November 2011

New Beginnings, New Endings

Here’s what I love about Jon Daniels and the Texas Rangers front office- they are full of surprises!

You can read all you want about Hot Stove activity, listen to MLB radio, have ESPN and MLB TV attached at your hip on your Smartphone and still be totally surprised at the announcements that come from the Rangers.

A year ago, when the baseball world was intent on the Rangers’ pursuit of Cliff Lee, out of nowhere came the trade with the Blue Jays that brought Mike Napoli to Texas.

In 2011, while all the talk has been focused on Texas’ efforts to re-sign CJ Wilson and whether or not the Rangers are serious players for either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, again Jon Daniels pulls a rabbit out of his hat and announces the signing of former Twins closer Joe Nathan to a two-year deal with a third year option.

The trickle-down effect is immediate. Nathan has been signed to be the closer, putting former closer Neftali Feliz on a collision course to being one of the Rangers’ starters in 2012. Texas also announced Alexi Ogando will not be returning to the bullpen in 2012. Thus, the Rangers already have a starting five, even if they don’t ink Wilson to a new deal: Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Ogando and Feliz.

Moving Feliz into the rotation was discussed a year ago. In fact, Feliz was stretched out as a starter throughout Spring Training before the brass decided they needed him more in the bullpen. With Nathan’s signing, that obstacle has been removed.

Nathan’s 2011 stats don’t look that impressive after returning from Tommy John surgery: a 4.54 ERA and only 14 saves for the Twins. They look a lot better, though, if you take April out of the equation. Nathan ended the first month of the 2011 season with an ERA of 10.00 and two blown saves. From May through September, though, he was 11 for 12 in Save Opportunities with a 3.53 ERA, 7 walks and 36 strikeouts in 35.2 innings, with a .213 Batting Average Against and a 1.01 WHIP. Even if Nathan struggles out of the gate in 2012, Mike Adams will provide able back-up as a closer.

I would bet the Rangers are hoping Derek Holland is ready to step up and be the #1 starter after his outstanding World Series performance, with Lewis #2 and so on. Scouts have said Feliz could have #1 starter stuff, but he’s going to have to prove it and will probably start the year in the #4 or #5 slot.

This isn’t to say Texas won’t be signing another starter. Wilson could still come back, although it appears less likely right now. I still hold out hope for Mark Buehrle to come the Rangers’ way, but I don’t know if that will happen or not. If Texas signs another starter, it could mean Matt Harrison would be traded. Or it could give Texas the luxury of letting Feliz start 2012 at the AAA level to get used to being a starter before bringing him up for the second half of the season.

Whatever the end result will be heading into Spring Training, I’m willing to bet there will be more surprises coming. Maybe that’s why the Rangers have Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona.

A Managerial Travesty, Part 2

Thanks to those who have commented on my previous article. Today I want to take it one step further, but I do need to issue a correction.

While the numbers are still a travesty as far as I’m concerned, after further research I find they’re slightly, and I mean only slightly better. In my original analysis, I considered Davey Lopes and Jerry Manuel to be Hispanic managers. Looking into it further, I realized Lopes is of African descent and Manuel also considers himself an African-American. My apologies for not having them on the original list. I also failed to make note of Dave Clark, who served on an interim basis in Houston after the Astros fired Cecil Cooper in 2009.

Still, the fact remains that only 15 African-Americans have attained the position of major league baseball manager since 1975, when Frank Robinson was hired as the first fulltime African-American manager. That’s only 15 in 36 years. In addition, only 15 Hispanics have been named to an MLB managing post in the same time frame, as well as the previously mentioned Don Wakamatsu as the first and only Asian-American. That’s a total of 31. In that time, a total of 173 men attained their first MLB mangerial position. Thus, combined, only about 18% of MLB managerial jobs since 1975 have gone to minorities.

Below is the list, as derived from baseball-reference.com. Most were hired as fulltime managers. There were a few who just served as interim managers. In those cases, I only considered those who managed for more than ten games in their careers. However, if I had considered them all, regardless of how many games they managed, the percentages would be much worse.

