Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

Retiring A Ranger



The Classic "PADMY"

The Classic “PADMY”

Michael Young really bothers people.

I should be a little more specific. Michael Young really bothers a lot of people in the sabermetric community.

For his last few years in a Texas Rangers uniform, not so coincidentally when the Texas Rangers became a relevant team in major league baseball for the first time in over a decade, he was facetiously nicknamed “Face”, as in “Face of the Franchise.” His defensive lack of prowess at third base brought about a new term, PADMY, which stood for “Past A Diving Michael Young”. During the World Series years, he was publicly and unquestionably the leader of the Rangers clubhouse. Thus came the new nickname of derision: Leadership, expressed on Twitter just about every time a PADMY occurred or a double play was grounded into.

Yes, Michael Young was the guy the diehards loved to hate. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, it may not have ever gone there had Young quietly and without complaint moved to third base from the shortstop position when Elvis Andrus first came to the majors. After all, it was Young who volunteered to move from second base to shortstop when Alex Rodriguez departed for New York, opening the door for Ian Kinsler at second. He was a gamer then, the “anything that’s good for the team” guy. When the Rangers announced the 20-year-old Andrus would be the Opening Day shortstop in 2009 and Young would move to third, it only seemed like the right thing to do again.

Only Michael Young changed his mind. After initially agreeing to the move, he decided he didn’t like it after all. He demanded a trade, then backed down. That’s where it all started. From that point on, it didn’t matter how good Young was in the clubhouse, how much time he gave to the media or how hard he played and worked at his craft. Heck, it didn’t even matter if he hit the tar out of the ball. For one segment of the die-hard Rangers fans, Michael Young was no longer someone to be revered. And they turned on him. When the Rangers then signed Adrian Beltre after the 2010 season, things became worse. Now Young was asked to become a fulltime DH and part-time utility infielder. Again Young balked. Again he demanded a trade. Again the same segment of fans turned on him.

In between all this, there was also the potential trade that never happened, when rumor had it Young was being shipped to Colorado. Jon Daniels was the one who initiated those trade talks and Young learned about it in the media the way the rest of us do. Young’s relationship with Daniels was never the same. As for that segment of die-hard fans? They were in Daniels’ corner, because Daniels is the one who built the team into World Series contenders. All hail the GM!

Michael Young’s last two years with the Texas Rangers were not particularly good ones. He had pretty good numbers in 2011 when Texas came within an eyelash of being the World Champions. His 2012 left much to be desired. His bat speed slowed and, while he was never a home run hitter per se, he was no longer hitting very many doubles either. He was traded to the Phillies in the off-season, had a decent year for them before being sent to the Dodgers for the pennant race.

Yesterday, Michael Young decided to retire. Young and Daniels must have mended their differences, because Young will officially retire as a Ranger at a news conference today. Still, even in retirement, the haters still have to hate. Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated immediately posted this on Twitter:


Yep, Michael Young had the second lowest WAR of the 84 players who have a career batting average of .300 or better and over 7000 plate appearances. Haters gonna hate.

Michael Young will not be enshrined in Cooperstown. In a few years he WILL be enshrined in the Rangers Hall of Fame. For all his detractors, Young got as much out of his talent as a player could get. He set an example in the clubhouse with his work ethic. He played the game the right way. By that I mean fundamental baseball, not perfect baseball. During the decade of irrelevance from 2000 to 2009, Young endeared himself to the fans, not just because of his move from second to shortstop but because he was the steadiest player on some very bad teams. He played every day and it seemed he got a hit every day. He was always willing to talk to reporters, even when things for the team were at their worst. And he set an example for the youngsters coming up.

I came across this article yesterday about Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and what his old manager in the Rockies system had to say about him when he gave professional baseball a try (the Rangers now own his baseball rights). In the days leading to the Super Bowl, the article is presented as another example of what leadership is all about and why Wilson deserves praise for it.

It’s likely Michael Young approached baseball the same way throughout his career, yet there is a very vocal segment of fans out there that berate him for it.

For one day, today, let’s just appreciate Michael Young for the gamer that he was for 14 big league seasons. He wasn’t the best, but he was better than most.

Michael Young in better times.

Michael Young in better times.

Biogenesis and the Rangers

I heard the news today, oh boy…

ESPN’s Outside The Lines reported Major League Baseball will attempt to suspend as many as 20 players for PED use linked to the probe of Biogenesis in Florida. The clinic’s founder has agreed with MLB to basically out his clients and baseball will try to hand out suspensions accordingly.

English: A picture of Nelson Cruz.

