Ex-Vikings QB Kapp, 73, gets into a fight

Just no reason to get fancy with the headline.

Let me guess … you want to see the video? Well, you’re in luck. Here’s former Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp at a Canadian Football League alumni get-together over the weekend, getting into a fight with another ex-CFL player.

They didn’t call him “Nutty Joe” for nothing. Kapp is the one on the left, without a cane. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kThLSiykiHY

Gophers basketball team still has plenty to prove

A Thanksgiving work shift and a complete lack of desire to go Black Friday shopping meant only one thing: I watched a whole lot of sports these past couple of days.

For the first time this season, I got a glimpse at the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team. I watched the first half – and apparently, the wrong half – of Thursday’s game and caught almost all of Friday’s game at the Old Spice Classic.

The Gophers pulled out victories in both games, despite having halftime deficits in each of them. Neither opponent – DePaul and Indiana State – was overly impressive, as the Gophers find themselves undefeated at 6-0 heading into Sunday’s tournament title game against Dayton.

Despite the unbeaten mark, I didn’t like what I saw. The Gophers seem to lack the type of defensive intensity that head coach Tubby Smith‘s teams are usually known for. And I sure don’t think they have enough offensive firepower to overcome it.

Junior-college transfer Julian Welch gave the Gophers a nice boost on Friday with 17 points. Rodney Williams has had his moments on the offensive end, but the reputation as a “highlight dunker” has not been replaced by “complete player” yet.

And Pat Reusse‘s turkey column hit the nail on the head: How disappointing is Ralph Sampson III? There wouldn’t be expectations of him if he didn’t show flashes of being a really productive post presence. He’s earned those expectations, yet despite being a senior, he still disappears for stretches at a time.

Trevor Mbakwe is an absolute beast of a rebounder, maybe one of the best the Gophers have ever had. He’s a handful down low, and Minnesota should do more to try and get him involved offensively.

Undefeated or not, I need to see more to believe the Gophers can even be an above .500 team in Big Ten play.

Week 12 NFL picks

A 2-3 week last week snapped a pretty good run I was on of going 3-2. Here’s my picks for this week:

  • New York Jets by 8 1/2 vs. Buffalo: Bills
  • Houston by 3 1/2 at Jacksonville: Texans
  • Carolina by 4 at Indianapolis: Panthers
  • Tennessee by 3 1/2 vs. Tampa Bay: Titans
  • New Orleans by 6 1/2 vs. New York Giants: Giants

Can the Green Bay Packers be beaten?

Take an all-world quarterback with good receivers and combine that with a takeaway machine of a defense, and what do you have? An undefeated team.

The Packers dropped the Detroit Lions on Thursday to push their record to 11-0, while Detroit fell to 7-4. The Lions looked good early, but penalties helped take the wind out of their sails. And Ndamukong Suh‘s decision to get kicked out of the game … well, not a wise idea. And c’mon, Suh! Are we really supposed to buy the excuse that you were just trying to regain your balance?

Aaron Rodgers ... he's been pretty good. Associated Press photo

Aaron Rodgers has been really, REALLY good this year. That’s no surprise. In 11 games this year, he has 33 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

And the Packers defense leads the league in turnovers. You don’t see too many teams struggle when they don’t turn the ball over, but force the other team to do so many, many times.

But the question remains: Will the Packers go undefeated?

Only one team – the 1972 Miami Dolphins – has run the table in the regular season and postseason.

I’m in the camp of those believing some team will step up and beat Green Bay. I’m not sure when, but I think it will happen.

Thursday’s game with Detroit marked just the second time all season that the Packers have faced a team that entered the game with a winning record. In the final six weeks – including the Lions game – five of Green Bay’s six opponents are at least 6-4. The schedule is getting more difficult, and it will be tough sledding to get through games against the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and one more game with the Lions unscathed. And don’t count out those Oakland Raiders.

The Packers are an outstanding team, but are they a 16-0 kind of team? You need a lot of talent and a little bit of luck to win that many games without a loss. I’d still bet against it.

