Jan 312012

Interview with Former Ranger Kevin MenchIt was a cold afternoon, April 28th 2006 in Cleveland Ohio, too cold for a game meant to be played under the warm summer sun. Two days earlier Kevin Mench extended his consecutive games with a home run streak to six games with a Grand Slam against the Oakland A’s, a Texas Rangers franchise record. Ranger fans watching from the comfort of their homes knew what was at stake. No right-handed hitter had ever hit a home run in seven consecutive games. Ever. Mench stepped into the box to face Guillermo Mota down two runs in the top of the eighth inning. The rest is history and Kevin Mench is still the only right-handed hitter in the history of Major League Baseball to have a home run in seven consecutive games.

Although Mench now lives in a quiet suburb of Fort Worth, it’s clear talking to him that the memories of his playing days are still fresh in his mind. From being called up to play for the Rangers after an early season injury to Juan Gonzalez and an unlikely friendship with Alex Rodriguez, to the culture shock of playing for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, Mench has had a memorable career.

Mench was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 1999 draft with the 118th overall pick. He was coming off an incredible season with the University of Delaware Blue Hens where he led them to a NCAA Tournament birth and was selected as the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year. While making his way through the Rangers minor league system, he had the opportunity to play for Bobby Jones and remembers hearing he had been called up to the play for the Texas Rangers as Jones yelled through the clubhouse.

“Go get that big head mother-fucker and tell him to pack his shit.” Mench remembers fondly.  “If you ever knew Bobby Jones, he could take a whole sentence and put it into one word. Best manager I ever had”

In Mench’s first year in the big leagues he found himself becoming fast friends with some of the Ranger veterans including Rafael Palmeiro, Kenny Rogers, and Rusty Greer. It was Greer that gave him the “Shrek” nickname that friends and family still use.

“It was the first or second day of spring training and Shrek had just come out when he said ’Man, you look just like Shrek’ and I told him that it would never stick.”

Mench hit 15 home runs and drove in 60 runs in his rookie season. This earned him 7th place in the AL rookie of the year voting as well as his status a fan favorite thanks to his humble approach to the game and fun-loving attitude.

In 2003 Mench suffered a broken wrist after being hit with a pitch which required him to rehab it back to playing strength. He remembers when notorious micro-manager Buck Showalter tried to call him out in front of his teammates.

“Buck walked in and says ‘Who here thinks Mench should go play winter ball?’ Alex stands up and says ’I don’t think he needs to go anywhere. I think he needs to be here playing with us.’ Buck turned around and walked out.”

That was part of a friendship that Mench has maintained with the oft criticized Alex Rodriguez. “Alex took care of me when I was just coming up. On the road we would have dinner. He would look out for me.”  Mench also talked about the professional/rigid demeanor ARod has in public, “You have to be that way when you’re in the position he’s in, but if he came in and sat down, he would have a conversation with you like anyone else.”

On July 26th 2006, Mench hit a double against the New York Yankees for the 50,000 hit in Texas Rangers franchise history. He still looks at that as his proudest moment in his career.  “With the home run streak, someone can break that one day. No one will ever have the 50,000 hit again.”

Unfortunately that proud moment was followed up by a shocking phone call from the Rangers the next day.  “I was out picking out countertops for our new house when I got the call I had been traded.”

Mench was sent to Milwaukee with Coco Cordero and Laynce Nix for Carlos Lee and minor league stud Nelson Cruz. Talking with Mench its clear that this was never just a business to him and being traded wasn’t easy on him or his family, “Nobody is truthful with you, nobody is honest.”

Mench spent two years with Milwaukee and then signed a minor league deal with the Rangers only to be traded to the Blue Jays before getting the chance to be called up. Then, after the 2008 season, Mench decided to accept an opportunity to play in Japan. He wasn’t prepared for the culture shock he would face playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, the same league that new Ranger Yu Darvish made his claim to fame.

“My wife was pregnant at the time so that was the hard part…It was completely different, you’re used to playing a certain way and then you have to change everything. It’s run like the military.”

“Their spring training runs from 9-5 everyday. They will sit there and hit for hours and hours. The final straw was when a kid got picked off second base and all of a sudden I see the bench coach slapping the kid in the face…they beat those kids down.”

