30 Clubs in 30 Days – Texas Rangers

As a reminder, if you have MLB Network, the Texas Rangers edition of their “30 Clubs in 30 Days” series starts tomorrow, the 25th of March.
While I haven’t watched each episode, as it’d be overload, I have watched for the teams I like, and the ones in our division. I have, however, watched one segment in each episode. They’re doing the “Prime 9 Best Plays in Franchise History”. You’d think of the ones they’d do for the Rangers, it would be Kenny Rogers’ perfect game, clinching the playoffs in 1996, Nolan Ryan’s 6th no hitter, and Nolan Ryan’s 7th no hitter. Probably Nolan Ryan’s 5000th strikeout as well.
If you don’t have MLB Network, you should. Make sure and check it out tomorrow. It plays like 3 times tomorrow, and then gets repeated a bunch of times before the season starts.

Ron Washington’s Story

So I’m driving around running some errands early this afternoon, and I have the XM talk channel on. They’re heading to commercial, and they say, “There is a breaking story, more on the update”. I figure, “eh, someone got released, or Strausberg got officially assigned to the minors”. By this time I get to the drive through teller at the bank, and they said “Ron Washington tested positive for cocaine use in 2009”, which prompted me to say out loud “Holy shit – that is a big deal”. I’m sure the teller heard me say that, but he didn’t ask me what I meant.
When they came back from break, Kevin Kennedy and some dude I don’t know who it is started talking about it, and at that time, not much in the way of facts were known. Before I get to my own thoughts on the matter, I feel compelled to get this point across in the graphic shown here.

While some might say that’s a harsh response, I have to say it was my honest and true immediate response to hearing the news. I mean, Ron has never done this before, and why at age 57 (I believe) when he’s fairly set in terms of his baseball career he felt it necessary to do that is beyond me. If he was a lifetime habitual user, I’d understand why he was doing it – but to START now? That’s where the dumbass comes from. I mean, really. Maybe we could get Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler from Saturday Night Live to do a “Really, Ron? REALLY??”
Here is the complete text of Ron Washington’s statement about this.
OK, the initial reaction remarks over, the attention then turns forward to “now what”? Thanks to Evan Grant, I’m going to copy this text of his regarding the “facts”…

The facts: Washington acknowledged he used cocaine last season sometime during the first half of the year and after he was rewarded a contract extension for 2010. Washington would not reveal any details of exactly how, where and when he obtained the cocaine, saying he bore the sole responsibility for what he called a “stupid mistake.”
• Washington was made aware of an upcoming drug test, immediately informed the Rangers and MLB of his use of the drug and entered a treatment program. He did, in fact, fail the drug test.
• Washington, who turns 58 on April 29, said it was the only time in his life he had used cocaine. When asked if he was saying that he had never used illegal drugs anytime in his life, he said only “I’ve never used this drug before.”
• Rangers GM Jon Daniels and President Nolan Ryan said the club discussed all possible options on the handling of Washington’s transgression. The club, however, could not reveal the failure of the drug test. That would have violated the confidentiality of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
• Washington said he completed the terms of MLB’s drug treatment plan two weeks ago. He said he was tested three times a week as part of that treatment. He also said he would be willing to submit to more testing to help reinforce that he is “clean.”
• MLB officials declined to comment, citing confidentiality regarding the testing/treatment plan. They said they would have no comment on reaction to Washington’s announcement.

