It started with Chi Chi and continues with Gobbles.
Just a few days ago, the Texas Rangers decided Phil Klein wasn’t the answer for the fifth spot in the Texas rotation. With the Rangers suddenly going from afterthought to Wild Card contender, they also decided Ross Detwiler wouldn’t reclaim the slot when he returns from the disabled list.
Instead they went with Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, one of the Rangers’ top prospects. The Rangers really wanted Gonzalez to stay in AAA for all of 2015, with the only possible major league service coming with September call-ups. But the Rangers started winning. And winning some more. Before anyone realized, a 7-14 April record had become a 24-24 record. The offense came alive, hitting home runs with abandon. Suddenly national writers started noticing the Rangers and proclaiming they could be contenders (some of us had a feeling they could be long before this but we’re just homers).
With the Rangers surging, the decision came down. Instead of a consistently inconsistent #5 starter like Detwiler, a pitcher with more upside was essential. Gonzalez, it was felt, might take some lumps but he’ll learn from it. And when he’s good, he’ll be better than Detwiler at his best.
Gonzalez proved that his first time out. Facing the Red Sox, all he did was spin 5 1/3 hitless innings before David Ortiz laced a double to left center. Ortiz applauded the rookie after he reached second. General Manager Jon Daniels says Gonzalez is not just a couple of starts pitcher. The rotation spot is his to lose, which will make for some interesting times when one of Matt Harrison, Derek Holland or Martin Perez is ready to go. Harrison begins a rehab assignment this week.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s breathtaking walk-off win against the Sox got tempered by the loss of Adrian Beltre for 2-3 weeks with a sprained left thumb. Pulling another surprise out of his hat, Daniels announced #1 prospect Joey “Gobbles” Gallo would replace Beltre at third. Unlike Gonzalez, Gallo will stay with the Rangers only as long as Beltre is out, then he’ll go to AAA Round Rock.
Gallo hits home runs. Lots of them. Majestic shots you won’t forget. I saw him hit one in Corpus Christi a year ago and it was a sight to behold. Gallo has 9 homers this season after hitting 40 each of the past two seasons. He also strikes out a lot and his defense will never be compared to Beltre’s. He does, however, get the chance to experience big league pitching for the next 14 to 21 days. If he hits .400 with 8 home runs in that time span, maybe he won’t go back down. If he does that, it’ll be interesting to see who the odd man out will be.
If I had my druthers, I’d put as little pressure on Gallo as possible and bat him 7th in the order, maybe even 8th. Hitting him higher gives manager Jeff Bannister a conundrum. With Beltre gone, Texas could go with 5 lefthanded hitters in a row: Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Josh Hamilton, Mitch Moreland and Gallo. Despite the potential power there, it also makes it easier for opposing managers to use their bullpens against the Rangers. No situational lefties here. Get one southpaw and he could go for almost two innings. Put Gallo 7th or 8th and you can split it up just a little.
Another fresh face arrived on the scene last week in Hanser Alberto. Alberto is one of the best defensive infielders in the minors of any club but lately, he’s also been hitting a ton for Round Rock. Along with some guy named Josh Hamilton, Alberto’s impact on Texas was immediate, hitting .364 in his first three games with a triple and 3 RBI.
The new generation of Rangers is coming and there are more on the way. This team may be getting ready for another good 3-4 year run.
Just a little over two months ago, Jon Daniels answered questions from fans at the annual Texas Rangers FanFest. At the time, Josh Hamilton’s self-reported relapse had not been reported, but there were rumblings Hamilton might be on the trade block. One fan asked Daniels if there would be any interest in the Rangers making an offer. Daniels, who is known for never commenting on moves before they’re made, let out a laugh and answered in one word: No.
This wasn’t a deflection or even a bluff. It was as categorical a “No” as ever came from Daniels’ mouth. He had not one bit of interest in re-acquiring the services of the Rangers best player in the 2010-2011 World Series teams.
Yet here we are, just a few months later, holding a press conference and re-introducing Josh Hamilton to the DFW (and national) media.
This is NOT a Jon Daniels move. This one came from up top, from ownership itself. Arte Moreno of the Angels and Bob Simpson talked on the phone and made a deal. They ran it through MLB and suddenly, Josh Hamilton is a Ranger again.
It’s a very club-friendly situation. The Rangers are only on the hook for about $6-$7 million of Hamilton’s salary over the next three years. Moreno is chipping in about $60 million, more or less, over the same stretch.
