Friday, December 4, 2009

I Told You So.....

Here are links to columns by Randy Galloway about potential Rangers owner Dennis Gilbert here and here.

Please note Gilbert's desire to be a "hands on" owner with everyone reporting directly to him. As I said on Sunday: if Gilbert is chosen by Mr. Hicks and is approved by MLB - this is going to be a nightmare. Remember how bad things were with Mr. Hicks circa 2000 - 2003 - it's about to happen again. Gilbert is a former agent, he's not going to use his money to keep building the team - he's going to on spending spree with the likes of "veteran" players (just look at the broken down "veteran" players that littered the Texas rosters from 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003) - all JD's hard work to build up a good farm system to feed to the major league team will go straight down the drain.

The only hope left is that Randy is right in his assertion that Gilbert's financing isn't in place, and the fact that the NHL has to approve the new owner might work against a fomer athlete's agent. Thinking out loud - it could favor Mr. Greenberg who has had some dealings with the NHL in the past - although I haven't read how the NHL felt about Mr. Greenberg.

You know Tom Schieffer - one of the architects of the Rangers playoff teams in the 90's - is out of a job (no longer running for governor). Is it too late for him to put together a group - or maybe even the same group that owned the team back in the glory days? They knew a little something about letting the baseball operations do their job, and making the Ballpark a great place to visit for all fans (not just the corporate pals of the owner). you hear the sounds of crickets chirping when it comes to making moves that will actually help the team on the field?

Tom Schieffer for owner! -- Marla Hooch

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What Can I Say?

Not much.

I can't get excited about additions to the 40 man roster - so what other baseball content is there write about lately?

The truth is that we are now fans of the Montreal Expos. Our current owner built his financial empire on a foundation of shifiting sands, and we the fans are paying for Tom Hicks wrong headed faith in bubble economics.

As every local pundit has written: the Rangers have no money to spend this off season, so we are likely to see pretty much the same team that we watched last season (which is not necessarily a bad thing). The problem is that Mr. Hicks, but mostly the primary owner (Mr. Selig) have unrealistic expectations of what the Rangers are worth - and the bidders haven't been willing to pay. But, when has Bud Selig been realistic about anything? (Just one example - performance enhancing supplements: Bud is still combing grains out his hair from leaving his head in the sand for so long about this situation).

Unfortunately, the financial solution to the Rangers problems doesn't appear to be any better that the current problem. National reports seem to indicate that the former sports agent and Selig crony Dennis Gilbert has a leg up on on the competition. The key phrase here is "former sports agent" and the fact that he is an "advisor" to the White Sox owner -- one more phrase comes to mind: managing and general managing from the ownners suite. If you thought Tom Hicks meddled too much - just wait and see what happens if Dennis Gilbert buys the team.

Enough - wake me up when spring training starts.

Tis the season to be jolly, and I have to thank my brother in law Ken for sending this video (see below). If you don't love the Muppets and their version of this Queen classic - then what planet of dour people do you come from?

I see a little silhouetto of a clam -- Marla

Thursday, October 29, 2009

By Request For Baseball Mom

Who said she checked my blog today to see if I'd put up the pictures from my trip - click on the following link to to see photos from:

Marla and New Mexico Bean's Excellent Adventure in New Orleans

More travelogue, ignoring the World Series, and whatever else I can manage to write will appear sometime soon - probably this weekend.

I know it's a cliche - be it ever so humble - there's no place like home -- Marla Hooch


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I'm Walkin' To N'awlins

“I’m walkin’ to New Orleans
I’m going to need two pair of shoes
When I get through walkin’ to you
When I get back to New Orleans”
--- Fats Domino

I’m taking Fats advice, packing my bags and heading for a few a few days of who knows what in the Big Easy.

Before I go, a few baseball and non-baseball thoughts:

Regarding the departure of hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo: I’ve always questioned, based on what I’ve read in the media, his philosophy of “aggressive in the strike zone”. However, since I’m not in the clubhouse or taken a batting lesson from him I can’t say for certain that his philosophy was the whole problem with the Rangers offense in 2009. Although I can say this with some certainty: young players in their first major league AB’s struggle – take a look at some early career stats: Michael Young (966 AB - .246 Avg) Mark Teixeira (529 AB - .259 Avg) and Torii Hunter (720 AB - .266 Avg). It seems that a majority of hitters have to learn how to hit pitching at the major league level – no matter how successful they were in the minor leagues. This past season’s lineup was full of hitters who’ve not yet had even two full season’s of AB’s: (Chris Davis, Elvis Andrus, David Murphy, Taylor Teagarden, and Josh Hamilton technically falls into this category too) – statistical and empirical evidence suggests they were going have their ups and downs – which they most certainly did. What that says to me is that whoever is hired as hitting coach next season might receive undue praise for improvements. Younger players are bound to improve as they get more experience – no matter who is the hitting coach. So during the 2010 season when I read the bloggers and media wags who will point to offensive improvements because of the coaching change – I’ll be pouring a large grain of salt on their pronouncements. By the way – the same could be probably be said about the pitching coach change this season.

The playoffs: so the Dodgers and the Angels aren’t as invincible as they appeared during the season? I have to chuckle just a bit, I haven’t seen a team look as bad against the Yankees since, well, 1996, 1998, and 1999. I take small comfort in the fact that the Rangers are not the only ones who wither under the playoff spotlight against New York. It’s apparent (barring a couple of serious baseball miracles) that the World Series will be the Phillies vs. the Yankees. I can’t tell you how disinterested I am in that match-up – except that I think Philadelphia has a reasonable chance of defeating New York (provided the Phillies bullpen doesn’t implode). Do you realize that if the World Series winds up going the full 7 games, the last 3 games will be played Nov 1st, 2nd and 3rd - on the East Coast, at night? If the temperature is above 50 degrees – that will be another baseball miracle. Ridiculous! What’s even more ridiculous is that because of the World Series there won’t be any new episodes of “House” and “Glee” (yes I’ve been suckered in by that show) until mid-November. I know that Bud Selig doesn’t read my blog – but he should. He needs be aware that he is alienating this dependable, die hard baseball fan because of this prolonged playoff schedule. Of course, all Bud cares about is the TV ratings, since New York will be in the series those ratings probably won’t suffer – but I won’t be watching.

Planning my nights by the TV Guide: Speaking of television – the best new series in my always humble opinion is “The Good Wife” on CBS. The cast is terrific, especially Josh Charles (late of “SportsNight” - sigh) and Christine Baranski (who was great in “Mama Mia”). I already mentioned “Glee” on Fox – a guilty pleasure – and I hope an early sign that musicals might be coming back into style. I’ve also been watching “Eastwick” on ABC – I’m not sure it’s really that good – but I’m a charter member of the Paul Gross fan club (“Slings & Arrows”, “Due South”) and I’m kind of surprised how good Rebbeca Romijn is (all those X men movies – really?).

CD’s aren’t obsolete yet (are they?): I head about Rosanne Cash’s new CD “The List” bought it, can’t stop listening to it. The summer after she graduated from high school Rosanne went on tour with her dad – the man in black – Johnny Cash. They were discussing music, when he asked her about more traditional songs – she told him she’d never heard of most of them. Johnny sat down and wrote up a list of 100 “essential” songs he thought she need to know. Rosanne kept the list, and recorded 12 of those songs on her latest CD – it is excellent. Most notable: “500 Miles (accompanied by her daughter Chelsea Crowell), “Heartache By The Numbers (with Elvis Costello) and one of my favorite folk songs “Bury Me Beneath The Weeping Willow”.

On the bookshelf: Just finished Dan Brown’s “ The Lost Symbol” (thank you Mrs. Schmenge for loaning the book). I’m not a big Dan Brown fan – “The Da Vinci Code” was a fast read – but I didn’t think it was anything special – just good storytelling. The same thing with his new book – fast read, nice details, but not particularly impressive. On the other hand, I am impressed with mystery writer Cara Black’s Amiee LeDuc series. Each of the books is set one of the neighborhoods ("arrondissement") of Paris – the mystery usually reflects the character/history of the neighborhood.

