Saturday, August 31, 2013

Senators Saturday - Jim Piersall, 1963.

Ok, I've temporarily exhausted my 1964 Senators partial Topps team set. In the meantime I was able to go back and add a few more cards to the 1963 Topps team set. That gives me a few more cards to post on Saturdays.

Up today is Jimmy Piersall on card number 443 of the 1963 Topps set. Piersall was entering his second season with Washington in the Spring of 1963. His 1962 season had been a mixed bag and he really needed to get his bat going along as well as keep up his defense in 1963.

Piersall's defense picked up where it left off at the end of 1962. In 199.1 innings in center field he handled 68 chances without an error. His range also continued to be significantly above the league average.

Unfortunately, Jimmy's offense also picked up where it left off. In 104 plate appearances he posted a .245 batting average, one point higher than the previous season. His .284 on-base percentage was a 17 point drop and his .287 slugging percentage was 42 points lower.

These were not good numbers at the plate for Piersall. Offensively he was trailing the other three Washington outfielders, Don Lock, Chuck Hinton, and Jim King in just about every category. That made him expendable. On May 23, 1963 the Senators traded Jim to the New York Mets for Gil Hodges. Hodges wouldn't play a single inning for Washington, they wanted him as a manager.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Decisions: Marching Through Atlanta.

Time for another excursion into T.R. Sullivan's Tops Fifty decisions that made the Rangers. Up to number 32 on the list.

The 1988 winter meetings were in Atlanta, Georgia. Texas General Manager Tom Grieve went with the intention of doing some dealing. He was able to make two headline trades.

On December 5, 1988 Grieve pulled off a trade for first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. Pitchers Jamie Moyer and Drew Hall came along as well but Palmeiro, shown here on card 1T of the 1989 Score set, was the centerpiece of the deal. A couple of minor leaguers and four Rangers, including Mitch Williams and Curt Wilkerson, went to the Cubs in return.

On December 6, 1988 Grieve snagged second baseman Julio Franco from the Indians. In return the Tribe got Jerry Browne, Pete O'Brien, and Oddibe McDowell. 

What was significant about these two trades was the change of direction they signaled for the club. The Rangers were about to go big-gun offense. The July, 1989 trade for Harold Baines further solidified the change in philosophy. By the end of 1989 the Rangers scored 58 more runs than in 1988. The team also increased their home run totals by 10.

Within a few years Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, and Ivan Rodriguez would become key components in the Texas offense. For the next two decades the Rangers would try to bomb their way to the World Series. 

Not that pitching was totally ignored, Texas did sign Nolan Ryan on December 7, 1988. However, it wasn't until the arrival of General Manager Jon Daniels and the departure of owner Tom Hicks that pitching would again carry as much weight in Arlington as slugging.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Looking for a trade or two.

Well, we finally got our in-home water treatment system installed on Tuesday. Unfortunately the crew doing the installation cut our Internet line. Didn't get it repaired until yesterday evening. Kind of made it hard to post in the meantime.

Great to listen to the Rangers manhandle the Mariners in Seattle yesterday. I normally dislike high scoring games but they are enjoyable every so often. More so when the opposing team has their ace on the mound and he gets knocked out in the fourth inning. Hopefully the Rangers can bring to mind their beating of Felix Hernandez as they go down the final stretch and face some other big-game hurlers.

Same as last week, this 2001 Topps Reserve Relics card number TRR-IR of Ivan Rodriguez has nothing to do with last night's game. I'm still short on game-used and autograph cards of current Rangers players in Rangers uniforms. Still looking for a trade or two to help that out. If you're an Ivan Rodriguez, Marlins, or Tigers collector you need to check out these Pudge cards for trade. Since breaking up the Pudge collection I have decided to let his non-Rangers cards go. I also have a few other game-used and autos listed on my trade list here. If you see anything you like and have any current Rangers on Rangers GU or auto cards please let me know. I would rather work out a trade than put those Pudge cards on Ebay or dump them on a dealer. Thanks!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rangers hold fire Sale in Chicago.

 The Rangers kicked off a road trip last night in Chicago against the White Sox. Both teams were pretty hot coming into the series. Texas sent Martin Perez to the mound. The ChiSox countered with Chris Sale.

The Rangers role players started the offense against Sale with Jeff Baker and Adam Rosales going deep in the top of the second inning to account for all four Ranger runs to that point.

