Thursday, October 31, 2013

Decisions: Final Installment.

Time to close out TR Sullivan's list of the top 50 decisions that made the Rangers who and what they are today. Kind of a big chunk to finish things off but I couldn't get the list to end evenly so here it is:

#43. Band-aiding the Stadium - Arlington Stadium was originally a minor league park. When the Senators moved to Texas the capacity was hastily expanded from 20,000 to 35,000. The Rangers spent the next 20 years trying to fix it. It ended up looking like a child's Play-Doh creation.

#44. Charlie Hough - Purchased on the cheap from the Dodgers in 1980, he went from reliever to starter to ace of the staff. Charlie, shown here on a signed 1988 Leaf card, was the heart and soul of the Rangers pitching staff for a decade.

#45. Opportunity lost - Jim Sundberg rejected a 1982 trade that would have sent him to the Dodgers for Orel Hershiser, Dave Stewart, and others. That same year the Rangers traded pitchers Walt Terrell and Ron Darling to the Mets for Lee Mazzilli. Think about the pitching staff they could have had if the first trade went and the second fell through.

#46. Short to Corbett - Brad Corbett bought the team from Bob Short in 1974 but couldn't keep his hands off. The Rangers ended up running in circles during his time as owner.

#47. Denny McLain - Ted Williams advised against the trade that sent Ed Brinkman, Aurelio Rodriguez, and Joe Coleman to Detroit in exchange for a washed-up Denny McLain. He was right. The three were front-line players for Detroit's division title team in 1972 while the Rangers were getting hammered.

#48. Big Broadcasting - In 1981 the Rangers started broadcasting on cable television for the first time because of the leadership of Merle Harmon. In 1982 Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel were paired together on radio for the first time.

#49. Frank Howard - The Senators sent Claude Osteen to the Dodgers on December 4, 1964 as part of a deal for Frank Howard. Hondo would become the marquee player for the Senators.

#50. Sundberg/Hargrove - Each had just one year of minor league experience when manager Billy Martin kept them on the Opening Day roster for 1974. Those were two of the key moves that sparked the Rangers turnaround season that year.

Here we are at the end of Sullivan's list. Some of it I disagreed with and some I had never heard of. Most of it was spot on. I hope you enjoyed the series.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Trading with Roadkill.

So, a little over a week ago I sent out a plea for Rangers minis with a post of the minis I have for trade. At first there wasn't any response but a few days after the trade Duane over at Democratic Roadkill contacted me. He needed a couple of the minis I listed and wanted to work out a quick deal. I agreed.

I found out Duane's definition of a quick deal is to overpay for the cards he wants. In exchange for the two cards he needed from my list, he sent me six Allen and Ginter Rangers minis I needed. Included in the lot was this nice 2009 Allen and Ginter mini A&G back Kevin Millwood card.

I will give you this fair warning. If Duane ever contacts you and wants to make a deal, do it. You won't be disappointed and you will be glad you made the trade. I was. Perhaps you should even head over to Duane's blog, check out his wantlists, and see if you can help him out in his mini collecting quest.

Thanks again for the trade Duane.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

1977 Topps - John Ellis.

Even though John Ellis was starting his second season with the Texas Rangers in 1977 Topps apparently was unable to come up with a picture of him in a Rangers uniform. The result was an atrocious air brushing job on card 36 of the 1977 Topps set. Of course, the lack of a proper picture could have been due to Ellis' limited playing time in 1976.

John came into Spring Training in 1977 still rehabbing from the devestating injury that cut his 1976 season short. He ended up being assigned the backup role to catcher Jim Sundberg and first baseman Mike Hargrove. He would also see some action throughout the season as the designated hitter.

Ellis appeared in 49 games in 1977 and made 127 trips to the plate. He posted a .235 batting average and a .283 on-base percentage. Both were low and likely partially attributable to having missed so much of the previous season.

In the field John would play 68 innings over 16 games at catcher. He committed no errors behind the dish but caught just 11% of runners stealing on him. Ellis would also play 54 innings over eight games at first base. Once again, his defense was flawless.

John Ellis was still not at 100% in the recovery process from his 1976 injury but he was making progress. He also seemed to be settling into the role of backup and was apparently working out well. Some improvement with the bat and a few more runners caught would be nice but probably wouldn't win him a starting role in 1978.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Minor League Monday - Daren Hays, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Wow, I guess it's been awhile since the last installment of Minor League Monday. Mondays have been crazy lately and this one is no exception. At least I had time to pre-write this post.

