Tuesday, September 30, 2014

1978 Topps - Bill Fahey.

 Well, the long dark 2014 season is over for the Rangers. Time to watch the post-season and think about next year. I'll have some posts on both coming up but for today it's time for another look at the 1978 team.

Bill Fahey, shown here on card 388 of the 1978 Topps set, found himself holding the short end of the stick in 1978. The battle between him and John Ellis for the backup catching spot ended with Ellis getting the nod and Fahey getting a ticket to Triple A Tuscon.

Bill played in 66 games for the Toros and made 241 plate appearances. He ended the season with a .250 batting average and a .319 on-base percentage. Those are not numbers calculated to compel a call-up. His defense remained acceptable but that hadn't been the problem in 1977 either. Bill's bat, or lack thereof, is what got him sent to the minors for the 1978 season.

Taking stock at the end of 1978, the Rangers apparently didn't see much of a future for Fahey in Texas. Jim Sundberg had the starting catcher's gig locked up and John Ellis was serviceable as the backup and more versatile than Fahey since he could play first base as well. That made Bill expendable.

On October 25, 1978 the Rangers traded Fahey along with Kurt Bevacqua and Mike Hargrove to the Padres for Oscar Gamble, Dave Roberts, and $300,000. In 1979 and 1980 Fahey would get far more playing time with the Padres than he ever got with Texas.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Minor League Monday - Phil Bryant, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Phil Bryant seems to be a good mood as he poses on card 1149 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set. Maybe he was just glad to finally be at Double A.

The Rangers signed Bryant as a free agent in February of 1987 and he started his career with the Gastonia Rangers the same season. He got knocked around there and ended the season with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.496 WHIP after 31 appearances and 142.1 innings. Phil was primarily a starter so a slightly higher ERA was acceptable but north of five in Single A ball is not a good sign.

Regardless, the Rangers promoted him to Single A+ Charlotte for the 1988 season. He made significant progress there as he switched to being exclusively a reliever. Over 35 appearances he posted a 2.41 ERA and an 1.211 WHIP in 71 innings of work. That was much better than the previous season and good enough to earn him a promotion to Double A Tulsa for the 1989 season.

1989 was a repeat of 1987 for Bryant. He made 25 appearances out of the bullpen and seven starts. Over the 94.1 innings he pitched his ERA tallied to 5.25 and his WHIP to 1.611. He would sit tight and start the 1990 season with the Drillers.

1990 was do or die for Bryant. Now 25 years old, he needed to have a breakthrough season and really impress.

Phil made seven starts in 19 appearances for Tulsa in 1990. He pitched 69.1 innings and turned in a 3.38 ERA and an 1.327 WHIP. Those numbers weren't calculated to amaze but they were progress and the Rangers decided to see what Bryant could do at Triple A. He appeared in 14 games for the 89ers and pitched 58 innings. Phil got hammered to the tune of a 5.90 ERA and an 1.759 WHIP.

That was enough for the Rangers. They released Phil following the 1990 season and his career appeared to be over. It wasn't though. In 1995, at age 30, Phil Bryant made a comeback attempt with the Lubbock Crickets, an independent minor league team. His 5.01 ERA and 1.693 WHIP ensured that his comeback did not last past the 32.1 innings he pitched that season.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Senators Saturday - Casey Cox, 1967.

Casey Cox, shown here on card 414 of the 1967 Topps set, was starting his second season with Washington in 1967. As an aside on the card, I don't particularly care for the pinstripe uniforms. To some it is the classic look. To me it is the mimic the Yankees look. Anyway, on with Casey Cox. He had a pretty good season in 1966 and led the Senators bullpen in appearances. He aimed to nail down his spot on the pitching staff in 1967.

Cox spent part of the 1967 season at Triple A Hawaii. I'm not sure of the circumstances but he appeared in 14 games for the Islanders and posted a 2.10 ERA and an 1.100 WHIP over 30 innings pitched. That seems longer than a re-hab stint but he could have been sent down for a sore arm or something similar. Could also be that he struggled a bit after the hard use the previous season and needed some more time in the minors.

Casey didn't spend all his time in the minors though. He appeared in 54 games for the Senators in 1967 and pitched 73 innings, all in relief. He managed to put together a 2.96 ERA and a 1.205 WHIP. He allowed just two home runs so obviously his sinkerball was working most of the time. He struck out 32 opposing batters while unintentionally walking 21. All of his numbers were about the middle of the pack for Washington relievers.

