All posts by Michael Rand

TFD: Twins at 500 to 1 odds to win World Series, worst of any team

moralesWell, that escalated quickly. About a month ago, the Twins declared “why not us” when talking about making the playoffs after acquiring Kendrys Morales.

Now? They are nine games under .500, and even though nine teams in MLB have worse winning percentages heading into Monday’s games, the oddsmakers are not big believers in the hometown nine. According to an e-mail for SportsBettingDime.com, the Twins are 500 to 1 odds to win this year’s World Series. That’s tied with the Padres and Astros for the longest odds in baseball.

Here’s the full list:

World Series Champion

Oakland Athletics            4/1

Los Angeles Dodgers      4/1

Detroit Tigers                      8/1

San Francisco Giants     8/1

Washington Nationals  10/1

Milwaukee Brewers         12/1

St. Louis Cardinals            12/1

Los Angeles Angels          15/1

Atlanta Braves                   18/1

N.Y. Yankees                       20/1

Toronto Blue Jays           20/1

Baltimore Orioles           30/1

Seattle Mariners            30/1

Boston Red Sox                35/1

Cincinnati Reds              35/1

Pittsburgh Pirates       35/1

Kansas City Royals      40/1

Cleveland Indians      45/1

Miami Marlins             100/1

Texas Rangers              110/1

Tampa Bay Rays         120/1

Colorado Rockies       200/1

Philadelphia Phillies   200/1

Chicago White Sox      200/1

Ariz. Diamondbacks   300/1

N.Y. Mets                        300/1

Chicago Cubs                400/1

San Diego Padres      500/1

Minnesota Twins      500/1

Houston Astros          500/1

The nature of “news” during NBA free agency is frightening

The mad scramble for news, or things that resemble news, or even plausible instincts, is overtaking NBA free agency. This is worse than NFL draft talk. This is worse than MLB trade deadline stuff. This is the complete blurring of lines, without the sexy Robin Thicke beats.

Will Leitch writes about it, and does it well, for Sports on Earth. His conclusion goes like this, but you should read the whole thing:

What is happening with NBA free agency and LeBron is that people are making the same predictions they do at the beginning of the year … but in retrospect, they’re calling it news. If back in September, had I picked the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl, I would be happy I got it right in February. But I wouldn’t be able to claim that I reported the Seahawks won the Super Bowl five months early. I was just guessing.

That’s what’s happening here. We are so desperate for even the slightest sliver of information that the difference between news, rumor and good-old-fashioned-pulled-it-out-of-your-arse-ism has become impossible to detect.

If you don’t believe us or Leitch, check out this frightening screen grab of all the different fake Adrian Wojnarowski’s out there.

Four years later, Cavs finally take down owner’s rant against LeBron

comicsansThe longest-lasting takeaway from LeBron James’ defection from Cleveland four years ago wasn’t the hideous ESPN Special “The Decision” that announced he was heading to the Heat. It wasn’t the run he has had (so far?) in Miami, with four trips to the finals and two NBA titles. It wasn’t anything that happened on the court, as a matter of fact.

No, the biggest thing we still remember about that crazy time is that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wrote the angriest, you-just-broke-up-with-me-in-eighth-grade letter about LeBron and the betrayal. But he didn’t just write it. He released it to the world using the font Comic Sans, adding so much to the impact of it.

Well, times change and people change. The Cavs now want LeBron back, and it appears the feeling could be mutual. And so, with the anniversary of that letter about to hit four years on Tuesday, Cleveland has finally scrubbed the letter from its web site.

Our only question now is what happens if James again spurns the Cavs in favor of another team? Would he be that diabolical? And more importantly, what font would Gilbert use in the angry letter this time around?

Our sincere hope is that it’s Zapf Dingbats. Please let it be that.

Monday (Evaluation of Vikings’ Cassel, other NFL QBs) edition: Wha’ Happened?

bridgewaterAs if you needed any reminder why it was so important for the Vikings to identify, target and acquire another attempt at a QB of the future, recent QB rankings assembled by ESPN.com’s Mike Sando provide an imperfect but telling look around the NFL.

The methodology, per Sando:

I asked 26 league insiders to grade every projected starting quarterback on a 1-5 scale, with “one” reserved for the best and “five” for the worst. Eight general managers, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators, seven coordinators, two head coaches, two position coaches and a top executive participated, attacking the project with gusto almost across the board.

That’s a pretty good sampling, and while the 1-5 scale is far from perfect, with 26 people voting the number probably winds up being pretty close to what it should be.

Five QBs wound up in Tier 1: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck. Three of those five are with the teams that drafted them. Manning played forever for the Colts before a late switch to Denver. Brees is the anomaly, having taken a little while to find his groove before settling in with New Orleans.

