Here we go at Augusta! …It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
“If I have a great rest of my career,” Phil Mickelson said Tuesday, “and I go out and win 20 more tournaments and 7 more majors to get to 50 wins and 10 majors, which would be an awesome career, I still won’t get to where he’s at today. So I don’t try to compare myself against him. What I like to do is to try to win as many tournaments and as many majors that I can. And with him in the field, it just gives it more credibility, whatever it is I am able to accomplish.”
Woods is chasing his third consecutive major title, fifth green jacket and 13th major victory over all. When he steps onto the first tee at 1:52 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, with Paul Casey of England and Aaron Baddeley of Australia, he will be at the nexus of the Masters story line whether he shoots 64 or 74.
Mickelson is the defending champion, and Vijay Singh has as many victories as Woods this season (2), but only Woods is competing against 96 other players and the specter of Jack Nicklaus’s 18 professional majors.
“Tiger is the benchmark, and that’s no disrespect to anyone else,” said David Leadbetter, the swing instructor with six players in the field. “It’s more of a story when he doesn’t win. It’s like one big match play tournament — Tiger against the field.”
Ernie Els added: “A lot of other guys have had talent, breakthrough talent, but never really showed it the way Tiger has. He’s really come through more than I think a lot of people have expected. But he’s showed a lot of dedication through the last 10 years.”
Phil - 9:56 am
Tiger - 12:52 pm
Meanwhile, I just want to point out that I didn’t bring it up. But, Since Revo has addressed Payroll, it is now in play …
Tom Hicks flew in here from Liverpool, England, on Monday, presumably with the $10 million he saved by not re-signing Gary Matthews Jr. this past off-season jingling around in his pocket with a few extra British pounds in his loose change.
What the Angels got for their $10 million was Matthews' usual spectacular defense in center field and a three-game sweep of the Rangers to open the season.
I'll let you figure out who got the best end of the deal.
Wouldn't you know it, on the day that USA Today came out with its annual report on major league payrolls, damning information that should leave Hicks red-faced with embarrassment, Matthews was showing us exactly what an extra $10 million here or there can buy.
Considering that he regularly did the same thing for the Rangers last season, it shouldn't have come as any surprise when Matthews leaped high at the fence to rob Michael Young of a home run in the first inning of Wednesday afternoon's 5-3 Angels victory.
In the dugout, manager Ron Washington and his Rangers could only slap their foreheads and say, "Oh, no, not again!" Over these opening three games, every time it seemed that the Rangers might spark something offensively, Matthews was there to make another circus catch and help put out the fire.
"It's like he's in our heads," Washington said, shaking his own George Jefferson-'do from side to side. "He knows exactly where he needs to be. We hit one, and he's standing there.
"He is what he is. He took a home run away from Michael. He seems to make every play out there."
Suddenly, the $50 million the Angels will pay Matthews over the next five years doesn't seem quite so extravagant, especially in light of the payroll listings that show the Rangers ($68.3 million) a distant fourth in their own division and more than $11 million behind the notoriously low-paying Oakland A's ($79.4 million), who just let Barry Zito walk.
The Angels and Mariners, also AL West rivals, check in at $109.3 million and $106.5 million and are two of seven teams in the majors with payrolls exceeding $100 million.
The Rangers' payroll, on the other hand, is ahead of only three other American League teams: perennial bottom-feeders Tampa Bay ($24.1 million) and Kansas City ($67.1 million) and young but talented Cleveland ($61.7 million).
That's downright shameful, but Hicks' pat answer is simply to lay it off on Rangers fans. Buy more tickets, pay more excessive parking fees, drink more expensive beer, eat more $5 hot dogs, and he might consider raising the payroll.
Asked how he might have spent an extra $10 million this season, general manager Jon Daniels, not wanting any part of the discussion, just shook his head, so let me answer for him.
He could have had Matthews in center, making those spectacular catches for the Rangers again. He could have signed left-hander Ted Lilly ($6 million a year with the Cubs), or kept Adam Eaton ($7.2 million with the Phillies) or Kip Wells ($4 million with the Cardinals), perhaps even two of the three.
He could have even used it as a kickoff point for negotiations with Mark Teixeira.
Ten million dollars, obviously, can make a huge difference. It's helped Hicks buy a soccer team in England, for instance, and fly back and forth across the Atlantic to watch it play.
What's improving his chances of winning a baseball championship compared with that?
According to the USA Today, here are the payroll amounts in 2007 …
1. New York Yankees $ 189,639,045
Boston Red Sox $ 143,026,214
New York Mets $ 115,231,663
Los Angeles Angels $ 109,251,333
Chicago White Sox $ 108,671,833
6. Los Angeles Dodgers $ 108,454,524
Seattle Mariners $ 106,460,833
Chicago Cubs $ 99,670,332
Detroit Tigers $ 95,180,369
Baltimore Orioles$ 93,554,808
11. St. Louis Cardinals $ 90,286,823
San Francisco Giants$ 90,219,056
Philadelphia Phillies $ 89,428,213
Houston Astros $ 87,759,000
Atlanta Braves $ 87,290,833
16. Toronto Blue Jays $ 81,942,800
Oakland Athletics $ 79,366,940
Minnesota Twins $ 71,439,500
Milwaukee Brewers $ 70,986,500
Cincinnati Reds $ 68,904,980
21. Texas Rangers $ 68,318,675
Kansas City Royals $ 67,116,500
Cleveland Indians $ 61,673,267
San Diego Padres $ 58,110,567
Colorado Rockies $ 54,424,000
26. Arizona Diamondbacks $ 52,067,546
Pittsburgh Pirates $ 38,537,833
Washington Nationals $ 37,347,500
Florida Marlins $ 30,507,000
Tampa Bay Devil Rays $ 24,123,500
As you can see, that puts the Angels at #4, the Mariners at #7, the A’s at #17, and the Rangers at #21 in baseball payrolls. Even if we allow the Rangers to add in the A-Rod money, it puts them no higher than #18. As it stands, they somehow actually spend less money on players than the MILWAUKEE BREWERS, MINNESOTA TWINS, and OAKLAND A’s????
