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Rangers Need to Keep Open Minds Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Fri, Dec 2, 2005, 10:14 PM

As the Baseball Winter Meetings approach next week in Dallas, the Rangers are making some very curious comments and decisions. We’ve already questioned the extension that Tom Hicks gave John Hart last week. We’ve already dealt with the unsuccessful attempt to acquire Florida ace Josh Beckett. But now, Jon Daniels has been quoted as saying that Hank Blalock is not on the trading block.

What?!

I hope that this is just political attempt to keep Hank happy in case they don’t trade him. And, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Rangers need to get rid of Blalock. I am saying that, if the Rangers aren’t willing to trade Blalock then who are they willing to trade.

If the Rangers are serious about acquiring talent through trade, they are going to have to be willing to give up talent in return. To me that means that there is not a man on the roster that the Rangers should consider untouchable. They should be listen to offers for all of their players including Blalock, Soriano, Young, Teixiera and prospects like Danks and Diamond.

The Rangers are in a very precarious position here. I honestly believe that the Rangers will listen to trade offers for any of their players. But, can they really say that publicly? I don’t think so and I don’t expect them to.

It is unfortunate that Blalock’s name was mentioned in the failed Beckett deal. I’m sure that it caused some stress on him and his family. But, you know what? That’s baseball. And Hank’s a big boy. He can take it. No matter what they say publicly, I can only hope that the Rangers are open to listening to all possible trade scenarios.

I believe it is unfair, but, right now the Rangers have a credibility problem with their fans. Ranger fans are under the notion that the team is not really serious about acquiring players. When it comes to off season deals, Ranger fans think that the only thing that is coming out of Arlington is talk.

And, while I believe that perception is inaccurate, I will admit that there is plenty of evidence pointing to that side. Do you remember last year when the Rangers supposedly went after Carlos Delgado? The Rangers were reportedly willing to pay him as much as the Marlins (close to $12 million/yr). But, the deal disintegrated when Delgado refused to be a DH. In the court of public opinion, the Rangers are still paying for deals (or non-deals) like this one.

This is a very important off-season for the Rangers as far as public perception goes. And I’m afraid that it has gotten off to a very rocky start.
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BEAUTY AND THE EAST Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Fri, Dec 2, 2005, 11:08 AM
Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey says, "This is 'The Game of the Year' for the New York Giants and we're ready for it."

Newsflash for Shockey: This is "The Game of the Year'' for the Cowboys, too.
Coach Bill Parcells and his players spent the week pooh-poohing the notion that Sunday's Dallas-at-New York visit is anything more than just another casual stop to watch some leaves turn, do some shopping, maybe catch a Broadway play.
But behind closed doors, Parcells barked a contradictory message.
I'm told that InfalliBill gave some of his team leaders a kick in their shiny pants the other day, instructing them to "Put up or shut up. Either get it done now or don't get it done at all."

If Dallas wins Sunday in New York, the Cowboys will be 8-4 and essentially have a two-game lead over the Giants. A two-game lead with four to play. Plus the head-to-head tiebreaker edge. Plus a 7-2 record in the NFC, the third tiebreaker with any conference competition.

They will be sitting pretty. ... and really, sitting pretty in comparison with some of the other NFC entrants, too.
If Dallas wins Sunday in New York, the Cowboys will be 8-4 and essentially have a two-game lead over the Giants. A two-game lead with four to play. Plus the head-to-head tiebreaker edge. Plus a 7-2 record in the NFC, the third tiebreaker with any conference competition. They will be sitting pretty. ... and really, sitting pretty in comparison with some of the other NFC entrants, too.
Said Dallas’ Keyshawn Johnson, playing possum: "I look at them as one of the best teams in the NFC. They are way better than us."
That’s baloney, of course. More Parcells-directed propaganda. Nobody in the NFC is "way better’’ than anybody. Chicago isn’t. Seattle isn’t.
There really is not a gap between your Cowboys and the rest of the contenders. That’s a statistical fact, a read-the-standings fact, and a pass-the-eye-test fact. But it is just talk, isn’t it?


In the put-up-in-NY scenario, the Cowboys would need to simply win one more of the final four after that to be in the playoff mix, and two of the final four to have a shot at being in charge.

What of Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Carolina, you say? Aren’t they at least as good as Dallas?

Indeed. But those four teams are about to enter the final month of the season in a round-robin-style cage match. Tampa plays Carolina once. Atlanta plays Tampa once. And Carolina and Atlanta play each other twice.

Somebody – maybe two somebodies in there – is going down.

