Saturday, July 30, 2011

Catching the train for Baltimore.

Well, on the same day that Derek Holland tossed his third shutout in five starts, the Rangers seem to have made a trade to try and bolster to bullpen. is reporting that the deal is all but finalized.

Reportedly Texas sent Chris Davis, shown here on card number TEX5 of the 2010 Topps Texas Rangers set, and Tommy Hunter to Baltimore in exchange for Koji Uehara. File this one under the "I hope this wasn't a mistake" heading.

I had figured that Davis was gone. To be frank, as much as I like Chris Davis he just wasn't sticking with the Rangers. After this year the Rangers would have been out of options on him so moving him made sense.

Where I begin to wonder about this trade is where Tommy Hunter gets involved. Uehara has his upside. He's pitched 47 innings in 43 games this year for the O's, most in late-inning relief. His ERA stands at 1.72 and his WHIP at 0.70. Those are some good numbers to see coming to the Rangers pen with their trouble holding narrow leads.

The problem is that Tommy Hunter also has an upside. His ERA stands at 2.93 and his WHIP at 1.11 in 15.1 innings for Texas. Those innings have come in just eight games. That's some good news if your starter stumbles or you need a spot start in a makeup game. Tommy's also had some success as a starter in the past so if a hole develops in the rotation coming down the stretch he could be used to plug it.

Koji Uehara has started in the past, not well though. He's also eleven years older than Hunter. The age and the ability to start well are where I really grimace at letting Tommy go. Wish the Orioles would have taken Scott Feldman instead.

I sure hope this works and doesn't turn into a situation where a long-term third starter got sent to Baltimore for a one or two year short relief guy.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hideki Irabu, 1969 - 2011.

Former Rangers pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead on Wednesday in his California home. Law enforcement is saying that the death is being investigated as a suicide.

Irabu never really lived up to the hype he brought with him from Japan to the Yankees. He also didn't deliver like Texas and Montreal were hoping he would.

That makes his apparent course of action no less tragic. Life is a precious gift. As such it is inexplicably saddening and infuriating when one who has been given that gift rejects it.

Hopefully Mr. Irabu's wife and children have a support system to help them through this difficult time.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Best Seasons: Gonzalez - 1996.

Another loss last night. Seems the Rangers are determined to make this season a dogfight with the Angels.

Time to move on to the third season listed in T.R. Sullivan's fifty best Ranger seasons list. Today is Juan Gonzalez, shown here on card number 206 of the 1996 Upper Deck set, and his 1996 season.

1996 was the year the Rangers finally broke their post-season drought. The team is perhaps the second most popular team in Rangers history. Both are in large part thanks to Juan Gonzalez.

Juan's defense in 1996 was just a few ticks above the league average. He never was a Gold Glove winner so that was about the norm for him. What made the season stand out was his offense. Always a threat at the plate, he seemed to step it up a bit that year.

In 592 plate appearances he posted a .314 batting average and a .368 on-base percentage. He struck out 82 times while walking 45 times. As you might expect, that indicated some power. Gonzo's 47 home runs were a career high. His two triples and 33 doubles were not but were good enough for the second most doubles on the team. He also knocked in 144 RBI. It's safe to say that the Rangers would likely have not won the division if not for Gonzalez.

In the post-season Juan continued to hammer away. Even though the Yankees eliminated the Rangers in four games he refused to go quietly. In 19 plate appearances his batting average was an astounding .438 and his on-base percentage tallied to .526. He walked four times - amazingly only once intentionally. He homered five times while grabbing nine RBI.

In recognition of his performance Gonzalez won the American League MVP and a Silver Slugger award.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Odd Moments: Canseco on the mound.

Sloppy, that about sums up last night's loss to Minnesota. Texas should have won but got sloppy.

With Michael Cuddyer appearing on the mound for the Twins in Monday's game I thought it might be appropriate to take a look at number three on T.R. Sullivan's list of bizarre moments in Rangers history. Since I have previously posted the only card that I am aware of that shows this incident you will have to settle for Jose Canseco on card number 10 of the 1993 Hostess set.

