Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Discussion on Passive-Aggressive Racism in Minnesota Sports.

I've rallied around many ridiculous concepts in my time here at the Times, be it for Lou Gramm doing punk, Iowa fessing up to their sheltering of Acie Earl, or recently, calling North Dakota North Warhawks, so as not to offend the native population. And that's the thing I want to talk about tonight. Minnesota sports seem to convey a passive-agressive racism that is damaging the success of all the sports in the state.
To be fair, it isn't necessarily a racism that that pervades Minnesota, but a particular brand of political correctness and self righteousness that I find disheartening. If there was anything positive about how long segregation lasted in the South, its that the South has to face their demons every day. They contend with a constant struggle to compensate to their past grievances, but at least they confront them. In Minneapolis, we don't have those past atrocities haunting them, and the closest nation, six hours away, everyone speaks English, and it's with the same accent as we find in St. Paul. This is, after all, primarily a sports blog, so I'll keep my examples to two sports related topics.
The first is the most obvious. Ethnocentrism runs rampant worldwide, but in the United States, for the most part, we identify with those we grow up with, an advantage to eventual racial parity in the south, and a disadvantage for states that are nearly completely vanilla. Most Minnesotans live in the mega suburbia found from Minneapolis to St. Cloud to Rochester to Mankato. This, of course, translates to a predominantly white (mostly due to historical settlement, not inherent of suburbia), predominantly affluent, and generally, we keep to ourselves. So what happens when you get black athletes with poor backgrounds who like to have boisterous fun making headlines in the Twin Cities? They get traded to Miami. The best three examples of how hard it is to adapt to Minnesota's social structure are Daunte Culpepper, who after merely appearing on a boat where there was a party was labeled as a troublemaker and a poor leader. One knee injury later, and the Minnesota media laughs as if they knew all along that he was a bad quarterback, even though that's not true. Torii Hunter is a flashy fielder, a decent hitter, and almost any team would love to have him, but in Minnesota, several point to his conflict with Justin Morneau last year and the fact that he is slowing down after an ankle injury as to reasons why he should be jettisoned. Hunter is constantly in the media spotlight and gets along with fans. Of course, it isn't explicit racism that compels the fan base to be anti-Culpepper or anti-Hunter, but I believe it to be implicit. In fact, I'm sure that most Minnesota sports fans don't even realize this symptom. Until Minnesota, particularly with the media at the vanguard, confront this tacit problem, I don't see how things can improve for African American athletes. Unless, of course, they act like Kevin Garnett, the third example. He's abundantly talented and immediately has a leg up. He's quiet and hasn't adopted the hip-hop life style. In fact, he bought the big and tall shop out of all their sweater vests. The point is, he assimilated with the white suburbia that is Minneapolis.
And that leads me to my next point. Minnesotans, as with the rest of Americans, are hellbent on assimilation. This would be where the political correctness comes in. Americans are insistent upon all men being equal, which means, to most observers, everyone has to act equal. For the most part, immigrants to America all do their part to follow the American way of life. When they don't they are typically found screaming in the media about bias and whatnot. Of course, one predominant ethnic group didn't assimilate, and was virtually wiped out. And now, in their honor, we feel queasy about naming teams the Indians or the Braves or the Fighting Sioux. Of course, as Katherine Kersten has pointed out, those whom we think should be offended, aren't. Of course, we should have realized that, after the far more numerous Irish and Gaels and Scots have never voiced their opinions on having teams nicknamed after them. And really, where does the mainstream get off, saying that calling your team the Braves is offensive, when your team is named after those warriors that are emblematic of the courage and bravery a team wishes to exhibit on the athletic field. Really, wouldn't naming teams after North America's conquerers be more offensive to Native Americans? But since it apparently isn't, go ahead and rename the Kansas City Chiefs the Settlers and put the KC on a typhoid laden blanket, rather than an arrowhead.
The point is, racism is pervasive in sports, but it isn't the discriminatory racism that is easy to identify and admonish. Because of that, it isn't as easy to correct the type of racism that is damaging the Minnesota sports scene. It's both self centered, assuming that things should be like you, and self righteous, believing that what you think is wrong should translate to all peoples. If I was part of the mainstream, I would now give you a simple solution that's totally unfeasable, but since I'm not, I'll tell you the truth. There is no simple solution. Right now, I can't even think of a difficult one.

Week 12 Through Someone Else's Eyes (That has NFL Sunday Ticket)

Since Ryan went to the Vikes-Cards game this weekend (see below), he asked me to fill in for him on his weekly NFL post. I didn't see all of the games, but I happen to be a proud owner of NFL Sunday Ticket, so I did get to catch bits and pieces of every single Sunday game. Since I'm writing on VT for the first time, I'll take this moment to shamelessly promote my site here...Is It Sports?

Thanksgiving Games
Dolphins vs. Lions - The Lions season closely resembles their owners' profit margins...completely tanking, on the verge of collapse. I thought if anything, just this one time, they could get their act together and show the world they are at least better off without Joey Harrington. But once again the Lions showed the world in the Thanksgiving spotlight they are the 2nd most poorly run franchise in the NFL. Right now I'm just waiting for Toyota to buy them, convert them to a soccer team, and move them to Japan.

Cowboys vs. Buccaneers - Didn't see any of it, but America apparently has Tony Romo fever now. I'd write him off, but from looking at this year's NFC with heavily flawed teams and remembering Kurt Warner's contract with Satan in 1999, anything is possible.

Chiefs vs. Broncos - The Broncos are abandoning Jake Plummer in favor of Jay Cutler, and I say, why not? Just close your eyes and try to imagine Jake Plummer holding a Super Bowl trophy. You can't right? Well, I think that's a great reason to bench him. Great QB's win Super Bowls (except Jim McMahon, Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, and Mark Rypien) and Plummer is far from great. It's like he's gotten a free pass and contract renewals just because he played for the Cardinals, so people think the team was holding him back. His career has been filled with dumb decisions and tons of interceptions, but that won't stop someone else from having him on their team next year. At least those 4 guys I mentioned above were smart enough to stay out of their defense and running games' way.

Sunday Pregame Shows - I was watching ESPN, hoping to see their story about Fantasy Football, and the touchy-feely-ESPN-trying-to-win-an-emmy music comes on, and they start talking about Nick Mangold's sister. Following my Sportscenter Procedure, I immediately switch to CBS, only to see someone shopping with a small boy with soft music in the background. So I eventually settle on a 7-minute long chuckle involving everyone on Fox. But you know what? I'd take the chuckle any day. Call me crazy, but I think people watch pregame shows to get pumped up for the games, check injuries, see interviews with players and coaches, and get expert picks. Why do all the networks insist on sucking away 10 minutes of our lives on a somber story that is usually on the far, far fringes of anything resembling football? Isn't this why ESPN has a show called "Outside the Lines"?

