Saturday, October 31, 2009

Links of the Halloween

Orlando Thomas, once considered dead, apparently is not. This is just weird.

In game one, Cliff Lee had everything working.

The preseason basketball polls are out. Purdue, despite returning everyone, is only #7, while teams that lost everyone, like Michigan State, are ranked higher. That's why the play the games.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

NFL Power Ranks: Week 7

We have a new number 1 this week, and it is none other than Ryan's favorite, the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts slipped by the Saints this week after blowing out the Rams while the Saints defense gave up a bunch of points to Miami. Idle Denver moves up to #3 after Minnesota's loss to Pittsburgh, who slips to #5 (and have a huge matchup with #6 Green Bay this week). The Patriots have been so hot lately that they moved above Minnesota, taking the #4 spot.

The bad teams stayed bad this week, and stayed exactly where they were. The Titans didn't have to play this week, but their 59-0 loss last week covers the blowout losses that each of the other 4 bottom 5 teams faced this week.

The biggest gainers this week were the Chargers and Bills (+6), who are a quiet 3-4, and the Steelers and Cowboys (+5), who both got nice wins over good teams. The biggest loser was the Bears, who dropped 12 spots all the way to #21 after getting crushed by the Bengals, and the Falcons, who got surprisingly blown out by Dallas a week after I put them in the "playoff lock" category...oops. The 49ers' free fall from #1 continues, as they drop 6 spots to #20.

Last year I did projected playoff matchups. I think it could be fun to start them a little earlier this year:

NFC
1st Round Byes: #2 Saints, #5 Vikings
#6 Packers @ #12 Cardinals
#10 Cowboys @ #7 Eagles
Top 3 Out of Playoffs: #11 Giants, #13 Falcons, #20 49ers

AFC
1st Round Byes: #1 Colts, #3 Broncos
#9 Bengals @ #8 Steelers
#14 Texans @ #4 Patriots
Top 3 Out of Playoffs: #15 Chargers, #16 Jaguars, #17 Jets

Full Ranks:
1. Colts - 85.81 - +2
2. Saints - 83.11 - -1
3. Broncos - 82.96 - +1
4. Patriots - 73.99 - +3
5. Vikings - 73.46 - -3
6. Packers - 71.10 - +2
7. Eagles - 68.93 - +3
8. Steelers - 66.64 - +5
9. Bengals - 65.96 - +3
10. Cowboys - 62.54 - +5
11. Giants - 61.78 - -5
12. Cardinals - 61.76 - -1
13. Falcons - 60.81 - -8
14. Texans - 59.84 - +3
15. Chargers - 53.37 - +6
16. Jaguars - 50.59 - Even
17. Jets - 50.26 - +3
18. Ravens - 49.77 - Even
19. Bills - 47.73 - +6
20. 49ers - 45.89 - -6
21. Bears - 45.47 - -12
22. Dolphins - 45.14 - -3
23. Seahawks - 38.11 - -1
24. Panthers - 34.45 - -1
25. Redskins - 33.11 - -1
26. Lions - 28.19 - +1
27. Chiefs - 27.54 - -1
28. Raiders - 27.12 - Even
29. Browns - 25.42 - Even
30. Buccaneers - 16.33 - Even
31. Titans - 14.38 - Even
32. Rams - 10.84 - Even

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Links of the Day 10/30/09

Tim McCarver says it's easier to play catcher than it is to be a briadcaster for him. Could have fooled me.

Mets fans, seem to favor the plight of the Yankees, rather than the plight of the Phillies.

Apparently bad driving is in your genes. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will tell you that good driving apparently is not. Perhaps the person in this video has those genes.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

100%

Guess what started when we weren’t paying attention because it’s the World Series (I might have a little crush on Cliff Lee right now…the Phillies took the right pitcher from the Indians), the Minnesota Vikings are having a tremendous start, and NHL hockey has started (alas, Wild Hockey has not started, and you cannot convince me otherwise). The NBA season!

I’ve never been much of a professional basketball fan (high school basketball I liked; I never got into college basketball, but I went to a fairly unathletic college). In fact, my friends, brothers, and I decided that the game of basketball would be infinitely more exciting if all the fans got night vision goggles and the game was played in the dark—except the ball, which would either blink or glow in the dark (there was no final agreement). But I digress. We’re going to talk about winter sports, since baseball is waning. There are people who believe that if your team doesn’t make the playoffs, you should cheer for your division/league. I say this does not apply when it comes to the Yankees/Red Sox (they’re really the same team).

Last year, the Wild had a record of 40-33-9, giving them a 48.8% winning percentage. The Timberwolves, as we all fondly remember, had a record of 24-58, giving them a stellar 29.2% winning percentage. Shockingly, with records under .500, neither team made the playoffs.

That was then. This is now. The Wild now stand with a 3-9 record. This gives them an unimpressive 25% wining percentage. But the surprising news is…the Timberwolves have them beat by 75 percentage points—with a 100% winning percentage. Now, to be fair, the Timberwolves have played exactly one game this year—11 less than the Wild. (Things I learned this morning: NHL and NBA both have 82 games! This is a totally fair comparison of win percentages since neither team has more games.) In pre-season, the Timberwolves marked a 3-5 record (37.5% winning percentage, putting them on par with Kevin Hale’s winning percentage as head coach last year), whereas the Wild posted a 3-4 record (42.9% winning percentage). At least the Vikings are giving us a 6-1 record (85.7% winning percentage) with a 3-1 pre-season (75% winning percentage). So Minnesota fans have something to cheer about.

On the plus side for the Wild, I’ll be attending my first game Friday night. Naturally, I picked the game early in the year realizing that it would be the Marian Gaborik’s return to the Xcel Energy Center—playing against his first NHL team. However, in a very fitting tribute to the way he played for the Wild for the previous eight NHL seasons—injured (I’m being a little harsh; early in his career he played a lot, and in the ’07-’08 season he played in 77 games). As for the Timberwolves, I may actually make a game this year (a friend has season tickets, and said she’d invite me to a game—maybe then I can give an accurate report on the state of the Timberwolves!).

I really have nothing else to say, other than Mikko Koivu is the first permanent Captain of the Minnesota Wild, and I couldn’t be happier—I take that back. I could be happier if the entire Wild team actually learned how to play hockey again.

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The Victoria Times: Not from Canada

Sorry for not posting yesterday. It was a busy day for me outside of the typical sports world. I'm as shocked as anyone. Anyways, I just wanted to point something out. The Victoria Times is not from Canada. Two of the writers here are from Minnesota, which is close to Canada, but not actually in Canada.
Now, why would anyone think that we are blogging from the wilds of Canada? I'm glad you asked. Yesterday, Deadspin linked to my post on Ross Rebagliati, who is running for Canadian Parliament. This is taking place in British Columbia. Last football season, we got a lot of mileage out of our post on Oregon football the last couple of years. Oregon, and their rival Washington, are awful close to BC. The capital of British Columbia, and a town that is awfully close to the Pacific Northwest is Victoria. It doesn't help that the local newspaper is the Victoria Times-Colonist. Add to that my other gig at a hockey blog and you can see where there is confusion. But once and for all, let me put it out there. The Victoria Times is not from Canada.

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Links of the Day 10/29/09

How does this make you feel? Old?

BREAKING: The UFL is not good.

The Phillies take game one of the World Series.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Links of the Day 10/28/09

J J Redick is releasing a rap album. Seriously?!

Redskins owner Dan Snyder appears to have totally lost it.

Andre Agassi was on meth, apparently. Explains why he lived in rural Iowa, I guess.

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Yankees-Phillies... Who are YOU cheering for?


When it comes to the World Series this year, (starting tonight!) the despicable New York Yankees are taking on the increasingly smug Philadelphia Phillies, may people are like me....rooting for a meteor. Of course, we all want a meteor that is clearly computer animated so as to cause as little collateral damage as possible.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Links of the Day 10/27/09

I've always heard that there are three kinds of people in the world too. Those who can count and those who can't.

That's a little too much skin, former Ranger Ron Duguay.

If you have only watched Wild home games, you might think they are undefeated! If you only watch road games, however...

