Saturday, March 31, 2012

Senators Saturday - Claude Osteen, 1963.

Claude Osteen had a pretty good season in 1962 and was looking to build on it in 1963. He was able to do that and lock himself into the Senators starting rotation.

Osteen, shown here on card 374 of the 1963 Topps set, appeared in 40 games. That was second only to reliever Ron Kline. 29 of those appearances were starts, the most on the club. In a team best 212.1 innings pitched Gomer managed to drop his ERA to 3.35. That was a little odd since his WHIP rose to 1.382. He also struck out 109 batters.

Claude Osteen was the workhorse of the Washington pitching staff in 1963. He was also one of the best pitchers on the team and one of their few bright spots. It is a testament to the support he received that he ended the year with a 9-14 record.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Decisions: Trading Loaiza.

On July 17, 1998 the Rangers traded Warren Morris and Todd Van Poppel to the Pirates. In return they got pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Loaiza, shown here on card 485 of the 1999 Fleer Tradition set, lasted with Texas until July 19, 2000. On that date the Rangers traded him to the Blue Jays.

While with Texas, Esteban Loaiza never had an ERA under 4.50. His highest season win total was nine games. Not exactly a barn-burner.

In return for Loaiza, Toronto sent two players to Texas. The first was pitcher Darwin Cubillan. Darwin's Texas experience was a train wreck. In 17.2 innings pitched he posted a 10.70 ERA. In May of 2001 Texas sent him to Montreal.

The second player that the Rangers picked up in the trade was Double A middle infielder named Michael Young. Mike arrived in Arlington for good in 2001 and hasn't looked back. Eleven years later he is the steady veteran presence on the team. He is currently in the top ten for the franchise all time in batting average (.304), total bases (3,060), home runs (169), RBI (917), walks (499), and stolen base percentage (75.65%) . He holds the franchise records for games played (7,396), at-bats (6,788), plate appearances (7,396), runs scored (1,006), hits (2,061), doubles (388), triples (52), and singles (1,452). He's also been an All-Star seven times and has one Gold Glove to his credit.

Clearly the Michael Young trade helped make the Rangers what they are today. He's had an impact far above what Texas gave up to get him in 2000.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New guys (and gals).

So, with back-to-back American League championships under their belt the Rangers are down to the last few days of Spring Training. Being the defending A.L. Champs makes things a little different. Having a shot at reaching the postseason again makes things a lot different.

One of the things that's different are the fans. There's more of them than there was just four or five years ago. Five thousand plus were at last night's game against the Royals. Spring Training game. That's different. Not bad, just different.

Going to take a bit of getting used to, the new folks. Not that I mind them, there's lots of good things that come from new fans. Excitement, camaraderie, money. Yeah, enough to lock players down, enough to get Darvish. Nice feeling.

If you're a recently arriving Rangers fan let me take this opportunity to say welcome to the camp. Hopefully the ride goes on for awhile and you get permanently hooked on the team.

Just one thing, give us lifetime fans a little room sometimes. Not the whole bus but at least a seat every once in awhile. It's been a long ride and we're glad to have you aboard for the climax but give us a little credit. Do you remember Brad Arnsberg? Did you send him his 1991 Fleer card and ask him to sign it? We do and we did.

Not that we remember Brad because he was a superstar. He was a Ranger. So were Curt Wilkerson, Jeff Kunkle, Dewayne Henry, Danny Patterson, and Greg Harris. None were a player to build a team around but they were our guys. They didn't win a lot but we lived and died with them anyway.

It's great to have the new powerhouse in the American League and all the new fans that go along with it. Hopefully they want to learn about the guys I remember from the long dry years, just like I am still soaking up information about Joe Lovitto, Jim Kern, Lenny Randle, and their compatriots.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Odd Moments: Fired manager working.

Today's odd moment actually took place over three days in July of 1982. Don Zimmer, looking dour here on card 195 of the 1982 Donruss set, was the Rangers manager at the start of the 1982 season. On July 26th owner Eddie Chiles notified Zimmer that he was fired.

