Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mmm, Yummy Crow

I guess after being nigh on suicidal after game 1 and incredulous after game 2, I should write about the Mavericks unbelievable championship. It shocked the basketball world. In fact, I think it shocked the Mavs. It seemed at the end of the game that as time was ticking down they just looked at each other as if they were saying, did that just happen? Am I dreaming? The Heat were stunned, too. After one of the Heat's final baskets, when they had to foul to try to prolong the game, they let Jason Terry dribble around like it was a shoot around. They seemed to mail the last 5 minutes of the game in, which was a common theme in the finals.

I listened to a podcast of Miami sports writer Dan Lebatard with Bill Simmons recapping the finals. I didn't count, but he probably said 10 times that the Heat were close to winning all the games and if Lebron James had played to his averages then they would have won. I obviously can't dispute any of that, but the question has to be asked why did those things happen? Why did Lebron struggle so much in the series and the fourth quarters in particular? Why did the Mavs own the last few minutes of the games they won? How were they able to take apart the Heat defense late in games? These are legitimate questions because that is what happened on a consistent basis throughout the series.

After the historic comeback in game 2, the assumption (at least on my part) was that the Mavs it was a blip on the radar. They made a few shots and surprised the Heat, but it wouldn't happen again and game 3 seemed to prove that out. But in game 4, Mavs outscored the Heat by 7 in the 4th and won by 3. In game 5, the Heat were up again by 4 with four mins to go, but lost by 9! In game 6, the Mavs led most of the game, but after the Heat got to within four early in the fourth, the Mavs answered quickly and the Heat never got closer than seven after that.

The thing is in just about every playoff game or series, one can always point to a couple of plays here and there that won or lost the game. Rare is the game, especially late in the playoffs when a team gets so outclassed that they can't play the "what if" game. What if that borderline call went our way? What if the shot had fallen in instead of out (or vice versa)? What if that guy didn't get hurt? In the 2006 Finals, Mavs fan were asking what if the Mavericks had been able to pull out game 3 when they had a big lead and looked poised to go up 3-0? What if the refs hadn't given game 5 to the Heat? Here in 2011, what happened in the fourth quarters goes beyond what if. If it happens once, ok, those things happen. Four times? Whatever happened (and I'm still not quite sure how it happened) was real. The Mavs, shockingly enough, were better than the Heat. The Heat clearly had the talent advantage, but this is a case where the Mavericks' whole was great than the sum of it's parts.

For me, I didn't truly believe until the end. I expected them to collapse or the refs to make sure there was a game 7. At last, the Mavs were stronger than whatever forces were arrayed against them. It was a ton of fun.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Worst Sports Week of My Life, Part 2

The NBA finals. I could not possibly be less excited about it. Of all the teams to face, it had to be the Heat. Unbelievable. This sucks.

The problem is I'm experiencing flash backs of the worst sports week of my life- the 2006 NBA finals. I've been trying to think of worse sports weeks. I'm sure there have been days that have been worse: just about every Cowboys experience since 1996, watching Jo Jo Jones run around Hardin Simmons my senior year, and various and a sundry Rangers ridiculousness over the years.

What this feels like is Yankees/ Rangers in the late 90s. We know what's going to happen and there is nothing anyone can do about it. You know it and I know it.

Oh, how I wish I was wrong. I wish Dirk had someone who we could trust next to him. This is Dirk and the 2003 All Star Team. I'd love to see what Caron Butler would do for this team.

Of all the teams to play...

They may win one or two, but I doubt it. My prediction (made after game 1) is Heat 4-1. Prove me wrong, Mavs. Please, prove me wrong.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Message from Chuck Greenberg

The following was written by Chuck Greenberg, Rangers co-owner, originally posted here. He may be from Pittsburgh but he speaks like a Ranger lifer here. Let's go Ranger fans, it's our time now.

Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg posted the following message on his Facebook page.

This season has transcended expectations and transformed the psyche and hearts of legions of Rangers fans across Texas and throughout our country and beyond. At the core of the remarkable journey we have shared together is a ballclub and a community who collectively have consigned the conventional wisdom of the past to the dust bins of history, busting myths and charting a new course previously thought to be unattainable.

Can't pitch successfully in Rangers Ballpark. Wrong.

Can't compete successfully late in the season because the heat will break you down. Wrong.

Fans will lose interest when training camp opens. Wrong.

Fans won't come to Rangers Ballpark after the All Star break because it's too hot. Wrong.

Rangers can't win a playoff series. Wrong.

Rangers can't win a playoff game at home. Wrong.

Rangers can't beat the Yankees in the playoffs. Wrong.

Rangers can't get to the World Series. Wrong.

Rangers can't captivate the hearts and emotions of fans new and old deep into the fall. Wrong.

And on and on and on....

I can't even begin to count the memorable moments we have shared this year thanks to a very special group of players with hearts and smiles as big as Texas, who always pull together, stand up for one another, and who have changed the sports landscape here in the Metroplex forever.

