December 2011

RIP To A Largely Forgotten Ranger

Even for a fan of over forty years standing, a name occasionally comes up that makes one scratch his head and say, “Who? I don’t remember him playing. I don’t even remember the name!”

Such is the case for me of Rosman Garcia, who was tragically killed in a traffic accident yesterday in his native Venezuela as he was heading home from a game.

 

Rosman Garcia

Garcia came to the Rangers in 2003 in a trade with the Yankees that sent Randy Velarde to New York. His major league career consisted of 50 games in 2003 and 2004 for the Rangers. What made him easy to forget is the 2003 Rangers team, the first managed by Buck Showalter, was the last of four consecutive Rangers teams to finish last in the AL West, at 71-91. It was also the team that probably best exemplified the Rangers hit first, pitch second philosophy of the time.

In 2003, the Rangers best starting pitcher was John Thomson, who was 13-14 with a 4.85 ERA. That ERA was the lowest among all Rangers starters for that year. A young Colby Lewis was also on that team, going 10-9 despite a truly putrid 7.30 ERA.

Garcia was a middle reliever for that 2003 team, going 1-2 with a 6.02 ERA, pitching in 46 games, mostly in the 6th-8th innings. Of 18 pitchers to appear in relief for Texas that season, Garcia’s 6.02 ERA actually ranked 7th best on the team. Meanwhile, the Rangers offense boasted five players with an OPS in excess of .800 for the season.

Anyway, while I have a hard time remembering anything Rosman Garcia accomplished in his brief career with the Rangers, it is always sad to report the passing of anyone who wore a Texas uniform. Not a great way to ring out the year.

The Holiday Post

The following is with apologies to Clement Moore. And probably to Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore as well…

 

Twas the days before Christmas and all through the park,

Rangers fans were singing, the heralds they harked.

The souvenirs were waving and worn with care

In hopes that Yu Darvish soon would be there.

We die-hards were nestled all snug in our seats,

With visions of Championships and even repeats.

And Jon Daniels in his suit and Nolan in his cap,

Had just settled their brains for an off-season nap.

When out in the park there arose such a  clatter,

We sprang from our seats to see what was the matter.

Away to the field we looked in a flash,

And saw Elvis stealing second just to show he was fast.

The moon on the crest of the center field wall

Gave the lustre of moments from the glorious fall.

When what to our wondering eyes came through the gate,

But a caravan of players heading right for home plate.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

We knew in a moment Elvis was playing St. Nick.

More rapid than Kinsler his team-mates they came,

And he whistled and shouted and called them by name!

“Now Hambone! Now Nellie! Now Beltre and Holland!

On, Michael! On, Napoli, Lewis and Moreland!”

To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!

Now clear the fences and score the four runners all!”

And then, in a twinkling we saw in the dugout,

The high fives, the claws and antlers we’d heard ’bout.

As we turned our attention to one corner we found,

The Rangers manager, Ron Washington, dancing ’round.

He was dressed like a Ranger, from his head to his foot,

And the way he was dancing, well it was a hoot!

A bundle of energy,the crowd we all knowed,

If the Rangers won it all, he’d surely explode!

His eyes how they twinkled! his arms how they waved!

When the Rangers did good, you could see how he raved!

His mouth constantly chewed on sunflower seeds,

And ate even more when his team had the lead!

He was always in motion, a fan much like us,

And we couldn’t help but love him, even when he cussed!

Though we oftentimes disagreed with his moves,

They oftentimes won, so our feelings were soothed.

He spoke to the team and they all went to work,

And they learned how to win, like the Mavericks and Dirk.

And thanks to his efforts, the team with a burst,

Soon rose through the teams of the AL West to first!

And I heard him exclaim ‘ere they drove out of sight,

“Neftali Feliz Navidad to all and to all a good night!”

 

And with that, Happy Christmas to you and yours. I’ll be back after the holidays.

 

A Second AAA Club For The Rangers?

 Tommy Hunter

Darren O’Day

Pedro Strop

Taylor Teagardan

Chris Davis

Endy Chavez

Clay Rapada

All seven of these players spent some time with the Texas Rangers in 2010 and/or 2011. All seven are now with the Baltimore Orioles.

