Tag Archives: Rangers

Rays’ Rivalry with Rangers is Young but Intense

For Sherlock Holmes, it was Professor James Moriarty.

For the Hatfields, it was the McCoys.

For Inigo Montoya, it was the Six-fingered Man

For Superman, it was kryptonite.

For Batman, it was the Joker

For the New York Yankees, it was and forever will be the Boston Red Sox.

History and literature are full of examples of epic rivals facing off.

Usually the best of these rivalries occur when both parties are equally matched and either one could secure victory on any given day.

Over the past four seasons the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers have been familiar rivals in the quest for the postseason. Both teams are currently tied atop the American League Wild Card standings. Photo R. Anderson
Over the past four seasons the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers have been familiar rivals in the quest for the postseason. Both teams are currently tied atop the American League Wild Card standings.
Photo R. Anderson

For the past three years another rivalry has been quietly building between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays.

For those who question the Rangers and Rays as rivals consider this, the path to the postseason for each team for three of the past four seasons has come down to a battle between them.

In 2010 the Rays faced the Rangers in the American League Division Series and lost two games to three.

In 2011 the Rays once again found themselves facing the Rangers in the Division Series and this time only managed a single victory in the series.

Although the Rays were defeated by the Rangers in two consecutive years they can take some solace in the fact that the Rangers went onto the World Series both years. After all, somehow losing to the eventual pennant winner provides some small comfort.

Both teams were shut out of the postseason in 2012 which brings us to this season. Currently the Rays and the Rangers are battling each other for the top seed in the wildcard race.

After splitting a four game series in Tropicana Field this week the Rays and the Rangers remain tied for the top Wild Card spot.

It is highly probable that the Rays and Rangers will meet in the winner takes all Wild Card game this year marking the third time in four years that the road to the World Series runs through them.

So while the Rangers and Rays have not been rivals for as long as some of the historic rivalries in sports, it should certainly not be discounted in terms of intensity.

And while one could argue that the Rangers’ true rival should be their American League West Division opponent, and neighbor to the south Houston Astros, they would be wrong.

The Rays and Rangers offer a battle between two teams that were near the bottom of the standings for much of their existence before finding a winning formula for success late in the last decade.

The fact that each team went through so many losing seasons makes them even hungrier to continue their current success which just so happens to intensify the rivalry more than any games against an in state rival such as the Astros or Marlins would provide.

There are also some connections between the two teams beyond their recent success that may not be so obvious at first glance.

Hall of Famer Ted Williams was the first manager in Rangers' history after they moved from Washington D.C. where they were known as the Senators. Photo R. Anderson
Hall of Famer Ted Williams was the first manager in Rangers’ history after they moved from Washington D.C. where they were known as the Senators.
Photo R. Anderson

Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams served as manager of the Washington Senators and continued in that role for a single season after the team relocated to the suburbs of Dallas, Texas to become the Texas Rangers.

The Ted Williams Baseball Museum is located inside of Tropicana Field which just so happens to be the home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

In addition to the Ted Williams connection there are many players who have been associated with both the Rangers and the Rays leading to a familiarity of sorts.

During the 2010 and 2011 playoffs former Ray Josh Hamilton helped lead the Rangers to victory. I am sure there were quite a few times when the Rays had wished that they still had him on the team.

Although he once managed the Rangers the Ted Williams Museum is located inside Tropicana Filed the home Ballpark of the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo R. Anderson
Although he once managed the Rangers the Ted Williams Museum is located inside Tropicana Field, the home Ballpark of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo R. Anderson

This year it is Matt Garza former Rays pitcher turned Rangers pitcher that will look to eliminate his former team from the playoffs.

The Rays have four games against the Orioles at Tropicana Field before heading to New York for a three-game set with the Yankees. The Rays will end the regular season in Canada with a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays. There is little room for error for the Rays if they want to cling to that Wild Card spot as the Orioles are nipping at their heels and could take the Wild Card spot depending on how the head to head games go.

