Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Texas Rangers: Far and Away

The reality is grim. Not Justin Grimm. Grim.

The 2015 AL West Champion Texas Rangers are headed to the home of the Toronto Blue Jays for a winner-take-all game on Wednesday, October 14th. Why? Former Ranger manager Ron Washington would say: "That's the way baseball go."

Why is the reality grim? We're headed into the house of the hottest hitting team in the majors, with a cripply Adrian Beltre and some pitching that has us praying every ball isn't crushed 450 feet. Rather, we're praying that they crush the ball 450 feet, but foul for strike two. 

In the words of the great Michael Scott, it's as if the entire Rangers fan-base had its figurative tire-slashed...the hate note reads: "You guys suck. You can never pull together as one and revenge us. That is why you suck!" Deflated, bummed, hopeless is how we feel...and it's how our team looks when they step out on the field. 

Here's the problem: The home team has everything to lose. That's why the Rangers came out swinging and stole two games in one of the loudest houses in baseball. That's why the Jays came out and stole two games back in a completely different park in Arlington. And that's why the Rangers have every ability to come out and steal game 5, crushing the playoff hopes of the Jays and their explosive lineup.

How? Quality pitching...long at-bats...effective management.

These 3 things led the Rangers to their first two victories, and the neglect of these three things caused the Rangers to lose back to back games in Arlington.

Quality Pitching
While it may not be popular or fun or conventionally wise, you have to throw a crap-ton of pitches to these guys to get them out. Especially with the way the umpiring has been (not calling ANY borderline or corner pitches strikes) you cannot take the opportunity to get out ahead in the count. With every successive game, the Jays' hitters have been more patient, more disciplined and more dangerous at the plate. They smell playoff success and they're going at it with everything they have. 

Long At-Bats
The Rangers have to battle the way they did in Games 1 and 2. They swung at way too many first pitches in their two home games, completely killing momentum and letting the Jays' pitchers take a breath. 

Effective Management
I understand the call to go to Holland in Game 4. It was the wrong call. Banister didn't heed his own advice. He fell back on conventional roles and gave Derek Holland the position and opportunity that he didn't deserve. Bad choice...paid the consequences. My advice to Banister? Stick with your gut...you were right to throw away conventional roles. Keep going with the strongest possible option at ALL TIMES.

I think the Rangers will lose a close game in Toronto. I hope the Rangers win a blowout game in Toronto. The "experts" thought the Rangers wouldn't even get to this point. 

I hope the Jays go to sleep early Thursday morning with this proverb on their mind after having lost to the team that had "no chance" in the AL:

"That's the way baseball go." 


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Who starts at point?

If the season started today, who starts at Point Guard?

While the Dallas Mavericks haven’t stepped foot on a basketball court in over a month, they are still a few weeks away from beginning their off-season in earnest.  Continuing the theme of recent summers, the Mavs have a lot of decisions to make regarding how their roster will be made up heading into the 2015-2016 season. One big question mark involves the point guard position.  With Rajon Rondo no longer in the mix, the Mavericks will have to decide whether they go hard after a point guard or stay put with what they have and spend their time and money in other areas.  This free agent year doesn’t exactly boast a strong list of point-guard-of-the-future types nor does the Mavs position in the draft lend itself to finding a start-now point guard either.  With that being said, let’s assume the Mavericks stand pat at the point guard position throughout the draft and free agency, leaving the job in the hands of one of the three point guards currently on the roster.  In order to determine the best candidate for the job, we need to understand the pro as cons of each player in the starting role as well “other factors” the Mavs may look at when determining who is best suited to start at point guard.

The first candidate is Devin Harris the 6 3’ Point Guard out of Wisconsin who has a career avg. of 12.1 points, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals. 

