Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 24, 1968

Forty years ago - December 24, 1968 I was an 11 year old 6th grader at Our Lady of Lourdes parochial school in Toledo, Ohio. I sang alto in the school girls choir and midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was one of the biggest nights of the year for us. But that's not the reason I remember that particular evening - what I do remember happened thousands of miles away from the choir loft at the church on Hill Ave. Before we left for Mass , I was glued to the television watching grainy pictures of the most maginificent sight I'd ever seen in my young life - it was the earth rising over the horizon of the moon. Apollo 8 was broadcasting the pictures - live - it was startling. For those too young to remember - there were no hubble telescopes, or space stations, no manned craft had ever left earth's orbit, the technology that we take for granted today that sends us pictures and videos from the outer reaches of our solar system was unimaginable in 1968. This was the first time we were seeing our planet, our home, it was amazing. What made it moving was the crackling voices of the Apollo 8 astronauts reading verses 1- 10 from the book of Genesis - then mission commander Frank Borman saying: "And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth."

This Wednesday night when I head for the 9 p.m. Mass at St. Maria Goretti Church in Arlington, I'll look up at the sky as I do every Christmas Eve and remember that night. I'll remember the enthusiam a generation of youngsters like myself drew from the space program. More importantly I'll remember the good things in my life, the family and friends that I love - the ones who aren't here anymore that I still miss - and be grateful for the gift of life and eternal promise of hope for all of us on the "good earth".

I'll be back in January (unless JD makes one of his last - minute - right- before- the - holiday trades).

Peace and happiness to all of you this holiday season -- Marla Hooch

Added 12/24: P.S. - Be sure to click on the link and read an article written by our favorite baseball writer about another of our favorite baseball friends: T.R. Sullivan on Grant Schiller


Monday, December 15, 2008

Pictures From The Newberg Report Book Party

Click on THIS LINK to see them.

(Hint - use the "slideshow" feature - it has a full screen view and captions)


Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Newberg Report Book Release Party - 2008

Just a few thoughts from last night's absolutely tremendous event at Sherlock's in Arlington:

It's a good sign from the organization that they have players who do care about the fans - this was not a Ranger "sanctioned" event - all of the players who came out last night did so because they wanted to - no other reason, including alumni Jeff Zimmerman who must have a soft spot in heart for the NMLR because he flew in from Canada to attend last night – Jeff is still one of the nicest, most humble and gracious players I’ve ever met. Taylor Teagarden is always a class act. Last night was the first time I met Derek Holland – he’s quite a character – and I mean that in good way. Chris Davis is the new mainstay of the Newberg events, great with the fans and always provides a highlight worthy answer during the Q&A. By the way – if the baseball thing doesn’t work out- Holland and Davis might be able to carve out a career as a comedy team. What can I say about Michael and Cristina Young? I get very frustrated reading Ranger bloggers and national pundits who only look at age and stats when talking about Michael Young. If baseball were just a game of numbers it would be played on a computer – but thank God it isn’t, it’s played by terrific guys like Michael Young – who add so much more on and off the field that it can’t be counted by any stat head’s numbers.

And speaking of those fans - I hope Ranger management is aware that they have a very loyal and appreciative fan base in spite of the rough road we've traveled since 1999. I know those of us who work with Jamey on the Newberg report truly appreciate all of your support and we are humbled by it. We are very glad that we're able to host events like this for Ranger fans.

A special personal thanks to Baseball Mom and Mrs. Schmenge who helped out the book table with me (I’ll have Mrs. Schmenge’s pictures online – soon!) and to Mike and Grant Schiller who also helped out at the book table – they are truly team players . As always - thanks to Jamey for letting me ride along - it's been a great 10 years!

The book release party is always a good finish to the season - and this was one of better finishes to an encouraging season across the entire organization. Let me close with one of those tired cliche's, after last night I keep thinking: "the future's so bright I gotta wear shades"

116 days until Opening Day -- Marla Hooch

Monday, December 8, 2008

Finally! Something To Write About

Since the end of the World Series there’s been nothing “hot stove” about this Rangers off-season, it’s been the “big snore” off-season. Sorry, but I just can’t get excited about coaching changes – as I wrote on the Monday Morning Manager – a pitching coach is only as good as the pitchers he’s given to work with. It will be interesting to see if Mike Maddux is a miracle worker or if coaching one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball will simply tarnish his reputation. As a Ranger fan I’m sad to see both Rick Adair and John Wetteland leave the organization – I wish them well in the Pacific Northwest (in spite of the Mariners, Seattle is one of my favorite cities).

I didn’t read about the Gerald Laird trade until this morning. My immediate thought is: there’s a fine line between trading to build for the future and dumping salary for younger cheaper minor league players. I can’t comment on Moscoso’s potential. I am simply reminded that all of Jon Daniel’s off season trades for pitching, so far, have been unmitigated disasters – let’s hope this one turns that around.

Other Matters:

Penny wise, pound foolish: It seems that Rangers ownership has become enamored of the Tampa Bay economic model – the difference is that Tampa Bay drafted and traded for talent players who succeeded not the Drew Myer and Brandon McCarthy types. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t subscribe to the Galloway/Colinshaw theory of throwing money at free agents. However, there is a difference between spending wisely and turning into a miserly Calvin Griffith/Ebenezer Scrooge type organization. It looks like Mr. Hicks is tending towards the latter, which is not good news if fans hope to see players like Josh Hamilton on this team past their arbitration eligible years. We’ll see….

Where is Lee Iacocca when you need him? I grew up just south of Detroit – the joke in my hometown was when Detroit sneezes Toledo catches cold. I am appalled at the arrogance of both the executives and UAW approach to the auto industry’s plight, and frankly I have little sympathy for either. I’m just glad that the auto executives took Scott Simon’s advice on how they should approach Congress the second time they went to Washington to ask for a handout.

Circle Me Bert: It is encouraging to know that baseball fans are so passionate about their Hall of Fame – judging from the responses TR Sullivan received on his excellent HOF blog entry on Postcards From Elysian fields – he’d better be careful walking the streets of Minneapolis this season

Finally: from Frank Deford on the fans of the World Series champions: “If Red Sox fans are a nation and Cubs fans a support group, then Phillies fans are a pandemic”

See you Wednesday at the Newberg Report Book Release Party at Sherlock’s in Arlington – Marla Hooch


Monday, October 20, 2008

Thanks to Philo Farnsworth I Have Something To Do In The Offseason

"I hopped into town for a sattelite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out into the stars
A message came back from the great beyond
There's fifty-seven channels and nothin' on”

-- Bruce Springsteen

Planning my nights by the TV Guide: You can’t get away from “Law and Order ". I am firmly convinced that some channel some where is showing one of the many branches of the "Law and Order" shows at every hour of every day of every week. Speaking of that franchise: Did anyone see the final episode of this season’s "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"? I wasn’t a big CI fan at first– but it grew on me – like a fungus. Vincent D’Onofrio as Detective Robert Goren is one of the more mesmerizing characters on television – sometimes he makes me very uncomfortable – but it’s like a train wreck, you can’t help yourself, you just keep looking. Adding Jeff Goldblum (starting Nov 7th) is a good choice. I loved his short-lived “Raines” series… Two of my favorite shows have returned in fine form: “Chuck” on NBC – I’m glad they’ve added more of the subplots with off-beat supporting characters at the “Buy More” … and of course "Friday Night Lights” is already playing on channel 101 on Direct TV – with no commercials (there is a satellite tv god!) This show has excellent writing and acting as always – however, they’ve handled the departures of a couple of the main characters in two different and rather jarring ways. Brian "Smash" Williams(played by Gauis Charles who I believe is doing a Broadway play) is still on the show. It is obvious he is going to be leaving by the 3rd or 4th episode. While Scott Porter as the paralyzed quarterback Jason Street is nowhere to be found and barely mentioned by any of the other characters. Strange - since his storyline was the most compelling of the first season…I’ve tried out several of the new shows this season – and didn’t like any of them, save one – and it’s a good one: “Life On Mars” on ABC. I know, I know - I’m stuck in the ‘70’s (that decade was very, very good to me) no doubt that is part of the appeal. However, any show featuring Harvey Keitel as a hard living New York Policeman and Mike Imperioli with an outrageous mustache is worth watching (and yes kids, I knew plenty of young men with those sideburns and ‘stache at the fraternities at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland).

Back to baseball: As I wrote on the barren Postcards From Elysian Fields – when considering pitching coaches let us keep in mind that Rick Peterson was a genius in Oakland (with Zito, Hudson, Mulder and Haren on his staff) while in New York (with an aging and injured Glavine, Hernandez and Martinez) – not nearly so smart. Managers and coaches are only as good as the players they are given to work with - nobody should dare to put McCarthy, Hurley and Gabbard in the same stratosphere as the staff Peterson worked with in Oakland… By the way, does anyone miss the Monday Morning Manager as much as I do?...I was wrong about the Dodgers – that has not even nicked my self-esteem. I’m really glad I was wrong about the Rays - I’m pulling for them to win it all. I’ve always liked Carlos Pena. I talked to him a couple of times while he was in OKC – nice kid – I’m wishing him all the best...Looking forward to reading Mike Hindman's Prospect Previews on the DMN Blog. He started this week with RHP-Starters - here is the link to the first entry and here is the link to the second entry... I'm very jealous of Evan Grant - Italy is one of the two trips I am determined to make before my time is up (the other is Poland - it's a "roots" thing).

