Saturday, January 31, 2009

Doug Mathis Interview

Last week, at the Rangers Fan Fest, I interviewed Rangers pitcher Doug Mathis. Doug was nice enough to sit with me for about half an hour after he finished signing autographs.

Me: Why didn’t you sign with the Dodgers when they drafted you in 2002 out of high school?

Doug: They wanted me to do a draft-and-follow, which they no longer do. I went to Central Arizona to do a draft-and-follow at the junior college there. I was originally going to go to the University of Arizona but I ended up going to Central Arizona and playing there for two years.

Me: Can you explain how the draft-and-follow process worked?

Doug: You had a team draft you and then you would go to junior college, usually for a year, and the team would have rights to sign you at the end of that year. So if you do well that year and they want to sign you, that’s when they can make an offer to you. I ended up not signing with them after my first year and I ended up going back there for another year.

Me: Why didn’t you sign with the Mariners when they drafted you in 2003 out of Central Arizona Junior College?

Doug: I had a scholarship to the University of Missouri and that opportunity was going to be better than the opportunity with the Mariners at that time. So I decided to go there and I was drafted by the Rangers after my one year there. So it kind of worked out for me.

Me: What was the key to your High-A rebound in 2006 when you had an 8.48 ERA through your first six Bakersfield appearances and then a 2.12 ERA in your next five and when you averaged 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings in your first 11 appearances and 7.7 in your next 15?

Doug: I’d say I made a little bit of a mechanical adjustment with Rick Adair and then I just kind of got in a good groove. I started throwing more strikes and had better stuff, for whatever reason. I don’t know if that was from the mechanical thing or mental. It might have been my overall approach. I kind of understood what kind of pitcher I was and maybe I was trying to do too much at first. I think I started slowing things down and going up there and not trying to do too much.

Me: Can you tell how you adjusted in 2007, when you struggled in triple-A (0-3, 10.66 ERA) before dominating the Texas League in double-A for the rest of the season?

Doug: That was probably more mental than anything because my stuff wasn’t any different in triple-A than it was when I got to Frisco. I think for me that year, I was kind of caught off-guard going to triple-A to start the year, so I was kind of pressing a little bit trying to impress people. I was one of the younger guys on the team up there, so I didn’t really feel like I fit in that much. But once I got to Frisco, I felt like I was kind of where I belonged in my mind. I kind of was more at ease. I think a key to me pitching well down there is that I was comfortable and I was OK being there. That’s the biggest thing for any player – you have to be comfortable where you’re at.

Me: How much has the mechanical adjustment of lengthening your arm motion helped you?

Doug: It’s helped me out a lot. I used to have a real short arm action. It’s a little longer now. That’s what we fixed three years ago and I’ve been doing it ever since. So that’s been a big adjustment to what I’m doing now. So I’m staying with that. It’s pretty much the basis of what I do out there.

Me: What was your first thought when you were called up to the Rangers last year?

Doug: My first thought was that I thought they were joking when they called me. I didn’t really believe them at first but after that I was kind of starstruck, kind of in awe, didn’t know what to think. I called my parents and called my brother to let them know. They didn’t believe me at first either. It was a kind of a shocking, life-changing moment. So it’s definitely something I’ll never forget.

Me: Who was the first person you called?

Doug: My parents, right away. As soon as I got off the phone with the Rangers, I called them. They both started crying.

Me: Where were you when you found that out?

Doug: I was in Oklahoma City. I was just getting back to my apartment after a game one night. I got the phone call and had to turn around and go back to the stadium and get my stuff.

Me: What is the biggest adjustment you had to make when you started facing major-league hitting?

Doug: The biggest adjustment for me was being aggressive and not really worrying about getting hit. I think a lot of times when you get called up or get in a new situation or get promoted somewhere, you try to do too much and you don’t really trust yourself or trust your stuff. The biggest thing is that you need to do is trust that you’re here for a reason and you got called up for a reason and you’re good enough to get guys out. I think that’s the biggest thing. Yeah, your stuff is going to help you but you’ve got to be able trust that stuff and believe that you’re going to be able to get guys like Ichiro and Alex Rodriguez out. I’m not an overpowering pitcher so I have to do different things to get guys out. I can’t go out there and throw 95 so I’ve got to go out there and pitch my game and believe that’s going to get everybody out.

Me: How big is the difference in talent once you get to the majors?

