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SP7: An unforgettable night

07/08/2011

(Writer’s Note: I apologize to the reading public. Life has been busy for me lately, and it’s prevented me from writing or even having the motivation to do as such. I hope to get on a little bit of a kick from now on. Again, I apologize.)

Last night as a fan, I felt pretty strong when the game was over. Derek Holland had just completed a complete game, one of his best performances ever in a Rangers uniform. I had already exchanged the customary “HWC” text message with a good friend of mine. Then I got the message from another friend of mine, my soon to be roommate, who was covering the game that night.

“The fan who fell died.”

In five words on an electronic message, the night turned from one of celebration to one of somber. What was expected to be a night of being excited and energized by the performance on the field became a night where we as a community of fans mourned the loss of one of our own.

For those who are not already familiar with the story, if in fact there is anybody who isn’t: during the second inning of last night’s game Josh Hamilton tossed a foul ball into the stands. A man, Lt. Shannon Stone, reached to get the ball for his young son. In his efforts, the man fell over the rail and behind the out of town scoreboard. He was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma at 8:26 PM, and his passing was not announced until after the game was over.

I normally try to write from the perspective of an unbiased, educated observer on this site but forgive me because I feel the need to write like a fan here. As a young boy, I can remember watching and going to baseball games with my dad. Sports in general but baseball specifically helped bring my dad and I together. I know that if this was me as a six year old boy, and Josh had tossed the ball up to us in that position my dad would have done the same thing. I think any of our dads would have, because we as young kids have this fascination with getting a major league foul ball. It’s special, a memento that we can hold onto and cherish. That’s what Mr. Stone wanted to do for his son Cooper, provide him with a memory that he would cherish. Just like any dad would.

There is a time for talking about safety, and if the rail is too short or what have you(the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has published an article on their website that the rails exceed code). But right now, it’s more about the family and community of Brownwood. A family and community who lost a father, a son, an eighteen year fireman, a provider, and without a doubt multiple other labels. They need our support, our thoughts, our prayers, and any help we can give them to help them through this time. At the end of this post I will post two different links. One will be a fund set up by the city of Brownwood, the other by the Texas Rangers. Whichever one you choose to wish, if you do at all, it does not matter. Right now, this family needs our help. Let’s do what we can to help them through this time of need, because this family is just like us. We are all Rangers fan, a community of people with a common goal. One of our own has fallen, let’s do the best we can for him and his family.

City of Brownwood: http://www.brownwoodchamber.org/stone/

Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation: https://secure.mlb.com/tex/community/shannon_stone_fund.jsp

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/thesamhale

 

 

 

 

 

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SP6: 2011 Mock Draft Lockout Edition(Part 1)

03/19/2011

We are a little over a month away from the 2011 NFL Draft, where players will be drafted to teams and won’t be able to play because the millionaires and billionaires that make up the National Football League just couldn’t figure out how to split up nine billion dollars fairly. While they worry about that, the Draft will still happen(for some reason) so it’s appropriate to hold a mock here on Sports Perspective. It will be in three parts, 10 picks this post and 11 the next two since 32 doesn’t divide by three evenly(I can’t analyze a third of a pick sadly). So we’ll go in order, giving you the player I think the team should take and then the player I think the team WILL take. So, let’s go!

1. Carolina Panthers. Should take: AJ Green, WR, Georgia. Will take: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

Analysis: Carolina is a mess, sorry Panthers fans. A new coach is taking over in former San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, so you have to figure he will bring a new energy to the team. In a perfect world, AJ Green is the first pick because he is an explosive play-making wide receiver and Steve Smith just doesn’t seem to get it done anymore. With Jimmy Clausen being a young signal caller, giving him a big target who has considerable upside does nothing but help him.  However the Panthers worked out Cam Newton, and the optimism on Clausen seems to be silent. Newton at number one could very well be the new Ryan Leaf, due to lack of experience. Great athlete, but has a very high bust potential.

2. Denver Broncos. Should take: De’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson. Will take: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

Anaylsis: I’m going to blow the same horn I did on the last pick, oddly enough another Auburn player but this time it’s Nick Fairley. Bowers has the experience, and with no guarantees on Elvis Dumervill coming off an injury you want someone who can put pressure on the quarterback. Fairley came into the Combine shorter than advertised, and I believe him to be part of the Auburn hype machine they rode during their season. Bowers is the safe pick, but Fairley is the flashy pick and he ends up a Bronco.

