Saturday, April 3, 2010

If – And – But: Expectations High, Experience Low For The 2010 Rangers

How often have you heard someone state an opinion with the qualifier “no ifs, ands or buts about it.”? It is a statement which doesn’t leave any room for doubt.

In my never humble opinion: The 2010 Texas Rangers are all “ifs, ands or buts” - which leaves me with many doubts.

A couple of too coy Mariners fans have written that they feel Seattle will have good team “if everything falls into place” another statement based on potential rather than track record. Let’s put a stop to the “aw shucks” pretense coming out of the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles too: the Angels may have come down to earth some, but they were so much better than everyone else the fall off still leaves them in a better position than the rest of the AL West. While we need to remember the  Mariners were only a couple of games behind the Rangers at the end of 2009 - and they didn't have Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins on their team. No team among the three expected to contend for the AL West is basing their expectations more on potential than track record than the Texas Rangers – and “that’s a fact Jack.”

With this in mind we present:

Marla Hooch’s If Barely Statistical And Completely Biased But Correctly Spellchecked Pre-Season Assessment Of The 2010 Texas Rangers

Of course, this disclaimer is right up front: the asterisk* which is *barring injuries*. Any of the AL West teams could fall out of contention quickly with an injury to one or two key players.

No Ifs Ands Or Buts:

About Michael Young. There’s nothing else to write about him (see “track record” reference above). I’m going to put Nelson Cruz in this paragraph too, don’t like the strike-outs, the defense is…um…weird at times, however Nelson’s power is very good and by now we really do know what to expect from Nelson Cruz. And that is the end of this paragraph …unfortunately.

Ifs :

If Josh Hamilton stays healthy
If Rich Harden stays healthy
If the Rangers (who are truly notorious for their lack of patience) can contain themselves and allow Julio Borbon to experience the slumps, hot streaks, errors and brilliant plays during his first full season in the big leagues
If Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Tommy Hunter ,Chris Davis, Neftali Feliz, and Derek Holland take a step up, not back, in their development
If Colby Lewis’s turnaround in Japan translates to success in MLB
If CJ Wilson can successfully transition from reliever to starter
If Ian Kinsler can stay healthy. I really wanted to put Ian in the first paragraph as more dependable, but he has only played in more than 130 games once (2009) in three full major league seasons – it's starting to become a concern
If Vlad Guerrero isn’t finished (as some suspect) and still has a little something left to terrorize pitchers
If Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia can -- a) stay healthy then -- b) one of them (don’t care which) assert themselves, take the catching position to at least major league average – including offensively
If 40 year old LHP Darren Oliver can handle the workload “left” behind with CJ Wilson moving to the rotation
And... :
And…Keep in mind the fact that all bullpens are a year-to-year proposition; I’m guessing it’s the reason middle relievers never get more than a one-year contract. This year’s bullpen starts out losing CJ Wilson, with (arguably) their most productive reliever from 2009 - Darren O’Day - hurting, most importantly closer Frank Francisco a huge question mark. Frankie’s 2009 was shaky in my estimation and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Neftali Feliz closing games by the All-Star Break.
And… Additionally, harping on the “track record” concept: I’m talking about experience, not necessarily a player’s age. Take a look at the last five World Series championship teams (White Sox, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies and Yankees). If you look at the roster of their everyday starting nine and starting rotation (see Baseball the track record/experience factor is undeniable. On those five teams, there were only five players who made substantial contributions who played less than three complete seasons major league seasons:
2006 Cardinals – Yadier Molina
2007 Red Sox – Dustin Pedroia
2008 Phillies – Kyle Kendrick
2009 Yankees – Joba Chamberlain
The 2010 Rangers starting nine and starting pitchers have 4 ½ players who have 3 seasons worth of games on their ledger: Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Rich Harden and we’ll call Josh Hamilton the ½. I’m not including Scott Feldman because this is only his second season as a starting pitcher, and there’s no way to compare Colby Lewis’s return to MLB after his experience in Japan. Once again: not much experience, lots of untapped, unsure, unknown, potential.
And…Then there is the manager. Let’s get something out of the way first: I’ve never met the man, but I know people who have and they say he’s a good guy, I believe them. His lapse last summer while inexplicable is forgivable. As a Catholic I have and always will preach the power of forgiveness.

All that being said: I’m not a fan of Ron Washington as a major league manager, never have been (check the archives of this blog). I think it says something when A’s GM Billy Beane, who changes managers more often than Lady Gaga changes costumes, never even considered his own long time third base coach for the manager position in Oakland. In my inflated opinion, all three current managers in the AL West are better than Washington.  Plus his situation from last July threatens to be the story that will not die. Every time the Rangers are on the road this season the out of town media and local fans are going to bring up it up which is yet another burden a mostly young, inexperienced Texas team should not have to shoulder. By the way I think Jim Reeves summed up Washington the best in his column on
And…Here is what is at the heart of why I’m not sold on this year’s team playing October baseball.

