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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Sadly, this isn't Flip Saunders riding a unicycle and juggling basketballs in 1975 (update)

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 4:13pm 279472632

Patrick Fenelon blew our mind with tweeted footage that he said shows Wolves coach Flip Saunders, during his Gophers basketball playing days in 1975, riding a unicycle and juggling basketballs.

Sadly, it appears as though it’s too good to be true. A little further digging indicates it is almost certainly Mike Monson on the unicycle in the footage you see below.

From an Oct. 16, 1974 Associated Press story that ran in the Bemidji Pioneer under the headline “Unicyclist stars with University of Minnesota Basketball Team” it identifies Monson, of Golden Valley, as the juggling unicyclist who convinced then-coach Bill Musselman to incorporate him into the Gophers’ elaborate pregame routine. He honed his act, the story said, after watching George Schauer perform ball-handling feats the previous year in the warmups.

It’s too bad it’s not Flip. If he could re-enact this during halftime of a Wolves game, this would instantly replace the retiring Red Panda as our favorite. Then again, it looks as though George Schauer was still doing his act as of a few years ago, albeit not on a unicycle.

In any event, here is the entire 20-minute video of pregame warmups the Gophers used to do, which includes Monson on the unicycle a little after five minutes in. All of it is awesome, regardless of who is doing what.

 

Guest Post: Rocket fixes the NHL playoff format

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 1:22pm 279458912

rocketCommenter Rocket writes about the NHL in this space every week because he fears that we will ignore it otherwise in favor of an additional NBA post. He’s not wrong. Rocket?

—————–

Luckily, we have reached a point in history when there is next to no disagreement in humankind.  As a species, we’ve pretty much solved politics and religion, and we are all generally in agreement as to the greatest song ever made, the greatest film ever made, and the most romantic wedding picture of all time.

Unfortunately, there are still some issues to which there is no consensus among the whole world.  One of these rare, unfortunate subjects that you shouldn’t bring up at family gatherings is the NHL playoffs.  Last year, the NHL altered the playoff structure to a hybrid of the more recent conference-heavy structure and the previous division-heavy model.

This Solomonesque decision is not just unnecessarily confusing, it completely squanders an opportunity for real innovation.  Both the conference and division format are relics of a time when travel was more difficult.  But in today’s world, of chartered flights, high speed interwebs, and horseless carriages, an event as important as the playoffs should truly reward the best teams without as much needless devotion to geography.

But what about the rivalries, you ask?  Isn’t it fun, as a Minnesota sports fan, to imagine years worth of guaranteed playoff series against Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, and other teams we hate?  Sure, fine, maybe some of that is OK, but this system tries too hard, punishes good teams (and the better conference) for no other reason than being geographically close to other good teams, and denies other potential natural rivalries to occur.  For example, the best rivalry in hockey and maybe in all of sports in the late 90s/early 2000s was Detroit/Colorado.  True rivalries occur because two good teams meet each other regularly in big games, not because they are often forced together based on proximity.

So, what’s the answer?

I’m glad you asked.

Since we have divisions and since the hockey-loving public will freak out if they were completely dismantled, the first round of the NHL playoffs should be a purely intra-divisional affair.  Once the first round is finished, the playoffs should be reseeded based purely on record, with no regard for divisions or conference.  Each subsequent round would be the same, with the higher seed always playing the lower seed.  Under this new, much better plan last year’s first round would have looked like this:

First round

Boston (117 points) v. Detroit (93)

Tampa Bay (101) v. Montreal (100)

Pittsburgh (109) v. Columbus (93)

NY Rangers (96) v. Philadelphia (94)

Anaheim (116) v. Phoenix (89)

San Jose (111) v. Los Angeles (100)

Colorado (112) v. Minnesota (98)

St. Louis (111) v. Chicago (107)

Last year Dallas was the second wild card with 91 points and jumped divisions, earning the spot that Phoenix (now Arizona) would have had in my system and creating an imbalance.  But they lost in the first round, so, assuming the same first round winners, this is how the rest of the playoffs could have looked like under my much better format.  For the sake of argument, the team with the highest point total will win each round.

Second Round

Boston (117) v. NY Rangers (96)

Anaheim (116) v. Minnesota (98)

Pittsburgh (109) v. Los Angeles (100)

Chicago (107) v. Montreal (100) (identical record with LA/ better goals for)

My system produces two “original 6” matchups, as well as an intriguing “irresistible force/immovable object” series between Pittsburgh and LA.  While MIN/ANA is the least attractive matchup, fans of the two teams will remember that they played in an improbable, important series a few years back.

Third Round

Boston (117) v. Chicago (107)

Anaheim (116) v. Pittsburgh (109)

Again, we have an always popular “original 6” matchup and another series between two highly skilled teams.

Stanley Cup Finals

Boston (117) v. Anaheim (116)

While this system produces a traditional east-west final, it still rewarded the better teams for being better without punishing them for being in exceptionally tough divisions.  It also forces teams in the east occasionally have to endure the more punishing travel that western teams face.  Finally, it offers the possibility of new and exciting playoff matchups.  There is no reason why the NHL needs to face an unfair system on its teams simply because of geography and the playoffs should be changed immediately.

In short, call me, Gary Bettman.

P.S.  The whole world also agrees that Stu’s favorite song is terrible.