The Rangers have a slightly easier path in theory when it comes to them holding onto their Wild Card spot with three games on the road against the Kansas City Royals before returning to the Ballpark in Arlington for three games against the Houston Astros and four games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

But of course anything can happen on any given day which is why the games are played. This year is shaping up once again to be one of those down to the wire seasons where all of the postseason spots won’t be filled until the last out is recorded.

While it is yet to be determined how this season will end in terms of the Rays and Rangers one can definitely not deny the young rivalry that seems destined to last for years to come as both teams battle each other year after year.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to pray for a miracle sweep of the Rangers by the Astros to help the Rays secure home field advantage.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Astros and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game

My affinity for the movie Bull Durham is well known.

In fact, I have been known to quote the movie quite frequently as there seem to be quotes that fit almost any occasion in life.

So while I was watching Monday night’s debacle of a game between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers there were many Bull Durham lines that came to mind as the Double-A talent level Astros players with the big hearts and limited talent fell victim to the much more talented and much more Major League Baseball level Texas Rangers.

Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way. Photo R. Anderson
Bull Durham is one of my favorite movies. The Houston Astros are spending the season reenacting many of the scenes from the movie, and not in the good way.
Photo R. Anderson

One line from Bull Durham that kept coming to mind as I watched the wheels fall off for the Astros once again was, “You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you?”

And of course anyone who has seen the movie knows that the answer is lollygaggers.

The Astros have found ways to make a very simple game of throw and catch anything but simple the past few seasons as they lollygag through their games. Of course this year they look like doctoral students in the study of ways to lollygag during ballgames.

Quite frankly, each game tends to lead itself to even more absurd ways to lose. Balls falling between three outfielders? Check. An overworked staff of pitchers giving up more leads than a reporter on deadline? Check.

The list goes on and on with the creative ways that the Astros have found to lose this year. But Monday night seemed to find new levels on the losing scale.

In addition to the game reminding me of some scenes from Bull Durham, it also harkened back to some bedtime stories that my mom used to read to me.

One of those books in particular came to mind Monday night as I was watching the Astros go through yet another epic fail. That book was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, which was written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz.

In the book, as the title suggests, Alexander has a bad day.

The way the Astros' season has gone I wouldn't be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse. Photo R. Anderson
The way the Astros’ season has gone I wouldn’t be surprised if the song Bad Day is on a constant loop in the clubhouse.
Photo R. Anderson

The book came out in 1972 which was long before the days immortalized in Daniel Powter’s one hit wonder song Bad Day.

So, for the more musically minded readers one can replace the imagery of the printed page with the melodies of song if they wish.

Whichever way works the fact remains the Astros had a very bad day, err night Monday.

As part of the bad night the Astros gave up 11 runs in the third inning with all nine Rangers players in the batting order scoring at least one run during the third inning scoring marathon.

Then in the fourth inning the Astros lost their catcher to concussion like symptoms. Normally when that occurs the backup catcher is rushed into the game since most squads carry two catchers on the active roster for situations like this.

Of course when you are using your other catcher as the designated hitter, as the Astros were doing, a little rule goes into effect where they cannot go behind the plate without a team being forced to use a pitcher at DH to replace them.

So with the options limited at catcher, the Astros turned to their emergency catcher, Jake Elmore. It is not like Elmore had never caught before. The announcers on the broadcast were very quick to point out that Elmore once caught an inning in a Double-A game in Mobile, Alabama a few years back.

To his credit, Elmore did a good job behind the plate. Of course he was helped by the fact that the Rangers were not trying to steal any bases with such a sizable lead.

At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field. Photo R. Anderson
At least the hats are sharp for the Astros to make up for some of the less than sharp play on the field.
Photo R. Anderson

The night for Elmore got even weirder in the eighth inning when he was called upon to pitch since it was determined that with the game so out of reach the Astros would just give the rest of the bullpen the night off.