Finally: It’s that time of year – less baseball more random odds and ends – 166 days until the home opener on April 5th. Meanwhile:

“I’ve got my suitcase in my hand
Now ain’t that a shame
I’m leavin’today…
Walkin’ to New Orleans”

Laisser les bons temps rouler!
-- Marla Hooch

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thus Endeth Another Season....

I'd written a long and rambling entry (what a surprise!) on season's end. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted it, and I don't have the energy right now to re-construct it -- I'll try to do that next week.

But I do want to say thanks to all my baseball friends who, as always, make the great game even greater - if only because of their presence in my life (and the fact that they put up with me): The Schillers, The Newbergs, The Hindmans, Ms. Berstein, The Lucases, The Massetts, The Botts Clan, Dennis the world's greatest usher, my hero Henry Chadwick and with great affection for Baseball Mom, Neil, Mrs. Schmenge and brother Rob.

I wish Hank Blalock the best wherever he may go (why I do keep thinking he'll be the starting first baseman in Seattle next year?) - I really, really, really hope that we haven't seen the last of Marlon Byrd and Pudge.

I think I've posted pictures of roller coasters several times with my blog entries this year emphasizing the nature of the Rangers 2009 season - it was an unexpected ride of highs and lows. I hope that I can safely say that there is no more "wait till next year" - that 2010 is the year for the Rangers.

The offseason is always too long -- Marla Hooch

P.S. Is there anyone else who thinks MLB needs to re-think their schedule? Do you realize that if the World Series goes a full 7 games the last 3 will be played in November, at night, possibly in Philadelphia, or New York, or maybe even Denver - ridiculous! I wish there were a grass roots movement to persuade (or if you are talking about the owners - bully them) into shortening the season to 154 games - starting a few days later in April and ending a week earlier in September. Dragging the post season out only makes MLB more of a laughing stock and certainly hasn't helped with TV ratings (which haven't been good for post season for quite a while) - or the popularity of the game overall which continues to slowly wan.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Just Flew In From Seattle....

...and boy are my arms tired.

The Hooch Entourage made one of our semi-annual visits to the Emerald City which happened to coincide with the last three games of the Rangers 2009 season vs the Mariners at Safeco Field.

Just a few random notes, because I am really tired from the trip, I'll blog more about it and other assorted baseball thoughts in my usual end of the week entry.

Friday: Cold and rainy - not a big surprise in the Pacific Northwest in October. The game looked a bit hopeless with Brandon McCarthy making an early exit (is the last time we see him pitch in a Ranger uniform?) I hope it's not the last time we see Omar Vizquel - I think he did a very good job in the utility role and it certainly wouldn't hurt having him around with Elvis Andrus for one more year.

We did get to the see the roof close during the game - which is a pleasant distraction. Additionally, taking the lead at the top of the ninth and winning the game was a good way to end the night (although holding my breath while Frankie Francisco pitched is not something I want to do next season).

Saturday: was different story. The game started at 6:00 Pacific time. Except for Elvis Andrus, that Rangers team looked like they were counting the minutes until they could get back in the clubhouse and check out the college football scores. It was too cold to take pictures, although I did take one of the full harvest moon over Safeco Field. However, it was not too cold for a trip to the Alki Tavern after the game. No Rangers/Mariners series can be considered complete unless there is at least one (or two) visits to this West Seattle institution - the skyline view from the seats by the window at the Alki are worth the trip.

Sunday: made a believer out of me - King Felix deserves the Cy Young award. He's going to be a problem for our hitters for the near and far future -- wish the Rangers could figure out how to draft and develop that kind of a talented pitcher. I don 't want to hear about Holland or Perez or Font or anyone else - they pale in comparison to Felix Hernandez. What I couldn't figure out was: Esteban German and Craig Gentry got to start on Sunday, but Kevin Richardson - who is from Seattle and seemed to have some folks in seats wanting to see him - didn't even get to play an inning - - it was the last game of the season - winning or losing was not even relevant - shame on Ranger management for not putting Kevin in there.

Monday: The harvest moon shone over Lake Union early in the morning as we were getting ready to leave, and the view of Mount Ranier was spectacular on the flight home. During that flight I had plenty of time to think about the Rangers 2009, and came to this conclusion: stat heads and whining sports talk host and bloggers be damned, the Rangers DID have a successful season. They finished with a record better than 20 out of the 30 MLB teams, they had the 8th best record in MLB (tied with the Marlins) and keep in mind if they played in the AL Central (which was a possiblity at one time) they'd be in the playoffs because they have a better record than both the Tigers and Twins.

Finally: Thanks to Mrs. Schmenge, Baseball Mom, Annette and Brian and our friend in the press box for making this another memorable baseball trip - the last one of 2009 - sigh.

If you'd like to see all the pictures from my Seattle trip - click here!

Only 182 more days until Opening Day April 5, 2010 -- Marla Hooch

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Respice Stella, Voca Mariam

At one point in the movie "The Big Chill” Michael the writer (played by Jeff Goldblum) is asked what he’s going to write about, he says “this weekend” and then what will he write about after that ?“ last weekend” is his response. The spirit of The Big Chill and Jeff’s dialogue are exactly what I’m writing about tonight. Baseball can wait, I’m going to Seattle to watch the Rangers final three games this weekend and I’ll have plenty to write about next week. Today I’m writing about “last weekend”

Change is inevitable. As John Lennon wrote “There are places I remember all my life, but some have changed. Some forever not for better, some have gone and some remain.” I don’t go back to Cleveland as much as I’d like – no make that as much as a I should. Driving around the old stomping grounds was bittersweet – there’s Subway now where we used to walk up to Lo Paro’s Pizza on Cedar, the I-Hop on Mayfield has been replaced by a Mr. Tire and down the street Spotty’s is now a Phoenix Coffee Shop. The apple orchard next to the college driveway is gone, there’s a Starbuck’s in the library and Harks Hall is a men’s dorm.

But then again, not all changes are for the worse. I’ve heard that some of the NDC alum have stopped donating and attending events because the college went co-ed. All I have to say to these women is – shame on you.

Everyone knew NDC couldn’t survive as an all women’s college. There’s no reason to go into detail about that now – the change was made. I’m happy to report that even though there are very few Sisters of Notre Dame teaching on campus, and yes there are men, computers and athletics – the spirit of NDC remains intact, here’s how I found out. During the Friday night Clambake for the Student and Alumni: Fran, Maui, Schos and I (aka Mrs. B) wandered over to our old dorm - which we will always call Alumnae Hall no matter what the sign says now. We met up with some freshmen living on the first floor who were happy to show us their room. We talked about old times and about the new times too with these lovely girls – during the course of the conversations, I heard one of them say to her roommate “I hope that’s us in 30 years”. Then I knew that whatever else had changed on the campus on College Road - the spirit of the college we love is still the same.

When I was at NDC we used to have a saying that we couldn’t wait to graduate and go to a real college. Well, guess what – NDC is a real college now – it is more vibrant and alive than I’ve ever seen it. The young women and the young men who are enrolled there now are in the best tradition of Notre Dame College and all of its alumni. As the one of the sages of my era, Pete Townshend said “the kids are all right” and so is my beloved college.

It was so great to see everyone again – here’s a link to the pictures I took during the weekend -- that means you click on the word link Maureen and it will take you to the pictures (just kidding – sort of)

Sons and daughters of Our Lady,
’Neath your banner, Notre Dame,
We will pledge devout allegiance
To the College of your name.
We will strive for what you stand for,
We will prove our filial love,
Alma Mater, hear our voices,Which we raise to you above,
Alma Mater, hear our voices,Which we raise to you above

-- Marla Hooch (aka Mr. B aka Eleanor Czajka '79)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

30 Years Of Friends.....

Sentiments courtesy of Elton John and Bernie Taupin

"I hope the day will be a lighter highway
For friends are found on every road.
Can you ever think of any better way
For the lost and weary travelers to go?

