Category Archives: Ron Mahay

Mid-Season Adjusted Ex-Men Rangers Roster

(View this post at the new Rangers or Robbers site

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post (which was a follow up to a series of posts in April), here’s a look at my team of recently-departed, still-active ex-Rangers, after some mid-season adjustments to the bullpen, and picking up recently made available additions to the impressive list of talented ex-Rangers (Teixeira, Lofton, Mahay & Gagne).

Lineup (with stats to date for this season: OBP/SLG/AVG):

1.  Kenny Lofton                   OF          L    (.369/.416/.296, 7hr, 25rbi, 67r, 21sb)
2.  Alfonso Soriano               LF           R    (.336/.511/.297; 18hr; 42rbi; 74r; 18sb)
3.  Carlos Lee                        RF          R    (.356/.536/.302; 24hr; 95rbi; 68r)
4.  Alex Rodriguez               SS/3B     R    (.407/.633/.300; 39hr; 114rbi; 107r; 14sb)
5.  Mark Teixeira                1B            S    (.388/.535/.291, 17hr, 61rbi, 56r)
6.  Adrian Gonzalez             DH/1B    L    (.339/.477/.265; 19hr; 68rbi; 64r)
7.  Mark DeRosa                  2B/U      R    (.363/.418/.288; 7hr; 54rbi; 40r) 
8.  Ivan Rodriguez               C             R    (.289/.426/.279; 9hr; 50rbi; 39r)
9.  Esteban German           3B/INF   R    (.372/.399/.284;   3hr;   29rbi;   36r; 8sb)
Bench
Rod Barajas                    C            R    (.343/.376/.214; 4hr; 9rbi; 15r)
Mike Lamb                     INF       L    (.375/.478/.296; 11hr; 34rbi; 40r)
Travis Hafner                DH/1B   L    (.380/.438/.254; 18hr; 70rbi; 58r)
Gary Matthews, Jr.       OF         S    (.338/.448/.275; 14hr; 65rbi; 67r, 12sb)

Starting Rotation
Chris Young                 R          (9-4; 2.02era; 119k; 44bb; 124.2ip)
Kenny Rodgers            L          (3-2; 5.23era; 17k; 12bb; 32.2ip)
Doug Davis                  L          (9-10; 3.81era; 101k; 76bb; 146.1ip)
John Danks                 L         (6-10; 5.22era; 22GS; 122.1ip; 96k; 46bb)
Adam Eaton                 R          (9-8; 6.36era; 82k; 57bb; 133ip)

Bullpen

CL:  Francisco Cordero            R          (36sv; 0-4; 3.14era; 66k; 17bb; 48.2ip)
SU:  Eric Gagne                         R          (16sv, 2-0, 3.62era, 39G, 37.1ip. 14bb, 34k)
Ron Mahay                                L          (3-0, 2.53era, 34G, 46.1ip)
Doug Brocail                              R          (4-1, 3.88era, 44G, 53.1ip)
Brian Shouse                             L          (1-1; 2.60era; 52G; 34.2ip)          
Ryan Bukvich                           R          (1-0, 2.96era, 31G, 27.1ip)
Aaron Fultz                               L          (3-2, 3.28era, 36G, 24.2ip)

Question: Could any other team put together a better 25-man roster consisting of players that have left their organization but are still playing?

The Marlins leap to mind as they’d have a great rotation of former Marlins, but just off the top of my head, I think there offense would be very weak.

Ex-Men Texas Rangers Roster

(READ THIS POST AT THE NEW HOME OF RANGERS OR ROBBERS: http://rangersorrobbers.blogspot.com)  

 

Probably the most fun I’ve had in drafting a blog post was in April when I looked at the team that could be formed using just recently departed, still active former Texas Rangers.

The point of that series of posts was to show clearly how bad the Rangers have bled talent out of their organization. To me, doing so is a clear indicator of Hicks’ terrible ownership and lack of commitment to winning.

It’s really almost magical the way Hicks and his front offices have run the Texas Rangers into the ground over the years.

