Tagged: Justin Smoak

Off-day ramblings

Yesterday was an off-day, so there was no Rangers’ game for me to dissect today. Instead, I want to address a couple of things that I’ve meant to talk about but haven’t gotten around to.

First and foremost is the Rangers’ ownership situation. Today is August 3, and an auction for the team is set to take place tomorrow (August 4). It is very rare for a major league ball club to be auctioned off, so this kind of puts us in uncharted waters.

I have been planted firmly in the Greenberg/Ryan camp from the beginning, and that hasn’t changed. I still really want them to get the team, but apparently, it doesn’t seem likely that they will get the team.

All of this ownership stuff has been very confusing, what with the bankruptcy situation and all of the angry creditors and such. So I’m not even pretending to know what’s going on or what might happen.

But other people (who may or may not know more than I do) don’t seem to think that the Greenberg/Ryan group will be victorious tomorrow.

Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is said to be deeply rooted in the mix of other potential bidders. The notion of Cuban getting the Rangers absolutely infuriates me.

Yes, he has plenty of money. He’s been very smart with his money. After the Tom Hicks Debacle and dealing with a team that has been flat broke for the past several years, this appears to be quite an attractive possibility.

But ultimately, you have to realize that Mark Cuban is a tool. And we don’t need another George Seinbrenner in Texas.

I’m not trying to imply that George Steinbrenner was a tool. But he did get really involved with the Yankees in areas that ownership doesn’t usually go. He was known to be hotheaded, hiring and firing people at the drop of a hat.

George Steinbrenner set up the Yankees so that they have the highest payroll in all of Major League Baseball by $44 million dollars. A-Rod is being paid $33 million this year, which is almost the entire budget of the Pittsburgh Pirates for 2010 (the Pirates are at $34.9 mil).

I’m not saying that there should be a salary cap in baseball. But I am saying that if you have a bottomless pit of money, then players are just going to start asking for more and more money just because they can. And it drives up prices all over baseball.

This is the whole premise behind why I hate the Yankees. I realize that the Yankees have a rich history, especially going back to the days of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and Yogi Berra and Lou Gehrig.

But now they’re just the team that has the most money, and the elite players go there because they’ll get paid the most there.

The Yankees have the top 4 players with the highest salary in all of baseball (A-Rod, CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira), and just their 4 salaries alone is over $100 million. That’s just ridiculous.

Cuban, like Steinbrenner, has more money than God. And Cuban is way too emotionally invested in every aspect of the game. But then again, Steinbrenner actually liked baseball. Cuban doesn’t. I’m just going off of what Cuban has done with the Mavericks.

Yes, it’s true that since Cuban has done great things with the Mavericks. Since he bought them 10 years ago, they have been to the playoffs every single year. He has paid obscene amounts of money to get great basketball players to come to Texas.

But he also sits courtside at every game (home and away), screaming obscenities at the officials and at the other team’s players. He has had to pay at least $1.665 million in fines because of 13 separate incidents, including as recently as May 22 when he spoke out against LeBron James. The Rangers don’t need that kind of publicity.

Okay, I’m going to stop ranting now. I hope that what I’ve just said makes sense. When I get this heated over a subject, sometimes I make connections in my head that don’t exactly translate to the written word.

In other news, the Rangers are 8 games up on both the Angels and the A’s, because Oakland won yesterday and LA had an off-day (just like the Rangers did).

I kind of feel bad for poor Seattle, because they’re 22.5 games back in the AL West. I was predicting them to be more of a threat this year than the Angels and the A’s.

Speaking of Seattle, Justin Smoak has recently been demoted to AAA Tacoma, where he can hang out with fellow trade-bait Blake Beavan. Beavan was recently promoted from Seattle’s AA affiliate to AAA Tacoma.

Michael Schlact posted a great blog today about the impact of all of these trades on the Rangers’ minor league system. It’s a great insider’s perspective. You can read it here.