As of 12/21/11, the 40-man roster of the Orioles is 17.5% comprised of former Texas Rangers. If Mike Gonzales were to sign with the Orioles and the Rangers were to trade Koji Uehara back to Baltimore, as has been rumored, that figure would jump to 22.5%.

I’m beginning to think either I need to add news of Baltimore to this blog, start a petition drive to rename them the Baltimore Rangers (or maybe the Junior Rangers) or ask MLB to consider them a second Rangers farm team.

 

All I Want For Christmas Is Yu

With a name like Yu, there will be no end of puns on the name. The seemingly gramatically incorrect one would be “Yu is a Ranger”.

No doubt about it, Lady Gaga’s song “Poker Face” had to have been written with Rangers GM Jon Daniels and team President Nolan Ryan in mind. Starting in the week before the bidding deadline, Ryan and Daniels both claimed that Darvish was coveted, but he wasn’t so essential to the Texas business plan as to overbid for him. This was followed by several national media reports indicating maybe the deep pockets of Rangers ownership weren’t as deep as originally thought. Indeed, said reports even brought into question whether the Rangers could seriously bid on any free agents this off-season. Finally, in the days following the closing of bids, virtually every media outlet was reporting the high bid belonged to the Blue Jays. The Texas front office said nothing to refute these claims.

In the end, the Blue Jays didn’t win, and not only did Texas win the rights to negotiate with Darvish, they apparently bid in excess of $51 million dollars to get the right to negotiate with Darvish. Not exactly something a destitute team would do.

So, assuming the Rangers actually succeed in signing Darvish (they have a 30-day window to do this), and there’s no reason to think they won’t, the Rangers have officially responded to the Angels’ signing of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. Despite never having pitched before in the major leagues, Darvish is rated by most scouts as a #1 or #2 pitcher, just what Texas has been looking for.

Futhermore, if Darvish signs, the Rangers once again have a lot of flexibility on their hands. They now would have seven starters competing for five jobs. By the time Spring Training opens, the best guess is one of those excess two is going to be traded to pick up yet another valuable piece to the puzzle. If that doersn’t happen, this makes turning Neftali Feliz into a starter less of a gamble. Having Darvish would allow Texas to go into the season with a starting rotation of Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Darvish, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando. Scott Feldman would remain the long man/spot starter and Feliz could start the season at AAA Round Rock where he can be a starter with less pressure and a chance to develop his secondary pitches before becoming part of the picture in the second half of the season.

Last year, after the acquisition of Mike Napoli, I remarked how the Rangers offense was set up perfectly for 2011. In 2012, it now appears the pitching staff is set up perfectly. And it’s all thanks to Yu.

I’ve Got Yu Under My Skin

Boy it’s been quiet in Rangers Land lately. Ever since the Angels stole the MLB show with the signings of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, there’s been a quiet uneasiness as the baseball world waits to see if the Rangers strike back with a meaningful signing or trade.

There’s been lots of negatives reported over the past few days. One report says the Rangers won’t be spending much because they owe former partner Chuck Greenberg, who helped put together the ownership group, a $30 million buyout this off-season. Said story also attempted to tie this into the Rangers’ failed attempt to re-sign Wilson or even to put in a substantial bid. Speculation in these reports also indicated the Rangers wouldn’t even put in a bid for negotiating rights to Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who posted yesterday.

On the other hand, there have been several reports that the Rangers have been negotiating new contracts and/or extensions for Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler and now Derek Holland. Nelson Cruz wants to sign long-term with Texas as well, but I still haven’t heard a thing about the Rangers willingness to do the same.

Turns out the Rangers did put in a bid for Darvish on Wednesday and we could know as soon as today who won the rights to negotiate a contract with him.

Are the Rangers as cash poor as some reports would seem to indicate? Taking it all in as a whole, I’d say absolutely not. What this is is an ownership group who has decided A) They’re going to try to keep the core together for as long as possible and are willing to pay to do so; B) They’re willing to spend for free agents they feel are a good fit for the team but they aren’t going to overspend needlessly; and C) Just because another team makes a move doesn’t mean you have to make an immediate counterpunch. They’re willing to wait for the right deal instead of overreacting to what someone else does.