Daren Hays shows up today on card number 9 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set. He doesn't look very thrilled to be getting his picture on a baseball card.

Texas drafted Hays late in the 1989 draft. In the 38th round to be exact. Draftees that late aren't really considered to be top prospects or even sleepers. Daren played for the Butte Copper Kings in the Pioneer League of Rookie Ball in 1989. He managed a .316 batting average and a .379 on-base percentage in 235 plate appearances. He also appeared to be a pretty decent outfielder and even got some work at first base.

That performance got Hays promoted to A+ Charlotte for the 1990 season. He would play in 70 games for the Charlotte Rangers and make 208 trips to the plate. The results were a .226 batting average and a .301 on-base percentage. His doubles dropped from 16 with Butte to 5 with Charlotte. In 59 games he played in the outfield and tallied a .975 fielding percentage.

It was probably those numbers and the drastic drop from his Rookie Ball production that caused Daren's serious expression when the Star photographer came around. 38th round draft picks don't get many second chances, especially at A+ ball. That would hold true for Daren Hays. 1990 was his last season in pro ball.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Senators Saturday - Ken Hunt, 1964.

Ken Hunt sure seems happy on his miscut copy of 1964 Topps card 294. Who knows, maybe he was. After all, his close friend, Roger Maris was on top of the baseball world after breaking Babe Ruth's single-season home run record just a few years previous. On the other hand, maybe he's just grinning at the joke of wearing an Angels uniform on a Senators card.

Washington purchased Hunt's contract from the Angels in September of 1963. He had a cup of coffee with the Senators before the end of the season but didn't see much action.

Going into the 1964 season the Senators outfield was pretty much locked up by Chuck Hinton, Don Lock, and Jim King. Ken's chances of breaking into that group were small. What he needed to to was make his case as the best alternative for the fourth outfielder spot. Fred Valentine beat him out there though. That resulted in Hunt splitting his season between Washington and Triple A Toronto.

With the Big Club, Hunt saw action in 51 games and made 113 plate appearances. His .135 batting average and .234 on-base percentage explain why Valentine edged him for that fourth outfielder's slot. Even worse, Ken was practically devoid of power at the plate with a .208 slugging percentage.

On the upside, Hunt played 251 innings in the outfield and handled 70 chances flawlessly. That made him valuable as a late-inning defensive replacement.

That defense wasn't enough to keep Hunt in the Majors for the entire season. He spent 15 games with Toronto but didn't do much better there with a .206 batting average and a .357 on-base percentage. Either he was better at taking a walk in the minors or the pitchers were wilder.

Ken Hunt was a long shot to make the Senators roster in 1965 and he didn't. For some reason he missed the entire season at any level. Perhaps he played in Japan or just took some time away from the game. On April 2, 1966 Washington traded him to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Bob Humphreys. Ken spent the 1966 season at Triple A before hanging up the cleats for good.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Odd Moments: Final Installment.

Final post for TR Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Odd Moments in Rangers history. Here are the final five:

#46 The Longest Save - On September 3, 2002 starter Aaron Myette took the hill against the Orioles. He managed to get himself tossed after just two pitches. In came Todd Van Popple who eventually wound up with the win and then Joaquin Benoit. Benoit pitched seven innings to get the save. That set a Major League record for the longest save. A ninth inning triple broke up the combined no-hitter.

#47 Honoring the Sabbath - Edwin Correa, shown here on card number 4 of the 1986 Donruss Rookies set, showed up for his second Spring Training in 1987. He was there as a starting pitcher. When he arrived he told the team he would not pitch from sundown on Fridays to sundown on Saturdays. Apparently this was based in his beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist. That made things interesting for the 15 starts he did make that year. Injuries intervened though and it never became a factor long-term.

#48 Ducking Snow - Manager Johnny Oates pulled the Rangers off the field during the Brewers 1998 home opener because fans were pelting the players with snowballs. Order was finally restored with the threat of a forfeit and the game resumed when the bombardment stopped.

#49 Mickey Sings - The quality of National Anthem performances at Ranger games in Arlington has always varied, from Van Cliburn on down. Perhaps nobody has botched the words as badly as former Monkees singer Mickey Dolenz did in 1987.

