Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Darvish is in the Texas Rangers grasp, what now?

 At $51.7 million, the Texas Rangers have the opportunity to grace Yu Darvish's presence.

Now it's time for him to sign that deal. Reportedly, Darvish is looking for a five-year deal for around $75 million. The ownership of the Rangers are really breaking the bank to get this kid.

While unproven in the majors, I believe this was a risk that needed to be taken. The suave and rogue Jon Daniels and his team of scouts liked what they saw when they took trips to the island in the Far East. Daniels just needed to convince the ownership to take the chance. And boy, did they.

Texas has 30 days to sign the 25-year old right-hander from Japan. It's plenty of time, and I expect a deal to get done.

But once he is officially a Ranger, what then?

I'm asking this because Texas has a few too many starting prospects to fill a five-man rotation.

Let's look at our candidates, shall we?

Yu Darvish - If he is signed, there will be no doubt he will be in the rotation. The Rangers are not signing him to be a long reliever. Even if he has a mediocre spring training, he will be a starter. That's what Texas is paying him for. Consider him a lock.

Colby Lewis - He has been fairly consistent in a starting role, going 14-10 last year. Yet, he had a 4.40 ERA. At age 32 and with one more year on his contract, it's highly possible Lewis may be trade bait. He should be making around $3.25 million for 2012. While not a lot of cash, every little bit helps, and with Lewis being the oldest and least amount of upside, he could be the one to be traded for prospects or cash considerations.

Derek Holland - Unless he has an atrocious spring training, I would consider the 25-year old Dutch Oven to be locked into the rotation for 2012. The Rangers are currently negotiating a new five-year deal for the young pitcher, which is to be expected. The lefty performed quite well last season, going 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA. Not to mention his spectacular Game 4 of the World Series, where he went 8.1 innings, giving up no runs on two hits and seven strikeouts. Many believe that was the single greatest postseason pitching performance in Texas Rangers history, and I tend to agree. Holland shouldn't be going anywhere for a while.

Matt Harrison - There's no doubt Harrison had a breakout season in his first full year in the rotation. He went 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA. Harrison is arbitration-eligible, and will not be a free agent until 2015. At 26 years old, Harrison is still young and with plenty of potential. While he had a shaky postseason, those will be kinks Harrison can work out in the offseason. I would expect Harrison to have a strong chance to make the rotation.

Alexi Ogando - Just like Matt Harrison, Ogando came out of nowhere for the Rangers. He had an 13-8 record with a 3.51 ERA. 2011 was Ogando's first year to be a full-time starter, but he had his share of difficulties as well. He was bothered by a blister on his index finger through the early part of the season. Then, he practically ran out of gas after the All-Star break. But for a pitcher who threw about four innings of relief work a week to suddenly jumping up to 15 innings of starting pitching a week, his problems were to be expected. Since Ogando is no stranger to the bullpen and with Neftali Feliz expected to receive a starting nod, Ogando may find his way into the bullpen to start out the season. Yet, spring training tends to get pitchers injured. Anything can happen.

Neftali Feliz - With the signing of closer Joe Nathan and the fact that very few fans want to see him close out a game ever again, Feliz should find his way into the rotation for the 2012 season. Of course, I believe he needs to earn it like everyone else. Past blogs have stated my views on Feliz, and whether or not he can be a starter. The potential is there, but he must learn to master his offspeed pitches before he steps back onto the rubber. He will probably be a starter, but I would rather see him earn it first.

Scott Feldman - The dark horse in the race to be a starter, Feldman had a decent latter half of the season, going 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA. He had 11 appearances on two spot starts. We all remember his spectacular 2009 season as well as terrible 2010 campaign. Feldman seems to have worked out the kinks to his knee injury, and should contend to start in the year of 2012. Yet, like Ogando, Feldman has bullpen experience, and will probably land a spot there to start the season.

Brandon Webb - To be honest, I almost didn't put him on this list because I completely forgot he was still on the roster. Webb only had a one-year deal, so he is technically a free agent. It would be in Texas' best interest to just accept that this experiment was a failure and move on.

