Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Rangers at the Half Way Point and Going Forward

After 82 games, the Rangers are 41-41, a .500 team. A wise man once said you are what you are, and the Rangers are a .500 team with a really good (and could be great) offense and a mediocre to bad pitching staff. Sounds like the last nine years or so. But while the Rangers are what they are, they aren't what they were. Which is a mediocre team without much real hope for the future. I've said a couple of times before that the Rangers actually have a bright future. And it's not just Rangers fan and apologists who think so. I could list the names, but if you follow the Ranger's minor leagues you know who the are and if you don't, then I could just list any names and it wouldn't make a difference, but that sweet swing you see to your left belongs to Chris Davis, who was in the process of hitting his 2nd home run of the Red Hawks/ Nashville Sounds game a went too last week. The Rangers have some real talent on the way and some of it is really close.

So while they will probably spend the rest of this year around the .500 mark, they are looking better and better. So this begs the question on every Ranger fan's mind. Do the Rangers buy or sell? Is there enough here to try to make a run for it? Or do we trade everyone over the age of 26? On one hand, you never know when you're going to have a chance to make a run for the playoffs and for a fan base who is discontent to say the least, why would they really throw it all to wind and try to get CC Sabathia or Roy Oswalt and relief pitcher or two? On the other hand, how close are they really? They're 7 1/2 games back, and while they're by no means out of the race, they don't appear to be a team that's going to run off a big winning streak or even a 9 of 10 or anything like that. While a pick up of Sabathia would definitely help, I'm not sure it would enough and is it worth trading away the best of their farm system? Back in the 80s, the Rangers had a good team, but were several games behind the leading team. But they had a frustrated fan base and decided to go for it and trade Wilson Alvarez and Sammy Sosa for Harold Baines. No one wants that again. The Rangers have some tradable commodities: Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla, Milton Bradley, etc.

For a while this year I was an advocate of the first thought. But I'm not real big on trading everyone. I would rather the Rangers do what I call strategic trading with an eye not on 2008, but 2009 and further. They need to be ready to trade Millwood or Padilla (I don't think I'm big on trading both. That would leave them with an all- inexperienced rotation. Millwood and Padilla haven't been great, but even on days when they suck, like Thursday for Millwood, he at least pitched 5 innings. Not great, but he saved the bullpen.), but there's no reason to give them away. Don't trade for a pending free agent, like Sabathia. Trade for guys who are going to be here and help the next two years. At this point, my fear of the Rangers getting fleeced out of their young guys on a misguided attempt to hang around for a pennant when they are clearly the third best team in the division, a la John Danks for Brandon McCarthy or Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez for Adam Eaton. I don't mind trading young guys, but I want something that helps soon. The Volquez- Hamilton deal was a tough deal, but both teams can be happy about that trade. Don't screw up like they did with the Harold Baines deal.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The NBA treadmill

I'm back.

Ever play tennis? Baseline or net? Maybe you like staying on the baseline, where you have more time and can place your shots strategically. Or maybe you're aggressive and charge the net, hoping to force your opponent's hand. Either way is fine, but you don't want to get caught in no-man's land.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Mavs have acquired a shooter and. . . what, already?

Yes, that's right. With the 51st overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks selected Shan Foster, 6-5 shooting guard out of Vanderbilt. Word is he's a phenomenal shooter, 42% in his college career, 47% as a senior. Great. Another jumpshooter.

I realize there are few options when you are picking at 51. But does the Mavs braintrust (and I'm starting to use that term very loosely) realize that the last thing they need is another shooter? According to the Dallas Morning News, he "needs to work on his strength and defensive ability." Which, of course, is the punchline of another tired Mavs joke.

And I don't know what the Mavericks have done with the Morning News's Eddie Sefko, but the police might want to investigate. His article is ridiculous in it's praise of a very average draft selection. At one point he says that because the Mavs need more shooters "to help open up the floor for Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, Foster seems to be a wonderful fit." Funny, I thought they needed strength in the front court and slashers to take pressure off the shooters. And wasn't the trade for Kidd supposed to open up the floor?

And after telling us about his shooting, Sefko spends a fair amount of the article on Foster's second best skill: the piano. That's right, the piano. No other commentary necessary here.

I've seen it coming since their '07 playoff loss to Golden State, and particularly since the Kidd trade, but this team has been caught in no-man's land. If this season had been five games longer, they wouldn't have made the playoffs this year, and they won't make it next year. Mavs fans, get ready for a string of near misses to get in the playoffs and the mid-first round picks that go with them--just good enough to keep you from the bottom of the standings, but not good enough to make some noise in the conference. This team is now running in place on a treadmill: they aren't going anywhere, and they can't get off, either. And they're staying there until the "braintrust" realizes that this team as currently constructed can't compete.