Perez stumbled in the bottom of the second, allowing three Palehose runs. He was able to settle down after that for the most part.

In the top of the third Ian Kinsler, shown here on card 43 of the 2012 Topps National Chicle set, hammered a ball to left field. The ball got caught under the padding of the wall. While Chicago outfielder Dayan Viciedo dug the ball out Kinsler kept motoring around the bases. Viciedo's throw missed the cut-off man and Kinsler made it home. Inside the park home run! I think those types of long balls are the best blend of speed and power.

Texas added another run in the top of the fourth and Chicago answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning. Adrian Beltre got that run back for the Rangers when he hammered an over the fence home run in the top of the fifth. Another run in the top of the seventh, a pinch-hit two run shot in the eight for Mitch Moreland, and an additional run in the top of the ninth rounded out the Rangers scoring.

The Sox were able to plate a run in the bottom of the ninth but it wasn't enough. Final: Texas - 11, Chicago - 5. Perez picks up his seventh win in another deep outing as he went seven innings. The offense showed some power along with the speed. Both are good to see. Perhaps even better is the 13-3 record Texas is sporting following the loss of Nelson Cruz. That record and the A's loss last night accounts for the 3.5 game lead over Oakland in the American League West.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Best Seasons: Bobby Witt - 1990.

With yesterday an off day it seems like as good a time as any to look at number 27 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers history.

Bobby Witt, shown here on card number 44 of the 1987 Fleer Baseball's Exciting Stars set, was the Rangers first round draft pick in the 1985 draft and the third pick overall. The franchise had high hopes for him to be a power starter.

In 1990, after several less than impressive seasons, it looked as if Witt might have finally arrived. He started 32 games, completed seven of them, and won 17. All those numbers were team bests.

In his 33 appearances Witt pitched a staff high 222.0 innings while striking out 221, second only to Nolan Ryan. He posted a career best and best in the rotation 3.36 ERA and a 1.383 WHIP, second best in his career. Of course, he still walked 110 batters but control problems were common with Witt by this time.

Riding Witt's performance along with strong seasons turned in by Ryan and Kevin Brown, the Rangers finished the season in third place in the American League West (remembering there were only two divisions in each league at the time).

It seemed like Bobby was finally all the Rangers were hoping for. Unfortunately, he would tear his rotator cuff the following season and never again approach his 1990 numbers.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Best Seasons: Neftali Feliz - 2010.

Time for number 26 in T.R. Sullivan's list of the top 50 seasons in Rangers history. Up today is Neftali Feliz with his 2010 campaign.

Feliz, shown here on card 189 of the 2012 Topps Gypsy Queen set, was a rookie in 2010 and was slated to work out of the bullpen with the idea of eventually working him up to starting. Frank Francisco was supposed to be the closer coming out of Spring Training. Feliz was to have time in middle relief to ease into facing Big League hitters.

It didn't take long for that scenario to fall apart as Francisco melted down several times in the early going then went on the disabled list. Suddenly the young rookie Feliz found himself in the closer role in early April. 

He responded well to the pressure by compiling a 2.73 ERA and a 0.880 WHIP in 69.1 innings pitched over 70 appearances. Neftali finished a league-leading 59 games and saved 40 of them. He struck out 71 batters and walked just 19 (that includes one intentionally). All in all he was simply dominant.

Feliz went to the All-Star game, the postseason, and the World Series in his rookie year. He also won the American League Rookie of the Year. Pretty fitting recognition for an outstanding performance.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Texas come-back.

OK, this 2001 SPx Winning Materials card of Ivan Rodriguez has nothing to do with last night's win. It's Thursday though, time for a game-used or autograph card and I'm running short on both for the current roster. If you're interested in helping me out in this area let me know. I have a few game-used and autos for trade of various players and still quite a few for Pudge's non-Ranger years.

On to last night's game. Game two of a home series against the Milwaukee Brewers. Game one ended the Rangers win streak and new Ranger Matt Garza took the hill to try and start a new run. Things didn't go well for Garza and he left the game midway through the sixth inning trailing 4-2. I figured Oakland had an excellent chance to move back into a tie for first place since the Texas offense was struggling with Milwaukee rookie Tyler Thornburg.

Thornburg left the game after the sixth inning and things took a turn for the better once the Brewer bullpen took over. Texas managed to put together a three run rally in the seventh. The Ranger bullpen was great and Joe Nathan picked up his 36 save. Final: 5-4 Rangers.

