Rangers pounded by Yankees ...
If the Rangers had any chance Tuesday to break the spell the Yankees have cast over them, it evaporated in the second inning when Nelson Cruz did his best impersonation of Juan Gonzalez.
That's not exactly a complimentary comparison.
Despite his two MVP awards, the lasting impression of Gonzalez for the Rangers may be his flailing at one breaking pitch after another in the first inning of the first game of the 1999 Division Series. He struck out, short-circuiting a potential tempo-setting rally.
Cruz, who went hitless in three at-bats in the Rangers' 8-2 loss to New York on Tuesday, is starting to look like that Gonzalez.
In the second inning, the Rangers had a chance to get to Andy Pettitte. They had runners at second and third with one out in a scoreless game. Cruz, hitless for his last 13 at-bats in playing time that is growing increasingly sporadic, struck out on a slider. It was the fourth pitch of the at-bat. He swung at three of them.
Catcher Gerald Laird followed with a pop-up to the catcher. End of rally. End of inning. End of Rangers.
"I wanted that run and we really needed that run," manager Ron Washington said. "But it didn't happen. I don't think there was anybody more upset about not putting the ball in play than [Cruz]."
There were plenty of other failures for the Rangers as their three-game win streak evaporated. Texas had five doubles in the first six innings and still trailed, 8-1, at the time. Mike Wood, who pitched into the seventh against the Yankees last week, couldn't make it through the fifth. Jerry Hairston Jr. overran a fly ball, turning it into a three-run inning. Mark Teixeira struck out four times.
We may have a long, grinding series... Suns demolish the Spurs ...
For the better part of two days, the Phoenix Suns listened as their heart, effort and mental toughness were questioned. And those were the questions just from Steve Nash.
On Tuesday night, the Suns answered their point guard, overwhelming the Spurs in a 101-81 victory that evened the Western Conference semifinal series at a game apiece. Game 3 is Saturday at the AT&T Center.
Nash, who was unable to play for much of the final minute in Game 1 after his nose was split open in a collision with Tony Parker, had 20 points and 16 assists, and Amare Stoudemire scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half.
But it was defense, reportedly not Phoenix's strongest staple, that made the difference. The Spurs committed 20 turnovers, leading to 24 points for the Suns, while withering under their opponents' aggressiveness.
"I thought we were supposed to be the defensive team coming into the playoffs," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "But Phoenix made us look like novices tonight."
The loss was the Spurs' second-largest of the season. Only a 23-point defeat in the regular-season finale against Denver was greater, and the team's stars rested in that one.
Just 4 teams left in the mix on the ice, And someone needs to stop Detroit! ...
First, the Detroit Red Wings overcame the mental block of the first round against the physical Calgary Flames.
Monday, the youth, speed and size of the San Jose Sharks was finally overwhelmed.
Now, the Wings return to the Western Conference final beginning Friday at Joe Louis Arena to face the Anaheim Ducks, the team that started Detroit's Stanley Cup playoff slide with an upset in the first round in 2003.
"It means a lot to this team," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said of Detroit's first conference final appearance since it last won the Cup in 2002. "We have some new players. We've been playing better and better as we get deeper into the playoffs. It's different playing regular-season hockey and playoff hockey and we've adjusted and adapted to that as a team."
The Wings are clearly aware of the perceptions they could fall flat again. With their defence banged up, they know they'll get another opportunity to try to prove the pundits wrong again.
"The big thing all year long is the fact that you don't get picked to be very good and then you're pretty good during the regular season and everyone says you're not a playoff team," Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We played two big, strong teams and done well and now we're going to get another one."
Babcock was the architect of the Ducks' upset of Detroit four years ago and he's worked the past two seasons at instilling some of that same gritty philosophy in the Wings.
It's not the pretty hockey of past Cup triumphs, but in the first two rounds Detroit has succeeded in grinding down two opponents who were deemed superior physically.
"Anaheim, with (Chris) Pronger and (Scott) Niedermayer, (Francois) Beauchemin and (Sean) O'Donnell being their top four defencemen, we have to make it like we did against Calgary and San Jose," Wings' Dan Cleary said. "Get on their defence and force them to go back and turn, we have to finish Pronger and Niedermayer every chance we get.
"Up front they've got real talented players. They got that kid line with (Corey) Perry, (Ryan) Getzlaff and (Dustin) Penner, real strong on the cycle, it's going to be a great series."
Game 1 Friday, 5/11 Ana at Det 7:30 pm
Game 2 Sunday, 5/13 Ana at Det 7:30 pm
Game 3 Tuesday, 5/15 Det at Ana 9:00 pm
Game 4 Thursday, 5/17 Det at Ana 9:00 pm
Game 5 Sunday, 5/20 Ana at Det 3:00 pm (if necc.)
Game 6 Tuesday, 5/22 Det at Ana 9:00 pm (if necc.)
Game 7 Thursday, 5/24 Ana at Det 7:30 pm (if necc.)
