Monday

8-31-09: Notes

Hello again everybody...

We made it through another weekend. And considering that I had to spend time at the State Fair, that's not an assumed thing!

Actually, the Fair wasn't as bad as it could've been. Yes, there were the usual crazies, hairy-backed men in wife-beaters, she-mullets, 300-pound people in clothes that might fit a 200-pound person, and, of course, the pickle-hat people.

But my co-workers and I got in and out rather easily, and we kept the broadcast out of the ditch. After that, anything else is just gravy!

I have to do it again next Sunday, so hopefully that day goes equally as smoothly (please Fair-gods, I'm just hoping, not predicting, don't put the whammy on me).

Lots of weekend stuff to catch up on, so let's get to some Notes, shall we?

Oh, let's do!

"People seem to enjoy things more when they know a lot of other people have been left out of the pleasure."
- Russell Baker (1925 - ), American Pulitzer Prize-winning writer


I really should've saved this for March, because it describes my attitude towards my annual sojourn to Phoenix rather perfectly. I enjoy that trip all the more if I know that the weather in Minnesota is crappy. Call my cynical if you like. At least I'm honest about it.

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But I have no complaints whatsoever about this year's summer weather in Minnesota. Comfortable days, cool nights and the lowest set of summer electric bills I've had in years. What's not to like?!

And speaking of a lack of complaints... it's time for some...

Notes...

Another horse racing season at Canterbury has come and gone...
and I'm only moderately sad.

To everything there is a season, and though the live meet at the Track ended a little earlier than usual (due to the late Labor Day this year), it felt like it was time to move on.

I got out to the Track on Saturday. And though I didn't come out ahead on the venture, it was still an entertaining time. It's always fun to see people experiencing the track for one of the first few times. Some people dig being outside. Some people like the gambling. Some people like learning how to read the Racing Form and finding out all the information it can impart. Whatever it is, I haven't seen anyone go to the Track and say they had a bad time yet. No, it's not for everybody, but more people dig it than you might think.

Until the first Saturday in May, lovely Canterbury!

Are you ready for some Favre-ball... because I'm not sure I am.

Monday Night Football... Vikings vs. Houston... Brett Favre scheduled to play the entire first half?!

I'm not sure my TV can handle it. I tried to set my DVR and an error message popped saying, "You live in Minnesota... we're not sure you can handle this... thanks, Comcast".

I thought that was a little much.

But it should be interesting watching. Favre finally has a fair number of practices under his belt, so it'll finally be fair to judge his performance. Plus, if reports are true, then he won't be playing in the pre-season finale on Friday. So tonight becomes fans' last chance to see him play before it counts.

So if your TV is tuned to ESPN at 7pm central time tonight, enjoy the Favre-ness of it all, then come back and attach a comment saying how you thought he did!

(Ed.'s Note: Just before finishing this opus, a report surfaced on ESPN.com saying that Favre may have a cracked rib, and has discomfort when he breathes. Somewhere a former college roommate of mine is smiling.)

The Twins took 2 of 3 from Texas over the weekend... but Detroit took 2 of 3 from Tampa, and finish their 4-game set with the Rays today (a game where they're getting shelled by Tampa as of this writing).

The Twins need to keep winning series, so to that: mission accomplished (copyright President George W. Bush).

Unfortunately, they can't control what Detroit does, so those two wins merely kept them at 4.5 games back.

There are basically five weeks left in the season at this point, so the "make up a game a week" theory is in full effect. That doesn't mean Twins fans should panic if they don't make up a game this week. Often these things come in bunches. But if today's score against Tampa holds up, the Twins can get off to a solid start by beating the White Sox tonight at the Metrodome.

And the Twins *own* the White Sox at the Metrodome.

(Please baseball gods... the record bears it out... please don't throw a whammy on them on my account. Thank you.)

The schedule is still in Minnesota's favor. Now they just have to take advantage of it.

And finally...

College football kicks off this week... and I'm all a flutter.

There are nine games on the slate Thursday night, with #14 Boise State hosting #16 Oregon being the marquee match-up. Then Tulane and Tulsa take center stage Friday night. Most teams get their season going Saturday with Georgia/Oklahoma State and BYU/Oklahoma being of note.

But that's not all.

Since it's Labor Day weekend, we've got college football on Sunday and Monday as well! Colorado and Colorado State duke it out on Sunday and Miami and Florida State get after it Monday Night.

That's a lot of quality college football. And the Badgers play NIU too!

Any guesses what I'll be doing this weekend? Yes, you're probably right.

But before we get to the games, we must have picks! That's right. Wednesday marks the return of my weekly Sports Take College Football Picks column! You love it. You've missed it. And now it's coming back.

Prepare yourselves!

And with that, I'll put a bow on today's column. Make sure to be back on Wednesday to check out the picks!

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

8-28-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We made it once again. Friday's here and that means the weekend is nigh. For some of you.

For me, I get to work an extra day courtesy of the Great Minnesota Get-Together. Now, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday than getting paid time-and-a-half to press a few buttons and keep a couple of amenable hosts on-time. It just wouldn't be my first choice.

On the plus-side, the Wild are unveiling their new 3rd sweater at 12:30pm on Sunday at the Fair, so I'm hoping to be able to get paid to make that purchase as well!

(For the record, the design got leaked on the Internet. It's another old-school look, and I dig it. Out of respect for the Wild's "unveiling" I won't provide the link, but for those of you who are savvy with Google, you can find it rather easily.)

So remember, if you're going to be out at the Fair on Sunday, I'll be at the WCCO Radio booth from Noon til 5pm. Stop by and say hello!

On to today...

If I were more of an NFL fan, I'd probably write about Michael Vick's return last night (underwhelming), or Brandon Marshall's petulance (disappointing).

But I'm a baseball fan dammit. And neither the Eagles or the Broncos are listed amongst my favorite teams. So no dice.

Instead, I'm bringing you the last "baseball only" DFTU for 2009. Hard to believe I'm doing anything for the last time this year, but next weekend, the college football season begins, so the Badgers will be added to the DFTU mix! (Save your groans Gopher fans, I'm not interested.)

Let's do this...

"The secret of eternal youth is arrested development."
- Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884 - 1980), oldest child of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States


Just remember... games are good. They keep you young. Unless you have to watch the ups and downs of the Twins every day. This season has to be putting extra mileage on me, I swear!

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And with that, it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment:

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 63-64, in third place in the AL Central and .5 games behind the White Sox, and 4.5 behind the Tigers.

This team is going to be the death of me. I just know it.

A 5-game winning streak put them back in the conversation for the division. But the loss that broke the streak came at an inopportune time. There are only 35 games left. So any time the Tigers and White Sox both lose, the Twins almost have to win. Almost...

If, in another week or two, they're still 3 or 4 games out, then the "almost" goes away.

So, yes, there's been more up than down lately, and that's good. But anybody who's watched Ron Gardenhire try to piece together a pitching staff, has to wonder how much longer the "up" can last.

A few years back, I wrote a column comparing Gardy to MacGyver, after 2/3 of his expected starting line-up had gone down with injuries. Gardenhire's ability to slap together a line-up with chewing gum and paper clips was impressive. I might have to resurrect that column now that 3/5 of the expected starting rotation is out for the season with injuries.

Somebody named Gabino actually started a game this week. And it wasn't pretty. Now there are rumors that the Twins might put a claim in on the recently released Brad Penny. The team he was released from? The Boston Red Sox (whom I hate). Think that little gem might drive me to drink? Oof.

And yet, I can't say that it would be a bad move. Sure, he sucked the bag with Boston (whom I hate). And the taint of being part of that team would make it tough to watch him in Twins uniform. But he can't possibly be worse than having to run somebody named Gabino out there, can he?

My overall feeling hasn't changed much. No, it's not over. No, they're not out of the race. But no, I'm not optimistic. How can I be with this pitching staff? I mean, I give Gardy a ton of credit for piecing things together, but over the last month of the season, I don't know how it can hold up.

That being said, I can't give up. I won't give up! At least not unless the Badgers open with 3 straight wins. Then I might move on.

(Ed.'s Note: Just after publication, I learned that the Twins have acquired relief pitchers Jon Rauch from the Diamondbacks and Ron Mahay from the Royals. No, I'm not any more optimistic.)

The Twins host Texas this weekend, before Chicago comes in for 3 critical games early next week. Keep watching Twins Fans! It's not over!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks are 56-72, in fourth place in the NL West and 20 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

As exciting as the NL West race has become (Colorado?! Really?! Anyone see that coming? Not me...), the Diamondbacks simply aren't part of it.

The roller coaster ride of a season that has been the 2009 Arizona campaign has hit yet another valley. Yes, they did put a whupping on the Giants yesterday, but that was one of only 2 wins in their last 10 games.

Dan Haren pitched another "gem-for-naught" as I like to call it Tuesday night. Throwing seven innings, scattering six hits and giving up two runs, should generally get you a win. But on the 2009 Diamondbacks? Not so much.

So Haren remains at 12-8 with a 2.73 ERA, and while he's nominally in the NL Cy Young race, 15 wins might be his ceiling this year, and that's probably not going to get it done. Especially with the numbers Messer's Lincecum and Cain are putting up in the same division.

Sorry Dan, maybe next year.

The D'backs host Houston over the weekend before heading north to L.A. for 4 games with the Dodgers next week. Oof, that should be fun, no?

That's it for this week ladies and germs. I'll be back on Monday with thoughts on the weekend, and hopefully a Fair story or two to share.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

8-26-09: 2009 Peek at the Picks, Vol. 4

Hello again everybody...