All 10 QBs in Tier 2 have played with one team for their entire careers: Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick and Nick Foles.

In Tier 3, it’s a mixed bag of two-team QBs, journeymen and young QBs trying to find their way.

And in Tier 4, we find that same mixed bag, even more so — including the No. 28 QB on the board, the Vikings’ Matt Cassel.

The Vikings tried to draft and develop a QB in 2011 with Christian Ponder. That clearly hasn’t worked out or Cassel wouldn’t be here. And even if Cassel represents an upgrade over Ponder, this is still what was written about him by Sando after the query with those 26 football experts:

Cassel was at his best in New England and Kansas City under Charlie Weis. There’s some thought among evaluators that he has a tendency to hold the ball and stare down his receivers in the absence of proactive coaching. Perhaps Norv Turner can help him out. “Everything has to be right to win games with him,” a GM said.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see if Turner can push Cassel more toward the middle of the pack than the lowest tier. But that’s probably the ceiling, and a good reminder that taking another shot at a franchise QB with Teddy Bridgewater needed to happen.

TFD: Local restaurant to offer Derek Jeter “Lifetime in Hell” as retirement gift

jeterhellskitchenWhat do you get the man who has everything? Well, if the man is retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, one local restaurant thinks that the answer is a Lifetime in Hell.

But they mean it in a good way.

Hell’s Kitchen, a downtown Minneapolis establishment that also provides catering and meals for the Twins and visiting clubhouse at Target Field, will present that very thing to Jeter, according to HK Vice President Pat Forciea.

What does it entail? A “Lifetime in Hell” card granting a free meal at the restaurant for Jeter whenever he is in town. We’re not sure how often he will be here after this year, but you never know.

Forciea said Hell’s Kitchen intends to present the offer, as well as a full gift pack, to the Yankees clubhouse attendant on Friday before the second game of a four-game series between the Twins and Yankees.

There’s a great joke about Jeter and gift baskets waiting to be made, but we’ll leave that to you clever folks in the comments.

For now: Clever idea, Hell’s Kitchen. If your aim was publicity, you earned it.

Maybe Kevin Love is skipping the celebrity softball game for yoga?

Kevin Love dropped out of the celebrity softball game during the All-Star festivities at Target Field because of a “conflict.” That rather broad term leaves plenty to the imagination, but perhaps Love has to attend to matters involving the ancient Hindu discipline of yoga?

A photo of Love doing yoga is the lead on a big SI.com piece about more athletes, specifically NBA players, believing in the craft.

Most notable among NBA yogis is LeBron James, who recently credited an early-morning class for his ability to beat cramps in Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Spurs. The league’s all-time minutes leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is also outspoken about his zeal for yoga, saying it was a big reason he was able to play as long and successfully as he did. In addition, Kevin Love, Dwayne Wade (sic), Kevin Durant, and Kevin Garnett are all open about their yoga practice and have frequently spoken about its benefits for basketball.

There you have it: at least the possibility that yoga, and nothing more sinister such as a desire to be traded and/or a fear of being booed lustily, is the reason for Love’s cancellation.

Thursday (Kevin Correia has been as advertised) edition: Wha’ Happened?

kcIt was fashionable before the 2013 season to rip the Twins for signing starting pitcher Kevin Correia. He wasn’t quite a journeyman, having pitched for three teams since making his debut in 2003, but he was a classic low-upside, pitch-to-contact guy. There was nothing special about any of his previous seasons. For two years and a relatively modest $10 million total, the Twins were banking on getting a rotation filler: a guy who would take the ball every fifth day and grind his way through six innings.

How you view that kind of pitcher likely shaped how you felt about the signing. A rotation with five Kevin Correias is not going to be very good. A rotation where Kevin Correia is arguably your best starter — as was the case in 2013 — is almost certainly not going to be very good.

But we’ve seen Correia make 48 starts now for the Twins spanning one-and-a-half seasons. We would describe him as this: credible, and as-advertised. Wednesday was the perfect example of what he brings to the table: Correia teetered on the brink of a huge inning in the second but managed to give up just two runs to the Royals in the frame. Those turned out to be the only two runs allowed in a solid six innings, and the fact that he lost his 10th game of the year was through very little fault of his own.

His ERA for the season is below 5 now, and it’s more like 3.50 over his last nine starts after a rough opening stretch. He hasn’t been the Twins’ best starter this season; Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson have been much better, while the Twins should hold out hope that Ricky Nolasco’s end-of-year numbers are better than Correia’s numbers.

In a perfect rotation, there is no Correia. But as imperfect as the Twins pitching has been in recent years, they could have done a lot worse than signing a guy who has been very much as-advertised.