Year Anglo African-American Hispanic Asian-American
1975 Harvey Kuenn      
1975   Frank Robinson    
1975 Connie Ryan      
1976 Joe Frazier      
1976 Karl Kuehl      
1976 Tom Lasorda      
1976 Norm Sherry      
1977 Joe Altobelli      
1977     Dave Garcia  
1977 Roy Hartsfield      
1977 Billy Hunter      
1977 Vernon Rapp      
1977 Jeff Torborg      
1977 Joe Torre      
1978 George Bamberger      
1978 Ken Boyer      
1978     Pat Corrales  
1978 Bobby Cox      
1978 Roger Craig      
1978   Larry Doby    
1978 Jim Fregosi      
1978 Dick Howser      
1979 Joey Amalfitano      
1979 Dallas Green      
1979 Don Kessinger      
1979 Tony LaRussa      
1980 Jerry Coleman      
1980 Jim Frey      
1980 Johnny Goryl      
1980 Bobby Mattick      
1980 Buck Rodgers      
1980   Maury Wills    
1981 Jim Fanning      
1981 Billy Gardner      
1981 Frank Howard      
1981 Rene Lachemann      
1981 Gene Michael      
1982 Lee Elia      
1982 Bob Lillis      
1982 Russ Nixon      
1983 Steve Boros      
1983 Mike Ferraro      
1983 Doug Rader      
1984 Chuck Cottier      
1984 Davey Johnson      
1984 Jackie Moore      
1984 Pete Rose      
1985 Jim Davenport      
1985 John Felske      
1985 Eddie Haas      
1985 Ray Miller      
1985 Cal Ripken      
1985 Bobby Valentine      
1985 Bobby Wine      
1986 Tom Kelly      
1986 Hal Lanier      
1986 Jim Leyland      
1986 Lou Piniella      
1986 Tom Trebelhorn      
1986 John Vukovich      
1986 Jimy Williams      
1987 Larry Bowa      
1987 Doc Edwards      
1987 John Wathan      
1988 Tommy Helms      
1988 Joe Morgan      
1988     Cookie Rojas  
1988 Jim Snyder      
1989 Bucky Dent      
1989   Cito Gaston    
1989 John Hart (Interim)      
1989 Art Howe      
1989 Jim Lefebvre      
1989 Nick Leyva      
1990 Bud Harrelson      
1990 Stump Merrill      
1990 Greg Riddoch      
1991 Jim Essian      
1991 Mike Hargrove      
1991   Hal McRae    
1991 Johnny Oates      
1991 Tom Runnells      
1991 Bob Schaefer      
1991 Gene Tenace      
1992     Felipe Alou  
1992 Phil Garner      
1992 Toby Harrah (Interim)      
1992 Butch Hobson      
1992 Gene Lamont      
1992 Bill Plummer      
1992 Jim Riggleman      
1992 Buck Showalter      
1993   Dusty Baker    
1993   Don Baylor    
1993 Kevin Kennedy      
1993     Tony Perez  
1994 Terry Collins      
1994 Marcel Lachemann      
1995 Terry Bevington      
1995 Bruce Bochy      
1995 Bob Boone      
1995 Mike Jorgensen      
1995 Phil Regan      
1996 Buddy Bell      
1996 Ray Knight      
1996 Joe Maddon      
1996 Bill Russell      
1997 Larry Dierker      
1997 Terry Francona      
1997 Tony Muser      
1998 Glenn Hoffman      
1998 Tim Johnson      
1998   Jerry Manuel    
1998 Larry Parrish      
1998 Larry Rothschild      
1999 Matt Galante (Interim)      
2000   Davey Lopes    
2000        
2000 Mike Scioscia      
2001 Bob Brenly      
2001 Joe Kerrigan      
2001     Buck Martinez  
2001   Lloyd McLendon    
2001 Jerry Narron      
2001 Jim Tracy      
2002 Ron Gardenhire      
2002 Clint Hurdle      
2002 Bruce Kimm      
2002 Grady Little      
2002 John Mizerock      
2002     Tony Pena  
2002     Luis Pujols  
2002   Jerry Royster    
2002 Joel Skinner      
2002     Carlos Tosca  
2003 Ken Macha      
2003 Bob Melvin      
2003 Dave Miley      
2003 Alan Trammell      
2003 Eric Wedge      
2003 Ned Yost      
2004 John Gibbons      
2004     Ozzie Guillen  
2004 Lee Mazzilli      
2004     Al Pedrique (Interim)  
2005 Pete Mackanin      
2005 Sam Perlozzo      
2005   Willie Randolph    
2006 Joe Girardi      
2007     Manny Acta  
2007 Bud Black      
2007   Cecil Cooper    
2007 Bob Geren      
2007     Fredi Gonzalez  
2007 John McLaren      
2007 Dave Trembley      
2007   Ron Washington    
2008 Trey Hillman      
2008 John Russell      
2008 Dale Sveum (Interim)      
2009   Dave Clark (Interim)    
2009 A.J. Hinch      
2009       Don Wakamatsu
2010 Daren Brown (Interim)      
2010 Kirk Gibson      
2010 Brad Mills      
2010 Mike Quade      
2010     Edwin Rodriguez  
2010     Juan Samuel (Interim)  
2011 John Farrell      
2011 Don Mattingly      
2011 Ron Roenicke      

