Friday, July 11, 2008

Gone to Estes Park

OK, here we go again. Vacation #2 for the summer is here, and this will be my last blog effort until a week from Monday. This time, two very capable readers/listeners will be guest blogging (in theory). So prepare for that next week.

Rangers must settle for a split …yuck. I am pretty sure I am not bunting Kinsler there, but if he executes it, I suppose I am not complaining…

In the end, the Rangers didn't gain any ground on the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West race.

But they may have gained a future advantage.

The division-leading Angels salvaged a split of the teams' four-game series Thursday with an 11-10 win in 11 innings. The win moved the Angels 7 ½ games ahead of the Rangers, which is exactly how the West standings stood when the series began Monday.

Los Angeles scored the winning run when pinch hitter Maicer Izturis blooped a two-out single to center in the 11th. Garret Anderson scored.

But the score hardly told the story.

The Angels led by six runs halfway through Thursday's game only to see the Rangers tie it. Los Angeles led by seven runs two innings into the first game of the series and saw the Rangers close to within a run in the bottom of that game. On Wednesday, Josh Hamilton made sure the Angels couldn't hold a two-run ninth inning lead with one of the best closers in the game on the mound.

"I don't think its anything that the Angels know and the rest of the league doesn't," shortstop Michael Young said. "I think the whole league knows we are a very good team, and we are going to fight and scratch and claw until the game is over."

With the All-Star break basically upon the teams, it is unlikely that the Rangers can overcome the 71/2 game deficit, but they did serve notice that they are a team that simply won't stop coming.

Thursday, it was a trio of rookies who made sure the Angels knew exactly where the Rangers are headed.

First baseman Chris Davis, who began the season at Double-A Frisco, gave legs to the game-tying rally in the seventh with a run-scoring double for his third hit of the night. Brandon Boggs followed with an RBI single. And then catcher Max Ramirez, Davis' teammate at Frisco on opening day, drove a Scot Shields fastball over the left-field scoreboard to tie the game.

In the ninth, Boggs and Ramirez teamed up for the defensive play of the game and just maybe the season. After C.J. Wilson walked two batters, Juan Rivera singled to left. Torii Hunter tried to score from second on the single, but Boggs charged the ball and threw a strike to home plate. Ramirez had plenty of time to catch the ball and brace for the punishing hit he was about to take from Hunter. He held on to the ball.

Brandon Jennings is likely to change the way basketball does business

Brandon Jennings' decision to bypass a one-year college commitment and instead sign a professional contract in Europe has trend-setting potential and could help end the NBA's so-called "one-and-done" requirement for elite prep players, the leader of the NBA players' union said Wednesday.

"I continue to be against an age limit, I'm against limiting the options these kids have," union executive director Billy Hunter said. "It's going to be a very big issue the next time we negotiate. . . . I'm strident in my position to eliminate the age limit."

The NBA's current collective bargaining agreement with the union expires after the 2010-11 season.

Hunter said the 2005 approval of a rule that players need to be 19 and a year removed from high school graduation to be drafted came about because it was "the only sticking point to close the deal," and was inserted at the "insistence" of NBA Commissioner David Stern.

In two seasons of "one-and-done" college classes, players such as Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love have been NBA draft lottery picks after one year of NCAA ball.

"It's a questionable and suspect rule . . . you now have the NBA and NCAA partnering . . . and those [opinions] about going to college being more important than being able to earn an income are neanderthal," Hunter said. "The [NBA] owners get the benefit of the kids' college celebrity without having to pay them a year."

The collective-bargaining argument over "one and done" is poised to be intense. While Hunter decries the league for delaying lottery-pick money of as much as $4.2 million to a top pick, Stern has said this year he favors extending the age limit to 20.

"The idea behind it was to give our teams a better opportunity to judge talent," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said. "Our draft picks -- in only two rounds -- are tremendous assets. If this [rule] is better for the NCAA, that's fine. But for us to make million-dollar decisions on kids who've only played against high school kids, we wanted to see a little more."

Jennings, 18, a Southern Californian who played at Compton Dominguez High before moving to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for his last two prep seasons, was a McDonald's All-American ranked by many as the nation's top high school point guard.

Jennings had signed to attend Arizona, and was awaiting an SAT score later this week that would determine if he would be eligible to play in college when he announced Tuesday he would play in a European professional league. An Arizona spokesman said Wednesday that university compliance officers have not yet received Jennings' test score.

In a prepared written statement, NCAA President Myles Brand said, "The most important point to be made about the NBA rule, which the NCAA had no role in making, is not where high school basketball athletes decide to play, but that they can't ignore their high school academic work and expect to play college ball."

Longtime former shoe company representative Sonny Vaccaro, who is serving as an advisor to Jennings and his mother, Alice Knox, in the transition to Europe, said Jennings was expected to retain a Europe-based agent shortly and probably would select a team by next month.

Vaccaro described Jennings' unprecedented European choice as "landmark."

"Brandon Jennings is doing something unpopular for the betterment of the masses, and I believe Congress will pay attention to this and see the foolishness of the 'one-and-done' rule," Vaccaro said. "This will start a chain of events that will lead to the rule's demise. This year and next, others will follow Brandon Jennings' decision."

Jennings will be a free agent in Europe, and he's open to playing in leagues based in Russia, Israel, Spain or Italy, Vaccaro said. The European season begins in September, and Jennings' mother will live with him overseas, Vaccaro said. At this point, Vaccaro said, no team has an inside track to landing Jennings.

Here is Brandon Jennings

Don’t forget Generation Kill this weekend on HBO

Don’t Cross Batman or Spiderman

Medellin – Coming Soon

This is Sean Avery

And that is a wrap…Make sure you read the Ian Kinsler column below if you like sporty sports…

See you in 10 days- and then we are off to SoCal…

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