Results tagged ‘ Vlad Guerrero ’

A Weird Argument For Michael Young Being The DH

Why not yet another  missive on the travails of Michael Young? He’s everyone’s favorite punching bag this season. According to most sabermetrics, Young’s weak bat is exceeded only by the Royals’ Jeff Francoeur among everyday American League players. Even I have thoughtfully decided now wouldn’t be a bad time to give Mr. Ranger a few more days off than he’s been getting.

Well, we all know it’s not going to happen, no matter how much we may wish it. Ron Washington is sticking with Michael Young and it’s doubtful he gets any rest until the Rangers clinch their third consecutive American League West crown.

Inside every fan’s dark cloud comes a silver lining. IF (and it is a BIG if) the Texas Rangers succeed in making the Fall Classic for the third consecutive year, this could turn out to be a bright spot. Most folks look at the designated hitter in the American League as a huge advantage in the World Series. Not me. I don’t have the stats to back it up, but I think the National League has two built-in advantages going into the World Series every year. The first is their pitchers are used to hitting regularly. No such luck for AL pitchers, whose experience batting has always ended mid-season with the end of interleague play.

The other advantage is surprisingly at DH. The National League representative may not have anyone used to playing DH in a game, but they do have a lot of players used to coming off the bench at a moment’s notice to pinch-hit. American League baseball doesn’t employ pinch-hitters as often, so in the American League, the Designated Hitter position often goes to one player the majority of the time.

Here’s the conundrum: When a team employs a more or less full-time DH, it makes for a HUGE disadvantage in a National League park in a World Series, because the DH is usually a player who provides big offensive numbers. The only way to take advantage of those numbers is to play the DH in the field at the NL stadiums. You keep the offense but most of the time you pray they don’t hurt you defensively.

Look at the Rangers’ first two trips to the Series. In 2010, Texas used Vladimir Guerrero as their primary Designated Hitter. These are pretty simple figures, but when you add Guerrero’s runs scored plus his RBI and subtract his HR’s (which count as both a Run and an RBI), big bad Vlad was involved in 25.1% of the runs the Rangers scored. If you just take his RBI for the season, Vlad knocked in 14.6% of the Rangers runs in 201o. Guerrero’s offensive contributions pretty much demanded he play the field against the Giants in San Francisco. As we all know, Guerrero botched plays in each of the first two games in right field, helping contribute to the Giants taking a 2-0 Series lead en route to a World Championship.

English: Michael Young

Is Michael Young’s offense needed on the road in the World Series?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast forward to 2011, Michael Young’s first season as the Rangers’ primary Designated Hitter. Young had an excellent 2011, batting over .300 and knocking in over 100 runs. In the Runs Scored + RBI-HR category, Young was involved with 22.6% of the Rangers scoring output. In RBI alone, he was responsible for knocking in 12.3% of the Rangers runs. As a defender, Young was the Rangers’ super utility infielder, but other than second base, he didn’t excel defensively anywhere and, in fact, had negative defensive stats. Still, Young’s offensive contributions demanded he be in the field when Texas played in St. Louis. There, Young was the Rangers’ first baseman. Texas nearly won the Series anyway, but Young had two errors, both in the critical Game 6.

Now we’re in 2012 and Young is having easily the worst year of his career. Instead of 22.6%, so far he’s factored into only 16.6% of the Rangers runs. And instead of 12.3%, he’s only knocked in 8% of the Texas runs on the season. The Rangers continue to win, though. They have the best record in the American League while playing Michael Young every day, mainly at DH. But if the Rangers make it to the Series again, think about this. Now Michael Young’s offense isn’t nearly as vital to the Rangers winning a game as it was just a year ago. Which means it isn’t as vital for Wash to put Young in defensively when the Rangers are playing in the National League Park. Texas, if Wash can resist the temptation, can go with their strongest defensive line-up at the NL park without sacrificing a lot of offense. That’s something that wasn’t true the first two times.

