Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Season minus five days.

Lots of decisions still needing to be made in the remaining few days of Spring Training. With the exception of Andruw Jones, most of them involve the bullpen. Management is also continuing to talk to Josh Hamilton about a multi-year deal.

So far Jimmy Gobble has been released and three of the other bullpen contestants are down with injuries. Right now Jason Jennings is looking at a possible 'pen assignment and Scott Feldman is unsure on where he'll be. He looks to be on the roster but his role is not yet determined.

With all the management maneuvering I decided to post Tom Grieve's 1972 Topps card, number 609 in the set. It is somewhat puzzling exactly where the picture on this card came from. Tom played for the Senators in 1970 but spent the entire 1971 season in the minors before making the team with Texas in 1972. Surely in 1970 the photographer didn't think that the team would be moving two years later and he would need a picture that didn't show the team logo.

This card shows a young Tom during his playing days. I remember an older Tom serving as General Manager of the Rangers and later as a broadcaster for the team. He received a bit of attention as well as Ben Grieve's father. Both were taken in the first round of their respective drafts.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Season minus six days.

With Opening Day less than a week off the Rangers are trying to get the final kinks out and everything lined up for the start of the season. Looks like President George W. Bush will be throwing out the first pitch.

Josh Rupe, seen here on card number 90 of the 2006 Upper Deck Artifacts set, is hoping to throw some pitches himself this season. Rupe is facing off with Derrick Turnbow for a spot in the bullpen and appears to have the inside track. Josh can't take anything for granted though. He is out of options so this is do or die time.

The Rangers are also still pondering what to do with pitchers Scott Feldman, Jason Jennings, and Kris Benson. Who to use in the bullpen (if any of them), who is the fifth starter, and who should start the season in Triple A. If Frank Rodriguez is to remain the closer is also in consideration. It looks like he probably will.

Possibly the biggest question left is what to do about the Frank Catalanotto and Andruw Jones face-off. I tend to lean towards Cat due to his pinch-hitting average and the fact that he can play a little infield should the need arise. Jones has been doing better this spring but just hasn't been able to catch fire. If he would accept an assignment to Triple A (not likely) a mid-season promotion might be a possibility.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Sorry about the lack of posting yesterday. Two things conspired to prevent it. First was the fact that I am working third shift at work. That means less time during the day to post. The second thing was this 2001 MLB Showdown card of Frank Catalanotto, number 434 in the set. Well, this card and about a thousand others.

Mrs. Spiff and I had recently purchased a thousand card MLB Showdown lot on Ebay and it arrived the day before yesterday. As a result we have spent the last two days dividing, sorting, and trading. While Mrs. Spiff doesn't really collect cards, she does play the game. I play as well (with my duplicate Rangers) and so do my Dad and brother. Fun way to spend some time with the family but very distracting as far as regular blog posting goes.

While I was adding Cat's card to my collection, he was still in limbo with the Rangers. No word yet as to his Opening Day status. Adam Melhuse has been told that he won't be on the Major League roster on Opening Day, he's looking for offers from other teams but will hang it up if he doesn't get any. Looks like Dustin Nippert may be headed to the DL with back problems. Scott Feldman's role is still undecided, starter or bullpen? Lots of decisions still to be made before the season kicks off.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nailing down The Hammer.

Not much news today from down Texas way. Tom Hicks is looking to sell some of his stake in the Rangers if anyone is interested. Chris Davis hit a late inning grand slam yesterday to finish off the Diamondbacks.

Perhaps the most interesting item concerns Josh Hamilton. Word is that the Rangers have made Hamilton, seen here on a 2008 Upper Deck card he signed for me last August in Kansas City, a contract extension offer. No details are available but he and his agent didn't care for the initial offer. Negotiations have begun.

It appears that the club is trying to lock Josh in long-term, much as they did with Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. It has worked out well in those two situations and would appear to be a wise course of action in this one as well. Early contracts help keep the nucleus of the team together and keep those teams with deeper pockets at bay.