So if this weekend the Giants don’t get it done in their "Game of the Year,’’ they go down. And the Cowboys -- if they're not too distracted by a desire to get "Regis And Kelly'' tickets or something -- can go up. Way up.


 

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Believing Irvin Takes Faith and Hope Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Thu, Dec 1, 2005, 07:33 PM

It has been a week of bad decisions for Michael Irvin. After news of last Friday’s arrest surfaced, I thought Irvin’s future as a broadcaster was toast.

It was a bad decision for him to stash drug paraphernalia in his Mercedes. It was a bad decision when he allowed a warrant for his arrest to be issued for an unpaid speeding ticket. It was a bad decision for him to speed. And it was a bad decision not to address the situation immediately.

This was obviously not Irvin’s first brush with the law. It was not his first association with drug. Let’s be honest, Irvin has a horrible past littered with dumb decisions. He has no credibility when it comes to public opinion.

There is no telling how much money Irvin’s bad decisions have cost him over the years. As a player, Irvin’s actions cost him any chance of lucrative endorsement deals. As a broadcaster, Irvin has lost one job and who knows how many jobs passed him by because of his actions.

After finding The Lord and cleaning up his image Fox Sports finally gave him a chance on the Best Damn Sports Show Period. He worked hard to polish his broadcasting skills. He did everything he could to establish himself in the business. And he did a good job.

The suits at ESPN were so impressed with Irvin’s work that they decided to hire him. They knew about Irvin’s past. They knew the chance that they were taking. And, I can promise you that they did everything they could to protect themselves in case Irvin had a relapse.

It would have been very easy for ESPN to fire Irvin after his arrest. You see, Irvin decided not to tell his employer of the arrest. ESPN found out about it when a reporter from the Associated Press called them for a comment. It was another dumb decision and at the very least, Irvin was definitely guilty of non-disclosure.

But, for some reason ESPN chose to stick by their guy. Irving didn’t fired. He didn’t even get suspended immediately. If you watched ESPN on last weekend you saw The Playmaker. Instead of a knee jerk reaction, ESPN chose to let Irvin work while the situation sorted itself out.

I just couldn’t believe that Irvin was going to skate. But then, I got the chance to talk to Michael. As unbelievable his story sounds, Irvin does a great job telling it. Yes, there seems to be holes in it. And, Irvin is the first to tell you that he understands why you wouldn’t believe him. But, the more I spoke with him, the more believable the story became.

He says that he was helping a friend through some troubled times.  He says that he actually had some very animated phone conversations with his friend during the commercial breaks of his  ESPN shows last week.  He says that, at the time, he was very embarrassed that he had to have these conversations in front of his co-workers.   But he acknowledges that, in the end, these conversations may have saved his job.  Apparently in ESPN's , those conversations lended credibility to Irvin's story.  Instead of firing Irvin, they simply suspended him for a week.  And they didn't suspend him for his arrest, they suspended him for not telling them about it.

After speaking to Michael, I can understand why he is still employed at ESPN. Irvin is one of the most charismatic people you will ever meet. He tells a good story and can seem very sincere. I know that I’m optimistic when I say that I hope he’s telling the truth. But, unfortunately Irvin’s history of bad decisions forces me to use the word “hope”.

 

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THE NBA AND 'MY THREE THUGS' Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Wed, Nov 30, 2005, 11:29 PM

Allow me to present "My Three Thugs'':

Thug No. 1 is a 7-feet-plus non-conformist, is unconventional in so many ways, is a sort of misfit, and favors untucked plaid shirts, blue jeans and work boots.

Thug No. 2 is an offense-first superstar, is a believer in oddball training methods, has artsy facial hair, has a best friend facing prison time, and favors ratty sweatpants.

Thug No. 3 is a radical MVP guy, is a student of Marxism, is the creator of two children out of wedlock, is a foreigner who is vocally anti-war, has a scary haircut, and wears faded jeans and T-shirts that look like he extracted them from his glove compartment.

Who are My Three Thugs? Who are these NBA players whose existence (and sensibilities about fashion and more) proves that both sides of the NBA dress-code argument are wrong?

Thug No. 1 is Shawn Bradley.

Thug No. 2 is Dirk Nowitzki.

Thug No. 3 is Steve Nash.

NBA players, in their thinking, in their conduct, and yes, in their appearance, should be cognizant of the impression they leave on the customers. Commissioner David Stern should have simply urged them in that direction.

Instead, Stern's stance comes off as a silly overreaction to what is essentially simply a generation gap; if Tupac Shakur had always worn Brooks Brothers, it's likely that more kid basketball players would, too.

