I remember when Deion Sanders, who will be inducted tomorrow into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, signed with the Cowboys. It was a very good 1995 Dallas team, one that had won two of the previous three Super Bowls, but it was weak at cornerback.
When Deion arrived – not until mid-season, in fact, due to an ankle issue – it turned a weakness into a strength. With Kevin Smith out for the season (blown Achilles tendon), Larry Brown had been covering the number one receiver and Clayton Holmes was starting alongside him. Brown covering the number two guy and Holmes in the slot was far more bearable.
Watching Prime do his thing, in coverage and on offense and in the return game, took a while to get used to and fully appreciate, but there were moments of awesome right away. And another Super Bowl victory months later.
I thought about all that yesterday while watching the Rangers’ mid-season additions, Koji Uehara and Mike Adams (a 17-year-old Cowboys diehard the year Deion arrived), do what they do. Uehara entered in a key spot in the seventh, and needed three pitches (all strikes) to retire pinch-hitter Magglio Ordonez, who stood in as the tying run. Adams needed eight pitches (six strikes) to take care of the eighth inning, facing the Tigers’ 2-3-4-5 hitters.
Like Brown and Holmes, I’m far more comfortable with Yoshinori Tateyama and Mark Lowe available in the middle innings than when they were responsible for the seventh and eighth. The middle-inning situation is now fortified, too.
And the thing about new situational reliever Darren Oliver is that he’s actually been better against right-handed hitters this year (.214/.267/.274) than lefties (.237/.262/.356). So when he was called on with one out in the seventh to get Ramon Santiago, to move him to his less productive right side, that was fine, as was Detroit’s predictable insertion of right-handed slugger Jhonny Peralta to pinch-hit in Santiago’s place as the tying run. Oliver got Peralta to pop out to shortstop, and his five-pitch day was done, as Uehara was called on to get Ordonez.
The solid work turned in by Uehara and Adams set Neftali Feliz up for his: 11 strikes in a 16-pitch ninth, including four swinging strikes, two of which ended at-bats. That was good Nef.
All told, the Rangers’ Cerberus fired 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing one hit (a Miguel Cabrera single through the box) and no walks while fanning a pair. The other five outs: four on the ground, one in the air.
What would the division standings look like if Texas had this sort of bullpen power all year? Not a worthwhile exercise to think about, actually: The more realistic hypothetical to ponder over is probably what the AL West would look like today if the Angels had signed Adrian Beltre, whom they could have and should have brought aboard – which would have meant they wouldn’t have then traded Mike Napoli (and Frosty Rivera) for Vernon Wells’s contract.
Add Beltre and Napoli to Los Angeles and subtract them from Texas (adding, say, Vladimir Guerrero and Matt Treanor). Where are things then?
Do we really want to know the answer?
I leave you with this anachronistic pair of photos, neither of which has anything to do with Deion Sanders but gives me one more chance to tie the Rangers and Cowboys together, for a reason that’s been on my mind for years but lately is coming into much sharper focus:
Don’t take these guys for granted. We’re right in the middle of the Good Old Days.