Old #39 on the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters: (that’s Jason Botts to you) is somewhere none of his former ’08 Rangers teammates are this October: he’s on a playoff team. Jason hit an important 2-run homer in a game that put the Fighters in the second round of the playoffs. Just so you know: Jason has hit .348 since September 1st

Finally: As much as I love baseball, I actually do have a life beyond reading boxscores and worrying about A Ball pitcher’s ERAs. One of the benefits of moving off MLBlogs is that I'm not obligated to only write about baseball – especially in the off-season. I probably won’t be blogging every week, and sometimes I might not even mention baseball!

“If you read a lot of books you are considered well read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you're not considered well viewed.” – Lily Tomlin


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oh Look - She's Actually Written Something

Yesterday upon the stair
I saw a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
I wish to heck he'd go away

-- Unknown (traditional)

Last week I was sick, a valid excuse for not writing. This week, unfortunately, I've just run out ideas - of course that's never stopped me in the past.

Go West Young Man: It appears that everyone, except me, has made an appearance at the Fall Instructional League in Arizona - Jamey Newberg, DMN's Evan Grant and the Startlegram's Jeff Wilson. I really liked Jason Parks' write up on the MVN site about his trip to Surprise.

Pick 'em: The ALCS - while I'd absolutely love it if the Rays won (just to prove that big payrolls aren't the only way into the WS) . I think the Red Sox are the AL team in the World Series and I hope the Rays make them work hard for it. Meanwhile, the Dodgers are this year's "Cinderella/Rockies" - they weren't that good of a team during majority of the season, but they are on a roll now - that will take them to the World Series.

Anything Else?: Hmmmm, let me think about it.... saw "Ghost Town" - will recommend it for one reason only - Ricky Gervais - and I was not a fan of the British version of "The Office"... forget Sarah Palin - if you want to read about some women who really made a difference in American political history please read "Founding Mothers" and "Ladies of Liberty" by Cokie Roberts, the venerable NPR and ABC News congressional correspondent...speaking of Palin- Conan O'Brien had the best line of the week about her: "In a recent speech, Sarah Palin referred to Afghanistan as `our neighboring country.' Then she promised to find Osama bin Laden in the mountains of Toronto"... did anyone cringe like I did when I read about these two birthdays being celebrated this week: Jackson Browne turned 60 and Chevy Chase is 65 and you're not (a joke only people of a certain era will understand).

Finally: I grew up in home with, shall we say, diverse muscial influences. Everything from polka music, to rock 'n roll and yes, even some folk music. I read that Nick Reynolds - an original member of the Kingston Trio passed away last week - and yes, I immediately remembered a few of their songs from my childhood. I don't know how my buddy Lisa feels about folk music, but this week's list is:

The Lisa Winston Music List:
Kingston Trio Songs That Marla Remembers and Still Knows All The Lyrics

1. En El Agua

2. MTA

3. Tom Dooley

4. Oh Sail Away

5. The Bay of Mexico

6. A Worried Man

7. With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm

8. The Gypsy Rover

Yes, I know the opening ryhme has nothing to do with baseball - I had to think of something to write! -- Marla Hooch


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Baseball Fever: I Caught It...Literally

On the DL: I have a headache, chills, a swollen left ankle and temperature of 102. The doctor says it is an infection and a sprained ankle. I say it's Ranger baseball withdrawl. Either way, I feel terrible, no blog this week - when we can agree on diagnosis - I'll be back - probably next week.

If you haven't been reading... T.R. Sullivan's 50 Most Memorable Plays in Rangers History - you really should - he finished up today with the top 2 plays - Ryan vs Ventura and Rusty Greer's catch that saved Kenny Rogers perfect game. Go back and read them all on Postcards From Elysian Fields

Prognostication: Hope the Twins win tonight. I'm picking the Red Sox and Rays for the ALCS - the Cubs and Phillies for the NLCS.

Still trying to figure this one out: Ron Washington and Matt Wallbeck didin't "gell"so JD is letting Ron pick his own third base coach. Of course Ron Washington insisted on obtaining Ben Broussard and then hitting him against lefties - said he was the secret weapon in the lineup - uh-huh. Additionally, Washington made the Rangers jump through some hoops to get Art Howe (since he'd already signed on as coach for an NL team) - and now he's been let go? Kind of makes me wonder about Ron's choices.

Praise the Lord and pass the anti-biotics and ginger ale -- Marla Hooch


Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Last 2008 Game Report: There’s No Place Like Home

Do you remember one of the last scenes in "Bull Durham" after Nuke’s been called up and Crash has been released: it’s rainy, Annie Savoy walks slowly back to her home. I felt like Annie looked on Wednesday afternoon as I walked by myself to the car after going to the last Ranger home game - except that the sun was shining, it was 90 degrees, it’s Texas, I don’t look even remotely as fabulous as Susan Sarandon and the only thing waiting for me at home was a porch full of leaves and an ornery cat – but you get the idea – it’s that melancholy mixture being tired after a long season, yet being frustrated because you know you won’t be seeing another baseball game at the Ballpark until April.

The game: There’s no need for me to recap the game (it was a good one). Here are the game reports from the Startlegram, DMN and Rangers website for the full description of the baseball side of the day.

The highlights away from the game: My Wednesday Rangers experience meant wishing some baseball pals a nice off-season: hugging my parking attendant – and reserving my spot for next year’s opener. I’ve parked in the same place (not a Ranger lot) for several years. Our parking attendant is a wonderful lady who always saves me a “good” spot when she knows I’m coming out to the game. Stopping by to talk with the lovely Anna – the attendant who is the keeper of the gate by the stairs, and Vic the usher by the Gold Club (who is retiring from the usher business and is going to be a regular fan in the stands like rest of us). Finally taking my seat in Section 13 where Scott has been the usher in that section forever, or at least since the Ballpark opened. I enjoyed a dollar hot dog, the dot race, and loved it when Ron Washington had Marlon Byrd, Gerald Laird, Hank Blalock, Michael Young and Josh Hamilton leave the field to appreciative applause from the crowd.

Feeling All Warm and Fuzzy: There will be plenty of time this off season to analyze, debate and pontificate on what went right, what went wrong, and what we all think Nolan and JD need to do for this team. But tonight I’d rather think about the things that made me feel good about this Rangers season and give me hope for next year too: I like what I saw from Matt Harrison and Dustin Nippert – I’d like to see them have more opportunities to learn and get better. Vincente Padilla is always an enigma but he does win games. I liked the way Kameron Loe was pitching before he got dinged, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden belong in the major leagues. I was sorry David Murphy got hurt, I’ve almost changed my mind about him – disappointed that Ian Kinsler’s amazing season was cut short too. Can’t help but admire how Michael Young played through injuries, Marlon Byrd proved to me that he’s not just a one year wonder and loved the way that Frankie Francisco stepped and took control of the closer position. Where would this team be without Josh Hamilton’s amazing season?

Wait till next year?: I like what Evan Grant wrote in response to one of the questions on his newsletter this week:

Q: Give us something positive to think about for next year. (I know this may take you awhile.)
Doug, Uncertain, Texas

GRANT: Easy. I'll give you a half dozen (in alphabetical order): Marlon Byrd, Chris Davis, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Taylor Teagarden, Michael Young. And, as a bonus, here's a seventh item: The promise that the farm system is only going to produce more of the kind of players listed above.

Only 193 days until the home opener at the Ballpark on April 6, 2009 – Marla Hooch


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Random Thoughts: Luis, Doug, Michael, Pitching and Todd

Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration. -- Kahlil Gibran

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana -- Groucho Marx

Why does it seem like just a few days ago I was ranting and raving about MLB changing their blog software on the eve of a new season , then furiously moving my semi-frequent rambling to this site.

Apologies to Annie Savoy but it really isn’t a long season.

Don’t be fooled by September Stats: Luis Mendoza – September 2007: 6 games, 16 IP, 2.25 ERA It earned him, rather than Armando Galarraga, a spot on the Ranger roster. Luis Mendoza – September 2008 (so far): 6 games, 6 2/3 IP, 8.10 ERA That is why I refuse to get all excited by Nelson Cruz this September. Let’s remember he has 442 AB’s in the major league through 2007 with a BA of .223

Things that make you say "hmmmm" : Go back to 1996. On September 11, 1996 the Rangers had a 9 game lead in the AL West – they then lost 9 of the next 10 games, their lead dwindled down to just 1 game. Did then GM Doug Melvin fire manager Johnny Oates? No, he kept him and Johnny proceeded to win the only three division titles in the franchise history – which makes Melvin’s firing of Brewers manager Ned Yost appear a bit… inconsistent. Doug even said at the press conference announcing the change that he wasn’t sure that it was the right thing to do – which makes me wonder if Doug Melvin has another meddling owner trying to play GM.

