Thursday, July 30, 2015


Well, I was saving card 83 from the 2013 Topps Heritage Minor League set for the day Jorge Alfaro earned his spot as the Rangers starting catcher. That's not going to happen now it seems. The Rangers have pulled off their biggest trade since bringing in Cliff Lee in 2010. and the sports radio shows are aflame with the news that the Rangers and Phillies have agreed to a huge trade. Texas will be sending Alfaro, minor league outfielder Nick Williams, minor league pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff, and current Major League starter Matt Harrison to Philadelphia. In return the Phils are sending pitchers Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman, and some cash, to Texas.

This is a big trade for both teams. The Rangers are giving up some of their top prospects and the Phillies are handing over their ace who is still under contract for at least three more seasons. There are some options that might give Hamels' contract another year. Apparently the Phils are going into full rebuilding mode while the Rangers have served notice that they will be a contender starting in 2016.

What to think? The Rangers gave up a lot from the minor league system. Alfaro was supposed to be the backstop of the future and Williams is projected to be a decent center fielder. Thompson came over in the Soria trade with Detroit and has a high ceiling. I don't know a lot about Asher and Eickhoff but I think both were regarded as potential Major Leaguers. Matt Harrison is a known quantity, a gritty competitor with an inspiring comeback story. Hamels is a 32-year-old National League pitcher. NL pitchers generally struggle in the American League. Diekman is a middle reliever carrying a 5.15 ERA this year. Not pretty.

On the other hand, General Manager Jon Daniels has drafted well and the farm is pretty deep. Prospects are always a gamble (see: Profar, Jurickson) and there is no guarantee any of the minor-leaguers involved in the trade with make the Majors. Matt Harrison has battled back from his spinal fusion surgery but has yet to regain his pre-injury form and might not have a lot left in the tank. Cole Hamels is an established ace, used to carrying the title. He is left-handed and lefties tend to pitch later than right-handers. A 2016 rotation consisting of Hamels, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Nick Martinez, Martin Perez, and possibly Colby Lewis or Chi-Chi Gonzalez looks very promising. Diekman is also left-handed and might be someone pitching coach Mike Maddux can work with.

There are also two more days left before the trade deadline and Texas is shopping Yovani Gallardo. He is a free agent at the end of the season and so won't bring in the prospects Hamels took out but the Rangers could get one or two for him. They could also hold on to him until the end of the season, make a qualifying offer, and take the extra draft pick when he goes somewhere else.

All in all I think this deal makes sense. Not for this year but for 2016 and beyond. As things stand, the Rangers have their rotation set for the immediate future. If they can get the offense solidified, they will be a force in the American League West for several years. As with the Cliff Lee trade, if Cole Hamels helps the club get to one World Series, the trade will be an overwhelming success.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

1979 Topps - Jim Sundberg.

Jim Sundberg, shown here on card 120 of the 1979 Topps set, had firmly established himself as the Rangers starting catcher by the start of the 1979 season. 1978 had been another excellent year for Sunny and Texas was expecting more of the same. They would not be disappointed.

Jim's offensive numbers took a slight dip as his batting average fell to .275 over 561 plate appearances. He lowered his strikeout total to 51 and, strangely, also worked 51 walks. Both were drops from the previous season and he watched his on-base percentage lower to .345. Some of Sunny's offensive drops could be attributed to a slow first part of the season. After the first 42 games he was carrying a .194 batting average. He warmed up through the last two thirds of the season and hit .308 after May 26th. Sundberg's power specialty was doubles, he hit 23 of them to go with his four triples and five home runs. Amazingly, he tied for first in triples on the club, the second year in a row he led the team in that offensive category.

Of course, Sunny was best known for his defensive capabilities. He did not disappoint either. Jim caught in all 150 games he appeared in for Texas. That led the league in games played at catcher. He might have had even more games played had he not missed four games after being beaned by the Angels Don Aase on June 26th. Jim wasn't just an iron man though. Over the 1271 innings he caught, Sundberg posted a league best .995 fielding percentage. That was 13 points higher than the league average for receivers. He also led the league in put outs at catcher with 754. As always, opposing runners found it hazardous to run on Texas. Sunny gunned down 41% of would-be base thieves, well above the league average 36%.

