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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What's most amazing about the Twins' 6-15 record is how many things have gone right for them this year.
Less than a month into the season, it looks like Josh Willingham was an excellent signing, that Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit are as advertised - Carroll an excellent fielder and Doumit a versatile guy with some pop. And all three are professionals.
Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have been iron men, with Mauer playing every inning of every game and Morneau even volunteering to play first base when the Twins were happy to leave him at DH.
But in baseball, when your starting pitching fails, your team fails, no matter how your position players are faring.
Enter Sunday's game, the Twins' starters' ERA was 7.01, easily the highest in the American League. Jason Marquis hung in for six innings on Sunday, and the Twins won, 7-4.
The Twins' current problem is also their everlasting problem: Amassing starting pitching quality and depth.
Remember, they traded for Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Eric Milton, Joe Mays and Carl Pavano. There are two home-grown pitchers in their current rotation - Liam Hendricks, who is trying to prove himself, and Nick Blackburn, who is trying to reestablish himself.
When the Twins stunk in the '90s, it was because they lacked starting pitching. When they competed in the 2000s, it was because their starting pitching improved dramatically.
The 2012 Twins are much improved over the 2011 Twins in many ways. But unless their starting pitchers improve, they'll be doomed to the same fate.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 each weekday with Reusse & Mackey. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Checking in from the Vikings' press room, where it has been proven that myself, Tom Pelissero and Kevin Seifert don't have a lot going on in our lives.
We're here, waiting on what has become the most interesting pick in the draft: The Vikings' selection at No. 3.
Vikings' general manager Rick Spielman has succeeding in adding mystery to the pick. My early view on what could be an unpredictable night is this:
The Vikings really can't go wrong.
If they take USC left tackle Matt Kalil, they'll be getting a good player at a position of need.
The same could be said if they drafted LSU corner Morris Claiborne.
Or Oklahoma state receiver Justin Blackmon.
I wrote the other day that Kalil makes the most sense for the Vikings. The immediate future of the franchise depends on protecting and developing Christian Ponder, and Kalil can immediately help with that.
There has been a late wave of media support for Claiborne at No. 3, based on the premise that stopping excellent passing attacks in the NFC North is the Vikings' biggest area of need. That's hard to dispute. But the Vikings should get Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook back on the field next year, and the Vikings' defensive system doesn't place a premium on elite one-on-one coverage.
I can't really argue against Claiborne. I just slightly favor Kalil.
Blackmon is a fine prospect, but I would rank him as the third-best prospect of the three and the riskiest.
The Vikings will improve themselves with either Kalil or Claiborne. They would also improve themselves with the other possibility: A trade for the right price.
I have no idea which rumors to believe and which to dismiss, so I"m not going to break them down here. If I'm the Vikings, I trade down only if I think I can land one of the players they truly value - guessing Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon - as well as additional picks.
All three scenarios - taking Kalil, taking Claiborne or trading down - could play out very well for the Vikings.
I'll be covering the draft tonight along with Dan Wiederer, Mark Craig and Chip Scoggins.
You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Wrote about Wolves' GM David Kahn the other day, and those who support him kept pointing out that the team improved this year and could have made the playoffs with better health.
You're missing the point. The point is that he's been the GM for three years and has brought in one quality starter, Ricky Rubio, who fell to him. He has yet to make one basketball decision that demonstrated professional insight. His best moves - drafting Rubio, hiring Rick Adelman and drafting Derrick Williams - were all easy, obvious, decisions.
We've got to have higher standards in this town. I had people arguing that he's fine because he isnt' that important in the organization because Adelman can make the personnel decisions.
Do you really want an older coach making personnel decisions? Isn't that how teams wind up mortgaging their future, by trying too desperately to win right away? Don't you want Adelman to at least have a smart counter-balance in the front office?
Buckle up, people. There will be a showdown in Target Field this weekend.
The Royals beat Cleveland on Thursday and head to Minnesota with a record of 5-14, same as your Twins.
The tension will be...awkward?
I'm saying it here and now, just as I've been saying for months: I think Andrew Luck will be a good NFL quarterback, and I think Robert Griffin III will be better than Luck.
I'll check back later tonight when we have some news.
I'll be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely at 4:35 to talk the draft and Twins. I'll be on 1500espn at my usual time, 2:05, on Friday, and Pelissero and I will run a studio version of Sunday Sports Talk on Sunday from 10-noon, following the Ron Gardenhire Show at 9:30.
I don't need to tell you that winning two of nine games to start a season following a 99-loss campaign is not such a good thing, so let's skip to the newsy portion of this post:
1. I keep hearing that Brian Dozier will be in the big leagues sooner rather than later. I would guess he'll arrive in May. Calling up Dozier would improve them at shortstop, where Jamey Carroll has made most of the plays but isn't much of an offensive force, and at utility infielder, because Carroll would be ideal in that role. Although Alexi Casilla is struggling, the Twins want to let him work through his usual slow start and hope he'll emerge when the weather warms.
2. As I write about in my Monday column, the Twins have liked Clete Thomas for a long time, and hope his arrival will play well in their new ideal lineup. Justin Morneau will try playing first base on this road trip, and when he does, it will enable Joe Mauer to DH, Ryan Doumit to catch, and Thomas to play rightfield.
I noted to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire that Mauer and Morneau have each played in every game so far this season.
``I know I'm going to have to give Joe some days off,'' Gardenhire said. ``But I don't want to do it at home. I know people come from all over to watch him play. And to yell.''
That, of course, was a wry reference to the boos Mauer heard at times during this homestand.
3. The Twins were horrified by Trevor Plouffe's play in spot duty at shortstop on Saturday. He'll have to do a lot of extra work to earn his way back to that position in anything other than an emergency situation.
4. Nick Blackburn told me he spent most of Sunday trying a variety of stretches to get his right shoulder loose. Tests indicated there is nothing structurally wrong with his shoulder. He kept saying soreness is to be expected for someone who has undergone surgery, but I would not describe his tone of voice as optimistic. I think he's a little worried.
5. Here's the Twins' problem: They're short on starting pitching, and they have far more faith in Liam Hendricks and Anthony Swarzak than they do in Francisco Liriano, who continues to drive them batty with his inconsistent delivery and inability to think his way through a game.
I remember writing, when Liriano and Delmon Young were at their best as Twins, that the team should trade them for value when they could. They didn't. Now Liriano is a detriment, and the Twins dumped Young at his lowest possible value.
I've heard that the Twins could have traded Liriano for the likes of Ricky Romero or Ivan Nova in years past. They should have pulled the trigger.
6. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday and every day this week. We'll have a rare dual-presence studio show on Sunday, following the Ron Gardenhire show at 9:30.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Chatted with Torii Hunter this morning. Last night, he hit his head against the rightfield wall...and then hit a grounder up the middle and turned it into a double with hustle.
Most players get hit in the head these days, they are sent for tests and observation. Hunter's name was in the lineup Thursday morning before he even got to the clubhouse. Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows Hunter always wants to play.
``Man, I'm like a '64 Impala, with no seat belts,'' Hunter said. ``Old-school.''
True. After a little baseball talk, Hunter started bragging about his son, Torii, Jr. He has a lot to brag about.
Hunter says Torii, Jr., got a 27 on his first try on the ACT, and about 1,600 on the SAT. ``He has a 37-inch vertical, runs a 4.48 40,'' Hunter said.
Torii, Jr., is deciding whether to play football or baseball, or try to play both. Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Arizona have offered him football scholarships. He's considering Stanford and Minnesota for their baseball programs.
Arkansas might have had an edge before Bobby Petrino got fired. ``His uncle went there, his Momma went there, I signed there, and they have a really good engineering program, and that's what he wants to do,'' Hunter said. ``But Stanford is one of the best in that area.''
I got the feeling that Hunter was quite impressed with Stanford's campus and academics. ``We went there on a recruiting visit,'' Hunter said. ``Just 6,500 students. They have the students live with the athletes, which I like. The way they set up everything on the recruiting visit kind of sold us. We're sitting in the weeds, waiting to make the decision.''
The Vikings just sent out a press release about long-snapper Cullen Loeffler awarding an equipment grant to Ingram High in Texas.
From the release: Minnesota Vikings long snapper CULLEN LOEFFLER and USA Football will donate a $1,500 equipment grant to football programs within the Ingram (Texas) Independent School District, which Loeffler attended as a youth.
The Twins managed five runs in 27 innings against a last-place team and three starting pitchers the average fan has never heard of.
What was even more alarming to me was the mistakes that were made this weekend. Danny Valencia was a mess at third. Josh Willingham made a couple of nice plays (one strong throw and one brave collision with the wall) in left but also made two errors in two innings.
Sunday, reliever Matt Maloney didn't hold runners well, and Luke Hughes didn't hold the runner on second, and the Orioles executed a double steal that had the Twins' staff steaming.
Saturday, Jared Burton gave up two home runs on changeups even though the scouting report said not to throw changeups to the hitters in question, meaning catcher Joe Mauer and Burton weren't paying attention.
Quickly, to the positives from the weekend:
1. Jamey Carroll is a wonderful fielder. He may lack exceptional range, but he makes every play within his grasp.
2. Justin Morneau swung the bat with authority, hitting two doubles and two more deep drives. He looks like a slightly skinnier version of his old self, and it's obvious moving him to DH has relieved a lot of stress on him.
3. Sean Burroughs is the gamer the Twins have been saying he is. He made two fine plays at third on Sunday, one a basket catch over his head in foul territory that required a slide on the harsh surface of the warning track, and a fine diving stab to his left.
I grew up watching Brooks Robinson and Mark Belanger in Baltimore, and reading Brooks' books, and he always said that great plays started with anticipation. That's Valencia's problem: He's thinking about his last at-bat, and by the time he reacts to the ball it's too late.
4. Anthony Swarzak could pitch in the big leagues for a long time because of his attitude. He never complains about his role, and on Sunday, pitching for the ill Liam Hendriks, he gave the Twins five strong innings.
5. Glen Perkins pitched well in his lone inning of the weekend.
The Twins are 63-106 in their last 169 meaningful games, and now will play their next 16 games against the Angels, Rangers, Yankees, Rays and Red Sox.
Baseball seasons are like major championships: You can't win them early, but you can lose them early. The Twins are in danger of falling out of contention before the end of the month.
I'm writing about the Twins' home opener, and comparing the Twins to the Orioles' franchise, in tomorrow's paper. Here's my column off Saturday's game: http://tinyurl.com/7lo26dh
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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