Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Texas Rangers blog has moved 

As I've been hinting at, after roughly 18 months of blogging at this site, the Texas Rangers blog is moving to new digs.

Please come join us at the new site, LoneStarBall.com.


Verducci Q&A 

SI's Tom Verducci's mailbag column this week includes a Ranger question...

Can someone please explain to me why the Texas Rangers continue to bat Alfonso Soriano leadoff? This makes no sense. He'll be lucky to have an OBP of .300. His speed was the only attribute that fits the lead-off mold, yet he won't run because of his hamstring.
-- Paul Macaluso, Longview, Texas

I wish I could give you a reason I believe in the move, but I'm not sold on it, either. The explanation I got from them in Spring Training was that his OBP is less of an issue when he's hitting 50 doubles and 30 homers. In other words, he's getting into scoring position as much as a singles-hitting guy with a .360 OBP. (Their thinking, not mine.) I guess Michael Young is their best leadoff guy, but he's a very good situational hitter and they like him hitting with runners on. I still expect Soriano to be traded for pitching help by the end of the season.

I think Verducci is spot-on there. Batting Soriano in the leadoff spot -- where his lack of OBP is magnified, and the value of his power is minimized -- makes no sense to me, either. I think the other reason behind the move, though, that Verducci doesn't mention is that Soriano apparently feels more comfortable hitting in the leadoff spot than the third slot.

I'd rather see Soriano hitting fifth or sixth, personally, but as Verducci points out, there is no true leadoff hitter on the team. And like Verducci, I expect Soriano to be dealt -- whether for pitching, or for something else -- before season's end.


Indians sign Hafner to multi-year deal 

The Cleveland Indians have signed Travis Hafner to a 3 year, $7 million contract with a fourth year option for $4.75 million, or a $250,000 buyout.

While Joe Sheehan's article today cautions teams against signing every arb-eligible player to a long-term deal -- and specifically identifies Travis Hafner as a player to avoid locking up -- I think this is a very nice deal for the Indians.

The Indians are committing $6.65 million to Hafner, above and beyond the $377,400 he was already scheduled to make this season. They've bought out two arbitration years for less than he was likely to make in arbitration if he came anywhere in the vicinity of his MVP-caliber performance last year, and can keep him for the 2008 season for just $4.75 million, again, a number that could end up being a very nice bargain.


The format change and new URL 

The format change and new URL for the blog should be in place within the next couple of days.

To reiterate, though, content should be the same -- I'll be just as angry when I'm angry, just as happy when I'm happy, and won't hesitate to share either emotion -- with just some changes in the template, logo and some features that I'll be able to offer all you folks out there who follow the blog, along with a dedicated URL.

I will share more once the new site is up and running, but if you want a hint about what's going on, you can check out this article...


Nick Regilio called up 

Nick Regilio has reportedly been called up to take the place of R.A. Dickey, who is going on the D.L.

Normally, once he is optioned, a player has to spend at least 10 days in the minors, and Regilio has only been down a week. However, if the player being recalled is replacing a player on the major league roster who has been placed on the disabled list, the 10 day rule does not apply.


Update on the pitching situation 

The DMN is reporting that R.A. Dickey is heading for the d.l., supposedly to make room for Carlos Almanzar.

Since Almanzar isn't going to be activated until tomorrow, I'm not sure that the exchange will actually happen that way. The DMN also says that another move, involving Ryan Bukvich, could also be imminent, since Bukvich has options remaining and the bullpen is short-handed. The Rangers could d.l. Dickey and call up someone today, and then send Bukvich down tomorrow, with Almanzar being activated to take his place.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dickey and Almanzar update 

The initial word on R.A. Dickey is that he has a "lat strain," and will have an MRI tomorrow.

My guess is that he goes on the d.l., with Nick Regilio taking his place tomorrow.

Additionally, Victor Rojas says that Almanzar pitched at the Rangers' Dominican academy, will be returning to the team on Thursday, and will be immediately activated.

At that point, the Rangers could either send Chris Young down to make room for Almanzar, with Ricardo Rodriguez being called up, as discussed below, on Sunday to take Young's spot in the rotation, or Bukvich or Regilio could be sent down.


Dickey probably to the d.l. 

Well, R.A. Dickey apparently just hurt himself throwing a pitch in the top of the 9th, grabbing his arm in pain and leaving the game.

So I'm guessing the team will go ahead and put him on the d.l. tomorrow, simplifying the situation in terms of getting a fresh arm up to Texas.

I'd guess Dickey to the d.l., Young to the minors, Almanzar off the bereavement list, and Regilio back up.

Then, when this spot in the rotation rolls back around, Regilio will go back down, RicRod will come up. Sometime around then, Francisco will be activated, and Bukvich will go back down then.


This is brutal 

Now 12-3, Angels.

