Hello, and welcome back to What I’m Watching! If you’re wondering why you haven’t seen this particular feature for a while, it’s simple: there isn’t as much to watch in the summertime, and you probably don’t need me to tell you that I’ve got my eye on the handful of recurrent goings on in our sports universe without the NFL, NBA, NHL, or college sports around.
Now it’s August, the month when business begins to pick up. The Rangers’ slide down the AL West standings still has another month and a half to go, while the Wings and FC Dallas are still in the thick of playoff chases. But there’s Cowboys football, too, vis-à-vis training camp happenings, college football will be back on the menu in a few weeks’ time. That’s more than enough to force me to whittle down my attention to a few key areas.
So, without any further ado, here’s what I’m watching this week.
Monday 8/8 through ???—The Cowboys’ kicker competition—Oxnard, Calif./The Internet
If you tuned in to StrongSide last week, you hopefully made time for Aidan Davis’ fantastic postmortem of Greg Zuerlein’s 2021-22 season. He did not do this because it’s early August, and we’re champing at the bit for any sign of Cowboys improvement a lackluster offseason. He did it because even an average season from Dallas’ well-compensated former kicker might have carried the team to the top seed in the NFC last year.
No, really. Read it if you don’t believe me. And once you have, you’ll have newfound anxiety over the race to the bottom between Jonathan Garibay and Lirim Hajrullahu to fill Zuerlein’s boot. Hajrullahu—it’s pronounced “Hai-roo-lah-hoo”—has been the better of the two thus far, although depending on the day, “better” hasn’t necessarily equated to “good.” As for Garibay, the less said the better:
So while I’m also keeping an eye on the porous receiver depth, the pass rush options beyond Micah Parsons and Tank Lawrence, and a possible linebacker battle between Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox, kicker is position battle with the highest stakes. Because the difference between average and worse can do far more damage than you might realize. Just ask last year’s Cowboys.
Monday, 8/8—Wings vs. Liberty—7 p.m., Bally Sports Southwest
Dorothy Gentry laid out the scenarios for the Wings’ toothpick-thin margin for error to reach the postseason last week as Dallas embarked on a crucial four-game homestand. I’ll share a relevant excerpt for you here:
With the Dream and the Liberty on their heels, the Wings need to win one, if not both, of their upcoming matchups with the Liberty. If they also take care of the last-place Fever, that should be enough.
Dallas did indeed take care of the Fever on Saturday, albeit far less comfortably than you’d expect with Indiana stuck on five wins for the season. They also upset the Aces two days earlier, which means that a win tonight might seal the deal for Dallas’ playoff seeding.
Thursday, 8/11—Rangers at Astros—1:10 p.m., Bally Sports Southwest
We’re popping in to see expected starter Cole Ragans, Jamey Newberg’s 30th-ranked prospect in Texas’ system heading into the season and the latest farmhand hoping to stick around next season.
You know the deal by now: Martín Pérez has pitched like a frontline starter all year, Jon Gray has when he’s been healthy, and Dane Dunning appears to be rounding into a pretty safe back-end type. Presuming Pérez signs an extension, there are still two spots in the rotation to account for and many more in Texas’ floundering bullpen, so why not run a mid-tier arm or three up from the minors to see if they have what it takes to stick around in some kind of role as the system’s upper crust—Jack Leiter, Owen White, Cole Winn, the newly drafted Kumar Rocker and Brock Porter—continues to marinate?
Ragans acquitted himself well in his debut start last Thursday against the White Sox, pitching five innings of shutout ball (albeit with more walks than strikeouts, which doesn’t portend well for staying power). How will the southpaw fare against the team tied for the most wins in the American League heading into the week?