Saturday, December 31, 2011

Senators Saturday - Claude Osteen, 1962.

Future Rangers pitching coach Claude Osteen appears here on card number 501 of the 1962 Topps set. Washington had picked Claude up from Cincinnati in September of 1961 in exchange for Dave Sisler. It was an excellent move by the Senators.

The back of Claude's card says that he "has good stuff and should be a big winner." The winning was in the future but Osteen showed his stuff in 150.1 innings he pitched for the Senators in 1962. His 8-13 record did not do him justice. Primarily a starter, "Gomer" would kick off 22 of the 28 games he appeared in. Seven times he went all nine and twice he tossed shutouts.

Osteen posted a 3.65 ERA, about average for the Washington rotation. His 1.244 WHIP led the pitching staff though and would have been even lower if he could have shaved off some walks. Of course the 47 that he issued was still third lowest on the staff. He also struck out 59 of the 626 batters he faced.

1962 had been Claude Osteen's arrival season. For the first time he had thrown over 50 innings in a season at the Major League level. He had also made more starts than relief appearances for the first time in his career. The 22-year-old left-hander hadn't wasted his chance at the Big Show. Unless something changed he was a lock for the starting rotation in 1963.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Random Rangers auto.

Dipping into the through the mail and in person autographs box today. Came up with this 1989 Topps UK card of Rangers mainstay Charlie Hough.

I picked this card up in a 50/50 deal in 2009. Charlie was managing in the Dodgers minor league system and was a very gracious signer. The result was a deal between me and a Hough collector in the area where Charlie's team played. He ended up with some Hough cards he didn't have and I ended up with some Hough autos I didn't have. Success all around!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

1975 Topps - Steve Hargan.

Steve Hargan, shown here on card number 362 of the 1975 Topps set, had a rather odd year in 1975. After a decent 1974 season it seemed like Steve's numbers couldn't decide if they wanted to improve or not.

Depending on which stats one looks at, Hargan was either the second or third starter in the Rangers rotation. He would make 26 starts in 33 appearances and end the season with a 9-10 record. He would pitch a total of 189.1 innings, up slightly from the year before. Hargan's ERA dropped by 15 points to 3.80 but his WHIP climbed to 1.400. This was mostly due to his walks jumping by 14 to 62 on the season, his hits allowed total inched up by just one. His strikeout total came to 93, five less than the previous year.

1975 was a troubling year for Steve Hargan. He didn't implode but there were signs of trouble ahead. In addition to the above numbers he also threw 12 wild pitches and allowed 17 home runs. Apparently he was struggling with his control. If he wanted to stay in Texas for the 1976 season he would need to address that issue. If he couldn't figure it out his post playing career in the mail order business might arrive sooner than estimated.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Minor League Monday - Coaching Staff, 1989 ProCards.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas. Taking the rest of this week off to spend with family so the posts will be pre-recorded. Letting you know in case I miss a major Rangers development. Going to finish up the 1989 ProCards Gastonia Rangers team set today. I have previously posted all the players and am now down to the coaching staff. Since the staff is rather hard to research I will be combining them all in this post.

First off is manager Orlando Gomez on card number 1017 of the set. Gomez was originally drafted by the Yankees in 1964 and spent 13 seasons in the minors as a player. He then moved into managing in 1977. Since then he has managed for 16 seasons in the minors. In 2011 he managed for the Baltimore Orioles A+ team.

Coach Jim Crawford appears on card number 1015. 1989 was his first year as a coach in professional ball after twenty years in the collegiate ranks. Can't find much information on Jim so I have no idea where he's at today.

1989 was also pitching coach Oscar Acosta's first year as a coach at the professional level. Acosta, shown here on card number 1025, played in the Phillies' minor league system for three years in starting in 1978. He must have liked coaching because he moved into minor league managing in 1999. He managed in 1999 in the Cubs system and in 2004 and 2005 in the Yankees system. Oscar passed away in April of 2006 at the age of 49.

Trainer Chuck Marquardt appears on card number 1010. It's almost as hard to find information on Chuck as it is on Jim Crawford. 1989 was Chuck's second season with the Rangers organization. He had previously served in the Navy and worked as a high school trainer and at the University of Washington. He also taught sports medicine in the off-season.

Well, that wraps up the 1989 ProCards Gastonia Rangers team set. Doesn't wrap up my minor league collection though so Minor League Monday will continue.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas gift.

Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Amid all the wrappings and trappings of our modern-day Christmas each of us should remember to do as Mary. Keep in mind and ponder the greatest gift that mankind has ever received, reconciliation with God. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kasey has struck out.

The first round of the 2006 draft has officially not turned out well for the Rangers. Today they released their first round pick. Texas took Kasey Kiker, shown here on an autographed 2007 Bowman card, after the Giants took their original choice, Tim Lincecum.

Fortunately for Texas, Kiker didn't develop the drug habit that Lincecum apparently has. Unfortunately he didn't develop as a pitcher either. In the six seasons since he was drafted Kasey never made it past Double A.

In 2011 he pitched for Myrtle Beach in A ball. In 44.2 innings he posted a 7.05 ERA and an ugly 2.172 WHIP. Part of the reason for that was that he struck out just two more batters than he walked all season (54/52).

Well, I feel bad for Kasey but that's just the way things shake out sometimes. At least he stayed with it for six years and tried to get it put together. At 24 he still has a lot of good years left and hopefully he finds success in whatever he attempts next.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Quick show-off post.

Very busy day today. Went from work to a meeting to church and now trying to get the kiddos to bed. Not much time to concoct a post.

Since I'm running behind today I decided to show off the latest addition to my Jon Matlack collection. I just picked this 1979 Baseball Guidebook up from Ebay. I had never seen this particular magazine cover of Matlack before so I jumped on it when it popped up. Gotta say that I like the picture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


The title about sums it up. The Rangers won the rights to Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish.