Making friends for all the world to see,
Let the people know you got what you need.
With a friend at hand you will see the light,
If your friends are there then everything's all right.

It seems to me a crime that we should age,
These fragile times should never slip us by.
A time you never can or shall erase,
As friends together watch their [lifetimes] fly

Making friends for the world to see,
Let the people know you got what you need.
With a friend at hand you will see the light,
If your friends are there then everything’s all right."

I love y'all and I miss you -- Eleanor "Mrs. B" Czajka - NDC Class of 1979


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Wizard, Dorothy, The Rangers and Cleveland

Bet you are wondering how I'll manage to connect all of those random subjects - well read on and find out:

This week one of the all-time greatest movies celebrates its 70th anniversary with a remastered re-release: The Wizard of Oz

There are so many parallels that you could draw between the storyline of this movie and the long strange history of the Texas Rangers, but I’m not going to do that right now.

I do keep thinking about Dorothy and what she realized as she was leaving Oz:

“I think that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em – and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. Isn’t that right?”
If Ranger ownership, management and fans take away just one thing this from this season, I hope it is the same lesson Dororthy learned. Free agents, big contracts, management with star quality reputations, and gimmicks don’t always lead you down the yellow brick road to success. Sometimes that happiness and success grows right there in their own backyard in Scott and JD’s farm system.

Hope the disappointed amnong the fans can put a lid on their angst long enough to enjoy the Rangers last home series, and appreciate what a really fun and really good season this has been for all of us.

I’ll only be there in spirit because I’m headed to I mean... Ohio this weekend for my 30th college reunion.

"Close your eyes and think: There’s no place like home" – Marla Hooch

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Standing Up For The Fans

I don’t like being called out by anyone, but especially by a fellow fan.

I’ve been stewing about Jamey Newberg’s September 17th report all day today. Arguing with a lawyer is useless, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give it a try.

Whether you like it or not: the weather DID play a huge factor in attendance at the Ballpark in Arlington this past weekend. There were plenty of reasons for not going to Arlington due to the weather last week - just because we don’t want to sit in the stands getting sopping wet and cold doesn’t mean that we are not dedicated fans. Sorry Jamey - long rain delays and miserable weather tests the patience of the most loyal fans, including myself – scolding fans for not showing up in poor weather conditions is wrong.

Let’s not ignore the fact that the Rangers attendance IS up (about 12% was the last figure I read) and their TV ratings ARE UP TOO (around 50% was the last figure I read). Saying that the fans have not supported this team sufficiently this season is not a true statement. While attendance is flat or down in some of the other MLB cities – more fans have come out to the watch the Rangers in person and on the tube this season.

Keep this number in mind: 689-769: that’s the Rangers W-L from 2000-2008 (a .472 winning percentage). Again whether you like it or not – 8 years of that kind baseball hardly inspires fans to come out to the Ballpark. I agree with the venerable Jim Reeves who said that Ranger fans have had their hearts broken so many times by this franchise it makes them hesitant. Frankly speaking: it’s about to happen one more time. While this season has been good – and the Rangers have won more games than they’ve lost – they haven’t been able to win the games at the critical juncture when it really counts for something.

Add that to a losing streak (to teams supposedly inferior to the Rangers), the miserable weather, and constant media reports and references to dire financial circumstances that could hamper this team’s ability to keep key players in the future – it does make one think twice about making the trip to Arlington. Throw in the fact that many of us fans have our own financial issues to deal with that make paying for tickets, parking and concessions one of the things we have to cut back on this year. Baseball is very important to many of us – yet attending sporting events are a still a luxury not an essential, especially when you can’t really afford it no matter how much you love your team – (and I do appreciate the fact the Rangers have tried to make it a little more affordable) I think in this case the fans have a solid defense against your argument.

There are a lot of “sports” fans around here , but there aren’t as many die hard baseball fans. After all this is Cowboy’s town, always has been, always will be. My goodness, even the state’s largest paper doesn’t bother to have any of their own writers covering the team - they use wire reports and game stories from other sources – yet they do have 10 writers covering each and every Cowboys event - my exaggeration is only slight. (As a baseball only fan from birth – I find that unacceptable and disgusting which is why I no longer subscribe to or read online the Dallas Morning News ) This isn’t Boston, New York, Chicago or St. Louis: never has been a baseball town, never will be. Most casual sports fans in this area watch the Rangers while they wait for football season to start. They aren’t going to cheer for a team that has won 1 playoff game in their entire history – when their other team has won 5 championships. I can’t blame them for not being too enthusiastic about what happened at the Ballpark this past week.

While fan support can buoy team’s spirits – it doesn’t mean as much as you seem to think – otherwise the Cubs would have won at least 4 or 5 World Series by now. Just because I didn’t clap when a veteran hitter couldn’t bring in a runner from third with less than 2 outs against a 23 year old pitcher is a poor excuse for calling out me and the other folks who pay their hard earned money to watch a baseball game. We don’t pitch, we don’t hit, we don’t make out the lineup card and we don’t make pitching changes.

Finally - the bottom line: The Rangers choked, straight forward and simple.

Doc Ellis once said that September was the time when the men stood up and the boys sat down – and our boys sat down. The pitching staff stumbled big time and the offense (which has been inconsistent all year long) disappeared. I for one don’t believe that any amount of cheering from the stands changes any of that.

If you are disappointed and frustrated because of the way the team has played – point the finger in the direction of the clubhouse – don’t blame that on the fans -- Marla Hooch

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It Doesn't Add Up.....

Math was always my worst subject in school, by far (ask Baseball Mom she’ll testify to that). The irony is that for 13 years I worked in the banking industry, which of course is all about numbers. I owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Bill Gates for that long run – his Excel program kept me employed all through the 80’s and early 90’s.

Even though I don’t need to use it much anymore, I still play around with Excel for my own amusement - which is the basis of the first part of today’s blog.

The “numbers” for the Rangers chances of making the playoffs at this point, in my opinion, appear to be insurmountable.

The Rangers and Red Sox both have 22 games left to play, while the Angels have 21 games.

Let’s look at the AL West:

The Angels are 85-56 as of this morning. If they go 10-11 in their last 21 games (highly unlikely) – they’d have a record of 95-67.

To catch them the Rangers would have to go 17-5 in their last 22 games for a record 96-66.

Hypothetically speaking, even if the Rangers won all 7 games they have left with the Angels, they still wouldn’t win the division. The thing of it is, the Angels haven’t played anywhere near .500 baseball in the second half of the season. During their last 10 games they are 7-3 (.700). If they play even close to that number – the Rangers would have go 19-3 or 21-2 to catch the Angels, even fans with the thickest rose-colored glasses would admit that’s impossible.

The Wild Card:

Well it isn’t much better: Boston is currently 82-58, with 22 games left. Should their record be .500 (11-11) in those games they end up 93-69.

The Rangers would have to go 15-7 to catch the Sox.

If Boston won just 2 more games (13-9) then the Rangers would need to be 17-5 (there’s that same number again) to gain the Wild Card.

The final number seems to be 17-5 in the next 3 weeks for any chance at playoff spot – and that number only works if LAA and Boston stumble a bit – something neither has done since mid-August.

There are only 2 numbers that matter on the Hooch balance sheet: 4 and $600 million.

4 is the number of games the Rangers need to win to ensure they finish over .500 this season, I’ll go out on a limb and guarantee that will happen. Texas has already won as many games as they did all of last season. I think they can play .500 baseball from now until October 4th- which would give them 90 wins. Thanks go to Jon Daniels, Mike Maddux and the baseball gods for that. We can dissect it all later on and expound on theories of where the Rangers went wrong (mine starts with the series against the A’s in August). But for now, it’s been a great season, the most fun I’ve had watching the Rangers since the days of Wetteland, Gonzalez and Rodriguez in the late 90’s (and Thank God and Jose Vallejo that Pudge is back!). The fact that we’re even discussing the playoffs is just a bonus for team that is at the crossroads – that's where the $600 million number comes in play and it really worries me.