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A confluence of unfortunate events

Despite what anyone might say about the Jaguars and their dismal attendance figures, it turns out that the Vikings are the least valuable, lowest revenue team in the league (in 2007, apparently they jumped the Raiders in 2008!) Worse still, their debt to value ratio is among the highest in the league, unheard of for teams that haven't recently built a stadium. This is OK because of the team is a marketable franchise (Peterson, Favre, Allen), and with revenue sharing, the team still makes plenty of cash.
Of course, the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after next season, which would mean after this season, there would be no salary cap, and more profitable teams will be able to spend more money. Additionally, the ability for the richer teams to sign players and make more money for themselves may compel them to do away with profit sharing which would, essentially, cut almost all of the revenue for a team like the Vikes.
Fortunately, the lease in the Metrodome for the Vikings takes the team through 2011 (and no further!), so they have a little time to figure out how to make money while another team, like the Jaguars or Rams, gets lured to Los Angeles. Of course, a proposed stadium, to be built by LA area businessman, is going to be ready in 2011. Just in time to welcome the Vikings, fleeing their expiring lease.
I'm not saying that the Vikings are going to move, but if things don't change after 2 seasons, they will be the perfect candidates to head out there. Not only will they be floundering in Minneapolis, but they will only be hampered by their lack of a stadium (given the star power on the team). If nothing changes, the only thing stopping the Vikings from being one of the most profitable teams in the league is.... their presence in Minnesota.
Of course, people may point at the other teams in the league that might move, like the Jaguars, who as stated, are more profitable by tens of millions than the Vikings, all while being less enticing to a prospective buyer. The Rams and Raiders have each been in Los Angeles and are currently in cities that have already lost teams. I don't foresee either side feeling the need to reexplore that adventure. Unfortunately, it all seems to keep coming back to the Vikings.
The way the state of Minnesota has held fast so far, opposed to building stadiums for the Twins or Gophers before knuckling under, I would like to see the people of the state win this one and make the wealthy owner plunk down the change to build the stadium. Unfortunately, in this case, it's increasingly apparent that the stadium is already being built. In Los Angeles.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Links of the Day 10/26/09

Mark McGwire is the new Cardinals hitting coach. Lesson One: Where to put the needle.

Oh yeah.... the Yankees are going to the World Series.

Looks like Mark Sanchez got hungry during the game against the Raiders.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who is in the conversation?


While listening to the Steelers-Vikings game at work tonight, Vikings commentator Paul Allen said that because of their games with the Steelers, Minnesota was "definitely in the conversation". I don't know what the conversation was, but apparently the Steelers are the rubric for getting into the conversation. Let's find out who else is in the conversation, tam by team.

Arizona - Beat the Jaguars and Texans, who beat the Titans. Titans played the Steelers close... PROBABLY IN THE CONVERSATION
Atlanta - Defeated the Bears who beat the Steelers.... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Baltimore - Lost to the Bengals and Vikings, but played the Vikings (who lost to the Steelers) tough... PROBABLY NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Buffalo - Lost to the Browns who got trounced by the Steelers.... NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Carolina - Lost to the Bills who lost to the Browns... NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Chicago - Beat the Steelers.... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Cincinnati - Not only did they beat the Steelers, but they beat the Bears too.... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Cleveland - Lost to the Steelers... NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Dallas - Beat the Falcons who beat the Bears who beat the Steelers... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Denver - Beat the Bengals who beat the Steelers... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Detroit - Lost to the Steelers in an 8 point game... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Green Bay - Beat the Bears who beat the Steelers.... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Houston - Beat the Bengals who beat the Steelers... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Colts - Beat the Titans who played the Steelers close... PROBABLY IN THE CONVERSATION
Jacksonville - Beat the Texans who beat the Bengals who beat the Steelers... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Kansas City - Lost to the Ravens... NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Miami - Lost to the Colts... NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Minnesota - Lost by 10 to the Steelers... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
New England - Beat the Falcons who beat the Bears who beat the Steelers... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
New Orleans - Beat the Lions who lost to the Steelers.... MIGHT BE IN THE CONVERSATION
New York Giants - Beat the Chiefs who lost to the Ravens, and beat the Cowboys who beat the Falcons who beat the Bears who beat the Steelers.... PROBABLY IN THE CONVERSATION
New York Jets - Beat the Texans who beat the Bengals who beat the Steelers, but lost to the Bills and Dolphins.... PROBABLY NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Oakland - Lost to the Chiefs Chargers and Jets... NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Philadelphia - Lost to Oakland... NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Pittsburgh - DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION (I guess?!)
San Diego - Lost by 10 to the Steelers - DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
San Francisco - Lost to the the Texans, Falcons and Vikings, but played the Vikings close... PROBABLY NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Seattle - Destroyed the Jaguars who beat the Titans who narrowly lost to the Titans - PROBABLY IN THE CONVERSATION
St. Louis - NOT IN ANY CONVERSATION ANYWHERE
Tampa Bay - 0-7? NOT IN THE CONVERSATION
Tennessee - Lost in overtime to the Steelers.... DEFINITELY IN THE CONVERSATION
Washington - Lost to the Lions in a close game. Lions came within 10 of the Steelers... PROBABLY NOT IN THE CONVERSATION

So there you go. If you are ever involved in the conversation, you know who is in the conversation.

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Links of the Day 10/25/09

David Booth of the Florida Panthers got smoked last night by by Mike Richards. Keep that head on a swivel.

Hey, Purdue has a winning streak. In funnier news, Indiana blew a 28-3 lead to Northwestern.

Apparently the Yankees were to win last night, if it weren't for that pesky rain.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ross Rebagliati wants to get high


And by 'high' I mean politically powerful. What did you think I meant? Rebagliati, famous just as much for winning the 98 gold medal in snowboarding, the first ever given in his sport, as he was for getting the medal briefly yoinked for testing positive for marijuana, is going to run for a spot in the Canadian Parliament, or a "riding" as they call it. Canadians, right?
Rebagliati eventually got the medal back since marijuana is hardly a performance enhancer (unless you are Dave Matthews). After the incident, however, the assumption that all snowboarders were stoners was confirmed. No word on whether or not Rebagliati is running just because he heard about joint sessions.

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Links of the Day 10/24/09

Obviously, the color of one's chin strap is the most important thing the NFL has their eyes on.

Deadspin is getting sued. For their sake, I sure hope that Sean Salisbury is as good in court as he was on the football field.

Former Golden Gophers guard Bobby Jackson has decided to retire. That makes me feel old.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

The offseason blueprint


Earlier this week, Nick Nelson put out his offseason blueprint online. It was definitely a thoughtful, well written piece, and I feel compelled to issue my mandate for the Twins' offseason plans this year. I have a blog, it's my prerogative.

1. Let Ron Mahay, Joe Crede and Mike Redmond walk. Make an offer to Orlando Cabrera, but expect him to turn it down.

2. Resign Carl Pavano.
Just like Nick says

3. Reach arbitration with all the guys that Nick says.

4. Nontender Crain (finally)

5. Trade Joe Nathan and Jason Kubel to the Red Sox for Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront.
The extra big lefthanded bat is redundant on the Twins roster and, with David Ortiz fading and Jason Bay headed towards free agency, the lure of a young player with the capability of hitting 30 homers with the short porch at Fenway will be a greater lure than the aging Nathan. Meanwhile, with the Twins, moving Kubel frees up the outfield so Denard Span and Carlos Gomez can play every day, making the Twins outfield one of the best in league defensively. Meanwhile, Delmon Young would DH, thereby eliminating his biggest flaw, his fielding. Papelbon would be a one year rental, no doubt, but would provide stability at the back of the bullpen while we find out of Pat Neshek is every going to be OK again. Buchholz immediately becomes a front end of the rotation pitcher who has postseason experience and a no hitter to boot. Getting another pitcher like Doubront might be a bit much, depending on how they value Nathan at this point. And really, I'm not going to be broken hearted if this trade fails to go through.

6. Sign Joe Mauer for whatever he asks for.

7. Pore over the middle infield free agent market, but be prepared to start the season with Danny Valencia at 3b.
If the expectation now is for Miguel Angel Sano to take over on the right side of the infield, long term solutions don't need to be imported over there. Don't be surprised (or dissappointed) if the Twins simply come away with Robb Quinlan, current Angel. Maybe John McDonald or Bobby Crosby if Bill Smith wants some depth. Don't get your hopes up though.

