Jan 142013

The all-time obscure Texas Rangers starting lineup.

By: Dustin Dietz

Texas Rangers Fan Fest will be held this weekend to pay reverence to the wonderful and supportive Rangers fan base. Many of our favorite current Ranger players will be signing autographs and some fans will even have the prerogative of being able to meet a few of them. I am certain the fans which are fortunate enough to shoot the breeze with the ballplayers will be quite excited. Who would not want to chat with heroes on the diamond such as Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Craig Gentry? However, what if former Ranger great Kevin Reimer was in attendance and signing autographs? Would you as a Ranger fan be able to recognize him?

We have all played the game with our friends where we say an obscure former Ranger great’s name to elicit laughter, or compared a buddy to Butch Davis because he dropped an easy can of corn during practice one afternoon. Due to the many years of incredibly poor baseball, the Rangers have many players one can use for comedic purposes.

So, to pay homage to the forgotten former Ranger greats, I compiled a list of the all-time most obscure former Ranger players. This is not a list of worst players to wear a Rangers uniform (Well, these players were admittedly bad here). Rather, this is a list of former Rangers so irrelevant and lapsed, fans would be unable to recognize him if he or she was standing directly next to him at Fan Fest.

Enjoy Fan Fest, and remember to savor every bit of success the franchise is experiencing. Things have been, and could be much worse.

Catcher – Einar Diaz

Diaz was blessed with having the honor of replacing future hall of fame catcher Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez in 2003 after the front office decided the 31 year old catcher was not worth resigning due to the fact they felt Pudge would begin declining. Diaz did not exactly perform at a level which made fans forget Pudge. Einar’s line of .257/.294/.341/.635 was well below Pudge’s line of .297/.369/.474/.843 in ‘03, and Pudge also was a key contributor to the Marlins 2003 World Series victory over the New York Yankees.

First Base – Ben Broussard

Broussard had been an average player for six seasons before being traded to the Rangers in December of 2007 as the Rangers tried to fill a gaping hole at first base. Broussard was an utter disaster as he yielded a line of .159/.225/.268/.493 with an OPS+ of 30. He was released after playing only 26 games on May 16th, 2008 and never played another game in the majors. Broussard is known mainly for his musical dexterity and the fact the Mariners traded Shin-Soo Choo for him. Something else I found ironic was to compare Broussard’s age 26 season to Mitch Moreland’s.

Second Base – Wayne Tolleson

Tolleson played with the Rangers before I gained sports consciousness. So, I remember absolutely nothing about him. However, how incredibly spare must he have played based on the fact he played five seasons with Texas (1981-1985) and no fan ever mentions him today. If one looks at his .251/.305/.301/.607 line while averaging one home run and 10 RBIs per season, I assume that is the reason he is never discussed. Tolleson later played for the New York Yankees where he became the second to last player to wear the number 2 before Derek Jeter began donning the now sacred number.

Shortstop – Jeff Kunkel

Kunkel was the Rangers first pick (3rd overall) in the 1983 amateur draft, and to say he did not quite live up to expectations is actually a huge understatement. Kunkel might have liked his gig as a major leaguer, but the Rangers wished he had never a job (Ticket humor). How I remember Jeff Kunkel is a certain former high school teammate of mine would refer to you as Jeff Kunkel if you missed a ground ball during practice. Ranger fans might remember the Kunkelnator for his average of 2 HRs, 10 RBIs, and 1 stolen base per season over seven years.

Third Base – Mike Pagliarulo

Dean Palmer’s season ending arm injury in early 1995 forced Pags into full time duty at third base. Pagliarulo’s 6 errors in 86 games were not horrendous, but his bWAR of -0.1 and OPS+ of 60 certainly were. Pagliarulo actually led the New York Yankees in 1987 with 32 home runs, ahead of players such as Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield. Pags four bombs in 86 games in 1995 were tied with the potent basher Jeff Frye, and were also five less than Palmer’s nine in 36 games before he was injured.

Left Field – Monty Fariss

Fariss was the 6th pick overall in the 1988 amateur draft out of Oklahoma State. I vaguely remember seeing much of Fariss in the field, but I do recall my cousin attempting to convince me Fariss would become a superstar after I pulled a Fariss rookie card in a pack of 1991 Score. Fariss lasted two seasons in Texas after generating a line of .223/.314/.335/.649. The Marlins decided to select Fariss in the 1992 expansion draft, and he continued to underwhelm in Florida’s first year in 1993. Fariss’ career was over in 1993, and the statistic I find incredulous about his three seasons in the majors was he did not steal one base in his career.