The radio broadcast hinted that moves could be coming tomorrow with the pitching staff, something that wouldn't surprise me in the least.

I'm guessing Young gets sent down to AAA, with Almanzar activated tomorrow. And I wouldn't be shocked if Frankie Francisco were activated ahead of schedule, with either Dickey or Bukvich going back down, as well.

Dickey has been one of Showalter's pets since Buck got here, a guy Buck has loved because of his perseverence, his character, his heart...all those intangibles that Buck loves so much.

But the guy can't pitch. And at some point, Showalter needs to face facts and move on.


Mench benched again tonight 

With Paul Byrd going for the Angels, Buck Showalter has apparently decided that Kevin Mench isn't up for the challenge of facing such a tough righthander, and has benched him, with David Dellucci starting in left field.

I've got to say, I am feeling a bit silly now...I actually believed, coming into the season, that Mench and Gonzalez were going to be everyday players. It appears, though, that Buck is committed to getting Dellucci and Allen lots of ABs, which are going to come at the expense of those two players...


Bullpen reinforcements update 

Frankie Francisco is starting a rehab assignment at AA Frisco tonight. He is supposed to start tonight's game for the RoughRiders, but will likely just go an inning or two before giving way to John Hudgins. Word is the Rangers want him to go in back-to-back outings for Frisco before activating him from the D.L.

Carlos Almanzar, meanwhile, is expected to re-join the team on Wednesday. That would make him likely to be activated on Thursday or Friday, with Ryan Bukvich most likely being sent down to make room for him.


Separated at birth 

Marlin pitching prospect Scott Olson...

And Young Gun Lou Diamond Phillips...


Monday, April 11, 2005

Some minor leaguers 

A few random notes about some minor leaguers...

There was some question about whether Nick Regilio would work as a starter or as a middle reliever when he was sent down to AAA. Well, he's pitching in relief of John Wasdin tonight, suggesting that the team is looking at him more as a reliever than as a starter down the road.

The fact that John Wasdin and Jason Standridge are in the Oklahoma rotation makes it that much more inexplicable that John Hudgins has been sent back to AA.

Laynce Nix and Gerald Laird seem to have hit the ground running in Oklahoma, alleviating somewhat the concerns that they'd take their unhappiness about their demotions on the field. Through tonight's game, Laird is hitting .286 in his first three games back in AAA, and Nix is hitting .333, and each has a homer.

Joaquin Arias (.444/.500/.611) has carried his spring hot streak over to the regular season.

Mike Nickeas, on the other hand, is 0 for 13 with 8 strikeouts to start the season at Frisco. He was being jumped from short season-A to AA, a three level leap, and I wondered at the time if the organization wasn't pushing him too rapidly. This suggests that he might be a bit over his head...


Fun with numbers, after a week's worth of games... 

Seven games into the 2005 season...

1 -- The number of games starting left fielder Kevin Mench and starting DH Adrian Gonzalez have both appeared in. A troubling sign, for those of us who'd like to see more Mench and Gonzalez and less Chad Allen and David Dellucci

2 -- Blown saves for Francisco Cordero. He didn't have his second blown save in 2004 until June 20.

3 -- RBIs for Sandy Alomar Jr. on April 9 against the Mariners, matching the total he had last season from the first day of summer through season's end.

4 -- Average number of relievers used, per game, so far this season by the Rangers. Actually, I'm cheating...they've averaged 4.57 per game...

5 -- The number of homers off of lefties by Hank Blalock last season. He has 2 already this season, while posting a 1065 OPS.

6 -- Walks by David Dellucci, against 0 strikeouts, in 14 plate appearances so far this season.

7 -- The number of games into the season we are, less than 5% of the total. There's still a long, long way to go...


The Return of Darren Oliver (not to TBIA, thankfully) 

The Transaction Oracle notes that the D-Backs have signed Darren Oliver, and he's expected to join the starting rotation.

I was talking about how bad the Mariners' rotation is without Pineiro and Madritsch, but the D-Backs apparently will be trotting out Javier Vazquez (who appears to be following the Mario Soto career path), overpaid innings-eater Russ Ortiz, Shawn Estes, and Darren Oliver. If it weren't for Brandon Webb, D-Backs fans would be staring at a rotation that is both veterany and awful, a rare exacta in this day and age...


Ben Kozlowski update 

Kozlowski gave up 0 runs on 3 hits and a walk, striking out 4 in 5 innings, in his debut for the Reds' AA affiliate this past weekend.

Kozlowski, of course, was the Rangers' top pitching prospect after 2002, then missed most of 2003 and 2004 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Despite the fact that Kozlowski had showed very good stuff before his injury, despite the fact that the recovery rate for pitchers with T-J surgery is extremely high, and despite the fact that pitchers generally don't get back to 100% after T-J surgery for 18 months -- which, for Koz, was around December -- the team cut him loose this winter, in order to make room for the Agustin Monteros, Travis Hugheses, and Ruddy Yans that clogged up the 40 man roster this offseason.

