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Weekends With Toby: First Half Awards

Dust off your tux, TR and Toby hand out their own Ranger awards,  we’re calling them the “Weekend Warriors”.  The envelope please…

Toby’s Crystal Ball

So we know the Rangers are still looking for bullpen help. General manager Jon Daniels made that clear on Thursday.

We also know that almost every contending team in baseball is looking for bullpen help. Never seen so many teams looking for bullpen help above all else going into the Trade Deadline.

Yes Heath Bell is the big dog on the block. But has anybody noticed that he is 33 and struck out 28 in 38 innings this season. He struck out 86 in 70 innings last year.

The two best right-handed setup relievers coveted are Mike Adams of the Padres and Jim Johnson of the Orioles but it is more likely that their teams want to keep them. Maybe Joakim Soria of the Royals and Leo Nunez of the Marlins are available but are they worth the price? Maybe the Rangers can ride it out with Tommy Hunter and Mark Lowe in the setup role and Darren O’Day still a possibility if he gets enough work at Triple A.

Carlos Beltran? He keeps popping up and the Rangers know that a quick return for Julio Borbon is diminishing. So Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry appear to be a short-term platoon answer in center field but maybe Beltran is the Cliff Lee of 2011.

We just know that general manager Jon Daniels is unafraid to make a move at this time of the year, you just have to wonder if it is worth it. This may be the time to stand pat although a big trade before July 31 always seems to boost a team’s psyche.

Toby’s Top Three

1. Rangers Farm System – It is better now than two years ago when they were ranked No. 1 in baseball. It was fashionable back then to laud the Rangers. Now they are more deserving.

2. Derek Holland – Doesn’t matter who were the opponents. Two straight shutouts are impressive.

3. Tommy Mendonca – Third baseman at Double A Frisco, he has really made his presence felt in a farm system that could use some big-time offensive prospects.


 TR’s First Half Awards

Overlooked Stat – Ian Kinsler is perceived to be having an off-year at the plate but 57 walks against 40 strikeouts is eye-opening.

Defensive Star – Craig Gentry can really play center field.

Red Badge of Courage – Matt Harrison. He doesn’t seem to let anything bother him.

Obsession Award – Velocity. Every Rangers pitcher seems to be measured strictly by velocity.

Disappearing Act – Pedro Strop

Grace Under Fire – Nolan Ryan in the wake of the death of Brownwood fireman Shannon Stone. The Rangers president handles a crisis better than anybody.

Feel Good Story – Everybody talks about Alexi Ogando but what about Endy Chavez?

Key To The Second Half – Mark Lowe


Toby’s First Half Awards

The Bobby Witt Memorial Award – Derek Holland:  when he’s good, he’s very, very good but when he’s bad he’s…well, you’ve seen it.

The Anti-Baseball Prospectus Award – Michael Young:  the stat heads will pull out every acronym in their book to tell you why the Rangers should have traded him this offseason, but it’s Michael who’s getting the last laugh on that idea.  You want some stats?  Batting Average: April .342, May .340, June .273 and so far in July .381  BA with Runners in Scoring Position: .377  He carried the team while Hamilton and Cruz were on the DL,  and has gone about quietly being Mr. Consistent.  If  the Rangers even think about trading him again Toby will chase Jon Daniels around the field at the Ballpark like an errant mailman who stepped on his paw.

Best First Pitch – Dirk Nowitzki  to Michael Young:  is anyone enjoying a long-awaited championship more than Dirk?  By the way, Toby loves Dirk because he’s been spotted at the Ballpark before and even came out during the playoff’s last season.  Mike Modano used to come out the Ballpark too – whatever happened to that guy?

The New Paradigm Award – A.J. Preller and the Rangers International Scouting Staff:  you mean that you don’t need Scott Boras telling you who to draft to find the best young players to populate your farm system?

The Best Names For [Possibly]Future Rangers –  RHP Mark Hamburger (AAA Round Rock):  the headline writers are praying he’s promoted soon.  Runner Up: IF Rougned Odor (Short-Season Spokane)  oh the possibilities….

