Thursday, April 21, 2016


So, former Ranger Alexi Ogando doesn't have anything to do with last night's win over Houston. However, I don't have any game-used or autograph cards of the key players from last night. Alexi was part of one of the best Ranger bullpens ever. There is a connection there as the win last night was in large part due to the bullpen.

Cole Hamels took the hill last night looking for his tenth straight win. Pitching in and out of trouble, Hamels lasted 6.2 innings and allowed just one Astros run - a long ball in his last inning of work. A lot of Cole's success was attributable to nice defensive work behind him.

Meanwhile, the Texas bats were largely ineffective against 'Stros starter Doug Fister. Rougned Odor was an exception to the rule though. In the second inning Rougie parked a ball in the right field stands to score two runs. That would be it for the Rangers.

Hamels left the game after hitting a batter in the foot in the seventh, it was his third hit batsman of the game and a career high for him. None of the hit batters appeared to be intentional. Sam Dyson came in and finished out the seventh with no runs. Dyson started off the eighth before giving way to Jake Diekman with one out. Diekman fanned both batters he faced to send the game into the ninth still 2-1. Shawn Tolleson gave up one hit in the ninth but otherwise shut Houston down to pick up his fifth save of the season as Texas came out on top by a hair.

Great to see the guys secure the series win and string together three wins in a row for the first time this season. Also extremely encouraging to see the bullpen back to clicking after their early struggles and hold the lead in a squeaker. This pen was projected to be one of the best in baseball this year and, if Texas is going to go anywhere, they are going to need to live up to their potential.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Start of the Silver Boot.

Well, the Rangers and Astros kicked off their season series last night as the 'Stros came to Arlington. As usual, the winner of the season series gets the somewhat coveted Silver Boot trophy.

Prince Fielder welcomed the visitors to town with a two-run home run in the first inning to start off the scoring. Ian Desmond singled in Adrian Beltre to give the Rangers a three run first.

Houston came back with two runs off starter Derek Holland in the top of the second. That would be all the runs Dutch would surrender as he battled through five with a high pitch count. Derek also picked up five strikeouts while issuing just one free pass.

With the exception of Keone Kela surrendering two runs in the seventh and Shawn Tolleson one in the ninth, that was all the Astros' scoring for the game. Meanwhile the Rangers put up a run in the third, two in the sixth, and a final run in the seventh. The final Texas run came on a solo home run by Mitch Moreland, shown here on card #TEX-16 of the 2014 Topps Texas Rangers set. Final: 7-5 Texas. Kind of neat to see the scoring begin and end with home runs.

Nice to see the offense clicking and putting some runs on the board. Also good to see Holland keep the team in the game in spite of obviously not having his best stuff. With the exception of Kela, the bullpen seems to have tightened down as well. Kela is a point of concern though. His ERA is now at 7.11 and he has not been consistently effective in relief. Hopefully he can pull it together before too much longer.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

1980 Topps - Mickey Rivers.

Well, with the rain out on Sunday and the day off yesterday, there isn't much current Rangers news to talk about today. The club did announce a two-year extension for third baseman Adrian Beltre. That's good news for sure but I would prefer to save my Beltre cards to post when the team is playing.

Going to take the down time to knock out another card in the 1980 Topps set, number 485 today. Mickey Rivers came to Texas in a mid-season trade on July 30, 1979. The Rangers sent Oscar Gamble to the Yankees in return. Several minor leaguers also went back and forth between the two clubs as part of the trade.

Nailing down the center field job in 1980, Rivers would appear in 147 games for the Rangers. He played center field (his only defensive position in 1980) in 141 of those games and served as the designated hitter in four more. The remaining appearances were pinch-hitting assignments. In the 1200 innings Mickey played in center he would lead the American League with eight errors. That left his fielding percentage at .979, four points lower than the league average. While Rivers might have led the league in center field errors, he also led the league in double plays turned from center field with four.

Making 661 trips to the plate for the Rangers, Mickey posted a .333 batting average (team best and fourth in the AL) and a .353 on-base percentage. He struck out more than he walked - 34 whiffs compared to 20 walks but his 210 hits led the team and were third best in the American League. He scored 96 runs while bumping in 60 RBI. Rivers had a little power as well, he knocked 32 doubles, six triples, and seven home runs. He also had a little quick left in him as he stole 18 bases while getting caught just seven times.

All in all, 1980 was just the sort of season the Rangers wanted to see out of Mickey Rivers. Mick didn't have to carry the weight as a lead-off hitter anymore, Bump Wills had that covered, but the team wanted him to be able to provide some speed and power at the top end of the lineup. He did that admirably and looked to continue as the Rangers center fielder in 1981.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Senators Saturday - Jim King, 1965.

