Archive for the ‘Sammy Sosa’ Category

Rangers Review: DH

October 12, 2007

Sammy Sammy Sammy.  Did he keep the team together, or was he the waving of a white flag before the season even began?  Jason Botts finally got a shot, did little with it, but deserves more of a chance.  Sosa will not be here when the team starts winning, despite his desire to sign a five year deal and retire as a Ranger.  Botts might be, if they just leave him alone and let him play.  He had a .981 OPS at AAA, with an incredible .436 OBP, and yet the first thing he hears from Washington is that he takes too many pitches.  Let him do what he does, every day, and you’ll get a whole lot more production that you might expect.

Sammy Sosa:  I think at the end of last year the management had a meeting, realized they weren’t going to go anywhere in 2007, and tried to see what they could do to bring in fans and attract attention.  So they signed Sosa.  That sound you heard when it was announced was a combination of Rangers fans groaning with embarrassment and the rest of the league laughing.  He was bad for the team from day one.  Oh, the Rangers will tell you he’s a great team-mate, a changed person, an RBI machine, blah blah blah.  But the fact is he cannot hit any more, not even with a corked bat, and just took time away from Jason Botts.  He didn’t even bring in the fans, there was a decided lack of enthusiasm when he hit #600, actually the only reason I was cheering him on to get there was so that they would finally sit him down and bring up Botts.  Which they did, but it was about a year too late.  There’s talk of bringing him back, Washington is a big fan, but the fact that he isn’t attracting attention from anyone else should give you a clue.  Even when the Rangers were trying to trade him at the deadline, as a killer of lefties, they didn’t get anyone to bite.  He has too much baggage, and he’s fallen too far, to be worth bringing back.  Ask yourself this:  what is a guy who hit .252, with a 99 OPS+, really worth?  I’ll tell you:  he’s worth just about what Catalanotto or Wilkerson were worth this year (except at five or eight years older, much more likely to collapse next year).  So how much more is his name worth?  And, by the way, if you take Victor Diaz’s numbers and project them to Sosa’s at-bats, you have the same guy, except Diaz would have 15 more home runs, 10 more RBIs, and is 13 years younger so is much more likely to improve.  There is talk about Sosa being an RBI machine, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true, and I intend to look at that at some point over the winter.  Ultimately a team that’s rebuilding shouldn’t be bringing in 38 year old former sluggers.

Jason Botts:  The little engine that could, Botts has done everything asked of him and more, but never gets the shot at the big leagues.  He could end up with three or four MVPs by the time he’s done, unfortunately they’ll be minor league MVPs, because the Rangers keep passing him over.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you keep a top prospect on the farm too long, he’s going to end up mad at you, and when it comes time for free agency he’s going to go somewhere else and have his good years there.  Or worse, you decide to trade him (Travis Hafner) and you don’t even get the advantage of the good cheap years.  If Botts had been brought up to stay two years ago, he’d have a whole lot of experience, the Rangers wouldn’t have wasted time and money on Sosa, and Botts would be a leader on this team.  Instead, he tore apart AAA again, and finally got brought up then jerked around by the manager, who much preferred Sosa.

Others:  Hank Blalock got some games here in September, after coming back from injury.  Catalanotto, Michael Young, Victor Diaz, Teixeira and Wilkerson all spent a little time DHing, either to give them some rest from the field or to get their bat in the lineup.

Minor leagues:  If you’re pegged as a DH in the minors, you’re in trouble.  After all, at least if you can field you have an additional skill to showcase, but if you’re just a hitter, and things go bad, you’ll be out of there.  Having said that, it’s better to be a DH than not to play at all, and you might be able to make something of yourself (see Jack Cust for an example).  In general though, DH is shared by a bunch of players taking a day off from fielding, so there aren’t many true DH prospects, especially the lower you go.  Botts, Diaz and Kevin West spent most of the DH time in AAA.  In AA Jim Fasano, Salomon Manriquez, Anthony Webster and Taylor Teagarden all got at least 15 games there, all resting from other positions.  Teagarden had spent a lot of time there in High-A as well, taking time off from catching where he is a legitimate prospect.  Several players in Low-A got a number of games there, the highlight being Chad Tracy, who spent much more time in left.  It was Ian Gac in Spokane, playing there or first, which is a fairly typical split (first basemen usually being the worst fielders, and becoming DH’s later in their careers).  Gac is only 21 though.  There was too much spread in rookie ball, Reece Creswell getting the most with 10 games there, and hitting pretty well.  The other was first round pick Michael Main, drafted as a pitcher but wanting to hit too, so they let him play there a little just to keep him happy (a foolish decision, because you risk injuring a top pick, plus he doesn’t get to sit on the bench and listen and learn from the coaches).