The Bengie Molina/Matt Treanor Annual I Can Hit A Triple Too Award – goes to CJ Wilson:  who looked like a real position player at the plate and running the bases.

Key To The Second Half – (Tie) Colby Lewis and Nelson Cruz

Last Call

A race between us and the Angels right to the end would be fun. Last year we knew we were going to win it, waiting to clinch it was like waiting for Christmas.” — Pitcher C.J. Wilson

Woof! — Toby

Monday Morning Manager: Halfway There

TR’s  left Toby in charge of the questions this morning.

Three days vacation for some players, but for the rest of us, especially the Monday Morning Managers, we are hard at work. 

 So we’ve reached the traditional halfway point of the season, never mind that the Rangers have played 92 games (the actual halfway point was almost 2 weeks ago).  Time to reflect and predict.

With that in mind:

1. Who is your Rangers First Half MVP?

2. Who is the Rangers First Half Cy Young?

3. Who was the most surprising player? Who was the biggest disappointment?

4. There are 71 games left to the season, what do think  the Rangers record will be in those 71 games?

5. What about the Angels? Are you worried, or not?

Bonus Question: Are you going to watch any of the All-Star events?

Cum homine de cane debo congredi!

Woof ! – Toby

Weekends With Toby: All-Stars, Trades And Remembering Dick Williams

“Well, it looks like the All-Star balloting is about over, especially in the National and American Leagues.” – Broadcaster Jerry Coleman 

Toby’s Crystal Ball

So we know that the Trade Deadline approaches and we know the Rangers are looking for bullpen help. They may have to settle for Mark Hamburger.

They are interested in closer Heath Bell but they are more interested in Padres right-handed setup reliever Mike Adams. The Washington Nationals were thought to have some relievers available but right now are operating under the assumption they are still in the N.L. wild card race. They do have a winning record.

The Florida Marlins are out of it but the best they can offer is Leo Nunez. The Rangers might have some interest there. The Rangers wanted Jim Johnson from the Orioles but go nowhere, just as they did with Joel Hanrahan with the Pirates.

So how does Hamburger fit into all of this. Going into Thursday night’s game, he was 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last ten games. He is a sinker/slider guy and who was acquired from the Twins a few years ago for Eddie Guardado. He had 21 saves in the Rangers farm system last year.

He might be the sleeper among relief pitching prospects in the system.

Toby’s Honor Roll

1. Josh Frasier – The Rangers bullpen catch will be handling those duties for the American League All-Star team in Phoenix. That’s a deserving honor for a guy who is in his sixth season as the Rangers bullpen catcher.

2. C.J. Wilson – Not only is he on the All-Star Game but he will be tweeting – twittering? – during Monday’s Home Run Derby.

3. All-Star Fans Voting – Hey, when three Brewers are voted into the National League starting lineup, that’s a good sign that fans are actually paying attention and the system isn’t completely weighted toward big market teams.

Hall of Famer Wanted To Come To Texas

Dick Williams managed the Red Sox, Athletics, Angels, Expos, Padres and Mariners in his career. He wanted to make it seven teams.

He wanted to manage the Texas Rangers.

This was back in 1992. The Rangers had fired Bobby Valentine in mid-season and Toby Harrah finished the season as the interim manager. At the end of the year, the Rangers opened up a search for a new manager. General manager Tom Grieve was doing the interviewing along with assistant GM Sandy Johnson. 

Johnson and Williams had worked together in San Diego. Williams called Johnson and let him know that he was interested. Johnson politely told his old buddy that it wasn’t going to happen. Grieve said Thursday he has no recollection of Johnson telling him that Williams was interested. The Rangers ended up hiring Kevin Kennedy.

Williams was 63 at the time. Back then it seemed almost far-fetched that a team would hire a 62-year-old manager. Out of touch and all that. But the list of 60-and-over managers in the big leagues the past two seasons includes Jack McKeon, Davey Johnson, Tony LaRussa, Cito Gaston, Jim Leyland, Bobby Cox and Charlie Manuel.

