Archive for the ‘Tom Hicks’ Category

JD talks trash about the Rangers

June 24, 2009

I’d say it’s time for a fisking, but I’m not going into that much detail.  Just a few thoughts on an article on the Rangers site today.

The title is “Daniels says Texas could add to ‘pen”.  That should tell you a lot.  In fact, the opening quote is “it’s more likely that he’ll be able to improve his ballclub by adding bullpen help than in any other area”.  Now, you may be right, I may be crazy, but it just may be a lot of things we’re looking for, but one of them is not bullpen help.  Why, you ask?  If I could be bothered digging out the study I’m thinking of (my guess is it’s either in The Book or on The Book Blog, about the smartest baseball site around), it shows that the worst position to trade for during a season is the bullpen.  These guys don’t pitch much, and when they do they’re prone to great variation.  You’re just as likely to pick up good bullpen help by picking random player X from AAA as you are in a trade, and you don’t even have to give up something to get it.

If the Rangers have anywhere to improve, it’s the rotation.  Millwood is pitching lights-out, because he’s got a contract to play for, and Feldman has been more than holding his own (seriously, all those scouts who talk about a “game face”, they never looked at Feldman and said no thanks?  At least one of his parents must have been a frog).  But the rest?  I mean the other seven guys who’ve started a game for the Rangers next year, they’ve been below average (Padilla, McCarthy), sucky (Harrison, Holland), or roster filler (the rest).  Mathis is doing well in AAA but couldn’t make the leap, Feliz is staying down a while longer, and the rest aren’t anywhere near.  The thoughts of contention in 2010 rapidly fade when you think that maybe Holland and Feliz will be here, with less than a year’s experience, and the rest of the touted pitchers are still far away.

So yeah, if they want to contend in ’09, they need a starter.  But then JD says “the club’s need for starting pitching is not as dire as it’s being made out to be nationally”.  Uhh, right.  You go into a season with basically the same staff as last year, a year when they trailed the world in pitching, and imagine they’re going to be great this time around.  That May thing, where they pitched surprisingly well for a month before slumping again, that was what’s known as an outlier.  June is called regression to the mean.  By the way, did you notice they did the same last year – team ERA for May ’08 was 3.90, next best month was 5.08 – what’s that about?  The May ’09 ERA was 3.57, best since May (again!) of ’05.  Did you think they could repeat?

“Daniels said his most likely direction right now is to, “probably stay the course.””  Or, in other words, to pretend that they are contenders with the team they have, since crowds are up a little and no-one seems to be noticing the glaring holes.  And, oh yeah, there’s that little thing about money.  The thing where Tom Hicks bought a whole bunch of toys (Rangers, Stars, Liverpool, the AAC, the list goes on) using Other People’s Money, and now it’s time to pay the bills and he’s being found out for the fool he is.  Along with a bunch of other financial geniuses, of course.

“Daniels, like manager Ron Washington, continues to express confidence that first baseman Chris Davis will snap out of a season-long slump that has the Rangers considering other options at the position.”  CD sucks, so get him down to AAA.  You are of course aware that he just set a record for fastest to 100 strikeouts.  He is swinging at anything, and you see the fear in his eyes.  I happened to be browsing a story from April yesterday, which said they’d signed Joe Kochansky as depth at first.  Lost him pretty quickly, and never filled the gap.  Shame, because they really need it now.  Frankly, anyone would be better than CD right now.  I wonder if Ben Broussard is available?  CD needs to go down, but they will not admit they are wrong and send him there.

“Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson has been mentioned as a possibility and Cardinals infielder Troy Glaus could become available at some point.”  Johnson will cost a lot, because the Nats suck badly, and the only way they’ll get better is by robbing someone in a trade.  And yes, Glaus could become available, just as soon as he gets into a game this year.  The Rangers will do better to give the job to Andruw Jones for the meantime.

“But one of the reasons why we’re in the position we are today is how we’re playing defense and Chris is a big part of that.”  I always choose my first baseman based on how good his glove is.  The bat, that’s kind of incidental.  I mean, he’s just one number away from being a second baseman, and no-one cares how they hit, right?

“Nobody is more frustrated than he is.”  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.  Yeah we are.

“Starting pitching could be more expensive, both in prospects and salary that would have to be added. The Rangers are reluctant to trade top Minor League prospects”.  Me too.  Really, I don’t believe the Rangers are contenders, and I don’t believe there’s only one piece out there that would make them so.  There are a lot of empty shells that look pretty, but don’t help the team as much as you might think.  I love Marlon Byrd’s work ethic, but let’s face it, he is a below average hitter and his fielding is pretty bad too.  Shame that Hamilton had to run into a wall too many, but of course he’s more suited to a corner too.

“and this could be a tough time to add salary with the current economic conditions.”  Especially when your owner was one of those morons who said “hey, property values are always going to go up, let’s gamble since it’s free money!”