Doug: Well, it’s not called the big leagues for nothing. The hitters are good hitters 1 through 9. A guy hitting 9th in the majors would be hitting in the middle of the order in triple-A or double-A. It’s quite a jump. It’s still baseball though so you can’t get all starstruck when facing those big names.

Me: What are three major differences between major league and minor league spring training camps?

Doug: Number one, the meal money is a lot better in big league camp. The media attention is another difference. And then the games you play in the minor leagues are on the backfields, while the major league games are in the main stadium, so there’s definitely more of a microscope on you on the big league side.

Me: You had a really unique experience last year because it’s not very often that someone starts in minor league camp and then gets added to major league camp roster.

Doug: Yeah, that morning when I got moved over, I thought I was in trouble. I got called into the office and they told me they were going to move me over to the big league side. I was only over there for about a week but it was still a great experience. I learned a lot from it so that will help me out this year when I go to my first full big league camp.

Me: Who are your three favorite teammates since you joined the Rangers organization and why?

Doug: I’m pretty good friends with Kea Kometani. He was in triple-A last year at Oklahoma City. I’ve played with him my whole career. It’s hard to single them out. I’d say guys like Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden. I’ve been playing with those guys a while. German Duran. Luis Mendoza. I wouldn’t be able to single three guys out but I’m pretty close with all those guys. I’m pretty good friends with most of my teammates anyway because I’m pretty laid back, so I’m pretty easy to get along with.

Me: Can you please rate each of the ballparks in the Rangers organization that you’ve played in from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) and explain your ratings?

Doug: I don’t know about Hickory. That’s the new one so I don’t know about that. Bakersfield’s probably the worst out of all of them. That’s probably about a 3 or 4. Frisco’s one of the best ballpark’s out there. That’s got to be a 9 or 10. Oklahoma City’s nice. So that’s right up there – 9 or 10. Spokane’s really nice. They do a good job there. It’s an older park but they maintain it really well. I’d rate that about an 8.

Me: Who are the three toughest hitters you’ve faced and why?

Doug: Evan Longoria is a pretty tough out for me. I faced him in the minor leagues one year and then up here. For some season, he takes good swings against me. He must see the ball well out of hand or something. But he’s a tough guy for me to get out, for whatever reason. I don’t know what it is. A tough guy I faced in double-A was Chase Headley of the Padres. He was a tough out. He’s a left fielder now but he was a third baseman when he was with San Antonio the year I was in the Texas League. He was a tough out for me that year. He’s a good hitter. I don’t know, it’s tough. There are a lot of good hitters. It’s hard to pinpoint one guy that sticks out. I faced Ichiro only one time but I’m sure if I face him more, I’ll find that he’s tough to get out on a consistent basis.

Me: What is your best pitch and how was it developed?

Doug: My best pitch is between my sinker and my slider, depending on what I’m feeling like doing that day. It’s probably going to be my sinker because that’s what’s going to keep the ball on the ground for me. I’ve got to be able to throw that down in the zone consistently. I’ve got to be able to consistently pound the bottom of the strike zone with that. If I’m not throwing that well, I’m probably not going to do very well that day.

Me: Does your sinker go down and in or down and out?

Doug: For me, the sinker will be breaking down and in to a right-handed hitter, down and away to a left-handed hitter. But I’ll throw it to both sides of the plate, so it depends on where I start it at. But it will be moving in that direction, sort of towards the third base dugout.

Me: What’s been the best game so far of your professional career and why?

Doug: I’d have to say when I was in Frisco in ’07. I threw a complete game shutout against Midland towards the end of the year. I had 10 strikeouts and didn’t walk anybody. That’s probably one that stands out. I was really on my game that night. Games like that are fun. You don’t really forget those games. You try to forget the bad ones. You always remember the good ones. That was probably the best statistical game for me. I also like the games where I struggle early or give up a couple of runs early and I figure it out and end up going deep in the game. Those are games that I actually enjoy more than just going out there and cruising. I learn more from them and I feel like I accomplished something that day if I face a little adversity and come back from it. I like those games too.

Me: What was your favorite team growing up?

Doug: I was a Cubs fan when I was real young because they were always on TV. Being from Arizona, we didn’t have a team until 1998. Obviously once the Diamondbacks came, I became a Diamondbacks fan right away. I converted over from the Cubs. It wasn’t that hard. I’m not really a Cubs fan anymore. I actually still kind of follow the Diamondbacks every now and then. It’s kind of weird since I’m playing but I still try to follow them when I get the chance, and see if they win or not.

Me: What’s it like having your team win the World Series?