The way things were run in Japan was such a change from MLB. “If I had a stolen base, I would have a case of energy drinks sitting in my locker. They just throw money at you.”

After not ever getting much of an opportunity to play in Japan, Mench returned to America.  He signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals where he was called up and after the 2010 season he decided to call it quits.

His decision to leave baseball after only eight season in the major leagues wasn’t forced on him by a catastrophic injury like so many athletes dread. Instead, he decided the decision should be one that he gets to make. “I wanted to go out on my own terms”

Now Mench spends his time in Keller where he feels totally at home. He has his group of friends and knows everyone from the mayor to the police chief. He occasionally does private hitting lessons for local kids and enjoys being able to watch his own kids grow up.  He is a huge hockey fan and calls local hockey legend Mike Modano a friend. You might even catch him calling into local sports talk radio about his beloved Philadelphia Eagles.  Life is a little slower than the grind of a Major League baseball season, and that’s just how he likes it.

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Jan 312012
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersThe Rangers have extended the contract of manager Ron Washington through 2014.  Financial terms were not disclosed.  Jon Daniel’s talked about Wash, saying “Our guys love playing for this man.  You see that every day. The national baseball audience has seen that the past two Octobers. You really see the way our guys respond to him.  He’s become a great manager, and a good personal friend and partner in all that we do, and obviously a huge part of our success, in my mind, is his ability to set the tone in that clubhouse to continue to teach the game to guys at the big league level and to demand a lot from our players.”
  • Washington is appreciative of the opportunity, saying ”Jon Daniels took a chance when you look back five years ago on a novice manager.  We hit it off. He just believed that I could be the guy that could take this organization in the direction that he knew it had the opportunity to go in. We’ve done that, and the most important thing, we’ve done that as a family, we’ve done it as a solid unit.”
  • From Evan Grant (DallasNews), “If Ron Washington stays through the end of the contract extension he signed with the Rangers Monday – his second extension in 14 months – he’ll have managed and won more games than anybody to ever spit in the dugout in Arlington.”
  • Richard Durrett (ESPN) provides more on contract extension here.
  • Ron Washington thankful for bond with GM by Richard Durrett (ESPN)
  • Ron Washington has grown with the Rangers with the Sports Center video clip by Richard Durrett (ESPN)
  • Roy Oswalt’s meeting with the Rangers yesterday included Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, Roy, Roy’s wife and his agent.  It was described as “good”.  I’m beginning to feel like the primary purpose of this meeting was for Nolan to let Roy know that the Rangers respect him and in just about any other year would have jumped at the opportunity.
  • Jeff Wilson (Star-Telegram) wrote a column regarding Oswalt’s fit in Texas, “St. Louis is said to be the only other club Oswalt is considering, and various reports have the Cardinals scrambling to meet his asking price of $10 million on a one-year contract.That’s out of the Rangers’ price range, perhaps even if they can trade Koji Uehara and the $4 million he will make this season. Uehara appears to be a man without a spot in the bullpen with Alexi Ogando expected to rejoin the late-inning mix after the signing of Yu Darvish.
  • Dave Cameron (FanGraphs) wrote a small piece on Roy Oswalt’s potential suitors, saying “No team in baseball needs a starting pitcher less than the Texas Rangers. Their starting pitchers combined for +19.8 WAR last year, third most in the Majors, and while they lost C.J. Wilson, they spent roughly $110 million to bring in Yu Darvish and have decided to bring Neftali Feliz to camp as a starting pitcher. Toss in Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison, and their rotation doesn’t even have room for Alexi Ogando, who himself probably belongs in a Major League rotation next year.
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersAlso from FanGraphs, an interesting article about Rangers Prospect Roman Mendez by Mike Newman.  Regarding Mendez’ potential, Newman writes “At present, Roman Mendez is still more lottery ticket than legitimate starting pitching prospect. The raw stuff borders on electric and it’s easy to dream on his fulfilling his potential. “
  • The Rangers are considered one of the off-season winners, according to Jeff Wilson’s (Star-Telegram) Top 5/Bottom 5 rankings.
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Jan 302012
  • Monday Morning FastballsThe Rangers are scheduled to meet with Roy Oswalt today.  Friday, there were reports that Oswalt was close to accepting a deal from St. Louis, but it looks like the veteran right-hander wants to meet with the Rangers prior to making a final decision.
    There are arguments for both sides when it comes to the Rangers signing Oswalt (read Jasen’s here), but if he signs, it’s the dominoes that fall from there that are stirring debate.  If he does indeed sign with the Rangers, the question becomes who is out of the rotation (most talk is of Matt Harrison) and are they destined for the bullpen or a trade.
