Monday, April 30, 2007

A trip to the Twins Clubhouse

I have a friend in the Twins organization, and the other day, he allowed me a visit to the Twins clubhouse. Needless to say, I was terribly excited. I walked in and looked around at all those great talents. Johan Santana. Joe Mauer. Justin Morneau. It was a dream come true.
They were all coming back from a trip to Mauer's house, where the team had finished watching a movie on his enormous movie screen in the basement.
"Boy, that's a first," said backup catcher Mike Redmond, "We went to Joe's house and nobody got hurt!" There was no laughter, and I knew he was serious. I introduced myself to the team and inquired as to what he meant.
"Well," said reliever Jesse Crain, "In the offseason, for example, Lew Ford was trying to open a can of tuna, but had some problems and tweaked his elbow, one thing led to another, and well, he's stuck in Joe's blinds, and we have no idea how to get him out."
Mauer nodded.
"Then there is Luis Castillo who was in the garage building a new swing set for some poor Dominican children, but he couldn't handle the circular saw, it spooked him, and he pulled his hamstring running away, " utility infielder Alexi Casilla told me as I cringed.
Mauer nodded.
"Ooh, don't forget about Rondell," starter Boof Bonser said.
"What about Rondell?" I inquired, scared to find out where this was going to go.
"Well, he was playing golf on Joe's 9 hole course in the backyard, and he lost his grip on the club, it bounced off of a tree," Outfielder Jason Kubel recounted.
"And it hit him?" I asked, worried for his safety.
"Oh, no. He stepped on a pissed off rattlesnake. But still. That flying golf club sure was freaky," Kubel finished.
Mauer nodded.
Just then, a youthful looking pitcher with emotional problems snuck into the clubhouse. "I'm looking for Torii Hunter," Zach Greinke said meekly. "I wanted to apologize for hitting you in the face the other day. Buddy told me to pitch high and away, and I forgot for a second that he wasn't lefthanded, like all of the other stars on the team." Torii and Zach then went off to share a bottle of champagne he had left over. Of course, Greinke didn't because he's only 14.
We returned to the conversation on player injuries, where pitcher Matt Guerrier was speaking, "Remember when Jeff was trying to make us all dinner, and he was cutting carrots for the salad?"
I winced.
"Yeah, he's not used to the funny grips on everything in Joe's house," Guerrier said.
Mauer nodded.
"Funny grips?" I asked.
"Well, yeah. Joe's a lefty. Everything in his house is designed for him to use. We even put in a bunch of lefthanded implements here in the clubhouse since we have so many valuable southpaws here," Guerrier said, while Johan Santana grinned and Justin Morneau stood stoically and Mauer nodded.
I was aghast. "Do you know how many people are injured using tools that weren't designed for their handedness? Thousands! Have you noticed that all of your injuries are to righties?"
Everyone was at first very sheepish, realizing that they had made such a terrible mistake, and I even heard Ron Gardenhire to go out and buy some normal tools. For a moment, everyone was quiet, until we head some mild oaths from behind us.
"Dagnabbit, I can't figure out these flippin' scissors!" It was sidearmer Pat Neshek, who was putting together get well cards, and was struggling mightily with a sheet of construction paper and a pair of left handed scissors.
Time slowed, and I dove across the table. "Noooooooooooo!" I shouted as I swatted the scissors away from him. Then, I heard a terrible scream. It was Rondell White, who had just returned to tell us that he was OK to play again. The scissors were sticking out of his calf. It looked like the muscle was torn.
Needless to say, I wasn't invited back to the dugout.

Fun with Winamp

There is a full length Twins post coming up later today, so I'm going to avoid them this go 'round in the weekly review. There are really only three subjects I want to review this week.

ITEM ONE: In my orignal plan, I thought there would be a lot more coverage of local events here in Victoria. Turns out, not a lot goes on around town. In any case, after complaining about the "Celine Dion Newsletter" as I like to call it, I discovered the Chanhassen Villager, which is a legitimate paper. They actually have a two page insert every week that covers news in Victoria. The two important things learned from this are that A) our best source of local news isn't produced locally, and B) everything that happens in Victoria in a week can be summarized in 2 pages. In any case, I'll hopefully touch on these topics in future weeks in review. But I sincerely doubt anyone wants to hear about bond measures for sewer treatment in the Swiss Mountain neighborhood. Every. Single. Week.

ITEM TWO: There are a few things that bothered me about the most recent issue of ESPN the Magazine this week, and that's without touching on the fact that they barely mention the NHL playoffs at all. That ship has likely already sailed anyways. No no. In about three pages, there were three things that were completely objectionable. First, in the contents (they pissed me off in the contents!), they say in parenthesees for their feature on page 76 that "...somebody's got to show the East some love." Are you freaking kidding? Is this why we are treated to all 18 games between the Red Sox and Yankees every season, because ESPN honestly believes the East isn't getting enough love? (Granted, they were talking about the NBA, but honestly, the only East that doesn't get enough love on the Worldwide Leader is Eastern Europe. Come on! Hungarians are people too!)
Secondly, and not much further down the road, Bill Simmons alledges that, rather than looking up to boxers, kids these days want to be the next Lebron, Griffey, Brady or Tiger. Sure. Wait. No. Lebron, yes, Brady, yes. Griffey? Maybe 10 years ago. I can't imagine anyone wanting to grow up to be on the disabled list for almost every ailment conceivable, including, most recently, a lower intestinal disorder. OOH! when I grow up, I want to miss 15 days of work with explosive diarrhea! No. And I sincerely doubt that the kids who would have otherwise wanted to be boxers went to the complete opposite end of the pro sports spectrum, dreaming instead of wearing visors and polo shirts while endorsing old people cars and hanging out with rich white dudes.
Lastly, and perhaps the most offensive, was Stuart Scott in his ridiculously contrived "Two Way" feature. Usually, he gives off the aura that he is the moral authority on everything, even though he pretty much never is. The two main topics in his ridiculous Two Way this week were the Pacman Jones suspension and the Don Imus-Rutgers fiasco. He starts by expressing his outrage at Imus calling the team "Nappy Headed Hoes", then goes on to say that he is OK with African Americans using the N-word. All right. By the way, Imus never used the N-word. Later in this piece, he expresses his concern for Pacman Jones, who he says is not a "bad guy". The last line is the one I have the biggest problem with, however: "Personally... I'll take Pacman's indiscretions over those of Imus." So there you have it. Stu Scott prefers gun violence to misguided commentary from disc jockeys.

ITEM THREE: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the NFL draft. I let Winamp run on the Victoria Times computer, (which bears a striking resemblence to the Victoria-Weather computer), and tried to interpret what Winamp thought of the picks. Here are some highlights of songs played during certain picks.
1. Raiders - Jamarcus Russell - You Can't Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones.
It's interesting because this was the theme song for ESPN this year. Additionally, shouldn't you get what you want at Number 1? Is Al Davis pulling too many strings there?
2. Lions - Calvin Johnson - Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty.
Millen drafted another wide receiver?!
3. Browns - Joe Thomas - Dilemma, Nelly, Kelly Rowland.
Do they select Thomas? Do they nab Brady Quinn? Turns out, it wasn't really that big of a dilemma.
4. Buccaneers - Gaines Adams - Crossroads, Bone Thugs 'n' Harmony.
I'm not sure who is at the crossroads, because it could be Adams, given his recently revealed use of marijuana, the Bucs who are threatening to slip back into oblivion or, more likely, John Gruden who is on the precipice of slipping into insanity.
5. Cardinals - Levi Brown - 7 Deadly Sins, Travelling Wilburys.
Ooh, that's a bad sign. One of the deadly sins, I believe, is sending offensive tackles to play in Phoenix.
9. Dolphins - Ted Ginn - Don't Let Me Down, ELO.
Maybe one of the iffiest picks in the draft, and Winamp is putting even more pressure on Cam Cameron on this sketchy pick.
15. Steelers - Lawrence Timmons - Let's Get It On, Marvin Gaye.
My computer has a little crush on Timmons apparently, and I'm more than a little concerned.
18. Bengals - Leon Hall - Rock Superstar, Cypress Hill.
This either means Hall will be a superstar in Cincinnati, or, given the situation, will more likely party like a rock star in Cincy.
20. Giants - Aaron Ross - AwwNaww, Nappy Roots
Definitely the most ominous Winamp projection. Sorry, Giants fans.
22. Browns - Brady Quinn - I Want to Know What Love Is, Foreigner
I really have know idea what this portends. Perhaps Brady and that blonde girl on his arm are on the rocks. I really don't know.
32. Colts - Anthony Gonzalez - Sabotage, Beastie Boys
I think this pick doomed the Vikings to pick some crappy receiver from South Carolina again.