Let’s get our priorities straight: I’ve read quite a bit of whining about Michael Young lately, and frankly I think it’s not looking at the big picture. This team has much, much bigger problems than Michael Young. How about starting with the obvious and the real problem: the Rangers have the worst pitching staff in the AL. Maybe there wouldn’t be so many questions about Michael Young’s defense if the pitching staff wasn’t giving up so many hits 1,574 (so far) which is 82 more than next team on the list. And before I hear anyone start blaming those hits on Michael’s range – keep in mind that this pitching staff has given up the most doubles in the AL (337), is second walks allowed (655) third in HR’s allowed (168) the 13th worst strike out percentage per 9 IP (out of 14 teams) and none of those miserable stats can or should be attributed to Michael Young. The focus needs to be on PITCHNG, PITCHING, PITCHING and more PITCHING, then maybe worry about finding a third baseman who can stay healthy, field his position and produce at least average offense. I love the minor leagues as much as anyone and get excited about players I see in Frisco and OKC, but I’ll be the first one to tell you that Elvis Andrus isn’t anywhere near ready for the major leagues. I'd rather wait to see how a healthy Michael Young performs next season before we start talking about changing positions or running him out of town

Furthermore: The notion that the Rangers are going to be able to “stock” their team with all home grown players from the farm system and go to the playoffs with that kind of team, in my never humble opinion, is unrealistic. There are some nice players in the minors, but the Rangers will never be the Tampa Bay Rays. There was a certain amount of luck, intelligence and patience in the Rays front office putting that team together. Unfortunately the Rangers don’t have that kind of luck, the owner certainly will never have that kind of patience, although I do think the front office is making much more intelligent choices with the current prospects in the farm system, I still wonder if they will ever figure out to draft and develop truly elite pitching prospects which is what this franchise needs more than anything else.

One more thing: Did I mention that the Rangers really need to make pitching their first, second, third and fourth priority – okay, I think I’ve made my point.

A Few More Random Thoughts: My friend Lisa Winston told me during her visit to Frisco last week that she picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win it all before the season started, someone told her that she should’ve gone to Las Vegas and placed a wager on that in March. . . speaking of Vegas – does anyone else find it just a bit ironic, considering their public problems with a certain gambling issue, that the MLB Winter Meetings are in Las Vegas this December?. . . A little self promotion here: my friend Mike Hindman has asked me to participate in a couple of the Armchair GM Roundtable entries on the DMN blog – you can read my ill-informed contibution to these missives here and here . . . I am really looking forward to hearing OKC Redhawks radio voice Jim Byers and Frisco radio play by play man Scott Garner with Eric Nadel during the games this week, kudos to whoever thought up having them on - it's a nice idea.

A Wizard, A True Star: This week only I am changing the name of the music list in honor of Mr. Hindman and his less than enthusiastic comments on one of my favorite artists. Just remember that Todd played in Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band, and wrote some of the music for one of best movies about the 1970’s (“Almost Famous”) With that in mind I present: Todd Rundgren's five best songs (in my estimation) on the:

Todd is god (In Spite Of What Mike Hindman Says) List

1. Hello It’s Me A really good love song (maybe one of my very favorites)

2. Can We Still Be Friends? - The best break-up song - ever

3. Just One Victory – I’ve always thought Chuck Morgan should play the chorus of this song (“give us just one victory and we’ll be all right”) after a Rangers win.

4. A Dream Goes On Forever – Yes it does. The live version of this song is outstanding.

5. Parallel Lines – There aren’t words to describe how and why I love this song

Finally: last season I was privileged to travel to Seattle with Mrs. Schmenge and Baseball Mom for the last game of the Rangers season, this year I’ll just have to settle for taking this Wednesday afternoon off from work and enjoying the last home game.

Looking forward to sitting in Section 13 at the Ballpark one more time – Marla Hooch


Monday, September 15, 2008

Playoff Fever: All Good Things Come To An End

It was a not just another loss, it was a beating - poor pitching, worse fielding and silent bats ended the Frisco Rough Riders run at the Texas League Championship as they lost 11-3 to the Arkansas Travelers.

Wait till next year (sigh) -- Marla Hooch


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Playoff Fever: Full Moon Over Frisco

One of the myths about the Full Moon is that it causes erratic behavior in anyone who stays outside under it, just ask the Arkansas Travelers.

The Rough Riders and Travelers were playing in tight, well-pitched scoreless game until the bottom of the seventh inning - when the Full Moon myth was proven by Arkansas fielding.

Frisco OF Steve Murphy bunted to the pitcher who threw wildly to first - landing Murphy at second base, he scored on a single by Elvis Andrus. There were two out and that's when things really got weird. With Andrus at second and C Tim Gradoville at third, DH Chad Tracy hit what should have been a routine ground ball to Travelers third baseman Corey Smith - who threw the ball right right past the outstretched glove of first baseman Mark Trumbo - while he scrambled for the ball - Gradoville and the speedy Andrus scored. Making it a 3-0 Frisco lead - the Riders held on to win 3-1 -forcing the final, decisive, fifth game of the series.

The Riders LHP Derek Holland pitched another gem: 6 IP, 2 Hits, 1 BB, 6 K - I'm not sure it was the Full Moon or just "Instant Karma" (John Lennon reference) coming back around after Holland was tagged with three unearned runs in last Tuesday's loss.

Celebrity Sightings: Rangers owner Tom Hicks and his son were sitting in the first row behind home plate, and Rangers Front Office good guy Josh Boyd was also in attendance, as well as Jamey Newberg and his family.

Playoff baseball is always great - even if it is just AA. Of course it would be better if were being played in Arlington - and who knows maybe some of the guys on the field tonight will be playing some meaningful games one day in September and October at the Ballpark in Arlington.

Monday Night - it's for all the marbles, Neftali Feliz on the mound. I'm guessing I will probably be the only fan in stands (Thank God I loathe football).

Go Riders! -- Marla Hooch


Playoff Fever: Pass The Maalox

Dateline Frisco - Friday September 12: Ah, well, um... the less said about this game the better.

Let's pull out an old cliche: The Riders have their backs against the wall, the Travelers need only one more win to clinch the Texas League Championship. But Hurricane Ike did Frisco a favor with an unexpected day off allowing them to start uber prospect LHP Derek Holland in tonight's game - and leaving the possibility of uber prospect part II RHP Neftali Feliz starting Monday's game (if necessary).

Celebrity Sightings: As always the championship series brings out the celebrities. RHP and Father-to-be (in February) Thomas Diamond and his wife stayed for the entire game. Our friend Grant Schiller, his sister Kate (who still loves those binoculars) and his dad Mike kept eye on things from section 108.

My favorite celebrity in the stands: Lisa Winston from who has been assigned to cover the Texas League Championship - you can read her game stories here. Lisa says she really likes Dr. Pepper Ballpark. The best usher in minor league baseball - Dennis - made sure that we were comfortably seated and worried that Lisa didn't get a bad first impression of the Riders ("we're a much better team than this").

Storm Warnings: Sending prayers and good karma to everyone in the Houston - Galveston - Beaumont area. I have many customers that I work with (in my real job) from that area - most notably the UTMB Hospital on Galveston Island that was particularly hard hit.

The Rug Really Tied The Room Together: Heeding the dire predictions of stormy weather on Saturday found me hunkered down in Hooch World Headquarters with a six pack of Vernors Ginger Ale, Pop-Secret Extra Butter Popcorn and the remote control ready for a day of surfing. Since the Rangers weren't on TV and I'm not a football fan (college or otherwise) the viewing fare was quite diverse: "Dr. Zhivago" on TMC, "Wyatt Earp" on a VCR tape, and to round out the evening - "The Big Lebowski" on Encore. By the way, judging by the beautiful full moon and cool temperatures in Arlington - the Riders/Travelers probably could have played last night.

There'll be an "instant" game report tonight - no matter the outcome.

Go Rough Riders! -- Marla Hooch


Friday, September 5, 2008

Playoff Fever: Here’s Johnny!

From the Blue Notebook on Thursday's 6-1 Frisco Victory over San Antonio:

-- I talked to and hugged John Whittleman before yesterday’s game – he had two hits and three RBIs – coincidence? I think not.

-- The Steve Murphy Show - The Sequel continued last night: The Riders were clinging to a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 8th with the bases loaded and two out. Murphy battled Missions reliever Gabe Hoyos and knocked in a single to right that drove in two runs that sealed San Antonio’s fate.

-- Neftali Feliz’s first inning was a bit shaky: he seemed to be having some control issues there was a strikeout followed by walk, a single and a wild pitch that put runners at second and third with only one out. Pitching coach Terry Clark made an unusual first inning visit to the mound – I’m not sure what magic words he used – but after that Neftali was good, very very good – only giving up two more hits and striking out ten batters. Maybe Terry Clark needs to visit the mound in Arlington the next time Vincente Padilla and Jamey Wright pitch.

-- Grant Schiller boldly predicted that the Rangers will win the World Series in 2011

-- Celebrity Sightings at the Thursday game: Rangers reliever/closer Frankie Francisco as well as former big league manager Jim Tracy (whose son Chad played first and hit a double)

-- The intensity of the Frisco crowd reminds me of my 4:00 p.m. Economics class in junior year in college – it’s not exactly fever pitch – more like a glassy eyed stare and yawn. But I’ll give the fans credit – they gave Elvis a big hand for his terrific throw on Wednesday and everyone stood and cheered Andrew Laughter’s last out of the game Thursday night.

