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Kelly Iffy on Managing in 2018 Baseball

July 19, 2018 - 1 Comment

 

Tom Kelly is in the Twins Hall of Fame and his uniform number is retired. He’s the only manager in club history to win the World Series—doing it in both 1987 and 1991. When he retired after the 2001 season he was the longest tenured manager or coach in major professional sports.

Kelly was also only 51 years old when he gave up his job. He hasn’t managed for the Twins or anyone else since he quit in Minnesota. The club’s current manager, Paul Molitor, is only six years younger than the 67-year-old Kelly who is revered for a big league managing career with Minnesota that began in 1986.

Yet Kelly would probably be the longest of long shots to manage again. Baseball is so different now with its avalanche of data driven information impacting decisions. How the game has to be managed now appears almost perplexing to Kelly.

Kelly talked about his feelings on “Behind the Game,” a Twin Cities cable TV show. “There are things…I would probably have a hard time with,” Kelly told hosts Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson. “I am probably not capable of managing now.”

Kelly said things are “pretty technical” in baseball with information dictating all kinds of things like shifts and positioning of players in the field. There seems no end to even the most miniscule of details about how to strategize against hitters and pitchers in an attempt to gain an edge on opponents.

Hitters give the impression they are more interested in “launch angles” to increase their home run totals, than in making consistent contact with the baseball. Stealing bases seems like a lost art and bunting appears to have passed away, too. Hit-and-run in today’s game? Not much. “I guess they have numbers that prove these things (what to do), so they go with the numbers,” Kelly said on the show.

Kelly saw his job as manager to be creative when his club was not scoring runs. That’s where he would call for a hit-and-run, sacrifice bunt or stealing a base.

Also to Kelly’s chagrin, teams no longer take pregame infield practice. He believes the practice helped prepare his teams to potentially start games efficiently and even get off to an early lead.

“The game still comes down to the basics of pitching and fielding,” Kelly told TV viewers. “You pitch the ball decent and catch the ball when you’re supposed to, (and) you find a way to score three or four runs, and you have a chance to win.”

Tom Kelly (photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins)

Kelly referred to himself on the show as a “dinosaur” and acknowledged more than once how difficult it would be for him to manage today. “I probably would have a hard time because I would get told, ‘We don’t want to do this. We don’t want to do that.’

“I would probably say, well, I am going to do this, and I am going to do that. And (then) I am going to be shown the door. They’re going to replace me with somebody that will do what they feel…through their numbers and analytics that this is how you should do it.”

Kelly told a story about his friend Tony LaRussa, the Hall of Fame manager who is a contemporary. LaRussa went to a meeting where 12 baseball people from his organization were looking at their computers . He didn’t even know many of the people but they were telling him things like why the data said so-and-so should hit second in the batting order. “That’s when he knew he had enough (managing),” Kelly said.

These days Kelly is a special assistant for the Twins. Molitor might call and ask advice, but mostly his role is that of an ambassador for the organization. He watches games now and enjoys them more as a fan than a manager.

“Things you miss are the camaraderie the game affords,” Kelly said. “The competitiveness that the game presents each and every night. You miss those things.”

Worth Noting

Adrian Peterson, the 33-year-old former Vikings running back, is a free agent and needs one more rushing touchdown to total 100 for his career. Playing for the Saints and Cardinals last season, he scored just two touchdowns rushing.

Vikings’ nemesis Aaron Rodgers told Peter King of NBCsports.com, “I’d love to play to 40.” The Packers’ 33-year-old quarterback referenced Brett Favre’s success at 40 when he was quarterbacking the Vikings to a 12-4 record.

The Vikings, who will hold their first training camp in more than 50 years not in Mankato, are part of a trend by NFL teams to hold summer practices in the home towns of franchises. The percent of home training camp teams has increased from 32 percent in 2000 to 66 percent this year and last.

Gopher senior Rodney Smith has 3,850 career all-purpose yards (2,805 rushing, 419 receiving and 626 on kick returns). He ranks eighth in program history. He needs 1,260 all-purpose yards this season to break Darrel Thompson’s Gopher record of 5,109.

Smith will be one of three Gophers and 42 total players attending the July 23 and 24 Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago. The other Gophers are junior linebackers Thomas Barber and Carter Coughlin.

Tickets were still available this week for the WNBA All-Star Game at Target Center on July 28. Stubhub.com listed availability yesterday starting at $59.

 

Moss Wouldn’t Change Lambeau Incident

July 17, 2018 - (0) comments

 

Enjoy a Tuesday notes column:

Randy Moss, speaking on a conference call with reporters yesterday in advance of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month, said he “wouldn’t change” his January 9, 2005 infamous incident at Lambeau Field.

