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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Mid-day talker: Cassel over Bridgewater is both boring and smart

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 25th at 1:15pm 272595691

CASSELCASTLE

Based on three preseason games, the Vikings weren’t going to embarrass themselves regardless of which quarterback they chose as their starter going into the season. Both Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater have played pretty well in the tune-ups, meaning the decision for new coach Mike Zimmer could ultimately come down to which was the smarter play.

Zimmer doesn’t seem like a boring guy, but he does seem like someone who calculates the percentages and makes corresponding decisions. That can lead to some moves that are both boring and smart — and naming Cassel as the starter over Bridgewater fits into that category.

It’s boring because we know what Cassel can do. He’s a veteran who offers stability and the chance to give the team average QB play — something the Vikings haven’t had with consistency for several years. Bridgewater is the exciting rookie full of potential. Since this team is rebuilding, why not roll the dice right away?

Well, because the decision to start Cassel is smart for the same reason it is boring. You start with the known commodity against a tough early slate of games — three of five on the road, against teams with aggressive defenses, top QBs or both — because you know what you’re getting. You also do it because if he succeeds, he can keep the job while Bridgewater keeps learning. And if he fails, the switch to Bridgewater is seamless (the fifth game, against the Packers, is on a Thursday and therefore offers a long stretch afterward to prepare should the Vikings want to make a move then).

If you start with Bridgewater, you could catch lightning in a bottle. But if he fails early, it’s much harder to go from the rookie to the veteran than vice-versa. It’s common sense. A rookie coach doesn’t want to start 0-5 or 1-4 with a rookie quarterback. Then nobody looks good. If the coach starts that way with a veteran, there is still hope on the way. Zimmer’s comments seem to indicate he’s even thinking along these lines. Per Access Vikings, here are a pair of quotes from Zimmer:

“It wasn’t just about the quarterbacks. It’s not always the best player at that position — and I’m not saying that Matt’s not. … It’s all about how everything works together. And at this stage, where we’re at right now, it’s the best thing to do.”

“We will hold the quarterback position to the exact same expectations as we do every other position. If you perform, you play. If you don’t, then somebody else will get an opportunity at some point.”

It sure sounds like Cassel is the starter for now, and our guess is that he has a five-game audition. It might make the early part of the season a little less interesting than if Bridgewater had the keys from the start, but sometimes boring and smart go hand in hand.

Monday (The Great Baseball Road Trip) Edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 25th at 9:39am 272568251

collageThe 15th consecutive incarnation of the Great Baseball Road Trip ended a little over a week ago, which is appropriate because it allowed us the chance to properly recover. As we’ve probably mentioned before, we’ve been taking this trip with a rotating but consistent cast of characters since 2000. A few of the other participants have been on anywhere from 7-10 trips. A few have been on a couple, and a few have just been one-timers. But we’ve been on all 15 — traveling the country to see ballgames in major and minor league parks every summer. These trips used to last around 7-9 days, but kids and busy schedules have condensed them recently into four day sprints (even carving out four days, it seems, is a minor miracle).

This year’s starting itinerary was as such:

Thursday — Vikings training camp, then a Class A game in Burlington, Iowa.

Friday — Morning golf, then a Cardinals game in St. Louis.

Saturday — Morning golf, then a Class A game in Quad Cities.

Sunday — Field of Dreams in Iowa, then return home.

But as much as the road trip is planned, it often turns out to be the things that are not planned that stick out in our memory. That’s not particularly surprising, since it’s always been that way in our life — and we imagine in the lives of others. When we are taken out of our element, off the charted path, we encounter the moments that are the most vivid.

Three examples from this year’s trip:

Friday: We were ahead of schedule on the way to St. Louis, meaning we had a couple of hours that were unaccounted for while driving — that is, until, we saw a sign for a “family fun center” off the highway. We slammed on the brakes and veered toward the off-ramp, giving sleeping passenger Jon Marthaler a near-heart attack in the back seat. But it was worth it. Let’s talk about it: Mini-bowling, laser tag, air hockey, basketball and bumper cars. Just us and about 30 or 40 kids. The laser tag was by far the highlight because, well, confession: we had never played laser tag. Someone should have told us how great it was because now we want to go back. Birthday party? We almost stayed too long and wound up arriving at our Busch Stadium seats right at the start of the game.

Saturday: At the Quad Cities game, there was a Ferris Wheel in left field. Yes, inside the stadium. What a country! Our other road trip attendee, Rocket, had the idea that we should go up in it, naturally. Only he didn’t remind everyone that he is terrified of heights until we actually climbed inside. Jon proceeded to laugh maniacally, but it all worked out for the best — including one of those two pictures you see (no, not the creepy one of us in the corn, the other one).

