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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Wednesday (Will we ever be Royals?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 1st at 9:50am 277748481

Pop sensation Lorde wrote her biggest hit, “Royals,” after seeing a picture of George Brett from 1976. This is a true fact. You can look it up. They have even had their picture taken together since.

Kansas City was one of MLB’s model franchises during much of Brett’s era, making the postseason seven times in 10 seasons between 1976 and 1985 — and winning the World Series in that final appearance.

It sounds a lot like the Twins’ run of six division titles in nine seasons from 2002-10 (minus the World Series, of course). And it is also a reminder that there are no guarantees of a swift return to prominence.

Kansas City waited 29 years before returning to the postseason, cracking the code this year with a Wild Card berth. What happened Tuesday night was nearly three decades in the making. The game could have turned out any number of ways, but the way it did finish — with comeback after comeback by the host Royals, including two runs in the bottom of the 12th after being taken to the brink in the top half by the A’s — seemed like it was the only natural way to end.

It was a thrilling, gripping game — very reminiscent of Game 163 between the Twins and Tigers in 2009. Yes, that was only five years ago. It feels like more, but really that was it. The Twins even made it back to the playoffs the next year, too.

Minnesota has a long way to go when it comes to feeling KC’s pain of playoff droughts. But when you’re on the downswing, as the Twins have been for the past four years, it can start to feel like forever pretty fast.

Lorde declares “we’ll never be royals” in her song, which is about something entirely different than baseball. At this point, we’re left to shift it to a question: Will the Twins ever be Royals — and if so, how soon?

TFD: Ex-NFL player Warren Sapp a little too enthusiastic about Ebola reaching the U.S.

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 30th at 4:46pm 277658361

Sobering news today: Ebola has been confirmed in the United States. This not funny in any way.

What is funny, in our warped mind, is the strange reaction from former NFL player Warren Sapp via Twitter, both in terms of punctuation and hashtag. Maybe it’s just us.

Bill Belichick the GM is making life hard on Bill Belichick the coach

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 30th at 3:24pm 277638711

belichickBill Belichick is probably the best head coach in the NFL. But he also has almost complete control over his roster, and that authority — which worked for a long time, though also used to have a better system of checks and balances before Scott Pioli went to the Chiefs in 2009 — is compromising his ability to effectively coach on the field.

This is becoming more evident this season, as the Patriots’ roster gets worse and worse. Mike Sando from ESPN.com (Insider) broke down what most people can already see:

Four of the 21 offensive draft choices since 2010 are regular starters. That list includes Nate SolderMarcus Cannon, Rob Gronkowski and Stevan Ridley, but only Gronkowski is a building-block player, and only if he can regain top form following yet another injury.

Solder, Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, Dobson, Ridley, Price, Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo were the offensive players Belichick has selected in the first three rounds since 2010.

Hernandez should be headlining the offensive players New England has drafted in the middle rounds over those same five drafts, but he’s in jail. That leaves Boyce, Bryan StorkJames White, Cannon, Cameron Fleming and Lee Smith as the offensive players New England has drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds. The late-round guys — Jon Halapio, Ted Larsen, Thomas Welch, Ebert, Gallon and Zac Robinson — aren’t doing the Patriots any good right now.

A lack of talent catches up to you at a certain point, no matter how good your schemes and QB are. With Tom Brady aging and the players around him getting worse, it shouldn’t be surprising to see New England lose in the fashion it did Monday.

Tuesday (Mike Leach, football and Tinder) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 30th at 10:33am 277600501

leachStrange but true: we’ve been looking for an entry point to write about Tinder, which we describe as the casual dating app that connects people with the mere swipe of a screen.

Tinder has no use in our life, having been married for 7 years, but we’ve still been trying to sort through our feelings on the concept of it. Does it merely speed up the process of traditional matchmaking — noncommittal as it might be — or is it a hopelessly shallow means to an end that is about as romantic as calling (or texting) a “good time” phone number scrawled on the stall of a bathroom?

