Monday, January 31, 2011

Minor League Monday - Gary Wheelock, 1987 ProCards.

Card number 134 of the 1987 ProCards set features Oklahoma City pitching coach Gary Wheelock. The back of the card informs us that 1987 was Gary's first year as pitching coach with the Eighty-Niners.

Also on the back of the card is the fact that Gary was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the first round of the 1976 expansion draft and was the first player to throw a complete game for the franchise. All told, Gary's Major League career would last three seasons and just 36 games before ending in 1980.

Gary is currently the pitching coach for the Rookie Peoria Mariners in the Arizona League. From what I was able to determine he was only with the Rangers for one year before moving to the Mariners' organization.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Senators Saturday - Joe Hicks, 1961.

The back of card number 386 in the 1961 Topps set has a cartoon of a ballplayer looking at a snow covered sign that reads "To Washington." The accompanying caption reads, "Joe was drafted from Chicago last winter." That's true, technically speaking. Hicks was drafted from the Chicago White Sox as the 42nd pick in the 1960 expansion draft. He wasn't taken by the Senators though. They got him by trading Dean Chance to the other new team in the league, the Los Angeles Angels.

Joe spent most of the 1961 season in the minors. He would play 81 games at Triple A as opposed to 12 for Washington. In those 12 games he would get just 29 plate appearances and manage only a .172 batting average. Since he didn't get a single walk his on-base percentage was identical. Joe got just five hits and only one RBI. The RBI came from his first Major League home run.

In the field Hicks would play 57 innings split between the two corner outfield positions. In 15 chances he would make 14 putouts and get one assist. That gave him a 1.000 fielding percentage on that small sample.

If Joe Hicks wanted to get a shot with the Senators in 1962 he would need to work on his offense. The team was doing well in the outfield and it would take dramatically better numbers than he had demonstrated in 1961 to nail down a spot. Joe was going to need to get some boom in his bat to get more playing time.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Waiting for baseball.

Not much going on in Ranger-land today. Pretty much just sitting and waiting for Spring.

Going to leave you with this 2001 Topps Gold Label Relics #GLR-IR card featuring Ivan Rodriguez and a piece of his jersey. Probably one of my favorite game-used cards. Hope you like it as well.

Well, back to the countdown of days until Spring Training.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Frank flies to the Jays.

So Frank Francisco, shown here on card number 140 of the 2005 MLB Showdown Trading Deadline set, is no longer a Ranger. Yesterday Texas traded Frankie Frank and some cash to Toronto for Mike Napoli. Not sure what I think of this deal. I can see some potential upsides and several possible downsides.

Francisco had a rough season in 2010. He lost the closer's job just a week or two into the season. After that he spent a couple of stints on the Disabled List. In fact, he wasn't even able to make an appearance during post-season play. In spite of all that he was still able to lower his ERA by .007 and appeared in 5 more games than 2009.

Long term though, what is Frank looking like? Perhaps his best season to date was 2008 when he posted a career best 3.13 ERA in 63.1 innings over 58 appearances. He had just five saves that year. His WHIP was a decent 1.153. All of his numbers were dramatic improvements over 2007. That at age 28.

Two years later there are signs of potential trouble. Frank's ERA has crept up to 3.76 in 2010 and his WHIP was 1.272. There is also the fact that he is now 31. That age isn't a redline but it is handy to remember Frank's injury history and the fact that he relies on the ball "jumping out of" his hand rather than on guile to get batters out. When the ball doesn't "jump" Frankie doesn't get the outs. Still, he probably has several good seasons left and might have been nice to have in the middle innings or possibly as a setup man.

Mike Napoli on the other hand is a year younger than Francisco and a position player. His power numbers have been gradually increasing but dipped last year. At 29 that dip could have been a minor blip or the start of a gradual descent. In 2010 he played almost equal time between first base and catcher. This gives the Rangers a little flexibility and could make Chris Davis an expendable commodity. That could translate into either some more ripening time for Davis at Triple A or possibly a young pitcher in return for him.

