Friday, April 28, 2006

NFL Draft Hodge Podge

Too short, too inconsistent, too slow, too stupid, too troubled. The same phrases are used every year to knock prospects and every year people are wrong on many players. Part of the reason is that too much emphasis is placed on the wrong combine numbers like the 40 and not enough attention is paid to film and actual production.

Take Alabama Quarterback Brodie Croyle. He has two negatives that scouts point out: durability and inconsistency. Durability is a legitimate concern for a quarterback. His inconsistency however deserves a closer look. As a freshman Croyle played in Dennis Franchione’s power running offense, then learned Mike Price’s spread offense before he was fired, and finally Mike Shula’s pro-style offense. Plenty of quarterbacks will struggle with inconsistency in that situation, and Croyle deserves credit for being a quick learner. Apparently his yearly improvement in an unstable program is worth ignoring.

Speed and size are two of the measurables that teams look for. When a player lacks one of the two, they usually drop in the draft. Michigan receiver Jason Avant isn’t an explosive so he’s not considered an elite prospect. While other receivers are faster, Avant is efficient, which is more valuable than straight line speed anyway.However he is considered the best route-runner in the draft, has good size and good hands (82 catches last year). Other Michigan receivers Braylon Edwards and Steve Breaston might be considered gamebreakers, but Avant will be a solid NFL possession receiver for 5-10 years. At some point measurables must give way to actual production and football talent.

Every year someone will mention Mike Mamula and Tom Brady as the two extreme poles of the draft. One was impressive at the combine and shot up the charts resulting in a monumental first round bust, the other a solid college quarterback and 6th round pick that became a 3-time Super Bowl champ. Despite the two tales of draft bust and boom, the same dumb ideas still pollute the draft.

Croyle and Avant are two of several mid to late round players that range from potential starts, to solid starters, reserves and special teams players.

Eleven Other Intriguing Prospects
RB Jerome Harrison Washington State-He ran for 1,900 yards as a senior at Washington State. He is not big (5-9, 200) but there are plenty of running backs in the NFL at this size. He won’t take 25 carries a game, but properly used, might be a Brian Westbrook or a poor man’s Reggie Bush.

RB Rashon Powers-Neal Notre Dame-Not really a fullback, but is a good short yardage running back. He also is a decent receiver. He might fit well in a West Coast offense where he is not asked to be a lead blocker.

FB David Kirtman USC-Good Receiver out of the backfield and helped open holes for Bush and Lendale White.

WR Mike Hass Oregon State-He’s slow and white. Those are the knocks on the nation’s receiving yards leader. He has very good hands and made lots of plays despite being the Beavers’ only offensive weapon for two years. Think Ed McCaffery.

WR/KR Skyler Green LSU-He is 5’9” and fast. He won’t have 100 receptions or be a red zone target. He will be great on returns and be a change of pace from the slot. A stretch comparison is Dante Hall.

TE Tim Day Oregon-He is not a good blocker. Few receiving tight ends are. He is a potential starter in the mid rounds. He might get overlooked by the numerous tight ends in the draft, but will be a steal.

T Joe Toledo Washington-He outgrew his tight end position and moved to tackle as a senior. He’s obviously inexperienced as a lineman, but is a good blocker and his tight end agility is a big help. A project, but worth a late round pick.

DT Jesse Mahealona-A good pass rusher and very quick.

LB Clint Ingram Oklahoma-He’s fast, forces turnovers and can cover. He also played under a good defensive system.

LB AJ Nicholson-He had better stats than 1st round teammate Ernie Sims. Both Nicholson and Sims have off-field issues, but only Nicholson will apparently suffer in the draft. Some team might end up with a cheaper, equally productive player.

LB Will Derting Washington State- Think Zach Thomas. He’s small and injury prone. He also gets to the ball and makes big plays.

Five Players that might tank (or become Hall of Famers to spite me)
Vernon Davis-Teams always fall in love with someone based on the combine. Davis did have a good junior season, but whenever scouts claim a player will revolutionize their position it’s asking for a letdown.

Antonio Cromartie-Compared to Deion Sanders. He’s started 11 college games and missed all of 2005. Plenty of prospects have possessed “rare ability” with rare results to match.

Tye Hill-Defensive backs in the draft are hit and miss. Pac Man Jones or Antrell Rolle? Ahmad Carroll or Chris Gamble? Troy Polamalu or Andre Woolfork? Quentin Jammer or Roy Williams?Hill is fast, but small.

Matt Leinart-If Leinart didn’t play at USC, would he be as highly rated? Considering the amount of talent surrounding Leinart in college, he got away with some things.
Chad Greenway-No real reason other than his teammate Abdul Hodge is better, but Greenway has the ideal size. Greenway just doesn’t stick out as a great playmaker.

Team you don’t want to draft you (Besides Detroit):Cleveland. Recent high draft picks Kellen Winslow, Sean Jones, Braylon Edwards, all suffered season ending injuries in their rookie years.

