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 (Maybe fresh start is best for Vikings, Peterson) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated February 24th at 10:21am 293850791

zimmerpetersonThere is a nagging suspicion that Adrian Peterson, even as he approaches 30 in a month, is primed for a strong 2015 season. Peterson has always been best when motivated (see: his rookie year of 2007 after getting passed over in the draft and 2012, coming off the major knee injury), and this year he has the added benefit of rest.

(The counter-argument is that rest=rust and Peterson might not be in prime shape, but it’s a long time between now and September).

The practical Vikings fan might think, “If Peterson has 1 or 2 more good-to-great years left in him, it sure would be nice if they were in purple instead of another uniform.” With Teddy Bridgewater on a rookie contract, the Vikings aren’t paying their QB much and could theoretically afford to keep a running back with a very high cap number.

Another bit of logic — and history, since it happened with Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Percy Harvin — suggests that once a relationship sours between the Vikings and a player, the next course of action is to part ways.

This might be a relationship damaged beyond repair on both sides. The Vikings are probably still uneasy about some of the public relations battle that would ensue by bringing Peterson back. Peterson — who brought all of this on himself, let’s not forget — is battling through a perceived slight from the Vikings because they apparently didn’t stand by him 100 percent as he faced scrutiny for whipping his young son.

Right and wrong is not hard to discern here, but it doesn’t matter much. Peterson’s stance gives the Vikings the “out” they quite possibly wanted anyway. It might make trading him a little harder, but it could make their decision even easier.

And maybe, as crazy as this would have sounded at this time last year, the two sides are simply better off moving on from each other.

P.S.: KG is with the Wolves, Torii Hunter is with the Twins and Peterson could soon be gone from the Vikings. Just another reminder to never say never.

TFD: B.J. Upton now going by Melvin Upton, says it's not because his play has been awful

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated February 23rd at 4:51pm 293741761

melvinsB.J. Upton’s real name is Melvin.

B.J. Upton has had a terrible couple of years with Atlanta, hovering below or near the Mendoza Line while putting up positively Punto-esque OPS numbers.

So now B.J. Upton is going by Melvin Upton. But it’s not because he’s been terrible or needs a fresh start (except that it probably is).

Per ESPN.com:

This has nothing to do with starting a new chapter,” he told reporters. “I just wanted to. My father thought enough to give me his name, so why not?” Upton will use his birth name this season after long going by B.J., short for Bossman — his father, Manny’s, nickname — Junior. Upton’s full name is Melvin Emanuel Upton. Upton said Monday that most of his friends already call him “Mel or Melvin.” “Nobody really calls me B.J., except at the stadium,” he said.

That all makes sense, but … still, it will be nice for him to tell people, “I hit .184 in 2013? Nah, wasn’t me. That was B.J.” The sad face in all this is that his brother Justin Upton, who hasn’t been terrible and who used to play for the Braves before signing with the Padres, will get tangled up in all the name confusion.

What should we make of reports disconnecting Adrian Peterson from Vikings?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated February 23rd at 9:49pm 293710321

petersonOver the weekend, Bleacher Report surfaced a video suggesting Adrian Peterson — according to an anonymous, high-ranking NFL official — wants to be traded from the Vikings to the Cowboys.

That report came not too long after an ESPN story in which Peterson said he was “uneasy” about rejoining the Vikings.

On Monday, there was this beauty: Peterson’s agent and Vikings vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski reportedly had a heated exchange at the NFL Combine, during which the agent (Ben Dogra) reportedly said Peterson would never play for the Vikings again.

So what’s really going on here?

Well, the short answer is this: leverage is power, and for a long time Peterson has had neither. He’s in a limbo state, a no-man’s-land, as he waits for the NFL to reinstate him and presumably waits for the Vikings to decide what they want to do with him.

When you’re a superstar, you’re not used to being without leverage. So Peterson is trying to create some, first by suggesting not everything is square between he and the Vikings (thus attempting to make the decision about bringing Peterson back not just a matter of Minnesota’s preference) and then by planting a story about a possible trade (this was probably Peterson’s reps, but it’s all part of the same puzzle in trying to make it seem like a man with few options has more). The Combine story is just icing on the cake.

The Vikings still have more leverage — Peterson is under contract, and if he wants to get paid in 2015 ultimately the Vikings control his fate — but the earlier AP starts painting a picture that he doesn’t want to be in Minnesota (true or not), the less it seems like the Vikings are really in control.

The Vikings will counter by denying everything while — probably — quietly exploring options to see if they can trade Peterson for acceptable value. Our guess is the Vikings aren’t 100 percent sold on wanting Peterson back, and knowing he’s not sold either will make it easier to part ways.

But the Vikings can’t say all that because they want to preserve Peterson’s trade value — again, that pesky leverage, which is what the power business of the NFL is all about.

The upshot of these reports is this: whereas we were once starting to become convinced Peterson would be back with the Vikings in 2015, now we are not nearly as sure.

Monday (The return of Kevin Garnett) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated February 23rd at 11:27am 293681401

kgtaylorFans gobbled up tickets for Friday night’s Wolves game against the Suns in anticipation that Kevin Garnett — for whom Minnesota traded on Thursday — would be making his return in that game. There were a few low grumbles from the masses when they found out he was, in fact, not going to play until Wednesday’s game against Washington at Target Center.

Mostly, though, there was genuine excitement Friday … and a lot of fans wearing rumpled KG jerseys. A couple of fans said they bought Garnett jerseys at thrift stores recently; another said he dug his old childhood KG jersey out of a box in his parents’ basement. It used to be way too big; now it’s a perfect fit.

Whether KG is a perfect fit back with the Wolves remains to be seen. The hope and goal on the Wolves’ part is that Garnett will mentor the bevy of young players on the team while also providing a measure of defense and toughness to a team that often has lacked both. We were never blown away by Thad Young — the player the Wolves traded for Garnett — and we consider, skill-for-skill, the deal to be about a wash even though Garnett is 12 years older and at the tail end of his career. For what the Wolves need right now on the court, Garnett is a better fit.

That said, there are some who worry that 1) this is nothing more than a nostalgia tour and 2) that his presence in the locker room will be too much for the young players if they can’t accept his brand of tough love.

We’re going to give this the benefit of the doubt. If Garnett can play 20 minutes a night — ideally divided up roughly as 7 minutes at the start of the game, another 7 minutes at the start of the second half and the final 6 minutes of the game — while hitting the right notes in the locker room, this will have been a worthy move. We don’t even mind the idea of an extended Garnett reunion tour beyond this season.

And if it fails? At least it’s fun.

Nuclear Wessel: EPL takes hotter than Fifty Shades of Grey

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated February 20th at 3:42pm 293030581

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 to another scintillating edition of Nuclear Wessel, the weekly Premier League preview that readers say is filled to the brim with such scorching hotness it makes the Fifty Shades of Grey movie look like a corporate training video.

We’re sorry for the delay between posts. Two weeks ago Rand was in Arizona where he averaged 27.4 Instagram posts a day. And the PL was off last weekend because of the FA Cup and, lets be honest, I had the same amount of interest in previewing round of 16 cup matches as you did in reading them: very little.

Alright, enough time wasting. I know the internet has been clamoring for a new edition of Nukes Dub even more than the new book from that Harper Lee dude.

Onto the matches!

No. 1: Chelsea vs Burnley at Stamford Bridge

When: Saturday at 9:00AM on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Newly-promoted Burnley last traveled to Stamford Bridge in August of 2009. Chelsea won 3-0 with goals from Michael Ballack, Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole. The Blues went on to win the the title and the Burnley would be relegated.

Chelsea return home to their Stamford Bridge security blanket after getting a favorable 1-1 draw in Paris this week against PSG*.

*I’ll leave it to more talented and knowledgeable writers than I to expound on this in other, more appropriate forums, but what those Chelsea fans did to that man trying to board the train in Paris was beyond deplorable and disgusting. The fact that people — regardless if they are Chelsea, Liverpool or LA Sparks fans — still act that way in 2015 is completely disheartening and I hope they get ID’d and punished.

The league-leaders play a Burnley outfit that sit in 19th place right now on 21 points and have struggled mightily away from home. Their only win away from their barn came back in November against Stoke. If the season ended today, which it doesn’t, the season doesn’t end until May, Burnley would be yet another promoted team sent right back down. But the relegation battle is tight. 15-19 are separated by three points and 12-19 are separated by six. The battle to keep fans from crying will go until the last day of the season.

Chelsea have been nearly unstoppable since the first of the year, only dropping two points and outscoring opponents to the tune of 26-4. But that list of nagging injuries seem to be piling up. Jose Mourinho said after the PSG game that nearly half the squad had been held out of training all week and Cesc Fabregas was in bed all week with the flu.

But all that aside, this seems pretty cut and dry.  Burnley would do anything, illegal, immoral or otherwise for a point. Chelsea will be satisfied with nothing less than three. Advantage has to go to the league-leaders at home.

No. 2: Manchester City vs Newcastle at Etihad Stadium

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

Last year: 4-0 route to the eventual champions City. All the usual suspects got into the fun, with David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri all scoring.

On New Year’s Day Chelsea and City were level on everything. Points, goals for, goals against, most scarves sold in team shops, combined weight and age of all season ticket holders etc.

Since then, Chelsea have been pretty much killing it and City have been trying to keep their head above water while wearing cement shoes. The gap has widened to seven points after draws to Burnley and Hull City at home, a loss to Arsenal at home and road draws against Everton and Chelsea. Oh, and they also crashed out of the FA Cup with a 2-0 loss to Middlesbrough at home.

