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Texas Rangers

AL West Preview: 3 teams for 3 playoff spots?

I started writing this post not knowing which team–the Oakland A’s, Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles or the Texas Rangers–would win the division. More accurately, as I type these very letters, I just don’t know who’s coming out on top. All we know for sure about the AL West this year is that the Seattle Mariners, a decent team in their own right, will finish fourth, and limping into last place will be the 107 loss Houston Astros, whose first season in the American League after 52 years in the NL will not be a warm welcome.
But just like any conflicted teenage girl, let’s man up on MAMBINO and list off some simple pros and cons for each team:
Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles
Pros: If everyone stays on the field, the Angels are going to have the most bruising, fearless offense in the division. AL MVP runner-up Mike Trout leads off the line-up, followed by a conga line of mashers: 1B Albert Pujols, OF Josh Hamilton, DH Mark Trumbo and 2B Howie Kendrick. Even their bit players, C Chris Ianetta, SS Erick Aybar, 3B Alberto Callaspo and Peter Bourjos, are all league average hitters at worst. The offense is built to play any way they need to; they’ve got enough patient hitters to manufacture walks, enough athletes to steal bases and enough destroyers to knock the ball into the stands. Health permitting, this could be the most potent line-up in Angels history.… Read more...

MAMBINO’s MLB Playoff Preview, Part 1: Wildcard and (a couple) Divisional Series

The second Wild Card slot has added in another dramatic cadence to what has been in recent years an extremely exciting last week of the season. In four out of the past five seasons, playoff spots weren’t settled until Game 162 out of 162, with the Rockies, Phillies, White Sox, Twins, Rays and Cardinals all eeking out monumental, last-second comebacks. The drama has been so fantastically unreal that the Commissioner Bud Selig, who miraculously looks like the best out of the four major sports right this moment, decided to heighten it starting in 2012 by adding another contender to the mix.

More teams than ever before were in the postseason hunt up until the final series of the year, including the freshly eliminated Dodgers, Brewers, Angels, Rays and White Sox. For the uninitiated, the playoffs begin today, when the two American League Wild Cards, the AL West deposed Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles and the two National League Wild Cards, the reigning champion St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, face off in a sudden death game to see who goes on to play the two teams with the best records in their respective leagues. As opposed to years past, the margin of benefit between being a division titlist and a Wild Card team just became canyon-like. If you’re a divisonal winner, you’re at least guaranteed a five-game series. A Wild Card winner? All you get is a one-game playoff to play the best team in your league, and a giant choco-taco full of crap. Needless to say, it’s infinitely advantageous to win the division. But even as tenuous as this sounds for the teams playing, you know who this sucks most for? THE GREAT MAMBINO.

That’s right. US. Since the Divisional Series matchups aren’t set yet, here we are previewing two one-game playoffs and only two out of the four divisional series. What about us, Bud? Your loyal bloggers? Who do this for nothing but the love of the game and the mountains of women that come with being an amateur writer? C’mon, man. Think about us, for once. Ass.  

Regardless of my personal vendettas, we here at MAMBINO would never intentionally deprive our dozens….AND DOZENS of followers. From the hearts and minds of MAMBINO HQ are our picks for tomorrow’s playoff games and the two Divisional Series that are set:

American League Wild Card Game: Texas Rangers over Baltimore Orioles

El Miz:
The Texas Rangers have limped into the postseason, fading down the back stretch before getting swept by the Oakland A’s and losing what looked like a certain third-straight AL West crown on the last day of the season.  All is not lost, however, as the Rangers and Baltimore Orioles will square off thanks to the new one-game play-in for the Wild Card (actually, we would have had the same result even if MLB didn’t change the rules, as the Rangers and Orioles finished with the exact same 93 wins).

So how does Texas have any chance?  They are playing arguably the hottest team in baseball and the dreaded “team of destiny” thanks to Baltimore’s incredible 29-9 record in 1-run games, the best winning percentage since the Brooklyn Bridegrooms way back when President Benjamin Harrison was in the White House…you know, 1890. 

First, Texas is at home, which has got to help since Camden Yards would have been an absolute madhouse with their first taste of the postseason since 1997. Second, Texas is throwing Yu Darvish.

Texas paid $51.7 million dollars to Darvish’s former team just to be able to negotiate with him (the total deal cost $11Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers get: SP Ryan Dempster

Chicago Cubs get: 3B Christian Villanueva, P Kyle Hendricks

Tears of Texas baseball fans everywhere still saturate the dirt despite the unforgiving southern summer sun, but GM John Daniels is doing his best to see that the waterlogged field doesn’t get damaged any further. In a bid to get to their third straight World Series, the Texas Rangers acquired starter Ryan Dempster just minutes before the trade deadline expired on Tuesday.

