Friday, March 31, 2006

KG Deserves Better

Kevin Garnett publicly says he’s frustrated with the Timberwolves and the losing is taking a toll. My only question is what took him so long? Garnett has done more for the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise than anyone else. The only thing he wants in return is a chance to win. Players have demanded trades for far less noble reasons. To Timberwolves management this should be treated as Code Red. The franchise player is unhappy and it is time make reasonable strides towards pleasing him. This is different than appeasement, or how the Lakers treat Kobe. So it is time for the Timberwolves to lay out and immediately implement a plan to remake the franchise.

Cut the Dead Wood
The first order of business is to show Kevin McHale the door. His terrible decisions and crippling effects have been discussed here plenty of times. It is time for Glen Taylor to separate business from friendship and make a sober judgment on McHale. Dispatch him to Indianapolis to scout the Final Four and then clean out his office and lock the door. When he returns on Tuesday have security escort him to Hibbing.

Stop Making Excuses
Taylor says it is difficult to acquire talent with KG’s big contract eating 37% of the payroll. This is a superstar player that took a paycut for this very reason. Every team with a superstar has similar problems, but most manage to have two stars or at least three consistent scorers. What did Taylor and sidekick Kevin McHale do with their remaining cap room? Sign Trenton Hassell, Mark Madsen, and Troy Hudson to long term deals, and trade Michael Olawokandi’s expiring contract for Mark Blount’s with four years left. These four players total 43% of the cap. While it is difficult to acquire supporting talent, it becomes nearly impossible when the owner and VP of Operations hand out long term contracts to players that average less than ten points per game.

Give Casey Another At Bat
One season is not a long enough evaluation period for any coach, but especially a rookie head coach. Taylor should allow Dwane Casey another year to create the team he wants. That process must start now. With the Wolves assured of missing the playoffs, Casey can devise his off-season plan instead of working on his resume.

Evaluate Young Talent Now
Before the team can formulate a summer plan, they need to inventory what is already here. Can Rashad McCants become a star, a consistent scorer or something closer to JR Rider? Trenton Hassell’s injury has allowed McCants to start and he’s scored in double figures in three of his four starts. Barring injury or ejection, McCants needs the maximum minutes he can handle. The same goes for Marcus Banks. Banks’ contract expires, which makes his evaluation more pivotal. Is he the team’s point guard of the future or too inconsistent to deserve a mid-level contract? Minnesota is already tethered to two cap-draining point guards, making it even more risky to lock up Banks.

The only other young prospect the Wolves have is Bracey Wright. He is currently in the NBDL leading the league in scoring. It is time for Wright to play for the Wolves and see if he can play point guard, shooting guard or neither. He is turnover prone, but can shoot from outside and his defense is also unknown. At this point it doesn’t matter, the Wolves need to see what they have and then decide if he is worth a contract for next year or not.

Define Everyone’s Role
The remainder of the roster is role players and dead weight. Let Casey decide which pieces can contribute and if anything else is attractive in a trade. The players in this category aren’t useless, but it’s important to realize what skills they have and slot them in appropriate roles. For example Madsen hustles, plays hard and is a popular teammate. There are plenty of 6-9 defensive minded bangers available meaning he wasn’t worth a six year deal.

Troy Hudson’s ankles suggest he is quickly declining and the best they can hope for is amnesty via retirement. Marko Jaric is not a point guard, but could serve well in a bench role. Ricky Davis is erratic and will get you 16-19 ppg, but he is not a number two option. Trenton Hassell is a good defender but is not a number three option. Anthony Carter and Marcus Dupree are journeymen, which are plentiful in the NBDL and Europe.

A lot of hard work will be done this summer in the lottery and free agency, but things need to start now. More importantly the team must convey a sense of urgency and unrest to Garnett. If there is no plan in place or it is status quo, Garnett’s frustration will only mount.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Purple Ponderings

On first glance the Vikings’ 2006 schedule looks very favorable. It is easy to get carried away in March and assume the Vikings will take care of business, but the strength of schedule is definitely squishy. Looking at the number and the Vikings have reason for optimism when viewing their schedule. One major difference from last year is the divisions they face. Last year they played the AFC North and NFC South, which were two of the NFL’s strongest divisions. This year they get the AFC East and NFC west. The two divisions each had 28 total wins, tied for worst in the league.

Playing the AFC East and NFC West is very soft; five of the eight games are versus teams very bad teams. The NFC North should again grant the Vikings four to five wins. That’s nine winnable games plus New England, Carolina and Chicago at home. Some of the highlights:

At Washington: One of the highlights is the Monday night opener on ESPN. Typically the first month of the season is for overreacting, but the Vikings will quickly find out what their running game looks like. The Redskins finished in the top ten in total defense the last two seasons, and still have every starter with the possible exception of Sean Taylor.

Vs Arizona: Playing the Cardinals for the first time since the 2003 season ending loss that knocked the Vikings from the playoffs. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is no longer on the team, but Paul Allen’s horrifying call is still fresh in many Vikings fans’ heads. This is also marks Dennis Green’s first regular season return to the Metrodome.

At Seattle: With their personal off-season spitting match, the Vikings-Seahawks game at Qwest Field is interesting. If both teams play to expectations, it could also be a very interesting NFC power struggle.

At Miami: Depending on Daunte Culpepper’s recovery, he faces his old team. On an improved Dolphins team it is just the kind of game to put the Vikings in danger. Of course Culpepper tends to press in this type of game, which means a cornucopia of turnovers.

Other Thoughts:
-Two weeks ago Brad Childress said he was finished talking about Daunte Culpepper. Yesterday he took another shot at Culpepper saying the quarterback made a mistake rehabbing in Florida. The divorce was ugly, but Childress needs to get past it. He is probably right on many of the issues with Daunte, but a head coach should act more professional The greater concern is the message it sends to his current players. What happens when someone holds out or breaks a team rule?

-While Kevin Burleson would fit well in the West Coast offense, the Vikings should let him go to Seattle. The contract is outrageous and they will end up with a 3rd round pick anyway. Burleson struggled with injuries and inconsistency last year, but will do well with Matt Hasselbach and Mike Holmgren’s offense.
-If the Vikings do receive the Seahawks’ draft pick it, they will hold five day one draft picks. With many of their immediate needs addressed through free agency, the Vikings can draft for depth and development. Linebacker, quarterback and offensive line are the largest needs for the first day of the draft.

-The NFL cracking down on end zone celebrations is ridiculous. Chad Johnson created interest and excitement each time he scored. When he scored in Detroit and didn’t celebrate, the disappointed Lions fans booed him. What more evidence does the competition committee need? NFL fans want entertainment. Using planted props like Terrell Owens and Joe Horn is overboard, but don’t stifle players like Johnson simply trying to have fun. If it's vulgar or excessively long in length, throw a flag, but if it's just entertainment let it go. If you want a rule how about the Dwayne Rudd Rule? Celebrating 2 yard losses or 8 yard gains warrants a five yard penalty. Another caveat: if the end zone celebration is poorly executed, it’s a five yard penalty on the PAT.’s dinosaur Gil Brandt is already preparing for the 2007 NFL Draft. Give it a rest. Brandt is one of the guys that loves his numbers and gives lame insight about how one gentleman A's 40 time was .3 seconds faster than hoodlum B.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

In other fat-athlete news...

This from
Lions general manager Matt Millen acknowledged on Monday that wide receiver Mike Williams is overweight. "Aren't we all?" Millen told a Detroit Free Press reporter who asked whether Williams was carrying extra weight. "Am I concerned about it? Not right now. The approach right now is pretty good." Williams finished last season with 29 receptions for 350 yards and a touchdown.
Does anyone else find this absolutely hilarious? I'm really curious to know what the current "approach" is for Williams. If I'm a Lions fan, I'm sending L.A. Weight Loss pamphlets and informational DVDs to the Lions front office. Williams was ridiculously slow last year. We've said it before but we'll say it again, how does Millen have a job?

Offensive Tackles have weight problems. Normal people have weight problems. Truck drivers, security guards, plumbers. Wide receivers don't have weight problems. First round picks don't have weight problems.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

The Seattle Seahawks must be proud. After the Vikings and agent Tom Condon drafted a creative contract to pry Steve Hutchinson from the Seahawks, Seattle now signs Nate Burleson to a similar contract complete with "poison pill" stipulations.