But fear not, City and Anybody But Chelsea fans! Your reinforcements are finally here. Yaya Toure has returned from his duty for Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations and he will be joined by compatriot and your January purchase Wilfried Bony.

In case anybody still doubted it, it Toure’s absence proved that he is the sauce to City’s buffalo wings. They only won one of the six matches they played without Toure. Add him and Bony to a mix that includes a guy like Sergio Aguero who found his form last week against Stoke and you have a team that isn’t going to let Chelsea run away with things.

Newcastle have been, well, Newcastle. Just sorta there, ya know? Back-to-back 1-1 draws against Stoke and Crystal Palace have them in 11th in the table. Ya know, just sorta there. Middle of the table. Average old Newcastle.

We are coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the last time Newcastle beat City in the league. Everybody start thinking of gifts for the Newcastle fans in their life to commemorate the moment. I am thinking maybe a nice brooch for my pal Dylan.

Given everything we discussed above I would not be shocked if some version of last year’s 4-0 City win over Newcastle at Etihad repeats itself Sunday. But Newcastle can be pesky and did knock City out of the League Cup earlier this season, a match that City couldn’t have been less interested, but a win is, as they say, a win.  Hopefully it is at least an exciting match for the Big Boy NBC audience.

No. 3 : Southampton vs Liverpool at St Mary’s Stadium

When: Saturday at 10:15am on NBC Sports Network

Last year: Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 victory last March at St Mary’s when they were in the thick of their charge for the title that ultimately slipped away. Speaking of, Steven Gerrard scored a penalty in stoppage time in this one.

The scheduling gods saved the most compelling for last this weekend! The darlings of the Premier League Southampton continue to hang onto a spot in the top-four by the stitching of a football while Liverpool is just desperate to find an invite back to hang out with the cool kids at the top of the table.

Frustrating few weeks for Southampton. They dropped five points at home in the last three weeks and are just a point above Arsenal for fourth. It appears everyone’s favorite underdog may be coming back to earth a bit at just the wrong time. HOLD ON, SOUTHAMPTON! 13 MATCHES TO GO! YOU CAN DO THIS!

Liverpool have gotten things back on track after their first few months of the season were an absolute school bus fire. They only have one loss in their last 17 in all competitions and have gotten match-winners from Mario Balotelli in two of their last three matches. So everything should be gravy at Anfield, right?

Ha, no. Of course not. In Thursday’s Europa League match, Liverpool won a penalty late in a 0-0 match. Jordan Henderson, the acting captain since Steven Gerrard was out, grabbed the ball with the intent on taking the penalty, despite not being all that great at them. Mario Balotelli, who I honestly don’t think he has ever missed a penalty, in a match or in training, blindfolded or otherwise, drunk or sober, rightfully grabbed the ball from him, set it down and scored a world class penalty for the 1-0 win. The players must be ecstatic with the win, right?

Ha, no. Of course not. Henderson acted like a little kid who got his binky stolen at daycare and sulked. And Gerrard, again, the Liverpool CAPTAIN, was doing TV commentary for the match* rips Mario on the broadcast! A captain blasting his teammate for scoring a match-winner. You can’t make it up! Even if Gerrard took exception to what Mario did, which he shouldn’t, manager Brendan Rodgers has explicitly said that Mario is to take the kick anytime Gerrard himself isn’t on the field, then you do it behind closed doors.

*Has a guy ever done TV commentary for a game his team is playing in? It isn’t like Gerrard suffered a season-ending injury and has nothing else to do. Bizzare.

Should be a pleasant locker room Sunday at St Mary’s Stadium!

You typically don’t like to call a mid-February match a must-win, but for Liverpool’s top-4 chances, it basically is. Due to the aforementioned school bus fire, they have very little margin for error, especially against the other teams above them. Remember, Liverpool’s goal-differential (7) is so far behind Southampton (21) and Arsenal/Manchester United (19) that they are even further behind the proverbial 8-ball.

A win from either side would be considered a big statement in their quest for European immortality. A loss would be a big blow to either’s chances. So what does that mean?! A draw is unfortunately the most likely result. But I will be bold and say the visitors take all three points despite the fact they all hate the guy that won the match for them three days prior.

Alright, that’ll do it for this week. Can’t believe there are only 12 matches left after this weekend. As good ol JR used to say whenever Stone Cold Steve Austin came to the ring, business is about to pick up and it’s about to pick up right now.

Wait, that didn’t feel right. Let me try it again. As good ol’ JR used to say whenever Stone Cold Steve Austin came to the ring, BUSINESS IS ABOUT TO PICK UP AND IT’S ABOUT TO PICK UP RIGHT NOW! BAH GOD, KING! ONLY 12 MATCHES LEFT?! WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN!?!

That’s better.

Until next time, keep your crosses crisp and headers down.

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