The Great One’s Never Die

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Setting here in a dark room of a nursing home in southwest Arlington, my mind begins to wander. Wanderings about my grandmother(hereafter referred to as “Granny”), about life  and when and if I’ll find another job that will pay all of my bills. I have a full plate right now, having lost my job earlier in the week and now having to keep my emotions in check. We are waiting on the Lord to come and take my 90 year old Granny, as the night forges on past 2 a.m. I’m saddened by the thought of how much she will be missed, and am reminded of all of her little quirks that made her so special. As my granddad lays in an empty bed on the other side of the room and tries to rest for a few minutes, I look around the rest of the room to see the hospice nurse(who seems to have a passion for talking while people try to rest), my sister asleep in a chair and my mother quietly setting at my Granny’s side, counting the number of breathes per minute. I’ve tried for most of the evening to find a distraction in the back of my mind to take me to a happier time and place. Finally, a peaceful thought came to me. My Granny will still live on through the other women in my family. My sleeping sister has her sense of humor, which is very quick witted and keeps everyone on their toes. My mother has her stubbornness and confidence that carries everyone through the tough times, whether we want to go or not.

The good one’s always leave a legacy. They always pass the torch. Those that are being groomed to take the fire and carry it might not even know it’s happening, but it is.

In that moment, I finally found my hiding place. Deep in the recesses of my mind I could slowly see coming into focus the white chalk lines on a baseball field. It’s Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It’s the place I call my home away from home and the one place I’ve always found peace in the hardest times of my life. I could visualize “the Captain” aka Michael Young walking off the field in street clothes with a bag over his shoulder. Ahhhh, the Captain. I was very sad about his departure and worried about who would carry on his legacy as a leader.

When the trade was finalized to send Young to Philadelphia for a bucket of balls and a bag of Wash’s favorite sunflower seeds, there were strong opinions of whether the Texas Rangers should or shouldn’t have traded the long time leader of the ballclub. Once that blew over a bit, the new hot question became whether or not the team could succeed on or off the field without his leadership between the lines and in the clubhouse. There was a lot of lip service from players about how much they learned from Michael and that all of the veterans would carry a piece of him with them. Still, the media clamored over which veteran would step up and be the leader. Would it be the young shortstop, the hard working third baseman or the close friend of our former captain that resides at 2nd base? I present to you option D: All of the above. Perhaps it wasn’t lip service after all. It’s now April 29th, and the Texas Rangers are in a familiar place in the standings atop the American League West. How could that possibly be with the superhero Josh Hamilton and captain Michael Young gone? The answer?

You can replace production. You CARRY ON leadership….at least that of the great leaders. The kind of leaders that leave a mark not only on the field, but off as well. So yes, it is all of these players mentioned and many more that carry on the leadership of our missing Captain. While Michael is being given the chance to start everyday and continue his pursuit to join the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, the team that had been known as his for the better part of a decade carries on. And that brings me a peace here in this dark quiet room this morning, because as weird as it might seem that I always tie everything back to baseball, I see the similarities when I look at my loved ones around me. As one fire goes out, the torch will carry on because of all of the wonderful impressions my precious Granny has left on all of us. 

 

Terrorists Never Learn

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The President of the United States spoke this morning and said that the FBI did not yet know if the Terrorist acts committed at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday were committed by a group of terrorists or individuals.  So whomever it was, I will make this short.

To the coward(s) of whom it may concern,

Lets take a look at what your little stunt accomplished yesterday.

  • you killed 3 people, including an 8 year old.
  • you cancelled 2 sporting events
  • you woke a sleeping giant
  • Oh yeah, the President called you a “heinous coward”. Just thought I’d include that because I’m a fan of the word “heinous”.

I hope you feel like a big man killing that little boy, because I’m sure he was a real threat to whatever it is that you or your group is trying to accomplish. He was probably the worlds first 8 year old secret agent. Yeah, that must be it. Good job, you heinous piece of crap.

I said I would keep this short, so let me fill you in on what your ill conceived plan to “hurt” innocent American people is going to accomplish.

