February 2011

The Show Demo Arrives

MLB: The Show ’11 arrived in Demo form on the Playstation Network last week and I finally had a chance to download it and try it out.

The Initial Bad News: It took a two day span to try it out. The thing took FOREVER to download Friday night!

The Second Bad News: I thought my controller wasn’t working right when I first tried the game out. Turned out everything was on “Total Analog” Mode (or maybe it’s “True Analog” Mode), so the controls for hitting and pitching were totally not what I was used to doing. I’d hit the swing button and the batter wouldn’t swing. At all. The pitching controls were totally different as well. Before discovering what was going on, I think I threw about 60 pitches, of which maybe three were strikes. Fielders fielded the ball but wouldn’t throw it. You get the picture.

The First Good News: The Demo has the Rangers in it- facing the Giants, of course, in a World Series rematch (FYI the default is CJ Wilson vs. Tim Lincecum).

The Second Good News: It is not bad in the “Up To Date” category. The Rangers team already had Yorvit Torrealba, Adrien Beltre and Brandon Webb on the roster. The Mike Napoli trade happened after the game was put to bed, so we have Chris Davis instead of Napoli. I didn’t check, but I assume that means it also has Frank Francisco pitching for Texas as well.

The Weird News: Since the Demo Game is being played in San Francisco, there is no DH. That means, in the Default Mode, Michael Young is NOT a part of the line-up. He is, after all, now the DH. You have to manually put him in the line-up. It seems very strange to play any game as the Rangers and not see Young in the line-up. I should get used to it now. I think that will be permanently true in 2012 (if not this year).

So it took awhile, but I finally figured out a few things. First, you can switch in the demo from playing as the Giants to playing as the Rangers. Second, you can go to Game Controls and set everything back to Classic Mode on your controller, which is the way I’m used to playing. It is a little time consuming to do it, but since it’s just a demo designed to get you to buy the game when it comes out, I can live with it.

As always, the overall graphics are wonderful. The Giants stadium looks very realistic and the crowds look less like the same people layered 50 times in the stands. While the players aren’t bad, I still am surprised the faces aren’t as realistic as I thought the technology allowed. Maybe I’m too picky.

I only played a couple of games but saw one new thing in terms of events on the field. I had an at bat where Josh Hamilton fouled a ball at the plate. It bounced into his leg and Ham-Bone went down wincing. Nice subtle feature.

Didn’t check out all the controls, but it seems now you can use all four control buttons in hitting mode. The triangle is now for bunts, while the circle button is now for a “Contact” swing. I gues that’s for trying to stay alive at the plate when you’ve got two strikes. The X button is still normal swing and the square is power swing.

You can still predict the pitch and locationas a batter. Now they’ve added colored hot and cold zones for your batter to better gauge what pitches are good for you to swing at. Pitchers now have as many as three different pick-off moves. I couldn’t get it to work when I played, but I think that’s because I had “Balk” mode turned off. Yes, this year’s edition can have balks called if you so desire. Your pitchers can now take eight warm-up tosses before the inning as well, so you can get an initial feeling on how their control is.

I know there are more new features than I’ve even discovered but, like the great game itself, I like to play (or watch) but don’t feel the need to dig as deep as I can go. I know enough that I plan to get this year’s edition and retire my ’09 version.

 

The Line-Up Changes

There have been two things passing for news so far at the Rangers’ Spring Training Complex in Surprise, Arizona. The first is injuries or what might or might not be injuries (see Omar Beltre’s genetic spine problem and the status of Brandon Webb’s throwing sessions). The second was one pitch and one comment about it- Neftali Feliz’s slider that struck out Mike Napoli in an intra-squad game that has put the “Feliz as a Starter” debate into high heat mode.

So it was with great joy when I finally read some solid news out of Rangers Spring Training Camp and it is this- even if he plays every game of 2011 for Texas, Michael Young will not come close to approaching his usual 700 at bats for the season.

