Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Tuesday Night

It's some random thoughts on a Tuesday night, much like the title told you.  What the title didn't tell you, however, and what you know that people who just read the title and clicked close don't, is that I'm sucking back some sweet, sweet alcohol while I type this, in the form of vodka & iced tea.  Is that weird?  I feel like that might be weird, but it's good.  So suck it.

- I read something today where a writer asked if Dayton was the next Butler, college hoopswise. I wish I could find the damn article, but nevertheless it sent me into a rage, as you'd guess, because I hate Dayton worse than I hate you. If you recall, or if you're new, you might remember that the Bar I frequent when I go to Chicago for the NCAA Tournament with Snacks, Snake, and Dawger when we visit Bogart and his giant TV is also a Dayton bar, and one year we were there Dayton was actually playing and their fans were some of the biggest idiot poser fancy boys I had ever seen.

So, last year when I was previewing the Atlantic 10 I referred to Dayton fans as hipster doofuses and predicted they'd miss the NCAA Tournament. Dayton fans found the blog and did not much appreciate my comments. Several emails of an unsavory nature were exchanged, there was mention of my living in a trailer (note: not true), and let's just say it wasn't pretty. Also, I fucking hate Dayton. Thus, said article which I can not find pretty much prompted this entire post.

And it deserves to be written about, because Dayton is about as far from Butler as Nick Blackburn is from a competent pitcher. First, Dayton's conference is light years beyond Butler's. The Horizon is a perennial one-bid conference, whereas the A-10 almost always sends between two and four teams; might as well ask if Xavier is the next North Carolina. Secondly, what exactly are we basing this dynastic prediction on, four straight years of underachievement topped off by an NIT Championship?  One NCAA berth in the last six years?  Really, an NIT Championship doesn't mean anything - really, despite what they want you to think nobody uses it as a springboard to success, ever - and even if it did, Dayton is losing seven players and 3 starters so who cares?  This whole dynasty is based around an overrated PF (Chris Wright) who can't ever stay healthy, and now they need a freshman and a transfer from fucking Drake to be their ballhandlers.

Dayton is a dynasty the same way Two and a Half Men is a good show - it's not true and you'd have to be a god damned moron to think so.  The Flyers and their fans can all bite me.

-  Jennifer Love Hewitt is going to be guesting on Law & Order:  SVU?  Man, how far has she fallen?  If you have a chance and haven't, go rent Heartbreakers and prepare for boner city.  No kidding, probably the hottest chick in a movie ever not counting Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Audrina in Sorority Row, and Tiffani Thiessen in anything ever.  You forget, but Jennifer Love Hewitt used to be at the absolute top of the hot chick pyramid.  Now she's doing Lifetime movies and guest spots.  She's now the Dayton of hot chicks.  Sad.

-  I'm all for relaxing, but anybody else think the Twins might want to continue playing this season instead of just packing it in until the playoffs start?  I'm not entirely sure of the rules here, but I think if they don't start winning games Bud Selig might step in and renounce them from the playoffs.  And who the hell is going to be the fourth starter now?  Slowey threw batting practice yesterday, and tonight Blackburn is getting lit up by Mike Aviles and Kila Ka'aihue for christ's sake.  Everything is set up for Baker, and he's probably the best choice anyway because he's the least likely to give up 6 runs in 3 innings.  Not that he's necessarily not likely, just slightly less likely than the velocity haters he's in competition with.

Seriously, close your eyes.  Now take off your pants.  Now imagine it's game four of the ALDS, we're at Yankee stadium, and the Twins are down 2 games to 1, but all games have been closely played.  They need someone to shut down the Yankees on the road.  Who is the last pitcher you'd want out there?  Correct, it's Nick Blackburn.  I would have also accepted Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, or Jeff Manship.  Scott Baker ranks slightly ahead of them because he's more likely to be absolutely lights out, no matter who he's facing.  Of course, we could also see the longest home run in the history of Yankee baseball (and Mantle allegedly hit a 600 footer).  Yes, longer than Mantles.  Imagine a 3-0 count on A-Rod.  Now take off your pants again.  Now imagine the bases are loaded and the winning run is on third, so Baker has to throw a strike.  How far could A-Rod hit that ball?  700 ft?  800?

- Anybody else watching The Event? I don't think it's terrible just yet, but I do think it's trying awfully hard to be both Lost and 24, even though I never ever watched 24 because it takes more than gun fights and explosions to entertain me. Anyway, it seems ok and any time D.B. Sweeney is involved you know I'm a fan, but this show could take a wrong turn in an awful hurry. I mean, this "plot" is like tightrope thin. Kind of like how the Dark Tower series by Stephen King could be brilliant on TV in the right hands, but would be a laughable train wreck if handled incorrectly. Or like the Game of Thrones series coming up on HBO. Real delicate stuff here. Actually, I'm not really sure why I made that comparison, except that those are two of my favorite book series and one is coming to TV and the other might be soon. Really, so far The Event is weird and doesn't make much sense and I only watched about half of episode two, but it's got this chick in a bikini so I'll keep watching:

-  Speaking of Episode 2, Mrs. W bought WonderbabyTM a Star Wars coloring book today, which she loved, and she likes to watch me play Lego Star Wars, so we watched a half hour of Episode I today (went with that one because it's most kid friendly) and she thought it rocked and didn't want to turn it off.  I'm looking to have her fully nerdifyed by age 4.

-  So who's excited for the Ryder Cup?  I am.  I think the Euro team is far better than the Americans, but we have a few units down on the USA just because, like Billy Mitchell, I'm proud to represent my country, even when I'm not really representing anything and really am more just betting on people who are representing my country.  Like Lex Luger.  Anyway, Sergio sucking too bad all year to not make the team is a huge break for the Americanos, because that dude is a machine at this stuff (career 14-3-3 record).  Nobody on the American team is a good Ryder Cup player, and Mickelson and Furyk are two of the worst, and unfortunately Jeff Overton made the team and then Rickie Fowler got picked for some reason, so really there is no reason to be on the USA except blind faith in good ole apple pie and blue jeans.  And a good underdog payout. 

-  The Rockies are losing again tonight, and most people don't really care, but we have the Rockies at OVER 85.5 wins for the year, and currently they are at 83-73 which means they need to go 3-3 to win the bet, which is starting to look less and less likely due to this incredible un-Rocky-like skid they are in which, if they lose again tonight, will have them at 1-8 in their last 9 games.  Which means that nine games ago they were 82-65 and needed to go just 4-11 to win it for us.  Thanks assholes.  I blame Helton. 

-  Also the Mets just need to lose two more games.  Pray for us.

-  I'm sure there's more, but the baby is waking up and by the time I get done feeding and taking care of him, whatever mojo is driving this post will be long gone.  So I'll just leave you with this:  Dez Bryant is going to destroy the NFL, Randy Moss style.  If not this year, then next. 

Make your time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gopher happenings

Lots going on in the nation of the Gopher this weekend.  First, Gopher football lost to Northern Illinois, what else is there to say?  Take everything that was said after the loss to South Dakota, multiply by 10, and repeat.  I was at this game and you could feel the apathy from the crowd the whole way, and the amount of people pouring out of the stadium at halftime was staggering.  Not that it's ever been a hot ticket with everything else there is in town, but Gopher football is a joke both in terms of product and fan interest, which is pretty sad considering the beautiful stadium that's just a year old. Pretty amazing accomplishment by Brewster, actually, and the only thing he's accomplished. 

It's almost unfortunate the way recruiting works, because that's really the only reason for him to still have a job right now, although he's been doing such a bang up job that having his signees leave might actually improve the team.  I mean, he's taken a thoroughly average BCS program in every way and taken it to the bottom.  Certainly they are the worst team in the Big Ten, and might very well be the worst BCS football team in the country, a possibility Marcus Fuller wrote about.  And Brewster has done this all with a shiny new stadium.  Pretty amazing.  Not even Dan Monson could have pulled this off.

And speaking of Monson, that would be a good segue into some good news:  Tubby and Gopher hoops locked up Joe Coleman of Hopkins for the 2011 season on Friday.  I already wrote quite a bit about Coleman here and here, so I won't go over it all again, but needless to say I'm pretty happy about this.  Getting the best player in Minnesota each year should be a priority, assuming he's a Big Ten caliber player, and Coleman is far beyond that.  He's ranked as #116 overall and the #34 shooting guard by Rivals, #80 and #26 by ESPN, and the #29 small forward by Scout, so it's safe to say he should be a pretty high quality edition.

