Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Best Seasons: Kenny Rogers - 1994.

Number 32 on TR Sullivan's list of the top 50 seasons in Rangers history is Kenny Rogers' 1994 season.

TR admits he picked the strike-shortened season because of Rogers' perfect game, shown being celebrated on card 315 of the 1995 Score set. In my mind that's really the only reason to include this season on the list.

Rogers made 24 starts in 1994 and completed six of them. He posted a 4.46 ERA and a 1.321 WHIP in 167.1 innings. He ended the season with an 11-8 record. None of those numbers are real eye catching, even for the steroid era. Of course, the perfect game glitters brightly and tends to overshadow Kenny's daily performance.

What I remember most about 1994 was the strike that ended the season and erased the playoffs and World Series. It also started my hiatus from following the Rangers.

1994 was not a sunny time for the Rangers, their fans, or baseball at large. Kenny Rogers brought a ray of light on July 28th. Perhaps for that reason alone he deserves to be included on the list of Best Seasons in Rangers history.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Minor League Monday - Jose Hernandez, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Not a whole lot of Ranger news out there. Colby Lewis accepted the club's offer of a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training and a chance to make the team. Glad to see that. I like Lewis and it's nice to see him resign. Figuring he will make the team and there will be plenty of other times for me to show one of his cards.

For now though, it's back to Minor League Monday for the first time in almost a month. Today we see shortstop Jose Hernandez on card number 10 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers set.

Texas signed Hernandez as an undrafted free agent in 1987 and sent him to the Gulf Coast Rangers. He spent the 1987 and 1988 seasons in Rookie Ball before moving up to Single A Gastonia in 1989. So far he had not impressed.

In 1990 Jose would appear in 121 games for the A+ Charlotte Rangers. 119 of those games were at shortstop and one was in the outfield. At short Hernandez posted a .959 fielding percentage. That was due to 24 errors in 588 chances.

Hernandez made 455 trips to the plate for Charlotte. He ended up with a .255 batting average and a .345 on-base percentage. He had just one home run but 14 doubles and seven triples. Those were an indicator of some possible power developing. He also struck out 122 times while walking just 50.

In his fourth professional season, Jose Hernandez was not looking like future Major League material. If he wanted to make the Bigs he needed to work on his defense and cut down on his strikeouts. Leading the team in errors and strikeouts was not the way to win friends and impress people. If he couldn't fix the holes in his glove and bat, he could find further climbing in the Rangers system to be rough going.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Senators Saturday - Ron Kline, 1964.

1964 was Ron Kline's second season with the Washington Senators. Kline, shown here on card 358 of the 1964 Topps set, was primarily a reliever and did well for Washington in 1963. He would do a bit better in 1964.

Kline appeared in 61 games for the Senators in 1964, all in relief and a team high. The de facto closer for the team, he finished 52 games. Of those 52, 14 were saves (best on the team), 10 wins, and seven losses.

In 81.1 innings pitched Ron posted a 2.32 ERA and a 1.254 WHIP. That ERA was low enough to be the team leader and the WHIP was the second best coming out of the pen.

While Ron Kline was not an All-Star reliever, he was a breath of fresh air for the pitching-starved Senators. His consistent performance out of the pen was a relief. The money spent to purchase his contract from the Tigers in 1963 appeared to be money well spent. Ron had a slot in the pen for 1965, he just needed to take advantage of it and keep working improve his performance.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wow, just wow.

Late-breaking news last night that the Rangers traded Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder and $30 million. In spite of the talk of possibly trading Kinsler, Jurickson Profar, or Elvis Andrus the news took me by surprise.

When I got this O-Pee-Chee Materials card of Ian Kinsler a week ago in a trade he was the only player featured still with Texas. Now he's gone and Prince Fielder is on his way in. Probably one of the biggest trades I can remember since Ruben Sierra went to Oakland in a deal for Jose Canseco. Supposedly Texas was expected to make a splash this off-season. Looks like they made it.

