Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kinsler Ends 2008 in Pain

Ian Kinsler has been awesome in 2008, and has taken a major step forward. But, his nemesis reared its ugly head again – health. For all of his progress, it must be noted that Kinsler still is good for missing a month per season:

2006: 120 games
2007: 130 games
2008: 121 games

His final stat line of .319/.375/.517 is off the charts, and to have 102 runs in 121 games is wonderful. But as we go to 2009, it is becoming fair to ask the question if Kinsler’s all out style is not conducive to being an “every day” player over the course of the 6 month meat grinder.

My friend, Ralph Strangis once offered me a cliche' that I doubt he came up with but applies so often in sports:

"The trouble with injury-prone players is that they tend to get injured"

Not saying Ian is injury-prone yet, but he is 3 for 3.

This time, the evil sports hernia

The final prognosis isn’t in, but Ian Kinsler and the Texas Rangers are preparing for the worst.

The All-Star second baseman might miss the rest of the season.

An MRI revealed that Kinsler has a sports hernia, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday. He will visit a specialist as early as today to determine if surgery can be delayed until after the season.

If not, the Rangers will play the final 37 games without their leadoff hitter and MVP candidate.

"We can’t replace him," said All-Star shortstop Michael Young, Kinsler’s double-play partner. "We’re not going to be able to duplicate the things he’s been able to do on the field. We’re just going to have to pick up the pieces and fight our way through it."

Even Kinsler was finding it difficult to cling to hope, saying he has prepared himself that the next time he plays will be in 2009. He first felt discomfort Sunday after snaring a first-inning grounder and twisting to throw to first base.

The injury grabbed again, he said, as he ran out a grounder in the seventh inning. He left the game with what was diagnosed as a strained left groin, and the pain hadn’t dissipated by Monday morning.

"Hopefully, I don’t have to get surgery," Kinsler said. "You can try to fight through it, but it always leads to surgery. Hopefully, this doctor " says, 'It’s not as bad as we thought.’

Kinsler joins outfielder David Murphy and third baseman Hank Blalock as Rangers position players who have landed on the DL since the All-Star break.

While Milton Bradley hasn’t been on the shelf this season, he has missed 12 of the past 19 games and is perpetually day-to-day. A lineup without Kinsler, Murphy and Bradley would be missing 53 homers and 208 RBI.

After Monday’s 8-7 loss to Detroit, the Rangers (62-64) dropped to 12-18 in the second half and are two games below .500.

"It is difficult," Young said. "It just goes to show you that in order to win the division and win championships, you have to have a little luck. We haven’t had much of that on the injury front."

The Rangers have replaced Kinsler with Joaquin Arias, who was recalled from Triple A Oklahoma. Manager Ron Washington said that Arias and Ramon Vazquez will platoon at second base.

But they won’t be able to match the production of Kinsler, who entered Monday as the American League’s leader in hits, runs and total bases. He was one of four Rangers All-Stars this year and was considered along with teammate Josh Hamilton as the first-half MVP in the AL.

He could remain in the MVP mix with Hamilton and Chicago outfielder Carlos Quentin if the injury isn’t a season-ender.

"I wanted to steal the MVP from Hamilton," Kinsler said. "There’s a lot of things I still want to accomplish. You prepare to play a whole season. That’s your goal coming into the season. When it’s cut short, you feel like you have things you still want to prove.

"At the same time, I’m having a great season. I guess I’ll just have to do it again next year."
All-Star (bad) breaks The Rangers have seen five players land on the disabled list since the All-Star break. Ian Kinsler is the latest to join the list, and he could miss the rest of the season.

Kevin Millwood, groin (July 26) Veteran’s absence was costly to pitching staff

Hank Blalock, shoulder (July 29) He could be activated late this week as a first

Eric Hurley, shoulder (Aug. 1) Rookie right-hander had been nice contributor to rotation

David Murphy, knee (Aug. 7) Lineup went in funk after rookie outfielder went down

Ian Kinsler, sports hernia (Monday) Loss of All-Star, leadoff hitter is biggest blow yet

If you have great interest in the topic of Rangers pitching, you should read this entire essay from Baseball Time in Arlington: Is Brandon McCarthy screwed up because of Mark Conner …and did Nolan Ryan just try to fix it?

