Results tagged ‘ Elvis Andrus ’
We haven’t even played the first exhibition game of the season, yet there seems to be no shortage of news out of Texas Rangers camp. To wit:
RON WASHINGTON GETS AN EXTENSION
All through the off-season, Jon Daniels assured everyone that Wash would get a contract extension and Wash deserved a contract extension. Yet for four long months, said contract extension was nowhere to be found. Finally the new contract was announced, though many of us were surprised it was only a 1-year extension, through the 2015 season. Wash deserves a longer contract, but I’m thinking the one-year bit wasn’t necessarily JD’s idea. After all, the Rangers’ skipper enters the 2014 season in his 61st year on the planet. While that isn’t really ancient (only three years older than me), maybe Wash is the one who wants to keep it relatively open-ended. The desire is still there but maybe he’s keeping an eye on his health as well. Wash deserves at least three years on his contract and not two. On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember when Walter Alston managed the Dodgers and it was ALWAYS on a series of one-year contracts. Short contracts lead to lots of speculation, but I’m willing to take Daniels at his word when he says he wants Wash to continue managing the Rangers for a long time to come.
NELSON CRUZ IS NO LONGER A RANGER
It was always kind of doubtful Cruz would return to Texas, but the longer he went without signing anywhere, the more we got our hopes up he just might return. Heck, for the one year at $8 million that he signed with the Orioles, it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility it could’ve happened. Cruz (or his agent) badly miscalculated the market and he ended up losing over $6 million dollars because of it. On the other hand, had Cruz taken the Rangers up on the $14 million qualifying offer, it’s likely Shin-Soo Choo or Prince Fielder or both wouldn’t be wearing Rangers uniforms today. I’m going to miss Nelly and his “Boomstick”, but wish him well in Baltimore (except when they play Texas, of course).
Matt Harrison slept on a bad bed and thus will not be ready at season’s open. Geovany Soto had to have surgery on his left foot to shave a small bone that was pressing up against a tendon, Tanner Scheppers has a mild sore back, as does Elvis Andrus; and Jurickson Profar has mild shoulder tendonitis and isn’t allowed to throw in camp yet. It’s amazing how these little aches and pains before even a pitch has been thrown in exhibition play, can make us fans ready to call it quits on the season already. Folks, only Harrison is doubtful for Opening Day. Hard as it is, I’m trying hard to refrain from nail-biting so soon. I refuse to worry until I hear the walking wounded list only two weeks away from first pitch. For now, I’m just treating it as players just taking a little longer to get loosened up.
MEANWHILE IN OTHER CAMPS
While it’s easy for us to think the worst over every little muscle tweak for our own team, the converse is also true: We think every positive article about our rivals is absolute truth and we start worrying about them accordingly. Case in point: There have been a number of positive articles out of Angels camp about Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. If both players played at the level they were at just three years ago, the Angels line-up would be as scary as it gets in the AL West. The thought of it doesn’t please me one bit. I have to keep reminding myself, even if they manage the feat, the Angels still have a weak pitching staff and are going to need every bit of that offense to become a credible threat in the AL West. It must be the Rangers fan in me that makes it easier to imagine the 2014 Hamilton looking like 2010 Josh. For Pujols, he could still be potent, but maybe only to the point of being like he was his first year in an Angels uniform.
In Florida, the Houston Astros have a few new faces in camp. The ‘Stros were terrible in 2012 and, while they’re likely destined to finish last again in 2014, a 10-game improvement wouldn’t be out of the question. Considering the Mariners are likely a little better than a year ago and the A’s are still the A’s, whoever wins the AL West is going to face a lot more challenges than a year ago.
Oh, and one other thing about an AL East rival: The way fans view positive news out of rivals’ camps is the same way many in the media view the New York Yankees. It’s the mystique of the Bronx Bombers (or the Evil Empire, whichever you prefer) that must make them do it. Listening to MLB TV on my radio last night, I heard one of their analysts going all man-crush on the Yankees and how they’ll be so hard to beat in 2014. Five minutes earlier, he labelled the Rangers a non-factor in the AL West. In his “critique” of the Yankees, he talked about how great the pitching staff would be and anointed newcomer Masahiro Tanaka a #2 right off the bat. The Yanks may indeed be very good this year, but I just don’t see how they’re that much improved from 2013. They’ve lost Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, Curtis Granderson and Andy Pettite (I won’t even talk about A-Rod). They’re assuming a big year from CC Sabathia on the basis of weight loss, without noting Sabathia is another year older and has a lot of innings on his arm already. There’s no guarantee Mark Teixeira will ever resemble the feared hitter he once was. They’re also assuming a big year from Michael Pineda, who hasn’t even pitched in two years. Sorry guys. I’m just not seeing it right now.
As I pulled into the office today, I noted my smartphone downloading the new MLB At Bat app! In a couple of days, I’ll be able to listen in to exhibition games again. Living in Texas, I can’t go for the MLB.TV component as I’ll never get the Rangers games, but I love getting the Gameday audio! The season draws closer. All is right with the world again.
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:
Too soon? http://t.co/EAV1SbPsSJ
— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) January 30, 2014
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.
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: 84-71 (2nd Place AL West) (-8.5)
Craig Gentry .571/.600/.786 1 Double, 1 Triple, 4 Stolen Bases
Ian Kinsler .300/.364/.533 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 4 RBI
A.J. Pierzynski .125/.120/.167
Alex Rios .167/.194/.267
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Alexi Ogando 1-0, 0.75 ERA 1 Run on 4 Hits in 12 IP with 9 Strikeouts over two starts
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Joakim Soria 3 Earned Runs on 4 Hits in 2.2 IP
If there were any hopes among Texas Rangers fans of reaching the playoffs for the 4th consecutive year, they were pretty much dashed with a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the tenth inning at Kansas City on Sunday. The Rangers were already no longer controlling their own destiny, entering play a game behind Tampa Bay and a half game back of Cleveland for the two Wild Card slots. With the Rays and Indians already showing wins in the books Sunday, the Rangers needed a win to keep pace. Instead, they failed to score a run for the third time in September and watched the Royals climb back into the Wild Card Race, albeit by an even slimmer thread than Texas.
There are only seven games to go. The teams ahead of the Rangers both swept their weekend series: the Rays took three in a row from the Orioles, while the Indians swept the lowly Astros. Entering the last week of play, any combination of six Rays/Indians wins and Rangers defeats means Texas sitting out the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The good news? Texas is at home for the entire last week, playing host to the lowly Houston Astros and the third place Los Angeles Angels. Texas is a combined 25-6 against the two teams. The bad news? First, Texas has sunk to a paltry 39-35 at home. Second, Texas lost two of three to the resurgent Angels in their last series and the folks from LA are extra motivated with slim hopes of at least finishing .500 on the season. Third, the Indians close their season with six games against the White Sox and Twins, the 4th and 5th place teams in the AL Central.
The biggest glimmer of hope for the Rangers is for the Rays to stumble in the last week. Tampa Bay is on the road the entire week against the Yankees and the Blue Jays. The Rays are 36-39 on the road for the year. BUT Tampa also has a winning record on the season against both the Yanks and the Jays AND they have a winning record on the season at both Yankees Stadium and the Rogers Centre. Trailing the Rays by two games, Texas needs the Yanks and Jays to do them a huge solid to get to the Wild Card.
Elvis Andrus put it best after Sunday’s loss: The Rangers have to win out this week. 7-0 is the mantra for the week, and there’s no guarantee that’ll be enough.
- Maxwell’s slam lifts Royals past Rangers (connectmidmissouri.com)
- The Texas Rangers Hopes of Winning the AL West are Officially Over (rattleandhumsports.com)
It’s the end of the season, the Rangers did themselves no favors by going cold to begin the month of September and now find themselves not assured of a playoff spot with a mere ten games to go in the regular season. The AL West title is clearly out of the question with Oakland up 6 1/2 with 10 games to go. If the Rangers go 10-0, Oakland would still win the division by going a mere 4-5. Mathematically it’s possible, realistically fuhgeddaboutit.
This, of course, means the silly season has started in the DFW area. Columnists are busy opining as to what kind of blood bath will occur within the Rangers organization after the close of the season. After all, Texas “collapsed” for the second consecutive year. SOMEONE HAS TO PAY WITH THEIR JOB!!!
Already, camps have begun to pop up in the media. Some have begun to speculate on Ron Washington‘s future with the team. On the other side of the coin, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Randy Galloway has firmly established himself in the “Fire Jon Daniels” camp, saying the Rangers’ season wasn’t Wash’s fault, it was JD’s for not giving him a good enough team to work with.
My question is, why should anyone get fired?
Yeah, the season has been a disappointment in many regards. The showing of the team in September has not been good and there’s a very real chance Texas won’t be in the playoffs come the end of next week. Based on schedule, the Rangers and Indians have the most favorable odds but getting shut out of the post season is a real possibility.
Still, let’s look at this logically.
For those in the “Fire Wash” faction, think about how 2013 squad composition compared to the 2012 team. Gone for the entire year from that team were Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Michael Young. Those three players alone combined for 75 home runs and 251 RBI worth of offense. In their place, essentially, were A.J. Pierzynski, Lance Berkman and Leonys Martin who, as of 9/19, have combined for 31 game runs and 139 RBI offensively. David Murphy slid from 15 HR and 61 RBI in 2012 to 13 HR and 44 RBI in 2013. And Nelson Cruz, the biggest power threat on the team, got suspended for the last 50 games of the regular season after posting 27 home runs and 76 RBI in the first 112 games.
Meanwhile, on the pitching side, Texas lost Koji Uehara and Mike Adams from the bullpen. Colby Lewis never pitched in 2013 after posting six wins in 2012. Matt Harrison had only two starts in 2013 before being shelved for the year following an 18 win 2012 campaign. The pitching staff actually improved in 2013 despite these departures. Martin Perez established himself as a legitimate starter and the bullpen hasn’t missed a beat with Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers replacing Uehara and Adams. Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz boosted the pen when they came back in August & September from lengthy injury rehabilitation.
Considering how vastly different this team is from the 2012 team, not only should Wash not be fired, he should contend for AL Manager of the Year for where he has this club in the standings. He won’t win. John Farrell of the Red Sox will probably get the honor, but Wash has done an outstanding job considering the injuries he’s had to contend with as well as the Cruz suspension. Texas is tied for the Wild Card lead despite, at one point, fielding a rotation that consisted of Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Ross Wolf.
Then what of General Manager Jon Daniels? Maybe Galloway is right, Jon Daniels should pay with his job for not giving Wash better pieces to work with.
Nonsense. All Daniels has done is put together a team that contended for the division title up until the last three weeks of the season and did it without breaking the Rangers budget or crippling the team for the future. Look at the off-season of 2012. The Rangers were in hot pursuit of two players in particular: Zach Greinke and Justin Upton. They had hopes of re-signing Josh Hamilton. They weren’t saying no to a Mike Napoli return either. Adams and Uehara they were resigned to losing, since JD doesn’t want to overpay for bullpen pieces. Texas was supposedly ready to part with Mike Olt and Elvis Andrus, perhaps even Martin Perez, to get Upton. Arizona didn’t bite. Upton in 2013 has put up 2.9 WAR for the Braves. Andrus and Perez have combined for a 4.1 WAR, while Olt ended up being a piece of the trade that brought Matt Garza to Texas. Greinke signed with the Dodgers. Texas put up an attractive offer, but LA topped it and Greinke admitted he went with the best financial offer. Guess what? If JD had sweetened the offer, the Dodgers would have topped it again.
Since Texas lost out on both Upton and Greinke, Daniels had to get a little more creative. He tried to get James Shields from the Royals. The Rays’ ask was too high. Finally, Daniels signed Lance Berkman as the team’s DH. It was a calculated risk, but if Berkman and his creaky knees came anywhere close to what he did for the St. Louis Cardinals, it would be a steal. He then signed Pierzynski as the everyday catcher. He had already signed the injured Joakim Soria to a two-year deal, even though he wouldn’t be ready until mid-season at the earliest. Finally, Daniels went more low-key and signed Jason Frasor to a 1-year deal to help the bullpen and Jeff Baker as the club’s back-up to Mitch Moreland at first base, David Murphy in left and Adrian Beltre at third. Then, with Texas contending at mid-season, JD went and got both the best hitter and the best pitcher available at the trade deadline in Matt Garza and Alex Rios. He possibly overpaid for Garza, who not only has been somewhat of a disappointment for Texas, he also will be a free agent at year’s end. On the other hand, Rios cost Texas just Leury Garcia and he’s still is under contract for 2014.
All these moves and Texas might miss the playoffs in 2013. On the other hand, take a look at what Daniels has accomplished. On the pitching side, the starting rotation for 2014 is already 4/5 complete with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and a returning Matt Harrison. There’s always a possibility for Colby Lewis to return as well, which would complete the rotation. Meanwhile, Nick Tepesch remains as a viable rotation candidate for next year as well, along with Josh Lindblom, obtained in the Michael Young trade. In the bullpen, if Joe Nathan returns and the club re-signs Frasor, the entire bullpen could return intact in 2014, which is practically unheard of these days.
There is work to be done with the offense. David Murphy will undoubtedly be allowed to leave. Nelson Cruz could depart as well. Yet, the Texas offense is not that far away from being potent yet again. Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin had their first full years in the bigs in 2013 and are sure to put up better numbers in 2014. Texas will probably need to sign another catcher to replace Pierzynski and could take a stab at Brian McCann. Kinsler could be asked to move to first base or left field and Texas will look to obtain a replacement at whichever position Kinsler doesn’t move to. Still, if Daniels were to re-sign Cruz as the everyday DH, move Kinsler to first, sign McCann and then find a new left fielder with some pop, this will be a contending club again in 2014. That will have been accomplished by a GM who kept his top position prospect (Profar) and pitching prospect (Perez) and still has a top 5 minor league system to work out more trades down the road.
Fire Jon Daniels? I think not.
If anyone is to leave at the end of the season, it would be on the coaching staff. Texas made a lot of baserunning blunders in 2013, but they also have three of the top basestealers in the AL, so Gary Pettis‘ job should be safe. Dave Magadan has a great reputation as a hitting coach so I don’t see him as a one year and done coach. Jackie Moore as bench coach? Considering Wash has a history of curious moves, that could be a possibility and even that could be framed as a retirement and not a firing.
In the end, who will get fired? I ask again, why should ANYONE be fired? This is still a very good team with very good leadership. If Texas doesn’t qualify for the post-season, it doesn’t mean the wheels are off the wagon. They’re just momentarily slowing down to fix the wheels to get better traction a year from now.
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).
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.
- Pirates clinch first winning season since 1992 (vindy.com)
- The Texas Rangers: How to win the pennant (isportsweb.com)
- Cole Outduels Darvish As Pirates Shutout Rangers (dfw.cbslocal.com)
- Battle of the AL West! (chrismelius1512.wordpress.com)
- Pirates Win 7-5 for 3-Game Sweep at Rangers (abcnews.go.com)
- Wrapping up Pirates sweep of Rangers (sportsblogs.star-telegram.com)
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)
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
Adrian Beltre .130/.231/.130
Ian Kinsler .214/.214/.286 0 Walks, 6 Strikeouts in 28 At Bats
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Martin Perez 1-0, 1.29 ERA 1.14 WHIP, 5 Strikeouts in 7 Innings Pitched
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 4-2
Overall: 79-57 (1st Place AL West) (+1)
Elvis Andrus .421/.450/.474 1 Double, 4 RBI
Ian Kinsler .360/.385/.400 1 Double, 3 Stolen Bases
Jurickson Profar .174/.240/.348 (But he did have a home run)
Leonys Martin .174/.208/.304 (But he did have a home run and 5 RBI)
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Travis Blackley 5.23 ERA 6 Earned Runs in 10.1 Innings Pitched
It was a wasted week. Again. Once again the Rangers had a winning week at 4-2, but this time they lost a game and a half in the standings. Texas followed up a great road sweep of the Mariners only to come home and lay an egg in front of the home crowd against the lowly Minnesota Twins. Meanwhile, the second place A’s proved they’re up to the task of repeating as AL West champions by taking three out of four from the Detroit Tigers ON THE ROAD, then came home and swept the Wild Card-contending Tampa Bay Rays. Ron Washington is always quick to say his team can’t worry about what other teams are doing. If they take care of their own business, everything will be OK. Against the Twins, Texas didn’t take care of their own business.
Rangers Hall of Famer Jim Sundberg tweeted over the weekend that, with big series coming up, it’s natural for contending teams to look ahead a bit. I hope that’s the case because the Rangers and A’s are head to head the next three days and Texas needs to bring its A game (or A’s game, as it were). I stated last week it was important for Texas to go into September with a 4 game or more lead because the schedule this month favors the A’s. With a one game lead today instead of four you can officially label me as skeptical about my team winning the West in 2013. This week, it’s six games on the West Coast: three at Oakland followed by three games at Los Angeles. Oakland is at home all week against the Rangers and the Astros. Texas needs to take two of three against Oakland and, dare I say it, sweep the Angels. Anything less and this time next week I’ll probably be talking about the second place Rangers. I hate to talk about the second place Rangers.
On the positive side, welcome back Neftali Feliz! The man whose image is indelibly frozen in my brain when he struck A-Rod out looking to end the 2010 ALCS and send the Rangers to their first World Series returned to Texas Sunday after the long recovery from Tommy John surgery. Feliz threw two scoreless innings against the Twins. His velocity isn’t where it was a couple of years ago but he mixed his pitches well. I’ll pit the Rangers bullpen against just about any team in baseball. The offense is another question altogether,
Dear Houston Astros Fans,
You know it’s been a tough season when you’ve been mathematically eliminated from the pennant race before September even arrives. That’s where you found your team Tuesday. Making matters worse, it looks like 2013 will be the third consecutive season your team has lost over 100 games and, thanks to your minuscule payroll and despite no local over the air or cable TV coverage in the Houston market, your new owner will be turning the biggest profit of all 30 big league teams this year. At least, that’s what the folks at Forbes Magazine say.
Why am I telling you all this? Is it because I, as a Rangers fan, want to rub it in? Nope. I actually want to tell you to hold your head high and enjoy the rest of this season. The fact is, if you’re an Astros fan right now, you are a die-hard because nobody in his or her right mind would want to keep watching this team lose over 100 games year after year. I know. I’ve been a Texas Rangers fan for over 40 years now.
That’s why I want to tell you to embrace this team. Be glad you have found Jose Altuve and Jason Castro. They’re your version of Cecil Espy, Geno Petralli, Pete O’Brien and Oddibe McDowell- players who were supposedly the next best thing ever to wear a Texas Rangers uniform but only turned out to be yet more cogs in the Rangers history of sub-.500 teams. But they were MY guys and they helped pave the way for better guys to come. They were the ones who, on the odd nights when they rose to the occasion, kept giving me optimism that the team had turned the corner and good times were on the way. Altuve and Castro are two of those players who help you see brighter times ahead and I can guarantee you do have brighter days ahead.
All of your full-season minor league teams made the playoffs in their respective leagues this year. The Astros have a very strong farm system and soon those players will contribute on the big-league level. I will make a bold prediction to you Astros fans. I think the Astros will be competing for an American League West title again BEFORE the Los Angeles Angels do the same. The Angels have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Despite their massive TV money, they’ll be paying Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols big bucks long after their effectiveness has gone. They’ll have to pony up more bucks in a couple of years to keep Mike Trout and thanks to that bad minor league system, have no big chips to trade for established help. No, Astros fans, you may be on a 3-year 100+ loss streak now, but three years from now I bet you’re a force in the AL West. I think the Rangers still will be as well and that’s going to make for some intense battles for the Silver Boot.
When your team comes back and they WILL come back, it is years like 2013 you are going to remember. It is those years that will make the success taste even sweeter. I guarantee it because three years ago, this lifetime Rangers fan got to experience it for the first time. When Texas went to back to back World Series in 2010 and 2011, the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler and pitchers like Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz made all the years of following Scott Fletcher, Don Slaught, Charlie Hough, Jeff Russell, Pete Incaviglia, Benji Gil and Kevin Mench worth it.
People who climb on the bandwagon may get excited when the team they just adopted go all the way (or almost all the way), but the pure JOY belongs to us old-timers, the ones who weather through all the bad years first. That’s why I implore you, Astros fans, to embrace this bad team. Go out to Minute Maid Park in September with no hope and make your owner even richer this year. Come September 1st when rosters expand, you’ll also start seeing the first glimpse of the future Astros, the ones who just might take you back to the heights, the players you’ll adopt as your own just as you love Jose Altuve and Jason Castro now.
I’m not going to apologize or feel bad about my team being 14-2 against your team this year. I’m just going to look forward to two or three years from now when that 14-2 is 8-8 and there could be one big three-game series that will decide the AL West title. Now that’ll be fun. Oh, and thanks for sending us Travis Blackley.
- At least Siri likes the Astros (chron.com)
- Report: Astros on track to make $99 million this season (chron.com)
Rangers Record: 3-3
Overall: 71-53 (1st Place AL West) (+1/2)
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
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.