#50 One Ball, One Save - Texas was on top of Houston 9-6 in the ninth on June 14, 2002 when Randy Flores came in to pitch. Coming in he had a runner on first with two outs. Flores threw one pitch. It was a ball. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez picked Richard Hidalgo off first to end the game. Flores got the save with one pitch that wasn't even in the strike zone.

Well, that finishes up the list of the Top 50 Odd Moments in Rangers history. Hope you at least got a chuckle or two out of them.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trading time.

A week ago I posted my then-updated game-used and autographs trade list. I was looking for some trades to help build my Rangers collection and fill the off-season.

Reader Brandon came through for me with an immediate contact looking to work a deal. After some negotiating we reached an agreement. Out went the cards Brandon wanted and off the list they came. Then came the wait. I'm always a little leery trading with folks I've never done deals with before but Brandon proved those concerns pointless. He delivered his end with promptness and just as described.

One of the cards I received from Brandon was this 2003 Ex Behind the Numbers game-used card of Hank Blalock. It's hard to see in the scan but the card features a swatch of Hank's jersey through a cutout in the shape of the number nine. The card is also numbered 125/199.

Thanks much to Brandon for helping work a trade. It's been a long time since I was trading regularly and it feels good to get a deal done. If Brandon ever contacts you looking to make a trade you would be well advised to take him up on his offer.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Best Seasons: Aaron Sele - 1998.

The World Series starts tonight. Cardinals versus Red Sox. Still not focused on it but since I grew up with the Cardinals as my National League team at least there's some interest. Seems like a good time for the next installment in TR Sullivan's list of the top 50 seasons in Rangers history.

Showing up at number 31 on the list is Aaron Sele's 1998 season. Arriving in an off-season trade with Boston Sele, shown here on card 430 of the 1999 Pacific set, was a starter brought in to bolster the Rangers rotation. Depending on your definition of bolster, he did just that.

Aaron made 33 starts for Texas in 1998 and posted a 19-11 record. He also pitched 212.2 innings over the course of the season. If those were the only numbers involved I would be tempted to agree with TR's assessment of the season as "excellent". However, take into account Sele's 4.23 ERA and 1.519 WHIP and the excellence of his season becomes a whole lot more debatable.

All things must be viewed in context though. Sele's ERA was the lowest among Rangers starters in 1998. While baseball purists might blanch at a staff ace with an ERA north of four, the times have to be considered. 1998 was the height of the steroids era and only a select few hurlers managed to keep their numbers reasonable. For the time Aaron must have looked somewhat decent, he was named to the All-Star team that year.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Off-season shake-up continues.

Nolan Ryan, shown here on card 417 of the 1991 Score set, will be gone from the Rangers organization effective October 31st. As part of the deal, two of the other owners have bought out Nolan's shares of the Rangers. The Rangers say Ryan is retiring as team president. Ryan says he is resigning.

That's pretty typical of the past couple of years. It seems that General Manager John Daniels will say one thing only to have Nolan say another. Sometimes Ryan speaks first and then is contradicted by Daniels. The local media has taken to referring to certain members of the rangers staff as "Nolan guys" or "JD guys".

That seems to point to a division within the ranks. Following the announcement of  Ryan's departure, both Ryan and Daniels have released statements saying there isn't any division. Ryan specifically said he has had disagreements with Daniels but those disagreements didn't play any role in his decision to leave.

I hope that's the case. Ryan said he was leaving mainly to spend more time with his family and running his ranch. If that's the real reason I say more power to him. It would be a shame if it's not and he was forced out.

For whatever reason Ryan is leaving the Rangers, he deserves the thanks and applause of all Rangers fans. Nolan brought the national spotlight to the franchise as a player and grew the team to fit that spotlight as an executive. Very few other teams have been fortunate enough to have such a man as part of their organization.

Texas also announced they hired Tim Bogar as bench coach to replace the fired Jackie Moore. I don't really know much about Bogar. He was an infielder in the Majors, a coach with the Red Sox, and a successful minor league manager. Jon Daniels says he's got a great baseball mind. It would be nice to see him work out well with the team.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trolling for trades - GU and AU edition.

The updating of the trade list continues. I thought I was closing in on things. Then I found another stack of cards to be considered for the list that got set aside during the move. Even had a few more minis in there. As things currently stand, I have all but a fairly large number of Ivan Rodriguez cards on the list. Not at the end of the tunnel but I have seen a few glimpses of light.