3. Buffalo Bills. Should/Will take: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Analysis: A consensus pick here, though if Buffalo traded down for someone who wanted Peterson enough to make a bad deal for their own long term future then I’d advise that as long as the deal is right. However, in this case Buffalo needs a cornerstone player. Peterson has the potential to be a defensive force for his career, and has the wheels for the kick return game. God knows Buffalo could use some pick 6s and returns for touchdowns. Peterson can assist in those categories.

4. Cincinnati Bengals. Should take: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri. Will take: AJ Green, WR, Georgia

Analysis: Carson Palmer, the long time Bengals signal caller, said he wants a trade from the Bengals or he would retire. Cincinnati would be wise to take this opportunity to deal Palmer to a team who wants a veteran QB, and take the draft picks they’d get back. In that scenario, Gabbert steps in and becomes the new face of the franchise. However, it seems a lot more logical that Palmer will be back in Cincinnati orange, and with Chad Ochocinco possibly on his way out they snag the best wide receiver on the board to give him a new toy to play with.

5. Arizona Cardinals. Should/Will take: Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Analysis: Lots of people have Von Miller, the outstanding pass rusher mocked to Arizona. That’s a fine pick, because Miller will turn into a fine player. That said, Arizona needs a quarterback and needs one bad. Nobody they have will fit the bill, and since I have the Bengals taking Green I see Arizona swooping in and taking Gabbert and hoping that he can replace Kurt Warner in an area that the Cardinals woefully needed help in last season.

6. Cleveland Browns. Should/Will take: Marcel Darius, DT, Alabama

Analysis: Cleveland gets a steal at the six hole, as Darius slips down to the Browns. Last year they snagged Florida defensive back Joe Hayden, and this year they can sure up their defensive line by taking the defensive tackle that many people consider the best on the board. Alabama had a little bit of a down year, and Darius’ stock fell some because of that. The fact remains is, he’s a stud player who can make an impact at the next level. New head coach Pat Shurmur is an offensive mind granted, but Cleveland needs a defensive play maker as fast as they can get one, and this will fit the bill.

7. San Francisco 49ers. Should/Will take: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

Analysis: Both quarterbacks are off the board, the best wide receiver is off the board. This is pretty much a take the best available player pick, unless a trade opportunity comes up. However, 49ers fans will be very happy with the Aggie should he don their uniform on draft day. He’s got a motor like a pick up truck, and hits about as hard. Will disrupt the passing game, and pairing him with Patrick Willis will be a linebacker duo the team and fans alike will be happy with for a long time.

8. Tennessee Titans. Should take: Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. Will take: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

Analysis: Kenny Britt is one of the best young receivers in the NFL. Nate Washington is serviceable, but streaky. Bringing Jones in to slot on the other side of Britt would be a quarterback’s ultimate fantasy. Since nobody is quite sure who will be quarterbacking the Titans with Vince Young out, the Titans will go defense on this pick and take someone whose got upside to turn into one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. If he had not been suspended by the NCAA, he’d be talked about above Von Miller, but that’s how football go. Rumors have also had Houston trading up to take the cornerback Prince Amukamara, so keep an eye on that.

9. Dallas Cowboys. Should take: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. Will take: JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

Analysis: If this ends up happening, it could end up being the worst first round pick this year. Dallas has major issues in the secondary, with Michael Jenkins showing the toughness of a Little Debbie cake and Terrence Newman getting injured like clockwork. A step below Peterson, Amukamara would be an injection of life into an otherwise useless secondary. He would be an upgrade over Orlando Scandrick, and could learn from Newman whose best asset now is his experience. Logic, however, has never stopped Dallas owner/GM Jerry Jones. Watt is the exact type of player Jones would fall in love with, and with Igor Olshansky looking like his tank is empty he can cite a defensive line need. Watt is a fine player, but I’m just not sold on his translation to the NFL.

10. Washington Redskins. Should/Will take: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Analysis: Whoever the Redskins quarterback ends up being, he’s going to need protection. Trent Williams last year is a good start, but you can never have enough quality offensive line depth. Washington is an old team, and getting younger at every position is something to strive for any time you can do it. Smith has leap frogged Nate Solder as the best offensive lineman on the board, and while Dan Snyder may be a Jerry Jones starter kit I think Mike Shanahan has enough pull to win over Snyder and convince him that Smith is the man to take to close out the top ten of the draft. Julio Jones is there, however this is a fairly deep wide receiver draft. Players like Smith won’t be there in the later rounds, so he should be the priority when Washington is on the clock.

