Results tagged ‘ Ron Washington ’
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 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).
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.
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.
Last night, I was doing a head count on the number of African-American managers that will be starting the season in Major League Baseball and a startling realization hit me: This season will begin with three African-American managers in the big leagues and ALL THREE will be managing in the AL West!
Ron Washington begins his 8th season as the skipper of the Rangers in 2014. In that time, he has led Texas to three playoff appearances, two World Series appearances and came within, as we well know, a strike of winning the ultimate prize (twice!). He enters this season on the last year of his contract. GM Jon Daniels says he can’t imagine working with any other manager than Wash. He says he deserves an extension. Yet Wash has yet to be signed to said extension. Is he asking for too much money? Too many years? Or is ownership balking at renewing him? Who knows? Consider this, though. Among African-American managers, only Willie Randolph has compiled a better winning percentage than Wash. Only Dusty Baker and Cito Gaston have brought their teams to more playoff appearances. Sometime in early May (or late April if Texas gets off to a hot start), Wash will overtake Don Baylor to become the 5th winningest African-American manager. If the Rangers far exceed all expectations, he could pass Jerry Manuel for 4th place on that list, though it’s more likely to happen in April of 2015, IF he remains as manager of the Rangers. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s going to happen.
OK, here’s the good news. In 2013, there were seven managerial changes. Six of the jobs went to Anglos and one went to a minority, African-American Bo Porter of the Astros. Porter became just the 16th different African-American to hold an MLB managerial job since Frank Robinson became the first in 1975. As we get ready to begin 2014, there will be five new managers. Only three (Matt Williams in Washington, Bryan Price in Cincinnati and Brad Ausmus in Detroit) are Anglo, one is Hispanic (Rick Renteria with the Chicago Cubs) and, despite losing one African-American in Dusty Baker when he got fired by the Reds, African-Americans still hold three MLB jobs as Lloyd McClendon takes over the reins of the Seattle Mariners.
I’ll say the same thing in 2014 I said in 2013: In this day and age Major League baseball has not done a very good job in helping to increase minority hires among the managerial ranks. Major League Baseball is an international game, with a high number of Latin American players and more Asian players every year. I truly believe MLB needs more Hispanic managers today but I also feel any number of African-American coaches out there don’t seem to get that managerial interview in the first place. Every year, MLB honors Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on the field, yet more than 50 years later, minority youth in America fail to see many African-Americans leading MLB teams. Ron Washington’s results speak for themselves, as do the results of Dusty Baker, Cito Gaston, Jerry Manuel and Willie Randolph. It’s an issue this white guy doesn’t want to let go. For as long as this blog remains, I’ll do an annual update.
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.
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.
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.
After your team’s eliminated, it sure is hard getting back to evenings with no Rangers baseball to watch. Sure I follow the playoffs and football is always there as a distraction, but night-to-night living is completely different. Fortunately there are still things like the Baseball Bloggers Association post-season awards to think about and write about to take some of the edge off.
There are five awards announced annually by the BBA and, being a blogger about an American League team, that is the only league for me to vote. Just as well, because I really don’t know enough about the season in the NL to vote with certainty. I would, however, feel strongly that Clint Hurdle should get honored for his work with the Pirates and Paul Goldschmidt, being a Texas boy, has at least staked a claim as the league’s best player this year. But enough about things I know not nearly enough about. Here are my picks for the American League honors.
