Results tagged ‘ Nelson Cruz ’

It’s Time

Star of the Week

Neftali Feliz After Striking Out A-Rod to end the 2010 ALCS, sending Texas to its first World Series

Neftali Feliz After Striking Out A-Rod to end the 2010 ALCS, sending Texas to its first World Series

I started this blog in 2010, the year the Rangers first went to the World Series. The original name of the blog was “The Futility Ends Here”. After about a week, I knew it wasn’t a very catchy title so I changed it to “World Series 40 Rangers Fan 0″. Much better. And it made it sweet when the season ended with the Rangers going to the World series for the first time in my then 40 years of Rangers fandom. For the Rangers, their marketing slogan for the 2010 season was, “It’s Time.” A more prophetic baseball slogan was never made.

Flash forward five years. Here at the All-Star break, the shell that remains of the Texas Rangers hobble into the break with baseball’s worst record. Where once I wrote of the exploits of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and even David Murphy, now all that remains is Beltre, Andrus, Rios, Choo and a bunch of young and/or underperforming offensive players. A pitching staff that once included Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, a younger Colby Lewis and one of the top relief corps in baseball is now composed of Yu Darvish at the front end, Joakim Soria at the back-end and very little of consequence in between.

So bad the Rangers situation has become, they limp into the All-Star break losers of 19 of their last 22 games. Texas (and the Washington Senators that preceded them) has had some pretty bad teams in their 53 years of existence but NONE of them have been as bad as losing 19 of 22 games. Honestly, if I didn’t know it from reading the box scores every day (it’s become too painful to even watch more than a handful of games on TV), I wouldn’t believe it possible. After all, even without all the injured players, the Rangers still have talent on this team: Beltre, Andrus, Alex Rios, Shin Soo Choo, Leonys Martin, Darvish and Soria. There have been historically bad teams in baseball for whom you’d be hard-pressed to find even two names worthy of putting on the list of talented players. For example, can anyone name more than two Houston Astros from 2o12-2013 worth mentioning? Still, this is where the Rangers find themselves.

Having a bad team does not make it harder to write about a team. Sometimes it can lead to more story ideas than a winning team provides. Among the thoughts I’ve had in recent weeks: spinning an old Paul Simon tune into a treatise on 50 Ways To Lose A Ballgame (“Give up a slam, Sam, Walk in a run, Son…”), wonderful words about the defensive work of catcher Robinson Chirinos, asking if should Jon Daniels get the blame for 2014 or is this a fluke season, talking about the newest Ranger to make his big-league début, Jake Smolinski, riffing on how great the Rangers farm system has been record-wise in 2014, opining whether Ron Washington should pay the price for the poor season, talking up minor league prospect Joey Gallo (who made headlines at the All-Star Futures game), scattershooting trade possibilities at the July deadline, etc. See? No shortage of ideas here.

Instead, I’m going to borrow a phrase from that 2010 Rangers marketing campaign. It’s Time. Time to retire the blog that I’ve devoted so much time to for the past five seasons. It isn’t because the Rangers are losing now. It’s because coming up with 500+ words to say on a regular enough basis to keep readers coming back is getting more and more difficult to do. Life has a way of throwing things in the way of the things you like to do in your spare time and my spare time has had an “S” added to it: spare has become sparse. I’m in the process of relocating to a different part of the state (and job hunting is part of that process). The desire to write about the Rangers hasn’t abated. The time to do it has.

Erik, devoted son, Rangers fan and blog follower. Photo by "One Strike Away...Twice!"

Erik, devoted son, Rangers fan and blog follower. Photo by “One Strike Away…Twice!”

So, rather than put out a piece once every two or three weeks, I’m just going to shut it down for the rest of the season. Maybe I’ll have more time to devote to Rangers writing in 2015. My devotion to the team will not change, only the writing about it. You can still find me on Twitter (@Rangersblogger) where I’ll send out in-game comments when I can. This space, however, is going dark for the foreseeable future.

I thank everyone who has been a regular reader of this space, including The Angels Ace and This Is A Very Simple Game; The Wrigley Regular; all the Rangers fans who have followed me; and especially my son Erik, who has shared in my love for the Texas Rangers since childhood and it remains a constant source of conversation between us. To you and all the others I haven’t mentioned (and never got a chance to know), I’m grateful you took the time to read my sometimes meandering prose.