The Rangers had to be happy with Jim Sundberg's 1979 season. He could use some improvement on the offensive side of things but his numbers were not in the red zone. He had established himself as perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game and was extremely durable. 1979 would see him win his fourth consecutive Gold Glove. As John Ellis well knew, being a backup catcher in Texas was a tough gig. The Rangers had no worries behind the plate for the immediate future.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Minor League Monday - Ron Washington, 1990 CMC.

The thing about flipping through old minor league cards is you never know when you'll come across a familiar face. Ron Washington, shown here on card 165 of the 1990 CMC set, is well-known to Rangers fans as the manager who finally got the team into the World Series.

The Rangers in the World Series was still 20 years distant in 1990 and Ron Washington had been granted free agency after a cup of coffee with the Houston Astros in 1989. The Rangers signed him to a minor league contract, probably with the idea he could mentor younger players. Wash's career as a middle infielder with the Twins was in the rear view mirror and he was not impressive in 1989 with Houston.

Ron played in 101 games total for Oklahoma City in 1990 and made 364 trips to the plate. His bat was failing him as he walked just five times and struck out 60 times en route to a .238 batting average and a .248 on-base percentage. He did hit 15 doubles, six triples, and a home run.

The designation of infield on the front of Washington's card is very appropriate. During the course of the season he made 50 appearances at short stop, 19 at second base, 13 at third base, ten at first base, two as catcher, and even pitched in three games. It was Ron's first experience pitching in his pro career. Over the three innings he pitched Washington tallied a 6.00 ERA and a 2.667 WHIP. He didn't get a decision but did manage to strike out one batter.

1990 was about what was to be expected at the tail end of Ron Washington's career. He had never been a star player but he was a smart one. Smart enough to know this was the end of the line on the field. Wash hung up the spikes after the end of the 1990 season. By the start of the 1991 campaign he was embarked on the second half of his career, joining the coaching staff for the Tidewater Tides in the Mets farm system.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Are they or aren't they?

The Rangers are currently riding a three game win streak and knocked off the Angels last night in Anaheim. That helps Texas keep the best road record in baseball. Can't say I was upset to see the guys ride into the Big A and beat the Halos.

Josh Hamilton led the offensive charge in his first return to Anaheim since rejoining the Rangers. Hamilton served as the rally sparker, going 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored. That accounted for half the Rangers scoring. One Hamilton run was on an excellent squeeze bunt laid down by Robinson Chirinos. The other was on a Shin-Soo Choo double.

Meanwhile Keone Kela struck out Albert Pujols to end the eighth inning with the tying run on base. Shawn Tolleson tossed a scoreless ninth to finish up the game.

The true star of the night though was starting pitcher Colby Lewis, shown here on card 87 of the 2011 Allen and Ginter set. Colby has been the Rangers big game guy in the past and he brought his A game to the Big A. Over 7.2 innings Lewis allowed just five hits and one walk while striking out nine. The Angels scored just two runs on him as the win moves Lewis' record to 10-4. It was a head-turning performance to be sure. That leads to the dilemma.

The Rangers win drops the Halos into a tie with the Astros for first place but only brings Texas to 7.5 games back. Of course, they're ahead of Seattle and Oakland and could conceivably still make a run. The chances of such a run seem to be very hard to gauge with this team. Jon Daniels is to the point in the season of deciding if he is going to buy or sell. If the guys take this series from the Angels will that mean they could stay in the mix? If so, are they strong enough to go all in? Colby Lewis thinks they are still a contender. He said so when asked if his performance last night might get other teams to call about him. Of course, he's going to be optimistic, players always are. It appears Colby Lewis might have just won another big game for Texas. What that game means remains to be seen.

If the decision is to sell then the question becomes, how much? With the young guys the Rangers have, and if Darvish, Holland, and Harrison are healthy next year, contention in 2016 is a real possibility. If JD decides to sell, he might also be buying for next year. With his age and contract status, Lewis could well be on the block if the Rangers decide they won't be needing him for any big games.