Hopefully the two sides can reach a mutually beneficial agreement that keeps Hamilton in Arlington for a long while. Josh is a fan favorite and seems to be a genuinely nice guy. I got the feeling, while reading his book, that he has concerns about how long his body will hold up. He loves the game and enjoys playing it. He also has concerns about caring for his family. If those impressions are accurate, he should be more than open to the right long-term offer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whatever Happened to Jeff Moronko?

With not a whole lot going on today it seems to be a good time to play Whatever Happened to that Guy? Today's contestant is Jeff Moronko.

Jeff appears today on his 1986 ProCards OKC Eighty Niners team set card. These cards were sold as a team set and have no numbers on them. Jeff's position is listed simply as "infield" on this card.

A quick check shows that the Rangers obtained Jeff in a trade with the Cleveland Indians in 1985. Moronko was the infamous player to be named later in that particular trade.

Prior to that Jeff had been drafted by the Indians in the 6th round of the 1980 draft. Four years later he appeared in seven games for the Tribe. He hit .158 and was sent back to Double A to finish out the 1984 season. The next spring he was shipped off to the Rangers.

In two seasons with Texas, Jeff managed to get as high as Triple A. That's where we see him here. After posting a .280 average in 1986, he was granted free agency. I couldn't locate any fielding stats for him from that year.

In November of 1986 he signed with The Evil Empire (Yankees). He made a brief appearance with the Yankees in 1987, lasting seven games and posting a dismal .091 batting average. Jeff actually played some outfield with the Yankees. After playing 54 games in 1988 in the minors, Jeff disappears for good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tossing pitchers.

The Rangers cut two pitchers today. Brian Gordon was reassigned to minor league camp. Luis Mendoza, seen here on card number 153 of the 2008 Topps set, was optioned to triple A.

Medoza had some blister and control problems that kept him from cracking the rotation while Gordon had failed to impress. These moves leave the team with 21 active pitchers still in camp. I think the target to start the season is twelve. Lots of cutting left to do.

Speaking of pitchers, the recently signed Jimmy Gobble is still in camp. Apparently the Rangers decided to sign him since they could use some depth in left-handed relievers. Any Royals fans out there who can comment on Gobble?

Michael Young played one inning yesterday before leaving the game after aggravating a tight muscle. Ron Washington is saying that Mike is day to day and there is nothing to worry about. That's reassuring, starting the season without Young would be a drag.

Andruw Jones didn't take his free agency on Monday. Apparently he is still hoping to make the team as a fifth outfielder/DH. That would make Frank Cattalanotto the odd man out. With Cat's high pinch-hitting average, I would be sad to see him go.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Decided to change format a little today and only post one Pudge card. Today we see Ivan on his 1996 Circa card, number 92.

I always liked these cards, even though they never really caught on. Probably it was the small blurbs about each player that appeared on the front on the cards. This one has a quote from Sports Illustrated saying the Rodriguez had the "best arm in baseball."

That statement is true. That's what caught my attention and drew me into collecting Ivan. His defense. His bat was pretty impressive and the speed was unusual for a catcher but it was his glove that seemed to gleam. Like a beacon it helped draw me back to following the game after the strikes of the mid-90's. Pudge was good, very good behind the plate.

When the steroids scandals started breaking I was horrified as one icon after another fell. I felt somewhat worried that perhaps Ivan might be among the guilty. There was no proof though. A mention in a book written by a bitter celebrity boxer didn't count as proof in my mind. The Mitchell report came out with no mention of Pudge. I was elated. Perhaps he had been clean. Maybe the man who gunned down Rickey Henderson with room to spare did it naturally. I relaxed a bit.

Then came the Alex Rodriguez tremor. Following that, AP did an interview with Pudge. Ivan, eager to sign with a team for 2009, answered every question. All except for one. The reporter asked him if his name was on the list with Alex's. He answered "Only God knows." What? Why no denial? Maybe because he just didn't want to seem guilty. Perhaps because he did fail. God isn't the only one who knows, so does Pudge.

Now I am at a crossroads. I don't condone cheating. I teach my son that cheating is wrong and that honesty is the only way. I just saw a co-worker lose a job that pays much less than Ivan's, for doing both. I currently have 1,447 different Rodriguez cards along with numerous figurines, posters, magazine covers, a book cover, and assorted other paraphernalia. The collection has taken much time, money, and effort to compile. My four year old son likes to wear his hat backwards "to be like Pudge."

