Tagged: Alex Rodriguez

Retiring A Ranger

 

 

The Classic "PADMY"

The Classic “PADMY”

Michael Young really bothers people.

I should be a little more specific. Michael Young really bothers a lot of people in the sabermetric community.

For his last few years in a Texas Rangers uniform, not so coincidentally when the Texas Rangers became a relevant team in major league baseball for the first time in over a decade, he was facetiously nicknamed “Face”, as in “Face of the Franchise.” His defensive lack of prowess at third base brought about a new term, PADMY, which stood for “Past A Diving Michael Young”. During the World Series years, he was publicly and unquestionably the leader of the Rangers clubhouse. Thus came the new nickname of derision: Leadership, expressed on Twitter just about every time a PADMY occurred or a double play was grounded into.

Yes, Michael Young was the guy the diehards loved to hate. It wasn’t always that way. In fact, it may not have ever gone there had Young quietly and without complaint moved to third base from the shortstop position when Elvis Andrus first came to the majors. After all, it was Young who volunteered to move from second base to shortstop when Alex Rodriguez departed for New York, opening the door for Ian Kinsler at second. He was a gamer then, the “anything that’s good for the team” guy. When the Rangers announced the 20-year-old Andrus would be the Opening Day shortstop in 2009 and Young would move to third, it only seemed like the right thing to do again.

Only Michael Young changed his mind. After initially agreeing to the move, he decided he didn’t like it after all. He demanded a trade, then backed down. That’s where it all started. From that point on, it didn’t matter how good Young was in the clubhouse, how much time he gave to the media or how hard he played and worked at his craft. Heck, it didn’t even matter if he hit the tar out of the ball. For one segment of the die-hard Rangers fans, Michael Young was no longer someone to be revered. And they turned on him. When the Rangers then signed Adrian Beltre after the 2010 season, things became worse. Now Young was asked to become a fulltime DH and part-time utility infielder. Again Young balked. Again he demanded a trade. Again the same segment of fans turned on him.

In between all this, there was also the potential trade that never happened, when rumor had it Young was being shipped to Colorado. Jon Daniels was the one who initiated those trade talks and Young learned about it in the media the way the rest of us do. Young’s relationship with Daniels was never the same. As for that segment of die-hard fans? They were in Daniels’ corner, because Daniels is the one who built the team into World Series contenders. All hail the GM!

Michael Young’s last two years with the Texas Rangers were not particularly good ones. He had pretty good numbers in 2011 when Texas came within an eyelash of being the World Champions. His 2012 left much to be desired. His bat speed slowed and, while he was never a home run hitter per se, he was no longer hitting very many doubles either. He was traded to the Phillies in the off-season, had a decent year for them before being sent to the Dodgers for the pennant race.

Yesterday, Michael Young decided to retire. Young and Daniels must have mended their differences, because Young will officially retire as a Ranger at a news conference today. Still, even in retirement, the haters still have to hate. Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated immediately posted this on Twitter:

 

Yep, Michael Young had the second lowest WAR of the 84 players who have a career batting average of .300 or better and over 7000 plate appearances. Haters gonna hate.

Michael Young will not be enshrined in Cooperstown. In a few years he WILL be enshrined in the Rangers Hall of Fame. For all his detractors, Young got as much out of his talent as a player could get. He set an example in the clubhouse with his work ethic. He played the game the right way. By that I mean fundamental baseball, not perfect baseball. During the decade of irrelevance from 2000 to 2009, Young endeared himself to the fans, not just because of his move from second to shortstop but because he was the steadiest player on some very bad teams. He played every day and it seemed he got a hit every day. He was always willing to talk to reporters, even when things for the team were at their worst. And he set an example for the youngsters coming up.

I came across this article yesterday about Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and what his old manager in the Rockies system had to say about him when he gave professional baseball a try (the Rangers now own his baseball rights). In the days leading to the Super Bowl, the article is presented as another example of what leadership is all about and why Wilson deserves praise for it.