While it isn’t a Jon Daniels move, because the money is so little it IS a classic Daniels type of move: low risk, high reward. Daniels has loved getting players on the cheap. Sometimes it’s worked, like with Vlad Guerrero in 2010, Colby Lewis in 2010 and Neal Cotts in 2013. Other times it hasn’t, like with Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, Manny Ramirez and Carlos Pena.
I don’t know what to make of the Hamilton situation. I know the Rangers are probably the best team equipped to handle his personal issues, but the Rangers are a baseball team, not a rehab facility. I know Hamilton isn’t the player he was in 2010-2011 and at 34, his best years are officially behind him. As much as the Metroplex loved him in the World Series years, they have bitter memories of the way he performed in his last weeks with the team on the field followed by some ill-advised comments he made after signing with the Angels. He’s also shown that he’s always taken his God-given talent for granted and hasn’t been able to make the adjustments needed to compensate for the deterioration of those skills.
But I also know he has more home run potential at Globe Life Park than the Big A in Anaheim and, even with diminished skills, can probably man left field more capably than Jake Smolinski, Carlos Peguero and Ryan Rua, both offensively and defensively. If he doesn’t pan out, it hasn’t cost the Rangers much money at all. If he does, Arte Moreno’s paying him to play for his team’s rival, which could really blow up in his face.
It’s still going to be at least three weeks or a month before Hamilton puts on a Rangers uniform again for an actual game. There’s a lot of time between now and then. The only thing for certain is this: People are going to be watching the Rangers again, if only to see how this new relationship works out.
Back and refreshed from vacation. The wife and I spent a week in the Pacific Northwest, spending three days in Victoria, BC and another three days in Seattle. My wife being the kind sort she allowed me to have two hours to support my baseball fix, so we went in 50 degree coolness to a tour of Safeco Field, home of division rivals the Seattle Mariners.
I would love to include the sounds of Safeco Field a few weeks before Opening Day but sadly, that wasn’t in the cards. Who wouldn’t want to hear the sound of power washers going full blast? Our tour guide informed us that the Mariners were in full stadium preparation phase already and that included power-washing every brick, stone. iron and concrete in the stadium to get it clean as a whistle for the first game of the season. The loudest sound came when we were on the patio in the upper deck. Enjoy the view of this picture and envision the hum of engines and force-fed water at 100 decibel while doing so:
Enjoying my new Smartphone, I enjoyed playing with the panorama setting which shows the stadium in all its glory:
Down on the field, the bases weren’t in place yet. In fact, the infield was far from ready:
But the grounds crew was already hard at work:
What ballpark tour doesn’t love to show fans the luxury suites. I won’t show a shot of the owner’s suite, but here’s what greets every luxury suite attendee when they get off the elevator:
The Press Box is the Press Box, except for one thing at Safeco: The windows are open and foul balls fly through on a regular basis because the netting behind home plate is lower than anyone else’s netting in the bigs. Every year Safeco has to patch up the walls there. However, they do have a frame they put over one dent that never gets fixed:
Because I like the odd, I took this snap outside the umpires dressing room. You’ll find all kinds of official MLB policy signs posted at stadiums across the country. These are mostly rules the media has to follow as it pertains to umpires:
The Visitors locker room is just about ready. The locker room itself IS ready. What you don’t see off to the left of this picture is where the visiting teams eat. That room was piled high with boxes when we were there:
Here’s what the players see when they turn around at home plate:
The unexpected fun part came when our guide was telling us about the retractable roof at Safeco. While he was talking, I looked up. It was almost imperceptible at first, but the longer I looked up the more I realized the roof was closing as he was speaking! This even took our guide by surprise. Turns out we were there on the day they were testing the roof for the first time. I got a bit of it on video. If you look at the actual roof, you probably won’t really notice it. Instead, check out the shadow as it covers up the pitcher’s mound:
Finally, I loved the sculpture at the left field entrance. As you can see, my wife is quite a catch!
This was our third ballpark tour, following Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Fenway Park. All three have things the others didn’t. Safeco was the first that let us go into the locker rooms. RBiA used to do it but apparently once someone stole a jersey from Josh Hamilton‘s locker so they stopped allowing it. On the other hand, the RBiA tour included the batting cages, while Fenway let you see their Hall of Fame and sit in the Green Monster seats. I give the Mariners kudos on their ballpark tour.The guide was very knowledgeable and even in the off-season, the park is beautiful. The team is still probably no better than third place in 2014.
Now we’re just two weeks away from the regular season and I’d like to announce a couple changes/additions. I’ve changed the URL for the blog so I can tie everything together a little better. The new URL is: mlblogsonestrikeawaytwice.wordpress.com. You can follow me on Twitter at @RangersBlogger and I now have a Google + page called One Strike Away…Twice! Follow me anytime and get ready to PLAY BALL!
