As we near the end of the first season since the Rangers traded their hope for the future, John Danks to Chicago for Brandon McCarthy, both teams seem rather unimpressed with their haul in the deal.
The Rangers wanted more from McCarthy, including the health and durability to take the ball every five days, and the White Sox seem to be growing tired of Danks inability to last longer than 5 innings.
If nothing else, it demonstrates the difficulty in developing young pitching. It also demonstrates how difficult it must be to be a major league GM. If you are Jon Daniels, and Danks is sitting at 12-6 right now, you may not still be the GM of the Rangers. But, he is 6-12, and nobody is saying the trade is a disaster…yet.
Danks is back, and struggling …
Rangers starter Brandon McCarthy has said all along that he doesn't have any desire to compare himself with the man for whom he was traded, White Sox starter John Danks.
It turns out the feeling is mutual. Danks, who will take the mound today against the team that drafted him -- in front of a large contingent of friends and family from his home in Round Rock -- has more to worry about than who "won" the December trade.
Danks is 0-6 with a 7.39 ERA in his last seven starts and needs to pitch well in September to ensure his place in Chicago's plans next season. Danks is 6-12 with a 5.51 ERA in his first big-league season, with 98 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings.
"I need to go out there and pitch better than I have as of late," Danks said. "Hopefully I can pitch well enough that I'm pretty much a lock for the rotation. I'd say if it were tomorrow, I wouldn't be. I'd be a strong consideration maybe, but I wouldn't be a lock for the rotation. I feel like this last month's very important for me."
The same holds true of McCarthy, provided he is able to return from a stress fracture in his right shoulder. McCarthy, 24, is two years older than Danks and has two more years of major league experience, but injuries have limited him to 94 innings this year. He's 5-8 with a 4.79 ERA -- not that Danks has paid much attention to his counterpart.
"I know he's doing well for himself here and the Rangers are happy to have him," Danks said. "Hopefully the White Sox feel the same about me.... We were two relatively unknown guys and I feel like we've both done well."
Danks said he expects about 20-30 friends and family at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington tonight and admitted "it would have been nice to pitch for the hometown team."
But the trade gave Danks a chance to join a major league rotation -- and get the following advice from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen regarding tonight's start.
"Well, don't embarrass your family," Guillen said. "Go out there and make them proud and make sure they see you more than two innings, because they pay a lot of money to watch the game."
Leave it to Guillen to sum up the trade most succinctly: "Both teams are in last place, so who cares about the trade?"
Sherrington has Hicks undermining Daniels a bit …which is odd, usually when he talks it does no damage…
John Danks finally makes his long-awaited Arlington debut this week, and just when you were getting used to the notion that it won't be in a Rangers uniform, you get another unappetizing look inside the club's sausage-works.
Caution: The following account contains subject matter that the faint of heart could find objectionable, even nauseating, particularly if you still feel dizzy whenever you read Chris Young's ERA.
The subject started out innocently enough Tuesday. All I did was ask Tom Hicks what he thought when Jon Daniels said he was ready to trade Danks for Brandon McCarthy.
Next thing you know, the owner's confessing that Josh Beckett was almost a Ranger.
"Had we been willing to give him up sooner," Hicks said of Danks, "Beckett would be pitching here."
Here's how this sordid tale supposedly went down:
The Marlins approached the Rangers with Beckett and Mike Lowell in November 2005. They asked for Hank Blalock and Danks or Thomas Diamond, Rangers' choice.
The way Hicks tells the story, Florida wanted an immediate decision. Daniels, fresh on
the job, wanted a consensus from his advisers. He also tried to see if he could get the Marlins to bite on someone other than Diamond or Danks.
But the potential trade got out, Boston got involved, and the Marlins ended up dealing with the Red Sox instead.
Or as Hicks summed it up: "Jon learned a lesson about making fast decisions."
Of course, that's assuming the Marlins really wanted to do the deal with the Rangers and weren't using them to drive up the price from Boston.
But for the sake of the argument, let's say the Rangers could have done the deal had Daniels jumped on it.
After winning 16 games for Boston in 2006, Beckett is 16-5 this season with a 3.21 ERA. Lowell, a contract dump by the Marlins, is hitting .322 with 17 home runs and 93 RBIs.
