Posts Tagged ‘Texas Rangers’

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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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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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SP1: Ten questions to be answered on Hwy. 162(Part 1)

02/23/2011

The  Texas Rangers won the American League last season, and made their first ever World Series appearance.

With that sentence, the book is closed on 2010. Yes, it was a great season but the entire 2011 squad has made their way to Surprise and is doing whatever it is that you do in the first week or so of spring training. Some nice long toss, stretching, jogging, all those fun Spring Training activities. Spring Training is a fun time for all baseball fans, because if you’re anything like me once the World Series ends it is a long roughly three-four month layoff. Granted, I had a nice TCU Rose Bowl detour that got me through the winter but that’s another topic for another entry. The one thing Spring Training always brings is questions, questions, questions. Will X be ready, will Y be healthy, how will Z and B leaving, and the list goes on. Ten questions have been compiled, and they will be broken up into three posts(1-3, 4-6, and 7-10). Part one, let’s rock and roll.

 

1. Will the Michael Young situation affect the season overall?

Answer: Before I give the actual answer, I’m not writing this first because I feel it is the most important question of the year. I’m writing it first because I’m sick and tired of hearing about it. This story evolved from a blip on the radar to a nuclear submarine bearing down on the Rangers news landscape. Then it devolved into a media slap fight between the “betrayed” Michael Young and Jon Daniels. It’s long, it’s complicated, it’s overplayed, and since he is in camp training with the team until we have a trade to report this issue is dead. So the answer is no, this little off-season spat will not affect the team because Jon Daniels doesn’t put on a uniform and play. The players in the clubhouse look at Michael Young as their general, their leader and they love him for that. Young returns the love, which he made abundantly clear in the press conference held when he arrived in camp. He loves the team, he’s just having a little bit of a rough time with JD. The plain fact of the matter is I don’t care if JD and Young are sharing a bed, or if they never talk to each other. If Young goes out there every day, gets his hits, and acts like the leader he has evolved into over the past five or so years everything on this front will be OK. We can put away our questions on this, because it’s over. Michael Young is under contract for three years and sixteen million a year, so that means he will play period end of story.

 

2. How much will the loss of Cliff Lee affect the pitching staff, and the club on the whole?

Answer: Most people will tell you yes without a doubt. I will tell you it’s very possible that it will, but I don’t believe so. Let’s step in our time machine, and go back to July 9th. Cliff Lee was traded to the Rangers for Justin Smoak and three names randomly picked out of a hat. At that point in the season, Texas had played 85 games(game 86 was that night, a loss to the Orioles 7-6). The team was 50-36 the day the trade was made, and ahead 4.5 games in the AL West at that time. After July 9, the lowest the Rangers lead in the West ever got was 3.5 games. So by the time Cliff Lee joined this team, they were already at the top and weren’t going anywhere. Factor in that during the regular season with Texas, Lee’s record was 4-6 and he tallied a 3.98 ERA it was not like Lee was God-like when he came over during the regular season. Yes, he was very impressive in Ranger red during the post season until the World Series when he folded like a house of cards and posted an 0-2 record in two starts with a 6.94 ERA in 11.2 innings. So if you’re asking me whether I think Cliff Lee leaving for the Phillies is going to hurt this team I have to counter with “How much did he really help them?” What did Cliff Lee really do except bring that Cliff Lee mystique on the whole? In retrospect, very little. I know the argument “Well he paid off in October.” If we are talking about the ALDS and ALCS yes. Trading for a guy to play in October is fine, but if you want to sign him to a deal because of his post season experience you’re insane.  This team has to get there first, and while I will address that question later I feel that the money and years you would have given to Cliff might not have been the best long term solution. JD and Nolan Ryan are not trying to make this team the 2001 Diamondbacks, who won the World Series and then fell off the map. This team is built for the long term, for a chance to go to the World Series every single year. By not blowing your budget on the first big shiny toy you see, you make a more wise decision that is a long term benefit. Is Cliff Lee nice, you bet. Is Cliff Lee necessary, in short no. This team will go on without him, succeed without him.

