Wednesday, February 29, 2012

All right Mike.

Well, some of you might remember about a year ago when I called Michael Young, shown here on card 93B of the 2006 Topps CoSigners set, on the carpet for his attitude concerning being a super utility man. At that point I was disappointed to see him whining and carrying on about how his feelings were hurt.

The move seemed to have worked out though. Young actually played in more games in 2011 than he did in 2010. He also raised his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. That while leading the league in hits and getting above 200 in the season for the first time in four years. Good stuff.

Well, Mike's slated to be the super utility man for Texas again this season and once again he's talking to the media about it. Specifically beat reporter T.R. Sullivan. This year though Young seems to be well aware of the importance of his role with the team and is embracing it. He says that he enjoyed the role last year and is looking forward to another season of it. Let me be among the first to say that this is a welcome change.

I am encouraged by Young's attitude. Much better start to the season than last year. True team leaders will have this attitude and will lead by example. One of the key roles on any ballclub is the utility man. Those players have to be among the most talented and versatile in the game. Young has this ability and it is good to see him use it. When you consider that the Rangers primary utility man is a player that made the All-Star game last year and that most teams would use to anchor their lineup the possibility of another postseason appearance seems reasonable.

Nice to have you back Mr. Young.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

1975 Topps - Jim Spencer.

So far there is no major news out of the Rangers Spring Training camp. Time to take another look at 1975.

Jim Spencer appears here on card number 387 of the 1975 Topps set. 1975 was a pretty good year for Jim Spencer. He was able to hang on to the starting first baseman's job for the season.

In 132 games Spencer put in 770 innings at first. He also committed an unusually high number of errors with five on the year. That gave him a .995 fielding percentage - low for him but still five points above the league average.

Jim went to the plate 443 times in 1975. He would post a .226 batting average and a .327 on-base percentage. Those numbers would include 18 doubles, one triple, and 11 home runs.

While Jim had beat Mike Hargrove in the battle for first base in 1975 the victory would be short-lived. Spencer's glove was better than Hargrove's but his bat just couldn't keep up. With several utility players able to man first on occasion, Texas just didn't need two starting first basemen. On December 10, 1975 they traded Spencer and some cash to the Angels for pitcher Bill Singer.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Minor League Monday - Brian Romero, 1990 Best.

Brian Romero, shown here on card number 301 of the 1990 Best set, is something of a mystery to me. Texas picked him up in 1988 but he didn't play that season due to injury. Kind of makes me wonder if he was a long-shot gamble. In 1989 the lefty appeared in 10 games for the Butte Copper Kings, all but three as a starter. He did well and got the promotion to Single A for the 1990 season.

Looking at the numbers it appears that Brian's successful comeback from injury continued in 1990. With Gastonia he posted a 1.48 ERA in 91 innings pitched. His WHIP tallied to 1.198. He started all 15 games he played in and racked up a 9-2 record. Not too shabby.

Apparently somebody was impressed. Romero didn't end the season with Gastonia. Instead he moved to A+ ball and made 12 more starts for the Charlotte Rangers before the end of the season. His success continued at that level as well.

Brian Romero looked to have recovered fully from the injury that cost him the 1988 season. After two years in the minors he would start the 1991 season at Double A Tulsa.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Senators Saturday - Jim Hannan, 1963.

Jim Hannan, seen here on card number 121 of the 1963 Topps set, had a odd year in 1963. After a decent 42 game stint in 1962, he spent most of 1963 in the minors but did make 13 appearances with the Senators.

All but two of Hannan's appearances for Washington were out of the bullpen and he would end up with 27.2 innings to his credit. Where the season got odd was in his numbers. Jim's ERA jumped 1.57 over 1962 to 4.88. His WHIP dropped though by ten points to 1.446. His strikeout to walk ratio also climbed slightly while his strikeouts per nine innings average dropped almost as sharply as his walks per nine innings.

While 1963 had been a somewhat mysterious season for Hannan what he needed to get done before 1964 was no mystery. He needed to keep his WHIP down and lower his ERA. He also needed to keep dropping the walk totals while raising the strikeouts. If he could get those goals accomplished he just might be able to carve out a permanent spot for himself on the Senators pitching staff.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Running behind.