Still not sure what I think of the deal. Hopefully it works out well for the Rangers. Kinsler still plays great defense but he has been slowing down on the base paths in recent years. He can also be streaky with his offensive power and has been somewhat fragile with stints on the Disabled List over the past couple of years. On the other hand, he was the undisputed clubhouse leader and an experienced leadoff man.

Fielder looks like he will have trouble with the heat. Of course he also looks like he should be easily injured but he's missed just one game in the past three seasons. He can't run at all and only plays average defense at best but his offensive presence in the lineup is heavier than Kinsler's. He's also locked in for several more seasons than Kinsler but is more expensive.

What the situation really seems to come down to has little to do with Fielder or Kinsler. Of course the Rangers hope Fielder has some monster seasons for them. If Kinsler tails off, the deal looks decent even if Fielder drops to average. Profar is the key though. If he steps up and performs to his potential, the trade looks good. If he stumbles and Texas develops a hole at second base, the trade looks like folly.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Murphy moves on.

MLB.com is reporting today that David Murphy, shown here on card 272 of the 2012 Topps Heritage set, has signed a two year deal with the Cleveland Indians. The contract is worth $12 million over the two years and includes a club option for 2016. The Indians expect Murphy to take over the starting right fielder's job.

This really isn't surprising news. Texas didn't make an effort to re-sign Murph after his let-down performance last season. Couple that with the chance Cleveland is giving him to play every day and it is unlikely the Rangers could have kept him even had they wanted to.

I always liked Murphy and felt he was an underrated piece of the Rangers World Series teams. Watching him struggle last season was painful. Hopefully the change of scenery will jolt him back to his usual level of play. Against every team except the Rangers of course.

Also in the headlines are continued rumors concerning Texas' middle infield trio. Supposedly the team has been hearing from clubs interested in one of the three but there hasn't been any serious discussion yet. Not word on which player is the most sought after. Hopefully the team gets some real value if they trade any of the three.

Just a quick programing note. This week is extremely busy for me. That means my posting may be a little lacking (like yesterday). I'm going to try to keep up but there may be a day or two more before next week that I miss.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Vealtones in the mail.

More rumors out there. This time Texas is looking to sign Shin-Soo Choo and passing on Jacoby Ellsbury. Supposedly the team likes Leonys Martin enough to pass on Ellsbury. Can never have too much speed I say.

Something that is no longer a rumor is a trade I recently made with Dustin over at Coot Veal and the Vealtones. Dustin cleverly insured he would send first by neglecting to provide me with his address. I got my part of the trade on Saturday and will be sending today or tomorrow.

The trade came about as the result of an earlier post looking to add to my Rangers game-used and autograph collection. Dustin was able to come through for me in a big way with seven game-used and three certified autograph cards. If that wasn't enough, he also tossed in a slew of other cards I needed. One of the additional cards was this 2007 Upper Deck card of Kevin Millwood. It's card 231 in the set and completes my 2007 Upper Deck team set.

Always nice to make a trade with a stand-up guy. Even nicer when he unexpectedly throws in extras that hit your wantlist. Dustin's that kind of guy. If you ever get a chance to make a trade with him you should do it in a heartbeat. Thanks again Dustin!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Here and there.

Well, there hasn't been much going on for the past couple of days. At least for the Rangers. Work for me has been another matter and that's my weak excuse for the lack of posts. Work got in the way of blogging. Anyway, despite the lack of any big news there has been a few things going on here and there.

Texas did sign utility infielder Adam Rosales to a one-year deal on the 14th. You may remember Rosales as the player who went back and forth between Texas and Oakland several times in the last part of last season. The move provides some cheap backup if it's needed.

On November 13th the Cy Young Award winners were announced. Detroit Tiger Max Sherzer won the American League award. Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish came in second.

The Rangers still seem to be pursuing Brian McCann. I guess the thinking is he could play at first and catcher and DH. Not sure I like the idea of signing him to a long-term contract but it's looking like Texas is serious.

Apparently Texas may or may not be serious about dealing either Ian Kinsler, Jurickson Profar, or Elvis Andrus. There are some rumblings the mention of their availability may be a message to Kinsler that he needs to consider a move to either the outfield or first base. Of course, if he doesn't mind changing teams, the message probably won't get through.

