Thursday, February 21, 2013

1976 Topps - Jim Spencer.

Jim Spencer was no longer with the Rangers by the time he appeared on card number 83 of the 1976 Topps set. By that time he was a traveling man.

Texas traded Jim to the California Angels for Bill Singer on December 10, 1975. The next day the Halos sent him to the Chicago White Sox as part of a four player trade.

Jim would stay in the Majors and be traded twice more before his career ended in June of 1982 after he was released by the Oakland A's.

Monday, February 18, 2013

1976 Topps - Roy Smalley.

The 1976 Texas Rangers Media Guide touts Roy Smalley as part of the future of the Texas infield. In spite of the shortstop designation on card number 657 of the 1976 Topps set Smalley was seen as a potential rival for Lenny Randle at second base. Toby Harrah had short locked up.

Problem was, Roy couldn't get his bat going. In 164 plate appearances for Texas he hit just .225. That was just one point higher than Randle. Smalley's on-base percentage was significantly higher at .363 though and that earned him some playing time.

That increased playing time exposed Roy's second weakness, his fielding. Smalley's .963 fielding percentage was not only below the league average at second base, it was also well below Randle's less than sparkling performance.

With Randle working hard to nail down second base, Toby Harray ensconced at short, and Bump Wills at Triple A, Smalley's future was looking less and less certain with Texas.

On June 1, 1976 Roy knew for certain he no longer had a job with the Rangers. They sent him to Minnesota as part of a trade that brought Bert Blyleven to Arlington. Of course, Roy had reason to smile about the trade, the Twins manager was his uncle Gene. Gene Mauch that is.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

1976 Topps - Bill Singer.

Bill Singer and his airbrushed cap appear here on card 411T of the 1976 Topps set. The airbrushed cap is symbolic of Singer's time with Texas.

As the front of the card indicates, the Rangers got Singer from the Angels in a December 10, 1975 trade. Jim Spencer and cash went to the Halos in return.

When Singer was healthy he was effective for the most part but he had a reputation as an injury prone player. From 1970 to 1975 he had suffered major physical setbacks in 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, and 1975. He remained healthy in 1973 and made the All-Star team. Singer's goal for 1976 was to end the comebacks and stay for awhile.

Singer appeared in ten games for Texas in 1976, all starts. He posted a 4-1 record while compiling a 3.48 ERA and 1.284 WHIP. He struck out 34 while walking 27.

Bill seemed to be doing well for the Rangers. However, the WHIP, walks, and injury history were all concerns. That meant Singer was expendable. On June 1, 1976 Texas sent Bill, Jim Gideon, Mike Cubbage, Roy Smalley, and cash to the Twins in exchange for Bert Blyleven and Danny Thompson. Apparently Bill wouldn't need much more than an airbrushed cap to cover his time in Texas.

Friday, February 15, 2013

1976 Topps - Len Randle.

Kansas City seems to be an odd place for a Topps photographer to set up shop. That's apparently what happened though. Len Randle's picture on card number 31 of the 1976 Topps set isn't the only one taken in KC. Several others clearly show the crown scoreboard in center field.

By 1976 Lenny was in his sixth season with the Rangers franchise. That was one more season than the team had been in Texas. He had also gotten married on Christmas day, 1975. He headed into Spring Training with one goal in mind - a starting job.

After several years of position changes and practically being used as a utility man, Randle finally seemed to nail down a permanent position in 1976 - second base. He still played some outfield and even a game at third but most of his time in the field was at second.

Of course, Randle wasn't the smoothest with a glove at second. He committed 18 errors in 628 chances for a .971 fielding percentage. That was four points below the league average. Some of those errors might have been attributable to Randle having a bit more range than most second sackers but that wasn't the source of all of them.

Lenny made 597 trips to the plate in 1976 and posted a .224 batting average. That was over 50 points lower than the previous season. Even with his 46 walks, his on-base percentage tumbled 55 points to .286. There was also a power dip reflected in an 86 point drop in slugging percentage. About the only area offensively Randle saw improvement was speed. He stole 30 bases, an increase of 14, while getting caught 15 times, a drop of four.

While the speed was nice, Randle needed to improve both defensively and offensively if he wanted to hold on to second base. There were rumors of a young prospect named Bump Wills coming up through the system. If Lenny didn't get it going soon, the son of Maury Wills might well bump him out of his starting job.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

1976 Topps - Stan Perzanowski.

Card number 388 of the 1976 Topps set is Stan Perzanowski's only card in a Rangers uniform. In spite of posing in a stadium that appears to be built on a slope Stan appears pretty happy. Gotta like how his name almost curls under his right arm.

Perzanowski had been with Texas in 1975 after coming over from the White Sox in a 1975 trade. Coming into Spring Training in 1976 Perzanowski was expected to contend for a spot in the starting rotation. That didn't pan out though and he started the season in the bullpen.

Stan appeared in just five games for the Rangers and pitched only 11.2 torturous innings. He allowed 13 earned runs for a 10.03 ERA. The four walks and three home runs he allowed he allowed contributed to his 2.057 WHIP. He also managed to hit two opposing batsmen.

Those are not numbers to convince a team to stick with a player. Perzanowski quickly became expendable. On May 28, 1976 Texas traded Stan Perzanowski and some cash to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Fritz Peterson. Peterson was an immediate improvement on the mound. Probably a good thing for the sake of team unity that the Rangers released Fritz's old buddy Mike Kekich in March.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

1976 Topps - Gaylord Perry.

Gaylord Perry's Major League stats almost completely fill the back of card number 55 in the 1976 Topps set. There are so many numbers that Topps dispensed with the trivia comic most of the other cards have.

After coming to Texas in a mid-season trade in 1975, Perry performed well. In 1976 the Rangers were hoping he could keep it up and perhaps give some pointers to some of the younger pitchers on the staff. At 37 years of age Perry was almost the oldest pitcher on the team. Only 39-year-old Joe Hoerner was older.

I'm not sure how many pointers Perry handed out but he was able to keep the success going. Gaylord started a team best 32 games and pitched 250.1 innings - another team high. He posted a respectable 3.24 ERA and a 1.134 WHIP. He also struck out 143 batters. That was a dip from previous seasons but it did get him past Bob Feller and Warren Spahn on the all-time strikeout list. Not too shabby company there. Due in part to a poor supporting cast, those numbers translated into only a 15-14 record.

Apparently the old man still had it. Whether by talent or guile, he still knew how to win. Catcher Jim Sundberg was suspicious as to how much of Perry's success was talent and how much was guile. Rumors of Gaylord doctoring the ball flew hot and heavy every time he toed the rubber. Sundberg decided to keep an eye on him. Perhaps in 1977 he could determine if Perry did indeed doctor the ball.