Archive for Jacob Wandersee

To Rig or Not to Rig – That is the Question

The NBA Draft Lottery took place on Tuesday, an event that has been highly scrutinized by fans for as long as it has existed.

There have been a couple reasons that fans have been critical of the lottery. First, the method and breakdown of odds have been critiqued. Second, NBA fans have believed it to be rigged since the beginning. I’d like to focus on the rigging debacle for this column, so let’s take a quick at NBA Lottery history.

There have been many conspiracy theories regarding various outcomes of the lottery over the years. Some of them are just outlandish theories while others seem to have some real steam.

Most notably is the 1985 draft. To explain it briefly, the New York Knicks were awful, the NBA had just signed a new TV deal and New York was a key market in the league. Throw in the fact that the Georgetown standout Patrick Ewing was at stake, and Commissioner David Stern had to make sure the Knicks were rewarded.

At this time, the worst seven teams had even odds at landing the first overall pick. To determine the pick, each team would have an envelope put into a clear tumbler and one would be chosen by Stern himself.

There is pretty alarming evidence that the Knicks envelope was dinged against the edge to mark it as the envelopes are being put into the tumbler… Seriously Google it and watch the video. The other six envelopes are gently tossed in the middle while the Knicks envelope is thrown like a fastball against the edge. It’s simply bizarre to watch.

There are also personal accounts that have leaked saying that the Knicks envelope was refrigerated to make it cold to the touch. These two methods would ensure Ewing would go to New York to help keep the NBA afloat.

Other theories exist that are much less blatant than the 1985 lottery, but the Ewing draft is clearly the most revealing. The distrust created by this incident still is present in fans today each year the lottery rolls around.

The NBA has since changed the format to a computerized system with ping pong ball combinations to “ensure” that there is no human interference. It is at least much more believable than the envelope scam to say the least.

However, this lottery process is still completed behind closed doors and is not viewable by the public. It is executed by a third party accounting firm and select media members get to view it. It seems pretty inconceivable that it could still be rigged at this point.

My question is: why not televise this? The ratings would be sky high if we were able to watch them determine the draft order live and watch certain teams celebrate while others shrink down in dismay. You’d think for the ratings and exposure alone the NBA would want to put it on TV; let alone dispelling all theories that it is still rigged…

Fans are already accusing the NBA of rigging it again. On Tuesday, the Lakers jumped from the 11th spot to 4th “to help LeBron” and the Pelicans jumped from 7th to 1st “to make up for the Anthony Davis fiasco.”

The truth is, although I do truly believe that there have been drafts in the past where it has been rigged, this was a simple result of percentages and nothing more.

And Timberwolves fans need to stop with the narrative that “Minnesota has only ever moved down because we are a small market.”

Let’s quickly look at the numbers, shall we? Here were the three scenarios that were possible for Minnesota on Tuesday and their odds of happening.

There was a:

- 13.9% of moving to the top four

- 65.9% chance of picking at our assigned spot

- 18.9% chance of moving down

That means four out of five times, Minnesota would stay the same or move down, an overwhelmingly likely scenario to play out.

Now, Minnesota hasn’t exactly been lucky. In 22 appearances in the lottery out of 30 years in existence (which that number is simply embarrassing), the Wolves have never moved up. This isn’t proof of the NBA stacking the deck against Minnesota as much as some bad luck… But each year it is much more likely to stay or move down than it is to move up and that is the math.

However, until the NBA Draft Lottery is televised, Wolves fans and NBA fans alike will probably continue to believe it is rigged. I suppose is it much easier to blame the NBA for only 8 playoff appearances in franchise history than it is to blame the team itself for incompetence on draft day.

 

Best in Baseball

Nobody saw this coming. The hardcore fans did not see this coming. The passive attend-five-games-a-year fans did not see this coming. Heck, I can’t imagine that first time manager Rocco Baldelli even saw this coming.

The Minnesota Twins are the best team in baseball.

Let those words sink in for a moment because they really jump off the page. The Minnesota Twins are the best team in baseball.

At 23-12, the Twins have an early four game lead on the Indians for the division lead in the AL Central. Considering that the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals are all below .500 and don’t seem to be any kind of threat to make a move, it seems possible that this pace might even be somewhat sustainable.

In baseball, it definitely requires many players playing at a high level to gain this kind of success. In the case of the Twins, nearly everyone on the roster is contributing in a major way.

As a team, the Twins are 4th in the league in home runs (with four fewer games played than the first place Mariners) and 3rd in the league in doubles. On top of showing power, the Twins have also been able to post the 2nd best batting average in the league.

Perhaps even more impressively, the Twins rank 2nd in least amount of strikeouts at 261 on the season.

