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

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.
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.’’


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.



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.


Late Tuesday post after Twins avoid 100 losses

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 27, 2011 - 10:44 PM

Rene Tosoni hit a grand slam on Tuesday night. He said it was his first grand slam in pro ball.

``I don't even know if I hit one in high school,'' he said.

Since Sunday, in Cleveland, when a fan yelled in a very quiet ballpark ``Tosoni you (stink),'' Tosoni has two homers and six RBI.

The Twins beat KC, 7-4. My three takeaways from the game:

1. Ben Revere has competed like a madman all season regardless of his team's situation. He made a couple more fine running catches in leftfield, one while running into the low wall in foul territory. The guy is fearless.

He also ran through a stop sign and got thrown out trying for an inside the park home run, which is a bad play, but at least there is no lack of effort or intensity with this guy.

He also throws better when playing left field, because he's not in such a rush to get rid of the ball. He tends to bobble grounders hit to center because he's so worried about getting the ball back to the infield quickly. Then again, he would have caught the long drive to center that Denard Span missed.

Span smashed into the wall and told Twins offiicials that he felt shaken up on the play. I'm doubting he'll play in the finale. Now the Twins have to hope that one play doesn't set back his winter recovery from concussion symptoms.

2. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire praised starting pitcher Anthony Swarzak, who has been the anti-Slowey this year. He's taken the ball whenever it has been offered, and has pitched in various roles without complaint. Gardenhire wants him on the staff next year. He could start or relieve depending on the rest of the rotation's health.

3. Trevor Plouffe continues to hit, and make errors. He threw wildly to first again on Tuesday, and also missed a throw to second while trying to make a quick tag. He's playing like a guy who wants to be the DH next year, but the Twins will need DH for all of their injured/battered players who need a day off from their position.

Also, heard that the Twins told Chris Parmalee that he doesn't need to play winter ball this year because he's gotten so many at-bats in the majors, and that the Twins definitely want to see outfield prospect Joe Benson play winter ball so he can face more breaking pitches. Benson has been very vulnerable to breaking balls.


Sorry I'm going to miss the farewell ceremony for John Gordon on Wednesday at Target Field.

I've spent a lot of time with Gordo since I started covering the Twins in 1993. He's a wonderful man and I'll miss him.


I will be covering the Lynx on the road in the WNBA Finals. They'll face Atlanta, and I'm not just tweaking the other sports teams in town when I say that the Lynx are the most entertaining sporting option we have these days. If you haven't checked them out, I recommend watching a game. They get up and down the floor, share the ball, and score almost at will.

I would expect them to beat Atlanta in four games. (It's a five-game series, two home, two away, fifth game at home.)


Yes, I'll miss Ozzie Guillen. I also think his act grew old and it was time for him to move.

While he was funny and accessible, he also became obsessively self-referential. Ask Ozzie a question about anything, and he'd make himself the subject.


Wrote about Bill Smith's biggest deals for the Wednesday paper.

In short, I believe he needs another evaluator on the front office. Compare the trades Terry Ryan made during the last seven or eight years in the office to the trades Smith made in his first four years, and you see a sharp dropoff in savvy.


As awful as the Vikings have been, I wouldn't be shocked to see them win their next two games, at Kansas City and against Arizona at home.

I would like to see Chrisitan Ponder starting at quarterback on Sunday, but McNabb could buy himself some time just by winning two winnable games.

Which would be a shame. The Vikings aren't going anywhere with McNabb. They might as well start evaluating Ponder. Or, if Ponder isn't ready, wouldn't you rather see Joe Webb? I've been told by people in the NFL that Webb doesn't project to be a starter in the league, but he's entertaining and fearless.


I'll be on 1500espn with Reusse and Mackey at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, right after I cover the Rick Adelman press conference. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.


A Winter Park Wednesday

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: September 7, 2011 - 2:46 PM

Donovan McNabb conducted his first game-week press conference as a Vikings quarterback, and he was thoughtful and insightful. Must be the podium. He was a lot like Favre, except that he listened to the question and kept his answers shorter than 35 minutes. And he didn't ask himself rhetorical questions the way Favre did.

The Vikings appeared pretty close to completely healthy as we were allowed to watch the beginning of practice on Wednesday.

Here's my take on this team: I like the people, I'm not sure I like the mix.

I think Leslie Frazier has a good chance to become a very good coach. I think McNabb has a chance to have a bounce-back season. The Vikings still have elite players in Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway. They have highly-useful veterans like Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Steve Hutchinson, Michael Jenkins and E.J. Henderson.

But they lack the kind of youth movement that could give those veterans one last run at a championship. Kyle Rudolph may be the only young player who could be outstanding this season. The Vikings lack roster depth, are installing a new offense with a new quarterback without the benefit of offseason workouts, play in the same division as the best team in football and need to maintain close to perfect health to have a chance to post a winning record.

