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Weekend’s With Toby: Voodoo Palace Redux

Toby was thinking about all the problems the Rangers had when they played the Blue Jays at the old Exhibition Stadium.  If memory serves us correctly the late great Mark Holtz called it the House of Horrors and the Voodoo Palace.  Toby’s thinking the one of the Ranger’s media following needs tag Target Field with that kind of nickname. 

Toby’s Crystal Ball: Rangers need to end this Target Field losing streak. The Twins are bringing a B team into this series. The Target Field whammy needs to come to an end.

Adrian Beltre:

One thing you can say about Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre: he plays the game hard.

Three plays worth review from Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Twins

* Fifth inning, Twins have runners on first and second with nobody out. Ben Revere drops a short bunt down the third base line. Beltre busts his tail to get the ball, does a 180 slide and throws to third to get the force play. Few third basemen make the play but Beltre does.

* Top of six, Beltre is on first with one out. Nelson Cruz hits a grounder that Twins third baseman Danny Valencia lets get by him for an error. Belte runs hard and goes first to third. Sets him up to score on Mitch Moreland’s sacrifice fly.

* Bottom of six. Delmon Young hits a grounder up the middle that Derek Holland deflects to shortstop Elvis Andius. Do or die, Andrus tries to make a barehand play and let’s the ball get by him. Young tries for second but Beltre is backing up and throws him out at second.

Toby’s Honor Roll

1. Kipp Fagg – The Rangers director of amateur scouting was the one who recommended the Rangers draft Georgia outfielder Jonathan Taylor in the 33rd round. Taylor was the University of Georgia outfielder who collided with Zach Cone and ended up paralyzed. The Rangers drafted Cone with the 37th overall pick in the draft on Monday. The Rangers added Taylor on Wednesday.

2.  Late Show with David Letterman – Rangers fans might want to watch on Monday. That’s the Rangers day off in New York.

3.  Erik Larson – A favorite author here at Postcards from Elysian Fields. His latest is In the Garden of Beasts, a terrific look at Nazi Germany in the early days of Adolf Hitler.

Toby’s Puppies

A look at the first round picks from the Rangers last 3 drafts:

2010 – 19 year old OF Jake Skole playing at Low A Hickory is hitting .244, his teammate (also 19 years old) and first round pick C Kellin Deglan is hitting .208

2009 – LHP Matt Purke (who did not sign) garnered several national awards in 2010 playing for TCU. However, this season he struggled with sore shoulder  posting a 3.02 ERA. Drafted 96th by the Nationals this week, he has until August 15th to sign, or he could return to the Horned Frogs.

2008 –  IB Justin Smoak to Seattle = Cliff Lee = Rangers first World Series appearance.  (Smoak is hitting .249 with 10 HR and 34 RBI for the Mariners)

Toby’s Random Barks:

– Toby’s wondering why the player who carried the Rangers to their first three playoff appearances, Juan Gonzalez, hasn’t yet been elected to the Rangers HOF? Woof! Woof!

– Toby’s comments on the NBA finals: “to  paraphrase a well known saying:  old age and teamwork will overcome youth youth and ego.”  Dirk’s Game 4 will join the annals of sports lore like Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series Home Run, or Willis Reeds gutty performance in 1971 NBA playoffs.  Go Mavs! Woof! Woof? Woof!

Birthdays:  This week it’s the same name – but not the same guy.   Randy Johnson, not the Big Unit – this is the former Braves 3B turns 55.  John Edwards – not the disgraced politician – he was a catcher for the Reds/Astros/Cards is 73.   

Then there’s Jimmy Stewart, no Harvey, no Academy Award – he was an OF for the Cubs/Reds/Astros turns 72 this week.  The first Frank Thomas (not the White Sox) he played in Chicago – but it was for the Cubs, as well as 6 other teams in a 16 year career celebrates No. 82 this week. 

 How about Ike Davis (not the current Met) this is the shortstop for the Senators/White Sox was born in 1895 on June 15 and finally a familiar name Pete O’Brien – not the former Ranger 1B – this 2B played for the Colts and was born on June 16th 1867.

Birthday of the week:  He joined the major league coaching staff this week:  new Rangers hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh turns 45 on June 13th.

Toby’s Reading List:   What’s going on with the rest of the AL West?

Things are not going well in Anaheim, so Mike Scioscia is shaking things up: http://losangeles.angels.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110608&content_id=20199032&notebook_id=20199148&vkey=notebook_ana&c_id=ana

 He didn’t pitch, or hit – but Bob Geren still took the fall for the A’s struggles: http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110609&content_id=20252928&vkey=news_oak&c_id=oak

 Baseball is fun again in Seattle again: http://gregjohns.mlblogs.com/2011/06/03/larry-bernandez-craze-sweeping-the-nation-kind-of/

Last Call:

“I told him I wasn’t tired. He told me, ‘No, but the outfielders sure are’ ”  

- Rangers reliever Jim Kern quoting manager Pat Corrales when he was taken out of a game in April 1979.

— Toby

Weekends With Toby: Hot Stuff

The weather is getting warmer and Toby’s sitting in the shade with a cool one thinking about what was and what’s ahead for the Rangers.

Toby’s Crystal Ball: The Rangers draft will be interesting next week. They remain loaded with pitching – see Myrtle Beach – but they still could use more offense. The Rangers seemed to lean toward offense early last season, but this frachise could use some power-hitting outfielders. If the Rangers have a need in the system, it would be offensive firepower in the outfield.

Two Off-Season Moves To Review: One move made this winter that didn’t get discussed much went down on Jan. 8 when the Rangers traded pitcher Guillermo Moscoso to the Athletics for right-handed reliever Ryan Kelly.

Kelly, 23, had never pitched above low-Class A but Rangers Minor League pitching coordinator Danny Clark said the right-handed reliever has been a big surprise this season at Class A Myrtle Beach. Kelly, who is looked at as a reliever, is 2-2 with a 4.66 ERA in 13 games for the Pelicans but has a 3.00 ERA for May after a five-game stint in the rotation. The Rangers moved him to the rotation to get him extra work on his delivery.

“No. 1 his velocity has been 94-96 miles per hour,”  Clark said. “We took him into the rotation to get him to start repeating his delivery and pitches and since we flipped him back into the bullpen, there have been a lot of positives.”

Another minor off-season transaction was signing right-hander Barret Loux, who had been the Diamondbacks No. 1 draft pick last season (sixth overall) but failed his physical because of arm issues. The Rangers signed him and so far he is staying healthy and also pitching at Myrtle Beach.

He is 4-3 with a 3.75 ERA in 10 starts. In 50.1 innings, he has walked 15 and struck out 56.

“Obviously because of his history, we’re really protecting him,” Clark said. “He wasn’t used to our throwing program. He has had some good games but he is inconsistent from outing to outing.”

Toby’s Honor Roll

1. Steve Busby – When he went into broadcasting, he was a play-by-play game and did well. Listening to him with Eric Nadel, he could have been one of the best analysts around if he had gone that route.

2. Colby Lewis – One of his overlooked attributes is that he doesn’t get too excited or too upset about things. He may be the most even-keeled pitcher on the Rangers staff. That may be why he weathered some tough early outings and inane criticism about his paternity leave, and is now pitching brilliantly.

3. Josh Hamilton – He trying to kick the smokeless tobacco habit.

Toby’s Puppies

RHP Joe Wieland – 4th round pick 2008 Draft.  Weiland currently at Advanced A Myrtle Beach was twice named Carolina League pitcher of the week in May. His stats for the month: Won 4 – Lost 1, 34 IP,  22 Hits, 0 BB, 42K – 0.79 ERA (that’s not a typo).

