There are plenty of things to be tossing around in a week that traditionally is supposed to be the slowest week of the sports year, so let's get to it!
RANGERS PULL THE TRIGGER
I have only lived in the Metroplex since 1998, so I cannot claim that this team crushed my childhood when they could not close the deal in various seasons of my youth. But, in my 13 seasons of closely following the Rangers, I have grown accustomed to reading stories that link the Rangers to top-notch pitching help, but never really believing it will happen.
How many times did we need Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens to break our hearts before we figured out a defense mechanism is the best way to deal with these disappointments? They don't really love us, and they are just using us to get what they want!
And then, the Cliff Lee trade happened. It might be a game changer.
Now, we should point out a couple things before we get carried away with this idea that all things have now become new. For instance, Cliff Lee had no say in this matter. Had he had a 1 percent stake on what happened when the Rangers and Mariners came to an agreement, there is a very real possibility this never goes down. Also, he is committed to be here for about the length of a season of Entourage. (Actually, Wikipedia indicates that Entourage is only doing eight episodes this season and the final one is on August 22! How can HBO get away with this?) This is clearly a rental, as Lee will pitch about 13-15 times for the Rangers and then his 1-hour "Decision" special on ESPN will air in December.
Let's be honest, there are two major problems with buying a Cliff Lee jersey for 2011: 1) There is a very real chance that he cannot wait to go someplace else as soon as he does get a say in the matter, and 2) There is an even more real chance that whoever owns the Rangers by Christmas will not be interested in making Cliff the highest paid pitcher in baseball. So, perhaps spend your money on a Neftali jersey.
Now that I have tried to kill your buzz (at least the part of your buzz that was not already killed by the Orioles four-game sweep) it is surely time to congratulate and get excited about the Rangers management team figuring out a way to energize the entire baseball market in a summer of such insanity, none of us saw this coming. After we learned last summer that the much-discussed Roy Halladay trade possibility was merely talk show fodder because the Rangers didn't have the cash to really do it, how could we know that the Rangers had the ability to do trades where they convince the other team to pay the freight?
But, because of the job Jon Daniels and his scouts have done, the prospect shelf is full, and they have the currency to get after things like this even if they have an empty wallet. This ability allows them to steal a player from right under the Yankees' noses, and if ever a gust of wind finds your sails, it is when you have the Yankees angry about a move you just made.
So, while this is no more of a permanent relationship than CC Sabathia in Milwaukee, the Brewers will assure you that those three months were worth every day of Matt LaPorta's future. Now, the Rangers have walked the walk and not just talked the talk in the "it's time" campaign. By making this move, they tell us that when the first pitch is thrown Thursday night in Boston, they are all-in and going for post-season glory in 2010.
They went and grabbed the best pitcher in the market, and even if it is only temporary, there is every reason to believe that the rotation is now capable of some very big and impressive things. Colby Lewis makes far more sense as a No. 2. CJ Wilson now looks like a proper No. 3. Tommy Hunter slides to No. 4. If Scott Feldman, Rich Harden, or Derek Holland sort things out (quickly) they can grab the No. 5 slot. OK. This no longer a pipe dream. This actually appears to be a group that has a fighting chance.
There are no guarantees in sports, but to have Cliff Lee on the Rangers side is quite a weapon and will keep Rangers baseball relevant well past the opening of Cowboys training camp in 10 days in San Antonio, Texas.
Thanks for nothing, Tom Hicks. Thanks for plenty, Rangers. We are all counting on you.
MAVS MAKE THEIR MOVE
Meanwhile, the Mavericks have been busy working on their gigantic summer of transition which was hopefully going to present a significant sea change in the expectation level of Mavericks basketball entering the next season of the Dirk era.
So far, I am sad to report, there is very little to get too carried away about. On Tuesday, the Mavericks finally cashed in the Erick Dampier chip, and it appears that they were down to cashing it in for nothing or a big man that has not been healthy since he participated in the public execution of the Mavericks in April/May of 2008.