8. Find a trading partner for Glenn Perkins, enjoy a prospect.

2010 OPENING DAY LINEUP

C Joe Mauer
1b Justin Morneau
2b Brendan Harris
SS Bobby Crosby
3b Danny Valencia
LF Denard Span
CF Carlos Gomez
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Delmon Young

Bench
C Jose Morales
2b Alexi Casilla
SS Nick Punto
OF Jason Pridie (or David Winfree, depending on how Spring Training goes)

SP Carl Pavano
SP Clay Buchholz
SP Scott Baker
SP Kevin Slowey
SP Nick Blackburn

CL Jonathan Papelbon
RP Francisco Liriano
RP Matt Guerrier
RP Jon Rauch
RP Boof Bonser
RP Pat Neshek
RP Brian Duensing

Please share those sweet, sweet comments in the comment section.

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Links of the Day 10/23/09

Steve and I were greatly influenced by Bill Simmons. It would be pretty cool if he had his own site, right?

Another weekly drinking game that I posted over at BMR. This time, it centers around the Wild and their Monday game against the Blackhawks.

Some folks have been knocked out of the playoffs sooner than they might have wished. Bummer dudes.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

How much would you pay for ten games?

My apologies for not posting last week. I was having too much fun coughing and hanging out at the doctor’s office last Thursday to write up a post.

This past Monday, MinnPost posted an article on a new Vikings Stadium. Of course, it’s perfectly obvious why they want a new stadium: the Wild (and Swarm) are playing in the Xcel Energy Center which opened in 2000. The Twins will be moving to a new stadium in 2010. The Timberwolves (and Lynx) are playing at the Target Center, which opened in 1990. The Gophers Football team is playing at TCF Stadium, which opened in 2009. The Gophers Men’s Hockey team plays in Mariucci Arena, which opened in 1993. Ridder Arena, where the Gophers Women’s hockey team plays was opened in 2002. Obviously, Twin Cities based sports cannot exist in a stadium that opened in 1982!

According to the article, the Vikings are suggesting it costs $900 million to build a football stadium—with a roof. On the bus, as we girls were talking about it, we realized that’s an insane amount of money for a stadium that will be used for 10 games/year. (Well, let’s make it 15, because of pre-season and playoffs.) This includes a retractable roof, because clearly football can’t be played in adverse weather, while it’s no problem for baseball. Wait. What?

Target Field, where the Twins will play, does not include a roof. Total construction costs are around $390 million. Target Field will be used, on average, for 82 games per year (there are 81 regular season games most years, and we’ll give them the extra game for the years they do make the playoffs; it’s completely overestimating, but take what you can get). And there’s no retractable roof, making poor weather a detriment to the game.

I’m not a huge fan of spending public money on rich people, but I recognize that professional sports not only bring money into the city (although I doubt enough to pay for the stadiums), but also improve the quality of life for those living in the area. I’ll grudgingly accept that today’s society has pushed the stadium cost to the people. But the question comes how much we owe. There’s some finance cost-effectiveness that has to be weighed in. Is it work spending $900 million for a stadium that will be used 15 days each year? Or can something else be done?

I agree with most people: it was a huge failure when the Gophers and Vikings refused to work things out to build a joint stadium. They play on different days of the week, and it would up the cost-effectiveness of both stadiums by having more games played in them each year. The original concept of the Metrodome was onto something when it had three different teams playing there—the only problem was that the two sports were completely different and had completely different field requirements, making it poor viewing for the fans of one team compared to the experience for the fans of the other two teams. But, alas, it’s too late for that now. (Although I think it would be fantastic if the Vikings and U of MN work together to get something done, I just don’t see either of them willing enough to compromise to do so.)

With that, I also think the expense of a new stadium is a bit ridiculous for the use it will get, based on the number of games. However, I am not opposed to upgrading the Metrodome. I recognize based on technology, it’s getting old and out-of-date. It’s not the most comfortable, or the prettiest, place to watch football. I don’t hate football. I don’t think they should have to suffer with something old and out-of-date (although they can’t claim that it’s hurting their fan base, as they still have the largest fan base in the state, according to my unscientific observation). I just don’t think it’s worthwhile to spend $900 million when there’s a perfectly adequate place for them to play. It’s like buying a new luxury car because the ashtrays on the Taurus are full. Clean it up, replace the tires, get seat covers, get a new stereo system—it won’t be as good as new, but it will be perfectly comfortable. You don’t have to buy a new car just because all your neighbors have. But don’t let yours fall apart.

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Links of the Day 10/22/09

Awesome Monopoly board work, especially if you are a fantasy football owner.

The Phillies are in the World Series. There was revelry.

The Blackhawks are getting ready for their game against the Wild.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I am taking place in a wager


As you all probably know, I have another gig over at Barry Melrose Rocks. Three of us, myself, Kevin and Loser Domi are fans of some pretty unfortunate teams this year: The Wild, the Islanders and the Maple Leads, respectively. So, naturally, we all decided that one of the three teams naturally will end up better than the other two. That led to this bet that came from yesterday's chat: losers have to write a post talking up the winner and make an embarrassing video. If anyone has ever seen my ugly mug anywhere (or, frankly, read anything I've ever written) this could be a big problem if the Wild don't step it up. Fortunately, tonight the Wild.... didn't lose. And they made a move on Sunday to acquire 20 goal scorer Chuck Kobasew. So, that's going to be my secret weapon. Wish me and Chuck luck.

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Links of the Day 10/21/09

Last night when I couldn't sleep, I caught up entirely on my Google Reader. Then, exhausted, I slept until 1.

Team building can probably be done other ways, fellas.

The potential World Series we are headed for is a nightmare for Mets fans.

Jeff Fisher is on the Peyton Manning bandwagon.

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NFL Power Ranks: Week 6

Our 2nd #1 vs. #2 battle of the young season was decided once again in favor of the #2 team. However, unlike last time, when the #2 Vikings beat the #1 49ers, the #2 team was not leapfrogged by a team ranked below them. This means your new #1 team is none other than the New Orleans Saints. The Giants' loss caused them to fall to #6, and allowed each of the remaining 4 unbeaten teams to rise one spot. Speaking of unbeatens, Purdue QBs are now 16-0 this season, 11-0 as starters. The Falcons, who have 2 nice wins in the past 2 weeks, jumped ahead of the Giants for the #5 spot, and the Patriots destruction of the Oilers moved them up to #7, and back in the pack with the elite teams. I guess the Titans must have had a bye this week...

For the bottom 5, there isn't much to talk about. The Bucs, Rams, and Titans all suck pretty hard, and the Chiefs climbed up 3 spots by getting their first win over the Redskins. They are replaced in the bottom by the Browns. Maybe the most surprising thing this week is the Raiders' shocking win over the Eagles got them nowhere, but do I still feel they are a bottom 5 team? Probably.

The big gainers this week were the Cardinals for destroying a division rival and moving into tie or first, and Jaguars...which really confuses me since they beat the Rams. The biggest losers were the Ravens, who have lost 3 straight, and the Bengals, who got a reality check care of Houston (the Oilers? These AFL uniforms have me confused...)

BOLD PREDICTION
I noticed when doing these ranks that this has been kind of a boring season so far. I think 5 of the 8 divisions are already in the bag, and some teams are just pure awful. We are only 6 weeks into the season, and I am going to make the following predictions based on these ranks:
1. The top 7 teams are in a league of their own, and are playoff locks
2. the Bottom 11 teams have no chance in hell of making the playoffs, and will continue to be trampled by the top 21 teams.
3. That leaves the remaining 14 teams to battle it out for the final 5 playoff spots. That's what to look forward to for the rest of the regular season. So using these criteria, in the NFC, the Vikings, Giants, and either Saints or Falcons are winning the division, with the other getting the Wild Card. That means either the 49ers or Cardinals win the west, and the last wild card spot is a fight between the Packers, Bears, Eagles, and Cowboys. In the AFC, the Colts, Broncos, and Patriots are winning the division. The AFC North will be a battle between the Bengals, Steelers, and Ravens, and 2 of those teams will battle it out with the Jaguars, Texans, Dolphins, Jets, and Chargers for the 2 wild card spots.

Here are the complete ranks:
1. Saints - 87.58 - +1
2. Vikings - 83.93 - +1
3. Colts - 83.44 - +1
4. Broncos - 82.61 - +1
5. Falcons - 73.82 - +2
6. Giants - 72.75 - -5
7. Patriots - 72.26 - +5
8. Packers - 64.37 - +3
9. Bears - 61.90 - Even
10. Eagles - 60.49 - -2
11. Cardinals - 59.11 - +7
12. Bengals - 58.95 - -6
13. Steelers - 58.82 - +3
14. 49ers - 55.64 - -1
15. Cowboys - 55.04 - -1
16. Jaguars - 50.93 - +7
17. Texans - 50.40 - +5
18. Ravens - 49.47 - -8
19. Dolphins - 45.91 - +1
20. Jets - 43.96 - -5
21. Chargers - 41.98 - -4
22. Seahawks - 39.45 - -1
23. Panthers - 36.48 - +3
24. Redskins - 36.30 - +5
25. Bills - 34.49 - +2
26. Chiefs - 32.58 - +3
27. Lions - 29.80 - -3
28. Raiders - 29.37 - Even
29. Browns - 25.82 - -4
30. Buccaneers - 18.20 - Even
31. Titans - 12.62 - Even
32. Rams - 10.05 - Even

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Links of the Day 10/20/09

I'll start with a pair of self promoting links... First, We;re live chatting at BMR tonight in about 40 minutes. Second, be sure to read Steve's lengthy comment on yesterday's post... He disagreed with my choice.

Obama playing basketball.

The Wild, thus far, have been terrible. Why?

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Position in the Sporlight: San Francisco

I haven't taken on a PITS in some time, and it's time for me to get back in the game, taking a look at San Francisco. It may be easy to pick a role, depending on your favorite sport. If you are a football fan, than this is a slam dunk: 49ers quarterback. You could even make a case, perhaps for their wide receivers. If you are a baseball fan, however, the position is clearly that of the Giants and their all-star sluggers. How could someone turn their back on the likes of Joe Montana and Steve Young? Consider it the siren song on Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds. The Position in the Spotlight for San Francisco is the Giants Outfield.
When the Giants moved to San Francisco, they brought with them someone who would eventually become one of, if not the best, player in the history of the league, Willie Mays. Mays was the original 5 tool player, amassing a batting average of .302, 660 home runs, 338 stolen bases and 11 Gold gloves in his career, with most of those stats earned between 1958, when the team moved to the Bay, to 1972, when he was traded to the Mets.
The Giants of the early 60s were a promising team fraught with future Hall of Famers. Orlando Cepeda, a rookie of the year and eventual first baseman was labeled as a "Utility Player" on the 1961 version of the Giants, according to their Baseball-Reference page. Why? They have Mays in the outfield, Felipe Alou, a stud in his own right, mostly for his lead-off hitting, playing in right, and Willie McCovey, another 23 year old playing first. Cepeda would go on to have a HOF career, eventually transitioning from the outfield to first, taking over for McCovey. Cepeda hit almost 400 homers in his career, with a .297 average.
McCovey, too, would spend most of his career at first, but for a few glorious seasons in the Giants outfield. McCovey's lefthanded power stroke was so much that they named the body of water behind the right field fence at the Giants new AT&T Park "McCovey Cove". The other Willie in San Francisco spent almost the entirety of his career by the Bay, save for a couple seasons in San Diego and part of a year in Oakland. McCovey had 521 homers in his career despite only managing a .270 average for his career.
The Giants' outfield has always been a family affair. There have been multiple generations of Alous on the team, for example. The same was no different in the 90s, when Barry Bonds came to join the team that his father, Bobby Bonds, played for. In a Giants uniform, he broke the single season home run record, the career home run record and the hearts of a nation when he was implicated in baseball's ongoing steroid investigation. Despite the obvious blight on his record, there is no doubt that Bonds was one of the greatest hitters in the history of the league.
The Giants after Bonds hope there isn't a lengthy gap between future Hall of Famers in the outfield, though at this time, it doesn't appear they have that type of guy, which is too bad.
Something that should be noted is that all of the players I mentioned were either African American or dark-skinned Hispanics. Given the era in which many played, the Giants did an exemplary job employing minorities and bucking what, in the 60s, was still a trend of latent racism. Even today, Randy Winn and Fred Lewis continue the trend of African Americans in the Giants outfield in a period when baseball's popularity is waning among their race. Not only has the Giants outfield been breathtakingly skilled, but they have been progressive and culturally significant as well.

Honorable Mention:
49ers QB:
Joe Montana and Steve Young are two of the best QBs in the history of the game. That said, the 49ers haven't really excelled at the position outside of those two. IT's hard to justify Jeff Garcia as the third best player at the position being spotlit given the alternative. Still, 5 rings between the two can't be ignored.
49ers WR: Jerry Rice and John Taylor helped Joe Montana immeasurably, while Terrell Owens made Garcia look better than he was. the team hopes to get the same production from Michael Crabtree in the near future.
Giants SP: How about Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry and Jason Schmidt, among the teams top strikeout leaders of all time, and they have Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum to look forward to in the immediate future.

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Links of the Day 10/19/09

Brett Favre totally blew that kick wide left.

What do other people think the Twins should do in the Offseason?

Second Strib link of the day, but.... Fargo is different.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

One last travel related update


Arkansas State, man, I tell you what. Here's the chronology:
First, I drew the Red Wolves football team and their 11th game of the season for my annual trip thingy last year.
Next, I waited for the schedule to come out, and then it did. The 11th game was to be on November 21st at Western Kentucky, so I was all ready to go to Bowling Green, Kentucky.
A few months later, Louisville was added to Arkansas State's schedule, and the whole thing had to be jostled. Now, the 11th game of the season was to be a home game against North Texas. I took the necessary time off, my buddy took his time off and we were all about ready to go down to Arkansas in a month.
Just Friday, I looked at the team schedule for the game times and realized something horrible. I didn't realize it earlier, but the games after the Louisville game had been pushed back a week, meaning the game against North Texas was actually scheduled for the 28th now. This wouldn't be a problem, typically, because I'm willing to go anytime, but my buddy and I already had the time off. Oh no! So the game selected is actually Arkansas State-North Texas, but due to these extenuating circumstances, I will instead be going to Murfreesboro, Tennessee to watch Arkansas State take on Middle Tennessee State on the weekend I actually have off, on the 21st. I can't believe so many mistakes have been made with this. But yeah, I'm going to Tennessee instead. Back to your regularly scheduled Sunday.

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Links of the Day 10/18/09

I'm having a tough time getting through these links, because I'm busy getting emotionally involved in the Ravens-Vikings game. Come on, Ravens!

Terry Bradshaw has proven once again that he just isn't all that bright.

Creepy folk can still get in their sideline reporter snooping in Nashville, it appears.

Now, see, this is why I don't work out.

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What the hell?


I don't know what this is all about either, really. I can't really offer any analysis, because I'm as surprised as anyone. The only thing I've learned? The field is rushed way too often for it to have any meaning anymore. Didn't we beat OSU just a few seasons ago? Are we really just rushing the field to say "we're really bad, but we did something!"

Picture yoinked from Boiled Sports.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm So Confused, But I Like It....


Whoa....Definitely didn't expect the above picture to happen today.... I don't know what to make of this Purdue team now under Danny Hope. I'm almost ready to retract my post from a few weeks ago (but I won't retract the picture). Sure, based on the way that Illinois and Indiana have played this year, I think a 4-8 or 3-9 season is still on the horizon for Purdue, but I expected the other 2 wins to be over Toledo and Northern Illinois, not Ohio State of all teams.

So what to make of Purdue football now? I'm starting to wonder if Hope might actually be the answer for them. Sure, they are only 2-5, and some people wanted him to get fired already, but winning big games over highly ranked teams randomly is something that will definitely draw interest in the program and maybe get some better recruits down the road. If Purdue is going to suck at football for the next few years, I'll take an unpredictable suck over a predictable suck any day.

Just think about it. Purdue's win today was their first over a ranked team since 2003. They had a losing streak of 19 games in a row against ranked teams, more than any other division 1-A team, which I guess means even Louisiana Monroe and Buffalo. Since I started college at Purdue in 2001, they only won that 1 game against a ranked team, versus Iowa, in 2003. So yeah, that might be a sign of a bad team, but they weren't even all that bad since 2001. From 2001-2008, they were 54-46, and made it to 6 Bowl games in those 8 years. They even had 3 wins over Notre Dame, 1 over Ohio State, and 1 over Michigan during that time span, but none were ranked when they played. So what happened?