An early glimpse at the Twins roster

Considering that it is only late November, the Minnesota Twins have been rather active so far this offseason. The Twins have already signed two players who should log considerable at-bats for the team in 2012, assuming both players can stave off that pesky injury bug that was buzzing around the clubhouse last season.

Let’s look at how the roster shapes up:

STARTING LINEUP

CF Denard Span. Twins GM Terry Ryan say he won’t trade his leadoff hitter. Concussion issues remain a concern.
SS Jamey Carroll. Newest addition to team brings good on-base percentage. Steady though not spectacular glove. Will be 38 on opening day.
C Joe Mauer. Out to prove that eight-year contract wasn’t a mistake. 2011 was a lost season.
1B Justin Morneau. Reportedly has said he would like to be everyday DH. I actually think that would be a good idea. Concussion issues a concern here too.
DH Ryan Doumit. Will spot Mauer at catcher, Morneau at first and play some outfield. Adding another oft-injured player could prove to be a mistake though.
3B Danny Valencia. Definitely took a step back in 2011. Rumored to not be a favorite of management, but it would be foolish to trade him without getting something useful.
RF Trevor Plouffe. Another interchangeable part. Could end up doing more DH. Spring training will better determine his status.
2B Alexi Casilla. Casilla probably in driver’s seat for starting job. Tsuyoshi Nishioka could end up in minors. Brian Dozier could be called up fast.
LF Ben Revere. Good spot for Revere. A little less pressure. Can serve as that “second leadoff” hitter that team’s often overrate in the No. 9 slot.

Starting rotation. No changes yet. Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing.

Bullpen. No major changes. Left-hander Matt Maloney and right-hander Jeff Gray added to 40-man roster. Joe Nathan and Matt Capps are free agents, with Nathan already having agreed to terms with Texas. Other names in the ‘pen include Glen Perkins, Alex Burnett and Lester Oliveros. Kevin Slowey and Jose Mijares may not be tendered contracts.

ONE OTHER NOTE

I will be making a rare offseason appearance on Dizzo’s Den on 970-AM WDAY and wday.com for a full 30 minutes at 6:3o tonight, joining host Dom Izzo and fellow Forum-ite Tom Mix. Talkin’ Twins offseason. Tune in.

A few thoughts on what’s left for Vikings

It’s been a mess of a season for the Minnesota Vikings. The Donovan McNabb experiment was short and anything but sweet. The defense has struggled. There hasn’t been much good news on the stadium front. Lassie ran away. You get the gist of it.

So with the Vikings at 2-8, what’s left? Here are a few things that I think the Vikings would like to see in the final six games:

  • Christian Ponder’s development speeds up. As a baseball fan, the word “tools” comes to my mind regarding Ponder’s first few starts for the Vikings as a rookie quarterback. He’s made some nice throws. And he can make plays with his feet. And unlike a lot of young QBs, I think he does have the appropriate “throw first” mentality. He runs, but only when he has to. It was a short and somewhat awkward offseason, which had to have an impact on Ponder moreso than the veterans. The Vikings need Ponder to finish this season strong.
  • What to do with Percy Harvin? This guy is an enigma to me. He’s a dangerous player with the ball in his hands, yet I always am left with the feeling after a Vikings game that the coaching staff didn’t do enough to get the ball in his hands. Or that Harvin didn’t do enough to get the ball in his hands. Why is that? Am I alone? He seems to be logging more snaps at running back to give Adrian Peterson a breather, and I think that’s a good move. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think Harvin should be a No. 1 receiver. But he’s certainly a capable playmaker. Can Ponder and Harvin develop some chemistry in the passing game as the season winds down?
  • A defense in need of big plays. The Vikings lack playmakers on defense. This was something that I heard KFAN’s Dan Barreiro say a couple weeks back, and he’s absolutely right. Besides Jared Allen – who has had a dominant season the defensive front – who else is a Vikings’ playmaker on defense? Minnesota’s six interceptions are tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL. Let’s take it a step further. Look around the NFC North, specifically the defenses. Green Bay has Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews. Even Charlie Peprah has 4 INTs. Detroit has Ndamukong Suh. Cliff Avril has 6 sacks. Chris Houston has 4 INTs. Chicago has Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, etc. The Vikings just don’t have enough playmakers on defense to compete in the division.