Of course the Rangers in 1993 had Jose Canseco. Wonder if Dick Williams would have let him pitch.

Toby’s Puppies:  June Players of the Month!

SS Leury Garcia – Advanced A Myrtle Beach (Not Drafted – Signed 2008)  The 20 year old Garcia was named Topps Carolina League Player of the Month for June.  He posted an impressive:  .341 BA/ .387 OBP / .459 SLG /.856 OPS with 38 Hits and 14 RBI.

3B Tommy Mendonca – AA Frisco – (2009 Draft – 2nd Round) is the Topps Texas League Player of the Month for June.  He had a 13 game hit streak during month, with 4 HR and 30 RBI.

Birthdays:  Nicknames and team names just aren’t what they used to be.

“Rowdy” Elliott, a catcher for the 1910 Boston Doves and the 1920 Brooklyn Robins was born on July 8, 1890.  Anyone remember “Button” Briggs a right handed pitcher for the Chicago Orphans who was born on July 8, 1875?  How about “Biddy” Dolan a first baseman with the Indianapolis Hoosiers from 1896 to 1904 whose birthday is July 9th, 1881.   Then there is “Pop” Schriver born on July 11, 1865 – he played catcher and first base with the Philadelphia Quakers in 1888.  100 years ago the Philadelphia Athletics were the World Series champions, right handed pitcher “Lep” Long (born July 12, 1888) was briefly a member of that team.   “Iron Man” Piatt, a left handed pitcher for the 1903 Boston Beaneaters, was born on July 13, 1874.  One more:  July 14, 1871 is the birthdate of infielder “Jiggs” Parrott of the 1892 Chicago Colts.

Former Ranger Birthday of the Week:  Jesus Maria (Adujar) Frias aka “Pepe” Frias.  We’ve always used Pepe as our litmus test for those claiming to be long time Ranger fans – if they know his name, postion and when he played – then we’re satisfied they are truly, deeply, madly a Ranger fanatic.  (Pepe Frias, shortstop, 1980 – hit .242)

Toby’s Reading List:  Everyone has an opinion on the All-Star Game.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Gil Lebreton:  CJ vs CC For The All-Star Game

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci:  How To Fix The All-Star Game

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski: Complains About The All-Star Game

Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal: Who Was Snubbed From The All-Star Game

ESPN’s Jayson Stark:  The All Star Managers Dilemma

USA Today’s Jorge Ortiz:  Too Many Replacement Players In The All-Star Game

Last Call

“I thought he was a really good baseball man. I thought he loved the game and he expected the game to be played the right way. He wasn’t tough to play for from my perspective. You knew his expectations and if you play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, he didn’t mess with you. The players who had problems were the ones who didn’t work hard enough or didn’t give 100 percent when they were out there.”  — Nolan Ryan on Dick Williams

Woof!  – Toby

4th Of July Weekend With Toby

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”  ~Walt Whitman

 Toby’s Crystal Ball

C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Trevor Cahill and Jon Lester all pitched on Thursday. So? That could cause problems for the American League in the upcoming All-Star Game. 

Or maybe it opens up a spot for a Rangers pitcher on the All-Star team. Here’s the deal: 

All four are scheduled to pitch on Tuesday and then again on Sunday right before the break. If so, they may get selected to the All-Star team but then will have to be replaced because they wouldn’t be able to pitch in the game. 

The American League must have at least 13 pitchers in the All-Star Game. The players have voted on five starters and three relievers. Manager Ron Washington must select five more and it doesn’t matter if they are starters or relievers. 

Verlander is a lock to be voted on by the players. Sabathia is a strong candidate. Lester and Cahill are borderline cases. 

But if Verlander and Sabathia can’t pitch in the All-Star Game, that’s at least two pitchers that must be replaced. 