Well, those are the highlights. Any more you would like to know? Do I have too much time on my hands? Oh, by the way, after the first round, I think the Vikings had a bad draft. That's all the analysis you get.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Remaining Agressive

I have to admit, last week I made a bit of an error. The Wild came back from two 3-1 series in '04, not 3-0. In any case, the point is moot now, since they've regrettably been eliminated. Let's move past this, and well, discuss it in Item One.

ITEM ONE: Are the Ducks really as good as we saw against the Wild, or did Jacques Lemaire revert to the trapping style he has always espoused for the playoffs? I think it's the latter. The Wild really handcuffed themselves in this series by reverting to the trap, despite their quicker, offensive minded players. If they had remained aggressive, they may not have won, but at least the series would have been mildly interesting. Oh well, we'll get 'em next year.

ITEM TWO: The Mariners seem to be slipping slowly towards oblivion, buried under immense contracts and their best hope for the future, Felix Hernandez, has the early signs of a disastrous, injury wrought career. In any case, the Royals are looking up, with some solid young talent, and a pitching staff that is looking up. This was all evident with the way the Twins played on their little road trip, sweeping the Mariners and losing 2-1 to the Royals. The offense needs to settle into a groove, while the pitching staff could sure use some consistency from their more portly starters.

ITEM THREE: Of the series I have seen, the team I am most impressed with is New Jersey. The Devils seem to know what they want to do when they have the puck, and Marty Brodeur is at the top of his game. Another perennial powerhouse, Detroit, is sorely missing the veteran leadership they were provided when Steve Yzerman was on the roster. They kept finding their way into scraps with Calgary, and they broke down several times in their series. They could be in trouble in the next round.

ITEM FOUR: With the NFL draft coming up this weekend, I'm really excited to see who will say the least believable thing. My money is on Brady Quinn excitedly telling us how happy he is to play in Detroit. Then, of course, there is the possibility that we'll see Chris Berman eating directly out of a bucket of fried chicken without using his hands. All great possibilities.

ITEM FIVE: I don't know why, but I've always had a softspot for the Phillies. I just don't get how they seem to have so much going for them, and they still get destroyed during the season. They have such a wealth of talent on their roster, but things just are not going well for them. This is what you get for booing Santa Claus, I suppose.

ITEM SIX: An open letter to the folks at Fox.
Dear Folks at Fox - I don't care about Sanjaya. I don't care about American Idol. You have ruined a great show in 24. You have ruined many sporting events by putting Jack Buck in charge of announcing them. I hate you. I may kidnap Rupert Murdoch if you successfully ruin Drive as well, which I have every faith you will.
Sincerely, the Victoria Times

Sunday, April 22, 2007

5 things that make Minnesota sports great

The Wild are done in the playoffs this year, the Vikings are still a disgrace to Norwegians and Minnesotans, the Timberwolves aren't in the playoffs again and two of the major sports programs at the University of Minnesota has suffered enough over the past couple of years that they changed their coaches. The seeming bright spot in the Minnesota sports landscape, the Twins, still have Sidney Ponson on the roster. Usually, I would spend a great deal of time bellyaching about the sorry state of sports, but it's Spring, and I have a cheery outlook on life. Sports are supposed to be fun! Let's look instead at 5 people and groups that make Minnesota sports special, and reasons we should feel lucky.

