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 (Preparing for more of the same from Twins in 2015) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 14th at 12:13pm 279145151

ryanhughesIt’s not hard to listen to comments from Terry Ryan and Dave St. Peter in two different venues — a recent conference call with season ticket holders, and again in interviews with the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller — and reach this conclusion: 2015 will be more of the same from the Twins, by design.

Or, in perhaps more flattering terms: the Twins are going to hope that 2015 is the kind of year they had hoped 2014 would be, and they are a year behind schedule in their rebuild because of injuries to key minor league players and the underperformance of players on the major league club.

How else would one react to quotes from Ryan such as these?

“I don’t want to punt on 2015, but it’s still going to be a struggle.”

And:

“Sometimes you make decisions that ultimately are going to benefit you down the line that don’t look exactly like what you want right now.”

The Twins have decided they aren’t going to budge much on payroll from 2014 to 2015, meaning it again will be around $85 million and that almost all of it is already tied up in existing players. We don’t necessarily think this is a bad idea, but let’s be clear: this is a choice, and an artificial spending cap. If the Twins wanted to spend more, they certainly could (remember, 2014 was the start of a major bump in national TV revenue for all MLB clubs).

Ryan is right when he says spending foolishly could set the club back even further (at least if they guessed wrong on big-ticket, long-term deals). He is also right when he notes that teams can be competitive with payrolls comparable to what the Twins project to have next season.

But what it adds up to is a season of hoping, not realistically expecting, that things will not devolve into a fifth consecutive 90-loss season. There were good signs last season, particularly with young hitters and Phil Hughes, but without the influx of more established players via free agency, Minnesota will be banking on two guys who will make up between 40-45 percent of the payroll combined (Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco) to live up to their contracts and for other young players to make meaningful contributions (while the ones who made strides this year avoid a step back, which is easier said than done).

Before Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and others essentially lost the 2014 season, we imagine the Twins’ blueprint was something like this: ride improved pitching and young hitting to a .500 record in 2014, get onto the fringe of contention in 2015 and then really make a run in 2016 and beyond. Now we have to imagine .500 is the goal next year, and we can clearly see the Twins don’t intend to try to spend their way to a few more victories.

It’s not right or wrong, but it is the choice they have made.

TFD: Announcer who called Sunday's Vikings game battled with angry fans on Twitter

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 14th at 11:36am 279057381

jenningsMike Goldberg, who normally calls UFC events for Fox (and previously did Wild games), made his NFL debut Sunday for the Vikings/Lions game.

It did not go well.  At all. Like, we really mean it.

Goldberg butchered plenty of plays, at one point confusing Golden Tate and Greg Jennings (who are both wide receivers and who both wear No. 15, but do not happen to play for the same team).

Fans took him to task on Twitter — many of them not as politely as the ones we highlighted above. Instead of turning the other cheek, Goldberg unloaded on them in a series of (since-deleted) tweets that included high volumes of profanity, as noted by Pro Football Talk.

The real fun, though? Goldberg is slated to again be the lead guy when the Vikings play the Bills on Sunday. We look forward to many TD passes from Kyle Orton to Cordarrelle Patterson.

Monday (Can the Gophers contend in the Big Ten?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 13th at 12:19pm 279013651

myrickMy, how the narrative has changed (again) with the Gophers.

Last year, so much of the focus was on Jerry Kill’s health … until the team ripped off a four-game Big Ten winning streak for the first time in 40 years, answering many questions about the coaching staff’s ability to work through any road blocks in its path.

This year, after the Gophers looked overmatched against TCU and completed just one pass against San Jose State, the talk shifted to an offense that looked either one-dimensional or just plain bad depending on your preference.

But consecutive victories over Michigan and Northwestern have re-established this team’s identity: very good on defense, sound in the running game and — this is key — able to throw enough to win. Mix in some solid special teams and the ability to hold a lead after halftime, and the Gophers have the makings of a team that can compete in any conference game this season.