In other recruiting news, there were a couple interesting developments in other players the Gophers are after.  First, Andre Hollins visited campus this weekend, and got to see the football team embarrass itself, but by all accounts enjoyed his visit.  He says all five schools on his final list (Minnesota, Harvard, Stanford, Auburn, and Ole Miss) are still tied at the top, but let's hope some of the local talent did their best to swing him in our favor.  Also, Josh Oglesby, who had previously whittled his list down to Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Arizona State, has dropped the Illini from consideration so the Gophers are now in the final 3.  Both Hollins and Oglesby are combo guards who are pretty much consensus top 150 players so either (or both) would be a quality get.

Lastly, a few recruiting notes around the state (and if you are on Twitter and aren't following Ryan James, you really need to).  First, Shelby Moats, who the Gophers were interested in but who I said seemed more suited to a nerd school, once again proved how smart I am by signing on with Vanderbilt.  He's perfect for that system and they love their academics, so he can go ahead and join the Tri-Lams without being persecuted.  And finally, Chaska's Ross Travis, a player the Gopher never showed a ton of interest in even though there was a segment of the fan base who thought they should, has signed with Penn State.  This way we will be able to watch and judge if and to what degree Tubby made a mistake on this kid twice a year.  Let's hope his eye for talent is still 20/20.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gopher Recruiting Update

When it comes to Gopher basketball recruiting for next season there are really only four names you need to care about:  Joe Coleman, Naadir Tharpe, Andre Hollins, and Josh Oglesby.  That's it.  Everybody else of consequence has signed with Virginia (Malcolm Brogdon and Paul Jesperson) or seems like more of a fallback and will probably go somewhere like Northwestern or Stanford or some other smart person school with his big brain and slow white body (Shelby Moats - and don't get me wrong, I like what I've read and think he could be successful here, but my instincts tell me he's going to a smarty pants school).  Here is who is relevant:

SG Joe Coleman - Hopkins, MN - #34 SG and #116 overall by Rivals.  He's rated even higher by ESPN, and there's no doubt he should be the #1 priority for Tubby and crew.  Not because he plays the biggest position of need for 2011-2012, which is pretty clearly point guard, but because he's a highly rated player from Minnesota.  Tubby did a great job getting Rodney Williams and Royce White, even though we're still kind of waiting for Rodney to arrive and obviously Royce never really did.  Or, more accurately, he arrived wielding a sledgehammer, destroying everything around him before fleeing to Ames.  But it's still important to keep Minnesota kids who are highly rated in state because it sends a message to future players.

Guys like Tyus Jones, class of 2014 PG already on everybody's radar, see top instate talent, guys they've played against and/or played with in camps and on all-star teams, heading to play for the Gophers and it creates a culture where that just becomes what you do.  Obviously you can't solely recruit instate players, this isn't hockey in the 90s, but it can become almost automatic that a top flight instate player stays home, but that has to be built up, and Tubby has to continue that momentum and that means getting Coleman.  The fact that his brother, Dan, played here cements it ever further that Coleman is the #1 most important player in this class.

All accounts I've read say he is going to be deciding soon, possibly as early as today, and he's basically narrowed it down to Santa Clara and the Gophers after eliminating Iowa State earlier this week following their signing of SG Tyus McGee.  With the Broncos the Gophers only real competition it almost seems like a given, but don't underestimate the beautiful weather and the pretty girls in California.  And don't forget Ray Cowels, formerly of Hopkins, is still out there to help sell Coleman on the West Coast.  I know I was worried that he'd talk Rodney into it, and obviously that didn't happen, but it's still something to be concerned about.

PG Naadir Tharpe -  Wolfeboro, NH - #20 PG and #91 overall by Rivals.  Tharpe is an extremely important get as well, because after this coming season Al Nolen graduates (or loses eligibility at least) and that leaves the team with no real point guard unless you want to count Bryant Allen or Maverick Ahanmisi, and I really don't.  There's really no other point guard on the radar either, although there is a combo guard I'll talk about in a minute, but I'd rather go to battle with a true point than a combo (plus we already have one of those in Devoe), and by all accounts Tharpe is a true point guard.

ESPN speaks glowingly of his skills in their scouting report, citing his "tight handle", "excellent court vision", and ability to run the offense and break and apply ball pressure.  The Gophers are said to be at the top of his list following his visit September 17th, when he tweeted he had an excellent steak at Seven with Tubby, which should be good news but makes me nervous.  He had only scheduled two visits, with the Gophers and with Rutgers, but ended up canceling the Rutgers visit after they signed a different point.  With Minnesota the only team on the radar I was hopeful he would sign quickly after coming to Minneapolis, but despite telling everyone he had an excellent visit and that he connected with Tubby and really enjoyed himself, that didn't happen.

Tharpe has come out and said he won't make a decision until Spring, which gives more teams a chance to come sniffing around, and Kansas has now expressed interest after PG Josiah Turner signed with Arizona.  Did he not make the Gophers his choice simply because he's a young kid who is enjoying the process and all the attention, or was there something he didn't like when he was here?  Either way, you're going to have to hold your breath for a while and hope no other program worms its way into his heart.  Gophers lead on him, for now.

SG Josh Oglesby - Cedar Rapids, IA - #36 SG and #119 overall on Rivals.  Oglesby is an interesting one, because depending on the source he's either a pure shooter or a combo guard, and ESPN doesn't have him evaluated at all.  It's also hard to get a read on where he's leaning, because he has apparently loved every school visit he's made (including his visit to Minnesota last weekend), and he hasn't really given anybody a pecking order, outside of his top four:  Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Arizona State - not in any particular order.

He's from the great Corn state, so I'm sure there is part of him that would love to become a Hawkeye and return that school to glory, but have you seen the mess that program is right now?  It seems like a good player with other viable options might shy away, so that's the hope here.  Ryan James of GopherIllustrated.com describes him as "the unselfish marksman" (sounds like a combo guard to me) and he's been called the best shooter in Iowa, which you know has a bunch of kids like Jimmy Chitwood, so that's not exactly faint praise.  He will visit Illinois this weekend and then make his way down the Arizona State the following one, so we should know more by early October.  I do know that the more I read about him, the more I like him.  Seems very Blake Hoffarber-y.

SG Andre Hollins - Memphis, TN - #40 SG and #126 overall by Rivals.  Andre is no relation to incoming Gopher freshman Austin Hollins, but he sounds pretty similar:  a smart player with a good jump shot who can also put it on the floor and drive and plays good defense.  Sign me up.  He's also another nerd, like Moats, who is takes his academics very seriously, which is why he includes Harvard and Stanford in his top 5.  Of course, he also has Ole Miss, so who knows how serious he is about it.

The Gophers are also in his top 5, and he will be making his official visit to the campus this weekend, having previously visited Auburn and Harvard and come away impressed.  He still has future visits to Stanford and Ole Miss coming up and, similar to Oglesby, he has committed to making all of his official visits before making his decision.  His final trip is to Stanford on October 15th, so we won't know more until then.

Also like Oglesby, Hollins is a combo guard but more of a two, so if the Gophers were to miss out on Tharpe and get Hollins (or Oglesby) they would at least have someone capable of running the point along with Devoe and those other two, even if it isn't his #1 skill set position.  It sounds like Andre, his dad, and his coach are all very impressed with Tubby Smith, enough so to get the Gophers in his top five at a late date, and hopefully that will be enough to help pull him to the Gophers.

Now there are a few other guys who could be in play, but these four are pretty clearly the main targets and the main priorities, and they should be.  If all four end up whiffs it could be another mediocre recruiting class for Tubby, and losing Coleman would especially hurt.  So let's not let that happen.  Agreed?  Agreed.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Butera vs. Morales

I was asked recently by a follower on Twitter (seriously guys, I'm on Twitter.  Follow me and all your greatest dreams will come true) to do a breakdown of Morales vs. Butera.  I'm assuming the question is "who should make the postseason roster as the backup catcher", because it's pretty clear Morales is a far better hitter while Butera is a defensive whiz who, HR against the Phillies not withstanding, might as well go up to the plate with a whiffleball bat.  Frankly, this one is easy as well:  there is zero reason to have Butera on the postseason roster.  Zero.