Today, Americans are going to wake up and eat breakfast. We’re going to drink our coffee, read our newspapers and take our kids to school. We’re going to drive our cars, go to our jobs and work just as hard as we ever have. Those that were hurt yesterday are going to pick themselves up and start rehabbing their scarred bodies and amputated limbs. We are going to pick our children up from school and ride bikes, go on walks, fly kites, have family dinner, go to baseball games, eat hot dogs, yell for our favorite teams, cheer for our favorite players, sing take me out to the ballgame and laugh. We’re going to take our kids home, get them ready for bed then kiss and hug them as we tuck them in for the night. We’re going to pray that the Lord will watch over us, protect us and our nation and we’re going to go to sleep without fear of anything that you or your little buddies are planning.

Sounds like a pretty good day.

You want to know what your day will be like?

You’re going to run and hide, and you’re going to stay that way until we find you. And WE WILL FIND YOU.  We’ll be on your heels every step of the way. Behind every closed door, around every corner, in every convenience store, school, post office, shopping mall, ballpark, movie theater, grocery store, coffee shop, sports bar or airplane. You’ll be hunted in every ditch, field, cove, cave and desert that you might run and hide in.

So I hope that seems like a fair trade to you, because whether or not you like it, this is how its going to be.

Well, I’m off to go for a jog, wave at my neighbors, listen to my music and enjoy my freedoms that you can never take away.

Sincerely,

an American

Got Yu! Darvish pitches masterpiece

Okay, so maybe a few people overreacted when the Texas Rangers dropped the first game of the season against the Houston Astros, who are projected by many to finish in the cellar of the AL West this year. It appears that a few people may have under-reacted when asked if Yu Darvish was a legitimate Cy Young candidate.

Tonight Darvish put the world on notice when he struck out 14 batters in 8 and 2/3 innings on his way to the best pitching performance in his early career.

The night started slowly for Darvish while he struggled to establish his fastball, but the movement on his other pitches had more than enough to hold off the Houston bats until he had his full arsenal working. And boy, was it working. Darvish started the 5th inning with no hits allowed and 9 strikeouts before having a few scares. Chris Carter led off the inning with a long drive to left center field that appeared to have a chance to leave the ballpark, but the ball died just short and David Murphy was able to get under it for the first out. Next up for the Astros was Rick Ankiel, who garnered a few gasps from the fans when he almost snuck a liner over Mitch Moreland’s glove at first, but Moreland was able to time it just right to make the catch and get the second out. After that, Darvish was able to strike out game 1 hero Justin Maxwell, and the threat was over. Yu was still perfect.

The Rangers got the only run they needed from a well placed bases loaded single between third base and shortstop off the bat of former Astros veteran Lance Berkman to take a 1-0 lead. Ian Kinsler added an absolute bomb for a two run homerun in the top of the 7th inning to give his pitcher some breathing room.

That was all he would need.

In the 7th, Darvish started out by getting Jose Altuve to pop out to Ian Kinsler in shallow right field on the very first pitch he saw. Next was Brett Wallace, who Darvish was able to strike out on a nasty pitch in the dirt for his 12th strikeout of the game. After that, Carlos Pena hit a very weak ground ball to Moreland at first. Pena’s bat was in pieces, and everyone in the park could tell that Darvish’s stuff was actually getting better as the game moved into the final two innings.

In the top of the 8th, David Murphy was able to work a walk against Houston left handed reliever Wesley Wright. Nelson Cruz followed with a hard hit double to the left field gap that Murphy was able to score on. Pierzynski then moved Cruz over to 3rd base on a ground out to first, which allowed Cruz to score when Mitch Moreland hit a hard fly ball to the warning track in left. After a pitching change, Craig Gentry was struck out swinging by right hander Josh Fields to end the inning with the score 5-0.

Darvish started the  bottom of the 8th inning with his pitch count at 93, and he had to face Carter, Ankiel and Maxwell; the same three batters he faced in the 5th inning. He struck out Carter on a full count pitch to bring up Ankiel. He made quick work of Ankiel for his 14th strikeout. Maxwell grounded out on the first pitch he saw, and everyone in Texas could feel the electricity building.

The question that was weighing on everyone was this: Would manager Ron Washington let him go back out for the 9th inning?