Off-Season News 11/3/11

Just a few tidbits to pass along:

BELTRE WINS TWICE!

Adrian Beltre has garnered two post-season honors. Beltre received his third career Gold Glove for his work at third base for the Rangers in 2011. Beltre made only 11 errors at the hot corner this year and resembles a human vacuum cleaner over there. Beltre also was given the Silver Slugger Award, signifying the best offensive performance by an AL third sacker.

While congrats to Adrian are certainly in order, it’s kind of strange to think this is probably the only post-season honor coming the Rangers way this year. In 2010, Texas had the AL MVP (Josh Hamilton), the AL Rookie of the Year (Neftali Feliz) and the Designated Hitter of the Year (Vlad Guerrero). Because Texas had such a powerful team not dominated by any one player save for Mike Napoli, who didn’t play often enough to qualify for an honor, they’ll just have to be content with Beltre’s two awards. Unless Ron Washington pulls off an upset and wins Manager of the Year.

MADDUX ON THE OUTS?

Nobody wants to get rid of Mike Maddux as the Texas Pitching Coach, but there’s a possibility it could happen. Most people are looking to advance in their career, and Maddux would love to manage someday. The Rangers have given permission to the Red Sox and the Cubs to talk to Maddux about their open managerial positions. Maddux currently has laryngitis, but says he will talk to the clubs once he gets his voice back. I don’t see Maddux as the frontrunner for the Cubs job. I’ve had it in the back of my brain ever since rumors of Theo Epstein’s moving to Chicago became public that he plans on bringing Terry Francona with him to the Windy City. I could be wrong, but it makes a lot of sense. I do think Maddux has a good shot at the Red Sox job. It would make sense for a team like Boston, who is already in a contending position, to try to spirit away someone from their closest competitors. The Rangers success means more teams will be going after their personnel. Mike, I don’t want to see you leave, but if you get a managerial offer, I understand you’d be a fool not to take it.

OTHER GOINGS

The Rangers made their first off-season roster moves Wednesday. Darren O’Day was placed on waivers and claimed by the Baltimore Orioles, who are beginning to look like Texas rangers Lite with O’Day joining Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter and Clay Rapada. I think Koji Uehara ends up going back to Baltimore too. Texas also decided to cut ties with Andres Blanco, Esteban german and Eric Hurley, who made quite a comeback in AAA Round Rock this year after missing almost three years of baseball. Also released was Omar Beltre, a minor league pitcher who was caught up in the phony marriage scandal that also had Alexi Ogando in its clutches a number of years ago. Beltre missed all of 2011 due to medical reasons and could still sign a minor league deal with the Rangers.

 STILL TO COME

After taking a few days to get myself over the heartbreaking loss to the Cardinals, I surprised myself by having quite a few post ideas floating around in my brain. Coming soon, a defense of Ron Washington in Games 6 & 7 of the World Series and thoughts about the Free Agents of 2011: Who might the Rangers target, who might they lose. The Washington post (Ooo, very punny: Washington Post!) will be up in the next couple of hours. Be on the lookout. Oh, and there’s a new poll over on the right hand side of the page. Make sure you vote!

There Is No Joy In Mudville

There is no joy in Mudville...

It would be easy to explain away the Rangers’ back to back losses by identical 12-4 scores to the Yankees as a team that’s in a pitching slump. Indeed, you could go back to the Minnesota series before this one and see further evidence of this. The Twins scored 14 runs in the last two games of that set before sending Texas off to Gotham. Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando and Derek Hollandall had bad starts. The bullpen hasn’t been much better. 38 runs given up in a 4-game span is not a good thing.

It would also be easy to place some blame on the offense as well. Nelson Cruz has been stuck below .250 for most of the season and is currently mired in an 0-18 slide with ten strikeouts (according to Dallas media reports, Cruz has now discovered a problem in his mechanics to explain the current slump. We’ll see.) Ian Kinsler, as previously mentioned in this space, has easily the worst road batting average in the majors, although he lifted it somewhat last night with a two for three, two walk performance. Add those consistent problems to Josh Hamilton having a mini-slump and you have a recipe for offensive troubles as well.

