Five days later…
As a fan, the sting of losing Game 7 is gone. Sure, it’s disappointing. I told a Cardinals fan I know that Game 6 made me feel like Charlie Brown, with Lucy pulling the football back at the last second. Twice. I still can’t quite find the desire to turn on a lot of Sports Talk radio, for fear of hearing pundits lay into my Rangers for the way they let this one get away, but I still have a wife who loves me (most of the time), children and grandchildren who love me (most of the time) and two dogs that love me all of the time (as long as I walk them and feed them), so life is good.
The off-season has begun and with it, the makeover of the Texas Rangers to put them in the best position possible to make yet another assault on a World Series Championship. Honestly, this may be as boring an off-season for Rangers fans as there will be.
Here’s the big drama: Will CJ Wilson be back and will the Rangers succeed in signing Japanese phenom pitcher Yu Darvish? Other than that, anything else that would happen to this Rangers team will qualify as a surprise.
Wilson is the only free agent of note for Texas. According to an ESPN.com report, CJ says there’s a “great chance” he’ll return to the Texas fold in 2012. Other reports have said the Rangers plan to cut ties with the lefty and proceed heavily towards getting Darvish in the fold. In this case, I’ll trust CJ’s actual words for now. Who knows, maybe both Wilson and Darvish will be part of the 2012 rotation. The Rangers are also said to be one of the favorites to get Darvish, a 25-year-old who compiled a 1.44 ERA in the Orient this past season.
I read something interesting today concerning Darvish and Japanese pitchers in general. Over in Japan, apparently, they still stick with a 4-man rotation instead of the stateside five. Darvish is said to have as many as ten different pitches at his disposal. The interesting point made was comparing Darvish to Daisuke Matsusaka. The article (in Baseball Prospectus) said when the Red Sox got Daisuke, they made him whittle his repertoire down to five pitches. It went on to speculate the combination of this and giving him four days rest between starts instead of the three he was used to could help explain Matsusaka’s underwhelming Red Sox career. If so, it will be interesting to see if the Rangers treat Darvish differently than the Red Sox did Daisuke (assuming the Rangers get Darvish, of course).
Texas exercised the option in Colby Lewis’ contract, as well as reliever Yoshi Tateyama. The latter signing could mean the end of the road in Texas for Darren O’Day, who is a sidearming righty like Tateyama (albeit with much more zip on the ball).
There will be some arbitration battles coming up. Obviously, Mike Napoli is going to garner a huge payday whether it goes to an arbitrator or not. There could be speculation the Rangers will cut ties with Yorvit Torrealba thanks to Napoli’s strong season. Torrealba is only going to be making a little over $3 million in 2012, so I have a feeling they’ll keep him.
Other than that, this team is pretty set. Most players are under contract already. There could be some second tier players released, like Endy Chavez, Matt Treanor and Andres Blanco, but those won’t change the makeup of this team very much.
Speculation has been raised about the rangers going after Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to fill the one weak spot on the field, first base. I just don’t think Texas is going to get involved in those high dollars, preferring to use them on pitchers like Wilson and Darvish.
There are other items I could throw out there, but all in all, this shouldn’t be as dramatic an off-season as last year was.
2) When he was first acquired, I thought of Mike Napoli as strictly a platoon player. Boy, am I happy to admit I was wrong.
3) The Uehara-Adams combo worked like it was supposed to for one of the first times since their acquisition.
5) CJ Wilson is going to become a very rich man this off-season and I sure hope it’s the Rangers that make him so.
The lead is up to 4 1/2.
I have to confess: I did something Sunday that I have never done while attending a Texas Rangers game: I left early.
Believe it or not, it had nothing to do with the final ugly score. I actually left while it the game was still within reach at 6-5, with the Yankees on top. No, I left because it was Mother’s Day and, after the game, we still had a three-hour drive ahead of us in order to have a Mother’s Day dinner with our Texas kids. As much as I love the Rangers, family still comes first!
Sunday’s series finale was a hot one with occasional breezes taking some of the edge off those of us sitting in the left field foul line seats. The game started out well, with a combination of CC Sabathia walks and horrid Yankees defense contributing to a 3 run first and, after two, the Rangers sported a 4-0 lead on the Bronx ace. Meanwhile, fill-in starter Dave Bush (oh, how I wanted to see Alexi Ogando pitching this game) surprised most Rangers fans with two quick efficient innings.
The Yankees bit back with two runs in the third and added another pair in the 5th, tying things up at 4. Texas brought in Arthur Rhodes in the 7th, who immediately gave up back to back jacks by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson to make it a 6-4 Yankees lead. Jeter must have gotten some great Gatorade on Sunday. Coming into the game, he had no steals and three extra base hits all year (all doubles). Sunday, he stole his first base and jacked two out of the park. I’d say more nice things about him, but the guy three rows in front of me wearing the Jeter shirt keeps me from doing so. Said fan kept pointing to himself after both home runs, generally trying to take credit for it all like he hit the homers himself. Sorry, dude, your guy would’ve gotten more love from me if not for you!
