Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Joy of Sacks

Here is the link to last year's turnover game log. It is well worth reviewing.

So, this morning, I wanted to examine the sack totals from last year. With 42 sacks, the Cowboys ranked 7th in the NFL, and just 6 behind league leader Minnesota with 48. That is wonderful production, but way below the 2008 total of 59 which staggered the NFL as only World Champion Pittsburgh had more than 50 (51).

Obviously, teams spent lots of time figuring out how to contain DeMarcus Ware and company in 2009. You will see below that the NFC East in particular, where the opponents focused on the Cowboys scheme the most, Ware was not exactly at "Ware" levels for his sack production. He is awesome, don't get me wrong, and he had 14 in all games (11 in the regular season). But, he suffered from going all the way to mid-October without recording a sack. From Week 5 on, he played 14 games and had 14 sacks. That will do.

Meanwhile, the story of anticipation and excitement moving forward is the emergence of Anthony Spencer. Is he the real deal that we saw in December and January? If so, 2010 could be back over 50.

Sacks 2009:

Week 1: Tampa Bay -0 none
Week 2: New York - 0 none
Week 3: Carolina - 3 Butler, Butler, Ratliff
Week 4: Denver - 3 James, Spears, Bowen
Week 5: Kansas City - 4 Brooking, Ware, Ware, Olshansky
Week 7: Atlanta - 4 Ratliff, Ware, Ware, Spears
Week 8: Seattle - 3 Brooking, Carpenter, Ware
Week 9: Philadelphia - 3 Ratliff, Ratliff, Butler
Week 10: Green Bay - 4 Ware, Ware, Carpenter, Bowen
Week 11: Washington - 1 Brooking
Week 12: Oakland - 3 Spencer, Spencer, Ware
Week 13: New York - 1 Ware
Week 14: San Diego - 1 Bowen
Week 15: New Orleans - 4 Spencer, Spencer/Spears, Ware, Ware
Week 16: Washington - 4 Scandrick, Spencer/Olshansky, Ratliff, Ratliff
Week 17: Philadelphia - 4 Spencer, Spencer, James, Hatcher

Playoff 1: Philadelphia - 4 James, Ware, Ware, Spencer
Playoff 2: Minnesota - 3 Spencer, Ware, Ratliff

At Home: 23 sacks (7-2 record). The 2 losses (NY and SD) the Cowboys got to the QB 1 time total. So, in losses, they averaged 0.5 sacks per game. In wins, the Cowboys averaged 3.2 sacks per game.

On Road: 26 sacks (5-4 record). In wins, 3 sacks per game. In 4 losses, averaged 2.75 per game.

Ware had 11 sacks (14 if we count the playoffs). 6 at home, 8 on the road. 3 sacks vs NFC East (7 games) and 11 vs all other (11 games).

Spencer had 8 sacks in all games, none before week 12. 7 of his 8 sacks came in wins (Minnesota is the other).

Friday, July 30, 2010

Stephen McGee Pass Catching Challenge

Cowboys '09: Week 5 at Kansas City

Cowboys Chiefs Football

Well, it would have been nice if that game would have given us something to talk about, right?

As you may recall, I am a big believer in the idea that wins are darn difficult to come by in this league, and when you get one, it is bad form to be picky about how you went about getting that win.

But, even I have my limitations. That was stinking ugly in so many ways that I seem to be ignoring my own advice.

The Chiefs gave the Cowboys all they could handle yesterday. Or, closer to the truth, the Dallas Cowboys made every attempt at giving the Chiefs the game yesterday. Sloppy perhaps doesn't properly capture the way that this game was played. Penalties, turnovers, drops, more penalties, and various other elements conspired to keep the Chiefs in a game almost completely against their will.

We thought going into the game that the Chiefs were a very bad NFL team. They spent most of Sunday proving it, and yet, they remained in the lead for 57+ minutes because the Cowboys were compelled to repeatedly sabotage their own efforts. And then, just as the offense finally got its act together, the defense caved in. Similar to the Giants and Broncos games, the defense who had been solid all day long, picked just the wrong time to give up the crucial drive right down the field.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Biggest Issue in Training Camp

I am watching LT pretty closely here in camp (as I am sure everyone else is, too). The question, of course, is "are the Cowboys nuts for saying goodbye to Flozell Adams" in a cost-saving move during the spring.

As I review last season, I recognize that he had one of his tougher campaigns (just today the Denver game story was posted below and detailed how Elvis Dumervil made him look silly for most of the afternoon). Nevertheless, I am used to the Cowboys doing things because they are the right football move and not the right financial move - we leave that to Tom Hicks.

So, to watch Doug Free at LT does give me great pause. Now, the good news is that we will know soon enough what he has at LT because he faces #94 and #93 daily in practice. But, as these 6 weeks go on, we are also left with the stomach ache issue of "if he is not good enough to play left tackle at a Super Bowl level, then what do we do?"

The answer is very disturbing.

You have Alex Barron - who as they old scout cliche goes: "looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane". Barron is literally the most slender 315 pound human alive. He has a waist smaller than mine and would clearly be on the Dick Vitale "all airport team" for guys who look like they would be really great players when they walk through the airport. But, let's examine reality for a moment on Barron.

1) - 75 penalties in 58 starts is an amazing pace that would make Flozell blush.
2) - The Rams felt so strongly about his future that they traded him for Bobby Carpenter.
3) - Reread #2

Both players have strength issues that seem to really concern critics. Free has always had very quick feet but did not have the ability to "drop anchor" on the corner and stand a speed rusher up before he can get around the edge. Last year, in many games at Right Tackle, he performed very well, but I do think we need to consider that the Cowboys gave him help and also did not ask him to stand on an island by himself much.

Well, in the NFL and at Left Tackle, the whole job is about being on an island. Defensive Coordinators live to figure out ways with blitzing and presnap adjustments to put you on an island against their best speed rusher. The last thing you want is Jason Witten holding his hand all season rather than being in pass routes.

The test for Free will not be to look at how many sacks he allows. The true test for Doug Free will be how often the Cowboys can have their TEs downfield and how often the Cowboys can just run their offense - rather than run their offense while adjusting for a sub-par Left Tackle. If they have to help him and limit their play calling, then we have a problem.

And we will know the answer to those questions by Week 3.

Cowboys '09: Week 4 at Denver

Cowboys Broncos Football

On December 7, 2008,
The Cowboys lost a 7 point game in Pittsburgh
in which their defense played as well as they possibly could. They made a key 4th Quarter stand on 4th down, and tried to give the offense all they could to get the win.

But, the offense betrayed them.

It happened again yesterday in Denver. Despite the defense giving the team a game where you can really complain about one snap - they got beat in Denver. And, again, the offense betrayed them.

Winning on the road in the NFL is never easy. It requires a firm handle on ball security, and the ability to have a QB who can take a beating and still stick a throw in a tight spot under immense pressure. And in his last 4 road tests, Tony Romo has failed 3 - by a rather healthy margin.

Romo will get the headlines for yesterday's loss in Denver, and in my estimation, much of it will be deserved. He missed too much, too often in Denver. Even in the most chaotic of situations, there will be plays to be made down the field. And when those situations appear, a QB is judged on his ability to put the ball where it has to be - no matter how badly he has been battered all game.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cowboys '09: Week 3 vs Panthers


Not every single NFL game turns on one play, but quite a few of them do. And without question, Dallas' first Monday Night win in their new stadium absolutely turned on one play and one play only.

