► Training camp for the Cowboys begins Saturday, which makes Friday the day that Jerry will share all of the reasons he's hopeful about the season. I will share his optimism in most of those areas. But there are only two things that can really do Dallas in this season. One is injuries, as is true for most any team. The other is the offensive line, and as we begin camp, I have a sinking feeling that they will in fact hold the team back from reaching elite status.
► Rodrigue Beaubois is not a point guard. The Mavericks will try to make him one, and I agree with those efforts, but he's simply not one right now. This fact is largely to blame for his summer struggles, and my guess is that when he is on the court with Jason Kidd this fall, he'll be fine. Will he ever be able to run a team, even to the degree that a Tony Parker does? My guess is no, and at the very least he will always need some sort of offensive engineer along the lines of a Kidd - or at least a Manu Ginobili type - to be his partner. He is a dangerous weapon, though, one of the most explosive young players in the league, so it will probably be worth the Mavs' effort to find a bigger playmaker to pair with him.
► Dominique Jones is not that guy, by the way, but while we're on the subject of young Mavericks guards, let me just say this: there are some important things that I don't think that Jones can or will ever be able to do, but this guy has a gift. If his insatiable desire to get to the rim and knack for finishing and/or drawing legitimate contact translate to the NBA - and after watching a few summer league games, I think that they just might - he will add something very valuable to the Mavs.
► Elvis Andrus is going to play more games this year than last, but if you're concerned that fatigue is to blame for his offensive slide, remember that he was a significantly better hitter in the second half last season. That is also true for his 2007 and 2008 seasons in the minor leagues. He was traded to Texas after hitting .244/.330/.335 for Myrtle Beach, then went to Bakersfield and put up a .295/.350/.367 line in the season's last 27 games. The parks and leagues involved could be argued to have had a big impact on that jump, but he spent all of 2008 in Frisco. His wOBA went from .278 to .304 to .348 to .356 over the four months he played that season. His ability to improve quickly has overridden any fatigue so far in his career.
► For you college football fans who aren't recruitniks, there is one ongoing battle that deserves your attention. Texas and Alabama are vying for the consensus top player in Texas, Malcolm Brown. Brown is a running back from Cibolo and a top ten player in the country according to Rivals, Scout and ESPNU. The issue isn't so much that he's a top talent, but that he is a top running back talent. Texas is talking about revamping their entire running game around Brown, and he's good enough to make that work. Texas fans and fans of whoever is playing Texas that week - and just about everyone in this state falls in one of those two categories - should care where Brown goes, particularly with the Big 12 holding together for a few more years. Burnt Orange Nation had a good piece on Brown Friday that details recent events in the saga.
► I'll spare you soccer talk here as much as I can, but I am really excited about Thierry Henry coming to the MLS and playing in Dallas in September. When most Americans watch the sport, the extent of their interest tends to begin and end with the question: what if some of our best athletes actually played that sport, what would that be like? Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi were and are fantastic players, but soccer became an interesting sport to me when the Premier League and Champions League started to become regulars on my channel lineup and I had the opportunity to see world class athletes who clearly had the physical talent to be dominant football, basketball and baseball players if they had grown up playing those sports rather than soccer. Henry is about 6'1" and in his prime had the kind of speed that our best corner backs, point guards and shortstops have. Like the best players at those fast-twitch positions, he paired those gifts with elegant skill in a package that drew you into the sport. Some of that speed is gone now, which is why he will finish his career in America. But he still has enough left in the tank that it will be a treat to watch him play in person.
► I choose to blame Vlad Guerrero's egregiously atrocious baserunning on Mike Scioscia. It's convenient for me, since I really hate Mike Scioscia, and I want to feel only love for Vlad's wonderfulness. But even with that transference of frustration, I've had enough of it. Ron Washington or Gary Pettis or whoever has the guts to deliver the message needs to make clear to him that he is hurting the team by giving away so many outs.
► When Derek Holland didn't make the team in spring training I told whoever would listen that I suspected that he had a huge role to play for the Rangers this season, and that his starting the season at a slower pace actually made that more - not less - likely. I still have that thought in the back of my head, particularly when I consider who could go out and beat Phil Hughes or Matt Garza in a must-win Game Four, but I don't need to hear any more about lingering knee problems. It's mid-July, and, if nothing else, Holland is a better candidate for a rotation spot than Rich Harden right now, and he is probably the best answer for Scott Feldman's continued woes or a fatigued CJ Wilson, should we see that person in September.
► And while we're on that subject, can we please end the Great Tanner Scheppers As A Starter Experiment Of 2010? He clearly has a ways to go before he will help this team as a starter, and April-May Tanner Scheppers could have gotten major league hitters out in an eighth inning as well as Alexi Ogando. Unless he can't bring back that form, he's a big upgrade from Dustin Nippert.
► About nine out of every ten Cowboys on-field stories in my RSS feed this summer have discussed points of concern, and I suppose for good reason - that stuff is what we fans dwell on (see my first paragraph). To turn this around for once, though, the position that I'm most anxious to see for positive reasons this season: linebacker. More than anything else, I'm going to enjoy watching Wade Phillips do what he does best, wreak havoc with two dominant, multitalented outside linebackers. I've also been a Keith Brooking fan ever since I thought that he was a solid alternative in 1998 with the pick that was used on Greg Ellis and should have been used on Randy Moss. He's old, but he was so good last season that it's hard to see him dropping off too much in one season. The other reason, though, is that I'm looking forward to seeing whether the young guys can play. I think that Sean Lee might be really good, too, a legitimate successor to Brooking. And one area that Phillips can flat out scout is the front seven. He had a hand in picking Brandon Williams, Jason Williams and Victor Butler, and I liked what I saw from Butler last season.
- Richard Durrett had the complete list of players in the Benji Molina Club (grand slam and cycle in one game) Friday night:
Jason Kubel, MIN: April 17, 2009
Miguel Tejada, OAK: Sept. 21, 2001
Jay Buhner, SEA: June 23, 1993
Jimmie Foxx, PHA: August 14, 1933
Tony Lazzeri, NYY: June 3, 1932
Bill Terry, NYG: May 29, 1928
Nap Lajoie, PHA: July 30, 1901
Curry Foley, BUF: May 25, 1882
- Nick Eatman ranks Emmitt Smith's top ten runs. His top three:
1 - 1995 at NY Giants - Emmitt scores right up the middle to start the season.
2 - 2002 vs. Seattle - Emmitt breaks the rushing record
3 - 1992 at Atlanta - TD run after several missed tackles, gets knocked under the stands by Deion.
I think that the Atlanta run is my favorite run of Smith's career.
- My personal opinion of the top ten prospects in the Rangers system at the moment (not including guys currently in the majors):
1. Martin Perez
2. Tanner Scheppers
3. Jurickson Profar
4. Engel Beltre
5. Mitch Moreland
6. Wilmer Font
7. Jake Skole
8. Luis Sardinas
9. Kellin Deglan
10. Robbie Erlin
For as much talk on this topic as anyone can handle, pay a visit to Lone Star Ball's ongoing Community Prospect Project fan posts.
- Defending Big D's list of top five Stars/North Stars of all time:
1. Mike Modano
2. Neal Broten
3. Brian Bellows
4. Sergei Zubov
5. Ed Belfour
This is a good read, worth checking out.