Had a tremendously busy day yesterday. Pretty busy day today. Back to tremendously busy tomorrow. The posting should be back to normal on Saturday.

To tide you over until I can get caught up in life I leave you with this 2001 SP Game Bat Edition Piece of the Game card of Ivan Rodriguez. The card features a bit of Pudge's bat and is actually pretty nice looking with no foil in sight.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

1975 Topps - Dave Nelson.

So far the only news out of Spring Training is that Yu Darvish is in camp and the Japanese media is going bonkers.

Dave Nelson, shown here on card number 435 of the 1975 Topps set, was feeling the squeeze in 1975. Young Toby Harrah and Roy Howell had pushed Len Randle over to second base. That left Dave as the old and odd man out - he was 31 years old and had been battling injuries.

The result was a pretty major dip in Nelson's playing time. Appearing in just 28 games he would make only 92 plate appearances. Probably as a result of lack of use, his batting average would drop to .213. However his on-base percentage would stay almost steady at .289. Neither were particularly good numbers. Dave was also slowing down a bit - he stole just six bases all season.

On defense Dave would play just 182 innings, all at second base. He would commit five errors for a .959 fielding percentage. That was 16 points below the league average.

With Lenny Randle seemingly firmly entrenched at second base and Toby Harrah at shortstop the Rangers apparently had no room for Dave Nelson. On November 12, 1975 they traded him to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Nelson Briles.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Minor League Monday - Barry Winford, 1990 Best.

Well, Spring Training is officially under way. Good stuff. So far there have been no major waves coming our of Surprise, Arizona.

Barry Winford shows up on today's minor league post and on card number 187 of the 1990 Best set. The Rangers had gotten Barry in 1989 although I can't find any record as to how they got him. He played for the Butte Copper Kings that year and tore up Rookie ball. In 1990 he would be promoted to Single A and model his new Gastonia Rangers uniform for the Best photographer.

No matter how you look at it, 1990 was a rough season for Barry Winford. In 379 plate appearances he posted a .238 batting average. That was 121 points lower than the previous season. His on-base percentage also tumbled by 140 points to .324. The slugging percentage fall was even uglier - 189 points to .316. Additionally Barry walked the same number of times but struck out an additional 43 times.

Winford struggled behind the plate as well. In 89 games he committed 12 errors. That dropped his fielding percentage to .983 - an eight point drop from 1989.

Barry Winford did not make the transition to Single A ball well. That was clear. What was also clear was that he needed to catch fire and fast. Part of what threw his struggles into sharp contrast was the fact that a young Ivan Rodriguez had come through Gastonia just one season previous. Any catcher hoping to avoid being blocked by Pudge needed to make a big impression early on. So far Barry hadn't done that.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Senators Saturday - Chuck Cottier, 1963.

Chuck Cottier, shown here on card number 219 of the 1963 Topps set, was in his third season with Washington in 1963. He was also about as close as the Senators came to having a regular second baseman that year.

In spite of being the first-string second baseman, Chuck also put in 167.2 innings at shortstop and two innings at third over the course of the season. His real home was second though and he would man that post for 692 innings in the course of the campaign. Over those 692 innings Cottier made 14 errors for a total fielding percentage of .981. That put him about on par with the league average.

Chuck made 366 trips to the plate in 1963 and scraped together a .205 batting average. Even with his 24 walks his on-base percentage was only .257. He wasn't a power hitter either with only 14 doubles, four triples, and five home runs all season.

Chuck needed to work on his offense for the 1964 season. Don Blasingame was also a second baseman and had received limited work in 1963. His offense wasn't much to write home about but his average was about 50 points higher than Cottier's. If Chuck couldn't put some space between himself and the Mendoza Line he might well be looking for a job.

Friday, February 17, 2012

So long Kid.

If you have been reading my blog for any time at all you know that I hardly ever post without a scan of a card from my collection. You also know that I almost never post about anything not Rangers related. Today's the exception to both.

Yesterday I was in town with the family running some errands. We stopped by a store and I saw a bunch of books on the end of an aisle. Most were sports books and were marked way down to get them gone. I took a quick look and picked up Gary Carter's biography. For a few minutes I pondered buying it but then put it down for some inexplicable reason. I should have pulled the trigger.