Not really sure what I think about this. Never expected Texas to be a serious bidder so I never really mulled it over. Just hope he works out better for Texas than Hideki Irabu, seen here on card 488 of the 2002 Topps Chrome set, did for New York.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Minor League Monday - Mike Mendazona, 1989 ProCards.

The Rangers signed Mike Mendazona as a free agent on June 7, 1988. That was about a month and a half before they signed another catcher, Ivan Rodriguez. That set up a big hurdle for Mike, shown here on card number 1026 of the 1989 ProCards set.

Unlike his drafted teammates, Mendanzona started his career with the Rookie level GCL Rangers in 1988. In 71 plate appearances he posted a dismal .183 batting average and a .280 on-base percentage. He committed just three errors in 134 chances though. His glove is likely what got him promoted to Single A for the 1989 season.

With Gastonia Mike's offensive woes continued. He made 147 plate appearances and posted a barely improved .188 batting average. His on-base percentage dropped to .250 while his strikeouts jumped. In fact Mike struck out 16 times in the course of the season while walking just 11 times. That might work for a thumper but Mendazona wasn't a power hitter.

If there was any improvement to Mike's game it was on defense. He again committed three errors on the season but this time they came in 318 chances. That pushed his fielding percentage up to .991. One possibly disturbing point was that his number of passed balls climbed from six the previous season to 15 in 1989.

Things just hadn't come together for Mike Mendazona in 1989. In spite of his defense, Ivan Rodriguez had blown past him. Mike had really needed his bat to show up for the season and it just hadn't. In fact, things had gotten worse. Apparently the Rangers weren't convinced they were going to get better either - 1989 would be Mike Mendazona's last season in pro ball.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Senators Saturday - Danny O'Connell, 1962.

Danny O'Connell, shown here on card 411 of the 1962 Topps set, was in the middle of the Senators' struggles at third base in 1962. After a comeback season in 1961 he split his time in 1962 as a backup for third baseman Bob Johnson and second baseman Chuck Cottier.

Most of Danny's defensive time was at third base. He put in 319 innings there in 41 games. He committed five errors at the hot corner for a .961 fielding percentage - nine points higher than the league average. At second he would see action for 167 innings over 22 games and commit five errors there as well. His .946 fielding percentage was well below the league average .980.

O'Connell made 268 plate appearances on the other side of the game. He managed to bump his batting average up to .263 but his on-base percentage dropped 34 points to .327. Danny also slowed down as he stole just five bases. Perhaps more ominously than anything else was the fact that his doubles dropped to seven. That was less than a quarter of the number he had hit the year before with a little over twice as many at-bats.

Danny's dropping on-base percentage and doubles production seemed to be signs that the end was near for his playing career. It turns out it was. After 26 games at Double A in 1963 Danny and the Senators parted ways. That would be the end of the line for his pro career.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Decisions: Cliff Lee.

The trade for Cliff Lee in 2010 is number 15 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the fifty decisions that have shaped the Rangers history.

On July 9, 2010 the Rangers obtained the services of Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe from the Mariners. In return Texas sent Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matthew Lawson to Seattle. The trade occurred just in time for Lee to represent Texas in the All-Star game as shown on card US-305 from the 2010 Topps Update Series.

Sullivan enters Lee on the list with the simple words: "The trade that put the Rangers in the World Series for the first time." I think it's not as clear cut as that.

When the trade happened the Rangers were already in first place in the American League West and looked to win the division. Excepting any mental boost Lee did not affect the race at all. His ERA after the trade approached 4.00 as he battled back problems and posted a losing 4-6 record.

The American League Division Series is where the trade appeared to pay off for the Rangers. Lee was masterful as he beat the Devil Rays twice, both in Tampa. On the strength of Lee's two wins the Rangers won their first ever postseason series. That broke the glass ceiling for the franchise as they moved on to the American League Championship Series.

Lee made just one start in the ALCS and won it 8-0 as the Rangers pounded the Yankees in game three in New York to take the series lead. Derek Holland picked up a win as well and Colby Lewis stole Lee's thunder as he won two. Texas downed the Yankees 4-2 to advance to their first ever World Series.

In the 2010 World Series Lee made two starts. He lost both as his ERA soared to near seven. Texas lost the Series 4-1 to the Giants.

So, did Cliff Lee put the Rangers in the World Series? The answer appears to be yes and no. Lee was a non factor down the stretch in the regular season. He was vital in the ALDS, a nice piece in the ALCS, and a real downer in the World Series. The trade was probably worthwhile on the strength of Cliff's ALDS performance alone but the team still had to get through the Evil Empire in the ALCS to get to the World Series. Perhaps T.R. Sullivan should have said that the Cliff Lee trade was the trade that put the Rangers in their first-ever American League Championship Series.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best Seasons: Kevin Brown - 1992.

Number 13 on T.R. Sullivan's Fifty Best seasons in Rangers history is Kevin Brown's 1992 performance. I got this 1992 Upper Deck card of Brown signed back before he was really well known as a head case.

Issues or not, Brown wasn't a bad pitcher before he landed with the Yankees in 2004. 1992 wasn't the best season of his career but it was the best he had with Texas.

In 1992 Kevin made 35 starts and pitched 11 complete games. He led the league with 265.2 innings pitched and 21 wins. He also turned in a 3.32 ERA and a 1.272 WHIP on the season. Additionally he struck out 173 batters while walking only 76.

Those numbers made Kevin both the workhorse and ace of the Rangers pitching staff. They also garnered him some Cy Young consideration and a start in the All-Star Game. I believe that makes him the only Rangers pitcher to ever start an All-Star game.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Odd Moments: Final forfeit.

The expansion Senators never encountered much success in the eleven years they were in Washington. After Bob Short bought the team under a mountain of debt they also experienced financial problems. The end result was that Short obtained permission to move the team to Texas following the 1971 season. The few fans the Senators had left were not impressed.

September 30, 1971 was the Senators' final game. They were slated to host the New York Yankees. 14,460 fans showed up and paid the admission to get into the last Major League Baseball game in RFK Stadium. There were rumors though that the security guards left early and several thousand more fans simply walked in for free. One estimate placed the total attendance at 25,000.

