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 (Mauer, Nolasco and the curse of the contract) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 8th at 9:58am

mauerlame nolasco2Between them, Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco are making $35 million to play baseball for the Twins this season, eating up roughly 40 percent of the team’s payroll (it was even more before the mid-season acquisition of Kendrys Morales).

Even at slightly more modest salaries, those two would have to rank high among the biggest disappointments on this year’s team. It’s fair to say that if both were performing to at least career expectations — that is to say, at least close to providing the numbers that earned them those hefty salaries — the Twins, given everything else that has happened this year, would be around .500 instead of floundering now at 10 games below that mark. Indeed, even without much contribution from either player the Twins spent most of the first half of the season right around even.

Those contracts made Mauer and Nolasco obscenely wealthy, so do not mistake this as some sort of pity party for them. But we would say that there is a certain on-field burden that comes with a hefty salary, particularly when it comes to this, um, frugal market and fan base.

No longer are you simply underachieving … you’re underachieving and overpaid. No longer does a sentence simply say, “Nolasco needs to pitch better,” but rather: “For $12 million a year, Nolasco needs to pitch better.”

And when you get hurt — Mauer is on the DL, and Nolasco is having his elbow examined — you’re not simply injured. Your toughness gets called into question because of the money you make.

Salary does not guarantee results. Just ask the many other players aside from Mauer among the top-10 in salary this season who are struggling, injured, or both.

Criticism comes with the territory, and pretty much every one of us would accept these “burdens” if it meant making millions to play a game. But there’s no doubt a big contract changes perceptions, particularly when you play in Minnesota.

TFD: Twins at 500 to 1 odds to win World Series, worst of any team

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 8th at 7:13am

moralesWell, that escalated quickly. About a month ago, the Twins declared “why not us” when talking about making the playoffs after acquiring Kendrys Morales.

Now? They are nine games under .500, and even though nine teams in MLB have worse winning percentages heading into Monday’s games, the oddsmakers are not big believers in the hometown nine. According to an e-mail for SportsBettingDime.com, the Twins are 500 to 1 odds to win this year’s World Series. That’s tied with the Padres and Astros for the longest odds in baseball.

Here’s the full list:

World Series Champion

Oakland Athletics            4/1

Los Angeles Dodgers      4/1

Detroit Tigers                      8/1

San Francisco Giants     8/1

Washington Nationals  10/1

Milwaukee Brewers         12/1

St. Louis Cardinals            12/1

Los Angeles Angels          15/1

Atlanta Braves                   18/1

N.Y. Yankees                       20/1

Toronto Blue Jays           20/1

Baltimore Orioles           30/1

Seattle Mariners            30/1

Boston Red Sox                35/1

Cincinnati Reds              35/1

Pittsburgh Pirates       35/1

Kansas City Royals      40/1

Cleveland Indians      45/1

Miami Marlins             100/1

Texas Rangers              110/1

Tampa Bay Rays         120/1

Colorado Rockies       200/1

Philadelphia Phillies   200/1

Chicago White Sox      200/1

Ariz. Diamondbacks   300/1

N.Y. Mets                        300/1

Chicago Cubs                400/1

San Diego Padres      500/1

Minnesota Twins      500/1

Houston Astros          500/1

The nature of "news" during NBA free agency is frightening

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 8th at 7:20am

The mad scramble for news, or things that resemble news, or even plausible instincts, is overtaking NBA free agency. This is worse than NFL draft talk. This is worse than MLB trade deadline stuff. This is the complete blurring of lines, without the sexy Robin Thicke beats.

Will Leitch writes about it, and does it well, for Sports on Earth. His conclusion goes like this, but you should read the whole thing:

What is happening with NBA free agency and LeBron is that people are making the same predictions they do at the beginning of the year … but in retrospect, they’re calling it news. If back in September, had I picked the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl, I would be happy I got it right in February. But I wouldn’t be able to claim that I reported the Seahawks won the Super Bowl five months early. I was just guessing.

That’s what’s happening here. We are so desperate for even the slightest sliver of information that the difference between news, rumor and good-old-fashioned-pulled-it-out-of-your-arse-ism has become impossible to detect.

If you don’t believe us or Leitch, check out this frightening screen grab of all the different fake Adrian Wojnarowski’s out there.

