Tuesday, July 08, 2008

We Need A Pitcher...

On a night that Neftali Feliz hit 100 mph in Frisco, Luis Mendoza reminded us that he is far more comparable to what the Rangers “young pitching” has been for years. Average stuff, low strikeouts, and the hope that everything is being spotted perfectly tonight, because if not…We are going to see some long home runs.

I am enjoying my 11th Rangers season and most every prospect who has taken the hill for the Rangers have been very Luis Mendoza.

But, then there is this Neftali Feliz. This kid who is not old enough to enjoy an adult beverage until May 2009, apparently can miss bats, and like Blake Beaven, Michael Main, and possibly Eric Hurley, perhaps represent a new generation of Rangers pitchers that will far more resemble Ervin Santana than John Koronka, John Rheinecker, or sorry, Luis Mendoza. Actually, that new generation started with Danks and Volquez, but don’t worry about that.

Anyway, this is the matchup I warned about yesterday. A near-ace pitches for the Angels (that they can throw out all 5 nights of their rotation) versus a not-so-much-an-ace that the Rangers throw out. It sure makes baseball tougher.

By the way, Matt Harrison makes his MLB debut tonight. He is another low-K guy, but also a low-ERA guy who gets the ground balls.

Rangers game over by 7:30

Monday's 9-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels was another reminder that even the Rangers' high-powered offense needs a spark from its starter.

Luis Mendoza didn't provide it. The 24-year-old never had his command and put the Rangers behind by eight runs, exiting after just 1 1/3 innings. It was the team's shortest non-injury-related start of the season.

A stellar seven-inning relief effort from Dustin Nippert – the longest in the majors this season – and a valiant comeback attempt by the Rangers bats weren't enough to keep the club from falling 8 ½ games behind the AL West-leading Angels.

It wasn't a somber clubhouse after the loss. Several players were resolute, arguing that the team showed a never-give-up attitude that could provide some momentum.

"I think everybody in the dugout thought we were going to pull it off," said David Murphy, who hit a three-run homer in the fifth. "They got out to a good enough start that it held up."

It was that sputtering start that hurt the Rangers the most.

Three homers in the second inning, including consecutive shots from Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter that totaled 878 feet (two of the longer homers ever hit in the park), ended Mendoza's night. He gave up eight runs on nine hits.

Nippert made sure the rough outing didn't ruin the Rangers' bullpen for the six games leading up to the All-Star break. He gave up one run on four hits over seven innings, and in doing so, tied Joaquin Benoit (Sept. 3, 2002) for the longest relief outing in team history.

Nippert, pitching for the first time since his seven-inning no-hitter for Oklahoma last month, dropped his major league ERA from 16.62 to 9.77.

"With the guys we got in this locker room, nothing is impossible because they can put up some runs," he said. "I wanted to keep it as close as I could and give us a chance."

The Rangers scored five runs in the fifth inning on homers by Murphy and Chris Davis to crawl back in it. But they didn't take advantage of a few chances late.

The game certainly had a high energy and emotion to it. Angels manager Mike Scioscia was ejected in the fifth inning.

In the eighth, Rangers catcher Max Ramirez was run over at home plate, but he held on to the ball and threw to third to turn a highlight-reel double play. Milton Bradley stood at the top of the dugout and yelled, fired up about how Jeff Mathis ran into Ramirez.

Mathis said he hoped the Rangers didn't take it the wrong way, and Hunter added that he respects Ramirez because he "took it like a champ."

On to Favre news. I should tell you that I am all over the map on this one. I think the bottom line is this: Favre wants to play. And Green Bay should have a contender if they get decent play from the QB. Case Closed. What about Aaron Rodgers? I am not very worried about what he thinks. He has almost no evidence that he is closer to Peyton Manning than Ryan Leaf, and the fact that he is a young, promising prospect is interesting, but not enough to tell a guy who almost won the MVP at the age of 38 that there is no room at the Inn.

Is the whole story awkward and overly dramatic? Sure. But, once you get past that, I would say the decision is Brett’s. If he wants to play, the Packers (Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy) should get over themselves and their desire to build a winner without Favre. He was 13-3 last year, and although his final throw was not his best, he had about 500 other throws last season that were pretty solid.

I seem to recall another GM who couldn’t wait to tell Jordan and Pippen to take a hike because he wanted to prove he was the smartest GM in the world and build another winner for the Bulls around Tim Floyd, Ron Artest, Marcus Fizer, and Jay Williams. Whatever happened to Jerry “Crumbs” Krause anyway?

Anyway, there are two NFL experts who know what they are talking about, and both wrote about the topic yesterday:

Peter King ..,

I believe as Favre looks back on his decision to retire, he thinks part of the reason he made it was he felt it would have been easier to retire and return if he changed his mind than to blindly say he was going to keep playing -- only to find out in mid-August his heart was not in it. When he made the decision a month after the Super Bowl, he announced it with certainty. But the further he's gotten from the season, the more he realizes he still wants to play. The 2007 season was one of his three or four best as a pro. This wouldn't be a broken-down Johnny Unitas slinking back for an 18th year in San Diego. This would be Favre, in his 18th season, coming off a year when he set personal records for completion percentage (.665) and yards-per-pass-attempt (7.8).

McCarthy has also told Favre he worries about him tarnishing his legacy. The one thing I don't believe Favre understands yet is the tumult which will greet his return to the Packers, or to another NFL team. There are Packer fans who have moved on, and wish he would do the same. He doesn't realize fully -- yet -- that Brett Favre returning to the Packers would bug a slew of Packerphiles who wish he'd make a decision and stick with it and ride off into the sunset with his glory intact. Because he insulates himself from much of the football world in Mississippi, I'm sure he doesn't realize the impact that playing for another team would have on his bleed-Packer-green fandom. Playing for any old NFL team would be crime enough to many of his faithful, but playing for a rival like Minnesota or Chicago would be like Johnny Damon spurning the Red Sox for the Yankees. Times five.

All of this scares the living tar out of McCarthy and Thompson. They've happily proceeded through the off-season preparing the 24-year-old successor to Favre, Aaron Rodgers, to take his place, and they don't want their grand plan interrupted now. It's quite understandable. Rodgers has shown promise, and the Packers have him signed through the end of the 2009 season. Can you imagine what Rodgers would think if McCarthy came to him this week and said, "I know you've been working hard getting ready to start for us, and we've promised you the starting job, but we're going to bring Brett back for one year. Or two. Or three.'' If I were Rodgers, and I'd already waited through three years without starting a game, and Favre returned, I know what I'd tell McCarthy. That's fine, Mike. But I will never sign another contract with the Packers. After 2009, whatever happens, I'm gone.

Pat Kirwan

Brett Favre coming out of retirement? What's the problem?

Bill Parcells has retired a number of times. Michael Jordan changed his mind and Favre is allowed to change his mind, too. Some fans call my radio show at Sirius to strongly suggest that they have had enough of Brett Favre and he should just stay retired. But those fans are not in the majority.

When the Favre rumors came out last week, I asked a few NFL insiders what they thought the probability was for such a scenario. The strongest statement was that there might be an 80 percent chance he would play this season. At first I felt that might have been a bit strong, but it made me start digging deeper into the possibility that No. 4 would play again.

I have talked with a few people close enough to Favre that I now feel comfortable that an 80 percent chance may be a conservative estimate. He's throwing footballs, working out and it's more than an itch to play.

Favre is a 38-year-old QB who has an 18-4 record in his last 22 games and is coming off a season in which he led the Packers offense to a No. 2 ranking in the NFL and threw for 4,155 yards and 28 touchdowns. He can still play -- he knows it and so do a number of NFL franchises just waiting to see what the Packers will do if he shows up in Green Bay for the start of training camp.