Most of the Senators players received applause when they appeared. Frank Howard, shown here on card 23 of the 1985 Topps Circle K set, got a thunderous ovation when he strode to the plate. Many fans were obviously upset by the imminent departure of the team. Signs began appearing around the stadium ridiculing Bob Short. As soon as security removed a sign another would appear. One of the ones that received the most acclaim was one that read simply, "Short stinks."

By the bottom of the sixth inning the Yankees were leading 5-1. Suddenly the Senators came alive and plated four runs to tie things up. The lead-off hit in the inning was Frank Howard's 26th home run of the season. That bomb seemed to lift the spirits of the crowd and even got to Howard himself. As he ran the bases he tipped his helmet to the fans for the first and only time. As he approached the dugout he tossed his cap into the stands.

In the eighth Washington put two more runs on the board to take a 7-5 lead. That held through two outs in the top of the ninth. By this point the crowd had turned ugly again and was calling for Bob Short's blood - literally. One sportswriter of the time compared it to a lynch mob in full swing. Already fans had rushed the field and been cleared off.

With two outs in the top of the eighth the crowd rushed the field again. Swarms of young people snatched tufts of grass and anything else they could get their hands on. One young man even made off with first base. Those remaining in the stands expressed their approval. The scene was total pandemonium.

With the crowd going wild, no security in sight, and only three bases remaining the game was called as a forfeit. Official score: 9-0 in favor of New York. Perhaps it was a fitting epilogue for a team that had struggled fruitlessly for much of eleven seasons.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1975 Topps - Bill Hands.

The Rangers grabbed Bill Hands off waivers from the Twins on September 9, 1974. As such he had just a couple of appearances with the 1974 team. For all intents and purposes 1975 was his first year with the team. It is perhaps fitting then that Topps heavily airbrushed card number 412 of the 1975 Topps set in order to get Bill into Texas threads.

Bill had a rough season in 1975. On June 9th he pulled a calf muscle and was out of action until the 27th. In August his back started acting up and forced him out of action for the remainder of the season. Perhaps the expression of Bill's face isn't hostility but pain.

Due to the two stints on the Disabled List, Hands had just 18 appearances with the Rangers in 1975. All 18 were starts and he ended the season with a 6-7 record. In 109.2 innings pitched Bill posted a 4.02 ERA and a 1.331 WHIP. His strikeout to walk ratio was pretty good as he struck out 67 batters while walking 28. Aside from the strikeout to walk ratio the numbers seem to reflect his difficult year.

It is often thought that when a player ends up on waivers he has been struggling. This was true of Bill Hands. In 1974 his ERA had gone over 4.00 for the first time since 1966. His WHIP had also risen for three straight years. With Texas in 1975 he managed to lower the ERA but the WHIP continued to climb.

The consistently rising WHIP coupled with the injuries that cost him almost half the season sounded the final bell for the 35-year-old Hands. In Feburary of 1976 the Rangers traded him to the New York Mets for George Stone. Neither player would ever see Major League action again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Minor League Monday - Tim MacNeil, 1989 ProCards.

Tim MacNeil, shown here on card number 1024 of the 1989 ProCards set, was the Rangers 13th selection in the 1988 draft. He started his pro career the same year with the Butte Copper Kings in Rookie ball.

In 1988 MacNeil appeared in 24 games, all in relief. He posted a 3.00 ERA and a 1.667 WHIP. Those weren't very good numbers for a right-hander in Rookie ball. That's probably part of the reason that Tim split the 1989 season between the Rookie ball GCL Rangers and the Single A Gastonia Rangers. I'm not sure which team came first in the season but neither stint was particularly pretty. Since today's card shows him with Gastonia we'll take a look at those numbers.

MacNeil tossed 43.2 innings in 22 games with Gastonia. All but one of his appearances was in relief. Unfortunately for Tim his ERA climbed to 5.98 and his WHIP to 1.786. He also continued to battle wildness as he let loose with nine wild pitches and hit three opposing batsmen. Predictably he walked more batters than he struck out (38 walks/32 strikeouts).

Needless to say, 1989 was not a solid season for Tim MacNeil. He was still struggling to get his control and couldn't seem to keep runs from crossing the plate. Neither of these problems is good for a pitcher. That is doubly so for a right-handed pitcher at a low level of play.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Senators Saturday - Bob Johnson, 1962.

Bob Johnson's 1962 Topps card, number 519, identifies him as a shortstop with the Washington Senators. While Bob was with the Senators in 1962 he didn't play just short.

Johnson was actually the closest thing the Senators had to a starting third baseman in 1962. He played 612.2 innings there in 72 games. He also played 416.2 innings at shortstop in 50 games. Those were his two main defensive positions but he also played seven innings in one game in left field. All told Bob committed 22 errors in total on the season - 13 of those were at third. There was a reason for that, Topps was right. Johnson wasn't a third baseman. 1962 would mark the highest number of games and innings he would play at third in his career. It was one of only three times in an eleven year career that he broke the 100 inning mark at the position.

Johnson made 504 trips to the plate in 1962 - over twice the number of the previous season. He managed to compile a .288 batting average (second only to Chuck Hinton on the team) and a .334 on-base percentage. He also knocked a career-high 12 home runs and 20 doubles. Two triples also jumped into the mix. Unfortunately Bob also struck out a career-high 50 times while walking just 32 times - also a career high.

By the end of 1962 the Senators had a problem. Bob Johnson was obviously struggling with the transition from shortstop to third base. Leaving him at short was not an option with Ken Hamlin and Ed Brinkman already doing battle for the position. That made Bob expendable. On December 5, 1962 Washington sent him and Pete Burnside to Baltimore in exchange for Marv Breeding, Art Quirk, and Barry Shetrone.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Best Seasons: Julio Franco - 1991.

Number 12 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the Fifty Best Seasons in Rangers history goes to Julio Franco, shown here on card number BC39 of the 1990 Baseball Cards Magazine set.

