Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Did You See This Coming?

Let’s have a contest on most unlikely sports headlines for today. I’ll start.

Rangers GM gets a contract extension

There. You can’t beat that. Why even try?

Rangers owner Tom Hicks says he is interested in extending Jon Daniels' Rangers owner Tom Hicks said Monday that he has initiated talks of a contract extension with his 29-year-old general manager, Jon Daniels. The extension, which could be announced as early as today, comes even though the Rangers are struggling and Daniels' performance has been criticized.

Daniels is signed through the 2008 season and the extension, according to a person close to the team, is for one year.

"It's a conversation that has come up," Hicks said when asked about details. "I can't say anything more. We're having conversations."

Hicks admitted that Daniels' track record is spotty. After Daniels' first season as GM, Hicks said he gave him an "A" for his performance. When asked Monday how he would grade Daniels now, Hicks laughed and referred to the trade that included Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Akinori Otsuka and Adam Eaton and said:

"I'd give him an 'F' on the San Diego trade. But that happens in baseball."
Hicks said he wanted to extend Daniels' contract because, "Jon has the high intellect needed to manage this process. I think he's going to be one of the outstanding general managers in baseball, and hopefully it will be for the Rangers. He's highly organized and he's put together a [management] team of great people."

Revo explains why he is in support of it all

So why, you're wondering, am I endorsing Hicks' imminent decision to give Daniels a contract extension? Hey, I keep asking myself that very question, and I suspect what I've come up with is pretty much the same rationale that Hicks is using.

No. 1, for me, is that this organization needs stability. The constant change at the top, which in turn means constant turmoil and shifting of philosophies, has to stop. The Rangers need to get on the same page and stay there.

Yes, that could happen if Hicks went out and, say, hired Gerry Hunsicker or another veteran GM candidate out there, but then the new guy would need to bring in his own people, his own manager and coaches, and it would simply start the process all over again, setting the Rangers back another two or three years.

Sure, it might be worth it if the right guy came in, but there's no guarantee of that either. You may have noticed that Hicks' track record on hires isn't particularly sparkling.

Hicks believes that Daniels is in the process of building a solid management team, but there have been bumps in the road. We've talked a lot about how there has to be a learning curve for manager Ron Washington, but how about for Daniels? He's been going through his own learning curve.

This is one smart cookie, despite the trades and other decisions that have come back to bite him. He's learning on the job. It's the school of hard knocks and J.D. has enough lumps on his head. He looks like he bumped into a hornet's nest, but he's definitely learning.

Now here's what he needs to do: Go hire a veteran, savvy assistant GM like Hunsicker or someone else like him, somebody who's been in the game, worked in the front office and on the field, and is respected throughout baseball. Someone like Sandy Johnson, if he can be pried away from the Mets, which is unlikely.

This is no knock on Thad Levine, another young up-and-comer, or Don Welke or Jay Robertson. Daniels should add to the brain trust, not subtract. But add one more veteran voice and then listen to him carefully. Maybe he should consider asking Tom Grieve to step out of the broadcast booth and back into the front office.

At least as important for Daniels is this next mandate, which I'm sure he already knows. It's time for all of us to stop kidding ourselves. This team is not one or two players away from winning the division, and the stop-gap, add-a-mediocre-free agent-or-two philosophy that Hicks has adopted to keep fans coming through the turnstiles with their fingers crossed just isn't working.

Sure, if Hicks would give Daniels the resources to make a big splash on the free-agent market, the Rangers could get well in a hurry, but that's clearly not going to happen. So forget the patchwork approach and build with young players. That means no more giving away No. 1 draft picks for free agents that aren't going to solve the problem.

That means we all will have to be patient, and that's not easy because we're exasperated with Hicks' make-money-at-all-costs philosophy. But if he's not going to spend for top quality players, then there's no other choice.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Daniels must be able to admit, at least to himself if not publicly, when he's wrong and then correct his mistakes as quickly as possible.