Who’s the Crazy one here?
ESPN’s Merrell Hoge says he would never draft Vince Young as a quarterback and wouldn’t take Leinart until the third or fourth round. He says Jay Cutler and Brodie Croyle are the two quarterbacks with the arm strength for the NFL. It sounds crazy and Dan Patrick said as much. Considering how much film Hoge and Ron Jaworski watch, I value Hoge’s opinion more than most experts. He said he looked at all three first round quarterbacks consecutively and Cutler stood out the most. Hoge is in the extreme minority, but we’ll see in three years what happens.

The Wild Card
Excluding Young, the quarterback with the most talent might be Marcus Vick. Earlier this season he was seen as the number pick in the 2007 draft and considered a better quarterback than his brother Michael. He only started one year at Virginia Tech and his off field problems are serious. Right now he is projected near in seventh round/undrafted territory. Some team without an immediate quarterback need could take a chance on his talent. The first sign of trouble, he’s cut at a minimal loss. If he behaves, suddenly a coach or GM looks very smart.

Overall tomorrow’s draft will be exciting. In a sports season with NBA and NHL playoffs, plus a newborn baseball season, it is amazing that most anticipated sporting event isn’t even a game. And like every other rube, I’ll be tethered to the laptop, helmet phone at my side, waiting to see if my team takes the linebacker with good knee bend or the safety with fluid hips.

Purple Zubaz Would Have Been Better

As ugly as they are, it could have been worse and been a purple on purple motif. This concludes the RDHHH fashion review.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Vikings Draft roadmap

With the NFL draft days away, now is the time for the ridiculous rumors to reach a fever pitch. While plenty of experts like to construct mock drafts from these rumors, the reality is few people know what will happen on Saturday. As an alternative to a mock draft here is a roadmap of what the Vikings need and hope to accomplish this weekend. After filling 5-6 starting positions through free agency, the Vikings can now use the draft for long term development. At the worst the team has two to three immediate needs in the lineup. The remaining picks will go towards developing depth and future starters. With five first day picks, the team is in good shape.

Linebacker(Round 1-3)Hole to fill: Immediate starter

The number one need on defense is a fast linebacker. This is where the Vikings should use their first round pick. Linebacker is one of the easiest needs to fill through the draft. The odds of a rookie linebacker starting decrease with each round of the draft. Recent first round LB’s Derrick Johnson, Demarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman, Jonathan Vilma and DJ Williams all started as rookies. Compared to less talented and mentally equal (lost) 2nd rounders like EJ Henderson and Dontarrious Thomas, the difference is noticeable. The team’s need for skilled linebackers is high enough to warrant two first day selections.

Quarterback(2-3)Hole to fill: Future starter
The team is comfortable with Brad Johnson for the immediate future, but a potential future starter is one of the prime needs of this draft. While some rumors say the Vikings will trade up in the first round, it wouldn’t make sense. The history of first round quarterbacks is dicey. A second or third round selection makes more sense. There is less pressure at that point in the draft, not to mention significantly cheaper. Trading a first round pick for Atlanta’s Matt Schaub would be a major mistake.

Guard/Tackle(4-7)Hole to fill: depth, potential starter
Considering all of the injuries the Vikings’ line endured the last two years, depth is always necessary. With Steve Hutchinson, Bryant McKinnie and Marcus Johnson, they have a relatively young core of lineman. A future starter at right tackle should be the focus, allowing Johnson to play right guard.

Defensive Back(2-4)Hole to fill: Nickel back, future starter
Depending on how Dustin Fox is used, the Vikings will need a nickel back or backup free safety. Three cover cornerbacks are necessary in the NFL. Considering Fred Smoot’s shaky 2005, and Brian William’s departure, more depth is welcomed. If Fox inherits the nickel job, an eventual replacement for Darren Sharper is a wise investment.

Tight End(3-5)-Hole to fill: Receiving TE, future starter

Following a league wide trend, Brad Childress’ offense will feature the tight end prominently. Jermaine Wiggins is a nice possession receiver, but not the playmaker like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez or Jeremy Shockey. Jimmie Kleinsasser on the other hand is an excellent blocker, but not a large threat in the air. It is possible the team takes a tight end in the first three rounds, but more likely is finding a project on day two.

Running Back(4-7)Hole to fill: special teams

Chester Taylor is probably not a top tier running back. With the Vikings’ improved line it may not matter. If the team does draft another running back (they have four of the last five years) it won’t be until the second day. The one exception is if they find a running back that can return kicks, relieving Koren Robinson of this duty.

WR(4-5)Hole to fill: depth, special teams

The Vikings have decent depth and youth at receiver. A receiver that could help on returns and coverage is a possibility.

