Tagged: Wolves

Keep Frankie in the Rotation (For Now)

Thumbnail image for p1franciscolirianosi.jpgFirst off, I have a new blog.  Well, it’s basically the same as this one, just on a different site.  I’m not sure yet if I’m going to permanently move or not, so I guess this is just sort of a trial run. I’ll probably simply paste the same entry over here for the most part, just to make my life a little easier.  Except the other site will provide an uncensored version of whatever I post over here, so that might be interesting.  Plus the other site will be strictly devoted to baseball, so if you don’t wish to read about hockey or basketball or whatever other crap I sometimes post here, please feel free to visit my other site instead.  And, in light of recent events, there will be some basketball crap at the end of this post.

I did a recap of Wednesday’s loss to Pittsburgh here, but I want to discuss Francisco Liriano and whether he should be moved to the bullpen in greater detail.  Frankie did surrender a pair of two-run homers, but for the most part he pitched a pretty good game against the Pirates.  He struck out six and, most importantly, only walked one through seven innings.  It’s just that he got burned badly by the few mistakes he made and didn’t get any run support. Twins fans have been understandably frustrated with Frankie’s struggles this season, and some have been calling for him to be bumped from the rotation in favor of Anthony Swarzak.  The organization itself has been patient and maintained their faith in him as a starter, with good reason I might add.  Liriano has actually been showing steady improvement over his last four starts, though he doesn’t have much to show for it in terms of his 2-8 record.  His K/BB ratio has improved from an awful 1.76 in May to 2.57 through his past three starts.  His walk rate has decreased from a season-high 5.04 BB/9 in May to 3.32 in June, and he’s holding opponents to a .229/.308/.414 line.  Subsequently, his ERA has dropped from 7.12 through the end of May, to a season-low 3.79 and his WHIP has improved from 1.85 to 1.21.  Obviously, this is an extremely small sample size and he’ll need to prove himself against tougher lineups than Seattle and Oakland, but as long as his K/BB ratio continues to improve, there’s reason to be optimistic about Frankie as a starter.

Oh, and Nick Blackburn pitched a complete game against the Pirates this afternoon, so Bert Blyleven can shut up about that now.

  • Wolves finally get around to doing what should have been done 10 years ago

McHale.jpgNew president of basketball operations David Kahn has officially fired Kevin McHale.  That’s right, the worst GM in the history of Minnesota sports won’t be back with the team in any capacity next season.  Not in the front office, not as a coach, not even as a janitor.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, McHale did some good things for the Timberwolves as GM.  He drafted Kevin Garnett.  And when he traded him to Boston, he did get Al Jefferson in return (plus eight benchwarmers, but that’s beside the point).  The Wolves did make eight straight playoff appearances under McHale, but only got past the first round once: when they lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in the ’03-’04 season.  They haven’t made the playoffs since, and haven’t even posted a winning record in four seasons.  Worse yet, attendance has been flagging, and season ticket holders would probably have started rioting if McHale were kept on.  So Kahn was left with little choice but to fire McHale, even though he was actually a pretty decent coach.  I have no idea who the next coach of the Timberwolves will be, but the list of potential candidates looks pretty good.  I’m not sure it matters much who they get, since the roster is so bereft of talent (besides Big Al, of course) that it will be years before the Wolves are serious contenders in the Western Conference.  Still, as much as the move was justified (and long overdue), I do find it really sad that Kevin McHale will probably be more widely remembered as a failed GM than as the basketball legend he truly was.

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Why am I a Twins fan?

p1.kirby.puckett.3.si.jpgScott over at I’m Not a Headline Guy wrote a lovely entry explaining his devotion to the New York Yankees.  And it got me to thinking about my beloved Twinkies, and, well, why they’re my beloved Twinkies.  Of course, a lot of it has to do with the 1987 World Series, which I am just barely old enough to remember.  Nobody expected the ’87 Twins to win it all, and with good reason I might add.  They finished with a mediocre 85-77 record, which was good enough to win the weak AL West division, but was the worst winning percentage of any playoff-bound team in history (a record that would stand until the 83-78 Cardinals won it all in 2006).  The 98-64 Detroit Tigers were heavily favored to win the AL pennant, with most analysts predicting a sweep of the supposedly hapless Twins.  Instead it was the Twins who nearly pulled off a sweep of their own, beating the Tigers four games to one to clinch the ALCS and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1965.  Once again, the Twinkies were up against a heavily-favored opponent in the St. Louis Cardinals, who were about to make their third World Series appearance in six years.  And once again the Twins would pull off a stunning upset, beating the Cards in seven games and clinching their first World Series title since moving to Minnesota in 1961 (and second in team history).  Frank Viola, Kirby Puckett, Dan Gladden, Gary Gaetti, all those guys on that team would become great heroes in Minnesota sports history.

And then there was the ’91 World Series, the greatest World Series of all-time.  This Series had everything:  dramatic walk-off home runs, fantastic pitching performances from youngsters Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and veteran Jack Morris, wrestling (Braves fans still haven’t quite gotten over that one), a new MLB record for extra-innings WS games, and two teams that had finished in last place in their respective divisions the previous season.  This time around the Twins weren’t exactly considered underdogs, having finished the regular season with a 95-67 record.  They steamrolled over the Blue Jays in the ALCS, winning four games to one on the way to their second World Series title in four years. 

The Braves would prove to be a much more challenging opponent, however, and the Twins would have to grind out five one-run games and three extra-innings games before clinching the title.  The most dramatic game of the series, however, had to be game six.  The Twins were facing elimination, having dropped three straight games to Atlanta, including a 14-5 blowout in game five.  The Twins took a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning, when Atlanta 2B Mark Lemke scored on a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded to tie the game.  The score remained even until the bottom of the eleventh, when Kirby Puckett untied the game with a solo shot off of Charlie Leibrandt to left-center field.  That shot, and Jack Buck’s now-famous call, has to be the single greatest moment of my entire childhood.  The Twins would go on to win game seven in ten innings, with a walk-off bloop single by Gene Larkin.  Jack Morris pitched a ten-inning masterpiece (yes, you read that right, ten innings) in that game, which to this day is one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen.  Good times.

There’s been a lot of other good stuff since then, too.  The 2002 team was amazingly talented, and looked like they were going to bring us another championship.  Alas, it was not to be.  The Angels made sure of that.  The 2006 team made an incredible late-season run to win the division. Unfortunately that was as far as the Twinkies would go, as they would then get swept by Oakland in the ALDS.  They really got under Ozzie Guillen’s skin that year, too.  That’s always fun.

And of course, there’s this guy:

Thumbnail image for mauer.jpgCome on, admit it.  You know you love him.  Even if you aren’t a Twins fan.

  •  I love the Wild, too, even though I complain about them a lot

Hockey in Minnesota is like hockey in Canada.  Or football in Texas.  It’s just what you do.  It’s what we’re good at.  If your hockey team has any Americans on it, chances are pretty good that they’re from Minnesota.  Or that they once played for the Golden Gophers.  I started off as a North Stars fan when I was a little kid.  They weren’t very good for the most part, though they did make a run for the Cup in 1991.  But then a very bad man decided to move the team to Dallas after the 1992 season.  I was heartbroken.  I cried like a little girl (of course, I was a little girl, but that’s beside the point).  And I was also torn.  I wanted to cheer for my Stars, even though they weren’t really my Stars anymore, because they took Mike Modano with them.  And I loved him.  But, like any other bitter divorce, the animosity I felt for my ex-team was too great and I just couldn’t get over it.  I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for any other NHL team either.  It just didn’t seem right.  I was a die-hard hockey fan without a team.

