Monday, April 03, 2006

In which Tony is kind of depressed

The alternate point of view from Rose is that my team, the Braves, had bullpen meltdown number 1 of who knows how many. Although they won, their true colors came shining through. I hope that this is still "shaking the rust off" but as it has been said history repeats it self. In the Braves history it is always the bullpen.

In Which Rose Is Actually Kind Of Impressed

Yes, the Dodgers lost today. Nominal ace Derek Lowe crumbled, and reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, who was so great in spring training, gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning for an ERA of 27.00. But you know what? The team almost pulled off a September-caliber rally, coming from being down 8-1 in the fifth inning to losing by only one run, and they did it with plain old utilitarian move-the-guy-along hitting. (And, for that matter, without Nomar.) It's also promising that the rest of the relievers were in fine form.

161 games left. And that right there is one of the great things about baseball.

Here's hoping the worst of the rain holds off for a few days.

Come Out And Play

(I'm starting this "typed while watching" entry a little late, so the first few notes will not have any time stamps.)

Opening Day is always a monumental moment for me, so I wanted to have a record of some sorts about the first Texas Rangers game of the year. Please indluge me. Diving right in now...

First inning: Kevin Millwood looked fearless about pitching in the launching pad that knowing fans call The Temple. He struck out Coco Crisp to start the game and the 1-2-3 inning ended with Laynce Nix tracking down a David Ortiz smoker into the right centerfield gap. I held my breath a bit as Nix approached the wall, knowing his football mentality, but he managed to soften the blow.

Curt Schilling went 1-2-3, also, striking out Brad Wilkerson and Michael Young to start the inning before getting Mark Teixeira to ground out. Dare I suggest a pitchers' duel? In this park?

Commercial break Wow. That shrimp quesadilla at Taco Cabana looks effin' awesome.

1:29pm Rookie Ian Kinsler got his first fielding chance on a grounder from Manny Ramirez. He bobbled the ball, but calmly picked it up and made the throw to first for the out. It's always good to get the first chance out of the way early.

1:31pm Laynce Nix again tracked down a well hit ball in the gap. Damn, I hope he stays healthy this season.

1:34pm Young just made a nice play deep in the shortstop hole, but his throw was too late to get Jason Varitek out. Am I really to believe that Young is the worst fielding SS in the American League?

1:39pm The closest thing to the first Texas hit of the year was a little blooper off the bat of Phil Nevin to center, caught by a sliding Crisp. I'm thinking that Red sox Nation will be won over by the speedy Coco and Grizzly Damon will turn into just a nice memory... eventually.

1:51pm Is it wrong of me to think that seeing a bunch of kids in the stands, who should be in school, is a good thing?

1:55pm Ian Kinsler's first major league at bat... line drive single the opposite way.

Bonus Knee-jerk Reaction Go ahead and give him the Rookie of the Year award now.

2:01pm David Ortiz scares the crap outta me everytime I see him at the plate. What an imposing dude.

2:06pm The collective shutout is over. 2-0 Boston after a Varitek double. The RBI hit followed a two out, four pitch walk, the first free pass of the game by either side. There is a lesson there.

2:08pm There is that shrimp quesadilla again. It is becoming my bugaboo.

2:10pm Just saw Kinsler's fiancee. The kid done good.

2:12pm I wonder, as I watch Teixeira poke a single to center, if fans of opposing teams get the same feeling of dread when they see Tex at the plate that I get when I see Ortiz or Vlad Guerrero against my team. If not, they should. And they will.

2:27pm 3-0 Boston. This Rangers team is done! (Kidding, of course.)

2:30pm My Ortiz fears manifested themselves in the form of a towering homerun off the right field foul pole. 5-0 Red Sox. He is one of those rare players, like Guerrero, who is damn good for the opposition but almost impossible to dislike. Damn him.

2:33pm Kevin Mench, while in right field, just covered his mouth with his glove... to yawn. Never a good sign.

2:34pm Typical Mench. Right after looking disinterested, he makes a nice sliding catch to end the inning.

2:35pm I'm hungry.

2:43pm Two turkey sandwiches later, I'm feeling better. Watching Ian "The Kid" Kinsler work a two out walk out of Schilling helped, too.

3:02pm What the Hell? Coco Crisp just caught Tex's long fly to center for the second out, but then he tossed the ball into the stands to a fan. That might be the first time I have seen that (other than the blooper reels when there are men on base) before three outs.

3:06pm 5-2 Boston. For the fourth consecutive home opener, Hank Blalock has homered - and this one was the absolute definition of a "frozen rope". Jeez.

3:22pm 6-2 Boston. Big Papi strikes again, this time with an RBI double. (The good news? Ortiz is on my fantasy league team.)

3:33pm I just realized something... Buck Showalter is not wearing a jacket. That it took me so long to notice is rather embarrassing. (By the way, insert gratuitous "jacket off" jokes here.)

3:44pm Through seven (admittedly strong) innings, Schilling has thrown 117 pitches. How in the world can Boston manager Terry Francona allow that to happen during the first game of the season? Who is his mentor? Dusty Baker?