One caveat: the players can select five starters and Washington could pick five other starters. But if a starting pitcher needs to replaced, the spot automatically goes to the pitcher with the highest number of player votes who is not on the list. 

Complicated? Yes. But the bottom line is there could be two additional opportunities for the Rangers to get a pitcher on the team. The reality is the Rangers may have more pitchers who deserve to go to Phoenix than they do position players although the reverse is more likely. 

Toby’s Honor Roll

1. Scott Feldman – This guy has worked his tail off and the journey back is almost over.

2. Chris Davis – The guy will not let the Rangers forget him.

3. C.J. Wilson – His All-Star credentials aren’t bad.

 T.R.’s Weekend Reading List

Ernest Hemingway died 50 years this weekend. In honor of America’s greatest writer, here are TR’s five favorite novelists and with one particularly favorite book. Sorry, it’s not a particularly intellectual but you’re talking about somebody whose all-time favorite book is Mutiny on the Bounty. 

1. Ernest HemingwayThe Sun Also Rises. All Jake Barnes does is drink, write, fish, go to the bullfights and woo Lady Brett Ashley

2. Leon UrisTrinity. It’s the best book ever written on Ireland. By the way, hated Angela’s Ashes…ranks with Silas Mariner as one the worst books ever read.

3. Robert LudlumRoad to Gandolfo. Ludlum was the best at mystery, suspense and the spy thriller.

4. Josh GrishamThe Appeal. Disturbing ending.

5. Janet Evanovich – So she’s not Jane Austen or one of the Bronte sisters. Her Stephanie Plum books are still fun to read and you can read them in one flight from Texas to the West Coast. 

Toby’s Puppies – The New Kids On The Block

 It’s been about one month since The Draft, here’s a quick look at the draftees who signed and have started their baseball careers.

 — 1st Round Supplemental Pick – OF Zach Cone  at Short-Season Spokane:  .359 BA/.419 OBP/.513 SLG/.931 OPS in 9 games 

— 2nd Round Pick – LHP Will Lamb at Short-Season Spokane: 3 games/3 IP/3.00 ERA/2BB/5 K 

— 8th Round Pick – RHP Kyle Hendricks at Short-Season Spokane: 4 games/5 IP/3.60 ERA/1BB/1K 

— Even though he’s not a 2011 draftee –  OF Ruben Sierra Jr. at Short-Season Spokane: .317BA/.317OBP/.537SLG/.854OPS 

Birthdays:  As we were looking over the list for this week, we figured out that we could field an entire lineup of  Senators/Rangers who have birthday’s this week.  Every player listed played at least one game as a Senator/Ranger at their position – “you can look it up”.

 1B: Jack Daughterty  (51 on July 3rd)

2B: The late Cesar Tovar (born July 3rd, 1940)

SS: Bobby Malkmus (80 on July 4th)

3B: Al Newman (51 on June 30th)

RF: “The Deacon” Warren Newson (47 on July 3rd)

CF: Nelson Cruz (31 on July 1st)

LF: Dan Peltier (43 on June 30th)

C: Danny Ardoin (37 on July 8th)

DH: Jose Canseco (47 on July 2nd)

Starting Pitcher (Pick One):

RHP: Tommy Hunter (25 on July 3rd)

RHP: Edison Volquez (28 on July 3rd)

LHP: John Koronka (31 on July 3rd)

LHP: Frank Tanana (58 on July 3rd)

Reliever: RHP Ed Roebuck (80 on July 2nd)

Closer: RHP Rich “Goose” Gossage (60 on July 5th)

 Toby’s All American Reading List:  in honor of the Independence Day Holiday

John Adams by David McCullough – actually any of McCullough’s books (1776, Truman, The Johnstown Flood) are terrific reading for American History.

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts – behind every great man….

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Issacson – the quintessential “first” American

A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn – let us not forget that dissension and debate are at the root of democracy and the founding of the United States,  an alternate point of view is always a good thing.

