Monday, June 30, 2008

El Nino!

Euro 2008 is over, and Spain is the Champion. I only got to watch the knock-out stages of this tournament over the last few weeks, but that was plenty.

International big-time soccer is a pleasure, and ABC/ESPN did a fine job (despite the Turkey-Germany meltdown that affected most of the world) with the High Definition Broadcasts, and the showcasing of the great Andy Gray
on the broadcast.

Really enjoyed the tournament, and the final with my boy, Fernando Torres, who I fully admit I would hate if he played for Chelsea (due largely to his highlighted tips), but since he plays for Liverpool, I would say his goal was amazing. Good work, Nando-

Spain breaks through to the other side …and now England has the best drought in big-time football…

A big-game flop no more, Spain won the European Championship 1-0 over Germany on Sunday for its first major title in 44 years.

Fernando Torres scored in the 33rd minute and the Spaniards never backed down against such a formidable opponent. Their last significant title came in the 1964 Euros at home.

"It is a privilege to be in the national team and live through the most beautiful moment of getting the cup," Torres said. "It will be good not only for Spain, but also for football because the team that played best won."

In beating a team that makes a habit of appearing in championship finals, the Spaniards put to rest a reputation for underachieving. Always loaded with talented players, Spain has spent four decades falling short of expectations.

That all changed at these Euros, where the Spaniards swept their first-round games, eliminated World Cup champion Italy in a penalty-kicks shootout in the quarterfinals, then routed Russia 3-0 in the semifinals.

"We have won in a brilliant way," coach Luis Aragones said. "We will be able to start saying we can win, a European championhip as well as any other thing."

Against the highly accomplished Germans, they weren't intimidated. They got the one goal they needed - from a slumping striker, no less - and set off chants of "ES-PANA," and "Ole, Ole Ole" at the final whistle.

The entire Spanish squad ran over to the huge rooting section of red and gold, exchanging hugs, while many of the spent Germans collapsed to the turf.

"It is to me the most important day in Spanish football in many, many years," Torres said.

Rangers get the rubber match from the Phillies

Ian Kinsler came to spring training wanting the full-time leadoff job and believing he would get it. He just didn't tell anybody.

"That's not my style," Kinsler said. "I felt I could show them on the field that I deserved the job."

He did, and he hasn't looked back, becoming one of the top leadoff hitters in the major leagues this season.

Kinsler had his third consecutive three-hit game in Sunday's 5-1 win over the Phillies. He was the not-so-old man in a group of youngsters that helped the Rangers take two of three games from the top team in the NL East and move above .500 for the seventh time this season.

Eric Hurley, 22, went 5 2/3 innings and gave up one run. Catcher Max Ramirez, 23, pleased manager Ron Washington with how he called the game and threw out the speedy Shane Victorino attempting to steal in the first inning. And Chris Davis, 22, became the first player in franchise history to hit home runs in his first two major league starts.

But it was the just-turned 26-year-old Kinsler who immediately got the Rangers' offense going.
"I want to set the tone with my first at-bat," Kinsler said. "Even if I get out, if I hit the ball hard on the first pitch, that means we're going to be aggressive and come after the pitcher. If I walk on a 3-2 pitch, we're going to fight all night. That's what I try to do."

On Sunday, he opened the Rangers' first by drilling a 2-2 fastball down the right-field line for a triple and scored on Michael Young's ground ball. It was Kinsler's AL-leading 42nd extra-base hit.

Washington was impressed in the eighth with Kinsler's bunt single down the third-base line. Instead of trying to do too much with runners at first and second, Kinsler left the RBI for Young, who added an insurance run on a sharply hit ground ball.

Kinsler says that he's never played better than he has the last two weeks, even after a mental mistake in the eighth. Kinsler, second in the AL in errors with 15, looked away on a pop-up before the ball hit his glove and it dropped. It was Kinsler's only error in his last 12 games. He's hit safely in all of them, batting .429 (21-for-49).

The stretch has only added to an already stellar first half, in which he's batting .323. Among AL leadoff hitters, he's at or near the top in most of the major hitting categories. He leads all AL hitters with 71 runs and 110 hits.

Mike Hindman, who is now a member of the Rangers blog at the Dallas Morning News, looks at the way a team assembles pitching

Don't let anyone tell you that spending money on starting pitchers in free agency is the way to go. There is simply NO EVIDENCE to support that argument.
It's all about scouting and development folks.

Out of the top 41 (including Kazmir), here's how teams acquired these pitchers:

Draft (or undrafted American signee): 16
Free Agent Signee: 2
International (Teen) Free Agent Signee: 3
Minor League Trade: 12
Pre-Free Agency Trade: 8

You either draft and grow it (Kazmir, Lincecum, Sheets, Marcum, Saunders, Lester, Webb, Hamels...)....

Or you use superior scouting to get your hands on someone else's young arms when it comes time to sell (Duchscherer, Danks, Volquez, Lee, Floyd, Wainwright, Eveland, Smith...)....

Or you use your stocked farm system to trade for the stud before he becomes a Free
Agent (Beckett, Hudson, Johan, Haren...)....

Or you find the stud when he's 16 years old in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela (Felix, Zambrano, Santana...)....

But you do NOT go out and buy it on the open market.

It just doesn't work that way.

A great ERA Article from the NY Times ….

The Stars prepare for Free Agency


The Stars have set an internal budget that should allow them to seek an unrestricted free agent who is making less than $3 million. A few candidates:

Michael Ryder: Struggled in Montreal, but has two previous 30-goal seasons; has played with Mike Ribeiro before.

Brian Rolston: At 35, he's older than what the Stars are seeking. However, he is a solid two-way player. But will he cost more than $3 million?

Andrew Brunette: The noted Stars killer could be available cheap if Colorado decides to go in a different direction.

Sean Avery: Probably shooting for $3-4 million, but the league's most hated agitator would make an interesting addition.

Cory Stillman: A reliable 20-something goal scorer who has a tendency to play for winning teams. He's 34 and played for $1.75 million last season.

Get to know Michael Ryder

Today, I am going to throw out some really radical ideas. Here is one of them: Bertuzzi? …That is right. I think the Stars might be wise to get after Todd Bertuzzi at a substantial discount, of course…

Mavs plans

What’s the going rate for a backup center who averaged 2.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game last season?

If you’re DeSagana Diop, it could be a great year to be on the market.

It’s slim pickings for free-agent centers, and if all those Chris Paul-to-Tyson Chandler alley-oop dunks in the first round of the playoffs suggested anything, it’s that the Mavs, after including Diop in the February trade to New Jersey for Jason
Kidd, are in dire need of interior defense.

Those factors could more than double Diop’s $2.2 million salary and net him the
Mavs’ entire mid-level exception, expected to be valued between $5.5 million and $5.7 million.

"It would not shock me," Donnie Nelson, Mavs president of basketball operations, said of Diop commanding the entire mid-level exception. "Centers are going to be pricier."

The Mavs will have competition for the 7-foot, 26-year-old Diop. The Miami Heat is reportedly interested. However, the Mavs could hold the edge against any competition. Diop still lives in Dallas and since being traded, has maintained his interest in returning.

So will the Mavs use their entire mid-level to shore the center position when they also need 3-point shooting and depth?

There a number of players who could interest the Mavs, including possibly Kings forward Ron Artest, who opted out of his contract Friday and would have to agree to a significant pay cut.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle coached Artest at Indiana and has said he’d welcome him in Dallas.

"We’ve got one bullet and have to make it count," Nelson said of the mid-level exception. "We can split it two or three ways, but that’s our silver bullet. We can’t miss out."

Any chance Ron Artest is in the mix?

Though the prospect of Artest opting out remains unlikely, the uncertainty remains until it's official. Artest is in the driver's seat for one more day, and Petrie is stuck without a steering wheel.

Artest remains a most vital piece of the Kings in ways beyond the spot he fills, a major element of the organization's eventual structure. If he remains, he instantly becomes one of the more tradeable players in the league whose value might have risen substantially since the Kings considered moving him in February. On the heels of Boston's title and the reinforcement of the "defense wins championships" credo, Artest remains a specialist on that end and is coming off his first season averaging 20 points. During theNBA Finals, he even appeared at Game 6 in Boston and was trailed by speculation in the following days that the Lakers wish he had been in a Los Angeles jersey.

Beyond the Lakers, there is no shortage of teams with a desperate need to strengthen perimeter defense and add a proven scorer. There's San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and perhaps even Denver. The Nuggets passed up a chance to trade for Artest in February, and their first-round playoff exit against the Lakers showed how he could have helped.

With Artest's expiring contract (for $7.4 million) and his 2007-08 season in which he set career highs in scoring, field-goal percentage and three-point percentage, the risk isn't what it used to be. The Kings are well aware of this, hoping to reap the rewards for their patience.

Opting out makes little financial sense for Artest. The Lakers, for example, might be able to offer a shot at the title, but they would be restricted to a midlevel exception offer (approximately $6 million per season) for a contract - a plight shared by most of the league. Artest's agent, Mark Stevens, said it was "obvious" opting out would result in a midlevel exception deal.

If Artest opts out, the Kings, who hold Artest's Bird rights, could execute a sign-and-trade deal in which he can sign a sixyear deal rather than the maximum five with other teams.

In an e-mail to The Bee last week, Artest sounded as if the allure of joining a title contender was enough to lose money. "I never knew so many teams would be coming after me," he wrote. "All I can say is I made a (big) turnaround."

