Sparse blogging the last couple of weeks, despite the heroic efforts of Powerhouser Scott. It's about time for a Rangers update.
Full squad workouts have begun for the Texas Rangers, with the official start of spring training only days away. What do we have to look forward to?
Conventional wisdom, in this case, turns out to be right on the money. The Rangers season will come down to the labors of the back end of the rotation - Brandon McCarthy, Robinson Tejeda, and whoever wins the fifth starter spot from among the hodgepodge of rookies and veterans that Jon Daniels has assembled. McCarthy might just morph into the Rangers long sought ace. According to Sports Illustrated, Peter Gammons recently polled over 70 GMs, scouts, and coaches, asking them who would have a breakout year.
The number one answer? Brandon McCarthy.
With no lefty pencilled in for opening day, erstwhile Atlanta pitcher Bruce Chen and Mr. Meltdown John Koronka will get long looks. Josh Rupe, who had the inside track on the fifth spot last year before elbow inflammation brought him down, also looks to be a favorite.
In other Rangers pitching news, C.J. Wilson is attempting to add the Dice-K invented gyroball (basically a cut fastball that tails upward) to his repertoire. If he's successful, I think this might be the year that Vicente Padilla will have some beanball competition.
You may have seen the reports of last night's Stars-Red Wings matchup and began to be a little concerned. You know Turco has struggled leading to more playing time for backup goalie Mike Smith. Then, you see Smith surrendered a lead in the third period after two plus periods of great goaltending.
But never fear. After all, it's regular season so Turco will come around. As for the two third period goals Smith let through, no goalie would have had a chance. The first came on a gem of a pass from Henrik Zetterberg between his legs just before racing behind the net to Pavel Datsyuk for the game-tying tally. Smith was caught looking to the other side waiting for Zetterberg to come around. And why not? I'd challenge Henrik to make that play again it was so special.
And pin the second goal on the Stars defense. With the Red Wings on the power play, the defensemen left the front of the net unguarded. A Red Wings' forward camped out in front of Smith who was completely screened on Zetterberg's blast from the point.
So rest assured, Smith didn't cave the way it may seem. Though he did have those two soft goals against Colorado the other night.
We never got to say it while he was here so let's give credit to Texas Rangers' former GM John Hart for not bringing Kris Benson to Texas when he had the chance. Benson, who had a history of arm trouble but intriguing potential, has underachieved the last two seasons and will miss all of the 2007 season following rotator cuff surgery.
So, Mr. Hart, you did plenty to send this team back to the pre-Johnny Oates era, but this was not a part of it. Thank you, sir.
Player A: 18.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.72 steals, 1.42 blocks per game with a 1.11 assist-to-turnover ratio. Named an All Star by the coaches.
Player B: 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.25 steals, 0.95 blocks per game with a 1.04 assists-to-turnover ratio. Appointed an All Star by Commissioner David Stern only due to Carlos Boozer's injury.
You may say the two players are comparable and it'd be tough to pick one over the other. Yet, Player A plays in a high octane offense that generates far more possessions and shots per game. The stats show Player A gets far more chances to score (his team logs eight more possessions per game) and grab boards (his team's games average five more missed shots per game), than Player B's team.
Player A also plays alongside two legitimate All Stars, including a two-time MVP point guard, while Player B plays alongside one other All Star and doesn't have a true point guard on his team. You may say, well, maybe Player A is his team's third option. But he logs more minutes (three more per game than Player B) and more shots ( though Player B takes two more shots per game) that anyone on his team. Player B is second on his team in those categories.
In spite of all this, Player B surpasses Player A in all offensive categories except rebounds, is the second option on offense, and is his team's shut down defender, defending as many as four different positions, in the clutch.
Then, you must consider each player's performance when their team's best player is out or leaves the game early. Player A posts 14 points (4.2 fewer than overall) a game in that situation. Player B averages 23 points (3.3 points more than overall) when his best teammate is out. The rebound margin narrows ever so lightly in favor of Player B.