First, just to explain how bad Butera is at the plate, remember that I mentioned in a post last week how his OPS is one of the ten worst in the entire league.  His .185/.220/.294 isn't just anemic, it is laughably bad, and registers as an OPS+ of 34.  For some perspective, in Nick Punto's worst season he posted a 53 - 56% higher than Butera.  That is the same jump you see going from Denard Span to Danny Valencia or J.J. Hardy to Joe Mauer - it's a big difference.  Any time you are that far from Nick Punto's worst season, you have issues.  Morales isn't exactly hitting the crap out of the ball so far this year, but we saw last year in the time he was up that he is a good (at worst average) hitter, and somebody you could easily use as a PH.

Ok, fine.  That much was already clear, we know Morales is a better hitter.  So why would we consider Butera?  Three reasons:

1.  He's an awesome defender.  Yes, yes he is.  I mentioned this last week, but he's one of the best in the league at throwing out would-be base stealers, and has done the majority of his work with one of the slowest pitchers to the plate in all of baseball.  He's phenomenal, really.  But it doesn't matter.
Mauer doesn't need a defensive replacement in the late innings.  For one, he's a pretty good defensive catcher on his own (which I will likely repeat over and over in this post) and two, there's generally no such thing as a late inning defensive replacement at catcher.  This isn't like putting in Jason Repko for Jason Kubel.  Plus you would never, ever take Mauer's bat out of the lineup in any game close enough to warrant needing an upgrade on defense - just in case you go into extras.

So we can pretty much rule out Butera getting any PT in this situation. 

2.  Morales isn't good enough to fill in for Mauer behind the plate when he needs rest.  Well, he's 0-2 throwing out base stealers this and although he was a respectable 8/18 last year he also allowed 5 passed balls in just 29 games, or one fewer than Mauer and Butera have allowed combined so far this year and is nowhere near Butera (or Mauer) in terms of overall defense.  But, again, it doesn't matter.

This isn't the grind of the regular season, this is the slow-it-down dog-and-pony show playoffs, where you frequently have a day off between games and sometimes "travel day" really means two.  There's a reason why teams with a strong front of the rotation have such an advantage in the playoffs, and that's because the games are spread out you never have to go more than four hurlers deep and often only need three.  That same extra rest and logic would dictate that Mauer won't need a break for his aching knees or back or shoulder or heel or locusts or whatever current ailment is plaguing him.  There will never be a need for Butera (or Morales) to start a playoff game, and if there is, it's already over.

So we can pretty much rule out Butera getting any PT in this situation. 

3.  He's Pavano's personal catcher.  I have seen situations where there is a true need for a personal catcher, whether it's personal or strategical, but that isn't the case here.  Once again, although Butera may be better at throwing runners out than Mauer, it's not like Joe is Brian Harper back there - he's still one of the best catchers in the league and will be just fine.  Not to mention Pavano came out and said that the whole Pavano's personal catcher thing was just as much to give Mauer a regular day off as it was for any strategic reasons.  This one doesn't matter either, and we can once again rule out Butera getting any PT in this situation.

So there you go.  There is absolutely zero reason for Butera to be on the playoff roster because there is absolutely zero situations where it would make sense for him to actually play.  Morales would likely not see much of the field either, but he can at least give you an at-bat here and there where needed and you know it's not wasted - you can't say the same for Butera.

Really, the only arguments for letting Drew play would include words like gamer, gritty, warrior, chemistry, good teammate, and "he's been here all year", the types of arguments that writers like the Fire Joe Morgan guys have shown to be essentially meaningless cliches, clung to by aging sportswriters as the game and logic pass them by.

In other words, this sounds exactly like something Gardy is going to be all over. 

Weekend Review - 9.20.2010

 Well, the Gophers lost to USC, which I don't think surprised anyone, but they didn't embarrass themselves, which did surprise some - myself included.  So how do you categorize that loss?  I wouldn't say they sucked, because they didn't embarrass themselves, but is not embarrassing yourself considered a success these days?  If it is, that means my work day is successful 80% of the time, which I like, but I can't give a whole lot of credit to a team that is in a BCS conference for only losing by two touchdowns to the worst version of USC in years.  They played, and they didn't suck.  I guess, sadly, that really could be considered a success in Brewster's Gopher Nation.  Ouch. 


1.  Troy Tulowitzki.  I think we need a new word for this guy, because hot doesn't begin to do him justice.  Remember the other day when I mentioned how he had hit 11 home runs in his last 13 games?  And described that as jesus?  Well, since then he hit a home run on Friday and followed it up with 2 more on Saturday.  You know there's regular (and sugar free) Red Bull, but then they also have the little Red Bull shots that are more concentrated and give you a shorter, stronger burst of probably super healthy energy?  I feel like Tulowitzki must be on that version of HGH - not a whole season worth or anything, just enough to hit a ridiculous amount of home runs in a small period of time.*  Seriously dude, I am all-in for Rocktoberfest.  Assuming the make the playoffs, of course.  If not I never liked them anyway.

2.  Felix Hernandez.  King Felix added a little more fuel to the Cy Young fire, nearly pitching a no-hitter against Texas Friday before allowing a home run to Nelson Cruz in the 8th, ending up with just 8 strong innings and a rare win.  Rare enough that a bit of a nerd fight has broken out amongst the stat nerds and the old school traditionalists over who deserves to win the Cy Young award this year.  Here are the top 3 candidates:
  • C.C. Sabathia:  20-6, 3.05 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 183 Ks, 224 IPs
  • David Price:  17-6, 2.79 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 172 Ks, 194 IPs
  • Felix:  12-11, 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 222 Ks, 234 IPs
Clearly Felix is the best pitcher this season, and technically that's what the Cy Young Award is supposed to recognize, and that's what the seamheads are saying - give the award to the best pitcher.  However, he's only got 12 wins, and is barely over .500 for the year.  It's just not going to happen yet.  Last year was a move in the right direction and a big win for the nerds with Zack Greinke bringing home the hardware despite winning just 16 games, but there was no 20 game winner last year.  Sabathia has his twenty already, and like it or not, there's some magic in that number.  It's his to lose (he's -200 in Vegas, Felix isn't even on the board).

3.  Ryan Mallet.  I really like this kid.  Of course, that could be because I've only seen two of his game, one from last year when he won me two bets, the over on his completions and his yards, that I placed on a tip from a friend and then this week's game where he threw for 380 yards and 3 TDs, including the game winner (and Arkansas +3 bet winner) with fifteen seconds to go.  Plus, he just looks like a big-time QB back there.  A pure thrower with a good pocket presence and good fundamentals.  And he should, he's got the pedigree:  #2 QB and #4 overall player in his high school class by Rivals and Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Texas his senior year.  Texas!  You've seen Varsity Blues, you know what it's like down there.  He's like Lance Harbor, but without the knee injury.  He was smart to leave Michigan after Rodriguez signed on since he's no Major Harris, but he does remind me quite a little bit of Peyton Manning now that he's at Arkansas.  High praise?  Yes.  Kind of stupid to say since I've only seen two of his games?  Absolutely.  Is that going to stop me?  Hell no.

4.  Jahvid Best.  The Lions still suck, but at least they have another exciting young player to add to Calvin Johnson in Best.  After a huge day that saw him gain over 230 total yards and score 3 times he now has five TDs through two games to lead the NFL.  One of his TDs yesterday was a 75 yard screen pass, a play where he showecased the speed and vision that will make him a top back in the future, and also scored on a 2-yd run showing he has some power to his game as well.  The Lions now have the skill positions set, if they can just fix a terrible, terrible defense and shore up an awful, awful offensive line, and then find a second and third receiver, they'll be all set.

5.  Matt Schaub.  Remember how, not all that long ago, the Atlanta Falcons had this awesome back-up who everybody wanted because everyone knew he was going to be a very good QB, but the Falcons couldn't keep him because the Michael Vick and were all set to go with him for the future and so they traded Schaub to the Texans?  Oops.  Schaub threw for 497 yards and 3 TDs yesterday, continuing his streak of always throwing for a ridiculous amount of yards in every game ever.  Oh, and in case you're curious, which I was, Schaub was traded for two second-round picks and a swap of firsts.  The Falcons acquired DE Jamaal Anderson and OG Justin Blaylock, then traded the other second rounder to Washington for something I'm too lazy to look up.  Since I've never heard of either of those people, I'm going to say it was a bad trade.


