Friday, May 29, 2009


It's okay. I know it kills you. It probably kills three-fourths of NASCAR fans, none of whom are capable of admitting when Kyle Busch does something awesome on the racetrack. They're sure as hell not going to admit when he's right about something off the racetrack.

It's a tough argument to back Busch on something. He is probably the most talented race-car driver on the planet, but he also has many faults. Among them is his obvious immaturity, a trait that sends him scurrying away from the cameras whenever something goes wrong, and has led him to making dumb remarks over the radio when things aren't happening the right way for the 18.

Busch also has a penchant for only talking to reporters when he feels like it. He felt like it Friday, and he now has millions of fans who back Dale Earnhardt, Jr., wishing he (Busch, that is) would suffer a debilitating injury or worse.
"It's never Junior; it's always the crew chief," said Busch, who fired the opening shots when asked about team owner Rick Hendrick's dismissal of Tony Eury Jr. as Earnhardt's crew chief a day earlier.

... "He's [interim crew chief Lance McGrew] got his hands full, I guess, having to deal with what's going on," Busch said. "And if Junior doesn't run well, then he [McGrew] is going to be the 'problem' again."
A somber Junior himself addressed Busch's comments, starting with a bit of a defensive tone, but later seeming to admit that Busch has a point.
"Like Kyle said, most people have always been on Tony Jr.'s case and never really pointed the finger at me …"
I know it probably sucks to admit it, but Busch has more than a point.

I understand the frustrations of Junior and all his supporters. After all, none of this is any of Kyle Busch's business. He probably shouldn't have said anything.

That's not Kyle Busch. Like him or not, he's going to be honest. He felt like talking Friday, a reporter asked him a question, and he was honest in his assessments.

Earnhardt has never been blamed for his problems behind the wheel. When he struggled at DEI and missed the chase, it was his evil stepmother's fault for not giving him anything to run competitively with. Upon signing with Hendrick Motorsports, he persuaded the boss to bring Tony Eury, Jr., with. They could no longer blame a lack of success on the equipment, as Hendrick has some of the best stuff in the business.

When the pair ran out of excuses, someone had to go. For now, it's easier to fire the crew chief. However, Junior has to be careful, because there will come a time where owner Rick Hendrick gets sick and tired of blaming the crew chief.

Surely, this tickles Kyle Busch, even if only a little. After all, he was the guy Hendrick dumped to bring in Junior. He has an 11-1 lead in race wins since, and there's no reason to think the gap won't widen as the season wears on.

Junior lovers will certainly bring more Kyle Busch venom to the racetrack. But are they mad at Busch for taking a cheap shot at their favorite driver, or are they mad at him for telling the truth?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Someday, women's hockey will garner more attention than it does now. For the time being, a story like this is simply of regional interest, and I understand that.

It's a huge coup for the fledgling North Dakota women's program, as they have picked up two prominent transfers from longtime national power Minnesota.

Twin sisters Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux decided to attend the University of Minnesota to play hockey together, and they were the Gophers' top players during a Frozen Four run in 2008-2009. The pair, from Grand Forks, aren't sticking around to try to build on that success, however.

After a year training for and -- they hope -- competing in the Winter Olympics for Team USA, the Lamoureux sisters are going to follow their bloodlines back to North Dakota. Both their father and older brother were goalies for the North Dakota men's team, so there is reason to think the Lamoureuxs have no ulterior motives.

Whatever the motives, neither the sisters nor their now-former coach are talking publicly.
"I can't get into the specifics about it -- I was definitely shocked when they informed me," Gophers coach Brad Frost said.

... "We feel this is in our best interests. It's what is right for us," Jocelyne Lamoureux said. "Obviously, the Fighting Sioux runs in our family. But Monique and I made the decision, and we have no parting jabs for Minnesota."
The transfer system exists for a reason. You don't want to keep kids from moving on if they are dissatisfied with their college choice. At the same time, you don't want them freely jumping from one school to the next because the coach puts in an undesirable set of rules or something. The Lamoureuxs sit out a year of eligibility, which happens to perfectly coincide with the run-up to the Olympics, and they return to the collegiate ice in the fall of 2010.

(Just a note of clarification, and thanks to Andrea for the e-mail on this: Women's hockey players are not subject to "normal" NCAA Division I transfer rules, but it is the WCHA that has an agreement among its league members that says in-conference transfers will sit out a year before playing.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


If the Milwaukee Brewers were trying to kid anyone into believing their clubhouse dash Monday was nothing less than a jab at their opponents, they'll probably have to try harder.

Seems that St. Louis' esteemed and ever-so-classy media is on to the Brewers' games. If the reporters can pick up on such things, one has to assume that the World's Smartest Baseball Manager has it all figured out.

Since the Cardinals are so classy, we shouldn't have to worry about them, say, throwing baseballs at Milwaukee hitters at any point. Nah, they'd never do anything like that.

Derrick Goold has a blog entry on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website that offers us some insight into the Cardinals' thoughts on this latest "controversy".
The premeditated celebration began the moment Bill Hall’s 10th-inning single landed Monday and winning run Casey McGehee crossed home plate. Immediately the Milwaukee Brewers bolted for their clubhouse, turning, as Tom Haudricourt wrote at the Journal-Sentinel, a walk-off into a run-off and again stoking the discussion about those brash and bold Brewers and their post-win ways.

Untucking. Posing. Behind closed doors. Or otherwise.

A rivalry that has its roots in Milwaukee’s public awe and open emulation of the St. Louis Cardinals franchise a few years ago has turned decidedly spicy.
Yes, this all has come from the Brewers' awe of the Cardinals. In fact, sources close to the team have confirmed to me that when Mike Cameron started untucking his shirt after wins last season, he told his teammates it was because he wanted to be more like the Cardinals. Growing up, Milwaukee's top players all idolized Cardinal greats like Skip Schumacher, Stubby Clapp, David Eckstein, and the best control pitcher of all-time, Rick Ankiel.

Braden Looper wanted to be a Cardinal so badly that he signed with the Brewers in the off-season, mistakenly thinking he was signing with the Cardinals. Trevor Hoffman was so convinced he joined the Cardinals that he decided to be just like a St. Louis pitcher and spend a few weeks on the disabled list.

It's a sad, sad deal, this Brewers obsession with St. Louis. Hell, they went so far as to wear red caps for Monday's game.

Someone has to stop them. It won't be the Cardinals, as they seem too busy whining about the Brewers to actually beat them.


This is not a misprint.

Normally, a game-winning play by the home team in their last at-bat is termed a "walk-off". After all, the team "walks off" the field because the game is immediately over.

The Milwaukee Brewers have a habit of pissing off the St. Louis Cardinals untucking their shirts after all victories, and walk-offs are no exception.

Until Monday.

It was a move obviously meant to stick it to St. Louis, a team that has been vocally critical of the Brewers for their untucking ways. Instead of celebrating on the field (you know, like everyone else), the Brewers hilariously ran into the clubhouse after Bill Hall's game-winning hit in the tenth inning Monday.
What was up with the disappearing act? Why did the Brewers not celebrate on the field as teams usually do?

