Results tagged ‘ Derek Holland ’

The Friday/Saturday Sundry: 4/4/14

Not much to discuss today, but here are a couple of links worth the look.

TR Sullivan did a great piece on Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington for MLB.com. As big as statistics are to baseball fans, Wash shares his food for thought on what it takes to compile those stats. Basically, he believes if you play the game right the stats will come instead of the opposite.

There’s also this: The rehabbing Derek Holland answers “Rangers player most likely to…” questions.

Martin Perez turns 23 years old today.

Lastly, there’s this photo taken at the Season Opener for the Rangers’ AA affiliate the Frisco RoughRiders. The game got postponed in the third inning. Looking at the picture, I think you’ll know why:

Frisco 4-3-14

Here’s tonight’s schedule:

RANGERS (2-1) at Tampa Bay (2-2)  Joe Saunders vs. Jake Odorizzi

AAA Oklahoma City(Astros) (1-0) at ROUND ROCK (Rangers) (0-1)

AA NW Arkansas (Royals) at FRISCO (Rangers)

High-A Salem (Red Sox) (1-0) at MYRTLE BEACH (Rangers) (0-1)

Low-A HICKORY (Rangers) (1-0) at Greensboro (Marlins) (0-1)

How Globe Life (Might Have) Got The Naming Rights To RBiA

Globe Life Park copy

The Texas Rangers sold the naming rights to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington February 5th, inking a ten-year deal that turns RBiA into Globe Life Park for the next decade. The deal was surprising because, until the day before the announcement, the public wasn’t even aware the Rangers were pursuing any naming rights deals. I wonder if this is how it went down.

The Scene: Principal owner Bob Simpson’s office. Simpson is sitting at his desk, having a chat with General Manager Jon Daniels.

“Yes, Mr. Simpson?”

“JD, what’s going on around here? Every time I turn around, I hear about somebody else getting hurt and it isn’t even Spring Training yet!”

“Well, sir, I…”

(Phone rings. Simpson puts it on speaker)

“Ann I told you, no interruptions!!!”

“Yes, sir, but there’s a gentleman out here and he appears very insistent on seeing you.”

(Door Opens)

GANGSTER“Bob, JD, how are youse guys doing? It’s a bee-yoo-ti-ful day in Arlington, ain’t it?”

“Sir, I own the ballclub and you can’t just come barging in…”

“Tsk, tsk, Boobala. Is that any way to act towards someone who wants to do youse guys a favor?”

“A favor? What kind of favor could you do for me?”

“I noticed youse guys have been getting a lot of players, how shall I put it delicately, incapacitated. I can guarantee I can make that go away. Mr. Daniels, I understand you gots a player in Venezuela. Let me check my notes here…a Joseph Ortiz, am I right?”

“Yeah, he pitched for us last year. He was up for a bullpen role this year too.”

“And he got his foot run over by a car. My my my. Ain’t dat a shame? The accidental things that can happen to a player. Unless it weren’t no accident, if you know what I mean.”

“I don’t know what you’re implying, but who are you anyway???”

“Just call me Vinny for now. Now, there’s also Mr. Chirinos. I believe he’s a catcher.”

“He has a chance at being our third string catcher out of spring training.”

“Got hit on the wrist by a pitch. Tragic, just tragic.”

“It wasn’t serious. He’ll be ready for Spring Training.”

“Unless something else happens to that fragile wrist of his. Not saying it’s going to, but hey, anything is possible in this big bad world of ours. Which brings me to Derek Holland. What a shame it was to have him (makes quotation marks with his fingers) trip over his dog. (Closes the quotes with his fingers) Microfracture surgery on his knee. Going to miss half a season. A dog gone shame it is. Hey, youse see what I just did there? Tripped over his dog? Dog-gone shame??? HAR HAR HAR!!!”

“OK, Mr…”

“Vinny. My name is Vinny.”

“All right, Vinny. Why don’t you tell me what you’re really here for?”

“It’s like dis, Bob. You don’t mind if I call you Bob, do you?”

“I mind very much!”

“Bob it is. You see, Bob…JD…I represent a growing concern we call the Globe Life Insurance Company. And I…WE…can guarantee the future safety of your players. In fact, I will personally see to it that some of these accidents stop happening. Just like that!”(Snaps his fingers)

“I don’t see how you can, considering they were accidents to begin with…”

“JD, JD, JD. I can’t believe your brilliant baseball mind doesn’t understand. Sure, Derek had an…accident, shall we say. Who’s to say that a week into spring training, Jurickson Profar just happens to slip on a bar of soap in the shower, throwing his whole shoulder out of whack. Or maybe your new guy….Choo is his name? Who’s to say this Choo fellow doesn’t take his girl to an amusement park and gets into an incident involving the little choo choo that goes around the park? Maybe dese tings happen, maybe dey don’t. Just saying…”

“I think I get where you’re coming from, Vinny. So how much?”

“Mr. Simpson, you’re not thinking about paying this guy off, are you?”

“Quiet JD. This is between Vinny and me. So what’s the bottom line Vinny?”

“Well, the people I represent at Globe Life think it would be really cool to have people partake of a game here in Arlington at Globe Life Park. Whatta youse guys feel about that?”

“I hate it.”

“Fortunately, it’s Bobby here who makes the decisions. So whatta ya say, Bobby? Have we got a deal?”

“And we have no more…accidents?”

“Scout’s honor. No more accidents for the next nine months.”

“Nine months isn’t good enough. I’m not going to do this and have you come back nine months again and do another shakedown!”

“Bobby, Bobby. This ain’t a shakedown. It’s a business arrangement! Tell you what, let’s shoot for da stars. We’ll make it a ten year arrangement. How does that sound?”

“And we won’t see you again for another ten years?”

“You gots my word on it.”

“And if we decide after this year we no longer want to be associated with you?”

“Oh you wouldn’t want to do that. Something bad could happen. I might could persuade A-Rod to return to Texas.”

“Ten years it is Vinny. Great doing business with you! Can’t wait to see the Globe Life Park signage for the next ten years. Hell, I’ll go 20 as long as you keep A-Rod away from here!”

“Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure.”

(Takes out cell phone. Places a call.)

“Mr. Ryan? Nolan? Vinny here. We got a deal. Worked like a charm!”

Everybody Refuses To Lose

Rangers primary logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since splitting a 4-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers have won five of their last seven games, including the last four in a row. That’s a .714 clip.

Unfortunately for the Rangers, the two teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race, the Rays and the Cleveland Indians, have both gone 7-0 in the same time span.

Talk about your must win scenarios. There are three games left in the season. If the Rangers are one game better than the Indians over the last three games, it forces a one-game playoff to decide who gets to go into another one-game playoff.

If Cleveland refuses to lose as they have the last seven games, there’s nothing the Rangers can do about it. One game better and rookie Martin Perez gets to face the Tribe in Cleveland. Do two games better and Perez squares off against the Rays.

The odds are still against Texas, but Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish give the Rangers the best odds of getting to a Game 163.

I said it Monday and I’ll say it again. Every game is a must win this week and, with only three games remaining, 3-0 could still spell failure. So far, 4-0 this week has only been good enough to tread water.

Time for a miracle, boys.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 24

Rangers primary logo

Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 0-6

Overall: 81-67  (2nd Place AL West) (-6.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Jim Adduci   .444/.500/.444 1 Stolen Base

A.J. Pierzynski  .318/.360/.455  3 Doubles

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Mitch Moreland  .000/.133/.000  0 Hits in 13 AB’s

Leonys Martin  .105/.150/.105

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Yu Darvish  0-2, 14 Innings Pitched, 8 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 2 Walks, 16 Strikeouts

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Derek Holland 0-1, 3 Innings Pitched, 6 Earned Runs, 18.00 ERA

Matt Garza 0-1, 4 Innings Pitched, 3 Earned Runs, 6.75 ERA

Martin Perez 0-2 11.1 Innings Pitched, 16 Hits, 7 Earned Runs, 5.56 ERA


Paul Simon said it best in 1977: Slip Slidin’ Away, Slip Slidin’ Away, You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away. Two weeks ago, the Texas Rangers, at the very least, were Wild Card playoff bound. With luck they could even find themselves AL West Champions and not facing a one and done Wild Card playoff. Fast forward to today and the Rangers are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether. Sure, they’re tied for the Wild Card with Tampa Bay, but Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas City are knocking at the door as well and the Rangers are playing two of those four teams this week. On the road. Following an 0-6 week that was all in front of the home crowd.

It was the first time in Rangers history that a home stand of six or more games resulted in zero wins.  Not only did they lose every game, the Rangers NEVER HAD A LEAD THE ENTIRE WEEK. 54 innings of losing baseball. In all three games of the Oakland series, the A’s scored in the first inning. That means the game was in essence over before the Rangers even had an at bat in the game. Texas had ZERO home runs for the week. Zero home runs. At Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, historically one of the most prolific home run parks in the majors. The Rangers haven’t hit a home run since Alex Rios on Sunday the 8th at Anaheim, and that was in the first inning. It has been nearly seven games since a Rangers player hit a home run. A total of 62 1/3 innings now.

Yu Darvish was 0-2 on the week despite giving up only two runs in 14 innings of work. The Rangers lost both games 1-0. Darvish has lost four games by a score of 1-0 this year. Over his last seven starts, the Rangers have scored a total of 13 runs.

The kicker was yesterday’s game against the A’s. Texas was slated to face Oakland’s ace Jarrod Parker but Parker was a last-minute scratch because of illness. The A’s also pulled slugger Yoenis Cespedes from the line-up at the last minute with shoulder soreness. If the AL West title was really on the line, do you think either of those two players would have sat on the bench? Nope, they would have gutted it out to give their team their best chance to win. Instead of Parker, the Rangers got Tommy Millone, who for his career was 0-4 against Texas with a  5.67 ERA, including 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in 2013. In other words, the A’s 1) no longer fear the Rangers; and 2) were telling Texas they didn’t care if the Rangers won or not on Sunday. Being given a gift on a golden platter, what did the Rangers do? Nothing. They scored a run in the first and nothing the rest of the way. Against Tommy Millone.

Things are bad in Arlington right now. The Rangers are 6 1/2 out with 14 games to play. The AL West is pretty much out of the question now. The only hope that remains is to stay in the Wild Card hunt. To do that, they have to get the ship righted immediately. There are no more off days and it starts tonight with the first of four games against the team they’re tied with for the Wild Card lead, the Tampa Bay Rays. After Tampa, the Rangers go to Kansas City for three games with the Royals, who still have an outside shot at a Wild Card berth themselves.

Over the past four seasons, it has never been this discouraging being a Rangers fan. Someone throw them a life-preserver. Please.

Like The Sun, Texas Sinks Slowly In The West

RBiA Sunset

Seeing the Oakland A’s three games up on the Texas Rangers with only 17 games remaining in the season is not fun. Not totally unexpected but not fun.

In a division where the two best teams have shown themselves capable of long winning skeins followed by not quite as long but devastating losing streaks, the Rangers find themselves on the bad side with two and a half weeks remaining in the regular season. It’s been pointed out on several occasions here that the A’s have the easier schedule in the month of September. That was a given. Still, it was important for the Rangers to do whatever they could to keep the A’s within sight and that they haven’t done.

Facing superior competition after a relatively easy August schedule, Texas has laid an egg. In the past this season, when the Rangers have gone into a funk, the offense was squarely to blame. The Texas offense is as inconsistent as a politician’s true beliefs. September is no different as regards the offense. The Rangers have scored only 34 runs in 10 September games. Their .312 OBP and .398 Slugging Percentage are their second worst for a month on the season, bested only by the miserable performance they had in June.

Here are just a few of the pitiful Rangers offensive numbers in September:

Mitch Moreland .130

Adrian Beltre .205

Ian Kinsler .217

Jurickson Profar .233

Leonys Martin .242

But it’s not just the offense this time. The pitching staff, which all season has been the club’s biggest plus, has flamed out as well. This month, Rangers hurlers have a 4.60 ERA through ten games, fully half a run higher than their previous worst month. In August, the team ERA was 3.09. When they have gotten good pitching, such as Yu Darvish against the Pirates on Monday, the offense did nothing and Darvish lost 1-0 (the third time he’s lost a 1-0 game this season).

September Examples:

Derek Holland 0-2 6.10 ERA

Matt Garza 0-2, 6.55 ERA

Yu Darvish 0-2, 4.50 ERA

And in the bullpen:

Robbie Ross 22.50 ERA

Joseph Ortiz 6.35 ERA

Even the normally reliable defense has let Texas down. Wednesday, Elvis Andrus muffed an easy double play ball. He recovered to get a force at second and thus wasn’t charged with an error, but the inability to turn two allowed a run to score from third. Craig Gentry, one of the best defensive outfielders the Rangers have, dropped an easy fly ball in another game.

In short, the going has gotten tough and the Rangers haven’t gotten going. Not only are they sinking in the West, they now have to start worrying about whether there’s enough left in the tank to secure a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Fortunately for them, many of the other contenders are treading water at best so the odds are still in the Rangers’ favor.

Texas plays their last three games against the A’s this weekend. Sweep the A’s and they’ll be tied for the AL West lead. Lose 1 and they’ll be two back with 14 games to go. Lose two of three, they’ll be four back. Lose all three and they’ll be six back.

0-2-4-6. The first two scenarios give Texas hope of wresting the title from Oakland, the last two pretty much mean Wild Card is as good as it’s going to get.

The offense has shown when it’s on they are a force to be reckoned with. The pitching has shown it can be dominant. For the Rangers, another of their hot streaks can begin at any time. The only problem is, there are precious few games remaining for it to happen.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 23

Rangers primary logo

Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 2-4

Overall: 81-61  (2nd Place AL West) (-1.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Elvis Andrus   .462/.429/.769  1 Double, 1 Home Run, 4 RBI and 2 Stolen Bases

Alex Rios  .429/.500/.952  2 Doubles, 3 Home Runs, 5 RBI

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Adrian Beltre  .130/.231/.130

Ian Kinsler  .214/.214/.286  0 Walks, 6 Strikeouts in 28 At Bats

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

7/10 of the Rangers Bullpen (Neal Cotts/Alexi Ogando/Joakim Soria/Joe Nathan/Jason Frasor/Tanner Scheppers/Neftali Feliz): 13 Games, 11.1 IP, 9 Hits, 0 Runs, 2 Walks, 8 Strikeouts  1-0 with 1 Save

Martin Perez  1-0, 1.29 ERA 1.14 WHIP, 5 Strikeouts in 7 Innings Pitched

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

3/5 of the Starting Rotation (Yu Darvish/Derek Holland/Matt Garza) 4 Games, 0-4 Record, 22.1 IP, 27 Hits, 17 Earned Runs (23 Total Runs), 12 Walks, 13 Strikeouts, 6 Home Runs Allowed


If there’s one thing we know about the Texas Rangers, they are a streaky team. 
After a torrid August, September is not going well. The offense is once again sputtering and this past week, the starting pitching decided to head south after a long streak of success. While it was not optimal for Texas to lose two of three to the front-running Oakland A’s to start the week, it wasn’t embarrassing either, as they were playing on the road in Oakland, where Texas has not played well the past few years. No, what was embarrassing was practically getting swept in Anaheim by the Angels, against whom Texas was 10-2 on the season entering the series. Only a late rally on Sunday kept the Angels from sending Texas 2 1/2 back of Oakland with only 20 games to go. Instead it stands at 1 1/2.

If there’s good news, it’s that the Rangers aren’t the only streaky team in the AL West. The A’s showed just last month they can go into funks of their own,as evidenced by the 10-game swing in the standings over a 3-week period in August. Still, three games ago Texas had their destiny in their hands with a 1/2 game lead. A week later and it’s Oakland that has the momentum in their favor. It doesn’t help that Oakland faces off with the lowly Minnesota Twins the first three days of the week while the Rangers square off at home against likely playoff-bound Pittsburgh. This series has me a little torn. I know the Rangers need to sweep this series to keep the heat on Oakland. On the other hand, I am so stoked for the Pirates and their fans that they are one win away from clinching their first over-.500 campaign in 21 years. I’m also a fan of Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who served as the Rangers’ hitting coach for the 2010 World Series team.

No matter how you slice it, Texas needs to follow up two consecutive 2-4 weeks with a 4-2 or 5-1 showing against Pittsburgh and Oakland. The weekend series with the A’s is the last regular season meeting between the two clubs. Anything worse than 2-1 against the A’s means a likely second place finish in the AL West.  Texas, it’s time to pull on your big boy pants.

23 Games

 

AL West Standings September 6, 2013

AL West Standings September 6, 2013

A 1/2 game lead. 23 games to go.

 

23 games is what separates the Texas Rangers from the AL West Division crown they ceded to the Oakland A’s a year ago. 23 games to prove the team is good enough to win a division.

 

There is no doubt, if the Rangers win the AL West they have earned it. Texas has 23 games to go, Oakland 22.

 

Rangers Schedule September 2013

Rangers Schedule September 2013

Of the 23 games remaining, ten of them are against teams with sub-.500 records (3 with Houston, 7 with the LA Angels). Of the A’s remaining 22 games, 19 of them are against teams with sub-.500 records. Only 3 of Oakland’s remaining 22 games are against a team over .500 and those three games are at Texas September 13th through the 15th. Every other game is against Houston, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Seattle. The Rangers still have 13 games remaining against teams on the plus side of .500: 3 with Oakland, 3 with Pittsburgh, 4 with Tampa Bay and 3 with Kansas City. Three of those four teams will likely be in the playoffs.

 

A's Schedule September 2013

A’s Schedule September 2013

If the Rangers end the month of September in first place, they will have indeed earned the division championship. The A’s should be favored at this point. Despite being a half game out at this writing, the division is theirs for the taking based on strength of schedule.

 

For the Oakland A’s, there’s no excuse for not winning the AL West. For the Texas Rangers, there’s every reason to prove right now that they ARE the best.

 

It’s crunch time for the Rangers. Every game is a must win. Keep winning and you don’t have to worry about what the A’s are doing.

 

For Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Matt Garza, Martin Perez and the incredible bullpen, no meltdowns allowed. For Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and the youngsters Leonys Martin and Jurickson Profar and every other member of the offense, no more slumps. You need to score runs, wreak havoc on the basepaths and flash that leather in the field. David Murphy and Mitch Moreland, forget the past five sub par months. Focus on making the next 23 games your best of the season.

 

Three weeks and three days left with only one more day off. Time to show us what you’ve got.

 

English: Baseball with clock to represent a &q...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 20

Rangers primary logo

Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.

Rangers Record: 3-3

Overall: 71-53  (1st Place AL West) (+1/2)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Adrian Beltre   .450/.560/.500    1 Double, 4 RBI, 5 Walks

Craig Gentry  .333/.467/.417  1 Double, 3 RBI, 3 Walks and 2 Stolen Bases

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Elvis Andrus .167/.167/.250

Alex Rios .192/.192/.192

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Derek Holland  7 IP, 0 ER, 6 Strikeouts, 0.71 WHIP

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Matt Garza  6.35 ERA, 4 ER in 5.2 IP

Alexi Ogando 5.68 ERA, 4 ER in 6.1 IP


The 10-game winning streak didn’t happen. The Rangers made it to 8 in a row before dropping a game to Milwaukee with Alexi Ogando on the mound. That led to an overall lackluster week of baseball: a win to finish off a sweep of Houston, a split in two games against Milwaukee and dropping two of three, at home no less, to the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers managed to end the week holding on to first place in the AL West, but by a meager half game over the Oakland A’s.

One elephant in the room: the two newest Rangers have performed a bit below expectations. Since throwing seven shutout innings against the Yankees in his Rangers début, Matt Garza has gone 0-2, giving up 15 runs in less than 28 innings of work. The upside? He’s never given up more than four runs and, except for his last start, has gone 7 innings just about every time out. Meanwhile, Alex Rios, who made a great splash in his opening weekend with the Rangers, is at a decent but not overwhelming .273. He’s got a couple stolen bases and he catches the balls Nelson Cruz couldn’t get to in right field, but without Cruz’ cannon of an arm. Rios has only been on board for a week and a half, so I’m still reserving judgement on him, but Garza needs to step it up starting tonight against the Astros.

While losing two of three at home to Seattle is disappointing, especially when the one win was against Felix Hernandez, the Mariners have been just about the biggest thorn in the Rangers’ side all season. Texas has a winning mark against them at 9-7 but none of it has been easy. Kyle Seager especially has been an AL MVP, if only stats against the Rangers were counted. Seager had the deciding hit in Sunday’s loss and leads all hitters against Texas with 13 RBI this season. The Mariners just do well against Rangers pitching. Three of the top four RBI hitters against Texas in 2013 are Mariners: Seager, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez. Seager, though, is in another stratosphere. He has 11 doubles against Texas. The next closest is Jose Altuve with 5. He and Ibanez are the only players with 4 home runs against Texas this season. Only Miguel Cabrera has a better OPS against the Rangers than Seager. He’s like this pesky gnat that keeps flying around your ear that you can’t get rid of. Fortunately for Texas, there are only three games remaining against the Mariners this season.

The next week favors Texas, with three home games against the Astros and three on the road at Chicago against the White Sox. The two teams with the worst records in the AL. Anything less than 4-2 would be shocking. The A’s get three at home with Seattle followed by three in Baltimore. The Mariners have done even better against Oakland than Texas (8-5 thus far), while Baltimore is 3-1 against the A’s in 2013. Look for the Rangers to add a couple of games to their lead this week, hopefully more than a couple.

There’s A New Ranger In Town

 

Alex Rios

Alex Rios

Just announced: The Texas Rangers have acquired Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Speculation is he PTBNL is  Leury Garcia. who started the season as the Rangers’ utility infielder. Since Garcia is on the 40-man roster, he’d have to clear waivers first to go to the White Sox now. By waiting until season’s end, the waiver requirement is no longer necessary.

Hey, Rios isn’t the best bat around, but he’s one of the best ones available now. He’s a righthanded bat, which the Rangers sorely needed. He’s signed through next season so if David Murphy, Nelson Cruz or both Murphy and Cruz depart at season’s end due to their free agency, there’s already a reasonably productive piece already in place. Rios has a salary a bit on the high side, but for the remainder of this year it’s offset both by some cash the White Sox threw into the deal and the salary Cruz isn’t being paid due to his suspension. Best of all, if the Rangers make the post-season, Rios and Cruz will both be available for post-season play.

On the downside was this tweet from the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Gil LeBreton, who noted “scouts say Rios moves at one speed…and it’s not all-out.” Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News was quick to retweet LeBreton’s tweet. I responded to both, “If anyone can get to him, though, it’ll be Wash.” Both scribes quickly agreed with my assessment.

Wash doesn’t work with everyone. He certainly could do nothing with Cristian Guzman in 2010. Guzman didn’t even make the post-season roster. Wash, though, has a way of getting the best out of his players. There was never a bigger example of that than 2008, two years before the Rangers’ World Series run. That year, Jon Daniels surprised just about everyone in the baseball world by signing world-class malcontent Milton Bradley. Everyone thought JD was crazy. Wash took Bradley under his wing. Throughout the 2008 season, he only had one potential incident, which Wash helped defuse before anything bad could happen. On the field, Bradley had the best season of his career, hitting .321 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI and a .999 OPS. Bradley was also named to his first and only All-Star team. As many know, Bradley signed a big free agent deal after that with the Cubs and was never the same player again. His anger ended up getting the best of him and he’s now facing prison time for a domestic violence charge.

Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley

The point is Wash got through to Bradley. On the field it’s easy to see when Wash gets through to Elvis Andrus and Derek Holland. Both respond to the “in your face” approach to motivation. The lives of every Rangers player is full of what Ron Washington terms “teaching moments.” For every player, those moments take different forms. While Wash is not the best baseball strategist on the block, what he does exceptionally well is handle the men in his charge, sizing them up, figuring out the best way to get through to them, then watching it translate on the baseball field. Not everyone will respond. Those are the ones that usually find themselves ex-Rangers. That well could happen next year to Alex Rios. On the other hand, if Wash figures out what makes him tick, this could end up being a very good acquisition for Texas for the next season and a third.

Book Review: Class A Baseball In The Middle Of Everywhere

 

 

Class A Baseball CoverI watch a lot of baseball, I write a lot about baseball and I read a lot about baseball. These days, most of my baseball reading consists of newspaper and web articles, much of it provided via links on Twitter. Occasionally, though, you can find me reading a book about my favorite sport, especially when it’s one given to me by my stupendous spouse of 16 years.

 

 

 

“Class A in the Middle of Everywhere” by Lucas Mann was a Father’s Day gift. In it, Mann describes his year of 2010, when he embedded himself with the Class A Clinton LumberKings of the Midwest League. This worked for me as a Rangers fan, since Clinton was home to the Rangers in lower Class A through 2008 (they have since made Hickory, NC their home). Early on in the book, Mann speaks with some of the Clinton fans and Derek Holland‘s name pops up. Later there’s a Mitch Moreland reference as well. Beginning in 2009, Clinton became the home for the Seattle Mariners system.

 

 

 

Mann is a gifted writer. He held my interest from beginning to end. Throughout the course of the book, he introduces us to some of the regular game attendees. Mann serves a one night stint as the LumberKings mascot. He gets to know some of the players, including the Mariners newest rookie phenom Nick Franklin. Mann goes out on the town with the players one night, spends a lot of time with the then LumberKings manager, John Tamargo, and discusses Clinton and its history a lot. He gives a peek into the work of the LumberKings play-by-play voice. We visit the baseball shrine in one fan’s home. The nearby casino is a popular hangout. It is both a riveting read and an unsettling one.

 

 

 

Why Clinton? Mann says in Chapter 2 it’s because Clinton represents the stereotype he was looking for: as close to the traditional minor league team we once dreamed of. As gripping a read as it is, this is also the book’s downfall. Mann had a picture in mind, then proceeds through 16 chapters to reinforce his own picture. This isn’t to say there is no truth found in it, just that it seems to reflect Mann’s own life perspective. When Mann looks around Clinton, he decides it’s a dying community and spends much of the book seeking out examples to reinforce his perception rather than also looking for areas that might give the picture more balance. There’s no denying what Mann’s politics are. During the course of the book, there is lengthy discourse about a failed union strike in 1979, how it “destroyed” Clinton and how the city is now dominated by agricultural behemoth Archer Daniels Midland. There is very little of ADM painted in a positive light. In fact, there is very little of any business in Clinton presented positively.

 

 

 

Even the playing of baseball, in the end, has very little positive going for it. In Mann’s worldview, it almost seems the players should be pitied for striving for the prize of getting to the big leagues. The players are exploited, they’re overworked and underpaid, especially the Latinos. Many of the Central and South American players face a language barrier and Mann wonders in print what happens to them once they’re released and have to find another line of work while speaking little or no English. Dave, the play-by-play guy is presented more as a guy who likely will never realize his major league announcing dream. There’s even a thin veil of pity for the traveling entertainer who puts on a pre-game show at the ballpark one night. Overall, there’s a “What’s the point of all this?” vibe to the book that’s a bit on the depressing side.

 

 

 

Clinton LumberKings

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When the book is right on, though,  it is both thought-provoking and intimate. Mann’s description in Chapter 7 of the dream ending for Wellington Dotel and how his former teammates react to it is poignant. I was also rapt with his take on how difficult it is for the longtime fans of minor league baseball because, unlike the major league clubs, the lower minor leagues will seldom see a player in one place two years in a row. It’s a constantly changing mosaic, one which makes it difficult to attach yourself to specific players. Living in a place where Independent League baseball is played, I could never put my finger on why I don’t go to the games available to me very often, but that’s why. With a consistently shifting cast of characters, there’s little continuity for me. I would find it hard to cheer for a team, year in and year out, bearing little resemblance to the team that preceded it by just a year. The good folks of Clinton, though, have done it longer than any other Midwest League city.

 

 

 

It’s true, making the big leagues is hard work and in any given season, only one or two of the 25 players on a Clinton LumberKings roster are likely to ever be lucky enough to perform their craft in a major league ballpark. But isn’t that true in all walks of life? I spent 20+ years in the radio game and never made it to one of the top 10 markets in the country. How many office workers ever get above middle management in their careers? Most teachers will remain teachers and not become principals or superintendents. There is no denying Lucas Mann’s talent for writing. He is wonderfully descriptive and that allows me to recommend “Class A Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere” as a good read. Just because I admire the writing, though, doesn’t mean I agree with his conclusions. Personally, I don’t think he gives the city of Clinton, the fans, the players and their families enough credit. Hardship is certainly a part of their lives, but I don’t think they’re as bleak as Mann makes them out to be, either.

 

Clinton LumberKings

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Class A Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere by Lucas Mann was published in 2013 by Pantheon Books.

 

 

 

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