Flash forward to August 2008: less than one week after reportedly serving as the major “driving force” behind the dismissals of Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti, team president Nolan Ryan, along with new pitching coach Andy Hawkins and new bullpen coach Jim Colborn, personally oversaw a special bullpen session in Arlington during which the Hall of Famer advised McCarthy “to use his lower body more and make his delivery more fluid.”

Some particularly damning quotes from an reinvigorated McCarthy, who now believes he has finally put his mechanical issues behind him:

According to McCarthy, these mechanical issues didn’t just pop up since he began his rehab assignment. He said he hasn’t felt mechanically sound the past two years.
“I’m not an injury-prone guy, and I’ve never had any problems throwing strikes,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy threw more than 40 pitches during the bullpen session, and he was noticeably excited with the results afterward. The righty had no explanation for why it took two years to make these necessary adjustments to his mechanics, but he’s hoping the issues are behind him now.

“I have no idea,” McCarthy said. “Maybe my mechanics weren’t right, and they just kept slipping and led to a downward spiral. But at least now I’m on the way back up instead of holding steady where I was.”

Since that bullpen session, McCarthy has fired 13 consecutive scoreless innings across two starts for the Oklahoma RedHawks, yielding just four hits and a pair of walks while notching 11 strikeouts and tossing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes. His most recent triumph against the Pacific Coast League’s Omaha Royals at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark on Sunday evening may have already positioned him to make his first Major League start of the 2008 season later this week.

That’s a whole lot of real, tangible progress in an extremely short period of time after 16 months of failure, frustration and time-consuming visits to team physician Dr. Keith Meister.

And at the end of the day, I legitimately have to wonder if Ryan didn’t join the Rangers in his present capacity, realize that Connor was something of a detriment to not only McCarthy’s progression but to several of the club’s other young pitchers as well, and begin to personally take the bull by the horns with regard to the grooming and development of the future lifeblood of the franchise.

The primary reason cited for Connor’s firing, of course, was the need for a “different voice,” and I’m not going to rebut the widely held notion that Connor is a highly respected pitching coach across the game of baseball. There’s a reason why his departure (as well as Chiti’s) did not sit particularly well in the Rangers clubhouse, and it’s going to take some time for Hawkins and Colborn to rebuild relationships with Connor’s and Chiti’s former disciples.

But McCarthy, perhaps more than any other pitcher during Connor’s six-year reign in Texas, exemplified what can only be termed as one of Connor’s most crippling weaknesses: the apparent need to fix what ain’t broken.

And if Mark Connor alone was the main difference between McCarthy remaining perpetually injured and ineffective and becoming a reliable, top-flight big league starting pitcher, then I’m glad he’s gone.

Congrats Rangers fans, Forbes thinks you are loyal …I think that is a compliment, but I am not positive...

Chicago Cubs fans are legendary for loving their team no matter what the scoreboard says, or how many consecutive days the home team trails the division leader. Kids who can't get tickets wait for home run balls on Sheffield Avenue. And regardless of how many beers the bleacher bums consume, no one forgets the words to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Cubs fans are some of the most loyal in baseball.

But they're no Texas Rangers fans who flock to the Arlington ballpark through last place finishes and playoff runs alike. The Ranger faithful don't care if the team trades away its best players or spends $252 million to sign an MVP-caliber batter like Alex Rodriguez. No team's attendance is less tied to its on the field performance than the Rangers', and nowhere else in the country do fans peel off at a slower rate when the club has thin years.

(Of course, had owner Tom Hicks studied the attendance numbers a little closer back in 2001, he might not have offered what has come to be known as the worst contract in baseball history.)