1.  Brett Favre.  Sorry folks, but it looks to me like the magical ride is over.  There's no fairy dust left in that arm.  Not only has his lost his biggest strength - his arm - but he looks like the one trait he had that seemed to make him bulletproof, unstable, and impervious to age is gone as well; that stupid cliched love of the game thing.  It was annoying to hear about every five minutes, but it kept him going.  Now that he looks more like the Brett Favre in his last days as a Packer than the Brett Favre from last year, aging should commence rapidly.  Expect him to be out with an injury by week 9, and likely fold up shop for good around week 12 or 13.  I'm fully expecting a mid-season retirement, but in any case there's no doubt this isn't a playoff team.  Even as good as the defense and AP are, I think even 8 wins would be a miracle.  Sorry folks.  Time to turn your hopes and dreams to the Gopher basketball team.  And, I guess, hockey if you like that kind of garbage.  Sicko.

2. Chicago White Sox.  Talk about rolling over.  I know they needed to sweep the Twins with a small chance at hope if they won at least 2 of three, and I know since they got swept the season is 99% over, but talk about going out with a whimper.  First the sweep by the Twins, in which they barely had to break a sweat, and then went ahead and got swept by the Tigers, losing the lead in all three games thanks to that crappy bullpen, including the game last night where they scored 4 in the ninth to send it to extra innings, only to watch Sergio Santos give up the game in the 11th, just one night after he blew the game in the 8th.  So to recap, in the biggest spot of the season and needing to make a big run the Sox got swept in back-to-back series at home against their two biggest division rivals.  Talk about gutless.  Sounds more like a Vikings thing. 

3.  Jake Locker.  Funny story about Locker.  I heard something on the radio about him being the likely #1 pick in next year's NFL draft earlier this week, and how he was facing a pretty tough task in Nebraska's defense this weekend and it would be interesting to see how he did.  Well, the answer is:  shitty.  Locker went 4-20 passing on the day, for a grand total of 71 yards as Washington got rolled by the Huskers 56-21.  I'm sure he's a good QB and all, but let's just say I'm not super impressed.  More like the opposite of that. 

4.  Joe Flacco.  Man this is a QB heavy suck list, but how can I leave off Flacco and his career worst four interceptions?   There is no way the Ravens are going to do much with him at QB.  He's like a bad version of Trent Dilfer, and he couldn't do a thing against Cincinnati on Sunday - thus the four interceptions.   And they were just awful picks, too.  If he had been intentionally throwing to the Bengal d-backs he couldn't have made it easier for them.  So am I saying Joe Flacco threw the game?  Yes. 

5.  Jason Kubel.  Players get hurt, I know, and with the notable exception of Justin Morneau they return and all is fine.  Except with Jason Kubel, this week was the semifinals in our fantasy baseball league, and Snake and I had advanced that far and needed to make a decision about our third outfield spot:  Jason Kubel or Delmon Young.  We went Kubel, in part because he was hotter than Delmon, in part because he was more consistent than Delmon, and in part because the guy we were playing had dropped Kubel earlier so we figured the revenge factor would be strong.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to find out about the revenge factor, because the "I'm a little girl and my wrist hurts" factor won out.  So yes, both of Delmon's homers this week and his 3-hit game tore my soul open a little bit.  The worst part?  Delmon outscored Kubel by 19, and we ended up losing by 49.  So, um, I guess if we had played Delmon the loss would have been a little bit less embarrassing, and since that's the new standard for success around here, Kubel owes me big-time.   

* = since that one insignificant blogger got the shit ripped out of him last year for a throwaway comment about how  people should ask about Raul Ibanez being on Roids after his hot start last year, I feel the need to point out that I'm fucking kidding.  And if you can't figure that out, you're a jackass.  And also you should die.

Friday, September 17, 2010


FACT:  Joe Mauer, by all accounts and excellent all-around defensive catcher, has thrown out 27% of base stealers this year, third in the American League and sixth in the majors.  Pretty good.

Drew Butera has thrown out 41% of base stealers, a number that would rank him first in the AL and third in the majors if he enough playing time.  Even more impressive, he's done it while catching mainly for Carl Pavano, by all accounts one of the slowest in the majors to the plate. 

And that is how you stay in the majors when you're hitting .184, don't walk, and have almost no power (he has one of the 10 worst OPS numbers amongst players this year with 100 plate appearances - as did Brendan Harris).  He's going to make the playoff roster, and might even end up starting a game.  Personally, I'd rather just put Mauer back there when Pavano pitches so you don't have to take Thome or Kubel out of the linup, but we'll see what Gardy goes with.  I like to think he's smart enough to make the right call here, but I also like to think he's smart enough to not overuse the sacrifice bunt and we all see where that's gotten us.

Getting ahead of myself here, but how badly is it going to suck playing in the NL park in the World Series and losing Thome's bat? 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

This Could be of Interest

Here is an email I received about some cool stuff happening before the Gopher/USC asskicking this weekend.  If you're heading to the game, it might be worth checking out.  Or not, what do I know?


Hey DWG,
Since I know you and a lot of your readers are likely heading to the Gophers/Trojans game this Saturday, I’m reaching out on behalf of Nissan to share some information about a really cool, free game day experience we’re sponsoring at the stadium in partnership with Sports Illustrated. I’ve included a rundown of what’s going on below (and you can find the full press release here), but let me know if you have any questions or would like more information.
Who: Meet University of Minnesota football legend Bobby Bell and Sports Illustrated senior writer Dan Patrick on game day!
·         10:30-11:30 a.m. – Autograph signing with College/Pro-Football Hall of Famer and Outland Trophy winner Bobby Bell
·         11:30 a.m. -12 p.m. – SI Chalk Talk with Bobby Bell & Dan Patrick
·         12-1p – Autograph signing with Dan Patrick
What: Sports Illustrated and Nissan have teamed up to celebrate the rich history of the Heisman Trophy and college football with a 10-stop national tour at marquee matchups this season. Admission to the tour is free, and fans are encouraged to pick up a special Sports Illustrated commemorative edition that showcases college football's most prestigious award, compliments of Nissan.
·         Chance to take photo with the Heisman Trophy on the cover of Sports Illustrated
·         Autograph signing and Q&A sessions with former college football legends
·         Interactive touch screen kiosks featuring
o   Heisman history and Sports Illustrated Trivia Quiz
o   Nissan Juke vehicle configurator
·         Fan giveaways including
o   Special edition copy of Sports Illustrated
§  A 92-page tribute to Heisman Trophy winners and all-time greats comprised of the work by current and former SI writers such as John Underwood, Alex Wolff, Grant Wahl, Roy Terrell and Sally Jenkins
o   Custom University of Minnesota t-shirts and other team swag
·         Opportunity for fans to experience the all-new Nissan Juke and Maxima, as they get a hands-on look at the 2011 cars
When:  Saturday, September 18th – Experience opens at 9:30 a.m. and runs until kickoff at 2:30 p.m.
Where:  4th St. SE and SE 23rd St., Minneapolis, MN 55414. Located on the south side of the stadium by the premium entry and ticket office. This is also located between gates E and D.

Six Very Important Things this Morning 9.16.2010

It's going to be pretty tough to keep up the post-per-day strategy I started up with before Baby Ben arrived on scene, at least until the little tyke learns to sleep for more than 2 hours at a time, but I feel I can fire one off here.

1.  Well that should do it.  The Twins won again last night, beating the Sox 9-3, which brings their division lead to 8 games with just 17 left to play.  Their magic number is now 10, which essentially means it would take an epic collapse as well as a hell of a run by Chicago to keep the Twins out of the playoffs - something I haven't ruled out.  Most impressive last night was Brian Duensing, who wasn't very sharp and that is precisely the reason he was so impressive.  Throughout the game he seemed to always be on the verge of giving up the big inning, but kept getting key outs and bid double plays whenever he needed them.  It was a very impressive display of "battling" for such a young pitcher with less than twenty career starts.  There is no doubt in my mind he needs to be the third starter in any playoff series the Twins are in.  When Baker, Slowey, or Blackburn are off, rarely do you see them still manage to go six innings and scatter nine hits the way he did, they generally get killed and don't see the fourth.  Behind Mauer, Thome, Valencia, Pavano, and Liriano there's no doubt he's been the most valuable player this year, not only for what he's done since joining the rotation, but his stellar bullpen work earlier this year as well.  Finishing sixth as an MVP might not sound that impressive, but did you expect him to be there? 

