Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memoriam.

Thank you.

( I know this is a repeat of last year's post but I really couldn't think of anything to add.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Senators Saturday - Ken Hamlin, 1962.

Well, everyone is home and doing well. No NICU stay like with the last wee one. Gotta say I appreciate that aspect.

Since the past few days have been busy and the Rangers lost last night I decided to take a peek back at the Senators. Up today is Ken Hamlin on card number 296 of the 1962 Topps set.

The Senators liked Ken Hamlin. In the 1960 expansion draft they picked him up from the Kansas City A's. They traded him to the Angels the same day. In return Washington got Bud Zipfel. The Angels traded Ken to minor league Toronto on June 22, 1961. On November 27th Washington grabbed Ken again in the rule five draft.

Going into the 1962 season Hamlin was out to win the starting shortstop job. Ed Brinkman was also aiming for the slot though and the two ended up splitting time at short. Overall Ken would appear in 98 games for the Senators - 87 of those would be at short.

Hamlin would put in 666.2 innings at short during the season and see 349 chances. He would commit 13 errors for a fielding percentage of .963. That was about on par with the league average percentage of .962.

Ken made 318 trips to the plate in 1962. He would post a batting average of .253 and an on-base percentage of .303. Neither of those numbers were particularly stunning. The rest of Ken's offensive numbers were not noteworthy. The exception to that might be the curious fact that he walked the same number of times he struck out (22) and that he stole the same number of bases as the number of times he got caught stealing (7).

All in all Ken hadn't been that impressive in 1962. With young Ed Brinkman also hungry for the shortstop job Hamlin needed to be impressive to get things nailed down. In spite of getting the majority of the playing time at short he couldn't close the deal. Washington would hold on to him but he would spend 1963 season in the minors. At 27 years old he needed to do something to get his career moving.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New arrival.

Posting this cyan printing plate of Warner Madrigal's 2008 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects card, number BDP46 today.

This plate has absolutely no relation to any current news but my newest 1-of-1 arrived at 0417 this morning so I thought the correlation an apt one. Headed back to the hospital here in a few minutes to check on Mrs. Spiff and baby. Hope to be back to normal posting soon if everything goes smoothly.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cruz joins Hamilton in homecoming.

Tonight's game is currently in a rain delay with pretty severe weather rolling through Arlington in the middle of the fourth inning. Since we have some severe weather here as well I decided to go ahead with today's post before I have to shut down the computer.

Posted too soon last night. Apparently Nelson Cruz, shown here on card number RFM-NC of the 2007 Finest set, didn't want to be left out of the return fireworks. As a follow-up to Josh Hamilton's solo home run in the first inning Nelson launched his own shot in the sixth to add two runs to the Rangers lead.

Meantime starting pitcher Alexi Ogando was masterful. He went nine shutout innings to record his first Major League shutout and complete game. That puts him at 5-0 on the year with a 1.81 ERA. Very nice numbers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

They're back!

Great day to be a Rangers fan. Matt Harrison blanks the Phillies yesterday for 8 and a third. Neftali Feliz comes in and grabs the final two outs for a save and a well deserved win for Harrison.

Today Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton came off the disabled list. Both are in the lineup tonight. As I worked on this post Hamilton, pictured here on card number 772 of the 2008 Upper Deck set, came up to bat in the first inning. It was his first at-bat since coming off the DL. On the second John Danks pitch Josh launched a line drive that never came down.

As one radio announcer said, "Superman is back!" Yep, it's a great day to be a Rangers fan. Welcome back Josh and Nellie.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Questions, questions...

It's been a long day - over 13 hours at work and then trying to help Mrs. Spiff get ready for a yard sale tomorrow. As such I am going to use this post to ask questions rather than make comments myself. Perhaps one of my well informed readers can clue me in.

Today's card is a Laynce Nix card from the 2004 eTopps set, number 68 in the set. I picked this card up off Ebay awhile back for rather cheap because it interested me. Why it interested me leads to the questions.

On the back of the card it states that this is part of a "limited edition of 1,760." As you can see, there is a stamp on the lower right of the front of the card that says "1 of 1" and "Chicago". That gold foil stamp is on the card itself. The sticker on the upper left was on the team back the card and case were shipped in. In addition, the eTopps seal on the case appears to be untampered with.

