Pitching will be better BeLeeIve it!

The baseball season is often thought of as being a marathon. The same can be said about the Rangers offseason. It seemed as if every day something stirring in Rangers land. 
The offseason started with the Rangers pursuit of Cliff Lee. Their number one priority was to re-sign their ace that led them to 2 victories in Tampa Bay, and then the key victory against the Yankees in New York. Lee was supposed to be the Rangers ace to sit atop their rotation for the next 5 to 6 seasons. 
The Rangers long pursuit ended in mid December when the Philadelphia Phillies stepped in and nabbed him in a last second deal. Many thought the Rangers would then turn their attention to Zach Greinke and/or Matt Garza. Both ended up being traded to the NL Central and the Rangers were left scrambling for another starter to be their ace. 
The Rangers added depth to their bullpen when they signed Arthur Rhodes, the Rangers made their defense better when they signed Adrian Beltre, but what about their starting rotation?
Many baseball writers and radio personalities have quickly moved the Rangers back in the AL West. The Oakland A’s have become the “sexy” pick to with the AL West, with their stacked rotation. Others are picking the Angels to make a return as the best in the AL West. 
The Rangers go back to being the underdogs with everyone concerned that the team just doesn’t have enough starting pitching to duplicate their season of 2010, but I’m going to give you 5 reasons why their rotation will be better in 2011 then it was in 2010.
1) C.J. Wilson will be Lee-like.
-Wilson should be even better in 2011 then he was in 2010. Last season Wilson experienced his first season as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. Wilson enters 2011 in a contract year where he will be pitching to become the best available pitcher in the open market. Wilson learned a lot from Cliff Lee last season. He learned how to keep the ball down and to pitch to contact. Wilson had some success early on in the playoffs against Tampa Bay, and then was brilliant in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees. 
2) Colbyashiiiii
-Colby Lewis was the key to the Rangers success in the playoffs. He was clutch throughout the playoffs. Game 2 of the ALCS was a huge win for the Rangers after arguably the most disappointing game in franchise history, when the Rangers blew a big lead in Game 1. Lewis then followed it up with the a masterful gem when he led the Rangers to their first ever World Series. Lewis is as even keel as it comes while he’s on the mound. His composure could allow him to become one of the most reliable starters in the American League. 
3) Brandon Webb
-Prior to shoulder problems, Brandon Webb was one of the best pitchers in the game. In 2007, Webb was 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA. In 2008, Webb followed it up with 22 wins for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Following a brilliant season, Webb then began to experience shoulder problems and had to have multiple surgeries that caused him to miss 2 straight seasons. If Webb returns healthy then the Rangers may have hit the jackpot.
4) Better Defense = Better Pitching
-An infield led by Andrus, Beltre, and Kinsler should end up being the best defense in the game. This will help ground ball pitchers like Brandon Webb. If the staff can keep the ball in the ballpark than they should end up seeing a much lower ERA with the addition of Beltre and the maturity of Andrus. 
5) Neftali Feliz the Starter
-TR Sullivan wrote earlier today that the Rangers seemed determined to get Feliz into the rotation. While many have the mindset ‘if it’s not broke then don’t fix it,’ the Rangers are better with Feliz as a starter than they are with him as their closer. The team has other options to be the closer in Alexi Ogando and Mark Lowe. It’s also a lot cheaper for Jon Daniels to go out on the trade market and get a closer than it is for him to trade for an Ace. Feliz has one of the best arms in all of baseball, and he is one of the best young players in the game. Mike Maddux put it best when he said that it’s better to get 200 innings out of him than 70 innings. 
Remember last season the Rangers started off with Feldman and Harden at the top of their rotation. Neither of the two pitchers had a positive impact on the club. The Rangers still finished 9 games ahead of the 2nd place Oakland A’s in the AL West. If things don’t work out the way that the team hopes then they have depth to fall back on. 
If the season were to start today my prediction on what the rotation would look like:
1) C.J. Wilson
2) Colby Lewis
3) Neftali Feliz
4) Tommy Hunter
5) Brandon Webb (he will be inserted in the back part of the rotation because he is a little behind the other starters and the Rangers are being extra cautious with him this spring)


If you haven’t already read what Churck Greenberg wrote on his facebook, then please see below. It really is the heart of the Texas Rangers. Die hard Rangers fans should really be able to relate to the message.