Julio's 1991 season really stands out for one number, his batting average. Franco tormented opposing pitching that year as he racked up a .341 average. That easily won Julio the first batting title in Rangers history. How easily? Well, he was nine points ahead of second-place Wade Boggs in the race.

While the batting average and title stole the show in 1991 they weren't the only impressive numbers for Julio that year. He also complied a .408 on-base percentage and stole a career high 36 bases. His 108 runs scored were also a career high.

All told Franco had a career year with the bat in 1991 and the awards committees recognized it. In addition to the American League batting title he also went the the All-Star game and received a Silver Slugger award as well as receiving some MVP consideration. Perhaps just as important for the fans, he brought a batting title to a team that had never had a player win one.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Angels arm up for 2012

Well, the past day or so has certainly been huge in the American League West. The Angels broke the bank open and signed both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to long term deals. Texas had told Wilson they were interested but had never tendered him an offer due to the long-term offers that the Angels and Marlins were shooting his way.

The question becomes, do these moves change the balance of power in the division? I think the answer is, it's hard to say.

The Halos addition of Pujols is a definite plus for them. There is always the possibility that the ten year, no trade contract could become a weight on their payroll but if any player can pull this one off it would be Albert Pujols.

The signing of C.J. Wilson is a little more murky. Wilson has pitched pretty well for Texas as a starter over the past two seasons. In the two seasons combined he has posted a 3.14 ERA, a 1.215 WHIP, and a 31-15 record.

Those aren't bad numbers at all but there are a few things to consider in light of the five year deal that the Angels just gave Wilson. First and foremost, his age. Wilson is 31 right now. That puts him at 36 by the end of the contract. Pitchers not named Nolan Ryan tend to start to slow down in their 30's.

The second item is his workload. Wilson has made a total of 73 starts in the Major Leagues in seven seasons. All but six came in the last two seasons. He has pitched a total of 708 innings in his career. 427.1 of those were in the past two years. Compared to the early years of his career Wilson has been under quite the workload the past two seasons. There is always the possibility that after five years of a lighter load, the increased work could catch up with him at some point. It might not but if it does it will be sooner rather than later.

The third point to consider is Wilson's performance in big games. Mainly that he doesn't. If he had the Rangers probably would be the World Champions right now. That's because they would have had the home field advantage and played games six and seven at home had C.J. not lost the All-Star game. He also stumbled badly in the 2010 and 2011 post seasons.

Back to the original question. Do these signings shift the balance of power in the A.L. West? I think that the answer is, possibly. Pujols is huge and is a veteran. He'll adjust and be the threat that he was in the National League. Barring injury he will be a major weapon for the Angels for the foreseeable future. Wilson is more of a question mark. While he has an engaging personality I can't help but doubt that he will be a force for more than a season or two at most. I think it's very possible that Anaheim will regret his contract. For the same reason I doubt that his departure will be a long term setback for the Rangers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

1975 Topps - Tom Grieve.

Tom Grieve, shown here on card 234 of the 1975 Topps set, had a two-fold mission in 1975. First, he had to build on his 1974 performance and second he had to prove he could hit right-handed pitching.

TAG played in 118 games for Texas in 1975. That was a career high to that point and netted him 396 plate appearances. He managed to get his batting average up to .276 and his on-base percentage inched up to .316. Tommy also had a much higher RBI total with 61 and scored more runs than in 1974 with 46. He also hit 17 doubles, one triple, and 14 home runs. He did walk 22 times but struck out a troubling 74 times.

Tom played all three outfield positions in 1975 and served in 41 games as the designated hitter. He played left field most with 328 innings in 46 games. Next up was right field with 126 innings in 16 games and then center with ten innings in two games. His fielding percentage for all three positions combined was .990, better than the league average by eleven points.

Tom Grieve had been given a chance in 1975 and seemed to have used it. Perhaps he hadn't awed observers but he had significantly improved his offensive performance in almost every category while starting to hit right-handers and had maintained his great defense in the field. The only disturbing trend was his tendency to strikeout, he would need to figure out how to cut down on that. If he could 1975 looked to be his breakout year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Minor League Monday - Jeff Fry, 1989 ProCards.

Card 1023 of the 1989 ProCards set makes me smile. Jeff Fry looks so intense and yet so young. His boyish face, slight build, and screen-backed cap make him look more like a high school ballplayer than a 22-year-old man attempting to play his way the Major Leagues.

The Rangers drafted Jeff in the 30th round of the 1988 draft. He played in Rookie ball the same year with the Butte Copper Kings. In 1989 he would be assigned to Single A and would play with the Gastonia Rangers of the Gulf Coast League.

In 125 games Fry made 543 plate appearances. He posted a .313 batting average and a .405 on-base percentage. His on-base percentage was helped by the fact that he knew how to take a walk. He worked 72 of them while striking out just 53 times. While Jeff could get on base he didn't have much power at the plate. He hit 26 doubles but only three triples and one home run on the season. He could run though and stole 33 bases but needed to work on his technique as he got caught 13 times.

As the front of his card indicates, Jeff played second base. In 1989 he put together a .977 fielding percentage at that position. His errors matched his uniform number, 14. Defense was definitely an area for improvement in Fry's game.

Apparently the Rangers thought Jeff had potential. Probably it was his bat that caught their eye. As a result he got a promotion. Not to Double A though but to A plus Charlotte for the 1990 season. I'm not positive but I would guess that the partial promotion had to do with the need for him to improve his glove work.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Senators Saturday - Joe Hicks, 1962.

1962 was one of the few seasons that Joe Hicks, shown here on card 248 of the 1962 Topps set, spent the whole season in the Majors. In fact, most of 1961 had been spent in the minors.

Joe played in 102 games in 1962 and made 191 plate appearances. That was more in both categories than in all three previous seasons where he had Major League experience combined.

