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 (Cheap Gophers/Michigan tickets a promotional accident) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 23rd at 10:15am 276465691

Getting fans in the stands can be a challenge for various college football programs, including the Gophers. But Michigan? The Big House is usually full and rocking without much help.

As such, fans must have been pretty surprised to learn they could get two tickets to Saturday’s Gophers/Michigan game in Ann Arbor — face value of $75 each — for just the price of two Cokes at a Michigan convenience store.

Fans pounced on the deal, of course — which turned out to be a botched promotion. Per the Michigan Daily:

The Athletic Department later said in a statement that the promotion was run mistakenly.

“Coke as a partner of ours … purchased a limited block of tickets for the Minnesota game for a Coke retail activation aimed at Michigan students,” the release said. “Due to a miscommunication in the approval process, this promotion should not have run as is. As a result, it is being pulled immediately. However all purchases to date will be honored by Coke.”

The promotion sold out at about 7:45 p.m. at the U-go’s in the Union.

Nothing this cool ever happened to us while we were in college in Minnesota, though it was the mid-to-late 1990s and we could wear all the flannel we wanted without fear of reprisal, so it all evens out.

TFD: Joking aside, it's good MLB is studying pace of play

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 22nd at 6:29pm 276380711

An obvious punchline came along with the news Monday that MLB has formed a committee to study pace of play.

The other members are Mets general manager Sandy Alderson; MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark; Red Sox partner Michael Gordon; COO and Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred; MLB executive vice president, baseball operations Joe Torre; and Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.

Two guys from the Red Sox and the former Yankees manager (not to mention Clark, who played for the Yankees and Red Sox)? Guys who never met a game their teams couldn’t extend with ceaseless pitching changes, foul balls and batting gloves that weren’t quite adjusted right?

Once we’re past the comic relief, though, there is this: It’s at least a positive sign that MLB recognizes it has a pace of play problem, and a committee to study ways to fix it has the potential to be a step in the right direction depending on how far they want to go.

We’re guessing they won’t go far enough — we advocate for drastic measures such as a pitch clock (used in some college games) and a rule that gives teams the chance to make only one mid-inning pitching change per game — but big change usually starts small, particularly with a tradition-guarding sport like baseball.

Anything that promises to address the molasses-slow pace of games by the start of next season is a good thing.

Mid-day talker: Vikings offense making the worst of a bad situation

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 23rd at 6:56am 276196291

Since Week 1′s convincing victory over the Rams, in which the Vikings looked crisp and smart on both sides of the ball, they’ve lost Adrian Peterson, starting QB Matt Cassel and — from the sound of it — tight end Kyle Rudolph for considerable amounts of time.

They’ve also managed just one TD and 16 total points in that two-game span, both losses that appeared winnable with functional offensive play.

The depletion of personnel can be viewed as both an explanation and an excuse — different versions of the same sentiment, really — for the Vikings’ poor offensive showings against the Patriots and Saints.

What seems fair to say is this: The Vikings — both players and offensive coordinator Norv Turner — have made the worst of a bad situation.

Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater performed decently in relief of Cassel on Sunday, but he produced zero touchdowns. The running backs filling in for Peterson don’t lack effort, but they haven’t come close to replacing him. Turner, for his part, seems either reluctant to open up the play book with some more downfield passes or has quarterbacks who don’t feel comfortable letting it go in his scheme. Either way, its resulted in a more predictable offense than the one we imagined we would see (and the one we were told we would see) from Turner. It has, at many times, been positively Musgrave-esque.

Offensive players in the locker room Monday said it was a matter of eliminating mistakes — there always seems to be one player (not the same player) off on a play — while continuing to put in the work. Wide receiver Jarius Wright talked of how the offense showed its potential in the preseason, though he also acknowledged that doesn’t mean much now.

We often learn the most from ourselves and others during times of adversity. This certainly qualifies as such a time for the Vikings. It’s early, but so far all we’ve learned is that a tough time can, in fact, get worse.

Monday (Ex-Twins excel in National League) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 22nd at 1:58pm 276059851

denardWe write this with the knowledge that hindsight is 20/20, that different circumstances led to where we are now and that scoring runs hasn’t been the Twins’ problem this season.

We will even acknowledge that some of the moves the Twins made with players we are about to describe were for the right reasons — building back up a depleted minor league pitching prospect roster.

