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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Hot Takes Christmas: The best of Tom Brady and Deflategate

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 6th at 8:37pm 302835321

tombradyI’ve come to this conclusion: Whatever you think about Tom Brady and the ball-deflation controversy, there is someone out there with an opinion 10 times crazier. That’s the beauty of a subject with a massive gray area … and things didn’t get any clearer with the language the NFL used in releasing its report on the controversy Wednesday:

Based on the evidence, it also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady [the quarterback for the Patriots] was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.

[Side note: "generally aware of the inappropriate activities ... involving the release of air" is how I will apologize for farts going forward].

The NFL is basically saying Brady did it, but they can only connect the dots with circumstantial evidence. A lot of QBs do it, apparently. Brady got caught (pretty much) and will likely get some sort of punishment. That’s fair. That’s how it works.

The real news in all of this is the HOT TAKES Christmas of sorts that it has created. Let’s take a spin through a few of the best:

From the Startribune.com comments section: “Tom Brady needs to be suspended for one year for cheating like Paul Hornung of the Packers was, and should never be allowed in the Hall of Fame like Pete Rose was.”

Probably too harsh? Probably.

From CBS’s Jon Heyman on Twitter:

A tepid joke, but still: comparing Bonds and Brady … pretty hot.

How about this USA Today headline: “Tom Brady cheated his way to a Super Bowl.” The piece that followed was somewhat more measured, but there might as well have been sparks flying out of the big type for the heat it was bringing.

On the other end is Brady’s dad, who is calling this “Framegate from the beginning.” Sir. Sir. Tom had his chance, but back in January he said his “feelings were hurt” by all of this. His credibility is gone, and he’s no choirboy in this.

Somewhere between suing the NFL for a billion dollars and giving Brady life in prison is where the correct answer is.

Bud Grant is having another garage sale, and he's advertising it on his new Twitter account

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 6th at 3:13pm 302802051

budgrantBud Grant is on Twitter is the kind of sentence that starts to lose meaning if you say it enough times. There are words and phrases like that — where you keep repeating them to the point that you don’t know what they mean or even question if they are words.

But yes: tweet to Bud Grant. That’s a thing you can do now. It’s a click away, as you can see, on the 87-year-old former Vikings coach’s Twitter account.

Once you get past the “old guy on Twitter” jokes, though, maybe this shouldn’t seem so strange. The site has more than 200 million active users, and once you get past any kind of skepticism you realize it’s just another way to communicate.

And Bud, as stoic as he was on the sidelines, could can handle change. Go from the CFL to the NFL? Why not. Move to the Metrodome? Sure.

Lastly, Grant is shrewd. It surely can’t be a coincidence that he started the account just a couple of weeks before having another garage sale — the follow-up to a hugely successful event that happened around the same time last year.

Whatever the motivation, welcome to the weird, fun and crazy world of Twitter, Bud. Follow me back for the chance to meet up with other Internet weirdos for nachos sometime.

Wild postgame by the numbers: Dominant, except where it mattered

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 6th at 12:08am 302703281

Mike Yeo said in his postgame news conference Tuesday that the Wild probably didn’t get the outcome it deserved in a 1-0 loss to Chicago that put Minnesota in a nearly impossible 3-0 series hole.

Fans might roll their eyes at that — and yes: when you score zero goals in a game and fail to bury golden chances, it’s hard to say you didn’t get exactly what you deserved.

But: Statistically speaking — numbers that back up the eye test — Yeo was right in many ways. Let’s take a look at some of the stats and figures that told the story from the game:

65: That’s the number of shots the Wild attempted, a fairly staggering number. That includes 30 on net, 16 that went wide and another 19 that Chicago blocked. The total of 65 represents Minnesota’s Corsi number for the game, while Chicago had just 41. By comparison, Chicago had a 55-52 edge in Game 1 and a substantial 63-51 advantage in Game 2, per War on Ice. So the Wild was much better than it was in the first two games and was getting looks, particularly in the second period as this shot chart demonstrates (S=saves, B=blocked shots, M=missed net. Click to enlarge).

secondperiod

28: Scoring chances for the Wild, per War on Ice, compared to 23 for Chicago. But a lot of those scoring chances disintegrated into those 19 blocked shots. More telling, perhaps, was the inability of snipers Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund to finish point-blank chances (unlike Patrick Kane, who buried his for the game’s lone goal). Having clinical finishers is a stat that’s hard to measure, and that stands as the biggest difference through three games so far.

