Saturday, April 30, 2011

Michael's first helps team back to first.

So the Rangers are finally back in sole possession of first place in the American League West. Not only that but I got to hear the game today thanks to it being a day game on the west coast.

Colby Lewis took the mound against the A's in Oakland following the loss there last night. Texas really needed to win this one to break up the developing losing streak. Lewis needed a good showing since he had gotten roughed up in his last couple of starts.

Well, maybe it was being close to home but Colby found his groove. Even though he didn't have his best stuff he managed to hold Oakland to just two runs through eight innings.

Of course those two runs would be enough to sink him if the offense hadn't come through. They did though and in a big way. Michael Young, seen here on card number 21 of the 2004 SPx set, hammered his first home run of the season. The two run shot put Texas up 3-1. Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli both launched in the fifth inning to set the lead at 7-2. In the eighth and ninth innings the guys managed to add four more runs. Final score: 11-2 Texas.

Nice way to play against a division opponent. No errors, good pitching, and hot bats.

Friday, April 29, 2011

See back for complete listing...

I was looking through one of my Rangers card books today and came across this 1992 card of Ivan Rodriguez. I can't remember where I got the card from other than it had to have been a few years ago when I was big into collecting Pudge.

Looking at the front of the card it appears to be just another early nineties unlicensed card. The border is blue with gold stripes. "Superstars" appears in gold lettering in the upper left of the picture. What really caught my eye was the back of the card.

When flipped over, the card shows copyrighted to Superstars in 1992. It is numbered 92-26. Nothing too odd there. The strange thing is that there are no stats and no write-up. No predictions or blurbs about how great Ivan was going to be. Not even a comic. What is on the back is a list. Titled "1991 Card Checklist" the list gives the card numbers for the major sets in 1991. For several sets there are no numbers, just a dash. Apparently that indicates that either the set did not have a card of Rodriguez included or the maker of this card was unaware of it.

I must say that I found the list of cards to be rather interesting. A small and apparently unlicensed set that includes a checklist of cards put out by the major card companies. Unusual to say the least.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Non-random Ranger auto.

It's been a long two days at work. That's why I didn't post yesterday. Between seven in the morning and ten thirty at night I was home for all of about 45 minutes. Today wasn't as rough but it was long.

Missed both yesterday's and today's games. Mrs. Spiff tells me that former Ranger Frankie Francisco finished off Texas today in their loss to Toronto.

Since I didn't get to listen to the game and since I have little time to post I will leave you with this 2004 Bowman Heritage card that Frank signed for me in 2009 when he was still with Texas.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

1974 Topps - Len Randle.

Ugly game tonight. Not really a contest after Matt Harrison cratered in the first inning. Don't really feel like writing about the 10-3 shellacking the Jays meted out so it's back to 1974.

Len Randle, seen here on card number 446 of the 1974 Topps set, was in his fourth Major League season in 1974. It would be his first full one. After splitting time in 1971 and '72, and only playing in ten games for Texas in 1973, he was finally on the roster for the entire season.

Len spent most of his time at third base in 1974 but also put in significant time at second base and in the outfield. He was actually a better second baseman than third baseman. As a matter of fact, Len had spent most of his time in the minors as a middle infielder. Pressure from the established Dave Nelson at second and Toby Harrah at short pushed him to third.

While facing challenges in the field, Lenny sparkled at the plate. He posted a .302 batting average in 573 plate appearances - good enough for second highest in the starting nine. His 26 stolen bases did lead the team. Randle also worked 29 walks in addition to his 157 hits for an on-base percentage of .338. He scored 65 runs for the team and bumped in 49. Lenny didn't have much power but he did knock 17 doubles and four triples during the season.

All in all Len Randle had a pretty decent season for the Rangers in 1974. He took advantage of his first full year in the Majors and impressed at least a few folks since he received some MVP consideration. Not too bad since the American League MVP was teammate Jeff Burroughs who cast a pretty long shadow. After the breakthrough season Randle just needed to keep up the good work to establish himself as a regular for Texas in 1975.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Decisions: The rebuilding program.

