Rangers 2012 Season Preview

First off, a quick comment about why this post is on my personal blog.  I run a Rangers fan site/blog at rangerfans.com – and I’ve been prepping a new version of the site for the last two months or so.  I completed it earlier in the week, and had it ready to go.  On Wed the 29th, I launched it – or tried to.  You see, the server I have it on is a bit old, and underpowered.  I’m putting too many things on it, and it’s time for a change.  I’ve ordered a new server, but any of my attempts to get the new site up and going on the old server crashes that server, so I have to put my plans to launch the new Rangers site on hold until the new server is in place, which should be around Mar 20 or so.  I was really disappointed by that, because I wanted it in place before Spring Training games start on Sunday, but given I apparently can’t, I didn’t want to NOT write about baseball either, and since this blog DOES work right (it’s on a different server), I thought I’d write here for the time being.  Once the proper site is working again, I’ll copy any posts from here over there.  With that out of the way…

 

When we last spoke

This won’t be a professional article like you might see on Dallas Morning News, or mlb.com, or espn or something like that.  This is just a Rangers fan blogger getting out some thoughts that have been built up since the World Series ended.

When the 2011 season ended, I was pissed off.  As were a lot of Rangers fans.  I don’t want to revisit the way Game 6 ended, as for me, that clip of Nelson Cruz in right is as grating to me as the clip of Joe Carter’s home run off Mitch Williams in the 1993 World Series is.  It’s just a dagger in the heart video clip that I never really want to see again.  I was mad, I basically shut down from all baseball activities for awhile.  It took me some time to get over that.  While I kept up with news somewhat, I mostly tuned out – I didn’t seek things out at all.   I even went so far as to sell off my copy of MLB 2K11 for the Xbox 360 early.  I usually sell it off somewhere before the start of Spring Training in prep for the new version in March, but this year I got rid of it much earlier than usual.   I think it was somewhere around the turn of the year where I started saying things like “You know, a Rangers game would be good tonight”.  So as hard as I turned off baseball after the World Series, it just came back on.  For some reason, I found myself a bit more eager for the 2012 season to get started.  Not because of the possibility of “Three Times a Charm”, but more because of the fact that I just missed baseball more.

A Few Mini Rants

I’m still without cable TV, and I have to say the lack of MLB Network is BLOODY WELL KILLING ME!   I mean, I didn’t realize how much of a lifeline that MLBN was in the last few offseasons.  Perhaps that has something to do with my increased desire for this season to get started, because I wasn’t still in baseball mode due to MLBN being available all the time.   I wrote a letter to the Commissioner’s office (even though I know it will do NOTHING) asking that MLB Network be turned into an actual network.  Right now it’s just one channel.  Make it a REAL network, and send it out on some over the air channels around the country.   If they want to grow it even further, make it available to cord cutters.  Or, get 100% of the content (except the games, I’d understand that) to be streamed online live.   It seems odd, I can’t just pick up and watch MLB Network on mlb.com.  Or get ’em to add those cool video apps to Xbox 360, iPad, or Playstation 3.  There’s gotta be a way to get MLB Network without paying an addtl $70 to Time Warner Cable just to have that.   Even if I had the desire to hook up Cable TV or Satellite again, I’m not sure if I’d want to go through all the hassle and extra cost just for that and about half a dozen other channels I’d actually care about.  We’re doing mostly well with just an antenna (far better than I thought), but I really do miss MLBN a lot.

To that, I do wish MLB would get it’s head out of it’s ass and deal with the blackout rules.  The thing that bugs me the most is the fact you can’t watch local games with something like MLB.tv.  The reason that’s always stated is they want you to watch the local programming on your channels.  OK, fine.  I understand that.   The solution to me is easy.  Broadcast the commercials.  MLB.tv goes to this blank screen during commercials that says “MLB.tv Commercial Break” or something like that, and you look at a static screen for like 2.5 minutes during the break.  I never understood that.  Show the commercials from the local market, and let locals watch the shows on MLB.tv.  That way the TV stations that are the purported reason for the blackout still have their advertising protected.   I know a lot of cable cutters like myself would RUN SCREAMING WITH WALLETS OUT if the local restriction were removed.  I can’t tell you how fast I’d buy it if that were the case, because I can’t measure in time increments that small!

Actual Baseball Talk

OK, I think I’ve channeled my rage at losing the off season into those first few paragraphs.  However, I didn’t intend my first post of the 2012 season to be an all out rage-fest, so I’ll get to baseball, and offer my thoughts on various events of this past offseason.

The Core

The majority of the 2012 squad is mostly the same.  Not all the same, mind you – but for the most part, it’s the same crew that went to the series last year.  The biggest changes are at the top of the rotation and closer.  The rest of the major pieces are the same.  That’s a pretty nice consistency, but whether it can translate into a third trip to the World Series in as many tries obviously remains to be seen.  I’ve seen many references to “Third Time’s a Charm” during the off season, and I really hope so.  I’d rather not go there at all, then go there and lose again, coming dangerously close to becoming the Buffalo Bills.   :(

Departures

The biggest departure is obviously C.J. Wilson.  Wilson bolted for his native Southern California after not being given the contract he wanted from Texas.  Texas offered him a contract, but it struck me as the kind of offer that makes it look like we tried, even though we really didn’t.  I initially thought the attempt to make him a starter wouldn’t work, but it did – quite well.  I ate some crow on that, but I also kind of figured that if he got to free agency, he’d be gone, that he’d either end up with the Yankees or the Angels.  I didn’t see the Angels getting Wilson AND Pujols, but that’s another story.  He’ll probably be more comfortable in Anaheim than Arlington.  I also am pretty convinced his post season utter failure in 2011 probably contributed to his not being here now.  I doubt it was solely responsible, but it had to have SOMETHING to do with it.  I’m a little unclear whether he’ll do really well out there, or end up out there like Gary Matthews Jr did.