2nd Down, 10 yards to go for the Panthers at their own 22 yard line with 5:15 left to go in the 4th Quarter. They have been badly outplayed in the 2nd half, but now own the football and only trail the Cowboys by 6 points. This is the ultimate opportunity to steal a game with a touchdown, and get that win that Carolina needs so badly.

ESPN, after Jake Delhomme takes a deep shot to Steve Smith on 1st down, shows a montage of Terrence Newman up in tight and aggressive coverage on Smith in the 2nd half, frustrating Smith to a point of a temper tantrum on the sideline.

The Panthers are flooding the right side of the line on this 2nd and 10, with Muhsin Muhammad, Jeff King, Donte Rosario, and DeAngelo Williams all running routes to the offensive right. Steve Smith is split to the left, and the Cowboys counter with Newman tight, and Hamlin over the top. The Panthers have to be thinking that since they took a deep shot to Smith on 1st down, chances are that Newman would be leaning back on a deeper route and conceding the slant.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cowboys '09: Week 2 vs NY Giants

This is part 2 of the 18 part trip through the Cowboys 2009 season through the Morning After columns. Enjoy.

Giants Cowboys FootballThe new stadium opens like the old stadium closed - with a gut punch.

This game was a game of so many ups and downs. On one hand, the Cowboys did so much to beat themselves that they really were lucky to have a lead and a chance at the end. And on the other hand, they had so many "bad breaks" that you wondered who they angered, because if one of those bounces doesn't go the Giants' way, then the Cowboys surely get the win.

Welcome back, NFL Season. Welcome back, 200 emails when Romo has a bad night. And welcome back, Monday after a gutting defeat where knee jerk reactions are flying in every direction. We missed you all. 16 hurdles in the meat grinder, and the Cowboys get nailed in their first home game, because they took an inexcusable -4 in the turnover rating.

On Wednesdays, we demonstrate the importance of turnovers around the league . There is no other stat so important as turnovers. If you are even a "-1" in a game, you lose 3 out of every 4 games. Worse than -1, and the number grows quite a bit. By the time you get to -4, it is almost 99% loss rate. In fact, since the start of last season, 24 teams have been a -4, and 24 teams have lost. Simply put, you don't take care of the football, you don't win.

And the Cowboys did not take care of the football. Namely, Tony Romo did not take care of the football. There are days when you can get away with that, and when you run for 251 yards, I thought for a bit that this might be one of those days. But, the combination that couldn't be overcome is this: The Cowboys offense gave the ball away 3 times; The special teams gave the ball away once; and the Cowboys defense did not create a turnover. Again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dez Bryant - It's Always Something

Primarily for my personal use, I am beginning to compile a Dez Bryant news archive so that I can remember everything. I am sure not all of this is his fault, but wow he can keep the media busy.

Feel free to remind me what I have missed, and I will add them if you email or comment a link.

October 7, 2009 - Dez Bryant in big trouble at Oklahoma State

February 28, 2010 - Bryant is always late for practice and a risky pick

March 30, 2010 - Bryant runs, posts slow times at personal workouts

April 23, 2010 - Bryant has an irregular heartbeat

April 28, 2010 - Jeff Ireland asks Dez if his mother as a prostitute...then apologizes

May 1, 2010 - Dez is winded and puking at rookie mini-camp

May 3, 2010 - Angela Bryant wants apology, but also has some new law problems

May 19, 2010 - Dez Bryant is wearing Nike after signing 2 year deal with Under Armour 3 months ago

May 27, 2010 - Bryant misses mini camp practice....and then...

May 27, 2010 - Dunks on people that night at basketball game

July 22, 2010 - Dez Bryant and Cowboys agree to a 5-year contract

July 24, 2010 - Dez tells David Moore that Roy Williams and Bryant will not be pitted against eachother

July 25, 2010 - Dez Bryant refuses to carry Roy Williams shoulder pads

July 26, 2010 - Under Armour and Dez break up

Cowboys '09: Week 1 at Tampa Bay

We did this last year in training camp, and like many things on this blog, it is partly here because I need to review last season. So, I reprint the "morning after" columns from each game. With 18 games last season, this will get us through 18 days of training camp as we give each game a moment of our time. Here is week 1 vs Tampa Bay. Enjoy, or skip it.

88971911JM011_DALLAS_COWBOY"And 2009 is underway!"

As is the case in 100% of NFL games, there was certainly some good, some bad, and some ugly in the 2009 season opener, but the Dallas Cowboys slowly and surely overwhelmed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, and start the season off in the only acceptable way. They beat a team that will struggle this year to win 6 games. And they beat them in a fashion where one never felt the game was in doubt after halftime.

I believe the early theme of the season has been whether or not the Cowboys would be capable of assembling a dangerous offense this year. Would the exit of Terrell Owens diminish the lethal qualities of this offense to a point where they struggle to get to 20? Depends who you believe. But, I have always believed that this current crew of playmakers would be fine. And, I believe we saw enough big plays yesterday - and several more that merely teased (Martellus Bennett, Wildcat) - that we can all prepare for the team to accumulate plenty of points. And they may need to. Because...


I bet you are wondering if I am still into blogging. Well, honestly, I haven't completely figured that out. I do love to blog, but it has to fit properly into this thing called life. So, I really scaled back in the spring, and have now scaled back again as it pertains to blogging for other people (read: for money, but also for required amounts of work). Last week, I told SBNation and the Stars that I would rather stop blogging for the time being.

So, what do I do now? Can you expect the same Cowboys work I did last year? Can you count on me to offer you commentary on the events of the day? Can you expect lots of blogs on English soccer that very few of you will actually care about?

I don't know. Sort of. Sometimes. Probably.

Family and Job are first and foremost. Golf is then added when it fits. That means this little thing must fit where it fits and that means when the little voice in my head convinces me to get to my keyboard. But, even then, I find Twitter scratches some of that itch.

I hope you continue to come back here, but I cannot promise that I will always keep my end of the bargain, so I can hardly insist that you keep yours.

Anyway, thanks for the support, and let's see where this goes. This week will likely have plenty of blog stuff.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bacsik: Rangers vs Angels

I hear a lot of media and fans saying how big this series is with the Angels and can’t understand why the players won’t just admit how important every series the rest of the way against the Angels are. There’s a reason and good one.

If a team builds up a series as a bigger than all of the rest, then what happens next? Do you relax against your next opponent because that series doesn’t mean as much? What if you get swept in the big series? Do you lose confidence that you’re not the best team in the division? How do you get up for the next big series and how long down the road is that series?

The players know who they are playing and what it means. You could see it after the 3-2 win against the Angels in the high five line. And the players can feel the energy in the crowd that this isn’t the Cleveland Indians they are playing. But in a 162 game season you can’t build up a July series as a division clincher or a catastrophic changing series.
There is a magic number of wins to win the division, but it doesn’t matter who you beat as long as you get to that number. Sure, beating the Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees feels better than beating the Orioles and Royals but they all count the same. Ian Kinsler said it best a few days ago “We beat the Angels last year but they won the division by 8 games.”

As fans it’s great to build up games as bigger than they are because that is what we do. The Rangers sales staff is paid to build up the “important series” more than the “just another team” series. But players must be careful of this because they have to fight the feeling that this game or series is more important because that leaves you with 65 games left to play and you’re looking for that next high. Baseball is the most important sport not to get to high when things are going good and not to hang your head when things are looking bad.