NBA’s Top 10 Free Agents

1. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards: Arenas has turned himself into a max player over the past few years and, despite recent knee troubles, will likely cash in on his newfound celebrity status. While he continues to maintain publicly that his first choice is to re-sign with Washington, it's possible that, given his eccentricity, he could change his mind. The biggest issue for Arenas is the same one that plagues all the free agents: Who else has the money to pay him? I can't see the 76ers or Grizzlies spending the cash. The Clippers would have interest, but Arenas already spurned them once.

2. Corey Maggette, Clippers: Maggette has been on the trading block for years and appears eager to bolt the Clippers. He's making $7 million next season and should be due a raise.

Teams will be out in force trying to get him, but most will have only the midlevel exception to offer -- which would mean he'd be taking a pay cut. A sign-and-trade is the most likely option, with the Phoenix Suns looking like the team most interested in him. They could offer a swap of Leandro Barbosa that may interest L.A.

3. Antawn Jamison, Wizards: Jamison is still putting up big scoring and rebounding numbers at the age of 32. He even made a surprise appearance at the All-Star Game this past season. Washington will likely try to lock him up, and should have the best shot to do so. With teams capped out, which team is going to spend all of its money on a 32-year-old?

4. DeSagana Diop, Nets: He's only 25, but five points and five boards are about all you're going to get from him. Still, he's big and he plays good defense … meaning some team will blow its midlevel exception on him. I think Dallas is the front-runner to give him a ridiculous deal.

5. Beno Udrih, Kings: The Kings were impressed enough with his play that they felt no remorse in letting Mike Bibby go. But will they be able to keep him? As the only decent unrestricted point guard on the market, Udrih is drawing a lot of interest. Expect him to get multiple offers for the full midlevel from a number of teams desperate for a point guard. I'd put the Clippers at the top of the list.

6. Kurt Thomas, Spurs: He's 35 years old, but still tough enough to help just about any title contender. The Spurs got him in a steal of a deal at the trade deadline. Look for them to try to lock him up with a three-year deal this summer.

7. James Posey, Celtics: Posey helped himself with a strong performance against the Lakers in the Finals. He's another player who should get a three- to four-year midlevel deal somewhere.

8. Mickael Pietrus, Warriors: No one is sure why the Warriors didn't play Pietrus more. He's one of the most athletic defenders in the league and he's a solid 3-point shooter. Some team will pick him up and try to use him in a Bruce Bowen-type role.

9. Ricky Davis, Heat: The talented but troubled swingman hasn't helped his cause in his second tour with Miami. Pat Riley thought, after dumping him the first time, that Davis finally had the maturity to play for him. But Riley is clearly reassessing the situation. Davis looks like a midlevel-or-below type of player. I doubt he returns to the Heat.

10. Kwame Brown, Grizzlies: The former No. 1 pick has run out of excuses. Yes, he's huge, athletic and only 25 years old. But after seven years in the league, he's yet to prove that he's anything more than a backup. Someone will pay him something, but no one is expecting much.

George Lucas goes back to the well again

A few weeks ago Mr. Lucas, who is 64 with a full white beard, was visiting his Presidio offices somewhat reluctantly, on a layover between the European and Japanese premieres of his latest “Indiana Jones” movie. “I love making movies; I’m not the biggest fan of selling them,” he said, seated in the librarylike Lucasfilm boardroom, stocked with books about real-world military history and novels like “Quo Vadis.” “But since I’m in the selling mood, that’s what you’re here for. I’m doing all my selling for two more weeks. Then I’m sold out.”

He was pitching a computer-generated animated movie called “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” which Warner Brothers will release on Aug. 15 and which will introduce an animated television series with the same title that will have its debut on the Cartoon Network this fall.

Despite his vows to the contrary Mr. Lucas did not conclude his “Star Wars” epic with his 2005 film “Revenge of the Sith,” the third in a trilogy of prequel movies that grossed more than $1 billion in the United States alone. As far back as 2002 he was contemplating an animated series that would take place between Episodes II and III of his prequels, fleshing out the adventures of the Jedi knights Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (who is doomed to become the evil Darth Vader), and explore heroes, villains and planets glossed over in the prequel films.

For Mr. Lucas this was an opportunity to revisit imaginary turf that gives him great personal satisfaction. “Star Wars,” he said, is “a sandbox I love to play in.”
“It’s not a matter of trying to prove anything to anybody,” he added. “I don’t have to.”

But his enduring interest in “Star Wars” hints at a lesson that his filmmaking peers have already learned: that it is sometimes easier for them to make big movies than small ones. As his longtime friend and collaborator Steven Spielberg wrote in an e-mail message: “All of us would like to make these little personal films that sneak into theaters under the radar. Sadly, for George and myself, and others who have enjoyed and endured great success — ‘under the radar’ has become a no-fly zone.”


Bad Radio:

Thank you for supporting the Big Brother Big Sister program. I am a frequent internet listener, and a big fan of BAD Radio. I even had a Gay/Not Gay scenario used on the air once – the highlight of the spring for me.

I have been a Big Brother here in St. Louis for a little over 5 years, and will enthusiastically tell anyone that will listen that the BB/BS program allows a person to make a great difference in the life of another, while having an even bigger impact on your own life.

I have spent all of my time in the program with one “Little.” My Little is my oldest son’s age (12); they have become friends. My Little is African American (I am a white dude), and he took no interest in my son’s life passion, hockey; however, he did take a liking to football, and we got him involved in a football league here, and he is kicking rear. Now, we all regularly have spirited hockey v. football exchanges. It is great.

My wife and I have become good friends with my Little’s mother, and we have all worked together to improve my Little’s academic performance (which had been lagging). It has been 90% mother and about 10% me (if even that), but I do truly feel that my input has been a part of getting my Little up to speed in school in recent years (and even excelling), and that has been incredibly rewarding.

I am not sure if I proudly or ashamedly make this next claim: Now that we have our system and schedule down (and have used the BB/BS resources), it only takes about a couple hours a week for my Little and me to keep in touch and maintain our relationship. I have probably gotten more involved than the average Big; but the fact of the matter is that just signing up for the program and even casually maintaining a relationship with a child who could use a little more good positive adult input will make a tremendous difference in the child’s life. You never know, it could wind up being THE difference. Bottom line: the time commitment required ultimately should NOT be the reason you decide to do or not to do this.

And it is just plain fun.

The number of Big applications is much smaller than the number of Little applications, so BB/BS can use all of us. And it is easy to get started; just give them a call and a caseworker will gladly make matching with a Little go as smoothly as possible. Once you are signed up, the BB/BS orientation meetings and materials will definitely make you feel that you are not out on an island by yourself. And there are scheduled activities by BB/BS, so if you like you don’t even have to come up with activities. There are also (I think) opportunities for an entire family to match with a Little.

Adhering to the Ticket ethos means looking at life unconventionally and laughing often. BB/BS is consistent with that ethos. Smile and laugh and make sure to spread that to as many in the community as possible.

The overall point is that (1) anyone can do this, (3) the time commitment need not be a big factor, (3) the BB/BS system does a lot of the work for you, (4) it is incredibly rewarding, and (5) you can really make a difference that you get to see take place.

BAD Radio, please know that your support of BB/BS is in the advancement of a great cause. Keep going - RECRUIT THOSE BIGS.

Love the Show, Mark the St. Louis Internet P1

More from the Steve Nash Foundation Soccer Match ….

Brian Cuban on Fox News

Friday, June 27, 2008

His Name is Shan

Well, despite the free-fall of Chris Douglas-Roberts, the Mavericks sat at #51 and waited until the pick arrived. I wonder how that move will look in the future, as I generally give the Mavs the benefit of the doubt, but Kyle Hill and Mo Ager, not to mention 5 players from Europe in the last 5 drafts that have never appeared in a Mavericks jersey, but….

Shan Foster is a player that I will honestly confess I have never heard of. Perhaps I should be ashamed of myself, but I value honesty higher than Vanderbilt basketball, evidently.

Anyway, youtube seems to indicate that the Mavs got themselves a stud, so I guess we should assume that the other teams don’t get youtube on their computers, and forget that even I looked like I could play on youtube

Shan Foster at #51

Keyboard players are hot commodities for the Mavericks these days.

With appealing chances to move up in the NBA draft lacking, the Mavericks spent Thursday night biding their time and finally took Vanderbilt sharpshooter Shan Foster with the 51st overall pick.

The 6-6 shooting guard spent four years in college and was the Southeastern Conference player of the year as a senior.

"We had a list of A candidates, B's, C's and Shan Foster was the last A on our list [who was still on the board]," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "He has an opportunity to make the team. He's got a skill that we need."

That skill is shooting. Foster hit 42 percent of his 3-point attempts during his college career. As a senior, he was 134-of-286 (.469) from 3-point land. He has a high release on his jump shot, something he said he learned out of necessity.

"I played center when I was younger, and I had to get used to shooting over bigger people, so that's where that came from," he said.

With only eight roster spots spoken for and shooters needed to help open up the floor for Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, Foster seems to be a wonderful fit.

And he's a gifted singer and keyboardist, which gives him something in common with Carlisle, who is an accomplished pianist. Maybe there's some beautiful music to be made here.

"I got a chance to talk to him about that, and he asked me why I wasn't playing when ESPN showed me," Foster said of a spot the network did with him singing in front of a keyboard.

