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Friday (Punto and picks) edition: Wha’ Happened?

Friday, December 12th, 2008

punto.JPGWe’ll get to the NFL picks in just a second (Bears in OT?), but we have to acknowledge, first, the perfect storm created by yesterday’s Nick Punto signing (at least in the eyes of most Twins fans, if pesky Interweb message boards and comment sections can be arbiters of truth). The factors:

1) Punto is a scrappy infielder who, by most accounts, would be adored by Minnesota fans under other circumstances. But Twins fans, we think, have simply grown tired of what he can provide. They look at a ceiling of .290ish hitting and solid defense and say, “Meh.” He is one of those players who is remembered for what he can’t do rather than what he can do (see Jones, Jacque).

2) The money. $8.5 million over two years seems a little high, even if the market might say it’s reasonable. Could Matt Tolbert do the same thing for much less? Possibly.

3) Winter Meetings factor. Big names are changing teams. Talented players have been talked about as options for upgrades to the left side of the infield. And the Twins leave Vegas with the same old, same old. No tattoos. No 4 a.m. gambling stories. No “What Happens in Vegas …” moments. Just Punto. But he’s not just Punto now, he’s another symbol, to fans, for the perception that the Twins are cheap and unimaginative.

4) He’s being paid as a starter and asked to fill that role at SS. But most people who have watched the Twins in recent years will say some variation of, “I can stand Nick Punto three days a week, but after that he’s just not as effective.”

5) The Bill Smith factor. There might be more confidence right now in the economy than the Twins’ GM. Of course, if he can wrangle a third baseman and bullpen help via a trade involving an outfielder, much will be forgiven. It remains to be seen whether last winter made him so hesitant that next year’s team will essentially mirror the 2008 club. To us, standing pat would be more dangerous than rolling the dice on a deal to fill obvious holes. Even if last year exceeded expectations, 2006 to 2007 should be a gentle reminder that things can fall apart in a hurry.

Your thoughts?

NFL picks (winners in bold)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers
Washington Redskins at Cincinnati Bengals
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills at N.Y. Jets
Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams
Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals
New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders
N.Y. Giants at Dallas Cowboys
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles

Fasola-link! How to overcome procrastination. [If you are putting this off until later, you have already earned a FAIL].

TFD: Williams Wall and YouTube Love

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

In case you missed it, it sounds as though the Williams Wall will be firmly in place for the rest of this season, regardless of when it ends. Take that, jama! Oh, but we can make it up to you. Good night, and good luck (to the Saints).

The Internets: Sabathia to eat old Yankee Stadium?

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

bacon.jpg*A nice bit of humor. Or is it? (Thanks, Howard)

*This was inevitable, wasn’t it, Mr. Shiancoe?

*T.O. is on the verge of derailing the Cowboys. Who would have predicted that his time in Dallas would not end well? (Thanks, MC Creme Fraiche)

*John Daly says, “your move, Plax. I’m back as the leader in this crazy clubhouse.”

*Jeff has no link, but he wants McHale wear sweaters on the sidelines while he coaches the Wolves. Hey, can’t hurt, right? At the very least, the crazy Cosby colors might have distracted Carmelo’s shooting eye last night.

*And finally, Stu (signing in as “Fasolastu”) wants to introduce you to Baconnaise. Gross. But it went nicely with that random picture Diddy sent in during his recent travels, presumably in Wisconsin. As if the sign needed the “yum.” It’s implied.

Guest post Jon: Happy Birthday, RandBall

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

birthday.jpgAw, shucks. Jon remembered our blogging birthday. And seriously, we didn’t have to pay him more than $2,000 or promise at least one hockey story a week to get him to write these nice things. But yes, RandBall is two. The official two-year Redactular will be a week from Monday, Dec. 22, for the MNF game between the Bears and Packers. 7:30 start time. It will be at the official RB headquarters (not the bowling alley, the other one). The official e-vite will be out one of these days. For now, though, here’s Jon saying way more nice things than he had to. Jon?

As I mentioned last year, either December 8 or December 11, 2006, can be considered as the official birth of RandBall. Last year, just to confuse things, we celebrated that birthday on December 10, so it’s all up in the air; it’s more of a birthday week at this point than anything.

So: two years of RandBall. Last year, I lauded the first twelve months of the blog, noting that it was the first mainstream-media sports blog — and maybe the first major sports blog anywhere — to actually put the community, the commenters, at the center of its existence. Twelve more months on, this crazy Rand-launched scheme has strengthened even further; commenter features like Stu’s Hunt Down and Brandon and roughkat’s Timberwolves Game Recaps are among the best things about RandBall. Forget the team blogs, forget the anarchy of the Star Tribune’s “Comment on this story” feature — thanks to that community, when big stories break on the Minnesota scene, I head first to RandBall for reaction and jokes aplenty.

