Thursday, July 2, 2015

Trying again.

Well, my attempt last week to improve the Rangers' luck worked only so-so. It didn't help the team get over the hump against Sonny Gray or avoid a series sweep by the A's. Going to try again this week with another Texas fan favorite and see if we can get the boys going.

Rusty Greer played the game hard and spent his entire career with the Rangers. I sent this 2000 MLB Showdown 1st Edition card to him long after his career was over. The card went out on May 5, 2009 with a short note asking Mr Greer to sign it. He did so and it ended up back in my mailbox on July 29, 2009. Not too bad of a turn around for a guy who's probably swamped with autograph requests.

Hopefully the Red Baron will bring the Rangers some luck as they finish up their series in Baltimore and head home to face the Angels and Diamondbacks. Some luck and a hot streak would be just what the team needs to get their feet back under them.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

1979 Topps - Jon Matlack.

Brought to Texas as part of a dizzying four-team trade on December 8, 1977, Jon Matlack had an outstanding year for the Rangers in 1978. Matlack, shown here on card 315 of the 1979 Topps set, led the team with his 2.30 ERA and came in second best in the Majors. It's a Rangers season best record for a left-handed starter that still stands. He didn't get a lot of run support though and ended the season with a pedestrian looking 15-13 record. Going into 1979, Texas was hoping Jon could repeat his 1978 performance and the lineup could give him more run support. Neither happened.

On April 1, in Florida, Matlack was warming up prior to facing the Kansas City Royals in his final Spring Training start. He had enjoyed a fine spring and was slated to start the Rangers season opener in Detroit. As he tossed down the rosin bag, Jon felt a pain in his left shoulder. The Rangers shut him down and he didn't make another start until May 1st. He lasted through July 1st, pitching through pain with pronounced swelling after every start. That wasn't working well so the Rangers shut him down again. Late in the season Matlack underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow. He wouldn't throw a baseball again until November, 1979.

In the 13 starts Matlack made for the Rangers in 1979, he posted an unusually high 4.13 ERA and 1.329 WHIP.  He lasted just 85 innings and struck out 35 opposing batters while issuing 15 free passes. He ended the season with a 5-4 record.

1979 had been a painful bust for Jon Matlack and the Rangers. The club was convinced the two were linked. Jon had a lot to come back from in 1980 but the front office thought he could do it. Texas was planning on bringing him along carefully in Spring Training but were hoping he would be ready for the regular season. If he could regain anything close to his 1978 form, it would be a huge improvement over the 1979 campaign.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Minor League Monday - Bernie Tatis, 1990 CMC.

Let me say before I go any further in this post, I don't know if Bernie Tatis is any relation to former Ranger Fernando Tatis. I tried to research the question but was not able to find an answer. I do know that Bernie is giving us a nice view of the 89ers uniform number font on the front of card 170 in the 1990 CMC set.

Tatis began his pro career in the Toronto system at Medicine Hat in the Rookie League in 1981. He stayed in the Blue Jays system until the end of the 1987 season, never making it above Double A. In 1988 he played at Triple A for the Pirates and lasted part of the 1989 season at Double A before Pittsburgh let him go. He finished the season in the Mexican League. Texas decided to take a look at him and signed him prior to the 1990 season. He was assigned to Triple A Oklahoma City.

Bernie played in 55 games total for OKC in 1990. As the front of his card indicates, he played primarily in the outfield, 45 games all told, with a fielding percentage of .989. Tatis also made three appearances at second base where he was flawless and a cameo at third base where he flubbed the only chance he saw.

Tatis made 198 trips to the plate for the 89ers in 1990. His .198 batting average was below the Mendoza Line and his .260 on-base percentage wasn't too far above it. Those low numbers were due in part to the fact that he struck out 36 times while working just 18 walks. He did manage four doubles, two triples, and three home runs.

Apparently the Rangers didn't need a full season to see that Bernie Tatis was not going to work out for them. He ended the season at Double A in the Cleveland system. The Indians held on to him until the end of the 1991 season but he never got above Triple A with them either. From 1992 through 1996, Tatis played in the Mexican League. After a two year hiatus, he again played in the Mexican League during the 1999 season. That was it for him as a player. After 17 seasons in the minors, Bernie Tatis finally let go of his dream of playing Major League baseball.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Senators Saturday - Del Unser, 1969.