Other needs:
Center-A project that could eventually replace Matt Birk.
DT-A run stopper to back up Pat Williams is nice, but not a dire need.
DE-With a rotation of Udeze, James, Spencer Johnson, Darrion and Dequincy Scott, end is in good hands. Minnesota is unlikely to spend a pick here.

The specific players Minnesota takes is unknown and guessing is pointless. Instead of getting hung up on the specific player, judge the Vikings' draft on how wisely they spend their picks. Can anyone honestly say that Ernie Sims, Chad Greenway or Demeco Ryans won't all be busts? In a year or two we can start to compare certain players.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Hypothetical Question

After two straight years of losses a CEO of a fortune 500 company has his performance review with the shareholders. He accepts responsibility for the company's struggles saying, "The buck stops with me. There are absolutely no excuses for anything. I wish we had had a lot better year."

Then he promptly asks to stay in his position in order to turn things around.

Review Questions:
1. Would any Fortune 500 company do this?
2. If a Fortune 500 did do this, would they remain a Fortune 500 company?
3. Why would the Timberwolves think a record of failures will magically disappear with the status quo?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Timberwolves are Close to Losing the Wrong Kevin

To a Timberwolves fan trading Kevin Garnett is the worst possibility. A Garnett fan can only hope KG gets the chance to play for a title. Since Timberwolves fans are Garnett fans, it is quite the paradox.

Garnett has accomplished everything an individual player can. He has absurd financial security, All-NBA and MVP honors, Hall of Fame statistics and Gold medals, but he has not won. Ignore the individual achievements because Garnett just wants to win. There aren’t five NBA players as competitive as KG. After patiently absorbing the frustrations for years, Garnett just wants help either here or somewhere else. And he deserves it. While he has not publicly said so, it really sounds like Help me or Trade me.

This is very different than Brett Favre asking for talent. Garnett is a loyal and selfless franchise player, still in his prime that just wants to win. Favre passed into twilight three years ago and he had plenty of chances to win more. Favre’s demands hold the Packers hostage and he has less to offer than Garnett. Garnett is still one of the five best players in the league. Through constant team blunders, the supporting cast is a desert. Worse they are stuck in salary quicksand, pulled deeper with every transaction.

Steve Aschburner summed up the Wolves’ outlook perfectly. Fans may have seen Garnett’s last game in a Timberwolves uniform. Considering the odds of acquiring playoff talent, let alone Championship talent, it is time for fans to prepare their thank you’s for the Big Ticket.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Commercial Break

Sorry for the lack of posts, and especially quality posts lately. Chris became Big Papi and Mike became Karl Malone and has been mailing it in. While we regain our composure, why not check out something entertaining?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Holy Hyperbole!

If you want some good hyperbole, and who doesn't, check this out. Baseball America posts their annual top 100 prospects. A quote by a scout or manager is supplied as a summary for each player. This is not knocking the list, they know way more about minor league prospects than most people, but some of the quotes are entertaining and way too over-the-top.
Many of the assessments were helpful, some were a total waste ruined by incessant gushing or crediting a player for great intangibles and being winners Here’s a few of the better quotes:

Anonymous scout on #1 prospect Delmon Young, “Delmon's going to be as good as Delmon wants to be.”

In the same vein as 2 Live Crew’s Nasty as They Wanna Be, Young can choose his own adventure. Do you go for Hall of Famer, settle for All-Star or be a journeyman pinch-hitter and call it good?

“He looks like the next Cal Ripken to me."

Why even play if you can put that on your resume?

“He is one of the most instinctual players for his age that I've ever seen."
How can you not be impressed by someone’s instinctual-ity? When most shortstops get the ball, their first thought is to kick it, but not this kid, he’s got gumption and savvy.

"He's got the arm, the heart and the head to do some very, very great things for that organization."
A good arm and head are good things for a pitcher to possess. Maybe with his big heart he can set up a very, very great food drive.

“He gets the barrel into the zone very quickly and it stays there for a very long time."
So he’s quick to bunt? Marvelous.

"You get the feeling he's going to get a hit every time up. He must have Superman vision or something."
Is there a more worthy compliment for someone that hit .200 last year? I guess if he could talk to animals like Aquaman that would be the ultimate compliment.

"I had scouted Chipper Jones and A-Rod before and to me, Guzman's bat was better. At 16 years old, the kid was as good as or better than anyone I'd ever seen."

Maybe Joel Guzman will be that good, but let's wait until he's higher than 27th on the list before we get crazy.

“You could see he was oozing with talent."
Eww. Anything oozing off my prospect is cause for concern.

"He throws hard and he throws strikes. That's why for me he's a Mark Prior Lite"
Gee thanks, you're calling him a pansey.

"He's got special arm speed, special arm strength, special talent and special makeup. He's got a great temperament for the game and a very special set of skills."
The only thing missing here is exclamation points and typing in all caps.

"He made quick bats look like palm trees through peanut butter."
The classic "palm trees and peanut butter" test. Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez both fell short on this measurement.

