Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Providing a voice of reason

While perusing Facebook and Twitter Tuesday evening during another wretched loss by the Minnesota Twins, I came across comments from scores of people who were ready to be placed on suicide watch. You would have never guessed that one week ago the Twins were the first team in the 2010 MLB season to clinch their division.

While I've had the reputation of being an incurable optimist (except when it pertains to the Minnesota Vikings), it doesn't take a "glass half full" outlook to realize there is no reason for the vapors.

So as a public service, I would like address some of the concerns brought forth by Twins Nation.

-The Twins have played with no life since clinching the AL Central. They need to go into the playoffs with some momentum.

Really? The Twins were the hottest team in baseball when they entered the postseason last year, winning 17 of their final 21 regular season games. In 2006, they won 16 of their final 23, culminated by winning the AL Central on the final day. Does anyone recall how the Twins fared in the 2006 and 2009 postseasons? Yep, they were swept in both. In fact, they never once had a lead against Oakland in the '06 American League Division Series. And in last year's ALDS there was only one occasion where the Twins scored runs and the Yankees didn't answer back in the next half inning.

I'd be more concerned if the Twins were losing these games while at full strength. But the fact of the matter is they've played most of the past week without Joe Mauer, Jim Thome and J.J. Hardy, all of whom are nursing nagging injuries. I'd rather play with a AAA caliber lineup than have key guys irritate injuries while playing meaningless September baseball.

Sure, the pitching has been sub par. But the lion's share of the runs allowed have been yielded by pitchers (i.e. Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett and Randy Flores) unlikely to be major factor in the playoffs, if not left off the postseason roster altogether.

-The Twins still have a shot at home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. They're blowing it by not winning down the stretch.

Question: In the nine seasons Ron Gardenhire has been Twins manager, what's his home record in the postseason?

Answer: 2-9, including eight consecutive postseason home losses since 2002.

I'm not saying that I wouldn't want them to have home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs. Heck, the Twins have adapted well to outdoor baseball as they have the best home record in the A.L thus far. But in the five seasons they've gone to the playoffs under Gardenhire (all while playing at the Metrodome), the Twins averaged 51 home wins during the regular year. For whatever reason, that success didn't translate into the postseason.

And as the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals can attest, just get in the playoffs and see what happens. The Cards won a mere 83 regular season games in '06, never had home field advantage in any playoff series and yet still managed to win the World Series.

-Looks like the Twins will have to play the Yankees again in the Division Series. Yet another "One and Done."

Hard to argue that Gardenhire's record against that Yankees is, to put it mildly, abysmal. Regular season and postseason combined, Gardy has a record of 18-54 versus the Yanks. Extrapolate that record over a 162-game regular season, and you're 40-122, which means you're the 1962 New York Mets.

But if you hold tight to the theory that "Pitching wins championships", then the Twins have a fighting chance in 2010. Outside of C.C. Sabathia, there isn't any other Yankees starting pitcher who strikes fear in the hearts of opponents.

A.J. Burnett, who is supposedly the Yanks' #2 starter, is 10-15 with a 5.33 ERA this season. In his last ten starts, Burnett is 1-6 with a 6.26 ERA (the Yankees are 2-8 in that span).

Veteran starter Andy Pettitte just came off the a two-month stint on the disabled list, so who knows what he'll provide. Last Friday, in only his second start since coming off the D.L., Pettitte allowed six earned runs and 10 hits in 3-1/3 innings against the Red Sox.

Phil Hughes is showing signs of fatigue as he has pitched nearly as many innings this season as the previous three years combined. In fact, Hughes has walked nine batters over his past two starts covering 12-1/3 innings.

Javier Vazquez has been relegated to mop up duty in the bullpen and may not even make the postseason roster.

So does my rationale mean a World Series berth in inevitable? Of course not. But save all the angst and hand wringing for meaningful games. You know, like the kind of games the Twins will be playing next week!!!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quick Hits: Volume XIII

This Monday brings the debut of CNN's new show called Parker Spitzer, co-hosted by Kathleen Parker and disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Amid allegations of solicitation of high class hookers, Spitzer resigned as Governor 2-1/2 years ago.

Ironically, many of CNN's talking heads had less than flattering things to say about Spitzer upon the revelation of his sordid affairs. Now many of these people shown in the video below are colleagues of his.

I guess the CNN folks are embracing that old mantra of "He may be an S.O.B. but he's our S.O.B."

-In an interview on Dan Patrick's radio show this morning, former NFL coach (and all-around great guy) Tony Dungy was asked if he would consider coaching at his Alma mater, the University of Minnesota. Not surprisingly, Dungy politely said no.

No word if Dungy also declined to be thrown into a pit with every carnivorous member of the reptile family.

-This sounds like almost as good an investment as some guy named Cris Judd marrying J-Lo.

Golf can be an expensive game. But the putter that netted Jim Furyk an $11.35-million payday at the Tour Championship on Sunday cost him a whopping $39 at a discount golf shop near Boston.

