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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Here’s an odd little story from the Wall Street Journal about Colts QB Andrew Luck. We’re not 100 percent sure why, but this makes us like him even more:
Luck has become famous for congratulating—sincerely and enthusiastically—any player to hit him hard. Any sack is met with a hearty congratulations, such as ”great job” or “what a hit!” He yells it after hard hits that don’t result in sacks, too. It is, players say, just about the weirdest thing any quarterback does in the NFL.
When New England pass rusher Rob Ninkovich pulverized Luck last month in a Patriots’ 42-20 win, he got the customary congratulations. As Ninkovich tells it, he found himself paralyzed with confusion by the well-wishes, so he blurted out “Thanks for…uh…accepting that hit?” before running back to the huddle.
We probably like this equally from the sportsmanship angle and the angle of confusing people by yelling odd things in public. Because the latter is a game we’ve DEFINITELY played.
It will almost certainly push the team’s payroll above $100 million for the first time since 2011 — a season, of course, that proved via a 63-99 record that spending money does not always translate to victories.
The consensus, though, is that Hunter and Santana should — at the very least — make the Twins better. The question within that consensus is to what degree the Twins (70-92 last season) will be better, and that’s where things get a little more complicated.
If we look at Fan Graphs, we see that the Twins are still predicted to be the last-place team in the AL Central — Tigers first, Cleveland second, Kansas City third and the White Sox fourth.
Now, Fan Graphs win projections for 2015, as always, are a little more bunched together than the way things actually will shake out. The highest win total is 88; the lowest is 70. That’s a gap of 18 wins; last year, the gap between the best and worst teams was 34 wins.
The Twins are near the bottom, though, projected to win 76 games. Fan Graphs sees them much as they saw last year’s team: a good offense (projected to score the ninth-most runs in MLB in 2015 after scoring the seventh-most in 2014) with a poor pitching staff (slated to give up the third-most runs, even with the addition of Santana).
If you want to look at a national outside source, Jim Bowden from ESPN gives the Twins a B-minus grade for their offseason moves and says, “They’ve improved the team, though this is still a last-place club.”
Those are about as disparate of sources as you’re going to find — crunched numbers vs. a gut reaction, and both are saying the Twins are still the bottom-feeders in the Central.
Much of the problem, of course, is that even though the Twins are better, the rest of the division is pretty good. Detroit, even after trading Rick Porcello and likely losing Max Scherzer, has some dominant starting pitchers and a fearsome lineup. The Royals might have overachieved last year, but they overachieved all the way to the AL pennant. Cleveland quietly won 85 games last year after winning 92 the year before. And the White Sox have made the biggest splash of anyone in the division this offseason.
So what hope is there? Well, as we wrote today, there is at least hope that a rotation that hasn’t finished better than 26th in starters’ ERA any of the past four years could at least approach adequate in 2015 if Santana, Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco have average seasons.
There is the notion that the team was better last year than in the previous three, which was supported by the eye test, a few more wins and a simple stat: in games decided by 5 runs or more, the Twins were 21-26. That means they won their fair share of blowouts. From 2011-13, in games decided by five runs or more, they were 43-89.
And there is the notion that young players will continue to improve and perhaps get a boost of energy from a new managerial/coaching regime.
It’s reasonable to think the Twins will approach .500 next season. Where that puts them in a better AL Central? Well, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.
When it comes to locating the proper receiver, having good accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and generally making good decisions with the football, Bridgewater is already in the top half of NFL starting QBs, maybe even the top 10. He knows how to run an offense. And this is very encouraging.
Those traits helped Bridgewater lead the Vikings on three drives that covered more than 75 yards against a very good Detroit defense. Two resulted in touchdowns; the other resulted in an inexplicably blocked field goal after 11 minutes of possession. If that kick goes through, perhaps we’re a little easier on Bridgewater today. But it didn’t, so it gave us another crucial look at a throw he simply can’t make right now with any consistency.
It was the same type of throw that resulted in the game-turning interception in the first half, after the Vikings had taken a 14-0 lead: a longer throw to one of the sidelines.
On those throws, Bridgewater — not gifted with a rocket for an arm — has a bad tendency to get underneath the ball to try to muster up strength. His elbow drops, and sometimes the ball sails. That happened on the INT, which was glaring. And it happened again in the final minute when he overthrew Jarius Wright on a pass that very well could have helped the Vikings get into more realistic field goal position.
We’re not sure to what extent arm strength can be “taught.” In baseball, you don’t “teach” a pitcher to throw harder. It’s one of those natural gifts that you either have or don’t have. Maybe because he’s so young his arm will get a little stronger. But we wouldn’t count on it.
