It’s A Beautiful Day

And not just because the Rangers are above .500 for the first time since 2006.
Since I am off work today, I took my wife to work this morning and we were listening to the local alternative station (101.5 in Austin).  During their normally short sports segment, they had a special guest on the line:  one of the Ryan boys.  (I’m not sure if it was Reid or Reese because I missed the intro thanks to a Speedy Taco run.)  Ryan was on to promote the home opener of the Round Rock Express, the AA affiliate of the Houston Astros.
But the best part of the interview came when one of the hosts asked Ryan which players on the Express should merit more attention by fans that go out to the games.  Three names were mentioned:  Lance Niekro, Yordany Ramirez, and a third whose name eluded me because my mind immediately started working on this entry.
If the first name sounds familiar, well, it should.  Lance is the son of former Astro great Joe, as well as the nephew of Hall-Of-Famer Phil.  However, he also played in the big leagues as far back as 2003 and was the San Francisco Giants opening day first baseman in 2005.  He has suffered numerous injuries during his career, obviously setting back his development, but now he is the number one prospect in Round Rock?
(By the way, a quick glance at the Express roster evinced some Ranger tie-ins.  Victor Diaz, the “homerun or nothing” spare part on the 2007 Texas team, patrols the outfield.  Also, former Ranger farmhand Nick Regilio is on the pitching staff.  And, oddly, there is a pitcher named Mark McLemore.  Who knew?)
So, as Ryan struggled to come up with three names for fans to latch onto, I struggled to narrow the Frisco Roughriders roster down to three names to watch.
Off the top of my head, I would probably suggest (in no particular order) Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden, and Elvis Andrus.  But doesn’t that short-change Max Ramirez, John Mayberry Jr., Warner Madrigal, and Matt Harrison?  And Scott Feldman, making what appears at the onset to be a very successful transition from submarining reliever to three-quarters arm angle starter?
And this all led me to think about the Rangers roster at AAA Oklahoma City.  Traditionally, this team has been filled with fringe major leaguers, prospects who have reached their ceiling, and questionable insurance policies…  all still there.  But, with the Texas farm system so strong, these AA guys mentioned above have also forced other prospects to the AAA club, mainly in the pitching category.  Think A.J. Murray, Doug Mathis, Paul (Paul?  Not Kea?) Kometani, and everyone’s savior Eric Hurley.  (Hurley.  What a great name for a pitcher.)
This era is starting to remind me of the 1986 Texas Rangers, led by Bobby Valentine on the field and Tom Grieve in the front office.  Young players galore, knocking on the door to the bigs and, in the case of Pete Incaviglia, mythically knocking down outfield walls in Florida.  Sure, it is great when your team lands a big name free agent to a multi-year deal, but nothing can ever beat the excitement of watching the first big league at bat or pitch of a prospect that you have followed, read about, and envisioned post-season heroics for.
Or maybe that’s just me…
Here is hoping that the promise we are “seeing” on the farm through the eyes of Jamey Newberg, Scott Lucas, and Mike Hindman outshines what became of that mid-to-late 80s talent conglomeration.
I am betting that it does.  After all, politicians do not have a patent on the word “hope”.

Greetings From This Side Of The Fence

Not only were the wooden pickets making my seat uncomfortable, but the first week of the season forced me into a clear-cut decision:

Keep Gerald Laird.

I’ll admit that I was enticed, at one time, by the lifted skirt and perfumed inner thigh of the thought that the Rangers could have a catcher with the potential to hit .280 or higher with 25 or more homeruns.  But sensibility prevailed – and this was before yesterday’s fireworks show by Laird.  Really.  Honest.

Yes, he was hitting a lowly .091 before the Sunday show.  However, if you throw out his troubles with Kazuo Fukumori’s nasty movement in Seattle, his defense has the potential to be a game changer.  Also, he has shown vast improvement in becoming a team leader.  After all, he could have chosen (when given the chance by Ron Washington) to catch the cruising Kevin Millwood, but he opted instead to work with Vincent Padilla.

It may be true that he tries too much at times.  The popup that he directed at the head of Ramon Vasquez comes to mind.  (Do you think he would have even attempted that play if Blalock had been at thrid?  I don’t.)

But did you realize that through the first six games of the season he is one of three Rangers (along with Catalanotto and Botts) who has yet to strike out?

So stow all those plans to ship Gerald away before the trade deadline.  Not only do I think he is a keeper, but I also think that Jarrod Saltalamacchia will fetch more via trade.  Chris Davis is on the fast track to first base and Taylor Teagarden (who most say is ready for the bigs defense-wise) has really stepped up what was once a questionable offensive game.

So remember all those pundits applauding Jon Daniels for snagging Salty from the Braves?  I, too, join that crowd, but for totally different reasons.

Let the line for trade offers form to the left.  Or, more accurately, behind the plate.

Just leave that Laird alone.