Why? Because Ron Washington was quoted yesterday as saying if injuries aren’t a problem, he expects his line-up to look like this: Ian Kinsler leading off, Elvis Andrus second and Young 6th.

Kinsler leading off is not that much of a surprise. He was in the one hole for most of 2009. The problem then was Kins wasn’t taking a lot of walks and was swinging for the fences a lot. In the end of that campaign Kinsler was a 30 HR 30 steal guy, but his on base percentage was low and his batting average sunk to an all-time low.

In 2010, Kinsler was the #6 batter most of the time. Under Clint Hurdle’s tutelage he started taking pitches and was less homer happy. The result? Very close to an even mix of strikeouts to walks, a higher batting average and a higher OBP.

Now Kinsler goes back to the top of the order and, hopefully, even with Hurdle gone, will remember the lessons and become a true lead-off hitter.

The big surprise is the moving of Andrus to the #2 slot instead of Young. This is what will bear watching in 2011. On the plus side, Andrus has good bat control and he doesn’t strike out much. He also has speed to stay out of double plays, an area where Young is lacking. The downside is Andrus doesn’t have Young’s power, either, so look for a drop-off from MY’s 90 RBI’s in the 2 slot to more like 60 for Andrus.

Moving Young to the 6 slot makes a lot of sense. You still have power after getting through Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz. Then, when you get to the bottom of the order and recycle back to the top, you’ve got four speed guys in a row in Julio Borbon, Kinsler, Andrus and Hamilton.

Even with unhappiness about his role, Young will do what he has to do for the team. The two keys to this are 1) how Andrus adapts to being #2. He succeeded in moving from #9 to #1 last year (although his walks and OBP went into a downward spiral in the 2nd half of the campaign) and 2) whether Kinsler, with his injury history, can keep handling the additional at bats and stay healthy.

My gut feeling is that Wash wants to rest Kinsler an average of once every five games to try to keep him healthy (or try to keep him from getting injured. They aren’t necessarily one and the same). Moving Ian to DH when he isn’t playing second doesn’t make sense. When MY replaces him in the field, that’s when it makes sense for Mike Napoli or David Murphy to DH. What will the batting order be in those cases? Andrus back in lead-off and Young back in the 2 hole? Maybe.

I do know as long as MY stays on the team, Wash has so many more options offensively and pretty much any line-up he puts out there can be a pretty steady run producer. With all the unanswered questions on the pitching staff, that’s a good thing.

Very Punny!

Warning: I take no credit for any of the following. I did not write any of these (although some I wish I had).

Crossword puzzles are a spare time hobby of mine. I’ve been working on a big book of Sunday New York Times Crosswords that was given to me at Christmas. Last night, I worked on a puzzle from 1998 titled “Bases Loaded.” It was constructed by Fran & Lou Sabin. Here is a selection of some of the clues and the answers:

Definition                                                                         Answer

Coffee Filter                                                                     Grounds Keeper

Drama in Three Acts                                                        Triple Play

Plastered at a picnic                                                         High and Outside

Full Shopping Cart                                                            Four Bagger

Apply cosmetics to wild animals                                         Makeup game

December 25th                                                                 Opening Day

Bromo Salesman                                                               Relief Pitcher

 

And my personal favorite:

Robinson and Thomas                                                     Ballpark Franks

Baseball season can’t get here soon enough… 

Games of The Game

I recently discovered, thanks to a posting on ESPN’s Sweet Spot pages, that the famous Strat-o-Matic Baseball board game is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011.

Believe it or not, I have never played Strat-o-Matic Baseball. Many were the years during my adolescence where I would leaf through my annual Street & Smith’s Baseball Preview issue and see the Strat-o-Matic ad and mull over the possibility of ordering it, but I never pulled the trigger and made the buy.