MLB.com's Hot Stove blog is reporting the Padres are interested in acquiring a left-handed bat to help them against right-handed pitching. A trade is the preferred method but David Murphy, shown here on an Academy Sports playing card, is also on the radar. Murph's disappointing season last year might parlay into a lower contract. That could help the Padres get in with their limited budget. Also, if Murphy takes a shorter contract he could try to get his bat on track before free agency hits again. That might be a better option for him than a long-term fire sale contract.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Making some moves.

Lots of former Rangers players making moves over the past couple of days.

Yesterday Texas announced the hiring of one-time Rangers catcher Benji Molina as first base coach and catching instructor. That leaves former Ranger Bobby Jones as the assistant hitting coach. That settles the coaching staff unless there is an unexpected development.

Also yesterday, former Ranger Mark DeRosa announced his retirement as a player. The Blue Jays had already picked up his option for next season but DeRosa said he was tired of battling injuries and wanted to spend more time with his family.

Yesterday as well, former Ranger Kevin Brown's 1994 Pacific card 610 completed the move to my collection. Brown was accompanied by two other hits off my want list, two former Rangers autographs, and two game-used cards featuring mostly former Rangers. The arrivals were the result of a trade worked out with reader Scott following my post looking for such trades. Scott got in touch with me and proposed a trade. He was very gracious through the whole process and we ended up with a mutually agreeable deal. If Scott ever contacts you, wants to make a trade, and throws my name out as a reference, you can be sure it's a good recommendation. Thanks again Scott!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nellie says no.

Nelson Cruz, shown here on card 133 of the 2010 Allen and Ginter set, turned down the Rangers one-year offer yesterday. That wasn't unexpected and insures Texas will receive a compensatory draft pick if Cruz signs elsewhere.

Word is Nellie wants to test the free agent market. The Rangers would like to keep him and have stayed in contact with his agent. A lot will be determined by whether or not Cruz is actually interested in staying in Texas. A lot will be determined by Cruz and his agent's willingness to keep talking to the Rangers as other teams get involved.

Cruz is considered a top-tier free agent. The only other outfielders in that group are Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, and Marlon Byrd. If the Rangers can't retain Cruz, they might make a run at one of the others in the group. Ellsbury is the only one who really stands out to me as a possibly good signing. Choo and Byrd have defensive limitations. Beltran and Granderson are aging.

As much as I doubt Cruz and his slowly declining defense, it looks like keeping him might be the Rangers best option. The team needs to upgrade its offensive capability. Obviously Cruz wouldn't be an upgrade over himself but keeping him would allow the club to upgrade in another area.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Senators Saturday - Jim King, 1964.

Coming off his 1963 season, Jim King, shown here on card 217 of the 1964 Topps set, had two main goals: to up his on-base percentage and batting average.

King would continue to serve as the Senators starting right fielder in 1964. He spent 955 innings in right over 121 games and didn't play any other position in the field. He made seven errors for a .973 fielding percentage. That was a pretty significant drop from his fielding percentage the year before and well below the league average .980.

Jim made 478 trips to the plate on offense throughout the season. He managed a .241 batting average - ten points higher than the previous season. He used his 55 walks (ten more than in 1963) to run his on-base percentage up to a little to .335. Only five points higher than the year before but still an improvement. Disturbingly, King's power lessened as his slugging percentage dropped 32 points to .412. His 15 doubles and 18 home runs indicated he could still thump the ball, but just not as often.

Overall Jim King had an acceptable year in 1964. His lessening power and trouble on defense were concerns that he needed to address if he wanted to keep his starting job. However, he had paid off well for a player plucked from the minors during the expansion draft just a couple of years before.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Inquiry, Offers, and Agreement.

Rangers General Manger Jon Daniels talked with the media yesterday. That gave a window into how the off-season is going. The window wasn't entirely clear though, in typical Daniels fashion. After all, you don't want to tip your hand to other teams.