I don’t feel sorry for Tom Hicks, not one bit. I worked in the venture capital industry (such as it is) for a short time in the late 1990's. Venture capital types like him build their fortunes on risk – which is a foundation of shifting sand – he risked, he lost. The problem is, in my estimation, he’s trying to make money on the sale of the Rangers with an asking price that obviously no one is interested in paying. If Tom Hicks is in as much trouble as the local media has portrayed him, then his goal should be to get the Rangers and their debt off his books – and nothing else. Making money off the sale to pay off his other problems should not even be part of the equation.

Hicks professes to care about the future of this franchise – I doubt that - he's always been about making money first and winning comes way after that. However, if he is playing the worried owner who cares about the future of a talented young team, then his concern should be that they have an owner who can ensure future financial security and pay to sign draft choices and keep key players long term and actively pursue free agents.

My impression of Tom Hicks has been that he somehow wanted to change the economics of baseball – a foolish and risky notion that backfired on him. It’s not lost on me that the Rangers started losing one season after he took full control of the team and that they are finally winning when he is about (or already has) lost control of the team. The baseball end of the organization has finally been allowed do what teams have been doing for decades to ensure a winning franchise: build from within.

My advice to Tom Hicks – if there’s a reasonable offer out there that gets the Rangers debt off your books and secures the future of the franchise – take it, even if it less than you and Bud Selig “think” the team is worth. If you were really that good with assessing the worth of anything – you wouldn’t be the financial dire straits you are in right now.

Unfortunately, for us Ranger fans Tom Hicks and Bud Selig are part of the arrogant MLB management mindset that uses the baseball “numbers” which are best described as “voodoo economics” which won’t let numbers add up realistically. I have a sinking feeling that we all need to learn to like poutine, and start counting our numbers and stats in French, because the Rangers are about to become the Montreal Expos.

Vive La Rangers! – Marla Hooch

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

All You Need Is.....

I woke up this morning, the Beatles were on the front page of the Star Telegram.

I came home to find that the Rangers swept the Indians moving them 1 1/2 games out of the Wild Card playoff race.

I don't think a day can get much better than this.

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say
But you can learn how to play the game.
It's easy.

-- Marla Hooch

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not Gonna Do It....

Whatever happened to Dana Carvey?

After the last “Wayne’s World” movie he disappeared into that same purgatory of oblivion that so many former SNL players go after they leave the show: Larraine Newman? Joe Piscipo? Eddie Murphy (just kidding – or maybe not based on his last few movies).

The reason I bring up Dana I was that I was thinking of his imitation of the first President Bush. One of the oft repeated parts of the impersonation was the phrase “not gonna do it – not gonna go there “(I wish I could find a video clip of that to link here) – anyway – that’s exactly how I was feeling this weekend.

If you remember, the Rangers first opponent this year was the Indians. If you had told me when they faced the Tribe on April 6th that Derek Holland would be starting the game on September 6th and getting lit up - I would not have been surprised. I thought Holland was going to be called up at some point this season, and having a bad game late in the season was an expected part of the learning curve. If you had told me he’d be starting a game on September 6th that meant the difference between being 1 game or 3 games behind in the Wild Card Race – I would have been ecstatic. I still am.

Let the other faux GM’s in the blogosphere moan and groan about stats, missed opportunities, poor game management and whatever else they usually whine about – I’m enjoying every minute watching this team. This season is a gift from the baseball gods – it’s by no means over, but think about it kids – how much this team has improved in just one year? I refuse to be disappointed – “not gonna do it, not gonna go there”

Game report: The Hooch Entourage met up with the inimitable Scott Lucas and his lovely wife Courtney on August 29th for a little AAA Nashville vs. Round Rock baseball at Dell Diamond. It was a festival of former Ranger minor leaguers including the infamous spring phenom Matt Kata, recent Ranger minor leaguer Casey Daigle (isn’t his wife someone famous?) and Brian Esposito (with all his tattoo’s) striking out with the bases loaded. Newest Round Rock team member Jose Vallejo did not play – we suspect he was injured. There was also the often sadly seen minor league specter of “how the mighty have fallen” – JJ Hardy and Corey Patterson were in the starting lineup for Nashville, while Armando Benitez (age 36) pitched for the Express. I don’t remember all the details of the game, other than Scott telling me about the video of Round Rock leadoff hitter Reggie Abercrombie’s desire to be a lifeguard – even though he doesn’t know how to swim. Checking back on the boxscores – the Express lost to the Sounds 5-4. Photo of the fantastic sunset over Dell Diamond is courtesy of Mrs. Schmenge. During the game Scott proved to be a psychic – we discussed the fortunes of Craig Gentry and Thomas Diamond – lo and behold less than a week later their baseball careers took the path that we discussed.

Speaking of 1st Round Draft Choices: With Thomas Diamond moving on to the Cubs, our baseball guru and mentor TR Sullivan noted on his blog that the Rangers do not have any of their first overall draft picks currently playing on their major league roster. (Tommy Hunter and Julio Borbon were supplemental picks – not the first player chosen by the Rangers). To elaborate on that point I scoured the draft pages of Baseball America and in fairness to the Rangers, I’m also including the players who’ve made it to the majors and “hidden” gems from later rounds in those drafts. Without further ado: a listing of the Texas first round draft picks – and where they are now – since 2000:

2000: Catcher Scott Heard (out of baseball)
Also drafted: 4th round - OF Laynce Nix made it to the majors with the Rangers and is now getting regular playing time with the Cincinnati Reds. His Reds teammate 8th round - RHP Nick Masset (5-1, 2.69 ERA) was also member of the 2000 draft class – and part of disastrous trade for the 2003 #1 draft pick.

2001: 1B Mark Teixeria – now most likely the 2009 AL MVP for the New York Yankees

The reality was that the Rangers made Mark a contract offer, he wasn’t going to stay in Texas no matter how much money they threw at him. I can’t complain about the players they received from the Braves in the trade for Tex – most of them are a key part of the Rangers success this season

Also drafted: 5th round - LHP CJ Wilson another integral part of the Rangers 2009 wonderful season – a good guy off the field too.

2002: IF Drew Meyer – now playing in AA for the Houston Astros
Also drafted: this draft is completely forgettable – the only remaining active player is 20th round - RHP Kameron Loe who is pitching in Japan this season

2003: LHP John Danks – now in the starting rotation for the Chicago White Sox
Also drafted: 17th round - 2B Ian Kinsler – ‘nuff said

2004: RHP Thomas Diamond - recently claimed by the Chicago Cubs
Also drafted: 1st round supplemental - RHP Eric Hurley (injured, did not play at all this season) and 4th round - OF Brandon Boggs

2005: OF John Mayberry Jr – now with the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Also drafted: 3rd round - C Taylor Teagarden and 13th round - RHP Doug Mathis

2006: LHP Kasey Kiker – AA Frisco and Team USA (let’s say the jury is still out on Kasey – because I am a big fan of his)
Also drafted: 5th Round (my other favorite) - 1B Chris Davis, 10th round - the surprising OF Craig Gentry, 25th round - LHP Derek Holland and special mention to 46th round - LHP Danny Ray Herrera part of the Volquez/Hamilton trade – Danny is pitching for the Reds, I wish he was still with the Rangers – a fun guy to watch on the mound.

It’s too soon to count the 2007 and 2008 draft choices as part of this list – but it is worth noting that 2007’s first round pick out of high school RHP Blake Beavan was promoted to AA this year and held his own against older, more experienced competition. While fellow 2007 draft class members (who are both older and played in major college programs) 1st round supplemental - RHP Tommy Hunter and 1st round supplemental - OF Julio Borbon are currently on the 25 man roster. As for the 2008 1st round pick Justin Smoak, breezed though AA early in 2009, but struggled after being promoted to AAA OKC. I’d like all those pundits who claimed that Smoak was going to be on the 25 man roster by mid season and putting Chris Davis out of the picture to explain what happened?