The Rangers didn’t get where they’ve gotten the past two years because of spending money or panicking. They are a smart organization, they do their homework and aren’t afraid to stick to the plan they have in place. In addition to free agents, Texas has been linked to trade talks for Gio Gonzalez, John Danks and James Shields. Every report I’ve read indicates teams are asking way too much in return. Now that the Rangers are successful and vying for championships, other teams are trying to strip their farm system of too many pieces.

As much as the Rangers have coveted Darvish, I have faith they already have a Plan B in place. If Plan B is Garza, Danks or Shields and the price in prospects is too high, there’s probably already a Plan C in mind. And if the Rangers head to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona having made no changes since this column, I’m pretty sure it won’t have anything to do with money or the lack thereof, but everything to do with the right deal at the right price not being there.

Goodbye Mr. Wilson…

The CJ Wilson era has ended. Can’t say I’m surprised with either his departure or his choice of team. How do you react to such things? Well, if you’re my friend Matt, you do this:

 

Sayonara, CJ!

 

Matt texted me and told me he’d torn up his Wilson shirt and threw it in the garbage. I asked him why he wanted to do that to perfectly innocent garbage? (Insert rim shot here).

Seriously, I don’t begrudge Wilson for leaving, although it pains me a little to see him go to a division rival. Wilson told MLB Radio today that, were it not for the fact the Angels were also going to be getting Albert Pujols, he’d probably be signing with the Miami Marlins today instead of his hometown team.

Of course, everyone looks for winners and losers during the free agency period and the Winter Meetings in particular, and many Rangers fans are apoplectic and convinced the Texas Rangers world is coming to an end. I am not one of them.

Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson make the Angels a better team, to be sure. It’s still a team that finished ten games behind the Rangers in 2011, despite a pretty deep rotation. Pujols upgrades the Angels’ offense, but it still doesn’t put said offense on the same level of the Rangers.

Wilson improves their starting pitching depth, but the Rangers still have the superior bullpen as of this writing (word is the Angels are trying to get Andrew Bailey from the A’s in a trade). I also think Wilson, as good a pitcher as he is, won’t be any more than a .500 pitcher against the Rangers as they’re constituted today. While he does love nibbling for the edges of the strike zone, he’s still more of the “hard-throwing lefty” variety, and the Rangers do pretty well against those types of pitchers.

Yes, the Angels have gotten stronger with Pujols and Wilson. The Rangers have gotten a little weaker losing Wilson. Don’t think for a moment that there won’t be more news from the Rangers side now that the big fish have signed their contracts. Texas didn’t acquire Adrian Beltre until January 5th last season. Mike Napoli didn’t become a Ranger until January 25th. There’s still plenty of time.

Will it be Yu Darvish coming over from Japan to Arlington? Will Texas trade for Matt Garza, John Danks, Gavin Floyd or James Shields? Anything is possible. Maybe Texas won’t make any moves. While there’s no clear #1 type of pitcher, a rotation of Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz isn’t chicken feed either. The first four still managed to win between 13 and 16 wins each in 2011 and there’s no reason to believe they can’t repeat the feat in 2012.

Kudos to the Angels for signing Wilson and Pujols. I still think the Rangers have the horses (and the trade chips) to win the West for the third consecutive year.

Playing The Waiting Game

Will CJ be signed or not? Will a trade go down or not? Will anything at all happen?

The Winter Meetings are well under way and not a peep has been heard from the Rangers beyond the fact they had a sit-down with CJ Wilson’s agent Tuesday night. There was also a report late Tuesday afternoon the Rangers had made a 4-year $60 million dollar offer to Wilson, but it was quickly shot down as false by at least three different sources shortly thereafter.

As usual, though, I want to talk about something else besides Wilson, a kind of trying to read between the lines on other as yet non-happenings in Texas Rangers Land. It points to how difficult a General Manager’s job is when trying to weigh the long-term interests of a team.

There are three separate contracts being discussed in addition to the CJ Wilson contract speculation. In the last week, there have been reports of 1) The Rangers are “working hard” on a long-term agreement with Josh Hamilton; 2) Nelson Cruz is reportedly “very much” interested in signing a long-term deal with the Rangers; and 3) The Rangers are “confident” they will come to a long-term agreement with Mike Napoli.

