Monday, June 29, 2009

Offensive offense.

After a couple of games where it was seeming like the Rangers' bats were waking up, the bottom fell out. Following two weekend losses to the San Diego Padres the Rangers are now 1.5 games out of first.

The first loss was bad enough at 3-7. Yesterday's was just plain embarrassing. The Rangers wasted a great spot start by Tommy Hunter and lost 0-2 while only getting one hit. That is the first time that has happened in Arlington since 1992. That puts yesterday's game in the running for the worst home game in 17 years. Ugly.

If I was Tommy Hunter I would be pretty offended. Hunter's ERA after the game is still well over a point below the Padres starting pitcher. Combine that with 2.2 scoreless innings from the Texas bullpen and the game should have been a win had the bats been present.

Since I couldn't find a card of Tommy Hunter, I decided to post Michael Young's 2004 Topps Heritage card, number 206. Mike saved the Rangers from being no hit with his single. He also collected a walk, one of only three the Rangers picked up. Still the lone member of the starting nine to be hitting over .300 Young is rapidly becoming the lone offensive bright spot. Hopefully that changes.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rangers heat up heading into July.

There is the possibility that the Rangers have broken out of their team wide slump. On Thursday they scored nine runs. That was the first time in 22 games that they scored more than six runs.

They followed that up last night by trouncing the Padres 12-2 in their third straight win. Perhaps the June drought is over. Not that I mind games that are low scoring, I actually prefer them to blowouts. What gets me is when the pitching staff gives up one or two runs and still loses. No need to waste good pitching performances. The guys certainly didn't waste Kevin Millwood's work last night.

It seemed like everyone got a good cut in last night at the plate. Hank Blalock and David Murphy homered. Kinsler and Salty managed doubles. Murphy led the team in RBI with three while three other guys came in with two each. Perhaps most notable were the six walks the team managed to collect. Taking pitches has been a problem in June and getting walks has been almost impossible. Very encouraging.

In the midst of all the fireworks perhaps the best performance was turned in by Elvis Andrus. Elvis, seen here on card number 100 of the 2008 Donruss Threads set, went 4 for 4. He had a triple, scored a run, and notched two RBI. Nice production out of the number nine batter.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Is he back?

The Rangers are back in sole possession of first place in the A.L. West. With their 12 inning win over Arizona last night they are now a half a game over the Angels who didn't play.

While there were several areas of concern last night, it seems possible that Chris Davis may have broken out of the doldrums offensively. Davis, pictured here on card number DP29 of the 2006 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks set, had what might have been his season best game at the plate. In six plate appearances he had one walk and four hits. He had one strikeout but left no men on base. His four hits included a home run and double. He pushed in two RBI and scored two runs of his own.

All that from a guy who had only been seeing first base when he went out to play it. As a sign of how bad things had been, the night pushed his average up to only .209. Hopefully the nightmare is behind him and the rest of the Rangers offense. It would be nice to see both Davis and the team back in the saddle again. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Vicente Padilla almost single-handedly snapped the Rangers' losing streak tonight in Arizona. Padilla, seen here on 2006 Turkey Red card number 546, hurled seven innings while holding the Diamondbacks to just one run on six hits. Thanks to some nice pitching by the bullpen, that was all the offense Arizona could muster.

It was a good thing that Padilla was on tonight. He got just two runs to work with. It was enough for him to out-duel the N.L. ERA leader, Dan Haren. The win should keep the Rangers tied for first with the Angels. As I write this Anaheim is leading the Rockies 9-3 in the bottom of the eighth. Probably a safe assumption that the Halos will be able to pull it out.

On a human interest note: the Redhawks, Texas' Triple A affiliate activated Orlando Hernandez today. I say this is a human interest note because I just don't see El Duque getting out of the minors. The guy may have been dominating in the past but he's 43 now and hasn't seen a Big League mound since 2007.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Credit where credit is due.

The Rangers are still in first place, a full game ahead of the Angels. This in spite of losing the last four games. Consider that in the last ten games the Rangers are 4-6 and the Angels are 7-3. Anaheim's three loses have been the last three games.

It becomes pretty obvious that, while the Rangers may have gained first place on their own, they have only kept it through the good graces of the Angels.

Special thanks to Gary Matthews Jr. and the rest of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States of America of the Western Hemisphere of Earth of....

Monday, June 22, 2009

1986 ProCards - Mike Parrott

What a horrible weekend for the Rangers. They should be in second place by now. The only reason they aren't is because Anaheim has been kind enough to lose as Texas does. The collapse left me wondering what happened to the guys. That made me decide that today might be a good time to dig into the minor league cards and play "Whatever happened to that guy?"