The other departure that isn’t as talked about, but is also important I think, is that of Darren Oliver (to the Blue Jays).  Given Oliver developed into a quite good lefty reliever later on in his career (as opposed to the “eh” starter he was earlier in his career), I’m a bit surprised the Rangers didn’t try harder to keep him.  There was stated interest on both sides about him staying.  As I write this on March 2nd, I can’t recall if we actually made him a formal offer.  The biggest surprise to me was that it mostly left us shorthanded on the left side of the bullpen.  As of today, Mike Gonzalez is still out there, and there’s been stated interest from both sides, but the Rangers appear to be holding firm on the “we can’t add any more salary”.  It was talked that we were moving Koji Uehara to make room for Gonzalez, but Uehara is still here after vetoing a trade.   All this non movement opens up a possibilty for Michael Kirkman, I suppose.   I think lefty bullpen might be an issue, I guess I’ll have to revise this thought once we break with the 25 man roster.

The other off season departures are less of an issue, really.   Taylor Teagarden had unproduced himself out of a viable roster spot here, Andres Blanco was kind of “there”; and is probably easily replaced, Endy Chavez seemed servicable, but given the OF logjam, he probably didn’t have a shot.  Matt Treanor was a guy I really liked, but he too was behind the eight ball with Napoli’s breakout season, and Torrealba under contract too.

New Fish

The biggest new fish for the 2012 season is obvious.  I’ll talk about him last.  There’s more than just a guy who shows up wearing what looks like a marijuana T-Shirt in an airport.  There’s a few other things.

Joe Nathan as the new closer is probably the biggest change other than the obvious one Yu know about (See what I did there? Har).   Nathan’s a bit of a gamble to me.  His injury has been well chronicled – it cost him the clear closer job with the Twins.  He did return last year, and was pretty decent in the second half of the season.  While that’s a strong leadin, I do have to wonder if it will hold up over here.   It’s not a question of whether he will be the closer, he was anointed the closer from the moment he signed, so it’ll probably be sink or swim with him out there.  Not unless he totally “Mark Clark’s” the thing, and needs to be replaced, like Frank Francisco did a few years ago.  BTW, I can’t stand “You/Yu” jokes.  That’s probably the last one I’ll make here.  I had to do ONE.  :)

Brad Hawpe is a 1B/Outfield minor league invite that hold some interest to me.  He was a guy who had some success when he was with Colorado, but isn’t quite the big name he used to be.  I followed him for awhile, because he helped me out with home run totals on fantasy teams a few years back.  I like the name, but I can’t see him making a huge impact, unless we have to bring guys up from the minors due to injury.  Or trade.  He’s probably here to be a AAA insurance policy type of player.  Still, I’d like to see him up in the big show somehow.

The other guys who are inbound are all guys I don’t expect to make any kind of impact.  There’s always a bunch of those signed who are in spring only and then never heard of again, or released.  This year’s crop is Brandon Snyder, Joe Beimel & Conor Jackson.   There’s others that are smaller names, but these are the more notables from that group.

Then there’s Yu Darvish.  Impossible to talk about the 2012 edition of the Texas Rangers without mentioning him.  I say the hoopla surrounding the inbound player who hasn’t yet played an official game with Darvish is greater than the other two that I can recall in my own time (those being Chan Ho Park & Alex Rodriguez).  I imagine the hoopla when we originally signed Nolan Ryan back in 89 was a big deal too, but that was before my time.  Even with these guys being recalled, I cannot imagine that anything has been more impactful than the arrival of Yu Darvish, and all the throng that comes with him (one of which isn’t his now ex-wife, who would have been up there on the hot baseball wives list).  The video of press conferences, and seas of Japanese photographers are insane.  Once we get to Arlington, I’ll be curious to see how they handle all that extra throng.  The photo wells at Rangers Ballpark aren’t exactly gigantic.  There’s no way even a fraction of the people we’re seeing in Surprise will fit in the four photo wells in Arlington.  Mostly the photo wells aren’t 100% used anyway, so I suspect they will be now.  It’s definitely a circus.

But that will end once the season starts, and he actually pitches.  Whether Darvish can break the mold of previous experiments that ranged from “eh” to “awful” with names such as Hideki Irabu, Chan Ho Park, Akinori Otsuka, Yoshinori Tateyama, Koji Uehara, & Kazuo Fukumori remains to be seen.  However, given how large of a truck of money they drove up to this guy’s house, combined with the amount of scouting I’ve read the Rangers did on him – one expects the Rangers don’t think he’ll end up on that list.  There’ also Daisuke Matsuzaka to consider.  He was expected to come over here and dominate, and he didn’t.  Darvish has a different feel to me.  Perhaps it’s a homer feeling, given I really WANT him to succeed based on the amount of money put into this.  I don’t THINK so, but I am a Rangers fan.  It might be more accurate to say that I seriously hope he does well, and makes it worth it.  I’m leaning towards saying that he will, but given the past (mostly) failures in this department, I do also reserve judgement.   I’ll be curious to see how he’s drafted in Fantasy Baseball drafts.

Other remarks

There’s plenty of other issues in play here besides the biggies like Yu Darvish in play.  I’ll try and hit some of them.  As I write this sentence, I’m 2,330 words into this article, and I haven’t even touched on things like Josh Hamilton, Center Field, Neftali Feliz as a starter, and all that other stuff.  Not too bad, I think.  :)

Josh Hamilton:

He’s had an interesting offseason.  Was caught drinking in public again.  As any alcoholic will tell you, you never “get over” that, you deal with it for the rest of your life.  Unlike the last time, there aren’t incriminating photos of him with women who weren’t his wife.  He came out and admitted to it, and given my belief in his beliefs, I suspect his remorse was quite genuine.  Nothing from that event will appear to affect him directly on the field, this is an off the field thing.  Those can be separated.  I’d wager given Josh’s past, it probably won’t be the last time either.  Thing is, will the Rangers have him around long enough to find out if there will be a next time?

That brings us to the other issue.  In the press conference in Surprise to talk about the relapse, came the famous “I don’t owe the Rangers anything” remark.  Probably not the most well chosen words, but this being the age of information where every single letter is dissected, room for interpretation isn’t usually allowed.  People glom onto that.  An attempt was made to backpedal shortly after that where Josh explained what that meant.  All the pro commentators did seem to latch onto that comment in the spirit in which it probably was intended.  But the casual “Why don’t we get some pitching in here” kind of fan won’t.  They’ll just see that as Josh slamming the Rangers.  I don’t – but I also have a feeling that Josh won’t be here next year.  I’d really like for him to be.  I like the guy’s putting of his faith out front a lot.  You don’t see that with many players, but with Josh, it’s always out there.  I like that.  He’s a great player, too.  But he does have a drug, alcohol, & injury bitten body.  As healthy as he appears to be, one wonders how many more years he will have.  He’s 30, which isn’t ancient, but given how many years he didn’t play, he should have more years under his belt.  He doesn’t.   If he stays, it will probably be because they decided to go with a shorter contract, say 2 years, maybe 3, as opposed to the 5 or 6 he probably wants.   I think this is all dependent on how the 2012 season goes.  I don’t think it’s an automatic that he’s gone after this year, but I’d say there’s a fair chance he’s not here in 2013.

Center Field: 

2012 will be the 14th season played since I started this site.  In all that time, center field has been pretty unsettled.  While Borbon has gotten the nod the last few seasons, I think it’s more a case of “well, someone’s out there” vs “He really earned that”.  Josh Hamilton also had it for two seasons in a row, but I don’t think most people consider him a true center fielder.  That too was more of a “Well, someone’s got to be there”.   The way I feel, Julio Borbon is gonna get his last shot here to get the job.  He was doing pretty decently last year until injury, and then lost the job.   If he goes out there and is decent, he’ll probably get the nod, but if he falters, there’s plenty of other options available (Craig Gentry for one), including one that’s somewhat expensive for a mostly-rookie (Leonys Martin).   If Borbon does get the Game 1 nod to start in center field, it will be the first time in bloody ages someone has had that assignment for three seasons in a row.  A quick check of the records shows these names going backwards from 2011: Julio Borbon, Julio Borbon, Josh Hamilton, Josh Hamilton, Kenny Lofton, Laynce Nix, Gary Matthews Jr, Laynce Nix, Doug Glanville, Carl Everett, Bo Porter, Ruben Mateo, Tom Goodwin, Tom Goodwin, Damon Buford, Darryl Hamilton, Otis Nixon, David Hulse, David Hulse, Juan Gonzalez, Gary Pettis, Gary Pettis, Cecil Espy, Oddibe McDowell, Oddibe McDowell, Oddibe McDowell.   You have to go all the way back to 1986/87/88 to find someone who has had the starting center field job on opening day three years in a row.  It’s been QUITE unstable to say the least.  Some of the possibilities we have could farm out long term, but my gut feeling says that unless Julio Borbon dominates during the spring, the streak will continue.   I personally would like to see Craig Gentry step up and earn that job.  I have always liked him.  He reminds me somewhat of Rusty Greer.   What I think will happen will be Borbon will open, and probably get supplanted during the season at some point by Craig Gentry or Leonys Martin.  The flip side is that if Borbon does play well, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him traded and have one of the other options step in out there.

Neftali Feliz: 

We try again for the third year in a row to move one of the relievers into the starting rotation.  It’s worked so far.  Feliz will be following CJ Wilson & Alexi Ogando into that path.   I’d be lying if I said was confident in either of those two stepping up and getting it done.  But Feliz is more of a question mark.  Sure, he can gas it up, but that’s not the kind of thing that works for a starter unless you’re Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson or someone like that.    I’m hopeful he can put it together, because we’re taking Alexi Ogando OUT of the rotation, and putting him back in the pen.  I’m a bit surprised by that, to be honest.   I figured Ogando did well enough to stay in, but that’s not what’s happening.  I really don’t have a handle on how Feliz might do as a starter long term.  Need to see him actually go out there and pitch – and something more meaningful than the first 2-3 starts of the spring too when you’re only expected to go an inning or two at most.  Which wouldn’t be a stretch for a former closer.  This is too up in the air to call, I think.

Mitch Moreland:

In 2010, Mitch Moreland seemed the heir apparent at first base.  A young kid with great power, a lefty that was a decent defender.  Then in 2011, he almost fell off the map.  Felt like Chris Davis Part II.   Great prospect, didn’t put it together.  Then during the off season, we found out Moreland was playing hurt, and caused problems trying to overcompensate for the injury, pretty much making him next to ineffective as a hitter.  When that wasn’t known, most fans I know of (including myself) had written him off.  But if he can bounce back, that will work out nicely.  I do like the kid, I hope he works out, because I don’t believe there’s a future stud at 1B in our system that’s anywhere near ready to take over if he fails when healthy.   There was talk of Prince Fielder, and I have to say I liked that talk a little, but once it came out what the Tigers paid for him, there was no bloody way.   This one is more of a “I hope he gets it together, because I want to like him” thing.   Yes, we have immediate short term options at 1B if he doesn’t come through, but nothing internal for a long term solution at that high a level.

