Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1975 Topps - Fergie Jenkins.

Coming off a stellar year in 1974 the Rangers were hoping that Fergie Jenkins would continue his lights-out performances. That wasn't to be. Jenkins, shown here on card 60 of the 1975 Topps set, probably didn't have a bad year for a pitcher who hadn't had his 1974 season. It looked bad though against that backdrop.

Fergie appeared solely as a starter for Texas in 1975. In the 37 starts he made he would toss 270 innings and 22 complete games. His ERA jumped to 3.93 while his WHIP climbed to 1.174. Although he struck out 157 batters he also allowed a league-leading 37 home runs. At least that was the old Fergie. He had already led the league in home runs allowed five times previously.

1975 was a letdown for Jenkins and the Rangers. While still a workhorse for Texas Fergie was not the ace he was in 1974. All told he was probably the number three starter that year. That's not bad but when you're Fergie Jenkins it qualifies as an off year.

Apparently the Rangers had their doubts as to if Jenkins would be able to regain his 1974 form. In November of 1975 he was shipped to the Boston Red Sox for Craig Skok, Steve Barr, and Juan Beniquez.

As an interesting side note, the trivia question on the back of this card asks which country western singer once played minor league ball. The answer is Charlie Pride, now a part owner of the Texas Rangers.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ron stays at the helm.

The Rangers have been focusing on locking up key players recently. Talks with Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli seem to have been all the news. Today the team re-signed what I see as an equally important player, Ron Washington.

Wash, shown here on card 606 of the 2007 Topps Gold set, and the Rangers signed a two year extension. That means that if the last two years are any indication, Ron Washington with be at the helm of the Texas Rangers at least through the 2014 season.

Seems like a sound decision to me. Right now the chemistry in the clubhouse seems to be good. Ron Washington is a integral part of that. No point in messing with a team that is the two-time defending American League Champs. No point as well in letting the guy who is probably one of the most popular managers ever in Rangers history walk.

Right now Washington has the highest winning percentage of any Rangers manager who managed to stick around for any period of time. He's also the third longest tenured manager in team history behind Bobby Valentine and Johnny Oats. That's not bad company. If he can last through his extension he will have fewer games managed than only Valentine.

Congrats to Ron Washington on the extension. Good move by Jon Daniels and company.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Best Seasons: Al Oliver - 1980.

"Scoop" Oliver played for Texas for four years. His 1980 performance was memorable enough to land him number 15 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the 50 best seasons in Rangers history.

Oliver, shown here on card number 387 of the 1981 Donruss set, played mostly left field for the Rangers in 1980. He did well there but it was his offense that gets him mention on this list.

In a league-leading 163 games Al came to the plate 709 times. He compiled a .319 batting average and a .357 on-base percentage. He knocked in 117 RBI while scoring 96 times himself. He also had 19 home runs and 43 doubles.

Those offensive fireworks netted Oliver some MVP consideration along with a Silver Slugger award and an All-Star appearance.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Odd Moments: Using your (opponent's) head.

We've all been told to use our heads. It's something parents often admonish their offspring to do. How about using someone else' head? That can happen as well.

May 26, 1993. Cleveland, Ohio. In the bottom of the fourth the Rangers were leading the Indians 3-1. Up came Carlos Martinez to lead off the fourth. Long fly ball to right. Jose Canseco, shown here on card 365 of the 1993 Upper Deck set, tracked it down. Instead of a long out though, the ball hit the top of Canseco's head and bounced into the stands. Solo home run. That gave the Indians an extra out and they managed to score two more runs. Final score: Cleveland - 7, Texas - 6.

That extra run that Canseco gave the Tribe ended up being the difference but that wasn't the only odd thing. First, Jose wasn't charged with an error. Also, he didn't leave the game. Not that being hit on the head was likely to injure Canseco but one might have thought that a ball coming in that high and hard would leave a mark.

Lastly, Carlos Martinez wasn't exactly a home run threat - he hit five all season. Hopefully he sent Canseco a thank-you note for the 20% of his home run total that Jose was responsible for.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fielder's a Tiger.