Like most of you, I have a routine that gets me into work each day. Along the way there can be subtle variations to said routine, but for the most part it's consistent - I guess that's why they call it a routine.

Today? I don't know if you can call it "subtle" but there was certainly a variation. As I walked up the sidewalk toward the palatial estates at 625 2nd Avenue South, I noticed a group of co-workers standing outside the building. Now, this isn't in and of itself odd, since there's the standard smoking clutch out there nearly every day. But that clutch doesn't usually consist of 15-20 people. So, suspecting something was amiss, I approached one of the engineers and asked what was going on.

Turns out there was a fire alarm going off in the building. And, shortly after receiving that answer, two fire engines rolled up to confirm the diagnosis. But because I'm the dedicated employee that I am, I called up to the studio to find if anything was amiss on the 2nd floor. When told that there wasn't, I talked my way past the administrative assistant that was guarding the door as though it was a gate in the Berlin Wall, and trucked up the stairs to get to work.

That's right, you can't stop me. You can only hope to contain me.

As of the time of this writing, I don't know what caused the alarm. So I guess I'll go with the usual excuse and blame the Irish Pub/Restaurant that resides downstairs. If I get an update, I'll let you know...

(Ed.'s Note: Apparently the sidewalk construction outside of the building poured an unnatural amount of dust into the building, and our fire alarms interpreted that dust as smoke and there's your fire alarm.)

But if a little fire alarm can't keep me from my job, it certainly won't keep me from you, my dear readers!

So today, I bring you the long awaited fourth volume of my 2009 Peek at the Picks! There's just over a month left in the regular season (where DID the Summer go?), and it's time to see how my picks are faring!

Onward!

"The average, healthy, well-adjusted adult gets up at seven-thirty in the morning feeling just plain terrible."
- Jean Kerr (1922 - 2003), American author and playwright


If I can't turn to an American author and playwright to justify my "late to bed, late to rise" philosophy, who can I turn to?!

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I know many of you have turned the page to football season, and given the performances of most of your favorite teams, it's hard to blame you.

(Although, for those of you here in Minnesota, while you weren't looking, the Twins have won 5 in a row and pulled even with Chicago!)

But there still is a lot of baseball to be played, and plenty of division races yet to be decided.

So it's time to update you all on how my picks are doing. If you missed my original series of season preview columns, you can catch up on them here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

For an explanation of the Sports Take Kelley Formula, click here.

Excellent, now that you're caught up, here's where my picks stand as of today:

Peek at the Picks, Vol. 4

AL East:


Current Standings: New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate) -6, Tampa Bay Rays -9, Toronto Blue Jays -20.5, Baltimore Orioles -27.5

Dan's Picks: Boston (whom I hate), Tampa Bay, New York, Baltimore, Toronto

Kelley Formula Results: 14 of a possible 20 points.

Analysis: I'm not going to say the Yankees have this division sewn up. There are too many games left. Although I think they only have one more series with Boston (whom I hate), so if the Red Sox (whom I hate) hope to overtake the Bombers, they'll have to do so beating other teams. The Rays keep flirting with getting in the race, but have been too inconsistent to really be a factor. I'm a little disappointed that the Orioles haven't progressed more than they have. I really felt like I had a bead on this division before the year began, but it hasn't quite shaken out for me.

AL Central:

Current Standings: Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins -4.5, Chicago White Sox -4.5, Cleveland Indians -12, Kansas City Royals -19

Dan's Picks: Minnesota, Cleveland, Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit

Kelley Formula Results: 9 of a possible 20 points.

Analysis: By far, my worst division. Detroit has screwed me more than any other club. I could point out that I wasn't alone amongst pundits who thought they'd be far out of contention at this point in the season, but that'd be the cheap way out. I just flat-out missed on them, and Cleveland. Kansas City showed signs at the beginning of the season, but never found a way for their offense to click, and have fallen off the map. Minnesota and Chicago aren't good, but they're not completely horrible either. They still count as a miss, but compared to the doozies I had with Detroit and Cleveland, I don't think they're as bad.

AL West:

Current Standings: LAAAGOCRCUSPE, Texas Rangers -4, Seattle Mariners -10, Oakland Athletics -19.5

Dan's Picks: LAAAGOCRCUSPE, Texas, Seattle, Oakland

Kelley Formula Results: 16 of a possible 16 points.

Analysis: My only perfect division... so far. Okay, okay, this is the only one I even have a shot at getting 100% correct. And I'm at an advantage since it's only a 4-team division. Texas took a run at the Angels in early August, but have since fallen back. They're best shot at the playoffs is still the Wild Card. Seattle's better than last year, but still aren't going to contend any time soon (which is a shame since Ichiro is a fantastic talent who doesn't get much attention since his team blows). Oakland was a chic underdog pick in the pre-season. I was one of the few jumping up and down saying, "they're gonna suck, you watch". I don't have many other "I told you so's" in this volume, so I'll point this one out, thank you!

NL East:

Current Standings: Philadelphia Phillies, Florida Marlins -7, Atlanta Braves -7, New York Mets -16.5, Washington Nationals -28.5

Dan's Picks: Philadelphia, NY Mets, Atlanta, Florida, Washington

Kelley Formula Results: 15 of a possible 20 points.

Analysis: Close, but no cigar. The Mets have fallen apart. They won't finish in last, Washington's too bad for that. But they're definitely the most disappointing team in the division, and probably in the league. Philly's got a solid lead in the division, and should win it. But Florida's got just enough juice (of the non-PED variety) to make them sweat. Yes, Atlanta's tied with Florida, but I fear they're going in the wrong direction.

NL Central:

Current Standings: St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs -9, Milwaukee Brewers -11, Houston Astros -11, Cincinnati Reds -18.5, Pittsburgh Pirates -19

Dan's Picks: Chicago, Houston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh

Kelley Formula Results: 19 of a possible 24 points.

Analysis: A huge comeback for me in this division. I picked up 5 points here since the publication of Volume 3. If the Brewers keep hold on 3rd place and Cincinnati can stay ahead of Pittsburgh, I'm in pretty good shape here. This is the only division that I feel has already been decided. The Cards surprised me with their ability to score runs. I knew they'd be able to pitch, but outside of Pujols, their offense has been a huge surprise to me. Granted their additions of DeRosa and Holliday have helped, but they've been scoring at a better clip than I expected even before those additions.

NL West:

Current Standings: L.A. Dodgers, Colorado Rockies -2 , San Francisco Giants -6, Arizona Diamondbacks -19, San Diego Padres -21.5.

Dan's Picks: L.A. Dodgers, Arizona, San Francisco, Colorado, San Diego.

Kelley Formula Results: 16 of a possible 20 points.

Analysis: Flip flop Arizona and Colorado and I'm right on... for now. Colorado is the Cinderella story in baseball this year. On June 3rd, they were 13 games behind the Dodgers. Today, they're two back. That's a phenomenal turn around. If Rockies' manager Jim Tracy who took over mid-season, isn't the NL Manager of the Year, something's wrong with the voting. The Dodgers had a strangle-hold on the division for most of the year, but if they're not extremely careful, Colorado could pass them by. San Francisco has been in the Wild Card race, but has slipped of late. They're not out of it, but they're not far from either. Arizona and San Diego? We'll see you next year!

Total:

Combined Kelley Formula Results: 89 of a possible 120 points (74.1%)

Volume 3's CKFR: 84 of a possible 120 points (70%)

2008 CKFR: 86 of a possible 120 points (71.7%)

Analysis: I've finally surpassed last year's mark. That doesn't mean I can't slide back over the last 5 weeks or so, but so far, so good! I've got 3 division winners right so far, and don't count out the Twins just yet! As for the Wild Cards? Well, we'll get to those another time!

Keep an eye on the NL West. That may be the best race in the league down the stretch.

80% is going to be a stretch, but it's not impossible! We'll see.

That's going to do it for today. I hope you consider yourself updated!

I'll be back on Friday to wrap up the week. College football next week already?! Craziness.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

8-24-09: Mock Mailbag, the Second...

Hello again everybody...

Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Mine was very relaxing, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Saturday, I had my brother and nephew over for dinner, which served two purposes. First of all, it allowed me to spend some quality time with the family, which is always a good thing. And second, it forced me to clean up the bachelor pad a little bit. Sometimes it gets a touch too bachelory (I'm pretty sure I just invented that word), and it needed a solid once-over. (Okay, it probably needed a 5-times-over, but you get the idea.)

In any case, it was a good day, and I had an awesome time. Thanks Mark and Cade!

Sunday, I didn't do squat. Sometimes you just need a day to do absolutely nothing of consequence. And apparently, I need a few more of those than average. Go figure. I got some serious R&R and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Oh, and if you're not watching, "Mad Men" on AMC, you should be. Sunday nights, 9pm central time, check it out. But do yourself a favor. Google up an episode guide so you can catch up on the first two seasons, or you'll be hopelessly lost.

But I digress...

Instead of your usual notes column on a Monday, I'm bringing back a column that got a lot of positive reaction the last time I ran it. Hopefully it'll be just as entertaining this time around.

Off we go!

"The Romans would never have found time to conquer the world if they had been obliged first to learn Latin."
- Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856), journalist, essayist, literary critic, and one of the most significant German romantic poets


This is for my buddy Jon who likes to post a Latin "Word/Phrase of the Day" on his Facebook page. (Yes, I know some eclectic people!) But don't hold that against him, he's also a Tennessee Volunteer football fan! And anybody who loves college football is good by me!