That means not getting stubborn about Ron Washington. An extension should mean that Daniels doesn't have to tie his future to his current manager if Washington proves, by the end of the season, that he was the wrong choice for the job.

Hicks said Monday that the "jury is still out" on Washington's ability to do the job. I'd say the evidence the jury is looking at right now can't be good for the manager. Clearly, he needs a better second half of the season.

Maybe he'll have it. Maybe Washington's boundless enthusiasm and "positivity" will turn the tide in the second half.

If a struggling young GM is finally going to get his first "hit," having the right manager in place is a good place to start... even if it takes more than one at-bat.

Greg Cote reminds us that Jordan and Nicklaus still reign

I'll tell you who's having a heck of a year in professional golf right now, especially for a guy who's 67 and has been running a slow fade pattern for 20 years. Jack Nicklaus is having a heck of a year.

That's because every time Tiger Woods struggles -- and by ''struggling'' we mean finishing second by one stroke in the U.S. Open and winning only $611,000 -- the Golden Bear is gilded that much more, his career's precious mettle taking on value.
Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships once seemed inevitable for the stalking Tiger. Perhaps even an easy target. You would still not bet smart money against Eldrick, who has 12 majors in the fat of his prime at age 31.

Yet, every time Woods stalls in his pursuit -- and with every near-miss like Sunday's at Oakmont, or the Masters before that -- you begin to wonder a little bit more if Woods eventually surpassing Nicklaus is such a given, after all.

The evolving perspective isn't anything to diminish regard for Woods, the greatest golfer of his time without debate. Rather, it should cast deserved new appreciation for the record of Nicklaus.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves, in our hurry to anoint what is, to occasionally hit the refresh button on respect for what was. It's too easy to gradually underappreciate what went on in sports (as most of Nicklaus' major winning did) before ESPN SportsCenter was there to incessantly jackhammer it home, and before Nike and the like were there to canonize The Next Big Thing.

Nicklaus was this round, soft fellow, likely a sex symbol only to his wife as he moved past the beloved Arnold Palmer, moved up and on to a place nobody in his sport had been. Jack did it in the unfortunate garb of the day, those polyester pastels and wide-checked slacks.

He did it back when fitness meant limiting yourself to a few beers, and before technology in equipment began pulling the sport at fast-forward.

What a contrast: Nicklaus in his pudgy prime compared with the Woods we see today, lithe but chiseled, sculpted underneath that tight-fitting blood-red shirt.

Statuesque, exuding aura -- the biggest thing in all of sports, or at least arguably so.

But the bottom line that cuts across the eras hasn't changed. It's still Nicklaus, 18 to 12. In the truest scoreboard anybody has invented for Greatest Golfer Ever, it's still Bear over Tiger in the manicured, emerald jungle.

The title still is Nicklaus', 18 fittingly the ultimate number for golf, and Woods needs to earn that title that cannot be given, no matter how much a hurry we are in to flatter ourselves by thinking the golden age is whatever age that includes us.
It isn't just in golf. We hurry all across the sports landscape.

LeBron James is the latest Next Michael Jordan, right? He named his newborn baby son Bryce Maximus James. Initials: BMJ. Said phonetically: ''Be M.J.'' Anybody think that's a coincidence? (Me neither).

James might be the next Jordan, too, someday. As good, maybe even better. But he
doesn't get to be that now. There are championships and scoring titles between now and then. There are a dozen can-you-believe-it moments that must be fashioned. There is a mystique to be grown above and beyond the statistics.

The kingdoms are earned. The crowns of Jordan, and of Nicklaus.

Always, though, we want what's next more than we want to remember.

Tiger is a Daddy

Tiger Woods is a daddy.

Less than 24 hours after finishing second at the U.S. Open on Father's Day, Woods' wife gave birth to a daughter. Woods announced on his Web site — www.tigerwoods.com — that Sam Alexis Woods was born early Monday morning.