Darvish finished the 8th inning with 107 pitches, which in the first start of the year is really pushing the limit. Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux talked to Darvish as soon as he came off the field, but everyone had to wait for the Rangers to finish batting to see what the final decision was.

Ian Kinsler led off the 9th inning against right hander Jose Veras with a walk. Elvis Andrus followed with an RBI triple to score Kinsler. Lance Berkman then singled softly to center to score Andrus and make the score 7-0. After that, Veras settled down and struck out Adrian Beltre, David Murphy and Nelson Cruz to end the Rangers half of the inning.

…..And Darvish walked up the steps and out of the dugout. Perhaps towards history.

The small crowd of just a little over 20,000, full of Rangers fans,  erupted when he left the dugout. Jason Castro led off and grounded to Andrus at shortstop for the first out. The crowd drew louder. Next was Carlos Corporan, who immediately grounded out to Kinsler. Darvish was on the verge of history. The last batter for Darvish was Marwin Gonzalez, the ninth place hitter in the Astros lineup.

And Marwin put a dagger in the heart of history.

A solid ground ball directly back up the middle and into center field drew the bid for a perfect game to a close. Darvish grinned widely knowing what had just been lost, and knowing that his manager was on his way to pull him from the ballgame. Left hander Michael Kirkman came on and finished the game off, giving up another hit before doing so. It was a 2 hit shutout by Darvish and Kirkman, but as catcher A.J. Pierzynski said after the game, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a shutout in my life”.

Even still, the Texas Rangers said “Hello Win Column” for the first time in 2013 in style, and everyone watched as Yu Darvish put the whole league on notice.

Darvish vs Harrell

For what they’re worth, here are the hitter vs pitcher match ups for tonight’s Texas Rangers vs Houston Astros game. It appears that Justin Maxwell may try to steal the show again tonight. Perhaps Adrian Beltre will have something to say about that.

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Andrus deal leaves President-GM Jon Daniels with multiple options

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Sweetwater, TX – When then GM (he has since also been named team president for those of you living under a rock) Jon Daniels was asked during the offseason for stud top prospect Jurickson Profar in return for star Tampa Bay pitcher James Shields, he refused. Shields was later traded to the Kansas City Royals. When he was asked by the Arizona Diamondbacks for either Profar or current stud shortstop Elvis Andrus in return for Justin Upton, he again refused, and Upton was moved to the Atlanta Braves to be reunited with his brother B.J. Upton. Daniels wanted Justin Upton in Rangers blue very badly, but he would not jeopardize his teams future without some sort of certainty that he would keep at least either Andrus or Profar. Had Daniels traded Profar, there was a very real danger that Andrus would defect to another team in free agency after 2014. His Agent is broadly hated super-agent Scott Boras, who is famously known for taking his players all the way to free agency and then scoring them a contract beyond their wildest dreams. He could have traded Andrus, but Profar may not be quite MLB ready and is still an unproven commodity. What a lot of us did not know is that Daniels was very silently working on a long term extension for Andrus. The only way that this possibly could have been done with Boras is if Andrus sincerely wanted to stay in Texas. Now Andrus is locked up until at least the end of 2018, and Jon Daniels is left with at least 3 very real options regarding his infield personel and probably a few other less likely options.

There is no secret that the Rangers organization covets Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price and Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, so we’ll take a look at the most likely scenarios for Jon Daniels and his team.

 

The Michael Young approach

The most likely scenario would be for 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler to move to 1st base or to left field, opening up 2nd base for Jurickson Profar. Profar was brought up as a shortstop, but has played a lot of 2nd base in the past year. Kinsler balked at the idea of changing positions in the offseason but said that he would do whatever is needed of him when he signed his new contract less than a year ago. It is likely that he may be more open to a change now that there is long term certainty in the Texas infield. This is the most likely option only because you can never depend on a trade to happen. But what if….

