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: Your EPL weekend guide, including the Battle of Manchester

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 31st at 1:24pm 281098202

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.

Happy Halloween, Nuclear Warheads!

We are at the quarter point of the season and, as expected, Southampton and West Ham are fending off Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool for the third and fourth spots in the table. As a couple former colleagues of mine like to say, “as expected.”

A fun slate of matches this weekend to take us into November, highlighted, of course, by the Manchester derby Sunday morning.

But before all that happens, get out there and spread some holiday cheer on Halloween. Blah, blah, bars are crowded, blah, blah people are annoying on Halloween. Stop being a killjoy and listen to me when I tell you this stat: the next time Halloween falls on a Friday will be 2025. Seriously. Look it up. You will be a whole decade older by then. Get out there and get a little weird on All Hallow’s Eve.

Also, don’t forget the MLS playoffs this weekend!

Saturday:

Columbus vs New England at 3:00 – Not televised

Real Salt Lake vs Los Angeles at 7:00 – NBC Sports Network

Sunday:

New York vs DC United at 3:00 – Not televised

FC Dallas vs Seattle at 8:00 – ESPN2

Alright, onto the slate!

No. 1: Newcastle vs Liverpool at St James Park

When: Saturday at 7:45am on NBC Sports Network

Last year: This one ended as a draw last October at St James Park. Liverpool equalized twice, once with a Steven Gerrard penalty and the other came in the 72nd minute when Daniel Sturridge scored one of his 21 league goals last season.

Who let Newcastle out of the fridge the past few weeks? Seems like just yesterday Newcastle fans were showing up to St James with pitchforks and torches wanting to kidnap Alan Pardew and pee in his gas tank.

Now they get a win at City in the League Cup on Wednesday after getting back-to-back league wins at Tottenham and home vs Leicester CIty. Wait!! I just looked even further back in their schedule. They also tied Swansea City three weeks ago. Unbeaten in their last four! Pardew for Manager of the Year! Newcastle in Europe!

OK, lets not go that for. But they have looked better than Liverpool their last few matches. Liverpool have issues. Not because they got taken out behind the woodshed against Real Madrid. Madrid does that to a lot of teams. It runs much deeper than that. They are still built as if they have Luis Suarez on their team and, they, well, don’t have him anymore.

Last year they gave up a ton of goals but it was totally cool because Suarez scored a ton x 10. That isn’t a good way to build a soccer team but it worked for Liverpool and almost won them a trophy. But now they face a problem. Stay with me during this next math equation.

A ton of goals given up – (a ton x 10 goals scored) = your team has serious issues.

They have scored 13 goals and given up 12 in 9 games. And their knight in goal-scoring armor Daniel Sturridge is still a few weeks away from returning.

Making matters worse is that Liverpool has an Old Yeller issue when it comes to Steven Gerrard. It is always tough to phase out a legend. Just ask Chelsea and Manchester United over the past few seasons. They’ve had to do it a lot. But it appears Liverpool don’t exactly have a graceful exit strategy for ol’ Stevie Me.

He is clearly a step slow and it is almost tough to watch. With Frank Lampard, the England midfielder he was linked with his entire career, Chelsea phased him out slowly, using him in spots and matches they know he could be successful and not hanging him out to dry in matches he couldn’t be.

This was made a lot easier for Chelsea because they had the young horses to step up and play in Lampard’s spot. This isn’t the case for Liverpool, and they are forced to try to keep rolling him out there in awkward spots even though he is a few steps slow, can’t play defense and hasn’t scored a goal from the run of play since Raheem Sterling was 16.

But the show must go on for the Reds. Qualifying for Champions League is cool and all, but it is only impressive if you can continue to qualify. They sit in 7th place right now, tied with three other teams on 14 points.

They play a suddenly-confident Newcastle team at St James Park. They need the points to stay in that log-jam right now fighting for the third and fourth spot in the league. More importantly, they need to find a way to live life After Suarez. If they can’t, last year will just be a one-off and they’ll be back to watching Champions League on TV every Tuesday and Wednesday.