"I told him it was a pretty tough piece to play. I'm looking forward to getting some pointers from him because I can't read music to save my life."

The Mavericks are more interested in Foster's ability to read defenses and get his shot. Foster spent most of his youth in New Orleans and knew Brandon Bass when he was growing up. They played together on an AAU team.

"This is a long-awaited opportunity that I've dreamed about since I was a little kid," Foster said. "They have a great superstar in Dirk Nowitzki and I'm looking forward to playing with them."

"You're always looking for shooting, and that's the one thing that usually carries over from college," said Donnie Nelson, president of basketball operations. "We were active toward the end of the first round and in the second round [in trying to move up]. But I've never seen the second-round [picks] go for that much cash."

Scouting Report on Foster

NBA Comparison: Shandon Anderson

Strengths: 2-guard with excellent athleticism and shooting ability ... Catch and shoot specialist ... One of the premiere three point shooters in the country ... Has been completely on fire through the first half of his senior season (shooting 53% from 3) ... Has a good frame for the shooting guard position with both height and length ... Has excellent speed, excels in the open floor finishing well on the break with his explosive leaping ability ... While not pretty his shot is effective: The high release point on his shot allows him to get shots off without much daylight ... Has improved defensively and gathers a fair number of steals (1.5 as a senior) ... Really moves well without the ball, setting opponents up for screens and constantly moving to get open ... A quality free throw shooter ... Hard worker, has shown improvement in his all around game. Shows dedication to his conditioning and gets stronger as the game goes on ...

Weaknesses: Overall feel for the game is improved but not outstanding ... Ball skills, passing and ball handling have shown improvement but are not great ... Lacks a great mid-range game ... His ball handling and ability to create off the dribble is weak ... A little on the skinny side, could stand to add some body strength, which would enable him to finish better at the rim and after contact ... His shooting motion, while effective is unorthodox. He shoots the ball above his head ala World B. Free and sort of slings the ball instead of one steady motion. But you can't knock the results ... He appears to have good range, but the unorthodox form begs the question whether he will have trouble stepping back 4 feet to the NBA line with the same success ... Because he doesn't drive to the basket much, his trips to the line are limited ...

42 vs. Mississippi St in his final home game

Another Shan Highlight Film

I like the pick, and I realize the NBA undervalues a 4 year collegiate. We shall see…

Another chance to get 2 over .500, and Another chance failed

Manager Ron Washington has maintained all season that the most important component needed to move significantly above .500 is strong starting pitching.

Which is exactly why the Rangers return home to Arlington for the season's true midpoint dead even.

On a night when the Rangers needed a strong start, the man most entrusted to do that job, Kevin Millwood, was an unmitigated flop in a 7-2 loss to Houston. Millwood allowed seven runs in the first two innings and, though he fought on for another three innings without letting the margin get worse, what was done was more than enough.

The Rangers do retain the Silver Boot Trophy despite splitting the six-game series with the Astros. The Rangers won the run differential tiebreaker, 34-28. That was their consolation for losing Josh Hamilton for the night to a bruised left hand he suffered after getting hit by a first-inning pitch. Hamilton may play as early as today.

The loss dropped the Rangers back to 40-40. They have now spent 34 of the last 35 days at .500 or within one game either way of the mark.

"It would be huge to take the next step," Millwood said. "We've battled our butts off to get here."
They have had five chances this season to move two games above .500, four of them coming since June 1, and they've lost all five. This, however, was the first time the Rangers went into a game with a winning record and their "ace" on the mound.

Grieve is back tonight!

Analyst Tom Grieve is scheduled to be back in the Rangers television booth tonight after missing 15 games due to prostate cancer surgery. Grieve's last game was June 8.
"The surgery went well, the rehab has gone well, and I feel great," Grieve said. "I appreciate everyone's support, and I'm glad to be back with the ballclub."

Grieve rejoins play-by-play voice Josh Lewin when the Rangers host the Philadelphia Phillies at 7 p.m. on KDFI (Channel 27).

To Hockey, How the heck is the cap going up again?

The NHL’s salary cap is on the rise again. The league and the NHL Players’ Association announced Thursday that each team will have a maximum of $56.7 million to spend for the 2008-09 season — up $6.4 million from last season.

The minimum salary was set at $40.7 million for each of the 30 teams. The most a player will be able to earn in a new contract next season is $11.34 million a year.
The Dallas Stars extended qualifying offers to forwards Loui Eriksson, B.J. Crombeen, Vojtech Polak, Francis Wathier and Konstantin Pushkarev, as well as defenseman Vadim Khomitski.

Teams had to extend a one-year qualifying offer to restricted free agents by Wednesday to receive the right of first refusal or draft choice compensation, if that player signs an offer sheet with another team. The offers expire July 15.
Stars co-general manager Les Jackson said he and Stu Barnes could be talking about the center’s future with the team in the next few days. Barnes, 37, had 12 goals and 11 assists last season; he missed the final nine postseason games with a concussion.

Stars situation broken down by Heika

It's fairly clear that the Stars have budget room for one key free agent signing and that they would like a goal-scoring winger. But should all of their eggs be in the Michael Ryder basket?

Ryder appears to be a great fit for the Stars, and he could come at just the right price (under $3 million). He's a right-handed right wing, and the Stars are thin on those. Currently, only Jere Lehtinen and B.J. Crombeen fit that description. He has a great history of scoring with 25 goals in 2003-04, 30 in 2005-06 and 30 in 2006-07. He's coming off a bad year (14 goals, 17 assists in 70 games) and that could bring his price down. He played with Mike Ribeiro in Montreal, and would seem to be a player that would fit well with the chemistry of the Stars room.

He is minus-34 over the past three seasons and was a part-time healthy scratch in the playoffs for the Canadiens, so those are the concerns. But that's another reason why the Stars might be able to get him for under $3 million. Ryder made $2.95 million last season, and probably is not looking to take a big pay cut, but he also might be interested in signing a one-year deal in hopes of boosting his bargaining power for next season.

He's 6-1, 205 and 28 years old, so those are positives.

But what if the Stars lose out on a bidding war? What if they decide they need two players instead of one?

There are other options out there. Toby Petersen will help fill in as a ``veteran'' checking line player, but should the Stars be interested in someone like Stephane Yelle or Craig Conroy? Both are center icemen, but they would give the Stars the option of moving Mike Modano up to the top six. Yelle, 34, is left-handed (like all of the Stars' centers) and is a little injury prone, but he made $1.25 million last season and would probably come cheaply. Conroy, 36, is the better option as he's right-handed and has some offernsive talent, but he made $2.85 million last season.
He knows Brett Hull well, so that could be a negotiating point.

That could leave the budget door open for a player like Cory Stillman. He's 34 and is a solid 20-goal scorer. He also has been a member of recent Stanley Cup champions in Tampa Bay and Carolina. He made $1.75 million last season, while tallying 24 goals and 41 assists in 79 games. He's a left-handed left wing, but nobody's perfect.

I have been digging around, and it appears the Stars are gong to do very little in free agency.

Les Jackson has confirmed the Stars will have an internal budget next season and will not spend to the cap. My guess is that number is close to $52-$53 million, so it's not like they are that far off from the cap ($55-56 million). He said Tobias Stephan will be the team's backup goalie, and that the team expects to allow its unrestricted free agents (including Niklas Hagman) to test the market.

My guess is Hagman, Antti Miettinen, Johan Holmqvist and Brad Winchester are gone.
The Stars then would have two goalies (Turco, Stephan), seven defensemen (Zubov, Boucher, Robidas, Daley, Grossman, Fistric, Niskanen) and 10 forwards (Morrow, Ribeiro, Richards, Modano, Lehtinen, Ott, Eriksson, Lundqvist, Petersen, Barch) pretty much written in pen. In addition, there are several prospects (Fabian Brunnstrom, James Neal and B.J. Crombeen to name a few) who are fighting for a forward spot.

They would have openings for three forwards, and if we're assuming two of those players would be rookies, they have room for one free agent.

That means they have a need for a right-handed right wing who will take somewhere between $2-3 million a season. That limits the field, for sure.

Cowboys Camp is coming!

The Cowboys released their training camp schedule on Thursday.

The Cowboys will hold their first practice on July 25 and will break camp on Aug. 12. Dallas will have 15 straight days of practices with five two-a-days during their time in Oxnard, Calif.

Dallas returns to Oxnard after having training camp practices in San Antonio last year. The team signed a five-year deal with the city of San Antonio to hold training camp in there, but when a church convention created a conflict with the Almodome, the Cowboys decided to go back to California. This is the fourth time in the last five years the Cowboys have held training camp in Oxnard.


Date Time
Fri., July 25 4:15-6:30 p.m.
Sat., July 26 10:50 a.m.-1 p.m.
Sun., July 27 4:15-6:30 p.m.
Mon., July 28 10:50 a.m.-1 p.m.; 5:15-7 p.m.

Special teams practice

Tue., July 29 4:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Wed., July 30 10:50 a.m.-1 p.m.; 5:15-7 p.m.
Thu., July 31 4:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

Fri., Aug. 1 10:50 a.m.-1 p.m.; 5:15-7 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 2 4:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 3 4:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Mon., Aug. 4 10:50 a.m.-1 p.m.; 5:15-7 p.m.
Tue., Aug. 5 4:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Wed., Aug. 6 10:50 a.m.-1 p.m.; 5:15-7 p.m.
Thu., Aug. 7 4:15 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 8 12:45 p.m.