 

A Managerial Travesty

Texas Rangers’ skipper Ron Washington finished 3rd in the AL Manager of the Year voting. That’s not a travesty. He actually did a little better than I expected. I thought maybe even Joe Girardi of the Yankees would finish ahead of Wash. It’s the nature of the Manager of the Year voting that the winner is usually the manager of a team that did surprisingly well, which the Tampa Bay Rays did, so Joe Maddon was deserving of the honor (I sadly forgot to put Maddon on my ballot in the BBA voting for AL Manager of the Year, an omission I regret).

The headline does say “A Managerial Travesty”, though, and there is one to write about, but it only has to do with Ron Washington in a tangential way. When the Rangers made the post-season for the second consecutive season, it occurred to me that not many African-American managers have been to the post-season in consecutive seasons. I decided, therefore, to look up where Wash stacked up on the list of African-American managers. The results both surprised me and filled me with dismay.

I checked online and didn’t find a single source listing all the African-American managers in MLB history on one page (if there is one, I didn’t find it), so I had to look up every major league team’s managerial history separately.

Frank Robinson was the first African-American manager in major league history, when he became player-manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. That was 36 years ago.

Ron Washington: 5th in Wins Among African-American Managers

Here’s what surprised me: In his five years as manager of the rangers, Ron Washington already ranks fifth in wins among African-American managers with 427 regular season wins. The only ones ahead of Wash on the list now are Dusty Baker (1,483), Robinson (1,065), Cito Gaston (913) and Don Baylor (627). That’s the good news if you’re a Wash fan like me.

The bad news hit me shortly thereafter. It only took five years for Wash to rank fifth in all-time wins? That’s when it hit me. Unless there’s someone I’m missing, it appears that in the 36 years since the color barrier was broken in the MLB managing ranks, there have been a grand total of 12 African-American managers in baseball. Twelve in 36 years. Only four of them (Robinson, Baker, Baylor and Hal McRae) have managed more than one team in the managing careers. Gaston managed the same team, the Toronto Blue Jays, twice. That means the other eight were given one chance and one chance alone at managing and were never given a second opportunity.

Every business uses networking in their hiring practices. At its worst, networking is known as “The Good Ol’ Boy Network”, which has been used to hire the overwhelmingly Anglo-American group of managers, many of whom seem to easily recycle from one job to another to another. MLB has seen more Hispanic managers hired in recent years, to which they should be applauded. Don Wakamatsu was the first manager of Asian-American heritage to be hired when he skippered the Mariners in 2009 and part of 2010. Yet the dearth of African-Americans vying for managerial positions continues to be abysmal.

Washington and Baker are the only African-American managers in the majors right now. The Cubs and Cardinals have both hired Anglos as their new managers. The only other available slot as of this writing is in Boston, where the candidates seemingly at the top of the list are Anglos as well.

Twelve African-American managers in 36 years. MLB has to do better.

Homework Assignments

Even when you get to the majors, ballplayers are given off-season assignments by their coaches and manager. Not to be outdone, it seems the fans should have a little bit of input into this tradition. Herewith, then, some things this fan would like to see some of his favorite Rangers work on over the off-season.

Elvis Andrus: The only Elvis ever to play in the World Series now has three major league seasons under his belt at the ripe old age of 22. Elvis, I love you, but I’d love you more if you did a couple of things for me. First, it’s imperative you improve your defense in 2012. You’re already a pretty good shortstop and have better range than almost anyone else out there, but you have a tendency to make your worst throws on some of your most routine plays. Cut those down and you’re a Gold Glove winner waiting to happen. Also, if it’s not too much to ask, I know you’re never going to be a power hitter. That’s OK, there are plenty of power hitters on the team. I would, however, like to see you work on your strength a little bit so we can get a few more extra base hits out of you. You set a career high in 2011 with 27 doubles, but that’s really not a lot. Can you try to improve to about 35 doubles in 2012? That’d make me real happy.

Nelson Cruz: Nellie, there’s one thing and one thing alone I want from you. Do some research. Make a worldwide search to find the one person who can keep your hamstrings in the right place. Dude, five DL trips in two years, all due to the hammys. There’s got to be someone out there who can help you. Get those squared away and I might be able to forgive that bad read you had on the ball in Game 6.