I think after the Rose Bowl year, Joe Tiller got into a rut. He knew what it took to beat bad teams, and Purdue almost always won those games, but they never, ever, beat a team that had more talent than them (they were probably a little better than Iowa in 2003, and they beat Ohio State and Michigan in very down years for them). Purdue became so absolutely predictable to watch you could accurately predict the entire outcome of their season by looking at their schedule after seeing how well or poorly they beat their usual MAC opponent in Week 1.

Danny Hope at least appears to have this team motivated, they just keep shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers. Their defense is still pretty bad, but they played well today and it appears their new defensive coordinator is actually learning from his mistakes and starting to improve his defensive schemes, unlike his prevent-happy predecessor. Just think, After the win at Toledo, Purdue almost beat ranked Oregon on the road, got embarrassed by Northern Illinois, almost beat (now) ranked Notre Dame, completely choked away a huge lead to Northwestern, and got smoked by Minnesota by more turnovers. If a few things had gone their way, they could probably be 5-2 right now instead of 2-5, or even 7-0 if they had less turnovers, and keep in mind this team still isn't very good....

So I'm not here to crown Danny Hope as Purdue's savior yet, but he at least he has me interested. Now I can honestly say I have no idea if Purdue will win or lose in given week. They will probably still lose more than win, but now I actually want to watch and see what happens. Hope has his guys playing tough, and if he can improve his talent more through recruiting, we might see the Boilermakers back in a New Year's Day bowl in 2-3 years. If they stay like this, I'd much rather watch the Spoilermakers occasionaly beat good Big Ten teams and Notre Dame than consistently see them go 6-6 by beating 2 or 3 MAC teams and 3 or 4 Big Ten bottom feeders and lose a crappy bowl like the last 8 years.

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Links of the Day 10/17/09

Boston's Black Sunday... on Twitter!

Nobody has mentioned this until now, but how about Delmon Young taking one for the team last Sunday?

So how bad is A-Rod in the postseason? Not bad at all, actually.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Is it too soon to think of the off-season?


This baseball offseason in Minnesota, all eyes will be on Joe Mauer. His contract will be up after next season, and teams along the east coast will be striving to trade for him, hoping to eventually resign him at the end of the season. The assumption is that the Twins will not have enough cash to sign Mauer and will be more likely to deal him, seeking something, rather than letting him walk for nothing. This was what happened when Johan Santana was traded to the Mets.
The thing is, though, that Joe Mauer may be the most popular public figure in the Minnesota right now. The Twins would be fools to let him walk. I think those days of penny pinching are over, and instead are marked by economic prudence, willing to spend money when necessary. With a new stadium on the way, it behooves the Twins to keep Mauer under contract forever, no matter what the cost. It will certainly be done.
That said, the Twins were knocked out of the postseason because they were outpitched. Never mind the fact that there were several boneheaded mistakes, magnified by the situation, the Twins need a better starting rotation next season. Getting Slowey back will certainly help, but I don't like putting that much on a player that missed most of the previous season. Additionally, with all the money they will be spending on Mauer, free agency doesn't seem like an option.
Meanwhile, in Boston, the fans are beginning to clamor for an overhaul. The team failed to win the world series for the second consecutive year. The now spoiled fans of Boston demand their team once again be rendered championship caliber. It's already very close already, but I think the Twins and Sox are compatible to the point of making each team happy. The Twins have young hitters and the Sox have young pitching. If Minnesota has a trading partner, it's in Boston.
The Twins are at the point that if they do anything, it won't be a small move. They are so good where they are good, and so bad where they are bad, it won't take minor moves to patch holes. Anticipate a very quiet offseason, but if it isn't quiet, expect a mammoth deal, perhaps with the Red Sox. (Nathan to replace a discontented Papelbon and Kubel to take advantage of a short right field fence for the aforementioned Papelbon, a rental to be sure, maybe Clay Buchholz and another prospect?) Less than 6 months until the season starts...

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Links of the Day 10/16/09

This would have been very strange. Frankly, though, I'm surprised this is the first time I've ever heard this type of thing before.

Anthony Kim... Golf's bad boy.

This is why the Vic Times isn't on Facebook.... yet

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Take a look back in time


Steve is continuing to put our old posts from Is It Sports? over to this site. I want to point everyone to the April 2005 archive. I do this for two reasons. A) You may have noted that we aren't writing as much lately around here (unless you are Beth, who always brings her A game), but we are fully capable of putting out some thousand word posts. Second, and most important, check out the Mailbag post. In it, the following assertions were made.
Steve - Philip Rivers will be traded, perhaps to the 49ers for the 1st pick, and Drew Brees will stay in San Diego. Steve was not happy, as a 49er fan, because he would rather have Alex Smith with the # 1 pick.
Ryan - Rivers will stay, and Brees will go. Brees will end up on a team that needs a QB (eventually it was New Orleans, but I guessed Washington) and the 49ers would pick Braylon Edwards (wrong-o). Also, I said that Kyle Orton would get drafted by the Bears and hinted that he would be a failure for them.
I highlight this post specifically because I was hauntingly accurate and Steve was all wrong. The post before, naturally, was the one where I picked the White Sox to finish 4th when they won the World Series.. D'oh.

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Links of the Day 10/15/09

Holy smokes these are late. Read fast, go to bed.

Ooooh SWAC football! INTENSE!

Where is Cole Hamels playing baseball, exactly?

Boston had a rough weekend, didn't they? Take that Boston!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who is better?

I have a wager with a coworker of mine, over who will have the better record at the end of the season, the Vikings or the Colts. So far, they are two of the teams sitting undefeated after 5 weeks, and while some people are lauding the Vikings as better than the 98 iteration, I think we all need to look closer at the opponents they have defeated. Let's do it for both teams in order to figure out which team actually is better.
Vikings
Browns - Terrible, finally won while completing only 2
Lions - They went 0-16 last year. 0-16.
49ers - It was a thrilling victory with Brett Favre storming back to throw a late touchdown. Two weeks later, the 49ers lost by 30 at home to the Falcons.
Packers - Again, a home game. The defense shone. Probably the best victory they have had this season.
Rams - Haven't won since last year, may not win this year.
Colts
Jaguars - A tough game, no doubt, and the Jaguars laid an egg this week in Seattle.
Dolphins - People disparaged the Colts for their lack of ball control. This would be a problem if they weren't scoring nearly every posession. And the Dolphins are looking better and better.
Cardinals - They made the Super Bowl last year, despite how they look now.
Seahawks -It's hard to get a read on them, but they didn't have Hasselbeck when they played in Indianapolis
Titans - 0-5, though they were 13-3 last year. What happened?

So, there are arguments both ways to be sure, but I don't think we should say the Vikings are an elite team just yet. The Vikings have a tough stretch coming up with the Ravens and Steelers, while the Colts won't really get challenged again until week 10. I think I have my wager all but won.

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Links of the Day 10/14/09

How about some ridiculous customized jerseys?

Remember Phil Cuzzi? Let's look at his career arc.

Owen Schmitt might be insane.

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NFL Power Ranks: Week 5

Week 5 was kind of a boring week for the top of the ranks. The 5 undefeated teams stayed undefeated, and in the Saints' case, they didn't even have to play. The Giants' gigantic win over the Raiders propelled them back into the #1 spot over those idle Saints, which sets up our 2nd #1 vs. #2 match-up of the season this weekend. The Vikings, Colts, and Broncos also won to hold their spots (a really nice win for the Broncos over the formerly #6 Patriots).

Since this is kind of a slow week, 1 thing that I would like to point out is that the 3 Purdue QBs that play in the NFL are a combined 14-0 to start the 2009 season, and as starters they are 9-0. Drew Brees (1997-2000) has been tearing it up for the Saints, leading them to a 4-0 record. Kyle Orton (2001-2004) has been doing what it takes to win big games, whether it be a miracle TD pass over the Bengals (who would be 5-0 if that didn't happen!!) or a 98 yard TD drive to beat the Patriots to lead the Broncos to a 5-0 record. Finally, Curtis Painter (2005-2008), who is the 3rd string QB for the Colts, has done absolutely nothing, maybe moral support?, to lead the Colts to a 5-0 record. Boiler Up!