All of that leads to the questions. Was this card stamped by Topps before being shipped out of the eTopps program? If so, why? How easy would it be to take the card out, stamp it, and re-affix the seal so that it looked untampered with? Why "Chicago"? Perhaps a card show or convention? Would you consider this to be a promo card, a 1/1, or just interesting junk?

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. Looking forward to some enlightenment.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lightning strikes twice.

Been a busy past couple of days. Lots going on and lots on my mind. The result has been that posting has been a bit sporadic. Hopefully I will be able to get back on track and into the swing of things again.

Listened to the game in Kansas City last night. Quite the game it was. Interesting too that I had to listen to part of it on the local Royals station and so go a bit of the other side of the story.

Alexi Ogando threw 116 pitches as he went through seven innings. When he left the game was tied at two. One of the Rangers runs had come when Craig Gentry walked, stole two bases, and came home on a sacrifice fly. Weird. Texas had been stealing like mad on Matt Treanor all night but had also been stranding runners at an amazing pace.

Texas scratched out a run in the top of the ninth against KC's closer to take a 3-2 lead. In came Neftali Feliz, pictured here on card number 26 of the 2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary set. Piece of cake. Feliz will mow them down and that'll be it. Not so. Young KC call-up Eric Hosmer parked Neftali's first pitch over the fence. First blown save on the year for Feliz. Tied again. Bummer.

Feliz then walked the next batter. Uh-oh. In came a speedy pinch-runner. Bad news, Feliz has no pickoff move. A toss over to first. Runner back in easy. Come on, concentrate on the batter - you'll never get the runner. Got him! Picked him off! First time Feliz has ever picked a runner of first. Good deal, now to get the batter. Walked him. What!?! Another pinch runner. Another toss over to first. Back in safe. Another throw over. He got another one! Back to back pickoffs by a pitcher who had never picked a runner off first before then. Very cool.

Even better, Texas wins in 13 innings. Royals manager Ned Yost said after the game that he thought Feliz was balking. Four throws, no balks called and he was balking? Come on Ned, really? Maybe lightning just struck twice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

1974 Topps - Ken Suarez.

Yes, I know, Colby Lewis pitched a complete game shutout last night to lead the Rangers to victory over the White Sox. I was actually listening to that game and got so wrapped up in it that I forgot to post. Sorry about that. Not very impressive I know.

Today we see a very unimpressed Ken Suarez on card number 39 of the 1974 Topps set. Ken looks like he is about bored out of his mind in this picture. Life as a backup catcher will do that to you I guess. Ken had his excitement though. According to the back of this card he served as a deputy sheriff during the off-season. Can't imagine a professional ballplayer doing that now.

In 1974 Saurez wasn't with the Rangers. After two seasons with the club he was sent to Cleveland in exchange for Leo Cardenas in February of 1974. Not sure what happened there but Ken never played for the Indians at any level in 1974. In September he was sent to the Angels as part of a package that landed the Indians Frank Robinson. He never played for California either though. 1973 turned out to be his last season in pro ball. Maybe that's why he was unimpressed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Time flies...

Decided to preempt any posts about yesterday's win. Why would I do that to post this autographed 1990 Fleer card of Kevin Reimer?

Well, I just got this card in today. No big deal you may say, a common player who last played for the Rangers in 1992 and retired after the 1993 season. There's more to it though.

My wife actually called me at work when she found this card in the mailbox. She wanted to let me know that a return had come in. That's rather unusual. It's also unusual that the stamp on the envelope was a 29 cent stamp.

The stamp was a full postage stamp when I sent the card out. The address was the one I was living at. Since then I have moved twice - good thing I stayed in the same town.

Best as I can figure, based on the card, the years Kevin played for Texas, the stamp, the address, my handwriting on the SASE, and the time period that I would have been sending out requests, this card was sent out between 1990 and 1992. A twenty year return! That's a record for me. I would love to know the story on this.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On deck with the Hammer.

Well, I got on to post last night and found that Blogger was down. It didn't come back up before I had to hit the sack.

Since I missed yesterday's game-used or autograph post I decided to make it up with this 2004 Topps All-Star Appeal card of Hank Blalock. This is actually one of my favorite cards in this category for a couple of reasons.