OF Joey Butler – 15th round pick 2008 Draft.  He’s certainly enjoyed his promotion to AAA Round Rock hitting a healthy .300 in 110 AB’s, 10 extra base hits, 19 runs scored and 3 stolen bases

SS Jurikson Profar – signed as a free agent. After a slow start in April, the Hickory (Low A) shortstop hit .289 in May with 16BB, 12K, 3 HR, 9 RBI – .920 OPS

Birthdays:  It’s all former Rangers this week.  He was traded for Einar “hair on fire” Diaz  – Travis Hafner is 34 on June 3rd. Tom Hicks called him the ace Ranger fans were waiting for: Chan Ho Park turns 38 today.  As far as we know he still doesn’t believe in dinosaurs – Carl Everett is 40 years old also on June 3rd. Other birthdays coming up this week: does anyone remember his short stint as a Ranger?-  SS Bud Harrelson turns 67.  Does anyone know where he is right now? RHP Doug Mathis celebrates No. 28.   Don’t kid yourself, he had some gritty outings that helped the Rangers get into the playoffs for the first time in 1996: RHP Kevin Gross is 50 years old this week.  One of the great names to pass though the Rangers OF – Scaraborough Green turns 37.

Birthday of the Week:  He had an 11 year career as a catcher  in the majors with 4 different teams (Astros, Cubs, Giants and Rockies).  His post-player career has been pretty sucessful too as the Texas Rangers Senior Director of Player Development – Scott Servais turns 44 this week.

Toby’s Reading List – Checking out the MLB Blogosphere:

Is the Nationals manager Jim Riggleman the first to be fired this season? asks MLB writer Bill Ladson

Orioles MLB blogger Brittany Ghiroli writes about Adam Jones and “the catch”.

One of Toby’s favorites, MLB Boston beat writer Ian Browne has some advice for Boston fans – enjoy the moment in Boston sports - it’s good advice that DFW sports fans should take to heart too.

Last Call

“This thing is a life-saver. It gives me something to play with when I’m bored.”  — LHP Darren Oliver, playing Monopoly on his I-Pad

– Toby

Memorial Day Weekend With Toby

Like most of the Ranger outfielders Toby has been on the DL the past couple of weeks. But his paws are a little less sore today and Toby’s got a few thoughts to share as we head into this holiday weekend.

Toby’s Crystal Ball: The Rangers focus leading up to the Trade Deadline should be on the bullpen. They are looking for right-handed relief but probably wouldn’t be adverse to a left-handed pitcher as well. Mark Lowe and Yoshinori Tateyama could go a long way to alleviating the Rangers concerns about the bullpen. both deserve a hard look before the Rangers do something rash. Big week coming up as the Rangers return to Tropicana Field, scene of their great ALDS triumph. Remember they won all three games in the ALDS at Tropicana Field. Then it’s off to Cleveland for four games against a team that is leading a charmed life. If you had looked at the schedule in March, this trip would have brought on a big yawn. Now it appears to be a tough one for the Rangers.

Toby’s Honor Roll

1. The Myrtle Beach pitching staff: This may be the best collection of talent in the Rangers farm system.

2. The Rangers starting rotation. At least one of these guys will be in Arizona for the All-Star Game. Right now we rank them this way: 1. Alexi Ogando; 2. C.J. Wilson; 3. Matt Harrison; 4. Colby Lewis; 5. Derek Holland

3. Ranger ownership replacing the exact same Cadillac that the manager lost during Hurricane Katrina- Terrific gesture to Ron Washington

Toby’s Puppies:

LHP Robbie Erlin – third round pick from the 2009 draft.  This 20 year old pitcher has been promoted to AA Frisco. He’ll be making his first start this weekend after posting a 2.14 ERA (54 2/3 IP, 5BB, 62 K – Opponents BA of .132) at  Advanced A Myrtle Beach.