There was a bit of a shakeup in the bottom 5, as the Browns won the ugliest game of the past quarter century to beat the Bills and the Panthers got their first win over the underrated awful Redskins (I'm disappointed the ranks haven't figured this out yet). These wins caused the Buccaneers and Raiders to fall back into the bottom 5. One thing you may notice in our logo box this week, is that I replaced the Bucs logo with their old flamboyant one from the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. Their play on the field this year has really lived up to the tradition of that logo so I am going to leave it as that one until (if) they win a game. I can't wrap up this post without talking about the horrid Rams, who have only 9.17 out of a possible 100 points this week. This is about as low as any team could possibly get mathematically, we'll see if they can outdo themselves next week.

This week's big gainers were the Falcons, who blew out the 49ers in San Fran, the Bengals, who are a shocking 4-1 to climb all the way to #6, the Cardinals, who won on a nice goaline stand vs. Houston, and the Browns and Panthers, who climbed out of the dungeon. The big losers were the Jaguars, who got demolished by a bad team a week after demolishing a bad team and jumping too high in the ranks, the Patriots, who got beat by Kyle Orton, and the 49ers, who played a game outside the NFC West (eh...not feeling so good about this season now...).

Here are the full ranks:
1. Giants - 87.48 - +1
2. Saints - 86.78 - -1
3. Vikings - 86.77 - Even
4. Colts - 82.56 - Even
5. Broncos - 80.90 - Even
6. Bengals - 71.44 - +5
7. Falcons - 71.31 - +7
8. Eagles - 70.54 - +4
9. Bears - 68.10 - -1
10. Ravens - 60.29 - -1
11. Packers - 59.34 - +2
12. Patriots - 57.18 - -6
13. 49ers - 55.38 - -6
14. Cowboys - 54.67 - +1
15. Jets - 53.74 - -5
16. Steelers - 52.20 - +4
17. Chargers - 48.51 - Even
18. Cardinals - 47.28 - +5
19. Redskins - 47.07 - Even
20. Dolphins - 45.49 - +1
21. Seahawks - 44.90 - +4
22. Texans - 44.88 - -4
23. Jaguars - 43.18 - -7
24. Lions - 32.60 - -2
25. Browns - 28.87 - +5
26. Panthers - 26.64 - +5
27. Bills - 26.02 - -1
28. Raiders - 25.16 - -4
29. Chiefs - 21.11 - -1
30. Buccaneers - 16.70 - -3
31. Titans - 14.84 - -2
32. Rams - 9.17 - Even

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Links of the Day 10/13/09

Have you ever wanted to talk to me in person? What a silly question. Of COURSE you have. Well, stop by Barry Melrose Rocks today at 6pm tonight, and we'll get our chat on.

The Phillies-Rockies game was colded out. This means that Venezuelans needed to be approached for their "first time I saw snow" stories.

Here's a quiz for all those Twins fans out there. Tell me how you did in the comments.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't blame Punto


I often go out of my way to berate Nick Punto because he is bad at baseball, but somehow he always ends up on the roster with a prominent role on the team. As much as I want to rain scorn on him and point and say that this is why the Twins lost, I am not going to go down that path. In the postseason, as always seems to be the case, Punto was one of the hardest working players on the field, and in a short series, that can often be the difference between a win and a loss. In fact, he was one of the best hitters the Twins had for the series. He wouldn't have had his third base gaffe if he hadn't hit a lead off double.
That should go more to the point of where blame should fall. Just as Punto contributed little to the success of the team over the course of the season, he contributed little to their downfall. If the Twins were to succeed, it should have come from the same sources the success came from during the season: Solid hitting from the middle of the order, servicable starting pitching and a revitalized bullpen. They were outpitched and outhit and outcoached in the post season. It's time to look ahead to the offseason, and enjoy the fact that the regular season was as thrilling as it was.
(By the way, for the first time since he's been here, I noticed Delmon Young's body language, demonstrating that he was upset by what was going on the field. Among the complaints surrounding him has been his dispassionate attitude towards the game, so that's nice)

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Links of the Day 10/12/09

The differences between soccer and American football coaches are subtle, but if you look hard enough, you will find them.

They almost have to, at this point, right?

We in Minnesota aren't the only one's upset by the Yankees' win.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Grapefruit spoon games


Note the serrated edges on the spoon pictured above. It is designed to dig into the soft, edible portion of the grapefruit. It's a very useful in it's niche, but not very handy for anything other than for eating grapefruit. It's a good thing I don't enjoy grapefruit, otherwise I would probably have one of these spoons, and would be using it to gouge my eyes out, rather than watch the games the local networks have decided to play in the Twin Cities. To offset the Vikings-Rams game, which is atrocious in it's own right, CBS is airing the Steelers-Lions tilt. The Lions won once in the past season and a half. The Steelers won the Super Bowl last year. It's not even close.
Fortunately, I get to bail on this afternoon's day long football craptathalon, because I am going to the Twins-Yankees game. Here's hoping that's a little more competitive. And, you know, glad I have my eyes.

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Links of the Day 10/11/09

Miguel Cabrera may have legitimate problems.

Thank you for this, Mr. Reilly.

Could you imagine if they played the NBA in Saudi Arabia? They would need to buy new lashes.

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I just had a panic attack

With the Dodgers having swept the St. Louis Cardinals and the Yankees on the verge of nipping the Twins, we are ever closer to a Yankees vs Torre, LA vs NY World Series. How is it that the ratings bonanzas (bonanzi?) are always the games or series that most of the country doesn't want any part of? It sucks so bad that so many people live in those two cities. I wish everywhere could be like Minneapolis. You don't need more than half a million people, east coast cities. That's what suburbs are for.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Links of the Day 10/10/09

Happy Saturday. Let's forget about the business of last night and enjoy some college football and old links today, shall we?

I believe this is the first time I've ever linked to tumblr.

Good luck finding the USA-Honduras soccer match.

I'm also very sure that this is the first time I've ever linked to Cosmo.

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Thank you Google


And thank you Jon Rauch! We had a spike in hits yesterday, thanks in large part to the Twins and big Jon Rauch making it on national TV. Many have raised the question "What is that on Jon Rauch's neck?" How do I know? Here are the Google Keywords that led to the site yesterday.
Jon Rauch Neck Tattoo
John Rauch Neck Tattoo
Jon Rauch Neck tat
Rauch Twins Tattoo
Twins Jon Rauch Neck Tattoo
What is Jon Rauch tattoo?
Jon Rauch Tattoo
Jon Rauch Tattoo on Neck
Jon Rauch Tattoos
Jon Rauch Tattoos Neck Pic
Rauch Tattoo on Neck
Rauch Twins Tattoos
Twins John Rauch Tattoo

So yeah, that Sheraton logo on his neck is drawing a lot of interest. Of course, two days ago, someone also found us using "would like to know when Dick Bremer of Fox Sports got married". At least a couple people associated with the Twins are garnering some interest.

(I'm not ready to talk about that game tonight. Not yet...)

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Links of the Day 10/9/09

First, I had to tell you to go check out The Weather Blog. We completely reformatted. It's still a work in progress, so there will be some more tweaks and what not, but check it out and let us know what you think. Not that it isn't on your list of daily stops anyway, right?

Football in pictures with silly words over them.

Nicely done Chip Caray. At least the Twins did end up winning. You still gave me a heart attack

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

A few thoughts on the Twins

I am not accustomed to posting on Thursday's. That said, I am even less composed than is typical. First, I wanted to say thinks to Steve for providing some perspective. As much as he may have been trying to get under our skin, he was totally right. The Twins are fundamentally sound enough thanks to good couching through the minor league system that they will never really be bad. In the AL Central, "not bad" is usually enough. They don't have the manager with the strategic mind to put the team over the hump. Case in point:
Gardenhire said he tried to find a way to get Alexi Casilla in the lineup. Casilla is 9-for-13 (.692) in his career off CC Sabathia. Gardenhire said he didn’t want to stick Casilla at third base tonight. Another option would have been second base, as Nick Punto is 6-for-36 (.167) off Sabathia.
So why couldn't Punto go to third? He HAS played there, after all. Did he really want Matt Tolbert in the line up that bad?! Putting the same starting lineup that just played a 12 inning, high pressure game the night before just reeks of stupidity. I understand that he can teach a guy to field a grounder, but I still don't trust Gardenhire in big games.
Second, and also on a pissed off with Minnesota sports teams rant.... The game yesterday was as much about the Yankees dominating the Twins as the Twins being completely exhausted because of brutal scheduling. If it had been any other game than the Brett Favre game, do you think the Vikings would have gladly switched the game location, as was agreed upon many years ago? Probably. But no, this one game with an unlikeable quarterback who makes more headlines than he should be entitled to was too lucrative a cash cow to make the sacrifice that would benefit another local sports team. The Packers may have also had something to do with this, but for now, I have to look at Zygi Wilf who time and time again has shown me that he actively hates Minnesota and Minnesotans. Had the Vikings played ball with the Twins and let them have the Dome on Monday, maybe they would have been better rested for the game yesterday.
Thirdly, I need to mention this because, hey! The Twins are in the playoffs, as unlikely as that might seem. Let's reexamine the delightful celebratory image from Tuesday night.
Nick Punto: Looks like he is being chased. Perhaps someone would like to eat him.
Mike Redmond: Looks as though he is trying to attack Carlos Gomez OR "GET TO THA CHOPPAH!"
Bobby Keppel: Looks like Batboy.
Jon Rauch: Looks like he just heard the dinner bell, and he is hungry. Maybe that explains Nick Punto.

Anyways, with a day off, maybe the Twins will come down a bit and be ready for the Yankees tomorrow.

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Links of the Day 10/08/09

Let's review the whole Favre/Packers thing. Yeah, the Packers were still in the right, and Favre is still a petulant baby.

It appears Dallas is turning on Tony Romo

I don't understand how it can even type

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Counterpoint: When 5 Division Titles in 8 Years isn't Impressive

It's been a while since I've written about baseball on the Times, but as you might know, not everyone on this site is a Twins fan. I'm from Chicago and have liked the White Sox since probably before I was born, if that's possible. The source of a lot of our posts on the original Is It Sports? site was banter back and forth about the Twins and White Sox, and a big reason why Ryan wanted me to join him writing for this site is to occasionally trash the Twins, and be the "heel" for his Minnesota readers. I'm not going to put a lot of emotion into this, just present some facts, because I'm definitely not bitter about last night's game or this season (I hate the Tigers too and I got my World Series this decade).

I heard a lot of people on TV and on the radio tonight throw out the stat that the Twins have won 5 division titles in the last 8 years, and it could have been 6 had they only won the 1-game playoff against Chicago last year. It sounds pretty impressive, but I think in reality the impressive part about the Twins over the past 8 years is their consistency....they are consistently above average. In fact, since they started their run of "above-averageness" in 2001, they have averaged a very respectable 88 wins a year, and have had only 1 losing season.

When you think about it, in some divisions, an 88 or 90 win season could never get you to the playoffs, but the AL Central has been a pretty weak division ever since it was formed. The Central has only had 1 World Series champion and 1 wild card berth since its first full season in 1995, and for the first half of the decade typically had at least 1 team with 100 losses. If you consider a 90-win season as a truly "good" team and not just an above average team, the AL Central has had 10 of them since 2001, while the AL East has had 16, and the 4-team AL West has had 14. The AL East isn't that different from the AL Central in the fact that they typically have had 2 terrible teams each year for the top teams of the division to feast on. However, the AL East is also capable of winning games out of the division, and every champion of that division has had at least 95 wins since 2001, while only 3 AL Central winners have reached that mark in 9 years. Also, 6 out of the last 9 AL Central winners have had a record worse than the AL wild card, and in 3 of those years (this year included) the winner was worse than the team that finished 2nd in the wild card race.

So basically my theory is this: for the last 9 years, the Twins have consistently put up an above average to relatively good season, and if there isn't anyone else in the division that is at least relatively good, they win the division, only to get trounced in the playoffs because they weren't all that good to begin with. Let's briefly run through each season:

2001: The Twins put up their first winning season (85 wins) since 1992 despite talks of the team being contracted, but fall short to the Indians, who win the division with only 91 wins, only to lose to 116-win Seattle in the ALDS.

2002: This was by far the most exciting Twins team of their run this decade. They bucked the contraction talks and surprisingly won the AL Central, and then upset another 00's perennial playoff loser, the A's, in the first ALDS, before being stopped 4-1 by the Angels in the ALCS. The Twins won 94 games that season, their 2nd best of the decade....but had an extremely weak division with 2 100-loss teams and an 81-81 2nd place team behind them.

2003: The Twins win the AL Central again with just 90 wins (15 of them over 119-loss Detroit), 3 games worse than the 2nd place wild card team, Seattle. They take game 1 from the 101-win Yankees in the ALDS, but then score only 3 runs the rest of the series to get bounced 3 games to 1.

2004: The Twins win the AL Central again, this time with 92 wins (same as the Angels, who win the West). No one else in the division is close to them, much like 2002. The Twins put up a better fight against the Yankees, but lose 3 games to 1 in the ALDS again.

2005: The White Sox and Indians rise from mediocrity, which causes the Twins to fall back to 83 wins in 3rd place. The White Sox get the highest win total for the AL Central of the decade with 99 wins, get home field in the playoffs, and only lose once in the playoffs, winning the division's only world series title.

2006: It's another strong year for the AL Central, and the strongest for the Twins. 3 teams win 90 games and the Tigers appear to be the team of destiny for most of the season. The Twins got hot at the end while the Tigers choked, giving the Twins the division title with 96 wins and Tigers the only AL Central wild card spot ever. The Twins carried their momentum right into a 3 game sweep against Oakland, the A's only playoff series win of the decade, while the "downtrodden" Tigers pulled an amazing upset of the Yankees, sweep the mediocre A's in the ALCS, but then lose the World Series to St. Louis.

2007: The Indians put up a 96 win season and win the Central, while the Twins have a losing record. The Indians polish off the Yankees in the ALDS, and take a 3-1 lead in the ALCS before choking it away to Boston. The Indians nearly made it 3 AL Central pennant winners in a row, and none of those were the Twins...

2008: The AL Central is flat out bad, and both the White Sox and Twins win only 88 games before the White Sox take the 1 game playoff to win the division. The White Sox record after 162 games is 1 game worse than the AL wild card 2nd place Yankees. The White Sox lose 3 games to 1 to the surprising Rays...hmm, seems like this would have been a perfect spot for the Twins.

2009: The AL Central is even worse than 2008, with no one seemingly wanting to hang onto first. The Tigers completely blow the division in September, while the Twins catch them to force another 1 game playoff between 2 86-76 teams, 9 games worse than the AL wild card, 1 game worse than the 2nd place AL wild card Rangers, and only 2 games better than the 4th place AL wild card Rays. The Twins win the game, and will face a Yankees team that they finished 17 games behind in the regular season. Good Luck.

So basically, of the 8 teams that made the playoffs from the AL Central since the Twins won the 1st of 5 divisions in 2002:
1 team won it all (White Sox 05)
1 team lost in the world series (Tigers 06)
1 team was a win away from a pennant (Indians 07)
1 team lost an ALCS 4-1 (Twins 02)
3 teams lost an ALDS 3-1 (Twins 03, Twins 04, White Sox 08)
1 team got swept in an ALDS (Twins 06)

So with the exception of last year, which easily could have been the Twins if the 1 game playoff had gone differently, if an AL Central team makes the playoffs other than the Twins, they mean business and will make a legitimate run at the pennant. If no one else in the AL Central is a serious contender, the Twins above average consistency carries them to the playoffs, only to lose without making waves. I was thinking about this heading into the 1-game playoff last year and this is why I was really surprised the White Sox actually won. I have a lot of confidence the Twins will continue this trend starting tonight in New York. So congrats on the 5 division titles in 8 years, Twins, but I bet the White Sox, Indians, or Tigers will be ready the take your playoff spot as soon as they put together a true World Series contender, and hopefully bring some respect back to the division.

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Links of the Day 10/7/09

So I've made an extra post today, Beth came in to post early this morning, and Steve will be along later to crap in our collective punch bowl. Lots of posts today.

Having never been dissed in a rap before, I can't imagine how this feels. I imagine embarrassing. Speaking of the Browns, Braylon Edwards was traded to the Jets.

I'm glad I am not the only one to notice how bad the NFL seems to be this year.

Oh Rich Gannon. It's been an interesting couple of weeks for you, hasn't it?

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New Perspective

I know. I usually write Thursdays, but I'm heading out of town without internet connection. Besides...wow.

Yesterday was a big day for Minnesota Sports. The Wild won their home opener! I also recall there was a baseball game played. But to change things up, let's focus on the sports writers for the Minnesota teams, as well as Detroit and Anaheim. They're very important to us--both as fans, and as writers of this blog. For how would Ryan be able to posts links of the day if it weren't for the intelligent, hard work (or senseless babble) of sports writers?