Connie Mack Award (Manager)
I don’t hate honoring a manager, but I do hate the game that’s played for that honor. Face it, the manager who receives this award annually is more often than not the man whose team had either a surprising year or they had the biggest turnaround of the year. Thus managers like Joe Girardi or Ron Washington, whose teams have been consistently good for several years, will seldom get any recognition and when they do, such as when Ron Gardenhire won it for the Twins in 2010, it really should have gone to someone more deserving (Wash should have won in 2010). I voted for Girardi a couple of years ago because of how well the Yankees did despite several key injuries. I think Washington should get strong consideration this year for his work with the Rangers, considering the injuries to the pitching staff and how much weaker they were offensively due to no fault of his own. Through all that, he still managed Texas to 91 wins and within an eyelash of the official playoffs. Still, as much as I love the Rangers and as much as I respect Ron Washington, there’s no doubt who will win, and probably should win this year. It’s the Red Sox’ John Farrell. While he was once pitching coach for the Sox, this was his first season as a manager and he turned Boston from worst to first in one year’s time. Maybe that’s a sign of how bad a fit Bobby Valentine was a year ago, but I’m willing to give Farrell his due. Terry Francona gets an honorable mention along with Wash, not because of the overall turnaround for the Indians, but the fact he did it with a starting rotation that included Ubaldo Jiminez and Scott Kazmir, two pitchers who were on the verge of being put on the junk heap a year ago.
WINNER: John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
Willie Mays Award (Rookie)
This was not the strongest rookie class in the world. Offensively, there wasn’t a rookie in the AL who topped 60 RBI. Only one scored as many as 60 runs. Fourteen home runs was the top power number and 18 steals was the tops in the speed department. Most rookies considered for a top honor will put up numbers in one of those categories that resembles a fulltime starter. This year’s class had numbers befitting platoon players at best. So instead of Wil Myers or Nick Franklin, I’m looking at pitching this year. There I see two more deserving candidates: Dan Straily of the Oakland A’s and Martin Perez of the Texas Rangers. Both players won ten games for their clubs, tops among all rookies. Both were pretty even in ERA: Straily at 3.96, Perez at 3.62. The edge, though, goes to the guy who had a better WHIP (1.24 vs. 1.33) and led all rookies in innings pitched. Rangers fan that I am, reluctantly that means the guy with Oakland.
WINNER: Dan Straily, Oakland A’s
Goose Gossage Award (Reliever)
I’m going to concede the odds are long that the guy I vote for here is going to win. That’s because I’m going strictly on stats for this one. The guy who most likely is going to win had a great year in 2013. It was also his last year before retirement, so I suspect a lot of people are going to vote for him as a goodbye honor, kind of a Lifetime Achievement Award that will last the five years it takes before he’s enshrined in Cooperstown. The thing is, I don’t like Lifetime Achievement Awards like this. The Hall of Fame will be award enough. Fact is, the best reliever this year didn’t play in the Bronx. He played in the worst possible market to play in in the American League. We’re talking Kansas City here, folks. Greg Holland was filthy good for the Royals this year. 47 Saves, better than everybody except one. A 1.21 ERA. I thought Joe Nathan was outstanding for Texas with a 1.39, but Holland outdid him. Then you add in 103 strikeouts in only 67 innings of work, a 0.87 WHIP, and only 40 hits allowed. That is one ornery closer my friends. Mariano Rivera deserves all kinds of accolades for the career he had, as well as the way he came back in 2013 from a serious injury to post the numbers he posted. They don’t top what Holland did for the Royals, though and Holland shouldn’t get penalized because a guy who didn’t match his numbers is retiring.
WINNER: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)
Wins don’t mean anything. That’s what the SABR crowd says. They’re probably right. After all, all kinds of great pitchers get tagged for losses they don’t deserve. Yu Darvish lost four games this year 1-0. They also get credited with wins they don’t deserve. When you give up six runs in five innings but your teammates put up nine, you may have gotten the win but you won’t necessarily sleep well because of it. A couple of months ago, the debate was already beginning to form because the numbers of Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale and even Yu Darvish were right up there with Max Scherzer, but Max was the guy with all those W’s on his ledger compared to the other guys. The thing is, the other three guys all started having their problems shortly after the debate started. Hernandez in particular got shelled by the Rangers to the tune of nine runs (8 earned) in only three innings of a late August start. From August 17 on, King Felix was a pedestrian 0-5, 6.46. Darvish was only 1-4 over that span but with a decidedly better 3.38 ERA. Chris Sale was 3-3 with a 4.02 the last month and a half. And Scherzer? He closed out with a 4-2, 3.08. There may have been a debate in mid-August, but only one of the four players in the debate made it count down the stretch. In this case, the guys with the most wins gets the award AND he deserves it too.