3B Mike Olt – we can’t stop talking about this 2010 draftee at Advanced A Myrtle Beach.  Still hitting a very nice .286 with 8 HR and 26 RBI, with a nifty .904 OPS – punishing left handed pitching – .293 BA against –  and not being very nice to right handed pitchers either with a .281 BA against.

OF Lenoys Martin – free agent signing from Cuba. He’s making a great first impression in just 13 games with AA Frisco.  He’s batting .315,  with 7 stolen bases, a.930 OPS and that doesn’t include the raves he’s receiving  for the “intangibles” that can’t be measured by stats:  his baseball acumen at taking the extra base with his speed and saving runs with that same speed and a good arm in the OF.

Toby Barks:  Let’s never forget the reason for Memorial Day Holiday and take a moment to reflect on the brave and painful sacrifice of those who died in service to our country.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.”

Birthdays: Great nicknames have the majority of note worthy birthdays this week.  Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas is 43 today.  Red Oak native 3B Michael “Pinky” Higgins was born on this date in 1909.  Former A’s RHP  John “Blue Moon” Odom turns 66 on May 29th and  the recently retired Manny “ Manny being Manny” Ramirez celebrates No. 39 on May 30th.

Birthday of the week:  New York Giant OF, Olympic Champion and, in Toby’s opinion, the greatest athlete of the 20th Century Jim Thorpe was born on May 28, 1887.

Toby’s Reading List:  Toby says read the American Red Cross website and find out how you can help those who were affected by the devastating tornadoes this spring.   

You can donate by cell phone by texting: REDCROSS to 90999 – $10.00 will go the Red Cross

Or visit The American Red Cross website for other ways to help.

Last Call:

“Mentally I’m good. I know I’m healthy. If I’m healthy, I feel fine. That’s all I need. If I’m healthy, I can do my job.”   

— Rangers Closer RHP Neftali Feliz

Weekend’s With Toby: Home Sweet Home

Toby’s a little tired  this morning, late night  games, especially when the Rangers go 2-5 on an AL West road trip  make him growl a little too.

Toby’s Crystal Ball:  Matt Harrison pitches against the Yankees on Friday night. He is 0-3 with an 11.12 ERA in his last three starts. He was 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his first three starts. 

This guy wants it bad…as much as anybody on the team. He is doing everything he can to be a successful Major League pitcher. 

But the Rangers want to win now and Tommy Hunter gets closer to being Major League ready. Hunter pitches on Monday for Triple A Round Rock on medical rehab assignment and probably needs one more outing after that. 

But he is getting close to being Major League ready. Right now Harrison is the one who needs to step it up and defend his spot in the rotation.

Rangers Staying In Front Of International Scouting:  The list of Top Ten prospects in the Rangers system as ranked by MLB.Com reinforces the importance of international scouting. 

Four of the top ten listed were international amateur free agents, including left-hander Martin Perez. He is ranked No. 1 but the others are shortstop Engel Beltre at No. 3, outfielder Engel Beltre at No. 4 and pitcher David Perez at No. 10. 

In their own division, the Mariners have four international signings in their Top Ten, the Angels have two and the Athletics have one. 

Outfielder Leonys Martin is the latest addition to the Rangers system. The former Cuban star isn’t in the Top Ten yet but the Rangers officially announced his signing on Wednesday. Other top position players in the Rangers system who were international signings include third baseman Christian Villanueva, catcher Jorge Alfaro and shortstop Luis Sardenia. 

“It’s critical,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “The draft is something where you are limited to one shot in 30. You can’t rely on that and (Major League) free agency has its own issues. The international market is one area we felt over the last few years you could make hay. 

“The only limit is how hard you work.” 

Seven of the Yankees top ten prospects are international signings. That speaks to two things. One, international signings are a way to make up for draft picks lost due to compensation for Major League signings. Secondly, teams with significant financial resources can really go hard in that area.

Toby’s Honor Roll

Mike Daly – He is the Rangers Director of International Scouting. His name is on the signing of Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin. 

Michael Young – The guy can still hit. 

Darren Oliver – The ultimate grace under fire. There might be a reason why he has been on five straight playoff teams with three different organizations.

Toby’s Puppies:

LHP Martin Perez (AA Frisco) –  27 IP, 28 K, 14 BB, .242 Opponents Batting Average and he just turned 20 years old on April 4th

RHP Joe Wieland (Advanced A Myrtle Beach) – 31 IP, 41K, 3BB, 2.03 ERA – that’s not a typo. 

IF Odubel Herrera (Low A Hickory) – .312 BA (98 AB), 8 SB,  14 RBI to paraphrase the late, great Paul Newman (spoken in “Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid”) “who is this guy?”

Toby Barks:  Amid the chants of “USA! USA!” let us never forget the solemn and painful sacrifice of the 3,000 who died on 9/11 .  Let us  hope and pray for a future that is peaceful and safe for not only ourselves but for all people all over the world.

 Birthdays:  Once and future Ranger RHP Dustin Nippert is 30 today.  Who hasn’t seen a replay of “the catch”? Can you believe HOF Willie Mays celebrates No. 80 today?  Rehabbing Brandon Webb will turn 32 on Monday.  One of the lesser know players involved in one of the Rangers wrongly lopsided trades* – RHP Walt Terrell turns 53 on Wednesday,  and RHP Francisco “Co-Co” Cordero will be 36.  Finally, the birthday of the week HOF Lawrence Peter Berra, you know him as Yogi will be 86 years young on Thursday. 

*(In case you don’t remember that trade was Ron Darling and Walt Terrell to the Mets – Lee Mazzilli to the Rangers).

Toby’s Reading List:

“Bottom Of The 33rd Hope, Redemption, and Baseball Longest Game” – author Dan Barry recounts the longest game in baseball history between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings from 1981.  He profiles the players for both teams including the soon to be famous – Cal Ripken Jr and Wade Boggs and their other teammates whose names are lost to minor league history.

 — “A Civil War: Army vs Navy A Year Inside College Football’s Purest Rivalry” – commentator/author John Feinstein explores the stories behind the schools (no football scholarships) and the players (who are committed to military service after graduation) from the 1995 Army-Navy game.  Absolutely fascinating.

 — “Big Trouble” –  Dave Barry is the only writer who can write a laugh out loud book about stealing a nuclear device. Okay, Toby loves also loves that a dog is central to the plot.  The book’s been out a few years, but it’s Toby’s favorite summer beach read.  (The book is much, much better than the movie)

 Last Call:

“My pitching coach in the Dominican Summer League used to joke with me. If you don’t make it as an outfielder, you can pitch for me. But nobody ever said it to me seriously.” 

— Pitcher Alexi Ogando, asked if the Oakland Athletics ever seriously considered moving him from outfielder to pitcher.

May 2, 2011: Monday Morning Manager

TR’s busy getting ready for the game, so Toby is the Monday Morning Manager today.

World news dominates the headlines, but there’s always a little room for baseball discussion. 

1.) First there was a  5-5 homestand, now a 1-2 road trip (so far), and then a 7-9 overall since Josh Hamilton went on the DL – is it time to push the panic button?

2.) The Rangers have committed 8 errors in 7 games,  they have the 3rd highest error total in MLB, and are 29th in fielding percentage, what is the problem, more importantly what is the solution?

3.) Matt Harrison’s last 3 games:  11 1/3 IP, 18 Hits, 14 ER, 8 BB, 7 K, 11.12 ERA –   what is your recommendation to Ron Washington and Jon Daniels?

4.) Any additional thoughts on Neftali’s comments about starting?

5.) How about those Cleveland Indians?

Woof!

Construction Nearly Finished

More T.R. , Toby and the Texas Rangers very soon -stay tuned!

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