So I have no complaint with Carlos Boozer, with his 22.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, being selected by the coaches as an All Star, but choosing Shawn Marion over Josh Howard was an injustice that had to be corrected yesterday by the commissioner. Was it because Howard turned down an Olympic tryout to honor his commitment to kids' camps back home or a mere oversight on the coaches' part? Only the coaches know.
Okay, so Wade Phillips is THE guy. Or the puppet guy, depending on which side of the Jerry Jones fence you reside. The piece de resistance that pushed him over Dallas hometown favorite Norv Turner was supposedly his ability with the 3-4 defensive scheme instituted by Bill Parcells.
He also said he wants to work with DeMarcus Ware, and mold Dallas's fearsome linebacker into a O-line disrupting machine. Many have pointed to the play of Shawne Merriman of San Diego as proof of Phillips' coaching ability.
Both Merriman and Ware have two years in the NFL under their belts now - with virtually the same stats. If Phillips is coming to work his Merriman magic on Ware, DeMarcus might actually regress. Why is Phillips the supposed defensive savior?
However, the best part of Jerry's new hire might be the new face in Cowboys camp, Wade's daughter Tracy Phillips- a model, dancer, and music video girl extraordinaire.
Here she is in the new My Chemical Romance video. (Hint: She's Helena - the dancing dead chick at the end.)
It's a good thing that Bob McNair elected to extend David Carr's contract before last year's draft. I mean, passing on a Pro Bowler and Rookie of the Year just exhudes competance. Especially when everyone in the free world told you how the story was going to end. People in Texas are very forgiving when you make a mistake with their franchise. Mack Brown has won 9 or more games every year he's been at UT so no one in their right mind would call for his head. You keep it up buddy!
And, with this, the Houston Texans have become the NFL's version of aggy.
Pity Mr. McNair, it could have been the start of a beautiful friendship.
National signing day: The time of the year where you try to convince yourself that stars and recruiting rankings really don't matter.
I beg to differ...
The following is a list of schools that have brought in a Top 5 rated recruiting class within the last 5 years:
Florida (SEC) National Champions 2006 Texas (Big 12) National Champions 2005 LSU (SEC) National Champions 2003 USC (Pac-10) National Champions 2003/2004; appearance 2005 Oklahoma (Big 12) National Championship appearance 2003/2004 Ohio St.(Big 10) National Champions 2002; appearance 2006 Miami (ACC) National Championship appearance 2002 (Champs in 2001) Michigan (Big 10) National Championship appearance 2003 Georgia (SEC) FSU (ACC) Tennessee (SEC) ND (Independent)
When you look at the numbers:
During this time frame, the national championship games were Miami vs. Ohio St., LSU vs. ou (And technically Michigan vs. USC), USC vs. ou, USC vs. Texas and Ohio St. vs. Florida. All of these schools have garnered a Top 5 recruiting class at least twice in this time period. Only 4 teams on the list have not played in a BCS game with national title implications. Tennessee is the only school on the list that has not played in a BCS bowl the last 5 years.
The Big East, post the exodus of Miami, Syracuse and Boston College, has not scored a Top 5 class but is allowed to play in BCS games due to conference tie-ins. The only schools not listed above to reach a BCS bowl are Washington St., Iowa, Kansas St., Utah, Pittsburg, West Virginia, Penn St., Boise St., Louisville and Wake Forest. As you can see, those with a Top 5 recruiting classes outnumber those who do not. In terms of consistency in playing in a BCS bowl, those that had Top 5 classes more than doubled the appearances of those that had not.
The player may never live up to the stars he was awarded, but it is consistently been shown that you need a strong batch of recruits to compete at a national level.
I graduated high school in 1997. So, the Big 12 is all that I have really known. Further, I have had the privledge of donning the burnt orange in a period of complete and utter ownage over the silly folks in College Station. I never had to live the agony of a&m's strong showing in the early nineties.
So, what is happening?
The football team forgets that they aren't supposed to lose at home. The basketball team forgot that an opposing bench isn't as good as the starters. Net result? a&m holds a 2-0 series advantage in football and basketball.
Let me type this again.
Coaches Fran and Gillespie have bested Coaches Brown and Barnes for the year.
