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 All-Stars and honors

Not a bad team, just bad pitching

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 29, 2012 - 6:20 PM

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.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 each weekday with Reusse & Mackey. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

Workout day done

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: April 5, 2012 - 10:56 AM

Here's what I gathered during the Twins' workout at Camden Yards on Thursday morning:

Jim Palmer is still a great storyteller, at his best when he needles Earl Weaver in absentia.

Ron Gardenhire really likes his lineup. He'll start Chris Parmalee at first, Ryan Doumit in right and Justin Morneau at DH. Trevor Plouffe probably won't get a lot of at-bats early in the year, because Doumit is Gardenhire's backup catcher and he can't pinch-run or use a defensive replacement for him without losing his backup catcher.

Gardenhire is very encouraged by Morneau's body language and attitude.

Jared Burton will start the season as the most likely rigththanded setup man, but Glen Perkins will be the true setup man. Anthony Swarzak will be the long reliever.

Gardenhire, told no team has ever gone from 99 losses to the playoffs in one season, said: ``We would be the first. We want to be the first.'' Which reminded me that often Gardenhire's worst teams (2005, 2007, last year) were the ones facing great expectations, and his teams often overachieve when facing lesser expectations.

The early-season schedule is brutal. I don't see this team contending, and I would be surprised if it wins 81 games. to do better than than, Francisco Liriano and Matt Capps will have to be outstanding.

The American League has become incredibly powerful. There are six superteams - the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Angels and Rangers - and the Blue Jays may not be far behind. And then there is a clump of teams who need a dozen things to go right to contend, like the Twins.

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I'm covering the opening series in Baltimore, then coming home to cover the Twins' first home series. Please follow Joe Christensen and myself this weekend. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib. I'm writing about Carl Pavano's highly-interesting career for tomorrow's paper.

 

Big changes for Wolves, other stuff

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: December 14, 2011 - 1:04 PM

Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder just finished speaking at Winter Park.

Frazier said Ponder and Adrian Peterson both look healthy and should be fine for Sunday, and Frazier said Ponder is the unquestioned starter.

I asked Frazier about Joe Webb's future, and Frazier, while complimentary, said he's not sure how Webb's career will play out.

Also: Vikings longsnapper Cullen Loeffler was named to the USA Football All-Fundamentals team. He receives a $1,500 grant that he plans to donate to his high school, Tom Moore High, in Texas.

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Congratulations to Tom Lehman for being named Champions Tour player of the year.

Somehow, I had never spent much time around Lehman. When I covered the Masters, he was rarely there, and when he was there, he wasn't playing well.

I covered his second-place finish at the 3M Championship last summer, and found him to be very thoughtful and honest in assessing his career. As I wrote then, he had reasons to lament that his career could have been better, but in the big picture he went from a fringe golfer to Ryder Cup captain and major champion, and he did it with class.

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Spent the last two days at Wolves practice, and Rick Adelman allows the media inside in time to watch a portion of scrimmaging. As I wrote in today's paper, Ricky Rubio is making a good first impression on his teammates and coach, and I really didn't expect that, given his struggles in Europe last season.

I don't think he'll ever be a star or post gaudy statistics, but I think he can run an offense and a fastbreak, which would make him an immense upgrade over Jonny Flynn.

I love the J.J. Barea signing, too. The guy can score and penetrate. He's not a great defender, but he fits perfectly here as a dynamic point guard who speaks Spanish. He's an ideal signing.

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Realignment is going to be a godsend for the Wild, which is struggling to sell tickets even as the team sits atop the NHL.

The atmosphere in Winnipeg last night seemed raucous. Blackhawk and Red Wing fans will love coming to Minneapolis for games. The Wild is going to have real, geographic, intense rivalries with teams featuring crazed fan bases, and we'll get to watch more road games at a reasonable time on TV.

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Anyone harboring an old-school, tough-it-out mentality about head shots and concussions is going to have to join the modern era of sports. I found it amazing that a number of ESPN analysts tried to defend James Harrison's helmet-to-helmet hit on Colt McCoy.

