Oct 052012
 
Bud Selig's Frankenstein's monster, the additional wild card game, debuts tonight.

The Yu Darvish Ace Audition: Baltimore/Texas “Playoff” Matchup Bud Selig’s bouncing baby—the “extra” Wild Card Game—springs to life tonight for the Texas Rangers at 7:30 PM CDT. Here are some thoughts prior to the Rangers’ possible pilgrimage to the ALDS for a third-consecutive season.

The Yu Darvish Factor

Yu Darvish essentially has his “ace” test tonight. If he wins, he’s an ace, end of story. Should the Rangers win, and he pitches poorly, he’s still a number one. Should he pitch poorly and the Rangers lose, well, he’s still a helluva lot better than the Ceej.

• This is the first time that Yu Darvish will face the Baltimore Orioles. In first-time starts, The Yu is 11-3 with a 3.12 ERA. Pretty impressive, more so if you consider that the majority of those decisions came prior to Darvish’s return-to-Japanese-League-Super-Awesome-Pitcher-of-Extraordinary-Magnitude-form.

• If Wednesday’s nearly-unmentionable 12-5 O-town debacle has left you skeptical not only about the Rangers, but of Yu Darvish as well, then consider this, cynical Sally: The Baltimore Orioles are a team that succumbs to strikeouts, and Yu Darvish is their worst freaking nightmare. Also, Captain contempt, C.J. Wilson ain’t starting tonight.

Joe Saunders “Factor”

• The greatness of The Yu is matched only by the awfulness of Joe Saunders. Joe freaking Saunders, man! My only concern: Joe Saunders pitches from the port side and can’t break glass with his heater. Two things the Rangers’ bats tend to struggle with.

Playoff Or Game 163?

• It’s goofy, but tonight’s game actually would have gone down even without the new Wild Card format since the Rangers and Orioles have identical records, it makes it hard to get too excited. In many ways, it’s just game 163, the baseball game equivalent of going to junior college right out of high school, and enjoying the heck out of a “bonus year.” Or what I used to enthusiastically refer to as “12th Grade Redux.” I mean, isn’t that exactly what the Orioles are—our JV discards?

Buck Showalter

• He could never consistently win as a Texas Rangers manager so why should he now? Sure, that’s an irrational thought. The Baltimore Orioles are essentially built from a Rangers’ scrapheap of prospects, pitchers, and Adam “Not Pacman” Jones. Personally, I think that says far more about the level of talent that the Rangers possess than the excellent job Showalter has done in Baltimore. Regardless, the 2012 Orioles are a far better team than anything that Buck Showalter had to work with during his Texas tenure.

If/Then

Wednesday’s collapse sent me hurtling into a fetal position that only the promise of cheap beer and discount chicken wings could usher me out of. Yes, I was trapped in a childlike daze for hours after that 12-5 gut punch. So, in lieu of that, let’s take a trip into the excellent pre-adolescent game of “If/Then.” Why? Because it’s fun, and I’m sure as hades not going to “predict” anything…here goes:

If the Texas Rangers jump on the Baltimore Orioles early, and Yu Darvish continues to pitch the way he has, while once again destroying a first-time opponent, Then the Texas Rangers will win, and face the New York Yankees this Sunday in the ALDS.

If said Rangers win occurs, then I will still not buy this silly hat:

The Yu Darvish Ace Audition: Baltimore/Texas “Playoff” Matchup

However, if said hat should happen to come adorned with another particular logo—hint: the same one that’s been on there since 2010—then I will most definitely purchase one—and still bitch about the $38.99 price tag.

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May 072012
 

The Baltimore Orioles are currently in first place of the AL East. Yeah, I know, it feels weird writing it too.

Equally odd is their impressive 19-9 record, one win (and one loss) better than the Texas Rangers’ current 18-10 mark.

The Baltimore Orioles are playing some good baseball. They’ve won eight of their last ten, enabling them to jump over red-hot Tampa Bay and into first place by a half game.

Baltimore is winning with a hat tip to the Texas Rangers. After all, the Orioles lineup is littered with former Texas Rangers that have contributed—in no small measure—to the O’s early success.

Chris Davis—Big Swinging Time Traveler

Christopher Lyn Davis was moved (along with Tommy Hunter) to the Baltimore Orioles for relief pitcher Koji Uehara during last year’s MLB Trade Deadline.

Once rid of the Rangers red and blue, Davis successfully sutured his very own wrinkle in time.

Yep, Chris Davis has become a seasoned veteran to both the baseball diamond and the world of baseball-induced time travel.

As a first basemen in Texas, Davis was at one time seen as the future of the team. Not long after, he became the present stud; a guy who could defend aptly at both corners while mashing enough home runs to earn the nickname “Crush.”

