Sometimes you know you are watching greatness. That is what caused me to overcome my love for the couch and take on the uncommon Tuesday night trek to see baseball.
Because Johan was here. And, he kept his end of the bargain. He struck out 13 Rangers, and looked like, well, Johan.
Here is his first trip through the Rangers 9 last night:
I Kinsler struck out swinging.
M Young grounded out to shortstop.
M Teixeira struck out swinging.
S Sosa homered to center.
V Diaz struck out swinging.
N Cruz struck out swinging.
G Laird struck out swinging.
M Kata struck out swinging.
K Mahar struck out swinging.
That is right. 9 players. 7 Strikeouts. A Sosa home run, and Mike Young grounded out. 9 batters, 7 strikeouts.
Dude is the best in the business. It isn’t even close. And at the end of the 2008 season, he is a free agent at the age of 29. If Barry Zito got what he got (7 years/$126 million), what will Johan get?
Santana + Morneau = domination …
Johan Santana looked like a Cy Young Award winner, Justin Morneau looked like an MVP and the Rangers looked like a last-place team again Tuesday night in a 7-1 loss to the Twins.
After the Rangers scored 28 runs in their previous two games, Santana and Morneau, the 2006 recipients of those prestigious awards, brought them back down to earth.
Santana was marvelous in a 13-strikeout, seven-inning victory, allowing only one run on Sammy Sosa's second-inning homer, the 598th of his career. Santana yielded four hits total.
"He didn't make many mistakes -- only one," Sosa said. "When you face a guy like Santana, one run is not enough."
Santana pitched around Sosa, walking him twice after the home run, but went after every other Rangers batter. Santana's mastery was evident in the fact that every one of his strikeouts was swinging.
"The Texas Rangers are not the only ones swinging at that... that's why he's the Cy Young winner," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
The last time a pitcher struck out that many Rangers batters was April 16, 2000, when the Indians' Chuck Finley also fanned 13.
Meanwhile, Reader Daniel offered this today:
HOCKEYTOWN IS ELIMINATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sure, I have sour grapes, but the next best thing in not having your team win is having Detroit eliminated.
And, I agree. Now we must turn our attention to the difficult proposition of making sure San Antonio doesn’t win it all. So, go Detroit Pistons!
Down go the Red Wings …
Whatever the Red Wings had during these stirring, wearing playoffs, they used it all, every last ounce, and simply ran out of it.
The Wings showed plenty, right to the furious final minutes, when they desperately hunted for a miracle comeback, shooting again and again at Anaheim goalie J.S. Giguere. It was a thrilling last stand by both sides -- by the Ducks' fine goalie and by the Wings" rising stars.
Ultimately, the Wings didn't have quite enough, not quite enough defense, not quite enough timely goals.
So the season ends again in a distant rink against a determined team that had more when it mattered. The Ducks swarmed from the start Tuesday night, never letting a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals out of their sight. Anaheim's 4-3 victory wrapped up the Western Conference Finals in six games and halted a Wings' run that was gathering true legitimacy just a week ago.
The game ended with the Ducks hanging on, as the Wings unleashed a final flourish. It was amazing action as they tried to erase a 4-1 deficit, outshooting Anaheim, 16-3, in the third period, but it was not enough.
"We put everything out there, and we've got to be proud of that," Henrik Zetterberg said. "It was just a little short. It's really tough when you get this close to the Finals and can't do it."
If the Wings showed early what they showed late, they might be preparing for a Game 7. But they were sloppy and slow at the start, while the Ducks showed speed and urgency, determined not to mimic the Wings' big mistake: You get a team down, you better keep it down.
The Wings had the Ducks down in the series, 2-1, but three losses followed, capped by the image Tuesday night of Dominik Hasek sprawled on his back as Duck after Duck kept charging and poking rebounds past him. In the other net, Giguere wasn't unbeatable but he was better, timely at the end.
Detroit's scoring stars, Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, were excellent much of the time and tremendous at the end. Datysuk scored twice in the third period and Zetterberg once, but the cautionary note is this: Those were the first goals on the road by either in these playoffs.
More Bad News For Phoenix ...
A week after fateful suspensions to Amaré Stoudemire and Boris Diaw and four days after playoff elimination, the Suns saw their cruel misfortune continue Tuesday when the lottery gave Atlanta the No. 3 pick. That kept the Suns from acquiring what would have been their highest draft choice in 20 years.
If the Hawks pick had not fallen among the top three draft slots, the Suns would have acquired it to complete the 2005 Diaw-Joe Johnson trade. Instead, Phoenix will receive Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2008 draft unconditionally.
It was not as big of a blow as what happened in the prior seven days, but it was still another punch to the gut because of how richly talented this draft crop is expected to be.
OK. This game means a lot to me. C’mon you Reds!
Liverpool’s day of reckoning with AC Milan ….And I am sorry, but there will be spoilers on the show today, as we are at the game watching party at Victory Plaza at the AAC…
Steven Gerrard knows how it feels to lift the European Cup, but he is driven by a burning desire to do so again this evening and to silence all those – within the AC Milan camp and throughout English football – who feel that Liverpool’s triumph in Istanbul two years ago was a fluke that will never be repeated.