Firing a manager is not all that unusual. Where the story starts to take a turn is when Chiles asked Zimmer to stay on until he could name a replacement. Apparently Chiles was having trouble deciding if he should name Darrell Johnson or Fred Koenig to replace Zimmer. Both were coaches with the team. Johnson got the job. Reportedly he got the nod because Koenig had recently gotten an accidental black eye and Chiles didn't think that would look good on TV.

Don managed three more games before the official announcement of his firing on the 28th. During that time rumors began to surface about Zimmer's firing. Chiles denied them. Following the team's loss to the Brewers on the 28th Chiles and Zimmer met with the media. With Zimmer sitting next to him, Chiles announced the firing. He then said that, "Don didn't do anything wrong. He's my friend, and I hope I'm his friend." Zimmer spent the time looking at the ceiling. When asked if he understood why he had been fired Zimmer replied, "No. Hell no. He (Chiles) says he understands, but I don't."

Apparently Zimmer wasn't the only person who didn't understand. Newly minted manager Darrell Johnson immediately told the media that he planned no wholesale changes to the team. Speaking to reporters Johnson said, "I never saw a thing that Zimmy did that I thought was wrong. I have no magic wand to wave."

Maybe Eddie Chiles knew why he fired Zimmer but it was apparent that nobody at the field level knew why. Two things are certain though. One is that Darrell Johnson had no magic wand, he would lead the team to a 26-40 record for the rest of the season. The second thing is that the situation was most unusual from start to finish.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

1975 Topps - Jim Sundberg.

1975 Topps card number 567 is Jim Sunberg's first card. He had played for Texas in 1974 and had impressed. 1975 would be his sophomore season and he was out to prove that he wasn't a flash in the pan.

Unfortunately Sunny fell victim to the dreaded Sophomore Slump. In 540 plate appearances he batted just .199. His on-base percentage was only .238. One of Jim's problems was that his walks dropped to 51 while his strikeouts rose to 77. He also seemed to struggle a bit with his power as he hit nine doubles (four less than the previous season), no triples, and six home runs. A small bright spot was that one of those homers came on his birthday.

Defense was a whole other matter. In 1,316 innings behind the plate Jim posted a .981 fielding percentage. While that was two points lower than the league average he still finished second to Thurman Munson for a Gold Glove. That was probably due to his arm. Jim picked seven runners off first and one off second and third during the season. He also caught 65 would-be base thieves for a 46% caught stealing percentage. That was a good eight points above the league average.

The Rangers had confidence in Jim Sundberg. Enough confidence that they played him in 155 games - a number that tied the American League record for catchers. Sunny's glove and arm were what inspired most of the confidence but the team seemed certain that his bat would return in 1976. If it did then it appeared that Texas had found their backstop of the future.

Monday, March 26, 2012


So I noticed this morning that an old post from November of last year was garnering some interest. Apparently several folks had found it by searching for James Hvizda. Not that unusual, sometimes family members or even former players themselves do searches. Then a reader left a comment on my earlier post that made me do my own search.

From what I can tell, Jim Hvizda, the same one shown here on card 25 of the 1989 South Atlantic League All-Stars set, allegedly stabbed his wife to death yesterday in Pennsylvania. After reading the criminal complaint and looking at pictures I am pretty sure it's the same guy. Facial features look the same. Pennsylvania is the correct state. The date of birth matches. What a shocker.

From what I can tell, this tragedy is the end result of a violent relationship. The victim had obtained a restraining order on Jim. She then agreed to meet with him. He apparently came to the meeting with the intent of killing her.

Unfortunately this type of pattern isn't rare in domestic violence relationships. This time it was fatal. Now a community is reeling, a woman has lost her life, and four children are without a mother or father.

As a person who deals regularly on a professional level with domestic violence let me take this opportunity to urge everyone to take these situations seriously. If you or someone you know or love is in a violent relationship, take action. Don't ignore it and don't underestimate the danger. There's no reason that any person should have to live in fear of a loved one or die at their hands.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Senators Saturday - Don Leppert, 1963.