Today's contestant is Mike Parrott. He is shown here on his 1986 ProCards Eighty-Niners card. Having never heard of Mike, I had to do some research. What I found is that this card was about the end for Mike. He played for OKC in 1986 and then hung up the spikes. That's not the whole story though.

Mike was drafted in the first round of the 1973 draft by the Orioles. He was the 15th pick overall. It would take him four years to make it to the big time. He was a September call-up for the Birds in 1977 and appeared in just three games for them. In December he was dealt to the Mariners. Mike then proceeded to put in four years for Seattle. In 1980 he split time between the big club and the minors. In March of 1982 the Mariners traded him to the Brewers for Thad Bosley (who would later spend parts of two seasons with Texas). The Brew Crew released him later that month. In May he signed with the Royals and spent the next three seasons in their minor league system.

He then somehow went to the Rangers (I was unable to determine how). Two seasons with OKC and it was over. At least Mike could say that he made it to the bigs. That was more than his brother could boast of since he never made it out of the minors.

Friday, June 19, 2009

1972 Topps - Hal King.

With the wheels coming off for the Rangers and the Angels creeping up on them in the standings, I thought it might be a good time to take a break. Let's take a look at the next card in the 1972 Topps Rangers team set.

Today we have card number 598, catcher Hal King. At first I couldn't figure out how Hal managed to avoid the awkward angle shot that bedeviled so many of his teammates. Then I saw the pinstripes on his jersey. A quick check reveals that Hal was traded to the Rangers in December of 1971. The Braves shipped him over in exchange for catcher Paul Casanova. Apparently the deal was one backstop for another.

The Rangers were Hal's fifth and next to last team. His career started when he was signed by the Angels in 1965. Before he made it to the Majors though the Astros drafted him in the minor league draft of 1966. He made the big time the next year but was used sparingly for a couple of seasons before being dealt to the Red Sox prior to the 1969 season. Boston promptly assigned him to the minors where the Braves snagged him in the Rule 5 draft of 1969.

Hal caught Brave's pitching for two seasons before being sent to Texas in December of 1971. After just one season, the Rangers sent King and Jim Driscoll to the Reds for pitcher Jim Merritt. Hal would play two seasons for the Redlegs before the end of his career. Six teams in nine years. Quite the traveling man.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Top of the heap.

Tonight should be Ivan Rodriguez's night. Whether the Astros win or lose, the night belongs to Pudge. Last night he caught the 2,226th Major League game of his career. That pulled him even with Carlton Fisk in that category. Incidentally, he also provided all the Astro's offense with a solo shot in the fifth inning.

Pudge is slated to catch his 2,227th game tonight. That will give him sole possession of the top ranking. His closest active challengers are almost 400 games behind him. No matter the final score, Ivan will be a winner as soon as he crouches behind the plate in the first inning. Somehow I doubt that he will be content to just rest on his laurels though.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pudge catches Pudge in catching.

Ivan Rodriguez started at catcher tonight for the Astros as they came into town to face the Rangers. Not a big deal in and of itself perhaps. After all, Pudge has started a lot of games in his career. That is what makes this one so special though. When Ivan crouched behind the plate tonight it was the 2,226th game he had done so in.

That ties Pudge with Carlton Fisk for the most number of games caught in a career. In recognition I give you Ivan's 2002 Topps card, number 697 in the set. I like this card because it shows Pudge doing what he does best, catching.

Ironically, Fisk set his record in a game against the Rangers; one that Rodriguez called for Texas. At the time Ivan was busy swiping Fisk's nickname, if he plays tomorrow he will have the record as well.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rangers' bats flat as day old cola.

The Rangers' offense has been anemic at best the first part of this homestand. After going toe-to-toe with the Yanks and BoSox the life seems to have been sucked out of the Texas bats. As of yesterday the team's average is just .223. Not real good for a team usually known more for its offense than pitching and defense. Only one player in the starting nine yesterday is hitting over .300. Michael Young, pictured here on card number 167 of the 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes set, is staying the course at .316 on the season. So far he's the lone consistent bright spot on the offensive side of things. It would be nice to see several guys at that level. It's looking like Rudy Jaramillo has his work cut out for him.

A few other notes:

Frankie Francisco is back on the DL. This time it's retroactive to June 4th and he is eligible to come off on Friday. Not sure if he'll be back then or not.

Ivan Rodriguez is slated to catch and pass Carlton Fisk for the most MLB games caught. He should do the trick on Tuesday and Wednesday when the Astros come to Arlington to finish off the season series with the Rangers. Nice place for it to happen.

Baseball is trying to get back into the Olympics in 2016. Apparently MLB has promised to not compete with medal matches. The International Olympic Committee is looking at adding two sports in 2016. Baseball is in competition with softball, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens, and squash. Roller sports and squash?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Wins and more wins.