Pros: Harris was originally drafted by the Mavericks before the 2004-2005 season and has spent a large part of his career as a starter.  Whenever Harris is on the court he plays with high energy and gets the most out of the pick and roll with whatever big man he is playing with.  Harris is also one of the Mavericks’ better perimeter defenders which is extremely important in the point-guard-rich Western Conference.  This past season Harris shot his second best percentage beyond the arc at 35.7 percent.  This was a point of emphasis for Harris last off-season and you can expect that he will work equally as hard on his outside shot this off-season.  If Harris can stay healthy and hit the outside shot, he could make a huge impact as the starting point guard for the Mavericks next season.

Cons: For the past three seasons Harris has been a key cog in the Mavericks second unit off the bench.  Rick Carlisle trusts Harris to run the second unit particularly because he was arguably the Mavericks best overall point guard last season while still coming off the bench.  This is important for the Mavericks who often rely on the second unit to do the heavy lifting throughout each season.  Harris is also entering into his 12th season in the NBA and after primarily coming off the bench the past two seasons, switching back to a starting role may take its toll on Harris.  Harris has been able to stay fresh averaging around 20 minutes a game the past two seasons and that may be the key to keeping him healthy and playing at a high level. 

Other factors: Picking a starting point guard isn’t as easy as looking at the stats and picking the guy with the highest assists and scoring average.  The Mavericks are all about match ups so many things have to be considered when picking who starts and who comes off the bench.  With several looming questions regarding the make-up of the Mavericks roster, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where Harris would be most effective.  If the Mavericks are able to acquire De Andre Jordan this off-season, Harris may be most effective starting and working with Jordan on the pick and roll, creating Dallas’ own version of Lob City.  If Tyson Chandler is still in a Dallas uniform, Harris may be most effective in his usual role off the bench. 

The second candidate is Raymond Felton the 6 1’ point guard out of North Carolina who has a career avg. of 12.7 points, 6.3 assists and 1.4 steals.

Pros: Felton has the most extensive starting experience of all the candidates.  While he did not play much for the Mavs last season, Felton proved that he was a team player who was willing to accept whatever role he was given.  Dirk Nowitzki was not shy about praising Felton’s ability to be a professional which was important recognition coming from the all-time face of the franchise.  Felton has shown the ability to hit the 3 point shot at times in his career, shooting a career high 46 percent with Denver in the 2010-2011.  While he shot below 30 percent last season, that has more to do with limited opportunity that anything else. Felton has also shown the ability to play heavy minutes on a consistent basis as he averaged over 30 minutes per game in his first nine seasons in the league until seeing limited action last year.  Felton also spent a good amount of time playing alongside Carmelo Anthony and while this may not seem to be relevant, anyone who can play with Carmelo and excel in any way deserves some recognition.  Overall, while he did not prove much with the Mavericks last season, he has a solid resume and certainly eased concerns about his off-court issues with the way he handled his limited role last season.

Cons: Felton is least familiar with the Dallas Mavericks as a whole.  He was new last season and played limited minutes, most of which were with the second and even third units.  The fact that he has not played extended minutes with the Mavericks’ starters may impact how his starting candidacy is viewed.  Felton will be playing his 11th NBA season and has averaged over 30 MPG in all but one of them.  While he played limited time last season, his age and NBA miles will catch up to him at some point.  Finally, while off court concerns never materialized last season, they have to be in the back of Rick Carlisle’s mind as he considers giving the keys of the team to a guy he may or may not fully trust.

Other Factors: Again the Mavericks’ off-season decisions could play into whether or not Felton fits as a starter.  What happens if Monta Ellis opts out and leaves the Mavs? What happens if Monta stays?  Felton has shown the ability to play well alongside ball dominant players and so starting alongside Monta may actually be a fit.  Carlisle and Co. will also have to decide whether or not Felton is more important in a specific role off the bench or as a starter.

The third candidate is J.J. Barea the 6 0’ point guard out of Northeastern University who has career avg. of 8.2 points and 3.4 assists.

