Results tagged ‘ Nelson Cruz ’

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.

The End Comes Too Soon

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:

1) Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli departed, replaced by Leonys Martin, AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman.

2) Berkman was a bust and the team’s best power hitter, Nelson Cruz, got suspended for the last 50 games of the year.

3) David Murphy and Mitch Moreland performed under expectations by a wide margin.

4) #2 starter Matt Harrison only managed two ineffective starts before going down to injury for the year.

5) The Rangers had a starting rotation at one point that consisted of Josh Lindblom, Ross Wolf, Justin Grimm, Nick Tepesch and Derek Holland.

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.

Nelson Cruz

Gone? Nelson Cruz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Texas Rangers Caliente y Frio: Week 26

Rangers primary logo

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)

Jalapeno Caliente (Offense):

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

Raspa Frio (Offense):

Mitch Moreland  .200/.333/.200

Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):

Texas Bullpen (Neal Cotts/Joe Nathan/Robbie Ross/Tanner Scheppers/Joakim Soria/Jason Frasor):  22 Games, 5-0 with 3 Saves, 20.2 Innings Pitched, 10 Hits, 1 Run, 7 Walks, 27 Strikeouts

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.

Why Does Anyone Have To Be Fired?

It’s the end of the season, the Rangers did themselves no favors by going cold to begin the month of September and now find themselves not assured of a playoff spot with a mere ten games to go in the regular season. The AL West title is clearly out of the question with Oakland up 6 1/2 with 10 games to go. If the Rangers go 10-0, Oakland would still win the division by going a mere 4-5. Mathematically it’s possible, realistically fuhgeddaboutit.

This, of course, means the silly season has started in the DFW area. Columnists are busy opining as to what kind of blood bath will occur within the Rangers organization after the close of the season. After all, Texas “collapsed” for the second consecutive year. SOMEONE HAS TO PAY WITH THEIR JOB!!!

Already, camps have begun to pop up in the media. Some have begun to speculate on Ron Washington‘s future with the team. On the other side of the coin, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Randy Galloway has firmly established himself in the “Fire Jon Daniels” camp, saying the Rangers’ season wasn’t Wash’s fault, it was JD’s for not giving him a good enough team to work with.

My question is, why should anyone get fired?

Yeah, the season has been a disappointment in many regards. The showing of the team in September has not been good and there’s a very real chance Texas won’t be in the playoffs come the end of next week. Based on schedule, the Rangers and Indians have the most favorable odds but getting shut out of the post season is a real possibility.

Still, let’s look at this logically.

For those in the “Fire Wash” faction, think about how 2013 squad composition compared to the 2012 team. Gone for the entire year from that team were Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Michael Young. Those three players alone combined for 75 home runs and 251 RBI worth of offense. In their place, essentially, were A.J. Pierzynski, Lance Berkman and Leonys Martin who, as of 9/19, have combined for 31 game runs and 139 RBI offensively. David Murphy slid from 15 HR and 61 RBI in 2012 to 13 HR and 44 RBI in 2013. And Nelson Cruz, the biggest power threat on the team, got suspended for the last 50 games of the regular season after posting 27 home runs and 76 RBI in the first 112 games.

Meanwhile, on the pitching side, Texas lost Koji Uehara and Mike Adams from the bullpen. Colby Lewis never pitched in 2013 after posting six wins in 2012. Matt Harrison had only two starts in 2013 before being shelved for the year following an 18 win 2012 campaign. The pitching staff actually improved in 2013 despite these departures. Martin Perez established himself as a legitimate starter and the bullpen hasn’t missed a beat with Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts and Tanner Scheppers replacing Uehara and Adams. Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz boosted the pen when they came back in August & September from lengthy injury rehabilitation.

Considering how vastly different this team is from the 2012 team, not only should Wash not be fired, he should contend for AL Manager of the Year for where he has this club in the standings. He won’t win. John Farrell of the Red Sox will probably get the honor, but Wash has done an outstanding job considering the injuries he’s had to contend with as well as the Cruz suspension. Texas is tied for the Wild Card lead despite, at one point, fielding a rotation that consisted of Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm and Ross Wolf.

Then what of General Manager Jon Daniels? Maybe Galloway is right, Jon Daniels should pay with his job for not giving Wash better pieces to work with.