I could go on. Feel free to add to this list in the Comments section.

 

Was Saturday proof that BCS works? No

What a day of college football on Saturday, huh? Of course, local fans got a chance to watch North Dakota State clinch a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title and secure an automatic berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff field.

But on the national level, it was the type of day rarely seen. Three of the top-five teams in the AP poll lost this weekend (No. 2 Oklahoma State lost Friday, while, No. 4 Oregon and No. 5 Oklahoma fell Saturday).

Of course, that left no shortage of pundits on “The Worldwide Leader” on Sunday morning suggesting that Saturday was proof that the Bowl Championship Series is good for college football. Those games Saturday were like playoff games, they say. I’d argue the only thing better than “like playoff games” are “playoff games” themselves, but nevertheless.

The point was made – and has been made many times before – that a playoff system would ruin college football’s exciting regular season.

So I turn to you, Bison fans? Cheering for an FCS team that is in a playoff field, what do you think of the Bowl Championship Series system?

My feeling is that NDSU fans would say that their regular season was pretty darn exciting. And it would not have been any more or less exciting if the FCS had a bowl system instead of a playoff system.

To me, Saturday would have been exciting if FBS had a playoff. Those teams that lost could be fighting for their playoff lives in, say, an eight-team field after losses like that.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. I try to avoid the BCS posts because I know there is no convincing those on either side of the fence. But after Saturday’s games and Sunday’s chatter, I couldn’t help myself. I will say this: Both systems do create excitement.

Can Tebow’s offense work in the NFL? And Week 11 picks

Tebow

Tim Tebow is nearly Tebowing in this photo. Fist needs to be closer to chin. Assocated Press photo

Despite Tim Tebow‘s goody-two-shoes image, he’s the most polarizing figure in pro sports today. No matter where you look, everyone seems to have an opinion.

I’ll tackle a few of the phrases I hear most about Tebow:

“Say what you want, but Tebow wins.”

Well, that is true … to a degree. The Denver Broncos are 4-1 since Tebow took over the reins as the starting quarterback. But let’s remember how some of these games were won. In order to rally from two scores down to beat the Miami Dolphins, the Broncos recovered an onside kick. Without that play, Tebow never gets a chance. On Thursday, without the defensive touchdown, the Broncos don’t pull out a win. Tebow is at the helm, but he alone isn’t the reason for the 4-1 record.

“I don’t care about his record. The option can’t work in the NFL.”

I’m not sure if I agree with that. I don’t disagree with it either. Time will tell. It’s not something that has been tried for some time. And while we can all agree that Tebow’s option offense wouldn’t be enough to beat prolific offenses in New England and Green Bay, against the vast majority of the medicore NFL, it seems to be working so far. And really, how many QBs in the NFL stand a chance of upsetting the Packers, Patriots, etc.?

“I don’t care what happens. I just know Tebow is a bad quarterback.”

He certainly looks awful when he becomes a classic drop-back passer. I’m pretty skeptical that he can get the job done over the long haul. But he’s a good – if not tiresome – topic of conversation.

 Week 11 NFL picks

Yet another 3-2 week last week. Not bad.

Packers by 14 1/2 vs. Bucs: Bucs
Raiders by 1 1/2 at Vikings: Raiders
Cowboys by 7 1/2 at Redskins: Cowboys
Dolphins by 2 vs. Bills: Bills
Giants by 3 1/2 vs. Eagles: Giants

Doumit’s addition makes sense for busy Twins

Terry Ryan has been the Minnesota Twins general manager for less than two weeks in this current stint. And already, the Twins have two new infielders, though neither addition is too exciting.

Just days after the Jamey Carroll signing became official, Ryan Doumit agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Twins.

Doumit – though oft-injured – seems like a great fit for the Twins thanks to his versatility. In addition to his catching experience, he also has logged considerable time at first base and in right field.