As in 2005, Milan stand between Liverpool and the biggest prize in club football, with Gerrard relishing the prospect of another midfield battle with the tenacious Gennaro Gattuso, whom he unwisely dismissed as a “kitten” in his autobiography, and Kaká, the superb Brazilian playmaker.
Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, faces another tactical conundrum in order to beat Milan again, but his options improved last night when Boudewijn Zenden was passed fit after taking a full part in a training session at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. The former Holland winger has had acupuncture on an injured ankle. Harry Kewell should start on the bench.
There were indications that Jermaine Pennant may earn a role on the right-hand side, leaving Gerrard to operate in a more advanced role behind Dirk Kuyt, who would operate as a lone striker.
Benítez believes it will be a very different match to the 2005 Champions League final, when Liverpool fought back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 and beat Milan in a penalty shoot-out, but Gerrard has urged his teammates to draw on the memories of that occasion as they aim to win the trophy for the sixth time.
“The players don’t want to come back from Athens upset and with regrets that we have not brought the cup home,” Gerrard said. “We want to make history, be heroes and come home winners. To win one final was absolutely magnificent, but do it twice could be really special.
“People in football always say once you’ve tasted that kind of success, you want to experience it again. That’s spot on. The other thing is that ever since we won in 2005 we’ve heard people saying it was a fluke and couldn’t happen again. That doesn’t bother us, but if we win it two years out of three, it will shut them up.
“I think we’ve laid that to rest already – no one can say what we did in 2005 was a one-off now – but to win it again would put us up there with the great European teams. It would really take us to a different level.”
2 European Cups for this group of players would define them …
Liverpool, third in England last year, are confronted by the side that finished either second or fourth in Serie A then, depending upon whether the table was viewed before or after news of calciopoli emerged. But whichever way you look at it, Milan are the most successful club in the last two decades of European football, the span of Paolo Maldini's extraordinary career.
Furthermore, while motivation should scarcely be required in matches of this magnitude, Milan's will be increased by the events of Istanbul. In addition to one of the world's greatest defenders for a decade - Maldini - and a sprinkling of World Cup winners, they possess arguably the finest player on the planet in the shape of Kaka. Gerrard may have turned a Champions League final, but the Brazilian was the dominant influence in both legs of the semi-final against Manchester United.
He excelled, too, in the first 45 minutes of Milan's last meeting with Liverpool, going unchecked until Benitez's half-time introduction of Dietmar Hamann. It is an error that Benitez, who has kept the notes of his teamtalk in Turkey, is unlikely to repeat and that has consequences for Gerrard. In Athens, limiting Kaka's involvement requires an Argentine victory in a South American duel to determine Europe's biggest contest.
Javier Mascherano, from the base of the midfield, should be the man briefed to mark Kaka. It could be a task for the defence, but Jamie Carragher has jokingly insisted that it is the remit of the midfield. Yet as much as his remarkable talent, deceptive movement and languid, assured, finishing, it is Kaka's positioning that troubled Manchester United. The Italian definition of 'trequartista' refers to the area, three-quarters of the way up the pitch, between defence and midfield. It frequently presents English teams with problems, but should bring him into Mascherano's sphere of influence.
Meanwhile, this Saturday is huge in the UFC:
And Evan tackles why Rampage needs to beat the Iceman …
UFC 71 is the single most important fight the UFC has ever had as the outcome has drastic ramifications on the future of the UFC regardless of who wins. If Chuck wins it brings back some stability to the recent flood of continuous upsets that have rocked the MMA universe since Anderson Silva plastered Rich Franklin’s nose on the other side of his face with his knees on October at UFC 64. Since Franklin lost his middle weight belt other greats such as Tim Sylvia, Matt Hughes, Wanderlei Silva, Georges St Pierre, and Mirko Cro Cop have taken losses that were chalked in as wins by fans before the fight even began. Upsets can be great for sports and exciting for fans but too many upsets in such a short time can bring on an age of parity that brings down the level of excitement for cards. And let’s face it, its harder to market fighters when nobody is sure they will still hold the belt after their next fight so while the UFC will never admit it, they would almost always chose for the bigger star to always win, almost.
But if Rampage does win, all is not lost since if there is to be another upset, it needs to be Rampage as there is so much to gain. Rampage is what the UFC and every sport needs. A charismatic spokesman who will go on talks shows, do radio interviews and everything in between to sell the sport and being able to win at an elite level while he does it. Tito Ortiz would have been perfect for this role but its becoming obvious he is simply not an elite fighter and this has been proven time and time again with losses to Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell. Defeating a broken down post 40’s fighter in Ken Shamrock a couple times impresses nobody. He’s a great fighter and has the media tools to charm, but likely never a title holder. Chuck and Randy are as nice and humble an athlete as you will ever see but they simply don’t do well on camera. Other elite fighters like Mirko Cro Cop hate the media and the pomp that surrounds fights, Fedor Emelianenko just smiles and gives 2 word answers never making eye contact and like Anderson Silva, none of them speak English very well. Politically incorrect or not, the UFC needs an English speaking hero who oozes charisma and can work the media. Imagine Rampages infectious grin on HBO’s Inside Sports with a LHW belt hanging in the background and you can see the UFC taken to a new level.