Post All-Star break will see the returns of Geovany Soto, Jim Adduci and Derek Holland. Hopefully that makes the season’s second half better than the first. Whether it does or not, I still say: GO RANGERS!!!

The Friday/Saturday Sundry: 6/6/14

SO LONG AND WELCOME BACK

Another week, another Ranger lands on the disabled list. Alexi Ogando is the latest to join the walking wounded. Things have gotten so bad I’m fully expecting to hear that Luis Ortiz, the Rangers #1 pick in Thursday’s MLB

Alexi  Ogando, On The Shelf

Alexi Ogando, On The Shelf

Draft, will need to undergo Tommy John surgery the day after he signs with the club.

Still, the overall news of the week for the Rangers health is positive. Tanner Scheppers returned from the disabled list Thursday and got thrown right in the fire during the 8th inning of Texas’ 8-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles. Scheppers didn’t look particularly good, giving up a home run to Adam Jones, but he induced a double play to end the 8th with only the solo home run as damage. What was heartening to see was the bullpen line-up after Colby Lewis got pulled following five meh innings: Robbie Ross Jr., Scheppers and Joakim Soria. It was the first time this season the pen had a familiar ring to it. Ross Jr. pitched his best outing in weeks, throwing two shutout innings with no hits and picked up the win when Texas broke a 5-5 tie in the 7th.

Another piece of good news on the health front. Fifth outfielder Jim Adduci is likely to return from his DL stint this weekend against the Cleveland Indians. Adduci was off to a great start in 2014, going six for his first 13 with two doubles and three RBI when he broke his finger on the bag while sliding (or diving). While only the “fifth” outfielder, Adduci is definitely a step up from Daniel Robertson, who failed to tag up at third on a fly to right in Thursday’s game and cost the Rangers a run.

Word has it Neftali Feliz is close to returning to the bullpen as well so, believe it or not, the Rangers are actually getting healthier for a change.

 

 

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ANOTHER SERIES, ANOTHER FORMER RANGER RETURNS

Tuesday marked the return of Nelson Cruz to Arlington. Cruz hit a home run in Tuesday’s win over Texas but the Rangers held him in check the rest of the series. This weekend another favorite from the World Series teams returns. David Murphy was the fourth outfielder for most of his time in Texas but was the starter in left field in 2013. Now he’s back to being a 4th outfielder with the Indians and once again he’s thriving, hitting .280 with 5 home runs and 34 RBI. To put that in perspective, if Murph was still a Ranger, those numbers would lead the club in RBI and rank third in home runs.

 

CHOICE HEATING UP?

In the second inning of Thursday’s game against the Orioles, I tweeted that a Michael Choice hot streak would help the Rangers immensely. With Prince Fielder out for the season and Mitch Moreland stuck at two home runs, the Rangers have very little power outside of Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo. Choice is that potential power bat but he’s been hitting right around the Mendoza line all season long. As if he’d read my time line, Choice went deep for his fourth home run within minutes of that tweet and he added a double for good measure late in the game. Choice is not a great defensive player in the outfield so if he isn’t hitting he really isn’t doing much to help the club win. If Thursday’s game is any indication, Choice just might be getting the hang of this major league hitting thing. If so, the Rangers offense might start scoring runs more consistently.

 

Minor-League-BaseballDOWN ON THE FARM

This should probably wait a few days because there is likely a lot of movement in the Rangers minor league system coming over the next week or two. Still, I feel the need to point out the incredible season being put up by a couple of Rangers’ prospects. Joey Gallo is tearing up the High-A ranks with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Gallo is currently hitting .330 with 21 home runs and 50 RBI. Myrtle Beach is not a hitter’s park. In fact, the entire Myrtle beach roster hit only 64 home runs in the course of the entire season. Gallo is on a pace that would net him 2/3 of the entire 2013 team if he stayed with the Pelicans the whole season. That isn’t going to happen. Gallo may not even play in the Carolina League All-Star game. In just a matter of weeks if not days, expect Gallo at the AA level with the Frisco RoughRiders. The same could be said of Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez. Last year’s top draft pick is 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA in helping lead the Pelicans to a league best 40-18 record.