On May 29, 1993 the Rangers were visiting the Red Sox. Things did not go well. By the eighth inning the Sox were pounding Texas to the tune of 15-1. In trotted Jose Canseco to pitch the eighth.

Jose would manage to end the game by pitching the full inning. He allowed three earned runs on two hits and three walks for a final career ERA of 27.00. I suppose that he at least saved an already weak bullpen.

Problems arose though when Canseco missed nine of the next ten games due to back and right forearm/elbow problems. After that things seemed to smooth out a little as he played in the next nine games. Of course four of those appearances were as the designated hitter. The pain persisted though and Jose was placed on the 15 day Disabled List on June 24. On June 28 he was diagnosed with a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. On July 9 he underwent reconstructive surgery - commonly called Tommy John surgery. That was it for the rest of the 1993 season.

There has been a lot of debate since manager Kevin Kennedy sent Canseco to the mound in Boston. One of the most frequently asked questions is why did he use Jose? Why not a utility player or backup? Why risk the big gun in the lineup with a potential injury?

Various answers are given to these questions. Some blame Kennedy's inexperience. Some look to Canseco's legendary ego and his loud pronouncements of ability to accomplish various feats. Whatever the reason, the decision was catastrophic. Less than a year after trading for Jose Canseco Texas had lost his services for a half a season.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back with a vengence.

Apparently the Rangers took exception to being shutout on Sunday night. Last night they unleashed the dogs of war against the Twins to score a 20-5 win. In the process they hammered a MLB season-high 27 hits. Nice to see the offense rebound.

Ian Kinsler, shown here on card number 18 of the 2007 Bowman Gold set, went 4-for-6 in the game. Nelson Cruz did as well and Mike Napoli went 4-for-5. Kinsler bumped in four RBI though and that was more than anyone else in the lineup so he gets today's card.

In addition to Kinsler, Cruz, and Napoli almost everyone else got in on the action, most with at least two hits. Even Omar Quintanilla knocked a triple in his lone plate appearance. David Murphy was a late inning replacement and went 0-for-2. Chris Davis' struggles continued as he went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts. Murph, Davis, and Napoli were the only guys without an RBI in the game. Not sure how Nap managed that with his production at the plate.

In the midst of the artillery going off Derek Holland went six innings while giving up just one run and that was unearned. Dutch also picked up four strikeouts in route to what is likely the easiest win he will ever get at the Major League level.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Minor League Monday - Jim McCutchen, 1989 ProCards.

So the Rangers were shutout against the Blue Jays last night. Only the fifth time they haven't scored in a game this season. At least they won the series 2-1.

With no real standout performances last night, I thought this might be a good time to take another gander at the 1989 ProCards set. Jim McCutchen appears on card number 1011 of the set.

Finding Jim's records on Baseball-reference was a pretty daunting task. It would have been easier if ProCards had spelled his name correctly. They didn't though and it took me a little while before I tried alternate spellings and got the information.

According to the back of McCutchen's card, he was the 18th selection in the 1986 draft. Three seasons later he was only up to Single A. Not a good sign. By this point it may be safely inferred that Jim's career was in perceptible danger. He needed to get moving and fast. Outfielders in the Rangers system in the late '80's and early '90's were expendable if they didn't deliver.

In 1989 McCutchen would appear in 119 games for Gastonia and make 433 plate appearances. His batting average would tally to a pedestrian .216. His on-base percentage was almost a hundred points higher at .310. That was in part due to the 50 walks he worked. With 34 more strikeouts than walks one might think that Jim was a power hitter. Wrong. for the season he would hit just 15 doubles, one triple, and one home run.

Not pretty numbers. Not enough to get promoted. Not even enough to stick as it turned out. I'm not able to find the details but 1989 was McCutchen's last season in the Texas farm system. By 1990 he was with Milwaukee and had been demoted to Rookie ball. Apparently the Brewers tried to convert him to a pitcher - he would appear as such in 13 games in 1990.

