The Rangers' final home series of the year kicks off tonight at the Temple, with rookie right-hander Armando Galarraga making his first major league start against Ervin Santana and the newly crowned AL West champions, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
While Texas may not have much to play for these days, they do have an opportunity to play the role of spoiler: the Angels are 92-64 on the year, which places them in a deadlock with Boston in the standings, and just 1/2 of a game behind the 92-63 Indians. A strong showing from the Rangers over the next three days could deny Anaheim home field advantage throughout the playoffs - conversely, a meltdown by Texas could aid the Angels' playoff run immensely.
And of course, if resident headcase Vicente Padilla were making a start in this series, he would probably try to knock Anaheim's playoff chances down a peg on his own - not by virtue of dominating their lineup, but by firing a 96 MPH fastball towards the head of (insert Angels player of choice here).
Rotoworld believes that manager Ron Washington doesn't "trust" relievers C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit enough to consider them as legitimate options for the closer's job going into next season, and goes on to suggest that Washington might push for the Rangers to sign a second or third tier closer, such as Detroit's Todd Jones.
Herein lies one of the big problems with the save as a baseball statistic - people within the game get so wrapped up in this idiotic mindset that they absolutely must have a "proven" closer pitching in that ninth inning, that they pass over younger and better talent which carries the lone knock of being "less experienced." Give me a break.
Something else worth taking into consideration: Washington's "wish list" of players he'd like for Texas to sign via free agency includes not only a closer, but a center fielder, first baseman and right fielder. With the purse strings on the Rangers' payroll already being monitored closely by owner Tom Hicks, Jon Daniels needs to carefully pick and choose how he decides to spend his limited resources.
And with all the other needs on this club, shelling out $30+ million in guaranteed money to a closer is just plain foolhardy. Especially when you have two more than respectable candidates on the active roster already; perhaps three, if and when Akinori Otsuka returns.
Going back to my commentary last night on the situation, I mentioned that Washington wants the Rangers to go out and sign either Eric Gagne, Mariano Rivera or Francisco Cordero. Gagne's story is rather self-explanatory: since the July 31st trade that sent him to Boston, he's been responsible for no less than four Red Sox losses, and as a result, his stock has plummeted through the floor.
Even worse, Gagne has given up a horrific 7.13 ERA, 1.79 WHIP and .869 OPS in 24 IP since July 6th. At this point, I think it goes without saying that any team who throws a multi-year contract offer in his direction is treading on very thin ice. A huge October could send his value flying through the ceiling again, but don't bet your house on that happening.
One error on my part was assuming that Rivera was finally starting to show signs of decline, based solely off a quick glance at his Baseball Reference page last night which showed a higher ERA and WHIP compared to his past few seasons. On the contrary, further research reveals that Rivera has simply suffered from Michael Young Syndrome: since May 1st, Rivera has a 1.90 ERA, along with a 1.02 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 61.2 IP. Filthy.
But at age 38, does anybody really want to gamble that Rivera's health will continue to hold out, after years of heavy workloads at the hands of Joe Torre? And even if Rivera has several dominant years left in his legendary right arm, does anybody really think for one second that New York is going to let him walk via free agency, given his status and importance to the Yankees? Fat chance.
And as far as Francisco Cordero is concerned, this should say just about all that needs to be said.
Brandon McCarthy will not start Tuesday night's game against the Angels due to lingering irritation in his right forearm. The problem originally cropped up between his start in Oakland on September 15th, and his four shutout inning performance on September 20th against Baltimore.
After his start last Thursday night, McCarthy pegged his chances of making his final two starts of the season at 50-50; now, it appears he may be done for the year. Given the Rangers' haphazard usage of McCarthy this year, that's probably a good thing.
I'm still baffled at how reckless the organization has been with him at times: seriously, who the hell knowingly lets a prized young pitcher take the mound with shoulder soreness, for weeks at a time, without having an MRI exam performed?
In addition, Kameron Loe has been sidelined for the remainder of the season with right elbow soreness. He experienced more discomfort in the elbow after a bullpen session last Wednesday, forcing the Rangers to shut him down.
Right fielder Nelson Cruz exploded for an otherworldly .600/.625/.933 batting line during this past weekend's four game series with the Orioles. He went 9 for 16 with a home run, a triple and 3 RBI; however, this recent hot streak may be a classic case of too little, too late.
By the way, Michael Young now has 195 hits on the year with six games to play. Using his average of 4.11 AB/G in 2007 as a benchmark, he'll need to bat .243 the rest of the way in order to finish with 200 hits. He's hitting .341/.397/.438 since May 4th, so you'd like to think that's a fairly achievable goal.
The San Francisco Giants announced on Friday that they would not be bringing back future Hall of Famer Barry Bonds in 2008, bringing rise to speculation on where he'll play next year. As you may recall, Barry nearly signed with the Rangers last winter before agreeing to a one year, $15.8 million contract with the Giants on February 15th.
"I'd liked to have had him here this year," Washington said, suggesting the Oakland A's are the logical destination. "If I had to make a judgment on where he'll be playing next year, the other side of the Bay. ... Barry wants to stay in the Bay Area."
Barry's obviously got something left, given his ridiculous .279/.483/.570 line and 28 HR this year in just 337 AB. There's no questioning that Bonds would provide a huge upgrade at DH - but at what price? Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's worth noting that Baseball Prospectus's Nate Silver pegs the Rangers' odds at signing Barry at merely 50:1, with the Padres and Athletics the early runaway favorites to sign him. If he doesn't retire first, that is.
Meanwhile, the ever cynical Tim MacMahon of the DMN SeamHeads Rangers blog thinks Texas should sign Bonds - but more because of the fodder that he would provide to the Dallas/Fort Worth media, not his offensive capabilities. Then again, I'm not sure MacMahon has ever been relevant as far as Rangers baseball coverage goes, so take that as you will.
And finally, Yankees All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras are refuting a controversial New York Magazine story published on Sunday. According to a "source with knowledge of the situation," Boras was in close contact with the prospective ownership group which was most likely to purchase the Chicago Cubs, and had approached them about the possibility of signing Rodriguez this coming off-season.
The supposed terms of the deal? Ten years, with an average annual salary approaching or exceeding the $30 million mark, and deferred money that would be put towards a future stake in the franchise's ownership.
Yankees president Randy Levine called the story "silly," and pointed out that active players are forbidden from possessing ownership of a team, as well as negotiating future ownership. Thankfully for all of us, commissioner Bud Selig took a few moments away from his strenuous day job to agree with Levine's interpretation of the matter.
In the meantime, the Rangers remain on the hook for $21,304,500 of A-Rod's contract over the next three years - $8,116,000 in 2008, $7,101,500 in 2009 and $6,087,000 in 2010 - unless he exercises the opt-out clause in his contract, making him a free agent.
When taking the time value of money into account, it's easy to see how Rodriguez taking his walking papers would be a major financial windfall for the Rangers, especially as they continue to look forward to this winter's rich free agent market.
Of course, if Ron Washington had his way, he'd put that money into the future retirement fund of Francisco Cordero.