Apr 122013
 
LeonysCraig

Twos a Crowd: Leonys Martin and Craig GentryIts no secret that I am not a fan of the platoon at any position in baseball. It’s also no surprise that I prescribe to the theory that baseball can’t be explained or dissected with statistics and spreadsheets alone. Certainly if you do believe that everything is just a percentage of potential success with each batter a platoon makes a lot of sense. My biggest problem with the concept is the affect it has on a hitters timing. I’ve talked to former players (add that to my bragging montage) and I get the sense that there is something to the idea of “being in the zone”. I’m not going to try and convince you that this is some magical place where hitters are more focused than usual but I do think that it has something to do with muscle memory. Precisely why I hate the idea of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin sharing time evenly in center field this year.

I really like Craig Gentry. He’s proved in 2012 during his 260+ plate appearances that he can be a productive hitter when he hit .304 and had an OBP of .367. Very solid numbers for a guy who wasn’t blessed with incredible physical gifts. All that being said, the odds are not in Gentry’s favor that the 29 year old can be repeat his solid 2012 season.

On the other hand, you have a guy in Leonys Martin that has a ceiling higher than the screeches from women when Craig Gentry is introduced (He’s handsome). Martin is a 25 year old outfielder who defected from Cuba 2010 and after being allowed to become a free agent by MLB was signed by the Rangers to a five-year 15.5 Million dollar contract including a five million dollar signing bonus. The Rangers made a significant investment in an unknown commodity because of his potential which he showed off in 2012 prior to being called up in June. He hit .344 in Round Rock with a .414 OBP. He’s a terrific defensive center fielder with a 70 grade arm. Keep in mind this year that he’s learning, he’s being exposed to things as a MLB player that he’s never been exposed to before. Growing pains and struggles are to be expected. They can’t all be Mike Trout.

I want Leonys to get the opportunity to struggle and learn in the big leagues and if he’s splitting time with Gentry its going to extend the learning curve for a guy that has the potential to be a much bigger difference-maker than Gentry.

Here’s hoping Wash see’s things my way.

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Apr 112013
 
hangout

If it wasn’t for the greatness of Monica and Lexi, this roundtable would have been an utter disaster. We fought technical difficulties and Scott’s obsession with Google hangout sound effects. Enjoy.

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Apr 102013
 
Sundberg

My drive into work today started the way it normally does. The blurry-eyed walk to the car only to realize I should have worn a coat but too lazy to walk back into the house to grab one. The radio always tuned to The Ticket from the drive home the afternoon before. I chuckle listening to Gordo’s Corner and the impeccable timing of Jeremy on the board. Today though, I found myself getting worked up over the segment right after Muse in the News. Jub and Junes were discussing an article Rob Neyer recently wrote naming every current major league franchise’s Mister.

Some of these are no-brainer choices. Mr. Cub Ernie Banks, Mr. Tiger is Ty Cobb, Mr. Brave Hank Aaron and Mr. Ranger is Jim Sundberg?

The fact that this bothered me was more than a little confusing. I love Sunny, he’s one of my all-time favorite Rangers. He was a fan favorite, albeit a little before my time, and at the time the best catcher the Rangers had ever employed. I just think the choice was short sighted. Here are 2 choices I think would have been more prudent.

Pudge – The fact that I can refer to him by one name should say a lot. Pudge is arguably the most dominant player at any position the Rangers have ever had. Hell, he might be the best catcher in baseball history, although its a little more debatable. In his 12+ years with Texas he was Rookie of the Year, a 10 time gold glove winner, a 10 time all star, a 6 time silver slugger, and the AL MVP in 1999. Not to mention probably the best defensive catcher of his era.

Michael Young – Say what you want about PADMY but in 12 full seasons with Texas he was often the lone bright spot of some pretty bad teams. I don’t want that to sound like a reduction because in those 12 years he had 2230 hits and that’s nothing to laugh about. He was a seven time all star who was widely considered the “Face” of the franchise. He represented himself, the organization, and baseball with dignity and respect. Had he retired after 2011 I think this would have been a much easier sell. Had they won a World Series in 2011, I might have put him in front of Pudge.

Just one cold and tired guy’s opinion. I’d love to hear your Mr. Ranger choices. Argue in the comments section.