Here are the payroll totals for the Rangers since the 1999 Division winner …The middle column is median player salary:
2007 $ 550,000 $68,318,675
2006 $ 750,000 $ 68,228,662
2005 $ 650,000 $ 55,849,000
2004 $ 550,000 $ 55,050,417
2003 $ 1,150,000 $ 103,491,667
2002 $ 2,000,000 $ 105,726,122
2001 $ 800,000 $ 88,633,500
2000 $ 1,100,000 $ 70,785,000
1999 $ 2,225,000 $ 81,301,598
As indicated above, the Rangers have not moved their payroll at all from 2006. Kinda sad. I’m just saying…
After the sweep, here are some thoughts from Sherrington …
Perspective: The Rangers didn't distinguish themselves, failing to hit in the clutch, making five errors and falling behind early. But if the Angels keep this up, the West is a race for second anyway. Not only did they pitch well, which was expected, but they hit well, too. They may not be patient hitters, but they bunted, went with pitches and moved runners. And their defense, traditionally one of the worst in baseball, was fairly spectacular. Matthews dazzled in center, and Garret Anderson made a sliding, game-changing catch of Kenny Lofton's liner Wednesday.
A budding retraction: If Matthews plays this season like he did against his former teammates, the Angels will get their $50 million worth. He took a double away from Mark Teixeira and a homer away from Young. He also hit .500, walked three times, scored four and knocked in a run. Maybe it's not HGH after all. Maybe he's just taking tips from Guerrero.
Disturbing scene: Martha Stewart was on the TV in the Rangers' clubhouse before Wednesday's game. She was making Easter rabbits.
In hockey, it worked out poorly in Anaheim last night …it looks like Vancouver…
Sharks win 3-2 in shootout...that's probably the worst outcome for the Stars. It gives Anaheim a point, so now the Ducks need only to get either two plus points for themselves out of a possible four or two lost points for the Stars out of a possible six. Either would mean the Stars can't win the Pacific. What's more, now the Sharks can beat the Stars out for either second (if Anaheim falters) or fifth by simply finishing tied with Dallas. Dallas must beat San Jose by at least one point in the standings to finish ahead of the Sharks, because San Jose has a clear lead on the first tiebreaker (total wins).
What all of this means is that the odds the Stars start the playoffs on the road at Vancouver have gone up big-time. And as Bob asked in one of the previous entries: Is that really what the Stars want? I would say No. There are a lot of combinations left, but the bottom line is the Stars need to try to get as many points as possible. That would leave to door open for home ice and would give them the opportunity to take fifth place. And right now, fifth place (with the chance to play Nashville or San Jose) would seem a lot better than sixth place and the trip to Vancouver.
Babe back in the booth …
After a one-season absence, Babe Laufenberg will return to the Cowboys' radio booth alongside Brad Sham in 2007.
"It's something we will try again, and hopefully they won't be looking for another new guy again next year," Laufenberg said Wednesday.
Laufenberg quit the broadcast after the 2005 season, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and two sons. He had been the Cowboys' lead analyst since 1997, when he replaced Dale Hansen. He began working on Cowboys radio in 1991 after retiring from the team as a backup quarterback.
Charlie Waters was hired to replace Laufenberg, but he lasted only one season before quitting, citing a broadcast workload that interfered with his full-time job in the energy delivery business.
The Cowboys' radio network is heard throughout Texas and in parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Dallas' KTCK-AM (1310) is the network flagship.
"We're happy to have Babe back in a role where he has proven to be among the elite in the profession," said Rich Dalrymple, the Cowboys' director of public relations.
The Cowboys made some concessions that will allow Laufenberg more time at home. For example, he will no longer have to fly Saturday mornings on the team charter to road games. He will be allowed to fly commercial and leave Saturday nights or Sunday mornings, giving him more time with his family. He will also employ a personal statistician to help him prepare for games.
In Champions League Soccer, Chelsea ties at home with Valencia, and Man United lose at Roma, but everyone is talking about the riot police in Rome and the ensuing violence ….
Manchester United have condemned the 'over-reaction' of Italian police at the Stadio Olimpico last night.
United officials watched in shock as their 4,000-strong travelling support was attacked by riot police in the aftermath of Taddei's opening goal in AS Roma's 2-1 Champions League win.
And, in backing an official government examination into the violent scenes, they have blasted the treatment of their fans by police in the strongest terms possible.
'The disturbing scenes witnessed in the Stadio Olimpico last night shocked everyone at Old Trafford,' said a club statement.
'In what the club views as a serious over-reaction, local police handed out indiscriminate beatings to United supporters.
UFC is back tonight
Billy Packer shocks you