We're back from another weekend, and while that usually means the standard Monday mumblings and grumblings, this Monday is anything but standard for yours truly.
There are two reasons for that: one, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the latest Twins post-season debacle; and two, I'm working a short week.
Friday, my favorite group of Nebraska Cornhusker fans are tossing me into a vehicle and driving me southwest to Lincoln, NE, for a huge Big 12 contest on Saturday. The Huskers are welcoming the rival Texas Longhorns to Lincoln for their final Big 12 - and likely final of any kind - match-up.
Ever since the Big 8 became the Big 12 these two schools have been at odds with each other. Their most recent controversial finish came in last year's Big 12 Championship game when a last-second clock correction allowed Texas to kick a game-winning field goal which sent them on to the BCS Championship Game where they lost to Alabama, and Nebraska to the Holiday Bowl where they routed Arizona.
The hype for this year's regular season match-up has been building for some time. Nebraska called for a “red-out” at this game weeks ago, and I anticipate the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium to be none too friendly for the visiting Longhorns.
Needless to say, I couldn't be more psyched to go see a Huskers home game for the first time, and a RGC is a definite probability.
But that's not til Saturday.
Today, we've got to deal with some lingering issues from the weekend. And as usual, that means it's Notes time...
Right after the quote!
“I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.”
- Ian Fleming (1908 - 1964), British author and journalist
Shocking that the guy who invented James Bond would think that obsessing over health was a waste of life, isn't it?
Another Twins season comes to an end... and while we all knew what Saturday night's outcome would be, that doesn't make it sting any less.
Me? I couldn't bring myself to watch Game 3. I kept an eye on it online, and flipped over to the game for a minute or two a few times, but I couldn't really sit and watch it.
I'm sure there are some folks who'll chastise me for not watching after I blathered on and on about “hope” on Friday. But that column was written with the understanding that “hope” wasn't going to be renewed in 2010.
So forgive me or not, I knew what was coming on Saturday and chose to deflect the blow a bit.
Yet another sweep at the hands of the Yankees leaves Twins fans wondering where the club goes next. They signed their superstar to a mega-contract, added several veterans and constructed a roster with a payroll around the $100 million mark for the first time in club history.
All of that, and they still got swept by the Yankees. So now what?
First of all, for those folks calling for the manager's head? Please. Stop. Just stop.
Ron Gardenhire has guided his club to the playoffs in six out of his nine years as skipper. He's been flat-out hosed out of the “Manager of the Year” award at least twice, and though some consider him the favorite this season, could up that number to three times if enough voters go for Ron Washington. Gardy's contract runs through next year, and the last I heard, an extension is being discussed as you read this. He's not going anywhere. Nor should he.
As for those added veterans? The consensus seems to be that 2B Orlando Hudson will be moving on to yet another team in 2011. His line of .268/.338/.372 wasn't horrible, but numbers like those he produced can be had for much cheaper.
Jim Thome seems certain to play somewhere in 2011, and I believe the Twins would like to have him back - his role as Justin Morneau insurance was more than worth the money he made this season. The only question with Thome is money. I expect the Twins to make him a fair offer, I also expect that he and his agent will listen if other offers (perhaps from the south side of Chicago?) come calling.
Someone will surely correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe SS J.J. Hardy will be eligible for arbitration in 2011. His 2010 line of .268/.320/.394 didn't set the world on fire, and his absences on the DL were noticeable too. But if the Twins are already set on replacing Hudson at second base, then they'd be wise to hold on to Hardy. I don't think a middle-infield of Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto excites anybody.
Those issues will have to be addressed. Justin Morneau's post-concussion issues will have to be re-evaluated come Spring Training. But perhaps the most important issue the Twins will have to deal with in the off-season is their pitching staff.
Carl Pavano will be fielding some serious offers. The Twins will have to decide how badly they want to keep him. If he departs - heck, even if he doesn't - the Twins are going to have to take a long, hard look at their starting rotation. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn all had stretches where they were abysmally bad. I know the Twins organization likes to be loyal to their veterans, but it seems pretty clear to me that some form of a shake-up is in order.
None of these decisions - outside of Gardy's extension - will be decided soon. Baseball's Winter Meetings and Hot Stove League are all months away. Sadly, that leaves a lot of times for Twins fans to ponder what went wrong and how to fix it for next season.
The Badgers went for a two-point conversion while up 25 points on the Gophers... and I couldn't be more embarrassed for my favorite college football team.
You won't find many people out there who enjoy seeing the Badgers lay a whipping on the Gophers more than me. Regular readers are all too familiar for my disdain for all things Maroon & Gold after the endless taunts that came my while while a student at UW.