It’s probably about time I started talking about Rich Harden. I was not at all impressed with how he started off the season for the Rangers, and I was about ready to give up on him when he surprised everyone with a breakout performance in Oakland on Monday, May 3.

I was willing to give him a bit of leeway after that stellar game, but by the end of May, I had given up hope again. I was praying that the Rangers would get wise and send him back to AAA until he learned his lesson.

And in the middle of June, Rich went on the DL with a “left glut strain.” I’m sure Rich was a little sore, but he may not have been injured enough to actually go on the DL under normal circumstances.

I think the Rangers said, “Okay, here’s the deal, Rich. You’re not producing. So you can either:
  1)go straight to AAA (do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200) or
  2)go on the DL, get some rest, get your act together, and try again.”

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Rich was legitimately injured. Either way, he made his post-DL debut on this past Saturday in Anaheim, and he was the same guy from May 3 against Oakland!

He allowed just one run over 7 innings of work, and he only threw 88 pitches (62 for strikes). He ended up getting the W, and I would venture to say that it is only the 2nd win that Harden has actually earned this year.

Scott Feldman has generally been producing like Rich Harden had been this year, meaning that he just hasn’t had commanding stuff, wasn’t going deep enough in games, and has been generally ineffective. But with Harden and Derek Holland both on the DL, there wasn’t really anyone who could take his place.

Something had to be done about Feldman, though, if the Rangers were going to continue their post-season bid. I figured that Harden would make a couple of starts until Derek Holland came off the DL to permanently take Harden’s/Feldman’s spot in the rotation.

But instead, Rich blew everyone away with his performance. Now let’s just hope it stays that way. But I suppose if Harden tanks again, we can still replace him with Holland.

Tonight kicks off a 3-game series in Seattle, followed by a 3-game series in Oakland this weekend. Then the Rangers come back home, but they have to face the Yankees and the Red Sox. Yikes.

Tonight it’s Colby Lewis (9-7, 3.40 ERA) against Seattle’s Jason Vargas (6-5, 3.20 ERA). According to the numbers, they seem about equal. So I guess we’ll have to see!

I’m actually grateful that the game doesn’t start until 9:10 Central tonight, because after I leave work today I have to ride the DART bus/train for an hour to Garland so that I can pick up my car from the shop. Hey, at least the A/C is finally fixed! Go Rangers!!

Overall Rangers’ record: 61-44
My Rangers’ record: 13-7
Days ’til my next game: 11

Elvis Weekend was great!

Elvis Andrus
Yes, I know I haven’t posted anything since Friday afternoon. I realize that there have been 3 Rangers’ games in that time period. But I attended the games on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday was dedicated to watching the game on tv and trying to get everything else done that I needed to do this weekend. So I’ve been kinda busy.

This was a great weekend for baseball. The weather was absolutely perfect, and Elvis Weekend was a can’t-miss gimmick at RBIA.

Friday
I went to the game with my friend Mary, and we met Wes Wilson and his son Brady at the stadium. Brady is an absolutely precious 5-year-old with a passion for baseball. He was really interested in the game, and he kept asking Wes questions about the game. So cute!!

The Rangers jumped out to a lead early in the game, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the 1st inning. They tacked on another run in the bottom of the 4th before the Tigers were able to answer with 2 runs of their own in the top of the 5th. 3-2 Rangers.

But then the Rangers scored another run in the bottom of the 5th, taking the score to 4-2 Rangers. And that’s where the score stayed until the top of the 9th inning.

Neftali Feliz
The seemingly invincible Neftali Feliz took the mound, striking out the first batter. The second batter lined out to the 2nd baseman, so the Rangers just needed one more out to win the game.

Austin Jackson singled. Then Johnny Damon doubled. Uh-oh. Next Magglio Ordoñez singled in both runners to tie the game at 4-4. Nooooooo!!!!!!!! Then Miguel Cabrera flied out, ending the inning. And the bottom part of our order was coming up.