2008:  Lots of stories say they’ll bring back Sosa, which would be a fool’s plan.  He’s reduced to only hitting against lefties, and while he does that well, re-signing him would simply block someone else who should be given the chance to play, and determine if they will be useful in the future.  Botts is the person most likely to suffer if Sosa returns.  Botts is in danger of becoming another Travis Hafner, someone who is so messed around by the Rangers that when they’re given a chance elsewhere, they turn out to be MVP caliber.

2009 and beyond:  Botts should be given the chance, and if he is, has the potential to be the DH for several years.  If not, it’s going to be a parade.  As it probably should be, because really no-one wants to be a DH, they normally only get there if they can hit but can’t field.  Usually older players, which is why the minors are so empty of regular DH’s.  Of all the players, Taylor Teagarden is probably the most intriguing, because he can DH on the days he is not catching.  DH is not really a position you should plan for though, it’s really just whoever is left over after all your fielders are assigned.  Or at least, that’s what it should be, because ideally all of your players should be able to play a position well enough that they can rotate through the DH to get a rest, not to hide their fielding.

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Rangers Review: Right Field

October 11, 2007

Another mixed-up position, where the traffic flowed through, and anyone handed the chance to take the job threw it away.  Nelson Cruz threw it away at the start of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, came back up and stank again.  Victor Diaz got time there early on, was doing okay but went down anyway.  Marlon Byrd got in there when David Murphy took over in center, and Sosa and Wilkerson tried there too.  All three outfield positions were the same, running people through to try and get someone to stick.

Nelson Cruz summary:  Still waiting for Cruz to put it all together at the big league level.  He’s been a minor league MVP, and was one of the keys when Coco was traded to Milwaukee, but he’s taking his sweet time adjusting to the majors, and Ron Washington has let him know it.  Now 26, what does he have to do to win the job?  Maybe nothing, because maybe Washington is already so frustrated with his inconsistency that he won’t give him a chance.  He struggled badly in the early part of the year, went to AAA and tore up the place, then came back with a new batting stance, started out really well (two homers in his first game back), but then stumbled and bumbled to the end of the year.  His minor league OPS was 1.126, in the majors it was .671.  With an improved second half, he will get another shot, but he may have already burned too many bridges to get a good go next time round.

Victor Diaz summary:  Hit exactly league average during his month with the big club, but only had 104 at-bats in that time, and was used sparingly by Washington while he was up.  His prospect status is still intact though, because he’s only 25 and killed at AAA (.917 OPS) when he went back down.  Combined 23 home runs in both places, in under 400 at-bats, but will he be given the opportunity to play every day?

Others:  Everyone else who played here (Byrd, Sosa, Wilkerson, Murphy, Hairston and Mahar) has been or will be covered elsewhere.

Minor leagues:  Once again the Rangers have prospects in the middle minors, but little elsewhere.  If anything they have too many average guys at the top, none of whom have enough opportunity to stand out.  Byrd, Cruz, Diaz and Mahar all took turns at right in AAA, with Mahar spending the most time there.  He’s getting old for a prospect (26) and isn’t hitting very well, so may have leveled out.  John Mayberry is one of the Rangers top prospects, combining for 30 home runs at A and AA.  Following behind him are Anthony Webster and Jon Weber, similar names but neither is likely to do much.  Weber in particular hit well at High-A, but is much older than the league, so is probably no prospect.  In Low-A, KC Herren worked very well at an age-appropriate level, so could either continue to develop or fall off the tracks.  Victor Barrios and Eric Fry split time at Spokane, neither showed much but each has time to put it all together.  And in rookie ball, Miguel Velazquez did some good in a short period of time.