T.R. Sullivan is referring to the most recent rebuilding program and the most successful one to date. The architect was General Manager Jon Daniels. I don't have a card of Daniels though so you'll have to settle for this 1987 Fleer sticker card.

Daniels was the youngest GM ever when he was hired by owner Tom Hicks in 2005. J.D. immediately set off controversy by trading Alfonso Soriano to the Washington Nationals. That was just a taste of things to come.

Daniels strategy was to restock the farm system, let young talent develop, lock that talent in early, and to not trade the future away on a gamble for today. There were a lot of folks who grumbled. Following the trade of John Danks for Brandon McCarthy there were calls for Daniels' head.

Fortunately, Tom Hicks ignored the tumult and allowed the development of the team to run its course. Things really started to click with the trades of Mark "Money Man" Teixeira to Atlanta and Eric Gagne to Boston. With those two trades Daniels landed a large part of the core of the current Rangers team - the defending American League Champions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Decisions: The Ballpark.

The Rangers got a new ballpark in 1994. Up until that time they had been playing in Arlington Stadium.

Arlington Stadium was a former minor league park that still felt and looked like one. For the first few years there was even an area that families could throw down a blanket and picnic during the games. By the early 1990's the stadium was really showing its age. The attempts to bring it up to major league standards hadn't worked. Something needed to be done. There were even a few dark rumors that the team might leave Arlington due to the stadium.

The Ballpark in Arlington was the result. The park was designed as a throwback park, along the lines of Camden Yards but with a Texas flair. Just before the start of the 1994 season the club held an open house. After Arlington Stadium the Ballpark was a whole new world. I can still remember walking through it with my Grandfather. From the relief carvings on the facade to the Texas stars in the ironwork I couldn't get enough. Surrounded by open spaces the park fits seems to be a baseball mecca - set aside for a special use.

While the finished product was pretty impressive there were some hiccups along the way. Disputes over the design of the park included a debate over building a dome. Fortunately that wasn't done and the open-air design prevailed.

Along with increased seating revenues the Ballpark in Arlington also helped the Rangers land their first All-Star game in 1995. Building the park was definitely the right move and worked out well. If you haven't been to a game there you really ought to give it a try.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Decisions: Signing Ryan.

Number two on T.R. Sullivan's list of the top 50 decisions in the history of the Texas Rangers is the signing of Nolan Ryan.

On December 7, 1988 the Rangers signed Nolan Ryan as a free agent acquisition. That was over 22 years ago. The impact still remains. Ryan pitched more games for the Angels and Astros than he did for the Rangers but his five seasons in a Rangers uniform transformed the team.

At the time of the Ryan signing the Rangers were stuck in the doldrums. The competitive teams of the 1970's were long gone and the teams of the 1980's had been largely unimpressive. There had been a few players who caught national attention but overall the players were known mostly to die-hard fans.

Nolan changed all that. Suddenly there was a national spotlight on Arlington Stadium. Ryan put fans in the seats, money in the franchise, and the team on the map. Young fans who had been, or were in danger of being, lured away by the Cowboys suddenly sat up and took notice. The Ryan Express was moving and you had better get on board or you might miss something.

Nolan opened his time in Texas in 1989 by ringing up Rickey Henderson in August for strikeout number 5,000. In 1990 he would toss his sixth no-hitter and pick up his 300th career win. In 1991 he would get his seventh no-hitter. Those types of performances were historic. It seemed that the entire state held it's breath every time Ryan took the mound. Tickets to games he was pitching sold much better than other games.

Ryan retired in 1993 following a late season injury. In 1994 he was honored with a statue in the new ballpark. In 1996 the Rangers retired Nolan's number. He was also in the inaugural class of the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2003. In 1999 he became the first (and so far only) Hall-of-Famer to wear a Rangers cap on his plaque. In 2008 he was hired as the team president. In 2010 he became a part owner in the team.

Of course Ryan has impacted the team in the short time he has been in management and ownership. Even aside from that though, his signing impacted the team in a huge way. Nolan served as an ambassador for the Rangers and helped grow the fan base. The result was more funds to sign and retain other high profile players. The Rangers never reached the post-season with Ryan on the mound but a case can be made that his pitching helped put them there in 1996.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Decisions, decisions.

