Question: Have you ever heard or seen any more optimism than everyone in Arizona is assuring us about the 2007 Texas Rangers? I am amazed. The media is joining the team in claiming to us that it is all good. From Gagne, to the kids, to now…. Sammy Sosa is really looking good …Look what Cowlishaw says in his first sentence!
I think the Rangers have too many holes to be too optimistic. 80 wins? Sure. 82? If things go well. 85? Starting to get real optimistic. 90? Get real.
But, perhaps I am out of the range of the “Ron Washington Jedi Powers”. Because it appears anyone close believes this team may not lose a game all year.
But you can't watch the Rangers go through the first week of spring training and not begin to wonder what the club may have fallen into with their signing of the 38-year-old Sosa.
On Sunday in his second spring game, Sosa did what he is famous for. He delivered a home run to left field, crossed home plate, kissed his fingers and pointed to the sky.
In his third game Tuesday, he struck a sharp single to left.
In his fourth game Wednesday, a 9-8 victory over Arizona, Sosa struck a fastball from Diamondbacks starter Livan Hernandez with such authority that the only question for anyone watching at Surprise Stadium was: How far?
The three-run shot landed at the back of the hill in left-center, maybe 425 feet from home plate, giving him five hits and two home runs in 12 spring at-bats.
All this for a guarantee of $500,000? Can it be real?
"I'm just working on my mechanics, working on my confidence," Sosa said. With a grin, he added, "I think I have a chance to make the team."
Washington didn't dismiss his chances.
"I'll tell you this," Washington said. "He won't be in the first cut."
The Rangers' outfield-DH picture is crowded with seven realistic candidates – Kenny Lofton, Frank Catalanotto, Brad Wilkerson, Nelson Cruz, Jason Botts, Marlon Byrd and Sosa.
But it would take a serious injury or a major collapse at the plate for Sosa not to make the opening day roster.
"We're giving him the opportunity to get some at-bats, and he is taking advantage of it," Washington said. "Pretty soon he'll be staying back on the off-speed stuff and they'll stop throwing it to him. Because he'll be knocking the hell out of that, too."
Washington thought the Sosa experiment could work as soon as he met with him in January.
"I liked the way he looked in the batting cage. I liked his attitude," Washington said. "Anybody who goes through adversity, it humbles you."
Angels owner Arte Moreno is distancing from GMJ and demanding answers …
WHEN YOU think of Moreno, you think first of a real baseball fan — unless maybe you're an Anaheim politician. He lowered the cost of beer, slashed the prices on Angels baseball caps so every kid could afford to wear one and added Vladimir Guerrero to the payroll after the payroll had already been set.
And like any baseball fan, he wants to talk baseball, Howie Kendrick, a pain-free Garret Anderson and the progress Bartolo Colon is making.
But "instead of people stopping me to say, 'Hey, Arte, how's the team looking in spring training?' the first thing everybody wants to know is, 'What about Gary Matthews?' "
How does it feel, Arte, to be talking baseball, only to spend most of the time chatting about illegal substances?
Did you ask your new center fielder if the allegations were true, and he obtained an illegal prescription for human growth hormone over the Internet three years ago? Did you ask him if there's anything you have to worry about? Did you just let him have it, Arte?
"No," Moreno said, "but I told him I wanted him to make a statement because the fans deserve to know what's going on, and if he didn't make a statement, I would."
When Matthews didn't explain himself in a statement, Moreno did. And much like an irritated emotional baseball fan — making him not much different than most of you — he said, "It's going to be resolved by opening day — one way or the other, I promise you that."
How many baseball fans out there would like the chance to walk up to Barry Bonds or others accused of enhanced performances and demand they come clean?
AS FOR getting an answer — it would be far easier to obtain HGH, and how frustrating does that continue to be for everybody? Just think back to Mark McGwire sitting before Congress.
How about being a fan and also the guy who has agreed to pay one of these accused enhanced performers $50 million over the next five years? Now I would imagine just about every Angels fan is pleased to see you holding your players accountable, Arte, but what makes you think you're going to be treated any differently than the rest of us?
"Arte, you're powerless," I suggested, just like every other baseball fan who would like to know what's going on with Matthews.
"I'm not powerless," Moreno said.
"There's going to be no quick resolve here, Arte, so there goes your promise to have it resolved by opening day," I said.
