Spring Training Trip 2014: Day 2 Entry 2

Last night we went out to Surprise to watch the Rangers and the Cubs. This was the second game of a split squad afternoon for the Rangers. There were more regulars in the lineup here. In fact, the game went 10 innings and Profar and Rios played all 10. 

Alexi Ogando was the starter for the Rangers. His first inning was rough, but he escaped. The second was good. The third was moving along fine until Kevin Kouzmanoff made a two out error. Then the wheels fell off.

Mike Olt hit a two run homerun followed by a homer from Javier Vazquez. By the end of the inning, the Cubs had scored five runs. Ogando came out to pitch the fourth, but before he could throw a pitch, Ron Washington and the Rangers training staff came out and took him back to the dugout. Apparently, he wasn’t hurt but had reached his pitch limit so they had to “fake” an injury to get him off the field. Washington said after the game that it was his fault. He had forgotten to tell Ogando not to go out for the fourth inning.

Overall the Ranger bullpen was excellent. Neftali Felix gave up one run, but a slew of other relievers including Neil Cotts, Jason Fraser, and Joakim Soria were perfect. The Rangers eventually won on a bases loaded infield hit from Michael Choice. Choice has had an incredible spring. So has Jim Adduci, who was also a star last night. Wash is going to have to make a tough decision on who to keep up with the big league club.

We met a unique guy last night. His name is Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers.  Woo Woo is a lifelong Cubs fan who put on a full uniform and was all over the ballpark last night taking pictures and signing autographs. Below is his Wikipedia page. I couldn’t pass up the chance to get a picture with him.

Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers

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It was nice to finally see the Rangers score some runs. We had seen 17 scoreless innings up until last night’s game. But most of the production is coming from guys who may or may not make the big league squad. And, as Ogando continues to struggle, the starting pitcher rotation is still up in the air. Then throw on top of that, currently Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Sin-Soo Choo, Mitch Moreland, and Derek Holland are all dealing with injuries. It has been a tough spring for the Rangers.

No baseball today. We are heading to the Phoenician to play some golf.

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Not a great picture, but those are the Maddux brothers, Mike and Greg.

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Benji.

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Spring Training Trip 2014: Day 2 Entry 1

We went out to Maryvale Baseball Park to see the Rangers play the Brewers for an afternoon game. The Rangers are running split squads today, so the only regular position playing starters for the Milwaukee game were Sin-Soo Choo and Leonys Martin. Martin Perez pitched and was pretty good for three innings. He eventually gave up five runs, though.

Then, the travesty that is Michael Kirkman came on in relief and, immediately walked the bases loaded. My friend Brian and I had earlier discussed the Brewers Mark Reynolds, who is a guy who either strikes out or hits a homerun. Reynolds came up with bases loaded. Brian called a homer, and Reynolds took Kirkman deep to center for a grand slam.

The Rangers didn’t score until the ninth, when Ronald Guzman hit a three run homerun. We had left by then, however. So, we have been to two Ranger games, watched 17  total innings, and have yet to see the Rangers score a run.

We had great seats, though. Right behind the Ranger dugout, first row. The weather was great and the Maryvale Ballpark is probably my favorite one we have visited. It was very open, not crowded, and pretty well shaded. The tickets were the cheapest we’ve seen.  Our seats only cost $17 each. Lawn seats were $8. The most expensive ticket was only $23. That’s just $3 more than lawn seats at the Angels park in Tempe.

There was a booth set up where Rollie Fingers and George Foster were signing and selling autographs to raise money for the Ferguson Jenkins Foundation. I got to meet Mr. Fingers and picked up an autographed MLB ball for my collection. His mustache was as awesome as it has ever been.

We meet my friend Kevin later and head to dinner. Tonight we are going back out to Surprise to see the Rangers other half play the Cubs. Hopefully we will finally see some offense.

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Spring Training Trip 2014: Day 1 Entry 2

Went out to Surprise to see the Rangers play the Royals. First let me say, the drive from Phoenix to Surprise is awful in the afternoon. It consists of non-highway driving through about fifty stop lights, but the traffic is highway type traffic. Imagine driving on hwy. 75 in Dallas at rush hour but with traffic lights every quarter mile.  What should have been a twenty minute drive took an hour and a half.

We ate dinner at a place called Federico’s Mexican Food. It reminded me of a Taco Cabana. Not fast food, but not full fledged sit down restaurant either. It was pretty good though. I would eat there again.

The stadium at Surprise is nice. Parking is free, which was really nice. We had to pay for parking in Tempe earlier in the day. We had seats about seven or eight rows back from home plate just to the first base side. I couldn’t get very good pictures with either my phone camera or the Nikon I brought because they kept focusing on the net behind the plate.

The game itself was pretty bad for the Rangers. Matt Harrison only went 2 2/3 innings in his first start this year. He gave up 3 runs and was getting hit pretty hard when they took him out. I’m hoping that was just first start jitters. The Ranger offense was even worse. They got shut out by Royals pitching. The Royals starter was this little guy named Ventura who was routinely throwing 100-101mph. He added to that a nasty breaking pitch that had all the Rangers baffled. Prince Fielder and Sin-Soo Choo both struck out on just wicked breaking balls in the dirt. One bright spot was Joe Saunders. He gave up a couple of runs but looked good for several innings. He made a nice bid for one of the starter spots with his performance.

The highlight of the night was walking out of our section and finding Jon Daniels, the Rangers General Manager, standing at the top of the steps. He was kind enough to take a picture with me.

I bought my son a t-shirt and got myself a spring training t-shirt. The 12mo. t-shirt was $18, which I thought ridiculously high, but what the heck. It’s the Rangers, it’s Spring Training, and I’m on vacation. Gonna try to find the girl something today.