It simply is rare to see a team in the top five in home runs, not sacrifice their team average while hitting for this power, and avoid strike outs at the rate they are currently at. Minnesota is presenting true balance at the plate and it has been incredibly fun to watch.

With all of this team success, clearly that must mean that some individuals are performing well. Eddie Rosario has 13 home runs (3rd in the MLB) and 31 RBI’s (8th in the MLB) while Byron Buxton is 2nd in the league in doubles with 15 and has 7 stolen bases.

Six different Twins regular starters have at least 6 home runs and 14 RBI’s while five are batting over .250. In terms of Twins history, through 35 games, this roster has more home runs than any season ever with 64, ahead of the 61 tallied in 1964 and the 55 tallied in 1986.

Maybe this pace is unlikely to continue, but even a slight drop off would still make for a very successful season.

The pitching also has to be mentioned as a huge factor into the early success for the Twins. In terms of the starters, Jake Odorizzi (4-2 with a 2.78 ERA), Martin Perez (5-0 with a 2.83 ERA) and ace Jose Berrios (6-1 with a 2.53 ERA) have carried the rotation thus far in the 2019 campaign.

Somewhat surprisingly, the bullpen has also been lights out. Relievers Taylor Rogers, Ryne Harper and Blake Parker all boast ERAs less than 2 in 13-plus appearances.

The icing on the cake, as far as I am concerned, is management’s awareness for ticket sales and fan engagement. Attendance has been down thus far in 2019, probably due to a combination of weather, price and game times.

However, on Tuesday the Twins announced a special $5 ticket offer for seats in the home run porch and grandstand for home games in the rest of May… The 20,000 tickets sold out by early Wednesday afternoon.

It sounds like the Twins will use this promotion again to help increase interest; and why not? Summer will soon be here and you can’t beat $5 to watch the best team in baseball.

 

Save the Tommies – From a Bethel Alum

The MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) is a NCAA Division III conference that has been around since 1920. The original five members include: St. Thomas, St. John’s, Hamline, Macalester and Gustavus Adolphus. Over the course of the past 99 years, the prestigious conference would add the following schools to the fold: Bethel, Augsburg, St. Olaf, Concordia (Moorhead), Carleton and Saint Mary’s as well as women’s colleges Saint Benedict and St. Catherine.

That makes 13 participating MIAC schools in the current state, but that might be changing soon. Some grumblings have emerged among schools about a movement to force St. Thomas out of the MIAC. Unfortunately, the grumblings appear to be closer to threats than slight disturbances.

The first question for the average person would be how? How can the MIAC just kick out one of the founding schools after almost 100 years in the conference?

Well, the reasoning is being hidden under the guise of enrollment differences, which is an embarrassing cop-out. The only way that St. Thomas could be kicked out would be if 9 of the 13 schools voted to create a new  “Enrollment Restriction” by-law to participate in the conference.

It is true that St. Thomas is the largest MIAC school. At over 6,000 undergrads, UST has been twice the size of the next largest school for over a decade…. But why is this suddenly so important?

The follow up question naturally is; Who is forcing this decision and what is the true reasoning for the abrupt change of heart?

The primary reason is not for academics, not for geography and not for a difference in philosophies, but rather because some schools can’t compete in certain athletics, particularly football… Which is clearly the most important factor for being in the MIAC (This is heavy sarcasm for those who don’t know my writing style. I use sarcasm to battle stupidity.)

Historic rival St. John’s doesn’t seem likely to ever vote St. Thomas out, so that is already 2 of the 4 votes needed to keep UST in. According to Patrick Reusse in the Star Tribune, pressure is being applied to Bethel, Concordia, and Gustavus (the other competitive football programs) to support the movement.

That leaves the teams threatening to drop out of MIAC football if UST isn’t booted as Augsburg, Hamline, St. Olaf and Carleton as Macalester is already out. It is always a noble deed to go with the philosophy: “If you can’t beat them, kick them out so you don’t have to play them” (more sarcasm).

The funny thing is that although St. Thomas is perennially the cream of the crop of the MIAC, they aren’t the only school to dominate. Since 2013, UST has won three MIAC titles to St. John’s two and Bethel’s one. Just last year in the 2018 season:

- St. John’s was 8-0 (outscored opponents 380-70)

- Bethel was 7-1 (300-69)

- St. Thomas was 6-2 (358-95)

Why not kick out all of these schools for beating up on the bottom of the MIAC?

As Reusse so keenly pointed out on Twitter this past Monday, Gustavus won it’s 31st consecutive MIAC regular season men’s tennis title and 313th consecutive MIAC match…  Where are the calls to abolish Gustavus from the MIAC due to their supreme tennis talent?

Reusse also noted that he has since heard more whisperings that 9 of the 13 presidents are ready to expel St. Thomas from the MIAC soon. If this is true, I am embarrassed for those presidents.

