Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day and Kubel not in the starting lineup

Well, the time has come and Twins baseball is about to kick off for the '08 season. The Twins open the season tonight against the L.A. Angels of Anaheim. Your hometown team will be starting offseason acquisition Livan Hernandez against RHP Jered Weaver. The lineups were just released by both Joe Christensen of the Star Trib. and Phil Miller of the Pioneer Press. There is one questionable player in tonight's lineup, although it came as no surprise to me as earlier today I predicted that Gardy would make this move. Here are the lineups and I'll discuss the questionable move afterwards.

1. Carlos Gomez, CF

2. Joe Mauer, C

3. Michael Cuddyer, RF

4. Justin Morneau, 1B

5. Delmon Young, LF

6. Craig Monroe, DH

7. Mike Lamb, 3B

8. Brendan Harris, 2B

9. Adam Everett, SS

Well, since most of those names were expected to be there and in that order, the strange move by Gardy deals with Craig Monroe. While I don't doubt Monroe's ability to hit the ball and believe him to be a capable DH, starting him against the right-handed Jered Weaver goes against all baseball experience and knowledge. Monroe, a right-handed hitter, has a .249 career average against righties, while platoon-mate Jason Kubel (a keft-handed hitter) has .269 career average against righties. Combine that with the fact that Kubel has a better personal career history against Weaver and the choice for DH should have been easy tonight - Kubel. However, Gardy took the strange route, selecting Monroe to start tonight.

It boggles my mind that Gardy continues to hold Kubel back. He almost never bats Kubel against lefties and to hold him back now against righties makes no sense. Most times I can't argue the way that Gardy manages, but the way that he has handled Kubel over the last 2 years and soon to be the '08 season makes no sense and it almost seems as if he has a personal vendetta against him.

Anyways, lets see how this plays out tonight, and first pitch in less than a half hour!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Minnesota Madness

We'll be taking a break from the usual Land O' Links today for a special March Madness spotlight.

I do actually have one link for you. Broncos fans...enjoy your season.

Hopefully that will hold you over for a week. But for now, enjoy this!


There is a Minnesota collegiate basketball team who is playing in the NCAA Championship game this year. It doesn’t involve Tubby Smith or Pam Borton and in fact you may have not even heard about it at all this year. It is the NCAA Division II Championships being played in Springfield Massachusetts.

The Winona State Warriors are representing Minnesota in the college basketball scene.

The Warriors, at 37-1 after their Elite Eight win against # 1 Grand Valley State and Final Four Win against Bentley (34-1), are on a 31 game win streak and have found themselves in the D-2 Championship game for the third year in a row.

Last year, in the championship game, the Warriors saw their 57 game win streak end at the hands of Barton College. It was a bizarre ending to the game and this clip here will give you some insight into one of the greatest finishes in recent March Madness history. If you are a Winona State fan, you may not want to click on the link because I am sure that it is not something that you want to be reminded of this time of year.

The Warriors this year picked up the pieces from that devastating loss and are back atop the Division 2 rankings. They finished the season ranked # 3 and have re-established themselves as a powerhouse in the NCAA.

A look at the team:

Playing their home games in the wonderful confines of McCown Gym, the Warriors get solid numbers for their home games. This year they averaged 2,500 spectators per game and as many of us know, is a much larger number than the Division 1 Gophers men’s team averaged the last few years.

They were 18-0 in conference this year and were 22-1 at home. The one home loss came in overtime against the St. Thomas Tommies of the MIAC. The Tommies are known for their Division 3 prominence and may have been overlooked by the Warriors. They rebounded from the loss and started their current win streak and haven’t looked back since then.

The Warriors are paced by two of the best players at the Division 2 level. Senior John Smith (Johnsburg, IL) posted a career high in points averaged this season at 17.7 and averages 8.6 rebounds per game as well. Stats only mean so much, so what else makes Smith special? He is only the second player in history to be named State Farm/NABC player of the year two years in a row. Last year and this year, the National Association of Basketball Coaches voted Smith their player of the year. He is Winona State’s all time leading scorer and is second in Division 2 history in career blocked shots at 420.

The second player is Jonte Flowers (Cottage Grove, WI). He transferred from the University of Wisconsin where his brother Michael leads the possibly Elite 8 bound University of Wisconsin Badgers. Flowers, who is the 3rd youngest Flowers brother (one year ahead of Michael) walked on as a football player at the University of Wisconsin 3 years ago. He felt that Winona State would be a better fit and he was right. In his first year for the Warriors, he was named the Player of the Game in the championship game against Virginia Union. Flowers this year averaged 17.5 ppg and 3.2 apg. He and Michael at one time this year both led their teams in steals per game. The Flowers brothers are all very close. Check out this article as it gives you a fun look into the competitive lives of the Flowers brothers.

