Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rangers and Red Sox reach agreement

With merely an hour to spare before the passing of the trade deadline, Jon Daniels made a move that few welcomed but fewer anticipated. He dealt Eric Gagne to the relief-heavy Boston Red Sox for starting pitcher Kason Gabbard, AAA outfielder David Murphy, and 17-year old rookie ball outfielder Engel Beltre.

Why Boston? To be entirely honest, I have no idea. The Red Sox have the fearsome 8th and ninth inning combo of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, arguably the most effective tandem in Major League Baseball. Gagne makes sense for any team in contention, being a dominant reliever. But the Red Sox don't need Gagne.
To me, this may have been as much a case of keeping the opponent from acquiring a player as it was actually adding him to one's own lineup. The Yankees are rapidly closing ground, and need bullpen help more than anything else. Unfortunately for their odds, Brian Cashman has decided to make every prospect with a name and two working arms untouchable-which obviously resulted in the Rangers turning elsewhere with their star closer, pulling the trigger on this deal.

Gabbard has put up some very respectable numbers with the Sox to this point. He's not a very projectable player, but should be a solid 4 or 5. He could, unfortunately, be a replica of the pitcher who took the hill tonight for the Rangers, John Rheinecker- a finesse pitcher who enjoys success in limited quantities, but ultimately gets shocked back to the reality.
I have heard favorable reports on the guy, with some going as far as to compare him to Kenny Rogers. The similarities are striking in some respects: Gritty left hander, good breaking and offspeed stuff, an ability to keep the ball down,very solid numbers... but at 25, Kenny Rogers still had a 95 mph fastball. Gabbard may throw a similar curve and change-up, but he has neither the heat of Rogers nor the craftiness Kenny came to acquire. I like him, but he's a #3 at best.

David Murphy, like Gabbard, was a low-ceiling, low-downside Boston first round pick out of college. He's fairly polished at this point, and has very little to prove in preceding locales of testing and development. Murphy plays all three outfield positions capably, although he is more of a natural at the corners. He hits for average and exhibits good discipline in the box, but is lacking in power. He will probably become a very usable fourth outfielder in the major leagues, but with a bit more development may become a Frank Cattalanatto type. And if you look at Frankie the Cat's full line of work, he's had what is altogether not a bad career.

Engel Beltre is the Jon Daniels' prize in this deal. The ridiculously young and skilled Dominican outfielder signed a $575,000 bonus in the previous year, emerging as one of the most highly touted foreign prospects in the world. It is exceptionally foolhardy to make projections for any player this young, but having more tools than a fully stocked Home Depot excites scouts to no end. Comparisons have varied from Ken Griffey the Younger to Barry Bonds... whatever. Don't get me wrong, It's great to stockpile guys like this. I thoroughly suggest you read this article by ardent Ranger fan 'Zywica' on Lonestarball.com. It is important to accumulate players of this caliber whenever possible, because quite simply they're not a dime a dozen. The Rangers have a firmly cemented and productive series of international baseball academies, and they have failed to bring in anyone this good since Ruben Mateo.

It hurts not to have Gagne. But in the long run I must echo my sentiments on the Atlanta deal: A win-win. I don't necessarily think that the Sox overpaid to get what will be for them a seventh inning pitcher, but I think that the Rangers got more than they would have from letting Eric walk in free agency.
And if Gagne genuinely did enjoy his time in Texas, if the heartfelt happiness he continually expressed actually was heartfelt, bring the man back this offseason. Let him close games for Kason Gabbard and David Murphy, and let him lead the welcoming committee for Engel Beltre's arrival in the big leagues.
I didn't mean to turn this into a tribute, but I truly salute Eric Gagne for being a consummate team player through his time here, for refusing to allow early frustrations to sabotage his season, for being a terrific example to every player on this ballclub. Eric, best of luck in Boston. Go get em.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Tex is a truly primo hitter. But there was no denying that his time with the Texas Rangers was limited, as the tick-tock of the 2008 offseason came inexorably closer. Dealing him was the only possible move, there was nothing to gain by hanging on to Teixeira if we are led to believe that the team is rebuilding.

Let me preface all this by saying that I have nothing against Teixeira as a person. Aside from a little hissy fit he threw over a harmless Dan McDowell comment, I haven't known him to be anything other than warm, open, and... nondescript. He hasn't been an off-the-field headline maker in the mold of local athletes like Terrell Owens. And he's been highly productive on the diamond, putting up numbers that lend to comparisons with the game's historical giants (Check his baseball reference if you don't believe me). Now he can do all that for a contender.

Let's address the pieces coming back for Teixeira. Jarrod 'soon-to-be-nicknamed' Saltalamacchia is a 23 year old switch-hitting catcher/first baseman who is said to have one of the smoothest swings out there. He's a high-upside guy who does everything offensively; hits for power, hits for average, does not strike out with too much frequency, and takes a decent amount of walks. He was initially thought of as mediocre defensively, but has reportedly worked hard to alleviate those worries. Most projections have him producing at about 85% of Tex's level.

Elvis Andrus is an 18-year old Carribean phenom that signed on with Atlanta at the tender age of sixteen. He's a slick fielder hitting in the .250 area in High A. Amongst other things, he's a fleet-footed six-footer who is said to possess 5 tools. His ceiling is sky-high, comparisons to Jose Reyes and Edgar Renteria are a dime a dozen. But he could just as easily become Joaquin Arias.

Matt Harrison is a 20 year old who has put up good ERA and WHIP numbers everywhere he's been. He's not a heavy strikeout guy, but will not walk inordinately many hitters either. A key stat: He allows only one home run throughout an average of 18 and a third innings. Another contributing factor: Harrison's a lefty. He recently injured his shoulder, but the MRI came back negative. Harrison has been compared to Tom Glavine, although I remain highly skeptical that he'll be anywhere near that echelon. He should be a decent 2 or 3 if he pans out. He's not as good as, say, Eric Hurley-but will probably hold the same value as a Kasey Kiker.

Feliz is kargely an unknown commodity. I wasn't able to find much info on the 19 year old righthander, but Braves fans did inform me that he has a fastball that can touch three numerals. That alone could allow him to pull a Bobby Jenks and close if he ever makes it up to the big leagues, but if he develops some secondary pitches and makes sure his head is securely fastened, he could become something special.

As of this afternoon, the Rangers acquired a FIFTH player in this deal. Beau Jones was selected in the first round of 2005 out of high school and is a lefthander who specializes in heat. He had a high level of success in A ball, but has struggled in High A.

Conclusion: This was a win-win. Atlanta has to win NOW, and they've put themselves in great position to overtake the ailing Mets by adding a primo bat and glove at first base as well as a very reliable lefty bullpen arm. The Rangers' priority is rebuilding, and by adding a promising 22 year old ready to step up to a starting job as well as some very promising players still unable to legally drink, they've facilitated that need. Many will tell me that Kotchman/Saunders was the better deal seeing as both are ready to step in and contribute right away, but I don't buy it. And don't bother quoting me Loney-Kershaw-Meloan, that was a pipe dream.
Jon Daniels, I approve.

