Poor Toby's Almanac…June 3 – Ode to Billy Joe and Great Catchers

Toby descends from a pack of wild dogs that have roamed the mystical lands of the Transvaal since the beginning of time. Each Sunday morning, he helps us look ahead.Toby2_19

The Week Ahead: Kenny Rogers is still on the disabled list but plenty of ex-Rangers will be arriving in town this week when the Detroit Tigers and the Milwaukee Brewers show up at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Outfielders Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames and catcher Ivan Rodriguez will be here with the Tigers for a three-game series that starts on Tuesday. The Milwaukee Brewers bring outfielder Kevin Mench and relievers Francisco Cordero and Brian Shouse this weekend for a three-game series. Cordero is 20-for-20 in save opportunities with a 0.40 ERA while Mench is hitting .270 with two home runs, 16 RBI and one walk in 122 at-bats.

The One and Only: Fifty years from now baseball historians will look back at the Rangers and – promise you on this – say:

* Ivan Rodriguez was the greatest player who ever played for the Rangers.

* How did they ever let him walk away.

Dog Night: The Rangers are holding Dog Night on Sunday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Click on the Rangers promotional schedule to see how you can bring your dog to the game on Sunday.

Yes, Toby will be there.

The Oracle of Elysian Fields: "It was the third of June another sleepy dusty Delta Day. I was out choppin’ cotton and my brother was balin’ hay." Ode to Billy Joe…Bobby GentryDunlop9_2

The Draft: The 2007 First-Year Player Draft will be held on Thursday and Friday in Orlando and the Rangers will have five of the first 54 picks of the draft. This is a crucial draft for the Rangers and they’ve had mixed results over the years.

Jim Sundberg will announce the Rangers first pick. Sundberg was drafted three times: He was a sixth round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 1969, an eighth round pick by the Rangers in 1972 and, finally, a first round pick (second overall) in the January secondary phase in 1973. That’s when he finally signed. Whether you consider him an eighth round pick or a first round pick, he was one of the best for the Rangers. Then there was:

Ten good picks
Mike Hargrove      25th round       1972
Pete O’Brien          15th round       1979
Kenny Rogers        39th round      1982
Rusty Greer           10th round       1990
Hank Blalock         3rd round        1999
Dean Palmer          3rd round        1986
Billy Sample          10th round      1976
Darren Oliver         3rd round        1988
Ian Kinsler             17th round       2003
Steve Buechele       5th round        1982

1. Mark Teixeira          2001
2. Kevin Brown           1986
3. Rick Helling            1992
4. Bobby Witt              1985
5. Oddibe McDowell   1984            

Good pick but…
Travis Hafner         31st round        1996
Mike Stanley         16th round        1985
Walt Terrell           33rd round        1980
Danny Kolb            6th round         1995
Robb Nen               32nd round        1987
Doug Davis           10th round         1996
Jeff Frye                  30th round        1988
Mike Lamb               7th round        1997
Ron Darling              1st round         1981
Dave Righetti            1st round         1977061011_munson_vmed_9pwidec

New pitch for Eyre: Rangers reliever Willie Eyre has held left-handed hitters to a .205 batting average so far this season. They hit .379 off him as a reliever for the Twins last year.

The difference? A split-fingered fastball that he started throwing in Spring Training at the suggestion of pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.

"It gives me something slow so that left-handers can’t sit on my fastball," Eyre said. "It keeps hitters off-balance. I didn’t realize how good it was until the other day in Oakland when they kept hitting it on the ground."

Said Connor: "He made me look smart for the first time this year."

Birthdays: It’s a slow week but Thurman Munson’s 60th birthday is on Thursday. Munson was the former New York Yankees catcher who was killed in a plane crash on Aug. 2, 1979. He was a seven-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner who was 32 when he died. It’s surprising that he didn’t get more support for the Hall of Fame.

Munson won three Gold Gloves in 1974-76. Then Jim Sundberg took over and won six straight.

Anybody remember the end to Bull Durham where they show the shrine dedicated to Munson in Annie Savoy’s house? A classic ending to a great movie.

Byrd’s eye view: Marlon Byrd is hitting .333 (10-for-30) with the Rangers after hitting .358 at Triple A Oklahoma. Why is he swinging the bat so well? His explanation:

"I got hit twice in the (left) elbow and it made me use my (right) top hand more," Byrd said. "If I tried to extend with my (left) bottom hand, it really hurt. Now I have to let the ball travel to me more. It makes me stay back on the ball. If not, it killed me to swing."