Obviously the actual guaranteed money Burleson will see is far less, meaning Seattle basically made the move for show. They are unhappy with the way they lost Hutchinson and felt some sense of vindication by sticking it to the Vikings.While there is nothing wrong with gamesmanship it doesn't appear to be a fair fight.

Hutchinson is a 2-time Pro Bowl selection, widely regarded as one of the top lineman in the league and is entering his prime. Burleson has one 1,000 yard season, no Pro Bowls, struggled in 2005 and only 33 starts. He is a good fit in Seattle and should improve, but a seven year $49 million contract for an unproven receiver is a little excessive. The Vikings also get Seattle's 3rd round pick since Burleson was a restricted free agent.

The trouble is, Seattle created this problem. Instead of signing Hutchinson to a long-term deal or applying a franchise tag, they made him a transition player which allowed the Vikings a chance at one of the best players available in free agency. Lock Hutch up or shut up.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Weak in Review

There once was a man named Kemp,
Who gained much weight due to hemp,
He wants to play ball
And enter the Hall,
His odds are on par with Will Demps’.

Daunte Culpepper took to the sea,
Six months later he entered a plea,
He was shooting the craps,
With no ladies in laps,
Says his lawyer named after a tea.

There once was a man named Barry,
Because of drugs his back became hairy,
He’s filing a suit
Over things that are moot,
His intolerance like one allergic to dairy.

March Madness is better than a KFC Snacker,
Aside from the games with the grouch Billy Packer,
He growls and acts real mean,
‘Bout teams he's never seen,
He invents more bugs than a computer hacker

A man moved to Hollywood hills,
To further his musical skills,
He painted his home,
In purplish tones,
Now Boozer is left with the bills


Wanna hear some funny jokes? Don’t read Jim Souhan, where terrible analogies and puns are the constant (one of the rare exceptions was his Tuesday column which was actually on point, made valid points and was void of lame jokes). Sometimes Jim appears bitter and takes pleasure in gutting players, teams or whole sports, at other times he just makes terrible points and conclusions, but if there is one consistency with Souhan, it’s hyperbolic humor and jaw-dropping awful one liners. Even in the most benign article about the Sweet Sixteen, bad humor is unavoidable.

Unless you're addicted to ESPN -- and there is a cure for that affliction, known as "Cold Pizza" …
Yes, Cold Pizza is a terrible show and Souhan is about two years late in slamming it. The only thing less original is ripping Stuart Scott for yelling Booyah or Dick Vitale for being annoying.

When underclassmen began leaving college to enter the NBA draft, or skipping college altogether, we heard that the popularity of the college game would go the way of Enron stock.
He drew from the Cold Pizza well, so why not an Enron reference? How about working in a Dick Cheney and gun control reference? No, do the Florida Election!

Ohio State has recruited star center Greg Oden. They'll be lucky to keep him for a full season.
Classic Souhan hyperbole. What’s Oden going to do, turn pro in January because he’s bored? Unless Oden goes Przybilla on the Buckeyes, it’s a safe bet he will be there a full season.

Some people joke that college was the seven best years of their life. Someday Oden will say college was the seven best months of his life.
Some people named Jim Souhan love that joke.

The regionals promise another perfect storm of intensity and unpredictability this weekend. Next year, I highly recommend that the Big Ten participate.
Zing! Finish with a rim shot and thanks for coming.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Let it Rain! And please pass the low carb donuts.

Shawn Kemp is making an NBA comeback. All I can say is it’s about time. Comically notorious figures like Kemp need to stay in the spotlight. JR Rider, Doc Gooden and Maurice Clarett get it, and now Kemp is catching on. Staying relevant is all about exercise, especially exercising poor judgment.

Kemp has reportedly lost 50 pounds, which is still about 40 pounds heavier than his optimal playing weight of 230. "My love for the game is very, very high," Kemp said. By “love of the game” Kemp means his conciousness and “very, very high,” meaning very, very high.
Also partaking in the nonsense is Kemp’s agent Tony Dutt, "I was basically relaying the information the GMs were giving me: 'Until he loses the weight, we don't care if he can score 30 points a game. When he loses the weight, give us a call.’ So there are going to be some phones ringing."

For one thing, Kemp averaged more than 20ppg once in 14 seasons and second, no GM would turn down anyone capable of scoring 30pts a game, drug-addled, overweight walrus or not.

Thanks to Dutt’s great advice, Kemp will now wait by the phone like a seventeen year old boy who just asked a cheerleader to prom. At this point the motive seems clear, Kemp is short on cash and figures Isaiah Thomas will take a chance. Then he drops this head scratcher: "I'm not playing just to make someone's roster. I'm not just playing to make a comeback. My hopes and dreams are to be in the Hall of Fame one day."

Vikings sign McMahon: Say Valerie Vomit is next.

The Next NFL Commissioner

First of all, where does this Condoleezza Rice rumor come from? Going from negotiating with Koffi Annan and Kim Jong-Il to dealing with Drew Rosenhaus and Al Davis looks like a step down. Now that Rice denied the NFL, the derby is wide open. Of course with the proper publicity and TV coverage, Jerry Rice may put his name in the hat.

10. Isaiah Thomas-Oops wrong list.

9. Joe Namath-First order of business: Getting that kiss from Suzy Kolber

8. Don Zimmer-He’s just so darn cute. He could get an Army helmet with the NFL logo.

7. Reggie Fowler-According to his resume, it would be his second stint as commissioner.

6. Flavor Flav-The Texans are now on the clock boyeee!

5. Vince McMahon-What’s that? He already tried his hand as football executive? How did it turn anyway?

4. Jerome Bettis-His parents would keep him from becoming drunk with power.

3. Deacon Jones-Trouble with Jerry Jones or Daniel Snyder is solved with a head slap.

2. John Madden-What you’ve got here is Boom! Labor negotiations! Plus the Madden Cruiser doubles as comissioner's mobile office.

1. Bono-Forget AIDS in Africa. Someone needs to address the ambiguity of Transition Player contracts. Help us Bono-Wan you're our only hope.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vikings 2002 Draft Recap

NFL Drafts are funny things. Mock Drafts run all winter and spring predicting the picks, then immediately after a pick is made, the pick is scrutinized. The scrutiny is usually based on these Mock drafts, far from precise. Even the most knowledgeable football writers don’t have a clue immediately after a draft.

For a better perspective of teams that have good drafts, it is time to judge the 2002 draft. Three seasons in the league is enough time to at least winnow out the busts. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that three teams that had good drafts, Indianapolis, New England and Philadelphia all are perennial Super Bowl contenders. Sure hindsight makes it obvious who the best players were, but good scouting and personnel men usually find the best players. For this review, best players available had to be a realistic need for the Vikings at the time.

First Round (7th) Bryant McKinnie OT Miami.
The Plan: The Vikings needed help all over, but especially both lines. The team really wanted Ryan Sims, taken by Kansas City. Experts considered McKinnie a can’t miss star, even drawing comparisons to Anthony Munoz.

Who else was available: Roy Williams S, John Henderson DT, Levi Jones OT, Dwight Freeney DE

Grade: B-: McKinnie began his NFL career holding out midway through his rookie year. He did crack the starting lineup by the end of the year and hasn’t relinquished his left tackle spot. While the Vikings lucked out by missing the underachieving (or overrated) Sims, McKinnie hasn’t played in a Pro Bowl. He is solid, but not the cornerstone lineman many predicted. Ironically, the two players with the most success (Jones, Freeney) were both criticized as bad picks.

Round 2 Raonall Smith LB Washington St
The Plan: Former coach Denny Green largely ignored the defense, especially linebackers. Considering the roster boasted Greg Biekert, Lemanski Hall and Henri Crockett, Smith was an obvious upgrade.

Who else was available: Larry Tripplett DT, Tank Williams S, Anthony Weaver DE, Michael Lewis S, Sheldon Brown CB,

Grade: D: Smith didn’t see a snap his first year and didn’t see serious playing time until 2005. Call it bad luck, but Smith still must be labeled a bust. A second round pick is expected to be a starter at minimum. Considering three of the better defensive backs all were taken this round makes it even worse. Tripplett and Weaver, while not Pro Bowlers, definitely qualify as pieces of a solid defensive line.