The Texas front office has some tough decisions to be making in the next few days and it's impossible to predict the course they will choose. You can read and hear pundits on both sides of the issue and all of them seem to be absolutely certain they are right. The fans are equally divided. I don't expect a full-blown fire sale but anything beyond that is possible. One thing's for certain, no matter what decision is made, somebody's going to be unhappy about it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Harrison's back.

Well, it's been a couple of good days for the Rangers as they won the last two games they played in Colorado.

On Tuesday Shin-Soo Choo hit for the cycle and Delino DeShields got his first four hit game as Texas hammered the Rockies 9-0. Choo completed his cycle with a triple in his last at-bat. Hopefully that feat will help him get his confidence back and get back in stride offensively.

The star of the night though was undoubtedly starting pitcher Matt Harrison. Harrison, shown here on a signed 2012 Panini Prizm card, pitched six scoreless innings to get the win. It was his first win since May of 2014. It also marked the first time a Major League pitcher has won a game following spinal fusion surgery. Very good news and encouraging to the Rangers and Matt. By all indications he should be able to continue his comeback.

Yesterday the guys had a little more trouble but won a see-saw battle with a 10-8 final score. Rougned Odor finished a double shy of the cycle but walked to lead off the ninth. That helped set up Elvis Andrus' two run single to win the game. Good to see both of those guys contributing offensively.

The second win gets Texas to 45-49 on the season, nine games behind the Angels. Going into a series in Anaheim the team has a chance to make up some ground. This could be a crucial series.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

1979 Topps - Al Oliver.

The Rangers got Al Oliver, shown here on card 391 of the 1979 Topps set, in the December, 1977 four team trade that also brought in Jon Matlack and Nelson Norman. "Scoop" had reputation as a fine defensive player who could knock the ball with the best of them. The Rangers were not disappointed with his 1978 effort. Al batted .324 with a .358 on-base percentage and a .490 slugging percentage. Apparently he was just as advertised. The Rangers would be happy if he could maintain that performance in 1979.

Oliver appeared in 136 games for Texas in 1979. He lost three weeks of playing time when he sprained his left wrist diving for a line drive on June 15th. The injury did not fully heal and bothered him for the rest of the season.

In 538 trips to the plate Scoop posted a .323 batting average, highest on the team and fifth best in the American League. He improved his on-base percentage to a team best .367 and led the club in slugging percentage at .470. Amazingly he did that without his 12 home runs, four triples, or 28 doubles leading the team. You would think with the power would come a tendency to strike out. Not so. Al whiffed 34 times but he also worked 34 walks. Not bad for a hitter with power.

On defense, Oliver played in 71 games in center field. He committed six errors over 588.2 innings and put up a .965 fielding percentage. That was 18 points below the league average and the worst fielding percentage he compiled in center field since 1973. Al also played in 49 games in left field. He put in 399.2 innings there and committed just one error to end the season with a .990 fielding percentage. That was ten points above the league average. Texas also used Oliver as the designated hitter in ten games.

The Rangers were pleased as punch with Oliver's offensive performance in 1979. His defensive numbers in center field were concerning though. Moving him to left would be the solution in 1980 but it was a situation to keep an eye on. Scoop would be 33 years old in 1980 and a resurgence of his defensive abilities was not to be expected. He could still hit though and that alone assured him of a spot in the Rangers outfield.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Minor League Monday - Steve Lankard, 1990 CMC.

The Rangers drafted Steve Lankard, shown here on 1990 CMC card 152, in the 20th round of the 1985 draft. Players taken that late in the draft tend to not have high expectations attached to them.

Lankard started his pro career in 1985 with the Rookie League Gulf Coast Rangers. His 1.19 ERA over 37.2 innings was good enough to get him promoted to Single A the same season. In three games and 16 innings with the Burlington Rangers Steve crafted a 0.56 ERA.