"That's your opinion," Moreno said. "I made my statement. I'm very unhappy and I want it resolved. The ball is in his court, and I'm not going to make a new decision every day. Eventually, I'm going to have to make a decision, taking the best information I have into account, and then make that call."
"What does that mean?"
"I don't want to get into any kind of negotiation in the paper," he said. "I'm not going to answer that question."
Moreno made it clear, though, very clear that he will not be speaking to Matthews' attorney, or to Matthews' agent, or to the crisis management team Matthews has hired. Matthews is hitting .154, but no word on whether he's also hired a hitting instructor. Or talked to a pharmacist.
OK, it is March 8th. My minimal interest in college basketball will now be elevated to moderate for the next 4 weeks. I am not sure how this will affect you, but prepare for a few more college basketball links per day…
Think Billy Gillispie will
be in College Station next March? …
Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie has turned around the Aggies' program. Before that, he helped put UT-El Paso back on track.
As A&M enters the Big 12 tournament, Gillispie is two victories away from 100 career wins in five seasons as a head coach:
Season Team Overall Conf.
'02-03 UTEP 6-24 3-15
'03-04 UTEP 24-8 13-5
'04-05 A&M 21-10 8-8
'05-06 A&M 22-9 10-6
'06-07 A&M 25-5 13-3
Total 98-56 47-37
BIG 12 CONFERENCE MEN'S TOURNAMENT
Today's games (At the Ford Center, Oklahoma City; on KTXA/21)
8 Iowa State vs. 9 Oklahoma, 11:30 a.m.
5 Texas Tech vs. 12 Colorado, 2 p.m.
7 Oklahoma St. vs. 10 Nebraska, 6 p.m.
6 Missouri vs. 11 Baylor, 8:20 p.m., ESPN2
Friday's quarterfinals (on KTXA/21)
1 Kansas vs. ISU-OU winner, 11:30 a.m.
4 Kansas St. vs. Tech-CU winner, 2 p.m.
2 Texas A&M vs. OSU-Neb. winner, 6 p.m.
3 Texas vs. Mo.-Baylor winner, 8:20 p.m.
Semifinals: at 1 p.m., 3:20 p.m. Sat., ESPN2
Championship: at 2 p.m. Sun., ESPN
Bob Knight awaits the fate of the Red Raiders; likely need a win or two to get in the NCAA …
Texas Tech Coach Bob Knight was not about to guess whether his Red Raiders have already done enough to merit a spot in the N.C.A.A. tournament field.
“I’m not on the tournament committee, and I have no way of knowing,” he said. “I never have gotten involved with that type of thought.”
Knight’s leading scorer, Jarrius Jackson, thought it best that the Red Raiders make a strong last impression at the Big 12 tournament, starting Thursday against Colorado.
“We’re not for sure in the tournament yet, so we have to come to this tournament and try to make some noise and have a good run in this tournament to make sure that we’re in,” Jackson said Wednesday.
The Red Raiders (20-11, 9-7) appeared to be in good position after consecutive wins against top-10 teams Kansas and Texas A&M in January. But Tech followed those two impressive victories with Knight’s longest losing streak in decades, and the five losses put the Red Raiders’ postseason hopes in jeopardy.
Stars play first game since 4-0 spanking on Sunday ….They are in St Louis tonight…
With the Stars coming off a 4-0 loss to San Jose Sunday and 0-1-2 in their last three games, Tippett decided to greet the team in practice with one of the biggest shuffles of the season.
Rookie Chris Conner, called up from Iowa after scoring five goals in his last six games, was moved to the left wing on a top line with Mike Modano and Loui Eriksson. Mike Ribeiro was moved in between Modano's wingers Jere Lehtinen and Jussi Jokinen. Stu Barnes was moved from right wing back to center and had Niklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen as his wingers. And Jeff Halpern was left to center the fourth line (or is it the second?) with some concoction of Ladislav Nagy, Eric Lindros or Joel Lundqvist as his wingers.
"Everybody is thinking," Tippett said when asked about the moves. "That's a good thing."
But the coach warned that he might change the lines before tonight's game in St. Louis, that he might change them during the game and that he might change them before Friday night's game in Columbus. What he said is that the team needs to look at every possible combination to see what works.
What works in terms of goal scoring.
What works in terms of defensive play.
What works in terms of energy.
"It's time to look at a few things and see what happens," Tippett said.
