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July 31, 2004

Transaction

Added pitcher MIKE BACSIK to the 40-man roster and recalled him from AAA Oklahoma. Optioned pitcher SAM NARRON to AAA Oklahoma. Acquired pitcher SCOTT ERICKSON from the New York Mets for cash and a player to be named later.

Will Sam Narron become a capable Major Leaguer? Probably not, but in any case, Texas has added him to the roster and burned one of his options for nothing. In his place, the pitching-desperate Rangers recalled Mike Bacsik, who has a 4.45 ERA in AAA, about half a run higher than Narron's. Bacsik has almost no chance of being claimed if designated and isn't a loss if claimed, so why waste Narron's option? Meanwhile, Texas also acquired Scott Erickson from the Mets. The 36-year-old pitched terribly in two starts for the Mets and offered a 4.50 ERA in 52 rehab innings in AAA. I don't know whether Texas will place him on the 40-man roster immediately.

Posted by Lucas at 03:33 PM

July 30, 2004

Transaction

Added pitcher SAM NARRON to the 40-man roster and recalled him from AAA Oklahoma. Placed pitcher R.A. DICKEY to the 15-day Disabled List.

Texas calls up Narron for his Major League debut against first-place Oakland and will pray that Narron can offer five innings with three runs allowed. Narron has a lukewarm 4.01 ERA in AAA; more problematic is his strikeout rate of three per nine inings. Narron throws slowly and relies on a changeup.

Posted by Lucas at 03:32 PM

July 29, 2004

Transaction

Signed reliever FRANCISCO CORDERO to a two-year extension with a team option for a third year.

Good. Francisco receives $3.75 million in 2005, $4 million in 2006, and potentially $5 million in 2007, all reasonable for a player evolving into a top-notch closer. Texas bought out his last arbitration year and at least one year of free agency. Someone might have paid more on the open market.

Posted by Lucas at 03:31 PM

July 26, 2004

Transaction

Placed designated hitter BRAD FULLMER and pitcher DOUG BROCAIL on the 15-day Disabled List. Designated pitcher JOHN WASDIN for assignment. Optioned reliever ROSMAN GARCIA to AAA Oklahoma. Activated 3B/DH HERBERT PERRY and pitcher JEFF NELSON from the Disabled List. Recalled reliever ERASMO RAMIREZ from AAA Oklahoma and took pitcher JOAQUIN BENOIT off the bereavement list.

Batting half his games in a hitter's heaven, Fullmer is having the worst season of his career in average, on-base percentage, and slugging. Fullmer has turned out to be the slightly richer man's Todd Greene, the richness being a decent walk rate. You want more from your cleanup hitter.

Posted by Lucas at 02:19 PM

July 23, 2004

Transaction

Placed pitcher RICARDO RODRIGUEZ on the 15-day Disabled List. Recalled pitcher ROSMAN GARCIA from AAA. Activated outfielder BRIAN JORDAN and catcher GERALD LAIRD from the Disabled List. Designated outfielder CHAD ALLEN and catcher DANNY ARDOIN for assignment.

A very tough loss for the Rangers. Rodriguez had pitched fabulously and seemed primed to give the Rangers a legitimate third starter, but Rob Quinlan's liner to Rodriguez's elbow dashes that hope. Rodriguez won't pitch again in 2004, leaving Rogers, Drese, and three gaping holes to carry on. Jordan hopes to improve on his .103 average. Whether he does or not, he'll probably play more than Kevin Mench.

Posted by Lucas at 02:17 PM

July 21, 2004

Transaction

Placed pitcher JOAQUIN BENOIT on bereavement leave. Recalled pitcher NICK REGILIO from AAA.

Benoit pitched his scheduled start after the death of his grandmother, then flew to the Dominican Republic. A rather shameless use of the the rules by the Rangers. Regilio will pitch in long relief for a few days.

Posted by Lucas at 02:16 PM

July 20, 2004

Transaction

Activated pitcher R.A. DICKEY from the Disabled List. Placed outfielder CHAD ALLEN on the 40-man roster and recalled him from AAA. Designated outfielder JASON CONTI and infielder MANNY ALEXANDER for assignment.

Dickey returns to a long relief role, but he stands to rejoin the rotation should Wasdin or Benoit falter. Allen makes his third trip to Texas. Alexander was brought up to give a day of rest to Michael Young and Alfonso Soriano; having done so, he no longer serves a purpose.

Posted by Lucas at 02:15 PM

July 14, 2004

Oh, How I Hate the All-Star Break

(Published at the Batters Box, 14 Jul 2004)

The All-Star Game is a fine event, vastly superior to the offerings of the other major professional sports. Conversely, baseball fans have plenty of sound reasons to disdain the All-Star break: no real games, soul-crushingly dull non-events like the Home Run Derby (part of the encroaching Super Bowlification of baseball), more air time for the lucid observations of John Kruk.

Unfortunately, my problem with the All-Star break is deeper and purer. My team of choice, the Texas Rangers, currently sit atop the American League West with a two-game lead over Oakland. My team of choice also has a long and squalid history of post-ASB collapses. For whatever reason, many of those collapses were partially at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, as you’ll read below.

Texas really does play worse after the All-Star break than during the rest of the season. Here is a chart of team performance that ignores strike years and the first two years of team history when they lost to everyone, all the time:

Texas Rangers, 1974-2003
Wins
Losses
Percentage
Before the All-Star Break
1,193
1,202
.498
First 30 games After the Break
385
455
.458
Remainder of Season
630
647
.493

If not for some relatively solid post-ASB play in recent years, the numbers would tell an even grimmer tale. From 1978 through 1997, the Rangers played .506 ball before the All-Star Break and .417 ball in the thirty games afterward, often coughing up division leads and playoffs chances in the most disheartening fashion. Only once during that span, in 1990, did Texas have a winning record in their first thirty games after the break.

Is the post-ASB weakness statistically significant? Doubtful. Four percent fewer wins over a random thirty-game stretch sounds like background noise; however, playing the “statistics? card won’t win any brownie points with Ranger fans who have endured these infamous seasons:

1976

On July 6, 1976, five days after acquiring Bert Blyleven, Texas stood a season-best and franchise-best twelve games over .500, three games behind the Kansas City Royals. The Rangers proceeded to drop six straight going into the break and four more afterward. From early July through late August, Texas went 14-38 including a staggering 8-24 in games decided by one or two runs. On August 28, Texas fell to twenty games out of first with a record of 58-70.

Low Point: Scoring four runs over a five-game stretch including a ten-inning, 1-0 loss to Milwaukee.

1979

Texas had 52 wins at the All-Star break, still a team record, and aimed to overtake the 55-38 California Angels. Instead, Texas won only ten of forty after the break despite being outscored by just 27 runs. The Rangers had a Pythagorean record of 17-23 during that stretch; had they accomplished that modest task, they still would have remained only two games behind the similarly struggling Angels. Instead, Texas was 62-69, nine games out of first, and out of the division race.

Low Point: Losing a two-game series to the 29-70 Toronto Blue Jays.

1983

July 8, 1983: After three days of rest, the first-place Rangers visited the first-place Blue Jays. Toronto swept the series by scores of 8-5, 5-1, and 6-4. After that debacle, Texas dropped another 18 of 23 against tough AL East competition and fell to 49-55, six games behind the surging Chicago White Sox. Incredibly, Texas led the American League in ERA and fielding percentage but ended the season with a losing record of 77-85.

Low Point: The whole streak. An all-pitch no-hit team that season, Texas allowed 5.2 runs per game during their 5-21 collapse. Two weeks later, Texas traded their best starter, Rick Honeycutt (enjoying his career season at age 29), for Dave Stewart and $200,000.

1991

Eight years later, history repeats. After the All-Star break, the first-place Rangers again visited the first-place Blue Jays. Toronto swept the series by scores of 2-0, 6-2, and 3-2. Texas proceeded to lose 19 of 32 afterwards and found themselves nine games behind Minnesota.

Low Point: A four-game sweep at the hands of the 44-67 Baltimore Orioles.

1992

Texas entered the break at 48-42, six games behind defending World Series champion Minnesota and also behind Oakland. Admittedly, Texas probably didn’t have the guns to challenge both teams, but they removed all doubt by dropping 24 of the next 36 including eight losses by five or more runs.

