Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Russell's Hall of Fame Nominations

I guess it's time since I have computer access to put my nominations for the 110 Percent Hall of Fame. Since PJ did all hockey, I feel honor bound to do all baseball. The funny thing about a personal hall of fame is that everyone pretty much has to be a personal favorite. A historical baseball hall of fame that brought no notion of personal bias would have to be Babe Ruth or Ted Williams or someone like that. But because it's my hall of fame, these are all guys who I love to follow.

1. Historical- Nolan Ryan- Pitcher, 1966-1993 New York Mets, California Angels, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers. Important Stats: 7 no hitters, 12 1 hitters, 5714 Strikeouts, 324 wins.

He played for the Astros and Rangers in my formative years. I remember listening to no hitter #7 on radio. I also listened to him beat up Robin Ventura as well. Above all those things, he gave legitimacy to a Ranger franchise that had struggled for years and was the first to go into the Hall of Fame with a Ranger hat on. A true Texas legend.

2. Current- Craig Biggio- Catcher, 2nd Base, Center field, 1988-present Houston Astros. Along with Jeff Bagwell proved to be the heart and soul of a highly successful franchise in the late 90 and the aughts, finally winning the first play off series in Astros history and then the first World Series games in the state of Texas in 2005. But he was more than just a cog in the machine, he was the best 2nd baseman in the game for a number of years, capturing 4 Gold Gloves. He'll get to 3000 hits in the next week or so, he is 6th all time in doubles, 1st active in hits, 2nd active in runs scores, and he's a likely Hall of Famer according to baseball-reference.

3. Personal Favorite- Rick Helling- Pitcher, 1994-2006- Texas Rangers, Florida Marlins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers. In an never ending search for pitching, the Rangers drafted Helling with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 1992 draft. In an ok trade, they traded him to Florida with Ryan Dempster for John Burkett, who helped them win the West in 1996 and has the only Rangers playoff win in franchise history). In a tremendous trade, the Rangers got him back for reliever Ed Vosberg, best known for scalping World Series tickets a few years later. Rick became the back bone of a rotation of a team that won back to back AL West titles in 1998 and 1999. He won 20 games in 1998 and on Sept 22 beat the Angels giving up 1 run in 8 innings to put the Rangers up 2 games with 5 to go. Ahh, the glory days of winning the AL West and getting swept by the Yankees. I always liked Rick and I followed him in the minors and when he came up and got his brain beat in at first. Then he came back and was the guy we were hoping for. He understood how to pitch in the Ballpark and hung in there to lead the team to the highest it's ever been (such that it is). Also, a Kazakh guy saw a picture of him in a baseball preview magazine I had when I lived in Kazakhstan and asked if he and I were brothers. Crazy Kazakhs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Well, well, well....

Just last week or so, Chris and I had a small disagreement over Rangers GM Jon Daniels. And can I say something real quick? (Of course, this is my blog) Is it possible to put a moritorium on the young puns on Jon Daniels? I know he's young, but I'm really tired of him being called "Jon-boy" or "little Johnny" or anything like that. He is a general manager of a major league baseball team (yes, the Rangers are still a major league team) and he's not 8. Ok, rant over.
Today Rangers owner Tom Hicks came down on my side. He gave Jon Daniels a one year contract extension. I'm obviously on board with this move. Couple of caveats: I don't think that this a major move on Hicks part. There is little financial risk for Hicks. He can still very easily fire Daniels at the end of next year.
But the biggest thing the Rangers need right now is stability. I think it would be counter productive to start all over right now. But this gives Daniels more standing in front of other GMs as we approach the trade market. I really think this trade season even more than the next off season is going to determine if Daniels can keep his job. There are at least 5 players that have a strong chance of being traded by the Rangers (Teixeira, Gagne, Aki, Sosa, Lofton, maybe Blalock, Wilkerson, Millwood, Benoit). What he gets for these guys and any others that end up being traded is the proof of what he is doing. Hopefully, simple wins and loses are the only criteria for judging Daniels. I think this also says that Ron Washington will stick around for alittle while. Daniels hired him and I doubt that he would cut him off so quickly.
Finally, I really liked Daniels approach in this more recent draft. It had the markings of a GM who either knew he had security or he was more interested in helping the frachise than saving his own skin. He resisted the temptation to go after college players who could possibly give them help much sooner. Instead, he drafted three high ceiling high school pitchers that at the very least 4 years away. The Rangers are in desperate need to high ceiling pitchers. Daniels moved in that direction. In fact, the last two drafts have been very productive. Hopefully, the Rangers are on the right track.