2008:  It’s almost as if there are too many players for this spot, and if one slips even slightly, he will quickly be replaced.  Long gone are the days when Juan Gone roamed right field, banging home runs all over the place.  Now there’s a bunch of prospects, each one able to hit home runs in the minors but not yet in the majors.  Unless they look for a free agent, the Rangers will likely begin with Cruz or Diaz in right, with Murphy/Byrd playing fourth outfielder and getting in there every so often.  Don’t plan on any kind of stability here yet.

2009 and beyond:  Surely one of these guys will step up and grasp the brass ring?  Like the other outfield spots, it’s in so much flux that there’s no way to predict what might happen.  Either the Rangers will go for a big name center fielder and let the four or five guys left behind battle for the left and right field spots, or they’ll decide they don’t have what they need and another big name will come into right as well.  It’s been years since the Rangers had a productive outfield, they’ve let all three positions lag, and they need to get them working again before they can contend.  John Mayberry is the great hope of the minors in right, and although he might have a chance at 2009, he’s more likely to be in Arlington in 2010.

Yet another 70 win season

September 20, 2007

Ron Washington supposedly made Vicente Padilla apologize to the Rangers for his performance on Sunday, where he hit the second batter and was ejected, putting the bullpen in a bind.  Now, Ron had also said he didn’t think Padilla hit Swisher intentionally, so why would he make him apologize?  What did Padilla think of that?  Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall while he was talking to the rest of the team?  Think any of them cared?  Doesn’t this all sound just a little high-school?  Or maybe kindergarten, where the teacher tells one kid to apologize to another?  Ron was supposedly going to be a player’s manager when he came aboard, a reputation which took a knock after the Tex brouhaha, and I think takes another knock here.

I’m pretty sure Buck Showalter’s streak, of teams winning the World Series the year after he leaves, is going to end.  You know, given that the Rangers are 18 games out of the wildcard, with 10 to play.  Oh yeah, they’re also not going to reach .500.  But they will have yet another season of mediocrity, a 70-something win season.  This will be nine seasons of winning 70-something, with the exceptions of 80 last year and 89 in 2004, which in retrospect was not so much a Great Leap Forward, but more of a One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.  Someone ought to tell them there’s no percentage in doing this every year, that they’ve got to bust out of the cycle.  Being a little below average every year is doom for a team.  You don’t go low enough for good draft picks (although that’s not as important as in football), and you don’t go high enough to contend.  A team with a record like this is just scaring away the good free agents.

Speaking of, Torii Hunter spoke out today, saying he’d like to join the Rangers next year.  Okay, that’s a stretch, but here’s the two quotes you need to know:  “Whatever moves they’re making, if they’re good, then I’m going to do it because they really do have a better chance than anybody [of signing me].”  That sounds good, doesn’t it?  But the second is “I still want to win, though, that’s what matters to me.”  Yeah.  Torii, much as I’d love to throw 75 million over five years at a 30-something in great risk of falling apart, the Rangers are better off without you, and you are better off without us.  The Rangers are not going to win anytime soon, and we have much better uses for 15 million a year, specifically pitching.  If we’re going to go for a veteran center fielder, it ought to be someone like Kenny Lofton this year, or potentially Mike Cameron next year, who we can bring in and trade in July for some prospects.  We need to be bringing young outfielders through, we have Borbon now in the minors with his clock ticking, he’d need to be up before a Torii contract was over, but better yet we have David Murphy right now.  He definitely needs more playing time, and a lot of it in center.  It’s a small sample size of course, but I’d have Murphy in center and Marlon Byrd floating next year.  Sorry Torii.  Better luck with a better team, but please don’t use us to try and drive up your price.