All in all I think the jury is still out on the trade. It pains me to see Texas trade decent pitching for a position player. On the other hand, they have a little depth in pitching and it could be that they managed to move Francisco at just the right time. This is one of those trades that it will take looking back on to see if it was a good one or not.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1974 Topps - Larry Gura.

Apparently 1974 was the year of flipping ballplayers in Texas. Larry Gura appears today on card number 616T of the 1974 Topps Traded set. Like Terry Crowley, who has appeared on the only previous 1974 Topps Traded card we have seen, Larry never played a single game for the Rangers.

Gura came to Texas in November of 1973 to complete an earlier deal when the Rangers had sent Mike Paul to the Cubs for a player to be named later.

On May 7, 1974 the Rangers sent Larry and some cash to the New York Yankees in exchange for Duke Sims.

Larry Gura was in and out of Texas and may have never even actually worn a Rangers ballcap.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Minor League Monday - Ray Ramirez, 1987 ProCards.

So last week's minor league card of Glen Cook was the last player card in the 1987 ProCards Eighty-Niners team set. That leaves just three cards, the coaching staff.

Up today on card number 156 is trainer Ray Ramirez. 1987 was Ray's first year as the trainer in Oklahoma City. He would stay with the team through 1991.

In 1992 he would move up to the Big Leagues and work as the assistant trainer with the Rangers. In 2005 he would start as the New York Mets Head Trainer. Ray's still in New York with the Mets but he doesn't seem to be much more popular than the management what with the past couple of seasons' injury record. Any Mets fans have an opinion you care to share?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Senators Saturday - Dick Donovan, 1961.

Dick Donovan was the 54th player taken in the December, 1960 expansion draft. As you may be able to tell from his jersey, the Senators got him from the White Sox. Dick had to settle for the hatless, old jersey look on card number 414 of the 1961 Topps set.

In Dick Donovan the franchise had its first award winner. In 168.2 innings pitched Donovan posted a 2.40 ERA and a 1.026 WHIP. Both of those numbers led the American League. He also struck out 62 of the 671 batters he faced while walking just 35 of them. That was good enough to get him selected for the All-Star game and to garner a few MVP votes.

Interestingly, Dick's record at the end of the season would stand at just 10-10 in 22 starts and one relief appearance. That in light of his ERA and WHIP and the fact that he threw 11 complete games tells just what sort of team Washington fielded in its first year. Guess that goes to show why some are moving away from win/loss records as an indicator of how good a pitcher is.

Dick Donovan had pitched his heart out in 1961 but the team had been unable to capitalize on his performance. At least they hadn't been able to on the field. In October of 1961 the front office attempted to as they sent Donovan to the Cleveland Indians along with Gene Green and Jim Mahoney. In return the Tribe sent Jim Piersall to Washington. After one memorable season Dick Donovan was no longer a Senator.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"O" No!!! I forgot!

So I came home from work today to find a small white box waiting for me. Cards in the mail! Wahoo! The return label said they were from Ryan over at "O" No!!! Another Orioles Blog. Uh, oh. Ryan and I had agreed to a trade a few weeks ago and he splendidly kept up his end of the deal. Unfortunately I forgot. Terrible protocol I know. I quickly packaged up up the cards I was to send Ryan, shipped them off, and sent him an apologetic email. Then I opened the box.

Inside I found a good stack of carefully packaged Rangers that Ryan had made sure filled holes from my recently publicized wantlists. Just about every card was a hit and several team sets were finished off. One of the sets that Ryan finished off was the 2004 Upper Deck team set. Hank Blalock on card number 88 was the final one I needed.

In sum, Ryan is a great trader and isn't one to forget a deal once made. Take my advice and trade with him if you get the chance. You won't regret it. You also won't have to wait as long as he did when he traded with me. Sorry again Ryan and thanks.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Random thoughts.

Can't really think of a lot to post about today. Have a couple of inches of snow on the ground and baseball season seems like it's still a mile away. Gotta say that I am missing listening to the Rangers. Not that I particularly care for the cold and snow either.

