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



Anonymous said...
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Jon said...

I think you nailed it about the catching situation and Ranger fans being spoiled by the memories of having Pudge and Sundberg back behind the plate, EMC.

Another thing I would add for people who think we should keep Gerald Laird and/or trade one of the younger catchers (namely Salty) is that Gerald's value is probably at an all-time high, even as he comes off the DL. As long as he can get back before the deadline and prove himself healthy, he's never going to be more tradable than right now. If you're trying to sell high on a catcher, he's the one you should be trading because you probably won't get maximum value for Salty or even Max, who are both just now starting to show signs of life offensively.

chrisc said...

I totally agree with your take on the Tess Monaghan series!

I guess if a team wants a player to provide an "emotional spark", they have to be willing weather the storms and hope that he's a good producer and not just a hothead. Milton is not one of my favorites--but maybe he's a good fit for your Rangers.

I'd rather be 3 games over .500 than however far south of that my pitiful Rockies are right now.

mrs. schmenge said...

re: catcher situation, please see blog from months ago -- "someone's got some 'splainin to do"... Volume doesn't help the team in this particular role... I agree, trade Laird now. We've got potential in both of the young dudes.

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