Nelson Cruz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Texas Rangers are affected because Nelson Cruzname was in the first series of newspaper articles as a Biogenesis client. For his part, Cruz said through a representative before Spring Training even began that he didn’t do anything wrong. If that turns out as a false statement, that in itself is cause for suspension under the latest collective bargaining agreement.

The two biggest names in the probe are Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. Cruz heads the B list, along with the likes of Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. The OTL reports mention possible suspensions of as any as 100 games. That figure is mentioned only for A-Rod and Braun.

The report brings up many questions. There is no mention as to when any suspensions will come down. It only says MLB will “attempt” to suspend as many as 20 players. In other words, there will be all kinds of repercussions from this. The MLB Players Association will almost certainly mount a significant defense based on no concrete proof of use. This would likely involve the courts, which means it could drag on for a while. Even if the MLBPA fails, each player would then have the right to appeal.

I’m not going to be surprised if Cruz gets suspended but I also won’t be surprised if he isn’t. Speculation is already rampant among the fans on what Texas will do if Cruz is out of the line-up for 50 games. Would they ask Jurickson Profar to learn how to play right field on the fly? Would Mike Olt be a possibility? Or how about AAA center fielder Engel Beltre, a great defender but not a powerful bat?

I have other questions, but they go beyond Nelson Cruz. Would Cabrera and Colon be suspended again? They got 50 games last season, apparently for using the stuff Biogenesis was providing. Would a second suspension be like double jeopardy? Here’s another one. We know Nelson Cruz worked out in Florida during the off-season going into the 2012 season. The inference is he became a Biogenesis client at that time. We also know a number of names haven’t been named in the Biogenesis probe. When Cruz did those off-season workouts, he worked out with teammate at the time Mike Napoli. Could Naps, now a member of the Red Sox, possibly be involved with this? I’m not accusing him and I hope the answer is no, but the question certainly has to be asked and looked into. According to reports, Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was also a Biogenesis client, but wouldn’t face suspension because he obtained only legal products from the firm. On that basis alone, would every player named thus have a reasonable doubt defense for their activities with the firm?

Despite these reports, don’t expect any suspension decisions to come down soon. I doubt we’ll see anything happen until at least the All-Star break. Some players will then choose to fight to the end, others will accept their punishment right away. Cynical as it may be, I would expect the ones who choose to fight will mostly be players whose teams AREN’T involved in a pennant race. Clubs who are in a race would likely quietly urge their affected players to get it over with so as not to distract the team in its quest.Thus, if Cruz is suspended, he probably won’t fight it.

Oh Nellie…

I am sick to death of everything associated with performance enhancing drugs. I’m sick of hearing about PED’s, I’m sick of hearing about athletes who are using PED’s, I wish it would go away and never tarnish the sports pages of my favorite newspaper again.

I have always taken a more nuanced approach to the whole steroids and the Hall of Fame issue. I think Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame, not only because he was putting up Hall of Fame caliber numbers before his association with BALCO and steroids, but also because at the time of his use, they were not out and out banned by Major League Baseball. They may have been illegal substances as far as the government is concerned, but not according to baseball.

You want to keep players out of the Hall who were caught using after bans were put into place by MLB, then be my guest. You get no argument from me.

So now there’s an article written in a Miami newspaper. A lengthy article. Seven pages on-line long. An article that apparently shows the BALCO days still aren’t behind us. BALCO has just been replaced by the “Anti-Aging Clinic”. In particular, one of these clinics seemed to have a lengthy list of clients, including Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera, who were both suspended in 2012; Alex Rodriguez, who admitted juicing when he played with the Rangers, but has insisted he has been clean as a whistle ever since; and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers.

(Snarky comment) Nellie, if this is true, I’m afraid the PED’s you used last year didn’t enhance your performance at all. Your home runs, slugging percentage and OPS were down from 2011 and your strikeouts were way up. (End snarky comment)

English: A picture of Nelson Cruz.

A picture of Nelson Cruz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article appears to be well researched and the odds are pretty good based on what I read that the Rangers are now looking at the distinct possibility of going without Cruz for the first two months of the 2013 season. Considering how much power the Rangers lost in the line-up due to the departures of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, this is going to make the Rangers offense look completely different than in years past.

Baseball players aren’t choirboys, we all know that. Thanks to the money that can be made by players, it’s no surprise that many are willing to cross a line in order to aid their personal bottom lines. It’s not good human nature, but it is very human and visible in all walks of life: from business people who gain in their careers even when it comes at the expense of the very customers they’re supposed to serve; stockbrokers who gain an edge from insider trading; educators who learn how to rig test results so it enhances the funding for their schools; police officers who manufacture evidence to pad their arrest stats. Every profession has cheats associated with it.

