Friday, February 28, 2014

Best Seasons: Jose Canseco - 1994.

So the Rangers first Spring Training game of 2014 went well yesterday. Prince Fielder hit a home run as advertised. Yu Darvish tossed a couple of scoreless innings. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come in the regular season.

Time to take a look at number 46 on T.R. Sullivan list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History. Juicer Jose Canseco, seen here on card 304 of the 1994 Fleer set, gets the nod with his 1994 season.

Following his infamous pitching injury in 1993, Canseco came into the 1994 season on a tear. He was carrying a .282 batting average and a .386 on-base percentage through the 111 games he appeared in. He had 19 doubles, two triples, and 31 home runs. Those all contributed towards his 90 RBI and 88 runs scored.

Unfortunately for Canseco, the players strike ended the 1994 season early. He was unable to put up a full season of numbers. If he had been able to play the season out, it is likely 1994 would have been one of the best years of Jose's career. As it was he had to settle for numbers that most players would be happy with for a full season and some MVP consideration.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Recent TTM arrival.

I'm still sending out through the mail autograph requests. I took a break while moving but have sent several since. Since the Rangers FanFest I found some more addresses for retired players and out went another group.

Kevin Mench was in that group. I sent him two cards, including this 2006 Topps, on February 17th. He signed both and sent them back. I got them in my mailbox yesterday. He took the time to personalize both. The bubbling on this one makes it the lesser of the two but I'm glad to have it as well. Many thanks to Mr. Mench for his time and consideration in fulfilling my request.

In addition to Mench, I have received several other successes recently. Cards have come back signed from former Rangers Jim Umbarger, Rusty Greer, Oddibe McDowell, George Wright, Jon Matlack, and Dave Hostetler. Former Washington Senator Del Unser was also kind enough to return my card signed. Thanks to all these gentlemen for taking the time to sign for a fan. On the down side, I received RTS from former Rangers Mike Venafro and Geno Petralli. I still have quite a few requests out so some more may come in. I am also stockpiling stamps and extra cards of current players for when the season starts. I've never been that big on sending to Spring Training.

Anyone else out there having autograph success you want to share?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Best Seasons: Danny Darwin - 1980.

Not much to report from Spring Training other than Matt Harrison is back in camp and ready to get going. Seems like a good time to move along on T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History.

Danny Darwin, shown here on card number 632 of the 1982 Fleer set, comes in at number 45 on the list for his 1980 season.

Darwin was in his second full season with Texas in 1980 and was primarily a reliever. He did make two starts but the rest of his 53 appearances were out of the bullpen. He finished 35 games but got only eight saves.

In the 109.2 innings Danny pitched he compiled a 2.63 ERA and a 13.4 record. That's a little surprising considering his 1.350 WHIP. Although he did walk 50 he probably got away with a little more due to the 104 strikeouts he recorded.

Texas-born Danny Darwin's 1980 season was a story of homegrown talent making good.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A 2x3 mailing.

Having computer issues. Trying to get today's post up has taken most of my posting time so it's going to be short.

Wanted to take a moment to thank Jeff over at 2x3 Heroes for the nice package he sent my way. It was a surprise to find it in my mailbox yesterday and a pleasure to open. Jeff sent me several team bags full of Rangers. I needed quite a few of them, including this 2007 Bowman Heritage #201 of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Jeff was also a life saver when he included a couple of team bags of A's cards. I just completed a trade with my A's-loving brother that pretty much sapped my reserve of A's cards. Thanks to Jeff, I am ready for another trade if the chance comes up. Thanks again Jeff, I really appreciate the cards.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring Training and a new MLB rule.

Quick rundown of the news out of Spring Training.

Matt Harrison is good to go but not too good to go. He probably won't be ready for Opening Day but should be in the rotation shortly thereafter. He has been cleared by a doctor though and there's no sign of a physical problem.

Ron Washington likes prospect Rougned Odor. He thinks Odor needs to slow down a bit but figures that will be addressed by the end of camp. Apparently Rougned tends to rush to make the plays. Ron's opinion is that this is a result of youth and will resolve itself with seasoning.

