Thursday, March 31, 2016


It's been a long time since I did any trading but over the past week I had two packages come in. The first was a nice lot of recent Rangers courtesy of a Facebook trade on a group for through the mail autograph collectors. I must admit I was a bit leery of the deal at first but it turned out great and filled quite a few holes in my collection.

The second package was from Matt over at Bob Walk the Plank. Matt always sends great stuff and this time was no exception. Included in the package was this 2007 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection game-used card featuring Mark "Money Man" Teixeira and a piece of one of his jerseys. Also in the lot were game-used cards of Rafael Palmeiro and Michael Young along with autographs of Marlon Byrd and Mitch Moreland. A very nice assortment that all hit wants in my game-used and autograph collection. Thanks Matt! I'm running low on Buccos but I'll see what I can cobble together for you in the near future.

Apparently I wasn't the only one trading. Texas GM Jon Daniels was busy as well. On Tuesday the Rangers traded catcher Bobby Wilson and minor league pitcher Myles Jaye to Detroit for backstop Bryan Holaday. Holaday is now slated to start the season as backup to Robinson Chirinos. That leaves Chris Gimenez looking at starting the season in the minors. Gimenez can refuse an assignment to the minors and become a free agent but Texas is hoping he won't and will clear waivers. As for Holaday, I don't know about his defense but he hit decently as a backup for the Tigers last season and looks to be an offensive upgrade.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Playing Pepper with the Cards.

Hey, check out C70 At The Bat if you have time. For the fourth year I have been honored by Daniel Shoptaw asking me to take part in his annual Playing Pepper series. Mr. Shoptaw normally writes about the St. Louis Cardinals but takes time each spring to look in on the other teams around the Majors. He asks renowned bloggers to weigh in on their teams and what they expect from the upcoming season. Fortunately Daniel decided to make an exception to his normally high standards for contributors and asked me to participate. Take a gander and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

1980 Topps - Dave Rajsich.

The thing that has always struck me about the picture on card 548 of the 1980 Topps set is Dave Rajsich's right arm. I have spaghetti arms but Dave's arm looks slender even to me.

The Rangers were looking forward to seeing what Rajsich could do with his new pitch, the forkball, in 1980. He had success with the pitch late in the 1979 season and ended the year strong. Texas was hoping Dave would play a big role in the bullpen in 1980.

Rajsich made 24 appearances for the Rangers in 1980, all but one out of the bullpen. The lefty tossed 48.1 innings and struggled to a 5.96 ERA (highest of any Texas reliever) and an 1.614 WHIP. He walked 22 but also struck out 35 opposing batters. Additionally, he hit three batsmen. Dave ended the season with a 1-2 record and two saves. A three game stint with the Triple A Charleston Charlies didn't go any better. Rajsich put up a 9.00 ERA and 2.250 WHIP over four innings.

Apparently the forkball did not work out during the 1980 season the way Dave Rajsich or the Rangers expected. That would earn Rajsich an assignment to Triple A Wichita in 1981. He would play at Triple A for several more seasons for Texas but never make it back to the Majors. The Rangers traded Dave to the Phillies in October of 1981. Philadelphia released him in March of 1982 and Texas picked him back up. Following the 1983 season Rajsich left the Rangers organization for good. He spent 1984 with the Hiroshima Carp of the the Nippon League. It was back to minor league ball in 1985. Bouncing around between St. Louis, Baltimore, and Kansas City, Dave lasted through the 1988 season before hanging up the spikes for good.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Senators Saturday - Senators Rookies, 1971.

Getting towards the end of my Senators collection. May have to put the Senators Saturdays on hold soon if I can't find more to post or add a few more to the collection. That's not a problem today though. Norm McRae and Denny Riddelberger are up today on card 93 of the 1971 Topps set. Let's take a look at how these "rookie stars" worked out for Washington.

