Heading into 2010, the year the Texas Rangers first went to the World Series, if there was one position the front office wasn’t worried about for the present and the future, it was catcher. Texas enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in the catching department. At the major league level, Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be the every day catcher for the first time. Backing him up would be University of Texas phenom Taylor Teagarden, who would supply some needed power. Down on the farm, Max Ramirez was the emergency guy at AAA Round Rock and coming up in the system was well-regarded Jose Felix in AA Frisco.
Saltalamacchia lasted for all of two games and five at bats. He had the game winning hit in the season opener but suffered an injury and didn’t tell manager Ron Washington about it. When it came up after Game 2, Salty went on the DL, Wash publicly chastised him for not speaking up and added he had a lot of growing up to do. Saltalamacchia never returned to the Rangers. During rehab, he developed a case of the “yips”, causing his throws back to the pitcher to sail. He got sent off to the Red Sox in the trade that netted Texas Chris McGuiness and Roman Mendez.
Meanwhile, it didn’t take long before the Rangers determined Teagarden, for all his power potential, wasn’t able to hit consistently. His long swing led to 34 strikeouts in just 85 at bats. Five of his 11 hits went for extra bases but a .155 average was all he could muster. Before anyone knew what hit them, Teagarden got sent down, Ramirez came up and the Rangers’ starting catcher was someone they picked up at the end of training camp, Matt Treanor, who turned into a godsend. Treanor wasn’t any great shakes, but he gave Texas quality at bats and handled the pitching staff well for 82 games, until the Rangers picked up Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants to handle the heavy work down the stretch.
Since that 2010 season, the Rangers have gone through Yorvit Torrealba, Mike Napoli, Teagarden, Treanor, Geovany Soto, Luis Martinez, A.J. Pierzynski, J.P. Arencibia, Chris Giminez, Tomas Telis and Robinson Chirinos and there’s still no true starting catcher in sight for 2015.
Phenom Jorge Alfaro is still at least a year away. In the meantime, the Rangers enter 2015 with the aforementioned Telis and Giminez at AAA Round Rock, if something happens to Chirinos or new arrival Carlos Corporan.
Chirinos was as much a godsend for the Rangers in 2014 as Treanor was in 2010. With Rangers hitting the DL almost every other day, including Soto in pre-season and Arencibia hitting a pitiful .133 on May 16th, Chirinos came up big time, posting a slash line of .239/.290/.415 with 13 HR and 40 RBI. Adding to his importance was his defense. Chirinos came out of nowhere to lead the American League in throwing out would-be base stealers at 40%. His 2.4 WAR ranked 5th among AL catchers. Chirinos’ performance earned Soto a trade to the A’s once he returned from the disabled list.
This year, Chirinos enters the season as the clear #1, although there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to match any of his 2014 numbers. Last year was his first full season in the majors and his performance could go in either direction. The plan is for Chirinos to catch about 100 games, just a few more than he caught a year ago. Injuries aside, his expected back-up for the other 62 games will be Carlos Corporan, who comes over from the Houston Astros.
Jon Daniels told the crowd at FanFest that they did due diligence on Corporan, talking to a number of Astros pitchers about him. One of them, former Ranger Scott Feldman, praised Corporan and credited him for elevating his game in 2014.
The Rangers aren’t looking for great offense from the catcher position. The top priority is catchers who work well with the pitching staff. Still, Corporan has a little pop in his bat and if the Rangers get a combined 3.0 WAR out of the two of them, they’ll be happy.
Every Monday, this space names the Texas Rangers Stars of the Week. These are the guys who went above and beyond during the previous week. Each week two position players and one pitcher get special mentions. For position players, there’s a Star of the Week for a full week’s performance and one recognizing an outstanding single game. The pitching Star of the Week could be either.
Position Player Star of the Week (Single Game): Elvis Andrus Texas had two walk-off wins in as many days against the Philadelphia Phillies. Adrian Beltre came through with the game-winning hit in the first walk-off win, while Shin-Soo Choo coaxed a bases-loaded walk to decide the following game. Still, nothing topped the dramatics of the 7th inning Sunday in Tampa Bay. Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb had matched seven innings of scoreless baseball. Texas hadn’t even seriously threatened to score the entire game. In the top of the 8th inning, with two outs, Shin-Soo Choo managed an infield single off the glove of pitcher Joel Peralta. Elvis Andrus then worked the count to 3-2 when Peralta threw him one more fastball:
It was the first Rangers home run since Alex Rios cleared the fences on Opening Day. Elvis has never hit more than six home runs in a season, so to say this was unexpected would be an understatement. The man who now resembles an Amish farmer also supplied some nifty glove work on two line drives late in the game to keep Tampa Bay off the scoreboard and preserve a Texas win.