No. 2: Chelsea vs Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge

When: Saturday at 10:00am on NBC Sports Network

Last year: This match didn’t happen last year, with QPR being relegated and whatnot. But it did happen in January of 2013 and the visitors won 1-0. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Chelsea players no doubt have some anger and frustration after that United debacle that they’ll no doubt look to take out on the bottom-feeders QPR.

It was actually quite sad after the game on Sunday. In case you missed it, Branislav Ivanovic got a red card late into stoppage and Robin van Persie scored the equalizer at the death to finish in a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. Tough one, yes. But the players took Instagram like teenagers upset after a varisty soccer loss. Be bigger than that, Chelsea. The reffing was shady at times, but when isn’t it? It isn’t like United played with 16 men and released hounds trained to bite the color Blue.

Before we go any further, can we talk about how amazing Didier Drogba is? What a professional. In less than a week, he comes off an ankle injury, scores in a Champions League match, scores in a Premier League match at Old Trafford and plays 90 minutes, then follows it up by starting and scoring in a Capital One Cup match on Tuesday. Three matches, three goals in three different competitions in less than a week at the age of 36.

I just want to hug him. I never want him to retire. I want him to eventually come to MLS and play until he is 53. Then, him and I become best friends and have our own reality show called Dana & Drogba where he hang out, eat wings, and travel around in an RV doing cool stuff. You’d watch.

But anyway, Chelsea have had six days to stew about QPR and will  no doubt be looking to take some anger out in the London derby against the team currently 19th.

As far as QPR goes, lets just say it: they are terrible. They did pick up one of their two wins on the season last time out against Aston Villa, but that’s like getting excited because you dunked on a kids Fisher Price hoop.

Looks like QPR will also have Diego Costa to deal with. Jose Mourinho said in his press conference Friday morning that the Spaniard will be available after missing the Manchester United match with that lingering hamstring situation.

Should be a party at Stamford Bridge on Saturday but Chelsea fans remember thinking the exact same thing two years ago.

No. 3: Manchester City vs Manchester United at Etihad Stadium

When: Sunday at 7:30am on NBC Sports Network (No Big Boy NBC)

Last year:

Put me in the camp that believes the United debry has turned into the premier (no pun intended)  matches on the calendar each year.

This obviously has a lot to do with the resurgence of Manchester City in the past five seasons. I think a lot of people in this country took notice of the Premier League in run-up to the title in 2012 and City lifted the trophy in the most dramatic way possible. That was the first time I remember Premier League matches doing bigger numbers ratings-wise. Plus, because of the City’s rise to power, it made an old rivalry fresh again. For people on this side of the pond, this had always been a one-way street. Now it is fresh and exciting and people love fresh and exciting things.

But even more so, it has become the most exciting fixture on the calendar because crazy (expletive) always seems to happen. Sit down, children and let Nuclear ‘Mr Rodgers’ Wessel change sweaters and take you down memory lane.

2009-10: Craig Bellamy scores in the 90th minute to level things at 3 and nearly guarantee the then-on-the-rise City would get a point against the defending champions in their own backyard. But Michael Owen scored the winner in the sixth minute of stoppage time United would edge City 1-0 later that year at the Etihad.

2010-11: After a 0-0 draw at Manchester City, the two played an all-time classic at Old Trafford in February. Wayne Rooney provided one of the all-time great goals and images in Premier League history with that bicycle kick goal (you know the one I am talking about) and the ensuing celly.

2011-12: After the frustration of the past two seasons, City beat United for the first time since 2007 and only the fifth time since 1989. It was a 6-1 thrashing at Old Trafford. The noisy neighbors showing they weren’t messing around anymore. This match is often referred to as the ‘Why Always Me?’ match. Remember when Mario Balotelli was good?

2012-13: Robin van Persie gets the last-minute winner at City in a 3-2 match where a fan threw a coin at Rio Ferdinand, leaving him bloody, and keeper Joe Hart having to restrain fans from going after him after match. Scary stuff. A few months later City then beat United by a goal at Old Trafford.

