They have lost half their starting infield to injuries in the last month. Their lone All-Star hasn't had an extra-base hit in more than three weeks. They've scored four or fewer runs, usually a sure omen of defeat, nine times in the last two weeks. And, you know what: The Rangers most assuredly enter the All-Star break on a roll.
It is, as manager Ron Washington has maintained since the first blustery day of spring training, all about the pitching. The Rangers received another strong start, which is becoming something of a trend, in beating Baltimore, 2-1, to finish the first half of the season.
Kevin Millwood allowed only a run in six innings for the Rangers' 11th quality start in 22 games since June 14. The Rangers had only 18 quality starts in their first 66 games.
"Our frame of mind is excellent," Washington said. "It has to be excellent. We've made pitches when we've needed to recently and maybe that's something we didn't do as much earlier on. If we come out in the second half and pitch like we have been and if we continue to play baseball, anything is possible."
OK, maybe not anything. The Rangers are still 12 games under .500 (38-50), 15 games out in the AL West and 14 back in the wild card race, so the playoffs are still mostly fantasy. Salvaging the season, however, isn't.
Thanks to the improved starting pitching, a dash of solid defense and a patient, opportunistic offense – three ingredients that were sorely lacking during the first 10 weeks of the season – the Rangers are 15-8 since June 14. Only Detroit (15-7) has a better winning percentage in the majors.
June 14 is becoming a more and more significant date. That is the day that Kameron Loe returned from a brief minor league demotion and pitched eight shutout innings in an emergency start at Pittsburgh. The rotation had a 6.92 ERA when Loe was recalled, but it is 4.33 in the 23 games since.
Never fear. Here, back to kill your buzz, is Big Tex …Seriously, I know he is great and all, but I am not terribly eager for this guy to come back in and tell Ron Washington why he knows more than Ron does. Is it any coincidence that the Rangers are working pitchers more effectively and are seemingly now buying into the patient “Oakland A’s”-type approach at the plate? I am sure it is. Also, check out below how Tex gave rehab the Heisman.
This season, the Rangers have had three players return from rehab assignments. The shortest was three games for Brad Wilkerson, who was recalled as an emergency after Teixeira strained his quadriceps muscle on June 9.
Time, however, is not on the Rangers' side here. If they want to continue their recent hot streak, adding a big bat to the lineup is necessary. If they want to try to trade Teixeira, a possibility that has been discussed extensively, they have only 17 days after Friday before the trade deadline.
The Rangers, who are 16-11 since Teixeira went to the DL, say they trust Teixeira's judgment on when he will be ready.
"He's been having good days in batting practice and good days moving around," manager Ron Washington said.
Teixeira is, however, a historically slow starter for the season. And after his
previous trip to the DL, which included that one-game rehab after 15 days off, he hit .200 over his first month back with a .395 slugging percentage.
Teixeira said, though, that facing more Double-A or Triple-A pitching is not going to help him recover his timing.
"Getting pitched around by a Double-A pitcher is not going to do anything for me," said Teixeira. "Hopefully, I'll face a guy who will want to challenge me, but it's not about the at-bats in that game, it's just about playing a full game."
David Thomas tortures Rangers fans with a look at all the former Rangers and wonders how it might have been here. …
Home Run Derby ….with Vlad, Pujols, and Ryan Howard….
The flotilla of watercraft that routinely anchors in McCovey Cove behind right field at AT&T Park might want to take cover during tonight's State Farm Home Run Derby.
With such left-handed sluggers as Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and Minnesota's Justin Morneau in a lineup that also includes right-handed bombers with ample opposite-field power -- such as Toronto's Alex Rios, Vladimir Guerrero of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Albert Pujols of St. Louis and Detroit's Magglio Ordonez -- the evening could see quite a few baseballs peppering the popular China Basin waterway.
The field of eight had been set, but Florida's Miguel Cabrera withdrew on Sunday afternoon because of a jammed left shoulder. A replacement for the Marlins' third baseman has not yet been announced.
Here is the first ever HR Derby in 1985 …first ever if you don’t count all of the derbies that happened before it, including that little tv show they had….
1985-- The Metrodome, Minneapolis -- A.L. 17, N.L. 16
Player Team Total HRs
Jim Rice Boston 4
Eddie Murray Baltimore 4
Carlton Fisk Chicago 4
TomBrunansky Minnesota 4
Cal RipkenJr. Baltimore 1
Player Team Total HRs
Dave Parker Cincinnati 6
Dale Murphy Atlanta 4
Steve Garvey Los Angeles 2
RyneSandberg Chicago 2
Jack Clark St. Louis 2
Devean George is back in the fold …parade is being planned….
The Mavericks have wrapped up the second of their free agents, coming to terms with Devean George on a one-year contract.
A 6-8 swingman, George had opted out of the second season of his two-year contract last month to become an unrestricted free agent. He agreed to a deal worth $2.5 million for next season.
"Devean's good to go and thrilled to be staying with the Mavericks," said Mark Bartelstein, George's agent. "We agreed on a one-year deal because it will give him a chance to get his value back where it should be."
Bill Maas – Strug-gel-ling …
Broadcaster Bill Maas, a former All-Pro lineman, was released from jail Sunday after his arrest on drug possession and weapons charges during a roadside check.
Maas and passenger Sarah Murphy were released Sunday and ordered to return to court August 21, jail officials said.
The two were arrested Friday night after authorities stopped Maas’ sport utility vehicle along Illinois Route 116 . They asked to search the vehicle after Maas appeared nervous, officials said. The search uncovered a .22-caliber revolver, 5 grams of suspected marijuana, 6 grams of suspected cocaine and 28 pills of Ecstasy, police said.
The 45-year-old Maas was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a weapon. Murphy was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana, jail officials said.
Maas was drafted out of Pittsburgh by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1984 and became a two-time All-Pro. The defensive tackle played with the Chiefs until 1992 and with Green Bay the following year. He joined Fox Sports in 1996 and worked for the network as a reporter, anchor and analyst through last season.
A Fox Sports spokesman told the USA Today that Maas "wasn't expected" to work for Fox this season and now "will not be coming back to Fox in any capacity."
Maas and Murphy, 27, live in Lee’s Summit, Mo. Maas’ telephone listing was not published and no telephone information could be found in Lee’s Summit for Murphy. It was unclear if the two had retained a lawyer.
Celebs can’t wait to lose money at WS of Poker …
While celebrities are ideal for marketers and sponsors, their early exits in the $10,000 buy-in main event leaves open the question whether they are just here for fun and a quick TV soundbite or willing to grind it out through hours of play over the poker marathon of the year.
"To me, this is like, if you jog at all, it's a kick to be at the New York Marathon when it starts off," "Seinfeld" actor Jason Alexander said. "You know you're not going to win, but you're there. It's pretty cool."
Several celebrities, however, have become part-time professional poker players, too.
Jennifer Tilly, the Oscar-nominated actress who won the World Series' ladies event in 2005, made the money three times in earlier events this year and is a regular in the poker world.
She said she puts in the hours required to become better, and compared celebrities to other hopefuls who hold regular jobs but hope to beat spectacular odds to win.
"The last few years, the person who won the World Series was not a professional," she said. "It takes intuition and skill and also a lot of luck. So really anybody can win the World Series of Poker, even a celebrity."
Talk show host Montel Williams even held the chip lead for several hours on Saturday, at one point amassing 150,000 in chips after starting with 20,000.
But a few spectacularly bad calls later and he was back in the pack, ending the day almost back where he began with 20,900.
Phil Gordon, a poker professional and expert commentator on the "Celebrity Poker" series, said after analyzing many celebrities' play, he noted many were good, but could fall victim to a catastrophic misstep.
"No-limit Hold'em is a game of mistakes and it only takes one big mistake to end your tournament life," he said. "These guys are good enough to compete, but over the course of several days, there are going to be multiple times where they're going to have a chance to make that big mistake."
Fran Pinchot, a player from Atlantic City, N.J., who has spent 50 years on the tables, said experience greatly outweighs celebrity status.
"Quite a few celebrities do have several years of experience, but they're a small minority," he said. "The bottom line is you've got to hold the cards."
Tilly showed some wisdom by losing only about 3,000 in chips when her kings-full full house lost to the higher aces-full version. Before the dinner break, she busted out with a queen and jack when her open-ended straight draw lost to pocket aces.
Several celebrities have already made it through their first day,
including "Spiderman" actor Tobey Maguire and "Everybody Loves Raymond" comedian Brad Garrett. However, former major league slugger Jose Canseco was knocked out in just a few hours.
Several people mentioned Maguire as the celebrity with the best shot.
"He's got the perfect disposition at the table, he's studied a lot, he plays in huge cash games," Gordon said. "He definitely has a game that could get deep, maybe even final table, maybe even win."
The stars also have access to an elite set of teachers who help them bone up on their game.
"American Pie" star Shannon Elizabeth took copious notes on her first day Sunday, and has pro Annie Duke as a personal coach. She advanced to the semifinals of the NBC National Heads Up tournament in March, defeating renowned players Jeff Madsen, Barry Greenstein and Humberto Brenes.
Cool Bet story …
Erick Lindgren is one of the world’s most well known poker players, but after what he did last week he may become one its most well known golfers. It all began when Lindgren was sharing a few drinks with his friend and fellow poker pro Gavin Smith. At some point the following bet was proposed.
“Did Erick Lindgren want to play 72 holes of golf after a night out on the town? All he had to do was shoot under 100 for all four rounds at one of the toughest courses in Vegas, carry his own bag, and do it all between sunrise and sunset – in 108 degree heat.”
Just to recap, the prop bet required Lindgren to play four sub-100 rounds from the pro tees while carrying his own bag in 100+ degree heat.
Smith originally made the bet for either $50,000 or $100,000, but word of the wager soon spread and numerous other poker pros took a piece of the action. The group of pros included Phil Ivey, who went in for $200,000. By the time Lindgren arrived for his 6 a.m. tee time more than $300,000 was at stake.
Lindgren breezed through the first two rounds, and though he struggled in the third, he managed to shoot a 92. In the fourth and final round Lindgren finally hit a wall. He collapsed in the middle of the 13th fairway, an apparent victim of heatstroke. After a short rest Lindgren somehow recovered and won the bet by finishing the round with a 94. When all was said and done Lindgren’s winnings totaled $340,000.
So how does it feel to win $340,000 in a bet? Well, according to Lindgren not so good. Despite the money Lindgren says he felt so bad afterwards he regretted taking the bet. He reportedly shed 10 pounds on the golf course and the next day he still wasn’t sure if he would ever feel right again.
Lindgren’s agent (who used to represent PGA golfers) says what Lindgren did was the most amazing thing he had ever seen on a golf course. My vote still goes to Jean Van De Velde, but one thing is for sure—Michelle Wie couldn’t have won the bet, and not because of the heat or her endurance, but because she probably wouldn’t have been able to break 100 in her first round.
Here is this week’s email of last week:
I was thinking about the "Stars remaining Prudent" page on dallasstars.com and it occurred to me that the page read like a memo to investors in a company.
Couple of thoughts:
#1: how would you, as an investor in Apple, like to get this as an annual report memo? "We choose to no longer innovate, we'll just try to tinker with old projects and try to bring back the Commodore 64 and Intellivision." Not very inspiring. Time to sell.
#2: someone in the Stars front office has forgotten that the fans are not investors, we are the customers. Customers aren't interested in the dollars and cents of the business, we want to see the new line of products or the improvements on such. Again with Apple, I don't care how much an iPod costs to manufacture, I want to know how many more songs it can hold now and what new things it can do.
Crackhead Chunking – Not Funny