"I've loved him forever. I think he's probably better defensively than offensively because of his intangibles. I love his makeup."
Is this an objective assessment or something more disturbing?

"He's got five plus tools and he has a little bit more ability to use them than maybe we knew.”
Five plus tools? He surely gives 110% too. Why not just say he's a super-dooper big-time really really neat player.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Journalistic pioneer Jim Souhan discovers a baseball is round

We try really hard not to pick on Jim Souhan too much. Most of the time he attempts to make a decent point, but can’t execute his arguments. Or he pokes fun at someone else’s personal appearance through lame jokes to make a seventh grader groan. It is terrible writing, but not enough to cause an uproat. He's nearly to the point of Sid Hartman, where it's just too easy to pick on him. Today is not that day. He puts on his education hat to tell everyone that Francisco Liriano is going to be a good pitcher. To use a seventh grade phrase, No Doi.

The title is “Only 22, Liriano could be the Twins' future”. This was an appropriate title last year, when Liriano was tearing up the minors. He’s pitched in the Futures game twice. Along with Felix Hernandez, he is the best pitching prospect in baseball. Liriano might be in the rotation by June, if not earlier. Notice how he hedges with “could be”. There is no uncertainty. Francisco Liriano is the future and the Twins expect him to start for the next 5-10 years. Jason Kubel is a "could be".

A member of the Twins' braintrust told me Monday that Liriano has better stuff than Johan Santana, and could be more dominant in the long run.
It sounds like Souhan got an impressive scoop. Then you realize that LaVelle E Neal, a writer for the same newspaper as Souhan, wrote the same thing after Sunday’s game! The Santana comparison was also made last year when Liriano first gained attention.

If you are a paid sports columnist, at least feign that you work hard. Since Souhan is obviously out of column ideas here are some other leads to pursue:

1. The Minnesota Vikings might be interested in a new stadium in Blaine. (the story can also feature jokes about Ziggy Wilf's funny name and funnier mustache)
2. Breaking down the Les Steckel regime.
3. The Timberwolves are dangerously close to missing the playoffs.

4. An exclusive interview with former Wild defenseman Lubomir Sekeras.
5. A recap of the 1991 World Series.(It's still relevant and topical to Jim)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Best Offseason News so far

For Vikings fans, nothing lends more optimism for 2006 than witnessing two injured incumbents running in mini-camp. In the last month the Vikings traded a Pro Bowl quarterback, signed five potential starters, including an All-Pro guard, in free agency, but the unheralded returns of Matt Birk and Kenechi Udeze may mark the biggest improvement to the team.

It is still very early, both on the football calendar and each player’s recovery timeline, but the early news is encouraging. Last year when Birk could not recover from hip surgery the offensive line fell apart. Now with a healthy Birk, and new guard Steve Hutchinson, the line suddenly is very strong. Aside from his obvious on-field talent, Birk is also the respected and outspoken leader of the team. Birk’s presence should also help second year guard Marcus Johnson’s progress.

Udeze is not an established star like Birk, but his return from a knee injury is just as big for the defense. After requiring microfracture sugery on his left knee, Udeze hopes to fill the Vikings outside pass rush need. In the team’s new cover 2 scheme, pressure from the front four is vital. A healthy Udeze will simplify that equation.

It is only April and setbacks are possible. Remember Birk was in this situation last year too. After a nightmare season in 2005, any positivity is welcome in Winter Park. With the draft only a few weeks away, things should only get better.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Head Scratchers

All right, this won’t become a regular thing. If it did I may need an angioplasty from Gardenhire-induced stress. I won’t analyze all 162 games, but since I may lose interest in baseball by August, there isn’t much else going on and it’s been a few days, it’s time to ask some questions. The season is four games old and so far Ron Gardenhire and I are not on the same page. If he’s going to make dumb decisions he could at least consult me first. After a bad 11-6 loss to Cleveland, I wonder Ron, if you could address a few things for us?

- Starter Kyle Lohse allowed 4 runs through three innings, all to the heart of the Indians order. I imagined John Gordon’s call sounded like he was cheating at Battleship, “Hit, hit, hit.” Granted starters are rarely sharp this early in the year, but after digging the Twins an early hole, it was evident Lohse was quite off. After a scoreless fourth, the Twins battled back to trail 4-3. Lohse takes the mound to face Cleveland’s 4-5-6 hitters (in other words, the dudes responsible for four runs so far) in the bottom of the fifth. As soon as Lohse allows two runners to reach, Gardenhire could have acted. Long relievers Matt Guerrier and Francisco Liriano were rested and available. Instead Lohse stayed in to first load and then clear the bases on a grand slam by Casey Blake.

