Odds, ends, nothing to see here

Way back in October I was sure I was going to write more on this blog during the winter (of our discontent). I was of course going to be witty and insightful, exposing Rangers players and management in various ways, and pointing out exactly who they needed to sign and trade to get competitive (hint: Ben Broussard and Jason Jennings would not have been mentioned, unless I was writing the “stay far away” paragraph). Now we get into February, the spring (training) has sprung, the grass is still dead on the lawn outside (I know it rains in Texas, I’ve seen it happen once or twice), and our thoughts turn to men playing ball in Arizona and Florida and wish they were back here again, where the games actually count. Heck, just a month and a half away now. Every idea I have for a blog either disappears by the time I sit down to write, in which case I end up just playing games then going to bed, or sits unread in a pile, waiting for May or June or July, take your pick for the month in which the Rangers will be officially eliminated this year.

But tonight my current favorite online game is down, so without any further ado, I can pour forth a stream of consciousness that may have some news, may have some insight, but more likely is the rambling of someone well after midnight, trying to distill a winter’s worth of thoughts…

Today on ESPN the Rangers have the front page of the baseball section, with a story about Josh Hamilton and Milton Bradley. Anything worthwhile in it? Not really. These are two players who, like it or not, are majorly damaged goods, and so we’ve heard their stories a thousand times already. When the fact that Young, Kinsler and Blalock are covered for watching Hamilton talk about his addiction is headline news, you know there are too many reporters in Arizona with nothing to say. Woo-hoo, they supported him. Let’s wait and see how well they’re all getting along in July, 20 games out and just killing time until October, or a trade.

My favorite quote from the story: “Daniels, to his credit, did his homework before making the commitment. He notes that San Diego, Kansas City, the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh and the Rangers all had interest in Bradley when Oakland traded him to the Padres last summer. Why is that significant?” Uhh, because a bunch of desperate and/or sucky teams are all that could dredge up interest in him? At least Mench had the decency to pretend it was the Yankees (and the Royals) after him, before signing his minor league deal here.

Jamey Newberg gave a link to this article, and it was so good I have to pass it on too. When something begins with “We’re glad you’ll be joining us for year 36 of our eternal rebuilding project”, you either have to laugh or grin ruefully.

With thanks to my fans, Ioannis from the wonderfully quirky Tina Yothers Sports blog asked what I thought of the Kinsler signing. I have to agree with Jamey, it’s a pretty good deal compared to market. Jamey broke down his deal in comparison to Brandon Phillips, and it looks like the Rangers will actually be saving some money in that comparison. Kinsler was, in my opinion, overrated this past year, as the Rangers second basemen ranked 10th out of 14 in the AL in Runs Created. Granted, he missed time and some of the sludge they put out there in his place hurt that ranking. But still, at best you’d have gotten him as an average player (in his two seasons he has a 106 and a 109 OPS+, a little above average). He had issues with the glove for a while, which hopefully he has worked on (or is doing so right now). The best thing to say about him though is that he is only 25, and we can look forward to some good years to come. In 2007 he was 20-20, I wouldn’t bet against him being 30-30 in 2008, and possibly a year or two more after that. Ioannis, in response to your question, I like the deal. I like the player and his future. But I have to admit, I’ve never (or at least not yet) warmed to Kinsler like many have. He seems to be, I don’t know, a pretty cold fish? Maybe I’m just talking out my hat (or the other end, since I’m not wearing a hat), but I just don’t see him as that likable.

Now, speaking of fan mail. Here’s a link to an article I wrote way back in August. Go on, go read it, I’ll wait. Oh, okay, let me skip to the good part: read the comments. Some dude, purporting to be Major League Umpire Bill Miller (with an email address to match, although of course I am not going to publish that), commented last week about the blog posting, because it was all about bad calls and arguments between the Rangers and, you guessed it, Umpire Bill Miller. Now, I already did a pretty big rant in my response to his comment, which you can go read for the full details, but the highlight for me is the fact that an umpire (allegedly) is posting on a blog SIX MONTHS LATER about a call he made! First of all, why on earth would an umpire call attention to himself like this? Why would he expose himself like this? If it’s really him, and it really bothers him this much, what do the Rangers have to be thinking next time they step up with him behind the plate?