5. Joe Mauer - Joe Mauer, the kid from Cretin who could do everything coming out of high school and turned down a football scholarship to powerhouse Florida State to play baseball. He came up with the Twins and doesn't show any signs of wanting to ever leave Minnesota. He's clean cut and people generally like him around town. He's made friends in the clubhouse and seems to be a special ingredient in the glue that holds the team together. As years go by, no doubt he'll move up this list.

4. Mark Rosen - Rosen may not be the best sports guy in the world, but he definitely fits in here in the Twin Cities. There are a couple of snide newspaper columnists, but most in the area take after Rosen's approach to sports reporting. When he gives his opinions, they aren't typically ostentatious, and he isn't calling attention to himself. Whenever a scandal breaks, other markets may overwhelm the athletes involved and provide sweeping condemnation, but Rosen and the rest of his ilk generally reserve judgement and merely offer gentle scolding rather than a know-it-all opinion. Just watch Around The Horn once to see how lucky we have it.

3. Hockey Fans - In the 90's, Norm f'ing Green thought it would be a good idea to expand the NHL markets to the south, and moved the North Stars to Dallas. Instead of giving up on hockey, Minnesotans continued to strive for another team, and a new arena. Without the pros to watch, they turned to the amateur rinks, filling arenas in St. Cloud, Mankato, Duluth and in Minnesota, while developing rivalries with each other, and nearby, well funded opponents like North Dakota and Wisconsin. When the Wild returned and sold out every game, a funny thing happened on campuses across the state. Nothing! Hockey fans continued to fill the arenas statewide, even for the less talented teams. And don't even get me started on the importance of the high school tournaments.

2. Kent Hrbek - Herbie's playing style is best described as like an out of shape Mark Grace. He was an important member of two World Series teams, but never the star. That was always reserved for Kirby Puckett. He was always a character, easy to interview, easier to like, and that easygoing personality translated into a TV show on the local NBC affiliate. Not only was Hrbek a bright spot in the world of Minnesota baseball, but his influence is being spread to the outdoor sports. Really, the only flaw Hrbek has these days is that still elusive vowel for his last name.

1. Kevin Garnett - For the most part, this entire list is made up of people born and raised in Minnesota. Imagine, then, a high school kid with a huge ego getting drafted into the NBA. Now imagine that kid becoming a superstar and inking a huge deal. In most situations, the kid would slow down a bit, already reaching his payday. Not this guy. He's continued to perform at a high level. Now, imagine his team crumbling around him, and he still doesn't have a championship. He'd demand a trade, right? Not this guy. Admittedly, I'm not a fan of the NBA, but Kevin Garnett is one of my favorite athletes, just because he exudes all those characteristics that the sports world craves. Loyalty and a strong work ethic are just two of them. If more athletes had the character Garnett does, the sports world would be a much better place. It's incredible that the talking heads of the world are so confused by his selfless actions.

So there you go Minnesota. Embrace those bright spots here in our hometown.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Today, everyone is a Hokie

I would like to first comment on the tragedy the beset Virginia Tech today. VaTech was always Purdue's academic rival, and every description I've heard of the Blacksburg campus leaves me with the impression that the two schools are extremely similar. If they are like Purdue, then Spring is a traditionally stressful time of year, what with engineering projects coming due, and finals just around the corner. There is little time to be out looking for girls in short shorts and tube tops like at other schools. Now, with this unspeakable news of dozens dead, the stress and sadness of the season will be too much for many students and faculty to deal with, and I wish nothing but the best for Virginia Tech.