I really thought we might have a comeback in us when Texas chased Sabathia with a run in the bottom of the 7th to make it 6-5. Joba Chamberlain came close to giving up home runs to Michael Young and Mike Napoli, but both were caught on the warning track. After the 7th, it quickly got ugly. Fortunately, I didn’t witness the carnage of the 8th.
When the smoke cleared, my second live game was a complete mirror of my first game of 2011. That one saw the Rangers beat the Red Sox 12-5. This one saw the Rangers lose 12-5. Texas had four home runs in the Red Sox win. The Yankees had four bombs in their win. Adrian Beltre had a grand slam in the Red Sox game, Francisco Cervelli had one in the Yankees game.
It was a shame, becase the Yankees really did not look that great in the field (4 errors and it probably should’ve been 5) or even on the mound, but that’s just how bad the Rangers are playing right now.
It would be easy to say the Rangers never should have brought Rhodes in to start the 7th. At 42, he’s not a pitcher you should be bringing in on back to back days, let alone when it’s a day game following a night game. Unfortunately, the Rangers bullpen is a mess these days, and there really wasn’t a good alternative.
Now, after Monday’s 7-2 loss to Oakland, the defending AL Champs find themselves a pedestrian 18-18 and in 3rd place in the AL West. This team is just not playing well right now. The hitters are pressing, the defense is pressing, the bullpen is failing and the starting pitching is inconsistent. To top it off, it was hopeful that Tommy Hunter was about ready to return to the Rangers, but then he tweaked his groin again on the final pitch of his rehab start at Round Rock Monday. Now it’s time for an MRI and it could be another month before he’s ready to return.
These are the times that try fans’ souls.
After the euphoric three game home sweep of the Royals, the Rangers celebrated by dropping three of four at home against the Blue Jays, and now three of four on the road to the A’s.
It’s been aparticularly gruesome time to be watching Texas Rangers baseball. The starting pitching that was so strong in the early going has encountered some problems, particularly Matt Harrison or, as one web site so aptly put it, “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Harrison.” As good as Harrison’s first three starts were, his last two have been the polar opposite, including Sunday’s 1 2/3 inning, four run debacle.
It would be easy to lay much of the blame on the lack of Josh Hamilton in the line-up, but the reigning AL MVP doesn’t have anything to do with the Texas defense committing 18 errors in the last 12 games. Even a defensive whiz like Elvis Andrus has been affected. He’s up to 7 errors already on the young season, putting him on pace for almost 40 errors (Elvis had 21 a year ago). As much as I ragged on Michael Young in a previous post for his abysmal D at first base when he plays there, EVERYONE is joing the E parade. Outfielders, infielders, pitchers. If there was a way for the DH to commit an error, right now the Rangers would find a way to do it.
Even without Hamilton, this should be a potent line-up, but the offense is bipolar as well. Sandwiched in between a one and two run performance against the A’s was an 11-run outburst in the second game of the set. The problem has been, outside of Young, nobody is hitting with any consistency, although Elvis is starting to hit a little better. But the biggest culprit to the Rangers offensive inconsistency is Nelson Cruz. The boomstick has fizzled. Since Hambone went down, the Rangers #5 hitter has sputtered, hitting a weak .203 with 26 strikeouts in only 77 at bats. It’s awfully tough to get a sustained rally going when your biggest power hitter is barely contributing.
Still, I take comfort in the following:
1) The Red Sox, who lost three in a row to the Rangers and almost lost three in a row to the Mariners, are an astounding 5-0 against the Angels this year, helping the Rangers stay tied for the AL West top spot at 16-13.
2) That 16-13 record is a game better than the Rangers’ mark a year ago, and we all know where Texas went from there.
3) It’s pretty funny watching the message boards at the other Rangers sites, where the Michael Young haters are really digging deep to explain why the only consistent offensive force right now for Texas is still somebody the team could easily do without. Even I have to admit that, despite his defensive shortcomings, Young played a GREAT defensive game at second base in Monday’s series closing loss.
4) Chris Davis still doesn’t have an RBI for the Rangers this year, but he’s not stinking up the joint in his latest stint. Since striking out in three of his first four at bats, Davis has since gone 4-13 with two doubles, three walks and only two K’s. I still think Texas would be better served with another outfielder on the roster as opposed to Davis, but he is being productive in his limited playing time.
