March 2012

How Quickly Things Change

Posts have been sporadic as I’ve been in Maryland, helping my mother downsize to a new place.

While going through drawers, I was drawn to a newspaper containing an article my mother was saving. There was a headline in the Sports section which said: Hamilton, Saltalamacchia Key Victory.

Great, I thought. The Rangers won that game. Then I read the article. Turns out the headline was from May, 2007. Josh  Hamilton’s home run led the Cincinnati Reds to victory and future (and now former) Ranger Jarrod Saltalamacchia was hitting the game winner for the Atlanta Braves.

How much things change over just a five year period in baseball.

The Game Within The Game

Think Red Sox-Yankees is intense? It looks like Rangers-Angels is starting to heat up.

Before even playing a regular season game in 2012, we’be already seen the following:

1) CJ Wilson tweeted Mike Napoli’s phone number.

2) The Rangers decided not to start Yu Darvish against the Angels in exhibition play Sunday, pitching him instead in a minor league game.

3) The Angels quickly followed suit, pulling Wilson from starting Sunday against his old team and pitching a minor league game himself.

The regular season is two weeks away, but it sure looks like the games, or at least the gamesmanship, has already started.

Dutch Treat

Finally, a contract extension is worked out!

After publicly discussing efforts to ink extensions with Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton this off-season without nary a signing, the Rangers today announced a new five year deal with two additional club option years for Derek Holland.

Holland was 16-5, 3.95 in 2011. Keeping him in the fold gives the Rangers a nice 1-2 punch of Holland and Yu Darvish for the next 5 years. This has the potential of giving Texas two TORP type pitchers for the next half decade.

Beyond that it now officially tells every pitcher in baseball that the Rangers believe in pitching and are willing to invest in it on a regular basis. And it puts to rest the idea that pitchers don’t want
to pitch in a hitters park in the heat.

Pitchers want to win and play for winning organizations. If it be in a hot weather climate, so be it.

Glad you’re sticking around, Dutch!

Texas Has Talent

Believe it or not, there’s more to life than baseball (I know, that’s sacrilege for a blog like this to even say that).

After going through last weekend welcoming a new grandchild to the world, Ranger Wife decided I needed another way to pass the time as I anxiously await games that really matter in the standings- she procured us tickets for the taping of one of the four audition rounds for “America’s Got Talent” held in Austin.

So while the Rangers were busy splitting two split squad games in exhibition play, we were snaking our way through a big long line of people, all like us with free passes to be in the studio audience.

The plan was for 15 acts to audition, but the show’s producers have to adhere to a strict time-table, so when 4 PM rolled around, it mattered not at all that only 13 acts had performed for the judges, it was time to clear out the auditorium, for in just another hour, it was time to start all over again with a brand new audience! Maybe the second half audience got to see 17 acts instead of their scheduled 15. I’ll never know.

They were very strict: no cameras, camcorders or even cell phones allowed in the theater. In other words, DON’T YOU DARE TRY TO TAKE A PICTURE OF WHAT’S GOING ON!!! Thus you’ll see no pics in this post.

Even without pictures, though, there were no rules against telling people what you saw. So here are your spoilers whenever the Austin audition shows air on NBC, be it in May or June.

1) You’ll see Howie Mandel arrive on the red carpet riding an authentic Texas Longhorn. Nothing like stereotyping the whole state, NBC! As we left the theater following this set of auditions, Ranger Wife noticed a large number of cow patties on the same path that Howie took. Wish I could have seen Howie’s reaction to that, germophobe that he is.

2) I was worried Howard Stern’s presence might start the show down a path of allowing ever more outlandish acts onto the stage. While there weren’t any really outlandish acts in our grouping, it was obvious Howard takes his critiques and judging very seriously (even with wisecracks included). He’s actually a pretty solid judge.

