It's impossible to tell the team still in the hunt from the team in last place in Tampa these days.
Pennant-contending teams make the big pitches, get the big hits and deliver the key runs when given late chances to snatch victories. For the second consecutive night, the Rangers failed in the clutch in a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay. They risk dropping from the ranks of contenders to a group of pretenders if they don't get going soon.
Luckily, Texas didn't lose any ground (though still 6 ½ games back) because Oakland lost to Toronto on Tuesday.
The Rangers prepare to deal with their 9 free agents …
The Rangers have nine pending free agents on the roster. That list includes three starters and several position players.
The most expensive name on the list is Carlos Lee. He confirmed Monday that he has switched agents from Adam Katz to Scott Boras. Lee didn't want to discuss in detail his reasons for switching to Boras, but he didn't rule out a return to Texas.
"I like Texas, and we've got a good team," said Lee, who reportedly turned down a four-year, $48 million deal from Milwaukee last month. "This is one of the teams that I would look at going to."
Pitching will be an area of focus for Daniels. Adam Eaton, Vicente Padilla and Kip Wells will be free agents. Padilla is the most likely of that group not to re-sign, mainly because of a high price tag.
The Rangers will also look to re-sign Mark DeRosa. He's proved valuable because of his versatility. All-Star center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. is in the market for a raise and multiyear deal. Jerry Hairston Jr. wants a chance to play more for another team but said he wants to come back to Texas if there isn't a starting job out there for him. It is unlikely the Rangers will re-sign catcher Rod Barajas because Gerald Laird is capable of handling the starting job. Matt Stairs also will be a free agent.
Carlos Lee has hired Scott Boras. Here’s a question: Who are the players who are not represented by Scott Boras? Are there 20? 30?
Meanwhile, today must have been Aggie media day or something as both local papers do a feature on Coach Fran and the latest from College Station:
Is Coach Fran’s job safe? ….Now that he has HIS players here, it will be interesting to see where this thing goes…
Speculation about Franchione's job security is going to sound plausible after A&M posted losing records in two of his first three seasons. Franchione dismissed talk about facing extra pressure this year, and athletic director Bill Byrne pledged his support. But if people are buzzing now, the din will only grow louder if the Aggies falter again this fall.
To Byrne, a lack of talent and experience helps explain A&M's struggles.
"Our guys line 'em up right," he said. "It's just sometimes there are people with more talent than we do on the field."
Byrne, who like Franchione was hired in late 2002, praised the coach's recruiting.
"The thing you can't coach is experience," Byrne said. "It's why I have high expectations for our improvement over the years here, because I'm watching us gain experience. I'm also watching an improvement in our athleticism. I'm seeing more team speed, which is something we sadly lacked when we came here."
Byrne said it takes six recruiting classes for a coach to fully rebuild a program. And "rebuild" is the word he uses.
Talking about last season's 5-6 record, Franchione noted that defensive linemen Red Bryant, Jason Jack and Chris Harrington were sophomores. They were among 22 underclassmen who started at least one game for A&M in 2005.
"I'm not trying to sound like I'm making excuses," Franchione said. "I just think there were a lot of young guys out there at times and they made young player mistakes that hopefully we'll be able to alleviate a little bit with a year of experience."
As Franchione, 55, enters his fourth season, the talent suiting up for him is mostly
players he recruited. And no longer are they so inexperienced.
"This is my junior campaign," Bryant said. "I can't say I'm young. I can't say I don't know what I'm doing out there anymore."
Franchione has stressed the importance of veterans on the lines. He now has them on both sides of the ball: Bryant, Jack and Harrington, all redshirt juniors, are returning starters; three more redshirt juniors return as starters on the offensive line.
"Experience is pivotal there. Maturity is pivotal. Strength is pivotal," Franchione said. "Those guys now are to that point."
Franchione signed all but seven of the current players who came to A&M on scholarship.
How about an opinion on the soft schedule from Coach Fran? …
"I'm certainly not apologizing for [having to play] Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas in November," Franchione said. "I don't see how anybody can be critical of us with the schedules we've had."
For the first time in his four seasons at A&M, Franchione is on the soft side of the scheduling debate. There's no Utah (2004) or Clemson (2004 and 2005) or Virginia Tech (2003) or Pittsburgh (2003).
Instead, the Aggies play home games against Division I-AA The Citadel, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech, plus a "road" game against Army at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
For a program that lost its last four games, failed to make a bowl, fired its defensive coordinator and whose head coach is under pressure, there's a sense the schedule is just what the doctor ordered.
"I believe so because you're talking to a 5-6 ballclub, and so we can't overlook anybody," junior defensive tackle Red Bryant said. "All of those teams on our preseason schedule are coming in with the mind-set that they're going to beat us, so we have to come in with the mind-set that we have to play extremely hard."
The original 2006 slate didn't always look so fluffy. Florida State was on it, but the Seminoles dropped the home-and-home series when the ACC expanded. Army requested a venue change from West Point to San Antonio, and Louisiana Tech was a late addition after the NCAA approved a 12th game for this season.
The finished product, with seven home games, is arguably A&M's most favorable schedule since the inception of the Big 12. The Aggies get Big 12 foes Texas Tech, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska at Kyle Field. They leave the state just twice, for Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Redskins make a move for a RB …
Undoubtedly concerned about how much pounding Clinton Portis' dislocated left shoulder can take in a 16-game season, the Washington Redskins bolstered their running back position last night by acquiring T.J. Duckett from the Atlanta Falcons, according to a league source.
