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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Thursday (The Twins through 100 games) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 24th at 8:21am 268438412

As noted on Twitter on Wednesday by Aaron Gleeman, the Twins are now at the 100-game mark of their season, and this is how their record in 2014 compares to their records at that milestone each of the past three years (all of which, of course, ended in 96 losses or more):

2014: 46-54

2013: 44-56

2012: 42-58

2011: 47-53

We don’t believe his intent to was to demonstrate that the Twins have been improving over the past couple of years. Rather, we imagine it was designed as a warning to those of us trying to extrapolate and figure out where this team might wind up at the start of the year.

None of those 100-game records are good, but combined they add up to a .448 winning percentages and paces to win about 73 games. Again, not good. That means 89 losses. But far better than what happened over the final 62 games each of the last three years:

2011: 16-46 (final record 63-99)

2012: 24-38 (final record 66-96)

2013: 22-40 (final record 66-96)

That adds up to 62 wins and 124 losses after reaching the 100-game mark each of the past three seasons. That’s one win for every two losses, or a .333 winning percentage. So you can see that whether by injuries, a stiffening schedule or just the general malaise that can befall a team with nothing left to play for but pride, bad Twins teams have turned into historically awful teams right at this magic mark each of the last three years.

How important is it for the Twins to avoid a similar fate this year? It depends on how you look at it, we suppose. The difference between finishing with, say, 68 wins (going 22-40 down the stretch) or 75 wins (going 29-33) means more to perception than anything else.

It’s been our belief that while 75 wins would not be a “good” year, it would at least be some measure of progress from the putrid finishing marks of the past three seasons. It would allow fans to say, “That wasn’t as bad as it has been, and it should be getting even better.” How they finish could play a role in how they evaluate their front office, their manager and their coaching staff.

So yes, we’d say these final 62 are very important. Maintaining at least their current pace wouldn’t be great, but it would be an improvement. Sliding back would mean nothing has changed — and might mean a lot of things have to change.

TFD: Vikings among NFL's best when it comes to under-25 talent

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 23rd at 5:30pm 268349032

A Football Outsiders post on ESPN.com caught our attention this afternoon. Using a number of criteria, they attempted to rank the NFL teams from 1-32 when it comes to the best accumulation of talented players less than 25 years old.

Now, having that many good, young players doesn’t necessarily translate to success, but Seattle was No. 1 on the list last year and won the Super Bowl; crazily enough, the Seahawks sunk to the bottom of the list this year because many of those top young players are a year older and no longer qualify. That is an indicator of just how arbitrary the 25-year-old cutoff is, but it also stands to reason that teams with talent that fall below that age threshold will be in good shape salary-wise and therefore be able to compete.

In any event, the Rams were No. 1. The Bills were No. 2.

And No. 3 — perhaps not surprisingly since they’ve had seven first-round picks in the past three years, but still interestingly enough — were the Vikings. Here’s what FBO had to say about your purple:

The Vikings are the only team to have three U25 players honored with an All-Pro or Pro Bowl selection. However, one of those is kicker Blair Walsh, and while he’s very good, he is still just a kicker. Cordarrelle Patterson was honored for his work as a kick returner last season, leading the league with two touchdowns and in average return (32.4 yards). Big things will be expected this year from Patterson as a No. 2 wide receiver behind Greg Jennings. Tight end Kyle Rudolph made the Pro Bowl in 2012 with nine touchdowns, and Jarius Wright makes it three primary pass-catchers under the age of 25 for this Minnesota offense.

We might be ranking the Vikings at the top if they were committed to immediately starting rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who may prove to be the steal of the draft. 

Defensive guru Mike Zimmer gets his first crack at a head coaching job, and he has high-caliber talent to work with after the last two drafts have netted cornerback Xavier Rhodes, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, all in the first round.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see how this mass of talent pans out and how the new coaching staff will influence it.  But having the potential to have so many contributors at young ages and relatively low salaries could give the Vikings a chance to compete sooner than some of us might think.

Bulls reportedly offering Gibson, McDermott, Mirotic for Love

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 24th at 8:59am 268302352

loverubioChris Sheridan was on top of the LeBron James-to-Cleveland story, reporting that it was going to happen before LeBron broke it open with an essay on SI.com.

He already had credibility before that, but he gained more that day — enough that we need to take his report of a Chicago offer to the Wolves quite seriously.

Per Sheridan, Chicago is offering a package of Doug McDermott, Nikola Mrotic and Taj Gibson in a potential Kevin Love deal.

