Game 2: Everyone’s screaming at me

Twins brass tipped their hand when Manager(?) Paul Molitor dropped prodigal son Joe Mauer into the cleanup spot in his lineup for the season opener. Fortunately for those of us with money on his club to surpass 74.5 wins this season, Molitor’s Bat Signal has gone unnoticed, so far, by Royals pitchers.

(Rest in peace, Yordano Ventura. I waste time in two fantasy baseball leagues. In one, I draft only foreign players; in the other, I draft only players who measure six feet or under. Ventura’s height, nationality and temperament had him on a Hall of Fame track in my universe.)

These Twins are walking a lot.

I don’t imagine that’s a coincidental result — not given the slugging percentage (.389) and on-base percentage (.358) that their newfound cleanup hitter boasted last year. Nor given the installment as designated hitter of Robbie Grossman (career .386 OBP) over sluggers like Byung Ho Park (.278 OBP) and, perhaps, Kennys Vargas (.309 OBP).

It’s no surprise here that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, the Twins’ new ball-ops bros, buy into the well-established doctrine that getting on base is the key to scoring runs. (I’m not going to throw dirt on Terry Ryan here; we can suss that out some other time.) What does surprise me — or, at least, what caught my eye in the box score — is the lineup change, and what it says about who’s calling the shots.

If Paul Molitor wanted to bat Joe Mauer fourth, he had 162 opportunities last year (and 162 more the year before) to do so. Yet according to the guys I sometimes suffer through on the radio (one of whom is, for my money, the best Twins analyst in town), Mauer hit cleanup fewer than 10 times in his entire career prior to Monday’s opener.

So … either a manager in the final year of his contract is throwing darts at the wall to see what sticks, or he’s taking marching orders from a couple hands-on executives gearing up (and saving up? by not firing him?) for a pennant push in 2019. I surmise this — a willingness to follow directions — might also explain the decision to keep Neal Allen.

Speaking of following directions … my girls (5 months and 3.2 years) and I enjoyed the opener together at home. I did my best to celebrate the occasion. My youngest wore a Twins onesie. I grilled bratwurst. We put the Dazzle Man on the radio.

But it’s a change of pace after years of wading through the drunken sea of weekend-warrior drinkers who make Opening Day a premium-price ticket on the Twins’ schedule.

I was the only one in the house who cared that the Twins won their first opener in six years. I was the only one in the house who didn’t need help having a bowel movement, too.

At least we know who’s calling the shots here.


Football free in the 55103 (that’s my zip code)

Cam Newton got drilled late in the NFL’s Thursday-night opener. It was a helmet-to-helmet hit (there were several) that came on the game’s last drive, as Cam was being cut low by a second Broncos defender. Brutal and intentional, it drew a penalty flag.

No shit, that’s a penalty.

Unless, apparently, the quarterback intentionally grounds the football before getting his head bounced off the field turf, as Newton did. In that case, the penalties offset, and the offense gets to replay the down with its concussed QB.

So this is how the NFL plans to step up efforts to protect players from brain injury.

The Frontline documentary “League of Denial” made me feel dirty for watching pro football. But I could still justify following — OK, enjoying — the NFL because I don’t buy tickets to games or pay attention to its TV sponsors.

But that Thursday-night game felt like a tipping point.

Maybe it’s the $1 billion Death Star that swelled up like a goiter on the skyline of my neighboring city. Certainly, the Electronic Pull-tab scheme crafted to pay for it didn’t help. And who could ignore the mouth-breathing Trump voters burning 49ers’ jerseys on Facebook Live lately?

Anyway, I haven’t watched football since. And I don’t much miss it.

As beautifully as the game translates onto the TV screen, the product on the field stinks in nine games out of 10. Teams have become so universally risk-averse, with coaches looking to limit turnovers and “shorten the game,” that nothing seems to happen of consequence until the final two minutes of either half. (Like basketball, except with fewer fast breaks and more field goals.) It’s boring – unless …

Unless you play fantasy football. Or gamble. Or drink beer, especially at a bar. And I do all three!

