Tuesday, April 03, 2007

So much for 162-0!

This morning, I have another engagement (tax man) that is grabbing my attention, so let’s get to it…

Rangers drop the opener with the bats silent

The managers come and go. The pitchers are up and down. But one element remains shockingly consistent where the Rangers and opening day is concerned.
The bats seem to disappear at the biggest moments.

On Monday, the Ron Washington Era began with a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that was marked by offensive inefficiency. While the Rangers worked the Angels' pitchers hard, they were hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
It's just more of the usual. The Rangers have lost their season opener in six of the last seven seasons and each of the last four. In those four losses, the club has gone 3-for-28 (.107) with runners in scoring position. They are 1-for-17 in the last three openers.

That was the whole story behind Monday's loss. The pitching staff kept the Rangers in the game, just as the new manager had planned. The bullpen kept the game close, just as the front office had planned.

The chances to move runners came frequently, but, alas, that plan still needs some work.

"We want to thrive in these kinds of situations and games," Michael Young said. "We didn't do it tonight, but we were constantly talking about it in the dugout, driving home the importance of these kinds of situations."

Revo lists his 10 concerns with the 2007 Rangers

allow me to pinpoint my 10 biggest, in no particular order, as the Rangers' season begins:

1) Gerald Laird.
Can he handle catching 140 games?

2) Hank Blalock.
The Rangers don't just need him to be good, they need him to be the great player he was on the verge of becoming three seasons ago.

3) Nelson Cruz.
Is he an everyday player in the big leagues? The Rangers must have some doubts; he wasn't in the starting lineup Monday night.

4) Kenny Lofton.
How much do those 39-year-old legs have left?

5) Sammy Sosa.
Is this a real rejuvenation or just a spring mirage?

6) Vicente Padilla.
Can be put together back-to-back respectable seasons? After signing a three-year, $33.75 million contract, he'd better.

7) Brandon McCarthy and Robinson Tejeda.
I put them together because the Rangers are counting so heavily on the two young starters -- they're 23 and 25 respectively -- who have combined for only 39 major league starts.

8) Eric Gagné.
If he's able to do the job at the end of the bullpen, the ripple effect makes the rest of the 'pen infinitely stronger.

9) Jamey Wright.
His major league track record makes him a huge question mark, but as the fifth starter, the Rangers will find other options if need be.

10) Washington.
Just how long will the "Washington Effect" last in the clubhouse? Can it survive the team's first five-game losing streak? That'll be the test.

For the Rangers to be successful this season, most of these questions must have positive answers.

Newberg with a thought on Wilkerson

Here's my knee-jerk overreaction after losing one of 162 (but also after a month of exhibition play): by time Kameron Loe works his way back into the Rangers rotation, Brad Wilkerson will have played himself out of the regular outfield rotation. He still doesn't look right.

Oh yeah, and Vlad owns Texas

Now in his fourth season in Southern California, Guerrero's batting average against the Rangers is his best against any opponent. He hit safely in his first 44 career games against Texas before going 0-for-1 with four walks - three intentional in his first three at-bats - of a 10-3 win last Aug. 5.

Though he failed to record a hit off Texas pitchers in two games after that, Guerrero still is hitting .430 (92-for-214) in 55 games with 20 homers, 46 RBIs and 47 runs against the Rangers.

Guerrero is batting .355 (11-for-31) with two homers and seven RBIs in his career against Vicente Padilla, who gets the start for the Rangers on Tuesday.

The right-hander was 2-0 with a 5.09 ERA in four starts against the Angels last season. His best outing against them came on Sept. 17, when he allowed seven hits and walked three over 7 1-3 innings for the win in Texas' 8-1 rout. Guerrero was 0-for-4 in that contest.

Padilla set career highs in wins (15), quality starts (20) and strikeouts (156) last season, his first with Texas after five-plus years in Philadelphia.

Florida goes back to back

The Florida Gators left one final, indelible memory as one of the great teams in modern college basketball. Their emphatic 84-75 victory over Ohio State in the national title game Monday night gave them back-to-back championships — the first repeat titlist since Duke in 1991 and 1992 — and a claim as arguably the best team since John Wooden’s dynasty days at U.C.L.A.

For decades, perhaps, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey will be compared to the great college basketball starting lineups.
They were Florida’s primary starters for the past two seasons and will be best remembered as chemistry majors on the floor, with their unselfishness as strong a defining trait as their talent.

“I think I was fortunate enough to coach a group of guys that has to go down in history as one of the greatest teams of all time,” Florida Coach Billy Donovan said.
With Bill Belichick, Donovan’s close friend, watching from the stands, these Gators again personified the team concept that Belichick’s Patriots brought to the National Football League. Florida is the first team to win the N.C.A.A. football and men’s basketball championships in the same academic year. The Gators defeated Ohio State to win the football title in January.

Florida (35-5) won the university’s second national title in basketball with many strong performances. Each Gators starter except Noah scored in double figures, led by Horford’s 18. The senior reserve forward Chris Richard played a valuable role off the bench by scoring 8 points, grabbing 8 rebounds and guarding Ohio State center Greg Oden. Corey Brewer had 13 points and 8 rebounds and was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player.

“I would put them in a category as probably one of the best teams to win,” Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said. “You’re going to see those guys playing a lot of basketball for many years ahead.”


• The Gators largest margin of victory in their last five games of the NCAA Tournament was 10 points. Only two other teams in tournament history won each of its last five games, all by 10 points or fewer: North Carolina in 1982 (all five games) and Arizona in 1997 (all six games).

