Texas Rangers: Defeat Braves, Send Willie Calhoun Down

How long can Adolis Garcia carry the Texas Rangers? Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Wiley Singleton

The Texas Rangers faced off against the two teams that played in the World Series last year. It is very rare for this to happen in any season. The Rangers did pretty well all things considered. 

Series with the Houston Astros

Game 1 – The Rangers rode a solid start from Dane “Stunning” Dunning to victory in the opening game. Adolis Garcia, Corey Seager, and Nathaniel Lowe all had two hits. Garcia continues to be electric in the field and at the dish. He is tremendously fun to watch. Garcia had three RBI too. John King, Matt Moore, Matt “MFB” Bush, and Joe Barlow all shutout the Astros lineup behind Dunning’s 5.2 IP. Unfortunately this competent display was not a preview for the rest of the series. Win 6-2

Game 2 – Taylor Hearn was outmatched by Jake Odorizzi in game two. The Rangers offense was impotent. The Rangers have been awful against right-handed pitching this season. Odorizzi is a righty that throws a ton of sliders and is thus tough on righty batters. The Rangers are far better against lefties. This is because Nick Solak and Charlie Culberson can only hit lefties and Corey Seager hits lefties better than righties despite hitting left-handed. The Rangers three hits were about as useful as Sammy Hagar in Van Halen. Loss 6-2.

Game 3 – Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, and Nathaniel Lowe all failed to reach base in the two, three, and four holes. Lowe has been the Rangers best hitter along with Garcia this season. He came up small in this game. Loss 4-3.

Game 4 – Martin Perez took a perfect game into the 7th inning of this affair and the Rangers still lost. Perez, the top prospect in all of MLB in 2011, never lived up to his potential. He has been disappointing Texans consistently for a long time like the Dallas Cowboys. Justin Verlander went blow for blow with Perez, who petered out in the 7th and gave up a run. The Rangers tied it up in the bottom of the 7th, but quickly frittered away the game in the 8th.

Matt “MFB” Bush beaned a guy then gave up a pinch hit homer to Kyle Tucker. Corey Seager homered in the 9th to make it 2-3 but it did not matter. Mitch Garver had a big strikeout in the 9th after the homer and has been awful at the plate so far this season. He was supposed to be a power source for the Rangers lineup. A catcher with pop. He has been Doug Mathis levels of inept at the plate. He will have to start hitting for the Rangers to crack .500. If Semien can break out of his slump too this team could do some serious damage on offense. As it stands, the lineup has too many holes. Kole Calhoun cannot hit. Semien and Garver are ice cold. Solak and Culberson can only hit lefties, hence the ineptitude against righty pitching. Brad Miller has been ineffective. Eli White is hitting .235. This is a shallow lineup with many weaknesses. Solak and Culberson have to be pinch hit for against righties with Kole Calhoun and Andy Ibanez. The issue is neither of those guys can hit. Skipper Chris Woodward is forced to substitute one inept player with another in an inane attempt to “play the matchup.” To be clear, Woodward is doing the right thing strategically and is an above average offensive tactician. The sick thing is he is substituting one .200 hitter for another.

Woody is doing the best he can with the pieces he was given. Woody is on track to be extended into next season. The players respect and play hard for him. This was a brutal disappointment considering the pitching performance wasted and the implication of splitting a series with the hated Astros. Kole and Willie Calhoun both went hitless in this game. So did Marcus Semien and Brad Miller. Simply put, this team does not have the pitching depth to have half of their lineup doing nothing. Lost 3-2.

Series with the defending champion Atlanta Braves

Game 1 – The Rangers, lacking starting pitching depth, especially after the injury to ace Jon Gray, threw bullpen arms at the Braves. The defending champs countered with Ian Anderson. Mr. Anderson turned in a quality start like Neo’s fight with the Agents. The Rangers trailed all game from the jump and looked outclassed. After losing 3 of 4 to the Astros, this game looked like a bleak foreshadowing for the rest of the series. Kole Calhoun led off again and failed to record a hit. Clearly, Skipper Chris Woodward is trying to “stretch the work” by adding a hitter in the leadoff spot before the solid core of Semien/Seager/Garcia. These three should always be stacked next to each other in some way. They are the three best hitters and should play over 150 games. Those three determine the fate and future of the Rangers. They are a solid core, but if they struggle the Rangers will simply never get going like David Lee Roth’s solo career. Loss 6-3.

Game 2 – Dane Stunning had the best start of his career in a performance that left the potent Atlanta lineup stunned. Stunning scattered 4 hits through 7.1 IP. This is the sort of performance that gives Rangers fans hope. Not just because they beat the defending champs, but because they saw a S Class performance from a young arm. As pointed out in previous articles, much of the Rangers success is predicated on young arms developing and performing. Dane Stunning and Taylor Hearn specifically are being asked to do a lot this season. If they can perform to an above average level, it will result in over 15 wins for the Rangers. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come with Dane Stunning. Win 3-1. 