So the question becomes: how do Bridgewater and the Vikings work around that? Can he at least improve technique enough to get on top of that throw and improve the timing? Do the Vikings not ask him to ever make that throw? (They rarely do now, and for good reason).
And to a larger extent, the question that will define Bridgewater as he continues to develop is how much all of those things he does well can or cannot cover up for what remains, at least for now and quite possibly forever, a significant deficiency?
Just going to leave this right here and walk away. We didn’t need to know this about Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn, but now we do know.
Asked by Andy Cohen on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live about sex on Packers game days, Munn said it doesn’t happen.
“No we don’t. Not on game day,” Munn said. “There’s not a rule. It just doesn’t happen because there’s other things to focus on.”
But the whole no-sex-on-game-days thing isn’t a superstition. It just doesn’t happen.
“I try to have sex as much as I can,” Munn said.
Hope you got your Ove-Gloves on at your computer while you read this, because this edition of Nuclear Wessel is about to get hot.
Funny how sports work in the 2014 hot take, 24/7, clicks-are-gold news cycle.
Two weeks ago you saw the headlines/tweets like this: ARE CHELSEA THE GREATEST TEAM TO EVER KICK A SOCCER BALL AND WILL THE CLUB EVER LOSE A MATCH FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY?!
Now this week: HAS MOURINHO LOST THE PLOT AT CHELSEA? CAN THEY OVERCOME THIS HARDSHIP OR WILL THEY FOLD THE CLUB ENTIRELY AND TURN STAMFORD BRIDGE INTO THE WORLD’S LARGEST PETTING ZOO?!
As we say every season in every sport, it is a marathon, not a sprint*. An eight point lead in November isn’t insurmountable and the fact that it is down to three points shouldn’t come as a shock to any rational person.
*except the 100 meter dash. That, literally, is a sprint. No time time for error there. Just gotta kinda bust-buns all 100 meters.
So the title race is back on! Just as it always has been. Chelsea remain up on City by three points. Meanwhile, the race for the top four is starting to take shape with Manchester United showing they are serious about a return to Europe.
A fun slate of matches ahead, highlighted by the always-controversial Manchester United/Liverpool battle to the death. Enjoy!
No. 1: Chelsea vs Hull City at Stamford Bridge
When: Saturday at 8:00am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Clinical 2-0 win last year for the Blues against Hull. Oscar and Lampard both scored goals inside of 25 minutes to put the Tigers away early at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues rebounded nicely from that shocking 2-1 loss to Newcastle by winning at Sporting midweek in Champions League. A 3-1 win in a match where they didn’t need to win (they already clinched their group) and rested John Terry, Eden Hazard and Willian. Just what the Blues needed before heading back into league competition.
Hull City aren’t finding much love in their first season back in the top flight since 2009-10. They have won just two matches and sit in 18th place with just 13 points. Their last win came back on October 4th against Crystal Palace and they have lost four of their last six.
The Blues are heavily favored in this one, and deservedly so. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 10 against the Tigers, winning eight of those matches. Also, they have never lost to Hull City in the Premier League.
Best case scenario for Chelsea is they cruise to a comfortable win and get Diego Costa a goal or two. The big man has struggled as of late and even Mourinho has called out his fitness a bit. Him scoring goals by the bunch is a huge key to Chelsea’s season and they can’t have him fading before the New Years ball drops.
Best case scenario for Hull would be to nick a goal early and then sit back, defend and pray they can at least steal a point. All signs point to the Blues taking all spoils, however.
No. 2: Arsenal vs Newcastle at Emirates Stadium
When: Saturday at 10:30am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Stroll in the park last April for Arsenal against Newcastle. Three goals, a clean sheet and three points for the Gunners at the Emirates.
Arsenal enter a crucial two-week stretch here where they play Newcastle at home and Liverpool at Anfield next Sunday. And they will do so with one healthy half-back. Good times!
Arsene Wenger is going to have to get creative Saturday against a Newcastle team that has shockingly won seven out of their last nine games. Seriously. How has this happened? Newcastle fans were on the verge of burning their stadium down and kidnapping Alan Pardew and now they just knocked off Chelsea and sit level on points with Arsenal in 6th place.
Speaking of Alan Pardew, he had a troll-job on par with the Target Center this week. The group of Arsenal fans that somehow think they are better than the ‘finish top-4/make Round of 16 in Champions League’ plateau they have settled on and want Wenger to be fired have never been louder. So what does Pardew say? He backs Wenger and says they should name the bleeping stadium after him. I love it. And don’t really disagree with him either.
