Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wolf snares first win as Murphy mashes.

So the Rangers manage to pull off a last game win before the A's leave town. Oakland wins the series but Texas avoids the sweep and stays up 5.5 games.

The real hero of the afternoon was Ross Wolf, the spot starter making his first Major League start after being called up from Triple A. Wolf's road in professional baseball has been rocky at times and he may not be done with the down parts yet but he shined yesterday. Five solid innings with only one earned run. Much more than anyone could have expected from a converted reliever with no Major League starts.

David Murphy, shown here on card number 603 of the 2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary set, made sure Wolf had some support by belting a two run home run in the bottom of the first inning. Adrian Beltre followed in the same inning with a solo shot to give the Rangers three runs.

Three runs was all the pitching staff needed thanks to an excellent two inning outing by veteran call-up Neal Cotts and flawless performances by Robbie Ross and Joe Nathan. That sealed the 3-1 victory.

Nice to see the team back in the win column again. Today's a day off as the team heads to Seattle. Hopefully the extra day of rest will let some of the bumps and bruises heal and allow the offense to find their bats again.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Best Seasons: Francisco Cordero - 2004.

Those A's just won't go away. They sneaked in and grabbed another win last night 1-0 in Arlington. Time to get back to T.R. Sullivan's list of the Fifty Best Seasons in Rangers history.

Number 24 on the list is Franciso Cordero's 2004 effort. Cordero, shown here on card number 14 of the 2004 MLB Showdown Pennant Run set, was the Texas closer that season. Closers are supposed to be good but Cordero bordered on other-worldly.

In 67 appearances and 71.2 innings pitched Francisco compiled a 2.13 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP. Those numbers are good but it was the 79 strikeouts and 49 saves that really sparkle. Better than a strikeout an inning.

The saves were even more impressive. They still stand as the team record. That's noteworthy. What's even more so is that the 2004 Rangers won 89 games. That means Francisco Cordero saved more than half of the team wins. Francisco did blow five save chances that year but his save percentage was still 91%. Can you imagine if he had been able to convert another chance or two?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

1977 Topps - Juan Beniquez.

Mondays have not been kind to the Rangers this season. They lost again last night to the A's at home. Well, at least that gives me a chance to move a little further on the 1977 Topps team set.

Juan Beniquez, shown here on card number 81, had done well in 1976 with the Rangers. His defense was especially good. He needed to improve on his offense a bit going into 1977.

Functioning primarily as the team's center fielder Juan played in just 123 games due to missing about a month of the season with a hamstring problem. He was still able to get 478 plate appearances.

In those appearances he compiled a .269 batting average and a .336 on-base percentage. Both were small improvements from the previous season. The long ball is where Beniquez showed the most improvement at the plate. In 1976 he had none, in 1977 he sent ten balls over the fence. Combine that with his 19 doubles and three triples and his slugging percentage made a large jump up. Probably due in part to the hamstring injury, Juan slowed some on the base paths. He stole 26 bases, nine more than the previous season, but also got caught 18 times, 12 more than the previous season.

It was more of the same excellence in the outfield for Beniquez. In 1060.1 innings he made just four errors and posted a .988 fielding percentage. Both were an improvement from the year before and both were much better than the league averages. His outfield assists dropped to nine on the season but that was probably partly due to runners deciding not to challenge his arm.

Base runners weren't the only ones who noticed Juan's outfield performance. He was awarded a Gold Glove for his 1977 campaign.

Fewer times caught stealing would be nice but Juan Beniquez seemed to be moving in the right direction. He defense was holding steady and he was improving on offense. He just needed to keep the train moving in the right direction in 1978.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Good news, bad news.

Yesterday was a mix of good and bad news for the Rangers.