Our top story: Jon Daniels is a “sleazeball.”
That, of course, according to the dearly departed Ian Kinsler, now plying his wares for the Detroit Tigers. In a story for ESPN: The Magazine, Kinsler was quoted as calling Daniels a sleazeball and expressed his hope the Rangers would finish 0-162 this season.
Needless to say, it was bound to make the national headlines because of the old axiom: “Thou shalt always complain when athletes and managers use manager-speak but thou shalt complain even louder when a player or manager doesn’t use manager-speak.”
We fans just love to complain about everything and our wonderful media folks are more than happy to feed our appetite for complaining. Ian Kinsler, thus, was a gift from God.
But really? This is all we have to complain about?
Sure, Kinsler said his comments about Daniels were taken slightly out of context. That was proven as bunk when his exact words were played back today on Buster Olney’s podcast. Still, what’s the big deal here? I like the job Jon Daniels has done in building the Texas Rangers franchise to a year-in, year-out contender. Daniels is not 100% infallible, though. He subscribes to the notion you should get rid of a player a year too soon than a year too late. Thus he’s burned bridges with quite a few players over the years: Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli. All felt disrespected by the Rangers GM when their times came. It’s the nature of the job. So when someone who signed a club-friendly long-term deal, only to get traded in the middle of it, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them miffed at their former boss. Maybe he shouldn’t have called him a sleazeball publicly, but I’ll bet there’s no shortage of players in major league baseball who haven’t felt the exact same way about a GM they once worked with.
Then there’s the wish for the Rangers to go 0-162. So what? I’m a Rangers fan and I would love to see the Angels finish 0-162. The Mariners, A’s and Astros too. Probably the Yankees as well. It ain’t gonna happen but it’s a fun thing to wish for.
Kinsler opened another tempest in the article, putting himself square on the side of Nolan Ryan and against Jon Daniels and said it was Daniels’ ego that caused the rift that eventually led to Ryan’s departure from the Rangers. That brought both sides of fans on that debate back into the open debating each other and calling each other names. For what? Why is it so hard for Daniels fans to acknowledge that Ryan had at least a little to do with the growth of the Rangers organization to where they are today. And why can’t the camp of Ryan supporters give props to the work of Daniels and the scouting department for their role as well? I like Daniels, I liked Ryan. They both did and have done great things for the Rangers. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
If you’re a Rangers fan, what you should really get upset about with Kinsler is the comments he made about Michael Young‘s leadership, the change in the clubhouse in 2013 and his own lack of desire to fill the leadership void left by Young’s departure. I get that there are some people for whom mentoring and leadership come naturally. For others it’s hard. For Kinsler it was hard. Ian won’t ever be a Michael Young type in the clubhouse, but to say he just wanted to focus on playing hit me the wrong way. Josh Hamilton was (and probably still is) the same way. Every team needs at least one person who helps bring the group together. Michael Young was once that player- always mentoring, comporting themselves in a professional manner and even motivating others by example by getting the absolute most out of his physical abilities day in and day out. Kinsler didn’t like that role. The problem with that is, if everyone has that attitude, there’s nothing to help glue it all together. If that’s truly the way Kinsler feels, I’m kind of glad he isn’t a Ranger anymore. I don’t want someone who refuses to switch positions for the betterment of the team. Be upset about it, sure. Even tell us you don’t like it. But be a TEAM player in the end. Someone helped you when you got to the bigs. Pass it on. ESPECIALLY when it’s best for the team.
I don’t blame Kinsler for his feelings about Jon Daniels or his wish for his former team to fall apart without him. Just don’t tell me you don’t want the responsibility that comes with being a veteran. That’s the area where Ian Kinsler needs to grow up.
In 2012 with the Texas Rangers, Uehara threw 36 innings, allowing only 20 hits, 3 walks, 43 strikeouts, only 7 earned runs and a 1.75 ERA.
In 2013 with the Boston Red Sox, Koji tossed 74.1 innings, allowing only 33 hits, 9 earned runs, 9 walks and 101 strikeouts with a 1.09 ERA and 21 saves.
In two post-season series in 2013, the amazing Koji has pitched nine innings, allowing one run on only 5 hits with no walks and 13 strikeouts, compiling a win, a loss and 5 saves. He was the Most Valuable Player in the ALCS series against the Detroit Tigers and is now headed to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
By all accounts, Koji Uehara has had a pretty amazing last three years of baseball. And that really irritates me.