The rest of the team is a heavy mix of freshmen and sophomores. Usually this spells trouble for a team, when their seasoned veterans graduate and the younger players are left to carry such a heavy load. This has the potential to be the case for the Warriors but they have very talented younger players that ought to help keep this team competitive for years to come. All-time leading scorer at local Woodbury Senior High School in Woodbury MN, Max Hintz, will surely see time as well as Ben Fischer from Wausau, WI who saw a significant amount of playing time (35 games played with an avg. of 22.4 minutes per game).

2 titles in 3 years?

The Warriors will be playing the Augusta St. Jaguars (Augusta, GA) on March 29th for the Division 2 championship. If the Warriors win, it will be their 2nd title in 3 years. If this feat is accomplished, it will even further solidify the Warriors as NCAA elite and should do wonders for the schools athletics.

The Jaguars are 27-6 and defeated Alaska Anchorage (29-6) 56-50 in their game. Augusta St. led Alaska 28-11 at half and were outscored 39-28 in the second half to make the game more respectable.

The game should be a hard fought battle between the two teams. If Winona State pulls off the win, should they be considered the second best team in the state behind the Gophers? If you ask some Winona State fans, I am sure that they would tell you it is the other way around. The Warriors defeated the Gophers last year in Williams Arena. Granted the Gophers finished the year 9-22 but it was still a Division 1 opponent on their home court.

This could be a question debated come Saturday night.

Good luck to the Warriors and bring the hardware home!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Land O' Links

Happy Friday to all!

March Madness is officially under way as the first round of the Men's NCAA Tournament started yesterday afternoon.

No surprises around the bracket. The only considered upset would be Kansas State over USC, but that really is only because of the seedings. K-State, as the 11 seed, absolutely out rebounded USC and played a much better all around game.

As much as I want to see OJ Mayo in a Wolves uniform, he did not look ready for the NBA last night. I really hope that he can stay one more year just to hone his skills and make sure that he'll be ready. Unfortunately the NBA is very tempting. Who could turn down a couple million dollars to play the sport they love?

My bracket is flawless, other than USC, through the first day. I didn't pick any upsets yesterday mainly because I felt that the higher seeds were just that much better. But look for Davidson to defeat Gonzaga today. That is my upset pick of the day.

Since it is Friday, here are your links!

- One of the funniest and most random movies is soon to be released in theatres. Apparently they have a lot to live up to since the first one was such a hit among the 18-27 range. It goes even beyond that as my aunt and uncle saw this movie way before I did. I saw the preview last night after I found the link and it looks pretty good. Makes me kind of hungry...

-The potentially biggest sports/national news of the week included the Boston Red Sox. No, they did not go undefeated in Spring Training or have a brawl with the Yankees. They were thisssclose to boycotting their trip to Japan to play the Oakland A's. I first came across this as "Red Sox may boycott trip to Japan" and my immediate thought was "Oh no, now what has Japan done?" With all of the news of the civil problems in China, I figured it was something very serious. Then I found out that they were ready to boycott because their coaches were not going to receive the $40,000 stipend in order for going over to Japan for the games. I read somewhere on ESPN that it was necessary for the coaches to get this payment because they have to deal with their body clocks changing and stop their lives to head over there. I'm sorry...THAT IS THEIR LIFE! You work in Major League baseball with the 2007 World Champions, deal with it. Thankfully they avoided a national disaster and have arrived in Japan for their games.

Here is the first article. Bobby Valentine, former Mets manager, is furious that they scheduled the games at this certain time during March. It's a conspiracy I tell ya. He is turning into that paranoid guy that thinks everyone is out to get him.

This article is much more soft on the eyes. Quick note...why has no one talked about Dice-K's mullet? I'm not sure how accepted that is in Japan...but it's barely accepted in America outside of hockey or professional wrestling. David Ortiz or Manny should get on that...