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/SHSPerspective

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SP5: The Feliz File: Starter, Closer, or Both?

03/18/2011

It’s the question that has dominated Surprise since pitchers and catchers reported last month: will Neftali Feliz return to the bullpen where he saved 40 games, picked up American League Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors or is he destined to become one of the five starting pitchers for the 2011 campaign? It seems no matter who you talk too, they have an opinion on where the fireballer should go. To the rotation some say, because his potential and talent only comes around once in a blue moon. Back to the bullpen, others say, because his secondary pitches are not yet refined enough to handle major league hitters two and three times a night for six innings plus. Both make valid arguments, so before we dive into whose right or wrong let’s look at how the staff would look under each scenario.

Neftali Feliz becomes a starter: In this case, you’ve got a top three rotation of CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Feliz with the last two spots to be fought over by the likes of Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Tommy Hunter, and others. You’ve also left a hole in your bullpen to fill in the ninth inning, which presumably would belong to Alexi Ogando who appears to be the in house closer candidate. Pitching coach Mike Maddux indicated earlier that Harrison and Hunter are the favorites to make it, so let’s assume those are the guys. Derek Holland and Michael Kirkman are the odd twosome out, with Holland most likely going into the pen and Kirkman taking a trip to Round Rock as one of their starters.

Neftali Feliz stays a closer: If Neftali returns to his role as the closer, you have a third starting spot open up for most likely Derek Holland to insert himself as the fourth or fifth starter. Ogando and Mark Lowe, who has been inconsistent this spring, become your right handed go to guys along with Darren O’ Day while Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver anchor the southpaw side of the bullpen. This would possibly open up for Kirkman to remain on the major league roster as the long man, and it more than likely means Eric Hurley goes back to Round Rock to further refine his stuff as he makes his comeback.

What does it mean? Well from this writer and fan’s perspective, it means that this year Feliz should go back to his spot at the back of the bullpen and work the magic he did during the 2010 campaign. No doubt Feliz has the talent, the potential, and the ceiling to become a front of the line starter someday. Note the word someday, however. His fastball is consistent, it’s not changing. But his slider or slurve(depending on whose looking at it) needs some polish, and his changeup is not reliable enough to be considered a third pitch. As a closer, he can get away with the big fastball and the occasional second pitch. Major league hitters can see it once and wonder what just flew by them. Give them two and three chances at it, and any hitter worth his salt will be able to key in on it and start hitting it. The simple fact is Feliz can start, but he isn’t ready for it yet.

But that word someday was included for a reason. Fast forward to Opening Day 2012. The crowd is large, the stadium is electric, and Chuck Morgan announces the starting pitcher as Neftali Feliz. Eight innings later, and the Rangers cling to a one run lead. The bullpen door open, and out runs…Heath Bell? Jonathan Papelbon? Next year’s free agent class is much heavier on relievers, as opposed to this year when Rafael Soriano was the big prize. Besides the two just listed other potential free agent signings include Matt Capps, Brad Lidge, Joe Nathan, and Jose Valverde. It’s very conceivable that should CJ Wilson leave in free agency(as this is a contract year for him as well) that the Rangers could spend the money they did not give to him on a closer with the intent to sure up the back end of the bullpen. There’s no doubt that you’d feel much better about those candidates, all of who have proven their mettle as a closer, than an Ogando or a Lowe who hasn’t been put in the cooker of the closer’s role over time. It softens the blow of Feliz leaving the bullpen, and it also allows him to gain the most valuable thing at his age: experience. Experience in the majors seeing the best hitters on the planet. Experience with throwing his second and third pitches, while learning how to throw them. Experience in how to handle his new found stardom that comes from being such a vital piece to a team on the rise. One more year in the bullpen is nothing but good for Feliz, the Rangers, and the fans who got used to saying “Hello Win Column” while Feliz celebrated after the last out. Feliz will start again tomorrow night, and if he does well it’s probable he could end up moving to the rotation. But until manager Ron Washington comes out and says one way or the other, fans and Feliz alike will continue to sing the same tune.

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/SHSPerspective

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SP4: Was Chuck Greenberg Robin Ventura’d?