On the way home I called my Dad. He asked if I had heard the news, Gary Carter had lost his battle with brain cancer. I knew it was coming but that didn't make it any easier. There's a new hole in the baseball universe.

Gary Carter never played for or against Texas. A national league man he was a star that it was safe to like and respect while still being loyal to the Rangers. For me he was always the face of the 1986 Mets, not anyone else. A good man, a role model. At one point I kept every card of his that I came across. They're gone now, just like The Kid, but the respect and admiration aren't.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Decisions: Wrong Bob.

With just days left before the official commencement of the 2012 Spring Training we come to number 18 in T.R. Sullivan's Top 50 Decisions that have shaped the Rangers.

In 1968 the Senators were for sale. One partner had passed away and the other was looking to sell the team in the face of large financial losses.

The team ended up going to Bob Short for $9.4 million. He outbid a group headed up by Bob Hope. Unfortunately Short borrowed almost all of his funds. The result was a mad and unsuccessful scramble for funds to make the team pay off.

That scramble resulted in card number 462 of the 1971 Topps set being the last Senators team card issued as the team moved to Texas during the off-season. It also resulted in David Clyde being sent straight from high school to the Majors in an ill-advised publicity stunt. All in all the team clearly went to the wrong Bob.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

1975 Topps - Jim Merritt.

Jim Merritt had a short, rough season in 1975. Merritt, shown here on card number 83 of the 1975 Topps set, would be making his final appearances in a Major League uniform.

Jim had been fighting an old arm injury since 1970. It flared up again in 1974 and resulted in a three week stint on the Disabled List. In spite of encouraging signs towards the end of the 1974 season things were not good.

In 1975 Merritt would appear in five games for Texas and would pitch just 3.2 innings. He walked none and struck out none while allowing one unearned run. His WHIP would tally to 0.818.

In spite of those numbers, the lefty was hurting. The season was not the comeback season it was supposed to be, instead it was a final footnote in a ten year career. At age 31 Jim Merritt had to hang up the spikes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nix the Napoli hearing.

For the 12th straight off-season the Rangers will not be appearing at an arbitration hearing. Yesterday the team signed Mike Napoli to a one year deal. Since I have only one Mike Napoli card and am saving it for a future post, you will have to settle for another big name Ranger catcher - Ivan Rodriguez on card number 45 of the 2001 Fleer Authority set.

According to, the deal with Nap is a one year deal and is worth about $9.4 million. That gets Texas one more year of Napoli fever and leaves just the pre-arbitration players left to sign. It also puts the Rangers over budget and with little flexibility heading into the season.

I like Mike and in a vacuum I could handle this deal. What bothers me a little is the inability to make a move mid-season should the situation dictate. Hopefully this will pay off and the budget will work out. The Angels are starting to get hungry after two seasons off in October and even the Mariners and A's are making a little noise. Not a good time to be caught short in a critical spot.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Senators Saturday - Marv Breeding, 1963.

Marv Breeding was on the first leg of a round trip when he appeared on card number 149 of the 1963 Topps set. In December of 1962 the Orioles had sent Marv, Art Quirk, and Barry Shetrone to the Senators in exchange for Pete Burnside and Bob Johnson.

Breeding would start the 1963 season with Washington and would appear in 58 games while making 205 plate appearances. His batting average would tally to .274 and his on-base percentage to .299.

In the field he would play second base (178 innings) and short stop (5 innings), as shown on his card, but he would spend most of his time at third (220 innings). Breeding was a below average fielder. He came closest to the league average at second base with a .966 fielding percentage - 14 points below the league average. He struggled even more at third with seven errors and a .914 fielding percentage - 33 points below the league average.

As the season wore on it became apparent that Marve Breeding was not the Senators' answer at third base. With an already crowded middle infield and the failure to nail down third he became expendable. On July 30, 1963 the Senators sent Marv to the Dodgers in exchange for Ed Roebuck. To complete Breeding's round trip the Orioles purchased him from the Dodgers on August 19, 1964.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Best Seasons: Will Clark - 1998.

