Archive for April, 2007

April showers bring May flowers

April 30, 2007

I’ll be honest up front and say I didn’t pay much attention to today’s game.  Listened to it early on the way home from work, watched on tv until 7 when How I Met Your Mother began, then just flipped a couple of times to check the score.  Frankly, the Rangers didn’t look like doing much against Halladay, and they didn’t.  I suppose I shouldn’t bemoan it, because he is one of the best pitchers in the league, but my thoughts go back to the radio after Saturday’s win, when they were saying that the Rangers were now 2-2 on this road trip, and will be disappointed if they don’t at least finish 3-3.  They finish 2-4, and sure enough, I’m disappointed.

I don’t know what kind of kick in the pants they need, but I’m hoping that turning the page on the calendar might turn the page on the team.  A blah April which has been pretty wet and stormy around here (a good thing since we’re in a drought) might lead to some good things happening in May.  But right now, last place, 4.5 out, and it’s clear that the Angels are doing what I hoped the Rangers would do a week ago:  stepping up and winning.  As the Rangers go 4-6, the Angels have gone 8-2 to open up a small 2 game lead on the division.

Funnily enough, the Yankees come to town tomorrow with a worse record, 9-14 compared to the Rangers 10-15.  I have no need to point out that I hate the Yankees.  A sweep would just about get Joe Torre fired.  In the other direction it won’t get Ron Washington fired, but it would surely signal we have a long way to go.  I’m not going to any of the games, I can’t stand the number of Yankees fans that show up.  If you’re from there, and you think it’s so great, why did you leave?  And if you’re from here, you’ve got no business being a Yankees fan.  Yankees and Red Sox fans always outnumber Rangers fans when they’re in town (or at least outshout them), but Yankees fans are by far the most obnoxious fans we ever see.  And for those of you who think British soccer hooligans are bad, just realize they’re only like that because their teams are only at most a few hundred miles apart, so large numbers of them can travel.  If New York and Texas were that close, there’d be fighting in the streets here too.  I have seen people fighting here, but they don’t have a few thousand of their drunken buddies to back them up and really get things going.

And there’s the A-Rod thing.  I always liked him when he was a Ranger, I guess I was in denial whenever I thought that he felt kind of phony.  Now he’s a Yankee I’m free to hate his hypocritical butt, his smarminess, everything about him.  Just remember Yankees fans, you love him when he hits 15 HRs in April, but you’re going to hate him when he chokes again in October.

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Ups and downs

April 30, 2007

Today isn’t about the Rangers, because if it was it would only be titled Downs.  Another defeat, this one has no merits to it other than Kinsler tying the club record for HRs in April.  Another poor performance by McCarthy, I have to admit I expected a lot more from him already.  I even bought the t-shirt.  But Ups and Downs really could refer to me, because every day I am either elated or deflated depending on how the Rangers do, and I can definitely feel my moods changing as the games go on.  I feel the same about Arsenal (to a much greater extent), or the Seahawks, or NZ rugby, but they don’t play every day, they mostly play once a week, twice sometimes for Arsenal.  In those cases, the mood dissipates after a day or so, unless it’s a really big game (I still feel gutted about Arsenal losing the European Cup Final last year, and I feel like I’m flying anytime I think about Arsenal winning the league in the last minute of the season in 1989, which is far and away the greatest moment of my life).

No, the Up in the title refers to the unassisted triple play by the Rockies, by their shortstop Tulowitzki who I’ve never heard of.  I still remember Morandini’s in 1992, because I had to explain it to my brother (who is not a baseball fan).  What’s interesting is that Morandini’s was the first in 24 years and only the second in 65 years, but we’ve now had five in the last 15 years.  And there were six between 1920 and 1927.  That’s 11 of the 13 in two spans adding up to 22 years, the other two occurring in the other 85 years (since 1900, in other words in the modern era).  Kind of like buses, you don’t see any for ages and all of a sudden five in a row show up.

The down, of course, is as low as you can get in baseball, with the death of a ballplayer.  I fully admit I would never have known the name Josh Hancock without this happening. His Wikipedia page suggests the same thing for most baseball fans, because almost half of it is taken up by his death (and that is all AP reports, something that is a little annoying about Wikipedia and current events, that they simply copy in an AP report as the story).  Looking at the list of players who died while active, it’s a little weird to realize that there’s twice as many who’ve died as there are who’ve made unassisted triple plays.  There is no meaning in this, just something that came to me.

Since I’ve been a fan of baseball I’ve seen Tim Crews, Steve Olin, Steve Bechler, Mike Darr, Darryl Kile, Cory Lidle, and now Josh Hancock die.  Crews and Olin were a big shock to me, but sad to say the rest have impacted me less and less.  That sounds horrible, but it isn’t meant to be.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, to the age where players are thinking of retiring, or if it’s something that you can get desensitized to.  I hope not.

I looked up Hancock in the Baseball Prospectus annual, and here’s their last two lines:  “…one would like to think he’d get one more shot at a rotation spot before he’s pigeon-holed for life. Not that it’s a bad life to have.”  I just think that feels creepy, that it was written just a couple of months before he died.  Marian disagrees though, so maybe it’s just me, and therefore maybe there’s hope for me yet.

A good road trip?

April 28, 2007

Marian said after today’s win that the Rangers are having a good road trip.  When I reminded her that they’d lost twice in Cleveland to start the trip, she said she meant good trip to Canada.  And maybe she’s right.  Maybe getting out of the country is the breath of fresh air that the Rangers needed.  Winning twice in Toronto is a good start.  Tex hit his second HR in two days, Laird was 3-5 with his first HR of the season, even Wilkerson got a big hit in a good spot.  Wilkerson did look kind of lost a few times at first base though.

On the other side, Blalock showed he isn’t a very good third baseman, making a critical error which was the primary cause of Aki’s blown save.  Okay, he drove in the winning run, but come on, bases loaded and one out, just about all he had to do was stay out of a double play (not guaranteed the way he’s been playing). I looked at the stats on ESPN today and found he is in the bottom three of third basemen in most fielding categories, and looking at his career numbers on Baseball Reference, he’s below average for his career, too. Also looking there you will see how his OPS+ has been sliding each year, from 118 to 111 to 94 to 84 last year. Some will say he spent most of last year injured, but to that I say so what? There’s a point where you say I’m injured and I’m hurting the team, so I’m going to step out and get healthy. As long as you’re playing, you need to perform. But take a look at the minors, and there’s not much hope in the near future. Desi Relaford is playing 3rd in AAA (he of the career 74 OPS+ in the majors, and worse fielding than Blalock), and Travis Metcalf isn’t exactly lighting up the world in his second go round at AA. So it’s Hank, barring a trade (is David Wright available?).

I was sorry for Aki blowing the save, although as I said it wasn’t really his fault, and at least he got the win. Benoit got the save, although precariously, and I am surprised to see that it was only his second career save, the first back in 2002. All those years sucking at the back end of the Rangers bullpen, you’d think he’d have been the only guy available on more than two occasions in 6 years. And Millwood is becoming an enigma. A week ago I was thinking he’d win 18-20, but six starts in and he’s 2-3 with a 5.88 ERA, and today he was positively laboring out there. He’s pitched between 5 and 6 innings in every game, but only two of them have been Quality Starts (he won both), and one of those was the 6 inning 3 run kind, so barely qualifying. April’s the only month he doesn’t have a winning record though, at 19-19 in Baseball Reference (which includes this year’s 2-3), so hopefully things will get better for him in May.

A little relieved

April 27, 2007

Breaking a three game losing streak is good.  Getting Tex onto the HR board is good.  Shaking things up in the lineup to kickstart the team is good.  A reasonable start from Tejeda is good, although he seemed to lack concentration a little, which may be why he gave up a couple of home runs.  But the bullpen shutting them down is excellent work.  Toronto didn’t have a hit after the HR in the 6th, and between them Francisco, Benoit and Aki struck out 7 of the 11 they faced, including Aki’s striking out the side in the 9th.

I think though, like most Rangers fans if you believe the fan polls online, I’d prefer Kinsler moving up to the second spot in the lineup.  Michael Young is too good a hitter to put there, he belongs at 3 even if he’s struggling.  I expect to see him back there, with Tex at cleanup, in the near future.  And Hank should not be hitting 5th in any lineup in the majors, except maybe the Royals.  Yes, no matter how bad the Rangers play, they’re still better than the Royals.

I also want to note that Josh is now saying Teixeira very well.  When we play baseball in the living room, he is Michael Young and I am Mark Teixeira.  I hope the real guys can follow our example, because according to Josh every time the bat even touches the ball it’s a home run.  Are you listening, Tex?

Bad. Good. Bad. Good. Bad.

April 27, 2007

Bad:  Wednesday evening Josh and I drive to Marian’s office to pick her up, listening to the Rangers and Indians on the way.  We hear Wilkerson make a rookie mistake in left field, throwing to third instead of second, which allows the batter to move up to second.  We hear Kinsler make an error, trying too hard to get a double play and instead getting nothing.  We hear Padilla giving up, as he usually does when the going gets tough, and by the time we get out of the car the Rangers are down 4-0 and I’m thinking oh well, there goes another one.

Good: Despite a three hour delay because of database issues (Josh and I got to do a lot of running around, playing our own version of baseball, and eating a bunch of free candy – thanks Sherrie!), we get back in the car to hear that, miracle of miracles, it’s the bottom of the 9th and tied 7-7.  After being down 6-0, the Rangers clawed their way back, with Michael Young hitting a tying double with two out in the 9th.  When I heard that I said good, maybe that’ll kick start his season.

Bad: Nope, he struck out in extra innings, and the Rangers stumbled to a loss in 11 innings, as I saw the last couple of minutes at home on tv.  Yet another depressing end to another depressing ballgame.  A club record 19 strikeouts.  Blalock and Wilkerson each struck out four times.  Now, I didn’t see any of their strikeouts, but I do remember a week or two ago where they both struck out in the 9th to end a game.  In both cases they waved at strike one and two around their eyes.  Blalock did the same for strike three, but Wilkerson stood and watched his strike three straight down the middle of the plate.  I’ve never liked Wilkerson, he came here in a tough spot trying to replace Soriano, but never did anything at all.  That’s on Jon Daniels, because he picked Wilkerson.  Apparently he’s been injured since before he came to Texas, which makes it doubly bad for JD. 

On the other hand, I used to love Hank.  Marian still does.  I even have his t-shirt, although I haven’t worn it for a while.  Every stat will show you how he has gotten worse and worse since he got to the big leagues, maybe it’s just time for him to go somewhere else.  I noticed when we were at the game on Saturday that there was only one of Hank’s Homies in the crowd, I’ve never seen fewer than about five.  Maybe that’s an indication of how far he has sunk.  I remember on the last day of the season in 2005, we were in the store at the ballpark, and I saw a woman looking at the Hank shirts and she said to her boyfriend “I like Hank, I think I will get one of his shirts”.  I almost said “Don’t bother, he’s going to be traded over the winter, and if not he’s going to keep sucking until he’s gone”.  He was nearly traded (I don’t remember who the deal was for now), but he’s kept sucking.

Good: Didn’t see any of today’s game.  Sammy Sosa hit two home runs, setting a record for most ballparks homered in (that’s one of those modern records, only possible because of the taxpayers coughing up for so many new parks for billionaire owners in the last 20 years).  Each time we’ve seen Sosa this season, I’ve booed him and clapped him.  Booed for his history, who he is and what he stands for.  Clapped because he’s a Ranger.  I did the same thing for John Rocker, which probably tells you all you need to know.  In this house we call Sosa Corky, and I have no doubt that he is loaded with steroids.  I do not like him at all, or any of his pretense at trying to be a regular joe.  In a few weeks or months he will hit his 600th homer.  I don’t know, but I don’t think we will be there to see it.  When Raffy hit 500, we went to five games in a row to try and see it, and I took photos of every single pitch.  We loved and love Raffy, and I do not for a second believe the steroid stories about him.  He will not go into the Hall of Fame because of those stories, but when he hit #500 we promised each other that we would be in Cooperstown to see him inducted.  I would love Raffy no matter what team he’s on, ours or any other.  I don’t like Sosa as a Ranger and I wouldn’t like him anywhere else.

Bad: Another loss.  After a 5-5 start, they’ve gone 3-8.  Last place, 3.5 games out, second worst record in the league, ahead of Kansas City.  The only comfort is that the Yankees are only a half game ahead of the Rangers.  The bad part is that you would still expect the Yankees to make the playoffs.  And our next 13 games are against the Blue Jays and Yankees, which will help the Yankees get themselves straightened out a bit, but at this rate will drive the Rangers deep into the cellar.

 Funny how three losses can change things, huh?  On Sunday we were about to blitz the world, on Thursday we’ve been trampled into the mud.

Nothing to see here

April 24, 2007

Rain washes out the Rangers.  Sri Lanka washes out New Zealand.  NZ has never won a World Cup semi-final, but we’ve lost five.  Sounds kind of like the Rangers, although they’re only 0-3 in playoff series.

 Off to Cleveland for two then Toronto for four.  Maybe the day off will have allowed the hitters to think about their problems, and find some solutions.  And maybe Padilla can pitch well tomorrow?

Remove foot from mouth…

April 23, 2007

Okay, yesterday I wasn’t actually predicting the Rangers would win ten in a row.  I was saying they could, if they could get hot at the bat.  Today they were hot for a short time, namely the fourth and fifth innings, where they scored four runs on seven hits.  But only one hit after the fifth left them 5-4 losers, and the streak is over at two.  Incidentally they’ve now had three two-game streaks, but not yet won three in a row.

I had to watch the game via the MLB Gameday system for the first time.  Our cable went out again this morning, like it does every few months.  Like Comcast before them, Time Warner says the problem is a weak signal from their office, but there’s nothing they will do about it.  I’ve been intending to switch to Verizon FIOS for a while, and I think this latest disruption will do it.

Anyway, Gameday was interesting, a little difficult to watch, a little annoying that I couldn’t resize it on my widescreen, and a little slow.  Maybe it’s just the pace of baseball, but waiting for a computer graphic of the game to update seems to take much longer than it does on tv.  A few glitches here and there didn’t help, such as in the bottom of the ninth, when Catalanotto made out, then Michael Young batted for several pitches, then Cat came back and had a few more pitches and made out again, then Teixeira had a few pitches, then Young came back and completed his at-bat, then Tex finished off.  A bit confusing as to exactly where we were for a little while.  The other problem with Gameday is getting to it:  I’m sure there’s an easier way than going to the Rangers website and digging through the links.  I’ve read some good things about the data, too, but that also seems difficult to get to.  More on that at a later date.

Still, a loss is a loss, and the bats are still cool.  Tomorrow it’s an afternoon game, and since I’m behind a firewall at work all I’ll know is the final score and the AP report.  I’ll also be following New Zealand against Sri Lanka in the World Cup Cricket semi-final, maybe NZ can at last take the extra step and make it to the final.  Two wins tomorrow would make the cable problems go away, for a short time at least.

Opening Thoughts

April 23, 2007

We’re now three weeks into the season, and the Rangers are 8-10.  That projects to 72-90, which would put them way out of contention.  But when you see that the A’s and Angels are both 9-9, and just one game ahead, you realize that not only are the Rangers very much in contention, but they may even be in the driving seat.

Okay, I might be stretching things there a little, but there’s logic behind that thought.  It’s all about the hitting, which is traditionally the Rangers strong point.  Right now the Rangers have a terrible offense.  Michael Young is hitting .171, Mark Teixeira doesn’t have a single home run, even Gerald Laird is struggling to keep his head above .100.  With the exception of Ian Kinsler, every single Ranger hitter is well below their career average.  Just based on the theory of regression to the mean, they’re all going to get better, and when they do, this team is going to get hot.  I could easily see a ten game win streak in the near future (in fact, after two wins against Oakland, they have two games against Seattle, two in Cleveland and four in Toronto, all pretty winnable games), and if that was to happen, the Rangers could put some distance between themselves and the other teams in the division.

The pitching hasn’t been as bad as usual, either.  Yes, you might say they have a combined 5.33 ERA, which from a Rangers standpoint is about average but from a league standpoint is poor.  But take out Padilla and McCarthy and that ERA drops to 4.54.  If those two can straighten themselves out, and there’s no reason to think they can’t, the Rangers are very much in contention.  Between Millwood and the outstanding Tejeda, I can see 35 wins.  If Padilla and McCarthy can get 25 between them, and the fifth starter (right now Kameron Loe) can get 10, that’s 70 wins.  Add in 20 from the bullpen and you’re looking at a 90 win division title.

If the Rangers were in any other division, they’d be at least three games out of first.  In the 2007 AL West, they might have the other teams just where they want them.