The Boston Red Sox are right behind the Rangers. Apparently, the highest ticket prices in the league can't turn away Boston fans. The Atlanta Braves ranked third, followed by the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Cowboys must figure out the receiving options – quickly

Miles Austin will be lost to the team for "4-6 weeks" (between Sept. 15 Eagles and Sept. 28 Redskins games), and how phat have the Cowboys gotten that losing a Miles Austin merits a red alert?

Admit it, backup receiver is a major cause of our mid-August angst. It’s not the 0-2 record, we all know better than that.

"Hey, T.O., get your wide receivers ready!" That’s really what this preseason is all about.

Patrick Crayton currently has the No. 2 job nailed down, even the way Austin played these first two preseason games.

But when a third-year speed receiver makes the coaching staff sit up and take notice of his ability to catch contested balls like a mixed martial arts fighter, then they’re going to miss him in the mix.

Terry Glenn is gone, Sam Hurd is in the throes of a preseason slump (sort of an oxymoron), Isaiah Stanback is feeling his way like a rookie in his second NFL season, and every other receiver on the roster is greener than grass.

But Crayton and Hurd talked Monday as if the wide-receiver train was still on the track. That’s what I like best about Crayton: He gushes confidence while knowing his place.

"In this offense, I get the No. 2 title," Crayton said. ... but the third option." "Technically, I’m the No. 2 receiver Jason Witten, of course, is the all-world tight end and second option to T.O. in this offense. You’d have to be dumber than a fifth-grader not to know that.

But the question isn’t so much about No. 2 WR. The question is: How much of a presence does a "third option" in this offense really have to have?

I went to the defensive side of the ball to find some answers.

Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s job each week is to prioritize a game plan to try and stop a team’s series of options.

"The Patriots were the best at that last year," Stewart said. "Their No. 1 option was [Randy] Moss. If you had him covered, No. 2 was [Donte’] Stallworth, and then they’d run plays just for their No. 3 option, [Wes] Welker."

But not all NFL offenses have a rock-solid third option.

"Are you counting the quarterback?" asked Roy Williams.

Good question. Why not? T.O. and Witten are this team’s first two options. But a case can be made for Tony Romo’s improvisation in the moving pocket as the Cowboys’ third option.

Whatever a team’s third option, it should force an opposing defensive coordinator to have to spend more than 10 minutes learning his name and finding a way to defend him.
But the No. 3 option doesn’t have to be a wide receiver.

In three meetings with the Giants last year, Stewart started out trying to stop Plaxico Burress deep, then tight end Jeremy Shockey across the middle, then running back Brandon Jacobs on runs or screens.

Against the Eagles, numero uno for Stewart and the Cowboys to try and take away was Brian Westbrook.

Crayton is gung-ho to be the Cowboys’ third option.

"It’s important," Crayton said. "You don’t want defenses overloading T.O., although I don’t think '81’ feels any pressure, anyway."

The now-departed Glenn left town with nearly 500 more career catches than Crayton, and maybe that’s why Austin’s progress was so intriguing.

"All our young receivers are good: Hurd, Austin, Crayton," said Williams, adding not to worry. "There always has to be something [people worry about]. Honestly, fans only have what the media says to go off of — that’s the media’s job."

Just part of our jobs, Roy. We also draw conclusions.

Here’s one: Crayton’s dropped pass in last year’s one-and-done playoff loss to the Giants seems to be ancient history to him. He no longer uses it as a club across his brow.

"I don’t dwell on it," Crayton said.

One fan’s reason for skepticism is another man’s source of motivation.

Can Marion Barber carry the load? ….

Another year, another question about the Cowboys' running game. But this time, there's a little more certainty as to who's getting the bulk of the carries. Despite not starting a game in the regular season in 2007, Marion Barber scored 12 total touchdowns and led the Cowboys in rushing. Barber's emergence over the past two seasons is why Julius Jones is now fighting for carries in Seattle.

With Jones out of the picture, there shouldn't be any questions about Barber's playing time, so the major question now becomes whether Barber is capable of carrying the load on a full-time basis and live up to the top-10 billing he now gets in fantasy drafts because of his featured role in the Cowboys offense.

