A lonestar in california

No really, I have a valid excuse this time
October 11, 2008, 7:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So, in the comments of my last entry I sort of indicated that I was going to have part one of my offseason review up last weekend. And here it is a week later, and well… I’m writing another mea culpa instead. But this time I have a valid excuse: it’s my computers fault. Or possibly my internet connection, I’m really not entirely sure (when it comes to computer maintenance and troubleshooting, I’ll be the first one to admit I know nothing about it). About all I do know is I’ve had nothing but continued frustration in pulling up certain sites on the internet this past week (for some reason, all I get is an error message telling me the server is taking too long to respond when I try to load certain sites). And of course it’s just my typical luck that some critical sites like Fangraphs and MLB.com seem to be falling under that category right now, leaving my ability to form a retrospective on any given players 2008 season kind of crippled at the moment. So for now I guess all I can say is, please continue to hold while I try to refrain from screaming in helpless frustration get my latest technical difficulties resolved.


Almost wrapped up: Rangers collect series win, doubles record as 2008 winds down
September 28, 2008, 7:58 am
Filed under: Ranger Wins

Well, here we are, standing on the precipice of the last Rangers baseball game of 2008. Yes, apparently that’s what it’s taken for me to sit down again in front of the keyboard again, and for that I’m sorry.

I’ve been sitting here trying to find an elegant way sum up my overall feelings the 2008 season, and all I can think of is it’s been a blast for me. I’d like to think myself and my fellow Ranger fans have witnessed the beginning of an important transition in this team’s history in 2008 – and I’d also like to think I personally gained a lot more understanding into this team and this sport than I ever have had before. It’s been one giant rollercoaster ride, and in one way I’m more than ready to put a stamp on it and watch and wait for the offseason to unfold – but in another, I’m definitely going to miss not having a Ranger games to distract me and wreak havoc upon my weekly schedule for the next five months. And after all, the way they’ve played in their last three games… who wants the fun to end now?

The Rangers have of course clinched second place in the AL West standings – they did that Friday night with a 12-1 spanking of John Lackey and the Angels in which they also tied the major league record for doubles in a season at 373. Last night they eclipsed that mark during an 8-4 win that guaranteed them the series win and gave them a chance at squashing the Angels bid for a 100-win season later today.

Hank Blalock, whose September hot streak has been one of the bigger stories for the Rangers of late, rapped the historic two-bagger to drive in a run in the third inning. Chris Davis later added a double of his own in the 6th, setting the new record at 375 with one game left to play.

Perhaps more notable however was what Josh Hamilton accomplished in the 6th inning – after driving in 2 runs in the game on Friday Friday, Hamilton’s 2 run single that capped the Rangers scoring in the 6th gave him 130 RBI on the season and allowed him to retake a one RBI edge over the Twins Justin Morneau for the American league RBI lead. Hamilton’s once-comfortable lead for the RBI crown had evaporated thanks to a 15 game stretch from 9/7 to 9/23 in which Hamilton did not drive in a run. He snapped the streak during the Rangers final home game on Thursday however with 2 run double, and he has now driven in 2 runs in his last three games while Morneau has found himself in a slump with just one RBI in his last 8 games.

It’ll probably take some luck to hold onto that lead if Hamilton doesn’t pad it today though, as Morneau could possibly play an extra game if the White Sox and Twins need a tiebreaker, and Detroit and third place Miguel Cabrera (who is just three back at 127) could possibly have a a makeup game left to play on Monday.  If Hamilton does hold on he’ll be the fifth Ranger (after Jeff Burroughs, Ruben Sierra Juan Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez) to lead the league in RBI – he’s already only the 8th Ranger ever to reach the 130 RBI plateau, which was apparently his goal for the season:

“Everybody knows all that [RBI] stuff except for me,” Hamilton said. “Some of the guys were saying, ‘You’re on top again,’ and I said, ‘What do you mean?’ That was my goal, to get 130. If that leads the league, then that’s great.”

Today Kevin Millwood (who was of course the opening day starter in Seattle back in April) will close out the season for the Rangers, facing off against Angels lefty Joe Saunders. As mentioned above, if the Rangers can pull off the sweep they’ll prevent the Angels from reaching 100 wins for the first time in their franchise history – which, considering how strongly I dislike the Angels is something I’m really rooting for.