Will Clark, shown here on card 229 of the 1998 Upper Deck set, appears at number 16 on T.R. Sullivan's Top 50 Seasons list. Will the Thrill shows up due to his 1998 performance.

1998 was the only year Clark played for Texas that he didn't lose significant time to injuries. In 636 plate appearances he hit .305 with a .384 on-base percentage and a .507 slugging percentage. He scored 98 runs and bumped in 102 RBI while thumping 23 home runs and 41 doubles.

Those numbers helped spark the Rangers to their second division title in three years.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Cross Cruz off arbitration list.

According to the Rangers now have their arbitration-eligible players list down to one: Mike Napoli.

Nelson Cruz, shown here on 2011 Gypsy Queen card number GQA-NC, signed a two year deal today with Texas. That keeps him from becoming a free agent until after the 2013 season. The deal is worth about $16 million.

This seems like a no-brainer to me. Lock down one of your corner outfielders who also happens to be a real power threat and has decent speed on the base paths. One more piece of the American League Championship team that will stay in place.

Nellie is 30 years old but this deal isn't a ten year Albert Pujols deal. It's for two years and isn't too far off what Cruz might end up with if he went to arbitration both years.

Another concern is Cruz's health, specifically his legs. Seems like Nelson can't go a full season without some sort of hamstring problems. I foresee that continuing but it shouldn't get any worse in the next two years than what the club has already learned to deal with.

Good move by the front office. With Josh Hamilton's contract status on the rocks it will pay off to have Nellie for a year after Josh's potential departure. Never hurts to stagger the possible loss of veteran talent.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rangers avoid arbitration with Andrus. is reporting that the Rangers have avoided arbitration with Elvis Andrus, seen here on card 89 of the 2009 Allen and Ginter set.

While the official announcement won't come until tomorrow, the word is that Texas has signed Andrus to a three year deal worth $14.5 million. That buys out the rest of his arbitration years and keeps him in a Rangers uniform through the 2014 season.

I have to say that I like the deal. Three more years of Elvis is ok by me. There are some who wince at Andrus' error totals but it pays to remember that his range is significantly higher than most other shortstops in the Majors. That means he makes (and sometimes fails to make) plays that other middle infielders wouldn't even try to make.

Elvis also provides some speed on the base paths as he has over 30 stolen bases in all three of his Major League seasons. Add to that the improved on-base percentage each year and he is increasingly becoming an offensive factor. There are those that take issue with his lack of home runs in 2010 but with the Rangers current lineup they need speed more than power right now.

All in all Elvis seems to be improving his game each year. Locking a 22-year-old up for three more years doesn't seem like a bad move to me. Especially when that youngster can turn a breathtaking double play, lay down a picture perfect bunt, and steal a base or two in the same game.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

1975 Topps - Joe Lovitto.

1975 was a rough year for Joe Lovitto, pictured here on card 36 of the 1975 Topps set. Injuries stalked him that season and he ended up being put on the Disabled List several times.

The trips to the DL limited Joe to just 50 games and 123 plate appearances. In those appearances he posted a .208 batting average and a .289 on-base percentage. That was a pretty significant drop in batting average but a slight uptick in on-base percentage.

Joe's limited playing time meant that he was unable to retain his starting center fielder job. That resulted in a jack-of-all trades season for him. He did put in 174 innings in center though and didn't muff a single chance. He also put in 69.1 innings in left field with only one error. There were also nine innings at first base without an error and even one game where he was put in as catcher but didn't see any action.

1975 had definitely been a setback season for Joe Lovitto. The injuries, lowered offense, and crowded outfield had combined to place his future with Texas in doubt.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Minor League Monday - Timmie Morrow, 1990 Best.

Getting back to Minor League Monday today with Timmie Morrow. Timmie appears here on his 1990 Best card, number 284 in the set.

Morrow was a second round draft pick for Texas in the 1988 draft. He played for the Gulf Coast League Rangers in 1988 and the Butte Copper Kings in 1989. Both of those years are reflected on the back of his card. What isn't there is the one inning he pitched for Butte in 1989. It wasn't pretty.

