Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DFW Sports Hot List – Oct. 19

The Hot List
1.  Nelson Cruz and the Texas Rangers
Nelson Cruz is on fire. After hitting .364 with six home runs and 13 RBIs in the ALCS, the outfielder was rightly named the series MVP. His home run and RBI totals are the most ever recorded by a player in a single series (note the series only went 6 games). Has there ever been a more dangerous hitter in the seven spot?
2.  The Dallas Stars
Living in the shadow of the Texas Rangers are the 5-1-0 Dallas Stars. After dropping a 5-2 decision at Chicago on Oct. 8, the team has reeled off four consecutive victories, despite being outshot 203-154 during that stretch. Kudos to goalie Kari Lehtonen, who leads the league with five wins and 164 saves. Also, did you see the goal by forward Jamie Benn. Phenomenal.
3.  SMU Football
SMU (5-1) has won five consecutive games, most notably a 40-33 OT thriller against cross-town rival TCU.  Junior RB Zach Line leads Conference USA with 665 yards rushing and 13 TDs. A few more wins might just move SMU out of the “others receiving votes” category and finally into the rankings.
4.  TCU Athletics
A move to the Big East would have been a disaster for a Texas-based major college program. Weekly travel would have been trivial for the cash heavy football program, but the toll on the women’s equestrian team would be far too great. Great move in joining the Big 12, which suddenly looks formidable and stable after all.
5.  Allen High School Football
When a program has the sustained the success that Allen is having, it deserves to be recognized.  2008 State Champions, USA Today’s No. 5 team in the country, 7-0 on the season and rolling through district.
The Not List
1.  CJ Wilson
It’s amazing that the Rangers have made a second consecutive World Series appearance without much help from their starting rotation. CJ has been the worst of the bunch.In three starts (0-2), the “ace” has compiled an ERA of 8.04 with a WHIP of 1.85.  That’s awful, especially for a guy that the Rangers will likely pay nearly $100 million to this offseason.
2.  FC Dallas
After two consecutive MLS wins, many thought the team had escaped their dreadful September slump (0-1-5). That is until Toronto FC came to town and soundly defeated the Hoops 3-0 to eliminate the team from the CONCACAF Champions League.  Luckily for Dallas, the MLS playoffs are just around the corner, and the team is well positioned to repeat their 2010 run to the MLS Cup Final.
3.  Jason Garrett’s play-calling
Fair or not, Jason Garrett has been criticized for his conservative play calling in the fourth quarter against the Patriots. Though the Cowboy’s stall of RBs averaged only 2.6 yards per carry, Garrett called three consecutive running plays before handing the ball back to Brady for the decisive drive. Garrett played not to lose, but he did.
4.  Mitch and Yorvit’s playing time
Mike Napoli and Michael Young should play every game in the World Series. Unfortunately, four of the seven potential games will be played at Busch stadium, a National League park, eliminating the DH. Expect those two to be relegated to pinch hitting duties in the late innings.  Moreland’s two hits in 19 at bats will be missed this series.
5. Jerry Jones' 2011 NFL Draft
Tyron Smith is performing admirably as a rookie right tackle, so I will leave him out of this.  Outside of Smith, there is little productivity. 
2nd: Bruce Carter has been injured. 
3rd: Demarco Murray has been largely uneffective (71 yards on 24 carries). 
4th: David Arkin isn't ready to see the field, despite all the injuries.
5th: Josh Thomas was cut.
6th: Shaun Chapas made the practice squad.
6th: Dwayne Harris was released (on Tuesday).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rangers will fall short of World Series

As part of a two-sided piece for another publication, I was tasked with explaining why the Rangers will NOT reach the World Series.

The 2010 Texas Rangers were pioneers, reaching the first World Series in franchise history.  But the 2011 postseason will be different.  The Rangers will fail to reach the World Series and here’s why.

To consistently win in the playoffs, you need an ace.  Since the departure of Cliff Lee in the offseason, the Rangers simply don’t have one.  While C.J. Wilson won an impressive 16 games during the 2011 regular season, he hasn’t been dominant in the playoffs.  After an abysmal performance in a game 1 loss to Tampa Bay, the left-hander has a 6.26 ERA, and the Rangers are a dismal 0-4 in his past four playoff starts.  Aces win the big games.  That’s hardly an ace.
Defensively, the Rangers have a number of players with plus-athleticism and abilities.  Elvis Andrus has exceptional range at shortstop.  Mike Napoli has been phenomenal behind the plate.  The outfield is filled with speed and powerful arms.  The numbers just don’t show it.  The team committed 114 errors this season, the seventh-highest total in baseball.  These errors led to 70 unearned runs, the most among American League playoff teams.  While the defense is capable of being a weapon, the Rangers are vulnerable to defensive miscues, which can be costly in a seven-game series.
A lack of hitting could also derail the Rangers postseason run.  Yes, the team scored more runs than every team in baseball outside of the Red Sox and Yankees.  However, the ‘daytime’ Rangers and ‘nighttime’ Rangers are two different beasts.  In night games, the Rangers have the most explosive offense in baseball, averaging a staggering 5.66 runs per game.  When the sun is up and the lights are off, that number plummets to 4.38 runs per game.   Josh Hamilton alone sees his batting average fall from .324 at night to .220 during the day. With four weekend games on the schedule, daytime baseball is a probability, and frankly, a liability for the Rangers.
The biggest reason the Rangers will not advance has nothing to do with the team, but their opponent.  Justin Verlander of the Tigers has been an unstoppable force this season and is a lock for the American League Cy Young award.  Since July 21, the Tigers have gone 13-1 in games started by Verlander.  Verlander will take the mound twice in the series, and potentially a third time in a decisive Game 7.
Reaching the World Series in consecutive seasons is statistically unlikely.  No team has appeared in consecutive World Series since the New York Yankees appeared in four consecutive from 1998-2001.  Injuries, human error, and luck inevitably factor into determining the outcomes of games.   And in 2011, the Rangers will need more than luck to get past the Tigers.