I particularly like the latter two activities, and while I expect the baseball playoffs will provide some opportunity to make bets and occupy bar stools for the next month or so, I anticipate falling off the football wagon sometime around Thanksgiving.

Maybe distance will make the heart grow fonder. But for now I’m living clean and loving every minute of it.



There’s something going on in Thunder Bay, my friends.

The Border Cats – Thunder Bay, Ontario’s team in the Northwoods League, which exploits the free labor of collegiate players but typically sells fairly cheap beer – entered play tonight with a 1-19 record. And they lost.

1-20. 1-20!

It was Day 1 of a six-game homestand for the Border Cats, and it was a close one. They lost 3-2 to the LaCrosse Loggers. But the Border Cats fell to 1-20. 1-20!

This is a team worth following. Maybe even worth traveling to see in person.

Preakness Day

Canterbury Park $50 Play, Saturday, May 21, 2016

  • Race 1: 50-cent trifecta 7-6-ALL ($2.50)
  • Race 2: 50-cent trifecta 1-6-ALL ($2.50)
  • Race 3: $1 exacta box 5 w/ 1-7 ($4)
  • Race 4: $2 win 3
  • Race 6-9: 50-cent Pick Four, 5-9 / 1-7-8-10 / 2-3-4-6-9 / 10 ($20)
  • Race 6: $1 exacta 5-9 /1-3-4-7 ($6)
  • Race 7: $1 exacta box 1-8-10 ($10)
  • Race 9: $2 win-place 10 ($4)
  • Total wagers: $52

The inevitable Dr. Nyquist


I haven’t spent much time with the form yet, but this Preakness field looks about as competitive as the NBA’s Eastern Conference. No way any of these horses – or the Toronto Raptors – win unless something freakish happens. Sure, Nyquist could get bumped around out of the gates, and Drake could trip LeBron from a courtside seat. But I’m not betting on either.

Nyquist has the name of a dentist, which could explain why he has yet to overwhelm me with his dominance the way American Pharaoh did last year. I looked it up, actually; Nyquist is a Swedish surname that translates to “New Twig.” The Swedes are an understated people …

If I owned a Triple Crown horse that was more fringe-contender than favorite, I’d sit out the Derby and meet the winner in Baltimore. Too much can go wrong in that 20-horse stampede, and that Churchill Downs scene is a little too gentrified for my tastes. So I guess I’ll start saving up for that thoroughbred, starting with a big opening night at the local track tonight:

Canterbury Park $50 Play, May 20, 2016

  • Races 1-4: 50-cent pick 4, 2-3-6-7 / 1-3-6-7 / 4-7 / 4  ($16)
  • Race 2: $1 exacta box 6 w/ 1-3-7  ($6)
  • Race 3: $1 daily double 4-7 / 4  ($2)
  • Race 4: $2 win-place 4; $1 exacta box 4 w/ 1-7 ($8)
  • Race 5: $2 win-place 2 ($4)
  • Race 6: 50-cent trifecta 1-7 / 1-7 / ALL ($7)
  • Race 7: $1 exacta 2-4 / 2-4-5-6 ($6)
  • Race 8: $2 win 1


It’s a different world

screen-shot-2015-02-11-at-7-48-34-amI like music. I like camping. But there’s no way in hell I’m camping at the Eaux Claires Music Festival next month. (And not just because the festival campgrounds are sold out.)

It’s an imperfect comparison, for sure, but I came within earshot of WE Fest one time (Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney!), and it pretty much turned me off to the festival-camping scene. I’m picturing cramped conditions, biffy lines, vomit everywhere, overly friendly Indie-Bro types and rain. Could it get any worse?

I was born too old for that shit. That’s why I’m staying in the dorms.

I booked my room in Governors Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus tonight. My fingers are crossed that I won’t have to share it with someone who clips his toenails in bed or sleeps upside down like a bat (the fine print didn’t seem to suggest I wouldn’t).

But the bathrooms, no doubt, will be shared. But for $70 per night with parking and a free shuttle to the festival grounds? I’ll dig my shower caddie and flip flops out of storage.

Hope I get a co-ed floor …