For me, this is the first time the cheating has affected my team in the present day. There have been plenty of Rangers tainted by the cloud of steroid use: among them Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco, A-Rod and Rafael Palmeiro. They all were “outed” AFTER the fact. This is today. The 2013 season. Nellie Cruz. Hypocrite I may be, but despite the nuance I have in the PED argument, it hurts that a player from MY team apparently has chosen to cross that line and affect his team’s chances due to his own selfishness.

Juan Gone, A-Rod, Canseco and Raffy using steroids didn’t affect the way I felt about them because they always struck me as the type of guys that would do something like that. Nellie has never struck me that way. I probably have more affection for Nelson Cruz than I had for any of those other four. He plays with joy. He was instrumental in starting the whole “Claw and Antlers” thing in 2010. Now I’ll never look at Nelson Cruz the same way. If he gets a suspension, which would not surprise me at all, what will my reaction be after he serves his suspension? Will I immediately forgive him and move on or will I have an instant suspicion as soon as he hits his first home run of the season? I honestly don’t know.

A Father’s Day Story 2001

Author’s Note: This will be a multiple-post day. Since it’s Father’s Day, I thought I’d re-share, for those who missed it, my Father’s Day post from 2010. Happy  Father’s Day, one and all!

June 15th, 2001. It was a Friday. Mrs. 40 Year Ranger Fan (although she hyphenates the name Mrs.Mariner Fan-40 Year Ranger Fan) approached me as we were preparing to sleep for the night.

“Honey, you know my friend (name withheld to protect the guilty)? She had a special piece of furniture made for her father for Father’s Day. It’s a guy who lives north of town and it’s a pretty heavy piece. She wants to bring it home and get it in the house before her father wakes up so it’ll be there for Father’s Day.” She then stumbled through the next sentence. “I… I kind of… Well, I kind of promised her we’d help her pick it up.”

“OK,” I said, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It did.

“We’re going to have to go over to her house at 5 AM. Don’t be upset, baby. She’s done a lot for us and I want to help her!”

“OK,” I said, already thinking about setting the alarm for 4 AM on Father’s Day.

Sunday arrives. The alarm rings at 4 AM. Groggily I take a shower and get dressed. The hot water doesn’t even begin to wake me up. We drive over to the friend’s house. When we arrive, all the lights are out at her house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The wife gets out the cell phone and calls. No answer on her friend’s cell phone. “I hate the idea of waking her father up, but I need to call her home number,” she says. Apparantly somebody answers because see tells me, “She overslept. She’ll be right out.”

I’m falling asleep in the car.

Eventually the friend comes out, carrying her 4-year old son and some other stuff. I’m not paying much attention. I’m just sleepy.

The missus tells me to get into her friend’s car. I comply. The friend puts the 4-year old in the back seat with me. He’s as sleepy as I am. While I note it, I don’t think anything of the fact that the friend’s mother and father are standing right there on the front step. I may have thought that the surprise for her dad must be ruined since he’s seeing her leave, but that was about it. I pay no attention to what the wife is doing as she’s putting things in the trunk.

We depart in the friend’s vehicle and head north. We reach the next town and continue heading north. After 15 minutes or so we have cleared the northern border of said next town. Wearily, I ask, “Where is this piece of furniture, in Falfurrias (about an hour away)? My wife turns around in the front seat.

“Actually, we’re not going to get a piece of furniture.”

“What are we doing then?”

“We’re going to Houston to see the Astros-Rangers game.”

“Yeah, right. Houston is six hours away.”

“I’m serious, baby. We’re going to Houston to see the Astros-Rangers game!”

“I can’t go to a game. I don’t have the right clothes to go to a ball game! I need a jersey and a cap”

“I already packed it. I can’t believe I pulled this off. You didn’t have a clue!”

She was right. I didn’t have a clue.

We drove six hours to Houston to what was still Enron Field at the time. On the way, I opened Father’s Day cards from my wife and our one remaining son at home. My son gave me a book on major league ballparks. When the 4-year old woke up we got acquainted. I was glad to talk to someone who was as clueless as I was.

We met up with a friend of the friend in front of the ballpark and took our seats, upper deck on the third base side. The Rangers started Darren Oliver against the Astros Scott Elarton. We scored a run in the top of the first on a Ruben Sierra sac fly, but the ‘stros came back in the bottom of the first with a solo shot by Craig Biggio.

Biggio struck again with his second homer of the game in the third inning. It stayed 2-1 Astros until the top of the 5th when Pudge Rodriguez knocked in a run with a single and Alex Rodriguez followed with a three-run shot to make it 5-2. A 9th inning sac fly by Bo Porter (who I don’t even remember) closed out the scoring and the Rangers won for me on Father’s Day 6-2.

