It is Monday Morning at the Alamo Dome. What’s up San Antonio?
Honestly, I know you likely expect me to offer you some Cowboys commentary, but until 3pm tomorrow, I am pretty focused on the trade of Mark Teixeira.
It sure looks like when all the tinkering is done, Tex will be playing first base in Atlanta, but we all know how things can change around here.
Ken Rosenthal has the latest …
The Rangers were split on whether they wanted Braves Class AA left-hander Matt Harrison as part of a prospect package for first baseman Mark Teixeira.
They no longer need to worry about it.
Harrison recently developed shoulder trouble, major-league sources say, prompting the Braves to remove him from the deal.
The Braves are still offering catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Class A shortstop Elvis Andrus for Teixeira, and they gave the Rangers a list of young pitchers to consider as Harrison's replacement.
The list does not include left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, but otherwise the talks remain fluid. It is even conceivable that the deal could be expanded from a 3-for-1 to a 4-for-2.
The Angels remain a strong contender for Teixeira. While the Diamondbacks submitted an offer, it fell short of the Braves' and Angels' proposals, according to an industry source.
The Dodgers and Rangers exchanged proposals, but found little common ground.
From the Atlanta Paper, they are ready to do the deal …
The Braves are not lousy. Neither are they very good. They have the 15th-highest payroll among 30 major-league teams; as of Sunday morning, they had the 14th-best record. They’re about where they should be. They need to aim higher.
Saltalamacchia should become a really good player at some position, but as a Brave he’ll be forced to learn a new position to be a regular. (Brian McCann is and will remain the No. 1 catcher.) And, as promising as he has looked, Salty hasn’t dazzled to the extent that he’s starting ahead of Franco, who’s at least 26 years older.
That tells us something. That tells us the Braves have seen — or, more to the point, haven’t seen — something in Salty.
Say what you will about John Schuerholz, but he’s sagacious regarding young talent. How many prospects have the Braves jettisoned that they’d want back? Answer: Jason Schmidt (dealt for Denny Neagle in August 1996) and Adam Wainwright (included in the J.D. Drew deal of December 2003). Where’s Andy Marte? Whatever became of Luis Rivera? And, for all the outcry raised in this space and others over the loss of Wilson Betemit, has the absence of a .232 hitter proved debilitating?
Braves president Terry McGuirk admits the club has in recent years made the considered decision to err on the homegrown side. “Our payroll was going up like a rocket ship, and the fans stopped coming,” McGuirk said in May. “That seemed a major statement as to what this franchise should be about.”
So the Braves stopped pursuing the Gary Sheffields and A-Rods and banked instead on the Jeff Francoeurs and the B-Macs. That approach has merits, and also its limits. This has become a .500 team, give or take, and the emphasis on cuddly youth hasn’t triggered a run on the box office. (Home attendance ranks 14th in the majors.) While the Braves are proof you don’t need an All-Star at every position to be competitive, they’re likewise proving you can’t win big without big-time players.
Teixeira is one of those. He’s the first baseman the Braves have lacked since Andres Galarraga got cancer. Yes, Teixeira will file for arbitration this winter and for free agency in 2008, and yes, he’s represented by the demon Scott Boras, but at worst he’d give the Braves a middle-of-the-order thumper once Andruw Jones takes his Boras-negotiated leave. And without Andruw eating up one-sixth of the payroll the Braves might actually have a chance to keep Teixeira.
Another hitter won’t necessarily make the 2007 Braves a playoff team. This team needs a starting pitcher more. But Salty-for-Tex wouldn’t be so much a fix-it for this season as a signal that the Braves have conceded they’ve gone as far as they can with the status quo. If they honestly expect first-place results, they’ll have to find first-rate players. Their farm system has produced its share, but no system can be so bountiful as to generate a star at every position.
The Braves might well have gotten twice lucky at catcher. It’s time to use one of those to secure a first baseman, and not a Rico Brogna or a Robert Fick or a Scott Thorman this time. Something more along the lines of a Fred McGriff. Someone like Teixeira.