Bottom line: The Rangers could have had both, and it wouldn't necessarily have cost them Danks, either.
And then there's this, too: If the Rangers had acquired Beckett, they probably wouldn't have felt the need to trade Chris Young.
This just doesn't get any better, does it?
For the record, Hicks stands behind by his young GM. He likes the youth movement, as he should. He even defends most of Daniels' deals, which isn't exactly a popular position.
Even if the Rangers didn't end up with Beckett, Hicks likes the Danks-for-McCarthy deal.
Had he bothered to ask – which he never does, come to think of it – I wouldn't have recommended it, simply because promising left-handers are so hard to come by. But it's growing on me.
Daniels stands by the deal, which isn't always a given. He concedes the Young and Alfonso Soriano duds, if it makes you feel any better.
But McCarthy? "I still think Brandon is gonna be a very good starter," he said.
Tonight, the Cowboys get a look at Adrian Peterson …Don’t get me wrong, I expect Peterson to be great when he is healthy, but when you are Minnesota, and you have neither a QB nor a WR, why would you take a RB to crowd Chester Taylor? You just paid Taylor last year big money, and he played reasonably well. I did not understand this pick, except that perhaps he was just too good to pass up…
And now that he's in the pros, Peterson gets to show the Cowboys, his favorite team, how bright his future can be when the teams meet tonight at the Metrodome.
"It's kind of hit me that I'm a pro," Peterson said in a phone interview. "It's still a game, but it's faster and you have to move a lot quicker to the holes because they close up fast."
In the preseason, Peterson has rushed 29 times for 144 yards with one touchdown. He's third in rushing yards among the NFL leaders.
Yet, when the season starts, Peterson (6-1, 217) will be the backup behind starter Chester Taylor, who rushed for 1,216 yards last season, the fourth-highest season total in Vikings history. He also set a team record with 303 rushing attempts.
Minnesota coach Brad Childress sees no need to rotate his backs but does like the potential of Peterson.
"Yeah, just a willing learner, a willing worker," Childress said of the former Palestine (Texas) High School star. "I am glad he was able to get over some of the nicks and nags he had early on.
"He spent a lot of time with [running backs coach] Eric Bieniemy; he lives in his hip pocket. He is hungry for knowledge, and he wants to do it the right way."
The biggest concern for Peterson coming out of college was injuries.
He missed the last seven regular-season games of his junior season at Oklahoma with a broken clavicle, returning to play in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State. But Minnesota isn't concerned, because he's getting plenty of repetitions in practice and is told to punish opposing defenders like he did in the Jets game.
"He had a nice little spin move right up the field," Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears said referring to Peterson's run against the Jets. "He's going to be good, man. I watched him in college, and you can't really gauge what's going on right now until the regular season starts.
"But I think he'll be a productive back. He even has a little attitude, and you got to have that. It's good to see."
Peterson, 22, said he's enjoying life in the NFL but hasn't moved family members from Oklahoma and Texas to Minnesota.
Peterson's brother, Derrick, is staying with him in Minneapolis, and even his dad, Nelson, visits him from time to time. When Nelson Peterson was released from prison last year, he wasn't allowed to leave the state of Oklahoma to watch his son play in the Texas-OU game because he was still on parole.
"It's good to have my dad with me," Adrian Peterson said. "He's a big support because he's the first one who put the ball in my hand.
"I think playing against the Cowboys is going to be fun, especially for my dad and I. Being a Cowboys fans and now playing in the NFL, I get to show everybody what I can do."
Will Terry Glenn be ready for the Giants? He doesn’t sound convincing …
The plan is for receiver Terry Glenn to practice Saturday for the first time since having arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 1 and start the season opener Sept. 9 against the Giants.
But Glenn isn't sure he'll be ready to go full speed in a few days.
"We'll see," he said Wednesday after the Cowboys Kickoff Luncheon at the Hotel Intercontinental. "Can't say too much about that right now, but we'll see."
Glenn said he wasn't certain that he'd be ready for the season opener, but "with the grace of God," he'll play against the Giants. He didn't sound optimistic he'd be 100 percent in less than two weeks.