Given how much of a wide berth sports fans generally give players for far worse transgressions than this, the calls I’m seeing for “Fire him now!” just does not work in my mind. So many Cowboys fans STILL want to hoist Michael Irvin up on a freakin’ pillar despite all the shit he’s done, yet Washington deserves to be run out of town for a single offense, despite the fact that he was apparently rather pro-active, and informed both the Rangers and MLB about taking it before the results of a drug test was known. That’s not the kind of mentality from a person who was trying to hide something. Given that he’s passed every drug test since that one he failed, I’ll buy into the fact it was a one time thing that hasn’t been an issue since.
Everything I’ve read on ESPN, MLB, and the Rangers blog at DMN tells me that it’s a non issue to the team too. There were a lot of quotes of support from Nolan Ryan & Jon Daniels about this. One has to think that Chuck Greenberg knew for awhile, too. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but if he ever fails for it a second time, he needs to go immediately. I do think that it makes his leash shorter. His contract was already going to be up after this season, so I suspect if the team goes into a tailspin, he might not have as long a slide time grace period as he did last year when everyone was calling for his head (unjustly, I think). Overall, I think he’s a good baseball man, someone who has to deal with a lot of things that none of us do, and someone who made an epic level screw-up in judgment. I’ll be curious to see what Josh Hamilton has to say about all this, given his own past.
From what I’ve read, the Comissioner’s Office could still hand down some sort of punishment, but my gut feeling is that there won’t be any. So lets give Ron our support, and I’ll accept his apology, provide that turns out to be the truth of what happened. If it turns out something else happened he hasn’t said, I’ll likely change my opinion, but for now, I think we should applaud him for being forthcoming with the problem he caused. I don’t think he should be let completely off the hook – perhaps some sort of fine might be in order?
But my religion tells me to forgive, so I will. But I still think it was a really stupid thing to do, hence my use of “dumbass”. Again, don’t forget all the other sports figures we’ve forgiven for far worse than this. I did also like that “almost all” of his players showed up the press conference in support of him. Still want to hear what Josh Hamilton has to say.
Let’s get to April, eh? :)
UPDATE: I was talking to a friend of mine about all this, and he said something which reminded me of a point I wanted to make, but forgot to when I wrote this earlier today. It’s the quote in Ron’s statement that says “Washington, who turns 58 on April 29, said it was the only time in his life he had used cocaine. When asked if he was saying that he had never used illegal drugs anytime in his life, he said only “I’ve never used THIS drug before.” “This” drug? What others has he used? If there are other drugs involved, the question becomes how long ago? If it was 20+ years ago, who cares? If it was a year and a half or so? Then we’d care.
UPDATE 2: Given I wrote about a dozen game updates to catch up with the last week and a half, I wanted this up near the top, so I bumped it up, even though I wrote it yesterday.

Bobby Bragan Patch

Saw this story on the Rangers site tonight..

The Texas Rangers today announced that the team will honor the memory of Bobby Bragan by wearing a uniform patch during all games in spring training.
Bragan, who spent over 70 years involved with professional baseball, passed away on January 21 at the age of 92 in Fort Worth. The former major league player, coach, manager, and executive was a long-time front office employee for the Rangers, serving in public relations and community capacities.
The oval patch contains the red and blue lettering, “BOBBY BRAGAN, 1917-2010” with a white background and red border. It is located on the right sleeve of the Rangers’ blue jersey tops, which the club will wear for all spring training games in 2010.
Following spring training, the jerseys will be available for purchase with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation. The team also plans to donate a number of the jerseys to the Bobby Bragan Youth Foundation, which has provided over 500 scholarships to Dallas-Fort Worth area students since its inception in 1992.
The Rangers will wear the Bragan patches for the first time on Tuesday.

I have to confess. When I saw the story, I didn’t remember who he was. :(

All Rangers Games in HD for 2010?

While the official schedule of HD programming for the 2010 season hasn’t been posted yet, I read something tonight that gives me hope. You see this will be the third (and second full) baseball season since got an HDTV. Baseball looks so much better in HD, that when they have just an SD feed, I frequently will not watch the game and listen on the radio instead. Snob, perhaps, but after you go HD, you don’t want to go backwards.
Anyway, last year there were 120 games in HD, covering Fox Sports Southwest, Fox 4, and KDFI Ch 27. In 2010, almost all of them are Fox Sports Southwest. Here’s my count of what channels have how many games for the Rangers in 2010:
Fox Sports Southwest: 131
TXA-21: 25
Fox 4: 5
ESPN: 1
That’s a total of just 30 out of 162 to be on free over the air TV (which I believe is a first for the home opener not being on free OTA TV), 132 are pay cable. That’s quite a percentage shift. If you’re just over the air TV, you’re getting screwed. But you should get cable or satellite anyway if just for MLB Network – they are awesome.
Anyway, of the games produced, I would think the bulk of them would be in HD. ESPN is guaranteed HD, and The Fox 4 games are national, so that’s a guaranteed 6. I’m not sure about TXA21, as they’re new in 2010.
But what follows is why I posted this. Saw this news story about the Brewers games on Fox Sports Wisconsin being 100% in HD for 2010. Makes me think if the Brewers can do it, we can too. If it comes out we can’t, I’ll want to know why.