Baseball America evaluates Saltalamacchia …
Strengths: Saltalamacchia's calling card is his ability to hit and drive the ball from both sides of the plate. He has one of the sweetest swings in the game from the left side, displaying a natural loft that should produce solid home run numbers. Despite his troubles in 2006, the Braves have no concerns about his offensive ability, especially with the way he regrouped at midseason. His walk rate continues to increase as he climbs the minor league ladder. Considered somewhat suspect defensively coming out of high school, Saltamacchia has worked very hard to get better. He spent the spring picking veteran Todd Pratt's brain to upgrade his game-calling ability, and he continues to be more comfortable working with pitchers. He has a strong arm and a release that has quickened considerably, enabling him to throw out 36 percent of base stealers in 2006. Saltalamacchia has shown increased maturity, particularly after getting married midway through the 2005 season. Always upbeat, he has a desire to learn and improve.
Weaknesses: Consistency is the key to Saltalamacchia reaching the majors in the near future. He'll make more consistent contact once he displays more patience and waits for his pitch. In 2006, opponents noticed Saltalamacchia collapsing the backside of his swing from both sides of the plate. His righthanded swing is a little mechanical, though he was more productive from that side in 2006. He batted .262 against lefties, compared with .214 against righties. Defensively, he needs to continue to improve his footwork and to learn how to set up more advanced hitters.
The Diamondbacks could enter this …
The Arizona Diamondbacks, perhaps buoyed by an eight-game winning streak that came to a halt Sunday, have become late entrants into the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, three major league sources said Sunday.
What is not as clear is if the Rangers are too far along with other possibilities to spend much time talking to Arizona.
With less than 48 hours until Tuesday's 3 p.m. deadline, the club continued to talk seriously with three trade partners it has engaged for more than week: the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels maintained his stance of declining to talk about trade scenarios.
While the Braves made an offer earlier in the week that focused on catcher-first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and the Angels had tweaked their initial offer to include first baseman Casey Kotchman and left-hander Joe Saunders, Arizona's interest could serve as a spark to the more dormant talks with the Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks have moved within one percentage point of the first-place Dodgers in the NL West. San Diego is only a half-game behind the two.
The Rangers have been trying to pry Highland Park lefty Clayton Kershaw out of Los Angeles with little success. The Dodgers are believed to be willing to part with first baseman James Loney and outfielder Andre Ethier in a deal that potentially could send Teixeira and a reliever to Los Angeles.
Arizona is laden with prospects, but it's uncertain how well the teams match up. In a deal for Teixeira, 25-year-old first baseman Conor Jackson, hitting .274 with seven homers, probably would come to the Rangers. The Diamondbacks also have center-field prospects, but the Rangers also would like to land a young, major-league ready pitcher in a deal.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are busy getting swept in KC …
About an hour before Sunday's game, Michael Young double-checked the math: The Rangers are off Monday and don't play again until 6:05 p.m. Tuesday. The trading deadline arrives at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
If he had all his figures correct, Sunday possibly would be the last game he played with Mark Teixeira as a teammate. Could be the last one with Eric Gagne as a Ranger, too. And maybe you can throw in some complementary players as well, such as Ron Mahay or Joaquin Benoit.
A few hours later, after a 10-0 loss to Kansas City completed the Royals' three-game sweep, Young admitted the thought really doesn't sit well with him.
"Those two guys [Teixeira and Gagne] that could be traded from here are two great players," Young said. "There is no way I can be thrilled about that. I hoped to play my whole career with Mark Teixeira. All I can say is I hope that on Tuesday, Tex goes deep and Gagne closes it out for us."
If the Rangers had planned to make an 11th-hour pitch to management to tone down the number of deals that could be made, they did a poor job. They followed a four-game sweep of contending Seattle by losing three in a row to Kansas City, which entered the weekend as one of three AL teams with a worse winning percentage than themselves.
And it wasn't just that the Rangers lost three in a row. It was how they lost that could impact management's thinking. After six weeks of playing very strong baseball, the Rangers reacted to the trade of veteran leadoff man Kenny Lofton on Friday by reverting to the brand of non-competitive baseball that got the team into this mess in the first place.
The lineup was unresponsive. The Rangers scored six runs over the weekend. Five came off the bat of Nelson Cruz, who had spent the last two months in the minors.
Starting pitchers allowed 17 runs in 14 2/3 innings and pushed the rotation ERA back to the cusp of six. After Kameron Loe allowed four runs in the second and six in 5 2/3 innings, the ERA now teeters at 5.99.