Saints vs. Falcons - We learned 2 things from this game. The Saints are pretty much a lock for the playoffs in the dismal NFC, and the Falcons are just hopelessly lost. On the plus side, maybe if Michael Vick flips off enough people, even more people in Atlanta outside the 33 sports fans will take notice.

Bills vs. Jaguars - The Bills and 49ers are similar in the sense that both of their 5-6 records are the product of them being at the bottom of the middle of the pack teams that can beat the really bad teams but then get crushed by the really good ones. For the Jaguars, there should be a rule that losing to Houston twice and Buffalo automatically eliminates you from the playoffs

Bengals vs. Browns - The Browns celebrate 50 years of horrible uniforms by getting shut out. If we've learned anyting is that Throwbacks = Losses and Coaches in Suits = Wins. The Solution? Romeo Crennel in a suit.....uh...nevermind.

Rams vs. 49ers - The Niners are actually fun to watch again, but they are still a year or 2 away. especially on defense. Both of these teams are showing signs of life, but neither has much of a chance to make a run at the wild card or catch Seattle for the West title.

Vikings vs. Cardinals - Ryan already explained this one in detail...Note to the Cardinals: When you give up 3 passing TD's to a 38 year-old Brad Johnson, things may not be going well for you.

Jets vs. Texans - All I remember about this one was watching Samkon Gado getting a one yard gain, enjoying a nice laugh, and changing the channel

Redskins vs. Panthers - Apparenly, no one wants the last wild card spot in the NFC. It's basically Carolina's for the taking, but they're too pathetic to scoop it up. Jake Delhomme makes a lot of bad decisions, and watching him play while starting him in fantasy football could be bad for your health. I know he went to a Super Bowl with them, but he's really only mediocre. Imagine Drew Brees with the recievers Delhomme has. Scary, huh?

Ravens vs. Steelers - I guess the Super Bowl loser curse effects the team that should have lost... Meanwhile, the Ravens and Chargers are getting me very excited for the AFC Playoffs.

Chargers vs. Raiders - What more is there to say about LT at this point? As I mentioned above, the Ravens and Chargers are looking tough to beat and they'll be in the playoffs with the Colts and Pats...should be interesting. Also, we might get a Denver team with a rookie QB and the crazy Jaguars to compliment those 4 big boys. Also, don't look now, but the Raiders are fiesty. I know people have knocked them a lot this year, and they deserve it, but their defense is solid. The way the NFL is today, with some major offensive changes and a good draft, they could be back in the playoffs next year.

Titans vs. Giants - What an amazing finish...but I was busy driving through Indiana. What more is there to say, really? The Titans are starting to rally behind Vince Young and they could be a strong team next season. You could say this game pretty much sticks a fork in the Giants' season, but in reality, if they don't make the playoffs, who will?

Patriots vs. Bears - A sloppy game, and the Patriots, who are probably the 4th or 5th best team in the AFC, take down the best team in the NFC. The Bears are really not as good as everyone thinks they are. Their offense is falling apart, and Grossman's bad decisions are not making a turnaround any easier.

Colts vs. Eagles - I'm sure NBC execs were just beyond pleased when they picked this game for prime time, after McNabb went down. I mean, America loves Jeff Garcia, but the Colts? come on.

Seahawks vs. Packers - Thank You, Shaun Alexander, for getting my fantasy team a win this week, and thanks to your entire season of work, I'm now 3-9. But seriously, isn't Brett Favre losing in the snow enough to convince everyone, including himself, that he is beyond washed up? You know what, screw it, I'm not getting into that debate. I hope he plays forever and changes his mind about retirement over and over again each year, becuase it makes for such intriguing television. And if him never retiring will prevent ESPN from making a touchy-feely story about him in retirement one day, then I'm all for it.

I almost published this post without another shameless plug: Is It Sports?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cleaning Up the Twins Right Field Situation.

For a while, he was CUDD-yer. Then, people were instructed that it was cud-DYE-er. Now, fully recognized by his goofy last name, Michael Cuddyer had his breakout season in right for the Twins this season. He was the perfect spoil to Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer's left handedness, although he wasn't quite the deep threat a team would like to have batting clean up. But then, who was?
While Cuddyer would have been best served batting fifth, what with his propensity for striking out, Justin Morneau, the power hitter, struggled batting fourth. Joe Mauer would be better off batting second, leaving third AND fourth in the order open, if we did it that way. There were more fitting players to plug into second than into third, so Mauer moved into the three spot. Then, of course, Ron Gardenhire preferred to go left-right-left. All of these factors led to the Twins needing Cuddyer to bad fourth. It's a good thing he pulled though.
As I've established through my other positional breakdowns, it doesn't seem likely that the Twins will undergo a whole lot of change to the roster this off-season. Mauer will bat third. Morneau will bat fifth. And Torii Hunter, as I mentioned in a previous post, but not yet in this one, will bat sixth. That means Michael Cuddyer again will bat fouth. And the Twins will again hope that their once prized prospect will play to his potential.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Vikings-Cardinals, a Thrilling Recap

As you may have read, I was at the Vikings-Cardinals game yesterday. Rather than go through a grueling recap of the whole day (grueling for me, and probably for you), I think I'll give you a few observations and insights.

The first impression I got, keeping in mind that this was my first NFL game ever in person, was that Vikings crowds are much uglier than Twins crowds. This was a big drunken event, rather than an enjoyable night at the ball game. Everyone was dressed in purple, and I couldn't help but wonder where Minnesota would be without Prince, or where Prince would be without Minnesota. My absolute favorite sight was a young African-American kid trying his best to be dope or fly or cool or among an elite subclass socially, with his hat sideways, his pants sagging, all under his Jim Kleinsasser jersey. Because nothing says cool in the 'hood like a burly white guy from North Warhawks.

Second, I mentioned a while back that I liked the Metrodome. Let me see if I can find that post. Yep, there it is. Right here. Anyways, attending an NFL game at the Dome you realize that the stadium was built expressly for football, with baseball as an afterthought. It's a wonderful football stadium, with good angles, even from where I was on the 10 yard line, (by the way, thanks to the Sylvania company for getting me the tickets), the echos make the stadium unbelievably loud, and the fact that it is indoors makes for much more enjoyable viewing in Minnesota. Zygi Wilf is a bastard for trying to weasel a stadium out of Minnesotans. That's the Vikings' 93rd sell out in a row. That's more than 10 years! That included the Mike Tice era! The Twins and Gophers are moving out, so why not go the cheap route and by the stadium and make it your own? I don't get it.