The woes of Kevin Garnett

There are some subjects that I've spoken of ad nauseum. The large man whose eyes appear prepared to consume your soul is one of them. I'm a big fan of KG- It's not hard to be. He's a singular offensive talent who would be the top defender in a majority of the NBA's franchises. He's been nothing if not a class act with the otherwise pathetic Timberwolves franchise, and has done nothing that leads to suspicion of wrongdoing of any kind (Although the fact that this is worth mentioning may be more a denouncement on the everyday athlete than an endorsement for Garnett).
On the list of great athletes cast in a perpetual state of mediocrity and defeat, Garnett is first and foremost. He's shown a peerless devotion to the franchise that initially chose him, and this has been largely to his own detriment. While he could have sought a trade on many occasions, KG has remained steadfast and loyal throughout.
Until the situation became altogether desperate.
Minnesota is just... bad. Going to a Timberwolves game is like watching a Tom Cruise film. Whether justifiably or not, the main attraction commands so much of the attention that it becomes a 1-man show. In reality, though, the only other similarity between the two is the irreparable damage they can cause to one's ability to ever enjoy a similar performance. Because while Cruise is an over-hyped pretty boy who caught a few lucky breaks with superior talent surrounding him, Garnett is a legitimate superstar in his field surrounded by an abundance of poopoo and a lamentable lack of diamonds.
According to reports, the Celtics are close to a deal that would grant them the 10-time allstar. The likely deal would have them giving up Al Jefferson, Rajon Rondo, salary hog Theo Ratliff, and likely Gerald Green and some first rounders.
The logical question is then: "Why, Or, are you declaring despair and angst for the superstar power forward? He'll be joining two legit stars in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in what should be a dynamic offensive threesome. Adding to the good tidings: Boston is in that region of the continent we like to refer to as the 'East'. Competition is tough to come by, as evidenced by their branch of the playoffs during this past year.
I'm unhappy for KG because he's joining Paul Pierce, who never learned to share. I'm unhappy for KG because he will be the only worthwhile defensive player on the squad. I'm unhappy for KG because tensions will likely run high with clashing personalities, and because I can't see any depth whatsoever left on that team.
I think that the Celtics are now prime contenders for a home court slot in the first round of the playoffs. This is a big step up not only for the franchise that finished with the second-worst record in the league, but for the superstar possibly joining it whose team had a decently placed lottery pick. But the Celtics could easily implode before getting anywhere worth mentioning in the playoffs. And when that happens, what happens to Kevin Garnett?
I feel sorry for you, Kevin. I truly do. Because you don't deserve a situation this laden with calamity. Bring on the scoffing- although I do realize that he gets compensated quite well for his suffering. But all basketball players do. And a player whose career has followed an eerily similar path with a different franchise is attending teammates' weddings in France with four championship rings and a reputation for excellence that has eluded KG due t extenuating to circumstances.

Friday, July 27, 2007

News Flash: Lofton to Cleveland.

Well, the floodgates are down. Rushing water incoming.
As I've stated in the past, I'm generally happy with what Kenny Lofton has provided for this year. It's good to see I'm not the only one, as today Cleveland pulled the trigger on a deal with Texas, making the swap for 23 year old High-A catcher Maximiliano (wow, I love that name) Ramirez. Frankly I'm puzzled that the Tribe went after Lofton, their outfield situation is quite good and they probably aren't considering Lofton for a role greater than pinch runner and occasional corner outfielder. But I'm not one to complain.

There's not much out there on Ramirez. We do know that he's a very good hitter (.303/.408/.505), was drafted as a third baseman and is an abysmal catcher. He was sent over in the Bob Wickman deal of last season, one in a plethora of promising Braves prospects behind the plate. Ramirez is probably two years away, and will likely have transitioned to a corner infield position by then.

The return doesn't blow me away, but anyone convinced by reports that the Rangers were insistent on Andrew Miller is incredibly thick. Lofton wasn't going to contribute to a playoff run here, and I'm glad that he goes somewhere where he has a chance to obtain that long-awaited ring. I don't believe Cleveland can win it all this year with only two starters of any repute, but if they surprise me, great.

Look at the above poll for the latest Teixeira rumors.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Jon Daniels Report Card: Free Agent Signings

Jon Daniels has done his utmost to deviate from the mistakes of his predecessor. He's been accessible almost to a fault, personable, friendly. His hire heralded change, and as stated in past posts, change as a concept was the important value at that time, not necessarily the specifics of the change itself. JD's held true to expectations in that regard- although all required to be different from Hart was an occasional interview with a local sports show and being seen outside of one's basement or the local golf course without a security detail.

Alas, Daniels has encountered the difficulties that most young GMs do. His most significant moves have backfired horribly, and he's failed in his attempts make any full-blown successes when it comes to player swaps. The biggest victory is probably the swap that brought in Vicente Padilla for Ricardo Rodriguez, and seeing as Padilla is now collecting a monstrous paycheck to pitch in AAA, it may have been subtraction by addition.

But when Daniels is critiqued, most fail to mention one facet of the three-cornered job. The 3 major parts of a GM's job are, obviously, Trades, Contracts, and Drafts. It is far too early to gauge JD's evaluation of amateur talent, but what of his decisions as they pertained to players on the free agent market?

Let's begin with the current staff 'ace'. Kevin Milwood was the best in a limited crop of pitchers willing to come to Texas, coming off a year during which he led the American League in ERA with the Indians. Milwood was in his prime, wanted to come here, and carried a general reputation of consistency. In his first year with the Rangers, Milwood posted a mediocre ERA of 4.52, but won 16 games and ate up 215 innings. The first stat is obviously unimpressive, but one must consider that Milwood was pitching half of his games in the hitter's altar that is TBIA.What he did was give the team a chance to win nearly every time he stepped on the hill, as well as represent that necessary Rock of Gibraltar that could pitch 7 innings and give the bullpen necessary time off. During this season Milwood's been somewhat rocky, although a lot of that can be attributed to early injury problems. All in all, quite reasonable these days for 12 million dollars a year.

While not free agents per se, Gary Matthews and Mark Derosa could have been let go by the Rangers with very few batting an eye. While JD can't fully take credit for bringing them back, then, he certainly contributed to the decision. And seeing as these two signed for barely above the minimum and posted years worthy of compensatory picks in this past draft, I'd have to assign a solid A for both contracts.

Now let us move on to this past offseason. JD let a significant portion of the team, but brought on some worthy replacements. The grading will represent not only the players brought in, but those let go. Let's therefore begin with:

Carlos Lee to Houston. We all knew when the trade was made that the chances of bringing Lee back were very slim. He got a ridiculous deal worth 10 digits from Houston, and while he's been good the Rangers certainly can't be faulted for taking their two picks and parting ways. I'd give him more points here, but it wasn't really a difficult decision to make.

Derosa to the Infant Animals: Personally, I was all for bringing the super-utilityman back. But if he wasn't going to contend for a starting job here, letting him go was the right decision. He got 3 years and 13 million from the Cubbies, and I don't fault them for the decision. I can't fault JD for his, though.

Gary Matthews Jr. to the Halos: One of the most trigger-happy moves I've seen in some time, from an unlikely source. Bill Stoneman has a hard-earned reputation as a methodical, obstinate, traditional Gm unwilling to make controversial decisions. But he gave 50 million dollars to the former ranger centerfielder; the career journeyman coming off of one all-star caliber year. Matching Anaheim's offer would have been asinine. GMJ is a good player, but not worth anywhere near 10 mil a year.

Adam Eaton to the Phillies: I never understood any of the hype around Eaton. He's got good-not-great stuff when healthy, and we've seen a firsthand glimpse of how often that comes along. He's also hot-tempered and displayed control problems during his time here. The Phillies drastically overpaid for intermittent decency in Eaton, It's only a shame that Texas didn't get a draftpick out of the centerpiece of the Young/Gonzalez debacle.

All in all, I'd give JD a B+ overall for his decisions to let people walk. The only guy I would have considered bringing back at such rates would be Mark Derosa-and even that would be iffy to pull off, seeing as he seemed quite content with Chicago as his destination.