Because between his 2011 season with the Baltimore Orioles and his 2012 season with the Texas Rangers came the 2011 trade that brought him to the Texas Rangers in the first place. Orioles fans sure remember that trade. They got Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter out of it. Texas got what they were sure was going to be their 7th inning set-up guy to steamroll their way to the 2011 World Series Championship. They were willing to pay a steep price for it.
Nobody knows what happened. We do know Koji really loved being in Baltimore and was maybe a little stunned with the trade. If it was missing Baltimore or a physical issue, nobody knows for sure. What we do know is the Koji Uehara described above was not the Koji Uehara the 2011 Rangers got. His numbers for Texas in 2011? 18 innings pitched, 13 hits, 1 walk and 23 strikeouts. So far so good. Unfortunately, 5 of the 13 hits were home runs, accounting for most of the eight earned runs charged to him. Uehara compiled a 4.00 ERA with Texas. It got worse. He appeared in three post-season games in 2011, once against Tampa Bay and twice against Detroit. In the ALDS vs. the Rays, Uehara allowed 3 runs on a walk and two hits, one a home run. He failed to get an out. His two games against Detroit resulted in two runs allowed, both on home runs. Uehara did manage to retire four Detroit batters. Koji was so bad for the Rangers that when it came time to set the World Series roster to face the Cardinals, his name was not found, replaced by Mark Lowe.
The name of this blog is “One Strike Away…Twice!” It describes how close the Texas Rangers came to winning the 2011 World Series in Game 6 against St. Louis. After Neftali Feliz blew the save in the 9th inning (with the help of a horribly played fly ball to Nelson Cruz), the Rangers took the lead on a Josh Hamilton home run in the 10th. The Cards tied it back up in the bottom of the 10th and won it on a home run leading off the bottom of the 11th. The Rangers pitchers who faced the Cardinals in the 10th and 11th were Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe.
If the Koji Uehara at the end of 2011 was the same Koji Uehara that started 2011 in Baltimore and the same Koji Uehara that major league baseball has seen in 2012 and 2013 with the Rangers and the Red Sox, I can’t help but think the Texas Rangers would have been the World Series Champions.
If the Red Sox go on to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, Koji Uehara may very well haunt the rest of my days as a Texas Rangers fan.
- Unflappable Koji nets ALCS MVP honors (mlb.mlb.com)
- HBT: Koji Uehara is your ALCS MVP (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Koji Uehara Receives Champagne Shower During Red Sox’ Celebration After Advancing to World Series (Video) (nesn.com)
Dear Houston Astros Fans,
You know it’s been a tough season when you’ve been mathematically eliminated from the pennant race before September even arrives. That’s where you found your team Tuesday. Making matters worse, it looks like 2013 will be the third consecutive season your team has lost over 100 games and, thanks to your minuscule payroll and despite no local over the air or cable TV coverage in the Houston market, your new owner will be turning the biggest profit of all 30 big league teams this year. At least, that’s what the folks at Forbes Magazine say.
Why am I telling you all this? Is it because I, as a Rangers fan, want to rub it in? Nope. I actually want to tell you to hold your head high and enjoy the rest of this season. The fact is, if you’re an Astros fan right now, you are a die-hard because nobody in his or her right mind would want to keep watching this team lose over 100 games year after year. I know. I’ve been a Texas Rangers fan for over 40 years now.
That’s why I want to tell you to embrace this team. Be glad you have found Jose Altuve and Jason Castro. They’re your version of Cecil Espy, Geno Petralli, Pete O’Brien and Oddibe McDowell– players who were supposedly the next best thing ever to wear a Texas Rangers uniform but only turned out to be yet more cogs in the Rangers history of sub-.500 teams. But they were MY guys and they helped pave the way for better guys to come. They were the ones who, on the odd nights when they rose to the occasion, kept giving me optimism that the team had turned the corner and good times were on the way. Altuve and Castro are two of those players who help you see brighter times ahead and I can guarantee you do have brighter days ahead.
All of your full-season minor league teams made the playoffs in their respective leagues this year. The Astros have a very strong farm system and soon those players will contribute on the big-league level. I will make a bold prediction to you Astros fans. I think the Astros will be competing for an American League West title again BEFORE the Los Angeles Angels do the same. The Angels have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Despite their massive TV money, they’ll be paying Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols big bucks long after their effectiveness has gone. They’ll have to pony up more bucks in a couple of years to keep Mike Trout and thanks to that bad minor league system, have no big chips to trade for established help. No, Astros fans, you may be on a 3-year 100+ loss streak now, but three years from now I bet you’re a force in the AL West. I think the Rangers still will be as well and that’s going to make for some intense battles for the Silver Boot.
