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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Happy Michael Young Day! (On Saturday)

I think we all remember this day, don't we?  It's the last time Michael Young put on his Rangers jersey:


Sorry...I think I need a minute...

MIKE!!!  Please come back!

That's when MY said this:

My time in Texas is 13 of the best years of my life...It was my honor to be able to play for them [the fans] on a daily basis.  I owe this community everything.

Okay...maybe I need more than one minute...

PLEEEAAASEE!!!
Okay...I think I've pulled myself together now....deep breath...deep breath...

Well, 3.5 months after that fateful January day, the Texas Rangers are finally going to honor the ultimate captain, Mr. Michael Brian Young in a pre-game ceremony.  Saturday's game against the Blue Jays at RBiA (I am still refusing this 'Globe Life' nonsense) will start at 7:15.  And the The Michael Young Show will begin around 6:45 PM.  I've seen The Michael Young Show a few times and I guarantee you won't be disappointed if you watch.  It features a career batting average of .300, gold glove play at shortstop, 2,375 career hits, 7 All-Star appearances, an All-Star MVP, and a little something called a BATTING TITLE.

M-V-P!  M-V-P!  M-V-P!
Michael Young is the best that Texas Rangers history has to offer.  I don't mean the best nice guy. I don't mean the best of the most recent history.  I mean Michael Young has surpassed all other Rangers in the historical power rankings.  Yes, I'm including Nolan Ryan.  And yes, I'm including Pudge (gasp!).  So what makes him so special?  And no, it's not just that MY is the Rangers' ALL-TIME hits leader...

MY's muttering "Hey Jon, you're still an a-hole"
...although that helps.

Michael Young was a constant on this team and as a fan favorite for 13 years of mostly revolving door-madness.  We said so long to a bunch of guys, some of whom were named Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Alfonso Soriano, during Young's tenure as a Texas Ranger.  And all of those guys were supposed to be the face of this franchise at some point.  But after all of those jerks left, only one champ remained standing:  your captain, Michael Young.

I can remember that during the team's rise in 2010, everyone was clamoring for the Rangers to "do it for Michael Young".  That doesn't happen for "okay" players or momentary heroes.

And damn they got oh so close...two years in a row...

Ahhh...memories...
Damn...why did I do that...


Sorry guys.  My bad...I'll get it together, I swear.

The funny thing is, that even when reliving that sad 2011 World Series loss, Michael Young was STILL a bad ass.  During his retirement press conference, he said:

I know there were no rings, but that was a championship team.  They were a great team, but we were better. Flat out.  I can say that now that I'm retired.

It's hard to be a bad ass while retiring, but he managed to do that.  And if being an awesome ballplayer, damn nice guy, and all-around bad ass aren't enough for you, I give you this...a short summary of some of MY's career walk-up music:

California Love - 2Pac, Dr. Dre
Nuthin But A G Thang - Dr. Dre
Roc Boys - Jay Z
So What'cha Want - Beastie Boys
Sabotage - Beastie Boys
Heart of the City - Jay Z

In a world of David Murphys and Josh Hamiltons, Michael Young has got to win some sort of prize for this, right?  RIGHT?  

(Oh and that ^ is not commentary on their playing skills.  It's commentary on their walk-up music...just TERRIBLE.)

So be there Saturday night.  I will be.  At the very least watch the ceremony on TV.  Because I can't imagine the Texas Rangers having another player that means as much as Michael Young does to this franchise anytime soon.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Remember when I said...

Well, Rangers fans one month of the season is officially in the books. I don't know about you, but for me it seemed to fly by faster than a Vince Carter buzzer beater...





 



Haha. Anyway, remember when I said we'd have a better idea about this team after their 10-game mid-month home-stand? Well, they notched 7 victories, including a 5 game winning streak, the bats even (fleetingly) seemed to come alive, and the starting pitching thankfully kept us in games. They then immediately hit the west coast and swept the hated A's at O.co. Ranger diehards everywhere were saying I told you so, among other things...






Even Elvis was getting overzealous...






Haha. Well, after an off day we managed to squander a series at Seattle losing 2 of 3 including one loss in spectacular fashion...





Nevertheless we were all tied up atop the West with Oakland at 15-10 and headed back to the Ballpark for another 3 game set against those hated A's. Well, needless to say it didn't quite go how we hoped it would...




After 3 straight beatings and being outscored 25-4 with our top 3 pitchers on the mound, we closed out the month losing 5 of our last 6 for a record of 15-13. Not terrible considering it's still good for the second best record in the American League while only 3 games behind the A's...




Now most stat junkies might point to run differential as a better indication of whether a team is trending up or down. You don't have to be a mathematician to see why the Rangers have a -21 differential right now after the 3 beatings we just took (we were outscored by exactly 21 runs in the series). Just for fun though if we examine further we find that the entire AL East has a negative run differential, and the A's and Halos have the most impressive differentials in the league at +59 and +40, respectively (2 best in all the majors as well). Worst in the AL? You guessed it...the Astros at -54...




All in all this team is still tough to figure out. They seemed to have everything going in their run of 10 of 13 wins. Overall, they're middle of the pack in runs and batting average. They've hit a paltry 14 HRs, good for next to last in the AL. Compare to that our old friends Nelly, Ian, and Murph who have 11 collectively with their new teams. The Rangers *have* stolen the most bags in the AL with 25 though. So, there's that. No real surprise. Right now you're forced to say they're simply just a meddling offense. They just still haven't found their groove. Oh and we somehow crawled out of dead last in fielding...


Yeaaaaahhhhh!