Well, there's good news and bad news on the Prince Fielder front for Rangers fans. The bad news is that he didn't stay in the National League. The good news is that he signed with Detroit and so isn't in the Rangers' division.

I know a lot of Rangers fans and media were pulling for Texas to sign Fielder. I'm sure he would have made the Rangers lineup out of this world. Having said that I am still a little relieved that they didn't sign him. Most of that relief has to do with finances.

It took $214 million to sign Prince for nine years. Texas is already running at a deficit. If they had signed him then Josh Hamilton, shown here on card 266 of the 2009 Topps 206 set, Mike Napoli, and several other guys would have been gone when their contracts ended. No chance of even talking about re-upping them. That's what got Texas into trouble with Alex Rodriguez. He was one big contract too many. I am afraid that Fielder would have been the same.

Don't get me wrong, Fielder's durability and power at the plate would make most any team better. The thing is, we know Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli. So does the team. They click in the clubhouse. Fielder might have as well. He also might not have. That's an expensive risk to run. Got to admit that I'll sleep a little better knowing that Texas didn't run it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Millwood's a Mariner.

So MLB.com is reporting that the Seattle Mariners have signed former Ranger Kevin Millwood, shown here on card number 839 of the 2006 Upper Deck set.

Kevin's had a hard go of it since Texas traded him to Baltimore at the end of 2009. In 2010 he headlined a losing effort by the Orioles as he went 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA. That was on a free agent year and didn't help his cause.

The Yankees signed him last year to a minor league contract but he never made it to the Majors with them. In May he signed a minor league deal with Boston but they released him in August. Two days later he signed with Colorado.

With the Rockies last year Millwood made nine starts in the second half of the season. He posted a 4-3 record and a 3.98 ERA.

The Mariners have reportedly signed him to another minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The recent trade of Michael Pineda means that Kevin will be competing for a spot in the rotation with several other pitchers including another former Ranger, Blake Beavan.

This seems like a reasonable deal to me. If Millwood catches fire the Mariners are looking good. If his 37 years catch up with him there's little risk. Either way the club gets an experienced veteran with a good attitude to work alongside their young staff in Spring Training. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Senators Saturday - Bud Zipfel, 1963.

Ok, I'm still two cards short on my 1962 Topps Senators set. Moving on to 1963 however since I'm having a hard time tracking down those two '62 cards at a reasonable price. If I manage to come up with them I'll make a detour back to 1962 at a future date. For now though it's on to 1963.

Leading off the return to 1963 is Bud Zipfel on card number 69 of the 1963 Topps set. By the time this card was issued the Zipfel era was over in Washington.

After two rather lackluster seasons in 1961 and 1962 Bud would not be back in 1963. In fact, by 1963 he was no longer with the Senators at all. I'm not sure how he left but he spent the 1963 season playing in the Reds minor league system.

All told Zipfel would bounce around in the minors until 1966. In that time he would play for four different organizations. Although he would play Triple A ball he would never again see Major League action.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Ok, so I lost a day. Earlier today I posted tomorrow's Senators Saturday post. I have no idea why I thought it was Saturday rather than Friday. Guess that's what I get for taking a nap prior to posting. I've rescheduled the Senators post for tomorrow where it belongs. Sorry about the confusion.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The day after Darvish.

Not much going on today in Ranger-land. Apparently everyone is catching their breath after the Yu Darvish signing.

It's still free agent time though and aside from Fausto Carmona being arrested for identity fraud the big news is still the off-season signings. This time of year always depresses me a little. I know that professional baseball is a business but it seems to really air its ugly side when millions of dollars are on the line. Speaking of money, since I have no other ideas for a card today I'll leave you with this game-used one of Mark "Money Man" Teixeira. Tex's expensive jersey swatch shows up today on a 2004 Sweet Spot Home Run Heroes card, numbered 108/199.

I'm ready for Spring Training.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Darvish signs.