03/11/2011

Well the story is about as official as it is going to get at this point. After about a half day’s news cycle on the subject, the press assembled at the Temple to hear what Twitter was abuzz about: that Chuck Greenberg was out as CEO of the Rangers and out of the ownership group Rangers Baseball Express(netting 20-25 million dollars according to Bob Nightengale). Nolan Ryan has taken over and is the new CEO of the team, adding that title along with President and Baseball Deity. Ryan, Bob Simpson, and Ray Davies spoke in generalities, declining to get into details of the Greenberg departure but making sure to emphasize all the quality attributes and positive things that Chuck did in his brief time as Rangers CEO. The media did their part by asking the questions the fans, like asking Ryan “Did you and Ryan butt heads, and if so what was the final straw on this issue?” They tossed fastballs not unlike what Ryan did during his illustrious career, and the trio did their best to just foul them off by not addressing them in detail. But you took away from the press conference knowing that the Chuck Greenberg Era, which was highly anticipated by Ranger Nation, was dead and buried.

So now we ask why. Why did the person who fought for over a year to buy this team along with the rest of Rangers Baseball Express, including a late night court battle with local billionaire Mark Cuban, get bought out and basically kicked down the road? A lot of people in the know say that it was because Greenberg rubbed the other three the wrong way. That he tried too hard(the extra visit to free agent Cliff Lee is cited), that he interfered too much in the baseball side of things(a report involving Michael Young’s contract and deferred money), or that his over-aggressive management style just did not mesh well when the  ownership group had to get to work day in and day out once the whimsical process of acquiring the team ended and the grind of the off-season set in. All valid, all makes sense, yet I just don’t buy it. You don’t cast off the guy who has been the best PR generator for this new ownership group because he is over-aggressive, because he is trying to do too much.

Which leads me to believe how I currently believe: Chuck Greenberg was a lame duck from the beginning. Chuck didn’t know, but Davies and Simpson did. It’s fairly common knowledge that Nolan Ryan, who at the start of this process was just the president of the team, wielded quite a bit of positive energy with both Rangers fans and Major League Baseball which would be instrumental in acquiring the club.  So you had money, you had the clout, but you didn’t have a man that could make the deal. Enter Chuck Greenberg, someone who desired to be in baseball and wanted to be apart of a team. He had executed a messy sale before with Mario Lemieux(the Nolan Ryan of hockey) and the Pittsburgh Penguins, so it was a logical lateral move to have him do the same with the Rangers. The rest of the story is history, with creditors causing problems, Mark Cuban teaming with Jim Crane, and the purchase process ending on the very early morning on August 5 when the winning bid for the RBE was submitted. The keys were handed over, and the team went on a magical World Series run concluding the best(and most tumultuous) Rangers season ever. Fan moral was at an all time high. They go into the off-season, and if the articles published are to be believed that’s when the friction really got kicked up. Management styles, personal beliefs on ways to handle the organization and all that implies did not match up, and the decision was made that Greenberg was done.  Nolan Ryan took his place as the new CEO and President, which gets us back to the present.

I’m fully of the belief that Chuck was used to get the deal done, and to keep him around they gave him the CEO title. Davies/Simpson/Ryan did not want to keep him, because you’ve got two clashing groups of personality. Greenberg is a very fan friendly, very active, very aggressive and proactive person. The trio he feuded with are more of the traditional stay out of site, we manage behind the scenes with no real presence outside our offices, good old boys type style. So it was natural that the southern, down home guys probably didn’t appreciate when the northern guy started encroaching on their territory, who was bucking the status quo and trying to remake the image of the Rangers ownership group from the decrepit, vilified reign of terror that was the Hicks group. They knew that in the end, they wanted Nolan Ryan as their lead dog. Not Chuck Greenberg, they wanted the guy that they knew and could connect with. They wanted familiar, plain and simple. Nolan Ryan is one of the most well respected people in the state of Texas, and the game of baseball. He should be. This situation, however, was extremely unprofessional and casts the remaining trio in a very bad light. You cast out the guy who the fans loved, who didn’t sit in his ivory tower but instead sat out in the bleachers. He wanted to know what the fans thought, so much so that he went out and talked with them. He connected with the fans, he was the face of the ownership group, and even though it was revealed he did not have much invested(2-3 million dollars according to John Heyman) within the team. He brought more than money, because Davies and Simpson represented more money than we needed. Greenberg represented a new generation of owner, and it was whole heartily embraced by Ranger Nation. He was the anti-Hicks, which is exactly what this team needed in every single facet of baseball ownership. Nolan will be a good CEO, but he’s not going to be out in the stands or on Twitter being able to communicate with the fans. What you gain in Ryan’s credibility you lose with Greenberg’s accessibility to the fans, and passion for being not just a suit but a support just like the people who occupy the stadium.