On the AA level, looking to get promoted soon is Luke Jackson. The righthander checks in at 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA and could find himself in AAA Round Rock soon. On the hitting side, if Gallo gets promoted as expected to play third base in Frisco, the current third baseman, Ryan Rua, already has a case for promotion to Round Rock as well. Rua is hitting a robust .313 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. Round Rock would certainly welcome Rua and Jackson. The Express are easily the worst team in the Rangers minor league system record-wise, posting a 26-34 mark despite having a roster full of talent with major league experience. Maybe they’re mostly utility player/back of the rotation major league experienced but still, they’ve been to the Show and fans expected more from them.

Of all the players mentioned here, I think Jackson has a shot at being in Arlington before the end of the season. He may just be a September call-up, but he should get a shot before season’s end. Don’t look for Gallo in a major league uniform until the end of next season at the earliest.

Texas Rangers Stars Of The Week: 5/26-6/1

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):

These days, when Texas gets some offense it’s coming from all sources. Thus it’s hard to come up with a single game Star of the Week at times. The biggest RBI day came from Shin-Soo Choo, who knocked in the first three runs of one game against the Twins with a second inning bases loaded double. While impressive on the face, I’m giving this week’s award to a guy who knocked in only one run and qualifies as another of those unlikely stars we’ll see from the Rangers this year. Donnie Murphy started the season as part of the second base platoon with Josh Wilson. Then in one fell swoop, Murphy went on the DL, Wilson got demoted to Round Rock and they got replaced by Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas. Murphy got activated from the DL when Prince Fielder was lost for the season and Sunday, he had to do something he’s never done before: play first base on the major league level. Murphy not only played the position flawlessly, he had three hits batting behind Adrian Beltre at 5th in the order (!) and knocked in the key insurance run in the 8th that gave Yu Darvish a little more of a cushion to work with. The three hits brought his season average up to .238.

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

Overall, the Rangers bats have been a bit warmer of late, with the exception being the power numbers that remain better than the Kansas City Royals but hardly anyone else. Sunday’s Leonys Martin homer over the right field wall in Washington was the Rangers first in seven games. In other words, it was the only round tripper the Rangers hit ALL WEEK! Still, there were no fewer than six Texas players who batted .300 or better over the week. The overall Star of the Week goes to catcher Chris Giminez, a player who only joined the Rangers organization at the end of Spring Training, so close to the start of the regular season that Texas had to place him on the Opening Day roster without ever appearing in a Rangers uniform during the exhibition season. Giminez got sent to AAA Round Rock in short order and didn’t appear in a game for the Rangers until his recall two weeks ago to replace a completely ineffectual J.P. Arencibia. Over the past week, Giminez has garnered seven hits in four games, which is one less hit than Arencibia managed in 20 games with Texas. Overall, the stat line for Giminez was .438/.438/.625 with three doubles and 3 RBI. Giminez has also become the personal catcher when Yu Darvish is on the mound and it’s pretty clear Yu doesn’t have any problems with that arrangement. The proof is coming next.

Star of the WeekPitching Star of the Week: 

If there’s a Rangers fan who doesn’t love Yu Darvish, then they are a fan of the New York Rangers hockey team. Meanwhile, Texas Rangers fan love Yu just fine, thank you very much. Sure, there’s the occasional debate of whether he’s earned “Ace” status yet and we sure don’t like the number of times he has a stiff neck and gets scratched from a start. When he takes the mound, though, any start begins with the possibility of magic happening. He’s flirted with no-hitters on several occasions and he leads the majors in double-digit strikeout games over the past three seasons. Sunday, Yu’s assignment was to slow down a Nationals offense that had battered Rangers pitching for 19 runs in the first two games of the series. Darvish was more than up to the task, going eight strong innings on only 102 pitches, giving up only five hits and two walks while striking out a dozen Nationals. Had the game not been played in Washington, where the pitchers come to bat, Darvish likely would have gone out for the 9th and attempted to finish off his first complete game and first career shutout. But, since Texas only had two runs on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth, Ron Washington decided to send up a pinch hitter for Darvish to try to score an insurance run. Joakim Soria secured the save and Darvish had his fifth win of the season.