Mike Napoli:

Mike became a fan favorite in 2011, acquiring instant rock star status in Arlington.  I don’t think most fans were expecting much of him when he arrived, so that’s probably why it happened so fast.  I’m a bit surprised we couldn’t come together on a long term contract.  He’s only signed through 2012, and then he’s eligible for free agency after 2013, so there’s still time.  I suppose if he repeats anything close to the second half of 2011 in 2012, he’ll be in line for a bigger payday than the $9.4M he’ll make this year.  I’d like to keep him, because catcher has been pretty unstable since Pudge departed almost a decade ago.  Sure, there’s been “supposed to be great” prospects that weren’t (Salty, Teagarden), some guys that were pretty good for a short period of time (Yorbit Torrealba, Gerald Laird, Rod Barajas, Matt Treanor, ), other kind of “just there” guys (Einar Diaz, Max Ramirez, Adam Melhuse, Sandy Alomar, Todd Greene), and then the forgettables (Guillermo Quiroz, Chris Stewart, Miguel Ojeda, Ken Huckaby, Danny Ardoin, Chad Kreuter), but nothing that actually materialized at the major league level for any long term length.  I was really thinking Mike Napoli would be the long term option.  If we get another season like 2011, I say we make a real effort to get it done.  Give him what he wants, he’s popular, and he’s pretty decent.  We could use some stability behind the plate.

Starting Rotation:

Read a few cool stats about the Rangers starters in 2011.  They tied for the lead in the AL with 99 quality starts.  The starting staff had a total of 994.1 innings pitched, fifth in the AL.  That’s quite an accomplishment given the horrendous pitching the franchise has been associated with in the past.   Of the starters from last year, all but one are back for 2012, that being CJ Wilson.  If you look at CJ’s numbers for 2011 in the chart below, they’re pretty good numbers.  They’re not impossible to replace, but that’s directly where Yu Darvish steps.  I suspect at a minimum most people will expect him to match CJ’s numbers for 2011.  It’s a huge unknown, given how well, unknown Darvish is in MLB in terms of how he’ll actually pitch in real games.  Beyond that, here’s the numbers for the whole rotation for last year.

W L ERA G/GS CG SHO IP H R/ER HR BB SO WHIP
C.J. Wilson 16 7 2.94 34/34 3 1 223.1 191 89/73 16 74 206 1.187
Colby Lewis 14 10 4.40 32/32 2 1 200.1 187 103/98 35 56 169 1.213
Derek Holland 16 5 3.95 32/32 4 4 198.0 201 97/87 22 67 162 1.354
Matt Harrison 14 9 3.39 31/30 0 0 185.2 180 79/70 13 57 126 1.276
Alexi Ogando 13 8 3.51 31/29 1 1 169.0 149 73/66 16 43 126 1.136

That’s 73 wins for the starting five, a pretty respectable number for sure.  There were also five other games started by guys who weren’t these five.  They were Dave Bush (3) & Scott Feldman (2).   Bush didn’t win any of his games (as he ended up with an 0-1 record), and I’m not sure about Feldman at the moment.  Either way, the starting rotation had some nice numbers.   A few thoughts..  Way too many home runs allowed by Colby Lewis.

The other thing is that Ogando’s going back to the bullpen and Feliz is coming into the rotation.  I talked about that above, but if you apply the same comparison with him as I made with Darvish, can we expect Feliz to match Ogando’s 13-8 record?  I doubt Feliz will have that super torrid streak in the first half that Ogando did, but who knows?  It’s not impossible, obviously, but I can’t see it happening, to be honest.  :)

Overall, I have no reason to believe that Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Colby Lewis will do anything else than what they did in 2011, so I’m gonna bank on them repeating.  The variables are Darvish & Feliz.  If they just MATCH the numbers of Wilson & Ogando for last year, we’re in great shape.  If they do better, then hey – it’ll be amazing.  I’m feeling mostly confident in the rotation, if not completely confident.

The bullpen:

Our bullpen has some potential to be awesome, but for now, it’s all mostly potential.  If you look at the possible candidates for the bullpen based on what I’m thinking before any spring games are played, we have this lineup:

  • Joe Nathan – The new closer.  If he pitches like he did in the second half of 2011, things will be fine.  If he doesn’t, well, then we don’t have much in the way of backup in house except moving Feliz back there, and that kind of stuff destroyed Joba Chamberlin, I think.  I would hope the Rangers wouldn’t do that.  Unknown, but with a big upside.
  • Mike Adams – When he came here last season, he was lauded as a total shutdown guy.  Initially, he was bad when he FIRST got here, but turned it around.  If he comes into the season with a proper head of steam, we have a good one here.
  • Koji Uehara – Came over here from Baltimore mid season with a reputation much like Adams.  However, he wasn’t that good.  Not atrocious, but not that great.  Word was that he was tired at the end of the season, and should fare better in 2012.  We tried to trade in him the offseason, but he vetoed that.
  • Scott Feldman – Was our opening day starter just a couple of seasons ago, got hurt, and when he came back, there was no slot for him in the rotation.  He’s a rather well paid long man.  He’s probably also second in line for a starting gig or a spot start if we need it behind Ogando.   No problems here.
  • Yoshinori Tateyama – According to what I’ve read since we signed Darvish, he was signed partially in prep for a possible signing of Darvish to have a countryman here.  Not that he wasn’t without merit – but he tailed out at the end of the season, and was left off the World Series roster.  Not sure what to make of him.  Definitely not confident in him, much like a friend of mine (hi Jeff) was never confident with Darren O’Day.
  • Michael Kirkman – While his numbers have never been spectacular at all, he probably has a pretty easy path to a bullpen slot, merely because he is the only left hander in the pen at the moment.   Had we traded Uehara, we probably would have resigned Mike Gonzalez (who is still a free agent as of today), but unless Kirkman stinks it up in spring training will be in the bullpen.
  • Mark Lowe – Acquired while on the DL with Cliff Lee, he’s been a serviceable, if not spectacular bullpen guy.  No problems here.
  • Mark Hamburger – Might make the pen, pitched a bit in 2011.  Doesn’t bother me, but I don’t have a ton of track record to base an opinion on here.  Probably not a lock, has to earn it, might end up in AAA as well.  Will depend on how the spring goes here, I’m sure.   This is a guy that makes me wish Josh Lewin were still here; he’d have fun with the name for sure.

If everything works right, Ogando, Adams, & Nathan will be a great back end of the bullpen.  We have a pretty good long guy, and decent rest of the guys.  Why we let Darren Oliver go is still beyond me, and I’m hoping the lack of lefty (for now, anyway) doesn’t come back to bite us in the backside.

The Offense

Saved this until later in the report, because well, we know what’s gonna happen here.    We have an offense that can hit the ball.  Assuming everyone stays healthy (mostly Hamilton & Cruz), we should pound some runs again.   While they’re not all power guys like Napoli, Cruz, Hamilton, & Beltre, we have a lot of guys who can just hit the ball all over the place, led by Michael Young, who shows no sign of slowing down hitting wise.   Michael Young goes into 2012 at age 35 with 2,061 career hits.  If he stays around his usual average of 200, he’d need to play to age 40 to get to 3,000.  Not unrealistic at all – would love to see that, but that’s not a chat for the 2012 season.

My guess at a starting lineup based on the current possibilities are:

  1. Ian Kinsler – 2B
  2. Elvis Andrus – SS
  3. Josh Hamilton – LF
  4. Michael Young – DH
  5. Adrian Beltre – 3B
  6. Nelson Cruz – RF
  7. Mike Napoli – C
  8. Mitch Moreland – 1B
  9. Craig Gentry – CF

Gentry is the only real guy I don’t expect a ton of offense out of.  But overall, it’s a solid and balanced lineup, assuming everyone does what they’re supposed to, and stays on the field.   David Murphy is still here too, and will be the fourth outfielder, and roving OF guy.  No idea who the 2012 version of the utility/25th man will be, as all the usual suspects for the last few years are out of the system, I believe.  That will probably come from one of the gaggle of NRI’s.     Mike Olt, maybe?  Brad Hawpe is an interesting idea, too.  Hard to tell, it’s way up in the air.

To Summarize

I’m very much looking forward to the 2012 season.  I wish we’d have a different TV broadcast team.  I wouldn’t mind Josh Lewin coming back, but he took a job with the Mets radio, so that’s not an option.

Overall, I expect the Rangers to win the division, although it will be a bit closer this year, I think.   I don’t want to predict the playoffs before we have even played an official spring training game, but I have a feeling the Rangers will three-peat as AL West Champs.  Let’s hope it’s a three peat in the Fall Classic as well.   The only thing that will stink about getting back to the World Series again is that we’ll have to bloody well see the Cruz Game 6 thing again.  I don’t want to see that!

I didn’t set out to write a book here (I’m now over 5,000 words), but it just kept flowing, so I went with it.   Baseball season is back, and I can’t wait for it to get going for real.

Road Trip to Round Rock

This past March, I went on a trip down to Round Rock to see the Texas Rangers play their AAA affiliate, the Round Rock Express in the final exhibition game of Spring Training.  It was cool, as I got to ride down with Patrick McCollough, and we had a great time talking baseball, and a ton of other things.  We were sponsored by Chevy, and as such, a video trailer of our trip made it onto the Chevy website this week under the name of our outing, “Chevy Line Drive to Round Rock“.  Check out the trailer below, and the website, which also includes some pictures, and a 15 minute or so interview with the four of us that went there on our thoughts leading into the season.

As a side note, the video shot of Patrick in the car, and the shot of driving down the road was filmed by me using a Flipcam.  :)

Dallas Stars

Pretty cool Dallas Stars video.  Was played before the start of games that season.

Eagles Game

eaglescardinals.jpg

2008 NFL Sunday Ticket Spreadsheet Schedule

Since I live in Dallas, and have the hell of living in Cowboy land, one majorly huge lifeline for me is the NFL Sunday Ticket package on DirecTV. It allows me to watch pretty much whatever game I want, so I get to see all the Eagles games (I’m from Philly), and Steeler games (wife’s from Pittsburgh) without having to sit through the agony of all the Dallas Cowboy games every week.
That’s been my intro text since I’ve been doing these updates, but unfortunately, starting in 2007 I have had to drop Sunday Ticket, mostly due to cost. In the last year and a half, I’ve taken a larger, more active role in my church, and due to that, I ended up missing a lot of Sunday ticket games in 2006. I am likely going to be doing the same events this year, and due to the overall cost of Ticket, I decided to drop it if I was going to be missing a lot of the games. I didn’t want to do that, and if it wasn’t so darned expensive, I wouldn’t, but there you are. It’s gotten worse in 2008. The base price for the package is $299, and if you want games in high def, it’s an additional $99, as they’re in the “Superfan” addon for the package. That’s $400 friggin dollars for the season. SCREW THAT!
Anyway, for the last several seasons (08 is my seventh, 02 was the first), I’ve put together a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet containing the entire NFL Season Schedule for all the NFL Sunday Ticket channels. You can download it, print it, and have the entire schedule on one page. This originally started out as a project for some people on the TiVo community forums, but I’ve moved to my own blog as my primary distribution point. Still, I wanted to say hi to the folks over there, even if it’s not a regular hangout anymore.