So the Rangers signed Yu Darvish today. Six years at about $60 million. Hopefully this doesn't blow up in their faces. I'm always concerned about this type of deal. Unproven players just shouldn't be able to command such numbers. Texas has scouted Darvish though and that brings some comfort. Jon Daniels knows ballplayers and Nolan Ryan knows pitching. Hopefully neither of them has misread Yu's potential.

With Darvish on board the Rangers rotation now has six pitchers going into Spring Training. That's crowded and someone is going to lose a spot.

Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, shown here on card number 432 of the 2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary set, are likely safe. Both are left-handed, young, and have potential. Holland has a tremendous amount and really seemed to be putting it all together last season.

On the right-handed side Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis will be battling with rotation new-comers Darvish and Neftali Feliz. Lewis is the old man of the rotation now. He will probably survive based on his big game performances and durability. If Darvish lives up to half his hype he's in. That leaves Feliz and Ogando to battle for the final spot.

Neftali brings his minor league starting experience to the table along with his heat. He seems to carry a lot of potential and eventually moving him into the rotation has been the long-term plan all along. Alexi has starting experience in the Majors but seemed to wear down over the long season last year. Both have success in the bullpen at the Major League level. Whoever loses out on the rotation competition will likely get more bullpen experience this season. Either would be an asset there.

In addition to the big six, Scott Feldman is still lurking in the wings and would probably jump at the chance to reenter the rotation. There's also still some pretty good starting pitching prospects left in the minors.

That's a good situation to have. A new possible impact signing to jazz everyone up. Lots of solid arms to compete against each other. Enough hungry young pitchers to nip at the heels of anyone who becomes complacent. Looks like the recipe for a great rotation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Of signings...

Ok, so the Rangers haven't yet signed the next coming of Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson - Yu Darvish. They're still hopeful they might get it done before the doomsday deadline of tomorrow afternoon. Still not sure what to think of all that.

Texas did sign Mark Lowe, Mike Adams, and David Murphy, seen here on card 603 of the 2011 Topps 60th Anniversary set, to one year deals. That avoids arbitration with those three players. Gotta say that this sits well with me. Murph is probably the best fourth outfielder in the game. Middle and setup relief is always a good thing. Can't have too many arms in case Joe Nathan doesn't come through.

Texas still has four arbitration eligible players left: Matt Harrision, Mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz, and Elvis Andrus. All need to be retained.

Josh Hamilton's contract negotiations have also been in the news. Apparently he has said that if a deal is not reached by Spring Training he will cut off negotiations. I am guessing there are two main reasons Texas has not locked him up by now. First is Darvish or another big off-season signing. The money needs to be there. Second is Josh's injury history. I like Hamilton. Like him a lot. Having said that, I am concerned about his injuries. He always seems to lose a big portion of the season. That's not good in a 30-year-old. Neither is the inability to hit during day games. Both could be linked to his physical condition due to his past. Both are also concerns.

Also in the news are rumors that Texas might be interested in Prince Fielder if they can't sign Darvish. Bad move in my estimation. Would Fielder make the team better? In the short-term he certainly would. The question is, would the money put into him be better spent on pitching and locking up players already in place? I have to say it might. The big temptation would be to break the bank to get Fielder. That would result in not being able to sign other young players or keep the ones currently with the club. The result could be that before Fielder's contract is up the team could consist of pretty much him. That's not good. Not good for Prince, not good for Texas.

Anyway, I'm not the one calling the shots and spending the money. The next few days should be interesting though. The face of the Texas Rangers could change dramatically.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Minor League Monday - Monty Fariss, 1991 Collegiate Collection.

Not exactly sure what to do with today's card. It's not exactly a minor league card and it's not really a 1991 card. Well, it is a 1991 card in that it was put out in 1991 but the last year of collegiate stats listed is from 1988. For that reason I have it in with my 1989 minor league cards.

Card number 75 in the 1991 Collegiate Collection set features Monty Fariss during his time with Oklahoma State. Monty had been drafted by the Yankees in the 7th round of the 1985 draft but declined to sign and went to college instead. He would play three seasons for the OSU Cowboys from 1986 to 1988.

