It strikes me that this website has come an almost unfathomably long way since the days when I was in my baseball-writing infancy and undertaking outrageous projects such as waxing poetic on Michael Young's defense and throwing down 800-word posts on irrelevant roster battles like Jamey Wright vs. Kameron Loe ... and for that, and for the record-smashing playoff traffic, and for continuing to give us the impetus to churn out good stuff about this ALCS-bound squad, thank you:
● The Rangers will tee up C.J Wilson vs. CC Sabathia in Game 1, Colby Lewis vs. Phil Hughes in Game 2, Cliff Lee vs. Andy Pettitte in Game 3 (at Yankee Stadium), and Tommy Hunter vs. A.J. Burnett in Game 4 (at Yankee Stadium) (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[This will inevitably be touted by some national analyst as a David v. Goliath-type battle between the cash-flush Yankees and the spendthrift Rangers, but rendering that characterization on the basis of payroll disparity is misleading, as it implies that the Rangers are quantifiably inferior in a short-series context and therefore significant underdogs. I don't think that's the case at all -- the majority of the reputable projections (e.g. here and here) appear to have this series running six or seven games deep and the two clubs fairly evenly matched, and to send the series back to Arlington you only need two wins. When you have C.J. Wilson going twice and both Cliff Lee and Colby Lewis going once, I think that's a reasonable expectation.
Josh Hamilton, of course, remains the largest-looming offensive X-factor on the Rangers' end; I consulted with Jason Parks on this matter, and his conclusion was that his problems through the ALDS were more timing-based -- and a function of Hamilton excessively pressing at the plate -- than anything perceptibly wrong with his swing mechanics and/or bat speed. He'll be running smack-dab into two more challenging lefties in his first three ALCS starts (and contending with an afternoon game in the other!), so I'm frankly not going to be surprised if his MVP-level form remains absent in the early going, but at some point in this series he's going to have to step it up. So will Michael Young. So will Vladimir Guerrero.]
● On the heels of Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg remarking without hesitation that general manager Jon Daniels -- who has the ability to exercise the out clause in his contract this winter -- "isn't going anywhere," FOX Sports Radio's Jim Bowden says that the Rangers are going to announce a long-term deal for Daniels after the post-season is over, and that all rumors of him defecting to the Mets are false (NBCSports.com)
[This doesn't surprise me whatsoever, nor should it surprise anyone when Ron Washington receives a two- to three-year deal this winter; the Rangers have consistently vocalized their support for both, and to extend the key management-side figures in your organization after an immensely successful season ... well, it's just what happens in baseball. Regarding the Mets job specifically, Craig Calcaterra unearthed an interesting point: the Mets are advertising the fact that their new GM will have "complete autonomy," but their scouting corps is already being locked in for 2011. If you figure that an incoming GM would at least want the ability to review and/or replace existing scouts, then this is probably an aspect of the Mets job that comes across as something less than appealing.]
● The Rangers will likely add left-handed specialist Clay Rapada to their ALCS roster and forgo carrying who would have been their pinch-running specialist in Esteban German; if the roster move goes down as expected, the Rangers will carry a seven-man bullpen into war (Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Darren O'Day, Dustin Nippert, Darren Oliver, Derek Holland, and, Rapada); Jorge Cantu and Matt Treanor are also expected to start at first base and catcher in Game 1, respectively (T.R. Sullivan, MLB.com)
[I didn't think there was really any way that the Rangers would need to carry three lefty-hurling southpaws during the ALDS, and that the roster spot was better allocated towards a late-inning speed weapon like German; in hindsight, that was a swing and a miss both in my thought process and in actuality, and now because of that first-round weakness (but also because of scheduling complexities and the extended length of the ALCS), Texas will roll with a seven-deep bullpen. Rapada, for his part, is what we think he is -- a soft-tossing, deception-dependent LOOGY who can be summoned in a single-batter neutralizing capacity against somebody like Robinson Cano. Useful, but not excessively so.]