"Both Elin and Sam are doing well and resting peacefully," Woods wrote. "We want to thank our doctors and the hospital staff for all their dedicated and hard work. This is truly a special time in our lives and we look forward to introducing Sam to our family and friends over the next few weeks. We thank everyone for their well wishes and continued respect of our privacy."

Woods finished a shot behind Angel Cabrera on Sunday to finish second in a major for the second time this year.

Phil Mickelson's first child was also born the day after he finished second in the U.S. Open in 1999.

Peter King rates the QB’s in the NFL From 1 to 32

• Manning's No. 1 (Surprise!): A year ago, I would have picked Tom Brady over Manning. But fair is fair. Manning beat Brady twice in 2006, won the Super Bowl and put all the can't-win-the-big-one stuff behind him. Now Peyton has the ultimate reward: being picked over Brady in the inaugural MMQB Ratings.

• I'd take Drew Brees over Carson Palmer if I were starting a team right now. Sacrilege! With fewer weapons and a similar comeback from serious injury, Brees has narrowly outplayed Palmer over the past two years, and I think it's a good bet he will again in '07.

• Want my upset specials in the top 10? Try Vince Young and Jon Kitna. Young's the most feared young player in football right now. More feared than Reggie Bush. He ran for nearly as many touchdowns last season (seven) as Mike Vick has rushed for in the last two (eight). And I put Kitna at No. 9 because, quite simply, he is the right trigger man for the Lions' offense. I believe he'll throw for 4,300 yards again.

• It's not that I don't like Donovan McNabb. I do. I just don't trust him to stay healthy. I rank the Eagles' QB 12th because I have no confidence that McNabb, at 30 and having missed a combined 13 games over the last two years, will be upright in December.

• Ben Roethlisberger 17th? What gives? From Year 1 to Year 2 of his career, his completion percentage dropped 3.7 points; from year two to three it fell 3.0 points. His TD-to-interception ratio, plus-eight in 2005, dropped to minus-five last season. He is profoundly inconsistent. I say he's a C-plus player until I see six or eight straight weeks of the same guy.

• Mike Vick's understudy will be better this year than Mike Vick. I've got Matt Schaub 19th and Vick 21st. Schaub's gobbling up Gary Kubiak's system this spring and I think he'll be an efficient, low-error player. I have no idea what Vick will be, or if the feds will let him finish what he starts with the dog-fighting probe progressing to a possible indictment this summer in his home state of Virginia. Vick is still far too inconsistent when throwing the ball ... stunningly so for a man with his talent.

• Eli Manning, who could playing for two jobs this year (his own and Tom Coughlin's), enters the pop charts at number 23. He'll need to be feistier and significantly more accurate, neither of which I am confident will happen, to save his career in the Meadowlands.

• Rex Grossman's got some improving to do. I hadn't seen such a low-performance passer in the Super Bowl since Trent Dilfer with the Ravens seven years ago. Quite frankly, I'm surprised the Bears didn't get some insurance at the position by drafting a youngster. I have Grossman 27th, fairly ridiculous for a first-round pick who started in the Super Bowl.

The Kobe Tapes?

An amateur video, said to have been taken in late May, shows Bryant viciously criticizing the team’s management and the franchise’s best young prospect, the 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum.

The men who shot the video have been peddling it to news media outlets for the last two weeks. A spokesman for the group said they intended to release the video by the end of the week, provided that it raises enough money through Web donations.

The men have remained anonymous — for fear of retribution from Lakers fans, they said — and identify themselves only as “The Kobe Video Guys.”

The footage appears to be legitimate, based on a shorter video posted on YouTube.com. The video’s owners played the entire 24-second clip for hoopsworld.com, which posted an article about it yesterday. The author, Eric Pincus, is a Los Angeles-based writer who has spent considerable time around the Lakers and Bryant. The video, Pincus writes, “leaves no doubt that it is in fact Bryant.”