It's like some sort of rival love triangle. Stoops can beat Fran but not Brown. Barnes can beat Capel but not Gillispie. Who would have thought that this era would give Texas an advantage against ou but on the losing end of a&m?
Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle has posted a telling expose on just this subject. But, as a Horns realist, I do not think that his conclusions are very accurate.
USC lost to an Oregon State team that they should have whipped. (Like Texas did to Kansas State) They also dropped a close game to their in-state rival UCLA. (Like Texas did to a&m) USC lost their first matchup with a superior UCLA team (Like Texas/a&m) and will probably lose the second meeting tomorrow night. (Like Texas will probably do later this month)
Despite the losses to UCLA, Is there a question on what program holds the most dominance? I realize that all good things must come to an end. But, saying that this is the turn of the tide is a little bit of a stretch. However, don't think that the Horn faithful won't have the Friday after Thanksgiving circled this year. Once is a fluke, twice is a pattern.
Tom Landry. John Elway. George Siefert. Steve Young. Bill Cowher. Steve Spurrier. Roy Williams. Larry Brown. Phil Mickelson. David Robinson. Mack Brown. The 20th to 21st century Boston Red Sox. The 1990's Atlanta Braves. Coaches, players, and organizations accused for years of choking in the clutch only to finally reach the top of their sport. Congratulations Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning. You're world champions. A-Rod hopes to join you someday.
You may have seen Mr. Boswell's post earlier this week regarding the significance, or lack thereof, of Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith being the first African-American coaches in the Super Bowl.
Now to say the Big 12 was better this year in football than the SEC or to say Adrian Peterson is overrated I can laugh at as playful homerism. But this no laughing matter. This is absolute ignorance.
Scott says let's stop the bickering. I haven't heard any. Seems the NFL has been unanimous in its celebration of the achievement of these two men. Those coaches, who this year have been helped by the Rooney Rule in having opportunities for interviews they likely would not have had continue to sing the praises of the Rule. Dungy and Smith haven't panned it. Neither have he likes of Romeo Crennel or newly hired Mike Tomlin. They celebrate the Rule, though I think it is not quite strong enough. In fact, they have pointed out that even if they were first interviewed as a token candidate, those interviews led to legitimate interviews that led to their first head coaching gigs.
And to point at Mike Singletary's interview in Dallas as an example of how it creates a dog and pony show is misguided. To say that is to ignore the talk over the last year suggesting that NFL insiders believe he is about ready to be a head coach. It also ignores the fact Jerry Jones already interviewed African-American secondary coach Todd Bowles. Per the Rooney Rule, he would not have been required to interview Singletary. Or consider he is now reportedly going to interview minority candidates Jim Caldwell and Ron Rivera before making a final decision.
Is Jones clearly leaning toward Norv Turner? Yes. Hell, they were hanging out in Miami together yesterday waiting to find out if Michael Irvin was elected to the Hall of Fame. But that doesn't mean he's not legitimately taking his time to make sure his judgment isn't clouded by his friendship with Turner.
But those weren't not the worst of the arguments Mr. Boswell put forth. Take, for example, the thought that a big deal wasn't made when the Texas Rangers hired Ron Washington. Well, Washington is, by far, not the first African-American manager to be hired in Major League Baseball. Nor would he be the first to manager in or to win a World Series. Major League Baseball, for all its flaws, crossed this social barrier long ago. And this is with baseball having a relatively low percentage of African-American players.
But in football should it be a big deal. Basketball's been there. I believe the NHL can still count the number of its African-American players on one hand. But football, with a majority of African-American players, took the longest, other than the NHL, to have an African-American coach, let alone one who reached the pinnacle of the profession. And you can rest assured the pinnacled would have been reached much sooner if more opportunity had been presented.
And don't talk to us about the idiocy of no one caring if a white running back was in the Super Bowl. Show me the white athlete denied the opportunity to run the football today that had the skills to do so. Because, fact is, I can find a tome of names of coaches and quarterbacks who were denied that opportunity. Remember, it was Warren Moon who had to go to Canada and play QB in order to open the doors for African-American quarterbacks. The only shot he was offered in the NFL coming out of college was a wide receiver. And we were right to celebrate his induction to the Hall of Fame last year the way we did.