Furyk picked up the used "Yes! Sophia" putter at Joe & Leigh's Discount Golf Pro Shop at Pine Oaks Golf Course in Easton, Mass., earlier this month. He bought it during a quiet visit to the shop after the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, The Enterprise of Brockton first reported.

That same putter was in Furyk's hands when he made a 2-foot putt for par that clinched the $1.35 million Tour Championship and another $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup.

A pretty nice plug for the pro shop, to be sure. Can you imagine the business being taken in at Joe & Leigh's this week? My guess is it might be as crowded there as every time a certain home in Shreveport, LA puts on a garage sale.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Let's do lunch

Not sure what's on your lunch and dinner menus for today? Let Chili's do the cooking and you can help them help St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. For today only (September 27th) all Chili's profits will be donated to St. Jude's. Chili's has pledged to donate $50 million to the hospital over a span of ten years.

Founded in 1962, St. Jude's is the leader in treatment and research of catastrophic children's diseases.


Monday, September 20, 2010

A little bird told me.....(UPDATE)

......that a certain local NFL team may be holding a press conference tomorrow announcing the retirement of one of their employees.

If this certain employee's body language is any indication, I guess we shouldn't be shocked.

That would be a rather anticlimactic way to end an illustrious NFL career, no?

UPDATE: Huh. Guess my "little bird" was mistaken. Perhaps Brett Favre was convinced to stay after the acquisition of Hank Baskett.

UPDATE II: Some Vikings rubes were freaking out when they heard about a big ESPN truck pulling in to Winter Park for the Favre presser. What the rubes didn't realize is Favre has a presser every Wednesday during the season.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quick Hits: Volume XII

-There was much buzz regarding the GOP Senatorial primary in Delaware, where upstart candidate Christine O'Donnell upset Rep. Bob Castle, who has served nine terms in Congress. Since this stunning result, many have opined that the GOP blew it, and that the "moderate" Castle had a greater chance of winning in the general election than a scurrilous tea party candidate like O'Donnell. While I find myself back and forth on that debate, I am heartened by one key aspect of tea party candidates making waves in primaries all across the country. That is good ol' fashioned grassroots efforts can still have an impact in American politics. After it was announced that the National Republican Senatorial Committee would not assist in financing O'Donnell's campaign, Delaware's newest GOP Senate candidate raised $1.31 million dollars in a 48 hour span after her stunning victory.

-Within the next week or so, the Minnesota Twins will clinch their sixth AL Central division title in the nine seasons. What's amazing is the Twins still have an opportunity for best record in the American League (as of Sunday evening, they're only one game behind the Yankees), which would give them home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. However, if they make it all the way to the World Series, the National League club will have home field advantage for the first time since the passing of that moronic rule where the league who wins the All-Star Game in July receives that honor in the Fall Classic. By the way, does anyone recall who was the winning pitcher for the NL in July's All-Star Game? That would be then Washington Nationals hurler (and now current Twins closer) Matt Capps.

-As a die hard (or long-suffering) Minnesota Vikings fan, I am not ready to pack it in for the 2010 season despite my club displaying an utterly inept passing offense through two weeks. Besides, I've always felt the Packers would win the NFC North with 12-13 wins with the Vikes getting in to the playoffs as a wildcard with 10-11 victories. Much of the blame for the first two games has been laid at the feet of QB Brett Favre, and rightly so. Through 11 games last season, Favre had thrown only three interceptions. He already has tossed four picks through the first two games of 2010. Would training camp have alleviated some of these issues? Possibly. But lest we forget, it was the Vikings organization who pinned all of their hopes on Favre returning this season and thus handled his renown waffling with kid gloves. Meanwhile, this past April, Donovan McNabb was available for merely a second round draft pick. Is it fair to say the Vikings made the wrong decision and thus should have pursued McNabb and cut ties with Favre? Not yet. But ripping Favre for not attending training camp (and mandatory mini camp) is an exercise in futility at this point. Zygi Wilf & Co. gave Favre carte blanche from day one, and the Vikings must now live with the consequences of that decision. We as Vikings fans must also, since none of us felt Tarvaris Jackson was ready to take the reins.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Movin' On

I've left jobs before. It was never really a big deal because I never cultivated a lot of close friendships amongst my fellow co-workers. I didn't feel as though I was being snobbish as much as I just didn't have a lot in common with those people.

But this job was different.

As my boss and I mutually agreed this past Friday that I would stay on at my workplace until I find new employment or until November 30 (whichever comes first), I felt a sense of overwhelming relief. It's been a hellish past six weeks for a myriad of reasons, none of which are relevant to this post. But as I broke the news Monday, I realized today how much I'll miss my co-workers.