I am a Bethel alumni and am proud of that fact. I coached for the Men’s Basketball program in 2016/17 and we enjoyed the challenge that UST presented each time. We tied the Tommies for the regular season title and won the MIAC Playoffs that year.

I’m not pretending to know all the details of this story. I’ve only been able to read the reports that media members like Reusse and others have done, so if there is a major detail being left out, I haven’t seen or heard it.

Based on these reports and my personal experiences, however, nothing has ever been clearer in my mind. It pains me to say this because everyone jokes about hating the Tommies but…

St. Thomas belongs in the MIAC – and that is a fact.

 

Iowa Bets the House

Minnesotans really seem to enjoy making fun of Iowa. Ask a Minnesotan about Iowa, and their usual comment seems to be “There isn’t much there… just a lot of corn.” (which doesn’t seem to be entirely false).

Gopher fans will even chant “Who hates Iowa? We hate Iowa!” at TCF Bank Stadium after another loss to the Hawkeyes. This chant, I suppose, is more specifically aimed at the university, but I think it flows through generally into the entire state.

After hanging out in Des Moines for the NCAA Tournament, I have to say I had nothing against Iowa and think I would go back… And if a bill that is working through the Iowa government is passed, I think you’ll find a lot of Minnesotans asking for forgiveness from Iowan’s.

Iowa currently needs one final signature from Governor Kim Reynolds to pass a bill to legalize sports gambling throughout the state. Iowa would be the ninth state to pass some form of sports gambling since the government allowed states to decide for themselves last May.

Iowa’s version of the gambling law would allow betting on most professional, college and international sporting events through Iowa’s 19 state-regulated casinos. It would also permit bets through online betting platforms like FanDuel and DraftKings. Betters would have to be at least 21 years old.

Passing through Iowa’s state House 67-13 and it’s Senate 31-18, momentum is moving towards passing, although Governor Reynolds has not indicated whether she would sign it into law. The state would profit 6.75% on net receipts, which could be a staggering increase in tax revenue.

The other eight states all have used different formulas to moderate the gambling. Tax rates on revenue vary from state to state and by the medium used. For example, Delaware collects 50% of the revenue and Casinos take 40% while Mississippi and West Virginia have a flat tax rate like Iowa is proposing (12% and 10% respectively). Meanwhile, New Jersey has different rates for land-based (8.5%), casino-based online (13%) and racetrack-based online (14.25%).

Las Vegas, the hub of sports gambling, is a simple 6.75% tax rate on all land-based sports betting revenue. Vegas will handle $400 million in bets in a given month which nets both the casinos and the state large profits. The other states have steadily increased their handle month over month with New Jersey being the only state to eclipse $100 ($385 in January of 2019).

If Reynolds signs the Iowan bill, bets could be placed as soon as July 4th. However, the appropriate systems probably wouldn’t be integrated to use fully until August.

There has been some push back against sports gambling, although it does not seem to align with either political party. The largest argument is about the social impact sports betting can have on a community. States often see stark rises in gambling addictions and it can definitely wreak havoc on many individuals.

However, with how progressive this country is becoming, it will only be a matter of time before all 50 states are passing laws to allow betting. Minnesota, in classic passive Minnesota fashion, will probably be the 25-30th state to pass such laws.

Meanwhile, starting in August, Iowans will probably observe many Minnesotans sneaking across the southern border to quick drop $100 on the Vikings to win the Super Bowl at 22/1 odds, only to never see that money again.

Tiger’s Return to Glory

Rock bottom is not an easy place to rise out of; especially for someone who was on top of a mountain by himself so far above the competition that it was almost comical.

How big was that mountain? In 2008, before it all unravelled, Tiger Woods had everything. At 32 years old with 14 career Major championships, it wasn’t a matter of if he could surpass Jack Nicklaus and his 18 career Majors but rather a question of how soon. Apart from those Major victories, Tiger was busy racking up more money than any player in PGA Tour history to go along with countless wins and awards.

His reach was profound. By far the most popular golfer among fans of the game, Tiger somehow found a way to transcend the sport into pop culture. People who couldn’t tell you the difference between a birdie and a bogey could tell you who Tiger Woods was. Simply put, Tiger was must watch TV.

Everything changed starting in 2009. News stories came pouring in on a crash involving Tiger Woods along with a potential scandal. Hundreds of women came forward announcing they had slept with Woods over his career. His wife left him, he suffered a neck injury and he tried to maintain his dominance in golf.

Unfortunately for Tiger, his body and mental state did not hold together very well. Over the course of the next handful of years, Woods would have to withdraw from multiple tournaments due to his back and neck. Tiger would have 4 surgeries in an attempt to fix these nagging issues, all while trying to continue competing in golf tournaments.