-- Grant Schiller’s sister Kate discovered the joys of funnel cakes and looking through binoculars backwards

-- One of the reasons I love minor league baseball is that these players haven’t adopted the grumpy, arrogant attitude that infects most major leaguers. There’s a joy and enthusiasm that somehow disappears when players don the big league uniform and get their MLPBA card. For example: before each Frisco game at the end of warm-ups, CF Julio Borbon, 2B Jose Vallejo and SS Elvis Andrus play a baseball version of “hot potato” tossing and catching several baseballs to each other using only their gloves. There are big smiles, laughs and exaggerated gestures of triumph and frustration always ending with one baseball being tossed by Elvis to the appreciative third base crowd.

Playoff Fever: Winning Is The Only Cure! -- Marla Hooch


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Playoff Fever - Catch It!

Quick game report from Frisco's 5-1 win over the San Antonio Missions in the first round of the Texas League playoffs.

What's the thing that impressed me the most?

It wasn't Derek Holland's 7 1/3 IP, 2 Hit, 5 K, 1 BB outing (although that was pretty darn good). It wasn't The Steve Murphy Show - 1 HR, 1 3B and 2 runs scored. Or the amazing throw by Elvis Andrus for the final out of the 6th inning (from behind third base, almost standing on the foul line to a stretched out Emerson Frostad at first). Or Julio Borbon's 2 hits (including a HR) or John Whittleman's nice 2 out RBI that put the game out of reach for the Missions. Or even that Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, Jim Sundberg and Scott Servais were all there ( they stayed until the end of the game).

What really impressed me were the three guys sitting by the Frisco dugout watching the game: Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden and Warner Madrigal. That kind of comaraderie, especially from guys who are now in the big leagues, says alot about these three young men who all played on the Dr. Pepper field earlier this season, and I hope about the mindset of the org - all pulling for eachother and in the same direction.

Watch this space for more playoff rhetoric -- Marla Hooch

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Haven't You Written Anything Lately?

I had to wash my cat.
The phone rang.
The dog ate my keyboard.
I was watching the new episodes of "The Closer" and "Saving Grace"
It was too darn hot.
I had a blister on my pitching hand.

Okay, frankly speaking, the way the Rangers have been playing does anyone really want to think about them much less write about them? I know I didn't.

Plus, I really have been busy:

-- Went to New Mexico to visit the New Mexico Bean. Spent a wonderful long weekend in Santa Fe enjoying the cool weather, scenery, great food – didn’t read a boxscore which turned out to be a good idea.

--Actually attended a Rangers game with Baseball Mom and Mrs. Schmenge courtesy of the Rangers (those free tickets from voting for the Ranger All-Stars) and they won – beating the Tigers 9-1. It was a gorgeous cool evening. The highlights: (besides the five Ranger home runs) seeing the lovely Kate Schiller during the Birthday Parade on video screen.

Last month the Rangers could not sweep a series – they always seemed to win two of three each time – while this month it’s just the opposite – they are staving off being swept – usually winning at least one game during a series which is a small comfort I suppose.

-- Watched some of the Olympics – when I was a kid I remember being glued to the television during the Summer Olympics, but these days the saturation of televised sports has made me less and less interested. I’ve reached one conclusion from the Bejing games: Michael Phelps is a terrific athlete – but nobody and I mean nobody ever looked better in a swimsuit than Mark Spitz.

Since the last blog entry: Haven’t changed my mind: still contend change for the sake change is not necessarily the answer to the Rangers pitching woes.

The team ERA since the Connor/Chiti departure is 6.42 (112 ER in 157 IP).

Once again, just my opinion: it’s not about the coaching – it’s about the quality of the pitcher you are working with. I defy anyone to prove that from the Spring Training proposed rotation of Millwood, Padilla, McCarthy, Jennings and Gabbard there was a bona fide “front of the rotation” #1 type pitcher. At best, based on performance (not potential), it was workhorse type rotation with enormous injury concerns (based on recent history). I don’t have to rehash what happened, but I will say that I still can’t blame all the health problems on the coaching.

What is the solution? In my never humble opinion – better pitchers make pitching coaches look good (for example: Rick Peterson’s reputation when he was coaching Zito, Hudson and Mulder in Oakland – and then after he left for the Mets – he wasn’t quite as smart).

How do you get those pitchers? See Mike Hindman’s dissertation on the DMN Blog about developing/ trading for pitching vs signing free agents.

How can the Rangers do this? Start with better scouting, find a development plan and stick with it.

What should be the plan? Let me steal a line from a comment I read:
1. Patience
2. Luck
3. Patience

The Last Word…err…. Song: From the mind and e-mail of Mrs. Schemge – a musical tribute the Rangers recent woes:

“Mama Mia and Vincent Padilla”

(with apologies to ABBA – set to the tune of Mama Mia)

I've been rooting for you since I don't know when
So I made up my mind, it must come to an end
Look at me now, will I ever learn?
I dont know how you suddenly lose the West
Even with Josh, the best

Just one pitch and I can hear a bell ring
One more pitch and I forget everything,
o-o-o-ohVince Padilla, there you go again
My my, how can you have hit him?
CJ Wilson, stop that toss again
My my, now we’re gonne miss him

Yes, Ive been brokenhearted
Blue ‘cause we have no starters
Who’s left to call to the Show?
Oh Mr. Hicks, now we really know,
Chris Young, you should not have let him go.

I've been angry and sad about the things that you do
I can't count all the times that I've said we were through
First, D-V-D – then you let them go
What more phenoms will you let slip through
Our waiting hands
You know we're not Cub fans....

Just one pitch and I can hear a bell ring
One more pitch and I forget everything,
o-o-o-ohVince Padilla, here I go again
My my, how can we relieve you?
Hey Jon Daniels, does it show again?
My my, why we can't believe you?
Eddie you have the honor
To show up Coach O’Connor
Why, why did I ever let you go?
Mamma mia, even if I say
Bye bye, leave me now or never
Nolan Ryan, fix this game we play
Bye bye doesn’t mean forever

Sing out sister! -- Marla Hooch


Saturday, August 2, 2008

In The Words Of The Immortal Roseanna RoseannaDanna

"'s always somethin'"

There's no doubt the pitching is a problem - but who created the problem? Who traded Chris Young? Who traded John Danks for Justin Brandon McCarthy? Who decided to let go of Armando Galarraga? Who signed Jason Jennings? Last time I checked those decisions were made by a much larger group than just Mark Connor and Dom Chiti.

We were told one the biggest reasons for hiring the current manager was his emphasis on defense - so for the past two seasons the Rangers have been one of the worst defensive teams in all of MLB. Poor fielding doesn't help a pitcher, and the Rangers have the most errors in all of MLB with 99 errors - by the way that is 10 ahead of the next team on the list (the Marlins with 88) .The pitchng staff has trotted out seven rookie starters - the IF has 2 All-Stars and exactly one rookie, so what's their excuse? My question is if Connor and Chiti are being held accountable for the poor performance by the pitching staff - then who is going to be held accountable for the absolutely wretched fielding, especially the infield's?

Every time you think the Rangers have turned the corner and are heading down the road to being a respectable franchise, they manage to do something like what they did on Friday night to remind us all of Ranger fans why it's hard to be proud of an organization that spends alot of making questionable public moves (and I'm being polite) and reminds us with those embarassing gestures why we've been waiting 37 years (and counting) for a championship caliber organization in Arlington.

Maybe there needed to be a change in the "voice" and "direction" of the pitching philosophy but firing the pitching coaches during the season doesn't change anything but uniform numbers and names - the same pitchers who've managed the worst ERA in MLB are still in the rotation and in the bullpen. Real change is going to happen when the Rangers finally figure out how to scout good pitching, develop good pitching (and not trade it away) and most importantly keep their pitchers health. That's an organizational change that starts in offices on Ballpark Way, not just the dugout.

I don't know if firing Mark Connor and Dom Chiti was the right thing to do - but I do know that expecting them to be miracle workers with the staff they were given as well the usual impatient approach from the front office was an impossible task.

Or as Roseanna RoseannaDanna would (probably) say: "You can't make chicken salad from chicken***t" -- Marla Hooch

P.S. No blog entry next week - I'm taking a short vacation.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Alejandro’s Alternative Almanac: Too Hot To Write

Alejandro ascends from the gardens and front lawns of your friends and neighbors to search for some shade, a lime, and a cold Corona because it’s too hot to rant too much about baseball this week.

This is the week that was: Josh Hamilton is pretty good, so is Chris Davis. Scott Lucas noted earlier this week with the promotion of LHP Beau Jones to Frisco, every player the Rangers received from the Braves in the Mark Teixeira trade is playing AA or in the major leagues.

This the week that will be: Saturday Aug 2nd at Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City is Mickey Mantle and “The Fridge” Night. The Redhawks will be giving away Mickey Mantle Bobbleheads and William “Refrigerator” Perry will be signing autographs at the game too – yeah, we can’t figure out the connection either. Wednesday July 31st is a busy night for all three lower level teams: it is “Must Win Wednesday” at High A Bakersfield – we’re not sure what the consequences are for the Blaze if they lose (we thought enduring a summer at Bakersfield was a punishment itself). Also on Wednesday at Low A Clinton it’s “Morrison Night” – we couldn’t find any additional information about exactly what that is, so we’re assuming it’s a tribute to Doors lead singer Jim Morrison with a sing-a-long to Light My Fire or Hello I Love You. At Short Season Spokane this Wednesday Night it will be “Raining Money” meanwhile for the Arizona Rookie League Rangers in Surprise it will just be plain old hot with an expected high of 107 .