Elmore needed only 11 pitches to get three outs and proved to be the most productive pitcher of the night for the Astros. Not bad for a guy making his Major League debut as both a pitcher and a catcher.

While there have certainly been games where infielders have been called on to pitch these are usually extra-inning games when the bullpens have been completely depleted. Elmore became only the 14th person to be both a catcher and pitcher in the same game.

The Astros keep preaching rebuilding and patience but when they decide to completely rest an ineffective bullpen in favor of an infielder who has never pitched in a Major League Game and he makes it look easier to get batters out than the bulk of the full time pitchers, there is definitely something horribly wrong and will certainly test the patience of Job.

So, it is likely that there will be many more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad games for the Astros this year. And the trend will likely continue for several years to come. There is no quick fix for a team that does not want to spend money on talented players.

Of course, there are players like Jake Elmore that have the talent and the heart to be Major League ballplayers for the Astros they just aren’t being given the supporting cast to be successful and are left feeling like they woke up with gum in their hair day after day after day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a certain book from my childhood that I think I will pull off of the shelf and read.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Pudge Takes His Place Among Texas Ranger Greats

This past Saturday in Arlington, Texas, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriquez became the 16th person to be inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony occurred prior to the Rangers and the Orioles taking the field. And while the game itself clearly belonged to the Orioles, the pregame ceremony was about honoring Pudge for his time as a Ranger.

During a 21-year career that started in 1991 when he was only 19-years-old, Pudge was voted to the All-Star game 14 times. He was named the 1999 American League MVP and earned seven Silver Slugger Awards with six of those coming during his 13-year tenure with the Rangers.

Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez became the 16th person inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame Saturday before the Rangers versus Orioles game. Photo R. Anderson
Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez became the 16th person inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame Saturday before the Rangers versus Orioles game.
Photo R. Anderson

While the bulk of Pudge’s career was spent in a Rangers’ uniform he played for the Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros and Nationals before retiring at the start of the 2012 season.

While Saturday night was all about honoring his years with the Rangers, I tend to remember Pudge more as a member of the 2003 World Champion Florida Marlins squad as well as a member of the Astros in 2009.

It was during his brief time with the Astros that Pudge broke the record for most games caught. Fittingly enough Rodriguez surpassed Carlton Fisk’s record of 2,226 games caught during a game against the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington allowing the Rangers’ fans to take part in Pudge’s record setting evening.

Shortly after breaking the record the Astros traded Pudge to the Rangers for the remainder of the 2009 season. The 2010 and 2011 seasons were spent with the Washington Nationals and Pudge ended his career with a major league record of 2,427 games behind the plate. It is doubtful that his record will ever be broken.

I have little doubt that Pudge could have kept playing. The fact that a team did not add him to their roster in 2012 is definitely a travesty in my mind. But baseball is a business and even the best players do not get a farewell tour. Of course the season long tributes that Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera received are certainly the exception more than the rule.

While Pudge was known for having a rocket launcher of an arm and an ability to pick runners off at ease, he was also no slouch at the plate as a hitter.

Pudge was known as much for his play at the plate as behind it and leads the Rangers in many offensive and defensive categories. Photo R. Anderson
Pudge was known as much for his play at the plate as behind it and leads the Rangers in many offensive and defensive categories.
Photo R. Anderson

In 1,507 career games with the Rangers, Rodriguez hit .304 with 217 home runs with 842 RBIs.

He is second in club history in hits (1,747), doubles (352) and multi-hit games (490). Rodriquez also leads several categories across all of baseball for a catcher.

I was fortunate enough to see Pudge play on several occasions late in his career. I was definitely one of the people who thought that the Astros should have kept him around a little longer to help mold their pitching staff.

When none other than Hall of Famer, and Texas legend, Nolan Ryan calls Pudge the best catcher ever, one would think that people would listen. And Nolan would know a little bit about catchers and Pudge in particular.

During Pudge’s second game as a Major League ballplayer in 1991 he caught Nolan Ryan. Now 22 years later, Pudge works as a special assistant to Ryan to assist the Rangers in several areas, including international scouting, player instruction on the major and minor league levels and talent evaluation. He also represents the team in community and marketing endeavors.

Pudge spent part of the 2009 season with the Houston Astros but was traded back to the Rangers prior to his Bobblehead giveaway game. Photo R. Anderson
Pudge spent part of the 2009 season with the Houston Astros but was traded back to the Rangers prior to his Bobblehead giveaway game.
Photo R. Anderson

I last saw Pudge play in 2009 after he was traded back to the Rangers.

Ironically enough while Pudge was suiting up for the Rangers in a game against Tampa Bay, about four hours to the south the Astros were celebrating Pudge bobblehead day. I guess once you order the bobbleheads you still need to hand them out even if the player has moved on.

I went to some Spring Training games for the Washington Nationals in 2010 and 2011 but sadly Pudge did not play in any of those games.

Three years from now Pudge will become eligible for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and his career numbers should make him a shoo-in for induction on his first year of eligibility.

From everything I can tell Pudge played the game the way it should be played. Hopefully that will earn him a trip to Cooperstown to take his rightful place among the other Hall of Famers.

There is little doubt that when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame he will go in as a Ranger and that should certainly make his former battery mate and current boss, Nolan Ryan, very happy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some baseball games to watch.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

The Stands are Alive with the Sound of Music

Odds are if you have spent any amount of time in a Major League Baseball Ballpark you have been exposed to “Stadium Rock” of one form or another.

From the live organ playing during the golden age of baseball, to the clap, clap stomp of “We will rock you” fans have been exposed to music that helps paint the atmosphere and heighten the fan experience for almost as long as there has been a fan experience.

While music is used throughout the game, perhaps no other time allows the music to shine quite like the middle of the seventh inning.

No matter the ballpark, or level of competition, fans know that once the middle of the seventh inning rolls around fans will be on their feet and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Also, if the game is being played on a Sunday most Ballparks will feature the playing of “God Bless America” in the eighth inning as well.

The Boston Red Sox invaded Minute Maid Park for a three-game series back in 2011 and the visiting fans were treated to a little Neil Diamond music to feel right at home. Photo R. Anderson
The Boston Red Sox invaded Minute Maid Park for a three-game series back in 2011 and the visiting fans were treated to a little Neil Diamond music to feel right at home.
Photo R. Anderson

While some seventh and eighth inning songs are universal, there are some local varieties that while known in the home ballparks may not be as well known to the wider audience.

One such local tradition recently gained a wider audience following the Boston Marathon attack when teams across the country played a certain bit of Boston Red Sox tradition in their own stadiums as a show of support and solidarity. The New York Yankees, bitter division rival of the Red Sox, were the first team to offer a melodic show of solidarity for the people of Boston and many other teams soon followed.

This bit of Fenway flavor that went wicked viral was of course the Neil Diamond classic, “Sweet Caroline” which has been a ballpark staple for the Red Sox Nation for years.

While I will admit to occasionally rocking out to Neil Diamond in the privacy of the Triple B Gigaplex (I mean seriously, who hasn’t?), I can honestly say that the idea of rocking out to his songs in a ballpark never occurred to me until I attended a Houston Astros game a few years back when they were hosting the Red Sox.

I can’t remember at which point in the game the song rolled out but I remember thinking it was odd that the song was being played during a baseball game.

My confusion was soon answered when I overheard a Sox fan behind me explaining that it was a Fenway tradition. Based on the reaction from the people with the letter B on their heads they thought that it was cool that they were playing it in Texas. Despite the explanation I still found it odd that the visiting team’s rally song was being played by the Astros.

