RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Nuclear Wessel: EPL weekend preview and shirt-swapping etiquette

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 24th at 11:39pm 280388792

nuclearDana Wessel produces the K-TWIN Morning Show with Rider, Eric Perkins and Rena Sarigianopoulos on 96.3 K-TWIN Monday-Friday 5:30am-10:00am.

Welcome back to another explosive edition of Nuclear Wessel, where we always wait until after the match to trade shirts with our opponents.

Since Liverpool aren’t on national TV this week, let me use this little space to talk about the latest Mario Balotelli mess.

If you haven’t heard, Liverpool trailed Real Madrid on Wednesday 3-0 at the half. Heading into the dressing room, the screwball striker decided now would be an OK time to trade jerseys with Pepe — a tradition typically left for the end of the match.

Well, Brendan Rodgers was furious and benched the Italian to start the second half. I don’t disagree that it was a dumb thing to do but the reaction is a bit over-the-top.  He should have been benched because he has been terrible. Not because he made a shirt swap.

Now this will give Liverpool a convenient excuse to cut ties with what has been an unmitigated disaster of a signing. They can point to this and say he doesn’t fit at Liverpool because of his behavior. When the real truth is he doesn’t fit at Liverpool because he is terrible at soccer and has been for a few years now. Money down the drain.

But I digress, onto the matches!

Wait, one more thing, in non-Premier League soccer schedule news. The LA Galaxy head to Seattle to take on the Sounders in the final match of the regular season. Winner takes the Supporters Shield and gets home field in the West (tie goes to Seattle). We are down to just a handful of games left in Landon Donovan’s career. And Dempsey will be there. We like him, too.

No. 1: West Ham United vs Manchester City at Boleyn Ground

When: Saturday at 6:45AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: City took out West Ham in their barn just over a year ago to the tune of 3-1. Sergio Aguero left with a brace and David Silva added the third just for good measure.

We kick-off the weekend with a top-four showdown between Manchester City and….West Ham? OK! West Ham! Lets go!

The Hammers sit in an overachieving fourth place after eight matches. They are level with Liverpool on 13 points but have the Merseysiders beat in goal differential. Winners in three of their last four with their only loss coming at Old Trafford. They’ve beaten Burnley, QPR and Liverpool in the process with a draw at Hull City.

City, meanwhile, continue to do City things. Beating the life out of teams in the Premier League but then walking off the field with their tails between their legs in Champions League. It is bizarre. They thrash Tottenham 4-1 and then can’t get a win at CSKA Moscow or home vs Roma. Whatever. That is for them to figure out, not me.

Now, lets stop and give Sergio Aguero a compliment. He is good at soccer, this much we all know. His four goals last week vs Spurs were sensational and he owns the best goal-minute ratio in Premier League history. But more importantly, he passes my Haircut Test. The Haircut Test is simple. If you are going to have a dumb haircut, you need to have enough talent to back it up. You can’t just get a stupid haircut to draw attention to yourself unless you deserve it.

So Aguero joins Bryce Harper and Joakim Noah among others that currently have a passing grade on The Haircut Test. And this is a thing, too. Why do you think Shaun White cut his hair just before faceplanting at the Olympics? Have you seen David Beckham since he retired? Smart, sensible haircut. The Dana Wessel Haircut Test is something elite athletes know and respect.

This will by no means be a pushover for Sergio and his merry bunch of title-holders. City want to gain some ground and apply some pressure to Chelsea, who travel to Old Trafford Sunday morning. City trail Chelsea by five points heading into the weekend.

The Hammers want to make this top-four dream last as long as possible and aren’t going to lay down just because City have a shiny trophy in their case. But reality is reality, and the Hammers have earned just one point in their last six matches against City. Aguero and his sweet haircut will be too much. Look for City to win in a low-scoring tussle.

No. 2: Sunderland vs Arsenal at Stadium of Light

When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Arsenal patted Sunderland on the head and thanked them kindly for all three points at Stadium of Light a year ago. Aaron Ramsey scored a pair of second-half goals to bury the Black Cats in their own backyard.

In the time since Arsenal last won a Premier League match, Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder have all started games for the Minnesota Vikings.

Odd times over at the Emirates. They haven’t won a match since September 20th. In fact, they have only won two matches all year in the league. But their five draws have them still sitting in seventh place, atop the heap of other teams with 11 points via goal differential.

But Sunderland should be just what Arsenal needs to wipe the scowl off Arsene Wenger’s face. Their historic, embarrassing 8-0 loss was the soccer equivalent of getting pantsed in front of the girl you like in high school. There is no real coming back from that. Sunderland have packed it in for the season and they’ll be playing Huddersfield or Rotherham a year from now.

Speaking of Sunderland, how inevitable is Jozy Altidore’s transfer to MLS? He already says he wants out in January. Sunderland have already showed they’d get rid of him sooner if they could. I’d love to see the ‘somebody-just-whizzed-on-my-bratwurst’ look on Jurgen Klinsmann’s face when it becomes official. Cheers to another round of passive-aggressive quotes about Americans needing to play in the best leagues!

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, Arsenal will get three points on Saturday.  From there, they have a chance to get even fatter on points against Burnley and Swansea before playing host to Manchester United on November 22nd.

The North Londoners will find their way back into the top four eventually. They are also well on their way to winning their annual Champions League Knockout Stage Trophy. So, business as usual at the Emirates.

No. 3: Manchester United vs Chelsea at Old Trafford

When: Sunday at 11:00am on Big Boy NBC!

Last year: This one ended in a 0-0 draw last August in the third match for each side. This match happened before we all knew just how in over-his-head David Moyes was at United. Therefore Jose Mourinho played even more conservatively than usual.

It all builds up to this one. Chelsea travel to Manchester to United in what is by far the match of the weekend.