Last Call

“I’m not going to jeopardize what I do best for the team by running around the bases, trying to stretch a double into a triple and hurt myself sliding into third base.”  — Colby Lewis on why he settled for a double on Wednesday night.

Have a safe holiday weekend – Woof! — Toby

Andrus Back In The Lineup – Murphy In The OF

SS Elvis Andrus who missed 4 games with a sprained wrist is back in the Rangers lineup tonight vs. the Astros.  OF David Murphy is also playing tonight in RF with Craig Gentry in CF and Josh Hamilton in LF.

More on the website later.

Elvis Andrus Not In Tuesday’s Lineup

Shortstop Elvis Andrus is not in Rangers lineup vs the Astros tonight.  Andrus did take some swings in batting practice and says his wrist is feeling better.  He will probably not play in Wednesday’s game, but could return to the lineup for the final game against Houston on Thursday.

More on the website later.

Weekend’s With Toby: Looking Ahead

The Rangers are 5-8 in their last 13 games, losing 2 series (to the Twins and Yankees) and yet they maintain a 2 ½  lead in the AL West.  Toby’s thinking the best attitude to adopt is that of Alfred E. Newman:  “What? Me Worry?”

Toby’s Crystal Ball – The Rehab Weekend

Out of the blue, the Rangers announce that Dirk Nowitzki will throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday night at the Ballpark in Arlington.

So Nowitzki will be on the mound about the same time that Tommy Hunter is pitching for – lets see – oh yes, Round Rock. Hunter is pitching for Round Rock and Brandon Webb is pitching for Frisco.

Hunter was supposed to be pitching in relief and did so on Wednesday. Hunter, who was a starter last year, pitched in relief of Darren O’Day, who was a reliever last year but was a starter on Wednesday. O’Day pitched a scoreless inning and then Hunter gave up three runs before the game was rained out.

So Hunter, who the Rangers said will be used as a reliever, is starting on Friday. For Round Rock. He will pitch 3-4 innings in what is being described as a spot start. Then presumably it will be back to relief work.

O’Day is also scheduled to pitch Friday. That was the last word from the Rangers. He will pitch in relief instead of starting.

Webb will pitch for Frisco against the Corpus Christi Hooks and is scheduled to throw 60-65 pitches.

Scott Feldman will pitch Saturday for Round Rock. Eric Hurley pitches on Sunday.

By the way, Omar Belte – who had back surgery in Spring Training – has been throwing in Arizona but was set back by a bout of strep throat.

So what does all this ever-changing tableau mean?

* O’Day is close to returning but needs to pitch in back-to-back games to prove his stamina.

* Feldman has pitched seven scoreless innings over his last two outings. He probably needs two more outings at least to show that he is recovered from knee surgery.

* Hunter will get an audition as a reliever in Triple A. No word yet as to the actual step-by-step program but the Rangers don’t see him as a viable option in the rotation right now. The rotation appears closed for the moment.

* Webb? No timetable. He is the living embodiment of one outing at a time.

* Nowitzki? The Rangers will have a radar gun on that ceremonial first pitch.

Speed Dial

Heard of Henry Rodriguez? He is a reliever for the Washington Senators.

He has thrown 230 fastballs this year and the average velocity has been 97.9 miles per hour. So? That is the highest average velocity on a fastball for any pitcher who has thrown at least 75 fastballs this season.

Aroldis Chapman of the Reds is second at 97.8 miles per hour. Angels reliever Jordan Walden is tops in the American League at 97.7 MPH on his fastball.

Neftali Feliz? He isn’t even the fastest on his own team. Mark Lowe is at 96.4 miles ;per hour while Feliz is 95.7. Lowe ranks eighth in the Majors and Feliz is 14th.

Among starters, Michael Pineda of the Mariners is at 95.3, Justin Verlander is at 95.2 and Alexi Ogando is third at 94.7 MPH on his fastball.

Feliz was the hardest throwing Rangers pitcher in 2010 with a fastball that averaged 96.4 miles per hour and also in 2009 at 96.2.  Beyond that?