Speaking of dumb moves, Ron Washington says he wants Sosa back next year.  Apparently he’s been great in the clubhouse (which is worth exactly zero wins), and of course he is Mr Clutch when it comes to RBIs.  On my to-do list is a look at just how well he’s done with RBIs, compared to opportunity.  Yes, they keep harping on about how he’s leading the team, but for a couple of months he was the only person with any opportunities, because no-one was getting on base back in April and May.  I don’t want to bias my study before I do it though, but suffice to say every at-bat he has next year will be one lost to someone who would help the team in the future (can I hear a Jason Botts?).  No-one points out he’s also leading the team in strikeouts, and is sixth in runs scored.  And of the regulars, he’s one of the few with an OPS+ below 100 (he is at 98).  Depending on how you define regular, Laird, Vazquez, Cruz, and Hairston are the guys below him in OPS+ with more than 150 at-bats.  You want to build a team of those guys?  Will any of them be in Arlington next year?  Ron said that Sosa is still a fan favorite, I would love to know who that fan is.  There was total indifference around here when he hit his 600th homer.  And I don’t just mean me, I mean me, everyone I talked to about it, everyone at the ballpark who was barely watching, everyone watching on tv, and all the media here.  Remember Raffy’s 500th?  A hundred times the local interest.

And while I’m mentioning Botts, Jamey Newberg has been pointing out how he struggles for a month at every stop, and Jamey is very right about that.  Botts in August:  .593 OPS.  In September:  .924.   That doesn’t guarantee he’d have done it all year long, but it would have been worth trying him all year instead of Sosa’s .776.  Sosa’s best month?  September he’s at .952, but that’s only 21 at-bats.  Next best was his .855 from April, and it’s all downhill from there.

The Michael Young watch goes along, and it goes pretty well.  If I’m counting correctly, he needs 10 hits in 10 games.  Our next 7 games are at home, with a little luck he can do it there.  It was a great feeling to see him clinch the batting title at home a couple of years ago, so maybe we can repeat that in the next week.  Although his three errors yesterday may indicate he’s thinking more about the 200 hits, it’s just an aberration.  Kind of like Kinsler dropping the ball the other day to lose the game, he had worked well on his defense, and was doing much better than earlier in the year, so it’s annoying, but not something to worry about.  Just remind him what he needs to do, which is concentrate.  We could all do with some of that.

Who was that wearing the Padilla mask?

August 27, 2007

The game reports I read online tonight said that Padilla was good in getting his first win in over two months.  Having watched the game on tv, I have to respectfully disagree.  Granted, it was one of his better performances of the season.  His game score of 61 was in fact tied for his second best of the year (behind the 65 he got against KC two weeks ago), and only the fifth time he’d gotten above 50 all year.  He threw six innings (technically 6+, since he faced three batters in the 7th without retiring any of them), the most he’s thrown since May.  He threw strikes all day long, at a 70% rate which is above average.  He didn’t walk anyone, and only gave up five hits, all singles, and three of those were in the 7th.  The numbers by themselves show that it was a good outing.  So why do I disagree?  Maybe because he’s Padilla?  A little of that, in fact.  Maybe it was because I spent the entire game waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Maybe because he has so many times flown through a couple of innings, even three or four, and suddenly imploded, giving up a bunch of runs before they got him out of there (often even without them deciding to get him out at all).  But I realize that this is the way I’m always going to think about Padilla, for the next two years of his contract at least.  A ticking time-bomb, just waiting for something bad to happen to mess up his mind and make him fall apart.  He’s given us so much of that, and I don’t know what else to think about him right now.  It will take several good outings, and not just for the rest of this year (because I know he has the ability to revert again next year), to turn around my opinion of him.

But it was a nice win, excellent relief work from Frankie coming in with two on and none out, and retiring the side without giving up a run (and making Lopez look foolish while he did it).  Jack was Jack, perfectly efficient, and CJ, well, I just think he has a mentality that if it isn’t a tough situation, he’s not really up for it.  It seems like he’s a little less intense if things are too easy for him.  Looking at his numbers this year, he’s come into the game nine times with a one run lead and not given up a single run.  In fourteen appearances with a two to four run lead, he’s given up eight runs.  That does seem to bear out my suggestion of intensity, doesn’t it?  On the other hand, in seven games that were ties when he entered, he gave up four runs, and in six games when down by a run, he didn’t give up any.  I would have to say small sample size effect.  Hopefully we’ll have a lot more situations in the future to judge how he does when the game is on the line.  Either way, Drew Davison in the game story on the Rangers site said “C.J. Wilson nearly cost Padilla the victory.”, and that’s a load of hooey.  Even when he got the lead down to two, and had wild pitched in a run, I didn’t once think we were going to blow this game, and that’s the exact opposite of my feeling while Padilla was in.