ITEM ONE: Switching to lighter fare, I should give you my picks for the playoffs and a couple awards. In the NL, I've got the Cubs over the Phillies and the Mets over the Dodgers in the first round, with Mets defeating the Cubs to get to the World Series. In the AL, I've got the Yankees over the Tigers and the Angels over the red Sox, with the Yankees getting back to, and winning the World Series in a terribly boring Subway Series with the Mets.
In the National League, Carloses will sweep the MVP and Cy Young awards, with Beltran and Zambrano winning those, and in the AL, look for Roy Halladay (if he stays healthy, if not, Johan Santana again) to get the Cy Young, and the MVP going to one of the Yankees. I'm going to stray from the majority and say that the MVP is eventually going to be Bobby Abreu. So there you have it.

ITEM TWO: Speaking of playoffs, I don't think I can talk about the Wild without crying. They have been completely incompetent offensively, going 0 for 6342 on the power play. Sure, trapping works, but only if you put pucks in the net on the other end. Of course, the last time Minnesota was in the playoffs, they came back twice after falling down by three games. So really, we have the Ducks right where we want them. Sigh.

ITEM THREE: I flipped through the channels earlier today, and I just caught this: "Vikings were raping and pillaging". Now, where they talking about Norwegians or Cornerbacks? I'm not sure.

ITEM FOUR: The Twins, after their first fantastic week of the season, became less fantastic this last week. Their games against the Yankees were postergames for how not to pitch, and the Devil Rays, of all teams, gave them fits, which is disquieting. The pitching staff is being buoyed mostly by Carlos Silva and Ramon Ortiz. This can't possibly last. The Twins need to start hitting, especially when Luis Rodriguez is tied for 2nd on the team in homers.

Thats it for this week, hopefully we can have a cheerier look at things next week.

MLB Preview: AL East

Finally, it's time for the last division preview, and it's ESPNs favorite division, the AL East. The Red Sox and Yankees are playing tonight! Can you hardly believe it?! I haven't heard a whole lot about Alex Rodriguez this year. Do the Red Sox have any new key players?

New York Yankees: Having the highest payroll in baseball has to pay off eventually, right? I think this year may be it. In addition to having a team in which everyone can hit 30 homeruns, they now have a quicker guy in Bobby Abreu at the top of the order, and paired with Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter, the yanks have a well rounded batting order. Their rotation is still suspect, but with Andy Pettite and possibly Roger Clemens should solidify that. Adn in july, the Yankees certainly have the werewithal to add a needed pitcher.

Boston Red Sox: The Sox patched up their rotation with some guy named Matsuzaka and their bullpen is no longer a concern with Jonathan Papelbon in the closers role, but they have an intimidatingly bad lineup outside of Manny ramirez and David Ortiz. They added mercurial J.D. Drew to play right, next to mercurial Coco Crisp and Wily Mo Pena. I honestly dont know who they plan to play in the middle infield this year. Kevin Youkilis isn't working out quite how they expected a couple of years ago. Additionally, a team that had J.C. Romero in the bullpen has never been to the World Series.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays seem like they are one clubhouse catastrophe away from a last place finish, and for whatever reason, this squad always seems to be on pins and needles. They added a nice veteran presence in Frank Thomas, and they have a solid pitching roatation, maybe even the best in the division. They really don't have the offensive fire power to overcome the top two teams in the league, and could use a big time corner outfielder or 1b.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: The Rays have a telented young lineup, with stars like Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli being joined by Akinori Iwamura. If they can add a couple of pitchers to join Scott Kazmir, they could be competetive soon. For now, though, they should be happy to not be in last.

Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are really bad. The Nationals don't have exclusive rights on the "suck" in the Beltway area. Their lineup is mediocre and completely noncohesive. They have a pitching staff that doesn't stay healthy or within the strikezone. It's going to be a long year in Baltimore.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

MLB Preview: AL Central

It's been. admittedly, some time since I referred back to the MLB preview. I intend to have them done on Monday, so keep your fingers crossed. In any case, it's probably been for the best that I haven't got to the AL Central for a while, because a lot of weird stuff has happened, namely, Cleveland not getting a home game until yesterday. But I've discussed that alread. (By the way, Jayson Stark has a much better solution to the April scheduling issues than any I've heard.) So let's soldier on and take a look at the vastly improved, even since last year, AL Central.

Detroit Tigers: I don't think I've once picked the AL Central champion correctly, and at this point, the Tigers look to be the most formidable opponent, so I'm hoping to jinx them. They have a solid pitching staff, top to bottom and deep into the bullpen, despite the loss of Jamie Walker. They added Gary Sheffield to an already decent lineup, so their run total should go up and their young pitchers won't throw out their arms by June. They aren't that much better than the other teams in the division, but they have a lot going for them.

Minnesota Twins: I'm sure I'll discuss the Twins at various points this year, since they are my favorite team and all, and my general mood is somewhat dependent on the success of the team. I'm a little moody right now, after they lost to the Devil Rays and dropped two to the Yankees. It can't last though. Santana will become dominant late in the year, and they are such a cohesive unit that they will go on teamwide streaks, good and bad. The pitching staff will improve as one or two of their prized prospects will be brought up from Triple A. I can't imagine, however, the Twins repeating last year's unlikely performance if they get too far behind the 8 ball early this season.

Cleveland Indians: The Indians made it a point to patch their biggest holes with talented youngsters. No more are the days of Ronnie Belliard and Adam Boone playing everyday, as Cleveland over the past two years have added the exceptionally talented Andy Marte and Josh Barfield. If they're pitching comes around this season - and they did make some key acquisitions in the pen - they will be strong this year. Of course, no one can fault them if they get off to a slow start, given their early season weather follies.

Chicago White Sox: This team was inherently flawed last year. They sacraficed a solid defensive, fundamental baseball player in Aaron rowand to go back to the slugging team that had failed to succeed for about a dozen years before that. Forwhatever reason, this year GM Kenny Williams figured the best way to change the team was to drastically weaken the pitching staff. I know the man has a ring, but seriously, what was he thinking? He didin't need to deal Freddy Garcia AND Brandon McCarthey. Really, Mark Buehrle and Jose Contreras are getting old and brittle enough on their own. I'm thoroughly confused by this team.

Kansas City Royals: Usually, the Royals man their roster with a bunch of young players who are too green or untalented to see the majors, paired with Mke Sweeney. ventually, one or two really talented guys would sneak in there and get promptly traded. Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran come to mind. This year they are actually promising, something I haven't said about the Royals in a hwile. They have a couple of pitchers, Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and the ever mercurial Zach Greinke that could be solid. Offensively, there is a lot to like as well, with Alex Gordon and Ryan Shealy getting daily playing time, and the pressure coming off of Mark Teahen. The Royals certainly won''t climb out of the cellar, but they may put some heat on the 4th place team.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Hopefully you all had a wonderful Easter. As I mentioned, I spent much of the weekend at Midway. Due to my being a guest at other places, or having too many guests at my house, I haven't slept in my own bed since Thursday, which was also the last time I didn't sleep fully clothed. I'm a little groggy.

ITEM ONE: It's tough to make any sweeping generalizations about the season after one week. A lot of the issues players and teams are experiencing could be written off as working out the kinks, getting rid of the rust, etc. The real story to take from week one of the baseball season is the weather, something I am sort of an expert on. After games in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland were postponed due to cold weather and snow in Cleveland's case, there have been murmurs of creating new schedules in order to prevent things like this from happening, but I'm going to have to call shenanigans. The cold we saw this week isn't as common as some pundits would have you believe. The average temperatures in these cities for this time of year is in the 50s and 60s, much as it is in October when postponing games based on temperature would be unspeakable. The idea that we would reschedule games in the off chance that it gets cold in April is, meteorologically speaking, as silly as saying that we should reschedule May games in Texas on the off chance there is a tornado. Another fact ignored in this hullaballoo is that this week it snowed in Atlanta and Texas as well. Really, the only way to evade quirky Spring weather is to shorten the season or not allow outdoor baseball at all.