Pitching was better in Washington than it had been early in the team's existence. That meant the competition was tougher when it came to nailing down a spot. Cox hadn't done poorly and had improved from 1966 but he needed to keep that improvement going if he wanted to be a permanent fixture on the Senators pitching staff in 1968 and beyond.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Trading autos.

A short while back I was looking at some of my regular favorites in the blogging world and clicking on links they had posted to various other blogs. One such blog I discovered was LV's TTM Autographs and Baseball Cards.

Laurie regularly posts TTM successes and trades over at LV's, mostly highlighted by autographed cards. She's also a big Cubs and Royals fan. I had a few Cubs TTM autos on my tradelist that nobody ever bit on so I left her a comment offering to work a deal. Laurie emailed me right back and we got a trade worked out - three for three. I picked up two autos of Dean Palmer, including this signed 1992 Leaf card, and one of Matt Harrison.

Laurie worked quickly to finalize out deal and packaged the cards well for shipment. I'm pleased with the trade and would recommend her to anyone else looking to trade signed or unsigned cards. Thanks again for the trade Laurie!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catching up.

Been a little over a week since my last post and I apologize for the delay. Things got busy at work and home and a computer issue ate up any remaining time I had. Lots happened with the Rangers during that time as they seem to be determined to finish the 2014 season on a high note.

After the sweep against the Braves the club traveled to Oakland to take on the A's. The A's had the first AL wildcard at the time and were hanging on by a thread in the division race. The Rangers didn't help either cause as they swept the series to run their win streak to seven. That's the highest win streak of the season. The Angles clinched and the A's found themselves tied for the second wildcard and looking at missing the post-season. A 1-2 series against the Angels finished out the road trip and the season's travels. Back in Arlington the Rangers have handed the Astros a loss to start the final home stand.

Yesterday's win came with Derek Holland, shown here on card 230 of the 2013 Allen and Ginter set, on the hill. It's win number 63 and assures the club that, no matter how dark this season is, it will not be a 100 loss season. Derek went 7+ innings and allowed just two earned runs. That runs Dutch's record to 2-0 and his season ERA to 1.31. Really makes one regret his missed season and hope he can keep it going next year.

While the club was busy playing spoiler they announced that Alex Rios will likely miss the rest of the season with his bruised thumb. Looks likely to me that Rios has played his last game as a Range. I don't look for the team to pick up his option in 2015. Colby Lewis is the other big name the Rangers are looking to lose in 2015 through free agency. He has already spoken to Jon Daniels about a contract for next year. JD says the talks will be serious and the team is interested in retaining Lewis. Lewis is interested in staying so it looks good that he will be back in 2015.

Almost to the end of the season. After the current series with the Astros, the A's come to town to finish out the Rangers year. If the Rangers can return the favor from 2012 it just might finish out the A's year as well. With the way Texas has been playing, it just might happen.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Highs and sighs.

The 2014 season has contained a lot of sighs for the Rangers and their fans. It hasn't had a lot of highs. One of the few has been Colby Lewis, shown here on card 83 of the 2004 Topps Total set. Lewis was expected to have to fight for the fifth starter's spot this year while trying to come back from hip re-surfacing surgery. No other player has ever made it back to the Majors after such a surgery. Needless to say, nobody expected much from Lewis.

Those expectations have been dashed. Colby's been the anchor of the rotation this season and seems to be getting better as time passes. All the other starters are gone due to injury and Lewis is the last man standing. He's standing pretty well too.

Yesterday Colby got the ball in the final game against the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are (were?) in the National League wildcard hunt when they rolled into Arlington on Friday. Two losses later the Rangers turned to Lewis to try and finish out the sweep. Colby went seven innings and gave up just one run. When the patchwork Rangers lineup broke the game open with six runs in the fifth the writing appeared to be on the wall for Atlanta. Two more runs in the sixth brought the Texas run total to its final of 10. The Braves got two off the bullpen after Lewis left the game and he got his 10th win of the season, 10-3.

The last time the Rangers got a sweep was in late April with a lineup that's long since hit the Disabled List. Great to see the team still fighting and managing to pull off a sweep against a contender. The young guys in the lineup got to try out their bats as all but Adrian Beltre and Daniel Robertson (a replacement in the 5th) got hits. I'm not worried about Beltre or Robertson since I know both can hit.

This being 2014, the day could not be one of just a high, there had to be a sigh somewhere in the mix. It came courtesy of Michael Choice. Choice hit a double in the fifth inning. As he came into second base he pulled up and grabbed his left leg. A trainer and interim manager Tim Bogar carried him off the field. Initial word is a hamstring strain with an MRI today. I haven't heard the results of the MRI but I'm guessing Choice is out for the rest of the season. Michael has been struggling this year and he needs all the experience he can get to set the stage for next season. It's rather disappointing to see him go down this close to the finish line.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Senators Saturday - Willie Kirkland, 1966.