Thursday (Developing schism in U.S. soccer) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 10:00am 279428692

garberWhat we appear to have developing in United States soccer between the coach of the national team and the commissioner of the top pro league is a good ol’ fashioned soccer ball measuring contest.

National team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was recently critical of Major League Soccer, suggesting that Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley would be better off still playing in Europe than returning home to MLS, which they did this season.

While nobody would argue the quality in, say, the English Premier League is better than it is here, MLS Commissioner Don Garber has basically had enough of Klinsmann’s bashing. He told ESPN.com:

I believe what he’s saying is that the players that have come back — [Bradley] and [Dempsey] specifically — have seen their form diminish because of their move to MLS,” he said. “I don’t believe that is true at all.”

If it had ended there, it probably would have just been a case of two guys sticking up for what they believe is best. Maybe they have opposing views, even though they are both pulling in a general direction of improving soccer in the United States.

But Garber took it to another level when he dove into Landon Donovan territory.

“I don’t know what could have possibly motivated Jurgen to so publicly criticize Michael Bradley, and ultimately Clint,” he said. “It’s concerning to me that it seems to be following a pattern that began with his criticism of Landon.”

Garber later added, “I believe that Landon should have been in Brazil, not because he earned it or deserved it, but because his performance dictated it, and if anybody disagrees with that … then I believe his treatment was inexcusable. And I have concerns that his criticism, particularly of Michael, is following that same pattern. If Jurgen wants to talk to Michael about what he believes is in the best interests of his career, go ahead and do that, but don’t use a global media platform to do that.

Interesting stuff, and it means that even though Garber says he and Klinsmann have a good relationship … well, we’re not sure if we entirely believe that. And we eagerly await the response from Klinsmann, who has never been shy about speaking his mind.

Here's how the Twins' opening day payroll ranked in MLB, from 1998-2014

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 16th at 6:40am 279355412

Here’s a very basic web site that has some very good information all in one place: the opening day payrolls of every MLB team from 1998-present.

That has allowed us to show you where the Twins have ranked every year during that span:

1998: 24th

1999: 29th

2000: 30th (last)

2001: 30th (last)

2002: 27th

2003: 18th

2004: 19th

2005: 20th

2006: 19th

2007: 18th

2008: 25th

2009: 24th

2010: 11th

2011: 9th

2012: 13th

2013: 22nd

2014: 24th

What do these numbers tell us? Well, there are nuances — but here are some things we think they tell us as we go back through the years:

*When they were constantly rebuilding and not even trying to compete in the late 1990s/2000, the payroll reflected it.

*When they won their first division title in 2002 with a very young core, they got away with a dirt cheap roster.

*When the Twins kept winning in the mid-2000s and some of their better young players started making more money, their payroll jumped from bottom of the barrel to lower-middle (18th-20th from 2003-07).

*Without Johan Santana and Torii Hunter in 2008, the payroll again dipped as the Twins successfully rebuilt on the fly — hence getting away with lower payrolls with a new young core even though both seasons featured a Game 163 (one win, one loss).

*When the Twins moved into Target Field, some of those players were due to get paid, while the organization was suddenly flush with cash for the first time. Free agents came in. Payroll climbed to higher levels than at any other time from 2010-12 — one very good season and two other dreadful seasons.

*In the past two seasons, in the midst of a rebuild, the Twins scaled back the payroll as they went with younger players.

In short: The Twins have had the most success during this span when they develop successful young cores with modest payrolls. When they have run into trouble is when their young players aren’t ready to compete yet (recent seasons, plus the late 1990s) or when a high-budget veteran roster all falls apart at once (2011, 2012).

The Twins in 2015 figure to be around 25th in the majors in payroll. If things go exceedingly well and next year is a lot like 2001 (a young core blossoming at once), they will likely get away with a couple more years of lower payrolls while still being competitive until those young players get paid and bump the payroll back toward the middle of the pack. If the Twins’ brass is feeling particularly good about those teams, they might make a short-term run at some higher-priced players and bump the payroll into the top-10 range, though they will certainly be wary of the lessons learned in 2011.

Here are some of the dumbest things athletes have stolen over the years

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 15th at 2:43pm 279330502

crablegsCowboys RB Joseph Randle was busted recently for shoplifting underwear and cologne from a department store.

This is frighteningly dumb behavior, of course — and he ended up being find nearly $30K by his team for attempting to steal merchandise worth about a hundred bucks. He makes half a million dollars a year, so we can only assume this was some sort of dare or compulsion.

But he’s not alone!

Athletes have been stealing dumb things for years. Here is a small roundup of things we found with only the most cursory of Internet searches:

*Chris Nilan, a former NHL player, was arrested on a charge of stealing a bathing suit.

*MLB pitcher Mike Leake, in 2011, was arrested on a charge of stealing six shirts with a total value of less than $60.

*Two Oregon basketball players, just last month, were arrested for shoplifting from a grocery store in Eugene.

*That followed hot on the heels of Jameis Winston and his crab legs.

So the next time you read about an athlete stealing something they should really pay for, don’t be surprised.

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San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
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Cleveland
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Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 114 FINAL
LA Lakers 108
LA Clippers 107 FINAL
Golden State 125
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
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(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
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(16) Nebraska
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(11) Kansas State
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(23) Marshall
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(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
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(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
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Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
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Missouri
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Utah State
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UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
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TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
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Hawaii
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