In his 191 plate appearances Hicks posted a .224 batting average and a .286 on-base percentage. His on-base percentage was undoubtedly hurt by the fact that he struck out over twice as often as he walked. (15 walks to 34 strikeouts.) He also displayed a lack of power with just four doubles, two triples, and six home runs.

In the field Joe served as a fourth outfielder and played 282.1 innings total in all three outfield positions. He made three errors for a .962 fielding percentage - well below the league average .980.

1962 was Joe Hicks first big shot at the Majors. Too bad he really couldn't capitalize on it. He needed to show something big in order to dislodge one of the regular outfielders. That just didn't happen either in the field or at the plate.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Decisions: Two-for-one.

Ok, I have to plead ignorance as far as the first of the next two decisions off of T.R. Sullivan's list. As for the second, well I wasn't really paying much attention in 2001 so I don't remember it.

Number thirteen is is the rejection of Edward Gaylord's attempts to buy the Rangers. He tried in 1987 and 1988. Both times the American League refused to approve the sale for fear that Channel 11 would become a superstation. I have no memory of this and find it hard to understand given Ted Turner, TBS, and the Braves. I do know that with the Rangers still unsold the result was the ownership group headed by George W. Bush buying the team in 1989.

Number fourteen is the firing of Doug Melvin. I'm not sure what Tom Hicks was thinking when he fired Melvin and brought in John Hart. I do know that under Melvin the team had qualified for the playoffs three times and that they didn't at all under Hart. Meanwhile Melvin moved on to Milwaukee and moved them from a sub .500 team to postseason qualifiers. Not hard to see that the switch wasn't a very good move.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Valentine's day in Boston. is reporting that the Red Sox will introduce Bobby Valentine as their new manager this evening at Fenway Park. Bobby V was the Rangers manager from 1985 to 1992. I am showing him today on a 1987 Topps card that he signed for me through the mail in 2008.

Valentine was the first Rangers manager that I can really remember. Doug Rader would have still been in place when I first latched onto the team but I have no memory of him. Valentine I remember and always enjoyed watching. I'm not the only Rangers fan who remembers Bobby. Until Ron Washington's recent postseason successes he was probably the most popular manager in Rangers history behind Johnny Oats.

After leaving the Rangers Bobby managed the Mets from 1996 to 2002. Not a bad stint for such a volatile environment. It probably helped that the Mets had several postseason appearances during his tenure.

Boston is probably closer to New York than Texas when it comes to the atmosphere and pressure of managing. Unlike New York though, the Red Sox are Boston. No shadow of the Evil Empire there, all the focus is on the Sox. Hopefully Bobby V will be able to deliver some success to the franchise and placate the fans and media. It would be nice to see him back in the Bigs and doing well. Not too well of course, can't root for Bobby over the Rangers.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Odd Moments: Randle v. Lucchesi.

Lenny Randle is shown here on card number 8-RAN of the 1986 TCMA All Time Rangers set. He shouldn't be. Because of what is one of the ugliest incidents in Rangers history Len Randle cannot ever be considered in any list of top Rangers players.

Randle had made his Major League debut in 1971 for the Washington Senators. He made the move to Texas with the team and appeared for them in every season up through 1976. Prior to 1976 he had been used mainly as a platoon or utility player. In 1976 he grabbed the starting second baseman's job. Unfortunately he had not produced as well as Texas expected him to.

Frank Lucchesi had been appointed as the Rangers manager in 1975 following the firing of Billy Martin. By the Spring of 1977 the 50-year old manager was ready to lead the team back into contention.

During Spring Training in 1977 young rookie phenom Bump Wills arrived at camp amid much acclaim. Like with Elvis Andrus at shortstop a couple of years ago, the management decided that second base was Wills' position to lose. That didn't sit well with Randle and he threatened to walk out of camp. Lucchesi was not amused and made some pretty harsh comments concerning "punks saying play me or trade me..." The remarks showed up in the papers.

On March 28, 1977 the Rangers were in Orlando, Florida for a Spring Training game against the Twins. The Rangers were taking batting practice about an hour before the game. Frank Lucchesi was on the field talking to his players and coaches. He hadn't been there long and was still not in uniform. Randle approached him and said he needed to talk to him.

The two stepped to the side. A few words were exchanged. Suddenly Randle punched Lucchesi in the face, knocking him to the ground. As Frank fell, Len landed several more punches. As players rushed to Lucchesi's aid, Randle jogged out to center field and started to run wind sprints. Outfielder Ken Henderson started after him with the intent of returning the punches for Lucchesi. Other players stopped Henderson.

Frank Lucchesi was transported to the hospital. Randle had broken his cheekbone and bruised a kidney. He needed surgery to repair the facial injuries and would be in the hospital for a week.

The Rangers immediately suspended Randle without pay for 30 days and fined him $10,000. The police got involved and criminal charges were filed. Before the 30 day suspension was up the Rangers shipped Randle to the Mets. He later pled no contest to the battery charges in criminal court and paid a $1,000 fine.

In late June the Rangers fired Frank Lucchesi. He claimed the firing was in part due to the incident with Randle. A lawsuit followed. The matter was settled out of court with Randle reportedly paying about $25,000 in damages to Lucchesi.

In sum total the incident cost the Rangers a decent manager and a public relations headache. It also cost them a versatile player and possibly a chance at the post-season. It cost Lenny Randle around $36,000 plus his lost wages. More importantly it cost him his good name. A high price to pay for an angry outburst.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

1975 Topps - Jim Fregosi.

Despite what card number 339 of the 1975 Topps says, Jim Fregosi spent most of his time in 1975 playing first base rather than third. He did play third and occasionally served as the designated hitter but most of his time was spent platooning with Jim Spencer at first.

Fregosi played in 54 games at first and logged 336.1 innings at the bag. He committed six errors for a fielding percentage of .985. That was five points below the league average. In contrast he got just four appearances at third for a total of ten innings.