"We came in here and celebrated," said Hall. "We got the big hit and everybody came in the clubhouse and celebrated in here. We were having fun with ourselves.

"This is all about the 25 guys in this locker room. We feel like we're a huge unit and all care about each other. We just wanted to celebrate and have fun with ourselves."
It's probably just a coincidence that they happened to be playing St. Louis, a team that has whined endlessly about the Brewers' antics, and they just happen to unveil a new way of celebrating a win that day.

Yeah, right.

The Brewers will take the high road on this one, talking about just being a team thing, but the intention is clear. St. Louis can't manage to keep their mouths shut about the untucking, as if it's some sort of a dig at their wonderfully classy organization that never does anything wrong and never shows anyone up by staring at home runs or arguing with umpires. The more they cry about it, the more fun it has to be for the Brewers to beat the Cardinals.

If the Cardinals want to keep whining, I'm sure Mike Cameron and his teammates will find something else to do. Personally, I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Monday, May 25, 2009


I'll admit a bit of ignorance when it comes to the inner workings of college baseball.

The basics seem pretty simple, but it's obvious that not a lot of depth goes into NCAA Tournament selections, especially when compared to a sport like men's basketball.

Since I am always willing to confront my faults, I did some reading. I read a lot of Baseball America, and I read a lot of ESPN, hoping to learn more about the process before the selections were announced.

It seemed clear to me that the committee was likely to pass over potentially deserving mid-major teams in favor of helping the power conferences get more teams in the tournament.

I didn't even know the half of it.

When the pairings came out Monday, I was mortified to see Oklahoma State, a team not even good enough to make the eight-team Big 12 Tournament (the Big 12 has just ten teams for baseball, as Colorado and Iowa State choose not to participate, making OSU's failure all the more embarrassing), make the field. That immediately screwed a team like Rhode Island, Missouri State, or Eastern Illinois, teams that may play in weaker leagues, but at least beat some teams in non-conference play.

Making matters worse, Baylor also made the field. The Bears were swept by last-place Nebraska late in the season (Nebraska is a shell of their former Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain selves), and the bottom line is that they didn't play very well down the stretch. Yeah, they have a couple of wins over TCU, a regional top seed. That's great, but there's the matter of a not-so-sterling 0-9 record over the Bears' final nine regular-season conference games.

It's very difficult to compare teams like Oklahoma State and Baylor to the likes of Rhode Island. Yes, the Rams have a good record and did well in their conference. However, their league -- the Atlantic 10 -- is undeniably weaker than the Big 12.

What Rhode Island did do was use their non-conference slate to play anyone, anywhere, anytime. The Rams played 27 straight games on the road to start the season, and they picked up wins over Miami (the one in Florida, not Ohio) and Oklahoma State (hmm ...). For a team in a weaker conference, it sounds like the blueprint of how to make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large.

Didn't work for Rhode Island. Also didn't work for Eastern Illinois or Missouri State, but their profiles are weaker than that of URI. The Rams simply should be in this field, and they would be if their name was, say, Texas Tech.

Aaron Fitt of Baseball America is much more scathing than I.
Indeed, the committee chairman is Big 12 deputy commissioner Tim Weiser struggled to explain the rationale for including Oklahoma State and Baylor in the field of 64.

"Oklahoma State, no doubt, had some losses there in conference play that was a factor," Weiser said in a conference call with media this afternoon. "But we looked at the RPI issue, we looked at strength of schedule. We were aware of their conference success or failures, and all of that was compared to information we still had available."

Weiser repeatedly cited nonconference strength of schedule as a key factor in the committee’s deliberations—he even used it to justify Cal State Fullerton as the No. 2 national seed, even though it finished five games behind UC Irvine in the Big West and lost the head-to-head series against the Anteaters, who earned the No. 6 national seed (more on Irvine shortly). But the committee apparently did not place the same weight on the challenging nonconference slates put together by Rhode Island or Missouri State (which won a series at Oregon State in Portland, won a home series against inexplicable No. 2 regional seed Oral Roberts, and opened the year with a quality series at Middle Tennessee State, though it was swept there). And the Rams and Bears actually finished at or near the top of their conferences. But bad losses cost those mid-majors.

"I think our committee certainly considered those teams," Weiser said. "Twelve of the losses Rhode Island had were to teams rated above 100 in the RPI. Those are significant issues. Talking about Rhode Island, Missouri State, Eastern Illinois or Duke, those are all things we consider."
Fitt knows more than I, and his case is strong.

It's maddening to me that the NCAA allows such things to happen. The criteria need to be more clearly laid out, because as it is set up right now, the message for teams is conflicting. You can't tell teams to schedule tougher, than only reward some teams for it. Things simply don't work that way in the real world.

If you have interest in college baseball, I'd highly recommend Fitt's piece. It's an eye-opener to a painfully flawed process.


Sunday, May 24, 2009


The NCAA Baseball Tournament begins with the regional round on Friday. 16 teams will get the opportunity to host four-team regionals, with the hopes of advancing to Super Regional play the following weekend, and then the College World Series in Omaha starting June 12 (CORRECTION: Aargh, June 13, that is).

The 64-team field will be announced Monday, but it is already starting to take shape, as conference tournaments are contested around the country.

Big Ten baseball is not highly regarded. It might not be as bad as dregs like the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but it's not a power conference when it comes to baseball. Three years ago, the league picked up three bids to the NCAA Tournament, and most of the college baseball world reacted with chuckles and snorts.

Those chuckles and snorts were somewhat justified, as the league hasn't won a national championship since 1966 (Ohio State), and hasn't even sent a team to Omaha since 1984 (Michigan). The league has only six national championships in baseball, so it's just not as strong as others.

Lately, however, the Big Ten has set out to improve at the sport. It appears to be working.

With plenty to be decided before Selection Monday, the Big Ten appears set to place three teams in the tournament for the second time in three years (Ohio State, Michigan, and Minnesota all made it in 2007, with Michigan advancing to a Super Regional against eventual national champion Oregon State).

Heading into the Big Ten Baseball Tournament this weekend, regular-season champion Ohio State and runner-up Minnesota appeared to be locks for the tournament. Both played some tough non-conference games throughout the year. tOSU went 3-0 at the Big East-Big Ten Challenge in Florida, and they also beat NCAA invitee Xavier.

Minnesota won two of three at Texas Christian, a team in line to host a regional. The Gophers also swept three games from Dallas Baptist, who could earn an at-large bid.

Neither team could claim the league championship and automatic NCAA bid, however. That went to third-seeded Indiana, who whipped Minnesota Thursday in their tournament opener, and then spanked the Gophers again Saturday night for the championship. IU actually was under .500 in non-conference play, and had no chance of making the tournament without the autobid. It's likely they'll be a low regional seed, but they know they have at least 54 outs left in their season.

There are inherent disadvantages to playing baseball in the Big Ten. Weather is a huge problem in the first part of the season, and it forces teams to travel to get good games in. As a result, it's hard for the league to compete for top recruits against the likes of the ACC, SEC, and Pac-10. The NCAA put in a universal start date for baseball, and they put a cap on the number of games teams can play. This helps in scheduling for the little guys, but it hasn't totally leveled the playing field just yet.

