Friday

4-17-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it. We've come to the end of another work week and once again it's time to take 48 hours to rest and rejuvenate.

Except I don't think I'll be resting so much this weekend. Don't fret though, it's for very good reasons.

First off, I'm going to take the plunge into the world of HD television. Thanks to my grandmother (may she rest in peace) and my folks, I've come into a little bit of cash which I've promised to do something "fun" with, i.e. a HDTV. So tomorrow during the day, I'm going TV shopping and stopping by a cable payment center to pick up an upgraded cable box.

Then tomorrow night, I'm attending my first ever live boxing event. They're calling it "Unfinished Business" and at the top of the card is St. Paul's own Matt "The Predator" Vanda. This man has more tattoos head to to then any of the natives in "Pirates of the Caribbean 2". I don't know if that makes him any better of a fighter, but it's got to make him pretty tough, no?

That brings us to Sunday, where I'm hoping to get to my first Twins game of the year. Twins v. Angels, Glen Perkins v. Jared Weaver. I'm still only 60% as to whether I'm actually going to get there or not. But if I manage it, there's a 90% possibility of a Running Game Commentary headed your way next week! We shall see...

So that's my weekend, how you doin'?

Before we get to the weekend, however, there's today's column to deal with. I know you've missed it. I've been buried in an avalanche of emails asking for it. And now, it's back. That's right, there's a DFTU headed your way!

Bring the pain!

If at first you don't succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.
- Bill Lyon


Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Cleveland Indians! (copyright Bill Simmons) That's right, the savvy pick to win the AL Central has started with a whopping 3-7 record! In the interest of full disclosure, my pick has started 4-7 (see below).

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It's that time again! You've been missing it. You've been itching for it. You've been aching for it. I've felt your pain and now I'm here to bring the goodness. That's right, it's time for everybody's favorite segment, Dan's Favorite Teams Update!

To start this out, we've got to put a bow on a couple of seasons:

Minnesota Wild: The Wild finished the year 40-33-9 for a total of 89 points. Unfortunately that was the 9th best total in the Western Conference, which means that they missed the playoffs.

First of all, let me deal with the end of the season. If you look at the last two weeks of the season, it sort of encapsulates the entirety of the Wild's season. They won games they probably shouldn't have and choked away games they should've won. And in the end, the Wild were eliminated from playoff contention, in the midst of winning their last two games. "Inconsistency" thy name was Minnesota Wild.

The season had barely ended when the Wild's off-season got very interesting. In a post-game interview with Wild color-man Tom Reid, head coach Jacques Lemaire announced that he would be stepping down. So the Wild's season had been over for about 10 minutes, and they were already without a head coach!

I respect Jacques as much as any coach in the league. That being said, I'm not sure this was such a bad move. Head coaches are like good - but not great - movies. You like them a lot early on, but after a while the punchlines lack punch, the lead actress doesn't appear as appealing and you can't look at the lead actor without remembering that story about him getting caught with a transvestite hooker. So you end up putting the DVD in a pile and suddenly it's 4 years later and you realize you still don't want to watch it.

How does that connect? Good question. I did get off on something of a tangent there didn't I?

I just think head coaches have a shelf life. After 8 years, the rah-rah speeches get repetitive. The cycles of carrots and sticks get predictable. And ultimately, the players just tune the coach out. That doesn't make them bad people. It's just human nature. It's why employees rebel against employers. It's why kids rebel against their parents. Sometimes you just need to change the voice that the players are listening to.

So while I don't think Jacques was doing a bad job, I just think it was time for a change.

But the real jaw dropper came just yesterday, when Wild owner Craig Leipold announced that he wouldn't be renewing the contract of GM Doug Risebrough. There had been plenty of rumblings that Jacques might be hanging it up, but there'd been barely any discussion of Risebrough not being retained.

Again, I'm not saying Risebrough deserved to be fired, but I can't argue with the notion that a change might be helpful. I say "might be", because the helpfulness of change is completely dependent on who the Wild bring in to fill those positions. In Doug's case, I'd point out that beyond Gaborik and Koivu, his record of drafting and developing talent isn't stellar. I'm a big fan of Pierre-Marc Bouchard, but I can't argue that he had a dreadful season. I became a fan of Brent Burns after this fight, but it's equally clear that he had a terrible season. So in a sense, it wasn't totally shocking that Leipold decided to take things in a different direction.

What will that direction be? It's hard to say. I won't pretend to know enough about NHL management personnel to put together a worthwhile GM candidate list. Solely in the interest of annoying my favorite Blackhawk fan, I'll point out that legendary NHL coach Scotty Bowman is currently serving in an "advisory" capacity with the 'Hawks, and might be available given the right price. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

What I do know is this: NHL free agency opens July 1st. And if you think Marian Gaborik's contract status didn't have an effect on the GM move, you're kidding yourself. So I believe the Wild will have a new GM by June 1st at the latest, in order to give the new GM time to hire a coach and put together a package to try and convince Gabby to stay.