    I love the way Jamey Newberg summed it up, by writing “I’m not sure yet whether I want this supposed competition to turn out differently from the World Series, but I do feel pretty sure that if the Rangers are hoping to land the righthander, it’s likely part of a bigger plan that’s laid out on a whiteboard that none of us can see and perhaps that none of us have fully visualized.”
  • Matt Harrison fielded a question concerning his future in the rotation by saying, “My goal is to come in there and be the best I can be and make sure no matter what I give it everything I have in spring training.  It’s out of my hands whether or not they want to put me in the bullpen if they sign Roy or whatever happens from there.”
  • Monday Morning FastballsThe Negro Leagues Baseball Museum honored Ron Washington on Saturday night in Kansas City with the C.I. Taylor Award as the AL’s top manager, part of the museum’s Legacy Awards.
    Washington had this to say at the event, ”It means a lot.  It means our team did a great job. I read some of the history of the awards, and there’s quite a few great people who have won the award. I am honored.   I never doubted myself or needed any vindication.  Even in my first year, I knew it was just a matter of getting my coaches to coach and my players to play the game of baseball the way it’s supposed to be played.  There’s always other people around you that help you become successful. I am just fortunate that (general manager) Jon Daniels didn’t panic the first couple of years because, if he did, I probably wouldn’t find myself with this opportunity.”
    Jeff Wilson (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram) wrote a piece on Washington and the award here.
  • Nothing new in regards to contact talks with those that the Rangers are focused on, but Ian Kinsler had this to say regarding his situation, “The longer they wait, the more difficult it’s going to be.  It takes a lot of conversation and thinking on both sides. It’s not just a couple of phone calls and strike a deal, especially the second contract when they’re investing a lot more money.”
  • According to Bovada.com (formerly Bodog.com), the Rangers have 9/1 odds of winning the 2012 World Series.  From an odd’s perspective, that puts them in the top 5, behind or equal to the Phillies (11/2), the Angels (13/2), the Yankees (13/2), and the Tigers (also 9/1).
  • The Rangers have agreed to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to spring training, with outfielder Kyle Hudson.  Hudson has been in the Baltimore farm system since 2008, most notably contributing 119 stolen bases during his time there.
  • Christina Kahrl (ESPN’s Sweet Spot) wrote a good piece highlighting production by position, specifically looking at the “up the middle” positions (C, 2B, SS, CF).
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Jan 272012
  • Friday Morning KnuckleballsSorry for skipping the update yesterday and the late update today – sometimes life gets in the way of baseball.
  • The Rangers intend to take full advantage of the anticipated heavy media coverage around Yu Darvish while in Surprise for Spring Training. According to Richard Durrett (MLB.com), “With close to 100 Japanese media members expected to attend, including at least six major network television stations from Japan filming Darvish’s every move at spring training, the Texas Rangers are likely to sell advertising space. It’s just one of the ways the club can cash in off the field from Darvish’s celebrity on it.” First step to one day becoming Nolan Ryan’s Texas Beefers.
  • Great article by T.R. Sullivan on Eric Nadel and his contributions to the Dallas community.  Growing up, most of my friends wanted to be George Brett, Mike Schmidt or Ricky Henderson.  I wanted to be Marty Brenneman (Reds radio broadcaster) or Milo Hamilton (Astros radio broadcaster).
  • Jon Daniels joined the “The Ben and Skin show” on 103.3 FM this morning and had this to say about Roy Oswalt, ”But when you look at Roy and his track record with some guys in the organization having played with and for them in Houston, it’s intriguing.  It doesn’t fit perfectly for us and you can look at each one in the rotation and you can go through each one and why they deserve and should be and we want them to be in the rotation.” If you missed Jasen’s article regarding the potential of Roy Oswalt joining the Rangers, check it out here.
  • JD also spoke about resuming talks with Josh Hamilton, saying ”We’d like to keep Josh here for an extended period of time.  It’s got to be a deal that works for both sides. He’s got a unique set of circumstances because of how his career has played out and he’ll reach free agency at a different age than Prince or even Elvis. Josh will look at this, rightfully so, as the one time he hits free agentcy and how does he factor that in with his family and the different opportunities he has. We’re talking to them about this. We love Josh, love what he’s about and we want to keep him here and we’ll continue talking to him and hope we figure something out.”
  • Great stuff from JD above, but the absolute quote of the day was issued when he was talking about the inclusion of Prince Fielder in an already stacked Rangers line-up – “You plug him into our lineup, it has a chance to be silly.”
  • Jayson Stark (ESPN.com) did a great piece with the following premise,
    “We set out to change baseball. Our mission wasn’t to “fix” it or reinvent it. Our goal was merely to take a great sport and make it greater.”
    Stark and other writers put together a list of 5 proposed changes and then collected feedback from our very own Michael Young.  It’s a creative list, personally wouldn’t be on board with any of the changes. Michael’s feedback is insightful.  Check it out here.
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Jan 252012

