Thursday, March 26, 2015

Huge surprise from Scott.

Last week was hectic, to say the least. You probably figured that from the lack of posts during that time period. I meant to post but it seemed I never had time. Between lawn care, baseball practice, a kiddo's birthday party, dinner guests, and schedule changes at work due to classes; things got jammed up.

In the middle of all the confusion I found a bubble mailer sitting on the dining room table one day about mid-week. Mrs Spiff told me it came that day and asked what I was expecting. Nothing. No pending trades or recent purchases.

The return address indicated the mailer was from Scott over at Bob Walk the Plank. Inside were several cards and a note from Scott saying he thought I might like them. The pictured 2008 SPx Winning Materials Hank Blalock card was one of the cards in the mailer. It's numbered 122/150 and features a dark blue uniform piece. Also included in the mailer were a second game-used card and three certified Rangers autographs. Wow! Thought I might like them? Of course I do. It was an awesome surprise package and I appreciate it more than I can say.

Of course, I would be low on cool Pirates stuff right now. I've been pondering how to respond and haven't yet come up with anything that seems to be close to appropriate. One thing I can do is say a public and very heartfelt thank you to Scott. You really made my week man and I can't say thanks enough.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

1979 Topps - Bert Campaneris.

Bert Campaneris, shown here on card 620 of the 1979 Topps set, ended the 1978 season in danger of losing his starting job at short stop.

Coming into Spring Training in 1979, Campy had to get his bat going and regain some of his earlier defensive form if he wanted to stave off Nelson Norman and keep his job. Spring Training didn't go well and the team broke camp with Bert still on the team but the short stop situation unresolved. It wouldn't take long to reach a resolution.

Bert appeared in eight games and got ten at bats with Texas in 1979. He posted a terrible .111 batting average and .200 on-base percentage. He had no extra base hits and only one stolen base. His defense was about average. Average wasn't good enough in this situation.

The bat hadn't arrived for Campaneris and the Rangers reached a decision. On May 4, 1979 Texas traded Bert to the California Angels straight up for Dave Chalk. For the first time since breaking into the Majors in 1964, Bert Campaneris had lost his job.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Minor League Monday - Donald Harris, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Donald Harris, seen here on card 1167 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set, was the Rangers first round pick in the 1989 draft. He was the fifth pick overall. The Rangers sent Harris to the Rookie League Butte Copper Kings to start his pro career.

Donald did well in 1989 and earned a promotion to Single A Gastonia for the start of the 1990 season. He did not blow the doors off in Gastonia.

Harris made 241 trips to the plate over 58 games for the Gastonia Rangers and posted a .208 batting average. He hit ten doubles and three home runs. He did walk 14 times but also struck out 63 times. His on-base percentage totaled to .262. He also made five errors in the outfield en route to a .957 fielding percentage.

None of those numbers are very impressive but Texas moved Donald up to Triple A Tulsa midway through the season. He appeared in 64 games for the Drillers and made 226 trips to the plate. He struggled with the adjustment, posting a dismal .160 bating average and .197 on-base percentage. He hit five doubles, one triple, and one home run while walking just seven times. He struck out 69 times. His defense did not improve either as he committed eight errors to end the season with a .942 fielding percentage.

Donald Harris had his work cut out for him in 1991. As a first round draft pick he would get a little more leeway than other players but he needed to pick it up if he was going to make good. The Rangers were dis-inclined to send him back to Double A for 1991 so he would have to make his adjustments and improvements in Tulsa. He needed to make them fast if he wanted to get a ticket to Triple A Oklahoma City or even higher.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

1979 Topps - Bobby Bonds.

Bobby Bonds, shown here on card 285 of the 1979 Topps set, was one of the players who came through Arlington on the late 1970's roster merry-go-round. By the time this card came out he was already gone.

The Rangers traded Claudell Washington and Rusty Torres to the White Sox for Bonds on May 16, 1978. Bonds was a veteran player with a reputation for power, speed, and surliness. Texas hoped the first two characteristics would over shadow the third.

It didn't take Bobby long to nail down the right field spot. He would play 971.1 innings in right over 111 games. He committed seven errors to end the season with a .970 fielding percentage. That was below the league average but Bonds made up for it with his bat.