Position Player Star of the Week (Full Week): Shin-Soo Choo One of the keys to the Rangers success this season is their new lead-off hitter. Choo has one of the highest On Base Percentages in baseball over the past few seasons, despite less than sterling numbers against left-handed pitchers. His ability to take pitches and get on base was the major reason Texas signed him to a big bucks multi-year deal. In the first week of the season, Choo did not disappoint. While a modest .273 batting average for the week with no extra base hits doesn’t sound like a lot, he’s started out strong against the southpaws: 3 for 9 plus two walks. In addition, Choo saved his best for the times it mattered most. In Tuesday’s win over the Phillies, he led off the 9th with a walk and scored the winning run on Adrian Beltre’s single. The next day, Choo battled back from a 1-2 count to get a bases-loaded walk, plating the winning run in another walk-off against the Phils. Finally on Sunday, in a scoreless tie with two outs in the top of the 8th inning, Choo worked Joel Peralta for seven pitches, finally earning yet another walk and setting the stage for the Elvis Andrus fireworks to come. Prince Fielder is off to a slow start, but Choo has already earned a lot of love from the Rangers fan base.
Pitching Star of the Week: Yu Darvish Yu Darvish originally was to pitch the first game of the season. Instead, a stiff neck earned him a DL stint and Tanner Scheppers the Opening Day start. Nothing went right for Texas in Game 1 as they dropped a 14-10 decision to Philadelphia. In fact, the first four games of the season saw not one Rangers starter last six innings, the first time that’s happened since the Washington Senators moved to Arlington to become the Rangers. Rookie Nick Martinez managed to make it through six in his début Saturday, but it was important for Darvish to set a new tone following his activation Sunday. He didn’t disappoint, going seven strong innings and picking up the win in his season début. Darvish has been victim of high pitch counts his first two seasons but got through seven innings on just 89 pitches while throwing 65 of them for strikes. At one point early on, Darvish K’d three consecutive Rays batters on just nine pitches. In the first inning, Darvish got his 500th career MLB strikeout and set a record for reaching 500 K’s in the fewest innings pitched (just 401 IP). Darvish provided the shot in the arm the Rangers pitching staff needed. As a special treat to honor Darvish this week, check out this YouTube presentation of every one of Yu’s strikeouts in 2013, courtesy of the massively talented Drew Sheppard:
Texas went 3-3 the first week. The three wins had plenty of late-inning dramatics, while the three losses featured poor pitching, poor defense and, in two of the three losses, silent bats. This week in Rangers baseball finds Texas in Fenway Park for a 3-game series against the defending World Series Champions and former Rangers Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara. After an off-day Thursday, it’s back to Arlington to start a 10-day homestand with three against the Houston Astros.
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.
“Aren’t you a little old to believe in Santa?”
“Fair enough. So, what would you like Santa to bring you this year, little…uh…boy.”
“Hold on there, fella. You know Santa can’t bring you ALL of those things, don’t you?”
“But I’ve been a VERY VERY good boy this year, Santa!”
“Yes, but there are lots of other VERY VERY good boys this year and they want some of the same things you do.”
“You’re not including the Astros are you, Santa? Because they weren’t very good at all this year.”
“Yes, but we have to be fair to everyone. So what do you REALLY want Santa to bring you this year?”
“Forget being fair. This is about WINNING!!! I want Price and Stanton and McCann and Cruz and Napoli and…”
“Let’s try this from a different direction, kid. You know the drill. It still has to fall within your parents’ budget. So let’s be a tad more frugal here.”
“My folks are REAL rich. That’s why I don’t understand why they didn’t bring me back Josh Hamilton last year. Although, in retrospect, I guess they had a pretty good reason and it wasn’t something that I would’ve wanted to play with after all. Anyway, why not everything? They can afford it!”
“Needs, kid, NEEDS. Remember what the Stones said? You can’t always get what you want, but you usually get what you need. You want Price, you gotta give up Profar for sure, Holland probably and two of your top five prospects on top of that. And the Marlins say they’re keeping Stanton come hell or high water and he’ll cost you more than Price anyway. So let’s get rid of that pie in the sky Price and Stanton crap and get down to brass tacks. What does this Rangers fan NEED to be happy in 2013?”