3) Of the 13 acts we saw, six managed to make it through to Las Vegas, a pretty good percentage. They included a mariachi group with a 10-year-old singer; a 5-year-old girl who sang “Tomorrow and reminded Sharon Osborne of Shirley Temple; a singer from Tennessee who sang Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”; two sisters who were contortionists; a mind reader; and a San Antonio military vet who sang “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (he said it was the first time he’d ever sung in public. He was quite good). Of the six, the contortionists and the mind reader (remember the name Diddleman) struck us as the most likely to get past the Vegas round to the live shows, with the vet and Shirley Temple second most likely.

4) Not so lucky were an all-girl dance group; a man who sang opera not very well; a female Asian comic; a rock group; a woman who played three instruments; a guy and his dog (the only real goof of the day) and a guy who played the washboard (OK, he was a goof too, but he was a TALENTED goof).

5) The big question is: will Ranger Wife and I be seen on TV? Maybe, but I doubt it. We were lucky to be in a front row, but all the way up in the top balcony. And while we could see where the cameras were, there’s no telling if they ever directly shot us. Best guess: we’re on the cutting room floor when all is said and done.

Kind of like the guys in Rangers camp wearing numbers higher than 75 on their unis. Thanks for participating but time for your annual trip to the minors.

There. I did make the post about baseball.

 

 

Side By Side Schedules: Rangers & Angels

With three long weeks to go before we can finally get to the REAL baseball season, one must do what one can to pass the interminable time, especially when one’s favorite team has started the exhibition season with an abysmal 3-8-1 record.

Since it promises to be a two team dogfight for the AL West crown in 2012, I decided to check the side by side schedules of the Rangers and the Angels in 2012. Teams have to look for edges where they can. A tight race could be decided because a team did better than expected on a tough stretch or the other team did worse on an easier stretch.

The start of the regular season bodes well for the Rangers, as they start off at home against the White Sox and Mariners, followed by a trip to Minnesota while the Angels open at home to Kansas City, followed by road trips to Minnesota and the New York Yankees. Texas would be well advised to get off to a hot start against three second division teams because the rest of the month is a buzzsaw: at Boston, at Detroit, home against the Yankees and Tampa Bay, then at Toronto. During this time, the Angels get to be home against Oakland and Baltimore, on the road at Tampa Bay and Cleveland, then close out the month at home against Minnesota. The April schedule advantage appears to belong to the Angels. How the Rangers do from April 17th through the 30th could set an important tone for the entire season, with 12 straight games against playoff contenders. Go 7-5 or 8-4 during this stretch and the Rangers will already be sending a message that the AL West crown still rests in Arlington and won’t be given away easily.

May will be a considerably easier stretch for the Rangers: the month includes two series with Toronto and Seattle, single series with Cleveland, Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City and Oakland and the first series with the Angels, three games at home from May 11th to the 13th. The Angels, though, will also have an easier go of it: two series with Minnesota and Oakland, single series with Toronto the White Sox, San Diego, Seattle and the Yankees, plus the three-game set at Texas. The Yankees series gives Texas the very slight edge for the month.

Interleague play pops up in June. Texas for the month plays Oakland for two series, with single series against NL foes Houston, San Diego, San Francisco and Colorado, and AL series against Detroit and the mighty Angels. LA draws two series with the Dodgers, single NL series versus Colorado, Arizona and San Francisco, and AL series against Baltimore, Toronto, Seattle and the Rangers. Texas has to be favored to win the month of June, drawing lowly Houston for their 6-game rivalry series in the NL while the Angels have to face the Dodgers. The edge is softened a bit with Texas facing two playoff contenders in Detroit and LA, while the Angels only have the Rangers to worry about in June.

July leading up to the All-Star break is a wash: The Rangers are at Chicago and home to Minnesota while Anaheim is at Cleveland and home to Baltimore. Maybe a slight edge for the Rangers, but with only six games before the All-Star break, it won’t be more than a 1-game difference.

1st Half Predictions:

April

Rangers 14-9, Angels 15-8 Texas 1 GB

May

Rangers 18-10, Angels 17-11, Both Teams 32-21, Tied for 1st

June

Rangers 16-12, Angels 15-11; Rangers 48-33, Angels 47-32, Tied for 1st

July

Rangers 5-2, Angels 5-3

At the All-Star break, I see the Rangers at 53-35, the Angels 52-35, a half game behind Texas.

It’s going to be one helluva pennant race in 2012.

Next Time: A look at the 2nd Half.

 

The Darvish Diary: 1st TV Game

For the first time this spring, a chance to see the Rangers on TV. With Yu Darvish taking the mound, no less.

The DVR was set, I got home from work, hit the play button… and wasted two hours watching bad Spring Training baseball.

Oh, there were some good things to be sure. Yorvit Torrealba cut down two Indians trying to steal in the first inning. Texas plated six runs in the 3rd inning. But the overall pitching for the Rangers? Thank goodness this was just an exhibition game, because it was reminding me of many of the Rangers games in the 80′s I used to suffer through.

Yu Darvish’s second start in a Texas uniform didn’t go as well as the first. Darvish had no fastball command the entire afternoon and walked four batters in only three innings of work. Giving up only two runs in three innings of work was a bit of good fortune, aided by Torrealba’s throwing in the first inning and a fortuitous double play that kept the third from exploding into something terrible.

If that had been the worst of it, I could live with it. But no, each of the next three Rangers pitchers proceeded to stink up the joint as well. Koji Uehara didn’t give up a home run this time, but the one double he gave up would have been had it been six inches higher. Uehara gave up two runs and walked two (he walked nine all of last season). Joe Beimel looked sharp early, but lost his groove and gave up two more runs in the 5th, as the Rangers 7-0 lead was now down to 7-6. Mike Adams followed in the 6th, allowed a hit, hit a batter, loaded the bases on a perfectly placed sac bunt and eventually gave up two more runs, putting the Tribe on top 8-7.

The only really good pitcher I saw the whole afternoon for Texas was rookie Robbie Ross. The ERA leader for Class A Myrtle Beach a year ago, Ross continued an outstanding spring by doing what every pitcher before him struggled to do- throw strikes. Ross looked fearless out on the mound and made short work of the three batters he faced.

Texas would come back to tie the game in the 9th and the game ended in a tie after 10.

So far this spring, Texas has looked pretty good in the early innings but has let several leads get away. As they say, it’s only Spring Training and the games don’t mean anything.

Still, I would like to see more success from the pitchers than I’ve been seeing so far.

Rangers Granddaughters

image

September stretch granddaughter and Spring Training granddaughter, together for the first time!

Spring Training Interrupted

We interrupt this blog for the birth of a granddaughter. Back in a few days…

The Legend Begins: Video Highlights Version

In case you missed it, here’s the link to MLB’s batter by batter highlights of Yu Darvish’s first Spring Training start:

 http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=20142983&topic_id=&c_id=mlb&tcid=vpp_copy_20142983&v=3

FYI, of Darvish’s 36 pitches, ten of them (27.8%) were swing and miss strikes. This could be a fun season.

Yu Darvish: The Legend Begins

1st Inning vs. San Diego Padres:

Cameron Maybin: Called Strike 3 on a breaking ball.

Orlando Hudson: Double down right field line.

Jesus Guzman: Line out to CF.

Carlos Quentin: Strike 3 Swinging on a breaking ball.

19 total pitches, 6 swinging strikes.

2nd inning:

Will Venable: Double off the wall

Mark Kotsay: Ground-out 3-1

James Darnell: High chop speared by Darvish, throw to Torrealba to get runner trying to score from 3rd.

John Baker: Strike 3 swinging on a splitter.

2 Innings pitched, 36 pitches, two hits, 0 runs, 3 K’s

This was Japan’s #1 rated show at 5 AM Japan time this morning.

 

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