It got me to thinking about all the baseball games I’ve played off the field over the past 40+ years of my life. Here’s the full rundown, from 1969 to the present:


red dice.jpgThe Home-Made Version:
My first year of really following the major leagues was 1969, the year of the Miracle Mets and also the year of expansion, with new clubs in Kansas City, Seattle, Montreal and San Diego. Not having the money to buy any kind of a game, I devised my own simple game: Roll the dice to get the score. “My team” rolled first, “Their Team” second. If a team rolled a one, you rolled again. If it was a one again, then it counted as zero runs. Roll a six, you roll again. If it’s a six again, you roll a third time and add it to the six for the final runs scored. If it came up six again, you repeat the process. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!! I wanted to “build” a team, like an expansion team. So the first year, I’d subtract one from the “My Team” roll and add one to the “Their Team” roll. Thus, if two 5’s were rolled, “My Team” would actually be a 6-4 loser. Year two would see “My Team” still subtract one but “Their Team” would be the actual dice roll. Year three was even footing for both teams. Year 4 would have “My Team” add one and Year 5 would be the opposite of Year One. Now “My Team” added one and “Their Team” subtracted one. This rudimentary game gave me hours of enjoyment writing scores and records on pieces of notebook paper! I’d go through a 162 game season in a night, sometimes two seasons!

Gil Hodges Pennant Fever: Once I got my first paper route, I had some money to
Gil Hodges Pennant Fever.jpgbuy a few things on my own. Strat-o-Matic was still a little out of my price range, but I did have enough to go to my neighborhood Toys R Us to buy Gil Hodges Pennant Fever. Despite being a Washington Senators fan, I chose to play as the Chicago White Sox in this one. You don’t play one of these games as your favorite team when your favorite team sucks! The White Sox at the time had Wilbur Wood and Stan Bahnsen as their top two pitchers, while Dick Allen and Bill Melton were their two heavy hitters. Pennant Fever was a combination dice and card game and they gave the formula for how to rate the players. Over the next few years, Pennant Fever was my game. I’d graduated to doing my own box scores and statistics. When the major league season started, I would update my own team with cryptic 6V, 7X or 8Y ratings (these represented batting average and power ranges). I don’t remember the pitcher ratings anymore, but I’m pretty sure they were based on ERA, hits, walks and strikeouts.


Baseball Pinball Game.jpgB
aseball Pinball:
When my friends and I went to the local bowling alley (the place with the cigarette vending machine that we could get away with using), we would usually drop a few quarters into the Baseball Pinball machine. I really loved how they put it together to allow for everything from singles to home runs. Nothing beat that feeling when you swung at the ball and it hit the ramp and over the home run wall. I still remember hitting a home run in a haze of bowling alley cigarette smoke while the jukebox played Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4″. The things we choose to remember…


Avalon Hills Statis-Pro Game.jpgAvalon Hills Statis-Pro:
The first baseball board game of my adulthood. I had been introduced to Avalon Hills games in college. They were more adult in nature and I enjoyed a couple in particular. Now that I was a fulltime working man and could afford a good baseball board game, I once again perused my Street & Smith’s, this time for the express purpose of getting a game. As always, Strat-o-Matic was there, but I decided against them because Avalon Hills had a slicker looking ad (let that be a lesson to you marketers out there!). Statis-Pro didn’t use dice at all, if I recall correctly. It was strictly cards. There were play cards, result cards, and individual player cards. This time, I would play as the San Diego Padres- they had Randy Jones pitching and Dave Winfield batting, and again, the Texas Rangers sucked at the time. It took about 20-30 minutes to play a 9-inning solitaire game of Statis-Pro. I still kept box scores and stats (Statis-Pro provided scorecards for the games) and once actually compiled an entire 162 game season. Like Gil Hodges Pennant Fever, my experience was the good pitchers and batters compiled better stats and the others performed worse than expected, so if you were playing with a good team, their record would be better than in real life. Either that or I played the game really well! Statis-Pro also gave you the formula to make your own player cards, but this time I chose to order new cards every year. I think I played this game for about five years.


