Thursday, August 26, 2010

Odds and Ends

- The Vikings have been all over the news lately, starting with a certain 40-year-old quarterback deciding to come back for a 20th season. Obviously I'm not surprised, and when the Favre retirement rumors sprung up in early April, some hack predicted that he would return.

Percy Harvin followed that news up with several days of migraine issues again, before he scared everyone by passing out while watching practice. He took several tests at the hospital and the doctors have given him the green light to practice again, but his migraines will undoubtedly be an issue all season long.

As if losing Harvin wasn't worrisome enough, Sidney Rice underwent hip surgery and is expected to miss at least eight weeks. It will be longer than that because it always is, and Brad Childress said he 'wouldn't rule out' putting Rice on Injured Reserve, although that's very unlikely unless he suffers a setback.

Rice's injury and Harvin's migraines left the Vikings very thin at receiver, so they made two moves this week to try and at least add some depth. First they signed Javon Walker, who hasn't been the same player since tearing his ACL years back, and followed that up by trading Benny Sapp to the Miami Dolphins for Greg Camarillo.

I have no problem with the Walker signing, although I really doubt he has anything left to give at this point. I hope I'm wrong, because if Walker can be even 80% the player he was in Green Bay, he'll be a very good asset to have. However, fans should temper their expectations, and realize Walker is likely nothing more than receiving depth and is unlikely to make a major impact.

I like the trade for Camarillo. He's not nearly as big of a name as Javon Walker is, but he's a very sure-handed, reliable veteran. He's not going to replace Rice's leaping ability or knack for the spectacular play, but he's instantly the teams third best receiver. He complements Bernard Berrian very well, and once Rice comes back Camarillo will be a fantastic fourth receiver. Benny Sapp really impressed me last year when filling in for Winfield, but that's more so because of how terrible Sapp was the year before, rather than him actually being a great player last year. He's going to be a solid nickel corner for the Dolphins, and despite Cedric Griffin's injury, the Vikings have plenty of depth at corner this season.

- Ricky Rubio almost single-handedly brought Spain back against the United States this past weekend. I've been upfront with my love for the kid, and while someone looking at the box score will laugh at me for saying Rubio brought them back, the fact is he did. Spain played much, much better when Rubio was on the court instead of Jose Calderon. Calderon is a good NBA point guard, but it was clear watching the game that Rubio is already leaps and bounds above him. His jump shot and defense both looked much better than people seem to suggest, and honestly he looked capable of growing into an all-NBA defender when he picked Rose's pocket more than once.

- In case you're incapable of scrolling down three feet, myself and fellow blogger Derek Wetmore argued who would win more games this year; the Vikings or the Wolves. It's a pretty funny concept, considering the Wolves play more than five times as many games as the Vikes, but oddly they should be at least fairly close in wins this season. I argued in favor of the Vikes, while Wetmore argued in favor of the Wolves. I think it turned out pretty well and I appreciate Derek giving me the opportunity.

- Apparently the Twins are the best team in baseball. I love stats and Dave Cameron is among my favorite baseball writers, but this is why stats can't be the know-all end-all. I think everyone would agree the Yankees are much more talented, even with the great team the Twins have put together. Of course, if stats are going to keep suggesting my favorite sports team is the best team in baseball, I'm going to continue to love stats.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And the Other Side

Wetmore lays out why the Wolves will in fact win more games than the Vikings.

(For the record, I agree with Derek that the Wolves will indeed win more games. One of us had to argue for the Vikes, though, and since I like the Vikings enough to write them a sad love letter, it only made sense that I do their side.)

Thanks again, Derek.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

More Wins: Vikes or Wolves





With my lack of sleep this weekend (first weekend back at college and I live three blocks from pretty much every bar) and the fact that classes started today, my brain has been on an extended vacation all day. I asked my twitter followers for some ideas... and a fellow blogger, Derek Wetmore*, had a great idea. We would tag-team an idea he had been given, each taking a side. Who would win more games this coming season, the Vikings or Timberwolves? I love both teams, and am one of maybe 50 Wolves fans left in the state, but I will be arguing in favor of the Vikes, while Derek will take the Wolves.

*I went to high school with Derek. He's a couple years younger than me, but he's already far far ahead of me on the writing spectrum. He's a writer for the MN Daily, writing articles and doing some blogging for them. His most recent piece over at the Daily covers the impressive freshman running back for the Gophers, Donnell Kirkwood. He also writes his own blog, Wet Socks, and does a great job. If you don't read him yet, start. Now. Click the links, this post will still be here when you get done.

