Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tough Work Trip

Another night during the tough 2 weeks here in California. I swear, this is as close to a vacation as it gets. It was off to Santa Barbara to see John Mellencamp at the unbelievable Santa Barbara Bowl. What a show. What a venue. Loved it.
However, I couldn’t find a review of the show last night, so here is one from his show at Red Rocks 2 nights earlier

The band came back after this mini-concert and served up another 45 minutes of loud, fun rock, filling the rest of the evening with songs from all over Mellencamp’s career. Tunes such as “Small Town,” “Scarecrow,” “If I Die Sudden” and “Jena,” among others, made appearances. I can’t remember a time when I’ve seen so many people singing along with all the songs from the stage. They bounced and danced freely through it all, people in their 40s, 50s and up gleefully late on a Sunday night.

They were entranced by Mellencamp’s showmanship, the skill of the band, and the sonic and natural beauty of Red Rocks (although I can’t say how much the omnipresent weed may have affected them as well).

At one point, Mellencamp stopped the band after a song and mentioned that he “saw a lot of cell phones” in the audience. It gave him an idea: He asked that everyone with a cell phone call their best friend and “tell them John Mellencamp had a message for them.” (He graciously offered to wait — and even speak to an audience member’s daughter from the stage — while we all dialed). He then requested us to “hold up all those cell phones” so their friends could listen.

The band then erupted into “Crumblin’ Down,” across from the cellphone glow of the crowd. Afterwards, audience members were heard to say things like “My boy hung up on me!” or “All my friends are asleep — so I called my home phone and left a message!” It was surreal to see hundreds of cell lights hovering above the crowd in a latter-day technocrat homage to the ages-old lighter-held-aloft.

During the encore, Mellencamp invited his 13 year-old son, Speck, to take part in playing “The Authority Song” with the band. It was nice to see the torch being carried, and Speck played along like it was a family Sunday hootenanny.

Trade Deadline is today, will the Rangers punt?

Nothing significant had developed as of Wednesday night. One less team was in need of catching help, and the Rangers were told that a starter they had targeted wasn’t available.

Those developments left Daniels to suggest that the Rangers’ roster tonight will look just like the one they had Wednesday.

"Right now, I don’t see anything happening," he said. "I’m content going into the winter and receiving the calls again at that point."

A major league source said that the Rangers were told by Kansas City that right-
hander Zack Greinke is not available. The Royals likely would have sought prospects or young big-league talent.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia might have been a fit there because of his relationship with general manager Dayton Moore, who was the Braves’ director of player personnel when they drafted Saltalamacchia with a first-round pick in 2004.
Daniels said that he would be willing to include some of the Rangers’ highly regarded minor league talent for the right deal.

"We’re not looking to trade any of our young players," he said. "If there was a deal that made sense for us, we’d consider it."

Daniels said most teams calling Arlington are asking about the Rangers’ catching depth. He expects the calls to continue despite the New York Yankees’ acquisition of Ivan Rodriguez from the Detroit Tigers.

Florida, Cincinnati and Milwaukee have been linked to Gerald Laird in various
reports this week. But teams will likely have to part with quality young pitching to get any of the Rangers’ catchers.

"That’s probably been the area we’ve received the most calls on," Daniels said.

Greg Ellis talk …He was on our show yesterday, and I thought he was awesome. No matter how much I want to turn on him for things he says, the fact is this: he is too good a guy to get mad at. He just is honest, insecure, and above all, sincere. I like Greg Ellis quite a bit.

Greg Ellis has led the Cowboys in sacks six times in his career, the second-most in club history behind Harvey Martin (seven).

1Despite being disgruntled at times the past few years, Ellis remains a team leader and an inspirational player because of his tireless work ethic and attention to detail.

2After suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in his left leg in 2006, Ellis returned in 2007 to have a career season, recording 12.5 sacks, earning his first Pro Bowl selection and being named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

3Ellis is content, despite being leery in the off-season about the Cowboys trying to phase him out because of their interest in giving backup Anthony Spencer more playing time. The Cowboys have assured him he remains a big part of their plans. "Antennas go up and say, 'Is this done to really rest me or "Ellis said. "Wade [Phillips] has let me know, 'Greg, we want to replace me?’ you here. The plan is not to just phase you out.’ So that’s what we’re going off of."

4He might not have been the bona fide superstar like wide receiver Randy Moss — the player many people think the Cowboys should have taken in the 1998 draft instead of Ellis — but he has been a mainstay in the lineup. Ellis has started 140 of 146 regular-season games he has played, missing just 12 games in 10 years because of injury.

5Starting his 11th season with the team, Ellis is tied with tackle Flozell Adams as the longest-tenured Cowboys players. Both were drafted in 1998, Ellis in the first round and Adams in the second round. The club record for most seasons of service is 15 shared by Ed Jones (1974-78, 1980-89), Bill Bates (1983-97) and Mark Tuinei (1983-97).

This Favre thing is just out of control …First they offer him $20 million to stay retired? Now, they ponder trade with Minnesota? Insane.

The Green Bay Packers, unable so far to trade Brett Favre and facing his arrival at training camp, are reportedly considering taking a step they desperately wanted to avoid: dealing him to a division rival.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, citing a source close to the situation, on Wednesday reported the Packers were considering seeking a deal with one of their rivals, most likely the Minnesota Vikings or Chicago Bears, if all else fails.

That follows reports that the Packers on Wednesday offered Favre a substantial sum of money -- as much as $20 million over several years -- to stay retired.

On Monday, Packers general manager Ted Thompson said the Packers would not trade Favre within the NFC North. Favre, who has asked the NFL to be reinstated, is reportedly interested in playing for the Vikings, who play the Packers to open their season on Monday Night Football on Sept. 8.

The Packers are committed to Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback of the future and are not considering Favre, who tearfully retired March 6th, returning to Green Bay as the starter.

An NFL source said he understood from the Packers that trading within the NFC North would be a last resort, according to the report. And the Packers are still trying to convince Favre to consider trade possibilities with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.

Ron Artest is awesome …This may be the best back and forth verbal sparring session I have seen all month…

A day after the Rockets and Sacramento Kings agreed in principle to a deal sending Artest to Houston for Bobby Jackson, Donte Greene and a first-round draft pick, Yao expressed concerns about team chemistry to the Houston Chronicle and referenced Artest's involvement in the 2004 brawl with Pistons fans.

"Hopefully, he's not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands," Yao said, according to the Chronicle.

When asked about those comments, Artest said Yao had bought into "all the propaganda" about him, according to The Sacramento Bee.

"I understand what Yao said, but I'm still ghetto," Artest said, according to the report. "That's not going to change. I'm never going to change my culture. Yao has played with a lot of black players, but I don't think he's ever played with a black player that really represents his culture as much as I represent my culture. Once Yao Ming gets to know me, he'll understand what I'm about.

"If you go back to the brawl, that's a culture issue right there," Artest added, according to the report. "Somebody was disrespecting me, so he's got to understand where I'm coming from. People that know me know that Ron Artest never changed."

Brad Sham – Actor!

Owens vs. Pac Man – ouch, that burn hurts.

There is only 1 Robbie Keane

Nash and Baron

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Farewell to the Hammer

This is one of those wacky blogging mornings where I just keep finding stuff. A lot to read about, so let’s get after it…

The final act of the Blalock era appears to be in the rearview mirror …I don’t see how they pick up his option, so that is that…

They ran out of time, ran out of hope and ran out of imaginary excuses to protect Hank Blalock’s Texas Rangers career Tuesday night.

When Blalock revealed before the game that his throwing shoulder has been bothering him since Friday, when the third baseman expressed surprise that it had been announced that he missed Monday’s game because of a stomach ache, and when Blalock had to be placed — again — on the disabled list Tuesday, the implications became ominous.

No, the veteran won’t be getting traded this week in exchange for somebody’s hot young pitching prospect.

No, carpal tunnel syndrome apparently wasn’t the last of Blalock’s boundless physical issues.

And, yes, most ominously, his career with the Rangers, a seven-year run that included two All-Star games, could well be over.

He was trade bait. And what team is going to be in the market now for a third baseman who can’t throw?

By the time Blalock will be eligible to return from the disabled list, Thursday’s
major league non-waivers trading deadline will have passed.

An announcement was made during Tuesday’s win over the Seattle Mariners that Blalock has been given an injection and will be re-evaluated in 10 to 14 days. With little to show for his work at third base over the past two seasons, except for X-rays and rehab assignments, Blalock’s career at that position appears to be done.

"I think it’s too early to say that," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels countered Tuesday. "It’s concerning. We’ll just see how it plays out."

If Blalock does return to capable health — a long shot, based on his recent medical history — his prospects of rejoining the starting lineup would seem to be in jeopardy.

Rookie Chris Davis already has a two-fisted grip on the Rangers’ first base job. Davis could be moved temporarily to third base, but why would the Rangers do that, unless they plan to exercise a club option that would pay Blalock $6.2 million in 2009?

