Author Archive

Rise.

This is a wonderful day.  I’ve never seen this one before.

— Maya Angelou

Thank you for that, Joe Saunders and Luis Sardinas.

The last pitcher on a ludicrously stretched roster. The last position player, too, unless you want to count face-fractured 28-year-old rookie Daniel Robertson. Two players that, if not for these almost impossibly extraordinary and trying circumstances, should not be here right now.

Thank you.

 

You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.  In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.

— Maya Angelou

Let’s go, Nick Martinez.

Let’s win (another) damn series.

 

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.  Forgive everybody.

— Maya Angelou

I’m sorry that I implied yesterday that Jorge Alfaro might find himself playing baseball in Rhome, Texas this summer . . . since Frisco is actually 35 miles northeast of Arlington.

I’m sorry for Monday morning’s unnecessary, uncool “Mad Men” spoiler.

And I’m sorry, Bazooka Joe Saunders.

Today, I forgive.

Let’s go, Nick Martinez.

More stuff.

I’d have gotten myself ejected from the game after Mike DiMuro ruled Adrian Beltre didn’t attempt a tag and that Eduardo Nunez’s parabolic path to third base was acceptable, but then again I’d probably have already been tossed out of the game half an inning earlier when my team led the frame off with Alex Rios sliding into third and ended the inning with Rios standing in that same place, though I might have felt like being thrown out six hours before that when I found out my best player caught that nasty, contagious neck stiffness strain.

But that’s one of a thousand reasons I’m not the right man to manage the Texas Rangers, who are 1.5 games back in the Wild Card race and, for a thousand reasons, probably shouldn’t be anywhere close to that.

Hey, last night in Myrtle Beach, Jorge Alfaro doubled and then Jorge Alfaro singled and then Jorge Alfaro singled and then Jorge Alfaro tripled with the bases loaded (with nobody out, and was stranded) and then Jorge Alfaro singled, and no, he’s not going to see Arlington this year (and probably not next), but if you were to suggest he could land 35 miles northwest of that sometime this summer, I won’t strain my neck pushing back on that idea, though I’m confident he’s not going to get to Frisco before his Pelicans teammates Joey Gallo or Chi-Chi Gonzalez — the post-draft Northwest League starts play in about two weeks, around which time you can expect a wave of minor league reassignments system-wide, which in this season of cover-your-eyes transaction reports will be full of baseball-y goodness for a change — but the Alfaro train keeps chugging along, at a different rate and a different path from Gallo’s, more parabolic than meteoric, and that’s OK, because not every prospect Rougned’s his way to the big leagues, not every Joakim Soria save opportunity gets converted, and sometimes, a leadoff triple gets stranded.

And that’s this morning’s edition of Today in Stuff.

Loyalty.

“I’m a leader.  And a leader is loyal to his team.” 

— Bert Cooper (d. 7-20-69)

Not just leaders.

I could dump a whole bunch of numbers this morning, lots of shiny numbers coming out of a series convincingly won in Detroit in spite of reason, but I don’t want to.

I’m not thinking about numbers.

The players matter.  They matter a lot.

But not long ago, someone I know who embodies leadership on a level that would elicit a Bert Cooper “Bravo” said to me that while team is bigger than individual, you can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s those players who help make the team that you’d run through a wall for.

Maybe Texas is on its 37th and 38th and 39th players — in May — and is relying on them while a handful of others you’d count on your first couple hands watch from the dugout.  “Injuries only really devastate when they pile up,” writes FanGraphs columnist Jeff Sullivan in a Fox Sports piece, “but the top of the Rangers’ pile now is well out of view.”

Yeah, maybe so, but giving up isn’t part of a loyal sports fan’s playbook any more than a leader’s, and walking up to that wall and choosing a slump-shouldered U-turn isn’t, either.

Ultimately, it’s about team.

Don’t quit on this one.

On the off-chance that something really special ends up happening, that the last four days create some form of momentum or indicate some sort of life or have some amount of stamina or whatever you might believe in, it’s going to be a lot more special for you than for those who walked away.

Don’t quit on this team.

Stuff.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, there are four Beltre’s who have ever played in the Major Leagues, and only four:

Adrian Beltre.

Esteban Beltre.

Engel Beltre.

Omar Beltre.

All four played for the Texas Rangers.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, there are four Esteban’s who have ever played in the Major Leagues, and only four:

Esteban Loaiza.

Esteban German.

Esteban Beltre.

Esteban Yan.

All four played for the Texas Rangers.

Esteban Beltre and his Donruss-photoshopped baseball cap are a Texas Rangers wormhole.

esteban beltre

And that’s this morning’s edition of Today in Stuff.

May 22, 2014: Jamey Newberg, 1-day disabled list.  Grade II strain, sports head.

Sports.

From the very top and the very bottom of the Rangers organization, both on Friday:

Don’t feel sorry for us.  We’ll be all right.  

We need to make adjustments.  And I think we’ll get it done.

— Jon Daniels

President, Baseball Operations & General Manager

There are two options:

A) Make progress & move forward.

or

B) Make excuses & get left behind.

I’m always choosing Plan A.

— Russell Wilson

Minor league second baseman, inactive

It’ll be all right, Yu.

Loss.

At at least one point during his eight seasons as Texas Rangers manager, Ron Washington somewhat confusingly said this:

“My players did not show character.  They revealed it.” 

I’m at a loss for the right words today, too.

Sports adversity is always right around the corner, if not staring your team in the face and sometimes kicking its tail, but it’s just sports, which is not to diminish what this is for Matt Harrison and Martin Perez, for whom I can’t imagine what today feels like, as they find themselves cruelly at the bottom of the pile-on, or maybe the top, or whatever.

I don’t know what to say this morning, or even some loose idea of what I’d like to say.

It’s character-reveal time, and in some sense — I’m not sure exactly how right now — I think it’s gonna be all right.

Of #pricechecks and #stinkbombs.

Colliding with yesterday’s report about how long it had been since Texas was a .500 club this late in a season, there’s this, that Tampa Bay is now seven games under .500 for the first time since they were “Devil Rays,” at the end of the 2007 season.

Which collides with a story by Jim Bowden’s ESPN column running down his top 10 trade candidates, and Jon Morosi’s Fox Sports story suggesting the Rays should consider trading David Price to replenish its flagging farm system (due in part to baseball’s worst draft record from 2008 through 2010), and Grantland’s Jonah Keri weighing in succinctly.

Which collides with this, from last night, courtesy of Nick Pants, the 20-year-old subject of which drew this postgame comment from his manager:

“He’s not scared.  He’s a baseball player.” 

With all due respect to Luis Sardinas, who will be a big league shortstop, he’s not part of what I’m about to say.

There are Three here.  You could stretch the imagination and bring third base or left or center field into the picture, but for various reasons it really would be a stretch.

There are Three, and it’s going to make me very sad if Rougned Odor is eventually the odd man out.  And I’m not talking about the active roster in June.

Read the first screen or two of this from 2008, if you’d like, to get a sense of where I’m going with this.  Pay particular attention to the first half of the eighth paragraph.

I’m not thinking more about two months from now than I am about last night, which was all kinds of awesome, but those thoughts are starting to collide a bit, and I think the landscape for the bigger-picture analysis is starting to change a little bit, perhaps on both sides.

There are Three.

For now.

OdorRougned0757

Pitcher perfect.

I have this nagging, unwelcome, unpleasant feeling about baseball right now, and I can’t swear it would be any different if my periodontist hadn’t thrown cut fastballs at my mouth for two hours on Thursday.

This crummy feeling is stupid, and I’m going to write some words down now, to try and pull myself out of it.

There’s not really a good reason to be sad about Yu Darvish’s latest near-miss.

I think I was in a multi-day funk when Al Oliver and Buddy Bell went a combined 0 for 3 in the 1980 All-Star Game, too.

It’s about wins.

It’s all about wins.

It’s not about All-Star games or batting averages or Rookie of the Year results or no-hitters.

Just wins.

And Texas 8, Boston 0 was a spectacular win.  A thorough taking down of the reigning World Champs, a May baseball beating of the highest order, with lots of offense, and three hours of majestic, special, breathtaking artistry painted on a canvas that stretched across the 60 feet and six inches between one slab of rubber and the other.

It was, what, one of the ten greatest Texas Ranger pitching performances I’ve seen?

Five?