A capable hitter with questionable fielding skills, Doumit is a career .271 hitter coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Last season with Pittsburgh, he hit .303 and slugged .477 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 77 games. Should Joe Mauer suffer any long-term injuries in 2011, the Twins can count on Doumit to be much more productive than Drew Butera, Rene Rivera, Steve Holm, Matt Walbeck, Javier Valentin and any other potential backstop option they can find.

Of course, the caveat with Doumit is that he is no stranger to the injury bug. Only twice in his seven-year career has he logged at least 300 at-bats, and his career high for ABs is only 431.

But given Mauer’s history, it made a lot of sense to add Doumit. At the very least, he can spell Mauer at catcher, spell Justin Morneau at first base and play some time at designated hitter – to preserve his own health – and in the outfield. His lack of range won’t hurt the Twins, since that’s one attribute that Ben Revere and Denard Span bring plenty of. Span and Revere can definitely shade teams to the right a little bit more, since they have the speed to make up for it.

If I were running the Twins – and if I were, the organization would likely be in much worse shape than it already is – I would tell Mauer and Doumit that they will split time at catcher and first base 50/50 and make Morneau the primary DH. Honestly, almost every other day, Mauer and Doumit would switch spots, with Doumit logging occasional time in the outfield. Keep their legs fresh.

And now you’re first-place … Minnesota Wild?

Yes, these are tough times. The Twins are coming off of a 99-loss season. The Vikings just got smoked by the rival Packers to fall to 2-7. And the Wolves … they probably aren’t playing a game this season.

But across the Northland marched a team in skates. The Wild are here to rescue downtrodden fans in Minnesota.

I knew the Wild were playing well, but it was a little startling to see them atop the Northwest Division standings after a come-from-behind victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. So it’s time to give the Wild some attention.

How are the Wild doing it?

  • One trademark of previous successful Wild teams was good goaltending, and this year’s team is no different. Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom have formed a formidable 1-2 combo in net for Minnesota. Only two teams – the Red Wings and Rangers – have given up fewer goals than the Wild’s 38 allowed this season.
  • The Wild aren’t punishing opposing goalies too much, but there have been a couple of nice contributions. Dany Heatley – acquired in an offseason trade – leads the team with 11 points, and Moorhead’s own Matt Cullen has 10 points thanks to a team-high seven goals this season.

 

Carroll can give Twins stability if age doesn’t catch up to him, and NFL picks

Though the Minnesota Twins aren’t acknowledging it yet, multiple media outlets are reporting that the Twins have agreed to terms with free-agent infielder Jamey Carroll.

This marks the first major league move made by Terry Ryan since he assumed the role of general manager following the firing of Bill Smith earlier this month.

Carroll gets a two-year deal worth $7 million. It’s believed he’ll be the team’s everyday shortstop.

This feels like a glass-half-full kind of a day, so let’s start with the good things that Carroll brings:

  • He has a career on-base percentage of .348.
  • He hit .290 last season.
  • He has a career fielding percentage of .984.

The bad?

  • He will be 38 on Opening Day.
  • He had 17 RBIs last season in about 500 plate appearances.
  • He has never played more than 70 games in a season at shortstop.
  • Did I mention he’ll be 38 on Opening Day?

Those 17 RBIs … that’s an insanely low total, no matter where a person is hitting in the lineup. Kind of hard to understand that one, other than the fact that Carroll’s LA Dodgers were really bad last year.

The Twins needed middle infield help, and Carroll gives them that. His numbers have been remarkably steady for someone at his age, although his career path has been anything but normal. He made his big league debut for the Montreal Expos in 2002 at age 28. And one could argue the last two seasons have been two of the three best years of his career.

But should the Twins be a little worried about handing an everyday shortstop job – and for $3.5 mil/season, that’s probably what they’re doing – to someone who is 38 years old and has never had that job handed to him before? I would think so.

NFL Week 10 picks

I had another 3-2 week last week. One of these days I need to figure out what my season record is. But no time for that. Here are the picks for Week 10:

  • New England pick’em at NY Jets: Patriots
  • Houston by 3 at Tampa: Texans
  • Jacksonville by 3 at Indy: Colts (Has to happen sometime, right?)
  • Cleveland by 3 vs. St. Louis: Browns
  • Kansas City by 4 vs. Denver: Broncos