Round 3 Willie Offord S South Carolina

The Plan: With linebacker addressed in round 2, the Vikings turn to their constant Achilles: the secondary.

Who else was available: Ben Leber LB, Will Witherspoon LB, Brian Westbrook RB, Chris Hope S,

Grade: C+: Offord started some as a rookie and was clearly not ready. He’s very good against the run, but struggled in coverage in the past. Learning behind Corey Chavous seemed to help, as he played well in the playoffs two years ago. He tore his ACL in 2005 and missed most of the season. With Chavous leaving, he may end up starting in 2006.

Aside from Witherspoon, it’s hard to argue picking anyone else in the 3rd round. Unless they took a DB in Rd 2 and LB in Rd 3, but that’s hard to tell at the time.

Round 4 Brian Williams CB North Carolina St
The Plan: Find a corner better than Waswaa Serwanga, Kenny Wright, Robert Tate or Keith Thibodeaux.

Who else was available: David Thornton LB, Randy McMichael TE,

Grade: B+: The Vikings found an above average corner in the fourth round. Williams isn’t a shutdown corner or a playmaker but was pretty steady, picking off 12 passes in four seasons. Considering all the Ramos McDonalds and Denard Walkers in Vikings’ history, Williams shines even brighter. He struggled in 2004 and was unhappy as a nickel back in 2005. Williams signed with Jacksonville in free agency for big money.

Round 4 (Trade w Browns) Edward Ta’amu OG, Utah
The Plan: The Vikings traded up to acquire a lineman they could groom to replace David Dixon.

Who else was available: Andra Davis LB, Scott Fujita LB, Rocky Bernard DT, Aaron Kampmann DE

Grade: F: Ta’Amu, considered a steal by some analysts didn’t make the roster. He signed with Houston and played as many NFL games as me. He did punch a man for setting off illegal fireworks, which is worth something. Considering the players the Vikings could have had in the fifth round just makes it worse.

Round 6 Nick Rogers LB/DE Georgia Tech
The Plan: The Vikings saw a potential pass rusher in Rogers. His college head coach was George O’Leary, a Vikings coach who advised the pick.

Who else was available: Marquand Manuel S, Chester Taylor RB,

Grade: C: Rogers played well his rookie year with two sacks and 43 tackles, mainly on special teams. The Vikings just couldn’t find a spot for the “Tweener”. A decent pick this late in the draft, Rogers is headed for his fourth team in five seasons. Interesting note the Vikings passed on Taylor, their new feature back. 2002 marked the only Mike Tice draft without a running back taken.

Round 7 Chad Beasley DT Virginia Tech

The Plan: It’s the seventh round, time to address the defensive line.

Who else was available: Ronald Curry WR, Raheem Brock DE, Carlos Hall DE, Brett Keisel DE, David Givens WR, Kevin Shaffer OT, Kyle Kosier OG, Rock Cartwright FB

Grade: C-: It’s tough to expect much in the seventh round, where every player has questions or limited ability. On the other hand, looking at the list of solid players other teams found, points must deducted. Just because it’s the seventh round does not mean there’s no talent.For Beasley's part, he's played for the Browns' practice squad the last three years.

Overall the Vikings drafted no Pro Bowlers, two starters and a third with the potential to start.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

RDHHH's Great Sports Movies: Major League

Major League

One of the best sports comedies of all time. A group of misfits unite to make an improbable run to win the pennant, thwarting the owner’s plans to move to Florida. Of course it’s a cliché storyline, but the quotes and characters make this movie great.

Every character adds something different: Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, the flamethrower from the California Penal league, Pedro Cerrano the Cuban voodoo who looks like Carlos Delgado and played by a young and starpping Dennis Haysbert, Lou Brown as the gruff manager and Wesley Snipes as Willie Mays Hayes (poorly replaced in the sequel by Omar Epps), in his pre-Blade, pre-direct-to-video days. And of course any credible sports movie will have Chelcie Ross as the antagonist. And you can’t forget Bob Uecker as Harry Doyle the team play by play man. Former Brewers pitcher Pete Vukovich earns bonus points for his portrayal of rival slugger Clue Haywood.

Major League truly rises above other baseball movies on the strength of the quotes. (For an alternate experience watch an edited version on cable where "F**k you Joboo...” becomes “Up your bucket Joboo...”, and "Strike this f***in guy out!" becomes "Strike! this guy...OUT!" ):

Lou Brown: Come on Dorn, get in front of the damn ball! Don't give me this "ole" bullsh**!

Pedro Cerrano: Hay-soos, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.

Harry Doyle: [before the playoff game] Monty, anything to add? Colorman: Ummm... no. Harry Doyle: He's not the best colorman in the league for nothing, folks!

Harry Doyle: [Hayes takes his lead off first base] We don't know where Hayes played last year, but I'm sure he did a hell of a job.

Cerrano: Pissed off now Joboo, look i good to you, i stick up for you, you no help me now...........I say, f*** you Joboo, I do it myself.

Willie Mays Hayes: Willie Mays Hayes. I hit like Mays, and I run like Hayes.

Lou Brown: You may run like Hayes. but you hit like sh**.

Sure the movie is predictable and the two sequels were increasingly poor, but Major League set the gold standard for baseball comedies. They don't really make movies like this anymore. Don't get us wrong, this isn't high brow, but there's something about it so much funnier than anything we've seen recently. To be honest w'd love to see HBO or ESPN develop a baseball comedy series akin to Arrested Development or the like. There's just so many places to go and the opportunities for storylines are endless. Oh well, until we can quit our jobs and write for a living...and get agents...and get meetings with the mukety mucks, it'll have to wait.

In other NFL news...

Is Joey Harrington Dead?
Rod Marinelli said, "he's not with us", "we're moving on without him" and refusied to say he cut Harrington. It almost implies Joey passed away. Please just acknowledge that yes the Lions cut him. Joey’s family is starting to worry.

Give him an inch…
Last week the Dolphins acquired Daunte Culpepper. This week they signed WR and Culpepper’s pal Kelly Campbell. Campbell didn’t play in 2005 after the Vikings cut him in September. Suddenly he’s a hot prospect for the Dolphins? K-Cam is best known for excessive celebration penalties and weapons charges.

T.O in Big D
Everything is peachy in Dallas now. Just wait for training camp when Bill Parcells calls Terrell Owens a girl. This is a guy that releases a rap song ripping the Eagles and bragging about getting paid. Sounds like someone who has learned from his past. The real reason Owens is not in Philly: wearing tights in practice.

Out-of-Context Quote of the Week:
"It was great to see our guys, our coaches get our hands on all of those athletes," Childress said. "They're kind of trying to feel us out, we're going to feel them out a little bit. But it all starts off today in terms of our offseason."

Vikings Free Agency Update

Okay first of all, how sweet would it be if your professional title was "Special Master"? In any case with a little help from a Special Master the Vikings finally signed Steve Hutchinson yesterday. Forced to wait for Seattle to match the offer, the move is large in several ways. It instantly upgrades the Vikings shaky line, adds more power to the running game, and diminishes Seattle’s running game all in one fell swoop. Suddenly the Vikings’ line looks much better than last year: Bryant McKinnie, Hutchinson, a potentially healthy Matt Birk. With free agent signee Jason Whittle, Marcus Johnson in a second, and hopefully more relaxed year, Rosenthal, Goldberg, Liwienski and possibly another lineman addition through free agency or the draft things look a little more bright than they did going into the '05 season. At 28, Hutchinson is in his prime and instantly becomes the best guard since Randall McDaniel. You won’t hear his name much, which is exactly what McDaniel did for years.

Now that the Hutch contract is signed, the Vikings can proceed to other needs. Linebacker remains fairly untouched this offseason. Probably the most important aspect of the Cover 2, look for more movement from the Purple in this position. Ben Leber isn’t a big name, but he is familiar with the Cover 2. The alternative to Leber was paying Will Witherspoon $10 million in guaranteed money, a little too steep for a position with multiple holes.

Strong safety is one that remains a bit of a toss up. The Vikes seem to like Willie Offord enough to keep him around. If he can stay healthy he may slip into a starting spot. They lost out on
Will Demps last week to the Giants and Dexter Jackson signed with the Bengals. Which leaves the Vikes few attractive names, especially for a team moving in to the Cover 2. We haven't heard a ton about Dustin Fox lately, but he was starting to get some serious attention in camp last year until he got hurt and had to sit out the season. It's possible he could compete for time as well.