No luck so far on the minis. Today I'm looking to add to my Rangers game-used and autograph collection. As you can tell from this 2005 Prime Patches card of Mark Teixeira, I'll take just about anything I don't have of a player in a Rangers uniform. Here's the current list of game-used and autos I have for trade:

Game Used

2001 Leaf Limited – Billy Sylvester (bat) #329 (93/700) - Braves
2002 EX Hit and Run - Cliff Floyd (bat) - Marlins
2002 Upper Deck MVP Souvenir - Rafael Furcal (jsy) #J-RF – Braves
2003 Finest Relics – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #FRB-IR - Marlins
2003 Donruss Gamers – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #G-22 (390/500) - Marlins
2003 Playoff Piece of the Game – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #POG-41 – Marlins
2003 Topps Gallery Gallery Originals – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #GO-IR – Marlins
2004 Absolute Memorabilia Tools of the Trade – Ivan Rodriguez (bat/jsy) #TT-58 (122/250) – Marlins
2004 Diamond Kings Diamond Cut Collection – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #DC-31 (44/100) - Marlins
2004 Fleer Classic Clippings Jersey Rack – I. Rodriguez, Piazza, J. Lopez (jsys) #JR-P/R/L (217/225) – Mets, Tigers, Orioles
2004 Fleer Showcase Baseball's Best – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #BB/IR - Marlins
2004 Leaf Certified Materials – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #210 (170/200) - Marlins
2004 Topps Chrome Fashionably Great – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #FGR-IR – Marlins
2004 Topps Pristine Key Acquisitions – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #KA-IR – Tigers
2004 Ultra Turn Back the Clock – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #TBC-IR (175/199) - Marlins
2004 Upper Deck Awesome Honors – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #AH-IR (13/165) – Tigers
2004 Upper Deck Etchings – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #BE-IR – Tigers
2005 Bowman Heritage Pieces of Greatness – Josh Beckett (jsy) #PG-JB – Marlins
2005 Diamond Kings Crowning Moment Blue – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy/bat) #344 (19/100) - Tigers
2005 Donruss Prime Patches – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #30 (58/150) – Tigers
2005 Donruss Prime Patches – Ivan Rodriguez (bat) #P-35 (66/100) – Marlins
2005 Donruss Prime Patches – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy/hat/bat) #P-35 (18/105) – Marlins
2005 Donruss Prime Patches – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy/bat/shoe/patch) #P-35 (30/150) - Marlins
2005 Donruss Prime Patches – Ivan Rodriguez (bat/jsy) #P-35 (48/150) – Marlins
2005 Donruss Prime Patches – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #P-35 (206/394) - Marlins
2005 Topps All-Star Relics – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #ASR-IR - Tigers
2005 Topps Update All-Star Relics – Ivan Rodriguez (jsy) #ASR-IR - Tigers
2005 Upper Deck Marquee Attractions - Preston Wilson (jsy) #MA-PW - Rockies
2008 Topps Relics - Bobby Abreu (jsy) #TR-BKA – Yankees
2008 Upper Deck Game Worn Jersey – Johan Santana (jsy) #98-JS - Twins
2009 Sweet Spot Triple Swatch - Sizemore (jsy), Hunter (jsy), Wells (Jsy) #TSWHS - Indians, Angels, Blue Jays
2011 Topps 60 #T60R-MT - Mark Teixeira
2011 Topps Commemorative Patches #TLMP-FH - Felix Hernandez
2012 Topps Historical Stitches #HS-WMC - Willie McCovey

Autographs - certified

1995 Classic 5 Sport – Rey Ordonez - Mets
2005 Prestige Xtra Bases - Andy Greene #153 (10/50) – Diamondbacks
2007 Upper Deck Ultimate America's Pastime – Jason Bay #AP-JB - Pirates

Autographs - TTM/IP

1953 Topps Archives #165 - Billy Hoeft - Tigers
1990 Upper Deck #107 - Mike Harkey - Cubs
1991 Leaf #209 - Charlie Leibrandt - Braves
2000 MLB Showdown #8 - Jeff Huson - Angels
2000 MLB Showdown #28 - Kelly Stinnett - Diamondbacks
2000 MLB Showdown #90 - Jeff Reed - Cubs
2000 MLB Showdown #422 - John Flaherty - Devil Rays
2001 MLB Showdown #86 - Jeff Reed - Cubs
Bible tract - Frank Tanana - Tigers

Let me know if you see anything you like. I am sure we could work a trade. I should be adding some more Ivan Rodriguez game-used to the list so if you're interested in him make sure you check back.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trolling for Trades.

