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Nolan Ryan, Rangers Providing Parking Refund for Overcharged Fans

When the new Texas Rangers ownership took over, their goal was to follow the Arte Moreno model of fan-friendliness and a family environment at the ballpark. Much like Moreno, their first step was to cut beer prices and parking. As much as I can’t stand the Rangers, I have to recognize and applaud Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan for doing right by the fans, just like I did with Moreno.

SI Hot Clicks informed us that the Rangers raised parking prices from $10 to $15 around the ballpark for the ALCS. There was negative backlash from the fans as you could imagine, so Nolan Ryan decided to step in and order the prices go back to $10. Additionally, he took the extra step of saying the team would refund fans who spent $15 to park in Game 1 of the ALCS.

In a day where we’re hearing parking prices around Fenway Park could rise to $40 and the Cleveland Browns are charging fans to walk into a parking lot to tailgate, any action that is fan-friendly will be applauded. I hope other teams can take a cue from Ryan’s actions and realize the goodwill established with your fans will be greatly publicized when you do something right.

Ron Washington Pulled C.J. Wilson Too Early and Bullpen Blew it for Texas

If you’re a Texas Rangers fan walking out of the Ballpark in Arlington or done watching Game 1 of the ALCS on TV, you have to be asking yourself “how the heck did that just happen?” The Rangers were up 5-0 in the 7th and on absolute cruise control against the Yankees but wound up losing 6-5. The momentum change in the game was unreal and could cost Texas a chance at the series. Fans are lucky they have their manager Ron Washington to blame for things unraveling so quickly.

Starting pitcher C.J. Wilson was awesome for the first six innings of the game and only got touched up by Robinson Cano who hooked a change up around the right field foul pole for a home run. After the home run in the 7th, Wilson got the next three batters out. Then in the 8th, Wilson allowed an infield hit to Brett Gardner who beat out a ball in the 3-4 hole. Derek Jeter hit a hard ground ball down the left field line right after that, scoring Gardner from first. It was one of the few hard-hit balls Wilson allowed the entire game, yet Ron Washington thought that was the proper time to remove his effective starter. Wilson left with a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the 8th with Derek Jeter at second. And that’s when everything fell apart for the Rangers.

Lefty Darren Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to load the bases. Washington pulled Oliver after 13 pitches in favor of Darren O’Day who gave up a laser by Alex Rodriguez that scored two making it 5-4. The very next pitch, Robinson Cano smashed a line drive up the middle off reliever Clay Zapada to score Teixeira and tie the game. Keep in mind that’s two pitchers who made two pitches and gave up three runs. Washington then figured Derek Holland could be the answer. Holland gave up the go-ahead single to Marcus Thames but managed to get the next three men out, not to mention pitch a scoreless 9th. By that time it didn’t matter because the damage had been done.

Ron Washington went through five pitchers in the 8th inning. C.J. Wilson left with a 5-2 lead and only a man on second but Washington thought it was time to pull him. Maybe next time he’ll let his starter keep going, and maybe next time the rest of the bullpen will do their jobs.

Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Rangers Celebrate With Ginger Ale So Josh Hamilton Can Join the Fun

This has to be one of the more admirable instances of team unity I’ve ever seen in sports.  It may not seem like a big deal to the outsider, but to Josh Hamilton it means a ton.  After another dominating performance by Cliff Lee helped Texas advance to the ALCS, the Rangers celebrated with Ginger Ale in the clubhouse instead of the traditional champagne and beer.

As you probably know, Hamilton has battled drug and alcohol problems and wisely chose not to participate in the AL West-clinching celebration with his teammates because he didn’t want to be around alcohol.  “Everybody yelled ‘Ginger ale!’ and I just jumped in the middle of the pile and they doused me with it,” Hamilton said of the celebration. “It was the coolest thing for my teammates to understand why I can’t be a part of the celebration, and for them to adapt it for me to be a part of it says a lot about my teammates.”

I’m sure the players went out and partied like they normally would after the ginger ale showers, but I thought the gesture was great.  If anyone deserves their own special celebration, it’s your MVP candidate who hit .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBI in the regular season.  On to the Yankees…

Photo: Twitter user the_hereford

MLB Playoff Preview: American League

The National League playoff picture has yet to become clear, with only the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies looking comfortably ahead of their division rivals. As such, we’ll take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the American League powerhouse teams where the playoff picture is more clear.

The truth is, predicting who will win the World Series, even when picking from eight teams, is a crap shoot at best. The five and seven game series can easily go either way and the better teams, as proven by the 162-game schedule, rarely have any significant advantages over such a short span.

A few points of particular interest, when looking at playoff contenders, are their strengths or weaknesses in the secret sauce categories. During the eight team, Wild Card-era of baseball, teams that have had the most success have three things in common: strikeout pitchers, good team defense and a good closer (all of these are adjusted for ballpark and competition and all that junk).

Each win in the playoffs is that much more valuable, so closers often get extended for two and even three innings while good defenses keep games close. Good offensive teams do not have a significant edge in the playoffs because they face more power pitching and rarely get to see number four or five starters.

So how do the American League teams stack up? Let’s find out:

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Fan Falls From Second Deck At Rangers Game, Said to Be in Stable Condition

Very scary stuff from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Tuesday night as a fan fell from the second deck to the seats below reaching for a foul ball.  Fortunately, the man is said to be in stable condition and these types of occurrences are surprisingly rare.  The game between the Rangers and Indians was stopped for 16 minutes when the incident occurred and fans, players, and the umpiring crew were visibly rattled. Here’s a video of the incident, which shows the reactions when it happened and not the actual fall (so don’t worry too much if you’re squeamish or don’t want to see it happen).  It’ll certainly give you an idea of how shaken up everyone was by it:

Fingers crossed that everything turns out OK for the fan.

Sources:
Fan Falls From Stands At Rangers Game [Deadspin]
Video Credit: YouTube user davedog128

Nolan Ryan Whipping the Rangers’ Young Pitchers into Shape

Compared to the old days, or even when Nolan Ryan pitched, the hurlers these days are pussies. That’s putting the Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia, Brandon Webb crowd aside considering those dudes actually make efforts to finish off their games on a regular basis. I’m not saying the way we handle pitchers these days is a bad thing, but I am saying that somewhere along the line pitch counts, Dr. James Andrews, and guaranteed contracts took the place of rosin bags, chewing tobacco, and rubber arms. Thankfully the Texas Rangers still have Nolan Ryan to guide the new generation through the wussied waters. Mr. Express is putting 10 of the youngest, more-promising arms in the Rangers’ system through a conditioning regimen:

On the third day of conditioning camp at The Ballpark in Arlington on Wednesday, the 10 young pitchers the Rangers summoned for this occasion had still yet to throw a baseball.

By the end of the day Friday, the last day of camp, the number of pitches that will have been thrown still will be the same: zero.

That’s the one thing many of the durable pitchers share in common: strong legs from good conditioning. Isn’t that something those big Texans like Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens had in common? Well, that and maybe they shared something else too. For people who consider themselves so medically advanced, it’s amazing to see how many pitchers go down with injuries these days. Maybe Ryan’s right. Maybe they all need to start focusing their conditioning on their legs — certainly didn’t hurt for him.

Rangers Make Good Use of Rain Delay

As much as I can’t stand the Rangers — and they’re easily one of the teams I dislike the most in baseball — they’re actually becoming somewhat likable. They’re playing well, they have Hamilton who’s mashing, and Milton’s on fire, too. Plus, they have Ron Washington’s old, drunk ass managing them in between drags off his cigs and shots of Crown Royal (note: this is only what goes on in my head, not reality). What’s not to like about them? OK, they’re still an amateur ballclub always inciting crap with the Angels, so I can’t like them too much. But what they did during a rain delay at Shea Stadium on Saturday was awesome. Check out their slip and slide:

Video via FanIQ. Let’s see, I saw Milton, Hamilton, Kinsler, Michael Young, and it looked like Saltalamacchia in there, too. Not quite sure who else I missed. I like to see guys like that having fun, not taking themselves too seriously. Maybe that’s why they’re playing well — they’re actually enjoying themselves like they’re the Oakland A’s or something. And why is it that we keep getting fun moments that involve baseball tarps?