Nonsense. All Daniels has done is put together a team that contended for the division title up until the last three weeks of the season and did it without breaking the Rangers budget or crippling the team for the future. Look at the off-season of 2012. The Rangers were in hot pursuit of two players in particular: Zach Greinke and Justin Upton. They had hopes of re-signing Josh Hamilton. They weren’t saying no to a Mike Napoli return either. Adams and Uehara they were resigned to losing, since JD doesn’t want to overpay for bullpen pieces. Texas was supposedly ready to part with Mike Olt and Elvis Andrus, perhaps even Martin Perez, to get Upton. Arizona didn’t bite. Upton in 2013 has put up 2.9 WAR for the Braves. Andrus and Perez have combined for a 4.1 WAR, while Olt ended up being a piece of the trade that brought Matt Garza to Texas. Greinke signed with the Dodgers. Texas put up an attractive offer, but LA topped it and Greinke admitted he went with the best financial offer. Guess what? If JD had sweetened the offer, the Dodgers would have topped it again.

Since Texas lost out on both Upton and Greinke, Daniels had to get a little more creative. He tried to get James Shields from the Royals. The Rays’ ask was too high. Finally, Daniels signed Lance Berkman as the team’s DH. It was a calculated risk, but if Berkman and his creaky knees came anywhere close to what he did for the St. Louis Cardinals, it would be a steal. He then signed Pierzynski as the everyday catcher. He had already signed the injured Joakim Soria to a two-year deal, even though he wouldn’t be ready until mid-season at the earliest. Finally, Daniels went more low-key and signed Jason Frasor to a 1-year deal to help the bullpen and Jeff Baker as the club’s back-up to Mitch Moreland at first base, David Murphy in left and Adrian Beltre at third. Then, with Texas contending at mid-season, JD went and got both the best hitter and the best pitcher available at the trade deadline in Matt Garza and Alex Rios. He possibly overpaid for Garza, who not only has been somewhat of a disappointment for Texas, he also will be a free agent at year’s end. On the other hand, Rios cost Texas just Leury Garcia and he’s still is under contract for 2014.

All these moves and Texas might miss the playoffs in 2013. On the other hand, take a look at what Daniels has accomplished. On the pitching side, the starting rotation for 2014 is already 4/5 complete with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and a returning Matt Harrison. There’s always a possibility for Colby Lewis to return as well, which would complete the rotation. Meanwhile, Nick Tepesch remains as a viable rotation candidate for next year as well, along with Josh Lindblom, obtained in the Michael Young trade. In the bullpen, if Joe Nathan returns and the club re-signs Frasor, the entire bullpen could return intact in 2014, which is practically unheard of these days.

There is work to be done with the offense. David Murphy will undoubtedly be allowed to leave. Nelson Cruz could depart as well. Yet, the Texas offense is not that far away from being potent yet again. Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin had their first full years in the bigs in 2013 and are sure to put up better numbers in 2014. Texas will probably need to sign another catcher to replace Pierzynski and could take a stab at Brian McCann. Kinsler could be asked to move to first base or left field and Texas will look to obtain a replacement at whichever position Kinsler doesn’t move to. Still, if Daniels were to re-sign Cruz as the everyday DH, move Kinsler to first, sign McCann and then find a new left fielder with some pop, this will be a contending club again in 2014. That will have been accomplished by a GM who kept his top position prospect (Profar) and pitching prospect (Perez) and still has a top 5 minor league system to work out more trades down the road.

Fire Jon Daniels? I think not.

If anyone is to leave at the end of the season, it would be on the coaching staff. Texas made a lot of baserunning blunders in 2013, but they also have three of the top basestealers in the AL, so Gary Pettis‘ job should be safe. Dave Magadan has a great reputation as a hitting coach so I don’t see him as a one year and done coach. Jackie Moore as bench coach? Considering Wash has a history of curious moves, that could be a possibility and even that could be framed as a retirement and not a firing.

In the end, who will get fired? I ask again, why should ANYONE be fired? This is still a very good team with very good leadership. If Texas doesn’t qualify for the post-season, it doesn’t mean the wheels are off the wagon. They’re just momentarily slowing down to fix the wheels to get better traction a year from now.

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