Benefit from Pavano trade could last awhile

I’m the first to admit that I’m stunned how well Carl Pavano has pitched for the Minnesota Twins this season.

The Twins did the right thing in offering him arbitration this past offseason, and Pavano – considering the free-agent market – did the right thing in taking it.

Sporting an epic mustache, Pavano this year has been that steady veteran presence in an otherwise turbulent Twins rotation. He’s gone 9-6 in 15 starts, posting a 3.33 ERA and a .239 opponents’ batting average.

Twins GM Bill Smith probably doesn’t get enough credit for how well last summer’s trade with Cleveland has worked out. The Twins got Pavano from the Indians in exchange for minor league pitcher Yohan Pino. Forget about the Johan trade. It’s the Yohan trade we’re talking about.

Pino, by the way, has a 5.49 ERA in 15 starts for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus.

But it doesn’t stop there with Pavano, who helped pitch the team to the AL Central title last year.

Pavano is now on pace to be a Type A free agent after the season, according to projections made available by MLBtraderumors.com.

That means his departure after the season would give the Twins a compensatory first-round pick plus the first-round pick of whatever team signs him.

Not a bad haul for Yohan Pino. It might be a better haul for Yohan than it was for Johan.

On the radio today

I’m making my weekly appearance on "Sports Talk" today from 1-2 p.m. on WDAY 970-AM.

Joining me in studio is Forum colleague Andrew Gottenborg.

Today on the show, we’ll talk to Associated Press sports writer Jon Krawczynski about all things Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Twins. The NBA opens free agency tomorrow. Are the Wolves equipped to make any splash whatsoever? They have the money, but seemingly every team has the money.

We’ll also talk to Fargo Force goalie Zane Gothberg, who was drafted by the NHL’s Boston Bruins on Saturday. We’ll ask him about that and about the upcoming Force camp in a couple of weeks.

And Gottenborg and I will debate a potential Stephen Strasburg All-Star bid, which got some activity on my previous post. I have to admit that Steve in the Comments section made a strong argument against Strasburg being on the team, and I might be wavering. I knew it was the year of the pitcher, but wow. There are a lot of guys with sub-3.00 ERAs in the NL, aren’t there? 

To take part in the show, give us a call at (701) 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com.

Strasburg belongs at All-Star Game

There’s been no shortage of debate regarding whether or not Stephen Strasburg should be at the MLB All-Star Game in a couple of weeks.

My answer to all of that: Absolutely he should be.

The best explanation for that is one I heard a couple of days ago (I think ESPN’s Jon Miller said it). The All-Star Game is meant to showcase the players fans want to see. That’s why it was developed. It’s a game for the fans, not the players. If it was for the players, you wouldn’t have as many no-shows as you typically do with these things.

That’s why in 1992, it was OK that Magic Johnson played in the NBA All-Star Game, even though he hadn’t played an NBA game all year. People might have griped at the time that Magic was taking the spot of a deserving player, but that moment remains one of the most memorable in the game’s history. I doubt anyone would ask for a do-over now.

And let’s face it: There’s way too many spots on the All-Star Game as is. If you’re the 32nd man on that team, there’s probably more you could have done to prevent yourself from landing on the Strasburg chopping block.

So I hope the youngster – assuming he continues to mow down hitters – makes the team. I believe he won’t, but I hope he does. He’s one of the biggest stories in baseball, and he belongs on the big stage.

Cuddyer belongs at third base for now

I was pretty startled by something Minnesota Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer said during Sunday’s Minnesota Twins-New York Mets telecast.

Bremer said that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire plans to continue to use Michael Cuddyer as the team’s third baseman when the Twins open a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Nobody is going to confuse Cuddyer with Brooks Robinson in terms of defense. No one will confuse him with Scott Leius either.

But there’s no doubt that Cuddyer at third base gives the Twins the best chance to win, no matter his defensive shortcomings.