In other words, two years on, things are still going strong at RandBall — all the more impressive, given the blog’s curious position on the landscape. Since the launch of RandBall, one of the “original” Star Tribune sports blogs, the paper has launched a veritable multitude of athletics-focused blogs. Nowadays, practically the whole sports department spends at least part of its time pounding out words in cyberspace — but each of those blogs has a regular beat to generate content, and a regular topic of discussion that lends itself to easy, topical posts. Rand, meanwhile, has no defined mandate — unless you count “the soft underbelly of sports” as a mandate — and has a full-time, not-really-RandBall-related job in addition to the blog. And yet after two years, RandBall and its community remain strong. In a world where something like 100,000 blogs are created each day — and a nearly equal number fall off the map or disappear without a trace — Rand keeps plugging away, keeping the community going.

I don’t know about you, but I’m impressed by that.

And so, on behalf of the past and future RandBall community, I’d like to once again salute Mr. Rand. We thank you for the entertainment and for a site that’s still required daily reading, and congratulate you on two years of faithful service. Here’s to many more “Wha’ Happeneds,” and to many more birthday celebrations — perhaps, in the future, even on the same day of the month each year. Happy birthday!

Aw, thanks again, Jon. And thanks, Twins. You knew just what we wanted for our blog b-day: two more years of Nick Punto, as the likely starting shortstop no less! Bill Smith, you sly dog, have you been reading our journal?

Please, discuss that signing and give us a [moderate] roasting in the comments, if you would. Don’t let all those nice things be the final word.

Stu’s Hunt Down: Steve Bono

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

bono.JPGThis is Stu’s Hunt Down of Steve Bono, which from now on should be remembered as the Hunt Down in which Stu became the first person under 80 and also the first person since 1932 to use the word “fussbudget.” Stu?

The Huntdown

Name: Steve Bono

Claim to Fame, Minnesota: was chosen by the Vikings in the sixth round of the 1985 NFL Draft to back up Tommy Kramer and Wade Wilson, immediately becoming the the most popular quarterback on the team. This phenomenon, known in football circles as The Best Quarterback is the One We Haven’t Seen Play Fallacy, is a long-standing Minnesota tradition, and why John David Booty will never be more popular than he is right now. Bono’s most memorable game with the Purple is one in which he replaced an ineffective Wade Wilson at Philadelphia, completed 1 of 10 passes for 5 yards and a quarterback rating of “Moses Moreno,” and was pulled in favor of Wilson with eight minutes left in the game and the Vikings trailing 23-0. Wilson would rally the Vikings to a stunning 28-23 win, and you may recall Anthony Carter dodging snowballs from the Eagles faithful and mastering karate and friendship for everyone as he scored the winning touchdown.

Claim to Fame, Everywhere Else: despite his inauspicious two years with Minnesota, would go on to a ridiculously lengthy NFL career, with stops in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Kansas City, Green Bay, St. Louis and Carolina before retiring after the 1999 season. As the Wiki mentions, he had a 76-yard rushing touchdown for the Chiefs in 1995. As anyone who’s seen the highlight can tell you, he ran those 76 yards very, very slowly.

Where He Is Now: this press release says he’s a Principal for ThinkEquity, “a research-centric institutional investment firm focused on the growth economy.” Given that the words “economy” and “growth” appear in the same sentence, you may have guessed that this was written in 2006, long before the bread riots and pestilence began.

Glorious Randomness: he’s apparently quite the fussbudget. From a 1995 Sports Illustrated profile by Michael Silver:

Steve, the NFL’s answer to Frasier’s Niles Crane, color-coordinates his closet, folds and hangs his clothes immediately after removing them and waits to do his ironing until the last possible minute before he dresses, the better to ensure there are no unsightly wrinkles in his garb. He has been known to go ballistic over a misplaced stapler, and he counts the 1985 day on which his Minnesota Viking teammates dumped out the contents of his briefcase as one of the darkest he has endured.

“During training camp his rookie year, the guys noticed that he carried this very organized briefcase everywhere he went,” Tina says. “One day they turned it over and let everything drop on the floor. He called me in a panic; you would have thought somebody had died.”

Says Steve, “It was not a good night. Let’s just leave it at that.

Steve Bono, everyone.

[Proprietor note: Photo from the Strib vault, circa 1996, featuring Martin Harrison dragging Bono down. Harrison apparently had seven sacks that season].