Walkthrough practice; team departs for San Diego

Sat., Aug. 9 Preseason game at S.D. 9 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 10 Day off
Mon., Aug. 11 4:15-6:30 p.m.

Special teams practice
Tue., Aug. 12 12:45 p.m.
Team breaks camp; leaves for Denver

Spain! Spain!

This is something that has not happened in 24 years, most of them frustrating. Spain’s national team — La Selección — has disappointed so often, so graphically, so diversely. But on Thursday came the biggest win in a generation.

All the homegrown talent that is the backbone of La Liga, one of the toughest national leagues in the world, came through in the rain in Vienna. The Spaniards wore down Russia, 3-0, in the semifinals of Euro 2008, with their skill and experience topping the Russians’ earlier exuberance.

This is no small victory for Spain to qualify for Sunday’s championship match against Germany in Vienna. It will be the first final for a Spanish team in a world-level tournament since Spain lost to France in Euro 1984.

In between there have been so many losses way too early in tournaments, often under bizarre circumstances, that made Spanish fans ask exactly why their teams cannot live up to expectations, why their fancy players fold under pressure, why terrible things happen to them.

World soccer fans often get a little crazy when an American like me compares an international situation to our own little local sports. But the best way to describe Spain in American terms is to say that sometimes a hand comes out of nowhere to deflect a ball, the way it happened to the Chicago Cubs in the postseason in 2003. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, and Spain has not won a major tournament since Euro 1964, when it beat the Soviet Union, the spiritual ancestors of Thursday’s losing side.

White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper is a great athlete

The Perfect Pass

The Perfect Football Pass - Watch more free videos

Documentary that I love, and I think you will, too….

Confessions of a Super Hero

Batman Arrested

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lynn Dickey Wished Me a Happy Birthday!

Technically, this blog will fall on June 26, 2008, but just barely. See, on this, my 36th birthday, I have some business to attend to bright and early, and will have written this before bed on Wednesday night. So, if the world ended before Thursday daylight, please know that I am likely aware of it, just not blogging.

And yes, it is gay for me to mention it is my birthday. Sue me.

What a Rangers game on Wednesday Night! After the Tuesday kick to the groin, we experienced some very solid work from the bullpen, including Luis Mendoza grabbing a win, Eddie a Hold, and CJ a save that was ever so tense. Nevertheless, a crisp 3-2 win has the vibe going the right way.

And Max Ramirez appears to have some power.

Ranger Win

Max Ramirez got his first two major league hits and the second one – a two-run homer – gave the Texas Rangers a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
On the other side, it was a lost night for the Astros.

Before the game, pitcher Shawn Chacon was indefinitely suspended after he reportedly grabbed Houston general manager Ed Wade by the neck and threw him to the ground. Then in the ninth inning, Miguel Tejada grounded out with the bases loaded to end it.

In his second major league game after being recalled from Double-A Frisco on Saturday, Ramirez hit a single in the second inning. In the fourth, his two-run homer to center field put the Rangers ahead 3-2.

Ramirez was 0-for-3 in his big league debut on Sunday after hitting .363 with 17 homers and 50 RBIs for Frisco this season. He made his first start at catcher for the banged-up Rangers, having played first base in his earlier game.

Texas starter Scott Feldman was pulled after throwing 99 pitches in four innings. Luis Mendoza (1-2) allowed two hits in three scoreless innings.

Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson gave up double to Ty Wigginton in the ninth and walked Michael Bourn with two outs. Mark Loretta followed with a grounder and third baseman Ramon Vazquez, distracted by Wigginton running in front of him, misplayed it for an error that loaded the bases.

Tejada grounded into a routine force for the final out, giving Wilson his 16th save.

Ian Kinsler tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Vazquez to put the Rangers ahead 1-0 in the first. Bourn hit a two-run homer in the second that put Houston ahead 2-1.

Astros ace Roy Oswalt (6-8) took the loss after allowing seven hits and three runs in seven innings.

The Rangers were without both Milton Bradley and Josh Hamilton for the first time this season. Bradley hasn't started the last seven games since straining his left quadriceps June 17. Hamilton, who leads the majors with 76 RBIs, sat out the game after leaving the night before with knee inflammation.

On Wednesday’s show, we discussed the ability of Eric Hurley, including my questioning his ability to get strike outs at the major league level. Here is noted Rangers Minor League writer, Mike Hindman’s view from January on his blog , and his email to me from yesterday:


Hurley has never been the strikeout pitcher people have made him out to be. His minor league K's were largely the result of blowing high cheese past overmatched hitters. That won't fly in Arlington (or anywhere else in the majors). As he learns that he has to keep the ball down in the zone better (like he did last night), his K's will be on the low side.

M.J. Hindman

Shawn Chacon – WTFreak?

Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon was suspended indefinitely by the team Wednesday for insubordination after reportedly grabbing general manager Ed Wade by the neck and throwing him to the ground.

Chacon, upset after getting demoted to the bullpen over the weekend, told the Houston Chronicle this problem began when Wade saw him in the dining room before the game against Texas. Wade wanted to meet with Chacon in manager Cecil Cooper's office, the pitcher said.

"I sat down to eat and Ed Wade came to me and very sternly said, 'You need to come with me to the office,'" Chacon said. "I said 'for what?' I said 'I don't want to go to the office with you and Cooper.' And I said, 'You can tell me whatever you got to tell me right here.' He's like, 'Oh, you want me to tell you right here?' And I said, 'yeah.' I'm not yelling. I'm calm."

Chacon said things went downhill from there.

"He started yelling and cussing," Chacon said of Wade, according to a story on the Chronicle's Web site. "I'm sitting there and I said to him very calmly, 'Ed, you need to stop yelling at me.' Then I stood up and said, 'You better stop yelling at me.' I stood up. He continued and was basically yelling."

Chacon said that after Wade told him he needed to "look in the mirror," it got worse.

"So at that point I lost my cool and I grabbed him by the neck and threw him to the ground. I jumped on top of him," he said. "Words were exchanged."

Chacon said players quickly came and separated the two. He recalled outfielder Reggie Abercrombie pulling him away from Wade.

Wade announced the move, but would not provide any other details. Chacon has been upset since being bumped from the rotation and moved into the bullpen on Sunday.

Remember Hank Blalock?

Hank Blalock said he was told by his doctor after wrist surgery last month that he would be back and playing in seven to ten days.

A month later, the Rangers first baseman still hasn’t been activated off of the disabled list.

Blalock re-injured his right wrist while diving for a ground ball during a rehab stint for the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks on Sunday night. He is still listed as day-to-day.

“For me to put all of my body weight on it like that just irritated what was already swollen,” Blalock said.

He is not seeing a specialist while in Houston and will be reevaluated upon returning to Arlington.

“I just iced it today. I don’t know if they’ll send me back to the guy I did my surgery with, and I don’t know if I’ll be comfortable with that because of what he told me and where I’m at later,” Blalock said. “I’d probably rather try somebody else. He told me seven to ten days and a month later it’s killing me.”

The NBA Draft is on my birthday! Awesome

This mock draft takes into account the unofficial trade of Jermaine O'Neal to the Raptors for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and the No. 17 pick (the teams have agreed in principle to the deal). It also accounts for Charlotte's acquisition of the No. 20 pick from Denver, which received a future first-rounder in return.

As holders of the No. 1 pick, the Bulls spent the last week debating each side of the Derrick Rose vs. Michael Beasley argument. The final decision won't be made until Thursday, though they do plan to call the player they will select and congratulate him in advance of the draft.

1 PG Derrick Rose Memphis Fr. 6-3 196
The Bulls need the leadership that Rose showed in the NCAA tournament -- along with his speed, size and court vision.

2 PF Michael Beasley Kansas State Fr. 6-8 239
The Heat are investigating all trade possibilities, but it will take a major deal to dislodge Beasley.

3 G O.J. Mayo USC Fr. 6-4 200
The Wolves are intrigued by Kevin Love, but Mayo is the better fit and the better value -- and he may yet attract a significant trade offer from a team moving up for him.

4 C Brook Lopez Stanford Soph. 7-0 258
A tough call here, but the guess is that they opt for his size over Russell Westbrook's backcourt potential.

5 F/C Kevin Love UCLA Fr. 6-9 255
They opt for this skilled passer and rebounder -- but may wind up with Lopez or even Mayo depending on what happens at Nos. 3 and 4.

6 SG Eric Gordon Indiana Fr. 6-3 222
A big-time scorer with an NBA body to begin the Mike D'Antoni era.

7 G Russell Westbrook UCLA Soph. 6-3 192
In need of a guard, they could take Jerryd Bayless instead if they prefer instant production.

8 SF Joe Alexander West Virginia Jr. 6-8 220
One of the draft's toughest guys, Alexander will plug a hole at small forward and excel for new coach Scott Skiles.

9 PG D.J. Augustin Texas Soph. 5-11 171
A pure point guard to provide on-court leadership for new coach Larry Brown.

10 SF Danilo Gallinari Armani Jeans Milan (Italy) -- 6-9 221
They could take Stanford big man Robin Lopez, but will settle on this Italian scorer.

The Fish is throwing some interesting morsels against the wall

We’ll frame this for now as “educated gossip’’ rather than as “sourced information,’’ but has been offered multiple hints that the Mavs are in conversations that could give the team a top-10 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. And we can state with certainty that there are talent gurus within the organization who covet Eric Gordon and Joe Alexander as mid-top-10 values.