Monday, June 18, 2007

110% Hall of Fame Nominations

So Chris asked Russ and I to put something together that is good "off-season" talk for me, which is the 110% Hall of Fame inductions. This idea appeals to me a lot in that I like to see stuff like this debated and like to celebrate sports whenever I can. The format we were to follow was to pick a Historical Player, Current Player, and a Personal Fave.

This of course sent my head spinning because I can think of way too many players that fit in here. I thought I'd go off the beaten path a little bit and avoid obvious picks. So, Gretzky, Jordan, Montana, etc... not in my list. Way too obvious. So without further ado, and of course, they will all be Hockey players for me.

Historical Player: I didn't go back too far.. This player began his career with the Vancouver Canucks in 1983 and played for three seasons before being traded to the Boston Bruins where he eventually notched 344 of his 395 goals, and 590 of his 694 total points. He was a pioneer who was a prototype for what would be termed the Power Forward amassing 1241 PIM's to go along with his points. He topped 50 goals three times including the 1993-1994 season when he scored his 50th in his 44th game giving him the unofficial second shortest time to 50 goals (next to Gretzky). Injuries shortened a very bright career that he was making and in the end, even though his numbers were low for forwards inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, he was inducted in 2005. My first nomination for the 110% Hall of Fame - Historical Player division is Cam Neely.

Current Player: Drafted first overall in 1988, he has played his entire career for one franchise. He has never won a major NHL award, but has finished as a finalist three times. He owns franchise records for games played, goals, assists, and points for both regular season and playoffs. This last season, he passed Joe Mullen to be the American-born goal-scoring leader. Next season, he will most likely pass Phil Housley for american-born points. He is the face of the Dallas Stars franchise and still as enjoyable to watch as ever. My Nomination for 110% Hall of Fame - Current Player division is Mike Modano

Fav Player: So, this last category is so open, it's really hard to decide. I thought about the people I like to see play. I thought about those that did something truly extrodinary, and I came up with with a few ideas, but one name kept jumping to the top of my list. He was originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, where he later became the Captain, won three Selke Trophies for best Defensive forward, and two Stanley Cups (including one as the Captain). He made his way to Dallas where his leadership and play helped the Stars win the Stanley Cup in 1999. today, he is currently the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. My Nomination for 110% Hall of Fame - Fav Player division is Guy Carbonneau

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fixing the Finals in one easy step

As everyone knows, the NBA Finals were a little anticlimactic. A lot of people think the playoffs need to be fixed and everyone seems to know how to do it. I'm no different: I've got my suggestion, too.

Do nothing.

Look, we've been through this before. In the 90's the Bulls ruled. The 80's had the Celtics and the Lakers. Each time, fans talked about a competitive imbalance and the need to adjust. Each time, the imbalance corrected itself eventually.

The most common suggestion is seeding all sixteen teams in a super bracket, regardless of conference. There are two major problems here. The first is the current imbalanced schedule. If you switch to a super bracket, you have to go to a balanced schedule, which creates many other problems, starting with decreased emphasis on natural rivalries and an increase in travel.

The second major problem with the super bracket is what proponents actually champion: getting the best matchup in the Finals. In an ideal world, that would be great, but how would people have reacted if some combination of San Antonio/Phoenix/Dallas played for the championship? Yeah, it would be a great matchup, but you know everyone would be upset that there wasn't an Eastern team in it. They complain enough about 'late starts' for regular season and early round playoff games. What kind of noise would they make if it was the Finals? This plan has got serious flaws.