When the regional hosts are announced Sunday, look for Louisville or Virginia to be the northernmost host, meaning the Big Ten's entries will have a lot of travel ahead of them for regional play.

Part of this is the slow process of changing the balance of power in the sport. The top teams are still based in the south and west, and the NCAA is (rightfully) trying to lean the regional hosting duties to top seeds. It's simply not fair for a lot of third- and fourth-seeded teams to be hosting when top seeds are more than capable. As teams in the Big Ten and Big East continue to gain more national footing, they'll stand a better chance of hosting these events in the future.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


The Minnesota Timberwolves have been without a real personnel boss since moving Kevin McHale to the bench during the season. You could joke they've been without one for a helluva lot longer than that, but we'll stick with facts.

Owner Glen Taylor has apparently stopped dragging his feet on the matter, and is set to announce a hire.
* David Kahn will be announced tomorrow as the team’s president of basketball operations — a new title that in language is one step up from Kevin McHale’s vice president of basketbll operations. * He will arrive with no stipulations as to who — including Kevin McHale and Fred Hoiberg — he does or doesn’t keep from the current front-office staff and will use the next five weeks before the draft to evaluate Hoiberg, Jim Stack, Rob Babcock, etc.
Kahn comes from the NBA Developmental League, and most recently had NBA work with the Indiana organization. He was targeted early in the process, but became the guy for the job when Portland executive Tom Penn pulled out of the running.

ESPN reported earlier this week that Taylor has mandated that the new general manager allow McHale to make up his own mind on coaching the team. One has to think this deterred some solid candidates from taking the job, as most new general managers want to be able to make their own decisions on coaches. As good a job as I think McHale did with this team after he took over, most owners recognize that these mandates don't work very well.

Then again, Glen Taylor hasn't become one of the worst owners in the NBA because he knows what he's doing with this team.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


There's no question the Milwaukee Brewers are a young, confident bunch of ballplayers. They've won a lot of fans over with their play in the last few years, and their current 20-5 tear has them atop the National League Central.

That said, it appears that their ritual of untucking jerseys after a victory has made them a few enemies, especially around the city of St. Louis, Missouri.
"Well, they've got a little flair about them that some people don't care for," said closer Ryan Franklin. "But that's just the way they are. So yeah, I think it would be more fun to beat them than it would be the Padres or something, just because of what they do after they beat you."

... "They are what they are," (pitcher Kyle) Lohse said. "That's how they choose to present themselves and play the game. A lot of people don't like it. We're not the only ones."
It's pretty clear that the Cardinals are more angry about not being able to beat these guys than anything else, but whatever. What's odd about all of this is watching the St. Louis media play the same song.

Read this article by Derrick Goold about Monday's 8-4 Brewers win that completed a three-game series sweep at Busch Stadium. In 600 words of pure slop, there are three separate occasions where Goold mentions the untucking.

I'm shocked Goold didn't promote the Untuckem website.


Are the Cardinals so uppity and self-absorbed that their players, personnel, fans, and even media can't understand anything they don't do themselves?

I mean, you don't see any Brewers media people asking publicly why the Cardinals insist on throwing baseballs at hitters they're incapable of getting out? It's simply none of their business how the Cardinals choose to handle opposing hitters.

It's not like the Brewers are showing anyone up when they untuck their shirts after a win. It's not like they are rubbing it in somebody's face. It's their way of celebrating a win and marking the end of a day's work.

Really, it's not much more than that. It's a team-first celebration by one of the closest groups you'll find anywhere in baseball. Leave it to a curmudgeon like Tony LaRussa to find fault and then sick his minions on everyone. Perhaps the Genius should worry more about his sparking 1-9 record in the last ten games against Milwaukee at Busch Stadium.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Just as the boys were getting hot, the Brewers have lost their leadoff hitter and emerging star second baseman.

Years of struggles had left fans wondering if Rickie Weeks would ever realize his boatload of potential. The start Weeks got off to in 2009 answered a lot of questions.

Sitting at .272/.340/.519 and on pace to blow away his career bests in many offensive categories, Weeks couldn't have been doing much more to alleviate fears about his development. Suddenly, the Brewers were looking at a legitimate All-Star setting the table.

Not anymore.

Weeks tore the tendon sheath in his left wrist Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals, and he will miss the remainder of the season.
(GM Doug) Melvin and head trainer Roger Caplinger said preparation was being made for Weeks to have surgery Wednesday in Phoenix by specialist Don Sheridan. Sheridan repaired his right wrist injury in 2006 as well as a torn thumb tendon in 2005.

Caplinger said there was no known medical reason for Weeks having the same injury in both wrists.

"Dr. Sheridan said he never had a patient who had that in both wrists," said Caplinger.

"Basically, it's Rickie being Rickie. He has very strong hands and wrists and has a lot of bat speed with torque."
There couldn't be much more disappointment with this news. Weeks had the look last year of a player who would forever struggle at the major-league level. The team has been greatly patient with him, though, and it seemed that the light came on for Weeks during spring training.
"It's depressing. It really is," said (Brewers' bench coach Willie) Randolph. "I know the hard work he put in this spring. He was one of the best students I’ve worked with in recent years. I just feel terrible for him. I know he was looking forward to going to the next level.

"I challenged him in spring training to set his goals on becoming an all-star this year. He came out ready to take over. I believed it. I think he believed it too.

"Right now, you just feel terrible for the kid. I don’t know what to say. I was praying that it would come back not as bad as they thought. I just had a bad feeling in my gut.

"He was on the right track. This is a tough business; you have to roll with the punches. But when it hits you like this, it’s not easy. It’s hard to deal with."
Where the club goes from here is going to be interesting.

Youngster Mat Gamel was already up from the minors, and he's in the lineup for Monday's game at St. Louis. Another player will be brought in from Triple-A Nashville when Weeks is formally placed on the disabled list.

Who plays second base full-time? Maybe the answer is "No one". Veteran Craig Counsell figures to see a lot of action, and I would expect the Brewers to bring Hernan Iribarren up from the minors. He won't play every day, either.

Bill Hall has experience in the middle infield, and fans who have speculated that J.J. Hardy could someday move to second base to accomodate big prospect shortstop Alcides Escobar may advocate that move now. Escobar is not ready, though, and he certainly isn't ready to play every day. Nor would Hardy be ready to play every day at second base.

I think we'll see a mishmash of players at the position, with Counsell getting the bulk of the work. However, another injury (PLEASE NO!!) could change all of this, perhaps escalating Escobar's rise through the system.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


When the season started slowly for the Milwaukee Brewers, I pleaded with fans on the awesome Brewerfan message board to give new manager Ken Macha some time.

The process of evaluating an entire baseball team can be a long one for a new manager, especially one as thorough and intelligent as Macha. It wasn't simply a matter of drawing up a lineup and sticking with it until someone got hurt, and it was going to be a process that made Macha look like a guy who is easily better than his predecessor.

After that slow start, Macha has been golden for Milwaukee. He has the Brewers playing some great baseball, as they've surged to a game-and-a-half lead in the National League Central over the hated Chicago Cubs. Sunday's 8-2 curbstomping of St. Louis serves as an example of what this team is capable of doing when they work counts and get solid pitching.

I'll freely admit that I didn't expect the Brewers to spend much time in first place in this division during the 2009 season. But Macha has been refreshing.

While hockey coaches are often reluctant to change lines, defensive pairings, or goalies when the team is winning, it's exceptionally important for a baseball manager to integrate different guys into the lineup all the time. It keeps the main guys fresh by getting them a few days off here and there (the Brewers just had a stretch of 20 straight days without a day off), and it keeps the bench players from getting too rusty with just limited late-inning at-bats.

Macha probably surprised some recently. He told FanHouse colleague Jeff Fletcher that he uses philosophies learned in Oakland (better known as "Moneyball" tactics) when it comes to preparing his pitchers.
Macha has brought more of the A's practices to Milwaukee. Third base coach Brad Fischer, who was the bullpen coach in Oakland, has helped the Brewers pitchers have more intense preparation and knowledge of the statistical tendencies of the opposition.

"That's something that Fisch was into with (A's pitching coach Curt Young)," Macha said. "We've got our computerized stats program that we look at. The pitchers aren't overpowering, but they have the ability to make pitches. We give them a plan and Jason Kendall (also from Oakland) listens to the plan and helps them carry it out."

... (Brewers GM Doug) Melvin and Macha have a winning team, and Macha also has a chance to see what it's like to manage without Beane looking over his shoulder.

"We went on a road trip here and I didn't hear from Doug one time," Macha said.

He told a story about a day this spring when he and Melvin were discussing the rotation, and Melvin said: "That's your call."

"That's your call," Macha repeated, as if they were some sort of magic words.
Those tactics appear to be working. The Brewers have steadily improved their pitching since a rough start, with both Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra doing a good job to start limiting their walks. It's easy to just credit the coaching staff, but the players deserve kudos, too. They've been through a lot of transition since September, both in coaching and in player personnel. They've responded with a great start to the season, and they may have already exceeded some expectations around baseball.

Here's to plenty more shirt untuckings, just to piss off the Cardinals.


Greetings from Sioux Falls, where I've been on family "business" since Thursday.

The UMD Athletic Hall of Fame's Class of 2009 has been announced. The following info comes from the school's press release.
A quartet of All-Americans -- Jeff Guidinger (basketball), Ron Johnson (golf), Derek Plante (hockey), and the late Corey Veech (football) -- three-time all-conference selection Ann (Patet) Henry (softball), and former heavyweight boxing contender Scott LeDoux (football) will all be paid a lasting tribute on Oct. 3, 2009 when the University of Minnesota Duluth Athletic Hall of Fame holds its 12th enshrinement ceremony. The addition of this distinguished group will bring the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame membership to 94.

Guidinger drew the curtain on a rewarding basketball career in 1986-87 by attaining NAIA All-American (third team) honors in addition to being named the Northern Intercollegiate Conference Player of the Year. The Milwaukee, Wis. native and Whitefish Bay Dominican High School alumnus exited the Bulldog program ranking fifth in career scoring (1,422 points in 119 games for an 11.5 ppg), second in rebounding (731) and first in block shots (130). A two-time winner of the NAIA District 13 Player of the Year Award, Guidinger paced the NIC in field goal shooting (.624) as a senior while securing All-NIC recognition for the second year in a row (first team in 1986-86 and second team the previous year. He also finished atop the Bulldog scoring and rebounding charts in each of his final two seasons. Guidinger, who was selected UMD’s Outstanding Senior Male Athlete for 1986-87, helped lead UMD to three NIC championships (1983-84 and 1985-87), four NAIA National Tournament berths, four 20-win seasons and a 95-28 overall record during his four years of starting duty at the power forward position. Chosen to UMD’s All-75th Anniversary Team in 2006, Guidinger spent one season (1987-88) as a UMD student assistant coach after his playing days were over.

Johnson, who grew up in Duluth and attended East High School, was a four-year letterwinner in both golf and hockey (left wing). In the spring of 1962, he joined teammate Tom Maas as UMD’s first golf All-Americans after placing fourth individually at the NAIA Championships. Johnson, who captained the Bulldogs to a third place team finish at that national event, also played an integral part in UMD’s conquest of four straight Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles. On the ice, he skated a regular shift in 73 career games and was credited with 39 goals and 31 assists for 80 points -- good for the No. 4 spot on the Bulldogs’ all-time scoring list at time. Johnson served as an alternate team captain in his farewell season with the hockey Bulldogs and wound up missing half of the year with separated shoulder. In May of that year, he was bestowed with UMD’s 1962-63 Outstanding Senior Athlete Award.

LeDoux, a native of Deerwood, Minn., lettered three years with the football Bulldogs, including in 1968 when he started on both the offensive and defensive lines, before pursuing a career in professional boxing. As an amateur, he won the Upper Midwest Golden Glove title while he was a sophomore at UMD. LeDoux posted a record of 33-13 with four draws in 50 professional bouts and is the only fighter to have boxed 11 world champions: George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes, Leon Spinks, Ken Norton, Frank Bruno, Mike Weaver, Gerrie Coetzee, Mike Tyson (training camp) and Lennox Lewis (training camp). He later served on and chaired the Minnesota Boxing Commission for 18 years and was employed as a ringside boxing analyst for ESPN2 Tuesday Night Fights in 2000.

Plante was a driving offensive force for the Bulldogs for four winters, culminating with a senior year in which he racked up an NCAA-leading 92 points --- still the second highest single-season total in team history -- for a school-record 2.49 points per game average. The Cloquet, Minn. product captained the Bulldogs to the 1992-93 WCHA regular season title and a berth in the NCAA Regionals and, in the process, was chosen as a Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist, a first team All-American, the USA Hockey Male Athlete of the Year, and the WCHA Player of the Year. In addition, he was a All-WCHA first team honoree as a senior after receiving second team honors the previous winter. Planted closed out his collegiate career with 219 points on 96 goals and 123 assists in 138 outings which currently puts him in a tie for second place on the UMD’s all-time scoring charts while his career points per game average (1.587) trails only UMD Hall of Fame Inductees Bill Watson (1.94 ppg), Keith “Huffer” Christiansen (1.92 ppg) and Brett Hull (1.588). During his final season, he paced the Bulldogs in points for the third winter in a row en route to landing UMD’s Most Valuable Player Award an unprecedented third consecutive time. A member of the WCHA All-Academic Team as a senior and the owner of team records for most career game-winning goals (15) as well as most playoff assists (13) and playoff points (19) in one season (1992-93), Plante was chosen UMD’s Outstanding Senior Male Athlete for 1992-93. Plante, who played two years of baseball with the Bulldogs as a reserve second baseman (1991 and 1992), went on to enjoy an eight-year stint in the National Hockey League with Buffalo (1993-99), Dallas (1999-2000 when he won a Stanley Cup), Chicago (1999-2000) and Philadelphia (2000-01), producing 96 goals and 152 assists for 248 points in 450 regular season games. Selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1989 NHL draft (8th round, 161st pick overall), Plante also did time with the International Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves (1999-2000) and Michigan K-Wings (1999-2000) and the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms (2000-01). He spent another six seasons playing professionally in Europe and Japan before retiring following the 2007-08 season. He skated with Team U.S.A. at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships on seven occasions: 1992, 1993, 1996, and 2000-2004.

Henry arrived on the UMD campus from South St. Paul in 1985, and over the next four years distinguished herself as one of the most prolific hitters in Bulldog softball history. The three-time All-NIC third baseman (1986, 1987 and 1989) was a member of three NIC championship teams and helped UMD advance all the way to the finals of the 1988 NAIA National Championship in Oklahoma City, Okla., where she landed All-Tournament Team honors. When she hung up her collegiate spikes for good in the spring of 1989, Henry held down the No. 1 spot among Bulldogs for career games played (172), at bats (535), hits (188), doubles (29) runs batted in (129, a mark which still stands), total bases (257) and slugging percentage (.477) while sporting a .351 lifetime batting average. She also set school single-season marks for RBI (45) and fielding assists (114) during the 1988 season. Henry who was a co-recipient of UMD’s Outstanding Female Athlete award in 1988-89, served as an Bulldog assistant coach for two years (1990 and 1991), as the head softball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Superior for one season (1992) and as the assistant softball coach and head volleyball coach at Henry Sibley High School for six years (1996-2001).

Veech, who was killed in a automobile accident in September 1990, capped off a remarkable senior season with selections to the Associated Press Little All-American and Football News All-American second teams. The Hermantown, Minn. native started three years in the Bulldog offensive backfield and concluded his career owning no less than 15 school records, including five marks which still remain -- rushing attempts in a career (606) and single-season (269 in 1986), most 100-yard rushing games in a season (nine in 1986) and consecutive 100-yard rushing games (seven in 1986) and punt returns in one game (eight in 1985). Chosen to the All-NIC team on two occasions (1985 and 1986), Veech was bestowed with the NIC's Most Valuable Player award as a senior after leading that circuit in both scoring and punt return average. He handled an alternate team captain role on a UMD club which went 8-1-2 overall and shared the No. 18 spot in the final 1986 NCAA II poll. That same year, he ran for 1,377 yards, a figure which then ranked second to only Ted McKnight's 1,482 yard effort in 1976 on UMD’s single-season charts. Veech’s rushing average during his farewell year (125. 2 yards per outing) was the sixth best in in the nation while his 11.1 points per game mark was bettered by only one other NCAA II player. He topped the Bulldogs in rushing and scoring both as a junior and senior and finished as UMD’s second all-time leading ground gainer with 2,768 yards.
Congratulations to all six. It's a heckuva group.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Recently, speculation around the expansion of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association began to center around Nebraska-Omaha.

The Mavericks, after all, make geographic sense, have a huge arena to fill, and have a new athletic director looking to max out the potential of the school's only Division I program.

Longtime head coach Mike Kemp is said to be an opponent of such a move. Because of that, supporters of a 12-team WCHA got bad news this week when he stepped down as coach of the Mavericks. The bad part about it is that Kemp is taking over as associate athletic director under new A.D. Trev Alberts.
“Mike has made a choice of great humility and selflessness in order to benefit our hockey program,” said Alberts. “We need him here long term and in a role larger than coaching. He will figure prominently in the strengthening of our marquee program."

It's a curious move, but Kemp sounded upbeat in a statement.

“I’m thrilled for the opportunity to join Trev, Michele Roberts, Don Leahy and Connie Claussen as a cog in the management team,” said Kemp. “It’s important to me to continue to assist in the direction of hockey into the future.

“The UNO hockey program has been a huge part of my life and to continue to make decisions and plot the course of Maverick hockey is something I cherish.”
Perhaps Kemp will look at the issue and have a change of heart. Perhaps Alberts has already made up his mind what the school should do. It's also possible that the WCHA will have to look elsewhere for a 12th team.


From The Onion, no less.
HATTIESBURG, MS—Retired quarterback Brett Favre mailed his throwing arm to the Vikings Tuesday, sending the record-setting limb to the team's headquarters for evaluation in hopes of signing with Minnesota. "I made sure to bubble-wrap it, and I stuck a couple big chunks of dry ice in the envelope, so it should be fine," said Favre, who sent the appendage after the Vikings expressed health concerns with the potential signing of the 39-year-old quarterback. "Once the Vikings examine it, I'm sure they'll find that my throwing arm has no structural damage. The doctors who cut it off said it looked great." According to James "Bus" Cook, Favre's agent, the three-time MVP is unlikely to come out of retirement if the Vikings believe that his amputated throwing arm will require major surgery.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Normally, I am glad to read the reports of hard-working, respectable people in the media.

When it comes to Brett Favre, I'm no longer so glad.

With word leaking last week that Favre was going to talk to the Vikings about joining the team, I made my feelings clear.

Despite trying ever since to avoid Favre news, it's practically unavoidable. He's all over the place. Luckily, he doesn't play hockey, so there is still refuge.

The latest interesting nugget comes from Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He blogged about Favre early Wednesday, and he sounds as jaded as I am about the whole thing.
This is what I'm reasonably sure is going on:

BLF tested his arm early last week. It did not go well. He called the Vikings to say he was done, that his arm is killing him. The Vikings, who really want him, said, 'Not so fast. Let us take a look to see how bad it is.' BLF can't play without arthroscopic surgery. And it will involve more than just clipping the biceps tendon. The shoulder needs to be cleaned out. That tends to happen with 39-year-old shoulders. (This is why both the Yahoo! and ESPN reports were correct last week)

Again, like I've reported from the beginning, this all depends on BLF's shoulder and whether he is willing to get the surgery. If he doesn't get it, he's done. If he does, he's still in play.

The Vikings think eventually BLF will come around and want to play again sometime later this month or in June. They're just waiting him out and keeping him on the line until then. This is not ending anytime soon.
First off, it's positively genius to refer to Favre as "BLF". I love it.

(Brett's middle name is Lorenzo.)

I can only echo the Packers' take on the deal. If he wants to play football, he should go ahead and play.

Of course, when the Packers say it, the meaning isn't exactly what it sounds like. It's their cute little way of saying "Bring it on, sir". I'm thinking the Packers don't believe Favre's arm can either 1) withstand a 16-game season, or 2) beat the Packers twice.

I'm thinking they're probably right on both counts.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Just as their season started in February, St. Scholastica baseball lost its patriarch when good friend John Baggs died of cancer.

On the field, the Saints have clearly learned much of what their old coach tried to teach them.

St. Scholastica (35-5) has qualified for the NCAA Division III regionals once again this year. They'll be heading to Oshkosh, Wis., this week to play in a regional hosted by UW-Oshkosh. The Saints are the third seed in a six-team grouping, and will play fourth-seeded St. Norbert in the opening round. The top seed is St. Olaf, followed by St. Thomas. Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Beloit are the other two teams in the regional.

