Sosa 600 …
For a moment Wednesday night, just before the fireworks exploded against an ebony sky and the music from The Natural wafted through Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, all of the turmoil that has nearly choked the life out of Sammy Sosa's baseball career faded.
Fans weren't polarized over his return to the game or his place in history. Instead, they were engrossed by his awesome power and charismatic on-field personality. They were once again entranced by Sammy being Sammy.
In the fifth inning of the Rangers' 7-3 win over the Chicago Cubs, the 37,564 fans on hand gasped as Sosa connected with a hanging 1-and-2 breaking pitch from Jason Marquis. They turned as one as the ball sailed toward the right-field bullpen. And then, as home run No. 600 hit the back of the Rangers' bullpen, they let out the kind of roar that marked Sosa home runs for most of his career.
With the homer, Sosa became the fifth player in baseball history to reach 600 homers. He joins Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (748), Babe Ruth (714) and Willie Mays (660) in that most elite club.
And the most unlikely player to do so.
Just two years ago, it seemed Sosa's career was done. Once the toast of Chicago, he was dumped by the Cubs after the 2004 season. He spent 2005 limping through the year with Baltimore, though his most memorable performance of the season came in Washington – when he made a less-than-convincing appearance in front of the Congressional committee investigating steroid use in baseball.
Sosa was out of baseball last year and had few nibbles of interest when he decided last fall that he could return. The Rangers, however, took a chance after watching him breeze through a mid-winter workout. They spent all spring preaching that Sosa still had some pop in his bat.
I like Michael Young. But, he makes me laugh when he complains about the rebuild. I understand his frustration, but he has been here for years. He knows what this franchise has been about. Then he took their money. Now, he is acting like he is shocked how the season is going. Sorry, Mike. Shut up, and count your $85 million.
Young tells us what he thinks …
"Absolutely not. I'm not in favor of that at all," Young said Wednesday, and you'd have thought I'd just asked him to drop by the house to do a little yard work at his earliest convenience. "I've been through about three rebuilding phases since I've been here. I have no interest in that."
He's heard the rumors and reports that owner Tom Hicks and general manager Jon Daniels are talking about a three-year rebuilding plan, but officially, neither of them has yet to broach the subject with The Face of the Franchise.
Not that I blame them, but until that happens, Young would prefer to believe that it's nothing more than a figment of the media's imagination, pure speculation, soon to be shot down and ridiculed by the men who swore to him this spring that the Rangers' one and only mission is to win and win now.
That, as much as the $80 million, is why he signed on in Texas for another seven years, and maybe you have to really know Michael to believe that, but it's true. He could have gotten money, and a lot of it, elsewhere, but he wants desperately to be part of a winner in Texas.
Now he's hearing that the men he trusted with his future this spring are saying that their target for winning is now 2010, give or take a year, and it's almost more than he can stomach.
"I'm going to assume that this isn't going to be the case," he said. "Hopefully we can all come to the realization that this is unacceptable and we find a way to get better now.
"We play in [Dallas-Fort Worth]. It's an unbelievable sports town. We need a winner; it's as simple as that."
The need is simple, true, but if satisfying it were that easy, the Rangers wouldn't be on their way to another last-place finish and their seventh losing season in eight years. The Rangers' philosophy of patchworking with mediocre free agents has failed miserably. Hicks either must either spend more money for premier talent, providing a quicker fix, or the Rangers must rebuild through the draft and by trading veterans for younger players.
At some level, Young understands this, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow.
"There are a lot of teams out there that it makes sense for them to rebuild," he said. "But I would never look at a player on that team and look at him in a bad light [because] all he wants to do is win. Especially if that player commits to that team for a long time, because he didn't commit there under the assumption they were going to start over again.
"At the same time, I wouldn't frown at the organization either, if they're doing what they have to do to get their team as competitive as possible as quickly as possible."
For Young, there's a sense of betrayal at work here, and while he's not ready to talk about options like demanding a trade, he's also not ruling anything out.
"As a player my job is to win," he said. "I'm not going to wait to win. I'm not going to put those feelings on hold. I'm going to go out there and do my job.
"As far as options, I don't know. I'm not going to even consider that right now. I'll cross that bridge when it happens."
Checking Kam Loe’s 2007 …
Kameron Loe – 12 starts – 4 Quality Starts 5/6, 5/27, 6/14, 6/20
Buying Cubs would enter Cuban into elite, odd mix ….
In NBA News, Kobe and KG rumors are heating up. Here is Mark Stein’s take …
Why haven't the Lakers made a move yet to address Bryant's well-chronicled frustration?
