Thursday, July 24, 2008

CJ Wilson - Closer?

Like I have said, it is not CJ Wilson’s mouth that concerns me. It is his ability to get guys out when his team is in a “Win or Lose based on the next batter” situation. Yesterday was no exception. Yes, you wish Eddie Guardado didn’t put you in that jam, but that is when Wilson must retire Carlos Quentin or the Rangers lose.

1 pitch. Gone.

This is my 11th season of following the Rangers on a day by day basis, and I must tell you I have not felt the Rangers had a Level A closer during the entire span. John Wetteland and CoCo Cordero both insisted walking the leadoff batter in the 9th and making their job tougher than it seemed it should be.

But, they were established closers with reputations and stats that indicated they were effective regardless of my opinions. But, the stats are not helping Wilson’s case. He can claim 23 for 26 in save opportunities, but otherwise, the numbers are very concerning.

2008 is about determining roles for the future. It remains to be seen whether Wilson is the closer of this franchise in 2010.

Rangers lose a gutting battle on get-away day

If you listen to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, it was those pesky baseball gods who doomed the Texas Rangers and closer C.J. Wilson in a 10-8 loss Wednesday.

Wilson entered with two outs and two on in the eighth after the usually reliable Eddie Guardado had given up two runs and couldn't find his command. Wilson's first pitch – he called it a "meat ball" – was blasted by Carlos Quentin over the left-field wall to give the White Sox the lead for good.

Guillen wasn't yelling at Wilson from the dugout this time. He was ejected a few innings earlier for arguing balls and strikes. Maybe he was cheering in front of the television in his office.
He was asked if winning the game against Wilson meant more to him.

"Not to me," Guillen said. "But I think for the team, yes. They might not say it, but they should.
"... Always out there is the baseball gods. Be careful what you do and what you say in this game because he's going to get you back."

Guillen yelled at Wilson during the last series in Arlington after Wilson showed emotion in getting out of a jam in the ninth to win a game. Guillen felt it was unprofessional and showed disrespect to his players.

Wilson said Wednesday's loss wasn't any tougher because it was to the White Sox.

But it was tough in general. Kevin Millwood, as has become a pattern, left the game early. His right groin tightened up in the second inning and he was taken out after giving up three runs in 12/3 innings.

"It got bad enough to where I couldn't push off, and I wasn't going to do us any good that way," Millwood said. "It's annoying. It's frustrating. I want to get it taken care of and be able to pitch without worrying about it."

It was the 11th time this season a Rangers starter hasn't completed the third inning. The Rangers are 4-7 in those games. For Millwood, it was the fifth time an injury has forced him to leave a start – twice because of a bruised shin and three times with groin issues.

The injury led to overtime innings for the most-used bullpen in baseball. Josh Rupe, Warner Madrigal and Jamey Wright came through, but Guardado couldn't hold the three-run lead. He put the blame on himself, not any baseball gods.

"I didn't get the job done, plain and simple," Guardado said. "It's frustrating when that happens. I could not find the zone, and when I did, I was behind and they hit the ball."

The Rangers, for their part, hit the ball, too. An offense that was struggling to hit consistently, scored six two-out runs and was aggressive on the bases with four steals. It wasn't enough, though, to overcome the White Sox heroics. Or the baseball gods.

Oklahoma prepares for a big year

Bob Stoops doesn't remember insignificant numbers, such as wins and losses. Wins and losses are but a process.

He counts rings. Big, gaudy, diamond encrusted ones.

Stoops remembers championships -- more specifically, conference championships. His teams have played in six of the last nine Big 12 championship games. They've won five of them.

What Stoops can be forgiven about forgetting is national championships. His teams have played in three BCS title games. They won one. They're 2-4 in BCS Bowls and seem to have a bad knack of finishing poorly.

If Stoops has a negative side to his legacy, that's it. Just as Mack Brown was long known as not being able to win the big win at Texas, that tag is -- though much softer in application -- being directed toward Stoops.

"Each year is a new team," Stoops said. "I've never seen one year tie to the next. We have won the national championship before, and it didn't have anything to with the next year and we have lost in it, and it didn't have anything to do with the next year. Each year is a different team, with different players. In the end you have to go at it again.

"I will say we have been pretty consistent in going after the Big 12 Championship, and we look to do that again. Hopefully, we can finish the year a little bit better." Getting to the BCS title game is tough enough for any team. Winning it seemingly has been a crapshoot. The Sooners' only victory was an upset over Florida State in Stoops' second season.

Asked in early June about what he can do to get the Sooners back on track after their 48-28 loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, Stoops couldn't hide his irritation. "Don't forget that three weeks before we beat the No. 1 team in the country for the second time, and in a game that mattered," he said, referring to the 38-18 Big 12 Championship game rout of Missouri, which had followed a 41-31 regular-season win in Norman by five games. "So obviously we're doing something right.

"It's what you choose to focus on. It gets back to that it's all that people want to talk about is the last event. I get it."

