As memorable as the Mavericks series-clinching win over the Thunder was, the one I'll always remember is the Dallas theft of Game 4 on Monday night. I was on my way back to Austin from the Ballpark, having just watched Alexi Ogando and the Rangers -- reinforced at last by Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz -- dispatch the White Sox in an absurd two hours and five minutes with a 5-hit shutout. I hadn't heard of an American League game being played in around two hours that didn't involve Walter Freaking Johnson. In any event, between the pace of the game and checking the basketball score between innings, nobody in Section 230 had time to piss, and I unwisely eschewed the post-game pit stop in an effort to get to the car and dial up the Mavs.
With about a minute left in regulation, I was somewhere between Hillsboro and Waco when nature collided with Dirk Nowitzki in the front seat of my Yukon. Since Dirk was unstoppable down the stretch, nature had to yield.
So it was that I pissed in an empty water bottle in a moving vehicle for the first time since college. That would be 20+ years ago. Much to my surprise, sobriety appears to compound the standard degree of difficulty associated with this maneuver -- I thought the opposite would be true. (Stream control issues shouldn't begin to surface in your early 40s, right?) I was necessarily forced to get the car detailed on Tuesday, and I'm sending an invoice to the peerless Chuck Cooperstein. Great call of a great game. (How did we manage to live before satellite radio?) Anyway, enough of the bladder report.
We talked in this space two weeks ago about the Rangers grinding their way through injuries and bullpen breakdowns while somehow surviving at or near the top of the AL West, which is where they sit on today's off-day after taking 2 of 3 from the ChiSox. The best grinders make the post-season, and the Rangers had better be able to bear down even more. After hosting the Royals this weekend, the Rangers face a brutal stretch of 17 of their next 20 games on the road against opponents that are collectively playing .543 baseball.
The gauntlet starts with three at Tampa Bay followed by four at Cleveland, where the Warriors of the Cuyahoga are a stupid 19-6 at home. After Detroit visits Arlington June 6-8, the Rangers hit the road for a 10-spot: four at Minnesota, three at Yankee Stadium and four at Atlanta. The floundering Twins excepted, that's four road opponents playing at a combined .560 clip. The schedule doesn't soften appreciably until the Astros and Fred Wilpon's Non-Stars come to Arlington at the end of June to get reaquatined with sweating.
At the same time, the Rangers 3 AL West rivals will be playing relatively balanced home and road schedules against opponents that are playing a combined .512. Granted, none of these three are currently setting the world on fire (and if they were, the Rangers would have been in trouble already). Seattle, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels of Baja Yorba Linda are all offensively-challenged, but they also have three of the best starting rotations in baseball. This should enable them to hang around at least through the All-Star break, and in one or two cases, maybe much longer (if the Oakland clubhouse doesn't spontaneously combust before then).
Last season, the Rangers separated themselves from the pack with a 21-6 June. That's not likely to be the case this year. The Rangers best mid-summer "moving days" are probably the end of June (9 games against the Astros and Mets provide a feasting opportunity) through July, when the club has a home-heavy schedule.
Here's a WAG: if Jon Daniels is going to make moves to bolster the bullpen, the near-term strength of Texas' schedule may force him to pull the trigger on a deal or two earlier than he might otherwise prefer.
I'll have a post up before the end of the holiday weekend on the state of the club overall heading into the first of these murderous road trips. In the meantime, here's a glance at the division schedules during the time period discussed above. (Note: the Rhadigan news was a late addition to this post, so it was tacked on to the end in the interest of time.)
AL WEST BETWEEN MAY 30 -- JUNE 19
TEXAS: 17 road; 3 home (3 @ TB, 4 @ CLE, 3 vs. DET, 4 @ MIN, off day, 3 @ NYY, 3 @ ATL). Strength of schedule: .520
LOS ANGELES ANGELS: 9 road; 9 home (3 @ KC, 3 vs. NYY, 3 vs. TB, 4 vs. KC, 3 @ SEA, 3 @ NYM). Strength of schedule: .504
SEATTLE: 7 road; 13 home (3 vs. BAL, 4 vs. TB, 3 @ CWS, 4 @ DET, 3 vs. LAA, 3 vs. PHI). Strentgth of schedule: .519.
OAKLAND: 10 road; 9 home (3 vs. NYY, 3 @ BOS, 3 @ BAL, 4 @ CWS, 3 vs KC, 3 vs. SF). Strength of schedule: .512.
Rhadigan Canned; Barnett Takes Over in TV Booth
A few hours ago, the Rangers mercifully ended John Rhadigan's tenure as the team's television play-by-play voice. Dave Barnett, until now serving as Eric Nadel's #2 in the radio booth, moves over to the TV PBP slot.
Rhadigan is by all accounts a nice guy, but I'll always remember him as one of the twin oafs of FSN Southwest with Ric Renner (who is, by the way, the far oafier of the two). The boards are hopping with criticism of the Rangers for hiring a guy with no PBP experience to replace the shunned Josh Lewin, but Rhadigan has to shoulder some of that blame himself.
All of his corny bullshit aside, the biggest problem with Rhadigan was that he was consistently unprepared. I don't mean prepared in the sense that he should have called a game with the effortless ease of Nadel. That's a skill honed by season after season of painstaking craftwork and a shitload of self-criticism. I mean unprepared as in he evidently didn't bother to do his homework (at least beyond perusing the game notes handed to him by the media relations department that afternoon). His lack of experience notwithstanding, I think it's reasonable to expect anyone in that position to have a thorough understanding of the rules of baseball and to have spent a considerable amount of time studying the players on the team he covers. That’s Journalism 312 stuff.
I also wonder if he spent any time reaching out to other established PBP guys to get, well, some basic pointers. It seems like some of the simple fundamentals totally escaped him — like watching the outfielders instead of the ball when you’re trying to gauge how deep a ball is hit. I kept getting the feeling that his troubles were being compounded by "unforced errors," that, one would think, could be partially mitigated by thorough preparation.
A lot of fans seem to be giving Rhadigan somewhat of a break because the Rangers knew he’d never done this before when they hired him. That’s certainly true -- the club deserves the lion's share of the blame for tapping an unqualified candidate. But it’s one thing to give a professional their first shot at another aspect of the business that they’ve never done before, and another thing altogether for that person to create the impression that they didn’t put in the necessary time to get as ready as they possibly could to do the job at least passably. Admittedly, I have no knowledge of what Rhadigan did or didn’t do to prepare, but in my opinion, he certainly left the impression that he didn’t do as much as he could have done. Whether or not we like to admit it, we've all been in that position before at one time or another in our professional lives. The unfortunate thing for Rhadigan is that he's now in that spot in a very public way. I wish it had turned out differently for him, and for the club.
That said, I wish Dave Barnett the best -- but if I'm not at the Ballpark, it's going to be awful hard to stop muting the TV and listening to Nadel.