-Ninth inning Twins are down five, facing the right handed Fernando Cabrera. It’s a tall task to come back from five runs down, but it is still worth trying. Due up for the Twins is Luis Rodriguez, Juan Castro and Shannon Stewart. While Rodriguez isn’t the Twins best option he is a switch hitter and hits adequately versus righthanders. Castro is a below average hitter and does not walk. Keeping him in the game to hit is admitting defeat. At that point the Twins do not need slick fielders or quarterbacks on the diamond, they need the best hitters at their disposal. Looking at the bench is Jason Kubel a lefty with some power, and righties Mike Redmond and Tony Batista, all better power options than Castro. Judging by Gardenhire’s vote for status quo, either he felt the game was over or he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Castro stays in the game and strikes out, after working to a 3-1 count no less.

It is hard to assume the Twins will consistently score six runs each game. When it does happen, it is up to their able pitching staff to ensure it holds up. A manager does not often have much to do with the outcome of a game, but in this case Gardenhire deserves some of the blame for not taking action. I’m sure his postgame quotes will mention that “Lohsey” will be fine. Lohse will be fine, but the times when he isn’t rests on the manager to find someone else.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Surely there’s Something Else going on…

The coverage of Barry Bonds must stop. I understand he is relevant and newsworthy, he’s nearing Ruth, there are two books detailing steroid use, Gumshoe George Mitchell is investigating him and he has a reality show. All I ask is to please wait until there is an actual story. The coverage is completely overboard and I am just bored.

ESPN’s Pedro Gomez relentlessly follows Bonds, only to report nothing. After Monday’s opener he reported that the San Diego fans booed Bonds. The story also mentions that he didn’t homer, which apparently means complete failure. The tone of the piece seemed disappointed that he didn’t A) hit six home runs to tie Ruth or B) inject Human Growth Hormone on sight, admitting his guilt. Wow, he gets paid to go dumpster-diving and shadow the slugger 24-7, yet the only insight he lends is something everyone at home already knew. And this is what he does everyday. He is very similar to the janitor in Billy Madison. “Barry likes to drink soda. Miss Lippy’s car is green.” Thanks Pedro, take your paycheck and get out!

It is everywhere. Barry Bonds has his own section on In between “Baseball” and “NBA” is the Barry Bonds tab so you can follow the latest sport. I’m sure they will lend equal time to his chase of Ruth and Aaron, but for now it is the place to learn that he cried a lot on his new show. This is also the place for any baseball “expert” like Mike Celizic, Michael Ventre or Ted Robinson to take cuts at Bonds.

He’s an easy target to be sure, but there must something else to talk about besides Bonds. How many jokes about steroids or his head can writers think of? I don’t personally care for Bonds, and have even made fun of his head, but it is time to find something else to do. So until something of actual substance happens, RDHHH! Has nothing else to say. We now turn our energy to a complete recap of the WNBA draft.

Souhan Tipping Columns

It's time for another trip in to the literary abyss that is a Jim Souhan article. It's getting to be a bit like poking the helpless kid in the belly for the fun of it. It's merely for our entertainment and let's be honest, he all makes us feel smarter when read his work.

Blue Jays have Santana figured out

For Napoleon it was Waterloo, for Bill Clinton a blue dress, and now it is time to wonder if Johan Santana has found his unexpectedly Draconian nemesis in the form of the Toronto Blue Jays' prying eyes

This is kind of thing is Jim's specialty. Only Jim would lump a 19th century military leader, a U.S. president, and a Twins pitcher in the same thought. Not really even a thought, more like a collection of words written in English, grouped together in a seemingly organized manner.

He has dominated hitters for the past two seasons, at times displaying the kind of stuff you can describe only as "unhittable," and yet the Jays look at him and see Scott Klingenbeck.

Well, I'm guessing they see Johan Santana, but I don't know there might be something in the water up there. If that's the case, I want in. I've been trying for years to get people to look at me and see Matthew Fox. Rugged, yet handsome and caring, with a...

The Twins lost their season opener 6-3 to Toronto on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, and while baseball openers never answer any questions, they tend to raise a few.

In this case:

• If Padres fans throw syringes at Barry Bonds, what should Jays fans throw at Twins hitters? Popguns? Cans of Slim-Fast?

• Jays catcher Bengie Molina, when with the Angels, once took offense at a Star Tribune scouting report that accused him of running as if he had a bear on his back. Is it OK to say, after his home run off Santana on Tuesday, that he trots like he has a bear on his back?

• Has a season opener ever felt so much like a Readers Digest version of the previous season?

I'm not sure what these things have to do with the story as a whole, besides the fact that they are "baseball" related. And if you're wondering, I have no idea what he means with that last one. It's condensed? It's watered down from last year?? I really want to be in on Jim's brainstorming for columns. The one thing I'm certain of is Jim's self-imposed requirements for hcolumnsuns:

1. Rip somebody'sies weight and/or physicappearancence
2. Use a cultural reference that is outdated by 4-5 years
3. Include at least one verbose sentence that makes absolutely no sense at all and pawn it off as witty and smart writing

He goes on to say that since the Twins were facing Halladay that it's not that bad a loss. So I guess that makes up for the crappy take he has on why Santana got knocked around.