After the game, we started filing out of the park. We were close to the wall looking out over the street and the 4-year-old accidentally drops his souvenier 12-inch bat over the side. Thank goodness it didn’t hit anyone! We drove home and I was back at work the next day following a one day 12-hour road trip with a three hour game in between.

While it was the first time I discovered that I don’t recover as quickly from one day road trips as I used to, it was an unforgettable Father’s Day surprise. Thanks, honey!

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:

Post Season Hardware Version 2.0

In a not unexpected development, Josh Hamilton was named American League MVP today. He’s the 5th Ranger to win MVP honors, the last being A-Rod back in the Dark Ages of Rangers history.

When you hit .359 and win the batting title by over 10 percentage points, you know you’ve had a special season. Hambone even had a three-month span where he hit around .400.

Even as a Rangers fan, though, I’m not sure I would have given my vote to Josh if I had a vote in the matter. That’s just because I make a distinction between someone being named Most Valuable Player and Player of the Year. Hamilton is Player of the Year in my book for sure. He had a storybook season and only Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano came close in my opinion.

To me, though, the MVP is someone who was so instrumental in his team’s success that it’s doubtful they would be where they finished had it not been for them. As good as Hambone’s year was, he was also on a team with the likes of Vlad Guerrero, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. When Hamilton missed most of the last month of the season, the Rangers still managed to find ways to win without him.

For me, Jose Bautista would be the guy that fit the true description of Most Valuable Player. Where would the Blue Jays be without Bautista coming out of nowhere to put up the numbers he did? The Blue Jays put together a respectable 85 win season in the always tough AL East and even came close to sending the Red Sox down to 4th place in the division.

I won’t quibble, though. Hamilton is deserving of the award and I couldn’t be happier for him (well, I could be happier for him, but that would have required the Rangers winning the World Series too!). Way to go, Josh. Let’s hope for a full injury-free season encore in 2011!

And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

The Morning After

alcsnumber6204.jpgAll photos from The Associated Press.

After a celebratory night, I can now write a little bit about Friday night’s pennant clinching victory.

During the course of the day, I was astounded by how many people told me emphatically that the Rangers would win Game 6. People at my office, people at my wife’s office, my kids, everyone seemed more sure than I of a Rangers win.

Being so used to this team not performing to expectations, I was having visions of Phil Hughes pitching the way he has before against Texas instead of the way he pitched in Game 2. And, I had seen Colby Lewis so many times in July and August get little run support and end up giving up the first runs. Those runs often turned out to be the winning runs. All I could do was hope against hope for a similar result to Game 2.

It started right off the bat, with an Elvis Andrus double, a Josh Hamilton single and a Vlad Guerrero groundout, his first RBI of the ALCS, in the bottom of the 1st.

I started feeling better. Unfortunately, the Rangers stopped hitting after that. Hughes didn’t allow any hits in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th. Lewis was matching Hughes, actually having a no-no through 4. Still, the Yankees were hitting some incredible shots, just right at people. Andrus skyed like Kobe Bryant to snag one sure double to end an inning. Ian Kinsler scooped up a hot Robinson Cano shot to turn an inning-ending double play and there were a couple of warning track shots as well.

When it was still 1-0 going to the 5th, I was getting worried. It didn’t help my mood that Michael Young came up twice to that point with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs and not only couldn’t cash in the run, he couldn’t advance the runner, either. Then the Yankees started intentionally walking Hamilton, daring Guerrero to beat them instead. Vlad failed to deliver.

Finally, the Yankees got some hits and tied the game at 1 in the 5th. Texas had Derek Holland warming in the pen. It looked like Lewis might be done. That sinking feeling was hitting me big time. Cliff Lee or not, I really didn’t want there to be a Game 7, but it was looking like the defending champs were gaining momentum.

Lewis managed to work out of the jam with no further scoring when he struck out Marcus Thames with a runner on second. Tie game.

Now the question was, could Phil Hughes have a shutdown inning? He hadn’t given up a hit since the first. Mitch Moreland started it off with a grounder deep in the hole to Cano. Hughes didn’t get to the bag in time and Moreland was on. An Andrus groundout with Moreland going put a runner on second with one out. Again, Michael Young came up with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs. Again, Young didn’t get a hit. Again, an intentional pass to Hambone to bring up Vlad.

Different result.

Guerrero sent a deep shot to left center, scoring Moreland and Hamilton and the Rangers were back on top 3-1. Phil Hughes’ night was over. David Robertson came in and, after five straight curveballs, threw Nelson Cruz a fastball that was promptly deposited into the left center field seats. 5-1 Rangers.

That sinking feeling was gone. We were really going to win this thing! Lewis worked a 1-2-3 6th inning. Feeling better.

I knew for sure it was over in the top of the 7th. Robinson Cano, who had killed Rangers pitching the entire series, not only struck out, he did it badly on a curve in the dirt. The life was gone from the 2009 champs.

Lewis came back for the 8th and, with one walk included, struck out the side to end his night: 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 3 walks and 7 K’s.

Neftali Feliz came in to pitch the 9th and how fitting was it for Rangers fans for the game to end with Alex Rodriguez taking a called third strike?

alcsnumber6208.jpgA-Rod, whom the Rangers signed for that mammoth quarter billion dollar contract in 2003. The one who was supposed to take the Rangers to the Promised Land. To be fair, any player would have taken the contract. It was former owner Tom Hicks who overspent on A-Rod, thus handcuffing the team for years from making significant free agent investments. Still, Rodriguez’ comments when he left the Rangers about how it was him “and a bunch of kids” left a sour taste in Rangers fans’ mouths.

Well, guess what, folks? A-Rod really did lead the Rangers to the Promised Land. He just did it with a strikeout instead of a home run!

Hamilton was given the ALCS MVP award. He had a great ALCS and his 5 intentional walks in the series (3 in Game 6 alone) is certainly all the proof one needs for Josh to win the AL MVP Award this year. Still, I think I would have given the award to Andrus. Elvis was a key in every early offensive rally the Rangers had this series. He had a hit in every game, his baserunning disrupted the Yankees from the get go and he made some incredible plays defensively, including the force out at 3rd in Game 4 that kept the Yankees from having a big inning. I’m happy for Hamilton, though.

And how about the whole concept of “TEAM” shown in the post-game show. When they interviewed GM Jon Daniels about “HIS” success, Daniels immediately pointed to the scouts and advance men under his wing, singling them out for praise first. When Hamilton was awarded the MVP, you could see him mouth to someone (or to the entire team) “You deserve this.” He then thanked God and Jesus first, and made it all about the team second before even talking about himself. How refreshing in these days of spoiled athletes!

There’s only one thing I regret about the ALCS. It sure would have been nice to see Andres Blanco get into a game. Blanco has been with the team from the start of the season and really earned his spot on the post-season roster when he filled in for Ian Kinsler so ably on his second trip to the DL. I sure hope Blanco gets some AB’s in the Fall Classic.

All that’s left to decide now is who the Rangers will be playing. Both the Phillies and the Giants have great pitching staffs. The Phillies have the better offensive team. Despite the bats, though, I’d have to say my choice is Philly. The reason? Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Two possible Hall of Famers. Tough as they come. Still, the Rangers know both of those pitchers a lot better than they know the Giants Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and company. The Rangers have faced Halladay, Oswalt and Brad Lidge many a time over the years and will be able to game plan against them better.

In the end, though, it matters not who they face. What matters is THE TEXAS RANGERS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!


Two Streaks End: Rangers 7, Yankees 2

Ten straight post-season losses vs. the Yankees: OVER!

Zero wins in 7 home playoff appearances: OVER!

The 2010 Rangers rewrite team history again.

Even diehard Rangers fans had to be wondering how the team would come back after losing the way they did in Game 1. Never mind that they’ve shown the ability to bounce back from disappointment time and time again this season. THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!! EVERYTHING IS MAGNIFIED IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!

I should do that- write in all caps the rest of the way because THIS IS THE PLAYOFFS!!!

Never mind. I won’t.

The answer to the burning question was answered in inning #1 when Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton pulled off a perfect double steal, plating Andrus with the first run of the game. When David Murphy followed with a second inning solo home run, it seemed safe to say the Rangers had bounced back nicely, thank you very much. By the time it was all over, Texas had made a big statement: We’re not going anywhere (except to New York for Games 3, 4 and 5)!

The bullpen still made things, shall we say, adventurous, but they still came away with 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. As a bonus, everyone who was a part of the 8th inning debacle Friday night got to atone for it Saturday. Clay Rapada’s strikeout of Marcus Thames to end the 6th was probably the turning point of the game in terms of stopping Yankees momentum.

Alexi Ogando saw his first action and, while it wasn’t easy, it didn’t result in scores either. The faithful at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington were noticeably pensive when Darren Oliver came on in the 8th after his two walk performance on Friday. They grew even more restless when he walked the first batter. A 3-pitch strikeout of Jorge Posada relaxed them a bit and Ian Kinsler’s great play on Lance Berkman’s grounder had everyone forgiving Darren for his previous sins. Darren #2, Mr. O’Day, closed out the 8th getting Marcus Thames to ground out, setting the crowd off on their traditional variation on the soccer anthem, singing “O’Day O’Day, O’Day O’Day”!

Neftali Feliz came to the mound for the first time in the 9th and, as in the ALDS, caused many moments of frustration for the fans who were ready to celebrate a win. Feliz struck out Derek Jeter to start things off, but walks to Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira stirred the restlesness pot once again. Instead of Mike Maddux, this actually prompted a visit to the mound from Ron Washington, who seldom does such a thing without pulling the pitcher. Whatever he told Feliz, it worked, because he got A-Rod out on a ground ball and Robinson Cano skied to left for the final out.

For the first time in the playoffs, we saw the respect for Josh Hamilton. Hambone walked four times in the game, two of those intentionally. The Rays had Josh when he was still working on getting his timing back after missing almost a month to injury. After Friday night’s 3-run first inning home run told them he just might have that timing back, you can tell the Yankees, if they can, will avoid Hamilton in key situations.

What more can you say about the Rangers starting pitching? CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis have just shut down the Yankees attack. Meanwhile, Texas has teed off against New York’s #1 and #3 starters in the first two games. On the other hand, the Yankees bullpen has outshone the Rangers relief corps by a wide margin so far.

Did anyone else notice how worthless the TBS PitchTrak system is? I’d say about half the pitches showing outside the right margin of their box was called a strike. When it’s that consistent, it’s not the ump, it’s the electronics!

Thanks to this win, the national narrative for this series can now take a different shape. Disappointed as I was with the Game 1 loss, I could not believe some of the talking heads that pass themselves off as experts were sounding. They were already talking about the series being over. The most egregious of these were two guys on MLB Radio today. I wish I knew who they were but I didn’t catch the names. One was the on-air guy at the time. He closed his segment up by predicting a Yankees blow-out in Game 2. OK, that’s an opinion, so maybe that wasn’t so bad. The other guy, though, I think was one of the newspaper reporters who follows the Yankees. When asked about how the rest of the series was going to go, he said, in no uncertain terms, that Friday morning he was planning on being back in Arlington next weekend, but now he was CERTAIN he wouldn’t have to leave New York next week.

Mathematically, that’s still a possibility, but it was obvious from the way he was talking he already had Game 2 as a slam-dunk no-doubter from the get go. He was right. He was just thinking about the wrong team!

I spoke earlier of a shift in the narrative of the series. Think about this. Not trying to get ahead of myself, but if the Rangers win Game 3 with Cliff Lee on the mound to go up 2-1, there will be a shift in what you hear about the Series. Instead of, “The Rangers 8th blew Game 1 with a horrible 8th inning” we’ll start hearing more along the lines of “If not for one bad inning in Game 1, the Rangers would be up 3-0 on the defending World Champions!” Already, the narrative is shifting the Rangers way with talk about how well the offense has handled CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. A solid effort against Andy Pettite on Monday (no easy feat, to be sure) and you’ll actually hear some serious doubt raised about the Yankees chances.

That is one narrative I sure would like to hear at the end of the night Monday. On to New York!

A New Era Begins

7PM CDT October 15,2010. No matter how many games this lasts, it will be the latest the Rangers have ever played in a calendar year.

Four steps need to be made, each one putting the team closer to what longtime fans once thought unfathomable- the World Series.

Will the 2010 Texas Rangers successfully walk up those steps in 2010? The next 4-7 games will tell.

Funniest thing I heard: Listening the MLB Radio on the XM on the way to work as I always do, I heard a Yankee fan call in to Jim Memelo and Jeff Nelson. His complaint? “Cliff Lee this, Cliff Lee that. Can we please stop talking about Cliff Lee?” Hysterical. Pot, meet kettle. No disrespect intended, but sir, do you realize how much the rest of the nation hears about the Yankees day in, day out? Especially in the off-season? And you can’t take someone talking about someone else for a change for even three days? Please. Wonder if he’d be complaining if Lee had gone to the Yankees instead of Texas back in July.

What 40 years of futility does to one’s mind set: Yesterday I followed two links via Lone Star Ball and read two articles picking the Rangers to beat the Yankees in the ALCS. I didn’t know what to do with this. I’m so used to nobody picking the Rangers, I don’t know how to respond to someone picking for them. I even started thinking it has to be bad news for someone to say the Rangers are favored. This team seems to perform better as underdogs. One regular Rangers blogger was certain we would lose Game 5 against the Rays. That’s how used to failure we are. That’s why success smells so sweet right now.

Sizing Up The ALCS: OK, time for some serious comparisons. Despite home field advantage for Texas, it’s easy to see why the Yankees should be favored. History is definitely on their side. They have a scary offense. They’re sound defensively. Their pitching is pretty good.

I don’t think there’s any doubt the Yankees, around the infield, are the stronger team. Texeira vs. Moreland, no contest. Kinsler-Cano. Edge to Cano because of Kinsler’s 2 DL trips, otherwise a push. Jeter vs. Andrus, edge Jeter. A-Rod vs. Young. Sorry, Michael. You’ve been our rock but A-Rod’s power is the difference there.

On the other hand, the Rangers have the upper hand in the outfield, especially in outfield depth. Hamilton and Cruz certainly top Granderson and Swisher. Plus we have Borbon, Murphy and Francoeur to counter Gardner, Thames and Kearns.

Behind the plate is a wash. Posada and Cervelli are better offensively than Molina and Treanor, but I give the defensive/play calling edge to the Rangers.

DH is easily in the Rangers column with Vlad Guerrero, although he hasn’t been hitting with a lot of power lately. He’s still someone who can change a game in a hurry.

Offensively, then, it’s pretty much even. That brings us to pitching.

To me, this series comes down to how Andy Pettite performs. Pettite missed a big chunk of the season with a groin injury. He’s made four starts since he returned. Pettite pitched well in his first start. Then he got shelled in his second and third appearances before pitching a good game against the Twins in the ALDS. Pettite has given the Rangers fits in the past and he has a sterling post-season record. Still, two good starts and two bad starts since coming off the DL makes him a wild card. Plus, he’s the one who has to contend with Cliff Lee in the ALCS.

To be sure, CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis HAVE to perform well for the Rangers to have a chance. Like Pettite for the Yankees, I’m not 100% sure either pitcher can do it twice in this series. And the Game 4 match-up? I think both Rangers fans and Yankees fans have absolutely no idea who comes out on top in a Hunter-Burnett match-up. From what I can gather, fans on both sides are expecting their guy to LOSE this one!

Bullpens are pretty equal as well. You have to give the Yankees the closer edge with Rivera against the Rangers rookie Feliz, even though Texas has had success against Rivera in the regular season. I think the Rangers have more quality set-up guys than the Yankees, so that puts the bullpens as a wash.

Overall, that spells a pretty even series to me. The keys for the Rangers are Josh Hamilton starting to hit again and the Rangers as a team not letting the Yankees get into their heads. If they stay level-headed and Hambone gets his timing back, they can win this thing and go to the Ultimate Show.

The Prediction: The history of this ballclub says to me (unfortunately) if this is just a 4 or 5 game series, that probably means the Yankees have won. Six or seven games tells me Josh is back on his offensive game and the Rangers will be on top in the end.

In 1996, Texas made the playoffs for the first time in their history. They won the season series from the Yankees, 7-5. They lost to the Yanks in the ALDS in four games.

Despite winning four of their last five against the Yankees (the last three without Josh Hamilton), regular season success does not necessarily mean post-season success.

Time to prove it can!

Encore: Rangers 7, Yankees 6

I put Friday’s extra-inning win over the Yankees as my #2 Rangers game of 2010. Today, I have to admit I was wrong. It is now the #3 Rangers game of 2010. That’s because Saturday night’s game is the new #1.

Listening to the end of the game in bed on the laptop while the wife was contentedly snoozing right next to me, it was almost impossible to celebrate this improbable win without disturbing the sleep of said light of my life. Yet somehow, some way, I managed to do it. It took me about an hour to actually get to sleep afterwards, but still…

What can you say about this one? While it is perfectly plausible to say this isn’t truly a playoff preview, one can’t say both teams haven’t been playing all out to win. And if the Yankees don’t want to tip their hands too much to their likely first round playoff opponent, why bring Mariano Rivera in to save the game. Why not let someone else do it?

But I get ahead of myself. To the game itself…

The Rangers needed Tommy Hunter to give them innings last night after burning up the relief corps in Friday night’s cliffhanger. By the second inning, it appeared this was not about to happen. Hunter labored through a 30+ pitch second inning, at the end of which the Bronx Bombers had a 2-1 lead.

Somehow, Hunter perservered. Not known for his strikeout abilities, Big Game nonetheless retured eight Yankees on strikes in his five innings of work. By the time he left, Hunter and the Rangers had forged a 2-2 tie. It’s doubtful Hunter would have come out for the 6th, but thanks to the rain, we’ll never know.

An hour delay spelled the end of Hunter and his New York counterpart, AJ Burnett. It was up to the bullpens to make it the rest of the way. This favored the Yankees as they didn’t use near the relievers as the Rangers Friday night.

