Rangers Fans – Party Like It’s 1999?

Last year was only the 2nd season since 1999 that the Texas Rangers finished a season above .500.  Even with a 2nd place finish in 2009, the Rangers finished 10 games back of Anaheim.  Ranger fans have seen a lot of great players since the last division winner in 1999, but the one thing they haven’t seen is a playoff victory.  The Rangers have only made the playoffs 3 times in franchise history with only 1 win in the postseason to show for it (that came in 1996).

So what is different about this team?  I will give you one word, pitching.  Through 97 games the Rangers have an ERA of 3.81.  The last time Texas has had an ERA under 4 was 1990.  That team had the likes of Nolan Ryan, Charlie Hough, Bobby Witt, Kevin Brown, and Kenny Rogers (who led the team in saves).  The pitching staff even included a young 27 year-old named Jamie Moyer who is still going strong 20 years later.

Surprisingly they are doing this with Rich Harden (3-3 5.68 era) and Scott Feldman (5-8 5.48 era) having horrible years. Instead it has been the likes of Colby Lewis (9-6 3.52 era), C J Wilson (9-5 3.03 era), and Tommy Hunter (7-0 2.09 era) anchoring the rotation.  And this year the big addition was not a mediocre end of the rotation starter but one of the best pitchers in baseball, Cliff Lee.  For the first time in years, the Rangers have a legit ace on the staff.  Not only an ace, but one with solid playoff experience and success.

Throw in the success of the bullpen this year, and the staff has been solid all year long.  Neftali Feliz has been lights out in the 9th closing down games converting 27 of 29 save chances.  But a closer is only as good as his setup men.  If you can’t get the ball to your closer with the lead, he won’t be effective.  The Rangers have done that well all year long.  The ageless wonder Darren Oliver (42 IP, 1.29 era) has returned to Texas in a big way.  Anchoring down the pen with Feliz and Oliver is Darren O’Day and Frank Francisco.  Throw in Matt Harrison who has been in the pen and in the rotation along with youngster Alexi Ogando and the Rangers are poised to make a run at the playoffs.

The only concern I have about the pitching staff is the work load some of them will face.  C J Wilson has been in the bullpen for 93.5% of his MLB career and has already pitched 50 innings more than last year.  So how he will hold up come late August and September is anyone’s guess.  Colby Lewis pitched in Japan last year where they throw every 6 days.  Nobody is sure how that will effect him come late in the season.  They are also relying on Tommy Hunter who is young.  The good thing is Cliff Lee.  He is a work horse who will eat up innings which will help the bullpen as well.  That is the last worry point, the bullpen.  They have been well used so far this year with the struggles of Harden and Feldman.  Will they get enough rest to pitch well down the stretch remains to be seen.

As the Offense goes, it has been impressive.  Josh Hamilton (23/71/.354) is hitting out of his mind right now.  He has been unbelievable so far this year, and he has protection.  Hitting in front of him is Bad Vlad Guerrero (20/76/.313) and behind him Nelson Cruz (12/52/.329).  Not to mention the solid seasons that Micheal Young (14/57/.302) and Elvis Andrus are having.  There are two spots of worry for the offense, firstbase and catcher.  These areas really need an upgrade before the postseason, but it looks like that will depend on what happens with the ownership situation.

Any Ranger fan has to be excited about the prospects in the postseason this year.  With a solid offense, a new ace in Cliff Lee, and 3 solid #2 starters for playoff series in Wilson, Hunter, and Lewis, the Rangers are poised to make a run at their first World Series appearance.  The question remains how will they deal with the dog days of summer.

Posted in MLB2 Comments

Top 10 Baseball Songs

Nothing says summer like baseball.  The hot summer nights, hot dogs, cold drinks, and cheering for your favorite team.  Whether you are a Cubs fan who has waited a lifetime to see a championship or a spoiled Yankee fan, there is one thing that everyone can enjoy year round, music.

America’s love affair with baseball has always included music as well.  There are some really good songs that are either about baseball, or mention it.  So I have searched high and low trying to find my 10 favorite songs.  I hope you enjoy these, and if there are others I may have missed please let me know.  I am always looking for more great music.