Mike Napoli: I have absolutely no idea what to tell you to do this off-season, except maybe exactly what you did for a training regimen last off-season. You’re coming off a career year and, much as I’d like to see that every year, career years only usually happen once. I don’t expect you to repeat your in-season numbers, but if you can replicate your off-season, maybe it’ll keep you close enough to make us all happy.

Matt Harrison: You had a great 2011, but when it came to the World Series, you started getting that deer in the headlights look. Matt, CJ may not be back and you may be expected to improve even more in 2012 to make up for his loss. See a sports shrink, do some meditation, whatever it takes to keep the same bulldog attitude you showed all the way up to the World Series. And this time, keep that attitude throughout the sports season as well.

Mike Maddux: Don’t take the Cubs job. Stay in Arlington. This is purely selfish on my part. I’m not ready for you to better your career. One more year. Give me one more year and I think I’ll be better able to let you go elsewhere. Or not.

Julio Borbon: Thought I’d forgotten you existed, didn’t you? No, I know you’re still around and I know you’re with the Rangers on borrowed time with Leonys Martin breathing down your neck. Use that to motivate you. Give us a 2012 that makes us say, “Wow, that’s who we always wanted in center field” or at least “Now we can finally get a decent return in a trade for him.”

Neftali Feliz: Don’t worry about whether you’re the closer or a starter. Just go back to being the consistent pitcher we saw in 2010. Your command disappeared in 2011. Figure out how to get it back. And make sure you’ve totally shaken off your Game 6 performance before Spring Training. We don’t need residual doubt lingering around the club.

Koji Uehara: I know you want to go back to Baltimore. I understand your comfort level is there. If Jon Daniels can’t get a deal done, though, be a professional, deal with it and figure out how to make it work in Texas. You didn’t handle the move in 2011. If you’re here another year, you owe it to this club to get over your discomfort.

I’m sure I could dole out more assignments, but it’s Wednesday and down here, that’s church night, so homework assignments aren’t as heavy as other nights of the week.

Sizing Up The Free Agents

The Hot Stove League has begun and, if you know anything about the Texas Rangers, it is this: Whatever you’re hearing in terms of buzz, it’s mostly speculation. Because once the Rangers make a move, it tends to be a surprise to everyone.

Last year in the off-season, the speculation was whether Cliff Lee would re-sign with the Rangers. Texas put on a hard-court press to get Lee to re-up with them. That IS what was reported. What nobody saw coming was what followed losing out on the Lee sweepstakes: the trade with Toronto that brought Mike Napoli to Texas and the signing of Adrian Beltre to a 5-year contract when just about every media source pegged Beltre as going to the Angels.

Jon Daniels is a cagey GM who is constantly thinking three moves ahead. If Plan A doesn’t work out, Daniels already has Plans B, C and maybe even D in mind. He also has a penchant for hammering out double moves, such as two years ago when he shipped Kevin Millwood and much of his salary to the Baltimore Orioles and used the salary savings and immediately signed Rich Harden to a one-year deal.

With new ownership having deep pockets and a team that’s been to back-to-back World series, it’s inevitable the Rangers are considered to be in the mix for just about every free agent out there this off-season. Already, Texas is being mentioned as a suitor for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, two of the biggest names out there. It makes sense from the standpoint that first base is the Rangers’ weakest offensive position. I’m almost willing to bet we will NOT see Pujols or Fielder in a Rangers uniform.

Even with more money to work with (ownership has already as much as committed to a $100 million plus payroll in 2012), I’m pretty sure Daniels is smart enough to know it’s still all about spending money smartly and that doesn’t always translate into the big-dollar guys.

First, let’s take a look at the Rangers’ own free agents and the likelihood of being re-signed.

Endy Chavez: Chavez was  a great comeback story, returning from two years of injuries to ably replace Julio Borbon when he went on the DL in May. Chavez probably did better in 2011 than Borbon would have had he not been injured. Still, Chavez is unlikely to return to the fold. The Rangers still have Craig Gentry as a back-up outfielder, Borbon will be back and Cuban defector Leonys Martin is already knocking ont he door waiting for his chance to roam center field. Good luck, Endy. Hope you get a good contract from someone.

Mike Gonzalez: The lefty was acquired from the Orioles and was on every Rangers post-season roster. Odds are pretty good Texas makes him an offer to stick around and, if Gonzalez wants a chance to win instead of the most dollars available, he’ll be glad to ink a new contract.

Darren Oliver: The Rangers’ designated LOOGY and the old man of the bullpen at 42, Oliver lives in Dallas and has indicated he’s leaning towards returning instead of retiring. If so, I’m positive he’ll re-up with Texas at a hometown discount to give himself one more shot at a World Championship.