I’ve had a lot of people ask me today how I was feeling after last nights game, and what my thoughts were about the rest of the series. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting over the season and the emotional roller coaster that we have been on.


When I say “we” I mean the players, the coaches, everyone within the organization, and the fans. We have all been in this thing together. The players have played their heart out and without them we would not be where we are. Ron Washington and his staff have placed the players in positions where they have succeeded. When everyone was ready to give up on guys like Moreland, Molina, Feliz, and even Hamilton early on in the season, Ron Washington has stuck by his players and never game up on them.  When the team was bankrupt and every writer in baseball would write that there was no way that the Rangers could make any significant moves due to their financial constraints, our front office went out and got Cliff Lee and Benji Molina.


My point is this: This team has overcome strong odds all season long. No one could have ever predicted any of this. This team of “we” has been resiliant in every aspect of the game. We are now embarking on the final home game of the season. We are down 3-1 in the series and only 6 teams in world series history has been able to overcome that deficit. The odds again are not in the Rangers favor. History will say that the chances of the Rangers winning are slim to none. Very few are left to believe that the Rangers will end up winning the world series.


This has been the theme of the 2010 season.


I’ve lived and breathed Rangers baseball for as long as I can remember. When I was 10 years old I would sneak my brother into my room and we would put a pillow by the door to block the lighting of the TV so that we could stay up and watch the rangers play on the west coast, since we were supposed to be in bed by 9pm. I now sit here at the age of 26 with the same passion that has continued to grow over the years. My son is named after the great “Nolan Ryan.” My wardrobe consists of 25+ Rangers shirts. My wife has learned to love me despite the fact that our schedule is decided upon what time the Rangers are playing. I’ve spent more money then I should on Rangers tickets. I’m invested in every way that I can think of into this team.


These are MY RANGERS.


Last night was a terrible game and it took a lot out of me. Let there be no question though that down 3-1 in this series I’ll believe in this team no matter what happens. If the team goes down 13 runs into the 9th then I’ll still be on my feet cheering on this team with everything I have until the final out is recorded. This team deserves to have it’s fans behind them. We are better then what we showed last night. Don’t give up on this team just because the odds are stacked against us.


A message from Chuck:

This season has transcended expectations and transformed the psyche and hearts of legions of Rangers fans across Texas and throughout our country and beyond. At the core of the remarkable journey we have shared together is a ballclub and a community who collectively have consigned the conventional wisdom of the past to the dust bins of history, busting myths and charting a new course previously thought to be unattainable.


Can’t pitch successfully in Rangers Ballpark. Wrong.


Can’t compete successfully late in the season because the heat will break you down. Wrong.


Fans will lose interest when training camp opens. Wrong.


Fans won’t come to Rangers Ballpark after the All Star break because its too hot. Wrong.


Rangers can’t win a playoff series. Wrong.


Rangers can’t win a playoff game at home. Wrong.


Rangers can’t beat the Yankees in the playoffs. Wrong.


Rangers can’t get to the World Series. Wrong.


Rangers can’t captivate the hearts and emotions of fans new and old deep into the fall. Wrong.


And on and on and on….


I can’t even begin to count the memorable moments we have shared this year thanks to a very special group of players with hearts and smiles as big as Texas, who always pull together, stand up for one another, and who have changed the sports landscape here in the Metroplex forever.


But here is a simple reality. Monday will be the last game played in Rangers Ballpark this year. We all owe it to ourselves, our players and each other, to celebrate with passion, enthusiasm and indefatigable belief from lineup cards to the final out, loud and proud.