I think I actually like Jon Daniels now.  He’s doing a pretty good job lately.  Okay, ignore the fact that Danks, Young, Volquez, Millwood, Galarraga would look like a fairly decent rotation.  I mean apart from that.  Clearly, in an interview like this, he’s got to say a bunch of good stuff about the team.  First of all, chances are some or all of the team are going to hear about his comments, and it won’t go over too well if he tells the truth about them.  And second, there’s all those tickets to sell, during the summer when it’s getting time for the Cowboys to start practicing.  If they can just pretend the team is contending for another month or two, they might be able to break even this year.

But never mind, it’s his job, for now at least.  Personally, if you or I gave Ron Washington an extension based on his performance this year, our feet wouldn’t touch the ground on the way out the door.  JD says he has a plan, and I have to believe him, even if I think that plan is slipping to 2011 or 2012, and depending on what they do the next few weeks, maybe even 2013.  At the very least, he’s padding his resume for a future director of scouting job.

The other thought that crosses my mind is Pedro Martinez.  Not the ridiculous rumors that we should sign him, both sides would be foolish to do that.  I actually mean the trade that took him to Boston.  Carl Pavano and Tony Armas were considered top prospects, and the initial reaction was that they paid too much for Pedro.  Wouldn’t hear that now, would you?  No, now all you’re hear is TANSTAAPP – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.  JD ought to remember that, when he’s thinking about blockbuster deals (which should be a year or two away).

And if anyone dares to mention Orlando Hernandez, I’ll be waiting for them outside with a bat in my hand.

Odds, ends, nothing to see here

February 27, 2008

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…

We got ourselves a pitcher!

February 8, 2008

Finally, after months of chasing outfielders and stacking up marginal first baseman like they’re firewood for the winter which doesn’t seem like it’s going to arrive, the Rangers addressed the gaping hole in the roster and went out and got themselves a top notch pitcher.  And it’s a blast from the past, as they bring back Nolan Ryan for yet another victory tour.  You know how successful he was in his career, all those World Series wins, part of the Rangers team that brought respectability to North Texas baseball, and so on.  So look for the good times to be rolling again, the only question being whether he’ll be considered the number one starter, or if he’ll slot into number two behind kickboxing Kevin Millwood.  I say put Ryan in the second spot, after all, he’s had a long layoff so he might be a little tired, and it’ll reduce the pressure on him, too.

What do you mean, he’s not here to pitch?  Club President?  What the hell?  You mean after all this time, when all they’ve done is bring in roster filler, this is the big announcement?  That some plenty-has-been who wasn’t even that good as a player is now back to be President?  That they neuter Jon Daniels on one hand (ewww), and give him an extension on the other just to pretend he’s still the man?

I know that Hicks has been busy with his Liverpool soccer team (if you don’t follow soccer, the quick summary would be:  borrowed too much money to buy the team; trying to build a new stadium but discovering the folks over in England aren’t as eager as the folks here are to give billionaires their money; fighting off rumors he’s already going to sell the team, to some outfit from Dubai; and hated so much by the fans that they’re trying to form their own consortium to buy him out – can you imagine 100,000 Rangers fans giving $3000 each to buy the Rangers?  That’s what their pie in the sky idea is).  But he’s apparently been so busy over there that he’s reduced to stunts like this, signing the great Nolan Ryan as president of his team.  Yes, it got him on the front page of ESPN.com, and all the local media, but that will disappear very quickly.  When the dust clears, all you’ve got is another face in the front office to take some of the heat off Hicks’ pathetic management of the team.  And just wait until he has to fire Ryan, or the contract ends and isn’t renewed – what will the media say then?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do not like Nolan Ryan.  You can talk all you like about his career, his deification by the fans, the Hall of Fame, etc etc.  Fact is, he is one of the worst pitchers in the Hall.  Fact is, all his records are counting stats, there simply because he hung around until he broke down.  Fact is, his strikeout record is more than offset by his walk record.  Fact is, he was a mediocre pitcher who pitched for a long time.  That old joke about how do you replace 16-14 Ryan?  Get two 8-7 pitchers.  It’s completely true.  Ryan’s problem wasn’t the lack of support (the first excuse that’s usually trotted out in his defense), because that was caused as much by the ballparks he pitched in (for most of his career he pitched for Houston and California, in enormous ballparks that suppressed his teammates run support as much as it reduced his own ERA).  After all, he chose the teams, and even when offered the chance to go to the Yankees he picked “home” with the Astros instead.  Ryan’s problem was that he could never let up, even a little – his gameplan was to strike everybody out, and if he had to walk them all to do it, he would.  He could have been the greatest pitcher of all time (and for those of you who think he was, well, to put it simply, you’re an idiot), but that inability to get a groundball out on one pitch instead of trying to blow six pitches by you cost him a lot.

