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: Nice weekend for soccer and a cold beverage

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 17th at 3:46pm 300344741

nuclearDana Wessel works at Go963 FM in Minneapolis and formerly worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car under their excellent corporate structure where *they* gave *him* the tools to be his own boss.

Welcome back, Nuclear Warheads!

Kind of an odd weekend in the Premier League with the FA Cup finals taking place. I only took a look at one PL match (bet you can’t guess what it is) and touched on the FA Cup semifinals. There really is only one match of interest in the league this week. I don’t plan on watching Manchester City/West Ham, do you? OK, fine. I’ll probably watch it. But that doesn’t mean I wanted to write anything about it.

Onto the matches!

No. 1: Chelsea vs Manchester United at Stamford Bridge

When: Saturday at 11:30AM on Big Boy NBC

Last year: Chelsea won at Stamford Bridge last year 3-1 behind a hat trick from Samuel Eto’o, of all people. Chicharito had the lone goal for United.

Ahhh, Chelsea vs Manchester United. A fixture that will always have a soft spot in my heart. I love this rivalry. I have so many great memories from these match days, both good and bad.

But no time to wax nostalgic! You can usually bank on it being a big match whenever these two get together, even more so when they play this late in the year.

United head into Stamford Bridge with a full head of steam, hoping to get three points in what has basically been the room from Saw for them the last few years. United basically have a top four spot in the bag at this point. A win gives them the slightest faint of a glimmer of title hopes, but lets not get carried away. They would be doing Arsenal more of a solid if they can grab the full three points in a building Jose Mourinho has only lost in once.

Chelsea will be hoping to extend their lead on top of the league to 10 points. Arsenal are playing in the FA Cup semis this weekend but Chelsea have a game in-hand over the Gunners so they’ll both be level on matches of Saturday. The Blues need 11 points in their final seven matches to guarantee the trophy even if Arsenal wins out.

Both Chelsea and United are pretty beat up right now, with Chelsea still missing forward Diego Costa. The good news for them is it sounds like Loic Remy is fit to start Saturday. He missed last week with a leg injury that forced Didier Drogba into the lineup. Now, my feelings on Drogba are well documented (I want to quit my job and drive around the world in an RV with him playing pickup soccer and sampling wings from all over the globe), but he didn’t have the best match of his career a week ago. But to be fair, the 37-year old was not brought back to Chelsea to start matches. So no Drogba bashing!

United have like one or two healthy defenders and Jonny Evans is still serving his suspension for hocking a loogie. But that shouldn’t concern them too much. Jose Mourinho obviously won’t be releasing the attacking hounds in this one. We know his style at this point of the season. A draw is a win for him in a fixture like this. Defend, defend, defend.

A tie seems like a reasonable result here but who knows. I don’t wanna make a prediction. Lets just hope both teams try their best and have fun. And Chelsea wins.

I am going to the Twins game Saturday so I plan on getting there early and watching from Hrbeks or Barrio. Come say hey if you see me.

FA Cup Semi-Finals

Saturday: Reading vs Arsenal at 11:20AM on Big Boy FOX

Sunday: Aston Villa vs Liverpool at 10:00AM on FOX Sports 1

How about this? Reading vs Arsenal kick off at 11:20AM on Big Boy Fox and Chelsea and Manchester United kick off at 11:30AM on Big Boy NBC. Two English soccer matches on at the same time on over-the-air television in America. What a world. Never in a million years did I think this would ever happen.

Pretty cool! Except for the god-awful, head-shaking scheduling from the FA. It is one thing to have these matches on the same day, let alone at the same time.

Oh well, nobody wants to watch Arsenal v Reading anyway. They are just saving us time.

I kid! I kid! The FA Cup semifinals are a blast. Wembley rocks and the crowd support with both teams equally represented on each end makes it feel like a big high school game. There really is no equivalent in the US. Imagine watching a Packers/Vikings game at a big-time neutral site with the stadium basically split down the middle with Purple and Gold on one side and Green and Cheese on the other. Actually, don’t imagine that. It is a parking lot riot waiting to happen.

It appears we are heading for an Arsenal/Liverpool final here but it seemingly never works out that way. Whenever you can spot a dream final with four or eight teams left in the FA Cup it barely ever comes to fruition. Something goofy always happens. It is, as they say, the magic of the FA Cup.