Source: Dallas Mavericks stay put at 51, pick shooting guard, Dallas Morning News

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Blow. It. Up.

There is nothing left to do than to blow up the Mavericks. Trade Dirk and Kidd and Josh and cut anyone else who isn't nailed down. Only an idiot looks at this team and says they are legitimate championship contender. Unfortunately, it seems idiots are running the Mavs. They are not in the same zip code as LA Lakers, New Orleans, or San Antonio. They are about to get passed (if they aren't already) by Portland and Golden State. The Mavs are about to be the Kevin Garnett led Minnesota Timberwolves, a mediocre team that gets kicked out of the playoffs in the 1st or 2nd round every year. A wise man once said "You are what you are." In 2007, the Mavs lost to the team that lost to the team that lost to the team that won the championship. In 2008, they stumbled into the playoffs then lost to the team that lost to the team that lost to the team that lost the championship. In terms of tradable parts they have Dirk, Josh, Brandon Bass, and, and, and.... what else? Maybe Kidd? The Kidd trade last year just looks worse and worse. Stackhouse is nothing. Terry is nothing. George is nothing. Jones is nothing. Damp is nothing. This team is done. I'm listening to the draft and Norm and Ben and Skin are talking about the 51st pick in the draft (Shan Foster from Vanderbilt) getting time on this team! Avery was a problem, but he was not THE problem. Changing the coach is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and this team is on it's way to the bottom of the ocean.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why I Do Root For Tiger

I've read the post a few times, and I've started to write a response, but now, I think I'm ready. I understand the idea of rooting against teams you hate. Heck, in my bio on the left side I talk about rooting for anyone who plays the Yankees cause I don't like them. But I guess what I don't get is why you would think Tiger is almost everything wrong with sports.

I read the bit about his work ethic and determination and I agree. That is also one of the things that make him so compelling to watch. But I'll get into that in a minute. First a response to the things you see wrong with Tiger.
1. The media. The media does beat Tiger into the ground and into our heads and that is extremely annoying. But, there is a reason they do that. He is a great story on so many levels. Dominant player, Multi-Cultural icon, once-in-a-lifetime run at history, and now that he is a husband and father, he has seemed to open up a little more. I understand getting tired of seeing too much of him commercially, but I don't think he's approached Peyton Manning stages yet.. I don't think we'll see him on SNL any time soon. When a player like him is so dominant for such a long time, he is naturally going to be the top person covered. He is the golfer known by people who hate golf or don't know anything about golf. Not to cover him would be a more odd choice even when they do seem to go overboard.

2. This I just disagree with. I think it's extremely interesting to watch dominant sports figures. It's fun to watch them get pushed by someone who normally wouldn't be in the same class. It's fun to watch Tiger eat Phil's lunch over and over. I've seen some iconic figures play live and it is always amazing to watch them and the little things they do that the camera does not pick up. Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Emmitt Smith, Nolan Ryan, and Tiger Woods. I've had the pleasure of watching them all live and each time, they have not disappointed as they just looked better than the other players. Tiger's chase of the major wins is very fun for me to watch and I hope he gets it very soon (although this has been put on hold with the injury).

3. This I think was more the Tiger of the past. When he sunk the put to go to a playoff, the look of excitement was very apparent. The look of joy when he picked up his daughter was unmistakable. I think as he's mellowed a little, he does enjoy his winning more, and does it because he can feel that he's closer to what he's been working for so long.

I don't watch golf unless Tiger is playing. Which likely means I'm out for the rest of the year, but I'm not alone. I forget the player who said it, but someone said that if they won the British Open, they would need an asterisk stating that Tiger wasn't playing. He was only partly kidding and that speaks to why Tiger is worth watching and rooting for.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Sports of Hate or Why I don't root for Tiger Woods

As I've said before on this blog, for me sports is almost as much about who I hate as to who I love. In fact, my love for my teams causes me to hate with a passion teams that drive me crazy. Because I love the Cowboys, I hate the Giants, Eagles, Redskins, 49ers, etc. I am much more of a fan of my teams than I am a lover of sports. This brings me to Tiger Woods.

I am not a big golf fan. I have a set of golf clubs and I fool around with some friends every once in a while, though I haven't played this summer. For many of my friends and lots of people on sports talk radio, the golf majors are appointment television. Actually, it would be more correct to say that the majors are appointment television if Tiger is in contention on the last day. For me, golf is switch off no matter what the situation. I listen to coverage, though hardly ever watch it on TV hoping that Tiger is loosing or struggling.