 

Profar or Kinsler is traded for David Price
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This is the big trade that would be the most likely to happen. David Price is in the final year of his contract, and after Justin Verlander set the market price for Cy Young award winning pitching, there is no doubt that Tampa Bay will be unable to retain Price’s talents. At some point, even if they are in contention, the Rays are going to want to get a return on Price, and a package centered around either Profar or Kinsler could likely get the job done. Profar is obviously a piece that all teams are interested in, but Kinsler would also be attractive with his “team friendly” long term contract. There isn’t a no-trade clause in Kinsler’s contract and you could build a team around him. He will also be considered a bargain for such an experienced 2nd baseman once Robinson Cano cashes in on a new long term deal with the New York Yankees. If the Rangers were able to trade Kinsler instead of Profar for Price, it would allow them to apply the money saved on Kinsler to a new mega contract for Price. Of course there’s always…

The big fish
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As excited as I would be to see David Price pitch every 5 days in a Rangers uniform, I would be equally excited to see super-slugger Giancarlo Stanton hit mega-bombs in the Rangers everyday lineup. The Miami Marlins continue to say that they have no plans to move Stanton, but there is a thought that this is only posturing to try and garner a bigger offer for him whenever they are ready to move him. Stanton has already established himself as one of the most prolific power hitters in all of baseball, is under team control for the next 4 seasons including this season and will make only $500,000 this year. In order to obtain Stanton’s services and his contract, it would cost the Rangers Profar and much more, but would re-establish their lineup as one of the scariest in all of baseball.

Whatever JD and his mafia of future GM’s decide upon, there is little doubt that the Andrus contract extension is good for both Andrus and the future of the team.

Andrus deal reportedly agreed on

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The Texas Rangers and Shortstop Elvis Andrus reportedly have a new multi year deal in place according to Jon Heyman of CBS sports. The deal is rumored to be worth $120m for 8 years and is now being reported as an extention, which would keep Andrus in Arlington for the next 10 years and would be worth more than $131m.

Second Source Confirms Potential Andrus Deal

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According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a “baseball source” has confirmed that the Texas Rangers and Elvis Andrus are indeed close on an 8 year, $120 million deal. The source suggests that the deal may be so close to completion that a physical may be all that is holding things up.

Rangers, Andrus Close On 8 Year Deal Worth Reported 120 Million

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According to sources close to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, The Texas Rangers are close to agreeing to a reported 8 year deal worth $120 million. If this is true, it would immediately give General Manager Jon Daniels the freedom to pursue players via trade that he might not have previously had the bargaining power to get. The Rangers would no longer have to keep top prospect Jurickson Profar if they choose not to. A deal centered around Profar could easily land a player such as David Price or potentially Giancarlo Stanton.

Stay Tuned….

Ron Washington Isn’t Feeling Sorry For Himself……

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MY COUCH/ARLINGTON, TX – Ron Washington is not feeling sorry for himself.

There is little doubt among experts, die hard fans and bandwagon fans alike that the off season was a failure. Let’s just call it like it is: the off season was TERRIBLE. Josh Hamilton gave up on the Rangers permanently, just like he gave up on the Rangers in the dwindling days of the 2012 season, when baseballs fell to the ground like a Texas hail storm. Glad you didn’t get your glove dirty, Josh. Your bat was pretty clean, too. Leadership in the clubhouse was lost when Michael Young was shipped to Philadelphia for a bag of peanuts that will proudly be featured in the bullpen at AAA Round Rock to start the season, and Mike Napoli moved on to Boston. Then Texas whiffed on Justin Upton, James Shields, Zack Greinke, etc… Nelson Cruz has been linked to performance enhancing drugs, and though there’s still no sign of anything happening with that situation, it could still pop back into focus at anytime. And then there is the whole ownership / Jon Daniels / Nolan Ryan soap opera. I’m not even touching that.

But… Ron Washington is not feeling sorry for himself.

So what do Rangers fans have that can keep them optimistic going into the 2013 season? Let’s dive into some things and cover a few of the most asked questions.

How will the Rangers replace the power and productivity of Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton?