What is the worse way to make a living as a pro athlete? How about making the minimum in the MLS? ...
The Major League Soccer Players Union released the 2007 salaries for all 359 players in the league on Friday, and perhaps the most startling statistic that the list provided was this:
At his current salary, it would take Galaxy rookie Ty Harden, who has played every minute of every game this season, 367 years to match the amount his soon-to-arrive teammate David Beckham will earn in one year.
Income disparity is a fact of life in MLS, and the yawning gulf between Harden's $17,700-a-year salary and Beckham's annual average guaranteed salary of $6.5 million is the most glaring example.
Put another way, at an hourly rate over a 30-game regular season, Beckham would be taking home $144,444 for each 60 minutes' of work; Harden would get $393 an hour.
Despite that, Bob Foose, the executive director of the union, said he had no problem with Beckham's hefty paycheck. "He's making what he's supposed to be making," Foose said. "That deal is a market-based deal and that's great. It hasn't happened all that often in MLS where a player gets what the market holds for him."
Beckham, who will finish his contract with Real Madrid in Spain on June 30 and arrive in Los Angeles shortly thereafter, is the highest-paid player in the league by far, according to the union's figures.
His $6.5 million in average guaranteed annual salary is well ahead of Chicago Fire forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco's $2.6 million, New York Red Bulls forward Juan Pablo Angel's $1.59 million, Red Bulls midfielder Claudio Reyna's $1.25 million, Galaxy forward Landon Donovan's $900,000 and Kansas City Wizards forward Eddie Johnson's $875,000.
They are the six highest-paid players in the league. What troubles the union, though, is that there are 57 players earning the league minimum of $12,900 and another 36 earning Harden's $17,700 salary.
"From our perspective, it's the level of the low end that's the big issue," Foose said. "It's a big, big problem. A third of the league has to ask their parents for money to pay the rent."
The league basically splits players into two categories: those on each team's senior roster, where the minimum salary is $30,000, and those on the developmental roster, where the minimum is $12,900, or $1,075 a month.
Twenty-five percent of all MLS players are developmental players, Foose said. "There's no way you can live on a developmental salary. In L.A., D.C., New York? No way."
Even the senior roster figure is barely adequate, he added.
"We've gotten the minimum up to $30,000, which is good progress considering it hadn't moved at all before the union," Foose said. "But still, $30,000 is tough to live on for a professional athlete."
Now, credit to Kevin for his extensive study on Dirk...
Nowitzki: Fact vs. Fiction
Since Dirk-bashing has been the most popular past-time to explain the Maverick meltdown, I decided to spend my lunch hour doing a little research to determine if there is any truth to the statements being thrown around these days:
> We'll never win a championship with Nowitzki . . . .
> Dirk plays well in the regular season, but doesn't show up in the playoffs . . .
> He can't deliver in the crunch . . . .
> A true superstar knows how to deliver in the big games . . . .
Although we all know that Maverick basketball experienced a complete turnaround the day that Don Nelson hand-picked Nowitzki in the draft, it doesn't seem to answer the critics who keep spinning the "can't win the big one" stigma. So I decided to do a little research and see if the above statements are really true. I didn't have time to research his entire career, but I did go through the stats of some of the key Maverick playoff runs over the past few years. Here we go . . . .
I started with a playoff series in 2002 because of the Kevin Garnett comparisons. That's when the Mavericks faced KG and the T-wolves in Round 1. The Mavericks won the 1st two games at home, with Dirk pouring in 30 and 31 pts for games 1 and 2 respectively. He also had 15 rebounds in each game. This was a best of 5 series, with the 3rd game in Minnesota. Since we're talking "crunch-time," game 3 was a must-win for the Wolves on their home floor, and the closer game for Dirk and the Mavs. Dirk rose to the occasion with 39 pts and 17 rebounds. KG scored 22 pts, with 17 rbs. Mavs win, series over. For the series, Dirk averaged 33 pts and 16 rbs. KG averaged 24 and 18. Would you still rather have Garnett?
If we take a look at 2003, this was the year Nellie took the Mavs to the Western Conference finals. But first they had to get past the high-flying Sacremento Kings, ala Bibby, Weber, Stoyakovich, Divac, Christie and Jackson. This was an incredible series with many memorable moments. But I'll cut to the chase: game 7, winner take all in Dallas. Would you call that crunch time? Check the records, Dirk delivered a 30 pt, 19 rb, performance with some incredible clutch shots down the stretch.
Mavs win and head to the finals against the former World Champion Spurs. For the series, Dirk averaged 22 pts and 14 rbs, but stood out as the hero in game 7.