Frankie the Cat
. Catallanatto embodied the underrated, tool-less outfielder who usually put up good stats nonetheless. The move made sense for the Rangers, especially seeing as he played with the team in the past. His utter failure throughout this season is worrisome, but the real irritant is the fact that the Rangers had to give up their first rounder (#16 in the draft) to get him. I don't blame JD for the signing, it certainly seemed to make loads of sense. But there's no way around the fact that in retrospect, it was a mistake.
Grade: D-

Jamey Wright.
He's always had the alleged and elusive 'stuff'. But he's also never delivered for anyone on a consistent basis. Wright has been decent throughout his intermittent 35 innings, but intermittent is the key word. He can't stay off the DL, and that certainly hurts his value. Wright blocked Kameron Loe throughout the first month of the season, but that only barred Kam from one or two starts, so not a significant deterrent to the extent of Sammy blocking Jason Botts.
Grade: C

Kenny Lofton
. Coming off of a solid year in LA that many labeled an aberration, Lofton's signing prompted a lot of criticism-a 40 year old career mercenary who had always relied on speed. But Lofton's been nothing if not the consummate professional. He's hitting around .310, displaying a bit more power than he showed at previous stops, and stolen more than his fair share of bases. Big props to JD on this one, and It's a shame that the season didn't pan out as planned. I'd be very content with Kenny Lofton as my leadoff hitter and centerfielder in a stretch run.
Grade: B+

Sammy Sosa. Nobody expected anything. The prose is clunky, but it sums up people's sentiments to a tee. Samuel Peralta Sosa had last been productive 3 years prior, and was shipped from his team (Chicago, all ye absentminded) on bad terms. Sosa Isn't on pace for 40 home runs, and he likely won't post an on-base percentage over .300. But what he's managed to do is fill a spot in the middle of the order better than almost anyone. I hate to point at a singular stat in order to identify a player's worth, but the man has 69 RBi-and that's no laughing matter. I reiterate, he hasn't been great. He may not even be good. But he's done far, far better than anyone expected him to. And at the MLB minimum, he's been a bargain.
Grade: A-

Marlon Byrd. Another whose signing was given barely a cursory glance. Byrd was a well thought of prospect a while ago. This odd duck wasn't drafted until the age of 22, but vaulted through the Phillies system and into prominence in the early portion of this decade. He had played well for one year: 2003. All other indications had him pegged as a talented but mechanically flawed fourth outfielder. Jon Daniels brought him in to spring training, sent him down to Oklahoma. He was called up to compensate for injuries to Frank Catalanatto, and has wowed players, coaches, and spectators ever since. The Byrdman (to borrow the nickname granted to Marlon by Adam J. Morris) is hitting .352, has become a veritable triples machine, and has shown the versatility necessary to play all three outfield slots. I know It's Marlon Byrd, and It's very likely that he's going to regress into his standard level of play sometime soon. But I'd like to remain in Neverland a little while longer.
Grade: A

Eric Gagne
. Injuries. Uncertainty. A history of dominance. All three trail Eric Gagne like badges worn on one's chest-irremovable, displayed prominently where one cannot bother noticing. JD knew the risks of bringing in the dynamic Canadian. Gagne has done nothing but save 16 games in seventeen opportunities, gradually eliminate any lingering doubts about his short-term health, and bring himself back to respectability. There's no doubt in my mind that he is the top reliever available to other teams during this stretch run-but I don't think he'll be dealt. Here's something nobody saw coming- Gagne seems content here. Not only content, but genuinely pleased. If the man is truthful and really does want to pitch here for the long haul, I sincerely hope that our dear GM is working on a deal to secure his services for many years to come. And if he goes? We're in great shape there, too... Gagne's numbers make him likely to be a type-A this offseason.
Grade: B+.

I realize that Daniels has erred-and erred significantly-on several occasions when presented with a trade. But one must realize that there is more to the job that straight up swaps, and JD has done that job with success that is absolutely shocking when put in contrast with the past mistakes of guys like Hart or-call me a heretic if you must- the Great Melvin.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wading in the Tuna's Stagnant Pond

Wade Phillips has coached quite capably throughout his career. Many attribute this to the talent he inherited at past stops, but Phillips has done nothing to suggest incompetence as an instructor, coordinator, and leader of men. There is an odd trend in his past; for every one of these positions, Phillips succeeded a great, or even legendary coach. The list contains such luminaries as his father Bum Phillips, Dan Reeves, and Marv Levy. Recently, it came to include some guy named Bill Parcells.

What is it that makes this situation different from the others? In all of the aforementioned cases, Phillips was taking over a proven group of players from his predecessor, taking with that group the expectations of the franchise and its followers. His career record (48-39) stands as a testament to his collective performance at all of these stops. His playoff record of 0-3 is not as worrisome as most would label it; Phillips never coached a truly great team, and coaches who break .500 in the playoffs don't often get away from their teams, much less get relegated to coordinator roles, no matter how prominent the franchise.

The dissimiliraty comes down to one thing: This is a fit.
Jerry Jones took his time in making this decision. This Isn't customary of the colorful owner, whose love for publicity has landed his team in trouble in the past. But in this case, Jones opted for the best decision possible to ensure the ressurection of the winning tradition in Big D. He passed over local legend Norv Turner and such hot named as Ron Rivera and Mike Singletary. Some label Phillips as 'boring', 'generic', 'vanilla'. But he's exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Cowboy offense was stellar last year. For a unit that hasn't added an internal first rounder since bloody DAVID LAFLEUR, they were downright amazing. But obviously converse to the allergic reaction to offensive playmakers is the fact that the Cowboys have allocated tremendous assets toward building a dominant defensive unit. The effect has been underwhelming, to say the least. The players seem to be there at every position on the board, but when game time approaches things simply fall apart. The man supposed to lead the unit, Roy Williams, looks like an idiot on every passing play. Bonus babies like Bradie James are publicly criticized by the quarterbacks of 3-13 teams for 'not having a clue'. First rounders like Marcus Spears and Bobby Carpenter are either horribly underutilized or playing far below their level of ability. Phillips comes from a system with players remarkably similar, as has been pointed out enough times for even the most casual sports fan in Chatanooga to catch on to.

Phillips didn't get a proper opportunity with the Saints. He was clearly a temp in Denver, despite coaching there for two years. He got his chance in Buffalo and fulfilled expectations.
However, it was not a suit personally fitted for his tastes by Armani himself. Defensively, a better match for Phillips' specialties could not be found. A large portion of this team's success will depend on Jason Garrett's ability to lead the offense and Tony Romo's ability to take his instruction to heart. Phillips, however, will fix what was in a state of tragic disrepair during last season.

No more lethargy, no more complacency. No more predictable bliztes, stationary linebackers, and scared safeties. If Phillips has his way, and the players seem intent on taking his tutelage to heart, the defense with 2 additions throughout an entire offseason will see drastic change this year.

If things go as planned, the outcome will be different. The outcome will be exciting. And the outcome will be success.

Friday, July 20, 2007

KG Alert and other NBA News You can use

Kurt Thomas goes to Seattle. Gee, what could possibly make the Sonics want a man who scores less points per game than he gets paid?
TWO future Phoenix first rounders helped in making the deal attractive.
Normally, this would raise worries on Phoenix's desperation to elude luxury tax hell, heralding complaints from numerous media luminaries about the ownership's lack of commitment. But not this time.
In dumping Thomas, the Suns have acquired a valuable trade exception worth the full 9 million dollars of Thomas' contract. And in this case, there's no question for 20 questions. Their next target is very apparent.
The charismatic, dynamic, singular, forward who is the definition of a superstar mired in mediocrity: Kevin Garnett.
Early indications on the once-promising Minn-Phoe trade front were promising, with KG publicly campaigning for a move to Arizona. For whatever reason, initial talks broke down. With these new developments, I believe that Phoenix has vaulted solidly into the forefront of the race. For all I know, It's even possible that they've got a deal predetermined with Minnesota based on the Thomas deal's finalization. Very resourceful of Phoenix to find other avenues to improve their ballclub, but this creativity could lead to their long-term downfall. Dealing two first rounders for technically NOTHING is worrisome at the least.
And in other implications, Seattle just got two unconditional first rounders completely free. Good god, It's great to be below the salary cap.

