DALLAS - Welcome to The Bullpen, a weekly collection of Rangers thoughts from Greg Tepper. Let him know what you think on Twitter, and please be gentle.
It’s the June 28th, 2017 edition of The Bullpen, the real reason Nick Martinez has started wearing stirrup socks.
My birthday was Monday. I assume your gift is in the mail.
Growing up, having a summer birthday was a bit of a bummer, since you never got to celebrate at school. But imagine being a Major League Baseball player. You have to work on your birthday! How lame is that? Of course, some baseball players thrive on the extra boost from their birthday.
Which got me thinking: which Texas Rangers have performed best on their birthday?
From a batting perspective, I’m looking at total bases. Is it the most elegant way of measuring value? No, probably not. But it gives us a decent summation of how well a hitter performed on his most special of days.
The Rangers’ all-time most prolific player on his birthday: Jim Sundberg, who notched 21 total bases in seven birthday games. The highlight of his birthday bonanza came in 1975 — his 24th birthday — when he hit a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the 8th off of the Tigers’ John Hiller in the Rangers’ eventual 11-inning walkoff win (as Tom Grieve singled home Willie Davis).
The Rangers’ most effective player on his birthday: Alex Rodriguez, who collected an astonishing 19 total bases in just three birthdays as a Ranger. His birthday highlight was his 27th birthday in 2002, when mashed two homers, including a walk-off grand slam off of Oakland’s Billy Koch, in Texas’ 10-6 win over the A’s.
Pretty good birthday, right? It’s not the best birthday in franchise history.
No, the single best birthday performance in franchise history stretches back to Washington, on Saturday, July 27, 1963 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. It was Don Lock’s 27th birthday, and he made the most of it.
Lock started the game with a first-inning sacrifice fly to give the Senators an early 1-0 lead. Next time up, Lock laced a two-run double to left in the top of the third, extending Washington’s lead to 3-0. Then, leading off the 5th, Lock walloped a solo homer off of Bob Anderson to push the lead to 5-0. Flash forward to the 7th, when Lock goes deep again, this time off of Bill Faul, making it 6-1 Senators. He came up again in the 9th, and hit one deep to left…only to be caught on the warning track by Detroit’s Rocky Colavito.
Lock’s final line on his 27th birthday: 3-4, 5 RBI, two homers, a double, and 10 total bases. It’s the greatest birthday performance in franchise history.
7 — The number of Rangers who have cracked the double-digit home run total this season. The 2016 American League West champion Texas Rangers featured just six double-digit homer hitters.
.592 — Opposing hitters have a .592 OPS against Texas pitching in situations where the pitcher is ahead in the count. That may sound pretty good, but consider that last year, that number was .515.
7,782 — Drew Robinson became the 7,782nd player in baseball history to notch at least one career home run.
Forgotten Ranger of the Week
Hey! Remember Mike Hart? The pride of Kalamazoo, Michigan was taken in the 11th round of the 1972 MLB Draft by the Montreal Expos. After toiling in the minors for a half-decade, the Rangers traded for him, sending Jim Mason to Montreal in exchange for the switch-hitting outfielder in 1978. There, he spent another year in the minors before finally getting called up to the Majors in June of 1980.
Mike Hart made his Major League debut on June 12, 1980 at Milwaukee County Stadium, batting seventh and playing center field in the Rangers’ matchup with the Brewers. He struck out to end the second inning in his first MLB plate appearance. In the fifth, he tried to bunt his way on but was thrown out by Milwaukee third baseman Sal Bando on a close play. Finally, in the 7th inning, still facing Mike Caldwell, Mike Hart hit a slow roller to shortstop, where Robin Yount couldn’t make the play in time. It was Mike Hart’s first Major League hit.
It was Mike Hart’s only Major League hit. It was Mike Hart’s only Major League start.
Mike Hart was stranded at first as the Rangers eventually lost 8-1. He would see action in four more games, as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or defensive replacement. After the June 22nd loss to Toronto, Mike Hart was sent back to the minors.
Hart was bounced around a bit, seeing time in the minor league systems of Kansas City, Baltimore, Minnesota, the Yankees and the White Sox. He hung them up in 1983 at the age of 31.
After retiring, Hart went back to school, getting his finance degree from Western Michigan. But the baseball itch was too strong — after graduating in 1987, he took a job as the manager of Baltimore’s Single-A affiliate in Newark. That would begin a 31-year career as a minor league coach and manager, including stops in Venezuela’s Winter League, the Hawaiian Winter League, the Taiwanese Major League, the San Francisco giants and, finally, as the Mets’ Single-A hitting coach in 2008.
These days, Mike Hart is a property manager in Fort Myers, Florida, where he moonlights as a hitting instructor as a local baseball academy.
Arbitrary Top 5
The five worst seasons for Rangers pitchers in home runs allowed per nine innings:
5: 2000 (1.27 HR/9)
4: 2003 (1.31 HR/9)
3: 2017 (1.38 HR/9)
2: 1994 (1.38 HR/9)
1: 2001 (1.39 HR/9)
Ballpark Food of the Week
The Never Ever Quit Sandwich, which is just a disgrace. That’s what it is. It’s a disgrace. I could tell you that it’s a cheesesteak sandwich topped with fried jalapenos, onion rings, waffle fries, fried mozzarella sticks and queso, but that’s burying the lead. The lead is that this is a disgrace and the Rangers should feel bad about it. You can find this monstrosity in the Rebecca Creek Saloon.
Former Ranger Watch
Max Ramirez — who was acquired when the Rangers sent Kenny Lofton to Cleveland in 2007 — is a two-time Ranger, seeing action for the 2008 squad as well as the 2010 squad, hitting four homers and logging backup catcher duty.
After 2010, he bounced around a bit, heading to Boston, then Chicago, then Houston, then San Francisco, then Kansas City, then Cincinnati, then Kansas City again. He never made it back to the Majors. These days, you can watch him as a member of the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, where he can be seen catching former MLB pitchers like Kyle Drabek and Manny Corpas.
Unrelated YouTube Video of the Week
Here is a video of a police officer’s actions caught on body camera, and I must warn you, viewer discretion is advised.
Elvis Andrus Emoji Watch
Elvis Andrus loves emojis, so we’ll keep track of them by drawing a social media post at random and counting the emojis.
This time, we’re looking at an Instagram of Elvis celebrating his first Father’s Day with a photo of his Father. It includes just one emoji: two beers toasting.
Through nine weeks, the Elvis Andrus Emoji Count is at 32, averaging 3.5 emojis per sampled social media post.
Words of Wisdom from Jose Canseco
Every week, we’ll close out The Bullpen by taking time to enjoy the thoughts of former Ranger Jose Canseco, because we have so much he can teach us.
“Mermen do not exist because mermaids are a hermaphroditic species” — Jose Canseco, via Twitter
See you next week in The Bullpen!
If your birthday present to Greg got lost in the mail, the least you can do is follow him on Twitter @Tepper.
© 2017 WFAA-TV