Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Nolan Ryan Offers Congratulations to #54

OK! With all due respect to Brian Sikorski (who Josh Lewin cited last night to I guess tell us to simmer down on rushing to buy our Home #54 Matt Harrison Jerseys), Matt Harrison doesn’t look like a 1-start wonder. I have no idea what to make of him, and he certainly doesn’t satisfy my everlasting thirst for strikeouts, but he looks like a pitcher.

That was nice, and then the work of the bullpen was good (Eddie) and shaky – yet effective (CJ).

Sprinkle in a Homer from Crush Davis and 2 RBI from Hobbs, and you have a nice 3-2 win.

And now you hand the ball to Michael Ballard. Kind of Surprised Sean Bass hasn’t got the call yet.

Washington gives Harrison the ball through the 7th

Matt Harrison's solid major league debut could have ended after six innings in Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Angels.

The 22-year-old left-handed starter had the lead and gave Rangers manager Ron Washington more than he'd hoped for. But instead of patting him on the back and turning things over to his bullpen in the seventh inning, Washington sent Harrison back out to the mound with the dangerous Torii Hunter leading off the inning.

"Usually, the opposition bats let you know if somebody is weakening," Washington said. "I didn't think he was weakening."

Harrison made sure to reward Washington's faith in him. He allowed a one-out single to Howie Kendrick but buckled down and got Garret Anderson to fly out to center and Robb Quinlan to ground out. It was the end of a stellar start for Harrison, who was called up unexpectedly to replace Eric Hurley, another 22-year-old, after he went on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

Closer C.J. Wilson made sure Harrison got the win, but only after loading the bases in the ninth. Wilson got Juan Rivera to ground out to end the game. Chris Davis hit a home run and Josh Hamilton drove in two runs (he leads the majors with 87 RBIs) off starter Joe Saunders, a 12-game winner.

It was enough for Harrison to match Saunders, his All-Star counterpart who pitched a complete game. Harrison allowed two runs on five hits with a walk and strikeout in seven innings. He's the first Rangers starter to pitch seven innings in his major league debut since Brian Sikorski did it Aug. 16, 2000 in Arlington against the Yankees. It's the longest outing by a Rangers starter in 14 games.

The outing could earn Harrison an encore performance at some point this weekend.

Harrison, who arrived in Arlington at 2 a.m. Tuesday morning and said he kept waking up every hour thinking about his first start, didn't look like a guy intimidated by the bright lights of the big league park or the Angels hitters. Even Mother Nature couldn't faze Harrison, whose debut was delayed by 56 minutes because of rain.

Milton Bradley, the blogger

At about 10:45 a.m. on Sunday, I was in the clubhouse in Baltimore in the middle of a domino game with Eddie Guardado, Gary Pettis, and Eric Hurley. Ron Washington was standing over my shoulder talking trash like he always does and had everybody laughing hysterically when he asked me to come see him in his office for a minute.

I dropped everything and headed to his office wondering: “What have I done now?”
He gave me the news and a congratulatory hug, with a smile, but told me to keep the news quiet until it was officially announced. I went back to the domino game like nothing happened but Eddie being the wise vet already knew what’s up. He just smiled and gave me dap on making my first All-Star team.

Besides the birth of my son, I don’t think I’ve had a prouder moment in my life. The embrace with Wash was a special one. It felt like a father-son moment to me. In 30 years, I’ve never really had one of those so I can only imagine that’s what it must feel like.

As a 16-year-old sophomore at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California, I could only dream there would be days like that one. I knew I wanted to be a major leaguer. Following in the footsteps of the great Tony Gwynn (Poly’s most esteemed baseball alumnus) I feel like I’ve finally arrived. Taking the field in the Big Apple for the final year of historic Yankee Stadium, where so many greats have stood before me, I am humbled. This is why Jackie Robinson endured unspeakable hate and prejudice. So I — some 60 odd years later — have the opportunity to play this great game of baseball. So I can stand up and be recognized. So I can be proud to be who I am. So I can be proud to be an American.