Well, the off-season is well under way it seems. The League Championship Series seem to be good ones but I just can't get into them for some reason. Time to look at building up the collection for the upcoming season.

That brings me to Ian Kinsler's 2007 Allen and Ginter Mini #324. I generally consider my Rangers collection to be pretty well rounded. Not always complete but with a decent representation of card brands and years. Not so much with minis. For some reason that area is lacking.

With that in mind I am calling out for anyone interested in trading minis. You got Rangers minis, I probably want them. I do have a few from other teams for trade. Here's the minis trade list:

2008 Allen and Ginter #4 – Roy Halladay
2008 Allen and Ginter #26 - Corey Hart
2009 Allen and Ginter #88 – Brad Penny
2009 Goodwin Champions #23 – Kevin Youkilis
2009 Goodwin Champions #31 - Hanley Ramirez
2009 Goudey #111 - Ben Sheets
2010 Allen and Ginter #295 - Josh Thole
2011 Gypsy Queen #83 - David Price
2011 Gypsy Queen #131 - Cody Ross
2011 Gypsy Queen #141 - Brandon Inge
2011 Gypsy Queen #253 - Carlos Lee
2011 Gypsy Queen #350 - Carlos Pena
2011 Gypsy Queen G.Q. back #185 - L. Morrison
2011 Gypsy Queen G.Q. back #198 - Jayson Werth
2011 Gypsy Queen G.Q. back #348 - J.A. Happ
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-1 - Ubaldo Jimenez
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-6 – Clay Buchholz
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-15 - David Price
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-26 - Justin Morneau
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-36 - Hanley Ramirez
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-51 - Hank Aaron
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-64 - Jackie Robinson
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-86 - Whitey Ford
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-92 - Frank Thomas
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-111 - Tris Speaker
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-115 - Ty Cobb
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-136 - Paul Molitor
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-147 - Mark Teixeira
2011 Topps Kimball Champions #KC-150 - Joe DiMaggio
2012 Topps 1987 Topps Mini #TM-5 - Howie Kendrick
2012 Topps 1987 Topps Mini #TM-13 - Jayson Werth
2013 Allen and Ginter #40 – Will Middlebrooks
2013 Topps 1972 Topps Mini #TM-17 – Johnny Cueto
2013 Topps 1972 Topps Mini #TM-51 - Ken Griffy Jr

I am working on updating the rest of my trade list so let me know if you see any minis or any other cards you might be interested in. I would love to work a few trades. Be sure to check back since the updating will be an ongoing process.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

1977 Topps - Gene Clines.

Gene Clines, shown here on card 237 of the 1977 Topps set, came to Texas in December of 1975 in exchange for Joe Lovitto. Clines definitely had Lovitto beat in the sideburns category.

Gene served as the primary left fielder for Texas in 1976. That allowed the Rangers to move Mike Hargrove to first base. Unfortunately Clines wasn't what the club was looking for on a permanent basis in left field.

On February 5, 1977 the Cubs sent former Senator Darold Knowles back to the Rangers for a player to be named later. On Feburary 15, 1977 Gene Clines found himself on the way to Chicago as that player. His short stint with Texas was over. He would last one season and a few games with the Cubs. They released him in May of 1979. He would not appear in another Major League game after that.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Senators Saturday - Tom Brown, 1964.

By the time Tom Brown appeared on card 311 of the 1964 Topps set, his Major League Baseball career was over. Signed before the 1963 season, Brown was a switch-hitting first baseman who seemed promising to the Senators. He spent most of the 1963 season proving he could not hit Major League pitching from either side of the plate.

Tom was assigned to double A York for the 1964 season. He appeared in 59 games and made 243 plate appearances. He hit just .217 but did manage a .346 on-base percentage thanks to the 40 walks he worked.

It looked like baseball wasn't Tom Brown's sport. That's probably why he signed with the NFL's Green Bay Packers. By the fall of 1964 Brown was taking the field with the Packers. He would play just over five seasons in the NFL - all but one game with Green Bay. During that time he played in two Super Bowls. That's more post-season action than he would have seen with the Senators.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Decisions: #38 - #42.

