Saturday, February 27, 2010

Senators Saturday - Mike Epstein, 1968.

Mike Epstein appears here on card number 358 in the 1968 Topps set. In 1968 he appeared as Washington's primary first baseman. Mike appeared in 123 of the 161 games the Senators played in '68.

Considering that 1968 was the year of the pitcher, Epstein actually put up some decent numbers. He managed a .234 batting average in 448 plate appearances. His .366 slugging percentage was third in the starting lineup and he tied Frank Howard for the top on base percentage at .338. Mike knocked 13 homers and punched in 33 RBI. He also scored 40 runs himself and worked 48 walks. He was fourth in the American League in hit by a pitch with 13.

In the field Mike was no Gold Glover but he probably wasn't a defensive liability either. His .987 fielding percentage was only two points below the league average of .989. In 1030 chances Epstein muffed 13 times. He took part in 83 double plays and had 70 assists for the season.

All in all 1968 wasn't a bad year for Mike Epstein. In fact, his career seemed to be looking up. His key numbers were up and he was only 25. Bigger things seemed to be on the horizon for him if he could just hold course.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Guest appearances.

According to T.R. Sullivan the Rangers are bringing in some former players as guest instructors. Ruben Sierra, shown here on a terribly off-kilter 1990 Starline card, is one of them. Others include Rusty Greer, Jeff Russell, Mickey Tettleton, Pete O'Brien, Mark McLemore and Geno Petralli. Each of the guest instructors is staying about a week.

This is a neat aspect of Spring training. A good way to build the idea of tradition and team loyalty in an age where there isn't any. I especially like the idea of Pete O'Brien and Geno Petralli, both were better players than they are usually given credit for.

Kind of leery about Sierra though for a couple of reasons. The high leg kick is not really taught anymore is it? I can't really remember seeing it recently. Secondly, Texas needs all the fans it can get. Surly ballplayers really don't help. Ruben was very good at that part of the game but hopefully he won't pass it on to the current crop of Rangers. Of course Sierra was also a pretty phenomenal switch hitter for several years. If he can pass that on and avoid the attitude then I suppose it would be well worth the time.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Arrival and departure.

The Rangers voided Kahlil Greene's contract today. Apparently his social anxiety disorder is really hammering him and it didn't look like he was going to make it to Spring Training. This move will take some of the pressure off of him as he attempts to deal with the situation. Hopefully he can get things worked out and get his feet back under him.

As Greene leaves the Texas fold this 2000 MLB Showdown card of Mike Venafro came back to my collection. I had sent it and another card to Mr. Venafro on February 12th of this year and had asked him to sign them. He did so and get them back to me today. Thanks a bunch Mike!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wantlist - 1992 Fleer.

So the Rangers have added Marcus Lemon to their roster in their search for a replacement for Khalil Greene. Marcus is an infielder and the son of former Tiger Chet Lemon.

Jeff Huson is another utility infielder who played for Texas. He makes an appearance here on card number 308 of the 1992 Fleer set. I am almost done with this Rangers set, the base set is complete and there are only a few Update cards left. Here is what I need:

1992 Fleer
U-59 Jose Canseco
U-60 Jeff Frye
U-61 Danny Leon
U-62 Roger Pavlik

No real big names in there. If you have any of these cards and are willing to part with them (or have any cards previously listed on wantlist posts) then shoot me an email. I am sure we can work out a trade. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spring Training notes.

So Spring Training is under way and there is Rangers news from Arizona. Mostly small stuff but a couple of things that could have a big impact on the season.

Michael Young and Vladimir Guerrero reported in today and are supposed to start working out tomorrow. Young appears to be excited about the season.

Derek Holland suffered a mild knee sprain on Saturday. It is not expected to slow him much and he should be back to throwing soon. Hope to see no long term effects.

Elvis Andrus is focusing on his defense this Spring and Ron Washington is focusing on winning. Both are good ideas.