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Pleas disregard the fat guy on the right.

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Spring Training Trip 2014: Day 1 Entry 1

First game in the books. Saw the Angels play the Giants in Tempe. The Angels have a nice ballpark here. It sits with a giant rock formation back drop on the left field side. That’s also where the lawn seats are. Lawn seats were $20, which I thought a little high. But…the stadium was packed. Lincecum threw for the Giants. I ran into two Ranger fans at the front of the stadium. They were both from Frisco. Our spot on the lawn ended up being next to three ladies who were Ranger fans.

The “characters” were out in full force, as well. One guy had on a Giants jersey with 00 and the name “Greggo” on the back. He eventually ditched the jersey for some topless sunbathing. Another gentleman had on a camo tank top, illegally short shorts, and a fanny pack. He too eventually went sans tank top and also fell asleep with his hat over his face. There was also a plethora of St. Patrick’s day garb.

We went from one weather extreme to another. Low 30s in OKC to high 80s in PHX. The heat wore me out pretty fast.

We head to Surprise tonight to watch the Rangers play the Royals. We have seats behind homeplate for that game. Matt Harrison pitches and we are looking forward to it.

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Kinsler: “I Hope They Go 0-162.” “Daniels is a Sleazeball.”

Sounds like Mr. Pop-up Slump Shoulders got his feelings hurt a bit.  In this story, published in ESPN the Magazine, Kinsler calls Jon Daniels a “sleazeball” for the way he pushed Nolan Ryan out of the organization, and said he hopes his former team doesn’t win a game this season.  Those two comments I really didn’t have a problem with.  I don’t like the way Daniels and the Ranger ownership pushed Nolan out of his leadership role with the team.  On this I agree with Kinsler when he says about Daniels,

He got in good with the owners and straight pushed Ryan out. He thought all the things he should get credit for, Ryan got credit for. It’s just ego. Once we went to the World Series, everybody’s ego got huge, except for Nolan’s.

I also understand a player on another American League team wanting the competition to lose every game.  I hope the Tigers go 0-162, as I do the Angels, the Athletics, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Rays, the Orioles, and so on.

What I do have a problem with is some other things that come out in the article, particularly those about Kinsler’s attitude and his leadership.  The article confirms many of the things I and others have said about Ian over the last two years or so.  He’s selfish and he doesn’t play hard when he gets his feelings hurt.

First, after the Rangers traded Michael Young to the Phillies, the team had a leadership void in the clubhouse.  So, they looked to their veteran second baseman to help fill that void.  That seems reasonable given that Ian would have been the longest tenured Ranger at that point (I believe, someone can check me on this).  However, Ian didn’t want anything to do with that role:

“They wanted me to lead these young players, teach them the way to compete, when the only thing I should be worried about is how I’m performing in the game.”

God forbid they ask a veteran “superstar” (I use the term loosely) to step up and take a leadership role, helping younger players get better for the benefit of the entire team.  But, Kinsler was only worried about himself.

Second, when the Rangers brought up Jurickson Profar they asked Kinsler to consider playing 1B.  For Ian, this was just too much to ask:

In a moment of veteran pride and defiance of youth, Kinsler declared second his domain. “These guys gotta earn it; that’s what I did,” he says. “I was a 17th-round pick, so there was zero coddling. I had to put myself on the prospect map.” In other words: No kid was taking his job.

Again, Ian wasn’t concerned with what might be better for the team.  He was only worried about himself and his pride.  Would moving Ian to first and putting Profar at second all season paid off?  Who knows.  It’s clear that the Ranger brass felt that was the best move, either for that season or for the future of the team.  Either way, Ian refused to move, and the Rangers gave in.  The team missed the playoffs for the second year in a row, and Ian posted his second worse statistical season.

Really, all this story does is confirm what we already knew.  Daniels’s ego couldn’t exist with someone as loved and adored by fans as Nolan Ryan.  And, Ian Kinsler is a selfish player, who isn’t a leader, and performs poorly when he gets his feelings hurt.   Just one more reason to believe the trade for Prince Fielder put the Rangers in a much better position moving forward.

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I Think Perhaps I was Shooting a Little Low with This One

I saw this post I made last year.  It made me chuckle a little that I thought at the time a good pickup might be to bring Napoli back to play 1B.  I still think Napoli is a good player and had other things not panned out he would have been a decent guy to return to Arlington.  It appears however, that Jon Daniels was shooting a little higher than I was with his acquisition of Prince Fielder.  Just goes to show why I’m not a general manager.  Would Napoli have been fun to bring back?  Sure.  But I’m pretty sure the Rangers are WAY better off with Fielder playing 1B this season.

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Ron Washington/Rangers One of the Worst Teams in Using Pitchers Effectively

I saw this article in the Dallas Morning News.  It discusses this paper presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytic Conference.  The paper makes a very strong case for something that myself and others have been saying for a few years.  Ron Washington is an awful in-game manager, and one of his main weaknesses is his use of pitchers.  In fact, the research presented in the paper argues that the Rangers would have won 4.7 more games last season, squarely putting them into the playoffs, had the pitchers been managed better.  The author, Hamilton Marx, makes a pretty strong case for teams to use what he calls, “An Army of Super-Relievers,” where managers, rather than using a starter to go 5-7 innings, employs a number of pitchers per game, who pitch 2-3 innings.  The theory is based on the fact that batters gain a considerable advantage over pitchers the more times they see them in a game.  If managers would move to a system where batters were only able to see the same pitcher once, or at most twice, during a game, that advantage would drop considerably.  Marx finds that the Rangers were the third WORST team in the majors last year for pitching efficiency, only behind the Yankees and Mets.

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