I'll reiterate...waiving Kozlowski is going to come back and bite the Rangers...


Hank's Homers 

Something to note...

Both of Hank Blalock's homers this season have been off of lefties...

Obviously, it is very early, but it is a nice sign from a guy whose ability to hit -- particularly for power -- against lefties has been questioned...


Laird and Nix 

Both homered last night for the Redhawks, Laird to tie the game in the top of the 9th, Nix to win the game in the top of the 11th.

Nice to see...hopefully, they'll be doing that for the big club before too long...


Madritsch to the D.L. 

Mariner starting pitcher Bobby Madritsch has gone on the D.L. with a strained left shoulder. Baseball Prospectus's Will Carroll is reporting that Madritsch will need season-ending shoulder surgery.

If Carroll is right, that's a big blow to the M's, who are likely to be fighting it out with the Rangers for third place in the A.L. West. While the Mariners have a reputation for having a strong, deep pitching staff, in reality, injuries and age have devastated the Mariner rotation. To start the season, they were looking at a rotation of Moyer, Pineiro, Madritsch, Meche, and probably the washed-up Aaron Sele. Pineiro is on the d.l. to start the season, though, and with Madritsch going down, that means that Sele is the #3 starter, with Ryan Franklin and Ron Villone taking the #4 and #5 spots. Moyer and Meche have warts on them, as well -- Moyer is 42 and coming off a terrible season, while Meche is coming off a bad season and has never recaptured the ability that he flashed in 1999 and 2000, before he hurt his shoulder.

With Travis Blackley done for the year with shoulder problems and Clint Nageotte also on the shelf, the Mariners' options in the minors are very few. Felix Hernandez is their best pitching prospect -- and arguably the best pitching prospect in the game -- but he's still just 19, much younger than you'd prefer for a pitcher being thrust into the starting rotation. They could turn to King Felix, but even as great as he looks to be, if Madritsch is gone for the year, that rotation is a mess.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Mench sitting again today 

With righty Gil Meche pitching today, the Rangers are going with Adrian Gonzalez at DH and David Dellucci in left field, with Kevin Mench on the bench.

There was some question as to how the outfield/DH mix would shake out, with six players for four slots. I (and others) thought Dellucci would be the odd man out. But instead, through six games, Matthews and Hidalgo have started every game, Mench has started four, Dellucci and Gonzalez have started three apiece, and Chad Allen has started two.

Gonzalez making the team instead of Colbrunn may end up costing Mench some starts, as Buck appears to be willing to let Mench sit to get Dellucci some more ABs. This is unfortunate, if it continues.

Mench sitting instead of Matthews is also somewhat odd...with Drese, the extreme sinkerballer, on the mound, this would seem to be the spot in the rotation where you'd give Matthews a day off, particularly since Matthews has been awful at the plate thusfar. But he's out there again, suggesting that, with no "true" backup centerfielder on the roster, Matthews is going to have to play the ironman out there.


A few thoughts on last night's game... 

1) That Hidalgo shot was huge. It is early, but Hidalgo v.2005 is looking a lot like the "Good Hidalgo" so far, the one that is an All-Star caliber right fielder. If we have that version all season, it is going to make a huge difference in the offense.

2) That Blalock shot looked very familiar. When Blalock is going well, it seems like he hits a lot of those high, arcing shots that are yanked down the right field line, and that land about 10-15 rows up in the rightfield bleachers. Blalock has shown good patience at the plate, with an OBP close to .400, and has shown some power, but his average is still just sitting at .200. Hopefully, that is going to get him back on track.

3) I still don't think Astacio should be on the team, but a few more starts like that, and I'll be eating my words. Great outing for him yesterday, although he (understandably) tired around the 90 pitch mark. I'm not sold on him yet, but I'm pulling for him to prove me wrong and continue pitching like that through the summer.

4) Teixeira looks awful right now. He started off slowly last year, as well, so hopefully he's just one of those guys like Lance Berkman who takes a little time to get into his groove. But Teixeira is the best player on the team, and the Rangers are going to struggle if he doesn't get it in gear.

5) Two huge mental errors yesterday, that looked like they were going to cost the team the game. Soriano got alligator arms on Shouse's throw in the 8th, which is what caused the error. Yeah, it wasn't a good throw by Shouse, but he has to cross over the bag and make the catch. Bad play by Soriano, and emblematic of the complaints that he has poor baseball instincts. The other mistake was by Brocail, in the same inning, when he let Sexson advance to second on the rundown resulting from the comebacker with none out. He did the right thing by running at Jeremy Reed, who was caught between third and home, but he threw the ball too soon, allowing Reed to head home and stay in the rundown long enough to allow the runners to advance to second and third. That allowed an extra run to score on the ensuing single. If Soriano makes the play on the bunt, then the comebacker to Brocail is an inning-ending GIDP, with the Rangers going into the 9th tied at 3. If Brocail makes the right play on the rundown, the Rangers go into the 9th down 5-3. Blalock and Hidalgo ended up saving the day, but those sorts of mental errors are killers, and the sort of thing that I'm sure exasperate Buck.