Well, another Little League game today so you'll have to make do with another pre-scheduled Senators Saturday post.

Jim King, shown here on card 38 of the 1965 Topps set, was entering his fifth season with the Senators. He was one of the few remaining players Washington got in the expansion draft. King suffered a bit of a power and defense dip in 1964 and was looking to rebound and keep his starting spot in right field.

Jim appeared in 120 games for the Senators in 1965, he played in the field in 88 of those games. All of his playing time in the field was in right field. Both the number of games he played in and the 589.1 innings he logged were significant drops from the previous season. Using his limited time to the fullest, King committed just one error all season for a .993 fielding percentage. That was well above the league average .978 fielding percentage. Jim also had much better range than the average American League right fielder.

King made 309 trips to the plate for the Senators in 1965, a drop of 169 plate appearances from the previous year. He saw his batting average drop 28 points to .213 while his on-base remained about the same at .337. Jim still had some power left in his bat though. He hit ten doubles, two triples, and 14 home runs. He walked 44 times while striking out 50 times. King bumped in 49 RBI while scoring 46 runs of his own.

While 1965 had been a decent season for Jim King, it had not been what he needed it to be. Facing challenges for playing time from several other players, he had not been able to put together the standout year at the plate he needed to keep from losing playing time. The drop in batting average was also significant and concerning. Jim would likely face more challengers for his job in 1966 and really needed his bat to return if he wanted to keep his spot in the Washington outfield.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Rougie grounds The Birds.

Something had to give last night as the Rangers welcomed the Orioles to Arlington to kick off a four game series. Texas got hot on their road trip and had Cole Hamels slated to take the mound against the O's. The Rangers were undefeated in Hamels' last 12 starts. On the other side of the ledger, Baltimore has gotten off to a torrid start and was carrying a 7-1 record as the got to the ballpark.

It looked like the Rangers were on the short end of the stick as the Birds knocked Cole out in the sixth. They were leading Texas 3-1 when Hamels took his long walk to the showers. Tom Wilhelmsen came in a tossed a double-play ball to end the inning and limit the damage.

In the bottom of the sixth the Rangers managed to tie the game. That brought Rougned Odor to the plate. Odor, seen here on card 412 of the 2015 Topps Heritage set, laced a double into left field to send two runs home and give Texas a 5-3 lead. The next batter, Elvis Andrus, singled to bring in Rougie and finalize the score at 6-3 Texas.

Keone Kela, Sam Dyson, and Shawn Tolleson came in succession from the bullpen and held Baltimore scoreless for the final three innings to nail down the win. Tolleson picked up his third save of the season while Wilhelmsen got the vulture win.

Always good to see a come-back win like this, especially against a hot club like the Orioles. Even better to see the bottom part of the lineup producing in critical situations. Between Andrus and Odor, the center infield is looking pretty good for Texas this season. Also nice to see the bullpen shake off their early season stumbles, put out a fire, and keep it out for three innings.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Returning home.

Well, the Rangers lost the final game of their road trip last night to the Mariners 4-2 in ten innings. That puts them at .500 as they come home to face the Red Sox tonight. Since they left on the trip a game under .500, I think one has to count the trip as a success. Hopefully they can keep the ball rolling as they return home.

Speaking of returns, I still have a few through the mail requests trickling in now and then. This 1992 Donruss card of Donald Harris was one that came in this past week. I sent it out on January 23rd. Mr. Harris was kind enough to sign it and a 1993 Topps card and return both of them. Also coming in was a success from former Ranger first baseman Will Clark. Thanks to both players for taking of their time to sign and return my cards.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Holland, Beltre put Rangers on top of M's.

Well, the guys are looking good in their second go-round against the Seattle Mariners, this one on the road. Texas won the first game of the series on Monday night and last night Derek Holland took the mound for his second start of the young season.

Holland, shown here on card 88 of the 2013 Topps Archives set, pitched 6.2 innings. He struck out and walked two while keeping Seattle off the board. Andrew Faulkner finished out the seventh inning with a strikeout. Phil Klein tossed two flawless innings to complete the game. Just like that, Derek picked up his first win.

On the other side of the ledger, the Rangers went on a romp. Adrian Beltre led the way as he went 2-for-4 with a home run, double, and five RBI. Elvis Andrus kept up his quiet offensive revival with a 3-for-4 night that included a double and a RBI. Delino DeShields and Ryan Rua also went 2-for-4 and everyone in the starting nine, except Ian Desmond, had a hit, run scored, or RBI. By the time the dust settled, the Rangers had punched eight runs across on 12 hits. That's some nice run support.