"You've got to do training camp to get ready for a season. Unfortunately, I missed it," said Glenn, who had 1,047 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season. "I've just got to get back and take everything slow and smooth. Hopefully, I can contribute and help our team win Sunday night" against New York.
T.O. Not planning on playing much …
T.O. is making the trip to Minnesota, but don't expect to see him on the field during the Cowboys' final preseason game.
"Right now, we're scheduled to play zero snaps," T.O. said, punctuating the sentence with a huge smile.
I asked him if "we" meant the starting offense, and he responded that he was referring to proven players picked by Wade Phillips that don't need any more preseason work. Phillips indicated that tackles Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo might get a significant amount of playing time because they haven't had much live work since returning from knee surgery. But you can expect to see a lot of TV shots of T.O., Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Roy Williams, DeMarcus Ware, etc. joking around on the sideline.
"You don't want to go out and play the last preseason game and something freaky happen," T.O. said. "This is going to protect a lot of the guys, especially some of the starters. For the starters, this is not a game of importance to us."
Apparently, Tarvaris Jackson is ready for the season, prepare for Holcomb …
As many coaches do in the final preseason games, Brad Childress plans to use his starters for only one series tonight. This includes quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who has completed 19 of 33 passes for 212 yards with no interceptions in parts of three games. Jackson also has yet to throw a touchdown pass. ... Brooks Bollinger will replace Jackson but the plan is to get the newly obtained Kelly Holcomb some work as well. ... This will be the ninth time these teams have met in the preseason -- the Vikings are 4-3-1 in those games -- but the first time they will play an exhibition in Minnesota. The teams met in the preseason finale last Aug. 31 and played to a 10-10 tie. ... The Vikings and Cowboys will meet again on Oct. 21 in Dallas. ... The Vikings and other NFL teams must cut down to the regular-season roster limit of 53 players by Saturday.
EJ Hradek expects the Stars to be worse …
Dallas Stars (50-25-7): Worse.
Last summer, I figured the Stars might be taking a step backward. Instead, despite significant injuries to stars Mike Modano and Brenden Morrow, the club nearly matched the 112 points it registered in 2005-06 by finishing with 107.
This season, I again expect the Stars to finish with fewer points. Not too many, though. I see them with about 100 points.
The Stars didn't make any major free-agent pickups. GM Doug Armstrong was interested in wingers Paul Kariya (Blues) and Jason Blake (Leafs), but their price tags (money and term) proved a little too high for his liking. Armstrong also made a serious pitch for Thrashers free agent Slava Kozlov, who eventually opted to re-sign with Atlanta.
Disheartened by Dallas' recent playoff failure, some fans and media were disappointed the Stars stayed out of the pricey free-agent market, but team president Jim Lites publicly defended the club's position. Lites was quoted as saying, "We're not dumb, we're not cheap and we've not fallen asleep." The executive has never been shy about making his feelings known. That's one of the reasons why I like Lites, who has been a top exec in the league dating back to the '80s.
The Stars' management group felt comfortable with a more conservative approach because it believes the team has some good young players ready to take a step forward. Those players, such as Joel Lundqvist, Loui Eriksson and Niklas Grossman, have to take that next step to support older core players Modano and Sergei Zubov.
Armstrong did add some size to his forward lines, signing veteran tough guy Todd Fedoruk (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) and ex-Oiler Brad Winchester (6-foot-5, 215). Dallas also picked up journeyman winger Toby Petersen. All three players have a chance to find roles in Dallas.
On the flip side, the Stars lost Ladislav Nagy and Darryl Sydor via free agency. They won't miss Nagy, who never fit in after coming over from the Coyotes. They will miss Sydor, who logged more than 20 minutes per game. Veterans Eric Lindros and Matthew Barnaby won't be back, either. Barnaby announced his retirement in July, while Lindros is expected to call it a career over the coming weeks.
I don't expect the Stars to match the 107-point campaign of a season ago, but they're still a playoff team. They'll also be in position to add a player or two, if needed, at the trade deadline because they didn't overspend in the summer.
On to “preparing for college football”:
Former Homer Call of the Year winner, Lester Munson back for 42nd year as Georgia Radio guy…
just two days away, this isn't about the kicking game or the heat or the weakside linebacker. A month shy of his 85th birthday, the Voice of the Bulldogs comes to his 42nd season in the radio booth worried about his ability to walk on his own anymore.