1963 was Don Leppert's first season with the Washington Senators. In December of 1962 the Senators had picked him up from Pittsburgh in exchange for a career minor leaguer. That's why he appears in his Pirates uniform on card number 243 of the 1963 Topps set.

Leppert and Ken Retzer platooned behind the plate with Retzer getting more playing time. Don still managed to appear in 73 games and actually got named to the All-Star game as a reserve. He didn't play but at least he got named to the team.

In the 477.1 innings Leppert played behind the plate he committed five errors for a .984 fielding percentage. That was just five points shy of the league average. Apparently he had trouble handing runners though as he threw out just 14% of those attempting to steal on him.

On offense Don made 234 trips to the plate and posted a .237 average. Thanks to his 20 walks his on-base percentage managed to get up to .305. In spite of striking out nine times more than he walked, Don really didn't have much power. He hit just six long balls and 11 doubles.

Despite being named to the All-Star team, 1963 had been a let down season for Don Leppert. His batting average and on-base percentage had both fallen from the previous season even though his playing time had increased. He had also seen his fielding percentage and runners caught stealing percentage fall. If Don wanted to stick with Washington he would need to step up his game all around for 1964.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Seasons: Charlie Hough - 1987.

Long-time Ranger pitcher Charlie Hough shows up here on an off-kilter 1982 Fleer card, number 319 in the set. He also shows up at number 19 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the 50 best seasons in Rangers history.

Charlie gets mention due to his 1987 season. In 1987 Hough was both the workhorse and ace of the Texas pitching staff. He started a league leading 40 games that year and pitched a league leading 285.1 innings while completing 13 games. He would win a career high 18 games. His ERA totaled to 3.79 and his WHIP to 1.269. He also struck out a career high 223 batters.

What makes those numbers even more remarkable was that Charlie was 39 years old in 1987 - an advantage of throwing the knuckleball. A second circumstance was that the team record that season was 75-87. That means that Charlie Hough alone accounted for 24% of the team victories in 1987. Now that's pretty impressive.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loosening up.

Well, the latest word on Neftali Feliz, shown here on his 2010 Topps Peak Performance Relics card, is that the shoulder stiffness he experienced on Tuesday was not serious. Good news since the starting rotation is going to be even more important to Texas' success than it was last year.

According to the Rangers are saying that
there is no structural damage. Feliz says that this time around it did not feel near as bad as the stiffness that landed him on the Disabled List last year. Still needed some kind of treatment though and a couple of days off.

While it's a relief to know that Feliz isn't hurt, this incident is a concern. Good idea for the Rangers to keep Alexi Ogando stretched out for a possible starting role. Could be that that he will be needed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Decisions: Trading for Harold.

In 1989 the Rangers were in the midst of a rebuilding stretch. They would end up finishing in 4th in the American League West with a 83-79 record. That was to be expected. What was not expected was the trade that took place on July 29th.

Texas obtained the services of Harold Baines, shown here on card 62T of the 1989 Score set, and Fred Manrique from the White Sox. In return the Sox got Scott Fletcher, Sammy Sosa, and Wilson Alvarez. The trade was a disaster for Texas.

By the time he found himself in Arlington, Harold Baines was a full-time DH. He didn't like playing in Texas and the Rangers ended up trading him in 1990 to the Oakland A's. In return Texas got Scott Chiamparino and Joe Bitker. Neither pitcher ever panned out for the Rangers. Between trades Baines appeared in 153 games for Texas - almost a full season's worth. He hit .288 and managed a .363 on-base percentage and a .428 slugging percentage. Not bad for a position player but short of expectations for a DH.

Fred Manrique lasted through the end of the 1989 season with Texas and played in a total of 54 games. His .288 batting average and .318 on-base percentage were higher and lower respectively than Fletcher's .239 and .323 prior to the trade. The two were about interchangeable in the field. In April of 1990 Texas traded Manrique to the Twins for a career minor-leaguer and cash.

