Cruz-ing to Another World Series: Rangers-Tigers ALCS Game 5 Preview and Open Thread

Categories: Sports

Nelson_Cruz_070710_Merten.jpg
Photos by Sam Merten
Nelson Cruz giving me a free ticket to the gun show last year.
As the trade deadline approached in July 2006, it seemed inevitable that Jon Daniels would make a bold move to bolster a mediocre offense in his first season as general manager.

He targeted the best hitter on the market -- Carlos Lee, an established 30-HR, 100-RBI slugger. And Lee was well on his way to another such season at the deadline, clubbing 28 homers and driving in 81 runs in his second year with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Of course, had Daniels not dealt Alfonso Soriano, who would mash 46 HR with 41 SB and 95 RBI in '06, to the Washington Nationals seven months earlier for Armando Galarraga, Terrmel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson, adding Lee wouldn't have made sense.

The price for Lee, whose contract, like Soriano's, expired at the end of that year, was high: closer Francisco Cordero, who was slumping at the time but had saved 49 games for Texas in '04 and 37 in '05; Kevin Mench, an high-energy player who hit 26 HR in '04 and 25 more in '05; Laynce Nix, a 25-year-old with the potential to be an everyday center fielder; and Julian Cordero, a 22-year-old left-handed prospect.

But Daniels didn't want to be left empty handed if Lee bolted somewhere else in the offseason, so he convinced former Rangers GM Doug Melvin to include 25-year-old Nelson Cruz, who was hitting .302 with 20 HR, 73 RBI and 17 SB for Milwaukee's Triple-A club.

Coco Cordero was productive in his one and a half seasons with the Brewers, but he was gone by the time they made it to the playoffs in 2008, having inked a four-year, $46 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds at the end of '07. Mench would hit only nine more career homers after the trade, while Nix became a solid fourth outfielder with the Reds and Nationals after playing in only 30 games in two and a half seasons with the Brewers. And Julian Cordero would never find his way to the big leagues.

Although Lee hit .322 for Texas with nine home runs and 32 RBI, he wasn't the offensive juggernaut Daniels had hoped for, so he watched as Lee signed a six-year, $100 million deal with the Houston Astros in the offseason. Daniels used the compensation pick from Houston wisely, drafting Irving right-hander Blake Beavan, who he would later use in a trade to acquire another Lee -- Cliff.

Cruz seemed on a Chris Davis-like career path, as he continued to post great numbers in the minor leagues while struggling to translate that success to the majors. Things got so bad, in fact, that Daniels put Cruz on waivers before the 2008 season. Anyone could have had him, but no organization saw him as worthy of a roster spot, much less the future All-Star and postseason hero he'd become. So he stayed here instead and became a Rangers legend.

It wasn't as exciting as his Game 2 walk-off grand slam, and it wasn't as important as his Game 1 blast off Justin Verlander, which proved to be the game winner. But last night's three-run shot -- which, incidentally, completed the postseason home-run cycle for Cruz -- cemented his place in the Rangers Hall of Fame no matter what happens in his career from this point on.

Nelson_Cruz2_070710_Merten.jpg
Hard not to have a sports crush on this guy.
I've watched the multiple-angle montage of Cruz's homer at least two dozen times. And I don't see myself getting tired of it anytime soon.

Cruz is now hitting .281 with 10 HR and 20 RBI in just 89 postseason at-bats, including .353-6-14 in 34 ALCS at-bats. He's officially a baseball deity in North Texas.

Over the past couple years, I've written a lot of words in defense of Jon Daniels because I've felt like he's become one of the top GMs in the game. Now I'm convinced he's the best.

The Cruz acquisition is merely one in a lengthy list of franchise-changing moves by JD. Look at this club and tell me how many players you can find that haven't been touched by Daniels. Sure, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler were here before Daniels, but he signed both to contract extensions and refused to deal Young for peanuts when he asked to be traded two separate times. Feldman was already here too, but, once again, Daniels signed him to an extension. And the decision to put C.J. Wilson into the rotation was a move that wouldn't have happened without Daniels.

Everyone else has been either drafted, traded for or signed as a free agent by Daniels, which, far as I'm concerned, is more than enough to forgive JD for the Soriano, Adrian Gonzalez and John Danks trades. And say with confidence that he currently holds the title as best GM in baseball.

Disagree? Maybe this highlight clip of Napoli from last night will change your mind.

This afternoon, it's a rerun of C.J. Wilson v. Justin Verlander, whose name, face and stats dominated last night's Fox broadcast. Just like Saturday (and seemingly every game this series), there's rain in the forecast again, which could result in a third time this postseason that Verlander has had one of his starts affected by rain. Another delay would be a huge benefit to Texas, even if Verlander returns afterward, but here's hoping Game 5 concludes without pausing for weather.

After all, despite Fox painting Verlander as the reincarnation of Bob Gibson, he's no Superman, as I mentioned in my series preview. That gig already belongs to Señor Boomstick.

One more win. Just one more win.

Quick Hits

-- Unless Jim Leyland is bluffing, he claims Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde aren't available today. To me, that neutralizes Verlander on the mound. And it makes the Rangers bullpen even more valuable. Even though Wash said he'd like to avoid using Ogando, it's all hands on deck for Texas with the potential to win the pennant.

-- Obviously, there's a lot of talk out there about Wash's decision to walk Miguel Cabrera. As I said in yesterday's thread, I wouldn't have done it. However, the bottom line is Mike Adams stepped up, as did Nellie with a terrific throw and Napoli holding on after Cabrera tried to knock the ball free. No damage done, and not nearly as confusing as Wash's decision to keep Colby Lewis on the mound in Game 3.