Also, I’m planning to start a season-in-review series this week in which I’ll break down the 2008 Rangers roster position by position and take a look back at the various seasons each player has had (and my opinion on them going into 2008). That’s actually something I’ve been looking forward to doing for awhile, so be sure and check back for that. In the meantime… enjoy the last Ranger baseball we’ll see until March ’09. It’s gonna be a long winter.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have failed epically
September 8, 2008, 6:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

…in my promises so far to get this blog back up and running. What can I say, except writers block is a bitch – I actually did have a couple chances to write this past week, only to wind up staring at a (mostly) blank screen contemplating some personal matters for 2-odd hours.

So once again, to the four or five readers I might have left at this point… I’m sorry. Again. I will earnestly try to turn that blank page into something informative, insightful and interesting this week, but things are probably going to be sporadic, at least until the end of the month when I’ll hopefully have some season-in-review stuff lined up. Once again, thank you to those 2 or 3 people who drop by each day to see if I’ve managed to get my butt in gear yet – yes, I’m aware I suck.

Dale Scott sucks at his job
August 31, 2008, 7:25 am
Filed under: Ranger Losses

I don’t have the time (or the mentality) right now to do a whole long post about everything that transpired last night, but I would just like to extend a quick middle finger at last night’s home plate umpire Dale Scott. I don’t know how an umpire can call a guy safe when he doesn’t even come within three inches of touching home plate, but Scott, the intrepid pioneer that he is, found a way to justify it last night in the 5th inning. Joey Matschulat has the goods – though I wouldn’t advise any Ranger fans go watching that play over and over again, lest their blood pressure become unmanageable.

Needless to say, it’s stuff like this that is the reason nobody respects umpires – and it’s stuff like this that will also be to blame if instant replay is expanded beyond home run calls as it’s detractors fear. Just pure, sheer incompetency:

“It was more than a tough call,” [manager Ron] Washington said. “Dale Scott can’t miss those types of calls. He said that Torii Hunter got a finger on home plate as he slid past the first time. A finger. That’s what made me just walk away.”

I’m not sure I would have just simply walked away if I where in Ron’s shoes (my reaction probably would have been something more akin to this guy’s) because according to Evan Grant he’s still likely to be slapped with a fine just for saying that – but then again, we probably wouldn’t have wanted Arte Howe managing the rest of the game for us.

About all you can hope for is that getting shafted like that last night can turn into some sort of rallying point for the Rangers – they certainly need one right now.

I’ll have a more in-depth entry up regarding some of the other current Ranger news later – in the meantime, I just hope we can avert the sweep today at Angel Stadium.

Back after a long hiatus

So… it’s been awhile. Far too long actually, since I sat down and attempted a post. I suppose some of you are wondering what happened to me – well, simply put the Rangers took an unexpected nosedive, and so did my inspiration and will to write. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been bandwagoning (I do take a sort of masochistic pride in the fact that I’ll sit through as much of every Ranger game as I can, no matter how bad it gets) I think I just honestly needed a break from blogging. Now the challenge will be getting myself back into the rhythm of writing and posting on a regular basis – I don’t know if I’ll be able to post after every gamelike I have earlier this season, but I’ll post as regularly as I possible.

Thanks of course are in order to any and all of my readers who haven’t given up on me during my absence – next time I take a “break” I’ll make sure to at least have the decency to inform ya’ll of it (hopefully though, I won’t be doing that until at least the offseason). But enough yakking – time to get down to business.

The Rangers, for all the tough times they havesuffered through over this past month have just slapped a nice little bow on their first sweep of the 2008 season in Kansas City last night. It’s been an important turnaround series for the pitching staff, which had come into Kansas City sporting a 6.45 ERA for their last 17 games (of which the Rangers had lost 14). But Scott Feldman put together a quality start on Monday, Kevin Millwood went the distance (for his second straight start) on Tuesday night and Matt Harrisoncompleted the sweep with 6.2 innings of 2-run ball last night as he outdueled Brian Bannister for a 3-2 win.

It’s worth noting of course that the anemic Kansas City offense that they faced is second to last in the AL in runs per game (4.07) but that doesn’t change the fact that this has to be a much-needed morale boost for this team after their 3-for-17 swoon:

“This is a great sign that even though we let ourselves fall out of the race and the wild card, we know we need to play with some pride and get back to where we were three weeks ago,” reliever Jamey Wright said. “Play well and have some fun and get back to what we were doing.”

Harrison wasn’t exactly lights out last night – giving up 7 hits and 2 walks over his 6.2 frames to the Royals isn’t exactly truly shutdown baseball, but what Harrison did do was a good job of wriggling out of jams. He stranded 4 runners in scoring position, including 2 in the 4thafter the Royals had put men on second and third with nobody out. When he left in the 7th, it was with property at second and third again, but Joaquin Benoit took over and struck out David DeJesus to end the threat and preserve Harrison’s line. 

