All posts by Michael Rand

Thursday (Cris Carter in other receivers’ business) edition: Wha’ Happened?

carterFormer Vikings WR Cris Carter has never been shy about talking, whether it was on the field or now that he is retired and working in television. It is also a well-known fact that Carter struggled with substance abuse early in his NFL career, a fact that helped lead him to the Vikings, where he not only salvaged his career but became a Hall of Famer.

With that as a backdrop, Carter was asked recently about Cleveland WR Josh Gordon, a talented player who is struggling with similar issues as Carter did early in his career.

Carter encouraged the Browns to cut Gordon; another outspoken former NFL WR who has had substance abuse problems, Michael Irvin, didn’t like that. He talked not only about that on the radio this week, but also dropped a revelation about he and Carter that goes back many years.  From a Palm Beach Post transcription of Dan Le Batard’s ESPN radio program:

Dan, this is a brain disease. Addiction is a brain disease. You know, we act as if someone should…How can you make that decision? You must be stupid. He’s not. That’s why they call substances dope. Because it makes you less intelligent and you make the poor decision. It’s a brain disease. And it affects everybody differently. Dan, I was so hot when I heard it. I was so hot.

Oh, but wait, there’s more:

[Carter] said to my wife — he said to my wife –you know, Michael would never come out of this problem until you leave him. Till you leave him. For years, I’ve held it. I’ve never shared that with anybody. I’ve never in my life shared that with anybody. I was so irked with Cris because he was out of line then. His [redacted] is out of line now.

To recap: Carter thinks the Browns should cut Gordon to help him out. He also apparently told Irvin’s wife to leave Irvin if she wanted to help him out. Get all three guys in a room and we’d have some real interesting conversations.

TFD: Former USMNT star Claudio Reyna and the EPL trophy were in Minnesota

epltrophy reyna - CopyA modest gathering at Nomad World Pub in Minneapolis was getting prepared for Wednesday’s World Cup semifinal between the Netherlands and Argentina.

Soccer fans lazily sipped beers in the afternoon sun, chatting about Tuesday’s 7-1 Germany stunner over Brazil, when a large black SUV pulled up and two icons of the sport emerged to bring them to full attention: former U.S. men’s national team star Claudio Reyna and the English Premier League trophy won this year by his former professional team, Manchester City.

Reyna was in the Twin Cities to promote an Aug. 2 match at TCF Bank Stadium between Manchester City and Olympiakos. You’ll find here a couple photos we took to mark the occasion.

Here’s an e-mail from a happy, bargain-hunting baseball fan

We got an e-mail last night from reader Joe, which isn’t unusual. We get all manners of e-mails, still, even as social media and the comments section of stories often provides more instant feedback.

What was interesting about this e-mail is that Joe really just wanted to tell us about a good, inexpensive time he had at a ballgame in Chicago. Much of what we get is anger — something we wrote, something negative about a local team — and so we wanted to share Joe’s baseball tale (and yes, he couldn’t resist a dig at the Twins at the end, but still). One could argue that the Twins offer giveaways and other such things, but we’re just going to let Joe have the floor.

So here we go with Joe’s e-mail, with some minor spelling/grammar cleanup:

Hi,

I enjoy reading your articles in the StarTrib.  I wanted to tell you about my 1st-time experience at US Cellular Field.  I hope you will write about it.

I went to see my first game at US Cellular Field on July 4th.

 At noon, I went to the Sox ticket office & purchased the least expensive ticket — $7.00.

At the stadium they had special hot dogs — $1.00.

They had a Sox/Miller Light flag game giveaway (flags seem to be very popular in Chicago!). 

After the game, there was a spectacular firework show that lasted about half hour.

 Chris Sale pitched a complete game & won 7-1 over Seattle.

Because there was a Sox HR in the 4th inning (only this inning qualified), fans with a ticket received a free small Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee.

Since the Sox won, all the fans received a free McDonald’s medium fries coupon.

