Tuesday, March 31, 2015

1979 Topps - Reggie Cleveland.

In a continuance of the trend, Reggie Cleveland was no longer a Texas Ranger by the time card 209 of the 1979 Topps set was issued. Seems like that's been the case for most of the cards from the 1979 Topps set I've posted to this point.

The Rangers purchased Cleveland's contract from the Red Sox on April 18, 1978. Strictly a reliever, Reggie would appear in 53 games for Texas over the course of the season.

Cleveland managed a 3.09 ERA and an 1.163 WHIP over 75.2 innings pitched. Serving as the club's de facto closer, he picked up 12 saves and ended the season with a 5-7 record. He also struck out 46 opposing batters while walking just 23.

Reggie's numbers hadn't been bad for a middle innings reliever but they weren't particularly impressive for the back end of the pen. Texas decided to go another direction in the late innings and that meant Cleveland heading in another direction as well. On December 15, 1978 the Rangers traded Reggie Cleveland to the Milwaukee Brewers for Ed Farmer, Gary Holle, and some cash. Cleveland would stay with the Brewers until his release in February of 1982 ended his Major League career.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Minor League Monday - Dan Peltier, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

If you were a Rangers fan in the early 90's you probably remember the hype surrounding prospect Dan Peltier. Card 1168 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Driller team set was released in the middle of that buzz.

Texas took Peltier out of Notre Dame in the third round of the 1989 draft. They started him with the Butte Copper Kings in Rookie ball the same year. Over 148 plate appearances in 33 games with the Kings, Dan put on the wow. He compiled a .402 batting average and a .507 on-base percentage. His slugging percentage reached .648 thanks to his seven doubles, one triple, and seven home runs. He also stole ten bases while getting caught just once. 33 games is a pretty small sample but Dan was the man of the future following the 1989 season.

With much hoopla the Rangers scooted Peltier right past Single A and assigned him to Double A Tulsa for the 1990 season. He would play in 117 games for the Drillers in 1990 and find that the competition was much stiffer at Double A than in Rookie ball.

Over 497 plate appearances Peltier managed a .279 batting average and a .345 on-base percentage. He hit 20 doubles, four triples, and 11 home runs to bring his slugging percentage to .415. He repeated his ten stolen bases but got caught six times.

Dan played in the field in 110 games for Tulsa in 1990, all in the outfield. He committed eight errors to end the season with a .958 fielding percentage. That was a 17 point improvement over the previous season.

Dan Peltier's star returned to earth in Tulsa during the 1990 season. The improvement in his fielding was great but he showed he was human at the plate. While his offensive numbers were not blowing the doors off, they were still respectable. Enough so to earn him a promotion to Triple A Oklahoma City for the 1991 season.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Senators Saturday - Dennis Higgins, 1969.

Dennis Higgins, shown here on card 441 of the 1969 Topps set, is modeling the new look the Senators went to in the late 60's. All that red reminds me of the mid 90's Rangers look. Just as a side note, my copy of this card is not as off-center as the scan appears. It actually has the top border but the scanner kept cutting it off.

1969 was Higgins' second season with Washington. He had been the most used reliever for the club in 1968 and was the second most used in 1969. He came in second to Casey Cox, who also made some starts, so Dennis might be considered the most used Senators reliever.

Over 55 appearances Higgins pitched a total of 85.1 innings. He compiled a 3.48 ERA and an 1.582 WHIP. Primarily a late-inning reliever, Dennis finished 35 of the games he appeared in and ended up with 16 saves - most on the club.

1969 hadn't been a bad season for Dennis Higgins but it wasn't a great one either. His ERA and WHIP had edged up and that was a bad sign. Apparently the team decided to flip Dennis before his stats moved too far in the wrong direction. On December 5, 1969 Washington sent Higgins and Barry Moore to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Ron Law, Dave Nelson, and Horacio Pina.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Huge surprise from Scott.

Last week was hectic, to say the least. You probably figured that from the lack of posts during that time period. I meant to post but it seemed I never had time. Between lawn care, baseball practice, a kiddo's birthday party, dinner guests, and schedule changes at work due to classes; things got jammed up.