Offensively it was a big night for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the Rangers young hitters, who picked up the rest of a largely quiet Ranger lineup. Brandon Boggs, who was inserted after Josh Hamilton was a late scratch with anabcessed tooth, hit his 8th home run in the 4th inning and Saltalamacchia unleashed 2 doubles on the night, the second of which came back-to-back with a Chris Davis double in the 7th to tie the game at two.

That’s when the lightning struck – for the second consecutive night, the Royals gave the game away via error, when Brian Bannister somehow managed to drop a  2-out infield popup off the bat of Joaquin Arias. An alert Salty came rumbling around third base and scored on a head-first dive – an almost inexplicable play since #1, infield popups are dropped about once every decade, and #2 Salty is of course a catcher.

“Didn’t think it was possible,” third base coach Matt Walbeck said. “If Salty hadn’t been running hard the whole way, it never would have happened.”

Salty did have a passed ball last night and somehow lost a laser beam throw from Brandon Boggs that should’ve cut down a run in the 5th inning, but he is now hitting .362 witha .944 OPS since the all star break in his limited playing time as the backup catcher. Gerald Laird on the other hand has regressed toward his mean, hitting .242 with an abysmal .670 OPS since he was handed the full-time starters job again (which might lend further credibility to the theory that Laird only seems to really play well when his playing time is on the line).

This little stint with Laird as the starting catcher has been fun (okay, not really) but I think it’s safe to say Salty has earned himself some more of that semi-regular (platoon) playing time again. Or, let me put it this way: it’s absolutely senseless for the Rangers not to give their 23 year-old catcher more playing time now that he’s started to hit again and now that their wildcard hopes are down the drain. Whether you see him as offseason trade bait or the catcher of the future, they need to allow Salty to salvage as much of his 2008 season as he can.

Getting back to the game, the Rangers also bore witness to a small milestone last night: Frankie Francisco’s first big league save. You probably already know Frankie moved into the closers role this week (something I believe I’ve suggested in the past) when the Rangers traded Eddie Guardado to the Twins for relief prospect Mark Hamburger, and last night was his debut in the role. And even though he was only facing the Royals 7-8-9 hitters you really couldn’t have asked for a better debut: he threw 9 pitches, struck out two and got a ground ball to close the game out. After the game, Frankie stated that he his new goal as closer will be to just go after them – exactly what he did his first time out:

“Since they told me, I’ve been thinking about it and I just wanted to go out there, take a breath, trust my stuff and go after the hitters,” Francisco said.

“I didn’t want to waste any pitches. The next time I want to go about it the same way. I don’t want to give them any chance to use strategy. I don’t want to joke around with the hitters

Well, he’s certainly got the right idea… let’s hope we continue to see him back it up. After CJ Wilson’s unhealthy debacles, it sure would be nice to see somebody talk about throwing strikes and then actually go out and do it in the closers role – and so far, so good for Frankie even if it was on;y the royals 7-7-9.

I’m afraid I’ve got to cut this short (my first entry back, and I’m already cutting it short) there was some stuff that I wanted to get to, but it’ll have to wait until this afternoon or tomorrow.

Today we’ve got a big game, in more ways that one – number one, it’s going to be Brandon McCarthy’s second big league start this year (after he went four effectively wild innings his first time) and it’s also going to be one of three pilot games for baseball’s new instant replay feature. I really don’t have much of an opinion on instant replay (just so long as they stick to HR and fair/foul calls I’m fine with it) and in all likelihood, all it will actually provide is a topic for the announcers to fill the air with, but games against the Angels are always exciting. Hopefully we’ll carry some of this pitching success from KC over to Anaheim as we’ll probably need it. Now if someone could just wake the offense…

Double the fun: DP’s rule as Rangers continue to beat up on Yankees, but CJ Wilson hits the DL
August 6, 2008, 9:53 am
Filed under: Ranger Wins | Tags: ,

One Ranger lefty dominated last night. And one imploded horribly, for what may be the last time in 2008. Such has been the fortunes of the Rangers feast-or-famine pitching staff all year – even in such an exhilarating win they couldn’t manage to escape without some kind of debacle to debate afterwards.

The good fortunes of the night belonged to Matt Harrison, whose defense turned 3 double plays behind him as he worked into the 7th inning, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. Travis Metcalf (who started at third base with Andy Pettitte on the hill for the Yanks) turned all three double plays, which all bailed Harrison out of possible trouble in the second, third and fourth innings. He certainly looked like a completely different pitcher than his last time out – the control was much better, and he wasn’t leaving the ball over the middle to get pounded. Maybe a new pitching coach does make all the difference, eh?