Pros: Barea has not started many games at Point Guard in the NBA but he gave Mavs fans a treat during the playoffs when he moved into the starting lineup versus the Houston Rockets.  Barea averaged 11.8 points and 7.4 assists during the Playoffs, both well above his career averages.  Barea is also a gritty defender who does not mind playing in the trenches, taking charges and going hard after loose balls.  Barea also has the highest career 3 point percentage of his career at just under 35 percent.

Cons: Barea created himself quite a niche with the Dallas Mavericks culminating in 2011 during the Mavericks title run.  Barea picked up where he left off when he returned this year carving out the same type role that he had before.  This role Barea plays off the bench is vital to the Mavericks and there isn’t another player that fills it as well as he does.  Barea also has very limited experience as a starter and it is quite possible that by playing extensive time outside of his typical role he could lose his impact as a contributor for the Mavericks.

 Other Factors: Barea is at his best averaging between 15 and 20 minutes a night.  He has a specific role on the Mavericks and he does it better than anyone.  With that being said, it would be in the Mavericks’ best interest to keep Barea in his typical role as a back-up point guard/shooting guard, rather than utilizing him as the starting point guard.

 With a working understand of the options the Mavericks have, it would seem apparent that the starting role is most likely to go to either Devin Harris or Raymond Felton.  While many may be quick to discount Felton, had he not been injured to begin last season, he may have been starting back then.  There are several ways to go here and the fact is that both players could have success in the starting role.  

           With that being said, I am predicting that Raymond Felton will be the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks to begin next season.  Felton weathered the year on the bench for the Mavericks and that stuck out to the veterans on the Mavericks squad, most notably Dirk Nowitzki.  Felton has proven his ability as a starter over a long period of time and will be able to adjust whether the starting lineup is similar or different from previous seasons.  Even though Harris is a much better defender than Felton, let’s face it: no one on the Mavs current roster is going to stop the west best point guards.  The Mavericks are better off utilizing their zone defense anchored by either Tyson Chandler or DeAndre Jordan which will place less emphasis on Felton.  While this may not be a sexy pick, expect Felton to play solid at the point for the Mavericks this year, which will allow Harris and Barea to play where they play best.  If Felton can win the trust of Carlisle and succeed in this role, it’s a huge win for the Mavericks.  

- David Miller

Sunday, January 11, 2015

4 Plays that Changed the Game that Didn't Involve Dez Bryant's Catch!

The Dallas Cowboys season is over.

In a span of mere seconds, Cowboys fans went through a roller coaster of emotions that is all too familiar for Dallas Sports Fans. The Cowboys and Packers put on a show today at Lambeau field and it's a shame that what we will be talking about all week is an instant replay decision rather than the gutsy play of Tony Romo and Aaron Rogers. They both played hurt and put on a show for the entire NFL world to delight in. While most fans will focus on the Dez Bryant Catch (and yes it was a catch and I will forever refer to it as such), there were four other game changing plays that must be discussed.

1. The play: With the Cowboys driving late in the first half, the Cowboys lined up with Tony Romo in shotgun on 3rd and 1. Romo mishandled the snap and ultimately threw an incompletion to Terrance Williams at the Goal Line. This botched play led to a 4 and 1 field goal attempt which turned into a 4 and 6 field goal attempt after a false start.  The kick was partially blocked and what could've and should've been a 17-7 halftime lead for the Cowboys, turned into a 14 - 10 game as Green Bay kicked a last second field goal.  I don't like the call here at all. While the running game appeared stagnant in the first half, Demarco Murray was money on short distance third down runs and instead of sticking with what was working, the Cowboys got cute and it cost them. Had the Cowboys converted on 3rd down, were possibly looking at a 21-7 halftime score which completely changes the game.