When covering a game, a writer writes his story as the game progresses. It's easiest when there's a clear winner early in the game, and nothing changes. Tense games are more difficult, but the tension can be written about until a victor emerges.

Let's start first with the game that ended last. I went to the grocery store last night for a few items. In the car on the way there, I listened to the Wild/Ducks hockey game. As I entered the food-purchasing establishment, the Wild were behind, 0-3, with 15 minutes left in the third period. Well, drat, I thought. They're going to start the year 0-2, after they lost the season opener in Columbus this weekend. Sports' writers for the Ducks and Wild probably started their stories about how Koivu the Elder's team triumphed over Koivu the Younger's team (although neither is captain of their team, if I understand correctly, and face it, am too lazy to look it up, since I should be packing). When I got back in the car after scouring the grocery store for Beef Jerky (you'd think it'd be easier to find. Incidentally, it's by the cookies, not the chips and popcorn and peanuts). The radio was still on, and hockey was still being played. I heard the word "overtime". Eventually, Andrew Brunette scored the winning goal in sudden-death overtime. All the stories had to change from "Koivu the Elder dominated Koivu the Younger" to the exact opposite. Stories--likely on tighter deadlines on Minnesota because of the late start (Anaheim had a couple hours to play with because of the time difference, but I'm sure the writers were hoping to be done earlier--the more time the better when writing).

Yes, I'm aware that not every story--in fact, possibly none--focused on the Brothers Koivu facing each other. But they should have! With lots of pictures!

Now let's get back to the other story of the night. The team that was written off on September 6 because they were seven games out of first place. The team that was written off one week ago because they were three games out of first place with four (which turned into five) to go. The Twins. In their typical fashion, wouldn't give up and achieved the, if not impossible, at least highly improbable: They won the division.

Looking at my scorecards from last night--my scorecards have 11 innings, so I had to pull out a second sheet for each team to continue scoring--I counted seven times when I thought FOR SURE one team had the game won.* And this is the seventh inning and later--earlier in the game there's just too much opportunity for "error" (whether playing error or an "oops" pitch or fielding alignment that becomes an extra-base hit). You can bet the sports writers in the Herb Carneal Press Box at the HHH Metrodome started writing their stories each of those times. And each of those times, either a great play would mean the run didn't score, or that the tying run did. A four o'clock start meant everyone thought they'd be home at a reasonable hour. Sure, if you could 9:30 a reasonable hour, then maybe we did. (I suppose it's a reasonable hour for a baseball game, but the game started at 4. We all expected to be home hours earlier!)

*I'm not counting the "Bobby Keppel is pitching?! Do we want to lose?!" moments, either. No offense to Mr. Keppel, but he hasn't exactly shined in high-pressure situations this year. Of course, he hasn't been given high pressure situations because he hasn't really shined in mop-up work either.

Something for Twins fans to think about: If I told you before the game that Delmon "I never met a pitch I didn't like to swing at!" Young* would be intentionally walked, and then Carlos Gomez would going to score the winning run, on a hit by DH Alexi "I finished the year above the Mendoza line!" Casilla, and the winning pitcher would be Bobby Keppel, what would you have said? Well, I'm pretty sure the conversation would've ended with me saying "No! I'm perfectly sober! It's going to happen! I am NOT on drugs."

I wouldn't have believed me, either, though. I'm not sure I still do, and I have a scorecard for proof.

*He's been much better lately. I'll give him that. It makes me wonder what his 2009 season would've been like if he hadn't started it out with the pressure, stress, and emotional pain of his mother's fatal illness. My sympathy goes out to that very young man.

Incidentally, after the game, the girls I sit with an I realized we could not remember where Alexi Casilla's hit actually went. We just saw it was a hit, and our brains froze knowing that Gomez was going to score from second. After all the "could've beens" it was too shocking to have it actually be a "did".

I'm sure the sports writers felt that way, too, as they re-wrote their stories for the eighth--and final--time.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

TWINS WIN!

In one of the most thrilling games in team history, the Twins pulled out a 12 inning victory over the visiting Detroit Tigers. Great players are recognized for their outstanding careers, and continued excellence of a prolonged period of time. Joe Mauer's batting crown, even Fernando Rodney's 4 excellent innings of work fall under this category. Legends are made in a single instant. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that Bobby Keppel would pitch the team out of an 12th inning jam for the win, and Alexi Casilla would drive in the winning run? Will Keppel or Casilla become legends? Time will tell. One thing I know for sure is that I can't stop smiling.

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NFL Power Rankings: Week 4

Week 4 is never too exciting of a week in the power ranks. Sure, if there are a few 4-0 teams they will be scrambling for the top spot, but we are so early into the season that there is still too large of a spread among the winning percentages (1.000, .750, .500, .250, .000) and there is really no such thing as "recent success" since everything is recent. So right now all the teams that fall into those 5 winning percentage categories listed in the previous run-on sentence fit neatly into blocks in the ranks, but as the season progresses, the other factors of the formula, especially strength of division, offensive, defensive, and turnover stats, will cause some teams with lower records to leapfrog some teams with higher records.

With that said the undefeated team to crawl to the top of the mountain this week is the New Orleans Saints after their nice win over the previously undefeated Jets. The ironic thing here is when I first started doing these ranks in 2007, the Saints were ranked #31 after week 4 after an 0-4 start. Things can change quickly I guess...The Giants didn't do anything wrong to drop to #2, they just beat down an inferior opponent, which hurts your strength of schedule this early in the season. The Vikings also fell victim to the Saints' surge to first this week, dropping to #3, while the Colts are back in a familiar place at #4 after destroying Seattle. The Broncos fell to #5 despite beating the Cowboys. New England, San Francisco, and Chicago top the 3-1 group at 6, 7, and 8.

The teams in the bottom 5 seem to be right at home. The Rams sank to a new level of suck this week, dropping into last behind idle Carolina, while the Browns and Titans stayed put after a tough loss for the Browns, and a horrendous loss for the Titans (thanks for screwing my fantasy team this week, Tennessee Defense). We have a new entrant into the bottom 5, the Chiefs, who fell behind Tampa for losing in more pathetic fashion this week.

The big gainers this week were Chicago, who is starting to look like how some people predicting them this year, Jacksonville, who seem to be bouncing back, and Miami, who got a big first win over Buffalo. The big losers were the Raiders, who seemed to be ranked too high to begin with, the Jets, and Packers, who were both victims of 4-0 teams this week and dropped 5 spots each for it.

Here are the complete ranks:
1. Saints - 87.02 - +3
2. Giants - 85.25 - -1
3. Vikings - 84.80 - -1
4. Colts - 83.17 - +3
5. Broncos - 81.94 - -2
6. Patriots - 69.19 - +3
7. 49ers - 69.02 - +3
8. Bears - 68.75 - +8
9. Ravens - 67.88 - -3
10. Jets - 65.54 - -5
11. Bengals - 63.95 - Even
12. Eagles - 60.61 - Even
13. Packers - 59.72 - -5
14. Falcons - 56.85 - +1
15. Cowboys - 54.69 - -2
16. Jaguars - 54.26 - +6
17. Chargers - 50.47 - -3
18. Texans - 49.23 - +1
19. Redskins - 48.95 - -1
20. Steelers - 48.23 - +1
21. Dolphins - 36.77 - +6
22. Lions - 35.87 - -2
23. Cardinals -35.86 - +2
24. Raiders - 30.54 - -7
25. Seahawks - 29.86 - -1
26. Bills - 28.63 - -3
27. Buccaneers - 19.15 - +1
28. Chiefs - 18.73 - -2
29. Titans - 16.75 - Even
30. Browns - 15.36 - Even
31. Panthers - 11.89 - +1
32. Rams - 10.30 - -1

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Links of the Day 10/6/09

On the day of the biggest game of the Twins season, and what is hopefully not the last baseball game played at the Metrodome, I am left with nothing to say. All I can do is wait in eager anticipation. I'm sure I will be much more capable of expressing my exuberance (or dissapointment) tomorrow. Stay tuned for that.

While the Twins are riding high, the Pirates are just sad. Kudos to the Lone Clapper, though.

Chicago missed out on their chance to get the Olympics. Whose fault is that?

I'm way behind on this, but thank goodness the perpetrator of that whole Erin Andrews video thing was caught.

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