I put some words in quotes because I found the language to be so interesting. In the case of Hamilton, Texas very much wants to get a deal done. On the other hand, when Josh signed his two-year deal last off-season, he was quoted as saying he owes it to the Players’ Union to try to get the best deal he can when he is eligible to hit the free agent market at the end of the 2012 season. Josh also stated recently he’d love to remain with the Rangers, but wants to be “treated fairly.” This makes me wonder how realistic it is for the Rangers to actually get something hammered out with Hambone this off-season.

In the case of Cruz, the player is the one talking about being very interested in re-upping with the Rangers, but what we haven’t seen or heard is the Rangers being on record as working towards a deal at the present time.

Napoli’s situation is the most straightforward and there’s every reason to expect the Rangers catcher/1st baseman/DH to sign a multi-year extension with the Rangers in the coming weeks.

Reading between the lines, I’m sensing the conundrum for GM Jon Daniels as it relates to Cruz and Hamilton. I’m not sure the club is going to commit to big contracts for both, especially since the likes of Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz are only going to get more expensive over the coming years.

There’s been a funny feeling in the back of my brain that if the Rangers decide to trade for a starting pitcher, Nellie just might be included in the package. Much as Rangers fans love Nellie’s boomstick, he’s had 5 DL stints in the past two seasons and the Rangers record in the times he’s been disabled has been about the same winning percentage as when he’s been in the line-up, telling me maybe he’s not as essential to the Rangers as might be perceived.

Still, it would be a calculated gamble on Daniels’ part to include Cruz in a trade right now, for if the Texas attempts to sign Hamilton to a long-term deal fail, we would see a massive offensive departure from Arlington after the 2012 season. Maybe the strategy is to see if Hamilton can be locked up long-term here in the off-season and, if it doesn’t look promising, then is when you look to sign Cruz to the extension. If Hamilton does sign, then this could be the optimal time to trade Cruz.

All this thinking from just the way three different stories were worded. Thank God I’m not trying to parse every word being reported on Wilson these days.

The City Of Brotherly Love

Apparently Arlington has supplanted Philadelphia as the City of Brotherly Love.

Not only did the Cubs not get Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux to be their new manager, the Texas front office went and raided the Cubs’ front office and hired away Mike’s brother, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, to be a special assistant to Texas GM Jon Daniels.

No official word on Greg’s duties, but they’re expected to include working with some of the Rangers’ minor league pitchers, as well as offering advice to pitchers on the big club.

Number 3 starter Matt Harrison is already excited and was quoted as wanting to pick Greg’s brain about his pinpoint control and his game planning.

If there’s been any doubt about whether the ownership group that replaced Tom Hicks a year ago would change the philosophy of constructing the team, this move should remove all doubt. With Mike Maddux, we;ve seen the Rangers really put an emphasis on pitching for one of the first times in franchise history.

The fact that Joe Nathan WANTED to sign with the Rangers when he had a similar, if not slightly better, offer from the Twins tells another tale. Very few pitchers have WANTED to come to the Rangers in the past. Some of the free agent signers in the past probably were lured by the money more than really wanting to pitch for Texas (see Chan Ho Park). Now having a future Hall of Fame pitcher in Maddux joining current Hall of Fame member Nolan Ryan in the front office sends yet another message to pitchers: the Texas Rangers are serious about putting together a pitching staff.

Rumors have it Texas is also interested in acquiring A’s closer Andrew Bailey to go along with Nathan and Mike Adams in the bullpen. The Rangers have also been linked to trade possibilities for Matt Garza, Matt Thornton and John Danks, as well as kicking the tires on free agent Mark Buehrle (man, the city of Chicago must have really done something bad to the Rangers to have them targeted so much!).

A lot has to be taken with a grain of salt. Any time a team goes to the World Series two years in a row, their name is sure to be mentioned when it comes to any big trade or free agent signing. Texas is still being mentioned in the Albert Pujols- Prince Fielder sweepstakes and I don’t think Texas really has any interest in signing either one of them.

The emphasis on pitching, though, is real. With the addition of Greg Maddux to the front office, expect Texas to make more pushes for both starting and relief pitching. There’s still a good chance CJ Wilson will find greener pastures elsewhere (the Angels seem to be the front-runner), but we may be coming to an era where more pitchers want to come to Texas than leave it.

 

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