6) Even after going 3-3, I would have preferred to see either Dellucci or Gonzalez hit for Alomar to lead of the 9th last night.


On Chan Ho Park 

A lengthy piece in the L.A. Times today, on Chan Ho Park and his struggles in Texas since signing that 5 year, $65 million deal.

Park used to pitch in L.A., and the article is much more sympathetic than anything written in the DFW media.


Saturday, April 09, 2005

Baseball Primer's Texas Rangers Preview 

Baseball Primer offers their Texas Rangers Preview...

Lengthy piece, a few errors, a lot of things you've heard expressed here before...



This game wore me out.

I need a nap now.



Regilio down, Astacio activated 

As expected, to make room for Pedro Astacio on the roster, the Rangers optioned Nick Regilio to AAA.

It will be interesting to see how yesterday's meltdown affects the organization's thoughts on him. As Sam Narron learned last season, you can go from the organizational favorite to waiver-wire fodder with one bad outing, given this management group.

Regilio really didn't pitch that well last year, either, in AAA or the minors, so I have been at a bit of a loss as to how he became such a hot prospect in the organization's mind. He throws hard, which, of course, is the number one priority in Arlington right now, but his control hasn't been good, and there's been no real indication that he's better than the numbers suggest.

I'd keep an eye on Regilio's first few outings in Oklahoma...


Bottom of the 7th, two outs... 

Astacio facing a pinch hitter.

He's tiring, the Mariners are teeing off on him, and he's being left in the game.

This is a mistake.

Astacio needs to be out of the game.


Still more on the Laird and Nix saga 

T.R. Sullivan today updates the Laird and Nix saga, with the two supposedly the victims of a big misunderstanding. The new story:

An equipment delay kept outfielder Laynce Nix and catcher Gerald Laird from playing in the season opener for the Triple A Oklahoma RedHawks on Thursday at Memphis. Nix and Laird reported in plenty of time to Oklahoma after being sent down by the Rangers on Sunday in San Francisco.

The problem was that their equipment was mistakenly sent from San Francisco to Oklahoma City by ground transportation instead of being sent on overnight delivery.

"It's just a matter of when their equipment gets there," Buck Showalter said. "The last thing I worry about is Gerald and Laynce getting ready to play."

Showalter, who spoke with Nix by phone Friday, said neither player did anything wrong.

I don't know that I believe that, but hey, if that's the case, then great...it obviously is a lot better for the players and the team if this is actually the case...


Friday, April 08, 2005

I'm baffled 

Can someone explain to me why, with a one run lead in the 8th, Nick Regilio was in the game?

Doug Brocail had only thrown 13 pitches. Was he too mentally destroyed by the bad call on the 2-2 pitch, that ended up costing the Rangers two runs, to go back out there?

Could Francisco Cordero not have pitched two innings, particularly since the batters coming up in the 8th were a stronger group than those likely to come up in the 9th?

I don't get it...


Another Fuson article 

From a suburban San Diego paper...

According to this piece, Fuson listened to sales pitches from "around 10" teams before getting an offer to join the Padre front office...

Also, on Fuson's tenure in Texas:

Fuson said he felt burned by the situation.

"There was a lot of confusion based on what the owner wanted to do and the things he was telling me and the things that John was telling me," he said. "It kind of blew up."


More on Nix and Laird 

The latest on the Nix/Laird saga...

Nix claims that his equipment, along with Gerald Laird's, hasn't been sent yet to the Redhawks, and that's why they didn't participate in the workouts earlier this week. Laird and Nix both sat again tonight...


Nix, Laird benched for Oklahoma's opener 

Gerald Laird and Laynce Nix were benched for Oklahoma's opener yesterday, apparently because they failed to appear for a couple of workouts earlier this week.

Not a good sign at all...


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Rangers have the 22nd highest payroll in baseball 

Embarrassing AP piece in the S-T today, showing that the big-market Rangers have a higher payroll than only 8 major league teams right now.

Among the teams with higher payrolls than Texas are such big-market juggernauts as Oakland, San Diego, Detroit, Minnesota, Florida, and Cincinnati.

Oh, and Houston, in the same state as the Rangers, in a smaller media market, with a less lucrative local media deal, has a payroll that is more than $20 million higher than the Rangers'.

But hey, at least Tom Hicks still has his beloved "financial flexibility"...


Nationals Claim Hughes Off Waivers 

The Washington Nationals have claimed Travis Hughes off of waivers.