It would be easy to look at these things as the most likely culprits as the Rangers enter Thursday’s getaway day game with the Yankees with a slim one game AL West lead over the Mariners. To a certain extent, I agree with the assessment. There is, however, something else missing that I hadn’t been able to put my finger on until watching last night’s debacle.Texas is missing Joy.

Many may scoff at such a notion. Baseball is a numbers-driven game. Whether it’s looking at the basics of BA, ERA and OBP or expanding your horizons to FIP, WAR and BABIP, most of us who love the game also find using the numbers is the best way to explain a team’s fortunes. We tend to take the human element out of it.

Indeed, it is a way of life in society to approach any job as something you don’t take personally. It’s business, after all. It has to be done and, in fact, it usually gets done better when you don’t let your feelings get in your way. We know this all the while telling ourselves and others if you find something you love doing, you’ll never “work” a day in your life.

I’m not a scientist or researcher by nature, but I’m willing to bet if you look at recordings of last year’s Rangers games and compare them to this year’s, you’ll see a certain spontaneous joy missing, whether the Rangers won or lost the games. In 2010, we had the “Claw and Antlers”, a way the team had fun and honored each other for good hustle and speed plays. That has been the most noticeable absence in 2011. It could be because the fad has run its course.

Much is written about the word “chemistry” as it applies to sports teams and whether it really exists. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but I certainly think a job is more enjoyable if everyone you work with attacks it with a positive mindset. Say what you will about his decreasing production as the season wore on last year, but few would argue Vlad Guerrero’s ever-present enthusiasm wasn’t infectious.

The departure of Clint Hurdle as hitting coach to become manager of the Pirates could be an explanation as well. Hurdle’s success with Pittsburgh thus far speaks volumes for how well he motivates players. Still, to a man Rangers players have talked about how much they love playing for their skipper, Ron Washington.

'Tis Better To Play With Joy Than Sorrow

[The question is, does the apparent lack of joy being exhibited by the Rangers of late have to do with their playing underneath their capabilities? Or are they playing under their capabilities because they’re taking themselves too seriously as defending AL Champions?It is a chicken and egg conundrum, to be sure.

Look at this team top to bottom and you’d be hard-pressed to find any reason for them to be a mere three games over .500 at this point of the season, even taking the DL stints of Cruz and Hamilton into account.

I think the answer is as clear as the classic “Casey At The Bat”. There is no joy inArlington. I honestly believe if it stays that way, there will be no World Series, and maybe even no playoffs, in 2011.