One of my side projects has been a statistical study of Ryan’s career.  I have been working on it for several years now, and had thoughts of completing it and posting it this winter, but never got round to it.  Would have been really good timing if I had.  Maybe next winter.  It’s a multiple part series, examining all sorts of numbers related to him, everything from the stuff I talk about above down to how well his bullpen supported him.  Stick around, it should be good reading whenever I get to finishing it.
Among the jokes in the press conference was the fact that they really have no plan for him.  They couldn’t identify a structure, whether Jon Daniels reports to him or not, whether he could fire JD, or even what he is going to do.  He talked about having input on signings, and on the system, but only when it was asked for.  The whole impression that was given was that they were bringing in this figurehead, this nice old grandpa, the guy that everyone loves, and he’s going to turn around the team by doing… what?  Because with the small level of success the team has had lately (being named the fourth best minor league system by Baseball America – yes, that is the level of success the Rangers have to trumpet these days), the question has to be asked whether he is going to do anything to continue that trend, or worse, if it all falls apart is he going to be the one to get the blame?

Another laughable part was his pointing out he’d be moving his calendar around to accommodate the job.  And their point that they used this to gain credibility with the fans, after a poor season at the box office.  Ask yourself this:  how many games will you attend this year because Nolan Ryan is the team president?  If you add up every fan’s answer, you’re going to get a number pretty darn close to zero.  Better yet, maybe the team will win a few extra games this year, attendance will go up a little, and they’ll say that it was the boost by Nolan that did it.  They just don’t seem to realize, none of the rest of it matters – it’s what happens on the field that is what the fans care about.  Not some rich guy playing his little games of sports empire, and not some guy who was famous twenty year ago.  Just win, baby.

Plus ca change, plus ca Rangers GMs suck

December 22, 2007

To all the Cincinnati fans who visited my blog today:  You win.  No, really.  You might not be thinking so right now, in fact there are probably Rangers fans out there thinking they won, but I guarantee that in the long run, Cincinnati won this trade.  Oh, forget about Danny Ray Herrera, he’s nothing in this except a throw-in.  To quote Tom Hicks:  “the other owner didn’t want to do the deal so we had to sweeten it up [with Herrera]”.  You know why the other owner didn’t want to do the deal?  Because Hamilton was “a fan favorite”.  Ha ha ha!  They put in another player because the fans like their guy?  Wow, let’s trade Michael Young!  We can probably get Johan Santana for him, just because the Rangers fans love him so much!  If only Pudge was still here, we could have gotten the New York Yankees.

Edinson Volquez, though (boy, when I first read about the trade I thought they must have meant Ramon Vazquez).  He will be sorely missed by the Rangers.  Not only as the #4 starter this year, which he would have been, but because he would have been #3 the next two years and probably #2 after that.  Yes, I mean that, I think Volquez is potentially a #2 starter on a major league staff, definitely a #3.  Look at his numbers (and ignore the crap you’ll read on sites like ESPN), you will see his stats improving every single year.  Plus, and it’s a big plus, he’s only 24 years old.  He was rushed to the majors at a young age and struggled, but then turned it around and came on strong.  Unless the Rangers know something bad about him, this is the kind of loss that will come back and haunt us for years to come (am I being a hypocrite, because I’m always quoting TINSTAAPP?  No, because I think Volquez has graduated from prospect status, he’s moved into that middle ground of getting ready to explode).

And we get Josh Hamilton back.  I had Jon Daniels all figured out, he was doing some smart things all year long, but he has to go and ruin our Christmas (and next few seasons) by pulling a bonehead move like this.  Hicks, we already know he’s a bonehead.  But JD now falls in my estimation – he’s now into my “we will not win until he’s gone” category, along with Hicks and Ron Washington.  Remember the old saying?  Those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it?  JD has never read a Rangers history, and thus doesn’t know it’s the pitching, stupid.  Do you hear me, JD?  IT’S THE PITCHING, STUPID!

No, really, how did Hicks become a billionaire?  Given their propensity to buy high and sell low, how did he manage to keep all his money?  I mean, Hamilton’s probably just had his career year, and Volquez is just starting his career.  Maybe we can go get Adam Eaton back while we’re at it, maybe give San Diego another Chris Young/Adrian Gonzalez package.  This is what truly irks me, that someone who has done so well in business just becomes blind when it comes to ballplayers.  He’s not putting talent in the baseball front office like he would in his corporate office.  Either that or he doesn’t listen, which is pretty much the same thing as not having them.

We now have just a D left from the DVD trio, which ironically is the rating you’d have to give Rangers management this year.  They were pulling a solid B for a long while, but their efforts this offseason are killing their grade.  Thomas Diamond better watch out next December though, we’re determined to take them out one at a time.