Foto+Baseball+Simulator+1_000.jpgBaseball Simulator 1.000:
In the 90’s I bought my first Nintendo. I bought three different baseball games for the Nintendo and this is one became my favorite. They weren’t real MLB teams, but it was fun. I played with the regular teams, but you could also set up “Outer Space” teams. These teams featured players with special powers. I would play that one for fun, but preferred to do a season with the regular teams. When the Super Nintendo came out, I’d play the Super NES version with my sons. We had one rule- everybody had to pitch straight, no putting curves on the ball, just to make it “fair”. On the other end of the spectrum, one time 17-Year-Ranger-Fan challenged me to a game with the outer space teams. Little did I know he had set up a team full of players who had “Cannonball” abilities- their hits would go straight to center field and send the center fielder into the wall and bounce back. It was impossible to get an out on “Cannonball” guy! Needless to say, I stopped playing the game with him after that!


mechanical_baseball_game-732965.jpgMechanical Baseball Pinball:
Time to relive the teen years in the bowling alley. A few years ago, my wife surprised me at Christmas with this stand-alone version of that pinball game of so many years ago. I never played this one much, but I loved the thought that went into the gift!


EB_MLB09_PS3_Cover.jpgMLB: The Show:
That brings us to today. The second game I bought after we got a Playstation 3 in the house was MLB: The Show ’09. Sadly, video games are mostly made for the young. As a 2-player game I can hold my own. As a single player game against the computer, I don’t do well, even set on an easy level. Because of my slower reaction times, I have to decide earlier in the pitch whether to swing or not. Thus, I see the pitch, and oftentimes, it doesn’t start heading out of the strike zone until after I have committed to hitting the swing button! In Road To The Show mode, I don’t think I’ve ever had a player hit over .278. More often than not, my players hit more in the .230 range. Suggestion to Manufacturer: In Rock Band, you can calibrate your instruments to when you see notes hit the fret bar. Can’t something similar be done for MLB: The Show? Or can you come up with a setting designed for the older set? You might sell more games that way! I still have the ’09 version, but am thinking about getting the 2011 update this year (especially if there’s a Ranger on the cover)! Oh, by the way. In this game, I am finally playing as the Texas Rangers!

 

 

Are Rangers Headed For Lower Run Production?

I’m the first to admit, I’m not a sabremetric guy. Not that I don’t love stats, I really do. In fact, there’s another column kicking in my brain in which I’ll be throwing some stats out there, but mostly of the traditional kind.

I think it was Mark Twain who once said, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” If one really wanted to make a case, they can take all kinds of statistics to make that case. Every one of them can make perfect sense, and yet the conclusion be totally inaccurate. That’s why I often stick to the tried and true basic statistics of baseball for my enjoyment. That plus the fact that some of these new statistics require a Masters degree just to understand.

Over the past couple of years, I have started to become more knowledgeable on such new-fangled statistics such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage), while others drift on the outskirts of my consciousness like BABIP, FIP and wOBP.

So I’m browsing through the baseball blogosphere, when I came across a story at beyondtheboxscore.com which has to do with something called the Batter Regress Tool. This is apparently a tool someone devised that uses a variety of categories from the previous three years to try to predict expected performance in the upcoming season.

According to this, the Rangers offense is set for a downgrade in 2011, the biggest downgrade of any team in the majors, as a matter of fact. According to this Batter Regress Tool, many Rangers- in particular Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre- had years beyond their norms (in other words, they had more luck on their side than most) and are due to regress back to their norm in 2011.

All in all, this tool predicts a drop in run production of an astounding 39 runs. The Angels, on the other hand, are predicted to have an uptick of 11 runs in 2011. Overall, that would be a swing of 50 runs, which could indicate a much tighter AL West race.

With all due respect, I disagree with the conclusions of this tool. The problem with tools of this sort is I don’t see where injuries are taken into account. For example, on the face of it, it’s easy to predict a bit of a regression for Josh Hamilton. After all, a .359 average doesn’t come along every day and Hamilton won the batting title with a lot of room to spare. On the other hand, if this tool is using the 3-year average of 2008-2010 to predict Hamilton, remember that Hamilton missed almost half of the 2009 season with injuries, so it would be natural for this measurement to expect Hamlton to perform even lower than the slight regression I see for him in 2011.

I’m also a bit surprised Nelson Cruz is picked for as much of a regression as he is. Cruz had a very successful 2010 on the face of it, with 22 HR, 78 RBI and a .318 average. Cruz also spent three different stints on the disabled list in 2010. So, assuming a healthier year (and I’ll even grant one trip to the DL here), even if Cruz’ batting average falls in 2011, his run production is likely to improve.

Lastly, there’s Beltre. Being a new Ranger, I don’t know as much about him. I sure have heard ad nauseum about how he performs best only in his “contract years” and last year was one of those for Beltre. Here, though, I tend to take the ballpark into account. Beltre spent 2010 playing half his games in Fenway Park, a hitter’s park, after spending the year previous playing half his games at Safeco Field in Seattle, one of the majors’ pitcher-friendliest parks. Now he takes his game to another hitter’s park, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Thus, while Beltre may is likely to fall from the lofty .322-28-102 heights of last year, I don’t think his run production will fall as much as the Regression Tool would indicate. Hitting in between Hamilton and Cruz should help a lot too.

None of these predictions can really take injuries into account. If injuries are severe enough, sure the Rangers could score 39 less runs, maybe even more, in 2011. If everything goes right, though, I don’t really see much of a drop-off in run production this year, no matter what some statistical programs might say.

We Interrupt The Michael Young Story…

There is joy in Arlington, mighty Josh-y has signed on.

There will be no Valentines Day arbitration case. The Rangers and Josh Hamilton have agreed on a 2-year, $24 million dollar contract.

The signing means there will also be no potentially contentious arbitration case to worry about next year, giving the club and Hamilton a longer window to sign a long-term deal before he becomes eligible for free agency following the 2012 season.

This one’s a win-win for both Hamilton and the Rangers. Hamilton gets a hefty dose of financial security for the next two years. The Rangers, meanwhile, can see if Hamilton can have two good seasons in a row before discussing a four year or longer deal.

Once again, the Rangers have everyone signed before Spring Training, with no arbitration hearings. Now if a certain DH/Super Utility infielder can just be happy (or at least accepting of current realities), we can all go to Arizona in a positive frame of mind.

Michael vs. the GM

Because even in the midst of chaos, we always need to lighten up… Enjoy!

  

http://www.xtranormal.com/site_media/players/jwplayer.swfhttp://www.xtranormal.com/site_media/players/embedded-xnl-stats.swf

24 Hours Later.

In the afterglow of seeing the team I wanted to win the Super Bowl succeed in doing so, combined with the luck of winning the office numbers pool in said game, comes the first official word that Michael Young has told the Rangers he is unhappy with his role on the 2011 club and feels moving on will be in his best interests.

Just a day ago, I expounded on all the speculation concerning a Young deal, how there were no hard facts and, particularly, no word from the man himself on such a deal.

Now, the Fort Worth Star Telegram is reporting Young has made his feelings known to the Rangers brass and a trade is being pursued.

Looking at other fan sites as I do, there seems to be a pretty even split amongst Rangers fans about Michael Young. They even seem to resemble opinions of the George W. Bush administration- those on Young’s side love him and feel he can do no wrong and the others hate him (many amongst the SABR community seem to make a case for Young being one of the most over-rated players in history).

I’m on the side of being for Young, but perhaps on the more moderate side. I admire Young and feel he has a lot left in the tank, but I also would welcome a trade IF it goes to improving this club for 2011. And in this case, I don’t think it will.

Young demanding a trade puts the Rangers in a position of weakness. They would have to settle for less than what they should get for a player of Young’s caliber AND will have to eat a good portion of his $16 million dollar a year salary over the next three years to boot. Not a win-win situation, is it?

I can understand Young’s position- he still sees himself as an asset on the field, being a fulltime DH now could affect how much he could get in his next contract three years from now, maybe even feeling disrespected by the Rangers front office- but that doesn’t make me any more anxious or willing to trade him.