What Should Texas Do? They Oughta…

I have this friend. I’ll call him Jay Otto. Like me, Jay Otto is a big-time Rangers fan. Unlike me, Jay Otto believes he has all the answers when it comes to the Rangers fortunes and misfortunes. He has no problem letting anyone and everyone know what he thinks is best for the Rangers.
Problem is, Jay Otto is seldom right. Sometimes his observations are so off the wall, it’s hard to believe anyone can take him seriously. But they do. Prowl on any team’s message board and you’re sure to find you own version of Jay Otto.
From time to time this season, I’ll let you know what the moves for the Rangers would be in the world of Jay Otto. This seems like a good time to touch base with my friend, since Friday’s rain-out leaves little else to write about.
You’d think being 6-0 would have Jay a pretty content guy, but you’d be wrong. His little observations have made it all the way to the national stage. Anyway, here’s my last conversation with Jay.
40-Year Fan: Jay, you’ve got to be a pretty happy camper with the Rangers 6-0.
Jay Otto: Are you kidding me? I can’t believe how stupid the Rangers are!
40: What could the Rangers possibly do to improve on a 6-0 record?
Jay Otto: Move Nelson Cruz from 6th to 4th in the line-up, that’s what!
40: Why’s that?
JO: Beltre ain’t hitting, that’s why! It’s right in front of you. Cruz has four home runs, but they’re all solo jobs. That’s cuz he’s hitting 6th!
40: Yes, but Beltre has a grand slam. I was there. I saw it myself.
JO: Move Cruz in there. It’s so obvious to anyone. At least move him to 5th. No way he should be batting behind Michael Young.
40: Yes, but Ron Washington said Cruz still hadn’t found his stroke at the end of Spring Training, so he put Young in the 5 hole until Cruz got straightened out. Now he’s hitting, but Texas is winning, too, so why change what’s working?
JO: Move Cruz to 5th or 4th and the Rangers win 15-5 instead of 12-5. They beat Seattle 9-4 instead of 6-4. It’s as plain as the nose on your face!
40: What difference does it make as long as the Rangers are winning?
Jay Otto: Be winning by more if they move Cruz…
40: OK, Jay. Let’s move on. Aren’t you glad Michael Young didn’t get traded? He’s started out pretty good as well.
Jay Otto: Trade Michael Young to the Mets from Frankie Rodriguez, straight up.
40: And why would the Rangers want to do that?
JO: Make the trade so we’ve got a closer.
40: We already have a closer. Pretty good one by the name of Feliz…
JO: Make Feliz a starter. Make Frankie Rodriguez the closer. Case closed.
40: Why would the Rangers want a pitcher with the type of baggage Rodriguez has?
JO: Make Feliz the starter. And it gives David Murphy and Mike Napoli more at bats.
40: But the Rangers offense is as versatile as it can be right now. Get rid of Young, then what happens if Murphy or Napoli get injured? Right now, almost anyone on the offense could get injured and there’d be little noticeable drop in the offensive line-up.
JO: Why do I talk to you again? You make no sense whatsoever, you know. Everyone knows what I’m saying is best.
40: Except for Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington…
JO: Fire ‘em all. They don’t know how to build a winning ball club.
40: And yet, we were in the World Series last year.
JO: Would’ve won it if they’d listened to me…
40: By the way, weren’t you the one who told me in the off-season the Rangers ought to go out and replace Vlad with Manny Ramirez? Aren’t you glad that didn’t happen now? Jay? Jay, are you still there?
Wonder why we got cut off?

Opening Day: Rangers 9, Red Sox 5

It took 18 games last year for Julio Borbon to draw his first walk. He drew one in Game #1 in 2011.

Ian Kinsler hit one out of the park for the first time in 2010 in the Rangers’ 40th game. He did it in the first game in 2011, as the first batter of the season for Texas. The last Ranger to lead off the team’s season with a home run was Oddibe McDowell in 1987.

On the other hand… Josh Hamilton grounded into a double play in his first game of 2011. He didn’t hit into a twin killing for the first time last year until July 3rd.

Welcome to Opening Day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington! The American League pennant was raised about 15 minutes before game time and Texas proceeded to show the same resiliance they showed in 2010 in beating the Red Sox 9-5.

Twice the good guys came back from two-run deficits. Mike Napoli made the same great first impression on Rangers fans as Vlad Guerrero did a year ago, hitting a 3-run shot that temporarily put Texas up 5-4.

Nelson Cruz hit his second Opening Day bomb in as many years. 18-Year-Ranger-Fan suggested Cruz’ home runs should be called “Cruz Missiles.” I agree 100%!

Pretty much everyone did what fans expect them to do day in and day out. Michael Young was the only Ranger not to reach base in the game, but from the descriptions I heard, he scorched the ball almost every time up. They just went right at people.

David Murphy’s two-run double in the 8th proved the game-winner, making Darren Oliver a winner in a game in which he gave up a big fly to Big Popi to tie the game. CJ Wilson wasn’t great but he would have had a better line if not for Julio Borbon’s boneheaded error in the first inning, which led to two unearned runs.