Each year in college Fariss got significantly better. The only areas he went the wrong way in were walks and doubles. His college career ended with a .330 batting average, 65 home runs, 45 doubles, 247 RBI, and 224 walks.

In 1988 the Rangers drafted Monty in the first round as the 6th pick overall. He signed with them and headed off to Butte, Montana to start his pro career with the Copper Kings in the Pioneer League. Apparently the three years of college ball had paid off for him.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Senators Saturday - Harry Bright, 1962.

Harry Bright is listed on card number 551 of the 1962 Topps set as playing first and third base. That's probably a bit misleading. Harry did play one game at third and a few innings at catcher but most of his time during the 1962 season was spent at first base.

Bright played 833 innings in 99 games at first base in 1962. He made ten errors over the course of the season for a .989 fielding percentage. That was just one point off the league average.

Offensively Harry had 425 plate appearances in 1962 - more than double the previous season. He improved his batting average 33 points to .273 and inched his on-base percentage up to .319. He also scored 55 runs while snagging 67 RBI for himself. Interestingly, Harry's power spiked in 1962. He hit a career high 17 home runs, four triples, and 15 doubles.

Even though Harry had beat out Dale Long for the starting first baseman's job, the Senators weren't convinced he was a long-term answer. They dealt him to Cincinnati in November of 1962 for Rogelio Alvarez.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Random Rangers game-used.

Been a busy last couple of days. I am headed into a weekend off though so hopefully I can get all caught up on everything and be able to spend some more time posting.

Until then I leave you with this 2005 Skybox Autographics Jerseygraphics card of former Ranger Hank Blalock. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

1975 Topps - Toby Harrah.

Toby Harrah, shown here on card number 131 of the 1975 Topps set, had enjoyed a power breakout in 1974. He would continue to deliver in 1975.

All told Toby would appear in 151 games in 1975. 118 of those games were at shortstop for a total of 986.2 innings. He also played 160.1 innings over 28 games at third base and 166.2 innings over 21 games at second base. Generally Harrah fared better at shortstop and third base than at second. His fielding percentages at short (.963) and third (.971) were both above league average. At second though, his .949 fielding percentage was well below the league average. Clearly it was better to keep Toby on the left side of the infield.

At the plate he improved on his performance the previous year. With 631 plate appearances he managed to raise his batting average (.293) and on-base percentage (.403). He also walked 98 times - almost double the previous season. His new-found power stuck around as well as he knocked 20 home runs and 24 doubles. Surprisingly, his speed actually improved as he stole 23 bases while getting caught only nine times. Toby bumped in 93 RBI while scoring 81 runs himself.

All in all Toby Harrah had a very successful season in 1975. His defense more versatile than the previous season and his offense improved significantly. In fact, he led the team in on-base percentage, stolen bases, walks, and doubles. The season was not unnoticed, Harrah was named to the All-Star team and even received some MVP consideration. It certainly looked like the Rangers had a gem in Toby Harrah.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Minor League Monday - Ed Ohman, 1989 Star.

Moving on to the next card in the minor league binder we come to Ed Ohman's 1989 Star card, number 9 in the set. As you can see from the scan, this card has a creased upper left corner. That bums me out but it's the only copy of the card I've been able to come up with so in the binder it stays.

Texas drafted Ohman in the 46th round of the 1988 draft and he played for the GCL Rangers in Rookie ball the same year. In 1989 he would pitch one inning for the Butte Copper Kings in Rookie ball. The rest of the season would be spent in Port Charlotte playing A ball for the Charlotte Rangers.

Ed had showed a lot of promise in Rookie ball as he tallied a 0.99 ERA and a 0.853 WHIP in 36.1 innings pitched with the GCL Rangers. A level ball would prove to be a rougher ride.

In 1989 Ohman would pitch 26.1 innings over 23 appearances for Charlotte. All were in relief. His 4.10 ERA and 1.709 WHIP clearly showed that he did not make the jump successfully. Also troubling was the fact that his SO/BB ratio plummeted from 7.80 the previous season to 1.82 in 1989.

