Tagged: Chicago Cubs

2011 shaping up

I hope that all of you had a fantastic holiday season! I got some great baseball stuff for Christmas!

My Aunt Paula got me a dozen clear plastic baseball cubes so that I can display some more of my autographed baseballs, and my dad got me 2 more, so I was super excited about that. I still need at least another dozen, but it’s a great start! And I’m planning to keep getting autographs, so I hope my family keeps ’em coming!

But the best thing was that my dad got me one of the Michael Young bats that was designed when he became the franchise hits leader this season! They only made 2010 bats, and mine came with a certificate stating that it was number 109!!

My dad said he got it several months ago, so it has just been sitting at his house waiting for Christmas!

My mom and step-dad also got me a framed picture that says “Texas Rangers,” but each letter of “Rangers” has a different picture. The first one is the famous Nolan Ryan picture with the bloody jersey after Robin Ventura charged the mound, and all of the other pictures are from the 2010 season, including Josh Hamilton, Vladdy, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Neftali Feliz, etc.

I think those were all of my baseball-related Christmas gifts, but a few days ago I purchased my 2011 20-game Mini Plan! Woo-hoo!!!

I know I haven’t blogged since Cliff Lee decided to go to the Phillies, so some of you may think that it caused me to go into a massive depression and I couldn’t bear to write about baseball.

The truth is that I just got busy. It’s easy to put baseball on the back burner when it’s not baseball season. And the longer I wait, the more stuff happens and I get farther and farther behind. So bear with me, okay?

Alright, in the last month (after Cliff Lee left), Zack Greinke was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and Matt Garza was traded to the Chicago Cubs. Uh oh. That means all the good pitchers are gone, right?

Wrong. (Hopefully)

After the Greinke trade but before the Garza trade, the Rangers signed Brandon Webb. When I first heard the name, I knew it sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember why.

As it turns out, Webb won the Cy Young while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006. But he hasn’t played in a Major League game in the past 2 years because he’s been recovering/rehabbing from a shoulder injury/surgery.

I have a good feeling about Brandon Webb, and his surgery was performed by Rangers’ team doctor Dr. Keith Meister, so THAT’S gotta be good. But Brandon Webb could be to 2011 what Rich Harden was to 2010. Who knows, right?

The Rangers also signed lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes, and I knew his name was familiar as well. He is 41 years old! But he made it to the All-Star team for the first time last year as the representative from the Cincinnati Reds.

He has been in the Major Leagues since 1991, and his age doesn’t seem to be adversely affecting him. He missed all of the 2007 season due to Tommy John surgery, but in the last 3 years since the surgery he’s had a 2.32 ERA and an opponent’s batting average of .204. Not too shabby!

He’s also a native Texan, which is always nice.

But the Rangers’ biggest aquisition this off-season is at what was previously considered a very stable position: 3rd base.

Michael Young is the face of the Texas Rangers, having spent all of his time in the majors on this team and even holding the franchise record for hits. He is signed through 2013. But since his move to 3rd base 2 years ago, his defensive ability seems to have taken a hit.

It had been suggested by numerous blogs (maybe even mine, but I don’t remember) that Young might be better used as a DH. And that is exactly what MY offered to do when Adrian Beltre became available as an option for the Texas Rangers.

Beltre accepted a 6-year $96 million dollar deal from the Texas Rangers, and he will be our 3rd baseman of the future. I’ve always liked Adrian Beltre, but since he’s 31 years old, I’m not too comfortable with giving him such a long contract.

But Beltre has won 2 Gold Gloves at 3rd base and is obviously defensively superior to Michael Young. No offense, Mikey, but the Rangers now have the strongest left side in all of baseball with Beltre at 3rd and Elvis Andrus at shortstop.

The only thing that makes me sad about adding Beltre? No more Vladdy. Michael Young has become the DH of the near future, so there’s no longer an open spot for Vladdy.

I know his performance took a sharp downward turn midway through last season, but I just love Vladdy. His personality seemed to fit perfectly in the Rangers’ clubhouse, and his quick smile is so contagious. I’ll miss you, Big Bad Vlad.

Now the Rangers are rumored to be courting Jim Thome to take turns at DH with Michael Young. Since MY can play all 4 infield positions, I’m sure the Rangers can work out a schedule where Young spends half his time at DH and the other half giving the other guys in the infield a break.