Number 10

A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request by Steve Goodman

Two-time Grammy winner Steve Goodman grew up in Chicago.  He is better known for writing songs like “City of New Orleans” or “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”, but Goodman penned this classic song about a dying Cub’s fan.

Number 9

Nolan Ryan (He’s a Hero to Us All) by Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff is a Texas legend.  Here he writes about yet another legend from the Lone Star State.

Number 8

Joltin Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown Orchestra

This is one I remember as a kid.  Sure it came out in 1941, but it’s a classic baseball song and no list of mine would be without it.

Number 7

Say Hey by The Treniers

This is another classic I can remember listening to as a kid.  Plus it’s about one of the most gifted players to ever grace the field.

Number 6

Catfish by Bob Dylan*

Dylan is a rock legend.  Here he sings about Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter.

* I could only find a cover of this on YouTube

Number 5

Tessie by The Dropkick Murphys

This is an old song redone from a 1902 number in the musical The Silver Slipper. The newer version was released in 2004.

Number 4

Glory Days by Bruce Springstein

This song just screams summer to me.  Plus now that I am older, I can understand the song much better.  I have had those moments of remembering the glory days. And I too know a guy from high school that could throw that speed ball by you and make you look like a fool.

Number 3

Talkin’ Baseball by Terry Cashman*

This is by far my favorite song from when I was a kid.  Written in 1981 it details the history of baseball from the 1950’s to 1980.  It’s great to hear a lot of the names I only grew up reading about or seeing highlights of.  Plus it’s such a catchy tune.  After the song became such a hit, individual team songs were done but nothing tops the original.

* I couldn’t find the Talkin’ Baseball song on YouTube so I figured I would show you the next best thing – Talkin’ Softball from one of the greatest Simpson’s episodes.

Number 2

Cheap Seats by Alabama

One of my favorite all-time bands singing about minor league baseball.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  As I have gotten older and been able to travel more, I have a greater appreciation for minor league ball.  In fact, I love it.

Number 1

Centerfield by John Fogerty

There isn’t another song that gets me more pumped up to see a baseball game than this one.  It’s one of the few songs where if I hear the first few notes, I have to hear the whole song.  Even as I sit here today listening to the song, I am wanting to get out and throw the ball around.  Maybe I’ll head for the batting cages instead.

Songs in their own stratosphere

Take Me Out to the Ballgame – Without question this song belongs on any list about music and baseball.  Hearing this at Wrigley also has some extra special meaning.

The Star Spangled Banner – I still get goose bumps when I hear this at a ballgame and nothing upsets me more when people don’t pause when it is playing.  We owe everything to those who fight for our freedom, including being able to watch baseball.

These two songs belong on any list, but they are in their own category.  Together they are the greatest combination of music for baseball and they belong on a list of their own.

So what are your favorites.  I would love to hear what songs you enjoy.  Drop me a line and let the discussion begin.

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International Baseball Travel

My goal is to see baseball all around the world.   I have started my journey here in the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea, but many people are not aware of how widespread baseball has become.  The game that Abner Doubleday started, okay so maybe he didn’t, has spread across the globe.  My hope is to experience this great game in as many different places as I can.  So let’s take a look at exactly where I want to travel to see a few games.

Asia

South Korea – There are 8 teams and 7 stadiums in South Korea.  By the end of the year I plan to see each stadium at least once.

Japan – I am planning a 5 day trip to Japan in September.  I hope to take in 4 games at different stadiums in the Tokyo area.  Japan is very expensive so it will be difficult to see all 12 teams.

Taiwan – I am thinking of taking a trip to Taiwan in July.  The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan is a 4 team league that plays at various stadiums around the island.  I hope to take in 3-4 games while there in July.

China – There is a 7 team league in China.  There is a lot of room for baseball to grow here.  I hope to eventually get to China to see some baseball, but it might have to wait till next year.

Philippines – The Phils, as they are affectionately known here in SK by some of the foreigners, has a 6 team league.  It’s a small league with few games, but it is well worth visiting.