And on what wishful grounds would they base that decision? Blalock has played only 89 games in two seasons.

Meanwhile, the Angels are the best team in baseball, and they now add a big bat …and a bad teammate…

Teixeira will bat third, play first base and wear No. 25 for the Angels tonight in Fenway Park after the Atlanta slugger was acquired Tuesday for first baseman Casey Kotchman and double-A pitcher Steve Marek, a relatively small price for one of baseball's elite players.

"He's like, 'Forget it, we want to win,' " Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said of Reagins. "He came after me over the winter, and now Teixeira. He's very aggressive. I can't say that's a bad thing. It's a great thing.

"A lot of people wanted that extra bat in the lineup. You got it. Believe me, you got it. There aren't many players who hit like this guy. All I can say is, wow!"

Teixeira, 28, hit .283 with 20 home runs, 78 runs batted in, 63 runs and 27 doubles in 102 games for the Braves. A two-time Gold Glove winner, the switch-hitter ranks fifth in the National League in walks (65) and sixth in RBIs.

He will also be a free agent this winter, so there is no guarantee he will remain in Anaheim.

But in convincing owner Arte Moreno to suppress his aversion to rental players, and in seeking to improve a team that already has baseball's best record (66-40) and a double-digit division lead, Reagins made his intentions for this season very clear: He's all in.

"Our goal is to win a world championship," Reagins said. "The team is playing well, but being able to add a player like Mark Teixeira makes us that much better. . . . I don't view Mark as a rental player. I view him as a player who can impact us significantly."

Gerald Laird needs a hug …he doesn’t know if he is coming or going…

Gerald Laird is the Texas Rangers’ starting catcher, a statement that has been made on a number of occasions the past two seasons but always with a caveat.

For now.

He entered spring training as the starter, but he had to fend off Jarrod Saltalamacchia until the final week before securing the job.

That lasted all of a month before Saltalamacchia forced his way onto the roster with a hot start in Triple A. The solution was to play Laird two days, followed by two for Saltalamacchia.

That lasted until June, when Laird pulled a hamstring and went on the disabled list. He came off it Saturday and was handed the starting job for the stretch run.
For now.

Visit any Web site that tracks rumors as baseball’s trade deadline nears, and Laird is a player who is coveted by a number of teams. Major league sources have confirmed that the Rangers have been contacted about Laird’s availability.

But he isn’t letting the talk bother him. He’s been in this spot, not knowing his future with the Rangers, and understands there’s nothing he can do until he lands on the transaction wire.

"I just play the game," Laird said. "Wherever I end up, I end up. I can’t control it. You can’t worry about it. Right now, I’m a Texas Ranger."

The deadline for teams to make a trade without players having to pass through waivers is 3 p.m. Thursday. Business will start to pick up today and early tomorrow.
Laird’s name, though, has been on the radar for a few weeks, even while he was rehabbing his hamstring. The New York Yankees were the first to show interest, and now the Cincinnati Reds, Florida Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers have entered the picture.

General manager Jon Daniels declined to mention which teams have contacted the Rangers, and he also refused to mention specific players discussed.

No player — Hank Blalock, Vicente Padilla, Eddie Guardado, Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden all have made turns through the rumor mill — will be shipped out without a significant piece in return.

"Fifty percent or more of what you read is inaccurate," Daniels said. "We’re getting a number of calls on some guys, but I’m not inclined to trade guys just for the sake of it."

Perhaps that’s one reason Daniels later said the Rangers might not make any move before the deadline. A source said the Rangers aren’t shopping the 28-year-old Laird, either.

Laird wants someone to clarify his position with the organization. Is he their starting catcher only until they find the right deal, be it this week or in the off-season? Or is he the Rangers’ catcher of the future instead of Saltalamacchia, Teagarden or Max Ramirez?

"It’s tough to take," he said. "I’m given a job, I’m playing well, and then the job gets taken from me. Now, I’m playing good and I’m in trade talks again, but they don’t want to get rid of me.

Oh, and the Rangers won, despite 5 errors ….

The Rangers won an ugly 11-10 game over Seattle on Tuesday night with Vazquez starting at third base. They are 38-19 this season when Vazquez starts.

How charmed are the Rangers with Vazquez? He made three of the Rangers’ five errors Tuesday. He also had four hits and four RBI, including the game-winning, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth inning.

"I’m glad I got a chance to do something to win this game," said Vazquez, who beat the Mariners with a walk-off homer earlier this season. "It would have been a tough one leaving today with a loss. I’m just glad I’m not in that situation right now. The bottom line is we won."

The Rangers should get more of a chance to see their lucky charm in action, now that Hank Blalock has gone back on the disabled list. Vazquez will be the primary starter at third.

He wanted to be anywhere but there Tuesday. He made errors in the third and fourth, but the miscues didn’t look as if they would matter as the Rangers built a 9-3 lead after five innings. Seattle, however, closed it to 9-8 in the ninth, and then benefited from another Vazquez error.

His wild throw to first on a Jamie Burke single allowed two runs to score and gave Seattle a 10-9 lead. Vazquez, however, had a chance for redemption in the bottom of the inning.

With runners at second and third and one out, he doubled to right-center to end the game and bring the Rangers within 5 1/2 games of Boston in the American League wild-card race.

"He might have been involved in a lot that went on in that ballgame, but in the end, he did exactly what we needed him to do," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He got the big hit, and we ended up scoring the ... but we couldn’t slow their bats." run. We put up runs early Vazquez had company in the defensive struggles as the Rangers set a season high for errors.

In games I attended last night, The Dodgers and Giants squared off in a debate of which team had less power

Nothing, it seems, is too off-the-wall for the Dodgers in their pursuit of first place in the National League West.

On the same night they used a journeyman starting pitcher who had nearly twice as many major league losses as wins, the Dodgers benefited from a blooper-reel play by San Francisco left fielder Fred Lewis on the way to a 2-0 triumph Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

Lewis bobbled Casey Blake's sixth-inning double, the ball momentarily falling on top of the padding atop the wall down the left-field line before the outfielder retrieved it and fired to shortstop Omar Vizquel, whose relay throw to home plate beat James Loney for what appeared to be the inning's final out.

But the umpires conferred and ruled the ball hit the padding and rolled into the stands, meaning it was no longer in play. Lewis was charged with an error and both baserunners were awarded an extra base, Loney trotting home from third with the Dodgers' second run.

"It was on top of the wall when I picked it up," Lewis said. "Nobody touched it. It didn't touch a fan or nobody. It makes you want replay in baseball more and more."

Said Vizquel: "I've never seen that, not even in highlights."

That was more than enough cushion for fill-in Dodgers starter Jason Johnson, who pitched six scoreless innings and combined with two relievers on a five-hitter for the team's league-leading ninth shutout. It was Johnson's first major league victory since May 28, 2006, with the Cleveland Indians.

Can MB3 handle every down?

There will be absolutely no change in Barber’s style of play, no quarter asked, none given.

A man of few words, he still managed to make that clear this week.

"Do you pace yourself when you write an article?" he countered with a smile after I’d asked him if he would do that as a starter. "Or do you bring everything you have every time?"


The Cowboys loved using Barber as a hammer last year, especially at the goal line
and in the fourth quarter to help put teams away. Fans adored his hell-for-leather approach and clamored for him to be named the starter.

Now, with Jones long gone, they will get their wish.

"He’ll be our feature back, certainly, because you’re talking about rookies as backup players," coach Wade Phillips said. "He took that role in the last ballgame, obviously, and had a successful game. We think he can carry the load for us."

He did that against the Giants in the Cowboys’ 21-17 playoff loss, getting his first start of the season and responding with 27 carries for 129 yards, matching his season average of 4.8 yards per tote. He also chipped in his longest run from scrimmage with a 36-yarder.

Yes, he also was able to do little in the fourth quarter, but that seemed more a product of the offensive line wearing down than it did him.

With a stiff-arm like a battering ram and a helmet-down, leg-churning style, Barber could see 80 percent or even more of the running plays this season, depending on how quickly rookie running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice develop as change-of-pace alternatives.

Nor do the Cowboys seem concerned that with an increase in carries, Barber’s physical style might lead to injury.

"His style is certainly very physical, but it seems to be more physical to the guys he’s playing against rather than him," Phillips said. "He didn’t get banged up really, as far as having a lot of injuries, even with the number of carries he had last year for us. And when we gave him the ball more, he produced more as we went along.

"I think he’s just really a strong runner. He runs with his pads down, and he’s explosive, certainly. He keeps running after the first hit. But he does dodge people, too."

It’s just not his favorite move.

"Playing every down, will he be trying to run over everybody? I think he may use more stiff-arms or take a little different route instead of trying to run through everybody," running backs coach Skip Peete said.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Cowboys are well aware that the NFL — with a few exceptions such as LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota — has mostly moved away from the single-back approach to one similar to what the Cowboys had the last two seasons with Julius Jones and Barber.