2. The play: The Cowboys stopped the Packers on their first drive of the second half and were driving early the in the third quarter when Demarco Murray did what Demarco Murray do. The Cowboys offensive line could not have opened a bigger hole for Murray who tends to fumble the ball at absolutely the worst time, every time. At minimum Demarco Murray goes 40 yards before realizing no ones around him and tripping on his own feet. At minimum the Cowboys kick a field goal for a 17-10 lead and most likely score to make it a 21-10 game.  Instead the Packers drove the ball for a field goal and made it a one point game. For all he's done this year, Demarco Murray is a liability with bad vision who makes critical mistakes at the worst times. He needs to be last on our free agent priority list behind players, coaches, ball boys and parking attendants.

3. The play: The Cowboys responded to the Demarco Murray fumble with an outstanding drive resulting in a 21-13 lead late in the third quarter. On the ensuing kick off, the Packers return man fumbled the ball and James Hanna proceed to let the ball bounce off his chest before losing the ball in a scrum. THESE ARE THE TYPES OF PLAYS THAT WIN AND LOSE FOOTBALL GAMES AND HANNA FAILED. You have to come away with that ball. Fumbles don't grow on trees and if you are going to shock the world and beat Green Bay, these are the plays that make that possible. If Hanna recovers the ball, we lead by 11 and probably 15 heading into the fourth quarter. The game changes significantly if the Cowboys recover that fumble and the 4th and 1 heist perhaps never happens at all.

4. The play: The Cowboys had the Packers on their heels early in the fourth quarter who were facing 3rd and 15 on the Cowboys 46 yard line.  Rodgers had all day to throw and delivered a strike to Devante Adams who was able to juke Safety Barry Church and run all the way to the end zone. There is no excuse for the Cowboys defense and several glaring issues lead to such a completion. The first problem with this play is the Cowboys pass rush. This has been an issue all season and will no doubt be addressed this offseason. Rodgers had far too much time to pass and this hurt the Cowboys. The second issue was Sterling Moore trying to deflect the pass rather than concentrating on making a tackle. This has happened far too many times to Cowboys DB's and leads to far too many big plays. I also don't understand why Marinelli refuses to blitz in this situation. The Cowboys hardly blitz and in many ways they aren't good enough to blitz, but Rodgers was clearly hobbled and a blitz in this situation perhaps gains the Cowboys a game changing sack. It's one thing to choose your blitzes and use them sparingly, it's another to refuse to do so and constantly give up conversions on 3rd and long all day long.

The Dez Bryant catch will dominate social media and the airwaves and honestly the biggest problem I have with it is that it ruined what otherwise had been a very compelling game. We see this happens all the time. A great game is overshadowed by a game changing call that leaves a sour taste in everyone's mouth. Honestly fans on both sides of the equation should admit that we were all screwed over by this call. We lost a chance to see the game settled on the field and just like that a great game was ruined. Who knows what happens if the catch is upheld. The Cowboys most likely score and go for two leaving the game in Aaron Rodgers hands. Who knows what happens? The way the Cowboys D was playing, the Packers probably move the length of the field and win. Instead, we were left wondering what if. We will never know how the game would've unfolded and that is a shame for everyone involved. I hope the NFL takes a hard look at this rule and I hope the Cowboys maintain their integrity and professionalism and they discuss this call and this game going forward.

The Cowboys season is over but their opportunity is not lost.  I hope the Cowboys use their money wisely this offseason and that to me starts with signing Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Bruce Carter (More to come on Cowboys offseason priorities later). 


Lambeau Letdown

Wow. Nothing like a huge call to encourage me back to writing. Before I start ranting about the "Reversal Heard Round the World," let's touch on the basics of a fantastic Cowboys season, and a strong showing in this year's Divisional Playoff Round.

1. If we're being honest, the Cowboys surprised us all this season.

Even if you're Skip Bayless who pulled a winning record prediction out of his butt, you didn't actually expect the Cowboys to win anywhere near 10 games, let alone being tied for the best record in football [12-4] going into the postseason.