As the US Open played out yesterday, I heard several sports talk radio guys say something along the lines of, "If you're a sports fan, you have to root for Tiger" or "How can anyone root against Tiger?" And I thought, it's pretty easy. For me, Tiger represents almost everything that is wrong with sports. I say almost everything because there is one thing that he is an example of everything good about sports. For an immensely talented individual, he is very much a grinder. For most pro athletes if they don't have it, they'll say, it's not my day, go through the motions, and be satisfied with that. Tiger works his butt off on the course and it's not satisfied with anything less that being champion. That's the epitome of what it means to compete.

Now, the wrong things about Tiger and how it relates to my hatred of other things in sports:

1) The media beats everyone upside the head with Tiger. The only way they'll pay attention to golf is if he plays. He is ubiquitous on commercials- the Gatorade commercial of him on the moon drives me crazy for some reason. He almost as bad as Jordon in that they won't turn down an opportunity to sell himself for a few bucks. I can't listen to sports talk radio after a major because they bow down at the altar of Tiger. In other sports, the media takes a team or player and just beats them to death as if the only teams that matter exist in the Northeast or on the West coast. In baseball, it's minutia of the Yankees and the Red Sox and if the Cubs are even in the zip code of contention then we are inundated with articles of what those teams need to do in order to win the whole thing and what kind of problems they have and what their blowhard owners have to say about anything. I can't watch ESPN baseball tonight because the biggest question is always what is happening with those teams. If Joba Chamberlain was a Colorado Rockie (is this right? Should it Rocky?), we would have no idea who he was and not have five million article written as to whether or not he should start or relieve. Of course as teams fall out of contention, the question becomes can any of their players help the Red Sox or Yankees or Cubs or Dodgers achieve the greatness that is preordained for them? The only media darling I like the Cowboys. If I wasn't from Dallas and therefore a licenced Cowboy fan, they would be as bad or worse than the Yankees. I accept this level of hypocrisy.

2. I'm sorry, it's not fun to watch the same guy win all the time. It's really boring. The question yesterday was not if Tiger was going to win, but how. And sure enough, he choked away a three shot lead, fell behind, made a birdie put to tie, and won on the sudden death playoff hole. Technically exciting, but it's like we all knew the ending we just wanted to see how he was going to pull it off. It's Revenge of the Sith all over again. We know Anakin becomes Darth Vader we just didn't know how and hopefully they'll give us a little drama for good measure. When the Lakers and the Celtics made the finals this year, it wasn't fun, it was expected. And of course the media just drooled all over themselves as two marquee teams were in the playoffs. Too bad the NBA sucks. The NBA where boring happenings.

3. Can anybody win alot and appear to enjoy it less? Maybe Bill Belicick. Sure he cusses and throws his clubs when he messes up and pumps his fist when he wins, so obviously he cares, but he's basically one of the guys down at the municipal course who is better than everybody else but doesn't have fun doing it.

At the end of the day, I don't care about golf, but when I pay attention, I hope Tiger loses. But if Tiger's not there, I care about it even less! So maybe their diabolical plan has succeeded. Imagine what happens to golf if this knee injury is really bad and he doesn't play in the next two majors? If a golf tournament happens and Tiger isn't there to play it, does it really happen?

Friday, June 13, 2008

NHL Fall Out / Watching the NBA again?

So I broke a rule when I made my pick for the winner of the Cup this year. I picked against a better team cause I happen to hate them. I can't stand Detroit and I probably will never come around on them. I had thought that the cracks shown in the Dallas series would be enough for Pittsburgh to attack them and be successful. I also bet against a hot goalie. Osgood played out of his mind. Finally, Malkin, who I thought would be the biggest player for Pittsburgh wilted in the playoffs. He was all but invisible against the Red Wings and that pretty much summed up why they won.

I hate Detroit, I hate that they won the cup, and I hate that they continue to build impressively talented teams in spite of being in a salary cap era. Shouldn't this have caught up to them already?

So, with the NHL officially closed for the season, I've been watching the NBA, which really is ironic considering the news regarding officiating that has come out lately. I'm obviously rooting for the Celtics to win this series and before it started, I didn't actually think they would win. Now, LA is going to have to do something amazing (which they could still do) in order to win it. Being raised in the Northeast, I was pretty much slated to root for the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox, and Patriots (I'll have to talk about them later...) But there is something I really don't like about LA. It goes back to Magic, Worthy, Kareem (especially Kareem), and has continued with Kobe. I liked Shaq when he was there, but that's because he is Shaq. Kobe is a phenominal player, but from everything I've seen, he's a pretty sorry person. Right or Wrong, that is the impression that he gives.

This group of Celtics is another story. KG, for all the criticism that has been poured on him lately, is fun to watch. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rondo, etc... they are fun to watch because it feels like a team and not just like a bunch of guys playing one-on-one games against each other. I am rooting for the Celtics to win the title, and while I'd rather it be at home, I'm OK with doing it the next game, just to make sure it happens. This may not get me watching the NBA on a regular basis, but it was a start to getting me back as a casual fan.