5) Seeing the young pitchers get an opportunity in important situations. Cody Eppley, Ryan Tucker and Pedro Strop have all gotten some meaningful innings. Strop has command issues, but has also gotten out of some jams of his own making. Eppley has given up only a solo home run in his first four appearances. Tucker struck out the side in his first outing against the A’s on Friday and gave up an unearned run in his second outing on Sunday. While the bullpen is in desperate need of Neftali Feliz coming off the DL on Friday to close games out, these three show the loss of Darren O’Day as a 6th/7th inning righthander might not be as severe a loss as initially thought.
6) CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland all had pretty good starts against the A’s. Not great, but pretty good. Harrison has posed a problem, but there’s been good news reported on the rehabbing Tommy Hunter and Scott Feldman. Help could be on the way soon.
7) Osama’s gone bye bye.
Three games against the Mariners to close out the road trip. Lay an egg in Seattle and I might not be seeing quite so many silver linings. Still, it’s pretty easy to see that, with better defense and Nelson Cruz coming out of his slump, this team could improve a lot very quickly. It’d be great if it started tonight.
Who knew the way to best way to draw the Rangers out of their lackadaisical play of late would be for the wife and me to take a three day jaunt to Sin City?
That certainly seems to be what happened. I started having a feeling about the weekend when, on Friday, I managed to win an incredible $11 on the quarter slots… and the Rangers scored 11 runs in their 11-6 series opening win over Kansas City. While we were busy enjoying Janet Jackson, Texas was getting into a “Rhythm Nation” groove. Since fans had been saying “Miss You Much” about the offense, the Rangers pounded out 15 hits, including five longballs. “The Pleasure Principle” for Texas fans, for sure!
The lucky streak continued into Saturday, when I added another $4 to my winnings on the nickel slots and the Rangers scored… well, they didn’t get four runs, they scored three in a 3-1 win. But this is Vegas, baby! Things don’t always add up right! All I know is a win is a win and Alexi Ogando once again was sterling in the starting role he was assigned when Tommy Hunter went down in Spring Training. Through four starts, Ogando’s WHIP is a miniscule 0.79. Amazing.
There was no winning for me on Sunday. I gave up all the previous $15 I had won and a little bit more to boot but the Rangers didn’t care, magically securing the sweep with an 8-7 triumph. Must be the magic left over from the Penn & Teller show we saw Saturday night. Thank you, Penn & Teller! The magic bats appeared again, this time to the tune of 11 hits and three home runs, while CJ Wilson worked his prestidigitation on the mound, striking out ten Royals while only issuing one free pass. Over the past two starts, Wilson has walked only two and struck out 19.
All in all, a pretty impressive weekend, made better by the fact that the Angels, who had taken over first place with a win over Texas on Wednesday, proceeded to lose four in a row to the Red Sox team the Rangers swept to open the season. From one game behind to 2 1/2 games up in a span of four days. Very nice.
The weekend was not without trouble spots. Rangers closer Neftali Feliz was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation. Texas insists this was just a precautionary move, but it still is disconcerting. Any shoulder issue has a chance of being something much worse and the Texas relief corps is not a strong suit right now. In addition, as good as he’s hitting right now, Michael Young really has no business playing first base for this team. I can see him backing up Ian Kinsler at second on occasion, but his defense at first is brutal. Young committed his third error at first base in only three games. He’s also not done well on scoops, which I believe has cost the Rangers a couple more errors in the field that they shouldn’t have had. Michael, I implore you, for the good of the team, tell Wash you’ll bypass playing first base!
Going back to the good, rookie Cody Eppley had a spectacular debut with two scoreless innings in Saturday’s game and ancient warriors Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes picked up saves in the last two games of the series.
I’ve spent very little time talking about free agent acquisition Adrian Beltre thus far. The new Rangers 3rd baseman started out slow, but as of this writing, on a team featuring the likes of Nelson Cruz, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler (and Josh Hamilton when healthy), Beltre finds himself quietly leading the Rangers, and the American League, in home runs and RBI. Pretty impressive. Oh, and he has yet to commit an error in the first 21 games. Someone needs to make up for what we’re seeing from Young at first!
Tough week coming up- the Blue Jays are in town for four, followed by a three game set on the road in Oakland. The Jays gave the Rangers fits in 2010 and have an offense to equal the Rangers. There could be a lot of balls flying out of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this week. Colby Lewis faces Kyle Drabek in the opener. Lewis hasn’t gone more than six innings yet in a start and hasn’t once looked like the pitcher who was so brilliant against the Yankees in the ALCS. Even though we’re back from Vegas, I hope we’re still on a lucky roll.
I have this friend. I’ll call him Jay Otto. Like me, Jay Otto is a big-time Rangers fan. Unlike me, Jay Otto believes he has all the answers when it comes to the Rangers fortunes and misfortunes. He has no problem letting anyone and everyone know what he thinks is best for the Rangers.
