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 (Finally, some luck for Wolves?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 14th at 12:39pm 299691721

wolvesknicksThe Wolves have had abysmal draft lottery luck in their franchise history. They have never improved their position. On a handful of infamous occasions, they have fallen a slot or two below where they were projected to pick based on record, winding up with lesser players than they should have had.

There is no guarantee that this curse will be lifted on May 19, 2015, when another very important draft lottery will be held to determine the order teams choose in June. But this much is guaranteed:

By virtue of unexpected results from the Knicks and by excelling at the one thing this franchise has really excelled at over the years — losing — the Wolves have positioned themselves quite nicely.

Minnesota has lost 11 consecutive games and 22 of its last 25, including last night’s 100-88 loss to the Pelicans. The Knicks, meanwhile, looked to easily be on track to claim the league’s worst record … but they have won three of their last five, including last night’s stunning win over the first-place Hawks. That has infuriated a New York fan base that had warmed to the idea of tanking because now, with one game left in the season, the Knicks are one game better (17-64 to 16-65) than the Wolves).

As long as Minnesota loses to OKC on Wednesday — the Wolves are playing with a decimated roster and the Thunder is battling for a playoff spot still — the Wolves will be assured of having the worst record (and the best lottery odds).

In addition to giving the Wolves a 25 percent chance of the top pick and about a 2 in 3 chance of having at least a top-3 pick, it would ensure they would fall no further than fourth in the order.

On a team that doesn’t figure to attract top free agents, one more high pick is a big deal. We’re not saying the ends of losing justify the means of picking high because you never know how these things are going to turn out and tanking is a concept we still can’t stand.

But for those who have lamented the luck of Minnesota teams over the years — including the Vikings a few years back, who lost out on draft position with a late-season win — this seems to be a reversal of that.

A reminder that not everyone knows or cares about sports

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 13th at 2:11pm 299586161

vikingsstadiumI ride the light rail to work most days now. Aside from the big-city feel and camaraderie of riding the train (inside joke for Clarence Swamptown), it’s economical, easy and relaxing. While it might occasionally lead to dangerous happy hour decisions since I don’t have to drive, those are the breaks for everyone.

This is not a commercial for Metro Transit. Rather, it’s the start of a story about riding the train into work Thursday morning last week. I take the Blue Line, which twists right around the new Vikings stadium and offers striking glimpses of the progress being made on that new facility.

On this particular Thursday, “Frozen” on ice was happening at Target Center, and the train had a lot of little kids riding with their parents for a morning production. (Side note: Why are animated movies generally the ones that get the “on ice” treatment? I’d pay good money to see “The Big Lebowski On Ice” or “Back to the Future On Ice,” for example).

But anyway: lots of kids on the train, including two very adorable little girls riding with their mom a couple seats away from me. I’d guess they were maybe 4 and 6 years old. We got to the part of the ride where the Vikings stadium came into view, and all three of them marveled at the sheer size of it.

“What is that?” one of the girls asked her mom.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

A fellow passenger piped in, “That’s the new stadium where the Vikings are going to play,” adding that it will cost $1 billion to build.

They marveled again, and the mom said, “Well, they’d better do well because that looks pretty nice.”

“They probably won’t,” another rider said.

I remain struck by this conversation days later for a couple of reasons:

1) This building I’ve seen basically every weekday for a year, which I’ve toured and taken for granted, is not central to everyone’s life (even if it is the “People’s Stadium”). Some people who live here don’t even know it exists.

2) The idea that a team has a responsibility to perform well in a publicly funded palace shouldn’t be novel, but it still gave us an insight into how some people think of this new stadium. Those of us who cover Xs and Os tend to focus on the Vikings relative to the rest of the NFL, but to some they’re a part of the community that needs to represent Minnesota. If we’re going to do nice things for them, they owe us at least that.

3) The zinger at the end by the pessimistic fan. Classic Minnesota. Even when talking to two girls who clearly have zero perspective on the heartbreak of the past, the fan is passing along the history.

You can’t help but shake your head and laugh at the warped, broken and annually rebuilt fan base. In 2016 the stadium will open. And maybe next year, everything will finally come together for the Vikings.

Monday (Familiar spot for Twins starting pitching) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 13th at 1:59pm 299562331

neilallenWe’re six games into this MLB season — 1/27th of the way through the year — and already everything feels all-too-familiar for a Twins team that will make its home debut Monday afternoon. They will do so in front of a crowd that should be excited to have baseball back but one that is also growing increasingly impatient or apathetic, depending on who you talk to.