Oh, yeah. We got the Super Bowl in DFW! Follow the money! …
Even in a league that generates more than $6 billion annually, an extra $25 million-$30 million can't hurt, right?
And that's essentially what NFL owners decided here Tuesday afternoon in awarding the bid for Super Bowl XLV to the North Texas contingent in a competition with proposals from Indianapolis and the Phoenix area. The game will be played in February 2011.
For the right to host what figures to be known as the first "Dallas Super Bowl," even though it will be held in the Cowboys' new billion-dollar stadium in Arlington, Texas, it took the North Texas group four ballots. With the Phoenix area bounced from consideration on an earlier ballot, Dallas edged Indianapolis, 17-15.
The biggest surprise wasn't so much that Dallas won, but that the vote was actually so close.
Why? Because for all the rhetoric devoted Tuesday to the excellent presentations staged by each of the three cities vying for Super Bowl XLV, money still talks louder in the NFL than anything else. And in the Super Bowl sweepstakes, it's clear that "Big D," for the NFL owners, translated into Big Dollars.
The football Taj Mahal being constructed by always forward-thinking Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will seat roughly 100,000 fans and include more than 200 luxury suites. That's a capacity of 25,000-30,000 more than either of the other stadiums bidding for the game. A ticket for Super Bowl XLV is projected at $900 and could be $1,000 by the time the game is played. With 25,000-30,000 more seats at a grand a pop, well, you do the math.
And that huge differential is in just ticket revenues alone. Factor in the ancillary revenues, the prospect of 25,000 or 30,000 more patrons each buying a $5 hot dog or a $7 beer, and the money gap between Dallas and the other two cities is notable. Certainly it was noted by Jones' fraternity brothers.
Asked if the advantage the Cowboys' stadium enjoyed over the others was an element in the outcome of the voting, Jones candidly acknowledged: "It should have and it did." Several hours later, in his wrap-up news conference Tuesday evening, commissioner Roger Goodell cited the "extraordinary capacity" of Jones' new showplace stadium, set to open in 2009.
Sports Bullies weigh in on the decision …
And now, our email of the day, which responds to email of the day from a few days ago:
I read a question addressed to you on your blog from “Frank in Arlington, stuck in a Standard Def Ranger Purgatory!!” regarding Rangers HD telecasts. Please inform Frank that FSN Southwest telecasts 17 Rangers games this season in HD on FSN HD, a special high-definition channel available on participating cable and satellite TV systems (see schedule below). We’re working to add more Rangers telecasts in HD in the future, however, the lack of available HD production trucks limits our ability to produce additional Rangers games in high-def. Eventually, at some point we will have HD production trucks at all of our events. For Frank’s purposes, FSN HD is available on Dish Network Ch. 366. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you ever receive questions relating to FSN Southwest. Take care, and I hope to see you in Fox Box this Summer at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
I need to correct myself. FSN HD for FSN Southwest programming is available in Dallas-Ft. Worth on DirecTV Ch. 96. DirecTV uses Ch. 95 (which you refered to and I mistakingly led you to believe carried local FSN Southwest HD games) for HD broadcasts of teams outside of the local market. Therefore, Rangers games in HD produced by the opposing team's network must be blacked out per MLB rules to protect the FSN Southwest Rangers telecast. The next FSN Southwest HD Rangers telecast on Ch. 96 is this Friday against Boston. Sorry for the confusion. Let me know if there's anything else you need.
Enjoy Jim Knox from the Fox Box this Friday in high-def!
2007 FSN SOUTHWEST TEXAS RANGERS HD SCHEDULE
All Times Listed Are Central
Day Date Opponent Time
Wed. May 2 New York Yankees 7:00 p.m.
Fri. May 25 Boston Red Sox 7:00 p.m.
Thu. June 7 Detroit Tigers 7:30 p.m.
Tue. June 19 Chicago White Sox 7:30 p.m.
Wed. June 20 Chicago White Sox 7:30 p.m.
Fri. June 22 Houston Astros 7:30 p.m.
Wed. July 4 Los Angeles Angels 7:30 p.m.
Thu. July 5 Los Angeles Angels 7:30 p.m.
Fri. July 6 Baltimore Orioles 7:30 p.m.
Mon. July 23 Seattle Mariners 7:30 p.m.
Wed. July 25 Seattle Mariners 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Aug. 6 Oakland Athletics 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Aug. 8 Oakland Athletics 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Aug. 23 Seattle Mariners 7:30 p.m.
Fri. Aug. 24 Seattle Mariners 7:30 p.m.
Wed. Aug. 29 Chicago White Sox 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Aug. 30 Chicago White Sox 7:30 p.m.
Johan sawed in half
Carl Lewis is not cool