The worst part about all of this is how hit and miss it was for me to catch the game! It started while I was at work and darned if people didn’t keep interrupting me because they wanted me to do my job. REALLY PEOPLE??? CAN’T YOU SEE IT’S OPENING DAY???

After work, it was running some errands before heading north on my way to see Saturday’s game in person, so I missed Ortiz’ game tying homer.

Finally, to add insult to injury, pretty much every game on XM features the home team’s radio announcers. For some reason, though, I had to listen to the end of the game with the Red Sox broadcast team. They did say some nice things about the Rangers, but I really wanted Eric Nadel!

But hey, it’s an Opening Day win and it’s a feeling you just have to savor, even when you couldn’t catch every minute. Opening Day wins give one visions of pennants. Opening Day losses often give visions of nightmares to come. I don’t even want to know what Indians fans are feeling after their opener!

I can’t wait to see Saturday’s game in person and see the team get their AL Championship rings

The season is here. We won the opener. All’s right with the world.

24 Hours Later.

In the afterglow of seeing the team I wanted to win the Super Bowl succeed in doing so, combined with the luck of winning the office numbers pool in said game, comes the first official word that Michael Young has told the Rangers he is unhappy with his role on the 2011 club and feels moving on will be in his best interests.

Just a day ago, I expounded on all the speculation concerning a Young deal, how there were no hard facts and, particularly, no word from the man himself on such a deal.

Now, the Fort Worth Star Telegram is reporting Young has made his feelings known to the Rangers brass and a trade is being pursued.

Looking at other fan sites as I do, there seems to be a pretty even split amongst Rangers fans about Michael Young. They even seem to resemble opinions of the George W. Bush administration- those on Young’s side love him and feel he can do no wrong and the others hate him (many amongst the SABR community seem to make a case for Young being one of the most over-rated players in history).

I’m on the side of being for Young, but perhaps on the more moderate side. I admire Young and feel he has a lot left in the tank, but I also would welcome a trade IF it goes to improving this club for 2011. And in this case, I don’t think it will.

Young demanding a trade puts the Rangers in a position of weakness. They would have to settle for less than what they should get for a player of Young’s caliber AND will have to eat a good portion of his $16 million dollar a year salary over the next three years to boot. Not a win-win situation, is it?

I can understand Young’s position- he still sees himself as an asset on the field, being a fulltime DH now could affect how much he could get in his next contract three years from now, maybe even feeling disrespected by the Rangers front office- but that doesn’t make me any more anxious or willing to trade him.

Some say leadership on a team is over-rated. I disagree. Since businesses always use sports analogies, I’ll use a business analogy. I could have a great boss- someone who keeps me motivated and helps me enjoy working for the company- but sometimes you need that person in your own ranks who does the stuff the boss wants you to do that you really don’t want to do. They do it, they do it without complaint and help you see how that helped the company. That is Michael Young.

If Young indeed is traded, I don’t see the people on the 2011 roster who will be that guy for the Rangers. Josh Hamilton is the bona-fide star of the team, but he doesn’t embrace that leadership role. I think he doesn’t have to change much to be the true leader on this team, but I can’t help but think Josh has a mental block that he wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be followed because of his past. Elvis Andrus is said to have leadership qualities, but he’s still too young for the job (no pun intended). The next closest I see to that type of leader is Matt Treanor, a career back-up.

What worries me is the leadership void that losing Young (and Vlad Guerrero before him) and the effect that will have on the team as it tries to defend its first AL Championship. Replacing Young and Guerrero is more than replacing the numbers they put up in 2010. Even if we replace the numbers, this year’s Rangers might not have what it takes. And that would be a shame.

NOTE ON A PREVIOUS POST: A couple weeks ago, I expounded on the case of non-Ranger and minor league free agent Matt Miller and how I hoped he would find a taker considering his minor league numbers. Turns out he was no longer a free agent at all. Despite my constant searches online (sometimes it’s not as easy to find stuff as you think), it was only two days ago I discovered Miller had signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in November. Unfortunately, it didn’t come with a 40-Man roster slot, but the Phillies aren’t deep in the outfield slots so he could get a chance with a strong Spring Training.

