Results tagged ‘ Jon Daniels ’

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 4/7-4/13

Star of the WeekEvery Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Single Game):

 Robinson Chirinos is making a claim to start most of the games as catcher while Geovany Soto is on the mend.While this award is for a single game, Chirinos actually had two outstanding games during the week. In Tuesday’s 10-7 win over the Boston Red Sox, Chirinos led off the third with a towering home run over the Green Monster to stake the Rangers to a 1-0 lead. It was the start of a 5-run uprising in the inning. Chirinos also added the last RBI of the inning when he walked with the bases loaded. In the fifth, with Texas up 8-1, Chirinos led off with a double and later scored the ninth run of the game. That’s the OFFICIAL game Chirinos gets Star of the Week for. As an honorable mention, Friday’s and Sunday’s twin 1-0 wins over the Astros both featured Chirinos prominently. In Friday’s 12-inning nail biter, Chirinos provided the 12th-inning single that plated the only run of the game in walk-off fashion. Sunday it was time for his defense to shine, as the Rangers catcher threw out two would-be Houston base stealers, helping Martin Perez earn his second win of the season. Below is Chirinos’ home run in the Boston game:

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): 

Kevin Kouzmanoff was the last man NOT to make the Texas Rangers 25-man squad out of Spring Training. The only reason he didn’t make the team was because he was strictly a corner infielder, while Texas needed someone like Josh Wilson, who could play three infield positions. When Adrian Beltre went down with a tight quadriceps muscle in Tuesday’s win over the Red Sox, Texas summoned Kouzmanoff from AAA Round Rock in a hurry. Despite not having played in the majors in almost three years, Kouzmanoff got off to a quick start for the Rangers, getting hits in each of his first four games with Texas. Kooz actually has a six game big-league hitting streak going now, with a 900+ day gap between games two and three of the streak! For the week, he hit .417 with a double and RBI. With Sunday’s announcement of Beltre going on the disabled list retroactive to Wednesday 4/9, Kouzmanoff will be the Rangers starting third baseman for the next week and a half minimum. If he continues to play the way he has the first four games, not only does it help the Rangers short-term, it will make it hard for Jon Daniels to send him back to Round Rock once Beltre is back.

 

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

Originally, Yu Darvish was my winner for the second consecutive week for his dominant effort against the Astros, where he threw one-hit ball at the Astros over eight innings, striking out nine. Then along came Martin Perez on Sunday. To be sure, Darvish had a “better” game than Perez but the 23-year-old was just as spectacular against a woeful offensive attack from Houston. Plus, unlike Darvish, Perez got credited with the win. In his third start of the season, Perez went eight strong innings, giving up no runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. The young lefty also started resembling southpaws who have come before him over the past few years in Texas, Matt Harrison and C.J. Wilson. Both were among the league leaders in getting hitters to ground into double plays. Over his past two starts, Perez has induced nine double plays including four by the Astros in Sunday’s game. Add in the two caught stealing by Robinson Chirinos and Perez never allowed an Astros baserunner to get into scoring position. Click here to see highlights of the Perez win.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Texas went 3-3 the second week, treading water while dealing with their injury woes. Texas went 1-2 in Boston against the Red Sox, while winning two of three from the Astros at home. The offense has struggled mightily since Beltre went down as shown by the two 1-0 games against the lowly Astros. With no Beltre, Houston intentionally walked Prince Fielder three times over the weekend. Fielder has yet to hit a home run as a Rangers player, though he stung the ball hard both Saturday and Sunday. The once-feared Rangers power attack has only managed five home runs in the first 12 games. That HAS to improve or treading water will soon become an extended losing streak, no matter how great the pitching.

The Rangers are at home all week with four games against division-rival Seattle and three against the Chicago White Sox.  The biggest highlight of the week is Wednesday night’s game, when Yu Darvish squares off against Felix Hernandez. Darvish has thrown 15 scoreless innings thus far (15 innings in which the Rangers have not scored a run for him either), while Hernandez has struck out 30 batters in his first 21 1/3 innings. Also on tap: the return of Colby Lewis, who throws the opener against the Mariners tonight. Lewis hasn’t pitched in the majors since July 18th, 2012. He’s not only coming back from elbow surgery but also a hip resurfacing procedure. Nobody knows whether Lewis will have the stamina to go every fifth day for the rest of the season, let alone if he can still pitch effectively in the big leagues. Nobody has ever tried coming back from hip resurfacing in baseball before. What we do know is, based on how he performed in the World Series years for Texas, Globe Life Park will be rocking tonight and Lewis is sure to get an incredible reception from the fans when he strides to the mound in the top of the first.

Oddity of the Week

Elvis Andrus got ejected from Sunday’s game for arguing a called third strike at the end of the third inning. As a result, from the top of the fourth until the top of the ninth, when Alexi Ogando came in to record the save, Texas for the first time fielded a line-up containing NO players from the Rangers’ 2011 World Series team.

Former Ranger Gets Foot In Mouth Disease

Our top story: Jon Daniels is a “sleazeball.”

That, of course, according to the dearly departed Ian Kinsler, now plying his wares for the Detroit Tigers. In a story for ESPN: The Magazine, Kinsler was quoted as calling Daniels a sleazeball and expressed his hope the Rangers would finish 0-162 this season.

Needless to say, it was bound to make the national headlines because of the old axiom: “Thou shalt always complain when athletes and managers use manager-speak but thou shalt complain even louder when a player or manager doesn’t use manager-speak.”

We fans just love to complain about everything and our wonderful media folks are more than happy to feed our appetite for complaining. Ian Kinsler, thus, was a gift from God.

But really? This is all we have to complain about?

Sure, Kinsler said his comments about Daniels were taken slightly out of context. That was proven as bunk when his exact words were played back today on Buster Olney’s podcast. Still, what’s the big deal here? I like the job Jon Daniels has done in building the Texas Rangers franchise to a year-in, year-out contender. Daniels is not 100% infallible, though. He subscribes to the notion you should get rid of a player a year too soon than a year too late. Thus he’s burned bridges with quite a few players over the years: Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli. All felt disrespected by the Rangers GM when their times came. It’s the nature of the job. So when someone who signed a club-friendly long-term deal, only to get traded in the middle of it, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them miffed at their former boss. Maybe he shouldn’t have called him a sleazeball publicly, but I’ll bet there’s no shortage of players in major league baseball who haven’t felt the exact same way about a GM they once worked with.

Then there’s the wish for the Rangers to go 0-162. So what? I’m a Rangers fan and I would love to see the Angels finish 0-162. The Mariners, A’s and Astros too. Probably the Yankees as well. It ain’t gonna happen but it’s a fun thing to wish for.

Kinsler opened another tempest in the article, putting himself square on the side of Nolan Ryan and against Jon Daniels and said it was Daniels’ ego that caused the rift that eventually led to Ryan’s departure from the Rangers. That brought both sides of fans on that debate back into the open debating each other and calling each other names. For what? Why is it so hard for Daniels fans to acknowledge that Ryan had at least a little to do with the growth of the Rangers organization to where they are today. And why can’t the camp of Ryan supporters give props to the work of Daniels and the scouting department for their role as well? I like Daniels, I liked Ryan. They both did and have done great things for the Rangers. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

If you’re a Rangers fan, what you should really get upset about with Kinsler is the comments he made about Michael Young‘s leadership, the change in the clubhouse in 2013 and his own lack of desire to fill the leadership void left by Young’s departure. I get that there are some people for whom mentoring and leadership come naturally. For others it’s hard. For Kinsler it was hard. Ian won’t ever be a Michael Young type in the clubhouse, but to say he just wanted to focus on playing hit me the wrong way. Josh Hamilton was (and probably still is) the same way. Every team needs at least one person who helps bring the group together. Michael Young was once that player- always mentoring, comporting themselves in a professional manner and even motivating others by example by getting the absolute most out of his physical abilities day in and day out. Kinsler didn’t like that role. The problem with that is, if everyone has that attitude, there’s nothing to help glue it all together. If that’s truly the way Kinsler feels, I’m kind of glad he isn’t a Ranger anymore. I don’t want someone who refuses to switch positions for the betterment of the team. Be upset about it, sure. Even tell us you don’t like it. But be a TEAM player in the end. Someone helped you when you got to the bigs. Pass it on. ESPECIALLY when it’s best for the team.

I don’t blame Kinsler for his feelings about Jon Daniels or his wish for his former team to fall apart without him. Just don’t tell me you don’t want the responsibility that comes with being a veteran. That’s the area where Ian Kinsler needs to grow up.

Nothing’s Happening While Everything’s Happening

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, soon to become 5th winningest African-American Manager in MLB.

Ron Washington, soon to become 5th winningest African-American Manager in MLB.

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).

ACHES AND PAINSMatt Harrison

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.

MLB At BatLAST BUT NOT LEAST

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.

The 2014 Minority Manager Update

Ron Washington, soon to become 5th winningest African-American Manager in MLB.

Ron Washington, soon to become 5th winningest African-American Manager in MLB.

Last night, I was doing a head count on the number of African-American managers that will be starting the season in Major League Baseball and a startling realization hit me: This season will begin with three African-American managers in the big leagues and ALL THREE will be managing in the AL West!

Ron Washington begins his 8th season as the skipper of the Rangers in 2014. In that time, he has led Texas to three playoff appearances, two World Series appearances and came within, as we well know, a strike of winning the ultimate prize (twice!). He enters this season on the last year of his contract. GM Jon Daniels says he can’t imagine working with any other manager than Wash. He says he deserves an extension. Yet Wash has yet to be signed to said extension. Is he asking for too much money? Too many years? Or is ownership balking at renewing him? Who knows? Consider this, though. Among African-American managers, only Willie Randolph has compiled a better winning percentage than Wash. Only Dusty Baker and Cito Gaston have brought their teams to more playoff appearances. Sometime in early May (or late April if Texas gets off to a hot start), Wash will overtake Don Baylor to become the 5th winningest African-American manager. If the Rangers far exceed all expectations, he could pass Jerry Manuel for 4th place on that list, though it’s more likely to happen in April of 2015, IF he remains as manager of the Rangers. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s going to happen.

Lloyd McLendon

Lloyd McLendon

OK, here’s the good news. In 2013, there were seven managerial changes. Six of the jobs went to Anglos and one went to a minority, African-American Bo Porter of the Astros. Porter became just the 16th different African-American to hold an MLB managerial job since Frank Robinson became the first in 1975. As we get ready to begin 2014, there will be five new managers. Only three (Matt Williams in Washington, Bryan Price in Cincinnati and Brad Ausmus in Detroit) are Anglo, one is Hispanic (Rick Renteria with the Chicago Cubs) and, despite losing one African-American in Dusty Baker when he got fired by the Reds, African-Americans still hold three MLB jobs as Lloyd McClendon takes over the reins of the Seattle Mariners.

I’ll say the same thing in 2014 I said in 2013: In this day and age Major League baseball has not done a very good job in helping to increase minority hires among the managerial ranks. Major League Baseball is an international game, with a high number of Latin American players and more Asian players every year. I truly believe MLB needs more Hispanic managers today but I also feel any number of African-American coaches out there don’t seem to get that managerial interview in the first place. Every year, MLB honors Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on the field, yet more than 50 years later, minority youth in America fail to see many African-Americans leading MLB teams.  Ron Washington’s results speak for themselves, as do the results of Dusty Baker, Cito Gaston, Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph. It’s an issue this white guy doesn’t want to let go. For as long as this blog remains, I’ll do an annual update.

The updated list of managerial hires by race can be found here.

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!”

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.

Choo on Field(er)ing Stats: Being a Buzzkill

Here’s the good news. The Texas Rangers have addressed the offensive malaise that was 2013 by going out and getting 1) one of the best FA bats available in Shin Soo Choo; and 2) engineering a trade that brought Prince Fielder over from the Detroit Tigers. This pretty much guarantees the Rangers will improve greatly on the number of runs they scored in 2013, when they were smack dab in the middle of the AL pack.

Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder

Here’s the bad news. As formidable as the pitching staff for the Rangers might be, they will almost certainly be to a man a little worse off in 2014. This is the trade-off on improving the offense. The defense is going to suffer.

The infield is who will have it the worst. Prince Fielder takes over at first base from Mitch Moreland. Moreland wasn’t any great shakes defensively, but he did have a better 2013 than Fielder. Moreland’s UZR rating was 3.6, Fielder’s a -5.2. Using Baseball-Reference’s Range Factor, Moreland was an 8.73 to Fielder’s 8.49. Both were below league average, but Fielder more so.

Moving on to second base, the Rangers gave up Ian Kinsler, who was outstanding in defensive metrics with a 6.5 UZR, a +51 in Defensive Runs Saved and a Ranger Factor of 4.78 (League Average 4.64). He’s replaced by Jurickson Profar, whose rookie season consisted of 32 games at second, with a UZR of -7.1, a Defensive Runs Saved of -4 and a Ranger Factor of 4.32. Profar probably won’t be THAT bad in 2014 and should benefit from playing the position full-time but he still won’t match Kinsler’s performance, at least not yet.

Add in the fact Adrian Beltre is a year older and a millisecond slower and one can only reach the conclusion the Rangers’ infield defense will be considerably more porous in 2014 than they were this past season.

In the outfield, things are a lot more fluid and require more guesswork. Baseball Reference and Fangraphs look diametrically opposed on outfield play. Take Alex Rios vs. Nelson Cruz. The Rangers had both a year ago, with Rios replacing Cruz when he got suspended. By Fangraphs take, Rios was the better outfielder with a 3.7 UZR vs. Cruz’ -4.3. Yet in the Defensive Runs Saved category, Cruz was a -3 and Rios a -5. In other words, DRS shows Rios as worse (though he did play more games overall on the year). Baseball Reference has Rios as an above average Range Factor of 2.21 vs. Cruz’ 1.95 (league average is 2.07). Rios appears to be a better choice overall in right.

Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo Choo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Left field is where the difference between the two web sites is most noticeable. Shin Soo Choo played mostly center field for the Reds last year. By Baseball-Reference, Choo was a pretty decent outfielder last year. A Range Factor of 2.39 compared to an NL average of 2.13. By comparison, David Murphy was below average at 1.87 compared to the AL league average of 2.24. Go over to Fangraphs and the picture completely reverses. There Murphy checks in with a UZR of 11.0 and 7 Defensive Runs Saved, while Choo is given a -15.3 UZR with -17 Defensive Runs Saved. Two diametrically opposed stats tell me maybe it will be a wash at best defensively.

Still, the takeaway here is Texas is bulking up on offense at the expense of defense, something sure to drive Ron Washington, a defensive-minded manager, nuts. Even if you don’t see the number of errors rise dramatically, the odds are pretty good you will see ERA’s rise on the Rangers pitching staff across the board. The gamble Jon Daniels is making is the number of runs the Rangers score will be more than the increase in runs the defense gives up and that it will be the difference between first and second place. We shall see.

All I Want For My Rangers Christmas Is…

Santa in Rangers Uniform“Ho ho ho. MERRY….Uh, you’re awful big to be sitting on Santa’s knee. How old are you?”

“57.”

“Aren’t you a little old to believe in Santa?”

“Yeah, well I asked Jon to get me Justin Upton, Zach Greinke and a break-out year for Mitch Moreland last year and I didn’t get squat. Time to go back to the tried and true gift-getting strategy.”

“Fair enough. So, what would you like Santa to bring you this year, little…uh…boy.”

“I want you to bring the Rangers David Price. And Giancarlo Stanton. And Brian McCann. And Nelson Cruz. And Mike Napoli. And…”

“Hold on there, fella. You know Santa can’t bring you ALL of those things, don’t you?”

“But I’ve been a VERY VERY good boy this year, Santa!”

“Yes, but there are lots of other VERY VERY good boys this year and they want some of the same things you do.”

“You’re not including the Astros are you, Santa? Because they weren’t very good at all this year.”

“Yes, but we have to be fair to everyone. So what do you REALLY want Santa to bring you this year?”

“Forget being fair. This is about WINNING!!! I want Price and Stanton and McCann and Cruz and Napoli and…”

“Let’s try this from a different direction, kid. You know the drill. It still has to fall within your parents’ budget. So let’s be a tad more frugal here.”

“My folks are REAL rich. That’s why I don’t understand why they didn’t bring me back Josh Hamilton last year. Although, in retrospect, I guess they had a pretty good reason and it wasn’t something that I would’ve wanted to play with after all. Anyway, why not everything? They can afford it!”

“Needs, kid, NEEDS. Remember what the Stones said? You can’t always get what you want, but you usually get what you need. You want Price, you gotta give up Profar for sure, Holland probably and two of your top five prospects on top of that. And the Marlins say they’re keeping Stanton come hell or high water and he’ll cost you more than Price anyway. So let’s get rid of that pie in the sky Price and Stanton crap and get down to brass tacks. What does this Rangers fan NEED to be happy in 2013?”

(2 minutes of pouting ensues. Finally, Rangers fan replies)

“You’re not at all the way I remember you 50 years ago.”

“Yeah, well corporate cut my pension plan, I’ve had to downsize to six reindeer and there’s an elf accusing me of…Wait. Where were we?”

“What do I NEED to be a happy Rangers fan in 2013.”

“Right. Go ahead. Spit it out.”

“I’ll go ahead and drop Price and Stanton from my list. Reluctantly. But that’s only because we’ve got a pretty strong rotation already and we need more help with the offense. So here goes. I want the Rangers to sign Brian McCann to be the catcher until Jorge Alfaro is ready to go.”

“Anything else?”

“Hey, this won’t cost anything but a little pride. I want Ian Kinsler to agree to move to left field so Jurickson Profar can become the full-time second baseman.Oh, and a brand new set of hamstrings for Adrian Beltre!”

“Kinsler may be doable. Beltre’s hamstrings aren’t in my department.”

“Then I want Texas to sign Justin Morneau to play first base. Jon Daniels said a lot of teams expressed interest in Mitch Moreland. Make him part of a trade package for another piece, maybe a #5 starter. Then we should re-sign Nelson Cruz as our DH in 2013.”

“You want three free agents, huh? That’s a pretty tall order for any team except maybe the Yankees and Dodgers, son.”

“You could give me Price and Stanton. Do that and I’ll live with Moreland  at first for another year.”

“Three free agent signings it is, then. Is that all? I’ve got a line of kids a block and a half long yet to see.”

“Well, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. How about a trade that nobody’s thought of yet. Kind of like a rabbit JD pulls out of his hat and surprises everyone with, even the writers who’ve started every possible trade rumor anyone could imagine?”

“That might take some doing, but maybe my friend the Sandman can whisper a thought into his head. Now, if that’s all, see that nice elf over there for a candy cane and have a…”

“WAIT!!! One last thing, Santa! Do you think you could make 2014 the year the Rangers finally win it all?”

“I’m just Santa Claus, kid. I deliver the gifts. I don’t control what happens to them after they’ve been opened. For all I know, you’ll break everything I give you in the first week of Spring Training.” 

Bye Bye Nolan

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan (Photo credit: phoca2004)

It was both unexpected and expected. The Texas Rangers announced Nolan Ryan is retiring as CEO of the Rangers, effective October 31st.

It was unexpected in that Nolan’s status with the club really hadn’t been discussed much in recent weeks (or even months). It was expected in that there’s been a lingering feeling (fueled in part by a recently retired sports radio host) that Ryan was feeling unloved and unappreciated by Rangers’ ownership when they promoted Jon Daniels to GM and President of Baseball Operations. Nolan reportedly sulked throughout Spring Training before deciding to continue in his capacity as CEO, even though he no longer had any authority to veto any of Daniels’ player personnel decisions.

There are many folks in one camp who will be celebrating Nolan’s departure. There are a substantial number of others who think it should be Daniels and not Ryan leaving. Call me wishy-washy but I like both of them and I’m sad Ryan will be leaving.

Nolan Ryan - Texas - 1991 Road

Nolan Ryan – Texas – 1991 Road (Photo credit: BaseballBacks)

Jon Daniels helped build the Rangers team into perennial contenders. Ryan was the one that helped make the entire organization, under multiple owners over the years, relevant. Seriously, the Rangers were seldom anything more than an afterthought in the American League until Ryan came along in the 1980′s to finish out his career. There were years Texas might be on the fringes of a pennant race but it didn’t really matter. People weren’t going to the games. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was Cowboys Country and pennant race baseball in September might interfere with Tom Landry‘s boys. In 1989, though, the Rangers took a chance and signed a 42-year-old Nolan Ryan to a free agent contract. Most people thought he only had a year or two left. Why wouldn’t they at age 42?

Before the arrival of the Ryan Express, the highest the Rangers had ever finished in attendance was at 1.7 million. In Ryan’s first year, Texas topped the 2 million fan mark for the first time.

Ryan helped bring fans to the ballpark as a player, then made his presence felt as an executive. Then owner Tom Hicks hired Ryan as the team’s president prior to the start of the 2008 season. His influence on the club’s fortunes cannot be understated. On the field, Ryan was a big proponent in starting pitchers going longer in games and helped lay the course of making pitching a priority in building the ballclub, where hitting had been the focus for so many years. Nolan also was an astute businessman with a variety of interests, including minor league ballclubs (in Corpus Christi and Round Rock), a cattle ranch, a restaurant and a bank. Ryan is credited with changing the fans’ ballpark experience for the better.

Most importantly, it was Ryan who served as the “face” of the group looking to buy the Rangers as they went into bankruptcy due to Tom Hicks’ overspending ways. Had Ryan’s group not succeeded in purchasing the Rangers, they would be owned today by current Astros owner Jim Crane. Fans of the Rangers are perfectly happy with this ownership group, thank you very much.

Nolan wasn’t perfect. Some still think he shouldn’t have fired Josh Lewin as the TV voice of the club. To this day, many fans will watch the games on TV while listening to Eric Nadel do the play-by-play on the radio. Whatever faults he may have, there’s no denying that when Nolan Ryan says something, people listen. There aren’t many people who have the gravitas of a Nolan Ryan. Skilled as he is at his job, Jon Daniels doesn’t have it. I expect that to become a big challenge for the organization in the next few years. The ownership group likes to stay in the background. Will Daniels become an effective “face” of the franchise? Only time will tell.

For now, I choose to salute Nolan on a job well done, both on and off the field. He will be missed.

Nolan Ryan's signature.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why Does Anyone Have To Be Fired?

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.

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