Finally: From the last blog entry - Mr. or Ms. Anonymous (and I honestly don’t have any idea who it is) posted a question about the cover art for “History: America’s Greatest Hits”. I didn’t know, so I looked it up. The answer demonstrates the Carl Jung theory of synchronicity (which not just an album by The Police): the illustration was done by Dana Carvey’s late, great fellow SNL cast member Phil Hartman – who also starred in referenced “News Radio” from that blog entry. Weird.

"Well, isn't that special" (The Church Lady) – Marla Hooch

Thursday, August 27, 2009

[Insert Your Own Clever Title For This Entry]...

...because I can't come up with one.

But that won't keep me from adding my thoughts to the ever-growing bandwagon:

Déjà vu All Over Again: Johnny Oates was (without a doubt) the best manager in Rangers franchise history. This is not a point that can be debated when you look at those 3 division flags flying above the Ballpark – something no other Ranger manager has accomplished. However, the one low point of Johnny’s managing career in Arlington that will be forever questioned is taking starting pitcher Darren Oliver out of Game 3 of the 1996 playoffs and bringing in Mike Henneman – who was, at best, a shaky closer (0-7 with a 5.79 ERA) Is anyone else beginning to get that Mike Henneman vibe every time Frank Francisco takes the mound?

Speaking of 1996: Seeing the Rangers win a series in New York is good for the baseball soul, now if they could only do the same against the likes of Minnesota and Oakland.

Separated At Birth: Leon Redbone and Rangers Pitching Coach Mike Maddux

Not The Only Game In Town: Much like their parent team, the Frisco Roughriders are in a tight playoff race – they are 2 games behind Midland for Texas League Southern Division lead. Frisco has 6 games left with Midland – 3 at home this weekend and the last 3 games of the regular season at Midland.

What’s in the CD Changer? That would be History – America’s Greatest Hits. And to everyone who is rolling their eyes at this statement - I say “Get over it”. They had a short streak of amazingly good songs.

I was stuck in traffic the other day listening to the CD and what struck me was how many of the songs evoked a particular memory:

Sister Golden Hair – the family vacation to Florida – we drove from Toledo to Miami – and it seemed like every top 40 station we found along the way played that song at least once an hour

Ventura Highway -- I cannot hear this song now without thinking of “We Are Marshall” - Annie driving in her VW bug on the bridge leaving West Virginia for California – a great scene (and that movie has a terrific soundtrack too)

A Horse With No Name – does anyone remember the “News Radio” episode where Dave was obsessed with this song?

Daisy Jane – sigh………….

Muskrat Love – possibly the worst pop song, ever, I hate it, I’m sorry I brought it up

Lonely People – makes up for the muskrat song – one of the most hopeful songs ever – better than any bottled anti-depressant.

Finally - the Hooch entourage is taking a little road trip this weekend to the Hill Country, there should be some baseball related activities to report next time.

Still waiting for the promised reappearance of Crapulous Mass and/or What We Know About... – Marla Hooch


Thursday, August 20, 2009

I've Been Thinking...

A few random thoughts….

I’m dismayed: At the reaction to the Matt Purke situation. When a draft pick has “signability” issues – there’s a little more of a risk involved – it’s a roll of the dice and the Rangers have been very lucky with their “signability” picks in the past - it didn’t happen this year. I understand the reality of situation – Matt wanted a Porcello like contract, he’s going to TCU in order to put himself in a position to ask for that kind of deal or maybe better in two years – (he’s taking a bit of risk too – injuries and other unknown factors could change things pretty quickly). I know many Ranger fans in the blogosphere are disappointed, but there is something inherently wrong with criticizing a kid for making the choice to attend college. Just my opinion, but if your life is so tied up in the fortunes of any sports team that you are publicly mocking an 18 year old for pursuing higher education - then maybe it’s time to re-examine your priorities.

Let’s see: Darren O’Day, Elvis Andrus, Josh Hamilton and now Pudge – does anyone remember when Jon Daniels couldn’t do anything right? (That’s a left handed compliment and an apology JD).

Someone needs to ‘splain this to me: In his last 32 games Hank Blalock has 130 AB’s with: 2 count ‘em 2 BB’s with 35 K’s and 4 Home Runs and is hitting .192 in that span. Chris Davis during his last 29 games before he was sent to AAA: 93 AB’s 3 BB’s – 37 K’s and 3 HR’s - he was hitting .215 So the notion that sending Chris down and keeping Hank in the lineup everyday because he’s a veteran hitter is just pure bunk in my estimation. I won’t even talk about the difference in the defense between Hank and Chris. Suffice to say that during many games we watch together Baseball Mom will often remark – “Chris Davis would have had that one” – and most of the time she’s right. I was a big Hank Blalock fan, I drove up to Tulsa to watch him in AA. But what “gifts” Hank had are gone.

The future of this Ranger team has arrived ahead of schedule and Chris Davis is part of that future – and he should be playing first base everyday during this stretch run – learning along side all of the other young players on this team. Every Hank Blalock AB and inning at first base is setting back the plan for the future just a little bit more.

Be sure to read: The Newberg Report daily minor league wrap-ups this week. Our good friend Grant Schiller ,who is in Hickory watching the Crawdads, is filling in for Scott Lucas for a few days.

Thank You Phil: Derek Holland, Tommy “Big Game” Hunter, Neftali Feliz – good things happen – bad things happen. (see my blog entry of April 19th ).

An observation from Frisco: If you are worried about Blake Beavan – stop. The blue notebook says that his last home start that I watched – he threw 71% of pitches for strikes (92 pitches – 66 strikes) he only game up 2 extra base hits (back to back doubles) and by my count 4 of the 7 singles he gave up were of the excuse me/doink/dying quail variety – seems the batters were not getting good swings on the ball. Can’t help but think that the more Blake learns to pitch and works on his control that excuse me swings will turn into K’s.

By the way: Where are all those missives on Martin Perez’s pitching in Frisco? Is it possible that maybe Perez was pushed up the ladder a little too soon? Something this organization would never do (tongue firmly planted in cheek).

Finally: here’s a quote that sums up the plan, this team, its fans and this season, so far:

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstien

Good Thought – Marla Hooch

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Big Mistake Corrected....

Rangers make a trade to bring Pudge Rodriguez home.

Should have never been allowed to leave in the first place (looking straight at you ARod and Tom Hicks) -- Marla Hooch>

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yes Kids, I Am Going To Write Something

I'm working on it. Meanwhile - here are some pictures from Frisco:

Friday August 7th and Sunday August 9th

Did you notice who asked the second question in TR Sullivan's mailbag today?

Cheering on those wild things in Arlington -- Marla Hooch

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone

That's all I have to say about the Rangers lead story today.

-- Marla Hooch

Friday, August 7, 2009

Watch This Space.....

I'll start blogging again this weekend....
-- The Resurgent Marla Hooch

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Explanation

My explanation starts with a movie I've referenced a long time ago on this blog "Grace Of My Heart" which is based very loosely on the life of songwriter Carole King.

The central character songwriter Denise Waverly (Illena Douglas) marries a Brian Wilson type (brilliant but troubled) songwriter/producer named Jay Phillips (Matt Dillon). He has his "issues" one of them being that he can't find his "muse". In a very haunting scene Jay walks down to the beach alone on stormy evening whistling and calling for his muse (in case you haven't seen the movie - he doesn't come back - apparently drowning in the ocean).

Now, I'm not quite over the edge like Jay - but I can relate to not being able to find my muse. I am enjoying this baseball season, maybe as much as 1986 and 1996 my two favorite Rangers seasons past. The economic downturn has affected my ability and desire to go to Frisco and OKC - but I am still faithfully poring over the box scores and reading Scott Lucas daily reports.