22 of 59: The Wild was miserable in the faceoff circle, winning just 22 of 59 draws against Chicago on Tuesday. During the 2014-15 regular season, Minnesota won 49.5 percent of faceoffs, while Chicago won 51.9 percent — a slight edge, to be sure, but nothing like the huge disparity Tuesday. Many came in critical situations, including an offensive zone draw for the Wild with 45 seconds left that went to Chicago for a clear. Minnesota couldn’t do much with offensive zone draws all night, stifling other scoring chances.

4 of 176: Here’s the number that everyone will fixate on for the next 48 hours. In NHL history, a team that goes down 3-0 in a series has come back to win just four times while losing 176 times. (Those numbers on the link are through 2014, and two more teams in the NHL first round went down 3-0 and lost). Those are obviously terrible odds (barely 2 percent), though if there is a silver lining there is this: it’s happened just five times total in MLB, NBA and NHL playoffs, but four of the five times have been in the NHL.

SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE.

(Yes, that’s the proper Dumb and Dumber quote. Learn it. Love it. Don’t mess it up).

Yes, there’s a chance. If you want further optimism, consider that in three of the four playoff series the Wild has ever won, it has had to rally from big deficits — 3-1 against Colorado in 2003, 3-1 vs. Vancouver in 2003 and 3-2 against Colorado last year. Yes, none of them were 3-0 against a Chicago team this dangerous, but still. Also, this Wild team cannot be left for dead. We tried that already this season, and then Minnesota acquired Devan Dubnyk and made this improbable run to even be here.

The formula is this: Keep plugging away like the Wild did in Game 3, get Corey Crawford to become the vulnerable goalie he is against everyone but Minnesota, and try to start piecing wins together one at a time.

The numbers show the Wild very easily could have won Tuesday. It’s no consolation now, but it does mean all hope is not lost.

John Carlson, Minnesota native and former Viking with concussion history, retires from NFL at age 30

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 5th at 2:31pm 302602291

carlsonFormer Vikings tight end John Carlson, a standout at Litchfield High who went on to play for Notre Dame, abruptly retired at age 30 on Tuesday. Per NFL.com:

It has been an offseason of early retirements, and Arizona Cardinals tight end John Carlson is next in line.

“After much thought and consideration, my wife Danielle and I know that this is best decision for us,” Carlson said in a statement released by the team. “I was blessed to play seven seasons in the NFL for three tremendous organizations — the CardinalsVikings and Seahawks. I will always treasure the experiences and relationships made during that time but I’m also very excited about the next phase of my life and what’s ahead.”

Carlson was on the back end of a two-year, $4.65 million contract he signed in 2014. A second-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2008, Carlson had his best years as a rookie and sophomore with the Seahawks, catching 106 passes for 1,201 yards and 12 touchdowns.

A strong start earned him a five-year $25 million contract with his hometown Vikings before getting cut and signed by the Cardinals. … Carlson did not provide a reason for his early exit, though it’s safe to say it came as a surprise. He was working out with the team on Monday.

While it would be unfair to assume any reason for retirement since Carlson didn’t give one, it is fair to note this March 2014 Star Tribune story, which makes significant mention of Carlson’s concussion problems:

Carlson played 27 games and had 40 catches for 387 yards and one touchdown over two seasons with the Vikings. He finished last season on injured reserve because of a concussion he suffered in Week 14 against the Ravens. It was his third reported concussion in six NFL seasons. Carlson reviewed his health in the offseason with his family, and plans to continue his football career next season.