The defining team of my young life was the 1979, “We are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates. I have often remarked how much this Rangers club reminds me of that team, with a confident but friendly swagger and an abundance of character and personality.


Now these two teams have something else in common. Both fell behind 3-1 in the World Series. Kent Tekulve, the great closer from the ’79 Pirates, texted me after tonight’s game to pass along this story. Before Game 5, Willie Stargell told his teammates:


“We are playing in front of the whole world. We may not win this thing, but before we go, let’s show the world how the Pirates really play baseball”.


The Pirates, playing against a team whose colors were black and orange, won Game 5. Then they returned to Baltimore and won Game 6. Then they won Game 7.


I know our players will show everyone how the Rangers play baseball tomorrow. As fans, let’s do the same. We have one final opportunity this season to show the world what we have accomplished together and the passion we all hold for our players and our shared dreams.


The World Series is going back to San Francisco. And then there will be one final piece of conventional wisdom to prove wrong….







SimpLEE Amazing!

The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series. Let that sink in for a minute and I’ll say it again. The Texas Rangers are going to the World Series. 

The 2010 season has been storybook in many ways. Look at what the team has overcome: A manager who tested positive for cocaine, bankruptcy, smoaking the New York Yankees by trading for Cliff Lee, completing a multitude of other trades while being in bankruptcy, winning without their MVP for a month, winning with other star players also missing a significant amount of time, being up by 2 games in the ALDS and then managing to lose both games at home and having to win a decisive game 5, managing to lose game 1 of the ALCS after being up 5 to 1 and still managing to dominate the Yankees and winning the series in 6 games. 
The season has had many ups and downs. One word is used to describe the 2010 Texas Rangers: Resilient 
The team has managed to overcome every obstacle that has stood in it’s way, and they have done it while smiling and having a good time. Casey Stern, host for the Inside Pitch on XM radio, described the Rangers as being one of the funnest teams he has ever seen play.
The Rangers have had the slogan, “IT’S TIME,” throughout the 2010 campaign. That saying is finally appearing to come true. 
It was time for the Rangers to make the playoffs, after over a decade of missing the postseason. It was time for the Rangers to win their first ever postseason series. It was time for the Rangers to win their first home game in the playoffs. It was time for the Rangers to finally to beat the Yankees. It was time for the Rangers to make their first ever World Series, and it may very well be time for the Rangers to win their first ever championship.
No matter what happens the next week or two. One thing is true about this season. It has been SimpLee Amazing. 

A Claw and Antler October?

Rangers fever is spreading across Texas. Fans are searching for a way to get out of work/school in order to see the first Rangers playoff game in over a decade. It’ should be no surprise that the Yankees were the team to get the national prime time game, while the Rangers are stuck playing the Rays over lunch. Yet fans can’t help but be angry with TBS and MLB for the game times that were given. In fact, it’s very likely that the Rangers will be playing all day games for the first round, and neither the fans nor the players can really be thrilled about this. Stat wise the Rangers are much better at night games than in day games. The Rangers have a record of 19-25 in the day, while the Rays have a 27-19 record for games played in the daytime hours. 

All of this said, the Rangers team and it’s fans can not be more thrilled to be standing where they are. A decade is a long time to wait to play in the postseason. 
Wednesday, at 12:37 CST, all stats will be thrown out the window and the story will begin. Fans across Texas will not remember what happened April through September. It will all come down to what the team does in October/November. 
Cliff Lee vs. David Price, C.J. Wilson vs. James Shields, Colby Lewis vs. Matt Garza, and possibly Tommy Hunter vs. Wade Davis. 
Josh Hamilton/Michael Young/Vlad Guerrero/Ian Kinsler/and Nelson Cruz vs. Evan Longoria/Carlos Pena/Carl Crawford/Ben Zobrist/and B.J. Upton.
Neftali Feliz vs. Rafael Soriano
Ron Washington vs. Joe Madden
Or maybe it will be someone like Elvis Andrus/David Murphy/Jorge Cantu or Brad Hawpe/Matt Joyce/Reid Brignac that ends up stepping up. 
Both teams are great teams and both have fought against adversity. Neither team is high in payroll and both teams have young talent. 
Baseball purists long for this type of matchup. It has the potential to have everything you could ask for in a matchup. We should see a mixture of small ball, long ball. and great pitching. We will see some of the greatest power arms in the game. We will get to see a Game 1 with 2 of the best left handed pitchers in the game today.
You can’t help but get giddy with what lies ahead this week. My wife would tell you that watching me talk about baseball is like watching a fat kid in a candy store. I’ve spent the past month trying to convince my wife to let me have my son dress up like a deer and me be a big game hunter just to go with the “Claw and Antler” theme and to show my support for one of my favorite Rangers “Tommy Hunter.” So far I’ve yet to convince her but I haven’t given up hope. 
I’d be interested to know if any Rangers fans are doing anything special this week in honor of the first playoffs since 1999. 
Enjoy the week. It’s almost time. Hope to see you at the ballpark on Saturday and possibly Sunday.


You’re standing up on top of a cliff looking over a large body of water. You are with a group of friends, wading in the water below, yelling up at you “JUMP, JUMP, JUMP!” Without thinking twice you take a giant leap from the bridge and splash into the water. Everyone jumps into the water one by one.

The Rangers have now lost 2 games in a row and the game on Monday definitely left a sour taste from a game that was all but won. It drew a pretty stiff reaction from many saying that “Cliff Lee is all but gone for next season,” and even some saying as much that the Rangers are in defining mode for the rest of their season. 
Yes, the Rangers are not looking good in Tampa. In fact, Monday was one of the toughest defeats all season long with Arias and Boggs playing terrible defense in the 8th inning when Cliff Lee was sensational throughout the game. However, let’s not forget that this is a team that won 2 out of 3 from Boston and split a 2 game series against the New York Yankees. This is a team that is currently still 8 games up in the AL West standings.
Many are yelling for you to jump off the Rangers bandwagon and flashbacks of the collapse of 2004 and the horrific last September continue to haunt you.
Every team hits a rough patch and the Rangers are currently playing without Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Nelson Cruz. They are currently battling minor injuries as the club tries to play it safe but not wanting to risk them being bothered by injuries down the stretch. Honestly, my thought is that the Rangers just want their guys fresh heading into October and they have a little breathing room that they are taking advantage of. However, we can all agree that we are ready to not see Arias and Blanco go out there everyday. 
Remember it’s only 2 losses and in a couple of weeks you it will just be a distant bad memory. The Rangers are still a very good team and if anything you should be optimistic that they can play with any team in the league.
Every game that the Rangers lose my wife is ready for “Angry Brandon” to surface. Every game she prays that they will win so that she will have a happy husband. 
Losses are hard but keep your head up and don’t jump off the cliff just yet. The Ranger still have an 8 game lead and last I check Cliff Lee is still atop the rotation. 

A Cliff To Climb

As of today, the Texas Rangers sit atop the AL West standings by 7.5 games on the Oakland Athletics and 9 games up on the Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels. My brother is already making plans for the playoffs. While my wife is just praying that the Rangers hold on just to keep a happy husband in the household. 

