Saturday, January 31, 2015

Senators Saturday - Bob Saverine, 1968.

Bob Saverine, seen here on card 149 of the 1968 Topps set, had suffered a down year in 1967. The closest thing he had to a set position that season was his platooning situation with Bernie Allen at second base.

Bob didn't make the Senators roster in 1968, having been fully displaced by Allen at second and squeezed out by better bats in the utility role.

Assigned to Triple A, Saverine spent his 1968 season with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League. He would appear in 120 games for them.

Even in the minors Bob had a hard time nailing down a regular spot. He played short stop in 61 games, second base in 55 games, and third base in six games. His glove work continued to be sub-par as he posted a .953 fielding percentage at short and a .955 fielding percentage at second. He only saw five chances at third and handled all of them without a problem.

Saverine made 506 trips to the plate for the Bisons in 1968 and managed a .243 batting average and a .310 on-base percentage. Both were improvements over his 1967 effort with the Senators but neither was larger than could be accounted for by the lower level of competition. Disturbingly, Bob whiffed 71 times while walking just 44 times. Those are power hitter numbers. Saverine's 15 doubles, eight triples, and five home runs proved he wasn't a power hitter. His speed also seemed to be ebbing as he got caught stealing 12 times and only had 16 successful thefts.

1968 had not been the bounce-back season Bob Saverine needed. He had to blow the doors off Triple A if he wanted to get back to Washington. That hadn't happened. Evidently either Bob or the Senators decided it would not happen. 1968 was Bob Saverine's last season as a professional ball player.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

FanFest!

This 1998 Pinnacle Snapshot of Darren Oliver isn't exactly a card but I count it anyway. Got it signed in person last Saturday at the Rangers 2015 FanFest. It was the second FanFest for me and Spiff Jr.

We were running behind and got to the ballpark around 0830 for the 0900 opening of the gates. The line was already stretched halfway around the stadium. The wait was a chilly one and the line moved slowly once the gates opened but we finally got in around 0920.

Spiff Jr had already decided he wanted to start with the retired players autographs. Apparently his experience futilely waiting in line last year for Derek Holland was still in his mind. We immediately headed for the visiting clubhouse where the players were scheduled to sign in shifts throughout the day. In addition to Oliver, Jerry Browne, Curt Wilkerson, Cecil Espy, Toby Harrah, Larry Hardy, Jeff Frye, Tim Crabtree, Dave Hostetler, Mike Jeffcoat, Kevin Mench, David Hulse, Jeff Russell, Ken Hill, German Duran, Jim Kern, Bump Wills, Mike Bacsik Sr, and Mike Bacsik Jr were also present. We managed to get autographs from all of them. Spiff Jr also ran down Rangers Captain in the tunnel outside the clubhouse and got his autograph as well.

The players were all very gracious and would sign practically anything put in front of them. Cards, photos, balls, bats, seats, caps, jerseys, and posters were just a few of the things I saw getting signed. Toby Harrah shared a story from a game played in Yankee Stadium. German Duran chatted about an injury to his hand that's almost healed. Mike Bacsik Sr asked every kid who their favorite player is.

In addition to the autographs, Spiff Jr also got to wave at Ivan Rodriguez as he went by and received a wave in return. We checked out the Rangers clubhouse. Spiff Jr got his picture taken in front of the two League Champion trophies from 2010 and 2011 as well as in front of a couple of players lockers. Adrian Beltre had a SGA bobblehead of Yu Darvish in his locker and Roughned Odor had a Pudge SGA bobblehead in his locker. Shin-Soo Choo had a pile of baseball cards in his locker - now you know where the card you sent him with a request to be signed ended up.

Leaving the clubhouse we walked up the tunnel to the Rangers dugout and hung out there for a few minutes. The field was covered and nobody was allowed on. That was an unwelcome change from last year as was the bullpen being closed.