Steve Francis is a Houston Rocket again. It's a great story and all, but did miss the press release stating that the league would be using three Spaldings on the court instead of one?
Let me get this right... T-Mac requires that the offense run through him. Yao requires that the offense run through him. Steve Francis likes to pretend that he's in charge of all the other little dribblers on the court. So how in Morgan Freeman's name is that offense going to work? yeah, I realize he's a weapon. This weapon's barrel, however, may be pointing the wrong way.
Have a great weekend.
By the way, I condone the going-after of Mickael Pietrus.
Go Mavericks.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Let Bygones be bygones.

One of the best leadoff men in recent history: Make me an offer.

Top 5 all time home run hitter: You'll take him? You really will?

Heroes of days long ago being shipped to facilitate rebuilding: Priceless.

And smart.

Sammy Sosa and Kenny Lofton have many things in common. They were both offensive stalwarts during significant portions of the 90s, both obviously advanced in their career.
Both have played far better than par for their personal courses for the Rangers this year. But only a delusional fool would think of their continued presence as part of the long-term solution.
It's been great having Sammy around, just for old time's sake. It was fun watching him hit number six hundred against the club everyone associates him with. But the man's got an on-base percentage under .300. He's hitting a miserable .213 against right handers. He can't even pretend to play defense. Dismiss the RBI numbers and he's one of the most undesirable everyday starters I've seen in some time.

The fondness I feel for Lofton is more comparable to the one I reserve for the Great Gagne. Why? He's produced. Lofton's given the Rangers a true threat on the bases, something they hadn't been able to boast of since the days of Goodwin. It also helps that he's been absolutely lights-out since his first month or two here, rebounding from early struggles that had him hitting at the Mendoza line to raise his average all the way up to .309. He's made his share of impressive grabs in center field, and done his share as far as working pitchers and taking walks. In other words: He's been the absolute epitome of a leadoff man.
Doh! He's 40!

I don't think the Rangers will get anything for Sosa. It will likely turn into a regrettable situation in which Jon Daniels needs to release his (sabremetrically) top run-producer in order to give deserving young players a shot at the top level.
Lofton's a diferent story, though. Teams have expressed interest in the career mercenary's services, and I sincerely hope that JD makes the right decision-pulls the trigger at the first sign of value coming his way. I don't think Lofton should necessarily be given away, but there's no point in holding out. He'll be worth a decent package, don't delay your rebuilding process by clinging to the sentimentality of keeping him around.

It'll be nice to get some fringe prospects in return for these two bygone stars. But priority one remains as such:
Make sure they're on another team before July 31st.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Heightened Expectations

Hello again, readers! I don't have much to do beside read fan fiction on Harry Potter 7, so I resolved to continue on my entry from earlier today. As the above photo makes abundantly clear, this write-up will be covering the trade possibilities of one Eric Gagne.
I stated earlier that Teixeira was a mercenary for hire. Well, Gagne has not shown the same ruthless determination to milk the market that Tex has, but I believe that the odds are almost insurmountable of him signing a deal. And he's even more so of a rent-a-star than Tex, seeing as this year is the last on his deal.
But here lies the delicious portion of this situation: You can never have enough throwers. Ever. I don't care if you're Detroit in 2009, with more pitchers than a Beantown bar at midnight. Quality hurlers are a commodity every team is desperate to lay their hands on.
And quality is the key word with Gagne. He's posted an ERA of 1.23, blown one save in fifteen opportunities, and alleviated most of the injury concerns that surrounded him due to his last two years with the Dodgers. Simply put, he's been dominant.
It's this that makes me reluctant to deal him. Not only is Gagne singular in his ability to close a game, he's the type of electric presence that I simply love having. There are some players in sports that excite the fans simply by walking out onto the field, and Eric Gagne fits snugly into that category.
Now, what can the Rangers expect in return? The endless Ugueth Urbina comparisons are certainly fitting. But I don't think the Rangers will get the same sort of haul in this deal- Florida was being Florida, acting out of desperation, selling every possible commodity in preparation for a seasonal run for a world series to facilitate five more years of SUCK. Some will look at Adrian Gonzalez plus mediocre prospects, consider that Gagne is better than Urbina was, and suggest that a player of Kotchman or Loney caliber should be made available. Keep dreaming. Gonzalez was an unproven commodity, the latter two are hitting .300+ at the major league level at a young age.
But while you won't be getting prime pieces for Gagne, you could certainly recieve worthy compensation. Let's say, for instance, that Curt Schilling's injuries are worse than feared. The Red Sox theoretically prepare to move Jonathan Papelbon to the rotation (as they planned to do all along before discovering that he was a shut-down ender) and seek the man to pitch back-to-back with the tremendous Okajima. You wouldn't get Lester or Ellsbury, but could you pry away Manny Delcarmen? Unlikely, but possible.
Detroit develops a distrust of the usually steady but always scary Todd Jones? You can cross out Maybin, Miller, etc in a straight up deal. But would a desperate Detroit (highly unlikely) be prepared to swing a monster for both Texas' closer and their first baseman? In that case, we could see some serious young talent flying from system to system.
There will be a multitude of teams interested in Gagne. But as with Tex, Jon Daniels is demanding a bounty higher than the player's actual value. And I repeat my stance on this matter:
You go, Jon.
But eventually, let's make these damn deals happen.

Great Expectations

Happy Wednesday to you all! Upon lengthy consideration, I've decided to blame my recent layoff on George Bush. It's trendy and hip!

Back to work! The day is approaching... the day before which all significant transactions must be finalized. The trading deadline is July 31st, and the MLB trade market has been incredibly tame to this point. I can't say I expected it, and judging by recent columns published by sportswriters far more knowledgeable than I, it does not appear like I am solitary in my surprise.
What is it that has contributed to teams' uncertainty to pull the trigger? It hasn't been the players on the block. Mark Teixeira, despite the first injury stint of his career, has looked dangerously sharp since returning. Eric Gagne has remained his dominant self. Kenny Lofton is hitting .310, and Joaquin Benoit (Although I still don't see him as a prime contestant in the trade game) has been steadily increasing his value.
The problem lies not with the players, but with the fans and the man supposed to be their leader...
Jamey Newberg!
I wish. That man's passion for the squad is incredible.
Tom Hicks!
... He hasn't related to the common man in the last several dozen years.
No, It's young Mr. Daniels. Understandably, he's wary about making trades early or recklessly. His history with inter-club dealings justifies this paranoia. The situation here is one that can be turned into a great strength for years to come, but mishandled could become another lamentable chapter in the Rangers' non-deviant history.
According to reports, Daniels has been asking for the farm in exchange for his commodities.
Good for you, Jon. Just don't overdo it
I'm all for demanding the moon in trades. But what people, namely Maverick fans, fail to remember is that is takes two satisfied teams to make a deal work.
Let us examine Mark Teixeira for a second. For the team curently holding him, he's a gold glove first baseman who has visited the DL once during his career, a .300 hitter with a +.400 OBP with 35 home run capacity.
From the perspective of the Angels, or Dodgers, or Red Sox: Teixeira is arguably not a top 5 first baseman, will be owed over fifteen million dollars throughout a little more than a year with the team, and... -direct quote- a little more than a year with the team.
Tex is an upgrade for almost any team. The Yankees don't need offense, but first base is arguably their weakest link. I get the feeling that George Steinbrenner is wary of entering a stretch run with Andy Phillips frequenting his starting lineup. The Red Sox have a terrific first baseman in Kevin Youkilis and an excellent DH who can pretend to play there in Big Papi. I've said since the beginning that I didn't understand their reported interest in Tex-It'd take too much wheeling and dealing on their part to make the situation work.
The Dodgers have understandably backed off from the leaders in the Teixeira derby-James Loney is a 23 year old rookie hitting .367.
The Angels are still reportedly involved, although with Kasey Kotchman producing consistently as he has I'm not certain why. I have no aversion to it, of course-the more bidders with laden farm systems, the better.
The Braves, Giants, and Orioles can all justify interest by pointing at their underwhelming first basemen.
But here's the catch: What can you recieve for Mark Teixeira? I can recall a Cowlishaw piece earlier in the year, which suggested a package of Ferocious Feline kids Maybin, Miler, and Blevlen. It was laughable then, and remains so. Dave Dombrowski would need to be more than drugged-he'd have to be acting in accordance with demands during a hostage crisis.
If you're Jon Daniels, do you pull the trigger on a straight up deal for Andrew Miller? For Noah Lowry or Tim Lincecum?
How about Brandon Wood? Kasey Kotchman?
They're all good players-and good players with youth on their collective sides. But I must admit, any of them, dealt alone, would not be worthy of the transaction.
I'm not sure more could be had for Big Tex. And Daniels is asking for the farm, moon, sky, and an autographed Derek Jeter bat.
This is what's preventing the deals from going through. And unfortunately, I have an uneasy feeling that it will be what prevents the trade from occurring at any time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Off-Topic Sunday: Harry Potter 5 Movie Review