So I decided to fill the hockey void in my life with my hometown Gophers.  I mean, they’ve done some good things:

It just wasn’t the same as having a professional hockey team, though.  So when the NHL granted Minnesota an expansion franchise to open for the 2000-2001 season, I was absolutely thrilled.  Though I wasn’t crazy about the team name (what the heck’s a wild?), or the logo (or the home unis, blech), I was excited to have an NHL franchise back in Minnesota.  And though the team itself hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations, it’s been better than most of the old North Stars teams.  And we have new heroes now:

  • I root for the Vikings, and to a lesser extent, the Wolves, too

Tarvaris-Jackson-001.jpgWhy? Because somebody has to, that’s why.  Oh there was a time when the Vikings were good.  The Vikings of the late ’60s and early ’70s were some of the best football teams to never win a championship, but that was before my time.  I remember the 1998 Vikes, though I’ve spent the past ten years trying to forget the NFC Championship game.  And the current team is actually pretty good, it’s just missing a few key pieces.  Like a starting QB.  And special teams that can, um, not give up so many touchdowns (I mean really, when your punter is trying to make a tackle you know you’re in trouble).  And some decent play-calling (which, by the way, helps out the starting QB a lot).

I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I do have a soft spot for the Timberwolves.  I kind of feel sorry for them because they suck so bad.  It’s not their fault, they’ve been mismanaged for years.  And before Al Jefferson went down they had a pretty good shot at being a mediocre team this year.  At least they aren’t the worst team in the league, so there’s that.

Scott Baker is a good pitcher, but…

  • Pirates victimize the projected Opening Day starter

PH2007083102132.jpgThe Pirates hit three home runs off of Baker yesterday, two of which came from former Twin Craig Monroe.  The Twins traded for Monroe prior to the 2008 season, and he was a bust.  He batted .212/.274/.405 before being released just after the All-Star break.  This is one of those deals that didn’t make a whole lot of sense when Smith pulled the trigger, as it appeared that Monroe was pretty much washed up at the time.  The reasoning behind the deal was pretty sound:  the Twins needed a right-handed power bat and the Cubs weren’t asking much in return.  However, Monroe clearly was not the bat they were looking for.  Other than his monster season in 2006, he had never hit more than 25 home runs in a year, and the most he had ever hit was 22.  But I digress, this post is supposed to be about Scott Baker!

This game highlighted one of the 27 year old righty’s major weaknesses:  the tendency to give up the gopher ball.  Baker gave up 20 home runs in his 28 starts last season, and is projected to give up anywhere from 19-22 again this year.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that his fastball isn’t very fast, usually topping out at around 91 mph.  It (and all of his other pitches for that matter), is very effective if he can locate it, which is something he obviously struggled with yesterday.   Still, Baker has a solid K/BB ratio of 3.36 and doesn’t put a lot of runners on base, so the damage is usually limited to solo homers (as all of the Pirates’ homers were yesterday).

  • Joe Mauer may or may not be ready for Opening Day

joe_mauer.jpgAccording to the Star Tribune, Mauer is currently in Baltimore getting a second opinion on his back problem.  This was apparently a mutual decision between the player and the organization, who are taking no chances with their All-Star catcher.  We should know more about the injury and if Mauer will be ready for Opening Day once the results of the exam come back.  However, even if Mauer isn’t ready at the start of the season, the Twins aren’t completely sunk.  They do have some other good options behind the plate:

  1. Mike Redmond:  Red Dog has always been a solid backup catcher, and could probably handle all of the catching duties himself if he were asked.  But he’s 37 years old, and though he would probably post better numbers than he did last year with more playing time, it’s unlikely his body could withstand the grind of catching six nights a week.
  2. Jose Morales:  Having Morales and Redmond share the catching duties is probably the best option.  Morales showed a lot of promise when he was first called up in 2007, but suffered torn ligaments in his ankle when he was rounding the bases in his first major league game.  This injury ended up sidelining him for most of the season last year, but he had more surgery and is now apparently pain free.
  3. Drew Butera:  The son of former major-league catcher Sal Butera, the 24-year old prospect has been having a pretty good spring, though he’s only started five games so far.  He isn’t one of the top-ranked prospects in the organization, though, and has yet to advance past AA ball.  He would probably only get called up if Mauer is out and the Twins needed a third catcher.     
  4. Wilson Ramos:  Ramos is the catcher-of-the-future should the Twins decide they cannot afford to keep Joe Mauer.  I’ve written about Ramos before, and he’s been pretty impressive during camp.  Not only has he been hitting very well, he has also demonstrated an ability to handle the big-league pitching staff.  Naturally this has led some people to speculate that Ramos might get the call if Mauer will indeed miss some of the season. However, Ramos is only 21 years old has yet to advance higher than Advanced A ball, so he’s probably not quite ready to make his big-league debut just yet.  Very few prospects can make the jump from the low minors to the major leagues successfully, and even fewer can do so while playing the most difficult position on the field.  It would be best to allow Ramos to develop further, and to let Morales or Butera split time with Redmond at backtstop.
  5. Pudge Rodriguez:  Do. Not. Want.  Yes, Pudge has been tearing the cover off the ball in the WBC, but he’s been declining both offensively and defensively over the past few years (of course, his decline might have something to do with his alleged use of PEDs).  He’s a year older than Redmond, and clearly his best days are behind him.  Pudge batted .276/.319/.374 with 7 home runs and an OPS+ of  87 between Detroit and the Yankees last year.  While adjusting to a new team after being traded might have affected his numbers some (he was clearly better in Detroit than New York), the effects were likely minimal because he wasn’t much better the year before that.  In comparison, Redmond hit .287/.321/.333 with an OPS+ of 80 in the 38 starts he made behind the plate last season.  The Twins would be better off saving their money and letting Redmond and one of their prospects handle the catching duties.

  

  • Wild fall to Avalanche 2-1

Ugh, just when I thought they couldn’t possibly play any worse, the Wild go and lay an egg against Colorado at Pepsi Center.  The Wild were pretty bad against the Sharks on Tuesday, but at least they showed some life in the third period.  They would score three goals in that period and tie the game, only to fall in OT when San Jose D Christian Erhoff picked off an errant pass by Antti Miettinen and scored the winning goal.

The Mild (yes, that’s what I’m calling them from now on) never showed up against the Avs last night, and this was a game they absolutely had to win.  The Avs are the worst team in the Western Conference, and it appears that Minnesota took their opponent lightly.  They got off to a quick 1-0 lead, but never mounted much of a threat since then.  Poor Niklas Backstrom was under siege all night long, but he managed to turn aside 40 shots, while his counterpart Peter Budaj faced a mere 16 shots on goal the entire game.

How bad was the Wild’s offense last night?  About as bad as poor Patrik Stefan:

I never thought I’d say this (Okay, I’ve been saying this for awhile, but humor me), but it looks like our guys are just playing out the season now.  This team can’t even win two games in a row (though they obviously have no problem putting together a losing streak), how in the world are they going to make a successful run for a playoff spot?

  • Speaking of playing out the season…

The Wolves dominated the Grizzlies 104-79 at Target Center on Wednesday night, snapping an eight-game losing streak.  I was starting to get kind of excited about the season and hoped our guys could finish at .500 for a change.  Then I looked at the standings and realized the Wolfies haven’t even won 20 games this year.  Oh well, at least we have that high draft pick to look forward to.  And the Wolves aren’t even the worst team in the league, so there’s that.  And Al Jefferson’s rehab is apparently going really well so far, so he should be back next season.  Maybe then they won’t post a losing record for once!

Oh yeah, and Glen Taylor has no intention of letting Kevin McHale come anywhere near the front office again, so I guess there’s some hope for our Wolfies.

Meet Joe Crede

  • The newest Twin was introduced early Sunday morning

joe_crede.jpgJoe Crede was introduced to Twins fans at a press conference yesterday.  You can see video of it and his first workout with the team here. I think Crede will fit in nicely here in Minny, and even his old boss Ozzie Guillen agrees with me on that.  He seems to like it here so far, although he’s still getting used to the idea of playing for the enemy.  Let’s hope his back stays healthy, then maybe he’ll help win us one of these:

alcs_trophy.jpgOr even better yet, one of these:

world series trophy.png
I know, I know, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I just can’t help it.  The thought of having an everyday third baseman of Crede’s caliber is making me delirious with joy.  Even if it is only for one season.
 