All-Star fun facts

** Edinson Volquez was 3-11 for the Texas Rangers in his career entering this season and was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Josh Hamilton, who had played just 90 games above Class A and was known more for his problems with drugs than his baseball talent. This year they are both All-Stars.

** Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs has more All-Star appearances than Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves.

** Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez will each be playing in their 12th All-Star game, tied for most among active players. Despite becoming top players at nearly the same time, and playing in the same league for their entire careers, they have only played in eight together, with Manny not being selected in 1996 or 1997 and A-Rod not being selected in 1999.

** Jason Varitek, the Red Sox’ captain, has been one of the more criticized picks for the American League team, and rightfully so. His .651 O.P.S. is not only bad for a hitter in general, but is the second worst among full-time catchers, a group not known for hitting. (Kenji Johjima of the Seattle Mariners has an almost comical .563.)

Cool Standings says the Rangers are projected to a 80-82 final record, with a 6% chance of catching Anaheim, a 1.8% chance of winning the Wildcard, and a 8% chance overall of being in the playoffs

Texas 79.9 82.1 6.3 1.8 8.1

Hindman breaks down Michael Ballard’s bag ….

Skin reminds us of the butchering of the Kidd Trade …by the way, Skin’s blog has been added to the “approved blog” list on the right….

We believe in defending the paint which is why we want Diop back. Both he and Damp are frustrating at times, but the combo allows you to at least do a decent job of sealing off your paint defensively.

When the Mavs made the trade and Diop was part of the deal we thought they had no chance to advance really far in the playoffs because teams would be able to score on them inside way too easily.

It ended up being worse than we thought, but there were so many other problems that this one particular issue didn't matter in the grand scheme as much as it could have if the Mavs were actually good in other areas - they weren't.

We knew the day of the J Kidd deal that the Mavs were planning to bring Diop back. That was made very clear to us by people that would know such things.

I still to this day do not understand why he was included in the first place. All it's done is force them into the situation they're in now where they can't address other major areas of concern.

I'm not going to get into all the reasons the deal shouldn't have been made, but I do want to focus on the Diop aspect because I think it highlights what an awful corner the Mavs were backed into. They got clowned on this thing.

We were told that no Diop meant a deal breaker for the Nets. If I'm the Mavs, I would have said:

"cool, good luck unloading your 35 year-old point guard you've been trying to get rid of for a season-and-a-half now when the only other team remotely interested who could have given you anything decent just took themselves out of the market by acquiring Gasol. We'll be by the phone when you come to your senses."

So the Nets were going to keep a player in Kidd who hated being there so much it caused bad vibes within the team (confirmed by both Jefferson and Thorn after the deal) because they couldn't get back a low salaried back-up center (one they didn't even end up playing) as part of the deal? Really?

I don't doubt the Nets told the Mavs that. I just doubt the Nets would have actually blown off the deal which included expiring contracts, first-round picks and a great young point guard prospect to keep the league's highest paid malcontent not named Marbury in the fold. It's an even more absurd notion in hindsight then it seemed at the time.

And we were very vocal at the time about it being absurd.

Eddid Jones and/or an adjustment in KVH's deal could have easily made up the difference. But the Mavs got suckered. Things were going so bad behind closed doors for this team that they didn't realize that they were the ones holding all the cards on this deal.

There were no other options for Kidd. The Cavs? Please - what could they have offered to match the deal the Mavs gave 'em? Frickin' Boobie Gibson? C'mon man.
The Nets didn't want to hold on to Kidd any longer - it was crippling them. There is no way Diop was a deal breaker. NO WAY!

But what about Kidd's expiring contract? That was a valuable chip for the Nets, right?

Yeah, right.

You trade big unwanted expiring contracts to teams that are rebuilding. Teams that are rebuilding want to unload their garbage for expiring contracts so that they may move forward. So a team trying to get rid of their garbage was going to trade for Kidd and then the Nets would get what in return - oh yeah, garbage.

And so they were going to rebuild with the garbage? Sure makes sense to me. Yes, by all means, hold out for Diop. You have the amazing expiring contract.

