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.
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 DallasBasketball.com 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.
DB.com 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