Apparently the Rangers have received some inquiries as to the availability of Mitch Moreland. According to Daniels, the calls have been based on teams viewing Moreland as a "buy low" player. Can't tell if that's just Daniels' assessment of their reasoning or if he views Moreland as on the verge of breaking out.

The Rangers are expecting Nelson Cruz to reject the one-year offer they made to him. They are in touch with his agent and have not ruled out the possibility of re-signing him after the rejection.

Texas also made an offer to pitcher Colby Lewis, shown here on card 403 of the 2012 Topps Heritage set. Lewis missed the 2013 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery but the Rangers still like him and would like to see him back in 2014. No word yet on his intentions or details on the offer.

The main reason for the news conference where Daniels was talking to the media was to announce the long-term deal the Rangers inked with pitcher Martin Perez. The deal appears to be modeled on the one they signed with Derek Holland a year or two ago. The deal locks Perez in for four years with club options for 2018 - 2020. That knocks out Perez's arbitration years and gives Texas an out if he doesn't develop like projected. The initial contract calls for $12.5 million over four years. If he can turn in performances anywhere near his 2013 season, Perez should be well worth the investment.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Rangers are Listening.

Charlie Hough's autograph, shown here on a 1985 Donruss card, may be the most frequently posted auto on this blog. There's several reasons for that. One is that you can't go wrong with Charlie Hough on a Rangers blog. Two is that Charlie has always been very generous with the fans. Getting his autograph is as easy as writing and asking for it or catching him at a ballpark somewhere. That means I have a lot more of his signatures than other players who might not sign through the mail at all.

Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler don't sign through the mail. Not sure about Jurickson Profar since I haven't any extra cards to give him a try. That makes getting their autographs an expensive endeavor. I am also currently out of unposted game-used for Kinsler and Andrus.

That's why you are looking at a signed Charlie Hough on a post discussing Andrus, Kinsler, and Profar this off-season. The Rangers have apparently let other teams know they are willing to listen to offers for one of the three. Not that they are shopping any of them but they are willing to listen if the deal is good enough. No word on which of the three the team would rather deal and which two they would rather keep.

Ian Kinsler's locked into a long-term contract and that makes him somewhat unattractive to teams looking for a cheaper solution. He's also the oldest of the three and that's going to play a role. Of course, his contract is pretty reasonable compared to what Robinson Cano is looking to land and what several other front-line second basemen are already signed for. He's also the most powerful of the three on offense.

Elvis Andrus has a slick glove and enormous range. He also has a pretty weak bat. While he gets on base decently, a home run is a headline event when he's batting. I think he's also got a contract but not nearly as big a one as Kinsler.

Jurickson Profar is really the unknown quality in the mix. He's had limited Big League experience but was hyped as a top prospect in the Rangers' system. He's also shown flashes of power with the bat. Not as much as Kinsler but more than Elvis. If he continues to develop he's going to be very good. That's a big if, but the salary price tag isn't.

Not sure which of the three is most likely to generate an offer. Probably Profar since teams seem to like the unknown potential over the known qualities of more established players.

I'm not really excited to see any of them go but if the return is great enough it could be worth it. That's probably why John Daniels is willing to listen to offers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Signing Soto.

You might wonder why I am posting card 500 from the 1984 Donruss set today. Well, I don't have any cards of Geovany Soto and have always thought this card of Bob Johnson captures the essence of catching.

Texas signed catcher Geovany Soto yesterday to a one-year deal. The team is paying him about $3 million plus incentives and announced he will be their starting catcher. I can assure you Bob Johnson never got either $3 million a year or the starting job.

I have been thinking this deal over and I'm still not sure what to conclude. Soto is a serviceable defensive catcher with an average bat at best. Announcing he is the starter before the free agent season even opens is suspect in my mind. Of course, there are budget considerations and Texas might be looking to upgrade in other areas where bats are more plentiful. After all, good catching is at a premium all across baseball right now. That scarcity is going to result in bidding wars and somebody being tied into a long and expensive contract.