ITEM TWO: Hockey Playoffs start this week. Whee! Here's my take on the opening round.
EAST: Islanders vs Sabres: This could go 7 games as the Isles are riding momentum and the Sabres have been coasting since about November.
Lightning vs Devils: The Devils swapped out coaches at the end of the year, which is worrisome. For the second round. Equal offensively, the Devs have the upper hand in net and on the blue line.
Rangers vs Thrashers: We'll get to see a lot of this series on NBC, mostly because it's the Rangers. I'm excited to watch the Thrashers, because they have some smooth young skaters who don't get nearly enough attention.
Senators vs Penguins: The Pens have a scary set of young guns that seem ready to sweep a perennially underachieving squad that is lacking defense this year.
WEST: Flames vs Red Wings: There are a couple of things working in Calgary's favor. Not much separates the top from the bottom in the West, the Red Wings are creaky, and they Flames have more recent Finals experience. Should be a great series.
Wild vs Ducks: The Wild have been unstoppable when all of their offensive parts are there. As is evidenced by their 7 seed, those parts haven't always been there. Look for an opening round upset and Niklas Backstrom to become a celebrity.
Stars vs Canucks: I can't put my finger on what makes this such an ugly series for me. The Stars have been slippery for years, but they face a tough stopper in Roberto Luongo. I see this series being short, but I don't know who will win.
Sharks vs Predators: If the Predators can keep San Jose's top line in check, and I think they can, they shouldn't have any problem in this series. Otherwise, expect scores to be very high.

ITEM THREE: The constant musical chairs of college coaches this offseason is somehow fascinating to me. A couple of lineages: Minnesota terminates coach Dan Monson (who eventually goes to Long Beach State (Which is funny, given the style of basketball he coaches and the style LBSU plays. (His kids went to my high school!) (Quadruple parenthesees!)))), Minnesota hires Tubby Smith from Kentucky, Kentucky hires Billy Gillespie from Texas A&M, Texas A&M hires Wichita State coach Mike Turgeon. Others: New Mexico hires Iowa's Steve Alford, Iowa hires Butler's Todd Lickliter. Michigan fires Tommy Amaker, hires West Virginia's Jim Beilein and West Virginia hires Kansas State's Bob Huggins. This amuses me terribly. Not as much as Larry Eustachy getting another job, however, let alone a renewed contract.

Only three, albeit long, items this week. Keep it real.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My Starcrossed Trip to Chicago.