Texas has signed C.J. Wilson and Nelson Cruz to one year deals to avoid arbitration. That'll give them some time to work out longer term deals with them. Next up on the contract agenda are Josh Hamilton and Jon Daniels. Both are no-brainers in my opinion. Sure, Josh might suffer from some injuries and Jon might pull an occasional bad trade but both are positive forces overall. Hopefully the team can nail both down soon.

Mitch Moreland is the Rangers first baseman. The job is apparently his to lose and he is working hard on keeping it. Good idea. Chris Davis is running out of chances to get it and could come on hard. I doubt Michael Young would mind playing there everyday either if so assigned.

Today's card is a 2005 Prime Patches jumbo swatch card, number PP-2 in the set. It is numbered 394/500 and features a large piece of Ivan Rodriguez's jersey. Very nice looking card I think. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Wednesday.

Spent my blog time shoveling snow. Should be back to normal tomorrow.

Still looking for ideas for a regular series of some sort to run for Wednesdays. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1974 Topps - Tom Grieve.

Thomas Alan Grieve, or Tag to most Rangers fans, was in the middle of a seven year run with Texas in 1974. In spite of the position designation on his card he played two more games as a designated hitter than he did in the outfield. That would start a trend of being a DH for significant portions of each season.

Tommy would get 288 plate appearances in 84 games in 1974 and would post a .255 batting average and a .311 on-base percentage. He would hit just nine home runs but two of them would come in one game against the Cleveland Indians. He also managed 32 RBI on the season.

In the field Grieve would play 229.1 innings in left field, 41 innings in right field, and two innings at first base. He wouldn't commit a single error in 69 chances at the three positions combined.

Tag wasn't doing badly but it still remained to be seen if he would be worth the $60,000 signing bonus the Senators paid him as a first round draft pick in 1966. He defense was fine and his offense seemed to be trending up. He just needed to build on that in 1975.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Minor League Monday - Glen Cook, 1987 ProCards.

The Rangers drafted Glen Cook in the 24th round of the 1981 draft. By 1985 he had made the Major Leagues with a nine game stint late that year. In 1986 he would be back with Oklahoma City, just as he is pictured on card number 146 of the 1987 ProCards set.

Glen spent the entire 1987 season at Triple A. He would appear in 31 games. All of his appearances would be in relief and he would toss a total of 57 innings. He ended the season with a 4.53 ERA and a 1.335 WHIP. That in spite of striking out 36 while walking 23.

1987 would be the end of the line for Glen. After seven seasons in the Rangers' system and only one stint in the Bigs he hung up the spikes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Number three.

Having computer issues on this the third anniversary of Texas Rangers Cards. Had wanted to do a special post of some sort but haven't had the time or computer capability.

Thanks to all who have read and commented the past three years. I greatly appreciate it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moving around.

So I've spent some time thinking over the Rangers recent signing of Adrian Beltre. It's been several days since the deal was finalized and I am still not sure what I think. Seems like there are pros and cons to the deal. Hard to tell at this point which are more numerous.

Beltre is supposed to have better range at third than Michael Young. He is also a decent threat at the plate. Having said that I have read that his clubhouse presence leaves much to be desired. With a young team that can hurt. Also, after the Alex Rodriguez debacle, I am just a little leery of any long-term deals to free agents who haven't proved themselves with the club.

One of the other things I pondered was Michael Young's reaction. Young, shown here on his 2004 Leaf Certified Mirror Red game-used card (66/250), agreed to give up third base and become a designated hitter and "super sub." This is Michael's third position change in his time with the Rangers. He's won gold gloves at two of the three positions he's played and with each move has a stronger case to insist on staying put. He hasn't though. When asked why, he stated that he wanted to win and wanted to play his entire career with Texas. Could be lip service, could be he's telling the truth. After all, he's already got a long-term deal with the team and has little reason to be tossing out nice-sounding tidbits that he doesn't mean. Mike's got a reputation as a team player and all-around nice guy. Sure would be nice to see him with the Rangers until he retires.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So much cooler online?