Barber's greatest asset is his versatility. He established himself as a third-down back who can catch passes out of the backfield, but he's also a hard-nosed runner between the tackles, which made him the go-to guy at the goal line. But he can also rip off the big play, as he's averaged 4.8 yards per carry each of the past two seasons. You can't pull off an average like that if you're only getting carries inside the 20.

In 2007, Barber carried the ball 160 of 204 times outside the opponent's 20-yard line. In those carries, he averaged a whopping 5.3 yards per carry. That includes a crazy 8.5 yards-per-carry on 44 attempts between the 40s. So obviously, he can be trusted upon to carry the ball anywhere on the field.

However, because of the presence of Jones last season, Barber had just one game in the regular season where he got more than 20 carries; that was Week 16, where he had 22 rushes for 110 yards and a touchdown. By then, the Cowboys had pretty much given up on Jones. Barber then finally got a start in the NFC Divisional playoff game against the Giants, carrying the ball 27 times for 129 yards and a score. When given the carries, he can produce. Although despite just the one 20-carry game, he still had three 100-yard rushing outings (and another at 96 yards).

While the numbers say he can carry the load when given the opportunity, Barber's approach to the game might be his biggest hurdle. He's been nicknamed "The Barbarian," given his very tough style on the field. He turned heads in training camp this year with a gigantic hit on teammate, linebacker Tyson Smith, during a blitz pick-up drill. As a inside runner, he draws plenty of contact and takes a lot of hits. That punishment could add up over time, but the way the Cowboys have kept his touches in check during his career, this might delay a physical breakdown. Plus, he shared carries in at Minnesota with Laurence Maroney, so in some ways, he's still relatively fresh, compared to many other backs who were the main guy in college.

June Jones with a bold move

The SMU quarterback derby reached a stunning conclusion Monday. Ultimately, execution overruled experience.

Coach June Jones announced that Bo Levi Mitchell and Braden Smith, both true freshmen, would be the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart as the Mustangs prepare for their season opener at Rice on Aug. 29.

Assistant head coach/offense Dan Morrison, Jones' right-hand man in evaluating quarterbacks, said Mitchell is the No. 1 for now.
Justin Willis, a junior who has started 22 of the last 23 games and holds the school record with 51 career touchdown passes, is the third-stringer.

"Bo and Braden, after going through all of the tapes, I feel like they have a better understanding in executing a little bit better, so we're going to give them the reps," Jones said. "We'll continue to give the other guys reps, too, but those guys will get the focus."

Jones said Willis and redshirt freshman Logan Turner would both be the No. 3 quarterbacks, receiving limited reps. Freshman Winston Gamso will redshirt.

Morrison said he and Jones focused on accuracy, quick releases and a thorough understanding of the Run and Shoot offense. Mitchell and Smith fit the bill perfectly. Having poise didn't hurt, either.

"Their maturity level is well beyond what most freshmen truly are," Morrison said. "They have that same kind of moxie, that same kind of confidence and maturity that we have to see and, truthfully, the other players have to see, too."

CBS has the SEC until 2024!

The Southeastern Conference has agreed to a 15-year contract extension with CBS
Sports to broadcast football and basketball games.

The agreement announced Thursday takes effect next year.

CBS will carry a football game of the week along with prime-time games and doubleheaders and continue to broadcast regular-season SEC basketball games.

Why do we have age minimums in gymnastics?

Amazing Race details from Terry, the popsicle stick chick

For no reason other than I am watching this on again HDNet, Here is the episode guide for one of my favorite all-time shows – Arrested Development

Office “That’s what She Said” Compilation

Kimbo and LT?

1 comment:

Andy D. said...

Thank goodness Ranger season is about to come to a close... Another sputtering towards mediocrity again. (yawn)

Even though he is pretty average, I am becoming more and more annoyed of Pat Crayton. He runs his mouth a little doesn't he??