WINNER: Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)
One year ago, another traditional vs. new era debate raged and it concerned the top player in the league. Traditionalists loved Miguel Cabrera, who was the first to win the AL’s Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in the 1960′s. On the SABR side was the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout who, according to WAR, had one of the best seasons anyone in baseball history has ever had. Cabrera won the vote of the sportswriters so the traditional won out. In the blogosphere, however, Trout was the decisive winner over Cabrera in the BBA vote. So what happened in 2013? Cabrera had an even better batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage than he had a year ago. Trout nearly doubled his walks from a year ago from 67 to 110. He also had a higher on base percentage and OPS. Then there was a new guy in the mix: Chris Davis of the Orioles, who exploded for 53 home runs. There was also a bit of love for the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, who had a torrid July and August and helped ease the loss of the suspended Nelson Cruz. A year ago I voted for Cabrera myself because I like my top player playing for a contender, plus Cabrera had a much stronger September than Trout did and that counts for something. So let’s compare Septembers for my top four in 2013:
Cabrera: .278 BA 1 HR 7 RBI
Trout: .281 BA 4 HR 15 RBI
Davis: .216 BA 6 HR 16 RBI
Beltre: .262 2 HR 10 RBI
Cabrera was battling injuries the last month, Beltre’s hamstring issues caused him to lose his power stroke in the late stages, Davis hit for power but not much average. That leaves the guy who missed out in the sportswriters vote a year ago. Yeah, he still wasn’t playing for a contender but he was a big part of a late surge that nearly brought the Angels back to .500 with a lousy pitching staff, no Albert Pujols and a mostly ineffective Josh Hamilton. I’m not as conflicted this year as I was a year ago.
WINNER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
There you have it. I may be a homer when it comes to the games, but none of my Rangers quite measured up in the end for the post-season hardware. As 29 teams always say on the last day of their seasons, there’s always next year!
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.
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: 4-2
Overall: 79-57 (1st Place AL West) (+1)
Elvis Andrus .421/.450/.474 1 Double, 4 RBI
Ian Kinsler .360/.385/.400 1 Double, 3 Stolen Bases
Jurickson Profar .174/.240/.348 (But he did have a home run)
Leonys Martin .174/.208/.304 (But he did have a home run and 5 RBI)
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Travis Blackley 5.23 ERA 6 Earned Runs in 10.1 Innings Pitched
It was a wasted week. Again. Once again the Rangers had a winning week at 4-2, but this time they lost a game and a half in the standings. Texas followed up a great road sweep of the Mariners only to come home and lay an egg in front of the home crowd against the lowly Minnesota Twins. Meanwhile, the second place A’s proved they’re up to the task of repeating as AL West champions by taking three out of four from the Detroit Tigers ON THE ROAD, then came home and swept the Wild Card-contending Tampa Bay Rays. Ron Washington is always quick to say his team can’t worry about what other teams are doing. If they take care of their own business, everything will be OK. Against the Twins, Texas didn’t take care of their own business.
Rangers Hall of Famer Jim Sundberg tweeted over the weekend that, with big series coming up, it’s natural for contending teams to look ahead a bit. I hope that’s the case because the Rangers and A’s are head to head the next three days and Texas needs to bring its A game (or A’s game, as it were). I stated last week it was important for Texas to go into September with a 4 game or more lead because the schedule this month favors the A’s. With a one game lead today instead of four you can officially label me as skeptical about my team winning the West in 2013. This week, it’s six games on the West Coast: three at Oakland followed by three games at Los Angeles. Oakland is at home all week against the Rangers and the Astros. Texas needs to take two of three against Oakland and, dare I say it, sweep the Angels. Anything less and this time next week I’ll probably be talking about the second place Rangers. I hate to talk about the second place Rangers.