2.  How fast did everybody get to the waiver wire?  Once again proving that you need to have waivers in your fantasy football league rather than some kind of crazy first-come, first-served style, Ryan Grant was announced to be out for the year on Tuesday, cementing Brandon Jackson as the waiver wire pickup who will win many fantasy leagues for people who drafted like crap.  Also setting off a firestorm of whining from every Grant owner who didn't draft Jackson and then had to watch some dork with a bad team scoop him up in front of them when waiver claims were processed, assuring that said owner will be starting someone like Fred Jackson next week.  To which I say:  You are all nerds.  But seriously, anything that hurts the Packers is a friend of mine, which is why Tony Mandarich is still one of my favorite players.  The Incredible Bulk or Barry Sanders?  Nice decision, Packer-jerks!

3.  Mark Ingram is ready to run over your face.  Last year's Heisman trophy winner, this year's favorite to win the Heisman, and the guaranteed #1 rookie pick in fantasy football next year was cleared to play after missing the first two weeks of the college season after having knee surgery.  I know knee surgery is never something you want, particularly if you're a running back, but he's got an awful nice blend of speed and power, so even if he's 80% he's still going to be better than pretty much everybody, and even at 10% he'd be better than anybody the Gophers have trotted out there since Amir Pinnix left.  I haven't decided if he's the next Curtis Martin or the next Ron Dayne at the NFL level, but luckily, I don't have to decide yet.  Although I can guarantee you if Dawger gets him in our keeper league, he'll turn into the next Dayne.  How's Darren McFadden working out for you, little guy? 

4.  Hard to believe he could be dirty.  I don't believe it either, but it's possible John Calipari and Kentucky cheated in order to get Eric Bledsoe to qualify to attend Kentucky last season.  You might remember it was looking iffy that he would get in, and you might also remember his name surfaced earlier this offseason with an investigation into whether or not he and/or his family received money while he was being recruited.  This time, the issues arise from his high school transcript which not only shows that, after never receiving higher than a C in his high school career, he received an A or a B in seven of his ten classes senior year, but also that he took Algebra 3 before Algebra 2.  And this isn't like taking History of World War II before History of World War I, this would be liking taking a class on spelling before you learned the alphabet.  Hard to believe this of Calipari.  This reminds me of when I saw Star Wars Episode III and, spoiler alert, suddenly Anakin turns to the dark side at the end.  Talk about a shocker!

5.  Speaking of dirty coaches, how about the guy in Orange?  Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, noted tattle tail, is now in trouble for lying to the NCAA about possible violations and obviously, those same violations which include phone calls that shouldn't have been made and recruit visits that may have been violations.  Right now it sounds like the violations wouldn't be too major, the school is sticking behind Pearl, and he hasn't lost any players or recruits.  Which, coincidentally, is how it started for Kelvin Sampson at Indiana when the shit started coming down as well, and we know how that worked out - they still haven't recovered.  So is this the end for Bruce Pearl and Tennessee basketball?  I don't really care, because this kind of stuff doesn't really bother me, but I think Pearl is kind of a huge douche so seeing him crying at his press conference while he apologized was pretty neat.  

6.  In case you hadn't noticed, these guys can't lose.  Again.   The Colorado Rockies, a longshot to make the playoffs not that long ago, have gotten hot in September and suddenly right in the thick of the division race.  Yes, again.  No, this isn't last year.  Or that other year.  This is a new thing.  They have won 11 of 13, including a 10-game win streak, and are just 2.5 back of San Diego (and 2.5 back of the wildcard).  Yes, again.  This year.  I consider the Rockies my NL club, and with the Twins my AL team, I might as well not even watch the first few months each year.  Neither of these teams ever bothers to get going until the last two months anyway.  Besides them just being my favorite NL team I want them to win because Rocktober is just plain fun to say. 

And I also want to mention that Troy Tulowitzki has hit 11 home runs in his last 13 games because jesus.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WAR, what is it good for?

Inspired by this post by the always awesome Joe Posnanski over on his blog (which should be required reading every day), I thought I'd have a little bit of fun with WAR - Wins Above Replacement - a stat that old fogies hate and new stat nerds love.  I sit in the middle somewhere, but am far closer to the nerd side

It's a pretty complicated formula I won't get into here, but it basically puts a number to "how many more games would you win with this guy in your lineup than the dork on the end of the bench or that career minor leaguer in AAA."  Pretty simple in concept, if not execution.  Evan Longoria leads the American League with a 6.7 number, meaning the Rays, currently 86-56, would be approximately 79-63 without him and with someone like Alexi Casilla in there instead, and would be in a dead heat with Chicago and Boston for the Wild Card and no where near the AL East crown.  Sounds about right.

So with that in mind, I took a look at some Twins, past and present, to see if I could uncover anything interesting.  You be the judge.

-  The first thing I notice about the current squad is that Denard Span has a WAR of 0.0.  That means he his the very definition of a replacement level center fielder.  At first it seems hard to believe, but he's a mediocre defensive player, a terrible base-runner, and his biggest strength as a batter - his plate patience and ability to draw a walk - has deserted him the second half of the season as pitchers realize he's not all that dangerous if you give him a strike.  His numbers are down across the board - batting average by 47 points, his OBP by 59, and his slugging by 66 - and his OPS+, a healthy 114 last year which was #2 amongst American League Outfielders, has plummeted to 87, 11th among AL center fielders, trailing the great Mitch Maier.  Jesus, I was so focused on his terrible baserunning I didn't even realize what a god awful all-around year he is having.  Maybe that contract they just signed him too wasn't such a bargain after all.  Also, I'm burning my Span T-shirt tonight.

-  Pitching-wise, Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano are virtually tied at 4.6 and 4.7, which jibes with all the "who is the true ace?"  talk.  HINT:  It's Liriano.  In any case, this makes them the third and fourth most valuable Twins behind Morneau and Mauer at 5.4 and 5.3.  Yes, even though he's been out since July, Justin Morneau is still the most valuable Twin (and yes, WAR takes playing time into account).  Brian Duensing (3.3) and Jim Thome (3.2) round out the top six, followed by Danny Valencia (2.5) and Orlando Hudson (2.4) as the only Twins above 2.  Remember, position matters, which is why Hudson ranks better than Kubel and Delmon despite their better raw numbers.  Valencia is just a stud all the way around.

-  No shocker here, but Michael Cuddyer has to be one of the most disappointing players, ranking at a -0.1.  As an outfielder when he has a good year he's a valuable player (2ish WAR), but as a first baseman where the big hitters play, and when he's having a down year like this year, he's pretty much a liability.  It doesn't help that he's an absolutely terrible fielding first baseman, both in things quantifiable (-18 runs allowed worse this year than average) and not quantifiable (when is the last time he actually scooped a throw in the dirt?  June?)

- The all-time career Twins leader in WAR is Rod Carew, at 62.7, followed by Harmon Killebrew at 61.4.  Obviously Carew jumps ahead since he was a 2b, but that sounds pretty accurate to me.  Excluding guys who were Senators, the rest of the top five is Kirby Puckett, Tony Oliva, and.....Joe Mauer.  No joke, he's already top five in all-time WAR for Twins.  Such is the advantage of having such an outstanding offensive player at position that traditionally doesn't produce great offensive numbers.  The fact that he's a pretty damn good defensive catcher just hammers home how valuable he really is.  I like to rip on him because I hate media adoration no matter where or how it happens, but the guy is seriously amazing, and we're all lucky to watch him play.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go put in a new tampon and watch Vampire Diaries.

-  Shane Mack (career 18.5) was more valuable than Torii Hunter (16.9).  Ok.

-  The best season recent season was The Situation on Jersey Shore Season 1 with a 35.5, the second best mark of all-time, just ahead of Dwight Schrute Season 2 (34.4) but still behind Barney Stinson Season 3 (40.7).

-  The top pitchers in Twins history are Bert Blyleven (45.7), Brad Radke (41.4), Johan Santana (32.1), Camilo Pascual (30.5) and Jim Kaat (26.7).  But that's only if you don't count Walter Johnson on the Senators, who racked up a WAR of 127.7.