Now, if I had my way, this would be how the rotation would look to start out the season.

1. Darvish
2. Holland
3. Lewis
4. Harrison

Though, this will probably what it will be.

1. Lewis
2. Holland
3. Darvish
4. Harrison
5. Feliz

As stated earlier, spring training tends to injure players. This rotation could be way different once the actual year starts. Until then, it is a lot of fun to speculate.

All opinions are solely those of Dustin McWilliams. If you have any questions or feedback, please message McWilliams at dmcwilliams82@gmail.com

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Yu Darvish - A new shot of charisma from the Texas Rangers?

 Some people were glad to see him go, others thought this could be the start of a downward spiral. Either way, C.J. Wilson's departure garnered quite a bit of attention and conversation Thursday. While he was wonderful in the regular season, posting a 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA, his postseason was atrocious, where he was 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA.

So now, what should the Rangers do? Should they shop the free agent market for a replacement? Maybe make a trade? There are a few options Texas can make in its starting pitching department, and there could be one that could definitely bring charisma.

Cue the half-Iranian, half-Japanese 25-year-old phenom from Japan's Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Mr. Yu Darvish. Last season, he had an 18-6 record with a 1.44 ERA and an outstanding 276 strikeouts. He's also never had an ERA above 1.88 in his career. Pretty impressive, but do keep in mind, that's just in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. How his game translates to the MLB is another story.

But it's definitely a story the fans want to see. Currently, the frontrunners in the bidding war to even talk to Darvish are the Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Washington Nationals. The New York Yankees have analyzed the situation, but aren't expected to make a bid. With Wilson gone, Texas is expected to make a strong effort to render Darvish's services.

Darvish could be considered a star in Japan. He is a spokesmodel for a Japanese canned coffee, and he isn't bad looking either. He could have star written all over him?

But is that what the Texas Rangers want? Texas, lately, has adopted a team first mindset, which has been fundamental for their recent success. Sure, they have members that tend to receive a lot of attention from the media, such as manager Ron Washington and outfielder Josh Hamilton. But could Yu Darvish adapt to that mindset?

If he produces, then I am sure he could easily blend in to the fun and well-liked Texas squad. Darvish has an arsenal of pitches. His fastball usually rests in the mid-90's, but his biggest strength is his breaking balls. Perhaps he could teach Neftali Feliz something on how to throw those.

Here you can see Darvish in action. His pitches look crisp and effective, something Mike Maddux would be happy to see in his rotation. But if he does join the rotation, who becomes the odd man out? Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are locks to be starting pitchers, while Feliz (who I need to see to believe) is apparently locked in place as well. Both Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando have plenty of bullpen experience, so I imagine it will be one or the other. The discussion for that could go on and on.

But I am obviously ahead of myself. Darvish will be an expensive product, and there is no guarantee that the Rangers will make an attempt for his arm. But if they do, I would be thrilled to have him on the roster, even though there is no cemented fact that he can produce in the Majors. Regardless, it should be a fun ride for the next week, so stay tuned to your favorite media outlet, because Darvish to Texas could be a perfect replacement for Wilson.

All opinions are solely those of Dustin McWilliams. McWilliams is a sports writer at the Denton Record-Chronicle. If you have any questions or feedback, please message McWilliams at dmcwilliams82@gmail.com

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Breaking down Sunday's Cowboys-Cardinals matchup

 As a fan and as an amateur analyst, the Dallas Cowboys are giving me something to write about. While their current 4-game winning streak isn't the most impressive, style points do not matter in the NFL. A win is a win is a win.

The Cowboys will be going for their fifth straight win tomorrow against the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals come into this game 4-7, but don't let the record fool you. This team can play (sometimes) with some good squads.

The player that the Cowboys will need to contain (if at all possible) is stud wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. By far one of the best receivers in recent years, Fitzgerald can make good secondaries look paltry. Unfortunately, the Cowboys own a Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde secondary. It can be good on one day, to a terrible secondary the next.

