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.