When your team comes back and they WILL come back, it is years like 2013 you are going to remember. It is those years that will make the success taste even sweeter. I guarantee it because three years ago, this lifetime Rangers fan got to experience it for the first time. When Texas went to back to back World Series in 2010 and 2011, the likes of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler and pitchers like Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz made all the years of following Scott Fletcher, Don Slaught, Charlie Hough, Jeff Russell, Pete Incaviglia, Benji Gil and Kevin Mench worth it.
People who climb on the bandwagon may get excited when the team they just adopted go all the way (or almost all the way), but the pure JOY belongs to us old-timers, the ones who weather through all the bad years first. That’s why I implore you, Astros fans, to embrace this bad team. Go out to Minute Maid Park in September with no hope and make your owner even richer this year. Come September 1st when rosters expand, you’ll also start seeing the first glimpse of the future Astros, the ones who just might take you back to the heights, the players you’ll adopt as your own just as you love Jose Altuve and Jason Castro now.
I’m not going to apologize or feel bad about my team being 14-2 against your team this year. I’m just going to look forward to two or three years from now when that 14-2 is 8-8 and there could be one big three-game series that will decide the AL West title. Now that’ll be fun. Oh, and thanks for sending us Travis Blackley.
- At least Siri likes the Astros (chron.com)
- Report: Astros on track to make $99 million this season (chron.com)
It must be because the Texas Rangers front office is trying to appeal to the bi-polar community. How else to explain what goes on in the realm of Rangers baseball these days. There’s no telling what team will show up. First there’s the Rangers team that came out of the All-Star break and proceeded to get swept by the Orioles, split four with the Yankees, then got swept again by the Indians. Now you have a Rangers team who does the sweeping, taking three in a row from the Angels, each one in walk-off fashion. First there was Monday night, when Texas trailed 3-2 going into the 9th, promptly tied it on an A.J. Pierzynski home run and, two outs later, sealing the deal with this shot from Geovany Soto:
Tuesday night, it started with Adrian Beltre hitting a 2-out, 2-strike single to bring home the tying run in the 9th, sending it to extra innings when it was Leonys Martin‘s turn to set off the fireworks:
Finally, Texas celebrated my birthday by having Beltre lead off the 9th in a 1-1 game:
Three wins, all by walk-off home runs, the first time that feat has happened in MLB since 2004. Yes, it was a sweep over the Angels, who have now sunk into 4th place with the loss of Albert Pujols for the season, but consider this. With the exception of C.J. Wilson‘s pitiful performance on Tuesday, everything pointed to this being a good series for the Angels. 1) Jered Weaver and Jerome Williams provided two excellent starts- a combined 14.2 innings pitched with only 2 runs given up; 2) Mike Trout was even more Mike Trout than usual: 6 for 6 with 4 walks in the first 2 games alone; 3) Josh Hamilton actually resembled the Josh Hamilton the Angels thought they were getting when they signed him. Hamilton went a combined 5 for 11 with a double, a home run, 7 RBI and 3 walks; and 4) the dominant Rangers bullpen was extremely ordinary on Tuesday, getting torched for 5 runs. The Angels got all that and they were still swept.
By the way, I know Hamilton has been bad, but you can’t prove it by the Rangers. Against every other team in MLB, Hamilton is hitting .209. Against his old team, the Rangers? .389 with a .978 OPS.
Also of significance, Texas for the first time in a month gained ground on the front-running Oakland A’s, going from 6 games behind to 4, with a big weekend series coming up in Oakland. The August schedule favors the Rangers, so this race could be getting tighter again after what appeared to be a Rangers free-fall.
Oh, and the best part? Not only did I get to enjoy a Rangers sweep of LA this week, my beautiful wife surprised me at work with this piece of edible art for my birthday:
Sure, there are storm clouds on the horizon. All indications are Nelson Cruz faces a suspension soon in the Biogenesis scandal, though some reports indicate he will appeal; Lance Berkman is contemplating retirement as his knees continue to be a problem; Manny Ramirez is not considered major-league ready and may find himself released in the next couple of weeks; and Texas found no willing partners at the July 31st trade deadline and can only hope they can grab some players through waiver wire transactions in August. For a team as offensively challenged as Texas has been for long stretches, this is not a good sign, especially if Cruz is lost for the season. Still, this is MY team and I’ll cheer them on regardless. I’m just glad they’re back on an upswing again.