I know a lot of fans will follow Nolan Ryan blindly, we tend to do that with our heroes. I love Nolan Ryan, and someday I will write a story relating a personal experience I had with Ryan that rekindled my love of Rangers baseball which had gone dead for a period of time.  I’m sad to say that I can’t support my hero, or the people who he sided with, on this issue. The evidence points to it: the dismissal of a very popular fan figure, the idea of him having very little invested in the club so it is easier to buy him out(even with the profit), Davies and Simpson both being much more inclined to favor Ryan who they share much more in common with, the timing of three weeks before the season. If they were truly dissatisfied with Greenberg, why wait until three weeks before the season? Because you want to start clean, you want to get this over with in plenty of time before the season. Chuck Greenberg was basically a prostitute for the Davies/Simpson/Ryan group, they used him for their own purposes and then they cashed him out and sent him on his way. That’s a prostitute, and it’s a shame to see someone who was so enthusiastic and passionate about this club be exploited for his skill set and his good nature. This will never be admitted to by the three men who hold control of the Rangers, but there is considerable reason to believe it. Do I still support the Rangers? Yes. However, I absolutely do not support this move. I won’t tell you HOW to think, but I will ask you to at least think. Do not let your blind loyalty to Ryan allow you to not at least inquire and see what this story could be. Nolan Ryan is a respected official, but he is human and no human is without mistake. In this case Ryan, Ray Davies, and Bob Simpson all made a mistake. Time will only tell how that mistake will affect the season. As a Rangers fan, I only hope that they knew what they were doing.

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/SHSPerspective

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BREAKING NEWS: Chuck Greenberg to step down as Rangers CEO?

03/11/2011

According to an article over at the greatness of BBTiA, Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg will resign as soon as tomorrow. The reason given at the moment is to “pursue other interests.” Let’s note that this is not official yet, and if we are lucky this is all nothing but speculation.

That said, if it’s true this presents a problem. This guy was basically the face of the team, he was the one you saw in the media and was the guy you associated with the ownership group. So if he’s gone, who steps into the chair? Nolan Ryan? I mean this is a PR nightmare, the guy who is the new face of your franchise that people credit with taking over for the closest thing to baseball Satan now is basically saying “adios mofo.” It’s bad to speculate without more facts, however at this point that’s what we have to do. Right now, this is not a good situation at all. Coming off easily the greatest season in Texas Rangers history, this is a big blow to Rangers repeating chances. I will continue to update this post with analysis and opinion when news comes in.

UPDATE (1:21 AM): ESPN has published a story, and within we find this “The paper said the source didn’t give a reason for the move, but the report adds that how Greenberg operates may have caused disagreements within the organization and possibly with club president Nolan Ryan and Major League Baseball.” That makes no sense, Major League Baseball wanted Greenberg to own the team and did their best to give him the club. Nolan only wanted to negotiate with Chuck, and refused to be apart of any other group. This clears up nothing, instead makes things more murky. Tomorrow is a big sports day, and if you’re a fan of Texas Rangers baseball you might want to wear a cup.

UPDATE(1:41 AM): Evan Grant, he of the Dallas Morning News, tweets this : “Evan_P_Grant Evan Grant

Source confirms Chuck Greenberg out of management with Rangers. Announcement coming soon, maybe later today.” Well there you have it folks, we were pretty sure before hand but if Evan Grant has it you can bet your bottom dollar that it is correct. With it confirmed, let’s talk a little about what this could be. This could be Davies and Simpson holding the cash, maybe they wanted something or didn’t want something, and they said “Well guess what pal?” Maybe Nolan and Chuck had a falling out, maybe Chuck woke up this morning and said “Hey I’m going to quit the Rangers.” This is very easily the biggest, most confusing story the Rangers have had to deal with in a long time. The face of the franchise on the ownership side is leaving. If you’re a fan of this team, and you’re not either confused, angry, or very worried right now I’ve got to wonder where your head is at.
Think about this for a minute guys and gals: Greenberg and Co. was supposed to be the rock that we could finally say represented ownership stability. He was supposed to ride up on his white horse and rescue us from the evil clutches of Tom Hicks. Well he did, and now he’s leaving. He’s getting back on the horse and riding out of town. Right now, I’m very disappointed. I want answers, as I’m sure all media members and fans do. We have to wonder what the players think about this, you have to figure they all know by now. But if they don’t, I mean this is just earth shattering. I’m not happy at all, because I think along with myself a lot of the Ranger faithful put a ton of faith into this guy and now he’s apparently tossing it away. There’s only one word to register how I feel: disappointment.

