Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Division Title Clinched without Dirk

So, let me get this straight. For Dirk to be the MVP, the Mavs have to get killed when he doesn’t play? Because that is what makes Nash’s case so solid, is that his mates lay down and die when he doesn’t show. That is sound logic.

Mavs win in Sacto……again.

Avery Johnson accused his Mavericks of figuratively not leaving the hotel Sunday at Phoenix.

Dirk Nowitzki really couldn’t Tuesday night.

With their MVP candidate in bed trying to get over food poisoning, the remainder of the Mavs crew gutted out a 97-93 victory over Sacramento.

“They wanted to win,” Johnson said. “They wanted to win no matter how we looked. You could see the intensity in the fourth quarter.”

Josh Howard had 29 points, one shy of his career high. Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse combined for 50 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Western Conference-leading Mavs (62-12) swept the season series with Sacramento 4-0. And though it’s not the title the Mavs are after, but they did clinch the second outright division title in club history. The Mavs had officially won the Southwest Division already since they owned the tiebreaker over San Antonio. The previous outright division win was the Midwest in 1986-87.

Art Garcia’s New Mavs Blog …Who doesn’t have a blog?

He’s so Vlad

Don't get Vlad, get even.

That was the theme of the night for Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who continued to brush off Texas right-hander Vicente Padilla's brush-back pitches by swatting his other offerings all over the yard.

Guerrero, who so owns the Rangers he could take out a home-equity line of credit against them, had four hits, including a laser of a home run to left-center field, and three runs batted in to lead the Angels to an 8-3 victory over Texas on Tuesday night in Angel Stadium.

Since joining the Angels in 2004, Guerrero has a .440 average (96 for 218) with 21 homers and 49 RBIs against the Rangers. He's a .412 hitter (14 for 34) with three homers against Padilla.

"I don't know why they throw inside so much to Vladdy," said Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar, who gave up three runs and three hits in 5 1/3 innings to get the win. "I don't know if it's because he's had so much success against them, but if you can't get him out throwing the ball across the plate, do something else. When you go up and in, it's dangerous."

Three of Guerrero's hits, including the homer, came against Padilla, who drilled Guerrero in the left arm and threw two more fastballs near Guerrero's head at Texas last Aug. 15. Guerrero responded by crushing a three-run home run off Padilla.

Padilla also hit Juan Rivera that night, intimidation tactics that sparked a beanball war and benches-clearing brawl between the teams the next night.

So, there were more than a few raised eyebrows in the Angels' dugout Tuesday when Padilla whizzed a first-pitch fastball directly at Guerrero's left shoulder.

"There's some history there, but you like to give a guy the benefit of the doubt," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "A lot of teams try to pitch Vlad in, but we're here to play baseball; we're not going to spend time wondering what's going on."

So, now 0-2, We now turn our attention to Brandon McCarthy

Historical perspective: The Rangers went to the playoffs three times in the late '90s, mostly because of offense. The '99 team alone set 14 club records, including a .293 team average and an astounding 945 runs, or 5.8 a game.

But the Rangers' starters, while hardly a dazzling group, kept the club in games.
In '96, they got a club-record 75 wins from their starters. Three had 15 or more wins. Five had 10 or more. Three put up at least 199 innings, and four had 170-plus.
How many starters did the Rangers use in '96? Eight. They used 11 in '98, mostly at the back of the rotation, and only nine in '99.

Why are those numbers significant? Because in the last four years, the Rangers have used 16, 17, 14 and 12 starters.

And those numbers translated into one fourth-place finish and three thirds.

Moral: If you want to be a playoff team, your rotation doesn't have to be lights out as long as the starters chew up innings and turn it over to a top-flight bullpen.
The Rangers are built on much the same model this season, or so they hope. Only they won't hit like they did in the late '90s.

The good news is, neither does anyone else anymore. Time to find out if the Rangers' starters can make it any harder on them.

Yesterday, on the show we were discussing the big Angels-Rangers fight of 2006. As an aside, I think we need better access to footage of old fights. As far as I can tell, there is no trace of this bench clearing brawl anywhere on youtube. Shouldn’t there be a site dedicated to baseball fights?

Anyway, here is Evan Grant’s recap of the incident from last August 17th

Let's just recap Fight Club, shall we:

• 10 days ago, Adam Eaton throws at Juan Rivera, either upset over Garret Anderson's homer on the previous pitch or Rivera's tendency to preen after home runs. Eaton is ejected, leaving the bullpen to fend for itself for a couple of days. Result: Tired bullpen gives up six runs in five innings over the next two games at Oakland as Rangers fall 6 1/2 back.