Meanwhile Scott Fletcher played three more years for Chicago and made up for the absence of Fred Manrique. Wilson Alvarez spent all or parts of seven seasons with the White Sox. His combined record was 67-50 and his ERA 3.76. When the Sox finally traded him in 1997 one of the players they got in return was Keith Foulke. Sosa spent just three seasons with the ChiSox. He wasn't anything to write home about with his total .227 batting average and .276 on-base percentage but he was a sight better than what the Rangers got in return.

All in all the trade worked well for Chicago and spelled trouble for Texas. Two promising young players gone with nothing long-term to show for the loss. There wasn't even an immediate return as the team ended 1990 with the same 83-79 record that they had in 1989.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Good news and (potentially) bad news.

Ok, mixed news out of camp today for the Rangers. Let's start with the less than positive word first. is reporting that Neftali Feliz left today's game after three innings with shoulder stiffness. So far there hasn't been any additional word on the situation. It could be just a temporary bump in the road or possibly something worse. Last year Feliz spent a couple of weeks on the Disabled List early in the season with stiffness in his right shoulder. Hopefully this time it doesn't take that long to resolve. In the meantime I am guessing that Alexi Ogando is being told to be prepared for anything, or everything.

On a more upbeat note, Texas announced this morning that they have signed a five year deal with pitcher Derek Holland. Apparently there are also a couple of club options on the end of the deal that could push the total contract time to seven years. This deal looks good to me. Holland, shown here on card 34 of the 2012 Topps Golden Moments set, has developed well the past couple of seasons and is showing potential to be an ace at some point in his career. Couple that with the decreasing the number of pitching injuries since the Ryan/Maddux era began and this deal is definitely good news. If Darvish works out and Dutch performs as expected the next few seasons could be good ones for Rangers pitching.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Minor League Monday - Michael Arner, 1990 Best.

Sorry about the lack of a post Saturday. Had a busy day and before I knew it the day was gone and so was the chance to post. Taking a quick look at the Rangers news I don't see anything earth-shattering coming out of Spring Training yet. Good time to take another trip to the farm.

Michael Arner, shown here on card number 200 of the 1990 Best set, was drafted by Texas in the 13th round of the 1989 draft. He played Rookie ball that year for the GCL Rangers.

In 1990 the 19-year-old would start the season with the Gastonia Rangers in Single A. Mike started all 14 games he appeared in for Gastonia and won eight of them. In 88.2 innings he posted a 2.03 ERA and a 1.015 WHIP. His 86 strikeouts fell just short of one an inning.

Those numbers got Arner promoted to A+ ball. He started all 12 games he played for Charlotte. In 78.2 innings his ERA rose a bit to 2.97. His WHIP shrank though to 0.928. He also picked up 72 more strikeouts.

All in all 1990 had been a successful season for Michael Arner. He had performed well for two different farm teams. If he could build on that performance he just might be able to reach the upper levels of the minors in 1991.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Odd Moments: Catatonic state.

The Rangers picked up pitcher Roger Moret from the Braves in the Jeff Burroughs trade in December of 1976. Rogelio turned in a decent 1977 season as you can see from the numbers on his 1977 Strat-O-Matic card.

On April 12, 1978 Moret was scheduled to start a home game against the Detroit Tigers. Before the game he was spotted standing in front of his locker holding a shower shoe. He was not moving and did not respond to his teammates. After some initial joking, the other players decided there was a problem and reported the situation to the Rangers medical staff.

Roger remained unresponsive as he was evaluated. After 90 minutes he was finally loaded up and taken to a psychiatric hospital. He was not released until the end of the month. In spite of a couple of comeback attempts, the episode was effectively the end of Rogelio's career.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Best Seasons: Rick Helling - 1998.

Number 18 on T.R. Sullivan's 50 Best Seasons list is Rick Helling's 1998 performance. Here is what T.R. has to say about his pick:

Helling was 20-7 despite a 4.41 ERA, but he had some big wins for a division championship team, and his .741 winning percentage is the highest for a Rangers pitcher with at least 200 innings.