It’s likely Michael Young approached baseball the same way throughout his career, yet there is a very vocal segment of fans out there that berate him for it.

For one day, today, let’s just appreciate Michael Young for the gamer that he was for 14 big league seasons. He wasn’t the best, but he was better than most.

Michael Young in better times.

Michael Young in better times.

Biogenesis and the Rangers

I heard the news today, oh boy…

ESPN’s Outside The Lines reported Major League Baseball will attempt to suspend as many as 20 players for PED use linked to the probe of Biogenesis in Florida. The clinic’s founder has agreed with MLB to basically out his clients and baseball will try to hand out suspensions accordingly.

English: A picture of Nelson Cruz.

Nelson Cruz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Texas Rangers are affected because Nelson Cruzname was in the first series of newspaper articles as a Biogenesis client. For his part, Cruz said through a representative before Spring Training even began that he didn’t do anything wrong. If that turns out as a false statement, that in itself is cause for suspension under the latest collective bargaining agreement.

The two biggest names in the probe are Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. Cruz heads the B list, along with the likes of Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. The OTL reports mention possible suspensions of as any as 100 games. That figure is mentioned only for A-Rod and Braun.

The report brings up many questions. There is no mention as to when any suspensions will come down. It only says MLB will “attempt” to suspend as many as 20 players. In other words, there will be all kinds of repercussions from this. The MLB Players Association will almost certainly mount a significant defense based on no concrete proof of use. This would likely involve the courts, which means it could drag on for a while. Even if the MLBPA fails, each player would then have the right to appeal.

I’m not going to be surprised if Cruz gets suspended but I also won’t be surprised if he isn’t. Speculation is already rampant among the fans on what Texas will do if Cruz is out of the line-up for 50 games. Would they ask Jurickson Profar to learn how to play right field on the fly? Would Mike Olt be a possibility? Or how about AAA center fielder Engel Beltre, a great defender but not a powerful bat?

I have other questions, but they go beyond Nelson Cruz. Would Cabrera and Colon be suspended again? They got 50 games last season, apparently for using the stuff Biogenesis was providing. Would a second suspension be like double jeopardy? Here’s another one. We know Nelson Cruz worked out in Florida during the off-season going into the 2012 season. The inference is he became a Biogenesis client at that time. We also know a number of names haven’t been named in the Biogenesis probe. When Cruz did those off-season workouts, he worked out with teammate at the time Mike Napoli. Could Naps, now a member of the Red Sox, possibly be involved with this? I’m not accusing him and I hope the answer is no, but the question certainly has to be asked and looked into. According to reports, Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was also a Biogenesis client, but wouldn’t face suspension because he obtained only legal products from the firm. On that basis alone, would every player named thus have a reasonable doubt defense for their activities with the firm?

Despite these reports, don’t expect any suspension decisions to come down soon. I doubt we’ll see anything happen until at least the All-Star break. Some players will then choose to fight to the end, others will accept their punishment right away. Cynical as it may be, I would expect the ones who choose to fight will mostly be players whose teams AREN’T involved in a pennant race. Clubs who are in a race would likely quietly urge their affected players to get it over with so as not to distract the team in its quest.Thus, if Cruz is suspended, he probably won’t fight it.

Oh Nellie…

I am sick to death of everything associated with performance enhancing drugs. I’m sick of hearing about PED’s, I’m sick of hearing about athletes who are using PED’s, I wish it would go away and never tarnish the sports pages of my favorite newspaper again.

I have always taken a more nuanced approach to the whole steroids and the Hall of Fame issue. I think Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame, not only because he was putting up Hall of Fame caliber numbers before his association with BALCO and steroids, but also because at the time of his use, they were not out and out banned by Major League Baseball. They may have been illegal substances as far as the government is concerned, but not according to baseball.

You want to keep players out of the Hall who were caught using after bans were put into place by MLB, then be my guest. You get no argument from me.