Bill Simmons has his own tricked up version of this, in which the last four spots in the super bracket are determined by a double elimination play-in tourney. He attempts to solve the playoff problem and the tanking issue. This plan might even possibly solve both. But it's too ridiculous and mocks any sanctity of sport that exists—it would be like if the BCS changed their formula every year. Oh, wait...

Everyone loved the Warriors first round upset of the Mavericks—this is the price you pay for that upset. When top teams bow out early, you shouldn't be surprised if it affects play in later rounds. The Utah/Golden State and San Antonio/Utah series probably would have never happened if not for that first round upset. Think George Mason 2006—Cinderella teams are fun until clock strikes midnight in a later round.

The only change that I wouldn't mind seeing is reseeding. Even with the first round upset, wouldn't a round two of Spurs/Warriors and Suns/Jazz, likely followed by Spurs/Suns have been better?

As for the hapless East, well, just wait. In a few years, the balance of power will swing back that way, just in time for everyone to deplore the Eastern Conference dominance.

Friday, June 15, 2007

King James, meet a real dynasty

Finals sweep.

Four championships in nine years.

Three in the last five.

And yet some would have you believe this team is not a dynasty?

I'm not sure what these people want. Consecutive titles, maybe? Yeah, that would be nice, but there is something to be said for consistently getting it done over a larger span of time. Besides, it's not like they stunk the years they didn't win--these past nine years also yielded six division titles.

Maybe they want scoreboard domination. Yeah, the Spurs win a lot of close games. Keyword in that sentence? Win.

I think what people are really looking for is flash. The Suns are NBA darlings because they play exciting, up tempo basketball. Unfortunately, this has produced no titles. Before them, the Mavs were flash. No titles. Go back further to Sactown. No titles.

What is this team's weakness? Do they have one? They play lockdown defense. They are aggressive on offense. They have too many weapons to focus on one player. Duncan is perhaps the best player of the past ten years, Parker has turned into a top five point guard, and the rest of the roster plays their roles to perfection. In addition, they draft smart, despite consistently picking at the end of the first round.

Avery Johnson has attempted to imitate San Antonio's defense in Dallas and done so fairly successfully. But after watching the playoffs, I'm convinced he's copied the wrong aspect of the Spurs game. He should be installing their offense. Every player on this team drives to the basket. They attack. They are relentless, they are strong, and when they get bumped, they don't resort to jump shots. What a concept.

Say what you want. Say they aren't a dynasty.

They'll just keep sizing rings.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Fixing the Rangers in five easy steps

The Texas Rangers need some serious help. Fortunately, they are only five steps away from being a contender.

Step One: Tom Hicks, sell the team. Want to spend more time with your new soccer team, Liverpool? Fine by me. Sell the Rangers—I’d recommend Mark Cuban. Love him or hate him, but the guy wants to win. There is no reason why a team in the sixth largest market should have the 21st ranked payroll. Also, according to Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Nolan Ryan is also interested. Instant cred. Either one would be a vast improvement over Hicks, who is killing this team, with a little help from his friends. Which leads us to...

Step Two: Fire the GM. In 2004, the Boston Red Sox broke an 86-year curse by winning the World Series. Theo Epstein was the team’s GM, hired two years earlier as the youngest GM in MLB history. In 2005, Hicks thought that if he hired an even younger GM, the Rangers would win, too. And it might have worked if it wasn’t for those meddling kids...

Jon Daniels is in over his head. If you listen to him speak, he sounds like he is wishing things to get better. He’s counting on breaks to even out and start going their way. Sorry, Jon, ain’t gonna happen. You make your own breaks. In the past two years, Daniels has traded away Chris Young, Coco Cordero and John Danks. You’re telling me those three guys wouldn’t help this staff? Breaks? This team is just broken.

Step Three: Fire the manager. Word was that Ron Washington blew everyone away in his interview. He did the same in the spring, suckering everyone in the DFW area in with his energy in infectious attitude. And then April rolled around.