The rationale is that few backs can hold up under the pounding that running backs take during the course of a season.

Ironically, Barber hasn’t had the chance to be the featured back before this season, not even at the University of Minnesota where he split carries with Laurence
Maroney, now with New England.

"This is something he’s always wanted," Peete said. "He’s going to get the majority of the work, but I’ve always thought if you have something fresh coming at you constantly, it puts more pressure on the defense.

"We have a couple of young guys that we’ve brought in who are both good backs. They’re different in styles and present a little different look for defenses to stop."

The Rockets have added Ron-Ron? …wow, the Rockets on paper look really impressive. I wonder if they can finally stay healthy?

The Houston Rockets are close to an agreement to acquire Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings, two people familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press.

The Rockets will give up guard Bobby Jackson, who played for the Kings from 2000 to 2005, and another player -- probably rookie forward Donte Greene, according to two NBA people who confirmed the deal but spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

The Houston Chronicle first reported details of the trade on its website Tuesday night.

Artest's long-anticipated move out of Sacramento probably can't be announced yet because Greene, acquired by the Rockets on draft night last month, signed a contract with Houston on July 14. A player can't be traded within 30 days of signing a contract, according to league rules.

Now, on to the story that has me happy/confused/sympathetic/pleased all at the same time: Kenny Cooper is not sold

According to a 3rd Degree source close to the transfer negotiations, Clark and Dan Hunt have rejected the transfer offers from Rosenborg and Cardiff City for FC Dallas’ star striker Kenny Cooper Jr. Rosenborg had the lesser of the two offers, reported to be in the $3 million US range, with Cardiff coming in at $4 million US. Cooper had previously asked for permission from FCD to travel to both clubs to give them a look over, but he has been denied permission to visit both clubs by the Hunts.

Previously the MLS league office had accept both transfer numbers, but the Hunts held final authority on any transfer with Cooper. Cooper had agreed to personal terms with Rosenborg, reported to be a base salary near $600k with incentives reaching over $1 million US per year, but had rejected Cardiff’s opening offer.

FC Dallas has made an opening offer to Cooper in an attempt to keep him happy and in Dallas long term, but that offer was rejected by Cooper’s agent Lyle York. The Hunt rejection of the two offers most likely means Cooper will be staying in Dallas till at least this winter when he might be sold to any new suitors if he can’t reach agreement with FCD before then. It would most likely take something with a base salary in the DP range, or at least very close to it, to keep Cooper in Dallas long term.

Cooper makes about 80k with FC Dallas. So, they have elected not to sell him where he could make way more than that, and now they must figure out how to make him happy to play here. I would think it must start with a big raise, but this is actually quite interesting. Do they pay him way more? And is there any price that will make him not want to play in Europe?

Bacsik featured in NY Times

A group of Columbus Clippers is playing poker in the cramped clubhouse at Harbor Park, their bodies hunched over a table and the cards pressed to their faces. None are recognizable, except the one with the bald pate and blond goatee. That is Mike Bacsik, a journeyman pitcher better known as the man who gave up Barry Bonds’s 756th home run — the one that broke Hank Aaron’s career record.

It has been almost a year since Bonds, the former Giants slugger, made that memorable jaunt around the bases at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Aug. 7, almost 12 months since Bacsik unleashed an 84-mile-per-hour fastball that was supposed to change his life forever.

“If you pitch in the big leagues, you’re going to give up a home run,” said Ryan Perry, Bacsik’s childhood friend. “He just happened to give up the most famous one.”
Instead of fading away as another undistinguished player, Bacsik, a former Washington Nationals pitcher, will remain a footnote in baseball history, joining the likes of Ralph Branca and Al Downing as pitchers linked to a significant event.
Almost immediately, Bacsik saw the benefits that could come from the role he played in Bonds’s achievement: card shows, autograph signings, public appearances, maybe even a future career in the news media. The hourglass counting his 15 minutes of fame was flipped the second Bonds connected, and it has not stopped, even though the grains of sand are dwindling.

“People associate him with the home run now,” said Chris Schroder, a reliever with the Clippers. “So, obviously it has opened up some doors financially. I know he does stuff, but I don’t think he’s done near as much as he thought he was going to.”
There is a reason for that. As the anniversary of Bonds’s record-breaking home run approaches, neither man involved is in the majors. Bonds, the embattled slugger, is not playing this season — seemingly exiled after a remarkable career tainted by controversy. Last fall, he was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges related to his testimony in a federal investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.

Bacsik, meanwhile, is in the minors, where he has scratched out a living for most of the last 13 years. After pitching in a career high 29 major league games last year, Bacsik has spent this season with the Clippers, the Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate.
Through Sunday, he was 7-4 with a 4.76 earned run average in 31 relief appearances. During the last few months, he has struggled to locate his pitches and has watched fastballs he intended to throw on the outer edges of the plate drift toward the middle, much like the one that Bonds redirected into the outfield stands last summer.
Against the Norfolk Tides on Saturday, Bacsik gave up three runs and five hits in one and a third innings. But for all of his struggles, Bacsik, 30, says he does not want to walk away from the game, even though he is almost certain he will not be pitching in the Nationals’ organization next season.

“They’ve moved on, which has let me know that I need to move on,” he said. “It’s a mutual feeling. But I love this game and I think I will only give it up after nobody gives me a chance.”

Bacsik seems to have other options. He had tried to carve out a career as a media personality long before he had entered the public eye. He regularly appears on The Ticket, a sports radio station in his hometown, Dallas. During the playoffs last year, he was a studio analyst for ESPN.

In the aftermath of the Bonds’s home run, Bacsik became a pseudo-celebrity. He faced the nation in front of a phalanx of cameras and reporters hours after delivering that fateful pitch.

Other Links:
The Anti-Fan

A Lord of Dogtown is released

Dan Hinote’s wacky wedding

St. Louis Blues forward Dan Hinote got married last weekend to Amy McCarthy who, like her famous sister Jenny McCarthy, is a former Playboy model.

(Along with being the first NHL player to be drafted from West Point and having his name on the Stanley Cup, marrying Playboy eye-candy has to count as some sort of testosterone-soaked hat-trick.)

Ah, but this was no ordinary wedding -- it was a theme wedding, held at the Keystone Ranch in Colorado in front of 400 guests wearing 1950s-era clothing. Yes, attendees were asked to show up in costume. As Penny Parker of the Rocky Mountain News reveals, inviting Jenny McCarthy and her boyfriend Jim Carrey to your theme wedding is a recipe for goofy fun:

Fargo Re-enacted


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Good Morning from Oxnard/Ventura, California, where for the first time this week, I get off my tail and do a blog. Sorry about yesterday, but getting to my hotel at 4:30 am did not inspire much blogging Monday morning.

Let us begin:

In training camp, hope springs eternal. Especially in the first week of camp, the scribes tell us why things will be different this year with a tone of positivity. For instance, the guy who was hurt is now healthy, the guy who was not good enough has improved, and the guy who was ripped is now determined to get it right.

Today’s example: #38. Roy Williams! That is right. New number. New Attitude. Newly determined. Please nevermind that we have been writing this stuff for at least 4 years in a row

JJT tells us 2008 will show us the new Roy

Williams will earn $3.72 million this season to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. If he is, Jerry Jones will continue making him one of the game's highest-paid safeties. If he isn't, none of us should be surprised if he's wearing another uniform in 2009.

You know it. I know it.

After Monday morning's practice, Williams said he's ready to be a force again. He sounded confident when he spoke. He smiled often and talked about having a good time at practice. He wasn't defensive.

Football, for him, is fun again. It hasn't been the past few seasons.

No one wants to hear year after year how he can't cover. No one wants to hear how committing his life to God over the last few years has made him a lesser player.

Every born-again Christian handles the conversion differently. It takes some longer to find balance than others. Then there's the scrutiny from folks who suddenly expect you to lead a perfect life.

"It's a transition. It's a constant battle to live right," Williams said. "You kind of want to do the things you did in the past, but at the end of the day if it's not giving glory to God, it's not worth it.

"I can't worry about what everyone else is saying. I'm not going to respond to foolish things. I'm not going to question who I am and my relationship with Christ for anybody."

The Cowboys drafted Williams to be a playmaker, and that's what he did in his first three seasons with former assistant Mike Zimmer as the defensive coordinator. Zimmer often played Williams 6 yards off the line of scrimmage and let him create havoc.

The result: seven forced fumbles, 18 tackles for loss and too many knockouts to count.

Bill Parcells wanted Williams to be more versatile, so he began playing him 12 yards off the line more frequently. No safety can consistently make plays in the backfield at that depth.

Last year, Wade Phillips moved Williams 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, which is close enough to allow him to read the guards and still make plays behind the line of scrimmage, but his alignment was inconsistent.