3:47pm Mike Lowell, who was very nearly a Ranger prior to this season, has gone yard. 7-2 Boston now. (161 games to go. Keep the panic in check.)

4:13pm Adam Stern, playing left field as a defensive replacement for Manny Ramirez in the ninth inning, just made the biggest little league move I have seen in a big league game. After crashing into the wall on Kevin Mench's double, he reached up and tore his hat off before chasing down the ball. I guess it made him run faster?

4:16pm Coco Crisp just made even more fans in Boston after that catch of Nix's liner over his head. Wow. At least the ninth inning is waking me up a bit.

4:17pm Game over. Boston 7, Texas 3.

This entry sounded like a good idea in my head as the game commenced, but you be the judge.

Get 'em tomorrow, boys.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

By the time this entry is posted, the first pitch of the 2006 Rangers debut will be less than 12 hours away. (And, by the time the notoriously slow RSS feed of this site starts sending this entry to the RSS readers of the world, the game will almost certainly be over.)

The "ill wind", however, is already hovering over Arlington's Temple, all because of the trade of David Dellucci.

Mack Brown hasn't even begun to loosen up for the first pitch (assuming, of course, that he will do so before throwing in front of over 50,000 people) yet I am all ready to declare a catastrophic moment before the season even begins. And, man - I hope I am wrong.

Listen... I love David Dellucci. Nice player, great teammate, and by all reports a totally upstanding man of character. But baseball is a business, as much as we would all like it not to be. So, with the injury to the Rangers number two starter (Adam Eaton), GM Jon Daniels felt he had to do something to give the team more starting pitching depth.

He began by trading the enigmatic, yet super talented, Juan Dominguez in a three team deal that netted Texas a stop-gap starting pitcher (John Koronka) and a young lefty with upside (John Rheinecker) for depth. Let's face it - this was another Esteban Loaiza situation. Loaiza had/has all the talent in the world, but he never fulfilled it in Pittsburgh. The Pirates gave up on him and traded him to the Rangers (for Warren Morris and that Van Poppel kid). Again, Loaiza showed flashes of brilliance mixed in with brain fart pitches launched into the Texas sky.

Former Rangers GM Doug Melvin managed to trade Loaiza to the Toronto Blue Jays, cajoling from them a green shortstop named Michael Young. Loaiza spent two unspectacular years in Canada before signing with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent in 2003. He finished second in the Cy Young voting that year. With some, it just takes longer, and a change of scenery (or two or more) is often needed.

But I'm getting off track here. Crap. Let's get back to the Dellucci trade.

His teammates loved him. He was a leader, a ladies' man, and always good for a quote with the local writers. Then Jon Daniels traded him to the Phillies for right-handed pitcher Robinson Tejada and minor league outfielder Jake (brother of Hank) Blalock. The outcry, which has me very concerned, started immediately. Why am I concerned? I'll tell you.

I'm worried that the Rangers have created an atmosphere in which the players are spoiled. Last season was surely disappointing, based on the strong showing in 2004, but the whining as the July 31 trade deadline approached was sad. "Give us help!" That was the plea. Key players like Young and Mark Teixera were very vocal regarding the lack of moves by Jon Hart's front office.

See, the problem is that the players on the major league team don't care about the future of the team as much as the front office does. And that is OK. I want them to want to win now. But if Hart had traded John Danks for, say, Zack Greinke of the Kansas City royals, the long-term results might have been devastating.

And now, with pitching problems popping up like a game of Whack-A-Mole, Daniels had to do something. And not only did he do something, he fleeced his favorite whipping boy (Philles GM Pat Gillick) again. Dellucci for Tejada? I'd make that deal in a heartbeat. To me, the genius part is that Daniels managed to get the younger (yet taller) Blalock thrown in, maybe in an effort to soften the chemistry blow in the clubhouse.

But the two Rangers with the biggest locker room voices expressed dismay. There is no bigger fan of Teixera and Young than me (especially concerning the shortstop), but I just want to yell at them. "You cannot have it both ways! You cannot complain about a lack of pitching and then whine when your GM, your boss, makes a 'sell high' trade to give the team - YOUR team - the best pitching depth it has had in decades!"

If they need testimonials, Pat Gillick will gladly oblige. Daniels traded Ricardo Rodriguez to the Phillies for number three (now number two) starter Vicente Padilla. Padilla has "All-Star" on his resume. Rodriguez was cut from Philly at the end of camp. After the release, Gillick said something along the lines of "it was a bad trade".

The "bad trade" description is true. But only for one team - so far, at least. In my book, Daniels is winning on the player moves front. I only hope that the Ranger players realize that it is Jon's job to put the pieces together as he sees fit and it is their job to perform on the field.

After all, there is no crying in baseball.


The quote of the day comes from an article on the Rangers website:
"We're leading the league in Blalocks and I don't think anybody is going to catch us."

- Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels

Eleven hours 'til first (Rangers) pitch now. Life is good.