Some say leadership on a team is over-rated. I disagree. Since businesses always use sports analogies, I’ll use a business analogy. I could have a great boss- someone who keeps me motivated and helps me enjoy working for the company- but sometimes you need that person in your own ranks who does the stuff the boss wants you to do that you really don’t want to do. They do it, they do it without complaint and help you see how that helped the company. That is Michael Young.

If Young indeed is traded, I don’t see the people on the 2011 roster who will be that guy for the Rangers. Josh Hamilton is the bona-fide star of the team, but he doesn’t embrace that leadership role. I think he doesn’t have to change much to be the true leader on this team, but I can’t help but think Josh has a mental block that he wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be followed because of his past. Elvis Andrus is said to have leadership qualities, but he’s still too young for the job (no pun intended). The next closest I see to that type of leader is Matt Treanor, a career back-up.

What worries me is the leadership void that losing Young (and Vlad Guerrero before him) and the effect that will have on the team as it tries to defend its first AL Championship. Replacing Young and Guerrero is more than replacing the numbers they put up in 2010. Even if we replace the numbers, this year’s Rangers might not have what it takes. And that would be a shame.

NOTE ON A PREVIOUS POST: A couple weeks ago, I expounded on the case of non-Ranger and minor league free agent Matt Miller and how I hoped he would find a taker considering his minor league numbers. Turns out he was no longer a free agent at all. Despite my constant searches online (sometimes it’s not as easy to find stuff as you think), it was only two days ago I discovered Miller had signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in November. Unfortunately, it didn’t come with a 40-Man roster slot, but the Phillies aren’t deep in the outfield slots so he could get a chance with a strong Spring Training.

“The Face” Becomes “The Story”

Michael Young.jpg
                                   “The Face” of the Texas Rangers

It’s amazing what a World Series appearance does for a team on the national stage. Just in the past week alone, two of the top stories in baseball have been “The War of Words” between Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg and the Yankees and “The Michael Young Trade”. I don’t remember the Rangers ever getting this much oress from the national media in January. Heck, I don’t even remember the Rangers getting this much press in January from the LOCAL media!

I really don’t know if the Rangers are getting ready to trade Michael Young or not. What I DO know is that NONE of the speculation being reported by national writers and broadcasters has come from the Rangers side!

The story first cropped up during the Winter Meetings and was quickly quashed as just names being brought up as they always are when possible trades are discussed. Hey, if you don’t ask about someone you’ll never know, right?

It came up again the day the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to a 6-year contract and announced that Young would, in 2011, become the Rangers primary DH and play a “Super Utility” role on the Rangers infield. Young said it wasn’t an ideal situation for him, but he was a Ranger through and through and was willing to make the move, with the hope of becoming a fulltime field player again in the future.

“The Story” took on a life of its own, however, the day the Rangers traded Frank Francisco to the Blue Jays for Mike Napoli. As I stated in a post at the time, I didn’t see it as a threat to Young. I saw it as a great way to give the Rangers incredible versatility in their line-up on a day to day basis, as a platoon first baseman, a DH when Young plays the field and a catcher if one of the other two catchers went down with an injury.

Harold Reynolds of MLB TV was the first of the national media I heard chime in that day, saying Young should now DEMAND a trade because there was no reason to obtain Napoli except to take at bats away from Young. Since then, we have heard a deal with the Rockies is imminent, but then again maybe it isn’t. That maybe the Rockies aren’t the only ones in the mix for Young, that he could go to the A’s… or the Angels… or the Blue Jays… or the Dodgers!

The only way trading Michael Young makes sense is if 1) he demanded a trade; 2) if they don’t deal him by May, Young becomes a 10-5 player who can veto ANY trade if he so desires; and 3) if they either get a frontline starting pitcher in return or a DH who can equal his 20+ HR’s and 90 RBI in the offense.