Speaking of long, the future might be another consideration. Most headline free agents are looking for multi-year deals. The Rangers only signed Soto for 2014 and only promised him the starting job for one year. There are a couple of young catchers in the system and maybe the front office is thinking they could be ready in 2015. If you have a hot hand coming up there's really no reason to overpay right now and end up with a logjam.

On the other side of things, a one year deal is a patch at best. It does nothing to stabilize the situation. If Soto has a good year he could hit the free agent market next year as a very desirable commodity. That could put the Rangers back on the hot seat if the young talent doesn't develop in time.

Either way, one thing is certain: Geovany Soto does not appear to be a long-term solution. He'll probably bat around seven or eight and be about average behind the dish. He'll also probably be gone after 2014 or be back to being a backup or platoon player.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Off-Season Shuffle Picks Up.

Well, the off-season moves have begun in earnest for the Rangers. Staff and roster moves for now but the trades and signings will be coming.

Closer Joe Nathan voided his one year option on the first. Texas had picked up their end of the deal but Nathan saw enough action in 2013 that he had the right to void it. He's looking for a multi-year deal and the Rangers are hesitant to give a 39-year-old pitcher with a recent history or arm problems that kind of contract. If they had been able to retain him there is a decent chance they might have shopped him around anyway. Look for Feliz and Soria to get a shot at the closer's role. Look for the Angels to talk to Nathan.

On the same day Nathan left, former Ranger Bobby Jones arrived. Jones, shown here on card 134 of the 1985 Donruss set, was moved up from the Triple A manager's spot to coach with the Big Club. Not sure if he will be the bench coach or first base coach. The Rangers still need one more coach to fill out their staff. Double A manager Steve Buechele will likely replace Jones at Round Rock.

Yesterday the Rangers announced Martin Perez was the team's Rookie of the Year. He certainly had a strong rookie season and provided a lot of excitement for the future.

Also yesterday the Rangers made Nelson Cruz an offer for $14.1 million. He's got until Monday to make a decision. Don't expect an acceptance since he's looking for a multi-year deal. What will be interesting to see is if his PED suspension hurts his chances at landing a lucrative contract. At least the Rangers look to get a compensatory draft pick if he leaves since the offer they made qualifies.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Senators Saturday - John Kennedy, 1964.

John Kennedy, shown here on card 203 of the 1964 Topps set, had been kicking around with the Senators since they signed him as an amateur free agent in 1961. He had short stints with the team in 1962 and 1963 but didn't stick. 1964 would be different.

Kennedy finally stuck with the team in 1964. He played mostly at third, in spite of what his card lists, but did put in time at short. He even had a cameo or two at second.

John put in 758.1 innings at third base over 106 games. He committed 18 errors though for a .941 fielding percentage. That was well below the league average .955. Things were a little better at short where he posted a .966 fielding percentage over 372 innings in 49 games as a result of seven errors. That was just two points under the league average .968. He briefly appeared at second with nine innings in two games. He had no errors there.

Kennedy made 521 trips to the plate on offense. He walked 29 times. That combined with his .230 batting average gave him a .280 on-base percentage. He also had no speed as he stole just three bases while getting caught three times. His power was also practically non-existent with a .324 slugging percentage as the result of just seven home runs, four triples, and 16 doubles. Those offensive numbers were in Ed Brinkman territory.

John Kennedy finally got his shot at the Big Show in 1964. Unfortunately he didn't manage to capitalize on it. When the Dodgers and Senators started talking, John's name was in the mix. He ended up going to Los Angeles in the Frank Howard deal when the Dodgers agreed to included third baseman Ken McMullen. With a new face at third, Washington decided they could let John Kennedy go.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Rangers let Berkman go.

The Rangers made another off-season move yesterday afternoon. They declined to pick up Lance Berkman's option for 2014 and opted to buy out his remaining year.

Berkman, shown here on card 480 of the 2013 Topps Blue Border set, was supposed to provide the team with a power bat in the short term at designated hitter. After a hot start he battled injuries and lengthy Disabled List stays that made him largely ineffective.

Look for Lance to retire for good following this news. He announced his retirement before Texas signed him and talked about it again while injured. This will probably result in him pulling the plug for good.