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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Here's my best guess on the Vikings' first round draft strategy and Peterson

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 29th at 7:32am 301594271

spielmanVikings General Manager Rick Spielman just concluded his pre-draft media availability. Not much he said was terribly surprising, some of it was pretty interesting and none of it really changed my opinion of what the Vikings are likely to do in the first round Thursday and with Adrian Peterson going forward.

On Peterson: Spielman said, “Our position has not changed since all of the statements we’ve made at the owners meetings. …. I think (head coach Mike) Zimmer made it clear we have no interest in trading Adrian Peterson, and we don’t.”

But Spielman was asked flat-out if he is NOT going to trade Peterson, and he would not say that. As such, it remains important to note the semantic distinction between saying “no interest” in trading Peterson and “not” trading Peterson. He answered questions about Peterson very carefully and showered praise on his agent, Ben Dogra, when asked specifically about him.

All of it feels like a calculated smokescreen at this point, and I remain convinced that the Vikings will trade Peterson this offseason. This is based on my gut and on how similar situations (Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Percy Harvin) have played out in the past. Spielman did nothing to dissuade that opinion Tuesday.

On the first round: Spielman flat-out said he doesn’t want to trade up and that he would like to trade down and accumulate picks. In this case, I think we should believe him.

He said he thinks the value of players in the 7-20 range in this draft is fairly close together and made a good point about an extra trade enticement the Vikings have with the No. 11 pick: every first-round pick gets a four-year contract with a fifth-year option, but for picks 1-10 that option year is potentially more expensive. Pick 11 is the first one for which the price drops (this MMQB piece explains it). A team with an eye on a future salary cap and a specific need at No. 11 could be more motivated to deal with the Vikings than a team in the top 10.

Spielman also said the team has analyzed draft value and “sweet spots” in the draft with the help of an outside analytics consultant. That kind of predraft work could give Spielman and the Vikings the kind of specific information and game plan they would be driven to execute.

Spielman talked of the risks of moving too far down, which are fairly obvious: you risk missing out on a player or cluster of players you want. My guess is the Vikings won’t move more than 5-6 spots down, but I think Spielman will do everything in his power to trade down and get more picks. The best thing that could happen is that one of the two top QBs slides that far and that a QB-hungry team like, say, Houston at No. 16 or even the Chargers (if they trade Philip Rivers) at No. 17 want to jump in.

But there is value all over the board at No. 11, and if Spielman really believes the top-end value stretches as far as No. 20, he could make a deal with any team with any specific need.

The Vikings only have 7 picks in the draft. Spielman covets more. The best way is to make a move with that first-round pick, and I came away from Tuesday’s news conference convinced the Vikings will wind up picking somewhere between, say, 14-18 by the time Thursday’s first round is said and done, picking up another decent pick and late pick in the process. Maybe they even flip it twice, depending on who comes calling and who is left on the board.

Once the dealing is done, the Vikings will wind up with an offensive lineman or a pass rusher with their top pick.

How will the Vikings get that bonus first round-pick they’ve enjoyed in the last three seasons (seven total first-round picks in those three years)? Go ahead and let your Peterson imagination run wild …

Wild fans frustrated by delay in release of playoff schedule

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 28th at 11:12am 301553001

stanleycup2The Wild finished off the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL playoffs at about 5 p.m. Sunday. As of writing this specific sentence, it is 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. We’ve known the opponent for the second-round series (Chicago) all along. What we don’t know — and what becomes more frustrating by the minute — is when any of these games will be played.

Fans who hoped the schedule would be released Sunday after Game 6 concluded were mildly annoyed when that didn’t happen. They kept asking … and asking … and asking … but nothing changed. Sunday gave way to Monday. Surely, by Monday, the league would announce the schedule.

As Monday morning became Monday afternoon and then Monday night, annoyance turned to outright frustration. This is probably the point when a lot of fans started to realize (or remember) that they aren’t the top priority in all of this. If they were, a schedule would be out already, and fans would be able to start constructing their weeks around playoff viewing and gearing up to buy tickets. Because while the playoffs are a big deal, they are not the only thing going on in most of our lives.

Rather, there are numerous factors at play here. TV drives so much of it, and by virtue of the Lightning defeating the Red Wings on Monday — forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday and undoubtedly bringing a smile to Twins pitcher Phil Hughes’ face — there is still one series going on … giving the powers that be an excuse to keep on dragging this out while they consider how all the time slots should fit together to wring every last dollar out of these playoffs.

Arena availability is another issue, and here again the Wild and its fans got a tough break Monday. The Bucks won in Chicago, extending that NBA playoff series to a sixth game. Had the Bulls won, the series would be over — and their second-round series (with home games at United Center, the shared arena of the Bulls and Blackhawks) could start coming into focus. Instead, there is the possibility of a Game 7 back in Chicago on Saturday … plus a slate of potential second-round games still up in the air.

Also complicating matters: the NFL draft is in Chicago this year, and the glitzy first round is slated for Thursday while the rest goes on Friday and Saturday. Would the NHL really want to compete in that city with such a huge event by having Game 1 on Thursday in Chicago, even though the arena is available?