Sure, Mike Jenkins should be back for the 'Boys, but covering Fitzgerald is still a ridiculously difficult task. Fitzgerald will, inevitably, get his tomorrow. It's up to Dallas to contain that.

Here are my keys for a Cowboy W:

1. THE PASS RUSH MUST EXCEL. Of course, this is usually a necessity every game. Kevin Kolb should be making his return at quarterback for the Cardinals, so what better way to welcome him back than with a tough pass rush? Kolb can make passes if given time, and Fitzgerald is one of the best "bad ball" receivers in the league. In order to prevent easy receptions to Fitzgerald, or even Early Doucet, Kolb must be continuall flushed out of the pocket. Make him put that healing turf toe to the test. If Kolb continues to have time, then the only hope for the Cowboys is to outscore the Cardinals.

2. KEEPS BEANIE WELLS DOWN. While he is questionable, it appears that Wells is likely to play. Last week, Wells set a franchise record against the lowly Rams with a 228 yard outing on 22 carries. He was also able to add a touchdown to that. Lately, the Cowboys rushing defense hasn't been up to par. Dallas will need to quickly plug up the holes on running plays. Sean Lee and the rest of the linebacker crew should be quite busy Sunday.

3. KEEP FEEDING DEMARCO MURRAY THE BALL. As the media (and I) like to smash into your brains, DeMarco Murray is the harbinger of great things to come for the Cowboys. No doubt his running abilities have changed many opposing defensive coordinators' game plans, and it will continue to do so as long as he keeps performing. Whether it be handing it off for a sprint up the middle or a pass in the flat, Murray is a great weapon for Dallas. As long as he keeps getting the ball, defenses will creep up to the offensive line. Then, Tony Romo will use the play action to catch the defense off-guard. That is where Romo is most effective.

They are simple keys, but keys nonetheless. The defense will be tested, and I am quite curious to see how they perform. Also, I would like Murray to have 300 total yards with three touchdowns, but hey, that's just Fantasy GM Dustin talking.

Prediction: Cowboys 27, Cardinals 17

All opinions are solely those of Dustin McWilliams. McWilliams is a sports writer at the Denton Record-Chronicle. If you have any questions or feedback, please message McWilliams at dmcwilliams82@gmail.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Neftali Feliz's role in starting rotation cemented with signing of Joe Nathan

With the game on the line, Neftali Feliz will never have to stare into the opposing batter's eyes in the ninth inning any longer.

Unless he is going for the complete game.

In case you missed it, the Texas Rangers have quietly signed closer Joe Nathan to a two-year deal. Nathan, who has spent most of his career with the Minnesota Twins, has been a consistent closer. He missed the entire 2010 season with Tommy John surgery. He is the Twins' all time saves leader with 255. While at the old age of 37, Nathan should have a couple of good years left in him.

This means that Feliz will move to the starting rotation, barring any crazy spring training setback. Feliz flirted with the possibility of joining the rotation last season. However, a sub-par performance kept him out of it, paving the way for Alexi Ogando to join the rotation, which worked out well.

Feliz was a starting pitcher for most of his minor league career. When he was called up to the big leagues, it was mainly for relief appearances. He soon found himself in the closer's role, where he started a dominant stretch as the ninth inning guy.

But now, Feliz expects to be in the starting rotation for the 2012 season. I'm sure he will enjoy it, as long as he never has to close out a game again, especially after the Game 6 meltdown in the World Series. Adding that with a slightly disappointing 2011 campaign should allow Feliz to relish the role of a starter. Texas should need it, as CJ Wilson is not expected to re-sign with the Rangers.

But does that mean he will excel when the time comes?

We all know he has the velocity. Feliz regularly threw in the upper 90's, occasionally eclipsing 100 MPH. But what he will need to work on is his off-speed and breaking pitches. Sure, velocity is nice to have, but if you are going to be successful as a starter, you must throw the off-speed with precision. Case in point, Justin Verlander. He's got a cannon for an arm, and a variety of pitches to have a strong repertiore at his disposal. I may be wrong, but that may be why he won both the Cy Young and MVP.