Optimism is high in Ranger land. 
In the past month we have seen a bankrupt team land players Cliff Lee, Jorge Cantu, and Christian Guzman. The team took on nearly $6million dollars of payroll and has opposing teams fuming that a team that is broke can take on that much money. (although the Rangers will have to pay that money back plus interest) The team also had arguably the biggest day in franchise history when Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan beat out Jim Crane and Mark Cuban in a duel for ownership in a feisty courtroom battle. The team went from being bankrupt to having a 2011 payroll expected to be in the $90-100 million range. 
Things are going pretty well and no longer are the Dallas Cowboys the talk of the town in August. I’m not naive in thinking that once the football regular season starts that the buzz will still be centered around the Rangers instead of the Cowboys, but generally during this time of year all you hear is cowtalk and the Rangers get thrown in there at the end.
All is well in Ranger land…
However, the Rangers players will tell you not to look to far ahead, and Chuck Greenberg even said today, “don’t anger the baseball gods,” while referring to already punching the Rangers ticket for the postseason. 
There is still a cliff to climb. 
The Rangers next 8 games are up against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. There are still games against the Twins and A’s before the month is over as well. Oh and don’t forget those pesky Orioles that swept the Rangers right before the All-Star break. While I don’t think these teams will necessarily be a pre-curser for what we can expect from the Rangers the rest of the season, it will still be very important baseball. 
The Rangers will be led up this steep cliff by their staff ace Cliff Lee. The Rangers will be dependent upon a rather young rotation to continue to grind and do what they have done all year. Consistency has been the key and will remain the key the rest of the way.
Keep believing Rangers fans and it may very well be “Time” for a Rangers october. 

Come and Gone…

The trade deadline has now come and gone, and now the only way to make deal is if a player passes through waivers. The Rangers could still add a piece or two prior to september call–ups, but don’t expect that it’s going to be any significant player. However, that’s not to say that they won’t add someone that can significantly help them from within. 

The deadline seemed a lot more active this year with teams countering what other teams were doing, and don’t think that the Rangers moves didn’t impact what teams like the Yankees and Angels did and that it didn’t add some pressure for them to make a big trade. The Angels are on life support trying to stay in the race in the AL West, and they had to make a trade for a front line pitcher to match up with the Rangers getting Cliff Lee. They felt the heat and the Rangers rotation of Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hunter, and Rich Harden seems far superior then what the Angels were throwing out there. So the Angels go out and get Dan Haren.
The Yankees on the other hand are trying to hold off teams like the Tampa Rays and Boston Red Sox in the competitive AL East, but they also have to look ahead to what lies in front of them in October. The Rangers are becoming a large threat to beat them in the postseason and if you match up their lineup to the Rangers lineup you probably give the edge to the Rangers, and if you match up their bullpen to the Rangers bullpen then again you probably give the edge to the Rangers. Joba Chamberlin has struggled in the 8th inning role, and ever since Nick Johnson went down they have been having a difficult time with the DH slot. That led to the trades for Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood, and Austin Kearns. 
Sure the Rangers were active on the trade front by adding depth to their team with Jorge Cantu, and Christian Guzman. However, they are also going to be getting even a better bullpen prior to the end of the season because they will more than likely add Tanner Scheppers once rosters expand in September. I feel pretty safe saying that Tanner Scheppers is a lot better of an arm to have in your bullpen arsenal than having injury prone Kerry Wood. 
You have to give it to Jon Daniels and his scouts on their creative aggressiveness. To be bankrupt and add the quality guys that they added is unbelievable, and Daniels never stopped working. Rumors circulated that Daniels even attempted to get trade conversation going for guys like Prince Fielder, Josh Johnson, and Zach Grienke. To be able to add one of those guys would have been great for the short term but more than likely would have drained out their farm system and I’m not sure that Daniels was willing to do that. Although the rumor was that Daniels did offer Perez, Scheppers, and Beltre to try and get Josh Johnson. 
A rotation with both Johnson and Lee would have been frightening for any opposing team, but I don’t think that the Rangers are too disappointed with what they currently have in their rotation either. 
With 59 games to play the Rangers are preparing for their first postseason in over a decade. They won’t look ahead to much though because the Rangers know better then to underestimate the Angels and even the A’s. They still have to take care of business these next two months first.
My prediction is that the Rangers will see a different Rich Harden in the coming weeks and when it’s all said and done they will be happy that they didn’t trade him. Plus having Feldman in your bullpen should prove to be a good long relief weapon. 
Get ready for a heck of a rest of the season. Go grab your tickets to the upcoming games and enjoy the ride of what should be a heck of a finish to the rest of the season.