Doug: It was awesome. I remember that. It was a great feeling. Whenever your team is the best out there for a given year, that’s all you can ask for as a fan. That’s what we’re trying to do here.

My Dad: I want Grant to be able to experience that feeling.

Doug: I think everyone here wants to experience it for themselves and the fans. The fans are great here. That’s why we’re out here – for the fans. If the fans didn’t show up for the games, we would have different jobs.

Me: What sports did you play growing up and which were you best at?

Doug: I obviously played baseball. I played basketball all the way through high school too. I was pretty decent at basketball. I played football for a couple of years but I broke my ankle my freshman year so I gave that up and started focusing on baseball, playing baseball on the weekends down in Phoenix. I just played basketball to stay in shape but I ended up being a pretty good shooter.

Me: What are your hobbies?

Doug: I like golf. That’s kind of a hobby of mine. I listen to a lot of music. I’m kind of a music buff. I’m really not very exciting. I just kind of hang out and play a lot of xBox when I have some downtime. I go mountain-biking every now and then. Just stuff like that. I like to be active but I also just like to kind of hang out.

Me: What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had to deal with?

Doug: Well, I’ve had two injuries my whole career. I had a little back issue two years ago and had to miss a couple of starts. I had to get an injection in my back. That wasn’t really that big a deal. I’d never really been injured until this last year when I got hurt in July and had to go on the DL, having minor surgery in September. That’s definitely my most serious injury. Coming back from that’s going to be a process.

Me: What was that recovery process like?

Doug: The rehab went slow at first, just getting my motion back for probably the first six weeks, not really doing much. Just icing it and getting the swelling down, getting the motion back, and getting used to using it again. After about six weeks, I started doing some strengthening and stabilization, getting everything around it strong. I’m about 15 weeks out of surgery. I’ve been throwing for about 5 weeks now. That was kind of slow at first. I wasn’t really sure how my arm was going to react, first of all from not throwing for a while and then, second of all, coming off an injury. I’m getting on the mound Monday or Tuesday and we’ll go from there and see how it feels. Hopefully it will go well. I think it will. My arm feels find so I’m ready to go.

Me: Thanks for doing the interview.

I would like to thank Doug for doing the interview with me. It was very nice of him to do that for me. He is a very good guy, who almost always comes over to say hi to me when he sees me.

Results of last week’s poll:
What do you think are the Rangers chances of signing Ben Sheets?
50-60% - 35%
70-80% - 32%
90-100% - 12%
30-40% - 11%
10-20% - 4%
0% - 3%

Come back next week for the beginning of my analysis of the Spring Training roster, with my predictions for who will make the team.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fan Fest Review

This week I will give a recap of what my dad and I did at the Fan Fest and a short summary of the Awards Banquet.

The Awards Banquet (at Eddie Deen’s Ranch):

Friday night, we went to the annual Winter Awards Banquet. This was the 4th year that it’s been at Eddie Deen’s ranch in downtown Dallas, which is a really cool place. Even though we’ve been going for years, this year was my first year to have a player sit at my table. Minor league pitcher Tim Murphy sat with us. Tim is very nice and a very good guy. He was one of the Rangers’ draft picks last year and was in town for their pitching mini-camp. I enjoyed getting to know him. Before the ceremony, I got to give Eric Nadel his Broadcaster of the Year trophy. Thanks again to everyone who voted (I had 117 votes). I also got to meet and talk to Ted Price before it started and he’s very nice. You can hear his podcasts at I also got to talk with Jon Daniels, Evan Grant, TR Sullivan, Tom Grieve, Josh Lewin, and my friend Brad the photographer before the ceremony. Besides Tim Murphy, I sat with my dad, my granddad, Eleanor Czajka, Bettye Pullen from my church and some of Bettye’s friends. Like usual, the food was great and Chuck Morgan put on a great program.

Fan Fest (Saturday):

9:00 AM

My dad and I got to Fan Fest at about 8:45 for the 9:00 AM opening and there was already a line of hundreds of people wrapping around the ballpark. It was cold, at about 33 degrees in the middle of the day. But once they opened, the line moved really quickly. They did a good job of processing people and getting them inside this year (solving some of the issues they’ve had the last couple of years). We went straight up to the Newberg booth when we got there and I hung out there and talked to Eleanor Czajka and Jamey Newberg for a while. Dale Petroskey (Executive Vice President of Marketing) and Chuck Morgan came up while I was there and I got to talk to them. I knew Chuck already but this was my first time to meet Dale. They are both very nice guys. Dale used to run the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and also worked with Ronald Reagan. We saw him a few more times during the day and he always stopped to say hello and remembered our names. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram also came by the Newberg booth to say hi, so I got to meet him too.