On the positive side, welcome back Neftali Feliz! The man whose image is indelibly frozen in my brain when he struck A-Rod out looking to end the 2010 ALCS and send the Rangers to their first World Series returned to Texas Sunday after the long recovery from Tommy John surgery. Feliz threw two scoreless innings against the Twins. His velocity isn’t where it was a couple of years ago but he mixed his pitches well. I’ll pit the Rangers bullpen against just about any team in baseball. The offense is another question altogether,
Another incredible line from Yu Darvish, this time against the Houston Astros:
In his first game of 2013 and his most recent game, both in Houston Darvish has allowed two hits in 16 2/3 innings. Two hits, while walking just one and striking out 29 Astros batters. Yes, Darvish is human. In a third start this year at Houston, he was merely mortal, allowing three runs on three hits in seven innings. Still, a three game season line of 23.2-5-4-4-4-37 is pretty incredible.
A few days ago, I opined that Ron Washington deserves heavy consideration for AL Manager of the Year for what he’s accomplished considering injury and suspension issues, while acknowledging the odds are he’ll finish no better than third behind Terry Francona and John Farrell. Today, I’ll go out on a limb and say Yu Darvish deserves heavy consideration for the Cy Young Award, but will likely finish no better than second and possibly third behind Max Scherzer and Felix Hernandez. True, it’s easier to dominate the Astros than other teams. Darvish, though, has made a lot of teams look silly. In 153 innings, opponents have hit Darvish at a below Mendoza Line .186. He gives up only six hits per nine innings while striking out over 12. His K rate is up and his W rate is down from a year ago. With over a month to go in the regular season, his WAR is already at 4.7, compared to 3.9 for a full season a year ago.
Darvish has struck out 14 batters five times already in 2013. He’s struck out at least ten in nine of his 23 starts. The only real knock against him is he’s given up 19 home runs this year, compared to 15 in 2012. That and he still needs to cut down on his pitch count. Darvish has ace stuff, but will never be considered a true ace until he starts averaging 7-8 innings per start and gets a complete game or two. Somehow I get the feeling that’s coming next year. If Darvish improves as much in 2014 as he has in 2013, next year baseball fans could see a Pedro Martinez-type year out of Yu Darvish. Wouldn’t that be special?
- Controversial Call Costs Rangers P Yu Darvish His Perfect Game (bleacherreport.com)
- Darvish flirts with no-hitter, K’s 15 in gem (scores.espn.go.com)
- I Want Yu (baselinecommentary.com)
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: 6-0
Overall: 68-50 (1st Place AL West) (+1)
Adrian Beltre .435/.536/.739 1 Double, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 Walks
Alex Rios .571/.625/1.000 1 Double, 1 Triple, 2 RBI, 3 Runs Scored in 2 Games
Joey Butler .500/.600/1.000 2 Doubles, 2 Runs, 1 Walk in 5 Plate Appearances
Ian Kinsler .200/.276/.280
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Martin Perez 2-0, 1 Complete Game, 1.76 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 15 K in 15.1 IP
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Only Robbie Ross and Matt Garza had ERA’s over 4.50 for the week, but both get a pass as Garza won his game, striking out 8 while walking only 1 and Ross only pitched 2/3 of an inning for the week. No Frios por la semana (for the week).
Talk about making lemonade out of lemons. On Monday, the axe fell on Nelson Cruz, the Rangers’ top run producer for 2013. Instead of bowing their heads and feeling sorry for themselves, the Rangers went right ahead like they didn’t miss him at all. How does a season long 7-game winning streak hit you? Without Cruz, but admittedly with the benefit of playing the AL West’s bottom two teams, the Rangers swept the week at 6-0 and went from 2 1/2 games behind the Oakland A’s to a game on top in the AL West.