Norm McRae came to Washington from the Tigers on October 9. 1970 as part of the ill-considered Denny McClain trade. McRae already had a little Major League experience, having had short stints with Detroit in 1969 and 1970. 1970 was the more impressive of the two: a 2.87 ERA over 31.1 innings of relief. Of course, his 1.628 WHIP and the fact that he walked 25 while striking out only 16 were areas of concern.

The Senators assigned Norm to Triple A Denver for the 1971 season and experimented with making him a starter. McCrae appeared in 34 games for the Bears and started 26 of them. All told he tossed 171 innings. He did manage to reverse the strikeout to walk issue - tallying 121 whiffs and issuing 82 free passes. Nothing about his 4.89 ERA, 1.667 WHIP or 6-13 record enticed the Senators to give him a try in Washington. In 1972 he would again be assigned to Denver, this time as a part of the Rangers farm system. That assignment wouldn't last long though. On May 30, 1972 the Rangers sent Norm back to Detroit in exchange for infielder Dalton Jones.

Denny Riddleberger came to the Senators in a August 31, 1970 trade that sent George Brunet and some cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Riddleberger had spent most of 1970 at Triple A but the Senators immediately brought him to Washington and he finished out the season with the club. In a limited sample (9.1 innings), Denny posted a tiny 0.96 ERA and 0.964 WHIP. That was enough to earn him a second look from the Senators. He would spend the entire 1971 season with Washington.

Riddleberger performed decently with Washington in 1971, appeared in 57 games in relief. Over 69.2 innings he put up a 3.23 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP. He walked 22 opposing batters but also struck out 34. Denny ended the season with a 3-1 record and one save. Riddleberger was showing some promise but the Senators wouldn't be around to develop it. The franchise was moving to Texas and Denny was moving as well. On December 2, 1971 the Rangers traded Riddleberger, Gary Jones, Terry Ley, and Del Unser to the Cleveland Indians for Ken Suarez, Roy Foster, Rich Hand, and Mike Paul.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Random Card and Thoughts.

Not much to report today. Only one through the mail return in this week. Rusty Greer though, so it made the week. Many thanks to the Red Baron for taking the time to sign and return a couple of cards that will fill holes in team sets I am working on getting signed.

Opening Day is creeping ever closer. The rosters keep contracting and Texas has announced that Cole Hamels will make the start when the Rangers open the season on April 4th. He'll be the seventh Opening Day starter for the Rangers in as many years. The results have been mixed. Hopefully Cole will do well against the Mariners. Seattle looks to potentially be a sleeper this season. It will be interesting to see how their recent moves work out.

Don't have any cards of Hamels yet. As such, I will leave you with this random Rangers game-used card for today. This particular card is a 2002 Fleer Box Score Amazing Greats jersey swatch card of Ranger great Ivan Rodriguez. Nothing better than a Pudge card to help pass the time until the season kicks off. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1980 Topps - Pat Putnam.

Pat Putnam appears here on card 22 of the 1980 Topps set. He would appear as the Rangers regular first baseman in 1980. Coming off a pretty good 1979 season, Putnam had reason to hope he would be able to nail down the starting first base gig. The Rangers were hoping he would as well.

Pat struggled a little against left-handed pitching and that cut into his playing time. He still appeared in 147 games for the Rangers in 1980, starting 102 of those games. Primarily appearing at first base, Putnam put in 956 innings over 137 games there. He committed nine errors to end the season with a .992 fielding percentage. That put him at exactly the league average for first basemen. Pat also had a one inning cameo at third base and one game he appeared in as the Rangers designated hitter.

Putnam made 454 trips to the plate and put up a .263 batting average, 14 points lower than the previous season. His .319 on-base percentage was the same as his rookie year. His 36 walks were 14 more than in 1979 and helped keep his on-base percentage the same. He also struck out 49 times, only one fewer than the previous season. Pat scored 42 runs while knocking in 55 RBI. He did see his power dip a bit as he hit 16 doubles (down by three), two triples (same), and 13 home runs (down by five).