Read an article today by T.R. Sullivan. He had listed the 50 decisions that have formed the course of the Rangers in their 50 years of existence. T.R. doesn't really expound on if the decisions were good or bad, he just lists them. The article gave me an idea for a series of posts. From time to time I will be writing on the decisions and if they were good or bad ones. This weekend is a good time to start this series since things will be pretty busy and I can schedule to posts ahead of time. There are quite a few of these decisions from before my time but there are a surprising number that I remember occurring.

Number one on the list is the franchise moving from Washington, D.C. to Arlington, Texas. This signed 1971 Topps card of Casey Cox would be one of the last Senators cards issued. Following the 1971 season Bob Short moved the team to Texas. It was the last time the Nation's capital would have a pro team until the Expos moved there in 2005.

When the original Senators moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season MLB replaced them with the club that would eventually end up in Texas. From 1961 to 1971 the team played in Washington. During that time the club went 740-1032 and never finished higher than fourth place. Most of the time they were in the bottom two or three teams in the league.

With the team mired in mediocrity and himself going broke, Bob Short petitioned MLB to let him move the team. Enter Tom Vandergriff, mayor of Arlington. Vandergriff had tried to get Charlie Finley to move the A's to Texas but failed. He wouldn't fail this time. After tireless lobbying he finally landed the franchise. In 1972 the team would kick off their first season in Texas.

Thanks to Tom Vandergriff, North Texas finally had a MLB team. The move was a huge benefit for the team. Money would stay tight for the first couple of years but the move got them away from the Yankees and Orioles. Once away from those established teams, the fan base began to grow. With the closest teams being the Royals, Astros, and Cardinals, the Rangers were able to draw from a large area. With a new name and new location there was finally reason to think that things might turn around.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I got nothing tonight. Kind of like Score with it's 1988 design, as showcased here on card number 67T.

Just don't have it. Kind of like Ray Hayward in 1988.

Can't come up with anything. Kind of like the Rangers tonight as they are in the process of losing the game, series, and first place to the Angels.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

1974 Topps - Dave Nelson.

Tonight's game is a train wreck. Right now the Rangers are losing to the Angels 14-2. Ugly. Time for a break from the present.

Dave Nelson, seen here on card number 355 of the 1974 Topps set, was the first string second baseman for the Rangers in 1974. He would appear in 120 games and log 1042.1 innings in the field - all at second base. He would see 652 chances and commit 20 errors for a .969 fielding percentage. That was six points below the league average.

At the plate Dave would post a .236 batting average in 526 appearances. His on-base percentage was .291. That was in part due to the 34 walks he worked and the four times he was hit by a pitch. Nelson didn't lead the Rangers in any offensive categories but his 25 stolen bases were second only to Lenny Randle.

Nelson did have a rough time in the first half of the season. On May 10th in a game against the Royals he and Lenny Randle collided. Dave broke his nose, sprained an ankle, lacerated an eye, and suffered whiplash in his neck. Wouldn't be surprised if he also suffered a concussion. The result was that he was out until June 10th. After coming back his batting average slipped and he suffered from a variety of aches and pains but managed to play the rest of the season.

All in all it had been a tough season for Dave Nelson in 1974. The Rangers didn't appear to have a lot of options on the roster to challenge him at second base other than Lenny Randle. To stay ahead of Len he needed to try and get past the injuries and improve on his performance both at the plate and in the field.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Home sweet home.

Apparently the Rangers like seeing the view shown on this playing card put out by Academy Sports and Outdoors. After losing the last two games of the road trip they came into tonight's home game tied for first with the Angels and stumbling.

Texas looked to C.J. Wilson to try and right the ship. He did his dead-level best as he went seven innings while allowing just one Halo to cross home. Angels starter Ervin Santana matched zeroes with C.J. until the bottom of the fourth inning.