-  Speaking of the Big Train, he also has 8 of the top 10 single season by a Twin/Senator pitcher, including the top four and 8 of the top 9.  The only two guys who sneak into top 10 are Bert Blyleven in 1973 and Frank Viola in 1987.  Despite that, Johan does have more top 20s than anybody other than Walter, finishing 11th in 2004, 15th in 2006, and 19th in 2005. 

-  Amongst pitchers with at least 25 starts in a season, the worst WARs belong to Joe Mays in 2005, Jim DeShaies in 1994 and Carlos Silva in 2006.  Sounds about right.  And, funny, those guys were all way worse than Nick Blackburn this year.  I know that seems hard to believe.

-  Hitting wise, best Twins seasons belong to Rod Carew 1977, Chuck Knoblauch 1996, Joe Mauer 2008, Rod Carew 1975, and Joe Mauer 2009.  You know, the Twins really have a nice history of players at non-historically offensive positions having good/great offensive seasons.  Besides those five above, the next five have a shortstop (Zoilo Versalles 1965), a center fielder (Kirby Puckett 1988), and a second baseman (Carew 1976).  So 8 of the top 10 WAR seasons in Twins' history have come from "defensive" positions.  Then in the next 10, you get six more from either C, 2b, or CF.  Looks like the Twins have historically always gotten a large chunk of offense from these types of positions.  Or their traditional power positions suck, outside of Killebrew.  I know my opinion.

-  Kent Hrbek was pretty good though.  He never hit any amazing highs (his best season was 1984, at a WAR of 5.4 which ranks 31st in Twins history), but he also never had a full season (470+ PAs) where his WAR was less than 1.4.  That is the value of getting out early in order to spend your days fishing and drinking beer.

-  Finally, Gary Gaetti posted numbers of 2.7, 2.9, 2.1, 5.3, 2.4, and 4.2 from 1983-1988, an average of 3.0 per year.  Pretty good.  That ranks him as the 18th best 3b since 1980 during that portion of his career (years 3-8), ranked right with Edgar Martinez and Paul Molitor (and Corey Koskie!!).  Then, starting in 1989, he posted 1.1, 1.7, 1.4, -0.8, and -0.3.  Yes, at one point there he was actually worse than a journeyman AAA player.  What possibly could have happened to Gaetti between 1988 and 1989?  Yes, you guessed it.  He became a crazy religious zealot.

So the question is, did Jesus turn Gary Gaetti from the next Paul Molitor to the next Ed Sprague?  Yes, I think he did.  He's a madman who rode Dinosaurs, became an undead zombie, turned some poor broad into a table condiment, and would stone you to death for eating delicious prawns, so yes, I think it's entirely possible he'd be up for ruining a hard-nosed, hard-partying corner infielder's career.  I mean, look at this loon:

G-Man never had a chance.

By the way, if you put "Gary Gaetti Jesus" into google image search, somehow the seventh image that pops up is the picture of Baby BenTM flipping you people off.  I don't know how that shit works, but I love that one.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


That was such a terrible loss (Gophers vs. South Dakota), I don't even know where to begin.  Ok, I do.  Barring a miraculous run, there is no way Tim Brewster should be back for his fifth year.  I know the players on the field are the ones who ultimately decide wins and losses, and Brewster can't be blamed for the amount of open receivers Adam Weber missed or the key drops by receivers, but there is a lot here that falls directly on the coaching staff.  The inability to stop a slant route?  Allowing a Division I-AA QB in his second career start to go 21-30 for 352 yards?  To get sucked in over and over by a simple screen pass?  These things are all preparation related and are the responsibility of the coaches.  And don't even get me started on somehow shifting away from the pound the ball philosophy that won the game vs. Middle Tennessee.  Once again, the Gophers had the size and strength advantage, but instead of exploiting it to their advantage as they did last week, they drifted away from their strength and it cost them.

It would be one thing if it was a fluke, with the Coyotes winning due to a few lucky plays and some breaks going their way, but it wasn't.  It was basically a domination, with USD in control the whole way.  First off, they scored 41 freaking points, and they don't exactly run one of those goofy high-scoring spread offenses.  They gained 444 yards, averaged nearly 12 yards per pass attempt, and converted 50% of their third downs.  Most of all, once they took the lead at 7-3 with 8:09 remaining in the first quarter, they never relinquished the lead.  In the second quarter when the Gophers cut the lead to 14-10 USD responded by going on an 8-play drive ending in a touchdown.  In the third quarter the Gophers cut the lead to 28-24.  The Coyotes immediately went on a 7-play drive, again ending in a TD.  When the Gophers made it 34-30 in the fourth, hey scored on the next drive yet again.  Finally, when the Gophers cut it to 41-38 with three minutes left, South Dakota didn't just sit on the ball, run it up the middle, and try to take the clock down.  They took it right at the Gophers, knowing they couldn't stop them through the air, completed two passes for first downs, and won the game.  They were in control the entire way.

Perhaps the worst thing about this loss and biggest indictment of the Brewster regime is that nobody could possibly be surprised by this loss.  I mean think about it.  Say you didn't watch the game and hadn't heard the result, and then your friend called you up and said the Gophers lost to South Dakota; what would be your reaction?  Mild disbelief?  At worst?  Maybe a sarcastic "shut up" but not with any real conviction behind it?  And how hard would he have to reassure you he was telling the truth?  Repeat himself once?  This isn't surprising at all, it's merely the logic product of four years of moving backwards.  The loss to Florida Atlantic, the loss to NDSU, the near loss to SDSU, the two-safeties collapse against Wisconsin, and 55-0 vs. Iowa were all just preludes to this:  the lowest moment in Gopher football history that I can remember being alive for, something Brewster has been on a beeline for the last couple of years. 

Look, I get it.  You took a chance on an unproven guy who talked a great game and was undeniably enthusiastic about the school and the job.  The problem was he was all talk and no walk, all flash and no substance, all sizzle and no steak.  Mediocre recruiting, poor fundamentals, an inability to put together and/or stick to a gameplan on either side of the ball, and a constantly shifting offensive identity isn't going to get it done at this level, and after four years I think we can safely assume that's still what we're going to get, so it's time to go.

Although it now looks like the absolute upside on wins this season is going to be four, so I don't think Maturi is going to have much of a choice but to can him.  The real question is, do we trust him to hire somebody better?

At least somebody I know enjoyed the game:

Friday, September 10, 2010


When I heard Trevor Hoffman picked up his 600th career save earlier this week, it made me smile because he is my favorite closer of all-time.  The reasons are pretty simple and nerdy.  It's not because of his sick change-up or his decade long dominance, it's because of Tony LaRussa II for the computer.  See, I spent a huge portion of my adolescence drafting teams on various computer games and playing multiple seasons with them with Snacks, Bear, and 2P.  And the year I drafted Hoffman happened to be the same year I found out he used Hells Bells as his entrance music.  I love this, and not because I like AC/DC (although I do), but because I find the way the bells start right as he starts walking in to be pitch perfect to get a crowd all riled up.  Much the way Enter Sandman works for Mariano Rivera, or even how that stupid song from that movie with Marky Mark worked so well for Joe Nathan.  I've just always loved Hoffman for that. 

Anyway, to complete the nerdiness cycle I will admit here that I used to keep a boombox next to the computer, and when I would bring Hoffman into the game (yes, the computer game) I would also throw in m AC/DC CD and fire up Hells Bells.  And that's why Trevor Hoffman is my favorite closer of all-time.

And in that vein, and since I feel like I should post and my posting time has been cut considerably thanks to a new baby who is either up all night or in the hospital, I'm going to just go ahead and make a list of my all-time favorites by position.  Please feel free to rip me and/or post your own.

C-  Mickey Tettleton
1B- Kent Hrbek
2B- Wally Backman
3B-  Evan Longoria
SS-  Cal Ripken
LF-  Rickey Henderson
CF - Tim Raines
RF-  Andy Van Slyke
SP - Mike Mussina & Dwight Gooden
RP - Trevor Hoffman

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gopher Canada Trip Wrap-Up

In lieu of another yawner of a Weekend Review, instead I'm going to take give my thoughts on the Gopher hoops squad after their trip through the dirty white north over the weekend, where they went 3-0 against the likes of the University of British-Columbia (80-62), Trinity Western (80-68), and the University of Victoria (101-67).  There was plenty of other action this weekend, what with college football getting started, but since Gopher basketball is the #1 focus of this blog and the thing I'm most interested in, it's now the thing you are most interested in as well. 