With the exception of an average dip and a slight lessening of power, Pat Putnam appeared to have largely avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. His difficulties against left-handed hurlers were a matter of concern but he was still young and could end up adjusting there. The adjustment needed to happen in 1981 though, before it became a major issue.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Minor League Monday - Rob Brown, 1991 Line Drive.

Rob Brown, shown here on card 576 of the 1991 Line Drive set, was coming off a pretty impressive 1990 season with A+ Charlotte. As a reward for his efforts, he would find himself assigned to Double A Tulsa for the 1991 campaign.

Primarily a reliever, Brown appeared in 43 games for the Drillers in 1990. All but four of those appearances were out of the bullpen. Interestingly, Rob pitched a complete game in one of the starts he made. Brown's numbers were a mixed bag in the 117.2 innings he pitched. His ERA rose to 3.29 and his WHIP skyrocketed to 1.436. However, he still struck out more opposing batters than he walked - 86 whiffs compared to 39 free passes. He ended the season with four saves and a 7-6 record.

1991 hadn't been a terrible season for Rob Brown. He saw his ERA go up but that was to be expected with a promotion and things hadn't gotten too far out of hand. He also kept his strikeout to walk ratio looking pretty good and proved his versatility by pitching in several roles throughout the season. His WHIP was a matter of concern though. Brown was getting hit more often than he had the previous year, much more. It was something to keep an eye on. The Rangers decided to start Rob at Double A in 1992 and see what developed. If things went the way Brown was hoping, a ticket to Triple A Oklahoma City was a definite possibility.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Senators Saturday - Dick Such, 1971.

By the time Dick Such appeared on 1971 Topps card 283, his Major League playing career was over. The Senators drafted Such in the eighth round of the 1966 secondary draft. After some ups and downs in the minors, Dick made the 1970 Senators roster out of Spring Training. He made his Major League debut on April 6, 1970.

Serving both as a reliever and starter for the Senators, Such appeared in 21 games for Washington in 1970. Five of those appearances were starts. He pitched 50 innings and stumbled to a 7.56 ERA and 1.860 WHIP. The fact that his 45 walks outnumbered his 41 strikeouts didn't help. Dick's 1-5 record was probably an accurate reflection of his struggles. Following his appearance on July 17, 1970 the Senators sent him down to Triple A to finish out the season.

Although 1970 had been rough, even at Triple A, the Senators left Such with the Triple A Denver Bears for 1971. He appeared in 24 games for Denver, 11 of which were starts. Over the 78 innings he pitched he watched his ERA balloon to 6.12 while his WHIP came to an unsightly 1.731. Dick did manage to strike out more batters than he walked, 48 compared to 33, but it was a poor silver lining. He ended the season with a 5-5 record and a ticket to Single A Burlington.

In 1972 Such turned in a decent season with the Burlington Rangers. That earned him a promotion to the Double A Pittsfield Rangers. There the wheels came off again as his ERA was over 7.70. That spelled the end of the line for Dick as a player. The 1973 season would be his last on the mound.

Following his playing career, Dick Such moved into coaching. He made it back to the Majors as a member of the Rangers coaching staff from 1983-1985. After that it was 17 years with the Twins. Two of those teams made it to the World Series. More recently Dick has been passing on his knowledge to young players as a pitching coach in the minor leagues.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Doc saves the day.

Almost shut out on the autograph front this week. Former Rangers pitcher George "Doc" Medich swooped in on Monday to save the week with this signed 1978 Topps and an accompanying 1979 Topps that he also signed. I sent the cards to Dr. Medich on February 24th and he was kind enough to sign and return them. It was the sole return for me this week but both cards hit holes in my autographed team sets. Many thanks to Dr. Medich for his time.

Meanwhile in Surprise, Arizona the Rangers are continuing to get into shape for the upcoming 2016 season. I received a report last night from a friend who is down there. Apparently Joey Gallo is putting on some impressive power displays and Hanser Alberto looks very good on defense. With manager Jeff Banister considering a 13 man pitching staff, the competition for position player spots could intensify.