Two quick outs in the inning and it looked like the deadlock would go to the fifth. Then Nellie Cruz and David Murphy singled. Mike Napoli walked. Mitch Moreland knocked in Nellie and Murph with a single to get the scoring started.

That would be it in the fourth. In the fifth Texas would add four more to bring the score to 6-0. Anaheim pushed one across in the seventh but the Rangers got it back in the eighth. Final: 7-1 Texas. Hello win column and first place.

Very nice to see the win. The last two games in New York were ugly affairs and the Angels were on a roll so I was a little apprehensive about tonight's matchup. Good outcome though.

Sorry about no posts on Friday and Saturday. Got really busy on Friday and didn't realize until I was in bed that I hadn't posted. Gone all day Saturday to a Civil War Day. I guess at least I didn't have to listen the loss on Saturday that way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Travel day.

Travel day for the Rangers today. Most news from the club is that Josh Hamilton has apologized for initially saying that third base coach Dave Anderson was responsible for his injury. Good idea Josh.

With no other news and possible thunderstorms threatening I will leave you with this 2001 Fleer Platinum National Patch time card of Ivan Rodriguez. As you can see the card features Pudge and a piece of his home whites.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oh Ollie.

It's been a long day. Work seemed to drag on forever. The first two innings of the Rangers/Tigers game did as well. It took almost an hour to get that far in the game.

By the time I got off work the game was headed to the bottom of the ninth all tied up. As Darren Oliver, pictured here on his 1994 Fleer Major League Prospects card, took his warm-up tosses I began to get uneasy. This was too much like yesterday's game to suit me. Ollie got the first out and I tried to relax. I shouldn't have wasted my time. On the second batter of the half-inning he served up a gopher ball to end the game. Two days - two losses. Two losses - two walk-offs for the other team. Both walk-offs coming from the Darren duo.

Momma said there'd be days like this. Hopefully the losing is out of the system for awhile and the team can be on stride against the Yankees this weekend.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Double bummer.

Well, C.J. Wilson had a rough day in Detroit. He just didn't seem to pitch as well as he had in his previous two outings. In 7.2 innings he allowed 4 earned runs but ended up with a no decision due to an offense that kept puttering along with just enough juice to stay in the game.

Darren O'Day had a rough day as well. He allowed two walks and two hits in the ninth inning. The result was a walk-off win for the Tigers after the offense had scored a run in the top of the ninth to even things up. That happens when your control deserts you and Darren definitely didn't have his today.

The roughest day probably belonged to Josh Hamilton. Josh, seen here on card number UH157 of the 2009 Topps Update set, tried to score on a pop-foul out when the Tigers left home uncovered. There was a close play and he dove in head first. Result - out and out. After getting tagged out Josh left the game with right shoulder pain. Latest word is a fracture and 6-8 weeks on the Disabled List. Bummer on the play, bummer on the injury. Here's to hoping it's only six weeks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ten percent.

During Spring Training Nolan Ryan said that he expected at least 90 wins from the Rangers this year. After the first ten games of the season the club has gotten ten percent of the wins Nolan is looking for.

The most recent two wins came from the four and five starters in the rotation, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando respectively. Both won low scoring pitcher's duels.

Yesterday Holland, seen here on card number 61 of the 2009 Topps 206 Bronze set, shut the Orioles down through six. The bullpen kept the lid on and the result was a 3-0 win. The six scoreless innings dropped Derek's ERA to 2.25 through 12 innings. They also gave him his second win of the season. Pretty impressive performance from the young lefty.

Apparently Alexi Ogando thought that one good turn deserved another. He went seven scoreless innings against the Tigers today to out-duel Justin Verlander. Texas ended up with the win 2-0. In 13 innings Alexi has picked up two wins and allowed no runs. That makes him the only pitcher in the American League with a least an inning pitched per team game who hasn't been scored on to this point. Great run so far.

Very nice to see these two guys doing well. Holland has been a prospect for several years and Ogando's entry into the United States was delayed when he got caught up in a visa scam. Right now it appears that both were worth the wait. Hopefully they can keep up the performance and help get the team the rest of the way to the goal that Ryan set for them.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Twin bill split in Baltimore.