The Rangers fell behind by five runs or more in all three games, a symptom that was commonplace when the team fell 19 games under .500 earlier this season.
To top it off, Sunday marked the first shutout loss to pitching-poor Kansas City since 2003. It was only the second time since 1996 the Rangers managed as few as four hits against the Royals. And the 10-run deficit was the Rangers' worst shellacking against them since a 12-0 loss in 1995.
"They outplayed us in every facet of the game," said Teixeira, who had a ninth-inning single in four at-bats.
Teixeira, however, would not address the possibility of his Rangers career ending. After the game, he flipped his hat into the crowd. But when asked about the trade situation later, he repeated his common refrain:
"I'm not going to talk about it," he said, managing a weak smile. "I'm not going to talk about the trade deadline or anything like that."
Teixeira's impact hasn't been enough to dissuade the Rangers from pushing forward with one of the four possible deals on which they're working (Arizona, Atlanta and both Los Angeles clubs). The bizarre, unexplainable fact is, the Rangers have been a better team without Teixeira than with him.
Though he is hitting .281 since his return from the DL – .471 with runners in scoring position – Sunday's loss dropped the Rangers to 8-9 since his return. They are 30-48 when he has played this year, 16-11 when he hasn't. With Teixeira in the lineup, the Rangers have averaged 4.78 runs per game, without him 5.11.
Ripken and Gwynn enjoy a happy day in Cooperstown …
Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn took their place in baseball's shrine Sunday, saluted as much for their Hall of Fame careers as their character off the field.
Commissioner Bud Selig and a record crowd came to cheer them and all that was good about the game.
A continent away, a different scene played out. Barry Bonds failed to tie the home run record, a chase tainted by his surly nature and a steroids investigation.
Ripken and Gwynn sensed that poignant counterpoint on their induction day.
"This day shouldn't be all about us," Ripken said. "Today is about celebrating the
best that baseball has been and the best it can be. This is a symbol it's alive, popular."
"Whether you like it or not, as big leaguers, we are role models," he said. "The only question is, will it be positive or will it be negative?"
Gwynn offered the same sentiment.
"I think the fans felt comfortable enough in us, they could trust us and how we played the game, especially in this era of negativity," he said. "I don't think there's any question about that."
"When you sign your name on the dotted line, it's more than just playing the game of baseball," he said. "You've got to be responsible and make decisions and show people how things are supposed to be done."
Greg Ellis keeps talking …losing credibility…
The saga of Greg Ellis' frustration just won't go away, but at least there is a clearer picture of just what is wrong with his left foot.
Ellis, who has been an unhappy camper here at the Alamodome because of having three years remaining on his contract and the Cowboys spending a first-round pick on Anthony Spencer, a guy who plays his position, initially thought on Wednesday he had aggravated his surgically-repaired Achilles in the first training camp practice.
But after an MRI and doctors thoroughly checking his Achilles, Ellis has learned he is suffering from bursitis near the bottom of his left heel, and that whatever pain he felt that first day had nothing to do with his Achilles.
"It's comforting to know that the actual tendon itself is still intact and it's pretty much just inflammation under that tendon, beneath it, not in it or anything like that," Ellis said.
Cowboys assistant trainer Britt Brown said Ellis had a good day of running 50-yarders on Saturday and that they will just have to be patient with the bursitis, which very well could have occurred in his right heel. But Brown was adamant in saying there was nothing wrong with Ellis' Achilles.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Ellis' mindset, still unhappy the Cowboys won't adjust his contract or possibly release him so he could join another team, at least affording him the possibility of signing a new contract with a signing bonus. Ellis is scheduled to make $2.5 million in base salary this year after being paid that $4.2 million signing bonus in 2003.
For the umpteenth time Ellis was asked if he's had a conversation with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and for the umpteenth time Ellis said, "No. I think it needs to be talked about now. I think it's to the point where we need to get on the same page about the situation."
Ellis was then asked if he is losing his desire to play, entering his 10th NFL season.
"That's something that's going to need to be talked about next week," Ellis said, starting a series of cryptic answers to a barrage of questions on the
subject. "That's pretty much all I can say on that. When we're here for a little more time, I can probably answer that question a little more honestly next week.
"That sounds crazy, don't it? But, that's pretty much all I can say about that. I'll answer fully next week."
