Tuesday, March 25, 2014

1977 Topps - Len Randle.

Going into Spring Training 1977 the Rangers viewed Len Randle, shown here on card 196 of the 1977 Topps set, as the experienced veteran capable of playing mutiple positions. What they didn't view him as was their starting second baseman. Lenny did though.

After years of being used as a utility man, Randle finally nailed down a starting job at second base in 1976. He wasn't a star there but he wasn't about to let it go without a fight. Problem was, the job wasn't his to lose. The Rangers had given it to rookie Bump Wills.

It became obvious to Randle that he was not going to win second back from Wills. As Spring Training wore on he became increasingly frustrated with the prospect of another season as a utility man. He threatened to leave camp. Some of his fellow players talked him out of it. Word got back to manager Frank Lucchesi.

Lucchesi wasn't impressed by Randle's bat, glove, or attitude. He remaked that it was a shame Randle's teammates stopped him from leaving camp. Guys making $80,000 a year and whining didn't sit will with the Rangers skipper. He considered them punks. He said so to some reporters.

On March 28, 1977 the Rangers were in Orlando, Forida to take on the Twins in a Spring Training game. Randle approached Lucchesi during batting pratice and asked to speak to him. The two stepped aside and spoke briefly. Lenny ended the conversation by punching Lucchesi in the face several times and leaving him bleeding and unresponsive on the field.

Other players restrained outfielder Ken Henderson as he started to go after Randle. An ambulance transported Lucchesi to a hospital where he would be operated on and spend several weeks recovering. The Rangers suspended Randle and fined him $10,000.

Henderson declared he wouldn't play with Randle again. Obviously Lucchesi didn't want him to come back. The Rangers had to do something. On April 26, 1977 the Rangers gave Randle to the Mets for some cash and a player to be named later. Randle had his fight and still lost his job.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Looking like a bad hand.

Putting baseball players on playing cards isn't anything new. It probably wasn't new when Will Clark appeared on this four of Diamonds in the 1995 Baseball Aces deck. Cards like this always cause a flashback to my childhood. We played cards quite a bit as a family. Not poker but bluff, hearts, and other such games. I remember my Dad telling me and my brothers that you don't always have a say in the hand you're dealt, just how you play it.

With the injuries mounting, it is looking more and more like the Rangers don't have a say in the hand they're being dealt for the upcoming season. Derek Holland's knee injury and Joseph Ortiz's broken foot in the off-season certainly were not harbingers of good fortune.

In the last couple of days Texas has lost Geovany Soto to knee surgery and Jurickson Profar to a torn muscle in his shoulder. Profar won't need surgery but he's going to be out for 10-12 weeks. Soto is also looking at missing 10-12 weeks. Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo are still dealing with sore arms and are restricted as far as throwing. To top it all off, Yu Darvish is dealing with stiffness in his neck and may miss his Opening Day start.

These are not the cards a club wants to be dealt to start off a winning season. It's not like the front office could have done much though, they made the best roster they could and now it seems to be falling apart. I guess that's why it's a gamble every season as to how things turn out. Right now it's all hands on deck with every option on the table to cover the losses. Hopefully someone will step up and help the team play the hand well.

Friday, March 21, 2014

One card away.

I like the 1984 Donruss set. It's the first, and one of the few, Donruss sets I feel has a good design. There's also several nice photos used on the Rangers cards in the set. You can see the design here on card 256 featuring Odell Jones. I'm saving the cards with the great photos for other posts.

What I don't like about 1984 Donruss is that I don't have the team set finished yet. Looking to knock it off my wantlist. All I need to put 1984 Donruss to bed is card number 281, Pete O'Brien.

While recently updating my Rangers wantlist I noticed there are several team sets I am one card from finishing. Here's the one card away list:

1995 Bowman - 260 Terrell Lowery FOIL
 1998 Bowman - 198 Corey Lee
2008 Bowman - 183 Josh Hamilton
1994 Bowman’s Best - R79 Will Clark
1997 Bowman’s Best - 63 John Wetteland
2011 Bowman's Best - BB9 Josh Hamilton
2006 Bowman Chrome - 210 Jason Botts (RC)
2007 Bowman Chrome - 194 Michael Young
2004 Bowman Heritage - 46 Hank Blalock SP
1999 Circa SkyBox Thunder - 252 Rafael Palmeiro
1991 Classic Game - 196 Nolan Ryan
1984 Donruss - 281 Pete O'Brien RC
1994 Donruss - 1 Nolan Ryan
1995 Donruss - 228 David Hulse
1997 Donruss - 158 Ryan Hancock
2003 Donruss - 8 Alex Rodriguez DK
2001 Donruss Classics - 171 Nolan Ryan Legends # to 1755
1997 Donruss Elite - 37 Will Clark  
2003 Donruss Elite - 75 Rafael Palmeiro
2003 Donruss Team Heroes - 508 Alex Rodriguez
1992 Donruss Triple Play - 183 Rafael Palmeiro
1994 Donruss Triple Play - 193 Will Clark
2001  E-X - 92 Alex Rodriguez  
2002 Finest - 54 Alex Rodriguez
1993 Flair - 286 Nolan Ryan
2003 Flair - 47 Alex Rodriguez
2005 Flair - 87 Nolan Ryan RET SP
1984 Fleer - 430 Dave Stewart
1997 Fleer - 222 Rusty Greer
2005 Fleer Authentix - 64 Alfonso Soriano
2004 Fleer Classic Clippings - 30 Hank Blalock
2000 Fleer Focus - 202 Gabe Kapler
2002 Fleer Focus Jersey Edition - 117 Alex Rodriguez
2003 Fleer Patchworks -  33  Alex  Rodriguez
2005 Fleer Patchworks - 92 Nolan Ryan LS
2004 Fleer Platinum - 30 Alex Rodriguez
1986 Fleer Stickers - 73 Oddibe McDowell
1998 Fleer Tradition  - 241 Will Clark
2001 Fleer Triple Crown - 31 Rafael Palmeiro
1985 Leaf - 9 Frank Tanana DK
1997 Leaf - 101 Juan Gonzalez
1998 Leaf - 189 Fernando Tatis GLR SP
2003 Leaf - 116 Rafael Palmeiro
1998 Metal Universe - 93 Matt Perisho
2003 MLB Showdown Pennant Run - 114 Ivan Rodriguez SS FOIL
1998 Pacific Omega - 242 Aaron Sele
1998 Pacific Paramount - 106 Roberto Kelly
1991 Score - 900 Nolan Ryan COOP
1993 Score - 59 Nolan Ryan
1994 Score - 495 Rafael Palmeiro
1997 Score - 451 Mike Devereaux
1993 Select Rookies/Traded - 91 Charlie Leibrandt
1997 Select - 157 Fernando Tatis RC
1994 SP - 146 Jose Canseco
1997 SP - 170 Ivan Rodriguez       
1999 Sp Authentic - 126 Juan Gonzalez STR SP
1999 SPx - 78 Rafael Palmeiro
2001 SP Game Bat Edition - 23 Rafael Palmeiro
2002 SP Authentic - 126 Travis Hughes FW RC
2005 SP Authentic Update - 153 Nick Masset AU RC
2006 SPx - 92 Mark Teixeira
1986 Sportsflics - 197 Gary Ward
1986 Sportsflic Rookies - 16 Ruben Sierra
2000 Stadium Club - 203 Ruben Mateo SP
2001 Stadium Club - 160 Scott Heard
2003 Stadium Club - 104 Mark Teixeira FS
2008 Stadium Club - 18 Michael Young
1998 Studio - 85 Rusty Greer
2001 Sweet Spot - 16 Alex Rodriguez
2009 Topps - 610 Michael Young
2011 Topps - 621 Omar Beltre
2009 Topps 206 - 144 Neftali Feliz RC
1988 Topps Big - 163 Jerry Browne
1996 Topps Chrome - 118 Will Clark
1997 Topps Chrome - 64 Mickey Tettleton
1998 Topps Gold Label - 28 Rusty Greer
1999 Topps Opening Day - Nolan Ryan
2000 Topps Opening Day - 116 John Wetteland
2002 Topps Opening Day - 130 Alex Rodriguez
2004 Topps Opening Day - 40 Hank Blalock   
2010 Topps Opening Day - 125 Elvis Andrus
2006 Ultra - 246 Mark Teixiera RL13
1999 Upper Deck - 270 Ruben Mateo
2003 Upper Deck - 81 Jorge Julio
2010 Upper Deck - 496 Ian Kinsler
2003 Upper Deck First Pitch - 86 Chan Ho Park
2007 Upper Deck First Edition - 230 Kenny Lofton
1999 Ovation - 88 Juan Gonzalez SS SP
2001 Ovation - 15 Alex Rodriguez
2003 Standing O - 81 Alex Rodriguez
2002 Upper Deck Vintage - 63 Alex Rodriguez

A little longer list than I thought at first. If you have any of these, or any other cards off my Rangers Wantlist, please drop me a line. If you can't find anything off my tradelist you want I may be able to dig something else for your team out.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quick game-used post.

Life sure has gotten busy this past week. Between a short visit by family, working on some projects with the kids, and battling a sinus infection I just haven't been able to post.

Fortunately the sinus infection appears to be on the wane and the kids projects have to be completed by this weekend. That should open up some more posting time.

Meanwhile I will leave you with this double Mark Teixeira jersey swatch from the 2005 Donruss Timber and Threads set. I'm not a big fan of Tex but this card has a classic look to it that I like.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Best Seasons: Scott Feldman - 2009.

Well, today we come to the end of T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History. Scott Feldman, shown here on card 198 of the 2006 Fleer Ultra set, gets the final spot. Feldman comes in at number 50 for his 2009 season.

Scott Feldman started the 2009 season in the bullpen. After just three appearances there, he moved into the starting rotation. He would make a career high 31 starts and pitch a career high 189.2 innings. What gets Feldman on the list is the wins. Scott won 17 while losing 8. He also set a franchise record for road wins since he was actually a better pitcher on the road than at home.

2009 was the edge of the launching pad for the Rangers. They would go to the World Series for the next two seasons. In 2009 they were just a piece or two from the trip and finished second in the the American league West. Scott Feldman was one of the main benefactors of the situation and won far more games than his 4.08 ERA and 1.281 would have suggested. However, following his win chase was a much needed shot of encouragement for Rangers fans.

So we are at the end of T.R. Sullivan's last list. Hope you enjoyed it a little and maybe even learned a thing or two about the Rangers and some of their past players.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Minor auto.

Not much news today out of Spring Training. Decided with the recent roster cuts it might be a good idea to post a minor league autograph.

Got this signed 1995 Classic Four Sport card of catcher Kevin Brown as part of an autograph lot off Ebay a couple of years ago. Kevin's not quite to the minor league level in this picture, probably college but maybe high school. Hard to tell exactly since Classic airbrushed these sets to avoid paying for the use of school and club logos.

In addition to the airbrushed uniform and cap, you gotta like the throw-down home plate and the padding piled in the dugout. Definitely a far cry from the Majors.

1995 Classic Four Sport #178
1995 Classic Four Sport #178
1995 Classic Four Sport #178
1995 Classic Four Sport #178
1995 Classic Four Sport #178
1995 Classic Four Sport #178
1995 Classic Four Sport #178
1995 Classic Four Sport #178

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Best Seasons: Dave Hostetler - 1982.

Well, the Rangers made six roster cuts this morning as they start to thin the numbers leading up to the season. Among those leaving the Big League camp are Wilmer Font and Rougned Odor. Ron Washington also says the closer race is still wide open. Tanner Scheppers is still in the running for a starting job and Neftali Feliz and Joaquin Soria are not yet fully back from their Tommy John surgeries. Going to be interesting.

Going to take the opportunity to move along in T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History. Almost to the end of the list. Have Dave Hostetler, shown here on card number 569 of the 1983 Fleer set, coming in at number 49 for his 1982 season.

By 1982 the Rangers were clearly in decline and there seemed to be little being done about it. In came rookie Dave Hostetler. Dave had a cup of coffee with the Expos in 1981 but 1982 was his rookie season and he arrived with gusto. In 113 games Hoss got 466 plate appearances. He batted just .232 but his 42 walks helped bring his on-base percentage up to an even .300. What was impressive though was his team leading .433 slugging percentage. That came from his 12 doubles, three triples, and team best 22 home runs. He scored 53 runs while picking up 67 RBI.

Hostetler's power would dry up over the next couple of years but for one season he brought some excitement back to Arlington. Rangers fans weren't the only ones to take notice as Dave received some consideration for Rookie of the Year.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Minor League Monday - Darren Oliver, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

Darren Oliver's appearance on card 17 of the 1990 Star Charlotte Rangers team set is something of a mystery. Texas drafted Oliver in the third round of the 1988 draft and he played that season with the Gulf Coast Rangers of the Rookie League. In 1989 he played for the Single A Gastonia Rangers. In 1990 he would split his time between Gastonia and the Gulf Coast. He didn't even arrived in Charlottle until 1991, the year after this card was issued. Not sure how Star was able to get a picture of Oliver in a uniform he wouldn't wear for another year. Perhaps it's a publicity photo for a promotion that was delayed.

As noted above, Darren split his 1990 season between Rookie ball and Single A. His Rookie League stay was short, just three starts and six scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and one walk while striking out seven.

Oliver's time with Gastonia was another story altogether. While it was also short, one start and two innings pitched, it was a bit rougher. This time the opposing batters managed to score three runs off Ollie. It wouldn't matter though, he still got the promotion to A+ Ball in 1990.

Only three games for a third year prospect who got promoted for the next season? I can't remember hearing about it but I am guessing Darren either got injured of was rehabbing from one. If I had to speculate I would say the latter. The short starts don't make sense before an injury. Good thing Oliver was left-handed, an injury that early to a right hander might have been the end of the road to the Majors.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Senators Saturday - Don Loun/Joe McCabe, 1965.

Got a two-for-one Senators Saturday today with card number 181 of the 1965 Topps set. Kind of interesting that Topps put a pitcher and catcher on its 1965 Rookie Stars card for the Senators. While the idea of a battery is a good one, Topps missed the boat with the "Stars" designation.

Don Loun was a September call-up with Washington in 1964. He started two games, completed one, and ended up with a 1-1 record. In 13 innings he ended up with a 2.08 ERA and a 1.231 WHIP. That was probably the reason Topps put him on this card. At 24 years of age it was foreseeable that Loun would make his way back to the Bigs. He never did. Don had a bad year at Triple A in 1965. That set him on a course of bouncing back and forth between Triple A and Double A. He was never able to get his numbers low enough to get another crack with Washington. Loun left the Washington system after the 1968 season. He spent one more year with an independent Double A club before hanging up the spikes after the 1969 season.

Washington obtained Joe McCabe from the Twins in exchange for Ken Retzer in October of 1964. Joe started the 1964 season with Minnesota but appeared in only 14 games before being sent down to Double A. Apparently the Twins didn't care for his .158 batting average and .150 on-base percentage. I'm not sure I've ever seen an on-base percentage lower than a batting average. McCabe would follow the same pattern with the Senators in 1965. He started the season with the team and appeared in 14 games. That gave him 32 plate appearances, 11 more than the previous season. Unfortunately, Joe was unable to capitalize on his second chance. Washington took a look at his .185 batting average and .281 on-base percentage and shipped him down to Triple A for the rest of the year. Not willing to risk a third cycle, McCabe retired as a player following the 1965 season.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Best Seasons: Don Lock - 1963.

Closing in on the end of T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History. Today we are at number 48, Don Lock's 1963 season. As you can see from his 1963 Strat-O-Matic card, Lock played for the Washington Senators that year.

Lock was the franchise's first real star but his overall stats were more in the vein of Pete Incaviglia than a super-star. He never played in an All-Star game and received MVP consideration just one season, in 1964. He was the for-runner to Frank Howard though and for a few years was about all the power the Senators had.

In 1963 Don made 611 trips to the plate. He posted a .252 batting average and a .338 on-base percentage. Neither of those are particularly compelling numbers and neither was even best on the team. His 20 doubles were tied for most on the team. His 27 home runs, 82 RBI, and 70 walks were all team bests.

What gets Don Lock onto the list is not his numbers viewed in abstract. You have to take a look at those numbers while remembering that the Senators lost 106 games in 1963 and were outscored by their opponents 812-578. In light of that information it becomes surprising that Lock saw anything to hit once it became known he could.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Random auto.

Got a short turn around at work today so things are pretty tight time-wise. Since real life is interfering with my blogging you will have to settle for a random game-used or autograph.

A quick trip to the GU/AU box nets this 2007 Upper Deck Spectrum autograph card of former Rangers prospect Jason Botts. As you can see from the front, the card is numbered 155/199.

I've got a couple of Botts' autographs and I like the way they look. I have no idea how you get Jason Botts out of that but it flows well and isn't obviously cramped. Of course Botts never panned out so the demand on his signing hand probably wasn't as heavy as on some other players. At some point I would like to get a through the mail or in person autograph from Jason but this one isn't leaving my collection anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Best Seasons: Pete O'Brien - 1986.

Ok, I'm not going to waste a lot of time on Ian Kinsler's recent comments. Obviously the guy's got some issues and I hope he can get them worked through. I will only say I am not near as surprised and disappointed as I was with Josh Hamilton. Enough on Kinsler's drivel, time for the next installment in T.R. Sullivan's list of the Top 50 Seasons in Rangers History.

Fan favorite Pete O'Brien gets the 47th spot on the list for his 1986 season. O'Brien appears here on card 99 of the 1986 Topps set. Things weren't particularly joyful for Rangers fans going into the 1986 season. The team lost 99 games in 1985 and there didn't seem to be a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.

Pete O'Brien was the starting first baseman for Texas for several years, including 1986. He made 641 plate appearances that season, second only to Oddibe McDowell on the team. He posted a .290 batting average and a team best .385 on-base percentage. He also popped 23 doubles, three triples, and 23 home runs. That led to his scoring 86 runs and bumping in 90 RBI. Unusual for a power guy, he walked more than he struck out - 87 walks to 66 strikeouts.

O'Brien was also a pretty decent defender as well. In 1288.2 innings at first he saw 1350 chances and made just 11 errors. That left him with a .992 fielding percentage, just above the league average.

Pete got some MVP consideration for his performance in 1986. The team and the fans got some excitement. Partially due to O'Brien's season, the team won 87 games. That's not anyone's definition of an all-time great team but it was light years ahead of 1985.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

1977 Topps - Gaylord Perry.

At age 38 Gaylord Perry, shown here on card 152 of the 1977 Topps set, was the old man on the Rangers pitching staff. Already an accomplished pitcher, he served as both a model and something of a coach for the young hurlers.

Perry was also the workhorse of the staff. He made 34 starts (tied with Doyle Alexander for the most on the staff) and completed 13 of those games (second only to Bert Blyleven). He ended the season with a 15-12 record, a 3.37 ERA, and a 1.239 WHIP. Gaylord struck out 177 opposing batters while walking just 56.

While Perry had a good season in 1977 there was apparently some concern that he might not be able to keep performing to the level the Rangers needed. He would be 39 in 1978 and nobody had a crystal ball to see his career extending until he was 44 years old.

In one of the more mis-guided trades in Texas history, the Rangers sent Gaylord Perry to the San Diego Padres on January 25, 1978. They got pitcher Dave Tomlin and some cash from the Padres. On March 28, 1978 the Rangers sold Tomlin's contract to the Cincinnati Reds. All Texas had to show for the loss of Gaylord Perry was some cash in the bank.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Minor League Monday - Darren Niethammer, 1990 Charlotte Rangers Star.

To be real honest, I'm not sure what was going on with Darren Niethammer in 1990. The Rangers drafted Neithammer, shown here on card 16 of the Star Charlotte Rangers team set, in the 16th round of the 1987 draft. He played for The Rookie League Gulf Coast Rangers in 1987 and A ball Charlotte in 1988. He missed the entire 1989 season. I am surmising the missed season was due to an injury but so far I have been unable to confirm that. If anyone has any more information on Darren's missed season I would love to hear it.

Being a catcher in the Rangers' system in 1990 was a tough road if your name wasn't Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge was getting the playing time and was passing everyone up on the depth chart. The road was even tougher if you missed a season and had to return to Charlotte for a second stint on your return.

Niethammer was third on the team in the number of games he appeared behind the plate. Rodriguez was first of course and Michael Crespo was second with 22 games caught. Darren had just 14 games in as catcher. He made no errors in those 14 games but did allow two passed balls.

Darren made 245 trips to the plate in 1990 for Charlotte. He posted a .276 batting average and a .361 on-base percentage. Part of that on-base percentage was due to the fact that he walked 28 times while striking out just 24 times. While his five doubles and no other extra base hits showed a lack of power, it paid to have a player with plate discipline.

Apparently Texas realized Niethammer was not going to make it as a catcher. They must have liked him though and began using him at first base. He played in 52 games there, second only to Doug Cronk's 101. The move made sense, Cronk was stumbling badly and Niethammer might be able to take advantage of the situation. He committed four errors in 426 chances for a .991 fielding percentage.

Interestingly, Niethammer also pitched in two games for Charlotte in 1990, one as a starter and one as the final reliever in the game. The relief appearance is understandable - the team was either out of pitchers or was getting blown out and Darren came in to save the bullpen. I can't quite figure the start though, perhaps a double-header or an unexpected injury or call-up? In either case the pitching experience did not go well for Niethammer. In 3.1 innings he got shelled to the tune of a 16.20 ERA and a 2.400 WHIP. He might be able to move to first but he wasn't going to make the mound his permanent home.