The Oracle of Stadium Dr.: From Startlegram beat writer Jeff Wilson – “[Josh] Hamilton leads baseball in RBIs and – by a wide margin – in autographs signed. Just about everyone who wants one gets one, at home and on the road.”

Sometimes it’s better to keep your thoughts to yourself: Ron Washington: “ "I'd like a bona fide leadoff hitter…I'm talking about a high-on-base, steal-bases, cause-havoc leadoff hitter,” So having Ian Kinsler at the top of the lineup with his league leading Batting Average (.328) Hits (141) Runs Scored (87) and .381 OBP (in the top 10 in the AL) is a really, really a bad idea? And we don’t buy the rest of Ron’s statement that Kinsler should be batting lower in the lineup in order to drive in runs. We’d like to ask if maybe the reason Ian is having a career year is because his offensive game is best suited to batting leadoff? We hope that Ron’s wishes fall on deaf ears and recall that Ron also told us that he thought that Ben Broussard was going to be his secret weapon in the lineup this year.

The Words Of The Prophets Are Written On Subway Walls … or maybe just somewhere on the internet (Part 2): This December when the Free Agent Frenzy is in full swing let’s remember this quote from Baseball Prospectus writer Joe Sheehan “I cannot emphasize this enough: there is SO much money in the game right now that open-market contracts are all going to seem insane “

Birthdays: Former Ranger manager Doug Rader turns 63 this week. Retired Ranger IF now an Agent Scott Fletcher is 50. The pitcher who recorded the final out that clinched the last Ranger division title in 1999 – Mike Venafro - turns 35. The 1971 AL MVP and AL CY Young winner, Vida Blue, celebrates his 59th birthday this week. One of the greatest names in baseball, former Expo-Twin-Royal’s OF Bombo Rivera is 56. Finally, "The Old Perfessor" Casey Stengel was born this week in 1890 (don’t you miss seeing his picture on the Monday Morning Manager?)

Last Call: From Seattle Mariner’s Broadcaster Dave Niehaus who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend: “I’m a fan, No. 1. I’m a lucky guy. I love the game. If I wasn’t out here doing the games broadcasting I’d be out here sitting in the stands”

Es demasiado caliente -- Alejandro for Marla Hooch


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mama Mia - Here I Go Again

Mrs. Schmenge and I went to see the movie (“Mama Mia”) hence the title for today’s very short collection of totally unconnected thoughts.

About the movie: I’m going to go see it again, and I haven’t gone back to see a movie at the theatre more than once since “Apollo 13” in 1995. The three female leads (Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Waters) are absolutely perfectly cast. I’ll always think of Amanda Syfried as the haunting Lily Kane (“Veronica Mars – 1st Season") she is an adorable Sophie, and if Colin Firth made a movie where all he did was read phone book entries – I’d still pay for a ticket to see it. When (not if) you see this movie be sure to stay past the first few credits at the end – believe me it’s worth it and will leave you with a smile and song you won’t be able to get off your brain for days.

Meanwhile, back on the field how quickly things change: Last Sunday Ron Washington and his playoff talk were 7 ½ games out of first in the AL West. This Sunday morning (as I write this blog) Ron Washington is 9 ½ games out first – and where is all that playoff talk? Again don’t get me wrong – this has been a really good season, and I mean really good. It is something to build on and - if the Rangers don’t dig themselves another big hole they can’t get out of in 2009 – I won’t whine about playoff talk, but not until next year, maybe.

From the Blue Notebook: Did you check the AL East standings this morning? The rumors of Tampa Bay’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated… From last July: do you remember Mark Teixeira’s comments about how great it was going to Atlanta because they were a contender and it was a better atmosphere and how happy he was etc. etc. etc. – I’m wondering if we’ll hear the same exact phrases in a few weeks when the Braves trade him. I’m especially interested to hear him sing the praises of Boston if he’s traded to the Red Sox – the same organization that he (and Scott Boras) felt did not respect him when they drafted him out of high school...I bought a ticket to last Thursday night’s game in Frisco based on the assumption that we’d get to see Neftali Feliz pitch, but we didn't thanks to Eric Hurley’s re-hab start which pushed Feliz’s start back to a Friday road game. Instead watched a dismal 8-2 loss to San Antonio, but did hang out with our friend the great Grant Schiller (and his sister Kate and dad Mike) Grant graciously posed with the Blue Notebook for this week’s blog – be sure to read Grant’s blog Texas Ranger Trades …why did Scott Lucas’s note that there are now three players in the Rangers minor leagues named De Los Santos make giggle and recall that recurring line from “Newhart” – ("Hi, I'm Larry. This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Daryl”)... I spend the majority of my day talking to chefs (I’m a customer service rep for food service products) I wish they were all as clever and entertaining as the Food Network’s Alton Brown (“Good Eats”). I really like the i-Tunes list from his website and noted that he too is another “space nut” child from the 1960’s with this entry on his blog: "Let me say here and now that I feel that space exploration is one of the last great human ventures. Despite the problems on Earth, in 1969 we landed on the moon and I don’t think we’ve had a better collective moment since that day.” ... The song says "the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls” I disagree, I think they are written on the Monday Morning Manager. See for yourself - check out the intro from July 14th’s MMM for a prediction about Josh Hamilton that became the truth…just daydreaming: rumor has it that the Tigers are thinking of trading Pudge Rodriguez – how much fun would it be to see Max Ramirez and Pudge on the roster as the Rangers catching tandem – and maybe that would ensure Pudge is wearing a Rangers T on his HOF cap.

The Lisa Winston Music List: the random music list named in honor of our favorite MiLB writer and pal Lisa Winston. Be sure to read her latest article on Jamie D'Antona and Mike Hessman on Since we’re in still in a movie mode – today’s list has the rambling title: Five Soundtracks: When I Hear This Song – I Think Of This Movie” -- that pretty much explains my criteria – (movie musicals are excluded)

  1. Can’t Buy Me Love” from “A Hard Day’s Night” – this movie set the standard for every “rock ‘n roll” movie and many have proclaimed it as the birth of the music video (and I won’t argue that)

  2. Tiny Dancer” from “Almost Famous” – I love Cameron Crowe’s movies (except for “Vanilla Sky”). Readers of a certain age, like mine, will know why the scene and the song reminds me of a lazy Sunday afternoon in college after one of those typical 70’s weekend's.

  3. Layla” from “Goodfella’s” – if you remember this song/sequence – it is stunning. I would love to have dinner with Martin Scorsese and just listen to him talk filmmaking. He is an amazing film historian and his enthusiasm for the subject is spellbinding.

  4. All Along The Watchtower” from “Forest Gump” – this may be the movie that uses pop music most effectively in the last twenty years. It was a toss up between this song and “Turn, Turn, Turn” - I think even if you were just a kid in the 60’s that song and the accompaying footage in the film conjure up some disturbing memories of that era.

  5. Twist and Shout” from "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" -- and you are surprised I included another Beatles song? C’mon this is great scene and you know it.

Those are the five songs that came to mind while writing this morning, feel free to add your own list in the comments section.

Finally: In case you haven’t already noticed, the new blog entries are on the weekend now – it works out better with my work and life schedule. I’m also moving the photo galleries to a site that should be easier to access – they’ll all be back on line later this week.

Did you know ABBA were the muscial guests on one of the first episodes of Saturday Night Live singing both “Waterloo” and “SOS”? (so now both of those songs will be on your mind all day) – Marla Hooch


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

About Last Night....

I think the reason the Josh Hamilton story resonates with so many is that each of us, in some way big or small, are also a kind of prodigal son/daughter looking for redemption, forgiveness or just a pat on the back.

I like what Rick Reilly said: “It [was] a bad night to be an atheist”

Amen! -- Marla Hooch

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Socrates, The Rangers, The Blue Notebook and What To Read During the All Star Break

For those of you who didn’t have to endure the Friday afternoon philosophy classes with Father McMahon, let me give you a crash course in the Socratic Method.

Socrates was a Greek philosopher. He was proclaimed by the Oracle of Delphi as the wisest man in the world – which means that the Oracle never met my brother-in-law Dr. Brad Richards (hope you are recovering quickly Brad!). Socrates didn’t quite buy the Oracle’s assessment either, that lead to his creation of the “Socratic method”. Now I could write a blog entry longer than a Vincente Padilla start on the nature of the Socratic Method – which in very simplistic terms is a Q and A with Socrates asking the tough questions - as well as a fairly complete biography of the man - but I won't because I doubt you want to read about that. But what I’m sure you didn’t know is that Socrates is also a baseball fan and has brought the Socratic Method to Hooch World Headquarters to ask the most important moral and epistemological questions about the Rangers as we head into the All Star Break.

Socrates: What should the Rangers do about Milton Bradley?