As for the opponents, I have to say that Denny Green absolutely out coached the entire Vikings' staff. He went in with a gameplan that would have worked if Matt Leinart wasn't thinking about what flavor Gerber he is getting for his kid, or if the rest of the Cardinals (particularly the special teams) hadn't played hot potato with the football, they may have pulled the game out. The biggest blight on the Cards, as it usually is on a Denny Green coached team, was the defense. If they had stacked the line, like all of the other teams of the past few weeks, Chester Taylor doesn't run all over them and Brad Johnson has nowhere to throw in his 10 yard window. But that ultimately didn't kill the Cardinals. The turnovers did. For the record, I would totally hire Green as an offensive coordinator or a GM. Look at his offensive track record!

The best part about the seats was that I was right by the Vikings bench. I got to see them come out of the Vikings ship created, apparently, by Creatable Inflatables, and my goodness, those players are huge. Before the game, I got to see all three of our quarterbacks trot out on the field. Brad Johnson looks like his spine is about to split in half, and I legitimately thought Brooks Bollinger was a kicker until I saw the name on his jersey. He throws poorly and moves like a dork. Not Chris Kluwe dorky, but still, it was painful to watch. And just one glimpse of Tavaris Jackson and I'm hooked. That guy is built. He could do with some upper body strength, but sign me up for the Tavaris bandwagon. As for the game, the Vikings didn't really impress me, but they did a great job with their concentration. There were very few mistakes on their end of the deal. Aside from a few heavy shots to Brad Johnson, of course.

All in all, I was rather taken by the spectacle of the game. Surely, you get a better angle on the action and get to watch more games at home. However, I have to say I wouldn't pass up a chance to sit 7 rows away from the cheerleaders again, although with the weird stomachs that most of them had, I would have to go for free again. - Ryan

Hot Blooded

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and nobody overspent at the mall on Friday. Unless, of course, you were spending on me. But I find that unlikely. In any case, it's about time for me to review some of the moments that made last week special.

ITEM ONE: USC beat Notre Dame by about as much as the Michigan Wolverines did, and somehow, the Trojans are ahead of Michigan in the polls, despite the fact that Southern Cal lost to Oregon State and Michigan lost by three on the road to the number one team in all the land. I understand that the philosophy of "Michigan had their chance, let someone else have a turn" exists, but why USC? If you really think that USC is better than Michigan, that's fine, but consider this. USC lost to Oregon State who lost to Boise State, a team that is undefeated. Silly as it may seem, I think it's a much more defensible alternative. Go Broncos!

ITEM TWO: Since the vaunted Steve will be helping out with the NFL recap tomorrow, and I will giving my summary of the Vikings game later tonight, the very least I could do is give my take on the Thanksgiving action. Briefly, Joey Harrington is downright effective now that he has some semblance of support around him. And after this revalation, Daunte Culpepper is probably finished in the league. Nobody that has an offensive line will take the chance on him, and Culpepper's knees won't allow him to be successful somewhere where the protection is subpar. It's too bad, because he never was able to live up to his potential, and it really wasn't his fault. In Dallas Tony Romo is winning a believer in me. I hate when that happens. I hate it when Chris Berman latches on to someone before I do. I hate it more when someone in Dallas is successful. Screw Brenden Morrow too. As for the late game, I hope the NFL Network studios burn to the ground and what's left of Rich Eisen's hair catches on fire. (In case you couldn't tell, I don't get the NFL Network.)

ITEM THREE: I don't think I can talk about the Gophers basketball team (but football team, good luck at the Insight Bowl! Prestigious!) without weeping. I mean, really crying. Truly, breaking down in bitter tears. I guess all I'm left with is giving you my favorite box score of the week in college basketball. It looks like the people who were at the IPFW-Western Illinois game got their money's worth. Of course, on the other hand, you could say they got more than they bargained for.

ITEM FOUR: After listening to some Foreigner all day (don't ask) I have to say, Lou Gramm could totally do punk.

ITEM FIVE: The Wild got the monkey that is Yanic Perrault off their back by destroying the Coyotes the day after Thanksgaving. Unfortunately, life hasn't got any better for the still Gaborikless Wild, after they dropped a tough game in Montreal and got thwarted in Columbus. The defense isn't playing well, but generally, when you have offensive forwards with bum wheels, things don't go so swimmingly for a hockey team. They need Manny Fernandez to be superhuman in order to pick up those important points in the standings.

I'm sure there was much more that I was thinking of to say in this post, but for now, that will do. - Ryan

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Exploring New Corners of the English Language.

Before we get started. Justin Morneau won the AL MVP, which is all well and good, of course, however, I'm strained to the extent of my mental faculties as to why. There was another player out there who hit for better average, manufactured more runs, and was consistent for the balance of the season. Heck, they were part of the same lineup. My vote, if anyone, would have gone to Joe Mauer. Of course, they don't let people like me (caucasian males) vote for things like that. There was football to behold this weekend, so let's see what was beheld.

The Wade Wilson Watch intensifies, as the Vikings offense had another calamitous week. The Dolphins were held to a franchise low in rushing yardage at -3 yards. Lower than anything in the Dan Marino era when all they would do is pass. And Joey Harrington is no Dan Marino. (What? Understatement of the Year? Me? I just don't know who to thank! My mother and father, my grandparents, my brother, and of course, God, who's always by my side watching hockey games with me [cue music]). Yet, the Vikings somehow managed to lose. I can't wait until next weekend they face the Cardinals and some talented offensive players and a quarterback with real blood coursing through his veins. I really can't wait until the disparaged Denny Green wipes the floor with the purple at the dome. I mean, I'm really a marginal Vikings fan, but I'm not a sadist. In the end, it will be the best for everyone. Green, who had a very good .610 winning percentage with the Vikings, is continually bashed here, despite the talent infusion he brought with him on the offensive side of the ball. With a win next week, no doubt he still has a coaching future. And the Vikings will be able to be introspective, and say, "We suck. We should change something." But to say something less vitriolic, Jason Taylor is a phenomenal talent.

