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David Murphy Slaps the Game Winner as the Texas Rangers Outlast the Red Sox

I have been a Texas Rangers fan my entire life.  Well, except for when I was a kid and loved the A’s, but that was just because they were the best team of the era and as a kid you always pick the winner.

It has not been easy being a Rangers’ fan, and despite their debateably unexpected success last season, it is still not easy.  I am convinced that even if the Rangers had beat the Giants the media would have come up with excuses as to why the Giants lost.

There has been no bigger moment than with the World Series appearance last season, but the past does little to help the present and future, so lets look at how the Rangers started their American League title defense. 

As the commentators of today’s game repeatedly pointed out, the Red Sox are widely considered the World Series favorite.  This is no surprise with the players they acquired and the team they already had. 

They are going to have a great season and may very well win it all, but today they had no such luck.

This Rangers team, who opted to start the season with a guy who is only one year removed from the bullpen, fought through adversity and brought down the giant. 

It started with a terrible defensive play that is the part of entirely different discussion, and ended with the most underrated player on the team coming through once again. 

What I loved most about this game was how the team fought back after going down early and often.

They went down two runs in the first, but tied it back up in the second.  Down two more in the third, and answered with three more in the fourth. Lost the lead on a home run in the eighth, and answered with four more runs in the eight to close it out.

Obviously they will not be successful if they have to fight back every single game, but this team has acquired a swagger that I have never seen on a Rangers team before. 

My only guess is that the World Series did it to them, but whatever it was I am sure glad it happened.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is only one game out of 162, Josh Hamilton looks like he is disinterested right now, Michael Young obviously struggled in his new role and CJ Wilson did not perform to his exceptionally high standards, but it is still just one game.

The bullpen that is such a major question gave the team a chance to win, and that is about all we can ask for at this point. 

As a side note to the commentators, it was the Rangers who added a bunch of runs after the fifth inning, not the Red Sox.  It was also the Red Sox who used five relievers, and not the Rangers.

Finally, I have to give all the props in the world to David Murphy.  I have regularly commented on how big of a class act Michael Young is, but David Murphy is right there with him.

Despite having consistently quality numbers he has never broken through as an everyday player. 

However, the guy gives everything he has everyday, and this team would not have succeeded last year, and will not make it far this year, without him.

So my hat is off to David Murphy for his game winning double and to my beloved Rangers for the great start to a season.  Opening Day is always sweet, but it is that much sweeter when your team wins.

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Jeff Bagwell Kept Out of the Hall of Fame By Rafael Palmeiro?

When the new list of inductees to the Hall of Fame came out this year, I couldn’t help but wonder why Jeff Bagwell did not make it in.  He seems like a definite Hall of Famer in my eyes, and I just did not understand his omission.

I understand that he played in the steroids era and that anyone playing in that era is immediately tainted.  Despite the fact that Bagwell was never a huge slugger, he made his money on being a consistent hitter that also had some pop when he needed it.

While the steroid era is likely what is keeping him out, he really doesn’t fit in with most of the people who really tarnished the image of baseball.  I doubt that you would see his name on any list that includes Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, or Sammy Sosa. 

So, despite never being directly associated with anything involving steroids, what may have hurt him the most was the positive test of one player:

Rafael Palmeiro.

There is much about Bagwell and Palmeiro that is very similar.  They had long, quality careers in which they consistently contributed to their teams’ success. 

They were both very reliable hitters that were very highly respected by the fans and the players.  I, for one, was quite upset when Palmeiro was no longer a Texas Ranger.

Then came Palmeiro’s fall from grace.

I was as shocked as anyone because he had always seemed like such a clean cut, quality guy.  The last guy you would ever expect to cheat.  And, maybe that is why it hurt so much.

But, the people who are likely hurt the most are players like Bagwell. 

Guys that worked hard and did their best to help their team in any way they could.  Guys that got dirty and did the small things needed to win. 

In short, the guys that fans love the most and earned their respect through quality play on the field. 

I think Bagwell will make it in eventually, and he really should. But, it is a shame that the actions of some are doing damage to the reputations of everyone else, including those that are clean. 

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Adrian Beltre vs. Michael Young: What Is the Best Choice For the Texas Rangers?

The biggest topic in Major League Baseball right now is the signing of Adrian Beltre.  In true Scott Boras fashion he has sold his client well and appears to be on the verge of another monster contract for one of his clients.