Why did Mark Connor pull Padilla, instead of Ron Washington?  Did he go out to talk to him, and have Padilla say he was done?  I’m surprised Connor then pulled him, for two reasons.  One, I wouldn’t have thought he would have the authority, it’s the manager’s job to do that (albeit with the advice of the pitching coach, of course).  And two, even if you decide he’s done, walk back in and tell Ron, and have Ron go get him.  Not for the authority thing, but simply because you give your reliever an extra minute to warm up.  Okay, he might be warm, and ready to go, in which case I guess you could do it.  But how many times do you see a team waste time to get a reliever ready?  The catcher walks out to the mound, then back.  The pitching coach walks out and back.  One of the infielders walks in there and back.  Then finally, at the last possible second, the manager steps out to the mound slowly, and pulls the pitcher.  I didn’t see when Frankie got up to get warm, but since Padilla gave up three straight singles, and then Frankie came in, he must have gotten up when the inning began, or after the first hit.  Just a weird set of circumstances.

Sosa now says he’s going to play next year, whether for the Rangers or someone else.  A change of tune from May, when he thought he would be able to play five more years, and he’d love to finish his career with the team that first had him.  You have to ask yourself who in their right mind would take him next year.  Of course, you asked yourself that last year, too, and see where he ended up then.  But is there seriously a team that could use him?  He can only be in the AL, because he can’t field much anymore so needs to DH, but he’s not even hitting well enough to do that.  He is hitting lefties though (.956 OPS, vs .664 against righties), so he might get a bench spot somewhere.  I just can’t see anyone wanting to play him every day.  The true contenders won’t, because they don’t have the space to allow a luxury like him.  The terrible teams won’t, because they’re all trying to go young.  Which leaves the teams in the middle, like the Rangers this year.  He’s dead to the Orioles, who’d be a good target for him like they are other washed up expensive players, but of course they already tried him.  White Sox?  Doubtful, with his whole history in Chicago.  Toronto have too much class.  Oakland have taken on some cheap old guys lately.  I’d put it between them and Tampa, who are a terrible team and supposed to be bringing up young players, but they’re also one of the dumbest teams around, so they might look at him and see a few thousand extra bodies in their empty ballpark.  Anyone as long as it’s not us, I guess.

Things are getting so boring around here, the media is actually trying to make a story out of John Danks coming back to Texas this week.  Rumors are flying that he’ll be starting Tuesday, or Thursday (according to the White Sox site, so this is probably the one to believe), or he won’t start at all, or maybe he’ll pitch every inning of every game, presumably beating us with three no-hitters in a row.  That’s the kind of absurdity you will hear in the next few days.  Tonight during one of the game breaks they said “Former Ranger John Danks will pitch Tuesday”.  Excuse me?  Danks was never a Ranger.  He was in the Rangers system, yes, but he never played for the Rangers.  Most of the guys on this team will only know him from spring training, and by media reports, and even then not so much.  Yes, he was one of the heralded minor leaguers in our system, and yes when we traded him it was a shock, but I for one am very happy with the way things have gone so far with McCarthy.  I have nothing against Danks, I know many of the fans wished him well when he left and would like to see him do well, but frankly he’s not part of our team any more so I have little feeling toward him.  Danks and McCarthy have both had interesting years, and I’ll try and do a better analysis of the two later in the week.

A day off tomorrow, which is good both for Michael Young’s back and our patience.  I have a lot of thoughts I’m trying to get out about Ron Washington, I’m going to try and make a run at it tomorrow and see what happens.

Sayonara Sammy

June 21, 2007

I knew Rafael Palmeiro.  Rafael Palmeiro was a friend of mine.  Sammy, you’re no Rafael Palmeiro.