The only thing preventing another "Brett Favre should retire" rant from the guys on Around the Horn is the fact that Aaron Rodgers broke his foot. Now a gentleman by the name of Ingle Martin is the backup. Or Todd Bouman, former St. Cloud State alum, whom the pack just signed. Also, I refuse to say that the Patriots "recovered" in stomping the Packers, because the Pack is miserable, and for a good chunk of the game, they were led by Peg-Leg Rodgers. At no point, aside from a Lawrence Moroney run every now and then, did I think, "Wow, the Pats are intimidating." However, they will still make the playoffs because the rest of their division (save for Jason Taylor) stinks. And then everyone will pick them for the Super Bowl. Then they'll lose to the Broncos.

Speaking of losing in the playoffs, the Colts decided not to show up in Irving Sunday. I can't think of an uglier game this season. And I've seen the Browns play. Aaron Rodgers and his broken foot could have beat either of these teams. The principle difference between the two teams was that Dallas realized they were playing the Colts defense late in the game. The Colts never figured out that they still had the Colts offense, however. That's the problem with Peyton Manning. Once you get inside he oddly shaped head for a game, he isn't getting you out. He'll even take it home with him, and yell at his family for botching an omelette. Omelette. There's a word I didn't anticipate using when I started the blog.

I am absolutely in awe of Ladanian Tomlinson. Everything about him makes me weep with glee. He runs. He catches. He is, by all accounts, a good guy. He even wears that cool visor. Too bad I totally wrote off the Chargers for dumping Drew Brees for Phillip Rivers, whom I was not impressed with at NC State. But LT! Wow! He more than makes up for that move! I may have to go back to being a Chargers fan, especially if the Colts will continue to play with two hands around their neck. And the Broncos are clearly not as good as I thought they were. But they still have the Patriots to look forward to in the playoffs.

Jack Del Rio had the second best looking suit this week. I don't know if that's a compliment or not. Granted, he looked better than Manboobs Parcells, but still, he couldn't hold a candle to Mike Nolan. That man can wear a suit. The game was much less pleasing to the eye, with Eli Manning doing his best impression of Stevie Wonder, New York Giant. Seriously, does he know it's ok to throw it to his own team? It's actually better if the receivers are open when he throws to them. I'm flabbergasted that he is related to Peyton. But then, I hear them talk, and it all comes back to me. There is a town in Mississippi missing it's hayseeds. As for the Jags, well, they're just all over the map. The Kyle Lohse of professional football teams, if you will. I don't know what to think. But I do think David Garrard is better than I thought. That didn't make any sense. Look! I said Manboobs!

Well, that ended poorly. Have a happy Thanksgiving. Eat turkey. I'll be at the Vikings game on Sunday, so you may be getting a special post from Steve next Tuesday. Treat him kindly. -Ryan

Monday, November 20, 2006

It's Just Not Fiscally Viable to Have a Left Fielder

Recently, I made a little post on the center field situation, and why we should keep Torii Hunter. Now, with the way the market is going, Gary Matthews, Hunter's most comparable player and is currently seeking 10 million dollars a year, and will probably get it. So goes the free agent market this season. Alfonso Soriano just inked a contract that will pay him about 17 million dollars a year. Kenny Lofton? Also seeking 8-10 million a year. What I'm trying to say is, the Twins are getting a bargain, keeping Hunter at 12 million this year. At this point, the Twins will have to give David Dellucci the city of Anoka in order to get him to play the outfield this season. The Twins will be better off luring Tom Candiotti out of retirement for 4 mil a year.
So, assuming the stingy Twins decide merely to improve through trades or from within, what are the options? Well, right now the best internal option under contract to put in the outfield is Jason "my knee is held together with Velcro" Kubel. But then we don't really have a DH. And I, under no circumstances, will not maintain my sanity if Jason Tyner or Lew Ford are or any combination therein are used for any length of time over the course of the season. I hate to say it, because I really like my Twins fan friends, but with the way he came on at the end of the year, the best, safest bet, may be to lock up Rondell White for another year until the market regulates. I don't think there are enough arms in the Twins system to deal for both Jason Jennings, as is rumored, and a third outfielder, which is needed. Of course, if they pick up Candiotti, they might have someone to spare. - Ryan

The Weekly Review/La Revue Hebdomadaire

I'm watching Ottawa versus Minnesota, being played in Ottawa. The fact that all the announcements are translated from English to French every time cracks me up, and I don't know why. In any case, it's time for another hello to any new readers I may or may not have collected recently. I know Deadspin, more specifically The Mighty MJD on the weekend, has been linking to me like it was their job, so you never know. I only have one thing to mention for you potential newbies. Comments are my blood. Or, Les commentaires sont mon sang. Let's review the week.

ITEM ONE: So... Did anyone watch the game? You know. The game. George Mason and Wichita State? Ha! Of course not. Everyone was engrossed in Ohio State-Michigan, the Biggest Game in the History of Anything Ever. It was hyped all season, both teams were undefeated and there was a convenient death of Bo Schembechler. Convenient, of course, for the media outlets, tragic for the rest of the world. The thing that struck me was how poorly both of the teams played. All season, their strengths have lied with the defense, with both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines among the top 10 in points allowed this season. And then they scored eighty combined points. I think both of these teams can play a much better game, although I hope Michigan's will be in the Rose Bowl, while Ohio State gets to fend off another contender. (USC? Florida? Arkansas? BOISE STATE (double parenthesees. Don't scoff. They beat Oregon State who beat USC. And the Broncos are undefeated_?!)

ITEM TWO: Our dear friends in Kansas City will have another overpriced, aged player to root (?) for this coming season, as Jason Larue was shipped to the Royals today. I'm not sure what this team needs is veteran leadership so much as talent. But clearly, I'm not a baseball genius, by any stretch of the imagination.

ITEM THREE: I'm beginning to wonder if the Wild's success isn't completely derived from their schedule, starting with that first game of the season. They caught Colorado a night after they played an overtime game, and now that they are spending all their time on the road, Minnesota seems to be falling apart. Their win this week came against the Predators after they had a day off, while Nashville was coming back from a night in Columbus, which, as the Michigan Wolverines learned, isn't easy. Still, it took the Wild a full three periods to catch up with the Predators, and the game ended in a shootout. Against Phoenix, in front of at least a dozen fans, and at home against Colorado, the Wild looked absolutely flaccid. I know the good Lord doesn't play favorites, but if He loves hockey as much as I'm led to believe, he wants to see Marian Gaborik back on the ice as much as I do.

ITEM FOUR: Speaking of hockey, I've taken to looking at the images of the previous nights NHL games while I'm at work. Don't tell my boss. In any case, doesn't it seem like ESPN gives us far too much information in their captions? And actually, I'd like to know the nationality of Branimir Kvartuc, recently scene taking photographs at a recent NHL hockey game in Anaheim, California on Sunday, November 19th, 2006. The Ducks won 6-4 over the Phoenix Coyotes.