As Justin Smoak approached the plate, I was nervous. He’d just been called up from AAA and hadn’t gotten a hit yet in the Bigs. But he has been very patient at the plate, and he worked a walk. Nice! Then Matt Treanor laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Smoak to 2nd base.

Joaquin Arias went in to run for Smoak, and Ryan Garko pinch-hit for Andres Blanco. They decided to intentionally walk Garko, giving us runners on 1st and 2nd with one out.

Then came the big guns. Nelson Cruz came in to pinch-hit for Julio Borbon. And he took another walk, loading up the bases for the player of honor, Elvis Andrus.

And Elvis singled on a line drive to center field!! Joaquin Arias scored, bringing the final score to 5-4 Rangers! Wow, that was awesome! Then we got to see a great fireworks show set to Elvis (Presley) music! Also of note: Frank Francisco pitched a perfect inning of relief in the 7th.

Saturday
Elvis bobblehead

This game wasn’t anywhere near as entertaining, although I was looking forward to getting the Elvis Andrus bobblehead and seeing Scott Feldman dominate the Tigers. Too bad the bobblehead was the only good part of the day.
The Rangers got out to an early lead of 4-0 in the first two innings.

And then the game went in the crapper.

Feldman gave up 3 runs in the top of the 3rd, and two of those were scored before Feldman was able to record the first out of the inning. Things were starting to look ominous. But the Rangers still had the lead, 4-3, so there was promise.
Scott Feldman
Until the top of the 4th, when the Tigers scored 5 more runs. Yikes. It all started off with Feldy giving up a lead-off walk to start the inning. Don’t you know that usually comes back to bite you???
Then, with runners on 2nd and 3rd, Scott Feldman threw a wild pitch, allowing the runner on 3rd to score. Michael Young came in from 3rd to grab the ball and tossed it to Taylor Teagarden, who missed it as the other runner came in to score from 2nd base. Doh!!!
And it just kept getting worse. We finally got out of the inning, but there were 5 more runs on the board by the Tigers. Feldman only lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up 4 earned runs. It’s not so bad, I thought. We still have 5 1/2 more innings of baseball to play. We could come back.
But nothing else happened for the rest of the game on either side, and the Rangers lost 4-8. Oh well. At least I got an Elvis bobblehead, and I got to hang out at the ballpark on a beautiful day!

Sunday
It was an afternoon game, and they said the weather was perfect once again. Sunday’s giveaway was a red Elvis Andrus jersey to kids 13 and under, and you could see them dotted throughout the crowd in the stands. I was feeling optimistic, and I couldn’t wait to get the bad taste of Saturday night’s game out of my mouth.

Colby Lewis

But it didn’t start off too well for the Rangers. Colby Lewis allowed 8 of the first 11 batters he faced to reach base. The Rangers came up to bat in the bottom of the 1st inning already down 3-0.

Michael Young, who is always reliable, got on base with a single. Then David Murphy went yard, bringing the score to 3-2 Tigers.

In the top of the 2nd inning, the Tigers added another run, making it 4-2. But Mike Maddux must have said something to Colby that really made a difference after that run was scored, because Colby didn’t allow any more runs in his 6 1/3 innings pitched.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the Rangers were able to add 4 runs to overtake the Tigers 6-4. Then they added 2 more runs in the bottom of the 5th inning, bringing the score to 8-4 for the second day in a row, but with a different winner this time.

Michael Young
I don’t know what Colby’s problem was, but the important thing is that he overcame it and gave the Rangers several quality innings. Colby retired 15 straight batters after his initial hiccup, and he earned his 3rd win. Michael Young drove in 5 of the Rangers’ 8 runs.

Tonight’s game will mark the 4th game in this series against the Tigers, and Matt Harrison will take the mound against Jeremy Bonderman. Harrison only lasted 4 innings in his last outing, but his first two starts were good, even though he didn’t get a win in either one of them. He’s still 0-1 for 2010.

