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Some stuff to throw out there and keep you busy before tonight's two games (one baseball, one Cowboys)...

I was going to do a closer look at Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections for the 2008 Rangers, but I've been busy and hadn't gotten around to it, and now I don't have to, as Joey Matschulat (hey, wasn't he the angry Italian guy on Top Chef this season) compares the 2007 hitter projections with their actual results, and takes a look at the 2008 projections.

Peter Gammons rambles today, and starts his rambling off with a weird non-sequitor:

You can stop at the Grand Canyon, or maybe Zion on the off-day drive. And while you're out there on the run from Phoenix to Denver, you can think about where the Texas Rangers might be today had Tom Hicks listened to former Rangers GM Doug Melvin instead of talking heads.

Hmmm. Well, given that the Rangers farm system under Doug Melvin wasn't very good, and Melvin wanted the Rangers to strip down and rebuild (despite not having a very good farm system to rebuild with), and given that Melvin's "success" in Milwaukee (finishing above .500 once in 5 years, with 83 wins in a bad division in 2007 as the pinnacle thusfar) is largely a result of him inheriting a very good collection of talent from his predecessor (much like he benefitted from Tom Grieve's talent in Texas), I'm not all that sure that the Rangers would be better off right now, had Hicks listened to Melvin.

Speaking of the Brewers, the Hardball Times has a piece up, blaming the Brew Crew's collapse on Ned Yost's poor managing. Unlike most articles blaming the manager, this actually goes into detail with some specifics on why Yost's overall managerial plan ended up hurting the team...it is an interesting piece...

Jon Heyman says Arte Moreno is ready to moneywhip Alex Rodriguez, should he opt out of his current deal with the Yanks. Bill Plaschke says Moreno needs to get ARod, and if he can't get him (or Torii Hunter), he needs to order Bill Stoneman to part with some minor leaguers to get a legit, middle-of-the-order bat.

It will be interesting to see if those who called ARod "the Cooler" after he left, and suggested the Rangers were better without him, are going to be celebrating his joining the Angels. Personally, I'd like to see him anywhere but there...adding him to their current group would make the Angels rather formidable for the next few years...

I also have to wonder if there isn't some regret amongst Angels fans that the Angels weren't willing to do any better than something along the lines of Casey Kotchman, Joe Saunders, and Terry Haynes for Mark Teixeira.

Speaking of former Ranger infielders...Alfonso Soriano is catching flak for his dismal October:

So what are the Cubs supposed to do with Alfonso Soriano now? Should we just start counting down his final 2,500 days as a Cub? Just seven years left on his $136 million contract.

I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone exposed so badly, so quickly as he was during the Cubs' sluggish three-game loss to Arizona in the first round of the playoffs.

* * *

As they look to the future, Soriano is going to be a big issue. He's one of the major pieces the team is built around, and will be for years. And the problem?

He doesn't know how to play baseball.

People warned the Cubs about him, that his mistakes kill you more than his amazing skills help. It's hard not to buy into a guy who can hit so far, run so fast, throw with such strength and aim. I bought in, too.
Same mistakes over and over

His leadoff homers were a big part of the Cubs' September success. He can carry the team. But in the playoffs, he just kept striking out, kept misjudging fly balls.

He grounded out on the first pitch in Game 1. He struck out when the only thing needed was a ground ball to advance a runner. The one time he did smack a ball, he stood there and admired it, then only got a single after it flew all the way to the wall. He ran to the fences twice for fly balls, and one hit the wall several feet away. On Saturday, well, doesn't he know that when a ball hits the wall, it's going to bounce back?

After Game 2, someone asked Piniella about what he'd learn from the struggles of Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.

''You know, in postseason, you take what the opponent gives you,'' he said. ''They don't give you pitches to swing out of the yard, then you've got to go the other way, or you've got to go up the middle.

''As you get into postseason ... pitching gets better and better, you know? So don't try to overdo. That would be my message.''

Soriano wasn't listening. If this stuff is increasingly important in the postseason, then Soriano is never going to do well in October without significant changes.

Someone told me Soriano reminded him of a young Michael Jordan, a natural-born showman. Jordan was considered selfish when he started. Remember? He could have ridden out a career as a human highlight film but instead modified his game to incorporate the team.

At this point, Jordan and Soriano are the best and worst of athletes everywhere.

Baseball doesn't have nearly the team dynamic that basketball has, but Soriano has to stop being so selfish, weigh game situations.

That's assuming he's willing to learn. But Arizona looked like a team; the Cubs looked like a bunch of guys wearing the same uniform.

And Soriano is here for seven more years.

Despite his numbers, he's the symbol of that lack of teamwork. Without change, that'll hurt the Cubs in the playoffs as long as he's here.

Frankly, it was disturbing when I asked Piniella about Soriano's lack of discipline and the way he doesn't fit as a natural leadoff hitter.

''We knew that when we signed him,'' Piniella said. ''We're very pleased with him.''

OK, you knew. But did that mean you weren't going to try to fix him? You can't teach him to be the prototype leadoff hitter, can't take away all of his aggressiveness, because that would eliminate what he does well.

But can't you at least teach a few situational fundamentals?

Ryan Theriot is a natural leadoff hitter. But Soriano can't hit anything but fastballs, which he sees more of at leadoff. I'd say to keep Soriano at leadoff, where he's comfortable. But at times, he's going to have to do traditional leadoff hitter things.

I was expecting a big playoff series from Soriano, primarily because he'd been so hot in September...Soriano, as I've said before, is one of the streakiest hitters I've ever watched, and when he's locked in and hitting well, he's as dangerous as anyone. I figured he'd keep it up in the playoffs...

T.J. Simers blames the Angels sweep on Mike Scioscia, because he rested regulars down the stretch rather than trying to end up with the best record in the league (and thus home field advantage in the first round).

Our friend Keith Law handicaps the NLCS...short answer is, unless Brandon Webb goes all Mickey Lolich on the Rockies, prepare for yet another team to be scratched off the "never appeared in a World Series" list.

Joe Siegler has some very cool ballpark photos here, including a panoramic shot of TBIA...