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/SHSPerspective.

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SP3: Ten questions to be answered on Hwy. 162(Part 3)

03/10/2011

The third and final part in our series of ten questions. Last time, the questions were answered regarding who needed to break out the most, what the rotation could look like after the first couple months of the season, and what the bullpen’s future appears to be. Four questions left to answer, including the most important to be answered at #10.

 

7.  Last year Cliff Lee and Bengie Molina were acquired before the trade deadline. What action do you see as being needed when the deadline comes around this year?

Answer: This is a question that is pretty much impossible to answer at this point. The season has not started yet, there have been no major injuries, so there are no holes to fill right now.  With any luck, Texas will not need to make any trades because they will be clicking along so well and doing so well. That’s the optimist in me, but here’s the reality: if Texas wants to move into a contending position again I think a move will have to be made. Judging by how the rotation looks to be set up, I fully expect the need to be a front of the line starting pitcher. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis both. However, neither of those are on the level of a Roy Halladay or a Cliff Lee or etc. Who it will be this year, since I doubt Cliff Lee will be traded back to Texas again, that will depend on what team is struggling or what team wants to start dumping salary. A lot of variables go into this, however I think on the Rangers end Chris Davis will be part of the package sent the other way. There’s no space for Davis at the moment, and he’s having a great spring training. I would not be surprised if he spent start of the season until the trade deadline in Round Rock where he was proven he can put up monster numbers. Jon Daniels sells a team on his upside(which is tremendous), puts a couple other prospects with the deal, and they bring in someone for the stretch run. The other end of this however, is the Rangers being bad and considering dealing their own pieces. Josh Hamilton has been brought up in that category, and I’ll be frank when I say while it would make logical since to do I’m not high on trading him. If he’s performing well, you keep him. The guy has intangibles to offer to the club in the sense of a public relations and fan base standpoint. With that said, if all goes to plan then the Rangers won’t even have to entertain the idea of trading away their superstar.

 

8. Moving away from the player side, John Rhadigan took over for the now departed Josh Lewin in the TV booth. Thoughts?

Answer: Most people don’t see this as an important question, but it really is. Josh Lewin was the TV voice of the Rangers for a long time in the television world, and now he is gone and John Rhadigan has taken his place next to Tom Grieve. I was a big fan of Josh, I think he brought a lot to the booth that made Ranger baseball on TV very enjoyable to watch. He wasn’t your average commentator, he had a lot of quirks that while quite a few fans voiced their annoyance at them. In my eyes, Josh’s quirks made the game that much better. He didn’t feel like a stiff, rigorous, straight play by play guy. He felt like a guy I’d want to sit and watch the game with, because if he talked about the game in that setting you’d probably get the same result. The difference is, he’s really good at calling a game. He is able to blend calling a game with all the little informative nuggets and humorous bits to break things up, because you’ve got three hours plus to fill and it can’t always be done with just baseball.  That said, there’s no real indication how Rhads will call the games. Not unlike players, it’s hard to tell how commentators will do during an actual game because they are having to talk about prospects they might not see for two or three years if ever during the spring training games. However, what I do know is that Rhads is a stand up guy and during his time at FSN he did really good work. I was a big fan of anything he did, so I am very optimistic that he will step into the booth and do a very solid job. I’m not expecting greatness off the bat, you’ve got to allot about a year or two for he and Grieve to get their chemistry down. But in two years,  think we will be able to talk about the Rhadigan/Grieve team as one who ranks up there out of all the teams in baseball.

 

9. So you’ve gone over everything, including commentary teams. What do YOU think the Rangers will do this season?

Answer: Well, to be frank I really think another playoff run is in store. I don’t really think that Seattle will be a threat for awhile(3-5 years), so that leaves Oakland and Anaheim. Oakland has been stockpiling arms with Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and others.  However even with their off season additions to the lineup, I don’t really see them pulling it all together until 2012. That leaves the dormant beast the Angels sitting in the corner. Dan Haren and Jered Weaver anchoring the rotation, and with Vernon Wells joining the lineup the Angels seem to be going for it all. Kendry Morales will be back for the 2011 season, so you have to take them seriously. However, I think this is the time for Texas and for a little while longer they will continue to be atop the division. It won’t be easy, I expect the division to be much closer than last year(when it was over in July). I fully expect Texas to win the division, a slim margin but a victory nevertheless. I’m not expecting a World Series run this year however, and other fans shouldn’t either. Last year could very easily have been lightning in a bottle, where a team who was easily good was magically elevated to great. I think playoffs are a very reasonable expectation, and to say 2011 is a “World Series or bust” year is a viewpoint that is very knee-jerk and illogical. If you don’t get to the playoffs this year, you can call this year a bit of a downturn. However, if Texas makes the playoffs and gives it a good fight you won’t hear any complaints from this fan/blogger.

 

10. OK so you’ve given the optimistic point of view. What’s the bad side of this look like, worst case scenario?

Answer: Worst case scenario is to me third place in the AL West with a record either at .500 or a little under .500. I still think if this team takes a step down we are not worse than Seattle. Seattle has very little to offer not named  Felix Hernandez, and are a good half decade away from contending or anything like it. But Oakland and Anaheim are both deep in starting pitching, and that will be a tenuous issue for the entire season with a lot of unproven arms starting games. You’ve also got injury concerns with Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, and Adrian Beltre now. With all the upside of Texas, also comes the numerous question marks. That’s the biggest worry with the Rangers, they have so many question marks that you have to wonder if they can answer them all. You’ve also got to wonder if Derek Holland has figured it out, will Tommy Hunter be able to be a solid starter, and who actually will occupy the fifth spot on a regular basis?  The talent is there, the coaching staff is finally there, and the money is there with this new ownership group. Now it’s all about putting it together, and making this work for them. They did it last year, and became the Cinderellas of the league. Now, they are the hunted and they are out to defend their title. Will they handle the pressure, well that will be the ultimate question.

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/SHSPerspective

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SP2: Ten questions to be answered on Hwy. 162(Part 2)

02/24/2011

In part 1 of our series we covered the topics of Michael Young’s standoff with management, what impact(if any) Cliff Lee’s departure for Philadelphia would have on the team, and my projected Opening Day rotation. Three down, time to answer three more questions about what those red shoe Rangers will have to face as they make their way down Hwy. 162.

 

4. You’ve discussed the rotation, but what’s your take on the bullpen going into this year?

Answer: Mike Rhyner had a very solid quote when he said “The best thing you can say about a bullpen is that you have one.” Spending a good part of my existence with Ranger baseball being fairly poor, the pitching staff on the whole has been terrible and the bullpen has been no exception.  Last year however, the Rangers had a 3.38 ERA in the bullpen which was good for sixth among all the major league clubs. This will all depend on if Neftali Feliz goes to the rotation, same with Alexi Ogando. However since I listed my Opening Day rotation without those two, for the purpose of this question let’s assume they will both be in the bullpen. So you have Neftali in the ninth inning, Ogando as your eighth inning guy, Darren O’Day, Mark Lowe, Arthur Rhodes, and Darren Oliver locked into your bullpen with the long reliever spot open and up for competition. As far as my take on the bullpen, I’m more than happy with it. Darren Oliver got a lot of work last year, and now Ron Washington has two Olivers with the addition of Arthur Rhodes so you figure he can split the work load of what Oliver would have had between those two and keep each man fresh. One night Oliver can go, the next night Rhodes. Keep cycling them, keep them fresh, and you don’t have to worry about that. The thing I like the most about this bullpen is the potential options you have. Matt Harrison could be a long man, you might see Tanner Scheppers come out like a house of fire to be yet another good young bullpen arm, even Kirkman(who I’ve projected into the rotation) could make it in. There is a good solid pool to pull from, and I’m thinking this is going to be a benefit. The more depth you can have on a team, and for your bullpen in particular then that is nothing but a good thing. Keep an eye out for Yoshinori Tateyama, he’s a dark horse candidate to make an impact in the bullpen. He’s definitely a wild card, but Jon Daniels has been fairly resourceful with his signings. O’Day was a waiver wire pick up, Mark Lowe was a throw in on the Cliff Lee deal, Matt Harrison was one of the last pieces of the Mark Teixeira trade. With any luck, Tateyama will be able to write his name on that list when the 2011 season is over.

