Friday, July 30, 2010

Matt Capps makes the Twins better. Period.

Matt Capps is an All-Star closer and he was traded to the Twins last night for catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Every Twins fan with a blog and/or a Twitter account seems to hate this trade. They think Twins GM Bill Smith got duped and didn't get enough in return for Ramos.

I don't really see it that way at all. Ramos wasn't going to help this team at the big-league level this year and probably not next year. Capps is an above-average reliever, fills an area of need for the team this season, and he is arbitration eligible for next year, so we can keep him just in case Joe Nathan struggles coming back from surgery.

As part of this deal, the Twins also sent pitching prospect Joe Testa to the Nat's for cash. Maybe everyone is mad about that too? I don't get it. Smith would have gotten more for Ramos if there was a market for him, but clearly, the market wasn't there. A so-so bullpen just got better, it filled a huge need. Out of all the relievers available right now, Capps was clearly the best. So the Twins jumped. I like it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catching up with Aaron Ziemer

That guy right there is Aaron Ziemer, he's the News/Sports Director at Marshall Radio in Marshall, MN. Aaron grew up in my hometown of Paynesville and it is always great to see a small town kid do well.

Aaron covers the Vikings/Twins/Gophers/Timberwolves/Wild in addition to handling local sports responsibilities in Southwest Minnesota. This fall he will start his 8th year as the voice of Southwest Minnesota State Football/Basketball in August.

I had a chance to interview Aaron last week via email -- it is always nice to get some real opinion from a member of the real media. Here was Aaron's take on his job and a few nuggets about our local sports teams.

How did you end up doing play-by-play?

I have always loved sports, so when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to play a sport, outside of golf, the rest of my life, I decided to find a way to stay close to it. As a kid, I used to watch the Vikings, Twins, and Gophers, and I used to spend a lot of time and money collecting sports cards, and learning names, and spending much of my free time around sports.

It all came together as I got older; my dad had always wanted to be a sportscaster, but instead chose to be an English and Speech teacher instead. I was fortunate and inherited good gene’s, with a voice, and good writing and verbal skills, so as I combined those things with my love for sports, it kind of grew.

I knew when I went to college what I wanted to do, I pursued Mass Communications at North Dakota State for a year, but chose to transfer to Southwest later, and for me, that was a good move. I was able to get a lot of experience on the college radio, and broadcasting games on both radio and television. Before I graduated I began working at KMHL Broadcasting (in Marshall) and then moved up after graduation.

I started calling high school games my senior year of college, and quickly moved up the ranks, to where I became the News & Sports Director here when I turned 24. In November of 2002, I began doing play-by-play for Southwest Minnesota State, the school I graduated from, and have been here ever since, loving every minute of it.

2) Covering collegiate athletics, you have no doubt covered some pretty good athletes. Who is the best you've seen so far?

That is a very tough question. I would probably say Vincent Grier, the former Gophers guard. Southwest played the Gophers in an exhibition game one year, and we broadcast it. The Gophers won that game 59-50, and Grier played, he is probably the best pure athlete, I have seen.

Of the athlete’s at the division two level, I might say Bill Noethlich is one of the better one’s. He is about to head to training camp with the Vikings, from Southwest. Bill was signed as a Free Agent on the day after the draft by the Vikings. He is 6’7 and over 300-pounds, and attended Doland-Conde High School in South Dakota. They played nine man football there, and he is a solid pro prospect at the tackle position. You don’t see that everyday. We’ll see if he has the quickness to stick around in the NFL, but he was a dominant offensive lineman at the Division II level.

3) What's the best part about your job?

The best part, honestly, I get paid to watch great sporting events. When things are tough, I take a step back and remind myself of that sometimes, because it could be a lot worse than that.

I have two very specific memories from all the games, I have called over the years. My Senior year, we were stretched really thin, and I had the chance to be the analyst for the North Central Region Championship Men’s Basketball game, between Southwest and St. Cloud State. Having been all of 23 at the time, and knowing and going to school with many of the guys on the court, watching Marques Pena hit a game winning shot with four seconds left to put Southwest up 67-65 really sticks out in my memory. Same thing, in 2009 when the Mustangs went back to the Elite 8, in Springfield, MA, most people never get experiences like that, and I do. Those types of things make my job great.

4) The worst part of the job?

There are tough parts, early mornings, late nights. The travel especially during basketball season gets tough. One night, last season on the way back from Fayette, IA (Upper Iowa University) I got stranded on the highway at 3:30 am, in a white out, seven miles from Marshall. Talk about annoying!

A different time, Southwest was playing out in Bismark, ND (7-hour trip from Marshall on good roads) against the University of Mary. There was a blizzard moving into the plains, on the day of the game. The game finished that night around 10:30 PM, and we left for Marshall. The bus driver drove through the night, in white out conditions from Bismark, through Fargo, down to Marshall. We arrived in Marshall, about 9:30 the next morning, I went home and went to sleep. I was lucky I chose to ride with the team on that trip, because I would not have made it back otherwise. The interstate closed shortly after we arrived home, and it didn’t open for two days after that.
So I think its safe to say the worst part of the job is the travel.