Since Santana usually waits until June to attain dominance, the only surprising trend to resurface Tuesday was the Jays' ability to swing at Santana's stuff like they know what's coming.

In one sentence Jim manages to contradict his entire argument. I can do that, but only when I'm arguing with my wife. The thing is, anyone who does any amount of listening or reading about the Twins would know Johan struggled all through Spring Training with his changeup and getting it down in the strike zone. In his last outing in spring, he basically threw fastballs all afternoon and had some good success. If Jim "knows" Johan takes a couple months to get primed, what weight does the argument carry?

A rumor made its way around baseball last May that Santana was tipping off his pitches, most notably his changeup.

This is a rumor worth investigating...

Gumshoe Souhan is hot on the trail of this fresh story. Seriously, this was a story for five minutes last spring. Wouldn't you think the numbers speak for themselves last year? The thing is that Santana is a relatively young pitcher who enjoyed a big season once he got a spot in the rotation. No one had seen his stuff before and thus the 20 win season. The next year was different, people had seen the changeup and knew the fastball was filthy. But his struggles and "lower" win total (16) was not really a product of poor pitching, but poor run support. Sure he had poor outings and down stretches, but is anyone really okay with saying there's this league wide conspiracy about him tipping his pitches? No, what that is is someone who doesn't have a real story to tell and is too lazy to think of a fresh take. It's lazy journalism and it's lazy speculation.

If Johan doesn't have all his pitches going that hurts him. He relies so heavily on his changeup to counter the fastball that it becomes noticeable when he doesn't have the change going. And thus 10 hits and 4 earned runs and only 3 Ks. We're one game in to the season and Jimbo hits the panic button. I can't wait to see what'll be next.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

PETA to protest Twins for Beating a Dead Horse

The Twins haven’t seen one regular season pitch and they are already crying for the good old days. Only Brad Radke, Torii Hunter, Juan Rincon, Mike Cuddyer, Kyle Lohse and Johan Santana remain from the 2002 team. These six make it sound like their hearts were ripped out Temple of Doom style. Every interview seems to degenerate into a sob session recalling former Twins players. Some of the blame falls on Lavelle E Neal III for continuing to write articles on this topic.

"These are still great guys and guys that enjoy themselves [but] not as crazy," Cuddyer said. "You don't have Koskie throwing itching power in your pants. You don't have Mientkiewicz being ... Mientkiewicz. You don't have Eddie running around naked all over the clubhouse and LaTroy [Hawkins] playing off of Eddie.”

We can discuss all day, and have previously, why the Twins made certain moves. Most moves worked out for the better. So what the Twins remnant is truly longing for is someone to be the locker room clown. It’s a shame that Joe Nathan won’t streak the clubhouse, and Kosie took all of his itching powder with him, at great loss to the Twins.

One thing this article attempts to note is that only six players remain from their 2002 roster. It sure sounds like a lot of turnover, but is it really? After comparing 2002 stats with 2006 opening day rosters, the Twins are actually one of the most stable clubs in the league. Only the Astros and Angels have higher retention with nine players each. 25 teams have more turnover than the Twins. This means that every major league team regardless of payroll, market size or on-field success shuttles through players at a pretty quick rate. Turnover is not a baseball thing it is just the nature of sports.
If Cuddyer and Hunter think it is so terrible, consider the Florida Marlins. Three years ago they won the World Series and now have two players left from that team (and none from 2002 incidentally).
Whether the 2006 version of the Twins will be an improvement over past years is undetermined, but at least give the squad a chance before groaning for the glory days.