Couple of items of note. Leonys Martin gunned down two runners at third base when they tried to run on him. That gives Martin 10 outfield assists on the season and moves him into the category of an outfielder you want to hesitate to run on. Speaking of running, Texas kept the running game going with two more stolen bases, one by Craig Gentry and one by Alex Rios. Good to see Gentry still running and Rios swipe a bag. The more speed in the lineup the more pressure on the opposing pitching and defense.

Meanwhile the Astros pulled off a second consecutive win in Oakland, this one in extra innings. That gives Texas a two game cushion in the American League West. Things are looking good for the Rangers. Hopefully they can keep rolling during the final quarter of the season and stay on top of the A's.
ga2001 SPX Winning Materials dual #IR1
2001 SPX Winning Materials dual #IR1

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Decisions: Going for Broke.

Time for another look at TR Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Decisions that shaped the Texas Rangers. Today we come to number 31 on the list - Going for Broke.

On January 26, 2001 the Texas Rangers signed shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a ten year deal. The signing was at odds with the youth movement the team was engaged in at the time but the club had suffered through a losing season in 2000 after appearing in the post-season in 1999. Owner Tom Hicks wanted to get back to winning and buying talent seemed to be the faster track than growing it.

2001 was not the return to winning the Rangers wanted. Manager Johnny Oates lasted just 28 games and the team ended up with only two wins more than the previous season. Time was ticking on the Rodriguez contract and management needed to justify the money involved. Winning now seemed to be the best option.

Overboard went the youth movement. In came veterans through trades and signings. Carl Everett, shown here on card 35 of the 2002 MLB Showdown Trading Deadline set, Chan Ho Park, John Rocker, Todd Van Poppel, Ismael Valdez, and Hideki Irabu all arrived during the off-season via trade or free agency. Former Ranger Juan Gonzalez returned as a free agent signing. It was one of the most extension re-workings of the Texas roster in team history. It also effectively ended the youth movement by blocking or trading most of the young prospects.

As might be expected, the moves didn't work. In 2002 the team lost one more game than they did in 2001 and remained in the American League West cellar. Manager Jerry Narron lost his job as did several of the new arrivals. Park was about the longest-tenured of the acquisitions, lasting until 2005. Texas didn't get much in return for any of the departures.

It was time to get back to the drawing-board and restart the youth movement. That would take some time though and, with the exception of 2004, the team remained stalled out at sub-.500 play until 2009. Tom Hicks never did get his championship and set the franchise hopes back almost a decade. Turned out the shortcut really wasn't.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wow again.

So the Rangers were in Houston last yesterday and Yu Darvish was on the mound. Sounds like April all over again. Just like in April, Darvish flirted with history. He didn't make it quite as close as he did then but he got close.

Darvish had a perfect game going until a walk in the sixth inning. That resulted in the loss of his perfecto and catcher A.J. Pierzynski. A.J. got tossed for arguing balls and strikes on the at-bat that ended in the walk.

The change of catchers didn't faze Yu though and he continued on his way. It wasn't until after one out in the eighth inning that he made a mistake and saw a ball hit. That was the end of the no-hit bid and the end of the shutout since the hit was a home run. Darvish finished the eighth and then gave way to Joe Nathan in the ninth for the save.

Nathan was perfect to keep Houston limited to one hit and pick up the save. Yu got the 2-1 win to run the Rangers win streak to eight games. He also picked up 15 more strikeouts on the season. The Rangers stay one game ahead of the A's in the American League West. Fun stuff there.

Guess it was fitting that I finally broke down today and bought some 2013 Topps base cards. In the pack was this Chasing History #CH-80 commemorating Darvish's rookie season and his chase of Herb Score's American League rookie strikeout record. Darvish didn't catch Herb on that score but it is looking more and more like he will way surpass him in career totals. I have to say that I am glad Texas has him locked down for several more years.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Winning games and losing pitchers.

Well, the Rangers have gotten hot and stayed that way in the past week and a half or so. They have won 10 of their last 11 games and are now tied with the A's for first place in the American League West.

Losing Nelson Cruz to a season-ending PED suspension has not even slowed the train, much less made it derail. Defying some pundits, who predicted a collapse, the team has been winning with contributions from all corners.

Elvis Andrus and Leonys Martin keep the feet flying with their base thefts. Ian Kinsler remains a threat both at the plate and on the base paths. Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland,  AJ Pierzynski, and the other vets continue to perform.