So now there’s an article written in a Miami newspaper. A lengthy article. Seven pages on-line long. An article that apparently shows the BALCO days still aren’t behind us. BALCO has just been replaced by the “Anti-Aging Clinic”. In particular, one of these clinics seemed to have a lengthy list of clients, including Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera, who were both suspended in 2012; Alex Rodriguez, who admitted juicing when he played with the Rangers, but has insisted he has been clean as a whistle ever since; and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers.

(Snarky comment) Nellie, if this is true, I’m afraid the PED’s you used last year didn’t enhance your performance at all. Your home runs, slugging percentage and OPS were down from 2011 and your strikeouts were way up. (End snarky comment)

English: A picture of Nelson Cruz.

A picture of Nelson Cruz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article appears to be well researched and the odds are pretty good based on what I read that the Rangers are now looking at the distinct possibility of going without Cruz for the first two months of the 2013 season. Considering how much power the Rangers lost in the line-up due to the departures of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli, this is going to make the Rangers offense look completely different than in years past.

Baseball players aren’t choirboys, we all know that. Thanks to the money that can be made by players, it’s no surprise that many are willing to cross a line in order to aid their personal bottom lines. It’s not good human nature, but it is very human and visible in all walks of life: from business people who gain in their careers even when it comes at the expense of the very customers they’re supposed to serve; stockbrokers who gain an edge from insider trading; educators who learn how to rig test results so it enhances the funding for their schools; police officers who manufacture evidence to pad their arrest stats. Every profession has cheats associated with it.

For me, this is the first time the cheating has affected my team in the present day. There have been plenty of Rangers tainted by the cloud of steroid use: among them Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco, A-Rod and Rafael Palmeiro. They all were “outed” AFTER the fact. This is today. The 2013 season. Nellie Cruz. Hypocrite I may be, but despite the nuance I have in the PED argument, it hurts that a player from MY team apparently has chosen to cross that line and affect his team’s chances due to his own selfishness.

Juan Gone, A-Rod, Canseco and Raffy using steroids didn’t affect the way I felt about them because they always struck me as the type of guys that would do something like that. Nellie has never struck me that way. I probably have more affection for Nelson Cruz than I had for any of those other four. He plays with joy. He was instrumental in starting the whole “Claw and Antlers” thing in 2010. Now I’ll never look at Nelson Cruz the same way. If he gets a suspension, which would not surprise me at all, what will my reaction be after he serves his suspension? Will I immediately forgive him and move on or will I have an instant suspicion as soon as he hits his first home run of the season? I honestly don’t know.

A Father’s Day Story 2001

Author’s Note: This will be a multiple-post day. Since it’s Father’s Day, I thought I’d re-share, for those who missed it, my Father’s Day post from 2010. Happy  Father’s Day, one and all!

June 15th, 2001. It was a Friday. Mrs. 40 Year Ranger Fan (although she hyphenates the name Mrs.Mariner Fan-40 Year Ranger Fan) approached me as we were preparing to sleep for the night.

“Honey, you know my friend (name withheld to protect the guilty)? She had a special piece of furniture made for her father for Father’s Day. It’s a guy who lives north of town and it’s a pretty heavy piece. She wants to bring it home and get it in the house before her father wakes up so it’ll be there for Father’s Day.” She then stumbled through the next sentence. “I… I kind of… Well, I kind of promised her we’d help her pick it up.”

“OK,” I said, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It did.

“We’re going to have to go over to her house at 5 AM. Don’t be upset, baby. She’s done a lot for us and I want to help her!”

“OK,” I said, already thinking about setting the alarm for 4 AM on Father’s Day.

Sunday arrives. The alarm rings at 4 AM. Groggily I take a shower and get dressed. The hot water doesn’t even begin to wake me up. We drive over to the friend’s house. When we arrive, all the lights are out at her house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The wife gets out the cell phone and calls. No answer on her friend’s cell phone. “I hate the idea of waking her father up, but I need to call her home number,” she says. Apparantly somebody answers because see tells me, “She overslept. She’ll be right out.”