When I was hired in March 2008, it was almost as if I was meant to work there. In getting to know some of my colleagues, I learned that my co-worker Tammy just weeks earlier married a guy Russ who was in the same class as my brother from Kindergarten thru High School graduation! And despite being stark opposites politically, the I.T. guy Kevin and I could spend literally several consecutive hours discussing the Vikings, the Timberwolves and 80s pop culture.

I've enjoyed some of the frivolous times, like the opportunity to manage the company softball team!

I've also had the sheer joy of welcoming new additions to co-worker's families.

I guess transition (I've come to loathe the word "change") is a part of life. As a person who can be somewhat routine oriented, there is a slight amount of apprehension. But at the same time, I enjoy opportunities to thrive in a brand new setting.

Whatever this new adventure may bring, it is my sincere hope that the friendships of my now temporary office will endure into the future.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A half-year late

This is it! The 2010 NFL season kicks off this evening as my Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints, a rematch of that gut-wrenching 2009 NFC title game. Don't think for one second that the Vikings players haven't been thinking about this game 24/7 since the schedule was announced in the Spring.

Interestingly, this isn't the first time the Vikes have opened the season against a team who dashed their postseason hopes just months earlier.

On September 20, 1970, the Vikings hosted the Kansas City Chiefs, the team who throttled the Vikes in Super Bowl IV a mere eight months earlier. Legend has it that prior to that '70 season opener, Vikings coach Bud Grant showed his players video footage of that Super Bowl, specifically the audio bits of Chiefs coach Hank Stram clucking incessantly. It apparently worked as the Vikes stomped Kansas City 27-10.

If you ask any Vikings fan which loss in franchise history was most devastating, a vast majority would retort with the 1998 NFC Championship game loss to the Atlanta Falcons. A 30-27 overtime defeat brought to a bitter end a magical 15-1 season. The following September, the Vikings opened the 1999 regular season in Atlanta. The Vikings were leading 17-14 in the fourth quarter when Atlanta kicker Morten Andersen missed a potential game-tying field goal and the Vikes held on for the win. Rather ironic considering Vikes kicker Gary Anderson missed a field goal in the '98 title game which likely would have clinched a berth in the Super Bowl. But I'm sure we can surmise which was the bigger miss.

So if that quirky trend continues, the Vikings should beat the Saints tonight. And while it would be nice to open the season with a win, it's not much consolation for what took place in January.


Monday, September 06, 2010

What's with all the outrage?

I've always been an entrepreneurial sort. In chatting with my friend and neighbor Joe, I came to find out that he too has a bug to own his own business. As a West Point grad and someone who has an affinity for guns, Joe suggested we open a gun club.

The next step in the process was to determine a location for said firearms business. Well, as luck would have it, we both have connections in the Denver area. In fact, we were led to Littleton, CO, a suburb just south of Denver. However, people began to raise a stink because we decided to lease building space a mere 2-3 blocks from Columbine High School. Yes, I realize the horrific tragedy which took place there in April of 1999. But the second amendment clearly states "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." So why should the actions of extremists prevent us from exercising our Constitutional rights?

Can someone help me out here?


Saturday, September 04, 2010

For every minute I have to work, I need a minute of play

For the third time this calendar year, I have the distinct pleasure of co-hosting The First Team of the Northern Alliance Radio Network on AM 1280 The Patriot. And for the second time in four months, my friend and colleague Kevin Ecker has graciously agreed to join in the festivities.

The fun and frivolity begins at 11:00 a.m. today LIVE from the great Minnesota get-together, the Minnesota State Fair!

In the first hour we will be joined by MN State Senator Chris Gerlach (R-SD37). Senator Gerlach will discuss his re-election campaign as well as the prevalent issues facing state legislators come next session.

In the Noon hour we will be joined by the GOP endorsed candidate in Congressional District 5, Joel Demos. Joel has the unenviable task of becoming the first Republican in nearly fifty years to represent CD5 in the US House of Representatives. And as illustrated in one of his campaign ads, Joel is keenly aware of the Herculean task he undertakes.

We'll also gloss over other Congressional races around the country and assess the prospects of the GOP regaining the majority in Congress. Will we be partying like it's 1994?

With the vast political news taking place this past week in addition to two great guests, it's an embarrassment of riches for The First Team on this day. Heck, we may not even be able to get to the First Team staples of Loon of the Week and This Week in Gatekeeping, but we'll give it the old college try.

So if you're coming out to the Fair, the AM 1280 booth is located on Dan Patch two doors west of Cosgrove, just inside the Snelling Avenue entrance, next to the O’Gara’s “booth”! (Check out the map here).

In addition to checking out the broadcast on a good old fashioned AM radio dial, you can stream the show via the web here.

I'll also try to engage via Twitter during the broadcast. I'm thinking I'll use hashtag #narn1.

Ah, but the fun doesn't end at 1:00. Be sure to stay tuned for Mitch & Ed on the Headliners edition of the NARN, as they'll be on until 3:00 and then Sons of Liberty from 3-5.

Looking forward to a great show!!