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday. Took Mrs. Spiff out for our anniversary so that took up my afternoon/evening.

Lots of good stuff going on the past couple of days for the Rangers. After stumbling against the Blue Jays and then having a game rained out they have managed to come back up to ten over .500. Good pitching and some defensive gems have been the straw stirring the drink (to borrow Reggie's phrase).

On Thursday the Rangers followed up the rain out by taking a pitching duel from the Jays. The final was 1-0 as Kevin Millwood notched his sixth win. There was plenty of defense on both sides. The best play of the game should probably go to Elvis Andrus. Andrus, pictured here on card number BDPP89 of the 2008 Bowman set, made a highlight reel play when he went over a wall to snag a pop foul. Quite the impressive play.

Yesterday when I checked the mail I found an 800 card box waiting for me. It was filled with assorted Rangers from Jim over at GCRL. Jim had sent me an email previously warning me that he was sending some Rangers my way to free up some space. The number that he sent was totally unexpected and much appreciated. Several holes were filled in my Rangers collection. Jim even managed to finish off the 1992 Stadium Club set. Thanks a bunch Jim, no way I can match the numbers you sent but I'll try and get something together for you to make it worth your while.

Last night Vicente Padilla and the bullpen managed a second shutout, the first time for back to back goose eggs since 1981. The bats came alive in this game though with the final score ending up 6-0.

This morning the mail brought an unexpected surprise from Matt at Heartbreaking Cards. Out of the blue Matt launched a small package of Rangers at me. I haven't had a chance to check them to see what all I need but I know there are several that will fit in nicely. Thanks Matt, the treat is much appreciated.

All in all a couple of great days, wins at both the ball park and the mail box.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The MLB draft is in full swing and the Rangers appear to have drafted a couple of prime pitching possibilities. I say possibilities because I find it hard to call high school pitchers prospects.

In honor of the draft I have decided to post this 2000 SPx card of the Rangers 2000 first round pick. The card is numbered to 1500. Scott Heard's career was numbered to four. Four years that is. He lasted four years in the minors and never made it above Single A ball.

Hopefully this year's picks work out a bit better. So far the Rangers seem to be running pitcher heavy. That would seem to be a sound strategy. As the old adage says, good pitching beats good hitting. Need to make sure to keep an eye on the position players as well though.

One player that the club has snagged that is not a pitcher is Ruben Sierra Jr. Supposedly he has slightly less power than his father but more speed. He plays outfield like his father and apparently has quite the outfield arm. No word yet on if he takes after his father's surly attitude and pretending to not be able to speak English.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Back into the swing of things.

Sorry about missing the past few days. Had to drive down to Texas and back for a funeral. My Mother's father passed away last Tuesday. He was 97 and in failing health, so the news was not unexpected. From him I get my interest in reading and history. Perhaps also a bit of my baseball addiction as well. While he did not keep up on the modern game, my grandfather could talk the Yankees of yesteryear as well as the next person. He had been to the old Yankee Stadium and had seen them play. Berra, Mantle, Maris, and Ford weren't just players in old photos for him. Perhaps his favorite was Joe DiMaggio. Fit his Italian heritage I guess. He would occasionally look at me and my brother sorting cards on the floor and speak reverentially about the Yankee Clipper. It was fascinating even for a non-Yankees fan. Several years back he gave me a small stack of programs and souvenirs he had picked up at games. I really need to dig them out and take another look.

Over the weekend the Vicente Padilla cleared waivers and then pitched a solid game to defeat the Red Sox. The Rangers went 3-3 in a six game road trip to Fenway and the Belly of the Beast. Not too bad. Took the series in Boston, first time in close to a decade to do that. Josh Hamilton appears to be headed for surgery and a recovery of four to six weeks. Ouch! The Rangers also picked up manager Ron Washington's contract option for next year. I think that was a great move. The players like and respect Washington and he seems to have really improved the team's defense. Now let's see if the guys can use an extended home stand to move up some more on the rest of the division.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rangers win, Padilla loses.

Texas managed to even their series with New York last night as they edged the Evil Empire 4-2. Scott Feldman turned in a strong performance as he picked up his fifth win of the season. Frank Francisco snagged his twelfth save of the year. Nice to see the team bounce back from the previous night's trouncing.

Vincente Padilla may not be bouncing back though. Word is that the Rangers put him on waivers yesterday following his using Mark Teixeira for target practice. Padilla, seen here on his 2008 Upper Deck card number 670, is 3-3 on the season with a 5.57 ERA. He does have a history of throwing at batters though and has already hit seven this season.

Like I said yesterday, I have no problem with throwing at batters, if it is done in the right situations. If done to protect your batters I think it is appropriate. If done just to pick a fight it is inappropriate. When done to pick a fight and it loads the bases with Alex Rodriguez coming up it is just plain stupid. It seems that Vicente will have some time to ponder the differences.

