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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Tuesday (Twins No. 6 in MLB in runs scored) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 26th at 9:55am 272716451

santanaThe Twins’ offensive surge in August has placed them into elite territory. They are now No. 6 in the majors — not the AL, not among bad teams, but out of all 30 teams — in runs scored with 570. They are scoring nearly 4.4 per game, which in many cases should be enough to be a pretty decent team. They’ve scored them in binges and droughts, but it adds up to an impressive number.

We’re as stunned as you are. They’re also No. 7 in MLB in on-base percentage and tied for seventh in MLB in extra-base hits.

These numbers suggest an offensive improvement that, while perhaps not sustainable (are Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas really going to keep up their torrid paces?), does at least provide promise for the future.

But just as much, they add a layer of frustration to a season in which pitching was supposed to be much-improved and the offense was going to be the major question mark. Remember, the big offseason bats added from outside the organization were Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett. Suzuki has worked out wonderfully. The other two failed spectacularly. And the bulk of offseason spending went into the rotation, with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes plus the re-signing of Mike Pelfrey.

Hughes has been wonderful. Nolasco and Pelfrey have been dreadful. Add it up, and Twins’ starters have a 5.05 ERA — 28th in the majors, in line with where they have lagged ever since their great decline started in 2011. Their bullpen ERA of 3.47 is 15th in MLB — perfectly acceptable in the middle of the road.

So if you’re looking for a major pleasant surprise this season, look at an offense we expected to be terrible that is somehow near the top of baseball in the most important category. And if you’re looking for the culprit in another lost season, look no further (again) than starting pitching.

TFD: Allison Stokke, other Olympic hopefuls, pole vaulting on Brit's Pub rooftop Saturday

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 26th at 6:41am 272621601

We’re not sure exactly how this is going to work — we expect to sort that all out as the week goes on — but we do know this: There is going to be pole vaulting on the rooftop of Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday.

There are many divisions throughout the day, leading up to a professional competition at night with several Olympic hopefuls competing — including Allison Stokke, who caused somewhat of an Internet stir seven years back.

It’s free. It’s pole vaulting on a roof. There will be beer. You could do worse on a Saturday night.

The Packers are one of the five least-desirable franchises to play for, NFL players say

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 26th at 6:46am 272612251

An alarming proportion of NFL players don’t want to play for the Packers, according to an anonymous survey via ESPN.com:

The Raiders are the least desirable team to play for in the NFL, according to an NFL Nation Confidential survey posed to 100-plus players on the following question:

“The only way I’d play for [team name] is if they doubled my salary.”

Of the 82 players who answered, 23 percent named the Raiders, followed by the Buffalo Bills (19 percent), Cleveland Browns (16 percent), Jacksonville Jaguars (9 percent) and Green Bay Packers (6 percent).

So you have the messed up Raiders, then three teams who have never won a Super Bowl and also play in unattractive markets … and then Titletown USA. What is this madness? What player wouldn’t want to live and play in Green Bay, where he could gaze at those Super Bowl trophies Packers fans love to talk about?

Our guess is it has something to do with the weather and the social scene in Green Bay, though maybe some players just don’t want to be part of Team Ted.

In any event, we are keenly aware this is a VERY small sample size and that six percent amounts to five players out of the 82 players who responded, which in itself is a small portion of all league players.

But if you think we are going to pass up a post the power of small sample sizes and thin-skinned fans, you are mistaken. After all, you don’t see the Vikings on that list, small sample size or not.

Mid-day talker: Cassel over Bridgewater is both boring and smart

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 25th at 1:15pm 272595691

CASSELCASTLE

Based on three preseason games, the Vikings weren’t going to embarrass themselves regardless of which quarterback they chose as their starter going into the season. Both Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater have played pretty well in the tune-ups, meaning the decision for new coach Mike Zimmer could ultimately come down to which was the smarter play.

Zimmer doesn’t seem like a boring guy, but he does seem like someone who calculates the percentages and makes corresponding decisions. That can lead to some moves that are both boring and smart — and naming Cassel as the starter over Bridgewater fits into that category.

It’s boring because we know what Cassel can do. He’s a veteran who offers stability and the chance to give the team average QB play — something the Vikings haven’t had with consistency for several years. Bridgewater is the exciting rookie full of potential. Since this team is rebuilding, why not roll the dice right away?

Well, because the decision to start Cassel is smart for the same reason it is boring. You start with the known commodity against a tough early slate of games — three of five on the road, against teams with aggressive defenses, top QBs or both — because you know what you’re getting. You also do it because if he succeeds, he can keep the job while Bridgewater keeps learning. And if he fails, the switch to Bridgewater is seamless (the fifth game, against the Packers, is on a Thursday and therefore offers a long stretch afterward to prepare should the Vikings want to make a move then).

If you start with Bridgewater, you could catch lightning in a bottle. But if he fails early, it’s much harder to go from the rookie to the veteran than vice-versa. It’s common sense. A rookie coach doesn’t want to start 0-5 or 1-4 with a rookie quarterback. Then nobody looks good. If the coach starts that way with a veteran, there is still hope on the way. Zimmer’s comments seem to indicate he’s even thinking along these lines. Per Access Vikings, here are a pair of quotes from Zimmer:

“It wasn’t just about the quarterbacks. It’s not always the best player at that position — and I’m not saying that Matt’s not. … It’s all about how everything works together. And at this stage, where we’re at right now, it’s the best thing to do.”