All that said, my goodness, would you look at all the former Twins, most of them on offense, who are having big years.

Three of the top eight hitters in the NL, in terms of batting average, are ex-Twins (Justin Morneau, Ben Revere and Denard Span), while Carlos Gomez is No. 25. If batting average isn’t your thing, Morneau (fifth) and Gomez (17th) are up there in OPS.

That doesn’t even get into Michael Cuddyer, last year’s NL batting champ, who is hitting .333 and has homered in his last three games but doesn’t qualify on any leaderboards because injuries have limited his at bats this season.

On the pitching side, Vance Worley is 8-4 with a 2.93 ERA after throwing eight shutout innings Sunday for the Pirates. Francisco Liriano’s win total has regressed this season with the Pirates, but his 3.45 ERA in 151 innings would look mighty fine for the Twins.

Span and Revere were traded for pitching prospects, moves that made sense for a team going nowhere. Cuddyer left as a free agent, while Morneau was traded away. Both needed fresh starts. Worley was a disaster here, while Liriano was an enigma.

Still, it’s hard to look at what those players are producing now and not wonder 1) what that would have looked like on the 2014 Twins and/or 2) why some of those players weren’t as productive here as they have been elsewhere.

With pitchers, we can say the league switch makes some difference, but that’s also a little overblown. League average ERA in the NL this season is 3.67; in the AL, it’s 3.85. We’re pretty sure the Twins would take what Worley and Liriano have given the Pirates, even with a couple tenths of a run added on.

Vikings Postgame Meltdown: Bridgewater, third downs and a terrible call

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 22nd at 6:05am 275941761

1) If the Vikings wanted a diversion from the “distraction” of Adrian Peterson, it arrived Sunday when Matt Cassel was carted off the field with a toe injury. In came rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, and suddenly a juicy on-field story had emerged.

How did the rookie fare in the Vikings’ 20-9 loss to the Saints? Well, it was a mixed bag. The raw numbers — 12 for 20, 150 yards, no turnovers — were quite nice, particularly for a debut. Bridgewater usually looked composed, particularly in the face of some heavy rushes. On the other hand, this is a touchdown league and call Bridgewater could produce in roughly three quarters of football were a pair of field goals.

Maybe some of that falls on offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who looked a little conservative (again) Sunday. We get that Peterson isn’t around to carry the ball and take on the focus of a defense, but Cordarrelle Patterson and co. could still be used in more dynamic ways.

We’d say some of it falls on Bridgewater, too, though. He had the chance to make some plays and missed. It was a promising beginning for a rookie QB, but also an uneven one.

2) The biggest stat of the day came on the Saints’ third-down conversion rate. The Vikings under Mike Zimmer had been quite good in that category in the first two weeks of the season, allowing opposing offenses to convert just 9 of 28 third downs into first downs — in line with what Zimmer had consistently accomplished as D coordinator with the Bengals.

That all fell apart Sunday, though, as the Saints converted 9 of 13 third downs into first downs. That detracted from what was, at times, an impressive defensive effort (particularly after a terrible start).

The NFL is built on three things right now: turnovers (neither team had any), converting on third down (the Saints trumped the Vikings on Sunday) and cashing in scoring chances for TDs instead of FGs (the Saints had three TDs, the Vikings had three FGs on Sunday).

3) Speaking of third down, though, the Vikings should have been off the field on a critical third down in the second half. With New Orleans up 13-9 and facing third and long, Captain Munnerlyn blitzed off the corner, wrapped up Drew Brees and threw him to the ground. Apparently he did this with too much gusto for the refs because it earned him a flag — a penalty that was complete garbage and could be looked at as a turning point. Instead of punting, the Saints used turned the gift into a scoring drive that proved to be the game’s final TD.

We understand the need to protect quarterbacks in an increasingly violent game, but here’s the thing: if Munnerlyn eases up there, Brees might escape and complete a pass. What is a defensive player supposed to do? Quarterbacks are stronger and more elusive than ever. Munnerlyn is doing anything he can to bring down a bigger player (yes, even Brees is bigger than the Captain).

Munnerlyn said postgame that he felt he let his teammates down. That’s the right thing to say, but the truth is the game let the Vikings down. The league wants to have it both ways. And in doing so, the Vikings were cheated out of a big third down stop.

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