(Backup?) Quarterback is a little more of a pesky spot. At this point it's tough to see anyone else coming in and supplanting Johnson as the starter. Rumblings have increased in the last few days that the Vikes might be more willing to wheel and deal to get one of those top QBs in the draft. Opinion is extremely mixed; some believe that Leinart and Cutler are far over-rated and are the product of an amzing supporting cast and the hype machine respectively. Young isn't the ideal fit for the West Coast offense and I think some are wary (warranted or not) of his football accumen. On the other hand the QB crop seems to drop off a bit after the initial three. Free agents available are less than impressive and it's the first time in years that Vikings fans have a genuine reason to be worried about the QB position. There's so many ways this thing could go. With the amount of information coming out of Winter Park recently and draft day approaching fast, the information is only going to get more sparse.

Fullback seems to be taken care of today with the signing of Tony Richardson. I haven't had a chance to watch a lot of Chiefs games, but looking at who he has blocked for, I think it's safe to say our running game just got a lot of help. The Vikings also signed Joey Goodspeed during the offseason, but I can't see him being greater than a bit player next season.

O-Tackle is a bit more interesting. The only real significant UFA left is Jon Runyan, and Childress hasn't showed any interest in him at this point. Which is just fine. Unless the Triangle's opinion of Runyan changes in the next few weeks, I doubt he'll be wearing purple next year. The safe bet is they'll invest some draft picks on linemen this year. After the departure of Nat Dorsey the new crop gets a little slim. This could be worthy of a second or third round choice.

So far the Vikings have done a decent job in free agency. It’s obviously easier with the league’s second most cap space, but plenty of teams squandered considerable loot in the past. They probably overpaid a little for Hutchinson, but the need was too great. Hutchinson is one of a handful of players this offseason worth a huge contract.

Obviously Brad Childress believes Chester Taylor is a good fit for his offense. He is bigger and more durable than Mewelde Moore and excelled in his limited opportunities in Baltimore. There's no word on whether
Onterrio Spliff will be on the roster come July, but he is another option if they're willing to invest a roster spot on someone who already has three strikes against him remains to be seen.

Oh how things have changed for the Purple. Save for the Daunte nonsense, the offseason has been a good one for sure. With somewhere around $15 or $16 million left to spend, it could get even better. The moves haven't necessarily been the most popular or Fantasy friendly, but very, very solid. What happens in these two months leading up to the draft remains to be seen, but it's safe to say that they're not done yet.

Torii Hunter and the Skipping Record of The Good Ol' Days.

Is it just me or is this like the fifth time we've read this story. I think it's probably the fifth time we've written about this too, but I just couldn't resist. It's my weakness. And throw in the fact that it's written by "Poo-han" (Hey if he gets to use lame humor and overwrought metaphors, I get to say Poo-han), makes it all the more tasty.

Here's a few of my favorites:

He has lived a lifetime in Twins pinstripes, has become the face of the franchise that nurtured him, and will play out his existing contract this year. You would think the prospect of playing elsewhere would be repugnant. You would be wrong. Why? Look at it from Hunter's perspective. Four years after a proud, young lineup took the Twins to the playoffs for the first time since 1991, Hunter is the only regular of that 2002 lineup remaining.

Ahh, a lifetime indeed. There's so many memories, so many. I know it's arguable, but if Hunter is the "face" of this team, I have serious doubts if anyone will ever remember anything about this team during his tenure here. And here we go again. It's time for this month's installment of "Remember When". I'm sick of looking at it, "from Hunter's perspective." Because it isn't perspective. It's short-sighted and lacks any semblance of leadership that the "face" of a team is supposed to show. Oh and there's more.

When Hunter got together with friends to watch basketball on Friday night, he did not join Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. He visited the house of Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, along with Twins second baseman Luis Castillo, and Mike Lowell and Gabe Kapler of the Red Sox. Had he not been playing in the World Baseball Classic, David Ortiz, a member of the 2002 Twins, would have attended.

None of those players have remained with one franchise.

None of Hunter's position-playing peers remain with the Twins.

Okay now it's Shakespeare's time to shine. It's nice to know Jim is plugged in to the social agenda of Torii, but does he honestly think it's important to the story to bring up the fact that he spent time with players from other teams? How many players in this day in age DO stay with one team for their entire career? I'd argue it's less than 10% for sure. So Jim's hard hitting commentary on this seemingly wayward group of vagabonds getting together to watch some hoop is lost on me. Oh and apparently we're supposed to feel sorry for Torii that his position-playing peers are all gone. Cuz, you know there were some great ones in that bunch.

And now Hunter is witnessing the departure of the biggest stars on the Twin Cities sports scene.

Kirby Puckett is no longer with us. Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss have been dispatched. Kevin Garnett is the subject of trade speculation. And this could be -- probably will be -- the last year in Minnesota for Hunter, Twins starter Brad Radke and left fielder Shannon Stewart.

Puckett was a legend, but hadn't played a game in ten years. Garnett isn't gone and I have yet to hear one legitimate trade rumor. Moss needed to go, Culpepper forced his way out, he was not dispatched. And losing Hunter and Stewart is simply a matter of performance versus price, while Radke has become more and more ambivalent about his baseball career over the last couple years.

"I've been hearing rumors about Kevin Garnett," Hunter said. "Daunte is gone, Moss is gone. I thought Moss would be there forever. Kirby passed.

Torii Hunter is not a great football mind.

Does the modern ballplayer covet a one-team career?

Ugg! Do horrible sports writers covet a one-paper career?

One popular theory holds that a new stadium would allow the Twins to keep their high-priced players. "Think about this, though," Hunter said. "I'm 30. A stadium takes three or four years to build. I'm gone by then. The stadium has nothing to do with me. It has something to do with Mauer, Morneau, Jason Bartlett, the younger guys.

When did we anoint Hunter the status of an elite player? One that deserves to be re-signed no matter how large the contract? I'm glad Torii knows the stadium has nothing to do with him, he's right. He knows he's gone, he knows it. If I'm a general manager with half a brain, I look at how much I owe Hunter next year ($13 million), shake his hand and thank him for his 13 years of service. Boy we'll always remember those Gold Gloves, oh and the DQ commercials, and the time you punched Morneau, and how much you bitched every time one of your pals got dealt or signed away.

We think of ballplayers according to the laundry they wear, but ballplayers think of themselves as a large, fluid fraternity of nomadic athletes.

And again I say UGG!

Hunter has been a model ballplayer. He's talented, hard-working, engaging, team-oriented, honest to a fault.

Let's break this down a little. Hunter is a great fielder with mediocre to good numbers at the plate. Does that translate into "talented", yeah I suppose so. Hard-working? Couldn't tell ya. Engaging? To certain people. Team-oriented? Like I said, we've read this story more than once. Honest to a fault? I'm not sure how that defines a model ballplayer, but whatever, fine.

But will the Twins spend about $10 million a year on a great defensive center fielder who runs into walls and hits 20-plus homers a season? Will Hunter accept a lower offer from the Twins than he could get from, say, the Red Sox or Angels?

Probably not.

"Conjunction junction, what's yo' function...", and Shakespeare levels us again.

No no they won't. I get the feeling Jim thinks they should. Sorry but great defensive centerfielders are exciting but not worth big bucks. And 20 plus homers? No, still not worth $10 million, $3 million less than he is actually due to receive. I have had my beefs with Terry Ryan's M.O., but one thing I due admire is his unwillingness to over-pay for players. He knows Hunter will hit the market and get courted and snatched up by a large market team, maybe either NY team, maybe Boston, maybe St. Louis. And they'll overpay and give him big market money and he'll give them exactly what he gave the Twins.

Hunter didn't even realize he was the last position player from the 2002 Twins until someone mentioned it this spring. "Amazing, huh?" he said. "It's strange. When I walked into the clubhouse for the first time this year, it was different. There were a lot of young guys in here. I felt a little out of place for a minute.

"It was a different feeling in the clubhouse. You couldn't joke around with these guys, because you didn't know how they would take it. But it all came back."

Let's face it: Hunter probably won't.

