About Lew

Just an old guy that loves sports and the internets.

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Packers cornerback Sam Shields was covering Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on his infamous overruled catch when their teams met in the playoffs. At the time, Shields said the ref made a good call in reversing the catch. Now Shields admits that’s not how he saw it.

Shields told ESPN that he believes Bryant did catch the ball, and he is surprised the Packers won their challenge of the play.

It was a catch,” Shields said, “But the new rule and at the last minute what happened, that’s what the refs came up with. I never said he didn’t catch it. He made a helluva catch I was in great coverage. Like I said, it was good on good and he came up with the catch.”

Shields seems surprised that Bryant reaching for the goal line didn’t constitute a “football move” that would make it a catch.

“I did look back and I seen him reaching and I guess that’s when he didn’t control the ball as he was doing that,” Shields said.

What Shields doesn’t seem to realize is that the NFL rules say that when a player makes a catch as he’s going to the ground, he must maintain control, and Bryant didn’t. Under NFL rules, it wasn’t a catch. But the fact that even Shields thinks it was a catch shows just how convoluted the NFL’s rules are.

Jeff Banister is a Texan.

Since we are just around the corner from Groundhog day, those of us that are hooked on baseball start to get that old familiar feeling that baseball is just about here. Ranger pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 20. It’s important to start getting in baseball shape for spring. That includes getting to know the new coaches and players that make up the team. I have been doing some heavy research.

The more I learn about Jeff Banister, the more I am so looking forward to the new baseball season, and seeing how his leadership and management style will play out here. I feel pretty certain the Rangers absolutely made the right choice for the new coaching position.

Did you know that Jeff Banister only had one hit in the major leagues? That is true, but boy, was it a hit.

Banister has a fascinating story, one that Tyler Kepner wrote some time ago for the New York Times.  He battled cancer as a teenager, was paralyzed for ten days due to a home plate collision as a junior college catcher, ended up getting drafted by the Pirates, legged out an infield single in his lone major league at bat, and has spent his entire career with Pittsburgh, with the last four coming as Clint Hurdle’s bench coach.

Who is Clint Hurdle you ask? On November 4, 2009, he was hired as the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers. In 2010, Hurdle helped the Rangers to their first American League pennant in franchise history before losing to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 World Series. Hurdle went on to become the coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As any good leader has, I think most Rangers fans are interested in what sort of plan that Banister has for the team. Banister is featured in a recent Grantland piece about the Pirates’ use of sabermetrics. Here is another piece about the science of sabermetrics.

Man, I can’t wait. Now, if the groundhog will just cooperate.

 

Being in Jeff Banister’s shoes is a great situation to be in right now.

The Rangers are coming off a 67-95 season in which they finished as the fourth worst team in the league. A number of star players were injured, leaving players unfamiliar to some fans. The previous manager left amid controversy.

Enter Banister this year. The Rangers should have no problem in righting the Ranger ship and getting back to their winning ways when they get their injured players back. Surely, just from having core players like Prince Fielder, Shin Shoo Choo, and others on the diamond will increase wins in a hurry. The bottom line is that Bannister will be the recipient of that. He will also be a fan favorite in my opinion.  Banister knows the fans were hurt by all that went on last year, and I think he will go out of his way to pay the fan loyalty back.

Banister admitted at Rangers Fan Fest on Saturday that last season’s events had taken a toll on the fans.

“I think there is a reconnecting process of a fan base with this team,” Banister said.

“Absolutely it’s part of my job (to engage the fans),” Banister said. “You’re coming off of a season where the fan base, they were hurt, disappointed. They felt the sting just like everybody else.

“But it’s also important for me to tell them what I’ve seen, tell them what I’ve heard. It is, because I understand just the synergy of what fans can create for a team. It’s extremely important.”

It’s going to be a great year to be a Ranger fan.

It’s going to be a great year for the Rangers as well. It’s a win-win deal.

COLLEGE STATION – Texas A&M fans have drawn a little comfort from a brief sentence from star high school quarterback Kyler Murray on Thursday night.

“(I’m) still committed to A&M,” Murray told the Dallas Morning News during the newspaper’s Heroes Banquet in Dallas.

Murray, a longtime A&M verbal pledge from Allen High and one of the nation’s top recruits, surprisingly visited the University of Texas on Wednesday, along with touted receiver DaMarkus Lodge of Cedar Hill.

Murray and Lodge both posted pictures of Longhorns jerseys on their respective Twitter pages on Wednesday afternoon, setting the Internet abuzz among followers of recruiting. Meanwhile A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who’s close with Murray, is expected to visit Murray and Lodge today in the Metroplex, according to multiple recruiting websites.

ESPN recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree wrote Wednesday, “If Kyler Murray flips to the Horns, it would be the biggest Texas (high school) moment in the last 20 years.”