Washington may get a chance to manage Odor when he hits the Majors in a few years if things keep going well. Texas extended Ron's contract as manager through the end of the 2015 season. That seems like a good deal to me. I'm a big fan of continuity. As long as it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Major League Baseball has finalized the new rule concerning home plate collisions. Most aren't as one-sided as the one shown here on card number 59 of the 1993 Cardtoons set and there has been some noise about trying to protect catcher. The play at the plate will not go away but the new rule is supposed to minimize the serious injuries to players. I'm a little conflicted on this one. I don't like the idea of trying the make the game risk free. I do like the idea of keeping players from flattening the catcher when there's no need. Going to have to turn rule #7.13 over in my mind a bit more. Will be interesting to see how it looks in action during the 2014 season.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Cruz signs, Spring Training goes on.

Ron Washington and Jon Daniels have been saying they expected Nelson Cruz, shown here on card number 25 of the 2011 Allen and Ginter set, to sign elsewhere. He did so this morning. Eight million for a one-year deal with Baltimore. Texas at least gets a draft pick out of the deal. Strikes me that Nellie had to settle for fewer years than he would have liked. Hopefully that's related to his PED suspension and will help send a message to any other players thinking about using to get the big contract.

Geovany Soto's going to miss the next three weeks of Spring Training. He had surgery this morning to remove a bone from his left ankle. Apparently the bone was putting pressure on a tendon and causing soreness. The team is expecting him to be back in time for a few Spring Training games and the word is he should be ready to roll on Opening Day. Hope so. Guess if he isn't JP Arencibia will have a shot at grabbing the starting role.

Matt Harrision is back to saying he should be back on track soon. His MRI Thursday showed no problems and he says his back feels a lot better after sleeping on the floor. He's still going to be examined by a doctor in Dallas next week. Lots of folks out there with their fingers crossed hoping for the best. If Harrison can return to something close to his 2012 form I will feel a lot better about the pitching situation.

Mitch Moreland is reportedly working on playing the outfield. It's not altogether new territory for him. He played right field a lot in the minors as I recall and spent some time there the first year or so he was up. I guess he is figuring the more valuable he is to the team the better his chances of staying around. Looks like his chances may have improved with Nelson Cruz's signing by the Orioles.

Still no word on how the starting rotation is looking. I wouldn't be surprised if the management wants to give everyone in the hunt a good long look before deciding. Let the guys get into form before trimming the list. It would be nice if the decision is a hard one and the club ends up with someone waiting in the wings if there is a stumble.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Best Seasons: Akinori Otsuka - 2006.

Well, good news on Matt Harrison. Apparently the MRI showed no major issues or damage. He'll be behind in his prep now but hopefully will still be able to pitch this year. That's going to be a huge relief to a lot of Rangers fans.

Speaking of relief, Akinori Otsuka shows up at number 44 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History. Texas obtained Otsuka, shown here on card 228 of the 2007 Upper Deck set, in January of 2006. 2006 was his first season with the club and the season for which he makes Sullivan's list.

The Rangers started 2006 with Francisco Cordero as their closer. He stumbled coming out of the gate and lost the job to Otsuka in April. Akinori took advantage of the situation. He came out of the bullpen 63 times during the season and finished 48 of those games. Over the course of the 59.2 innings he pitched he struck out 47 batters while walking just 11. Those numbers helped him post a 2.11 ERA and a 1.073 WHIP. He ended the season with 32 saves.

Otsuka had a great season in 2006. It's even better when you consider the unexpected change of roles he dealt with and the fact that the team he was pitching for went 80-82 on the season. In addition to bringing relief, Otsuka was one of the few bright spots on the Rangers pitching staff.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Harrison's back again.

Well, the bad news has begun for the Rangers in Spring Training. Matt Harrison, shown here on a 2012 Gypsy Queen card he signed through the mail for me last year, has been shut down from all baseball activity. Harrison came into camp at 100% after missing almost the entire season last year with two back surgeries. He had some neck stiffness that curtailed his activities yesterday. Today he came in with stiffness in his back in the same area he suffered a herniated disk last year. He's on his way back to Texas to have an MRI and examination by the same doctor who operated on him. Best case scenario is that he won't be ready for Opening Day. Worst case is another surgery and another missed season. That could spell the end of his career.