I don't buy that he didn't know this at all. Why? Because this point has been made in one form or another is each of the other five times this story has been written. Why do people seem to be so enamored with this guy? EVERY time he has a chance to talk about how different things are, he does it. EVERY TIME. I don't know how many times we're gonna have to read this story, but hopefully the next time we read it Hunter will be making his way to Fenway or Shea and we'll finally be able to write and be "amazed" by the fact the no position players remain from the 2002 Twins.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Five Keys to the Twins Season

Justin Morneau’s Confidence: Morneau’s 2005 season was really a parallel for the Twins’ season. In 2004 Morneau hit 19 home runs in 74 games, allowing the team to trade Doug Mientkiewicz. With Morneau initially penciled in the four spot as the team’s primary power hitter, 30 home runs didn’t seem out of reach for 2005. Tall pressures and frustrations both seemed to snowball throughout the season.
Despite struggling with his swing, confidence and pitch selection, Morneau still hit 22 homers. He obviously can hit for power, but needs to get on base more and hit more than just home runs. He also needs to get batter versus left-handed pitchers. The good news is he is only 24 and has 1 ½ seasons in the majors. Last year he started out on fire before getting beaned in the head. If he can start out hot again, it could do wonders for his confidence.

The Fifth Element-For the first time in several years the Twins will have a youngster at the fifth spot in the rotation. No more Kenny Rogers, Rick Reed, Terry Mullholland or Rick Helling. Top prospects Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano will battle for the final starting spot. Baker spent much of 2005 in the bullpen with occasional starts. Liriano was a late season call up after dominating AA and AAA. Liriano is one of the hottest prospects in baseball, but Baker’s experience and control give him an edge for the fifth spot. The luxury of having six legitimate starters only buffers against injuries. Both Baker and Liriano will start during the season.

Lefty in the Pen-If Liriano does not start, he could fill the lefthanded reliever spot. Trading JC Romero and Travis Bowyer opens up a spot for a lefty in the bullpen. Johan Santana started his career the same way. While Ron Gardenhire probably waited too long to start Santana, the experience ultimately helped him become an ace. Liriano could do well focusing on one or two innings of work while he continues to sharpen his skills. If Liriano becomes a starter or struggles, the team’s other options are journeymen Darrel May and Dennys Reyes.

Right Power-With Jacque Jones now a Cub, the Twins will try to find some power from the Right Field spot. Michael Cuddyer moves from third base to battle Jason Kubel and Lew Ford. Kubel is the unknown factor here. Two years ago he was the Twins’ brightest prospect and was included on the playoff roster. He spent the past year recovering from torn ligaments in his knee, similar in severity to Daunte Culpepper’s. The hope is that Kubel can produce more power than the other two. Ford is most commonly remembered for his mental lapses, but is an above average hitter, has good speed and could be the most consistent of the three. Cuddyer, a former first round pick, has the potential for power, but has never hit more than 12 home runs. The Twins will probably give Kubel every chance to win the job if he’s healthy. Besides his power potential he also has the best arm of the lot.

A consistent veteran bat- The Twins signed Rondell White and Tony Batista hoping for consistent power from the veterans. White will DH, which Terry Ryan theorizes will keep him healthy. Batista was imported from Japan to man third base. While Batista will not get on base with regularity, he does provide power. His slugging percentage is consistently above the league average and has four 30+ home run seasons. He is not a great fielder, but that is not what he was signed for. If he cannot produce, third base becomes a wide open competition among Terry Tiffee, Glenn Williams and Cuddyer.
White might work out surprisingly well. When he is healthy, always a question, White is consistently well above the league average in Avg, OPB, SLG and OPS. He is not a home run hitter, but supply power through extra base hits and runs created. Things get desperate if 41 year-old Ruben Sierra surfaces in the lineup.

Outlook: Compared to Cleveland and Chicago, Twins are not expected to win the AL Central. Still the team’s pitching is deep, possibly deeper than last year. Success depends on the lineup consistently producing more power and runs than last year. Morneau, Kubel and either Batista or White need to help Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter. If this happens the Twins could do what was expected in 2005 and win the Central.

Friday, March 17, 2006

March Quite-Peturbedness

March is a fantastic month for sports fans. College Basketball, baseball, NFL free agency, NBA, and NHL all have something going on. With such a storm of action some things get ignored. Luckily we scrape all the crannies (nooks are too hard) for entertainment.

The Cubs can now officially begin their 2006 season-Mark Prior is hurt, a bad shoulder no less. What’s next Ken Griffey Jr. pulls a hamstring? In four seasons, Prior has pitched 200+ innings once. Remember when the Twins were considered complete fools for taking Mauer over Prior?

In other Earth Shattering news, Dwight Gooden has a drug addiction-Honestly what more is there to say? It is sad that Gooden can not get help, and taking shots is just low. However, looking at his mug shot, it appears he’s smirking.

Congratulations to Major League Baseball for poor planning-The inaugural WBC looked like it was catching on. People’s interest grew in the second round. That is until the NCAA tournament began on Thursday. Talk about a momentum killer. Now I’d forecast ratings worse than World’s Strongest Man reruns. I doubt the WBC has any Magnus Ver Magnusson’s up their sleeves.

Larry Brown and Starbury: Love Endures-After a week of 8th grade level fighting, Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury say they are on the same page. It’s Brown’s own fault for wanting to coach the Knicks. Is his ego so big that he thought he could change things? At least they’re on speaking terms. Marbury puts it best,"He flexed a real hard juice card, I know that.” Huh?

Coming to a bench near you-It’s Joey Harrington 2.0. He’s the icon for Matt Millen’s Reign of Futility. Upon hearing that Harrington is on his way out, the occasional fan might think the Lions must have signed a better quarterback. Well no, not really. Jon Kitna and Luke McCown, both probably better than Harrington, but not anchors of a franchise either. Sure everyone likes to rip Harrington, he’s an easy target. After looking at his stats, wow, he really is that bad.

Happy St Patrick's Day

Everyone knows it is St. Paddy’s Day. Do you know why? Because it’s Patrick Duffy’s birthday. That’s right, before 1951, there was no day for the Irish. Then the boy who would become Bobby Ewing was born, spawning a grand holiday in his honor.

While many remember him as JR’s younger brother on the short-lived and seldom watched show Dallas, I fondly recall his work as Frank Lambert on Step by Step. Some will scoff and say it was just a cheap Brady Bunch knockoff. To that I say Cody, the Code Man, would whip Oliver’s ass.

So before heading off the get shillelagh’d on green lager, take a minute to remember P-Duffy, the patriarch of St. Patrick’s Day.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In other Dante news

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- An agent for Randy Moss was charged with possession of crack cocaine after police were called to a hotel to investigate a disturbance, authorities said Wednesday.

Dante DiTrapano and his wife, Teri, of Charleston, W.Va., were arrested Tuesday at a hotel in St. Petersburg, police said.

The hotel's management called police to report a disturbance in couple's room. When officers entered the room they found the drugs, police said.

Three other people were also arrested and charged with possession of crack cocaine, police said.

"Dante has been battling depression over two tragedies that occurred this past year. We don't know the facts of his arrest at this point, but we hope and pray that Dante will now get the help he needs," Tim DiPiero, an attorney with DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero, said in a statement released Wednesday.

Moss also commented through the attorney's office.

"I'm sticking by my friend and I'll support him and his family as he gets help battling his problem," Moss said.
Jiminy Christmas, apparently you can't appear in this story if your last name doesn't begin with "Di". In efforts to boost publicity for the site, I'm adding a "Di" to my name. From now on it's DiErv to you mister. You better enjoy the site or I'm going to call DiMaruska and he'll write some scathing criticsm about your favorite squad. And don't think for one second he can't! DiMaruska LITTLE BUSTAS!

Hey, you know what? It's good to see Crack back in the news again. All this talk of Meth and X, had me worried he got left behind in the 90's with The Straw and Doc Gooden. Now we need to just continue the comeback trend and get a nice Peyote story. Or maybe we can just fabricate one. I can see the headline now: Birk goes on Vision Quest; Peyote Buttons Abound, Hernias Do Not

How to Pick a winner in the NCAA Tourney

All the brackets are in, the money is paid, and upset guy is already bragging about his bold Oral Roberts pick. Now rip up your bracket and learn the real method to picking a champion, based on the last 18 years. Toss RPI, tourney history, coaching and potential stars in the trash, there is only one factor to look at. Since 1988 the champion school has either been clean from scandal or dirty. Schools like Syracuse who are considered shady fall into the dirty category. In this span things always balance out. Filthy schools Michigan and UNLV win in the late 90’s, followed by squeaky clean Duke and UNC the next three years. Since ’93, neither clean or dirty has won more than two in a row.