In the middle of all the confusion I found a bubble mailer sitting on the dining room table one day about mid-week. Mrs Spiff told me it came that day and asked what I was expecting. Nothing. No pending trades or recent purchases.

The return address indicated the mailer was from Scott over at Bob Walk the Plank. Inside were several cards and a note from Scott saying he thought I might like them. The pictured 2008 SPx Winning Materials Hank Blalock card was one of the cards in the mailer. It's numbered 122/150 and features a dark blue uniform piece. Also included in the mailer were a second game-used card and three certified Rangers autographs. Wow! Thought I might like them? Of course I do. It was an awesome surprise package and I appreciate it more than I can say.

Of course, I would be low on cool Pirates stuff right now. I've been pondering how to respond and haven't yet come up with anything that seems to be close to appropriate. One thing I can do is say a public and very heartfelt thank you to Scott. You really made my week man and I can't say thanks enough.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

1979 Topps - Bert Campaneris.

Bert Campaneris, shown here on card 620 of the 1979 Topps set, ended the 1978 season in danger of losing his starting job at short stop.

Coming into Spring Training in 1979, Campy had to get his bat going and regain some of his earlier defensive form if he wanted to stave off Nelson Norman and keep his job. Spring Training didn't go well and the team broke camp with Bert still on the team but the short stop situation unresolved. It wouldn't take long to reach a resolution.

Bert appeared in eight games and got ten at bats with Texas in 1979. He posted a terrible .111 batting average and .200 on-base percentage. He had no extra base hits and only one stolen base. His defense was about average. Average wasn't good enough in this situation.

The bat hadn't arrived for Campaneris and the Rangers reached a decision. On May 4, 1979 Texas traded Bert to the California Angels straight up for Dave Chalk. For the first time since breaking into the Majors in 1964, Bert Campaneris had lost his job.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Minor League Monday - Donald Harris, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Donald Harris, seen here on card 1167 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set, was the Rangers first round pick in the 1989 draft. He was the fifth pick overall. The Rangers sent Harris to the Rookie League Butte Copper Kings to start his pro career.

Donald did well in 1989 and earned a promotion to Single A Gastonia for the start of the 1990 season. He did not blow the doors off in Gastonia.

Harris made 241 trips to the plate over 58 games for the Gastonia Rangers and posted a .208 batting average. He hit ten doubles and three home runs. He did walk 14 times but also struck out 63 times. His on-base percentage totaled to .262. He also made five errors in the outfield en route to a .957 fielding percentage.

None of those numbers are very impressive but Texas moved Donald up to Triple A Tulsa midway through the season. He appeared in 64 games for the Drillers and made 226 trips to the plate. He struggled with the adjustment, posting a dismal .160 bating average and .197 on-base percentage. He hit five doubles, one triple, and one home run while walking just seven times. He struck out 69 times. His defense did not improve either as he committed eight errors to end the season with a .942 fielding percentage.

Donald Harris had his work cut out for him in 1991. As a first round draft pick he would get a little more leeway than other players but he needed to pick it up if he was going to make good. The Rangers were dis-inclined to send him back to Double A for 1991 so he would have to make his adjustments and improvements in Tulsa. He needed to make them fast if he wanted to get a ticket to Triple A Oklahoma City or even higher.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

1979 Topps - Bobby Bonds.

Bobby Bonds, shown here on card 285 of the 1979 Topps set, was one of the players who came through Arlington on the late 1970's roster merry-go-round. By the time this card came out he was already gone.

The Rangers traded Claudell Washington and Rusty Torres to the White Sox for Bonds on May 16, 1978. Bonds was a veteran player with a reputation for power, speed, and surliness. Texas hoped the first two characteristics would over shadow the third.

It didn't take Bobby long to nail down the right field spot. He would play 971.1 innings in right over 111 games. He committed seven errors to end the season with a .970 fielding percentage. That was below the league average but Bonds made up for it with his bat.