Newberg Report Night

I got this from the blog “Texas Rangers Trades” (http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/). Apparently the blog writer got to go to some kind of press conference or something about the Rangers. It was called “Newberg Report Night,” referring to Jamey Newberg. I didn’t know they had a “Newberg Report Night.” Anyway, there was some great info:

Will Carroll and Kevin Goldstein (both from Baseball Prospectus) were the first guests and were already up there hanging out when we arrived, even though they weren’t supposed to start until 4:00. They started taking questions at about 3:00 and went for 90 minutes. Will was great as always. This was the first time I had met Kevin. Both of them seem to know everything that’s going on in baseball and they’re funny too.

Here are some of the questions that I asked and their answers:
Q: What was the strategy of the Mariners and Reds at the trading deadline, when they both traded prospects for veterans, and then traded veterans for prospects?
A: Mariners: They have a long-term strategy, and they think that the Mariners are way ahead of where they thought they would be, although Will and Kevin are still trying to figure out the Jack Wilson trade.
Reds: They don’t understand what the Reds did with getting Scott Rolen. They said that they are confused by it and that the Reds got him because they could for a reasonably cheap price, even though Kevin wonders what it does for the team.

Q: What was the most surprising trade to you?
A: The Jake Peavy trade because nobody saw it coming and there were no rumors whatsoever. They also said that it might be the best trade and that it came so quickly, they didn’t even talk to the medical people because apparently this deal got done in minutes.

Q: What teams do you think are best at starting pitching and relief pitching?
A: Starting Pitching: Red Sox and Giants
Relief Pitching: Brewers

Will and Kevin also said that if the Rangers traded Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hunter, Wilfredo Boscan, and Thomas Diamond, it would be about the equivalent of what the White Sox gave up for Peavy, and if the Rangers traded Wilfredo Boscan and Tommy Hunter, it would be about the equivalent of what the Tigers gave up for Jarrod Washburn. Kevin also said that he could see Justin Smoak and Kasey Kiker coming up to the majors around this time next year.

After the Will and Kevin Q&A, Jamey auctioned off some prizes, with proceeds going to the Hello Win Column Fund. They raised thousands of dollars, which was great. There were two items that were very exciting for me personally. First, I won an inning in the TV booth with Josh Lewin and Tom Grieve! That was awesome. Second, I had donated one of the items for auction (a baseball with autographs from a lot of different Rangers players) and it went for $200.

Then, at 5:00, Jon Daniels came in and did 90 minutes of Q&A. When Jon kicked off the Q&A he said ‘I typically open up with Grant but his questions are usually a little challenging so I’m going to warm up with a few others first.’

I was able to ask the following three questions:
Q: Can you please name 3-5 minor leaguers who are most likely to be called up and have an impact on this year’s pennant race, including at least one who’s not currently on the 40-man roster?
A: ‘A handful of guys have the chance to play some role for us either as part of a September call-up or earlier. I think guys like Julio Borbon, Doug Mathis, and Guillermo Moscoso have done nice jobs while they’ve been up here. I think (Neftali) Feliz is certainly an option. Esteban German has had a very good year for us. I think he has the chance to help us in some regard. He’d be a nice guy for any contending club to have on their bench down the stretch.’ (Note that Mathis and Feliz were activated for that evening’s game.)

Q: The Rangers have managed to remove a number of players from their 40-man roster over the last couple of years, get them through waivers, reassign them to the minors, and then repurchase their contracts later to help the major league team, like Nelson Cruz and Doug Mathis. Is there a key to the timing of these moves that increases your chances of keeping the player?
A: ‘Absolutely. Nelson Cruz cleared waivers right at the beginning of the season. That’s the toughest time to claim a guy on waivers just because you have your roster set, your big league club’s set, and you’re breaking camp. Unless it’s a slam dunk upgrade, everyone just says ‘hey, let’s go with our own’ rather than taking someone else’s discard. So I think that’s probably the easiest time to slide a guy through waivers. Mathis was a non-tender re-sign. In that situation, it’s basically explaining to the player the options and, if they agree to resign with you at that point, you can give them some things that they might not get as free agents. That’s more of a leverage situation than anything.’