ITEM FIVE: Speaking of random links to ESPN, I've also taken to checking the college basketball scores. Here are a couple fun ones. Game one. Game two. And of course, the most interesting fact. The North Warhawks State football team outscored their basketball team last week. Really, there are thousands of hilarious subplots to the college basketball season. You should check some out, if you don't already.

So, I'm out for a couple hours. See you in a bit. Je ne suis pas très bon au Français. - Ryan

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's About Time Minnesota Got Another D-1 School.

I grew up pulling for the Gophers, watching the Big Ten, hating Indiana, Wisconsin and Purdue (ironic, hmm?) and following the likes of Voshon Lenard, Bobby Jackson, and my personal favorite, Jim Shikenjanski. I was devastated, back in 1989, when I watch a game against Illinois and found out Jim was from Illinois. You were supposed to be Minnesotan if you went to Minnesota! And if you were Minnesotan, you were supposed to go to Minnesota. That's the way it was. Cut to 2001. I end up going to Purdue. In Indiana. Indiana has three major Universities (Indiana, Notre Dame, and, of course, Purdue) and 7 so called mid-majors, other d-1 schools that didn't play in one of the major conferences (Ball State, Butler, Valparaiso, Indiana St, Evansville, IUPUI, and IUPFW). Now I was chagrined that Minnesota only had one. But it was ok, because our one was a Big Ten school, and really, was it feasible to to add another school in Minnesota to the D-1 ranks? So what if Iowa also had 4 D-1 schools (Iowa, Iowa State, Drake and Northern Iowa) maybe Minnesota's schools were just smaller. The U is the second largest school in the country, after all. But then, when North and South Warhawks State went D-1, soon to be followed by UNW, something had to be done. Minnesota had to have another D-1 School. Below is a list of 5 schools in Minnesota, ranked from least to most likely to survive in the big leagues. Notably, they are the other 4 D-1 hockey schools, outside of the Gophers, and one wild card.

Bemidji State - The Beavers are clearly the the least likely team to turn D-1 any time soon. They have 4,900 people, and are tenuously division one in hockey. They are remote. If a school comes in on a road trip, they have the option of flying in to Duluth, Fargo or Minneapolis and driving about 2 or three hours through the woods, and in basketball season, the snow. Not really prime conditions. However, during hockey season, they can host Alabama-Huntsville, so I suppose anything is possible.

Minnesota State - For those of you who didn't know, Minnesota finally got it's first [state name] State about eight years ago when Mankato State changed it's name. Now there is a Minnesota State - Moorhead as well. In any case, MSU has thirteen thousand students, easily elevating it into the enrollment realms of many elite Division 1 schools. Of course, the Mavericks have never really been competetive in anything, even in Division II, and everyone would expect the team to be called the Screaming Eagles. I can't see any game ending without about a dozen drunk students passed out at center court every time they were on ESPNU.

Winona State - The Warriors handled the the Gophers easily last week. They won the Division two title last year. Winona State gets this high almost solely based on their competetiveness. They have 8,000 students, easily making them the largest school in the Northern Sun conference, but the two main problems they have are A) their competition isn't going anywhere, so they may be comfortable with their rivalries, and B) They don't have the leg up like the other four schools on the list, having hosted other division one sporting events. Also, it seems weird to think of Winona State as a division one school. I think that's what seperates 3-5 from one and two on this list.

Minnesota-Duluth - UMD has a gorgeous campus in a large town setting, with a history of D-1 athletics (namely in hockey) and they are losing most of their division to Division 1 already, as they see North and South Warhawks State, as well as North Warhawks now departing for the riches of the Mid-Continent conference. The Bulldogs have a healthy student body that is fiercely loyal and stands at ten and a half thousand or so, which puts them in the same range as an Atlantic 10 conference team. The problem in Duluth, as I see it, is that the student body isn't REALLY into their sports, but rather their setting and the campus atmosphere. That hasn't stopped Arizona State though. Er... I mean...

St. Cloud State - Saint Cloud is the second largest school in the state at roughly 15,000 students, meaning it is more than twice the size of Wake Forest, a veritable D-1 powerhouse. They are in the same conference as Duluth, meaning they are faced with an exodus of schools that were close by, and the addition of two teams from Washington. That means no additional income or travel budget, and an excess of travel. You don't take bus trips to Bellingham. The Huskies have a history of quality sports teams and a rabid fan base. Of all these schools, SCSU is the closest to the transit hub of Minneapolis-St.Paul, meaning an easy trip to whoever will pay them to come play. With it's large student body and bustling atmosphere, it won't be a problem building the team, much less making a successful jump into the big leagues. I can't imagine staking a claim in the Mid-Continent or Horizon league would be too much of a problem for St. Cloud, among the top ten in size for all of division two, top 5 if you exclude California, higher still if you exclude Alaska.

So, there's the evidence. Now it's time for the schools to make that leap. - Ryan

A Classic NFL Rundown

How many "classics" can there be? If you look at the college basketball schedule, there are about a half dozen right now. The CBE Classic, the John Thompson Foundation Classic (not to be confused with the John Thompson Challenge), the Sportstime Ohio BCA Classic, and the Cox Communications Classic among a few others. I don't care who's watching, an event that pits Monmouth against Arkansas State in Norfolk is NOT classic. Nor should it be in a Classic. A game that was a classic this weekend was Cincinnati's choke job against the Chargers. Of course, in Minneapolis, we're not allowed to watch good games. What did we watch this week?

Overheard at Winter Park among the executives:
A - "Boy, Brad Johnson isn't working out is he? Do we have any other options?"
B - "What about Rich Gannon?"
C - "Only if we can get Dexter Jackson at wide receiver!"
A,B,C - Uproarious laughter.
A - "Is Wade Wilson doing anything?"

It was the Raiders and the Broncos, in Oakland. You could throw the records out the window! Just don't forget that Art Shell (who very nearly cracked a smile at one point. Probably thinking about Mad Libs) is coaching and Andrew Walter is quarterbacking.

The Saints traveled to Pittsburgh in what everyone clearly expected to be a very interesting and telling game. It was! The Saints don't travel well, and when Willie Parker can get to the sidelines or even just around the tackle, he's a dangerous back. Of course, offenses that are awake can usually bottle Parker up. On Sunday, the Saints defense was apparently told that the game was in Harrisburg.

