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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Luckily, we have reached a point in history when there is next to no disagreement in humankind. As a species, we’ve pretty much solved politics and religion, and we are all generally in agreement as to the greatest song ever made, the greatest film ever made, and the most romantic wedding picture of all time.
Unfortunately, there are still some issues to which there is no consensus among the whole world. One of these rare, unfortunate subjects that you shouldn’t bring up at family gatherings is the NHL playoffs. Last year, the NHL altered the playoff structure to a hybrid of the more recent conference-heavy structure and the previous division-heavy model.
This Solomonesque decision is not just unnecessarily confusing, it completely squanders an opportunity for real innovation. Both the conference and division format are relics of a time when travel was more difficult. But in today’s world, of chartered flights, high speed interwebs, and horseless carriages, an event as important as the playoffs should truly reward the best teams without as much needless devotion to geography.
But what about the rivalries, you ask? Isn’t it fun, as a Minnesota sports fan, to imagine years worth of guaranteed playoff series against Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, and other teams we hate? Sure, fine, maybe some of that is OK, but this system tries too hard, punishes good teams (and the better conference) for no other reason than being geographically close to other good teams, and denies other potential natural rivalries to occur. For example, the best rivalry in hockey and maybe in all of sports in the late 90s/early 2000s was Detroit/Colorado. True rivalries occur because two good teams meet each other regularly in big games, not because they are often forced together based on proximity.
So, what’s the answer?
I’m glad you asked.
Since we have divisions and since the hockey-loving public will freak out if they were completely dismantled, the first round of the NHL playoffs should be a purely intra-divisional affair. Once the first round is finished, the playoffs should be reseeded based purely on record, with no regard for divisions or conference. Each subsequent round would be the same, with the higher seed always playing the lower seed. Under this new, much better plan last year’s first round would have looked like this:
Boston (117 points) v. Detroit (93)
Tampa Bay (101) v. Montreal (100)
Pittsburgh (109) v. Columbus (93)
NY Rangers (96) v. Philadelphia (94)
Anaheim (116) v. Phoenix (89)
San Jose (111) v. Los Angeles (100)
Colorado (112) v. Minnesota (98)
St. Louis (111) v. Chicago (107)
Last year Dallas was the second wild card with 91 points and jumped divisions, earning the spot that Phoenix (now Arizona) would have had in my system and creating an imbalance. But they lost in the first round, so, assuming the same first round winners, this is how the rest of the playoffs could have looked like under my much better format. For the sake of argument, the team with the highest point total will win each round.
Boston (117) v. NY Rangers (96)
Anaheim (116) v. Minnesota (98)
Pittsburgh (109) v. Los Angeles (100)
Chicago (107) v. Montreal (100) (identical record with LA/ better goals for)
My system produces two “original 6” matchups, as well as an intriguing “irresistible force/immovable object” series between Pittsburgh and LA. While MIN/ANA is the least attractive matchup, fans of the two teams will remember that they played in an improbable, important series a few years back.
Boston (117) v. Chicago (107)
Anaheim (116) v. Pittsburgh (109)
Again, we have an always popular “original 6” matchup and another series between two highly skilled teams.
Stanley Cup Finals
Boston (117) v. Anaheim (116)
While this system produces a traditional east-west final, it still rewarded the better teams for being better without punishing them for being in exceptionally tough divisions. It also forces teams in the east occasionally have to endure the more punishing travel that western teams face. Finally, it offers the possibility of new and exciting playoff matchups. There is no reason why the NHL needs to face an unfair system on its teams simply because of geography and the playoffs should be changed immediately.
In short, call me, Gary Bettman.
P.S. The whole world also agrees that Stu’s favorite song is terrible.
National team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was recently critical of Major League Soccer, suggesting that Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley would be better off still playing in Europe than returning home to MLS, which they did this season.
While nobody would argue the quality in, say, the English Premier League is better than it is here, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has basically had enough of Klinsmann’s bashing. He told ESPN.com:
“I believe what he’s saying is that the players that have come back — [Bradley] and [Dempsey] specifically — have seen their form diminish because of their move to MLS,” he said. “I don’t believe that is true at all.”
If it had ended there, it probably would have just been a case of two guys sticking up for what they believe is best. Maybe they have opposing views, even though they are both pulling in a general direction of improving soccer in the United States.
But Garber took it to another level when he dove into Landon Donovan territory.
“I don’t know what could have possibly motivated Jurgen to so publicly criticize Michael Bradley, and ultimately Clint,” he said. “It’s concerning to me that it seems to be following a pattern that began with his criticism of Landon.”
Garber later added, “I believe that Landon should have been in Brazil, not because he earned it or deserved it, but because his performance dictated it, and if anybody disagrees with that … then I believe his treatment was inexcusable. And I have concerns that his criticism, particularly of Michael, is following that same pattern. If Jurgen wants to talk to Michael about what he believes is in the best interests of his career, go ahead and do that, but don’t use a global media platform to do that.“
Interesting stuff, and it means that even though Garber says he and Klinsmann have a good relationship … well, we’re not sure if we entirely believe that. And we eagerly await the response from Klinsmann, who has never been shy about speaking his mind.
Here’s a very basic web site that has some very good information all in one place: the opening day payrolls of every MLB team from 1998-present.
That has allowed us to show you where the Twins have ranked every year during that span:
2000: 30th (last)
2001: 30th (last)
What do these numbers tell us? Well, there are nuances — but here are some things we think they tell us as we go back through the years:
*When they were constantly rebuilding and not even trying to compete in the late 1990s/2000, the payroll reflected it.
*When they won their first division title in 2002 with a very young core, they got away with a dirt cheap roster.