After missing the entire 1991 season McCutchen would pitch for the independent Salinas Spurs in the California League in 1992. The Astros would take a chance on him for the 1993 season. He played Single A ball for them. It would seem though that Jim's luck was no better pitching the ball than it was hitting it. 1993 would be his last season in pro ball.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back and catching up.

Wow! Seems like a lot has happened since I last posted. Nice to have the computer room done and the scanner back up and running. Ok, so what all did I miss?

Well, the Rangers' win streak ran to 12 before they lost a game to the Angels. Meanwhile Nolan Ryan entered and left the hospital with a flare-up of his heart problems. The day before yesterday C.J. Wilson lost a game 1-0 on an unearned run in a great pitcher's duel. Then came last night's 12-2 win against the Blue Jays in Arlington.

The Rangers seemed to enjoy being home. None more than Nelson Cruz, shown here on card number 564 of the 2007 Topps Redbacks set. Nellie drove in eight runs while going 4-for-4. His hits included a double and a home run. Michael Young was equally hot as he went 4-for-4 as well. Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre did well also. Starting pitcher Colby Lewis went 6.2 innings and struck out five on the way to getting the win. Probably one reason he didn't go deeper in the game was the bullpen's need for work with the recent pitching performances by the starting rotation.

On a down note, Adrian Beltre left the game in the fifth inning after running from first to third. Today the Rangers placed him on the 15-day Disabled List for a strain of his left hamstring. Bummer. Chris Davis is up to replace him. Will be interesting to see if Chris can take advantage of his rapidly diminishing chance to stick with Texas.

Ok, think I'm all caught up now. Good to be back. Looking forward to getting back into the posting routine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Technical difficulties.

Well, the painting job on the computer room didn't go as quickly as Mrs. Spiff was hoping it would. I am out of pre-scheduled posts. As such it is looking like the next couple of days will be without a post. Hopefully everyone will check back in towards the end of the week when I can get things back up and running. Thanks!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Minor League Monday - Anthony Berry, 1989 ProCards.

Another pre-scheduled post. Hopefully Mrs. Spiff will be done and the room and computer back to normal by tomorrow.

Seeing as I have never been good at looking into the future, I thought that it might be better to go back in time and revisit the 1989 ProCards set. Today we see Anthony Berry on card number 1009.

Berry was the 36th selection of the 1988 draft. That year he played with the Rookie League GCL Rangers in Sarasota. He got 270 plate appearances and batted .250 with a .333 on-base percentage.

Those numbers were good enough for Anthony to get moved up to Single A. In 1989 he would appear in 43 games for the Gastonia Rangers. He went to the plate 141 times and batted .169. His on-base percentage was .298. Berry did manage to improve his fielding percentage but that was of little matter in an organization where outfielders were expected to hit well.

I'm not sure who made the decision that 1989 would be Anthony's last season in pro ball but it was. Looking at the numbers it seems pretty clear that his offensive struggles played a big role in ending his career. Having a hard time at the plate in Single A is not a good sign. Apparently it was an exit sign for Anthony Berry.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Senators Saturday - Dale Long, 1962.

Today is a pre-scheduled post. Mrs. Spiff is repainting the room we normally keep out computer in so I will be unable to post scans for a couple of days. As such, my posts may not match with what the Rangers are doing.

Going into 1962 Dale Long, shown here on card number 228 of the 1962 Topps set, was the Senators starting first baseman. He was looking to keep his job in 1962. To do that he would need to improve on the previous season. He would struggle mightily.

In 212 plate appearances Dale posted a .241 batting average - down eight points from 1961. His on-base percentage dropped ten points to .307. His home runs were also down to four from 17 in 1961.

While Long was having a tough time at the plate his glove work was improving. In 411.2 innings in the field he committed just two errors. This gave him a .996 fielding percentage. That was six points higher than the league average and a 13 point improvement over 1961.

Apparently Washington felt that they had other options at first base. The Yankees wanted Long back and the Senators were willing to work a deal. On July 11, 1962 they traded Dale to New York. Don Lock came to Washington. The deal would be a good one for the Senators. Lock would help power their offense through 1966. Long wouldn't appear in the Majors after 1963.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Out of the gate strong.