"We’re going to be as active as we’ve ever been,’’ is about all Mavs GM Donnie Nelson will say. … but maybe that says a lot. is still digging, but for now, we’ll offer up some logical guesses as to that potential “activity’’ involving a Mavs front office with a long-standing wheelin’-and-dealin’ reputation. For instance:

WHO IS THE TARGETED PLAYER? In conversation separate from the top-10 talk, we were told that Dallas thinks very highly of two players who figure to be taken somewhere between five and 10: Indiana’s Eric Gordon and West Virginia’s Joe Alexander.

Gordon (a muscular 6-3, 222-pound off-guard), the Mavs believe, would have emerged from college as a superstar if not for the season-long mess in Bloomington.

Alexander (6-8, 220) is a swingman who plays rugged defense and flies explosively to the rim, but maybe needs work on his jumper.

Both would qualify as assets in filling a need (big off-guard) and both would qualify as assets using our famous BAA Theory (Best Available Athlete, regardless of position.)

The Mavs think highly of Kevin Love’s BB IQ – “He’ll be a good player because he really loves and understands the game,’’ says one source of the UCLA power forward – but they don’t understand how anyone can debate between him and the gifted OJ Mayo. In other words, Dallas predicts Minnesota takes Mayo at No. 3. … and with Mayo gone, would be excited about Gordon and Alexander.

One note about Alexander: Everyone at Mavs HQ is convinced that Alexander won’t last beyond Milwaukee at No. 8. So if they want him, they’ll need to reach higher.

WHO ARE THE POSSIBLE TRADE PARTNERS? Logical suspects include the Knicks (at No. 6), Grizzlies (at No. 5) and the Bucks (at No. 8), mostly because those teams are trying to dump bad contracts.

NY’s Donnie Walsh is almost certainly trying to create cap room and could do so in a hurry by erasing from his books the likes of Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph and Jamal Crawford. Milwaukee has two of them: Dan Gadzuric and Bobby Simmons. The Grizzlies have a similarly fat contract with Brian Cardinal.

Consider a Dallas-Memphis deal: If the Grizzlies are considering accepting David Lee and parts from the Knicks in exchange for the sixth pick and Cardinal. … wouldn’t they consider accepting a Lee-level player plus parts that include expiring for that same deal?

Now, it gets complicated when all the rumors start bumping into one another. For instance, Memphis, with its eye on Michael Beasley, is apparently also trying to leverage its position at No. 5 into the No. 2 slot presently owned by Miami.

But heck, it’s all complicated. In fact, let’s add to the pile: We continue to hear the Mavs are talking about paying $3 mil to buy a late-first-rounder (as Portland has done in purchasing NO’s spot at 27). If Dallas does that, there is one more chip that can be played in a big move up. There is also some belief at Mavs HQ that the talent from about No. 15 to No. 40 is balanced enough that jumping up from 51 to anywhere in that area is adequate to add a credible player.

Also, let’s cover one more team’s woes: Indiana’s Larry Bird is on the record regarding his desire to rid himself of headaches Shawne Williams and Jamaal Tinsley. Bird said he has had "enough" of forward Williams; Indy might just give him away because, Bird says, he’s on "very thin ice’’ with the Pacers. And point guard Tinsley? "He's just right below (Williams)," Bird says.

The Pacers pick is at No. 11. How badly do they want to rid themselves of those headaches?

We’re not necessarily advocating the likes of Cardinal or Tinsley as future Mavs contributors. But is there a player carrying a cap load whose career is salvageable? That’s at least a minor consideration. And more importantly, is there a player in this draft who can immediately inject athleticism, enthusiasm, explosiveness and youth into Dallas’ starting lineup?

WHAT MAVS PLAYERS WOULD BE INVOLVED? To compete with the rumored Knicks offer to Memphis, Dallas would need to offer what we called a “Lee-level’’ player.

We contend that offering Josh Howard here is overpaying. We would also note on J-Ho that we continue to hear how impressed the Mavs organization is with his re-commitment to working out, to getting better, to fixing his mistakes. From Rick Carlisle on down (and on up in the organization), everyone has been impressed with Howard’s devotion to the cause.

We contend that offering Jason Terry here won’t get it done. Jet is a commodity; but how do you explain to your fan base that you traded out of the top-10 for a smallish, aging 2 guard? Once Jet shows up for that first press conference, he’ll win over a lot of fans. … but no, that’s a tough sell.

What Mavs asset is most David Lee-like? That would be Brandon Bass. Lee is an established 8/8 guy, something Bass should mature into after a breakout season that saw him average 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in less than 20 mpg.

Bass vs. Lee: We know that many in the NBA see Lee as a much more polished product, a guy who plays superior defense and is a more productive rebounder. Still, the concept is worth a sales pitch to the right partner.

Bass as the prize of a package that includes Jerry Stackhouse and Eddie Jones in exchange for someone else’s high pick and cap problems figures to at least put the Mavs in top-10 conversations. … and certainly in conversations to move up from 51.
It’s all a long shot, yes. But with Donnie Nelson on record as saying, “We’re going to be as active as we’ve ever been. … our history has proven that we’re deal-makers,’’ there is plenty of fodder for ‘’educated gossip.’’

Jermaine O’Neal gets dealt …to Toronto…

On the eve of the NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers finally agreed to a trade.

Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher that the Pacers and the Raptors have agreed to a deal that, pending review of medical information, would send Jermaine O'Neal to Toronto in exchange for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and the No. 17 pick in Thursday's NBA draft.

There will have to be another player or players added to the deal to make the salaries match, according to the rules of the collective bargaining agreement.

The Canadian Press also reported the deal on Wednesday, citing an unidentified person close to the negotiations. Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo told The Canadian Press he was in the midst of "four or five" conversations with teams involving Ford and a combination of Toronto's No. 17 pick and/or other Raptors players.

Ford's contract makes him a "base-year compensation" player, meaning the trade cannot be completed until July 9.

What A Semifinal! …Germany beats Turkey 3-2…

Philip Lahm struck a 90th-minute winner as Germany claimed the first final berth at Euro 2008 as battling Turkey's fairytale run finally came to an end at St Jakob-Park in Basel.

A much-weakened Turkey side had dominated the first half but were only level at half-time after Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger had cancelled out Ugur Boral's opener.

The second half was a more even contest and looked to be going to extra-time after Germany striker Miroslav Klose and Semih Senturk of Turkey had each scored in the final 11 minutes.

But there was still time for Lahm to smash home the winner as three-times European champions - twice as West Germany in 1972 and 1980 - reached the final, where they will meet either Spain or Russia.

Turkey, playing in their first Euro semi-final, had captured the imaginations of the neutral after staging remarkable comeback victories in their previous three matches, but with a team ravaged by injuries and suspensions a first ever final appearance was always a tough ask.

And the only way you saw all the goals is Al –Jazeera!

The end of Germany's 3-2 win over Turkey in the European Championship semifinal was a thriller that few outside the stadium saw.

A violent thunderstorm swept across Austria to knock out telecommunications for most of the second half of the gripping match. Television pictures reappeared briefly, but then vanished altogether for most of the last 15 minutes, when three goals were scored to give Germany a place in Sunday's final. Internet coverage of the game also was interrupted.

Spectators at the match in the Swiss city of Basel remained dry and unperturbed throughout. Only on Swiss TV and Al-Jazeera was the entire game available.

The problems arose in neighboring Austria, where lightning, thunder and torrential rain caused a power outage at the International Broadcast Center in Vienna, from which the telecast is beamed all over the world. ESPN cut back to its studio analysts during the outages and showed video of spectators watching at a FanFest in Basel.

ESPN announced that its networks will re-air the game in its entirety: Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN Classic and at 1:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 and then on Saturday at noon ET on ESPN.

Thursday’s 2nd Semi-final: Spain vs Russia. Spain advances on Penalties?

More NHL Free Agency Primer

Wade Redden has a backup phone ready to go July 1 just in case his first one is busy.
The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent wants to make sure all lines of communication are open so he can hear all the updates from his agent Don Meehan when the market opens next Tuesday.

"I'm going to be back at my dad's place in Lloydminster where I've got a few phones lined up," Redden said with a laugh Tuesday. "I will be ready."

Redden is among the big names that will be available when the flood gates open next week in the NHL's money season.

"It's quickly approaching," Redden said. "It's going to be interesting, just to go through it all for the first time. I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm eager to find out what's going to come and what we're going to do."

Redden, 31, had a bit of an off season by his lofty standards when he put up 38 points (6-32) and a plus-11 rating in 80 games with the Ottawa Senators last season while earning US$6.5 million. But his solid track record suggests he should be in high demand with a number of teams looking for a top defenceman.

He admits he's been thinking where he might land.

"I guess you look at rosters and see what teams will be looking maybe," said Redden. "Obviously some are probably more interested than others. But as Donnie said to me, `The one thing to expect is to expect anything.' So we'll see what happens."
Among other top defencemen also slated for unrestricted free agency are Brian Campbell, Michal Rozsival, John-Michael Liles, Brad Stuart, Adam Foote, Mark Streit, Rob Blake, Brooks Orpik, Jason Smith, Dmitri Kalinin and Ron Hainsey.

Campbell, a talented puck-mover and swift skater, will likely fetch the most on the open market if he doesn't re-sign with the San Jose Sharks before July 1. There are family reasons that may dictate Campbell moving back East but nothing is written in stone at this point.