- The biggest reason why I started to become a Vikings fan last year was NOT because of Adrian Peterson. It was because I could finally be proud of a team that spent more time on the field than in the courtroom. There seemed to be a new attitude on the team this year and it really made me happy to cheer for people with little or no criminal records for once. Then Bryant McKinnie's large head had to go out on the town in Miami and get into trouble. Maybe it's just because I do not understand being a professional athlete/celebrity but is it really that hard to either not go out or go somewhere that you know nothing will happen? Let's hope that he figures this out and is either innocent or is guilty and deals with it. Don't be surprised if his days with the Vikings are numbered since this is coupled with a struggling past few seasons.

- Andrew Bynum could return much earlier than expected. This is not good news for the now struggling Houston Rockets nor the suddenly hot New Orleans Hornets. If he comes back healthy, look for the Lakers to go deep in the playoffs.

- Life for Tim Donaughy just does not get any easier

- DeAngelo Hall...welcome to your life. If he thinks that he went to a better situation in Oakland...well...he's kind of right. At least JaMarcus Russell is there...and...and...Justin Fargas? least he's in warm weather and making a lot of money.

- And finally...I will leave you with this youtube clip. I recently watched this movie for the first time in a while and completely forgot how hilarious it is. I miss Jim Carrey in movies like this.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the Madness!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Madness

Happy St. Patricks day to all of my Irish friends!

And a Happy St. Patricks day to all of my friends who wish they were that there could be an excuse as to why they started drinking their beverages at 830 this morning!

I find it interesting when there are people who aren't a drop of Irish who celebrate this holiday like it IS their heritage. Just because you wear green and have a friend who is Irish does not mean that you are in fact Irish. It is still called low-grade alcoholism and maybe some help is needed.

Alright, enough with the rant. This past weekend was a big weekend for sports all around. The College Basketball regular season concluded with KU defeating Texas in the Big 12 championship and that win ended up getting them more than the Big 12 championship as it got them a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Texas absolutely fell apart in the last 5 minutes of the game and Mario Chalmers singlehandedly outscored Texas in the second half alone I'm pretty sure.

UNC drew the overall #1 pick for the tournament but have a very tough road ahead of them. This year is pretty heavy on the big name teams as opposed to the last couple years where some sleeper teams snuck in. Teams to watch this year: George Mason (Final Four team 2 years ago and still have 3 of those players), USC (OJ Mayo is playing for NBA dreams now, so expect him to play big as well as the surrounding cast of Trojans that almost beat #1 seed UCLA in the Pac-10 Semi-finals), UNLV ( run and gun team that could potentially upset #1 seed KU in the second round. They should run past Kent St.) and finally the Drake Bulldogs (Missouri Valley teams have done well in the past couple years and this team should be no different. Look for the 'Dogs to dance all the way to the sweet 16 where they will eventually have to face a very tough UCLA team)

- Minnesota will take on Maryland tomorrow in the first round of the NIT tournament. As much as they would have liked to be in the NCAA Tournament, I think it is best for the Gophers to be in the NIT this year. Tubby took a 9-22 team to be 20-13 and into the NIT tournament. They had a great year but it lacked the "big name" wins. They finally got one against Indiana on Friday night but I think it was too late to do anything less than win the Big 10 tourney. Tubby needs to find a way to beat Illinois (20 straight losses) and I think he will with his solid recruiting class that is coming in next year.

- The Houston Rockets bounced the Lakers yesterday for their 21st consecutive win. The Rockets are now 11 games away from tying the LA Lakers 33 game win-streak set in the 71-72 season by the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West. Interestingly enough, Elgin Baylor announced his retirement the day before the streak begun. The Lakers went on to win the title and become known as one of the most dominant teams in NBA history. Look for the Celtics to end the win streak tomorrow.

Things have been quiet for the Vikings on the Free Agent front. They are getting prepared for the NFL draft which is just a little over a month away. There are some good DE's available but the Vikings may be able to make a trade to move up in the draft. Rumor also has it that J.P. Losman wants out of Buffalo. This would be good for the Vikings to pay attention to as it may help to have someone to push Tarvaris Jackson competitively. Brooks Bollinger just wont do it.

I spent the weekend in Milwaukee to catch the Bucks/Celtics game on Saturday night. It was great to see KG again but it just wasn't the same seeing him in Green and White. Check back later in the week for a full recap of the weekend.

Enjoy the luck of the Irish!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wrestling, Spring Training & Free Agency

Being down in Iowa for the past 2 1/2 years, I have learned a whole different lifestyle.

It's called wrestling.

Wrestling is to Iowa what hockey is to Minnesota. It is HUGE down here and a very exciting time of year just came to a close. The state tournament was held a couple weeks ago out in Des Moines and now we are getting close to the NCAA tournaments for wrestling.