His swing always was very powerful and it was evident that his injuries were having a huge negative impact on his game. His longtime coach Hank Haney left Woods in 2010 to add to the chaos of Tiger’s deteriorating game and personal life. Basically, to sum it up, Tiger went from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the barrel.

This sets the stage for the Masters Tournament that took place this past weekend, as a healthier and happier Tiger entered Sunday tied for second with Tony Finau at -11, chasing the leader Francesco Molinari at -13.

With each powerful drive and each precision-aimed putt, it looked like the Tiger from 2008 had never left. Donning his usual Sunday red, the anticipation of the fans at Augusta was unmistakable.

It culminated on Hole 12, the shortest hole at Augusta, where things turned in favor of Tiger. Molinari and Finau both had tee shots find Rae’s Creek while Woods was able to par. From this hole on, the power of the Tiger Effect was in play.

Crowds quietly cheered for other golfers while they roared for every perfect Woods shot. It got to the point where even after a good shot from Finau, a patron yelled “You got this Tiger!”

22 years after his first career Major, Tiger simply had to bogey hole 18 to seal his first Major since 2008. After sinking the putt, the crowd went about as wild as I have ever seen at a golf event. For more than a few minutes, the crowd was applauding this herculean figure who had finally returned to his former greatness.

Tiger embraced his family and close friends while soaking up this incredible moment. It seemed as though even all of his competitors wanted him to win, along with virtually every fan of golf in the world.

He had risen to the top and seen his entire world crumble to the ground. But on Sunday as only Jim Nantz can describe, in a moment that golf fans will never forget, Tiger Woods has returned to glory.

Where do we go from here?

There are a lot of fun things going on in the Twin Cities right now that I could write about. First, we just hosted one of the more exciting Final Fours in recent memory. However, I figured I’d let Kip handle that one since he was able to attend both nights.

Second, the Minnesota Twins were playing pretty well until they walked about 7 straight batters on Wednesday in a loss to the Mets. I have all summer to write about them, so I think I’ll pass this week.

Third, it isn’t sports related, but I could write about this Spring Apocalypse Storm that is crushing us in West-Central Minnesota. Tuesday night I drove by DC High School on my way home and saw all the fields filled with softball games. Thursday on my way to work in the morning I think I saw a Polar Bear in center field and even he looked mildly upset.

But instead, maybe inspired by the snow, sleet and wind, I think I’ll do a recap on the season that was for the Minnesota Wild and Timberwolves. First, let’s start with the Wild.

The Wild had their worst point total since the 2011-12 season (not counting the shortened lockout season) finishing with 83 points. Minnesota had made the playoffs for 6 straight seasons until this year, where they finished dead last in the Central Division.

In the wildcard hunt with a few weeks remaining in the season, the Wild limped to a 3-6-1 finish in their last 10 games and were shut out in their final four losses. So what does this mean for the 2019-20 season?

First, it looks like head coach Bruce Boudreau is returning for another year. I’m not a hockey expert, but in any sport, stability at the top is crucial and Bruce is a proven successful coach. I think he can right the ship.

Getting Matt Dumba and Mikko Koivu back from injury should provide a huge boost to the lineup next season. Also, apart from Zach Parise, Eric Staal and Ryan Suter, the Wild are actually a pretty young team.

If Jason Zucker can have a bounceback year, Joel Eriksson Ek and Kevin Fiala can continue to grow and the veterans can stay healthy, the Wild should be right in the playoff hunt next year. It wasn’t in the cards this year but at least there is hope.

Speaking of hope, or maybe lack thereof, the Minnesota Timberwolves wrapped up their season on Wednesday with a loss to finish 36-46. While the Wild have reason to believe this season was a fluke, I’m not sure the Wolves are so lucky.

This team that was built around our youth isn’t so youthful anymore and the time has come to start winning some games. Andrew Wiggins is now 24 and is on a $146 million guaranteed contract. It is time to average more than 18 points and start being the all-around player that everyone expects from a 1st overall pick.

Karl-Anthony Towns had another great season averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds, but he simply can’t do this alone. The only players under contract next season are: Wiggins, Towns, Jeff Teague (assuming he accepts his ungodly high player option of $19 million, and let’s face it, who wouldn’t?!), Gorgui Dieng, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop. That roster screams 35 wins.

With these 8 players alone, the Wolves are right up against the $109 million salary cap and have very little flexibility to make any big moves. Nevermind the fact that there are still 5 spots to fill and decisions to make on Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones and Taj Gibson. They can’t simply run it back with the same team and expect anything to change, but I’m not sure they have much of a choice.

At least it sounds like they are bringing back Ryan Saunders to be the permanent head coach, which gives me a glimmer of hope. However, I fear that it will be more of the same for our Wolves next season. Glen Taylor has to be wondering… where do we go from here?