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