10:00 AM

When Michael Young got to the Newberg table, I got his autograph. He was very nice and he remembered me from the Newberg Book Release Party. After I got his autograph, my dad and I went to the booths and talked to TR Sullivan, the Rangers beat writer. We also bumped into my music teacher, John McKellar. After that we went to the Jon Daniels and Ron Washington Q&A in the Legends of the Game Museum. We sat with one of my dad’s friends, the one who helped him write his book on IT Auditing ( and who taught a class at SMU with my dad last fall. His name is Chris Davis (no, not the Rangers’ Chris Davis). I got to ask one question during the Q&A: Can you name three non-roster invitees who might have an impact this year? Jon Daniels mentioned Omar Vizquel and Derrick Turnbow from the veterans and Elvis Andrus and Derek Holland of the young prospects.

11:00 AM

We went back to the Newberg Table to get autographs from Kasey Kiker, Derek Holland, and Michael Ballard. Like usual, the line-up at Jamey’s table was the best. It was my first time to meet Kasey so getting his autograph was a high priority for the day (he was one of two players appearing that I needed). He was very nice, but the line was huge, much different than a couple of years ago. The last two years, the attendance at the Fan Fest and especially at the Newberg table has really increased. It used to be that you could pretty much walk up to Jamey’s table and get autographs with almost no wait. Now, the lines are about as long as for the major league players. While we were waiting in line, we saw John Siburt (our preacher at church) and his two kids, Katie and David, and talked with them for a while. Katie and David (especially Katie) are big Rangers fans.

After that, I went back to the Legends of the Game Museum to see my friend Brad the photographer do an improv comedy act with some other people. I see them every year and they’re always really funny. They did something called Storytime, where someone from the audience gives them a story title and they have to make a story out of it. Brad has a pointer and, when he points it at a member of his comedy team, that person has to start talking and telling the story. Then he points it at someone else and then that person has to continue the story where the last person left off (sometimes in mid-sentence). Somebody in the audience made up the title “Shoeless Joe Finds His Shoe” and Brad’s team did a very good job of making up a story for it. They brought Chuck Morgan in to join them in the story telling, which made it funnier. After that, they did a song where people in the audience would call out a line about various baseball subjects and these four guys would sing that line during the first round of the song and then make funny lyrics mixing up all the lines for all the other rounds. I got to choose the line for something strange that could happen at a baseball game and I said “batter throws shoe at pitcher”. After the improv, we ate lunch.

12:00 PM

All we did for this hour was stand in line outside for Guillermo Moscoso and Scott Feldman. Moscoso was one of the two people signing autographs during the day that I needed, so I didn’t want to take the chance of missing him. We got in line at 12:15 for the 1:00 autograph session. It was very cold waiting outside. We walked past Ron, our usher at the Rangers games, on our way to the line and talked with him for a little while. And there was a very nice lady and her son in front of us who kept us entertained during the wait.

1:00 PM

I got Guillermo Moscoso and Scott Feldman at the beginning of the hour. I’ve known Scott for a long time so it’s always good to talk with him. We then went to the Cuervo Club to check out the merchandise sale and stay warm. After that, I went over to the Newberg table and got autographs from Michael Main, Neftali Feliz, and Kevin Richardson while my dad talked to Grant (no, it’s not me), an artist who makes baseball paintings. I got to talk to Scott Lucas for a while after I got the autographs.

2:00 PM

I just hung out at the Newberg Booth until the autographs finished. After that, Jamey introduced me to Ben Rogers, a really nice guy who does the Ben & Skin show on 105.3 The Fan (the new all-sports radio station). If you haven’t listened to The Fan yet, you should. Ben introduced me to two others from his station, one of which was Kurt Johnson, VP of Programming for the station. One of them talked to Mike Ogulnick and his partner, Richie Whitt, and got me on the radio with them at 2:45 PM. They asked me questions about the Rangers for one segment of the show. It was a lot of fun and I would like to thank them for putting me on air. Ben said that he was going to try to get me an audio link to my segment. If I get it, I’ll link it from here so that you can hear it. After my segment on the air, I got to talk with Ian Kinsler, Taylor Teagarden, and Chris Davis (yes, this is the Rangers’ Chris Davis) as they walked by.