Mainly employed against left-hand pitching, Jim got 217 plate appearances in 77 games. He ended the season with a .262 batting average and a .329 on-base percentage. Most of the rest of his offensive numbers were about as unremarkable. He struck out 39 times and walked 20. He also bumped in 33 RBI while scoring 25 times himself. Of his hits five were doubles and seven were home runs. He hit no triples and stole no bases.

For Jim Fregosi 1975 had been almost identical to 1974. Most of his offensive numbers were within a few points of the previous season. He had played more at first than third but at this point in his career he was a corner infield backup. He didn't let that get to him though and kept working with younger players to teach them the game.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Minor League Monday - Steve Allen, 1989 ProCards.

Texas picked up Steve Allen, seen here on card 1022 of the 1989 ProCards set, late in the 1988 draft. By late I mean he was the Rangers 37th pick. He was 21 years old. Most of the time guys taken that low and that old aren't really expected to make a big splash.

Steve started off his pro career with the Rookie League Butte Copper Kings in 1988. He split his time between starting and relieving. In 46.1 innings he posted a horrific 9.32 ERA and a 1.899 WHIP.

In spite of those numbers Allen got moved up to Single A Gastonia for the 1989 season. He also got moved out of a starting role. All 51 of his appearances for the Gastonia Rangers were in relief.

Apparently Steve found his groove in 1988. He pitched a total of 89 innings and managed to improved his numbers pretty dramatically. His ERA tallied to 2.02 on the season and his WHIP dropped to 1.022. He struck out 84 batters in route to a 2.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He did hit ten batters though.

By the end of the 1989 season Steve Allen seemed to be on his way to bucking the trend for low draft picks. His numbers at Single A had been pretty impressive and he would get a ticket to Double A Tulsa for the 1990 season as a result. What he needed to do was stay on track and continue to improve steadily. Improved control resulting in fewer hit batters was also an important area for improvement.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Senators Saturday - Bennie Daniels, 1962.

Let me start off by saying that there is a top border on my copy of card 378 of the 1962 Topps set. I'm not sure why the scanner insisted in cutting almost all of it off the scan. Perhaps it is messing with Bennie Daniels.

After a decent 1961 season Bennie was probably looking to build on that and secure a place in the top of the rotation in 1962. After all, he had tied for the most innings pitched, led in wins, and posted the second best ERA of any Senators starter in 1961.

Unfortunately for Bennie, and for Washington, 1962 would be a drop-off. Bennie's innings pitched dropped to 161.1, probably because he had lost a regular spot in the rotation. Of the 44 games he appeared in he started just 21. In spite of fewer innings his ERA rose by 1.41 to an unattractive 4.85. His WHIP was also up to 1.488 and his strikeout to walk ratio dropped to 0.97.

Needless to say, Daniels' 1962 season was not a positive follow-up to the Senators' inaugural effort. Probably one of the reasons that he managed to stay in the Majors was the lack of a developed farm system. However, if he wanted to stay there his 1963 season needed to be an improvement.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Best Seasons: Rafael Palmeiro - 1993.

Rafael Palmeiro's 1993 season is number 11 on T.R. Sullivan's Fifty Best Seasons in Rangers history. By 1993 Palmeiro, pictured here on his 1993 Sports Cards Magazine card, had been with the Rangers for four years. His fifth season would be the final one before free agency and a five year hiatus to Baltimore.

Palmeiro played in 160 games for the Rangers in 1993. In all of those games he played at first base, a league best. Over the course of 1395.1 innings he committed just five errors for a .997 fielding percentage. That was four points higher than the league average and third highest in the American League. Interestingly, it was also higher than in any of the three later years where he won a Gold Glove.

At the plate Rafael posted a .295 batting average and a .371 on-base percentage in 686 plate appearances. He had 37 home runs, 40 doubles, and two triples. He also stole 22 bases while getting caught just three times. He also knocked in 105 RBI while scoring a league-leading 124 times himself. Perhaps Palmeiro's performance at the plate could best be summed up as balanced.

While Raffy would have better power numbers when he returned to Texas in 1999 he was a better all-around player in 1993. It was his breakthrough season.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Odd Moments: Good guy Dave?

Number nine on T.R. Sullivan's Fifty Bizarre moments involves Dave Stewart. In January of 1985 Stewart, shown here on card 343 of the 1985 Donruss set, was a yet to be determined quality for the Rangers.

He was however well regarded among his teammates and the organization. As such he was selected to received the Harold McKinney Good Guy Award at the club's 1985 Winter Banquet on January 27th. Along with the rest of the team, Stewart was invited to the Banquet.

Here is where things started to go wrong for Dave. According to the Los Angeles Times he was arrested on January 25th in downtown L.A. "on suspicion of participating in an act of lewd conduct in a public place..." Apparently LAPD officers had observed Stewart soliciting a prostitute by the name of "Lucille". The pair were arrested as they sat in Stewart's car in an alley.

To add insult to injury (and spice to the tabloids) it was revealed after the arrest that "Lucille" was actually a man by the name of Elson Tyler. Stewart claimed that he had no idea he had picked up a transvestite until after the arrest. A LAPD commander commenting on the story stated that the police believed him on that score. It didn't help and the incident got serious media exposure.

The Rangers gave Dave the opportunity to skip the Winter Banquet. He didn't though and showed up to receive his Good Guy Award. Newly minted GM Tom Grieve and team owner Eddie Chiles were among those in attendance as were the rest of the team and almost 1,000 fans. The presentation of the award was greeted with silence. Stewart then apologized directly to Mr. Chiles, his teammates, then to the fans. According to the L.A. Times Stewart was brief in his remarks and commented that, "All I can say is good guys make mistakes, too." As he sat down those in attendance applauded. I am guessing that Tom Grieve then sighed a huge sigh of relief.

All in all the whole situation was an awkward one for both Stewart and the team. It was also truly strange that a man arrested for solicitation was awarded a good guy award just two days later at a public event.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Making a closing move.

Jon Daniels has said that he has two goals for the Texas Rangers: keeping the core of the team and focusing on pitching. Yesterday he made a move that fell into the second category.

