Monday, September 1, 2014

Minor League Monday - Manager/Coach, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Time to finish up the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set. Card number 29 in the set is manager Bobby Jones. A former Major League player with the Rangers and Angels, Jones was in his third year as the skipper of the Charlotte Rangers in 1990.

Over the course of the season Jones guided the team to an 85-53 record. It was his third winning season in a row and the best to that point. That's something when working with the variable talent and mid-season roster changes inherent at A+ ball. The team would go on to lose in the second round of the playoffs.

The Rangers liked what they saw from Jones at the helm for Charlotte. In 1991 he was named as manager of the Double A Tulsa Drillers. He would continue on as a long-time minor league manager in the Rangers system.


Jeff Hubbard, shown here on card 30 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set, finishes out the set.

A former minor leaguer in the Rangers system, Hubbard was a jack of all trades as a player. In the course of his fives seasons he played in the Twins, Orioles, and Rangers systems as well as a season in independent ball. Starting out as a position player, Jeff played every position except catcher but never moved above Double A. The position player gig not working out, Jeff turned to pitching. He tried it for a full season in 1988 as a reliever with the Port Charlotte Rangers under their new manager, Bobby Jones. In spite of Hubbard's best efforts, the transition to pitcher didn't take. He had reached the end of playing days.

Apparently Hubbard had caught someone's eye though. He moved straight from player to coach and did well in his initial season in 1989. That led to a renewal of his contract for 1990. Obviously he continued his success as the team made the post-season. I was unable to find out how the next season unfolded for Hubbard.

More important than the winning at A+ ball was the player development. Ten of the regulars on the Port Charlotte roster in 1990 went on to appear in the Majors. Not all were impact players or even able to stick at that level but Jones and Hubbard were able to get those guys a solid foundation, continue their development, and give them a shot at the Big Time.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Senators Saturday - Frank Kreutzer, 1966.

Frank Kreutzer, shown here on card 211 of the 1965 Topps set, was reaching the end of his chances with the Washington Senators in 1965. Left-handers have a longer shelf life than right-handers but the Senators hadn't been impressed by what they saw from Frank in 1964 and 1965.

Frank just hadn't been able to get his ERA under 4.30 or his WHIP under 1.450. He needed to show some serious improvement in 1966 if he wanted to hang on with the club.

Making six starts in the nine games he appeared in, Kreutzer pitched 31.1 innings with the club in 1966. He managed to drop his WHIP to 1.277 but his ERA climbed to a career high 6.03. The problem was Frank's propensity to cough up the gopher ball. He allowed nine in the small sample, an average of 2.6 homers per nine innings. That was much higher than at any time previous in his career.

The Senators decided to hang on to Kreutzer but he obviously needed work. Off to the triple A Hawaii Islanders he went. He would spend most of 1966 and all of the next two seasons there without showing any dramatic improvement. A four game stint in 1969 in which he got hammered was all Washington needed to see. On May 17, 1969 the Senators sent Frank to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jim Shellenback. Kreutzer spent the rest of the season at Triple A before pulling the plug on his playing days.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lewis goes nine, offense explodes in Seattle.

Colby Lewis, shown here on a signed 2004 Fleer Tradition card, started a rare rubber game against the Seattle Mariners yesterday. It's not been often this season that the Rangers have been set to leave an opposing city with a series tied. To be honest, I didn't figure they really stood a chance of winning yesterday. Most of the starting lineup are unknowns and Adrian Beltre is a big stick standing alone. I probably wasn't the only one wondering where the offense for a possible win would come from.

To my utter shock, the Rangers trounced Seattle 12-4. Lewis turned in a complete game and every player in the lineup scored at least once. Only Michael Choice didn't get a hit. Rougned Odor and Leonys Martin both went deep. Odor's shot was a grand slam. That makes him the youngest player in Rangers history to hit a grand slam.

Nice to see the offense finally show up and Colby get his second complete game. The series win on the road is a bright spot amid this dim season as well. The Rangers record now stands at 52-80 and their magic number at 11. No, they won't be going to the playoffs but if they want to avoid 100 losses this season they have to win 11 more games.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

More fun with the DL.

The injury parade continues for the Texas Rangers. Seems like management has gotten to the point they are being extremely cautious with injured, or possibly injured, players. That's not always a bad plan, especially during a season like this one.

Prior to last night's game in Seattle the Rangers put outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, shown here on card 120 of the 2014 Topps Opening Day set, on the Disabled List. Choo has been a bit of a disappointment this season. Perhaps the reasons have to do with his ankle injury and left elbow bone spurs. The ankle needs rest and the elbow needs surgery. Choo will likely undergo the surgery on Friday and the recovery time will give his ankle plenty of rest. Needless to say, his 2014 season is over. Michael Choice was recalled from Triple A Round Rock to fill the gap.

There's also doubt that ace Yu Darvish will pitch again this season. Yu's currently on the DL with elbow inflammation. If the Rangers were in contention he would likely still be pitching. They aren't though so he's not. It seems the club would rather Darvish get good and healthy going into 2015 than rush a 2014 return. Time is running out for a Darvish return this season.