3:00 PM

The last thing I did was interview Doug Mathis. He had agreed to meet with me for an interview after his autograph session. We found a quiet place in the Diamond Club and talked for about 20 minutes. He was very nice and gave some very good answers. I should have that posted next week. After that, we had to leave because I had a 5pm basketball game. It was an amazing day and I would like to thank everyone with the Rangers who was involved with putting it on.

Come back next week for the Doug Mathis Interview.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Derek Holland Interview

This week I interviewed Derek Holland, the 2nd best Rangers prospect according to Baseball America.

1. In 2007, your first year in the minors when you were in Spokane, were you disappointed when you had a 3.22 ERA, but still only went 4-5?

Well, honestly I can’t say I was disappointed. It was my first season with the Rangers and basically that season I was changing all kinds of mechanics and grips to pitch and arm slots for the slider. I was working on a good bit of things, such as making my delivery a little faster and more under control. Also I was developing the slider and, yes, I’m still not satisfied and working hard to continue to get better with all of my pitches. To me, a 3.22 ERA is pretty good and, as for record, well, I was also working on trying to throw less pitches, so I was throwing too much and didn’t get to last long, so I couldn’t stay in the game. But as for my first year in the minors, I felt I did a good job and credit it to my teammates as well because, trust me, everyone knows it takes 9 to win a game. And I needed all the guys to back me up defensively and offensively, and those guys definitely helped with that. So I credit them for a good year for a first season.

2. What is the key for your WHIP going down every time you go up a level?

Well, I’d have to say not paying attention to it is the best way, so you’re not so focused on your number. I feel if I start worrying about my WHIP or any other stats, it will get in my head and make me want to focus more on that than to worry about how I’m performing.

3. When you went through the draft-and-follow process, how sure were you that you would sign?

The draft-and-follow process was a pretty neat thing to experience. Well, I wasn’t too sure that I would sign but at the same time, the more I talked with my agent and my college coaches… they helped, as well as my parents, with my decision. The more I talked with the area scout, Jeff Wood, also helped with my decision, and I could tell this was definitely the right place for me to go. I do not regret my decision at all and am happy with this organization and all the players I have been able to play with.

4. In 2008, you were named to the Midwest League All-Star team (mid-season), were a Baseball America Minor League All-Star (end-of-season), and were a Baseball America Low Class-A All-Star (end-of-season). Which one of those meant the most and why?

(Laughs) Wow, this is tough. Well, I’d probably go ahead and say the Midwest League All-Star team. They all mean a lot to me but it was an honor to get to play with all those guys and, also, half of the Clinton team was there as well to share the great time. I also got to meet all the guys from the Midwest League and met a lot of new guys. It was an awesome experience and also, if it wasn’t for my Clinton teammates, I wouldn’t have been on this team, so they contributed to me being an All-Star and my success for the year. So I’d go ahead and say that means the most because I was with all of my teammates and showed that Clinton was a strong team in the Midwest League

5. Which one means more to you: being 10th in the minors in strikeouts (157), 3rd in the minors among lefties in strikeouts, 10th in ERA in all full-season minor leagues (2.27), 10th in opponentsʼ batting average, or 2nd in opponentsʼ batting average among lefties?

(Laughs) Well, another tough question. This is hard to answer. Well I guess I’d have to pick 10th in ERA as a good one to me because I want to be able to go out and pitch and show people that it’s going to be tough to get a hit off of me and my defense. My defense is a big contribution to this. If it wasn’t for them making plays and being very supportive of me, I wouldn’t have had that ERA. So I credit them as well.

6. Could you tell a difference with the mound last year between when you were throwing 98MPH and when you were throwing 95MPH, or did it seem the same to you?

Well, the way I look at it, even if the mound is bad, no matter what, you still have to pitch off of it and so does the opponent. Now as for a difference, there were slight differences from Clinton to Bakersfield. The mounds were a bit different in height and, just the way it was made, it was a lot softer and a little lower than Clinton. Clinton’s mound was a high raised up mound, so it made me feel like I was right on top of you. Bakersfield felt as if I was throwing a mile away. It was lower and seemed farther away. Now as for Frisco, it’s probably one of my favorite mounds to throw off of. The way I see it though, the mound is always the same distance no matter where you go and it felt different each time I moved up, but I got used to it also.

7. You’ve been named to a lot of ʽTop Prospectsʼ lists recently. What does that mean to you? Do you pay attention to those lists or do you try to ignore them?