What appeared to be a competition between numerous teams, mostly from the AL West, has turned into one team on the verge of a contract. 

According to numerous sources, the Rangers and Beltre have agreed to terms on a six year $96 million deal for the hard slugging third baseman. 

At first sight, this appears to me to be a signing that will make it look like the organization is doing something, which is never a good reason for a signing.  It feels like missing out on Cliff Lee may be causing the Rangers to make somewhat of a rash decision.

I will concede that Beltre is an excellent fielder and a solid bat when he wants to be, but more on that later.

This deal just really doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t see Beltre as an upgrade in anything but home runs, and even that isn’t a huge upgrade.

Beltre had one season of more than 30 home runs, and averages 21 home runs per season over his career.  Young, on the other hand, has averaged almost 16 in his 10 full seasons, which really isn’t that many less.

So what about all the other numbers? 

Young averages more of almost everything else: Runs (+20), Doubles (+4), Hits (+40), RBIs (+4), Walks (+5), Average (+.025), and OBP (+.019).  Young is also good for an extra 100 or so at bats every season.

Young does average 10 more strikeouts, but again, that is with an extra 100 at bats. 

As for the great power numbers that Beltre supposedly is much better with, Young is slugging only .014 lower than Beltre.  That’s right, 14 points and 5 home runs more per season. 

That must be worth $16 million a year.

So how about the stellar defensive numbers that make Beltre so desirable?

It is somewhat difficult to compare the two since Young only has two seasons as a third baseman, whereas Beltre has played there almost exclusively.  But lets just look at all the numbers for fun.

Young has played in about 320 fewer games than Beltre, or essentially two seasons worth.  However, he has more putouts, assists, and double plays, and not just by a little bit.  Some of that can definitely be attributed to his time playing up the middle, but what about as a fielder in general?

Young has almost 100 fewer errors having played essentially two extra full seasons.  He also has a career fielding percentage 21 points better than Beltre. 

Despite the fact that Beltre is supposedly a better fielder, he has almost twice as many errors in 320 fewer games and thus has a fielding percentage that is drastically lower.

Beltre does have one more gold glove than Young, but if Derek Jeter hadn’t won so many because of his past, Young would likely have one or two more.

The biggest reason that I am against this deal is the intangibles.

Young is the consummate team leader who has repeatedly shown the team is more important than his own desires.  He has changed positions twice for the good of the team, and has offered to do so a third time because the team has asked him too.

Beltre, on the other hand, only plays well when he is in a contract year.  His two biggest years in home runs, RBIs, and average were in contract years.  The only two seasons he hit over .300 were those years.

Career bests in hits, runs, slugging percentage, etc…all in his contract years.

Now obviously Daniels, Ryan and Greenberg know more about baseball than I do, since they own the team, but the numbers just don’t add up to me.

I prefer the team player to the selective hustler any day, and the numbers really aren’t that impressive anyway.

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Texas Rangers Lose Lee, Greinke, But Still Have Good Off-Season…So Far

In this day and age of high-priced free agents and long-term contracts for players that have one or two good years left, it is comforting to see my beloved Rangers continue to make good decisions. 

Signing Lee would have been an awesome signing, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed, but at least he didn’t go to the Yankees.

I honestly can’t say that I blame either side for the actions they took. Philadelphia is a good place for Lee to go, and the Rangers refused to do something that made them uncomfortable and didn’t fit in their long term plan. 

The common action after losing a major free agent would be to go right out and sign somebody else to fill the hole, but this year there was no such signing out there, so rather than making a rash decision the Rangers took a deep breath and looked what other options might be out there.

Zach Greinke was being actively shopped, so the Rangers took a look, as any wise team would. Once again, the demands being made didn’t fit into the Rangers long-term plans, and ultimately didn’t appear to be worth the price to be paid. 

So the Rangers said thanks for considering us, but we’ll pass.

They did make a few signings that could prove to be great for the team, or just be low-risk signings that we forget about by this time next year. 

Brandon Webb was once an elite pitcher, but has struggled with some injuries in recent years. If he can return to only half his previous form it will be worth it, because we really haven’t invested that much. 

Every Rangers fan had legitimate hope that Lee would come back to Texas, or that we would make some other big signing, but that just isn’t how it played out. And not much else has really taken place since then.

It would be easy to get frustrated that the team isn’t doing a whole lot, but that is exactly why I am thrilled with the management right now. It has a plan and is sticking to it. It is obviously working, or else the Rangers wouldn’t have made it to the World Series last year.