-- For those wondering about Cruz's contract status, he's under club control for two more arbitration years. He'll be 33 when he's eligible to hit free agency, so there's need to ink him to a costly, long-term contract. Napoli, who turns 30 at the end of the month, has one more year of arbitration before he reaches free agency at the end of next season. Unlike Cruz, I would hope there's a big push to get him signed to a long-term deal after the World Series.

-- I'm still lost as to why Mitch Moreland didn't pinch hit for Yorvit Torrealba in last night's game, both with two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth and again leading off the 10th. But he's in the lineup tonight, with Torrealba benched and Young back at DH.

-- I've already made my case for a new lineup, but I feel compelled to adjust given Beltre's gimpiness and Cruz's performance.

1. Kinsler
2. Young
3. Napoli
4. Cruz
5. Hamilton
6. Beltre
7. Murphy
8. Andrus
9. Moreland

Wash continues to be stubborn with the lineup. Perhaps he'll change his mind in the World Series.

-- I think I'm still in shock that Leyland intentionally walked Beltre, who anyone can see is not himself, to get to Nappy, who hit .429 in September and .372 with runners in scoring position during the season. That's much more confusing than Wash's decision to walk Cabrera.

-- Once they dispose of Detroit, Texas will be the first AL team with back-to-back World Series appearances since the Yankees from 1998 to 2001.

-- Napoli is the first player since both leagues began recording caught stealings in 1951 to throw out a runner attempting to steal and drive in the game-winning run in the same postseason game, both in extra innings, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

-- Cruz trails only Carlos Beltran (11) with the most homers in the first 24 games of his postseason career. Also, I mentioned earlier that he hit for the homerun cycle in his postseason career. He's just the 14th player in history to do so.

See y'all in the comments!


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416 comments
Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

One last thing for you ladies, it ain't a series til the home team loses..this my friends is what I call a series..and taking 1 outa 3 in The Motor city..is all we needed to do. (See Mavs run to the title 2011)

And..everyone needs to read "The Invisible Fastball" in the SI Vault.

The Shockers
The Shockers

How did I do last week in Fantasy bitches?

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Gay not Gay? Xfactor ain't bad..(kiddoes danced alot of energy off, screw y'all)

cactusflinthead
cactusflinthead

Missed another open thread. Oh well hell. Saturday it is. Does Uehara have a can of gas with him when he goes to the mound? I wonder what sort of talk there is of him over on the other side of the big pond. CJ is costing himself money. I do not know why he has pitched so poorly.I sure hope the Dutch Oven can locate his fastball this time around. Or at least attempt the occasional curve, slider, off speed something or another. Sometimes I wish pitchers wore shock collars and when they are being idiots give them the zap. Shaking me off are ya? Well shake this off. Are we on the same page now? Good, we can proceed. 

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Verlander tells Bow Tie he'll be available to pitch in relief if there's a Game 7.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

FYI: Lowest priced tix for Saturday on Stub Hub (non-standing room) are at $89.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Cabrera is to speaking eloquently as Inge is to hitting.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Perhaps I'll have something tomorrow. I wouldn't rule out a long diatribe about Wash costing his team the game. If not, I'll see everyone here Saturday before the 7:05 first pitch.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Alas, it's not meant to be. Groundout by Nappy ends it. 7-5 final.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Nap, Nap, Winner! (Nevermind, see you boys on Saturday.. I'll have a steak dinner and a good buzz working..hope Dutchoven nails that thing down)

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Beltre walks. Perfect scenario here for the Rangers, with Napoli and maybe Boomstick.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Hamilton with a double to keep Texas in the game. C'mon MY!

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

DP sends us to the ninth. Kinsler, Andrus and Hamilton up next for Texas.

Grand slam gives Texas the lead. Fingers crossed. Hard.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Hear we go boys, we need 4 runs with 4 outs to play with.

Quick hits: Ceej works better with Torr, Kins can't swing at the first pitch, and Do you pitch Dutchoven? Or Cobra? And does JD get to touch Ruth's right boob on every Cruzmissile from the Boomstick?

Simplest of minds wish to know!

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Looking forward to seeing J. Edgar. Eastwood as a director is a must-see.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

And Coke makes Torrealba look silly.

Peralta, Inge and Avila up next for Detroit.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Coke in to face Murphy and Morel...pinch hitter?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

And, big surprise, the Boomstick gets Texas back in the game -- kinda -- with a two-run bomb. 7-4 DET.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Verlander actually looking better the more pitches he throws. Not fair.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

It's strange how this year would have ended up if cops would have shot him like Miggy wanted.

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

We'd love to see an AM report mañana, Sam. I've now had a chance to read your pregames a bit..and all I have to say is: How in HELL are you outa a JOB?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Single by Young brings up Beltre as the tying run!

spurz
spurz

hey look, its adam sandler. playing adam sandler. what a career!

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Six guys. Kins leads off next inning.

By the way, Nellie's five homers this series set an LCS record.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

I pitch Dutch Oven on a short leash, with Feldman ready to toss a few innings if needed.

spurz
spurz

i'm sure you meant coke in ron's nostrils... just a pinch..

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Best deal in town for folks w no kids just coming back from Lost Wages and the Hardrock. (opulence sounds, in background?)

Sybils_Beaver
Sybils_Beaver

and to think I passed on him in the fantasy baseball draft bc I thought his Alcohol problem would get him suspended

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

Gagreed sir, question was more turned towards Dutch or Cobra? I stay the course w Dutch, no panic and Holland been better at home this year.

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

I'm glad you're in the league. Without you I'd have no wins.

spurz
spurz

THAT is disgusting!! no wait, that was randy moss. alright, tigers party tonite at bryan street!! josh is buying... coke adds life..

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Plus, you want your best postseason starter (and the only one to throw a quality start this postseason) to go in Game 7.

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