Game 3 – The Rangers got ahead early against the Champs and did not look back. They took advantage of recent callup Kyle Muller and peppered him for 7 ER. Former Ranger Jesse Chavez, who was and is a joke, came into a bases loaded jam and gave up the most important hit of the game: a bases clearing triple to Adolis “El Bombi” Garcia.

Garcia posed with his arms crossed on third base after the backbreaking triple bounced in front of the glove of a diving Travis Demeritte. Taylor Hearn pitched 5 solid innings. In his final inning he got into trouble but worked his way out with a double play. Nathaniel Lowe played excellent first base in this rubber match. He had plenty of good scoops. Matt Moore had 2 scoreless innings after Hearn. John King and MFB shut the door behind him. Bush ran into some trouble in the 9th due to his own poor fielding, but the 7-2 lead was too comfortable to lose. Seager had 2 hits behind Garcia in the lineup, in addition to 2 walks. Semien has started slow, but Seager has been good so far this season. The Rangers had their best game of the season in front of a mostly packed house. Good defense was on display, as was timely hitting and good pitching. Taylor Hearn said this could be the turning point of the season, and he is right! Win 7-3.

Roster Trimmed Down

After the Rangers won the series against Atlanta, they had to cut down their roster from 28 to 26. Developmentally stagnant “top” catching prospect Sam Huff was sent down. Huff has not improved in years and will probably be moved to 1st base before flaming out. The other player sent down was Willie Calhoun. Calhoun was first initially acquired by the Rangers back in 2017. He was traded straight up for Yu Darvish. Calhoun was heralded as a “MLB ready prospect” that would make an immediate impact on the Rangers lineup. Minimized and forgotten were the facts Calhoun was a squat, pudgy, slow player unable to field. A career DH at 25. In other words he was obviously worthless but the Rangers targeted him despite the embarrassment of pitching riches in the Dodgers farm system.

Rangers History Lesson

The Rangers thought a squat, uncoordinated DH type with NO track record of MLB success was the man for them. The man to be dealt straight up for Yu Darvish. Darvish was revered by many Rangers fans. He was acquired in 2012 to replace Iron CJ Wilson as the staff’s ace. Darvish, in truth, was supposed to be the intellectual successor to god tier hard carry ace Cliff Lee. Lee, who the Rangers traded for at the deadline in summer of 2010, was the pitching ace the team cried out for since 1972. Lee was the sort of starter you would bet your life on. He imparted a tremendous amount of wisdom to the Rangers pitchers in his lone season with Texas. CJ Wilson took the knowledge Cliff gave him and became the ace of the beloved 2011 staff. Wilson was never a true ace and could never shake the vapid, California Cool image associated with him since his closer days. Wilson and Lee were different in one distinct way: control. CJ led the league in walks multiple years and Lee led the league in strikeout to walk ratio multiple years. 

In many ways CJ Wilson being the ace of the 2011 Pennant Winning One Strike Away team is fitting. Wilson was always sort of a flake and lacked the control and warrior mentality to hard carry a series. CJ Wilson could never be as great as Cliff Lee, but Lee helped transform CJ from a boyish late inning flamethrower to a good starter. This is relevant because calling CJ Wilson the “intellectual successor to Cliff Lee” is technically and chronologically true despite being repugnant. Wilson was asked to take the mantle of ace from Lee in 2011, the year when the Rangers had the best chance to win a World Series in their tortured 50 year history. Perhaps this was a sort of Shakesperian foreshadowing: the Rangers could never win a World Series with a dopey California flake as their ace. If the Rangers are ever to win a World Series, a man like Cliff Lee or Nolan Ryan must be the one anchoring the staff. The 2011 Rangers had nearly everything, but lacked a true ace. One can agonize about the Nelly Cruz play in game six all they want, but with a true ace maybe the series is over long before that.

This is all relevant because after the Rangers tragic fall in 2011, Darvish was signed to replace CJ Wilson, who fled to the Angels that offseason. This was a significant turning point in Rangers history. They were never the same after this and have not made it out of the first round of the playoffs since 2011. Darvish was supposed to be the future. Not just the replacement for CJ, but the Cliff Lee tier ace CJ was never cut out to be. Darvish was the most highly anticipated Japanese player to come to MLB since Ichiro. And the Rangers signed him. This was a big deal at the time and was a major turning point in the timeline of the franchise. Darvish racked up a ton of strikeouts, flirted with a no hitter, and was charismatic in his time with Texas. But he was disappointing in the playoffs. He started the first ever best of one Wild Card game and was outperformed by mediocre Joe Saunders. This grotesque loss was preceded by the most sickening regular season choke in Texas Rangers history. The Rangers needed to win one game of the final best of three against Oakland to win the 2012 division title. They lost the first two, then choked the final game away on a sickening Josh Hamilton error in center that still makes my stomach turn. 