Texas took advantage of the Yankees bullpen. They loaded the bases and scored two in the 6th on a Jeff Francoeur SF and Elvis Andrus single to go up 4-2. The Yanks responded in the 7th with a bases loaded walk to make it 4-3. Mitch Moreland responds in the 7th with an RBI single in the bottom of the 7th to make it 5-3. Then came the crucial 8th inning.

To this point, the Rangers relief pitchers had been Michael Kirkman (effective), Rich Harden (ineffective) and Pedro Strop (walked in the 3rd run but got out of the bases loaded jam). Strop was sent in to start the 8th. He walked Francisco Cervelli, who is now an inexplicable 2-2 with six walks and a sacrifice in the first two games of the series. Time for another pitching change. The call went in for Matt Harrison.

This shows how depleted the bullpen was. Harrison had gone 2 1/3 innings Friday night and had so little left in the tank when he finished he had no control whatsoever. Guess what? He was the same. Harrison gave up a walk and a hit, loading the bases with one out and A-Rod at the plate. Rodriguez proceeded to line a hard double down the line, plating all three runners and giving the Yankees a 6-5 lead. End of Harrison’s night and very close to the end of the Rangers night. Kerry Wood worked a 1-hit scoreless 8th, Alexi Ogando did the same for the Rangers in the top of the 9th. Bottom of the 9th, it’s Mariano Rivera time.

I almost turned the audio feed off. It was well past midnight, the wife was asleep and the game was all but over. I started making the move towards the x button on my window. Then Vlad Guerrero walked. That’s a little different. Rivera had walked only 9 all season before that and Vladdy’s not the kind of guy who takes walks very often. Nelson Cruz came to the plate. I had to keep listening. Could Cruz get his 4th walk-off homer of the year? Against Rivera?

Nope. But he did hit a soft single, sending pinch runner Esteban German to 3rd. Runners on the corners, nobody out, Ian Kinsler to the plate. Double down the left field line scores German to tie it at 6. Great, I thought. Now Rivera will bear down and we’ll go to extra innings again. Who knows how long this game will last!

With runners on second and third, Chris Davis, just up from Oklahoma City, comes to the plate. Despite a .188 batting average, Rivera intentionally walks Davis to load ’em up. Understandable, you want a force at any base. Andres Blanco comes up and swings at Rivera’s first pitch for a weak infield pop-up. Infield fly rule. One out.

Now I’m certain this will be another extra inning affair. Rivera’s just too good. I figure he’ll get a DP grounder or a strikeout and a ground-out to end the inning. Jeff Francoeur comes to the plate with the bases loaded and one out and on the first pitch… Rivera hits him. Did I just hear that right? MARIANO RIVERA HIT JEFF FRANCOEUR ON THE FIRST PITCH!!! NELSON CRUZ SCORES, RANGERS WIN!!!

Amazing. Improbable. Incredible. Unbelieveable. I could write descriptive words like this all day and it still wouldn’t come close to describing the actual feeling I had listening to this game. And here’s the topper. I realized this is the SECOND TIME WE’VE BEATEN RIVERA THIS YEAR! Against the Rangers Rivera is now 0-2 with 2 saves, a blown save and a 5.78 ERA in 2010.

Thus the Rangers stetched their winning streak to four games, proving two things in the process: 1) this team can win without Josh Hamilton; and 2) this team can play with the New York Yankees. It remains to be seen whether they can beat them in the playoffs but they now have the psychological lift of knowing they can do it.

The Rangers didn’t let A-Rod suck the life out of them, they battled through weak pitching performances and came out on top. On a walk-off HBP no less.

Cliff Lee goes for the Rangers sweep this afternoon. Will we get it? Who knows? Texas has not played well in day games, Lee has not pitched well of late and lost the last time he was on the mound when Texas could’ve had a sweep. But I will remain optimistic and will even bypass watching the NFL’s first full day of games to watch this one.

Cliff, if you need some more incentive, here’s some just between you and me. Nobody else has to know. I’ve checked my budget and I’m pretty sure I can make this happen. Cliff, nobody has been able to get Francisco Cervelli out this series. Nobody. OK, he got a sacrifice last night but he was trying to get himself out there. He’s two for two with six walks this series. Cliff, get Cervelli out today and there’ll be something extra in it for you. I’ve got a green bill with Abe Lincoln’s picture on it if you just get Cervelli out once. OK, $5.50 but that’s as high as I go!

If today’s game tops Friday and Saturday’s games, I may be writing my next post from my bed at the local Heart Hospital. GO RANGERS!

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