Rangers In Position

Yesterday, one of the key free agent outfielders in the Major Leagues, Shin-Soo Choo agreed to a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Texas Rangers. Choo is just the latest in a series of moves that have positioned the Dallas franchise to make a run for the pennant once again.

The line-up looks like this: Leading off: left handed, right handed hitting, Leonys Martin (CF); Batting second: right handed hitting, Elvis Andrus (SS); Hitting third: right handed hitting Adrian Beltre (3B); In the clean up position: left handed hitting Prince Fielder (1B); In the 5th spot, left handed hitting Shin-Soo Choo (LF/RF); Batting 6th: right handed hitter, Alex Rios (LF/RF); In 7th: left handed hitting Mitch Moreland (DH) In 8th: right handed hitting Geovany Soto (C) and in the 9th spot: switch hitting Jurickson Profar (2B). The flexibility and the power is exceptional. The team will definitely improve their #8 position for runs last season; their 7th place in slugging percentage; and their 10th place in on base percentage. This is a batting order that will wear opposing pitchers out and the bullpens of the opponents will be exposed.

This is a lineup which will be extremely tough on right handed pitchers, and should wear out opposing pitchers as Fielder, Choo and Soto run up pitch counts all day long. But what pitcher would want to face Beltre, Fielder and Choo? This is an extremely dangerous group of hitters, not unlike Braun, Fielder and Hart three and four years back.

Meanwhile, GM Jon Daniels have brought The Rangers closer to a championship and will have the incomparable Yu Darvish at the top of the pitching rotation. A 200 inning starter with a 14-7 record last season, Darvish is due for a big season as he enters his third year in the Majors. With a 3.11 ERA, this is a dominating stopper. Derek Holland, another 200 inning starter with a 12-8 record, should have a great year after coming off of a 3.74 ERA season. They represent a great one-two pitching staff with a lot of power to give them a run or two in most of their starts. Jason Frasor will be the closer this season. He had 60 innings last season and an excellent 3.20 ERA with 61 Ks and only  26 bases on balls.

While defending Oakland A’s will again be strong in their division, the question is will they be able to continue their upward run with the addition of left handed pitcher, Scott Kasmir? The question in Dallas is: did they do enough in the off-season to overcome the A’s in the AL West? Has their pitching situation improved enough to carry this team into and through  the World Series? IF Masahiro Tanaka is eventually posted by his club in Japan and IF the Rangers can sign him, Dallas will be the odds on favorite to win it all in 2014.

This is what the off season is all about, building for the future now. Daniels and the other executives of the Rangers deserve all the credit in making the Hot Stove League extremely warm. There is little question that their hitting will be on par with any team in the majors. On February 27th at Surprise Stadium in Arizona, the excitement will begin as they take on the Kansas City Royals in their first game in the Cactus League.

Play Ball!

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They Faced Each Other As The World Watched

It finally happened. At approximately 7:10PM, in Arlington, TX, Yu Darvish faced Ichiro Suzuki. A zillion members of the Japanese press corp were all over the home of the American League champions. Batting third in the Seattle line-up, Ichiro, in typical form, slapped a single into shallow left field and pushed the runner up a base. Darvish, clearly excited about his Major League pitching debut after a successful career in the Pacific League in Japan, was rocked with four runs in the first and one in the second before he began to settle down.

In the end, the Texas Rangers beat the Seattle Mariners 11-5.

In the end, Ichiro went 3 for 5.

In the end, Darvish gained his first win in The Show.

The magnetic pitcher worked 5 2/3rds innings giving up 8 hits, 5 earned runs, walked four, struck out 5 while throwing 110 pitches. Perhaps not great by his lofty standards, but it was his debut.

The big story was the media coverage. 100 Japanese media members were in Arizona for Darvish’s first spring training workout in February. There were 80 assigned to Darvish at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Monday night. There were six Japanese radio and television networks, two wire services and 15 newspapers covering the game. 

Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners’ outfielder in his 12th season, brought a similar four score of media members.

What other sport from what other country would cover a single season event to this magnitude?

That question will probably never be answered. But for a bright moment in Arlington, Texas, baseball was covered and brought back to Japan, Dallas and Seattle like nothing else.