Washington, D.C. (February 24, 2010) — For the first time, all Milwaukee Brewer baseball games will be in high-def this season on Fox Sports Wisconsin.
That’s according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
The regional sports channel will broadcast 136 Brewer games in high-def this season.
Of the remaining Brewer games on TV, six will be televised nationally on Fox or ESPN, which will also cover them in HD, and 15 will be broadcast by the local station WMLW, according to the newspaper. (Apparently five games will not be televised this year; there are 162 regular season games.)
Fox Sports Wisconsin’s coverage of the regular season will start on Monday, April 5, when it airs the Brewers-Rockies game at 1:10 p.m.

Opening of Camp Catch Up

Well, I haven’t written much lately, despite the start of camp as a few projects have opened up for me that could lead to full time employment again. Something I still don’t have since last May, so that is by far my #1 priority. To that, I’m gonna add a thoughts on recent events.
First off, Jamey Newberg’s quote from this past week is something I want to answer. Jamey asked this.

“Does it mean anything when Bobby Valentine says on ESPN on February 18 that Ron Washington is on the hottest seat of any manager in the league?”

Perhaps it’s just my sarcastic nature, but it could be viewed as he’s doing a passive aggressive thing to perhaps get his old job back? He was there when Nolan Ryan signed on to Texas back in 1989. Now that Nolan’s running the show, perhaps Bobby V is looking to play the same card only backwards? :)
C.J. Wilson’s mouth: CJ took some heat right as camp was opening when he said this..

“It’s no secret I don’t think I should be limited to the set-up role. I have too many weapons,” Wilson said. “Here is the reality. It is real simple. There are not very many guys that have the stuff that I do that would be willing to sign here if they were free agents. There is no experienced pitcher that has my stuff that would sign here, historically.”

It’s an interesting scenario, as one feels he lost the closer’s job much the same way that happened between Rod Barajas & Gerald Laird a few years ago. Got hurt, someone else stepped in, didn’t get it back. On one hand, I can understand his frustration. On the other hand, you don’t go mouthing off about your employer and why nobody else would want to sign here. Yikes. Nolan Ryan handled it well, but I wonder if that stuff will factor into the subconscious of those making decisions around here. I don’t have any desire to see CJ out of here, but think for a minute if he was paired with Ozzie Guillen. hahaha. :)
The Catching Situation:
What happened? We were stocked with catchers, who were backlogged behind Laird. We move Laird to Detroit and now we find ourselves looking for bottom of the barrel free agent catchers to shore things up? Saltamacchia hasn’t worked out, Teagarden hasn’t shown he can be a #1, and Max Ramirez? Dunno. Where’d our big glut go? A bit scary there.
Endy Chavez signed:
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. See Joey M’s commentary for more on that.
Rangers miss payment:
It was announced that the Rangers missed a close to $40 million payment into an MLB fund that helps fund – I don’t remember exactly what, but references to deferred money to Arod, Juan Gonzalez, and Rafael Palmeiro came up. It was said that the payment could be something the union could file a grievance over, but have decided not to, leaving it to new management to figure out. Apparently it was factored into the price of the sale of the club, so it’s probably a non issue. Amusing how well Tom Hicks is trying to screw the pooch on the way out the door.
Josh Hamilton predicts 96 wins: That’s a lot. When you realize it’s just 9 more games over last year it doesn’t seem like a lot, but 96? I’d love for that to happen, as it pretty much means we’d be in the playoffs. Come on Rangers!
Brad Wilkerson: Brad Wilkerson signed a minor league deal with the Phillies today, which does NOT include an invite to camp . He supposedly retired last spring after being released by the Red Sox. This isn’t a big deal, but I just wanted an excuse to post this picture again:

Rangers TV in 2010

In my quest to get the site in shape for the new season, I started working on the schedule pages. The first thing I did was check out the Rangers site to see what the schedule looked like. Looking for weird events that I need to keep track of, etc…
For the last few years, the Rangers deal has been with Fox TV. Certain really high profile games (like opening day) were on Fox 4. The majority of the games are on Fox Sports Southwest, as the team makes more money with them on cable. Since the deal was with Fox, the free OTA games were on KDFI Channel 27. That is not a surprise, since they’re all Fox.
However, today when I went to look at the schedule I noticed that the OTA games were on KTXA-21. It’s not a huge deal, but that’s a CBS station. Did something change with the TV deal that I’m not aware of? There wasn’t any sort of announcement that I recall.
Does anyone have any information on this? I wonder if there was some unannounced deal where the TV contract was renegotiated in order to help Hicks get some more coin.
Additionally, while it hasn’t been said, I’m hoping we can get a “100% of the games in HD” this year. Last year there was a huge deal made out of the fact that they had a rather large percentage of the games in HD. I’d love for all the games to be in HD. It’s so much sweeter that way.

Uniform Numbers

As we creep closer to the start of spring training (it’s THIS MONTH!), I’ve finally started bringing my website up to speed. I’m unfortunately still unemployed from last May, and I found, despite the free time, I wasn’t always in the mood to work on my websites. That’s a feeling that only recently returned to me, and to that, I updated my website’s uniform number history section for 2010. The Rangers finally posted their roster for spring training, and with it come all the uniform number assignments for the 40 man roster as well as all the NRI’s (plus coaches).
A few observations.. The Rangers have had for awhile Zack Minasian as the home clubhouse manager for the last 16 years. After the 2009 season, he was let go (we never really heard much about that story, actually). One of Zack’s “things” from the past was that if there was some “important” Ranger who was with the club, and then was not, their number was not given out for a year after that. Some examples from the past were when Pudge left after 2002, nobody wore #7 in 2003 (until Eric Young got it in 04). Same goes for Juando’s departure after 1999. Nobody had #19 in 2000, but Gabe Kapler had it in 2001. Also Rafael Palmeiro. He had #25 in 2003, then nobody in 2004, until Marshall McDougall had it in 2005.
We have several numbers for departed Rangers that are unassigned in 2010. Now I don’t know who the new equipment manager is, but he appears to be holding up that tradition too. Anyway, the numbers are 8 (Rudy Jaramillo), 9 (Hank Blalock), 33 (Kevin Millwood), & 53 (Joaquin Benoit).
One other amusing thing to me (perhaps only to me, as I don’t think anyone else cares to this level) is the number 21. 2010 will be the first year in a row that the same player has worn number 21 since 2001. That is the most inconsistent number. Check this out:
2000: Ruben Mateo
2001: Ruben Mateo, Craig Monroe
2002: Pat Borders, Reynoldo Garcia, & Todd Hollandsworth
2003: Ruben Sierra, Jason Jones
2004: Jason Jones (only in camp, was released before opening day)
2005: Esteban German, Steve Karsay
2006: Adam Eaton
2007: Sammy Sosa
2008: Milton Bradley
2009: Jarrod Saltamacchia
2010: Jarrod Saltamacchia
The last player who wore #21 for two complete full seasons in a row was Warren Newson, who carried that number in 96, 97, & 98.
Oh, and Johnny Narron (Josh Hamilton’s “life coach”) switched from 73 to 23. :)
There is one thing I was hoping fans could help me by contributing. If you’ve ever looked at my uniform number history page, I’ve gathered over the years pictures of the various numbers being worn on players. I’ve posted some of them on the bottom of each number’s page as an “example” of that number. The Ruben Mateo picture above is one of those. But check out the pages, and look at the bottom. I think it makes for a nice little archive of pictures.
The part you can help with is with pictures. Take a look. If you have pictures of any of the players who I do not have a picture of, I’d love it if you could send me the picture for inclusion on these pages. I’m specifically looking for ones that show the player’s name along with the number. Not just the front where the number is, I really want one with the player’s name and number from the back being shown. I know a ton of you have picture archives (I’ve seen ’em on Facebook & Picasa Web Albums), but I’m sure there’s a ton more I haven’t seen.
Please take a look at what you have, and if you have something useful for this project, let me know, I’d love to get it online. Danke. Here’s some of the ones I’ve collected. It’s the guys who are only up for 2-3 games in a season and then never to return are the hardest to get shots of. :)