In his 555 plate appearances over 130 games Bobby compiled a .265 batting average and a .356 on-base percentage. He walked 69 times and struck out 110 times. Of course Bonds also hit 15 doubles, four triples, and a team best 29 home runs. Those combined to give him a team high .497 slugging percentage. Bobby's speed wasn't entirely dried up even though he was slowing. He got caught stealing a team high 20 times but also stole 37 bases - second best on the club.

Over all Bobby Bonds was one of those mid-season acquisitions that work out well. However, his skills were gradually eroding and he only had a few more years left in him. Texas decided to use Bonds' 1978 performance to flip him. On October 3, 1978 the Rangers send Bonds and Len Barker to the Cleveland Indians for Larvell Blanks and Jim Kern.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Minor League Monday - Kevin Belcher, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Kevin Belcher, shown here on card 1166 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers team set, moved up to Double A to start the 1990 season. It was his fourth season in pro ball and his first at Double A. His 1989 season with Single A Gastonia had revealed some weaknesses in his defense and bat that needed work.

Belcher played appeared in 110 games for the Drillers in 1990 and made 484 plate appearances. He posted a .293 batting average (only three points lower than the previous season) and a .380 on-base percentage (23 points higher than in 1989). The increase in the on-base percentage was due in part to the 55 walks Kevin worked. That was 24 more than the year before but he also saw his strikeouts jump up by 26, to 88 on the season. His power also dipped as he managed 18 doubles, seven triples, and 11 home runs. The triples were the only extra base hits to see an increase.

Kevin played in just 69 games defensively for Tulsa, all in the outfield. He committed five errors and ended up with a .959 fielding percentage. That was a 19 point drop from his last season with Gastonia.

Unfortunately for Kevin Belcher, a large percentage of his key stats seemed to be trending in the wrong direction. Texas needed to know if this was a permanent trend or just a rough patch. They decided to take a look. When the rosters expanded in September, Kevin got the call all minor league players pray for, they wanted him in Arlington. He made his Major League debut on September 3, 1990 and spent the final month of the season with the Rangers.

Belcher appeared mostly as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner for the Rangers but did put in 37 flawless innings in the outfield over the 16 games he appeared in. He made 17 trips to the plate and struggled to a .133 batting average and a .235 on-base percentage. His only extra base hit was a double.

What the Rangers saw from Kevin Belcher in September of 1990 was not anything to turn heads or convince them to keep him in the Majors. It was enough to keep him in the organization. He would return to Tulsa to start the 1991 season with the Drillers. Four seasons in, it was time to make his move if he wanted to see Arlington again.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Senators Saturday - Casey Cox, 1969.

1969 would be a transition year for Casey Cox, shown here on card 383 of the 1969 Topps set. Up until 1969 Casey had been a reliever. He hadn't made a Major League start in any of the three seasons he appeared in prior. That would change in 1969.

Moving from the role of full-time reliever to swingman, Cox appeared in 52 games for the Senators in 1969. 11 of those appearances were starts. Casey pitched 171.2 innings and posted a decent 2.78 ERA. He struck out 73 but also walked 64. Those walks contributed to his 1.311 WHIP. Cox ended the season with a 12-7 record.

Perhaps more important for Casey Cox than any stats was the fact that he spent the entire season with the Senators. That was a nice change after being at Triple A for part of 1967 and most of 1968. He had seen more action in 1969 than in any of the three previous seasons and ended well. Apparently Casey Cox had found a spot on the pitching staff as a swingman. It was a role he would look to get nailed down in the coming seasons.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Looking for luck.

Trying to give the Rangers some good vibes today with a signed 1996 Leaf Authentic Signature card of former Ranger Dave Valle. With the injury to Yu Darvish, the Rangers need all the help they can get. Could be a really long season if things don't break Texas' way.

I figured Valle was a good card for such a mission. Dave wasn't a starting catcher on one of the Rangers early division winning teams but he was a glue guy for them. One of the players who helped hold things together by doing the little things and working hard. Here's to hoping the Rangers have a Dave Valle, or two, this season.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fantastic surprise.

Apparently with Spring Training under way there's a lot of bloggers out there unloading cards on other people. I've received several unexpected packages lately from generous folks.

The most recent bubble mailer arrived the day before yesterday from Superduperman over at Fantastic Catch. It contained 12 random Rangers. Included was this 2009 Goudey card of former Ranger Ian Kinsler, number 190 in the set. I haven't had time yet to get the cards checked but it looks like I probably need at least half of them or maybe more. Pretty good results from a blind lot.

Thanks a lot for the cards Super. I'll see what I can do about getting some Cardinals together for you. I have quite a few that need a good home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

1979 Topps - Kurt Bevacqua.

I have no idea where Topps got the outfield designation for Kurt Bevacqua on card 44 of the 1979 Topps set. Bevacqua played some outfield for the Rangers in 1977 but none in 1978. He served mostly as a utility player and pinch-hitter.

Another example of the late seventies Texas roster upheaval, Kurt was no longer a Ranger by the time this card was issued. After watching his bat dry up in 1978, the Rangers decided Bevacqua could be moved if needed. With the club trying everything to get re-tooled for another run in 1979 it seemed like there was a need to move everyone.

On October 25, 1978 the Rangers sent Bevacqua, Mike Hargrove, and Bill Fahey to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Oscar Gamble, Dave Roberts, and $300,000. The trade worked out well for Bevacqua, he would make his only post-season appearance with the Padres in 1984.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Well, it's the first seriously bad news out of Spring Training for the Rangers and it really couldn't get much worse. Yu Darvish, shown here on card MB-21 of the 2013 Topps Chrome set, is probably done for the season.

Darvish left a Spring Training game early on Thursday with forearm tightness. He said everything was fine but the pessimist in me feared the worst.

By this past weekend the Rangers were saying Yu has a mild UCL strain and might miss four months. Now it's a partial tear, Tommy John surgery is likely, and Darvish will probably be lost for the season.

This is about the worst news a club looking for a bounce-back season could get. Yu Darvish is a prima donna but he's also the best hurler Texas has. Derek Holland said he would step up and take Yu's place if needed. That might happen but who does that leave to take Dutch's place? I've got little faith in Yovani Gallardo and Ross Detwiler to be front of the rotation starters. Both are National League pitchers and the average NL pitcher gets hammered in the American League.

Going to be a tough season without Darvish. Hopefully this news isn't the first hint of a sequel to last year.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Senators Saturday - Ed Brinkman, 1969.

Perhaps it is fitting that Ed Brinkman appears with a bat on card 153 of the 1969 Topps set. Brinkman was a slick glove no-bat shortstop for most of his time with Washington. 1969 would be the exception.

After losing playing time in 1967 and 1968, it was back in the saddle again for Ed Brinkman in 1969. He would appear in 151 games for Washington, 150 of them at shortstop and one as a pinch-hitter. Back in the role of starting shortstop, Brinkman played 1306.1 innings and committed 19 errors for a fielding percentage of .976, ten points higher than the league average. That's even more impressive in light of the fact that Ed had significantly more range than most American League shortstops.

Brinkman had traditionally been a black hole in the lineup. He struggled to bat even .200 and had never posted a season average over .230. That would change in 1969. Manager Ted Williams was a disaster for the club and probably about the worst manager in franchise history. He did know hitting though and seemed to take a liking to Brinkman. Well, as much a liking as Ted ever took to anyone. Williams made Brinkman his personal project and the results showed.

In 639 plate appearances Brinkman posted a career best .266 batting average (79 points higher than the previous season). His on-base percentage jumped 69 points to .328 and his slugging percentage soared 123 points to .325. Most of that slugging percentage came from Ed's 18 doubles but he also slipped in five triples and two home runs. He struck out 42 times but also walked 50 times - the most in a season to that point in his career.

Still not a tremendous threat at the plate, Ed Brinkman had made huge strides in his offensive game. It was noticed by those outside Washington, he got a little MVP consideration. Perhaps Ed's bat development was timely. The Senators tried out several possible replacements for him over the years but none seemed to stick. In 1969 they called up a young Toby Harrah for a cup of coffee. Harrah looked promising. Brinkman needed to keep improving with the lumber if he wanted to retain his job.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Six year return.

Today's card is an autographed 1984 Donruss card of Rangers fan favorite Jim Sundberg. This is one of my most recent through the mail returns and was pretty surprising when it arrived.

I sent this card and a 1980 Topps card to Sunny on October 10, 2008 when he was working for the Rangers. I sent the request to the ballpark because I had word that Jim did not like to sign from home. The cards seemed to drop off the face of the earth and I assumed that Sundberg would not sign from the ballpark either.

Much to my astonishment, the cards arrived signed in my mailbox on February 26, 2015. That's after over six years and an out of state move. The forwarding on my mail has long since expired and I wrote off any requests that hadn't come back yet.

I'll take it though and am very grateful to have this signed card in my collection. Much thanks for the autograph Mr. Sundberg.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Hiatus is over.

Arriving in the mail last Thursday were two packages of cards. I already reviewed the first package from reader John H. Today it's time to take a look at the second package. This one was from Tony over at Off Hiatus Baseball Cards.

Tony sent 34 Rangers cards and batted 1.000 with all the cards hitting holes on my Rangers wantlists. The selection of cards was great with recent Topps Heritage cards along with some older, more difficult to find cards. One of the latter was this 1987 Leaf #7 card of former Ranger Charlie Hough. It doesn't say Leaf of the front like the rest of the set but Charlie is listed on the back as a Lanceur. The back blurb is also printed twice - once in English and once in French. Great card. There was at least one more old time Leaf card and one 1987 O-Pee-Chee card in the package along with a SportFlics card I needed. Can't beat that.

Thanks a ton for the cards Tony! I really appreciated the care you took in assembling the package. If anyone out there hasn't checked out Off Hiatus Baseball Cards you should head right on over and take a look.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

1979 Topps - Juan Beniquez.

Continuing the turnover theme from last week, we have Juan Beniquez on card 478 of the 1979 Topps set. Juan was long gone by the time this card hit the shelves.

Beniquez had been with Texas for three seasons from 1976 to 1978. Part of one of the best teams in club history, he lasted through the first season of turnover. On November 10, 1978 the Rangers traded Beniquez, Paul Mirabella, and three minor leaguers to the Yankees. In return Texas got Mike Heath, Sparky Lyle, Larry McCall, Dave Rajsich, Domingo Ramos, and some cash.

Not too bad a trade on the face of it until you consider the minor leaguers the Rangers threw in. Greg Jemison never made it out of the minors and Mike Griffin was never an ace for any of the teams he played for. The third player had success though and you've probably heard of him, a young pitcher by the name of Dave Righetti. Definitely makes the trade more one-sided than at first glance.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Minor League Monday - Brant Alyea, 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers.

Brant Jose Alyea, shown here on card 1165 of the 1990 ProCards Tulsa Drillers set, was the son of former Washington Senator Brant Alyea. Following in his father's footsteps, Brant began pursuing a Major League career.

Alyea started his career in the Toronto Blue Jays organization in 1985. The Jays let him go after the 1986 season and he played in 1987 with the independent Single A Miami Marlins. Texas picked him up for the 1988 season but he ended that season in the New York Mets organization before being released there as well. The Rangers re-signed him in 1989 and assigned him to Single A Port Charlotte. He struggled there failing to bat even .200 in 23 games. Nevertheless, Brant was assigned to Double A Tulsa for 1990.

Alyea's 1990 season is somewhat of a mystery. Baseball-reference indicates their records for him are incomplete for that season. What they do have shows that Brant played in six games for Tulsa and made 20 plate appearances. His batting average and on-base percentage were an identical .150. He hit just two doubles. No defensive information is provided.

It's impossible to tell at this late date if Alyea's struggles were injury related or if he just couldn't get his bat going. What's plain to see is that he didn't finish the season with Tulsa. I suspect Texas released him. From Tulsa he moved to the independent triple A Tabasco Olmecas of the Mexican League. There are no stats provided for Brant's stay in Mexico and his career playing records end after the 1990 season.