First eliminate any seed lower than a four, it is hard enough for a lower seed to make the Final Four, but nearly impossible to win it all. Next divide the teams into two categories based on scandal and NCAA probation: pristine and unclean. Not every school will be one extreme, so some guesswork is needed, but less than you may think (unfortunately these could change at a later date). Among the top sixteen teams in the tourney they spilt evenly:


Duke-The ultimate Pristine Powerhouse
Iowa-Ignore Pierre Pierce and Jess Settles, the bracket needs clean teams
Texas-They’re dirty on the court
Kansas-Infractions under Larry Brown was a long time ago
Gonzaga-Might someday end up in Unclean
North Carolina-The reigning Pristine Champ
Villanova-Could have been dirty too.
Boston College-Being in the Pristine ACC allows grace

LSU-They’re an SEC team, it’s expected to cheat
Memphis-The only thing missing is Tarkanian
UCLA-The last two coaching eras were dirty including ’95 title
UConn-A history of shady point guards from Khalid El-Amin to Marcus Williams
Illinois-Pretty clean recently, but former coach Lou Henson left a lasting image
Tennessee-They have guards that can dish the rock.
Florida-Another SEC team that reeks of shady doings
Ohio State-Scandal spans back to early 90's.

Keeping in mind that Pristine North Carolina won last year, it’s time for an Unclean to soil the trophy. Since UConn won two years ago and they are more of a shady team (but making strides towards full-fledged dirty), it is time for a truly dirty team to win out. Ohio State’s last two coaches’ misdeeds have positioned the Buckeyes for probabtion and NCAA scrutiny for the next few years. Ohio State's One Shining Moment is now, because there may not be a next time.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

John Clayton, your time is now!

ESPN's John Clayton likes to break stories. And that's fine, he's very good at that. His trouble lies in his analysis.

What are the Vikings thinking?
Two years ago, they were a trendy Super Bowl pick. They had Randy Moss at wide receiver and Daunte Culpepper at quarterback. Following the 2004 season, both players were 28-years-old and in their prime. Moss was the league's ultimate playmaker, a receiver almost impossible to overthrow and known for making the impossible catch, especially in the red zone.
Anyone else remember Moss taking plays off, walking off the field early or causing team distractions? I recall the Vikings being a better pick after Moss was traded.

Culpepper was a freak. The league's biggest starting quarterback at 268 pounds, Culpepper was a load for smaller opposing linebackers to bring down. Plus, he had the speed and moves to run like a halfback. On top of all that, he had a rocket arm and could average 30 touchdowns a year.
And then Daunte got a Blackberry for Christmas and started emailing management his outlandish demands.

So what are the Vikings thinking giving up both players within a year for wide receiver Troy Williamson, linebacker Napoleon Harris and a second-round pick in 2006? New owner Zygi Wilf wasn't part of the Moss trade. That was from the Red McCombs era.
The organization decided there were too many incidents involving Moss that were distractions. So the Vikings shopped him in a trade, didn't wait to get value and ended up getting the seventh pick in the draft and Harris, who ended up playing only 25 percent of the downs.

They drafted Williamson with that No. 7 pick last year. He is a fast deep threat, but he played in only 29 percent of the offensive downs last season. Harris' days in Minnesota are probably numbered, because the Vikings spent $4 million a year to get outside linebacker Ben Leber out of San Diego. Plus, Harris is in the final year of his contract.
No one expected Williamson to make the Pro Bowl last year. He is raw and still learning, but you can’t say he’s a bust. Nap Harris is a bust. The 49ers only got a 2nd round pick for Terrell Owens. A first rounder plus a potential starter is the as near fair value as possible. Of course considering Moss’ numbers sharply declined the past two years, it’s not that bad of a deal.

Championship teams are built around five key positions -- quarterbacks, receivers, cornerbacks, tackles and defensive ends who are playmakers. The Vikings ended up giving up 40 percent of those cornerstone positions for Williamson, who is a fast prospect but caught only 24 passes for 372 yards in 2005, and whatever they get in the second round this year.
Name the Ravens receivers, quarterback and playmaking defensive ends. Now name the Rams’ corners, tackles and defensive ends. How about the Cowboys defensive playmakers during the dynasty?

What are the Vikings thinking?
Thanks to good cap management, though, the Vikings have the salary space to bring in top players. Williamson might develop into a big-play threat. They hit gold with Koren Robinson, whom they re-signed after his amazing comeback season from alcohol problems (Robinson made the Pro Bowl in 2005 as a return man.)
First Clayton implies they are fools, but then says the team is in good shape. What does Koren Robinson have to do with this story? One reason the Vikings have lots of cap room is trading a declining Moss.

The organization apparently didn't like Culpepper's contract demands this offseason. Moreover, he didn't hit it off with new head coach Brad Childress by not working out at the team facility. Culpepper preferred to train in Florida. New coaches want their quarterbacks in town.
Maybe Clayton would appreciate his franchise player publicly demanding a pay raise after a horrendous season. Or passive-aggressively asking for a trade via email. And how ludicrous of Childress to request Culpepper in town to better assimilate to a new offense.

Back in the Dennis Green days, the Vikings made trips to the playoffs each year, even though Green went through a long list of veteran quarterbacks in the later stages of their careers. Although that strategy might get you to the playoffs, it's hard to win a Super Bowl with what you might consider transitional quarterbacks.
“Transitional Quarterbacks” that won Super Bowls: Jay Schroeder/Doug Williams, Jeff Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Trent Dilfer and hold on, it’ll come to me…Brad Johnson.

Culpepper, when healthy, has the ability to win a Super Bowl.
Franchise quarterbacks that have not won a Super Bowl: Dan Fouts, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick.

It's interesting that he's going to the Dolphins, a team, like the Vikings, that had nine wins in 2006. Miami head coach Nick Saban felt he got the most he could out of the aging Gus Frerotte.
Why is this interesting? John Clayton also thinks it is interesting that Miami and Minnesota are next to each other in an alphabetical listing of NFL teams.

But look at the impact of what a quarterback can do.
Carson Palmer put the Bengals on the playoff map in Cincinnati. Fortunately, he went to a franchise that had a coach, Marvin Lewis, who knew what to do with such a commodity. He sat him for a year and let him blossom into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Marvin the Wise tells Palmer, “Carson, I want you to sit out this year and then next year you can blossom.” Other stupid coaches like Jim Mora immediately played Peyton Manning to his ruin.

If Palmer comes back from his knee injury, the Bengals, like the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger, will be Super Bowl contenders every year. The Patriots won three Super Bowls with their franchise quarterback, Tom Brady.
What Clayton is trying to say is, a franchise quarterback is critical to a dynasty. But that is not the only ingredient for a Super Bowl team. Randy Moss wore out his welcome and the Vikings did the best they could. Daunte had a horrible 2005, severely blew out his knee, isn’t a perfect fit for the West Coast offense, and forced a trade. For the Vikings to get a 2nd round pick is a decent save compared to releasing him for nothing. The Dolphins get a potential franchise quarterback with serious questions, and still very expensive.

The Vikings can only hope they can be as successful as the Seattle Mariners were when they went through a period in which they lost Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
The Mariners won games but no championships after Griffey and Rodriguez left. It's hard to replace franchise players, and the Vikings hardly got value. What are they thinking?
The Mariners have never been to the World Series. Since Clayton ends with this terrible analogy, I’ll end with this cheapshot:
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Friday, March 10, 2006

RDHHH's Great Sports Movies: The Program

With all this talk of movies and awards and how hard it truly is to be a pimp, we thought it might be nice to share with you some of our favorite sports movies of all time. Some of them are great, some of them are really bad (but that's what makes them great).

The Program

Possibly the worst movie on the list, but I hold a special place for it in my heart. It has everything: controversy (They pulled a scene from the movie that showed players being initiated by laying down in the middle of a busy street.), ridiculously huge hits, and G 'n R.

The official tag line was: "Pressure surrounds them. Competition divides them. Talent unites them. A story of what it takes to survive..." With a tagline like that, it's a wonder this hasn't appeared on one of those AFI lists. I keep thinking to myself what comes after the elipse? The cast of characters just begs for a sequel. James Caan, Halle Barry, Omar Epps, plus unforgetable characters like Alvin Mack, Joe Kane, Lattimer, Bud-Lite Kaminski, Ray Griffin: Starting Tailback!

I think the sequel could be huge. We revisit the guys 10 years later and find them in varying states of success and failure. Alvin Mack has done the impossible and come back to be a star in the NFL, signing a record endorsement deal with Adidas. Joe Kane went Marinovich, and is fighting his way back to playing form. Lattimer is still chucking coeds across rooms, although they're now Arena league groupies and instead of dorm rooms it's a room at Motel 6. Lattimer spent time in the XFL where he was known as "He Inject Me". Coach Winters has moved into the pro ranks and is building a dyansty-like team a la Belichick. Oh man I think we could write a gem.

All in all, I think this quote pretty much conveys my feelings about this gem of a film:

Coach Winters: We gotta ring that bell! We gotta to ring that championship bell!
Steve Lattimer: Ding motherfu**ing dong!

Ring it loud indeed!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

You've Got Mail from the Roll Player

What is the deal with Daunte Culpepper and his inconsistent demands? One minute he is asking for a pay raise from the Vikings, then requests a trade, later denying both. Next he volunteers a deferment on his bonus and wants to be a Viking. Today he again issued a statement asking for a trade or release. The common denominator? Any statements from Culpepper this offseason are via email.

His statements seem schizophrenic. Either Culpepper doesn’t know what he really wants, aside from attention, or the media is misreading his comments. After getting this email forward from Daunte, a clearer picture is painted:

Hello, my name is Daunte.
This really works, please don?t delete it! If you choose not to read it, at least send it to people so that they can have a chance. I got this e*mail and tried it. Exactly a week later, I received a check for $9million! It was perfect timing, I?m going to Florida soon and really need the extra cash. Thanks sooo much for sending this to me, I hope someone else out there turns out as happy as I did!

Hello everybody,
My name is Bill Gates. Here at Microsoft we have just compiled an e-mail tracing program that tracks everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches 1000 people everyone on the list will receive $1000 at my expense. Enjoy.

Your friend,
Bill Gates

You see? Culpepper doesn't really want trouble, he's just trying to get paid. It really paints a different picture of Daunte or the 13 year old kid with as his handle.

Random Thoughts on Bonds, Steroids and Mutations

Thanks to the excerpts from Book of Shadows, I now know what the mutagen used on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles consists of. For the longest time I could not put my finger on who or what Barry Bonds looked like. Finally I know, it's Michelangelo sans nunchucks. With that question put to bed, on to more thoughts and questions about this mess.

-Barry Bonds claimed steroids don’t make you a better hitter. He's right, steroids wouldn’t help me hit home runs, because I can’t hit home runs on a softball field with a 270ft porch. Administered to a world class athlete however, and performance will increase. They help you recover quicker, build muscle, turn warning track flyouts into homers, and apparently improve your sight. If you put nitro boosters on a school bus it may help a little bit. If you put them on a Corvette, you’ll see a big difference.

-To label Bonds’ achievements as tainted is too soft. Everyone knew he took steroids and growth hormone to some degree. Now that we know how scientific and calculated it was, there is no other word than blatant cheating.

-I don't care if it was against baseball rules or not. He took illegal substances and cheated. MLB's ignorance is irrelevant in this case. If George Steinbrenner conspired to kidnap David Ortiz and Curt Schilling for the 2004 playoffs that would greatly alter the outcome. There are no MLB rules against kidnapping. MLB deserves blame for this debacle, but not in place of Bonds or other offenders.

-Where is Bud Selig? He wants to wait for the book to pass judgement. It is pretty clear what the book will say. I doubt there will be a trap door on the last page discrediting the whole matter. Selig needs to address this, not just Bonds specifically, but to take some kind of stand or responsibility.

-In light of this latest evidence, no argument for Bonds as a Hall of Famer is justified. It is clear he took copious amounts of steroids for at least five to six years. Regardless of his previous numbers, he cheated for a significant period of time. There is no way to separate the clean years from the “clear” years. It is Barry Bonds’ career as a whole.

- Bonds was a 3 time MVP before he allegedly began using steroids. This fact makes it even sadder. In 1998 he was a first ballot Hall of Fame choice. He sacrificed not only his Cooperstown ticket, but his credibility, hair, sex life and long term health. My guess is Bonds doesn’t see 55. If he does, it will be in physical and mental wreckage.

-If a detailed expose targeted a more popular player like Mark McGwire, I think the tone would be much different. I think the fact that Barry Bonds is an antagonistic jerk gives many people greater license to unload on him. Not that it is wrong, but lots of players took (take?) steroids. I am not sure the reaction would be so severe.

-By my count at least 8 players accounting for 12 MVP trophies have rumored links or solid proof to steroids. That number could climb higher before this is all settled.

-Going forward, people will question any player with a sudden rise in power numbers. Or a sharp decline. Or sudden nagging injuries. Fair or not, every player will have to accept this scrutiny.

-If not for an anonymous whistle-blower, drug officials still might not know about many of these drugs.Baseball is taking the whipping for steroids because they didn’t have a drug policy. Focusing on tougher testing policies does nothing if you are looking for invisible drugs. Of course Bonds never failed a test.

-To that point, baseball is not on an island. If sprinters, cyclists and baseball players dope, why wouldn’t football players? Considering the violent nature and non-guaranteed contracts, performance enhancing drugs in football makes even more sense. I refuse to believe Bill Romanowski and Todd Sauerbrun are isolated incidents. At some point the muck will surface in the NFL too.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Minnesota's Icon

Growing up in Minnesota I was the odd kid that didn’t like the Twins. My dad loved the Yankees and so I adopted that love. While I didn’t like Twins like Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola and Gary Gaetti, Kirby Puckett was different. He was unique.

Kirby ascended to the major leagues in the 80’s, in a time when people still looked up to athletes as role models. Minnesota did not boast many celebrities or heroes to take pride in. The Vikings hadn’t had a star since Tarkenton and Alan Page, the North Stars had no transcending stars and the Timberwolves didn’t exist. No player held national prominence or created a winning atmosphere in the Twin Cities.

Kirby was an All-Star by his third year and in 1987 his fourth season, helped the Twins win their first World Series. The first professional sports title since the Minneapolis Lakers in 1954.

He wasn’t just another star athlete with great success. He was Kirby, instantly identified with Minnesota, no less than Prince or later Jesse. He didn’t look like a baseball player; his pudgy physique suited a line cook. His high leg kick gave boys something to imitate. His upbeat attitude and smile just added to his icon status. He gave local fans someone to cheer for, take pride in, and claim ownership. “That’s Kirby, he’s our guy.”

His signature moment came in the 1991 World Series with his Game 6 walk off home run off Charlie Leibrandt. I was at the game, and it’s still my favorite sports memory. I didn’t truly become a Twins fan until later, but I was definitely a Kirby fan. It was the most amazing sports scene I’ve been witness to.

After 1992 Minnesotans feared the worst. Kirby was a free agent and many assumed a larger team like Boston would pay too much for Kirby. Baseball salaries began to explode and Kirby could cash in. How could anyone blame him? He was one of the best players in the game and deserved a big payoff. How could the Twins afford him? Instead he stayed in Minnesota for less money, instantly enlarging his legend in his adopted hometown.

After retiring early, it appears Puckett was no longer Kirby. Without baseball things turned ugly. To the national perspective, this is what most people remember because it’s the most recent news about Puckett. For Minnesotans and baseball fans, it is a different focus. Kirby is the reason I'm a Twins fan today. He was our guy.

Thanks man!

I've heard it a whole lot this morning and yesterday afternoon: Everyone has a Kirby story. Everyone has a memory that stands out from the rest. For some it's watching him play, for others it's simply watching him light up a room. He is that rare case of an athlete that nearly always out-performed his peers on the field, but will be remembered most for who he was off it. It's horribly cliche and it's the kind of thing that's said far to often, but I don't think anyone can argue that in this case it's totally deserved.

I think I speak for most guys my age, when I say that Kirby was THE guy. We all played the game where we jumped up against the wall to "rob homeruns" like Kirby. We all at one time or another, stepped up to the plate and tried to swing like Kirby too. I think as a fan, as someone who grew up looking up to a lot of athletes, you wanted to feel like you knew them. And again, this is what I think set Kirby apart from the rest. I never met him, never had a chance to hang out with him, or see him close-up. But there was something about him that made you always feel like he was your guy.