What does Ron Washington think?  “It’s a very Merry Christmas that Jon Daniels and Mr. Hicks have brought to the Texas Rangers in Josh Hamilton.”  Ron, you are an ass.  The perfect yes-man.  And still living in the 70s with your career.

At the beginning of the off-season, the Rangers had Byrd, Murphy and Botts in position to play the outfield in 2008.  A little weak, maybe?  Not so much, but they could do with a little upgrading, sure.  To wipe out 2/3 of that is crazy though.  In a recent post, I showed Runs Created by position, and that both left and center were a little above average, and right was well below.  Okay, so you need someone in right (although arguably at least Botts and Murphy should improve next year), so go out and get someone if you have to.  Not Milton Bradley though.  He’s a train wreck waiting to happen.  And then bring in Hamilton, and all of a sudden one of those guys is being pushed even further back.  Anyone need a Botts?  We’ll take your leftover trash for him, and watch him become an MVP elsewhere.  Hey, who was that druggie who played for Tampa (no, not Josh Hamilton, the other one).  Wonder if he’s still around?  Him, Hamilton and Bradley, wouldn’t you like to share a clubhouse with them?

Okay, so now I’ve mentioned the big bear in the middle of the room.  Yes, Hamilton had a drug issue.  Yes, he beat it, if you can ever beat it.  But how often do you really truly beat it?  What’s the odds of a relapse?  Doesn’t really matter.  Better yet, who is worse, someone who takes a performance enhancing drug like steroids, or someone who takes a snort of coke?  At least the roider was trying to win.  Frankly, his off-field problems don’t bother me that much, until they spill onfield.  You know, like Milton Bradley’s issues?  And when a guy misses three years of his career due to drug suspensions, he’s a problem.   But look at Hamilton’s career – the most at-bats he’s had in a season is 391, and that was in 2000!  Which begs the question:  did they sign Bradley and Hamilton because between the two of them they might get one full season of playing time?

Sooner or later the screaming in my head is going to stop.  I’m betting it’ll be in a year or two, when Hamilton has washed out of the Rangers outfield (they don’t give anyone a chance there).  Or maybe after Volquez wins 20 games in a season.

Oh yeah, Eddie Guardado?  I guess we’ll have our new closer soon.  Yep, because it’s very important to get a few extra saves out of a 37 year old.  No, wouldn’t want CJ to have more experience by the time we get to winning, would we.  Let alone someone else in the pen who could have used those innings, and would be around in 2010, and still this side of a pension.

Can you tell I’m mad about this deal?  I can’t wait for their ticket people to call again and try and sell me something.  Because I’ll give them a message they won’t soon forget – and I’ll promise not to buy their season tickets until Tom Hicks and Jon Daniels are a million miles away from Arlington.

You can’t teach an old manager

August 28, 2007

Here’s a question for you: how did the Rangers get Ron Washington as their manager? After all, he’d been a coach for the team for a decade, was seen as a strong candidate the last couple of times they were looking for a new manager, and this article says that Washington was the first, best and only choice the A’s could make last October. So how, just a few weeks later, did he get the Rangers job? In fact, it was only a couple of weeks after letting Washington go to a division rival that they promoted bench coach Bob Geren to be manager. Surely they knew plenty about the two of them, and could almost certainly have had their choice, so why let Washington go to a division rival?

Moneyball, the book by Michael Lewis about the A’s 2002 season and the way the team was run, has a couple of interesting parts about Washington. Perhaps the most critical line though, is the one where Washington is quoted saying “Somebody on this team runs and get his ass thrown out and you got all kinds of gurus who tell you that you just took yourself out of the inning.” This tells you enough about him to know that he had a fundamental difference with Billy Beane, that difference being that Beane was emphasizing skills like OBP while Washington believed in speed. My guess is that was the seed (or at least one of the seeds, there were probably others we’ll never know about, but this was the most public) that made Beane know that he could never let Ron Washington run his team, because Ron Washington didn’t think the way Beane wants his managers to think.

So although he gets the Rangers job, was he even really in the running in Oakland? Or was it just a smokescreen, and Oakland was happy that he went somewhere else, with the belief that he would do the bad things that Oakland avoids with another team, and in this case he would hurt a division rival?

Now I’ve got to tell you, in case you haven’t realized from reading this blog, that I believe in statistical analysis. Yes, scouts have their place, but numbers don’t lie like scouts do. They may not lie intentionally, but they see a very small sample of someone and believe they can judge them. I, like many or most sabermetricians, look at a small sample of numbers and ask what it is telling me, and what it is not telling me. So when I look at the Rangers, and Ron Washington, I judge them through that lens, the belief that things like bunting and speed and so on are not nearly as useful as you might think.