Consider this magical disappearing act: Hicks managed to turn ARod into Soriano and then turn Soriano into Wilkerson (while still paying $7 million a year to the richest team in sports for ARod’s contract). That takes some real talent to in effect turn probably the most productive hitter into one of the worst!

Anyway, I thought I’d look back at the team of former Rangers I composed back in April and see how they’re doing (keep in mind that you have to grant me some dramatic license here as the salary of this team would be very unrealistic, but that’s not the point).

Lineup (with stats to date for this season: OBP/SLG/AVG):

1.  Esteban German          3B/INF   R    (.372/.399/.284;   3hr;   29rbi;   36r; 8sb)
2.  Gary Matthews, Jr.     CF          S   (.338/.448/.275; 14hr; 65rbi; 67r, 12sb)
3.  Alfonso Soriano          LF           R    (.336/.511/.297; 18hr; 42rbi; 74r; 18sb)
4.  Alex Rodriguez           SS/3B     R    (.407/.633/.300; 39hr; 114rbi; 107r; 14sb)
5.  Travis Hafner              DH/1B    L    (.380/.438/.254; 18hr; 70rbi; 58r)
6.  Carlos Lee                  RF          R    (.356/.536/.302; 24hr; 95rbi; 68r)
7.  Adrian Gonzalez          1B/DH    L    (.339/.477/.265; 19hr; 68rbi; 64r)
8.  Ivan Rodriguez            C            R    (.289/.426/.279; 9hr; 50rbi; 39r)
9.  Mark DeRosa             2B/U       R    (.363/.418/.288; 7hr; 54rbi; 40r) 

Bench
Rod Barajas                    C            R    (.343/.376/.214; 4hr; 9rbi; 15r)
Mike Lamb                     INF         L    (.375/.478/.296; 11hr; 34rbi; 40r)
David Dellucci                 OF          L    (.301/.389/.234; 4hr; 20rbi; 25r)

Starting Rotation
Kenny Rodgers            L          (3-2; 5.23era; 17k; 12bb; 32.2ip)
Chris Young                 R          (9-4; 2.02era; 119k; 44bb; 124.2ip)
Estaban Loaiza             R          Injured all season
Doug Davis                  L          (9-10; 3.81era; 101k; 76bb; 146.1ip)
Adam Eaton                 R          (9-8; 6.36era; 82k; 57bb; 133ip)

Bullpen

CL:  Francisco Cordero            R          (36sv; 0-4; 3.14era; 66k; 17bb; 48.2ip)
SU Bryan Corey                       R          Did not make an MLB roster
LR Chan Ho Park                    R          (0-1; 15.75era; 1GS)
MR Fabio Castro                     L          (12.27era; 5G; 3.2ip)
MR Darren Oliver                    L          (4.39era; 43G; 41ip; 31k; 15bb)
MR Brian Shouse                     L          (1-1; 2.60era; 52G; 34.2ip; 20k; 11bb)           
MR Aaron Sele                        R          (3-1; 4.12era; 25G; 43.2ip; 26k; 18bb)
MR Dan Kolb                          R          (9.00era; 3G; 3ip)
 

As with any team, I would have needed to make some early season adjustments.

Loaiza’s injury would have forced me to call on Danks (LHP; 6-10; 5.22era; 22GS; 122.1ip; 96k; 46bb) to fill his spot. Doug Davis’ surprising performance would be a plus. And with the offense and defense on this team, it’s safe to assume that each pitcher (maybe even Danks) would have several more wins based on their era’s. For the post-season, Young, Rogers and Davis would likely be more than enough to get the team through. 

The bullpen would have needed some major retooling, but there aren’t as many former Rangers out there to choose from for the bullpen as you might think. Nick Masset is one guy who probably would have been added to the ‘pen. Still, with Cordero closing, and Oliver, Shouse and Sele contributing, there’s a solid core to build around. 

The lineup would have been shuffled. Lamb and German would be platooning at 3B. Hafner, Lee and Gonzalez might have been shuffled around the order, and Dellucci would likely have been demoted and replaced.   