Marla: I tend to agree with Jim Reeves in this morning’s Startlegram. And while we're at it let's mention Jeff Wilson's excellent feature on Milton too. Milton’s been productive, he does bring a emotional spark that has been missing for a few years (see the unchanging demeanor of the “face of the franchise”). But more importantly even though the Rangers are in a re-building mode, they probably still need to show they are committed to keeping some productive veteran players. Not only for the (overvalued) clubhouse chemistry aspect – but also to assure future free agents who might be interested in playing for the Rangers that when they sign with Texas on a one or two year deal they are signing on to be part of the team – and not simply a “rental” player that Rangers are planning on using to stock their farm system at the trading deadline. Asking a player that you signed on a free agent contract to accept a trade and then asking them to come back again the following off-season is not a good way to engender good will and loyalty to an organization.

Socrates: Whither Hank Blalock?

Marla: That’s a much easier question for me to answer than it is for Jon Daniels. First of all, I don’t buy into the whole moving Hank Blalock to first base – send Chris Davis back to AAA scenario. Here’s why: it’s obvious the Rangers are showcasing Hank for trade opportunities, fine. Two weeks of Hank at first base isn’t likely to persuade some contender or pretender that Hank is the answer to their first base problems, teams in a pennant race are going to want the sure thing at first, Hank is nowhere near a “sure thing” offensively or defensively at that position right now. I'm not even convinced he can stay healthy for the rest of the season. Hank’s history of poor performances (.263 BA in ’05 and .266 BA in ’06) and injuries the last two seasons (58 games played in ’07, 22 games played so far in ’08) are enormous obstacles that can’t be brushed aside. If it were me, I’d put Hank back at 3rd base, period. It’s the position he is most comfortable playing, and if his offense goes back to where it was before his trip to the DL (.299 BA) –all the better. If a trade partner wants to move him to first – that’s their prerogative. As for Chris Davis he needs to be getting in precious time adjusting to the major leagues – I like what Keith Law wrote during an ESPN chat this week:

"The power is huge, and I think he'll cut the Ks enough to hit .270-.280 when he's fully developed. But that's a few years down the line. He isn't ready to hit major-league pitching consistently - I mean, on a regular enough basis - but leaving him in AAA was pointless. Someone might have gotten hurt."

Socrates: What is the resolution to the Laird/Saltalamacchia/Ramirez triangle at catcher?

Marla: Wow, you really do ask tough questions. I’m not sure, I know that some feel that the Rangers will give up too much defensively by trading Gerald. I think that Max and Salty have proven during the past few weeks that’s not necessarily the case. Yes, they both need more work – regularly – behind the plate to improve their skills (although I think Salty is really, really improving quickly) My opinion is that Ranger fans who’ve been spoiled by the rare combination of stellar defensive play and good enough (to sometimes great) offense from the likes of Jim Sundberg, Ivan Rodriguez and now Gerald Laird need to get used to the fact that most likely their catcher of the future is going to be major league average defensively – but possibly above average offensively for a catcher (think Victor Martinez before he was injured - say 2006-2007).

Socrates: Many were looking at this past week’s homestand as the possible turning point of the season with walk-off home runs, “moral” victories and one player guaranteeing playoffs in Arlington this year – is that a reasonable assumption?

Marla: Nope. Let’s take off the rose colored glasses and deal with some reality: The walk off HR on Wednesday was marvelous – it was water cooler talk for even the most casual fan through the next day. However, that moment was brought to you by an overworked Rangers bullpen serving up a 2 run homer to a .194 hitter earlier in the game. Last week Sunday the Rangers were 3 games over .500 and 7 ½ games behind the Angels in third place in the AL West. As of the time I write this blog (at 8:00 am Sunday morning) the Rangers are 3 games over .500 and 7 ½ games behind the Angels in third place in the AL West: conclusion: moral victories don’t count in the standings. Playoff guarantees from a .243 hitter? Marlon needs to consult the Oracle of Delphi, or just look at the Disabled List and the numbers of innings pitched by the bullpen and tell me what other teams have made it to the post season with the types of problems the Rangers have had so far with their starting pitching and shaky bullpen.

Socrates: Trading Deadline – Buyers or Sellers?

Marla: Neither. Although my answers to some of the questions may appear pessimistic, I happen to really believe in this team. Maybe not as a contender this year, but it’s not far away, not far at all. I believe in the youth, I believe in the veterans (most of them anyway) I believe that by leaving most of this team intact that they will overtake the A’s for second place, make the Angels and all the other contenders they face in the second half work harder than they expected for their playoff spots. I believe they will finish above .500 – and when you consider where they were at the end of last season a 7-10 game improvement is major progress and maybe the beginning of that journey to enlightenment that ends with meaningful games in September and a reason to look forward to October again.

From the Blue Notebook: I went to the White Sox/Rangers game Friday (7/11) nice night because the Rangers won, even nicer because I got to sit with old friends Lorrie and Dennis Masset (Nick’s parents) plus I got to talk to Nick (and say Hi to John Danks) after the game…I see that Brandon McCarthy is pitching in the AZL Rookie league – I’m surprised we didn’t have a press release from the Rangers front office touting the fact that he was striking out 17 year old kids (while John Danks is sporting a 2.67 ERA – fourth best in the AL) I suppose this is good news until Brandon has another blister, hangnail, or stubs his toe and winds up on the DL again… has anyone noticed that German Duran is hitting .290 in the last ten games he's played?....With all the injuries, way to few innings from starters which in turn has caused too many bullpen innings pitched on the major league team, the question has to be asked: is OKC RHP Tommy Hunter (22 1/3 IP, 20 Hits, 2 BB, 12 K – 2.01 ERA) on the radar for a promotion?... Be sure to read Scott Lucas’s eyewitness game report on the Newberg Report about Hunter’s outing at Round Rock from Saturday (7/12) and check out all of the pictures on his blog Rangers Roundup …Kudo’s to our buddy Lisa Winston’s pre-game reports from the Future’s Game in New York: Futures Game To Highlight Young Talent and All-Star Sunday (we are appropriately jealous, hope that you said “Hi” to Elvis and noted his retro/cool hairstyle)...Maybe the Devil Rays aren’t all that – or maybe the All-Star break is coming along at just the right time for them...if the Rangers don't send anymore pitchers to Frisco for re-hab starts Neftali Feliz should start this Thursday night's (7/17) home game (an off day for the Rangers).

Finally: It’s too darn hot to be contemplating philosophy, or whining about a particularly bad trade – the best thing to do the next few days between watching the HR Derby and the All Star Game is to get in some Beach Reading – or in my case the Lounge By Baseball Mom’s Pool Reading. Forget Dostoevsky, this is paperback season,and the paperbacks I’m reading, or should I say devouring , this summer are the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman. My DTFC pal John “Birdy” Sweet mentioned them to me when we visited last month, and the nice kid at Kramer’s Books in DC couldn’t say enough about them – I bought two books on those recommendations – I’m glad I did. Tess is definitely a flawed herione – she’s an accidental detective who makes plenty of mistakes, has family issues and is not exactly the most optimistic person in literature – which is why I just love her – she’s a good companion on these hot afternoons when motivation is a serious issue.

I hope Baseball Mom read this entry, so she’ll know my college education that included all those philosophy courses was not wasted -- Marla Hooch


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Game Report: All Neftali All The Time

It was a big night in Frisco. The Rough Riders front office probably couldn't tell from the normal sparse Monday attendance, but I knew it right away. Normally when I watch a Frisco pitcher throwing in the bullpen before a game there are maybe two, or at the most three, other people who are truly interested and know who is warming up. By my count there were about fifteen people watching number 25 throw, and for once I wasn't the only one taking pictures.

Yes indeed it was a roll call of the big guns sitting in the stands at Dr. Pepper Ballpark: Kevin McBrayer, Jason Cole, Mike Hindman blogging live for the DMN (thanks for mention and link!) Josh Boyd, Jim Sundberg, Nolan Ryan and a whole raft of scouts with radar guns - but the most important ones in attendance: my buddies Jamey and Max Newberg (pictured on the right).

There are excellent game reports on RHP Neftali Feliz's first AA start from Jamey on the Newberg Report website and Mike on the Dallas Morning News blog - there's no reason for me to try and add to that.

Click HERE to see my very short photo gallery of Neftali from Monday night.

There are a few Neftali and non-Neftali related items in the Blue Notebook: After two Travelers stole 3rd and then 2nd at the top the fifth off Feliz, in the bottom of the fifth Riders CF Julio Borbon singled and then promptly stole 2nd and 3rd - as if to say "do unto others" - well you know the rest of the saying - however, Neftali really, really does need to get better at holding runners on... the Rough Riders need to think about a new scoreboard for the radar gun readings in CF - the current one only shows two digits - when Neftali threw 100 and 101 the scoreboard showed 00 and 01 - just a little decieving.... I am so digging this season's Elvis Andrus hairstyle - pictured on the left - it has Oscar Gamble (circa late 1970's) potential - if you click on the pitcure you'll get the large image and the full effect...The big bats may have been called up to the majors from the Riders- but they've been replaced by a track team - even Nolan Ryan stayed for a while after Feliz was done for the night to watch CF Julio Borbon, SS Elvis Andrus and 2B Jose Vallejo at the top of the order - trust me on this one -watching them run - it's worth the price of admission...I actually stayed for most the rest of the game, and it was ugly: throwing errors by Vallejo and pitcher Brennan Garr allowed four runs to score, followed by some painful pitching from Joselo Diaz (single, double, walk, grand slam HR, another walk, two more singles) five more runs scored - Diaz was done for the evening and so was I - the final score Arkansas 12, Frisco 5.