5) You have an opportunity to cover amateurs but you also have some strong opinions about the professionals. Can the Twins make the playoffs this year? What is their biggest need?

They can, however, I am starting to lose confidence that they will, and it’s a shame because they have one of the best lineups they have had in years.

I say that because they are clearly missing pitching. I really see two problems with the rotation, maybe its fixable, maybe it isn’t. The first is the obvious one; Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker have been inconsistent.

The second part of the problem with the rotation is that they all have the same type of starter. Slowey, Blackburn, and Baker, along with Carl Pavano are very similar. In essence, when you face the Twins teams know they are going to see a right handed pitcher, that isn’t overpowering (88-92), who will pitch to contact, and who will rely on their breaking stuff to get people out.

Maybe if they add Duensing to the rotation that would make a difference. At least that would give them two lefties in the starting five. But, even with that adjustment, I don’t see a solid ace in the bunch, a guy you can count on day in and day out to anchor a rotation, and be a leader when a team is facing a little adversity.
The bad news is, with Cliff Lee now in Texas, I don’t know if there will be a guy they can add who can do that.
6) Brett Favre is coming back -- at least we think so -- if he does, can the Vikings finally get over the hump and win the Super Bowl?

What Vikings fans need to remember is that this isn’t 2009 anymore. Favre is a year older, the team is different, and although I think they will be good, I am not quite ready to say they will win the Super Bowl.

Remember 1999, the year after 15-1, and the Falcons debacle? The Vikings staggered to a 2-4 start, before they made adjustments and started winning games, to finish 10-6. Opposing defenses will be prepared for the Vikings Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Brett Favre show.

How the team adjusts to what defenses will do to them; will be critical to this team’s success. If teams go after Favre like the Saints did, can the Vikings take advantage of that?

Defensively, the Vikings should still be pretty good, but two injuries have me nervous. In the secondary, if Antoine Winfield isn’t able to be healthy and return to form, but even more important is the middle of the defense. E.j. Henderson suffered a horrific knee injury against Arizona, I’m not sure the defense was the same without him, and I have no idea what his timeline is at this point, or even if he’ll be able to play.

More important though, don’t forget, the Vikings are one injury away from being very marginal at the offense’s key position—quarterback. If Favre were to get hurt, do you have confidence in Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels leading the Vikings to their first Super Bowl Championship?

7) Are you a fan of what David Kahn has done with the Wolves so far?

David Kahn…David Kahn… Who is David Kahn? Hmmm… let me look here, is he the Vikings Vice President or something… no, Oh I know and understudy to Bill Smith with the Twins…. Oh guess not, what, he’s the Timberwolves GM??? Who knew?
Seriously, though, I don’t know that David Kahn has done a bad job with the Timberwolves. I think the reason the Timberwolves are continuing to draw fewer and fewer people is because the NBA doesn’t care about Minnesota or any other small or medium market franchise.

Honestly, to the NBA, the Timberwolves are nothing more than what the Washington Generals are to the Harlem Globetrotters. They are completely meaningless, the Target Center is nothing more than a tour stop for LA, Miami, or Boston. Not only that, but any decent player they have will leave for one of those teams ASAP. Just ask Cleveland about that.
One could argue, that Kahn has really done next to nothing since he was named GM of the Timberwolves, which when you think about it, is pretty much a meaningless title. They can’t win or even move up in the NBA draft “lottery,” and lets face it, they never could attract anyone to come to Minnesota to play with K-G. Kahn didn’t destroy the franchise, (thankfully for him Kevin McHale was on watch while that happened) and the only way he will ever rebuild it, is by taking a chance on some second chance guys, or researching the draft, and finding underrated prospects, who click in the NBA, and if they do, he’ll have to find a way to win a title in a two to three year window, because as soon as they become known, they will bolt for brighter lights LeBron style.

Not to say he doesn’t try to put a good team on the floor. The Michael Beasley trade should help the Wolves, and Johnny Flynn has made a name for himself, and Wesley Johnson shows some promise. The Wolves should improve over last year, however, I think they are a long ways away from competitive.

8) Tim Brewster has taken a lot of heat on Cold Omaha -- what are your thoughts on him and what are your thoughts on the Gophers football team this year?

That is one guy I haven’t quite figured out just yet. When he was hired, remember all of the hype for him about being this great recruiter, and how he was going to put Minnesota on the map, and how Gopher Nay-tion was going to the Rose Bowl...

Is it Brewster’s fault for building the hype around the program he was hired to lead? I don’t think so, if the coach isn’t optimistic about his program’s future, why should anyone else be?
I am more critical of the people who hired Brewster. They sold us on a recruiter, not a coach.

This is the Big Ten, it’s the University of Minnesota, how do you hire a guy who has never been at college head coach at any level? How do you hire a guy, whose vision for the offense is completely different than what the personnel here was used to running. And then how do you let the fan base think we have serious Rose Bowl aspirations in 3-years?
In my mind Rose Bowl talk at that point was unreasonable, and actually the fans who bought into that ill-sighted vision should be ashamed of themselves. He took over a roughly .500 team, which lost four key players, including their best defensive back on a mediocre defense at best. Add to that a first year head coach, and massive changes to the offense, and it looks to me like fans should have seen the recipe for 1-11 in year one coming.