Helling, shown here on a signed 1992 Classic Four Sport card, was probably the ace of the 1998 Rangers. His win totals are impressive. Other than the win totals though I would have to question his inclusion on this list. Win-loss totals are not always within the pitcher's control but his individual numbers are.

A 4.41 ERA and a 1.327 WHIP point to a tendency to depend on offense to win ball games. That's what Texas did in 1998 and it didn't work well in the postseason.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Injury report.

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday. Traveling back from a funeral in Texas. Managed to get Saturday and Monday's posts done and scheduled but just didn't get yesterday's finished.

Well, Ian Kinsler was back in action today coming off his lower back tightness. That's good.

Josh Hamilton, shown here on card 88 of the 2011 Topps Marquee set, left today's game against the Rockies after one at bat. The team says he jammed his right heel trying to chase down a double. Word is that the injury is "not serious." I still don't like it. Foot injuries have a tendency to become an ongoing concern.

Elsewhere on the team, pitcher Matt West is done for at least six weeks with a strained UCL in his throwing arm. Mike Napoli is still day-to-day with a strained groin and Craig Gentry is getting his sprained wrist re-evaluated.

Craig's got to be a little concerned about the wrist sprain. After all, a sprained right shoulder cost him his chance to make the team last Spring. Hopefully he can get his wrist healed up and get his bat going. Looks like the Rangers are going to need all the outfield depth they can get.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Minor League Monday - Jonathan Hurst, 1990 Best.

Card number 105 of the 1990 Best set is an uncorrected error. Horst was not Jonathan's last name. According to baseball-reference his last name is Hurst.

Both the Mariners and the Reds drafted Hurst in the 1986 draft but he didn't sign with either team. Texas drafted him in 1987 in the 4th round of the draft and convinced him to sign.

Hurst started the 1990 season with Single A Gastonia as shown on this card. In 15 games and 61.1 innings pitched he tallied a 2.64 ERA. That got him six games and 12.1 innings with the Charlotte Rangers at A+ Ball. A 2.19 ERA there got him bumped up to Double A Tulsa.

Jonathan seemed to hit the wall at Tulsa. In eight games he pitched 25.2 innings. Unfortunately he could not duplicate his success at the lower levels. His ERA rocketed up to 9.47.

1990 had started out very well for Jonathan Hurst. It hadn't ended anywhere close to as well as it started. If he wanted 1991 to be a different story he would need to master the jump from Single A to Double A.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Senators Saturday - Chuck Hinton, 1963.

Chuck Hinton, shown here on card number 330 of the 1963 Topps set, was coming off a stellar 1962 season. In 1963 he would see his numbers drop significantly but still remain respectable.

Chuck appeared in 150 games in 1963, more than any other Senator. He would also lead the team in plate appearances with 646. Unfortunately for the team, his .269 batting average was also a team best as was his .340 on-base percentage. A speed merchant, Hinton also led the team in triples with 12 and stolen bases with 25. Those numbers contributed to his team-leading 80 runs scored.

On defense Hinton was again a jack of all trades. In fact, he played in six positions total throughout the season - one more than he had appeared in in 1962. Most prominent was left field where Chuck logged 679.1 innings and tallied a .987 fielding percentage - eleven points higher than the league average. In 363.1 innings in right field his .991 fielding percentage was also eleven points above average. The next most common place to see Chuck with a glove on was third base where he put in 172 innings but fell well below the league average fielding percentage at .860. 54 innings at first base, 47 in center field, and three at shortstop all resulted in flawless defensive performances.

1963 had been a drop off for Hinton but he was still at the top of the Senators roster. A versatile player with speed and a pretty good glove he was definitely an asset and looked to be back with the team in 1964.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Decisions: Hiring Ted.

The Senators going to the the Wrong Bob directly led to today's installment in T.R. Sullivan's Top 50 Decisions list. One of the first things that Bob Short did after naming himself as General Manager was to fire manager Jim Lemon and hire Ted Williams.