So, Scott, if you are going to decry people mixing sports and politics, be sure you know what you're talking about before committing the hypocrisy of doing so yourself.
The second most hated sports owner in Dallas purchases a soccer team.
I suppose I should give Tom Hicks a pass on this since he is, technically, a Longhorn alum. But seriously - won't the Brits hate that a Yank owns such a storied franchise like Liverpool? His ownership of the Stars has had success, while the Texas Rangers remain mired in baseball hell.
Now, Hicks can institute his patented "bid against myself" free agent courtship across the pond. I simply cannot wait to hear about some colossally huge contract that an aging soccer star receives to finish out his career in Liverpool. The English Premier League will absolutely adore this man.
Just one word of advice to Mr. Hicks - study up on your soccer chants, pronto. I recommend this one:
We don't carry bottles, We don't carry lead, We only carry hatchets, To bury in your head, We are the supporters, Fanatics every one, We all hate Man City, And Leeds and Everton, We are the kings of Europe, The pride of Merseyside, We'll fight for no surrender, We'll fight for Shankly's pride, We hate TottenhamHotspur, We hate Chelsea too, But most of all we hate the sh*te, Who play in royal blue.
Awe. Some. I can't even understand most of it. We need some good old fashioned hooliganism over here in the states.
In a bombshell revelation that rocked both the canine and college football worlds, Reveille VIII announced late Friday that she had withdrawn her verbal commitment to serve as mascot for the Texas a&m football team and would attempt to walk-on as a back-up to King Reboubt, the Washington Huskies mascot.
"It was a difficult decision," said Reveille, "But after I committed, Coach (Dennis) Fran(chione) never stopped by my kennel, never brought me any dog bones; he basically just ignored me."
When contacted by reporters on Thursday evening, Fran initially denied that he had ever intended for Reveille to serve as the aggy mascot or extended a verbal commitment, but later admitted that the announcement had been a bitter disappointment. "We just assumed that Reveille VIII would come to a&m since her mother had been a mascot," said Fran. Fran was quick to state that a&m has already taken steps to replace Reveille, offering the mascot position to Disney dog, Goofy, which Fran described as "More appropriate for this university, anyway." Fran added, "Plus, Reveille was a bitch!"
Outraged by yet another blow to the fragile aggy ego, Corp of Cadet members, attempted to lock the hairy canine in a closet; refusing to give her food or water until she pledges her renewed loyalty to all that is aggy.
Many aggy supporters were visibly upset Thursday evening. Notable among these was James McKinney, father of aggy lineman, Seth McKinney, who responded to the news by striking his own dog, Inbred, with a set of binoculars. McKinney initially claimed that the dog was not his, then later recanted and said that he thought the dog was attacking him, and he was merely defending himself.
Reveille was listed by many services as the top recruit...according to many aggy. This rating was prior to the de-commitment and therefore assumed that Reveille is no longer rated as high.
Aggy students have also decried the decision and have claimed that Mack Brown is behind it.
In the meantime, fearing a worse-case scenario, a&m administrators have conducted a student poll on a new mascot. At press time, 89.3 percent of the 20,000 students participating in poll favor a sheep to take over the reigns and prowl the sidelines of Kyle Field. The remaining 10.7 percent favor a modified Longhorns logo.
While we stop to ponder the greatness of Longhorn Kevin Durant (37 points, season high 23 rebounds against Tech night last night), remember that the Texas baseball season begins tomorrow at Dell Diamond with a three-game set against the San Diego Toreros.
San Diego has begun their season 3-0, and is ranked #46 in the Baseball America Preseason Poll. Look for sophomore Jordan Danks to be an offensive force for Texas (Though his older brother John Danks, the "untouchable" lefthander in the Rangers farm system, has now been traded away to the White Sox for pitcher Brandon McCarthy.)
With 20 letter winners returning this year, including new ace Randy Boone (4-2, 3.59 ERA last season for Texas) Texas should have every chance to move deep into the College World Series this year.
Until then, I must begin my bracket research. March Madness is right around the corner, people!