For a couple of reasons:
They have yet to come up with a deal that actually makes the team better. The Lakers say they don't want to part with Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and a first-round pick in the same trade for Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal because they see it as a lateral move that doesn't automatically shoot them up the ladder in the West.
They likewise have tried to acquire Shawn Marion from the Suns without giving up Odom -- Marion can become a free agent in the summer of 2008, which gives him some say about a new home if the Suns do decide to part with him -- but Phoenix doesn't want to help its L.A. rivals any more than the Lakers want to help the Suns. The Lakers know they might have avoided all this drama if they had simply agreed to trade Bynum and Kwame Brown for Jason Kidd at the February trade deadline. But they can't go back in time and they've since lost a lot of trade leverage because every other team in the league knows they're desperate to appease Kobe. So they're legitimately asking themselves, with Kobe increasingly intent on leaving town: Can any trade made now make Kobe happy? Imagine agreeing to the O'Neal deal, then finding out Kobe still wants out.
The sidebar to all this, of course, is how the Bryant saga has an impact on coach Phil Jackson's future. Jackson, remember, came back to the Lakers essentially to coach Kobe. The Zenmeister has one season left on a three-year contract, but you'd have to assume Jackson's comeback would be curtailed if Kobe were dealt.
The urgency of extending Jackson's contract beyond next season, furthermore, can't
be what it was a month or two ago, either, even though Jackson is said to be feeling significantly better already after undergoing a second hip-replacement surgery last week. Jackson himself openly has questioned whether Buss wants a $10 million-a-year coach if the team isn't a contender. The same applies if the Lakers were suddenly Kobe-less.
So how can you say a Garnett trade is more likely?
Garnett lacks a no-trade clause like Bryant's, but he's only a year from having the right to leave Minnesota without compensation. KG can become a free agent in the summer of 2008 if he's willing to forfeit his $23 million salary in 2008-09. Bryant can't put the Lakers under the same pressure until a year from now, with his right to become a free agent on hold until the summer of '09.
"That's why Garnett, to me, has the bigger hammer," said one Eastern Conference executive.
That's also one reason why in Garnett's case, unlike Kobe's, there already have been actual trade conversations this month.
Boston's Danny Ainge has acknowledged discussing Garnett possibilities with the Wolves, and the Suns, according to NBA front-office sources, are talking to them, as well. After three straight seasons out of the playoffs with Garnett, it appears Minnesota finally has realized it must consider dealing Garnett and starting over because it lacks the trade assets or salary-cap flexibility to significantly improve the cast around him.
The big change with the Wolves, sources say, is that, for the first time in his tenure, owner Glen Taylor is unexpectedly ready to "take the lead" on moving Garnett. Shopping KG? Not exactly. Gauging KG's trade value and listening to salivating suitors make their pitches, with Taylor knowing he'll have to stand up and say this was his call if a deal goes through? It's happening.
Which team would be more likely to get KG: Boston or Phoenix?
Because free agency is potentially just one year away for Garnett, he can discourage interested teams by sending word that he won't re-sign. I'm also told that the Wolves, in a nod to KG's 12 seasons of loyal service, intend to give him input, regardless.
Knowing that -- and knowing as we do that Steve Nash and Garnett have become good pals over the years after playing in several All-Star Games together -- it's safe to say he'd much prefer the desert.
The signals coming from the desert, though, don't make the Suns' chances sound very encouraging, with Minnesota seeking to build the return package around Stoudemire.
In spite of Amare's inexperience at 24 and some clashes of ego with Marion, he still ranks as the first high-flying victim of microfracture knee surgery to beat the most dreaded affliction in the NBA. Which means he's probably worth keeping around, right? You certainly can argue that the Suns would be better in the short term with Garnett -- especially when it comes to dealing with Tim Duncan -- but Stoudemire's presence would give them a chance to stay in the league's elite after Nash, 33, retires.
You safely can assume that Garnett also saw how the Finals played out and that he knows Greg Oden and Kevin Durant will be in the Northwest Division by next week. Boston would have to part with Al Jefferson, the No. 5 pick and more in next week's draft if it wants KG, but the Celts surely will point out to KG and his people that a Garnett-Paul Pierce tag team will have real hope of getting to the Finals no matter who's around those two.
"If Kobe wants to go East," one hopeful West executive suggests, "it'll be the new thing."
The Minnesota paper examines KG to Boston …
Garnett turned 31 in May. He has gone from an MVP three seasons ago to a player no longer among the NBA's top 10. With Garnett as the face of the franchise, the Wolves have plummeted in the standings, in ticket sales and in television ratings.