2. The Cowboys have proved that they can deliver in the playoffs.

With their last game coming down to essentially one play before vying for a Conference Title in Seattle, this team proved to themselves and to everyone else that they're ready to turn the chapter on the 8-8 seasons and build on the legacy of the early 90s success.

3. The NFL has serious decisions to make about the rulebook, its application, and the referees who are placed in the hot seat week in and week out.

For goodness sake, why not consider putting together teams of refs which actually understand each other enough to act with poise in high pressure situations? While we're scrutinizing, I'll represent the Lions for a minute and rally for pass interference being added to the docket for ability to review and overturn.

Now for today's game.

1. The Cowboys missed opportunities to extend their lead and put this game out of reach.

The biggest of these was at the end of the first half when Red J decided to kick a long field goal on a 4th and 1. Continue to believe in your team. You have endless options for smoothly getting that yard, and against a Packers team that has proven they can't deliver on 4th down.

2. The referees missed opportunities to do their job.

With key 3rd down "make-up Detroit" penalty calls on the Packers' winning drive, the referees consistently botched their responsibility to the fans, their commissioner, and ultimately to the teams involved. On both sides, calls were missed, ignored and blown out of proportion. The largest of these was the game-altering call to reverse the beautiful Bryant catch on an ensuing Cowboys drive. The catch went from season-defining for the Cowboys to career-defining for the idiot ref whose reputation is now fully instituted as a "catch-crusher." Remember Megatron?

3. The Packers missed opportunities to show any sort of class.

Late blocks, sacks on Romo (seconds after the ball was released) and penalties all around showed the world that this Packers team is dirty and deserves no honor in the long run. The only glimmer of hope for that team is a phenomenal quarterback who delivers even under high pressure and when he's feeling at much less than 100%.

All of that being said, as a fan, I can't complain about a quality showdown on a huge stage. The Cowboys showed up and did everything they needed to do to win this game. It was no fault of their own which took that opportunity away.

Eventually, we're all going to have to realize that the NFL has much to think about. The Lions believed they were screwed, and I'll never take that away from them. Now the Cowboys, in most camps, believe they're screwed, and no one can take that away from them. When the day is over, we see corruption from the top down, greed that wants nothing more than to increase profit margin.

Here's an interesting thought. When Mike & Mike asked Mark Cuban, "Where do you draw the line between making money and winning games?" Mark replied, "You don't, at least I don't." He later went on to say that "we're 5 games over .500 and it kills me." It's THAT mentality that the NFL needs to apply to their business framework.

At some point, the NFL has to stop thinking about how to make money, about how to please everyone, and about how to be politically correct about selecting referees, and get to the fact of the matter. If the fans, and teams aren't happy, then we're doing something wrong. When the fans and teams aren't happy, the NFL loses. In turn, fair played games with quality officiating yields happy fans, teams, and a winning NFL.

I can't help but think that if the NFL continues in this direction, their impending doom will come even earlier than Cuban predicted.

Last thoughts:
Pay Dez, Pay Garrett, and don't overpay Demarco.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Josh Miller - Bio and Intent

My name is Josh Miller and I am a lifelong Dallas sports fan. I have never lived in a state other than Texas, and have always been an avid sports watcher. My intent through this blog is to be able to post my thoughts, reactions and opinions about the current events in the sports world. Like many sports fans, I think my opinion matters and like many bloggers, I desire to share that opinion with whoever is interested in reading it. While most of the posts herein will deal directly with Dallas Sports and its major sports teams, they are not limited in this way. The sports world is ever evolving and changes are always on the horizon. The major issues of today include but aren't limited to: the case of Donald Sterling vs. The NBA, instant replay and its role in professional sports, drug use in sports, the 2014 World Cup, and many others.

I hope you'll be encouraged by this blog in a few ways:
1. You'll read original thought and exceptional insight.
2. You'll be amused at the expressions of drama and passion.
3. You'll find someone you agree with, and someone whose writing you're willing to read.
4. You'll feel connected to my brother and I in that we are normal dudes who love sports.