Yes, I do pay attention to those but also, last time I checked, it is not a free ticket to the major leagues. I use this stuff as more of an inspiration and feel that, just because I am number one or two or whatever, I still have to prove I belong there and can stay there. So I don’t ignore them - I just read all that stuff and use it as inspiration.

8. What do you think has been your best professional game and why?

Wow a good and tough question. I’d probably go with my debut in Frisco. I felt it was probably my best game, though it’s tough because I also liked the game against Arkansas in the championship (game 4). It was to me one of my best games also after just facing them a couple of days before. I’m going to pick my debut (in Frisco) because I had command of all 3 pitches and stayed ahead of all the hitters. I had probably my best day of commanding the zone with all the pitches and also my offense was just on top of it, as well as the defense. I had great plays and great offensive support. It also meant a lot to me because my parents were there for my debut.

9. Who are your three favorite teammates since you joined the Rangers organization and why?

(Laughs) I don’t know if I can answer this because this could get bad. But since you asked I will answer and, to play it safe, next time you ask I'll be sure to find another three to mention so I don’t get yelled at. I’d go with only the guys who I have been able to play with, so it would be Tim Smith, Mitch Moreland, and Neftali Feliz. I get along with those guys pretty well and hopefully none of this will be used against me.

10. Can you please rate the ballparks in the Rangers organization that youʼve played in from 1 to 10 (10 being the best) and explain your ratings?

(Laughs) This could be bad but I’d have to rank them like this. Spokane is an 8 – it’s an awesome place to play, great atmosphere, and fans are really into the games. I really felt good being out there and was very happy with the stadium and the people there. Next comes Clinton and I would give Clinton a 6. Yeah, it may be high but it’s also an old school park and that’s what I liked about it. They may not have had that many fans but the ones who were there did get into the game. My favorite fan of all time from there is going to be "Big Guy", one of the best fans. He is right there on the 3rd base side and he will get on you if you’re disappointing him or getting too lazy and that’s a good thing to have right there. He’s like a 10th man. Now for Bakersfield. I’d give Bakersfield a 3. There were way less fans and it didn’t seem like they were getting enough attention out there. The environment was just like dead. A lot of the minor leaguers really aren’t so interested in going to that place, but at the same time it’s an OLD school park and I did like that. It just needed a little more maintenance but the dugouts were like a mile away from home plate. Now for Frisco. Wow, Frisco was amazing. I give it a 9. Great atmosphere and an awesome place to be. The fans were incredible and were always into the game. The fireworks after the game were amazing. It was like nothing I’ve ever played in. All the games were awesome to play there and I enjoyed every bit of it. I’d say it’s my favorite place I’ve played at so far.

11. What is the toughest thing about minor league life and why?

The toughest thing about minor league life was managing money and getting comfortable with places to stay. Also making sure to stay eating healthy and keeping your weight. One thing I really wanted to do was maintain my weight and get stronger. I plan to figure a new way and manage to get that all taken care of in the future.

12. Who are the three toughest hitters youʼve faced and why?

Well I could name a couple. I will go with Kyle Blanks from the San Antonio Missions. He was a tough out and had a lot of power. He could hit the ball a mile away and could turn on a fastball so I had to make sure to mix up speeds and just go right after him. Next is going to be Mark Trumbo from the Arkansas Travelers. He was a tough out, was a lefty and could flat out hit. Great hitter with good command and good power. He knew the zone and was also an aggressive hitter. Now the toughest guy I had to face, who seemed to hit really well, was Hank Conger, also from the Arkansas Travelers. He was just flat out a good hitter. He knew the zone as well and was a tough out. He battled and just put the ball in play. He was a great guy to face. It’s still very tough to decide who were the toughest hitters to face, but that’s the best list I could come up with.

13. What was your favorite team growing up?

My favorite team growing up was the Atlanta Braves. I idolized Chipper Jones and wanted to be just like him (well, hitting-wise). Pitcher was Greg Maddux because I knew being left handed I couldn’t play third base. So I became a switch hitter like Chipper and I worked and still am working on my control so I could be like Maddux. I used to play back yard baseball with my brother. He would always pretend to be the Cubs while I was the Braves. I would go out and imitate the whole line up from Mark Lemke to Greg Maddux all the way down.

14. What sports did you play growing up and which were you best at?

Well, I played all typical sports. I played football and basketball but I quit football and basketball. I quit right before my freshman year in high school. I was an average player. It’s funny, still today I throw the football and, you will like this, I go and kick some field goals every once in a while just for fun. I would say I was OK at basketball - tried to shoot (laughs) - but I mainly just stuck to baseball and played golf, which I’m now trying to get better at.