Moving on in T.R. Sullivan's list of Top 50 Decisions that have Shaped the Rangers.

#38 Staying West - Baseball was looking at a serious realignment that would have included the Rangers. Owner Tom Hicks helped counter the movement when he agreed to stay in the American League West in exchange for an annual home-and-home series with the Houston Astros. (Seems to me like it's time to re-visit this one with the Astros now in the AL West.)

#39 The Surprise move - The Rangers moved into one of the best Spring Training facilities in baseball when they moved to Surprise, Arizona in 2003.

#40 Josh Hamilton - Opinions differed at the time and there are still some who don't like it but trading Edison Volquez for Josh Hamilton was huge. Hamilton may not be able to control his mouth, but he could hit and field when he was with Texas and helped put them in their first World Series.

#41 Young to Designated Hitter - Michael Young, shown here on card 230 of the 2005 Donruss Diamond Kings set, switched positions three times after coming up as a second baseman. His 2011 switch to DH/super utility man was probably the biggest. His reaction to that move likely contributed to his being dealt to Philadelphia during the 2012-2013 off-season.

#42 Buck Showalter - He brought some success when he was hired in 2002. Just like Billy Martin and Bobby Valentine though, his early success created too much false hope.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Best Seasons: Jose Guzman - 1991.

Ok, moving on in T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers history. At number 30 is Jose Guzman's 1991 season.

Guzman, appearing here on a signed 1988 Topps card, started 25 games for Texas in 1991. He finished five of them, one a complete game shutout, and compiled a 13-7 record. In the 169.2 innings he pitched he tallied a 3.08 ERA and a 1.391 WHIP. He struck out 125 batters and allowed just 10 home runs.

Those numbers may not seem super and they probably aren't. What makes them noteworthy is that Jose had not pitched in the Majors in 1989 or 1991 after suffering a devastating shoulder injury. There was some doubt that he could come back at all, much less be effective. He did both though and won the 1991 American League Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Odd Moments: #41-#45.

 Time for the next group installment from T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Odd Moments in Rangers history.

#41 The reign of the Tahitian warlord - Doug Rader's entire two plus years as manager were strange. He clashed with umpires, opposing players, media, fans, and his own players. He also crashed his car into the same tree every day in Spring Training.

#42 Hondo's Nestle Quik commercial - T.R. says you can find Frank Howard's Nestle Quik commercial on YouTube. If you can let me know. I spent almost an hour looking for it before I gave up.

#43 The wrong guy - During a game against the Orioles in 1992 the Rangers were looking for revenge because Glenn Davis had spiked Ivan Rodriguez the night before. In came reliever Danilo Leon, shown here on card 387 of the 1993 Donruss set, in the sixth inning to settle the score. He got the wrong guy though and hit Cal Ripken Jr. rather than Glenn Davis. Not like they looked different, wore different numbers, and had their names on their uniforms!

#44 R.A. Dickey - There are some who would claim Dickey is just one long bizarre moment. What Sullivan is referring to here though is the Rangers using their number one pick in 1996 to take a pitcher without an ulna collateral ligament.

#45 Hart's winter - The Ranger's first Winter Meetings under General Manager John Hart resulted in trades for Carl Everett and John Rocker. Those two guys qualify as strange to be sure.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

1977 Topps - Bert Campaneris.

On November 17, 1976 The Texas Rangers signed Dagoberto Blanco Campaneris to a five year contract. The team hoped Bert, shown here on card 373 of the 1977 Topps set, could bring some speed to the team and improve the defense. With the acquisition of Campy, Toby Harrah moved from short to third and displaced Roy Howell.

Campaneris was not known as a slugger or heavy hitter. Prior to coming to Texas he had not hit .300 in a season. That trend would continue with a .254 batting average and a .314 on-base percentage in 648 plate appearances in 1977. Both numbers were a slight drop from the previous season but nothing disastrous. Bert also led the league with sacrifice bunts, he laid down 40. Slightly concerning was Campy's performance on the bases. He stole 54 bases for Oakland in 1976. That was a spike for him and he dropped back down in 1977 with 27 thefts. Disturbingly, he led the league in caught stealing with 20.