Hit the card shop on the way home for supplies and a few Rangers and Senators cards. Spiff Jr. spent a few dollars for a case for the baseball he just had Kevin Mench sign. All in all a great day. Looking forward to the 2015 season and next year's FanFest.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

1978 Topps - Claudell Washington.

Claudell Washington, shown here on card 67 of the 1978 Topps set, came to Texas in March of 1977 as part of the trade that sent Jim Umbarger to Oakland. In spite of missing time with a sprained wrist, Washington was a part of the speed that helped Texas contend in 1977.

Coming into 1978 Claudell was hoping to hold on to his starting job in left field. The Rangers were in flux though and the arrival of Al Oliver ended those hopes.

Washington played in a total of 12 games for the Rangers in 1978. Six in right field, four as the designated hitter, and one in left. The remaining game was either a pinch-hitting or pinch-running appearance. Claudell did not stand out on defense at either of the corner outfield positions he manned.

Claudell made 43 trips to the plate and struggled to a .167 batting average as he struck out 12 times with no extra base hits. He managed only one walk, leaving his on-base percentage at a dismal .186. He also got caught stealing in his only attempt.

Claudell Washington was struggling to start the 1978 season. His defense was below average and his offense was terrible. Speed has no use if you can't get on base. The Rangers decide a change was in order. On May 16, 1978 Texas sent Washington and Rusty Torres to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for outfielder Bobby Bonds.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Minor League Monday - Monty Fariss, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Monty Ted Fariss appears today on card 1161 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set. It's been awhile since we last saw Monty. He was just leaving his college career after being drafted by the Rangers in the first round of the June, 1988 draft.

Fariss started his pro career in 1988 with the Butte Copper Kings but was promoted to Double A Tulsa before the end of the season. He also spent the 1989 season with the Drillers.

Monty began the 1990 season with Tulsa as well. He played in 71 games, all at short stop. He compiled a .932 fielding percentage and made 282 trips to the plate for the Drillers. In those plate appearances Fariss put together a .299 batting average and a .391 on-base percentage. Monty was classified as a shortstop with power and his .496 slugging percentage was the result of seven home runs, six triples, and 15 doubles.

In spite of the obvious defensive flaws, Fariss earned a mid-season promotion to triple A Oklahoma City. He played in 62 games for the 89er's, mostly at short but with a smattering of appearances at first, second, and third bases. His defensive struggles continued as he posted a identical .932 fielding percentage at short stop. Fortunately for Monty, his offensive surge continued as well. In 261 plate appearances with OKC he upped his batting average to .302 while keeping his on-base percentage at .391. His slugging percentage dropped to .436 but he still hammered twelve doubles, three triples, and four home runs.

Monty Fariss seemed to be doing well with the offensive side of the game but his bat could only carry him so far. He needed to work on his defense. Expanding his range and shoring up his fielding percentage would had to be the priority items on his list for 1991. He would have time to work on both. The Rangers, suspicious of his glove, assigned him to start off 1991 with OKC.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Yup, I missed it.

Today we have former Ranger Joaquin Arias and his autograph appearing on a 2008 SPx Young Star Signatures card. Why this card today? Well, it's seven years old this year.

You see, I'm bad about remembering important information. If I don't write it down, I won't remember it. Dates are really bad. Can't remember my kids birth dates, extended family birthdays or anniversaries, and very few other important dates. I even forgot one personally important anniversary last week. No, not my wedding anniversary, that's safely written down on multiple calenders. I missed TRC's anniversary.

Seven years ago, on January 15, 2008, I made the first post on Texas Rangers Cards. Since then I've had a great time meeting other bloggers and card collectors, sharing why I enjoy collecting and hearing why you do as well, and even interviewing (by email) a former player (minor league). Posts have ranged from personal stories to well-known accounts from Rangers history. I've written about career minor-leaguers, little-leaguers, MLB superstars, fallen heroes, villains, heroes, common players, and even a murderer. I've gotten a few bucks from sponsors, some free clothing in exchange for an ad, and a free copy of Strat-O-Matic. That got me hooked on that great game and gave me, my dad, and Spiff Jr hours of time together. I've also picked up some great memories, lots of knowledge of baseball and the Rangers, and great cards from other collectors.