The football mentality can mess up our baseball brain. Football is the ultimate fan sport. Every game means so much. Six games in and you have an idea if your team can or can’t make the playoffs. Hell, there are only 10 games left. I remember talking to one of my strength coaches who had also been a strength coach for the Colts. I asked him if NFL players took uppers (Rip Fuel, Greenys) before a game. He said only once did a player do it and he couldn’t play in the game because the drug made him to hyper and he had to go to the hospital. He also told me the locker room before a NFL game is scary. There are literally a couple dozen players in there going crazy, throwing up, hitting things, hitting each other, the adrenalin before a NFL game is nothing like a MLB game. Guys are taking little naps, playing cards a couple hours before the game, watching TV, watching film. It was awesome hearing him talk about the energy of a NFL locker-room but there’s no way you could create that atmosphere 162 out of 184 days. And yes, some baseball players try to create that high by taking uppers but not that many now because of testing.

That is why it is so important to have some players who have been through the pennant races. The young players really want to build up this series or that series as the big one. We are all fans at heart, but the more you get up for the Angels or Yankees the lower your energy and focus will be for the Orioles and Royals. It is a battle to fool yourself that this isn’t the end of the world or mission accomplished because we beat the Angels 3 out of 4 but it is necessary if you want to be a winner. This Rangers team looks like a winner and I’m glad that the players are trying to look at this series as just another one in July that we’re going to win.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SB Nation - July 14

Jul 14, 2010 -

There are plenty of things to be tossing around in a week that traditionally is supposed to be the slowest week of the sports year, so let's get to it!


I have only lived in the Metroplex since 1998, so I cannot claim that this team crushed my childhood when they could not close the deal in various seasons of my youth. But, in my 13 seasons of closely following the Rangers, I have grown accustomed to reading stories that link the Rangers to top-notch pitching help, but never really believing it will happen.

How many times did we need Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens to break our hearts before we figured out a defense mechanism is the best way to deal with these disappointments? They don't really love us, and they are just using us to get what they want!

And then, the Cliff Lee trade happened. It might be a game changer.

Now, we should point out a couple things before we get carried away with this idea that all things have now become new. For instance, Cliff Lee had no say in this matter. Had he had a 1 percent stake on what happened when the Rangers and Mariners came to an agreement, there is a very real possibility this never goes down. Also, he is committed to be here for about the length of a season of Entourage. (Actually, Wikipedia indicates that Entourage is only doing eight episodes this season and the final one is on August 22! How can HBO get away with this?) This is clearly a rental, as Lee will pitch about 13-15 times for the Rangers and then his 1-hour "Decision" special on ESPN will air in December.

Let's be honest, there are two major problems with buying a Cliff Lee jersey for 2011: 1) There is a very real chance that he cannot wait to go someplace else as soon as he does get a say in the matter, and 2) There is an even more real chance that whoever owns the Rangers by Christmas will not be interested in making Cliff the highest paid pitcher in baseball. So, perhaps spend your money on a Neftali jersey.

Now that I have tried to kill your buzz (at least the part of your buzz that was not already killed by the Orioles four-game sweep) it is surely time to congratulate and get excited about the Rangers management team figuring out a way to energize the entire baseball market in a summer of such insanity, none of us saw this coming. After we learned last summer that the much-discussed Roy Halladay trade possibility was merely talk show fodder because the Rangers didn't have the cash to really do it, how could we know that the Rangers had the ability to do trades where they convince the other team to pay the freight?

But, because of the job Jon Daniels and his scouts have done, the prospect shelf is full, and they have the currency to get after things like this even if they have an empty wallet. This ability allows them to steal a player from right under the Yankees' noses, and if ever a gust of wind finds your sails, it is when you have the Yankees angry about a move you just made.

So, while this is no more of a permanent relationship than CC Sabathia in Milwaukee, the Brewers will assure you that those three months were worth every day of Matt LaPorta's future. Now, the Rangers have walked the walk and not just talked the talk in the "it's time" campaign. By making this move, they tell us that when the first pitch is thrown Thursday night in Boston, they are all-in and going for post-season glory in 2010.

They went and grabbed the best pitcher in the market, and even if it is only temporary, there is every reason to believe that the rotation is now capable of some very big and impressive things. Colby Lewis makes far more sense as a No. 2. CJ Wilson now looks like a proper No. 3. Tommy Hunter slides to No. 4. If Scott Feldman, Rich Harden, or Derek Holland sort things out (quickly) they can grab the No. 5 slot. OK. This no longer a pipe dream. This actually appears to be a group that has a fighting chance.

There are no guarantees in sports, but to have Cliff Lee on the Rangers side is quite a weapon and will keep Rangers baseball relevant well past the opening of Cowboys training camp in 10 days in San Antonio, Texas.

Thanks for nothing, Tom Hicks. Thanks for plenty, Rangers. We are all counting on you.


Meanwhile, the Mavericks have been busy working on their gigantic summer of transition which was hopefully going to present a significant sea change in the expectation level of Mavericks basketball entering the next season of the Dirk era.

So far, I am sad to report, there is very little to get too carried away about. On Tuesday, the Mavericks finally cashed in the Erick Dampier chip, and it appears that they were down to cashing it in for nothing or a big man that has not been healthy since he participated in the public execution of the Mavericks in April/May of 2008.

Tyson Chandler was an unstoppable force in that five-game massacre that cost Avery Johnson his job. He was on the receiving end of countless lob passes from Chris Paul, dominated the boards, and inspired another summer of transition.

Sadly, he has not been healthy since. There was a voided trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder because of his health, and then another trade to the Charlotte Bobcats. During those two seasons since the playoff against the Mavericks, Chandler has been available for exactly 96 of the 164 games (58 percent) that his teams have played, and started 72 of them (43 percent). Not exactly Cal Ripken, Jr, here.

When healthy, Chandler is interesting to me. But, even at this age, which should represent his prime, it really appears that he is done. The Mavericks are banking on the premise that this is not the case - or, they are seriously putting a lot of stock in this idea that financial flexibility is the way to go. They have expiring deals all over the board (Caron Butler, JJ Barea, Chandler, etc) and are thinking that a team that is giving up at the All-Star break trade deadline might want those deals for deals with remaining years. The problem with that, of course, is that with the NBA likely losing a giant portion of its season in 2011-12 to a labor stoppage, there might be very little reason for teams to shed payroll given that there is likely no payroll to meet.

I love that Mark Cuban is obsessed with trying to get over that hump. I love that Dirk Nowitzki is not chasing every last dime and is not interested in stabbing Dallas in his quest for joining some other opportunity that would leave unfinished business here.

But, why do I get this sneaky suspicion that we are just in a non-stop holding pattern waiting for that Pau Gasol trade that would change everything? Is it out there? And is part of that trade's awesomeness dependent on that trade happening in the direction of a team that has an obsessed Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson already in place?

I guess what I am saying is that the Lakers are the Lakers. The Mavs are still the Mavs. They wanted to add a big piece in the Summer of 2010 - LeBron, D-Wade, Amare, or even Joe Johnson. They wanted to flip the expiring Dampier deal for something really awesome. What did it turn out to be? A center who hasn't been healthy in two seasons that may be capable of backing up Brendan Haywood.

Sorry. But, I must rate that move as positively underwhelming. I desperately hope I am wrong. But, something tells me the Spurs and Lakers are not losing sleep over that one.


The July traditions are all here. Baseball trade deadline. Basketball and hockey free agency. And yes, the start of doing interviews on various stations across America helping them preview the Dallas Cowboys.

I did my first one on Wednesday morning when a station called me to ask what the biggest concerns were about the 2010 Dallas Cowboys, and how good they might be.

Obviously, left tackle and safety are way up the list, but I keep coming back to kicker. David Buehler is the kicker as of this moment, and I cannot buy it. Why? Because I was here last year when Nick Folk went south and the Cowboys would rather call up Redskins discard Shaun Suisham than deal with Buehler even though Buehler was on campus and present for every practice all year.