The club has made two rounds of cuts though so those left have been getting increased playing time. That will help in the final evaluations and the final decision on whether or not to trade a bench spot for an extra pitcher. Look for final decisions to be made soon with Opening Day only about two and half weeks away.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

1980 Topps - Al Oliver.

Al Oliver, shown here on card 260 of the 1980 Topps set, showed a little defensive slippage during the 1979 season and was moved from center to left field in 1980.

In his third season with Texas, Oliver played in 141 games as the Rangers starting left fielder and committed eight errors there over 1194.1 innings. That gave him a .974 fielding percentage, six points below the league average. Al was above league average during the 146.1 flawless innings over 16 games he played in right field. He also played four games as the Rangers designated hitter and made a one inning cameo appearance at first base. It was the first time Scoop had played first since the 1976 season.

As you might suspect from the defensive numbers, Oliver played in a lot of games for Texas in 1980. 163 games to be exact. That was the most of any player in the American League. In a team-leading 709 plate appearances Al put of a .319 batting average and a .357 on-base percentage. Both were slight drops from the previous season but still placed him firmly in the top ranks of the Rangers roster. He did see his strikeouts climb to 47. His walks also increased but could not keep pace, totaling to 39 for the season. Oliver hammered 43 doubles (a team best), three triples, and 19 home runs (tied for team best). He also scored 96 runs and knocked in a team high 117 RBI.

All in all, Al Oliver had a very good season for the Rangers in 1980 and proved his wrist injury in 1979 was no longer bothering him. The fact that he was second in the league in doubles, fourth in RBI, fourth in hits, and in the top ten in batting average earned Scoop attention outside Texas. He was named to the All-Star team, won a Silver Slugger award, and even got some MVP consideration. Rangers reporter T.R. Sullivan would also name Oliver's 1980 campaign as #15 on his list of all-time Rangers Best Seasons.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Minor League Monday - Barry Manuel, 1991 Line Drive.

1991 would be Barry Manuel's second stint with the Double A Tulsa Drillers. Manuel, shown here on card 586 of the 1991 Line Drive set, hadn't had a real positive experience in his previous appearance as a starter at Double A in 1989. The result was a return to Single A and the 1990 season being spent in a conversion from starter to reliever. Barry handled that task well enough to earn a return ticket to Tulsa for 1991.

Strictly a reliever, Manuel came out of the bullpen 56 times for the Drillers in 1991. Over 68.1 innings he put up a 3.29 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. Both were jumps up from the previous season with Charlotte. Barry also walked 34 but did manage to strike out 45 opposing batsmen. He earned 25 saves for his trouble but ended the season with a 2-7 record.

Apparently the Rangers were impressed with Manuel's progress as a reliever. They called him up when the rosters expanded in September and he made his Major League debut on September 6, 1991. Through the end of the season he appeared in 8 games for Texas and pitched a total of 16 innings. Using the opportunity, Barry posted an attention grabbing 1.12 ERA and 0.812 WHIP. He did walk six batters but used his five strikeouts to help get out of jams as well.

The Rangers liked what they saw from Barry Manuel in his brief Major League stint. While he wasn't ready for the big time yet, he had lots of promise. He would move to Triple A Oklahoma City to start off the 1992 campaign.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Senators Saturday - Ed Stroud, 1971.

Ed Stroud appears on card 217 of the 1971 Topps set looking as if he is shopping for a bat. Looks like this photo was probably taken during Spring Training. This would be Stroud's last card in a Senators uniform.

Coming off a rather mixed 1970 season, Ed Stroud appeared to be beginning a defensive decline. The Senators decided to move him. On March 29, 1971 the club traded him back to the White Sox, where Ed began his Major League career. In return Washington received Tom McCraw.

As for Ed, he would split the 1971 season between Chicago and Triple A Tucson. He batted under the Mendoza Line with the White Sox and over .300 with Tucson. At the end of the season he called it a career and hung up the spikes as a player.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Through the mail tales.

