9-10-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've made it to the end of another week. If just barely...

Speaking of “barely”... this column is going to be “barely” adequate...

I say that because I got caught up watching the Vikings game last night, and ended up spacing writing for today. I'm working an early shift today, so I'm scrambling to throw something together for your weekend perusal.

Forgive me then if I cut the usual pre-column nonsense short.

Let's do some Updating...

Right after the quote.

”The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.”
- James Baldwin (1924 - 1987), American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist

I chuckled when I read this one. It hit home with the recent change in my job. So far I haven't found a truly “ugly side” of being on air. But I don't doubt I'll stumble across it eventually!

It's Friday... and that means it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 83-57, in first place in the AL Central and six games ahead of the Chicago White Sox.

Almost there... but nothing's clinched yet.

I know that we don't have to wait until the Whities are mathematically eliminated to call them done, but until I see where the Twins are at after the three-game series in Chicago next week, I'm not calling this thing over.

If the deficit is still five-plus games when that series is done, then I'll be prepared to do it. Less than that, and the White Sox are still in it.

Part of me wants the Sox to stay in it, because it helps to keep the Twins sharp and on their game. The other part of me recognizes that after 140 games, the boys are beat up and tired and could use some days off to get re-energized for the post-season.

Another interesting question... who's the team MVP right now? Chad Hartman brought it up on the air yesterday, and if you think about it, it's a darned difficult question to answer.

Jim Thome has done wonders to pick up the club's offense down the stretch, but can a guy who doesn't play in the field really be an MVP?

Delmon Young had a hot couple of summer months, but in his case we might wish he didn't play in the field. “Inelegant routes to the ball”, thy name is Delmon!

Carl Pavano has been the most consistent starting pitcher all season long, and starting pitching has been perhaps the club's greatest weakness this year. But can you vote a guy who only plays once every 5 games a club's MVP?

You know who might be the darkhorse candidate here? How about Jesse Crain? No question he had a rough first couple of months, but he's been rock-solid for the better part of the season. The Twins bullpen is third in the AL in ERA, and Jesse has been a big part of the reason why.

Ultimately, I think this question can have multiple correct answers. No one player has really stepped up and claimed the award. Maybe somebody will cement their case in the last few weeks here, but for now, I think you could go with any of four or five guys and not be “wrong”.

The Twins open a three-gamer in Cleveland tonight. “Two out of three”, folks. That's our mantra. A sweep would be great, but two of three from here on out will easily get the job done.

After the Cleveland series, the Twins travel to Chicago for their chance to salt the division away. That three-game series starts Tuesday night. Next Friday, the Twins return home to face the A's to start a six-game home stand.

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 57-83, in last place in the NL West and 22.5 games behind the San Diego Padres.

Yes, yes, I noticed that the Twins and Diamondbacks records are exactly inverted. The irony of that is not lost on me.

But there are still things to discuss, namely the management team headed into next season.

Kirk Gibson is 25-36 in his 61 games as skipper. That translates to roughly a 69-93 record over a full-season. Not *exactly* a ringing endorsement for him to get the job full-time. Going back to August 1st, however, the Snakes are 19-17. That may only be a couple of games above .500, but it's worlds away from the horrible first three months Arizona had this year.

Ultimately, I don't think Gibson has locked the job down, but I wouldn't be disappointed if he was given a shot at the full-time gig.

That brings us to inerim-GM Jerry DiPoto. In the lead up to the trade deadlines, DiPoto made two major trades. And since trades are often what GM's are judged on, it's fair to take a look at them.

Most people believe the Dan Haren trade was a failure. John Saunders is no better than a third-starter, and never will be. While a lot of folks see “Haren for Saunders” as the deal, that's not entirely the case. There was one of those pesky “players to be named” involved, and he might be the key to the deal. I'm cranking this column out quicker than I'd like, so forgive me if I screw up his name, but I believe it's Tyler Skaggs. Or something along those lines. What I *do* remember is that he's a quality young reliever, and the Angels were loathe to part with him. Not only is it nice to have gotten a top prospect in this deal, but it addressed a key need for Arizona's rebuilding efforts.

The second deal was Edwin Jackson to the White Sox for Daniel Hudson. All Hudson's done is go 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA and a 0.935 WHIP. Granted, it's only eight starts, and that's a ridiculously small sample size. But in every measurable way so far, this has been a flat-out win for DiPoto and the Diamondbacks.

So should Jerry get the full-time gig? It's a tough call. On the one hand, when you fire a GM, usually you want to go outside the organization for your “new direction”. On the other hand, so far, everything DiPoto's done seems to indicate he's more than able to handle the job.

I hate to equivocate like this, but I guess I feel the same way about DiPoto that I do about Gibson. I don't feel like he's a lock-cinch to get the job, and if the D'backs find a candidate they feel is better I won't be sorely disappointed. I also won't be terribly troubled if DiPoto is back in 2011.

Arizona kicks off a 10-game road trip in Colorado tonight. Three against the Rockies, four in Cincinnati against the Reds and finally three in Pittsburgh.

At least it's a light finish to the trip!

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 1-0 (0-0) and tied for first place in the Big Ten Conference.

Okay, okay, it's WAY too early to be talking about what “place” any college football team is in its conference, but I like to keep a consistent format, okay? Cut me some slack.

First, let's look at the Badgers 41-21 victory at UNLV.

What I liked was the clean and dominant second half the Badgers played. I know a lot of people don't like the way Wisconsin plays offense, but call me crazy, I do. Wisconsin basically takes five enormous linemen, and hits defenses repeatedly with them and a 250-pound running back named John Clay. They hit you and they hit you and they hit you.

When you've finally committed to putting eight or more men in the box to try and stop that running game, quarterback Scott Tolzien goes over the top to a Nick Toon, a Isaac Anderson or a David Gilreath, or he gashes you with a Lance Kendricks.

If you back off to try and protect against those passes, the Badgers go right back to pounding you with the run until you cry uncle.

I can't help it. I like the way they break defenses down and crush their will. It's kind of like the way George Foreman used to box. He'd lean on you and lean on you and wear you down, and then once you finally tired of getting beat up, whamo, there comes the knock-out punch.

That was the story of the second half, but in the first half? Not so much. It started out well enough. In fact there was a point in the second quarter where I thought the Badgers had a chance to salt it away early. Two quick turnovers squashed that chance, and that's what concerns me.

Turnovers killed the Badgers last season, and they haven't quite kicked the habit yet this year. Scott Tolzien threw a horrible interception deep in the Badger end that resulted in a interception for a touchdown for UNLV.

Then Nick Toon fumbled a ball on a big pass play that would've put the Badgers deep in UNLV territory with a chance to take a big lead.

They cleaned things up markedly in the second half, and I take that as a positive sign. We'll see what happens this week against San Jose State. No, I'm not saying that SJ State is a quality opponent, but it doesn't take a quality opponent to judge whether a team has stopped turning the ball over so much or not.

Mark down September 18th on your calendar, Badger fans. Bucky welcomes the Sun Devils of Arizona State to Camp Randall. That will be your true test.

Oh, and I'll let you know if ASU grad, Chad Hartman, and I come up with a friendly wager.

That's going to wrap things up for today. Again, I apologize for the brevity and any spelling/grammar errors, but I wanted to get this posted as soon as possible.

Thanks for hanging with me, and enjoy your weekend to the fullest. For you Wild fans out there, WCCO is broadcasting live from the Best Buy Rotunda at the Mall of America on Sunday from 3-5pm to help the Wild kick off their 2010-11 pre-season schedule. Yes, it's almost hockey time again! I'll be out there engineering, so feel free to stop by and say hello!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

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