Darvish was not a part of the 2015 reverse sweep at the hands of the Jays because he was recovering from a blown out elbow. But he was front in center in the subsequent embarrassment. Darvish was shelled beyond recognition at home by the Blue Jays offense and the Rangers were swept out of the 2016 playoffs. They have not had a winning record since that season. In many ways, the Rangers being competitive ended with the Darvish era. The Darvish era ended with Darvish being traded straight up for Willie Calhoun. No young pitching prospects. No lower level guys to gamble on developing. Just a slow corner outfielder who can’t play defense or stay healthy in his mid 20’s. It is worth pointing out all this history to understand the import and impact of the Willie Calhoun trade. He is not just some guy from the Rangers farm system who can’t hit like Leody Taveres. Big Willie was supposed to provide immediate spark and pop to the Rangers lineup. Instead he has been a detriment his entire time in Texas. A streaky, perpetually hurt “hard luck” player, Willie specializes in getting severe injuries after breaking out of his patented month-long slumps. 

Willie’s ineptitude and lack of talent is a perfect example of the sort of wheel spinning, insipid maneuvers that dominated the Rangers front office from 2016-2020. Willie was GM Jon Daniel’s way of passing the buck and not taking a risk on any prospects. Willie was supposed to have a high enough floor to be a “playable asset” in a dumpster lineup full of awful players like Rougie Odor, washed up Elvis Andrus, and perpetual disappointment Nomar Mazara. Mazara and Calhoun are one in the same. Rangers fans were told the corner outfielders would develop into elite power hitters with bad defense. The only part that came true was the bad defense. 

Willie Calhoun was given one chance after another to succeed. Not being able to use the DH spot to semi-rest a player is a huge disadvantage for a skipper. This is what happens when you have players like Willie Calhoun on your team, a man in his mid 20’s clogging up a spot meant for an aging slugger with locker room presence. Despite this tactical handicap, Woodward still found a spot for Willie in the lineup virtually every day he was healthy. The Rangers showed time and time again they wanted to play Big Willie. Willie was simply too injury prone. He has not played over 100 games his entire career. He has never batted over .270. He had half a good season in 2019 and pretends like that can be the norm. As if two months of good hitting cancels out six years of garbage. Despite the intellectually dishonest proclamations that “Willie just needs more ABs to find that 2019 form,” it is obvious he is a bust. He is an inconsistent, perpetually hurt whiner that cannot hit his weight.

He lacks mental commitment to the game. His Call of Duty addiction rivals Doc Gooden’s cocaine addiction in the late 1980’s. Calhoun is utterly obsessed with the banal, tacky shooter. Calhoun is a man who plays the grotesque, modern versions of two great games, obviously unaware of their history and what he missed. He is a symbol and personification of how far we have fallen as a society. From Black Ops 1 Summit Domination to Modern Warfare Warzone. From Domination on Ambush to day one DLC. From Search and Destroy on Terminal to permanently switching lobbies. From Josh Hamilton to Willie Calhoun. Things are so much worse than they used to be. Willie Calhoun is the human personification of this. He parades around the baseball diamond and Call of Duty servers blissfully unaware of how much better things were before he got there. After contributing nothing, Willie was sent down to AAA due to roster cuts. Calhoun sounded off in a quote that proves he has no idea how little he means to either scene. 

Now What!?!

“I know I can be a .300 hitter,” Calhoun whined, implying he had not been getting that chance for the last six years. 

Calhoun was given every chance to play and could neither stay healthy nor defend. He was slow. His arm was poor. He looked awkward in the outfield. His one job was to hit and in six seasons he did it well for a mere two months. It was not due to bad luck. It was not Woodward’s fault. Willie Calhoun failed because Willie Calhoun is a talentless failure. He will never make a splash in the CoD “scene” (which at this point equates to a bunch of crybabies who cannot cut it in Counter-Strike) nor become a good hitter. He will be forever remembered as the joke player the Rangers got in return for the intellectual successor to CJ Wilson. Only the Texas Rangers could trade for a “MLB Ready” prospect from one of deepest farm systems in baseball, give the player six seasons of playing time, and then have the failing player request a trade because he “did not get a chance.” The entire thing would be sort of funny if the Rangers could get something in return for Willie. Another “MLB ready” prospect, perhaps. The Rangers never seem to get another team’s top prospect or top young pitcher. It is always a plethora of mid tier guys, like with the Gallo trade, or garbage Calhoun. Yu Darvish was an established ace and had a ton of trade value at the time. Yet this is what the Rangers got, a lemon even a novice scout could have dismissed as highly limited. 

Willie Calhoun’s proclamation he could have been a .300 hitter if given the chance will go down in baseball history as one of the most tone deaf and absurd things ever uttered by a player. Right up there with Rickey Henderson’s “I don’t need no press now man!”

Calhoun will go down in baseball history as a nobody, but after his ridiculous comments he might have a better chance of people actually remembering him for what he has always been: A JOKE. 

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central
5/3 – @Philadelphia – 5:45 p.m.
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5/6 – @NY Yankees – 6:05 p.m.
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5/8 – @NY Yankees – 12:35 p.m.