Matt Treanor: I was a Treanor fan in 2010 and was happy when he came back for the stretch run in 2011. However, Treanor won’t be back unless Texas decides to part ways with Yorvit Torrealba, which I hope they don’t. Maybe he’ll sign a minor league deal with Texas, much like the one that brought him the Rangers way in 2010.

CJ Wilson: This is the multi-million dollar question. Will CJ come back or head for much greener pastures. Wilson is a West Coast guy, so speculation is rife for the Angels to be after him. Obviously the Yankees are going to be in the mix and will likely offer him the most money. Reports also have the Nationals interested, which I understand. He’d be a nice complementary piece to Strasbourg. I put the odds at 50-50 for Wilson to return. texas wants him back, but even with more money to play with, they don’t want CJ to break the bank.

That brings us to everyone else’s free agents. If Texas doesn’t go after Pujols or Fielder, who will they court? Here’s how I look at it. This year’s free agent class isn’t the strongest to begin with. In addition, Texas has VERY big decisions to make after the 2012 season, when Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Colby Lewis can all walk away to other teams. I think the Rangers are going to play small ball this year in the free agent market, looking for bargains and trying to fill specific needs. With that in mind, here are a few under the radar types I think Texas could be very interested in.

Mark Buerhle: This would be the highest dollar guy Texas could go for. Buerhle is a proven innings eater who would fit in well with the rangers pitching staff. I don’t think texas would sign both Wilson and Buerhle, so I’d say if they don’t get Wilson, they put their cards on the table for Buerhle.

Octavio Dotel: If you can’t beat ‘em, get ‘em to sign with you. Dotel has a World Series ring, a high strikeout rate and would be a great ROOGY for the Rangers.

Casey Kotchman: This is one of the most intriguing names out there. If the Rangers aren’t sold on Mitch Moreland as the answer at first base, they could package him in a trade and sign Kotchman. He might not have the sock potential of Moreland but he’s a great defensive player at first with just enough pop to make for a good fit in the Rangers line-up.

Roy Oswalt: He has Texas ties, he’d be very popular with the fans. He also has a history of back issues and is no spring chicken at 34. There is a possibility Texas will go for him, but I don’t know if they’re willing to pay the dollars Oswalt probably wants.

Jose Reyes: I don’t think this will happen, but it would be a classic Daniels move to trade the popular Elvis Andrus and pick up one the game’s most exciting players. The only reason I don’t really see this happening is because teen phenom Jurickson Profar may only be a couple of years away from the bigs, so texas wouldn’t want to commit more than two years for Reyes.

Joel Zumaya: This is another prime Jon Daniels possibility: signing a former All-Star who’s had physical problems to a low dollar contract. If he comes back to close to his former self, it’s a great investment. If not, you’re not out a lot of money.

There are a few other names out there Texas could conceivably have interest in: Todd Coffey, Kerry Wood, Heath Bell, Jonathon Papelbon, Matt Capps and maybe Hiroki Kuroda. The ones above, though, are my best bets to get strong interest from Texas.

 

Ron Washington, Strategy Anti-Manager Pt. 2

A saber-oriented writer for one of the Rangers fan sites I frequent recently took manager Ron Washington to task recently for some of the moves he made in Games 6 & 7 of the World Series. While his article made sure to point out its author actually likes Wash and thinks he’s a good fit for this team, he advances the same arguments about Wash doing things too much by feel and not enough by “The Book” (the publication that uses advance mathematics to show what the best percentage play is in certain situations).

My last post addressed the way I looked at the specific decisions Wash made that were brought up in the article. Today I want to look at the Game 7 “shortcomings”. There were two in Game 7:

1) The decision to have Elvis Andrus sacrifice Ian Kinsler to second with no outs and a 2-1 count in a 3-2 game in the top of the 5th; and

2) The decision to intentionally walk David Freese in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with two outs. Another walk and a hit by pitch later and the Cardinals were up 5-2, en route to a 6-2 win and the World Series Championship.

Again, I don’t fault Wash on either of these decisions.

I know “The Book” is not a fan of the sacrifice bunt. Under almost any circumstances. Apparently giving up an out to advance a runner is not the mathematically correct play. This decision, though, is one in which I think saberists and “The Book” can miss a point- While the sacrifice bunt isn’t the best move in the wide scheme of things, sometimes one has to look at specifically the game that is being played to guide your reasoning. I’ve seen Wash use this same reasoning before. I understand it and I agree with it.