There’s no denying that Crede is a significant upgrade over the Twins’ current options at third.  He’s a career .257/.306/.447 hitter who averages around 20 homers a season, which is a marked improvement over the 32 homers that 11 different players have combined to produce at the position since 2004.  More importantly, Crede is no slouch on defense either.  Although he did commit 20 errors in 97 games with the Sox last season, this is most likely because if his ailing back.  When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best defensive third basemen in the league, with a lifetime ultimate zone rating of 48.5.  And even though last season was one of the worst of his career, Crede still had a healthy 6.4 rating.  The Twins had some of the worst infield defense in the league last year (just ask poor Nick Blackburn, who was charged with a league-worst 15 unearned runs) and even a less-than-100%-healthy Crede would likely provide better defense than Brendan Harris or Brian Buscher.

Even better, he’s not going to have to carry the offense all by himself.  After all, that’s what Justin Morneau gets paid to do.  Crede’s bat mostly provides insurance in case Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young fail to produce this season.  I have to admit, though, it makes me giddy to think what the Twins’ offense will do if everybody starts hitting like they’re supposed to. They might even crack the 200-homer mark for once!     
 
If nothing else, the Twins have probably done themselves a favor simply by keeping Crede off the market.  He has teed off on Twins’ pitching during his time with the Sox, posting a career .330/.365/.656 and 7 home runs against the Twinkies.  The worst of course, was that ugly series at the Cell in June last year, when it seemed like everything he hit was a three-run homer.  Needless to say, I’m really glad he’s on our side for now.

  • My hockey team is trying to give me a heart attack

Apparently the Wild have begun to realize that they have to win games if they want to make the playoffs.  After laying the beat down on the Red Wings 5-2 on Saturday, they squeaked out a win against Chicago at United Center last night.  It’s not as though they were particularly sharp, either.  It’s more that Josh Harding was absolutely on fire, recording an incredible 44 saves. Some of which were the most amazing I’ve ever seen, including this beauty against Troy Brouwer:

Peter Olvecky had his first career goal, and it ended up being the game-winner, too:

This game was an absolute nail-biter.  The Wild tried really hard to screw it up, but Josh Harding just kept bailing them out.  I lost count of all the times they turned the puck over in the high slot, or even worse, right in front of the crease. If Harding hadn’t been at the top of his game they would have lost 7-2 and fallen completely out of the playoff picture.  As of last night, they’ve moved into the eighth seed (there are six teams within a point of each other so standings are subject to change on a moment’s notice).

Now I suppose they’ll go on and lose 5-1 to the Kings at the X.

  • The Wolves almost beat the Lakers, too

The Wolves were really feisty last night, and even had the lead for a little while.  Ryan Gomes and Sebastian Telfair were solid, putting up 20 points each.  Still, it wasn’t enough as they lost 111-108, but it’s good to see them play well against elite teams for a change.  At least it gives me hope that our Wolfies might be a good basketball team again someday.

Sometimes it’s really hard to be a Minnesota sports fan

Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away

I love every single one of our sports franchises.  And I like to think that they love me, too.  After all, they are always telling me how much they appreciate my devotion (not to mention spending money).  But sometimes they have a really funny way of showing it.  Between all of the losing seasons, bad trades, shattered playoff dreams, and threats to leave me for someone else I sometimes wonder if they really do love me after all.  I mean, how much heartbreak is one fan supposed to take? 

I’ve asked myself, how much do you commit yourself?
 

They’re always breaking up with me, too.  Not just players, the franchises themselves sometimes decide they want to start seeing other people.  The Lakers (probably the best franchise Minnesota ever had), North Stars, and now (probably) even the Vikings have all moved on to bigger and better things.  The Twins claim to be in it for the long haul, but they’ve threatened to leave so many times I’m not sure if I can trust them anymore.  