On the other hand, Derek Holland is likely to make a return this year. Dutch has been on the Disabled List all season but is nearing the end of his minor league rehab assignment. Barring a setback he could be returning to the mound for Texas any day now. That would be good because it would give him at least some Big League experience this year.

One bright spot yesterday was the Rangers beating the Mariners 2-0. The win gave Texas their 16th shutout of the season. Not too bad since the team ERA is 4.71. Guess that means when they're on they're on and when they're not they're not.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Clearing out catchers.

With the Rangers ship hard on the rocks this season, Jon Daniels has done surprisingly little load lightening. Aside from the Soria trade, he has stood pat for the most part. Seems JD believes the team will be able to turn things around next year and will need the pieces already in place. Over the past two days he has made a couple of moves though.

On the 23rd Texas sent catcher Chris Gimenez to the Cleveland Indians for future considerations. These kind of deals have always made me wonder, just how do the involved teams decide what is the future considerations? Seems an awful lot like selling somebody a car and agreeing to decide on the price later. I'm guessing there's more to it than that but I don't understand all the fine details. Gimenez did a stint with the Rangers earlier this season but was playing with Triple A Round Rock when he got traded.

Yesterday, during the team's 3-1 win over the first place Kansas City Royals, the club announced another deal. Geovany Soto, shown here on card 241 of the 2013 Topps Heritage set, went to the Oakland A's for a reported $1000,000 in cash considerations. Normally you wouldn't expect to see a player with the potential for any impact dealt within the same division. That means one of two things, either Jon Daniels doesn't think Soto will have any impact or he doesn't figure the A's will hang on to him after this season. It's unlikely Daniels is completely discounting Soto. What seems more apparent is that Oakland will not have Geo in 2015. He's a free agent at the end of this season and the A's have a poor record of late when it comes to re-signing free agents.

These two trades clear the way for the Rangers to work Robinson Chirinos behind the plate for the rest of the season and get a look at long-time farm hand Tomas Telis to see what he can do at the Major League level. The team called Telis up from Triple A to replace Soto on the roster. That move opens up a promotion opportunity for top catching prospect Jorge Alfaro. He may get some time at Round Rock this year. Between Chirinos, Telis, and Alfaro the Rangers will have some tough decisions behind the plate in the next year or so.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Senators Saturday - Ken McMullen, 1966.

In 1966 Ken McMullen, shown here on card 401 of the 1966 Topps set, was coming into his second season with the Washington Senators. His first season, in 1965, had been a success. He was second on the team in home runs with 24 and also knocked in 84 runs that year. For the offense starved Senators it was like a sudden flood with Ken and Frank Howard arriving in the same trade. McMullen also took over at third for Washington and promised to be an answer to the long search for a good third sacker.

Things continued well in 1966 at third for Ken. He played eight innings in right field and 61 innings at first base but the vast majority of his playing time was at third base. Over the 1167.1 innings he played there he posted a .951 fielding percentage. That was three points under the league average but McMullen was well over the league average in range. Some of the errors he committed might have been on balls other third basemen would have not tried to get.

At the plate Ken had a down year. He made 582 plate appearances, second only to Ed Brinkman over at shortstop. McMullen managed a .233 batting average and a .289 on-base percentage. Neither were pretty numbers and his power dipped as well. He watched his home runs drop to 13 (still tied for third best on the club) and his triples to four. He managed one more double with 19 but that didn't keep his slugging percentage from tumbling. It did tie him with Frank Howard for the most doubles on the team in 1966.

The Senators had confidence in Ken McMullen. In spite of his struggles at the plate they kept running him out there. He played in 147 games for the club in 1966, second only to Ed Brinkman's 158. The fact that the club carried no other third baseman on the roster that season clearly indicated they considered Ken to be the solution at third. If he could get his offensive numbers up and maintain the defense it looked like Washington fans would be seeing a lot of Ken McMullen at third base in 1967 and beyond.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1978 Topps - Adrian Devine.

Adrian Devine, shown here on card 92 of the 1978 Topps set, had an unusual career. He played for just two teams. That's not altogether odd but the fact that he did two stints with each team catches the eye.

Adrian started his career with the Atlanta Braves and broke into the Majors with them in 1973. He was up and down from the minors in 1974 and 1975 but did see decent action in 1976. On December 9, 1976 the Braves sent Adrian to the Rangers as part of a package of players given for Jeff Burroughs.

Devine spent the 1977 season with Texas and pitched acceptably for them during their unsuccessful run for the pennant. In 105.2 innings over the course of 52 games Adrian compiled a 3.58 ERA and an 1.259 WHIP. Not too bad but not enough to keep him off the bargaining table as the Rangers attempted to improve enough to make the final hurdle to the post-season.

Devine's 1977 performance must have convinced the Braves they missed him. On December 8, 1977 he made the trip back to Atlanta in the four team trade that brought Nelson Norman, Al Oliver, and Jon Matlack to Texas. Just two years later Adrian found himself headed back to Texas. That trade, and his second stint with the Rangers, will have to wait for his 1981 Topps card.