Author Archive

Work.

The coach, who in his 30 years had developed Day One MLB Draft picks, and nine-year-old kids who were still all about the postgame snow cone, and all kinds in between, said to his team at the end of the game, just after the championship trophies had been handed out:  “You know all that hard work you guys have put in?  This right here is you reaping the benefits of all that hard work, all that practice.  You prepared well for this.”

The same could be said for Rougned Odor, who wasn’t supposed to get here this fast, or Robinson Chirinos, who wasn’t even a catcher until his eighth pro season, missed all of 2012 with a concussion, and now controls the running game just about as effectively as any catcher in the big leagues.

Or Daniel Robertson, who at nearly 29 had stepped to a minor league plate more than 3,100 times in the Padres system before getting a phone call from the Texas Rangers six weeks ago.

They prepared well, whether earning a chance they never dreamed they’d get so soon, or one they probably thought would never come at all.

You might think things have always come easily to Joey Gallo, who led all of minor league baseball in home runs (40) in 2013, and who reached 21 this season before May ended.

But recognize that, despite playing a level higher than he played last year, Gallo has cut his strikeout rate significantly (1 for every 3.8 plate appearances, compared with 1 for every 2.7 last year) and — more importantly — has already drawn as many walks (50) this year as he did in 2013, in right at half the trips to the plate.

Nobody in minor league baseball has worked as many bases on balls this season.

Nobody in the big leagues has, either.

Hard work, and benefits.

There’s hard work involved, too, when you’re a diehard fan and your team is fighting staircase dogs and malevolent pillows and breakaway motorcycles and bad knee cartilage and bad elbow ligaments and bad cervical and lumbar disk integrity.

Before the end of May.

Yet you’re a game over .500, in spite of a deck missing a handful of face cards, and the whole idea of reaping rewards now seems fitting for those of us who never even think about giving up on our team.

I can’t remember where I heard it, or whether it was while the Rangers were in Detroit or Minnesota or Washington, D.C., but someone said on the radio the other day that the press in one of those towns was suggesting Ron Washington probably already has AL Manager of the Year locked up, just a third into the season.

It’s easy as a fan base to feel cheated, to wave a fist at the baseball gods, to lament the brutal injury pileup and ask what any of us did to deserve this.  But in that clubhouse, whether it’s on the west end of 1000 Ballpark Way, or in the smaller rooms in Detroit or Minnesota or Washington, D.C., nobody’s feeling sorry for themselves.  They’re putting in the work, and — at least in the judgment of those covering the opposition the last week and a half — they’re reaping the rewards, hanging in this race.

There are lots of things you want from your manager, a different set of priorities I think from the ones you’d list for a head coach in football or basketball or probably hockey.  The man in charge of 25 baseball players who play games that count every day for six months, and hopefully seven, has a lot of responsibilities, but none can be as important as having those 25 — even in the years when it’s a different 25 seemingly every day — ready to play.  It’s knowing how to motivate one different from another, when to floor it and when to tap the brakes, when a given player needs a day and when another needs nothing more than to be thrown back into the fire, and to me those things are more important over the long haul than bullpen management or when (not) to bunt.

There’s a reason, in this sport, that he’s called a “manager.”

And this situation, the one that has shoved Texas just about as deep into a human resources corner as you can imagine, is the one in which Ron Washington is at his best.  It’s easy, at any level of baseball, to get caught up in those jolts of adversity and lose sight of the bigger picture.  Those were two bad losses to the Nationals before a league-leading 11th shutout salvaged that series, but take a step back even further and you’ll see Texas flying back home after a season-long 11 on the road, having won seven and lost four.

You take that every single time.

Stretches like this should no longer come as a surprise from this team, which for years now has tended to find ways to put things back in gear when the chips are stacked against it.  It’s a reflection of the manager, at least in this case, when character is shown, or revealed, or whatever, and no fluke.

Texas is on a pace to see its league-leading streak of four straight 90-win seasons snapped, but its 29-28 win-loss record is in far better shape than the team it shares that streak with, the Tampa Bay Rays, whose 23-35 mark (despite the highest payroll in its 17-year history) is the American League’s worst.

Baseball is hard.

Gallo told the Myrtle Beach Sun News a few days ago that he was eight or nine years old when he hit his first home run.  He’d be the first to tell Jake Storey (now at four bombs for the year, at age nine) that there will be adversity ahead — of the thousands of hitters in the minor leagues in 2013, only five struck out more than Gallo did — but taking it on and figuring out ways to overcome it just makes you better.  Yu Darvish knows better than anyone that no-hitters are incredibly rare, and for him the complete game has been just as elusive, and just because Preston Stout accomplished both Sunday morning, hours before Darvish dominated the Nationals over eight scoreless, doesn’t mean that he won’t have to put in thousands of hours of work and commitment just to maintain, and to keep reaping the benefits.

You don’t win ’em all, but there’s growth from that as well, and if there weren’t I can think of plenty of times between the mid-70s and the mid-90s when the much easier and obvious choice would have been to walk away from Rangers baseball.

Winning is hard work.  Winning takes hard work.

And sometimes it takes more than that right brew — the right players and the right coach, and the right mix of both, which doesn’t always follow — because luck and health and timing all factor in, and that’s just sports.

Even when things start looking bleak, as a player or a team or its fans, sticking with it and putting in the work is really the only choice, unless the plan is to walk away.

And walking away is no fun.

Elaine Payne

Elaine Payne

Kins & Gallo.

On June 12, 2004, Clinton shortstop Ian Kinsler doubled, homered, and walked in five trips against Peoria, raising his average above the .400 mark for the first time in a little over three weeks.  Following the game the 21-year-old was promoted to Frisco, a two-level jump.

That .402 average Kinsler posted in over 250 LumberKing plate appearances that spring will mark his media guide page forever (he would then hit exactly .300 for the RoughRiders that summer), and that’s pretty cool.

I’m not saying I thought about this after Joey Gallo hit home runs 19 and 20 last night against Carolina Mudcats victims D.J. Brown and Clayton Cook, but I sorta am, because 20 bombs is a pretty cool number — especially when it’s reached in May.

Gallo (.320/.457/.750) isn’t about to make any two-level jump, but he’s going to make a one-level, one-way trip pretty soon, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it came very close to the 10-year anniversary of Kinsler’s promotion, a 10-year span between one impact prospect arriving in our Frisco backyard and another.

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

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers