Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chatting W/ Evan Grant

One thing I want to make sure I try to do is to fill the voids around here. So, in that line of thinking, who is someone that rarely emerges from seclusion to share his thoughts of the Rangers with us?

Evan Grant. Exactly! Last night, while we both watched the Rangers-Boston game, we thought I would fire a few Rangers topics that were on my mind in his general direction for another award-nominated 60-minute chat.

Bob: I want to ask you for your best theories about the hitting around here. Frankly, the numbers are quite staggering for this roster for the better part of the year. .255 as a team? Impossible!

Evan: My best thinking cap answer is that we are seeing teams have to pitch to the Rangers like runs matter for the first time in a long time and they are actually putting some thought and effort into their pitch sequences. The Rangers have been slow to adjust. Then there are these facts: The bottom of the order was going to be a trouble spot if Chris Davis didn't have the same year as 2008. Josh Hamilton has gotten himself out. And, yes, Kinsler has been a little wild in his approach.

Evan: That said, I'm sitting here at Rangers-Red Sox. And Red Sox are supposed to be so patient. They've swung at more first pitches than Rangers tonight.

Bob: Interesting theory about other pitchers putting more thought into it...Hadn't considered it, but that is non-linear of you.

Evan: It's been mentioned to me by a couple of folks smarter than I. It makes some sense, though, I'd think when the Rangers were more dangerous, teams would spend more time worrying about how to pitch their offense. It is the ultimate irony, though, isn't it.

Bob: By the way, we were talking about Rudy again on the show. I cannot think of anything that is more worthless to me than hearing that "all the players swear by him". Do you see how crazy that seems when you think about it?

: I do put some stock in it. It's not like when you ask players about him, they endorse him; the players seek you out to tell you that. They obviously trust in him. Trust is such a huge factor in coaching. It's the biggest obstacle, I think, standing between coaches and players.

Bob: Let me explain...

Bob: Players get paid way more for power than they do for base to base type hitting. So, they improve the big power and they get paid. Doesn't mean it equates to efficient offense that helps you win games. It means they get paid next time. Players are bound to "like" things that make them more money.

Evan: That may be true, but look at all the players who have improved pretty much across the board here. Guys see improvement in their performance, period.

Bob: But when this team swings from its heels and waits for 3 run HR's, this team doesn't play winning offensive baseball...working counts...moving the runners over..etc. Get em on, get em over, get em in is not sexy.

Evan: What I'm stumped on right now is that the idea is to better recognize pitches, to see them longer and thus to make good decisions on swings and swing paths. Right now, that certainly isn't happening across the board.

Evan: But look at this offense. How many really established professional hitters are there in the lineup. Young. Kinsler perhaps. Hamilton has really one full year. There is a lot of inexperience to exploit and I think pitchers have taken advantage of that.

Bob: Is my theory true, that Rudy would be the last to actually come under fire from management? Because of his success, it seems they look to him last - even after the manager and GM. Crazy, but true. He is even more entrenched than Coach Joe was in his Heyday.

Bob: You are spot on about the inexperience. That is why the organizational philosophy is under-fire from this talking head. I must just accept it when it is seasoned hitters getting themselves out, but a lineup of impressionable hitters need the proper directions instilled in them from the time they arrive.

Evan: I think in a lot of ways that's true because he's had a longer run of statistical success here. But I do think this season has made people question more and more and wonder about Rudy's ability to preach philosophy and not just mechanics. I think I've told you before, he's more mechanic than he is theorist. Like somebody said to me: In football, he'd make a great position coach, might struggle as a coordinator

: Actually, you would hope the proper direction had been instilled before they get to the majors.

Bob: True enough. I guess I just cannot come to terms with a hitting coach making more and having a better contract than a manager.

Bob: It is screwed up from jump

Evan: What is screwed up?

Bob: the idea that Rudy has more security than his "boss". Similar to Garrett and Wade. It upsets the apple cart. Why should a guy totally buy into his superior when he knows he has more leverage?

Evan: Well, that's a very solid point. But that is the way things were set up here. And its the same situation as the Cowboys. In both cases, the owner felt it necessary to do whatever it took to keep the position coach, even if it meant giving him more security than the manager would ultimately get.

Bob: I suppose that is my biggest beef, and that cannot be blamed on Rudy. He didn't screw up the chain of command. The suits did.

Bob: On to the next topic. The Rangers magically are granted a new owner who has some Artie Moreno money. What should be their target at the deadline if we can forget about the team being broke for a moment?

Evan: Dan Haren. But that's just make believe, too. Haren is signed through 2013 and is 28. He's the guy I would really be willing to give up a hunk of the farm for. I'd put Feliz AND Smoak in that deal. Not putting both in a Halladay deal.

Bob: Talk the masses out of Halladay. Age? Prospects? Or Contract?

Bob: Or, of course, his general refusal to play here

Evan: The only reason I'd take Haren over Halladay is youth and contract. But both guys are true, absolute No. 1 guys. You can't turn away from those guys. They are game-changers, difference-makers, rump-shakers, whatever. You dream about being able to land a Halladay at the trade deadline.

Evan: I do think, however, the no-trade clause is the biggest obstacle to getting a deal done.

Bob: What money is he seeking if he is pleased with his destination?

Evan: Hmmm. I really haven't given it thought since I'd be content to have the guy for 1.5 years here and then let somebody else sign him when he's 34+. But I'

: But I'd guess something like 5 years and 80 million?

Evan: Again though, this is not your normal cat. He really wants to stay in Toronto. How many guys can you say that about?

Bob: Do you expect any activity for the Rangers? Or, asked in a more specific manner, are they adding a dollar to their current situation without a buyer?

Evan: They are going to have to do some more creative accounting, I guess, but if they were truly unable to add salary, then they would simply be out of the trade market. There is no way for them to dump money this year in order to make it all wash out. But the interesting moment comes if Jon Daniels can put a deal together and take it to Tom Hicks. Then Hicks is going to have to approve it or reject it. If he rejects it over $$$, what is the fallout then?

Bob: the fallout is more disdain for the way this ownership path has taken things in some respects. Is there hope of an announcement coming soon? It would seem that the climate is such that this may be the only solution if the Rangers hope to build on this foundation year of 2009.

Evan: There will be no announcement this season. The best guess would be sometime during the offseason, but your worry there is that if there is no owner in place at the start of the offseason, will the club be paralyzed in being able to build on this year?

Bob: once again, pretending that money is no object, what prospects are off-limits enough for JD to hang up the phone in mid call?

Evan: Assuming Andrus is no longer a prospect and is entrenched in the lineup, I think Smoak and Martin Perez are as close to deal-killers as possible. I think he'd have to at least listen - perhaps holding the phone at arm's length - if someone wants to discuss Holland and/or Feliz.

Bob: interesting take. So, the 18 year old Perez would be harder to pry away from you than Feliz or Holland? Isn't that backwards?

Evan: Not if you feel the 18 year old Perez has a higher ceiling, could advance through the farm system quickly (but not rushed) and you believe you have enough pitching depth at the upper levels. It's amazing what avenues pitching dept opens up.

Bob: OK, but if the goal is to hold your assets and build a rotation, shouldn't we focus? Forgive me if John Danks and Volquez are on my brain right now.

Bob: Do you think Kinsler is mis-cast as a leadoff man? When you boil it down, 40 HR/100 RBI middle infielders are pretty rare. Should he not be a 5 or 6 hitter who drives the ball? What if he is a .260 hitter? Isn't this more of an issue of the Rangers not having an ideal leadoff?

Bob: And don't think I am pleased with some of his empty AB's, but I remember Jeff Kent and Ryno Sandberg as guys who were boppers at 2B

Bob: of course, they are both .290 career hitters. Let's go with Dan Uggla.

Evan: He wasn't miscast last year when he hit .319 and had a .375 OBP. He's had a poor year when it comes to batting average and doing the things you typically think of as leadoff guy skills. But he did it last year very, very well. I don't have any problems with him as a leadoff hitter, but would like to see a return to something closer to last year with a higher OBP. Doesn't have to be a .300 average, but he needs to hit

Bob: Do you buy the comps? Or are they off?

Evan: I don't think of him in the mold of any of those guys. He's got more foot speed. Roberto Alomar? Too much?

Bob: better hitter (.300) worse power, but I like it.

Evan: I was thinking Bret Boone, but there's a lot of gray area there.

Bob: Should we save some for next time when the mighty MJH joins us?

Evan: Let's call it a night. Got to get back to game.

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