The Rangers offense, for their part actually didn’t seem too fazed by the left-hander Pettitte for a change – in fact, left-handed hitters Josh Hamilton (who crushed a 2-run homer in the first) David Murphy (RBI single in the 6th) and Chris Davis (sac fly and a 3-run double) accounted for 7 of the 8 Texas RBI. The Rangers appeared to be on cruise control headed into the 8thinning – with a comfortable 8-2 lead, Ron Washington decided to give struggling closer CJ Wilson a chance to try out a new mechanical apprach in the top of the 8th.

Unfortunately, nobody could have possibly predicted just how wrong the experiment was about to go.  Wilson, who had two separate side sessions before the game with new pitching coach Andy Hawkins entered the game and immediately looked disastrously bad, issuing a walk, a HBP, a strikeout and the another walk to the first four batters. That brought up Richie Sexson, who promptly jacked the second pitch he saw from Wilson out to left center for a grand slam.

Matters just got worse when Ron Washington came out to take the ball from Wilson, who nonchalantly flipped the ball at his manager and started to saunter off the mound. But Wash pulled him back, returned the ball and told Wilson to hand it to him before he left. It almost looked like a scene out of “Supernanny” or somesuch, and it didn’t sit too well with his teammates or the management:

“I didn’t like it one bit,” said outfielder Marlon Byrd, who followed up his game-winning grand slam, with three hits and a two-out, rally-starting walk in the seventh. “Everybody hits rough patches, but when the manager comes out to get you, you hand him the ball and show him the respect he deserves. I don’t know how it looks to fans, but I know how it looks to 24 other guys. It doesn’t look good.”

Said general manager Jon Daniels: “Guys are going to struggle. That is part of the game. That’s not the issue. There is a way to act and carry yourself. The way he left was unacceptable and disrespectful. He’s somebody we need and somebody we have to get right. The physical issue becomes the No. 1 priority for right now, but that doesn’t excuse what happened on the mound.”

“The physical issue” was announced as a case of bone spurs in Wilson’s elbow, something the club has apparently known about for at least a little while now, since it only took the Rangers 30 minutes of “unpleasant” discussion with Wilson after the game to make the decision to put him on the disabled list.

“I’ve been trying to pitch through it for a while,” Wilson said. “I can’t do the team much good if I’m not healthy. There are plenty of guys who can get the job done in the bullpen.”

That certainly would provide an explanation of CJ’s erratic performance this year, and his rapid deterioration since mid-July –  but my question is this: how long has this been an issue for CJ, and just how long have CJ’s coaches and managers known about this? I can’t help but notice that the bullpen side sessions and admission of an injury are something that came only after Andy Hawkins installation as pitching coach – could it be this is something that his predecessor Mark Connor perhaps overlooked? Or even worse, did the management and coaching staff know about CJ’s condition all along, and allow him to pitch through it despite his increasingly poor performances?

We might not ever get an answer to those questions, but it’s certainly something to ponder, given how the Rangers have allowed pitchers to take the mound in questionable health before – both Brandon McCarthy being allowed to pitch for over two months with a stress fracture in his shoulder blade and Vicente Padilla pitching through a sore elbow for much of the first half last season leap to mind. I certainly hope the CJ doesn’t wind up being Connor’s last victim – he’s currently headed out to LA to consult with specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum to decide whether or not he will need surgery, so hopefully it’s not too late for CJ to get himself right, and get back on track for next year.

CJ will be replaced on the roster by Joaquin Benoit, who will be activated from his DL stint for a sore shoulder – he probably won’t be slotted right back into the late innings though as for now, Eddie Guardado will take over as closer, with Frank Francisco presumably moving to the setup role. For tonight’s game though, it’s very likely that Frank Francisco might get the save opportunity should one arise – Eddie has worked 3 nights in a row, and if I had to guess, I’d say the Rangers will probably give him the night off.

I had more to write on CJ and on some other notes regarding the rotation, but that’ll have to wait for now. Perhaps I can add them later, but for now I’ve got to go. Tonight’s pitching matchup:

Tonight we have a scale-tipping pitching matchup – big Tommy Hunter vs. the equally big Sidney Ponson in a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN. Much like the first time we faced Ponson this year, I really hope we can kick his ass again today – and if we do, maybe we’ll actually hold on to win the ballgame this time.