Even with the new baby and all, I was able to catch the second half of the first game, the entire second game, and most of the first half of the third game, so I didn't see everything, but enough to give me an idea of what's up. 

First the overall impressions:

Offense:  Very sloppy in general, and seemed to consist almost entirely of either fast breaks (usually resulting in turnovers) or dumping the ball in to the block - a good idea based on the Gophers huge size advantage over all three Canadian teams.  Running the high/low should be a good strategy this year with the good size the Gophers will have inside, so it was nice to see it get some run, but I would have liked to see a little more motion and/or flex, since whenever the team ran those last year they ended up not getting a good shot far too often.  Some of the same thing happened on this trip, only with Devoe Joseph playing the L-Dub role.  Overall the Gophers scored a lot of points due to their talent, not their offensive schemes.  That worries me.  As do 28, 22, and 17 turnovers in the three games. 

Defense:   Terrible.  Absolutely awful.  They were beaten on drives, weren't getting out to the perimeter to contest shots, gave up open looks due to poor defensive rotation, and gave up way too many offensive rebounds to undersized teams.  They were bailed out often by blocked shots due to their superior athleticism, and the numbers look good (allowed just 27% and 38% shooting the first two games), but that was more a function of poor shooting by the Canadian teams - not good defense.  Both UBC and Trinity missed a ton of open looks, and when Victoria made those open looks in game 3, they jumped out to 24-16 first quarter lead.  Maybe it's a function of so many new players this year, but the defense ranged from below average at best to atrocious at worst.   

Now, player-by-player.  First, the returnees:

Blake Hoffarber:   Blake is Blake, and once again his shot is going to be a big difference in how far the team can go this year.  He's still the smartest player on the team, and probably the best point guard on the team if you don't count athleticism or dribbling, and still a great rebounder for his size and jumpability, but his shot is where he is going to make his contribution.  He went 2-8, 4-8, and 5-10 in the three games, so it looks like his shot is in good shape right now.  I still maintain and will always maintain that Blake can take any shot at any time from any where and I won't complain.  By far the best shooter in Gopher history, and maybe the best in the nation right now (suck it Diebler).  If he doesn't end up winning the college 3-point contest this year (assuming the Gophers aren't in the Final Four) I'll be shocked.  Like, Vinny sleeping with Snooki shocked. 

Colt Iverson:  Still unpolished, and still best described as a banger, I'm not really sure what to make of him.  As we saw last year, he can be surprisingly effective on the low block despite looking like a baby giraffe trying to walk at times, but against an equally strong but more athletic player he's screwed.  Still, there's no doubt he has a place on this team, even if it's just doing the dirty work under the rim, and will surprise once in a while with an offensive outburst.  I won't exactly say I'm a fan, but I'm glad he'll be around.

Devoe Joseph:  Unquestionably the best offensive player on this team, he scored 18, 15, and 19 in the three games, and was able to score from deep, get his own shot and hit from mid-range, or get to the rim to score.  He's still a scorer and not a PG, but looked like he could fill in admirably when needed, as we saw last year.  In Tubby's system he won't be able to flourish the way he would in a more wide open offense, but he should get plenty of opportunities to shine, and should be the #1 option on most possessions.  All Big-Ten potential, if not this year, certainly next.

Al Nolen:   Well it doesn't look like we're going to see him develop a jumper out of nowhere the way Eric Harris did back in the day, since he didn't seem to be looking for the 3-ball at all (I saw him shoot only one, which he made), but he still has great court vision, both on offense and defense, and seemed to have a better idea of what he was going to do with the ball when he drove, since he's still unguardable off the bounce.  I never saw him pick up his dribble in the lane with no idea what to do with it, his signature play the last three years, and each time he got into the lane he either dished it off or was able to put up a nice looking floater.  If he can turn into a legit offensive weapon, and he looked good this weekend, it will go a long way to taking the Gophers from good to very good.

Ralph Sampson:  Missed the second game with a tweaked ankle and was clearly slowed by it in the third, but in the first game you could see how confident he was with the ball.  Part of it I'm sure was the height advantage he had, but he got the ball and went to work each time, showing a nice jumper, a nice jump hook, and a move that looked curiously like the dream shake.  And that 18-footer he kept taking and missing last year?  He nailed it the two times I saw him take it.  Still seemed a bit soft under the boards, but blocked some shots and overall looks like a more confident, more skilled version of himself from last year.  Watch yourselves, Big Ten centers.  

Rodney Williams:  Easily the most disappointing player on the trip for me, I saw no evidence of the kind of improvement I'm looking for from him in year 2.  On offense he spent his time roaming baseline to baseline, looking for an alley-oop or a spot up three, never cutting to the hoop or, when he had the ball, driving into the lane.  On defense he was lazy a lot of time, relying on his athleticism to recover and block shots after getting beat, a strategy that worked on the trip but won't once he gets into conference play.  I'm not giving up on him, far from it, but I didn't see what I wanted to, and that bums me out.  He did end up scoring 12 in the third game, so maybe he ended up showing something, but six of those points came off threes and four came off dunks, so I just don't know.

Now, the new guys:

Maverick Ahanmisi:  I can't exactly put my finger on anything in particular, other than the 15 footer he took from straight away that hit all backboard, but Maverick seems to fulfill our worst fears - I'm not sure he's an actual D-I player.  It's not so much that his turnovers (3, 1, and 4), were out of line with what the rest of the team was doing, but just watching him you get the sense that on a low level high school team where he is the man he knows how to play, but watching him try to fit with the team this weekend was like watching Flounder at the Omegas' party - it's just not going to happen.  Maybe it was just nerves, and maybe it's just because it was early, but like Princess Leia said when in the mouth of the space slug, "I have a bad feeling about this." 

Elliott Eliason:  Unlike Maverick, who is unsafe every time he flies, I like Eliason's vibe.  He's too small (strengthwise) to do much this year, and he's not very athletic, and honestly everything about him tells me his upside is Kyle Sanden and I should hope he even gets there, but there's something I like here.  He's smart, and he does some nice things with the ball, so if he does fill out there could end up being a legit sleeper somewhere here.  Like, maybe a Jon Leuer.  Maybe. 

Austin Hollins:  I'm officially on the Hollins bandwagon.  What I had read on him lead me to believe he was too thin to really be a major contributor, but after watching him play either I can't read or everyone is a liar.  He looks thing but not like, Jermaine Stanford thin, and there's no doubt he can play.  He has a very nice looking jumper, which we knew, but beyond that he wasn't just a jump shooter, he was willing to put the ball on the floor and head to the hoop.  He also was one of the few guys who looked like he cared about playing defense.  Very impressed.  Looking forward to watching him this year.

Trevor Mbakwe:  I love Mbakwe as well.  When I was referring to him as Reign Man II this offseason it was more wishful thinking than anything else, I had no idea if he was athletic or more of a banger.  Turns out my wish comes true, because he's very athletic and very smooth.  He's not Shawn Kemp of course, because nobody is, but he looked very good on the perimeter both defensively and putting the ball on the floor and driving by a bigger, slower defender.  About the only negative I saw was he didn't really look for a jump shot at all, which leads me to believe he doesn't really have one, but his offensive game inside, rebounding, and defense inside and out mean he's got a very good chance to end up as the Gophers' best player this season.  Except of course for Ralph.

Maurice Walker:  Mo is big.  Really big.  Not like, Oliver Miller big, but Draymond Green or Tractor Traylor big.  Not that anything is wrong with that - Traylor was a lotto pick (LOL) and Green is a very good player, but I'm not sure Walker has the athletic ability those guys have/had.  He had very good games, and has great hands with a nice touch around the rim and excellent foot work, but I'm not sure, at least right away, he is going to have the ability to be a big scorer, and may have to rely on o-boards and put backs.  This isn't a knock, and he certainly could and probably will develop a more robust offensive game, but I think his offensive contributions this year will be minimal.  His contributions on the boards and the defensive end, however, could be the difference between one NCAA game and three. 