Just weeks ago, playoff hero and de facto staff ace Colby Lewis went down for the season with elbow surgery, leaving Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Roy Oswalt and of course, unhealthy MAMBINO favorite Yu Darvish as the only members of the Texas rotation left standing. With CJ Wilson leaving for the Angels in the offseason and former closer turned starter Neftali Feliz undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Rangers needed another starter badly if they wanted to stay up with the hard-charging Angels, who acquired SP Zack Greinke from Milwaukee on Friday.

What the Rangers got certainly wasn’t the postseason hero that they had in the battle-tested Lewis, but is good and bad in his own right. Dempster is having a strange year, having spent time on the DL after pitching at least 200 innings for four straight seasons. His ERA is a career-low 2.25, cutting his walks down to 2.3 per nine innings down from 3.6 per nine the two seasons before that. However, he’s throwing one strikeout less per nine innings than he did the year before. Now 35, Dempster’s performance seems to be due to better pitch control, rather than a late career renaissance involving missing bats. The latter is a troublesome development for a starter that’s been a typically high strikeout pitcher, but also encouraging in that he’s changing his style as he advances towards the end of his career.

Regardless, Dempster’s value to the Rangers is apparent: he’s there to help the Rangers fend off the Angels for the division title. Anaheim showed that they are not merely trying to make a wild card berth with their trade for Greinke, and now boast a better rotation than Texas, and perhaps a comparable lineup. Remarkably, Dempster has only been to the postseason twice, but perhaps less remarkable when you remember that he’s spent a majority of his career with the Cubs. However, the most important role he’ll play with Texas, for now, is pitching every five days to make sure the Rangers are guaranteed at least three games in the playoffs, rather than the crapshoot one game wild card round.

New Cubs GM Theo Epstein continues his complete revamp of the organization by cutting ties with the nine-year Chicago veteran in Dempster. Moving forward, I thought the Cubs might try to re-sign Dempster, who still provides value and had seemed to want to stay in the Windy City. However, after the former Cubs’ last week veto of a trade to Atlanta, it seems unlikely that such a reunion, even after a trade, would be unlikely. More and more signs point to Theo getting this team ready to compete in two years, rather than next season, when Dempster would be most valuable.

The Cubs got a pretty good return from a guy they weren’t interested in keeping for the long term, so says

Villanueva, 21, has a .285/.356/.421 batting line in 425 plate appearances with Class A Myrtle Beach this year. The third baseman entered the 2012 season as the 100th-best prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America. He has a .286/.350/.438 batting line in four minor league seasons.


Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 1)

Whoa! The 2012 MLB season snuck up on us like a new Rihanna LP – unexpected and yet, we’re incredibly happy it’s here. Like, way too happy.

As is tradition with the birth of every new season, we’re greeting it on MAMBINO like you would any old friend; with incredibly invasive questions, exploring the greatest weaknesses, storylines and potential surprises in the next year.

We’ve rounded up the MAMBINO stable better than Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern could, and written down some questions that HAD to be answered before the 2012 MLB season kicks off in earnest next week (yes, I realize that we’re ignoring “Opening Day” which is an opening series in Japan with the A’s and Mariners that started last Wednesday. No disrespect to my Japanese forefathers, but we’re pretending that baseball isn’t going on yet because those two teams are glorified Triple A squads. It’s not about Japan. For real. It was 80 years ago, everyone’s gotten over it).

Is the Phillies’ window closing? 

Pucklius: So here’s a fun fact for you. The Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies and some baseball-like organization known as the “New York Mets” all finished with losing records last year. Here’s another fun fact for you. All of these teams scored more runs last season than the Philadelphia Phillies.

As far as I can tell, prognosticators tabbing the Phillies for a sixth consecutive NL East title are doing so out of sheer habit and laziness while ignoring the fact that the Braves have been rising for years and the Marlins, who won’t be as good as Jeffrey Loria thinks but will still be good, have a solid crop of young talent (Josh Johnson, GianCarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison) that has been overshadowed by the big name free agent signings (Jose Reyes, Mark Beurhle) as well as some guy named Hanley Ramirez, all of which has closed the gap considerably. The Phillies meanwhile have an almost ancient short stop in Jimmy Rollins, an aging Chase Utley, who hit a paltry .259 last season and won’t be healthy for the start of this one, and a grand total of one player, Hunter Pence, who had a plus-.300 batting average (.314) or a plus-.500 slugging percentage (.502). Meanwhile, Ryan Howard, who according to recent sabermetric-centric story in ESPN Magazine doesn’t help a team that much more than he hurts one anyway, won’t even play until as late as June following a torn Achilles tendon on the final out of Philadelphia’s 2011 postseason. Essentially, this means that if you somehow manage to get lucky and score 4 or 5 runs against the Phillies remarkable starting rotation you probably have a pretty decent chance of beating them — and in the pitchers nightmare that is Citizens Bank Park, scoring 4 or 5 runs isn’t something a competent Major League offense should find all that hard to do. Just imagine what that offense will put up when it finds itself in places where batting average and runs created go to die like Citi Field or Petco Park.