The more we find out about concussions, the more we should understand how devastating they are to an athlete's career and life. Athletes need to be protected from unecessary shots to the head. Harrison launched himself, helmet-first, into McCoy's head. He got off easy with a one-game suspension.

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If it's true that Josh Willingham is in and Michael Cuddyer will no longer be a Twin, I'm in favor of the move as an analyst and I hate the move as a human being.

Cuddyer is one of the best people I've covered in sports. I was there the day he took batting practice in the Metrodome the day after signing with the Twins, and I found him to be one of the most honest and down-to-earth athletes I've ever encountered.

In terms of baseball value, though, the Twins got Willingham for less money, and would pick up two draft picks if Cuddyer signs elsewhere. For a rebuilding team stuck with huge contracts like Joe Mauer's and Justin Morneau's, this is a sensible decision, to sign Willingham.

Willingham is a similar player to Cuddyer. The draft picks and affordability make him more attractive as a free agent than Cuddyer.

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I'd include a section here on Gopher basketball, but until they start playing real opponents, I don't care about the program or the season. Who cares if they can beat an overmatched small school? All that will matter is how they perform in the Big Ten, and this team will have to prove it's tough enough and talented enough to compete in the conference.

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Upcoming: I'll be at the Wild game tonight, working on a future column, and will be on 1500espn at 2:05 today and every weekday with Reusse and Mackey. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.

Remember Al

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 8, 2011 - 7:59 PM

Many of my peers and friends in the business can offer much more comprehensive remembrances of the late Al Davis.

All I have is a good first impression.

I covered high school sports for the Dallas Morning News. My first pro assignment was covering Cowboys' training camp in 1989 in Thousand Oaks, Ca. The Cowboys would practice against the Raiders, who trained in Oxnard.

So on my first visit to Oxnard, I was watching the Raiders' defensive backs, when suddenly Elvis appeared. Well, he looked like Elvis. It was Al Davis, wearing his signature white, Elvis-style jumpsuit, gold-framed glasses and slicked-back hair.

Here was the owner and one of the most visible owners in sports, coaching his defensive backs.

I remember Davis' .life the way I remember Elvis', too. He was one of the greats before he slipped into self-caricature. He influenced the merger of the AFL and NFL, creating the NFL as we know it today. And he created the persona of one of the great franchises in sports history, the Oakland/LA Raiders. ``Just win, baby,'' and ``Commitment to Excellence'' became punchlines, as do all slogans when teams lose, but they weren't laughable when the Raiders were winning.

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Update: Tim Brewster lost eight of his last nine games. Jerry Kill has lost five of his first six games. Jeff Horton went 2-3 against Big Ten competition with the same players.

Jeff Horton should belatedly be named Big Ten coach of the year for 2010.

Also: When Paul Johnson was at Navy, he was considered a Gopher football coaching canididate when Joel Maturi hired Brewster.

I'm told Johnson did not have interest in the Gopher program. Too bad. Johnson has Georgia Tech undefeated this season.

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Covering the Lynx's championship on Friday night, and wrote a piece about Lindsay Whalen for the Sunday paper.

Whalen has always tried to maintain a pretty stoic public face, but I waited until the Lynx celebration was done and her teammates were all on the team bus before I caught her outside the lockerroom, and she was giddy and funny.

I'm staying in Atlanta to pick up a piece on the Packers that will run in this week's Star Tribune.

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I'm picking the Vikings to win on Sunday, and I'm not sure why. I guess I figure that if two bad teams play each other, you should probably take the home team. Which is why I was silly to take the Vikings last week.

As for Donovan McNabb's assertion that talk of him being benched is ``hilarious,'' my radio partner Tom Pelissero points out that McNabb said something similar last year...before he was benched.

I understand why Leslie Frazier wanted McNabb. I don't blame him for wanting a veteran in place following a lockout, and McNabb is serving the purpose of keeping the Vikings from rushing Christian Ponder into a pressurized situation.

But if McNabb can't win games, he has no value to this franchise. He's on a one-year deal. So today could be his last chance to prove that he has some value.