NFL Sunday Ticket Schedule

The first year I did this I did just the NFLST games. But since then I include everything else. Which lately has gotten a lot more confusing. My schedule also covers the ESPN MNF games, the Sunday night NBC games, various Thursday NFL Network games, and the other oddities like Thanksgiving day, things like that. They’re all here. Here’s a few notes about the spreadsheet and the NFL schedule this season:

  • In the past years I’ve done this document, I’ve used the DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket schedule as a source. I’d then have to flesh it out with addtl info on NBC & NFL Network games. This year, those games are listed in the DirecTV schedule. However, there were several games that were in conflict with the schedule at nfl.com. Specifically, I’m talking about mostly non Sunday games. When there was a conflict, I went with the nfl.com schedule.
  • There are a few games this year that DirecTV’s schedule list as TBA. These are in Week 16 & 17. The Week 16 game is listed as being on Channel 716 with TBD@TBD. This is impossible, as there are already 16 games scheduled that week, so I have ignored that listing. On Week 17, they appear to have all 16 games being played on Sunday, and the standard layout of NFLST channels is not enough to carry them all. Two games are listed as late games, but without a channel assignment (SEA@ARI & WAS@SF). I’ve made note of this on the Week 17 notes line.
  • In the past, DirecTV has never published their HD schedule until generally the week before any given Sunday. This year, there is a listed schedule for HDTV games, but they’re the sAME channels as the SD versions, which is impossible. In 2007, the HD games were on channels 719-733. One would think they’d be there again, but there’s no concrete proof of this.
  • This spreadsheet was created with Microsoft Excel 2007. Just noting that in case you have an old version of Office or something that needs a specific requirement from the program creating the spreadsheet. I’ve saved it in an older format (Excel 97-2003), but you never know.
  • Weeks 11 through 17 are part of “Flex Scheduling”. Being tired of getting stuck with dud games on TV at the end of the season, the NFL now has an adjustable schedule for the Sunday night NBC broadcasts. In 2006 (the first year) it was “open” with a game being moved, but in 2007 (and now 2008), they have a defined game for Sunday night. Weeks 11-17 though could have the Sunday night game switch with something else. The NFL site has some details on the 2007 version of Flex Scheduling online at the link here (I have not seen an update yet for 2008).
  • I also have this available as a spreadsheet in Google Spreadsheets. If you would like to have access to my online version, you can visit it at the link below. The only problem there is that the Google Spreadsheets version doesn’t properly translate all of the notes I have. It’s there if you want to check it out, though.

If you use this, send me an email and let me know. I don’t want anything, I just like to know that people actually use the thing. Feel free to pass this to whomever you want, just please don’t change the credits; distribute it as I sent it. That’s all I ask.
If you find any errors, please let me know.

XM Radio & MLB Home Plate

I signed up for XM Radio back in the Spring of 2005. The reason I did it was because of their 24 hour baseball talk channel, dubbed “MLB Home Plate”. They run several things on that channel. Primarily it’s various talk shows. But the biggest bugger has been that it’s not on the XM Radio online service. If you’re an XM subscriber, you can login with your account, and listen online anywhere. This is particularly helpful to me, as my office is a cave. It’s in the middle of the building, I work in, and while it’s a small one story building, it’s still got no windows, and I cannot get reception for my XM Radio. I’ve tried with signal repeaters at various windows in the building – no go. This is an issue for me, because the online version of XM has to date not included the MLB Home Plate channel.

I’ve written to several producers and folks at XM, and they have told me the reason they have not been allowed to put it online is MLBAM themselves. You see, one of the things they do on MLB Home Plate is include “live lookins” when something cool happens in a game. I don’t particularly use that feature on the shows they have, but I could understand (if not agree with) why MLB didn’t want a competing product available online like that. So I’ve missed a lot of programming I’ve wanted to hear because I couldn’t listen online.

Well, that’s finally changed. I saw a story today on Orbitcast (Satellite news) saying that as of Saturday the 29th, XM will FINALLY MAKE HOME PLATE AVAILABLE ON THEIR STREAMING ONLINE SERVICE. This is such good news, I think it warrants an appearance from “w00t guy!” :)

Seriously, this is extremely good news. I’ve wanted this channel online for ages, so I can listen during the day. I love the talk shows here, but I haven’t been able to listen because I’ve been unable to get a signal in my office during the day, and they haven’t had it. w00t indeed! Anyway, here’s some of the shows on the channel (all times below are Central):

Baseball This Morning: This show’s hosts are Mark Patrick & Buck Martinez. Mark Patrick knows baseball, but seems to be less “serious” than some of the other show hosts. One of their producers goes by the nickname of “The Godfather”, and Patrick himself goes by the nickname of “The Big Chair”. While their baseball talk is fine, they seem to be more into the “show” and “character” aspect of being on radio. When it originally launched, there was a third host, that being Larry Bowa. Bowa stayed there until he got a job with the Yankees as a coach, and was replaced by Orestes (“The Latin O”) Destrada, who stayed for awhile until he left last year. They did not replace O, and I think they gave up on the idea of three hosts, which I liked, since it tended to keep the focus more towards baseball with three on this show. Anyway, this show runs from 5AM to 8AM, and then immediately repeats from 8AM to 11AM.