This is a sports blog (usually), so there wasn’t really a good way for us to express those sentiments without seeming terribly off topic … until, of course, Washington State football coach Mike Leach had his weekly news conference. Leach never met a topic he couldn’t veer toward, and this week he delved into the notion of modern romance — not specifically Tinder, but close enough. Said Leach (and yes, we swear this was at a news conference about football):

I’m not really good with technology. All this button pushing and whatnot. I mean, you can just imagine based on what’s happened in the last 15 years. Conversations won’t happen 10 years from now. There aren’t going to be people to talk to, it’s going to be this (mimics pushing buttons). ‘Do you want to go out on a date with me?’ ‘I don’t know, what do you look like?’ ‘Well I look kind of like this.’ ‘OK, what are your interests?’ ‘Well, what do you think my interests are? Looking into this thing and typing into this just like yours are.’ ‘Yeah, no kidding, that’s what everybody’s doing.’ ‘Well, where do you want to go?’ ‘Well, what  difference does it make? Because all we’re going to be doing is looking into machines anyways.’ Well, that’s true and in the end it’s going to be tough to perpetuate the species. There’s no question about that. So we’re all going to look in this box and eventually be extinct. That’s how it ends.”

Leach got pretty dark pretty quick there, diving headlong from the problems of dating in 2014 to the extinction of the species. But we can’t say we entirely disagree (not really about the extinction part), even if we’re not sure it’s fair to judge a process in which we are not an active participant.

The broader connection to football here, aside from a colorful coach going off on a tangent, is that in some ways we feel Leach’s sentiments mirror how some sports are played these days — and part of the reason some are in danger of extinction, too.

For all football’s inherent beauty, savagery, problems and triumphs, it has regardless felt wonderfully unscripted. The best athletes on a given day were going to triumph based on their prowess on the field — within a set of scripted plays, of course, but typically the plays were predicated upon players following general assignments and physically bettering their opponents.

Baseball, too, was a very intense battle of skill — pitcher vs. batter — with a “here it is, if you can hit it” mentality.

Football now feels more and more like a set of sophisticated simulations playing out on a field after coaches spend grueling 18-hour days devising the best ways to defeat an opponent — not by outplaying them, but by outthinking or confusing them.

Baseball is killing itself with information. We know exact splits and tendencies, so why wouldn’t a manager use 7 different pitchers, often more than one in an inning, if he sees a way to get an edge? It fundamentally changes the way games are played, and more so it creates absurdly long games that will eventually drive fans away in droves if it can’t be fixed. But would you stop using information and technology available if you found it to be useful? Probably not.

That brings us back to Leach and modern romance. He’s decrying something he doesn’t understand, but fundamentally he has a point. Someone who uses Tinder, though, is merely using a tool that provides a quicker means to an end … often though (we would imagine) without thinking about thinking about the consequences or even the rationale for using it other than “it exists and therefore it is progress.”

All of this probably raises some larger points about the blindingly fast pace of technological advancement in society beyond just sports and sex, but that’s a story for another time.

For now, we’re left to wonder how it will impact the sports we love, while Leach is left to wonder if there will even be people around to play them.

TFD: Firing Gardenhire is a move that will please a lot of fans but won't sell many tickets

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 30th at 1:48am 277509601

gardyryanTwins manager Ron Gardenhire got fired today, then showed up to his own news conference and basically agreed with the man who fired him, Terry Ryan, that a new voice and direction could be just what the Twins need.

Ryan, for his part, seemed to make the move somewhat reluctantly — in part because he thinks of Gardenhire “like he’s my brother and not my manager” and in part, we think, because he isn’t 100 percent convinced this is the right baseball move.

If he did, Ryan wouldn’t have said the next manager he seeks will have many of the same qualities as the man he just fired.

What it came down to, Ryan said, was too much losing. It’s a simple reason, a good reason, and a true reason. How much of it is Gardenhire’s fault almost becomes irrelevant at a point, particularly when trying to sell the same product to a justifiably frustrated fan base.

The paradox, of course, is that as much as this could be considered a crowd-sourced move (the Twins took the temperature and figured out they just couldn’t keep giving the public the same story), firing a manager and hiring a new one, in and of itself, does not figure to move the needle much when it comes to attendance or enthusiasm.

If the Twins continue to flounder — there are indications they could be better, but there were also indications of that this year and they still lost 92 games — the person writing the lineup card will matter very little while attendance at Target Field will continue to plummet.

If the Twins play better, fans will return and be happier. That’s not to say a new manager will have no influence over which of those scenarios play out; it’s only to say that a new manager by himself will not cure the organization’s woes.

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