Q: Can you name three Rangers prospects that are not on most people’s radars who have made their way onto your radar?
A: ‘I’ll put (Jurickson) Profar on there. I’ll put Leury Garcia on there, shortstop at Hickory. And I’ll put Tim Murphy on there.’

Other interesting comments from Jon in answer to questions:
· After receiving a huge round of applause when someone thanked him for not trading some of the guys that were rumored to be traded, Jon said ‘I’ll do nothing more often. That was awesome.’
· Jon was asked why he didn’t wait a month or so to promote Elvis so that he could keep control of him for an extra year. He said that they looked at it and talked about it but it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. To tell Elvis that he’s the shortstop but that they were going to wait a few weeks because they wanted to exploit his arbitration eligibility didn’t feel right. There are certain times you make business decisions and separate your emotions from those decisions, but they were telling this 20-year old kid that they believed in him and he would be a big part of the club. Plus they were telling the players on the big league club ‘Hey, trust us on this’. He felt it would have been talking out of both sides of their mouth. They would rather deal with the financial consequences than create a potentially divisive situation.
· When asked about the media not giving much coverage to the Rangers, he said that he doesn’t totally buy into it just being because Dallas is a football town. A lot of it is because the Rangers haven’t won to create the fan base and interest. He feels that the media will cover whoever the fans tell them to cover.
· They’re still watching Ben Sheets to see if he’s an option for next year.
· When asked if the starting center fielder for next year is in the organization, he said that candidates internally are Hamilton, Byrd, and Borbon. He feels that one of them will very likely be starting for the Rangers in center field next year.
· When asked why Borbon was brought up earlier this year if he wasn’t going to play, Jon said that he doesn’t completely buy into the philosophy that you shouldn’t call a top prospect up if he isn’t going to play every day. He feels that Borbon got a lot out of the experience.
· He typically goes out to see the A clubs once per year. He sees Frisco and Oklahoma City more often.
· 90% of trade rumors reported are inaccurate.
· When asked who would be called up if Salty or Teagarden were hurt, Jon said that Max Ramirez would be recovered from his injury soon. Manny Pina would also be considered, especially since he’s Rule 5 eligible this year. Richardson and Frostad could also do the job in the short term.
· Main internal candidates for the starting rotation next season are Kevin Millwood (he expects him to vest his option), Scott Feldman, Vicente Padilla (the club has an option on him), Matt Harrison, Brandon McCarthy, Derek Holland, and Tommy Hunter. Others in the mix are Neftali Feliz, Dustin Nippert, Guillermo Moscoso, and Doug Mathis. The position will be high on the list of priorities during the off season.
· When asked if it bothers him when a player like Halladay doesn’t want to come to Texas, he said that it does a little bit but that it’s sort of like his answer about media coverage. The team needs to win first and then people will be more i
nterested in coming here.
· The cost to put a dome on the ballpark is prohibitive plus the ballpark wasn’t engineered to facilitate something like that. There’s a company that said they can put a screen over the park to lower the temperature 10 degrees. But odds are that there’s really not a realistic option to help with the heat.
· Benoit is throwing. There’s a chance he could be back in September but it’s unlikely.
· People need to keep in mind that Josh Hamilton is still recovering from surgery.
· They’re not trying to preach a philosophy of more pitches per plate appearance. He doesn’t think that it directly correlates to success. Getting a good pitch to hit is directly correlated to success.
· They’ve discussed moving McCarthy to the bullpen to ease the strain on his shoulder. They’re focusing on a starter’s routine during his rehab, which allows them to go either way with it. He’s pitched in the bullpen successfully in the big leagues. It will depend on what their needs are when he’s ready to come back.
· They’re not sure why Blake Beavan’s velocity is down but he’s 20 years old and time is on their side. They’re going to let him keep pitching and see if it improves.
· He would be in favor of moving the deadline for signing draft picks up to June 30th. It would be a challenge to sign them quicker but it would let them have the rest of the summer to focus on other things and also let the players start playing and getting on with their development sooner.
· Chris Davis is still very much in their plans. He will be a strong consideration for a September call-up, if not before then.
· Eric Hurley’s on pace to be 100% for spring training.
· Jurickson Profar will likely be developed as a position player not a pitcher. He thinks he’ll be one of the top shortstop position player prospects in the game.
· He expects that Tanner Scheppers would start out higher than Low-A to start his minor league career.
· Right now, Chris Davis is better defensively than Justin Smoak.