The reasons a Young trade DON’T make sense are 1) Young is the Rangers bona fide leader on the field, an intangible that could have a disastrous effect on the clubhouse; 2) every piece of media speculation indicates the Rangers would have to add dollars to the deal to help the other team offset Young’s $16 million salary over the next 3 years, which means any deal would make little financial sense; and 3) if they don’t get a frontline pitcher or replacement DH, as most reports indicate they won’t, the Rangers won’t be improving the team, which GM Jon Daniels says is the goal of every deal the Rangers make.

Replacing Young with Napoli straight up at the DH slot doesn’t add up. Young routinely is in the line-up for 600+ AB’s every year, while Napoli’s only had a high of 453, which was last year. He also hit only .238 last year. Platooning Napoli with David Murphy at DH? Maybe, but then the Rangers lose the versatility the line-up has right now with Young still on the team.

Maybe Young is unhappy. Maybe he does want a trade. The thing is, in all the reports making the news these days, who are we not hearing from at all? Young and the Rangers, that’s who.

The Rangers have become famously tight-lipped over the past two years. Cliff Lee? Everyone assumed he was going to be a Yankee at mid-season last year until the Rangers came in and got him. Adrian Beltre? Assumed to be an Angel, until the day before the Rangers announced his signing. January’s trade for Napoli? Not on ANYONE’s radar in the national media.

As for Young? Maybe he learned a lesson when he publicly demanded a trade when he was first asked to move to third base to make way for Elvis Andrus and is keeping his feelings private. But maybe not. Have any of these reports indicated the writer has even bothered to ask Young what he thinks about it or what he knows? Not a one. If they had, they would at least say something along the lines of, “Young declined to comment on the matter.”

Here’s what HAS been said. Michael Young has stated he wants to remain a Ranger for the rest of his career. Ron Washington says Michael Young is the straw that stirs the Rangers coffee. Jon Daniels says the Rangers have no plans to deal Young this year. Nolan Ryan says Michael Young is going to be the Rangers DH at the Season Opener against the Red Sox on April 1st.

Until I see something actually happen, I think I’ll trust the words from that last paragraph before I trust any of the others I’ve read and heard lately.

Countdown To Valentines Day

We’re in the famous Dead Zone of the off-season. Most of the free agents are signed, trades are few and far between, Spring Training is still a couple weeks away. Not much going on.

We are, however, mere days away (12 to be exact) from Valentines Day. Rangers fans actually don’t want to hear any news on Valentines Day because, if there is, it can mean only one thing: the Rangers and Josh Hamilton couldn’t come to a contract agreement and his case will be heard by an arbitrator on the 14th.

 

Hamilton Valentine Calendar.jpg

Hamilton is a tricky case in that his troubled past could mean he never gets in the rarefied contract air of the A-Rods, Cliff Lees and Albert Pujols of the world. The reigning MVP had an incredible season in 2010, but still has a ton of what-ifs hanging over his head- what if he relapses… what if he continues having health problems… what if he can’t string together back to back great seasons.

Hamilton is already 29 years old, an age where most stars get the best contracts they’re ever going to get, but Hamilton is just in his first arbitration year. He won’t reach free agency until he’s 32. By then, he could get an Adrian Beltre type contract, which would be pretty darn good, but not in the upper startosphere of salaries.

Here’s where we stand right now. The Rangers are offering between 8-9 million, Hamilton’s asking for 12 million. The Rangers haven’t had to go to arbitration in about nine years, so there is definitely talking going on right now between the two parties. The big question is, for how much and for how long?

My feeling is the Rangers sign Hamilton before the Valentines Day arbitration date and that he signs for three years at about $36 million- $10 million in ’11, $12 million in ’12 and $14 million in ’13. It could be he’ll sign for two years, hoping if he stays healthy both years, he’ll get that one shot at the “real” money contract. I just don’t want a Valentines Day disappointment of an adversarial meeting of the front office and the team’s premium player.

On a more fun note, the trailer is out for the 2011 version of MLB: The Show and it features the Rangers in all their glory. Check it out if you get the chance: http://www.ign.com/videos/2011/01/31/mlb-11-the-show-gameplay-trailer?objectid=95027

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