Well, the news coming out of Norman isn't really news. It's the same old, same old. The Sooners are again favored to win the Big 12 South, take the overall conference title and then move on to the BCS, where their credentials would then likely put them in the national championship game.
Been there. Haven't always done that.

This year, you see a Sooners team that claims 27 returning starters.
Considering it's still 11 a side, that's pretty amazing. But the Sooners count anyone who started even one game as a starter -- that's why they lose 12 instead of the more accurate count of nine total on offense and defense.

Wacky math aside, it's clear the Sooners are again the class of the South Division, though Texas Tech and Oklahoma State may well put the best challengers they've ever fielded in the league's 12 year history on the field -- assuming their respective defenses hold up -- and Texas will seemingly always be Texas, ready to give the Sooners a run for their rings.

DeMarco Murray – Bad Man – if healthy

Revo on Cowboys camp ….

January can’t get here fast enough for the Dallas Cowboys.

It all starts this afternoon in Oxnard, Calif., when Jerry Jones gives his annual camp kickoff state-of-the-Cowboys pep talk with trusty sidekick Wade Phillips waving his pompoms alongside.

And don’t think the Hard Knocks cameras won’t be recording every mushy moment of it.
There’s six weeks of Camp Cupcake II — or Camp Marshmallow, as Phillips renamed it over the weekend — spliced around four exhibition games. That’ll be followed by 17 weeks of further preliminaries to finally get to the only thing that matters around here: the playoffs.

Win a playoff game and Phillips probably keeps his job. Get booted out again in the first round and he’d best have his résumé up to date with stamps on the envelopes.
And, sorry, Wade, byes just don’t count. A bye won’t sell a single ticket to Jerry World in 2009.

There are many questions facing the Cowboys as camp begins, some more critical than others, but none looms over this franchise with as much potentially grim import as the fact that neither the head coach nor the quarterback has ever won a playoff game.
That 0-fer streak must end this season before it becomes such a psychological burden that it suffocates everything Jones has tried so hard to build.

Like the Mavericks after their ignominious bouncing by eighth seed Golden State in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, the regular season this year is nothing but a warm-up act for the main event.

There are plenty of reasons to believe Phillips’ and Tony Romo’s personal losing streaks, as well as the team’s 11-year drought, will end this January, provided the Cowboys find positive answers to most of the other questions that linger.

Can the Cowboys’ thin and aging receiving corps stay healthy and get the job done?
Will Marion Barber be as effective as the No. 1 running back as he was as the No. 2, and can rookie Felix Jones be the change-of-pace backup that the Cowboys believe he will?

Will second-round draft pick Mike Jenkins and Adam Jones — assuming commissioner Roger Goodell lets him play at some point — give the Cowboys the depth they’ll almost surely need at cornerback?

Can they finally find a place to hide Roy Williams?

Most importantly, who — besides Jerry, of course — will emerge as this summer’s star
of HBO’s salty Hard Knocks?

And does anybody else chuckle at the irony of a show called Hard Knocks featuring a training camp dubbed Camp Cupcake II?

So far, the hardest knock we’ve seen at a Phillips-run camp is the head coach patting himself on the back.

Ah, but let’s save the zingers for later. It’s late July and, at the moment, hope springs eternal.

Maybe this is the year Wade actually wins a playoff game. He can do it (I think). He has the smarts. He knows the game. What he’s never been able to prove is that he knows what buttons his players need pushed or when they need pushing.

25 years ago today: The Pine Tar Incident

Twenty-five years later, it remains one of baseball’s most riveting images: George Brett, eyes bulging with rage, bolting out of the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium, intent on enacting a most primal impulse. He wanted to kill the ump.

The object of Brett’s fury, a quarter-century ago on Thursday, was back in the Bronx this week. It was Tim McClelland, then working his first series at Yankee Stadium and now a respected crew chief. McClelland was the umpire who tried to nullify a crucial home run because Brett had too much pine tar on his bat.

McClelland is a commanding figure, at 6 feet 6 inches, and he said he was not afraid of a rampaging future Hall of Famer.

“I knew he really wasn’t going to hit me or run over me,” McClelland said Wednesday before working third base in the Yankees’ game with Minnesota. “If he did, I’d probably own the Kansas City Royals right now.”

The Royals held a conference call with Brett on Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of his disputed homer off the Yankees’ Goose Gossage. Brett will be in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend for Gossage’s induction to the Hall of Fame.

“I’ve always been proud of all the home runs I gave up,” said Gossage, who joined Brett’s call. “But that was probably my proudest one, because we had so much fun with it.”

Brett came up against Gossage in the top of the ninth with two out, one on and the Yankees ahead by a run. He homered deep into the right-field seats, giving the Royals an apparent 5-4 lead. That was when Manager Billy Martin put into motion a plan hatched by third baseman Graig Nettles.

Years before, the Yankees’ Thurman Munson had been called out for having pine tar higher than 18 inches from the knob of his bat. Nettles remembered that when he noticed that Brett was using a similar bat.

“When the rule was originally made, it was actually for the protection of the hitter, because if the pine tar would get on the ball, then the pitcher could grip the ball better and snap off curves and stuff like that,” McClelland said. “So, really, it’s kind of funny how the rule was made for the protection of the hitter, but the penalty was on the hitter.”

Brett said he had never heard of the rule, and because he never wore batting gloves, he liked to put pine tar on his hands to get a grip on the bat handle. His pine tar extended to 23 inches from the knob.

“I didn’t like the way the bat felt with batting gloves,” Brett said. “It was July 24 in New York, and it was hot and muggy, a day game. Pine tar just gave you a better grip.”

When Martin argued, McClelland agreed that Brett had violated the rule. He called him out, presumably ending the game but instead provoking chaos. Brett snapped, and another umpire, Joe Brinkman, held him back from McClelland.

Meanwhile, a Royals pitcher known for subterfuge was intent on stealing the evidence.
“Gaylord Perry, being the man of foreign substance that he is, got the bat and twisted it out of my hands,” McClelland said. “He threw it to Rocky Colavito, and I went to grab it from Rocky, and Rocky held it up over his head like he was going to hit me with it. You know, take it, it’s not that big a deal.”

Eventually, security guards nabbed the bat and sent it to the American League president, Lee MacPhail, who overturned McClelland’s call based on the spirit of the rule, which was repealed after the season. The Royals completed their victory in August when the game was finished at Yankee Stadium, but the major players were gone.
Brett, who had been ejected, was watching on television from a restaurant in New Jersey. McClelland was working in Seattle. If he had let the home run stand, McClelland said, it might have been Martin who charged him.

“We’ve got to rule on the letter of the law, and the letter said that we should call him out,” McClelland said. “But if I’d have gone to Billy Martin and said, ‘Hey Billy, you’re right by the rules, but come on’ — who knows what Billy would have done?”

In a season that could certainly be labeled as “non descript”, FC Dallas faces another blow: The imminent exit of Juan Toja

FC Dallas midfielder Juan Toja's departure to Europe seems imminent.

General manager Michael Hitchcock acknowledged there have been talks with Romanian powerhouse Steaua Bucharest but said it's not a done deal.

"We continue negotiating what we think is a fair market value for Toja," Hitchcock said.

However, Romanian media reported that Toja, 24, is expected to travel to Bucharest directly
from Toronto after the All-Star game tonight.

"The problem for the transfer is that Steaua doesn't want to pay the full amount for Toja immediately," Nestor Sivori, Toja's agent, told Bucharest daily Prosport.

Steaua's president said he wants to pay Toja in installments and FC Dallas has balked at the idea, the paper reported.

Toja is currently with the MLS All-Star team that will play tonight against England's West Ham United in Toronto.

Sivori is negotiating the trade with the league, which shares the player's rights with Colombian club Santa Fe of Bogota, where Toja debuted in 2004.

FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman met with Toja on Sunday, and the player expressed his desire to play for Steaua, which is preparing to play a qualification round in the UEFA Champions League in August.

FC Dallas plays the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday.

"I expect him here to play against LA," Hyndman said. "No one has told me any different. After that, there may be some changes.

"They have to give FC Dallas an offer that we think is the value of Juan's ability. We don't want to give Juan away."

Hyndman said he tried to persuade Toja to stay with a salary increase.

"I want to help Juan, but I also want to help this team," Hyndman said. "We know Juan wants to go, but it has to be the right offer."

Scooter Feldman email:

Bob and Dan,

I heard your segment about Scooter Feldman the other day and just thought I would chime in with some thoughts I think you are missing. I know you didn’t rip Scooter and dismiss him as a nothing but I think there are some positives to take away from Scooter considering all the facts.

1. Scooter just changed his arm angle this year from basically side arm to 3-quarters. Using this delivery he has tremendous movement on the ball and gets some really nice sinking action.

2. He has respectable change up and curveball plus every once in a while he can drop sidearm

3. Call him Scooter and the light will come on

4. He’s only 25 years young. Would you rather at least see what he’s got or see the Rangers sign spares like Jason Jennings?
I did see that the CWS hit some balls to the track but one of those was off Eddie Guardado. When Feldman has problems it is usually the 2nd or 3rd time through the lineup where big league hitters make adjustments. I at least want to use the rest of the season to see whether or not Scooter can make adjustments as well.

Please understand I’m not trying to endorse Scooter Feldman as the next Walter Johnson or anything like that. I’m also saying that potentially finding next year’s #4 starter is really what the Rangers should be looking to accomplish but I think he’s got more than half the crap we are running out there every 5th day.
Finally, I would like to say that Bob Sturm is not the only one in the metroplex with Wisconsin sports greatness. I played 2 D-3 baseball regionals in Appleton and Osh Kosh. If that doesn’t make you spare then I beg you two gentlemen to redefine the word.

The Bluth family Chicken

Liverpool mix tape - all these sweet plays, and they still finish 4th.

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