Apparently the ball Del Unser is looking at on card 338 of the 1969 Topps set is a slow-pitch soft ball. He seems to be looking up as if the ball is on a downward arc.

Del is the second Senator we've seen from the 1969 Topps set with the All-Star Rookie trophy on his card. Unlike Gary Holman, Unser avoided the sophomore jinx and stayed with the team in his second year.

Unser came in second in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 1968 with a .230 batting average, a .282 on-base percentage, and a .277 slugging percentage. He led the club in plate appearances and pushed veteran Fred Valentine out of a job.

In 1969 Del would keep the starting center field gig. He appeared in 149 games for Washington, all in center. Over the 1250.2 innings he played there he committed ten errors. That gave him a .972 fielding percentage, 10 points lower than the league average.

On offense, Unser would make 649 trips to the plate (second most on the club) and post improvements in almost every category. He raised is batting average 56 points to .286 (second highest on the team), his on-base percentage 67 points to .349, and his slugging percentage 105 points to .382. He scored 69 runs while knocking in 57 RBI. He walked 58 times while striking out 54 times. Of his 166 hits (second most on the club), 19 were doubles (second most on the club), eight triples (most in the American League), and seven were home runs.

The Senators got an excellent follow-up season to Del Unser's rookie campaign. He needed some work on defense but his offense was just what the team needed. Instead of dipping, his numbers improved. Looked like he was a keeper and, if he could keep things trending in the right direction, he should be around for a long time. Washington seemed to have found their center fielder for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Rangers out to stop losing streak.

Well, the Rangers have been being hammered the past few days and are now four games behind first place Houston. Texas is 4-6 in their last ten games and is riding a four game losing streak. They are only a half a game ahead of the third place Anaheim Angels.

Tonight Colby Lewis takes the mound to try and salvage a win from the current series with the suddenly hot Oakland A's. Colby's had success in the past against Oakland so he might be able to cool them off a bit. The Rangers need a stopper to end this losing streak before it becomes crippling. Of course, the A's are sending Ranger killer Sonny Gray to the mound with his 1.95 ERA and 8-3 record. That means Texas had better bring their A game or it's going to be sweep time.

In order to help Lewis and the guys out, I am posting this 2002 Bowman Heritage  Jersey card of Ranger great Ivan Rodriguez. If Pudge can't bring a team some good luck and hard nose playing then I don't know what can. Against Sonny Gray you need all the luck and hard play you can get.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's Day tragedy.

Most of you have probably already heard that former Ranger Darryl Hamilton was killed this past Father's Day in his home in Texas. Hamilton, shown here on card 467 of the 1996 Upper deck set, played for the Rangers in 1996.

MLB.com's article doesn't have a lot of detail about Hamilton's death but there are two things that stand out to me as particularly tragic.

The first is that Darryl was apparently shot and killed by the mother of his young child before she turned the gun on herself. Again we see a circumstance where someone is killed by a loved one. This should not be so.

The second thing that I noted in the article is that the couple's young child was in the home at the time and was unharmed. Physically that is. This youngster will have to deal with the loss of Dad and Mom, as well as the tragic circumstances of their deaths, for the rest of their life. That's a heavy burden and one that nobody should have to bear.

I don't know much of the story and can't pretend to know what brought this tragedy about. I can't even say who the aggressor was. I do know that home and loved ones should be safe, not a source or scene of violence. We see too much family violence in this day and age it seems. If you know someone suffering domestic abuse; man, woman, or child, take a minute and do something. Make a call, offer a safe place, give support. Don't let a worse tragedy unfold.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

1979 Topps - Jim Mason.

Before I get started discussing Jim Mason's 1979 season let me say I have always found card 67 of the 1979 Topps set amusing. The expression on Mason's faces seems to say he had much better things to do than pose for a baseball card photo. Perhaps he did.

This photo was taken during Mason's second stint with Texas. He broke into the Majors with the Senators in 1971 and stayed with the team for two more years before moving on to the Yankees before the 1974 season. He returned to Texas midway through the 1977 season.

In 1978 Jim was able to take advantage of Bert Campaneris' struggles with the bat and get some more playing time than expected. Mason's .190 batting average did not impress though and Texas decided he was not the answer at short stop. On December 8, 1978 Texas traded Jim Mason to the Montreal Expos for Mike Hart. Jim would play one final season in the Majors before being released by the Expos and ending his playing career.