It matters whether Williams lines up 10.5 yards off the ball or 11 yards or 12 yards, especially since he has average speed.

"I probably missed 15 tackles last year because I wasn't lined up right," Williams said. "I'm really focusing on it this year. It's hard when the ball isn't on the hash mark, but that's what I've got to do."

He must also stop thinking about the horse-collar tackle. The NFL suspended him for a game last December for frequently violating the rule prohibiting horse-collar tackles.

"Last year, I really worried about it. This year, I'm not," Williams said. "If it happens, it happens. I can't let that dictate my play on the field.

"I just have a new attitude on everything – life and this season. It's not about showing anybody anything. I'm not trying to prove myself to anybody."

Peter King is on the Favre story like white on rice

1. I think I know Thompson is not going to release Favre. If he did, my best guess is Favre would sign with the Minnesota Vikings, and for the next two years (one at least, but probably two) he would do everything in his power to beat the Packers 49-0 in the four games they played. You think Thompson is unpopular in Green Bay now? Wait to see how hated a man he'll be if he gives Favre the freedom he wants.

2. I think I know Favre is not going to stop demanding his release, at least not now. Thompson asked Favre for a list of teams he'd accept a trade to on Saturday -- for at least the second time -- and Favre would not give him one. That's because the minute Favre gives Thompson a list, the Packers will get a deal done with one of the teams on the list. Which brings us to one of the myths I keep hearing repeated.

3. I think I know Thompson is not asking for a first-round pick in trade for Favre unless he has one of the best years of his life, and unless his new team advances far into the playoffs. I don't know the particulars of the likely conditional trade and I'm not sure Thompson knows exactly what he'd accept, because he hasn't gone far down the road with any team he's discussed Favre with. But I do know the deal would be structured like a guaranteed fourth-round pick that could rise to a three or a two or a one (unlikely) depending on Favre's performance ... or maybe a guaranteed three that could rise to a two or one. Most likely, if Favre stays healthy, the team acquiring him would likely have to surrender a third- or second-round pick to get him.

4. I think I know the biggest myth out there is Thompson is driving such a hard bargain because he hopes no team will trade for Favre, and that Favre would slink back to Mississippi and stay retired. Maybe that was the case a month ago, but it isn't now. Thompson knows Favre is going to continue to push to play. And even though I think Thompson would like to have Favre in reserve in case Aaron Rodgers gets hurt -- imagine what Monday-morning-quarterbacking (hey, King, stop stealing your own line!) would ensue if Thompson traded Favre and Rodgers went down for the year the next day with a torn hammy -- I think he believes it'd be better to just let him go somewhere else now.

Meanwhile, to baseball… Rangers lose to Seattle

The Texas Rangers tried to make a comeback Monday in the late innings, a situation
usually made for Michael Young.

But the All-Star shortstop was in the dugout after suffering a fractured right ring
finger in the first inning. The Rangers expect Young to be out five to seven days, but he said he'd be back in maybe a day or two, as soon as the swelling goes down.
His teammates couldn't quite get the job done without him in a 7-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers remain 6 1/2 games back in the wild-card race.

The eighth inning was probably the toughest inning for Young – and many of the 21,742 in attendance – to watch. After Ramon Vazquez singled and Ian Kinsler walked, Young's spot in the lineup came up and the Rangers down a run. Manager Ron Washington asked left-handed hitting Frank Catalanotto to bunt the runners over against lefty Arthur Rhodes. Washington said he would have allowed Young to swing away in that situation. Still, the Rangers had both runners in scoring position with one out for RBI-machine Josh Hamilton. Vazquez, though, wandered off third base too far, and catcher Kenji Johjima picked him off. Hamilton then struck out to end the Rangers' threat.

Washington said that wasted chance – the Rangers stranded 11 runners – would haunt him.

This story appeared yesterday About Rangers attendance being down …I don’t buy that attendance is down. I have said it before and I will say it again here: Nolan Ryan is insisting on honest gate counts, so for the first time in a LONG time, you are seeing honest attendance figures…

Major League Baseball appears immune to the sluggish economy and could set another attendance record this season. But the Rangers, on pace for their first winning season in four years, are suffering at the gate.

The team returns to Arlington tonight for the first time since the All-Star Game. Home attendance has averaged about 20 percent less than through the same number of dates in 2007. So far this season, about half of the available tickets have sold for each game on average.

If that rate holds the rest of the season, the Rangers would record their lowest average attendance since 1988, the year before Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan – now the team's president – first took the mound at old Arlington Stadium.

Yes, the team got off to a slow start, June and July have been unusually hot, and the top opposing attractions haven't yet come to town.

The economy also is taking its toll. North Texas fans are making tough choices as gasoline and grocery prices increase and the threat of recession looms.

"With $4 gasoline, I think a lot of people are choosing other forms of entertainment," said sports business expert Craig Depken of Rangers fans. Dr. Depken is a former UT-Arlington professor who now teaches at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Rangers management is hopeful about the second half of the season. After the slow start on the field, the team is playing well. And there are seven home games remaining against their biggest draws, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, starting with the upcoming homestand. Last year, the Rangers' nine home dates against the Yankees and Red Sox came in April and May.

"When the season is over, attendance will be very comparable to last year," said Mr. Ryan, who returned to the organization in February.

But the second half also brings challenges. There's more Texas heat, of course. And the Cowboys are back in training camp.

The biggest challenge might be simple math. To equal the 2007 attendance, the Rangers must average about 35,200 for each of their remaining 35 home dates. On an annual basis, they haven't come close to that level since 2001, Alex Rodriguez's first season here.

"We might not equal last year, but we're going to do better than we did earlier in the year," said Dale Petroskey, first-year executive vice president for marketing. "That's for sure."

Goose Gossage was a different breed

Gossage was elected in January on his ninth try, almost unimaginable given his pioneering place in the evolution of today's relief pitcher.

Gossage _entering the hall wearing a New York Yankees hat _ finished his career in 1994 with a 124-107 record, 1,502 strikeouts and 3.01 ERA in 1,002 games. He ranks third in both wins in relief (115) and innings pitched in relief (1,556).

Of his 310 career saves, Gossage worked more than two innings 52 times. By comparison, prior to the 2008 season, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had done that just once in 443 saves and San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, has never done it.

In 125 of his saves, Gossage recorded at least six outs.

Liverpool adds Robbie Keane …very interesting move…

Robbie Keane fulfilled his boyhood ambition to join Liverpool last night as Tottenham Hotspur banked £20.3m for the Republic of Ireland striker but issued an acrimonious parting shot over the manner of his departure from White Hart Lane.
Keane will be unveiled as the second costliest player in Liverpool's history this morning having passed a medical yesterday and agreed personal terms on a four-year contract worth about £80,000 a week. It is believed both parties have the option of a fifth year on the contract.

The 28-year-old's capture represents a breakthrough for Rafael Benítez in his transfer plans this summer, having been so far thwarted in his efforts to prise Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, but Keane's transfer has not been without controversy either. Spurs' chairman, Daniel Levy, had submitted a complaint to the Premier League about Liverpool's conduct in the pursuit of the striker, in effect accusing Benítez of tapping-up the Dubliner but, despite dropping the complaint last night, he insisted Tottenham had been forced into the sale of their vice-captain.

"I was incredibly disappointed when I first heard, not only that Liverpool had been working behind the scenes to bring Robbie to Anfield but that Robbie himself wanted to go and he submitted a transfer request to this effect," said Levy. He added: "I have already made my opinion clear on the nature of this transaction. I don't regard it as a transfer deal - that is something which happens between two clubs when they both agree to trade - this is very much an enforced sale for which we have agreed a sum of £19m as compensation plus a potential further £1.3m in additional compensation."

Last night Keane said: "I would like to place on record my thanks to the board, players and fans of Tottenham for the past six years, which were the best and most enjoyable of my career to date.

"I will never forget them. I would specifically like to thank chairman Daniel Levy
for understanding that, as a fan, joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn't let pass me by. I hope one day the Spurs fans, who have been brilliant to me, can understand this too."


Bob, P1 listener and fellow soccer fan here. Huge US national team fan. I am the DFW area contact for The American Outlaws, a national supporter's group and companion group to Sam's Army.

You probably know that World Cup 2010 qualification is underway for the USA. The next qualifier is Wednesday, August 20 @ Guatemala.

The American Outlaws (and maybe a sponsor ot two, we're working on that) are having a watching party for this (and all) qualifier at the Industry Bar in North Dallas. I would like to invite you and whomever else to come and watch the match with us! It should be a raucus and loud assembly. We're planning to have samba drums, drink specials, pretty girls, beer, and a USA win!

Thanks in advance, hope you can make it,

Deion and Pac Man

Jurassic Park re-enactment Funny

Friday, July 25, 2008

Better Late than Never

Some late links on the last blog from Texas for a few weeks….