Good God I'm feeling all those frustrations all over again. This corner actually seems smaller than the one we were backed into last year at the trade deadline.

How the Hell did that happen?????????????????

Jerry Jones speaks with hyperbole ….

Consider this recent gem: "This is the best coaching staff I have ever been associated with."

Yes, better than the Jimmy Johnson-led staffs that won two Super Bowls in 1990s and nurtured four future head coaches.

And better than the Bill Parcells-led staffs that helped foster the Cowboys’ ongoing return to the league’s elite while yielding two current NFL head coaches: Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins.

Coach Wade Phillips’ staff that includes $3 million offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and a defensive staff that features a former defensive coordinator (defensive line coach Todd Grantham) and former head coach (secondary coach Dave Campo) as position coaches is the best in Jones’ eyes.

"Yes, the best staff overall, and I don’t want to get into the head coach," Jones said. "I am talking about the staffs in general. We have put together a staff with accomplished guys. If I had to list three or four of the most exciting things for this coming year, our coaching staff would be there at the top, and, obviously, Wade leads the way there."

What newcomer do you think will have the biggest impact on the team?

[Linebacker] Zach Thomas because of his knowledge and how he plays the game. He will make a significant impact. Zach has a chance a chance to be our best acquisition. I liked Akin [Ayodele]. But he was in position to do a lot of things but didn’t always tackle the ball. Thomas gets the ball carrier.

Who will be the team’s most improved player?

[Nose tackle] Tank Johnson. He is quick and strong. Now I want to see that carry through. But it would allow us to do some good things if Tank is everything he has shown in the off-season.

Where else do you see the biggest improvement on your team?

At cornerback. We were really limited last year at cornerback. Nate Jones and Jacques Reeves got a lot playing time. Just give me healthy corners in Terence Newman and Anthony Henry, and we should make a big jump, and that is not even including the improved talent level with Adam Jones.

Did watching the New York Giants win the Super Bowl last year give you hope or make
you angry?

It’s motivation. It refreshes and reminds us that the playoffs are real and everything people say about the playoffs is real. You get in them and anything can happen. You can do it.

Does it excite you that a lot of prognosticators have the Cowboys in the Super Bowl this season?

I am just excited about the season. I just think we got a better team. Last year, I couldn’t have expected to have the season we had. I am not trying to diminish not having playoff success. Everybody knows we should have done better. But we got a better team. I don’t know if I am expecting a better record and to get home-field advantage, but we got a better team that can do better than we did last year in the playoffs.

Liverpool lacks money committed to improving the club …hmmm, who owns them again?

Meanwhile, the offers for Barry are increased incrementally; to judge by Aston Villa's response, they go up by about 25p a time and according to Liverpool, by around £1 million. Four bids have been rejected and while the England midfielder appears to have reached the point of no return at Villa Park, it is unlikely he will become a Liverpool player until the valuation of £18 million is met.

Besides the interminable delay, it is all the more galling for Liverpool as they had hoped to acquire Barry comparatively cheaply, presuming a small cash outlay plus some combination of Peter Crouch, Scott Carson and Steve Finnan would have sufficed. Instead, the whole of the proceeds of Xabi Alonso's probable move to Juventus still won't finance Barry's arrival; those who watched the Spaniard's superlative display against Greece in Euro 2008 may wonder if, accomplished passer and steadying influence as Barry is, Liverpool will actually acquire a superior player.

But when Martin O'Neill referred to 'a mish-mash' of players offered in part-exchange for Barry, he inadvertently revealed the major factor undermining Liverpool's transfer dealings: a shortage of actual cash. Tom Hicks and George Gillett may insist their relationship has been at least partially repaired, and the global credit crunch may be responsible, but Liverpool's finances have taken a turn for the worse.

Last summer's £50 million outlay will not be repeated unless the vast majority of it is recouped in player sales. Hence the sight of Liverpool, their historic grandeur notwithstanding, resembling second-hand car salesmen, forever negotiating a part-exchange. Hence the excessive values placed on their own players, such as the suggestion that Crouch, with one year left on his contract, should command a fee of £15 million, in the hope of boosting Benitez's transfer fund; now Portsmouth's more realistic bid of £10 million looks enough to result in his departure. Hence suggestions of a deal for James Milner, even though the Newcastle winger was far from the Spaniard's top target: Liverpool merely believed they could use makeweights to affect a swap.