It seems silly to think a football team, playing 16 games, could realistically win more games than a basketball team playing 82 games. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, only two teams have gone undefeated over the regular season. Those two teams would be the most overrated team in the history of sports, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went 14-0 in the regular season and then won all three playoff games to finish the season with 17 wins and the 2008 New England Patriots, who went 16-0 in the regular season and won their first two playoff games before losing perfection on a fluke play.

The NBA as we know it today didn't really start until 1976, when the NBA and ABA merged. The most games the Vikings could win this season is 19, and while that's all but impossible, that's a best-case scenario so we'll start with that. Since the NBA/ABA merger, though, 34 teams have won less than 19 games over a full season. Keep in mind there were only 50 games in 1998, so that data wasn't used. Those teams, from oldest to most recent, are:

1979 Detroit Pistons : 16 wins
1980 Expansion Dallas Mavericks : 15 wins
1981 Cleveland Cavaliers and San Diego Clippers : 15 and 17 wins
1982 Houston Rockets : 14 wins
1986 Los Angeles Clippers : 12 wins
1987 Los Angeles Clippers : 17 wins
1988 Miami Heat : 15 wins
1989 New Jersey Nets, Expansion Orlando Magic and Miami Heat : 17, 18 and 18 wins
1991 Minnesota Timberwolves : 15 wins
1992 Dallas Mavericks : 11 wins
1993 Dallas Mavericks : 13 wins
1994 Los Angeles Clippers : 17 wins
1995 Vancouver Grizzlies and Philadelphia 76ers : 15 and 18 wins
1996 Vancouver Grizzlies and Boston Celtics : 14 and 15 wins
1997 Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers : 11, 16 and 17 wins
1999 Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers : 15 and 17 wins
2000 Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors: 15 and 17 wins
2002 Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers : 17 wins each
2004 Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Hornets and Expansion Charlotte Bobcats : 13, 18 and 18 wins
2007 Miami Heat : 15 wins
2008 Sacramento Kings : 17 wins
2009 New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves : 12 and 15 wins

From 1976-2009, not counting the strike-shortened season of 1998, there have been 34 teams to win less than 19 games. That's basically one team a season. Now, three of those teams were expansion teams, and since this year's Wolves team obviously isn't an expansion team, I'd say the more correct number for this question is 31 teams. 31 non-expansion teams have won less than 19 games over the last 34 years (33 seasons, though).

Of course, the Vikings won't win 19 games. Counting the post-season, the Vikes went 13-5. Without going into a game-by-game explanation (this post will be long enough) I have the Vikings winning 12 games in the regular season yet again. Some fans will undoubtedly say that's too high, because there's no way Favre plays at the same level he did last year, but I think AP will have a much better year so it should at least even out the inevitable decline that Favre has coming. A prediction of anywhere from 10-14 wins I could get on board with, so just meeting in the middle at 12 seems fair. I have the Packers at 11, giving the Vikings the division and the bye, meaning one less opportunity for a win.

I also have the Vikings getting to the super bowl. If they win 12 games, then take care of business in the divisional round and NFC Championship round, they'll be sitting with 14 wins. However, they are the Vikings, so I can't in good conscience predict a super bowl victory. I think they'll lose in the super bowl, continuing the heart ache that comes with being a Vikes fan. That gives them 14 wins.

How in the hell will the Vikings possibly win more games than the Wolves with only 14 wins? The Wolves won 15 games last year, with a group of young players and veterans that are nothing more than end-of-the-bench players at best. It's hard to fathom them actually getting worse this year, especially considering they had three first round picks and one of those picks was in the top 5 yet again.

It's actually pretty simple. Jonny Flynn, who was below average last year in his first year in the league, is out for about four months with a hip injury. That means the Wolves starting point guard will be Luke Ridnour, with his backup at the moment slotted to be Sebastian Telfair. Yes, that Telfair, who's best season in the NBA is about on par with most teams third point guards. Ridnour had a fantastic season last year in Milwaukee, but unfortunately a lot of his shooting percentages saw a drastic spike from his career norms. That's almost always a sign of a fluke season, regardless of age, but as a 29-year-old entering his 8th season in the league, there's plenty of past evidence to suggest that Ridnour is going to end up being not only an overpaid backup for the next four years, but a pretty terrible starting point guard for at least the first half of the season. Flynn + Sessions seasons last year will prove to be much more productive than Ridnour + Telfair and half a season of Flynn coming off a serious injury.