2013-14: City do the double over United in humiliating fashion, winning both games by a combined score of 7-1. No late-match heroics needed,  but still a huge chapter in the recent history of these two.

Now fast-forward to the present day. United are off to their worst start in Premier League history, grabbing just nine points in 13 matches. City, however, aren’t exactly lighting the table on fire, either. They have 17 points and have already lost two league matches at home and just dumped a Capital One Cup match Wednesday to lowly Newcastle.

If anything, I think United actually have some confidence coming into this one. Sure, their equalizer against Chelsea last Sunday was janky as all get-up, but a point is a point, and it is sometimes more than a point when it comes against the league leaders.

United also got a boost when it was announced Wayne Rooney is fit to play. Rooney hasn’t exactly had a lot to brag to the birds at the club about this season, but he is the leading scorer in Manchester derby history with 11 goals. So, ya know, that must count for something.

On the flip side of that, Manchester City will be without David Silva after he picked up a knock Tuesday against Newcastle and will be out for three to four weeks. That hurts for City.

This one will definitely be worth waking up for, especially since that magic clock thingy happens on Saturday. This one is truly up for grabs.

City won three derbies in a row. Can they win four in a row for the first time since 1970? Can United get their first signature win under Louis van Gaal? Does Wayne Rooney look like a munchkin that fell into a vat of toxic waste?

The answer to all these questions will come Sunday at 7:30am! Except the last one. That one is an obvious yes.

Alright, friends and lovers. That’ll do it for this week. Stay safe tonight and remember that an Uber will cost you about $95 a block.

Until next time, keep your shinguards taped and your sheets clean.

TFD: With Maddon destined for the Cubs, let's get serious about Molitor vs. Lovullo

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 31st at 10:04am 280988752

lovullomolitorJoe Maddon was a nice diversion. Our own La Velle E. Neal reported that the Twins at least had preliminary discussions with Maddon’s representatives. We’re assuming that went nowhere. We wish it had gone somewhere. We’re guessing the Twins could have and should have tried harder. But it’s moot now, since most of the free world is reporting that Maddon to the Cubs will be a reality very soon.

The attention now returns to the Twins candidates we’ve known about for quite some time. While some of the discussion now could be recycled conjecture, the popular sentiment is that Doug Mientkiewicz is the third-party candidate here and that Paul Molitor and Torey Lovullo are the main challengers for the job.

Honestly, we liked Mientkiewicz the most of the three. If this were a real election, we would still vote our hopes, not our fears. But for reasons that boil down to not much more than instinct and a desire to see what is broken fixed, we would prefer Lovullo over Molitor.

Again, this is probably situational. Lovullo is younger (49 vs. 58), has a reputation for embracing a new way of thinking and has had success as a minor-league manager. He also comes from the outside and was a marginal major league player — something that seems to be a boon when it comes to being a manager, as opposed to being a superstar like Molitor. The theory is that someone who has struggled can relate better and teach better than someone who has excelled. We’re not sure we entirely buy it, but we see the logic and we also know the list of great players who became great managers is not a long one.

Had this been a decision the Twins were making after 2010, or even 2011, before the franchise went into a prolonged spiral, we would have been on board with Molitor with few questions asked. Perhaps it isn’t fair to downgrade his candidacy based on the feeling that he offers more of the same because in all reality he might offer a very different voice and direction for the Twins.

The strange thing is, we know a certain segment of the population would still view Molitor as a home run hire. And we know another segment would be bored to tears with that move. Lovullo is a riskier PR move, but perhaps a more savvy one?

At least we should know soon. Monday would mark the five-week anniversary of the search, and we’re not sure what the gift is for that kind of anniversary.

Twins among teams with longest odds to win 2015 World Series

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 30th at 3:38pm 280969242

twinserrorThis might come as a shock, but a team that has lost 90 games in each of the past four seasons, doesn’t have a manager, doesn’t figure to spend much money and had their best prospects waylaid for much of the season and thus delayed their major league arrival … well, that team is not expected to do very well in 2015.

