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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The Wild finished off the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL playoffs at about 5 p.m. Sunday. As of writing this specific sentence, it is 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. We’ve known the opponent for the second-round series (Chicago) all along. What we don’t know — and what becomes more frustrating by the minute — is when any of these games will be played.
Fans who hoped the schedule would be released Sunday after Game 6 concluded were mildly annoyed when that didn’t happen. They kept asking … and asking … and asking … but nothing changed. Sunday gave way to Monday. Surely, by Monday, the league would announce the schedule.
As Monday morning became Monday afternoon and then Monday night, annoyance turned to outright frustration. This is probably the point when a lot of fans started to realize (or remember) that they aren’t the top priority in all of this. If they were, a schedule would be out already, and fans would be able to start constructing their weeks around playoff viewing and gearing up to buy tickets. Because while the playoffs are a big deal, they are not the only thing going on in most of our lives.
Rather, there are numerous factors at play here. TV drives so much of it, and by virtue of the Lightning defeating the Red Wings on Monday — forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday and undoubtedly bringing a smile to Twins pitcher Phil Hughes’ face — there is still one series going on … giving the powers that be an excuse to keep on dragging this out while they consider how all the time slots should fit together to wring every last dollar out of these playoffs.
Arena availability is another issue, and here again the Wild and its fans got a tough break Monday. The Bucks won in Chicago, extending that NBA playoff series to a sixth game. Had the Bulls won, the series would be over — and their second-round series (with home games at United Center, the shared arena of the Bulls and Blackhawks) could start coming into focus. Instead, there is the possibility of a Game 7 back in Chicago on Saturday … plus a slate of potential second-round games still up in the air.
Also complicating matters: the NFL draft is in Chicago this year, and the glitzy first round is slated for Thursday while the rest goes on Friday and Saturday. Would the NHL really want to compete in that city with such a huge event by having Game 1 on Thursday in Chicago, even though the arena is available?
The best guess all along has been that the series will open Friday in Chicago, with Game 2 there on Sunday with home games at the X on Tuesday and Thursday.
But those are all just guesses, still, more than 40 hours after the end of the last Wild series. If you’re a fan or media member annoyed that you don’t know yet how to proceed, imagine what it’s like to be a player.
Surely we’ll all know today. (Fingers crossed).
The Wild/Blackhawks series schedule, as of 4:45 p.m Monday stillllllllll isn’t ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttt.
This is an irritant for some of us, either personally or professionally (especially Russo, who not only has to make travel plans and crank out stories but also has to field 800 questions every minute about the schedule).
But for one guy on Twitter, it appears to have bigger implications:
— Ben Hause (@Bfhause) April 27, 2015
I asked him if he was serious, but I haven’t heard back. What I do know is this: He’d never forget Friday, May 1, 2015, when the Wild went into Chicago and took Game 1 against the Blackhawks. Best day of his life. Update: He’s not serious (for the most part):
@RandBall not actually serious. Wedding is at 5pm AST Friday. That’s 3p CST. Ceremony is safe. But puck drop could be during reception
— Ben Hause (@Bfhause) April 28, 2015
This is not my idea. Others had it before me, and specifically I’m stealing it from FSN’s Tyler Mason, who tweeted:
#Packers announce Brett Favre’s name and retired No. 4 will be unveiled at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving vs. Bears.
— Paul Imig (@Paulimig) April 27, 2015
I’m officially obsessed with this idea — not because it would ever happen and not even because the Vikings would or should consider retiring Favre’s jersey.
It’s just that I relished the awkward relationship between many Packers fans and Favre that developed during his bitter divorce from the team and launched into a new stratosphere when he joined the Vikings after a year with the Jets.
Ultimately, the correct and polite thing is for the sides to mend fences. Favre is an all-time Packers great, a fan favorite for so many years, and enough time has passed for both to forgive and forget.
Unless … the Vikings creep in right before the Packers retire his jersey this year and — as Tyler suggests — retire his No. 4 in a ceremony in a game just four days earlier, when Green Bay is in town.