The Wolves last year had the worst wing situation in the league. They could have signed the Lynx backcourt this off-season and I would have had no problem with someone saying that's an upgrade. Wayne Ellington showed flashes as a rookie, but nothing suggested he would become more than a 7th or 8th guy in a rotation and he'll probably be strictly a 3-point shooter over his career. Corey Brewer continues to get overhyped because he was drafted 7th overall, but despite being consistently referred to as a lock-down type defender, he's been among the league's worst defensive wings in basketball. His shooting during January and February got a lot of hype, but as is often the case, he fell back down to his career averages over the last two months of the season and his shooting percentage of 43% last year is poor.

Unfortunately for Wolves fans, Kahn upgraded the wing situation probably as little as one could do given the assets we had. With three first round picks, cap space, and Al Jefferson all available to improve the team, Kahn failed. Wes Johnson was the best wing available at #4, no doubt, but the wings taken in the middle of the first round aren't much worse as prospects. Kahn should have drafted Cousins, let Darko go back to wherever he came from, and then kept Luke Babbitt at 16. I think Babbitt has the potential to be as good as Wes Johnson offensively. Kahn and company continue to hype Wes Johnson's defensive ability, but considering he's coming from zone-happy Syracuse, and Kahn hyped Flynn as a lock-down defender before last season, I don't have much confidence in that actually being true.

Trading Babbitt for overpaid Martell Webster was bad, but Kahn's explanation was even worse. He said his play has improved every time he's been given 30+ minutes. Portland's front-office had to be laughing when they read that. Martell Webster came off the bench most of his career. Portland has one of the deepest wing rotations in the league, and due to that, the only time he'd be getting 30+ minutes a game is when he's playing well. If he's playing poorly, Portland would simply take him out and put in one of their 9000 young wings to replace him. Webster's defense will be better than what the Wolves had last year, and his shooting should be a lot better than Brewer's, but unfortunately Webster isn't a huge scorer, so while Webster will be an upgrade from Brewer, he's still a well-below average starter.

I have no idea who the Wolves plan to start at the 3 this year, but it's looking more and more like it'll be Michael Beasley. I don't have any problem with him getting a shot at the 3, because this is a lost year and it's worth finding out if Beasley has a future on this team. However, Beasley should not be taking minutes from Kevin Love, and I fear that's exactly what's going to happen as the year goes on. Love is among the 20 or 25 best players in the league, and if he's given 35-40 minutes a night like he should be everyone will see that. Unfortunately, Rambis seems content giving him 30 minutes at best, and my guess is Beasley will split his time between the 3 and the 4. He's been terrible at the 3, and average as a 4, but the scoring potential is enormous with him so the Wolves will absolutely give Beasley a ton of minutes to find out just what they have.

Darko starting at the 5, with a fresh, four-year contract? He's going to be as motivated as me at 8 AM on a Monday morning. I might even be more motivated than he's going to be.

I think trading Al Jefferson for draft picks and cap space was needed, because Jefferson isn't someone you build a championship team around, but he's better than every other big guy not named Kevin Love that the Wolves have, and giving his minutes to Darko is going to be a huge drop off, even with Al's down year.

Ultimately, the Wolves are going to be really, really bad again. If Rambis plays the right people and Kahn can turn a few of the remaining assets into a player for this season, the Wolves should win 20+ games. Despite the talent level improving, I have major doubts about Rambis ability to use the right players in the right situations, and last year's odd decision to force feed the triangle offense to a team that clearly wasn't suited to run it has me questioning Rambis' coaching ability altogether.

I expect the Wolves to start out terribly, Kahn and Rambis will blame Love's conditioning on his lack of minutes and the relationship will be even worse than it is now, and the Wolves ultimately will be a non-factor in Minnesota sports news for another season. While I don't want the Wolves to lose 70+ games this year, if it gives us the best shot at one Harrison Barnes, then by all means, lose and lose often.