In fact, Tippett said he knows that some of these combinations aren't permanent. He's seen enough of the checking line of Lundqvist-Halpern-Barnes that he knows it is a combination he will use in the playoffs.
NBA Insider looks at 2006 Free Agency …According to their notes, 1 player made a positive impact – everyone else was either neutral or negative…Side note: Remember when the Mavericks wanted Mike James so bad?
DeShawn Stevenson, Orlando to Washington
When Jared Jeffries signed a $29 million offer sheet with the New York Knicks, the Wizards decided not to match -- feeling they'd be overpaying -- and went out and found someone to replace him at one-thirtieth of the price. Stevenson cannot defend as many positions as Jeffries can, but he's a more disruptive defender on 2 guards than Jeffries is.
He's also a much better 3-point shooter (46 percent this season) and had been shooting above 50 percent overall until a recent mini-dip. The big loser in the Stevenson signing was Stevenson himself, who took the NBA minimum ($932,000) from Washington after opting out of a $3 million salary with the Magic in the mistaken belief he'd be a hot commodity.
Peja Stojakovic, Pacers to Hornets
You'd have thought alarms would have gone off around the league when Stojakovic sat out the end of the playoffs last season with a mysterious sore knee, but the Hornets paid no attention and gave him a five-year deal. So now they have a $64 million investment, now recovering from back surgery after playing only 13 games, almost certain to be sitting on the shelf for the rest of the season. Has anyone's stock dropped further more quickly?
Tim Thomas, Suns to Clippers
Maybe we're being a little harsh putting him down here instead of one notch above, but the Clippers thought they were getting the Tim Thomas who averaged 15.1 points and shot nearly 45 percent on 3s in the playoffs, not the Tim Thomas shooting just 40 percent and averaging only 10.6 points. Didn't they check his career resume? Thomas only excels when he needs a new contract.
Mike James, Raptors to Timberwolves
Far be it for us to criticize Forbes.com's No. 1 general manager in any sport, so we'll lay off Kevin McHale on this one. Yes, it was a brilliant, brilliant move to fall in love with yet another of college teammate Bill Duffy's clients -- just like McHale did when he surrendered a No. 1 pick along with Sam Cassell for Marko Jaric.
Nazr Mohammed, Spurs to Pistons
Well, Joe Dumars needed to find somebody to replace Ben Wallace in the middle, but he made a mistake overpaying (five years, $29 million) a player the Hawks, Knicks and Spurs had all given up on in the span of less than 30 months. The Wolves wanted a No. 1 pick just to take him off Detroit's hands at the trading deadline.
4 more through in the Champions League Wednesday …The Arsenal go down in a shocker...
There was more midweek fun today with four more teams advancing to the Champions League elite eight and another four teams sent home. The day featured the competition’s fastest goal ever, an own goal redemption and a goal by an ageless Swede. Here’s a brief recap of the matches.
Bayern Munich 2-1 Real Madrid (Ag. 4-4) - It took a mere 10 seconds for Roy Makaay to expose Real Madrid’s defense and to score the fastest goal in Champions League history. The Brazilian Lucio added a goal in the 66th minute, which proved critical once Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored for Real Madrid on a penalty kick in the 83rd. Bayern go through on away goals. Both teams looked old, slow and vulnerable in the back to me.
Arsenal 1-1 PSV Eindhoven (Ag. 1-2) - Alex scored both goals in the match. His own-goal in the 58th minute gave Arsenal fans a glimmer of hope, but he more than made up for his mistake be netting the equalizer in the 83rd minute, a goal that put a dagger through the heart of last year’s runner-up. I’m not sure how they do it, but PSV sure is able to develop young players and to get them to compete on the big stage. Certainly a disappointing couple of weeks for Arsenal supporters. More thoughts to come on the Arsenal Offside.
Manchester United 1-0 Lille (Ag. 2-0) - This was the match with the best odds for a Valencia type ending, but alas it was simply another quality performance by Manchester United at home in the Champions League. The loan of the year, Henrik Larsson, scored for United in the 72nd minute. This was his final Champions League match. Duty calls in Sweden. More thoughts to be found on the Manchester United Offside and France Offside.
AC Milan 1-Celtic 0 (Ag. 1-0) - No one scored for the first 90 minutes, but all it took was three minutes of extra time for Kaka to find the net and to lift Milan into the final 8 yet again. It was a fair result since Milan played the more attacking style of play for much of the match. Credit should be given to Celtic for hanging in there. If they can get over their road form bugaboo next year they might go further.