Hank Blalock still hasn't signed with anyone and there seems to be some doubt that he will. Too bad really.

Khalil Greene was supposed to be the Rangers' utility infielder this season. On Sunday his agent contacted the Rangers and said that Greene's social anxiety disorder will be keeping him away from Spring Training for the time being. Texas is assuming that Greene will not be with the team this year and is looking for alternatives. Joaquin Arias, seen here on card 286 of the 2007 Topps set, is one of the possibilities. Arias was supposed to be where Elvis Andrus is but blew out his shoulder at this time in 2007. He needs to grab this chance to make the team or it could get sticky. He's out of options and can't go back to the minors without passing waivers. This would be an excellent time for both him and the team for him to get his career back on track.

Monday, February 22, 2010


So I finally got some 2010 packs today of both Topps and Upper Deck. Got a code card for the Topps Million Card Giveaway. As I was entering the code I thought of the 1998 Pacific Online set. I am showing Mike Simms on card number 745 as an example.

How many folks other than me remember this set? I recall that at the time it came out that it had a rather high-tech mystic about it. Each card had the URL of the team featured and a URL (now dead) for that specific player. The back of the cards urged collectors to hop on line and get more information on the player and his team. The inserts in the set had special codes printed on the back that could be redeemed for prizes and points if I recall correctly. I remember thinking that this was the wave of the future, computers and cards merged together. Pacific appeared to have got a jump on the big boys.

Sadly I don't remember anything about the website these cards promoted. At the time the only access I had to the Internet was through dial-up and picture heavy sites were a no go. Apparently the set was also a no go, it disappeared after just one year.

At least dial-up is no longer an issue. I was able to to successfully redeem a 1973 Marty Pattin card from Topps. Marty's a Red Sox. Anyone got any Rangers up for trade?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Senators Saturday - Jim Lemon, 1968.

With the off-season trade of Gil Hodges to the Mets following the 1967 an opening was created at the helm of the Senators. Jim Lemon, shown here on card number 341 of the 1968 Topps set, was hired to fill the vacancy.

Jim's card looks a little beat up here. Jim had to feel that way in 1968. Gil Hodges was popular and had been improving the club's record every season for four years. In 1968 the bottom fell out. Under Lemon's leadership Washington dropped eleven wins from the previous season and ended at 65-96.

That record was enough to drop the team from a seventh place AL finish in 1967 to a tenth place one in 1968. It was also the worst record in the entire Major Leagues. Perhaps even more ominously, the club's attendance fell to 546,661 for the season, the lowest of any MLB club. Lemon was fired after the season, his only as a Major League manager.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Josh calls it.

Wow! Just realized that I haven't featured a Josh Hamilton card on the blog since September 29th of last year. Guess that's what the off-season will do for a guy. Today is the end of the drought though as we see Josh on card number 174 of the 2008 Bowman Chrome Refractors set. The card really did scan well for a shiny one.

Well, almost all the Rangers players are in camp in Surprise, Arizona. Taylor Teagarden is apparently looking good as are several of the pitching staff. Josh Hamilton is in camp and working out. He claims to be feeling great and ready for the season to start. He is also back to his old toe-tapping swing after trying to adjust it some last year between injuries. That experiment didn't work out well at all.

Last year Josh predicted 90 Ranger wins and everyone laughed. The team won 87 games and stayed in the race until the final few games of the season. This year he is calling for 96 wins. Talk about going out on a limb. Of course with the AL West as good as it is it just might take that many wins to get to the post-season.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jim Bibby, 1944 - 2010.

Former Rangers pitcher Jim Bibby passed away Tuesday evening from undisclosed causes. He was 65 years old.

Jim had a solid 12 year Major League career. He appeared in the 1980 All-Star game and was part of the 1979 World Champion Pittsburg Pirates. In addition to the Bucs he also pitched for the Indians, Cardinals, and Rangers.

In 1973 Jim etched his name permanently in the annals of the Texas Rangers as he hurled the first no-hitter in Rangers history.

Many condolences to the Bibby family on their loss.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wantlist - 1989 Fleer.

Short and sweet post today because I am up against the clock. I will try and do better tomorrow.

Showing Pal Kilgus' 1989 Fleer card, number 525 in the set. I have the complete base Rangers team set from this year but need a few of the Update cards. Here is what I need:

1989 Fleer
U-65 Jamie Moyer
U-66 Rafael Palmeiro
U-67 Nolan Ryan

Just a few holes here in the team set. If you can help fill any of them (or have any cards previously listed on wantlist posts) then shoot me an email. I am sure we can work out some sort of trade. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1973 Topps - Dick Bosman.

Less that two days until pitchers and catchers report. With little news from the modern Rangers I thought this would be a good time to take a look at a past pitcher. Dick Bosman appears here on card number 640 of the 1973 Topps set. I must say that I like this card, a rare action shot. Seems like the picture was probably taken during a game as there is an umpire slightly visible in the background on the left and the stands are full of people.

Bosman's time in a Rangers' uniform in 1973 was brief. He started the season with Texas but he and Ted Ford were traded to the Indians for Steve Dunning on May 10th. Dick wouldn't return to the Rangers until he did so as a pitching coach in 1995 under then manager Johnny Oates. He managed to keep that job until 2000.

Prior to the 1973 trade Dick started seven games for Texas. He won 2 and lost 5 while posting a 4.24 ERA. He did manage to complete one game and that one was a shutout.

After that it was off to Cleveland where he started 17 of his 22 appearances. His 6.22 ERA resulted in one win and eight losses. He completed two games.

As bad as things were in Texas in 1973 for Dick Bosman, they didn't get any better in Cleveland.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gearing up.

Less than three days until pitchers and catchers report for the Rangers! Look at Taylor Teagarden on card number 75 of the 2008 Just Minors Gold set (13/100). He's got his gear bag and is ready to roll.

He had better be ready going into Spring Training this year, this could be his chance. Jarrod Saltalamacchia says he'll be at 100 percent for the start of Spring Training but he is coming back from shoulder surgery. Ron Washington has told both catchers that the starting job is open and on the table.

Taylor had a chance last season when Salty went down but he muffed it offensively and Ivan Rodriguez became the go to guy. Ivan's gone now and if Taylor can get his bat in gear he could take the job away from Saltalamacchia. Jarrod's been working on his defense though so it could be a close race. As Washington says, "It's open competition, may the best man win."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Senators Saturday - Gil Hodges, 1967.

Have to skip from 1965 to 1967 since I have no 1966 Senators cards at this time. I only have one 1967 card, number 228 in the Topps set, manager Gil Hodges.

1967 was Hodges' fourth full season at the helm of the Senators. True to form the team improved yet again under his guidance from 8th to 6th place in the American League. The team won five more games than in 1966 and lost three less to end the season at 76-85. That tied them with the Baltimore Orioles at 15.5 games behind the Red Sox.

However, following the season Washington dealt Hodges back to the New York Mets for pitcher Bill Denehy and $100,000. That move would prove to be a mistake. After four seasons of improvement under Gil Hodges the Senators would fall off the proverbial cliff in 1968.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Surprise finish.

So I get home from work today to find a bubble mailer waiting for me. The return address showed it to be from Adam at Thoughts and Sox. I wondered if I had forgotten a trade we had agreed on and neglected to send my end of the deal. Not that I have much up for trade that Adam needs. No, that hadn't happened.

What had happened was that Adam had decided to surprise me with a very nice stack of Rangers. There were probably a little over a hundred cards in the package and I needed about two thirds of them.

One of the cards I needed was this 2006 Upper Deck Ovation card of Carlos Lee, number 16 in the set. Carlos was the last card I needed to complete the team set from 2006 Ovation. Always very cool when a card completes a team set. Even better when that card comes as part of an unexpected gift. Thanks Adam! I really appreciate your generosity.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hank signs!

And it's not a sticker either! Oh, you thought maybe he had signed a contract for 2010? Well, not yet. I just thought I would show off this 2004 Fleer National Pastime Signature Swings card. It's got a nice auto of Hank Blalock and is numbered 29/109. Just came in today along with a couple of other Rangers game used and autos. I am thrilled to add it to the collection.

In other news, Frank Thomas has officially announced his retirement. He didn't play in 2009 though so that's not too big a game changer. Still sad to see him officially go. Gonna miss The Big Hurt.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wantlist - 1985 Fleer.

For some reason I am short on 1985 Fleer cards. Larry Parrish on card number 564 is one of the few examples I have of the set. As such the wantlist is rather long.

1985 Fleer
561 Jeff Kunkel
569 Dave Stewart
574 George Wright
1985 Fleer Update
49 Toby Harrah
56 Burt Hooton
61 Cliff Johnson
80 Oddibe McDowell
91 Dave Rozema
104 Don Slaught

Quite a few holes here in the team set. If you can help fill any of them (or have any cards previously listed on wantlist posts) then shoot me an email. I am sure we can work out some sort of trade. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

1973 Topps - Dick Billings.

1973 was a down year for Dick Billings, shown here on card number 94 of the 1973 Topps set. He had a rough year at the plate, both offensively and defensively. Richard also found himself eclipsed by Ken Suarez. Suarez and Billings platooned behind the plate but Suarez caught more games by 12. No word on if that is why Dick decided to adopt the mountain man look.

Defensively Billings watched his fielding percentage fall six points to .975. He committed ten errors in 398 chances. 55 opposing runners stole on him while he caught 25 as his percentage tumbled nine points from the previous year to 31%.

Things were even worse on offense. Dick's .179 batting average was the second worst in his career and his .237 on base percentage was the worst in any season where he had at least ten at bats. He had less than half the hits he had the year before and his runs scored dropped as well from 41 to 17. He had just 32 RBI after knocking 58 in 1972.

All in all 1973 was not a good year for Dick Billings. As things would turn out though, it was just the beginning of the hard times.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Last minute jitters?

Down to just a few hours over eight days left until Spring Training kicks off. Ian Kinsler and Scott Feldman say they are looking forward to it. I know there are a lot of fans out there who can't wait and the teams are starting to try to gin up the support. I'm guessing that Hank Blalock, seen here on card number 55 of the 2005 Skybox Autographics set, isn't quite as excited as some.

Hank had a rough season last year. His average, on base percentage, and slugging percentages all dropped. His strikeout total more than doubled. The bright spot was that he played in as many games last season as in 2007 and 2008 combined. The downside was that only one of those games was at third base.

Blalock's shoulder is shot and he is now a first baseman/DH. He's still learning how to play first well so that makes those offensive numbers all the more troublesome. Even more so since Hank's a free agent this off-season. A lonely free agent apparently.

After eight seasons the Rangers have decided that Blalock is not an option. They have a decent infield and need right-handed bats to face the lefty pitching in the division. Hank takes his cuts from the left side of the plate.

I've been keeping an ear to the ground and haven't heard of any teams talking to The Hammer. Sure, there's always a few late signings just before Spring Training and even a few after things get started. The lack of interest isn't a good sign though. It's gonna be a short spring this year and time is short. One wonders if Hank is concerned that eight seasons may be all there is for him.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Senators Saturday - Gil Hodges, 1965.

Today's Senators card is the only one I have from 1965. Number 99 in the Topps set, Gil Hodges.

1965 was Hodges' third season at the helm of the Senators. He had taken over midway through the 1963 season as the third skipper of that season.

Each of the two previous years he had led the team to a better finish than the year before. 1965 would be a continuation of the theme as Washington improved by eight wins. They managed to move up from ninth in the American League to eighth.

Gil is probably better known from his playing days with Brooklyn and his managing time with the Mets than from his time leading the Senators.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Almost time.

John Wetteland's 1998 Score card, number 112, always makes me think about Spring. In reality I have no idea where or when this picture was taken but I prefer to believe that it was during Spring Training. Perhaps John is helping to gather up baseballs for batting practice after his morning throwing session. The sunflower seed bucket is just right for such a chore.

The Rangers loaded up their gear on a truck this morning and sent it off to Arizona. Pitchers and catchers report on February 18th. The first workout is February 19th. I can hardly wait.

My anticipation has little to do with the Rangers' chances of contending (although I think they can this year). I miss baseball and summertime. I miss checking up on the scores and stories. I miss walking by the little league park and hearing the ball ping off the bat. I miss walking into the Big League park and hearing the crack of the bat and the rumble of the crowd. I miss wearing my Rangers jerseys and feeling the heat on my arms. I miss playing catch with Spiff Jr. and working on his hitting. I miss the t-ball games and not caring about the score. I miss listening to the Rangers games and hanging on the score.

It's been a long winter in more ways than one. Time for Spring. I could use some baseball.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Handled by Huson.

Seems like anymore that through the mail autograph requests come back on Thursdays about half the time. Today was no exception.

On January 18th of this year I dropped this 1991 Topps card of Jeff Huson in the mail along with a 1990 Topps Traded card. Mr. Huson was gracious enough to sign both and they arrived back today.

I really wanted to go to the Rangers FanFest this year but just couldn't swing it. Returns like this one help make up the disappointment. Many thanks to Jeff Huson for taking the time to sign and return my cards.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wantlist - 1984 Fleer.

So here's Larry Biittner again. This time on his 1984 Fleer card during his second tour with the Rangers. Larry serves as a nice example of the next set I am posting a wantlist from. Now that I have run through the base Score sets it seemed like a good time to move on to Fleer. The 1981 Fleer wantlist is already posted and the next two team sets are complete. That brings us up to 1984. Here is what I need:

1984 Fleer
417 Bucky Dent
430 Dave Stewart

Just two cards needed here. One who will be well known to A's fans from the late 80's and the other who is not looked kindly on by Red Sox fans. If you have either (or any cards previously listed on wantlist posts) then shoot me an email. I am sure we can work out some sort of trade. Thanks!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

1973 Topps - Larry Biittner.

With 1972 in the books, the Rangers moved into their second season in Arlington. 1973 would also mark Larry Biittner's fourth season with the franchise.

Larry, shown here on card number 249 of the 1973 Topps set, served as a kind of utility backup in 83 games that season. He appeared in all three outfield positions, at first base, and as the designated hitter for the club.

Biittner posted a higher batting average than two of the three starting outfielders but still couldn't bump them. His .991 fielding percentage was also better than two of the three, and that with playing four different positions in the field.

In spite of the back of Larry's card referring to him as "One of the top hitters on the Rangers," he wasn't what might be called a threat at the plate. His on base percentage was .307 in 281 plate appearances. He walked 20 times but struck out 21 times. He had just 12 RBI and only one home run.

Monday, February 1, 2010

1986 ProCards - Luis Pujols.

By the time Luis Pujols appeared on this 1986 ProCards card he was about done. After spending the 1986 season with Okalahoma City the catcher would call it a career.

The back of this card records Luis' 1985 stats for the Rangers. One game, one at bat, and one hit. A batting average of 1.000. According to Pujols caught two innings in that game and recorded a 1.000 fielding percentage as well.

That one game took place on May 22, 1985. Luis replaced Glenn Brummer in the top of the eighth inning in a game against Kansas City. Brummer had been replaced by a pinch runner the previous half inning. In spite of Luis' efforts, the Rangers lost the game 6-3.

That game was the end of Pujols' nine season MLB career. In addition to his time in the minors Luis spent seven seasons with the Houston Astros and one with the Kansas City Royals before coming to Texas. Most of that time was spent as a backup catcher but he did manage six post-season appearances with Houston in 1980 and 1981.