Results tagged ‘ Mitch Moreland ’
“Ho ho ho! MERRY…..”
“Oh. It’s you again. Listen, dude, you just saw me two days ago and I delivered Fielder to you on a silver platter so do me a favor and…”
“But I have to amend my list now for what else I want you to get me. Since you sent Ian Kinsler away, there’s nobody for left field yet. And since you brought me Prince Fielder, you don’t have to get me Justin Morneau anymore!”
“But you asked me for a big out of nowhere trade and I delivered. That concludes our business.”
“Not really. You brought Prince to me over a month before Christmas. Technically, that doesn’t make him my Christmas present.”
“All right. Lay it on me. But DON’T expect anything else from me until at least Christmas!”
“Deal. And speaking of deals, here’s what I want for my Texas Rangers Christmas now that we have Fielder on board. First…”
“Let me guess. You want Robinson Cano.”
“Forget Cano, Santa. We’ll be paying through the nose for seven years of Prince. Sign Cano and the Rangers lose all kinds of flexibility in the future!”
“Well, that’s a very grown up attitude…”
“I am 57. We went over that last time.”
“No, I was thinking something more like Carlos Beltran. He’s old, so we could probably just go two years on him with an option for the third.”
“Carlos Beltran, check.”
“And I still want Brian McCann. Same deal. Two years, option for third. By then, Alfaro will be ready.”
“Beltran. McCann. Got it.”
“And I still wouldn’t mind getting Nelly Cruz back for another couple of years.”
“So you’re saying, even after I gave you Fielder, you want THREE more players? You do know there are teams out there that won’t even get one player this winter?”
“I don’t care about them. Baseball is a selfish sport.”
“Well, what if I can’t get you three more players? What would you be satisfied with?”
“Okay if I can’t have everything I want, I guess I would settle for one of Beltran, Cruz and McCann. Provided we can package Mitch Moreland in a deal to get us some bullpen help. Oh, and can you maybe convince Colby Lewis to sign on for another year? I know he’d rather sign with a team that gives him a better chance to make the starting rotation, but I think he could be our #5 starter easy!”
“OK, kid. Your amended list is in my hands. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Now I want you to do ME a favor.”
“Sure, big guy, What is it?”
“GET OFF MY LAP!!! And if I see you here one more time before Christmas, I’m going to slap a restraining order on you!”
(Thinking to himself. Imagine this with slight echo): “Was that really Santa? Seemed more like The Grinch to me.” (Stops and speaks aloud. No echo.) DANG! I forgot to tell him I still wanted the new hamstrings for Adrian Beltre!”
“Aren’t you a little old to believe in Santa?”
“Fair enough. So, what would you like Santa to bring you this year, little…uh…boy.”
“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.”
“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.”
I had modest hopes. To me, a World Series appearance wasn’t in the cards for the Texas Rangers in 2013, but entering the extended regular season finale, I had hopes my boys would be able to extend their winning streak to nine to get a shot at the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. David Price put in a gutty performance and the Tampa Bay Rays ended the Rangers’ season at 163 games.
Still, it was a helluva year. Who would have thought the Rangers would be capable of winning 91 games in a season where:
2) Berkman was a bust and the team’s best power hitter, Nelson Cruz, got suspended for the last 50 games of the year.
4) #2 starter Matt Harrison only managed two ineffective starts before going down to injury for the year.
6) The big pitching acquisition, Matt Garza, had many more poor performances than good ones.
The Rangers handled all this adversity and still won 91 games. They did it with a new infusion of youth that will only get better in the next few years, particularly Leonys Martin, Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez, who all showed signs of being major contributors.
Meanwhile, there are some players who won’t return for another round in 2014. David Murphy will most certainly be allowed to leave via free agency. Adam Rosales will also go. The pitching staff may say goodbye to Jason Frasor and even Joe Nathan leaving is a possibility.
Others are iffy. Nelson Cruz will be a free agent. He has stated often over the years he wants to stay in Texas, yet management never saw fit to make him an offer these past three years. Still, they may relent and bring him back as the team’s designated hitter because this team desperately needs some power. I’d love to see utility man Jeff Baker return. AJ Pierzynski could be gone as the Rangers keep getting linked to a free agency pursuit of Brian McCann. After his year ended so poorly, I can’t see Mitch Moreland as part of the plan for 2014. Whether that means Texas will ask Ian Kinsler to move to first (which also opens up second base for Jurickson Profar) or they pursue a free agent like James Loney remains to be seen. And, of course, there could be trades in the future that could see others leave the organization. Maybe the aforementioned David Price could come Texas’ way via trade.