Jim Thome seems to make more sense for the Rangers at DH than Vlad for 2011, especially in light of this article by BBTiA a few weeks ago. It predicts that Thome will probably expect 350-400 plate appearances in 2011, whereas Vlad would probably expect somewhere around 600 or so.

Thome is also generally regarded as a good clubhouse guy, so that’s promising. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

The Rangers’ Winter Caravan has kicked off, and I’m planning to attend 2 of the appearances to gather some more autographs to my collection.

Then on January 22-23, the Rangers will be hosting their first 2-day Fan Fest, and I can’t wait to see what that entails! Some good stuff coming up!

Pitchers and catchers report in: 34 days

When does baseball season start???

I love the fact that the baseball season spans 7 months… from April through October. That’s a long time! But for the Rangers, it only lasts through September, because they haven’t made the post-season in over a decade. We’re hoping to change that in 2010, but let’s not put the cart before the horse, okay?

So around this time of year, I really start itching for some baseball. It’s already been 3 whole months since the Rangers have played in an official major league game. And I still have 2 more months until Spring Training starts.

But even after Spring Training starts, I’ll still have to wait another month before I’ll get to witness a game. I can’t afford to make a trek out to Surprise, Arizona to see any Spring Training games. Of course. But at least I know that by the time Spring Training starts, my wait is almost over. And I can look forward to 6 more months of Rangers baseball. 🙂

Or maybe even 7 months.

The Rangers’ Hot Stove has really been more of a lukewarm stove in the last few weeks. The only news is that Marlon Byrd officially signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs for 3 years and $15 million dollars.

This was a bit surprising, because I thought Marlon would command a bigger paycheck. Not that $5 million a year is pocket change, but you know what I mean. The Rangers could have afforded that. So why didn’t they? That’s the question that no one is answering.

I know that our ownership situation is in flux right now, and that we don’t have much money to work with, but… come on!! It’s Marlon Byrd! He was one of the Rangers’ top performers last year!

Maybe the Rangers balked at the idea of signing Marlon for 3 years. Maybe they didn’t have enough money left in the budget. Maybe Marlon really wanted to go to the Cubbies so that he could stay with Rudy Jaramillo. I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know: Marlon Byrd will leave a big hole in the Rangers’ lineup… and in their clubhouse too.

Elvis Andrus doesn’t want to be my friend on Facebook. Sad day.

TR Sullivan sent me an email last week suggesting that a join the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, which is a group of baseball bloggers from all over the nation. He said they needed more representation from Texas. So now I am officially Member #116 of the BBA! And who is the other blogger in the BBA that writes about the Texas Rangers, you ask? Why, it’s none other than Mr. Jamey Newberg himself! That’s pretty good company to keep!

When I emailed TR to thank him for sending me the link and to tell him that I am now a member, he wrote me back to say that:

1) Three editors from mlb.com writers told him how much they liked the story, which is very very rare;

2) My story was the front page lead story on mlb.com on Christmas Day; and

3) Chuck Greenberg himself texted TR to tell him how much he liked the story and how much he was hoping to meet me! Wow!!

I received an email today from my contact in the Texas Rangers ticket office, and she told me that I get to pick my seats for my mini-season ticket plan on January 18th! Yippee!!! I’m so excited! And I’m only 6th on the list (since I got my mini-plan so early), so I should get some really good seats! YAY!!!!!!!

I know I don’t usually talk about this kind of thing here, but I need to blow off some steam. What is up with guys?? Dating is so confusing! Why can’t dating be more like baseball?

Baseball has clearly defined rules, and I like that. I’m a very straightforward person, and I believe in open, honest comminication. You need lots of communication in baseball to play the game well. You have to know what your teammates are going to do in order to act in concert. If someone misinterprets a sign, it can cause all sorts of problems.

For example, I remember a game the Rangers played sometime in September of 2009 when Julio Borbon thought that he saw the sign that he could steal a base. In actuality, he was given the ‘DON’T steal’ sign. So he was tagged out at 2nd base when he tried to steal. Those kinds of things don’t happen very often in major league baseball, because by the time a player reaches the Bigs he understands how important communication is to the game. And I wasn’t too mad at Julio, because he had only been in the Bigs a few weeks at that point.

But apparently, some 29-year-old guys don’t understand that communication is also important in relationships. And texting is not always the best form of communication. Sometimes you need to talk face-to-face to understand the situation at hand.

Pitchers and catchers get that sometimes you need to talk in person. A catcher gives signs to the pitcher saying what pitch he should throw. When they can’t decide, or when one of them is having trouble understanding, they meet halfway and discuss it until they can come to a resolution. How hard is that???