One of these teams will lose simply because the soccer gods will do all the neutrals a favor. Imagine watching a final where the storylines are ‘Can Arsenal repeat as Cup champions?’ and ‘Can Steven Gerrard push the sun back up in the sky and give Liverpool one last trophy in the last match in his storied Liverpool career?’ Good lord. Gag me with a selfie stick. Come on underdogs! Us neutrals want a rooting interest in the final!

Alright, that will do it for this week. Supposed to be beautiful in Minnesota on Saturday. Bring the TV out on the deck and have yourself a pre-nooner cold one. You earned it.

Until next time, keep your cards yellow and your runs to the far post.

Friday (Britt McHenry and the always-rolling camera) edition: Wha' Happened

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 17th at 10:47am 300285201

policeThursday’s big story involved footage of a woman used to being on camera — ESPN reporter Britt McHenry — having those very devices work against her. Cameras caught footage from a confrontation with a woman working for a towing company after McHenry’s vehicle was towed. Among the printable things McHenry said to her:

So I could be a college dropout and do the same thing?

and

Lose some weight, baby girl.

It was like a script from Mean Girls 2. It cost McHenry a one-week suspension, while the story earned Deadspin more than a million page views (language warning on that link, which has the video).

It also opens up a lot of questions to think about.

Without a video, this incident isn’t a story. If this video captures someone who isn’t in the public sphere berating an employee, it isn’t a story. But the combination of the video and the public figure turns a private situation not related to McHenry’s job into a story that impacts her career.

This is the confluence of two very powerful things: our move toward greater transparency, whereby surveillance video is everywhere and pretty much anyone with a phone can shoot video; and a society eager to shame wrongdoers.

The notion of whether we act as the best version of ourselves when we know we are being (or could be) watched, or whether we act tentatively and are afraid to be ourselves is one that has been explored in literature and pop culture countless times (including David Eggers’ recent work, “The Circle,” which is particularly relevant to the McHenry incident and in 2015 in general).

We’ve all behaved badly to varying degrees, whether it’s something as innocuous as sneaking through a red light at 2 a.m. when there’s not another car in sight or something more serious. Part of me wonders if we’re so eager to shame others because in the backs of our minds we’re secretly thankful we weren’t the ones caught.

Maybe the McHenry incident is different because 1) she looked at the camera at one point and clearly knew she was being recorded but still continued with her awful ranting and 2) the nature of her words was so particularly ugly that she loses any benefit of the doubt. Nobody should act that way, publicly or privately, and if that’s the attitude and mindset she carries through life it clearly needs an adjustment.

Should it affect her job, though? That’s still an interesting question. While personally humbling/humiliating to behave that way, and indirectly damaging to the ESPN brand, the incident was in no way work related and in no way is related to job performance.

It’s safe to say a lot of people more famous than McHenry have done far worse and simply haven’t been caught. Maybe it’s good that she was. Maybe we will welcome a day in the future when every move everyone makes is recorded and able to be judged. Or maybe we should be careful what we wish for and careful how harshly we judge.

TFD: Two Knicks fans get $600 in free food on Fan Appreciation Night

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 16th at 5:59pm 300184541

The Knicks gave free food to fans who had to endure their terrible season. Two SB Nation writers took full advantage with a hilarious account that included this conclusion:

Like the opponents who crushed the stripped-down Knicks this season, we tramped over ground that mustered no defense. As the Knicks lost by design for the 65th time this year, their home did the equivalent with its foods, thereby denying us the glory of revolution, if not the pleasure.

One cannot conquer the adversary who invites conquering. All one can do is delight in its snacks.

Please do read their full adventure here.

Adrian Peterson reinstated; should the Vikings want him back?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 18th at 1:37am 300146081

tobypetersonAdrian Peterson’s reinstatement by the NFL, assumed to be a formality, has become a reality. He was eligible to be reinstated Wednesday; the team announced it received word Thursday that he has, in fact, been reinstated.

There has been a lot of chatter about whether Peterson wants to play for the Vikings, but let’s get to the heart of the matter: unless Peterson wants to hold out, which I can’t imagine he does after missing almost a full season last year, the Vikings hold the power. He’s under contract. The Vikings can keep him or trade him. It’s as simple as that.