Ron Washington, on the other hand, grew up with speed and defense, and never hit much. His career stats show he was a middle infielder, who played for several teams but mostly Minnesota in the 80s, never hit much (career OPS+ of 78, means his offense was worth 78% of the average ballplayer), had hardly any power (20 HR in 1500 AB), not much speed (career 28 steals and 18 caught stealing), and surprisingly enough didn’t field very well (his career fielding percentage was below the league average and his range factor was way below the league), considering he was renowned for teaching fielding in Oakland.

Another section in the Moneyball book quotes him as telling the author he stole 57 bases in one season, and fellow coach Thad Bosley stole 90. This has been ridiculed in various places online, since as noted above he only stole 28 bases in his career. However, looking at his minor league stats, he was probably talking about 1974, when he stole 51 bases in A ball, and I don’t begrudge him being slightly off (it’s also possible the author got the number wrong). That same site does not list Bosley’s minor league record, but Wikipedia says he did steal 90 in the minors, so that part is true. Either way, it does appear he ran quite a bit in the minors but very little in the majors.

The book Management by Baseball, by Jeff Angus (which incidentally has a very interesting blog, check it out if you haven’t already), opens with an introduction about Maury Wills. Basically it says that when managing Seattle, Wills had slow slugger Jeff Burroughs try and steal, to no avail. Wills had been an exceptional base stealer during his career, and tried to translate that to his team when managing. He considered the things he did best to be the most worthy things to do, and wanted others to do them too. This has already become apparent with Ron Washington in Texas, in that he is doing just the things he did best while playing, and ignoring the players he has and what they can do. The team is bunting and stealing much more than in the past, flying in the face of all the latest statistical analysis.

A particular incident stands out, since it was from just a day ago, but it could be taken from many other places this year. On Sunday, Ian Kinsler singled to lead off the game, and with the next batter up, Brad Wilkerson, the Rangers bunted. Admittedly, this was a successful bunt, but it gave up an out for little gain, and it was noticeable when two batters later Sammy Sosa hit a home run, scoring Kinsler, but Wilkerson was sitting in the dugout having followed his managers instructions to bunt, instead of potentially rounding the bases with the others. Now, of course, Wilkerson could have done any number of things if he hadn’t bunted, including hitting into a double play, but the Rangers went for the low percentage chance. There are various tables online showing run probabilities, but using this one you can see that with a runner on first and nobody out, a team will on average score 0.88 runs. A runner on second and one out (as in after the bunt), they will score 0.69 runs. So by choosing to bunt, the Rangers give up the chance of 0.19 runs, not much you say but over time it adds up to quite a lot. As a matter of fact the Rangers have sacrificed 47 times this year, and although not all will be in this same situation, using it as a proxy gives us about 9 runs given up, or almost one whole win based on the 10 runs for a win theory. Yes, there is a time and place for bunting (not least to keep the other team on their toes), but in the bottom of the first, why are you playing for a single run, when you should be trying to establish a big lead?

The Rangers have stolen more this year too, and pretty successfully, currently standing at 70-17 for stolen bases-caught stealing. That’s about an 80% clip, fairly well above the 70% which sabermetricians tend to accept as the break-even point, but with the small numbers involved it would only take a couple of steals to get right back to average. Again, using something that Washington supposedly excelled at, speed, he tries to model the team after himself and ignores current and future realities.

According to Jon Daniels they had a couple of great interviews with Washington, and immediately decided to hire him. I’m assuming they got into detailed information about how he would run a team, specific situations, because otherwise the only things that came out were all touchy-feely things about how he is a people person, and they were looking for that after the Buck Showalter regime went too far the other way. What did Washington tell them about managing a game, about when he would bunt, or steal, or pinch hit, or pull pitchers from the game, or how he would specifically run things? Did they hear any of that? Does Jon Daniels (or Tom Hicks) have a philosophy about running the team, or do they leave that up to the manager? JD does not have a long history in baseball, coming out of college as a management type, so it’s possible he thinks he needs to let the manager choose the philosophy on the field, and his job is just to get him players. If that’s the case, he’s going to be a weak GM, not allowing the team to reflect what he wants it to. Yes, the manager should have input, but I believe that the GM should give him a direction to head in, and if he won’t follow it then he should move on.

When Mark Teixeira left a few weeks ago, you have to wonder what he was thinking. Thanks to this recent interview with Michael Young, we know some of it.  In it, Young says that Tex can’t say enough good things about Bobby Cox.  Now, we know that Tex and Washington had a run-in, where their screaming at each other was heard outside of the manager’s office, and we know that Washington was telling Tex to do things his way.  Obviously Tex is a very good player, who knows what he is doing with a bat, and the implication seemed to be that Washington didn’t think he knew what he was doing.  How much of Tex’s decision to turn down $140 million and be traded was down to Washington?  100%?  No, not even close.  Probably not even 10%, maybe just 1% of Tex’s thought was “I don’t want to play with this guy”.  But if that’s the case, and if the same is happening with others, then Ron Washington and by extension the Rangers have a problem.  Yes, he was lauded in Oakland for his ways with the players, but he was a coach there and he is the manager here.  What’s the difference?