Finally, at the Sox Pro Shop, I purchased two Sox Majestic Dunn jerseys (home & away jerseys) with the Sox logo, letter & number sewn in, on sale (he switched his uniform number to 44 from 32). They were originally $99.99, but I got them for $10.93 each (tax included).

Also, there were some guy name Jesse Crain 2012 All-Star Majestic jerseys for $10.93 (tax included).  I passed on it; not a Crain fan.  I asked about A.J. Pierzynski jerseys; they sold out quickly!  There were many other great deals at the Sox Pro Shop!

I had a blast (no pun intended) at US Cellular Field on July 4th!  What a great place to see a ball game.  After the game, I headed to Chinatown for a delicious, inexpensive dinner!

I hear the Sox have $5.00 tickets on Sundays & family of four for $44.00 (4 tickets, 4 sodas & 4 hot dogs)!   What does a losing team like the Twins do — they have premium prices on the weekend or special days like the 4th of July!

[Note: In fairness, the Twins have promotions such as Our Family Section, U.S. Bank Value Pack and dollar dog night].

Baseball fans should head out to US Cellular Field or Wrigley Field for a great time & an affordable, fun time too!  Lastly, Chicago is a great place to visit, there is a lot fun things to do!!!

Wednesday (How will Brian Dozier fare in the HR Derby) edition: Wha’ Happened?

dozierBrian Dozier is in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby. He’s not a prototypical slugger as a rather svelte middle infielder, but Dozier does have 16 homers this year and 27 in approximately the last calendar year (since last July 6).

It made us curious about a little bit of a deeper look into his home runs — particularly those at Target Field, since that’s his home ballpark and obviously the place the derby will be held. All these numbers are for 2013 and 2014 combined:

*In that span, per Hit Tracker, Dozier has 17 of his 34 home runs at Target Field. All of them have been to left or left-center (in fact, every home run he has hit in the majors has been to the left of straightaway center). Because he is such a dead pull hitter, we imagine he might have some success in the derby.

*All but one of his homers at Target Field has traveled less than 400 feet. The longest was a 412-foot blast on Sept. 23 last season. (Here’s video of it). So he’s not hitting the prodigious homers of his peers. For instance, Jose Bautista has 15 home runs of more than 400 feet this season.

*Some hitters worry about the derby messing with their swing, but perhaps the derby will get Dozier back on track. He’s hitting just .190 with a .238 slugging percentage and one home run in his last 84 at bats.

Nolasco probably headed to disabled list, Twins’ Gardenhire tells MLB Radio

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made an appearance on MLB Network Radio this morning, where he talked for nearly four minutes about Ricky Nolasco’s elbow, which is being examined today in Minnesota.

UPDATE: At 2:30 p.m., the Twins officially put Nolasco on the DL.

We transcribed a couple of the highlights, and you’ll find the audio of the entire segment on Nolasco via this link. (Also, this will make three consecutive posts within three hours on Nolasco. We promise we’re not obsessed. It’s just how things work sometimes).

Gardenhire:

On how long Nolasco has been dealing with an elbow issue: “He said he’s had it since spring training … He said, ‘I don’t want to make excuses for my performance or anything like that, but he said my elbow, I had this in ’07 and I think I can pitch through it. That’s when we said, you know, the best thing for us – we’ve got him signed to a pretty good contract here, and we need him down the road here — so let’s send him back, get this thing checked out.”

On the next steps: “In my opinion, and it’s just my opinion, if a guy is telling me his elbow is bothering him, there’s no way he’s going to make a start on Friday. But I think the big thing here is to find out what’s wrong with his elbow, give him the time he needs, and he’ll probably end up on the DL. That’s the best guess.”

Ricky Don’t Lose that Ulnar: A Twins/Steely Dan tribute

This is weird. Well, a lot of what happens in this space is weird, but hear us out:

This morning, we went for a run. That’s normal. We do that. It was fairly early, around 7:40 a.m., and we were trying to come up with ideas for blog posts for the day. That’s kind of how it works: sometimes we go into a day with one or two ideas. Sometimes we have zero. The one we tend to plan the most is the first one of the day, but we were tapped out when we woke up.

We started fiddling around with clever* ways to incorporate a song into a post about the woeful Twins, much as we did a few months ago with Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair.” We got too fixated on more Pavement songs, and we never made it past a Bert Blyleven joke early on in Shady Lane (they moved the runners over, Blyleven’s Dutch, Dutch, Dutch). We abandoned the cause in favor of a more straight-ahead post on Ricky Nolasco, Joe Mauer and big money players.

*not verified.

Follower Chris tweeted at us around 8:25, right when our run was finishing. We didn’t see it until after the first post, but it reads: “We’re going with ‘Ricky Don’t Lose That Ulnar’ for the blog post right?”

Somewhere in the space-time-Twitter continuum, Chris knew that we were searching for a song even though we hadn’t told anyone. And obviously, that is the absolutely perfect song right now as Nolasco has his elbow examined and Twins fans fret about possible damage to his ulnar collateral ligament and Tommy John surgery (even though nobody is suggesting such a thing yet). So a post late, and $48,999,999 short, here is Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” re-imagined as a song about Nolasco and his aching elbow.

We hear you’re hurting, that’s OK
I thought you were just wild in the strike zone
I guess you scared yourself, you turn and watch balls soar
But if you have a change of heart

Ricky don’t lose that ulnar
You don’t wanna call Dr. James Andrews
Rest and rehab — it could be the way to go
Ricky don’t lose that ulnar
It’s the best one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

I know Gardy’s worried, he’s heard your name
We can work on the fastball, work on command
We could shut it down and not play games, I don’t know
And you could have a change of heart

Ricky don’t lose that ulnar
You don’t wanna call Dr. James Andrews
Rest and rehab — it could be the way to go
Ricky don’t lose that ulnar
It’s the best one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

You tell yourself you’re not OK
But you don’t even know the severity of pain
And you could have a change of heart

Ricky don’t lose that ulnar
You don’t wanna call Dr. James Andrews
Rest and rehab — it could be the way to go
Ricky don’t lose that ulnar
It’s the best one you own
You might use it if you feel better
When you get home

Tuesday (Mauer, Nolasco and the curse of the contract) edition: Wha’ Happened?

mauerlame nolasco2Between them, Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco are making $35 million to play baseball for the Twins this season, eating up roughly 40 percent of the team’s payroll (it was even more before the mid-season acquisition of Kendrys Morales).

Even at slightly more modest salaries, those two would have to rank high among the biggest disappointments on this year’s team. It’s fair to say that if both were performing to at least career expectations — that is to say, at least close to providing the numbers that earned them those hefty salaries — the Twins, given everything else that has happened this year, would be around .500 instead of floundering now at 10 games below that mark. Indeed, even without much contribution from either player the Twins spent most of the first half of the season right around even.

Those contracts made Mauer and Nolasco obscenely wealthy, so do not mistake this as some sort of pity party for them. But we would say that there is a certain on-field burden that comes with a hefty salary, particularly when it comes to this, um, frugal market and fan base.

No longer are you simply underachieving … you’re underachieving and overpaid. No longer does a sentence simply say, “Nolasco needs to pitch better,” but rather: “For $12 million a year, Nolasco needs to pitch better.”

And when you get hurt — Mauer is on the DL, and Nolasco is having his elbow examined — you’re not simply injured. Your toughness gets called into question because of the money you make.

Salary does not guarantee results. Just ask the many other players aside from Mauer among the top-10 in salary this season who are struggling, injured, or both.

Criticism comes with the territory, and pretty much every one of us would accept these “burdens” if it meant making millions to play a game. But there’s no doubt a big contract changes perceptions, particularly when you play in Minnesota.

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.