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Apr 042013
 
RangersAstrosOpeningDay

Baseball, Beer and a Babe? An Opening Night Excursion

So, as some of you know by now there was a large group of people that went down to Houston to watch our Texas Rangers take on the newest AL West Rival, the Houston Astros. Of those people, three of them are from right here at Baseballdo; Jasen Southward (the man), Dustin Dietz (the bunting advocate) and myself (the pretend writer) and since the three of us ended up hanging together most of the weekend, I’d like to give you a brief rundown of our weekend so that you can see how much fun the trip really was. That way, you’ll know what you need to do to make it to our next trip!

The Beginning

It was back towards the beginning of Spring Training 2013 when a friend approached me about an idea to get a group together to head down to Houston for Opening Night. It started out as one of those “wouldn’t it be cool if… “ moments and then it quickly came to fruition.

Jennifer C. Brown told me that she knew a ticket rep in Houston and could probably hook us up, so I said, “What the hell, let’s do it, I’m down.”

It started out as a simple 20 tickets because we were unsure of who we could get to go being on Easter Sunday and having to travel and get hotel arrangements made. We had 20 tickets gone within the hour. It jumped to 40, then 60 and before we knew it, we had 100 tickets reserved and paid for. We even had shirts made so that we could rule our entire section once we got there. After adding a few more tickets here and there, we ended up with 114 people strong. We definitely represented the Rangers very well.

Saturday – The Pre Game

A couple of other buddies and myself arrived in Houston around 5pm on Saturday evening, got checked into the hotel and decided to go grab some grub before an organized group meet up. Right off the bat, the first place we look up and walk to, is nowhere to be found. It just doesn’t even exist. So we scramble to find a new place, walk there…. Closed. Really? It’s a Saturday Night Houston! Why are you a restaurant in downtown Houston, closed on a Saturday Night? Come to find out, EVERYTHING was closed for the ENTIRE WEEKEND due to it being Easter. Hey, I can understand being closed on Easter Sunday but come on! The Clippers were in town as well as the Rangers. Houston failed big time in this aspect, at least to me anyways.

We finally find an overpriced Mexican Restaurant to eat at. Naturally, being the only thing open, it’s pretty busy. After dinner, as we are getting ready to get up and leave, I look up and standing right in front of the booth next to us is Rangers Pitching Coach Mike Maddux with his wife and who I assume to be his daughter. I mean, it could be some party chick for all I know, I don’t know what the guy does in his spare time. Anyway, being that he is with his family I didn’t really want to disturb him and be “that guy” so I decided that while we were waiting for our check that I would start talking Ranger baseball a little too loud in hopes that I could distract his mind from the menu and engage us instead. Yea, that didn’t work. Dude was a like fat kid in a candy store; oblivious to his surroundings.

Meanwhile, back at the Four Seasons Hotel, Dustin and some of the others have already met up at the hotel bar and started to pre-game. About the same time that Maddux sits down, I start seeing pictures surface on twitter from Dustin’s brother, Austin, which show the players walking in. Beltre, Wash, Gentry and even Jon Blake. At this point, I know it’s time to go. So we pay the check and off we go to the hotel.

Once there, I start to get introduced to the people that I don’t yet know. Then I was introduced to this girl. A pretty girl even but at this moment, I had Rangers on my mind. One by one they start to appear. Andy Hawkins, Gary Pettis (who later becomes our best friend), Josh Frazier, David Murphy, Joe Nathan, Derek Holland, Ian Kinsler, Elvis, Wash and even Nolan Ryan all appear at some point albeit brief.

A couple of the folks in our group decided to talk to some of the players/coaches and one person decided it would be a good idea to invite Gary Pettis out to the Flying Saucer with us a little later on that evening. Clearly the invite was a joke because Pettis would never take us up on that right?

So after about an hour of staring down Joe Nathan and Derek Holland having dinner, I started to feel like a dirty groupie outside a rock bands dressing room in hopes of catching a sweat bead off their hair. We decided to bounce and head over to the Flying Saucer.

The place is packed. I run upstairs to try and find a table big enough to fit the 20 people we have going on this excursion. There was plenty of room in an area in the back but “Jeff” was having a birthday party. Problem is, “Jeff” reserved a spot for about 40 people and only had about 10 friends. So we crammed into two small tables since it was all that was left.