I feel like Ivan looks on today's card. I just popped out to end the game with the bases loaded. I can't back up but I hesitate to continue to promote a possible cheater by my actions. With a heavy heart I am suspending my pursuit of Ivan Rodriguez cards. This is a suspension, not a complete abandonment. I will continue to keep lists and will trade for those I need that are offered. I will not buy any more unless I need them for my Rangers team sets. I'll leave it at that until one of two things happen; either Ivan clearly and convincingly denies PED use or I see proof that he used. One will free me up to continue my collection, the other will force me to make a hard decision.

Come on Pudge, help a guy out here. Did you use any sort of performance enhancing drugs?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cruz locks it down.

Nelson Cruz, seen here on card number 1199 of the 2006 Upper Deck set, will be the Rangers right fielder on Opening Day.

Ron Washington announced yesterday that Cruz had nailed down the starting slot. He will join Josh Hamilton and David Murphy in the outfield. Marlon Byrd looks to be the fourth outfielder.

This move seals the deal for Andruw Jones. He has to either accept a triple A assignment or hit the road. Unseating Cruz was his best chance of being in a Major League uniform on Opening Day; the contest was never even close.

Beating Cruz out would have been a tall order anyway. This spring Nelson is hitting .333 with three home runs and eleven RBI. That's with time away to participate in the World Baseball Classic.

Welcome to the starter's job Nelson, here's to hoping that your bat doesn't cool down as the summer warms up.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Headbanging Hank.

It's probably a violation of some sort of blogger code to feature cards of the same player two posts in a row. I'm doing it anyway with this 2003 Fleer Tradition Update #U216 that pictures Hank Blalock. This card came in yesterday as part of a surprise package from John at The Pursuit of 80's(ness). John and I didn't have a trade scheduled but he is a generous guy and sent me 36 or so Rangers cards in hopes I could use some of them. I had places reserved for this card and 12 others. That's a batting average that will get you called up with most clubs. Thanks John! Due to your generosity my day was better than Hank's.

In his first game at third base this spring, Blalock didn't do well. A first inning error was bad enough. Leaving the game in the fifth inning after bashing his head on a bench in the A's dugout while misplaying a pop foul was downright humiliating. Hank leaned over the railing too far and flipped completely upside down. His sunglasses gashed his face up and he got a black eye thrown in for free. Ugh. Hopefully Hank gets healed up quick.

Hank was playing third to get ready in case Michael Young needs a breather during the season. Mike spent his day with a young fan suffering from brain cancer. Carson Leslie and his family were guests of Michael and the Rangers on Thursday. Carson spent the game in the dugout with Young. From this article on MLB.com it seems like Young was doing this for more than just the positive publicity. Makes me extra glad the Rangers didn't lose him this last off season.

Speaking of losing players, Andruw Jones appears to be on his way out. While he has improved this spring, he hasn't been able to catch the Rangers current outfielders. Sounds like Monday is the deadline. He can opt to leave or take a minor league assignment. I am guessing he'll jet.

Congratulations to team USA in getting to the final four of the World Baseball Classic. Same to Pudge and the Astros for finalizing their deal. Ivan is to report to the club by Sunday. At least he's back in the National League and so not a worry for the Rangers.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Don't Know is on third.

So now the Rangers have some utility infield issues. Apparently Omar Vizquel doesn't have the arm strength to play third base. Michael Young plays a lot of games each year but will probably need a break on occasion. Now what?

It seems like Hank Blalock, seem here on card number PT-16 of the 2005 Donruss Elite Passing the Torch set, might be the answer. Hank is starting at third today against the A's. The idea is to give him some playing time at third before the season starts so he can spell Young when needed. Apparently after passing the torch to Young, Blalock will be on hand to carry it on occasion if needed.

It is nice to see Blalock back in the field and I have always believed that the DH should not be a position, just an assignment. Having said that, I am a little leery of this plan of action. Does anyone remember why Hank is now the DH? Yes, his shoulder gave out and he couldn't play third anymore. Now the plan is to have him play once in awhile? If he tears something up the team will be without a backup third baseman and will lose his bat at DH. Ouch!