As a matter of fact, the Twins are at 100 to 1 odds to win the World Series — tied with the Rockies, Astros and D-Backs for the longest odds in the majors.

No team is better than 15 to 2 right now, though, so if you have a strong conviction, money can be made.

Thursday (Bumgarner and a World Series what-if) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 30th at 9:38am 280925382

bumgarnerThere’s not much more that can be said about Madison Bumgarner after what he did in the World Series, but let’s just all agree that it is in the discussion for greatest pitching performance ever in a Fall Classic — right up there with two performances that involved the Twins.

The first was in 1965, when Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers pitched back-to-back complete game shutouts (the second in Game 7 on just two days of rest) to defeat the Twins in seven games. The second, of course, was Jack Morris’ 10-inning masterpiece in Game 7 of the 1991 series (he was 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three series starts that year, not too shabby).

Bumgarner allowed just one run in 21 innings, and throwing five innings on two days of rest is the modern equivalent of what Koufax did. It’s hard to declare one greater than the other, so let’s just say all of those performances were magnificent.

However, we do still have one giant “what-if” about the ninth inning of Game 7: what if the Royals had sent Alex Gordon home from third base after his two-out hit that rolled all the way to the wall?

Plenty of folks online have insisted he would have been out from anywhere between 15 and 40 feet, but we’re not so sure. Watch the highlight of the play and you’ll see Gordon was between halfway and two-thirds of the way to third base by the time the ball was cleanly retrieved and was heading back toward the infield. Then shortstop Brandon Crawford, fielding the relay about 150 feet from home plate, had to scoop a short-hop throw right as Gordon was slowing down upon reaching third.

We would contend that, at the very least, it would have taken a decent throw from Crawford to get Gordon. That would have been after two Giants players — perhaps with nerves frayed — had already misplayed the ball. Is Gordon probably out? Sure, seven out of 10 times. Then again, opponents had 9 hits in 21 innings off Bumgarner in the World Series. We might have taken our chances on the relay being true vs. getting a hit off of a pitcher who was locked into that kind of zone.

We’ll never know, of course, what might have happened. But at least some of us will always wonder.

TFD: Vikings have a 1 percent chance of making the playoffs

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 29th at 5:11pm 280847042

playoffsWe tend to get obsessed with playoff odds in various leagues (in case you didn’t notice with our various posts at various times last year updating you breathlessly on the percentage chance the Wolves and/or Wild had to make the playoffs).

Know what? We’re still obsessed, so we’re here to tell you the Vikings have a 1 percent chance of making the playoffs at the midpoint of their season, per Football Outsiders.

That’s based on what has already happened, plus 50,000 simulations of the rest of the season.

So in, um, 500 of those simulations the Vikings make the playoffs.

These things have a way of changing quickly, though, when expected losses turn into wins (before the Tampa Bay win, the Vikings were at 0.4 percent). We would imagine a victory over Washington on Sunday would bump the odds up a few percentage points, and another one over Chicago after the bye would turn the dial even more.

For now, though, the Vikings are 1 percenters. We will make sure to keep you up to date as further events warrant.

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Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Cleveland 11/6/14 7:25 PM
Cincinnati
Memphis 87 4th Qtr 7:36
Indiana 73
Cleveland 52 2nd Qtr 2:46
Chicago 44
Philadelphia 19 1st Qtr 1:26
Milwaukee 19
Portland 9:00 PM
Sacramento
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Phoenix
LA Clippers 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Toronto 2 3rd Prd
Columbus 0
Los Angeles 1 2nd Prd 4:35
Detroit 4
Anaheim 0 1st Prd 5:34
Dallas 0
Nashville 8:00 PM
Calgary
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 17 2nd Qtr 13:24
Tulane 0
Tulsa 14 2nd Qtr 8:10
Memphis 10
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Memphis 11/7/14 6:30 PM
Temple
Utah State 11/7/14 7:00 PM
Wyoming
(12) Baylor 11/8/14 2:00 AM
(19) Oklahoma
(11) Kansas State 11/8/14 2:00 AM
(10) TCU
Hamilton 14
Ottawa 15
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan

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