For a pitcher to have as much trouble as Ed Ohman had making the transition from Rookie to A ball is not a good situation. The lower the draft pick the less time the team is willing to invest. Ed was not only a low draft pick but he was also a right-handed pitcher. That's not a recipe made for extended chances. I'm not sure if the club or Ed made the decision or the exact reasoning behind it but 1989 was Ed Ohman's last season in professional baseball.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Senators Saturday - Mickey Vernon, 1962.

Mickey Vernon, shown here on card number 152 of the 1962 Topps set, had a rough year as manager of the Senators in 1961. 1962 wouldn't be any better. In fact, it would be worse.

After the team posted 100 losses to start their existence in 1961 they dropped an additional game in 1962. The 60-101 record assured Washington of a last place finish in the American League. Wags were already parroting the old lines about Washington, "First in war. First in peace. Last in the American League."

While improvements were being made, Vernon was still dealing with an expansion franchise. That meant a still-developing farm system, no money, and little team cohesion with the revolving door the team had the first year.

With those obstacles it's little wonder that the Senators stumbled again in 1962. Still, a manager can't blame circumstances. Mickey Vernon needed to figure out how to make this team start working if he wanted to keep working as their manager in 1963.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Decisions: Letting Pudge walk.

Number 16 on T.R. Sullivan's Top 50 Decisions list is the failure to re-sign Ivan Rodriguez, shown here on card number 316 of the 1992 Fleer set.

By the end of the 2002 season the Rangers were light years away from their postseason appearance in 1999. The losing record combined with the monstrous contract issued to Alex Rodriguez left the team a financial shambles. Pudge was one of the early victims.

Ivan enjoyed playing in Texas and was a huge fan favorite. Many considered him to be about the best player to ever don a Rangers uniform. He had made statements that he wanted to play in Texas until he retired and many fans hoped to see that happen. The problem was that he was up for free agency and the team had no money. The result was that the "washed up" backstop was let go for nothing.

Pudge's departure left a gaping hole for Texas behind the plate. Not since the ill-considered trade of Jim Sundberg had the team been in this spot. After eleven seasons the hunt for a starting catcher was on. It didn't go well as one questionable decision followed another and the parade of stopgaps went on. It started almost immediately as Texas sent a young Travis Hafner to Cleveland for Einar Diaz.

Diaz started for a year and then was replaced by Rod Barajas. Barajas held the job for three years before Gerald Laird took over in 2007. Laird lasted for two seasons and then the platooning started. Saltalamacchia, Teagarden, Treanor, Molina, Ramirez, Torrealba, and Napoli have all called significant numbers of games for Texas in the past three seasons. The quality has varied but none were Pudge.

Mike Napoli might present more than a stopgap solution but that remains to be seen in the future. What can already be clearly seen is that allowing Ivan Rodriguez to walk away in 2002 is still impacting the Rangers almost a decade later.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Best Seasons: Rusty Greer - 1996.

1996 saw the Rangers first ever postseason appearance. It also saw what T.R. Sullivan considers one of the best seasons in Rangers history. Rusty Greer, shown here on a signed 2001 Upper Deck Heritage card, comes in at number 14 on Sullivan's list.

1996 was the real start of Rusty's power playing career. He played in 139 games and got 617 plate appearances that year. He would post a .332 batting average and a .397 on-base percentage. He also scored 96 runs while knocking in 100. He did that with just 18 home runs. What made Greer dangerous to opposing pitching was his doubles. All told he hammered 41 of them. He also stole nine bases without getting caught. Both of those numbers contributed to the number of runs he scored.

As dangerous as he was at the plate, Rusty was no slouch in the field. He played 1,196.1 innings on defense - all but nine of those were in left field and those nine were in center. He would commit just five errors all season to end with a .984 fielding percentage. That was five points above the league average for left fielders.