Doesn't that tell you something?

And what could possibly change since last December that tells you now that Buehler is ready to take and make kicks that will decide games when the margin for error is slim and none this season?

You see, the Cowboys have designs on winning it all and being the first team to ever win a home Super Bowl (and the first team to ever play in a home Super Bowl). To do so, they will need some home field advantage throughout the playoffs because last year we saw the Cowboys could win a playoff game at home, but not on the road. The Vikings also looked great at home and then lost on the road. Meanwhile, the Saints and Colts both never left home and went to the Super Bowl. It is not a guarantee of 2010 success, but home field is always a strong place to start when building objectives for your NFL season.

Back to Buehler - so you see him making a kick in December on the road? If you do, then how do we explain the lack of confidence in him the last time the Cowboys played a game? I like the kid a lot - he seems like a great dude - but didn't the Cowboys tell us all we needed to know on the topic in December?

My money is on the idea that they bring in a veteran to compete for the kicking job before August is over. I just don't think that Buehler will be able to survive a bad day or two in camp and keep FG duties on his resume.

Bacsik on Chris Davis

Is Chris Davis this Bad?

I was stunned the other night when Chris Davis got a standing ovation from the Rangers crowd. He was batting .354 in triple-A, but where it matters he was batting .188 in 48 at bats with no homers and a .264 on base percentage. Yet, the fans at the ballpark craved for more Chris Davis? The positive side of this is the Rangers fans. Not many places in America would a liability to a team get a standing ovation upon his return to the team unless he had just overcome a major injury or a disease. What the fans did was nice, but this was the worst thing for the fragile confidence of Chris Davis.

Just to put into perspective how bad Chris Davis has been are his stats compared to the worst hitters in baseball, pitchers. Pitchers this year are batting .131 with an OBP of .162. So Davis would be an awesome hitting pitcher with a .186 batting average and a .266 OBP (before the Detroit series). Unfortunately 1st base is where Chris Davis has to be compared and this is scary bad because on average 1st basemen are batting .271 with a .356 OBP. Davis is closer to hitting like Cliff Lee rather than Derek Lee, and Derek Lee is having a bad year.

Back to the standing ovation and why it was bad. Chris Davis can’t handle the pressure of the big leagues. Plain and simple, you can’t bat consistently over .300 in the minors and sub .200 in the bigs. There is a difference from Triple-A to the Majors but not .150 BA point difference. Davis needs to feel nobody cares because he cares way too much. Example: When you look at a player at the free throw line in basketball in the closing seconds of the game and they show a close-up of his face, can’t you see it in his eyes whether he wants to shoot the free throws or not? It’s the only time in basketball you can’t pass up the shot and in baseball you can’t pass your bat to someone who wants the challenge of beating a major league pitcher. Its not that a player doesn’t want to win, it’s just the fear of failure that gets in the way of success. Davis’ problem isn’t talent or he would hit in the low .200’s in the minors. It’s his head and when he doesn’t get the job done it hurts him to the point of giving up. Not giving up and quitting the game but giving up in the sense of mentally believing you can’t do it or just hoping you do it, rather than feeling the pitcher got lucky and I’m getting that S.O.B. the next at bat. When you cheer Davis for no reason, he now not only lets down himself and his teammates but the 20+ thousand people at the game. Then he starts thinking about his friends and family watching, because being from Longview most of these people are watching all his games.

How do I know? Who are you Bacsik? Unfortunately I went through these same pains in 2003 and those demons in your head that make everything bigger than they are. You think about how you are letting down so many people. You start looking at other guys and hoping to find somebody as bad or worse than you to make you feel you’re not the only person who sucks this bad. I remember subconsciously being happy I got sent down in 2003. Don’t get me wrong, Davis wants to be in the Major Leagues, but he doesn’t want the pressure that comes with it.

Truly the best thing that could have happened to Chris was to get traded to Seattle in the Cliff Lee trade. He needs to get away from home and Longview is close enough to feel like home. The Rangers are in a pennant race and this doesn’t help Chris either. Think about last year and when Davis looked like he was turning the corner; it was after the Rangers had fallen out of a serious playoff race. His BA went up 20 points from Sept.24 to the end of the season, .218 to .238. This will sound a little harsh but he needs to stop caring so much about his friends, family, teammates, and fans. You play for yourself.

Think of the movie ‘”Up in the Air” with George Clooney. He tells his audience at a conference to leave that backpack behind with all that baggage. It’s too much for one person to carry. Davis has way too much luggage at the plate to be successful and the Rangers will likely have to carry him all the way to the playoffs. Also, I recently heard Davis say “I don’t care if I go 0-4 as long as we win the game.” It sounds good on the surface but Davis is telling me he is in “give-up mode” on himself. I will praise him for his great defense. He doesn’t take his at bats to the field. I just hope Chris Davis realizes his career is on the line the next two and a half months. The Rangers making the playoffs does not make him a great player.

Every organization in baseball knows Chris has the talent and more time in minors at this point won’t help. He has proven he is a great Triple-A player. Now every team is starting to believe he can’t handle the Major Leagues. I hope he turns it around. All indications are that he is a great person on and off the field and nobody wants to see him be more successful than the Rangers fans. His next at bat at home I just ask you lightly clap.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bacsik: C.J.’s mind will say Yes, but his arm might say NO

Here is more from our guy, Mike Bacsik:

C.J. Wilson has been great this year. He’s 7-5 with 3.35 ERA. You couldn’t have asked for more from a pitcher who hasn’t started since 2005. Now come the dog days of summer and nobody feels the dog days more than pitchers who are racking up innings.

If you have been a starting pitcher your whole career, or at least the last few years, you know how your body reacts to 30 innings a month. You’ll start to feel a little something in your shoulder or bicep or elbow. As you are sitting around doing nothing, which most pitchers do, you ask yourself, “is that a normal pain? How long has that bump been there? Does it hurt when I do this or that?” All these questions are self evaluations of “can I pitch with this ailment or is this just dead arm?”

As time goes on you know when you’re having “dead arm”. Dead arm is when nothing is wrong with your arm it just feels heavy and like it is moving in slow motion. Every pitcher gets it, and you start to have an idea about how long it takes for that feeling to go away. For me, it was usually 10 days. How do you handle dead arm? Do you throw less or more? More long toss or no long toss? Everyone is different. You just have to find what works for you. So what does this have to do this Wilson?

Before the season started I was concerned with moving C.J. into the rotation. He was a very good reliever last year. C.J was also a high pitch count and high energy level guy on the mound as a reliever. It didn’t seem to translate to a starters mind set. But C.J pitched great in Spring Training and earned his spot in the rotation. That wasn’t easy, but it was the easiest part of this season for him. His body and arm was at peak performance February through May. As this season has gone along, C.J keeps throwing a little slower each time. He is now throwing 86-88 mph’s and topping off at 90. In April he was pitching at 89-92 and topping off at 95. That’s a very different pitcher. It doesn’t mean he can’t win but it means there is less room for error.

C.J. Wilson’s career stats: Here

Look at the difference in innings pitched from this year to the previous 5 seasons. 113 innings right now might not seem like a lot but there is a rule with prospects that teams follow. The Rule: A pitcher can only throw 120% more innings then he threw in the previous season. This is why Tanner Sheppers pitched in the bullpen the first two months of the season. They needed to keep his total innings pitched down this year because he didn’t throw a lot of innings last year in independent ball/fall league. Simple math, C.J threw 73.2 innings last year. Multiply that times 120% and you get 88.1 innings. We are already 25 innings past the max! Why the rule? Studies show that if pitchers throw more than 120% of the innings pitched in a season, the next year they have a high likelihood of sustaining a major arm injury. Wilson isn’t a prospect and is a free agent at the end of the year. Organizations tend not to “baby” players they don’t have to. The Rangers, at this time, have no further investment in him.