My prediction:
Vikes 14-5, Super Bowl loss
Wolves 13-69, and hopefully Kahn's dismissal

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ron Gardenhire the Head Scratcher

I like Ron Gardenhire. I think he is, for the most part, very good at managing players egos. I think he's funny, and I think he knows things about baseball I will never be lucky enough to learn. He's undoubtedly fantastic with the media. I don't think he's the best manager in baseball, but he's certainly above-average when compared to the other MLB managers.

Unfortunately, I don't think very highly of baseball managers. Being above-average with the current group of managers in the league is something I believe would be fairly easy to do. That might sound arrogant, but it's not. I'm not saying I'm so much smarter that I could do a better job, because obviously I wouldn't have the players' respect the same way Gardy does. However, as far as game situations and decision-making goes, I think there are plenty of baseball fans that would make far better choices.

I love stats. I understand they don't tell the whole picture, but since I don't have the time nor money to fly around the country and scout every player and every team, stats are the best possible way to reach conclusions about players. I think scouting is important, for sure, but if a player has been in the league for even a decent amount of time (700 at bats or so) stats will allow someone to make an educated guess as to what will happen in the future. Sure, every year there are players who exceed their expectations. However, as I constantly find myself trying to explain to stubborn fans, those players are the exception, not the rule.

I mention stats because baseball is a game of numbers. Being a manager would not be terribly different than playing in a poker game. The only difference is you know the odds for sure, rather than an educated guess. Confused? In baseball, you know the situation. For example, if there's a runner on second base with no outs, the average MLB team will score 1.03 runs per inning. However, if there's a runner on third with one out, the average MLB team will score just .93 runs per inning. So, based on the odds, a manager should never call for a sacrifice bunt to move a runner from second to third. Of course, never is a bad word, because there is at least one acceptable time where a player should bunt a runner from second to third. That situation? If the pitcher's hitting. He's much more likely to strike out or hit a ball weakly, likely stranding the runner on second with 1 out. In that case you'd be guessing the odds, much like in poker, but in almost every other situation there are statistics to back up specific decisions. If a manager always played the odds, there would be no second-guessing. Well, that's not true, because some people will always second guess a bad result no matter how correct the decision was.

Managers like to 'play hunches.' That bothers me. The best comparison to MLB managers is that guy at your blackjack table that is making some questionable decisions, claiming his gut says to do it. There's nothing more frustrating than an inconsistent blackjack player. Example: The dealer is showing a face card. You have a 15 in first position, while the guy next to you has a 16. Since the dealer is showing a face, the right decision is to hit. You hit, getting a two. You stay with a 17. The guy next to you foolishly stays, because he doesn't want to bust. The dealer flips over a 6, so he has 16 as well. The first card is a 3. Dealer has 19, you and the guy next to you lose. The first card out on the next hand is a 7, meaning the dealer would have busted while you both would have won. Play the odds, and over time you will be rewarded. And, in both blackjack and baseball, you will fail a lot more than you will succeed. That's why managers feel the need to play hunches, because rather than be successful 40% of the time, they want to try to be right every time. That's how we are as a species... we always want to be successful. Playing hunches leads to even less success though, because you are oftentimes choosing the outcome that will fail even more.

Now, the point of this post wasn't to rip on MLB managers, although it's always fun. It's also not about Gardy pulling Kevin Slowey with a no-hitter after seven innings.* No, it's about Ron Gardenhire comparing Brian Duensing, during interviews after his 3-hitter, to Johan Santana.

*Even though I disagree wholeheartedly with Gardy's decision, it was nice to see him worried about Slowey's future. I disagree with it because I don't think the difference between 106 pitches and what would have been at most 130 pitches is very big, even with a sore arm. If he could throw 106, he would have been fine to throw 130 if he needed to.

No, that wasn't a typo, Ron Gardenhire compared Brian Duensing to Johan Santana. His exact quote came after a reporter compared Duensing and Santana; "Johan, that's probably a good guy to look at," Gardenhire said, making the comparison. Yes, I realize it's a one sentence response to a question, and I realize Gardenhire answers tens of thousands of questions from the media each year, so he is undoubtedly going to say something that he may not entirely mean.

It's not really a big deal, besides the fact that it's so obviously wrong. Gardy made the comparison because Santana also went from reliever to starter. Or maybe because they're both left handed. Probably a combination of both. That's where the comparisons can end. Santana had been deserving of a spot in the rotation for quite some time back then--he was clearly the team's best starter, but Gardenhire stubbornly refused to give him a chance despite fantastic stuff and much improved control, citing 'experience' most of the time.