Problem is, Jay Otto is seldom right. Sometimes his observations are so off the wall, it’s hard to believe anyone can take him seriously. But they do. Prowl on any team’s message board and you’re sure to find you own version of Jay Otto.
From time to time this season, I’ll let you know what the moves for the Rangers would be in the world of Jay Otto. This seems like a good time to touch base with my friend, since Friday’s rain-out leaves little else to write about.
You’d think being 6-0 would have Jay a pretty content guy, but you’d be wrong. His little observations have made it all the way to the national stage. Anyway, here’s my last conversation with Jay.
40-Year Fan: Jay, you’ve got to be a pretty happy camper with the Rangers 6-0.
Jay Otto: Are you kidding me? I can’t believe how stupid the Rangers are!
40: What could the Rangers possibly do to improve on a 6-0 record?
Jay Otto: Move Nelson Cruz from 6th to 4th in the line-up, that’s what!
40: Why’s that?
JO: Beltre ain’t hitting, that’s why! It’s right in front of you. Cruz has four home runs, but they’re all solo jobs. That’s cuz he’s hitting 6th!
40: Yes, but Beltre has a grand slam. I was there. I saw it myself.
JO: Move Cruz in there. It’s so obvious to anyone. At least move him to 5th. No way he should be batting behind Michael Young.
40: Yes, but Ron Washington said Cruz still hadn’t found his stroke at the end of Spring Training, so he put Young in the 5 hole until Cruz got straightened out. Now he’s hitting, but Texas is winning, too, so why change what’s working?
JO: Move Cruz to 5th or 4th and the Rangers win 15-5 instead of 12-5. They beat Seattle 9-4 instead of 6-4. It’s as plain as the nose on your face!
40: What difference does it make as long as the Rangers are winning?
Jay Otto: Be winning by more if they move Cruz…
40: OK, Jay. Let’s move on. Aren’t you glad Michael Young didn’t get traded? He’s started out pretty good as well.
Jay Otto: Trade Michael Young to the Mets from Frankie Rodriguez, straight up.
40: And why would the Rangers want to do that?
JO: Make the trade so we’ve got a closer.
40: We already have a closer. Pretty good one by the name of Feliz…
JO: Make Feliz a starter. Make Frankie Rodriguez the closer. Case closed.
40: Why would the Rangers want a pitcher with the type of baggage Rodriguez has?
JO: Make Feliz the starter. And it gives David Murphy and Mike Napoli more at bats.
40: But the Rangers offense is as versatile as it can be right now. Get rid of Young, then what happens if Murphy or Napoli get injured? Right now, almost anyone on the offense could get injured and there’d be little noticeable drop in the offensive line-up.
JO: Why do I talk to you again? You make no sense whatsoever, you know. Everyone knows what I’m saying is best.
40: Except for Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington…
JO: Fire ’em all. They don’t know how to build a winning ball club.
40: And yet, we were in the World Series last year.
JO: Would’ve won it if they’d listened to me…
40: By the way, weren’t you the one who told me in the off-season the Rangers ought to go out and replace Vlad with Manny Ramirez? Aren’t you glad that didn’t happen now? Jay? Jay, are you still there?
Wonder why we got cut off?
It’s amazing how the longer a winning streak goes, the less you can find to write about.
Conversely, when a team is losing consistently, it’s amazing how much you can find to write about.
Fortunately, I find myself in the former case today, as the Rangers have defied even my expectations in rolling to a 6-0 start (the first in the majors in 8 years) and a three game lead in the AL West a mere week into the season. It really isn’t supposed to be this easy. I know it won’t be, but you’d have a hard time convincing most people of that the way this team is playing.
So what of today’s headline? It doesn’t even directly have anything to do with yesterday’s game, except for the fact CJ Wilson was the Rangers starting pitcher.
I did not see any reference following this game, but three times in Spring Training and once after the season opener against the Red Sox I saw writers refer to Wilson as “the crafty lefthander”.
I thought nothing of it the first time I saw the reference, but, on the second read, cocked my head to the left with curiosity much like my dog does when he tries to convince me that A) he’s listening to me and B) he can understand human talk. Neither is true, by the way.
I suddenly asked, why is CJ Wilson being called a crafty lefthander? I have always been under the impression the term was reserved for a southpaw who is forced to pitch with finesse because he doesn’t really have a fastball worth bragging about. Kenny Rogers was a crafty lefthander. Frank Tanana was originally a fireballing lefthander who became a crafty lefthander. But CJ Wilson? Last I saw, CJ still had a pretty good heater and “finesse” isn’t really a part of his DNA.
CJ does like to paint the corners of the strike zone, it is true, which is why he has the high walk rates he does- when he misses his location he misses outside instead of inside the strike zone. But crafty? I think not.
I also wonder why nobody ever seems to refer to a righthander as crafty. I’m sure that’s another topic for another day.