If Favre notifies the league that he is ready to play again -- and I now believe he will do just that -- the Packers will face the reality that he is headed back to Titletown. Green Bay can reassemble his locker, cut a player on the roster to make room for him, use a chunk of salary cap space for his reentry and make another run at the Super Bowl. His salary of close to $12 million immediately counts against the cap and if he were to get hurt during the summer they would be responsible for the whole nut. If he's on the opening day roster, his salary is guaranteed.

What if he shows up in late August? Do the Packers want him back? Can they afford not to let him come back? Is he tradable? Lots of questions surround this story and camp is only weeks away.

Cowboys ponder Chris Simms

If in the process of cleaning out your attic, closet or basement you find a backup quarterback in need of a new gig, you may want to give the Dallas Cowboys a call. They’re in the market for one.

Multiple sources have said the Cowboys are looking for someone else to play immediately behind Tony Romo this season.

The current plan is to use veteran Brad Johnson for the second consecutive season to play behind Romo, with former Grapevine star Richard Bartel again returning to the practice squad for another year of grooming. But whereas last year, when the Cowboys liked their slotting of these three, there is more of an ... you know, just in case. urgent feeling to upgrade behind Romo

The name that continues to float around Valley Ranch is former Texas star Chris Simms. Simms, 26, is under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and has told friends he would definitely be interested in signing with the Cowboys.

Johnson will be 40 in September, and in the one game he saw extensive time in last season — the regular-season finale in Washington — the team witnessed that his arm is no longer what it was when he was 30. They love his mind and professionalism, but should Romo go down for as much as one game the Cowboys want a passer who can keep defensive backs honest.

This is not, however, the Cowboys partaking in an "Anybody But Brad" campaign.
"Brad is a smart veteran who knows exactly what to do and how to prepare for any kind of situation," Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said during the team’s minicamp back in June. "There isn’t a situation he hasn’t been in before."

Why is Avery not the coach in Phoenix?

Olympics are still a chance to sell shoes

Here's the only thing you have to know in advance. Dwight Howard is the only member of this team who is not sponsored by Nike. He wears adidas.

Now let's play a quick game of "What's Up?"

1. As loyal reader Michael Odio points out, Coach K is sitting. When a team stands, a coach normally stands. Why is this significant? Because Coach K's left foot just happens to be blocking the adidas logo on Dwight Howard's left foot. Intentional?

2. Then look at the height of the players. Every player is in height order, with the exception of Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. Howard is listed at 6-foot-11, while Bosh is listed at 6-foot-10, but Bosh's hair clearly trumps Howard. What does this allow for? It gives Howard an excuse to hold the ball and be the only player to not have his hand behind his back. This conveniently helps Howard cover the Nike logo on his shorts.

A Nike insider informs us that this shot was an artistic photo taken in Las Vegas and that there's no conspiracy behind the posing of everything surrounding the team's only adidas endorser. By the way, the reason why some players don't have the Swoosh on their shoes is because they wear other Nike brands: Chris Paul (Jordan), Dwyane Wade (Converse) and Carmelo Anthony (Jordan).

James Neal is here

With the Stars’ new regime of co-general managers Les Jackson and Brett Hull, prospects are being given the chance to make the big team. When Jackson and Hull replaced former general manager Doug Armstrong in November, they said their vision for the Stars was to be younger, faster and more skilled.

And instead of bringing in secondary players from other teams to fill holes — as Armstrong did with Brad Winchester and Todd Fedoruk — Jackson and Hull seem more than willing to give their own prospects a chance to contribute.

"It’s open," said Neal, of the competition for the remaining roster spots. "Guys have to go for that. It’s been clear that spots are going to be there."

The strategy makes sense competitively and financially. The Stars received beneficial returns from many of their young players last season, when rookie defensemen Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric and Nicklas Grossman and second-year forward Loui Eriksson were key contributors. And because the Stars are close to the salary cap after signing Sean Avery, they don’t have much to spend in salary so giving prospects a chance is a sensible alternative.

