Tuesday, December 18, 2007

MNF: The drunken 1AM edition

Are you ready for some footbaAAAAALLLLL?
The email came about fourteen hours ago:

Johno -- I have an extra really good ticket to tonight's game. Are you interested in going? Let me know ASAP.

So we know a few things from this email:
1) I'm going to that game, because I'm going to say 'yes' without even checking with The Voice of Reason™. And she's going to sign on, because she's the greatest wife in the history of wives.

I hope.

2) I'm likely going to drink to excess, because that's how events end with the group of friends that call me 'Johno'.

And the lucky recipient of all this, besides myself, is you, dear reader. Because I'm going to want to write-off this bar/game bill, and the only way to do so is to write it up on GameDay's blog. Or so I hope. Which brings us to...

The Greatest Vikings Pregame Meal in the Universe
I could show you the emails where we debated various alternatives, but I think it's safe to say that we partook in the greatest MNF Vikings Pregame Meal in the Universe tonight, and you might want to have in on the radar if you're going to the game this Sunday. You just need to do the following:

1) Go into Murray's
2) Go into the bar, not the restaurant. It's not crowded, a big plus on game day.
3) Have a few slices of garlic bread as an appetizer and, for the love of all that is holy...
4) order yourself and your companions steak sandwiches.

You might be thrown by the fact that they're not on the menu. Don't be. They're on the menu at lunch, and they can make them anytime. You'll be treated to steak tips, perfectly grilled at your desired doneness (I suggest medium rare) with cheese and bacon on wheat or white bread. I took three guys there tonight, ordered for them, and by the end of their sandwich they were each ready to service my ever need.

That's a good sandwich. Maybe too good.

It was my first Monday Night Football game, and I gotta say, I was impressed. The whole crowd feels a little different, like we were there for a playoff game. The Vikes did a nice job of stoking the flames with their introductions, and everyone was standing up and going crazy.

And they did a REALLY nice job of introducing Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson together at the end of the line. I mean, it's nice that they made the rookie feel like an important part of the team.

So What Went Wrong?
There will be plenty to analyze in this game, but I'll tell you an area that will likely not get enough criticism - the special teams. I guarantee you I'll hear some praise for them tomorrow, since Devon Hester didn't score a touchdown. And I'll wonder if the person who says it missed the first four minutes.

Because the Vikes special teams screwed up enough in the first four minutes to cost them a ballgame - and they were just warming up.
1) The opening kick was returned beyond the 40 yard line, which is beyond where the Bears would get the ball if the Vikes just kicked it out of bounds. And that wasn't unusual tonight.
2) Bobby Wade, who is a solid wide receiver, but a terrible punt returner, fair caught a ball on his own seven yard line.
3) And throughout the night, the special teams didn't understand exactly what a wedge is supposed to do. The wedge isn't about force- it's about timing. They need to time their impact with the opposing team at just about the time their runner is reaching them. The Vikes didn't adjust to this reality all night.

And that was just the tip of the iceberg:
- they had at least two, and maybe three bad snaps
- they missed an extra point
- failed to catch a ball that was downed inside the five yard line
- committed a penatly to lose exceptional field position and
- failed to catch a fair catch that was luckily returned, though it was called back.

Did the Special Teams Do Anything Right?
Yeah. When they sent two guys back just so the could lay out the flyer on the Bears. We were all wondering why they had two guys back on that punt, and then as soon as the kick lef the punter's foot, we were all anticipating that hit. We must've watched it be set up for 30 yards. Immediately around me, I bet I heard 15 guys shout as it was made, and we were all at least 80 yards away from it. Gawd, you have to love football fans for that kind of reaction.

Tell Me More About Football Fans
The 5' 4" woman in front of me, who was about 45 years old, a little overweight and had two-toned dyed hair, spent a timeout rocking to Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard. She knew the words and everything. Her husband was a balding overweight guy who generally ignored her except when he repeatedly poked her in an obscene manner with a little flagpole. I don't even know what to add to this.

Uh, Got Any More Behind the Scenes Observations?
Sure. On the Vikings first field goal, the 'flag guys' ran out onto the field. They're the guys that each carry a flag with a letter that says V-I-K-I-N-G-S and run around the field, waving it back and forth like they're leading the charge of the light brigade.