Center Field – Donald Harris

Harris was the Rangers first round pick (5th overall) in 1989 out of Texas Tech, which meant in a seven year span, the club drafted Jeff Kunkel, Monty Fariss, and Donald Harris in the top ten of the amateur draft. Harris was a failure in every phase of the game. He committed four errors in only 90 chances in the outfield, stole only two bases, hit .205, and had an OPS+ of 47 in three seasons. To put Harris career 2 HRs and 11 RBIs in 82 career games into perspective, Hard-Hittin’ Mark Whiten of the St. Louis Cardinals once hit 4 HRs and drove in 12 runs in one game.

Right Field – Chris James

James’ brother Craig became the more well-known athlete in their family, but Chris did yield a decent line of .274/.370/.561/.931 with an OPS+ of 140 during his short two year tenure in Texas. However, the only thing more affable than Chris’s 10 year playing career in the major leagues was his brother’s senatorial campaign last season. Kudos to you if you remember one at bat during James time in Texas. Chris made his major league debut on my third birthday. So, he has that claim to fame should he decide to use it.

Designated Hitter – Brad Fullmer

Fullmer put together a decent career in Canada with the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Anaheim Angels before the 2002 season. Fullmer would contribute to an Angels World Series victory in 2002, but injuries would derail his career afterward. After playing only 63 games in 2003 with the Halos, the Rangers signed him in December ’03 hoping he would recover. He didn’t, and after going 0 for his last 15 on July 24th, Fullmer was placed on the disabled list, and he never played again. Fullmer’s line of .233/.310/.442/.752 in 76 games in ’04 did not exactly make the Rangers hurry him back from injury during the unexpected pennant chase.

Position player honorable mentions – Benji Gil and Brian Jordan

Starting pitcher – Rob Bell

Bell’s Ranger career should be remembered for two reasons. One, he was the only pitcher during his time in Texas to wear a number in the single digits (He would later change his number from 6 to 30). And, two, the Rangers traded former untouchable prospect Ruben Mateo and some other player named Edwin Encarnacion to acquire him. What Bell should not be remembered for is his putrid ERA of 6.73, WHIP of 1.630, and his horrendous 11.0 H/9 while with Texas.

Starting pitcher honorable mention – Pedro Astacio

Relief pitcher – Reggie Cleveland

Cleveland was the Rangers closer in 1978, but is mainly forgotten based on the fact the following year his replacement Jim Kern was voted as the American League’s top reliever. Cleveland did lead the club with 12 saves. However, nine other Ranger pitchers recorded saves in 1978, with reliever Danny Darwin being the only reliever not to actually record one. Cleveland did have a decent ERA of 3.09, and solid WHIP of 1.163 in 1978, but few remember he even played in Texas. An amazing number I found in regards to the 1978 team was the fact they pitched 54 complete games, 4 by relief pitchers. The Rangers had only 7 complete games by pitchers in 2012. One other note on Reggie Cleveland, noted sportswriter Bill Simmons came up with a list titled “The Reggie Cleveland All-Stars.” The list is based on athletes who appear nothing like what their name suggests they look like. If you say you were able to use the context clues, and come to the conclusion Reggie Cleveland was a Caucasian man with shaggy hair and glasses, I know you are not being truthful.

Relief pitcher honorable mention – Mike Henneman

Follow Dustin Dietz on Twitter @DustinDietz18 and enjoy Fan Fest ya knuckleheads.

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Jan 052013

Lance Berkman: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Earlier today the Texas Rangers inked free agent first basemen/designated hitter and Texas native Lance Berkman to a one year $11 million deal with a vesting option if he reaches 550 plate appearances. Berkman will assume the role as full-time DH and may occasionally play first base during interleague games or when the occasional lefty starts. (We’ll discuss this later) Is this a good fit for Texas or not? Let me know what you think at the end of the article.

Every Rangers fan seems to be conflicted by this move and argue why it’s a great move or why it’s a terrible move. There are so many different scenarios that could happen now that this signing has taken place. Many bloggers/insiders/sources think that this move is setting up an even bigger move. I would have to agree with that. But who is leaving? Someone has to either be demoted or traded because the Rangers 40 man roster is full. It will likely be someone being taken off the 40 man and then someone will probably be traded. Let’s take a minute or ten to review all the scenarios that could happen with Berkman landing in Texas.