Tyson Chandler was an unstoppable force in that five-game massacre that cost Avery Johnson his job. He was on the receiving end of countless lob passes from Chris Paul, dominated the boards, and inspired another summer of transition.
Sadly, he has not been healthy since. There was a voided trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder because of his health, and then another trade to the Charlotte Bobcats. During those two seasons since the playoff against the Mavericks, Chandler has been available for exactly 96 of the 164 games (58 percent) that his teams have played, and started 72 of them (43 percent). Not exactly Cal Ripken, Jr, here.
When healthy, Chandler is interesting to me. But, even at this age, which should represent his prime, it really appears that he is done. The Mavericks are banking on the premise that this is not the case - or, they are seriously putting a lot of stock in this idea that financial flexibility is the way to go. They have expiring deals all over the board (Caron Butler, JJ Barea, Chandler, etc) and are thinking that a team that is giving up at the All-Star break trade deadline might want those deals for deals with remaining years. The problem with that, of course, is that with the NBA likely losing a giant portion of its season in 2011-12 to a labor stoppage, there might be very little reason for teams to shed payroll given that there is likely no payroll to meet.
I love that Mark Cuban is obsessed with trying to get over that hump. I love that Dirk Nowitzki is not chasing every last dime and is not interested in stabbing Dallas in his quest for joining some other opportunity that would leave unfinished business here.
But, why do I get this sneaky suspicion that we are just in a non-stop holding pattern waiting for that Pau Gasol trade that would change everything? Is it out there? And is part of that trade's awesomeness dependent on that trade happening in the direction of a team that has an obsessed Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson already in place?
I guess what I am saying is that the Lakers are the Lakers. The Mavs are still the Mavs. They wanted to add a big piece in the Summer of 2010 - LeBron, D-Wade, Amare, or even Joe Johnson. They wanted to flip the expiring Dampier deal for something really awesome. What did it turn out to be? A center who hasn't been healthy in two seasons that may be capable of backing up Brendan Haywood.
Sorry. But, I must rate that move as positively underwhelming. I desperately hope I am wrong. But, something tells me the Spurs and Lakers are not losing sleep over that one.
10 DAYS TO GO
The July traditions are all here. Baseball trade deadline. Basketball and hockey free agency. And yes, the start of doing interviews on various stations across America helping them preview the Dallas Cowboys.
I did my first one on Wednesday morning when a station called me to ask what the biggest concerns were about the 2010 Dallas Cowboys, and how good they might be.
Obviously, left tackle and safety are way up the list, but I keep coming back to kicker. David Buehler is the kicker as of this moment, and I cannot buy it. Why? Because I was here last year when Nick Folk went south and the Cowboys would rather call up Redskins discard Shaun Suisham than deal with Buehler even though Buehler was on campus and present for every practice all year.
Doesn't that tell you something?
And what could possibly change since last December that tells you now that Buehler is ready to take and make kicks that will decide games when the margin for error is slim and none this season?
You see, the Cowboys have designs on winning it all and being the first team to ever win a home Super Bowl (and the first team to ever play in a home Super Bowl). To do so, they will need some home field advantage throughout the playoffs because last year we saw the Cowboys could win a playoff game at home, but not on the road. The Vikings also looked great at home and then lost on the road. Meanwhile, the Saints and Colts both never left home and went to the Super Bowl. It is not a guarantee of 2010 success, but home field is always a strong place to start when building objectives for your NFL season.
Back to Buehler - so you see him making a kick in December on the road? If you do, then how do we explain the lack of confidence in him the last time the Cowboys played a game? I like the kid a lot - he seems like a great dude - but didn't the Cowboys tell us all we needed to know on the topic in December?
My money is on the idea that they bring in a veteran to compete for the kicking job before August is over. I just don't think that Buehler will be able to survive a bad day or two in camp and keep FG duties on his resume.