someone to return quickly from an injury. It just can't be done, unless you want to open yourself to lawsuits, grievances, and the potential that the player has a real, undiagnosed problem that could reveal itself if he returns to games before he's ready.
What if the Twins ordered Mauer to play in a big-league game on Friday? First of all, I don't think that's possible. Second, if the Twins ordered Mauer to play on Friday and he then tore his rotator cuff or blew out his knee and missed a(nother) year, the Twins would have ruined another season, further damaged their $184 million investment and caused irreparable harm to their relationship with their franchise player.
As frustrating as it is to watch Mauer take baby steps toward his return, you can't force a player to rush. Can't be done.
My biggest problem with Mauer's timetable all along was that I thought he should have been pushing to do more baseball activities and preparing himself to at least DH for the big-league club. I didn't see why he couldn't take four at-bats a night and also do his rehab that would allow him to return as a catcher.
Mauer told me, one-on-one, that his body simply wasn't ready to play baseball. Since my conversation with Mauer, I"ve become convinced that there is something missing to this story. I think there is either something wrong with him that has not been revealed, or that he's angry that his rehab didn't go the way he thought it should.
He's an easy target right now, and I've taken my share of shots at him on the radio, but I have trouble believing that a three-time batting champ and former MVP who (despite public perception) has been a relatively durable catcher the last few years would rather DH in extended spring training games in Fort Myers than play in big-league games...unless there is a good reason that he can't play in big-league games.
Big-league ballplayers hate playing in the minors.
Again, Mauer is an easy target right now, but I think there's something missing to this story, and it's not in Mauer's nature to tell us exactly what that is.
-One more note on my bashing of Kevin Slowey: Agree or disagree, but understand that I formed that opinion over the last two years by watching Slowey in action, watching how he treats people I know, and by talking to dozens of people at all levels of the Twins' organization.
Usually when I take someone on, I hear from that person's allies in the organization. When I was ready to criticize Mauer for taking so long to return, I had a couple of people in the organization tell me that they thought there was more to the story, and helped set up my conversation with Mauer, so he could at least present his thoughts.
I spent all day Wednesday at the ballpark and spoke with a number of people throughout the organization, and nobody defended Slowey to me. Nobody. Quite the opposite.
The one caveat I'll add is that, whether it's Slowey or Mauer or Jim Thome or Glen Perkins, the Twins are developing a bad reputation for handling diagnoses of injuries. I wouldn't blame Slowey if he didn't trust the Twins' medical process, but there is a difference between striving to be healthy so you can do your job, and looking for reasons to shut yourself down.
-Can't remember where I heard it, but someone made a great point the other day: Until Michael Jordan came along, we didn't judge basketball stars solely by the number of championships they won.
Jerry West won one title. He wasn't exactly a choker.
In a few weeks, either LeBron James or Dirk Nowitzki will still be without a title. I'll say this: Neither should be labeled a choker or an underachiever.
Whatever you think of James, he elevated the Cavaliers, and now he's elevating the Heat. He has played a brilliant all-around game in these playoffs, dominating defensively and moving the ball as well as scoring. And Nowitzki has been unbelievable in leading the Mavericks to the finals.
One simple fact we sometimes forget while watching sports is, somebody's gotta lose.
-It's a small thing, but I love the fact that Christian Ponder and Joe Webb are working together at a quarterback camp, and hoping to gather teammates for more workouts. This shows impressive iniative for a couple of aspiring QBs.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today.
The Twinsjust a ' game is postponed tonight. That's good for them.
The NFL season remains in jeopardy. That's bad for pretty much everyone, but let's cut to the chase and blame the owners for being arrogant and stupid. At least, those are the kindest synonyms I can get into print.
First, the Twins. While rainouts this month could leave them with few days off later in the season, let's take a guess at what the roster will look like in, say, July, as opposed to today.
Joe Mauer figures to be healthy. Tsuyoshi Nishioka should be back, and while he has yet to impress, he has a better pedigree than anyone else in the Twins' middle infield. Kevin Slowey should be healthy enough to use or trade. Kyle Gibson should be at a point in his development where he can help the rotation, if needed. Justin Morneau should be further removed from illness and concussion concerns. And Francisco Liriano, like many Latin pitchers, may be much closer to optimal performance.