This off-season I expect the Rangers to address their offensive needs as there are only a couple of modifications needed for the pitching staff. Four starters and at least five bullpen pieces are already set. Then I expect Texas will be a better team than they were in 2013. The window isn’t closed yet. It still has a few good years of being open left.
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: 7-0
Overall: 91-71 (2nd Place AL West) (-5)
Craig Gentry .391/.462/.435, 1 Double, 3 RBI, 6 Stolen Bases
Alex Rios .346/.357/.654 3 Doubles, 1 Triple, 1 Home Run, 8 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases
Mitch Moreland .200/.333/.200
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Alexi Ogando 3 Runs, 8 Hits Allowed in 5.1 Innings Pitched
The Texas Rangers have not qualified for the post-season, but thanks to an incredible last week of the season, they are guaranteed a 163rd game.
Say what you will about Texas getting to stay home the entire last week of the season to face the only two teams they dominated all season, they still needed every one of the seven straight wins they put together on the week to qualify for even this 163rd game. The Monday night match-up with the Tampa Bay Rays is not officially a play-off game, it’s actually a regular season game, with all stats counting towards the regular season total. Win tonight and THEN the Rangers can say they’ve made the post-season for the 4th year in a row.
Even with a 7-0 week, the Rangers weren’t the hottest team in the American League. That honor went to the Wild Card bound Cleveland Indians, who will take on the winner of tonight’s Texas-Tampa Bay game on Wednesday while riding a 9 game winning streak. The Indians dominated their week against the two lowest-ranked teams in the AL Central and Minnesota in particular seemed to just roll over against the hot Tribe. By the way, I want to meet the guy who could have said with certainty four months ago that the Indians would make the playoffs sporting a rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir.
Thanks to the Rays dropping two of their three games with the Blue Jays, the Rangers get to play the Rays tonight with rookie Martin Perez getting the start against David Price. The game will see the return of Nelson Cruz, who has now finished serving his 50-game Biogenesis-related suspension. Cruz will likely be the DH against the Rays. If Texas loses tonight, Cruz will be back for one game and then possibly no longer be a Ranger, as he heads into free agency after the season.
Seven days ago, I didn’t think I’d have anything more to write about in terms of play on the field after today’s wrap-up of the week. I am happy to say I will have more to write, at least for another day.
Here’s a wrap-up of the past week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 0-6
Overall: 81-67 (2nd Place AL West) (-6.5)
Jim Adduci .444/.500/.444 1 Stolen Base
A.J. Pierzynski .318/.360/.455 3 Doubles
Mitch Moreland .000/.133/.000 0 Hits in 13 AB’s
Leonys Martin .105/.150/.105
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Yu Darvish 0-2, 14 Innings Pitched, 8 Hits, 2 Earned Runs, 2 Walks, 16 Strikeouts
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Derek Holland 0-1, 3 Innings Pitched, 6 Earned Runs, 18.00 ERA
Matt Garza 0-1, 4 Innings Pitched, 3 Earned Runs, 6.75 ERA
Martin Perez 0-2 11.1 Innings Pitched, 16 Hits, 7 Earned Runs, 5.56 ERA
Paul Simon said it best in 1977: Slip Slidin’ Away, Slip Slidin’ Away, You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip slidin’ away. Two weeks ago, the Texas Rangers, at the very least, were Wild Card playoff bound. With luck they could even find themselves AL West Champions and not facing a one and done Wild Card playoff. Fast forward to today and the Rangers are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether. Sure, they’re tied for the Wild Card with Tampa Bay, but Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas City are knocking at the door as well and the Rangers are playing two of those four teams this week. On the road. Following an 0-6 week that was all in front of the home crowd.
