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


Tony said...

Fernando Torres makes me hate my mom. How can a kid be that good at anything, being that young and I so disappointingly spare. It has to be bad genes. Give me him over Rooney any day.

Flaco said...

Bertuzzi, Bob?


You want Avery as well?

I understand that we need a mule to stand in front of the net, but that guy spends most of his time in the box, and gets paid handsomely to do so. No thanks for me.