And 'G' ended up shatter'd and sunder'd before he even made his way onto the field. He stumbled over his own feet all of twenty feet into his sprint and - after getting a little support from 'S' - half galloped after the rest of the string until they reached the sideline. To the fans credit, they seemed to enjoy rooting for the VIKIN. Especially the guy in front of me with his stubbly little flagpole.

So Why Is Football So Popular?
At The Little Wagon, we debated this a bit, as we stood between the girl wearing Zubas and the guy wearing face paint. We couldn't figure it out. Then the guy next to us was warned by a random stranger that his brother was 'hammered and into this little Asian' in the corner, and had told the rest of the friends to 'go away'. And a theory developed.

Maybe it isn't the salary cap, or the television contract or the merchandise marketing. Maybe football just plain appeals to the lowest common denominator.

God knows that tonight I'm not in any position to argue against it.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cliff Notes Version of the Weekend News

On Wednesday night I was faced with so much news and so little time that I spit out 50 word takes on everything Twins. And tonight is worse. Much, much worse. We're down to bullet points, I think.

Signing Adam Everett
I'd like to agree with Aaron, who does a great job of justifying this signing based on Everett's defensive value. Defensive metrics deserve their own post, as I don't trust them and I wouldn't mind delving into why. But I also overvalue the defensive value of certain positions, and shortstop is one of them. Plus, Aaron rightly points out that just about everyone agrees that Everett really is outstanding defensively, and the metrics support it too. For a GM, it's a logical and defensible move.

Now we'll get to see if the manager can meet that same standard, because the problem with signing Everett is that it dislodges the only position where Nick Punto isn't an offensive drag. You might think that Punto will then end up as a backup super-infielder, but Gardy's history suggests otherwise, and that Punto will end up at second base. Actually, Gardy's history suggests that one of them will end up hitting at the top of the lineup. Check that. At least one of them will end up hitting at the top of the lineup.

If so, the move turns from an interesting move to a kick in the gut. Which is precisely how I felt on Thursday when I heard the move had been made. Smith has give several small signs that he knows what he's doing in this GM role. This single move might tank all the progress he made up to this point in the offseason.

Signing Mike Lamb
If so, Smith started making progress again the very next day. Three months ago, I wrote:

Mike Lamb has had a decent year, and a decent career so far as a platooning first baseman and third baseman. I suspect his at-bats have been limited because he struggles mightily against left-handed pitching. He's been hanging around in Houston for the last few years, and he missed being a free agent by just twelve days this year. He's positioned to either be the bargain of the offseason, or the guy that gets a contract much larger than anyone anticipates.

I was legitimately surpirsed to see the Twins land Lamb, and especially surprised to see the terms of the contract as they have been released so far. The detail that worries me the most, and it's a pet peeve of mine, is that the third year has been listed as an 'option'. But nobody is saying whose option it is, and that is an absolutely critical detail in evaluating these contracts.

Lamb is an interesting fit for this team in at least three ways...
1) He hits right-handed pitching, which is a great match for Brendan Harris. You'll remember that Harris was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Delmon Young-Matt Garza trade, and will probably play second or third base. Harris mashes lefties and struggles with righties. So Lamb can either platoon with Harris at third base (if Gardy, sigh, starts Punto at second) or swap places with Harris in the lineup if they're both playing depending on who's pitching.

2) He's limited defensively at third base, which means he's a nice fit with Everett over on the left side of the infield. To be honest, I wonder if the Twins would've signed Lamb if they hadn't already signed Everett.

3) He's also perfect hitting off the bench or as a backup DH with Craig Monroe, who mashes lefties but struggles against righties. So if the Twins do acquire a third baseman in a Johan Santana trade, Lamb coul still fit the roster. Especially because Monroe's contract isn't guaranteed.

So Where Are We Now?
Things get a little tricky when designing a lineup, because you suddenly realize just how left-handed this team is. And also, that the team speed that they valued so much last year has just about dissappeared.
1 - ??? - CF
2 - JMauer - C
3 - DYoung - LF
4 - JMorneau - 1B
5 - MCuddyer - RF
6 - JKubel - DH
7 - BHarris - 2B
8 - MLamb - 3B
9 - AEverett - SS

That's not half bad, and now the Twins can concetrate moving Santana for overall value, and not for need. With Dan Haren now off the market, and Hiroki Kuroda having signed with the Dodgers, Twins fans can expect some moves in that area soon.

Hopefully I'll have a little more time to post when we finally have some news there.