2008 Frank Francisco – 94.8

2007 Robinson Tejeda – 94.0

2006 Francisco Cordero – 95.5

2005 Francisco Cordero – 95.8

2004 Francisco Cordero – 96.2

2003 Francisco Cordero – 96.0

2002 Francisco Cordero – 95.0

2001 Dan Kolb – 93.1

 Toby’s Honor Roll

* Eleno Ornelas – The Rangers announcer for Spanish broadcasts remains a tireless ambassador for the organization, true confidant of the players and – according to those who write in – really really good on the radio.

* Craig Gentry – He is playing mainly against left-handers but is hitting .391 for June.

Alexi Ogando – With all the concerns about his bout of dehydration on Sunday, nobody mentioned that he singled in two at-bats as a hitter. He is now 2-for-3 in the Major Leagues as a hitter.

Toby’s Puppies:  All-Stars! 

Advanced A (Myrtle Beach) :  RHP Joe Weiland was the starting pitcher for the 2011 California-Carolina All-Star game – he threw one scoreless inning. Also playing: OF Ryan Strausborger,  C Zach Zaneski and LHP Robbie Ross (California defeated Carolina 6-1)

Low A (Hickory):   At the South Atlantic League All Star Game,  the first half Northern Division Champion Crawdads were represented by RHP Roman Mendez, 3B Christian Vellanueva and C Tomas Tellis.  (The North lost to the South 6-3)

MLB Futures Game:   The Rangers will be represented by  LHP Martin Perez (AA Frisco) and IF Jurikson Profar (Low A Hickory) at the MLB Futures Game in Phoenix on July 10th.  By the way, 18 year old Profar will be the youngest player participating in the game.

Toby Growls:  Put down the binoculars and stop looking at other scores on the smart phone.  Toby is telling you right now: stop the scoreboard watching!   It’s only June. 

Yes,  the Rangers made their biggest trade last season at the beginning of July – but trust us – that was an outlier.   Let’s not forget that this time last month Cleveland had one of the largest division leads, and San Francisco was at the top of the NL West while Minnesota and Arizona were all but written off for the season.   This morning the Indians are clinging to a 1 game lead in the AL Central  while Minnesota has been on tear going 15-5 in their last 20 games, and the Diamondbacks have a ½ game lead over the Giants in the NL West.   As Crash Davis told Ebby Calvin LaLoosh:  “You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: ‘We gotta play it one day at a time.’ “  Toby says: don’t start scoreboard watching August.  Woof! Woof! Woof!

 Birthdays:  A roll call of former Rangers this week starting with former 1st round draft pick IF Jason Romano turning 32.  He was a principal member of the 1998-1998 Division champion teams: RHP Aaron Sele is 41.  The local legend and former Ranger coach “The Twig” Wayne Terwilliger celebrates No. 86 this week.  Do you remember his brief stint with Texas in 1993? Doug Dascenzo turns 47.  Most fans would rather forget his season with the Rangers – Richard Hidalgo is 36.   He’s a former Ranger All-Star and current Dodgers pitching coach: Rick Honeycutt turns 55.

Birthday of the week  He made it to the majors at age 27, and played 3 not particularly memorable seasons with a lifetime 2-0 record and 5.28 ERA.  However, his nickname has made him immortal: Louis Straub Durham aka “Bull Durham” was born on June 27, 1877.

Toby’s Reading List: Clark, Derek and Kirk.

A must read: MLB’s  Louie Horvath’s excellent article on Ranger minor leaguer Clark Murphy and his brother

If you think you’ve already heard way too much already about Derek Jeter’s impending 3,000 hit milestone – you haven’t read this.

Meanwhile in the Arizona Diamondback’s clubhouse:  moving into first place brings out the pranksters.

Last Call:

 “It’s part of being a closer. We look forward to the next time he pitches. We’ll give him the ball and expect him to get it done.”   — Michael Young on Neftali Feliz’s blown save on Wednesday.

— Toby