On the back of card 434 in the 1966 Topps set Willie Kirkland is referred to as "One of the game's top power hitters..." That description was accurate at one point in Willie's career but he suffered a power outage in 1964. He saw a resurgence of sorts in 1965 and the Senators were hoping to see more of the same in 1966.

Serving primarily as a fourth outfielder in 1966 Kirkland saw service in left and right field. He played 174.1 innings in left over 50 games and 126 innings in right over 19 games. He committed just one error in right field and none in left. That averaged out overall to a fielding percentage on par with the rest of the league.

Willie made 182 plate appearances with the Senators in 1966 and that is where the wheels really fell off for him. He managed just a .190 batting average and .261 on-base percentage. The fact that he stuck out 50 times while working just 16 walks spoke of his past as a power hitter. The two doubles, one triple, and six home runs made it clear that he was a power hitter in the past and not present.

Apparently the Senators decided Kirkland was not going to be able to regain his early career form. They released him on October 18, 1966. That was the end of the line for Willie Kirkland's Major League career.

Even though they released him, Washington must have offered Kirkland one last chance. He spent the 1967 season playing with the Senators Triple A affiliate, the Hawaii Islanders. He found his form there and slugged 34 homers over the course of the season. That wasn't good enough to get back to Washington but it was good enough to get a contract with the Hashin Tigers of the Japanese Pacific Coast League. Willie spent six season with the Tigers in the role of slugger. He never hit .270 and he never had a slugging percentage under .400. He retired as a player after the 1973 season with 126 home runs to his credit in the JPCL. That was just 22 less than the 148 long balls he tallied over nine season in the Majors. Apparently the jump to Japan worked out well for Willie.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

1978 Topps - John Ellis.

By 1978 John Ellis, shown here on card 438 of the 1978 Topps set, was firmly ensconced as the backup to starting catcher Jim Sundberg. He was also still working on fully coming back from the devastating injury he suffered in 1976.

In 1978 John played in 22 games as catcher and seven as the team's designated hitter. He started 17 games behind the plate with the remainder of his appearances coming in replacement situations after Sundberg had been lifted.

Over the 157.2 innings he played behind the plate Ellis put together a .958 fielding percentage and caught four of the 13 runners who attempted to steal on him. Both his fielding percentage and caught stealing percentage were below the league average but were understandable with the lack of use.

In 104 trips to the plate Ellis posted a .245 batting average and a .282 on-base percentage. The batting average was ten points higher than 1977 while the on-base percentage was a point lower. Some pop was still in the bat as evidenced by John's four doubles and three home runs.

Obviously, John Ellis' days of having a shot at a regular starting gig were past. The presence of Jim Sundberg and Ellis' own decreased mobility as a result of his past injury both conspired to keep him on the bench. What he needed to do was make the most of the situation for as long as possible.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Minor League Monday - Steve Allen, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Starting off on the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set today. This set is a bit unusual because it uses the regular ProCards numbering but seems to be a special set of just the Drillers. The cards use slightly different photos from the regular set cards. Also, on the back of each card in this team set is an advertisement for Tulsa's Baseball Card Store. Two locations are given - 51st and Peoria and 68th and Memorial. Does anyone know if either of these are still open?

Kicking off the team set is pitcher Steve Allen on card #1148. Allen had been with the Gastonia Rangers at Single A in 1989. He's actually been featured here on a second card for his 1989 season. He got the promotion to Double A Tulsa to start the 1990 season.

Steve was a reliever and mostly a back of the bullpen guy. He made 54 appearances for Tulsa in 1990 and finished 23 games. Over the 89.1 innings he pitched he put together a 3.83 ERA and a 1.556 WHIP. His strikeout to walk ratio was a very respectable 2.00 as he struck out 84 opposing batters while walking 42.

Allen's ERA was up from the previous season in Single A but that was to be expected with the increased ability of the batters. Perhaps it was a bit too much of a jump for the Rangers. They traded Steve and fellow minor leaguer David Lynch to the Dodgers for Jim Poole on December 30, 1990.

After leaving the Rangers organization, Allen pitched for four more seasons with in the minors with LA and Colorado. He topped out at Triple A and hung up the spikes following the 1994 season.