I could talk all day about some of my fave moments. I was at Game 6. The catch, the homerun, the fist pump. I remember high-fiving the drunk guy next to me about ten times. Milwaukee, 6 for 6. There's just so much. He could hit practically any pitch thrown at him, and usually the worse the pitch, the better the hit. People remember his catches so often. But I remember him pegging guys at home with his absolute canon of an arm.

So I don't mean to get too sentimental. I think people sometimes get overly-emotional and sentimental in times like this. He was just a guy. He played a game. But maybe for the first time in my life, I feel a little that way. He was a good guy, he was a great player. But I think it has more to do with how much he was a part of my childhood. In the good times. In those really crappy, awkward times. Spending time with my Dad. Spending time with my Mom and my Grandma, that's where I remember Kirby. And I'm never gonna forget it.

So touch 'em all my man, we're gonna miss ya!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

RDHHH! Caption Contest: What is Barry Bonds thinking?

-"The media makes me so...sad."
-"With Rod Smart getting cut, now I can finally be He Hate Me!"
-"Man that flaxseed oil burns."
-"I am way hotter than Paula Abdul."

Whoa Jciechowski!

Gene Wojciechowski writes for ESPN. He doesn’t do research or know a lot about sports, but he does write. He is also in love with the White Sox, and particularly Ozzie Guillen.

Grinder Ball Rule No. 71:
If at first you succeed, repeat.

For anyone that misplaced their copy of “Grinder Ball”, Wojo reminds us.

Under overcast skies at Tucson Electric Park, the White Sox opened their spring training schedule Wednesday against the Colorado Rockies (they lost 5-1). A year ago they lost their exhibition season opener to these same Rockies. Then they lost another game. And another game. They finished the spring with the second-worst record among American League teams. The general consensus among seamheads: they'd finish third or fourth in the AL Central.
Mean Gene’s first point for Grinder Ball is their awful spring training record. This is totally stupid. The definition of exhibition game: a sporting event in which there is no gain or loss from whether the competitors are victorious are not in any competition.

So, of course, the White Sox won the World Series. They didn't just win it, they ground a cleat heel into the Houston Astros. They became the first team since the '27 New York Yankees -- the gold standard of baseball dominance -- to lead the regular season from start to finish and record a World Series sweep.
The Sox share this in single commonality with the ’27 Yankees, so they must be a juggernaut. Keep in mind Wojo doesn’t do any research. It took me ten minutes to look up the 1990 Reds, a team that lead the Division wire to wire and swept the A’s. And that was when there were only two divisions.

Further, leading the division wire to wire is pretty arbitrary. The ’98 Yankees began 0-3. They recovered to win 114 games and sweep the World Series.

Now, 'most everyone has jumped on the Grinder Ball Rule No. 71 bandwagon. The White Sox are the logical pick for the two-peat, regardless of what George Steinbrenner says about his precious Yankees.
Does anyone recall Peter Gammons or anyone else citing Rule 71? There are a lot of people besides Steinbrenner who will pick the Yankees this year.

"Nobody's that good to win a World Series in March," says Guillen, sitting in the golf cart he uses to buzz from practice field to practice field. "You win a World Series in October."
A wise proverb by Ozzie Guillen. Similarily nobody's good enough to win the WBC in December.

We saw a starting rotation with Mark Buehrle and then a collection of question marks. White Sox general manager Ken Williams saw ERAs with tiny waist sizes.
"We thought we would win the division because we thought we had the best pitching," he says.
I guess Ken Williams knew that Jon Garland and Jose Conteras would each reduce their ERA’s by over a run. And Garland would reduce his walks by 40. Can anyone honestly claim they say Garland and Contreras being that good last year?

But nobody -- not Guillen, Williams, Konerko, Podsednik, Dye, Pierzynski or Jon Garland -- says he ever thought about breaking an 88-year-old championship losing streak. Not in March, they didn't.
Wait a minute, first Wojo gives the Sox credit for thinking they could win. Now no one in the organization actually believed it.

But as the season progressed, a National League first baseman began to notice the White Sox surge. His name was Jim Thome.
Jim Thome, baseball slugger and prophet.

"I think after the first month [and a 17-7 record], you thought, 'Man, this club here has got a chance to be a pretty good team,"' says Thome, who was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the White Sox in November. "Then they kept it going and you said, 'They got a real good team.'"
Thome, being the only man with access to the Division standings correctly declared that the White Sox were in first place.

Guillen wants more, and he might get it. Those questions about the rotation? Uh, what questions? Concerned about the White Sox offense? Hello, Thome. Nervous about the pressure of defending a world championship? Guillen might have the loosest, friendliest clubhouse in the big leagues.
Maybe they should worry about the Indians, Yankees, and Angels. While a loose clubhouse is nice for groupies, plenty of teams have the talent to beat the Sox. Sure Garland and Contreras might pitch great, or the law of averages kicks in and returns them to adequate. Center field is a big hole. Scott Podsednik is overrated. The White Sox are far from flawless. And on top of it all it's Gene's assertion that signing Thome, a guy coming off major elbow surgery, can step in and perform as well as he once did.

"Last year, we were good," Guillen says. "This year, I want to be great. I tell them don't worry about 2005. Worry about 2006."
What ballplayer wouldn’t be fired up by that? Tony LaRussa's "Remember 1982" speech to his Cardinals falls well short by comparison. Guillen's remarks even outshine Mike McGinty's stirring 2001 preseason speech to his Southwest Sparklers 3rd grade girls hoops squad. That's the stuff of legend and Guillen is crushing it with his Confucious-like wordplay.

Basically this article is for Recessive Gene to say he likes the White Sox and thinks they’ll repeat. His reasons: Spring Training losses, Ken Williams’ clairvoyance, Jim Thome’s clairvoyance, and his man crush on Ozzie Guillen. And because of Grinder Ball rule #71. Simple, just repeat. Had the Astros won last year, they would easily repeat in ’06. Ignore that they probably won’t have Roger Clemens.

It’s a Wonderful Life

This offseason the Vikings are like Mr Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life. Taking advantage of others misfortunes and doing it economically. Many NFL teams are panicking, trying to limbo underneath the $95 million cap bar. Meanwhile the Vikings, $24 million under the cap, sit and wait, ready to swoop in for some great deals.

Half of the NFL teams are below or within $2million of the cap number. Several other teams need to cut payroll to resign other free agents. Three months ago it was a very weak free agency year. Now, thanks to a stalemate in labor talks, the NFL off season will be a
land rush. Of the few teams have the money and cap space of the Vikings, only San Diego, Jacksonville and Philadelphia are close to playoff ready.

The cap craziness also means teams will need to decide how many of their own free agents they can keep. Look at the Carolina Panthers. They started the off season $12 million over the cap and already cut Stephen Davis, Brentson Buckner and Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. More cuts will bring them below the cap, but will they have enough money to resign free agents LB Will Witherspoon and S Marlon McRee? In a normal year a restricted free agent like Witherspoon would never make it to the open market. Suddenly teams like the Vikings that need an upgrade in the middle have a realistic shot at him. The flipside of this is less competition for the Vikings’ free agents like Koren Robinson.

One of the most common cap cuts are offensive lineman. Coincidentally, this is the Vikings’ most visible need. Players like Will Shields, Brad Hopkins, Pete Kendall are all rumored to be cut. Many of these players are nearing the end of their careers, but it would grant time to Marcus Johnson and Tonui Fonoti. The other option is the Saints’ LeCharles Bentley who can play both guard and center. He is a free agent and while he is the more expensive option, he is entering his prime.

Other options worth tracking are defensive back and defensive end. Lance Johnstone is a free agent, Kenechi Udeze is rehabbing a torn knee, and the cover 2 relies on pressure from the front four. Why not sign a Pro Bowler like Trevor Pryce for a one or two year deal? A safety or converted corner to replace Corey Chavous could be cheaply found among the cap castoffs. Ditto for a veteran corner as a nickelback. Sam Madison, Marcus Coleman, Eric Warfield or Ahmed Plummer for an inexpensive third corner would be luxurious. And that is exactly the luxury the Vikings can see.