Overall:   At the risk of stating the painfully obvious, I'm a big believer that the more a team can play together, the better they can be, so this will help during the season for sure.  I also look at the fact that they were pushed against Trinity and Victoria not as a negative against the team, but as a positive way for them to grow (like when the Saved by the Bell gang discovered that roach in the boys bathroom).  There is no doubt there is plenty that needs to be worked on, but they're off to a good start.  Plus, college hoops in September.  Who could complain?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Six Very Important Things this morning 9.02.2010

Can I tell you guys something?  I'm really tired.  See, when you have one kid, a baby, say, you can just sleep whenever that kid is asleep.  Babies need to be fed every 3 hours or so, which means they are up at all times of night, but you can just feed the kid, put it back to sleep, and then sleep yourself if need be.  Easy peasy.  But when you have a 2.5 year old on top of that, even one as awesome as Wonderbaby, that doesn't work because when the baby is alseep during the day, the toddler isn't.  And toddler's need attention.  Lots of it.   And they aren't afraid to demand it.   And you can try to ignore them, but when they realize they aren't getting the attention they want by asking for it they start doing things like writing on the wall in crayon or hitting the baby with a toy hammer until you look at them.  Because much like Paris Hilton a toddler believes that any attention is good attention, even when it's bad attention.  So yeah. 

I'm back at work, so this doesn't affect me as much as Mrs. W since I do most of my dealing with Baby Benny in the evenings or at night, but his curious habit of refusing to go to sleep after I get up to feed him at 5:30am is not exactly helpful to my brain waves.  Although I have ended up watching more Saved by the Bell lately.  That Zack, what a character!

Also let's hope that's the last time I compared Wonderbaby to Paris Hilton.  On to the important stuff, assuming I don't pass out.

1.  The Twins won another squeaker This time it was in the 10th and off the bat of Danny Valencia, in a game that ended up spoiling incredible pitching efforts from both Francisco Liriano and Max Scherzer.  Liriano pitched seven innings of shutout ball only to watch Crain and Guerrier blow his lead, while Scherzer was even more brilliant, throwing nine innings of four-hit ball, allowing just one run while striking out nine.  Not much more to follow up on with this one.  Just an all around amazingly pitched game, where the smallest error was going to make the difference.  The difference last night was that the Tigers' closer of the future is not the reliever of the present, and the Twins' third baseman of the future is suddenly the third baseman of right now.  Danny Valencia has been everything you could have hoped for and more.  Ideally he'll develop more power down the line, but I have no complaints right now.  Except for the fact that the Twins can't seem to pull away from Chicago.

2.  The god damn Indian bullpen is not helping things.  You know what would be super helpful to the Twins winning the division?  If the White Sox would freaking lose, but they can't lose because the Cleveland bullpen is even worse than Chicago's own bullpen (and that's saying a lot).  Carlos Carrasco, in his first start of the year and sixth all-time, put together a very solid outing and left in the 8th with a 4-2 lead.  Then Justin Germano conspires against me, giving up a monstrosity of a 3-run home run to Paul Konerko and the Sox win the stupid game.  This comes after the Cleveland pen gave up a 3-run game winner to Pierzynski the night before, and two nights after they let the Sox score four runs in the 11th inning to lose.  I would have guaranteed you Chicago had the worst bullpen in the division, but looks like it's not even close.  This is like being sure Jaws IV:  The Revenge is the worst movie of all-time, and then seeing Rudy.   

4.   Some people really like Rodney Williams.  According to the article from DraftExpress, Rodney is the #1 NBA prospect in the Big Ten.  Wow.  That is a huge statement, but in a lot of ways it makes sense.  There's is no doubt in my mind that he is the best athlete in the conference, and, as Shawn Respert or Ed O'Bannon will tell you, skill only get you so far.  To succeed in the NBA you need that kind of athleticism (yes, there are plenty of exceptions, but it's a good guideline).   As you'd guess, this lofty ranking of Williams is based on potential, much as expectations of the Gopher faithful are, because aside from the noted athleticism he didn't show all that much last year. 

Now, Tubby's system probably isn't the best for a player like Rodney (can you imagine him in an open offense like Washington or something), but I do believe he will be given every opportunity to improve where he needs to (ball-handling, mid-range game) and at the same time be able to use the skills he already has (jumping, dunking) and could very well end up as an unstoppable force, but I'd say it's up to him.  The potential is there, but will he end up as the next Scottie Pippen?  Scottie Hopson?  Travarus Bennett?  Jermaine Stanford?  Let's hope we at least get the next Vincent Grier, at a minimum, or someone failed.

4.  This leaked all day, but it's now official.  The Big Ten announced the division splits as they'll breakdown when Nebraska joins in 2011:  the Gophers, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan, and Michigan State in one with Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin in the other.  Each school will also have a dedicated rival in the other division they will play each year, with Minnesota matching up against Wisconsin and, of course, Michigan/Ohio State hooking up every year.  It was also announced that the division names would be announced at a later date, and with the way the teams are broken up I don't really see how they could do geographic names, so maybe it will be legends of the Big Ten.  Like the Bo and Woody divisions, or the Foggie and Fleetwood.  Thompson and Darkins?

And although this is mostly about football so that's what's being focused on, but if they keep the division system (no guarantee) there is some interesting things at work here.  In the Gophers' division, they'd be the second or third best program from a historical perspective, and the clear #2 from a "recent history" perspective.  The division would also have the current three worst programs, and two of three perennial doormats (with apologies to Northwestern who admittedly are much better lately).  Basically it stacks up heavily in the Gophers' favor and should make NCAA bids easier to come by in the future if they go with this (and lord knows the Gophers need the help).  Since the division are so skewed when it comes to hoops, with one loaded and one crappy, I doubt they'll adopt the system, but we can always hope.  Hey, a bid is a bid, no matter what kind of breaks the schedule gives you.  And I'm only referring to basketball there, not football, Mr. Music City Bowl.

5.  Hopefully this will surpass the Gopher scandal.  You know how whenever there is ever any kind of academic fraud at an institution of higher learning, whether rumored or proven, the article always has to bring up the Clem Haskins frame job as the "worst ever example of academic fraud"?  Well North Carolina and Butch Davis are doing their best to get the Gophers knocked out of that top spot, with the latest allegations that Davis's nanny or former tutor (depending on the report, and either way it sounds like porn) was writing papers for the football team.  And there's definitely something here, because apparently the entire starting defense was playing with the scout team at practice today, and the Russ Archambeau of this situation, D-lineman Marvin Austin, has been suspended indefinitely along with a couple other starters, and a starting cornerback has been kicked off the team.

I say he's the Russ Archambeau because he's the one who tipped off the NCAA, but unlike Swift Bird, who was just a whiny bitch with a grudge, Austin is just an idiot with a Twitter account who posted pictures of a brand new fancy watch, fancy pants douche sunglasses, and talked about bottle service at clubs.  Not a big deal for a college kid, but for a future NFL player still in college whose other tweets talk about how broke he is, it drew the eye of the NCAA Fascists and has turned into possibly the biggest academic fraud ever.

And thank god.  I'm sick of seeing the Gophers mentioned over and over whenever anything like this happens.  I hope that nanny tutor school girl nurse lifeguard wrote every paper for every sport at UNC for the last five years. 

6.  College Football starts tonight.  You are probably aware, seeing as how your beloved Gophers are traveling to Murfreesboro, TN to take on the hated Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State.  If you recall, your favorite football team was a 4.5 point underdog to this Sun Belt Juggernaut, but then stud QB and sweet name haver Dwight Dasher was ruled ineligible, and now the Gophers are a 2.5 point favorite.  Does this seem fishy to anybody else?  I was lead to believe in the very little reading I did on the game that Dasher was a super stud of Major Harris proportions and the main/only reason MTSU was a dangerous team.  Yet the line only moved to 2.5 in Minnesota's favor, which probably means the game is actually a pick 'em.  Which means the Gophers are dead.  D-E-A-D.  You heard it here first.

If you're looking for a preview of the game, you're in the wrong place, but let me recommend the always outstanding Daily Gopher, who you probably read anyway and who recently absorbed the Gopher Football blog.  There is more info there about the Gophers and MTSU and Gophers vs. MTSU than any sane person could possibly want or need.

More importantly, the Gopher basketball team begins their Canadian trip tonight, and you can watch the game on the web at SportsCanada.tv.  I'm going to try, but no promises.  Stupid wiener kids.

Well that certainly was a lot of words.  Apparently not writing often enough just causes some sort of word backup, so when I do write it all just comes pouring out.  Like that pipe full of crap that Andy Dufresne burst open with that rock.

And yes, I'm serious, Rudy is the worst movie of all-time.  If you disagree, you are a sentimental idiot who probably loved The Notebook as well.