I have no problem with Vizquel but I wasn't wild about his signing because he had never played third. I know the intangibles are worth something but are they worth an arm and a leg? How about just Blalock's arm?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Real quick.

No picture today, sorry. Have house guests through Thursday so time is limited. Not much going on right now with the exception of Pudge maybe signing with Houston. That would be interesting if it happens.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Book 1, Page 31.

Well, only about three weeks from Opening Day. Spring Training is grinding on. Manny Ramirez is feeling the sting of reporting late and said his injury may indicate the Dodgers made "a bad investment." Pudge is still unsigned and is probably facing retirement. One would think that he might be a good investment for someone. Well, here's what we have today for Ivan on Monday.

1995 Ultra Award Winners Gold Medallion #1
1995 Ultra Gold Medallion #113
1995 Upper Deck #391
1995 Upper Deck Electric Diamond #391
Empty pocket
1995 Upper Deck Special Edition #41
Empty pocket
1995 Zenith #39
1995 Zenith All-Star Salute #12

The empty pockets are waiting on the 1995 Upper Deck Electric Diamond Gold #391 and the 1995 Upper Deck Special Edition Gold #41. Of the cards currently in the page, I must say I like the regular Upper Deck one the best. Hard to beat the play at the plate and I like the bronze colored foil over the silver of the Electric Diamond version.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bits and pieces.

Ron Washington announced yesterday that Kevin Millwood will be the Opening Day starter for Texas. If he makes the start it will be the fourth straight for Millwood, seen here on card number 58 of the 2007 Bowman set. I believe that would give him the most ever consecutive Opening Day day starts for any Rangers pitcher. Kind of a sad note as it will put him past Jon Matlack.

Ian Kinsler missed playing yesterday. He has a bruise on his left foot after fouling a pitch off it on Thursday. So far there appears to be no break but the team is being cautious. Hopefully Kinsler can get back in form quickly. It would be a major boost to the team for him to be healthy for a full season.

Vicente Padilla will be starting the second game of the season when the 2009 campaign opens. That sets two of the starting rotation spots. So far I haven't been able to find anything on who might be filling the last two spots.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Word from the management.

Working a double shift today and posting on my dinner break so it's going to be brief.

I'll leave you with this 1977 Topps Rangers team card signed by manager Frank Lucchesi. Since Topps issued no manager cards in 1977 I sent this card to Mr. Lucchesi on January 27th. He signed it and it got back to me on February 2nd.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

1998 Team Best - Tynan.

Not much seems to be going on in Surprise, Arizona. Most of the talk is about how the players are adjusting and are glad to be in camp. One small note is that the team has officially ditched the two-toned batting helmets. I must say I agree with that move 100%.

Since things are slow, I thought I would take the opportunity to take a look at this 1998 Team Best Chris Tynan autograph. This card is unnumbered and when I got it I had never heard of Tynan. I was pretty sure he had never played in the Bigs though. Some research shows I was right. Chris was drafted by the Rangers in 1997, during the time I wasn't following the game. He was taken in the second round and played in the minors for three years before his career ended. He never made it any higher than A ball. Since his last year was 1999, he was out of the system and long gone before I returned to following the game. In his three years of professional ball Tynan never had a winning season and posted a lifetime ERA of 5.11. I suppose that explains why he wasn't around by the time I returned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Well, I'm back. Sorry about the delay and thanks to everyone for your patience. Things didn't go quite as well as expected with the new addition and she ended up in the ICU for a few days so that is the reason for the delay in returning to posting. Everyone is home now though so I am hoping to get back in the swing of things.

While I was out a package arrived from Tim in Ohio. Tim had contacted me some time back and proposed a trade. He had some Rangers and was looking for Indians. We agreed on a number and I sent off the Indians. Tim replied with a nice lot of Rangers. Included in the lot was this 2003 Fleer Tradition Update card of Alex Rodriguez, number U204. This card fits nicely into a hole in that team set. Several of the other cards are also ones I need. Thanks for the nice trade Tim, hopefully we can do it again sometime.