Cuddyer’s move from the outfield allows Gardy to go with Denard Span, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel out there regularly and gets more at-bats to Jim Thome, who just hasn’t seen much of the field lately.

Young and Kubel are the team’s hottest hitters, so neither of them should be sitting. And this has hurt Thome, who I think is still someone who can help this team win. And in Jason Repko, the Twins have the type of no-hit but good-gloved outfielder they need to sub in for Kubel late in games when they’re ahead.

The Twins are struggling, but I credit Gardy with making a good decision regarding Cuddy.

What I learned about soccer

Following the USA’s loss to Ghana in the World Cup’s round of 16 on Saturday, now seems like as good of time as any to inform everyone of what I’ve learned about the global game.

  • Criticize a coach, and all is lost: Take France and England as examples. The French players basically had a mutiny, and they didn’t even advance out of pool play. John Terry of England criticized his coach recently, and they got embarrassed today by Germany in an elimination game. It’s just not like that in the States. Heck, the 1985 Chicago Bears had coaches that hated each other, and they just kept winning. Sports teams over here just don’t need to get along. In soccer, they must.
  • When a player falls victim to a hard foul in a blowout, there’s much less pain. You know what I’m talking about. In a one-goal game, if a player collapses after being tapped on the shoulder, that player will roll around on the ground for a minute or so. In a blowout game like some of the ones we’ve seen earlier in the tournament, those players get back up right away. Amazing, isn’t it?
  • Unless I missed it, there wasn’t any rioting after the Americans’ loss on Saturday. No torched cars. No looting. No National Guard. Where’s your soccer spirit? If you need any proof at all that soccer will never be as big here as it is overseas, that proof can be found in the lack of rioting. And it’s safe to say that’s a good thing.
  • Apparently, as some sort of sign of sportsmanship, players from opposing teams exchange jerseys after games. Nothing promotes camaraderie like slipping into another man’s sweaty uniform. Yuck! If it was me playing, I’d say, "Thanks, but not thanks."

Soccer returns to its familiar place in USA

Goodbye, soccer. See you in four years.

That’s the way that I and many other sports fans feel now that the United States has been eliminated from the World Cup. The USA lost to Ghana 2-1 in extra time Saturday.

Sure, I’ll probably keep an eye on the rest of the games, but I won’t watch as intensely as I would have if the U.S. was still going.

This is the challenge that soccer faces in this country. For Americans to care, the U.S. must be great.

But the biggest challenge in my opinion is that Americans are used to seeing the best athletes all of the time. Major League Baseball. National Football League. The NBA. The NHL. The best athletes money can buy play in those leagues.

Major League Soccer is a solid product. To be honest with you, I never thought it would have lasted this long, but it has. But those players aren’t the best the world produces. They’re good players. But the MLS isn’t the English Premier League. Real Salt Lake shouldn’t be confused with Real Madrid.

And that’s not something that’s going to change. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario, and Europeans just care more about soccer and spend a lot more on it than we do. So unless Mark Cuban decides to go hog-wild and invest his own money to buy the best and hope he breaks even, it’s just not going to happen.

I really do enjoy watching the World Cup. But for me, it’s like the Olympics. You get jacked up every four years, and that’s how it will remain.

Wolves draft missing something again

The Internet let me down again. I wrote up a lengthy post about the Wolves draft, only to have it not publish. Here’s a condensed version of that post, which you might prefer anyway.

I wonder what everyone thinks about how the Minnesota Timberwolves did the NBA draft last night. As anticipated, they took Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson. They also acquired the draft rights to Marquette forward Lazar Hayward and traded for Portland TrailBlazers forward Martell Webster.

Everything I read about Johnson reminds me of what I read about Corey Brewer when the Wolves drafted him three years ago. Great defender. Efficient on offense. Long-armed athlete with an impressive vertical.

Brewer was OK last year. He averaged 13 points per game, but isn’t a particularly great scorer. Do the Wolves really need another Brewer?

The Wolves continue to lack that big-time scorer. And it’s not someone they’ll ever find in free agency. They need to build through the draft and with smart trades.