The Saints got to regional play after a busy second day at the UMAC Tournament Friday in Duluth. St. Scholastica scored 56 runs in three straight wins -- two of them over Bethany Lutheran, who had upset the Saints Thursday night -- to clinch their 13th straight UMAC baseball crown.

The regional tournament begins Wednesday. The winner advances to the Division III World Series in Appleton, Wis., beginning May 22.


Friday night, Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun hit a game-winning two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Cubs. When bat met ball, Braun went into a bit of a walk, instead of running toward first base. He also stuck his tongue out (right). Video can be seen here.

(Dear MLB, please enable embedding of videos. This isn't 2007.)

Saturday night, Braun hit another long bomb, this one to give the Brewers a 5-2 lead on their way to a 12-6 win. The at-bat before his long home run, Cubs starter Ryan Dumpster had a message he wanted to send the slugger's way.

(Let's see how long this video is available for.)

Set aside for a moment the argument about whether the pitch actually grazed Braun's helmet, because it's irrelevant. The umpire ruled that it did, Braun was awarded first base, and it didn't matter because the Brewers won by six runs and absolutely destroyed the Cubs pitching on this night.

Focus instead on the location of Dumpster's pitch.

Yeah. There.
"I think the league frowns upon people throwing at people's heads," (Brewers manager Ken) Macha said. "I don't know if (MLB vice president) Bob Watson will look at that or not.

"I don't think that's a good idea to throw at people's heads. I don't know if (Dempster) was or he wasn't. I can't answer that. It's hard for me to tell anybody what somebody else's intentions are."
I wouldn't be happy, either.

After all, it has to be kind of scary watching people throw at your best player's head.

I am all for the policing that we see in baseball. To me, there are no issues with a pitcher sending one between a guy's numbers when they feel it's necessary.

But it has to be between the numbers, not into someone's earhole. You just don't go after a hitter's head, no matter how much of a jerk they may act like.

Macha's right about this, and Dumpster would probably face a fine or a possible suspension if he didn't play for the Cubs.

Where Macha goes wrong is in trying to tie in a larger point about the dangers of headshots. This comes from the same Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.
"The implications of hitting somebody and the effect that can have on somebody's career, look at Kirby Puckett. He was one of the stars of our game, enjoyed the game. He got hit in the face by Dennis Martinez and that was pretty much the end of it. There are consequences of what you do out there."
I have great respect for Tom Haudricourt, but it would have been nice if he had found a way to correct Macha. After all, it only took me one Google search.
To this day, Puckett searches for the logic behind his illness. "Nothing popped. There's nothing detached. Doc says it was just the pressure building up behind the eye for 35 years. And finally it just got to the breaking point on March 28."

(Dr. Bert) Glaser has ruled out as a cause any residual trauma from the beaning Puckett suffered Sept. 28 when his left sinus was shattered by a Dennis Martinez pitch.
(NOTE: The Times article cited Glaser, who was with the Retina Eye Institute in 1996, as "one of the foremost eye specialists in the country", so there's a good chance he knew what he was talking about.)

Ken Macha is far from the first person to blame Puckett's blindness on Martinez, either directly or indirectly. Sadly, many people continue to make this mistake even now, over 12 years later.

It would have been nice for Haudricourt to reach into the vast amount of information available on the internet before he allowed Macha to become the latest.

Friday, May 08, 2009


He's left Deadspin, but Will Leitch still surfaces on occasion.

The latest sighting of the "former blogger" and one-time target for Buzz Bissinger came Friday morning, when he penned a piece for Sporting News Today.

(By the way, if you don't get Sporting News Today sent to your mailbox every morning, you're missing out. At least 30 pages of comprehensive sports coverage, including all the late-night scores you missed because your alarm goes off at 3am or 4am every morning. Wait, that's just me.)

Leitch absolutely nailed the Ramirez story. It's on page five of the 40-page Friday issue.
Seriously, it’s time to let it go. I’m tired of it, we’re all tired of it. We’ll never really know what happened during the “Steroid Era,” who was using, who wasn’t. Some of you—most of you will be media members—will be driven mad by this fact. Most of you will not. Most of you will recognize that baseball is a sport. It’s entertainment. It’s something that can move us, touch our hearts, inspire us, connect generations. But it’s still just a bunch of guys wearing funny outfits swinging a stick and running around a square.
One of the fun things about a story like Manny Ramirez is that people who don't like sports are talking about it. Of course, they end up asking questions like "Who else in baseball is using?" and "Are you surprised?".

I almost think people are put off when I tell them that I'm not surprised.

But I'm not.

I'd like to fake some outrage at a guy like Manny. He's got all the talent in the world, a God-given ability to smack a baseball that most of us can only marvel at. He needs to take steroids/PEDs like I need to eat a half-pound burger. Same goes for most major-league players. On the list of stuff they should be consuming to keep their bodies in optimum condition, "steroids" should rest at the bottom, right behind Ho-Hos, Big Texas Cinnamon Rolls, and fried lard.

Instead, I'm just inclined to stick him in the long line of cheaters and move on with my life. Frankly, I'm more concerned about a hockey player sneaking brass knuckles into a fight against a bigger guy. That's the kind of cheating that actually affects my ability to enjoy a competition.

I'm beyond the point of watching sporting events and wondering if the athletes are juicing.

It's not that it shouldn't matter. I don't want my son choosing to play a sport and then finding out that he has to stick a needle in his ass to keep up with everyone else who is. It absolutely matters that we stop it.

But I can't do anything about it. As Leitch says at the end of his column, the only thing that can stop us from enjoying baseball is us. Same is true of any other sport. It might not be for everyone, but I just don't care about this anymore.

We all had a hand in turning our awesome sports into big businesses. We can't turn away when the participants act accordingly.


It seems like a blasphemous idea.

A known criminal and a known liar actually has credibility.

But it's true.

Jose Canseco, who has only decided to speak out of a personal vendetta against baseball for not employing his overrated, no-longer-viable hide, continues to find baseball's cheaters long before baseball does. How does he do it?

Well, it no longer appears that the old theory -- that Canseco was simply throwing names at the wall until they started to stick -- applies. The guy knows what he's doing.

Obviously, he knows people who deal in this crap. He's been in locker rooms with some of them. He's aware of how athletes think.

Now that he no longer cares who he offends, he can let loose.

FanHouse colleague Matt Snyder has more.
We heard tales about Roger Clemens and shrugged them off. 'This idiot doesn't know how to quit when he's ahead,' we'd say.

Enter the Mitchell Report, and Rocket personally burying himself in a clinic on how to not clear your own name.

Next up? Canseco claimed he had some "stuff" on Alex Rodriguez and that he was 90 percent sure Manny Ramirez was a user.
I'd love to nail Canseco to a wall. The problem is that he's clearly not lying. He's not "throwing names at the wall". He is naming names that he knows.

All along, we should have taken Canseco seriously. It's not our fault that we in the media didn't, but the fact of the matter is that we all dropped the ball on that.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Huge news out of baseball, as we have our first big-time casualty of the "new" drug policy.

Sure, Rafael Palmeiro got busted a few years back, but Manny Ramirez takes this thing to a whole new level.

It will be announced later Thursday that Ramirez will be suspended 50 games for a violation of baseball's drug policy. There will be no appeal of the suspension.

Obviously, Ramirez (or "Manny", as everyone calls him) has an excuse, since everyone seems to have an excuse.
"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. "I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation." – Manny Ramirez
Why is it that no one seems to ever actually be taking PEDs to cheat? It's always a mistake, an oversight, or some malicious act that leads to a positive test.

I said once on the radio that the first athlete to come out and say they knowingly and willingly took a performance-enhancing drug, and did it to gain an advantage on fellow competitors (not to recover from an injury or prevent a future injury) should be automatically inducted into that sport's Hall of Fame.

As for the Dodgers, you have to feel for them. They spent all winter laboring over bringing Manny back, and this is what they get for it. Yeah, they're 13-0 at home, and they're still a really good team. But this puts a damper on what they've accomplished so far, and with Manny out until July 3, it will be very hard for Los Angeles to keep playing at their current pace.

Luckily for them, they already lead their pathetic division by six-and-a-half games, so their magic number is down to like 42. Shouldn't be a problem for them to hold on. Not only that, but they'll have a fresh and motivated Manny for the rest of the season.

It's not all bad.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


You may have read my baseball post on Monday. If not, you should.

In it, I mentioned that the Twins couldn't afford to wait all spring for struggling infielder Alexi Casilla to start hitting.

They're done waiting.
The Twins today sent struggling second baseman Alexi Casilla to AAA Rochester and brought up infielder Matt Tolbert.

Casilla was batting .167 (14-for-84) with one double, one triple and four RBI in 24 games for the Twins this season. He emerged with the Twins last season, batting .281 in 98 games.

In 23 games with the Red Wings, Tolbert was hitting .260 (25-for-96) with four doubles, two triples, nine RBI and one home run. He was 7-for-12 in his previous two games.
It's a good move. Casilla tends to labor mentally when he strings together poor at-bats, and he's had a lot of them lately. It's only going to kill his confidence if he goes to the bench or continues starting virtually every day when he isn't hitting.

He showed last year he can swing it. We'll see if a trip to Rochester is going to cure what ails him.


Actually, since this is the NHL we're talking about, it's not all that stunning.

The league should be ashamed of itself after this. Instead, they'll make excuses about how the Ducks wear black breezers and the puck is black.

Oh, wait. You mean they already did that?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


And here we go again.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress and quarterback Brett Favre plan to meet at an undisclosed location later this week to discuss the possibility of the former Packers and Jets quarterback renouncing his retirement from the NFL to play the 2009 season with the Vikings, according to a source with direct knowledge of discussions between the two parties.

There is a mutual understanding that sometime soon thereafter Favre will decide whether to sign with the Vikings. The team would expect him to participate fully in offseason minicamps and training camps, which he missed last year with the Jets.

Favre has not been working out and declined to have surgery to repair the torn biceps tendon that plagued him the final month of last season.
The never-ending saga will probably never end. Hence calling it "never-ending", I guess.

It's as if this is all been orchestrated from Day One. The Vikings get a quarterback who might be a passable starter, but not anyone capable of exciting more than immediate family or friends. All other free agents are set aside for the sake of keeping enough salary cap room to bring in Judas.

Sadly, the only people this helps are the Packers, Bears, and Lions, all of whom have to be salivating at the prospect of baiting the old man into countless bad interceptions. Could it help the Vikings? Sure, but only if Favre is great again. After the way he closed out 2008, it's doubtful anyone would bet real money on this happening.

(Especially when the above report mentions him declining the surgery. He'd better hope Adrian Peterson carries the ball 40 times a game.)

The only person potentially hurt by this is Favre. If he comes back and it doesn't work out, he's the one who looks like an idiot. Childress simply looks like a guy who did what he could to put together a championship team, while also trying to save his own hide. While making moves with the sole motivation of saving your job is hardly noble, you have to give the guy credit for making an effort.

Meanwhile, Favre looks like a complete jackass. Nothing beats a 40-year-old man holding a grudge like a 14-year-old girl. It's not exactly behavior to be proud of, no matter the end result.

I feel real sorry for Viking fans. They spent 16 years cursing the guy and finding his flaws so they wouldn't have to appreciate him from afar. Now that everyone on the planet can see his flaws, they're going to be stuck with him for a season.

Monday, May 04, 2009


The Milwaukee Brewers had a clear and obvious problem entering the 2009 season. That's going to happen when you lose horselike pitchers from the top of your starting rotation. In the end, the Brewers decided to promote from within to replace CC Sabathia, and they took a flyer on free-agent Braden Looper, hoping he wouldn't be hurt all the time like Ben Sheets could suck up the innings Jeff Suppan can't pitch anymore could give them some quality innings as the fifth starter.

The Brewers also had to build a bullpen basically from scratch, and they had to survive the first couple weeks without closer Trevor Hoffman, who had a pulled muscle.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Twins stood pat this past offseason, hoping their young starters would continue to improve, pitch enough innings to make up for a thin bullpen, and that the offense would blossom into one of the best in the American League.

Little did they know that they'd have to survive until May 1 without All-Star catcher and franchise face Joe Mauer, who had back problems that were slow to go away.

All in all, both teams have done quite nicely. Milwaukee is 13-12, having endured an early slump and rebounded with a nice 9-4 run as they play in Pittsburgh Monday night. The Brewers are hitting much more consistently, which hopefully foretells a strong offensive season, as opposed to recent years, where the Brewers have been notoriously all-or-nothing at the dish.

J.J. Hardy is at .160/.225/.284, but he's about the only one not performing to expectations (Jason Kendall notwithstanding, and he's so good at calling games that I'll take anything he can offer with the stick). Once Prince Fielder starts hitting (he's still drawing walks like crazy, carrying his OBP over .400), the team will really get going. But I like what I'm seeing. I don't mind guys making outs, but there was never really any value put on those outs under the old regime. They'd bunt for the hell of it, and guys would be up there hacking when they should have been working counts.

Now, they're gassing opposing starting pitchers early in games, and they're getting people on base even when the hits aren't falling.

The pitching has been respectable, outside of Suppan's early meltdown and major depth issues in the bullpen. Hoffman stabilizes the back end of the pen, and it allows guys like Carlos Villanueva, Todd Coffey, and Mitch Stetter to handle lower-leverage roles.

The big keys to this team are the secondary offensive guys (Mike Cameron, Bill Hall, etc.) and pitchers like Suppan and Manny Parra. You know Fielder and Ryan Braun can swing it, but that won't matter if no one else is. Suppan and Parra have developed an annoying tendency to nibble around the strike zone, hoping to catch guys looking at borderline pitches. When it works, it's a wonderful thing, as you can sometimes force hitters to be overaggressive and stretch the zone a bit.