C.J. has proven this rule wrong last year because at 46.1 innings pitched in ’08, he was able to throw more than 120% (55.2), by throwing 73.2 innings pitched in ’09 and so far this year he isn’t hurt. My concern for him is the start of August. Wilson got the all-star break for his arm to hopefully bounce back, but after about 3 starts I can see where the ultimate fatigue might set in. Can C.J fight through it and give the Rangers 70 to 80 more quality innings? Will he go back to not only having fastball command but above average fastball speed?

It also doesn’t help that Ron Washington put him behind Lee in the rotation. Why back to back lefties? Ron had the break to split them up. When (not if) the Rangers make the playoffs, where will Wilson be in the playoff rotation? If he isn’t in the top 3 (Lee, Lewis, Hunter), do you move him back to the bullpen for the playoffs to give you 2 lefties with Oliver and Wilson? Time will tell and let’s hope it is a tough decision for Ron on how to setup his playoff pitching staff.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mike Bacsik: On the Cliff Lee Trade

It’s Time!, with Cliff Lee

First, I want to give a big thanks to Bob for allowing me to use his blog to post my thoughts. Now onto Cliff Lee and the playoff run.

Thank God the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee, because in DFW it slowed down “The Decision” LeBron brought upon the sports nation. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on Twitter and hearing on The Ticket Friday afternoon when the Rangers had STOLEN away Cliff Lee from the New York Yankees. I wanted details. The first trade I saw involved Justin Smoak, Derek Holland and 2 prospects. Honestly, I didn’t like that deal. It was way too much to give up for a 3 month “rent an ace.” About 15 minutes later I turn on MLB Network to see that Holland wasn’t in the deal and Blake Beavan was the main pitching prospect leaving.
With that one swap of players I went from not liking the deal to liking it, but I didn’t LOVE the deal. Smoak WILL BE an all-star 1st baseman. Peter Gammons said he is the next Chipper Jones at the plate. That is high praise and if he reaches that potential then this trade could be looked at differently in a few years. Holland will be a 10 to 15 game winner the next 10 years of his career. I’m glad Texas was able to keep Lefty and let him become part of the future rotation.

Cliff Lee is one of the 5 best pitchers in the game, (Halladay, Lincecum, CC, Jimenez) and I can’t recall the Rangers having one of those since Fergie Jenkins in 1974. (25-12, 2.82 ERA, 29 CGs!) With Texas in 1st place this trade was a kill shot to the LA Angels. Yet the Angels won’t die easy. In fact if LA is within 5 games two weeks from now, I expect them to make a trade for an Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder. I still don’t believe that will be enough to catch Texas.

When you have an ace it takes the pressure off a lot of people on your team. First, the other starters won’t be forced to
pitch into the 7th or 8th inning if they are getting tired. Because every fifth day Lee should give the Rangers an average of 8 innings. Secondly, giving the bullpen a day off (and this bullpen needs some rest) is huge in August and September. Third, less middle relief is a good thing. The Rangers can pitch O’Day or Ogando in the 6th in a tie game or just down a run instead of Nippert or Harrison, in the games Lee isn’t starting. Side Note: I can remember my former pitching coach, Carl Willis, telling me a story about Brad Radke. Radke was quoted as saying “a quality start is when Carl Willis doesn’t have to pitch.”

For the hitters, they need to believe if they do their job the team will win. Players know how important pitching is, but they look at pitchers similar to how football players look at kickers and punters. Obviously Cliff Lee doesn’t make the lineup better but he can hide weaknesses in the lineup if you’re winning games 2-1 or 3-2. Yes, I’m calling out the 1st base and Catcher positions.

This is a “now trade” because it’s hard for me to see Cliff Lee being a Ranger in 2011. From the Texas standpoint this trade will have a final grade at the end of the season. My grade will be this:

C: Rangers don’t make the playoffs (Took a good risk.)
B: Make the playoffs but lose in round 1, the Rangers might have made it without the trade.
A: Win a playoff series (this is where Cliff would take a team that couldn’t get there without him.)
A+: Make it to the World Series…..Winning it is way above an A+

The Rangers have a tough second half of the season, 12 with the Angels, 7 against Boston, and 5 against the Yanks. Not to mention the Twins and Rays. But when the Rangers get to the playoffs they have an ace that can lead a team with no playoff experience (except Vlad) to an early 1-0 series lead. It will be up to Lewis, Wilson, and Hunter, I assume, to get the ball back to Lee to close out a short series. At least that’s the plan on paper. Winning a seven game series usually takes more than 1 pitcher.

Now if the Rangers can sign Cliff Lee in the off-season then this trade is an A no matter what happens. But the starting bid will be 5 for $100 million. That probably won’t get him because it will be a low offer considering what lefty starters (Santana, Zito, and CC) have received recently. Does Texas want him bad enough to offer a 5 year deal worth $125 mill? It’s not my money, and we have no clue today whose money it will be, but if you want an ace you have to pay. The Yankees still might outbid, but $25 million a year is more than enough to make it a hard decision to leave Texas. I’m not looking forward to the day that Lee signs somewhere else, but for now CLIFF LEE IS A RANGER!

Monday, July 12, 2010

SB Nation - July 8 - Clint Hurdle

Sometimes it is nice to sit down with a member of the local sports landscape and pick his brain a bit about why things are the way they are. Thankfully, with the radio show every day, this is an opportunity I am afforded frequently.

Wednesday, Clint Hurdle stopped by for 20 fascinating minutes where we were able to pick his brain and try to understand how he sees baseball and hitting and the Rangers. I have re-listened to it a few times to try to absorb all of the nuggets from a very impressive baseball mind.

Hurdle’s biggest challenge seems to be following the legendary Rudy Jaramillo as Rangers hitting coach. For many years, Rudy fashioned the Rangers offense in his image, and had a large percentage of the area eating out of his hand when it came to the way that he did his business.

So, was it difficult to follow Jaramillo for Hurdle and how did he break the ice with his players this winter?

“I guess I didn’t give that much thought on who I was following. Rudy had a great program in place, and it wasn’t like I had to come in here – hammer and nail – and try to build an ark.”

“I think there is a lot dependent on the approach on the person coming in. I am a big believer that the presentation can make or break your message. The way you approach people. One of the things I tried to do is establish a relationship first over the phone. Immediately, I called the guys - everyone I could call. I hoped to get 5 to 10 minutes. The shortest conversation I had was 27 minutes one went to about 50 minutes. Once it started going, it went. And everybody across the board, they were honest. Very black and white. I wanted to ask, Who are you? What kind of hitter are you? What kind of hitter do you think you can become? How do we bridge that gap? We threw it all out there, and then came in over the winter and spent a lot of “hands on” time with the guys. And then watched a ton of videotape from preceding seasons, especially last season. You know you hit a bunch of homers, but you strike out over here. Your on-base percentage is this. Your runs scored was this, your doubles was here.”

That led us to his approach with Ian Kinsler thus far. Kinsler had a very interesting and odd 2009. On one hand, we marveled at a 2nd baseman having a 30/30 season. And on the other hand, many of us were disgusted at times with the wasted at bats where it appeared he was obsessed with trying to hit homers and the question of whether or not those 30/30 numbers were serving to make the offense better or just to give Ian an impressive stat sheet?