Trailing 3-2, Ian Kinsler led off the top of the fifth with a ground ball single to left field. This was only the Rangers second hit since the first inning. Both of those hits were ground ball singles. In other words, they weren’t hit very hard, they were just placed very well. Other than that, Texas had one fly out, five groundouts and three strikeouts against Chris Carpenter (who also had a walk and a HBP in this time). In other words, the Rangers weren’t hitting the ball very well off Carpenter and Kinsler’s hit didn’t do anything to alter the manager’s thinking that Carpenter had any less stuff. Andrus came to bat with almost as many strikeouts as he had hits in the World Series (8 hits, 7 K’s) and only one extra base hit in the Series. When his team isn’t hitting well, Wash uses things like the sacrifice bunt to try to make something happen. He’ll also use the Rangers speed. In this case, speed wasn’t an option. Yadier Molina pretty much clamped down on the Rangers running game the entire Series, so Wash went with the sacrifice bunt. In this case, it didn’t work. Josh Hamilton proceeded to foul out and Michael Young struck out to end the “threat”.

The intentional walk came in the bottom of the fifth. Scott Feldman had relieved Matt Harrison. Following a groundout to open the frame, Feldman walked Allen Craig and hit Albert Pujols with a pitch. After a groundout put runners on second and third with two out, Wash had Feldman intentionally walk David Freese to load the bases. The rest is history. Yadier Molina walked on a pitch that looked like it was well within the lower part of the strike zone to be strike 3. Instead, a run came home. CJ Wilson relieved Feldman and hit Rafael Furcal, bringing home the 5th run of the game and the Series was essentially over at that point.

Again, here’s what I don’t understand. Countless times in countless ballgames, you will see a similar situation come up. Sometimes they pitch to the guy with runners on second and third and sometimes they walk the guy, intentionally or unintentionally-intentionally, in order to set up a force at any base. Most of the time in the latter cases, it’s because the batter is a particularly dangerous one, capable of doing severe damage with one swing of the bat. David Freese would seem to qualify on that count, seeing as he was named the World Series MVP. Admittedly, I’ve never read “The Book”, so I don’t know why this is such a bad percentage play, but I think I’d much rather face Molina with the bases loaded than Freese with two on. Just as Wash did.

I’m under no illusions. I know Wash makes some real head-scratching decisions at times. It just seems to me some folks get way too nit-picky in pointing out flaws in a manager’s logic. It’s possible to disagree without going to extra lengths to “prove” someone wrong. All it does is make guys like me write lengthy posts to “prove” he was right!

Ron Washington: Strategic Anti-Manager

If there’s one thing one can discern from visiting Texas Rangers fan sites, it is this: Ron Washington is not good at in-game management. Saberists on a daily basis are pretty quick to point out every case in which Wash didn’t do things by “The Book”. Not the Bible, not the Baseball Rule Book. “The Book” by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin, in which the authors make eloquent saber-based arguments for the best percentage plays in certain game circumstances. Even if fans disregarded “The Book”, they would find plenty of other Wash sins of omission or commission during the course of a game. Sometimes, I think some of them are just making things up to let their distaste for the manager be known.

One can only imagine, then, the number of fans ready to pillory Washington for some of his moves during Games 6 & 7 of the World Series. I understand the feeling. These two losses rank up there as the most painful losses in Texas Rangers history. We as fans also like to look for scapegoats when losses occur, find someone to blame. The manager, of course, is first on the firing line.

I really didn’t want to revisit the last two games of the 2011 World Series. The wound is still pretty fresh to me. To some, this post might come too long after the fact to keep your interest. I understand that, too, but I feel the need to talk about it after reading one article on one of the sites I read on a regular basis.

The author, a saber-oriented guy who also says he likes Wash, wrote he was still bugged about the moves he made in Games 6 & 7. I don’t totally disagree with every single one of them, but feel strongly enough about the main ones that I wanted to put it out there and see what anyone else thought.

Here are the Wash criticisms he had in Game 6:

1) Not hitting for Colby Lewis with the bases loaded in the 5th inning.

2) Bringing in Alexi Ogando with the sacks jammed in the 6th.

3) Replacing Neftali Feliz with Darren Oliver in the 10th.

4) Pinch-hitting Esteban German for Scott Feldman in the 11th and bringing Mark Lowe in.

The first item is the biggest for me. Even Tim McCarver was saying the same thing on the national broadcast: you’ve GOT to pinch-hit for Lewis in this situation. And yet I disagree with the contention. In fact,I thought this non-move by Wash was what very nearly won the Rangers the World Series. At the time, Texas was up 4-3 on the Cards. The Cards had tied the game at 3 in the 4th, but this is what should also have been noted at the time: Lewis had not given up a hit since the 1st inning! The Cards went three up and three down in the 2nd and 3rd and scored their run in the 4th without benefit of a hit on an error, a walk and two groundouts. Lewis was hardly struggling massively at this time. By not pinch-hitting for Lewis, the Rangers may have lowered their scoring chances in the 5th, but they also ended up getting almost two more innings of work out of Lewis, including a 1-2-3 fifth. Looking at what the bullpen subsequently did, in retrospect it was the right move as well.