I should note that Philadelphia did win 102 games last season — and outscored opponents by a league-best 184 runs — but those numbers are almost entirely a result of a stellar pitching rotation. Now, that rotation is stellar, and far be it from me to question the abilities of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, but Roy Oswalt is gone and Vance Worley, who struggled last September, and Joe Blanton are the likely men to jump into his position. They do not inspire the same kind of fear and th… Read more...

Yu Darvish by the numbers – How good is this guy?

By now, some of you have heard the name Yu Darvish. The only thing that most people know is that the Texas Rangers just spent $51.7 million dollars just to TALK TO THE GUY. If they can agree on a contract, Darvish would be released by his Japanese team (the mighty Nippon Ham Fighters), the $51.7 million would be paid to them (much like a buyout for any contract) and then Darvish would be free to sign a new, pre-negotiated contract with the Texas Rangers. If all went well, you’d see Darvish on a mound in Arlington in April.

So…who the hell is this guy?

Darvish’s life story sounds like a bad improv student nervously rambling on and on about a character they just made in their head. However, none of this is untrue: Darvish was born 25 years ago to a Iranian father and a Japanese mother who met at a small college in St. Petersburg, Florida. Darvish was then raised in Japan, where he grew up playing baseball. In Japan, high school baseball has a following akin to how we follow college football or basketball. The nation watches high school championship playoffs similar to how we park it in front of the television during bowl games in December. Japan becomes transfixed on these young men just as they are starting puberty (that sounded wrong, but I’m not apologizing), scrutinizing the play of a 16 year-old in the local paper and simultaneously memorizing his statistics. Darvish ended his high school career with unworldly numbers: a 1.10 ERA, with 375 strikeouts in only 67 contests.

The next year Darvish was drafted straight out of high school by the Hokkaido-Nippon Ham Fighters. At the time, the Ham Fighters were one of the also-ran teams in Japan – not quite the mighty Tokyo Yomiuri Giants (the New York Yankees of the Japan League with 21 Japan Series titles and 33 pennants) or the dominant Seibu Lions (similar to the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League, with 13 titles and 21 pennants). While they enjoyed some success in Tokyo as co-tenants to the city with the Giants, they only enjoyed 2nd-tier status, akin to the pre-1980’s New York Mets, or the eternal (or maybe not) standing of the Los Angeles Clippers. Only after a move to Sapporo on the continents Northern shores were the Ham Fighters able to find postseason success. Their rise to prominence coincided with Darvish’s entrance into the majors, and I believe their franchise progress was more than just a lucky happenstance.

Darvish went on to have one of the most dominant careers in the history of Japanese Professional Baseball, beginning at the age of 18 years-old. After breaking into the bigs in 2007, Yu not only flourished as a starter, but helped the team continued its run of success in Sapporo. The Ham Fighters won two more pennants with Darvish anchoring the rotation, and in the process becoming national darlings – both the team and the pitcher. Yu became a household name, but not just because of his play on the diamond. Darvish, already exotic due to his Iranian-Japanese make-up, was made all the more striking with a 6’5″ frame and rangey extremeties. In the homogenous nation of Japan, where 98% of the population is made up of full-blooded natives, Darvish’s good looks only extended the country’s fascination with his uniqueness. He is one of the few professional athletes in the world of his stature that pursued an offseason career (period), let alone a career as a professional model. By the age of 22, Darvish was one of the most well-known people in Japan.


Getting back to the sport itself, Yu…

Adrian Beltre just got handed $80 million dollars

….or 96 million if his 6th year option vests.

96 million for Adrian Beltre. Read my blog Nolan Ryan!!!!! Read it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My bet for Beltre’s stat line next year:

156 games, 17 HR, 91 RBI 75 Runs, .260/.330/.470. Write that down. This is league average. For an average salary of $16 million a year! C’MON NOLAN RYAN!!!!!! I can’t wait until I’m a GM.

I fucking hate Adrian Beltre.…