Last Call: " My swing is getting better but I can’t show it if I’m not playing." Outfielder Nelson Cruz.


When I was growing up my Idol was Del Crandall of the Milwaukee Braves…but my faithful worhsip also extended to anyone else the Braves had that donned the tools of ignorance, including Charlie White, Del Rice and a no hit younker by the name of Uek. To make a long story short it also extended to others teams catchers as I noted that catchers were really managers on the field…and there was Munson. He was myy age…the inheritor of the great Yogi and..you just had to watch him. The day he died…well…all that goes through my head now “American Pie”…if you know the song maybe you understand..I guess he just took the last plane to the coast.

Nice write TR and you’re right about Pudge…How the heck did we let it happen?

Thanks, TR, for the insight about Willie Eyre’s new pitch.

You’re right on the mark about Pudge. Even after 5 years it still disgusts me to see him in another uniform. He should have played his entire career here.

I think part of John Hart’s reasoning was that statistically speaking cathers show a tendency to slow down considerably after 1300 or so games caught. That theory didn’t hold any water for me in this case because Pudge was catching everyday in the major leagues as a teenager and most catchers don’t become everyday catchers in the bigs until their mid 20’s. Maybe I’m not remembering that quite right, but I think that along with a couple of freak injuries swayed Hart to not make a serious multi-year offer that Rodgriguez undoubtedly deserved. What a shame.

I was a catcher during my day. Munson was my favorite, loved the battles between Pudge Fisk and Munson. Munson and Jackson. I remember when Munson was killed, I was 11 years old and I always wore his number, #15. He would have made the Hall of Fame if he had not had his career cut short. He should be there anyway. Pudge Rodriquez, is and was the best overall player the Rangers have drafted and developed. I am glad he got his World Series ring, but would have liked to have seen him get that here. When i played baseball, and yes i was a good baseball player who played on Championship teams. We won The Texas Teenage Baseball Association Title in 1978. My coaches always said you have to be strong up the middle. Pitcher, Catcher, SS, 2B and CF. My coaches also said, All I need is 9 guys who want to win! I don’t see that with our team. We aren’t strong up the middle and we don’t have 9 guys who want to win! Go Young. I think we may have something with Diaz. Cruz needs to play everyday. Play Byrd in CF. Stop worrying about winning games this year, it is meaningless. Start trying to find players that are going to be here for the long haul and the future. Cat, Lofton, Gagne, Sosa, Otsuka and Teixiera must be traded. They aren’t our future. Their is a fine line between winning and losing and we aren’t that far off if we start making the right decisions and stop playing all of these veterans. Keep Hicks, Keep Daniels, get rid of Washington, he isn’t tough enough on his players and probably is going to be long gone pretty soon. Hughes and two others for Teixiera, i can live with, but call Baltimore first and see what they have to offer.

I thought dgod said we were not going to hear anymore from him? What do you have against Otska? He is one of the few players on this team that acts like a team player.By all means trade Teixiera to NY then so he can be with a-rod and hit home runs when it doesn’t mean anything.All of the Rangers act like they are afraid of the other team. Reminds me of Jeff Russell.

Toby grows on you..doesn’t he .. he’s kinda cute.I hope he has a really good day at the Rangers park.
I am glad deidregod is a real Rangers fan and couldn’t stay away.. even when the Rangers are terrible and getting worse. It’s only 1/3 of the way through the season and everyone is writing the Rangers off.. I know the Rangers stink right now but I don’t think we should give up just yet.. If the Rangers are still really bad at the allstar break then yeah trade who you can for good prospects and go with youth for the second half. I really like Aki and he’s a good closer so I hope he doesn’t go. I liked Mench and Dellucci too but I love the Rangers more and if popular players have to go to get a trade done I know JD will do it.

Why are the Rangers losing? Pitching and defence. The Rangers scored 6 runs today ,that should have been enough but 2 errors and a melt down in the 4th by Tejeda sunk us.It seems nearly everytime the Rangers get a lead the pitchers let the other team back into the game.

I think dwidregod is right in a lot of ways.. we have to keep our young players up in the major league from now on so they can develop but also keep some of the Vets to help these guys.

JD will have a lot of work to do by the trade deadline I hope he gets it right.

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