It only took a week into the regular season for the starting pitching, thought to be a strength of this team, to appear in disarray again. Ervin Santana’s suspension 10 days ago was a huge blow, but even if Erv was in the rotation right now we’re not sure how much of a difference it would make.

Maybe, instead of being dead last in MLB in starters’ ERA (6.61), just like they were last year (5.06), the Twins would be 27th or so?

Regardless, when Trevor May takes the hill today, he will represent the second starting pitcher this season ushered into the rotation as a replacement from the original plan. First, Mike Pelfrey took Santana’s spot to start the year (and couldn’t hold a 4-0 lead Saturday). Now, May fills in for last year’s big free agent splash, Ricky Nolasco, who is on the disabled list already.

Trotting out new arms is almost as familiar as having starters fail, and the two go hand in hand. Last season, 12 different starters made at least three starts. In 2013, 10 different pitchers made at least eight starts.

Credit the Twins for trying to solve that problem by acquiring Santana. Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Nolasco, Santana and Tommy Milone at least had the potential to give the Twins a chance to win on most nights.

But after years of failure, effort only gets you so far. Results are what really matters, and just one week into the season, they have been far too similar to the patterns of failed years past.

Nuclear Wessel: Soccer to watch when you're not attending Fast 7 screenings

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 10th at 5:00pm 299374961

nuclearDana Wessel works at Go963 FM in Minneapolis and formerly worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car under their excellent corporate structure where *they* gave *him* the tools to be his own boss.

Welcome back, Nuclear Warheads.

We have a nice little slate of matches on our hands. Chelsea stay top, Arsenal are charging, United keep winning….and City are in fourth?

Just too bad Spurs and Liverpool had to bottom out already before the fun really started. It appears the top four teams have all but locked things up — just a matter of what order they finish in at this point.

On to the matches!

No. 1: Burnley vs Arsenal at Turf Moor

When: Saturday at 11:30AM on Big Boy NBC

Last year: These two last met at Turf Moor back in 2009. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with Cesc Fabregas scoring for Arsenal. Memories!

Arsenal can’t really do it, can they? I mean, no, they can’t catch Chelsea, right? Naw…can they? They can.

Winning eight Premier League matches in a row does wonderful things for any side but it now has given Arsenal unexpected hope in the title race. City have played their way out of the race and the Gunners sit just seven points behind Chelsea, but have played one more match than Mourinho’s side.

It is unlikely but it is certainly possible, especially with these two still set to meet at the Emirates at the end of the month.

But first thing’s first for Arsene Wenger and his men, they must continue running that win streak. They play play a Burnley side still riding high from that historic win against Manchester City over St. Paddy’s Day weekend. They sit level on points with QPR at 18th and a win could get them into safety from the drop zone.

Burnley managed to draw Spurs last weekend and are doing everything they can to ensure Premier League survival. They are the little engine that could personified but a nearly full-strength Arsenal side. I see Arsenal winning and head into the FA Cup semi final with a full head of steam against Reading before the showdown with Chelsea on the 26th.

No. 2: QPR vs Chelsea at Loftus Road Stadium

When: Sunday at 7:30AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: This London derby last took place at Loftus Road in 2012 when both teams played to a scoreless draw. I don’t remember much of the specifics but I remember it ruining my day.

Chelsea were dealt some rough news Friday when Mourinho announced league leading scorer Diego Costa would miss the next four matches with that nagging hamstring injury that has been around all season. Scary to think what this guy could do when healthy all year.

But the show goes on with Loic Remy starting in his place. The French international has back-to-back match winners for Chelsea so all is not lost. However, the Blues will surely miss the physical presence and pace that Costa provides.

Chelsea’s focus this week is the same as it has been the last few weeks and will be until the season ends. Three points gets them that much closer to the title and anything less will open the door a little more for Arsenal.

The Blues need to win five of their final eight matches to guarantee they are champions. They really hope that number is cut to four after Sunday.

No. 3: Manchester United vs Manchester City at Old Trafford

When: Sunday at 10:00AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: City stomped a mudhole in their neighbor’s backside to the tune of 3-0. The match was held on March 25th while United were in the middle of their nightmare campaign.

City went from level at the top of the table with Chelsea on January 1st to just hoping they can hang onto a top four spot. Dude. That is like chilling at the top of the Candy Land board only to hit that big slide and find yourself scrambling.