Always fun when these two get together.

Stop me if you have heard this one before, Chelsea fans. The Blues have striker issues. Jose Mourinho said Friday that Costa has a small chance to play. Loic Remy is out. Didier Drogba just played 70+ minutes on Tuesday and has been dealing with an ankle injury. Expecting him to play a full 90 might be asking a lot. That leaves them to either play without a striker in some sort of ‘False Nine’* or pray that Costa can go. Or the darkhorse option of the teenager. Either way, Mourinho is as resourceful as a man on the toilet that ran out of paper. He’ll find a way.

*I hope they don’t go with the false nine option, not because i don’t think it could work for my beloved Blues, but because I hate how Twitter freaks out anytime it happens. People love saying ‘false nine’ just to prove they know what it means (playing without a true striker). Like kids when they learn a swear word – they just like to say it to show they know it.

Just a shame that Chelsea sold Fernando Torr — bahaha I couldn’t even finish that sentence without laughing. I’d rather take a firehose of bleach to the face. I am glad Torres is doing well, but I don’t miss those times. And in fairness, I am sure he doesn’t either.

United have put together a relatively good string of matches lately. They have won their last three at Old Trafford by a combined score of 8-2. They have also rebounded nicely from that 5-3 humiliation at Leicester City by winning their last two. Angel di Maria is in doubt after limping off last match. Also, Wayne Rooney is still suspended for being a naughty boy and getting sent off with a red card and not getting any orange slices after the match.

Chelsea remain unbeaten after getting by Crystal Palace last Saturday 2-1. But this will be a big test for Mourinho’s men. United have a decent shot of ending their unbeaten start to the season. Chelsea did manage to win 6-0 at Maribo in Champions League midweek but this is a completely different kind of test.

Really looking forward to this one. And just think, by watching, you’ll miss the first quarter of a Leslie Frazier defense shutting down Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings.

That’ll do it for this week, Nuclear Warheads. Enjoy the matches and enjoy the last beautiful weekend of the year. Until next time, keep your cards yellow and your knee over the ball.

TFD: Frank Caliendo's Stephen A. Smith impersonation is beautiful

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 24th at 4:44pm 280359442

Bravo. No, really. Bravo.

Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay, and Twins fans are going crazy

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 24th at 7:47pm 280324622

maddongardyJoe Maddon, the very successful longtime manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, has exercised an out clause in his contract and is essentially a managerial free agent. This is a stunning development in that folks like Buster Olney of ESPN, someone quite plugged in, didn’t even know he had that clause in his contract.

So suddenly one of the five best managers in baseball is available at a time when only one other team (aside from Tampa, now) has an active managerial opening: the Twins.

The first bit of speculation had Maddon going to the Dodgers to follow Andrew Friedman, but Fox’s Ken Rosenthal said Maddon is not going to L.A. The Dodgers’ current manager is Don Mattingly.

Twins fans are going crazy with optimistic speculation that he could wind up here. We can’t blame them; we’d dare ourselves to dream, too, and certainly nothing can be ruled out.

Olney thinks the Cubs are a more logical landing spot, though Chicago does have a manager (Rich Renteria) already in place. Then again, a lot of teams would drop everything (and anyone) if they had a chance to get Maddon, so the fact that the Twins have an opening while nobody else does probably doesn’t mean a ton.

Would it make any sense for Maddon to jump to the Twins? Not if he’s looking for a big leap in payroll (Twins opening-day payroll last year was around $86 million, while the tight-fisted Rays still checked in around $77 million). Not if he’s looking for a team that has a track record of recent success.

But … if he’s looking for a fresh challenge, a huge upgrade in ballpark and he believes that the Twins’ highly touted prospects make them a candidate to be contenders for the next 5-7 years … then, well, maybe?

Again, there are other teams that make more sense. But it’s not as though the Twins make no sense. And they are the only team with an existing opening. If Terry Ryan and the Pohlads don’t at least make an inquiry, they’re doing the search a disservice. And until we’re all told otherwise, dream away.

Friday (Very special Gophers special teams practice) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 24th at 9:47am 280300222

The Gophers’ special teams unit has some characters on it, led by punter Pete Mortell and patriotic kicker Ryan Santoso.

They’ve gotten so big, apparently, that they need their own collective Twitter account. And a tweet from Thursday drew massive attention, including a shout-out from SportsCenter.

Nuke punts. Talk about chicks. Watch Jeopardy. Sounds like a great football practice to us.

TFD: Twins' Colabello played through pain after torrid start

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 23rd at 5:22pm 280243422

colabelloChris Colabello set a Twins record for RBI in April, breaking Kirby Puckett’s mark. It was a startling beginning to a season from the journeyman first baseman/outfielder, and many figured he would cool off quickly.

He did, eventually landing in the minors. But was there more to it than just the league catching up to him? In a story published at telegram.com, out of Worcester, Mass., this came to light:

Something that happened on April 23 contributed to Colabello’s drop off in production. Tampa Bay reliever Grant Balfour jammed him with a fastball, numbing Colabello’s right thumb. The thumb hasn’t felt right since. The Twins physician told him he had suffered nerve damage and only rest would help, but after taking nearly a decade to reach the major leagues, Colabello tried to play through the pain and numbness. He glued cotton to his batting gloves and tried a thumb protector, but his slump continued. … Colabello didn’t tell the media in Minnesota about his thumb injury.  “I don’t like to make excuses,” he said. “I chose to play and I’ll deal with the consequences.”

Nobody will ever know how much of it was the injury and how much of it was just Colabello cooling off, but it is notable that through April 23 he was batting .346 with 26 RBI and a .962 OPS. For the rest of the year with the Twins, he hit just .157 with a .479 OPS.

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(24) LSU 3
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