Rangers fans at the Ballpark in Arlington welcome the seventh inning with the arrival of Cotton-Eyed Joe. Photo R. Anderson
Rangers fans at the Ballpark in Arlington welcome the seventh inning with the arrival of Cotton-Eyed Joe.
Photo R. Anderson

To be clear, I think that the current show of support by other teams playing the song is perfectly acceptable as long as it is done for a finite length of time.

What is not acceptable is if the song continues to be played for the foreseeable future every time the Red Sox are in town. Even the most heartfelt of tributes can overstay its welcome.

I mean, nothing against Neil Diamond, but “Sweet Caroline” does not belong in other ballparks regardless of how sing along worthy it is. Like Bill Murray said in the cinematic classic “What About Bob?”, there are two types of people in this world, those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t.

Another reason why the spread of “Sweet Caroline” needs to be nipped in the bud is that many teams already have traditional songs of their own that are worth preserving.

In Houston the stars really are big and bright as the seventh inning stretch includes the state pride evoking staple “Deep in the Heart of Texas” following “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The song even travels with the team to Florida for Spring Training.

Although, standing and clapping along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas” while deep in the heart of Florida does tend to mess with one’s head.

For over 30 years the Oriole Bird has been thankful to be a country boy, err bird and has been dugout dancing during the seventh inning with one lucky fan. Photo R. Anderson
For over 30 years the Oriole Bird has been thankful to be a country boy, err bird and has been dugout dancing during the seventh inning with one lucky fan.
Photo R. Anderson

For over 30 years the Baltimore Orioles’ seventh inning stretch has included John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” complete with a top of the dugout dance between the Oriole mascot and one lucky fan. And this tradition also travels to the Spring Training Stadium in Sarasota.

And although Texas is a large state, apparently only one team can be deep in the heart of it as the Texas Rangers, who were the second team to come to Texas, have “Cotton-Eyed Joe” as their seventh inning stretch song.

The list goes on and on regarding teams and their signature songs in the ballpark. From the Cincinnati Reds encouraging fans to “Twist and Shout” along with the Beatles, to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim playing “Build Me up Buttercup,” each team has put their own unique stamp on the seventh inning.

Perhaps the oddest seventh inning stretch song I found in my research was the choice of the Washington Nationals. Starting in the 2012 season, the Nationals embraced the A-ha classic “Take on Me” as their seventh inning jam.

For those old enough to remember when MTV played music videos, “Take on Me” was the really trippy video that was half newspaper comic and half real life.

At the time it was released it represented the cutting edge of video technology but I am sure it shows a little bit of its age when viewed now. Of course, it is out on You Tube if one really wants to get their A-ha on.

So there you have it, a selection of songs to listen for as you travel the Major League Baseball stadium trail for both the Neil Diamond lover and the Neil Diamond hater.

Now if you’ll excuse I think it is time to fill the Triple B Gigaplex with some tunes. Where did I put that Neil Diamond CD?

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

Opening Night Pomp, Circumstance, and Hot Dogs

Last night, the 2013 Major League Baseball season kicked off with all of the ceremonial pomp, circumstance, and hot dogs that one would expect from the National Pastime’s opener.

The Astros and Rangers observe the Opening Day tradition of being introduced on the field. Photo R. Anderson
The Astros and Rangers observe the Opening Day tradition of being introduced on the field.
Photo R. Anderson

As part of Opening Day, all of the eyes of baseball were focused firmly on Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas thanks in part to a scheduling matter with ESPN that made the game between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros the only one in town.

Even pre game rain, that forced the roof to stay closed, couldn’t dampen the spirits of the over 41,000 fans in attendance.

As is normally the case when the Rangers come to town, the stands were full of supporters for both squads. Unlike in previous years though, where the lack of vocal Astros fans made it seem like a Rangers’ home game, the chants of Let’s go Rangers were enthusiastically drowned out by chants for the Astros.