"It's all so embarrassing, when you finally realize that you're so old that you're going to walk with a cane," Munson said. "You've seen guys do it in your lifetime. ... You think about that and you figure you can't be there.
"You can't. But you are."
Munson's home-games-only work schedule this fall is a concession strictly to his difficulty in traveling – arthritis, back trouble – and not to the purpose in his work.
Retire? Not yet.
But if this is a season to listen to Munson with a more sensitive ear, it's also a time to consider where he came from: a time when televised games were not yet a birthright, and at stadiums across the Southeast local legends worked the microphone every Saturday.
They were all of the same genre, coming at you from the same speaker box, but from a hundred different points of reference.
If it was "football time in Tennessee," then John Ward was intoning in Knoxville.
When "toe meets leather," Al Ciraldo had the call at Grant Field.
If Woody Durham asked the folks to "go where you go and do what you do," it was a warning to the North Carolina faithful to resort to their favored superstitions, for the game was now in the balance.
And what exactly was it that Munson wanted, with that we're-all-outta-ammo rasp?
Lady Luck dressed up in her hobnail boot, with those big thighs and only a freshman. Get the picture! The girders are bending, you guys, there is going to be some property destroyed tonight.
With all that, what he really wanted – what all a passing generation of play-by-play men wanted – was to allow you not to just see what he was seeing, but to feel what he was feeling. Like Stan Torgerson, the storied announcer at Ole Miss, liked to say, "I like to watch the game on the radio. The picture is better."
Hokies 2007 starts on Saturday …
Virginia Tech's football team commences its 2007 journey at No. 9 in the Associated Press poll. Fair enough.
The Hokies are stacked on defense, flawed on offense and recast on special teams.
But let's be clear: Although the season promises to be memorable, and although legions will consider Tech a sentimental favorite -- America's Team for the cliche-minded -- the Hokies will win and lose on their merit.
Many will frame the season otherwise.
Success will mean the team was destined to heal a campus still coping with the mass murders of April 16.
Disappointment will mean the pressures were too profound.
Such portraits will be lazy, simplistic and just plain inaccurate. They will exaggerate sports and minimize life.
Please, don't misunderstand. Football is the centerpiece of Virginia Tech athletics, a beacon for hundreds of thousands of fans. The home opener Saturday against East Carolina will be poignant, and championship contention would lift the university during this difficult time.
"Tech people are looking to rally around something now," Coach Frank Beamer said. "It's there. I don't know if it's a burden, but it's there."
Scores with no connection to Virginia Tech also will embrace the Hokies. But no victory on the field, ascension in the polls or sappy ESPN montage can fill the voids gouged by those 32 murders.
And no team or individual should be asked or expected to do so. Those voids are forever, and only time, grace and perspective will ease the accompanying pain.
Beamer, a Virginia Tech fixture, seems to get it.
"We understand how large some of these things are," he said. "But it comes back to [the team] preparing every day and keeping it in the present."
Will skittish quarterback Sean Glennon make better decisions? Are the untested kickers and jury-rigged offensive line ready for a schedule that includes Louisiana State, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Boston College? Will such staples as tailback Branden Ore, cornerback Brandon Flowers and linebackers Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi improve upon their exceptional 2006 performances?
Those questions and answers will chart the Hokies' course. Not divine inspiration or intervention. Just football ability.
The DMN Texas Tech Newsletter …
What's to prove
Since Mike Leach took over as coach in 2000, the Red Raiders have had no problem scoring. Stopping their opponents, however, has been another story. Tech ranked eighth in the Big 12 in scoring defense last season (25.1 points per game), and this year's defensive unit returns only five starters. Tech's success in 2007 rests on the defense's ability to keep games from becoming shootouts. Leach's Red Raiders have won at least eight games in five straight seasons, and Tech hasn't had a losing record since 1992. But if the defense doesn't develop quickly in '07, both trends could come to a screeching halt.