Four years later, Cavs finally take down owner's rant against LeBron

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 7th at 5:39pm

comicsansThe longest-lasting takeaway from LeBron James’ defection from Cleveland four years ago wasn’t the hideous ESPN Special “The Decision” that announced he was heading to the Heat. It wasn’t the run he has had (so far?) in Miami, with four trips to the finals and two NBA titles. It wasn’t anything that happened on the court, as a matter of fact.

No, the biggest thing we still remember about that crazy time is that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wrote the angriest, you-just-broke-up-with-me-in-eighth-grade letter about LeBron and the betrayal. But he didn’t just write it. He released it to the world using the font Comic Sans, adding so much to the impact of it.

Well, times change and people change. The Cavs now want LeBron back, and it appears the feeling could be mutual. And so, with the anniversary of that letter about to hit four years on Tuesday, Cleveland has finally scrubbed the letter from its web site.

For 4 years, Dan Gilbert’s letter after LeBron’s decision has been on team website. It appears it was removed today: http://t.co/O256mqVtNs

— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 7, 2014

Our only question now is what happens if James again spurns the Cavs in favor of another team? Would he be that diabolical? And more importantly, what font would Gilbert use in the angry letter this time around?

Our sincere hope is that it’s Zapf Dingbats. Please let it be that.

Monday (Evaluation of Vikings' Cassel, other NFL QBs) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated July 7th at 11:53am

bridgewaterAs if you needed any reminder why it was so important for the Vikings to identify, target and acquire another attempt at a QB of the future, recent QB rankings assembled by ESPN.com’s Mike Sando provide an imperfect but telling look around the NFL.

The methodology, per Sando:

I asked 26 league insiders to grade every projected starting quarterback on a 1-5 scale, with “one” reserved for the best and “five” for the worst. Eight general managers, two former GMs, four pro personnel evaluators, seven coordinators, two head coaches, two position coaches and a top executive participated, attacking the project with gusto almost across the board.

That’s a pretty good sampling, and while the 1-5 scale is far from perfect, with 26 people voting the number probably winds up being pretty close to what it should be.

Five QBs wound up in Tier 1: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck. Three of those five are with the teams that drafted them. Manning played forever for the Colts before a late switch to Denver. Brees is the anomaly, having taken a little while to find his groove before settling in with New Orleans.

All 10 QBs in Tier 2 have played with one team for their entire careers: Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick and Nick Foles.

In Tier 3, it’s a mixed bag of two-team QBs, journeymen and young QBs trying to find their way.

And in Tier 4, we find that same mixed bag, even more so — including the No. 28 QB on the board, the Vikings’ Matt Cassel.

The Vikings tried to draft and develop a QB in 2011 with Christian Ponder. That clearly hasn’t worked out or Cassel wouldn’t be here. And even if Cassel represents an upgrade over Ponder, this is still what was written about him by Sando after the query with those 26 football experts:

Cassel was at his best in New England and Kansas City under Charlie Weis. There’s some thought among evaluators that he has a tendency to hold the ball and stare down his receivers in the absence of proactive coaching. Perhaps Norv Turner can help him out. “Everything has to be right to win games with him,” a GM said.

Indeed, it will be interesting to see if Turner can push Cassel more toward the middle of the pack than the lowest tier. But that’s probably the ceiling, and a good reminder that taking another shot at a franchise QB with Teddy Bridgewater needed to happen.

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Chicago Cubs - WP: B. Parker 6 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: J. Hoover 4
Philadelphia - WP: D. Buchanan 9 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Garza 1
Oakland - WP: S. Kazmir 6 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 1
Chicago WSox - LP: R. Belisario 3 FINAL
Boston - WP: A. Miller 4
Washington - LP: G. Gonzalez 3 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 4
NY Yankees - LP: M. Thornton 3 FINAL
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 9
Atlanta - WP: A. Harang 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 1
Pittsburgh - WP: E. Volquez 9 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: S. Miller 1
LA Angels - WP: H. Santiago 15 FINAL
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 6
Detroit - WP: D. Smyly 16 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie 4
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 1 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 2
Minnesota - WP: Y. Pino 4 FINAL
Seattle - LP: T. Wilhelmsen 2
Winnipeg 6:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 7/12/14 5:30 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 7/12/14 8:30 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 7/17/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 7/18/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Hamilton 7/18/14 9:00 PM
Calgary
Montreal 7/19/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Indiana 72
Minnesota 91 FINAL
Tulsa 85

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