But still, wouldn’t this be some team!  

Now imagine adding in Teixeira, Gagne, Lofton and Mahay at the trade deadline!  

How many games do you think this team wins for the season? 

Should the Rangers Sign a Free Agent Pitcher This Winter, or Not?

(View this post at the soon-to-be new home for the Rangers or Robbers blog.)

Similar to early-season views on Torri Hunter, I and many others expected the Rangers sign a Free Agent starting pitcher this next Winter to add to the rotation for 2008. But with the upsides of failing fast now in full effect at the Ballpark, I’m not sure they should.

The earliest the Rangers window for being a true contender will open is 2009. So why not let all the young arms in the Rangers organization get every chance they can with as many innings as possible in the “Bigs” to become winning pitchers for ’09 and beyond?

Millwood and Padilla are the only pitchers (and 2 of only 5 Rangers total) under contract past this season. And, with one of the league’s 5 lowest team salaries after dumping Teixeira, Gagne, Lofton and Mahay’s salaries ($22.2 million annualized), the Rangers certainly have all the flexibility and tons of money available to rebuild their rotation and fill holes in their lineup and bench.

But the Rangers also have a large collection of highly touted prospect young arms. While I’m not at all confident in the Rangers’ ability to turn prospects into winning major league starters, the law of averages has to kick in sometime. Doesn’t it? I mean, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every so often.

So would it be better for the Rangers to let the remaining 3 spots in their rotation be filled by those prospects, instead of filling one with a free agent signing?  (Of course, Millwood and Padilla’s seasons make them less than surefire long-term locks for any rotation and they could be traded away, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

I include McCarthy and Gabbard on the Rangers’ prospects list, as they still haven’t completed a successful transition to the majors and are not bona fide winning starters. Then there’s Tejeda, Loe and Wood who’ve had plenty of chances to get some traction already (not to mention Rheinecker and Koronka – who’re about out of chances). Are they worth more time in the rotation to see what could happen? Or are they meant for the bullpen? And then there’s Volquez, Hurley, Rupe, Harrison, Galarraga and Mendoza coming up from the minors.

That’s at least 13 pitchers who are touted to have various levels of major league potential. At least two or three of them should become major league winners, right? Again, the law of averages has to work in the Rangers’ favor at some point, doesn’t it.

Plus, the list of pitchers who’ll be free agents this winter doesn’t look too exciting and looks pretty old (ages for next season in parentheses: source MLB Trade Rumors):

Carlos Zambrano (27)
Curt Schilling (41)
Jason Jennings (29)
Koji Uehara (33)
Freddy Garcia (32)
Kenny Rogers (43)
Jon Lieber (38)
Bartolo Colon (35)
Joe Kennedy (29)
Tomo Ohka (32)
John Thomson (34)
Kip Wells (31)
Wade Miller (31)
Livan Hernandez (33)*
Randy Wolf (31) – $9MM club option for ’08
Paul Byrd (37) – $8MM club option for ’08
Jeff Weaver (31)
Tom Glavine (42) – $9MM player option for ’08
Kris Benson (33) – $7.5MM club option for ’08
Jaret Wright (32)
David Wells (45)
Eric Milton (32)
Kyle Lohse (29)
Matt Clement (33)
Rodrigo Lopez (32)
Josh Fogg (31)
Byung-Hyun Kim (29)
Odalis Perez (31) – $9MM club option for ’08
Brett Tomko (35) – $4.5MM mutual option for ’08

If the Rangers can sign Carlos Zambrano, they should. He’s a true ace who could at 27 could anchor the Rangers’ rotation for years. But like so many aces before him, why would he come to the Ballpark and the Rangers? It would take crazy money for him to pass on the numerous great offers he’ll get from teams who will be contending for years to come.

So, short of a miracle signing of Zambrano, I think the Rangers best move may be to stick with the arms they have and see how these prospects play out. Then they’ll have the trade deadlines next season and the winter of ’08-’09 – when they’ll have a more clear picture of what they have in the guys they have – to shore up any holes in the rotation.

The problem there is that they’ll likely still have several large holes. But we’ve got time to wait and see.

Teixeira Traded to Braves in Wasted Opportunity for the Rangers

Looks like Little Jon DanielsHart was just schooled by yet another GM – Atlanta’s John Schuerholz – in a deal, apparently pending only physicals being passed, sending Teixeira AND Ron Mahay to the Braves for C/1B Jarrod (Salty) Saltalamacchia and 18-yo Venezuelan SS Elvis Andrus plus two players to be named later – both likely young, not-major-league-ready pitching prospects (one still rumored to be 21-yo AA Lefty pure prospect Matt Harrison).

If true, this is a massive failure on the part of the Rangers and Little Jon DanielsHart!  Unless the other player-to-be-named is a major-league ready arm (which is highly unlikely), this trade fails to address the Rangers top need – Starting Pitching that has at least begun a successful transition to the major leagues. That is a failure that may well doom the Rangers to mediocrity beyond next year and into the next decade.

Meanwhile, this is a GREAT trade for the Braves. They add a power bat to spark a lineup that needs more production and they improve their bullpen immediately with Mahay’s left-arm in their bullpen.

This deal is worse than the Chris Young trade.  At least with that trade, at the time it was made, we thought we’d get a good ready-to-contribute starter in Eaton (who could have known he’d pitch so few games for the Rangers) and a closer in Otsuka. Giving up Young was short-sighted. He’d have been a major contributor here, although not the phenom he’s become in a pitching-friendly park in the pitching-friendly NL. And at the time, Adrian Gonzalez was blocked by Tex, whom the Rangers then thought would be around a lot longer. So it took a season and a half to fully see how bad that trade sucked.

This trade sucks now. It will suck tomorrow. It will suck next year. And unless the Rangers luck out and one of these very young, need a lot of work pitching prospects become our team ace, it will suck 3 and 5 years from now.

What long-term need does this deal address for the Rangers? Last I checked, we have a great SS who’s locked-up through 2013. Salty won’t be the long-term answer behind the plate according to reports of his defense and game-calling abilities.

When you have the BEST big bat on the market at the trade deadline, you MUST do better than this. Look at what the Rangers gave up for Carlos Lee last year. I guess there just aren’t any owners/GMs who are as stupid as Hicks and Daniels.

This is another deal where you have to wonder who Daniels is working for: the Rangers or the other team? It’s his third major deal (after San Diego and Milwaukee) that will make the trading partner better and do little for the Rangers.

Teixeira to Go to the Braves (or Angels… or Diamondbacks… or Dodgers… or last minute entrant)?

Just more than 32 hours left until the non-waivers trade deadline at 3p EDT tomorrow, and it’s still anyone’s guess as to where Mark Teixeira will go and for whom in return.  Based on various reports across the Internet and TV, here’s how things look at this point (with the contenders listed from most to least likely to grab Teixeira):

1. Atlanta Braves (40% likely) – Local media in Atlanta are reporting the deal as all but done. The deal appears to be Catcher-Firstbaseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Matt Harrison. A sticking point is whether the Braves will also give up Elvis Andrus or Brent Lillibridge in addition to Salty without getting a mid-reliever (they’ve been asking for C.J. Wilson but would take less).

I’m not jazzed at all about this trade as rumored. It’s way too light on pitching in return. I’ve said it dozens of times, and I’ll say it dozens more unless I’m proven wrong. The Rangers can’t develop top-of-the-rotation pitching, they can’t get top free-agent pitchers to sign up to play in The Ballpark, so they’re only real hope to develop a rotation that is championship caliber is to TRADE FOR PITCHING. Teixeira is the last best hope on the radar for the Rangers to acquire stand-out pitching in a trade, and this deal doesn’t do that. 

Harrison is pure prospect. A 21-yo Lefty at AA with a losing record. That’s not going to get the Rangers the rotation they need by ’09, which should be their target for contending.