I want to go on the record to say that I don’t think the Rangers will have a drop off in the run column at all this year. It is merely going to come from different places. Last season the Rangers were first in all of Major League Baseball in runs scored with 808, four more than the New York Yankees. The question why didn’t the Rangers win more games in 2012 if they scored the most runs? is usually answered with a pitching related response. The Rangers had the 7th best team ERA(3.99) in the American League. That’s smack dab in the middle of the road, and good enough to debunk any type of terrible pitching excuses. The problem is that the large majority of runs were scored in bunches and with a lot of power. It doesn’t do much good to win a game 14-2 if you are only going to score 2 or 3 runs on the next two days. This team as constructed now will have players that hit for average, hit more consistently, hit according to the situation, hit to the opposite field, bunt, walk, sweat, bleed or whatever Ron Washington wants them to do. And they are going to run, run, run. With the likes of Elvis Andrus, Leonys Martin, Craig Gentry and Ian Kinsler, along with smoking fast Leury Garcia and, for the time being, Julio Borbon coming off the bench to pinch run, this team has a lot of speed, and Washington made it perfectly clear early in spring training that they were going to use it this year. The team OBP should also go up. Newly signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski will get on base more often than Napoli. Napoli was incredible in 2011, but we would be fooling ourselves if we said that we think Nap earned his “All-Star” label last year. Lance Berkman, even if he struggles, will get on base. A lot. Berkman has a career OBP of .409, which means that nearly half the times he walks to the plate, he is going to get on base. Really let that sink in. Even in a slump, Berkman will not only get on base, but he will also see a lot of pitches due to how selective he is. Berkman will likely bat third in Josh Hamilton’s vacated spot in front of Adrian Beltre. Josh Hamilton walked 60 times to go along with 162 strikeouts last season. In 2011(his last full season), Berkman walked 92 times and only struck out 93 times. That’s potentially 69 more “productive outs” than Hamilton. Yes, Berkman will need to be healthy for this to happen, but he has given no indication in spring training to suggest that he will be anything but healthy. Just getting on base more often should exponentially raise Beltre’s RBI chances. Beltre had 102 RBI last season. Do not be surprised if that number is in the 130-150 range by the end of the season.

New hitting coach Dave Magadan is already having a huge impact on the lineup. Ian Kinsler has been spraying hits all over the field, not just to left field. Less pop-ups, more line drives and opposite field hits.

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I know there is a “I’ll believe it when I see it” type of feeling with Kinsler, but I’ve already seen it, and I am quickly becoming a believer. Mitch Moreland is probably becoming a believer, too. Moreland, along with players such as Leonys Martin and Craig gentry, has had a spring training to remember. Of course you have to take spring numbers with a grain of salt, but he has had a particularly strong and consistent spring. Expect great things from the teachings of Dave Magadan.

Then there’s David Murphy. Murph has earned an everyday starting job, and he has earned it every year for the past 3 seasons. Every year he’s asked to prove his worth, and every year he gets better and better as he gets more repetitions and more at bats. Murphy hit .304 last season, with a .347 batting average against left handed pitching. Rangers fans have been pleading for a full season from Murphy for years now, and finally they will get it.

The bottom line with this lineup is that fans should see a lot more of guys getting on base. With the speed factor, there will even be times that the base paths will look like a merry-go-round. The home run count won’t be what we’re used to with Hamilton gone, but there will still be plenty of long balls to go around. Besides, have you ever heard the saying “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire”? With more guys getting on base, there should be plenty of fire.

What about the pitching?

What about it? The Rangers will still have Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish heading up the rotation, who won 18 and 16 games respectively last season. You can expect the same quality from Harrison as he has finally found his stride as a no nonsense, strike throwing ground ball pitcher. You can expect great things from Darvish, who is entering his second season in Major League baseball and is coming in much more comfortable than during his much publicized transplant from Japan last season. He has Cy Young type of stuff, and it is only a matter of time until he is dominating hitters on a David Price/Justin Verlander type of scale.

Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland are both #3 and #4 starters. That’s where they’ll be, and that’s what they are expected to pitch like. That being said, they both have the potential to be much, much more. Worst case scenario, they pitch like what they are: middle of the rotation guys. Best case: They pitch better.

The 5th spot is kind of tricky…. Enter Nick Tepesch.