Camp begins with bold claims and high hopes

The Dallas Cowboys arrived for training camp Thursday, openly embracing enormous expectations of reaching their first Super Bowl since the 1995 season.

Never mind that the Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game since the 1996 season and might not have veteran Terry Glenn as an option at wide receiver. This team looks and acts the part of a Super Bowl favorite in 2008.

However, the team appears to be on the verge of parting ways with Glenn, who missed 15 games last season after two surgeries on his right knee.

The Cowboys barred Glenn from practicing with the team during the off-season after he refused to sign a $500,000 injury settlement to save the team $1.2 million if he reinjured his right knee. Glenn is due to make $1.74 million in 2008. The Cowboys even threatened to cut the 13-year veteran if he didn’t sign.

According to a source, the issue is not so much about the money any more. The Cowboys have concerns about Glenn being available on a weekly basis and whether his presence will stunt the growth of the young receivers.

Owner Jerry Jones refused to discuss the Glenn situation Thursday, saying, "Nothing has changed with Terry Glenn." But he said the issue will be resolved shortly, with an announcement possibly coming as soon as today. Glenn didn’t report with the team Thursday, and the Cowboys declined to acknowledge whether he will be present when the Cowboys begin their first practice today. If they release Glenn, the Cowboys will save $1.7 million against the 2008 salary cap.

Receiver is a potential hurdle in the Cowboys’ Super Bowl quest because Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens, who turns 35 in December, has missed games in five of the past six seasons. And the team readily acknowledges the offense is not explosive when Owens is not on the field. Jones, possibly hinting at a trade, said the Cowboys have time between now and the season opener to address the issue either from within or outside the organization.

Revo enjoys Wade’s stubborn answers

Wade, on the other hand, jitterbugged around what happened to his team last January and, as usual, made himself look absolutely ridiculous in doing so.

That’s the difference in the two men. Jerry can somehow manage to be almost endearing in publicly refusing to acknowledge that anything less than a Super Bowl will be a huge disappointment, even though that fact is crystal clear in everything else he says.

Wade just continues to come across as the doddering, almost feeble-minded white-haired uncle, unable to admit, even now, that his team began to crater in an ugly December, capped by its abysmal performance against the New York Giants in the playoffs.

How can the Cowboys, or any team, learn from their mistakes if the head coach won’t even admit that any were made?

Asked what he would do differently with hindsight, Phillips refused to answer the question, no matter how it was phrased.

Of course, saying you might do something differently would mean a mistake was actually made, and that’s a responsibility Phillips still won’t accept.

"You know, I don’t think 'do differently’ is relevant here because last year is over and last year’s team is over," he said. "The Giants aren’t the Super Bowl champions any more. It’s a new season."

That might come as a shock to the Giants, who probably thought they’d get to be the champs until someone actually dethroned them.

right up until that playoff fiasco Wade is happy to discuss 2007, though ... against New York.

the Giants "We only lost three games last year in the regular season, so ... went 4-4 their last games," he argued. "You’re making something out of not a whole lot there, in my opinion.

"We lost by four points in a playoff game. That’s what happened. It’s a fact. We move on and go forward. This isn’t last year’s team. This is this year’s team."
You think maybe we can remind him of that the next time he starts talking about 13 wins again?

JJT thinks it is Wade’s final year regardless of results

For a few minutes Thursday, Jerry Jones gushed about Wade Phillips and the great job he did last year leading the Cowboys to a franchise record-tying 13 wins.

Jerry praised Wade's leadership. And his work ethic. And his approach. Then Jerry took a breath and continued complimenting Wade's selfless attitude, his management of the team's egos, his immense experience and his track record of success.

None of it changed my mind.

I still think Jason Garrett will be the head coach next season.

If the Cowboys get to the Super Bowl – win or lose – then Wade will ride off into the sunset with a 24K parachute courtesy of Jerry. If the Cowboys don't get to the Super Bowl, then Jerry will replace Wade with Garrett because he doesn't want to lose the highly coveted offensive coordinator.

Garrett, the NFL's highest-paid assistant coach, turned down head coaching jobs in Atlanta and Baltimore last year.

That won't happen again

And it has nothing to do with loyalty or patience. There are only 32 of these jobs in the world, and it doesn't take long for the league to move on to the next great assistant coach.

Plus, Garrett has ambition. At some point, he's going to want to run his own team and see if he can get the job done at football's highest level.

Besides, Jerry already has missed out on two quality coaches – Sean Payton and Tony Sparano – who have been hired as head coaches by other teams. He's way too smart to lose another.

This is not a knock on Wade. Instead, it's really giving Garrett the ultimate compliment. Now, that doesn't make Phillips feel any better, which is why you can see the perturbed expression when the topic is broached.

In the “Who will be the next Cowboys WR target?” division, Anquan Boldin is very unhappy in Arizona …and…guess who is agent is?

An afternoon storm, this one man-made, blew through the Northern Arizona University campus Thursday just minutes after the Cardinals finished their conditioning test.

Receiver Anquan Boldin did not hide his unhappiness over his contract, telling reporters that team officials deceived him by not following through on a promise to give him a new contract by the start of the season. Boldin said he has instructed his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to break off negotiations with the team.

"At this point, I'm not even interested in a contract," Boldin said. "I don't want a deal. People may think I'm being funny or saying that just to say it. But, for me, I'm just tired of it. Washed my hands of the whole situation. My agent has direct orders not to negotiate. So that's how I feel about it."

Rosenhaus, however, met with General Manager Rod Graves in Phoenix on Wednesday evening, then traveled to Flagstaff and met with coach Ken Whisenhunt on Thursday. Rosenhaus spoke to a reporter a few hours before Boldin made his comments and never indicated that talks had broken off.

In fact, he said there was hope because the two sides were still talking. Cardinals officials said Rosenhaus never mentioned breaking off negotiations during his trip to Arizona.

"I've made a lot of trips out here for my clients," Rosenhaus said, "and one of these times it will be fruitful. This time, it was not."

By the way, According to the always reliable Wikipedia, here is the full list of Rosenhaus clients ….and try to imagine what 5% of all of their salaries must be…

