Wednesday (Paul Molitor and the 10,000 Hour Rule) edition: Wha’ Happened?

molitorIn “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell argues that it takes roughly 10,000 hours for someone to master a particular craft. This is a rough number, of course, and other factors are at play, but he cites a handful of examples that fit into his theory.

Other studies have since attempted to debunk the “10,000 Hour Rule,” precisely because it doesn’t take into account a lot of those other factors like inherent skill, the age of the participant and more.

Whether you believe it or not (we’ve certainly been practicing writing/journalism for more than 10,000 hours now, so … wait, don’t answer that), it’s become a reference point in the way a lot of us look at things — a mainstream idea, if you will.

As such, we thought about it in conjunction with one of the more impressive moments from Paul Molitor’s introductory news conference — perhaps the defining moment that shows just how his mind works.

Molitor said he was sitting around one day casually thinking about a life spent in baseball. He estimated that he had been a part of 4,000 games as a player, coach, etc. He then further extrapolated that to be 12,000 hours directly involved in a baseball game — and he did the math further, realizing that equated to 500 full days (24/7) spent involved with a baseball game.

Does that make Molitor a baseball expert? That’s debatable. (And to be clear, he never once referenced the 10,000 Hour Rule). But it certainly gives us some insight not only into just how much baseball he has absorbed in his lifetime — and it’s clear he isn’t just a casual observer of the game — but also just how his mind works.

For better or worse, we have a hard time picturing Ron Gardenhire thinking about all the time he has spent with baseball, let alone doing the calculations out into hours and days.

Gardy certainly knows a lot about baseball (and qualifies for the 10,000 Hour Rule himself), but we imagine him to be a different baseball man than Molitor. Maybe that’s too much to extrapolate from one moment in an introductory news conference, just as it’s too much to say 10,000 hours at anything makes someone an expert.

Molitor will ultimately succeed or fail primarily based on the talent he is given and the way he is able to manage the personalities and egos of men. But we are also looking forward to seeing how his mind works throughout the course of seasons and individual games.

This Vikings helmet cart car is $4,000, so let’s pool our money

vikingscarSo we came across this Craigslist ad the other day thanks to a tweet from the folks at On the Fly.

Per the ad, you can buy a game-used Vikings “helmet cart car” for $4,000, and now we’re pretty much obsessed. Per the ad:

This is a one of a kind item that was actually used by the Minnesota Vikings on the field during gamedays for promotions and to cart players off the field. This cart was 1/28 made for the NFL (one for each team at that time). This is the ONLY Minnesota Vikings one available and in existence. The Minnesota Vikings used this for many years at Met Stadium and the Metrodome until it became unproductive at the Dome due to it bottoming out and too big for the tight corners.  … The cart unfortunately does not run but would only take a little bit to get it going. It does not run right now as the 16 car batteries have been removed and the small motor was blown that it had in it

Anyone good with cars? Who wants to pool some money? We’re only half-joking.

Paul Molitor: ‘I’m coming here to win’

molitorryanWe just finished up from the news conference introducing Paul Molitor as the 13th manager in Twins franchise history and just the third since 1986. Here are five takeaways from the presser:

1) Molitor has clear expectations that he wants to be competitive immediately. He talked on multiple occasions about teams making quick turnarounds and talked about things on the 2014 Twins — despite their 92 losses, the fourth consecutive season with at least that many — that he liked. The money quote: “I’m coming here to win.” He said that while he’s excited like many fans are about the potential for some of the prospects in the pipeline, he is more concerned with the here and now. Terry Ryan echoed that sentiment. “We’re ready to win here,” the GM said. “We’ve got to get going.” Whether that happens will likely be a function of how much the pitching improves more than the hiring of Molitor, but a new approach can influence change.

2) Ryan was emphatic that he spoke with Joe Maddon and that he even told Molitor about it as the process was unfolding. We’re not entirely sure how serious those talks got, but Ryan said it three times so there you have it.

3) Molitor was asked how much he will incorporate advanced statistics and the kind of modern information that is readily available. He talked favorably of defensive shifts — he was credited last year with moving the Twins in that direction as a coach — and said he will use as much information as he finds useful while also being cautious not to overburden players with too much data.

4) One thing that gets mentioned a lot is that great players have a hard time being successful managers because they haven’t done the little things to be successful. Twins closer Glen Perkins, who was in attendance along with Joe Mauer, had this to say on that front: “I think what made Paul Molitor a Hall of Famer was not just the raw ability. … He did all those little things that added up to a lot more. … He worked at a lot of things. I think those are traits that will make him a good manager, and in this case I don’t think it’s a huge concern.”

5) The biggest intrigue now, of course, is who winds up on Molitor’s staff. Both he and Ryan indicated there have already been discussions and that they will intensify as quickly as this afternoon. So stay tuned on that.

TFD: Best fits for Ervin Santana and Torii Hunter? The Twins

hunterThe Twins have a manager. Now they go get more players. And according to SI.com, two players who would be a good fit for the Twins are Ervin Santana and Torii Hunter. Can’t say we disagree. Here is what the site had to say about Santana (ranked the 13th-best free agent available) and Hunter (27th).

Santana: Santana, like Nelson Cruz, was disappointed by last winter’s market. The former Angel and Royal had to settle for a one-year, $14.1 million deal with Atlanta. The good news is that he pitched well again in ’14 — he posted the second-best strikeout rate of his career — and this time he’s set to find a long-term home. It could be in Minnesota, where the Twins hit on Phil Hughes last year but still need more pitching, and where spacious Target Field could be well suited to Santana’s fly ball tendencies.

Hunter: Hunter has continued to be productive at the plate as he’s aged, but he’s had to give up his Spiderman leotard; the man who won nine straight Gold Gloves while playing centerfield is now a genuine liability defensively. Fangraphs rated him as easily the worst rightfielder in the league in 2014. But his bat still plays, and he’s a beloved teammate. A return to Minnesota — where he played until he was 31, and where he could split time between right and DH — would make for a nice final chapter in his terrific career.

Mid-day talker: The Bridgewater/Patterson connection is broken

Here’s what we know:

Teddy Bridgewater overthrew a wide open Cordarrelle Patterson on what could have ended up being a crucial play on Sunday. Because the Vikings won, it’s now a teachable moment. But any conspiracy theorists saying CP dogged it or lost it in the sun … just stop. It was an overthrow. When a WR is that wide open, a QB needs to underthrow by a couple of yards to be safe. Teddy missed him. It’s on him. Patterson throws up his arms because he’s mad he couldn’t use superhuman speed to catch up to it. End of story.

patt

However: Something is broken between Bridgewater and Patterson. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed, but it’s broken right now. And we’re willing to assume based on comments from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer — who is in the best possible position to judge and assess blame without playing favorites — that much of it has to do with Patterson.

It’s a small sample size, but look at the Vikings WR stats this season and you’ll see Greg Jennings has 35 catches on 58 targets (60 percent), Jarius Wright has 26 catches on 41 targets (63 percent), while primary RBs and TEs are generally 65-70 percent.

Patterson has 26 catches on 56 targets (46 percent) and in Bridgewater’s five starts it’s even worse: just 13 catches in 35 targets (37 percent), including a dismal 1 catch on seven targets against Washington.

Again, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed. Bridgewater has almost certainly played a role with either errant, forced or missed throws in Patterson’s direction. Zimmer’s comments, though, indicate Patterson’s route running is leaving plenty to be desired.

Regardless, the for the sake of the Vikings’ short-term and long-term success, the 2013 first-round pick and 2014 first-round pick need to get on the same page.

Monday (The Ricky Rubio contract) edition: Wha’ Happened?

loverubioRicky Rubio and the Timberwolves agreed to a four-year, $55 million contract extension over the weekend, and as is often the case the immediate discussion from many fans became an attempt to determine whether the contract is fair — or which side got the better deal. The general reaction we saw was that Rubio made out like a bandit.

But as is often the case with contracts, this deal is more nuanced than just the details on an offer sheet. It is a culmination of many factors, some of which favored Rubio and some of which favored the Wolves:

*With the trade of Kevin Love this summer, the Wolves pretty much backed themselves into a corner when it came to attempting to retain Rubio. Letting him reach restricted free agency and even entertaining the notion of not bringing him back would have been another step in the direction of a total rebuild instead of what Flip Saunders and co. hope is a remaking of the roster instead. From that standpoint, Rubio and his reps had leverage.

*Where the Wolves could counter with some leverage is that Rubio, while showing some flashes of potential, hasn’t yet become an elite (or even consistently above-average) point guard. He has his strengths (vision, defensive intuition) and glaring weaknesses (shooting accuracy, on-ball defense against quick opponents). The counter to that is that Rubio only freshly turned 24 years old, even though it feels as though we’ve known about him forever, and that there is still plenty of time for him to improve to be a functional shooter while building on his other skills. Still, the Wolves could say they were going into negotiations on faith and potential, thus taking talk of a five-year max deal well off the table even though they still had it in their pocket after not giving it to Love.

*The impending TV contract that figures to goose the salary cap upward quite a bit, too, worked in the favor of both sides. Rubio could get a massive deal that sets him up for life without the potential for a down year entering free agency that would diminish his value and the Wolves could dish out a contract that might seem big now but could seem tilted in their favor under the new salary structure, particularly if Rubio improves.

In the end, Rubio probably squeezed a little more out of the Wolves than they wanted to pay because of the Love leverage factor. Rubio will make $1 million more per season next year than fellow 2009 draftee Steph Curry, and nobody would say he’s a better player than Curry. That said, market value is set by so many more factors, particularly these days, than simply a player’s accomplishments.

Vikings Postgame Meltdown: Four TDs in last five drives for rejuvenated Bridgewater

fridgewaterThe Vikings’ first five drives Sunday against a very average Washington defense gained a total of 90 yards and resulted in four punts plus a turnover on downs.

That turnover on downs was the last of the sequence, coming with about a minute left in the first half. Teddy Bridgewater looked overmatched (again). The play calling was questionable (again). The defense was the only bright spot (again). Somewhere in there, we (mostly joking) tweeted that maybe it was time to give Christian Ponder yet another chance.

What happened next is as perplexing as it is encouraging for Vikings fans, coaches and players. RGIII gifted the Vikings with another opportunity before halftime by making a horrendous throw that Captain Munnerlyn picked off at midfield. Given another chance, Bridgewater and the Vikings cashed in with a quick TD, and suddenly trailed just 10-7 after playing a mostly ineffective half.

That touchdown started a string of the five final drives (not counting the designed runs near the end with the Vikings trying to run out the clock) that looked nothing like the first five. Indeed, Minnesota scored four TDs on those five drives, with Bridgewater looking sharp, the play-calling suddenly looking lively and the entire offense finding a rhythm.

Bridgewater had completions to eight different receivers (though just one pass was caught by Cordarrelle Patterson). He had a nice rapport with Greg Jennings and his tight ends. And the Vikings stopped taking deep shots — even though they were open early, Bridgewater just isn’t consistent enough with that throw yet — opting instead to smartly work intermediate routes instead that are more in Bridgewater’s comfort zone.

Teddy got the ball out a little faster; the offensive line blocked a little better (Bridgewater was sacked twice on the day, and the times he was hurried seemed to diminish as the game wore on); and most importantly everyone from players to coaches seemed to trust each other to do their jobs well.

It added up to a win that puts Minnesota at 4-5 at the bye. The Vikings will have two weeks to gameplan for a Bears team full of holes. If they can pull of that road win, they have three consecutive home games after that in order to really try to make a move.

A loss today would have ended a lot of that talk. For almost a half, it sure seemed like things were headed that way. Instead, the offense found a competence not seen since the Atlanta win.