Murray is the son of Kevin Murray, a standout A&M quarterback in the mid 1980s, who was also on Wednesday’s trip to Austin, according to reports. The younger Murray finished his Allen career 42-0 as a starter and with three consecutive state championships, making him one of the true legends of Texas high school football.

A&M sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen, one of the nation’s top recruits in 2014, offered flashes of becoming the standout many projected late in the Aggies’ 8-5 season. The UT quarterback situation is less clear, but Murray would be expected to compete for a starting gig at both places right from the start.

Verbal commitments are nonbinding, and signing day falls on Feb. 4 – a day that can’t come soon enough for both Aggies and Longhorns alike. Murray pledged to play for A&M on May 28 in a ceremony at Allen High.

“A lot can happen between here and February, but I just felt like I had all of the information, and I felt like the (time) was right,” Murray said of why he committed at that time.

He earned Gatorade national player of the year honors this past season en route to yet another state title for the Eagles. Meanwhile baseball is a threat to both A&M and UT when it comes to Murray. He projects as a potential first-round selection in the June amateur draft as a speedy weapon with power at the plate, and he’ll likely have to decide between signing a pro baseball contract or playing college football.

If he does play football, he has said he intends to play baseball, as well, at the college of his choosing.

Beyond the Hall of Fame career and the iconic nickname, Ernie Banks will be remembered for the big smile on his face, the deep connection to the fans and Chicago, an enthusiasm forever summed up with three words: “Let’s play two!”

“Mr. Cub” is dead at the age of 83.

That’s why the news stung late Friday night and so many tributes flowed all across social media and all around the country, memorializing such a gracious Chicago legend.

But there’s no doubt Banks lived a full life that can’t simply be defined by his 512 career home runs, all those All-Star selections and the back-to-back National League MVP Awards in 1958 and 1959. Or the fact that he played in the majors until the age of 40 – more than 2,500 games in a Cubs uniform – and never made it to the playoffs or saw his team finally win a World Series.

Born and raised in Dallas, Banks served in the U.S. Army and debuted with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues. He signed with the Cubs in 1953 and became the first African-American player in franchise history.

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball,” chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “He was one of the greatest players of all-time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.

“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind-hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub.”

Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker once put it this way: “Ernie was never in a bad mood. I couldn’t believe how a guy could never be in a bad mood. Forty years later, and he’s still never been in a bad mood.”

Banks would make Wrigley Field his second home, getting his No. 14 retired in 1982 and a statue at Clark and Addison in 2008. In between those two moments, he got voted onto the All-Century Team and honored at Fenway Park during the 1999 All-Star Game.

“Is this a great country or what?”

That’s how Banks responded in the summer of 2013 after finding out he would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He wanted to include everyone that night at Wrigley Field, promising to clear it with the Secret Service and inviting reporters to join him at the White House.

Banks told the story about the first time he met Barack Obama at a Jesse Jackson dinner on Navy Pier – and how he planned to tell the future Mr. President not to run in 2008. Banks had run for alderman himself in the 1960s, as a Republican going up against Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago machine.

Banks just loved walking around the old ballpark and talking to people and asking questions, the Hall of Famer just happy to be there.

Banks didn’t act like he invented the game either, saying how it used to be or how things should be run. When 21-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro earned his first All-Star selection in 2011, Banks quickly told a group of reporters: “He’s better than me.”

Banks couldn’t make it to last weekend’s Cubs Convention, where he would have fit right in with all the fans convinced that “This is The Year.” It would have been his 84th birthday next week.

“Ernie became known as much for his 512 home runs as for his cheer and his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way,” Obama said during the 2013 Medal of Freedom presentation. “That’s serious belief. That is something that even a White Sox fan like me can respect. He is just a wonderful man and a great icon of my hometown.”

 

Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reportsthat the Rangers have signed pitcher Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Ohlendorf, 32, spent the last two seasons with the Nationals. He pitched sparingly in 2014 due to a lingering back injury, amassing just 14 2/3 innings in the minor leagues and 60 1/3 in the majors. When he was on the mound in 2013 for the Nationals, he was productive, posting a 3.28 ERA and a 45/14 K/BB ratio across seven starts and nine relief appearances.

The Rangers have avoided arbitration with DH Mitch Moreland, agreeing on a one-year deal worth $2.95 million, per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Moreland can earn an additional $25,000 in performance incentives, Wilson notes.

Moreland, 29, was eligible for arbitration for the second of three years. Moreland mustered a meager .644 OPS in 184 plate appearances. He took over at first base after Prince Fielder was injured, but suffered a season-ending injury of his own in early June. Moreland underwent surgery for os trigonum syndrome and ligament reconstruction towards the end of the month.