When posed with the possibility of retiring, Ellis then said, "I don't know. Later next week, I think we'll have more answers," but later said, "Yeah, I still want to play football."
USA TODAY with a big story on Romo …
"In some ways, I'm a question mark," says Romo, who will be working with a new offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett. "I know I have to play well for this team to be successful."
One question not on the table is holding for place kicks. As is customary for NFL teams, the Cowboys' new backup quarterback Brad Johnson is slated for that job this season.
"I think my holding days are done," says Romo, who'd been Dallas' holder since 2004. He didn't botch a snap last season until the one in Seattle and was the NFL's only starting quarterback holding for kicks after the Denver Broncos benched Jake Plummer in December.
How many times has Romo been asked about The Bobble this offseason?
"Probably five or six — at least," he says with a laugh.
"I'm by no means there," he adds. "After the Seattle game I felt bad, not for myself, but my teammates, the organization, fans and our coaches. I knew I would be OK. I can handle just about anything.
"If something in sports is the worst thing that ever happens to you, you've lived a pretty good life."
But it's not like Romo has forgotten. He recounts driving to training camp with Witten, cornerback Terence Newman and Todd Archer, a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, and being accompanied by Witten's theme song for Romo and these Cowboys — Journey's Don't Stop Believin'.
"That's my favorite song," Romo says. "The words are key — Don't stop believing. The way last season ended was one of those moments me and this team had to go through to get to the next step."
Will Beckham even make the trip? ….
The Los Angeles Galaxy said Sunday it will wait until after today's afternoon practice to decide whether David Beckham will travel for Tuesday's SuperLiga match against FC Dallas.
The club is expected to arrive in the area tonight. It has not planned a news conference regarding Beckham, who has been hampered by an injured left ankle since his arrival in the U.S.
The Galaxy, second in Group A of SuperLiga with three points behind Mexico's Chivas, is seeking a semifinal berth in the North American tournament. FC Dallas, with two ties in the group, is third with two points.
The top two teams in each group advance.
Beckham has played only 16 minutes, including four minutes of stoppage time, in one match since joining the Galaxy on July 13. Beckham hasn't been able to train with the team since he arrived.
Shark Week! …
The folks at Discovery Channel are at it again!
Just as the weather heats up, sending throngs to the beach, Discovery Channel kicks off its annual "Shark Week," which is sure to frighten some swimmers right back out of the water.
"We're looking at a creature that is primitive," says Les Stroud, best known as Discovery's "Survivor-man," who has been tapped to host this year's event. "And we're looking at a creature we hardly know anything about."
This is no normal "Shark Week," the programming venture that started as summer filler and has proven a huge hit. This week marks the 20th anniversary for the franchise.
Stroud, in his first time out as host of "Shark Week," says the creature is fascinating because interactions run a gamut of emo-tions. At times, sharks can be mov-ing and gentle, and just as quickly can be horrifying.
In keeping with that theme, the week-long bite fest begins tonight at 9 with "Ocean of Fear: Worst Shark Attack Ever," a two-hour special, hosted by actor Richard Dreyfuss, that recalls the sinking of the heavy cruiser Indianapolis in 1945. Eight hundred sailors were thrown into the water - many injured by the two torpedo blasts that sank their ship - and fought to survive for four days surrounded by hundreds of sharks.
The incident was made famous in Steven Spielberg's "Jaws," when shark fisherman Quint (Robert Shaw) shared his story of being aboard the Indianapolis."
Victory for Iraq …
The healing power of sport has always been an objective issue. Its ability to unite people is balanced by its capacity to divide.
For every winner, there has to be a loser. One man's ecstasy is another man's agony.
Yet, if ever there was an argument that sport can succeed where politicians, armies and even religions may fail, then the 14th Asian Cup provided a compelling case.
Iraq's unexpected 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Sunday's final at Jakarta was as much a triumph for human spirit as the athleticism and skill of their players.
Few people gave them any hope of making it past the group stages, let alone winning the tournament against teams boasting seasoned professionals who ply their trade in the rich European leagues.
The early signs for Iraq were not good. The squad was a patchwork of of Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish players, fractured by the sectarian violence in their homeland.
The first three coaches who were offered the job of trying to mould them together politely declined. Only Jorvan Vieira, a Brazilian journeyman who had worked with 26 clubs and five national teams, took up the challenge.
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