Astros 8, Rangers 2
Astros 8, Rangers 2
Photo R. Anderson

When the Rangers and Astros took to the field at Minute Maid Park, it was more than a ball game between two in state and in division rivals. It was the continuation of a tradition as old as the game itself.

It marked the beginning of the season where anything is possible and everyone is tied for first place until that final out is tallied.

Before last night I had never watched Opening Day in person. I had attended the first home game of the Astros several times but it was never considered the Opening Night game for the entire league.

Former Astro Lance Berkman, now with the Rangers, received a mix of cheers and jeers when he came to the plate. Photo R. Anderson
Former Astro Lance Berkman, now with the Rangers, received a mix of cheers and jeers when he came to the plate.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course aside from being the first game of the year, it was a statistician’s dream as the Astros took the field as an American League team for the first time in their 51-year history.

This fact leads to the inevitable list of firsts that will forever be in the record books.

Let us consider just a few of them.

First pitch by an Astro pitcher in the American League? Thrown by Bud Norris.

First member of the Astros to get an American League hit? Jose Altuve.

Bud Norris threw the first pitch of both the 2013 regular season as well as the first pitch for a member of the Astros in the American League. Photo R. Anderson
Bud Norris threw the first pitch of both the 2013 regular season as well as the first pitch for a member of the Astros in the American League.
Photo R. Anderson

First Home run hit by an Astro since the move to the American League? Rick Ankiel. Ankiel also gets bonus points as being the first player to hit a home run in the 2013 season.

First National Anthem Singer? Lyle Lovett.

First ceremonial first pitch? Thrown by J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans threw out the first pitch of the Astros' tenure as an American League franchise. Photo R. Anderson
J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans threw out the first pitch of the Astros’ tenure as an American League franchise.
Photo R. Anderson

You get the idea.

If there is a statistic to be tracked, odds are someone, somewhere in the ballpark became the first person to do it since the big move to the American League.

It has been said repeatedly by many experts that this will most likely be another long season for the Astros with the team recording more than 100 losses for the third straight season.

But for at least one night the Astros were the best team in baseball as the only team with a win.

For those keeping score at home, the Astros stunned many in the baseball world with an 8-2 win over the heavily favored neighbors to the north.

Time will tell if the trend continues and the Astros are able to in fact exceed expectations with a winning record this year.

A big game deserves big flags. Photo R. Anderson
A big game deserves big flags.
Photo R. Anderson

Hollywood is full of stories chronicling the exploits of loveable losers who excel against tough odds and blow past low expectations to reach the highest pinnacle of personal and professional success.

Use sports as your measuring stick for the Hollywood treatment, and you can choose from the Mighty Ducks, the Bad News Bears, and the Cleveland Indians in Major League to name a few.

Time will tell whether the Astros will become the Mighty Bad News ‘Stros and turn doubters into believers by exceeding the low expectations set out for them this season, or if they will be the really bad ‘Stros that are far from mighty that everyone who claims to know baseball thinks they will be.

That in itself is part of the magic of the sport. Each season there are things that happen that no one saw coming when they were writing their preseason previews and looking into their crystal balls.

There will be pitchers that everyone thinks will throw no hitters that won’t and pitchers that seem to come out of nowhere and do.

Ian Kinsler prepares for the first pitch of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. Photo R. Anderson
Ian Kinsler prepares for the first pitch of the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
Photo R. Anderson

Batters will rise and fall with no real rhyme or reason.

Teams will deal with injuries that can be the great equalizer.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and there will be those who claim that they saw a particular trend long before anyone else.

As for this season, there are 161 more games before the playoffs start. One game is far too small of a sample size to discern the difference between contender and pretender. But, what no one can take away is that for one night the Houston Astros were the best team in baseball and that is certainly worth tipping a cap to.

The fact that the first game for the Astros as an American League team ended with a fairly convincing win over their bitter in state rival just makes it that much more meaningful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the Astros victory has inspired me to look into other things with the potential to exceed expectations this year.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson