Results tagged ‘ Mike Napoli ’

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 3/31-4/6

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): Elvis Andrus Texas had two walk-off wins in as many days against the Philadelphia Phillies. Adrian Beltre came through with the game-winning hit in the first walk-off win, while Shin-Soo Choo coaxed a bases-loaded walk to decide the following game. Still, nothing topped the dramatics of the 7th inning Sunday in Tampa Bay. Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb had matched seven innings of scoreless baseball. Texas hadn’t even seriously threatened to score the entire game. In the top of the 8th inning, with two outs, Shin-Soo Choo managed an infield single off the glove of pitcher Joel Peralta. Elvis Andrus then worked the count to 3-2 when Peralta threw him one more fastball:

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_04_06_texmlb_tbamlb_1&mode=video&content_id=31878961&tcid=vpp_copy_31878961

It was the first Rangers home run since Alex Rios cleared the fences on Opening Day. Elvis has never hit more than six home runs in a season, so to say this was unexpected would be an understatement. The man who now resembles an Amish farmer also supplied some nifty glove work on two line drives late in the game to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard and preserve a Texas win.

Star of the WeekPosition Player Star of the Week (Full Week): Shin-Soo Choo One of the keys to the Rangers success this season is their new lead-off hitter. Choo has one of the highest On Base Percentages in baseball over the past few seasons, despite less than sterling numbers against left-handed pitchers. His ability to take pitches and get on base was the major reason Texas signed him to a big bucks multi-year deal. In the first week of the season, Choo did not disappoint. While a modest .273 batting average for the week with no extra base hits doesn’t sound like a lot, he’s started out strong against the southpaws: 3 for 9 plus two walks. In addition, Choo saved his best for the times it mattered most. In Tuesday’s win over the Phillies, he led off the 9th with a walk and scored the winning run on Adrian Beltre’s single. The next day, Choo battled back from a 1-2 count to get a bases-loaded walk, plating the winning run in another walk-off against the Phils. Finally on Sunday, in a scoreless tie with two outs in the top of the 8th inning, Choo worked Joel Peralta for seven pitches, finally earning yet another walk and setting the stage for the Elvis Andrus fireworks to come. Prince Fielder is off to a slow start, but Choo has already earned a lot of love from the Rangers fan base.

 

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: Yu Darvish Yu Darvish originally was to pitch the first game of the season. Instead, a stiff neck earned him a DL stint and Tanner Scheppers the Opening Day start. Nothing went right for Texas in Game 1 as they dropped a 14-10 decision to Philadelphia. In fact, the first four games of the season saw not one Rangers starter last six innings, the first time that’s happened since the Washington Senators moved to Arlington to become the Rangers. Rookie Nick Martinez managed to make it through six in his début Saturday, but it was important for Darvish to set a new tone following his activation Sunday. He didn’t disappoint, going seven strong innings and picking up the win in his season début. Darvish has been victim of high pitch counts his first two seasons but got through seven innings on just 89 pitches while throwing 65 of them for strikes. At one point early on, Darvish K’d three consecutive Rays batters on just nine pitches. In the first inning, Darvish got his 500th career MLB strikeout and set a record for reaching 500 K’s in the fewest innings pitched (just 401 IP). Darvish provided the shot in the arm the Rangers pitching staff needed. As a special treat to honor Darvish this week, check out this YouTube presentation of every one of Yu’s strikeouts in 2013, courtesy of the massively talented Drew Sheppard:

Texas went 3-3 the first week. The three wins had plenty of late-inning dramatics, while the three losses featured poor pitching, poor defense and, in two of the three losses, silent bats. This week in Rangers baseball finds Texas in Fenway Park for a 3-game series against the defending World Series Champions and former Rangers Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara. After an off-day Thursday, it’s back to Arlington to start a 10-day homestand with three against the Houston Astros.

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.

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.” 

Beards

Things haven’t been going to well in Texas Rangers land of late. Since Ian Kinsler went on the disabled list, the club has gone 11-13. Now they were a pretty decent 9-7 until Mitch Moreland joined Kinsler on the walking wounded list. With both players out, Texas has gone 2-6 in its last eight games.

So the heck with losing streaks and disabled players (Kinsler should be back Monday!). Let’s talk about beards!

I may be old but I’m not a prude. There are many beards I like. There’s this one:

Abraham-Lincoln-9382540-2-402

OK, that makes me seem even older than I really am. From a show business angle, there’s certainly no beating these beards:

jk12 1107 zz top 079

So I’m not against beards per se. I am, however, enough years past my hippie days to feel like today’s era of major league ball players are taking the beard thing a little too far.

Yeah, Brian Wilson of the Giants (not the Beach Boys one who had a pretty impressive beard at one time in his day) really started the trend of ball players beards behaving badly.

Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys circa 1968

Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys circa 1968

Since then, we have been treated to chin after chin of hair that is not only unshaved but really unkempt as well. I don’t mind a nice trim beard like Scott Feldman has. Sure he looks like he’d fit in to Weird Al Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise“, but at least it’s neat.

Scott Feldman

The Rangers aren’t immune to the Hatfield and McCoy look. Recently recalled Kyle McClellan has a prodigious red goatee that is even more horrific than this photo shows:

McClellan 2

Former Ranger Mike Napoli and Dale Thayer of the San Diego Padres look like they haven’t set foot outside a (man) cave in years now.

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Dale  Thayer

Did I mention I don’t like this Neanderthal look? Seriously, what if Rangers management decided they were going to emulate today’s players? Can you imagine what they’d look like?

Fortunately, you don’t have to. I’m here to show you. I may not be a Photoshop expert, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. Thanks to that, I can show you what Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore would look like with a Jonny Gomes beard:

Jackie Moore with the Jonny Gomes Look

Jackie Moore with the Jonny Gomes Look

How about Rangers manager Ron Washington sporting a Josh Reddick monstrosity:

Wash Sporting the Josh Reddick

Wash Sporting the Josh Reddick

Heaven forbid Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan should show up to work one day deciding  Jayson Werth was one dude worth emulating:

Nolan Ryan is Jayson Werth-esque

Nolan Ryan is Jayson Werth-esque

And if Rangers GM Jon Daniels decided Brian Wilson was right all along? We’d be wondering if Fidel Castro had defected to the United States:

And Jon Daniels as "The Leader"

And Jon Daniels as “The Leader”

And what if Mike Maddux

 Mike Maddux

You know, never mind. Even guys can appreciate how much Maddux rocks that look.

As a fan, I urge today’s MLB players to start trimming back on the facial hair. If you don’t do it for me, think of the endorsement fees you’re probably missing out on looking like a troglodyte. In the meantime, my beloved Rangers, you think you could start winning a couple of games now and then?

What If Hamilton, Napoli Et Al Were Still Rangers?

I’ll start this out by saying what I’ve said in these pages many a time before: I’m NOT a major proponent of WAR. I understand the concept of it, I just don’t totally agree with it because of the subjectivity of the defensive metrics. I don’t “speak” sabermetrics, but a great sabermetric argument for the way I feel was published today, as a free article, on Baseball Prospectus.

A way I can use WAR, though, would be as a comparison tool that doesn’t involve delving into a lot of different stats. I thought it would be interesting to see, at the 1/4 point of the season, how the Texas Rangers might look, record-wise, had they decided to keep everyone from last year’s Rangers team, instead of adding the pieces they added. To do that, I examined the respective WAR of the departed Rangers to their counterparts from this year’s team.

For this study, I’m using essentially the Texas Rangers team that essentially comprised the Rangers following the July 31st trading deadline.

Here’s how the former Rangers are faring so far in 2013, based on bWAR (via Baseball Reference.com):

Rangers primary logo

Mike Adams (Philadelphia) 0.4

Ryan Dempster (Boston) 0.5

Scott Feldman (Chicago Cubs) 0.8

Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels) -0.6

Mark Lowe (Los Angeles Angels) -0.3

Mike Napoli (Boston) 1.0

Koji Uehara (Boston) 0.5

Michael Young (Philadelphia) 0.3

Roy Oswalt, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar have not logged any major league time yet in 2013.

Total: 2.9

Now let’s look at this year’s Texas Rangers counterparts:

Texas Rangers logo

Jeff Baker 0.7

Lance Berkman 0.6

Jason Frasor 0.0

Leury Garcia 0.1

Derek Lowe 0.0

Leonys Martin 0.7

Joe Ortiz 0.0

A.J. Pierzynski 0.6

Nick Tepesch 0.0

Total: 2.7

The two biggest things that jump out at me: Leonys Martin‘s defense (the subjective part) has led to a much higher WAR figure than I thought, while, of the former Rangers, Ryan Dempster and Scott Feldman have both far exceeded what I most Rangers fans would have expected of them. Overall, the former Rangers out-WAR the current Rangers, but only by .2. If you’d like to extrapolate that to an actual record, WAR suggests the Rangers would be just where they are, at 24-14 or maybe one game better at 25-13, had they just stood pat with last year’s team. Of course, they’d have that record for a significantly higher payroll than they currently have, which would be a discussion for another day.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 4

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

Rangers Record: 4-3

Overall: 16-9  (1st Place AL West) (+2.5)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

Mitch Moreland   .393/.393/.571   5 Doubles 3 RBI

Nelson Cruz   .360/.467/.640   2 HR   9 RBI   5 Walks

Raspa Frio (Offense):

David Murphy   .185/.241/.222

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Yu Darvish   1-0   0.00 ERA   11 Strikeouts in 6 IP

Justin Grimm   1-0   7 Shutout Innings

Raspa Frio (Pitching):

Derek Holland   0-1, 6.39 ERA in 12.2 IP

Joe Ortiz   0-1   27.00 ERA   5 ER in 1.2 IP

Considering all the games were on the road, 4-3 is an acceptable record but Rangers fans were hoping for more after starting the week 4-1 and having Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando on the bump for the last two games of the week. Sadly, the Rangers offense went south in those two games and the Twins broke close 1-0 games open in the later innings. Still, the Rangers were easily the best of the West for the week, picking up two games in the standings on the Oakland A’s and starting week 5 with a 2.5 game lead. This assures Texas of first place when April comes to a close.

This week it’s home cooking for the Rangers as they play six games against the American League’s pair of Sox: Chicago Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday followed by Boston Friday through Sunday. The highlight will be Tuesday night when Yu Darvish takes the hill for Texas. If Darvish wins the game, he will join Rick Helling, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Bibby, Aaron Sele and Bobby Witt as the only Rangers pitchers to earn five wins by April 30th. The way Darvish has been pitching, the odds are in his favor to join that elite company.

The weekend series will be interesting as well with the return of Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara to Arlington. As bad as the initial reaction to Josh Hamilton was in his first at bat in front of the DFW crowd, expect an equal but opposite reaction to Napoli’s return. He never said anything disparaging about Rangers fans and professed love for his time with the Rangers so he’ll get a warm reception his first time to the plate. As good as Uehara was in 2012 for Texas, he probably won’t elicit much of a reaction one way or another. That’s the life of a relief pitcher.

How Are The Rangers 15-7?

AL West Standings 4-26-13

AL West Standings 4-26-13

Let’s see. Let Josh Hamilton go. Reluctantly let Mike Napoli go. Gladly let Michael Young go. And while we’re at it, let your best bullpen set-up guys, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara go. Then, once the season starts, have your Opening Day starter go on the DL after three ineffective starts, make sure your previously platooned left-handed hitting left fielder and first baseman get off to miserable offensive starts, especially against southpaws, and have two rookies fill up 40% of your rotation. Mix it all together and VOILA! you have a team tied for the AL’s best record as we near the end of the season’s first month.

The question is, how the heck are they doing it?

This year’s Texas Rangers are certainly not resembling what we’ve expected from Rangers teams in the past. No longer is the offense a home-run hitting machine. You would think the pitching staff is nothing to write home about. Not a lot of household names there. It certainly doesn’t get the press of the starting staffs of Oakland, Detroit or even Tampa Bay. Here the Rangers are, though, winners of five of their first seven series. The two series they didn’t win, they split. The longest losing streak Texas has had in the first 22 games? One. That’s right, they have yet to lose consecutive games in 2013.

The question gets asked again, how the heck are they doing it?

 

AL Team ERA Leaders 4-26-13

AL Team ERA Leaders 4-26-13

Pitching is certainly the biggest answer. Through 22 games, the Rangers are first in the American League in Earned Run Average and it isn’t even close. At 2.76, the Rangers’ ERA is almost a half run better than the 2nd place Chicago White Sox. Yu Darvish (as chronicled in yesterday’s post) is approaching Ace status as a starter, Derek Holland has been much more consistent in the early going and rookie Nick Tepesch, winner of last night’s 2-1 victory over the Twins, has been nothing short of phenomenal. Tepesch has walked three batters in four starts. All three walks came in ONE INNING of his first start. None in the 19+ innings since. The bullpen features a 5’7″ rookie in Joe Ortiz whose first year is resembling the successful debut a year earlier by his teammate Robbie Ross. Tanner Scheppers has gone through 10 games and 11.2 innings without giving up a run, earned or otherwise. Texas is the only bullpen in the AL not to have blown a save yet on the season.

The pitching is paving the way. The offense, despite some good pieces, hasn’t come close to gelling as yet. They spend the early part of games making the opposing starter look good. To date, Texas has only scored 5 runs in the first inning and have scored in the 1st in only 3 of their first 22 games. In the first three innings of games, essentially the first time through the line-up, Texas has scored only 18 of their 102 total runs scored. The second time through? A different story. 52 runs scored in innings 4, 5 and 6.

While the offense has been inconsistent, there are good signs of things to come. Texas is showing a more discerning eye so far in 2013. Last year, they struck out 17.7% of the time. So far in 2013, that’s down to 15%. Meanwhile the walk rate is up from a year ago, from 7.7% to 8.6%. Part of it is due to the arrival of Lance Berkman, but the approach preached by new hitting coach Dave Magadan plays a large part as well. Taking more pitches is one thing. It’s staying patient while still being able to swing with authority that will come in time.

Meanwhile, backing up the great pitching has been pretty stellar defense. Thus far, Texas has only 8 errors in the first 22 games. How much has the defense improved? Well, when your Gold Glove-winning third baseman is the player with the most errors on your team, that has to tell you something. Yep, Adrian Beltre has three E’s for the Rangers. Who doesn’t have errors? Shortstop Elvis Andrus, for one. Not a single E-6 on his ledger. On the entire 25-man roster, only four different Rangers have been charged with errors. Not one of them is a pitcher or a catcher. The catching tandem of newcomer A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto hasn’t allowed a passed ball as yet. Rangers pitchers have only 5 wild pitches.

In the most telling defensive statistic of all, Rangers opponents have only stolen four bases in the first 22 games and been caught three times. A year ago, 80% of the steals against Texas were successful and opponents stole 108 bases in all. At the current rate (which of course won’t remain this low), that figure will be more like 30 by season’s end. I’m not going to say this is all Pierzynski, as he’s not known as one of the greats in cutting down would be thieves. Part of it is due to Rangers pitchers not allowing as many runners to reach base in the first place. Currently, Rangers pitching is giving up fully one less hit per 9 innings than they did a year ago. Fewer base runners  fewer steal opportunities. Still, it is a dramatic improvement thus far over a year ago and one that bears remembering as the season progresses.

Pitching and defense winning games for the Texas Rangers. Whoever would’ve thought it possible?

Oh Nellie…

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

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

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

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

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

English: A picture of Nelson Cruz.

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

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

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

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

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

JD Gets Outmanuevered

Mike Napoli? Signs with Red Sox.

Koji Uehara? Signs with Red Sox.

Zack Greinke? Signs with Dodgers.

Justin Upton? Stays with Arizona.

James Shields? Traded to Kansas City.

Josh Hamilton? Signs with the Angels.

Just a couple short weeks ago, the word from Nashville was that the Rangers were dominating the Winter Meetings. Two weeks later, virtually every player speculated about going to the Rangers has gone elsewhere.

And such is the cycle of baseball. Jon Daniels has been the Boy Wonder of General Managers for the past five years. Today he is an also-ran, victim of his own success.

English: Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels at a gat...

Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels at a gathering in 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This isn’t to say that JD isn’t a good GM. He’s one of the best and has put together one of the best farm systems in the majors. Baseball, though, is a big poker game with the GM’s when it comes to trades and free agents and it’s quite likely his brethren have learned JD’s “tells”.

In the case of Hamilton, there was too much honesty for his own good. It was well-publicized that Hamilton was willing to let the Rangers top the best offer he got. The longer the process went, the more it became apparent how far the Rangers were willing to go and that was four years, so Jerry DiPoto offered Josh five.

Arizona used Daniels to get what they wanted, which was a lot. By dangling Justin Upton out there, they found so many offers involving the Rangers and other players that could help them that they cut side deals to get all those players and now have no need to trade Upton.

Greinke? Well, the Dodgers are spending like drunken sailors. That was a long-shot anyway.

As for Shields, he was Daniels’ back-up plan should Greinke not work out, but the Rays got tired of waiting so they worked out the deal with Kansas City and probably got a better return than they would have from Texas.

Now speculation is already rife that the Angels will turn  around and trade one of their now spare outfielders to the Mets in return for RA Dickey, another Rangers target.

At this point, there’s very little Texas can do to respond to these moves. There’s not much in the free agent market anymore that will strengthen the team. There’s a very good chance the 2013 Rangers will contain a lot of mentions of Profar, Olt, Martin and Perez, youngsters who will be given a good shot at playing time. This is also still a very good team. They may not win the West in 2013, but putting the youngsters in now could pay  huge dividends in 2014.

Still, Rangers fans have every right to think the front office should have been more aggressive than they were this off-season. Much as Jon Daniels deserves a lot of credit for building the Rangers into World Series contenders, he has been outmaneuvered at every turn this off-season.

Losing Hamilton doesn’t make me distrust the Rangers’ front office. It does make me think Jon Daniels needs to adapt his style of playing poker.

Losing Face

The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Two consecutive World Series appearances. Three consecutive playoff appearances. Unparalleled success. Brought about by constant change.

The 2011 World Series Rangers were minus Vlad Guerrero, Bengie Molina, Tommy Hunter, Cliff Lee and Frank Francisco from the 2010 World Series Rangers.

The 2012 Wild Card Rangers didn’t have Yorvit Torrealba, CJ Wilson, Endy Chavez, Colby Lewis (injury) and Neftali Feliz (injury) from the 2011 World Series squad.

And thus far, the 2013 Rangers are guaranteed to be without Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara from the 2012 Wild Card team.

English: Michael Young, third baseman

Michael Young (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now comes word that there’s a possibility they will also be without Michael Young. Strong rumors have Young going to the Phillies in exchange for a relief pitcher and a prospect provided he waives his 10-5 no trade rights to allow the move.

To Young fans, he has long been known as the Face of the Texas Rangers franchise. To his detractors, he is derisively nicknamed, alternately, “Face” and “Leadership”.

Young had a 2012 not to remember, sinking to new lows in batting average, losing much of his extra base power. The SABR folks will tell you he had one of the worst WAR’s in the last 22 years. On the other hand, to a man his teammates talk about the value of Young’s leadership in the clubhouse. Manager Ron Washington says Young basically runs the clubhouse for the team.

From a pure statistics standpoint, losing Young might not hurt the club substantially. The question is, will that team cohesiveness remain the same if and when he’s gone?

I’m ambivalent about the possibility of Young leaving. I get that his best years are behind him and that he’s a defensive liability, while at the same time suspecting 2012 was the same kind of anomaly Derek Jeter had a couple years ago before coming back with a vengeance.

I also am not one to discount the idea of leadership in a clubhouse. A team, like a business, is composed of lots of disparate elements. Management provides the vision and department heads implement it. Beyond that, we all know work organizations that just seem to run smoother because of a worker bee who sets a tone that others just seem to follow. I’m willing to bet Michael Young is one of those people.

At this writing, there’s no guarantee Josh Hamilton will return to the Rangers. The odds are against Mike Adams returning as well. Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz won’t be able to help until the back half of 2013 at best. If none of the Rangers free agents return AND Young is traded, the question becomes: Do the Rangers have the offensive horses to win WITHOUT Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young, even if they manage to score Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks?

The past two seasons, Texas has succeeded largely because the parts they lost from the previous year were mostly complementary pieces, replaced by better alternatives (Adrian Beltre, Yu Darvish, Napoli, Adams, Uehara). In 2013, there are going to be key pieces replaced and only time will tell if those pieces are better, worse or about the same as those they replaced.

Diehard fan I might be, but I don’t think Greinke and Upton would be enough to offset the loss of Hamilton, Young and Napoli. Two of the three, maybe. But not all three.

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