Texas Rangers 2010 salary

A lot has been made, and will be made until the Chuck Greenberg group formally gets the keys to the barn about how much our salary will be. My friend Maury Brown over at bizofbaseball.com posted the latest in his salary series, this time covering the Texas Rangers. I decided to cover that story here too with my own commentary.
Now that Scott Feldman came to terms last night, all of our arbitration eligible players are under contract, continuing a streak the team has in avoiding things like this. Here are the currently under contract players for 2010, and the values of their salaries.

  • Michael Young – $16,000,000
  • Rich Harden – $6,500,000
  • Vladimir Guerrero – $6,500,000
  • Ian Kinsler – $4,000,000
  • Frank Francisco – $3,265,000
  • Josh Hamilton – $3,250,000
  • C.J. Wilson – $3,100,000
  • Darren Oliver – $3,000,000
  • Scott Feldman – $2,425,000
  • Colby Lewis – $1,750,000
  • Brandon McCarthy – $1,300,000
  • Chris Ray – $975,000
  • Khalil Greene – $750,000
  • Dustin Nippert – $650,000
  • Esteban German – $600,000

That’s a total of $54,065,000 for 15 players. 15 players does, of course, not make a full team, so there’s more to come. Six more are insufficient service time players, meaning we can renew them if no agreement is reached. Those guys are:

  • David Murphy – $414,820
  • Jarrod Saltalamacchia – $410,890
  • Brandon Boggs – $408,540
  • Nelson Cruz – $408,070
  • Chris Davis – $406,620
  • Luis Mendoza – $406,210

Those numbers are their 2009 salaries. While their 2010 salaries are unknown, Maury theorizes that giving the players a 6.5% pay increase would make the overall salary demand for these six players a total of $2,614,735.
Add that to the previous total, and the salary is now at $52,614,735. We still have four roster spots to fill, so the actual number will be a bit higher. Actually the “four spots” remark comes from Maury. He uses all these players listed above as players to be on the 25 man roster, and as a Rangers fan, I know they won’t all be. Putting all those names above in “slots”, here’s what I come up with:
C Jarrod Saltamacchia
1B Chris Davis
2B Ian Kinsler
3B Michael Young
SS
LF Josh Hamilton
CF
RF Nelson Cruz
DH Vlad Guerrero
BN David Murphy
BN Khalil Greene
BN Esteban German
BN Brandon Boggs
SP Rich Harden
SP Scott Feldman
SP Colby Lewis
SP Brandon McCarthy
SP Dustin Nippert
CL Frank Francisco
RP CJ Wilson
RP Darren Oliver
RP Chris Ray
RP Luis Mendoza
RP
RP
RP
This shows five “slots”, but.. We know who our starting shortstop will be (Elvis Andrus), and we are expecting Julio Borbon to be the starting centerfielder. Neither of these guys were on Maury’s list. On top of that, there’s no backup catcher in this mix (Teagarden, Ramirez, Toby Hall?) either, so that will bump one of the guys on this list to AAA.
Elvis made $400,000 in 2009, and Julio Borbon has a major league salary too. He signed a 4 year major league deal that started in 2007. 2010 is the final year of that. The total value of that contract is $1.3 Million, but the breakdown of that is unknown to me. A straight breakdown of Borbon’s contract is a $325,000 payment, but I find it hard to believe that would be his 2010 salary, as it’s under minimum.
I also find it unlikely that Brandon Boggs & Esteban German will start the year with the big club, and probably Luis Mendoza, too, so the “holes to fill” is probably larger than that. I know their salary counts towards the total club salary obligations, but I believe Maury’s article talks totally about 25 man opening day roster, not total obligations.
As long as we’re talking about obligations, we do have some dead money on the books this year. Most of it is for actual players playing elsewhere that we owe money to somewhat. They are:

  • Kevin Millwood – The Rangers are picking up $3 Million of his 2010 salary in Baltimore.
  • Frank Catalanotto – Who just today signed with the Mets, we owe $2 million for a buyout of his contract.
  • Vicente Padilla – $1.75 Million for his contract buyout

And then there’s Alex Rodriguez. Lest you think his optout from a couple of years ago removed our obligation to him, think again. All that relieved us from was the money we’d have to send to the Yankees for the opted out years of the contract (of which 2010 would have been the final year had it still be in play). No, there’s a still a messy (and it’s messy to figure out) issue of deferred money.
The best I can figure, we owe Alex Rodriguez $3 Million in 2010 as part of deferred money. I know a lot of the Rangers’ obligation went away when he voided the last year of his original contract (which would have been THIS season), but at the time there was some noise made about us still owing some small amount from the voided years (not the years that had happened in TX & NYY). There is still the deferred money from the original years which we’re on the hook for. The original payout plan for that was for it to not be over until 2025, but in looking at it now, I think that deferred money came due earlier, and I think – but am not 100% positive that 2010 is the last year we have to pay for Arod. It’s confusing, because Texas owed deferred money from the original years of the voided contract. When he was traded to NY, the terms were rejiggered a bit to reduce the load on deferred money TX owes. When the contract was voided, I’m a little unclear as to whether the years we owed deferred money was changed (to us being done in 2010), or if there are two separate piles of deferred money Texas is paying on. I think, but am not sure, that the voided years also had deferred money that were attached to them that are owed, despite the base salary not being owed.
Having said ALL of this, our salary looks to be right about what it was last year on opening day, which was $68,178,798. Maury’s article says our 2010 opening day payroll will be $3.25 million less than 2009, but if you add the dead money for Alex Rodriguez into the mix, it’s pretty much a wash.
We’ll find out before opening day how it all plays out, obviously. But it’s still confusing somewhat. :)

Not so fast

Hopefully this is nothing, but… read this tonight over at Maury Brown’s excellent bizofbaseball site on the Rangers sale.
While I expect this is just one of those legal bumps, one can never quite tell truthfully. I’ve seen so many fans around the metroplex hail what was announced over the weekend as the endgame. A lot of it reminded me of the rather boneheaded move Dubya made some years ago with his “Mission Accomplished” speech. Fans are saying “here comes the money” and doing dances, claiming Ben Sheets is coming right behind this announcement. These seem like the same kind of fans that call in to post game shows and go “when are we getting some pitching in here?” Where’s Steve Busby when you need him?
Anyway, I won’t get truly excited about this until the keys are handed over.

For the majority of Texas Rangers fans, the statement from Hicks Sports Group saying that a sales agreement between HSG and a group of investors headed by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan was a sign that the end had finally come, new owners were on the way.
But, in a case where Hicks Sports Group debt is still hanging over the heads of the Rangers, there’s a chance that the deal may not meet the muster of HSG’s biggest lender.
One of the final steps in the process includes approval from the 40 creditors that HSG is in debt to before approval from MLB. As reported by Daniel Kaplan of the SportsBusiness Journal, Monarch Alternative Capital, a hedge fund that now owns $100 million of the $525 million of debt that Tom Hicks has incurred may be a deciding factor in the sale. Monarch Alternative Capital is known as a “distressed debt buyer” or in more unflattering terms, a “predator” that looks to “buy debt at a discount from banks that hold defaulted loans and then hopes to make more by selling the assets.”
Because Monarch is in the business of extracting as much of a profit as possible in these types of deals, they could have a considerable say in the matter. As reported by the SBJ:

Monarch saying no to a deal that guarantees it a sure amount of cash could be considered an unlikely scenario, but sources are painting a picture of Monarch as being willing to go to the mat if it thinks it is not getting every penny it should.


It has been reported from multiple sources that the bid from Houston businessman, Jim Crane, was higher than the Greenberg-Ryan bid. It is unknown if Crane would be allowed back into the bidding process, should Monarch Alternative Capital not approve of the deal that the Greenberg-Ryan group has on the table.

