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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Even in fourth straight down year, Twins doing decent ratings on FSN

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 6th at 6:38am 270024941

bremerEverything with the Twins these days is, we suppose, relative. They are on pace to win 73 or 74 games this season, depending on whether you round up for wins. That’s not good! But that’s still at least seven more wins than in any of the last three seasons. That’s progress!

We can look at their TV numbers in the same way. Forbes did a big piece crunching the numbers of MLB broadcasts on all the regional sports networks to see how they are faring. As it turns out, the Twins on FSN are doing fairly well, particularly considering the team is a non-contender for the fourth year in a row.

The Twins on FSN are among the 19 regional sports network products that has a top-three prime time rating in their market.

In data spanning from the beginning of the season through July 24, the Twins have a 4.09 rating and are being watched in an average of 71,000 households. The 4.09 rating puts them 13th in MLB — slightly above middle of the pack. The Tigers lead all of MLB with an 8.38 rating, more than double the Twins.

Still, the Twins are not far off from where they were in 2013, when they were being watched in 73,000 households. So that’s the good news for the team — even as they continue to lose, they’re not losing much more ground with viewers (so far).

The bad news? It’s still waaaaaaay down from their last good season in 2010, when they were being watched in 152,000 households. So basically their four-year swoon has cost them more than half their regular viewers. It will be interesting to see if they are able to get those viewers back if/when the team starts winning more consistently again.

Tuesday (The Vikings' safety dance) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 5th at 10:47am 269986871

In the NFL, now more than ever, a team has to have quality depth in the secondary. The Vikings, like any team, are trying to build toward that. But right now, they are not even close to being there.

Head coach Mike Zimmer knows it, and that’s why he yanked old security blanket Chris Crocker out of semi-retirement for one more season on Monday. Per Mark Craig’s assessment of the safety spot, which is is more urgently in need of help than cornerbacks but perhaps not by much:

Zimmer had eight safeties on the roster before adding Crocker. Other than Harrison Smith, the group has been a disappointment that merited Sunday’s transaction.

Injuries to Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo and Robert Blanton have dogged the position since Zimmer was hired in January. Sanford, the incumbent, missed most of the offseason installment periods, while Sendejo sat out everything from the end of last season until coming off the physically unable to perform list and practicing in full pads Monday. Blanton was given the job to lose at the start of camp and then lost it four practices later when he pulled a hamstring.

Kurt Coleman, Mistral Raymond and rookie Antone Exum have seen time with the first unit in camp, but weren’t good enough to keep Zimmer from reaching out to his old, reliable friend.

Read between the lines — or even right on the page — and you could tell Zimmer was getting frustrated with the safety play. Here are a few of his quotes from various transcripts during camp:

July 25:

Q: What do you want to see from the safety position opposite of Harrison Smith?
A: It is hard for me to evaluate that right now because I have not seen Andrew Sendejo and the walk-through today was the first time I saw Jamarca Sanford. But in the NFL, you have to have a guy that can cover pretty well because of the situations you can get into. Harrison is a pretty smart guy, so you can get by with a guy that is maybe not as intelligent and quickly making the snaps. But for our safeties, we are always looking for the same thing in the guys – guys who can cover, guys who are good tacklers, guys who can blitz well, and guys who are good at making decisions. For each position in the back end, we are looking for players that have great acceleration and can get out of a cut.

July 28 (basically the same question as three days earlier):

Q: What do you see in the competition in the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith?
A: Well right now, I would say (Robert) Blanton is a little bit ahead of the rest of the guys, but that will be a lot more determined when we get into the camp and preseason games, tackling, and how things go. He has been doing a lot good things as far as lining up, covering people, being in the right place, but with the safeties until you find out how they tackle, what kind of angles they take, what kind of instincts they have in the course of ball games, I really don’t know.

Monday:

Q: Does it make it easier when you have a couple of safeties that have experience at cornerback, like Robert Blanton and Antone Exum?

A: It helps a little bit. They’re probably playing safety because they can’t play corner.

And then in comes the 34-year-old Crocker. Perhaps he and Smith can be every down guys that stabilize the position and make depth less of an issue. Or maybe the questions about safety will dog the Vikings all season. Time will tell.

TFD: Here's Joe Mauer in a Cedar Rapids Kernels jersey

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 5th at 8:53am 269888731

Joe Mauer is taking batting practice with the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Monday before playing a rehab game there Tuesday (along with pitcher Ricky Nolasco).

Here is a shot of Joe in his minor league uniform, via the Kernels’ Instagram. Strange, but he looks younger wearing it:

Mid-day talker: Kevin Love rumors and the awkwardness for Andrew Wiggins

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 4th at 1:04pm 269859931

sadwigginsEvery imaginable sign points to the Timberwolves trading Kevin Love to Cleveland later this month. But in the mean time, No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, the focal point of the haul the Wolves will get in return, is caught in a no-man’s land. The Cavs can’t officially trade him until Aug. 23, but pretty much everyone knows it’s going to happen.