• Tuesday night, Vicente Padilla hits Vlad Guerrero (researchers are still trying to find a reason), then buzzes Guerrero again before hitting Rivera. Padilla is ejected and I'm now starting to think his upcoming suspension may be for more than one start, which means, well, you know that means.

• Wednesday, the Angels threw at three consecutive Rangers. Give Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Freddy Guzman extreme credit. They knew they were in a popcorn machine, took their hits and simply went to first base without even a glare to the mound. Excellent moves. If you are wanting to prove a point to the Angels, prove it by saying: We win the game.

• In the ninth inning, Scott Feldman hits Adam Kennedy and the first, real honest-to-goodness benches-clearing brawl in who knows how long erupts. Feldman will be suspended, though I suspect, if it's possible, the Rangers will manipulate the roster so that he will be in Triple-A the rest of the month and then serve it when rosters can expand to 40 players in September. I suspect Buck Showalter will get at least two games, maybe more. Having a pitcher make such an egregious action after all those previous actions is simply a message that "we enjoy playing this game.'' Major League Baseball does not enjoy having to sift through damage.

It was all jolly good theater, but I'm not sure the Rangers have helped themselves win a division title and for people to be pumped up over the fight, I'd suggest tuning into WWE Raw every week. You can really get behind DeGeneration X in their fight against the McMahon family. But as for baseball, I still think this is a win that only hurts the Rangers. The club will be without its best starter for at least one critical start. It will possibly (though unlikely) be short-handed in the bullpen. And it will be without the guidance of its manager (if that matters to you) for several days.

I'm not seeing the cause for celebration. I'm seeing a team that seems to be doing real fine at sending messages, but not so well in the AL West standings. And maybe I'm confused, but after the last couple of days, I'm not sure which is more important to the Rangers.

Meanwhile, Adam Morris brings up some facts

I keep hearing fans, and even some of the media, say this same thing...that the 2006 Rangers couldn't produce with runners in scoring position, that the problem with the offense was not producing in key situation.

That is crap. Absolutely, verifiably false.

The Rangers were 9th in the A.L. in team OBP last year. That means they were in the bottom half of their league in getting runners on base.

Despite this, they were 4th in the A.L. in runs scored.

So...apparently, somehow, we have team that wasn't good at getting runners on base, and still scored a lot of runs, but the problem with the team's offense was that it didn't produce with runners on base.

Overall last season, the Rangers posted a .278/.338/.446 line, and were 6th in the A.L. in OPS.

However, with no one on base, the Rangers had a .278/.332/.439 line -- worse than they did overall, and still 6th in the A.L. in OPS.

With RISP, the Rangers had a .289/.365/.472 line, and were 4th in the A.L. in OPS.
With RISP and 2 outs, the Rangers had a .271/.379/.437 line, and were 3rd in the A.L. in OPS.

So why didn't the Rangers score more runs? Because they only had 1637 plate appearances with runners in scoring position...10th in the A.L., 56 below average, and a whopping 304 fewer than the A.L. leading New York Yankees had.

Clearly, the problem with the Ranger offense last year wasn't that they didn't produce with runners on base, as so many are trying to insist was the case...
The problem was that they didn't get enough runners on base in the first place.

This is a very simple concept, and very easy to figure out.

Why people keep trying to insist otherwise is beyond me.

On Monday, it appears I made an error when I suggested that FC Dallas will not be on tv for the opener on Saturday afternoon. I was emailed two items from the team, one good and one curious:

The Good:

FRISCO, Texas (Monday, April 1, 2007) – FC Dallas announced today that for the first time ever, all 30 regular season games will be available on television. Additionally, the team has announced that once again, all regular season games will air live on both Spanish (1540 AM) and English radio (92.1 FM). FSN Southwest kicks off the television coverage of the team by broadcasting the 2007 season opener on Sat., April 7 when FCD visits Real Salt Lake at Rice-Eccles Field in Salt Lake City, Utah (Live at 5 p.m. CT).

FSN Southwest and KFWD-52 join national television partners ESPN2, the Univision Network, Fox Soccer Channel and HDNet to air 26 of the 30 games live on cable and satellite channels – including every FC Dallas road game. The remaining four home games will live air on the MLS DirectKick package (see note below).