Getting Going Again

Hey gang, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a baseball update – this is my first “real” baseball post of 2010. The last thing I posted was the day that Kevin Millwood was traded, and that was about a month ago. A few things have happened since then, so I’ll have a few thoughts on the stories that have happened since the last time I posted.
I also need to get in gear for spring, as camp starts in about a month (give or take a few days). I need to get my roster pages in shape, finish entering the 2010 schedule into the site, and update the known uniform numbers for my uniform number history pages. Thanks again for visiting, and sticking around. This will be my 12th season since this site started. Still enjoy doing it, although I’ve found it harder and harder to devote time to the site like I’d want to. Second kid has something to do with that. :) Anyway, here goes…
Dec 8 – Pudge to Nationals: In a move that probably surprised everyone except Scott Boras, Pudge made another cash grab and signed with the Washington Nationals for two years and $6 Million dollars. That’s a lot for Pudge in 2010. It’s not like he’s awful, but a lot of that has to be for “Pudge”, not Ivan Rodriguez, current mlb player. I remember saying when we traded for him that you’d better enjoy it as he wasn’t going to be here in 2010. Well, he’s not. This isn’t a total I told you so, because in the days leading up to this signing, I thought we had a shot at bringing him back, especially with the questions around Salty’s health. Then he Boras’ed the salary base for old backup catchers, we had no hope on that one.
Dec 10 – Rangers sign Rich Harden: To replace the departed Kevin Millwood, the Rangers took a flyer on Rich Harden. As it’s been stated, Harden has the potential to be totally stellar. His stuff is incredible, but like a lot of guys, he has issues staying on the field. If somehow we can solve his health problems, this will be a steal for us, as the deal is just for $6.5 Million for 2010. There’s an $11M option for 2011 with a $1M buyout. But that’s less of a concern. If we can get out of him what he’s capable of (and he’s only 28 years old. It could work out incredibly, but it quite equally has major flameout potential. One to keep an eye on, but I like the signing.
Dec 11 – Josh Lewin to return as announcer: Josh’s contract was due to be up I believe on Dec 31st, and he was signed to a one year deal for 2010. Amusingly enough, the press release for this states that there is an “option” for 2011. Does it have a buyout figure? Since when did announcers get “options” like that? One of the big keys to this was the fact that he’d miss fewer games for the Rangers when going away to do Chargers games in September. I can’t recall if there was a specific limit to said missed games or not, but it was something that always bugged me. I’m no Lewin hater (as there are a lot of in DFW), but his shtick has started to grate as the years go on. I can’t see him as an Ernie Harwell, or a Vin Scully, or a Harry Kalas type. The kind that stays in one place for 30 years. My guess is he’ll be gone within a few. I have no facts to back that up, just a “gut feeling”.
Dec 12 – Esteban German signed: The Rangers signed Esteban to a one year, $600,000 contract (if in majors; just $200k if in minors) for 2010. Next.
Dec 19 – Lowell trade dead: After much back and forth, a proposed trade of AAA C Max Ramirez to the Red Sox for Mike Lowell was killed after Lowell was in town, and failed the physical. Granted, the Sox were rumored to be paying $9M of Lowell’s $12M salary for 2010, but it still struck me as “why are we helping them with a salary dump?” Lowell by all accounts is a nice guy, I’m sure the intangible stuff would have been fine, but I couldn’t imagine he’d be THAT big of a deal offensively. I didn’t much care either way about this one, and the trade’s cancellation didn’t bother me.
Dec 21 – Darren Oliver Returns: Again. That makes the third player in the “three time tenured Rangers player club”, which also includes Bill Haselman & Kenny Rogers. The second time Oliver was here wasn’t the greatest of times. He still seemed a bit confused as to whether or not he wanted to be a reliever or a starter. Never seemed to grasp both. However, I seem to recall him starting to put together the relieving career that would serve him well in Anaheim. He’s been well traveled inbetween Rangers stints 2 & 3, having also pitched in Boston (02), Colorado (03), Houston (04), NY Mets (06), and the Angels (07-09). Still, I think most everyone sees this as a good move. Just don’t try using him as a starter again. Side note, if the Rangers make the playoffs in 2010, Darren will turn 40 during that time.