Does Feliz have the ability to be the next Verlander? At this point, I can reply with a hell no. Verlander can get guys out with power and finesse. Most of the time, Feliz has to hope the opposition swings and misses, and when they swing and connect, it is usually trouble. Hash tag Game 6 heartbreak.

Feliz is and will be a work in progress for a while. But being in the starting rotation gives Feliz the chance to begin anew. This should help erase the pain of the blown save in the World Series, and help him have a new goal in mind: To accumulate wins and put the Texas Rangers in the best position possible to win.

That's the starter's creed, and hopefully, Feliz will live by that creed.

All opinions are solely those of Dustin McWilliams. McWilliams is a sports writer at the Denton Record-Chronicle. If you have any questions or feedback, please message McWilliams at dmcwilliams82@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Penn State issue - a truly despicable act in sports

Not much can be said regarding the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, other than negative expletives. It is a heinous act of a terrible man. Not only that, his terrible acts against children were covered up.

The punishment for Jerry Sandusky should be swift, vicious, and powerful. He should never be allowed to set foot in our society ever again. I believe his punishment should be worse than that, but this is a sports blog, not my political opinion.

But what about the highly respected Penn State head coach Joe Paterno? His shine in the coaching spotlight seems to be waning, and it seems his position as coach will be taken from him. But does he deserve more?

Paterno knew about this. Yet, it was never reported. Why? Why the hell was this not reported? It's possible, but not confirmed, that Sandusky had been doing this for far longer than the 90's. But it still went unreported. Ugh, it's sad that Paterno, or any other coach on the athletic staff, didn't say anything about this. The state of the children ranks way higher than the prestige of a college football tradition.

Can you punish an elderly man like Paterno, who has been highly respected throughout the decades? That's the question. I believe the answer is yes, but in the form of monetary contributions to charities. Covering up this situation was wrong and despicable. What Paterno can do in this ordeal is to give back. Help those that have came forth and charities of the like with money. Maybe it isn't the extent of true justice, but prison wouldn't do anything for a man like JoePa, who could pass away the first day of incarceration.

As for Penn State itself, the NCAA will know what to do. Is the dreaded death penalty in order? Doubtful, because this didn't directly correlate to recruiting or cheating. Jerry Sandusky was a man who created a foundation (Second Mile) to prey on young children. That in itself had nothing to do with Nittany Lion football. The fact that it was covered up by the athletic department, however, is the real issue. Can the NCAA punish that? Sure. But I don't know if just taking away scholarships is the right idea. Penn State should contribute to charities as well for their punishment.

Let's hope a controversy like this never happens again.

All opinions are solely those of Dustin McWilliams. McWilliams is a sports writer at the Denton Record-Chronicle. If you have any questions or feedback, please message McWilliams at dmcwilliams82@gmail.com

Monday, November 7, 2011

DeMarco Murray - The True Future of the Cowboys

Boy, it's been a while. Lots of changes to my life. A new living location, a strong commitment to my woman, and a continuous desire to write after a blah period of months.

But it's time to get right back into the saddle of things. Let's talk Cowboys!

Yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Seattle Seahawks 23-13. Sure, they could have done better. Bad red zone play along with a surprisingly mediocre rush defense, which used to be their strength, was seen on the television. Sure, we can pick apart their flaws. But what mattered most is they won. This isn't the BCS, where a bad win against a bad team will cost you down the road. No, a win is a win in the NFL, and now the Cowboys are 4-4 with a good Buffalo Bills team coming into town next week for a showdown at Jerry World.

And who do we have to thank for this victory over the Seahawks. Well, let's look into the revived Cowboy rushing attack. More specifically, the rise of DeMarco Murray. A spectacular Oklahoma product, Murray has had three straight running games of positive repute. He had another 100 yard rushing game, taking 22 carries for 139 yards against a decent Seahawk defense. He also caught four passes for 47 yards. Has there been a more versatile threat in Cowboy land in a while? I think not.