From 1964 to 1967 the Senators had been making slow but steady improvement under manager Gil Hodges. The wheels came off in 1968 under Lemon and the team plunged to the American League basement. The team desperately needed direction. What they got was Ted Williams, shown here on card number 260 of the 1978 TCMA set.

It is certain that Bob Short figured that Williams' name and fame would bring the Senators attention and put fans in the seats. He may have even thought that Williams would be a decent manager. At least he got a few headlines and one winning season out of the deal.

During his playing career Ted Williams was known as one of the most prickly personalities in the game. He often grew short tempered with players of lesser ability and focused almost solely on his hitting. He made statements about how he hated pitchers and his attitude seemed to back it up. When he retired he stated that he was done with baseball and would never be interested in managing.

A five year contract worth $500,000 changed Teddy's mind. Unfortunately it didn't change his attitude or way of dealing with others. After a winning season in 1969 that attitude and demeanor started to catch up with him and the ballclub.

Three examples of Williams' managing style help explain why perhaps his players might not play well for him. While riding in a cab, players Dick Nen and Tim Cullen stopped to pick up Williams. Williams thanked them by explaining to Nen that he could be a pretty good hitter if he changed the type of hitter he was. Cullen then asked Ted what kind of hitter he thought Cullen was. Ted told Cullen that he considered him to be the dumbest hitter in the league.

With a large lead and pitcher Casey Cox struggling on the mound, Williams walked to the end of the bench where the other pitchers were sitting. Looking at them he said, "I never liked pitchers when I was playing and you all aren't giving me any reason to start now."

Late in a ballgame in 1972 Williams needed a pinch-hitter. Approaching a young Tom Grieve he said, "I guess you're all I got left. Get out there and see if you can do anything."

Working the reverse Gil Hodges method, Williams took the team from a .531 record in 1969 to .432 in 1970, .396 in 1971, and .351 in 1972. Some of this was due to Short's inability to fund the team properly but a lot was due to Williams' inability or unwillingness to relate to his players properly. The lack of winning led to the lack of funding which led to the lack of winning which led to more poverty which led to a team move.

Quick housekeeping note: I will be dealing with a death in the extended family over the next few days. I will try and schedule posts but obviously won't be able to post on any news out of Spring training.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Calling in sick.

So when I finally got out of bed this afternoon I had a 102 degree fever. Needless to say I am not feeling the best.

Because of that I will leave you with this 2000 SPx Winning Materials #IR-RP card for today. The card features both Ivan Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro along with pieces of game-used baseballs.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Best Seasons: Jim Sundberg - 1977.

So, most of the news out of the Rangers Spring Training camp is about Yu Darvish's outing earlier today. So far I'm glad the Rangers got Darvish and I'm glad he's working out. Hopefully he will be lights out all year long. Having said that, I have no Darvish cards and nothing much to add to what is already being said.

In place of Darvish we come to number 17 on T.R. Sullivan's Top Fifty Seasons in Rangers history. Jim Sundberg appears there and on card number 385 of the 1981 Donruss set.

In 1977 Jim Sundberg was entering his fourth Big League season. The Rangers were a young team that had finally jelled. They would go on to win 94 games while coming in second in the American League West. Sunny was a big part of that success.

Jim appeared in 149 games for Texas and caught 1,214 innings. He committed just five errors all season for a .994 fielding percentage, eight points higher than the league average. He also gunned down 56.1% of base-runners trying to steal on him. That was good for second in the league.

At bat Sunny came to the plate 533 times and posted a career high .291 batting average. He also saw career highs in on-base percentage with .365, RBI with 65, and runs scored with 61.

That performance earned Sunny the Rangers MVP for the year, a second Gold Glove, and consideration for league MVP. Great season from a great guy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

1975 Topps - Don Stanhouse.

Don Stanhouse, shown here on card number 493 of the 1975 Topps set, did not pitch for Texas in 1975.

