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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Guest Post: Rocket fixes the NHL playoff format

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 1:22pm 279458912

rocketCommenter Rocket writes about the NHL in this space every week because he fears that we will ignore it otherwise in favor of an additional NBA post. He’s not wrong. Rocket?

—————–

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:

First round

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.

Second 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.

Third Round

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.

Thursday (Developing schism in U.S. soccer) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 10:00am 279428692

garberWhat we appear to have developing in United States soccer between the coach of the national team and the commissioner of the top pro league is a good ol’ fashioned soccer ball measuring contest.

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 how the Twins' opening day payroll ranked in MLB, from 1998-2014

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 6:40am 279355412

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:

1998: 24th

1999: 29th

2000: 30th (last)

2001: 30th (last)

2002: 27th

2003: 18th

2004: 19th

2005: 20th

2006: 19th

2007: 18th

2008: 25th

2009: 24th

2010: 11th

2011: 9th

2012: 13th

2013: 22nd

2014: 24th

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.

Here are some of the dumbest things athletes have stolen over the years

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 15th at 2:43pm 279330502

crablegsCowboys 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.

Wednesday (Most important recent Vikings draft pick) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 15th at 12:02pm 279289192

brigewaterWe 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.

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Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19

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