Salty is over-rated in my book. Sorry. He skipped AAA – in my view rushed to the majors to increase his trade value. He’s done alright in 47 games for the Braves, but he’s not blowing anyone away (.284 avg, .744 ops with 4 HRs). He may be pretty good some day, but that’s a gamble. And for Tex, the Rangers should get a sure thing, not a “we think maybe.” Plus, spelling the guy’s name is a chore!

Elvis is an 18-yo Venezuelan SS playing A ball – and not hitting all that well yet (.241 avg, .659 ops. with 3 HRs in 98 games). If the Rangers are wanting to find Young’s replacement for 2014, I suggest the draft in around 2010 is a more appropriate opportunity.  

Brent Lillibridge is 23 at AAA, but also a SS who’s hitting so far is mediocre (.283 avg., .757 ops with 5 HRs in 52 games).

If the trade goes down Tex for Salty and Harrison, I’d give it an F.  If it goes Tex for Salty, Harrison and Elvis or Lillibridge, it’s a D-. And if the Rangers throw in even Mahay (much less Benoit or Wilson) to get three of those guys, it’s a surefire job-losing F- for Daniels. 

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (30% likely) – I really hope this is the deal that Little Jon Daniels and Tom Hicks are holding out for.  Word has it that 26-yo Lefty SP Joe Saunders and 24-yo lefty 1b Casey Kotchman are already on the table. Compared to the Atlanta deal, just those two (who are major-league tested) represent a better deal that what the Braves are offering. Plus, there’s been rumors that the Angels may add a third prospect (names vary) to the deal.

Saunders is in his third partial season at the major-league level, and he’s a proven winner in the AL West whose improved every year (11-3 lifetime in the bigs, with a 4-0 record and 3.16 era in 7 starts this season). That would immediately put him ahead of everyone but Millwood on the Rangers starting rotation (and yes, I’m saying he’d be ahead of Padilla – right now). 

Kotchman is hitting well and judging by his road numbers and the fact that lefties love the Ballpark, his numbers would get a quick boost as a Ranger (currently hitting .300 with an .858 ops in 89 games).

Tex straight up for those two would be a B++ trade in my book, and if JD gets any other prospect worth anything at all added in, make it an A+!

3. Arizona Diamondbacks (20% likely) – late entrants whose name popped up publically for the first time just this Saturday, Arizona will have to poney up value fast. But what they may be offering is more cloudy than other teams’ probable offers. 

Grade if it happens: incomplete.  Still too many unknowns here, but things could get interesting.  Again, the pitching offered should be the key.

4. Not-Currently-Suspected Darkhorse (7% likely) –  the Yankees losing ways probably killed the chances of them or the Red Sox trading for Tex. But after a trouncing sweep this weekend by the Angels and Cleveland not cooling off, I still won’t be shocked if the Tigers make a last minute play. But since the Mets, Brewers, Cardinals, Phillies, Indians and Twins all have 1b well manned, that leaves only the Mariners as a current contender who could use Teixera’s services but haven’t been heard from. So a last-minute late entrant looks very unlikely.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers (3% likely) – a month ago, as Nomar was being moved to third, and Loney and Billinglsly were still human, this looked like the deal to do. But injuries to the Dodgers rotation have shifted there priorities, just as Loney’s performance has shifted there view of their needs while Billingsly has pitched himself into the untouchable range.

Updates to follow as more is learned. 

Who Played Their Last Game as A Ranger Today?

Things are picking up a bit on the Teixeira front (seperate post to follow).  Other than (hopefully) Teixeira, who else lost their final game as a Ranger this afternoon in Kansas City?

Eric Gagne? 

Reports still linger that Gagne may be shipped to the Yankees, but I haven’t seen anything of late about who the Rangers may get in return. The Yankees are not on Gagne’s list of team to which he can veto a trade, but he’s made it clear that he wants to remain a closer. Will his attitude get in the way of the Yankees coughing up something for him knowing that they won’t take Mariano Rivera out of the closer spot? A few other teams may still have interest. 