Of course, losing Harrison out of the starting rotation does spell trouble for the Rangers as well. With Derek Holland already gone, Harrison was seen as a must for Texas to stay competitive. Now the starting rotation is looking like Yu Darvish, Martin Perez, Alexi Ogando, and two question marks. Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tommy Hanson, and Nick Tepesch are the primary contenders to fill the bottom two spots in the rotation. It's not exactly a situation formulated to elicit confidence. Any further injuries or setbacks and it's going to get real ugly.

One possible solution floating around is to sign Nelson Cruz. Nellie can't pitch but he can hit. Right now Mitch Moreland is the Rangers Designated Hitter after being displaced at first base by Prince Fielder. Perhaps he, or Cruz in a pinch, could be traded for some pitching help. It's an interesting thought but I doubt the Rangers could trade just one bat and pick up a middle of the rotation hurler. The next week or two could be very interesting.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Best Seasons: Darold Knowles - 1969.

Coming down the home stretch on T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History. Today Darold Knowles comes in at number 43 in recognition of his 1969 season.

As you can see from his 1969 Strat-O-Matic card, Knowles was a reliever, and a good one at that. He started no games in 1969 so all of his 53 appearances were out of the bullpen. In 84.1 innings pitched he posted a 2.25 ERA and a 1.233 WHIP. He struck out almost twice as many as he walked with 59 K's and 31 walks.

Darold ended the season with 13 saves. He also got selected to the All-Star team for the only time in his career.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

1977 Topps - Dave Moates.

So far the big news out of Sprint Training is that Jurickson Profar's right shoulder tendinitis has not yet cleared up. That restricts his workouts and puts him behind. He's still looking to be the starting second baseman on Opening Day but any other delays will scratch him.

Jumping back to 1977 for a few minutes. By the time Dave Moates appeared on card 588 of the 1977 Topps set his Major League career was over.

Moates was drafted by the Senators in 1969 and was still in the minors when the team moved to Texas. He spent 1974 and 1976 as a backup outfielder with the Rangers. With the roster changes leading up to the 1977 season, he found himself out of a job. It was down to the Triple A Tucson Toros to start the season. It was apparent that, barring a miracle, Dave was not going to be able to play his way back to Arlington.

On May 23, 1977 the Rangers sold Moates' contract to the New York Yankees. Dave moved to the Syracuse Chiefs to finish out the 1977 season. That also finished out his professional career as he hung up his spikes at the end of the season.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Minor League Monday - Robb Nen, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Well, Rangers pitcher and catchers reported yesterday. So far no word except there are players in Surprise and figuring out who will replace Derek Holland in the rotation seems to be at the top of everyone's list. Guess it's fitting that today's minor league card is of a pitcher.

No, my scanner is not dirty. What looks like spots on the glass and maybe a small hair on Robb Nen's face are actually imperfections on card #15 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set. That and the mis-cutting of the card (along with about half the rest of the set) seems to fit in with the lower levels of the minor leagues.

Nen, the son of former Senator Dick Nen, was the Rangers 32nd round draft pick in the 1987 draft. He was nobody's top prospect. By 1990 he had worked his way through Rookie and A ball and was ready to start the season with A+ Charlotte.

Robb made eleven starts for Charlotte in 1990. That account for all his appearances. In the 53.2 innings he pitched he managed to put together a 3.69 ERA and 1.491 WHIP. He struck out 38 and walked 36. Decent numbers but he wasn't blowing the doors off the league.

Nen must have caught someone's eye. He was promoted mid-season to Double A Tulsa. With the Drillers his numbers took a predictable dip. In seven starts he was tagged with a 5.06 ERA and 1.650 WHIP over 26.2 innings.

That was to be expected though. The batters were better at Double A and an adjustment period is normal for young players moving up the ladder. Robb Nen just needed to make sure he made that adjustment and brought his numbers back down in the 1991 season.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Senators Saturday - Ed Roebuck, 1964.