Good evening, devout perusers. Dead horses are not worth beating, but for lack of a better introduction-there is nothing pertinent on the sports landscape. For lack of a better topic of discussion, then, I've prepared a review of the much-anticipated movie now out in theaters, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I realize that It's sort of a niche film, but so are most. And It's my blog, so shut up.

There are movies that are truly magnificent cinematic presentations, videos that captivate the audience with the quality of acting, writing, dramatic presentation, or plotline. There are also films that make their pretty penny by augmenting mediocrity with spectacular special effects. A third category is the film that entices viewers by promising the reenactment of a popular subject.

Unfortunately, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not a dramatic masterpiece. It fulfills to the exact specifications the later two, however. Let us begin with the acting. Daniel Radcliffe, despite a substantial paycheck and plenty of experience, still portrays Harry Potter poorly. I don't think It's necessarily a case of Radcliffe being a bad fit for Harry, but I do think that Radcliffe is a bad fit for any role requiring him to do more than stand still. The producers seem to realize this as well as the rest of us; there are numerous situations where Harry has a well-fitting line handed to him on a silver platter, but instead cedes to another of the actors-almost as if those executives in charge of the film are wary of exposing his obvious lack of talent.
I am impressed with the performances of Harry's sidekicks Hermione and Ron, however. Emma Watson is one of those characters that truly fits the role as it was stated in the books, and Rupert Grint has grown into his. Alan Rickman is, as always, the quintessential embodiment of Professor Snape. I don't believe a better actor could have been found for the part. Imelda Stauton is a decent Dolores Umbridge, she certainly captures the repulsive spirit of 'Poisoned Honey' (as JK so aptly put it) to a tee.
The post of Dumbledore has seen much turmoil over the years, and until today I wasn't too happy with Michael Gambon's Dumbledore. He seems to have far improved his grasp of the role, however. He was less of the jovial, pompous buffoon with the beard, more of the world's most powerful Good Guy.
I've never been happy with Gary Oldman as Sirius Black, and my tune has changed very little. He's not the fierce, freedom-infatuated, occasionally feral in more ways than one Godfather that we all continue to love through his existence in the deathly plane. He's too tacit, lethargic to be Sirius. He was at least able to convey his love for Harry, however, and that's a bit of a saving grace.

The special effects are predictably impressive. The skeletal thestrals are well done, Grawp the giant certainly lived up to massive expectations, and there was little at fault with the fleeting centaur scenes (other than their newly acquired inability to converse). The battle between the Heavily Bearded Mentor Soon To Die and His Evil Student From Years Past Turned Worthy Hated Adversary was terrific, truly one of the most impressive scenes of its kind that I have seen.

The writing was dissimilar from what I expected, but altogether not that bad. There was an inordinate amount of deviation from the lines in the book, but the replacements were for the most part passable. (My favorite line: As Umbridge is being harassed by Grawp and his friendly centaur companions, "Harry! Tell them I mean no harm!" 'I'm sorry, professor... I must not tell lies.')

The theme of the story was represented well. The fifth tale was meant to herald a second reign of darkness, and the film did that well. If Radcliffe did anything well, it was portraying a dark side when inhabited by or sharing the emotions of Voldy.

All things considered, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a step up from its predeccesors. It took the necessary step forward and laid some solid groundwork for the next two films.
Final Grade: 7.5/10.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Past trades in Review: The Antawn Jamison deal.

Happy Thursday, readers. Some traditions deserve to be resurrected, if only temporarily. And such is the case today, as the utter inactivity on the sports landscape is a worthy reason to bring back the practice of Thursday Trade Reviews. Today's subject, as outlined by the large headline text, is the deal that sent Antawn Jamison to the Washington Wizards during the summer of 2004.

Background: Antawn had been one of two identically french-sounding forwards acquired by the Mavericks in the previous offseason. Jamison had previously plied his craft for the Warriors of Golden State, proving himself a capable scorer who specialized in bringing energy to the floor. He proceeded to play exemplary basketball for the disappointing 52-30 Mavericks, who lost in five games to the Kings of Kalifornia's Kapital during round 1. Donnie Nelson sought a transformation, and both of the Ant(oi/aw)n(e)s were shipped off. Walker was disposed of for Jason Terry, Allan Henderson and a first rounder that was subsequently passed off due to existing draft debts. Despite this sizable haul, however, the Jamison deal leaves the more significant imprint of the two.

Antawn Jamison was by no means a bad player during the '03-'04 season. Although he started only twice, he played in every game and was named the Sixth Man of the Year. Lamentably for young Antawn, freshly off his first playoff appearance, the great and all-knowing Donnie ruled him expendable. He was dealt to the Washington Wizards for 'troubled' swingman Jerry Stackhouse, has-been Christian Laettner, and the draft rights used to select Devin Harris.

In a nutshell, both teams got more than they bargained for. Jamison, though a doubtlessly solid player, had been nothing more than a sixth man nonetheless. Stackhouse was labeled a ballhog and clubhouse cancer who lacked the ability to compensate for those two detriments. The draft was seen as mediocre at best.

Antawn Jamison has reverted to every bit the player he once was. Through his three seasons as a wizard, he's averaged approximately twenty points and chipped in eight and a half rebounds. In addition, he was an absolute monster during the Wizards' short playoff run of this past season, averaging 32 points and 9.8 boards during a lamentably stunted first round series of four games.

Jerry Stackhouse is the vocal leader of the Dallas Mavericks. I don't know what to attribute to his complete turnaround, but most hypothesize that it is winning that changed Stack. He is not humble and never will be; that is what makes him so lovable. But he has become realistic, and does not demand the ball anymore. He accepts it when offered, and although his play is erratic the dividends manifest themselves often enough to keep him from being a liability.

Devin Harris has not yet lived up to the Tony Parker comparisons. But he is undoubtedly a keeper. He's shown three flaws to date: A lack of shooting range, proneness to injury, and physical weakness. The weakness is relegated only to that dimension, however, for Devin is as mentally tough a player as the Mavericks have had in a decade or more. He is relentless and determined, a good defender, and possesses quickness envied by 99% of this league's players.
He has not yet elevated anywhere near what most would term his 'peak', but most point guards are few to develop. Excuse his lack of outstanding statistics, and examine the concrete evidence- the team is as its best with Harris at the point.

Personally, I'd rather have what the Mavs got. But I'm sure there are those out there who will vehemently disagree. So let me attempt to wash away all premises of a bias, and rule objectively...

In conclusion, I'd have to call this trade a wash in terms of benefit or lack thereof received as well as given up.
But there's a second category, which simply examines the quality brought in by each team. And in this case, I'd have to declare a definite win-win. This transaction took players out of a bad situation and brought them into an optimal one all across the board.

Have a solid rest of the day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MLB Awards at the Intermission: The Extraordinary League of Americans.