Monday, April 03, 2006

RDHHH! March Madness Live Blog

-Nothing wraps up March Madness like Teddy P, buzzer beaters and tears.
-What's an orgy of horrible commercials without BudLight and Ted Ferguson?
-Obviously Florida had lots of dunks, but can't CBS show some other highlights too?
-I can't wait for the UCLA interview with Dan Bonner: Coach Howland, things didn't go well tonight, your thoughts?
-Nantz closes his interview with Billy Donovan by saying, "It's a great football school and a good basketball team too." Donovan's expression says, "Gee, Thanks Jim."
-And the Man-Crush goes to Joakim Noah. With the entire Florida Gators roster the runner up. Packer's hyperbole knows no ends.
Final Florida 73-57
-I could have made it the night without a Taurean Green shimmy.
-"He's(Brewer) been an octopus tonight. And Afflalo can attest to that." I'm anxiously waiting for that soundbite.
-Packer says 70% of Florida's shots in the last ten minutes are dunks. He's right actually.
-Nantz just made an Adam Vinatieri reference with dropping threes in the RCA Dome. Please stop.
-Packer asks if there has been a team with so many perfect games on one team. The answer is no. The Florida Gators are robots sent to dominate college basketball forever.
3:31 Florida 63-49.
-It's the Coach Applebees commercial, normally annoying. But after the Giligan's Island Applebee's spot, it's a welcome sight.
-Sadly the Yankees/A's game is a bigger blowout, 7-1.
-It's easier to block shots when you can hit their arms.
-"Don't block it into the stands, knock it and keep it in your hands" Put it on wax DJ BP.
-During a dunk(s) replay Nantz asks how many times have you seen it?
-Dear Billy, will trading baskets work for UCLA?
-If/When Florida cuts down the nets, will someone "accidentally" snip Noah's ponytail? Please?
-Unless Farmar is stupid and turns pro, UCLA will be verym very good next year. Joe Shipp's return gives them exactly what they miss right now: scoring.
8:00 59-43 Florida. UCLA is 1-10 from 3. They keep talking about Afflalo, but Mbah a Moute is silent. He was everywhere in their previous games.
-Saturday Packer gushed at Noah's finishing ability. Anyone that is 7-0 with a 7-0 wingspan better finish.
-Stopping a game to review a 2 or 3 really hurts the flow of the game. Refs should use it at the end of a game not with nine minutes left.
-More dunks and the 3 replays we crave.
-After Afflalo scores his first points of the game Packer notes, "That may help him". Thanks Billy, Afflalo probably forgot what it was like to score.
-Wow! Aboya's alley oop was sweet. Yet no replay or two or three.
15:00 Florida 47-29
-You don't have Cingular? You are seww pathetic. I can't believe I even go to basketball games with you.
-This is the time when Packer traditionally unravels. He degenerates into incessant butt-kissing.
-What is the deal with multiple replays of dunks? Ah Dunk! Ah dunk! Ah DUNK! I don't need it, especially anything short of spectacular.
-Early favorite for Man-Crush is Noah. The senseless Magic comparisons continue.
-Coke Zero: Because 1 calorie Diet Coke goes straight to my ass.
-UCLA will probably press, but Noah and Horford will really help breaking the trap.
-Dick Enberg is a legend. Why does CBS use him like a cheap Jimmy Roberts? It's still a good recap of 25 Final Fours.
-The New Adventures of Old Christine: Julia Louis-Dreyfus is really trying hard.
-The best part of CBS is their halftime guys. Seth Davis and Clark Kellog have knowledge, credibility and best of all don't try to be cute or flashy.
-Another new BK spot. This one is much better. The Burger King working on I-Beams? You know it.
-Is Jack Hannah a permanent guest on Letterman? Maybe it just seems that way.
Halftime 36-25 Florida
-UCLA came back against Gonzaga, but Florida has more balance. It will be very tough.
-DiGornio reminds us all why Billy Packer is tolerable.
-You would think UCLA's cheer leaders would be higher than Division III caliber.
-Adrian Moss is shooting a lot. Why?
-Noah just tied the block record. If he gets five blocks will they stop the game and hold a ceremony? Packer seems to think so.
-The bigger Brewer is guarding Farmar. UCLA is forced to set more high screens to get him open looks and create passing lanes.
-Packer and Nantz keep talking about the hallowed Championship game block record.
-After talking about Yannick Noah, Joakim throws it away. Perfect synergy.
4:00 Florida 34-UCLA 22
-Danger! Danger! Game nearing boring blowout.
-Two Cingular spots, sans know-it-all Cingular jerk. Maybe those spots are an homage to Packer.
-Poseidon with Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas. Um probably not.
-Billy Packer knows who Kelvin Sampson is. Congrats. I realize I'm overcritical of BP. If he could make one statement without an air of "I knew that fact and you should now be impressed" I'd let things slide.
-Packer, "Nice concentration by Hollins" as he misses a dunk.
-Farmar is the only Bruin consistently scoring. That can lead to forced shot from him.
-Why wouldn't a company realize the potential of the Tourney and create a clever running ad campaign throughout the tournament? Ad time is apparently cheap, you have three weeks of the choice 18-31 demographic to get your message across. Instead we are stuck with State Farm, Cingular and Applebee's.
8:00 Florida is up 27-17 with Horford, Green and Noah all on the bench. UCLA better do something quickly. If they don't people will start clamboring for Two and Half Men, and no one wants that.
-Packer keeps comparing Noah to Magic Johnson. Just because both are tall and can dribble doesn't warrant a ridiculous comparison.
-Packer,"Very seldom does a guy make a three when someone hits him on the elbow". He says
this as the replay shows a ticky-tack foul that didn't affect the shot.
11:04. 19-13Florida.
-Florida lost three of their best players. Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson were selfish and the Gators weren't very good in the tourney with them. The fact that both turned pro and went undrafted says something about them.

-Basketball IQ. The hoops equivalent of moxie.
-People make fun of Adam Morrison's dirty stache. Joakim Noah's is underrated.

-So far Florida does not seem fazed by UCLA’s defense. Noah’s ability to pass over the top is huge.