"It's a very difficult decision because he's been treated so well in San Jose," his agent Larry Kelly said Tuesday.

"We stay in contact and we continue to communicate," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said Tuesday.

In Hainsey's case, he almost surely will try his chances on the market.
"He's only 27 years old and still growing into his game," said his agent Matt Keator. "We've told Columbus we're going to go to July 1 although we're still going to talk to them."

Up front, Marian Hossa headlines the forwards. The star winger informed the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend that he would explore the market despite being offered a multi-year deal believed to be worth around $7 million a season. He may get as much as $8 million a year come July 1.

Other top forwards slated for unrestricted free agency include Ryan Malone, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Jaromir Jagr, Teemu Selanne, Peter Forsberg, Brian Rolston, Pavol Demitra, Markus Naslund, Sean Avery, Radim Vrbata, Brendan Morrison, Kristian Huselius, Cory Stillman, Michael Peca and a long list of others.

The only free agent that matters these days in Toronto and Montreal is Sundin. The 37-year-old star centre, at home in Sweden, continues to contemplate the overtures from Canadiens GM Bob Gainey, who was given exclusive negotiating rights to Sundin from the Maple Leafs last Thursday.

A report in the New York Post on Tuesday suggested the Rangers are also talking to him but Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher said that is not true.

The Great Kevin Burnett Blog

Above, Thierry Henry in Yellow, Baron Davis in Blue.

Charity Soccer Game of the Ages in NYC ...

Of course Baron Davis had played soccer before — he was in seventh grade at the time. And of course he had a game plan for Wednesday night’s pickup soccer match.

“We want to play just like we do in basketball,” he said before the charity game organized by the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash and the Red Bulls’ Claudio Reyna. “I know that we can win if we outscore the other team.”

Davis, playing in a Los Angeles Dodgers hat and his glasses, did not help much with that. He was responsible for two penalty kicks for hand-ball penalties. But with his casual cheating and playground antics, he did help entertain the throngs of people who were packed into, around and over a tiny field in Manhattan’s Chinatown while catching a glimpse of the highest-paid pickup soccer players in the world.

People climbed trees, fences and streetlights as the shadows lengthened through the balmy evening. Here and there, they broke into multilingual chants that were born in stadiums an ocean away. They seemed to hardly believe they were watching a playground full of sports stars just fooling around.

“We had it completely wrong in terms of the excitement,” Reyna said. “We knew people were going to come out, but we just couldn’t believe it when we showed.”

Nash and Reyna collaborated to bring together a collection of their friends from the worlds of professional soccer and basketball to raise money for their respective foundations. The rosters included a World Cup winner (the Barcelona striker Thierry Henry), three players who have represented the United States at the international level (Reyna, Jozy Altidore and Gregg Berhalter), a handful of former and current players from the English Premier League (Steve McManaman, Robbie Fowler and Salomon Kalou) as well as a smattering of N.B.A. players (Davis, Jason Kidd, Leandro Barbosa and Raja Bell).

Some of the basketball players fared remarkably well. Kidd, who played soccer in high school, and Barbosa, a Brazilian who has soccer in his DNA, showed keen instincts and delicate touches. As for Nash, who played the game while growing up in Canada, the match was just one more Manhattan kick-about. He is regularly spotted in recreational league games across the city through the off-season.

But other N.B.A. players could not help reverting to the sport they knew. At one point, Davis spent several minutes patrolling the area around the goal as if it was the low post.

“I expected exactly what I saw,” Altidore said of the N.B.A. players. “Some of them can really play, like Leandro and J-Kidd. But it was all good fun. Baron was hilarious.”

With Henry orchestrating play and thrilling the fans with a healthy dose of showboating, Nash’s side won the 60-minute game, 9-4. Henry’s theatrics, like juggling the ball for 20 yards at a time or balancing it on his head or even blasting volleys from long range, drew the most applause. But he might have rather been playing for France in the European Championship had it not been eliminated.

Perhaps a little of that frustration lingered when he stepped up to take a penalty kick. Until then, the professionals had reined in their shots. But with a lash of his right foot, he fired the ball into the top corner.

He turned to Nash and grinned. “Sorry,” he mouthed, “I had to make it.”

Steve Nash, TH14, Baron Davis, and Robbie Fowler all in Chinatown at the same time? Am I dreaming? And why wasn't I there?

Ilya, Ovechkin, and Alexei Morozov on Russian TV or something

Germany’s Winner versus Turkey

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reminder from the Past

Blogging this morning takes me to a rewind of a Rangers opinion I have had for years:

Joaquin Benoit is a spare.

Yes, he has a few moments of brilliance that covers up his sparedom, but trust me, the man who has been with the Rangers since 1996 has always been a tease. But far too often, in those rare occasions where the Rangers really need him to deliver, he proves that he is not to be counted on. Sorry, but I have watched him for far too long to be surprised when he takes a great game and makes it frustrating.

He is a fine mop up pitcher when you are down 6-2, but not in a 2-1 game.

But Eric Hurley was solid

Behind the first quality start of Eric Hurley's young career, the Rangers were within a run of Houston going to the eighth. Benoit, who had pitched just once since June 7, was given the ball. The game fell apart.

He walked Miguel Tejada on five pitches. Four of them were fastballs and the other a hard slider. He had plenty of velocity on the fastballs, but he wasn't close to the strike zone.

Once again unable to command the fastball, a problem that has dogged him all season, he tried to fool Lance Berkman with a split-finger pitch. Rather than dive toward the dirt, it gently glided to the bottom of the strike zone. It was a perfect place for Berkman to drop the barrel on the ball and send it into the Houston bullpen for a 4-1 lead.

He got behind Carlos Lee 3-0 and eventually left a full-count fastball up in the zone, which Lee clanged off the left-field scoreboard for a double. After another walk to Ty Wigginton, the Rangers pulled Benoit.

"It just looks like he's pulling off of every fastball and trying to be a little too fine," pitching coach Mark Connor said. "His stuff is good enough that even if it's not 95 mph, he can get guys out at 92 or 93. He just needs to stay on line to the plate and trust it. His location has not been good. That's it in a nutshell."

Since the start of June, what was once an annoying little problem has gotten worse and worse. In 4 1/3 innings this month, he's allowed eight walks and three homers.
The Rangers have asked Benoit time and again if he's healthy. They gave him the extra time (and a cortisone shot) earlier this month. He has not responded.

It's left Benoit all alone and looking for answers, none of which came to him Tuesday. When asked if he wanted to discuss the game, he shook his head and went back to moving food around on his plate.

Hurley’s Pitching Line is impressive. Low Strikeouts (1), but everything else is where you hope it goes:

Eric Hurley (L 0-1) 6.0 6h - 2r - 2er - 3bb - 1k - 0hr - 4.24era

I did get this email on Hurley, though:

Not only does Eric Hurley have a severe case of dumb face, but with a red suit on and blonde hair, he would pass for Mr. Incredible.

P1 Jeff

More from Evan’s Newsletter

Q: Who are the Rangers' top five prospects after the draft? Is Justin Smoak in there now or not? And what about Max Ramirez and what position do you think he will play in the majors?

Mo, Dallas

GRANT: In January, I ranked the top five Rangers prospects as: 1. Elvis Andrus, 2. Eric Hurley, 3. Chris Davis, 4. Michael Main, 5. Blake Beavan.

Davis has to rise because of an incredible first half. So does Neftali Feliz (No. 12 on my January list). And Max Ramirez (No. 11), too. Main would have to fall simply because he hasn't yet pitched this year because of a stress fracture in his rib cage. But some other guys would have to drop also, not because of anything they've done, but because Davis, Feliz and Ramirez have forced their way to the top.

When I did my prospect rankings it was based on a combination of success and projection. To update that list in the middle of the year, you'd have to weigh actual success more heavily.

With that in mind, here's how my top five would look today: 1. Davis, 2. Feliz, 3. Ramirez, 4. Andrus, 5. Hurley.

Notice that Hurley has dropped from second to fifth while still advancing to the majors and having two pretty good starts to his career. That doesn't mean he's become a lesser prospect. It simply means the Rangers' farm system is having a very good year.

Q: Who is the starting catcher in '09: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, Max Ramirez or Gerald Laird?

Jason Parks, New York

GRANT: When asked this question a couple of weeks ago, I think I went with Saltalamacchia. Think my reasoning was that Laird would be very tradeable at the deadline and, at the time, Laird was struggling at the plate.

Not so sure that's my answer now. Laird played really, really well leading up to his injury last Friday. He seemed to separate himself from Saltalamacchia in the catching race. Now, Saltalamacchia has at least a month to show the Rangers what he can do behind the plate and with the pitching staff as the everyday catcher. I think his play over the next month will be a significant factor in determining which direction the club goes at catcher. And Max Ramirez's exposure to the big leagues over the next month may help the club determine if he is ready to hit in the majors and whether he's got the tools to be a big league catcher.

What is clear is that somebody is going to have to go. The easy answer is Laird, because he's the closest to free agency. But I don't think there are any easy answers to this situation. I just know the Rangers are going to be very popular with teams desperate for front-line catching.

Only thing I feel fairly comfortable in saying is that I don't think Taylor Teagarden is a front-line, everyday catcher. Oh, he's got the skills, all right. But I think his shoulder is too fragile to hold up for 120 games per season.

