TFD: Eddie Guardado spending Thanksgiving with Torii Hunter, trying to recruit him to the Twins

guardadoWe had a good chat with former Twins pitcher and new bullpen coach Eddie Guardado today on a number of subjects for a future Page 2 story, but one nugget stood out as relevant for both amusement and news:

Guardado is spending Thanksgiving in Texas with old teammates LaTroy Hawkins and Torii Hunter. Guardado and Hawkins have remained close for years, and both are clearly still pals with Hunter. The interesting thing, of course, is that the Twins are said to be in pursuit of Hunter in free agency. So we naturally had to ask Guardado if he would be doing any recruiting while he was hanging out with his old teammate, and he didn’t shy away from the notion.

Said Guardado: “I’m trying. I’m trying. All we can do is try, right?”

Hunter’s defense has slipped in recent years, leading to questions about how much bringing him in would help (or hurt even more) a team that struggled mightily with outfield defense a year ago. It would clearly be a move based on offensive production and that intangible of clubhouse leadership.

“We have to start with the foundation,” Guardado said of the Twins, after talking about how much it hurt him to watch the team lose 90-plus games each of the past four years. “We have to get some leadership in that clubhouse — maybe a little bit more vocal. I’m not saying go in there and be a correctional officer, but what I’m saying is we need a couple of vocal guys. … That’s how you get better. It starts in the clubhouse. With a young team, it starts on the inside and works its way out. That’s how we did it.”

That sounds a lot like Hunter, we mentioned to Guardado.

“Oh, he’s definitely all about that. We’re trying to get him over here to be vocal, too. … Absolutely. That’s what we need.”

Wednesday (Revisiting Vikings, 2012 draft with RGIII benched) edition: Wha’ Happened?

griffinRobert Griffin III is healthy enough to play on Sunday, but instead Colt McCoy will play for Washington against the Colts.

Let that sink in for a moment … and then think back to the end of the 2011 season and the 2012 draft for some revisionist history involving three teams.

*As you’ll recall, the Vikings defeated Washington late in the season that year thanks to Joe Webb’s heroics. Had they lost the game, the Vikings would have had the No. 2 pick in the draft and would have had a very interesting decision to make: trade the pick for a haul (which St. Louis eventually did, to Washington) or draft Robert Griffin III even though they had already taken Christian Ponder a year earlier in the first round. As it turned out, the Vikings wound up with the No. 3 pick … which they swapped with Cleveland for the No. 4 pick … with which they took Matt Kalil. Griffin and Kalil were outstanding as rookies in 2012, but things have been a steady downhill progression since then.

*Imagine if Washington hadn’t made the trade with the Rams, for which they gave up the No. 6 pick in 2012, two more first round picks and a second round pick. There’s no way they have the success they did in 2012, when Griffin led them to the playoffs, but there’s also no way they don’t have a deeper team right now.

*The Colts, of course, came out of this the best. They had the No. 1 overall pick, they stayed the course and took Andrew Luck. He looks like he’ll be a great starter for the next dozen years, giving Indianapolis a legacy of consistently great quarterbacking only rivaled in this era by the Packers going from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers.

TFD: Rodgers says he wasn’t trolling Vikings fans with Grape Crush, calls people ‘idiots’

rodgersgrapeSome Vikings fans thought Aaron Rodgers was trolling them by drinking Grape Crush after Green Bay’s 24-21 victory. Indeed, it would have had the potential for a double-troll: grape because of the stupid grape salad controversy and crush because, well, the Packers won.

Alas, the commercial actor and occasional QB said on his weekly radio program Tuesday that there was no trolling. None at all. It was just his preferred choice in post-game beverage. Per the report from his co-host on the program, Jason Wilde (screen grab from Packers.com):

Seven years. To all the idiot trolls out there, seven years,” Rodgers said of post-game snacking tradition. “PBJ and Grape or Orange Crush. It’s been grape for the last five, the first couple years it was orange or grape. Seven years.”

Although Rodgers was smiling and chuckling throughout the conversation, he was clearly annoyed that some people thought he was taking a shot at the Vikings.

“Anybody who knows, any of the local media or anybody who’s seen me after a game, I’m always carrying that around with me. That’s probably the only soda that I ever drink – right after the game, when you’ve got to get those nutrients back with you,” he said with a laugh. “So that’s my post-game (snack) – PBJ and the Grape Crush. I do like it, contrary to anybody who thinks I was trolling anything. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s comical.”

Vikings to show renderings of new stadium outfitted for soccer next week

The race for a Major League Soccer franchise is quite possibly nearing the finish line, and ahead of that one of the Minneapolis groups vying for a franchise is making one more push for visibility.

Two different Minnesota groups — the Vikings’ group led by the Wilf family and the Minnesota United group led by Bill McGuire — joined groups from Sacramento and Las Vegas last week in New York to make pitches to bring an expansion MLS franchise to Minnesota.

The United group would build a new soccer-specific stadium; the Vikings’ group would have a team play in its new under-construction stadium, and next Tuesday the Vikings are having an event at which they plan to unveil renderings for how pro soccer would look in a reduced-capacity version of that stadium.

The event — which is not open to the public — is at their stadium preview center, which is across the street from the new stadium site.

Also making an appearance at the event is ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman, who will “discuss the 2014 MLS season, preview the Dec. 7 MLS Cup and share why Minnesota should be excited about a potential MLS franchise,” per information from a media invite about the event.

The MLS Board of Governors will discuss expansion on Dec. 6, the day before the MLS Cup, and a decision to award an expansion franchise could come from those meetings.

Tuesday (Bridgewater “a good backup quarterback”) edition: Wha’ Happened?

teddyListen to sports talk radio for long enough — or really, usually, just for a segment — and you will hear what has derisively become known as a “hot take.”

On ESPN Radio recently, former NFL QB Tim Hasselbeck had the hottest of hot takes about Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater.

I don’t believe he’s a starter in the NFL,” Hasselbeck said. “I believe that Teddy Bridgewater — and this isn’t meant to be a shot on him, I was a backup quarterback — I think he’s a good backup quarterback. I think he’d have a nice long career as a backup.”

Hasselbeck noted Bridgewater’s struggle with longer throws downfield against Green Bay — indeed, a concern.

For the season, and therefore his career, Bridgewater has played in eight games. He’s completing 60.3 percent of his passes, with six TDs, 7 INTs and a 75.7 passer rating.

Hasselbeck may very well be correct about Bridgewater. But we would also say these two things: 1) It’s too soon to tell with Bridgewater. Even if there are some troubling signs emerging, there are also some positive ones (such as his ability to run an efficient offense at the ends of halves and games). 2) Those types of hot takes are the epicenter of talk radio programming (and yes, to a certain extent, sports blogs). It’s a controversial statement that cannot be proven one way or the other — the perfect talker.

Indeed, the local ESPN affiliate, 1500, picked up on it for both its web site (linked above) and now for the counter-argument: talking to former Vikings QB Sage Rosenfels, who disagrees with Hasselbeck. That’s no knock on them. That’s the nature of the business.

All of it will be forgotten in a day, then revived in two months, then forgotten in a day, and so forth.

TFD: Johnny Manziel eats dinner a lot later than you do

Per ESPN.com:

The Cleveland Police Department’s report stated that Johnny Manziel was approached by a fan named Chris Gonos who says he was assaulted by the rookie quarterback and  “his entourage.” The incident was reported at 2:36 a.m. from the Metropolitan at The 9 hotel in Cleveland. The report does not indicate that police made any arrests.

A Manziel associate, listed as Dana Kirk, told police “the victim attempted to assault his client and he defended him,” according to the police report. Gonos, the alleged victim, told police he was “assaulted by Johnny Football and his entourage” after he tried to approach Manziel as a fan by saying, “I’m the biggest Browns fan ever, I love you, I want to give you a hug,” according to the report.

A statement made by Manziel’s agent paints a slightly different picture of the incident.

“Johnny and his roommate had been out to dinner earlier in the evening with Johnny’s mother, who is staying with him this week,” Erik Burkhardt said in a statement. “There was no entourage. Johnny and his roommate were trying to get on the apartment elevator at his home when they were accosted by a very aggressive man and his associates. It was an unfortunate situation and he immediately let [Browns general manager] Ray Farmer and the team know what happened.”

There is either a gap in the evening between dinner with mom and 2:36 a.m., or Manziel’s mom doesn’t mind eating late. Either way, we imagine Teddy Bridgewater had been asleep for several hours at 2:36 a.m. Saturday, cuddling up to his playbook.

Wisconsin coach says Axe won’t be on sideline this Saturday for Gophers/Badgers game

There as a little skirmish after the Badgers defeated the Gophers 20-7 at TCF Bank Stadium last season, took Paul Bunyan’s Axe and tried to “chop down” the goalposts.

With so much on the line this Saturday for the rematch in Madison, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said the Axe will not be kept on the sideline.

Per Bucky’s 5th Quarter, Andersen discussed Monday the new policy of keeping the Axe out of sight, out of mind during the game — though he said he hasn’t talked about the plan yet with Gophers coach Jerry Kill.

Last year was unfortunate,” Andersen said. “I don’t think [Minnesota head coach Jerry] Kill and myself liked the way it went down and it ended a year ago. I don’t think it is good for college football and I don’t think it is good for our kids. Our kids handled it far from perfect. There’s traditions, there’s things that are important and then there’s things that are over the top.

Instead, the Axe will be brought to the winning team’s locker room after the game. This will probably mean cooler heads prevail … even though it’s more fun occasionally when they don’t.

H/T to @scoopwalsh for the story.

Monday (When the Vikings and Giants had to play in Detroit) edition: Wha’ Happened?

domelessNot that you would have forgotten this, but in case you did: Tonight’s game between the Bills and Jets in Detroit should be quite familiar for Vikings fans.

It was less than four years ago — Dec. 13, 2010 — when the Vikings and Giants had to do the same thing because of the Metrodome roof collapse. (An aside: In our mind, we’ve somehow merged that game and the one later in the year when the Vikings played the Eagles on a Tuesday. But Pro Football Reference assures us those were two different games).

Some things we had forgotten:

*Because of an injury to his throwing shoulder, Brett Favre’s streak of 297 consecutive starts came to an end in that game against the Giants in Detroit. Instead, Tarvaris Jackson got the nod, going 15 of 30 for 118 yards and an INT (that’s not good).

*The Vikings actually got on the board first with a field goal, but the Giants scored the next 21 points in a 21-3 win. The Vikings had just 164 yards of offense (which is also not good).

*Tickets for that game, much like the Buffalo/Jets game, were given away for free.

*Lorenzo Booker returned kickoffs for the Vikings, while Greg Camarillo returned punts.

*It was Leslie Frazier’s first loss as Vikings coach. He took over a 3-7 team after Brad Childress was fired, then won his first two games against Washington and Buffalo before the Giants loss. The Vikings win on that Tuesday in Philadelphia was credited with helping Frazier get the head coach job permanently.

In any event try not to have horrible flashbacks tonight.

Vikings Postgame Meltdown: Choose your own misadventure in all seven losses

Each of the Vikings’ seven losses this season has followed a fairly familiar script. Though the final scores and margins have varied, there have been several consistencies throughout.

Minnesota has scored 21 points or fewer in all seven, and allowed 24 points or fewer in five of the seven games. Here, then, is a choose-your-own-misadventure style recap of those seven games, including Sunday’s by-the-book 24-21 loss to the Packers:

It was a game in which the Vikings (had their chances to gain momentum early/had a chance to win at the end), but Minnesota ultimately came up short.

On offense, there were plenty of culprits. Quarterback (Matt Cassel/Christian Ponder/Teddy Bridgewater) had a hard time establishing consistency in the passing game, and the Vikings were held shy of 200 yards net yards passing for the game.

(Cassel/Ponder/Bridgewater) had some success on intermediate routes, but they were undone by (a lack of opportunities to make plays down the field/inaccuracy on deeper passes). After the game, though, coaches said the team was making progress at the quarterback position and that it would be a process.

The Vikings offensive line also struggled to adequately protect (Cassel/Ponder/Bridgewater). Left tackle Matt Kalil (committed costly drive-stalling penalties/had a handful of plays that led directly to quarterback pressures or sacks), leading to more vocal criticism that the 2012 No. 4 overall pick continues to regress.

Wide receivers, too, had a (hard time getting open/hard time holding onto the ball), compounding the offense’s problems. Cordarrelle Patterson had fewer than 60 yards from scrimmage and (didn’t seem to be a major part of the offensive game plan/didn’t seem to be fully engaged with the offense/struggled with nagging injuries).

The play-calling of offensive coordinator Norv Turner was questioned, too, at times. Fans on social media reacted with displeasure when the Vikings (ran a draw play on third and long/completed a five-yard pass on third and long/couldn’t seem to move the ball at all against a defense that had been struggling).

It added up to a frustrating day on offense, and it put increasing pressure on the defense – which generally played well except for (a slow start/a few big plays/a rough fourth quarter).

The defense was constantly working against short fields because of (turnovers/the offense’s inability to move the ball) and eventually the cracks in that unit showed up. An inability to stop the run – the Vikings allowed more than 100 yards on the ground – was compounded by (costly penalties/a poor job getting off the field on third down).

Afterward, head coach Mike Zimmer expressed frustration that his team (couldn’t get a key stop when it needed to/couldn’t put more points on the board) and said the game highlighted just how far the team has to go to be a consistent winner.

Nuclear Wessel: The return of the English Premier League

nuclearDana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show with Rider, Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am.

Welcome, Nuclear Warheads! We’re back!

Those annoying, meaningless international breaks that buzzkill (especially if you’re a US fan) our weekends are done for the foreseeable future. I can’t stand breaks during the Premier League season. I legitimately pout. You know that feeling where you have a cool dream and then wake up and realize it wasn’t real? That’s me on Fridays of international breaks. Weekend is here! Yes! Oh. No Premier League. I guess I have to talk myself into being interested in the Gophers. Sweet. That’s me. Sad, I know. I also get emotionally invested in Jeopardy tournaments. Anybody wanna be friends?!

Lets take a quick glance at the table before we get to a spicy little slate of round 12 matches.

Chelsea remain unbeaten (with a pair of draws at each Manchester stadium) and on top of the table. None of the traditional powers even seem to be able to give them a run at this point. Manchester City sit in third (21 points), Arsenal in sixth (17 points), Manchester United in 8th (16 points) and Liverpool in 11th (14 points *fart noise).

The closest challenge to Chelsea are Southampton. They sit just four points off the pace (and have only given up 5 goals! Seriously.) but if you think they’ll be around in May I’ll mow your lawn with a pair of scissors.

Some say that the title race is over and all that is left is the scraps for the 5 or 6 teams that can make a legit case for the other three Champions League spots. I wouldn’t go quite that far. It’s November.

Also, before we get to the slate. Don’t forget about the MLS Conference Championships this Sunday.

  • New York vs New England at 12:30 on NBC Sports Network

  • Seattle vs Los Angeles at 4:00 on ESPN

No. 1: Chelsea vs West Brom at Stamford Bridge

When: Saturday at 9:00am on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Chelsea got bailed out late, late, late, late with an Eden Hazard penalty (90+6) in this one a year ago to salvage a 2-2 tie and preserve Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten streak at Stamford Bridge for at least a few more months.

Chelsea return from the break riding high after their 2-1 comeback win at Anfield two weeks ago. It was nice to see the goal-line technology used correctly to get the right call. Chelsea fans just wish they had that in Champions League in 2005. Crazy to think about how history would be different if it had been Chelsea in Istanbul and not Liverpool. Regardless if they won or not, soccer history would be completely changed. Funny sport sometimes.

They face a janky West Brom team that has won just two of their last six – and those two came against Burnley and Leicester City. They shouldn’t pose much of a threat to a Chelsea team that came back from international duty unscathed.

A Chelsea win (or tie) will continue to push the ‘can they go undefeated?!?’ as the hottest hot-take storyline of the season. I get why it is being tossed around. This season has been low on drama and high on mediocrity. We need some fuel to keep the HotTake Machine burning.