The Rangers started off strong last night in their first game following the All-Star break. Derek Holland, shown here on card number 560 of the 2009 Topps Heritage set, took the mound in Seattle.

I have to admit that I wasn't real comfortable with Dutch on the hill. In his last start he threw a complete game shutout so that was good. In the start before he got knocked out in the first inning after giving up five runs so that was bad.

Derek apparently wanted to prove that his last start was no fluke. Through five innings he had a perfect game going. He lost it in the sixth but got back on track and got out of the inning without damage. All told he went nine shutout innings while giving up just five hits and one walk. He struck out eight Mariners in route to his eighth win of the season which also happened to be the Rangers eighth win of this streak.

Before the game Ron Washington watched his team work out and then declared that they were ready to play ball. That they were as the offense came alive for five runs. Hamilton, Cruz, and Napoli all homered. Torrealba, Kinsler, and Young doubled. Gentry and Napoli also stole bases.

All in all a good game. Nice to see the team clicking on all cylinders to start the second half of the season. Time to get that roll going that will help them pull away from Anaheim.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Odd Moments: Ventura takes on Ryan.

Number two in T.R. Sullivan's list of 50 strange occurrences is the moment depicted on this unlicensed card from 1993. As a disclaimer, this is a controversial tale for some White Sox fans.

On August 4, 1993 the Rangers were hosting the White Sox. Nolan Ryan was on the mound. By this point in his career he was considered a sure-fire Hall of Famer and the crowds were packing in to see him.

In the third inning Robin Ventura stepped to the plate. Ventura was one of the hot young players on the ChiSox at the time. I can remember hearing about him and Frank Thomas in terms similar to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

During the at-bat Ryan hit Ventura with an inside pitch. Nolan would later claim that the beaning was not intentional and that he was just trying to go inside. Since Nolan didn't really have a reputation as a headhunter one can probably take him at his word. Robin didn't though, not then and not later. He charged the mound. As he did catcher Ivan Rodriguez leapt up and ran after him.

Ventura reached Ryan before Rodriguez reached him. Ryan stepped back as Ventura lunged and then caught him in a headlock. As Robin struggled Nolan delivered five or six (depending on who's counting) punches to his face. Other players from both teams then swarmed the mound.

In the aftermath Ventura and Sox manager Gene Lamont were ejected. Apparently the umpires did not think that the beaning was intentional because they left Ryan in the game. He proceeded to beat Chicago 5-2.

In the aftermath Ryan told the media that he didn't believe in fights. However, he had been charged by Dave Winfield in 1980 and didn't enjoy the experience. After that he had decided to defend himself vigorously should it happen again. Thirteen years later it did and he did.

Ventura claimed that Ryan was throwing at him in retaliation for Alex Fernandez hitting Juan Gonzalez earlier in the game. He claimed that he went to the mound to defend himself and that all Nolan did was give him "some noogies." He also claimed that the only reason he was tossed and Ryan wasn't was because the officials were in awe of Ryan. For years after that comment I figured that Ventura was a sorehead. Recently I have read several things that changed my opinion of him in that regard. Apparently he is a really down to earth and classy guy. I would surmise that the stress of the situation just got to him.

Rafael Palmeiro summed up the incident pretty well when he said, "I never thought I'd ever see anyone charge the mound against Nolan Ryan. I bet we won't see it again."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best Seasons: Hamilton - 2010.

As C.J. Wilson said yesterday, "Bummer." I think that about sums up the All-Star game. Probably about sums up Scott Feldman's thoughts as he gets put on waivers today. Can't see him getting claimed or declining a minor league assignment though.

Using the break from play today for the second installment in the Top 50 Best Seasons list that T.R. Sullivan compiled earlier this year. Number two on the list is Josh Hamilton's 2010 campaign.

Most everyone who follows baseball knows about Josh's 2010 season - memorable to say the least. In spite of missing a month of the season Hamilton, shown here on card number 902 of the 2009 Upper Deck set, managed to log a purely awesome year.