(2 minutes of pouting ensues. Finally, Rangers fan replies)
“You’re not at all the way I remember you 50 years ago.”
“Yeah, well corporate cut my pension plan, I’ve had to downsize to six reindeer and there’s an elf accusing me of…Wait. Where were we?”
“What do I NEED to be a happy Rangers fan in 2013.”
“Right. Go ahead. Spit it out.”
“I’ll go ahead and drop Price and Stanton from my list. Reluctantly. But that’s only because we’ve got a pretty strong rotation already and we need more help with the offense. So here goes. I want the Rangers to sign Brian McCann to be the catcher until Jorge Alfaro is ready to go.”
“Hey, this won’t cost anything but a little pride. I want Ian Kinsler to agree to move to left field so Jurickson Profar can become the full-time second baseman.Oh, and a brand new set of hamstrings for Adrian Beltre!”
“Kinsler may be doable. Beltre’s hamstrings aren’t in my department.”
“Then I want Texas to sign Justin Morneau to play first base. Jon Daniels said a lot of teams expressed interest in Mitch Moreland. Make him part of a trade package for another piece, maybe a #5 starter. Then we should re-sign Nelson Cruz as our DH in 2013.”
“You want three free agents, huh? That’s a pretty tall order for any team except maybe the Yankees and Dodgers, son.”
“You could give me Price and Stanton. Do that and I’ll live with Moreland at first for another year.”
“Three free agent signings it is, then. Is that all? I’ve got a line of kids a block and a half long yet to see.”
“Well, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. How about a trade that nobody’s thought of yet. Kind of like a rabbit JD pulls out of his hat and surprises everyone with, even the writers who’ve started every possible trade rumor anyone could imagine?”
“That might take some doing, but maybe my friend the Sandman can whisper a thought into his head. Now, if that’s all, see that nice elf over there for a candy cane and have a…”
“WAIT!!! One last thing, Santa! Do you think you could make 2014 the year the Rangers finally win it all?”
“I’m just Santa Claus, kid. I deliver the gifts. I don’t control what happens to them after they’ve been opened. For all I know, you’ll break everything I give you in the first week of Spring Training.”
Things haven’t been going to well in Texas Rangers land of late. Since Ian Kinsler went on the disabled list, the club has gone 11-13. Now they were a pretty decent 9-7 until Mitch Moreland joined Kinsler on the walking wounded list. With both players out, Texas has gone 2-6 in its last eight games.
So the heck with losing streaks and disabled players (Kinsler should be back Monday!). Let’s talk about beards!
I may be old but I’m not a prude. There are many beards I like. There’s this one:
OK, that makes me seem even older than I really am. From a show business angle, there’s certainly no beating these beards:
So I’m not against beards per se. I am, however, enough years past my hippie days to feel like today’s era of major league ball players are taking the beard thing a little too far.
Yeah, Brian Wilson of the Giants (not the Beach Boys one who had a pretty impressive beard at one time in his day) really started the trend of ball players beards behaving badly.
Since then, we have been treated to chin after chin of hair that is not only unshaved but really unkempt as well. I don’t mind a nice trim beard like Scott Feldman has. Sure he looks like he’d fit in to Weird Al Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise“, but at least it’s neat.
The Rangers aren’t immune to the Hatfield and McCoy look. Recently recalled Kyle McClellan has a prodigious red goatee that is even more horrific than this photo shows:
Did I mention I don’t like this Neanderthal look? Seriously, what if Rangers management decided they were going to emulate today’s players? Can you imagine what they’d look like?
Fortunately, you don’t have to. I’m here to show you. I may not be a Photoshop expert, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express once. Thanks to that, I can show you what Rangers bench coach Jackie Moore would look like with a Jonny Gomes beard:
And if Rangers GM Jon Daniels decided Brian Wilson was right all along? We’d be wondering if Fidel Castro had defected to the United States:
And what if Mike Maddux…
You know, never mind. Even guys can appreciate how much Maddux rocks that look.
As a fan, I urge today’s MLB players to start trimming back on the facial hair. If you don’t do it for me, think of the endorsement fees you’re probably missing out on looking like a troglodyte. In the meantime, my beloved Rangers, you think you could start winning a couple of games now and then?