With all of the pieces they could have traded at last night’s draft (three first-rounders, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, etc.), I’m just surprised they were unable to move up into the top two picks and land a John Wall or Evan Turner. But I hardly blame the teams that drafted those two players for not wanting to give up those selections.

It just seemed like a "blah" draft last night for the Wolves.

A couple of links

Crazy USA soccer game followed by crazier Wimbledon match

I figured a future "30 for 30" ESPN documentary would be developed for June 23, 2010, the way this day had started.

The United States’ soccer victory against Algeria with a winning goal in stoppage time marked the first time the USA had won its group at the World Cup since 1930. And without that goal in the final minutes, the USA doesn’t even advance from its group.

Landon Donovan‘s shot into the back of the net off a rebound saved FIFA a lot of headaches after the U.S. had another goal disallowed by a referee’s call. This particular call was hardly as egregious as the one made in the USA’s tie against Slovenia last time out, but still could have proven costly.

The Americans will face Ghana at 1:30 p.m. Saturday as knockout play at the World Cup begins.

But without question, the craziest event to take place in the world of sports started around the same time as the USA’s morning game against Algeria, but took about four or five hours longer. And that’s only counting Wednesday’s play.

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut started their first-round Wimbledon match Tuesday before darkness postponed the remainder of it until Wednesday. But as Wednesday came and went, there was still no winner.

The match is in a fifth set, and that set is tied 59-59! Many records have fallen. Both players passed the previous record for aces in a match. The 118-game set is a record. The 10 hours combined play between Tuesday and Wednesday is a record.

Both players looked gassed as play wound down Wednesday, in particular Isner. But he was the one when the postponement was announced Wednesday that looked upset by the decision after Mahut complained he could no longer see the ball.

Quite the crazy day.

On the radio today

We’ve got a big show slated for "Sports Talk" today from 1-2 p.m. on WDAY 970-AM.

Joining me in studio – making his radio debut – is my Forum colleague Andrew Gottenborg. He’ll be filling in for the departed Kerry Collins for the next couple of weeks. Gottenborg is just like Collins, except there’s less risk of him cursing on the air. I’m sure he’ll be a big hit.

Today, we’ll be talking to Fargo auto racer Donny Schatz about tonight’s Tony Stewart Night at Red River Valley Speedway and about his season on the World of Outlaws circuit.

Then, we’ll discuss the USA’s thrilling World Cup victory this morning in the final minutes to push the U.S. into the knockout round. If you didn’t care about the World Cup, will you start to care now?

And last but not least, we have UND athletic director Brian Faison. He’ll talk about The Summit League’s decision to evaluate his university and we’ll get his reaction to the conference choosing to explore adding football.

To take part in the show, call 293-9000 or (800) 279-9329 or e-mail talk@wday.com

What makes the Twins a frontrunner for Cliff Lee?

It feels like everywhere you look, someone is saying the Minnesota Twins will end up with Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Cliff Lee.

The Mariners gave up a ton of prospects in order to acquire the former Cy Young Award winner from Philadelphia, where Lee won two World Series games for the Phillies against the eventual world champion New York Yankees.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs and U.S.S. Mariner writes that he thinks the Twins are the most likely destination for Lee.

I understand the reasoning. I really do. But at what moment did the Twins become the big fish? These aren’t the kinds of midseason deals the Twins make. In fact, they never make them.

I think Lee would be a great fit. If it took Wilson Ramos and one of the current pitchers in the rotation to get Lee, I think I’d pull the trigger. Whatever team that has Lee at the end of the season stands to get two first-round picks out of it for compensation when he eventually signs his long-term deal.

And Lee beat the Yankees on baseball’s biggest stage. Twice.

Ramos is blocked by Joe Mauer. Kyle Gibson will be looking for a rotation spot soon. It makes sense.

But I don’t believe the Twins will ever do it. They simply don’t make huge moves before the trading deadline like this.