Merry Wednesday, people! Today's presentation is, as promised, the AL's answer to the virtual trophy decisions of yesterday. The clash between these two leagues is as tame as things get in any sport; the long standing grudge they have for playing against each other obviously contributes to that in some way, as does the fact that one league has been clearly superior to the other over the past decade. But simply based on the way sports are run, players, teams, and leagues are given a blank slate at the beginning of every season. Which in effect, bringing to an end my little tangential rant, is why we have petty, pointless awards such as these.

AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero
This situation presents us with a perfect opportunity to debate over the true nature of the MVP award. But in my mind, it is attested to symbolize not the player whose performance transcended that of others, but the player who helped a contending ballclub to a greater extent than any other. A-Rod, as has been the case on numerous past occasions, has been far and away the best hitter in either league. However, the Yankees have proven to be such a debacle this season that I cannot award him this honor with a clear conscience. Vlad's home run and average numbers won't blow anyone away, although they are terrific. But he has managed to drive in 75 runs to this point, showing us once again why he is so widely feared. And for as long as the Angels maintain a stranglehold on the surprisingly competitive American League West, he's the clear favorite in my mind.
Maybe Next Time: Alex Rodriguez, Justin Morneau.

AL Cy Young: Dan Haren
Most of us like to think of these awards as highly contested. However, there is a clear lead horse in this race. Prior to this season, Haren was seen as a good pitcher, but nothing extraordinary. A solid two or three in the Oakland rotation, depending on Rich Harden's availability. Haren has stepped his game up several echelons, posting the lowest ERA in the American league (2.3) 10 wins, a terrific WHIP of 1.00, and 100 strikeouts. Without Haren epitomizing the qualities of an ace, the As would have been dead and buried right alongside their Texas rivals.
Try Harder! Can you feel the burn yet? Now can you feel it?: CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, Justin Verlander.

AL ROY: Hideki Okajima
The Boston Red Sox really did bring two Japanese pitchers on during the offseason. But with some dude named Dice-K hogging all the headlines, Okajima was nothing more than the fine script on page eighteen. After his unmitigatedly incredible first half, however, Okajima has clearly contributed far more than his endlessly hyped counterpart. The fan needs to look at one number to capture a snapshot of his success-an ERA of 0.83. LESS THAN ONE. There's a reason I put that in capitals- don't mistake it for a typo. The Scarlet Stockings' setup man has been absolutely nothing short of dominant throughout the season. While I'm still apprehensive about calling a 32-year old a rookie regardless of his lack of MLB experience, there's no doubt he's been the best first-year player in the bigs.
Maybe Next Year... Oh wait, You're only a rookie once!: Jeremy Guthrie.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MLB Awards at the Intermission: Senior Circuit

Happy Tuesday, intrepid readers! As promised, today's entry will feature the very generic Approximately-Midseason trophy presentation. Tomorrow is set in stone for the superior league of Americans and their alleged allies, but on this night the league of old timers will look down their noses at their trophy-less counterparts.

NL MVP: Prince Fielder.
One of the true gifts the sport has going for it, Fielder showed plenty of power but not enough substance during his rookie season. He came back with a vengeance, and has played a first half that can only be described as 'monstrous'. 29 home runs, 70 RBI, an on-base percentage of .376. Fielder doesn't hit the ball, he smashes it to a pulp continually and during the following at bat waits tacitly by as the wary pitcher throws all around the strike zone. The Brewer first baseman has become one of this league's most feared sluggers at the age of 23, truly doing his legendary but disassociated ancestor proud.
Runners up: Matt Holliday, Miguel Cabrera, Chase Utley.

NL Cy Young: Chris Young.
Curses and calamities! I never thought I'd see the day when I would be despondent to hand a fictional award to the Princeton grad from Highland Park. But recognizing his dominance means re-approaching the fact that he was once a Ranger and happy to be one. Young has been the best pitcher in a staff that includes the spectacular Jake Peavy, and they hold the two best Earned Run Averages in the majors. An ERA perched right at TWO. There are other stats, and they are not insubstantial. But simply examine that one for the time being: If Young pitches eight innings and surrenders a measly two plate-crossers, he's had an outing below his customary level. Gah, it simply drives me insane. But to be realistic: While I and most of my peers were very fond of CY, nobody-NOBODY-pictured him being as good as this.
Valuable Mentions: Jake Peavy, Brad Penny.

NL Rookie of the Year: Ryan Braun.
Braun is foremost amongst an extremely solid group of players this season. The third baseman has emerged as yet another awe-inspiring piece of Milwaukee's incredible infield. a .350 average, 11 home runs in 163 at bats... sweet lord, the man's even stolen eight bases. Is there anything Braun can't do? He and his partner across the diamond will form one of the most feared duos we have seen in some time.
Worth Mentioning: Chris Young the Diamondback, Hunter Pence, Chris Sampsen, Josh Hamilton, Troy Tulowitzkiwhatsit.

Good night all!

Monday, July 9, 2007

An Unhealthy Dose of Reality

Happy Monday loyal readers! Unfortunately, I must hold by my promise from yesterday- I simply cannot uphold the euphoria of Ranger optimism any longer than I must. Because as badly as I want them to be good, I am a realist at heart. And the truth points at a half-empty glass best served with several jagged pieces.
So as much as I hate to do it, today's presentation will be an analysis of the unmitigated failures that have graced this franchise with their collective presences. And what better (or worse?) place to begin than with the biggest 180 I've ever seen as a Rangers fan. And my peers, you know very well how much that means.
His acquisition was the biggest triumph the JD proponents had to point to. He was a sign of hope, a beacon declaring competency within Ranger talent evaluation. Vicente Padilla went through the majority of last season as the best pitcher in the rotation. He was a legitimate #2 for a large part of the year, and even a second half slump could not hold him back from adequacy. However, as is the case with many of these success stories, Vicente had an agenda. He was going into a contract year, and certainly capitalized. Padilla turned an ERA in the 4.5 area into a deal worth over 10 million a season over three whole revolutions of the 12-month cycle. The mysterious and shady Venezuelan has been a complete and utter unmitigated DEBACLE from the beginning of the season. It has truly been painful to watch Vinny this season, especially when recalling the RANGER pitcher who was so solid in the previous season. I can't think of a single major league player, including Jeff Weaver, who has underperformed to this extent. I shun you, Vicente. Oh wait, that doesn't matter! Because you refuse to talk to the dirty Americans in the first place!
One doesn't have to stray too far to find contestant #2 for the "Juan Gonzalez Ranger Stint #2 Award". Although there is nobody who even approaches Padilla's vast stature in this area, Robby Tejeda gives him a run for his money. Similarities run amok between the two. Both are of Central American birth, both credited as possessing stuff clearly above the average. And both shimmered with promise for a time, but then left us staring stupidly at the rusting piece of scrap metal that had once been so precious. Robinson absolutely wowed fans during the start of the year. If I recall correctly, his first four starts were all sparkling-highlighted by a shutout against the immensely dangerous Bosox of Beantown. Since then however, Tejeda has been... worse than Padilla, if such a thing were possible. An ERA topping seven over a period of several months is a precarious thing to hold. The only thing keeping him from placement in the Padilla category of 'Simply Disgraceful' is the fact that Tejeda did show promise in the aforementioned early portion of the year.
Clearing out the limited list I have due to... time restraints is not a player who has sat out significant portions of the season. I won't deny that Hank Blalock's rib removal didn't disappoint me, but that's not really a performance failure he could have any semblance of control over. And looking at pure statistics, many will advise me to pass on grass after seeing the third entry.
Ian Kinsler, what happened? Your nuclear lumber throughout the first few weeks taunted not only the fans, but apparently yourself. News Flash: You're no Babe, and I certainly hope for the sake of your public profile that you're not Barry Bonds. What happened here seems to be a massive change in strategy, as the already undercutting Kinsler altered his swing to a point where he could dislodge the branches of a California Redwood. Ian, you're a wonderful player. But you're not going to pace the rest of the contestants in a single season homer contest. I was mislead, Ron Washington was misled, but more importanly, Ian, and most lamentably, YOU were misled by your early success. I know, It's easy to fall into the trap. But nobody knows Ian Kinsler better than than.. surprise surprise, Ian Kinsler. And subsequently, adjusting a fine plate approach to facilitate a newfound power at the dish was a mistake. The numbers following the initial burst of lightning are telling; we were treated to little other than mere sparks. Ian, go back to Rudy. Get your swing redone, revert to what you had been doing in all the years prior-the same stance, swing, and discipline that led to so much success throughout your ascent in the minors as well as your fine rookie season.
And not to overdo the cold blanket routine, but I think I Rangers Captain could be just as bad in the field, whilst annoying the other team into submission.
That's all for today. Next to come: Mid-Season Leaguewide Awards!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Rangers' Several Months in Review: Mr. Bright Side