But don’t expect Newcastle to cruise to victory just because Wenger is going to have to play some defenders out of position. Jak ‘I am too cool for the letter C’ Alnwick is making his first ever Premier League start in goal. Poor dude doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. I wanted to look up some obscure fact about him to make fun of him but he doesn’t even have a Wiki. Pretty sure even Rand has a Wikipedia page (editor’s note: Nope, but that is something we would like for Christmas). So that’s why I ripped him for the spelling of his name. I am versatile like that.
Traditionally, Newcastle have just been dreadful against Arsenal with only two wins in the last decade against the Gunners. Plenty of factors working against both teams so a draw is a likely result but I’ll give Arsenal the home-nod to take all three points.
No. 1: Manchester United vs Liverpool at Old Trafford
When: Saturday at 6:30am on NBC Sports Network
Last year: Liverpool beat United 3-0 at Old Trafford last March in a match full of controversy (shocking, given the two teams). Steven Gerrard bagged a brace the only way he can these days — with a pair of penalties. He had a chance to complete the penalty hatty but missed. Luis Suarez got the third in the 84th minute. The ‘Moyes Out’ movement picked up plenty of steam that afternoon.
Alright, you ready? Lets spin the WHEEL…OF…RIVALRY CLICHES!!!!
***Click, Click, Click, Click, Click, Click, Click, Click, Click, Click***
And it lands on….YOU CAN THROW THE RECORD BOOK OUT THE WINDOW WHEN THESE TWO PLAY!
Dang. I had my heart set on ‘You wanna talk about two teams that don’t like each other?’
But all jokes aside, you can throw the record book when Manchester United and Liverpool play because these are two teams that don’t like each other.
Liverpool really Liverpool’d themselves on Tuesday when they got knocked out of Champions League at home by Basel. All they had to do was beat Basel at Anfield. Instead they fall behind by a goal, have a sub get sent off after 15 minutes and fail to capitalize on a Steven Gerrard equalizer for the ages. Now they have to trudge through the Europa League and the seemingly 87 matches in weird stadiums that go along with it. They can’t just sluff it off, either, because the winner of the competition now earns a spot in next year’s Champions League. And, lets be honest, that is probably their best shot at qualifying at this point.
United, on the other hand, have put themselves in great shape to land one of the coveted top four spots. They looked like burning dog dung on Monday against Southampton but still managed to get a 2-1 win. That is the type of thing that United failed (horribly) to do under David Moyes. Earning points even when they play horribly. It is what the good teams do. But they will actually need to put together some good performances and win games comfortably if they are to reclaim what they believe to be their rightful place in Europe.
It’s funny, these two sides have basically flipped spots in just one year. Last season, it was Manchester United falling out of top four contention and having a miserable season while Liverpool was charging up the table to reclaim a Champions League spot. Now, Liverpool, a year after finishing second find themselves in 9th almost midway through the season. And United, after finishing seventh last year sit in 3rd right now. Flippy-floppy!
Not expecting a lot of fireworks in this one. Wouldn’t be surprised if there were more red cards than goals. I say it will be 1-0 to the home side.
Alright, companions. That’ll do ‘er for this week. Enjoy the matches and don’t be afraid to go outside and fire up the grill during this unseasonably warm weather.
Until next week, keep your balls chipped and your runs to the far post.
|Philadelphia||12/20/14 3:30 PM|
|San Diego||12/20/14 7:25 PM|
|Minnesota||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Baltimore||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Detroit||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Cleveland||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Atlanta||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Green Bay||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|Kansas City||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|New England||12/21/14 12:00 PM|
|NY Giants||12/21/14 3:05 PM|
|Buffalo||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||12/21/14 3:25 PM|
|Seattle||12/21/14 7:30 PM|
|Denver||12/22/14 7:30 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||66|
|New Mexico St||55||FINAL|
|San Diego St||62||FINAL|
|Nevada||12/20/14 10:00 AM|
|Utah State||12/20/14 1:20 PM|
|(23) Utah||12/20/14 2:30 PM|
|Western Mich||12/20/14 4:45 PM|
|South Alabama||12/20/14 8:15 PM|
|BYU||12/22/14 1:00 PM|
|Marshall||12/23/14 5:00 PM|
|Navy||12/23/14 8:30 PM|
|San Diego St|
|Central Mich||12/24/14 11:00 AM|
|Fresno State||12/24/14 7:00 PM|
|(21) Miss State||66||FINAL|
|(1) South Carolina||69||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||91||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||51|