How can I be upset about it?  What sense does it make to feel even a little sad?

Yeah, maybe Alex Rios cost Yu Darvish a bit of baseball history.  And an extra nine pitches.  And another matchup with David Ortiz in the ninth that probably wouldn’t have happened if Rios had properly called Rougned Odor off the ball in the seventh.

But that’s baseball, and baseball is about wins, and we got one of those and that’s the best you can do.

At least as far as the bottom line is concerned.

To that point, on some levels baseball is about number one pitchers, and we got one of those and that’s the best you can do, and I think back to that December 7, 2011 afternoon at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, where Jon Daniels and Thad Levine and A.J. Preller and Don Welke and Josh Boyd spent three hours making a case, in front of Ray Davis and other members of Rangers ownership, for an unprecedented posting bid on the young Nippon Ham righthander.  And then drove to Fort Worth the same day, to repeat the pitch to Bob Simpson.

Thank goodness for all that went into that, and came out of it.

I care less about whether there’s thought and discussion today that lead the official scorer to tear up the existing E-9 ruling than whether there’s thought and discussion underway that lead an organization and its ace to tear up his existing contract and replace it with a lengthier one, rewarding both sides.

Sure, I wish Darvish went 27 up, 27 down last night.  Of course I do.  But not as much as I wish Wash had put Endy in for defense 926 days ago, in the penultimate game the Texas Rangers played before Yu Darvish arrived.  And if you give me the choice: last night’s result and wins in the next eight straight against Boston, Houston, and Toronto, or a perfect game and wins in only five of the next eight, I’ll take the win streak.

There were 293 one-on-one confrontations in last night’s game, and Texas won most of them, enough to give them the nod as far as the one ultimate outcome goes.  That’s what matters.

There are lots of fascinating notes to come out of the game, from the Rangers’ league-leading shutout total, to Darvish’s league-leading volume of recent bids for perfection, to his transcendent strikeout totals, to the reassuring results in his starts following a 120-plus-pitch effort.  Plus FanGraphs writer David Golebiewski pointing out that Darvish’s “Game Score” (under the Bill James definition) of 92 last night was actually higher than the average for all recorded no-hitters in big league history.

But that’s more numbers.  More content for the record books and the pregame clips.

Texas won the ballgame, handily, thanks in very large part to one of the greatest performances ever turned in by one of the greatest pitchers in baseball.

It was pretty much a perfect game, even if not according to the rulebook definition.

Yu Darvish

animal

Long shots, and longshots.

Last night being what it was, Wednesday’s Rangers highlight came not at 1000 Ballpark Way but instead at 951 Ballpark Way, 1100 miles east, in front of a Winston-Salem Dash crowd of 5,682 that included Jon Daniels.  The Rangers GM was on hand for Myrtle Beach 5, Winston-Salem 4 in 11 innings, a game marked by Joey Gallo’s 11th home run of the season, which traveled an estimated 450 feet, and his 12th, an opposite-field job in a left-on-left matchup in the eighth inning.

The 20-year-old now leads minor league baseball in home runs, after doing the same thing in 2013.  His dozen bombs matches White Sox slugger Jose Abreu’s total, though Gallo has racked up his in four fewer games.

FanGraphs writer Nathaniel Stoltz, also among the 5,682 in the building, issued comment on the two Gallo shots on Twitter: “First might be the longest [home run] I’ve ever seen live; [on the] second, he got jammed.  Frightful, insane power.”

Baseball America writer/editor J.J. Cooper, like Daniels and Stoltz in attendance for the Gallo display, answered a Twitter question asking if there’s another hitting prospect as feared right now as Gallo by saying, in no way hyperbolically: “No.  Best power in minors since [Giancarlo] Stanton.”

In the throes of an extended case of bat anemia at the big league level, one that has lowered the Rangers’ slug (.377) to 10th of 15 in the American League, it’s fun to think about the path of destruction that Gallo is on (an almost-Tulowitzki-esque .327/.431/.745), but if you’re looking for a shakeup of some sort in Arlington (and I have email evidence that a bunch of you are), forget about Gallo.  Chances are good that he’ll be asked to leave Myrtle Beach at some point this summer for Frisco, but to even conceive of a scenario in which he progresses any further in 2014 than that would have to involve Round Rock getting deeper into September than Frisco does, and maybe Gallo gets rewarded with some extra playoff ball at the AAA level in that case.