Making matters worse is they sit behind their blood rival Manchester United. In case you are new to Premier League, the City/United rivalry makes the Ducks/Hawks rivalry in Ducks 1 look like the Team USA/Iceland rivalry in Ducks 2 look like the Eden Hall JV/Varsity rivalry in Ducks 3. Yeah, it is that big of a deal.

It will be fascinating to see just how far City can fall. United would love nothing more than to run off their sixth straight league win and watch their noisy neighbors continue to tumble. But despite City’s poor recent form, it is hard to imagine them falling out of the top four. Liverpool and Spurs are still seven points off the pace. But man! It sure would be hilarious if they did. The defending champs and their supporters are going to be sweating this one out to the very end.

As far as Sunday goes…who really knows. One intriguing part of this match is what it means for these two teams going forward. If the season ended as it stands now, it is a massive success for United. If the season ended today, everyone at City is fired. After City won last year and United finished 7th, it appeared the two were heading in complete opposite directions for the next five years. Didn’t take long for United to catch up and, for now, pass City.

Not even going to venture a guess who wins Sunday. Hoping for goals. And red cards. Lots of them. Red cards by the bucket. And goals. Lots of goals.

That’ll do it for this week. Enjoy the matches. It will all be over before we know it.

Wolves' OT win at New York last month still the difference in lottery odds

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 10th at 7:18pm 299365731

wolvesknicksLast month, the Wolves and Knicks played a game in New York that I figured could very well determine which team would wind up with the most ping pong balls in the NBA draft lottery.

Both teams were well along the losing path by then, be it by circumstance or extra effort. I was so sure it would be a crucial game in the draft race that I wrote a preview story for it, dubbing the game “The Battle of Who Could Care Less,” and making other references to Ben Folds Five songs to prove that I have a finger on the pulse of 1990s piano rock music, which is surely what the kids these days are listening to.

Both teams were 14-53 going into that game, tied for the league’s worst record, so it stood to reason that the winner could very well be the draft loser, and vice-versa. While it’s only a matter of a few percentage points difference (25 to 20) in the chances of landing the top pick, having the No. 1 spot going into the draft also ensures falling no further than No. 4; being No. 2 means you could fall all the way to No. 5. In a top-heavy draft, that means something.

In any event, I figured the Knicks had the upper hand in winning that game against the Wolves. It was in New York, after all, and the Wolves were playing the second night of a back-to-back.

But I underestimated New York’s will to lose. Despite a combined 12-for-43 shooting night from Andrew Wiggins and Kevin Martin, The Wolves prevailed in overtime. It pushed their record one-game better than New York’s — 15-53 to 14-54.

Both teams have gone exactly 1-9 since then, keeping the Wolves one game ahead of New York with four to play. The Knicks do have winnable remaining games against the Bucks, Magic and Pistons left. Wolves at Lakers tonight is probably their best bet at getting a win before the year is out.

It wouldn’t be altogether surprising, though, to see both squads lose all of them the rest of the way. It would set up an interesting night on May 19 when the NBA draft lottery is held. That Battle of Who Could Care Less could determine the fate of both franchises.

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Philadelphia 4 Top 7th Inning
Washington 3
Atlanta 4 Top 8th Inning
Toronto 3
Chicago WSox 12 Top 6th Inning
Detroit 2
Cleveland 2 Top 4th Inning
Minnesota 1
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 4th Inning
St. Louis 2
San Diego 2 Top 4th Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Baltimore - C. Tillman 3:05 PM
Boston - C. Buchholz
Milwaukee - K. Lohse 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - J. Locke
Miami - M. Latos 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
LA Angels - C. Wilson 6:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
NY Yankees - M. Tanaka 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Oakland - J. Hahn 6:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Arizona - R. De La Rosa 8:05 PM
San Francisco - C. Heston
Colorado - J. Lyles 8:10 PM
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke
Texas - C. Lewis 8:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Washington 85 1st OT 3:22
Toronto 82
New Orleans 2:30 PM
Golden State
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Chicago
Dallas 8:30 PM
Houston
Minnesota 2:00 PM
St. Louis
Detroit 2:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
NY Rangers
Winnipeg 9:30 PM
Anaheim
Houston 6:00 PM
D.C.
Orlando City 6:30 PM
Columbus
Toronto FC 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Seattle 8:00 PM
Colorado
Vancouver FC 8:30 PM
Real Salt Lake
Sporting Kansas City 9:30 PM
Los Angeles

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