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