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After Martin Perez, the favorite to earn the 5th spot, was injured when a batted ball struck him on his right arm in a spring training game, it was Tepesch who took advantage of the situation just as Robbie Ross stormed onto the scene in 2012. We can only hope that the outcome is the same. Tepesch, who has barely pitched over Class A ball, has been strong, showing confidence on the mound and throwing strikes. If he does well, then there will obviously be nothing to worry about. If he struggles, there are many other immediate options such as Derek Lowe or Michael Kirkman. Kirkman has had a truly remarkable spring after working with pitching coach Mike Maddux on keeping his body under control during his delivery to improve his pitch location and consistency. It was also found that captain Kirk was also tipping his pitches to the hitters. After a few small adjustments, he has kept hitters guessing this spring and was a candidate for the 5th starter spot before being told that he was more valuable in the bullpen this season. Even if none of these options work, the good news is that Colby Lewis will be back. He may even return as early as late May/early June. Lewis has been the most consistent quality starting pitcher for the Rangers over the last 3 seasons, and is sure to improve the staff whenever he is healthy.

HERE COME THE CAVALRY!!!

Probably the most comforting thought is that this team is good right now. This team will be a lot better when Lewis and Joakim Soria are back from their injuries. Soria should make a formidable late inning setup man when he is back and ready to go. Injured pitcher Neftali Feliz could also be a wild card in the situation. It is hard to say when and if he will be able to return to the mound this year, but having another former closer in the bullpen can never hurt.

Very quietly, Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar have taken their assignments to begin the season at AAA Round Rock. There is very little doubt that both of these players will be called up at some point. That point will be when the Rangers think they can contribute to the success of the team. As the #1 prospect in all of baseball, there should be little doubt that Profar will contribute at some point. Profar is another one of those “just get on base” kind of players that Ron Washington loves so much.

But what about the bench players?

Geovany Soto has proven to be a pretty good signal caller behind the plate, but lacks much of anything with a bat in his hand. Leury Garcia is an excellent fielder and runner, but has not yet fully developed as a solid major league hitter. Most of the time Leonys Martin or Craig Gentry will be on the bench, but besides them, only Jeff Baker remains as a legitimate pinch hitting option. Baker has EARNED his spot on the Texas Rangers roster. He has been above average in the field and sparkling with the bat this spring. As someone who came to camp and had to earn a spot with the odds stacked against him, Baker has been in a pressure situation with every single at bat, and has thrived. Fortunately, hitting under a lot of pressure is now his job description as a pinch hitter. There is a lot of uncertainty on the bench surrounding a bat, but with Martin/Gentry, Garcia and Borbon, they wont lack speed.

Who will replace Michael Young as the leader of the team?

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No one. No one can replace what Michael Young has done for the Texas Rangers. It was so hard and bittersweet to see him traded this off season because of everything he has done for this team and this community. He will be dearly missed, but in the end, he deserved the chance to play everyday and chase down his seat in Cooperstown. Good luck, Face. We’re all rooting for you.

That being said, I have to ask everyone to have faith in the job that Michael Young has done. He has led the Rangers most importantly by example. No one player will take over as leader of this team. There is a piece of Michael inside of Ian Kinsler, David Murphy, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and the list goes on and on. These guys learned from the best. Lets have faith that they kept a part of that with them.

In conclusion……

Well, from my vantage point, Wash isn’t feeling sorry for himself. He isn’t sweating about where runs are going to come from. He’s not crying in the spilled milk of Greinke choosing the LA Budgetdodgers over his team.

When the skipper steps onto that field and between the foul lines for the first time tonight and takes in all of the many things that baseball has to offer in all of its opening night glory, the grass is going to look greener, the hot dogs are going to smell juicier and Ron Washington won’t be feeling sorry for himself.

He’ll be feeling sorry for his opponent. Just like every other night.

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Details of Soto deal

Arlington, TX – This from T.R. Sullivan of Texasrangers.com : “The Rangers have acquired catcher Geovany Soto from the Cubs for pitcher Jacob Brigham. Soto is hitting .195 for the Cubs and is making $4.2 million. Brigham is 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts at Double A Frisco.”

 

UPDATE:

Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram tweets(@JeffWilson_FWST) that the Cubs are also sending the Rangers cash as part of the deal. That has to be approved by MLB before deal can be made official.

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