Yay for Chris Davis! At least they haven’t forgotten about him!

Last night’s game summary later. They lost right at the end… boo. BUT… Neftali Feliz awed everybody with a pretty spectacular MLB debut!

My daily Chris Davis fix:
my husband, Chris Davis
Days since CD has been in the majors: 30

The trade deadline has come and gone…

…and no Roy Halliday. No anybody.

There is no news of the Rangers being involved in any trades. Apparently, Toronto wanted 4 prospects/players for Halladay, including Derek Holland and Justin Smoak. Julio Borbon and Tommy Hunter’s names were also supposedly mentioned, but I don’t know if they wanted all 4 of those guys together or if those were just a few of many names that were thrown around. But apparently, the Rangers said “No way, absolutely not” to giving up Derek Holland. I don’t see how the Rangers could consider handing over both Holland AND Hunter, since both are in our starting rotation, and we would only be getting 1 starter in return. Who would be our 5th starter if we gave up both of our stellar rookies? {ugh} I shudder to think of the ramifications of a deal like that. So, I’m REALLY GLAD they didn’t made a trade.

I’ve been watching/listening to MLB.com’s “Trade Deadline Live” coverage for the last few hours, and I just heard Ken Rosenthal say that the Blue Jays’ shot at getting the best deal for Halladay would have been before this deadline. But I guess they must not think so. Anyway, who knows if we’ll be talking about Roy Halladay again in August or in the off-season trade talks? Maybe this will be one of those things where, a few years down the line, we say “hey, remember when the Rangers were talking about giving up [insert prospect’s name here] for Roy Halladay?” “I’m so glad we didn’t do that” or “Man, I wish we could have done that!” Only time will tell.

the looming trade deadline

I’m getting really nervous about what the Rangers are going to do before the trade deadline. The Rangers have the best farm system in all of Major League Baseball, and we certainly have a lot of diamonds in the rough. Do we trade some of our best prospects for some big-name players that could help us now? I know the Rangers have been doing a great job this year, and I would love for them to make it to the playoffs more than anything in the world. But is it really possible for the Rangers to make it to the post-season this year? Could having one more starting pitcher really vault us to the playoffs? Or should we try to cultivate our current young talent for success in the next few years?

Let’s look at some of our top prospects, shall we? We’ve got a whole lot, but I’ll just list the top ones that I know of from AAA and AA:
Justin Smoak (1B, AAA)
Neftali Feliz (RHP, AAA)
Julio Borbon (OF, AAA)
Kasey Kiker (LHP, AA)
Blake Beavan (RHP, AA)
Max Ramirez (C, AAA)
Guillermo Moscoso (RHP, AAA)
Omar Poveda (RHP, AA)

The thing about prospects is that there’s no way to know if they’ll ever fully develop into quality big-leaguers. Any one of them could sustain a career-ending injury or simply never reach their full potential. Or they could all become stellar players. You never know. Statistically speaking, though, all of the above listed players won’t come through. You’ll maybe end up with 1 or 2 truly great players, 3 or 4 solid-but-not-quite-great players, and 2-4 that either never make it to the majors or have unremarkable careers. So the question becomes: which ones do we hold onto and which do we try to trade in our pursuit of the post-season?