And consequently the hope that friendship with Benitez's players - Steven Gerrard in Barry's case - can convince them to come to Anfield, or that being a lifelong Liverpool fan, as Robbie Keane is, will prove decisive. Once again, the prospect of a part-exchange, again with Crouch, seems to have prompted Liverpool's interest. In the process, they may recruit their best striker since Michael Owen, with the exception of a certain Spaniard.

Yet that also risks disrupting a successful formula, removing Gerrard from his role as Fernando Torres' support act and prompter and granting him a return to his unfavoured terrain of the right flank. In turn, it also reduces the logic of signing Barry, whose understanding with the Liverpool captain has been apparent in a central role for England.

But then Liverpool's transfer policy is not being dictated by normal criteria. The requirement to raise money can distort priorities and deflect from targets. Despite a requirement for greater invention on the flanks, talk of wingers such as David Bentley has dissipated, bar the odd mention of Stuart Downing or James Milner.

Battle of California’s take on Morrison to the Ducks ….

Overall, I’m pretty excited; Morrison represents a much-coveted top-six forward. I can’t call it a “great” signing until I know what the salary is, but I think Morrison fits fabulously roster-wise. Getzlaf-Morrison-Pahlsson-Marchant/Carter is a pretty solid set of centers (especially if Getzy decides to win some faceoffs). This team still looks to be short a Selanne up front, but generally I like where this Burkie swan song team is headed.

Of course, it should be recognized that so far this offseason, Ducks fans have only seen the pleasant side of summer business. Until now, it’s been all roses. Good players have been brought in or re-signed (Niedermayer, Perry, Morrison, Hiller), and less-good players have been let go (Weight, Bertuzzi). It’s about time to brace for the harder choices—getting rid of good players. If it means a final year of Pronger and Niedermayer, though, I’m fully aboard.

Nike won in Wimbledon

Imagine buying a five-hour Nike commercial on July 4th weekend. It would cost a lot of money. Well, that’s essentially what the sports shoe and apparel giant was able to do by having the fortune of their two top men’s tennis players play each other in an epic battle in Sunday’s Wimbledon Final.

During the longest final in Wimbledon history, Roger Federer wore seven gold swooshes (one on his shirt, one on his bandana, one on his wristband, one on each of his socks and each of his shoes). And the victorious Rafael Nadal wore eleven black swooshes (one on his shirt, one on his bandana, one on each of his wristbands, one on his shorts, one on each of his socks and two swooshes each of his shoes).

Between the two players, Nike’s familiar logo was featured for 35 minutes and 23 seconds, equaling $10,615,000 worth of equivalent advertising time, according to Eric Wright of sponsorship evaluation firm Joyce Julius & Associates.

Federer’s swooshes accounted for 13 minutes and 3 seconds worth of time and Nadal’s swooshes were seen for 22 minutes and 20 seconds, Wright said. That’s not to mention the ridiculous exposure that Nike got on the cover of all the major papers and on broadcasts other than the NBC broadcast of the match.

\While the match drew a 4.6 rating, the best rating of a Wimbledon final since 2000, it wasn’t the greatest day ever for Nike swooshes. Wright said that Trevor Immelman alone was worth $14.7 million to Nike during the final round of the Masters this year and that, because of higher ratings, the 28 minutes the Nike swoosh received ruing the BCS National Championship game was worth $53 million, Wright said.

Okie Noodling 2 – see it!

Bill Plaschke uses his power to convince Elton Brand to stay

And then, Elton signed in Philadelphia…


Brian said...

Bill Plaschke is an idiot. Check out Firejoemorgan's recent annihilation of his writing "style".

Myra said...

How great was that Milton Bradley post!?! Thanks for sharing!

The Engineer said...

Tonight didn't warrant a late night post!?!?