Regular readers of this blog know Texas just shifted its focus against the Angels to a speed game and ran at will on the LA pitching and catching staff. The Astros were a little different animal. Houston just isn’t a very good team and even when their starting pitchers did their job, the bullpen ensured the Rangers would come out on top.
I put two players in the Jalapeno Caliente column this week even with limited at bats. Alex Rios came over in a trade from the Chicago White Sox and immediately paid dividends. In his first game Saturday, Rios walked his first time up, then singled and hustled into second on a throw to third in his second plate appearance. In the 8th, with Texas trailing 4-3, Rios tied the game with a triple, then came home on a grounder, knocking the ball out of Jason Castro‘s glove at the plate to score what proved to be the winning run. For Sunday’s encore, Rios scored the Rangers first run following a single in the 5th, added an RBI double in the 6th to make it 2-0 and scored in the Rangers’ 4-run 9th. For someone who came to Texas with a reputation for not hustling, Rios sure didn’t look like the guy the scouts were talking about. Maybe it’s playing on a club with playoff aspirations for a change. Rios tweeted after Sunday’s game he’s never encountered a team with as much energy as the Rangers. It appears to be catching.
The other honorable mention went to Joey Butler. At the advanced baseball age of 27, Butler finally made it to the big leagues for the first time, being recalled following Cruz’ suspension. He was to be the right-handed hitting complement to lefties David Murphy and Leonys Martin in right field. That platoon lasted all of five days when Texas acquired Rios. Butler only got to start one game for Texas before being sent down to AAA Round Rock, but he made the most of it, mashing two doubles and scoring twice off Houston’s Eric Bedard. I hope Butler gets to come back up as a September call-up. Everyone loves to cheer for those types of underdogs.
Another week facing sub-.500 teams, a streak that won’t end until Labor Day. This week, it’s one game with the Astros Monday to close out the 4-game set. Tuesday, an 8-game homestand begins with two against the Milwaukee Brewers followed by three against the AL West foe the Rangers have had the hardest time with in 2013, the Seattle Mariners (8-5). If Texas wins the first three games this week, be prepared for a different looking Jon Daniels. The Rangers GM, along with Dallas radio personalities Ben & Skin, have promised to shave their heads to look like Ron Washington for charity if Texas wins 10 in a row. Here they are side by side. Just imagine what Daniels will look like:
- Can Alex Rios Replace Nelson Cruz’s Bat in Texas Rangers Lineup? (bleacherreport.com)
Just announced: The Texas Rangers have acquired Alex Rios from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. Speculation is he PTBNL is Leury Garcia. who started the season as the Rangers’ utility infielder. Since Garcia is on the 40-man roster, he’d have to clear waivers first to go to the White Sox now. By waiting until season’s end, the waiver requirement is no longer necessary.
Hey, Rios isn’t the best bat around, but he’s one of the best ones available now. He’s a righthanded bat, which the Rangers sorely needed. He’s signed through next season so if David Murphy, Nelson Cruz or both Murphy and Cruz depart at season’s end due to their free agency, there’s already a reasonably productive piece already in place. Rios has a salary a bit on the high side, but for the remainder of this year it’s offset both by some cash the White Sox threw into the deal and the salary Cruz isn’t being paid due to his suspension. Best of all, if the Rangers make the post-season, Rios and Cruz will both be available for post-season play.
On the downside was this tweet from the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Gil LeBreton, who noted “scouts say Rios moves at one speed…and it’s not all-out.” Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News was quick to retweet LeBreton’s tweet. I responded to both, “If anyone can get to him, though, it’ll be Wash.” Both scribes quickly agreed with my assessment.