DeMarco Murray's speed, vision, and intelligence has been on display the past three weeks. His ability to cutback when a hole closes, his tenacity to plow over defenders, and his stout consistency to always fall forward has been vital in the emergence of the Cowboys rushing attack. Sure, plenty of running backs have these abilities, but what makes this so important to the Cowboys in general?

The answer, my friends, is that it makes Tony Romo better. It makes the offensive line better. It even makes the defense better, in the fact that they aren't on the field as much. And I won't deny that Felix Jones is a good player, but he is not as COMPLETE a runner as DeMarco Murray. He's a compliment back, and he should get back into that role once he returns from his high ankle sprain. Murray should start, and he should lead this team to greater things.

Of course, time will tell. It has only been three games. And let's try to forget that Philadelphia game (Murray played great in that game as well, but Dallas was so far behind so early, that they had to abandon the running game just to attempt to get back in it). But there is no doubt in my mind that if Murray shoulders the load at the RB position and stays healthy, this Cowboys team will win. Or at least, stay consistent in one facet of the offense.

All opinions are solely those of Dustin McWilliams. McWilliams is a sports writer at the Denton Record-Chronicle. If you have any questions or feedback, please message McWilliams at dmcwilliams82@gmail.com

Friday, February 11, 2011

Michael Young, through it all, will do the right thing

In case you have been living under a rock, Michael Young, all-time hits leader as well as locker room leader for the Texas Rangers, has requested a trade, stating that he’s been “misled and manipulated on different occasions.”
A few teams, most notably the Philadelphia Phillies, have expressed minor interest in Young, but the chances of a deal being made before the start of Spring Training are very low.
Young, 34, has a contract that goes through 2013 at $16 million per year, an amount that is a deterrent for prospecting teams, considering his age. In order for the Rangers to make a deal, they would want the opposing team to eat up most of that remaining salary, which doesn’t exactly entice other ballclubs.
The dilemma stemmed from the Rangers’ offseason signing of third baseman Adrian Beltre. At this point, Young stated that he would be fine giving up his position to Beltre, as he would do what is best for the team.
So why is Young not doing what is best for the team now?
I digress, however. The Beltre signing was not quite the tipping point. With Beltre now the everyday 3B, Young was placed as the designated hitter-“super-utility” infielder to relieve fatigued or injured teammates. Yet, not long after, the Rangers signed Mike Napoli, a former Los Angeles Angel who could play catcher, first base, and the DH spot well.
This is where Young figured he was not wanted anymore, and demanded a trade.
Who knows who is really to blame for the way Young has been treated. The consensus mainly states GM Jon Daniels as the main culprit. Minority owner/President Nolan Ryan has stated that he wants Young in a Ranger uniform this season, as well as Manager Ron Washington.
Not to mention the entire Texas Rangers clubhouse.
It’s understandable as to why Young demanded a trade after the Napoli signing, but here is a few unknowns that typically (and probably) will happen during the season:
The past few years, the Rangers have made lineup adjustments depending on who is hot. For example, David Murphy eventually began starting over Julio Borbon. Thus, this raises my argument that unless Young has a unrecoverable slump, he will have no at-bats taken away from him. Napoli will, in my opinion, predominantly play catcher, leaving Young rock solid in his DH-utility infielder position.
Also, injuries happen. Beltre may go down with an injury, therefore placing Young back in his familiar hot corner spot.
Lastly, baseball is unpredictable. The unknown void that expands over Major League Baseball is never ending. In layman’s terms, we really never know what will happen as the season unfolds.
So, although things may not be going well in Young’s eyes, you can guarantee that he will enter Spring Training with his head held high, as a leader should.
Because that is what a leader truly does.

 All opinions are solely those of Dustin McWilliams. McWilliams is a sports writer at the Durant Daily Democrat. If you have any questions or feedback, please message McWilliams at dmcwilliams82@gmail.com