In 1990 it was on to Gastonia for Timmie. He would play in 105 games that season and make 424 plate appearances. In those plate appearances he would post a .206 batting average and a .275 on-base percentage. Those were not good numbers for Single A ball. Add to that the fact that he struck out 99 times in 1990 and it was clear that Morrow was struggling.

Timmie didn't have a good season in 1990. For a second round draft pick in his third season of professional baseball it was really bad. The Rangers weren't quite ready to give up though and neither was Morrow. If he wanted to make this work though he would need to start hitting and cut down on the strikeouts.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Senators Saturday - Steve Hamilton, 1963.

Steve Hamilton is shown here on card number 171 of the 1963 Topps set. In 1963 he played for the Senators slightly more than Bud Zipfel did.

Very slightly, two innings worth in three games to be exact. In those two innings of relief he faced 13 batters. Steve's ERA ran to an astronomical 13.50 and his WHIP came in at 3.500.

Hamilton was clearly not starting the season off on the right foot. That didn't seem to matter to the New York Yankees though. On April 21, 1963 they sent Jim Coates to Washington in exchange for Steve. In less than a year Steve Hamilton had arrived in Washington and left again.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Well, Josh Hamilton had a news conference today to address rumors from the past couple of days that he had been seen drinking in a Dallas bar. What he said is that he did it, lied about it to Ian Kinsler, and regrets having failed to stay sober.

I've talked about Josh's failings in a previous post and have little to add to what I have already said on the matter. I am glad that at least this time there were no drugs involved.

As a fan I find this to be a bummer on a couple of fronts. It's always a downer to see a key player on your team fail, especially a comeback story like Hamilton.

From another aspect this incident is discouraging because it puts the contract talks on hold. That would be the talks that were supposed to result in a contract extension by Spring Training or be cut off. Looks to me like this will result in the latter. If that happens then Hamilton, shown here on card 53 from the 2008 Stadium Club set, will be a free agent next off season. I'm having a hard time seeing Texas re-signing him at that point. Seems like Josh may have stumbled his way out of being a Texas Ranger beyond the 2012 season.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Odd Moments: Inside back-to-back.

Number 14 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the top 50 Bizarre Moments in Rangers history involved one of the best teams Texas has ever fielded. The 1977 Rangers were quick, had some power, and had a little pitching. They put it all together to notch 94 wins - third best in team history.

On August 27th they were in New York playing against the Yankees. By the top of the seventh inning Texas had a 4-2 lead. Ken Clay was on the mound in relief for the home team as Claudell Washington led off with a ground out to second base. Designated hitter Willie Horton then singled. Sandy Alomar ran for Horton. Dave May singled. Runners on first and second as Toby Harrah came to the plate.

Harrah, shown here on a signed 1987 Donruss card, launched a ball deep to right field. Not deep enough to leave the park but deep enough to evade Lou Piniella. As Sweet Lou scrambled for the ball, Alomar and May scored. Toby kept running and came in as well. Inside the park home run! Three runs at that.

Up next was Bump Wills. Wills sent a ball deep into center field. Once again it wasn't deep enough to leave the park. Once again it got past the Yankee fielder - this time Mickey Rivers. Wills had speed, lots of it. Rivers had a weak arm. Not a good combination for Ken Clay and the Yankees. A second inside the park home run! Back-to-back jacks with a twist - neither ever left the field of play.

That was it for Clay as he was pulled immediately after Wills' homer. It was also it for the Evil Empire that day as the final score went down 8-2. Half of the Rangers runs had come on inside the park home runs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Decisions: Will Clark.

Number 17 on T.R. Sullivan's list of 50 Top Decisions in franchise history is the signing of Will Clark. Clark, shown here on card 350 of the 1994 Upper Deck set, was signed by Texas on November 22, 1993. He would stay with the team until being granted free agency in November of 1998.

T.R. says that Clark "single-handedly infused the Rangers with a team-first winning attitude." I'll have to think on that a bit but I do know that with Clark on the roster the team started winning and made their first two postseason appearances. Not sure if Clark was the only difference maker there but he was most assuredly a huge one.

Maybe Sullivan is on to something there though, Rafael Palmeiro played first base for Texas prior to and following Will the Thrill's tenure. With the exception of 1999 the team never did quite as well during those two stints as it did with Clark manning first.