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And speaking of football... it's time for:

Mock Mailbag, the Second

(As always, none of the following emails were conceived, written, or sent by the individuals named. They're merely figments of my questionable imagination.)


I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack.

Come on, you didn't really buy my "I just don't think I can cut it physically" bit did you?!

I don't do dorms. I'm a man. I'm 40! (copyright Mike Gundy).

And don't sweat Friday night. I'd only had 3 practices under my belt.

How good did Tarvaris look?! Nice to see the kid step up. Way to go kid, now don't forget my bags on the way to the plane.

B. Favre
Minneapolis, MN


Sorry Brett, but you suckered me in. While I allowed for the possibility that you might still come play for the Vikes, I'd resigned myself to a less interesting season.

Serves me right for not listening to my old college roommate. (Yes, David, you were right again!)

For all the people kvetching about Friday night, no, it wasn't the storybook outing that people had dreamed up. But it doesn't mean anything.

If he looks that shaky in the next two games, then there will be reason to worry. But for now? It's a nothing deal. Really.

We know nobody noticed with Favre-a-palooza going on and all. But we did just go 5-2 on our road-trip. And we shaved two games off of Detroit's lead.

Maybe not so much with the fork there Blog Boy?!

The Home Nine
Minneapolis, MN


Okay, okay, I've put the fork away for now. As Michael Corleone famously said, "Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in!"

The Twins split their 4-game series in Texas and then swept the hapless Royals in KC over the weekend. And "hapless" might be an understatement for anyone who saw Josh Anderson try to play right field on Friday night. Oof.

So now the Twins sit at 61-63, which is far from impressive. But they're only 2 games behind Chicago, and 4.5 games behind Detroit with 38 games remaining. Of those 38 games, 13 are against the Tigers and White Sox. And of the other 25, only 3 are against a team with a +.500 record. Needless to say, the schedule is in their favor.

So this race is far from over. And who knows, with the spotlight cast firmly on the Vikings and #4, maybe that takes the pressure off the boys and they go on a run.

You just never know!

It's that time of year! Are you sure you don't want to join us again?

Fantasy Football Lovers
Everywhere, U.S.A.


Yes, I'm sure. And no, I don't want to join you.

I listened to a hour-long podcast the other night where all the guys did was talk fantasy football. And I didn't feel a twinge of regret for not playing this year.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am part of a 6-team league run by a buddy of mine in Eau Claire. But I don't count that because I let the website auto-draft for me, and the only attention I'll pay it over the course of the season is to set the line-up each week.)

I quit playing seriously a couple of years back, because I realized that "luck" plays an inordinately large role in determining who wins their league. You can put hours and hours of work into researching your draft board (and I did), love your team on paper (and I did), and easily still wind up 6-8 and out of the playoffs (and I did).

So I did the only thing I could do. I got out. I hung up my preview magazines and called it a fantasy career. And I don't regret the decision a bit.

I don't mean to disparage the millions of fans who love fantasy football. If you dig it, that's great!

It just wasn't fun for me anymore. And though I miss heading over to Eau Claire and seeing the boys for the draft, my wallet thanks me for making the call that I did.

And finally...

We just want to bet on a football game legally, and make some money for our state at the same time. Is that so wrong?!

The People of Delaware
Dover, DE


For those of you unfamiliar with this story, the state of Delaware claims it is exempt from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act because it had a form of sports betting in the previous two decades.

So they want to use that exemption to begin what they're calling a "Sports Lottery". That's a euphemism for "Legalized Sports Betting".

The NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL (really? who's betting on hockey?!) and NCAA have all lined up with legal challenges. The most recent of which resulted in a federal appeals court ruling that Delaware's plan did in fact violate the PASPA. So for now, recreational gamers in Delaware will have to remain under ground.

As many of you know, I'm not averse to placing the occasional wager. Though I've refrained from involving myself from sports betting. I've never liked the idea of risking more than you stand to win in any wager.

That all being said, I think laws in this regard are terribly mis-guided. I understand that gambling can be a problem for some people, and I don't make light of their addictions by any means. But I've never understood why the risk to the minority should deprive the rest of us of the opportunity to take advantage of a little late steam on a football game, should we so choose.

And why on earth would we pass up on the revenue from a source that exists whether we want to tax it or not? Conservatively, the federal appeals court just cost the citizens of Delaware $150 million per year.

That's $150 million that could have been used to close deficits, improve schools, improve roads, and keep state employees from losing their jobs.

But oh no! We can't have "dirty" gambling money helping us out!

Somehow we've convinced ourselves that we'd rather have some possibly-fictional "moral high ground", than take advantage of an obvious, and sizable revenue source. Way to go America!

Okay, okay... I'll get off the soap box now.


So there's your Mock Mailbag. I hope you enjoyed it.

I'll be back on Wednesday. Perhaps the return of another regular segment? We shall see!

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

8-21-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We did it! Friday's here! I've got nothing that I *have* to do this weekend! And I'm using too many exclamation points!

Okay. Enough of that already. Wow.

But the weekend lies within our grasp, and that's nothing to sneeze at. And after my 3-day "got stuff to do" marathon last weekend, I'm looking forward to just chilling this weekend.

I'm not sure how much baseball I'll be watching though. The fork's been in the Diamondbacks for a while. I'm not going to put it in the Twins yet. I know I've been threatening that for a while, but they keep doing just enough to stay alive and fork-less.

I'll discuss...

"How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."
- Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004), 40th President of the United States


Oh, how I wish I'd had this quote for Wednesday's column!

The Sports Take Addendum: How do you tell a communist? They leave in the 8th inning!

I won't belabor the point. You know how I feel about this. Let's move on...

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Because it's that time of the week again! You've waited for it. You've pined for it. It's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update...

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 58-63, in third place in the AL Central, 4 games behind the White Sox for second place, and 6.5 games behind the Tigers for first.

Well, what can I say that I haven't said already?

The Twins split their 4-game series with the Wild Card-contending Rangers this week. I'd like to take heart in that fact. But both wins were of the "come from behind" variety, after more poor starting pitching performances.

So as long as the starting pitching remains so woeful, it's difficult to get too excited about the Twins' chances.

And it's a shame, because they're basically wasting an MVP season from Joe Mauer.

At this point, the AL MVP race is really down to two players. Minnesota's Mauer, and New York's Mark Teixeira.

Mauer: .378 BA, .446 On-Base %, .643 Slugging %, and 1.089 OPS. All of those numbers lead the league. He's also got 25 HR, and 77 RBI.

Teixeira: .283 BA, 31 HR (which lead the league), 89 RBI. His On-Base % is .381, he's slugging .557, and his OPS is .937.

So outside of homers and RBI, Mauer leads Tex in most of the big offensive categories. So why is it even a race?

Simple. The Yankees have the best record in baseball, and the Twins are third in one of the worst divisions in baseball.

The question boils down to, should the MVP go to the best player in the league? Or should it go to the person most valuable to a contending team?

I tend to lean towards the latter. After all, how "valuable" can a guy be if his team is so mediocre?

That being said, I'm willing to wave that "you need to be on a contending team" axiom if a guy has a season that's SO outstanding, that it simply transcends his own team's mediocrity.

If you're in the Top 5 in the Triple Crown categories, that would qualify. Mauer isn't quite there yet, but he's damned close. We know he leads in Batting Average. 5th place in Home Runs right now is 28; he's got 25. 5th place in RBI right now is 84; he's got 77.

Those numbers put him well within range of that qualification. And when you throw in his league-leading OB%, SLG%, and OPS, I think he's in solid position to win the award, even if the Twins don't comeback to make the playoffs.

But in saying all that, I can't dismiss the impact that Tex has had on the Yankees. Nobody's screaming bloody murder about it yet, but the Evil Empire is back folks. The Yankees are kicking butt and taking names. And any honest evaluation of the contenders has to make them the odds-on favorite to win the World Series at this point.

And much of the credit for their surge this year goes to Teixeira. There's no question that the additions of Sabathia and Burnett have stabilized New York's rotation. And Phil Hughes' emergence has settled their bullpen down. But Tex's presence in the middle of that line-up, combined with the runs he's saved with his defensive prowess at first base, has been at the very core of New York's run.

It's for that reason, as well as his offensive production, that he's in the race with Mauer.

Don't ask me how this will turn out. I'm biased. But having Mauer leading the race for MVP gives us Twins fans a little something to cling to in what's otherwise turning into a dismal season.

The Twins are in Kansas City tonight for a weekend series with the Royals before returning home to finish August in the friendly, bubbly confines of the Metrodome.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 54-68, in fourth place in the NL West, and 18 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

Well, so much for that charge for .500.

Last week, Arizona had won 5 in a row, and I was bullish on their chances to reach even-steven.

This week, they've lost 5 in a row, and 6 of their last 10. And just like that, .500 is beyond their reach again.

Arizona has 40 games left in their season, and would have to go 27-13 over those last 40 to finish 81-81.

Raise your hand if you see this happening... anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

Didn't think so.

So what's the goal? 70 wins? Dare I ask for 75? You're right. 70 is probably far more reasonable.

Who'd have thought it possible that a team would go from battling for the playoffs last year, to hoping to get to 70 wins this year?

Not good.

Speaking of award contention, Dan Haren is still on the list of NL Cy Young candidates. It's a pretty open race too. St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, San Francisco's Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, and Florida's Josh Johnson are all in the mix. I have my doubts as to whether Haren can win it. 12-8 is the worst record amongst those contenders. And the Snakes don't seem to be able to help him a lot in that regard.