Against the Spurs in the Western Finals, Dirk led the team by scoring 38 pts and 15 rbs as the Mavs stole game 1 in San Antonio. The second game in San Antonio resulted in a narrow Maverick defeat, but Nowitzki scored 23 pts and 10 rbs. Unfortunately, Nowitzki injured his knee in game three and was out for the rest of the series. Despite Steve Nash's presence, the Spurs cruised to win 3 of the next 4 and go on to win their 2nd world championship. Without Nowitzki, the Mavs were finished. It was truly an unfortunate time for the injury, but as you look back, this was really the only time he's suffered a significant injury over his entire career. Obviously this speaks volumes about his durability.
We all know how last season ended, but let's break it down a little further so we can separate fact from fiction. In round one, the Mavericks swept the series with the Grizzlies 4-0. Nowitzki averaged 31 pts per game, but solidified his status as a clutch player when on national TV he launched a long 3-pointer on the Grizzlies home court at the final buzzer to send the game into overtime. Without this shot, the Grizzlies would have won game 3 and would've been playing to tie the series in the next game at home. Of course, this was only the Grizzlies, so let's move on to the next round.
Next up, 3-time and defending World Champion San Antonio. Let's fast forward to Game 7, winner take all on the Spurs home floor. The ultimate cluch situation at the end of regulation with the Mavs down 3 pts, Nowitzki forces the ball through the lane and scores while absorbing a hard foul. He then proceeds to sink the do-or-die free throw to send game 7 into Overtime. He leads the Mavs to victory in OT and finishes with 37 pts and 15 rbs. For the series he averaged 27 pts and 13 rbs. Can you say MVP?
Next up Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. After a bad game 4, in which Nowitzki managed only 11 pts and the Suns routed the Mavs by 20 to tie the series at 2-2, game 5 proved to be a pivotal matchup. This was the infamous game where Sun's tough guy, Tim Thomas, blew a kiss towards Dirk as if to say you're too soft. Dirk proceeded to respond with 22 fourth quarter points to help solidify a 16 pt victory that ultimately took the wind out of the Sun's sails. Nowitzki finished with a franchise record 50 pts in that game, while the fans chanted MVP tauntingly in front of Steve Nash. Mavericks finish off the Suns in the next game and Dirk finishes the series averaging 28 pts and 13 rbs per game.
We all know the Mavs really blew the series against the Heat. There's a million excuses out their, including the newly instituted Dwyane Wade rule in which a player is guilty of a foul everytime he breathes on Wade. Of all the blame that was tossed around, i.e., referees don't like Mark Cuban, Pat Riley out-coached Avery Johnson, the game was slowed by Shaq and Dwyane Wade free throws, etc., it's pretty hard to blame Nowitzki. In the 6th and final game, Dirk scored 29 pts and 15 rbs, but Wade went to the free throw line 25 times. For the series, Nowitzki averaged 23 pts and 11 rbs.
As far as the Warriors series is concerned, the Mav's were totally blown-out and no one individual was responsible. It was a total team effort, or lack thereof. They ran into a quicker, more aggressive, hot shooting team with a coach that knew all the Mavericks' weaknesses. I'd call it the perfect storm. If it weren't for Dirk's miracle saving effort in game 5, or the fact that Baron Davis and Jackson were kicked out in game 2, this series would have been a clean sweep.
Opinions are cheap and emotional, but facts don't lie. I challenge anyone to present a factual case that supports the negative statements floating around about Nowitzki. Is he Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson? No, but he's a franchise player that any team in the league would love to have. You can't say he's a loser just because the Mavs haven't won a title. Basketball is a team sport that is complicated by matchups, streak shooters, coaching, etc. But people are emotional and want to blame everything on one person. Ridiculous!
Remember when Peyton Manning couldn't win the big one? Was Manning the only reason the Colts won or lost? No, they won the Super Bowl with the help of a solid running game and tough defense. Did the Colts ever consider trading Manning? Of course not!
Flower Mound, TX
Once again, this May, I am right in the middle of the George DeJohn body detoxification bit.
I encourage you to read all about the program here:
There are many good reasons to do it, I just do it for the most vain of reasons….to lose weight. In my mid 30’s, I find that despite my running about 15 miles a week, I can no longer just depend on that to keep me from getting more and more excess dough around the body. It is surely gay to merely discuss this, but given my platform, I thought I would try to help out the dudes who find themselves in a similar spot.
Last year, I did it in May and lost 17 pounds. It was awesome. I then resumed my life style, and in the next 12 months proceeded to put the weight gradually back on. This is not the program’s fault. This is my fault for not applying what I learned from this program, and my back’s fault as a herniated disc put me out of running for about 10 weeks.
Regardless, here I am again, taking the 21 day program, and today is Day 10. I am down 13 pounds again, and today is the last day of the initial 10 day “fruits and vegetables only” phase. Tomorrow, fish and chicken are back in the game, and it is smooth sailing from there on.
This time around, I figure I will take smarter steps to keep the weight off, but anyway, from me to you, check out the program. It is a bit pricey, but I promise it works. It has worked for me twice.
Credit to P1 Irvin on this one. Roll 3 minutes in for some Dallas Cowboys gold.