Of the 8 prospects that I listed, 5 are pitchers. Considering the Rangers’ recent history of crappy pitching, I’m hesitant to trade off more than 1 or 2 pitchers. We need to keep as much pitching talent as we can get. Last year we had the offense and the defense, but we didn’t have the pitching AT ALL. This year we have the defense, and the offense and the pitching are both promising but not quite there yet.

I really hope that the Rangers aren’t seriously considering Roy Halliday. Yes, he’s a great pitcher, and yes, he could help our organization. BUT, he apparently isn’t interested in coming to Texas, and we can’t really afford to offer him the ridiculously huge salary that he’s expecting. And we shouldn’t give up the prospects that the Blue Jays will want for him, either. It’s not a smart trade. Flat out.

What about Cliff Lee, you ask? Well, I’ll be honest, I don’t know too much about Cliff Lee. He seems to have a pretty decent record (not stellar, but he’s definitely no slouch). He’s been in the big leagues since 2000. And he’s 31. So will he just continue to get better, or has he reached his peak already? I wish I knew enough about him to give an educated guess to answer this question. Considering the Rangers’ rich farm system, I’m used to seeing very young players. So seeing a guy that’s already been around for nearly 10 years definitely gives me pause.

Well, it certainly is interesting to ponder all of these possibilities, but what it really comes down to is this: Ron Washington and Jon Daniels are NOT going to call me up and ask me my opinion about this. They have their own experts, who I’m sure know much more about it than I do. So whatever they do, they are definitely better informed. I’ll give them my blessing; Go With God!

 

great article

While trolling the internet for Rangers commentary (which I sometimes do when I’m bored), I found the following article. I think he has some really good ideas/concerns/predictions!

The only thing I don’t agree with is #2. I don’t think that Kinsler should try to reign in what kind of hits he gets. I think we should let Kins get whatever he can get, and try out Elvis Andrus in the leadoff spot.

Texas Rangers’ hopes ride on Kevin Millwood
BY JIM REEVES
revo@star-telegram.com

The Great Unwashed, as the great Blackie Sherrod often labeled the newspaper reading public (and yes, we realize that’s a dying breed), is likely smack dab in the middle of its biscuits and gravy this morning, and that alone makes it the most important part of the day, but give that spoon a rest for a moment, un-tuck that checkered napkin from under the chin and take a deep breath.

Hold it.

… exhale. Now

This little exercise probably gets a die-hard Rangers fan as ready for the second half of the season as anything else could.

Most Rangers fans tend to wear their cynicism like armor, hoping to ward off the slings and arrows of certain eventual disappointment after their beloved baseball team gets their hopes sky-high, and then inevitably caves in like a sand castle at the beach.

But there are a few die-hards out there who understand that rooting for the Rangers is like catching one of those vicious 72-hour viruses that come around from time to time. It hits like an NFL linebacker freshly banned from the training table. The stricken wake up weak, washed out and wondering if anyone got the license tag number on that semi before it vanished in the distance.

… until the next time the They vow never to make that same mistake again young lads in Arlington show an ounce of grit and fortitude, and maybe a smidgen of pitching and defense. Then it happens all over again.

That’s the problem with this Ranger Fever thing. Catching it once does not necessarily make one immune to follow-up episodes.

Which brings us, admittedly by a rather circuitous route, back to this year’s version of The Bad News Bears who inhabit the ball orchard at the corner of Nolan Ryan Expressway and Randol Mill Road.

There are fortune-tellers and Tarot card readers on East Lancaster or South Collins who will be more than happy to whisper sweet nothings into the ear of any avid Rangers fan with a sawbuck or two to spend.

They’ll spin fairy tales of Angels decimated, Yankees conquered and World Series won from here to tomorrow’s flapjacks and back again.