There are all sorts of other comparisons that I could make, but it really just makes me tired.

Mourning the loss of Rudy Jaramillo

Rudy Jaramillo is the best hitting coach in baseball. Not just in the American League, but in all of baseball. And he was the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers for 15 years. He has spent 26 of his 31 years in baseball with the Rangers. But not anymore.

Last week, word came down that the 59-year-old Jaramillo had declined the Rangers’ offer of a one-year contract with a 3% raise (on top of his already league-leading salary). He apparently wanted more security, even though Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels said that “Jaramillo specifically mentioned that the one-year offer was not a factor in his decision to leave the club.” Maybe he just got restless after all his time in Texas and just decided on a change of scenery. Who knows?

After the Rangers’ unimpressive offensive production this year, it’s understandable that they wouldn’t want to commit to Jaramillo for multiple years in the future. It’s also widely known that owner Tom Hicks doesn’t have much money to spread around, so Jaramillo wouldn’t be able to obtain a Yankee-esque salary. But as I said, Rudy is already the highest-paid hitting coach in the majors, and the Rangers were gonna give him a raise, albeit a small one.

But it was reported today that Jaramillo has signed a deal with the Chicago Cubs. “The Cubs gave Jaramillo a three-year contract, reportedly worth $2.42 million.” Yikes, that’s a lot of money. Rudy’s final-year salary with the Rangers was $650,000. With this new deal, he’ll be getting an average of approximately $150,000 more per year.

Well, at least Rudy is going to the National League. I truly wish him all the best in Chicago. I like the Cubbies. I mean, come on, how can you NOT like the Cubbies?? They’re very likeable. The thing is, I don’t know who can fill his shoes here in Texas.

In the midst of the playoff races, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what the Rangers need to do to truly become a post-season team. They already have what they need to make it TO the playoffs; they could have gotten there this year if not for a few things that didn’t come together just so.

But it’s not about just getting TO the playoffs; it’s about proving that you actually BELONG there. In watching the NLDS, the ALDS, the NLCS and the ALCS, I’ve come to realize that the Phillies, the Angels and (God forgive me) the Yankees and the Dodgers are truly post-season teams.

They play at a higher level. They don’t just inexplicably collapse. And if they DO inexplicably collapse, then they can recover quickly. I don’t feel like the Rangers have the cohesiveness to do that. They’re just not there yet.

I feel like the Rangers were very fortunate to have a lot of great things drop in their collective lap this year: outstanding pitching, an increase in our defense taking us from good to great, getting Pudge after Salty got hurt, Mike Maddux, and the amazing performances of nearly a dozen rookies who made it to the Bigs during this last season.

But the hitting took a plunge. Of course, it’s hard to decide where to lay blame: with all of the hitters (and a disproportionately large number of rookies), or with the hitting coach. And a lot of people decided to blame Rudy.

I am not one of those people. I’ve always been a good mediator in arguments, because I have the ability to see both points of view. Of course, it makes it very difficult for me to make decisions, but that’s not the point. Rudy has been our hitting coach for the last 15 years, like I said, and in that time, the Texas Rangers have largely been known for their great hitting. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Conclusion: Rudy Jaramillo is amazing.

But the Rangers’ offense did have a sharp drop-off this year. So maybe Rudy is losing his touch, or he’s unable to connect with our 20-something rookies, and the upcoming generation as a whole. But if that’s the case, then why is it happening now all of a sudden? Why not last year? Or next year?

I don’t think the Rangers’ offensive woes can be blamed solely on one person. I think it just comes down to a bunch of players having an off-year all at the same time. Which sucks, but what are you gonna do?

So no matter what the reasoning (i.e. length of contract or salary or restlessness or whatever), Jaramillo is gone. The Cubs are better off for their acquisition, and the Rangers will find it difficult to get an adequete replacement. A lot of names have been thrown around, but apparently Ron Washington and Jon Daniels “have not yet begun the interview process.”

My vote is for Scott Coolbaugh, who is currently the hitting coach for the AAA Oklahoma Redhawks. He straightened out Chris Davis this year, and he has a history with every single Rangers’ player that has spent any time in AAA. I think we should keep it in the family.

But, then again, I don’t know all of the candidates. So I guess we’ll see. And I’ll be there for 21 home games next season, supporting my Rangers all the way, no matter who they get. Good luck, boys!