There has been some talk of moving Michael Young around to accommodate the signing of Adrian Beltre, and if they are do, they are just plain stupid. 

Michael Young has been the pillar of consistency for this team, and ultimately the glue that holds it together. He is the consummate team player that every team needs. 

Beltre, on the other hand, is inconsistent, and at this point extremely overpriced. I have all the faith in the world that management will make the right choice based on how they have acted thus far, but stranger things have happened.

So as the new year passes, I would personally like to say thank you to the Rangers management for doing nothing. The opportunity will come to make a big move, but for now, just hold tight.

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A Tale of Two Pitchers: C.J. Wilson and Rich Harden of the Texas Rangers

When this season started, I had high hopes for the Rangers pitching staff, and for the most part they have delivered.

There have been quite a few ups and downs, but in general I am quite happy with their performance thus far.

I expected Rich Harden to have a decent season and was somewhat skeptical of moving C.J. Wilson to the starting rotation. 

Boy, was I wrong.

C.J. Wilson has been a great success as a starter. Despite a rough stretch of four or five games, he has pitched extremely well. 

He is tied for the lowest ERA amongst Rangers starters with Colby Lewis at 3.62 while being tied for the team lead in innings pitched, again with Lewis. (Their stat lines are actually ridiculously similar.)

Until Tommy Hunter returned to the rotation (thank you baseball gods) on Saturday and tossed a complete game, Wilson was the only Rangers pitcher to go the distance, and he did it twice, though one was not the full nine innings.

He has allowed only four home runs, and those all came in the last week or so. 

There is probably not another Rangers fan out there that was as against C.J. Wilson moving to the rotation as I was, but I am quite happy to admit that I was wrong.

Harden, on the other hand, has been a complete disappointment. 

He has given up the most home runs on the team with 10. He leads the American League in walks with 40 and is second in the Majors to only Clayton Kershaw, who has 42.

The home runs don’t bother me nearly as much as the walks. I realize that walks will happen, but when they are occurring as often as they are for Harden, it is just ridiculous. 

There is a reason a walk is also referred to as a free pass. You are gifting that hitter a chance to come around and score, and runners have done plenty of that against Harden.

The other drawback to so many walks is that it pushes your pitch count up, which brings your innings pitched down. Despite having one more start than the other three consistent starters for the Rangers, Harden has thrown six innings less than Feldman and 10 less than Lewis and Wilson.

In 12 starts he has only thrown 59 innings. That means that on average he only goes 4.9 innings, or in other words, he wouldn’t even be eligible for the win should a win be the ultimate outcome.

The real problem with having such short outings where he barely covers half the game, or less, is that the bullpen gets worked that much more. While they have done a good job thus far, we can’t expect the continued wear and tear from such short outings to have no effect.

Especially as the summer heat rolls in, our starters must go deeper into the games, but I just don’t see Harden doing it. He has lost his control completely, and I have little hope he will find it.

He showed us what he is capable of back when the Rangers were in Oakland, but one good game doesn’t make up for the majority of bad ones. 

He obviously is not trade bait, and he will not likely get sent to the minors, but based upon the success of Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter, I am more than happy to let Harden be on his way and let the youth have their chance.

They gave it a whirl, and it didn’t pan out. Cut your losses and move on to something new. 

Even behind Hunter and Holland, there are other pitchers at AAA knocking on the door, and I can’t understand why the Rangers would keep beating a lame horse when they are competing to stay on top of the division.

This organization has a history of holding on to players a little too long, in my opinion, and it is time to make a move. I am all for giving a guy a chance to break out of a slump, but when you slump for over two months, you have had your chance.

Frank Francisco was pulled as the closer after two blown saves. Chris Davis was sent down after a tough couple of weeks. Taylor Teagarden went all the way to AA in a matter of weeks.

They are finally showing a willingness to take decisive action for the betterment of the team, so why are they so hesitant to make this move?

A similar case could be made for Scott Feldman, but I am willing to give him a little longer leash for a couple of reasons.

One, he is averaging an inning more per start than Harden.

Two, he is not issuing free passes; hitters are just finding holes.

And three, he showed us last season how could he could be with this team. He just needs to settle down and relax. I think the pressure of being the No. 1 guy has gotten to him. I am more confident in him finding his groove than I am Harden.