There she is again, that pretty girl from the hotel that I was introduced to. Now she’s sitting next to me at this bar. Now that the Rangers aren’t on my mind, I start to make some small talk, nothing to extravagant. About the time we get our drinks, “Jeff” decides that no one likes him and his party is lame and he and his group leave. We immediately take over the entire area and fill out the whole section that was supposed to be for “Jeff.” Now, as new seating arrangements are happening, I don’t want to be the creepy guy that comes in and sits directly next to the pretty girl I’ve only known for a couple of hours, so I sit across from her.

The night is progressing, lots of fun is being had and even more than just small talk with the pretty girl.
Then it happens. The improbable. In walks Gary Pettis. NO WAY! Gary freaking Pettis is actually joining us at a bar?! How freaking cool is this?! Houston patrons have no clue what’s going on. They are wondering who we are all clamoring over. Shut up and go root for the Dynamo.

While everyone decides to hit up Pettis right away, I hang back until everyone gets their turn before I swoop in. When I finally do get my shot, I figure I’m going to drop some straight hardcore knowledge bombs on Pettis and tell him how to run that third base line this year. Well, unbeknownst to me, Pettis is clearly the superior baseball mind. I did ask him one question and his answer I thought was very interesting. I told him that a lot of fans think that since we lost Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, that the team would regress this year and asked him what he thought about it…

“So?..”

He says this while looking at me like I was crazy. He further elaborated saying that we are a better team now because we are a more versatile team and bring a different type of game to the field instead of just a power, swing for the fences game.

My night has been made. I couldn’t have asked for a better answer.

Pettis decides that he’s had enough of everyone buying him drinks and decides to call it a night. Or he was drunk, one of the two, probably the latter. A few more side conversations with group members and people start to call it a night. Me? I find myself still chatting with that pretty girl from the hotel. I hear her say to her friend that she’s not ready to go yet because she hasn’t found a date to the game.

Challenge accepted.

I jump in and immediately suggest that I’m available, jokingly of course, because if she says no then I need a way to save face right? RIGHT?

“Oh really? Ok then it’s a date.”

Yea I figured you’d say no, I was totally kidding any…. I’m sorry what? You were being serious? And you said yes? Well then I was totally being serious.

So finally, Jasen, Dustin, Dustin’s Wife, his sister in law (the pretty girl who is now my date for the game), myself and a few others decide to wrap it up and we all walk together back to our separate hotels. While walking, I find myself talking with; yup you guessed it, the pretty girl. I mean after all, she is my date now. I have to put forth some sort of effort. We all go our separate ways for the evening and decide to meet up again in the AM for some more pre gaming.

Sunday – More Pre Game

After wondering around downtown so my buddy could find an ATM that clearly didn’t exist, (second time something we looked up didn’t exist) we find a pizza place open and sit down for some lunch. I call up Dustin and the gang and invite them over and we all enjoy some pizza that was a cross between Indian food and Italian food. It was pretty good too.

We decided to mosey on down to the “Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park Opening Day Festival” and see what all it had to offer.

The $26 Boomstick hotdog at Rangers Ballpark was bigger than their “Festival.”

Sunday – The Game

The game sucked. We got our asses handed to us on a silver platter on National Television by the worst team in the Major Leagues and that’s all I’m going to say about the game. Justin Maxwell made it pretty high up my “I can’t tolerate you” list by the end of the night too.

The Astros fans really took me off guard and honestly, I’ve got to say that I lost a little respect for them. I mean you are the worst team in baseball coming off back to back 100+ loss seasons. Hey, I understand you want to defend your turf and represent your team and all but to tell us that the Rangers suck and that we wasted our money coming to Houston just to see them lose and we all needed to shut up and go back to Dallas is a little backwards to me. Maybe it’s not what they said, maybe it’s how the said it. Maybe it stung more because they really did whip our butts.

Not all was lost at the game though, being is that I had an extra ticket; I invited the pretty girl to come and sit by me for a portion of the game. (I didn’t want her to abandon her sister and brother in law). She obliged and joined me for about 2-3 innings on two separate occasions. After the game was over, we all moved down to enjoy some fireworks, which are my favorite. Fireworks, baseball AND a pretty girl?

Baseball, Beer and a Babe? An Opening Night Excursion

The night is still young so we decided to go get more beer and head on back to my hotel room to drink it up and chat the night way. And by we, I mean about 10 of us including Dustin and Jasen. I notice that the pretty girl decides to cuddle up next to me. Who am I to tell a pretty girl not to do that?

So after several hours of talking and drinking, we decide to order some late night pizza, and by late night I mean 2am. Flakey’s Pizza was the place and it was the best damn pizza I’ve ever had on a Saturday night at 3am.