Low point: Getting swept in a four-game series and outscored 19-4 by eventual division-winner Oakland.

1995

Texas bookended the All-Star break by taking three of four from both New York and Boston. With a record of 42-31, the Rangers trailed California by just one game. While California won eleven of thirteen, Texas lost twelve of thirteen and was outscored 83-41. In a two-week stretch, Texas fell from one game out of first to ten games out.

Low Point: On the last day of the tailspin, Steve Buechele, whose flashy glovework and decent power made him a fan favorite during the late 1980s, played in his last Major League game at the tender age of 33.

1997

The defending AL West champs struggled through late June after starting 36-30. At the break, Texas was 43-42, five games behind division leader Seattle and wild card leader New York. Facing a tough climb for another playoff appearance, Texas opted for Plan B, losing 18 of 26 to fall twelve games out of the division lead and 14.5 behind New York. The Rangers traded Dean Palmer and Ken Hill during the downfall.

Low Point: Falling to 51-60 after losing to Boston by scores of 11-5 and 17-1.

2000

After losing to the Yankees in the Divisional Series for the third time in four years, GM Doug Melvin reshaped the team under a mandate from owner Tom Hicks. Five everyday players and starter Aaron Sele disappeared. Texas traded 29-and-reasonably-healthy slugger Juan Gonzalez to Detroit in an eight-player deal (in which the most useful players for each team have been Francisco Cordero and Danny Patterson).

Texas muddled through the first half the season and found themselves at 44-44, disappointing but only four games out of the division lead and the wild card the Sunday after the All-Star break. Instigating a stretch of awfulness lasting almost four years, Texas lost 30 of the next 44 games and fell to 58-74. On August 30, Texas stared longingly up at division leader Seattle and wild-card leader Cleveland, both 13.5 games in the distance. The collapse was no fluke; the Rangers lost seven games by at least eight runs. Texas also lost five of six to Toronto during that span, the one victory an eleven-inning, 1-0 contest.

High Point: On July 19, Texas traded Esteban Lozaiza to Toronto for Michael Young and Darwin Cubillan.

2004

The Rangers lead the AL West by two over Oakland, a team famous for its second-half surges.

They open the second half of the season with a three-games series against (gulp!) the Toronto Blue Jays.

Posted by Lucas at 11:58 AM

July 10, 2004

Transaction

JULY 10: Activated outfielder LAYNCE NIX from the 15-day Disabled List. Optioned pitcher NICK REGILIO to AAA Oklahoma.

Nick's coffee didn't even cool down before he was shipped back to Oklahoma.

Posted by Lucas at 02:08 PM

July 08, 2004

Transaction

Recalled pitcher NICK REGILIO from AAA Oklahoma. Designated pitcher NICK BIERBRODT for assignment.

Like the more famous Rick Ankiel, the once-promising Bierbrodt lost his ability to throw strikes suddenly and utterly in a Spring Training game against Texas two years ago. Later that year, he survived a gunshot to the chest in a South Carolina Hardee's. Texas gave him a chance this year and Bierbrodt pitched reasonably well, and Texas's makeshift rotation afforded him a quick return to the Bigs. Alas, Bierbrodt soon redeveloped control issues, culminating in a three-inning, seven walk start. Regilio will pitch in middle relief and fly back to Oklahoma once Nix, Dickey or Jordan returns.

Posted by Lucas at 02:07 PM

July 05, 2004

Transaction

Placed 1B/3B HERBERT PERRY on the 15-day Disabled List. Added infielder MANNY ALEXANDER to the 40-man roster and recalled him from AAA Oklahoma.

I'm surprised Perry lasted this long. Seemingly older than his 35 years and coming of knee and shoulder surgery, Perry looked dead in Spring Training. Instead, he played a passable lefty DH and very occasional corner infield. He becomes #13 on the DL with a strained calf. Alexander will get some Major League per-diem while watching Michael Young from the dugout. Not a bad arrangement. Alexander has no bat, leaving the Rangers without an obvious DH against lefties.

Posted by Lucas at 02:06 PM