A surprising move...I didn't think anyone would put in a waiver claim on Hughes, who is pretty old to be a prospect and hasn't had any success above AA.

But he's been sent to Washington's AAA club, where he'll likely pitch out of the pen. I'm guessing he's back on the waiver wire by the ASB.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Whatever happened to...Bo Jackson? 

Whatever happened to Bo Jackson?

Well, he's suing a newspaper for saying he used steroids.

I have to say, I find it a lot more believeable that Bo was clean, given that he's gone so far as to sue and demand that a retraction be printed.

When Jose Canseco's book came out, with the lurid tales of injecting teammates, I figured that he would get hit with libel suits. None arose. Jackson's, in fact, is the only suit I recall having seen recently around this issue.

The article says that Jackson is a businessman in the Chicago area. He's one of those former players I think about from time to time, and marvel at how they just completely fell off the face of the earth.

I don't think anyone under the age of 25 or so can truly understand the phenomenon that was Bo Jackson. A Heisman Trophy winner, the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft, who decides to forego millions in the NFL because he'd rather play baseball. A guy who becomes one of the most dynamic blends of speed and power that baseball has ever seen, one of those rare players who you'd pay to watch strike out, just because he was such a mesmerizing presence. A guy who then decided to play football as a "hobby", who went to the Raiders and was a part-time running back whose flashes of brilliance couldn't help but make you fantasize about how great he would have been if he had been a full-time player, a guy who had the same devastating package on the football field -- speed and power -- as he did on the baseball field. He was a storybook character come to life.

And then, in a 1991 playoff game against the Bengals, Jackson was tackled by linebacker Kevin Walker. That tackle broke Jackson's hip, and ultimately ended his career. Like that, he was gone.

In looking at Jackson's stats at Pro Football Reference, I'm struck by the following lines near the top of the page:

Bo Jackson never finished in the top 10 in any major category.

Bo Jackson is not in the all-time top 50 in any major category.

Both true, of course. He never came close to the top 10 or top 50. But I find it almost offensive, to see those words leaping off the page, as if to minimize or diminish who Bo Jackson was. I feel like I can identify with those old-timers who talk about how, for a few brief moments, Gale Sayers electrified the football world in a way no one has done since. I never saw Sayers, of course...but I watched Bo Jackson, and while his numbers in the NFL are pedestrian -- 515 carries, 2782 yards -- it is simply circumstance that caused that, because he was simply as great a runner as I have ever seen.

His baseball numbers are better, of course, but still not overwhelming. One top-10 finish in slugging, 3 in homers. His baseball reference stat page includes a most comparable player list, and the guys matched up with Jackson are plebian...Ron Kittle, Bob Cerv, Nick Esasky, Dan Pasqua. Twenty years from now, I'm sure someone will flip through those pages, look at Jackson's production, and wonder what all that fuss was about. A guy who, from 1988 through 1990, was right up there with Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan as the most recognized, most captivating, most riveting athletes in the world...but his on-the-field credentials evoke the likes of Kal Daniels and Barry Word (to name a couple of contemporaries), and his career spanned only a half-decade of meaningful play.

Certain players see their legend grow after they depart. Others, for reasons unknown, see their reputations fade over time...Stan Musial, Pistol Pete Maravich, and Eric Dickerson come to mind. Bo Jackson seems to fall in this category, as well...he's someone who has slipped almost entirely out of mind, despite being such an integral part of the zeitgeist of his time, coining a catchphrase ("Bo Knows...") that was as ubiquitous as "Where's the Beef" and "I'm Rick James, Bitch!!!" in their times and being the embodiment, at least for a few years, of the late 20th century athlete, the man for whom there were no limits to what he could achieve.

And to a certain extent, it is reassuring, since Jackson has slipped from the public eye in part because of his desire to do so. If anything, this suit appears to be motivated by Jackson's very desire to protect his good name, to keep the reputation he has guarded so closely since he returned. He isn't hosting "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period", or hocking grills on TV, or auctioning off weekends with himself on Ebay. He's moved on, disappeared from the public eye with dignity and grace, the way Sandy Koufax did, the way Bob Cousy did.

And like every good showman, he left his audience wanting more. And wondering what might have been...


Adrian Gonzalez benched again 

Chad Allen is the starting DH tonight, meaning that Adrian Gonzalez, who supposedly won the starting DH job, has been benched for the first two games of the season.

I just don't get it.


Fever Pitch 

I refuse to watch this movie. Just seeing the ads -- which appear to be run every 3 minutes -- makes me angry.

The book isn't about the stupid Red Sox, it is about Arsenal.

They took a good book, bastardized it by turning into a movie about whiny, narcissistic BoSox fans, and then put freaking Jimmy Fallon in it. Jimmy Fallon, who in the hierarchy of former SNL players is a lot closer to being on the Tim Kazurinsky/Joe Piscopo strata than even the Chris Farley/Rob Schneider strata.