Additionally Jurickson Profar has been hitting well and drew a key walk last night to force in a run. Engle Beltre is taking advantage of his time up and short-time call-up Jerry Butler got in on the action last night with two doubles and a walk that set up Profar's RBI walk.

Great to see the team finally getting it going. The defense and pitching have been solid for most of the year and now that the offense seems to have gelled, it's looking like the team might have a shot at October.

General Manager Jon Daniels evidently thinks they do. He pulled off a deal yesterday for White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. Texas will send Leury Garcia and cash to Chicago in exchange. The Sox ended up taking a lot less for Rios than they were initially asking. Rios won't be a superstar but hopefully he'll provide some speed, defense, and a solid right-handed bat. He's slated to start for Texas tonight.

It's looking more and more like Daniels can see into the future. When he made the Matt Garza trade I was skeptical. Most pitchers coming over from the National League see a big dip in their performance and Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis were scheduled to come back in August. Well, Garza's been doing well. On Wednesday it was announced Colby Lewis will be having hip surgery to remove a bone spur. That ends his 2013 season without him ever placing foot on a Big League mound. Matt Harrison, shown here on card 203 of the 2012 Gypsy Queen set, may be on the verge of suffering a similar fate. Yesterday he was pulled early from a rehab start due to numbness in his left (pitching) hand. He's headed to Arlington to be evaluated by a doctor. That doesn't sound good to me. Good thing JD picked up Garza and rookie Martin Perez has been throwing well, the re-enforcements for the pitching staff look like they won't be arriving. Guess it goes to show you can never have enough arms.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Nellie nabbed.

I don't have any game-used or autographed cards of Nelson Cruz that I haven't already posted. Since this post is to consider Nellie's season-ending suspension I am substituting card number TRR-SS from the 2007 Turkey Red Relics set. After all, Sammy Sosa was also a PED cheater.

To say I am disappointed in Cruz is an understatement. The Rangers stuck with Cruz early in his career when he was trying to get on track. Now that the team needs him he's gone due to his own stupidity.

In his official press release Cruz claims he was sick prior to Spring Training 2012 and lost over 40 pounds due to a misdiagnosed illness. Afraid he wouldn't be able to play, he went to the Biogenesis clinic and obtained steroids.

Of course, he had to do that. Nelson was afraid the Rangers would throw him under the bus if he showed up for Spring Training weak after being sick. After all, they got rid of Josh Hamilton after his relapses into alcohol abuse and fired Ron Washington when he admitted to using Cocaine. Just the year before Ian Kinsler was designated for assignment after suffering a severe ankle sprain during Spring Training.

Of course all of that is hogwash. So is Cruz's rationalization of his steroid use. Nelson Cruz made a decision to use steroids in knowing and direct violation of the rules of Major League Baseball. His was not an error in judgment as he claims, it was intentional cheating. Why he did it is as irrelevant as any fears he may have had that the Rangers would not stick with him while he recovered from his illness. That's what the press release should have said.

I sincerely hope to see Nelson Cruz back in a Rangers uniform helping the team out. More so it would be good to see him take ownership of his actions and move on with a determination to play by the rules in the future.
007 Turkey Red Relics #TRR-SS
2007 Turkey Red Relics #TRR-SS
2007 Turkey Red Relics #TRR-SS
2007 Turkey Red Relics #TRR-SS

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Senators Saturday - Ed Brinkman, 1964.

Ed Brinkman, shown here on card 46 of the 1964 Topps set, was entering his second full season as the Senators first-string shortstop in 1964. Looks from the photo on the card like Ed was strangely unimpressed by the situation.

Ed would see action in 132 games during the season and make 482 plate appearances. He compiled a .224 batting average and a .271 on-base percentage. Those numbers made Brinkman the lightest hitting Washington regular. Occasionally though, he could hit for power. Over the course of the season he would end up with 20 doubles, three triples, and eight home runs. Still made for an offensive lightweight.

Brinkman played shortstop in 125 games for a total of 1061.1 innings. He handled 598 chances while committing just 19 errors. That gave him a fielding percentage of .969. While that was only one point higher than the league average it was significantly better than any other Senators starter other than Don Blasingame over at second base.

In his third season in the Big Leagues Ed Brinkman had already set a pattern of slick defense and next to no offense. Due to a lack of competition he was fine for the foreseeable future. If he wanted to lock things down long-term though he would be best served by improving his skills as a batsman.