So the bigger question is: should the Vikings want him back? On that end, there are a few things to consider:

*He is 30 years old and has a cap hit of $15.4 million in 2015. That’s over $6 million more than the cap number of any other running back in the NFL. That doesn’t mean much as long as the Vikings can handle his number and salary, but it is still prudent to ask if a team in the midst of a rebuild should be devoting that much time, energy and money to a veteran running back.

*Fans: There is a segment of the fan base that was done with Peterson the minute it became known how he disciplined his 4-year-old son. Another segment of the fan base has lost interest or faith in Peterson as this process has continued. That’s not to say minds can’t change, but it is reasonable to think a good chunk of Vikings fans simply don’t ever want to see him in purple again. Maybe that won’t matter to decision-makers, and maybe it shouldn’t. But it’s there.

*Team identity: In the absence of Peterson last year, rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater was asked to take on a “face of the franchise” role. He embraced it and handled it beautifully. After playing a year without Peterson, should Teddy and co. be asked to drift back into the shadows, even just a little, if Peterson resumes a larger role?

These are questions for the Vikings to answer, not me. But make no mistake: Peterson’s return was never going to be as simple as being reinstated. Really, this is just the beginning.

Thursday (Good start from Gibson, but more needed) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 16th at 12:01pm 300091661

gibsonQuality starts, as a baseball statistic, is flawed. Most people agree on this, yet most reasonable people also recognize that the reasoning behind it is at least somewhat useful. If a pitcher throws at least six innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs, it is deemed a “quality start.” Doing the bare minimum would result in a 4.50 ERA, which would not be a quality season. But within the context of a single game, the idea of a starter going 6 and giving up 3, with the way modern bullpens are constructed, reasonably gives way to the idea that the starting pitcher at least gave his team a chance to win.

In 2014, the Twins received just 66 such starts out of 162. It’s another way of saying their starting pitching was awful, since that quality start number ranked 29th of 30 MLB teams, but it is still useful. As a percentage, that works out to 40.7 percent of starts were quality for the Twins last year — two of every five, a handy number since there are five pitchers in a rotation. A full 22 teams had at least 81 quality starts — half their games or more.

So far this year, the Twins have received exactly three quality starts: one very good one from Tommy Milone, one pretty good one from Kyle Gibson last night and one of the 6/3 minimums from Phil Hughes. That’s 3 of 8, or 37.5 percent — an exceedingly small sample size, but the best explanation for why this team is 2-6. The Twins’ only wins came in the starts by Milone and Gibson, proving once again that baseball becomes so much easier with good starting pitching.

Last year’s Twins, plagued by bad pitching for most of the year, were also plagued by inconsistency — the inability to string together even a handful of decent starts to get on any kind of sustained roll. Gibson — one of many noted RandBall lookalikes —  was a chief culprit in that; he had a 1.42 ERA in his 13 wins and an 11.04 ERA in his 12 losses, an astounding split. This year, of course, he was bombed in his first outing and solid last night.

Long story short: last night was a good sign — a good start. But nobody can be excited about pitching (or Gibson) until we see a lot more of it.

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Philadelphia 4 Top 7th Inning
Washington 3
Atlanta 4 Top 8th Inning
Toronto 3
Chicago WSox 12 Top 6th Inning
Detroit 2
Cleveland 2 Top 4th Inning
Minnesota 1
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 4th Inning
St. Louis 2
San Diego 2 Top 4th Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Baltimore - C. Tillman 3:05 PM
Boston - C. Buchholz
Milwaukee - K. Lohse 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - J. Locke
Miami - M. Latos 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
LA Angels - C. Wilson 6:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
NY Yankees - M. Tanaka 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Oakland - J. Hahn 6:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Arizona - R. De La Rosa 8:05 PM
San Francisco - C. Heston
Colorado - J. Lyles 8:10 PM
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke
Texas - C. Lewis 8:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Washington 85 1st OT 3:22
Toronto 82
New Orleans 2:30 PM
Golden State
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 8:30 PM
Houston
Minnesota 2:00 PM
St. Louis
Detroit 2:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
NY Rangers
Winnipeg 9:30 PM
Anaheim
Houston 6:00 PM
D.C.
Orlando City 6:30 PM
Columbus
Toronto FC 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Seattle 8:00 PM
Colorado
Vancouver FC 8:30 PM
Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City 9:30 PM
Los Angeles

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