Part of the Rangers return for trading Denny McClain, Don had spent three seasons with Texas. On December 5, 1974 the Rangers traded Stanhouse and Pete Mackanin to the Expos for Willie Davis.

Davis would play part of the 1975 season for the Rangers before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on June 4th. In return the Rangers got pitcher Tommy Moore and shortstop Ed Brinkman. Proving that it's a small world, Ed was one of the players the then-Senators gave up to get Denny McClain. Brinkman's homecoming would last one game and then he was sold to the Yankees on June 13th.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Minor League Monday - Tony Scruggs, 1990 Best.

Tony Scruggs, seen here on card number 19 of the 1990 Best set, had been drafted twice. Both times he had been drafted in the 7th round of the draft and had eventually signed with Texas in 1987.

In 1987 Scruggs had played Rookie and Single A ball. In 1988 he had again played Rookie and A ball. In 1989 he had played at Single and Double A.

1990 would be no different for Tony than his previous seasons. He would play in 75 games for Single A Gastonia. In 309 plate appearances he would post a .307 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage. He would hit eight home runs and 16 doubles. He also struck out 57 times while walking just 26 times.

Scruggs would also play in 53 games for Double A Tulsa. He got 215 plate appearances there and actually raised his batting average to .344 while bumping up his on-base percentage to .392. He also hit four home runs, six triples, and five doubles. Ominously, he struck out 50 more times while picking up just 14 walks.

Tony Scruggs had turned in a decent season in 1990. He had managed to climb another rung in the Rangers farm system and had an eye on Triple A for the 1991 season. The strikeout to walk ratio was a problem though. Tony needed to cut down on the whiffs and practice some more patience at the plate. If he could do that and keep his offensive numbers up he would be on the right track.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Senators Saturday - Jim King, 1963.

I have no idea what it is about this copy of card number 176 from the 1963 Topps set but my scanner keeps cutting off the top border. Well, at least it doesn't cut off any of the picture of Jim King.

King was in his third season with Washington in 1963 and functioned as their primary right fielder. In 136 games he spent 990.2 innings in right field and only 13 innings in left field, the only other position he played. Jim committed just three errors in right and his .987 fielding percentage was seven points higher than the league average.

Jim also made 511 plate appearances in 1963. With his .231 batting average and .300 on-base appearance he was the lightest-hitting member of the Senators regular outfield. His bat did have a some pop in it though as he homered 24 times, tripled five times, and hit 16 doubles. The 24 long balls were good enough to rank second on the team behind center fielder Don Lock.

With the added thunder in his bat and his defensive performance, Jim King was working hard at hammering down a permanent spot for himself in the Washington outfield. What he needed to do for 1964 was cut down on his strike outs, work more walks, and raise both his on-base percentage and batting average.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Odd Moments: Williams v. Allen.

Up to number 15 on T.R. Sullivan's Top 50 Bizarre Moments in Rangers history. For today's post we have to go back to Washington. In 1970 Ted Williams was in his second season as the Senators manager. He was also not very popular among his players.

On August 2, 1970 the Senators were playing the A's in Oakland in the first game of a doubleheader. By the third inning the Senators led the game 3-1. To start off the third the A's pulled their starting pitcher. In response Williams began to revamp his lineup.

By the time Bernie Allen, the starting second baseman, was due up with two outs one batting substitution had already taken place. Williams proceeded to send Tim Cullen to the plate to bat for Allen. Cullen then flied out to end the half inning.

I'm not sure if it was being pinch hit for so early in the game or if it was the result but Bernie Allen didn't like being pinch-hit for. Apparently he lost it and it took six other people to restrain him from going after Williams in the dugout.

Take a look at Allen's 1971 Strat-O-Matic card. The card shows his 1970 stats. Seems like a stretch for a .234 hitter to get riled at Teddy Ballgame for lifting him. Of course Williams sent in Tim Cullen who batted .214 on the season. Cullen was also the player that Williams called one of the dumbest hitters he had ever seen. That leads to what was probably the real reason for the blowup.