As impressive as Rusty's season was, he got little recognition for it outside of Texas. There was no All-Star appearance and no MVP consideration. Rangers fans recognized what they had seen though. Rusty Greer was well on his way to becoming a fan favorite in Arlington.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Odd Moments: Hough loses a no-no.

The 1986 Rangers ended up second in the American League West with 87 wins. They show up 12th on T.R. Sullivan's list of Top 50 Odd Moments in franchise history.

On June 16, 1986 the Rangers were scheduled to play a night game in Anaheim against the then California Angels. Charlie Hough, shown here on card number 342 of the 1986 Donruss set, was on the hill for Texas.

In the first inning Hough set the tone for the night as he retired Gary Pettis, Wally Joyner, and Doug DeCinces in order. For the next seven innings the Angels remained baffled by Charlie's knuckleball. Going into the bottom of the ninth inning the score stood at 1-0 in the Rangers favor. More impressive was the fact that the Angels had no hits. Three more outs and Charlie Hough would have a no-hitter!

Starting off the inning, Rupert Jones pinch-hit for Bob Boone only to be called out on strikes. Two outs left. Jack Howell then came to the plate for Gary Pettis and reached on an error by left-fielder George Wright. Ironically Wright had replaced Gary Ward for defensive reasons heading into the bottom of the inning. The error placed Howell at third with Wally Joyner coming to the plate. Joyner singled to ruin the no-hitter and the shutout. Ballgame tied 1-1. With Joyner on first and DeCinces at the plate, catcher Orlando Mercado couldn't handle one of Hough's pitches for the first time that night. Joyner to second. DeCinces then struck out. One more out and the game would go into extras. Hough intentionally walked the still dangerous Reggie Jackson to bring George Hendrick to the plate. The count moved to 3-2. The last pitch was strike three but Mercado again couldn't find the handle. As the runners advanced, Mercado looked to throw home but nobody was at the plate. Charlie Hough had forgotten to cover home!

Final score: 2-1 Angels.
Final line for Charlie: 8.2 IP, 8 K's, 0 Earned Runs, and the loss.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

1975 Topps - Mike Hargrove.

Topps recognized Mike Hargrove's outstanding 1974 season with an All-Star Rookie Cup on his 1975 Topps card, number 106 in the set. Heading into the 1975 season the Rangers were hoping that Mike would be able to avoid the sophomore jinx.

Jim Spencer pushed Hargrove out of position in 1975 and he would spend the majority of his season in left field, 811.1 innings there as opposed to 319.1 at first. Mike struggled defensively in left field with seven errors. That resulted in a .964 fielding percentage, well below the league average .977. He was a bit closer to average at first base where he logged a .984 fielding percentage, just six points under the league average.

At the plate Hargrove made 609 plate appearances and managed a .303 batting average. That was twenty points lower than the previous season but his on-base percentage remained exactly the same at .395. The on-base percentage was due in large part to his 79 walks. Mike was also developing some power with the bat. He hit 22 doubles, two triples, and 11 home runs. The triples were down but the other two extra base hit totals were up from 1974.

At the end of the 1975 season there were still areas for Mike Hargrove to improve in but it was safe to say that he had avoided the sophomore jinx. His batting average had led the team and he had been named to the All-Star team. If he could improve on his defense and keep the bat performance steady he wouldn't have to worry about anyone pushing him out of position in 1976.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Minor League Monday - Steve Allen, 1989 Star.

Happy New Year everyone. Hope the past year treated you well and that this one is filled with promise.

Now that the 1989 ProCards team set is past, we move into an area of the minor league binder that has a few random cards. The first one is Steve Allen's 1989 Star card, number 133 in the set.

Star was ProCards main competition in the minor league market in the late 80's and early 90's. As such the two companies ended up issuing cards of a lot of the same players. I have to say that I prefer the read border on this card to the orange ones on the 1989 ProCards set. I have already covered Steve's 1989 season in a previous post but the back of this card has a lot more biographical information than the back of his ProCards card.

Looking at the back of the card we read that Allen graduated from Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1984. While in high school he played baseball, basketball, and golf. After graduating from high school he attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He was named to the All-New England team in 1987.