So, on that topic, we would like to congratulate Anoka's Jake Deitchler on his State tournament championship win on Saturday as well as his crowning of the Pioneer Press prep wrestler of the year. He has left for Bulgaria in search of a big to the Olympics this August in China. Our coach here at Cornell may actually be the Olympic coach come August, so hopefully he can send a Minnesotan to the Olympics!


Twins notes from Spring Training: The Twins defeated the Cincinnati Reds 8-6 yesterday off the 2-out, 2-run home-run from little known Chris Basak. They tied the game at 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth with a 2 run home-run from Randy Ruiz.

Glen Perkins, who struggled mightily in his last spring training appearance, pitched 2 innings and gave up one run. He looked much better this time around.

Philip Humber, acquired in the trade for Johan Santana, had a good day pitching a scoreless/hitless inning for the Twins. While Zach Day had a much rougher outing giving up 2 hits and 3 earned runs in one inning.


The New England Patriots signed Randy Moss to a 3 year/$27 million dollar contract. Moss, taking a cut in pay, has made it pretty clear that he wants a championship over money.

I've always liked Moss and felt that he was giving an un-fair shake in Minnesota. Hopefully he can get that title with the Pats and solidify himself in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Look for the Vikings to offer Jevon Kearse a contract in the next few days. Brad Childress was a coach for the Eagles when the "Freak" had just joined. Kearse, who was a great DE for the Titans has struggled with injuries the past couple years. The Vikings are giving him a check to see if he is healthy enough to receive a contract offer. He most likely will get small level deals, so this could be a safe pick up for the Vikings as long as they don't over pay.

That's it for Tuesday. Have a great day!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Vikings and Twins notes

-The Vikings made a splash early in the free agency signing period, signing wide receiver Bernard Berrian, safety Madieu Williams, and fullback Thomas Tapeh.

Berrian, a former wide receiver for the rival Chicago Bears, will help upgrade what was one of the worst wide receiving corps in all of football last season. Berrian will join Bobby Wade as the top receivers on the team, with young Sidney Rice supporting both. It is possible that the Vikings will make another splash in the remaining free agent wide receivers since Javon Walker has recently been released by the Broncos.

Williams essentially replaces Dwight Smith, who was released by the team last week. Even if Williams isn't an upgrade over Smith (I think he will be), he is a significant character upgrade on a team that needs strong leaders after some of their recent off the field issues.

Tapeh, a former U of M standout, is the most recent Philadelphia Eagle to follow Brad Childress over to the Vikings. He replaces Tony Richardson, who the coaching staff believed was getting too old. Tapeh has had the privilege of blocking for one of the best running backs in the game in Brian Westbrook, and now he gets to open up holes for Rookie of the Year Adrian All-Day Peterson.

The Vikings certainly aren't done in free agency yet, but this is a solid start to the offseason.

-The Twins just opened Spring Training down in Fort Myers, and while their record isn't great, some things have been encouraging for the young team. One is that Carlos Gomez has one of Peyton Manning's laser rocket arms attached to his shoulder. He gunned down Dustin Pedroia at home plate from center field on the fly, getting him out by a few steps. While some people are skeptical that the Twins new centerfielder (whoever he may be) can replace Torii Hunter both offensively and defensively, I have no doubt that this is a possibility. Hunter had been a declining fielder the last few seasons, and really only won his Gold Gloves by name only. Gomez has an amazing arm, and most likely whoever wins the job will be faster than Hunter. In addition, Hunter's only great season at the plate came last season during his contract year. The rest of Hunter's numbers over his career were anything but spectacular. While Hunter showed modest power, hitting more than 25 home runs 5 times, he also hit under .275 four times. In addition, as a Twins fan over the years, he also seemed to not come up in the clutch (I have no stats to back this up, only years of games watched). He swung at far too many pitches, and rarely did he seem willing to do the things for the team that were necessary to win. I do think that right away that the new Twins CF will struggle to replace Hunter, but he wasn't irreplaceable. The new Twins CF will be a different style player; instead of being a power hitter with a good glove, above average power, a bad average, and quote machine with the media, the new Twins CF will be a good fielding, good average, extremely fast player with below average power.

One other big thing about the Twins spring training is that Francisco Liriano is back! He has been throwing hard, and threw live BP for the first time this since the injury. He made the hitters facing him look foolish, and he will be starting for the first time this spring either Thursday or Friday.

Thats it for now, check back either Monday or Tuesday for an update!