So, my pick for this teams is 7-9. They went 6-10 last year, and I think Frazier's steady hand will give them a chance to win one or two more games than they did during the crazy 2010 season.

Their best hope is that they can win the games they're supposed to win, that the Bears take a predictable fall and that the Lions aren't nearly as ready to win as most people think they are. To get to 9-7, McNabb will have to be sharp enough to lead the Vikings to wins in a lot of close games.

I would love to predict that the Vikings will go 10-6 and make the playoffs. After watching the Twins stumble around all season, I'd love to cover a playoff team. But I think this team's weaknesses in the secondary and on the offensive line will be exposed by quality opponents.


I hear a lot of fans whining about the Twins calling up youngsters and putting them in the starting lineup. That's the way this works, folks. Take it from me: I covered the Twins as a beat writer from 1993-97. Watching the kids come up and play in September was the highlight of those seasons.

I'm most interested in Joe Benson. He's a multi-talented guy who can run, hit, hit for power, throw, and cover ground in the outfield. He seems to have charsma. He loves Springsteen (!). He plays with the energy of a football player - he was a standout running back in high school. And unlike a lot of the kids who have been called up this season, he seems to be after more than a big-league paycheck.

With the futures of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel uncertain, Benson could be a key player for this team next year.


I highly recommend reading our hockey writer, Michael Russo, these days, even if you don't care about hockey. His piece on Derek Boogaard's death, and his quick-reacting coverage of the airline tragedy in Russia are just the latest examples of his outstanding work.


I'll be traveling to Green Bay for the season opener against the Saints tomorrow, then coming back and heading to San Diego for the Vikings' opener. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 weekdays from now on, and I'll be calling in from Green Bay tomorrow at that time.

Quick stat from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn: Saints coach Sean Payton's career record is 53-33. Packers coach Mike McCarthy's is 53-34. And they've won the last two Super Bowls.

Tom Pelissero and I will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk from San Diego on Sunday morning, from 9:30-11. We'll do our first NFL picks, along with my buddy Tom Linnemann, and we'll have ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert on to preview the games.

I'll also be calling 1500espn at 6:20 p.m. tomorrow from Green Bay.

My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.

Enjoy the beginning of football season. I know I will.

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?
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.’’
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.

Twins win, Morneau sounds optimistic about health and future

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: August 28, 2011 - 5:35 PM
Justin Morneau went 3-for-4 in the Twins' 11-4 victory today, but what impressed me was that Morneau, in a meaningless game, ran crazy on the bases, twice trying to advance on fly balls and making a hard take-out slide.
I assumed Morneau was following up his public talk about the importance of the Twins playing hard the rest of the season. He downplayed that aspect, but I believe he was trying to set an example for the Twins' younger players, many of whom have not displayed a lot of baseball intelligence or gamesmanship this season.
``No, it was just an opportunity,'' Morneau said. ``On one of them, I probably shouldn't have run.
``Just trying to play the game. It's hard to be aggressive if you're down five or six runs because you run into an out, you look pretty dumb...
``I was just kind of playing the game. It doesn't matter how many games up or down we are, we've got to keep playing the game the way we're supposed to play, and whether it rubs off on anyone else or not, hopefully it's good.''

Morneau noted that the way Target Field plays could give the Twins an advantage if they study the park.

``I'm not exactly fast,'' he said. ``I don't know if the guys will see that and say, `Oh, he was out by a half-step on that ball, maybe that means I can tag on that ball and make it.' Just because this ballpark plays big doesn't mean we can't learn how to take advantage of that.''

Morneau got thrown out at second on Jason Kubel's fly to deep center. ``Other teams might think that ball is going over his head,'' Morneau said. ``Us playing here a couple of years now, we know it's going to be caught, and you can take advantage and take those extra bases that can make a difference.''

More important, Morneau said he can't remember the last time he had a check-up concerning the concussion he suffered last season, and says he rarely thinks about the concussion anymore.
I asked him if he thinks anything will keep him from having a bounce-back season next year.
``Not that I can think of,'' he said. ``My swing has felt a lot more concisstent the last couple of weeks. It’s jiust trying to find that balance, where you’re not overswinging, all those little things.
``I don't feel like there's any reason. Have a normal offseason, get my rest and start working out and doing what I’m used to do, preparing for spring training, and not having to worry about everything.
``How's it feel to run to first? How's it feel to take 40-50 swings in the cage? It'll just be me playing and enjoying it, like it is now. It feels pretty good right now.''
What does he hope to gain over the last five weeks of the season? ``Confidence,'' he said. ``Feeling like I’m able to run out there every day and able to be myself and being able to play the way I’m used to playing, and having my swing feel the way I think it should feet. It’s not quite there, but it’s a lot better than it was to start the season. And a lot better than it was two or three weeks ago.
``I think the biggest thing in hitting is confidence and feeling that you can stand up there and catch up to any fastball, and still feeling like you can react to a curveball. That's kind of the key to hitting.
``It’s slowly getting there.''


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