That, of course, raises an interesting question: Are they good enough to not just join the discussion, win 4 or 5 conference games and go to a decent bowl game … but instead legitimately compete for a Big Ten title?

The schedule certainly breaks that way and allows one to dream a little. Without putting wins in the bank, you look at the next two (home against Purdue and at Illinois) and think it is very possible the Gophers will be 4-0 heading into a huge home game against Iowa (which also could be 4-0 in conference play at the time).

Winning the Big Ten West will almost certainly necessitate winning that Iowa game, too, since the closing stretch — home against Ohio State, then at Nebraska and at Wisconsin — are three major tests. But even if the Gophers went 1-2 with that closing group, they could at least find themselves in a tie for the West title. Win 2 of 3, and they would very likely win it.

That’s a long way to go, and it assumes a lot of wins that will require a lot of effort. But it’s not crazy to think about — nor is, perhaps, sweeping the three big trophy games (Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin).

Vikings Postgame Meltdown: A predictable letdown to a marvelous sports weekend

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 13th at 6:31am 278950521

Can’t have anything nice.

Is that really true, or does it just seem that way when it comes to Minnesota sports?

On Saturday, the Gophers fought their way to a 2-0 start in the Big Ten for the first time in a decade, and they now have a legitimate chance to start conference play 4-0. They did it with clutch plays in the fourth quarter, keeping their record perfect under Jerry Kill when they lead at halftime. There are real reasons to think these Gophers can play with anyone in the Big Ten — that at least this defense, with this secondary and linebackers, can compete and keep games close.

Later on in the evening, the Wild finished off the second of two dominating wins over Colorado. The combined score was 8-0, and we have still yet to see a Wild line or defensive pairing on the ice that we don’t trust or that doesn’t bring something to the mix. It’s very early, but it’s possible this team — by virtue of adding a couple new pieces and improvement from within — could be even better than we thought.

So it was on to Sunday, and a great opportunity for the Vikings. Not only could they keep the positive Minnesota sports momentum going, but also it was possible they could climb right back into the divisional picture with a victory over Detroit and a Green Bay loss.

Instead, it was the nightmare you saw. The defense competed. For the most part, a few big plays aside this season, that group has not been the problem. But the offense? Well, let’s see: 1) They play calling, again, was tepid and uninspired. 2) The offensive line play, again, was atrocious. 3) Teddy Bridgewater, so promising in his first start against Atlanta, was indecisive and inaccurate (even when he wasn’t running for his life). 4) The wide receivers looked disengaged and ineffective. We could go on.

The point being, instead of showing they had a chance to be competitive in 2014, the Vikings showed just how far they have to go. And to make matters worse for Vikings fans, they finished just in time for FOX to switch games so we could watch Aaron Rodgers rally the Packers to a last-second victory.

Can’t have anything nice? Not for very long, at least.

TFD: Heisman Trophy apparently is no longer about 'integrity'

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 10th at 5:18pm 278849411

manzielHere’s an interesting find from SI.com:

The Heisman Trust unveiled a redesigned website earlier this month at Heisman.com. The site features a few notable changes, including a revamped layout and a list of current Heisman candidates. However, the majority of visitors will probably miss the most notable change to the site. The Heisman Trust’s longtime Mission Statement begins with the following first line:

The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence.

Notice anything missing in that? For years, that first line ended with the phrase “with integrity.” At some point during the Heisman’s site redesign — or, at least, since last year’s Heisman ceremony — those two very important words were removed.

Perhaps this is an oversight on the website? Or perhaps, as SI notes, “integrity” has been removed from the award in light of the fact that three of the past four winners (Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston) have been embroiled in some sort of controversy.

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Houston 23 FINAL
Pittsburgh 30
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 98 FINAL
Cleveland 107
New Orleans 88 FINAL
Washington 84
Milwaukee 120 FINAL
New York 107
Philadelphia 88 FINAL
Brooklyn 99
Charlotte 114 FINAL
Atlanta 117
Sacramento 99 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Memphis 103 FINAL
Dallas 108
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Arkansas State 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(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
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
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
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg

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