Yet in these exciting and happy days the thought of writing my blog brings up a sense of dread that I can't explain.

Or maybe I can.

The more I read on the Internet, the less I want to read on the Internet. How's that for a conundrum? Freedom of speech is every one's right -- but is there a point where there is just too much speech and not enough listening and contemplation? I admire those fans who can write insightful commentary and analysis of players on their blogs and website. There are many terrific voices about Ranger baseball available to read - and then there are some out there that are just noise. I fear that lately I've become part of the latter and I'm just adding to the volume. It's been a struggle to find something original and interesting to write - which confounds me, makes me angry at myself and mainly sad - because baseball is the best part of my life.

To add some levity to this missive - as Chio Escuela said "baseball has been berry, berry good to me". Because of baseball I've met some of the most precious friends I've had in this lifetime, people who I adore and hope that will be part of my life as long as I am here on earth. I've had some amazing experiences that I could never have imagined when I listened to Tiger games on my red, white and blue transistor radio as a young fan back in Toledo. I'll say it again: baseball is the best part of my life.

But right now, I simply can't find the words to put on this page. I'm hoping that a taking a short sabbatical will help me find my muse as well as some new and better ideas for the next time I write.

Heartfelt thanks to my family, friends and everyone else who reads this blog for your support - I'll be back sooner than later - I hope.

I close with this thought from that fine Irish writer Thomas Moore:

"It's important to be heroic, ambitious, productive, efficient, creative,
and progressive, but these qualities don't necessarily nurture the soul. The
soul has different concerns, of equal value: downtime for reflection,
conversation, and reverie; beauty that is captivating and pleasuring;
relatedness to the environs and to people; and any animal's rhythm of rest and

Go Rangers! -- Eleanor "Marla Hooch" Czajka

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Want To Believe

Anybody remember the “X-Files”?

I wasn’t a member of their legion of fanatics – but I did watch it everyone once in a while – it was different and I’m a fan of different.

Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) had a poster of a UFO in his office that read “I Want To Believe”. I’d like to get a team photo of the 2009 Rangers and write that same phrase on it.

This fan is conflicted.

Before the season started, I wrote that I felt this was still a developmental year. I still try to hold onto that thought – but I feel like I am being assaulted with those who think this is the year the Rangers should be handling the team as if it’s playoff bound.

There are miles of bandwidth and airwaves proposing that the Rangers should be re-aligning their batting order and talking trades for middle relievers and big bats. I want to make that leap of faith with those kinds of fans. But 30 years of being a disappointed Rangers fan makes me hesitant to embrace that kind of belief.

Trying to explain my reluctance I recalled a recurring character on the X-Files known as The Cigarette Smoking Man. He was a clandestine agent with far reaching powers to change world events. During one episode when he going through a to-do list of those events he remarked that he made sure “the Buffalo Bills will never win the Super Bowl”. I sometimes wonder if there isn’t a Cigarette Smoking Man among the baseball gods who says “the Texas Rangers will never make it to the World Series”.

The irrational little girl waving the pom-poms is just dying for another season like ’96, ’98 or ’99 – I long to have the swagger of one of those AL East team fans who know that their team is consistently good. I want to believe that the young players on this Rangers team have sped past the learning curve, that pitching is going to hold on and that the injuries will finally catch up with the Angels.

On the other hand, the logical long - suffering fan has that nagging little voice in the back of my head reminding me that a 5-7 record against four of the better teams in MLB is not a passing grade, it’s still just June and for heaven’s sakes how many June Swoons have you seen, how many times have those high hopes evaporated in the hot Texas sun, how often have the Rangers broken your heart?

Am I only a lone voice in the wilderness crying out: patience!...stick with the plan!... first place is great, but it’s not the goal this season.

Or am I just a curmudgeon whose beliefs are simply beyond changing?

The intriguing thing about the X-Files was that most episodes left you with more questions than answers which is how I feel about the Rangers today.

I'm still trying to decide which kind of fan I ought to be. Like Mulder and Scully - still searching for an answer - and I know, as the show slogan says "the truth is out there".

Hi Aunt Rita! – Marla Hooch

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I could use a draft - how about you?

My annual ritual: creating the Newberg Report Draft Page.

It is complete and online.

Right now I could use a pint of Guiness with a shot of Bailey's -- Marla Hooch

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Miss Stella Wants To Know

Miss Stella is my roommate, confindant and a baseball fan. She loves baseball season because I'll be sitting on the couch for a good part of the evening, she can curl up on my lap. She loves it when Vincente Padilla pitches since that means I'll be there for a while, she doesn't like it when Chris Davis or Elvis Andrus make a great play (or get a hit) since that means I'll start clapping or occasionally yell some encouragement at the TV - which wakes her up.

Miss Stella is - just ask the New Mexico Bean, every time she calls Miss Stella can be heard from wherever she is in the house sending greetings to the Bean.

Miss Stella is curious about a few things and thus the title and substance of today's blog entry.

The first thing she wanted to know was: Why did it take me so long to write this week? I don't really have a good answer for that - sometimes life gets in the way of baseball and sometimes I just can't think of anything original to write.

Now she wants to know: Have you changed my mind about Nelson Cruz yet? Not quite - but I am on the verge of saying - maybe I was wrong.

Next thing she wants to know: Why do some of the local wags write so much about Chris Davis's strike out rate - when Jarrod Saltamacchia's is just about the same lately? I have no idea - if you look at the last ten games - Salty has 17 K's and Davis 19 K's.

Miss Stella noted this about these two pitching performances on the road trip:

Derek Holland: 4 2/3 IP, 6 Hits, 4 ER, 1 HR, 2BB, 5K

Brandon McCarthy : 4 IP, 6 Hits, 6 ER, 1 HR, 3BB, 3K

Holland is 22 years old pitching in just his 12th major league game, while McCarthy has 104 games in 4 years in the big leagues. My faithful cat asks: Which pitcher do you feel better about when goes to the mound?

She also wants to know: What minor league numbers caught your eye this week, and are you ever going to another minor league game? First things first - yes I'm going to Frisco on Monday to see Kasey Kiker pitch and I might even write a game report. OKC, I'm not so sure, gas prices being what they are and Sunday games starting at 4:00 p.m. instead of 2:00 p.m. have kind of made me re-think my trips up north. Plus, I'm going to more Ranger games this season - they are closer to Hooch World HQ - and the Rangers are alot more fun to watch this season (and I still love those $10.00 Friday night tickets and $5.00 parking).

The minor league numbers that caught my eye are all pitching: the leaders in IP at AAA and AA are also the leaders in ERA - which appears to be a pretty good thing. Those pitchers are: OKC's RHP Doug Mathis 56 IP - 2.89 ERA (and now holding down a spot in the major league bullpen) and Frisco's LHP Kasey Kiker 52 1/3 IP with a 2.92 ERA. The other number that still intrigues me is Yoo Hee Nam at Class A Hickory: 38 IP, 12 BB, 35 K - 0.71 ERA - I know it's low A ball - but those are some very nice numbers.

When you are not watching baseball, or working, or "having a life" (as you so often say to no-one in particular - but I do hear you) what have you been doing? I've read a couple of good books including Laura Lippman's latest (not a Tess Monaghan story - but still an excellent read) "Life Sentences" and "Old City Hall" - the first novel by Toronto based writer Robert Rotenberg that I would also recommend. I've already set the TIVO this week for the premier episodes of "The Closer" and "Saving Grace". I've left ymy roommate alone on a couple of Sunday afternoons while I went to the movies: "Angels and Demons"-- wait for the video - it's okay - but I'm just not big Dan Brown fan - and I'm not sure what kind of grudge Ron Howard has against the Catholic Church - it's a bit disturbing. "Night At The Museum 2: Battle Of The Smithsonian" - just as much as the first - Hank Azaria is one of the most verstile and talented actors I've ever seen. He was hilarious. (Just a little bragging - I saw him on Broadway in "Spamalot" when the Dickie Thon Fan Club Girls Dorm did 4 plays in 4 days - he was fantastic - it was also a great trip)

Final question: Where are my Pounce treats? Let's go downstairs to the kitchen and find them.

No pepper on grass and watch out for hairballs - Miss Stella and Marla Hooch

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alejandro's Whole Dirt Catalog

Alejandro ascends from the shoulders of the always under construction I-30 to ponder the fact that the Rangers will still be leading the AL West on June 1st.

The Oracle of the Chat Room: When asked if the Baltimore trade for Adam Jones from Seattle (for the disappointing Erik Bedard) was the best trade of the last ten years - Baseball America’s Jim Callis responded “Check out the Mark Teixeira trade to the Braves.”

The words of the prophets are written on the subways walls: Because they certainly aren’t written by the genius number crunchers at Baseball Prospectus who picked the Rangers remain in the cellar this season. Not saying that it still couldn’t happen but it’s kind of satisfying to chide those who depend solely on numbers with the reality of performance on the field.

The numbers that are worth counting: Did you know hat five of the Rangers eight regular starters are in the top ten of fielding percentage for their positions in the AL?

Chris Davis – tied for 1st at 1.000
Ian Kinsler – 5th place at .988
Elvis Andrus – 9th place at .967
Michael Young – 3rd place at .967
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – tied for 4th at .995

Meanwhile the Rangers are 4th in AL Fielding with a .987 FP and have the 5th fewest errors at 24

“But how many of you that sit and judge me have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?”: The Rangers High A Ball affiliate located Bakersfield has it’s share of …um…challenges with that team ownership. Add this one, as noted by ever entertaining Scott Lucas: “In the 7th, Stockton’s radio announcer mentioned that impending rain could be problematic because Bakersfield doesn’t own a tarp.”

One more number that counts: Rangers RHP Kevin Millwood ERA of 3.25 put him in the top 10 in AL ERA ( 8th place)

Birthdays: Currently unemployed former Ranger OF Kenny Lofton turns 42, currently employed Rangers Director of Player Development Scott Servais is also turning 42 this week. Cub RHP Carlos Zambrano will celebrate his 28th birthday serving a 6 game suspension for his antics last week. Ewart Gladstone Walker who had a short career as a pitcher with Washington from 1909-1912 was born this week in 1887 – you are probably more familiar with two of his sons who were also baseball players: Harry “The Hat” Walker and “The People’s Choice” Dixie Walker. Is Travis Hafner really 32 years old this week? Is Einar Diaz's hair still on fire? The other Hall of Famer born on June 5th 1874 is “Happy” Jack Chesbro. And Stepfather Extraordinaire Neil F. Gibson, Jr is 73 and appropriately attending the Ranger – A’s game Sunday afternoon courtesy of a grateful stepdaughter.

Last Call: From mentor and friend T.R. Sullivan’s article on Chris Davis’s current woes at the plate:

"So what does Davis need?

'A hug,' he said."

Marla Hooch has volunteered to help out with that.

Usted no está envejeciendo, que son cada vez major -- Alejandro


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Never Forget

There were two articles on the CNN website that struck me this past week.

The first was an article about Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that included this quote:

"Since the hour I was sworn in as secretary of defense, 1,327 American men and women in uniform have been killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan; 10,443 have been wounded. Each of them is in my thoughts and prayers every day"

The other was about Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery.

Monday is a solemn holiday that, unfortunately, too many don't remember or bother to acknowledge.

I know fans are very excited about the Rangers/Yankees series, especially the game on Monday afternoon. But let's not forget the ultimate sacrifice made by men and women thoughout U.S. history that is the reason most of us have the day off to watch baseball on Monday.

Taps (Traditional)

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the hills
From the lakes
From the skies
All is well
Safely rest
God is nigh

Go to sleep
Peaceful sleep
May the soldier or sailor
God keep
On the land or the deep
Safe in sleep

-- Marla Hooch

Baseball Content: It's Not A Marathon, It's A Roller Coaster

The sports cliche is that every season "is not a sprint, it's a marathon". I don't think that describes the 2009 Texas Rangers - this season has been and seems that it will continue to be a roller coaster ride. Careening between the highs - sweeping the Angels - the lows being swept by the Tigers - back up again - sweeping the Astro's leaving us all a little worn out in the process. My guess is that nothing is going level out during the upcoming homestand. The Yankees have had a pretty impressive string of victories the past two weeks, which will certainly be another test for this Ranger team, meanwhile the A's are struggling - Texas has the opportunity to take advantage of that - let's see if they can. Meanwhile: fasten your safety belt, and take a dose of Dramamine, the next ride is about to begin.

The Coors Field of the AL East? Pundits love to call the Ballpark in Arlington a "launching pad" - rightfully so in the past. However, has anyone noticed the offensive explosions that have taken place at the new Yankee Stadium? Take a look at these stats:
  • 22 games at new Yankee Stadium: 86 Home Runs - with an overall .278 BA for games played at the stadium.
Compare that to the Ballpark in Arlington:
  • 20 games: 60 Home Runs - with an overall .283 BA for games played at the stadium.
That's barely a .005 difference in BA, but a whopping 26 HR difference, but I haven't read much about the Yankee Stadium launching pad.

More numbers: These are the kind of numbers I love reading:
  • Pitching: the Rangers are #8 in the AL - with a 4.52 ERA (by the way that's slightly better than the league average 4.58 ERA) .

  • Defense: the Rangers are #3 in AL Fielding Percentage at .986 and tied for 4th place for fewest errors with 22.
Why is everyone surprised? There's been much bandwith filled with laments and ruminations on Chris Davis's strikeouts. I hate to tell you folks - this is not news. Anyone who watched Chris in the minor leagues knew that he had a high K rate (288 in 1,045 minor league AB's). But he's also never hit less than 20 HR's in a full minor league season (and had 15 HR's at Short-Season Spokane in 2006). I keep reading all kinds of praise (especially from revisionist Ranger fans) for former Ranger prospect Carlos Pena who has a ML career BA of just .251 but has also hit 178 HR's in 2,821 AB's during his major league career. So, what is the difference? Davis is a power threat (like Pena) hasn't hit for average, so far (like Pena) and I daresay plays as well defensively as Pena. Yes, Chris does need to take a few more walks, but he's still on the learning curve folks - he's 23 years old and hasn't even had a full season worth of AB's which is about 575-600 - Davis has 483 over two seasons. Just like Chris, we need to show a little patience.

Am I surprised? Derek Holland: "Good things happen, bad things happen" (see blog entry of April 19) Brandon McCarthy: my impulse is to invoke that lovely Texas colloquialism about a blind squirrel, however, I'm going to show some restraint. Nice game on Sunday, let's see some more of that before I change my mind.

Minor Details: Our pal Blake Beaven had one bad start on May 2nd - but since then has been performing well in the hitter happy California League (29 IP - 2.17 ERA) ... another of our favorites OF Steve Murphy has finally been promoted to OKC - giving us a reason for a drive up I-35 very soon...I've seen Pedro Stop pitch a couple of times, his stuff is impressive, but unfortunately like Nuke LaLoosh - he has no idea where it is going, or least that's what I've seen which makes me wonder why some thought he might make the Rangers bullpen out of Spring Training - right now he can barely get AA hitters out...has anyone noticed LHP Yoo-Hee Nam's 30 K's in 28 1/3 IP? And the consistency too (0.96 ERA in April, and 0.95 ERA in May).

Finally: I don't have a particularly good feeling about the Yankee/Rangers series, surprisingly because of the Rangers offense - it's been inconsistent over the past week - and I do believe the Yankees pitchers are slightly better (tongue in cheek) than the Astro's - if the Rangers can win 1 out of 3 I'll be satisfied. On the other hand I'm very hopeful about the four games with the A's - their offense has been anemic of late and they just aren't playing all that well right now - they are dead last in the AL with a .242 team BA and are 8-15 for the month of May. I'll go out on a limb and say the Rangers sweep the A's.

With fond memories of those roller coaster rides at Cedar Point -- Marla Hooch

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sing-A-Long With Marla

I wavered between publishing the grouchy rant I’d started the other night and something a little more light hearted – as you can tell by the title – I’m feeling a little more light hearted or should I say light headed today. Let’s enjoy the moment and remember that it’s a long season – anything can happen. My inspiration today is my IPod: “hear” are a few random lyrics that reminded me of a few random baseball thoughts:

“There’s fever in the funk house now” – Tumbling Dice (performed by Linda Ronstadt – written by the Rolling Stones): Describing this weekend’s showdown between the Angels and Rangers

“…now if you’ll buy that, I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona” – Ocean Front Property (George Strait): Brandon McCarthy – I keep reading about his supposed improvement. Yeah, and he’s the only Rangers starting pitcher who has yet to pitch into the 6th inning, opponents are hitting an almost healthy .269 against (with lefties smacking him around at .315) If you believe that he's actually getting better, then I have a deal for you on a bridge in Brooklyn.

“We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels across the floor…” - Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harum): No real baseball content, just one of the greatest songs that makes no sense – unless of course you’ve been indulging in a few adult beverages – then it makes perfect sense. NPR had a good story on this song a couple of weeks ago.

“ … on a wing and a prayer. Who could it be? Believe it or not it’s just me.” – Theme From The Greatest American Hero (Joey Scarbury): Frisco C Manuel Pina - another member of the collection of Ranger catching prospects. Started off with a blazing April and is still putting up amazing numbers at Frisco: a .407 BA for the season (hitting .308 for the ten games he’s played in May).

“these [bats] were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these [bats] are gonna walk all over you” – These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (with apologies to Nancy Sinatra): Hank Blalock - the spark plug of walk off rallies.

“ but what a good year for the roses” – A Good Year for the Roses – (performed by Elvis Costello – originally performed by George Jones): Again – no baseball content. Elvis made the off hand remark to James Taylor during his interview on “Spectacle” – “why don’t we do a whole show of George Jones songs!” – I say why not? I’d love to hear Elvis sing “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.

“I just want you to know who I am” – Iris (Goo Goo Dolls): Chris Davis - tied for 3rd place in the AL with 10 Home Runs (along with teammate Hank Blalock and Boston’s Jason Bay)

"Don't you forget about me, don't don't don't you forget about me." - Don't You Forget About Me (Simple Minds): Frisco LHP Kasey Kiker - May Stats: W-L: 2-1, IP: 17, BB: 9, K: 21, ERA: 2.12

“I’m free fallin, yeah I’m free fallin” – Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers): The Seattle Mariners, a 1-7 road trip will do that to you.

“Maybe someday I'll be strong. Maybe it won't be long. I'll be the one who's tough. You'll be the one who's got it rough. It won't be long and maybe I'll be real strong.” – Too Fast For You (Dwight Yoakum): Elvis Andrus - I never get tired of linking these videos.

"I'm alright. Nobody worry 'bout me.” - I’m Alright (Kenny Loggins) : Kevin Millwood - If only he had some of that run support Brandon McCarthy always seems to get.

“I know where you goin' to, I knew when you came home last night 'cause your eyes had a mist from the smoke of a distant fire” – Smoke From A Distant Fire (Sanford Townsend Band): Frisco DH Justin Smoak - You can stop groaning now. By the way, I don’t sing karaoke, but if I did this is the song I’d sing.

“They think that I’m no good
But I will make myself understood
Cause I believed it all along.
I think I’m gonna love it
I know they won't believe it
When they finally see the saving grace in me”

-- Saving Grace (Todd Rundgren):

Believing since 1979 – Marla Hooch


Sunday, May 10, 2009

The City On The Edge Of Forever

I was in 5th grade when the original Star Trek premiered on NBC. Although we had a strict bedtime set way before 10:00 p.m. on Thursday night I did get to see a few first run episodes and the rest during the summer reruns (when we were allowed to stay up later). I have very fond memories of that series, being as interested as I was in the US space program Star Trek seemed like the logical outcome of NASA’s endeavors.

My dad was a TV repairman, which meant we never owned a new TV set – we always wound up with someone’s set that didn’t get picked up at the shop. In 1966 that was a good thing because we were the first family on the block to get a color TV. If you ever meet Baseball Mom ask her about the paper boy and his brother planning their weekly rounds to collect payments for the newspaper so they could watch some of the Star Trek episodes in color through the screen door on our front porch.

A friend asked me a couple of weeks ago if I was going to see the new Star Trek movie. I apparently made a face that looked liked I smelled something awful – “absolutely not” was my answer. It was the mixture of the mounting hype as well as the dread that the filmmakers would sully the memory of the original series that was going to keep me away from this movie. I’ve seen too many remakes, prequel and sequel movies that either mock or bear no resemblance the original and I can’t think of one that was better than the original (except for the remake of “Sabrina” with Harrison Ford).

But I have to admit it: the writers, directors and actors in the new Star Trek film got it right.

Baseball Mom (the first Trek fan in the family) wanted to see the movie (and go to Popeye’s Chicken for lunch – go figure) so that is how we spent Mother’s Day. And as always – Mother knows best.

I lost track of the number of times we nudged and winked at each other when the dialogue in a scene was a perfect reference to the past. It was the little things in the movie that made it truly enjoyable to those of us who remember: Sulu’s fencing, Dr. McCoy’s offhanded request for Nurse Chapel to take care of a patient, Captain Pike in a wheelchair, that familiar sonar noise in the background, the little square shuttle craft and the fact that they didn’t (substantially) change the look of the exterior of the Enterprise.

I’m not a big fan of action sequences and special effects – that’s just a personal preference – and I know why they had to have so many in this movie – thank goodness they did not overwhelm the storyline.

The plot was a little tricky, but not outrageous and the performances by the actors were, again, right on target. They all carried the spirit of the actors who preceded them in these roles. Chris Pine playing Captain Kirk was outstanding and even snuck in a few excellent Shatner-like mannerisms and line deliveries. Somewhere DeForest Kelly and James Doohan are smiling about their characters back stories as revealed in this film and the impeccable performances by the young men (Karl Urban and Simon Pegg) who played them. And God Bless the director JJ Abrams for keeping Majel Barrett Rodenberry’s voice for the Starfleet command computer.

I had a few very minor quibbles with this version: I still can’t get over the fact that Dr. Cameron is Kirk’s mother or that Winnona Ryder took up Jane Wyman’s part as Mr. Spock’s mom. I didn’t like the one liberty they took with the plot about Vulcan and Spock’s mom – it was as he would say “highly illogical” – and why not Klingons instead of Romulans? Just asking.

Seeing an aged Leonard Nimoy with all these fine young actors (especially the one who played the young Spock – Zachary Quinto) definitely made me realize how long ago it was that I sat in that in that living room on Hayes Rd on those summer evenings watching Star Trek on our color TV. I’m glad I changed my mind and saw the movie, it reminded me that Star Trek was a series that was a source of fascination as well as hope. In the words of James Tiberius Kirk (from the episode”Whom Gods Destroy”) it was and is “a dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars”.

The title of this blog is a reference to my favorite Star Trek episode “The City on The Edge of Forever” – which involves time travel (a plot device used in the new movie too) you can watch the full episode via this link on You Tube.

Mandatory Baseball Content – since this is a baseball blog:

Justin Smoak: hits like Mark Teixeira, plays first base like Travis Hafner – Chris Davis fans have nothing to worry about – Smoak is a born DH.

Vincente Padilla: Really?

I never look forward to seeing the Angels come to Arlington, but I’m a little bit jazzed about the series this coming weekend. Let's see if this Rangers team really is ready– bring it on!

Live long and prosper -- Marla Hooch