In the field Campaneris logged 1284.1 innings at shortstop over 149 games. He didn't play any other position. Bert saw 777 chances at short and handled all but 25 of them without a problem. That gave him a .968 fielding percentage, five points higher than the league average. He also had much more range than most other shortstops in the league. That increased range probably accounted for some of his errors.

Bert Campaneris definitely filled a hole for Texas at shortstop. His defense was all that it was advertised to be and he was a steadying influence on rookie Bump Wills. His bat was light but that was expected. What was the concern was the drop in speed. Not only did his stolen base numbers drop but he was getting caught more often. That was something for Texas to keep an eye on going forward.

For the time being though Campaneris was doing well. He was selected to the All-Star team. Unsurprisingly, he played in the game but didn't bat.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Senators Saturday - Don Blasingame, 1964.

Don Blasingame appears on card 327 of the 1964 Topps set to continue the Senators Saturday series.

In July of 1963 the Senators purchased Blasingame's contract from the Reds. Coming into 1964 he looked to replace Chuck Cottier and his weak bat at second base.

Blasingame apparently succeeded in displacing Cottier. He would play in 143 games for the Senators and spend 1054 innings at second base. In fact, all the time Don spent on defense was at second. He made 14 errors in 609 chances for a .977 fielding percentage. That was below the league average .980 but close enough to be acceptable.

Blasingame made 556 plate appearances for Washington in 1964 and posted a .267 batting average and .320 on-base percentage. In typical middle infielder style for the time, he didn't have much power. His lone home run, two triples, and 17 singles attested to that.

Don Blasingame's 1964 season hadn't been calculated to blow the doors off. On the other hand, with what the Senators had been getting from the middle infield, it was within the acceptable range. That would do for now but wouldn't cut it long term. The Senators needed to improve and holding down a starting job would become more difficult as the minor league depth stabilized.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Best Seasons: Jeff Zimmerman - 1999.

Even though I am zipping through T.R. Sullivan's other lists, the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers history will remain one entry at a time. Seems only fitting to give a guy his due for a great campaign.

Number 29 on the list is Jeff Zimmerman's 1999 effort. Zimmerman, seen here on card 447 of the 2000 MLB Showdown set, had his career cut short due to injuries but that was still in the future in 1999.

The 26 year old rookie blasted into Major League baseball in 1999 as the setup man for Rangers closer John Wetteland. He appeared in 65 games and pitched a bullpen leading 87.2 innings. His ERA totaled to 2.36, the lowest on the pitching staff. His 0.883 WHIP was a team best by far. His strikeout to walk ratio was 2.91. Even serving as a late-inning guy he ended up with a 9-3 record.

I wasn't paying much attention to baseball when Zimmerman made his arrival but I remember hearing about him. My grandfather was impressed and mentioned him several times as "the new kid in the bullpen." Apparently he wasn't the only one impressed. Jeff made the All-Star team and came in third for the Rookie of the Year. Not too bad for a reliever.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moving into the off-season.

The Cleveland Indians head home after losing last night to the Tampa Bay Rays. Both Wildcard games are complete and this post-season is still not catching my interest.

The Rangers off-season moves have started. The team fired long-time bench coach Jackie Moore and first base coach Dave Anderson yesterday. No word on replacements but it would seem that Double A manager Steve Buechele, shown here on a signed 1990 Score card, is an early candidate for one one of the positions. I wouldn't mind that. Boo was a fan favorite during his playing days and would definitely be an asset on stressing defense.

Of course defense isn't what Texas is expected to focus on this winter. Offense is where they are looking to upgrade. There are several free agents out there who might add some pop to the lineup. The question is, how much should the club spend on an established player and how much should be invested in young talent? The eternal quandary for Major League clubs in the era of free agency and big contracts. Nolan Ryan says this could be a very challenging off-season. Hopefully he and the rest of the front office can meet the challenge.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Decisions: #33 - #37.

So the Pirates sent the Reds home last night and either the Rays or Indians will go home tonight. For some reason I just can't get too into these early playoff games.

Decided that the quick walk-through of the remaining items will work for the Top 50 Decisions that shaped the Rangers as well as the Top 50 Odd Moments. Here's the next few decisions from T.R. Sullivan's list:

#33 The Turnover - The Rangers won 95 games in 1977 and finished second in the American League West. Over the next two years they made a dizzying array of trades and free-agent signings to try and get over the top. Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry, Toby Harrah, and Mike Hargrove were among the players who left. Buddy Bell, Al Oliver, and Jon Matlack were some of the arriving players. It didn't work and Texas went into decline.