I am not a GM, nor do I claim to be, but it seems obvious to me that if a starter can’t consistently get you through six innings—or in Harden’s case, five—then it is time to bring in someone that can.

This is the most promising season we as fans have had in some time, and I would hate to see it thrown away because they are unwilling to make a move. 

When push comes to shove, this is a business, and if your employee is not performing up to expectations, it is time to show him the door. Especially when you have as much talent in waiting as we do, we can’t afford to waste any more time on Harden.

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Bud Selig Leaving a Legacy of Inaction

For any person involved in professional sports there is often a discussion of what their legacy will be after they leave the sport.  Even players who were never all-stars can leave a legacy as a hard worker, great teammate, or role player.

Some peoples’ legacy can be defined by a single event, such as a great win or a heartbreaking loss.

When it comes to most players, their legacy is defined by their actions from their first game as a rookie to the day they retire.  In most cases this is a relatively short time frame in which to leave a legacy.

On the other hand there is one person in any league that is often given the opportunity to have an impact on multiple generations, and in some cases, change the game—for better or worse—forever.

That person is the commissioner of the league.  One commissioner in particular has added to his legacy in recent days:

Bud Selig.

Selig’s handling of Jim Joyce’s blown call that cost Armando Galarraga his perfect game opened my eyes to exactly what Selig’s legacy will be.

I will forever see Selig as the man who does nothing. 

To prove my point, I will start with present events and work backwards through his time as commissioner.

Selig has pretty much pretended the whole perfect game dispute never happened. He refused to overturn the call and award Galarraga the perfect game he earned because he supposedly doesn’t want to set a precedent.

There is not a single person in the world that thinks Galarraga didn’t pitch a perfect game. Joyce himself feels terrible that he blew the call so badly. 

It is true that the call did not affect the outcome of the game, but righting this terrible wrong would not affect it either. It would simply give a young pitcher the credit he is due. 

He deserves to have his name on the list of perfect game winners, and Selig could fix that, but he didn’t.

Instant replay could have easily righted this wrong as well, but Selig refuses to use that tool to its full extent. 

Even after the plethora of terrible calls in the 2009 postseason, he is still unwilling to let technology aid in the proper calling of games.  He did institute replay for disputed home runs in 2008, which is a step in the right direction, but not a big enough one.

Human error is a part of baseball, and replay would never eliminate that part of the game, nor do I think most close plays should even be reviewed, but these plays that are not even close could easily be righted and no one would complain.

In what will most likely be the single biggest chapter in the Bud Selig era, I will remember how he refused to take action until Congress forced him to.

I am of course referring to the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.

It was not until after the 2005 Congressional hearings that Selig helped form the new league policy on PEDs.  This is totally ridiculous as a big chunk of the steroid era started in the ’80s and ’90s.  Not to mention the use of amphetamines in the ’70s, which were also outlawed at this time.

I realize Selig did not become acting commissioner until 1992, and commissioner in 1998, but he was an owner before that time and had to be aware of what was going on in the game. He very easily could have come in and helped to fix the problem before it got totally out of hand.

I realize he had to work with other groups, namely the player’s association, to get stuff like this done, but it would not have been difficult to get the aid of the media, and in turn, the public, had he actually wanted to make something happen.

But he did nothing.

Selig did reinstate George Steinbrenner from his lifetime ban from baseball though he refuses to reinstate Pete Rose, who I feel has paid his debt and belongs in the Hall, but that is a different argument all together.

In comparing other commissioners to Selig I can’t help but keep thinking about Roger Goodell of the NFL.  He has come in and taken action on what can be very controversial subjects.

He has brought the NFL into an era of dominance in the American sports world.  He has disciplined severely, but fairly, while always maintaining the league’s best interests.

He is accepting of new technologies that will further the game, and is willing to make tough decisions when they need to be made, and stands firmly by them when he gets criticized.

There is much more involved with the success of a league than just the commissioner, but while the NFL continues to increase in popularity, Major League Baseball has remained mostly stagnant, if not somewhat worse off after the steroids fallout.

Who knows if Selig will actually retire when his contract is up in 2012, since he didn’t in 2009 contrary to his previous announcement that he would.  All I know is that I hope whenever he does get replaced, his heir will be more willing to take a stand on issues, and really try and make the game better.

Money is often the driving force in these decisions, but it wasn’t money that kept Selig from awarding Galarraga the perfect game that he had earned, it was simply his inability to do anything, even when the decision is an obvious one.

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