My feelings about umpires have been made clear over the last year. I’m a former soccer referee, so I’ve tasted what they have to go through (not at their level, of course, although I did have to deal with parents of teenagers). I understand the human factor and accept it as part of the game. I wish they would use the technology at their disposal to get it right as much as possible, even knowing they get 99 out of 100 right already. But my biggest peeve with umpires is their stubborn refusal to consider they may be wrong, to be willing to change a call, and to be willing to stand up after a game and talk to the media, and say oops, I blew that one, didn’t I? If they weren’t all so afraid for their jobs, with MLB breathing down their necks all the time, maybe they’d be a little more open. I don’t think that attitude is going to change anytime soon though. Those sorts of institutionalized attitudes usually stick around until the older umpires die out, and the younger ones get more voice. So we’ll check back in 20 or 30 years and see what difference there is in the game then.

You’ve probably heard about this already, but once again Tom Hicks is the toast of England. Or at least his son (and heir to the Rangers) is: “Thomas Jnr was spat at and chased out of a pub by angry fans”. Liverpool is a proud franchise (actually don’t call them a franchise, that’s an American term they hate) in soccer (and don’t call it soccer either, it’s football), one of the winningest teams of all time, and pretty much since Hicks bought them a year ago, they’ve been sucking like never before. As an Arsenal fan, I love it, but as a Rangers fan, all I can do is watch and realize that Liverpool is just following the trail blazed by the Rangers those many years ago – a descent into suckdom. At least they have a history, we have three first round playoff exits to look back on (hey, did you know the Rangers only ever won one playoff game?!! Well if you didn’t, you can hear it pretty much every night on any news channel in Dallas).

Okay, so a little real player news: the brilliant plan for 2008 (Let’s get some more bats! Our pitching was good enough last year, and now they’re another year past their prime they’ll be even better!) is already unraveling. You’ll remember the injury woes of 2007, in fact if you read the sports pages this week you’ll think you were back in 2007, as both Millwood and McCarthy are starting the spring lame. Didn’t Millwood do a bunch of karate this winter to banish those worries? Yes, with two fifths of our rotation already skipping a start (and with our history, likely to skip half a season), the great idea to trade Volquez for some stoner is paying big dividends.

Speaking of, did you know that Hamilton can hit opposite field home runs in Surprise? That’s impressive, because you know, that ballpark is only 11 feet shorter than Arlington in left-center (larger in some places, smaller in others), and really, who cares about that whole high altitude ball-travels-further thing anyway? Look, all we need is for our opponents to throw batting-practice pitches to him, and I’m sure he can break Barry Bonds’ record. The home run one, not the drug one.

As I write, the poll on the Rangers site is “What is the most important issue for the Rangers to settle this Spring Training?”. The choices are Cleanup Hitter, Closer, Right-Handed DH and Starting Catcher.  Boy oh boy, this one just writes itself, doesn’t it?  Yes, the choice of Right-Handed DH is the one that’s either going to take the team to the World Series or put them at 73-89 again.  Come on, Right-Handed DH?  Who would ever have thought that someone would need to platoon the DH, the position who’s only job is to hit?  I say put out just one DH, and use the other roster spot for the sixth starter – it’ll save some gas flying them to Oklahoma and back every other week.  Besides, you know if they asked this question on the street, they wouldn’t need multi choice answers, because everyone would have said “pitching” before they even finished the question.

Man, I’m really in a cranky mood tonight. And a pretty weird one, too. If it were August, and Josh Lewin was singing something, or making one of his bizarre 80’s pop-culture references (nothing about Tina Yothers though), I’d be ready to stuff his microphone down his throat. Of course, this season I think Tom Grieve is going to finally snap and beat me to it…

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