Dec 26 – Guardado to Nationals: In a move I can only comprehend as “veteran bullpen guy to mentor”, Eddie Guardado signed with the Nationals. So much for being run down and wanting to retire.
Dec 31 – Marlon Byrd to Cubs: In a move that probably surprised nobody, Marlon Byrd won’t be a Ranger in 2010. I think both sides really did want him to return, but he was apparently squeezed out in a money play due to the sale of the club. Shame, as he was a fan favorite. I do have to admit that when I heard the news, I had to do a Birdman wave on my sofa one last time. :) While the Cubs didn’t overpay for Byrd nearly the way that Anaheim did for Sarge Jr a couple of years ago, I did see a lot of noise nationally about whether or not Byrd is cut out to be a 162 game type player. He is staying with Rudy Jaramillo, who is also a Cub. I hope he does well there. Just not against my Phillies.
Jan 8 – Salty cleared to play: Salty was cleared to resume baseball activities again. It’s expected he’ll be ready to go once camp starts in a month. If he’s healthy, it will probably help a bit, but I wonder if we’re still going to try and get some veteran help at catcher just in case. His problems throwing last year were awful to watch, I hope his surgery around the end of last season has fixed those problems. Also hopefully Clint Hurdle can work on his swing, as he seemed to have lost his way offensively. Could have also been injuries, who really knows? Just need him to be better than last year for sure.
Jan 10 – Khalil Greene signed: To replace Omar Vizquel, who perplexingly went to the White Sox, the Rangers dipped into the free agent pool and fished out former phenom Khalil Greene. Greene is mostly known for playing for the Padres, where he was touted as the next in line in the Jeter / Garciaparra / Arod line. Maybe not THAT high profile, but he was a big name. Then he flamed out, and ended up with the Cardinals in 2009, where he spent time away from the club with what amounted to “a head case”. It was officially labeled as a “social anxiety disorder”. Uh, what? Not sure what to make of that. Provided his head is right, he should be a good veteran backup.
Jan 11 – Vlad Guerrero signed: Due to the failed trade for Mike Lowell, the Rangers were still after a right handed power bat for the middle of the lineup. Given what was available in the free agent market, he was by far the best fit of the available options. To be honest, if they were after a left handed guy, I wanted them to sign Jack Cust. But it was an RH they needed, so Vlad was the way to go. I’ve liked Vlad for a long time – way before he was really known. For some reason that I can’t recall now, I hooked onto him as a great player back in Montreal. Loved his arm in right, was a total cannon. He could wallop the ball like there was no tomorrow. I loved seeing him play. I’d tune in to Astros games when they played the Expos just so I could see Vlad. Have always liked him. In 2010, he’s not what he was, his legs have broken down, so he’s going to be mostly restricted to DH duties. I’m sure he’ll play more in the field than the two games he played there in 2009. But really, he’s the DH. I’ve never been a big fan of a permanent DH, I prefer using that spot to rotate guys in, give them rests, etc. Still, if you have to have one, might as well have a guy who can hit a ball out of the ballpark after it’s bounced out in front of the plate. This should go well, provided he can stay healthy (where have Ranger fans heard that line before?)
Overall, it’s not been an awful off season, all things considered. We did have some moves to talk about. Given how hamstrung the team could have been given the off season front office dance, I’m generally happy with the moves we’ve made. I don’t think any of them takes us backwards at all. We just need our pitchers to keep improving like they did last year.
The division is far more wide open, as Anaheim has taken some major roster hits (of which we have two), so they’ve come back. Seattle has improved a heck of a lot. I mean they’re seriously better, and Oakland? Well, it’s the usaul Oakland story. So I think the division is winnable for sure. I’m not going to homer it and call the Rangers a favorite, because they’re not. The divison should be much closer than in recent years, and if things break right, yeah, we could win it.
Bring on the games.
P.S. Did I forget anything major in the moves department since Millwood was traded? Someone usually reminds me of that after I’ve posted.