Wash doesn’t work with everyone. He certainly could do nothing with Cristian Guzman in 2010. Guzman didn’t even make the post-season roster. Wash, though, has a way of getting the best out of his players. There was never a bigger example of that than 2008, two years before the Rangers’ World Series run. That year, Jon Daniels surprised just about everyone in the baseball world by signing world-class malcontent Milton Bradley. Everyone thought JD was crazy. Wash took Bradley under his wing. Throughout the 2008 season, he only had one potential incident, which Wash helped defuse before anything bad could happen. On the field, Bradley had the best season of his career, hitting .321 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI and a .999 OPS. Bradley was also named to his first and only All-Star team. As many know, Bradley signed a big free agent deal after that with the Cubs and was never the same player again. His anger ended up getting the best of him and he’s now facing prison time for a domestic violence charge.
The point is Wash got through to Bradley. On the field it’s easy to see when Wash gets through to Elvis Andrus and Derek Holland. Both respond to the “in your face” approach to motivation. The lives of every Rangers player is full of what Ron Washington terms “teaching moments.” For every player, those moments take different forms. While Wash is not the best baseball strategist on the block, what he does exceptionally well is handle the men in his charge, sizing them up, figuring out the best way to get through to them, then watching it translate on the baseball field. Not everyone will respond. Those are the ones that usually find themselves ex-Rangers. That well could happen next year to Alex Rios. On the other hand, if Wash figures out what makes him tick, this could end up being a very good acquisition for Texas for the next season and a third.
You know, I should be in a good mood right now. I’m supposed to be celebrating the fact that this dude here just broke the team record for most wins ever by a Texas Rangers manager:
I’m also supposed to be excited about Adrian Beltre, our intrepid 3rd baseman and clubhouse leader, was honored as the American League Player of the Month for July:
And I’m supposed to be ecstatic that the Rangers have shaved four games off the Oakland A’s lead in a span of just eight days to pull to within two of the AL West leaders.
Yeah, things are sure happy in Rangersland, don’t you think? But no, first you have to throw the Nelson Cruz 50-game suspension at me. Then, to add to the pain, word comes out today that Colby Lewis, expected to rejoin the Rangers rotation in maybe just a week’s time, has now been sidelined for the rest of the season with bone spurs on his hip. The man went down in the stretch run a year ago and has busted his butt all season long to recover from an arm injury. He rehabbed early in the season and had to be shut down in early May with arm soreness. He started rehab outings again about three weeks ago and was probably just one rehab start away from making his season début for the Rangers and what happens? An injury unrelated to the arm. Bone spurs on the hip.
The immediate beneficiaries here are Alexi Ogando and Martin Perez. For Ogando, it means at least another three weeks in the Rangers rotation, as it was likely Lewis would have supplanted him next week. Now he appears safe until Matt Harrison returns next, around the end of the month. For Perez, it’s a permanent win. The rookie southpaw has been pitching very well of late. Lewis being down for the season means Perez will remain with the parent club as a starter for the remainder of this season and on into the future.
I feel for Colby. The Rangers did him a solid by re-signing him in the off-season, knowing he wouldn’t be available until at least mid-season. They did this to thank him for the efforts that led to two World Series appearances in two years. It was just a one year contract, though, Just as it’s possible Nelson Cruz has played his last game as a member of the Rangers, so too is it possible Colby Lewis will never throw a pitch for the Rangers again. I suspect that’s not true, as Jon Daniels can almost certainly sign Lewis yet again to a one year deal at a price that is definitely favorable to the Business Office, but it’s not a certainty.
Colby Lewis started and won some of the most important games in Texas Rangers history: He beat the Yankees twice in the 2010 ALCS. He was credited with the W in the Rangers’ only 2010 World Series win. He tossed six innings of 1-hit ball in a win against the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2011 ALDS. And while he didn’t earn any decisions, Lewis had a 2.25 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series. Game 2 went the Rangers way, Game 6 should have.
Colby, if you never again wear a Rangers uniform, know that I, as well as thousands if not millions of Rangers fans, thank you for everything you’ve done for this franchise. The Rangers wouldn’t have gone as far as they did without you and that’s the truth.