Nobody has been clamoring for Duensing's arrival into the rotation. The vocal fans more so wanted ANYONE to replace Nick Blackburn, who's been terrible since June. Duensing got the chance mostly by default, and he has pitched well since given the opportunity. I love that he's doing well, but it's unlikely to stick long-term. Santana had the potential to emerge as a legitimate number one starter because he had plus plus stuff. As I said above, I love stats because they allow me to learn things about pitchers without actually having to watch them live. I can look at a pitcher's stats and tell almost immediately just how good his stuff is. It's simple. K/9.

As a 23-year-old, Santana pitched in 27 games, starting 14, and had a ridiculous 11.4 K/9. As a 24-year-old, Santana pitched in 45 games, starting 18, and his K/9 remained a very impressive 9.6. Finally, as a 25-year-old, Gardy inserted Johan into the rotation for good. He went 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA, won the Cy Young Award, and posted an amazing 10.5 K/9 in 228 innings. However, even more amazing that year, Santana posted a ridiculous 6.2 hits per 9 innings. That's ridiculously good. Since being handed a spot in the rotation permanently, Santana has never had a walk rate over 3 per 9 innings. Over his 11-year career, Santana has a career K/9 of 8.9. Very, very good for a starting pitcher, and that shows just how good his stuff really is.

Now, a look at Duensing. Last year, as a 26-year-old rookie, Duensing pitched in 24 games and started 9. He struck out just 5.7 batters per 9 innings, and walked 3.3 per 9. He allowed 9 H/9, a hit an inning. This year, Duensing has been a little better, but not nearly as good as his 2.00 ERA would suggest. He's striking out just 5.0 batters per 9 now, but he's managed to cut his walk rate almost in half, while allowing 2 less hits per 9 innings. Now, with a worse strikeout rate, the less hits per 9 is pretty clearly a fluke. His stuff hasn't gotten better, because if it had his K/9 would be up, not down. It's encouraging to see Duensing's walk rate drop significantly this year, and he seems to be a potential back of the rotation starter for six or seven years. That's very valuable for a team, and Duensing is a solid piece for the future even as a 27-year-old. He just isn't Johan Santana, and considering how often Gardenhire watched Santana simply amaze us all, I would have thought he'd be the first person to stop any Duensing/Santana comparisons, because they are ridiculous. Johan Santana is arguably the greatest pitcher in Twins history. Duensing isn't even the best pitcher in the rotation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ricky Rubio The Legend




I love Ricky Rubio. Just in case you don't believe me, I think Ricky Rubio will be a bigger star in the state of Minnesota than Joe Mauer. I'm being dead serious. Now, of course, this all assumes Rubio actually ever comes over here and plays for the Wolves. Thankfully, there is a fantastic Rubio article laying out exactly what happened and making an educated guess as to what will happen in the future.

I feel confident assuming Ricky Rubio will be a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves within the next two years... if there isn't a lockout. Regardless, Ricky Rubio will be a Minnesota Timberwolf in the future. While I'm sure a lot of you probably disagree, and think there's no chance in hell Rubio comes over, even more of you are going to disagree with my next opinion.

Ricky Rubio will be a bigger star in the state of Minnesota within the next four years than Joe Mauer is today. That seems absolutely ludicrous. Joe Mauer is the non-mighty ducks real-life Minnesota Miracle Man. He just left money on the table to sign an 8-year extension with the Twins, he's hitting .325 and people are talking about a 'down year' and, he's so incredibly humble that every parent just assumes that's how their children will grow up to be. Joe Mauer is a superstar. He's my favorite athlete in sports. But I think Rubio is going to be even bigger.

Ricky Rubio was the youngest player in Spanish ACB League history. This is widely considered the second best professional basketball league in the world, behind only the NBA. He debuted on October 15, 2005, six days BEFORE his fifteenth birthday. Rubio played just five minutes that night. He scored two points, had one assist, and two steals. One article, the night after the debut, described Ricky as 'a fantasy player with magical vision to find that impossible pass.' It's translated from spanish, but even in his first game, people could tell just how special this kid was.