The proof in Brewster will be what happens this year, and the year after, after his guys are in place for a couple of years. Does the team improve, does it stay about .500, or do they struggle and stumble and falter in the Big 10?

At that point, I think you can have an accurate opinion on Tim Brewster; any criticism up to this point should be pointed directly at Joel Maturi.
That said, it is a big year for the Gophers. They have high profile Big 10 home games this year at home against Penn State, Ohio State and Iowa. Their road games are all winnable. I am not down on the Gophers this year, in fact, with their schedule if they can pull an upset or two at home, 9-3, 8-4 aren’t out of the question. Who knows where that could lead? More realistically, I like the Gophers to finish about 7-5 and qualify for a moderate level bowl in 2010.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The legend of Anthony Slama.

I know Anthony Slama exists. I have seen box scores that include his name. Bloggers and media types alike have been talking about him and his pitching skills for months. I have never seen Anthony Slama pitch. I have never even seen a decent looking picture of the guy - in fact I challenge you to find one. You have a better shot at a high-res pic of Nessie sunning herself on the beach. I know Slama has a mustache, which will make him fit in quite nicely on this Twins team where Carl Pavano has made the pornstache cool again. Other than that -- I wouldn't know him if I stood in line next to him at Starbucks.

Alex Burnett got sent down when Slama was called up last night. In the end, it probably won't really matter. A leaky bullpen isn't that much of a problem when the starters routinely give up 5 runs before the 4th inning. But still, it might be nice to have a real closer or a "closer in waiting" on the staff who doesn't pitch to contact and can actually, you know, strike guys out once in awhile.

The Tigers lost last night -- that's great. The White Sox won. I don't want to start thinking about Sidney Rice and his bad hip or Adrian Peterson's fumbling problems, but the Twins might force my hand.

Monday, July 19, 2010

12 days to training camp...Twins win.

Just a few things today...

Brad Childress made what could now be termed his "second annual trip"down to Mississippi on Sunday night to talk with Brett Favre about coming back to Minnesota for what would be Brett's 20th NFL season. I think we all can agree that Favre is going to come back. Not really any big news here - I wanted to get a picture of Favre wearing Packers colors on the website -- just to stick the needle in Packers fans a little bit.

In other news, the Twins won yesterday and finished up the series taking 3 of 4 from the White Sox. I fully admit I didn't watch the end of the game. I was kind of pissed when Joe Mauer started the 7th inning with a terrible at-bat and figured there was no way this team could come back if the heart of the order was going to continue to look disinterested. My dad sent me a text message saying he "always loved Delwyn Young" and then I had to look at the box score last night to figure out that the Twins did, in fact, win the game.

Ben Sheets and Ted Lilly have both been tossed out as possible solutions for the Twins starting pitching problems. No thanks. I would rather just put Duensing in the rotation and maybe even let Slowey try to figure out his issues.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Even Kemps knows Joe Mauer is missing.

Sure, that might be the lowest quality picture we have ever placed on this hallowed web space that is Cold Omaha. But you have to trust us when we say that Joe Mauer's picture is on a milk carton - the Kemps milk carton in our fridge to be specific.

We knew Mauer was sucking it up and not doing well on the field this season, but to find out he is, in fact, missing? We are devastated. Here's to hoping Joe gets found -- maybe even tonight at the All-Star game. God knows the Twins and the rest of Minnesota would love for this baby Jesus to be found.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cliff Lee to the Twins - probably not enough anyway.

The biggest news for Twins fans this morning isn't the fact that the club lost again last night to Toronto. The biggest news is -- Cliff Lee is probably going to be traded to the Yankees as soon as tonight and the Twins lost out on an addition that could have meant a playoff run. looks like the Twins are in trouble and even with Lee, it might not have been enough to get them over the hump.

Two things are needed right now. A real ace of the pitching staff. And a real power hitter from the right side of the plate who can also play 3rd base and put some fear into opposing pitchers. Joe Mauer isn't hitting .300, Michael Cuddyer has the same hitting numbers as Nick Punto, and JJ Hardy can't seem to stay in the lineup. This team is in trouble.

The only suggestions we have -- go get Roy Oswalt or even Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros if you can. And then add a hitter. Miguel Tejada and Ty Wigginton are both available. That would help the lineup.

Just do something to show us you are alive Bill Smith. Please.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Enjoy Kevin Slowey's last start. We hope.

Faithful readers of this site can confirm that we are optimistic by nature and we have a tendency to always see the glass as half full. So it should come as no surprise that we are predicting tonight is the last night Kevin Slowey will be a starting pitcher for our Minnesota Twins.

Yup...we firmly believe Slowey will be sent to the Mariners by the weekend in exchange for Cliff Lee. Well...Slowey, Wilson Ramos, Aaron Hicks and possibly even another mid-to-low-level prospect will be sent to the Mariners for Cliff Lee.

We can dream.