First is the piece of on-deck circle. There are quite a few cards that feature pieces of uniforms and bats, an on-deck circle is a little different. Not sure what would possess a card company to put it in a card or how they could link it to Hank Blalock but there it is.

Second is the numbering. I'm an early to mid 1990's nerd when it comes to cards. As such I am a sucker for numbered cards. The idea of there only being an exact number out there and knowing which one I have is something I have always found interesting.

The third reason that I like this card is a little harder to see in the scan. The autograph is on a sticker, is the correct player, and is right side up. The sticker is upside down though. That means that Hank signed the sticker upside down. That also means that an alert Topps employee figured out what happened and flipped the sticker over before placing it on the card.

So there's the three reasons why this card stands out in my collection.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Decisions: A-Rod.

Number five on T.R. Sullivan's list of fifty decisions that have shaped the Rangers is the signing of Alex Rodriguez, shown here on card number 6 of the 2003 Absolute Memorabilia set. All T.R. says about the signing is that it "shook baseball's foundation." I think that wasn't the only foundation it shook.

At the end of the 2000 season Alex Rodriguez was one of the hottest players in Major League baseball. He was also a free agent and determined to cash in. His agent, Scott Boras, was all on board with the cashing in part. Rangers owner Tom Hicks was ripe for the taking.

I remember not really following baseball at the time Rodriguez was on the market. I do remember the crazy things he was supposedly asking for in his next contract. One rumor even had him demanding a private jet to fly him around on road trips. That was crazy. I was glad the Rangers didn't have the money to even consider signing him.

They did sign him though. Ten years and $252 million. Hicks wanted to win and win now. Boras and Rodriguez wanted the cash. Hicks was out of his league and got nailed. Three years later it was over, in February of 2004 the Rangers traded Rodriguez to the Yankees. The Rangers would continue to pay him until the team was sold in bankruptcy proceedings in 2010.

Alex turned in some truly awesome performances while with the Rangers. He was an All-Star and won Silver Slugger awards every year. In 2002 and 2003 he won Gold Gloves. In 2003 he was named the American League MVP. In three seasons he hit 156 home runs and stole 44 bases while getting caught just 10 times. His batting average during that time was .305 and his on-base percentage was .395. He led the league in home runs every year. In 2001 and 2003 he led the league in runs scored and in 2002 he led the league in RBI. He played in more games than any other American League player in 2001 and 2002.

In spite of all of those numbers, awards, and accolades the Rangers finished last each year he was with the team. In fact, they got worse. In 2001 they lost 89 games, in 2002 it was 90 and in 2003 it was 91.

Additionally, Alex grew to like playing in Texas less and less the longer he stayed. He didn't like the organization, fans, or his teammates. In fact, in a 2008 New York Daily News story he talked about how much he hated his time with the Rangers. He said that looking back he should have signed with the Mets. To sum up his feelings about Texas and avoiding a similar signing decision he said, "Oh, my God, where am I? Oh, $400 million to play in some place I hate? Great, I'll blow my --- head off."

Not real complimentary. Of course when he was traded he said that he never would have signed with the team if he had known it would just be him and a bunch of kids. Not exactly sure how Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers, and Rusty Greer fit into that description.

Of course A-Rod isn't the only one who came to regret the contract. In a 2010 ESPN article former Rangers owner Tom Hicks said he did as well. Hicks summed up his view of the signing, "I've done some dumb things. That was one of the dumb things."

So, the signing was huge. It impacted baseball. It was regretted by both sides. How did it impact the Rangers? I would say it shook their foundations as well.

Tom Hicks dumped an enormous amount of money into Alex Rodriguez. What he had left he threw at Chan Ho Park. The result was that he had no funds left over to try and retain Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge did enjoy playing in Texas and was loved by the fans. Losing him was a serious public relations blow. That was just the first drop though. As mentioned above, the Rangers continued to pay Alex through 2010, in fact he was one of the biggest unsecured creditors that the team had in the bankruptcy sale the signing helped cause. Paying Rodriguez to play for New York meant less money to sign, retain, and develop young talent. Not until Jon Daniels stepped in would the team start to recover.

In summary, the signing was a huge mistake. Both in dollars and years it should have never happened. While a lot of factors contributed to the Rangers dismal decade of the 2000's the signing certainly helped blow one of the bigger holes in the ship.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

1974 Topps - Jim Spencer.

Jim Spencer, seen here on card number 580 of the 1974 Topps set, had a little bit of a problem in 1974. He was competing with Mike Hargrove, the eventual Rookie of the Year for playing time. The contest would not end in Spencer's favor. Two stints on the Disabled List for a total of 18 days didn't help his cause.