#34 The Merger - After Tom Hicks bought the Rangers, he merged the Stars and Rangers into one entity called the Southwest Sports Group. The SSG sold off property, introduced Ameriquest Field as the name of the Ballpark in Arlington, and changed the red uniforms. Perhaps the only good part was the uniforms.

#35 Hicks buys Liverpool - After creating SSG, Tom Hicks bought the English football (soccer) team at Liverpool. Not sure exactly what led to his fortune evaporating but it seemed to accelerate when he ventured into overseas sports.

#36 Ryan's Return - When Nolan Ryan, shown here on card 686 of the 1991 Score set, was named club president in 2008 it seemed to stabilize things. That gave the club some of the leadership it needed going through the trouble that lay just ahead.

#37 Selig supports Greenberg - Bud Selig's support for the ownership group headed by Chuck Greenberg seemed to sway the outcome of the 2010 bankruptcy sale. Otherwise it seems likely that Mark Cuban would have ended up with the team.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fade to black.

It's all over for the 2013 season. Last night's loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in game 163 means Texas misses the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Time to close the book on the 2013 season and start looking forward to 2014. The cover of the 2013 Rangers Yearbook seems to be a fitting summation. Here's a few things that stick out to me about the season as the ballpark lights fade.

91 wins. That's the fifth most wins in a season in franchise history. It's an astronomical amount of wins considering the injury battles the team faced. It wasn't enough to win the division or even lock down a Wildcard spot. Going to have to aim higher so long as the A's are cooking.

Injuries. Matt Harrison lost his whole season. Alexi Ogando, Ian Kinsler, Lance Berkman, Jeff Baker, and Nick Tepesch all lost big chunks of the season to various ailments. That cost the Rangers several games. If healthy they might have kept pace with Oakland, they would have kept the Wildcard.

Suspension. Nelson Cruz played the fool with PED's and paid the piper with a 50 game suspension. Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one who paid. The loss of his bat in the order handcuffed the offense going down the stretch.

Disappointment. Matt Garza was a bust. He's the second straight front-line pitcher Texas rented for the stretch run to fail. Ryan Dempster last year was worse but Garza was definitely not worth giving up Mike Olt. David Murphy was also a big let down. I like Murph but he just didn't hold up under the pounding of every day play.

Gone? Lance Berkman was a gamble. He really didn't pay off through the whole season but that was expected to a degree. He's likely to return to retirement. Matt Garza probably won't get the big offer from Texas he's looking for. Can't blame them since it's pretty obvious he can't pitch in the American League. Geovany Soto is more likely to return but could be snagged by another team needing a platoon/backup receiver. Nelson Cruz will be looking for the big money. His suspension should play a role but probably won't. Texas will make him an offer but isn't going to be able to match the market. David Murphy may not even receive a contract offer from the Rangers. If he does it will be with the stipulation that he is the fourth outfielder. That may or may not sit well with him. I can't see anyone picking him up as an every day player but he'll get a call or two from teams looking for a platoon player. A.J. Pierzynski was not my favorite off-season signing last winter. He won me over though, at least for the most part. I would like to see him back but am not expecting it. His age and budget considerations point to a signing with another team. Joe Nathan has done very well in Texas. Ron Washington wants him back and so do I. Joe finished enough games to trigger his option to void the Rangers one-year option. If he hadn't the team would definitely pick him up for next year. As it is, we are likely to find out if his talk of wanting to stay in Texas is for real or just talk.

Arrivals. Martin Perez is here to stay. Barring injury or a sudden failing look for him to be in the starting rotation in 2014. Leonys Martin seems to have staked out his claim in center field. He needs to keep developing and stay ahead of Craig Gentry but it's likely he'll be in center on opening day. Jurickson Profar is also going to have a shot at next year's roster. In what position is the puzzle.

Baseball town. The team continued to draw well. Very well. In fact, they outdrew every other team except the New York Yankees. (That includes out drawing the Angles, sorry Josh.) That's nice to see. I expect the fan support to continue in 2014.

All in all it was an interesting, and somewhat painful, 2013 season for the Texas Rangers. The off-season should be interesting as well. There are several areas the team needs to address. Time for the front-office to work their magic.