Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Representing the Powers of Good...

I'm happy for the Rangers and their fans. The Rays put up a lot more fight than anyone gave them credit for, and I would have been happy to have either team representing The Powers of Good against the Dark Forces of Sinister Evil in the ALCS. But it's always fun to see a team who has never made it this far finally advance.

Plus, Ian Kinsler looked so gosh darn happy, you just wanted to hug him.

Not very many of my pre-season predictions came true. But I DID predict a Rangers vs Giants World Series. So...boys...make it happen. You're both up against arguably the most hated teams in your respective leagues. Maybe this time goodness (and adorableness) will prevail in the end.

I hope so. Yankees/Phillies is boring, and I will simply refuse to watch that particular match-up again.

The Old 97's released a new album yesterday, and it is pretty darn great. And in light of the big Rangers win, I have adopted State of Texas as my theme song for the upcoming ALCS.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Random Thoughts of Sadness and a Happy Rangers Primer almost half-serious question. Has anyone in the Twins organization looked into the possibility of a team-wide food allergy to champagne? Just a thought. We're always doing so well until they pop those corks, then the season goes down the drain.

Second...I know it sounds weird, but as a Twins fan, I was a lot more offended by the headline on the Twins twitter feed reading "Current Trend a Testament to Yankees" than I was by the "EZ Pass" NY Daily News Headline. NY media is supposed to diss us. That's their job in this somewhat laughable post-season rivalry. And honestly, I'm not going to be upset about headlines like that until they stop being true. But the "Well, the Yankees are really good," excuses from our side make my blood boil. I had a basketball coach once who told us before every game that the Win was already ours, but it was up to us if we gave it away or not. I am increasingly convinced that the Yankees have the same general belief system when they take the field, and the Twins perhaps not. Which makes me sad.

And it's not about buying the championship either....the team the Yankees are fielding is completely beatable. The Twins are just failing to do so. equally sad as I am for the Rays and their fans, (that ovation for Carl Crawford made me tear up a little), Ian Kinsler is my happy place right now.

So, here's a great Texas Rangers primer from my very favorite Texas baseball fan, another Sarah! You may already know and love her on Twitter as @salty_birdie, but today she joins the ranks of Those Girls to help us get to know the likely Team Who Is Not The Yankees for this year's ALCS. (Sorry Rays. We won't discount miracles...but you have now joined us in our boat of doom.)

Thanks to Sarah for sharing the Rangers love with us, and thanks to her sister Evie for the great pics!


Howdy y’all from the Lone Star State! Thanks to Sarah for allowing me to brag a bit about our boys in blue, the Texas Rangers. After their strong showing last season under President (now co-owner) Nolan Ryan, the Rangers grabbed a hold of the AL West lead by the early summer and held on with a tight grip. Making their first appearance in the postseason since 1999, this Rangers team isn’t like teams of the past-instead of carrying a load of power bats, this team combines speed and solid pitching from both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Well…they do have some power bats too. The Rangers are going to have a tough competitor in the ALDS facing the Tampa Bay Rays, but when you’re a team looking for their first postseason series win *ever*, you might as well face the best!

Here’s a few tidbits about the Rangers…I can write a term paper about this team and every player, but with these early afternoon starts, let’s keep it simple. A top nine list to describe the awesomeness of the Texas Rangers:

Of all the recognizable names on the Rangers roster, the longest tenured player on the team is Michael Young. The literal “Face of the Franchise,” he joined the team in 2000. After 1508 career games (#2 on the active player list), he finally is making his first postseason appearance, along with other playoff virgins-the Giants’ Aubrey Huff (#3 with 1479 games) and the Phillies’ Mike Sweeney (#4 with 1454 games). Random factoid: current leader Randy Winn (1717 games) started the season with the eventual AL wildcard Yankees, but was designated for assignment. A few days after being officially released, he signed with the St Louis Cardinals. Still has to wait at least one more year for that dance invitation!

Michael and his wife, Christina, are the current chairpersons for the Rangers Triple Play, an annual event benefiting The Texas Rangers Foundation. The guys dress up, play games like Fielders’ Feud (Family Feud with the outfielders opposing the infielders), and have the annual rookie performance. This special from 2009 was themed “Guys and Dolls” and included the performance of “Afternoon Delight” in the style of Anchorman.