When it doesn't work, you walk in four runs in one inning (hi, Soup!).

The Twins are in a similar spot with regard to their record after one month. Minnesota sits at 12-13, but just two games out of first place in what's been an average division so far.

What's been surprising about this Twins team is the spotty nature of their starting pitchers. I expected more out of the group, and I think we're going to see it before too long. Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, and Kevin Slowey are all carrying ERAs over 5.00, and the team WHIP is an unacceptable 1.43. The good news is that the bullpen hasn't been nearly as terrible as I expected, plus they get Jesse Crain back.

Plus, Mauer's return should solidify the middle of the order. As long as Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez fail to hit, this is a necessity. The Twins just can't handle a full season of Gomez OPSing .549 and Casilla .432 (yikes!). With few reinforcements available in Triple-A, they have to ride out the poor hitting as long as they can stand it.

Joe Crede (.225/.304/.408) has been a disappointment, but the Twins didn't sell the farm to sign him, and he's bound to improve. That said, the improvement may not happen right away, as Crede is notoriously terrible in May, for some strange reason.

Hey, at least his back has held up.

Reality suggests that neither team is much better than their records show at this point. They're both full of major holes, and while both teams are capably managed, it's hard to imagine Ken Macha (Brewers) and Ron Gardenhire (Twins) spinning enough magic to turn their capable-but-flawed clubs into 95-game winners or big-time October contenders.

They'd both do well to stay in division and/or Wild Card races well into September. The Brewers have more great young minor-league talent to look forward to, and the Twins have a new ballpark to get ready for. Both teams should continue to be just good enough to make fans think they can be better than they are.

Friday, May 01, 2009


There has been much talk this week about the future of the WCHA. Not only did the league vote to seek another team to join Bemidji State on the "We Want In" list, but we may have found out who that will be.

On Wednesday, Nebraska-Omaha strangely named former Nebraska football star and television commentator Trev Alberts as its athletic director, despite his complete lack of any administrative experience.

How the university chooses to blow $150,000 is none of my business whatsoever, so I will refrain from making fun of them. At least they only gave him a two-year contract.

Award-winning UMD hockey reporter Kevin Pates tracked down a report from Omaha on the hire, and it sounds like Alberts is going to start learning him some hockey right away.
Alberts has the responsibility of deciding the status of coach Mike Kemp and of helping determine where UNO hockey will play. Also up for discussion is UNO's conference affiliation.

With the right decisions, Alberts and Omaha chancellor John Christensen hope, UNO hockey can become the revenue-producing machine it was in the early years of its existence.

"It's non-negotiable, from my perspective, that hockey is successful," Alberts said. "It is a Division I sport that we must leverage. I'm committed . . . to finding and giving the necessary resources to make UNO hockey as strong as it can be."

Alberts said he wouldn't be quick to judge Kemp, the only coach in the program's 12-year history. Christensen issued a challenge for Kemp before last season, declaring that UNO should finish in the top four of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association every year.

UNO went 15-17-8 overall, including 9-13-7 in the CCHA to finish tied for seventh, and endured a program-record 14-game winless streak late in the season.

"I've told Mike Kemp that he is the hockey coach and I look forward to helping him be successful," Alberts said. "I told him to go out and recruit and tell recruits that he is the hockey coach at UNO.

"But the reality is, if you do understand how important hockey is, you can't just say it - you've got to take tangible steps to making sure that's in place. I'm not coming in here as athletic director and in two weeks firing a hockey coach. That would be disingenuous."
This all makes sense.

One of the arguments against UNO changing conferences is that the fans there respond to opponents like Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame, and the response wouldn't be as great when North Dakota and Denver come to town.

However, all of this may be moot.

What people have to remember is that hockey is the only Division I sport at Nebraska-Omaha. That means the program has to be a cash cow for the athletic department. Sports like baseball, softball, and tennis aren't going to bring in enough revenue to be self-sufficient, in all likelihood. They need hockey to turn a solid profit to help everyone else stay afloat.

If the decision is made that UNO can't do better than the 6,300 or so they averaged in 2008-2009, the revenue has to come from other sources. There may be no better way of boosting hockey revenue than moving to the WCHA. The CCHA just doesn't bring in the kind of cash for their league tournament that the WCHA does, and the difference in that revenue could make all the difference for the Mavericks.

Did the WCHA ignore UNO when the program was just getting started? Yes.

Should that be held against the WCHA now? No.

UNO has proven they can play hockey at a competitive level, and they make geographic sense (certainly more than Alabama-Huntsville does). The WCHA seems committed to moving to 12 teams, and UNO is the right fit at this point in time.

With a new administration in place, this might be the perfect time to make it happen. If it works out, it could turn out to be the smartest thing Alberts could possibly do as UNO athletic director.

The WCHA will go to a pod system for conference schedule. There would be three groups of four teams, and the rotation system would take five years to complete one cycle (it takes four years for the current WCHA schedule to go through a full rotation).

The perfectly-drawn geographic pods would look as follows:

Michigan Tech

Bemidji State
North Dakota
St. Cloud State

Colorado College
Minnesota State

Hopefully, Alberts, Bruce McLeod, and all the other important parties can come together quickly and hammer out a deal. It's for the good of all of college hockey.


Not a hockey game, unfortunately.

Even 24 hours after its start, the Bulls-Celtics game still reverberates. The triple-overtime thriller will be long remembered as one of the best NBA playoff games in eons.

The obvious issues with the NBA, including the assinine number of timeouts that are taken late in games and then in overtime. Officiating is inconsistent to the point that it makes the NHL look consistent.

None of that mattered on Thursday. The crowd in Chicago was as much a part of it as the players were, at least for this observer. Every great game needs a great crowd, and the 22,000 or whatever at the United Center did more than their share of the work.

Via TrueHoop, here's Rick Telander's awesome take on the game.
If the NBA could produce more drama on a wooden floor, it would have to use gasoline and gunpowder.

''Whatever overtime it was,'' Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said afterward. He was trying to describe some key play, some key shot, but it was all a blur.

There was constant seesaw basketball, yes. But there was also the adrenaline-pumping mayhem of a near-brawl, with tempers flaring so badly at the start, it seemed poor little Celtics guard Rajon Rondo might have to be escorted from the building with full Blackwater security.

Rondo is without question the most despised small man in Chicago since, hmm, Eddie Gaedel's evil twin?

The raucous chant from the fiery crowd, ''Rondo sucks!'' pretty much never stopped. Indeed, the noise was such each time the 6-1, 171-pound playmaker touched the ball that one was moved to notice a moderately clever sign in the mezzanine: ''RONDO SUCKSO.''
Game Seven is Saturday night in Boston. You'd be an idiot not to watch, even if you don't like the NBA.

Sometimes, teams meet that are just a perfect match for one another. This is one of those cases. This is awesome theater, and will probably not be repeated at any point in the playoffs.


Yes, hockey nuts, I'm fully aware that this goal didn't happen on May Day.

That said, Rick Jeanneret's call of Brad May's overtime game winner in the 1993 Adams Division semifinals against Boston (this game was on April 24) reminds me of this day.