The Twins should have the starting pitching depth to weather a full schedule, and they have been adept at picking up key relievers during the season.
The rain can only do this team good.
-So NFL players show up for work - or at least a dip in the tub - and are told they aren't allowed in the building.
This is another example of the NFL taking its preeminence for granted, and botching the PR play.
What better symbol for the players than what happened today: They show up, eager for work, and the owners tell them to go away?
The NFL and its owners were making a killing in the system that they now say was unfair to them. Only the grotesquely rich and self-absorbed could come to that conclusion and risk their brand while seeking just a bit more.
-The NBA and NHL playoffs have been fabulous. Dramatic games, surprises, stunning individual performances, upsets - I could joke about the Wild and Wolves not qualifying for these long-running dramas, but it's not funny. It's just sad.
Nice of former Wolves draft pick Ty Lawson to score 27 points last night, just to remind us of what a real point guard looks like.
-If I were the Vikings, I'd try to trade up to take Blaine Gabbert, or take Jake Locker if he's available at No. 12. I heard Brian Billick on The Dan Patrick Show saying he believes there are only three true blue-chips in the draft - Patrick Peterson, Marcell Dareus and Von Miller. If the Vikings are going to be forced to take a non-blue chip, it might as well be someone at the most important position, and position of greatest need.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
Random and not-very-deep thoughts on the day in sports:
-I don't know if Bill Musgrave will be a good offensive coordinator, but I like that he's interested in highlighting the Vikings' existing talent, and that he's not married to the West Coast offense. (That's the subject of my Friday column.)
-My NFL picks for Sunday:
AFC: The Steelers beat the Jets because their pass rush will get to Mark Sanchez, and because Ben Roethlisberger is that rare athlete who plays his best at the end of close games.
The Patriots didn't have enough athletes on defense to either stop the Jets running game or hassle Sanchez. The Steelers' defense is good enough to do both.
I believe the keys to modern football are having a quarterback who can make plays down the field and a defense that can disrupt the opposing quarterback. The Jets are talented enough to keep it close, but the Steelers win this one, say, 20-17.
NFC: The Bears are far better than I thought they were, but they're not as good as the Packers, not the way the Packers are currently playing.
Aaron Rodgers is better than Jay Cutler. The Packers' pass defense is better right now than the Bears'. For the Bears to win, Julius Peppers will have to have one of the great postseason games ever by a defensive end. I think Mike McCarthy is smart enough to find a way to limit Peppers' influence, and the Packers' passing offense will roll. Call it Packers 34, Bears 23.
-If hockey players are so tough, how come, when a team is getting beat, it displays the emotional maturity of a bunch of 8-year-olds who didn't get their naps?
The Wild gets up early on Edmonton, and what do the Oilers do? Start cheap-shotting the Wild.
Toughness is taking a hit and accepting that, as a hockey player, you are going to take hits. Toughness is not whacking an opponent in the ankle with your stick because you're losing.
-It wasn't long ago that there were rumors about Todd Richards' job status. I never thought he should be fired, and now I think he has a chance to be coach of the year.
The Wild lacks goal-scorers and has watched its two top goalies suffer injuries, and yet Richards has the team playing its best. His players almost always play hard, they move the puck, they play inteligently, and when they score a few goals, they get credit for how disciplined they are on defense.
-The re-visit my last column: I'm serious when I compare Mike McCarthy favorably to Vince Lombardi. Lombardi was great in his era; my point is that the modern era of football is much harder on coaches. It's much harder to win championships in a 32-game league, it's much more difficult to manage today's players and today's media and today's workload, and that football has become increasingly complex over the years.
I'm sure Lombardi would have found a way to be a good coach in today's environment, but there is no way he would have been adaptable enough to dominate the modern NFL.
-It's interesting to see Leslie Frazier adapt to his new role. I asked him about that, about going from being friends with his fellow assistant coaches to telling people like Darrell Bevell and Brian Murphy - both exceptionally nice people who had plenty of success in their roles - that their services were no longer required.
His answer: ``It's a difficult process, especially in this case where you worked with guys for a number of years like I have. Now you're making decisions that are going to affect peoples' lives. It's a part of our profession. I've been on the other side of it. I know what's required and I know that my purpose in being here is to bring a championship to Minnesota. Anything less than that and we'll be parting ways down the road. That's the way this business is. But it's hard because you have feelings. These are friends. It's a tough deal, but it's the business we've chosen.''