So once again it is Wednesday. No wantlist today though. Instead I have finally gotten my wantlists put online. Thus card number 750 of the 1998 Pacific Online set.

You can see the Rangers wantlists here, the Senators wantlists here and the tradelist here. Still have a little updating to do on the tradelist but it's mostly there. Not sure if being online makes the lists any cooler but they are more available. Let me know if you see anything you want or can send my way.

Since there will be no more wantlist posts, I am looking for ideas for Wednesdays. If anyone has something they would like to see as a regular feature please let me know. If it catches my fancy I might give it a shot. If I don't get any ideas you'll just have to suffer through whatever I can come up with.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1974 Topps - Bill Gogolewski.

Bill Gogolewski appears today on card number 242 of the 1974 Topps set. He didn't appear at all for the Rangers in 1974 though.

On December 5, 1973 the Texas got pitcher Steve Hargan from Cleveland for a player to be named later. On March 23, 1974 Bill was named as that player and sent off to the Indians.

Must have been a real downer for Gogolewski. The back of his 1974 card states that he had purchased a home in Texas. Not the best timing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Minor League Monday - Dave Owen, 1987 ProCards.

Dave Owen doesn't look very enthusiastic on card number 135 of the 1987 ProCards set. Perhaps it's because he realizes that this is the only card in the set with the next player in the photo line showing up on it.

By the time the Rangers signed Spike Owen's older brother in March of 1986 he had 85 Major League games under his belt with the Chicago Cubs. He wouldn't see any action in the Bigs with Texas though as he spent the entire 1986 season at Triple A Oklahoma City.

In 1987 Dave played in 72 games for the Eighty-Niners before being traded to the Kansas City Royals for a player to be named later. He would play in 21 games for the Triple A Omaha Royals. His stats on Baseball-reference combine his time with OKC and Omaha so it's impossible to determine how he did for the Eighty-Niners.

Interestingly enough, Dave and his brother Spike were both born and raised in Cleburne, Texas. That's the same town my Dad was born and raised in. Both were quite a bit younger that Dad though so he didn't remember them. I can remember seeing the Owen car dealership when on visits to my grandparents. Always thought that was pretty neat.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Senators Saturday - Pete Burnside, 1961.

Pete Burnside was drafted eighth overall in the December, 1960 expansion draft. The Senators grabbed him from the Tigers. Because Pete appears on card number 507 in the 1961 Topps set he gets a decent picture and gets to keep his hat on. Am I the only one to find it a bit ironic that a man with the last name Burnside has very short sideburns?

In 1961 Pete was the only left-handed pitcher to see significant action for Washington. He would serve as as both long relief and as a spot starter. In 33 appearances he made 16 starts and finished nine games. Four of the nine games finished were complete games. His final record on the season was 4-9.

In those 33 games Burnside would pitch 113.1 innings, only one out less than the year previous with Detroit. He would face 492 batters and would strike out 56 of them. He would also walk 51 opposing players. 66 runs would score on Pete's watch but only 57 of them were earned. That left him with a 4.53 ERA to go with his 1.385 WHIP.

None of Burnside's numbers were standout - either for his career or for the team in 1961. Compared to what manager Mickey Vernon had to work with though, they weren't terrible either. All told Pete landed about the middle of the pack for the bullpen. What remained to be seen was if that would get him another look with the club in 1962.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No re-gifting here.

So I'm finally starting to get caught up at home and work from the holidays. Seems like being gone the week between Christmas and New Year's put me a little behind.

As I am finally putting away the gifts I was given by family it re-occurs to me how great they are. From what I have read and heard there seem to be a lot of folks out there who have very loving families who just don't understand the need to follow a particular team or player. Actually, I'm not sure mine does either but they are good sports about it all.

Mrs. Spiff in particular is good about the Rangers and sometimes even shares my enthusiasm. In fact, for Christmas she presented me with this 2010 World Series program. Very cool. I am looking forward to reading it - very carefully.