BREAKING: Roy Oswalts Evil Plan to Slow Development of Rangers PitchingI know, harsh. Let me start this off by saying I really love Roy Oswalt. He is a workhorse. Always near the top of the league in innings pitched. He throws 93 mph and has one of the coolest named pitches in baseball, the “Vulcan change-up”.  He works a pitcher’s mound like a mad-man, the polar opposite of Joaquin Benoit. He’s a two-time 20 game winner with a career 3.21 ERA, a great teammate, and an all around nice guy. All that being said, I don’t want him. According to ESPN.com’s Richard Durrett the Rangers have shown some interest in signing Oswalt and he has reciprocated the interest in the Rangers.

Durrett notes: The Rangers have taken some chances on injured pitchers before, with the idea that it can be a low-risk, high-reward option.

I know the saying “You can never have enough pitching”. I was a Ranger fan during the 90′s and those days Juan Gonzalez was hitting 400 foot bombs to left field I would have killed for a Roy Oswalt on that team. These aren’t those Rangers.

This organization has built a perennial championship contender by drafting high ceiling talent and nurturing that with great coaching at all levels. They have built a stable of good young arms that are just now on the verge of making a leap into the big show. They also have three young guys that last year made up 3/5 of an AL Championship rotation. The addition of Neftali Feliz into the rotation ensures one of those guys will be moved back into a bullpen role. The addition of Roy Oswalt to this team would force another of those young, talented, and still developing starters back into the bullpen. Losing a year of development for a starter could be devastating both physically and mentally.  I know what you’re thinking. Oswalt is WAY better than Matt Harrison. Wrong.

Harrison – 30 GS 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA. 57 walks and 126 SOs.

Roy Oswalt – 23 GS 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA. 33 walks and 93 SOs.

I love Roy Oswalt. I love Matt Harrison and Derek Holland more. This isn’t the time to set those guys back in the spirit of signing a guy with a more recognizable name and more experience. This is the time to push those guys to be better than they ever have. Sorry Roy, we aren’t going to let you set back our boys.

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Jan 252012

The Other New GuyWith much of the focus on Yu Darvish over the last 4-6 weeks, some of the limelight that may have been on Neftali Feliz’s transition from dominant closer to starting rotation was redirected.

Shortly after the 2011 season ended, the idea of Feliz moving to a starting role was being pondered by many Rangers fans.  Feliz has made it no secret that he wants to be a starter and after the devastating end to the 2011 World Series, and the role that he played in it, it seemed like the timing was right.

Feliz was noticeably bothered and distraught over the way things went down in Game 6 of the World Series, and who could blame him.

A few months removed from that fateful night, Feliz said ”I’m not mad at myself because I threw my pitch, it just got hit.”  He also discussed his emotions following Josh Hamilton’s 10th inning 2-run home run, saying ”I was upset, but after we hit the home run, I thought I was ready, but no one told me to pitch. When we got the lead back, I thought I was going to be able to come back because I was more calm and relaxed after that.”