Ted Williams and his players never got along well. Williams didn't have much patience with his position players and he hated pitchers on principle. That doesn't endear a manager to his men. Bernie Allen was one of the players representatives and personally didn't care for Williams. Probably the mixture of Williams attitude, Allen's attitude, and the perceived slight became explosive as under the pressure of another losing season.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Decisions: Trading Juan.

Number 19 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the top fifty decisions that have shaped the Rangers history is the trade of Juan Gonzalez on November 2, 1999. Sullivan states that the trade brought an end to the successful Melvin-Oats run and the return did not have the desired effect.

Of course Juan wasn't the only player involved in the trade. Texas also sent Danny Patterson and Greg Zaun to the Tigers. In return Texas received Bill Haselman, Frank Catalanotto, Fransisco Cordero, Gabe Kapler, Alan Webb, and Justin Thompson.

So how best to evaluate the trade? Well, let's start with Alan Webb. He was a career minor league pitcher who never made it above Double A in the one season he pitched in the Rangers system. A non factor.

Next let's take a look at Bill Haselman and Greg Zaun. Both were backup catchers in 1999 and Haselman continued in that role in 2000. In 1999 Zaun hit .247 with an on-base percentage of .314 for Texas. In 2000 Haselman posted a .275 batting average and a .329 on-base percentage for the Rangers. Probably a slight advantage to Texas here.

Pitchers. There were three pitchers involved in the trade: Danny Patterson, Fransisco Cordero, and John Thompson. Thompson promptly tore his rotator cuff and missed the entire 2000 season. Four surgeries later he appeared in two games for Texas in 2005. He posted a 21.60 ERA in 1.2 innings before retiring. Cordero spent 6 plus seasons with the Rangers. After an ugly 2000 season he settled down and turned in a decent performance in 2001 and strong showings in 2002, 2003, and 2004. In 2005 he was good but not sparkling. A poor start to the 2006 season led to his being sent to the Brewers.

Patterson was a top prospect for Texas but never seemed to pan out. After being sent to Detroit he lasted five years without ever getting his ERA below three. He also had 72 saves less than Cordero did in the same time span. Slight advantage to Texas on the pitcher side of things.

Obviously the main player leaving in the trade was Juan Gonzalez. In 1999 Juan had played in 144 games for Texas. He had tallied a .326 batting average, a .378 on-base percentage, a .601 slugging percentage, 128 RBI, 39 home runs, 36 doubles, and 114 runs scored. In 2000 for the Tigers he would see his numbers drop to a .289 batting average, a .337 on-base percentage, a .505 slugging percentage, 67 RBI, 22 home runs, 30 doubles, and 69 runs scored.

In return Gabe Kapler, shown here on a signed 2001 Fleer Futures card, appeared in 116 games for Texas in 2000. He posted a .302 batting average, a .360 on-base percentage, a .473 slugging percentage, 66 RBI, 14 home runs, 32 doubles, and 59 runs scored. Cat appeared in 103 games for Texas in 2000. He ended up with a .291 batting average, a .375 on-base percentage, a .457 slugging percentage, 42 RBI, 10 home runs, 13 doubles, and 55 runs scored.

What Texas lost when they sent Juan Gonzalez to Detroit was power. The other players involved in the trade pretty much balanced each other out but Kapler and Catalanotto were just not able to replace the boom in Juan's bat. Of course Juan wasn't able to replicate his 1999 season either. After 2000 he had just five seasons left - only one of those would be even close to the Gonzalez who had powered the Texas batting order.

So, did the trade bring an end to the Rangers' success? Looking at the numbers I think it's hard to conclude that it did. Gonzalez just wasn't as effective after 2001 as he was before. Even bringing him back to Texas in 2002 didn't help.

Perhaps what the trade did was lower the curtain. The successful run was over, what Gonzalez's departure did was to confirm that in the minds of the fans. As to the return? Well, it obviously did not have the desired effect since the team did not return to the postseason with those players.