Fantasy Focus: Hosted by Jeff Erickson of rotowire.com, this show runs one hour (from 11AM to noon), and focuses (as you’d guess by the name) on fantasy baseball. There’s less talk about baseball news on this show, and a stricter reliance on discussions specifically relating to fantasy baseball. This is my least favorite show of the lineup. Not that it’s bad, but the fantasy aspects of baseball discussion are of less interest to me.

Baseball Beat: To me, by far the best show on the channel. This is hosted by Dodgers broadcasters Charley Steiner. What I like most about this show over all the other show – and this is a big one for me – NO CALL INS! At least not from the general public. He does take calls, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s from beat writers for specific teams, hence the name of the show. They’ve had Evan Grant on several times, and they talk to other local writers for teams. I absolutely love that, you get to hear from people who actually cover teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Kansas City Royals. I mean, will ESPN do big deals on those? Hell no, they want to suck on the gob of the Yankees and Red Sox. So I love the fact they talk about other teams, and with people who know what they’re talking about. Unlike the usual callers who call in to these shows and ask a litany of stupid questions, which make me want to scream and turn off the radio. I love this show – no public call ins! YAY!

The Show: Hosted by former Ranger manager Kevin Kennedy and Reds pitcher Rob Dibble. This one I get to listen to the least, as it runs from 2PM to 5PM, and I’m usually at work then. From what I heard, this is the more opinionated show on the slate, and that’s likely due to the personality of the hosts. Or at least Rob Dibble. That’s the reason I garner he disappeared from ESPN’s Baseball Tonight – strong opinions. Which is fine. When I listen, I like the show, but I hear this the least based on timing.

XM on Deck: This show runs for an hour between 5 and 6, and will preview the games coming up that evening. During the offseason, it’s just a general talk show.

MLB Live & MLB Live Late Edition: These shows combine to run from 6PM to midnight. They consist mostly of live look ins to games in progress. There’s also a healthy dose of talk too when nothing is going on in terms of things to “look in” on.

Other things that run on the channel are classic games on the offhours, and there’s some other shows that don’t run as regularly. Like Baseball Confidential where they talk to an individual for an hour. There’s also some weekend only shows, like “Minors & Majors” with Grant Paulsen and “Ripken Baseball” with the Ripken brothers. If you like talking baseball, this is the channel for you. Yeah, I realized I turned this post into essentially an ad for XM Radio, but the fact that I will be able to FINALLY listen to Home Plate online while I’m at work is a MAJOR huge deal for me.
And on top of that, they have all the games broadcast during the season too. If you’re a hockey fan, that’s a bonus, as they have a 24/7 NHL channel, too (as well as the NHL games in a similar fashion).

If you don’t have XM, you should consider getting it. They have a trial signup you can get for two weeks via the website to listen to the streaming version – which after Saturday will include Home Plate, the entire reason I bought XM in the first place.

It’s about time, guys.

2007 NFL Sunday Ticket Schedule

Since I live in Dallas, and have the hell of living in Cowboy land, one majorly huge lifeline for me is the NFL Sunday Ticket package on DirecTV. It allows me to watch pretty much whatever game I want, so I get to see all the Eagles games (I’m from Philly), and Steeler games (wife’s from Pittsburgh) without having to sit through the agony of all the Dallas Cowboy games every week.
That’s been my intro text since I’ve been doing these updates, but unfortunately in 2007 I have had to drop Sunday Ticket, mostly due to cost. In the last year and a half, I’ve taken a larger, more active role in my church, and due to that, I ended up missing a lot of Sunday ticket games in 2006. I am likely going to be doing the same events this year, and due to the overall cost of Ticket, I decided to drop it if I was going to be missing a lot of the games. I didn’t want to do that, and if it wasn’t so darned expensive, I wouldn’t, but there you are. :)
Anyway, for the last several seasons (07 is my seventh doing this I believe), I’ve put together a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet containing the entire NFL Season Schedule for all the NFL Sunday Ticket channels. You can download it, print it, and have the entire schedule on one page. This originally started out as a project for some people on the TiVo community forums, but I’ve moved to my own blog as my primary distribution point. Still, I wanted to say hi to the folks over there, even if it’s not a regular hangout anymore.

NFL Sunday Ticket Schedule

The first year I did this I did just the NFLST games. But since then I include everything else. Which lately has gotten a lot more confusing. My schedule also covers the ESPN MNF games, the Sunday night NBC games, various Thurdsay NFL Network games, and the other oddities like Thanksgiving day, things like that. They’re all here. Here’s a few notes about the spreadsheet and the NFL schedule this season:

  • For the last several years, DirecTV has not published the HD schedule until generally the week of, so that makes it impossible to schedule early like this. If DirecTV ever would publish their full season HD schedule ahead of time, I’d add that. If it changes, I’ll update, but I’m not holding my breath. You shouldn’t, either.
  • Weeks 11-17 are now part of the new “Flex Scheduling”. Being tired of getting stuck with dud games on TV at the end of the season, the NFL has implemented this policy. The NFL will move one game from the schedule to the Sunday night slot no closer than 12 days from gameday. Lots of details on the new flex scheduling are available on the NFL.com website here. I suggest reading it. Those notes are about the 2006 season, I’ve yet to see a note about the 07 flex scheduling.
  • Two years ago, someone had a great idea – to color code the boxes for an individual team’s games with their team colors. I think it’s a great idea, but that’s 32 extra spreadsheets for me to do. Great idea, but I don’t have the time to make that many spreadsheets. :)
  • I also have this available as a spreadsheet in Google Spreadsheets. If you would like to have access to my online version, you can reach it online here. The online version has a few display oddities in some of the notes, though.