Again though, if your team's in the tank, it's stuff like this that keeps you watching when you might otherwise be tempted to tune into football of some kind.

Not that I'd ever do that.

Um... yeah.

Arizona is in Houston for the weekend, and then heads back West to visit San Francisco for 3 games next week.

So that's going to do it for this week. A good effort by everybody this week. Really, I'm proud.

Oh, and someone named Favre is debuting for the Vikings tonight. I'll be watching Twins/Royals. Mostly.

Okay, I'll have both games on in the studio. Favre's going to play two series tops, so after that, it's all baseball for me! Really! I promise!

I'll be back on Monday with more Sports Take goodness.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

8-19-09: Twins/Tribe RGC - Durand Family Edition

Hello again everybody...

We've made it to the middle of the week. And what a week it's already been!

I'm sure many of you thought I'd make a certain quarterback the focus of today's column. And I'm not going to pretend that the thought didn't occur to me.

But ultimately, there's not a lot to say about it that I haven't already said (see here, here, and here).

So instead of rehashing all that, I'll just say this: I'm glad he's here. I'm glad that the “will he/won't he” business is done. The Vikings' season is infinitely more interesting with him involved. And I'm thrilled to get to watch it in stunning Samsung HD (sorry Mark, had to throw that in – but you're still invited to come over and watch).

Yesterday was a busy day at work. Hopefully today will be a little lighter. And that will allow me to bring you a column that I haven't featured in a while. The Sports Take Running Game Commentary!

Saturday, I attended the Minnesota/Cleveland tilt at the Metrodome. Today, you get to hear all about it!

So off we go...

”An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations.“
Charles de Montesquieu (1689 – 1755), French social commentator


Interesting premise. Will future generations read The Sports Take? Will it be preserved on their Kindles? Will they wonder why in God's name anyone ever took the time to read this stuff at all?! Only time will tell...

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But in the interest of entertaining (or boring, you pick) the current generation, I give you...

Twins v. Tribe, Running Game Commentary – Durand Family Edition

Pregame


First off, allow me to explain, the “Durand Family Edition”. One of my Aunts, who's a regular reader, asked me this past Spring if she and I could go to a ballgame. Naturally, I agreed. Someone says, “...go to a ballgame”, my only response is, “sure, when?”

So as we tried to decide on a game, the original plan morphed into a family outing. So it ended up with me, my mom (maiden name: Durand; hence the title), and two of my aunts all headed to see the home nine.

Quick background... My Aunt Renee was the one who initially asked me about going to the game. She's my godmother (but don't hold that against her) and used to thrill my cousins and I as children with the best Beauregard (you remember the cab driver from the Muppets, don't you?!) imitation we'd ever seen. Of course, now she'd be arrested for reckless endangerment, but that's society's problem, not hers!

My Aunt Cheri lives down in Phoenix, so I generally only get to see her when I'm down visiting my parents. She holds a special spot for me, because she was the one who finally taught me how to tie my own shoes as a child. I had a mental block. But through the clever revelation of the “bunny ear” technique, she was able to get me past it. What she doesn't know, is that I still use said technique to this day. Actually, maybe she's better off not knowing that. Whatever.

Finally, there's my mom. What can I say about my mother? Well, a lot of what I could say, I won't, because I'm like her in more ways than I can count. She's a ton of fun, and I love her to death. And baseball just happens to be the only sport she can stand watching for more than 10 minutes, so it was only natural that she join us.

One last thing... (and yes, this is the longest pre-game ramble in the history of the RGC) I was introduced to a game called “Moundball”. Basically, everybody rotates each half inning. If the umpire tosses a ball to the mound, and it stays on the mound, whoever has that half inning gets $1 from everybody else. If a player tosses the ball and it stays on the mound, that person gets $2 from everybody else.

I'd never tried this game before, but I was assured it was going to entertain me, so why not?

Top of the 1st

Anthony Swarzak is on the mound for the Twins today. The rookie has looked sensational at times, and awful at times. Pretty much what you would expect from a rookie. Which will he be today?

Things looked good in the first inning, as he set the Indians down 1-2-3. Included in that, was a strikeout of my future-son's-namesake: Asdrubal Cabrera.

I remind my mom that I really think I should name my future son, Asdrubal. She immediately sprouts 5 more gray hairs.

No score.

It's my turn up first for "Moundball"... and the umpire tosses it maybe 40 feet from home plate (i.e. nowhere near the mound). No dollars for Dan.

Bottom of the 1st

David Huff is on the hill for the Tribe. His stats suck, but he's left-handed. And lefty's don't do the Twins much good.

A lead-off pop-out by Denard Span is followed by back to back singles for Orlando Cabrera (no relation to Asdrubal) and Joe Mauer. And those are followed by a walk to Justin Morneau.

Bases loaded and one out. Should be a big inning, right?

A Michael Cuddyer pop-out and Joe Crede fielder's choice later, not so much.

Still no score.

And it's my Mom's turn for "Moundball". And once again, the umpire doesn't come close. It doesn't look like anybody's going to get paid today at this rate.

Top of the 2nd

Shin-Soo Choo leads off, and drills a pitch to left field which lands in the 3rd row. And like the idiot sheep some of those folks out there are, some knucklehead throws the ball back on the field. Good job, genius. You just tossed away a souvenir that you'll probably never have another chance at. Boy, you sure showed those Indians who's boss! Freaking moron...

I mention that a solo home run probably isn't going to win this game, so hopefully Swarzak keeps his head. He promptly gives up a double and a bloop base hit. But he wiggles out of it by getting a strike out and a routine fly ball following Joe Mauer nailing an base-stealer at 3rd.

Silly Indians. You don't run on the Baby Jesus!

It's during all this action that Cheri explains to me the “nookie factor”. The Twins won big Friday night, so she figures they all went home and “read poetry” (my euphemism, not hers) with their significant (or in some cases, completely insignificant) others. And because of that, they're a little tired today.

How do I argue with that logic?

1-0 Cleveland

It's Renee's turn for “Moundball”. I think the umpire must have a Rotator Cuff problem, because he's not really even trying. Again, no money changes hands.

Bottom of the 2nd

Things start well for the Twins with a Delmon Young walk. Sure Carlos Gomez flew out, but Alexi Casilla singled, and suddenly the Twins had their second-straight threat brewing.

Unfortunately Span struck out and Cabrera popped out (on a very nice catch by the Cleveland second baseman) to end said threat.

It was also in this half-inning where we were treated to the first “full house” joke of the game.

Allow me to explain.

When I was a kid, my family was at a Twins game (shocking, I know). One of the Twins ended up with a full count, and my Mom said, “look Dan, it's a full house!”.

Now, to this day, she insists that she was being facetious, and knew the entire time that the correct term was “full count”. And also to this day, not one single member of my family buys her story.

So every time we're at a game together, somebody says, “look Mom/Denise, it's a full house!” And in return, she gives us that look that only Moms can give without wounding someone.

Needless to say, I got “the look” in response to my quip.

Still 1-0 Cleveland.

Cheri's turn for Moundball. Oh, sure. This time the ump lands it square on the mound! Way to go Cheri. Here's your dollar.

Top of the 3rd

Time to break out the peanuts. Usually, at a ballgame, I get a hot dog, a soda, and either peanuts or sunflower seeds. Since I was taking notes, and didn't want to handle a cup to spit seeds into, I went with the peanuts. Plus, Renee offered to buy, so how can I turn that down?

Swarzak gets someone named Gimenez to fly out to center.

(Seriously, I love baseball, and I don't know who half of these Cleveland players are!)

Grady Sizemore (dammit he's good... and I hate that I like him... yes, I have issues) follows that up with the second solo shot off of Swarzak today.

That's followed by two singles, a sacrifice fly and ground out. And just like that it's 3-0 Cleveland.

Really?! The Indians? Come on Twins! This is lame.

And it's my turn for “Moundball” again. And Short-Arm McUmpire strikes again. Seriously, he could just drop it and it would probably roll further. Jerk.

Bottom of the 3rd

Mauer singles. Again. This guy is so sick, they ought to name a flu virus after him.

Morneau grounds out. Cuddyer pops out (again). And combined with Joe Crede, they make sure Mauer's single goes for naught.

Sad. And still 3-0 Cleveland.

Renee's turn for “Moundball”. And she's denied. So far Cheri's the only one to get paid. And this game is boring me silly.

So my Mom decides we should change the rules. Now, if anybody gets the ball within the first carpet-ring around the mound, it's $1 and if they get it to the mound it's $2. Did I mention it's my Mom's turn next? Hmmm...

Top of the 4th

Travis Hafner singles to lead off. I explain to Renee that his nickname is, “Pronk”, and that in Cleveland stores sell “Pronk Bar” candy bars. I'm not sure she believed me. But it's true!

Swarzak manages to scalp the next three Indians (is that racially insensitive?) and strands “Pronk” at first.

3-0 Cleveland

Mom's turn for “Moundball”. And what do you know? The rule change just happens to coincide with the umpire landing a ball squarely in that ring. Somebody gets paid! I'm sure the fact that it was the person who suggested the rule-change is merely coincidental! Somewhere, Oliver Stone just got a script idea.

Bottom of the 4th

Delmon Young leads off with a single. He's quietly heating up again in the second half. No idea why he can't do this in April and May, but there you go.

Of course, Gomez, Casilla and Span make sure it's wasted.