As you know, Feliz never came back in the game, and the rest is history.  Oliver and Feldman allowed 2 runs in the bottom half of the inning which knotted the game up again, and then the unbelievable…

That was how Neftali finished his season.  That was his final moment in the 2011 World Series…the lasting memory that he got to carry into the off-season.

Then, just weeks later in mid-November, he got the call.  His role was changing.  The Rangers had signed Joe Nathan to take over the closing duties and Feliz was being transitioned into the starting rotation.  A chance to start fresh.

The Other New GuyIt was only two years ago that the Rangers were making a similar move with C.J. Wilson.  In 2008 and 2009, Wilson spent time as the Rangers closer before successfully transitioning to the starting rotation in 2010, winning 15 games with 3.35 ERA that year.

So, while the transition from closer to starting rotation is something that Rangers fans will get to experience twice in three seasons, the list isn’t long of major league pitchers that have successfully made the change in roles.  Looking at career statistics across all major league pitchers, we wanted to identify pitchers that met three criteria:

  • A minimum of 40 saves, which is meant to signify the equivalent of two seasons as a closer.
  • A minimum of 90 games started, which would signify that the pitcher was at least successful enough to maintain a role in the starting rotation for roughly three seasons.
  • The last thing we look at is the order of things.  We want to only identify the pitchers that served as closers prior to moving to the starting rotation.

The list is 7 guys long.

7 major league pitchers that started their careers as relievers/closers and saved at least 40 games, then transitioned into the rotation, starting at least 90 games.  They are (in no particular order) Charlie Hough, Derek Lowe, Wilbur Wood, Kelvim Escobar, Shane Rawley, Doug Bird and Braden Looper.  I know…who cares about who they were.  I just figured the list was too short not to share.  Note: C.J. Wilson doesn’t even make the list because he hasn’t started 90 games yet.  A milestone that, barring injury, he’ll eclipse something in late June/early July.

You could easily argue that none of the above pitchers, with the exception of Lowe,  were as dominant as Feliz has been as a closer over the last two seasons. All of them went on to achieve a reasonable amount of success in the starting rotation, with Bird being the least successful and bouncing back and forth between the bullpen in later years.

The point of all of this is that Neftali Feliz is attempting to do something that few pitchers have accomplished before in Major League baseball.  And do you have any doubt that he’ll be successful?

Define success…

Let’s look at two of the more recent pitchers that fit the mold.  Derek Lowe moved into the starting rotation in 2002 and won 21 games, finishing 3rd in the AL Cy Young voting.  Looper won 12 games with a 4.94 ERA when he made the switch in 2007.  And of course, we’ve noted above the success that former Ranger C.J. Wilson had in 2010.  A relatively vast range here, but the results were in line with the abilities of each of the three pitchers.

The Other New GuySo, what can we expect from Feliz in 2012?

We know Feliz has a devastating fastball, which make his curve and change-up that much better.  In 2011, as a closer, Feliz threw that fastball 80% of the time.  He’ll have to learn to rely more on his off-speed pitches and his slider, as the majority of starting pitchers utilize their fastball 70% of the time or less.  I’m confident that he’ll be able to make this change and with the right coaching from Mike Maddux and Napoli’s presence behind the plate, take full advantage of his abilities.

The skill and abilities are there.

Location and team are both contributing factors to success, especially when looking at statistics.  He pitches in a hitter-friendly ballpark, but has a stacked line-up that will put runs up on the board to support him.

The final piece is endurance and health, which both lead to opportunity.  Neftali is young and it will be interesting to see what restrictions the Rangers coaching staff put in place throughout the season to protect his arm.  Assuming no injuries, I think it’s reasonable to project him at 29-32 starts with 175-190 innings pitched.

While I’m not ready to project a performance in line with what Derek Lowe had in 2002, I think it’s reasonable for us to believe that Feliz can perform close to the level that C.J. did just two season ago.