Oh and they offered a $10 Ho. Don’t ask.

The night comes to an end and everyone goes their separate ways. Oh the pretty girl you ask? Well I guess what happened when I walked her out will have to stay between her and me now wont it?

Overall I would have to say that the trip was a gigantic success. I had more fun than I had had in a long time. Everything from the people, to the game made this trip a fun and memorable trip. It was my first time seeing my Rangers play on the road so I didn’t know what to expect. If I get to give advice to Gary Pettis every road trip, then I’ll quit my job and do it again! It was so much fun and such a huge success that we are already planning another trip. I can’t wait to go again.

And then there was this pretty girl.



Follow me on twitter @bcasey55

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Apr 012013
 
Rangers - Angels girls

Weekly preview of each of the Rangers’ American League West rivals for the 2013 season – from the bottom up.

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. L.A. Angels of Anaheim
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Houston Astros

Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

Just as it was supposed to be last year…the American League West will ultimately come down to the Rangers in Angels in 2013.  The Rangers will win the AL West with some new talent (see AJP, Berkman, youngsters), better pitching and better “chemistry” (SABR guys going nuts on that).  Given the Rangers Opening Day loss to the Astros last night, this may seem hard to believe, but remember, they have 161 more to redeem that loss and that game means no more than game 40, 80, 120 or 160.

With the season already underway, I thought we’d look at the top 2 spots in the division a little differently and do side-by-side comparisons… purposely glossing over the areas where the Angels are better.  Not really.  Look, the Angels are the consensus pick to win the division with the Rangers evening dropping a low as 3rd in many preseason predictions.

This is quickly becoming a big rivalry across the MLB landscape.  Let’s not kid ourselves and put it in the same ballpark as Yankees-Red Sox, but it is getting stronger every year…and this year will only make it better as it comes down to the final week of the season.

The Angels may be better…on paper.  While the “role of the underdog” is fun to take on, it’s not that far-fetched that the Rangers can win this division.  Here’s how…

The Bats & Gloves

Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

Michael Young, Clubhouse Leader & Struggling Veteran

While the Rangers lineup took a hit with the departure of Josh Hamilton, you can’t say the same thing in regards to the departures of Michael Young and Mike Napoli.  Sure Young was a “leader” and I won’t discount that, but given his performance from last year, he is clearly in the twilight of his career and the line-up should improve with his departure (that hurt to say).  Napoli was a fan-favorite and we will miss the “NA-PO-LI” chant (sarcasm), but let’s face it – 2011 Napoli was the anomaly. 

Enter Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski – names that aren’t as pretty, but still potentially very effective – mind you, both of which are also in the twilights of their careers.

Adding Josh Hamilton to the Angels lineup, behind Mike Trout, whatever bum bats second and Albert Pujols is frightening…if only for the protection that Hamilton provides based on what he is capable of.

Rangers Projected Lineup

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Elvis Andrus, SS
  3. Lance Berkman, DH
  4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
  5. David Murphy, LF
  6. Nelson Cruz, RF
  7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  8. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  9. Leonys Martin, CF

Angels Projected Lineup

  1. Mike Trout, LF
  2. Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Aybar will have plenty to smile at hitting between Trout and Pujols/Hamilton

    Erick Aybar, SS

  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. Josh Hamilton, RF
  5. Mark Trumbo, DH
  6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
  7. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  8. Chris Iannetta, C
  9. Peter Bourjos, CF

The Angels top 5 is easily the best in baseball – can’t argue with that, but the Rangers aren’t too far off with:

  • Freshly extended “Ranger-for-Life” Elvis Andrus has to take the next step in his progression as a hitter.  This is the expectation and will be realized in 2013 – I’ll project a .775 OPS, which isn’t All-Star caliber at the plate, but Elvis is so much more than that.  
  • Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Elvis needs to give Ian more kicks in the butt

    Ian Kinsler has to be better than what we saw in 2012, which was the worst season, statistically, of his career.  We saw greatness in April last year, but the rest of the season was mediocre at best.  He’s still only 30 and last year was clearly the outlier when you look at his career year-over-year.

  • The Rangers need something similar to the 2011 version of Lance Berkman.  Big Puma is 37 now and still a lethal hitter.  Players of his age don’t generally improve, but 2012 was injury-riddled, so if can produce close to his ’11 slash (.301/.412/.547), the Rangers have taken a big step towards replacing Hamilton’s production in the lineup…

Three big ifs?  No, all three of these keys are more likely than not and will go a long way towards the Rangers maintaining their status as a very dangerous lineup.