A Garnett trade would not improve the crowds or the television audience, but such a trade would result in a young roster that could be offered to the public as hope for the next decade.
The trade bandied about by espn.com's Chad Ford has Garnett going to Boston for four players -- Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair -- and the No. 5 overall selection.
Obviously, this is way too optimistic on the ransom the Wolves could obtain for Garnett.
Plus: The idea of playing with Paul Pierce in the easier Eastern Conference might appeal to KG, but there's no way he's going to embrace being reunited with Wally Szczerbiak in Boston.
The Wolves would prefer Ratliff because he will earn $11.7 million next season and then his contract expires. The Celtics would want to move Szczerbiak, who has bad feet, ankles and $25 million due over the next two years.
Yet, if you could get the talented Green, the capable Jefferson and the No. 5, McHale would have to be worse at his job than Wolves' followers already think is the case not to also take the troubled Telfair and the oft-hobbled Szczerbiak.
The Boston trade, unfortunately, figures to be more ESPN speculation than fact. If Garnett does get traded, the logical location remains the Los Angeles Lakers. For the Lakers, that would shut up Kobe Bryant and make tickets inside the Staples Center almost as tough to get as they were when Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were together.
This would require McHale pushing Indiana out of the way in the Pacers attempt to trade Jermaine O'Neal to the Lakers for a package including Andrew Bynum, Luke Walton (sign and trade), Kwame Brown and the 19th pick in the draft. Throw in Brian Cook with that package and the money would work for Garnett to go to the Lakers.
Either trade -- the pipe dream with Boston or a reasonable deal with the Lakers -- would make the long-term outlook better and not have all that much effect on the futile present for the Timberwolves.
Tonight, The USA Plays Canada in the Gold Cup Semi-Finals on Fox Soccer ….
After the U.S. was able to dispose of Panama last Saturday with a 2-1 victory and seal their place in the semi-final, they now play their toughest opponent yet in Canada. So, with their biggest test on the horizon what should we expect to see from the Americans?
One thing is for sure, if the Americans are going get to the final with ease they're going to have to capitalize on opportunities better. Missed chances, like what we saw against Panama, in particular Clint Dempsey's late scoring chance to make it 3-0, are going to have to turn into goals for the U.S. to beat an offensive minded Canadian team. Coming into the game the Canadians have outscored their opponents 9-2 in this Gold Cup and boast a roster with a slew of successful professionals that includes MLS all-star Dwayne De Rosario.
"It's going to be tough," U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra said. "We know we have to watch De Rosario, he can create a lot of opportunities for them. We're going to watch game film and prepare in practice and I know we'll be ready for them."
Canada coming off a 3-0 victory over a Guatemalan team that the U.S. could only manage one goal against in it's last two meetings poses a big threat for the American defense and will undoubtedly give keeper Tim Howard his most challenging test of this Gold Cup.
Howard and the U.S. defense have only allowed one goal in this Gold Cup. That goal in Saturday's win ended the American's 254 minute streak without giving up a goal. Howard's play has been exceptional but with Ali Gerba, De Rosario and Julien de Guzman composing a trio of Canada's most powerful weapons, Howard will need all the help that Bocanegra, Onyewu and the rest of that back line can muster up.
With the U.S. playing as well as they have Canada is no doubt looking at their most difficult attempt at a Gold Cup upset since beating Mexico in the final back in 2000. As the Canucks attempt to do their part to recreate a rematch of that 2000 final, the Americans will have to be better up front to thwart their efforts.
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Another Embarrassing Wisconsin Moment …
Two Readers Start Blogs:
I realize you likely get a plethora of these on daily basis, but I wanted to see if I could persuade you to check out a blog I just created. My intent is to cover all sorts of trades, signings, and speculation-as well as occasionally covering general sports topics.
The link is Sportsdeals.Blogspot.Com . I hope you enjoy it.
P1 since age 10 Or
I read your blog every day.
I have a question. I have a blog, DallasBeerGuy.com . I originally wanted to talk about my life, but apparently the only things I care about are sports so that's what gets written about. I'm trying to improve on my readership of one.
Is there any way you could find in your heart to possibly give my ramblings a once over and if deemed worthy, a spot in the approved blogs link area or at least tell me if you think it's at least a bit funny?
Can you help a good P1 out? I can guarantee that I can funnel 100% of my current readership (consisting solely of me at this point, numbers subject to change over time) over to yours.
Bear Grylls squeezes water out of Elephant Doo-Doo (Gag Warning)