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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Justin Morneau, a former hockey player, wore what looked like a hockey number and almost got into a brawl on Wednesday night.
Morneau donned No. 66 because the Pirates have retired his traditional No. 33, which belonged to the great Honus Wagner. He came to the plate after Andrew McCutchen hit a home run to left field and didn't run hard to first base.
Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta thought McCutchen was showing hhim up. McCutchen said he lost track of the ball. Morneau seemed to pay for the difference of opinion.
Peralta's next pitch almost hit Morneau in the head. Morneau took the pitch off his shoulder or forearm. Morneau motioned in anger and bewilderment, and the benches and dugouts emptied, although there were no punches thrown.
I asked Morneau if he took offense to that pitch. ``That's an interesting way to phrase it,'' Morneau said. ``It's one of those things where you're not sure. Is it a coincidence that it happened after a home run, or not? It's hard to say. If I hadn't hit the ball hard the other way the first two times I really would have been mad. I believe in pitching inside. The only thing that really gets you is when you get up around that head area, and that's what I took exception to.
``Getting hit is part of the game. When you get up in that danger zone, that's when I think tempers will get a little flared. They said they didn't do it on purpose, so...''
Morneau took note of his teammates rushing to his defense. ``That's a lose-lose situation for us,'' he said. ``I go out there (to the mound) and we get someone hurt or get someone suspended and we're missing guys in a playoff race. You don't go, then you have to let them know that that's not all right, but what do you do? I think it's kind of selfish if you charge the mound in that situation, where you can hurt the team.
``It's strange to say sometimes, but sometimes when crazy things happen that really brings a team together.''
I spent three days in Milwaukee following former Twins Morneau and Francisco Liriano. Liriano pitched poorly Wednesday but has salvaged his career. Morneau, while saddened by the way his tenure with the Twins ended, looks thrilled to be playing meaningful games in September again.
Remember, because of injuries, Morneau has played in only two playoff series, and in seven games - in '04 and '06.
I now have a team to watch in September and October. Morneau is one of the best people I've covered in baseball, and I love the Pirates' story. The lifelong baseball fan in me would love to see him fully recovered from the concussion symptoms that threatened his career, and leading the Pirates to their first World Series title since 1979.
Had a long talk with Justin Morneau that provided the basis for today's column. I couldn't fit all the good stuff into the newspaper, so here are Morneua's responses on a few other topics of interest:
Do you leave the Twins bearing a few regrets?
Morneau: ``Yeah. A World Series would have been the No. 1 thing. We got to theplayoffs and couldn’t find a way to get it done. It seemed like a key player was injured every time we got there, and when you’re matching up with a team like the Yankees that has so much depth, you need every guy that you have. In '06 we’re missing Frankie (Liriano), who was the best pitcher in the game at the time. And then in '09 and '10 I was hurt, and who knows what happens? I couldn't control the injuries. It’s part of playing the game. That’s something you wish didn’t happen but that’s part of the game.''
What was it like to be traded and wind up walking into the Pirates' dugout during a game?
Morneau: Crazy. Crazy. Really weird. For a few innings I looked out there, being on a different team, it took a little while to settle in. Once I made a few plays and atook a couple of at-bats, it started to sink in, and I started to realize it’s still baseball. Different team, but still baseball. It’s odd. At the same time, it was exciting.
Can you see yourself playing for the Twins again?
Morneau: I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. That’s too hard to answer that right now.
What was your favorite moment as a Twin? Maybe the game-winning home run off Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya in 2006?
Morneau: That one went through my head. The favorite one for me would probably be sitting in the dome the last day of the season in 2006, watching the game in Kansas City up on the screen, when nobody left the stadium. That’s not something you could ever script or plan. That just kind of happened. That was something we all shared with the fans and our teammates. That was insanity. That was probably my favorite thing I can think of.
Did you consider retiring when you were dealing with concussion symptoms?
Morneau: I had to think about it, but to say it was considered, no. To say it was close, no. But was it a realistic possibility? Maybe. It’s hard to say. Going through it, it felt like I wasn’t getting better. If I physically wasn’t able to go out there, to be cleared by a doctor to play…
Will you still live in the Twin Cities?
Morneau: Well, we live in Arizona during the winter. Corey Koskie came back. It might turn out to be a good thing. You go somewhere else and see what it's like, and you realize how great the Twin Cities are.
You've started hitting homers like your old self in the last month. Have you found your swing?
Morneau: My swing felt more like my swing. It's hard to put a finger on it. Those pitches I was missing or popping up early in the year, I felt like I was squaring up. I hit them in some of the right ballparks to hit them in, too. I just hope it continues for this month and next month and we have some fun.
Do you have any reassessed career goals?