I found myself a little more excited than I expected I’d be when he hit the home run.  Not too much more, not jumping up and down whooping or anything like that.  But it was still a moment to remember.  On a scale of one to ten, where ten is Raffy’s 500th, this was about a three, instead of the one I’d have expected.  Funnily enough, I think the reactions everywhere else seem to agree with me.  ESPN.com barely covered it, certainly not right after the event, where it took them a few minutes to get a Breaking News item on their front page (and ironically, the link to the story contained a link to the boxscore of the Astros-Angels game), although later in the evening they did get it to the front page story, which was simply “he did it, now is he worthy of the Hall of Fame?”  And I have to say I am very conflicted on that.  He is only the fifth guy who hit 600, after all, and there is no real evidence that he used steroids, just rumor and innuendo.  I just don’t think I like him, he seems to be so manufactured, just not real when he’s talking to people.  It all seems so rehearsed.  But all in all, if I had a vote, I’d vote for him.

Both stories, on ESPN.com and on the Rangers website, said he was mobbed at home plate.  As we watched, we were actually quite surprised about the fact that he wasn’t really mobbed at all.  In most of the shots, I counted eight or nine Rangers at the plate, none of whom were leaping up and down excessively, and a few others on the way back to the dugout.  There really was no outpouring of emotion like when Raffy hit 500, or when other players have done similar things.  It will be very interesting to compare to Alex Rodriguez when he hits 500 sometime later this summer, how the Yankees fans treat him.  After Raffy, the game was stopped for several minutes, they unfurled the banner on the right field wall (which was shamefully removed at the end of the season, it or something like it should be there permanently) and did all sorts of stuff.  We still have the certificates they handed out after the game for attending it.  I wonder if they gave out anything like that today?  But there was no real enthusiasm, which is probably fair and reasonable, given that he’s really just a bit part for the Rangers and the Rangers are just a bit part for him.  Someone had a sign saying something like “545 for the Cubs, 12 for the Rangers, he’s still our Sammy”, and that’s completely true – he’s their’s, not ours.  Maybe Chicago will have a little celebration, at least the parts of Chicago that still like him, but there’s not that much in Arlington.

I’ve mentioned several times before that we went to every game for a week, and took photos of every pitch, so we could see Raffy hit 500.  I’ll have to dig out my photo of #500, it’s not as good as I’d like, I snapped it with the ball halfway to the plate.  We never had any intention of seeing 600 for Sosa, and now the moment is over.  How do we quietly ease him out of town (or at least out of the lineup) so we can get Jason Botts some at-bats?  I guess there should be a respectful waiting period, maybe until the All-Star break?

The Rangers sent an email tonight about him hitting it, with the obligatory links to watch the video, and to buy a Sosa shirt.  I can’t remember an MLB occasion where they didn’t link it to “give us your money”, but then again they are a commercial organization.

Great quote from one story on the Rangers site: “The Rangers beat the Cubs for the first time in Texas, to even the series at one game apiece.”  Hooray, for the first time we beat the Cubs here!  That long horrendous streak of losing to them at home is over, we can now rest easy knowing that we’re off the mark against them.  Just a little hyperbole to match theirs.

In other news, Michael Young says “I don’t want to rebuild, I want to fix it immediately. Winning is my concern. I know it’s not going to be easy, but that’s what we all signed up to do.”  Every day I get closer and closer to realizing that Michael Young will not be here at the end of his new seven year contract.  And for the first time I saw an article (on ESPN) saying that the Rangers should trade Millwood.  Maybe I’m wrong when I think the downward spiral (dare I say death spiral) has stopped?

Hicks today said he thought that Juan Gonzalez used steroids.   Yep, that’s the way to make the fans like you and the organization, knock some of our heroes down.  Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, that’s not the point.  Everything Hicks does and says seems to lower the value of the franchise, which is odd for a successful businessman to do.  Is he trying to sell the team for a loss, for tax purposes?  You know he has a reason to do everything he does.

May 11, 2003 will always mean a lot more to me than June 20, 2007.  The only thing that today will leave is a small highlight in a season of no highlights.  And as I look ahead to the rest of the year, what more do the Rangers have to play for?  No playoff challenge, no other milestones, just three and a half more months of bad pitching, fielding and hitting until we can say “wait till next year”.  Sigh.  At least Josh is still too young to know what losing is about yet.  I wish I could believe that every hit is a home run and we should always have fireworks.