Item 2: I understand the contention about bringing Ogando in, only because Alexi did not have a good World Series. I don’t believe he even had one good game, except for his Game 7 one pitch outing.

Item 3: Again, I have no earthly idea why this was such a controversial decision on Wash’s part. Sure, Feliz is your closer, but he also had just finished giving up two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. How many relievers get the chance to go out for another inning after they’d already blown the save once? Some could argue maybe this is so, but Wash should have brought in Mike Gonzalez instead of Darren Oliver because Gonzalez throws harder. I might agree, except this was potentially the clinching game of the World Series. I would want my most experienced guy out there, the one whose nerves are probably the least on edge. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong choice, as Oliver picked a terrible time to have a bad game.

Item 4: Lastly there was the decision to pinch-hit for Feldman in the top of the 11th. Geez, first they take Wash to task for not pinch-hitting for the pitcher, then he gets it for pinch-hitting for the pitcher! Actually, I’m pretty sure the only reason Wash pinch-hit for his long reliever was because Nelson Cruz’ groin injury was enough to take him out of the game. I think Wash was hoping German could provide some offense to help put Texas on top again and get it over with quickly because he really didn’t have a decent right fielder if the game were to go on for a lot of innings. It was a calculated gamble that failed. As for bringing Lowe in for the 11th, it was either him or Gonzalez. There was no one else left in the bullpen.

Honestly, the Rangers didn’t lose Game 6 because of Wash. They lost it because in three distinct situations during the game, one of the Rangers made a poor decision in the field, a decision every single one of those players make correctly 999 times out of 1,000. Michael Young thought about going to second base instead of getting the sure out at first,  bobbled the ball as a result of his indecision and failed to get anyone out; Elvis Andrus passed up a throw for a force-out at second to throw Matt Holliday out at first and Holliday beat the throw; and Nelson Cruz either misjudged the flight of the ball or where the wall was on David Freese’s game tying ninth inning triple. I don’t blame Wash at all for the Game 6 loss. I thought all in all, he managed the game pretty well.

Wash may not always make decisions by “The Book”, but I think he also has a much better grasp on what’s going on in the game than a lot of people give him credit for. I don’t agree with every decision Wash makes (for example, I would’ve let Mike Adams start the 9th inning. He pitched a solid 8th and it would’ve taken some of the pressure off Feliz), but I’ve also come to understand the whys of some of the decisions he does make and find myself agreeing with his reasons more often than not.

This post is getting extremely long, so I’ll give my follow-up on the Game 7 decisions this weekend.

Off-Season News 11/3/11

Just a few tidbits to pass along:

BELTRE WINS TWICE!

Adrian Beltre has garnered two post-season honors. Beltre received his third career Gold Glove for his work at third base for the Rangers in 2011. Beltre made only 11 errors at the hot corner this year and resembles a human vacuum cleaner over there. Beltre also was given the Silver Slugger Award, signifying the best offensive performance by an AL third sacker.

While congrats to Adrian are certainly in order, it’s kind of strange to think this is probably the only post-season honor coming the Rangers way this year. In 2010, Texas had the AL MVP (Josh Hamilton), the AL Rookie of the Year (Neftali Feliz) and the Designated Hitter of the Year (Vlad Guerrero). Because Texas had such a powerful team not dominated by any one player save for Mike Napoli, who didn’t play often enough to qualify for an honor, they’ll just have to be content with Beltre’s two awards. Unless Ron Washington pulls off an upset and wins Manager of the Year.

MADDUX ON THE OUTS?

Nobody wants to get rid of Mike Maddux as the Texas Pitching Coach, but there’s a possibility it could happen. Most people are looking to advance in their career, and Maddux would love to manage someday. The Rangers have given permission to the Red Sox and the Cubs to talk to Maddux about their open managerial positions. Maddux currently has laryngitis, but says he will talk to the clubs once he gets his voice back. I don’t see Maddux as the frontrunner for the Cubs job. I’ve had it in the back of my brain ever since rumors of Theo Epstein’s moving to Chicago became public that he plans on bringing Terry Francona with him to the Windy City. I could be wrong, but it makes a lot of sense. I do think Maddux has a good shot at the Red Sox job. It would make sense for a team like Boston, who is already in a contending position, to try to spirit away someone from their closest competitors. The Rangers success means more teams will be going after their personnel. Mike, I don’t want to see you leave, but if you get a managerial offer, I understand you’d be a fool not to take it.