The video’s owners played the clip over the telephone for a Times reporter. The voice is clearly Bryant’s, speaking in a high, agitated tone.

“It’s not the camera Kobe,” said a spokesman for the amateur videographers, who, like his friends, wanted to remain anonymous. He said the footage was shot in a shopping center parking lot in Newport Coast, Calif., where Bryant lives. The spokesman said his friends, all in their early 20s, were chatting with Bryant when one of them decided to take a photograph and some video for posterity, but that they did not believe that Bryant was aware that they were filming. The Lakers passed on a chance to obtain the Nets’ Jason Kidd in February because they would not part with Bynum.

“Are you kidding me?” Bryant says in the video. He goes on to say, with a number of profanities mixed in, that the Lakers should “ship out” Bynum.

“We’re talking about Jason Kidd,” Bryant says. He also speaks in a derisive tone about General Manager Mitch Kupchak before the video abruptly ends.

The video’s owners claim that a Lakers fan offered to buy the video to keep it private but that they declined. Instead, they intend to charge $1.99 through their Web site.

Trust me. This following story is rocking the NHL. Hartnell and Timonen are two of the more coveted free agents. I assume that the Stars aren’t pleased about not getting to bid on Hartnell, who is the youngest UFA on the market, and would fit nicely on this team.

Regardless, one wonders about the move. Think about it, The Flyers basically get exclusive rights in this trade to talk to free agents a week early. But, do you think they would make the trade without finding out what contracts the players would need? And isn’t that illegal to negotiate with free agents who aren’t your property? But, none of this can be proved, so I congratulate the Flyers for out-smarting the market.

The Flyers make big moves and get two key free agents

Instead of letting two unrestricted free agents from Nashville sign with other clubs on July 1, the Flyers took matters into their own hands yesterday afternoon by trading for defenseman Kimmo Timonen and left winger Scott Hartnell.

Both players and the Flyers agreed to six-year contracts that had not been filed with the league because they had not been completed. Timonen's $37.8 million deal will average $6.3 million against the salary cap, while Hartnell's $25.2 million deal will average $4.2 million.

In exchange, the Predators retrieved the first-round pick in the 2007 draft (the 23d overall) that went to the Flyers last season in the Peter Forsberg deal.

The trade represented a coup for Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Timonen was considered the best free agent among the mobile defensemen who would have been available this summer. At 32, he becomes the club's No. 1 blue liner. His younger brother, Jussi, plays for the Flyers as well.

"He gets the puck out of his own end; he helps out offensively," Holmgren said. "He is one of the better two-way defensemen in the game. He is not a very big man, but he is smart."

Although the contract would take Timonen to age 38, it is front-loaded so he will earn $8 million in each of the first two years, when he will still be in his prime.
"It has been an awesome day for me and my family," said Timonen, a native of Finland. "It is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I'm really excited about this opportunity and to have this chance to be part of the Flyers."

Hartnell, 25, will get $5.2 million and $4.7 million in his first two years.
"It was a surprise to me with all the stuff going on right now, especially a couple of weeks before free agency," Hartnell said. ". . . To be in an organization like Philadelphia is going to be an awesome time."

The 6-2, 208-pound Hartnell is a 20-goal scorer who can play either wing. He gives the Flyers more options in their lineup, which already includes the fleet Scotty Upshall, who also came here in the Forsberg deal.

Remember Bob and the Beatles? Looks like this bit is the same with Star Wars

Cuban and the Globetrotters

Robot Chicken – Star Wars Trailer

Darth Vader being a Jerk


CFB123 said...

Meanwhile, the Padres and their fans would certainly give Daniels an "A" for that trade. That trade (along with having the most underrated ace pitcher in baseball, Jake Peavy) is why they have the best record in the NL right now. I guess it is a bit too early for Hicks to give up on JD and Washington yet though.

The DBG said...

Wow. I wanna work for Tom Hicks, too!