Good news: Texas wins to take the series from Detroit. Bad news: Derek Holland gets knocked out before going five innings. Good news: So does Detroit's Doug Fister. Bad news: The bullpen melts down again. Good news: So does Detroit's. Bad news: Miguel Cabrera hits four long balls in the game. Good news: Adrian Beltre, Geovany Soto, and Lance Berkman all enjoy stellar nights at the plate.

That leads us to Murphy's Law: One bat alone will not win games. David Murphy, shown here on card 231 of the 2009 Allen and Ginter set, was batting second last night behind Elvis Andrus. Murphy's bat has been heating up with the weather and he kept it going as he went 2-for-3 with a walk and sacrifice fly. David hit a three run home run and collected four RBI total while scoring twice. That gave him just one less RBI than Cabrera. Combine his performance with the others and you get a 11-8 slugfest win. Great to see practically the whole lineup firing.

So, why was Murphy batting second? Because Adrus was leading off. Why? Ian Kinsler has been out for several days with a muscle strain. Yesterday the Rangers put him on the 15 day Disabled List. That's bad news, Ian was having a super year. There's some good news though, Jurickson Profar was called up to replace Kinsler on the roster. Profar will start tonight against the A's. Good chance for him to get some Major League seasoning and show what he can do.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Senators Saturday - Joe McClain, 1963.

Sorry about the lack of posts this week. Things got hectic on the family and job fronts and time ran out. Too bad to since Texas won several this week. Not last night though, a loss to the Tigers. Time for a Senators break.

Following his dismal 1962 season it was a minor miracle that Joe McClain appeared on card number 311 of the Topps set. Perhaps because they couldn't find Joe, Topps used the same picture on this card as the year before.

McClain might have been hard to find in 1963. He was certainly no longer on the Senators radar, or even in their organization. I wasn't able to find out how it occurred, but he ended up in the Yankees farm system playing for the Triple A Richmond Virginians.

The change of scenery wasn't enough to revive Joe's career. After just ten innings his season ended. That old minor league injury caught up with him at last.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Launching in Houston.

Six games. That's how far up the Rangers are on the A's after last night's thumping of the Astros. Nice lead.

Nick Tepesch returned to his early season form as he allowed just one Houston run to cross the plate in six innings. He recorded eight strikeouts and just one walk while in route to his third run win of the season and the Rangers sweep of the 'Stros.

Meanwhile the offense brought their bats with them. Three home runs helped lead the charge as Texas plated 12 runs. Very encouraging to see David Murphy send one out again. Adrain Beltre, shown here on card 29 of the 2013 Topps Emerald set, was the big bopper of the night. Adrian went 4-for-5 with two runs scored. He hammered a double and a home run to go along with two singles. His four RBI were enough to overshadow his throwing error in the fourth inning.

Nice to see the bats heating up, especially with the trip to Oakland kicking off tonight. Tepesch's start is also an encouragement with Colby Lewis and Martin Perez making slow progress on their rehab assignments.

The second part of the 12-7 score bothers me. For the second night in a row Texas won in spite of a melt-down by the middle relievers. Last night the culprit was Derek Lowe, the night before it was Michael Kirkman. That's a concern. It won't matter how good the rotation or the back end of the bullpen is if the opposing team can drive a Mack truck through the middle relief.

The middle relief stumbles are a concern when you consider 13 games. That's how far the Rangers were up on the A's when Oakland began their run down the stretch. Gotta make sure green remains a color on a Topps card and not the color of the uniforms on the division winners.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rangers grab win over Houston.

The Rangers picked up a win last night over the Astros in Houston. With the A's loss to Seattle, Texas is now five games up on Oakland and the only team in the American League West with a record over .500.

The big news of the night was the monster home run shot by Nellie Cruz in the 6th inning to tie the game up at two. Jeff Baker and David Murphy followed up with their own solo shots in the 7th and 9th innings respectively. That gave Texas a 4-2 lead to end the game.

Amongst the welcome offensive news was a super nice defensive play by Ian Kinsler. Kinsler, shown here on card number SQ-42 of the 2009 Upper Deck Starquest set, made a leaping dive to his right to snag a line drive that should have been a single. That snuffed a 'Stros rally and kept Texas on top.