“We will hold the quarterback position to the exact same expectations as we do every other position. If you perform, you play. If you don’t, then somebody else will get an opportunity at some point.”

It sure sounds like Cassel is the starter for now, and our guess is that he has a five-game audition. It might make the early part of the season a little less interesting than if Bridgewater had the keys from the start, but sometimes boring and smart go hand in hand.

Monday (The Great Baseball Road Trip) Edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 25th at 9:39am 272568251

collageThe 15th consecutive incarnation of the Great Baseball Road Trip ended a little over a week ago, which is appropriate because it allowed us the chance to properly recover. As we’ve probably mentioned before, we’ve been taking this trip with a rotating but consistent cast of characters since 2000. A few of the other participants have been on anywhere from 7-10 trips. A few have been on a couple, and a few have just been one-timers. But we’ve been on all 15 — traveling the country to see ballgames in major and minor league parks every summer. These trips used to last around 7-9 days, but kids and busy schedules have condensed them recently into four day sprints (even carving out four days, it seems, is a minor miracle).

This year’s starting itinerary was as such:

Thursday — Vikings training camp, then a Class A game in Burlington, Iowa.

Friday — Morning golf, then a Cardinals game in St. Louis.

Saturday — Morning golf, then a Class A game in Quad Cities.

Sunday — Field of Dreams in Iowa, then return home.

But as much as the road trip is planned, it often turns out to be the things that are not planned that stick out in our memory. That’s not particularly surprising, since it’s always been that way in our life — and we imagine in the lives of others. When we are taken out of our element, off the charted path, we encounter the moments that are the most vivid.

Three examples from this year’s trip:

Friday: We were ahead of schedule on the way to St. Louis, meaning we had a couple of hours that were unaccounted for while driving — that is, until, we saw a sign for a “family fun center” off the highway. We slammed on the brakes and veered toward the off-ramp, giving sleeping passenger Jon Marthaler a near-heart attack in the back seat. But it was worth it. Let’s talk about it: Mini-bowling, laser tag, air hockey, basketball and bumper cars. Just us and about 30 or 40 kids. The laser tag was by far the highlight because, well, confession: we had never played laser tag. Someone should have told us how great it was because now we want to go back. Birthday party? We almost stayed too long and wound up arriving at our Busch Stadium seats right at the start of the game.

Saturday: At the Quad Cities game, there was a Ferris Wheel in left field. Yes, inside the stadium. What a country! Our other road trip attendee, Rocket, had the idea that we should go up in it, naturally. Only he didn’t remind everyone that he is terrified of heights until we actually climbed inside. Jon proceeded to laugh maniacally, but it all worked out for the best — including one of those two pictures you see (no, not the creepy one of us in the corn, the other one).

Sunday: Because of some work entanglements for both Jon and Rocket, we weren’t sure what we would be able to accomplish Sunday, the final day of the trip. The original itinerary had us going to the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa, then possibly golfing again or attending a town ball game in Minnesota. We quickly realized the timing wouldn’t work for town ball, but then we also discovered Cedar Rapids had a game at 2 p.m., which was just about the perfect time. A discussion of whether to go to Field of Dreams or Cedar Rapids from Quad Cities quickly evolved into a scheme to do both. And, of course, we pulled it off because that’s what the GBRT does.

Had we not made it to Cedar Rapids, we wouldn’t have seen the most bizarre ending to a baseball game one could imagine. With the game tied 4-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Logan Wade for the Kernels hit a ball that rolled into right field. He caught a piece of the catcher’s glove upon contact, meaning he was going to reach base regardless because of interference, but it’s still a live ball. Peoria’s fielder’s slowed up, and Wade rounded first and turned it into a hustle catcher’s interference double. But wait, it gets weirder. He advanced to third on a wild pitch. After that batter walked, Peoria attempted to intentionally walk the next batter. But on the first pitch of that attempted intentional walk, there was another wild pitch and Wade scored the winning run.

So yes, that’s how the trip ended. The home teams went 4-0, with the final game decided on catcher’s interference and two wild pitches with two outs in the ninth.

We arrived home at around 10 p.m. Sunday. That was a little over a week ago. We have sufficiently recovered, we think — quite possibly enough to write an optimistic Wolves post soon.

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St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington 4 Bottom 6th Inning
Philadelphia 5
Tampa Bay 3 Bottom 9th Inning
Baltimore 1
Boston 2 FINAL
Toronto 5
NY Yankees 8 Bottom 7th Inning
Detroit 2
Atlanta 3 Bottom 9th Inning
NY Mets 2
Chicago Cubs 2 Top 8th Inning
Cincinnati 6
Cleveland 1 Top 6th Inning
Chicago WSox 2
Minnesota 1 Bottom 7th Inning
Kansas City 0
Oakland 0 Top 6th Inning
Houston 0
Milwaukee 0 Top 3rd Inning
San Diego 0
Los Angeles 0 Top 1st Inning
Arizona 0
Miami - H. Alvarez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
Colorado - F. Morales 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary

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