Neal, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound left wing, could be one of the prospects to make the leap to Dallas. A second-round pick (33rd overall) in the 2005 NHL Draft, Neal has shown a penchant for scoring and physical play.

His last two seasons playing for Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League, he recorded 123 points and 203 penalty minutes in 111 games. He had 37 points (18 goals, 19 assists) and 63 penalty minutes in 62 games with Iowa in the American Hockey League last season.

"I just try to bring a physical aspect," Neal said. "Put the puck in the net, be good around the net, be physical and play hard every shift."

What will I be watching tonight? The Big Break Finale on the Golf Channel …I cannot explain it, but I cannot stop watching…

It's down to the final two contestants in this season's installment of The Golf Channel's television series "Big Break: Ka'anapali." Kim Welch and Sophie Sandolo are not only competing for the "Big Break" title, but also for a number of prizes.
Topping the list of rewards is an exemption into the 2008 Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville.

During each episode, the contestants are required to perform a number of tasks on the golf course, resulting in the elimination of one player.

The final episode is set to air at 9 p.m. Tuesday on The Golf Channel.

At 24 years old, Welch is the younger player left in the competition. She is also a member of the Duramed Futures Tour and made it to 21st on the money list last season. She barely missed the cut for the LPGA Tour.

Sandolo, an Italian model, has appeared in a total of three calendars. During her Ladies European Tour career, she has accumulated 15 top-10 finishes and has climbed as high as 15th on the money list.

Ronaldinho was in Houston over the weekend …and it sounds like nobody knew about it…

An hour before the start of Free Kick Masters, the most pressing question lingering at Reliant Stadium was not who would win the skills-based soccer competition and its $1 million top prize.

It was all about whether the big stars would actually show up.

Promised an impossible lineup that began to unravel in the days leading up to the contest, fans had a reason to wonder. Uncertainty surrounded the event.

Then they began to trickle in.

Brazilian star Ronaldinho, a two-time FIFA world player of the year and the event's headliner, snuck in through one of the side doors.

FC Barcelona and Argentina standout Lionel Messi looked like he had just gotten out of bed — he had, actually — as he rushed through a throng on media without saying a word.

As the event's start was delayed by 45 minutes and the crowd grew both impatient and nervous, a samba band tried to lighten the mood.

As it turned out, a handful of the biggest names in the world of soccer did show up to entertain an announced crowd of 35,717 — although about 25,000 actual attendees would be more accurate.

And in the end, it was neither Ronaldinho nor Messi going home a millionaire.
Mexican and Barcelona star Rafael Marquez scored on Francesco Toldo to claim a dramatic sudden death against countryman and crowd favorite Jared Borgetti.

"I'll tell you, I wasn't really thinking about winning the thing," Marquez said. "I just wanted to have fun.

But, in only its second edition and first in the United States, the made-for-TV event (Fox Sports International will show the contest in some 35 countries) had mixed success at best.

Nine highly touted "confirmed" players, including the likes of European stars Alessandro Del Piero, Fernando Torres and Lukas Podolski, were scratched by organizers less than 24 hours before the event was to take place.

For the skills competition, a rarity in soccer here and abroad, ticket sales lagged so badly Fiesta, an event sponsor, stepped up and bought thousands of seats at a discounted rate and gave them away.

Darth Vader Plays Golf

Darth Vader Plays Golf - Spike TV Commercial - Funny bloopers R us

Liverpool Season is getting closer


Greggo's Coke-Scarred Septum said...

Ah yes, Bob...only 6 more short weeks until you have to live with another season of unmet expectations, disappointment and sadness. You know, a typical Liverpool season.

UNITED ! ! !

The Rice Man said...

Every where you turn...Tom Hicks, Tom Hicks, Tom Hicks! What a sports dorks Kryptonite!