Baseball Do’s official prediction: 16-7 with a 3.70 ERA, 165 K’s

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Jan 252012
  • Wednesday Morning CurvesScott Boras worked his magic once again  as Prince Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers yesterday afternoon for 9 years at $214M.  It was the popular belief that the Nationals held the pole position as of yesterday morning and that the Rangers were out due to the demand of more than 5 years.  All along, there has been a mystery team…and the mystery team won.  Again.
    Full details of the contact haven’t been released yet.  One would speculate that there is some sort of club option and trade clause built into the deal, but we’ll have to wait.
  • With Prince officially off the market now, the Rangers will shift their focus to the contract needs of their existing core, most notably Josh Hamilton.
    According to T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com), “The Rangers’ biggest priority right now is outfielder Josh Hamilton, who can be a free agent after this upcoming season. The club is actively working with his agent, Michael Moye, on a possible contract extension that would prevent him from leaving, but an agreement does not appear imminent.”
  • Beyond Hamilton, the Rangers are expected to start or return to talks with Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis, with Holland being the only one of the five that the Rangers have under control beyond 2012.
  • Relief Pitcher Koji Uehara rejected a trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, which was one of the teams on his no-trade list.  The Blue Jays didn’t hesitate to move forward by signing Francisco Cordero to a 1 year/$4.5M contract to help fill the set-up role in their bullpen.
    Baltimore is still a likely trade partner for the Rangers with Uehara, Gerry Fraley (SportsDayDFW) reports “Baltimore remains interested in Uehara, who kept his home in the area after the Orioles sent him to the Rangers last summer.”
  • Alden Gonzalez (MLB.com) wrote a good piece on the escalating rivalry between the Rangers and Angels.  Gonzalez calls out the current off-season, saying “The rivalry reached a fever pitch during the offseason, in the comfort of air-conditioned offices and through the art of savvy business. The Angels and new general manager Jerry Dipoto — seeking a surge after back-to-back playoff absences — struck gold on Dec. 8, spending nearly $330 million to sign the best hitter of this era, Albert Pujols, and steal former Rangers ace C.J. Wilson. Then came the Rangers — eager to maintain their standing as back-to-back division and league champs — committing more than $110 million to pluck the heralded Yu Darvish out of Japan.”
  • After reading that, I stand up and emphatically yell “Can’t wait!” in my best Bart Scott impersonation.
  • Wednesday Morning CurvesDallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was one of more than ten bidders for ownership of the L.A. Dodgers.  While current owner Frank McCourt expects to get in the neighborhood of $1.5B for the club, Cuban went on record last year saying he would not bid more than $1B, saying “I don’t think the Dodgers franchise is worth twice what the [Texas] Rangers are worth.”
  • The Giants and Tim Lincecum (aka Jim Likelakeum; see below for Lincecum’s greatest moment) agreed to a 2-year/$40M.

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Jan 242012
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersHow about starting the day off with something other than Yu or Prince…
    Cuban left-handed pitcher Gerardo Concepcion worked out in front of Nolan Ryan and other team representatives yesterday at the Rangers athletic complex in the Dominican Republic.  Rangers are expected to be one of four teams in on your 18 year-old Cuban (including Yankees, Cubs & White Sox).
    According to Jesse Sanchez (MLB.com), “Concepcion, who was named Rookie of the Year in the Cuban Serie Nacional in 2010-11, after posting a 10-3 record and a 3.36 ERA in 21 games with Industriales de la Habana, defected from Cuba last June during the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands. He later established residency in Mexico, and was declared a free agent last week.”
    Rangers continue to show their commitment to identifying and pursuing strong international prospects.
  • Josh Hamilton spoke with fans and media at the Rangers Winter Caravan at Academy Sports in Ft. Worth yesterday.  Josh addressed his health by simply saying “Everything feels good”.
  • When asked about his thoughts on the recent debate of Prince vs. Josh, Hamilton said ”I think it comes down to what you want. When I see these guys comparing us, I’m like, ‘Stick him in the outfield and see how long he lasts. Stick me at first base and see how long I last.’ You never can tell about a player. He’s played 160 games a lot. I haven’t. So there’s pros and cons [on] both sides. It’s pretty funny to watch these guys compare us and share their thoughts. It’s always been trusting in the Lord to have me where he wants to have me and not stress about it. I haven’t stressed about it and I’m not going to stress about it.”
  • Josh has stated that if a contract extension agreement is not reached prior to the start of Spring Training, talks will not resume until after the season, but put the Ranger faithful at ease saying ”We’ve already told the Rangers that if it doesn’t happen before the season that they are the first ones we’ll come to after the season is over.”
  • Yu Darvish has issued the very Ted Williams-esque statement ”I want to become the kind of pitcher that will make people say ‘Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in the world.”  Love the aspiration!
  • Prince Fielder speculation continues.  It’s still believed by many that the Nationals are the favorites, and that the Rangers are indeed in Prince’s “Final Four”.  Could this be exactly where we want to be?
  • Bob Nightengale’s (USA Today) take on the Rangers pursuit of “the big fella” – “The reality is that key members of the Rangers’ front office had a strong idea for the last month they would sign their future ace. It was just a matter of how much it would cost.  The Texas-sized truth is that while the Rangers now have Darvish, they still want Fielder, too.  But they also know publicly divulging their intentions will drive up Fielder’s price tag and spoil their surprise attack.  Sure, it will take a bit of ingenuity, and maybe some opt-out clauses, to sign Fielder. They won’t give him the same 10-year, $240 million deal that Albert Pujols got from the Angels, but they still want to find a way to sign the big fella.”
  • Jorge Posada will announce his retirement today.
  • Tuesday Morning SlidersESPN.com reports that new Astros owner, Jim Crane, is considering a new name and new look for the Astros.  Nothing for certain yet, but the change would coincide with their move to the AL West in 2013.  Leave a comment with your suggestion for the Astros new name for a chance to win a free “Nolan is my Homeboy” T-Shirt


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Jan 232012
  • Monday Morning FastballsA football intensive Sunday still had a glimmer of baseball banter, as Twitter provided more rumors, speculation and flat silliness last night regarding the potential signing of Prince Fielder.  Just a sample – “Fielder agrees to 8 year deal with Nationals.”, “Fielder headed to DFW for physical tonight.”, “Prince has signed with the Miami Heat.”
    Twitter’s fun…
  • Newest entry in the Prince sweepstakes = LA Dodgers
    We’ll see…feels like some folks are just reaching for stories at this point.
  • Evan Grant tweeted this morning: “Regarding last night’s Prince Fielder rumor-fest, entire Rangers mgmt team in Dominican for next week.  Hence: No Prince news coming.”
  • John Heyman tweeted: “multiple teams still in on Prince but appears field has been narrowed to something close to final 4″
  • According to Tom Verducci, “There have been 19 contracts signed by free agents worth $100 million or more. Only two of them were signed as late as January: by Matt Holliday (Jan. 6, 2010) and by the current record holder of the longest wait, Carlos Beltran (Jan. 9, 2005). Holliday, Beltran and Fielder have at least one thing in common: all have been represented by Scott Boras in such protracted negotiations.”
    This comes from a great article Verducci wrote for CNNSI highlighting what the Nationals and Rangers have to offer Prince beyond the money.
  • In an interview with ESPN Radio’s local affiliate, Nolan Ryan had this to say about what it would take to sign Prince, ”Hard to say, because they’ve never made a firm proposal to us. They talk in generalities and numbers and other people’s contracts, and so you can speculate what it is. One time they’re talking eight years, one time they’re talking ten years, one time they’re talking about a contract bigger than Ryan Howard’s in Philadelphia.”
  • Co-owner Bob Simpson spoke with the Star-Telegram about the potential of signing Fielder and his preference of Hamilton to Prince, saying ”If they come around to something we can do, we’ll take a look at it.  My personal preference, at this moment, would be to re-sign him (Josh Hamilton) instead of having Fielder. But we could all debate that,” Simpson said. “The organization has its feelings. Everybody dreams about having both. Sometimes you can’t have both at some level. If they came around to something we’d do, we’d look at him. But we don’t think it’s likely.”
  • T.R. Sullivan has posted an excellent article giving some background behind the Yu Darvish signing.  Sullivan writes “The signing of Darvish is the Rangers’ biggest triumph in a six-year quest to establish a major presence in the Far East. The process really began just after Daniels was named Texas’ general manager a few days after the end of the 2005 season, and then the following spring during the the inaugural World Baseball Classic that was won by Japan.”
  • According to Richard Durrett, Josh Hamilton feels that Yu will successfully transition to MLB and living in America, saying  ”I don’t think the culture shock will be as big as people think, either.  As a competitor, as an athlete, the on-the-field stuff will be easier for him to handle. The off-the-field things will be hard, but he’ll have people to help him adjust.”
  • With all of the spotlight on Yu Darvish lately, I’ll be wrapping up and posting an article last this week around the other new guy to the Rangers’ rotation.
  • Quick non-baseball side note – The fools that are making death threats to Kyle Williams need to get a life.  It’s just a game folks, and you can point to plenty of other mistakes in that game which could have prevented overtime to begin with.
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Jan 202012
  • Yu got what you wanted…now what are Yu gonna do with it?
  • Friday Morning Knuckleballs   Yu Hungover?The Rangers will officially introduce Yu Darvish tonight at the Ballpark at 7pm CST.  The press conference should be quite a spectacle with media from across the country and Japan present.
  • With the wait over and Darvish officially part of this organization, the Rangers can now start to focus on what the impact of this signing really is on the ball club.  How will Darvish fit in?  Where will he fit in?  How long will it take him to adjust to the small differences (ball size, mound heighth, etc.)?  How long will it take him to adjust to living in the U.S.?  T.R. Sullivan wrote a good piece on all of the “dominoes” and how they’ll fall from Yu’s signing, which addresses some of the questions, but many of them will be answered during Spring Training.
  • As we Tweeted yesterday, the addition of Darvish bolstered the Rangers starting rotation up to 3rd in ESPN rankings by David Schoenfield.  Wasn’t able to find any rankings prior to the Darvish signing by Schoenfield, but have to believe they would have been on the outside looking in at the top 5.
  • Great article by Kristi Dosh (ESPN Business Reporter) on the rarity of a Darvish-like signing.  She touches on the posting process for Japanese players and writes “Despite there being no expiration date on the agreement with NPB, Major League Baseball officials do plan to discuss the posting system as a part of ongoing meetings of its new International Talent Committee. The committee was formed as part of the new collective bargaining agreement to explore current and proposed regulations regarding the signing of international talent.”
  • Friday Morning Knuckleballs   Yu Hungover?Richard Durrett reports that Mike Napoli is up and running on this ankle (of steel).
    “The ankle felt pretty good,” Napoli said. “I ran with a sled to put a little weight behind it and it came out pretty good. I think it’s jus tme trusting it again. I’m going to have to work through some pain and feel some things, but it’s feeling good. I still have to get some more strength in it, but it’s definitely on its way.”
    Durrett also states “Napoli expects to be ready for when pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Surprise, Ariz., on Feb. 22.”
  • Napoli regarding Yu Darvish: ”I’m really excited that they signed him.  Last year, I was trying to learn everybody on the Rangers staff in spring training. I’ll do the same with him, learning what he likes to do in certain situations. That means a lot of talking about the game.”
  • Napoli also told Durrett that he feels like a 2012 deal will get done to avoid the arbitration process.  ” Napoli and the club exchanged figures this week and there was a $3.2 million gap. Napoli submitted a figure of $11.5 million and the Rangers countered with $8.3 million. The midpoint between those is $9.9 million and the clubs have until a hearing (sometime in the first three weeks of February) to get a deal done.”
  • We have long been calling for a contract extension for Napoli, given the rarity of a power-hitting catcher that is strong defensively and a fan favorite.  If you missed it, check out “Extend the Ankle of Steel”.  After seeing much of the talk around an extension since, the money seems higher than what most others in the baseball media project, but I’m a firm believer that if he were to produce in 2012 at a level close to where he was in 2011, he would garner such a contract on the open market as a free agent.
  • Friday Morning Knuckleballs   Yu Hungover?Michael Young spoke with Calvin Watkins and gave his vote of confidence to teammate Mitch Moreland: ”To be honest with you, I have a ton of respect for Prince Fielder.  He’s a great player and he’s had an incredible career. At this point, Mitch Moreland is our first baseman and we stand behind Mitch. He’s a great young player, a great teammate and he hasn’t scratched the surface of what he’s capable of doing. In our clubhouse, he’s scored major points last year playing through injuries knowing his numbers were going to take a hit, but he played through a tough wrist injury and he gutted it out. But from our standpoint, as teammates, that’s something we have a lot of respect for.”
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