I’m falling asleep in the car.

Eventually the friend comes out, carrying her 4-year old son and some other stuff. I’m not paying much attention. I’m just sleepy.

The missus tells me to get into her friend’s car. I comply. The friend puts the 4-year old in the back seat with me. He’s as sleepy as I am. While I note it, I don’t think anything of the fact that the friend’s mother and father are standing right there on the front step. I may have thought that the surprise for her dad must be ruined since he’s seeing her leave, but that was about it. I pay no attention to what the wife is doing as she’s putting things in the trunk.

We depart in the friend’s vehicle and head north. We reach the next town and continue heading north. After 15 minutes or so we have cleared the northern border of said next town. Wearily, I ask, “Where is this piece of furniture, in Falfurrias (about an hour away)? My wife turns around in the front seat.

“Actually, we’re not going to get a piece of furniture.”

“What are we doing then?”

“We’re going to Houston to see the Astros-Rangers game.”

“Yeah, right. Houston is six hours away.”

“I’m serious, baby. We’re going to Houston to see the Astros-Rangers game!”

“I can’t go to a game. I don’t have the right clothes to go to a ball game! I need a jersey and a cap”

“I already packed it. I can’t believe I pulled this off. You didn’t have a clue!”

She was right. I didn’t have a clue.

We drove six hours to Houston to what was still Enron Field at the time. On the way, I opened Father’s Day cards from my wife and our one remaining son at home. My son gave me a book on major league ballparks. When the 4-year old woke up we got acquainted. I was glad to talk to someone who was as clueless as I was.

We met up with a friend of the friend in front of the ballpark and took our seats, upper deck on the third base side. The Rangers started Darren Oliver against the Astros Scott Elarton. We scored a run in the top of the first on a Ruben Sierra sac fly, but the ‘stros came back in the bottom of the first with a solo shot by Craig Biggio.

Biggio struck again with his second homer of the game in the third inning. It stayed 2-1 Astros until the top of the 5th when Pudge Rodriguez knocked in a run with a single and Alex Rodriguez followed with a three-run shot to make it 5-2. A 9th inning sac fly by Bo Porter (who I don’t even remember) closed out the scoring and the Rangers won for me on Father’s Day 6-2.

After the game, we started filing out of the park. We were close to the wall looking out over the street and the 4-year-old accidentally drops his souvenier 12-inch bat over the side. Thank goodness it didn’t hit anyone! We drove home and I was back at work the next day following a one day 12-hour road trip with a three hour game in between.

While it was the first time I discovered that I don’t recover as quickly from one day road trips as I used to, it was an unforgettable Father’s Day surprise. Thanks, honey!

Countdown To Valentines Day

We’re in the famous Dead Zone of the off-season. Most of the free agents are signed, trades are few and far between, Spring Training is still a couple weeks away. Not much going on.

We are, however, mere days away (12 to be exact) from Valentines Day. Rangers fans actually don’t want to hear any news on Valentines Day because, if there is, it can mean only one thing: the Rangers and Josh Hamilton couldn’t come to a contract agreement and his case will be heard by an arbitrator on the 14th.

 

Hamilton Valentine Calendar.jpg

Hamilton is a tricky case in that his troubled past could mean he never gets in the rarefied contract air of the A-Rods, Cliff Lees and Albert Pujols of the world. The reigning MVP had an incredible season in 2010, but still has a ton of what-ifs hanging over his head- what if he relapses… what if he continues having health problems… what if he can’t string together back to back great seasons.

Hamilton is already 29 years old, an age where most stars get the best contracts they’re ever going to get, but Hamilton is just in his first arbitration year. He won’t reach free agency until he’s 32. By then, he could get an Adrian Beltre type contract, which would be pretty darn good, but not in the upper startosphere of salaries.

Here’s where we stand right now. The Rangers are offering between 8-9 million, Hamilton’s asking for 12 million. The Rangers haven’t had to go to arbitration in about nine years, so there is definitely talking going on right now between the two parties. The big question is, for how much and for how long?