Not that Jim was a bad first baseman, in 1970 he had won a Gold Glove and in 1973 he had been an All-Star. In the 388.2 innings he played at first base in 1974 Jim's .998 fielding percentage was six points over the league average. In fact, Jim committed just one error in the field in 1974.

Where Spencer lost playing time to Hargrove was at the plate. Not enough to completely fall out of the lineup - he would get 53 starts at Designated Hitter. In his 384 trips to the plate he would post a .278 batting average and a .323 on-base percentage. He hit eleven doubles, four triples, and seven home runs.

None of these numbers were out of line for a normal year for Spencer but Hargrove had turned in a spectacular offensive performance. The result was a lot of DH'ing and backup duties for Jim. If he wanted to get first base back in 1975 he was in for a challenge. Health and increased offense would be where he needed to improve.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Minor League Monday - Kevin Belcher, 1989 ProCards.

Wow! Just realized that I haven't posted a Minor League Monday card since mid-March. Must have had a lot of current Ranger news to write about. Coming in to break the Minor League dry spell is Kevin Belcher on card number 1004 of the 1989 ProCards set.

1989 was Kevin's third pro season and his second with Single A Gastonia. The sixth round pick from the 1987 draft would play in 93 games and make 385 plate appearances.

Kevin's defense wasn't much to write home about as he made four errors in 181 chances for a final fielding percentage of .978. I wasn't able to find out how many innings he played on defense.

His offense showed more promise but there were some downsides. He posted a .296 batting average and a .357 on-base percentage. He cranked 21 doubles but struck out 62 times. He did walk 31 times though.

Although not the numbers of a slugger, Belcher's offense had improved in almost all of the major categories. His defense, while also not sterling, had improved as well. As a result he would be promoted to Double A Tulsa for the 1990 season.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Senators Saturday - Pete Burnside, 1962.

1962 was Pete Burnside's second season with the Senators. He appears here on card number 207 of the 1962 Topps set. Before we take a look at Pete's year there are a couple of things about this card that deserve comment. First is the field that Burnside is posing on. Wouldn't see a field like that now. Even the Spring Training (which I am guessing is where this was taken) fields are nicer looking than this one. Kind of reminds me of the fields we used to play on when I played Little League ball.

The second thing that caught my eye was Pete's glove. That thing's been used pretty hard. Evidently Burnside was not getting an endorsement deal in the early 1960's.

Pete Burnside and Bennie Daniels split the role of fifth starter and long relief in 1962. The Senators, like most teams, regularly went with a four man rotation. Pete still got plenty of starts though, 20 in 40 games appeared in.

In those 40 games Burnside pitched 149.2 innings and faced 645 batters. His ERA was an unimpressive 4.45 and he posted a 1.356 WHIP. In all Pete allowed 20 home runs (second most of anyone on the pitching staff) and walked 50 of the batters he faced while striking out 74. He also hit two batters and let go with one wild pitch. An interesting note is that, while Pete allowed 82 runs only 74 of them were earned. That's not a very good commentary on the Senators defense.

1962 was a mixed year for Pete. He pitched a career high number of innings and struck out more batters than in any other year. He also managed to lower his ERA and WHIP from the previous season. On the other hand his walks and home runs allowed were also career highs.

Apparently the Senators didn't think Burnside was improving fast enough. On December 5, 1962 they traded him to the Baltimore Orioles along with Bob Johnson. In return Washington got Marv Breeding, Art Quirk, and Barry Shetrone.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A look ahead.

Decided to post this this 2000 Aurora Scouting Reports card of Ivan Rodriguez today. Scouting is a big part of Major League Baseball. Clubs have advanced scouts, minor league scouts, talent scouts, and foreign scouts to name a few. They all have one thing in common - trying to predict what is to come.

Well, this next weekend and the first part of next week are going to be pretty busy for me. As such I have pre-scheduled my posts. Letting you know this in case you wonder why I am all of the sudden not commenting on current happenings.