Like Daniels, Wash is also in over his head. He may have been a great coach with Oakland, but he’s no manager. You know the brilliant coordinator in the NFL who is a total failure as a head coach? That’s Wash. Maybe he and Wade Phillips can be BFF since they have that in common, but I’m hoping he won’t be around that long. I’m telling you, they should have gone with Trey Hillman. Go Nippon Ham Fighters!

Step Four: Trade. Trade Teixeira. Trade Gagne. Trade Sosa, Lofton, Frankie Cat. Trade anyone over 25 for prospects. Doing things halfway has turned the Rangers into the worst team in baseball with no farm system to speak of. Blow it up completely and commit to youth. This naturally leads to...

Step Five: Get a plan and stick with it. The Rangers have changed direction countless times in the past decade. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that they have had six scouting directors since 1995—continuity has been a foreign concept with this team. They had a great opportunity at the draft, with six of the top 80 picks. Time will tell, but I’m not optimistic. The Rangers are too focused on pitching. I know what you’re thinking: their pitching stinks—they need to focus on it. Not so. They need to draft the best player available every single time, regardless of position. Stock those players in the minors and develop them. If you need a pitcher in a couple years, trade for him then, but no more reaching for pitchers in the draft. So what did the Rangers do? Four of their first five picks were pitchers. Maybe four out of five times the best player was a pitcher, but I have my doubts.

So there you have it. Five easy steps to greatness. Other than that, they’re golden.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Yea Anaheim...

So, I'm actually happy that Anaheim won. Even though I picked Ottawa to win in 7, Anaheim took it in 5. I'm happy for Teemu, I'm glad that Alfredsson didn't win (when did he turn into a jerk?), and I think it's funny that a Canadian team has lost to a non-conventional team for three straight cups. (Calgary lost to Tampa Bay, Edmonton lost to Carolina, and now Ottawa has lost to Anaheim). I don't have much more to write. I just want to show that when I'm wrong, I can stand up and say it. I was wrong.

NBA Finals

Ever since the Mavs wasted a 67 win regular season, I have been completely disinterested in the playoffs. But now that the Finals are here, well, I'm still completely disinterested.

Lebron is exciting, but he's got no support. And is it just me, or did Cleveland look satisfied with winning the East? The East? Should anyone really be that proud of that?

But I suppose it is my duty to provide a prediction of the Finals, half-hearted as it may be. Spurs win, call it five. Duncan and the Spurs are too good. Maybe next year, Lebron.

When's training camp open?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mark Teixeira- Jerk?

It's time to trade Mark Teixeira. He really is the most tradeable player on this team and the one who is going to bring in the most in return. He is on the verge of being a superstar, although he's been on the verge for a couple of years now. Don't get me wrong. He's really really good, but he's not Vlad Guerrero or A-Rod. Mark's numbers last year were down in every category except strikeouts. Despite that, he is a real live middle of the order masher who can carry a team. He's also a gold glove caliber first baseman.
But he's a free agent after 2008 and there is almost no chance that's he's gonna resign with the Rangers. His agent is the the baseball anti-Christ and it's becoming clearer and clearer that he doesn't want to be here. Here is where I get the notion that he needs to be traded.
Last year, it was well known that the players were unhappy with Buck Showalter and his micromanagement and overbearing personality. When Buck was fired, the players were pretty happy and there was near unanimous happiness with the hiring of players manager, Ron Washington. Well, it didn't take long for Mark to get tired of Washington.
He seems to unable to be happy with anything. He sounds alot like those athletes that drives everyone crazy. And I'm not talking about criminals like Pac Man Jones. But athletes who have never been told no and think no one can ever tell them anything.
If they were winning, this crying would not be coming out right now. Someone once said that winning cures cancer. This cancer in the clubhouse could be cured if they started winning.
I'm tired of losing and I'm tired of players crying about managers and owners whining about losing money and gms making stupid trades and players stinking it up. They need to cut their loses on 2007 and get the best deal they can for Teixeira.