My personal opinion, having watched Ron Washington for just five months, is that he is not cut out to be a big league manager.  He was very successful as a coach (and oddly, when he came on board in Texas, said he looked forward to working with Blalock on his fielding, which is not something a manager should be doing, it’s the infield coach’s job).  But he seems to have ignored, willfully or not, the lessons he should have learned in a decade in Oakland.  Maybe it’s the result of being third base coach, where he doesn’t get to sit in the dugout with the manager and discuss or hear the thought processes.  Or maybe he thinks he knows it all from when he was playing, and that is the way he will always play the game.  He has little if any tactical ability, his decisions on pulling pitchers is terrible (backed by a poor pitching coach), he seems to pinch-hit at random, he clearly plays favorites and rubs some players the wrong way (my bet is that Gerald Laird will be gone by Opening Day next year), and as for the other Moneyball quote, where everything out of his mouth is something that should be in Bartlett’s Quotations, well, I haven’t heard a single thing yet.  I had little clue who he was when he was first mentioned for the Rangers job, I had to look him up online like most other people, and frankly I have little clue who he is today.

I believe he has a two year contract, which is ridiculous, it’s telling people that you don’t have much faith in someone as soon as you hire them.  That means that this winter one of three things will happen:  the Rangers will fire him (saying they didn’t see anything changing), they’ll extend him (with a bunch of platitudes about the ship moving in the right direction), or they’ll do nothing, and he’ll spend a year being a lame duck.  I will tell you right now that I think it’s 50-50 he is still the manager on Opening Day 2008, and in my opinion he is almost certainly not there on Opening Day 2009.  At this point I’m supposed to suggest an alternative, and I think Art Howe was hired as bench coach with the plan that he would take over if and when Washington failed.  He will either be interim manager at some point next season, or a strong contender for the job this offseason.

The little I’ve seen of Washington, I just can’t get into him.  He doesn’t seem to be a very warm person.  He doesn’t seem particularly managerial.  Of course I wish things could work out for him in Texas (in fact, the Showalter curse suggested we should be winning the World Series this year).  He just doesn’t seem to have a plan, or at least to communicate a plan, which means he always seems to be a step behind where we think he should be.

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.

Will it break more if you call it a breaking ball?

June 20, 2007

So Jon Daniels leads the Rangers to the worst record in baseball and gets a contract extension?  Okay, Hicks, you’re trying to show you’re behind him, but this is way the wrong time to do that.  He still had a year and a half left on his contract, you can wait until the end of the season.  That way you don’t try and distract from all your other problems.  I don’t know what the subtext to all this is, but it’s weird timing.  Maybe because I’ve been talking about firing people, you think you need to support him?  Sorry, Tom, you’re the one who needs to go, not JD.  Actually, I flip-flop on JD all the time, some days I like him, some I don’t.  I think I lean toward the idea that he hasn’t had enough time to do things yet, but I also note some of the trades he’s made have been bad.  That Chris Young/Adrian Gonzalez one is in line for a nomination as worst trade of all time, certainly for the Rangers.

Of course, Sammy is generally considered the worst Rangers trade, but I don’t know.  It’s kind of like the Bagwell thing, you project what you can when they’re that young.  And if you want excuses, well, let’s just say three strikeouts tonight made him not worth keeping all those years ago.  I prefer the sign that one Cubs fan held up, that said something like “545 HR for the Cubs, 12 for the Rangers, he’s still our Sammy”.  Yep, and you can have him.  We’ll trade him back any day of the week.  Maybe you can give up some middle reliever for him, perhaps that Marmol guy?  He looked pretty good tonight, although no-hitting the Rangers over the last five innings isn’t necessarily that great of a feat this year.

Once again, it all started with the rotation, and Tejeda was up and down and up and down all night.  He was about as inconsistent as I’ve seen him all year.  Got some interesting quotes though.  How about:  “Tejeda said he changed his approach, going after hitters with his breaking ball first, not his fastball.”  Does he have a breaking ball?  Not really, it’s a slider, and it doesn’t break that much.  If you read my post a couple of days ago about the Rangers rotation, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Does he imagine it is a breaking ball?  Does the media (in this case TR Sullivan)?  Someone needs to notice he only has two pitches, both are fast but neither break enough to fool people, which is why they can sit on it and why he has an ERA in the sevens.

Back to JD, and some of his other comments today:

“Daniels has already begun talking with other clubs about possible trades, and most of the interest has been in relievers Akinori Otsuka and Eric Gagne.”  Okay, trade them.  get something good back.  Let’s face it, the Rangers are at least a couple of years away, and need to get help for then, not keep them now.  I’ve always assumed that Gagne was a rent-a-pitcher, good for a few months then time to trade, but I hadn’t thought of Aki until now.  But why not?  Can we get some rotation help?  Probably not, unless it’s a decent prospect.  But in a couple of years CJ Wilson and Tejeda are going to be closing out games (and not necessarily in that order), so let’s use our big chips right now.