Can you tell I'm about ready to give up on the Twins for this year? Yeah. Hi, I'm Dan, and I'm a bitter baseball fan.

3-0 Cleveland

Cheri's turn for “Moundball” and boom! Square on the mound again. $2 from everybody. Why am I playing this game again?!

Top of the 5th

A Sizemore walk and Carrol single finally ends Swarzak's day. Not a horrible start, but not really good either. And that's been the pattern for the Twins lately. Bad starting pitching followed by a worse performance from the bullpen.

Brian Duensing enters the game for the Twins. Let's see what he does.

Hmm, a RBI-single for Asdrubal (admit it Mom, it's growing on you), a single by Choo, a sacrifice fly by Perralta, and an RBI-single for “Pronk” and it's 6-0 Cleveland! Thank you Twins relief pitching!

God I'm bitter.

Oh, and for good measure, after a strikeout, let's toss in another RBI-single by another Indian I've never heard of.

And after 4-and-a-half, it's 7-0 Cleveland. Joy.

But hey, it's my turn for “Moundball” and we've got new rules! And I swear to Christ, if this umpire was throwing backwards he'd be getting closer than he does when it's my turn. Dammit!

Bottom of the 5th

Time to come back boys!

Cabrerra singles. Mauer flies out. Morneau doubles home Cabrera and we're on the board!

After a Cuddyer single (finally), Renee asks me what, “Ducks on the Pond” means. I tell her that it means: multiple runners on-base. How a duck-hunting reference made its way into Major League Baseball, I'm not quite sure, but there you go.

Joe Crede delivers another RBI with a single, and the Twins are cooking!

Until Delmon flies out and Gomez strikes out (again) to end the inning.

7-2 Cleveland.

Renee's turn for “Moundball”. I think she got paid here. But honestly, I was so bitter, I stopped paying attention.

Top of the 6th

I tell whoever will listen (and at 7-2 why would they?) that Duensing's job here is to get the boys right back into the dugout. They just cut into the lead, and you can't kill that momentum by giving up a run here.

Surprisingly, Duensing does the job. He gives up a 1-out single and promptly strands that runner at first.

This ain't over yet!

7-2 Cleveland.

Mom's turn for “Moundball”. The inning ends in a strikeout... which means the catcher tosses the ball... which means it lands squarely on the mound and my Mom gets $2 from everybody. Am I sure this game isn't rigged? No, no, I'm not sure at all.

Bottom of the 6th

Cleveland makes a pitching change. That ought to give the Twins a chance right?

Nope, it's another lefty.

Casilla, Span and Cabrera go 1-2-3.

Still 7-2 Cleveland.

Cheri's turn for “Moundball”. And she hasn't missed yet. And she won't this time either. Seriously! Who knew going to a ball game would cost this much?!

Top of the 7th

The Twins bring in Bobby Keppel to face the Tribe. Yes, I'm reduced to rooting for a Keppel.

You would think that back-to-back strikeouts would make me happy. Instead, the iffy nature of the calls makes me suspicious that the umpire has dinner reservations at Murray's and the Maitre D' isn't going to be holding the table very long.

Keppel gets Cleveland to go in order, and it's still 7-2 Tribe.

My turn for “Moundball”. I don't even look up. I know what's coming. Why would I look? I hope they burn the umpire's steak!

Bottom of the 7th

Mauer grounds out to start. But Morneau singles, which chases Cleveland's lefty from the game.

Finally! A righty from the Tribe!

Cuddyer reaches on an Asdrubal (I'm telling you, it rolls right off the tongue!) error sending Morneau to third.

Crede flies out to left. For some reason Twins third-base coach Scott Ulger decides to keep Morneau at third. Now, the fly out wasn't that deep. And Morneau's not that fast. But I still would've sent him. It would've been a close play for sure, but when you're down 7-2, don't you have to force the defense to make that play?!

Delmon flies out and the chance is wasted.

Did I mention I'm bitter?

7-2 Cleveland.

Renee's turn at “Moundball”. I'm still not watching. Sorry Renee. It wasn't my fault that your turn came after mine.

Top of the 8th

“And the communist exodus begins...”

I wrote those very words in my notes. It's my contention that anyone who leaves a baseball game early (barring special circumstances... and “the Twins are losing” doesn't count) is a communist. They just are. Don't ask me to explain my irrationality. Just deal.

Keppel hits the first batter he faces. That's interesting. But promptly erases him on a fielders choice. An error and a couple of outs later, and he holds the Tribe at 7.

7-2 Indians.

Mom's turn at “Moundball”. At this point, just assume whoever's turn it is, they got paid. So long as it wasn't me, you'd be right about 95% of the time.

Bottom of the 8th

Gomez flies out. Punto strikes out (he hit for Casilla who bruised a foot). And Denard (who hasn't Done Diddly all Day – God I love alliteration), grounds out.

Because when you're down 7-2, you want to get your half of the inning over as quickly as possible.

Dammit.

7-2 Cleveland.

Cheri's turn at “Moundball”. What?! She missed?! Somebody call the cops! Cheri was robbed! Oh wait, never mind. She has all my money. She'll be just fine.

Top of the 9th

Jeff Manship makes his Major League debut for the Twins. I always enjoy seeing that. It even managed to lessen my bitterness for a moment.

He gets the Indians to go in order, including a strikeout of Shin-Soo Choo.

I mention that mostly because I like typing “Shin-Soo Choo”.

Congrats on the debut, Kid.

7-2 Cleveland.

And it's the last round for “Moundball”. Long about the 7th inning, my Mom (or, the Queen of Rulebookland, as I'd taken to calling her) decided that the middle of the ninth would belong to whomever had been paid the least. And that person would get double if they won.

I don't really need to tell you who that was, right?

Okay, fine, I'll watch. The worst umpire in the history of “Moundball” gives it a toss. And... wait a minute... this has a chance... it might be... it could be... YES! He hit the first ring! $2 from everybody for me! I don't care that I lost money. This is the greatest game EVAR! (typo intentional)

Bottom of the 9th

More communists leave. Now why on earth would you stay for 8-and-a-half and leave before the Twins bat in the 9th?! That's beyond ridiculous. These people should be rounded up and eliminated from the gene pool! Exaggeration? I think not!

I tell the ladies to prepare for a comeback. If any of us had had caps on, I'd have insisted that they were turned inside out. It's rally time!

Just not for Orlando Cabrera who flies out to right.

Up next? Baby Jesus. He's 2-for-4 on the day. The Twins are down by 5. What does that add up to? You got it, a solo shot to center!

Here we go! Baby Jesus is leading us to the Promised Land. Get on board folks. Here it comes!

Morneau grounds out and Cudder flies out. Game: fin.

Bitter? Thy name is Dan Cook.

No “Moundball” after the game ends. Thank God.

Your final? 7-3 Cleveland.

Post-Game

Okay, the Twins got hammered by a team with players I've never heard of. I lost money on a game where the rules kept changing throughout the duration. All in all, I was feeling pretty... well, yes, bitter's still the word.

But then I looked at the ladies I was with as we exited, and one and all, they were smiling. When you can spend a few hours with family, and everybody comes out entertained? How can I be bitter about that?!

So thanks Mom. Thanks Cheri. And thanks Renee, for coming up with the idea in the first place. I had a ball. Let's do it again sometime! (And maybe we'll even get to see a winner!)


So there you have it! Another RGC in the books. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I enjoyed being there... perhaps even a little more?

Seriously though, it was a good time all around. Baseball and family. Never a bad combination.

I'll be back on Friday to cap off your work week.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

8-17-09: Notes

Hello again everybody...

I'm back after a long weekend. Have you ever felt like you need a long weekend to recover from your long weekend? That's where I'm at today.

Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun over the weekend. But I'm dragging a little as I head into my last Fair-free week prior to Labor Day.

That's right, believe it or not, the Minnesota State Fair begins a week from Thursday. And as usual, I can't wait... for it to be over. 11-straight days of remote broadcasts is rough on any radio station. And nobody does more out there than we do. Remember, I'm out there both Sundays of the Fair from 12pm-5pm. If you're going to be out there, stop by and say hello.

But that's then, and this is today. Yes, I did go to a ballgame Saturday afternoon. Yes, I took notes for an RGC column. And yes, I left those notes at home today, which is why you'll have to be patient and wait til Wednesday for that column. Sorry about that.

Instead, there's a lot of weekend news to get to. So let's get to the gettin' shall we?

"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia."
- Charles M. Schulz (1922 - 2000), American cartoonist


I've said it before, and this quote reinforces it... perspective is a wonderful thing!

Speaking of perspective, here's mine in the form of some...

Notes

Tiger was beaten by a Yang...
[insert snarky punchline here]...

Minnesota got some wonderful advertising over the last four days as the PGA Championship was held at Hazeltine National in Chaska. Unfortunately, the tournament didn't work out quite how the folks running the show would've liked.

It started off brilliantly. Record-crowds greeted the best golfer in the world as Tiger jumped out to a lead after the first round. And he held that lead through the next two rounds and into Sunday.

But a funny thing happened on the way to his 15th Major victory. The most mentally unflappable player in recent sports history choked. The cliche goes: it's tough to swing a golf club with both hands wrapped firmly around your throat. And on Sunday, Tiger proved it yet again.

Don't get me wrong, I take nothing away from Y.E. Yang. He made some brilliant shots on the way to his first Major victory. But if Tiger had simply matched his round of 71 from Saturday, he'd have won the tournament. Instead, he shot a very un-Tiger-like 75, and finished second.