Had a great week of through the mail returns this past week. Nine autographs total from five former Rangers players and former Rangers manager Bobby Valentine. All of the returns filled holes in my ongoing quest to get complete Topps Rangers team sets signed

Bobby V graciously signed and returned this 1991 Topps card along with a 1989 Topps card. Also coming back home were signed cards from Danny Patterson, Bobby Witt, Ken Suarez, Cris Carpenter, and Bucky Dent. Many thanks to all these gentlemen for taking the time and sign and return my cards.

The fastest return came from Ken Suarez, I mailed out a 1972 Topps to him on March 3rd and it returned home on March 9th. Mr. Suarez also took the time to jot a quick thank you to me for writing him.

The longest return was Bucky Dent who took from January 20th to March 4th. I sent Mr. Dent two cards, a 1983 Topps and a 1984 Topps. Interestingly, he kept the 1984 Topps but signed and returned the 1983 Topps. Curious. Still, a return is a return and I'm not complaining.

On the really weird front was a return that was not really a return. Earlier in the year I sent former Ranger Dave Moates a request that came back return to sender. I checked the address I used and decided I wrote the city down wrong. On February 24th I sent a second request to what I believed was the correct address. On March 8th I received the request back marked "Return to sender". What I found strange was that the envelope had been opened, the contents taken out, rearranged, put back in, and the envelope taped shut before being sent back. Apparently Mr. Moates either did not like my letter, wants money to sign but does not want to say so, or is simply not signing these days. At least I got my card back I suppose.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

1980 Topps - Nelson Norman.

Nelson Norman appears to be preparing to accept a throw from the catcher in an attempt to catch a thieving Yankee on the front of card 518 of the 1980 Topps set. Kind of a unique shot, coming as it does from the first base angle.

Norman came to Texas as a throw in part of the trade that brought Al Oliver to Arlington in December of 1977. In 1979 he was the starting short stop for the Rangers. In 1980 he came out on the short end of the platoon stick as he lost out to Pepe Frias and Bud Harrelson.

After appearing in 17 games and making 34 plate appearances, Norman was hitting .219 with a .242 on-base percentage. He had zero power, with no extra base hits. He walked once, struck out once, and got caught stealing once.

All 17 of the games Nelson played in, he played at short stop. Over the 101.2 innings he played there he committed four errors for a .943 fielding percentage. That was twenty points lower than the league average.

Clearly things were not going Nelson Norman's way in 1980. The Rangers decided it would be best to send the 22-year-old back to Triple A for some more seasoning. They optioned him on May 7, 1980. Just over a month later, on June 14th, he suffered a hyperextended knee. The injury caused nerve damage and ended Norman's 1980 season.

While the injury was a major setback for Nelson, he still had a chance in the Texas ranks. Short stop was rapidly developing into a significant hole in the Texas roster. A young player still had a chance to overcome injury and seize the position, if he was quick enough on the mend.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Minor League Monday - Bobby Reed, 1991 Line Drive.

Pitcher Bobby Reed appears on card 591 of the 1991 Line drive set today. Reed was drafted by the White Sox in 1989 but didn't sign. The Rangers drafted him in the third round of the June, 1990 draft and that time he signed.

Texas started Bobby off at Single A and he turned in impressive performances there and at Double A Tulsa in 1990. Not wanting to rush the young talent, the Rangers left Reed at Double A for the 1991 season.

Primarily a starter, 11 of Bobby's 12 appearances for the Drillers were starts. Over the 67 innings he pitched he put up a decent 2.55 ERA (lower than his Double A stint the previous season) and an 1.254 WHIP (also lower than the year before). He struck out 33 opposing batters but still had some control issues, as attested to by his 22 walks. He ended the season at 4-4.