One concern for the Rangers is starting pitcher Alexi Ogando. Even though he kept the team in the game last night he wasn't sharp. That seems to be the norm this year. Too many walks and not enough strikeouts. It would be nice to see the 2011 version of Alexi Ogando make a return. Hopefully he can work through this rough spot and get it back.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Holland halts skid.

Derek Holland stopped another losing streak last night. Dutch has gotten much more consistent this season and appears much more confident. That's good for the Rangers. Especially so with Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz still some time from returning. Unfortunately I realized I have no signed Derek Holland cards I haven't posted. I'm on that and sent out a card to Derek this morning. In the meantime you'll have to settle for a signed 1989 Upper Deck card from Rangers great Charlie Hough. Can't go wrong with Charlie.

Holland went seven innings and gave up just one run against the Brewers in Milwaukee. He struck out six and avoided the base on balls bug. Somehow he also coughed up ten hits. It's a testament to his nerve that he didn't give up more runs than he did.

Holland's performance was enough to allow the offense to put the game away. Mitch Moreland in particular did well as he went 2-for-4 with a home run. Nice to see Moreland hitting well. Extra nice he is able to do so against lefties. Joining Moreland were Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus (both 3-for-5), and Adrian Beltre (2-for-4). Great to see the offense looking like it's coming around.

With the A's losing on a controversial home run review that gives Texas a 3.5 game lead over Oakland. It's early in the season to be watching the standings but, as we found out last season, every game counts and the A's won't go away. It's never too early to build a big lead over Oakland.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Decisions: David Clyde.

Another flat performance by the offense last night as the Rangers fell to the Brewers. At least the A's also lost and couldn't make up any ground. Back to the Top 50 Decisions that have made the Rangers what they are today.

Number 29 on the list is the David Clyde saga. Clyde, shown here on card number 76 of the 1999 Sports Illustrated set, was the number one draft pick in 1973. An extremely talented lefty, he had scouts and sports writers predicting a Hall of Fame career.

Unfortunately David was drafted by a team in serious financial trouble. Rangers owner Bob Short moved the team to Texas in 1972 because he was going broke in Washington DC. In the meantime some of his other investments were falling through. With cash drying up, Short needed to sell the team. When you're last in the American League and putting just 6,000 fans in the seats per game, selling becomes a difficult proposition.

Somebody, some say Short, some say Clyde, proposed David make two starts before heading off to the minors. On July 27, 1973 David Clyde made the jump from high school to the Major Leagues. Clyde lasted five innings and beat the Minnesota Twins. He also attracted over 35,000 fans and sold out Arlington Stadium for the first time since the Rangers came to town. His second start came against the Tigers and was another win.

Bob Short overruled manager Whitey Herzog and declared Clyde to be a permanent member of the team. With Billy Martin replacing Herzog as manager, the last protection for the young arm was gone. So was Clyde after just two seasons and one appearance in 1975.

David Clyde never reached his full potential with the Rangers or with any other team. In large part that was due to Bob Short holding him in the Majors and Billy Martin over using his arm. Without the seasoning and instruction in the minors Clyde was not prepared to face Major League hitting.

What Clyde did do was sell tickets. When he pitched in 1973 he drew 20,000 fans on average. That was well above the norm for a team that lost over 100 games that season. The revenue enabled Short to convince Brad Corbett that baseball in north Texas was a viable business. That got the team sold and Short out of baseball. That was good news.

Clyde also influenced the Rangers and baseball in another way, the way young prospects are treated. Promotion from high school to the Majors is almost unheard of and young players are expected to spend some time in the minors. The way the Washington Nationals have handled Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg is a good example. The refusal of the Rangers to rush young pitching in recent years is another. Even with financial and contention pressures arguing for quick promotion, the specter of David Clyde's ruined career exerts an opposing pressure. Nobody wants to be responsible for the next David Clyde.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

1977 Topps - Mike Bacsik.

Yesterday was the second Monday in a row the Rangers were scheduled off. A make-up game in Chicago against the Cubs spoiled that plan. They still took the day off and ended up getting smacked around in ChiTown.