He’s not a consideration for the big leagues this year.  And probably not in 2015, either.

If there’s going to be a real shakeup — and I’m not talking about clearing spots on the 40 and the 25 for Scott Baker — then you’re probably looking at a different player who, like Gallo, is 20 years old, or yet another one who, like Gallo, was drafted as a hitter but very well could have been as a pitcher.

Both are tremendous longshots, but I needed to write this morning to stop thinking about the last three Rangers-Rockies games, so it’s Longshots Ahoy.

Both had big Tuesday nights, before getting Wednesday off.

Rougned Odor got the day off with the rest of his Frisco teammates.

Mitch Moreland got the day off because Texas faced a lefthander — and because the Rangers weren’t going to pitch him on consecutive nights.

Odor tripled in the first inning of Frisco’s 12-7 win over Midland on Tuesday.  He homered in the second inning.  He doubled in the eighth.

The diminutive second baseman, who plays with Dustin Pedroia’s size and with a Dustin Pedroia chip on his shoulder, struck out in his other two at-bats Tuesday, finishing a single short of the cycle.  Since April 19, Odor is a .325/.350/.481 hitter in 80 trips to the plate, and while he’s probably not ready for the big leagues, seeing Josh Wilson forced into the two-hole Tuesday night made me wonder if there’s all that much to lose — especially with the club in desperate need of a spark — by giving Odor a little burn until Jurickson Profar is ready in a month or so.

Then, last night, Donnie Murphy takes a spill trying to leg out an infield grounder and suffers a neck strain.  If he’s down for a couple days, you’re not going to clear a spot on the 40 for Odor to get a start or two (if that).  But if Murphy needs a disabled list stay?

Maybe.

The downside is not so much service time or the arbitration clock as it is the danger of rushing the kid.  Giving Edinson Volquez a start at the back end of an August 2005 doubleheader seemed like a cool and exciting idea, but unless you don’t believe in correlation, you probably concede that the three starts and three relief appearances the 22-year-old was given back then set him back a couple years.

I’d be a little concerned about rushing Odor.

But probably less so than I would be about just about any other player in the entire Rangers system.

I don’t think there’s a stage too big for Odor.  There’s a real strong chance he would struggle to produce, but also a real strong chance it wouldn’t faze him one bit going forward.  And the flip side is his game is the type that, conceivably, could give this lethargic offense a bit of a spark.

The same night that Odor put his show on in Frisco, leading a 17-hit, 12-run RoughRiders attack, Moreland was called on to mop up a 21-hit, 12-run hammering that Colorado put on the Rangers to avoid further strain on a bullpen that has been overtaxed lately.

You don’t want to make too much of situations like that, where nothing’s really on the line, but it looked pretty darn good.  Moreland worked at 90-94, mixing in a cutter and a change (keeping his slider on ice), threw 10 of his 15 pitches for strikes, and shredded Charlie Blackmon’s .361-hitting bat on his final pitch, 94 up and in.

You probably know Moreland’s story.  Like Todd Helton and Mark Kotsay, he was a college star as both a hitter and a closer, striking out 45 hitters in 32.2 Mississippi State innings, but like those two and like Gallo, he was drafted for his bat, when the Rangers used their 17th-round pick on him in 2007.

Moreland hit for average and power in his first full pro season, putting together a .324/.400/.536 slash line for Low A Clinton in 2008, but a few things happened that summer that led to a potential shift in thinking among player development officials about Moreland’s future.  First, Chris Davis had reached the big leagues and turned in a tremendous rookie run over nearly 300 at-bats (.285/.331/.549 — production he wouldn’t match until last year’s MVP-level season in Baltimore).  Second, Texas had drafted Justin Smoak in June, adding a younger player expected to be on a fast track to Arlington.  Primarily a first baseman to that point, the thought in 2008 that Moreland would ever be needed in that role in Texas was a difficult one for anyone to wrap his head around.

Third, not unrelated to the other two developments: On July 20 that summer, one day after the LumberKings had been stretched to 15 innings, Clinton found itself down 10 runs in the ninth inning.  The ball was given to Moreland, an obvious choice for a position player who could mop things up, just over a year after he’d closed College World Series games for the Bulldogs.