The Week That Was & The Week That Will Be

Until Darvish spun his gem on Sunday, the weekend got off to a miserable start when the Nationals won Friday’s game 9-2 and added a 10-2 thumping on Saturday. Still, there’s nothing for Rangers fans to complain about. They finished the week 4-3 and they finished their longest road trip of the season going a combined 7-4 against the Tigers, the Twins and the Nationals. Yeah they’re still only a game above .500 and as close to last place as they are to first in the AL West (5 1/2 games), but they’re only a game out of the Wild Card at this point so there’s plenty to hope for.

This is a team with a lot of deficiencies: outside of Darvish, the four other starters are as likely to give you less than 5 innings as they are to even get to 6, the defense is still not anything close to what Rangers fans are used to seeing and the always aggressive running game has resulted in way too many caught stealings. A great case in point is right fielder Alex Rios. By all accounts, Rios is having a good season, hitting .320 and leading the Rangers in RBI with 29. Still, while Rios has 11 steals to his credit, he’s been caught an ugly seven times already. He may own the Rangers RBI lead but he’s also MLB’s leader for grounding into double plays with 15 at just the 1/3 mark of the season. And though he’s a far better right fielder defensively than his predecessor Nelson Cruz, he has three errors on the season and should have had a fourth on the missed pop-up that got changed to a David Ortiz hit that broke up a Yu Darvish no-hitter.

After 11 games on the road, the Rangers get a day off Monday, then spend the week at home against the Baltimore orioles and the Cleveland Indians. That has more than passing interest to Rangers fans, since the Orioles boast ex-Rangers Cruz, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter (not to mention ex-manager Buck Showalter), followed by an Indians team whose uniform is worn by ex-Ranger David Murphy. Cruz would have been more than happy to stay a Ranger but Jon Daniels wasn’t willing to pony up the money to make it happen. Too bad because Cruz is having a career season for the Birds so far this year. Even Murphy has more RBI than Rangers team leader Alex Rios. Record-wise, all three teams are bunched together. The Rangers are 29-28, the Orioles 28-27 and the Indians 27-30. The Orioles get the benefit of not having to face Darvish. With no help coming to the roster via trade in the foreseeable future, a 3-3 record on the week is about what we might expect from a team that has played at about a .500 level all season.

A Father’s Day Gift Idea

Back in my college days as a Radio/TV major, I had the pleasure of knowing a classmate who went on to portray a character who, while only spending  a few short minutes on the screen at the end of the movie, left an indelible mark with many baseball fans. His name is Dwier Brown and he portrayed Kevin Costner’s father at the end of the classic “Field of Dreams.” I recently discovered Dwier has published a book called “If You Build It- A Book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams”. He is now on a Midwest book tour, appearing a minor league stadiums and the like. It’s both memoir and stories people have told him through the years about what the movie meant to them and their own relationships with their fathers. One of my fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members, The Hall of Very Good, has done a 2-part interview with Dwier about the movie and the book. You can read both parts of the interview here:

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-one.html

http://hallofverygood.com/2014-articles/talkin-baseball-with-dwier-brown-part-two.html

The book sounds like a great Father’s Day gift as well. You can order it at his website, dwierbrown.com.

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.

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.

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Very little Rangers-oriented today but I wanted to pass along some holiday cheer!

Eric Nadel, Rangers Hall of Famer 2012; Ford Frick Award Winner 2013

Eric Nadel, Rangers Hall of Famer 2012; Ford Frick Award Winner 2013

In the Rangers department, congratulations to longtime Texas Rangers radio play-by-play voice Eric Nadel, who is this year’s recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasting excellence and will be part of next summer’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Not being a Dallas resident, I only got to really know Eric’s work in the past few years with the advent of MLB.com’s radio package that allows one to listen to the radio feed of any team’s games during the season (Note: An EXCELLENT use of $20 per year). Eric is so totally deserving of this honor. He doesn’t know me from Adam, but as someone who started out in life wanting to become a radio play-by-play voice for a major league team, I can really identify with how hard the job he does really is and how easy he makes it sound. Eric has been able to live that first dream I had and now his consistently excellent work is rewarded in a most proper way. Mr. Nadel, I salute you!

