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