New Year, New Rangers

My, what a Christmas break I took. Working in a business where the holidays are the busiest time of the year, it’s a good thing baseball season isn’t in full swing. I don’t think I could survive Christmas and baseball at the same time!

Much has passed since my last missive. The Rangers lost out on Cliff Lee in a surprising last minute move that proves one thing- when you’re talking about the dollars a Cliff Lee is going to earn over the next five years, the deciding factor is obviously going to be- the city where Lee’s wife finds it easiest to get around in. In essence, that’s why Lee was willing to take less money and less years in the contract. For those of us who are married, can you honestly say how your spouse would feel wouldn’t enter into your decision? No matter how you slice it, Lee was going to be richer than Croesus, so why not make sure the wife is happy too? Win-win.

Meanwhile the Rangers moved on in ways I wasn’t even fathoming at the start of the off-season. After missing out on not only Lee but Zack Greinke as well, all Texas did in the pitching department is sign reliever Arthur Rhodes to a two-year deal (at age 41!) and inked Brandon Webb to a one-year, incentive-laden contract.

Rhodes surprised me. He had an awesome year for the Reds in 2010, but I don’t see him in anything but the same role that Darren Oliver currently has with the Rangers- a 7th/8th inning lefthanded set-up guy. I guess if they split the duty, the thought is neither will wear down in the second half as much as they both did in 2010.

Webb is a less expensive gamble than Rich Harden was a year ago (though one at the time I probably wouldn’t have labelled Harden as much of a gamble as he turned out to be). I won’t bore you with the consesnsus- huge upside if he’s healthy. Only time will tell.

The aforementioned Harden has signed on with the A’s, a team he has had success with in the past. Now he will try to succeed as a bullpen pitcher for Oakland. The A’s also signed Brandon McCarthy who never realized his potential with the Rangers due to injury. With the A’s starting staff, I don’t see much of a role for McCarthy in Oakland either.

Max Ramirez, a catcher who saw part-time play with the Rangers over parts of the past three seasons, was dropped from the 40-man roster and has been claimed by the Red Sox, who almost got him a year ago except Mike Lowell couldn’t pass a physical in Texas. Pitcher Clay Rapada was also dropped from the 40-man and may or may not clear waivers.

Which leads us to the most immediate moves- the signing of Adrian Beltre and the agreement of Michael Young to move to DH/Utility Guy, thus also meaning the end of Vlad Guerrero’s one-year career with Texas. Popular opinion is- defensive upgrade, good move short-term, but a worry about the length of the contract (6 years).

Defensively, this appears to be a HUGE upgrade. Offensively, I would call it a slight downgrade. You’re basically swapping out Beltre for Guerrero, plus Young’s a year older. Odds are that part of the order will regress. HOWEVER, if Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz can stay healthy and Mitch Moreland continues to improve, the overall offensive attack should be fine, even when figuring Josh Hamilton can’t possibly improve on his 2010.

Texas will head into 2011 as the prohibitive favorites to repeat as AL West champs. The Angels weren’t able to upgrade, losing out on both Carl Crawford and Beltre, although they will still be a better offensive team if Kendry Morales returns strong. The A’s added a little offense to their already potent pitching staff, but not enough to scare anyone (although their starting pitching is scary). About all the Mariners added offensively was Jack Cust (although I think Justin Smoak is going to be a thorn in our side for the next few years).

Entering 2011, it appears the Rangers only have one or two open roster spots. Catchers will be newly acquired Yorvit Torrealba and returning Matt Treanor. Infield is Moreland, Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Beltre, with Young and Andres Blanco to back up. Outfield is Hamilton, Cruz, David Murphy and Julio Borbon. That’s twelve players already. While Young will work out some at first base, the only real need in the field appears to be a right-handed Moreland type who can back up at first and in the outfield.