If you use this, send me an email and let me know. I don’t want anything, I just like to know that people actually use the thing. Feel free to pass this to whomever you want, just please don’t change the credits; distribute it as I sent it. That’s all I ask.
Thanks to Richard for being my proofreader this year.
If you find any errors, please let me know.

2006 NFL Sunday Ticket Spreadsheet Schedule

As the season has just started, I wanted to bump this back up the top again. Also, if you are a Google Spreadsheets user, and wish to view that version, you can do so here. Google just implemented a feature where I can allow anyone to view it now, you don’t need a specific invite like before. The regular downloadable version is still available, it’s in the main story below.


Since I live in Dallas, and have the hell of living in Cowboy land, one majorly huge lifeline for me is the NFL Sunday Ticket package on DirecTV. It allows me to watch pretty much whatever game I want, so I get to see all the Eagles games (I’m from Philly), and Steeler games (wife’s from Pittsburgh) without having to sit through the agony of all the Dallas Cowboy games every week.
Anyway, for the last several seasons (06 is my fifth doing this I believe), I’ve put together a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet containing the entire NFL Season Schedule for all the NFL Sunday Ticket channels. You can download it, print it, and have the entire schedule on one page. This originally started out as a project for some people on the TiVo community forums, but I’ve moved to my own blog as my primary distribution point. Still, I wanted to say hi to the folks over there. :)

NFL Sunday Ticket Schedule

The first year I did this I did just the NFLST games. But since then I include everything else. Which in 2006 is a lot more confusing. I also have the ESPN MNF games, the Sunday night NBC games, various Thurdsay NFL Network games, and the other oddities like Thanksgiving day, things like that. They’re all here. Here’s a few notes about the spreadsheet and the NFL schedule this season:

  • For the last two years, DirecTV did not publish the HD schedule until generally the week of, so that makes it impossible to schedule. If DirecTV ever would publish their full season HD schedule ahead of time, I’d add that, but it’s been this way for the last couple of seasons. If it changes for 2006, I’ll update, but I’m not holding my breath.
  • Monday Night Football moved from ABC to ESPN this season.
  • The Sunday night games that were on ESPN now have moved to NBC. ABC is out, they have no games at all now.
  • Weeks 10-15 & 17 are now part of the new “Flex Scheduling”. Being tired of getting stuck with dud games on TV at the end of the season, the NFL now has a rather large number of games listed as early games these weeks. The NFL will move one game from the schedule to the Sunday night slot no closer than 12 days from gameday. Lots of details on the new flex scheduling are available on the NFL.com website here. I suggest reading it.
  • I’ve been doing this spreadsheet for about 5 seasons now, and the more stuff they add like flex scheduling, Thursday games, etc, the more cluttered my spreadsheet goes. If it gets worse next season, I may have to revisit how I lay this out.
  • Last year someone had a great idea – to color code the boxes for an individual team’s games with their team colors. I think it’s a great idea, but that’s 32 extra spreadsheets for me to do. Great idea, but I don’t have the time to make that many spreadsheets. :)
  • I also have this available as a spreadsheet in Google Spreadsheets. If you would like to have access to my online version, send me an email to joe@siegler.net with your Google account name, and I’ll get you hooked up. Google Spreadsheets doesn’t have a “let everyone see” option, otherwise THAT would be my primary distribution method. Scratch that. They do now. You can reach it online here.

If you use this, send me an email and let me know. I don’t want anything, I just like to know that people actually use the thing. Feel free to pass this to whomever you want, just please don’t change the credits; distribute it as I sent it. That’s all I ask.
Thank you, and enjoy!
A couple of updates since I originally posted this:

  • Update Jul 25: Week 3 had an incorrect opponent for the Rams. It said Panters, should ahve been Cardinals. Fixed. Thanks BrianT.
  • Update Jul 31: Two NYJ/NYG mixups. Week 7’s MNF game and Week 11’s Ch 714 game. Thanks to gruxx.
  • Update Sep 4: Another NYJ/NYG mixup. Week 11’s MNF football game. Fixed. Thanks to Kevin in FL.
  • Update Sep 4 #2: I finally found the time to go through the spreadsheet and remove all the hyperlinks in the games. For example, DAL@PHI was being translated into an email link. These are all gone now.

If you find any errors, please let me know.

Good Baseball Fan Blogs

I read a lot. I used to read mostly books, but it’s mostly the Internet now. I also read a lot of baseball stuff, and as such I like to read up on what’s going on. Anyway, I read a couple of fan blogs for MLB teams fairly regularly, and it made me wonder if such animals exist for ther rest of the teams? Here’s what I read regularly blog wise:
Texas Rangers:
1) My site at http://www.rangerfans.com
2) The Newberg Report Site; (also available as a blog here).
Seattle Mariners: U.S.S. Mariner.
Philadelphia Phillies: Beerleaguer.
If you know of a good MLB fan blog, let me know. I also read a ton of more generic baseball blogs (Will Carroll’s, a few other Rangers sites, mlb trade rumours, etc..) Let me know if you know of something good there too – although I’m primarily looking for QUALITY fan blogs for specific teams. And it has to be reguarly updated, too.