The Rangers first road game of the 2011 season got rained out yesterday. The result was a double-header today at Camden Yards.

Colby Lewis started game one. It didn't take long for the Orioles to jump on him and jump they did. Unfortunately the Texas offense wasn't jumping. In fact they seemed asleep. Final score: 5-0 Orioles to end the Rangers undefeated run.

The game two starter was Matt Harrison, shown here on card number BDP20 in the 2008 Bowman set. Harrison had an awesome outing in his first start of the season as he beat the Red Sox in Arlington. Going into today's game his ERA stood at 1.29 after seven innings.

In the second inning today Adam Jones jumped on a Matt Harrison pitch and jacked it into the bleachers. 1-0 Orioles. Here we go again I thought. I undersold Matt Harrison though. He shook off the homer and shut to the Baltimore bats down. Through seven he went without another run. In came the bullpen and kept it quiet (although Pedro Strop made things interesting in the 8th). Meanwhile the offense found their gas and got to running. By the time Harrison left the game he had a 9-1 lead. In the ninth Texas would add four more to seal the win with a 13-1 final score.

Bummer about the loss in game one but I was figuring that the team was about due for a loss. What is more concerning is Colby Lewis' performance. He struggled in his first start and then again today. That's not what anyone was expecting. Hopefully he can pull it together and get back on track. Nice to see Matt Harrison cruising to this point. He said this had to be his breakthrough season and he may be right.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hitting the road.

Well, the Rangers take their six game winning streak on the road. Today's a travel day and tomorrow it's time to play the Orioles in Baltimore. The O's are doing well to this point in the season with a 4-1 record going into play today against the Tigers. Could be quite the challenge to continue the winning streak.

In order to try and conjure up some winning vibes I am posting this signed 1986 Donruss card of all-time Rangers win leader Charlie Hough. Charlie signed this card for me back in the 1990's when he was still with Texas and adding to his win total.

It's pretty early in the season but already there are some questions being asked about the Rangers and other ball clubs, these among them:

Should Alexi Ogando stay in the rotation or be moved back to the bullpen when Tommy Hunter comes back? Should that decision even be discussed after just one start?

What's the deal with the Red Sox? After getting swept by Texas they went to Cleveland and lost three there to run to 0-6 on the season. Now it's back home to face the Yankees. Will they be able to get it together anytime soon?

Tampa Bay is the only other team in the Majors to not have a win yet. Is that surprising or expected?

What's with the emergency appendectomies? There's already been one for each league.

Any thoughts on these questions or anything else you have noticed with the Rangers or any other team? Please feel free to let me know with a comment.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wilson gets a W.

The Rangers went to 6-0 today against the Mariners after winning last night as well. C.J. Wilson, pictured here on card number T218 of the 2002 Topps Chrome set, got the win today. To get the win C.J. went seven innings and gave up just two earned runs. Seattle scored a third on an error. Wilson's pitching performance makes an interesting point about the season thus far.

In the Rangers first four games they pounded 13 home runs. They led baseball going into today's game in runs, extra base hits, and slugging percentage. That clearly puts them in the top of the league offensively. What tends to get overlooked is the pitching.

Going into the game today the Rangers starting rotation had a 3.28 ERA. That is the best in the American League for a starting rotation. Wilson's stands at 2.84 after today's start. That's in the middle of the rotation - Ogando and Harrison are lower while Lewis and Holland are higher. All five now have a win. All five are in the top 30 pitchers in the American League - that includes starters and relievers.

Those are some decent numbers. If the guys can hold onto them the season could be very enjoyable indeed. If you have good pitching you don't need home runs every game to win - just like the last two days for the Rangers.

Now to see if this performance translates to the road. Tomorrow is an off day and then the team heads into Baltimore to face the equally hot Orioles. Should be an interesting series.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Andrus snaps streak.

Well, the Rangers continued their early season romp last night with a win over the Mariners. That leaves them at 4-0 on the season.