I put out 270 posts that first year, probably only one or two worth reading. The only one or two posts worth reading became a yearly occurrence. The number of yearly posts has not held that steady. 2010 was the high-water mark so far as I posted 300 times while the Rangers were en route to their first ever World Series appearance. 2013's 135 posts were the lowest so far as I struggled with a new job and re-locating the family across two state lines. 2014 was the highest number of posts in three years as things finally evened out. Hopefully I can keep the train on track this year and the posts coming at least that often.

I appreciate the readers (some of whom are friends I have never met in person) who stuck out the lean times and the terrible writing over the past seven years. I am equally grateful for anyone who joined up along the way and stayed for the ride. I always enjoy comments and feedback if you care to let me know what you like or dislike. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for future posts or series. Can't promise I'll use it right away but I rarely turn down a suggestion. Thanks for sticking around, commenting, trading, and just enjoying the Rangers and their baseball cards with me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

I got mail from a celebrity!

I'm attending training for work this week. That means I'm going to work first thing in the morning rather than in the early afternoon. I miss getting the mail right when it comes. Night before last Mrs. Spiff told me when I got home there was a bubble mailer waiting for me. Cards?

Yes, it was cards. From the famous Night Owl over at Night Owl Cards. He sent me 20 random Rangers and a couple of Senators. Score! Any package with Senators is an automatic winner. Any random package that has six cards I need for team sets is a real winner. One of the cards I needed was this 2012 Topps Heritage card of former Ranger Koji Uehara, number 370 in the set.

Also included in the package was a short note from the Owl himself! He thanked me for some Dodgers I dumped on him and said he hoped the cards he sent would work. They did for sure. Most impressive was that the note started off with my name. Night Owl knows my name! I'm in the big time now. The Owl is perhaps the most famous card blogger out there. Even former Major Leaguers read and comment on his blog. He's got millions of readers. Well, many more than I ever hope to have anyway. Night Owl Cards is the gold standard for card blogs and Night Owl is the blogging equivalent of Clayton Kershaw. He's even got a Dodger autograph made out to "Night Owl". Now he sends me a personalized note. Way, way cool.

Thanks for the cards Mr. Owl. I really appreciate them. Look forward to sending you some more Dodgers sometime when I've got the extra funds.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1978 Topps - Jim Sundberg.

Card 492 of the 1978 Topps set is one of my favorite Jim Sundberg cards. Sunny is one of those players best shown on defense. Love the old-school catcher's gear and the look he is giving the pitcher. Maybe it's not the pitcher, maybe he just threw out a runner at third.

1977 was Sundberg's finest offensive year. It wasn't too shabby on defense either as he won his second straight Gold Glove. He was looking for an encore in 1978.

Sunny saw a slight drop-off offensively in 1978. In 592 plate appearances he posted a .278 batting average and a .358 on-base percentage. He struck out 70 times (seven less than the previous season) and worked 64 walks (nine more than in 1977). He also hit 23 doubles, six triples, and six home runs. Amazingly enough, he led the team in triples. Not too shabby for a backstop.

Sunny's defensive star continued to shine. He played in 149 games for Texas, 148 of them at catcher. That made him second in the league for games played behind the plate. Over the course of 194.2 innings Jim committed just three errors. That gave him a league-leading .997 fielding percentage. Well above the league average .983. He also led the league in putouts (769), assists (91), double plays turned as catcher (14), and caught stealing (70). Those runners he caught gave him a 48.3% caught stealing rate - second in the league. While his caught stealing percentage had dipped, teams would still be well served to be cautious trying to steal in Texas.

In recognition of Sundberg's defensive dominance, he won his third straight Gold Glove. He also made a second trip to the All-Star Game and got some MVP consideration as well.

Obviously Jim Sundberg had the Rangers starting catcher's job well in hand. If he could up his offense it would be nice. However, unless the bottom really fell out of his bat he probably wouldn't lose his job. The Rangers had areas of weakness in 1978. Catcher wasn't one of them.