I 've been through Thirty-One summers of:

Brad Corbett
Eddie Chiles
Tom Hicks
Chan Ho Park
Ron Darling for Lee Mazilli (who didn't want to play the "idiot's position")
Dave Righetti for Mike Heath and Domingo Ramos
Chris Young for Adam Eaton
John Danks for Brandon McCarthy
Justin Thompson's shoulder
Firing Don Zimmer then asking him to manage for 3 more days
Balls clanging off Jose Conseco’s head
Chairs thrown in Oakland
Mike Henneman blowing the biggest save in Rangers history
Homegrown team icons (Sunny and Pudge) departing for foolish reasons (Doug Rader’s capriciousness and ARod’s salary)
The false hopes of 1986, 2004 and 2009
All that (and more) while living the shadow of a Stanley Cup and an NBA final experienced twenty-five miles to the east and those championship flags flying just down street from the Ballpark– it’s a sordid history and this franchise has broken my heart too many times.
Finally: a couple of Buts

(just to prove I’m not a completely cynical old broad)
But … I do trust the fact the Rangers do have some depth in the minors at most positions in case of injuries and terrible slumps or (God forbid) outright failures.
But … I do think the AL West could be the closest division race in all of MLB, with the Angels, Seattle and Texas all finishing within one or two games between them.
But …The Rangers are a young team that will be fun to watch and in spite of it all my experience with them and my misgivings I remain a loyal, sometimes hopeful, fan.
But… I could be wrong, and I hope I am.
I really do hope I am wrong -- Marla Hooch

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Notes and Pictures From 2010 Spring Training Trip Extravaganza

A few notes I scribbled in the well-traveled “blue notebook” while in Surprise last week:

The biggest improvement: a new sidewalk from the backfields parking lot to the practice fields. For the majority of us who aren’t privileged characters that have parking passes – the walk from the backfields parking lot used to mean a choice between walking on a slope of gravel (that inevitably got in your shoes – and don’t even think about how that felt in sandals) or if you walked on the driveway taking your chances at being run down by some baseball type who was speeding into their parking lot. Thank you to the city of Surprise.

The least improved: if it’s possible the traffic on Bell Road is worse than ever. Thank goodness for the Comfort Inn on Grand Avenue and Greenway Road.

Things I saw:

-- The Hickory team lose 24-0
-- Ruben Sierra Jr batting with his Dad watching
-- Wille Eyre getting lit up by the Seattle High A hitters
-- Engle Beltre running out a very nice bunt hit
-- I didn’t see Jurikson Profar play, but I did see him sitting on the bench yelling encouragement to Cody Podraza
-- More of Jarrod Saltalamacchia than I wanted
-- Nolan Ryan watching all 3 innings pitched by Blake Beavan
-- Major league BP – not that interesting (you can see that about 81 times per year at the Ballpark if you get there early enough)
-- Mike Maddux addressing the pitching staff – now I would have liked to been able to get a little closer to hear what he was saying
-- Fuzzy’s

People I talked to:

-- Kasey Kiker – always makes me laugh
-- Michael Schlact – who says he’s feeling better than he has in three years
-- Blake Beavan – excited to have Nolan Ryan watch him pitch, more excited to get out of Surprise and back to Frisco
-- Spike Owen – one of the best names in baseball and still a cool guy
-- Tanner Scheppers – CJ Wilson had better watch out – this guy is the up and coming “California Cool” in the Rangers organization
-- Lots of old and new friends – which is what makes the trip to Arizona every year a true joy.

Finally:  I went, I saw, I took pictures:

This is the link to the gallery of Minor Leaguers – 76 pictures of guys you’ve never heard of and some you may never hear of again (admittedly I didn’t recognize many of them either)

I did attend one major league game on Monday 3/29 – here’s the link to pictures from the Rockies/Rangers game.

The real fun is about to begin.

Enjoying the sunburn -- Marla Hooch

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Training 2010: The Best Moment

I moved to Texas in August of 1979.  The first week in town, my aunt Cathi took me to a Rangers game and we sat behind Sister Frances and Sister Maggie at the old Arlington Stadium.

Yesterday, at the Rockies/Rangers exhibition game in Surprise, I once again found myself seated behind Sister Frances and Sister Maggie.

31 years later:  we're still here and we're still Ranger fans.

--- Marla Hooch