Moving on in the 1977 Topps team set we come to card number 103, Mike Bacsik. This would be the elder Mike Bacsik.

Texas signed Bacsik as an amateur free agent in 1973. He got a look with the big club in 1975 and saw some serious work in 1976. By 1977 he was hoping to land a spot in the bullpen.

That wasn't going to happen. Mike spent most of the year at Triple A Tuscon. In 30 games he pitched 115 innings as a reliever and swing man. Whether starting or relieving Mike got hammered. He allowed 16 home runs and 96 earned runs. That helped tally his ERA to an unsightly 7.51 and his WHIP to 1.930.

Somehow Mike got a cup of coffee with the Rangers. I'm not sure if it was at the beginning of the season or due to an injury to another player but he appeared in two games for Texas. Mike's 2.1 innings of relief made his minor league season look like a walk in the park. Opposing teams scored five runs off him for a horrific 19.29 ERA and a bloated 3.857 WHIP.

1977 pretty much sealed the deal for Mike Bacsik. He would spend 1978 in the minors. In December of 1978 Texas dealt him to the Twins for Mac Scarce.

Monday, May 6, 2013

That Pop-Up scored a run.

Well, the only teams claimed in the spare card giveaway were the Red Sox and the Angels. That saved several cards from an untimely end. Most of the rest of the teams are still available if you missed it and want in. Nothing needed in return.

Bert over at Swing and a Pop-Up shot me a note that he wanted the Red Sox. That was a team I didn't have a large number of but I cobbled together a small package for him and off it went. He mentioned he wanted to send a few cards in return. Bert's got a great blog but he has trouble understanding the word "free". I like guys who have that trouble and I really liked the nice package Bert sent my way. Among a treasure trove of wantlist hits was this 1993 Select Jose Canseco, number 364. This card finished off my 1993 Select set. It was one of three or four sets Bert put to bed. If you get a chance you ought to send Bert free cards, he just might send you back some free cards. I think that's a trade and it's definitely something I'm going to try again sometime.

In to snag the Angels was reader Jeff. Jeff's easing back into the hobby after a layoff of several years and thought the Halos I was off-loading would be a help. Off they went to California. Taking a cue from Bert, Jeff returned several hits from my wantlist in a nice package. (Any package containing multiple Sportflics is nice.) Glad you enjoyed the cards Jeff, I'll let you know when I get some more Angels built up.

What both Jeff and Bert did helped remind me that it's been awhile since I updated my wantlist. Almost a year in fact. Not that it was terribly inaccurate. It just didn't have some of the more recent releases included. That spurred me to spend part of this afternoon updating it. It's still not perfect but at least it's updated and I feel like I'm back in business. Next up: the tradelist.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One of those days...

It's one of those days. The Rangers lost to the White Sox last night. It's a game they should have won.

Overnight the temps dropped from the 80's to the 40's. Supposed to get into the 30's tonight. That could cool off the offense and increases the risk of injury.

On the injury front it's more of the same. Matt Harrison's back surgery seemed to be working. Yesterday the team announced he would be needing a second surgery because his disc herniated again. Looking at an August return now if he makes it back this season at all. Of course with his back appearing to continue to break down, his long-term future now comes into question.

Meanwhile in Triple A Mike Olt is on the sidelines. Olt finally told the club he has been having vision problems. Not sure yet what the problem is but tests are being run.

Ok, time to get things back on track. Jake Peavy for the Palehose tonight and Jason Grimm for the home team. Hopefully this 1996 Leaf Signature Series auto from former Ranger great Rusty Greer will bring the guys some luck.