Brett doesn’t even need to be there or acknowledge it, but you know he couldn’t stay away. They could have it in a parking lot for all I care. If you want to rekindle this bad blood and never let it die, here is your vehicle.
Here are some things we presume to know about Joe Mauer:
1) His 28 homer season of 2009 was the outlier. He will never approach that figure again, and there’s a good chance he won’t be an MVP-level hitter again. He recently turned 32 and he has a concussion history. He’s on the downside of his prime.
2) Last year, when taken as a whole, was a bad Mauer season — and compared other first baseman, it was just a bad year at the plate, period. That the Twins finished 7th in MLB in runs scored with their best hitter having a down season was truly remarkable.
3) But yes, Mauer still qualifies as the team’s best hitter. He’s obviously their most expensive player, too, but nothing is going to change that. His $23 million contract, though 2018, is what it is.
4) Even Mauer coming down the backside of his career, though, could be a pretty good hitter. We got a look at it in his final 44 games a season ago, when after coming off the DL for an oblique injury he hit .289 with a .397 OBP and an .805 OPS.
That’s more or less the Mauer we’ve seen so far this season: .392 OBP and a .299 average, both boosted by a three-hit game Sunday in which he delivered two runs-scoring extra-base hits, including a game-winning triple in the 11th.
If that’s the Mauer we see over the course of this season — and for at least most of the duration of the rest of his contract — I’m willing to bet the Twins will be happy with that. Fans will still harp on the lack of homers (zero this year), but if he can get back to 45-50 extra base hits every year, get on base and knock in runs, he is not an MVP but he is a very valuable hitter.
As hitters like Kennys Vargas, Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia and Brian Dozier — guys who fueled an offensive surge last year — struggle early, it’s Mauer who has carried a good part of the load. If those guys turn things around and Mauer is still rolling at a good clip, the offense could be downright dangerous.
Three days ago, I wrote about some slippage in goalie Devan Dubnyk’s play — a small decrease in both save percentage and overall sharpness that preceded even the Game 4 meltdown but was certainly prominent in that game.
I suggested the Wild would need MVP-level Dubnyk to return if it was going to prevail in the series. Whether that was ultimately true or not, the need to revisit his play is only fair because this much is not in dispute: Dubnyk was dynamite in Games 5 and 6, certainly returning to maximum sharpness at a time Minnesota needed him most.
The Wild outscored the Blues 8-2 in the two final games, so it is arguable whether even a merely good Dubnyk would have been enough. It was a full team effort (just as the Game 4 loss was). But It feels to me like he was their most important player, at least, particularly in Game 5. And the difference between Dubnyk and Blues goalie Jake Allen was striking.
There is no doubt of this now: Dubnyk is a goalie the Wild can count on going forward. That doesn’t guarantee a Stanley Cup or even another series win this year, but if the last remaining questions were about his playoff moxie and ability to rebound mentally, Dubnyk has aced those tests.
It’s one of those rare midseason trades that just fits perfectly for both the player and the team, and the story continues.
|Kansas City - J. Guthrie||5:10 PM|
|Cleveland - T. Bauer|
|Toronto - D. Hutchison||5:10 PM|
|Boston - C. Buchholz|
|Chicago WSox - J. Samardzija||6:05 PM|
|Baltimore - U. Jimenez|
|Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - C. Whitley|
|Washington - A. Cole||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - J. Teheran|
|NY Mets - R. Montero||6:10 PM|
|Miami - D. Phelps|
|Milwaukee - K. Lohse||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto|
|Pittsburgh - J. Locke||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - T. Wood|
|Seattle - J. Happ||7:05 PM|
|Texas - R. Detwiler|
|Detroit - A. Sanchez||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - M. Pelfrey|
|Philadelphia - S. Gonzalez||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - M. Wacha|
|Colorado - K. Kendrick||8:40 PM|
|Arizona - A. Bradley|
|LA Angels - J. Weaver||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - S. Gray|
|Houston - R. Hernandez||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - T. Ross|
|San Francisco - M. Bumgarner||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - C. Kershaw|
|San Antonio||9:30 PM|