In keeping with the intermittent tradition of using song lyrics in the title, I've also found a very suitable topic of discussion for today's entry. As most of you know, the all star break festivities are imminently approaching in all of their splendorous glory, and we would be remiss to display our nonconformist attitude in this case. So as we continue to refer to single entities in the plural third person, the staff at PSTR brings you... a list of reasons for the formerly red-shoed Rangers to maintain a glass half full attitude. Do not fear, good readers, we will revert to our usual forms within a few days, ripping the Rangers just as passionately as before. But let's be happy and cheerful! The world is a happy place when Kenny Lofton hits home runs, right? Or maybe It's those Brownies I had... those Brownies, with all the weird filings... hmm.
First and foremost is a player most regarded with well-placed skepticism. This is a player who had pitched only on rare occasions throughout his previous two seasons, was taking the place of a well-liked, proven veteran, and was getting a fairly large contract with no stipulations to detract from it. A month or so into the year, I wrote Eric Gagne off as a bad signing. 12 pristine save opportunities later, I've changed my tune. Gagne hasn't received as many opportunities as most would have liked, but his mettle has been proven intact whenever he got the call. I realize that he's most valuable to this team in the form of a prospect or two, but I really do love seeing him pitch for Texas. If a long term deal can be worked out, JD, get to work.
Following close behind is a man who barely registered on the radars of most. Much like Gagne, he hasn't given us a large enough sample size to be truly awestruck. But when on the field, Marlon Byrd has been peerless in his ability to simply hit.
Yes, I said Marlon Byrd.
The same Marlon Byrd who acquired a well-deserved reputation as a journeyman; a spare part best taken in very limited quantities. The guy labeled as possessing every physical tool necessary, but never having the skill to utilize his ability. Well, Rudy Jaramillo's talents manifested themselves in yet another willing pupil. Byrd is hitting-double check this if you like- .378. That's enough to win a batting title in 90% of the seasons I can recall.
I do realize this is the part when people point out to me that he only has 143 at bats-and believe me, I'm not oblivious to that fact. But I can't disregard a man who's hitting damn close to .400 since obtaining the starting job in right field. If he can keep a pace remotely SIMILAR to this up, he'll be a type A free agent this offseason. Much like with the previous addressed subject: JD, get a pen and lawyer-authorized paper and force said utensils into your player's hands.
It's a sign of how lacking this category is when the third player mentioned has an ERA over 5. But Kameron Loe has exhibited consistent excellence since returning from his short stint as an Okie. If you're desperately seeking a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak figurative tunnel, Kameron will leave the light on for you. As I stated in my latest Rangers entry, he could very well be going through Ryan Drese syndrome. But in my wild, grasping desire to accept even the smallest tidbits of happiness as three-course tons of pleasure, I will stand by Kameron Loe and his contributions to the bleakness that this squad has become.
I feel there is only one player I can really put on the list. I know many will point to Brad Wilkerson and his outstanding HR/AB ratio as well as his tendency to look at more pitches during his at bats than most fans see all game long (take it as you will, personally I don't have that much of a problem with it as long as the walks pile up). But I can't put him on this list with a .228 batting average. It simply feels wrong. So instead I'm going to reference another guy who started slow but has worked his way up. I am speaking of the career journeyman who has maintained near-star status despite his city-hopping tendencies, Kenny Lofton. I was pleased when he was brought in, and my suspicions were proven correct. Kenny is simply a baseball player; he will hit, cover center field like a champ, and record steals like a pauper who's managed to disable the security cameras. I don't think he'll be traded, because most teams will see him as the guy they could have had for free this offseason. But from a purely statistical standpoint, there aren't many CFs I'd rather have for a stretch run than Kenny. He's hitting over .300, putting up an OBP 80 points higher, and he's stolen 20 bases. I can't remember a Ranger as active on the basepaths since... Tom Goodwin? Good lord, it seems to have been an eternity. Good times... but I digress. Kenny has done nothing but perform. And while a 40-year old may not be what your team should build around, It's a damn nice sight to see someone competent roaming the vast expanses.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Assorted Sportsy Quickhits

Happy Friday, all! I am sincerely apologetic about the hiatus, but I allowed my vacation from school to coincide with one from my daily writing practice in order to slack off properly. Lamentably, there still Isn't much to talk about. It still falls under my responsibilities to dissect whatever minuscule moves have been pulled off, however. So here we go!

Rangers win two of three against the division leading Los Angeles or alternatively Anaheim California Angels not hailing from San Diego or San Fransisco and Possessing a superior franchise to the other two.
Geeze, their moniker grows longer every day. Check back in a week and we'll probably have a descriptive analysis of the ballpark's landscaping, and several days later we'll be treated to a precise count of the mens' bathrooms within the premises.
But let's hold off on prodding the Angels' legal issues with various California cities and instead point and laugh in their general direction, consequential to losing 2 games to a hopeless Texas bunch.
Marlon Byrd completely mystifies me. He's taken the Gary Matthews routine and one-upped it in every way. If he can come remotely near maintaining that sort of batting average, some team will take a flier on a Type-A free agent, and the Rangers get two draft picks out of another brilliant JD signing (Success property of Jaramillo mechanics training, incorporated).
Eric Gagne should fetch a hefy bounty on the open market. He's been completely dominant throughout all...25 innings. You'd generally want to see more playing time out of your closer, but that blame lies solely at the feet of his team and cannot be attributed to any lack of reliability.
I hate to say this, but I think CJ Wilson could be a better pitcher for someone else. Don't get me wrong, It's great having him here- But he is so much better on the road than he is in Arlington. His ERA at home is a respectable 3.72, but on the road It's the Gagne-esque 1.45. Keep him while you can, he'll be a very reliable setup man for quite a while. But some smart team will look at CJ and see a closer, in which case you could get a very solid return for CJ.
Brad Wilkerson is the most frustrating player I can remember donning the Ranger uni. He hits three home runs one day, strikes out four times the other. But as much as he drives me crazy, I'm all for bringing him back. He walks enough to make up for all of those whiffs, displays great power when healthy, and has shown defensive versatility.
I don't know if the team will be able to deal Tex this year. A lot of the prospective squads have apparently lost interest, most likely prompted by his recent injury stint. And the potential deals seem to have lost a lot of their punch; I remember the day when Evan Grant suggested that both Cam Maybin and Andrew Miller could be had for Tex Alone- but now I doubt you could get either in a straight-up deal.
Robby Tejeda needs a tune-up. Pronto. Send him down to Miracle Hawkins over in Oklahoma, can it hurt? The man can't possibly pitch any worse than this.