Great to see the Texas bats wake up. You can't hammer your way to a winning season but having the offense is a definite must. Also good to see Dutch have a good outing. The Rangers are counting on him staying healthy and having a good year this year. It seems that the club's chances are much better if Holland lives up to expectations. Last night was a step in the right direction. Now it's on to this afternoon's game and possibly a sweep of the Mariners.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mixed results.

Well, the Rangers got some mixed results from their first road trip of the 2016 season.

Starting off with the good, the club went to Anaheim with a 1-2 record. They split the four game series with the Halos and left with a 3-4 tally. I'll take a .500 road record.

Texas prospect Nomar Mazara made his Major League debut last night as the team faced nemesis Jered Weaver. The Rangers lost the game 3-1 but Mazara went 3-for-4 with a home run. All three of Nomar's hits were off Weaver. Not too shabby for a young man who was supposed to spend most of the season at Triple A.

As to what derailed that plan, that's on the not good news side of things. During warmups on Saturday Shin-Soo Choo, shown here 2014 Gypsy Queen Blue Border card number 58 (numbered 227/499), was running sprints in the outfield. He strained a muscle in his right calf. That's going to put him out for four to six weeks. Texas will really miss Choo but at least they appear to have enough depth in the outfield to mostly cover for him for awhile.

If the Choo incident wasn't enough, Robinson Chirinos fouled a ball off his right forearm during Saturday's game. He had to leave the game right after the at bat. Examination revealed a fractured bone. That's going to put Chirinos on the shelf for ten to twelve weeks at a minimum. Not a good situation for the Rangers, who are very thin behind the plate this year. New Ranger Bryan Holaday now becomes the starting catcher for Texas and Brett Nicholas got the call up from Triple A to back Holaday. The other options for Texas are Chris Gimenez and Michael McKerny who were both in Spring Training with the club. Unfortunately both are down right now with injuries and unavailable.

Hopefully this is all the bad news for Texas for awhile. I don't mind saying it brings up all too recent memories of the beginning of the 2014 season and we all know how that turned out. For now though, things seem to be stabilized and the team looks to be able to carry on and pick up some wins. Tonight they start a series in Seattle and it would be good to see them take two of three to head back home at .500.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Senators Saturday - Joe Cunningham, 1965.

With a little league game and work scheduled for today, I am putting up a pre-scheduled post. Once more it's back to the Senators on Saturday. Of course, with the way the Rangers are playing in the early going, there may be a lot more Senators Saturdays during the season.

Joe Cunningham appears on a creased version of card 496 of the 1965 Topps set today. Cunningham came to Washington in a mid-season trade during 1964. That trade also netted the Senators pitcher Frank Kreutzer and sent Carl Bouldin and Moose Skowron to the White Sox in return.

Joe appeared in 95 games for the Senators in 1965 but only played in the field in 59 of those games. Off-season acquisition Dick Nen got six more games at first base to become the most used Washington fielder at that position. Bob Chance and Roy Sievers also appeared at first as the competition for the job went on. For his part, Cunningham played 412.2 innings at first base and committed six errors. That gave him a .986 fielding percentage as compared to the league average .991.

In 249 trips to the plate Joe raised his batting average 15 points to .229 and his on-base percentage 31 points to .375. That he was a disciplined hitter is demonstrated by the 46 walks he took compared to the 27 times he struck out. Not a real power threat, Cunningham did improve some on his power numbers with nine doubles, one triple, and three home runs. He also scored 29 runs and accounted for 20 RBI.

1965 had been a better season for Joe Cunningham than 1964 was. Unfortunately for Joe, that probably wasn't going to be good enough. He was eight years older than rookie Nen and the Senators were hurting for offense. Cunningham just wasn't contributing enough at the plate to catch on. After spending most of his career being blocked by Stan Musial in St. Louis, Joe was looking at once again at the possibility of being shoved out of a chance at a starting gig.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

New catcher checks in.

Well, after a great start to the Rangers 2016 season, the team seems to have stumbled a bit. The bullpen blew games on Tuesday and last night to drop to club to 1-2 on the infant season. While the guys in the pen were doing their part to lose, there were some positive points.

Yesterday new Rangers backstop Bryan Holaday made his debut. Acquired only a few days back from Detroit, Holaday had spent his time trying to get up to speed on the Rangers pitching staff and playbook. Apparently he was able to do so as he worked well with starter Colby Lewis. Bryan also threw out two base runners attempting to steal on him. Overall a nice intro for Holaday.