Now on to some Christmas goodies for you. Rangers minor league pitcher Luke Jackson tweeted this yesterday and I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. This was a Canadian airline’s Christmas present to a select group of customers last year and I can only imagine how those passengers must have felt. This is an AWESOME Christmas surprise!

For anyone who’s a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I came across this holiday clip that I thought was pretty creative:

And, as someone who makes commercials for a living, I’m still astounded at how far special effects have come and how realistic things can look at times. This bit was a prime example of it:

Hope you enjoyed these moments. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting to see what else will be in the Rangers’ stocking this year. So far, the gift list includes Prince Fielder and J.P. Arencibia. Will it also include Shin-Soo Choo? David Price? The return of Nelson Cruz? Masahiro Tanaka? I can’t wait ’til Christmas morning!!!

My Rangers Christmas List Part 2

Ho ho ho! MERRY…..”

“Hi, Santa.”

“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.”

Santa in Rangers Uniform(Santa sighs. Rolls his eyes. Lays a finger up the side of his nose. Pulls a few beard hairs out.)

“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.”

“True that.”

“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.”

“Thanks Santa!”

“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!”

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.” 

What If Koji Uehara…?

In 2011 with the Baltimore Orioles, Koji Uehara threw 47 innings, allowing only 25 hits, walked a mere 8 batters and struck out 62. He allowed only 9 earned runs and had a 1.72 ERA.

In 2012 with the Texas Rangers, Uehara threw 36 innings, allowing only 20 hits, 3 walks, 43 strikeouts, only 7 earned runs and a 1.75 ERA.

In 2013 with the Boston Red Sox, Koji tossed 74.1 innings, allowing only 33 hits, 9 earned runs, 9 walks and 101 strikeouts with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves.

In two post-season series in 2013, the amazing Koji has pitched nine innings, allowing one run on only 5 hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts, compiling a win, a loss and 5 saves. He was the Most Valuable Player in the ALCS series against the Detroit Tigers and is now headed to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

By all accounts, Koji Uehara has had a pretty amazing last three years of baseball. And that really irritates me.

Why?

Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Koji Uehara with the Rangers

Because between his 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles and his 2012 season with the Texas Rangers came the 2011 trade that brought him to the Texas Rangers in the first place. Orioles fans sure remember that trade. They got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter out of it. Texas got what they were sure was going to be their 7th inning set-up guy to steamroll their way to the 2011 World Series Championship. They were willing to pay a steep price for it.

Nobody knows what happened. We do know Koji really loved being in Baltimore and was maybe a little stunned with the trade. If it was missing Baltimore or a physical issue, nobody knows for sure. What we do know is the Koji Uehara described above was not the Koji Uehara the 2011 Rangers got. His numbers for Texas in 2011? 18 innings pitched, 13 hits, 1 walk and 23 strikeouts. So far so good. Unfortunately, 5 of the 13 hits were home runs, accounting for most of the eight earned runs charged to him. Uehara compiled a 4.00 ERA with Texas. It got worse. He appeared in three post-season games in 2011, once against Tampa Bay and twice against Detroit. In the ALDS vs. the Rays, Uehara allowed 3 runs on a walk and two hits, one a home run. He failed to get an out. His two games against Detroit resulted in two runs allowed, both on home runs. Uehara did manage to retire four Detroit batters. Koji was so bad for the Rangers that when it came time to set the World Series roster to face the Cardinals, his name was not found, replaced by Mark Lowe.

The name of this blog is “One Strike Away…Twice!” It describes how close the Texas Rangers came to winning the 2011 World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis. After Neftali Feliz blew the save in the 9th inning (with the help of a horribly played fly ball to Nelson Cruz), the Rangers took the lead on a Josh Hamilton home run in the 10th. The Cards tied it back up in the bottom of the 10th and won it on a home run leading off the bottom of the 11th. The Rangers pitchers who faced the Cardinals in the 10th and 11th were Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe.

If the Koji Uehara at the end of 2011 was the same Koji Uehara that started 2011 in Baltimore and the same Koji Uehara that major league baseball has seen in 2012 and 2013 with the Rangers and the Red Sox, I can’t help but think the Texas Rangers would have been the World Series Champions.

If the Red Sox go on to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, Koji Uehara may very well haunt the rest of my days as a Texas Rangers fan.

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