15. What is the worst injury you’ve had to deal with?

The worst injury I had to deal with was when I broke my collar bone. I was like probably around 10 and was playing football and got tackled and broke my left collar bone. I had to use my right arm for everything and it was really hard to do all that, from writing papers to sleeping. I’m all dominant with my left side and it just seemed very weird. It was hard to do everything not being able to use my left arm. I couldn’t raise up or anything, so it was different. And I also hated it when I had an itch inside the cast because I couldn’t reach it, even with a pencil (laughs).

16. What are your hobbies?

My hobbies now consist of golfing (well, learning how to golf that is) and hopefully soon I will get to go hunting. It’s something I haven’t done and would like to go out and try. So I’ve talked to a couple of the guys and hopefully they will take me out. I also guess you could say, yeah, I play a little Xbox as well when I have some time to just sit and relax. It’s what I do. And I read some books during baseball season.

I would like to thank Derek for doing this interview. He gave up a lot of his time for this and gave really good answers. It was very nice of him to do this and I appreciate it very much. Derek is a really nice guy and should be in Arlington before long.

Results of the Broadcaster of the Year poll:
Eric Nadel – 48% (57)
Tom Grieve – 26% (31)
Josh Lewin – 11% (14)
Victor Rojas – 7% (9)
Eleno Ornelas – 4% (5)
Jose Guzman – 0% (1)

Congratulations to Eric Nadel for winning the 2008 Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year Award. I will be presenting him with the award next weekend at the Awards Banquet (no, it will not be on stage). Thanks to everyone who voted.

Come back next week for a summary of the Rangers Fan Fest.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

#41-45 All-Time Rangers List

This week I will give numbers 41-45 on my All-Time Rangers list.

Also, this week I am continuing the poll for the second annual Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year Award (on the left-hand sidebar). The winner will get an award, so if you haven’t already, please vote to make it more meaningful.

45. Tom Henke: 58 saves, 11-12, 3.55 ERA, 169 K, 172.1 IP
Tom is the 45th best player in Rangers history, in my opinion. He is 4th in saves for the Rangers all-time. He played five years for the Rangers in two different stints, three years at the very beginning of his career and two at almost the very end of his career. He had 40 saves in 1993, when the Rangers challenged the White Sox for the division until almost the end of the season. He has a pretty good ERA and a very good number of strikeouts for the number of innings he pitched. He would strike out a lot of batters, get you plenty of saves, but usually not get you too many innings. His saves are what got him #45 on my list.

44. Jeff Zimmerman:32 saves, 17-12, 3.27 ERA, 228.2 IP, 213 K, All-Star (99)
Jeff is 10th on the Rangers all-time saves list, despite only being a closer for one season. Jeff only played three years in the majors before a career-ending injury, but all three years were for the Rangers. He made the All-Star Game in his rookie year and pitched one scoreless inning in the game. He went 9-3 with a 2.36 ERA that year. In 2000, he had a more average year, though, with a 5.30 ERA and a 4-5 record. In his last year in the majors and his only year as a closer, he pitched very well again, with 28 saves and a 2.40 ERA. That got him his only big contract right before his injury. He is a pitcher who would pitch about 65 games a year, would normally be a very, very solid pitcher and had a good K/per 9 stat. All those reasons are why Jeff is #44 on my list. In addition, Jeff is one of the all-time nicest guys to ever wear a Ranger uniform.

43. Jim Kern:37 saves, 17-18, 2.59 ERA, 236.1 IP, 196 K, Rolaids Fireman of Year (79), All-Star (79), MLB Save-Leader (79)
Jim led the league in saves in 1979, was an All-Star in 1979 and won the Rolaids Fireman of the Year Award in 1979. He is 6th in saves on the Rangers all-time list, and has a very good ERA at 2.59. He has a losing record, though. He has a good amount of strikeouts for his number of innings. He definitely deserves to be on this list with his All-Star appearance, Relief Pitcher of the Year Award and saves lead, even without the other things that he has done. He was only here three years, and only two of those were good years. He is a guy that could have an excellent season (1979), but would have some mediocre years (1980, when he went 3-11 with a 4.83 ERA). That is why he is #43 on my list.

42. Gary Ward: .293 AVG, 41 HR, 200 RBI, All-Star (85)
Gary Ward is the 42nd best player in Rangers history because of his solid batting average and All-Star appearance. He is 9th in batting average for 1250 AB’s or more and 38th in homers. He is also 31st in RBI’s and had 45 stolen bases. He hit for a solid batting average and had a decent amount of home runs and RBI’s. He was also an All-Star in 1985, when he hit .287, with 15 HR’s and 70 RBI’s. If he had been a Ranger for more than three seasons he would be plenty higher on this list.