1986 was a lot bumpier for Lankard. He watched his ERA balloon to 5.12 over 114.1 innings with the Single A Salem Redbirds. In 1987 he tossed 88.2 innings for the Single A Port Charlotte Rangers and lowered his ERA to 2.44. That was good enough for a ticket to Double A for the following season.

Steve spent 1988 with the Tulsa Drillers and put together a 3.78 ERA over 69 innings. He would start the 1989 season with the Drillers and toss 66.1 innings while putting up a 3.12 ERA. That got him moved mid-season to Triple A Oklahoma City. Things again got rough as he finished the season with a 7.41 ERA over 17 innings for the 89ers.

Lankard spent the entire 1990 season, such as it was, with OKC. Coming out of the bullpen, he appeared in just 12 games and lasted only 26.1 innings. He posted a 5.13 ERA and a 1.557 WHIP. He did strike out 18 opposing batters but he also walked seven.

I don't know if Steve suffered an injury, if the Rangers cut him, or if he just decided that at 27 years old there wasn't much of a chance of him getting to the Majors. Whatever the case, 1990 was Lankard's last as a professional ballplayer.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Senators Saturday - George Brunet, 1970.

George Brunet spent the 1969 season with the Pilots during the one season the team had there before Bud Selig moved them to Milwaukee and renamed them as the Brewers. Brunet, shown here on card 328 of the 1970 Topps set, would never take the field as a member of the Brewers. On December 4, 1969 Milwaukee sent him to Washington in return for pitcher Dave Baldwin. Both teams were essentially taking a flyer on the player they were getting in the trade.

George appeared in 24 games for the Senators in 1970, 20 of those appearances were starts. The lone lefty in the rotation, he pitched a total of 118 innings and tallied an unsightly 4.42 ERA and 1.458 WHIP. That was the highest WHIP and second highest ERA in the starting rotation coupled with the lowest number of innings pitched. Brunet struck out just 67 opposing batters while walking 48. He got lucky though and his numbers translated into a 8-6 record. Strangely enough, that tied him for winning percentage with ace Dick Bosman at the top of the rotation.

Apparently the Senators decided they had seen enough and it was time to take another shot at a solution for the back end of the rotation. On August 31, 1970 Washington sent George Brunet to Pittsburgh. In return the Pirates shipped left-hander Denny Riddleberger to the Senators.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

AS break doldrums.

You know, some years the All-Star game is something I find intensely interesting. Other years, not so much. The Rangers being in contention or not doesn't seem to have much to do with it. This year was an off year. I voted and tried to get the anticipation going but just couldn't do it. Didn't even listen to the game, just looked up the score the next day. I'm ready for the regular season to resume.

Decided to post this 1996 Leaf Signature Series autograph card of Roger Pavlik today. As I said last week, this is a great set. About the only thing I would change might be the location of the logo, everything else is perfect. Of course, you can't beat an on-card autograph either. Not sure who all I am missing from the set but this is one of the few autograph sets I am actively trying to get the entire Rangers team set of. Let me know if you have any and I'll see if I need them. Maybe we can work a trade.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

1979 Topps - George Medich.

In 1979 Doc Medich, appearing here on 1979 Topps card 657, was looking to build on his 1978 season and possibly improve his standing in the Rangers rotation. The results of his 1979 campaign were mixed at best.

Medich started the season off rough by losing his spot in the rotation during Spring Training. By June 20th he had appeared in just nine games. All as a reliever. If that wasn't bad enough for a pitcher who was used to starting most of the games he appeared in, he was carrying an 0-3 record and an 8.27 ERA. Needless to say, his chances of getting back into the rotation seemed slim. However, an injured Jon Matlack helped stretch the starting staff thin. On June 24th the team played a double-header against Oakland and there was nobody available to start the second game. In desperation, manager Pat Corrales gave Doc his first start of the season. The result was seven innings of shutout ball and a 7-2 win.

From that point on, George's season seemed to get on track. Medich went 10-4 with a 3.45 ERA over the remainder of the season as he returned to the starting rotation. That helped his season numbers some but the first part of the year still pulled them in the wrong direction.