The Giants-Bears game taught me something. That lesson, as always, is that I should do a little research before making predictions. Osi Umenyiora AND Michael Strahan were out, leaving Rex Grossman to gain some confidence, although it took him a while. Really, the turning point was that field goal touch down return. If I'm the Bears opponent, I'm not kicking field goals of longer than 40 yards against them again. Ever. Also, someone should tell Eli Manning that his brother is good because he finds the open guys, not because he can complete passes into triple coverage. Just sayin'.

It's so fun that ESPN still thinks their games are going to be interesting. Oooooo Carolina and Tampa. The part I found particularly interesting was that the guy drafted in the late rounds from Toledo has a more impressive early career than the guy who has been to the Super Bowl and 2 NFC title games. Just a fun fact.

That's it. Keep it Classic - Ryan

Monday, November 13, 2006

News from Dallas to North Warhawks.

Have you ever had one of those weekends that you don't really want to reminisce over what happened? But then, something from that weekend keeps coming up. Something keeps getting mentioned, ad nauseum, and it, unwittingly, is in reference to a horrible detail from a Friday night you never want to talk about again? Suffice it to say, without going into detail, I have never heard the city of Dallas, Texas mentioned so much in a three day period in my life. Now that I have confronted this on the internets, I think that maybe it will stop. On to the weekly recap.

ITEM ONE: Gophers basketball looks as though it will be exciting this year, huh? They've already dropped a game against feared Winona State. Tonight they are playing North Dakota State and it took until almost seven minutes remaining to get the score bumped past 6-5. If I have to go to Dick Vitale to watch good college basketball, I swear to God.... More on Winona state tomorrow.

ITEM TWO: Staying on the topic of colleges, is anyone else anticipating a really ugly, horrible game this saturday between Ohio State and Michigan? They've been ramping up for it for a month. These guys were looking ahead to the game two weeks ago and stumbled against Illinois and Northwestern (whose basketball team will give the Gophers a run for their money). I imagine this game will be sloppily played by at least one team (my money is on Michigan, who has been sloppy in almost every game thus far) and will be reminiscent of the Purdue-Minnesota game, or will be reminiscent of the Wisconsin-Minnesota game. There are really no two ways about it.

ITEM THREE: The Wild have been woeful without Marian Gaborik. Without a doubt, this incarnation of Minnesota is build on speed, and without Gaborik, they lose quite a bit. Demitra doesn't have that chemistry with Mikko Koivu or the Brankster yet. Fingers crossed that Gaborik returns to his old form quickly after he rejoins the team (remember, God hears your hockey related prayers), because there is something seriously lacking without his presence. Also, Pavol Demitra needs to start doing some things on his own. Last I checked, he was better than Todd White. That's still true, isn't it?

ITEM FOUR: At work, where I've taken to surfing the internet when I have nothing to do (that is to say, all the time) I've been reading more newspaper articles. One today from Katherine Kersten, of all people, grabbed my attention because of how well thought out and put together it was. Essentially, it went after the people who have their undies in a bunch over teams with Native American related nicknames, and I can't help but agree with her. After reading this article, I really do wonder what is so offensive about th nickname. If naming your team aftre a group of people is inappropriate, than wouldn't it be wrong to have the Fighting Irish, or even the Indiana Hoosiers? Don't teams generally name themselves after A) something they want to emulate, or B) something that is prolific in their part of the world? Well, when, for example, North Dakota named themselves the Fighting Sioux, they did so, by their own admission, because they respected the bravery and courage of the tribe. As for being prolific, didn't they, you know, name the STATE after the tribe? Do you want that we should call it North and South Redbirds? North Panthers? Hi, I'm Ryan, and I used to live in Minot, North Warhawks. It seems ridiculous, the more I think about it, that the political correctness police are up in arms over this. Since when has anyone given their team a nickname of something they don't respect (aside from intramurals)? Seriously, I don't anticipate seeing the West Point Deserters anytime soon, do you?

ITEM FIVE: A couple thoughts on the major league post season so far. The Red Sox bid 42 million dollars just to negotiate with Daisuke Matsazuka. That's just silly. The Indians acquired Josh Barfield. That could be bad. Gary Sheffield is a Tiger. Well, hell. So he's injury prone and might be washed up, but guess what? We said that about Jim Thome, too.

ITEM SIX: In other sports players switching teams, the Anaheim Ducks, shortly after beating the Wild, traded away Stanislav (which in Russian means, Glory of the Government... ah, yes, Communism) Chistov and Todd Fedoruk, who may need plastic surgery after getting pummeled by Derrick Boogaard. Of course, the NHL trade season doesn't officially begin until a Ference has been dealt. Right now, Andrew Ference plays for Calgary, so stay tuned. Brad Ference lurks in the minors, playing for the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights of Omaha. FERENCE WATCH, 2006 is on.

Until tomorrow - Ryan

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Has Will Leitch been reading my blog?

Read the last paragraph, in particular...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Twelve Million Dollars Will Buy You Choo Freeman's Cousin.

I'm a Torii Hunter apologist. I admit it. He won the gold glove again this year in one of the most important defensive positions, and really, there was only one person you could make a viable case for against Hunter, and that was Gary Matthews Jr., whom Hunter was a totally different hitter than. Really, Matthews is the only player in the league comparable to Torii Hunter. Since the Twins have already picked up Hunter's option, I'm going to defend that decision for Terry Ryan.
Lets first look at his offense. Hunter has always been a power hitter more than a contact hitter like Matthews, and frankly that's what the Twins need. There are several top and bottom of the order guys, and the home team doesn't need the prototypical light hitting center fielder. Minnesota does need that third RBI man, however, which they get with Hunter and guys getting on in front of him.
In the field, Hunter's most talked about play was the one he missed in the outfield against the A's in the playoffs. I'm sure you remember it. He dove. He missed. The ball rolled to the wall. It was an inside the parker. It was horrible. However poorly you think Hunter played that ball (and he did) it was only misplayed because A) he got the jump on the ball and B) he had the confidence that he had made plays like that countless times before. Thats the advantage you get from Torii over Matthews. This was really Gary Matthews' break out season. He doesn't have that track record in the field like Hunter does. He's still quick, but Hunter now has the instints he lacked in the beginning of his career.
Essentially, Torii Hunter can command twelve million dollars because he earned it. He's irreplacable. There is nobody like him in the league. This is before we get to his positive media image locally and nationally. Financially, the Twins are usually gunshy about throwing money around that liberally, but this coming season with Brad Radke no longer on the books and low cost, high talent guys filling other holes, the money is their. It's a one year commitment. If Hunter decides to come back in 2008, it will have to be for considerably less, but next season, he's getting twelve mil, and he deserves it. - Ryan

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Will be Crowning Nobody.