Stay tuned Wild fans. This might be the most interesting off-season the Wild have ever had!

Next...

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers defeated the Florida State Seminoles in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but lost to Xavier in the second round.

First off, let me admit that I technically picked FSU to beat the Badgers in the first round. But I also painted a picture by which the Badgers could win. And it was that precise scenario that played itself out. No, I shouldn't get credit for any kind of "call", but I was thrilled that the Badgers managed to win a game in the Dance.

Oh, and incidentally, that's precisely 100% more wins in the tournament than the Gophers managed. Will I trade 2 head-to-head wins for 1 more win in the Tournament? Yes, yes I will. Take your regular seasons wins and stick 'em Gopher fans. Bucky made it to the second round, and you didn't!

*End of spiteful rant*

The Badgers had what I thought was a nice mix of youth and experience this year, but they lacked leadership. I don't know how they fix that going into next year, but I trust that if any coach can shore that up, Bo Ryan's the man to do it!

So that takes care of the fall/winter FT's. On to the Spring!

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 4-7 and in 4th place in the AL Central. Though, for the record, the leaders are in a 3-way tie for first at 5-4.

Ugh. Where do I start?

The starting pitching's been mediocre. The hitting's been inconsistent. And the bullpen has been dreadful.

Yes, this team is my pick to win the 2009 World Series. Feel the excitement!

I'm trying to stay balanced in my attitude. In these first 11 games, the Twins have faced the team that topped them in last year's division race (Chicago), and two teams they've traditionally struggled with(Seattle and Toronto). Last year the Twins were 10-9 against the White Sox, this year 1-2. Last year the Twins were 5-4 against Seattle, this year 2-2. Last year the Twins were 0-6 against Toronto, this year 1-3. I'm not excusing their poor performance, I'm just saying it's not that inconsistent with where they were last year when they missed the playoffs by 1 game.

I also have to point out that the Twins are only 7% of the way through their season. There's a lot of baseball yet to be played. And there's a lot of "settling in" to be done.

All that being said, at first glance, the fear that the Twins' bullpen would be less than competitive looks to be the case. Phillip Humber has a 17+ ERA. Craig Breslow has a 16+ ERA. Matt Guerrier has a 7+ ERA. You don't need me to tell you how horrible those numbers are.

Just as worrisome, the starters haven't exactly been dominant. Liriano held his own against Halladay last night, but when my first thought was, "sure he lost, but it was better than his first two starts", that's not good. Scott Baker got lit in his first start back from the DL. Kevin Slowey has had flashes, but keeps getting in trouble. Perhaps their best starter has been their #5 guy, Glen Perkins. I'm hoping this is all a matter of guys getting settled in. But I fear that the jump in innings that nearly every one of these guys took last year, may be affecting their start this year.

And then there's the offense. C Joe Mauer is about set to head out on a rehab assignment. His return to the Twins line-up can't come soon enough. But while he'll help, he's not the end-all, be-all. Last year, the Twins excelled at clutch moments with runners in scoring position. This year, not as much.

Again, they've run into some excellent pitching. Felix Hernandez, Eric Bedard, Jerrod Washburn and Roy Halladay have all thrown gems against them. But that doesn't excuse their lack of offense against lesser pitchers.

Bottom line, the Twins have to improve in several areas in order to compete for the division. I hope that most of that involves guys settling into their roles. I fear that the bullpen's going to need some outside help. We shall see.

The Twins open a 3-game set with LAAGOCRCUSE tonight. Then they head on the road next week for a 2-game series against the Red Sox (whom I hate) and a 3-gamer with the Indians.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona is 3-6 and in fourth place in the NL West.

Mea Culpa: I've seen bits and pieces of about 3 different D'backs games so far this season.

Here's what I know: Brandon Webb's on the DL. They're calling it "shoulder stiffness". I'm calling it "is that all you can get on your fastball"? Hopefully rest will cure what ails him. But if he's got to make another visit to Dr. James Andrews, things could get bad in a hurry.

Dan Haren has been pretty good, but isn't getting a lot of offensive support. Doug Davis is what he is. John Garland had 2 very good starts and 1 awful one. And Max Scherzer is still trying to figure out how to be a full-time big league starter.

Here's the issue, the starting pitching was supposed to be the cornerstone of this club, and it's been relatively average. If that doesn't change, this club could be in all kinds of trouble.

Arizona's on the road for three this weekend in San Francisco, then returns to Chase Field for a 9-game home stand.

There you have it. A little longer than usual, but I had some catching up to do! Have a wonderful weekend and make sure you check back Monday for more Sports Take wonder.

Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. Stan Bowman VP Operations with the Blackhawks, is the son of Scotty Bowman. Stan has undergone a few procedures for his cancer. Scotty took the Hawks position to be near his son. he's not goin anywhere...i'm JUST SAYIN...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Turns out, my uncle is a Dbacks fan. I am not sure how that fits into his Braves loyalties, but I noticed his Facebook status was about the Dbacks finally winning one.

    ReplyDelete