Flying high: Marlon Byrd stuns Yankees with a “grand” walkoff
August 5, 2008, 9:57 am
Filed under: Ranger Wins | Tags: ,

You know, this has been one incredible season for the Texas Rangers so far. No, they’re not really contenders yet from an organizational standpoint (despite being within longshot range of the wildcard) and yes, we’ve cringed and ripped our hairout over more than our fair share of injury woes and pitching meltdowns. But this team has also produced some very memorable moments on the baseball diamond that are going to stay with it’s fans for a very long time – and last night was one of those moments.

Coming into last night’s game, the Yankees had won their last 10 games in the Ballpark in Arlington. And the way things started off, it looked like they might be on their way to #11 after they opened up a 3-0 lead in the 4th with solo homers by Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano. But as we all know by now, 3 run leads do not scare the Rangers – David Murphy quickly responded for Texas, bashing a 2-run shot of his own in the bottom half of the inning, making it 3-2.

The umpiring crew made it 4-2 in the top of the 5th when they called two balks on Vicente Padilla, which allowed Johnny Damon to make it around to score. At the least one of the balks was very questionable in my opinion – but then again, east-coast bias from umpires is hardly anything new. In fact it’s something you pretty much expect when you’re playing the Yankees. Kudos to Ron Washington for arguing the call after the second balk however – one of my beefs with him is that he doesn’t defend his players enough, but he made his statement yesterday and it may have attributed to what turned out to be the game-changing call the next inning.

With nobody out in the bottom of the 5th and Ramon Vazquez standing on first after a leadoff single, Ian Kinsler hit a tapper out in front of home plate that started rolling slowly down the third base line. Pudge Rodriguez quickly picked it up and threw to second to nail Ramon Vazquez, and after the relay to first, the Yankees believed they had completed a double play. But the ball had slightly nicked Ian Kinsler on the thigh before kicking down the third baseline and Kinsler alertly didn’t budge from the batters box until the umpires huddled to discuss the call. And much to my pleasant suprise, when they broke the huddle they got it right and reversed the call, continuing Kinsler’s AB. Kinsler proceeded to work a walk, after which Michael Young stepped in and blasted a 3-run homer to right to give the Rangers a 5-4 lead. While it can’t be said for certain, I’d be willing to bet that Ron Washington’s stand on the balks in the top of the inning at least played a subconscious role in the umpires decision to overturn the double player right there – maybe Ron is starting to see that getting out of the dugout to argue may really have its benefits after all.   

The game stayed 5-4 until the 8th, when Xavier Nady got ahold of a 2-out Frankie Francisco offering and belted it to right where it just barely cleared the fence and the glove of a leaping Marlon Byrd to tie the game at 5. Eddie Guardado nearly got touched for a run in the top of the 9th as well – it took a fairly spectacular rolling catch by Josh Hamilton to spear a sinking Derek Jeter liner to keep the game tied.

Interestingly enough, it would be against southpaw Damaso Marte that the Rangers made their final charge against in the bottom 9th – the Rangers may have had their troubles hitting left-handed pitching this year but they really didn’t have to do a whole lot of hitting against Marte, who was wild. He walked the sacs full by issuing passes to pinch-hitter Milton Bradley, Gerald Laird and Josh Hamilton around an Ian Kinsler strikeout and a Michael Young flyout. That brought up Byrd, who has hit just .183 with RISP this year. I have to admit, I was yelling for a pinch-hitter at my computer screen, but then… BAM.

The Byrd takes flight.

Byrd had gone up there looking for a first pitch slider from Marte, and what he got was room service. He knew it was gone off the bat, and walkoff pandemonium ensued as soon as it cleared the wall, the Rangers storming the field and mobbing their latest 9th-inning hero. It was the 6th Ranger walkoff this year, and the third in the last 8 games – what the Rangers offense has been doing in the late innings lately has just simply been unprecedented greatness.

“Just great,” Byrd said. “We just keep picking each other up. The second half … that’s what we’ve been doing. That’s what winning teams do.”

The Rangers are now hovering at 5 games behind Boston for the AL wildcard – not that that I think we’re going to actually catch the Red Sox or anything, but from a prestige standpoint, it’s kinda nice to be considered longshots again. One can only hope that any whiff of being in the postseason race will give this team some motivation for 2009.

I’m afraid I’ve got to cut this post short, as I don’t have time to run down all the Ranger notes right now – tonight, Matt Harrison will take on Andy Pettitte at the Ballpark in a battle of southpaws (which is bad news for the Texas offense of course). I’m interested to see if Harrison can reign in his control under the tutelage of new pitching coach Andy Hawkins – he walked 5 en route to giving up 6 runs his last start, and for a guy whose command was his calling card in the minors, that’s going to need to improve.