14-straight times that Tiger had entered the final round of a Major with a lead, he'd sealed the deal. The focus and mental toughness required to put together a streak like that is nearly inhuman. And given that nobody's perfect, I guess we can forgive him not making it 15.

Forgive, but not forget. Maybe he's still not all the way back from the knee surgery. Maybe being a father for a second time has messed with his ability to focus. Maybe he forgot to pick up eggs on the way home from the last tournament and Elin kicked him to the couch. I don't know.

Whatever it is, the most intense competitor I've seen since Michael Jordan suddenly looks vulnerable.

Twins lose, Twins lose, thhhhheeee Twins lose... ugh.

In the last week the Twins have lost two out of three to the Royals and the Indians. Those two teams have a combined record of 97-137. And the Twins lost 4 of 6 to them?! Oof.

But even after losing two straight home-series against what should be inferior competition, I'm still not ready to stick a fork in my favorite home nine. I am, however, poised, and very ready. They're 6 games out with a month and a half to go. That's not an insurmountable deficit. But not only have the Twins shown absolutely no inclination to go on a winning streak, but their pitching has continued it's regression.

The Twins are scoring enough runs to remain competitive, but their pitching has flat-out fallen apart. There's still time for them to get things turned around, but my hope is dwindling very quickly.

When does college football start again?

Michael Vick signs with the Eagles... and I'm moderately surprised.

I'm not so much surprised that it was Philly who signed him. I'm more surprised that anybody signed him without seeing him play in another league, just to find out if he's worth the risk.

But if we're going to set that aside, and try to figure out where Vick would fit best in the NFL, Philly's not a bad place for him to land. The Eagles have Donovan McNabb firmly established as their quarterback, so barring injury, there won't be a natural spot for Vick to be put in right away.

That makes some people wonder why Philly would sign him in the first place. I think it makes sense, because it allows Philly to evaluate where Vick's at and slowly integrate him into the offense in various positions and situations.

Plus, Vick will be insulated from protesters somewhat. I mean, if you were PETA, would you want to mess with Philly fans? These are the folks who booed Santa Claus, and cheered Michael Irvin's neck injury. Protest Vick's signing at your own risk folks.

Favre... Fox Sports report... anonymous Vikings still think he'll play... and good lord, am I bored with this story already.

Can we just open up the regular season already? If he's here, great. It'll be interesting as all get-out. If not, fine. At least we'll know what the deal is.

Until them, color me completely uninterested in all of this "he might play, he won't play, wait, he might still play" nonsense.


And that's going to wrap it for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with the RGC I intended to put up today. Sorry about that again.

Oh, and one last thing: Happy Birthday Dad!

Until Wednesday, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

8-12-09: Wednesday DFTU?

Hello again everybody...

No, you didn't mis-read the title of today's column. Let me explain.

The last couple of times I've told you that I've had a Friday off of work, I've still indicated that I intended to do a column that day from the home offices. And both times I've failed to follow through on that intention. Not from a lack of desire to follow through. Rather I just found myself with other things that took priority.

I'm sure you understand.

But this time, rather than build up your hopes only to let you down, I've decided to just flat tell you: I'm off Friday and the odds of me getting a column up aren't good. Plenty to do, and most of it will be away from the home offices, ergo no column.

So that's why you get an early DFTU this week. Fair enough?

I thought so.

Without any further ado, let's get to the getting!

"Nice guys finish last, but we get to sleep in."
- Evan Davis, (1962 - )British economist, journalist and presenter for the BBC


If sleeping in is indicative of being a nice guy, I might be the third-nicest guy on the planet!

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But when it comes to updating my people on my favorite teams, I never sleep on you! Okay, I rarely sleep on you. Actually... never mind.

Let's just get to the updating, shall we?

It's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 54-58, in third place in the AL Central, 3 games behind the White Sox for second place and 5 games behind the Tigers for first.

8-1 (L), 2-1 (L), 10-8 (L), 11-0 (W), 8-7 (L), 14-6 (L)

Those are the scores from the last six Twins games. See a pattern? In only one-third of them were the Twins able to hold the opposing team below eight runs.

Eight freaking runs.

That's not pitching, that's putting it on a tee and letting the other team have a whack.

What's even more disconcerting is that the one win in those six was courtesy of Carl Pavano, who they just acquired last week. That means that the team they were actually counting on having for this year, has been nothing short of god-awful.

Last week I set up a series of "ifs" that could lead from the acquisition of Pavano to an improvement in the Twins pitching. Obviously, outside of Pavano's one start so far, those dominoes haven't fallen.

And now with last night's announcement that LHP Glen Perkins has been put on the disabled list, they may never fall. The Twins have purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Manship from AAA-Rochester to replace Perkins on the roster. And all indications are that he'll be immediately inserted into the bullpen.

That means that for the time being, LHP Francisco Liriano will remain in the rotation. The same Liriano who's lost his last three decisions. The same Liriano who hasn't won a game since June. The same Liriano who's confidence is so shattered at this point, that a move to the bullpen was being discussed as a mercy move.

But due to injury, the Twins just don't have much of a choice. They're thin in the pitching department at their upper minor league levels. That's evidenced by the fact that Manship wasn't even on the 40-man roster. Kevin Slowey was shifted from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL to create an opening for Manship.

I know this all sounds rather fatalistic. And to a degree it is. And yet, I still can't quite put that fork in the Twins.

I mentioned last week the weak schedule the Twins have going forward (though if you're going to give up 14 to the Royals, that may not matter). And the fact of the matter is, Detroit and Chicago simply aren't that much better. Both of those clubs have had ample opportunity to run away and hide with the division lead, and neither one of them has done it.

The Twins are on the verge of falling out of this race. But they're not out yet! (At least I hope not!)

Minnesota has another go with Kansas City tonight before wrapping up that series tomorrow afternoon. Then Friday, Cleveland comes to down for a 3-game weekender. I'm going Saturday night, so you may expect a Running Game Commentary next week!


Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 52-62, in fourth place in the NL West and 17 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

The nice thing about one of your favorite teams being out of the playoff hunt, is that expectations are low. So when anything good comes along, it feels all that much better.

And it's in that vein that I give you the story of Trent Oeltjen.

Oeltjen was signed from his native Australia by the Minnesota Twins in 2001 and spent the next seven years slogging his way through the Twins farm system. Last year, he hooked on with the Tucson Sidewinders, the AAA affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Oeltjen had performed well in the minors, but was never considered a top prospect. But with the rash of injuries to this years Arizona club, he finally got the call, and he's made the most of it.

In his 25 plate appearances, the kid's hitting .500, slugging 1.042 and has an OPS of 1.542.

Obviously that's a small sample-size, and the advance scouts haven't really found his weak spots yet, but the kid's become an immediate darling of Arizona fans.

Not only because of the numbers he's put up, but because of something much simpler. He smiles... all the time.

Oeltjen is like a kid in a candy story. Every time the camera focuses on him be it on the base paths, in the field or even in the dugout, he's flashing a toothy grin. Like he doesn't know how long this will last and is determined to enjoy every second of it while he's there.

And when you combine a winning smile with great play, you have an instant fan-favorite. He received his first standing ovation after singling in the 8th inning last night. Why a standing-O for a single? Because it was his last chance to hit a home run and complete the cycle. So even though he was unable to finish it off, the fans wanted to show him their appreciation for his performance.

It's hard to see how an attitude like his wouldn't be infectious. And since the playoffs are out of reach, there isn't a ton of pressure on this club. Combine a fun clubhouse with a lack of pressure, and who knows what you might end up with?

I'm not saying they can make the playoffs, but it'd be fun to see them go on a run and threaten the .500-mark by the end of the year!

The D'backs finish up their series with the Mets today. After an off-day tomorrow they welcome the division-leading Dodgers to town over the weekend.

That's going to wrap it up for today, and likely the week. Who knows, maybe the muse will grab me on Friday. I'm just trying to limit your expectations!

I'll be back Monday at the latest. So until then, thanks for reading!

Monday

8-10-09: Notes

Hello again everybody...

Well I was having a solid start to my week. Right up until immediately before I started writing this.

See, a friend of mine had grown a full beard for a play he was acting in, and asked the other day for opinions on whether he should keep it or shave it. And being the smart ass that I am, I immediately suggested that he go for a handlebar mustache look. He said that he'd do it if another mutual friend and I followed suit. Only I physically can't grow one, so I'd have to draw one in.

I agreed, never figuring he'd actually do it. I underestimated him. Just now I got a picture emailed to me of my friend with a handlebar 'stache saying that he's waiting for a return picture. So since I stupidly made the suggestion in the first place, I'm now committed to coming up with something.

Yes, sometimes my mouth engages prior to my brain, and this is the result. And I'm sorry, but that picture will not be posted here for all to see. I have a feeling it may show up on someone's Facebook page sooner or later, but it won't be mine!

Oh well, lesson learned.

Speaking of lessons, there were several taught over the weekend. I'll discuss in today's Notes column!

"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin."
- H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956), American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, acerbic critic of American life and culture, and a student of American English


Okay, I'm not quite that cynical. But I'm not that far off. Which brings us to some...

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Notes...

Minnesota Twins lose another series on the road...
First Cleveland, then Detroit. The Twins' road woes continue.

If I have to look for positives, and I guess as a fan I do, Carl Pavano pitched a gem in his Twins debut on Saturday. He went 7 solid innings, scattering 5 hits and giving up no runs. The offense gave him a big cushion, jumping out to a 5-run lead by the 6th and pouring it on in the late innings. Pavano had been good against Detroit all year, and continued that on Saturday.