It was the first time in Rangers history that a home stand of six or more games resulted in zero wins. Not only did they lose every game, the Rangers NEVER HAD A LEAD THE ENTIRE WEEK. 54 innings of losing baseball. In all three games of the Oakland series, the A’s scored in the first inning. That means the game was in essence over before the Rangers even had an at bat in the game. Texas had ZERO home runs for the week. Zero home runs. At Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, historically one of the most prolific home run parks in the majors. The Rangers haven’t hit a home run since Alex Rios on Sunday the 8th at Anaheim, and that was in the first inning. It has been nearly seven games since a Rangers player hit a home run. A total of 62 1/3 innings now.
Yu Darvish was 0-2 on the week despite giving up only two runs in 14 innings of work. The Rangers lost both games 1-0. Darvish has lost four games by a score of 1-0 this year. Over his last seven starts, the Rangers have scored a total of 13 runs.
The kicker was yesterday’s game against the A’s. Texas was slated to face Oakland’s ace Jarrod Parker but Parker was a last-minute scratch because of illness. The A’s also pulled slugger Yoenis Cespedes from the line-up at the last minute with shoulder soreness. If the AL West title was really on the line, do you think either of those two players would have sat on the bench? Nope, they would have gutted it out to give their team their best chance to win. Instead of Parker, the Rangers got Tommy Millone, who for his career was 0-4 against Texas with a 5.67 ERA, including 0-2 with a 12.00 ERA in 2013. In other words, the A’s 1) no longer fear the Rangers; and 2) were telling Texas they didn’t care if the Rangers won or not on Sunday. Being given a gift on a golden platter, what did the Rangers do? Nothing. They scored a run in the first and nothing the rest of the way. Against Tommy Millone.
Things are bad in Arlington right now. The Rangers are 6 1/2 out with 14 games to play. The AL West is pretty much out of the question now. The only hope that remains is to stay in the Wild Card hunt. To do that, they have to get the ship righted immediately. There are no more off days and it starts tonight with the first of four games against the team they’re tied with for the Wild Card lead, the Tampa Bay Rays. After Tampa, the Rangers go to Kansas City for three games with the Royals, who still have an outside shot at a Wild Card berth themselves.
Over the past four seasons, it has never been this discouraging being a Rangers fan. Someone throw them a life-preserver. Please.
- Rangers swept in homestand after 5-1 loss to A’s (sacbee.com)
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)
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.
From June 28th until July 29th, a span of 32 consecutive days, the Texas Rangers failed to gain any ground on the Oakland A’s. In 17 if those 32 days, the Rangers did no better than holding their ground. The other days, they lost ground. By the time the streak of more than a month was over, the Rangers had gone from a half game up in the AL West to a season’s worst six games behind. Texas was in disarray. The offense was dead. Coming out of the All-Star Break, the team looked dead in the water, losing eight of 10, including sweeps at the hands of Cleveland and Baltimore.
Compare that to the last 10 days. In little over a week, Texas has gained back all but a half game of that ground, winning nine of ten and waking up this morning to a tie in the AL West standings with Oakland. The last three wins came without any help from their leading run producer on the year, forced to bow out for the rest of the regular season by Major League Baseball for doing something he shouldn’t have done.
It’s one thing being a fan and trying to stay positive about your team, but I don’t think you’d find many Rangers fans who can honestly say they fully expected the Rangers and A’s to be tied atop the standings just 10 days after being six games behind.
What’s been really cool to see the past few nights is the new Rangers way of winning games. Without Nelson Cruz, the long ball can no longer be the main offensive force. Texas has to get a little more creative to score runs. The Angels were the first to discover the new emphasis on the running game. The Rangers put the pressure on the Angels from the start of the game to the end. The last two wins in their 3-game sweep featured 13 stolen bases against the fading Angels. Leonys Martin swiped 6 bases in two games by himself, one of which came even when the Angels called a pitchout to stop him. Elvis Andrus had 5 swipes and Craig Gentry added the last two. In both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games, Texas best exemplified the new way of scoring runs in the first. Tuesday, it went like this: Martin had a single and promptly stole second. Elvis Andrus hit a grounder to second and a nonchalant throw to first didn’t get him in time, putting runners on the corners. An Ian Kinsler sac fly brought Martin home. Andrus went to second on a wild pitch. Then Elvis stole third. Following an Adrian Beltre pop-out, another wild pitch plated Andrus with the second run. Wednesday was even better. Martin was hit by a pitch. Andrus walked. A double steal put runners on second and third. After a pop-out, Adrian Beltre was intentionally walked. A Mitch Moreland sac fly plated a run. This time, speed allowed a run to score without benefit of a hit.
Angels manager Mike Sciosia squarely put the blame on his pitchers for the 6 steals on Tuesday. Wednesday, he couldn’t really do that. Tommy Hanson seemed to throw more balls over to first base than he did to the plate, trying to slow down the running game. It didn’t work.
Texas won with defense too, especially Tuesday. First there was Jurickson Profar robbing Mike Trout of a sure double, which you can see following this link: http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=29483275
Then there was Elvis Andrus making lemonade out of a lemon when he tumbled on this attempted steal:
There was also this outstanding play Martin made in right field Wednesday, throwing out Erick Aybar attempting to go to third on a single. There didn’t seem any way to get Aybar out at third, yet not only was he out, it wasn’t particularly close.
Texas will face better pitchers and catchers down the road who will negate the running game somewhat, but while it lasts, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Here’s a wrap-up of the past two weeks that were in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous two weeks of play.
Rangers Record: 2-8
Overall: 56-49 (2nd Place AL West) (-6)
Elvis Andrus .333/.415/.389 2 Doubles, 4 Walks, 3 Stolen Bases
Mitch Moreland .056/.128/.139 2 hits in 36 at bats with 11 strikeouts
Nelson Cruz .171/.256/.343
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Matt Garza 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.68 WHIP
Neal Cotts 5 IP with 0 Hits Allowed
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Martin Perez 0-1, 10 Earned Runs in 9.1 Innings Pitched
Ross Wolf 0-1, 10 Earned Runs in 7 Innings Pitched
The wheels on the bus fall off and off. Just when the pitching staff returns to some semblance of order, the offense just totally falls off the map. While it was known the Texas offense would fall off with the departures of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young, I don’t think anyone could have foretold the current state of the Rangers offense. Texas opened up the second half with a 7-game home stand and only managed to win two games, getting swept by the Orioles and splitting four against the equally offensively challenged New York Yankees. Hitting the road, the Rangers were swept in Cleveland for the first time in 33 years. It was no sin to get shut out by Justin Masterson on Saturday, but the Rangers followed that up by getting blanked by Ubaldo Jimenez Sunday, causing a post-game closed-door meeting in which Rangers manager Ron Washington reportedly held the floor for 40 minutes. The tongue-lashing was probably necessary, but it doesn’t bode well for a team when there are two of these closed-door meetings in a span of just six weeks. Something has happened to this team and it’s anyone’s guess what it is. Too many youngsters? A lack of leadership among the players? Players not holding each other accountable?
Adding insult to injury, Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers was assaulted Thursday night (or early Friday morning depending on your definition) on the way back to the team hotel. Scheppers told police he was blindsided on the street for no reason. Witnesses say he lost a bar fight, one which he instigated himself. I don’t know the truth, but I DO know it’s NEVER a good thing when something happens to you at 2:30 in the morning. The odds are pretty good Scheppers (and reportedly Joe Nathan and A.J. Pierzynski) was at a bar and somebody didn’t take kindly to something.
Oh, yeah and now reports say the Rangers have shopped Joe Nathan around to see if it might bring something good in return. There’s no question the offense needs some help but would one bat be enough? It sure doesn’t look like it right now. The head honcho at one fan site went so far as to say maybe the Rangers should flip Garza after one start and start rebuilding for next year now. I can see a possible Nathan trade, since Joakim Soria could easily move into the closers role. Flipping Garza right after getting him would be equivalent to throwing in the towel on 2013 and I don’t think anyone in the Rangers organization is ready to do that yet.
If things are going to change for the Rangers, it has to start happening this week. The Rangers open with a three game home stand against the suddenly Albert Pujols-less Los Angeles Angels, followed by a single make-up game Thursday at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, then three on the road at Oakland against the first place A’s. Texas not only needs to get back into pennant contention, they’re also at the rear of the Wild Card race. Starting tonight, we’ll see if Wash’s tirade in Cleveland makes any difference.
I watch a lot of baseball, I write a lot about baseball and I read a lot about baseball. These days, most of my baseball reading consists of newspaper and web articles, much of it provided via links on Twitter. Occasionally, though, you can find me reading a book about my favorite sport, especially when it’s one given to me by my stupendous spouse of 16 years.
“Class A in the Middle of Everywhere” by Lucas Mann was a Father’s Day gift. In it, Mann describes his year of 2010, when he embedded himself with the Class A Clinton LumberKings of the Midwest League. This worked for me as a Rangers fan, since Clinton was home to the Rangers in lower Class A through 2008 (they have since made Hickory, NC their home). Early on in the book, Mann speaks with some of the Clinton fans and Derek Holland‘s name pops up. Later there’s a Mitch Moreland reference as well. Beginning in 2009, Clinton became the home for the Seattle Mariners system.
Mann is a gifted writer. He held my interest from beginning to end. Throughout the course of the book, he introduces us to some of the regular game attendees. Mann serves a one night stint as the LumberKings mascot. He gets to know some of the players, including the Mariners newest rookie phenom Nick Franklin. Mann goes out on the town with the players one night, spends a lot of time with the then LumberKings manager, John Tamargo, and discusses Clinton and its history a lot. He gives a peek into the work of the LumberKings play-by-play voice. We visit the baseball shrine in one fan’s home. The nearby casino is a popular hangout. It is both a riveting read and an unsettling one.
Why Clinton? Mann says in Chapter 2 it’s because Clinton represents the stereotype he was looking for: as close to the traditional minor league team we once dreamed of. As gripping a read as it is, this is also the book’s downfall. Mann had a picture in mind, then proceeds through 16 chapters to reinforce his own picture. This isn’t to say there is no truth found in it, just that it seems to reflect Mann’s own life perspective. When Mann looks around Clinton, he decides it’s a dying community and spends much of the book seeking out examples to reinforce his perception rather than also looking for areas that might give the picture more balance. There’s no denying what Mann’s politics are. During the course of the book, there is lengthy discourse about a failed union strike in 1979, how it “destroyed” Clinton and how the city is now dominated by agricultural behemoth Archer Daniels Midland. There is very little of ADM painted in a positive light. In fact, there is very little of any business in Clinton presented positively.
Even the playing of baseball, in the end, has very little positive going for it. In Mann’s worldview, it almost seems the players should be pitied for striving for the prize of getting to the big leagues. The players are exploited, they’re overworked and underpaid, especially the Latinos. Many of the Central and South American players face a language barrier and Mann wonders in print what happens to them once they’re released and have to find another line of work while speaking little or no English. Dave, the play-by-play guy is presented more as a guy who likely will never realize his major league announcing dream. There’s even a thin veil of pity for the traveling entertainer who puts on a pre-game show at the ballpark one night. Overall, there’s a “What’s the point of all this?” vibe to the book that’s a bit on the depressing side.
When the book is right on, though, it is both thought-provoking and intimate. Mann’s description in Chapter 7 of the dream ending for Wellington Dotel and how his former teammates react to it is poignant. I was also rapt with his take on how difficult it is for the longtime fans of minor league baseball because, unlike the major league clubs, the lower minor leagues will seldom see a player in one place two years in a row. It’s a constantly changing mosaic, one which makes it difficult to attach yourself to specific players. Living in a place where Independent League baseball is played, I could never put my finger on why I don’t go to the games available to me very often, but that’s why. With a consistently shifting cast of characters, there’s little continuity for me. I would find it hard to cheer for a team, year in and year out, bearing little resemblance to the team that preceded it by just a year. The good folks of Clinton, though, have done it longer than any other Midwest League city.
It’s true, making the big leagues is hard work and in any given season, only one or two of the 25 players on a Clinton LumberKings roster are likely to ever be lucky enough to perform their craft in a major league ballpark. But isn’t that true in all walks of life? I spent 20+ years in the radio game and never made it to one of the top 10 markets in the country. How many office workers ever get above middle management in their careers? Most teachers will remain teachers and not become principals or superintendents. There is no denying Lucas Mann’s talent for writing. He is wonderfully descriptive and that allows me to recommend “Class A Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere” as a good read. Just because I admire the writing, though, doesn’t mean I agree with his conclusions. Personally, I don’t think he gives the city of Clinton, the fans, the players and their families enough credit. Hardship is certainly a part of their lives, but I don’t think they’re as bleak as Mann makes them out to be, either.
Class A Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere by Lucas Mann was published in 2013 by Pantheon Books.