I don't know why, but the NFL decided this was the week to give Minneapolis a slew of miserable teams. Four of the five games here in the Twin Cities featured teams with two or fewer wins this season. The crazy part was that two of those teams pulled off victories. Let's recap, shall we?

As Denny Green said famously a couple weeks ago, the Bears are who we THOUGHT they were. What Green meant at the time, of course, was that the Bears are eminintly beatable, if you game plan them correctly. Interestingly, Green was beat by his special teams and an inexperienced quarterback, and his defense was good, basically the antithesis of a Denny Green team. Well, the ground work was laid. Don't make mistakes on kickoffs and punts and use a quarterback who has at least played more than two games. The final ingredient is a dominant defensive end, which Jason Taylor was. If you knock Rex Grossman around a little bit, he's much less formidable, and to do that, you need to come around the ends. I can't name a better DE that the Bears have faced so far this season. Next week with Strahan and Umenyiora coming after Grossman, I don't see how the Bears can win that game.

Let me just give you two blurbs about the Vikings regarding their game against the 49ers and there coming game against the Packers. First, as time expired Fox color man Tim Ryan had this to say, "The Vikings don't have a big play threat. They need to get the ball down the field, but they can't." Now, Brad Johnson had this to say about the Packers. "The Packers play nine in the box and man to man on the receivers." Basically what Brad was telling us, is that barring a quarterback change, the Vikings are losing next week.

The Broncos are getting better as Jake Plummer gets some thoughtless confidence and Tatum Bell is finding his legs. But enough about them. What about the Steelers? Lets find a quote about them somewhere. Oh! From some season preview. I found it here. The quote.
Pittsburgh Steelers - I will say it loud and clear, and you may reference this later in the season. THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS, DEFENDING CHAMPIONS, WILL MISS THE PLAYOFFS. Last season, they relied on good defense and surprise. The defense is still there. The element of surprise, however, is gone. Antwaan Randle El, purporter of all the Steelers' trick plays last year, now resides in Washington, and defenses can key on Willie Parker without having to worry about Jerome Bettis barrelling downfield. And if the Steelers have to rely on Ben Roethlisberger passing the ball, they're in a lot of trouble. I doubt he can interpret zone defenses on passing downs if he can't pick out sedans on city streets.
Enough said. But boy is that guy a good writer, huh?

I'm not sure Peyton Manning's win against the Patriots was a good thing, all said. It just increases pressure as the season goes on. Manning is a guy that could go for a good 11-5 season, rather than another 14-2 and the expectations that entails. But this was a different story all together than just the quarterbacks. The Indy defense got after Tom Brady and forced mistakes, while the Patriots felt the need to go to the air to keep up with the Colts, despite the fact that they had two reliable backs. The Patriots will be in trouble if Bill Belichek gameplans this poorly, opposing defenses attack Brady, and another team can pick apart the Patriots secondary. Also, I'd just like to note that the real difference between Brady and Manning is that Brady doesn't screw up, unless he's forced to, like last night, while Manning has the physical skills to get himself out of those situations. Not to mention, Manning is a much smarter QB, and really, it's a lot easier to get in the head of someone who uses theirs.

The worst game in the history of national television* was played last night in Seattle. I couldn't even watch it. There were only two bits I actually caught. The first was after the half, Suzy Kolber said that Art Shell was speechless. No kidding. He's usually so wordy. Second, Mike Tirico said the knee that Tyler Brayton's knee to Jerramy Stevens baby Seahawks was low on the scale of manliness, not just football. An announcer (Mike Tirico, no less) called a pro football player less than manly. And he was absolutely right.

So that's it. May you win your congressional district on this Election Day - Ryan

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hot Tips at the Hot Corner

Much has been made, I guess, about the Twins third base situation. It was a hole that management tried to patch with Tony Batista who did exactly what everyone expected. He ruled third base with an iron glove. His average fluttered with .230, and his batting stance made Terry Tiffee regress to his JV team days. Then the Twins cut Batista with no real plan in mind, except to wait for the future. Nick Punto was plugged in as a stop gap because he had soft hands and the fans loved him.
Then a funny thing happened. He stuck.
Ron Gardenhire stuck Punto in the top of the order where he hit .290. Although Punto will never be regarded as a power threat, Punto proved that with regularity, he was still a threat to get on base and generally be a spark plug. The knock on Punto has always been that he strikes out too much and that he makes boneheaded plays on the basepaths. These are serious issues that can be rectified to a degree.
First, get Punto to bunt more against pitchers he doesn't pick up well. He's fast enough that he can make things happen. Second, if we can instruct him to stop sliding into first, I think we'll really be on to something. It would also eliminate the third problem Punto has. He gets hurt far, far too often.
People may believe that the third base spot should be pigeonholed as a power hitters position, but I don't understand that. In fact, traditionally third base has been a weak position in the batting order. This season, Garrett Atkins, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Crede, Troy Glaus, Aramis Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and David Wright were the only third basemen with over 25 home runs this season, and of those guys, only Crede, Glaus, Rodriguez (who isn't really a third baseman anyways) and Ramirez have more than 30, and of the original group, Atkins, Cabrera, Ramirez, and Wright have batting averages better than Puntos, and of that select group, the only two available are Ramirez and Rodriguez. So really, what do the Twins gain by going after a third baseman? Not a whole lot. And any purported benefit of a big hitting third baseman, if we are to take the averages, is made up for by the Twins in two other positions. They have Joe Mauer who will hit for average in front of the big hitters, and Torii Hunter hit 30 home runs this year, a number unusual coming from center field.
While I agree that the situation at the hot corner could be better, mostly because of Punto's injury history, but at the same time, it's the best option the Twins will have available this off season. - Ryan

The Sweet Release of Seagrams 7

Most of Saturday I was enduring wedding related activities, getting ready for the wedding, attending the wedding, and getting plowed at the reception. I desperately wanted to come home and watch football or the Wild game, but my parents insisted that I stick around. I made the best of my unfortunate situation and shotgunned 7 & 7's until I couldn't feel my face. (Note: Not recommended for people under 21 or under 200 pounds) I fenerally made an ass of myself to the point that my brother took me home. The point is, I don't remember what happened for much of last week, and especially not Saturday. I'll keep this brief.