OTHER GOINGS

The Rangers made their first off-season roster moves Wednesday. Darren O’Day was placed on waivers and claimed by the Baltimore Orioles, who are beginning to look like Texas rangers Lite with O’Day joining Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter and Clay Rapada. I think Koji Uehara ends up going back to Baltimore too. Texas also decided to cut ties with Andres Blanco, Esteban german and Eric Hurley, who made quite a comeback in AAA Round Rock this year after missing almost three years of baseball. Also released was Omar Beltre, a minor league pitcher who was caught up in the phony marriage scandal that also had Alexi Ogando in its clutches a number of years ago. Beltre missed all of 2011 due to medical reasons and could still sign a minor league deal with the Rangers.

 STILL TO COME

After taking a few days to get myself over the heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals, I surprised myself by having quite a few post ideas floating around in my brain. Coming soon, a defense of Ron Washington in Games 6 & 7 of the World Series and thoughts about the Free Agents of 2011: Who might the Rangers target, who might they lose. The Washington post (Ooo, very punny: Washington Post!) will be up in the next couple of hours. Be on the lookout. Oh, and there’s a new poll over on the right hand side of the page. Make sure you vote!

The Kids Are Alright

Five days later…

As a fan, the sting of losing Game 7 is gone. Sure, it’s disappointing. I told a Cardinals fan I know that Game 6 made me feel like Charlie Brown, with Lucy pulling the football back at the last second. Twice. I still can’t quite find the desire to turn on a lot of Sports Talk radio, for fear of hearing pundits lay into my Rangers for the way they let this one get away, but I still have a wife who loves me (most of the time), children and grandchildren who love me (most of the time) and two dogs that love me all of the time (as long as I walk them and feed them), so life is good.

The off-season has begun and with it, the makeover of the Texas Rangers to put them in the best position possible to make yet another assault on a World Series Championship. Honestly, this may be as boring an off-season for Rangers fans as there will be.

Here’s the big drama: Will CJ Wilson be back and will the Rangers succeed in signing Japanese phenom pitcher Yu Darvish? Other than that, anything else that would happen to this Rangers team will qualify as a surprise.

Wilson is the only free agent of note for Texas. According to an ESPN.com report, CJ says there’s a “great chance” he’ll return to the Texas fold in 2012. Other reports have said the Rangers plan to cut ties with the lefty and proceed heavily towards getting Darvish in the fold. In this case, I’ll trust CJ’s actual words for now. Who knows, maybe both Wilson and Darvish will be part of the 2012 rotation. The Rangers are also said to be one of the favorites to get Darvish, a 25-year-old who compiled a 1.44 ERA in the Orient this past season.

I read something interesting today concerning Darvish and Japanese pitchers in general. Over in Japan, apparently, they still stick with a 4-man rotation instead of the stateside five. Darvish is said to have as many as ten different pitches at his disposal. The interesting point made was comparing Darvish to Daisuke Matsusaka. The article (in Baseball Prospectus) said when the Red Sox got Daisuke, they made him whittle his repertoire down to five pitches. It went on to speculate the combination of this and giving him four days rest between starts instead of the three he was used to could help explain Matsusaka’s underwhelming Red Sox career. If so, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers treat Darvish differently than the Red Sox did Daisuke (assuming the Rangers get Darvish, of course).

Texas exercised the option in Colby Lewis’ contract, as well as reliever Yoshi Tateyama. The latter signing could mean the end of the road in Texas for Darren O’Day, who is a sidearming righty like Tateyama (albeit with much more zip on the ball).

There will be some arbitration battles coming up. Obviously, Mike Napoli is going to garner a huge payday whether it goes to an arbitrator or not. There could be speculation the Rangers will cut ties with Yorvit Torrealba thanks to Napoli’s strong season. Torrealba is only going to be making a little over $3 million in 2012, so I have a feeling they’ll keep him.

Other than that, this team is pretty set. Most players are under contract already. There could be some second tier players released, like Endy Chavez, Matt Treanor and Andres Blanco, but those won’t change the makeup of this team very much.

Speculation has been raised about the rangers going after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to fill the one weak spot on the field, first base. I just don’t think Texas is going to get involved in those high dollars, preferring to use them on pitchers like Wilson and Darvish.

There are other items I could throw out there, but all in all, this shouldn’t be as dramatic an off-season as last year was.

 

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