And, I may be burying the lead here, as perhaps the lead is that Josh Hamilton might be hurt

When the Rangers traded for Josh Hamilton, they thought it was more likely he'd have a knee or shoulder issue than a relapse into substance abuse.

The knee issue cropped up Tuesday.

Two innings after diving for a ball in center field, Hamilton left the game against Houston with left knee inflammation. It's the same knee on which he underwent arthroscopic surgery in 2006. The Rangers labeled his status as "day-to-day." Asked if the disabled list was a possibility, manager Ron Washington said: "No, no, no. ... no."

Before the game, manager Ron Washington said he was not concerned about fatigue setting in for Hamilton. Hamilton was 2-for-15 with six strikeouts during the Washington series over the weekend. He grounded into a double play and struck out in his two at-bats Tuesday. Hamilton's batting average has fallen from an AL-best .328 on June 2 to .310 after Tuesday.

Hamilton said he felt some soreness after last Thursday's game against Atlanta. He dove to make a catch in that game, then sprung up to throw a runner out at third from right field. Hamilton said the knee bothered him a little while jogging, but not while sprinting over the weekend.

"And it didn't bother me [Tuesday] until I got to the top step of the dugout for my first at-bat of the game," Hamilton said. "I couldn't run out the double play and when I tried to go for the ball in center field, I couldn't ever get going."

Hamilton has started 75 of the Rangers' 78 games this season, equaling the number of starts he had for Cincinnati last year as a rookie. He also appeared in 15 games last year as a defensive replacement or pinch hitter.

Not having Hamilton further weakens the middle of the Rangers' lineup. Cleanup hitter Milton Bradley did not start for the sixth consecutive game Tuesday because of a sore quadriceps.

Top 10 NHL unrestricted Free Agents? …according to some dude…

10. Washington center Sergei Federov—The Russian center is at the tail end of his career but could provide a contender with great playmaking ability and playoff experience. Federov had 13 goals and 41 assists this season with both Columbus and Washington. There are many teams that are interested in him, but I think he stays with Washington.

9. Montreal right-winger Michael Ryder—Ryder is coming off the worst offensive year of his career with Montreal, so his asking price should be lower than otherwise expected. Montreal's right winger could be a perfect addition to a team with an offense in need of a playmaking forward. I see him signing with St. Louis or Edmonton, possibly.

8. Vancouver left-winger Markus Naslund—Naslund can bring a team playoff experience along with 20 goals a year. He is an excellent winger who has great vision and makes precise passes. Naslund has been one of my favorite NHL players for years. Naslund's asking price, however, may be too high for some teams. I see him going to Boston or maybe even his first choice, Detroit.

7. Minnesota center/winger Pavol Demitra—Demitra is a fast skater who can give a team 20 goals and 40 assists a season. He has a good amount of playoff experience with Minnesota and St. Louis. I see Demitra signing with Vancouver in an attempt to replace Naslund, if the Canucks can't re-sign him.

6. Pittsburgh left-winger Ryan Malone—Malone had an incredible year with Pittsburgh and was an important part of the Penguins' playoff run. He posted 27 goals and 24 assists for the Penguins this year. If he can't re-sign with Pittsburgh, I see him going to Columbus, as Pittsburgh and Columbus have already negotiated his rights.

5. New York Rangers right-winger Brendan Shanahan—Shanahan is the guy to have if your team is in need of playoff experience. It seems Shanahan has been to the playoffs every year of his career with Detroit and the Rangers. Many teams will be interested, but I see the Rangers re-signing him.

4. Los Angeles defenseman Rob Blake—Blake is one of the greatest active defenseman in the NHL. He can provide a young contender with terrific experience at the blue line. I think Blake would be the perfect addition for Washington, but that it's more likely he re-signs with the Kings.

3. San Jose defenseman Brian Campbell—Without a doubt the best puck-moving defenseman that is an unrestricted free agent. He can help any power-play unit at the blue line position. The Panthers hinted at acquiring him, but since they shipped out Olli Jokinen primarily for defensive help, it is highly unlikely the Panthers would try for him. I expect Campbell to re-sign with the Sharks.

2. Toronto center Mats Sundin—He would be the best free agent available, if it was not for Montreal receiving his exclusive negotiating rights from the Leafs. You can't go wrong with the 13-year NHL veteran. In my opinion I can't see Sundin in any other jersey besides Toronto. We will have to wait and see on this one.

1. Pittsburgh right-winger Marian Hossa—The best pure talent available in the free
agent market, in my opinion. It seems as if talks between Pittsburgh and Hossa have completely broken down. At this point it is unclear where Hossa may end up, but I don't see it being in Pittsburgh.

July 1 will be a very exciting time for NHL fans. Free agency provides teams with impact players that are ready to play and take their new teams to the Cup.

Ryder is interesting….and the price could be right…

Today! Euro Cup Semifinal #1 – Germany v. Turkey …take Germany 2-0…

In a world that frequently disappoints, there is something refreshing about a sports tournament with four deserving semifinalists of seething ambition. I am referring to the soccer championship, Euro 2008, very much a fixture in the United States, via good old ESPN (and its marvelous addition, the Scottish ex-player with the burr and the enthusiasm, Andy Gray).

Even the shootouts have tended to be compelling rather than miserably anticlimactic. What fan, hyperventilating in den or pub, will forget the great televised close-up of Gianluigi Buffon of Italy tapping Iker Casillas of Spain on the cheek last Sunday before these two worthy opponents went out to take their educated guesses between the fickle posts?

All our American tournaments should be so good, should produce a quartet of teams that willed themselves forward, past favorites, past tradition, past jinxes, past form, beyond exhaustion, beyond injuries? But that has been the drama leading to the semifinals from Mittel Europa — Germany versus Turkey in Basel, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Russia versus Spain in Vienna on Thursday.

Surprise and delight are the legacy of this quadrennial tournament that takes place on the counterpoint of the World Cup. The champions are often squads that did not quite exist in the same shape in the previous World Cup and may never be a factor at the next World Cup — the rollicking Danes in 1992, the gallant Greeks in 2004 and so on.

These semifinals begin with Germany versus Turkey, surely one of the more intimate and complicated relationships in Europe. All of us at the World Cup in 2006 will attest to the kind smiles and hard work of people of Turkish ancestry, scratching to send money back to their families. There are calls for Germans and Turks to watch the match in amity in Germany while the two squads settle matters on the field.

It is hard to ever think of Germany as an outsider, but in 2006, it used its fervent national support to achieve third place, and the team is still not considered back at its old standards. Yet the Germans are among the great constants of world sport. They never quit.

The tooth-gnashing face of German soccer in the quarterfinal was located just below the whitish-blond thatch of the tall Bastian Schweinsteiger, who had been suspended for the previous match and came back with a fury that was almost frightening. He scored one goal and assisted on two while dispatching flashy Portugal.

Turkey outlasted the Czech Republic and Croatia, but is now so depleted by suspensions and injuries that it is said to be preparing its third goalkeeper for potential field duty. Germany should win. Don’t tell that to the Turks.

Matt McConaughey Update

Kige’s Mock NBA Draft

Listen People, This is Not Real (I keep getting this sent to me, and it appears people are buying it). In other news, the Easter Bunny is not real, either.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shaq is in the News?

Wow, leave sports alone for a few hours and you have Shaq doing this and Imus doing that. Meanwhile, Josh Howard, the NHL Draft, and Euro 2008 all make the cut as well.
Tuesday, it is fantastic:

Shaq kobe
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Four years, two teams and a championship later, Shaquille O'Neal is still ripping Kobe Bryant.

Video on shows the Phoenix Suns center doing a freestyle rap in a nightclub on Sunday night in which he puts down his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate.
"You know how I be," Shaq rapped. "Last week Kobe couldn't do without me."

Bryant led the Lakers to the NBA Finals this season, but they were beaten 4-2 by the Boston Celtics.

O'Neal and Bryant last played together during the 2003-04 season, when the duo led the Lakers to the Finals. They lost to the Pistons that season, and soon after O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat, breaking up a duo that won three titles.

O'Neal went on to win a championship with the Heat in 2006. During his rap, O'Neal, who was traded to the Suns last year, said that he is "the difference between first and last place."

He also implored the crowd to sing along to his oft-repeated chorus: "Kobe [expletive], tell me how my [expletive] tastes."

Smiling and laughing often, O'Neal also sang that Bryant broke up his marriage.
"I'm a horse. Kobe ratted me out," he rapped. "That's why I'm getting divorced. He said Shaq gave a [woman] a mil. I don't do that 'cause my name's Shaquille. I love 'em, I don't leave 'em. I got a vasectomy, now I can't breed 'em."

In 2004, Bryant, while embroiled in a rape investigation, alleged that O'Neal paid up to $1 million in hush money to various women. O'Neal told ESPN then: "This whole situation is ridiculous."

After repeating the chorus a number of times on Sunday night, O'Neal ended his rap by singing, " Kobe, you can't do without me" over and over.

Reached by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith on Monday, O'Neal issued the following statement: "I was freestyling. That's all. It was all done in fun. Nothing serious whatsoever. That is what MC's do. They freestyle when called upon. I'm totally cool with Kobe. No issue at all. And by the way, don't forget, six albums, two platinum, two gold. Anybody who knows me knows I'm a funny freestyler. Check the NBA DVD when I was rapping about Vlade Divac during my first championship run. Please tell everybody don't make something out of nothing."

In other non-story news, Imus says something stupid, denies it, and now Pac Man is mad

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones took exception to racial comments made about him by radio personality Don Imus on Monday.