Do I love you, do I hate you, do I got a dyslexic heart?

Minnesota-Vikings-Logo.pngThe Vikings are the NFL version of the Cubs: there’s always a lot of preseason hype that this is going to be the year.  The year our long championship drought comes to an end.  And then they usually find themselves out of contention by week 5.  Even if the Vikings do somehow manage to sneak into the playoffs, they always get sent packing in the first round.

I love the Vikings, and I want to believe in them.  Owner Zygi Wilf certainly isn’t afraid to make bold, expensive mistakes moves to improve the team.  He wants to win, and I admire that.  But every year there’s something, some gaping hole the front office failed to address while overspending on something else.  Last season, the Vikings spent a lot of money upgrading their receiving corps, and made a huge trade for Jared Allen to shore up their swiss-cheese like defense.  But then they forgot to get a decent quarterback, and the Eagles made them pay dearly for it in the playoffs.  This season they’ll probably put all of their efforts into finding a quarterback, but neglect other needs such as oh, I don’t know, special teams or something.

Our memories, they can be inviting.  But some are altogether mighty frightening

wolf-logo.gifI’m not going to lie, we’ve had some good times.  There was the 2004 Western Conference finals, for example.  Even though they lost to the infernal Lakers (curse you, Kobe Bryant!), the very idea that the Wolves could win a championship title was exciting.  And with all of the talent on that team we thought they’d be right back in it again the next year.  Ha!

And who could forget this magical shot by former All-Star Isaiah Rider, the high point of an otherwise forgettable season:

But the good times never last.  Just when things have started looking up for our Wolfies, we get the
worst news ever.  That’s right, Big Al, the Wolves’ All-Star leading scorer and overall best player,
is going to miss the entire season with a torn ACL.  Oh, he’ll probably be fine and he should be back next season, but I wonder if this team is even going to win another game without him.  Probably not.  Looks like we have yet another high draft pick to look forward to.  Yay.

I am trying to break your heart. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easy

Minnesota_Wild_logo.gifUgh, last night’s game was one of the worst I’ve ever seen.  It didn’t start out that way, though.  The Wild looked really good in the first period after they took a 3-0 lead over Ottawa at the X.  But then they got lazy and allowed the Senators to score 5 unanswered goals, two of which were shorthanded!  I’m not trying to take anything away from Ottawa, they do have a lot of young talent and are a very hot team right now.  But the Wild really gave the game away and it was just brutal to watch.

I’m not the only one who’s upset, either.  I have never seen Jacques Lemaire so angry before:

http://wild.nhl.tv/team/embed.jsp?catid=844&id=33719
Let’s face it:  the Wild aren’t going to make the playoffs this year.  And we will look back on this game as the one that killed their chances.  Yes, they dug themselves a massive hole in December, when they went 3-9-1 and were dead last in the Northwest Division.  But they were starting to really come together and play well as a team; they were starting to show some fight and it made us all hope that they could make it after all.  And that’s really the most frustrating thing about this team: they can play like an elite hockey team if they choose to do so, but more often than not they just don’t.

Besides, a last-place finish probably would have been good for them.  At least this way they could’ve gotten a higher draft pick.  For a team that doesn’t have a lot of assets, and is set to lose at least one, if not two of its biggest stars via free agency, having an off year wouldn’t have been such a bad thing at all.

Sweet dream baby. How long must I dream?

 
twins-logo.gifI was nine years old the last time the Twins won the World Series.  Kirby Puckett’s game winning bomb off of Charlie Leibrandt in the bottom of the eleventh inning in game six was the second-greatest moment of my childhood.  The greatest moment, of course, was Gene Larkin’s bloop hit (What else? That’s how the Twinkies do it) to left center that scored the winning run in game seven that clinched the Twins’ second World Series title in four years. 