That being said, I have no defense whatsoever for what Badger head coach Bret Bielema did on Saturday.
For those unfamiliar with the story, allow me to briefly recap...
Not quite midway through the fourth quarter, Wisconsin scored a touchdown to take a 41-16 lead over Minnesota. Though the Gophers had scored a touchdown on the previous drive and would go on to score another before the game was over (thank you for covering Minnesota!), there was literally not a person in the stadium or watching at home that had any doubt what the outcome would be.
Yet for some reason, Bielema sent his offense back onto the field to try for a two-point conversion. As soon as I saw them line up for the try, I started shaking my head. I knew exactly what was going on. Bielema and Brewster have never been fast friends. In fact, they seem to have developed a sincere mutual enmity towards each other over the years. That's not uncommon for coaches at rival schools.
It is unfortunate, however, that Bielema - sensing that this very well may be the last time he faces Brewster - decided to tweak “Coach Brew” on the way out the door. I understand the temptation, but that doesn't mean I agree with the decision.
Asked about it after the game Bielema said he was simply going by his “coach's card” which details scenarios under which it's advisable to go for two. He then proceeded to offer the following lame justification:
“You know what? If we're playing and somebody is going to go for two against me because they're up 25, that's what they should do, that's what the card says.”
Sorry Bret, you can try and sell it, but I'm not buying.
Though it pains me to say so, I believe Tim Brewster's reaction was for more on the mark:
“I thought it was a very poor decision by a head football coach and he'll have to live with that. It was wrong. Everybody in here knows it and everybody in college football knows it. It was wrong.”
In my opinion, Brewster hasn't been right about much since he got hired at Minnesota, but he's spot-on about this.
Remember, I'm the guy who defended the 70-3 win over Austin Peay because Bielema put in the C-squad and refused to pass the ball. The fact that Austin Peay couldn't stop them wasn't Bielema's fault.
But I can't defend this.
It was a classless move by a coach who ought to know better. The University of Wisconsin, it's players, it's alumni and it's fans certainly deserve better.
Do the right thing, Bret. Quit blaming some bogus “card” and just admit that you made a poor decision in the heat of the moment. Offer an apology to Brewster, to the Gophers, and to your fans and university.
It's the right thing to do.
Speaking of “Brett's Behaving Badly”... Things are going to get really interesting for Brett Favre really quickly.
I'm sure by now most of you have heard of the reports at Deadspin.com alleging that Brett Favre sent inappropriate cell phone pictures (subject matter not safe for work, by the way) and left inappropriate voice mail messages for a female employee of the New York Jets during the season he played there.
Though these remain merely allegations - Ms. Sterger has refused to press any charges or publicly comment on the allegations - the fact that Favre has issued stern “No comments” rather than refute the charges tells me pretty much all I need to know about their veracity.
Now the NFL is looking into the matter and in what could be the oddest ending to a record streak ever seen, Brett may lose his consecutive starts streak to a suspension. Remember Ben Roethlisberger was suspended four games over allegations of sexual misconduct. He was never charged, he was never convicted, but by the terms of the NFL's “Personal Conduct Policy” he was issued a suspension.
We should also remember the flap over the treatment of Ines Sainz at a Jets practice just a few weeks ago, and the emphasis the NFL is now putting on the proper treatment of female reporters and staff members. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is now presented with an opportunity to make an example of a star player over this issue the same way he did with Ben Roethlisberger and sexual misconduct; the same way he did with Plaxico Burress and gun possession; and the same way he did with Pacman Jones and strip clubs.
Some folks will point out that I - along with many, many others - ripped Tiger Woods for his handling of his own infidelity issues last year. So why am I not doing the same thing to Brett here?
Two reasons: one, he still has the opportunity to get out in front of this should he so choose; and two, the league can lay the wood to him far better than I'll ever be able to.
I'm sure Brett's getting a lot of advice from agents and handlers right now on how to deal with this. Ideally, he's come out, admit to whatever needs admitting to and get it over with. Unfortunately, the NFL is far more aggressive with its abilities to suspend players than the PGA is, so if Brett admits to anything, he throws the door wide-open for the league to come down hard on him.
My guess is we're going to see a similar scenario to what Roethlisberger just went through. There won't be any kind of public acknowledgment of the issue until the NFL makes a decision on whether they're going to act or not. Once that happens, we'll likely see a carefully crafted statement either admitting fault, or promising redemption. Perhaps it'll have both, who knows.
Either way, it's another unnecessary distraction for a Vikings team that seems to be unable to stop bringing those on themselves.
That's going to wrap things up for today. Wednesday should be more college football prognostication as I get ready for the trip on Friday with a “heading out of town” version of the DFTU.
Until then, thanks for reading!