The relief staff is pretty set as well, with Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz, Frank Francisco, Oliver, Rhodes, and Darren O’Day. Starters are a little more fluid. Definites are Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson, with the remaining three coming from a group of Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman, Matt Harrison and Webb. That leaves the two odd men out of the rotation battling with Michael Kirkman, Mark Lowe and rookie Tanner Scheppers for the long relief slot.

The starting rotation is the scariest thought. Losing out on Lee leaves the Rangers with no clear ace, although Wilson and Lewis are no slouches. The Rangers could really use Webb to eat up a lot of innings and Derek Holland to finally start realizing his promise. Otherwise, GM Jon Daniels will be doing more mid-season shopping.

I can’t help but feel there could still be a trade happening for a starting pitcher before the Rangers head to Surprise, Arizona for spring training. While you never know what might happen on the injury front, I think the Rangers have too many proven commodities with not enough spaces for them. For example, notice how the name Chris Davis hasn’t even been mentioned for a slot? Or Taylor Teagarden? Both started 2010 with the Rangers and are on the 40-man roster, but aren’t even considered as possibilities to break camp with Texas in April.

Starting to gear up for another season of Rangers baseball. Already have four regular season games on my travel schedule (double last year’s regular season number), as well as a trip to the Rangers’ FanFest later this month (hope to have plenty of pictures and maybe an interview or two to share). I’m still mulling a new name for the blog. Be looking for it by the open of the regular season.

 

Poker Face

Can’t read my, can’t read my

No he can’t read my poker face

You’ve got to give the Philadelphia Phillies credit. In the high stake poker game for Cliff Lee, while the Rangers and Yankees were staring each other in the face, raising and calling, the Phillies were the ones holding the cards and claimed the biggest chip of the free agent market in Cliff Lee.

Most of us used to hearing about the annual sweepstakes involving Scott Boras clients had learned to discount any time a “mystery team” was mentioned as getting involved. This is a favorite Boras ploy to get the real teams in the running to up their bids to his client. So when a “mystery team” was proclaimed in the press concerning Lee, I know I took it with a massive grain of salt. Who’d a thunk this time there actually was a “mystery team“?

While I’m saddened to see Lee go, I think I am like most Rangers fans in saying if we couldn’t get him, at least A) he’s not going to the Yankees and B) he’s going to another league.

We will thank him for what he did in helping the Rangers achieve their first ever World Series appearance. I’m sure his former teammates will want to socialize with him when they visit Philadelphia during interleague play in June 2011. If those games were played in Arlington, the fans would probably cheer him in his first appearance, much as the Angels did for Vlad Guerrero 2010. If that game were to be a World Series game, though, all bets would be off.

There are strange things to consider in all of this. By all accounts, the Rangers and Yankees were close enough on the money, but Lee wanted a 7th year from the Rangers and the Rangers wouldn’t do it. Yet Lee turned around and accepted a five year contract with the Phillies. On the Philadelphia end, this is a team that traded Lee to Seattle a year ago because they didn’t want to pay him $100 million, yet a year later they sign him for $120 million.

I’m really of the opinion that Lee took the Lebron James approach to things. If what has been reported is correct (and there’s so much speculation involved by reporters in these things that you never know if it is), then the Yankees and Rangers were the only serious suitors for Lee’s services and it was Lee himself who reached out to the Phillies.

In free agency, it’s usually reported that the teams are the ones who approach the agent and say we’re interested in your guy. That’s probably why the money usually wins out (and thus, the Yankees usually win out). But what if the high profile free agents like Lee suddenly say, “Let’s call that team” on a regular basis. We could see a major shift in baseball’s power balance much the way the NBA has with the recent Lebron James/Chris Bosh move to the Heat and Carmelo Anthony’s insistence of not playing for anyone else but the Knicks if he leaves Denver.