Saturday, September 6, 2014


By now it's likely that everyone knows about Ron Washington, shown here on card 274 of the 2014 Topps Heritage set. Yesterday afternoon, without warning, the Rangers announced Wash's resignation as manger. The departure was attributed to an off field personal issued. The only details the club would give are that this is not a repeat of the 2009 cocaine issues. General Manager Jon Daniels said he was disappointed in Ron's decision but understood. Most everybody else on the team expressed shock and disbelief.

Those connected with the team weren't the only ones in shock. I used Spiff Jr's response to the news as the title of this post. At ten years of age he doesn't remember any Rangers manager other than Ron Washington. I know how he feels. When the club fired Bobby Valentine in 1992 I felt like I was lost. Bobby was the only manager I had ever seen in the dugout and his firing tilted the world off axis. I'm sure it's the same with Spiff Jr and Washington. The thought of Ron not in the dugout has not been entertained in that young fan's mind and now it's happened. I have to admit, I'm pretty stunned by the news as well.

The eight seasons of Washington's tenure have been a bright spot in Rangers history. He was the longest serving Rangers manager, managed the most games for Texas, and has the highest winning percentage of any Rangers manager staying for more than a season or two. He also took the club to three post-season appearances and two World Series. He will be missed and leaves a big hole.

Even as the club named bench coach Tim Bogar the interim manager, the chuckle-heads were out. Some were glad to see Washington gone. He wasn't a good manager anyway they claim. Seems Jon Daniels (who many of those folks also despise) was able to assemble a team that could win consistently in spite of Ron. The tinfoil hat variety of ding-dongs claim Jon Daniels forced Washington out because Ron was a Ryan guy. That makes about as much sense as the guys who are happy to see Wash go. Jon Daniels hired Washington a year and a half before Ryan made the scene. If JD wanted to cut him he could have several times before this point and simply needed to wait until the end of the season to not give him a new contract. Both view points are out of touch with reality.

The reality is, we have just seen one of the best managers in Rangers history take his leave. I respect Ron's right to have his personal matters private and am hoping he can get whatever it is taken care of. Thanks for the memories Wash, all the best as you move on from here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Random (sort of) Rangers game-used.

Not much going on with the Rangers right now. The losing continues and their magic number to avoid 100 losses remains at 10. They've now set a franchise record for the number of players used in a season and may be looking at a Major League record before long. Not exactly the type of happenings to inspire blog posts.

Decided to post a random Rangers game-used card today. Well, not totally random. I did decide it would be a random card of Ivan Rodriguez. This 2001 Upper Deck Legends Legendary Lumber card won the randomness.

This card is fitting in several ways. First, Pudge really is a legend. He's still revered in Texas and just the site of him or mention of his name will raise a cheer in The Ballpark. Two, Ivan's wearing the red uniform here. I know, the Rangers won in red. The Senators also did a lot of losing in red before the team moved to Texas. Right now the team is playing more like the red-wearing Senators than the teams of the late 90's.

Perhaps the best reason to post this card is to remind folks that I still have several Ivan Rodriguez game-used cards left on my tradelist. This one isn't one of them and none of them area of him in a Rangers uniform but if you are a Pudge, Tigers, or Marlins collector you should check it out. Let me know if you see anything you like. I'm always looking to pick up Rangers game-used cards so I'm sure we could work a deal.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

1978 Topps - Dock Ellis.

Dock Ellis, shown here on card 209 of the 1978 Topps set, was a man on the move in 1977. He started the season with the Yankees before being traded to the A's on April 27th. On June 15th the Rangers purchased his contract from Oakland. Ellis went 10-6 with a 2.90 ERA down the stretch. Texas was hoping for more of the same in 1978.

The 1978 season turned out to be a mixed bag for Dock. He made 22 starts and ended the season with a 9-7 record. In the course of 141.1 innings pitched Ellis compiled a 4.20 ERA and a 1.252 WHIP. The fact that he walked one more batter than he struck out indicated he was having control issues.

On the face of it, 1978 looked bad for Ellis. He had the fewest innings pitched and the highest ERA of any Rangers starter. It didn't start out that way. Up through the end of June he had a 7-3 record and things seemed to be going well. However, he struggled the last half of the season and lost a month due to a groin injury. After coming back in late August he wasn't the pitcher he appeared to be earlier in the season.

If Dock could have stayed healthy and on track through the whole 1978 season his numbers might have looked much better than they ended up being. The Rangers certainly hoped for a healthy Dock Ellis to help bolster the rotation in 1979. If he wanted to stay in Texas for any length of time Ellis needed to stay healthy and address the control issues that cropped up in 1978.

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.