Here is what Hurdle told us about dealing with Ian:

“First, you develop a relationship. You ask him some questions. Talked about the ‘09 season and the ‘08 seasons. What kind of hitter do you think you are? What kind of hitter do you want to be? Why did we have the ground ball/fly ball ratio? Did it involve trying to get too many balls in the air and to run the ball out of the park? You need honest input. I got it back. He is a special player who plays with an edge that is very unique. And one of the conversations we have already had this season is that you cannot play with that edge if you are running out fly balls all of the time. “

“The way he has gone about his business this year has been unselfish. You know one of the things I challenged each of the players this year is that “you are going to have to give up something personally for the betterment of the team and to make the group stronger”. For Ian that might be driving the ball out of the ballpark. He is still going to do that – he isn’t even 100% now with his ankle - but look at his pitch selection and the number of pitches per at bat. We talked about this season being a 40 double/100 runs scored season. And he may even get to 100 runs despite missing 5 weeks.”

Whether it is Ian or any player Hurdle deals with, I find it interesting that players have two masters in baseball. They must listen to their coaches and managers, but inside they are listening to that voice in their head that knows how they get paid when it is time to do a contract. 30/30 seasons are very easy to point to in a negotiation and that equates to money. Moving a runner over doesn’t always show up when it is time to account for a personal contribution from a player.

Also, when performance suffers and criticism is heard, sometimes certain players go into a bit of a shell. So, we went on to find out from Hurdle about how to deal with those sorts of mixed messages:

“Sometimes there are disconnects…because there are misconceptions. and we as human beings – especially males – we have this great way of dealing with things when we mess up. Hey, (we will say when things are not going well) I have done such a good things of screwing things up, I am going to get out of this myself. Everyone else leave me alone. I am going to isolate. I am going to figure it out. Don’t want any help. Don’t need any help. And (when that happens) we just talk about trust and awareness - Accountability and responsibility. There was as much conversation about human life and getting along. Being unselfish. And about “the chain being as strong as its weakest link” and some of these clichés that a lot of these kids have never even heard. “

After managing in a similar spot for much of this decade, Hurdle thought he recognized some of the issues going on here when it came to hitting:

“I’m coming from an environment that had some similarities as far as we developed our own talent, while building an offense. The Blake Street Bombers (Colorado Rockies)? We had a team where we could send 4 or 5 guys to an all-star game at the drop of a hat, and they would go and get their hats and shirts and go to the all-star game and then we would finish in 3rd or 4th place.

“HooYah.” Hurdle said with some level of sarcasm. Sending guys to the all-star game is not what this game is about to Hurdle. He went on to explain that this is what happens in a lot of places, including in Arlington, and how to try to get a title.

“To win championships you have to pitch and play defense. There is no other way to get it done. And find an offense that can score in different ways and beat #1s and #2s in other team’s rotations and beat a closer now and then. You can manufacture as well as slug. You can get a walk and string out innings by seeing pitches. That’s the offense we needed to build to go along with what the steps they took forward last year off the mound and on the defensive side of the ball.”

There in one paragraph, Hurdle strung together what always bothered me about the Rudy Jaramillo approach that I have seen over the last decade. People would show me the wondrous way that everyone had career years while playing in Arlington, but nobody could explain why the team still failed offensively.

“Bob, they lead the American League in Runs scored! How can you say the offense is to blame!” And my response would always be that the Rangers did not seem to know how to score runs when they needed them most – against the best pitchers in the business, they were more likely to strike-out 12 times, rather than put 6 runs on the board. In other words, it has always been my premise that Rudy knows hitting, but he didn’t understand the art of offense at the level the Rangers needed.

Hurdle said it above. You must be able to slug. But you also must be able to manufacture. Slugging looks very nice on a stat sheet, but total runs scored seldom equates to the most wins. There is much more to offense. When do you score them? When you need them? Or just putting the finishing touches on ringing up 14 runs against someone’s #5 starter?

Next, we went on to Josh Hamilton, and how it is that Josh has somehow returned to his 2008 form after a 2009 where he looked rather lost most of the time.

“You know one of the toughest questions I have come across being a hitting coach and a manager is that a lot of players when they get here just don’t know who they are. He is a classic case for me of a young man who didn’t know who he was. What kind of hitter are you? And he told me. I asked what kind of hitter do you think you can become? And he told me. So, then I asked How are we going to get from Point A to Point B? What is the definition of a coach? Well in the 1800s it was a transport system to take someone from Point A to Point B that couldn’t get there on their own. And that made sense to him. I told him I have had some experience with some dynamic skill sets that may have had some sort of a glitch here or there and something that wasn’t working consistently. “

“Because the big thing for Josh has been consistency – and lack of it. So how can I help him get to a consistent hitting position? Because his skill set is so unique that if I can help him get to that consistent spot, it will just take over and play. And the toe-tap was not the answer for me. I watched it through spring training and on tape. After 50 games, we just sat down and had a heart to heart. I told him the hottest I have seen you is 3-4 days, and I have seen you inconsistent for up to 7 straight. For us to be good and to have a good offense, we need you consistent in the middle of our offense making things happen.”

“At the end of the day, the toe tap, it wasn’t like he was married to it. But, ballplayers sometimes would rather be in a bad relationship than no relationship. And this is something he had grown up with and had some success with. And combine it with dynamic the Home Run Derby, and the presence that had on him…”

How about coaching Vladimir Guerrero?

“Easiest guy I have ever worked with in my career. We have worked probably since spring training started one session where we did video work for 10 minutes. But the misconception about him is this: He very rarely burns at bats. Less than anyone on our club and I would bet anyone in baseball. The back of his baseball card has those numbers for a reason. Regardless of what you see, to have that violent hack and that number of strikeouts – that doesn’t make sense. The ability to drive in those runners with that hack doesn’t make sense. One thing we talk about in hitting is with runners in scoring position, you need to focus on the big part of the field. You want to “gap-to-gap” them because there is more room for production. You talk about a “No Pull” concept. And you can count the times that Vlad has pulled the ball to 3rd base with runners on base on one hand this year and he has had so many opportunities. He is the best guy I have ever seen.”

I could have talked for 2 more hours with Hurdle, but he had to get back to his work. But, I left the conversation wondering how underrated that move was this winter, for the Rangers to get a new voice in to work with the bats.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Thanks to Will, we have a quick capsule for the World Cup Final. I like Spain, 2-1, but both teams are loaded with elite world talent that many of us are quite familiar with. This should be quite wonderful.

Here is what Will put together:


Spain is the reigning European champions, having won the UEFA European Championship in 2008. Spain also won the European Nations' Cup in 1964 and reached the UEFA Euro 1984 Final. Spain has qualified for the FIFA World Cup thirteen times, reaching fourth place in the 1950 tournament In July 2008 Spain rose to the top of the FIFA World Ranking for the first time in its history, becoming the sixth nation to top this ranking, and the first who has never won the World Cup. Between November 2006 and June 2009 Spain went undefeated for a record tying 35 consecutive matches before their loss to the United States, a record shared with Brazil, including a record 15-game winning streak.

Key Players:

Iker Casillas- Plays for Real Madrid in Spain’s La Liga and has played in 110 international caps for Spain. Strengths: As the last line of defence in a team that often pays scant regard to such an art, Casillas gets plenty of practice and frequently demonstrates his impressive reflexes, superb agility and innate ability to pull off a spectacular save. His forceful personality and will to win ensure he is a born leader. Weaknesses: His aura of invincibility has been slightly dented in recent years due to a handful of mistakes and he can be slightly rash when rushing off his line.