On to the game that TV Ratings forgot: Basketball. I'd reference hockey as the more proper example, but I'm not sure they had any ratings in the first place.
Gerald Wallace and the Mavs dance around the mid level exception and refuse to commit to anything. I'm all for bringing Wallace in here. He's a premier defender, a slasher, and a rebounder. He fills every need that the team has. Unfortunately, players who can do all of that don't sign for the midlevel exception. If the Mavericks truly want him, they'd have to do a sign-and-trade, using a player like the annual scapegoat Jason Terry and inking Wallace to a four or five year deal at 10 per. I don't see it happening, because the Maverick hierarchy understandably wants to keep the team intact. But mark my words- there is more chance of me making the Olympic swim team than there is of Gerald Wallace signing here for six million dollars.
Grant Hill inks a two-year deal with Phoenix. The Mavericks were rumored as interested, and I'm glad they passed. Hill is washed up and fragile. I somehow doubt that Phoenix will get much out of him, but I guess It's a worthwhile gamble for a team lacking in depth.
Jerry Stackhouse inks a three year deal with inherently superior DALLAS. Yay! If you know me, I'm sure you've heard all about my Stack infatuation. This man brings pep and heart to the table like no other Maverick, he's in every way necessary. Don't be surprised to see Stack possibly maybe theoretically starting this season, although his minutes likely won't rise much.
Milwaukee is disinterested in trading the man known simply as Yi. I get the feeling this will develop into an endless circus throughout The next next next next Dirk's career. He says, she says, he wants, she bitches, and we all go about our business-then resume the debacle during the offseason. Yi will stay with the Bucks, he will likely stay unhappy, and there may be a scandal involving verbal commitment and an attempt at fleeing to some other team. [Yawn]

Y'all have a wonderful weekend! [Texas Twang off]

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Belated News Flash: Rashard Lewis is (a?) Magic!

I can't say I expected it. But Orlando has walked away with the highly coveted point forward, after inking him to a deal that could reportedly be worth as much as 90 million dollars over six years. If I have my facts straight, (Don't hold me to it) Orlando needs to work a sign and trade to sign him for the full6 year extent. Otherwise, they'd need to settle for 5.
My thoughts? Orlando is overpaying, no question. But they've also made themselves instant contenders, and pairing young Dwight with Lewis forms an almost perfectly transient inside-outside game. I'm fairly certain that the reason Lewis was taken over-for instance- Vince Carter, is his age. 'Shard is still only twenty eight years of age, Carter is in his thirties. The Magic is/are a young team and do/does not wish to change that.
Impact on others: Obviously, the Magi(c)(s) just got a major offensive upgrade. Resigning Darko seems unlikely, and he could become the newest in a series of Laker offseason posterboys turned failed experiments! Yay!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Message to Rangers Brass: Stick to the Plan.

Rangers fans are finally feeling good about their team.
The Rangers from Arlington just completed [gasp] a winning month of June. They trounced the national league, to the dismissal of the critics, and proceeded to hold their own against such sizable opposition as the Scarlet Sox and Felines from Motown.
All without Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock.
It's fairly mystifying. Some attribute it to the dark-cloud philosophy, the same one that was applicable for the turnaround following the A-Rod departure. However, I don't know if this is the case. I don't know the man well, neither do I know anyone who does. But he does not seem like a person who is distinctly unpleasant to be around. A bit high strung, perhaps, but not someone you can't handle having on your team. Looking back, however, isn't that what we all said about A-Rod?
But my message to the Rangers is this. I love the fact that Kam Loe has caught fire. I am giddy every time Eric Gagne comes slowly jogging out of the bullpen. And Marlon Byrd, of all people, has caused me to have confidence in a member of the Ranger outfield. But don't buy into it. The Rangers are not contenders. Fact, truth, end of story. They're going through a solid stretch of the year just as we all knew they would. It's inevitable for all teams, as is the inevitable knee jerking that occurs whenever a streak occurs. But the Rangers need to stay the course. You were planning to be sellers this season? Adhere to that. If you can get Felix Pie for Eric Gagne, pull the trigger. If you're offered James Loney and 2 mid-level young pitchers for Tex, do it. This team needs to build for the trigger. We all talked about how pivotal this draft will become, and if that is the case ALLOW IT TO HAVE AN IMPACT. Don't allocate all of your resources toward quick contention when you know your next big influx of talent might be three years away.

Quick Notes: As I stated earlier, I love me some Kameron Loe. The fact that he's finally pitching like many thought he could warms my heart. But the realistic cynic in me tells me that he might just be going through Ryan Drese syndrome: A sinkerballer without overwhelming stuff does great for a little while, then his production begins to decline as the league catches on to the fact that an 88 mph four-seamer with no movement Isn't difficult to bash.
Of course, I'm chided by my better half, who states the all-applicable proverb: "You could use some baseball."

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Draft's Big Winners

The question appears whenever one dissects an event of this kind. Does one grade a team based on the overall talent they hauled in, or on the job they did drafting whilst keeping their draft position and needs in mind? An specially applicable scenario is that of the Cowboys. They did not haul in a great amount of talent this year, but from my perspective seemed to make good decisions as far as the guys they did take, in addition to setting themselves up wonderfully for next year by acquiring the Browns' #1. I've decided to judge performance based on a year-to-year basis, meaning that in the aforementioned Cowboys scenario they would have received a middling grade, with expectations of a great upswing in next year's event. With that philosophy in mind, let's go down the list of teams who helped themselves most on draft day. Keep in mind that this is a grade assigned ONLY to draft picks. Trades and potential signings are thrown out the window.

#1: Seattle. Let's disregard the puzzling infatuation with small forwards for a moment and look at the pure talent the Sonics hauled in. First and most assuredly foremost comes Kevin Durant, potential mega-superstar. I repeat my assessment from before the draft: In any draft of the past 10 years that did not include a guy named Oden, Durant goes #1. And that includes the famed '03 draft. Adding Jeff Green seems like it forces Durant into a power forward role, but playing those two guys at the wing positions should become an incredible pairing that could easily remain dynamic for the next 10 years. In second rounder Carl Landry they've picked up a capable backup to Green who can also play simultaneously with the other 2 at the shooting guard position.

#2: Portland. As if adding the top cebter since Shaq wasn't enough, Portland is surrounding him with enough pieces to ensure a high level of play for many years to come. Rudy Fernandez and Petteri Kopponen were two of the five best international players in this extraaordinarily deep draft. Taurean Green was a steal in the late second round, and Demetrius Nichols is an NBA ready player. Give it a few years and Portland could become truly fearsome.

#3: Atlanta. The hopeless Hawks didn't add much depth this year. But they didn't really need much. They were in an awkward position at #3, where the clear best players available were all forwards-their only area of strength. They took the best one available in Al Horford, a safe pick who should work out even for this hapless franchise. They then picked again at 11 and shored up their biggest need at point guard, with Acie the Aggy. They picked up enough quality to negate their lack of quantity this year, and now the rest of the league will hope and pray for some good basketball from them this year. Phoenix getting a top pick next year would be disastrous for the rest of us, and remember-no stipulations this time. The pick is guaranteed.

#4: Golden State. I hate to administer a vote of confidence to Nelly's team, but in this case I just have to. Trading the immensely talented but vastly overrated Jason Richardson for the immensely talented young question mark Brandan Wright was a great move purely on the fact that they dumped a ton of cap space and acquired a 10 million dollar exception, usable for any tough trades. They didn't get their man in Yi, but were able to pick up another very talented young player-Italian Marco Bellinelli, who some have projected as almost a Ray Allen within a few years. They've taken a momentary step back, but will benefit from it in the long run.

Honorable Mention: I reserved this spot for the team aforementioned in the introductory paragraph-those who may not have had the resources to take top talent, but used their opportunities wisely. In this respect, no team stood out to me more than [sigh] the Spares from San Antone. Tiago Splitter will be a very solid player in this league, and grabbing him that late in the first round will pay dividends. Nabbing a troubled kid like Marcus Williams in the second round also makes a ton of sense. Williams is talented and has the kind of skillset that Coach Pop loves. And if he doesn't pan out- he's back on the street. Second round contracts aren't guranteed, so he has reason to shape up. (Besides the obvious incentive of playing for a true dynasty)