Australia

Australia is starting up a new league, with MLB backing, starting in November 2010.  The new league will have 6 teams.  I’d love to try and possibly check this league out after my contract is up in November.  The one problem is plane tickets are so expensive.

Europe

There are a lot of places that play baseball in Europe.  In most of the countries baseball is not huge, but it is starting to grow.  On the international scene nobody really makes a splash, although the Netherlands showed the world they cannot be taken for granted in the last World Baseball Classic.  So here is a list, and a long one, of places I want to go to see some baseball.

(in no particular order)

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • England
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • Ireland

The Americas

There is a lot of great baseball in this area.  Of course I want to see every MLB stadium and as many minor league stadiums as I can in the USA, I think there are some hidden gems in other parts.  So here is a list of places I want to visit merely for the baseball.  The great part of this area is all the winter leagues.  While most of the world is taking a break from baseball, Central and South America is just getting warmed up.  I hope to one day see all of the winter leagues available.

  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Panama
  • Venezuela
  • Columbia
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica

There are other places to see games as well.  Even if I only get to see little league games, I want to experience a game in as many places as I can.  Baseball is the one true passion I have.  It’s an amazing sport that can bring together people of different backgrounds and cultures.  As I begin my journey here this year, I hope you will join me.

Have you seen games in any of these countries?  I would be interested in hearing your stories.  If you have, drop me a line and let me know.  I am always interested in hearing feedback, questions, or comments about anything on my site.

Posted in MLB, KBO0 Comments

NL All-Star Voting

It’s that time of year again.  The Mid-Summer Classic is about to be upon us, so it’s time to take a look at who should be playing in Anaheim.  Today, I want to take a look at the senior circuit.

National League

Catcher – This position seems to be a little thin this year.  However, I feel Brian McCann is having the best year so far.

Brian McCann – Atlanta .258/8/30/.806 ops

First Base – As always, there is a lot of talent at 1B in the NL.  I find it hard to argue with Albert Pujols.  Pujols is simply the best hitter in the NL in many minds, and it’s hard to argue with it.  Despite a few other potential All-Stars here, I am going with Pujols.

Albert Pujols – St. Louis .302/15/50/.962 ops

Second Base – I really don’t see any other possible player here except Martin Prado.  Prado is playing out of this world so far.  Leading the league in hits and adding a little power and run production, Prado seems to be the easy choice here.

Martin Prado – Atlanta .340/7/31/.865 ops

Third Base – There are a few solid prospects here.  I am not sure Scott Rolen is getting his due, but I am going to go with David Wright.  With his added ability to steal a base, I think he comes out on top among the 3rd sackers.

David Wright – New York .291/12/55/.896 ops

Shortstop – Despite his lack of respect for his boss, I think Hanley Ramirez is the clear choice.  He is the real deal at shortstop with power, speed, and the ability to hit for average.

Hanley Ramirez – Florida .293/11/43/.878 ops

Outfield – I think the list of possible starters is at least 5 deep.  I am going to start off with Andre Ethier.  He is having a great season, and his upside is still yet to be seen fully. To round out the field I have teammates Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.  Both are having solid years.  Braun is one of the better hitters of his generation, and Hart is starting to come into his own with a great year so far.

Andre Ethier – Los Angeles .320/12/44/.965 ops

Ryan Braun – Milwaukee .310/10/46/.873 ops

Corey Hart – Milwaukee .268/18/53/.918 ops

Pitcher – I really don’t see any point in picking anybody other than Ubaldo Jimenez.  His numbers are amazing this year.  Throw in a no-hitter, and he is the clear choice.

Ubaldo Jimenez – Colorado 13-1 /1.15 era / 1.00 whip

So what do you think?  Let me know who you think I missed, or overrated.

‘Till Next Time,

TBJM

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Posted in MLB6 Comments

Kid Dynomite’s Debut

It was a spectacle in Washington on Tuesday night, and it lived up to the billing.  Unless you don’t follow baseball or have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’d know I am talking about Stephen Strasburg’s Major League debut.  Strasburg has been the talk of baseball since last years draft.