Not surprisingly, I don't have any cards of Bryan Holaday in a Rangers uniform. Former Ranger Ivan Rodriguez is going to stand in for him on this 2002 Fleer Flair Power Tools card that features a piece of one of Pudge's bats. Not that Holaday is to the caliber of Pudge, but the Rangers could use all the luck they can get right now.

Another bright spot in yesterday's game was Prince Fielder. He hammered a two run homer for his first long ball of the season. That's a good sign since Prince had average but didn't seem to have much power the first few weeks of last season. Of course, the Mariners hit nine home runs during the three game series so Fielder was definitely out-gunned.

At least the series is over. Time to move on to Anaheim for a series with the Angels. It would be good to see the guys put the opening series loss behind them and take the Angels.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Hello win column!

Well, the boys got the 2016 season off to a good start last night against Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners in Arlington. Feels good to have baseball back and running and even better to kick things off with a win.

Texas starter Cole Hamels went seven innings, striking out eight while walking three. He did give up two home runs - to Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano. Still, it was a good enough performance to give Hamels his first win of the season. Jake Diekman came in and worked a scoreless eighth and Shawn Tolleson kept the Mariners silent in the ninth to pick up his first save of the season.

Meanwhile the Rangers bats were largely silent. Prince Fielder, shown here on card TEX-4 of the 2014 Topps Texas Rangers set, collected the only Texas hit - a single in the fifth. That hit picked up an RBI for Prince and tied the game. It also kept King Felix from no-hitting the Rangers on Opening Day.

While not hitting, the Rangers did manage to scratch out two more runs in the fifth on a series of walks and Mariner mis-cues. Added to the Fielder RBI, that gave Texas a 3-2 lead that they held on to.

While it is a bit troublesome that the Rangers bats weren't working last night, one needs to keep in mind they were facing one of the top starters in the game today. The lack of hitting will only get concerning if it continues when the team is facing lesser hurlers. Getting two unearned runs off Felix Hernandez is nothing to sneeze at though. It's the kind of never say die attitude that the team will need to survive the offensive dry spells as the season continues.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Minor League Monday - Greg Iavarone, 1991 Line Drive.

Greg Iavarone, shown here on card 585 of the 1991 Line Drive set, played his second season with the Tulsa Drillers in 1991. He had been with the Drillers in 1991 as well.

Of the five players who caught for Tulsa in 1991, Iavarone was fourth on the depth chart. He ended up appearing in just 12 games all season long. He did catch in 11 of those games and made two errors. That put his fielding percentage at .965 on the season.

Greg made 31 trips to the plate for Tulsa in 1991 and struggled to a .148 batting average. He had no extra base hits and scored just two runs while picking up only one RBI. He walked three times but eight strikeouts helped keep his on-base percentage at .258.

1991 was a disappointing season for Greg Iavarone. He watched as his bat evaporated and several other backstops passed him up in the Texas farm system. Due to the low number of games played, I suspect the Rangers released Iavarone before the end of the season. If not, they did so at the end of the season. 1991 would mark Greg Iavarone's final season as a pro baseball player.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Senators Saturday - Don Blasingame, 1965.

Coming off a decent 1964 season, Don Blasingame was looking to improve his offense and hold down the starting second base job in 1965. Blasingame, shown here on card 21 of the 1965 Topps set, had been a big improvement offensively at second for Washington but he needed to keep the bat going if he wanted to hang on to the job.

Once again appearing almost exclusively at second base, Don played in 110 games at second for Washington in 1965. He also pinch-hit a few times to bring his total number of games appeared in to 129. Over the course of 837.1 innings played in the field Blasingame committed eight errors. That left his fielding percentage at .984, seven points better than the league average .978.

Don made 449 trips to the plate for the Senators in 1965 and tallied a .233 batting average, 44 points below the previous season. He walked 35 times but also struck out 45 times as he watched his on-base percentage fall 33 points to .287. Blasingame still had some speed left in him as his eight doubles and eight triples attest. His power was fading though and he hit just one home run. He also scored 47 runs while accounting for 18 RBI.

1965 was a bad season for Don Blasingame. He managed to shore up his defense from the previous season but in the process lost a lot off his bat. At 33 years of age that was a bad sign. The Senators had seen this all glove, no hit before at second base and that's why they brought Blasingame in to start with. If Don wanted to hang on with Washington he needed to figure out a way to revive his bat. As it was, he would face at least two challengers for his job in 1966.