I love the Twins, I really do.  And nobody wants to see them win another championship more than I do.  But nobody is more realistic about their chances this season than I am, either.  They have a lot of young talent, but this team as it is constructed right now just isn’t going to get the job done.  Other than Justin Morneau, there isn’t another hitter in the lineup that makes opposing pitchers nervous.  And other than Francisco Liriano, none of the pitching staff strikes fear in the hearts of opposing hitters.   The bullpen should be better this year, but even that’s a big question mark.  The division will probably be up for grabs again this season, and I’m sure the Twins will probably win it.  But I’m afraid that’s all they’re going to win.

Thanks to Kathy over at redbirdchatter for inspiring me to express my feelings towards my beloved sports franchises through song.

(Not so) Awful Announcing

Jay Busbee recentky posted an article on Yahoo! Sports about the worst announcers in sports right now.  I pretty much agree with the list, although I probably would’ve put John Madden much higher than number 19. He makes me feel educated and informed.  According to Busbee, awful announcers are the ones who tend to forget that the game is more important than themselves.  These are the people who use ballgames as a soapbox to lecture us about how “the game has changed”  and things were so much better “back when I played”.  Or they use the games as a dumping ground for their cliched or idiotic slogans.  In other words, these are the people whose massive egos overshadow the actual games themselves.

Using this criteria, let’s see how our own broadcast teams measure up (I am just analyzing the television teams.  With one notable exception, I don’t usually listen to the radio broadcasts):

  • Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer, Minnesota Twins:

Bert_&_Dick.jpgDick Bremer isn’t bad (aside from his mancrush on Nick Punto) but Bert Blyleven can be insufferable.  Uses games as his own personal soapbox?  Check.  Blyleven constantly complains that pitchers are babied these days and that arbitrary
pitch counts don’t do anything to preserve young arms (I agree, but I
don’t want to hear about it every… single… game).  Between the constant reminders of his birthday (whether it’s coming up or not) and whining about how he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Bert sometimes forgets that there’s actually a ballgame in progress. 

To be fair, Bert is the color analyst so it’s not really his job to provide objective analysis to the games.  And he certainly does bring color commentary to the broadcasts. You just never know what he’s going to say.  Whether he’s inadvertently dropping f-bombs on live television (I wish the video still existed, but it’s been taken down by FSN due to “copyright issues”. Spoilsports) or asking Ace Young if he ever got lucky with Paula Abdul, Bert is always getting himself into trouble.  This kind of makes up for his general crankiness.    

Actually, I usually turn off the sound on the television broadcasts and listen to the radio instead. John Gordon and Dan Gladden aren’t quite as obnoxious, and pretty much stick to covering the action on the field.  Sometimes.  You know, a lot of times I like to listen to the opposing teams’ feed. 

  • Minnesota Timberwolves:

Most NBA announcers are simply awful.  They’re little more than obnoxious fans who have somehow been given a microphone. The Wolves broadcast team is different, though.  Tom Hanneman and Jim Peterson are actually very knowledgeable and pretty much stay away from all of the obnoxious broadcasting cliches.  However, they both have the most boring voices in the history of broadcasting.  They can lull you to sleep if you’re not careful:

 

Geez guys, show a little enthusiasm there.  It’s not like you’re calling a golf game or something.

  • Mike Greenlay and Dan Terhaar, Minnesota Wild:

terhaar_HS.jpgMost
hockey analysts, even if they are otherwise very knowledgeable, are
shameless homers.  Hockey is the type of sport that inspires deep fanaticism
in its followers, so it’s very difficult for broadcasters to remain
neutral.  Greener and Terhaar are certainly no exception, but they’re
not bad as far as these guys go.  They only kind of make me want to shove Q-Tips in my ears, and they do give opposing Greenlay_Mike.jpg
teams a fair shake (they will actually praise opposing players when they do something well.  Not all broadcasters will do this). For the most part, they stick to covering
the action on the ice and don’t go off on tangents about how the game has changed for the worse in the past decade.  They do go a little overboard with the man-love for their
favorite players, though.  Everything Mikko Koivu does is absolutely
the most brilliant thing Terhaar has ever seen (Nobody clears the puck
out of the neutral zone like Mikko Koivu!! THAT IS THE FACE OF
TENACTIY!!!)