“We thought there was a window to win and we made some decisions to capitalize on that,” Daniels said.”  This, from someone who took over after the 2005 season, who’d been there for some time before that?  Come on!  That smacks of someone who really didn’t evaluate their team very well.  Either that, or an owner who wanted it to happen no matter what.  I’m surprised he didn’t go out and sign a bunch of high priced old guys, like they did in 2000.  We all saw how well that worked, didn’t we?

“Our goal is to be one of the premier development organizations in the game,” Daniels said.”  Darn it!  I thought your goal was to win the World Series.  That would be my goal.  I mean sure, develop talent that you can use or trade, but don’t say that as your goal.  I personally will not consider it a success if you’re stumbling along at 81-81, or even 85-77, even if you get twenty players on different major league teams.  I don’t want to be a feeder for other clubs.  I don’t want to develop Mark Teixeira (not that he needed developing) or John Danks and watch them walk off with other teams.  I want to win the World Series, and frankly, anything less than that is nothing.

“General manager Jon Daniels said the club will work out a program where Main will continue to get some at-bats and some work as a position player, just to keep it an option. But the primary focus will be to develop him as a pitcher.”  Oh, good, some kid we drafted as a pitcher wants to play in the field a little and we’re going to play nice and let him.  Just in case he doesn’t work out as a pitcher.  Good grief!  Just wait until he’s running the bases and slides and busts his arm up, and never pitches again.  Okay, so maybe Rick Ankiel can turn around and bat once he loses the pitching mojo, but that’s an exception, not something to aim for.  What’s the matter, Jon, are you afraid the Rangers pitchers are going to go 1-30 again in interleague play in five years?  Stop it, stop it right now.  Tell the kid he’s a pitcher and nothing else, he needs to learn how to pitch, and if he can manage to do that, then maybe we’ll see him in five years or so.  Screw around with hitting and we’ll throw in the towel right now.  By the way, we also signed second rounder Matt West (no relation, but I will buy the t-shirt if he ever makes it), and he said on tv tonight that his aim was to make it here in five years.  Dude, you’re 18, in five years you’ll be 23.  No superstars decided to wait five years before making the majors.  The correct answer to the question is “I want to be up here as soon as possible”.  The next answer is “I’m moving to third base because everyone says that’s where I will play, and Hank Blalock sucks when he’s not injured so that’s my best chance of making the big leagues soon”.  Okay, I kid about that last one.  But also, both of you, you just each got a million bucks, don’t say you’re sticking it in the bank.  Say you’re going to Vegas, or buying a Hummer, or something cool.  You’re kids, dammit, act like them!

Okay, that’s enough.  One down to the Cubs.  On the news they said that 75% of the fans were Cubs fans.  My guess would be 20%, they’re just a lot noisier than Rangers fans.  Kind of like Yankees and Red Sox fans are.  They all suck.

Dallas is burning

June 3, 2007

We drove to Houston yesterday for our niece’s high school graduation party. It was a fun time, good weather, good party, swimming in the pool, everything you could want. Except I only got to see the last couple of innings of Saturday night’s game, and missed all of Sunday. Of course, when I say missed, I really mean was almost glad that I wasn’t able to watch, based on the reports of the games and the Rangers Replay post-game show we listened to on the way home (I listened to it, Marian and Josh watched Go Diego Go – DVDs are a godsend for small children on long car trips).

So when I say Dallas is burning, I really mean that the fans were burning up the airwaves with their condemnation of the Rangers, at all levels from player to owner. I don’t think I heard a good word all night. Everyone was talking about how we need to replace the owner, the GM, the manager, the players who whine, I think I even heard something about the ballboy in there too. There was general condemnation of the players and how they are performing, and some comments about things said within the clubhouse. Mention was made that Tex and Wash have had a couple of clashes in philosophy, which to me is interesting because I side with the folks who say that Wash is the manager and his philosophy goes, and Tex needs to live with it. On the other hand, I also think that Tex is a big bopper who needs to swing the bat. And on the third hand, I say again that I now think he will be out of here by the trade deadline. More disturbing though, and I couldn’t quite follow how this came about, was the suggestion that Michael Young had said he hadn’t signed a new contract to go through rebuilding – very dark shades of A-Rod and his pathetic ways of getting out. I hope Mikey doesn’t leave too, because to me and many others he is the soul of the team.