In a three-way trade, the Falcons acquired receiver Ashley Lelie from the Denver Broncos and the Redskins shipped a draft choice -- believed to be a third-round selection -- to the Broncos.
Lelie had been holding out of the Broncos' training camp, upset with the team's acquisition of Javon Walker.
Duckett, a free agent at the end of the season, is a former first-round draft pick but could never beat out Warrick Dunn to become the Falcons' top back. Duckett's best season was 2003, when he rushed 197 times for 779 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has 31 touchdowns, but his production plummeted last year when he averaged a career-low 3.1 yards a carry.
A bruising back, the 6-foot, 254-pound Duckett, 25, would seem to be a fine option in short-yardage situations, saving Portis unnecessary punishment.
Blogging the Boys has been added to the approved blogs, and they looked at the individual performances of the Offensive Line …and the Defensive Unit …
Not sure who is up to speed with this story, so let me give you a brief set-up. The MLS is doing its very best to develop young American Soccer players into the type of players that can ultimately allow the US to compete at a very high level on the world soccer stage. They can only do so much, though, and the next step for many of these players is to seek their future in Europe to play on the highest stage and basically do the same thing Dirk Nowitzki did, but go the other direction over the Atlantic Ocean.
This is why I have soured on a kid like Landon Donovan. Donovan tried Europe, got home sick, missed his girl friend, and now is more than happy to dominate in Los Angeles, which would be like Dirk dominating in Berlin. There is no way a soccer player can be the best he can be if he stays in the MLS, but Donovan is more worried about lifestyle than maximizing his career. I find that weak.
Enter the story of Texan Clint Dempsey. He was arguably the best American at the World Cup, and now wants to chase his dream in Europe. The MLS won’t sell him, though, and therefore he waits until he can leave for free this winter. Way to go, Clint. With almost 10 Americans playing in the English Premiership, American Soccer has a long way to go, but is better than it has ever been.
MLS refuses to sell Dempsey …Dempsey is clear that he will go as soon as he can…
No American had a better World Cup than Dempsey, who brought much-needed pace and confidence to the right side of the U.S. midfield starting with the team's 1-1 tie against world champion Italy. Dempsey currently makes only slightly more than $80,000 a year in his deal with MLS, which runs through the end of 2007.
"Clint Dempsey is a valuable player, and we'd like to renegotiate his agreement and keep him in the league," MLS commissioner Don Garber told me last week. "Unless these clubs offer his real value and don't discount the value he has to MLS, we have no interest."
For his part, Dempsey has no interest in renegotiating his MLS contract. "I already told [MLS] if they paid me more than Landon Donovan I still wouldn't stay," he said, referring to Donovan's $900,000 salary. "I just don't want to be in this league anymore. It's not about the money. It's about me getting better and pushing myself to a higher level. I'll be able to live with whatever the consequences may be, but I can't live with never trying to accomplish my dreams, and I can't live with somebody holding me back from that."
Brave Columnist takes on Saint Dale, Jr. …
Find me another professional athlete in the Carolinas -- who plays a major sport -- who is as blindly revered. When Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme takes time from his commercials to play football, he's very good. Yet fans criticize his decisions and his arm.
E is insulated. The son of the most popular driver in NASCAR history, he might as well cruise around the track in a soundproof Chevrolet with tinted windows. See no criticism and hear none, either.
Fans in Michigan booed because they had to. Edwards was leading and Earnhardt Jr., who went on to win, spun him. Yet, it was Edwards, who hit Junior after the race, who got in trouble. NASCAR hit him -- no, rubbed him -- with probation and a fine Tuesday.
I would love to have attended the meeting to which NASCAR summoned Junior and Edwards. I suspect it went a little like this.
NASCAR: Mr. Junior, have a seat. Your options include director's chair and swivel chair, contemporary and antique, Barcalounger and La-Z-Boy, leather sofa and $3,799 robotic massage.
EDWARDS: Where do I sit?
Saint 8 might be frustrated because, after failing to make the Chase last season, he's on the cusp of failing again.
Or it could be that because of the consistently gentle treatment he's been accorded, Junior believes he can do whatever he wants.
Maybe he can.
Johnny Drama’s Resume …
And now, an email:
I constantly hear Mike Rhyner refer to your show as “Sturm and Drong” - ? is that right? What the hey is he referring to? Anywho.
I’m not a yankee, but picked up sayings like, “What the hey” and “Anywho” from a movie and thought you might feel comfortable seeing them in print.
Hehe. Have a GREAT day!
Knowing why Rhynes says what he says is anyone’s guess, but here is what I found about the Phrase Sturm and Drang …
Sturm und Drang (German for "Storm and Stress") was a German literary movement that emphasized the volatile emotional life of the individual. It is most commonly viewed as occurring in the years 1767-85, but sometimes 1769-86 or 1765-95. The name was derived from a play by Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger. The chief exponents of Sturm und Drang were the young Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his friend and collaborator Friedrich von Schiller. Chief Sturm und Drang works are Goethe's play Götz von Berlichingen, his epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, and the poem "Prometheus".
After Goethe's journey to Italy, both he and Schiller effectively ended their Sturm und Drang and started a very different movement, Weimar Classicism.
The Sturm und Drang movement also had influence on music composers of the time. Notable examples are the Sturm und Drang Symphonies from the middle period of Joseph Haydn's work, for example Symphony No. 39, and the Symphony in G minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart).
Wow. That is more information than we needed...
Youtube of the Day:
Weird Al does Star Wars