In 2006, Rubio led the 16-Under Spain National team to the Eurocup title. He was simply sensational during that tournament, and he was so clearly leaps and bounds above the players near his age. During the tournament, Rubio put up three triple doubles and one quadruple double in seven games. In the tournament final, Rubio made a game-tying, buzzer-beating half court shot to send the game to OT. Spain eventually won the game 110-106 in double OT, with Rubio's stat line off the charts. He scored 51 points, grabbed 24 rebounds, had 12 assists and 7 steals. That is unreal.

I always had some concerns about Rubio's ability to play in the NBA, wondering if he wasn't quite fast enough, or didn't shoot well enough, but all of those concerns were alleviated during the 2008 Summer Olympics when virtually every member of Team USA gave Rubio glowing reviews, and Chris Paul said Rubio would be a 'top 5 point guard in the NBA right now' (back in 2008). Now, playing in the NBA does not make you capable of judging talent, as has been shown over and over again by former players who get hired as a GM. That said, though, it's much better to hear that they think he's going to be special, rather than "I didn't see anything from that kid."

Now, back to the craziness. Ricky Rubio a bigger star than Joe Mauer in Minnesota? Because the Wolves have been so bad for five plus years, people seem to forget just how much they were adored here in the early part of this decade. In the fall of 2003, the city was all about the Wolves. The Twins were entering the playoffs fresh off winning their second straight AL Central Division title and the Vikings were off to a 6-0 start, yet most of the talk at the time centered on how the Wolves had been playing great and if KG was ever going to get a ring in Minnesota, this was likely his best chance.

Everyone loved KG. He was the face of Minnesota sports, more so than Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, Randy Moss or Daunte Culpepper. That seems hard to fathom in the current state of Minnesota sports, as the Vikings and Twins are so clearly ahead of the Wolves at this point. However, it makes plenty of sense as to why. Sure, there was no superstar, home-grown, stay-at-home for less money talent on either the Twins or the Vikings at this point--but I think KG was more of a star in Minnesota at his peak than Mauer has been to this point. I think it's simply because of the sports they play.

When you watch a baseball game, Mauer could go 0-3 but the Twins could still win 5-4. Or Mauer could go 4-4 and they could lose by 10. From the first time you watch baseball, it's very clear that it is truly a team game, unless one of the teams has a once-in-a-generation pitcher on the mound that day. (Vintage Pedro Martinez comes to mind.)

When you watch a basketball game, it's clear that the plays are almost always run through the best player. He touches the ball the most, or he clearly affects the game in a very noticeable way. One player on a basketball court can literally turn a 20-win team into a 50-win team, if he's good enough. Even a dominating starting pitcher only has the chance to altar around 20% of his teams game. A dominating basketball player will be the focal point of the team for all games he plays in. It's much easier to see how important KG is to the team than it would be see how important Mauer is. That's just how it is. I knew plenty of people who liked the Twins more in '03-04, but liked KG more than any other athlete in the state.

Back to the present. The current sports situation in the state is admittedly a lot different than it was in 2004, but their are still some similarities. The Wolves are terrible at the moment, and star-less. Kevin Love is a very underrated and talented player, but he's certainly not a star here because he plays for the 15-win Wolves and, well, he's not flashy. The Twins are pretty much in the same situation they were in back then. Hoping to win the AL Central so they can make the playoffs... and then hoping to finally get back to the World Series for the first time since 1991. The Vikings are Super Bowl contenders, assuming Favre comes back, and the town will be enamored with the Vikings all season.

Let's take a look into the future, though. Rubio's expected arrival is 2011, possibly 2012. Does anyone expect the Twins to be anything more than what they are now? A good, not great, team with the potential to win between 82-90 games and then hope for some luck in the short playoff series'. The Vikings will likely be in need of a new starting QB, and unless Tom Brady actually becomes a free agent and signs here, the buzz around the Vikings will probably be more negative than positive. The Wild may contend by then for a playoff birth, but they likely won't be an elite team and they more than likely will lack that true superstar player that fans tend to gravitate towards. In other words, come 2012, the sports scene in Minnesota could very much resemble how it was in 03-04, when KG was the face of the town.

I continue to compare Ricky Rubio to KG. I realize that's not fair to KG, because he did some great things not only on the court but also in the community. There will never be another KG, and the only reason I keep comparing the two is because they would hypothetically each be the star player of the Wolves at one point... so the comparison is easier to understand.