Strasburg quickly tore through the minor leagues putting up amazing numbers.  However, the Nationals waited till after June 1 to call up Strasburg to postpone arbitration for a year.  In 11 minor league starts (between AA and AAA) Strasburg was 7-2 with an era of 1.30.

In front of a standing room only crowd Tuesday night, Strasburg dazzled.  In 7 innings he struck out 14 and only allowed 2 runs.  His stuff was electric.  Fastballs over 100 mph to go along with devastating breaking balls.  It was quite the site.

I was really pleased to see this for Washington.  They have not had anything to cheer for in years.  This gets the league talking about them in a positive way.  Plus, it was nice to see a full crowd in Washington.  That doesn’t happen too often.  This is a must needed boost in the arm for the Nats.

It will be fun to watch him over the rest of the season, but don’t expect him to continue putting up numbers like he did Tuesday night.  I do expect him to put up solid numbers, but he is bound to have his ups and downs as all new pitchers do.

Stephen Strasburg AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

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Hello Win Column! – What a Game This Is

With all the crap that we see in our day to day lives, sometimes we need to be reminded that there are genuinely good people out there.  Unfortunately this normally takes a bad event to occur (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc…).  But today we got to see something special, and nobody died or was injured in the process.  Of course, I am talking about Jim Joyce and Armando Gallaraga.

Both men acted like adults and nobody got out of control.  The situation, as bad as it was, was handled with incredible maturity.  I have gained a lot of respect for both parties involved.  I found the link below through Brent Mayne’s Blog, and it is quite the moving video.  I think Mayne said it best when he said, “This is why baseball is the greatest sport on the planet and this is why we should leave it alone.”

So watch the video below.  Shed a tear or two (I did).  Then take a moment to remember just how great this game really is.  Oh and while you’re at it, go check out Brent Mayne’s site.  I really enjoyed it.

Clip of Joyce and Gallaraga

Jim Joyce and Armando Gallaraga shake hands prior to game.

I felt this deserved to go under the headline of Hello Win Column!  After all, this is a good story in the end, and that is what I want to bring to you with this segment.

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Around the Horn

I wanted to weigh in on the happenings from yesterday. There were two significant events of the day.

First of all, let me quickly mention the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. I know Griffey hasn’t been the same player for quite some time, but it’s still a sad day knowing one of the all-time greats of the game is retiring. I don’t think I have ever seen a player that played with such joy and emotion while at the same time being one of the best, if not the best, in the game. In my mind he is the greatest center fielder of his era, and easily the best one I ever got to see play. He is 5th on the all-time home run list, and what is unique about that is he has never been linked to steroids. A 13 time all-star, 10 time gold glove winner, and the AL MVP in 1997 (.304/56/147), Griffey will definitely be missed in the baseball world.

Perhaps overshadowing the Griffey retirement somewhat is Armando Gallaraga. Gallaraga was 1 out away from the 3rd perfect game of the year and 21st in history when umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base. I have to say in the aftermath that I was pleasantly surprised at how well both Gallaraga and Joyce handled the situation. Joyce understood after seeing the replay that he blew the call and requested to talk to Gallaraga personally. Gallaraga himself has been quite understanding of the whole situation by not getting bent out of shape with Joyce. He said he understood that it was a difficult call and that Joyce was human. It is reassuring in a day and age when many baseball players can be demanding prima donnas to see someone with a level head in a situation as big as this one.

So will anything happen in the end? I don’t think Gallaraga will get his perfect game, but I do think baseball will look at expanding instant replay. Whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable and will be debated, but I am not sold one way or another. What do you think? Should commissioner Selig do anything about the situation? If so, what? I’d love to hear what others think.

You can also join the conversation on twitter by following me there @baseballjourney or on Face Book.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

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June 1 Surprises

I was looking at the standings and box scores from June 1st and a few things stood out to me. I can’t really decide what is the most surprising out of all of this too, so I want your help. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

1. Teams in 1st place include Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, Texas and Tampa Bay
or
2. Troy Glaus’ stats .277/9/40/.452 vs. Ryan Howard .280/9/35/.454
or
3. Anything else that has really surprised you. There seem to be quite a few.