But here is a simple reality. Monday will be the last game played in Rangers Ballpark this year. We all owe it to ourselves, our players and each other, to celebrate with passion, enthusiasm and indefatigable belief from lineup cards to the final out, loud and proud.

The defining team of my young life was the 1979, "We are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates. I have often remarked how much this Rangers club reminds me of that team, with a confident but friendly swagger and an abundance of character and personality.

Now these two teams have something else in common. Both fell behind 3-1 in the World Series. Kent Tekulve, the great closer from the '79 Pirates, texted me after tonight's game to pass along this story. Before Game 5, Willie Stargell told his teammates:

"We are playing in front of the whole world. We may not win this thing, but before we go, let's show the world how the Pirates really play baseball."

The Pirates, playing against a team whose colors were black and orange, won Game 5. Then they returned to Baltimore and won Game 6. Then they won Game 7.

I know our players will show everyone how the Rangers play baseball tomorrow. As fans, let's do the same. We have one final opportunity this season to show the world what we have accomplished together and the passion we all hold for our players and our shared dreams.

The World Series is going back to San Francisco. And then there will be one final piece of conventional wisdom to prove wrong....



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A kid's dream

So this is what it takes to get me writing again.

You know, it's been pretty tough on Dallas sports fans for a few years now. The Stars haven't been truly competitive for a decade and it's been four years since the Mavs choked in the Finals, beginning their slide to mediocrity. We thought the Cowboys were on the way to playing in the Super Bowl in their own stadium, before we were reminded they are still owned by Jerry and coached (for now) by Wade.

But the Rangers.

For my entire life, the Rangers have been more or less irrelevant in baseball. Sure, they'd score lots of runs, but with no pitching to speak of and the August swoon as a built-in excuse, they never really got your hopes too high. And with Tom Hicks slashing payroll the last few years--why does a top five market have a bottom five payroll?--the Rangers should have been trending down.

But things started changing five years ago, without anyone really noticing what was going on. First Jon Daniels was named GM. If you've been reading here for a while, you know I've been none too complimentary of JD in the past. Don't worry--a proper apology is coming later. After a year, he named Ron Washington manager, and two years after that Nolan Ryan joined the team as president. Along the way, Daniels made several significant trades that stocked the farm system. This year, it all came together, and combined with the eventual purchase of the team by the Greenberg-Ryan group, the Rangers were poised for great things.

And if that's all there was, it would be great. But there is so much more to this team. Simply put, they have "it"--that something that you can't quite put a finger on, but it's there nonetheless. The Red Sox as the self-proclaimed Idiots had it in 2004. The Patriots had it 2001 on their way to their first Super Bowl, just like the Rams two years earlier with the Greatest Show on Turf. It is evidenced by the Claw and the Antler, which some around baseball have mocked. That's fine--we're having fun anyway. But mock at your own peril, because you are mocking It. Maybe you call it chemistry, fate, destiny, desire, want-to. Whatever. Just know that the Rangers have It.

And only those of us who have been through the long, lean years can really appreciate how special that is. I grew up in Dallas as a fan of all three (pre-Stars) major sports teams, but the Rangers were my favorite, for a few reasons. I played little league baseball, so I readily identified with the game. Baseball was on TV more, just by the nature of the long season. But mostly, it was because those were the games I went to. Sure, we went to a Mavs game or two each year, and I went to my one-and-only Cowboys game when I was 21. But I grew up in the 70's as a Junior Ranger. I was at old Arlington Stadium when that logo you see above wasn't retro. I remember powder blues. I had fan giveaways: hats and plastic helmets and shirts and backpacks and pennants. And greatest of all, a red Rangers Louisville Slugger. I went to the top of the bleachers and peeked over the edge at the parking lot. I went to summer clinics where I got to walk out on the field and listen to real pro ballplayers talk about what they did and how they did it. Night of high school graduation? I went to Arlington with some friends to watch the great Nolan Ryan pitch. In high school and college, we'd go to games late, because after the fourth inning they'd let you in for free. I was there on April 19, 1996, when the Rangers batted around three times in an hour long bottom of the eighth and put up 18 on the Orioles, beating them 26-7. My first date with my wife? Dinner at TGI Friday's Front Row Grill and two seats in the Home Run Porch. One of the the last things I did before leaving Dallas? Take pictures out at the Ballpark. This team was a huge part of my life, from childhood into adulthood.

I've been away from Dallas for eight years. I go to Orioles Sunday home games all season at beautiful Camden Yards. I enjoy the games there. They're having a rough time on the field, but it's a great organization that takes care of its fans. Still, I miss the Rangers, and nothing can replace that. I've got too much history in Arlington.

I've waited nearly 37 years for this magical run at the World Series, and I've never enjoyed sports success so much. Not the Cowboys' Super Bowls or the Stars' Stanley Cups. Not even the Longhorns' National Championship. The plus side of all those Rangers lean years? The last few weeks have been a string of Firsts. First playoff series win. First home playoff win. First American League Pennant.