All told, Medich appeared in 29 games for Texas in 1979 and made 19 starts. Over 149 innings pitched he tallied a 4.17 ERA and an 1.376 WHIP. He struck out 58 opposing batters but obviously struggled at times as he walked 49. In spite of his 0-3 start, he would end the season with a 10-7 record.

Apparently Doc Medich was better starting ballgames than he was out of the bullpen. Strictly viewed from a starting standpoint, his 1979 season was the improvement he wanted. The first part of the season couldn't be written off though and it was concerning. Texas would be taking a close look at Medich as he went into 1980. He would likely stay in the rotation but needed to show that the second half of 1979 was not a fluke.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Minor League Monday - Steve Smith, 1990 CMC.

89ers manager Steve Smith appears on card 171 of the 1990 CMC set today. Steve's looking a bit unimpressed with the prospect of having his picture taken for a baseball card.

1990 was Smith's first year with the Rangers organization. In 1976 he was drafted by the San Diego Padres. He played in their system through the 1982 season, never getting above Triple A. The Padres must have seen something they liked though. In 1983 Smith started his managerial career with the Padres Single A affiliate. He put in three seasons at Single A, two at Double A, and two more at Triple A.

After 14 seasons in the San Diego system, Smith took the job as the manager for Oklahoma City for the 1990 season. He would lead the team to a 58-87 record. Apparently that wasn't what somebody was looking for. I'm not sure if the change was the Rangers idea, or Smith's, but he was gone after just one season.

1991 found Steve managing the Mariners High A club. He didn't manage in 1992 and 1993. In 1994 he again took the reins, this time with Seattle's Triple A affiliate. He was there for two seasons before dropping off the radar again. A season with the Brewers Triple A club in 2000 rounded out his managerial career.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Senators Saturday - Dick Bosman, 1970.

Dick Bosman, shown here on card 175 of the 1970 Topps set, was looking to build on a great 1969 season. Bosman's control had been great in 1969 as he led the league in ERA. The Senators expected some great things from him in 1970.

Dick would spend the entire 1970 season with Washington and appear in 36 games. 34 of those appearances were starts - a team high. Over a team high 230.2 innings pitched, Bosman compiled a rotation best 3.00 ERA and 1.227 WHIP. That ERA was also good for sixth best in the American League. Dick's 134 strikeouts were second best on the team and he stayed in the black as he walked just 71 unintentionally. He also tossed three shutouts to lead the club in that category as well. Those numbers led to Bosman ending the season with a 16-12 record. The most wins on the team and tied for the highest winning percentage in the starting rotation. Not an easy feat considering the lack of run support he received.

As a side note, Dick was a pretty smooth fielder as well. He led the American League for fielding percentage among pitchers with a 1.000 fielding percentage for the year.

All in all the Washington Senators had to be pretty happy with Dick Bosman's performance in 1970. He had seen his numbers slide up a bit over his 1969 effort but it was still a nice season. Bosman seemed to be settling into the role of staff ace for Washington and was one of the few bright spots on the team. He had a lot to build on going into 1971 and, once again, the Senators were expecting good things from him.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I got nothin'.

I got nothing. It's been a long week of Rangers losses and a sinus infection while working nights. Not much to comment on in those areas.

Going to leave you with this 1996 Leaf Signature Series autograph of former Ranger Damon Buford. This is a great set with the on-card autographs.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Trying again.

Well, my attempt last week to improve the Rangers' luck worked only so-so. It didn't help the team get over the hump against Sonny Gray or avoid a series sweep by the A's. Going to try again this week with another Texas fan favorite and see if we can get the boys going.

Rusty Greer played the game hard and spent his entire career with the Rangers. I sent this 2000 MLB Showdown 1st Edition card to him long after his career was over. The card went out on May 5, 2009 with a short note asking Mr Greer to sign it. He did so and it ended up back in my mailbox on July 29, 2009. Not too bad of a turn around for a guy who's probably swamped with autograph requests.

Hopefully the Red Baron will bring the Rangers some luck as they finish up their series in Baltimore and head home to face the Angels and Diamondbacks. Some luck and a hot streak would be just what the team needs to get their feet back under them.