In his 555 plate appearances over 130 games Bobby compiled a .265 batting average and a .356 on-base percentage. He walked 69 times and struck out 110 times. Of course Bonds also hit 15 doubles, four triples, and a team best 29 home runs. Those combined to give him a team high .497 slugging percentage. Bobby's speed wasn't entirely dried up even though he was slowing. He got caught stealing a team high 20 times but also stole 37 bases - second best on the club.

Over all Bobby Bonds was one of those mid-season acquisitions that work out well. However, his skills were gradually eroding and he only had a few more years left in him. Texas decided to use Bonds' 1978 performance to flip him. On October 3, 1978 the Rangers send Bonds and Len Barker to the Cleveland Indians for Larvell Blanks and Jim Kern.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Minor League Monday - Kevin Belcher, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Kevin Belcher, shown here on card 1166 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set, moved up to Double A to start the 1990 season. It was his fourth season in pro ball and his first at Double A. His 1989 season with Single A Gastonia had revealed some weaknesses in his defense and bat that needed work.

Belcher played appeared in 110 games for the Drillers in 1990 and made 484 plate appearances. He posted a .293 batting average (only three points lower than the previous season) and a .380 on-base percentage (23 points higher than in 1989). The increase in the on-base percentage was due in part to the 55 walks Kevin worked. That was 24 more than the year before but he also saw his strikeouts jump up by 26, to 88 on the season. His power also dipped as he managed 18 doubles, seven triples, and 11 home runs. The triples were the only extra base hits to see an increase.

Kevin played in just 69 games defensively for Tulsa, all in the outfield. He committed five errors and ended up with a .959 fielding percentage. That was a 19 point drop from his last season with Gastonia.

Unfortunately for Kevin Belcher, a large percentage of his key stats seemed to be trending in the wrong direction. Texas needed to know if this was a permanent trend or just a rough patch. They decided to take a look. When the rosters expanded in September, Kevin got the call all minor league players pray for, they wanted him in Arlington. He made his Major League debut on September 3, 1990 and spent the final month of the season with the Rangers.

Belcher appeared mostly as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner for the Rangers but did put in 37 flawless innings in the outfield over the 16 games he appeared in. He made 17 trips to the plate and struggled to a .133 batting average and a .235 on-base percentage. His only extra base hit was a double.

What the Rangers saw from Kevin Belcher in September of 1990 was not anything to turn heads or convince them to keep him in the Majors. It was enough to keep him in the organization. He would return to Tulsa to start the 1991 season with the Drillers. Four seasons in, it was time to make his move if he wanted to see Arlington again.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Senators Saturday - Casey Cox, 1969.

1969 would be a transition year for Casey Cox, shown here on card 383 of the 1969 Topps set. Up until 1969 Casey had been a reliever. He hadn't made a Major League start in any of the three seasons he appeared in prior. That would change in 1969.

Moving from the role of full-time reliever to swingman, Cox appeared in 52 games for the Senators in 1969. 11 of those appearances were starts. Casey pitched 171.2 innings and posted a decent 2.78 ERA. He struck out 73 but also walked 64. Those walks contributed to his 1.311 WHIP. Cox ended the season with a 12-7 record.

Perhaps more important for Casey Cox than any stats was the fact that he spent the entire season with the Senators. That was a nice change after being at Triple A for part of 1967 and most of 1968. He had seen more action in 1969 than in any of the three previous seasons and ended well. Apparently Casey Cox had found a spot on the pitching staff as a swingman. It was a role he would look to get nailed down in the coming seasons.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Looking for luck.

Trying to give the Rangers some good vibes today with a signed 1996 Leaf Authentic Signature card of former Ranger Dave Valle. With the injury to Yu Darvish, the Rangers need all the help they can get. Could be a really long season if things don't break Texas' way.

I figured Valle was a good card for such a mission. Dave wasn't a starting catcher on one of the Rangers early division winning teams but he was a glue guy for them. One of the players who helped hold things together by doing the little things and working hard. Here's to hoping the Rangers have a Dave Valle, or two, this season.