Mike Olt is the centerpiece for a Justin Upton Trade

Let’s face it; Mike Olt is the odd man out here. He’s been the odd man out since Adrian Beltre was signed. He’s a corner infielder/outfielder with good power the MVP type potential but there’s just nowhere to play him. He’s not playing third base and the only way he plays first base is if Moreland is gone and I don’t see that happening. If prospect Joey Gallo lives up to expectations and matures on time, he will presumably take over for Beltre once Beltre’s contract expires in 2015. There is no reason to waste Olt while he is in his prime, so it makes sense to move him and that’s why I believe he will be the centerpiece in an attempt to get outfielder Justin Upton from Arizona.

Jurickson Profar starts the year at AAA or wastes a year of control

The number one prospect in all of baseball SS/2B Jurickson Profar has been heavily rumored to be starting the year with the Rangers at some capacity. The most heated rumor was that he would move over from his customary SS spot to play second base and current second basemen Ian Kinsler would slide over and man first base. Doing that though would leave Mitch Moreland out to dry and I honestly don’t think Ron Washington or Jon Daniels is ready to give up on Moreland just yet. Moreland could be packaged with Olt if they were to move him which would clear the way for Profar, however, I just don’t see that happening.

If Moreland were to stay in Texas like I assume he will, Profar will suffer at some capacity. If the Rangers kept him at the big league level, they would essentially be wasting a year of control on him because he would play sparingly off the bench and an occasional start against lefties when Moreland would sit and Kinsler would slide to first base. But why even do that? That to me makes no sense to have Profar play part time and Kinsler to play part time first base. I say either move Kinsler and Profar, or don’t do it at all. Now if Moreland gets traded, this scenario could very well be moot because Profar could start every day at second base. I say could because there is still no guarantee that he even starts the year at the big league level and could still play at AAA all year. After all, he is only 19.

The Elvis Andrus conundrum

What to do with Elvis Andrus is the big question. As the Rangers sit RIGHT NOW, I don’t like the Berkman signing. Why? Because that is $10 million that could have been allocated towards a long term extension for Andrus. If Moreland is traded, Kinsler moves to first base and Profar moves to second base then you HAVE to re-sign Elvis for the long term. It does not make sense or help Kinsler or Profar to move positions for a year or two only to have them move back to their original positions once Elvis leaves as a free agent or gets traded because he can’t be re-signed. If there is any inclination that you cannot re-sign Andrus, then move him now. It pains me to say that but makes the most sense. He would bring a huge return. Package him with a couple of prospects to Tampa Bay for David Price.

If you sign Andrus to a long term extension than it almost guarantees that Profar will spend most of the year at AAA Round Rock. I’m ok with that and I’m not. He’s 19; it makes sense to leave him down there a year. I want the kid here though! Andrus and Profar could easily be the most formidable double play duo in the majors for many years to come.

Mitch Moreland
We’ve discussed most of the scenarios involving Moreland already so I will keep this one short. I believe that the Rangers will keep Moreland for one reason. He is there only true bon a fide first basemen. Are you ready to go through the entire season without a true first basemen? What if Kinsler gets hurt and misses significant time? Berkman is not an everyday first basemen even for a short amount of time anymore. Is Ian Kinsler a good enough athlete to learn first base and play there an entire season and be equal to the same production offensively and defensively as Moreland? If the Rangers think that Kinsler can be that guy, then by all means, package Moreland and Olt to Arizona for Justin Upton, at least use that as a start. I think that Moreland stays in Texas though because of a lack of depth at the position.

So you see, it’s entirely too early to really tell whether or not this was a good deal by Texas. We really won’t know how this turns out until spring training. My prediction is that Moreland will be used off the bench, Kinsler starts at first base and Profar at second base. Mike Olt is the centerpiece for a deal that brings back Justin Upton which would slide Nelson Cruz over to left field and regulate David Murphy back to the bench as the fourth outfielder or traded. Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry will platoon centerfield for the time being. Who knows, Cruz could be traded as well leaving Murphy as a full time left fielder, we all know he’s earned it.

What do YOU think? I’d love to hear your scenarios and/or predictions.

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