My feeling is the Rangers sign Hamilton before the Valentines Day arbitration date and that he signs for three years at about $36 million- $10 million in ’11, $12 million in ’12 and $14 million in ’13. It could be he’ll sign for two years, hoping if he stays healthy both years, he’ll get that one shot at the “real” money contract. I just don’t want a Valentines Day disappointment of an adversarial meeting of the front office and the team’s premium player.

On a more fun note, the trailer is out for the 2011 version of MLB: The Show and it features the Rangers in all their glory. Check it out if you get the chance: http://www.ign.com/videos/2011/01/31/mlb-11-the-show-gameplay-trailer?objectid=95027

Post Season Hardware Version 2.0

In a not unexpected development, Josh Hamilton was named American League MVP today. He’s the 5th Ranger to win MVP honors, the last being A-Rod back in the Dark Ages of Rangers history.

When you hit .359 and win the batting title by over 10 percentage points, you know you’ve had a special season. Hambone even had a three-month span where he hit around .400.

Even as a Rangers fan, though, I’m not sure I would have given my vote to Josh if I had a vote in the matter. That’s just because I make a distinction between someone being named Most Valuable Player and Player of the Year. Hamilton is Player of the Year in my book for sure. He had a storybook season and only Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano came close in my opinion.

To me, though, the MVP is someone who was so instrumental in his team’s success that it’s doubtful they would be where they finished had it not been for them. As good as Hambone’s year was, he was also on a team with the likes of Vlad Guerrero, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz. When Hamilton missed most of the last month of the season, the Rangers still managed to find ways to win without him.

For me, Jose Bautista would be the guy that fit the true description of Most Valuable Player. Where would the Blue Jays be without Bautista coming out of nowhere to put up the numbers he did? The Blue Jays put together a respectable 85 win season in the always tough AL East and even came close to sending the Red Sox down to 4th place in the division.

I won’t quibble, though. Hamilton is deserving of the award and I couldn’t be happier for him (well, I could be happier for him, but that would have required the Rangers winning the World Series too!). Way to go, Josh. Let’s hope for a full injury-free season encore in 2011!

And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

The Morning After

alcsnumber6204.jpgAll photos from The Associated Press.

After a celebratory night, I can now write a little bit about Friday night’s pennant clinching victory.

During the course of the day, I was astounded by how many people told me emphatically that the Rangers would win Game 6. People at my office, people at my wife’s office, my kids, everyone seemed more sure than I of a Rangers win.

Being so used to this team not performing to expectations, I was having visions of Phil Hughes pitching the way he has before against Texas instead of the way he pitched in Game 2. And, I had seen Colby Lewis so many times in July and August get little run support and end up giving up the first runs. Those runs often turned out to be the winning runs. All I could do was hope against hope for a similar result to Game 2.

It started right off the bat, with an Elvis Andrus double, a Josh Hamilton single and a Vlad Guerrero groundout, his first RBI of the ALCS, in the bottom of the 1st.

I started feeling better. Unfortunately, the Rangers stopped hitting after that. Hughes didn’t allow any hits in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th. Lewis was matching Hughes, actually having a no-no through 4. Still, the Yankees were hitting some incredible shots, just right at people. Andrus skyed like Kobe Bryant to snag one sure double to end an inning. Ian Kinsler scooped up a hot Robinson Cano shot to turn an inning-ending double play and there were a couple of warning track shots as well.

When it was still 1-0 going to the 5th, I was getting worried. It didn’t help my mood that Michael Young came up twice to that point with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs and not only couldn’t cash in the run, he couldn’t advance the runner, either. Then the Yankees started intentionally walking Hamilton, daring Guerrero to beat them instead. Vlad failed to deliver.