You have to envy Lee’s position. Not only is he getting the payday he’s been waiting for, he doesn’t have to be “THE GUY” for the team he signed with. With the Phillies, he doesn’t have to be the ace. That’s Roy Halladay’s job. In fact, he could even cede the #2 role to Roy Oswalt and be the most expensive #3 starter in baseball.

One caveat, though: For all those already anointing the Phillies as the probable 2011 champs, remember this. Following the free agent season of 2010, after the Winter Meetings and all the off-season trades and signings, does anyone remember who most of the sports pundits congratulated for improving their teams the most? The Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles, that’s who. The Mariners were even the cover story for ESPN The Magazine’s baseball preview issue. As the old saying goes, that’s why they play the games.

Where my Rangers go from here, who knows? They still have to address the DH issue, with popular opinion being the re-signing of Vlad Guerrero. They’re constantly mentioned as possible trade partners for Matt Garza or Zach Greinke. And Adrian Beltre is a name being mentioned more and more, although I can’t see that happening unless Michael Young is willing to become a full time DH or a former Ranger, both of which I find highly unlikely.

There’s still a lot of off-season to play out. These games can be just as fun as the real ones to follow!

Post-Season Hardware Versions 3.0 and 4.0

Two more accolades coming the Rangers way in the past week and a half: Vladimir Guerrero wins the Edgar Martinez Award for being the AL’s best designated hitter. And Baseball America just awarded Rangers GM Jon Daniels it’s Executive of the Year honor.

Guerrero’s award was wholly unexpected. By that, I mean I didn’t even know there was an Edgar Martinez Award given to the league’s best DH. That shows how “gifted” the Rangers DH’s have been over the years. Since there is an award, it would have been hard not to give it to Vlad. With apologies to Jim Thome, Guerrero easily had the best year among AL DH’s, as much by virtue of the fact he played almost every day where Thome did not. I know not whether Vlad will be back with the Rangers in 2011 or not, but those Ranger fans who believe it will be easy to replace Guerrero might be surprised to learn how vulnerable the lineup can be without him.

Deciding who the Rangers want to DH is just one of the questions GM Jon Daniels has to answer in the off-season. Now he can do so as the reigning “Executive of the Year”. Daniels deserves the award, but it was years in the making and really started four seasons ago when Mark Teixeira was sent to the Braves for a package that included Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Most awards of this nature come in the season a team goes to the post-season, but more often than not, the grunt work that led to post-season glory started long before then. Daniels is no exception. Still one of the younger GM’s in the game, Daniels has been a key reason for the Rangers’ success. Here’s hoping he’s with Texas for a long long time.

Post Season Hardware Version 2.0

In a not unexpected development, Josh Hamilton was named American League MVP today. He’s the 5th Ranger to win MVP honors, the last being A-Rod back in the Dark Ages of Rangers history.

When you hit .359 and win the batting title by over 10 percentage points, you know you’ve had a special season. Hambone even had a three-month span where he hit around .400.

Even as a Rangers fan, though, I’m not sure I would have given my vote to Josh if I had a vote in the matter. That’s just because I make a distinction between someone being named Most Valuable Player and Player of the Year. Hamilton is Player of the Year in my book for sure. He had a storybook season and only Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano came close in my opinion.

To me, though, the MVP is someone who was so instrumental in his team’s success that it’s doubtful they would be where they finished had it not been for them. As good as Hambone’s year was, he was also on a team with the likes of Vlad Guerrero, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. When Hamilton missed most of the last month of the season, the Rangers still managed to find ways to win without him.

For me, Jose Bautista would be the guy that fit the true description of Most Valuable Player. Where would the Blue Jays be without Bautista coming out of nowhere to put up the numbers he did? The Blue Jays put together a respectable 85 win season in the always tough AL East and even came close to sending the Red Sox down to 4th place in the division.

I won’t quibble, though. Hamilton is deserving of the award and I couldn’t be happier for him (well, I could be happier for him, but that would have required the Rangers winning the World Series too!). Way to go, Josh. Let’s hope for a full injury-free season encore in 2011!

And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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