It seems to me that Bobby Reed had an abbreviated season in 1991. I would have expected to see more appearances and maybe even a mid-season promotion to Triple A. Instead he disappears for the entire 1992 season and resurfaces in 1993 at Single A Charlotte. At that point his numbers are not even comparable to those before the hiatus. That speaks to me of an injury, obviously a serious one. Unfortunately I can't find any information on what happened to make 1991 the high point of Bobby Reed's career.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Senators Saturday - Jim Shellenback, 1971.

Jim Shellenback looks like he is a bit unsure of the situation as he appears on 1971 Topps card 351. Of course, all of the Senators players were likely a little unsure of the situation during that final year in Washington as the winds of change began to build during the season.

Coming off a mediocre 1970 season, Shellenback was looking to either solidify his place in the Senators bull pen or break into the starting rotation. Unfortunately, he was unable to do either and continued in his role as long reliever/spot starter. He did manage to stay in the Majors all season though.

In the 40 games Jim appeared in for Washington in 1971 he pitched 120 innings. Those numbers were only a smidgen higher than the previous season. Shellenback managed to lower his ERA to 3.53 but his WHIP crept up to 1.433. The higher WHIP was probably partially due to his continued control struggles, Jim walked 49 opposing batsmen while striking out just 47. Surprisingly, he did toss a complete game shutout. That was probably a good thing for him - it accounted for one third of his wins as he ended the season 3-11.

Jim Shellenback did not have the break through season he needed in 1971. It was beginning to look like the lefty would be a career journeyman. Now the only thing to see was if the move to Texas would help or hurt his efforts.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Random GU and Recent Signing.

Only one return this past week from my through the mail requests. Former Rangers backstop Mike Stanley signed and returned two cards to fill two holes in team sets I am working on getting signed. I really appreciate Mr. Stanley taking the time to sign and return the cards, I just haven't had the time to get them scanned in for this post.

Since I haven't scanned the latest through the mail returns, I decided to post a game-used card today. Been awhile since a certified autograph or game-used card made an appearance. The random selection from the game-used box today is this 2005 Bowman Sterling card of former Ranger Hank Blalock. The card is number BS-HB in the set and features a bit of one of Hank's bats embedded in it.

Speaking of bats, the Rangers brought a new bat on board on Monday. The club inked former Washington National Ian Desmond to a one-year deal. Desmond has played almost exclusively at short stop during his Major League career but he agreed to move to left field prior to signing with Texas. The signing is projected to give the Rangers a bit more power in the lower half of the batting order. Jon Daniels said he expects Desmond to play left field for the entire season, not just until may when Josh Hamilton is supposed to be back. That presents an interesting situation. It is possible that Desmond will play the first part of the year in left field, then occasionally be spelled by Hamilton and in turn, spell Elvis Andrus at short after Hamilton returns from the disabled list. Unless the Rangers are concerned Josh might not be back at all this season. Either way, the signing gives Texas some depth and options. Should be very interesting to see how it works out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

1980 Topps - Willie Montanez.

It is fitting that Willie Montanez appears on card 224 of the 1980 Topps card 224 with no identifiable uniform on. His time with Texas was so short he almost didn't need a uniform.

Montanez arrived in Texas on August 12, 1979 as the result of a trade with the New York Mets. The Rangers agreed to send New York two players to be named later. Ed Lynch and Mike Jorgensen ended up being those players but neither went to the Mets until after the end of the season.

In the last part of the 1979 season Willie appeared in 38 games for the Rangers. He posted a nice .319 batting average in 154 trips to the plate. His .357 on-base percentage seems a bit at odds with the fact that he struck out 14 times and only worked eight walks. Montanez had limited power: six doubles, no triples, and eight home runs. He put of a .995 fielding percentage with only one error in 170 innings at first base.

Apparently Willie's performance with the Rangers in the latter part of 1979 made him a desirable commodity. On February 15, 1980 Texas traded Montanez to the San Diego Padres. In return the Rangers got Joe Carroll, Tucker Ashford, and Gaylord Perry. Willie Montanez's cameo as a Texas Ranger was over.