Your Texas Rangers' pitching staff and its major-league worst 5.26 ERA continued to prove last night that it rarely has the ability to keep opposing lineups in check, even when the opponent is the worst team in the American League. But the offense continued to do its part, helping Texas rally to grab an 11-10 win after C.J. Wilson blew yet another save in the ninth. Ramon Vazquez, who committed three errors in the game, including one that allowed the go-ahead score in the ninth, emerged as the hero as he drove in the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the inning.
"I just want to say thank you to the fans that stayed here and were clapping for me to get a hit, and, uh, for those that were booing me, take that, beep," Vazquez told Jim Knox after his game-winning double. Watch for yourself above.
Yes, Vazquez decided to censor himself at the last minute, realizing his voice was being heard throughout the stadium. It was easily the funniest moment of the night, with second place going to Mariners' pitcher Jarrod Washburn borrowing manager Jim Riggleman's belt to pinch run. And easily the most disturbing moment was watching the over-celebrating by the Rangers after nearly letting the game slip away and beating a really shitty team.
Texas remains 11 1/2 games behind the Angels, who continue to dominate and just landed former Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira in a trade with Atlanta. At one point, I thought winning the American League West was the Rangers' only hope, but they are much closer in the wild card race. They sit 5 1/2 games back of Boston for the wild card, with New York and Minnesota sitting in front of Texas and Detroit right behind. But, let's be honest. There's no way the Rangers will leapfrog three teams and hold off another to win the wild card this year, as they are just 5-6 since the All-Star break.
So, as the trade deadline approaches (deals must be completed tomorrow by 3 p.m.), Texas should be a seller, especially since the only two guys that could have made enough of an impact -- CC Sabathia and Rich Harden -- have already been dealt.
There was an interesting note yesterday morning that the Dodgers made a call about Michael Young's availability. However, he fractured his right ring finger diving back to first base on a pickoff throw in the first inning Monday night, so whatever interest they had has probably vanished, although he was back in the lineup last night.
I'm sure Rangers' GM Jon Daniels isn't prepared to deal Young. But given his massive contract (the five-year, $80 million deal he signed in March 2007 kicks in next year), it might be worth looking into, especially since Young is looking less like a shortstop defensively. And since Texas is unlikely to wise up and move Kinsler to left field (he had another costly error last night), Young is probably headed to third base when top prospect Elvis Andrus is ready to take over at shortstop in a couple years. Paying Young $16 million to play third would be crazy, but we'll see how it plays out.
The most likely player that Daniels will move is Gerald Laird. Laird is a solid catcher that can really help someone out, but with Taylor Teagarden (who is being targeted by the Red Sox), Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Max Ramirez, Texas has too many catchers and not enough playing time. Now that Jorge Posada is done for the year and could be done playing catcher for good, the Yankees are stuck with Jose Molina (who's much worse than brothers Bengie and Yadier), and they are looking for a replacement. One of their top prospects, Jesus Montero, is a catcher, but at only 18 years old, he's at least a couple years away from being ready. The Reds, Marlins and Brewers also have been reportedly showing interest in Laird.
It's impossible to know what players are being discussed, but Texas may be best served by offering another player with Laird to increase the return. Milton Bradley, Vicente Padilla, Marlon Byrd and Eddie Guardado should be made available for the right package. Hank Blalock might have been able to be moved until he was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game with right shoulder inflammation.
For example, the Yankees not only could use Laird, but they are looking for another starter, and Padilla could be a fit. New York has been considering acquiring Jarrod Washburn (5-9, 4.50 ERA, 1.43 WHIP), and Padilla has similar numbers (4.56 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) with a much better win-loss record (12-5). Padilla has a slightly larger contract obligation (the rest of his $11 million contract this year, $12 million next year and a $12 million club option with a $1.75 million buyout for 2010) compared to Washburn, who is making $9.85 million this year and will make $10.35 million next season.
Coupling Laird and Padilla could land someone like pitching prospect Ian Kennedy, who struggled with the Yankees earlier in the year, but has pitched well in Triple-A (seven innings, one hit, zero runs and seven strikeouts in his last start). Another interesting pairing with Laird would be him, Guardado and Byrd to the Mets.
I haven't heard a thing about any strong interest in Milton Bradley, which either means teams have been sneaky about asking or they are avoiding him like the plague. I hope it's the former, and Bradley will be gone for reasons explained previously. Bradley left last night's game with a strained left quad sustained while grounding out in the fifth, which could deplete his trade value.
No matter who gets moved, Daniels needs to make this team better, much like he did last year when he dealt Kenny Lofton, Eric Gagne and Mark Teixeira at the trade deadline. He still has work to do to overcome some of his earlier gaffes, such as trading away Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, John Danks (8-4 and seventh in the AL with a 3.18 ERA) and Armando Galaragga (9-4 and ninth in the AL with a 3.36 ERA) for absolutely nothing.
Some people might also be feeling the sting of dealing Edinson Volquez, but as I've said before, Daniels made the right move. And I'll point out that Volquez's ERA jumped more than a run in his last six starts. Sure, his numbers are still sparkling for the year (12-4, 2.77 ERA, 134 K), but he's posted a 5.97 ERA in that six-game span, while Hamilton has knocked in 29 runs in his last 32 games.
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Ideally, it would be nice to trade away all of the spare parts, but that's not going to happen. I think Laird is a goner, and Guardado should be dealt as well. Daniels is unlikely to get appropriate value for Bradley, and he probably wants to hold onto Padilla. Byrd is kind of a wild card as I can see several teams expressing interest, but it appears as though Daniels has been asking too high of a price in return.
I won't make a desperate plea to Daniels as I did last year, but this is an opportunity to make improvements to the team. The best way to do that is to go out and get some young pitchers, much like other teams did by trading for Young, Danks, Galaragga and Volquez. It's time to reverse the trend of watching young pitching thrive elsewhere, and instead get your hands on some guys with potential from other clubs.
And if a spot opens up in the outfield, it's time to give Nelson Cruz another chance. This is something I was hoping for back in late April, and he's only given Texas more reasons to call him up, hitting .346 with 37 homers, 98 RBI and 24 stolen bases at Triple-A Oklahoma. Baseball America also thinks it's time for Cruz to be called up.
Finally, an interesting note about Josh Hamilton, who, with 103 RBI this year, became the first Rangers' outfielder with 100 RBI since 1999, which also is the last time Texas was in the playoffs. Juan Gonzalez, who was traded to Detroit in the offseason, drove in 128 while Rusty Greer had 101 RBI. Ahh, the good old days.