Sergio Ramos- Has scored 5 goals in 66 caps with Spain and is teammates with Spain captain Iker Casillas on Real Madrid. Strengths: Ramos boasts real versatility but his finest asset is his impressive stamina and determination to provide an attacking threat from right-back. Full of energy, quick and always looking to get forward, Ramos complements his robust defending by providing a real threat at set-pieces. Weaknesses: His admirable endeavour can leave him exposed at times, particularly when his sense of positioning is awry following a foray forward. His temperament has also been questioned after a string of red cards in recent seasons.

Cesc Fabregas- Fabregas is one of the few Spanish players that play club football in England playing for the always contending squad Arsenal. In 53 international caps he has scored 6 goals. Strengths: A quite superb passer of the ball who possesses both excellent vision and the ability to dictate the pace and tempo of a contest. Has a strong character and mentality to complement his technical excellence. Weaknesses: Fabregas is largely impeccable for his club but a lack of real pace is noticeable. He is also less potent in front of goal than would be expected given his brilliant use of a football.

David Villa- Last season Villa played his club football for Valencia, but will play at the start of the 2010 season for Barcalona. Villa has had a stunning World Cup scoring 5 goals and leading Spain to its first World Cup Final. Strengths: Villa is a consummate finisher. His clever movement, excellent touch and deadly aim allow him to exploit any chances granted to this most resolute and determined of characters, but he also selflessly contributes with a number of assists. Weaknesses: Like many of his international team-mates, Villa lacks height and real physical presence.

Fernando Torres- Nicknamed El Nino Torres shows off his talent in the EPL for Liverpool. In 79 international caps Torres has scored 24 goals. This world cup has not been his best since he is coming of knee surgery. Strengths: A born goalscorer, Torres possesses all the attributes needed by a world-class striker. He is quick, strong, impressive in the air, blessed with expert technique and is cool and collected in front of goal as well as having an eye for the spectacular. Weaknesses: The suspicion remains that Torres can be distracted from his task by some physical attention from defenders, while he can be isolated if service is not forthcoming.

World Cup Record: 23 Wins- 12 Draws- 15 Losses

World Cup Appearances and results Since 1990

1990- Round of 16
1994- Quarter-final
1998- Round 1
2002- Quarter-final
2006- Round of 16
2010- Finalist


Key Players:

Wesley Sneijder- plays for the Italian Serie A club Internazionale as a midfielder. In his first season at the Italian club, Sneijder won the European Treble, consisting of Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League. In 09-10 with Inter Sneijder scored 8 goals in 41 appearances. He has also scored 17 international goals in 66 caps with the Netherlands. Strengths: Quick, strong and powerful with accurate shooting ability. Can shoot accurately with both feet.

Robin van Persie- He currently plays for Arsenal, where he is vice-captain. He joined the team in 2004 earning £2.75 million. He won the FA Community Shield and the FA Cup in his first season with the London club and went on to win the 2006 Rotterdam Sportsman of the year award. In 49 international caps with the Netherlands he has scored 19 goals. Other awards he has won include Arsenal Top Scorer in 06-07, and 08-09, he also was the Premier Leagues top assist provider in 08-09. Strengths: With pace and skill in abundance, this forward can change a game in an instant with his ability to achieve the improbable. He is technically excellent with the vision to unlock a defence too.

Arjen Robben- plays for the German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich where in 2009 he contributed to Munich’s league title. In 50 International caps he has scored 14 goals. Strengths: Able to take on and beat defenders at the drop of a hat, Robben's ability to get to the byline and deliver in accurate crosses instils fear into any defence.
World Cup Record: 21 wins-10 losses-10 draws (Made the finals in 1974 and 1978)
World Cup Appearances and Results since 1990

1990- Round of 16
1994- Quarter-finals
1998- Semi Finals (4th Place)
2002- Did Not Qualify
2006- Round of 16
2010- Final

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Email of the Day

Letters! Oh, We get Letters!

Here is one from Curt:


Just listened to another Rangers segment where you mentioned that Hicks has been the biggest obstacle this franchise has faced for the past several years (don't disagree). You also patted yourself on the back for being on top of this from the get-go, seeming to imply that not too long ago BAD Radio was the lone voice crying in the wilderness when it came to Tom Hicks. I know I've heard Dan mention this in the past, as well.

This may be true, but what I remember as the BAD Radio stance was that Jon Daniels was a lousy GM. I'm sure you railed against Hicks also, but I don't recall you ever comparing him unfavorably to a fern. What I remember most is how both you and Dan dismissed the Ranger farm system, saying that Daniels should not get credit for something that had not produced results at the major league level. Now that the system is starting to bear fruit and Jon Daniels is seen as one of the better GMs in the game, it seems like you're ignoring that previous stance and focusing instead on the Hicks one. I guess I'm not the most devoted listener, so maybe the amount of air time dedicated to Hicks' ineptitude vs Jon Daniels' was 10 to 1 and I happened to listen at the wrong time. But for someone like me, it seems incredibly disengenuous to position yourselves as being first on the scene in uncovering the true cause of the Rangers' failings, when at the time it appeared to run a distant second to an opinion you've swept under the rug.

Please tell me I'm wrong. I want to believe in my heroes.

Curt in the Hinterlands

Thanks, Curt for your email.

I am a bit confused here on your direction. It appears you are comparing 2 different opinions about the same team and allowing one to influence how you feel about the other (which is a fair thing to do).

First things first: Our Tom Hicks view has not changed in a long, long time. Especially not since the "owner has to stop writing checks" interview with Dale Hansen.

How that relates to Jon Daniels is anyone's guess, but in October of 2008, I wrote This very controversial essay which has likely been the least well-received thing I have ever written.

The premise was that at the time (easy to say now) the Rangers were continuing in disarray with several consecutive bad moves in a row (it seemed) and another bottom finish. The fruits of the Teixeira trade had not been realized and the question was "what if the GM had not made any moves at all?"

Surely, an unrealistic question, but at the time - with the Danks trade, the Adrian Gonzalez/Chris Young trade, and a few other moves that had not exactly worked well, a conversation that was tailor-made for blogs or segments.

Obviously, the Braves trade changed everything in the career of Daniels. It is likely that this will be his signature move of his career - the one that will always have him employed. Like Donnie Nelson "finding Dirk" or Tom Grieve trading Sammy Sosa, we all know that GMs often get linked to a signature move - no matter how fair it really is.

So, to answer your question: Has my opinion on Daniels adjusted since writing that column? Absolutely. I now have far more information that says he knows what he is doing than I had in October of 2008. As for Hicks, I also have more information. The kind that only confirms that my worst fears of the man were correct back in 2005.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

SB Nation - July 1

Jun 30, 2010 - This weekend, the dinner bell rings across the NBA for the long-discussed and much contemplated "Summer of 2010". My, oh my, when we get to the "Summer of 2010" everything we know as basketball fans will change forever! Because the "Summer of 2010" will make all things different.

Well, it is here. The Summer of 2010 is now. The teams that have been doing everything they can to accumulate cap room will now be put to the test of whether or not they can do anything with it. It is nice to have some money, but what will we do if the players do not want to take it?

As anyone who even slightly follows the NBA knows, the "Summer of 2010" is only the "Summer of 2010" because it contains the unstoppable force known as LeBron James.

For a long, long time, I heavily doubted the idea of LeBron James leaving Cleveland to pursue those greener pastures elsewhere. I just didn't think it would really happen, as icons such as Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant never actually leave during their primes from their teams. They consider the franchise that hatched their legend as much a part of their legacy as anything in their story. To pack up and leave for another port suggests that they cannot handle their problems. Instead, the choice is to run to a new place. They no longer belong to one city and one setting. Their story loses a fair amount of symmetry and stability. Legends don't do this for reasons of pride and ego more than anything. They are convinced that they can fix any situation with a wave of their magic wand. Perhaps they will need to force a trade and fire a coach - but in the end, the true legends of the sport are not leaving town to reach the pinnacle.