Losing Adrian Beltre didn't help matters, but just think about where the offense would have been without the surprise success of his replacement. Kevin Kouzmanoff was hitting .362 with 2 HRs and 10 RBI. He earned AL player of the week honors and hit safely in his first 10 games for the Rangers. He would go on to leave a game at Oakland due to back stiffness because...of course he'd get hurt. That's been the modus operandi for the 2014 Rangers. He's probably looking at back surgery which means he'll miss significant time. It's unfortunate because he really was making a case to be on this team every day. A DH at least...






Losing Choo due to a sprained ankle didn't help matters either, but was in keeping with the injury trend. The Rangers were 3-3 in his absence from the starting lineup. The Rangers 1-4 hitters collectively hit .176 during those 6 games. Yikes. Even so, the Rangers were somehow making it work with a 'next man up' philosophy that would make the 2013 Dallas Cowboys defensive line jealous...



Josh Wilson, Donnie Murphy, Michael Choice, Jim Adduci (who of course is also on the DL). They've all done their part (given the situation) in the constant shuffle that is the Rangers lineup. Oh and where would we also be without Alex Rios and Leonys Martin, by the way? Rios (.321 BA) has been our best most consistent hitter while Leo (11 RBI) is crushing the ball with runners in scoring position. Now if this lineup still can't find its groove while completely healthy we can, then, panic. For now, we're still waiting for the Tigers to ship Prince Fielder to us. I mean we sent them Ian Kinsler months ago, didn't we?


Same ole uppercut swing, no?






In all seriousness, remember when I said I had glorious visions of Prince taking full advantage of the short porch in right at the Ballpark? That hitting in front of Beltre and behind Elvis was genius? That a change of scenery was all he needed?




Well after a month we're all still waiting for him to get it together. If you told me on Opening day that by May 1st, Prince would be hitting .206 with 2 HRs and 9 RBI after 102 ABs, I wouldn't believe you. In fact, I'd be incredulous...



Anyway, up until this week's Oakland series I would have told you this team was good enough to win any game and all that credit goes to the pitching. Scratch that. The STARTING pitching. That's a scary thought too though! Remember when I said this team employed 11 different starting pitchers all of last year AND all of 2012? Guess how many they've used through 28 games this season...



8.


8!!



That at least somehow explains why as a team they seem to be average or below average in just about every major category. They do, however, have the most shutouts in the AL with 6. Even though the overall team numbers won't show it: Yu, Perez, and even Robbie Ross have been stellar this month (sans the last 3 games haha). Things at least seem to be looking up with Colby and Matty back into the fold. The rotation is slowly becoming who we thought they were...


Crown their ass!


The sad truth right now is that our pitchers have to go out there and be as close to perfect as possible. With an inconsistent offense and an inconsistent bullpen, however, you may STILL end up with a loss at the end of the night! For instance, it makes little difference that Yu Darvish is 1-7 in 9 career starts against Oakland (0-7 5.32 ERA in his last 8) because the Rangers don't score when he's on the mound no matter who we're playing (we've scored an avg of 2.2 runs in his 5 starts). He's 29-12 with a 3.09 ERA with 11.16 K/9 against everyone else, by the way...



Back to the bullpen though, how lucky are we that Joakim Soria is 6 for 6 in save opportunities? What he's missing is a set up man. Ogando just hasn't proven he can go out there and get the job done on a consistent basis. Last Sunday afternoon in Seattle comes to mind...



So, what's the quick fix here? Failed starting pitcher Tanner Scheppers (who's of course on the DL too)?


With my 9.82 ERA!

So what say you, Rangers fans? One month enough to make you a pessimist? All the numbers say this is a .500 or worse team...


Are they fatigued already? Injuries finally catching up to them? They did play 19 games in 20 days to close out the month, after all. You'd feel a whole lot better right now if this team had figured out a way to win even one game against Oakland this week, or at the very least not given up two games at Seattle last weekend. Remember when I said they tend even out over 162, though?


Well, also in a 162 game baseball season a general recipe for success is to play .500 ball or so on the road while taking full advantage of your home games. Since 2010 the Rangers have averaged right around 42 road wins a year. So that's a good 7 road wins a month. The Rangers went 6-6 in April on the road...



Well I don't believe this to be a .500 team or a great team...yet. They are definitely a very unlucky, unhealthy team at the moment. The good news is that probably will not last. So what lies ahead for May? Well wouldn't you know: the bad news is the Rangers will be playing 18 road games, 6 more than in April. The other good news is that most of the teams in AL are still jockeying for position in the standings and most are hovering right around 12-13 wins...



The Angels can tell you that falling flat on your face with one bad early month can knock you way out of the race...

Loser C.J.!

One great month can also catapult you. Just ask the 2010 American League Champion Texas Rangers and their 21-6 May. So once again, it's important that the Rangers not squander opportunities ala Seattle when they travel to Houston and Minnesota, and when they host the Blue Jays and M's mid-May...


Most road games of any month all season. Season long road trip (10).

I'll be there on the 17th, by the way! Wouldn't you know it turns out they're honoring Michael Young in a pregame ceremony that night. How fitting. Now I know my jinx at the Ballpark has been well documented by my peers, but <ahem> they never lost once when I saw them play live last season...





I live the Suite Life, baby! Haha..

First things first though, the Rangers travel to wherever the hell it is that the Angels play baseball or film shampoo commercials or whatever it is they do...


I wanna punch this clown so bad...

It'll be our first 3 games of the season against the hated Angels and with the Rangers slumping and the Halos nipping at our heels it makes this kind of an important early May series. The winless Hector Santiago will be on the mound for the Angels while Colby takes the hill for us. I really feel like this is Colby's chance to cement his spot in the rotation. It could also unfortunately go the other way, as well. Somehow I don't see that happening though...



Either way, I hope you're all as happy as we are that baseball is back and having as much fun as we clearly are watching these games. April was up and down. Lets hope for a better May...








Bring on the Halos!