But the undefeated talk is all nonsense. Chelsea have mowed through the competition thus far, minus a pair of late equalizers in Manchester, but they’ve looked anything but invincible at times. Every win since October 4th has been by just a goal. Also, with the busy holiday stretch coming up, they are destined to dump one at some point. And this is coming from the guy who has predicted Chelsea will win Champions League every year for the past decade. Obviously hope it doesn’t happen. Just being realistic.

As far as Saturday goes, both Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas didn’t play for Spain last week because of minor injuries but both are fine to play against Albion.

It won’t be a walk for Chelsea. Despite not winning at Stamford Bridge in their last eight, West Brom know they can get a result there. Still, you have to like Chelsea’s chances.

No. 2: Arsenal vs Manchester United at Emirates Stadium

When: Saturday at 11:30am on Big Boy NBC

Last year: A snoozer of a scoreless draw at the Emirates last February between these two. This match took place a week after Arsenal fell out of first place for the first time since September and was the start of their inevitable journey back down to fourth.

Man, remember when this used to be a massive, title-deciding match? Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

This is kinda like when you drive by Mystic Lake and see a former big-time band up on the marquee playing a Wednesday night gig. Just kinda sad.

Your eyes still pop when you see this kind of fixture show up but it doesn’t have nearly the same luster. Can you remember the last time a match between these two in November had zero implications on the top of the table?

But despite the historic ineptitude (for their standards) of these two big clubs, it is still an intriguing match for one and all for two reasons.

  1. If you love either club, this is a huge match as far as finishing in the top four.

  2. If you don’t love either of these clubs, it is hilarious to watch them crumble

Also, you just know there will be drama. Former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck was sold to Arsenal in August after manager Louis van Gaal said he wasn’t up to the standard they set at Old Trafford. Harsh. Welbeck is fit after an injury scare while with England last week.

You know he will be out for blood. This just seems like one of those tailor made storylines for the Premier League. I just hope when Welbeck scores he moons van Gaal.

This one is on at the same time as the Gopher/Nebraska game. Perfect thing to flip to during timeouts/when the Gophers employees are housing Dilly Bars at halftime.

No. 3: Crystal Palace vs Liverpool at Selhurst Park

When: Sunday at 7:30 on…CNBC? Uh, OK. CNBC. Sweet. Your guess is as good as mine what channel that is. I’ll be ‘that guy’ on Twitter frantically asking what channel it is at like 7:28 on Sunday morning. I’ll retweet my answer.

Last year: Ah, yes. Liverpool remember this one well. Coming off that 2-0 slip-up to Chelsea at Anfield, Liverpool were still top of the table and needed all 3 points. They were up 3-rip and loving life. Then Palace scored 3 goals in nine minutes and ended Liverpool’s dream season. As far as stomach punches go, this one is right up there.

If last season was the season where everything went right (save for Rounds 36 and 37), this is the season where everything goes wrong.

It came out this week that Daniel Sturridge is going to be out for another 6 weeks, meaning his return won’t come until after the calendar flips. That’s a real can of creamed corn to the crotch for what little top four hopes they may still have.

Liverpool have only managed 14 goals in 12 games and Liverpool sit in 11th place in the table. They were relying on Sturridge to come back this week or next to try to jumpstart the frozen-over car battery that has been their attack lately. But now that won’t happen and it doesn’t even look like they’ll have him over the messy holiday fixture schedule.

Liverpool are in a bad spot right now. It looked like Liverpool’s return to the top four last year would be the start of a sustained return to glory but it now looks like it was just a one-off and they’ll continue to mire in the mediocrity that has defined them the last few years.

But the good news for Liverpool is they get a Palace team that barely has their head above the drop zone. Liverpool have two wins in five matches away from Anfield this season. Any more dropped points is going to put them further behind the top-four pace.

Their best-bet now is to get Sturridge back on the field as quickly as possible and open up the purse strings in January to buy some defenders. There backline is sloppier than a drunken political debate at the Thanksgiving table. You just have to wonder if they will be so far out of it come January that it won’t even matter.

Alright, that’ll do it for this week. Enjoy the matches and stay outta trouble out there.

Until next time, keep your studs down and your sheets clean.