Defensivily…well, we’re all cussing Kinsler right now and calling for Profar to take over at 2B and that would improve the Rangers defensively.  For the Rangers, the left side of the infield is Legendary and Mitch is a superb defensive first basemen.  AJ is average behind the plate and the outfield is average as well.

Between Trout and Bourjos, there won’t be too many balls dropping in left-center against the Angels and we know Hamilton is an excellent defender…when motivated.  Pujols is above average at 1B and the rest of the infield and Iannetta are average.  Suffice to say, the Angels aren’t built to win with defense, but they aren’t going to hinder themselves here either.

The Arms

This is an area where the Rangers have an edge.  An edge that could grow considerably at the trade deadline…given the recent extension for Elvis and the potential of trading away the top prospect in the game.

Rangers Rotation

  1. Matt Harrison, LHP
  2. Yu Darvish, RHP
  3. Alexi Ogando, RHP
  4. Derek Holland, LHP
  5. Nick Tepesch, RHP (to be replaced by Colby Lewis in the near future)

This thing is going to take a on different look as the season goes on, with Darvish stepping forward as the Ace of the staff and unfortunately some unpredictable twist and/or turn.

Angels Rotation

  1. Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Hanson – once a top young arm in the game is bringing up the rear of the Angels rotation after stuggling

    Jered Weaver, RHP

  2. C.J. Wilson, LHP
  3. Joe Blanton, RHP
  4. Jason Vargas, LHP
  5. Tommy Hanson, RHP

Weaver is a true #1 who is capable of being dominant night in and night out.  C.J. is C.J and the rest of the rotation is meh, bleh and blah.

The Bullpens

Neither bullpen is lights out, and while many rankings out there put the Rangers ahead of the Angels in regards to the bullpen, I think they are evenly matched as they stand right now.  If Neftali Feliz can return as an effective reliever, that would put the Rangers ahead.  The Rangers also have more flexibility in bolstering their bullpen at the trade deadline if necessary, while the Angels depleted farm system will make it tougher for them.

The Manager

Hard to argue Wash over Scioscia…so I won’t.  Given my choice, I’ll take Wash.  He needs to improve as a strategist and I think he will.

The Bottomline

Why the Angels could win the West:

  • Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Josh can be great…when motivated.

    The addition of Hamilton’s bat in the lineup provides legit protection for Pujols and bolsters the heart of the order significantly.  Put aside what you think of Josh right now and the bad taste he left in our mouths at the end of last season – he’s good, if not great and has the skill/talent to put together a MVP-caliber season.  

  • Mike Scioscia knows how to win…for what that’s worth.  But can he manage the egos with extremely high expectations and the circus that can come with the presence of Josh.
  • Outside of Hamilton, they have a few other guys that could collect some major awards at the end of the season.
    • MVP – Pujols & Trout
    • Cy Young Award – Weaver

Why the Rangers will win the West:

  • Because I’m confident enough to underline the word “will”.
  • Darvish will elevate to a Ace status in 2013.  Last year was his introduction to the Major Leagues and was a major transition, not only in baseball but life for Yu.  While he didn’t get better as the season went on, he finished the season on a strong note with a 3-0 record and a 2.21 ERA in Sept/Oct.  It’s clear what his objective is – to become the best pitcher in the Majors.  2013 will be a big step in that direction.
  • AJP and Berkman will exceed expectations.  They aren’t long-term solutions, but they are both very good and will help take the edge of off the perceived blows of losing Hamilton, Young and Nap-nap.
  • The Rangers are in a position to improve at the trade deadline.  With hot commodities at the minor league level, they will be able to pull the trigger if necessary.
  • Breaking down the West   The Angels vs. The Rangers

    Adrian Beltre, the new face of the Texas Rangers

    There was a problem in the clubhouse last year…call is Josh, call is whatever you want…actually, just call is Josh.  The atmosphere will be improved this year with Adrian Beltre assuming the leadership role vacated by Michael Young.

It’s going to be a close race, and in the end I think the Rangers will win the division by  a slim margin, but they will win the division.  LAA will secure a playoff spot as a Wild Card team.  If you want to hear my full predictions for the season, make sure you listen to our last podcast.

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