 

3. So if not Cliff Lee, who will be in the starting rotation on April 1st?

Answer: Well let’s start with what we know as fact, CJ Wilson is your Opening Day starter and Colby Lewis is behind him. Past that, it’s open season.  There are three spots up for grabs on this thing, and unlike years past there are actually good candidates to fill them. Tommy “Big Game” Hunter posted a 13-4 record in the regular season, then followed it up by looking totally lost in the playoffs. Derek “Dutch Oven” Holland is also a strong candidate, as the 23 year old tries to regain the spot everyone and their mother thought he would have already ascended to by now. Brandon Webb is now with the team after having a monkey shoulder installed to replaced the old shoulder he had that was shredded by his awesomeness in Arizona. You’ve also got the reigning Rookie of the Year, he of 40 saves and a very awesome fastball Neftali Feliz going to get a look in camp to see if he can find another pitch or three and make this work as a starter. Past that, pencil in the long shots of Matt Harrison, Michael Kirkman, Tanner Scheppers, the extremely long shot of Brett Tomko, and that’s your field pretty much. You’e got essentially eight guys for three spots, and from a fan who remembers the days of the “TBA” being written down as the starting pitcher for the Rangers so often you figured the guy had to have some stellar endurance  this is a stellar problem to have. My projected rotation as of Opening Day(remember that): CJ, Colby, Hunter, Holland, Kirkman. Hunter is a Mark Buerhle type pitcher to me, he doesn’t have a really strong fastball but he knows how to use the pitches at his disposal. He’s durable, not afraid to throw what he wants when he wants, and has a mentality that has to be popular with both pitching coach Mike Maddux and Nolan Ryan. Another young gun at 24, Hunter will start the year in the rotation and probably as the number three which is probably his top out.

Holland is my four, and I’ve got a couple reasons for that. The big one is he is one year older, and that is significant. When this kid was being touted as the next big thing, he was a young man. His first major league experience came at the age of 22, and for any major league player especially a pitcher that is rough. He’s 24 now, and the big news on Dutch is that he has gotten a hold on his maturity problems. He has learned how to handle himself better, and that is only a positive. Plus, even though his performance of 13 straight balls in the World Series was horrendous there is a silver lining to that could. At 23 he hit the biggest baseball stage, and he struggled. Which was to be expected, but it’s positive because now he has something to measure against. A regular season game seems much more calm, much less of a hassle now because he’s had the big time experience. In theory it should be a lot easier for him to mentally get his head around pitching now that he’s had a taste of the big time. Couple that with all the articles you read about him, and the quotes about how he feels this will be his breakout year. Rangers fans, you better hope so because if this kid can ever put all the pieces together I really believe you will not be missing Cliff Lee one single bit.

Which brings me to Michael Kirkman, who I’ve got as my number five to open the year in what most people will see as a head scratcher. Not if you look at his 2010 Oklahoma City numbers: 22 starts, a 13-3 record, 3.09 ERA, 130 strikeouts to only 68 walks with a 8.9 SO/9 ratio and 0.5 HR/9 ratio. Cliff Lee started 28 games total in the regular season, posting a 12-9 record, 3.18 ERA, a very scary 185 strikeout to 18 walks with is good for a 10.28 SO/BB ratio, along with 7.8 SO/9 and 0.7 HR/9. Am I trying to say that Kirkman is the second coming of Cliff Lee? Not at all, because Lee is a one of a kind player who has outstanding control that very few pitchers have and ever will. But Kirkman down in AAA showed some similarities to what Lee put up, and he’s only 24 as well. What I’m saying is, Kirkman has shown in a starter’s role at the highest minor league level that he deserves a shot at the rotation. In a field that once you get past Hunter and Holland the question marks start to really rack up, Kirkman could emerge as a surprise player for this thing.

Check back in soon as I will bring you questions 4-6 in Part Two of our “Ten Questions” series.

Sam

sam@sportsperspective.net

twitter.com/SHSPerspective