During a morning segment on his WABC radio show in New York, Imus was listening to a report from anchor Warner Wolf about Jones dropping his nickname, "Pacman."

Wolf mentioned that Jones was arrested six times since he was drafted in 2005.

Imus then asked, "What color is he?"

"He's African-American," Wolf said.

"Well, there you go," Imus said. "Now we know."

Jones was unaware of the comments until a reporter played him a tape Monday night.

"I'm truly upset about the comments," Jones said. "Obviously Mr. Imus has problems with African-Americans. I'm upset, and I hope the station he works for handles it accordingly. I will pray for him."

Imus said through a spokesperson that he was misunderstood.

"I meant that he was being picked on because he's black," Imus said in the statement.

Imus was fired last year by MSNBC and CBS Radio for racial comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team.

David Moore tries to get you fired up for the draft

Maybe you're not into the NBA draft.

Maybe you're the sort of fan who has no idea whether Derrick Rose or Kansas State's Michael Beasley should be taken with the first pick. Talking about athletes you have never seen play and whose names you can't pronounce – Serge Ibaka, Alexis Ajinca or Ante Tomic – doesn't grab you.

But what if a few other names are introduced to the conversation, such as Denver's Carmelo Anthony or Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal? What about Sacramento's Ron Artest, Toronto's T.J. Ford, Memphis' Mike Miller, Phoenix's Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa or Detroit's Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince? Is your interest piqued now?

The draft does more than refresh the league's talent pool. It's the excuse every team uses to float trial balloons and spark trade discussions. It allows general managers to assess the market value for their players and lays the groundwork for trades that may not take place for months.

Think of the biggest trades that have taken place in the last year. Kevin Garnett to Boston. Jason Kidd to Dallas. Pau Gasol to LA. Shaquille O'Neal and Shawn Marion trading places. All of these players, with the exception of O'Neal, were the focus of intense speculation in the days leading up to last year's draft.

And consider the draft itself. Seattle's Kevin Durant deservedly won the Rookie of the Year award at the end of this season. But did he have a better season than Ray Allen in Boston or Jason Richardson in Charlotte? Those were two of several veteran players traded on draft night.

There will be more this year. The names of Diaw, Ford and Miller are coming up too much among general managers in the last few days for something not to happen. Artest is something of a wild card. Big shock there.

Jermaine O'Neal will be gone the moment the Pacers make a team comfortable with his injury history and salary. Detroit may not do anything by Thursday's draft, but the information it gathers over the next few days will facilitate a deal before the season starts. Anthony will stay put.

Sports Illustrated’s Mavericks Capsule

Dallas Mavericks

Key free agents: Devean George (U).

Needs: Low-post presence who plays defense and rebounds; point guard who can run the team when Jason Kidd sits.

Outlook: As if getting bounced in the first round for the second straight year wasn't a bad enough return on the Kidd trade, the Mavs also gave away part of their future in shipping Devin Harris to New Jersey, as well as two first-round draft picks. Mark Cuban will have to be at his boldest if he hopes to revive the flagging fortunes of a team whose title window is a lot more narrow than it was only two years ago.

Josh Talks to JJT

People's first reaction is that I just got high all day every day," Howard said Monday afternoon.

"I got on a radio station back home and talked about it. I've got nothing to hide. I ain't scared. There's been no backlash."

That's not really the point.

Howard, who said he'll address his comments, also needs to explain to each of the camp's 137 kids why they should refrain from using marijuana, any other illegal drug, and avoid underage drinking.

And then says more to the Star Telegram

I didn’t bring [the marijuana topic] up [on the radio]. That wasn’t even my decision. I know I’ve got to take the blame for it, but, at the end of the day, I wasn’t the one who called in, I didn’t set up the interview. At the end of the day, everything was put on me. I don’t know. If I knew, I could tell you. I called David Stern the next day and talked to him and All this is doing is making me a better person, which it ... apologized. has.

People are going to have their opinions. At the end of the day, they aren’t at practice with us, they don’t go on the road with us, they don’t have meetings with us, they don’t know. Let them talk.

Chad Ford sees top 5 chaos

It's looking clearer and clearer that the Bulls will be taking Derrick Rose with the No. 1 pick, so much of the attention in the draft is turning to the Miami Heat, who are slated to select second.

Michael Beasley is the obvious choice at No. 2, but the Heat's words and actions behind the scenes continue to point to a possible trade if Rose goes No. 1.

Sources said Heat president Pat Riley made a number of phone calls on Monday trying to gauge what was available to the Heat at No. 2 after finding out that Shawn Marion will not opt out of his contract.

One source told Insider that the Heat are revisiting trade talks with the Grizzlies. Insider reported several weeks ago that there was talk that Memphis would give up Mike Miller, Kyle Lowry and the No. 5 pick as part of a package for the No. 2 pick.

The same source said the Heat are asking the Grizzlies to sweeten the deal by substituting Mike Conley for Lowry. The deal would be Conley and the No. 5 pick to Miami for the No. 2 pick and Daequan Cook.

That trade would land Riley the point guard he covets and still get him a high lottery pick in the draft. The Heat would likely choose between Kevin Love or Brook Lopez at No. 5.

While the price is high for the Grizzlies, they have great depth at the point guard position and could afford to lose Conley. Memphis' biggest need is at the power forward position, and Beasley appears to be a once-in-a-decade talent at the 4 -- a perfect fit for a young and upcoming Memphis team.

The Heat are also talking to the Timberwolves, Sonics and Clippers. The problem is the Wolves don't have much to offer. The Sonics can offer Chris Wilcox and the No. 4 for a deal that brings them the No. 2 and Mark Blount. That could save the Heat cap space. But it may not be enough.

The Clippers have a player that Riley covets deeply in Elton Brand. A deal that swaps Brand and the No. 7 pick for Marion and the No. 2 pick could be another alternative for Riley if he isn't comfortable with Beasley.

On to hockey, Andrew’s looks at the Stars draft …by the way, Andrew’s no longer requires subscriptions….

Overall, pretty average draft for the Stars. They had only five picks ranging from 59 to 209. That's not a lot to work with as far as just making picks. Moving up into the first round on Friday or higher in the second round on Saturday would have probably required a roster player, and I am not sure I buy giving up a guy now for someone who is a few years away.

So the Stars took a bunch of guys who are probably several years away. A couple of them are going into college. The defenseman Philip Larsen, who is from Denmark and playing in Sweden, will likely be able to develop over in Sweden. Time will tell on how the European picks will be handled without a transfer agreement.

I like the Tyler Beskorowany pick. He's a project, but the Stars obviously see some potential. As I said in an earlier post they have had pretty good luck with goalies. Dan Ellis and Mike Smith are recent successes. Marty Turco is from a draft way back when.

Time will tell on all these guys. The argument is that Fabian Brunnstrom is this year's first round pick. I don't really buy that argument. They are bringing him in for now. The draft, at least for a team like the Stars, is about building for the future. I don't know if this draft group will pay off in the future. I don't know if Brunnstrom will pay off in the now. Time will tell on all of it.

Stars Payroll

James Mirlte looks at great The Coyotes big deal

Florida traded C Olli Jokinen to Phoenix for D Keith Ballard, D Nick Boynton and Ottawa's second-round pick in the 2008 draft (49th overall, previously acquired).

Finally, finally, poor Olli can stop hearing the rumours. Jokinen's played for more bad teams than almost any player in NHL history, but the Coyotes are in a bit of a turnaround and he could be a big part of that revival.

He's scored 173 goals over the past five NHL seasons, missing just one game, and is signed at a reasonable $5.25-million cap hit through 2010. Only six players have managed more goals since 2002-03: Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla, Dany Heatley, Marian Hossa, Vincent Lecavalier and Jaromir Jagr.

Phoenix desperately needed a big body down the middle, someone to play with Doan and some of the young talent like Peter Mueller and Kyle Turris. They're obviously quite thin on defence without Ballard and Boynton, but I imagine that's a shortcoming about to be shored up via free agency, and with a full season with Ilya Bryzgalov in goal, they'll be better than this past season.

The Rangers run Eric Hurley out there tonight in Houston, But are they bidding on a 16 year old pitcher?

The Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds have joined the Oakland Athletics in a bidding feud for the services of Dominican pitching prospect Michael Inoa, the crown jewel of the pool of Latin American players who will be available to be signed July 2, a source has told

"Oakland has led the pack of teams interested in Inoa, but both Cincinnati and Texas have surged in the past few days, and it is now a three-horse race of big favorites to grab this kid," the source said.

"Some teams have offered him a major league contract in order to make the offer even more attractive, but Inoa's team is not interested in that. The battle may be fought until the last minutes," the source added.

July 2 marks the beginning of the eligibility period for players who turn 17 years old after Sept. 6, though they won't be able to play until next year. Players 17 or older may sign anytime.

Inoa, 16, at 6 feet 7 and 210 pounds, is a right-hander with a repertoire consisting of a 93-mph fastball, a changeup and a curveball.

The young prospect has been evaluated by every major league organization. General manager Billy Beane and a group of Oakland executives even traveled to Dominican Republic to evaluate Inoa.

According to data obtained by, at least seven teams were ready to give Inoa a bonus of more than $3 million, but many of them, including the New York Yankees, pulled out of the race as the price for the young ace went up.

Poor Commercial for LA Kings?

Purse Fight in Formula 1 from many years ago