If you imagined this is awkward, you were right. And you don’t have to imagine anymore because Wiggins made it plain as day in an interview with ESPN on Sunday. Quotes:

“I just want to play for a team that wants me. So whichever team wants me I’ll play for.”

“At the end of the day you have to remember that the NBA is a business before anything. I’m a rookie. I really don’t have too much say.

The video makes it even more stark. Hang in there, Andrew. Just a few more weeks and we can all put this behind us.

Monday (Watching the Twins) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated August 4th at 12:45pm 269834431

vargasA lot of you know that we rooted hard-core for the Braves starting in the early-to-mid-1980s. Ted Turner and the “Superstation” grabbed us big-time up in North Dakota, seeing as it was about one of 12 channels we got on cable, and being a baseball fan the notion of 100-plus games being on TV every year was too good to be true.

When we latched onto the Braves, they were decent — they won the division in 1982, probably would have again in 1983 if not for an injury to Bob Horner, and hovered around .500 in 1984. We didn’t really get into our major love, though, until 1985. We were 8 years old that summer, and it was prime baseball time.

It also, unfortunately, marked the beginning of a long, sharp decline for Atlanta. Dale Murphy, our favorite player, still had a couple good years left in him, but the rest of the team — particularly the pitching staff — went way south. From 1985 to 1990, the high-water mark was an 89-loss season. There were many, many terrible seasons and non-prospects … and through it all, we didn’t stop watching. If anything, the worse they got, the more we watched the Braves — going so far as to record games on VCR to watch later, even in the midst of a 106-loss season in 1988.

We bring this up as an introduction to our sickness, which now apparently grips us again in our 30s. We started watching the Twins more and more around 1999 or 2000 — they weren’t good, but we had been living in Minneapolis long enough that the hometown team became easy to follow. Eventually, paying attention to the Twins became partly self-interest and partly job-motivated, but the reward was some pretty good baseball from 2001-2010.

Now, of course, things have gone the other way. These 2011-14 Twins remind us very much of those Braves teams — devoid of starting pitching, struggling through various stages of rebuilding … and somehow capturing our attention more than ever.

We can’t turn away. We tried on Saturday night, declaring we were “done” with the game after the bullpen handed over the lead. We went to run some errands. But sure enough, we put the game on the radio. And sure enough, we popped the game back on at home after the Twins rallied.

Again, it’s still at least part of our job to keep abreast of all the local teams. But it is not in our job description to spend great gobs of weekend time watching a team that could lose 90 games for a fourth consecutive season.

So why do we do it? Is it that we have a 4-month-old now, her birth timed perfectly (March 30) for the start of the baseball season, and therefore have a lot more built-in couch time this summer? Is it our insatiable love of an underdog and desperate belief that being there on the ground floor makes the comeback that much more rewarding (the Braves of 1991 and beyond, you’ll recall, were quite good)? Is it just that any baseball is better than no baseball? Is it prospects like Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas that keep us engaged?

Whatever the case, the grip is still there. We can’t shake it. We’d ask you for help, but we assume from Twitter that many of you are still watching, too. Why are you watching? That’s a serious question. Tell us in the comments. Together, we will figure this out.

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Texas - WP: N. Martinez 5 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 4
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 3 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 4
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 9 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 5
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 8 FINAL
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 5
Atlanta - LP: D. Carpenter 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: M. Melancon 3
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 5 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: D. Huff 2
Arizona - LP: E. Marshall 2 FINAL
Washington - WP: R. Soriano 3
LA Angels - WP: C. Rasmus 8 FINAL
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 3
Detroit - WP: R. Porcello 6 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Odorizzi 0
Cincinnati - LP: J. Cueto 3 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: L. Lynn 7
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 3
Baltimore - WP: W. Chen 4 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 5 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: R. Nolasco 0
Kansas City - LP: D. Duffy 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 5
San Diego - WP: E. Stults 4 FINAL
Los Angeles - LP: R. Hernandez 1
Pittsburgh 8/21/14 6:30 PM
Philadelphia
Carolina 8/22/14 6:30 PM
New England
NY Giants 8/22/14 6:30 PM
NY Jets
Jacksonville 8/22/14 6:30 PM
Detroit
Oakland 8/22/14 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Chicago 8/22/14 9:00 PM
Seattle
Tampa Bay 8/23/14 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 8/23/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8/23/14 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Colorado 3
San Jose 1 FINAL
Seattle 1
Montreal 8/22/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 8/23/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal

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