Sheridan writes:

Such a deal is extremely intriguing to the Timberwolves, but there is a catch — it cannot be completed for another 29 days after McDermott and Mirotic signed their rookie contracts Tuesday. NBA rules prohibit rookies from being traded within the first 30 days after they sign. And that could be good news for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who still have not signed Andrew Wiggins and may not do so until the end of this week. That will give them time to present Minnesota with an offer that can be acted upon immediately.

We still like the Cavs deal better because it offers, in our mind, the biggest chance for a home run player (Andrew Wiggins), but this is a much better fall back plan than anything else we’ve heard, and ans Sheridan notes if it can speed up a Cavs deal, all the better.

Also, it should be noted that if the Cleveland and Chicago deals being reported are true, it makes Golden State’s reported unwillingness to include Klay Thompson in a deal that much more absurd. Thanks for playing, Golden State.

Wednesday (Itching for a look at May, Meyer) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 23rd at 12:01pm 268277842

swarzakThis is a make-or-break home stand for the Twins. The players have said it. Management has said it. Logically, everyone knows it. Though the odds were stacked against Minnesota at the All-Star break, they came out of it with a 44-50 record, 6.5 games back in the Wild Card race. A big home stand — say, 8-2 — would have squared their record at .500 and gave at least the glimmer of meaningful games in August.

But their starting pitching, as it has done every year starting in 2011, failed them. First it was the regulars (Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes and Kevin Correia) blowing up in a three-game sweep against the Rays.

And now it sure looks as though, through a combination of injuries and their own ineffectiveness, five of the final seven games of the home stand will be started by Yohan Pino (twice, assuming he pitches the finale Sunday after throwing Tuesday), Anthony Swarzak (filling in today for Kyle Gibson), Kris Johnson (Monday) and Logan Darnell (Saturday).

Pino is 30 years old. Johnson will turn 30 in October. Swarzak will be 29 in September and has a 5.79 ERA in 28 career starts for the Twins.

Pino and Johnson were very good at Class AAA Rochester this year, but we really have to wonder if there is much of a realistic chance that either of them is in the long-term plans with the major league club. Swarzak has been a decent long reliever, but we’ve seen what he can do as a starter and it isn’t pretty. Darnell is 25 and was also pitching decently at Rochester, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and see what he can do.

But those other guys … we certainly wish them well, but they’re not exactly the types to breed confidence for the present or the future.

This home stand, given the desperate circumstances, could have been the perfect time to give Alex Meyer, Trevor May, or both of them, a chance on the hill. Meyer is the flamethrowing 24-year-old with 107 Ks in 95.1 innings at Rochester. His last four starts: 24 IP, 5 ER, 24 strikeouts. May had a calf strain that kept him out for a few weeks, but he returned to Rochester and pitched three innings Saturday. Maybe this coming weekend wouldn’t be the perfect time for a debut, but theoretically he could still work 5 innings. He’ll be 25 in September, too, so the clock is ticking.

Instead, it sounds like we’ll be seeing more of the same. The Twins are 1-1 so far in the games started by the fill-in quartet and 1-4 overall on this home stand. It will be up to Swarzak, Darnell and Pino to try to keep a make-or-break home stand that’s already broken from turning into a complete downward spiral.

And it will be up to Twins fans to decide just how far their patience can stretch.

TFD: Christian Ponder named his baby girl Bowden

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 22nd at 5:09pm 268182762

Christian Ponder might be a mediocre NFL quarterback, but we’re pretty sure he’ll be a good dad.

He and wife Samantha reportedly had a baby girl recently. Before that, he read a bunch of baby books, and by the account of this item from ESPN.com, it sounds as though he’s taking fatherhood seriously:

They named their little girl Bowden Sainte-Claire Ponder — the middle name is the same as Samantha’s, while the first, of course, pays homage to retired Florida State coach Bobby Bowden — and they plan to call her “Scout,” after the young narrator of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Christian Ponder said his wife contacted his old college coach and arrange a surprise congratulatory phone call after the baby was born. 

“It’s crazy to take such a responsibility — you have someone that’s so dependent on you,” Ponder said. “You’ve got to take care of her and your family. It’s an eye-opening experience, it’s fun and it’s scary at the same time.”

Amen, Christian. Our little girl, Anabel, also shares a middle name with her mother (Marie), though not a first name with a legendary college football coach.

Fun and scary at the same time is about the only way to properly describe the first few weeks of fatherhood.

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NY Yankees - LP: D. Robertson 4
Washington - WP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: M. Latos 2
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