So, here's the scouting report on the coming few days. Tomorrow and Monday will be flashbacks as regular series that have had an extended hiatus are revisited. Tuesday is the next player from the 1974 team. Wednesday is the fifth installment in the Top 50 Decisions series. Thursday things will hopefully have slowed down and you'll have to put up with current posting again.

Thanks for your understanding and I hope you enjoy (or at least read) the upcoming posts.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wilson snaps skid.

I know, Thursdays are normally either a game-used or an autograph card. This 2008 Topps Heritage card, number 526, is neither. The problem is that I have no more autographed or game-used cards of C.J. Wilson and he deserves a card today. Deserves it very much.

Going into last night's game the Rangers were on a three game skid. They are barely clinging to a first place tie with the Angels and needed a win, desperately. Send in the ace.

C.J. went all nine innings and allowed just one earned run while striking out 12. The Mariners also sneaked in an unearned run for a total of two runs. Going into the fifth the score was tied, Mitch Moreland led off with a home run. That was all the lead Wilson would need but the offense added two more anyway. Final: 5-2 Texas.

Great to see C.J. continuing where he left off last year. With the departure of Cliff Lee he is now the staff number one. So far he has been handling the job well. He currently leads the pitching staff in starts (7), innings pitched (49.1), wins (4), and strikeouts (46). His ERA is a respectable 2.92 (second lowest in the rotation) and he has just one loss.

All in all I am pleased with Wilson's performance so far. He has stepped up to the challenge, met it to this point, and seems to be enjoying himself. It is also nice to see that he has remained one of the most fan-friendly players in the Majors. Hopefully Texas won't waste any time signing him to a new contract after this season. Speaking of signing, maybe I need to send him a couple of more cards to sign so I'll have them for future posts. The way he's been pitching I'll need them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Owl flew over the post office.

So the Rangers suffered another loss last night. Another bullpen letdown. This could become a habit if they aren't careful.

In order to raise my spirits I finally got to the small bubble mailer that I received several days ago from Night Owl. Included with a stack of cards was a note from the Owl himself. He was hoping that some holes in my collection were filled by what he sent. Of course they were. Owls have great sight and he apparently could clearly see what I needed.

In addition to this 2008 Upper Deck Timeline card of Brandon Boggs I also received several other great cards. A handful of 2011 Topps Heritage, a small poster from Donruss in 2002, a Vlad, Hamilton, and Ryan. All good stuff. Possibly the best card in the lot was a red bordered refractor from 2010 Topps Chrome featuring none other than Elvis. Andrus that is. I think these were inserts so I was excited to get this one in particular.

Thanks a lot Night Owl! Now all I need is the Rangers' performances to start keeping up with yours.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

1974 Topps - Jim Shellenback.

So I have a confession to make. On nights like tonight I don't listen to much, if any, of the Rangers games. These night games on the west coast just leave me dragging the next morning. As such I will be posting another card from 1974.

Today Jim Shellenback appears on card number 657 of the 1974 Topps set. 1974 would be Jim's worst season with the Rangers. All told he appeared in eleven games at the Major League level, all out of the bullpen. In 24.2 innings pitched his ERA was an unsightly 5.84 and his WHIP was 1.703. No wonder he spent as much time at Triple A as he did with the Rangers.

Following the 1974 season Texas sold Jim to San Diego. He wouldn't appear in another Major League game until 1977.

As an interesting side note: Jim was the nephew of Frank Shellenback, a pitcher for the 1918 and 1919 Chicago White Sox. Please refer all questions about Frank to Steve over at White Sox Cards.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Oh Ollie, part 2.

The Rangers were going for a series split today in Oakland. Derek Holland took the hill and went seven strong innings while giving up just two earned runs along with a third that was unearned.

When Derek left he had a 4-3 lead and it looked like Texas was going to put it away. Arthur Rhodes blew the save in the eighth though to tie the game up. Neither team could score in the ninth. Texas couldn't manage to take push a run across with the bases loaded in the top of the tenth.

On came Darren Oliver, seen here on card number 228 of the 1997 Fleer set. One pitch later the game was over as Hideki Matsui parked Darren's first pitch for a walk-off home run. Bummer.

On top of the loss today, this kind of worries me. In similar circumstances Ollie gave up a walk-off home run to Brandon Inge on April 12th. Twice in a month. Not good. Hopefully it's just mistakes and not Darren's 40+ years catching up with him.