Strikeout.

Strikeout.

Single.

Strikeout.

Two weeks later, Moreland was once again called on in the final frame, this time in a game that Clinton was losing to Cedar Rapids, 15-2.  He allowed a single and a walk in a one-run inning.

A little more than a month later, even though he’d led the Midwest League in total bases, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, and RBI, the Rangers were intrigued enough with Moreland’s stuff on the mound that they gave him a serious look as a pitcher in Fall Instructional League.  For the entire month he worked almost exclusively with the pitchers, after which the organization gave the 23-year-old — old for the Low A competition he’d played against and facing stacked odds as a hitter with Texas (first baseman-outfielder John Mayberry Jr. was still around as well, for another few weeks) — a choice to make: Pitch or hit?

Moreland pointed to the Rangers’ evaluation a year and a half earlier that his potential was greatest at the plate.  He opted to give hitting one more chance, at least.

Despite the gaudy 2008 numbers, Baseball America ranked Moreland as only the Rangers’ number 31 prospect going into the 2009 season.  (I had him at number 21.)  I’d gotten a chance to see some of his work at Instructs in Surprise, and talked to some folks out there, and when I did a Q&A on the website just before spring training in 2009, a reader asked whether I thought Moreland was more likely to stick at the big league level as a hitter or as a pitcher.  My response: “He’s more accomplished as a hitter but the answer to your question, in my opinion, is pitcher.”

I was wrong.

Moreland hit .331/.391/.527 in 2009 between High A Bakersfield and AA Frisco, playing more outfield than first base, and was named the organization’s Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year.  A year later, Smoak was traded and Davis couldn’t hold a job, and Moreland established himself as the club’s starting first baseman and outhit all his teammates in the World Series.

But like with Davis’s summer debut, Moreland hasn’t been able to replicate it offensively since, and particularly now that his role at age 28 has gone from starting first baseman to platoon DH — and supreme pinch-hitter — that 90-94 he was firing Tuesday night has to resonate as more than just a gimmick, right?  That wasn’t David Murphy coming in to hit bats and get back to the hotel.  That was a former college pitcher, a player whom the Rangers strongly considered converting to the mound as a minor leaguer, a veteran whose role has been diminished — on a club that is rolling with two left-handed relievers, Neal Cotts (not nearly as effective to date as he was last year) and reclamation project Aaron Poreda (so far, so good), at least as long as Robbie Ross remains in the rotation.

Will the club be able to resist thinking of Moreland as an occasional power reliever, in the way that Milwaukee used Brooks Kieschnick for a couple years towards the end of his career?

Yeah, probably, because even on nights when Moreland’s not in the lineup Wash won’t want to use up his best pinch-hitting option.

But Wash did tell MLB Network Radio yesterday that if he were able to add one piece by the trade deadline, he’d like another arm to rely on in the bullpen.

Could that end up being Ross, if he returns to relief?  (Nick Tepesch has been dealing in Round Rock and is on the same pitching schedule as Ross.)  Maybe.  Tanner Scheppers, once healthy again?

Texas wanted to see if Neftali Feliz could be a starter, following in the successful paths that Scott Feldman and C.J. Wilson took, but it didn’t work for him and he got hurt and hasn’t been able to regain his form as a reliever.

Something close to the same can probably be said about Alexi Ogando.

Here’s hoping that Ross and Scheppers, if they are in fact headed back to the bullpen, are as effective as they were last year.

If they aren’t, I doubt we’ll see Mitch Moreland follow the Sean Doolittle path and put the bats away.

But there’s no denying that his little turn on the mound Tuesday night was about as close to a “spark” as anyone has given the Rangers in these last three against the Rockies.  I wouldn’t expect Moreland’s next baseball card to say 1B-OF-LHP on it, and I wouldn’t expect Rougned Odor to be playing against Colorado or Boston this week, rather than Corpus Christi.

Still, stranger things have happened, and if you were to ask me to put odds on Odor playing big league baseball on this homestand, or Moreland getting semi-regular work on the mound at some point this year, or Joey Gallo doing majestic damage in 2014 for someone other than the Pelicans or RoughRiders, I know which two longshots I’d feel safest betting on.

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