The rest of the family is great as well, both sides. My parents, in-laws, sister, and two of my three brothers gave me Rangers-themed gifts. One brother even gave Mrs. Spiff two Rangers t-shirts. No cards except from Mrs. Spiff but still cool all the away around. Makes me very grateful. Not just for the gifts but more importantly for the people behind them who are willing to take the time and thought to give what they know others will enjoy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Norris, Texas Ranger.

So I have been working all day on trying to get computer problems fixed. Spent most of the day at work on a computer and came home to the same. At least I finally got the Internet back up and working. Made for a long day though and has kind of zapped my desire to spend much time in front of the monitor.

Decided to show off my latest through the mail autograph success. I had sent this 1981 Donruss card to Jim Norris in April of 2010. He signed and returned it. I got it back yesterday. Not sure what the delay was but I do appreciate Mr. Norris taking his time to sign and return the card.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blyleven and Alomar move to Cooperstown.

Quick break from the normal wantlist post to congratulate former Ranger Rik Aalbert Blyleven on his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame today.

Bert's looking good on card number 53 of the 1978 Kellogg's set here. Do you think he'll look as good in Cooperstown? Why?

Along with Blyleven, Roberto Alomar was also elected. What are your thoughts on Robbie's selection to The Hall?

Should anyone else have made it? Why?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1974 Topps - Jim Fregosi.

Jim Fregosi is listed as a third baseman on card number 196 in the 1974 Topps set. In spite of that he spent 100 more innings at first than he did at third. He would also miss 18 days of the 1974 season with muscle spasms.

In 78 games Fregosi would put in 312 innings playing first base without an error. He would make five errors in his 212 innings at third for a .929 fielding percentage.

Playing mostly when lefties were starting for the opposing team, Jim would get 253 plate appearances in 1974. He would post a .261 batting average and a .324 on-base percentage. 12 times he would circle the bases on a home run ticket. He would walk 22 times.

1974 wasn't too bad of a season for Jim Fregosi but it was far from his best. Time and injuries had taken their toll. He was on the downhill side of his career by the time Texas picked him up from the Mets midway through the 1973 season. Still, he had managed to stick as corner infield relief for a contending team and that wasn't too shabby.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Minor League Monday - Tim Rodgers, 1987 ProCards.

1987 was Tim Rodgers' second year in the Rangers farm system. Prior to that he had played five season in the Blue Jays organization - all in the minors. Rodgers, pictured here on card number 149 of the 1987 ProCards set, started the 1987 season at Double A Tulsa. After just three games and nine innings he was moved up to Triple A Oklahoma City.

With OKC Rodgers would make one start and 32 relief appearances. Those games would total 65.1 innings. His ERA during that time was 4.96 and his WHIP totaled out to 1.607. He did manage to strike out ten more batters than he walked, 35 to 25.

That about sums up Tim Rodgers' 1987 season. It also put the ending mark on his career as it was his last season in pro ball.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Senators Saturday - Harry Bright, 1961.

Happy New Year everyone! I trust that all had an enjoyable evening last evening and will have a great year.

Starting the new year off on a bright note here. Well, Harry Bright that is, as he appears on card number 447 of the 1961 Topps set. Harry is in the higher numbered part of the Topps set and so his card was issued in the last series. As such we actually get to see a Washington Senators' uniform for the first time. Not bad looking really. Gotta like those socks.

Washington traded Bobby Shantz to the Pittsburg Pirates in December of 1960 to get Bright, Bennie Daniels, and R.C. Stevens. Harry would end up as the backup third baseman to Danny O'Connell. He would also make brief appearances at catcher and second base.

In 334 innings in the field at third base Bright would post a .928 fielding percentage. That was well below the league average .951. Probably accounts for his being the backup rather than the starting third baseman.

At the plate Harry put together a .240 batting average and a .310 on-base percentage in 204 plate appearances. He would have six doubles and four home runs but no triples. That and his being caught stealing in his only two attempts indicate that while Harry may have been bright, he wasn't very quick. One troubling trend with Harry was that he struck out 23 times and only walked 19 times.

That strikeout to walk ratio with little power behind it is not a good thing. Bright would need to address that if he hoped to get a starting job in 1962.