As I may have mentioned, I started a tradition of going to a baseball game on my birthday annually, no matter where it was. This year, I turned 24 on an off day, and since the next game was on a Friday, I decided it was time for a trip to Chicago to watch the Twins play the White Sox. Earlier this year, I had tried to find a way to get to Kansas City and Philadelphia for basketball games, but those plans fell through. This year, I had a ticket for Chicago Midway, a ticket to the game from Steve over at Es Deportes? and things were ready to rock and roll. What could go wrong?
The first sign of trouble came from Detroit on Thursday. The Tigers and Blue Jays cancelled their game due to cold weather. The temperature was 30 in Michigan that day. The forecast for Chicago was in the mid thirties.
Mostly excited and a little anxious because I hate flying, I walked the entire airport, through all of the concourses (most crowded flight? Minneapolis to Anchorage) to wear myself out and settle my nerves. MSP doesn't have a Cinnabon any more, I found out, much to my dismay. Anyways, I got to my gate and saw a plethora of Twins apparel waiting in the G terminal. This was going to be awesome. Of course, away from these Twins fans I hadn't yet heard the news. The game had just been cancelled.
I found out as soon as I got to my seat and right after I ripped my jacket. The trip was off to a rousing start. When I got to Midway and flipped on my phone, my dad called me immediately, just so he could give me the bad news. He figured I would have called for a ride home and not bothered to go to Chicago at all. I did, because I payed a lot of money for those tickets. Steve then called to see if I was in Chicago yet, and I had to break him the news. It was heartwrenching. Worst of all, we had this built up vitriol and competetiveness we had to let off some how. What were we to do?
We went drinking of course. First we went to a sports bar, because they had real live baseball games on the TVs there, and it irked Steve to watch the Cubbies. Win-win for me. This was also the closest we got to seeing anyone associated with the game we intended on watching. I believe the gentleman in the picture is the real Paul Konerko. Our waitress had a thick, John Goodman worshipping Ditka type Chicago accent, asking if she could "get yous anything to drink?" Think Elwood Blues with a nose ring. I had a delicious plate of spinach ravioli alfredo, as well as three whiskey sours (one on the house) before we left to find something competetive to do. We were on a mission from God.
We then went in search of a bowling alley, and finding one, we learned it was too full for us to get into, so instead, we went to a bar known locally as the "Midget Bar". It was in fact owned and operated by a couple members of the vertically challenged community. They even had a shorter bar off to the side that was build to cater to said community.
A local band, The Leftovers, took the stage not long after we arrived. They played mostly classic and grunge rock. That was where things got interesting. We started competing to figure out who played what songs originally. It was tough. Unfortunately, I lost that little game, as my Stone Temple Pilots knowledge is less than adequate. At least we were able to get some of those competetive feelings out of our system.
The next morning, I flew home deflated, exhausted and hungover, still wearing that stinky Twins shirt I had worn all day on Friday. I'll get 'em next year.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Just a Guy in a Suit.

It's opening day for baseball, and I have an appointment in an hour and a half that requires me to wear a suit, so I'm going to be as brief as possible this week.

ITEM ONE: I can't believe I had neglected this last week, but the Gophers hired Tubby Smith to coach the basketball team. Tubby Freakin' Smith! It brings instant credibility to the team tht has lacked it for so long, and assures recruits that Minnesota is serious about basketball. It's just a matter of time before the squad is competetive again, and Tubby comes to a school that just doesn't want to play on the first day of the Conference tournament.

ITEM TWO: So, anyways. Baseball! There isn't much to say about the season yet, except to express continuing sadness at the passing of Herb Carneal. This may be the toughest loss for the Twins of their three terrible losses in the past three years. We still hear Bob Casey in prerecorded announcements at the games, Kirby Puckett had been a recluse for the past several years, but Herb was still the all knowing voice at Twins games. He will be missed.

ITEM THREE: Tonight is the NCAA men's basketball championship game. Florida versus Ohio State. I can't tell you how much I hate Florida. I think the game will be miserable, as games in domes often are, but it will be close throughout. I predict the Gators to win and Noah to annoy me with a stupid dance.

ITEM FOUR: I have to say, for a guy who has done nothing but bug me since he came into the league, Brent Burns is starting to grow on me. He used to be assured at least one terrible play in his own zone a game, but now, not only has he shored up his defense, his time as a wing has given him a keen puck sense that will be invaluable in the playoffs. Which the Wild are in, by the way.

ITEM FIVE: For my birthday this week, I am heading down to Chicago to catch the Twins play the White Sox, so, unfortunately, there will be no more posts for the rest of the week. Happy Easter, everyone!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Herb Carneal passes away

Legendary Twins broadcaster passed away today, the beginning of the 2007 baseball season. It would be a great injustice if I were to describe his importance to the local baseball community, as I can't hold a candle to the gentle power of his words echoing across the Plains on AM radio bands everywhere.