The only way I could imagine this movie being worse is if they had cast Carrot Top as Terry Francona.

And to top it all off, my wife wants to go see it because she thinks she'll identify with the Drew Barrymore character.



Opening Night 

Okay, I'm back in town, and have a few quick thoughts on last night's game...

1) Drese's outing was very encouraging.
2) So was Hank Blalock drawing 3 walks.
3) Mark Teixeira is great.
4) Rod Barajas is not good.
5) Why bother carrying anyone who can hit on the bench, if you are going to let Rod Barajas bat against K-Rod, down a run in the 9th?

So we start the season 0-1, which sucks...but we started 0-2 last year, and lost the first game in a much more unpleasant fashion that this year.


Sunday, April 03, 2005

A couple of notes 

Evan Grant's DMN article on Nix and Laird being sent down has changed. Laird's quotes show up in Grant's notes article, instead, and are edited so that they are somewhat less inflammatory. Which is good for those who'd like to see Laird back in Texas.

Also, I'm heading out of town -- out of the country, actually -- for my real job tomorrow, so this will probably be the last update between now and the first pitch of Tuesday night's game, unless something big happens tomorrow morning. If all goes well, and my flight back isn't delayed, I'll be back home just in time for the start of the game Tuesday (thank goodness it is a West Coast night game).

But to get a few predictions for the coming season out of the way...

The Rangers will finish 81-81, in third place, behind Anaheim and Oakland.

St. Louis and Boston will return to the World Series, with St. Louis winning in 7.

Barajas will be a bust.

So will Pedro Astacio.

The Ho will be released by June 1.

Laynce Nix will be back in the majors by July 1.

Soriano will be dealt by July 15, and Ian Kinsler will be called up the day Soriano is traded to take over at second base.

Hidalgo will be dealt by August 1.

Mark Teixeira will move to right field to replace Hidalgo, with Gonzalez going to first base and Jason Botts taking over as DH.

Drew Meyer will put himself back on the map as a legitimate prospect.

So will Will Smith.

Mike Young will be referred to as the most underrated player in baseball on Baseball Tonight at least 75 times.

Kevin Mench will do something goofy that pisses off Buck.

Joaquin Benoit will revive his career as a setup man for the Brewers.


Hershiser on the Ranger drafts 

Orel Hershiser was miked and being interviewed by the booth during the Rangers pre-season television broadcast today. These things are usually pretty bland, but Hershiser made a pretty surprising comment when he termed the Rangers last couple of drafts "disappointments", and said that management expected that the drafts would be better going forward.

This is surprising because it seems to be a pretty direct shot at former assistant g.m. and farm director Grady Fuson, who had the amateur draft as his own personal fiefdom from 2002 through 2004. John Hart was reportedly at odds over Fuson's drafting strategy, which emphasized college players and pitchers who could pitch over high school players and high-ceiling hard-throwers, and that apparently led to Hart's insisting that Tom Hicks clip Fuson's wings last summer -- which, of course, led to Fuson's getting fired.

The 2002 draft has been pretty barren, with first rounder Drew Meyer being a bust thusfar, and Fuson's decision to pick him over Khalil Greene (a ROY candidate for the Padres last season) was supposedly a big part of the case Hart & Co. used to organize his ouster. But the 2002 draft was also decimated by Hart's forfeiting four draft choices -- the Rangers' 2nd through 5th rounders -- to sign Chan Ho Park, Juan Gonzalez, Jay Powell, and Todd Van Poppel, in what is one of the biggest collection of free agent disasters ever assembled in one offseason. Meanwhile, later round selections Kam Loe and Erik Thompson have established themselves as legitimate pitching prospects, and Sam Narron was considered a decent prospect before he was senselessly lost to waivers this offseason.

The 2003 draft, meanwhile, was heralded as the second best in baseball that year by Baseball America. It has featured John Danks, Vince Sinisi, John Hudgins, Ian Kinsler, and Matt Lorenzo, among others. And the 2004 draft is looking good already, as well...

So Hershiser's comment is curious, to say the least, but is at least a refreshing change from Hart's mealy-mouthing about how he wanted Grady Fuson to stay and how Grady just wanted to move on. Give Orel credit for having the balls to say that they thought Grady did a lousy job...


Laird on being demoted to AAA 

Evan Grant in the DMN has the following quote from Gerald Laird, on heading back to AAA:

"'I told them I'm a major league catcher,' he said. 'I don't deserve to go back to Triple-A. I thought I had answered the question of being able to play at this level last year. They gave me answers, but they didn't really seem like answers.' "

I can't say that I disagree with him. The Rangers' treatment of him has been pretty shoddy.

And those statements are likely just going to hasten his departure from Texas. He had already fallen out of favor, and publicly complaining about how he's being treated is simply going to put him further in the doghouse.

I expect him to be dealt relatively soon.


Roster finalized 

The Rangers' major league roster has been finalized, and there is one huge surprise...just a day after seemingly indicating that Laynce Nix had made the Opening Day roster, Nix was optioned to AAA, with Chad Allen taking his place on the major league roster.

I don't have a problem with that move, as Nix had struggled much of last year and all spring, and has only a couple of months above A-ball anyway. I thought he was rushed last season, and having him play everyday in AAA is probably better than having him hit .220 in irregular playing time in the majors. Allen provides a righthanded bat off the bench, something the Rangers did need with Gonzalez making the team as the everyday DH.

This highlights again, though, the holes in the Ranger lineup...in both centerfield (with Gary Matthews Jr.) and at catcher (with Rod Barajas), the Rangers are starting guys who are not major league caliber everyday players, and at DH (Adrian Gonzalez) they have a guy who had a decent, but not great, season with the bat at AAA in 2004. For all the talk about what an offensive powerhouse the Rangers are supposed to be, this could end up being a bad offensive squad, particularly if Kevin Mench or Mark Teixeira miss significant time to injury, as they have in the past.

The other roster moves of note...Adrian Gonzalez did make the team as the DH, Mark DeRosa is the utility infielder, and Chad Allen is the 5th outfielder. Matthews is the only centerfielder on the roster, and he isn't a very good defensive centerfielder, which presents a problem, but I imagine Mench will play centerfield from time to time, with Dellucci manning left field against certain righthanded pitchers.

The eight man pen will be:


Astacio, Ramirez, Francisco, Benoit and Colbrunn are all on the D.L. to start the season. Almanzar has been put on the bereavement list, due to the death of his mother. Astacio will be activated before game five, Almanzar will probably only miss a couple of games, and Bukvich and Regilio will be sent down when those two are activated.

To make room for Chad Allen and Mark DeRosa, the Rangers have designated Travis Hughes and Agustin Montero for assignment. Neither should have been on the 40 man roster to start with, and both should make it through waivers, although Hughes will be able to opt for free agency, as this is his second outright assignment.


Joel Sherman with more Soriano rumors 

In today's NY Post, Joel Sherman reports that the Devil Rays backed out of a Soriano trade that would have sent Soriano to the Devil Fishes in exchange for Danys Baez and Jorge Cantu, citing financial reasons.

The Soriano for Baez part of the deal has been floating around for a little while, although Cantu's inclusion is new. Cantu is a 23 year old second baseman who had a breakout season in 2004, hitting 23 homers between AAA and the majors while doubling at a Kinslerian rate. While Baez and Cantu is a better return for Soriano that Baez alone, I'm still not sure that deal is all that attractive. Cantu doesn't walk and doesn't have any speed, and his defensive skills are considered just adequate. In BA's D-Rays prospect chat this offseason, they claim Cantu would have been ranked in the 6-10 range among D-Ray prospects if he hadn't been disqualified by all his major league ABs late last season, and while the D-Rays have a pretty nice farm, that's not where a top level prospect would end up slotted. Cantu can play some short and third, so he could slot in as a utility player with some pop off the bench, but he's another guy who is going to have to hit .300 to have an acceptable OBP, and Kinsler appears to still be the better option at second base if Soriano were traded.

Cantu would appear to have the most value as a trade chip later on, but that assumes that he doesn't pull a Nivar and regress in 2005...Baez, meanwhile, is another power arm for the pen, but if Francisco returns relatively quickly (and the team is apparently quite pleased with his progress, expecting him to return in a month or so), the pen starts getting pretty crowded, unless the Rangers deal Almanzar or cut Doug Brocail loose.

So I'm not sure that this deal would do a lot for the Rangers, other than get Soriano out of town and clear space for Kinsler. Sherman predicts that Soriano will get dealt to St. Louis mid-season, and I'd probably rather take my chances going that route. Sherman also, for what it is worth, predicts that Mark Teixeira (along with Adam Dunn) will come close to 60 homers this year...


Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Guardian's MLB preview 

I found this amusing...it is the Guardian's "Baseball: Season 2005/6 preview."

For those who aren't familiar with the Guardian, it is a prominent left-wing British newspaper. Kind of funny seeing a Brit analyze the coming MLB season, although I have to say, the story has more style than any American sports column I've read lately...


Nix makes the big club 

Despite rumblings that he was going to be destined for AAA, Laynce Nix has made the 25 man roster, although whether he'll be platooning with Gary Matthews, Jr., or working as the primary starter is still up in the air.

It never should have gotten to the point where his place on the team was even in doubt, but Nix was abysmal in the second half of the season, and followed that up with a poor spring, which, combined with Andres Torres' strong performance this spring, led some to believe that Nix may be headed to AAA (which he skipped on his way to the majors).