I’ll start this out by saying what I’ve said in these pages many a time before: I’m NOT a major proponent of WAR. I understand the concept of it, I just don’t totally agree with it because of the subjectivity of the defensive metrics. I don’t “speak” sabermetrics, but a great sabermetric argument for the way I feel was published today, as a free article, on Baseball Prospectus.
A way I can use WAR, though, would be as a comparison tool that doesn’t involve delving into a lot of different stats. I thought it would be interesting to see, at the 1/4 point of the season, how the Texas Rangers might look, record-wise, had they decided to keep everyone from last year’s Rangers team, instead of adding the pieces they added. To do that, I examined the respective WAR of the departed Rangers to their counterparts from this year’s team.
For this study, I’m using essentially the Texas Rangers team that essentially comprised the Rangers following the July 31st trading deadline.
Here’s how the former Rangers are faring so far in 2013, based on bWAR (via Baseball Reference.com):
Mike Adams (Philadelphia) 0.4
Ryan Dempster (Boston) 0.5
Scott Feldman (Chicago Cubs) 0.8
Josh Hamilton (Los Angeles Angels) -0.6
Mark Lowe (Los Angeles Angels) -0.3
Mike Napoli (Boston) 1.0
Koji Uehara (Boston) 0.5
Michael Young (Philadelphia) 0.3
Now let’s look at this year’s Texas Rangers counterparts:
Jeff Baker 0.7
Lance Berkman 0.6
Jason Frasor 0.0
Leury Garcia 0.1
Derek Lowe 0.0
Leonys Martin 0.7
Joe Ortiz 0.0
A.J. Pierzynski 0.6
Nick Tepesch 0.0
The two biggest things that jump out at me: Leonys Martin‘s defense (the subjective part) has led to a much higher WAR figure than I thought, while, of the former Rangers, Ryan Dempster and Scott Feldman have both far exceeded what I most Rangers fans would have expected of them. Overall, the former Rangers out-WAR the current Rangers, but only by .2. If you’d like to extrapolate that to an actual record, WAR suggests the Rangers would be just where they are, at 24-14 or maybe one game better at 25-13, had they just stood pat with last year’s team. Of course, they’d have that record for a significantly higher payroll than they currently have, which would be a discussion for another day.
Here’s a wrap-up of the week that was in Texas Rangers baseball. All stats listed are just for the previous week of play.
Rangers Record: 4-3
Overall: 16-9 (1st Place AL West) (+2.5)
Mitch Moreland .393/.393/.571 5 Doubles 3 RBI
Nelson Cruz .360/.467/.640 2 HR 9 RBI 5 Walks
David Murphy .185/.241/.222
Jalapeno Caliente (Pitching):
Yu Darvish 1-0 0.00 ERA 11 Strikeouts in 6 IP
Justin Grimm 1-0 7 Shutout Innings
Raspa Frio (Pitching):
Derek Holland 0-1, 6.39 ERA in 12.2 IP
Joe Ortiz 0-1 27.00 ERA 5 ER in 1.2 IP
Considering all the games were on the road, 4-3 is an acceptable record but Rangers fans were hoping for more after starting the week 4-1 and having Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando on the bump for the last two games of the week. Sadly, the Rangers offense went south in those two games and the Twins broke close 1-0 games open in the later innings. Still, the Rangers were easily the best of the West for the week, picking up two games in the standings on the Oakland A’s and starting week 5 with a 2.5 game lead. This assures Texas of first place when April comes to a close.
This week it’s home cooking for the Rangers as they play six games against the American League’s pair of Sox: Chicago Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday followed by Boston Friday through Sunday. The highlight will be Tuesday night when Yu Darvish takes the hill for Texas. If Darvish wins the game, he will join Rick Helling, Fergie Jenkins, Jim Bibby, Aaron Sele and Bobby Witt as the only Rangers pitchers to earn five wins by April 30th. The way Darvish has been pitching, the odds are in his favor to join that elite company.
The weekend series will be interesting as well with the return of Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara to Arlington. As bad as the initial reaction to Josh Hamilton was in his first at bat in front of the DFW crowd, expect an equal but opposite reaction to Napoli’s return. He never said anything disparaging about Rangers fans and professed love for his time with the Rangers so he’ll get a warm reception his first time to the plate. As good as Uehara was in 2012 for Texas, he probably won’t elicit much of a reaction one way or another. That’s the life of a relief pitcher.