Finally, the Yankees got some hits and tied the game at 1 in the 5th. Texas had Derek Holland warming in the pen. It looked like Lewis might be done. That sinking feeling was hitting me big time. Cliff Lee or not, I really didn’t want there to be a Game 7, but it was looking like the defending champs were gaining momentum.

Lewis managed to work out of the jam with no further scoring when he struck out Marcus Thames with a runner on second. Tie game.

Now the question was, could Phil Hughes have a shutdown inning? He hadn’t given up a hit since the first. Mitch Moreland started it off with a grounder deep in the hole to Cano. Hughes didn’t get to the bag in time and Moreland was on. An Andrus groundout with Moreland going put a runner on second with one out. Again, Michael Young came up with a runner in scoring position and less than two outs. Again, Young didn’t get a hit. Again, an intentional pass to Hambone to bring up Vlad.

Different result.

Guerrero sent a deep shot to left center, scoring Moreland and Hamilton and the Rangers were back on top 3-1. Phil Hughes’ night was over. David Robertson came in and, after five straight curveballs, threw Nelson Cruz a fastball that was promptly deposited into the left center field seats. 5-1 Rangers.

That sinking feeling was gone. We were really going to win this thing! Lewis worked a 1-2-3 6th inning. Feeling better.

I knew for sure it was over in the top of the 7th. Robinson Cano, who had killed Rangers pitching the entire series, not only struck out, he did it badly on a curve in the dirt. The life was gone from the 2009 champs.

Lewis came back for the 8th and, with one walk included, struck out the side to end his night: 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 3 walks and 7 K’s.

Neftali Feliz came in to pitch the 9th and how fitting was it for Rangers fans for the game to end with Alex Rodriguez taking a called third strike?

alcsnumber6208.jpgA-Rod, whom the Rangers signed for that mammoth quarter billion dollar contract in 2003. The one who was supposed to take the Rangers to the Promised Land. To be fair, any player would have taken the contract. It was former owner Tom Hicks who overspent on A-Rod, thus handcuffing the team for years from making significant free agent investments. Still, Rodriguez’ comments when he left the Rangers about how it was him “and a bunch of kids” left a sour taste in Rangers fans’ mouths.

Well, guess what, folks? A-Rod really did lead the Rangers to the Promised Land. He just did it with a strikeout instead of a home run!

Hamilton was given the ALCS MVP award. He had a great ALCS and his 5 intentional walks in the series (3 in Game 6 alone) is certainly all the proof one needs for Josh to win the AL MVP Award this year. Still, I think I would have given the award to Andrus. Elvis was a key in every early offensive rally the Rangers had this series. He had a hit in every game, his baserunning disrupted the Yankees from the get go and he made some incredible plays defensively, including the force out at 3rd in Game 4 that kept the Yankees from having a big inning. I’m happy for Hamilton, though.

And how about the whole concept of “TEAM” shown in the post-game show. When they interviewed GM Jon Daniels about “HIS” success, Daniels immediately pointed to the scouts and advance men under his wing, singling them out for praise first. When Hamilton was awarded the MVP, you could see him mouth to someone (or to the entire team) “You deserve this.” He then thanked God and Jesus first, and made it all about the team second before even talking about himself. How refreshing in these days of spoiled athletes!

There’s only one thing I regret about the ALCS. It sure would have been nice to see Andres Blanco get into a game. Blanco has been with the team from the start of the season and really earned his spot on the post-season roster when he filled in for Ian Kinsler so ably on his second trip to the DL. I sure hope Blanco gets some AB’s in the Fall Classic.

All that’s left to decide now is who the Rangers will be playing. Both the Phillies and the Giants have great pitching staffs. The Phillies have the better offensive team. Despite the bats, though, I’d have to say my choice is Philly. The reason? Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Two possible Hall of Famers. Tough as they come. Still, the Rangers know both of those pitchers a lot better than they know the Giants Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and company. The Rangers have faced Halladay, Oswalt and Brad Lidge many a time over the years and will be able to game plan against them better.

In the end, though, it matters not who they face. What matters is THE TEXAS RANGERS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!

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