Texas dipped into the free agent pool for the first time this off-season with the signing of pitcher Joe Nathan. Nathan had been the Twins All-Star closer from 2004 to 2009. He missed the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery and struggled with injuries in 2011. Obviously Daniels is hoping for a return to Nathan's pre-2010 form. That is a distinct possibility for an experienced pitcher like this. If that doesn't happen the contract is only for two years and has a buyout option on it.

If Joe can get his game back to his 2009 level he will help shore up the bullpen. He also allows the Rangers to move Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation. Feliz, shown here on card TT2-24 of the 2011 Topps Town set, was a starter prior to being called up the the Major Leagues in 2009. For a long time he was viewed as a potential top of the rotation arm, apparently that's back on the table.

For his part Neftali seems to have moved past his discouragement with the abortive move to the rotation last Spring. He released a statement saying that the Rangers had talked to him about the move and that he was happy with it. He referenced his minor league pitching career and says he is already running more in order to be ready to enter Spring Training as a starter. If Feliz can live up to his potential and Holland continues to solidify I think that Texas is looking at two very strong guns to lead off the rotation.

The Rangers say that their decision in signing Nathan and moving Feliz had nothing to do with the latter's blown save in game six of this year's World Series. I believe that. Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, and Ron Washington don't make decisions based on one game - even a game for all the marbles. Looking back at last Spring and before Feliz made the Majors in 2009 it seems to me that his being a starter was always the plan and that the closer gig was just a detour.

Texas is also saying that the signing of Joe Nathan is not a comment on their attempts to re-sign C.J. Wilson. I'm going to have to pass on buying that one for now. Wilson is reportedly looking for at least a six year deal and Texas is notorious for cringing at long-term deals for pitchers. They'll still try and get Wilson to stay but this deal looks like an insurance plan they are likely to use.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Minor League Monday - Darren Oliver, 1989 ProCards.

Today on Minor League Monday we see current Major League pitcher Darren Oliver. Darren is showing off his early form on his 1989 ProCards card, number 1021.

Texas made Oliver their third pick in the 1988 draft. The same year he played in Rookie level ball with the GCL Rangers. After posting a 2.15 ERA he was promoted to the Gastonia Rangers in A ball.

In 1989 for Gastonia the 18-year-old pitched a minor league career high 122.1 innings in 24 games. He started 23 of those games. Ollie's ERA for the season tallied to 3.16 and his WHIP to 1.373. While those weren't bad numbers it is obvious that he was beginning to struggle with the bane of lefthanders everywhere - wildness. In addition to walking 82 batters he also hit five and threw 15 wild pitches. Of course his 108 strikeouts showed that he could control his pitches on occasion.

While Darren's ERA had climbed from 1988 to 1989 it was still pretty acceptable and the extra run could be attributable to the increase in competition. The wildness was a concern but it is also expected with southpaws and especially with young hurlers. Oliver was still impressing management and still had time to learn the ropes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Senators Saturday - Bob Schmidt, 1962.

Washington picked up Bob Schmidt, shown here on card 262 of the 1962 Topps set, and Dave Stenhouse from Cincinnati on December 15, 1961. In return the Reds got Johnny Klippstein and Marty Keough.

Bob hadn't seen much action in 1961 with the Reds and the back of his 1962 Topps card says that he was happy to be with Washington where he would get more work. Bob did get more work with the Senators - about 51 games more. He was still the second string catcher though. Ken Retzer had the starting job.

In the 88 games Schmidt appeared in he got 274 plate appearances. He used those to post a .242 batting average and a .281 on-base percentage. The 37 strikeouts as compared to the 14 walks helped put a damper on the on-base percentage. Not great numbers but apparently when he hit, Bob could hit for power. Of his 62 hits, ten were home runs and 14 were doubles. He also batted in 31 runs.

Probably if Bob could have brought his on-base percentage up he could have given Retzer a challenge for the starting job. His batting average was only four points lower and he was better behind the plate. In fact, looking at the innings played on defense it looks like Schmidt often served as a late-inning defensive replacement. In 639 innings Bob committed just one error for a fielding percentage of .997. That was eight points higher than the league average and the best in the American League for backstops. He also caught 53% (16/30) of base runners trying to steal on him.

All in all Bob Schmidt appeared to have the glove and the power to play every day. He just needed some patience at the plate in order to bump up his on-base percentage. He didn't seem to be in a bad position with the team still in flux. From all appearances Schmidt stood an excellent chance to challenge for the first-string catcher's job in 1963. Appearances can be deceiving though and Bob's 1963 season would not turn out the way he was probably thinking it would.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Astros AL bound.

Nolan Ryan, shown here on card 665 of the 1990 Donruss set, played nine years for the Houston Astros before joining the Rangers in 1989. That information is easily discoverable if you look Nolan up on Right next to the Astros' name is the notation "NL".

That notation will apparently be out of date starting in 2013. Yesterday Commissioner Bud Selig announced the move of the Astros to the American League West starting in 2013. To be honest, this move puzzles me.

Starting in 1962 the Astros have always been a National League franchise. They have lived and died in the National League. During their dominant years they were mainstays in the NL playoffs. Now they're going to the American League and not everyone's happy about it. One survey I saw referenced stated that up to 75% of Houston fans strongly oppose the move to the AL.

I can't say I blame them. As much as I prefer NL ball to AL ball I'm not sure how I would feel about the Rangers switching leagues. If they were already in the NL I am sure I would oppose a move. Apparently the vast majority of 'Stros fans agree with me. So why move them?

Not sure I know. Commissioner Selig says he wants to even out the leagues and expand the AL West to five teams. OK. Why the Astros? For all of their existence they have been a National League team. Compare that to the Milwaukee Brewers. From 1969 to 1998 the Brewers were an American League team. Then came the move to the National League. Why not move them back? Looks like the best option to me. After all, the Brew Crew has a World Series appearance as an American League team but not as a National League team. The Astros World Series appearance came as the representative of the National League.

Of course the Brewers weren't for sale. That means their owners weren't over a barrel to force the move. Also, Bud Selig never owned the Astros. That's probably the real reason Houston's making the move. Commissioner Selig can give any reasons he wants for the Astros to move but I can't see it. Move the Brewers back to the AL Central and slip the Royals over to the West. Those moves would likely grieve KC fans but they make more sense than what's being done.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Ranger game-used.

Aside from Matt Treanor signing with the Dodgers there hasn't been a lot going on as for Rangers fans the past few days. Ron Washington got passed over again for Manager of the Year but that's nothing new.

Seeing as how things are relatively slow, I thought a random jersey piece might be in order. This particular one is in Ivan Rodriguez's 2002 Fleer Focus Larger than Life card.

I like the concept of the card but there is something about Pudge's picture that seems off. Can't quite put my finger on it but there are other cards I like more. Still, it is a game-used card and in my world that still means something.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Decisions: Standing behind Ron Washington.

Long-time readers of this blog will remember the post I wrote in March of last year about Ron Washington. The news of Washington's positive Cocaine test during the summer of 2009 had just broken. The title of my previous post says it all: "Disappointed."

Washington, shown here on his 2008 Dr. Pepper card, came clean about the whole mess. He admitted to his use and stated that it was a one-time experiment. According to him, he had never used since the time of the test in 2009 or before that. Some folks believed him, some didn't. There were lots of calls for his job and blood seemed to be in the water. From the looks of things Texas was going to be looking for a manager sooner rather than later.

Jon Daniels and the rest of the upper management in the organization didn't follow conventional wisdom this time though. They stood behind Washington and kept him on as manager. That was decision number 12 on T.R. Sullivan's list and it shocked and angered quite a few people.

I don't know if there were any conditions given to Ron for keeping his job. If there weren't there should have been. Staying clean should have been at the top of the list. Regular testing should have been a must. I'm guessing that there are a few conditions - Jon Daniels isn't stupid.

In 2010 and 2011 Ron Washington went out and showed the baseball world just how smart Jon Daniels and the rest of management were to keep him. Less than a year removed from the controversy he led the Rangers to their first ever World Series appearance. He followed that up by walking them back to a second consecutive appearance this year.

The Rangers could have fired Ron Washington. They didn't and instead he led them to the World Series twice in a row.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

1975 Topps - Steve Foucault.

Steve Foucault, shown here on card number 283 of the 1975 Topps set, had turned in a career year in 1974. His bullpen performance had played a key role in Texas remaining in contention as long as they did.

Manager Billy Martin had called on Foucault a career high 69 times in 1974 and he had pitched in a career high 144.1 innings. By 1975 those innings appeared to be taking a toll.

Foucault appeared in 59 games for Texas in 1975. All were in relief. While still leading the bullpen in appearances Steve's appearances had dropped off. His innings pitched also dropped off - even more so than his appearances. Not only was he being used less often, he was being used less when he was used.

Steve tossed 107 innings in 1975, second most among Texas relievers. He posted a 4.12 ERA and a 1.411 WHIP for the year. Both were significantly higher than the year before. His strikeout-to-walk ratio also went the wrong direction as it fell to 1.02. That was less than half of 1974's total.

Steve Foucault had been ridden hard in 1974 but had done well. 1975 was a different story though. Whether it was overuse from the previous year or a failure to make needed adjustments, things had not gone well. From a key component in a contender Steve had gone to a big question mark. He needed to get some rest and figure out what he needed to do to recapture the magic of 1974.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Minor League Monday - Francisco Valdez, 1989 ProCards.

Francisco Valdez appears here on card number 1020 of the 1989 ProCards set. Judging by the picture Francisco didn't get the memo about picture day. It looks like he is wearing jeans underneath his untucked jersey.

Texas signed Francisco as a free agent in January of 1987. After waiting a season, perhaps for Valdez to complete high school, the club started him at Rookie Ball in 1988. Francisco pitched in 13 games and tossed 63.1 innings for the Gulf Coast League Rangers. All but one of his appearances was as a starter. His 3.55 ERA wasn't anything to write home about but it was good enough to get him a ticket to Gastonia for the 1989 season.

Francisco continued to start in A Ball. Of his 26 appearances 24 were starts. All told he would pitch 135.1 innings and post a 14-3 record. He also saw improvement in important areas. His ERA dropped to 3.13 and his WHIP dropped 136 points to 1.190. He strikeout-to-walk ratio also improved slightly to 1.56.

1989 had been a good year for Francisco Valdez. At age 19 he seemed to be a solid pitching prospect for Texas. He wasn't burning through the system but he was young and was making progress. Texas needed pitching and Valdez seemed to be on his way. That makes it all the more strange that the 1989 season was his last in pro ball. In spite of looking I can't find any information on why. After just two years Valdez's career seems to have come to an abrupt end.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Senators Saturday - Ray Rippelmeyer, 1962.

Ray Ripplemeyer appears today on card number 271 of the 1962 Topps set. The photo is probably a little off to avoid showing any more of Ray's Reds pinstripes than necessary.

Washington picked Ray up from Cincinnati in November of 1961 during the Rule 5 draft. That meant that he had to be on the Senators Major League roster all season or be returned to the Reds.

Ray ended up playing in 18 games for Washington in 1962. Most of his appearances were in relief as he started just one game. All told he would spend 39.1 innings on the mound and face 179 batters. Ripplemeyer's ERA tallied to an ugly 5.49 and his WHIP to a monstrous 1.627. He walked as many batters as he struck out (17). Those were some bad numbers, even for the Senators.

Ray tried to make up for his pitching performance at the plate. He had six plate appearances and batted an amazing (for a pitcher) .500. One of his three hits was a solo shot home run and one was a double. That's some pretty decent power for a pitcher.

Unfortunately for Ray, the Senators didn't seem to think his bat was worth putting up with his arm. On July 11, 1962 they returned him to the Reds. He would spend the rest of the year in the minors. Following the 1965 season he hung up the spikes, his time with Washington his only Major League experience.