In that wildcard playoff game Moss helped the Vikings to a 31-17 win by making big plays, but he infuriated Packers fans and amused some Vikings faithful when he feigned pulling down his pants as if to moon Green Bay fans in their home stadium after catching a touchdown pass. Moss was mocking the tradition of Packer fans who mooned the buses of Green Bay rivals when they came to Lambeau. He said yesterday his actions weren’t a celebration but “more for the fans.”

Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck called the incident a “disgusting act,” and fans regionally and nationally were divided in their views. “I didn’t know it was going to really get that kind of negative attention,” Moss said. “Of course, I wouldn’t have done nothing like that. I’ve never done nothing like that in my career. But it’s not like I pulled my pants down or anything like that.”

Among the greatest touchdown makers who ever played wide receiver, Moss’s career was characterized as much by controversy as big plays. He grew up poor in West Virginia and carried a chip on his shoulder, convinced that attitude would help him succeed. “Football is a brutal sport,” he said yesterday reflecting on his football days that included 14 seasons in the NFL.

The Vikings drafted Moss in the first round in 1998 and he was an immediate star who played in Minnesota until the 2005 offseason when owner Red McCombs sent him to the Raiders in a trade that still irks many local fans. Moss will be one of eight inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton on August 4.

Dick Jonckowski

Buck, who calls his 20th MLB All-Star Game tonight on TV, is married to Michelle Beisner, the niece of longtime Gopher public address announcer Dick Jonckowski of Shakopee.

Best player in tonight’s game? Sports Illustrated and a lot of sources claim that distinction belongs to Mike Trout of the Angels. In the magazine’s current issue S.I. lists “the highest WAR (wins above replacement) by a position player in his first eight seasons.” Trout, at 61.1, trails only Ted Williams, 72.6; Albert Pujols, 64.1; and Mickey Mantle, 61.4.

Any passionate baseball fan has favorite All-Star Game memories. Mine is the 1999 game in Boston when the immortal Williams, nearing the end of his life, was brought out on the field in a wheelchair to thunderous applause and tears of appreciation across the country.

A favorite of Twins president Dave St. Peter is the 1993 All-Star Game in Baltimore when the late Kirby Puckett was named MVP. “He loved the All-Star Game,” St. Peter said.

The Twins have hosted three All-Star Games in their history, 1965, 1985 and 2014. St. Peter said that because MLB likes to move the game around to various cities, it probably will be 20 years or more before Twins decision makers will even consider bringing another game to Minneapolis.

The Twins are 7.5 games behind the first place Indians in the Central Division. Twins catcher Bobby Wilson said on WCCO Radio’s “Sports Huddle” Sunday that the situation reminds him of his 2015 Rangers who were 8.5 games out of first place in the AL West on August 1 and won the division.

The Twins, 44-50, start a 10-game road trip after the All-Star break with a series against the struggling Royals that Minnesota needs to win. The Indians come to Target Field for a series starting July 30.

Minnesota probably needs to be about four games behind the Indians by mid-August to have a realistic chance of winning the division.

The Twins have named Double-A Chattanooga outfielder/first baseman Zander Wiel and Single-A Cedar Rapids right-handed pitcher Bailey Ober Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Week. Wiel played in seven games for the Lookouts last week, hitting .333 with one home run, three RBI, five walks and a .448 OBP. Ober, honored for the second consecutive week with the award, made one start for the Kernels, pitching 6.2 shutout innings while giving up five hits, with 10 strikeouts and allowing one walk.

Niko Guardado, the 21-year-old son of Twins bullpen coach Eddie Guardado, is an actor whose career includes TV appearances on “The Goldbergs” and “The Fosters.”

There is speculation about what’s wrong with the defending WNBA champion Lynx including that core players are declining because of age. These same players, though, have so much experience in knowing how to win they could be a surprise team later in the season and in the playoffs. The Lynx are 12-10, after losing only a total of seven games last season.

Elgin Baylor’s new book, “Hang Time,” includes his early NBA years in Minneapolis when he was almost a one-man team.

 

Streveler Proves U Critics Wrong

July 15, 2018 - (0) comments

 

Chris Streveler’s success, including now in the Canadian Football League, is a lot different than what the former Illinois high school all-state quarterback experienced with the Golden Gophers.

Like light years different.

Streveler enrolled at Minnesota in January of 2013 and participated in spring practice. By the spring of 2016 he was transferring to South Dakota, ending a Gopher career that included one meaningful game playing quarterback. Before Streveler transferred, he had been switched to wide receiver in an attempt to get him playing time and use the athleticism that helped produce over 1,200 rushing yards during his high school career.