I've learned not to predict the future of the prospects who get a little more ink than others, some of them are successful (Ian Kinsler) some are not (Juan Dominguez). Every summer there are prospects who move up the ladder that create a little more excitement for the hopelessly geeky minor league followers like me - it's just another reason I love baseball

Watch out for Juan Moreno! (Just kidding Jamey) -- Marla Hooch


Friday, July 4, 2008

Quo Vadimus: Where Are We Going?

“…I’ve failed much more than I’ve succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together and say ‘Where are we going?’ and it starts to get better.”

-- Calvin Trager from “SportsNight”

If you remember the last episode of the late and very great “SportsNight” you’ll know their network was sold to young entrepreneur Trager. Their future still uncertain, the CSC network seemed to be heading in the right direction (although we’ll never really know due to the pinheads at ABC). Looking at this Rangers season, which is just a tick past the halfway mark, brought to mind that phrase and that mixed feeling of exhilaration and apprehension.

The season started out simply awful. The painful and too vivid memories of 2007 spurring on talk of front office and dugout overhauls and of yet another “plan”. But instead of the usual knee jerking reaction from ownership – the spirit of Calvin Trager’s maxim prevailed. Led by a patchwork starting pitching staff, a shaky bullpen and maybe the best redemption story in baseball in the past few years, this Ranger team found the answer to Calvin's question: “we are sticking with ‘the plan’ “ and it did indeed start to get better.

The Rangers record on July 4, 2007 was 36-48 (.429) on this July 4th it is 44-42 (.512) a difference of eight games – which may not seem like much. Let’s put in football terms, that seems to be the only ones many local sports fans seem to care about: It is the difference between having a 6-10 or an 8-8 record at the end of the season – a substantial improvement – maybe not enough for the front running DFW fans and talk show wags – but for this stubbornly loyal Rangers fan it is a relief (and proof) that “the plan” is still in place and starting to work.

With that that little sermon out of the way we present the Marla Hooch 2008 First Half Honor Roll:

Summa Cum Laude - Josh Hamilton: Yes, he slowed down in June. But you have to ask this question: Would this team have been able to find its way back to two games over .500 without his spectacular April and May? By the way has anyone noticed that Edinson Volquez has also come back to earth a bit too? His last 3 starts: 16 1/3 IP, 20 Hits, 10 ER, 7 BB, 8 K, 5.40 ERA and the last 2 starts he’s not pitched past the 4th and 5th innings.

Magna Cum Laude - Ian Kinsler: leads all AL second baseman in Runs scored (74) Batting Avg (.323) Home Runs (13) Hits (114) and RBIs (50). Pedroia and Cano will get all the votes – but we know that Ian has the numbers and showed the NY fans Tuesday night why he’s the AL’s best kept secret.

Most Improved - Vincente Padilla: We all knew he had the ability – but after last season, we were left wondering where it went. This season, we didn’t know what to expect and have been pleasantly surprised.

Not so honorable mention - Is he still a Ranger? - Brandon McCarthy: All the excitement over the Hamilton trade should be tempered in equal measure by what appears to be the complete failure of the Danks for Justin Thompson … I mean Brandon McCarthy trade. Jon Daniels and “the plan” have done many, many good things for this team – trading for major league pitching is not one of them.

Less Honorable Mention Part 2 – I Told You So - Kason Gabbard: I wasn’t sold on him last season – being tagged a “crafty” pitcher at age 26 is not a good sign in Marla’s estimation. I saw his re-hab start this season in Frisco which wasn’t all that encouraging, wrote about it and was told that I was wrong. He’s lefthanded, so he’ll get more opportunities than he ought to because this organization is sorely lacking in lefthanded pitching.

In Futuro (or why Marla loves watching the Minor Leaguers) – Brandon Boggs, Chris Davis, German Duran, Eric Hurley, Doug Mathis and Maximus: somewhere in the GDKAB archives on MLB (good luck finding them there) and here at the new place are game reports and pictures of all of these players in AA and AAA. I’ve often said following the minor league players is like being a teacher, you see them learn, grow, get better and then have so much fun watching on graduation day (their first game in the majors).

From the Blue Notebook: Kudos to Josh Lewin and the folks at Fox Sports for showing and talking about the scout who signed Chris Davis during Chris’s first home game in Arlington. Scouting is the backbone of building a superior minor league system – it’s great to see the scouts getting recognition…I just can’t get nostalgic about the end of Yankee Stadium. According to The Blue Notebook – Fenway and Wrigley have far more charisma and character. Frankly, when I read this week that they have started tearing down Tiger Stadium – the place I saw my first major league game – that is the news that brought a tear to my eye…Congrats to Mike Hindman who is now blogging for the DMN. We stopped reading their blog a while ago, but have started perusing it again in deference to our good friend – but with this suggestion to all – skip everything written by Tim McMahon – maybe if we just completely ignore him he’ll go away…meanwhile on another well known Ranger site one the of the self proclaimed expert internet GM’s pontificated that spending money on Ben Broussard kept the Rangers from signing supposed pitching phenom Michel Inoa. We beg to differ, instead one might surmise that in spite of spending money on now released Ben Broussard Ranger ownership was still willing to spend on an international signing – which is good – but the fact that Inoa chose to sign with the A’s because of their reputation for developing pitching – speaks to an area the Rangers really need to work on – and that has nothing to do with spending money.

While lunching with Lisa Winston of MiLB a couple of weeks ago she threw Marla a sharp curveball asking to name my five favorite musical artists – so many names swirled through my brain I couldn’t name them. But it did get me thinking about a my penchant for discussing music and writing lists. So starting this week is the inauguration of an occasional musical list to honor our friend (as well affording the chance to link her MLB blog and latest MiLB story) : The Lisa Winston Music List. This week I found out Steely Dan is coming to Nokia Live in Grand Prairie on August 21st – so it’s my five favorite Steely Dan songs:

  1. My Old School – the song that got me hooked on Steely Dan

  2. Haitian Divorce – it was worth waiting twenty plus years to see them in concert and hear Walter Becker sing this tune (instead of Donald)

  3. Everything Must Go – If you’ve ever been a part of a failing business (as I have) you know how this song hits the mark.

  4. Deacon Blues – Cleveland Ohio 1975-1979 – ah the sweet memories

  5. Reelin’ In The Years – one of the best guitar intro’s in rock ‘n roll – and those lyrics! "your ever lasting summer you can see it fading fast, so you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last."

Finally – some prophetic words from Toby’s keeper written this past April:

"There was no Rangers team in history that would be harder to predict than this one and that nobody could accurately predict how this team would do. There were far too many variables. Any prediction was nothing more than a guess...."

Quo vadimus? Obviam benificium discessio. – Marla Hooch

P.S. Obviam beneficium discessio – loosely translated: going in the right direction


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Travels With Marla

“A trip…is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality and uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.”
-- John Steinbeck from "Travels With Charley"

Since I appropriated his title for my blog today, it’s probably not a bad idea to quote from Mr. Steinbeck’s book. While my trip didn’t cover the width of his journey and I didn’t have a companion like Charley - I think any trip Washington DC tends to make you reflect on the abundances living in this country affords and the historic sacrifices made by thousands to protect the lifestyle we too often take for granted. Plus watching the Rangers play “the American Game” was a bonus that only made the trip that much better

All this week I kept finding excuses not to write this blog entry: I apparently picked up "summer cold" on the last day of my trip that wore me out (I blame it on the beer at the “Hawk and Dove”) or I had to do laundry, or I had to watch Max Ramirez’s first HR and Chris Davis’s major league debut, or the dog ate my homework (which is not true since I only have a ornery cat - Miss Stella – who did not appreciate me leaving her for five days in the care of Baseball Mom). But the real reason is: that I had such good time on this vacation that putting it into words is almost impossible and somehow by writing it down I’d have to let go of it. I just wasn’t ready to do that – and I’m probably still not, but what is that Latin phrase? Insanabile cacoethes scribendi.

If you want to skip the philosophical musings and over wrought prose, here is the link to my pictures from the sightseeing portion of the trip with commentary at the bottom of each picture.

Marla Meanders Around Washington DC

I have a little blue notebook that I use when I go to baseball games to write down players, pitch counts and other things I don’t want to forget when I actually do write a game report (which I admit have been lacking lately). Fortunately, I decided to put my little blue book in my purse for this trip, writing notes while riding on the metro, sitting on steps of the Jefferson Memorial or waiting for Kason Gabbard to figure out how to get a bunt down. Here are a few notes from a journey to the nation's capitol I would hope everyone who lives in these United States has the opportunity to make.

(By the way - if you click on the pictures I've added to this entry - you'll see the full size version.)