TFD: NHL player reportedly arrested for repeatedly grabbing a police officer’s butt

We could work in this industry for the rest of our lifetime and we might never have the chance to write a lead to a story as wonderful as this. Per the Ottawa Sun:

Philadelphia Flyers star Claude Giroux has been released from jail after being arrested for allegedly grabbing the buttocks of a police officer.

You have our attention. Please tell us more!

A witness and sources say the incident occurred at The Great Canadian Cabin in the Byward Market club district. They say officers on routine patrols were inside the bar when one officer had his butt grabbed by a patron. The officer told the patron not to behave like that, but was grabbed again.

“We are aware of reports surrounding Claude Giroux.” Flyers GM Ron Hextall said in a statement to Philadelphia media. “Until we have more information, we will withhold making any further comment.”​

What if Twitter existed: The 1991 World Series

randmid_1403705018_maddogA week ago, we had this idea: create a series of posts based on events in the past and imagine how they might have “blown up Twitter,” as the kids like to say, if Twitter had been around then.

You gave us several very good suggestions for ground to cover. The next step was coming up with a format, and we decided on this: creating a cast of fictional mostly Minnesota-based Twitter characters, with fake tweets, to cover the five biggest moments of each event we pick. With that in mind, our first topic is the 1991 World Series:

HRBEK PULLS GANT OFF THE BAG

Average Minnesota guy: THAT’S WHY WE LOVE U HRBIE!!!!

Minnesota guy who makes obvious jokes: Is this wrestling or is this baseball? Who cares, I love it!

Minnesota fan who never sees it the other way: Gant’s momentum obviously carried him off the bag. Good call. #noharmnofoul

BRAVES WIN GAME 4 ON JERRY WILLARD SAC FLY

Average Minnesota guy: JERRY WHO? #ComeOn

Minnesota guy who takes things too seriously: Jack Buck? More like Joke Buck. Pretty close play at the plate to say it’s “gonna be a winner.”

Sports business guy: Jerry Willard wasn’t even on the Braves’ opening day roster and is making the MLB minimum. #value

PUCKETT’S HOME RUN WINS GAME 6

Minnesota fan who thinks mashing on the keyboard is a funny way to show excitement: aklsdjfkl;jasdfkl;jsdfnsdaklf;sdnfkl;aklsdjfdsaas

99 percent of Minnesotans on Twitter: I can’t take another night of this.

LONNIE SMITH/CHUCK KNOBLAUCH PLAY

Legitimately clever Minnesotan: They call Lonnie Smith “skates,” and that was an awkward power stop.  #hotsportstakes #hotsportsskates

Minnesotan who had no idea of the future: I will 4ever love Chuck Knoblauch after that play. #rookieoftheyear

GENE LARKIN WINS IT IN THE 10TH INNING OF GAME 7

RandBallsStu: I need a drink and a cigarette.

Carefully composed tweet guy: The first six heart attacks were totally worth the seventh one. WORLD CHAMPS

Going to be sad in the future guy: Winning is fun! Let’s do this all the time!

Wednesday (Mauer to the DL solves uncomfortable All-Star question) edition: Wha’ Happened?

mauerlameIt’s official: Joe Mauer is on the disabled list after straining a right oblique muscle in Tuesday’s blowout victory over the Royals.

This is obviously a shame for the Twins and Mauer. He has shown real life in two different spurts this season, hitting .394 with a homer and six RBI over a nine game stretch in late April/early May and again over the past 12 games, when he’s hit .362 with 12 RBI. Both of those stretches were immediately followed by time missed with an injury — a handful of games in May with a back strain, and now the oblique injury.

There will be no shortage of #hottakes about his fragility, though it is certainly notable that even after a position switch, Mauer has twice now managed to pull up lame and we’re not even to the All-Star break.

Speaking of the All-Star break: The only positive we can see in this injury, and it’s a warped and twisted silver lining, is that this will end all debate over whether he will be added to the All-Star roster.

Mauer did not deserve a spot this year. Even with his recent surge, he’s batting .271 with a .695 OPS. But the game is at Target Field, of course, and there was certainly a chance that he would have received a sentimental nod. This would have created one of the more awkward situations we can imagine: a good chunk of Twins fans reacting with outrage because the homegrown star of the hometown team made the All-Star team in his hometown game.

Instead, this should end all speculation. Mauer is on the 15-day DL. The All-Star Game is 13 days from now. Mauer presumably can still handle his All-Star Game ambassador duties. But we can now shift our attention to more deserving Twins (Glen Perkins, Phil Hughes, Kurt Suzuki, possibly Brian Dozier) instead of wondering how things will play out with Mauer.