And the Curious:

FC Dallas head coach Steve Morrow today officially named forward Carlos Ruiz as the 2007 FC Dallas captain:

“I thought that this was a very important decision and one that I thought long and hard about,” said Morrow. “The important thing for me is to have a guy that everyone on the team respects, the coaches’ respect, and he has that respect around the league as well. Carlos has great qualities, both on the field and off it; qualities that people probably don’t know about. He’s good in the locker room and great with the young kids. I really felt it was important to have a guy that can give me the qualities that I’m looking for both on and off the field and I know that Carlos can do a great job in both of those departments.”

Ruiz is entering his third season with FC Dallas, and his six in Major League Soccer. Known simply as “Fish” to his teammates, he was traded to FC Dallas in March 2005 from the Los Angeles Galaxy. Since entering MLS in 2002, Ruiz has scored 89 regular season and playoff goals combined, which is more than any other player during that span. He is the all-time MLS leader with 15 career playoff goals scored.

I really question Ruiz as captain. From many accounts, he doesn’t care to practice, he tries his best in about half of the games, and he dives like Greg Louganis. Not exactly the guy I want leading my team. On the other hand, all of the other veterans are gone. So….I guess you gotta have a captain.

Liverpool puts PSV to the sword in the Round of 8 – Leg 1

Steven Gerrard broke PSV Eindhoven's hearts and Ian Rush's European Cup record of 14 goals at the Philips Stadium last night. Flooding relentlessly over the Dutch defence, Liverpool's captain could even have broken through the Zuider Zee such was his unstoppable force.

Gerrard will dominate the headlines yet this was a collective triumph by the men from the Mersey. They defended stoutly, kept the ball patiently, and attacked with pace and precision when the right occasion arose. Every one of Rafa Benitez's European scholars contributed handsomely to the club's largest ever Champions League win.

Steve Finnan was outstanding at right-back, delivering inviting crosses for Gerrard and Peter Crouch to score. In between, John Arne Riise also found the net, spectacularly from 30 yards as Liverpool all but booked their place in the semi-finals. PSV have managed only eight goals in 810 Champions League minutes; they must now score three in 90 minutes - too tall an order for the men from the Low Countries.
One shuddered to think whether Ronald Koeman's hosts had read the scouting report on their guests. It must have highlighted Gerrard's goal threat from the deep, when racing in on a cross (a tape of the 2005 European Cup final would have provided a warning).

It must have stated the dangers of giving Riise a free strike with his sledgehammer left foot (a greatest hits compilation of the Norwegian's epic efforts would include gems against Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea amongst others). Koeman's team-talk must also have hinted that the 6ft 7in Crouch can pose problems in the air (footage of his second goal against Arsenal on Saturday would have confirmed that).

Any Arsenal fans tuning in must have rubbed their eyes in disbelief at Liverpool destroying the side that knocked them out in the previous round.

The Shield Returns last night

Think the Mayor of Cincinnati used to be an athlete?

You have no idea what I am talking about.


CFB123 said...

C'mon Bob, you're really sounding like the typical Mavs whiner over the MVP thing and you should be better than that. A national TV audience watched those 2 recent Mavs/Suns games, and it was obvious to anyone objective who the better player (and team for that matter) was. Nash is going to be the MVP, there is no sense in not acknowledging the obvious.

artfromtex said...

Nothing gets the baseball season off to a rip-roaring start like losing your first two games that were played after most people went to bed. My excitement is furthered each morning as I awake, go to the teams web-site to find that yet again they got their asses handed to them.

I think I'll go get me a mini-plan.

When is "Ron (Huggy Bear)Washington Glue-On 'Fro Day"?


cracker1743 said...

The mayor of Cincinnati reminds me of a black guy I went to law school with. He wanted to play on my team in the law school softball tourney. Said he was right handed, but proceeded to put a righthanders glove on his *right* hand. When sent out to play 2B, he stood on the bag. And people wonder why so few American black folk play baseball any more...

Curtis Lemansky and I would appreciate it if someone would drop a hand grenade in the Astros bullpen. They're making the Pittsburgh Freakin' Pirates look like world beaters.

Bob, what's the latest on the Billy Clyde soap opera? You're gonna get on it, right?

Jeremy said...

If the Rangers lose all of their games in the first half of the season, how will they be able to pull off the annual post-All Star break collapse?

Anybody notice that the Rangers' Kool-Aid that tasted so good a few weeks ago is getting a rancid flavor?

0-162. Go Rangers.