On a Braves related note, just how good can Jason Heyward be? He is already in the top 10 in RBI, slugging, OPS, and OBP. He is a star in the making and I am glad there is someone to take over for Chipper when he is gone. The Braves have been lacking that person ever since Chipper started his decline.

Posted in MLB2 Comments

Two For Tuesday – Baseball Injuries

With the recent injuries to Kendry Morales and David Huff, it got me thinking of some of the worst injuries that I have seen in the past. I have seen my share on the field and on TV, but there are a few that stand out to me.

The first one that comes to mind is former All-Star Dave Dravecky. In 1988, Dravecky was diagnosed with cancer in his arm. He underwent surgery in late 1988 and was told he would never pitch again. Dravecky worked hard and was determined to get back to the mound, which he did in August of 1989. He pitched brilliantly in his comeback going 8 innings and winning against Cincinnati. Five days later tragedy would strike in Montreal. In the 6th inning on a pitch to Tim Raines, Dave Dravecky broke his arm. It was a gruesome sight and one I will never forget.

Two years later the cancer would return. With his arm continuing to deteriorate, Dravecky was forced to have his arm and shoulder amputated. Today Dravecky is a motivational speaker. You can see part of this in the short video below which includes video of his arm breaking in Montreal.

The other injury that comes to mind is the one Jason Kendall suffered on July 4, 1999 in Pittsburgh. As Kendall crossed first base he suffered a compound dislocation his ankle. It was a horrifying sight to see. Ankles are just not meant to bend in that direction. He wound up missing the rest of the season but came back strong the following year. I don’t have video of the injury, but there is a grisly picture below.

What are some of the injuries that you remember best? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on the best, or worst, injuries.

Posted in MLB, Videos0 Comments

Halladay Throws Perfecto

It was a crazy Saturday around Major League Baseball. Three separate incidents stand out from Saturday’s games. Sadly, two of them are not something you want to see happen. Let’s start with the good first.

Roy Halladay threw the 20th perfect game in history on Saturday and the 2nd of the season. He pulled this feat off against the Florida Marlins, and strangely the last 3 perfect games thrown over the last 2 years have been against Florida teams (the previous two being the Tampa Bay Rays). This is the first time in history that 2 perfect games have been thrown in the same season, let alone the same month (Dallas Braden did it on May 9th). Throw in the Ubaldo Jimenez no-hitter and it has been quite the year for pitchers so far.

With only 20 perfect games in history you might think that it is the hardest thing to do, but you would be wrong. There are two other accomplishments that have happened even fewer times. First of all, the unassisted triple play with only 15 occurrences in history (5 of them have come in the 2000s).

But perhaps the most difficult is the natural cycle with only 14 occurrences in the history of baseball.  You might be asking yourself, is a natural cycle different than a cycle?  Yes, it is.  A natural cycle occurs when the hitter has his hits in order of single, double, triple, homerun.  Gary Mathews Jr. was the last to pull off this feat while with Texas in 2006 against the Detroit Tigers.

From the column of don’t celebrate too early, Kendry Morales hit a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning against Seattle on Saturday, but wasn’t able to walk off the field.  As Morales approached home plate surrounded by his teammates, he leaped into the air and landed awkwardly on home plate.  He twisted his angle and went down hard breaking his leg.  It was a freak accident but it will surely change the way the Angels celebrate throughout the rest of the season.

Perhaps the most gruesome site of the day came in New York when David Huff was hit by an Alex Rodriguez line drive.  The ball glanced off the side of his head and went all the way into right field.  It’s never a fun sight to see and even Arod was shaken up after the play.  Hopefully David Huff will make a full recovery with no damage done.  That is the most important thing at the moment.  If he is able to pitch again one day will just be icing on the cake.  Above is a video of the line drive.  Watch at your own free will, but know it’s a pretty shocking video.

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New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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