Morneau: Winning. Just winning. Hopefully I get to play a few more years and enjoy wherever I'm at. Right now this is a good place to be.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon tomorrow from Milwaukee. Sunday on the station we'll have the Gardenhire show from 9:30-10, then Sunday Sports Talk with me, Scott Korzenowski and Tom Linnemann from 10-noon. I'll be calling in from the Vikings game in Detroit.
Everytime I write something nice or even neutral on Joe Mauer, I get emails. Oh, I get emails. Mostly from people telling me he's overpaid.
Well, if he is overpaid, it's not by much.
There are two ways of assessing a veteran player's monetary value. One is anecdotal. Talk to people in the game. They said Mauer would have made a killing as a free agent had he become one. Can you imagine what the Red Sox would have paid for a potential Hall of Fame catcher in his prime with a swing that might produce 50 doubles a year off the Green Monster, and who would constantly be on base in front of their sluggers? Probably $25 million a year. And all quality free agents end up being paid more than their actual value, because the bidding becomes a competition between super powers.
So Mauer is certainly worth $23 million anecdotally.
In terms of statistical valuation, I always turn to the great site Fangraphs.com, which calculates the obective value of a player.
Here is how Fangraphs values Mauer, year by year, since 2006: $23.1 million, $12.7 million, $26.6 million, $34.5 million, $21 million, $6.1 million and $21.2 million. This year, he is valued, so far, at $21.5 million.
Obviously, when he doesn't stay on the field, he's not worth the money, which is why 2011 was such an abomination.
When he is on the field, he's worth about what the Twins are paying him. Factor in that the Twins signed him in part to keep his contract status from ruining the opening season at Target Field, and he was an incredible bargain from 2006 through 2009, and the Twins and their fans have little to complain about other than the mystery ailments of 2011.
Mauer's real problem is he plays for a bad team. He doesn't have people on base ahead of him, and he doesn't have people who can drive him in batting behind him. He's not as valuable as Miguel Cabrera, but he's more valuable than the great majority of players with big-money contracts.
He's also the Twins' only above-average position player. He's not the guy you should be complaining about.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd & Dubay. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Ryan Braun is a fraud, and anyone who believed his previous denials about PED use is a fool, and what more is there to say about him? He's a drug cheat, and there will be more, and if baseball ever eliminates all drug cheats ballplayers will find other illicit advantages. This story will never end.
So last night while the Braun news was breaking, I just watched a ballgame, and was reminded of the beauty of baseball.
It was a meaningless game between two lousy teams, but strip the context away and the Twins' victory over the Angels last night was everything you could ask for in a night of entertainment.
Doug Bernier got his first big-league hit and RBI. Clete Thomas hit a double and a homer and made a game-saving catch. Glen Perkins sweated through a highly-difficult four-out save. Best of all, Sam Deduno showed more emotion on the mound in seven innings than many pitchers do in their entire careers.
This is why baseball survives work stoppages and drug scandals, and bad umpiring and terrible public relations, as evidence by the silly wording of the statements from Braun, the Players Association and MLB last night: The game can be great on any given day.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at noon with Judd & Dubay.
Glen Perkins messed up. He had a chance to make it big on the national stage. All he had to do Tuesday night was chase down Mariano Rivera as Rivera neared the Citi Field mound, push him out of the way, and pitch the eighth inning for the American League. He coulda been famous.
It's a shame Perkins didn't get in the game, but he'll have another chance. Tuesday night belonged to Rivera, and, by extension, to Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who did everything he could to win the game while paying homage to the Yankee great.
Leyland nailed it. He used Rivera in the eighth inning, knowing that if the National League rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth off of someone else that Rivera could wind up without a chance to pitch in his last All-Star game.
Then, Leyland told his other players to stay off the field while Rivera warmed up, leaving the stage to the most accomplished closer in history.
Because this is the Twitter Universe, Leyland immediately took heat from people who couldn't figure out the possible scenarios.
Leyland got it just right. He ensured that Rivera would have his moment, and what a moment it was.
T'oday's column is on John Randle's love of golf. I've never done a column quit like this one. I asked John one question about golf, and he spoke, rapidly and passionately, for 12 minutes straight.
So when I sat down to write, I just got out of the way and let John speak.
It's good to see John in such great shape and good spirits. I covered John when the Vikinigs signed him as an undrafted free agent out of little Texas A&I. I saw him out-hustle and outwork more talented players to become a Hall of Famer.
Monday, he was playing Hazeltine and helping promote one of the many charities for which he does work: The St. David's Center for Child & Family Development.
You can find out more about St. David's here: stdavidscenter.org
Thanks for reading.
I'm very jealous of John's golf game, by the way.
I'll be on Judd & Dubay at noon on 1500ESPN, and running Sunday Sports Talk 10-noon on Sunday morning.
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