His presence in the present didn’t last too long.

Davis’ susceptibility to the swing-and-miss made him a part of the Rangers past just as quickly as his promise pointed towards future greatness.

At least in Baltimore Davis is a full-time player. He has started of strong in 2012, batting .299 with 5 home runs and 14 RBI.

He’s also 1-0 with two strikeouts—no joke.

Tommy Hunter—Rick Helling for the 21st Century?

I liked Tommy “Big Game” Hunter. I think we all did, and still do. He’s a very likeable dude, and always an engagingly gregarious interview.

How to put this lightly…Tommy Hunter had a bit of a weight issue. And that’s not a big deal. Hell, we’re Americans. Food is good; and in the US you’re “skinny” if you’re only 10-20% overweight.

Want to make your fries, Coke, and chocolate shake bigger than the national debt for only a nickel more?

Hell yes I do.

It’s not known that Hunter’s weight affected his performance. C.C. Sabathia weighs more than most station wagons, and he’s a true ace.

And, hey, if it hadn’t been for Hunter’s late spring training injury last year, we would never have known that Alexi Ogando can be an excellent starter as well as a lights-out reliever.

I’m found of calling Hunter the Rick Helling of the new millennium. Like Helling, Hunter won’t blow up any radar guns. He relies heavily on contact outs and must have a low BABIP to be effective.

Tommy Hunter would have been the ace of the Texas Rangers’ late-nineties one-and-done playoff teams. Ogando’s success and, once again, overall team depth made the big man movable.

Rick Helling might not have made the 2012 Texas Rangers roster.

Hunter has found a home in Baltimore’s rotation. He looks slimmer—even though his ERA is a rotund 5.00—and he may just be able to fulfill the first-round promise he flashed in Texas.

Pedro Strop—PPTPD

A “PTBNL” or player to be named later is usually a minor league prospect that has seen better days.

In this instance, Pedro Strop was the PTBNL in the Rangers/Orioles trade that brought lefty specialist Mike Gonzalez to Arlington late last August.

Strop was originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies as a position player.

Strop was always a tad wild, but clearly had the makings of a solid reliever. The hard-thrower had tons of movement—sometimes too much—on just about everything he threw.

He always showed a knack for piling up the strikeouts. Even while batting. In 2005, while playing for the Rockies’ Low A Tri City team, he somehow managed to whiff 86 times—against just 6 walks—in only 247 plate appearances.

Leading to the whole: “Hey, Pedro, didn’t you say you could pitch a little? How about we give that a go, hmmm?”

With talent oozing from every pore in the organization—from Low A to the bigs—the Rangers viewed Strop’s live arm as expendable last season.

In Baltimore, he’s seen some success and has been used in the closer’s role a time or two.

But as a former Texas Ranger, he’ll always be known as the position-player turned pitcher dumped…or “PPTPD” for short.

Well, at least to me.

Recycled refuse: Endy Chavez, and Darren O’Day

The Texas Rangers put O’Day and Chavez—former dregs of multiple major league teams—to good use during their tour of Texas.

Left for dead by the New York Mets in the spring of 2009, Darren O’Day ended up being arguably the Texas Rangers’ most reliable reliever during their initial World Series run in 2010.

In 2009, the submarine-style right-hander posted a sparkling 1.94 ERA in 64 appearances, and a 2.03 ERA in 2010.

Injuries (specifically a bad hip) led to mechanical issues (or vice versa) and O’Day was unable to recapture the magic for a third-straight season in 2011.

O’Day was claimed off of waivers by the Orioles in November. He’s been healthy in Baltimore, and the numbers back it up: he is currently 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in 12 appearances.

Endy Chavez played a crucial role for the Texas Rangers during their most recent World Series run, in 2011.

Chavez became their starting center fielder when Borbon was sent down for good. Players such as him are what give the Rangers such exceptional depth.

After batting .301 for the Rangers in 2011, Chavez has struggled during his time in Baltimore, currently batting just .127.

Buck Showalter

A dose of his Draconian dealings can only be stomached for so long.

Showalter has earned the reputation for growing tiresome after three or four years for any given team.

It happened in New York with the Yankees after four seasons, and in Arizona with the Diamondbacks after three.

Buck lasted four full seasons in Texas, from 2003-2006, his longest tenure of any major league team. But whispers of him losing his team’s confidence had turned to screams mid-way through his final season in Arlington.

In all likelihood, Buck—currently in his third season with Baltimore—will lose the Orioles too.

But for now, Baltimore is buying what Buck is selling and their surprisingly great record reflects it.

The upcoming Baltimore Orioles series presents a great opportunity for the Texas Rangers to re-ignite last month’s winning ways. It will also present a glimpse at how prospects and players of old compare against this year’s squad head-to-head.

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