As for the other two games? Well, they were both emblematic of the Twins' season: shaky starting pitching, the line-up battling to get back into the game, and the bullpen being unable to hold down the opposing hitters in the late stages.

That's how you lose 2 out of 3.

And yet, I can't put the fork in Minnesota yet. The only other +.500 team the Twins play in August is Texas (Chicago comes to town on the 31st, so they count too I guess). So they've got a shot to get on a run. Then again, the Twins are sub-.500 too, so it's entirely possible that the opponents will be thinking the same thing.

As of today, the Twins are 5.5-games out. That's a tough deficit to make up, but it can be done. The Twins haven't won more than 4 games in a row all year, so they're due for a hot-streak, right? Hell, the Nationals have won 8 in a row!

It's still possible people, it's still possible!

Big Papi threw a press conference and nobody cared... The media showed up, but no one was particularly surprised by what was said.

First of all, the fact that this press conference was held on a Saturday, when most of America is distracted by a fine Summer's day was telling. Why have it on a Saturday? Because by Monday when most people are back and work and paying attention, the stories and columns have already been written and the news has moved on.

But that's why you come to me, right? So I can fill you in on the absurdity of some athletes.

Basically, what Ortiz wants us to believe is that he was "careless" with some "supplements" and "accidentally" took something that was spiked with a substance which caused his positive test. But he never bought or used steroids.

Yeah. Right. Whatever you say David. Never mind the fact that your career path will be considered the quintessential "steroid user" arc from here on out. And we'll just set aside the lie you've already told about not knowing you tested positive, when it's been confirmed that MLB informed all the players on that 2003 list that they'd tested positive.

It was the typical, silly, athlete-denial. If they just say that they didn't do anything, then everyone will just believe them and it'll be okay! That's the world they live in. Unfortunately for them, the rest of us don't.

ESPN.com's Howard Bryant said it far better in this article than I could, as he compared Papi's denials, to Josh Hamilton's mea culpa. Hamilton fell off the wagon on his road to recovery from alcoholism, and took time on Saturday to apologize and admit his fault.

Papi could learn a lesson from that.

The AFL, er, NFL began their pre-season last night... and I found it terribly difficult to care.

To me, there's very little that's less useful in sports than pre-season football.

Unlike baseball, the games are held in the same locations as regular season games, and are priced equally. In fact, most NFL teams now require ticket buyers to purchase a pre-season ticket as part of the cost of buying a regular season ticket to a premium game.

The starters play no more than the first half, and after that, the games get boring in a hurry. Not that they're all that spectacular to begin with. Coaches don't want to reveal all their wrinkles in the pre-season because they don't want opposing teams to get a good read on what their plan is for the regular season.

I watched about 3 minutes of last night's game. And that was only because my dad wanted to know why the referee's uniforms had orange stripes (it was an AFL throwback night). Once I figured out why, I immediately went back to Sunday Night Baseball.

Because...

The Yankees/Red Sox (whom I hate) game last night was part of a Twitter experiment by ESPN... and as you might have guessed, I enjoyed it.

ESPN was testing software last night that allowed some of their reporters and columnists to tweet in their thoughts and reactions, which were then displayed in a chronological chat-box where viewers could also submit their thoughts and reactions.

Not all viewer comments were actually posted. In fact, I think I entered something like 10, and only 1 made the cut.

But it's a solid idea. And with a little tweaking, it can be a lot better.

It'd be nice if people had the option to use Twitter to join the conversation as well. I understand that it would complicate the process, but allowing people to comment using their Twitter ID's would allow viewers to interact with each other on an on-going basis in addition to that night's coverage.

It'd also be nice if there was a way to make the whole process more conversant. As it was last night, there were a few responses to viewer comments by the ESPN folks, but it still didn't feel like much of a conversation.

I understand that you don't want to turn it into an open forum where anonymous Internet users are screaming obscenities at each other. But I'd hope there could be a way where more comments of a thoughtful, responsive nature could make the cut next time.

If you want to take a look at how it went, ESPN.com still has a replay of it here.

It's an interesting concept, that should be interesting to follow. Especially as we move forward into the NFL season and ESPN's Monday Night Football kicks off.

That's going to do it for today folks. I'll be back on Wednesday with more Sports Take wonder for you.

Until then, thanks for reading!

Friday

8-7-09: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it once again. The end of the week is here. And I'm as confused as I've been all year.

I have a lot of conflicting thoughts rattling around my head. One of the nice things about the blog is that it allows me to try and sort them out. “Try” being the key word there. I'm not always successful, and I'm somewhat pessimistic about my chances today.

But I'm not going to let that deter me from the attempt!

Okay, perhaps that's a little dramatic for a lightly-read sports blog. But sports is all about drama, right? So maybe it's fitting after all.

I'm feeling good because my folks are in town and I've got a fun week or so ahead. I'm depressed because the Twins just lost a series to Cleveland. CLEVELAND! And I'm confused because they also made a move to finally shore up their pitching a little bit. But I'm wondering if it's too little too late.

What I'm saying is, there's a lot going on. And when I find myself in need of sorting stuff out, I know it's time for a solid shot of DFTU!

Onward!

"A bore is a man who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company."
- Gian Vincenzo Gravina (1664 - 1718), Italian man of letters and jurist


And lord knows, I love me some solitude! So hopefully The Sports Take provides you with some good company!

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It's Friday. The weekend's ahead. But before you can settle in for some R&R, you've got to get your fix. So here it is. It's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment:

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are 53-55, in third place in the AL Central, 2.5 games behind the Chicago White Sox for second place and 4.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for first place.

The Twins acquired Carl Pavano in a deal with the Indians today. How can that happen after the "Trade Deadline"? July 31st was technically the "Non-waiver Trade Deadline". After that, teams have til August 31st to complete deals in which the big-league players involved clear waivers prior to being traded. That means that Cleveland had to make Pavano available to claims by the other 29 teams before they could trade him. If a team put a claim on Pavano, then the Indians could either try to work out a deal with that team, or pull him back off of waivers and keep him.

It's a complex process, but the bottom line is that either no one "claimed" Pavano, or the Twins put a claim on him and then negotiated a deal with Cleveland to bring him to Minnesota.

I mocked the Indians in my season preview column saying, “Pavano is trying to come back after washing out with the Yankees. And if he's their 3rd best option, I can't get that excited about the Indians.”. And now I have to reconcile that with the fact that he's on my favorite team.

On the one hand, I'm thrilled that the Twins have finally made a move to address their biggest weakness. On the other hand, I have to wonder if it's too little, too late.

Pavano was 9-8 with a 5.37 ERA, a 1.377 WHIP, and a 3.83 K/BB-ratio for the Indians before being traded to the Twins. Those numbers aren't awful, but they don't knock you out either.

(Ed.'s note: Okay, as it was pointed out to me, those numbers aren't good. Perhaps they even are awful. I was trying to put a positive spin on it, and semantically-speaking, I was in error.)

If I was really going to try and throw out numbers to convince myself that this was a good deal, I'd mention that he's 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA against the Tigers, and 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA against the White Sox.

It's hard to judge the deal, since the Twins sent the Indians the dreaded "Player-to-be-named-later" in exchange. For those of you not familiar with baseball-trade parlance, that means that the Twins and Indians agreed to a deal where the player that Cleveland gets in the deal will be one of several on a list, dependent on certain statistical marks that Pavano could reach while with Minnesota.

His base salary for this year was $1.5 million, with incentives that could bring it up to $5.3 million. So even if he hits all of those, it's not a big monetary drag on the Twins either.

So given all of that, I guess you could say I'm "thumbs in the middle" on the deal. I'm not convinced that Pavano will make a drastic difference in the Twins starting rotation. But he is another arm. And it does allow Minnesota to shift some people around.

To make room for Pavano on the 40-man roster, the Twins optioned knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to AAA Rochester. While I'll miss having a junkballer on the team, Dickey had gotten shelled in his last couple of relief stints, so I don't mind him being the odd man out.

So if Pavano continues his solid numbers against Detroit and Chicago, and if this allows the Twins to shift Fransico Liriano to the bullpen, and if Liriano blossoms in a relief role (a'la Phil Hughes in New York), then maybe this is a deal that helps them turn the corner.

But that's a lot of dominoes that have to fall just right. And that doesn't happen too often. It's not impossible, but it's not likely either.

We'll see.

At least it takes the focus off the stinker of a series the Twins just had with Cleveland. I know it's a road series, but if you're a contender, you don't lose 2 of 3 to the Indians at this point, you just don't.

But we're moving on.

The Twins stay on the road over the weekend, and it's an important series. Three games in Motown can help the Twins get right back in it, or put them even further behind. Next week, the boys finally get home for 6. Three versus Kansas City and three versus Cleveland. Once again, a chance to make some hay!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 50-59, in fourth place in the NL West and 17 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.

And just like that, .500 is back in play. It's amazing what a 5-game winning streak can do for a club. Sure it was the Mets and Pirates involved, but those wins count as much as a win against the Phillies, so the Snakes will take them.

Those 5-straight wins make the D'backs one of the two hottest teams in the bigs. Unfortunately, that status is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the other team is the Nationals. Just goes to show that anybody can get hot at any time.

But if Arizona could manage to crawl back to the .500 mark by the end of the year, that'd be a big achievement given how awful they started, and the number of injuries they've had to endure over the course of the season.