Rubio would be a different kind of star. He's a young, good-looking, charismatic kid, with the potential to single-handedly turn around an organization that has been the epitome of failure for about 80% of it's time in the league. He speaks English fairly well, and it would clearly improve a lot over the first few years over here. He has a slight resemblance to Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, actually) and I think that's nothing but a positive. I think he's going to win the hearts of Minnesotans much quicker than any other Minnesota athlete did, outside of maybe Randy Moss. Fans loved Moss because he said he had a chip on his shoulder from day one, said he'd show the rest of the league just what they passed on, and he backed that up with an amazing career in purple before being traded.

Rubio is fun to watch, something some fans complain about with Joe Mauer. Some people (mostly fans of rival teams) think he's too boring, which seems foolish because watching him swing a bat is a thing of beauty. However, there is little debate that Rubio is fun to watch. He makes passes people don't even dream of, and when it's possible, he seems to always make the sensational no-look pass through traffic. Rubio is an entertainer, someone people love to watch, and he enjoys doing it.

If the Wolves can manage to find an elite scoring guard in the draft next year, the team is pretty well positioned for Rubio's arrival in 2011:

Rubio/Flynn/Ridnour
???/Webster/Johnson
Johnson/Beasley/Hayward
Love/Beasley/Tolliver
Darko/Pekovic/Love

If they win the lottery by some miracle, Harrison Barnes would be the starting 3, with Wes Johnson sliding to the 2.

Rubio is the key, though. If he comes over, he's going to turn a 20-25 win Wolves team this coming season into a 40-45 win team AT LEAST as a rookie. That's how good I think Rubio is, and from that point on it will be nothing but up for the team and Rubio. He will be the star player on a playoff team, and the town will once again flock to the Wolves. Rubio will be a bigger star than Joe Mauer in this state in four years. That seems ridiculous now, but it's not that far-fetched and I truly do believe it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Brett Favre Madness




Brett Favre is retiring. The Vikings season is over. That seems to be the general consensus among fans that have spent all morning watching ESPN. I haven't even turned a TV on today, and I've simply read the few blurbs about the Favre situation that Pro Football Talk has posted. I learned in 2008 that watching ESPN for Favre coverage is foolish, because their talking heads always seem to talk in absolutes. Anyone that has followed Favre-watch over the last three years knows that Brett Favre can't ever seem to make up his mind.

My opinion? Favre will play. This seems like nothing more than Favre seeking attention, wanting some teammates to text him and encourage him to play because they need him to win the Super Bowl. Jay Glazer of FOX has already reported that the Vikings are willing to offer Lord Favre more money this season and more time to make up his mind. If I had to guess, I'd say Favre returns on August 25th. Days before the third preseason game, allowing him a few snaps in one of the last two preseason games before the opener in New Orleans. He'll get an extra couple million dollars, and regardless of how much money he already has, two or three million dollars is still a lot of money.

I've felt all morning that this story just didn't add up. This is the most attention craving athlete in the NFL, yet somehow I'm supposed to believe he's going to let an ESPN report, without any named sources, tell the world he's retiring? When Favre decides to retire, he's going to have a press conference so he can be the center of attention one last time. He hasn't said a word about this report all day, which seems odd. To me, it looks like Favre privately told a few Vikings front office people he wasn't going to play, as an attempt to get a few extra million dollars. He also wants a built in excuse if he struggles this year. Last year it was his bicep, now it's his ankle. It's even stranger that Childress says Favre has not told him what he's planning on doing.

Look, it's clear SOMETHING is happening with Favre today. I do believe he told some Vikings people that he's retiring, his ankle hurts, and he can't go through a full season. The fact that Zygi, Childress and the rest of the powerful execs met ON THE FIELD in Mankato today seems to be a sign that Favre or Bus Cook have told someone he's retiring. He won't. The Vikings need Brett Favre to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. I have a soft spot for TJack, and he's been unfairly criticized by Vikings fans for years, but he's not an elite QB. Could he become one? I doubt it. He's 27 years old. However, if Favre does indeed retire, this Vikings team should still be a playoff team. Just not a Lose-In-The-NFC-Championship-Team again.

Vikings fans, do yourselves a favor. Turn off ESPN and enjoy your day. Favre will be the starting QB for this team in New Orleans on Sept. 9. I feel confident saying that because there's simply no way Favre would be content sitting on his couch on that Thursday, when every football fan in the country is watching Saints-Vikings. He will want to be the center of attention, and as we've seen over the last three years, he'll always be the center of attention. Favre's coming back... I couldn't be more confident.