Now, I’m in the get rid of Tom Hicks camp, but to all those people calling, I say who are you going to replace him with? Which billionaire in the Dallas area will buy the team and do a better job? Someone suggested Mark Cuban should buy the Rangers instead of the Cubs, but it was rightly pointed out that the successful owners are generally those who have one team to concentrate on, not splitting their time between varied interests like Hicks does, and you know that when push comes to shove that Cuban will favor the Mavs every time. The problem with Hicks is that he doesn’t love the Rangers, he loves the money that comes with the Rangers. You see money in the back of everything he does, talking about investing in the team, and the area, when he’s really trying to start development in Arlington that will get money coming his way. He did the same with the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas, with his Victory Plaza stuff, and that time he was going to shut it down because the City of Dallas wasn’t going to play ball and give him $70 million in tax cuts. For those of you who don’t know, at the start of the year he bought the Liverpool soccer club in England, one of the most successful clubs in the world, and made all sorts of promises to them, too. I even saw one report from England that said how he’d built a fabulous new stadium for the Rangers, and is going to do the same for Liverpool. As Rangers fans know, Hicks had nothing to do with building the Ballpark, all he did was try and commercialize it. Liverpool fans, you can take this from a Rangers (and Arsenal) fan: Hicks will try and suck every penny out of your team and your city, and to hell with the quality of what is on the field.

Next down the line is Jon Daniels. The suggestion was that he is Hicks’ man all the way, just a puppet doing what the boss says. I don’t believe all of this, but in some ways it rings true. After all, Hicks hired him and he wouldn’t do that if he didn’t think he could control JD. As to his quality, he’s already made some bad decisions (the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and the Coco Cordero trade too), and not many good ones. Yes, Gagne will make a good chip at the trade deadline, if he stays healthy. Yes, Sosa will hit 600 here, which will make the Rangers famous for five minutes. But ultimately, with only a year and a half in charge, things haven’t looked good for Daniels. I almost feel he was chosen because he wouldn’t make much money, not compared to the bags of cash they handed John Hart to mess things up. Still, he has the job, and who legitimately do you want to be the GM? Anyone available that’s willing to come here and willing to work through the problems? No, I thought not. Besides, there’s a draft in a week, are you going to replace the GM right before that? Let alone that any new GM works with the previous guy’s players for three or four years in the majors, and five or six in the minors before they get to the big leagues, so he’s largely working with talent he inherited, not bought.

I’ve talked about Ron Washington before, too. Two months in, should he be fired? No, that’s also not long enough to be a fair go. Besides, waiting in the wings for the job is Art Howe. He did nothing as a manager in his career, 6 out of 14 years with a winning record, and four of those came with an A’s team that would have won with a blind donkey managing them, since they had the trinity of pitchers to carry the load. If you’re going to tear down the team, which it appears they will, there’s not much point changing managers, because the new guy is going to be tainted with the same losing brush as the current one. May as well let Wash run out a couple of years of losing, and bring in someone new to push them over the top when the team gets better. See Showalter, Buck for this strategy (speaking of, I guess the Rangers won’t keep alive the record of teams winning the World Series the year after he is fired. I knew they should have hired and fired him the same day, we could have won it all years ago).

Then there’s the players. Who comes in, who goes out? Do you play with youth and try again, just like about five years ago? We all saw how that turned out. Or do you do what Hicks tried when he got here, buy a bunch of veterans to get it done, and watch them all fall apart? No, the secret is planning and execution, just like in anything else. Unfortunately these take time, the infamous five year plan, and they’re tearing up their plan and starting again. However, as I showed the other day, history tells us that the Rangers are primed to succeed from 2010 onwards, so maybe getting that five year plan going now will help it come to fruition then.

Another thought for the fans saying that this team is terrible. Where have you been these last few years? From 2000-2006, the Rangers had the 21st best record in baseball, out of 30 teams. That means they’re a bottom third team, or at best a less than average. It’s not like recent history is showing good things, and all of a sudden they went bad. No, recent history is showing a streak of mediocrity, punctuated occasionally by some good performances (2004), but much more often a 70-90 type of team. This year they will sink a little lower, to a 60-100 level, but that’s not that much different, is it? Maybe in perception? As I’ve said before, maybe when you sink to the level of the Royals and Devil Rays, reality hits a little close to home. Yeah, we’d all like to win, but only one team a year does, and at least the Rangers start each year with hope before falling apart, not like the Royals who are a laughing stock to everybody else.

Finally, I guarantee the Rangers don’t lose tomorrow. Yes, I know, an old joke, but it’s about all we’ve got these days. But one good thing, the Tigers come to town this week, which means the return of Pudge. If I had to pick one all-time favorite player, it would be David Justice (I’ll tell you that story another day). But Pudge would be number two. It felt to me like the Rangers had won the World Series when he won it with Florida in 2002. We’ve already agreed that we will proudly be in Cooperstown to see him inducted one day. That day is further off than the Rangers ever thought. Do you think there will be more people rooting for the Rangers or for Pudge at the Ballpark this week?