Player to watch: QB Graham Harrell
Junior QB Graham Harrell was booed in Lubbock during Tech's homecoming game against Missouri last season. If his play brings boos this fall, Tech will have a hard time finishing .500. Despite many ups and downs in 2006, he recorded the third-best passing season for a sophomore in NCAA Division I-A history with 4,555 yards and 38 touchdowns. The former Ennis standout is Tech's first returning starter at quarterback since 2002. He must lead a relatively inexperienced offense and show consistency.
Impact freshman: WR Michael Crabtree
Texas Tech's receivers usually rank among the nation's leaders in receptions and yards, but none have received as much hype before playing in a game than Michael Crabtree, a former Carter standout. Crabtree (6-3, 208), a redshirt freshman, got everyone talking with three catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the annual spring game. He's expected to start at flanker and will need to produce early in a receiving corps hit hard by graduation.
Deep in secondary
Tech's defense faces some major questions, but the one bright spot should be the secondary. Senior Joe Garcia (6-1, 222) and junior Darcel McBath (6-1, 196) are returning starters at safety. Garcia finished second on the team last season with 87 tackles, and McBath tied for third with 75 tackles and led with three interceptions. Junior Chris Parker (5-11, 178) of Sunset returns as one starting corner, with the other coming from a group of five juniors.
Thin on defensive line
Inexperience and a lack of depth are big issues along the defensive line, especially at the tackle positions. Tech can't afford any injuries up front. The probable starters at tackle are sophomores Rajon Henley (6-3, 265) and Richard Jones (6-1, 277), who played some last season as freshmen. Junior Jake Ratliff (6-7, 247) and sophomore Brandon Williams (6-5, 253) are back at the end spots. That quartet will have to carry much of the load.
TCU ready to get away from controversy and play football …
Saturday's season opener against Baylor can't come quickly enough for TCU linebacker Jason Phillips.
"The tension has been kind of tough around here the last couple of weeks," Phillips said. "We're ready to take it out on somebody else."
The No. 22 Horned Frogs have been buffeted through a tumultuous training camp that has been marked by deaths of family members, suspensions and player defections.
Freshman defensive end Braylon Broughton's mother died recently, and starting safety Corderra Hunter has missed several practices dealing with a family illness.
Preseason All-American defensive end Tommy Blake missed part of training camp to attend to an undisclosed family matter. Blake also has missed several recent practices with stomach flu and is questionable for Saturday's game against the Bears.
And starting defensive tackle James Vess, who notched four sacks last season, will miss the season after a violation of university policies.
"It's been an interesting two-a-days," TCU coach Gary Patterson said. "We've had a lot of things going on. But if anything, it's made us closer as a team because of all the distractions we've had over the last two or three weeks."
Some of Patterson's confidence is buoyed by a returning defense that should be the strength of the team.
Eight starters return from last year's unit, which ranked third or better nationally last season in total defense (235 yards per game), scoring defense (12.3 points per game) and rushing defense (61 yards per game).
The Horned Frogs have been a fashionable pick to crash the Bowl Championship Series party if they can carry over momentum from an eight-game winning streak to finish last season.
And unlike teams such as Boise State and Utah that elbowed their way into BCS bowls with high-powered offensive attacks, the Horned Frogs will try to get there with their defense.
"I've heard people say they like to watch us because we have a defensive mind-set in our program," linebacker David Hawthorne said. "And when things aren't going right, we just say we're going back to playing Horned Frog defense."
The pressure might be a little greater on the TCU defense as it tries to compensate for redshirt freshman quarterback Andy Dalton, who will start his first college game against the Bears.
Today in Beckham news, Beckham hurt; Galaxy lose in Superliga Final …
For a while Wednesday night, it seemed as if the Galaxy might at least have a storybook chapter, if not an ending, to its strange soccer season.
A bicycle-kick goal by Chris Klein three minutes into stoppage time earned Los Angeles a 1-1 tie with Pachuca of Mexico in the final of the SuperLiga tournament and sent the game to overtime.
Galaxy hopes rose.
Only to be dashed.
After 30 minutes of overtime had failed to separate the teams, the game went to penalty kicks.
The Galaxy made three of its six chances. Pachuca made four of its six opportunities.
Just like that, it was over.
Pachuca, which already in the last year had won the Mexican league championship, the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the Copa Sudamericana, added a fourth bit of silverware to its trophy cabinet.