*When the Twins kept winning in the mid-2000s and some of their better young players started making more money, their payroll jumped from bottom of the barrel to lower-middle (18th-20th from 2003-07).
*Without Johan Santana and Torii Hunter in 2008, the payroll again dipped as the Twins successfully rebuilt on the fly — hence getting away with lower payrolls with a new young core even though both seasons featured a Game 163 (one win, one loss).
*When the Twins moved into Target Field, some of those players were due to get paid, while the organization was suddenly flush with cash for the first time. Free agents came in. Payroll climbed to higher levels than at any other time from 2010-12 — one very good season and two other dreadful seasons.
*In the past two seasons, in the midst of a rebuild, the Twins scaled back the payroll as they went with younger players.
In short: The Twins have had the most success during this span when they develop successful young cores with modest payrolls. When they have run into trouble is when their young players aren’t ready to compete yet (recent seasons, plus the late 1990s) or when a high-budget veteran roster all falls apart at once (2011, 2012).
The Twins in 2015 figure to be around 25th in the majors in payroll. If things go exceedingly well and next year is a lot like 2001 (a young core blossoming at once), they will likely get away with a couple more years of lower payrolls while still being competitive until those young players get paid and bump the payroll back toward the middle of the pack. If the Twins’ brass is feeling particularly good about those teams, they might make a short-term run at some higher-priced players and bump the payroll into the top-10 range, though they will certainly be wary of the lessons learned in 2011.
Cowboys RB Joseph Randle was busted recently for shoplifting underwear and cologne from a department store.
This is frighteningly dumb behavior, of course — and he ended up being find nearly $30K by his team for attempting to steal merchandise worth about a hundred bucks. He makes half a million dollars a year, so we can only assume this was some sort of dare or compulsion.
But he’s not alone!
Athletes have been stealing dumb things for years. Here is a small roundup of things we found with only the most cursory of Internet searches:
*Chris Nilan, a former NHL player, was arrested on a charge of stealing a bathing suit.
*MLB pitcher Mike Leake, in 2011, was arrested on a charge of stealing six shirts with a total value of less than $60.
*Two Oregon basketball players, just last month, were arrested for shoplifting from a grocery store in Eugene.
*That followed hot on the heels of Jameis Winston and his crab legs.
So the next time you read about an athlete stealing something they should really pay for, don’t be surprised.
We wrote today for the Newspaper Of The Twin Cities about the Vikings’ seven recent first-round draft picks — all of whom were chosen by GM Rick Spielman in the past three drafts, which is a volume of first-round picks unprecedented in a three-year span for any NFL team over the last quarter-century.
The general sentiment was that Spielman is inevitably linked to those seven picks, as they will largely, as a collective, determine how successful the Vikings’ rebuilding project is. Whenever you have that many shots at elite talent, they need to pay off.
We noted that all seven have shown anywhere from flashes of brilliance to consistently strong play, but all have had setbacks of varying degrees as well.
In this venue, we pose a question:
Assuming that Matt Kalil (the first of the seven picks) and Teddy Bridgewater (the last of the seven picks) are the most important individuals in determining the success of the Vikings, in what order would you put the other five when it comes to their importance to the future of the team?
(Or, if you disagree that Kalil and/or Bridgewater are at the top of the list, we’d love to hear that reasoning as well).
Our order goes like this:
Bridgewater, Kalil, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Cordarrelle Patterson and Sharrif Floyd. The logic? Secondary play is the most important part of a defense these days, so Rhodes and Smith go right behind two guys who are largely influential in the offensive passing game. Barr is next because he has the ability to be an elite game-changer. Patterson after that because, as good as he can be as a field-stretcher, finding capable wide receivers and return men is not as daunting a task as restocking other positions. Floyd is last because as an interior lineman his contributions are less important, or at least less noticeable, in today’s game.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.
|San Diego||10/23/14 7:25 PM|
|Detroit||10/26/14 8:30 AM|
|(22) West Virginia||41|
|(11) Kansas State||31||FINAL|
|(13) Ohio State||56|
|(8) Michigan State||56||FINAL|
|San Jose St||27||FINAL|
|New Mexico St||17||FINAL|
|(3) Ole Miss||34|
|(7) Notre Dame||27||FINAL|
|(2) Florida State||31|
|(14) Arizona State||26|
|San Diego St||20|
|Arkansas State||10/21/14 7:00 PM|
|Connecticut||10/23/14 6:00 PM|
|(18) East Carolina|
|Miami-Florida||10/23/14 7:00 PM|
|So Florida||10/24/14 6:00 PM|
|Troy||10/24/14 6:30 PM|
|BYU||10/24/14 8:00 PM|
|(6) Oregon||10/24/14 9:00 PM|
|North Texas||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|UAB||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Rutgers||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Maryland||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Texas||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|Minnesota||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Memphis||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|North Carolina||10/25/14 11:30 AM|
|San Jose St||10/25/14 12:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||10/25/14 12:00 PM|
|(25) UCLA||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Akron||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Massachusetts||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Ohio U||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Ga Southern||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Kent State||10/25/14 1:30 PM|
|Oregon State||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Miss State||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Georgia Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) West Virginia||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Michigan||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Boston College||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Central Mich||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Vanderbilt||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|Old Dominion||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|UNLV||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|Temple||10/25/14 4:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona||10/25/14 5:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Wyoming||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Syracuse||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Texas State||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|(3) Ole Miss||10/25/14 6:15 PM|
|(4) Alabama||10/25/14 6:30 PM|
|So Carolina||10/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(13) Ohio State||10/25/14 7:00 PM|
|(20) USC||10/25/14 9:00 PM|
|(14) Arizona State||10/25/14 9:45 PM|
|Nevada||10/25/14 10:59 PM|
|Red Bull New York||1|