It looks to me like the hatless Ed Roebuck may be wearing a Dodgers jersey on card 187 of the 1964 Topps set. Washington got him from Los Angeles on July 30, 1963 in exchange for Marv Breeding.

Roebuck did all right for the Senators out of the bullpen in the latter half of the 1963 season. He pitched 57.1 innings over 26 games while compiling a 3.30 ERA and a 1.605 WHIP.

You would think that would at least earn Ed a look in 1964. Not so. The Senators sold his contract to Philadelphia on April 21, 1963 after he had pitched just one inning. Roebuck went on to have possibly the best season of his career. With the Phillies locked in a fight for the pennant, they would call on Ed 60 times, all in relief. He would finish 27 of those games and pitch a total of 77.1 innings. His 2.21 ERA and 1.034 WHIP made him the most dependable reliever coming out of the Philadelphia bullpen.

I think I've mentioned before that Spiff Jr, my Dad, and I are replaying the 1964 National League season with Strat-O-Matic. My Dad has the Cardinals, I have the Reds (among other teams), and Spiff Jr has the Phillies (and Pirates). That's the top three teams at the end of the real season - only a game between them. Needless to say, I've grown familiar with Ed Roebuck coming into a game to shut it down for the Phillies. The back of this card refers to Ed as "an ace fireman." Based on the number of times he is calling on Roebuck, Spiff Jr seems to agree with that assessment.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Jim Fregosi, 1942 - 2014.

Former Ranger Jim Fregosi signed this 1974 Topps card for me through the mail in 2009. He was gracious and fast. The return took only about a week.

Last night I came home from work to discover that Jim was in critical condition after suffering multiple strokes during a Major League Baseball Alumni cruise. He was initially hospitalized in the Cayman Islands before being airlifted to Miami. This morning brought the sad news that he passed away in the early hours of the day. My heart goes out to his wife and children with their loss.

Fregosi was the first real star for the Angels and was responsible for much of their early success. He went to the Mets in the trade that sent Nolan Ryan to California and in 1973 the Rangers got him from New York. Jim would play in all or parts of five season with Texas and appear in 271 games. In 1977 the Rangers traded him to the Pirates. The Bucs released him in 1978 and he was immediately hired as the Angels manager. He had success as a manager for the Angels and Phillies before moving into the front office realm.

Jim's time with Texas was on the downhill side of his career and he is best remembered as an Angel. A family man first and an Angel at shortstop. My condolences to Tom over at The Angels, In Order and all of the other Halos fans out there.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

1986 Topps Rangers.

Some folks really like collecting autographs through the mail. They'll send to just about any player and seem to have a good success rate. I've even seen a blog dedicated to getting every card in the 2008 Topps set signed. Pretty ambitious if you ask me, getting a whole set signed.

I sent this 1986 Topps card to former Ranger George Wright on February 5, 2014. He was gracious enough to sign and return it to me. It came back in the mail on February 10, 2014. The autograph is much appreciated since I didn't have Mr. Wright's signature in my collection yet.

When I went to put the card away I noticed something. I have a lot of signed 1986 Topps Rangers cards. 25 to be exact. That's out of a team set of 37, including the traded set. The 25 autos I have include four of the traded cards. I decided maybe I should try to get the whole team set signed.

Here's the 1986 Topps Rangers I don't have signed yet:
Dickie Noles
Larry Parrish
Geno Petralli
Wayne Tolleson
Duane Walker
Gary Ward
Curt Wilkerson
Mickey Mahler
Tom Paciorek
Darrell Porter
Mitch Williams
Ricky Wright

None of these guys are big names. There weren't many big names with the Rangers in the 1986 set. They do present challenges though. Sadly, Darrell Porter has passed away. Unless I can trade for, or buy, a previously signed card I may have to make an exception for him. Curt Wilkerson will not sign through the mail because he considers it weird that people send mail to his home. No word on how he views store ads in the mail. I've tried Petralli, Tolleson, Ward, Mahler, Paciorek, and Williams before without success. I just sent out a new request to Petralli at a new address. I'm currently out of extra cards of Mitch Williams and Mickey Mahler.