Nellie Cruz kept his home run streak alive as he went yard for the fourth time in as many games. It was Elvis Andrus though who got the most exclamations. Andrus, seen here on card number 84 of the 2010 Allen and Ginter set, ended a streak of his own. He did it by homering in the first inning.

I was listening to the game and couldn't believe my ears when Elvis launched. Unlike Cruz, Andrus isn't exactly known for his power. In fact, some have been known to doubt if he had any power.

The streak that Elvis ended was his consecutive at-bats without a home run. Elvis last hit a long ball in September of 2009. He had gone for 705 at-bats since then without one. Long drought. Not the longest in club history though. Scott Fletcher went 914 at-bats between home runs in 1987-89. Interestingly, Fletcher was also a shortstop. Of course, I don't think his fielding was as good as Andrus' is.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Wow! That's about all there is to it. For the Rangers it was a great Opening Day weekend. For me? Well, I made a trade with Rhubarb Runner over at é rayhahn, rayhahn. He came through with some great cards that I needed. One of the lot was this nice-looking card from the 2011 Topps Heritage set, number 263. Along with it he sent a few more 2011 Topps Heritage, some 2008 UD Documentary that I needed, a few Topps 1st Edition cards, and a couple of other cards that hit holes in my Rangers collection. Thanks Rhubarb!

As for the Rangers, all they did was come out of the gate like a ton of bricks. Three games later they have swept the Red Sox and are looking good. Nellie Cruz and Ian Kinsler are on pace for 162 homers each this season (I know, they'll slow down) and Matt Harrison wrote the preface to his case for making the All-Star game. Hard to believe that the season has started off this well.

In the first three games of the season every position player has made it onto the field and I think about every pitcher except Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland. There's been a couple of bumps but so far everybody's looking pretty good. Hopefully it keeps up tonight as the Mariners come into Arlington.

Seattle surprised Oakland in the opening series. Hopefully Texas can cool them down while staying hot themselves.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lead-off home run part 2.

Got the yard work done and cleaned up in time for the start of the Rangers/Red Sox game tonight. Ian Kinsler, shown here on card number 282 of the 2009 Topps 206 set, led off for Texas in the bottom of the first. He hammered one deep. Before the final call I turned to Mrs. Spiff and told her that I couldn't believe it. A second later it was official - a lead off home run to start the game for the Rangers offense.

Last night a lead off homer against John Lester and tonight against John Lackey. Very impressive. Apparently it's the first time ever that a player has started the season with two consecutive lead off home runs. Congratulations Ian!

On top of the home run by Kinsler the Rangers proceeded to pound Lackey. They also roughed up the Boston bullpen as well. Final: 12-5 Rangers win. Nice to see the team off to a good start.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Murphy strikes - no fooling.

So the Rangers beat the Red Sox today 9-5. The game wasn't really as big a thumping as it looks like from the final score. In fact, it was tied 5-5 heading into the bottom of the eighth and I was thinking it would go extra frames. The Rangers had some other ideas though.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth Mike Napoli drew a walk. Yorvit Torrealba singled. Julio Borbon headed to the plate but was called back. In came David Murphy, shown here on card number 493 of the 2010 Upper Deck set. Murph hammered a two run double to give Texas the lead and they never looked back.

Of course Murph wasn't the only highlight. Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Napoli all homered off Sox ace John Lester. Elvis Andrus doubled Murphy in and Josh Hamilton sent Elvis home with a double of his own. Neftali Feliz struck out two to finish the game with a perfect inning. Arthur Rhodes also worked a scoreless frame in the seventh. C.J. Wilson struck out six batters in 5.2 innings while walking just two. Good ratio there.

Of course there were a couple of areas of concern. Two of the five Boston runs were unearned thanks to a first inning error by Julio Borbon. Julio had trouble with sloppy defense in Spring Training and it looks like he still hasn't gotten it sorted out. Better get it figured out Julio, Craig Gentry is at Triple A and still hungry. Darren Oliver didn't struggle as badly as David Bard did but he did give up a solo shot to David Ortiz to tie the game in the top of the eighth.

All in all a good game though. Very nice to hear the team back on the air. Even nicer when it's a win on Opening Day.