In two seasons at South Dakota Streveler threw for 6,081 yards and 54 touchdowns. He was named Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year following last season. That wasn’t enough, though, to make an NFL team draft him. Instead, he signed a CFL deal with Winnipeg where earlier this season he became the first quarterback coming straight out of college to start a league game since 1994.

Injury and retirement thinned the Blue Bombers’ quarterback roster this year and prompted naming Streveler the starter for the first three regular season games. Streveler had impressed in the preseason including in his first game when he completed 10 of 10 passes, with an 80-yard touchdown pass.

Streveler started the first three regular season games for the now 2-3 Blue Bombers. He has also seen game action since then. He has completed 57 of 91 passes, with six touchdown passes (tops on the team) and two interceptions. He is the team’s second leading rusher with 228 yards and four touchdowns.

At Minnesota Streveler, whose completion percentage in high school was 68.8 percent, was labeled a quarterback who couldn’t pass after the one start of his career for the Gophers. He attempted seven passes and completed one as part of a game plan against San Jose State that clearly mandated running the ball. Streveler rushed 18 times for 161 yards and running back David Cobb had 207 yards on 34 carries in Minnesota’s 24-7 win in September of 2014.

Critics thought the Gophers had a running back disguised as a QB. They saw him as a dart thrower, perhaps as likely to toss an interception as a completion. Streveler played behind Mitch Leidner, the 2014-2016 starter who had his own critics. Leidner never found the consistency needed to maximize Minnesota’s offense.

Turns out Streveler could have been the type of quarterback talent that has often been nonexistent at Minnesota for decades. Since 1987 the Gophers have had two highly honored quarterbacks with end of season Big Ten recognition. Rickey Foggie was named second team All-Big Ten in 1987 and Adam Weber earned the same honor in 2008.

Streveler found opportunity at South Dakota where he listened to his coaches including head man Bob Nielson. In a June 3, 2018 story in the Winnipeg Sun, Streveler said “…the amount that I learned in those two years, from those guys, it took my game to a level that I didn’t even know was there. If I hadn’t gone to South Dakota I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be here right now.”

Among Streveler’s receivers in Winnipeg is former Gopher teammate and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky. In the San Jose game it was Wolitarsky who caught the one pass from Streveler—a modest seven-yard completion.

Oh, how things have changed.

Worth Noting

Wolitarsky has eight receptions for 136 yards and a Blue Bombers best three touchdown catches.

Dick Jonckowski

Dick Jonckowski’s biography came out last week and copies of the book are available by calling him at 952-261-3013. “It’s All about Me—Dick Jonckowski, a Minnesota Treasure” includes his trademark jokes and nearly 50 color photos of celebrities from Hulk Hogan to Red Skelton. The popular banquet emcee and longtime Gopher public address announcer collaborated on the biography with Jim Bruton who has authored other sports books with Minnesota connections.

Jose Berrios, the Twins’ 24-year-old pitcher who participates in his first MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night, earns $570,000 this season, according to Spotrac.com, the website that tracks baseball salaries.

Joe Mauer, the Twins’ 35-year-old first baseman, hasn’t played in the All-Star Game since 2013. He has six career All-Star Game appearances including three consecutive from 2008-2010.

Murray’s Restaurant owner Tim Murray has visited all 30 MLB stadiums and 22 facilities no longer being used. On July 27 he will watch the Twins and Red Sox at Fenway Park, and then two days later he will be at Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees and Royals.

Condolences to former Gopher wide receiver and now local TV personality Ron Johnson on the passing of his father July 10. His dad, also Ron Johnson, was 62 and played defensive back for the NFL Steelers.

Appointment viewing: the NFL Network and Fox 9 will televise the Kirk Cousins-Vikings versus Case Keenum-Broncos preseason game from Denver August 11. Fox 9 will televise all four of the Viking preseason games starting with the Broncos.

The NFL Network will televise all 65 NFL preseason games.

Vikings single game tickets go on sale Thursday starting at 10 a.m. and are available only through Ticketmaster online. Tickets start at $20 for preseason games, $58 for regular season.

Former Gopher assistant football coach Dan O’Brien, now head coach at St. Thomas Academy, has ex-U star Rickey Foggie as his quarterbacks coach, and two promising sophomore offensive linemen in Michael Bagley and Joel Vascellaro. Michael is the son of Vikings front office executive Lester Bagley and Joel’s parents are WCCO TV anchors Frank Vascellaro and Amelia Santaniello.

 

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