Unlike some teams who have “stuffy” benefits and fundraisers, the Rangers like to have fun, both on and off the field. One SportsCenter-worthy moment came during interleague play in New York in 2008. In 2009, Rangers Insider covered the players handshakes and other celebratory moves. This year’s trend, the “claw” and “antlers", was introduced to the team by Nelson Cruz (of ”Boomstick”fame) and veteran journeyman Esteban German. The “claw,” like a long distance high-five, is used when something positive offensively occurs (basically-a hit); the “antlers” are used when the player shows speed, whether going first to third or beating out an infield hit.

Speaking of speed, one of the most entertaining, and surprising, moments of the Rangers’ 2010 season was when newly acquired catcher Bengie Molina hit for the cycle in Boston. The oldest of the Molina brothers is often referred to as one of the slowest base runners in the major leagues, so the call for his final hit needed (a triple) is particularly hilarious. He was only the fifth Rangers player to ever hit for the cycle (the last one was blog favorite Ian Kinsler in 2009), and the first catcher since 1900 to hit a grand slam as part of the cycle.

Interesting walk-off wins have been the Rangers’ signature this season. There was the Nelson Cruz first-pitch homerun against Boston and his 13th inning homerun beating the Yankees. Twice the Rangers have beaten certain Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera in their final at-bat: David Murphy’s single and Jeff Francoeur’s odd walk-off HBP. The strangest (and most defensively cringe worthy) walk-off came against the Mariners, with the walk-off strikeout.

Time to show some love to the pitchers. The Texas heat in high summer has been the downfall of many Rangers teams in the past. When Nolan Ryan became president of the team and Mike Maddux joined the coaching staff, an emphasis on extra conditioning and no pitch count limits became the norm. With the trade of Kevin Millwood to the Orioles, the Rangers lost their “horse” of the rotation who ate up innings, even if he was on the losing end. A former Ranger returning after a long journey following surgery and a stint overseas, Colby Lewis was the “unknown factor” of the rotation this season. All he did was continue his high strikeout count (led the NPB in strikeouts in 2008-09) and make 32 starts, with 24 of them at least 6 innings pitched. As well as leading the NPB in strikeouts, Colby also lead in pitcher homeruns, hitting five during his two seasons. This one) hit the back of the fencing of the seating area. Notice the “gift” the player receives after the homer.

Whereas Lewis was the unknown in the rotation, the surprise addition was former setup man/closer C.J. Wilson. The blue-gloved lefty is the most accessible Ranger, whether by Twitter, his blog, or at charity events, including Guitar Hero and bowling. He totally embraced the extra running and conditioning that Ryan preached last season, and combined it with his straightedge, healthy lifestyle. He has almost tripled the numbers of innings pitched this season, and has made the most starts by anyone on the staff with 33.

One of the most dependable arms out of the bullpen is righty sidewinder Darren O’Day. In his second season with the Rangers, he ranks 7th in the league in appearances with 72. His delivery isn’t the only unusual thing…Darren actually received his degree in animal biology, as well as completed (and passed!) both the MCAT and LSAT exams. His outgoing, energetic personality didn’t seem to fit with the law school lifestyle-however, it fits perfectly with his bullpen mates. In the past, the Rangers bullpen saluted the outfielders and still perform a pregame ritual with Red Bull.

The most important bullpen member is, of course, the closer, Neftali Feliz. The 22-year-old fireballer is finishing his first full season in the closer role with great success. He was named to the 2010 All Star roster, set the rookie record for number of saves in a season (currently at 40), and is a strong candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year. He was considered the rawest, but most promising, piece of the Mark Teixeira trade as a starter with a 100+MPH fastball. Up until 2009, Neftali was starting in the minor leagues-did not move to the bullpen until he joined the majors. Whether he will rejoin the rotation in the future is unknown, but after the successful transition of Wilson, it might be possible.

Honestly, I could write about every one of the guys, but we have afternoon games to watch. Hopefully y’all learned a little more about some of the Rangers and will cheer them on in the playoffs-if you don’t already have an AL favorite, that is. One thing they can almost guarantee is an exciting game.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ALDS Rays Guest Poster: Jessica from Her Rays

Welcome Jessica, of Her Rays, the bestest Rays blog. This is phase one of The Most Adorable ALDS Ever With One Exception. She gives us some excellent reasons to pull for Barty and the Boys. Thanks for coming to play along Jessica! We're proud to have you as an Honorary Those Girls. Wow...that was terrible grammar. Oops.


I have a problem with this ALDS. Sarah has dubbed it the “Most Adorable ALDS Ever with One Exception.” This is the root of my problem. In playoff situations I prefer the antagonists or opposing teams to be dark, evil creatures that must be vanquished from the earth. For instance in 2008 when the Rays made the playoffs for the first time they played the White Sox and the Red Sox. See my point? These are teams that needed to be crushed.

Now contrast that with the Rays options for this year’s first round, the Twins or the Rangers. Seriously, could they draw two more likable teams? (Sounds a little like Chandler from Friends but whatever) Since this is a Twins blog I don’t need to tell you that your club is pretty likable. Plus since this is a girl blog I’m sure you are aware that the Rangers are also extremely likable.

In fact since the Rangers have Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, CJ Wilson and other characters that are really entertaining to watch, I’m afraid the nation is going to be pulling for them. Therefore I’d like to give you some reasons to love the Rays.

Let’s start with the skipper. Joe Maddon looks like Michael Douglas’s character in Falling Down but his demeanor is the exact opposite. Matter of fact there are times when fans wish he would freak out a little more. However he is a master at managing these youngsters and together with an awesome front office they were able to field a team that won the AL East at a fraction of the cost. You gotta love that.

Now on to the face of the franchise, Mr. Evan Longoria. I’m very sad to report that our beloved third baseman is sporting a mullet of Joe Dirt proportions. He is normally much more attractive. He IS doing it for charity. Evidently his fellow Dirtbag Troy Tulowitski is responsible. Have no fear though, he happens to be very good at baseball, and sometimes that is enough to endear him to fans.

From there we move to ole faithful. Carl Crawford has been with the Rays through thick, lots of thick, and thin. He is a treasure. Rays fans are trying to cherish him this season as it’s most likely to be his last here in Tampa Bay. He would be the face of the franchise, but he’s really not that kind of guy. He just quietly goes about his business, and this year is his best yet. He is a dynamic player that can change games. Watch him run. He looks like a cartoon character, his upper body doesn’t move too much and his legs become a blur. Between him and BJ Upton not too much falls in left center field.

In order to garner some votes from the Twin’s fans, I’d like to remind you who plays shortstop for the Rays. Jason Bartlett is still super cute. Last year he had a career year, but this year he has been struggling. He’s still the skipper’s go to guy and is a very intelligent player. However since he’s been struggling, a young shortstop has come onto the scene to fill in occasionally and you can’t help but love Reid Brignac. He is our ragin’ Cajun. Rays fans love his range and he’s been like a kid in a big league candy store. It is totally infectious.

Another tie to the Twins is Matt Garza. He’s a nut job, but that’s what makes him so lovable. I’m happy to report that he is spitting less this year. You remember his stringy spider man spit? Evidently it was from going to the rosin bag too often, then licking his fingers and it made his mouth dry. Too much information?

Remember when the Twins had that dominant left-handed pitcher and everyone in the league wanted one. The Rays have that now in David Price. He can flat out throw the ball, and he’s kind of a hoot on the days he’s not pitching. Two qualities I love in a pitcher.

Oh one more guy that you have to check out is Matt Joyce. The Rays stole him from my sister’s team the Tigers. He’s a hometown kid here in Tampa, he’s super cute and he can hit the ball very high and very far. Oooh then there’s Carlos Pena, yum. Okay obviously I could go on and on about why the Rays are a great team to follow, but hopefully they will show you themselves in the coming weeks.

Here’s to our teams meeting in the ALCS, even though your team is so stinking likable!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Masterpiece Theater

Just for kicks, allow me to recreate a very brief, and very real, conversation that took place next to me at the game yesterday.

Dude: blah blah blah My fantasy team is winning. blah blah blah Running Backs. Blah blah blah LT.

Dude's Girlfriend: *blink*blink*blink*crickets chirping*

Dude: LT! LaDainian Tomlinson!

Dude's Girlfriend: *crunch*crunch*crunch* I LOVE kettle corn! *crunch*crunch*crunch*

Aaaaaand Scene!

There's no moral to the story, I just think it's funny.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

First Last Regular Season Game at Target Field

Aside from the losing, it was a pretty good day at Target Field today. And really, had I been thinking logically, I would have known we weren't going to win from the moment I saw the elephant on my way to the ballpark.

Once you see an elephant, your day is pretty much not going to get any better from that point on. You can only hope to ride the wave of elephant-inspired euphoria as long as you can before reality comes crashing down.

[No, selling to underagers is not cool, but Wally is a Twins staple. And I guess I can't speak for everyone but I have always known him to be quite diligent about checking IDs. I have some questions about how legitimate the recent "sting" was, but this is not the place for that.]

And now it's time to get pumped up for Wednesday. When it's quite cold after the sun sets, and the Yankees are in town.

I AM PUMPED. Sort of. I will be. I promise.