--- The best vignette from the National Zoo: as you can imagine the Giant Pandas are incredibly popular. They were all outside the day I was there with the female Mei Xiang being the most obliging – seemingly posing for photos. There is a refreshment stand called the Panda Café that over looks their enclosure. I stopped there for a lemonade and found a picnic table in the shade. As I was deleting blurry pictures of my fingers off my camera I looked over and there was Tai Shan the “baby” panda wandering out and literally flopping down on a log near where I was sitting. That part of the café was virtually empty except for the family at the picnic table next to mine – we had Tai Shan all to ourselves. Everyone once in a while he’d raise up one of his paws, it looked like he was waving at us. I think he was just batting away insects but the kids at the table next , who were maybe 4 and 5 years old, were beside themselves – “Tai-Shan waived at us!” It was a neat little moment.

--- My new favorite art museum is the Museum of American Art /National Portrait Gallery. Another Smithsonian affiliated institution it’s located in what used to be the Patent Office. In an unusual arrangement the floors of the museum are “shared” by each museum – one side is the American Art Gallery the other is the Portrait Gallery. I loved seeing Thomas Hart Benton’s vivid “Achelous and Hecules” as well as the “American Presidents” - a complete collection of portraits of the Presidents – many paintings by the same artist who painted the official portraits that hang in the White House . There were also three excellent special exhibits: legendary cartoonist Herblock’s send up of Presidents “Puncturing Pomposity” (and if you are old enough to remember Herblock please raise your hand) – Ballyhoo! Posters as Portraiture and Edward Steichen’s portraits for Vanity Fair from the 1920’s and 1930’s. I have to mention the third floor of the building which has been restored to look as it did during the late 1800’s with inlaid floors, tiffany windows, and vaulted ceilings – it’s a work of art in itself.

-- The weather was beautiful – well, at least by Texas standards - for the first four days of my visit, sunny but in the 70’s with a cool breeze. Yes, it’s a little more humid – but it’ also not exactly Miami. Enjoying the fact that I could walk around outside, I decided one day to visit the monuments, all of them. The walking map I carried around like a bible gave me the impression that they were all “close” together – so why not?

I started at the Washington Monument. No, I didn’t go inside and up to the top, did that in high school don’t plan on doing it again.

Directly in front of the Washington Monument is the World War II Memorial. It is majestic, as it should be. I especially liked the bas- relief murals on each side of the monument. According to the Park Ranger there are twelve on each side (Pacific and Atlantic) depicting not just battles but the efforts of all Americans during WWII.

I walked along the reflecting pool to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This memorial is stunning – but what bothered me was the large group of teenagers who were at the memorial that morning. They obviously had no sense of the solemnity of this place and unfortunately the adults who were with them did absolutely nothing to quiet these kids down and talk to them about those names engraved on “the wall” – it made me sad and a little angry.

The atmosphere at the Korean War Memorial was more appropriate. The weary soldiers climbing the hill are all beautifully sculpted, it’s a moving memorial.

The view from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking towards the Washington Monument over the reflecting pool is one that reminded me of significant moments at that spot: Marian Anderson singing, Martin Luther King Jr. speaking, and Bobby Kennedy’s funeral cortège passing in front on its way to Arlington.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t aware there was memorial for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I remember reading his quote saying all he wanted was a marble slab with his name near the national archives building. I’m not sure how FDR would feel about the memorial that now honors him – I think it is well done.

The final memorial on my walk was the Jefferson Memorial. Thomas Jefferson is my favorite president, his monument is beautiful – but it has the worst restrooms of any national park I’ve ever visited. My entire monument sojourn took about four and half hours, so I was more than ready for a long lunch at a German deli called Café Mozart.

-- One of the two high points of my trip was lunch with MiLB / MLB writer Lisa Winston. If you aren’t reading her MLBlog “Got MiLB?” – I have to ask why not? The link is on the left side of my blog – and her articles on MiLB should not be missed. She’s a terrific writer, and an absolute joy in to meet in person. We had long lunch, talked baseball, music and everything else under the sun – seriously – you need to check out her blog and especially the music links (you were right Lisa – Mike Viola is terrific!) watch for Lisa at the futures game in NY – you go girl!

-- The other highlight of my trip: The National Air and Space Museum. I can’t begin describe what it is like for a someone who grew a up as a bit of space geek to walk in the door to find John Glenn’s capsule on your right then the Apollo 11 command module on the left. Looking up there was Chuck Yeager’s Glamorous Glennis and the Spirit of St. Louis hanging overhead. I loved the display with the dashboard of the LEM from Apollo 17. As you stood there looking through the window you saw the surface of the moon approaching with the voices of Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt describing the descent. There were artifacts of every kind, almost too many to see. The ultimate artifact of flight being the Wright Brothers original flyer – now housed in its own room and on the ground so you can see it close up. Which brought up the question – if the Wright Bothers were in Dayton – why did the first flight take place at Kitty Hawk NC? The answer courtesy of a fellow space geek and blogger extraordinaire – it was chosen because it was “a sandy coastal area for regular breezes and a soft landing surface. They selected Kitty Hawk after scrutinizing Weather Bureau data and writing to the government meteorologist stationed there. The location, although remote, was closer to Dayton. The spot also gave them privacy from reporters”

--There were so many wonderful things that I haven’t even written about: Kramer’s Books, DuPont Circle, the Phillips Collection, the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art, dinner with Alice, dinner with John (aka “Birdy”) strolling in front of the White House, post game libations (and the company) at the “Hawk and Dove”, how cool it was to open the sports page each morning and not only get to read Tom Boswell but also see the Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley’s and Ian Kinsler’s pictures above the “leaders” category on the AL page of the Washington Post.

Oh Yeah - Baseball

I did watch a little baseball – the link to the pictures from the games are in the photo gallery on the left or by clicking here.

The Nationals new stadium has two things going for it: a metro stop literally in front of the Centerfield Gate and potential. Both nights I rode the Metro to the game, I was impressed with how the DC transit system handled large crowds – everyone and I do mean everyone - rides the train to the game. When you exit the metro walking down Half street towards the ballpark gates, you turn around there is a clear view of the Capitol Dome – at night when the dome is lit, it’s awe inspiring.

The white stone exterior of the ballpark was criticized by some fans – but the designers want it to fit in with the white facades of all the monuments and structures in DC, and the corner with the Nationals offices was designed as a compliment to IM Pei’s East Wing of the National Gallery. The stadium interior is all red, white and blue (what else?) – there is the “red porch” restaraunt (see picture on right) out in LF, and right field is designed as a tribute the original Washington DC ballpark (Griffiths Stadium). The other notable architectural point is the press box and broadcast booths that are located above the third level of seats. I was told that can you see the entire field, and the entire city of Washington and even parts of Maryland and Virginia from that vantage point. The National like most teams (except the Rangers) have a number of refreshment stands run by local eateries My friend John ("Birdy") Sweet recommded the uniquely DC "half smoke" sausage from Ben's Chili Bowl- it was delicious - I had one both nights.

I really hope that all of the Ranger officials who were along for the trip took note of the Nats great video board and really good sound system. My suggestion to Mr. Hicks is: since you are not spending money on “Glory Park” why not use those funds to put in a new video board inside the Ballpark (instead of outside) and please put in a new sound system. The "Presidents Race" is probably the best take off on the "dot race" of all the imitiations that I've watched in other ballparks.

The potential for the Nationals is the area surrounding the ballpark. I took a walk around the entire outside of the park and have to say – there’s not much going on. The new ballpark will be the catalyst for the redevelopment of the Navy Yard area – but right now there isn’t anything around the park except empty buildings waiting for demolition or refurbishment, and lots of dirt being moved for new structures. I’d like to go back in a few years and see the finished product. Unlike the Ballpark in Arlington, the Nationals park is a downtown park that does warrant that kind of development of retail and living space - people in DC actually live and work in the city (unlike the suburban setting in Arlington).

As for the games: had a great time sitting with fellow Ranger fans Mike and Grant Schiller – the best baseball companions you can have. Friday night we sat along the first base line by the right fielder – for all 14 innings. Baseball Mom TIVO’d the brief shot of us that appeared at the top of one of the later innings. Noted from the game: Tim Redding – are you kidding me? Elijah Dukes put on quite a show, that is the best I’ve seen Kevin Milwood pitch in a while, we were nervous when Joaquin Benoit was on the mound – turns out it we should have been more worried about Jamey Wright.

Saturday night the baseball gods smiled on me – I wound up with a seat about 20 rows up behind the Rangers dugout and two empty seats next to me. Of course, I called Grant and Mike who were sitting up on the third level to come on down and we enjoyed the view and the game. Memorable moments: Kason Gabbard’s feeble attempts at bunting, PH German Duran getting two AB’s in the same inning, and Luis Mendoza’s statue like AB – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a relief pitcher actually go to the plate with a bat in his hand.

I am glad I chose this as my Rangers road trip this season. I was reminded of the history and beauty of this country, I got to spend time with old and new friends who I absolutely adore and yes, there was baseball too. It was the best vacation I’ve had in fifteen years.

I’ll close with another quote from "Travels With Charley":

“If I were to prepare one immaculately inspected generality it would be this: For all of our enormous geographic range, for all of our sectionalism, for all of our interwoven breeds drawn from every part of the ethnic world, we are a nation, a new breed. Americans are much more American than they are Northerners, Southerners, Westerners, or Easterners.... It is astonishing that this has happened in less than two hundred years and most of it in the last fifty. The American identity is an exact and provable thing.”

Next Week: Back to Ranger baseball and the mid-season report card --- Marla Hooch