Up next: First World Series Appearance by the Texas Rangers. It's been a long time coming, and it's all the sweeter for it.

It's time.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Return to blogging: MLB predictions and Ranger questions

I haven't posted in a long time. Having a toddler, a full time job, and being in school part time will do that. Does this mean I'm back posting a lot? Probably not, but I had some Ranger opinions and MLB predictions I wanted to throw out there before the season started.

First, my Ranger concerns.
I am a Ranger homer if there ever was one. I always have hope that this year will be different and we will relive the glory days of the late 90s when the Rangers won a playoff game. Ahh, memories. In fact, even on this blog, I have spouted unvarnished optimism that only a true rose colored glasses wearing homer could say. Finally, it seems this may be the year. Listening to podcasts and reading some of the national writers, many believe Texas could actually breakthrough and make it back to the playoffs. So why am I worried? I'll give you a list.
1. The rotation is deep, but full of question marks. Scott Feldman- can he do it again? He will probably regress a little, but how much? Rich Harden has looked terrible in spring training. CJ Wilson hasn't started since 2005 and he was terrible then. Can be a true #2 like he is listed in Ranger rotation? Colby Lewis was terrible the last time he was starter, too. He was great in Japan, but can be good here? Spring training stories like Matt Harrison (best shape of his life, added velocity, etc) are a dime a dozen. Does it mean anything? Is Tommy Hunter anything more than a #4 starter? Is Brandon McCarthy ever going to make us stop throwing up whenever John Danks does something? When is Derek Holland going to be ready?
2. The lineup has question marks: Chris Davis was terrible last year, so can he better? Will Ian Kinsler be able to stay healthy (not so far this year)? Will Elvis Andrus progress offensively? Will Michael Young regress? Can Hamilton stay healthy? Will Borbon's poor walk rate kill the Ranger offense? Will either catcher be any good?
3. The bullpen without Wilson is a concern. I wonder if the Rangers gain enough in moving CJ Wilson to the rotation to make up for what they lost in the bullpen? Darren Oliver is their only lefty right now. Who will close if (when) Frankie Francisco gets hurt?
4. Is Ron Washington's cocaine use last year really no big deal?

I still have hope, but for some reason, my blind optimism just isn't there.

Here are my picks
AL East: Yankees (FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!)
AL Central: Twins
AL East: Rangers (disregard everything I just wrote)
Wild Card: Rays (I just can't in good conscious pick the Yankees and the Red Sox)
AL Champion: Yankees (suck)

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Astros (Just kidding... I'm picking the Cardinals. The Astros will probably loss 100 games)
NL West: Rockies
Wild Card: Braves
NL Champion: Braves (A wild card team goes to the World Series all the time. Why can't I pick one as well.)
World Champion: Yankees (I'm picking them to win because my predictions are never right. Even in the 2nd chance bracket for the NCAA tournament, I got exactly ZERO in the Final Four. I'm trying to reverse jinx the Yankees)

AL Cy Young: Jon Lester
AL MVP: Joe Mauer
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
NL MVP: Ryan Howard

Monday, March 15, 2010

110 Percent Madness 2010

The bracket is set and 110 Percent invites you to pick against our 'pros' in our third annual Pick 'em challenge. Click on 110 Percent Madness Tournament Challenge to play.

Here are the details:
Group name: 110 Percent
Group ID# 78381
Password: teameffort

This is hosted by Yahoo!, so you will need a Yahoo! ID to play.

We have a tweak to the scoring this year. In addition to the standard scoring (1 point for first round, 2 for second, 4 for third, 8-fourth, 16-fifth, 32-championship), there are also bonus points up for grabs. All you have to do is pick the upsets. For a correct upset pick, you will get bonus points equal to the difference in the seeds. For example, if you correctly pick a 10 seed over a 7 in the first round, you will get one point for the win and three bonus points for the upset (10-7).

Also, we'll do some crazy brackets like last year--coin flip, free throw percentage, that sort of thing. If you have an idea you'd like to try for a crazy bracket and have an extra email account, go ahead and give it a shot, naming the bracket appropriately (ex: Coin Flip) so we all know what brainless method is schooling us. Please, though, only one serious bracket per person--any extras will be deleted.

Good luck and let the madness begin.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

110 Percent Pick'em Contest 2009 (and more!)

If anyone is still reading around these parts, for the third year, we have posted an NFL Pick'em contest.

To join, go to Yahoo! Fantasy Sports Pro Football Pick'em. Here is the important information:
League name: 110 Percent
Group ID#: 34198
Password: allonthefield

New for this year is confidence points. We have had some tight races in the past, so maybe adding confidence values will help in that regard.

Also, we will have a Survival Football game this year. All you have to do is pick one winner each week. Sounds easy, right? Give it a try and see... 
League name: 110 Percent
Group ID#: 12914
Password: allonthefield

Be sure to join up before the early games on Thursday, and good luck!