But, as Blackie might have said (though in a much more clever style, mind you), the mysterious and mystical ladies with the crystal balls have nothing on ol’ Buster here.

I can top their visions of sugarplums by a country mile and do it all for four bits. All I ask (besides that 50 cents, of course) is that when the fever breaks, some kind and merciful soul fan my flushed forehead and fetch something cool to drink.

Here are 10 musings, in no particular order, on what might happen with the Rangers in the second half:

1) Kevin Millwood has to be the rock on which the Rangers’ second-half run is constructed, just as he was in the first half. This is no guaranteed proposition, mind you. He’s already hit the 130-innings-pitched mark, tying him for second most in the major leagues. This from a guy who has exceeded 200 innings only once in the last five seasons, a laconic 34-year-old right-hander who seemed more than content to let his body gradually turn to flab and his arm into spaghetti until Nolan Ryan planted a size-12 clodhopper somewhere in the vicinity of Millwood’s nether regions. In his last two starts before the break Millwood’s ERA jumped from 2.80 to 3.46. That can’t continue if the Rangers hope to stay in contention.

2) Ian Kinsler must re-focus on being a leadoff hitter, not leading the Rangers in home runs. “I don’t see myself as a power guy,” Kinsler said just before the break. Hard to prove by that uppercut swing he’s been featuring.

… well, Josh Hamilton. You remember him, right? 3) Josh Hamilton has to be The one who led the Rangers with 32 homers and 130 RBI last season? For various reasons, he’s been mostly MIA this year. The Rangers need him healthy. Playing him more often in right field makes sense. They are 24-14 with him in the lineup, 24-25 when he’s out. Obviously, he makes a huge difference.

4) Forget about Roy Halladay. Tom Hicks is walking around like a hobo with every pocket in his trousers pulled out, showing nothing but lint. There’s no sense in trading three or four of the Rangers’ prized prospects for Halladay if Hicks can’t or won’t sign him long-term.

5) Get ready for a tough decision on Hank Blalock. Blalock’s recent power surge — he’s up to 19 home runs with 42 RBI — and the fact that he’s bumped his batting average up to .260 may actually spur some interest from contending teams looking for a difference-making bat as the trade deadline nears, especially now that they would have to pay him less than half of his $6 million salary. The Rangers have seriously considered dumping him for prospects, and still might, but that’s going to be problematic if they’re battling the Angels for first place at the end of the month.

6) Justin Smoak or Chris Davis? They’re going head-to-head at Oklahoma City and the one with the hottest bat is likely to be called up before season’s end. My guess? Davis finally rediscovers his stroke and is back showing off his magic act at first base before mid-August.

[yes!! Let’s just hope this is true! I miss you Chris!]

7) Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels have a right-handed bat on their “wish” list, but Andruw Jones can erase that thought from their minds by staying consistent. He’s showing signs that he might really be back.

8) Neftali Feliz to the rescue? He’s been shifted to the bullpen at OKC to provide reinforcements in Texas when needed, but Daniels has done a remarkable job of rebuilding the middle of the ‘pen with Jason Jennings and by pulling Darren O’Day and Jason Grilli off other teams’ junk piles. Still, it’s nice to know that Feliz is close by if needed.

9) Watch Elvis Andrus closely at short. He’s one of the key reasons the Rangers are where they are now, but he’s never played more than 126 games in a season. Having Omar Vizquel around has been a luxury to this point. It may be a necessity the rest of the way.

10) Jarrod Saltalamacchia (I know, sounds like something you’d order on your Italian sub, as in “Yo, Vinny, double-up on the provolone and saltalamacchia!”) has improved immensely defensively. Don’t be surprised if his bat begins finding a groove in the second half.

And just when you thought it was over, here’s a bonus prediction: Nelson Cruz will make a run at American League MVP over the season’s final three months.

Just try and top that down on East Lancaster, if you dare. Sure, no incense, eerie music or mysteriously billowing drapes, but you gotta admit, the price is right.