Sunday, April 05, 2009

Batter up: Texas Rangers

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a baseball team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things that are tangentially about each team. At bat: The Texas Rangers.
  1. Owner Tom Hicks says it's a "non-event" that he didn't make a payment on a $525-million US loan and it's all part of a negotiating strategy. Please don't try this at home if you have student loans with a Canadian bank; they'll take your thumbs. Hicks, according to ever-reliable Phil Rogers, might sell 49 per cent of the Rangers.

  2. Josh Hamilton's 130-RBI season was well-earned; his quote, unquote RBI percentage of 20.7% was second in the majors to Kansas City's David DeJesus, of all people. Your guess is as a good as any as to what Hamilton will do for a follow-up.

  3. There is a lot to like about the Rangers, but probably not this summer. Their farm system is deep. It's just a matter of when righty Neftali Feliz and lefty Derek Holland become a 1-2 punch par excellence, like Edinson Volquez and John Danks might have been if Texas hadn't traded each of them.

  4. There will be a good game of Guess The Attendance come July and August when the Rangers are out of contention, the NFL's Cowboys are in training camp and the U.S. economy is still going the way it's going.

  5. Twenty-year-old Elvis Andrus is opening the season as the starting shortstop. It seems a bit much to expect him to hit much this season.

  6. Michael Young won a Gold Glove and was bumped from short to third base, but it's pretty standard knowledge it was a bad pick. Even Derek Jeter had a higher UZR, for pity's sake.

  7. In a world gone mad, you need immutables, like knowing the Rangers are usually a good bet to have the worst team ERA in the majors (5.37 last season).

  8. Ian Kinsler, who hit .319/.375/.517 and scored 102 runs during an all-star season in '08, is continuing a noble tradition of productive second basemen who came to play, not to stay. The Rangers have had some heavy hitters play second, such as Young, Julio Franco and Alfonso Soriano, but the franchise leader in games played at the position is Bump Wills. Kinsler, going by his UZR, might have to be bumped to another position.

  9. More than one Texas media outlet has reported the Rangers play nine of their first 12 games against teams which were below .500 last season, implying they'll get on a roll and contend all season. Urgent, much?

  10. Finding out DH Hank Blalock is only 28 brings to mind those college basketball players who seem like they've been around for eight years. His stats from the past two seasons (.290/.347/.524, 35 doubles, 22 homers in 466 at-bats) suggest he can still contribute if his surgically repaired shoulder allows him.

  11. Leftfielder David Murphy absolutely raked when he came up in late 2007, which might have created unrealistically high expectations. His batting average on balls in play after he joined the Rangers was above .400 (the mean is around .290; everyone finds it eventually).

  12. Neftali Feliz was the highest-ranked right-handed pitcher in The Baseball Prospectus Top 100 Prospects, coming in at No. 6 on the overall list. He gets some good leg drive, doesn't he?

  13. Vicente Padilla was the team leader in ERA last season at 4.74. His runs average was 5.26 (some sources are realizing it's a silly tradition to let the pitcher totally off the hook for runs that were scored thanks to fielders' errors).

    This will be a good point of reference when Feliz and Holland are blowing away the competition in a few seasons.

  14. Rightfielder Nelson Cruz will probably put up some Texas-sized counting stats over the next few years, although the era of foolish franchises overpaying for that kind of player are over.

  15. Catcher Taylor Teagarden is not related to Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights' Julie Taylor), insofar as they spell their names differently.

    The stock line with Teagarden is Mickey Tettleton with Gold Glove catching and throwing skills (yep, Baseball Prospectus again, like Stone Phillips, there's nothing they don't know).

  16. By The Beep's reckoning, their starting rotation has ranked 12th, 13th, or 14th in the AL for 10 years throwing. That's mediocrity you can set your watch to (and it's also exactly the same as No. 7, so don't bother pointing that out).

  17. Their Double-A team is the Frisco RoughRiders, which means there is yet another way to spell that name.

  18. They once had an owner, Eddie Chiles, who was noted for the slogan for his energy supply company: "If you don't have an oil well, get one!"

  19. Manager Ron Washington reportedly does not have the authority to pick his coaching staff, which doesn't augur well for his long-term employment.

  20. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo was the first recipient of Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year award. Rebuilding Andruw Jones' swing (not to mention his strike-zone judgment) would be his greatest project.

  21. Derrick Turnbow, who was at one-time a lights-out closer for the Brewers, is somewhere in the recesses of Texas' farm system. He was named in the Mitchell Report, which does make one wonder how much eagerness there is to bring him back up.

  22. Omar Vizquel, at 42 years old, is twice starting shortstop Elvis Andrus' age. A big yes-but whenever someone argues the 11-time Gold Glove winner should be in the Hall of Fame is that he only received one MVP vote his entire career.

    Someone somewhere thought Vizquel was the eighth-best player in the AL in 1999. Matt Stairs got a ninth-place vote that season, for Pete's sake.

    Ozzie Smith got into Cooperstown primarily on his fielding work, but he collected MVP votes in six seasons and was runner-up once.

  23. You can't talk about the Rangers without talking about the Cowboys, who dominate the sporting interesting in Dallas/Fort Worth. The scoreboards at the new Cowboys stadium, will cost more than it did to build their old stadium in 1971. They'll measure 160 by 71 feet and be suspended over the field. It's either disgusting or it's nirvana.

  24. Dubious Rangers trivia: The franchise has been around since 1961 and has not been in the World Series; they also have the longest post-season losing streak at nine games, dating back to October 1996.

  25. You're not ready for ball season until you listen to Brad Holman, a pitching coach in the Rangers system, perform The Loyal Fan. You're just not.

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