Will Allen, cornerback, Miami Dolphins.
Aundrae Allison, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings.
Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker, Baltimore Ravens.
Antwan Barnes, middle linebacker, Baltimore Ravens.
Darian Barnes, fullback, Buffalo Bills.
Marion Barber, running back, Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Becht, tight end, St. Louis Rams.
Jacob Bell, offensive lineman, St. Louis Rams.
Yeremiah Bell, safety, Miami Dolphins.
Jon Beason, middle linebacker, Carolina Panthers.
Bernard Berrian, wide receiver, Minnesota Vikings.
Atari Bigby, safety, Green Bay Packers.
Anquan Boldin, wide receiver, Arizona Cardinals.
Lance Briggs, outside linebacker, Chicago Bears.
Fernando Bryant, cornerback, New England Patriots.
Phillip Buchanon, cornerback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Plaxico Burress, wide receiver, New York Giants.
Rock Cartwright, running back, Washington Redskins.
Dan Cody, defensive end, Baltimore Ravens.
Dan Connor, middle linebacker, Carolina Panthers.
Jameel Cook, fullback, Houston Texans.
Najeh Davenport, running back, Free Agent.
Kellen Davis, tight end, Chicago Bears.
Darnell Dockett, defensive lineman, Arizona Cardinals.
Reuben Droughns, running back, New York Giants.
Eddie Drummond, wide receiver, Free Agent.
Ebenezer Ekuban, defensive lineman, Denver Broncos.
Demetric Evans, defensive lineman, Washington Redskins.
Fred Evans, defensive tackle, Minnesota Vikings.
Ronald Fields, defensive lineman, San Francisco 49ers.
Travis Fisher, defensive back, Detroit Lions.
London Fletcher-Baker, inside linebacker, Washington Redskins.
Drayton Florence, cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jabar Gaffney, wide receiver, New England Patriots.
Frank Gore, running back, San Francisco 49ers.
Earnest Graham, running back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Quinn Gray, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts.
Chris Hanson, punter, New England Patriots.
Nate Harris, linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs.
Tommie Harris, defensive tackle, Chicago Bears.
Justin Hartwig, offensive lineman, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Jason Hill, wide receiver, San Francisco 49ers.
Renaldo Hill, safety, Miami Dolphins.
Glenn Holt, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals.
Marcus Hudson, defensive back, San Francisco 49ers.
Jack Ikegwuonu, cornerback,Philadelphia Eagles.
Larry Izzo, linebacker, New England Patriots.
Taylor Jacobs, wide receiver, Free Agent.
Edgerrin James, running back, Arizona Cardinals.
Chad Johnson, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals.
Charles Johnson, defensive end, Carolina Panthers.
Donnie Jones, punter, St. Louis Rams.
Greg Jones, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars.
Thomas Jones, running back, New York Jets.
William Joseph, defensive lineman, Oakland Raiders.
Jevon Kearse, defensive end, Tennessee Titans.
Damione Lewis, defensive line, Carolina Panthers.
Sam Madison, cornerback, New York Giants.
Olindo Mare, kicker, Seattle Seahawks.
Lemar Marshall, linebacker, Free Agent.
Darrell McClover, linebacker, Chicago Bears.
Bobby McCray, defensive end, New Orleans Saints.
Jerome McDougle, defensive end, Philadelphia Eagles.
Stockar McDougle, offensive lineman, Free Agent.
Bryant McFadden, cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Willis McGahee, running back, Baltimore Ravens.
Mike McKenzie, cornerback, New Orleans Saints.
Randy McMichael, tight end, St. Louis Rams.
Hanik Milligan, safety, Free Agent.
Travis Minor, running back, St. Louis Rams.
Anthony Montgomery, defensive tackle, Washington Redskins.
Vernand Morency, running back, Green Bay Packers.
Santana Moss, wide receiver, Washington Redskins.
Sinorice Moss, wide receiver, New York Giants.
Chris Myers, offensive lineman, Houston Texans.
Michael Myers, defensive lineman, Cincinnati Bengals.
Moran Norris, fullback, San Francisco 49ers.
Adewale Ogunleye, defensive end, Chicago Bears.
Greg Olsen, tight end, Chicago Bears.
Buck Ortega, tight end, New Orleans Saints.
Kassim Osgood, wide receiver, San Diego Chargers.
Terrell Owens, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys.
Roscoe Parrish, wide receiver, Buffalo Bills.
Luke Petitgout, offensive tackle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kenny Phillips, safety, New York Giants.
Antonio Pierce, linebacker, New York Giants.
Zach Piller, offensive lineman, Free Agent.
Michael Pittman, running back, Denver Broncos.
Clinton Portis, running back, Washington Redskins.
Keiwan Ratliff, cornerback, Indianapolis Colts.
Kerry Reed, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens.
Antrel Rolle, cornerback, Arizona Cardinals.
Brett Romberg, offensive lineman, St. Louis Rams.
Matt Roth, defensive end, Miami Dolphins.
Lito Sheppard, cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles.
Jeremy Shockey, tight end, New Orleans Saints.
Antonio Smith, defensive lineman, Arizona Cardinals.
Dwight Smith, safety, Detroit Lions.
Kevin Smith, running back, Detroit Lions.
Paul Spicer, defensive lineman, Jacksonville Jaguars.
Donte' Stallworth, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns.
Drew Stanton, quarterback, Detroit Lions.
Marcus Stroud, defensive lineman, Buffalo Bills.
Fred A. Taylor, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars.
Devin Thomas, wide receiver, Washington Redskins.
Zach Thomas, linebacker, Dallas Cowboys.
Lawrence Timmons, linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stephen Tulloch, linebacker, Tennessee Titans.
Billy Volek, quarterback, San Diego Chargers.
Darius Walker, running back, Houston Texans.
Gabe Watson, defensive tackle, Arizona Cardinals.
Nate Webster, linebacker, Denver Broncos.
Greg Wesley, safety, Kansas City Chiefs.
Ernest Wilford, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins.
Kellen Winslow Jr, tight end, Cleveland Browns.
Eric Winston, offensive tackle, Houston Texans.

Mike Hindman on the Rangers trade situations …or lack thereof…

It's looking less and less likely that the Rangers will make any moves this week. The latest rumors seem to suggest that nobody wants Gerald Laird, the Rangers won't part with Eddie Gurardado, and interest in Hank Blalock is extremely tepid.

ESPN (Jayson Stark) reported that the Rangers have made it clear that they have no intention of trading veteran relievers Jamey Wright or Eddie Guardado. Three days ago, ESPN (Buster Olney) reported that "rival executives say [Guardado] is available."

Keep this in mind: Lefty relievers currently rumored to be on the market or heavily sought include Damaso Marte and John Grabow (PIT), Arthur Rhodes (SEA), George Sherrill (BAL), Ron Mahay (KC), Will Ohman (ATL), Alan Embree (OAK) and Brian Fuentes (COL). There are others who could be had for next to nothing and who might be useful in a very limited LOOGY role such as Jimmy Gobble (KC).

So while everyone in contention other than Boston seems to be looking for a lefty reliever, there's plenty of supply to keep the sellers from raking in big returns for them.

The Yankees brass emerged from their pow wow in Tampa yesterday saying that the aren't in the market for a catcher. One Yankee executive told Newsday's Kat O'Brien that "There doesn't seem to be much out there that's better than [current starting catcher Jose] Molina and [Chad] Moeller."

I can't find anything about where the Marlins stand on the catcher issue right now.

The Dodgers, who are rumored to be working on upgrades at both SS and 3B are evidently talking about moving RHP Derek Lowe to the White Sox for SS Orlando Cabrera.

Chicago GM Kenny Williams is said to be working on a deal with Baltimore to acquire 2B Brian Roberts, which would allow him to trade Cabrera and move Alexei Ramirez to his natural position.

The Dodgers are rolling with 40 year old Jeff Kent and 2B and what's left of Nomar
Garciaparra at SS, giving them what has to be just about the worst middle infield defense in the history of the game. I can see why they would prioritize and upgrade at SS over an upgrade at 3B.

The Dodgers are also telling people that young 3B Andy LaRoche is available. I suspect that the Dodgers would like Texas to bite.

On one hand, dealing Blalock to the Dodgers for LaRoche and a secondary prospect would make some sense for the Rangers, but it would complicate the looming issue of what to do with Michael Young in a year or two when he is expected to be bumped from his current position by Elvis Andrus.

Cuban still in the Cubs mix ….for 1.3 billion!

Tribune Co. is inviting at least three potential buyers who each submitted bids for the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field near or above $1 billion to participate in a second round of proposals, according to a person involved in the process.

Several bidders offering between $700 million and $900 million for all the properties have been excluded from the second round, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of nondisclosure agreements governing all talk about the bids.

A Tribune spokeswoman said the baseball team would not have any comment on the status of the sale, which also includes the team's minority stake in a Chicago regional sports TV network.

Included in the second round are Internet billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban; the Ricketts family, which founded the brokerage that is now TD Ameritrade Holding Corp.; and a group led by Sports Acquisition Holding Corp. that includes former baseball home run king Henry Aaron and former Republican Congressman Jack Kemp. The last group is believed to be teaming with another bidder who submitted an offer in the initial round.

All three of the reported potential buyers refused Thursday to comment publicly. However, the person involved in the bidding provided to The Associated Press an outline of the conditions for the second round.

Meanwhile, Comcast SportsNet has learned that Cuban is the highest bidder to buy the Cubs at $1.3 billion.

Fun MLS all-star game last night as the All-Stars take down West Ham

Just making it to the Major League Soccer All-Star game was a "nightmare" for Dwayne DeRosario. Once he arrived, it turned into a night he'll never forget.

The Houston midfielder scored a tiebreaking penalty, Chicago midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco had one goal and helped set up another, and the MLS All-Stars posted a 3-2 victory over English Premier League team West Ham United on Thursday night.

"A game like this in my hometown, I can't ask for anything more, especially to have an opportunity to have an impact in the game," said DeRosario, who grew up in suburban Toronto. "For me, it's a dream come true."

It's the second time in three years that DeRosario has scored the winning goal in the MLS All-Star game; his second-half strike helped the MLS beat English club Chelsea 1-0 in 2006.

DeRosario and Houston teammate and fellow Canadian Pat Onstad didn't arrive in Toronto until early Thursday morning. The Dynamo had to play a makeup game in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night, and rain forced a 3-hour delay and a finish after midnight. The pair caught an early morning flight to Toronto, but were delayed another 90 minutes at the airport.

"It was terrible," DeRosario said. "I was very disappointed. It's supposed to be a week the players enjoy, especially with it being in my hometown, to really soak up the atmosphere. I really missed that. In the future things need to be handled a bit better."

Blanco was chosen as the game's most valuable player for the All-Stars, who are unbeaten in five years against foreign opponents.

"The MLS players showed we have good players in our league, not only good players but great players," New England coach Steve Nicol said.

Forward Dean Ashton scored both goals for West Ham, which beat MLS' Columbus Crew 3-1 in an exhibition match on Sunday that was marred by a halftime scuffle between fans of both teams.

Los Angeles midfielder David Beckham played the entire game and earned an assist in his first MLS All-Star appearance. Beckham came close to scoring in the 40th minute, but his low free kick was headed away by West Ham defender Calum Davenport.

The England international had two more opportunities early in the second half, running onto a loose ball inside the 18-yard box but shooting high and just wide. He missed wide again on a free kick minutes later.

"I'd read about the last five years not losing so I was kind of nervous and hoping that we would win," Beckham said. "As soon as we started I knew we were capable of winning it because of the quality we've got in the team."

Buzz Carrick on the odd Juan Toja transfer story …by the way, the rumors of Kenny Cooper being gone also appear premature, but I would not fall in love with Toja or Cooper being here in 2009….

In what is rapidly turning into one of the biggest soap operas in FCD history, the Juan Toja transfer to Steaua Bucharest is being held up at the final hurdle.

According to a source familiar with the negations, the deal has hit a snag over the final selling price. While we have been unable to confirm the price point that separates the two teams, the final gap does appear to be large enough to endanger the transfer. With two years left on his $150,000 per year contract, FCD will want serious value to sell the two-time All-Star.

Thursday night, Toja said he is still very interested in the move but confirmed to SBI that the deal was not yet final. “People talk a lot and I’ve tried to make it clear that while it is a great opportunity and we’re trying to get it done, nothing is certain yet,” Toja told SBI after the MLS All-Star Game. “The truth is nothing has happened and nothing has been signed so until something is signed then we don’t know what will happen.”

Toja’s latest denials and our own well placed source’s confirmation of a stall are but the latest developments in a crazy last 48 hours. Wednesday morning Schellas Hyndman had been quite clear that no deal was in place, despite multiple reports in the Romanian press. Hyndman also made a verbal plea to his midfielder to stay in Dallas with the promise to talk about a new contract, but did promise to support his move.

Later that same day, a league level source at the All-Star game told 3rd Degree that the Toja transfer was a “done deal.” That same afternoon various reports arose in Romania, as they had all week in fact, again saying the deal was done. Including one article that features an interview with the player in question that might just be fake.

That same evening the FCD Blog ran a rebuttle to the various done deal stories, saying no deal was in place. Meanwhile the Dallas Morning New ran a piece saying the deal was getting close, but ran a quote by Toja’s agent (from another Romanian newspaper) saying the payment schedule was the hold up. “‘The problem for the transfer is that Steaua doesn’t want to pay the full amount for Toja immediately,’ Nestor Sivori, Toja’s agent, told Bucharest daily Prosport.”
wrote the DMN.

Also in the DMN article, Hyndman again echo’s the “price is the problem” line, teasing what we’ve now learned late today. “I expect him here to play against LA,” Hyndman told the DMN. “No one has told me any different. After that, there may be some changes. They have to give FC Dallas an offer that we think is the value of Juan’s ability. We don’t want to give Juan away.”

On Thursday FIFA itself got in on the act saying the deal was going forward, and even quoted Toja as saying, “‘I’ve reached agreement, the clubs have agreed, all that’s left is to sign,’ the 23-year-old Toja told the sports daily Gazeta Sporturilor.” That evening on the All-Star game broadcast the commentators again reference a pending deal.

Now late Thursday night/Friday morning, 3rd Degree has learned from a well placed source familiar with the negotiations that the deal is stalling over the final price. FC Dallas is apparently standing their ground over the value of the player. With SBI reporting the price sitting at $700,000 US, it’s no wonder FCD is holding firm as coaching staff source indicated to 3rd Degree last week that the offer would have to be a good bit above $1 million for the Red Stripes to bite on the sale.

Peoria v Dayton Fued

Rob Stone vs. Chili Peppers

Thursday, July 24, 2008

CJ Wilson - Closer?

Like I have said, it is not CJ Wilson’s mouth that concerns me. It is his ability to get guys out when his team is in a “Win or Lose based on the next batter” situation. Yesterday was no exception. Yes, you wish Eddie Guardado didn’t put you in that jam, but that is when Wilson must retire Carlos Quentin or the Rangers lose.

1 pitch. Gone.

This is my 11th season of following the Rangers on a day by day basis, and I must tell you I have not felt the Rangers had a Level A closer during the entire span. John Wetteland and CoCo Cordero both insisted walking the leadoff batter in the 9th and making their job tougher than it seemed it should be.

But, they were established closers with reputations and stats that indicated they were effective regardless of my opinions. But, the stats are not helping Wilson’s case. He can claim 23 for 26 in save opportunities, but otherwise, the numbers are very concerning.

2008 is about determining roles for the future. It remains to be seen whether Wilson is the closer of this franchise in 2010.

Rangers lose a gutting battle on get-away day

If you listen to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, it was those pesky baseball gods who doomed the Texas Rangers and closer C.J. Wilson in a 10-8 loss Wednesday.

Wilson entered with two outs and two on in the eighth after the usually reliable Eddie Guardado had given up two runs and couldn't find his command. Wilson's first pitch – he called it a "meat ball" – was blasted by Carlos Quentin over the left-field wall to give the White Sox the lead for good.

Guillen wasn't yelling at Wilson from the dugout this time. He was ejected a few innings earlier for arguing balls and strikes. Maybe he was cheering in front of the television in his office.
He was asked if winning the game against Wilson meant more to him.

"Not to me," Guillen said. "But I think for the team, yes. They might not say it, but they should.
"... Always out there is the baseball gods. Be careful what you do and what you say in this game because he's going to get you back."

Guillen yelled at Wilson during the last series in Arlington after Wilson showed emotion in getting out of a jam in the ninth to win a game. Guillen felt it was unprofessional and showed disrespect to his players.

Wilson said Wednesday's loss wasn't any tougher because it was to the White Sox.

But it was tough in general. Kevin Millwood, as has become a pattern, left the game early. His right groin tightened up in the second inning and he was taken out after giving up three runs in 12/3 innings.

"It got bad enough to where I couldn't push off, and I wasn't going to do us any good that way," Millwood said. "It's annoying. It's frustrating. I want to get it taken care of and be able to pitch without worrying about it."

It was the 11th time this season a Rangers starter hasn't completed the third inning. The Rangers are 4-7 in those games. For Millwood, it was the fifth time an injury has forced him to leave a start – twice because of a bruised shin and three times with groin issues.

The injury led to overtime innings for the most-used bullpen in baseball. Josh Rupe, Warner Madrigal and Jamey Wright came through, but Guardado couldn't hold the three-run lead. He put the blame on himself, not any baseball gods.

"I didn't get the job done, plain and simple," Guardado said. "It's frustrating when that happens. I could not find the zone, and when I did, I was behind and they hit the ball."

The Rangers, for their part, hit the ball, too. An offense that was struggling to hit consistently, scored six two-out runs and was aggressive on the bases with four steals. It wasn't enough, though, to overcome the White Sox heroics. Or the baseball gods.

Oklahoma prepares for a big year

Bob Stoops doesn't remember insignificant numbers, such as wins and losses. Wins and losses are but a process.

He counts rings. Big, gaudy, diamond encrusted ones.

Stoops remembers championships -- more specifically, conference championships. His teams have played in six of the last nine Big 12 championship games. They've won five of them.

What Stoops can be forgiven about forgetting is national championships. His teams have played in three BCS title games. They won one. They're 2-4 in BCS Bowls and seem to have a bad knack of finishing poorly.

If Stoops has a negative side to his legacy, that's it. Just as Mack Brown was long known as not being able to win the big win at Texas, that tag is -- though much softer in application -- being directed toward Stoops.

"Each year is a new team," Stoops said. "I've never seen one year tie to the next. We have won the national championship before, and it didn't have anything to with the next year and we have lost in it, and it didn't have anything to do with the next year. Each year is a different team, with different players. In the end you have to go at it again.

"I will say we have been pretty consistent in going after the Big 12 Championship, and we look to do that again. Hopefully, we can finish the year a little bit better." Getting to the BCS title game is tough enough for any team. Winning it seemingly has been a crapshoot. The Sooners' only victory was an upset over Florida State in Stoops' second season.

Asked in early June about what he can do to get the Sooners back on track after their 48-28 loss to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl, Stoops couldn't hide his irritation. "Don't forget that three weeks before we beat the No. 1 team in the country for the second time, and in a game that mattered," he said, referring to the 38-18 Big 12 Championship game rout of Missouri, which had followed a 41-31 regular-season win in Norman by five games. "So obviously we're doing something right.

"It's what you choose to focus on. It gets back to that it's all that people want to talk about is the last event. I get it."

Well, the news coming out of Norman isn't really news. It's the same old, same old. The Sooners are again favored to win the Big 12 South, take the overall conference title and then move on to the BCS, where their credentials would then likely put them in the national championship game.
Been there. Haven't always done that.

This year, you see a Sooners team that claims 27 returning starters.
Considering it's still 11 a side, that's pretty amazing. But the Sooners count anyone who started even one game as a starter -- that's why they lose 12 instead of the more accurate count of nine total on offense and defense.

Wacky math aside, it's clear the Sooners are again the class of the South Division, though Texas Tech and Oklahoma State may well put the best challengers they've ever fielded in the league's 12 year history on the field -- assuming their respective defenses hold up -- and Texas will seemingly always be Texas, ready to give the Sooners a run for their rings.

DeMarco Murray – Bad Man – if healthy

Revo on Cowboys camp ….

January can’t get here fast enough for the Dallas Cowboys.