  • Speaking of hockey…

Happy Birthday to me! The Wild blanked the Ducks tonight, 3-0.  I was at the game, too, since I got tickets for my birthday.  Niklas Backstrom was his usuall stellar self, and he got a lot of help from the defense for a change.  Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard all scored (Koivu’s goal was a beauty, too, on a no-look backhand pass from Antti Miettinen).  Cal Clutterbuck had nine hits (but no fights), the best one was when he nearly dumped Ryan Getzlaf (I think it was Getzlaf, I’m not sure)(it was actually Travis Moen.  I couldn’t really see who it was from where I was sitting, and I was probably just hoping it was Getzlaf) into the Ducks’ bench.  The Wild have finally started playing like a team fighting for a playoff spot, and that was a good thing to see.

By the way, the Wild are now 10-1 in games I’ve attended at the X.  If I weren’t broke, I would make an effort to get down there more often!

Things that make me happy

I realize I’ve spent a lot of time whining in my last couple of posts, so here are some things that actually make me feel good:

al-jefferson.jpgHe probably would be one already if he played for anyone else but the Timberwolves.  Jefferson has been a scoring machine, he’s already racked up 1,077 points in 47 games this season, averaging 22.9 PPG.  He put up 34 points last Friday against the Lakers, and another 34 against the Celtics on Sunday.  And even though the Pacers effectively shut him down in last night’s game, his presence on the court forced them to double-team him and allowed teammates Randy Foye and even Brian Cardinal to come up big.

Fans had high expectations for Jefferson ever since he came over from Boston in the Kevin Garnett trade.  He was replacing the most beloved player in Wolves history, a superstar who used to carry the team to respectability all by himself.  Big Al has been winning us over since he arrived as he, like Garnett, is the type of player who just makes everyone around him better.  And although he was robbed of an appearance at the All-Star game this season, he’s already making himself much more difficult to ignore.

  • I like Cal Clutterbuck a lot, too

The rookie right wing has been a hitting machine, leading the league with 180 hits as of today.  I don’t recall another Wild player who finished his checks so often or so enthusiastically as this kid. Even our beloved goon, Derek Boogaard, only has 43 hits so far this season.  At 5’10” and 210 lbs. Clutterbuck isn’t really a big guy, but he’s absolutely fearless when it comes to both hitting and fighting  (despite what Don Cherry would have you believe).  Here is some of his best work:

He doesn’t score a lot, but he always crashes the net and makes the most out of every scoring chance he gets:


 

Plus his name is just really fun to say.

  • Okay, I’ll even say something nice about Bill Smith

Smith has been smart enough to realize that he should give contract extensions to the corejoe-nathan.jpg talent of the team.  Last year, he locked up Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Nathan into multi-year deals.  This season he locked up Jason Kubel on the cheap (I don’t care what Dave Cameron says, this is a very good move for the Twins.  I respect Cameron and ordinarily I would agree with him, but the Twins have struggled to find a good DH since releasing David Ortiz.  Now that they have one, it makes a lot of sense to keep him). Smith took a lot of criticism at the time for the Nathan deal (since the team was not expected to contend) but now looks like a genius for signing one of the best closers in baseball for a relative bargain. Actually, the most questionable deals he made were to Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto, but even those aren’t really terrible.  Cuddy was signed for 3-years and $24 million, while Punto got 2-years and $8 million, so neither deal will break the bank if either one ends up being a bust.

I know that Smith didn’t draft or acquire any of these guys, that was his predecessor Terry Ryan, but at least he was wise enough to realize that he should try to keep them around through their best years.  That he managed to do so and still come in under budget means he’s not the worst GM in baseball (despite what I might have said in my previous post. 
I admit that t may have overreacted just a little).