The Galaxy players came away empty handed but with heads held high after playing their most inspired game of the season.
All in all, it was a night to remember at the Home Depot Center, as a tournament that initially was greeted with some skepticism but caught the fancy of fans produced a pulsating and incident-filled final.
The night began inauspiciously for the Galaxy, however, as three more fangs were sunk deep into its already snake-bit season.
First, Real Salt Lake defeated the Kansas City Wizards, 3-1, a result that dropped the Galaxy into last place in Major League Soccer.
Then, midfielder Pete Vagenas steered the ball into his own net in the first half of the final and Pachuca buckled down and came within one minute of making the goal stand up all the way.
Finally, only three minutes after the Vagenas faux pas, David Beckham sprained his right knee in a clash with Pachuca defender Fernando Salazar and had to leave the game after only half an hour.
Galaxy fans might have cringed at the own goal, which could have cost the team its only chance at a trophy this season, but England fans were more concerned with Beckham's injury.
England plays Israel and Russia in consecutive Euro 2008 qualifying games Sept. 8 and Sept. 12, needing to win both, and Beckham was expected to fly to London on Sunday to join the team.
It appears he still will be able to do so. After receiving treatment, he returned to the Galaxy bench in a suit and tie to watch the overtime session.
London Times Scribe KILLS the MLS …
Remember the good old day of MLS? That was June 19, when Alexi Lalas, the Los Angeles Galaxy president, made the most poorly judged public pronouncement since Newsweek tipped Vietnam as a popular safari destination for the late 1960s traveller. “Beckham is coming to play in one of the most competitive leagues in the world,” he said. “I get so irritated when I hear the experts in England talk as if he is going into semi-retirement. That is ignorance of the first degree and insulting to our sport. We may be Americans, but we’re not stupid.”
No, Alexi, the majority of Americans are not stupid, but some are and a great many would appear to be in the employ of MLS and its associated bodies. We misread football in America. We just thought it would be rubbish. We didn’t realise it would be rubbish and physically endangering because that is an unfamiliar combination, like the moment in the comedy show, Frasier, when Niles is being taught ballroom dancing by Daphne. “This is boring, yet difficult,” he says, bemused.
Anyone who has watched the goals conceded by the Galaxy will know that the standard is all we expected and less; what we did not factor in was the complete lack of understanding his paymasters would display for the wellbeing of an athlete of Beckham’s standing. We thought they were going inadequately to challenge him; in fact, they are more likely to kill him.
His career is panning out like a particularly spiteful episode of Za Gaman, the Japanese game show, in which contestants might be buried up to their necks in sand and confronted by snakes. Beckham has been played when unfit (at least twice) and dragged across the country while carrying an injury that reacts badly to flight to appear at a match in a purely ceremonial role.
Now Lalas is up in arms about a fixture list that was in place when he was boldly predicting that the Galaxy would become America’s first super club, rivalling Manchester United and Real Madrid. “We sure as hell are not going to put up with another season like this,” Lalas said after the Galaxy’s latest dispiriting defeat. “The travelling, the number of games, the lack of consistent scheduling – no other team has had to withstand that.”
To accommodate the Beckham road show, promoting the sport across the States, the Galaxy have a disproportionate number of away games factored into the second half of their season. They have played six of the past eight away and from September 19 will play six of seven away, too. Yet, if you look to the right of the screen on the Sky Sports News channel, the MLS league tables appear in what might be termed a fact box, treated credibly, as if this was a proper competition, not a travelling circus. On SSN, the standings in the MLS Western Conference and Eastern Conference are displayed on a loop after the Welsh top flight and the League of Ireland, but before cricket’s LV County Championship, in a position that used to be the preserve of the chief leagues of Europe: Spain, France, Italy and Germany.
This gives America a status it does not deserve. Say what you like about Total Network Solutions of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain (now known as The New Saints, and thank heavens for that): they might have had a daft name, but if their right midfield player had an ankle the size of a hippo’s backside, they would not have played him, being a serious professional football club. No league with grand aspirations would pick a man who was badly injured simply because the occasion demanded it, or let him play on consecutive days on either side of the Atlantic, merely because he wanted to, just as no league of stature would rearrange its fixture list around one competitor.
If this doesn’t make you laugh, you got problems.