-Nothing says March Madness like a John Mellencamp concert. No word if Michelle n’degiocello was there.

16:12 TO UCLA.

-I’m Coach K and I drive a Chevy. He seems like an AstroVan kind of guy.

-New BK commercial! It’s actually disappointing, but anything is relief from the Big Buhuhkin’ Chicken. The King should have taken a buzzer beater or an alleyoop.

-State Farm commercial…absolutely horrible…for the third week in a row.

18:00 Both teams seem pretty comfortable

Packer has already mentioned Brewer’s body twice.

Pre Game.
It's nearly time to go. I bypassed the Prelude to a Championship because I think three hours of CBS is enough for one night. Before it gets going some quick predictions:
-Florida wins. UCLA's defense is great, but Florida has more options on offense than LSU, plus better outside shooting.
-M.O.P: Taurean Green.
-Cingular Commercials: We will see that prick with a Razor no less than 8 times.
-Billy Packer's Man-Crush Award: The reason we all watch the game. He loves "length" and Corey Brewer is long. If UCLA wins he'll be all over Jordan Farmar.

March Madness Live Blog

While I realize it’s not the Super Bowl, the NCAA championship game will still have enough drama to keep us entertained. Filled with awful commercials, pompous announcers, and significantly less global interest than football’s big game, tonight’s game is more for sports fans than a social setting.

The game is worth watching for One Shining Moment alone. The other reason is Billy Packer and his grouchy comments. Some of his gems from Saturday’s games:

-“Corey Brewer is so long. He plays like he’s 6’9””. (Brewer is 6’8”, what a compliment)

-CBS shows Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the crowd. “The greatest college basketball player ever.” Packer then pauses as if he is the only man that thinks this.

-Jim Nantz admits he was wrong about George Mason and gives them credit for their run to the Final Four. Nantz then pauses for Packer's words. Packer says nothing.

The Championship game also crowns the latest winner of the Billy Packer Man-Crush Award. Every year without fail, Packer latches on to one player and can not stop saying his name. Think Mateen Cleaves or Sean May.

In a game desperate for entertainment, RDHHH! will try to oblige. The plan is to begin the game with live running commentary, however two roadblocks stand in the way:

1. UCLA's stingy defense and inept offense induces sleep.

2. Inability to type as a result of gnawing off my fingers from listening to Billy Packer.

Let's hope all goes well and maybe I'll wear gloves just in case.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Twins Demote Shortstop to Wisconsin Dells

Ron Gardenhire has spoken, and it is utter nonsense. The Twins decided to send Jason Bartlett to the minors in favor of Juan Castro and Luis Rodriguez. Apparently the choice for Castro was based on defense. Sadly it's not an April Fool's joke.

"He's a quiet kid," Gardenhire said. "But in the middle, you have to be vocal. You have to lead, and that's what I told him you need to do. 'You go down there and take control of the infield. You be the leader. Once you start getting that part of the game down, you'll be more confident all the way around.' "

What does Gardy want, someone to tell Tony Batista where to stand? Maybe Bartlett can yell at Lew Ford when he misses the cutoff man or tell Luis Castillo to turn two when a runner is on first. Gardenhire refers to the way Kent Hrbek represnted this type of leadership during his career. If an infield absolutely requires a leader, reason says it doesn't have to be a shortstop. Then Gardenhire takes his half-baked leader theory and erases any shred of logic by saying Cristian Guzman was the leader during his Twins' tenure.

"Guzy controlled the game out there with [Luis] Rivas, and that was hard to do; Luis wasn't always on the same page," Gardenhire said. "As quiet as [Guzman] was, when he saw something, he'd run to the mound if he didn't like something."

Gardenhire better hope he never has to testify in a crime trial; he just doesn't know when to stop talking. Basically to summarize his thoughts, Gardenhire wants Jason Bartlett to be the leader Guzman was. Guzman was a good fielder because of his natural talent, certainly not from any intangibles or leadership. Bartlett is not a Gold Glove shortstop, but when compared to Castro's fielding stats he is more than adequate. Both players saw nearly the same time at short with Bartlett committing two more errors.

If Gardenhire stills insists on considering Castro a better fielder fine, it still misses the most improtant issue. The largest issue for the Twins last year was their offense. They were last in the AL in runs scored and near the bottom of every other offensive category. In order for that to change, they will need to maximize their chances at every position in the lineup. This means Bartlett is the obvious choice and it's not even close. Castro's OPB was a Guzmanesque .279 while Bartlett's OBP was .316.

If Bartlett struggled in Spring Training and they sent him to AAA to find his swing, it would at least be a valid argument. Sending him down to find his inner leader is ridiculous. Again, if it was a matter of choosing between a great fielder/poor hitter and a poor fielder/great hitter it is different. In this case both are good fielders and one is a much better hitter. It's a no-brainer to almost everyone. Of course I never learned how to be a quarterback on the diamond.