Sunday: Because of some work entanglements for both Jon and Rocket, we weren’t sure what we would be able to accomplish Sunday, the final day of the trip. The original itinerary had us going to the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa, then possibly golfing again or attending a town ball game in Minnesota. We quickly realized the timing wouldn’t work for town ball, but then we also discovered Cedar Rapids had a game at 2 p.m., which was just about the perfect time. A discussion of whether to go to Field of Dreams or Cedar Rapids from Quad Cities quickly evolved into a scheme to do both. And, of course, we pulled it off because that’s what the GBRT does.

Had we not made it to Cedar Rapids, we wouldn’t have seen the most bizarre ending to a baseball game one could imagine. With the game tied 4-4 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Logan Wade for the Kernels hit a ball that rolled into right field. He caught a piece of the catcher’s glove upon contact, meaning he was going to reach base regardless because of interference, but it’s still a live ball. Peoria’s fielder’s slowed up, and Wade rounded first and turned it into a hustle catcher’s interference double. But wait, it gets weirder. He advanced to third on a wild pitch. After that batter walked, Peoria attempted to intentionally walk the next batter. But on the first pitch of that attempted intentional walk, there was another wild pitch and Wade scored the winning run.

So yes, that’s how the trip ended. The home teams went 4-0, with the final game decided on catcher’s interference and two wild pitches with two outs in the ninth.

We arrived home at around 10 p.m. Sunday. That was a little over a week ago. We have sufficiently recovered, we think — quite possibly enough to write an optimistic Wolves post soon.

What if the Vikings could win the Super Bowl, but you couldn't watch?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 18th at 9:47am 271107641

mossThe annual Great Baseball Road Trip is almost upon us. Everything lined up just right for us to somehow keep a tradition alive that has been going every year since 2000 and carve out four days despite having a 4-month-old at home (whom we will miss terribly, mind you).

We’re also out next week for what amounts in part to a “staycation,” so this prelude is a long-winded way of saying don’t expect regular posts here again until Aug. 25 after today. We’ll jump on with some exploits from the road, we imagine, and next week there will probably be things here and there that we can’t resist.

But yes, back to the road trip: We’re hitting Vikings training camp tomorrow morning, then a minor league game in Burlington, Iowa, tomorrow night. Friday is a St. Louis Cardinals game (never been to the new Busch Stadium), Saturday is Quad Cities, Sunday is the Field of Dreams in Iowa and hopefully a little bit of the town ball tournament in Minnesota before returning home. Golf and other shenanigans are also in play. We’ll probably collapse when it’s all over, but in a good way.

Thinking about the road trip and Vikings camp reminded us of a long conversation with regular GBRT attendee Rocket during a past trip. We had a long walk to Wrigley, and to fill the void we debated this question:

What if the Vikings were guaranteed to win the Super Bowl this season?

[You can tell this is fiction already].

But here’s the catch: You couldn’t watch any of their games this year, including the Super Bowl … and they would never win another Super Bowl during your lifetime. If you had this magic potion to make it happen, would you?

This was about three or four years ago, and we’re honestly still torn. We don’t know. It boils down to just how bad you want the curse lifted and what price you would pay to make it happen.

We look forward to your thoughts in the comment. The next time you hear from us, we’ll likely be in Iowa so send good wishes please.

[Fantastic Super Bowl Homeboy shirt designed by local graphic artist Nate Schimelpfenig].

Wednesday (Bridgewater or Cassel?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 13th at 9:51am 271075841

bridgewatercasselThe Vikings are in the midst of one of those great sports dilemmas — the kind where there is no perfect answer, we can talk in circles for hours, and most of it is meaningless [redacted] serving as a pleasant diversion from riots, wars and deadly viruses.

The interesting thing about the Teddy Bridgewater vs. Matt Cassel debate is that for all the dalliances the Vikings have had with QB controversies, we can’t remember one that had quite so many good arguments on both sides — at least when it comes to the question of “who should be the week 1 starter?”

When Christian Ponder was a rookie first-round pick in 2011, he was coming off a lockout shortened offseason. There was no good reason for him to start right away (even if the default alternative was Donovan McNabb). Ponder was the clear starter in 2012. The Vikings went to the playoffs that year, so he was the incumbent in 2013. The job was Brett Favre’s, of course, in 2009 and 2010. The years before that but after Daunte Culpepper were mostly starter-by-default scenarios, where the Vikings had to choose between the lesser of two mediocrities.

You could argue they’re in somewhat similar territory this year with Bridgewater and Cassel, though we would argue it’s more of a legitimate competition: a rookie deemed to be close to NFL-ready coming out of college and a veteran who showed reasonable competency in 2013 and in previous seasons as a starter.

Cassel looked better in the preseason opener. Bridgewater has by many accounts looked quite good in most practices.

Our best guess still is that Cassel starts the season with the No. 1 job, but we also think the decision will be an interesting indicator of the mindset of Mike Zimmer and Norv Turner. Do they go the safe route and go with the veteran early against a tough schedule, or do they go all-in on a rebuild with the rookie?

Maybe it’s as simple as the best player for the job will win it, but if it’s a virtual tie it gets more complicated.

TFD: In case you missed this awful Manning brothers rap video, here it is

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 12th at 4:38pm 270976591

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