ITEM ONE: Francisco Liriano went under the knife. No doubt this will help him in the long run, but the Twins rotation has the potential to be in rough shape for a few years if there are no veteran starters added and the youngsters don't continue to develop. Of course, I expect Bonser to be a stalwart and still hold out hope for Scott Baker. The most troubling aspect, however, is that Terry Ryan may be more reluctant to deal away a young pitcher, limiting the options for patching some holes. I'm not overly worried, but I am concerned.

ITEM TWO: I can say one thing about the Wild, but nothing specifically about the games, because I've already talked about the game against Vancouver, and as I mentioned, couldn't even see straight during the game Saturday against the Predators. The only thing I can note is that the Wild seems to have completely overhauled their strategy, and thus far, it seems to be working. They are now aggressively offensive, much like Rush Limbaugh, but likeable. Even their defensive additions of Petteri Nummelin and Kim "The PP is huge for me" Johnsson are guys that love jumping up in the action. So far this season, Minnesota isn't getting beat, they're getting out scored.

ITEM THREE: I don't want to sound like a horrible person, but I think, just because it's so inane, that anti-Semitism is ridiculous. Last Friday, Chevy Chase starred in one of those "ripped from the headlines" episodes of Law and Order that was derived from the Mel Gibson incident. I laughed several times, just because I was reminded of how stupid hating Jews is. (That's the Victoria Times: definitely Pro Jews).

ITEM FOUR: Is everyone familiar with the 80's supergroup, the Travelling Wilburys? It's was a little musical outfit with George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison as it's members. I'm blown away by that arrangement, and I'm wondering if it could be done again today. So I thought about who from today's era would be fit to be included in a group like that, if say, there existed a Travelling Victoria Timeses. My thoughts, initially: Stephen Tyler, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Brandon Flowers and Billie Joe Armstrong. What are you're thoughts?

ITEM FIVE: I know I promised to avoid politics, but with tomorrow being election day, I can't keep quiet. If you haven't already, I just have one request before you head to the polls (or not, it's your perrogative). Please, find out about the candidates running in the pertinant races to your precincts. Don't vote blind, or stay at home because you don't want to vote. Vote with some idea of what you want to accomplish, or stay at home because you don't think any candidates can accomplish what you wish.

And I'm done being heavy handed for this week - Ryan

Friday, November 03, 2006

Karma and the Lord's Game.

Last night I was driving down highway 7 in Minnetonka at about 5:30 last night, when in the left lane, I witnessed the tale end of about a six car accident. I immediately called 911, because I believe in driving karma, you know, watching out for your fellow drivers, letting people merge, always signaling, stuff like that. I think it helps, because I have never been in an accident.
OF course, driving karma doesn't seem to apply where traffic is concerned. Typically, the drive from the Victoria Times headquarters to the Xcel Energy Center is about 50 minutes, maybe 1:15 with traffic. It took me two full hours to get to the game last night, and I had to park in Wisconsin. I did, however, move quicker walking from the garage to the arena than I did the entire time i was on 394. I finally made it to my seat with a little more than 8 minutes to go in the first period and Vancouver was up 2-0.
All night, Vancouver looked like they out played a logey Wild squad. Manny Fernandez was playing with a growly in his bowely. Marian Gaborik was hurt. Pavol Demitra was all over the map. Matt Cooke was camped in front of the net all night. It wasn't a good way to start the game. Todd White deflected a goal off his skate, and although it clearly wasn't, it was called a kick and reviewed. I can't say I blame the refs though, because their view was obstructed when they were kissing Alain Vigneault's ass. Hell, poor Jason Morgan spent about two periods in the penalty box, watching Alex Burrows hog tie Pierre Marc Bouchard all night., with no recourse.
But then on one of Vancouver's completely unnecessary power plays, Rory Fitzpatrick hauled Brian Rolston down on his way to the net. After the game had moved like traffic on 394, it finally turned with 2:59 left in the second when Rolston blasted his penalty shot past Roberto Luongo. Perhaps he was still a little wary after taking a slapshot to the neck in the first period.
That was the tipping point. In between bountiful penalty kills, Nick Schultz wafted a shot into the net. So, there was a phantom kick, a penalty shot and this floater from the blue line. In my times at the X, I was yet to see a normal goal, typified by a goal that bounced off the endboards, then off Arturs Irbe and into the net. Would I ever see any good hockey goals? Well, yes, because Pascal Dupuis, (my favorite athlete named Pascal, incidentally) blasted in a rebound as Luongo flopped around in the crease.
For those who don't watch a lot of hockey, let me tell you something. Seeing Nick Schultz AND Pascal Dupuis score in the same game is like watching Luis Castillo hit a home run and Jason Kubel get a bunt single in the same game. Or Tara Reid and Dolph Lundgren being nominated for an Oscar.
To complete the evening, Branko (or the Brankster, as I call him) Radivojevic put one in with just over a second to go. So it turns out that driving karma was paying off. Or maybe, just maybe, God was looking out for me. He loves hockey. - Ryan

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Most Important Bartlett Thats Not Played by Martin Sheen

I've been sitting on some information for a while, mostly because my sourse was neither confirmed nor sober, but what she had to say seems important to this post. Let me explain. The Twins started the season with Juan Castro playing shortstop because of his "veteran leadership" among other things that would be best described as intangible. Promising young Jason Bartlett was sent to Rochester so he could develop some leadership skills. It was a noble effort, despite what people might say.
Castro did all the right things while he was on the Twins roster. He didn't make any boneheaded mistakes, although his range was limited, compared to Bartlett or Cristian Guzman. But he just made good decisions that you only get with a veteran who understands his game. I think it was for the best, showing Bartlett what kind of game the Twins expected in their system. In the meantime, Bartlett put up huge numbers in Rochester before he was finally called up.
When he made it to the majors, he was productive, getting on base, fielding his position, and generally making some solid baseball plays. Of course, Bartlett did make his fair share of baserunning and fielding mistakes that weren't a testament against his physical abilities, but rather his mental maturity.
Which, according to my drunk source, was the more specific reason Bartlett was sent down. It wasn't that Bartlett wasn't a leader (ooh, double negative) it was more that he lacked the maturity to make a stake in the Twins roster. Initially, he demonstrated this behind closed doors, but after a few months of quite determination in upstate New York, he earned his way back onto the Twins roster. I fully support the decision to keep Bartlett in AAA the first part of the season, because the baseball clubhouse is a volatile thing. The stay on the farm helped Bartlett develp both as a player and as a person.
The question then, is what do the Twins do for next year? The answer is similar to the answer at second. The status quo is fine, but it will be important to have a capable utility player for spot duty. - Ryan