 

5. Who do you feel is the one player on the club who needs to make 2011 his break out year?

Answer: This player is also the most frustrating Rangers player on the roster for me: Julio Borbon. From the great Jason Parks, here’s a scouting report on Borbon written in 2009: “While I don’t think Borbon will ever become the prototypical top-of-the-order threat that many Rangers fans envision, I do believe that he will be able to offer league-average offensive production while providing above-average defense in center field. That, despite what the slightly disappointing tone to this report might suggest, has tremendous value.” Parks was right on the nose, however we have not seen this from Borbon yet. Example: last year Borbon had 59 strikeouts as compared to only 19 walks. On base percentage was .309, while the average for the entire league was .325. His batting average dropped, however he played in over ninety more games last year than he did the year before so you have to factor that in. Borbon is a very fast player, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call him the fastest guy on the team. With that said, if he’s only using that speed to walk quickly back to the dugout after you strike out then you might as well not have it at all. Borbon needs to figure out how to get on base period, if he can do that then he quickly becomes a valuable asset to this team. If you can put Borbon on base, no matter where you put him in the line up then you can get him home because he has some great wheels. If you are expecting the second coming of Rickey Henderson, please feel free to check yourself into the nearest insane asylum because you will not get that. If Borbon gets up to his potential, lives up to his billing, then he will be getting on base more and you’ll see him cross the plate when the puck movers on this team start to hit. Or, he will be traded in a deal to acquire a starting pitcher because Engel Beltre will force himself into the picture for the starting center field job in a year or so. Either way, I fully believe Borbon can be useful to this team in some form or fashion. I would like him to turn into a Gold Glove center fielder whose an on base machine, and I hope in a year or so I can come back and say that he did just that. But I’m a realist, and right now Borbon is in a “prove it” mode to me and should be to all Rangers fans. It’s time for him to step up, or be included in a deal to bring someone that will help the team. I’m a Borbon fan, but my expectations are low.

 

6. You said in Part 1 that you had an Opening Day rotation. Does this mean you feel the rotation will change sometime within the year?

Answer: Absolutely. The starting five on April 1st I projected as CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, and Michael Kirkman. Brandon Webb was not included, but by June I fully expect him to replace either Holland or Kirkman in the roster. Not because those performed poorly, though that’s very possibly. The talk out of Rangers camp is that Webb will be handled with care, due to his aforementioned monkey shoulder and that could include a stint in AAA to start the year for two reasons. So that he can get on a regular rotation, and so there is no real pressure on him to succeed. It would allow him to build his velocity, and get used to pitching again. If Webb can get anywhere close to where he was in his prime, then he can easily unseat one of the lower guys and force his way back into the rotation. I’m convinced that if Webb ends up in Round Rock to start the year, we will see him with the major league club only when he is back up to speed. Which is fine with me, because when Brandon Webb is on his game I can’t pitch him enough. So by sometime in June, possibly July I hope we are seeing a CJ/Colby/Hunter/Holland/Webb or CJ/Colby/Hunter/Webb/Kirkman rotation. He could replace Tommy Hunter, but more logically I think  see one of the two younger lefties falling down and Webb performing well enough for Round Rock to earn his spot back with the major league club. Let me reiterate I do not think we see Webb in the majors unless the team feels he can make it work. So if he’s in the rotation on Opening Day, or if he has to wait some time while that may not set well with him it’s for the best. If it’s not Brandon Webb, then it’s very possible my original rotation holds form until the season is over. It would shock me to no end, but it’s possible. I’m not anywhere near convinced Matt Harrison is useful as a starter anymore, regardless of what articles are written about him. Scott Feldman is recovering from microfracture surgery, and nothing he did last year showed us that the 17 win year he had in 2009 was anything but a fluke. Brandon Webb would be 5A in a situation like that, and if he’s performing well then by all means give him a shot if the opportunity arises.

Another section of questions knocked out. Next time, the last four questions including the big one “Can the Rangers get back to the World Series?”

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/SHSPerspective