Nix, though, apparently keeps his hold on the centerfield job, while Adrian Gonzalez has won the starting DH role. This, however, puts the Rangers in a situation where David Dellucci is looking at very little playing time...since he's a lefty, like Gonzalez and Nix, he can't really platoon with either of them.

The Rangers would probably be best served dealing Matthews for something, and having Torres as the 5th outfielder, allowing Dellucci to fill the 4th outfielder role.


Ric Renner on Fox Sports Net 

I'm watching FXSW while waiting for the Ranger game to start...

And Ric Renner showed a graphic of the Rangers starting lineup, that had "Bob Barajas" hitting 9th at catcher.

Great proof-reading, guys...


On the pen 

In the S-T today, T.R. Sullivan updates the injury situation with the pen. Brian Shouse apparently had a good session yesterday and looks ready to start the season on the active roster, but Erasmo Ramirez is continuing to have problems, meaning he's likely to start the season on the D.L.

With Pedro Astacio starting the season on the D.L. as well, the Rangers have been planning on going with an eight man pen for the first four games, sending one of the relievers down to AAA before game five, when Astacio would be activated. According to Sullivan, Cordero, Almanzar, Brocail, Mahay, and Riley have bullpen slots, and Shouse will be #6. Dickey is listed as just a candidate, but I'd be shocked if he weren't in the pen, which makes seven. That leaves Nick Regilio, Ryan Bukvich, and Vladimir Nunez fighting over the last spot. Nunez has impressed in camp, but Sullivan notes that Nunez is hampered by not being on the 40 man roster, and I doubt the team is going to want to clear a roster spot for Nunez since he's just going to be sent down after four games. Bukvich seems to be the favorite for the last spot, as I would guess management would like to see Regilio in the Oklahoma rotation.

Also, Sullivan indicates that Agustin Montero is the one who will be dropped from the 40 man roster to make room for DeRosa. It is about time...


Friday, April 01, 2005

LeBreton takes on the Rangers 

Gil LeBreton has a column today on the Rangers' spring...

What makes it particularly interesting is that LeBreton tends to be one of the least inflammatory of the columnists in DFW...he's not a Galloway or a Fraley, or even a Reeves, in regards to his willingness to be openly critical or hostile to local management.

So his column today is striking...he seems, quite simply, disappointed with what has happened this spring with the Rangers, and in particular, with several of the same decisions management has made that I, and other fans, have been carping about...

In regards to Ricardo Rodriguez, he writes:

For all the talk, for instance, that the Rangers' front office placed on giving its young arms a complete chance this spring, its pitching rotation to start the season will include Chan Ho Park and Pedro Astacio, not to mention 40-year-old Kenny Rogers.

Two lousy outings by Ricardo Rodriguez in his final two spring training starts apparently has erased everything he did before that and earned him a demotion to Triple A Oklahoma.

Why? In part, because Rodriguez had options remaining, and Park and Astacio are being paid more and, thus, will get the longer chance.

I had said, from the time Astacio was signed, that he was a lock for the rotation. Nevermind that the last time he was effective was in 2000 -- which was also the last time Rusty Greer and Albert Belle were good players -- nevermind that he missed most of the last two seasons to injury, nevermind that we had Juan Dominguez and Ricardo Rodriguez and Chris Young waiting in the wings...Astacio was in the rotation, and the young pitchers would just have to wait their turn.

This got me flamed from various quarters, and was used as evidence that I am anti-management and simply refuse to give management a fair shot. If Astacio can't pitch, I was assured by many, he'll be released, and RicRod or someone else will be in.

Well, Astacio has been injured and awful this spring. And he's starting the season on the D.L., but only so the Rangers can have an extra roster space for the first four games. Come game five, he's being activated, and will get the start...and will no doubt have at least a half-dozen outings to prove, once again, he can't pitch.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Rodriguez will be back in AAA, his reward for having worked hard all winter to rehabilitate his broken arm, his prize for having been praised throughout camp for being in great shape and pitching so well.

The problem with sending RicRod down, ultimately, is that a decision has to be made on him pretty quickly. Either he's going to be in the Ranger rotation for the next couple of years, or he needs to be cut loose. And I'm afraid we are looking at a scenario where Astacio hangs around, tweaks something, goes on the d.l. for a couple of weeks, comes back, and is essentially ineffective all season...

Meanwhile, Rodriguez doesn't join the rotation until June, has some ups and downs, and at the end of the season, we still don't know whether he can be counted on to be a part of the 2006 rotation. And why? Because of management's infatuation with a washed-up starter, and their refusal to actually put their lineup card where their mouth is and let some of the young pitchers they are supposedly developing pitch.

One other great tidbit from LeBreton's article, on Mark DeRosa:

DeRosa also prompted Hart to make one of his best quotes ever -- "He's done everything except have a good spring."

I thought that was pretty amusing...


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