In 571 plate appearances Hamilton posted a league-leading .359 batting average along with a .411 on-base percentage (second in the league). His 40 doubles, three triples, and 32 home runs (fifth in the league) combined for a league-leading .633 slugging percentage. That all translated into an even 100 RBI. Hamilton also stole eight bases while getting caught just once. Not a speed merchant by any stretch but he stole often enough that opposing pitchers did have to keep an eye on him.

In addition to being a wrecking ball on opposing pitching staffs he also did his share to throw a kink in the other teams' offense. In 1034.2 innings in left and center field Josh flubbed just four times. His .985 fielding percentage was just one point below the league average .986.

In recognition of his performance Hamilton took home the hardware. In addition to his American League Champions ring he also won a silver slugger award, the American League MVP, and was named to the All-Star team. Truly a top performance in a Rangers season that was long awaited.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Finishing the first half strong.

So the Rangers finished the first half of the season strong with a seven game winning streak. The Angels have been doing well also. End result is that Texas is still on top of the division but by only one game.

The final win before the All-Star break came thanks to Matt Harrison's arm. Matt, shown here on card number 525 of the 2008 Topps Heritage set, went 7.2 shutout innings against the A's on Sunday afternoon. Adrian Beltre launched a two run home run in the sixth to give Harrison his seventh win of the season.

So far so good for Texas this season. No major injuries and the starting rotation seems to be pretty solid. Darren O'Day is back. So is Tommy Hunter. Scott Feldman will be coming soon and has been doing well in rehab. The offense seems to be coming together as well.

The two areas that it would be good to see some improvement would be the bullpen and defense. Both are rather streaky, things go well for awhile and then start to hit a rough patch. A lights out reliever or two would be very nice going down the stretch. Going to be a dogfight with the Angels all the way I think so every game will count. It will be interesting to see how things shake out.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rainout makeup goes Wilson's way.

C.J. Wilson, shown here on card number 532 of the 2009 Topps Heritage set, started in last night's makeup game against the Oakland A's. The game was a makeup for an earlier season game that got rained out. At the time of the rainout the Rangers were leading the A's 7-0 behind Matt Harrison.

Gio Gonzalez started both games for the A's and performed about the same in both. In the rainout he gave up a grand slam to Mitch Moreland. In last nights' game the slam was surrendered to Mike Napoli.

By the end of the first Texas led Oakland 5-0 in route to an 8-5 win. C.J. went seven and gave up four. In addition to Napoli, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre also hit home runs. Theirs were solo shots. Neftali Feliz got into a little trouble in the ninth and gave up a run but Tommy Hunter turned in a scoreless eighth.

All in all a good night and a nice win. Keeps the team in sole possession of first place for one more day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

In memoriam.

Observing a post of silence in memory of Rangers fan Shannon Stone who fell at last night's game and ended up passing away. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Elvis' bat lives!

The Rangers completed their sweep of the Orioles last night. The three game series was an offensive eruption for Texas and last night was no exception as they downed the O's 13-5. The win gives them sole possession of first place again.

Alexi Ogando stayed in his early season form as he went seven innings and gave up just three runs to grab the win. Darren O'Day flashed some of his 2010 self as he went a scoreless ninth to seal the deal.

Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Endy Chavez all had a great night at the plate. Ian Kinsler, and Mitch Moreland also had good times at the dish.

By far and away the best night at the plate belonged to Elvis Andrus, pictured here on card number 194 of the 2009 Topps Chrome set. Elvis had been scuffling badly heading into last night. In fact, he was 1-for-19 on the homestand prior to the game. Lots of folks were hoping that Andrus could break out of the slump and break out he did.

Elvis went 4-for-4 with a walk. Two of those hits were doubles. Andrus scored three times himself and knocked in a run as well. Good stuff.

Nice to see the sweep, the team back in first, and the return of Elvis' bat. Now to keep the ball rolling against the A's going into the All-Star break.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Odd Moments: Ten cent beer night.