Speaking of which, OF Justin Upton has landed on the 15-day Disabled List with an oblique strain. The "oblique strain" is the "hamstring pull" of the upper body. Meaning that it's a difficult injury to treat, and can easily re-occur if a player tries to come back too soon. Upton will likely spend most of his DL stint simply resting, and perhaps doing some light cardio work to keep in shape. And even then, we won't really know if he's ready to play again til he tries some light hitting work. If there's even a twinge at that point, they'll shut him down for another week at least.

Given the fact that the team's not going anywhere, there's simply no reason to push for his return and risk further injury. It's a shame though. Upton's .301, 20 home-run and 66-RBI season was one of the few bright spots during an otherwise dismal season for Diamondback fans.

At least we can look at it as the start of what should be a promising career. Here's to hoping he comes back healthy soon.

Arizona continues their East Coast swing this weekend with three in Washington, before returning home for three against the Mets and then three with the Dodgers.

That's all for this week ladies and gentlemen. I hope you have a fantastic weekend and come back on Monday refreshed, renewed and ready to take on the week! Okay, I just hope that we all make it to Monday alive. After that, everything else is gravy!

Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday

8-5-09: Tweet This

Hello again everybody...

It's mid-week time again. And for the first time in a while, I'm actually stoked for a Wednesday. A Wednesday?! Yes, a Wednesday.

(Yes, I like typing "Wednesday".)

Even as I type this, my folks are en route from Phoenix to Minneapolis for a visit. I only get to see them a few times a year these days (my favorite of which is my annual visit to Phoenix in March), so it's always good to spend some quality time with them.

They timed it just right since yesterday was my nephew's 6th birthday, so we get to have a family celebration this weekend.

(Good gawd, I have a 6-year-old nephew! Insert "Jeez is Dan old!" joke here.)

And as an extra bonus, I'm heading to a ball game next weekend with my mom, and two of my aunts. And oh yes, there will be a Running Game Commentary forthcoming from that event.

So a lot of good stuff on the way, and focusing on that is a pretty good way to deal with a Wednesday!

Today's column idea is another I've been ruminating on for a while. And after ESPN made news yesterday by issuing an official policy on the subject of my idea, I thought it was time to finally put it out there.

Twitter has become a part of the lexicon. Even if you're not using it, you're aware it's out there, and that there are a lot of people who are users. And a lot of those people are athletes. Like it or not, Twitter has become a huge part of sports these days, and that's why I want to talk about it.

Let's get to the discussing, shall we?

"An intelligence test sometimes shows a man how smart he would have been not to have taken it."
- Laurence J. Peter (1919 - 1988), educator and "hierarchiologist".


Yes, I just used Dr. Peter for a quote last week. But what can I say, the guy's got some solid offerings!

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Twitter. It's here and we'd better get used to it.

Twitter began as an idea for a text-message-based social network in 2006. The initial idea was for people to be able to send a single text message to a mass audience. With a few key-strokes, you can tell a group of friends where you're meeting that night, or share a special event with family members.

In the last year or so though, Twitter has morphed into something else entirely. Oh, it still retains the ability to share thoughts and locales with your friends and family. But it's also become a direct media outlet.

What I mean by that is that it allows famous entertainers and athletes to speak directly to fans without having to go through traditional media. Film directors can provide updates on their latest project. Athletes can talk about practices or even games. All in real time. All without having to talk to someone else who'll repackage their words into a story which may or may not represent the subject's original intentions.

You can see why this would appeal to oft-quoted people.

This bypass, understandably, has said traditional media a little rankled. After all, what they can't control, they can't monetize. And when you start impacting the profit margins of large corporations, they pay attention in a hurry.

To whit, yesterday ESPN sent a memo to its employees outlining the company's official policy on social networking. You can read that memo here. (Courtesy of www.sportsbusinessdaily.com)

At first glance, that looks a little restrictive. Many of ESPN's anchors, reporters and columnists have not only been sharing information, but also providing a unique perspectives on when and how that information has been collected. Unless the Worldwide Leader changes their stance, much of that will be silenced.

I understand ESPN's motivations. The sports audience is already greatly fractured amongst the many cable/satellite and Internet options, and it would be less-than-profitable for ESPN to allow that audience to be further fractured, especially at the hands of their own staff.

Plus, you never know when someone will say something stupid, which could reflect poorly upon the company they work for. I read an article recently that detailed a "Twitter feud" taking place between ESPN's Mark Schlereth and Cincinnati WR Chad Ochocinco (yes, he legally changed his name, so I'll use it). I haven't seen any of the exchanges, but I doubt this is a war of words to rival classic literature. And who knows when or if it might escalate into inappropriate territory.

All of that being said, it's my earnest hope - and ESPN's stated intention - that they'll continue to use Twitter as an information sharing medium. Maybe we won't get the personal touch from their staff that we've received in the past. But imagine if sideline reporters were able to share information via Twitter that there wasn't time for them to get onto the TV broadcast. I know a lot of people who'd love to see stuff like that.

The next shoe to drop will come from the leagues themselves. So far, the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL have no official policy towards athletes using Twitter. That will likely change soon.

Individual teams have created their own policies. The Green Bay Packers don't allow players to use Twitter during any team functions, punishable by fines. Other teams take Tweets (the unfortunate term for an individual Twitter message) on a case by case basis. The San Diego Chargers just fined CB Antonio Cromartie over $2000 for complaining about the food served at training camp via Twitter.

When differing teams have varying policies, and some teams don't have policies at all, that's when leagues usually step in and make a singular policy for the entire league. Of course, those sorts of things usually have to be negotiated with each leagues' players' unions. But I'm guessing the unions will be more than happy to agree to some sort of policy given that there's some form of quid pro quo involved.

Needless to say, it's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. I only hope that the "inside baseball" that's out there now doesn't dry up all together. I'll admit, I'm a Twitter user. Not because I think anybody really cares to read my ruminations on anything (though if you do care, please feel free to follow me @dcook93), but because I truly enjoy following certain people.

To whit, here's a list of my favorite people to follow:

@The_Real_Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal): Sports fans are well acquainted with Shaq's legendary personality. And it comes through clearly in his Twitter posts (I just can't stand to call them "Tweets" anymore).

@Mark_Cuban (Dallas Mavericks Owner): I'm as annoyed as anyone by Cuban's antics at Mavericks games, but he's got some interesting insights into the game and business in general when he sits down and actually thinks about it.

@SenJohnMcCain (Arizona Republican): I'm fairly certain it's the Senator's staff that actually posts for him. But if you're a political junkie, it's fun to hear his opinions. And occasionally you'll get links to op/eds he's written.

@mnwild (Minnesota Wild): My favorite hockey team posts breaking news and updates on team promotions.

@stewartcink (PGA Professional): Not a guy I'd usually go out of my way to watch, but it was awfully interesting following him en route to his British Open Championship victory.

@StephenAtHome (Stephen Colbert): If you're a fan of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central will want to follow him on Twitter. They're not all home runs, but he's usually very entertaining.

@NickSwisher (Yankees outfielder): I know, I know. You hate the Yankees. I'm not a fan myself. But Nick's entertaining, and he makes my list.

@sportsguy33 (ESPN's Bill Simmons): I've gushed about my favorite sports columnist in the past. On Twitter, he's a links machine. And not just sports. He's got a keen sense for pop culture as well.

@kevin_love (Timberwolves forward): Dubbed "The Big Twitter", Kevin's one of the most well known Twitter athletes. He broke the news earlier this spring that Kevin McHale wasn't being retained as Wolves head coach. You know I don't like the NBA, but I like following Kevin!

@Jon_Favreau (film actor/director): I started following Jon when I heard he was updating from the sets of "Iron Man 2". And those were certainly fascinating. But there are plenty of other amusing anecdotes unrelated to super hero films that he provides as well.

@sethmeyers21 (SNL's Seth Meyers): The Weekend Update anchor will test material on Twitter, and pass along jokes that he can't work into the show.

@Russostrib (Star Tribune hockey writer Michael Russo): Russo's one of my favorite local sports writers, hockey or otherwise. Plus, it was via his Re-Tweet of Judd Zulgad's post announcing the Farve decision, that I was able to pass that information along and get it on WCCO radio before anybody other than the Strib published it. I have to appreciate that!

@JoeCStarTribune & @LaVelleNeal (Twins beat writers): Of course I'm going to follow the beat writers for my favorite team, right? Lots of links to lineups and blogs. Good stuff.

@tafoyashow (Michele Tafoya): The new 3-6pm host on WCCO Radio and famed sideline reporter for ESPN's Monday Night Football. Given ESPN's new policy, there might be a new handle forthcoming for the NFL season, but she's definitely worth following!

@madsen_mark (Former Wolves Forward): Sure he's no longer with the Wolves, but he's the Mad Dog! A good guy, and entertaining Twitter user.

@vshiancoe (Vikings TE Vicente Shiancoe): Sure he gained national notoriety last fall when Fox Sports put a live camera in the Vikings locker room after a big win. Let's just say that Randy Johnson isn't the only one with the nickname, "The Big Unit" now. But Vicente's been posting all week from Vikings camp. Who knows when "the man" will shut him down, but so far, it's been fun to follow!

So if you've ever been tempted to join Twitter, there's a list to get you started. You don't have to actually post things if you're not interested. But it's interesting to follow some of these people and find out what's on their mind at any given time.

That's all for today folks. I'll be back on Friday with your usual column-entre into the weekend!

Until then, thanks for reading!