• Florida used the same starting five in the 2007 NCAA Championship game as it employed in last year's title-game win over UCLA: Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Al Horford, Lee Humphrey, and Joakim Noah.
Over the last 35 years, only one team started the same lineup in the NCAA Finals in consecutive years: Michigan, in a pair of losses to Duke (1992) and North Carolina (1993): Juwan Howard, Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose, Chris Webber.

• Ohio State shot 4-for-23 from 3-point range in its loss to Florida on Monday night. Since 1987, the first year the 3-point shot was used in college basketball, two other teams missed at least 19 3-point shots in the NCAA Championship game: Kentucky was 10-for-30 in its loss to Arizona in 1997 and Illinois shot 12-for-40 from beyond the arc in its loss to North Carolina in 2005.

• Horford had 12 rebounds against Ohio State on Monday night after grabbing 17 boards against UCLA on Saturday night. Over the last 20 years, only one player had at least 29 rebounds in two Final Four games combined: Nick Collison of Kansas in 2003 (36 rebounds).

The Stars, who controlled their own destiny, Lose to the Blues and no longer control their own destiny…

It was an ugly game for the Stars, who went 1-3 against St. Louis this season. They also missed a chance to gain points on idle Anaheim, lacking the fire a team chasing a title should have.

"Tonight we didn't have enough guys willing to get into the guts of the ice, the guts of the game," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "[The Blues] don't give you anything around the rush. They swarm around the net. You have to score hard, ugly goals. You have to get people in the ugly parts of the ice."

Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro seemed ready to do that. But even their scoring -- they accounted for both goals -- wasn't enough. Morrow said the game didn't feel right from the start.

"It felt like a letdown right away," Morrow said. "We didn't come out with the jump we needed. I think our confidence was so high, we thought we'd battle back and get the points. We were starting to get stronger, get opportunities."

As disciplined as the Stars usually are, they were just the opposite. They turned the puck over repeatedly -- 26 times -- and too many times, those pucks ended up on a Blues player's stick.

A particularly ugly chain of events basically decided the game. With the score tied 1-1, Glen Metropolit took advantage of a Stars turnover, slipping one high on goalie Marty Turco. Just 16 seconds later, Doug Weight was fed the puck and found the net through a gaggle of players for a 3-1 Blues lead.

"It was a good learning experience in a lot of different ways," said Turco, who allowed three goals on 23 shots. "It doesn't matter who you play. It is about us, and tonight was a perfect example of that."

Jeff Halpern, whose usually stellar line had a rough night -- he and Niklas Hagman were minus-3 -- said, "This was a good opportunity for us to pull within reach in the division, and especially making Friday's game [against Anaheim] more meaningful."
Instead, the Stars must ponder the lost chance. With 102 points, they trail the Ducks by four with three games remaining for each.

Cowboys involved with Michael “The Burner” Turner?

The Chargers are dealing with four suitors for backup running back Michael Turner, sources said, and Turner's agent has spoken with at least one of those teams in hopes of getting a long-term deal done.

Buffalo, Dallas, Tennessee and the New York Jets have shown interest in acquiring the restricted free agent. All appear willing to part at least with a first-round draft pick, but sources indicated the Chargers are still seeking two picks – in the first and third rounds.

The New York Giants, who need a running back, also could enter the fray before next month's draft. A source said yesterday that contrary to numerous media reports, the Green Bay Packers have not shown interest in Turner.

Turner and his agent, Bus Cook, will have much say in where Turner ends up. No team is going to give up draft picks for Turner, 25, without first securing a long-term deal with him.

Speaking of the Cowboys, since we spent a moment or two on Roy yesterday, I was sent this very disturbing video that shows Roy and Bradie James had issues with the TE last year.

Cowboys Mailbag

Liverpool opens at PSV in the Round of 8…

An intriguing midfield duel is in prospect when Liverpool meet PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.

Argentina's Javier Mascherano, who only joined Liverpool in January after an unhappy introduction to English football at West Ham United, looks set for his European debut, facing off against PSV's vastly experienced captain Phillip Cocu.

'He is a monster of a player and destined for great things,' Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said of the 22-year-old Mascherano.

'He can keep possession and he's always in the right position,' Benitez was quoted as saying in British newspapers on Tuesday.

Liverpool, impressive in their 4-1 weekend victory over Arsenal, the side eliminated by PSV in the previous round, are favourites against a Dutch side weakened by injury to Brazilian defender Alex and Ivorian striker Arouna Kone.

Having put out holders Barcelona in the previous round, Liverpool's confidence is sky-high with captain Steven Gerrard saying: 'I think the lift that knocking out the champions has given us means we don't fear anyone now.'

AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is considering sending out a two-pronged attack against Bayern Munich in the other last-eight first leg of the night at San Siro.

The Legend of Wade Boggs

Aggie gets waxed for poorly considered bet

Catch up on the Shield

Michael Ruffin wishes he didn’t do this

D.L. Hughley on Leno – not that bad….


artfromtex said...

"B..b..b..but that's not my guy. It looks like my guy, but if you knew anything about football, you'd know that wasn't my guy. All y'all little people don't understand, I'm a legend." - Roy Williams


Phil K. said...

That last clip proves that Aaron Sorkin can't write comedy. Not that Studio 60 was a comedy but, hell, it was based on people who did comedy for a living. The least they can do is be funny once in a while. DL's personality was completely smothered by his lines on that show. And it made a lot of first-time watchers of DL's craft hate the man. B/c he wasn't funny

artfromtex said...

man is this a party or what?

Jay Clendenin said...

bob leads with rangers over college basketball. a subtle nuance, but appreciated.