Quick programing note - I will be unable to post again until probably Tuesday due to a death in the family.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hamilton to DL.

Today we see Josh Hamilton taking one deep on the charcoal version of his 2008 Upper Deck Heroes card, number 12. Better enjoy the picture. There is a very distinct possibility that we won't see Hambone at the plate for quite a while.

The Rangers put Josh on the 15 day disabled list yesterday before the start of the series in New York. The placement is due to what was finally diagnosed as an abdominal strain. The prescribed treatment right now is rest and anti-inflammatory medications. The Rangers are saying that this is somewhat similar to, but hopefully not as serious as, Ian Kinsler's sports hernia that cost him the last six weeks of last season. If the injury does not respond to the medications and rest there is the possibility of surgery. That could cost Josh at least eight weeks. Brandon Boggs has been called up to replace Hamilton, hopefully for just a fortnight.

I had to work last night so I missed the beating that the Yankees put on the Rangers. I also missed Vicente Padilla hitting Mark Teixeira twice. I did watch a clip this morning of Teixeira biting his lip and talking to the media about the proper way to play the game. What a hoot, Mark Teixeira pretending to care about the game. Probably the bigger problem is that he realized he didn't have a clause in his contract to give him yet more money whenever he got hit.

Anyway, did anyone else see or listen to the game? Were the plunkings intentional? If they were then Padilla was just plain stupid. You don't load the bases twice for Alex Rodriguez in New York. Not a way to keep from getting shelled. Not smart ball either. I have no problem with throwing at opposing players but it should be done in retaliation, not to pick a fight. To do so when it might well cost your team the game is a very real reason to have your head examined.

There is one thing that should also be kept in mind. With Derek Holland trying to break into the rotation Padilla and the rest of the starters need to be careful, the weakest link will fall first.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

1972 Topps - Frank Howard.

Not much to report in the current season so it seemed like a good time to take a trip back to 1972. Today we have card number 350 from the Topps set, Frank Howard.

The Senators got Frank in a trade in 1964 from the Dodgers. At the time it probably seemed like a gamble. The 27 year old outfielder had only topped 30 homers once and that had been in 1962. He had driven in 119 runs that year as well but had never even gotten to 90 in the other six years he played for the Dodgers. Small expectation that Frank would ever become a franchise player.

Apparently the change of scenery was good for Hondo. After a couple of years to adjust, he took off. 1967 was his breakout year as he logged 36 homers and 89 RBI (the most in a year for him since '62. Of course, he also led the league in strikeouts with 155 Ks on the year.

Frank didn't let the year of the pitcher slow him down at all. His batting average stayed the same as in '67 and his slugging percentage jumped 41 points. He led the league with 44 homers and drove in 106 runs. He also was named to his first of four All-Star teams.

In 1969 he continued his tear, launching 48 long balls while breaking 100 walks for the first time. He also struck out fewer than a hundred times that year for the first time since 1961. 111 runs crossed the plate due to his bat. 1970 was more of the same but was also Frank's last big year. That year he led the league in home runs (44), RBI (126), and walks (132).

In 1971 Frank ran out of gas. His homer total dropped to 26 and he fell well short of 100 RBI. For the first time since 1967 his slugging percentage dropped below .500. After the season he made the move to Texas with the rest of the team.

After being a bright spot in the Senators' gloom, Frank played only 95 games in a Rangers uniform. He was sold to Detroit in August of '72. One more full season there and Howard hung up his cleats.

Before Howard left the Rangers, he did manage to make his mark on the team. On April 21, 1972 he homered in the first inning of the Rangers first home game. It would be the Rangers first homer in Arlington.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Frank stumbles, Rangers fall.

Frank Francisco allowed his first run of the season last night. Frank, seen here on card number 284 of the 2004 Bowman Heritage set, hadn't given up a run in the first 17.2 innings he had pitched. This one cost him his first blown save. Well, perfection isn't a human attribute and at least the guys took three of four from the A's. I still have confidence in Frank and will still sit easier with him closing than I did with C.J. Wilson last year.

The Rangers are off today. Most of them are traveling to New York for the series against the Evil Empire that starts tomorrow. This road trip is going to be a real test. Starting in the Belly of the Beast and then on to Bean Town to see the Sox. Will be tough, could be winnable.

Josh Hamilton may not be traveling. He is undergoing a MRI to determine the cause of his abdominal pain. Josh hasn't been the same since his death-defying catch against the Angels. Not sure what the problem might be. The possibility of the DL is being tossed about. I hope just a couple of days off will do the trick, the team needs him.

Speaking of the DL, Vicente Padilla is supposed to come off of it tomorrow and start against the Yanks. Hope he has his A game.