“It’s a serious thing, but I’m not ready to be done,” Carson said in February of 2014. “I’m not done, and the doctors are telling me that it’s OK that I’m not done.”

Whether or not concussions are the reason, he is done now.

Is the Twins' pace more sustainable than in recent seasons?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated May 5th at 12:07pm 302566511

hunter

I won’t profess to know everything about this 2015 Twins team, but 26 games in (after tonight’s game, the season will be one-sixth over), these trends are presenting themselves:

1) This is a resilient team. A lot of us wrote them off after a terrible first week. I was guilty of sending more than one text indicating I thought this could be the worst team of the past five Twins seasons. It was a good lesson in small sample sizes, I suppose, but the manner in which this team started 1-6 was alarming … and the manner in which it has now played itself into a 14-12 record is a testament to the manager and players staying the course (and performing better). That resiliency has been on display in individual games, including Monday’s comeback win over Oakland. Down 4-0 after a first-inning grand slam, the Twins looked like they were headed to an improbable 0-6 record in Phil Hughes’ starts. Instead they rallied and kept their momentum going.

2) This team is going to hit. The Twins are 12th in MLB in runs scored and eighth in batting average (.260), and that’s without any one player getting off to a torrid start. Rather, this lineup has the feel of being able to generate runs even if everyone isn’t clicking. Much of the damage Monday came from the bottom of the order: the 6-9 hitters combined for nine hits and 7 runs scored.

3) The pitching still isn’t great, but it’s better. Twins starters have a 4.43 ERA, 21st in MLB. That’s still bottom-third, but it’s a marked improvement over recent seasons. And that’s without Ervin Santana, of course. It speaks to improved depth.

4) Paul Molitor is getting high marks already for the way he manages. I like his mix-and-match lineups — with a willingness to platoon and take advantage of hot hitters or good matchups. I like the way he uses his bullpen and lets guys pitch two innings. I like that the Twins put Oswaldo Arcia on the DL immediately instead of waiting to see if his injury would clear. Playing with a short bench for multiple games puts a team at a disadvantage; whether that’s Molitor’s call or someone else’s call, it seems to be a difference over past years.

5) The biggest question now is to what degree all of this is sustainable. Resiliency can fade if losses mount, the pitching could go south and the bats could cool off. The question is to what degree. The Twins in recent years have had competent stretches of play that gave way to doldrums. And in general, it hasn’t been the first 100 games that have been the real problem; it’s been the final 62.

That said, this team already has a chance to do something no Twins team since 2010 has accomplished: go 3 games over .500. That chance comes tonight, along with a shot at a six-game winning streak. It’s more than some might have predicted at the start of the season, and certainly more than most would have predicted after the first week.

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Miami - LP: T. Koehler 5 FINAL
Washington - WP: M. Scherzer 7
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 13 FINAL
Colorado - LP: T. Matzek 7
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 9 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: C. Heston 1
Cincinnati - WP: M. Leake 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 0
NY Yankees - LP: C. Sabathia 1 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Buehrle 5
Philadelphia 4 Bottom 7th Inning
Atlanta 7
Baltimore 1 Top 9th Inning
NY Mets 5
Arizona 5 FINAL
Colorado 1
Tampa Bay 4 Top 8th Inning
Boston 2
Los Angeles 2 Bottom 5th Inning
Milwaukee 6
Cleveland 5 Bottom 5th Inning
Kansas City 2
Detroit 3 Top 5th Inning
Chicago WSox 3
Oakland 0 Top 6th Inning
Minnesota 4
Texas 10 Top 6th Inning
Houston 0
Chicago Cubs 5 Bottom 5th Inning
St. Louis 2
Seattle - R. Elias 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Chicago 91 FINAL
Cleveland 106
LA Clippers 4 1st Qtr 9:00
Houston 8
Montreal 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Rangers 1 3rd Prd 17:02
Washington 2
Los Angeles 8:30 PM
Real Salt Lake

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