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Strange how baseball payrolls work. The Twins set a record for payroll, at about $115 million, and had their most disappointing season ever, barely missing 100 losses. Meanwhile the last four teams remaining in the playoffs all rank 10th or lower in payroll.

The Tigers are 10th (at about $106 million), followed by the Cardinals at 11, the Rangers at 13 and the Brewers at 17.

Could be a random event, or it could have two meanings:

1. The largest salaries are paid not to players who are on the rise, but players who have long-established value. That means older players. In the post-steroid era, age is a big deal. Players no longer can artificially extend their prime.

2. Old, rich players can be troublesome in the clubhouse. They can be divas. The Red Sox' sour attitude led to an epic collapse and the firing of Terry Francona. The Yankees are like a bunch of bankers, joyless and acutely aware of the bottom line.

You have to give big money to the right people. There is little dead weight on the rosters of the remaining teams.

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I'll be in Atlanta for Sunday Sports Talk. Tom Pelissero will be in the studio. We're on 1500espn from 10-noon. Guests include Lindsay Whalen, Kevin Seifert and Tom Linnemann. Follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

 

 

 

I always miss the big news

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: October 7, 2011 - 5:04 PM
So the Vikings sign Cullen Loeffler to a three-year deal?
I could joke about the team's priorities, but the guy is good at his job. When I spoke with kicker Ryan Longwell about his decision to return to the Vikings, he said one of the tie-breakers was his ability to work with Loeffler and holder Chris Kluwe.
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I’m at Philips Arena today, prepping for the WNBA Finals Game 3 tonight. I’m told it’s a sellout, although there are curtains blocking some of the upper-level seats.
Spoke to a few Lynx players at shootaround. Center Taj McWilliams-Franklin seemed to be walking well on her injured right knee, but isn’t saying if she’ll be able to play tonight.
For those who haven’t been following closely, the Lynx lead 2-0 in a best-of-five series. If they lose tonight, they’ll play on Sunday at Philips. If they lost that game, Game 5 would be Tuesday at Target Center.
``Atlanta played great the last two games,’’ said Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen. ``We played well enough to win. We don’t want to give them any hope here. We know it’s going to be crazy in here, but you have to do anything you can to win tonight.’’

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Why do the Twins seem to helpless against the Yankees in the postseason, while other teams seem to handle them so easily?

Two reasons: Arms and attitude. The teams that beat the Yankees in the postseason tend to have power arms capable of missing bats. Twins pitchers pitch to contact, and when you pitch to contact to good, veteran hitters, eventually they’ll make very good contact.

Also: While they were pretty competitive in 2003 and 2004, the Twins have been complete wimps against the Yankees ever since, in the regular season and the postseason.

What you'll notice about the teams that have beaten the Yankees in the postseason is that they, and their managers, have been pretty cocky. The 2002 Angels, the 2003 Marlins, the 2004 Red Sox...up through this year's Tigers all had loose or fiery managers and stars who embraced the big stage of Yankee Stadium.

The likes of Josh Beckett and Justin Verlander qualify on both fronts - power arms with no fear of the Yankee lineup.

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There was a quick and predictable reaction to Delmon Young's productive postseason: Twins fans are acting as if they don't know him well enough to expect this.

Young has spent five full seasons in the big leagues. He is a horrid fielder and baserunner. Thus, his value must lie in his offensive production.

In his five full seasons in the big leagues, Young has had an OPS of higher than .741 only once - during his big 2010 season. He has a career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentages) of .749. Jason Kubel's is .794.

Young has two things going for him: He's got great hands, and he's still young enough, at 26, that if he started taking defense or his plate approach more seriously, he could improve.

But to get agitated after watching him hit a few bad pitches in the postseason is silly. You know Young well enough to know that this is an aberration.And if he wakes up and plays well for another team, that doesn't necessarily mean he was going to do it in Minnesota.

The Twins needed him desperately this season, and he did nothing. That's a better idication of his value than what he's done in October.

                                               

Upcoming: I'll be in Atlanta for Sunday Morning Sports Talk. Tom Pelissero will be in Minneapolis. The show is 10-noon. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

 

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