It all starts this afternoon in Oxnard, Calif., when Jerry Jones gives his annual camp kickoff state-of-the-Cowboys pep talk with trusty sidekick Wade Phillips waving his pompoms alongside.

And don’t think the Hard Knocks cameras won’t be recording every mushy moment of it.
There’s six weeks of Camp Cupcake II — or Camp Marshmallow, as Phillips renamed it over the weekend — spliced around four exhibition games. That’ll be followed by 17 weeks of further preliminaries to finally get to the only thing that matters around here: the playoffs.

Win a playoff game and Phillips probably keeps his job. Get booted out again in the first round and he’d best have his résumé up to date with stamps on the envelopes.
And, sorry, Wade, byes just don’t count. A bye won’t sell a single ticket to Jerry World in 2009.

There are many questions facing the Cowboys as camp begins, some more critical than others, but none looms over this franchise with as much potentially grim import as the fact that neither the head coach nor the quarterback has ever won a playoff game.
That 0-fer streak must end this season before it becomes such a psychological burden that it suffocates everything Jones has tried so hard to build.

Like the Mavericks after their ignominious bouncing by eighth seed Golden State in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, the regular season this year is nothing but a warm-up act for the main event.

There are plenty of reasons to believe Phillips’ and Tony Romo’s personal losing streaks, as well as the team’s 11-year drought, will end this January, provided the Cowboys find positive answers to most of the other questions that linger.

Can the Cowboys’ thin and aging receiving corps stay healthy and get the job done?
Will Marion Barber be as effective as the No. 1 running back as he was as the No. 2, and can rookie Felix Jones be the change-of-pace backup that the Cowboys believe he will?

Will second-round draft pick Mike Jenkins and Adam Jones — assuming commissioner Roger Goodell lets him play at some point — give the Cowboys the depth they’ll almost surely need at cornerback?

Can they finally find a place to hide Roy Williams?

Most importantly, who — besides Jerry, of course — will emerge as this summer’s star
of HBO’s salty Hard Knocks?

And does anybody else chuckle at the irony of a show called Hard Knocks featuring a training camp dubbed Camp Cupcake II?

So far, the hardest knock we’ve seen at a Phillips-run camp is the head coach patting himself on the back.

Ah, but let’s save the zingers for later. It’s late July and, at the moment, hope springs eternal.

Maybe this is the year Wade actually wins a playoff game. He can do it (I think). He has the smarts. He knows the game. What he’s never been able to prove is that he knows what buttons his players need pushed or when they need pushing.

25 years ago today: The Pine Tar Incident

Twenty-five years later, it remains one of baseball’s most riveting images: George Brett, eyes bulging with rage, bolting out of the visiting dugout at Yankee Stadium, intent on enacting a most primal impulse. He wanted to kill the ump.

The object of Brett’s fury, a quarter-century ago on Thursday, was back in the Bronx this week. It was Tim McClelland, then working his first series at Yankee Stadium and now a respected crew chief. McClelland was the umpire who tried to nullify a crucial home run because Brett had too much pine tar on his bat.

McClelland is a commanding figure, at 6 feet 6 inches, and he said he was not afraid of a rampaging future Hall of Famer.

“I knew he really wasn’t going to hit me or run over me,” McClelland said Wednesday before working third base in the Yankees’ game with Minnesota. “If he did, I’d probably own the Kansas City Royals right now.”

The Royals held a conference call with Brett on Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of his disputed homer off the Yankees’ Goose Gossage. Brett will be in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend for Gossage’s induction to the Hall of Fame.

“I’ve always been proud of all the home runs I gave up,” said Gossage, who joined Brett’s call. “But that was probably my proudest one, because we had so much fun with it.”

Brett came up against Gossage in the top of the ninth with two out, one on and the Yankees ahead by a run. He homered deep into the right-field seats, giving the Royals an apparent 5-4 lead. That was when Manager Billy Martin put into motion a plan hatched by third baseman Graig Nettles.

Years before, the Yankees’ Thurman Munson had been called out for having pine tar higher than 18 inches from the knob of his bat. Nettles remembered that when he noticed that Brett was using a similar bat.

“When the rule was originally made, it was actually for the protection of the hitter, because if the pine tar would get on the ball, then the pitcher could grip the ball better and snap off curves and stuff like that,” McClelland said. “So, really, it’s kind of funny how the rule was made for the protection of the hitter, but the penalty was on the hitter.”

Brett said he had never heard of the rule, and because he never wore batting gloves, he liked to put pine tar on his hands to get a grip on the bat handle. His pine tar extended to 23 inches from the knob.

“I didn’t like the way the bat felt with batting gloves,” Brett said. “It was July 24 in New York, and it was hot and muggy, a day game. Pine tar just gave you a better grip.”

When Martin argued, McClelland agreed that Brett had violated the rule. He called him out, presumably ending the game but instead provoking chaos. Brett snapped, and another umpire, Joe Brinkman, held him back from McClelland.

Meanwhile, a Royals pitcher known for subterfuge was intent on stealing the evidence.
“Gaylord Perry, being the man of foreign substance that he is, got the bat and twisted it out of my hands,” McClelland said. “He threw it to Rocky Colavito, and I went to grab it from Rocky, and Rocky held it up over his head like he was going to hit me with it. You know, take it, it’s not that big a deal.”

Eventually, security guards nabbed the bat and sent it to the American League president, Lee MacPhail, who overturned McClelland’s call based on the spirit of the rule, which was repealed after the season. The Royals completed their victory in August when the game was finished at Yankee Stadium, but the major players were gone.
Brett, who had been ejected, was watching on television from a restaurant in New Jersey. McClelland was working in Seattle. If he had let the home run stand, McClelland said, it might have been Martin who charged him.

“We’ve got to rule on the letter of the law, and the letter said that we should call him out,” McClelland said. “But if I’d have gone to Billy Martin and said, ‘Hey Billy, you’re right by the rules, but come on’ — who knows what Billy would have done?”

In a season that could certainly be labeled as “non descript”, FC Dallas faces another blow: The imminent exit of Juan Toja

FC Dallas midfielder Juan Toja's departure to Europe seems imminent.

General manager Michael Hitchcock acknowledged there have been talks with Romanian powerhouse Steaua Bucharest but said it's not a done deal.

"We continue negotiating what we think is a fair market value for Toja," Hitchcock said.

However, Romanian media reported that Toja, 24, is expected to travel to Bucharest directly
from Toronto after the All-Star game tonight.

"The problem for the transfer is that Steaua doesn't want to pay the full amount for Toja immediately," Nestor Sivori, Toja's agent, told Bucharest daily Prosport.

Steaua's president said he wants to pay Toja in installments and FC Dallas has balked at the idea, the paper reported.

Toja is currently with the MLS All-Star team that will play tonight against England's West Ham United in Toronto.

Sivori is negotiating the trade with the league, which shares the player's rights with Colombian club Santa Fe of Bogota, where Toja debuted in 2004.

FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman met with Toja on Sunday, and the player expressed his desire to play for Steaua, which is preparing to play a qualification round in the UEFA Champions League in August.

FC Dallas plays the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday.

"I expect him here to play against LA," Hyndman said. "No one has told me any different. After that, there may be some changes.

"They have to give FC Dallas an offer that we think is the value of Juan's ability. We don't want to give Juan away."

Hyndman said he tried to persuade Toja to stay with a salary increase.

"I want to help Juan, but I also want to help this team," Hyndman said. "We know Juan wants to go, but it has to be the right offer."

Scooter Feldman email:

Bob and Dan,

I heard your segment about Scooter Feldman the other day and just thought I would chime in with some thoughts I think you are missing. I know you didn’t rip Scooter and dismiss him as a nothing but I think there are some positives to take away from Scooter considering all the facts.

1. Scooter just changed his arm angle this year from basically side arm to 3-quarters. Using this delivery he has tremendous movement on the ball and gets some really nice sinking action.

2. He has respectable change up and curveball plus every once in a while he can drop sidearm

3. Call him Scooter and the light will come on

4. He’s only 25 years young. Would you rather at least see what he’s got or see the Rangers sign spares like Jason Jennings?
I did see that the CWS hit some balls to the track but one of those was off Eddie Guardado. When Feldman has problems it is usually the 2nd or 3rd time through the lineup where big league hitters make adjustments. I at least want to use the rest of the season to see whether or not Scooter can make adjustments as well.

Please understand I’m not trying to endorse Scooter Feldman as the next Walter Johnson or anything like that. I’m also saying that potentially finding next year’s #4 starter is really what the Rangers should be looking to accomplish but I think he’s got more than half the crap we are running out there every 5th day.
Finally, I would like to say that Bob Sturm is not the only one in the metroplex with Wisconsin sports greatness. I played 2 D-3 baseball regionals in Appleton and Osh Kosh. If that doesn’t make you spare then I beg you two gentlemen to redefine the word.

The Bluth family Chicken

Liverpool mix tape - all these sweet plays, and they still finish 4th.