The best guess all along has been that the series will open Friday in Chicago, with Game 2 there on Sunday with home games at the X on Tuesday and Thursday.

But those are all just guesses, still, more than 40 hours after the end of the last Wild series. If you’re a fan or media member annoyed that you don’t know yet how to proceed, imagine what it’s like to be a player.

Surely we’ll all know today. (Fingers crossed).

TFD: Wild fan talks on Twitter about rescheduling wedding around Game 1

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 28th at 10:12am 301475651

The Wild/Blackhawks series schedule, as of 4:45 p.m Monday stillllllllll isn’t ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutttttt.

This is an irritant for some of us, either personally or professionally (especially Russo, who not only has to make travel plans and crank out stories but also has to field 800 questions every minute about the schedule).

But for one guy on Twitter, it appears to have bigger implications:

I asked him if he was serious, but I haven’t heard back. What I do know is this: He’d never forget Friday, May 1, 2015, when the Wild went into Chicago and took Game 1 against the Blackhawks. Best day of his life. Update: He’s not serious (for the most part):

Idea: The Vikings should retire Brett Favre's number this year before the Packers do

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 27th at 7:04pm 301460411

favre

This is not my idea. Others had it before me, and specifically I’m stealing it from FSN’s Tyler Mason, who tweeted:

I’m officially obsessed with this idea — not because it would ever happen and not even because the Vikings would or should consider retiring Favre’s jersey.

It’s just that I relished the awkward relationship between many Packers fans and Favre that developed during his bitter divorce from the team and launched into a new stratosphere when he joined the Vikings after a year with the Jets.

Ultimately, the correct and polite thing is for the sides to mend fences. Favre is an all-time Packers great, a fan favorite for so many years, and enough time has passed for both to forgive and forget.

Unless … the Vikings creep in right before the Packers retire his jersey this year and — as Tyler suggests — retire his No. 4 in a ceremony in a game just four days earlier, when Green Bay is in town.

Brett doesn’t even need to be there or acknowledge it, but you know he couldn’t stay away. They could have it in a parking lot for all I care. If you want to rekindle this bad blood and never let it die, here is your vehicle.

Monday (Resurgence of Joe Mauer) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 27th at 1:28pm 301441671

mauer

Here are some things we presume to know about Joe Mauer:

1) His 28 homer season of 2009 was the outlier. He will never approach that figure again, and there’s a good chance he won’t be an MVP-level hitter again. He recently turned 32 and he has a concussion history. He’s on the downside of his prime.

2) Last year, when taken as a whole, was a bad Mauer season — and compared other first baseman, it was just a bad year at the plate, period. That the Twins finished 7th in MLB in runs scored with their best hitter having a down season was truly remarkable.

3) But yes, Mauer still qualifies as the team’s best hitter. He’s obviously their most expensive player, too, but nothing is going to change that. His $23 million contract, though 2018, is what it is.

4) Even Mauer coming down the backside of his career, though, could be a pretty good hitter. We got a look at it in his final 44 games a season ago, when after coming off the DL for an oblique injury he hit .289 with a .397 OBP and an .805 OPS.

That’s more or less the Mauer we’ve seen so far this season: .392 OBP and a .299 average, both boosted by a three-hit game Sunday in which he delivered two runs-scoring extra-base hits, including a game-winning triple in the 11th.

If that’s the Mauer we see over the course of this season — and for at least most of the duration of the rest of his contract — I’m willing to bet the Twins will be happy with that. Fans will still harp on the lack of homers (zero this year), but if he can get back to 45-50 extra base hits every year, get on base and knock in runs, he is not an MVP but he is a very valuable hitter.

As hitters like Kennys Vargas, Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia and Brian Dozier — guys who fueled an offensive surge last year — struggle early, it’s Mauer who has carried a good part of the load. If those guys turn things around and Mauer is still rolling at a good clip, the offense could be downright dangerous.

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Cincinnati - WP: M. Lorenzen 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: J. Locke 1
Miami - WP: M. Latos 2 FINAL
Washington - LP: S. Strasburg 1
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 6 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Estrada 3
Philadelphia - LP: C. Billingsley 0 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: S. Miller 9
Baltimore - LP: B. Norris 2 FINAL
NY Mets - WP: B. Colon 3
Tampa Bay - LP: D. Smyly 0 FINAL
Boston - WP: R. Porcello 2
Los Angeles - WP: Z. Greinke 8 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Garza 2
Cleveland - LP: D. Salazar 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Vargas 5
Detroit - LP: S. Greene 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Samardzija 5
Oakland - WP: J. Chavez 2 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 1
Texas - WP: W. Rodriguez 7 FINAL
Houston - LP: S. Feldman 1
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Harris 7
Arizona 0 Postponed
Colorado 0
Seattle - LP: D. Leone 4 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: H. Street 5
San Diego - LP: A. Cashner 0 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong 6
Washington 90 FINAL
Atlanta 106
Memphis 97 FINAL
Golden State 90
Chicago 1 FINAL
Minnesota 0
Anaheim 3 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Houston 0

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