41. Dean Palmer: 154 HR, .247 AVG, 451 RBI
Dean Palmer is the 41st best player in Rangers history, in my opinion. Dean is 6th in home runs, and 14th in RBI’s, but has a below average batting average. He is 13th in at-bats, but only has a .320 OBP. He had plenty of power, but did not hit for average or get a lot of walks to make up for that fact. He was a very streaky hitter. He would go through periods where he seemed to hit everything but then longer periods where it seemed he could hit nothing. His average and OBP are the only reasons he is not higher on this list.

Come back next week for numbers 36-40 on my All-Time List.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

#46-50 All-Time Rangers List

This week I will start a series of my top 50 Rangers players of all-time. I will do it in groups of five, starting at 46-50.

Also, this week I am continuing the poll for the second annual Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year Award (on the left-hand sidebar). The winner will get an award, so please vote to make it more meaningful.

50. Kevin Mench: .274 AVG, 80 HR, 265 RBI
Kevin has the 32nd most at-bats in Rangers history, along with the 18th most home runs and the 23rd most RBI’s. That should be enough to get you at least the #50 spot in an all-time Rangers list. His batting average isn’t too bad either, as he is tied for 21st in that category. He struck out much more often than he walked, though as he struck out 273 times and walked only 147 times. He was not speedy either, as he was only 7-of-12 on attempted steals. Kevin did have a pretty good fielding percentage and was a better fielder than his reputation. Kevin was a streaky player who could hit for power, was pretty good in the field, and had a decent batting average, but who didn’t have much speed and struck out more than he should.

49. Roger Pavlik: .547 W%, 47-39, 4.58 ERA, 743 IP, 526 K
Roger is 13th in Rangers history in wins and has a very good win percentage. That should be enough to get you onto this list. His ERA was shaky though, as it is over 4.50. He has the 15th most innings pitched in Rangers history and the 12th most strikeouts in Rangers history. He had a good record with a fair amount of strikeouts but was not a shut-down pitcher and benefited greatly from excellent offensive support. Roger was an All-Star in 1996 and, despite his flaws, deserves to be on this list.

48. Frank Catalanotto: .290 AVG, 37 HR, 184 RBI
Frank Catalanotto is the 48th best player in Rangers history because he is 36th in RBI and 39th in home runs. Also, he is tied for 13th in Rangers batting average for players with at least 1250 at-bats and is 8th in OBP in Rangers history. Also, he is 19th in slugging percentage and 35th in walks with 145. He doesn’t strike out very often with only 184 strikeouts. 37th in at-bats, he has been with the club 5 years. He is speedy, used to hit for a high average, and does not have much power. He is good in the field. He is a solid player and deserves to be in the top 50 Rangers of all time.

47. Steve Buechele: .240 AVG, 94 HR, 338 RBI,
Steve is 16th in Rangers history in home runs, and 19th in RBI’s. But his batting average is only .240 and his OBP is only .308. He had plenty of power, but did not have a good batting average and was not particularly strong at defense. In my opinion, he is the 5th best 3rd baseman in Ranger history.

46. Ian Kinsler: .290 AVG, 52 HR, 187 RBI, 60 SB
Ian Kinsler is the 46th best player in Rangers history, in my opinion. He is 39th in Ranger history in at-bats, 28th in Rangers history in home runs, along with 36th in RBI and tied for 13th in batting average for Rangers players with at least 1250 at-bats. He’s also 10th in OBP for players with at least 1250 at-bats. He is already 16th in stolen bases in only his 3rd year. His fielding percentage is only .975 and he has 53 errors, though. He has only had one year when he has not hit 15 home runs and he hit 14 in that year. His OBP is .360 and his slugging percentage is .473 (10th in Rangers history). He has been in the majors for three years and is already towards the top of most of the important stats for a hitter. He is also speedy, stealing 60 bases out of 68 attempts (88.2%). He has speed with plenty of power and has a good batting average. He was an All-Star in 2008 and deserved to be one. I think Ian is the 4th best second baseman in Rangers history behind Julio Franco, Bump Wills, and Michael Young. He has an .832 OPS and definitely deserves to be in the top 50 all-time Rangers.

Come back next week for numbers 41-45 in the All-Time Rangers List.