I assumed LeBron was cut from that same cloth. But, I must tell you - the last few months has rocked my perception of LeBron significantly.

I wish I knew when things started to tip in the wrong direction for "King James". Come to think of it, maybe he was doomed when people started calling him "King James" when he was a mere high school student and handed him more money in a day than he would need in a lifetime. Days after leaving high school!

Bryant, Jordan and Tiger Woods are not unbelievable sports super heroes just because they have great athletic ability that we cannot comprehend; don't get me wrong - that is part of it for sure. But, certainly not the most important part. The most important part of being a sports super hero is that on top of being better than you at so many portions of their life, on top of being richer than you can ever imagine, and on top of being as famous as a human can be - they still want to beat you today.

The insatiable hunger for winning is not something that exists in great supply across the fruited plains of big time sports. It is sad, but quite surely, players play to get paid. And when they get paid, many of them put up the old "mission accomplished" banner across the deck of the aircraft carrier and put their feet up. It is all good. As the great Bob Gainey once told me, "It is tough to be hungry when you are always full".

But Kobe, MJ, and Tiger? They are never done winning. They really do embody the overused sports cliché that "he would play for free." I believe that Bryant would play for free next year. He won't. But, he would if he was told that is the only way he will be allowed to pursue championship No. 6. He is happy to enjoy the spoils of war, but he is not in the war for the spoils. He is in it to put his enemy to the sword.

Which brings me back to the "Summer of 2010," where it appears LeBron James will be headed to a new city because he never wanted to be in Cleveland to begin with. He is growing the LeBron brand, and that means that he must shed the image millstone of Cleveland, and go somewhere shiny like Chicago or Miami or New York. Somewhere far more mainstream and marketable.

What happens when we are too quick to place a person in the "MJ, Kobe, Tiger" bin when there seems to be a fair amount of evidence that he doesn't belong in this bin? I mean, after all, some of you have argued with me that he is better than Kobe Bryant already (I assume your apology e-mails are in my spam filter after these playoffs). I figure those arguments are based on the physical ability of LeBron and the regular season accomplishments and the commercials, right? Because it if is based on the relentless pursuit of rings and the never-ending desire to own the mountain, then some of you need your eyes checked. Kobe is shorter and older, but since none of that obviously matters, Kobe was grabbing a fifth ring by not backing down to the same Celtics squad that made LeBron go out with a very unimpressive whimper.

Now, are you asking me if I would turn down a chance to sign King James? Of course I would welcome him with open arms - especially to the Mavericks. But, do I believe that he belongs in a group with Michael and Kobe? No. And I never will feel that way the second he leaves Cleveland. Both Jordan and Bryant had plenty of help, but they both figured out how to do it without turning their back on their situation - and those who pledged allegiance to the LeBron flag. Yes, Doug Collins and Del Harris had to go. And yes, Michael and Kobe are both widely considered impossible to deal with at times and thought of as absolute jerks to those around them when they don't like what is going on - but they never ran. They never turned their back on those who bought all the shares that they could afford of what they were selling. They never tapped out.

If he leaves Cleveland - especially when the Cavs have tried to do everything they can to please him for the last seven years - then he is tapping out. Sure, he might be going somewhere to form a super team with Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh. But, you know something? It won't be the same. If you are LeBron James, and you are obsessed with winning, and you want to be in the same category as Kobe and MJ, then you make Wade come to Cleveland. You don't tap out.

But, why should we ever think he belongs in that group? What has ever led us to believe he belongs in that tippy-top group of basketball legends? His commercials that told us so? His fans? Has he ever had his moment of absolute "I will not be denied - I am going to win this or die trying"? OK, but besides Game 6 in Detroit back in 2007?

Look, there is nothing wrong with being in that next group of athletes. In the pyramid of greatness, what is so bad about the level below Tiger and Kobe? I just feel that LeBron has been interested in the last several years at trying to shovel as much money as possible into his corporate hoppers, and not spending time being obsessed with winning titles. He has been obsessed with growing his global brand. He has been obsessed with his celebrity circle of friends and his image plan. And yes, those are things that Jordan and Woods spent a considerable amount of time on as well, but only after they were done polishing all of their trophies.

You know what LeBron feels like to me? He feels like Alex Rodriguez. A corporation built to yield annual earnings. The whole thing is very nice to the shareholders. But in the big scheme of things, his lasting image is style over substance. And the city of his legacy? Like with A-Rod, there isn't one. Well, there may never be one, at least, if he blows out of Cleveland. Sure, lots of guys leave one city for the next in pursuit of scratching that itch, but the legends don't do it in their primes. They deliver on their promise and hype and then some. LeBron has delivered Cleveland about as much as Mark Price did.

I will concede to you that LeBron James is the second best player in the league right now if you concede to me that it is silly to compare him to Kobe or MJ any longer. In the words of the great Chuck D, "don't believe the hype" after LeBron shriveled up in the playoffs and now looks like he is ready to run from his problems to a new address. The greatest of all-time don't do this.


Since we are on the topic of Free Agency in the NBA, I must touch on the local team of interest, and the object of my basketball obsession - the Dallas Mavericks. It has been a few months since the latest fizzle and dissolve for Los Mavs, and it is time for the annual effort to get back on the horse and prepare for next season.

For some reason, no team in this city pulls my heart out of my chest and shows it to me as it is still beating before I die (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom reference) like the Mavericks. I spend plenty of mental time and space trying to figure out how Mark Cuban and the Mavericks solve the ultimate problem of how to get the team to a point of having a chance at the NBA Title. Wow, since Cuban has bought the team, they have always been in the mix, but never been able to quite close the deal. One year, that fateful 2006, everything broke right and it still didn't work out.

Now, Dirk Nowitzki is able to opt out if he so chooses, and is on the brink of the twilight of his career even if he stays. Cuban has told those around him that he is ready to make something happen and has fueled his jets to do it. But, what is there to be done? What can be done in this league where it is clear that the Title seems to go to those who can accumulate "Top Shelf" talent, and any movement of talent on the lower shelves like Jason Terry, Caron Butler, or Joe Johnson types just seems like moving around deck chairs on the Titanic.

Cuban is the polar opposite of Tom Hicks in his willingness to do whatever it takes. Hicks seems content not to do anything, and now that he is bankrupt he can't do anything anyway. But, Cuban seems like he might be more than happy to write a blank check if it meant he could finally put those Lakers and Spurs in their place once and for all. But, no matter how many ways he tries to fit the puzzle pieces together, he just can't figure out the code.

So what is his plan this summer? I have no idea. I trust it is Cuban-sized in its magnitude, but I also wonder if he will ever totally figure it out.

Meanwhile, we who follow this team sit by and wonder if we can take another season of this story that seems to resemble the little train trying to crawl up that impossible hill. And this is why sports seems so utterly silly to those who are not addicted to it; there is no promise of a pay-off. No matter how many years Mark Cuban and the Mavericks try to get it right, there is no promise that he will ever get a title any quicker than an owner who seems to have no addiction to winning whatsoever, like Hicks.

It would be easier to sign up for more heartache if you knew that you would someday see the Mavericks raise the trophy, right? If only it worked that way.

Good luck this summer, Mark. It appears you are going to need it. And then we are all going to need it, too, this winter when the little Mavs try to crawl back up that hill.