And then, Mr. Stern, would the league outlaw Brooks Brothers?

And as an equal and opposite response, there are now inflexible and overreacting players. Players who are claiming that their bling-bling represents their religion. (Wouldn't your 6-inch cross be just as appropriate INSIDE your shirt? And by wearing a 6-inch cross, are you saying you are six times more devout than I am?) Players who are claiming baggy jeans are a "cultural statement.'' (Which reminds me of kids in the 60's who "rebeled'' by wearing jeans, failing to understand that by the time Levi had sold 100 billion jeans, all the rebels were suddenly "uniform.'') Players who are claiming the dress code is "racist.''

Said Celtics star Paul Pierce: "When I saw the part about chains, hip-hop and throwback jerseys, I think that's part of our culture. The NBA is young black males."

Really? So if a black man wears a nice suit (as is the case with a majority of Mavs players), is he "less black''? "Less part of the culture''? Meanwhile, isn't it "racist'' to claim that "the NBA IS young black males''?

What is Bradley? What is Nowitzki? What is Nash?

Stern has since backed off the original hard-and-fast rules, and is even joking about the ramifications. Asked recently during a visit to Miami about the racist implications of the jewelry ban, the Commish answered that when he visits South Beach, "Most of the people I see with chains are elderly Jewish gentlemen."

The new rules bisect all lines of NBA players, so much so that even the supposedly elightened minds like Lakers coach Phil JackZen seem a bit foggy. Phil was quoted as saying, "The players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it's like gangster, thuggery stuff."

Is this the same soul-patch-wearing, motorcycle-riding Phil who, in his playing days, was very much the radical T-shirt-and-jeans-wearing non-conformist? (You know what they say about them long-haired, egg-headed, Hell's Angels hippies!)

This is silly enough that naturally, a certain NBA owner you might know might dig deeper into his closet to some night go full-neon "Saturday Night Fever'' on us.

Because clothes make the man, right? No.

You can wear a suit and run Enron. You can own every CD every made by 50 Cent and be charitable.

You can be Shawn Bradley in "hip-hop'' garb and be "good.'' You can dress up Kobe Bryant in the finest Italian suits and be. ... whatever.

Adolf Hitler owned suits. Jesus Christ, not so much.

What we've got is the rare argument in which both sides are wrong. "My Three Thugs'' prove that both sides' conclusions regarding fashion and race are misguided.

Nevertheless, clean it up, "My Three Thugs.'' Yes, you, Shawn Bradley. And you, Dirk Nowitzki, And you, Steve Nash.

Damn white-boy wanna-be gangstas.

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Bill Parcells--The Ultimate Control Freak Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Wed, Nov 30, 2005, 10:26 PM

During Monday’s news conference Bill Parcells said that the Cowboys rushing game ranks in the middle of the NFL pack. Factually Parcells was correct. But what about reality? In reality, do the Cowboys have an average ground attack? I don’t think so.

You see, if you measure the success of your ground game by total rushing yards there seems to be nothing wrong with the Cowboys game. The 1271 yards they have gained on the ground puts them 15th in the NFL in total yards rushing. That’s basically right in the middle of the pack.

But, I think a better measure of a team’s rushing attack is their average yards per carry. The Cowboys are averaging 3.4 yards per carry. That puts them almost at the bottom of the league. The only teams worse are Arizona, Green Bay and Carolina.

This leads me to 2 questions: Why are they at the bottom? And, how are they on top of the NFC East with such a bad number?

Well, the answer to both of these questions is the same. Game Plan! Bill Parcells likes to control the clock. Bill Parcells hates turnovers. Bill Parcells hates mistakes. Bill Parcells is one of the most conservative coaches in the league. Bill Parcells is stubborn. And, most of all Bill Parcells has a philosophy that his working right now.

You see, when a Bill Parcells team runs the ball they are trying to accomplish a couple goals. Obviously, they are trying to gain yards. But, almost as important, they are trying to eat up clock and control time of possession. And, so far it is working.

Does this mean that Parcells is scared of his defense? No, not at all. But it is fairly hard for an opponent to score if they do not have the ball. The Cowboys lead the league in Time of Possession with over 33 minutes per game.

Bill Parcells seems to be scared of his offensive line. And I don’t really blame him. He’s got 2 very raw tackles that tend to be undependable when it comes to protecting the passer for any extended length of time. And, without good protection, Drew Bledsoe is toast.

So, instead of trying to outscore their opponents, the Dallas Cowboys depend on controlling the ball and the clock. This brand of football may not be the most fun to watch. But it is putting Ws on the board and that is what it is all about.
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