Thursday, December 31, 2015

Final 2015 Autograph Post.

Well, here we are. The last post of 2015. Decided to finish off the game-used and autograph year with my most recent through the mail return.

I sent this 1965 Topps card to Pete Richert on October 31, 2015. It returned to my mail box on December 26th. Thanks to Mr. Richert for taking of his time to sign and return my card.

Gotta say, I am loving getting these Senators cards signed. Of course, Rangers returns are always awesome as well. For some reason, getting an autograph from a player always makes me feel like a kid again. Seeing Spiff Jr beginning his own autograph collection is even more thrilling. Throughout the year I have been blessed by active and retired players taking the time to sign for me, both in person and through the mail. I appreciate their kindness.

Equalling the players who sign are the fellow collectors who trade, blog, and just talk about baseball and collecting. The comments on this blog and the random packages of Rangers cards are much appreciated and I can never repay your kindness.

Looking forward to the new year and many more great collecting memories. Thanks again to everyone and may your new year be a good one.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

1980 Topps - John Ellis.

John Ellis is smiling on card 283 of the 1980 Topps set. Going into the 1980 season he had a lot to smile about. Almost fully recovered from his devastating injury during the 1976 season, Ellis had put together a fine 1979 campaign. Granted, he was spending more time at first base than behind the plate, but John seemed to be settled in to the backup catcher-first baseman role.

Unfortunately for Ellis, he battled a severe bone bruise in his right thumb most of the 1980 season. It got bad enough that he spent most of June on the disabled list.

In spite of the pain in his thumb, and the trip to the DL, John still appeared in 73 games for Texas and made 200 trips to the plate. His batting average fell to .236 and his on-base percentage dipped to .290. He walked 14 times but also struck out 23 times. He scored just 12 runs and accounted for only 23 RBI. As might be expected when playing through a hand injury, Ellis' power dropped significantly. He hit nine doubles, one triple, and only one home run.

In spite of the catcher designation on the front of John's 1980 Topps card, he played much more at first base. Over the 39 games he appeared at first, Ellis put in 239 innings. He committed just two errors in that time to bring his fielding percentage to .992, exactly the league average. Trying to give John's thumb some time to heal, the Rangers used him as the designated hitter in 20 games. He also made three cameo appearances behind the plate totalling to five uneventful innings.

The 1980 season was a bit of a downer for John Ellis. His thumb limited his playing time and his effectiveness at the plate. At 31 years of age, it was the type of season that could put a player on the front office watch list. Hopefully Ellis' off-season job as a bail bondsman would give his thumb a break and the bruise would have time to heal. He needed to be at full strength in 1981.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Minor League Monday - Dan Rohrmeier, 1991 ProCards.

This scan does not do justice to the 1991 ProCards design. For some reason the card border comes off a light peach in the scan. In reality it is a bright blaze orange. Gives the cards a very minor league look.

Dan Rohrmeier had a decent offensive season for the Tulsa Drillers in 1990. His defense was another story and he ended up staying in Tulsa for the 1991 campaign as well.

Appearing in 121 games for the Drillers in 1991, Rohrmeier made 493 trips to the plate. He posted a .292 batting average (lower than the previous season) and a .380 on-base percentage (higher than the previous season). His power dipped a bit as he punched 20 doubles, two triples, and five home runs. Interestingly, his 60 walks outnumbered the 57 times he struck out, the first time for such an occurrence in his pro career.

Often used as a DH or pinch hitter, Dan played in 103 games in the outfield. He muffed just three plays all season and ended the year with a .984 fielding percentage. That was five points better than the year before.

1991 was not a bad season for Dan Rohrmeier. He improved his discipline at the plate and his defense, the two big areas he needed to work on coming out of 1990. On the other side of the ledger, his power dipped and he was already 25 years old. The Rangers had plenty of outfielders with power and average defensive skills. They apparently saw no reason to use a spot on the Drillers' roster for one whose power seemed to be starting to slip away. On January 20, 1992 Texas released Rohrmeier.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Senators Saturday - Tim Cullen, 1971.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas with family and loved ones. Here in the dead of winter, I must say I had a great time but I'm missing baseball. Time to get back to the Senators.

Tim Cullen, shown here on card 566 of the 1971 Topps set, had been with the Senators since he broke into the Majors in 1966. By the next year he was as close as anyone to the regular second baseman for Washington. Tim stayed there, with the exception of a side trip to the White Sox and back in 1968, for the rest of his time with the Senators. Cullen was known more for his defense than his skills with the lumber. 1970 had been no exception. Things were changing though and Tim needed to get his bat in order if he wanted to hang on to his starting job in 1971.

Cullen made 443 trips to the plate in 125 games for Washington in 1971. He struck out 47 times and walked just 33 times en route to a dismal .191 batting average and .252 on-base percentage. That batting average was the lowest among Washington regulars. Tim didn't have a lot of power to bolster his offense either, he hit 13 doubles, four triples, and just two home runs all season.

Feeling pressure from Bernie Allen and a young Lenny Randle, Cullen spent just 592.2 innings at second base, spread over 78 games. He committed only one error at second for a .997 fielding percentage. That was well above the league average .980. For another 442.1 innings in 62 games, Tim was stationed at shortstop. It was not his natural position and he stumbled 10 times for a .963 fielding percentage, two points lower than the league average.

1971 was not kind to Tim Cullen. His bat practically evaporated on him just as Randle mounted a serious challenge for second base. The timing was not good. Cullen made to move to Texas with the team but would not be with the team in 1972. Displaced at second by the platoon combination of Randle and Vic Harris, Tim became the odd man out. Texas released him on March 7, 1972, before the regular season even began. On April 15, 1972 the Oakland A's signed him. Cullen played out the year as a backup for Oakland before calling it a career.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Greatest Gift.

Here's my usual Christmas post. I hope we all keep our focus this day.

Luke 2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Amid all the wrappings and trappings of our modern-day Christmas each of us should remember to do as Mary. Keep in mind and ponder the greatest gift that mankind has ever received, reconciliation with God. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Random Autograph.

Well, here we are on Christmas Eve. Things are getting busy around the Spiff household and, I trust, around yours as well. Wishing you and yours a great time of fellowship and reflecting on the greatest gift of all.

No through the mail returns this week so it's time to take a look back at a random Ranger autograph. In this case it's Bobby Witt's signature on his 1996 Leaf Signature Series card. While I don't particularly care for this picture of Witt, I have always considered this set to be a nice looking one.

No big news on the off-season front either for the past couple of days. Looks like Kansas City may be losing the Alex Gordon negotiations. Hard to predict those things though, they may end up hugging and making up. Look for things to heat up news-wise after Christmas as the clubs try to address their roster needs and the players look to avoid being the last free agent off the bus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1980 Topps - Danny Darwin.

In 1979, Danny Darwin broke into the Majors for good. In 1980 he would come to the rescue of the Texas bullpen. Darwin, shown here on card 498 of the 1980 Topps set, had potential and the Rangers would see some of it realized.

Mostly a reliever, Darwin made just two starts, both in place of the ailing Steve Comer. He would appear in a total of 53 games over the course of the season, the most of any pitcher on the staff. His 109.2 innings pitched led the bullpen and his 2.63 ERA and 1.350 WHIP were second in the pen only to John Henry Johnson. Danny also led all Rangers relievers with 104 strikeouts. Compared to the 50 walks he issued, his strikeout to walk ratios was a nice 2.08. He also finished up a bullpen best 35 games for Texas during the season. To show how key Darwin was to keeping the Rangers in games, he ended the season with a 13-4 record, that in spite of only having six blown saves.

What's even more amazing about the numbers Darwin put up was that he spent almost a month on the Disabled List. Danny ended up on the DL on June 4th after fracturing a knuckle in the little finger of his right hand while aiding Mickey Rivers in a scuffle with fans outside Comiskey Park. He came back to action on June 26th and immediately displaced Sparky Lyle as the team closer. In that role he would notch eight saves in the remaining portion of the season, tying with Lyle for the most on the team.

All in all, the Rangers couldn't have asked for much more from Danny Darwin in 1980. As the long reliever in the pen, he made a major contribution to keeping the relief corps afloat as Lyle, Jim Kern, and Dave Rajsich went through very rough seasons of their own. As the closer he stepped up and replaced one of the league's best. His season was good enough to later make T.R. Sullivan's list of the Fifty Best Seasons in Rangers History and it gave Texas much to look forward to in the future from their young hurler.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Minor League Monday - Juan Gonzalez, 1989 Baseball America.

Today's card is one of those odd-ball cards that find their way into every collection, card AA-26 of a set issued in 1989 (I think) by Baseball America. I think this is the only minor league card I have of Ranger great Juan Gonzalez.

Gonzalez didn't spend much time in the minors after signing with the Rangers at age 16 in 1986. By 1989 he had worked his way up to Double A and was considered one of the top prospects in baseball.

Starting the 1989 season off with the Double A Tulsa Drillers, Juan would appear in 133 games, all in the outfield. His nine errors would drop his fielding percentage to .972. That's a little lower than most teams want to see from a top prospect but Gonzalez's bat more than made up the difference.

In 547 plate appearances, Juan posted a .293 batting average and a .342 on-base percentage. He walked 31 times but also showed a tendency to strike out as he did so 98 times during the season. With those strikeout numbers some power was to be expected and Gonzalez delivered: 30 doubles, seven triples, and 21 home runs. He scored 73 runs showed his fondness for the RBI by tallying 85 of them.

Texas was impressed with what that had in Juan Gonzalez and called him up to the Big Show when the rosters expanded in September. He made his Major League debut on September 1, 1989 and appeared in 24 games for Texas before the end of the season. Most of the time the Rangers used Gonzalez in center field, all but two of the 169 innings he played were there. He committed two errors to give him a .964 fielding percentage. That was well below the league average .980 but Juan also had significantly more range than the average American League center fielder.

At the plate, Gonzalez found out that Major League pitching was a bit different than Double A stuff. He posted a .150 batting average and a .227 on-base percentage. Again, his strikeouts way outnumbered his walks - 17 to six. There was some power though, three doubles and one home run.

Juan struggled a bit after being called up to the Majors but he got his feet wet and Texas still liked him a lot. The potential was there and, once the adjustment was made to the higher level of play, the Rangers fully expected Gonzalez to deliver in a big way. They assigned him Triple A Oklahoma City to begin the 1990 season with the expectation that he would not stay there long.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Senators Saturday - Paul Casanova, 1971.

Paul Casanova, shown here on card 139 of the 1971 Topps set, had been serving as the Senators starting catcher since 1966. That year he had been voted the top catcher in the American League by the Baseball Writers Association. In 1967 he was named Washington's team MVP and made a trip to the All-Star game. 1970 had been a solid season as well.

Not known for his bat, Casanova hit just .203 over 94 games and 329 plate appearances for the Senators in 1971. His 14 walks helped push his on-base percentage up to .238. Of course, he also struck out 52 times. There had always been a hole a Paul's swing though and he generally tended to strike out much more than he walked. With that ratio, one would expect some real power. It was not so, just nine doubles, one triple, and five home runs on the year. Generally near the bottom of the order, Casanova scored just 19 runs all season and was responsible for only 28 RBI.

After several years of having no real challengers for his position, Paul lost playing time in 1971 to rookie Dick Billings. Appearing behind the plate in just 83 games, he logged 716.2 innings on defense. His seven errors helped drop his fielding percentage to .985, three points below the league average. After an outstanding season of catching would-be base thieves in 1970, Casanova allowed 32 stolen bases in 1971 while catching just 17 opposing runners. Those numbers dropped his caught stealing percentage to 35%. That was four points below the league average. He also allowed six passed balls.

1971 was a challenging season for Paul Casanova. Dick Billings was trying to take the starting catcher gig away from him and posted a better batting average (43 points higher), on-base percentage (58 points higher), and fielding percentage (seven points higher). Billings struck out at about the same clip as Casanova but had a bit more power and did walk a little more. Paul allowed far fewer passed balls than Billings but his caught stealing percentage was only two points higher, almost a dead heat. Those comparisons did not bode well for Casanova.

Apparently the Senators decided to go with a new face behind the plate as the club moved to their new home in Texas. On December 2, 1971 they traded Paul Casanova to the Atlanta Braves for fellow backstop Hal King. Paul would go on to catch for the Braves for three more seasons, mostly as a backup or platoon player, before being released prior to the 1975 campaign.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Building plans.

Well, things are starting to get busy here in the lead up to Christmas. I hope everyone is enjoying the season and the looking forward to the prospective time with family and friends.

The through the mail request returns have slowed almost to a stop. I haven't sent any out in several weeks and probably won't until after New Year's. After all, baseball players get busy around the holidays as well and need some time off. The most recent return was this 1962 Topps card of former Washington Senator Jim Piersall. I sent this card to Mr. Piersall on October 30th. He took the time to sign and return it. It arrived in my mailbox on December 10th. Thanks a bunch Mr. Piersall!

In other news, the Rangers and the city of Arlington have apparently agreed to build an entertainment center between Globe Life Park and Jerry World where some football team plays. The project looks to cost around $200 million. It will include a hotel and a convention center along with a few other things. The company doing the building has several other similar projects across the US. They did one in Saint Louis near the ballpark that my Dad has seen and says is a pretty nice place. I'm liking the sound of that. I love the Rangers but the area around their park is pretty bland and bare. It would be nice to see something close to it along the lines of what Boston, the Cardinals, and the Cubs have around their parks. Also, so long as it doesn't break the bank, an investment of this magnitude is likely to keep the Rangers anchored in Arlington for many years into the future. No more talk of Dallas stealing the team away, I hope.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

1980 Topps - Steve Comer.

After two good seasons in 1978 and 1979, the wheels came off for Steve Comer in 1980. Coming into the season the Rangers had high hopes for Comer, shown here on 1980 Topps card 144. Those hopes were dashed early in the campaign.

Just four starts into the season, Steve's right shoulder started bothering him. He managed to hang in there and beat the Tigers on April 29th, but on May 4th he lasted just a third of an inning against the Orioles and left the game with soreness in his shoulder. He wouldn't take the mound again until May 21st, a game he got a no decision in. On May 24th in Oakland Comer entered the game in relief but lasted just two thirds of an inning before pain in his shoulder forced him out. That earned him a trip to the Disabled List.

Returning on June 28th, Steve tossed five innings against the Twins and picked up a win. Things were looking better. However, He continued to be bothered by his shoulder and Texas ended up sending him to Double A Tulsa for a rehab assignment on July 28th. He struggled there as well and ended up being recalled on August 15th and put back on the Disabled List. That practically ended his season. The Rangers activated Comer off the DL in late September but he didn't pitch again.

By the time Steve's 1980 season stumbled to a close, he had appeared in just 12 games for the Rangers, all but the Oakland appearance were starts. In just 41.2 innings, Comer posted a dismal 7.99 ERA and 2.088 WHIP. Obviously the shoulder soreness was hurting his control, he walked 22 opposing batters. His nine strikeouts were low but Steve normally had lower strikeout totals. He ended the season with a 2-4 record.

The numbers in Tulsa weren't much better. Three games started, 14 innings pitched. A 6.43 ERA and an 1.714 WHIP to end with a 1-2 record. The only bright spot was the fact that Steve walked just two batters while with the Drillers. That could be an indication his control was returning, or it could be an indication Double A batters were not as disciplined as Major League batsmen.

1980 had been a wash for Steve Comer. The Rangers were hoping he would be able to right the ship in 1981. Maybe his shoulder would heal up with the rest and treatments the off-season would bring. One thing was for certain, the Rangers needed 1978 and 1979 Steve Comer far more than they needed 1980 Steve Comer.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Minor League Monday - Coaching Staff, 1990 CMC.

Today we come to the end of my current collection of 1990 CMC Oklahoma City 89ers. Going to finish things up with three cards of the coaching staff.

Pitching coach Dick Egan starts things off on card 172. Egan's Major League career spanned four seasons, from 1963-1967 with the Tigers, Angels, and Dodgers. 1967 would be the only season he did not spend time in the minors. His minor league career started in 1957 and ended after the 1969 season. After his retirement as a player, Dick moved into scouting. He spent the 1988 and 1989 seasons as the bullpen coach for the Rangers. Judging by the football Egan is holding, some of Texas' pitching coach Tom House's training techniques rubbed off on him during his time in Arlington. Texas must have liked Dick's work with the young players in their system. He would be named manager of the Rookie League Butte Copper Kings for the 1991 season.

Stan Hough, shown here on card 173, had been a coach in the Rangers farm system for four seasons by the time this card was issued. Prior to that he played pro ball in the Mets and Astros systems from 1974 to 1985. Mostly a catcher, with some first base and outfield thrown in, Hough made it up to Triple A but never got the call to the Big Show. He started his coaching career in 1983 and 1984 as a player-coach for Houston at Single A. In 1987 he made his managerial debut with the GCL Rangers of the Gulf Coast League. That assignment lasted just one season. in 1989 he was named as a coach for Oklahoma City. He continued in that role for the 1990 season. Eventually, Stan left the Rangers organization and managed in the minors for the Yankees and Expos. In 2002 he was a coach for the Clinton Lumber Kings and in 2003 he managed for Baltimore's Single A affiliate. In 2006 Hough returned to Texas, this time as manager of the independent Fort Worth Cats. He managed the Cats in 2006, 2007, and 2011.

Rounding out today's trio of coaches is OKC trainer Ray Ramirez, seen here on card 174. Ray's first season with the 89ers was in 1987 and he stayed on the job through the 1991 season. In 1992 he moved up to Arlington and served as an assistant trainer with the Rangers. Tracking trainers is a bit difficult, but it looks like Ray landed a job as the head trainer for the New York Mets in 2005.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Senators Saturday - Dick Billings, 1971.

In spite of stints with the Senators in 1968, 1969, and 1970, Dick Billings retained his rookie status until 1971. 1971 Topps card 729 was Billings' first card. Interestingly, he signed his first name Rich in the facsimile autograph.

Part of the reason Dick spent most of the previous three seasons in the minors was that he was blocked behind the plate by Paul Casanova. That was still a problem for Billings in 1971 but he did pick up a bit more playing time with the release of John Roseboro in August of 1970, the decline of playing time for Jim French, and the Senators willingness to use him more as a utility player. The result was Rich's first full season in the Majors.

Serving as Casanova's primary backup, Billings played in 62 games behind the plate. Over 548 innings he committed three errors for a .992 fielding percentage. That was well above the league average .988. He caught 21 would-be base stealers but 44 others successfully swiped on him for a 32% caught stealing. That lagged behind the league average 39%. Also of note, in his limited playing time, Dick managed to lead the American League in passed balls with 16. Some of that may have been due to his above average fielding abilities, a wild pitch might become a passed ball with him.

Billings also played 222.1 innings over 32 games in the outfield, about two thirds of that time was in left field with the remainder being in right. He muffed just one play out there for a .977 fielding percentage. That was significantly lower that the league average .982, as was his range when compared the average American League outfielder. 4.2 innings at third base in two games with no errors completed his defensive appearances for the season.

Rich made 380 trips to the plate on offense in 1971 and posted a .246 batting average. He struck out 54 times but his 21 walks helped push his on-base percentage up to .296. There wasn't a lot of power in Billings bat yet, 14 doubles and six home runs during the season. Mostly near the bottom of the order, he scored 32 runs and knocked in 48 RBI.

Dick Billings had not blown the doors off in 1971, but he did what he needed to do. With his extra playing time he caught attention in the Washington front office. Billings' batting average, on-base percentage, and fielding percentage behind the plate were all higher than Paul Casanova's. In addition, Casanova's arm seemed to have fallen off and his caught stealing percentage was only three points higher than Rich's. With the two being just a year apart in age, Dick Billings had made a case for the Senators to consider him, rather than Paul Casanova, as their catcher of the future.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Unusual shopping trip.

Went Christmas shopping on Monday with Mrs Spiff and the kiddos. Of course, I managed to work in a trip to Duane's Sportscards as well. Made the day much more enjoyable for me and Spiff Jr. The long-suffering Mrs Spiff caught a nap in the car while the girls watched a movie (thank heaven for in-car DVD systems).

I managed to fill in a bit more on my 1967 Topps Senators set and picked up a few Rangers cards I needed as well. The big attraction though was the retirement sale for one of the dealers (there are four in the shop). The guy had almost all his stock at 75% off and was trying to clear out his autographs and game-used cards at four for $10. One of the cards I decided to pick up was this 2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition card of Jordan Akins. It's hard to see but the card is numbered 321/1184. Akins was a third round pick for Texas in 2010. He spent four seasons in the Texas system without making it out of Single A and his playing career is already over. It's a Rangers auto though, and one I didn't have, so I'll count it as a success.

After visiting the card shop, we had one more stop to make before moving on with our shopping trip. I contacted the Rangers a few days before about buying FanFest tickets at the box office. It's cheaper that way than paying the fees to purchase online and I knew we would be in the area. They told me the box office would be open. It wasn't. The gentleman sitting near the gate waiting for tours to arrive told me to walk down to the center field gate and go through the doors behind the baseballs out front. I did and found myself in lobby of the Rangers corporate offices. Fully expecting to be re-directed, I explained to the security guard at the desk why I was there. He asked me to sign in, directed me to a bank of elevators, and told me to go to the fourth floor.

Up I went. As I stepped out of the elevator I saw I was in a type of waiting room. Leather couches, television tuned to ESPN. The woman at the desk in front of the elevators told me she would call someone to sell me the tickets. As I waited, I looked around. On a nearby table sat the Silver Boot trophy. Opposite were the two American League Championship trophies. People with credentials walked through from time to time and phones rang in the background. Apparently, in my quest to buy two FanFest tickets, I ended up very near the nerve center for the Texas Rangers. I was able to get the tickets without any problems and the experience of seeing the trophies and being inside the front office definitely made my day. After all, it's not something that happens every time one does Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Recent arrivals.

Well, it had been awhile since I received any random packages but that has been recently ended with the arrival of three awesome packages from three great guys. Time to give credit where credit is due.

Several weeks ago BwvJones over at Golden Rainbow Cards sent me an email. He let me know he had some 2015 Topps Rangers that would fill holes in my team set. Just send him my address and he would drop the cards in the mail. Well, Jones was as good as his word. All six cards he sent me hit holes. I would have posted one of them but, since I am walking through the Topps team sets on Tuesdays, you'll just have to wait a few years for them. Thanks a bunch Jones, I'll try to get a few spare moments and see if I can hit any of your wantlist.

Meanwhile, Mark the Royals fan sent me a message telling me he picked up an item he thought I would like. He didn't tell me he was sending it and it unexpectedly arrived in my mailbox. Not much really, just a Yu Darvish bobblehead. The blue version of the K counter. WOW! It looks great next to the red version I already had. Gotta love those kind of surprises. Thanks Mark, I'll see what I can dig up by way of Royals to send your way.

Yesterday a nice bubble mailer arrived from the famous Night Owl of Night Owl Cards. It was packed with a nice assortment of Rangers cards and a 1984 Fun Foods pin of Frank Tanana. Most of the cards hit holes in my wantlist, including the 2013 Allen and Ginter A.J. Pierzynski shown at the top of this post. Also included were two copies of 2006 Topps card 312. One shows pitcher John Koronka in a Rangers uniform. The second, included for "full effect" shows him in a Cubs uniform. Nice touch. Owl mentioned his supply of Rangers is running low. No worries, the bottom of the stack was great and I only have a few more Dodgers left anyway. Thanks Mr. Owl!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

1980 Topps - Larvell Blanks.

Larvell Blanks, shown here on card 656 of the 1980 Topps set, was a one and done player for the Rangers. Coming to Texas from Cleveland in an October 3, 1978 trade, Blanks accompanied Jim Kern to Texas.

The second base-shortstop designation on the front of Larvell's 1980 card is very accurate. He played in just 68 games for the Rangers in 1979 while serving as a backup to second baseman Bump Wills and shortstop Nelson Norman. Blanks would get just 138 plate appearances in 1979. Neither his .200 batting average nor his .259 on-base percentage were particularly impressive.

Being a role player in the late 70's and early 80's in Texas was a good way to find yourself on a new team. It happened to Larvell Blanks on December 6, 1979 when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. Once again he would be joining a pitcher in making the move, this time Doyle Alexander. The Rangers received Adrian Devine and Pepe Frias in return.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Senators Saturday - Bernie Allen, 1971.

Bernie Allen, shown here 1971 Topps card 427, was entering his fifth season with the Senators in 1971. He broke in with the Twins in 1962 and came to Washington in a trade before the 1967 season. He was the Senators starting second baseman for several years but that ended in 1971.

With Tim Cullen grabbing second base, Allen was relegated to backup duties. He did some pinch-hitting and played some infield as well. Bernie appeared in 41 games at second base and played 217 innings there. He committed five errors to end the season with a .961 fielding percentage. That was much lower than the league average .980. Allen also played 261.2 innings over 34 games at third base and muffed five chances there as well. That gave him a .946 fielding percentage - ten points lower than the league average .956. The fielding numbers look even worse when it is considered that Allen had less range than the normal American League player at either position.

On offense, Bernie made 262 trips to the plate over 97 games. He tallied a .266 batting average while striking out 27 times. He did walk 33 times though and that helped bump his on-base percentage up to .359. Usually near the bottom of the order, Allen scored just 18 runs and bumped in only 22 RBI. He did hit 11 doubles, one triple, and four home runs.

Surprisingly, it seemed that fewer at-bats helped Bernie Allen's offensive numbers. He saw rises in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. However, those numbers seemed unlikely to hold, Allen was 32 years old and his defense was already on the decline. With that in mind, Bernie would be making a move. Two moves really. First he technically moved to Texas with the franchise. Secondly, he moved to New York as the Rangers traded him to the Yankees on December 2, 1971. Texas got Gary Jones and Terry Ley back in return. The end of Bernie Allen's tenure with the Senators concurred with the end of the team's tenure in Washington.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Signings, trades, and autographs.

Well, the Rangers continue their off-season maneuvering. They signed catcher Chris Gimenez to a one-year deal after failing to trade for a backup receiver. They non-tendered newly acquired outfielder James Jones and pitcher Nick Tepesch. Apparently they are hoping to sign both to minor league contracts.

The club also completed the trade that send Leonys Martin to the Mariners by receiving the player to be named later. Patrick Kivlehan can play first, third, and the outfield. He was the number five prospect in the Seattle pipeline. Hopefully he will work out well for the Rangers.

The off-season autograph returns continue as well, in spite of a recent lack of stamps on my part. The Senators continue to clean up. Former Senator Pete Daley sent the most recent return, this signed 1961 Topps card. He even personalized the autograph without being asked. I sent this card to Mr. Daley on October 28th of this year. It arrived in my mailbox on November 27th. I have also recently gotten returns from former Rangers Steve Comer, Stan Thomas, Bob Babcock, and former Senators Dave Stenhouse, Dick Nen, and Chuck Cottier. Many thanks to all these gentlemen for their time and consideration in signing and returning my cards.

On a less successful note, I got a return to sender for former Ranger Larvell Blanks. I believe this is my second attempt to send to Mr. Blanks and the result has been the same both times in spite of using different addresses. If anyone knows of a good address to get his autograph, please shoot me an email.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

1980 Topps - Buddy Bell.

Buddy Bell, seen here on 1980 Topps card 190, was in his second season with Texas. His 1979 season with Texas had been phenomenal. He had quickly quieted the doubters regarding the loss of Toby Harrah in the trade for Bell. The fans and management expected great things to continue in 1980.

Buddy would find the 1980 season to be a lot tougher than 1979. He led the league by appearing in all 162 games in 1979 but that would change in 1980. Bell battled a pinched nerve in his back, a pulled muscle in his rib cage, and a pulled hamstring during the season. He lost 33 games to those ailments. Additionally, he was only able to pinch-hit in a few more contests, due to his hamstring issues.

In the 129 games Bell played in, he made 534 trips to the plate and posted a .329 batting average. That was second highest among Rangers starters. Buddy's .379 on-base percentage led the team. Both numbers were up from the previous season. He scored 76 runs while knocking in 83 RBI. Those numbers were, in part, a result of his 24 doubles, four triples, and 17 home runs. The fact that only two Rangers hit more homers speaks to what Texas lost with Bell's injuries. Unlike most power hitters, Buddy had a pretty decent eye. He walked 40 times while striking out just 39 times.

In the field Bell was indisputably the Rangers third baseman. He played 1045.2 innings at the hot corner over 120 games. His eight errors gave him a .981 fielding percentage - 30 points higher than the league average. He had significantly more range than the average American League third baseman as well. There were also three cameo appearances at shortstop. Three innings total with no errors.

The injury struggles had been a downer for Buddy Bell and the Rangers in 1980. In spite of that, the season had been a good one for Texas at third base. Bell was a defensive genius with a bat to match. He collected his second straight Gold Glove and was elected to the All-Star team. He also found himself in the MVP conversation. Even with the lost time to injury, Buddy Bell was making an impact in Texas. The Rangers had to be pleased with what they were seeing from Bell and it appeared they had third base covered for the foreseeable future.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Minor League Monday - John Hoover, 1990 CMC.

John Hoover, shown here on card 153 of the 1990 CMC set, was drafted by the Yankees in the 1983 draft. He didn't sign and went on to play for the US Olympic Baseball team in 1984 before being drafted by the Orioles in the first round of the June, 1984 draft. The O's immediately assigned John to Triple A.

Hoover didn't last at Triple A and began a descent of the minor league chain. Double A in 1985 and Single A in 1986. After that, John began a slow climb back up the ladder. On February 16, 1988 Baltimore traded Hoover to Montreal. A season at Double A for the Expos preceded an April, 1989 release.

Texas signed signed Hoover as a free agent on May 3, 1989 and assigned him to Double A Tulsa. He spent the entire season there, serving mostly as a starter. His 3.38 ERA and 1.224 WHIP were decent but not enough to get a mid-season promotion.

1990 was the year of the move for Hoover. I'm not sure which order everything came in so I am starting off with Double A Tulsa. In four games, all starts, John pitched 23.2 innings. He put up an unsightly 4.56 ERA and a 1.690 WHIP to earn a 2-1 record. With Triple A Oklahoma City Hoover appeared in 24 games. He started ten of those contests and pitched a total of 87 innings. His ERA went the wrong way, to 6.00 but his WHIP was lower than with Tulsa, 1.575.

On May 23, 1990 John Hoover made his Major League debut with the Texas Rangers. He was the last member of the 1984 Olympic team to make the Majors (several never did). Unfortunately, things did not go smoothly. In two appearances out of the bullpen, John pitched 4.2 innings. His ERA tallied to an ugly 11.57 and his WHIP to 2.357. Those numbers earned him a return ticket to the minors.

Apparently Texas was not impressed with Hoover's post-debut performance in the minors. On July 21, 1990 they released him. The Expos picked him up on August 18, 1990 but he never saw any action with them and was granted free agency on October 15, 1990. Nobody signed him and that was the end of his pro career.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Senators Saturday - Rookie Stars, 1970.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving with family and friends. The blog got away from me with all the goings on and giving thanks.

Today we see Jim Miles and Jan Dukes on a creased card 154 of the 1970 Topps set. This is one of the cards I have slated for replacement once I am mostly done putting together the Senators team sets. For now, it's a good filler.

Washington signed Jim Miles as an amateur free agent in 1966 and started him off at Single A the same year. He wasn't particularly impressive and didn't see Double A until 1968. That season he appeared at Double A, Triple A, and had a four inning stint with the Senators as a September call-up. In 1969 he played in ten games for Washington and pitched 20.1 innings. His 6.20 ERA insured he would not stick. Jim spent the rest of the season at Triple A. Miles would not appear in a Major League game again. He hung on at Triple A through the end of the 1972 season before hanging up the spikes for good. At least Jim could boast he struck out Mickey Mantle the only time he faced him.

Jan Dukes was a pitcher in high school and college. He injured his arm pitching for Santa Clara University. To give the arm time to heal, Dukes spent a year as an outfielder. The arm was never quite the same though. Washington still thought highly of Jan and drafted him in the first round of the 1967 draft. He started his pro career the same year with a stint in instructional league before being assigned to Double A. He would end the season with Triple A Hawaii. 1968 saw a pedestrian season for Dukes at Triple A. He would start the 1969 season at Triple A as well. The Senators called Jan up in September of 1969 and he got into eight games, pitching 11 innings. His 2.45 ERA was respectable. It was back to Triple A for most of 1970 for Dukes but he did get another short stint with Washington. This time 6.2 innings over five games and a 2.70 ERA. 1971 passed at Triple A with no trip to Washington. Following the franchise move to Texas, Jan got a cup of coffee with the Rangers in 1972. Just 2.1 innings in three games this time and a 3.86 ERA. That would be all for the former high school pitching legend. By the start of the 1973 season, Jan Dukes was part of the Montreal Expos farm system. He played part of a season at Triple A for Montreal before finishing out the year playing in the Mexican League. That was it for Jan Dukes' playing career.

Topps designated Jim Miles and Jan Dukes as Rookie Stars on their shared 1970 card. Looks like Topps went 0-for-2 with that prediction. Miles was already done in the Majors by the time this card was issued. Dukes was a little more iffy. In 1970 he was having some definite problems but still had the chance to make good. However, the college arm injury turned out to be too much to overcome.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Minor League Monday - David Miller, 1990 CMC.

David Miller shows off perhaps the most unusual pose for a pitcher on card 156 of the 1990 CMC set. Not only is Miller posing with a bat, he's playing for an American League affiliate. I can't imagine most American League teams want their farm teams spending a lot of time honing a pitcher's batting skills. After all, Dave would have a total of zero plate appearances during his time with Oklahoma City.

Miller was originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 3rd round of the 1984 January Draft. He must not have signed though because he never played in their system and didn't begin his pro career until 1986. Somehow, in the intervening time, the Braves got hold of David. He played from 1986 through 1988 in the Atlanta system, working his way up the chain to Triple A. I'm not sure how Miller came to the Rangers system, but 1989 was his first season there and he spent the entire year at Triple A with OKC. His ERA and WHIP were the highest they had been since a short stint with Pulaski in Rookie Ball during the 1986 season. That denied him a shot with Texas and left him at Triple A for the 1990 season.

Dave appeared in 31 games for the 89ers in 1990. 21 of those appearances were starts and he pitched a total of 143 innings during the season. Miller struck out 92 opposing batters while walking just 53. That was about the highlight of the year. David's ERA climbed .65 points to 4.78 and his WHIP went up .214 points to 1.524. He ended the season with a 7-9 record.

Miller was not the same pitcher in the Texas farm system as he had been in the Atlanta chain. He turned in two seasons with his ERA north of four and his WHIP well over one. Even the pitching-hungry Rangers would raise their eyebrows at those numbers. I'm not sure what caused the change, perhaps an injury, the batters catching up with Dave, or maybe just the change in coaching. Whatever the reason, 1990 was Miller's last with Texas and the last of his playing career. At 25 years of age, his pro playing days were behind him.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Senators Saturday - Ted Williams, 1970.

Ted Williams looks rather serious on the front of card number 211 in the 1970 Topps set. He had a lot to be serious about in 1970.

Coming off his maiden season of managing in 1969. A lot was expected from Teddy Ballgame in 1970. After all, he had just led the Senators to their best season yet and was in the process of writing a book about hitting. Fans expected better hitting and more winning. They got a little better hitting, poor pitching management, and less winning.

Under Williams, the 1970 Washington Senators lost 16 more games than they did in 1969 and slipped back below .500. Their 70-92 record dropped them from fourth place to sixth (read: last) in the American League East. They were back in the cellar again and the fans deserted in droves. Over the course of the season only 824,789 came out to see the Senators in person. That was eighth among the 12 American League Teams. Considering the Royals and Brewers were in just their second year, those were some low attendance numbers. The lack of ticket sales helped increase the financial pressure on the team. Owner and General Manager Bob Short's fiscal mis-management didn't help.

All in all 1970 was a sudden plummet back to earth for Ted Williams and the Senators. Ted didn't need to worry though, he wasn't going anywhere. Short was still trying to trade on Williams' name to bring in fans and would have had trouble finding another manager anyway. Ted Williams would be at the helm for the 1971 season. Unfortunately, Bob Short was about to pull off a trade that would further hamstring the already struggling Senators.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Off-Season Moves Begin.

Well, the Rangers 2015-2016 off-season is in full swing and things are happening. The Rangers made a qualifying offer to Yovani Gallardo, shown here on a 2015 pocket schedule along with Adrian Beltre. Gallardo has now officially turned down the offer. Texas will likely continue to negotiate with Gallardo but will also get a compensatory draft pick if he decides to sign elsewhere.

Contract negotiations aside, General Manager Jon Daniels mentioned early in the process that Texas would be looking more to trades than free agent signings to improve their roster this off-season.

That statement seemed to hold true with the trade of outfielder Leonys Martin and reliever Anthony Bass yesterday. Both went to Seattle in a deal that brings reliever Tom Wihelmsen, outfielder James Jones, and a player to be named later to Texas. Wilhelmsen is a veteran reliever whom the Rangers have seen frequently and occasionally pummelled. However, he had a decent 2015 campaign and generally is very reliable out of the pen. Jones is a young, late-blooming outfielder with limited Major League experience. He appears to have limited power but can run, has a strong arm, and can play center field. The player to be named later will probably not be announced until after the Rule Five draft.

I can't say I have any thoughts one way or the other about Anthony Bass being traded. He performed well for the most part as a long reliever out of the Texas bullpen. Bass just didn't make a big impact and I have few memorable moments that I can recall involving him. As for Leonys Martin, he leaves Texas as a little bit of a disappointment. The Rangers first big Cuban signing, Martin was supposed to quickly mature to the center fielder of the future. His defense kept moving in the right direction but his bat just couldn't seem to make the transition. In spite of occasional success, he never made the transition to facing Major League pitching. After spending time on the disabled list in 2015, he lost the center field job and got left off the Rangers post-season roster. They asked him to report to Surprise, Arizona to continue workouts in case they needed him. He never showed. One has to assume that played a role in making him available for trade.

On the surgery front, Josh Hamilton had a second surgery in his left knee in late October. This one was for "clean up" and he appears to be recovering well. Should be ready for Spring Training, barring any other injuries or mis-behaviour.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Minor League Monday - Gar Millay, 1990 CMC.

Garrick Daniel Millay, shown here on card 168 of the 1990 CMC set, was drafted by the Mets in the 9th round of the 1983 June Draft. He did not sign. The Rangers drafted him in the 28th round of the 1986 June Draft. He signed. I'm not sure what happened to cause teams to shy away from Millay for two years and made his draft status drop so significantly.

Gar started his pro career immediately at Single A. He split 1987 between Single and Double A and 1988 between Double and Triple A. Apparently the Rangers decided Millay needed some more work so he spent the entire 1989 season at Double A Tulsa. He was assigned to Triple A Oklahoma City for the 1990 season.

In 104 games for the 89ers, Gar posted a .257 batting average and a .344 on-base percentage. His moderate power was demonstrated by his 16 doubles, two triples, and three home runs. He scored 39 runs while accounting for 42 RBI. His four stolen bases showed he could steal on occasion. The four times he got caught stealing showed he could also get caught on occasion. Unfortunately, Millay walked just 38 times while striking out 53 times.

Gar was the third most used outfielder with OKC. He played in 68 games in the outfield and committed just one error in 124 chances. That gave him a .992 fielding percentage. When not in the outfield Millay played 22 games at first base, chalking up six errors in 176 chances for a .966 fielding percentage. Gar also took the mound for the 89ers in one game, pitching one inning and giving up two runs. That left his career ERA at 18.00 to go along with his 3.000 WHIP.

1990 was a mixed bag for Gar Millay. His batting average went up while his on-base percentage dipped. His power also dipped while his strikeouts and walks switched places from the previous season. He was serviceable at first base and a decent outfielder. The problem was that the Rangers had Rafael Palmeiro at first base and a pretty crowded outfield in the early 1990's. Millay was effectively blocked unless he could get a big enough power bat to draw some attention.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Senators Saturday - Zoilo Versalles, 1970.

Zoilo Versalles does not look very happy on card 365 of the 1970 Topps set. It also looks like he is still wearing his Twins uniform, in spite of having left Minnesota after the 1967 season. In Topps defense, Versalles didn't stay very long with any team after departing the Twins. Between the start of the 1968 season and when the Senators purchased his contract on July 26, 1969, Zoilo played for the Dodgers and Indians. He was also briefly part of the expansion Padres but never suited up for them.

Versalles was a backup with Washington in 1969, playing in just 31 games while batting .267 with a .304 on-base percentage. An old back injury, suffered while with Los Angeles, hindered his usefulness. The Senators ended up releasing Zoilo on April 6, 1970.

Versalles played all of 1970 and part of 1971 in the Mexican League before the Braves bought his contract and brought him back to the Majors. He would finish out the 1971 season with Atlanta before being released. 1972 was spent playing in Mexico and Japan. 1973 saw Zoilo at Double A as part of the Royals system for part of the season and back in Mexico for the remainder. He also played in 1974 in Mexico before hanging up the spikes for good.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Senators keep coming back.

Well, the former Senators players have been overwhelming the former Rangers players in autograph request returns lately. That won't last though, since the former Rangers players outnumber them and there are only a few Senators left that I was able to send to and haven't come back yet.

The most recent autograph request to come back was this 1961 Topps card of former Senator Willie Tasby. Can't get enough of the signed cards from the first year in existence of the franchise. Good stuff. I sent this card, and a note asking for an autograph, to Mr. Tasby on October 26th of this year. The turn around was impressive, with the card coming back signed on November 5th. Mr. Tasby even took the time to re-wrap the note around the card to protect it on the return journey. Many thanks to Willie Tasby and all the other players who have signed for their time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

1980 Topps - Doyle Alexander.

Time to kick off the 1980 Topps Rangers team set. Headed into the 1980's, the club had high hopes. There had been a few lean years following the move to Texas in 1972 but, starting in 1974, the team had been a contender for several years as well. There were hopes that the franchise could build on those early successes. Instead, the 1980's became a decade of futility as they immediately dropped to fourth in 1980. 1981 and 1986 would see second place finishes. Both were Cinderella teams. There were two last place finishes as well. Add the three sixth place (out of seven) finishes to those two basement years and half the decade was spent in last or next to last place. It wouldn't be until the 1990's that the team would again be viewed as a consistent threat to anyone.

Doyle Alexander, shown here on card 67 of the 1980 Topps set, was coming off two straight mediocre seasons in 1978 and 1979. The Rangers originally picked Alexander up as a free agent in November of 1976 to help in their 1977 pennant push. He did just that but then seemed to stumble a bit.

On December 6, 1979 the Rangers traded Alexander, Larvell Blanks, and $50,000 to the Atlanta Braves for Adrian Devine and Pepe Frias. Texas would soon sorely miss the departed starter.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Minor League Monday - Jack Hardy, 1990 CMC.

Jack Hardy had something to smile about when he appeared on card 151 of the 1990 CMC set. Unlike a lot of his Oklahoma City teammates, Hardy had already made it to the Major Leagues. The Chicago White Sox drafted Jack in 1981 and he spent eight long years working his way up the minor league chain. He spent most of 1989 at Triple A but did get a call up to the Big Show in May. He appeared in five games and pitched 12.1 innings for the ChiSox. Unfortunately, his 4.63 ERA and 1.541 WHIP did not impress and he found himself back at Triple A for the rest of the season. He made it though, and that is far more than most players.

Following the 1989 season, Hardy moved to the Rangers farm system. I'm not sure if Chicago released him or if he became a free agent. I can't find any record of a trade. However he got to the Rangers, they assigned him to Triple A for the 1990 season.

Jack appeared in 53 games for the 89ers in 1990, all in relief. He put up a respectable 2.34 ERA over the 88.1 innings he pitched. His 1.200 WHIP was a little more concerning and probably why he never got a call to Arlington. Hardy ended the season with a 5-4 record.

I'm not sure what happened after the 1990 season ended. Maybe Jack Hardy only signed a one year deal with Texas. Maybe the club decided a 30-year-old right hander with little Major League experience was not a good use of a Triple A roster spot. Maybe Hardy himself decided to go out on top. Whatever happened, 1990 would be Jack Hardy's last season as a professional baseball player.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Senators Saturday - Del Unser, 1970.

Today we see Del Unser checking out the lumber on card 336 of the 1970 Topps set. Based on the dugout in the back ground and the cart of bats, this almost certainly has to be a Spring Training shot.

Unser was coming off a pretty decent 1969 season but ended up losing his starting role to Ed Stroud. No longer the Senators center fielder, Del would spend the 1970 season in a fourth outfielder role. He played 333.1 innings in right field over 49 games, 312 innings in center field over 46 games, and 38 innings in left field over 9 games. The only errors Unser committed were in right field where he tallied three miscues. That dropped his fielding percentage in right to .962. That was a distance below the league average .975 but he was perfect in center and left. It also helped that Del had more range than the average outfielder in the American League.

Unser made 358 trips to the plate for Washington in the course of 119 games. He compiled a .258 batting average and a .319 on-base percentage. Both were significant drops from the previous season. Del's power dropped as well as he put up just five doubles, one triple, and five home runs during the course of the season. He scored 37 runs while accounting for 30 RBI. Unser's struggle with the strikeout intensified as he struck out 29 times while working just 30 walks.

1970 was a let down season for Del Unser. Coming out of the 1969 campaign, it looked like Del had center field nailed down. Instead, he lost his starting gig and watched his offensive numbers tail off. Of course, Ed Stroud hadn't exactly blown the doors off at the plate either. The possibility of Unser regaining a starting role for 1971 in the Washington outfield still existed. Offensive production appeared to be the key factor in that task.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Winter begins.

Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals on winning the World Series in five games. The Mets played a good series but were simply over matched. Gotta say, this Royals team is a fun one to watch. Now that the series is over, the winter officially commences. No baseball action except for Strat-O-Matic.

The Rangers off-season continues with news that the team has released pitching coach Mike Maddux. Apparently he asked permission to speak with other clubs again this year. The club granted it, then decided to just let him go. Word is Doug Brocail is the front-runner to replace Maddux. Unfortunately the team also lost the services of Greg Maddux when his brother departed. Greg was a special assistant and helped provide pitching coaching in Spring Training. Wishing Mike all the best, he was a great coach and helped the team find success in the post-season.

Prince Fielder earned the American League comeback player of the year nod for his 2015 season. Matt Harvey of the Mets won the National League award. Both players suffered through injury-marred 2014 seasons and bounced back to help lead their teams to the post-season in 2015. Prince certainly deserved the award and I am looking forward to more success from him in 2016.

The off-season also continued for me with several recent autograph requests coming back. The most recent was this 1961 Topps card of former Senator Coot Veal. I sent it out on August 25th of this year and it came back on October 31st. Mr. Veal spent just one season with the Senators but he graciously signed and returned this card. Many thanks for your time Mr. Veal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

1979 Topps - Rangers Prospects.

Time to finish up the 1979 Topps Rangers team set with card number 713. The Rangers were at the end of a decade that had seen the franchise move to Texas and post several competitive seasons. There was hope that the success would continue into the 1980's. In order for that to happen, the club would have to depend on the young talent in the minors to make good.

Danny Darwin appears in his Tucson Toros cap in spite of 1979 being the last season he would wear it. With a 3.60 ERA and an 1.379 WHIP carrying his 6-6 record, Darwin was called up to the Majors on June 16, 1979. He would not return to the minors. Used mainly as a spot starter and long reliever with the Rangers, Danny made 20 appearances for Texas. Six of those games were starts and Darwin pitched a total of 78 innings. He posted a 4.04 ERA and an 1.026 WHIP to end the season with a 4-4 record. Most encouraging, Danny struck out 58 while walking just 30. The youngster had potential.

Pat Putnam was the main reason the Rangers felt comfortable trading Mike Hargrove to the Padres during the off-season. Putnam had brief stints with the Rangers in 1977 and 1978 while he was turning in solid seasons with the Toros. 1979 would be his first full Major League season and the Rangers were expecting big things from the young man. Pat performed well with a .994 fielding percentage in 96 games at first base. That put him a tick above the .992 league average. At the plate Putnam batted .277 in 465 plate appearances and managed a .319 on-base percentage. He struck out a lot (50 times as opposed to 23 walks) but made up for it in power. His .458 slugging percentage was second only to Al Oliver among Rangers regulars. That power translated to 19 doubles, two triples, and 18 home runs (in a tie for team high). Those numbers seemed to justify the Rangers expectations and garnered Pat some Rookie of the Year consideration.

The Rangers drafted Billy Sample twice, once in 1973 and again in 1976. he signed the second time and wasted no time in tearing up Rookie Ball and Double A pitching. In 1978 he was assigned to Triple A Tucson and continued his rampage. He got a cup of coffee with Texas in 1978 and would be with the Rangers for the entire 1979 season. In 128 games, Sample made 377 trips to the plate and posted a .292 batting average. He was well-disciplined hitter and walked 37 times while striking out just 28 times. That helped bump his on-base percentage up to .365, second on the team to Al Oliver. Billy didn't have Pat Putnam's power but he did knock 21 doubles, two triples, and five home runs en route to scoring 60 runs and bumping in 35 RBI. Sample primarily played in left field for the Rangers, 632.2 innings in 92 games. He also put in 68 innings over ten games in center field and 28 innings over five games in right field. He avoided committing an error at any position all season. That put his fielding percentage well above the league average.

All in all, based on performances prior to 1979, all three of these players clearly deserved to be on this prospects card. The Rangers had some legitimate prospects and needed sustained success from all three to keep the team near the top of the American League West going into the 1980s.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Minor League Monday - Jeff Satzinger, 1990 CMC.

The Rangers traded for pitcher Jeff Satzinger in April of 1990, sending Fred Manrique to the Twins in exchange. By the time Satzinger, shown here on card 158 of the 1990 CMC set, came to the Rangers, he had been in the minors for seven seasons and never made it above Double A.

The Rangers immediately assigned Jeff to Triple A Oklahoma City and he started the season there. Satzinger appeared in 23 games for the 89ers, mostly out of the bullpen, with only four starts. In the 47.1 innings he pitched, he put up an unsightly 5.13 ERA and 1.648 WHIP. It didn't help that Jeff walked 27 opposing batters while striking out just 23. Unsurprisingly, he ended up with a 1-4 record.

Apparently a partial season was enough for Texas to conclude they had not gotten a diamond in the rough. Mid season the Rangers sent Satzinger to the Braves. He was assigned to Double A and finished out the year there. That would end his professional playing career. While it is strange that Jeff appears on a card with OKC, perhaps it is fitting. After all, a person's highest level of achievement in a career deserves some recognition.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Senators Saturday - Ed Stroud, 1970.

Smiling Ed Stroud appears today on card 506 of the 1970 Topps set. Ed appears pretty happy in spite of his card being dramatically mis-cut.

Stroud appeared in 129 games for the Senators in 1970 and made 479 trips to the plate. He posted a .266 batting average (second best on the team) and a .331 on-base percentage (third best in the starting lineup). Ed whiffed 79 times and walked just 40 but he really wasn't a slugger. He did put up 11 doubles, five triples (tied for most on the team), and five home runs but the triples were probably due more to speed than power. Stroud led the Senators with 29 stolen bases. He scored 69 runs while sending in 32 RBI.

Ed's primary position on the team was as the starting center fielder. He played 848.2 innings in center field over 106 games. He committed just two errors and ended the season with a .992 fielding percentage. That was much better than the .985 league average for center fielders. That's more impressive considering Stroud had more range than the average center fielder. Ed also played 51 innings in ten games in right field and 24 innings in nine games in left field, both with no errors.

Obviously Ed Stroud was just what the doctor ordered on defense in 1970. Offense was more of a mixed bag. The batting average, stolen bases, walks, runs, RBI, and doubles all moved in the right direction. On-base percentage, strikeouts, and caught stealing went the wrong way. That indicated Ed needed some work with the bat. The year of the pitcher was fast fading into memory. With the lowered mound, position players were expected to post higher offensive numbers and power was taking over from speed in the American League. Stroud needed to get all his numbers moving in the right direction if he wanted to stay with Washington.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Odd and ends.

Sorry about the lack of posts this past week. Had some things come up that needed to be taken care of and that created a time squeeze. Back to business now though and keeping up with the World Series and the Rangers off season. Here's a random Rangers game-used card of Hank Blalock from the 2006 Bowman Sterling set for today.

After a truly epic Game 1 win and a blow-out last night, the Kansas City Royals are up 2-0 as the series heads to New York for Game 3 tomorrow. The Mets have got some ball to play if they want to get back into things. They've shown in the past they can though so the Royals better not let up.

Meanwhile in Texas, the Rangers off-season continues. The club is saying Adrian Beltre's thumb surgery went well and he should be ready for Spring Training. That's extremely good news. The Rangers also activated the still rehabbing Jurickson Profar and sent him to Arizona to play Fall Ball. He's apparently doing well. Prince Fielder was named the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year for his 2015 campaign. Glad he won that, he worked hard to get back from his neck surgery.

On the other side of the ledger, the team assigned catcher Carlos Corporan to Triple A. He declined the assignment and is now a free agent. That reduces the team's depth behind the plate and leaves Robinson Chirinos as the clear front-runner for the starting job. It appears unlikely the club will pick anyone up via free agency since front line catching is at a premium in the Majors right now.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Senators Saturday - Jim Shellenback, 1970.

Jim Shellenback spent the most of the 1969 season with the Washington Senators after coming over from Pittsburgh in a May trade. Makes it a bit strange that Topps had no pictures of him in a Washington uniform. Instead, Shellenback appears hatless in his Pirates jersey on card 389 of the 1970 Topps set.

Jim was one of two long reliever/starters to operate out of the Senators bullpen in 1970, Jim Hannan being the other. Both got double digit starts with Shellenback starting 14 of the 39 games he appeared in. Over the 117.1 innings he pitched, Jim compiled a 3.68 ERA and a 1.347 WHIP. Both were noticeable drops from 1969. Shellenback struggled with his control though, he walked 51 opposing batsmen while striking out just 57. Surprisingly for a swingman, he tossed two complete games, one of which was a shutout. Jim ended the season with a 6-7 record.

All in all, Jim Shellenback's 1970 season was middle of the pack. He was in the middle in ERA, WHIP, and innings pitched for Senators relievers. While he had made progress from his numbers the year before, Washington was looking for more out of its pitching staff than in years past. That was going to put pressure on everyone to keep their spots. Shellenback was in a good position, thanks in part to his versatility, but he needed to keep his numbers moving in the right direction to stay away from Triple A.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starting the off-season.

With the Rangers season over it's now time to follow the other clubs through the playoffs and look forward to the 2016 season. Already the winter moves have started for several teams. The Nats have fired manager Matt Williams and his coaching staff while Don Mattingly and the Dodgers have parted ways. The off-season is also a great time to send out autograph requests for retired players.

In the playoffs it's now down to the Royals, Blue Jays, and Cubs. Hopefully the Royals will finish off the Jays tomorrow and set the slate for the World Series.

On the Rangers front, Colby Lewis and Adrian Beltre have already had surgery. Lewis on his knee and Beltre on his thumb. Both should be ready for Spring Training. Beltre is still under contract but Lewis is a free agent. Texas is interested in bringing him back but it's not a sure thing.

As far as sending out cards for autographs, this 1961 Topps card of Senators pitcher Joe McClain was among my latest success stories. I recently sent out several cards to the former Senators players and have been very pleasantly surprised by the response. I sent this card and a 1962 Topps card to Mr. McClain on August 25th of this year. He graciously signed both and I got them back on October 19th. Very awesome to get the older players to sign. Thanks to Mr. McClain for his time.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Minor League Monday - Bryan House, 1990 CMC.

Sorry about the lack of posts over the past few days. Guess I had post-season hang over. Anyway, on to Minor League Monday.

Bryan House, shown here on card 164 of the 1990 CMC set, had six seasons of minor league experience under his belt by the time he arrived in Oklahoma City. All six were in the Chicago Cubs system. I'm not sure of the why and how in the move from the Cubs to the Rangers system.

The front of the card says infield, but House played only at second base for the 89ers. Over 118 games he saw 615 chances and committed 18 errors. That gave him an unsightly .971 fielding percentage.

Over all, Bryan appeared in 126 games and made 558 plate appearances for OKC. He put up a .277 batting average and a .329 on-base percentage. House was a top of the order speed merchant type of player. He hit 26 doubles, eight triples, and no home runs. He scored 79 runs while knocking in just 36 RBI. He also stole 30 bases but did get caught 13 times as well. More disturbing were Bryan's 70 strikeouts and only 37 walks.

On the surface, Bryan House had a decent 1990 season. There were issues though. His glove work was pretty far below par and he had a troubling tendency to strikeout and get caught stealing. All three of those problems were visible at Triple A and would be magnified under the lights of a Major League stadium. The Rangers had several other options in the middle infield and there would be no call to send send House down I-35 to Arlington. 1990 wouldn't be his year. It would be the only season he spent in the Rangers system and the last he spent as a player in pro ball.