If you happen to have any of these cards signed (and are sure they are legit), please let me know. I have several through the mail autographs listed for trade and I am sure we could work something out. If you happen to have an address for any of these guys that you know is good please shoot me an email. I would be thrilled to give it a shot. If you have ever undertaken a project like this I would like to hear about it and any successes, challenges, or tips you may have.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Minor League Monday - Rod Morris, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Rod Morris, shown here on card number 14 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set, was a long shot for the Rangers. Not that Morris was a poor risk but any 25th round pick is a long shot.

After being drafted in the 1988 draft, Rod embarked on his professional career. One season with the Butte Copper Kings in 1988 and then it was on the Charlotte for 1989. He stayed with the team when it moved from A ball to A+ ball for the 1990 season.

Morris played in the outfield for 116 of the 120 games he appeared in for Charlotte. Not sure which outfield position he primarily filled. He muffed five of the 218 chances he had for a .977 fielding percentage. That was a 13 point improvement over the 1989 season but he still had room to improve further.

Rod also made 492 plate appearances for Charlotte in route to a .255 batting average and a .320 on-base percentage. His 11 doubles, four triples, and two home runs indicated he had a touch of power but was not a slugger. Speed was perhaps more Morris' game, he stole 18 bases in 28 attempts.

Apparently Texas decided Morris could be taught how to read a pitcher and improve his stealing along with his bat. He would find himself promoted to Double A Tulsa for the beginning of the 1991 season.

Friday, February 7, 2014

From the Owl's nest.

When I arrived home from work last night I found a small package waiting for me. I have to admit it raised my spirits just seeing the return address of the famous Night Owl over at Night Owl Cards. Mrs. Spiff asked if the package was part of a trade. No, just a nice gesture on the part of a real class act.

Inside the bubble mailer I found a stack of Rangers cards and a note from the man himself. He hoped I needed a few of the enclosed cards. Yes, I did. The cards of current Rangers were especially valued with the 2014 season rapidly approaching. There were also a few older cards that hit some holes in various team sets. This 2002 Upper Deck MVP card of Chan Ho Park is one such card. I was able to check card 70 off the list of cards I'm looking for to complete the team set.

Thanks a lot for the cards Night Owl, and perhaps even more for the thought. It's a real encouragement to get such a nice surprise in the mail.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Best Seasons: Mike Hargrove - 1974.

Mike Hargrove is a tough through the mail signer. He's developed a reputation of not signing. Cards sent to him just disappear. I'm not sure why that's the case now. I sent him this 1979 Topps card on September 21, 2008. It came back signed on October 30, 2008. While I don't know the reasons behind Mike no longer signing I do appreciate him taking the time to sign this card. 

Number 42 on T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers history goes to Mike Hargrove for his rookie year in 1974. Coming from A ball to Spring Training, Hargrove made the team at the insistence of manager Billy Martin.

Martin would sent Hargrove to the plate 477 times throughout the season. Mike responded with a .323 batting average and a .395 on-base percentage. He scored 57 runs and knocked in 66 RBI while hitting 18 doubles, three triples, and four home runs. His .987 fielding percentage was slightly lower than the league average but you have to expect some rough edges from a player who was just jumped two levels and thrust into a pennant race.

Folks outside of Texas took note of Hargrove's season. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award. That was a first in Rangers history.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Best Seasons: Ian Kinsler - 2009.

Other than the Rangers selling the naming rights for The Ballpark in Arlington to some insurance company and scouting a Korean pitcher, the news has been rather quiet. Time for another installment in T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers history.

Ian Kinsler, seen here on card 152 of the 2007 Upper Deck First Edition set, comes in at number 41 on the list with his 2009 season. Ian's defense was it's normal self but he makes the list with his bat.

In 640 plate appearances Kinsler posted a .253 batting average and a .327 on-base percentage. Those numbers alone would not have gotten him on the list. Add in his career high 31 stolen bases, career high 86 RBI, 101 runs scored, 32 doubles, 4 triples, 31 home runs, and 59 walks. Somewhere during this first 30-30 season, Kinsler also hit for the cycle. That makes Sullivan's decision to list this season much clearer. Amazingly, Kinsler missed the All-Star game in 2009. He did get some MVP consideration though.

T.R. compiled his list during the 2011 season. I would respectfully submit that season to replace 2009 as Ian Kinsler's contribution to the list. Ian's defense was probably better in 2011 than in 2009. He made 620 trips to the plate and posted a similar .255 average and a higher .355 on-base percentage. He stole 30 bases, one less than 2009 but he got caught one less time. His 77 RBI were a significant drop. His 121 runs scored and 89 walks were significant improvements. The 34 doubles, four triples, and 32 home runs were a slight improvement over 2009. All those numbers came in 20 fewer plate appearances. I don't think Ian hit for the cycle in his second 30-30 season but, all things considered, I think 2011 was a better season than 2009. Once again Kinsler missed the All-Star game but did get some MVP consideration.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

1977 Topps - Roy Howell.

Coming into Sprint Training in 1977 it was painfully clear that Roy Howell, shown here on card 608 of the 1977 Topps set, was a man without a job. The Rangers tried in 1975 and 1976 to install Howell at third base but he just wasn't clicking. His bat was too inconsistent and his glove had too many holes.

The off-season signing of shortstop Bert Campaneris is what endangered Howell. To make room in the middle for Campy, Texas moved star Toby Harrah to third base. There was no comparison between Harrah's bat and Howell's. That left Roy without a home.

There was some talk of trying Howell in left field. The outfield was in transition and there was a slight possibility Roy might be able to sneak in and grab a job there. Claudell Washington got left nailed down though and between Ken Henderson and Tom Grieve, the chances of sticking as a backup outfielder were slim.

Roy went into the 1977 season as a utility player with no particular position. He ended up appearing at third, first, left field, and as the designated hitter. He did fairly well on defense. The problem was his bat. Whether it was not having a settled position or just a continuation of his previous struggles, by seven games into the season it became clear that Roy Howell could not make contact at the plate. He was carrying a .105 on-base percentage and hadn't collected a hit in his 19 plate appearances.

In November of 1976 the Toronto Blue Jays grabbed reliever Steve Hargan from the Rangers in the expansion draft. Apparently the Rangers decided Hargan was more valuable than the struggling and jobless Howell. On May 9, 1977 Texas sent Roy to the Jays. Amazingly the Rangers got not only Steve Hargan but also Jim Mason and $200,000. Roy Howell got a new lease on life as a Major League ball player and another shot at playing third base every day.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Minor League Monday - Trey McCoy, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

I'm going to say up front that card number 13 in the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set is probably the most mis-cut card in the set. I know the scan of Trey McCoy's card looks bad. It's a great improvement over the card in person.

The start of the 1990 season was a continuation of Trey's sojourn at Single A Gastonia. He spent the 1989 season there as well. In 24 games at Single A McCoy batted .338 with a .415 on-base percentage. He bopped six doubles and four home runs for a .563 slugging percentage. He also walked as often as he struck out - 12 times each. In addition to his offense, Trey managed to play 16 games in the outfield without committing an error.

That performance got McCoy a mid-season promotion to A+ ball. He would play in 45 games for the Charlotte Rangers and get 184 plate appearances. As might be expected following a promotion, Trey's numbers dropped. His batting average tumbled to .231 and his on-base percentage to .332. His 11 doubles and three home runs weren't enough to keep his slugging percentage from dropping to .356. With the improved pitching Trey saw his strikeouts total up to 35 while his walks came to just 23. Trey also committed two errors in 34 chances in the outfield for Charlotte. That gave him a .941 fielding percentage.

Trey McCoy started the 1990 season like a house afire. He cooled off following his promotion to A+ ball but apparently the Rangers liked what they were seeing. His glove had improved tremendously and his bat seemed to be able to catch up once he was given the chance to adjust. He would have the chance to make more adjustments in 1991 when he started the season with the Double A Tulsa Drillers.