Hard to argue with that. Coaches complaining about getting fired is like sportswriters complaining about deadlines. It's what you signed up for.
-I liked what Musgrave had to say about his offensive philosophies. New special teams coordinator Mike Priefer startled me, though, when he talked about the possibility of kicking to Bears return specialist Devin Hester.
To quote John McEnroe, ``You cannot be serious!'' Priefer said that if a punt unit executes properly, it can handle a good return man. That's what everyone says until they see Hester make all of their players fall down. You cannot kick to Hester. He is the best return man ever, and the rare return man who has demonstrated longevity. Without him, the Bears might have been a .500 team. -In October, I spoke with a Twins official who said that the team would like to bring back Carl Pavano, perhaps to a two-year deal worth about $17 or $18 million. Then, as happens in free agency, Pavano solicited other offers, and tried to find a three-year deal, and watched Ted Lilly sign a three-year deal worth $33 million, and must have believed that his market value had risen. And then he signed with the Twins for two years and $16.5 million. That's some pretty good negotiating by the Twins, getting the best remaining pitcher on the free agent market for perhaps even a little less than they expected to spend. And for those saying the Twins need to spend more money to bolster their bullpen or their infield, please remember that the best Twins teams have not traditionally been those that had set rosters when they left for spring training. The best Twins teams have been those that have kept their best players healthy and developed key role players as the season progressed. Right now the Twins have three end-game relievers - Matt Capps, Joe Nathan and Jose Mijares - and six starters, meaning one of those starters could become the long reliever. Let's say that guy is Kevin Slowey, and let's say that Glen Perkins is at last a left specialist. That would leave the Twins with one bullpen opening and a bunch candidates, like Pat Neshek, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett, Rob Delany, Anthony Slama and the fast-rising Carlos Gutierrez, as well as the two relievers arriving in the J.J. Hardy deal. This isn't a crisis. This is business as usual for almost any big-league team. Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, then on the station in Joe Soucheray's stead from 2:40-6 p.m. on Friday. On the station, Sunday Sports Talk will feature appearances from Kevin Seifert and Tom Pelissero, and I'm working on a Wild or Twins guest as well. Also, you can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib, although I wish you'd really just mind your own business. Please congratulate me: I didn't mention Brett Favre once.
To quote John McEnroe, ``You cannot be serious!''
Priefer said that if a punt unit executes properly, it can handle a good return man. That's what everyone says until they see Hester make all of their players fall down. You cannot kick to Hester. He is the best return man ever, and the rare return man who has demonstrated longevity. Without him, the Bears might have been a .500 team.
-In October, I spoke with a Twins official who said that the team would like to bring back Carl Pavano, perhaps to a two-year deal worth about $17 or $18 million.
Then, as happens in free agency, Pavano solicited other offers, and tried to find a three-year deal, and watched Ted Lilly sign a three-year deal worth $33 million, and must have believed that his market value had risen.
And then he signed with the Twins for two years and $16.5 million.
That's some pretty good negotiating by the Twins, getting the best remaining pitcher on the free agent market for perhaps even a little less than they expected to spend.
And for those saying the Twins need to spend more money to bolster their bullpen or their infield, please remember that the best Twins teams have not traditionally been those that had set rosters when they left for spring training. The best Twins teams have been those that have kept their best players healthy and developed key role players as the season progressed.
Right now the Twins have three end-game relievers - Matt Capps, Joe Nathan and Jose Mijares - and six starters, meaning one of those starters could become the long reliever. Let's say that guy is Kevin Slowey, and let's say that Glen Perkins is at last a left specialist. That would leave the Twins with one bullpen opening and a bunch candidates, like Pat Neshek, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett, Rob Delany, Anthony Slama and the fast-rising Carlos Gutierrez, as well as the two relievers arriving in the J.J. Hardy deal.
This isn't a crisis. This is business as usual for almost any big-league team.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, then on the station in Joe Soucheray's stead from 2:40-6 p.m. on Friday.
On the station, Sunday Sports Talk will feature appearances from Kevin Seifert and Tom Pelissero, and I'm working on a Wild or Twins guest as well.
Also, you can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib, although I wish you'd really just mind your own business.
Please congratulate me: I didn't mention Brett Favre once.
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