Sorry about no post yesterday. Had family in and Spiff Jr. had a ballgame. Too much going on I guess. Also missed most of yesterday's comeback win over the Orioles so I will pass on commenting on that other than to say that it's nice to see the guys winning again.

Along with his top 50 lists on decisions and seasons T.R. Sullivan also complied one on strange occurrences and odd moments in the Rangers' history. Along with the series on the first two lists I would like to do one on this list as well.

Number one on T.R.'s bizarre moments list is the game the Rangers played in Cleveland on June 4, 1974. In 1974 the Rangers were making some contention noise for the first time in their history. The Indians were mired in a long stretch of mediocrity. With attendance down and the unknown Texas team coming to town something had to be done to draw the fans. The result? Ten cent beer night.

The basic idea was this: for about fifty cents a guy could sit in the bleachers. For ten cents he could get a beer - no limit on the number. All told 25,134 folks came to the game that night (compared to the normal 8,000). The crowd drank approximately 65,000 beers. In fact, the Indians couldn't keep the booze flowing quick enough and ended up giving refills straight from the trucks. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty.

Fireworks were already going off pre-game and the assembled crowd booed Texas manager Billy Martin when he delivered the lineup card to the home plate umpire. In the second inning a woman jumped out of the stands, exposed her breasts, and tried to kiss the home plate umpire. In the fourth Mike Hargrove homered. As he rounded the bases a naked man ran onto the field and slid into second base. In the fifth inning a father and son jumped onto the field and mooned the Rangers. By the seventh inning the bullpens had been evacuated due to the rain of fireworks, trash, and beer.

By the bottom of the ninth things were completely out of control. The outfield wall was being torn down in places and the war drums were literally beating. Security was either ineffective or overrun.

Cleveland was behind 5-3 but mounted a rally to tie the game. To celebrate a fan ran into right field and tried to steal Jeff Burroughs' cap. Burroughs, shown here on card number 86 of the 1994 Ted Williams set, got into a scuffle with the fan. More drunks poured onto the field and surrounded Burroughs. Billy Martin led a charge of Rangers armed with bats to rescue Burroughs. As the crowd closed in on them the Indians charged out of their dugout and into the fray. Several in the crowd and several players were injured. Cleveland player Tom Hilgendorf got hit in the head by a folding chair. Knives and chains were seen in the mob.

With the bases all stolen and a hunting knife landing not too far from him, umpiring crew chief Nestor Chylak called the game as a forfeit in favor of Texas. He later said he had never seen such behavior outside a zoo. Shortly after the game was called the riot squad arrived and cleared the stadium. Major League baseball then cancelled all further ten cent beer nights for the season.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Four Rangers go to All-Star game.

Just a quick post to say congratulations to Josh Hamilton on being elected to the All-Star game.

Adrian Beltre, C.J. Wilson, and Michael Young, shown here on card number 60 of the 2005 Absolute Memorabilia set, are also going. Beltre and Young as reserves, Wilson as one of Ron Washington's choices. Congratulations guys, hope you enjoy the experience. I am guessing that unless the team starts playing dramatically better this may be the high point of the season.

Hope that everyone has a safe and happy Independence Day today.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nellie marks birthday with Fish fry.

Yesterday was Nelson Cruz's birthday. To mark the occasion he hammered the Marlins in Arlington. Nellie, shown here on card number 241 of the 2007 Topps Chrome set, went 2-for-5 last night. That's not particularly noteworthy but Cruz made the most of his hits with a home run and a triple. Nellie scored twice and knocked in six RBI.

Josh Hamilton (2-for-2), Adrian Beltre (3-for-4), and Taylor Teagarden (3-for-5) all had an excellent night at the plate as well as the Rangers scored 15 runs.

Starting pitcher Alexi Ogando took advantage of the offensive production. Alexi went six scoreless before giving up a couple of runs in the seventh. Nice to see the Ogando of the early part of the season.

In addition to the two runs surrendered by Ogando in the seventh, Florida also pushed three across in the ninth. Final: 15-5 Texas. Happy birthday Nelson!