More thoughts on the AC Milan Offside and Celtic Offside.
Final Eight: Valencia, Chelsea, Liverpool, Roma, Bayern Munich, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, AC Milan
Certainly some big names remain. I haven’t seen a better team than Manchester United this season so it’d be tough to bet against them if they are anywhere near full strength. Without knowing the draw, who’s your choice to win it all now?
The Draw comes out tomorrow morning. This is getting very good now.
Valencia and Inter Milan have a brawl …Proving soccer players cannot fight…
Here’s the video from the brawl at the end of Tuesday’s Champions League match between Inter Milan and Valencia. The main actor in the madness was Valencia reserve David Navarro who apparently no longer plays in the band Jane’s Addiction. Navarro ran onto the pitch and punched Inter Milan midfielder Nicolas Burdisso, breaking the Argentine’s nose. The Inter players didn’t take to kindly to this, chasing after Navarro in a scene right out of Tom and Jerry. Navarro clearly had no plans to stick around to get his arse whipped by some enraged Italians.
The description of what went down after the video ends:
Several Inter players tried to trip up Navarro as he ran off the pitch and the fighting continued in the tunnel.
Inter goalkeeper Francesco Toldo entered the Valencia dressing room, while Luis Figo and Inter’s Esteban Cambiasso were involved in scuffles as they tried to follow him with security guards having to intervene.
Local media reported that Navarro was ushered away from the stadium.
Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini said he was deeply disappointed by the incident.
‘A Valencia player went mad when he came on to the pitch and hit Burdisso,’ said Mancini. ‘He broke Burdisso’s nose.
‘Toldo saw the incident and it is possible he went into the Valencia dressing room.
‘Players have to learn how to behave on the pitch.’
Indeed. This kind of action shouldn’t take place in the dressing room when it can take place on the pitch instead for all the world to enjoy. Can’t wait to see the rest of the video from this one.
And just like a neighbor who can’t understand how the quiet man down the street could be an ax murderer, Valencia’s Italian defender Emiliano Moretti expressed his surprise at his team-mate’s actions. “Navarro is a perfectly normal person and I don’t know what would cause him to do such a thing,” he told Italian television.
Ohio ready to slap the predators with the ultimate embarrassment …
COLUMBUS Lawmakers want to take another crack at tagging certain sexual predators, now that they’ve got a license plate color — fluorescent green — that no one seems to object to.
State Sen. Kevin Coughlin and Rep. Michael DeBose introduced identical bills Wednesday that would require the most serious sexual offenders to place the plates on their cars for at least five years.
The bills would require all habitual and child-oriented convicted sex offenders to display the easy-to-spot tags.
No other state has tried the tactic, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, though some require a designation to appear on sex offenders’ driver’s licenses.
The bill is the latest in a series of Ohio measures to crack down on sex crimes. Among them: tougher minimum sentences for rapists of children under 13; increased penalties for public indecency involving victims under 13; and mandatory tracking devices after those classified as sexually violent predators serve their sentences.
Thanks, Ray Whaley - 1987 World Juniors brawl
How great is this! Steve Morrow, coach of FC Dallas is a cult hero for his big goal for Arsenal 14 years ago...and then his tumble and injury...
Steve Morrow's story ...
Morrow became a semi-regular in 1992-93, as well as suffering the most notorious moment of his career. He played most of his matches in midfield (replacing the injured Paul Davis, as Arsenal got to both the League Cup and FA Cup semi-finals. Morrow started the League Cup final against Sheffield Wednesday; after falling behind to a John Harkes goal, Arsenal equalised through Paul Merson, and then Merson set up Morrow to score the winner (which was also his first goal for the club). In the celebrations after the match, Arsenal skipper Tony Adams attempted to pick up Morrow and parade him on his shoulders, but Adams slipped and Morrow awkwardly hit the ground. He broke his arm and had to be rushed to hospital.
As a result, Morrow missed the rest of that season, including the FA Cup final (also against Wednesday), where Arsenal completed the Cup Double. Before the final kicked off, Morrow received his League Cup winners' medal, making him the only player ever to have picked up a medal before a Cup final, much to the delight of football trivia buffs everywhere.
I am planning a recap of my trip to Anfield for Saturday on the blog if you care...