My belief he should get traded: 100%

Chances he actually gets traded: 40%. 

Joaquin Benoit?

Lots of teams want him, and I say they can have him. Been tired of his roller-coaster inconsistencies over the years. It’s time to cut bait and sell high. What’s being offered in return? Reports are sketchy. Some rumors say the Braves (still the apparent leaders in talks to acquire Teixeira) have also been asking.  Maybe Benoit goes to Atlanta in an uber-deal. If so, be prepared for him to succeed for several years and to be tempted to feel that we should have kept him. But don’t. We’re seeing the best he can do as a Ranger, and it would be down hill from here (at best).

My belief he should get traded: 100%

Chances he actually gets traded: 70%. 

C.J. Wilsom?

He;s another one the Braves are rumored to be angling for, but Little Jon Daniels Hart should be able to get something done without giving up C.J. He’s been a strong lefty out of the bullpen who’s improved significantly in each of the past 3 seasons. I don’t see him as a closer like some fans do, be he could be a heck of a set-up man for a long time.

My belief he should get traded: 10% (never say never – would have to blow my hair back with the return we get)

Chances he actually gets traded: 20%. 

Gerald Laird?

Rumor has it the Cubs may still be interested, and electing to take a catcher – A-baller Max Ramirez – for Kenny Lofton could be a small sign about what the Rangers are thinking.

My belief he should get traded: 50% (I don’t think he’s our long-term answer at C, but unless we’re offered something real juicy, he deserves the rest of this season and next with Rudy Jaramillo givng him every chance to be more consistent at the plate.)

Chances he actually gets traded: 20%. 

Others of note: 

Ron Mahay could also be subbed into a deal with the Braves, but while he’s older, than C.J. he’s still got good years left in him – enough to contribute when the Rangers could be ready to contend in ’09 and beyond. JD should hold onto him unless it’s a deal maker in another trade, but his name hasn’t been mentioned much lately.

Silence has fallen over Sammy Sosa, probably because he’s STUNK all July (.274/.359/.188) with only 2 HRs – if only he’d kept chugging away for a few more weeks, we might have gotten something decent for him.

Frank Catalanotto’s name was bantied about in some reputable spots a few weeks ago. That’s all gone quiet. It’s a shame. I met Frank during his first stint with the Rangers, and I like him. If he hadn’t been hurt this season, I think he’d be producing enough to garner interest from a contender, and return a couple good prospects if traded. But he’s just not up to par this year. He’s been showing signs of improvement, but likely not enough to generate value in return.

Just about a week ago, several teams were reportedly showing interest in Jamey Wright.  Validly so, as he’d been doing well. But two consecutive bad outings since (10 combined innings with 6 earned runs (another 2 unearned) and only 3ks against 11 hits and 10 walks) killed almost all chances that someone will take him. 

After starting the month on a tear that turned some heads and spawned some rumors, Whiffy Whifferson ($4.35 Million Man Brad Wilkerson) has 27ks to 17 hits for July and only one HR since the first week of July. I really don’t like to just rip on people, but when they’re making crazy money that makes no sense (unless he has compromising photos of Tim Hicks), this calls for an exception. I posted earlier that JD should take a bag of peanuts for Wilkerson if offered. At this point, he should take a piece of chewed gum scraped from the bottom of a bleacher seat in whatever team’s park that might be willing to part with that much for Whifferson. And JD should then have to chew the gum straight through an entire Rangers game as punishment for wasting that much money. Imagine what that could have done for kids in poverty! How does JD sleep at night? Or Whiffy for that matter. Man up and give some of the money back, dude.

Rangers Trade Kenny Lofton to Cleveland for… Max Ramirez?

I was right, and I was wrong.

Turns out Kenny Lofton has indeed become the first Texas Ranger to be dealt.  I was right about that.

But my hopes that JD’s ability to spin up tremendous buzz about Teixeira was “a reflection on his maturation as a GM” seems to be wrong.

JD was just taken to school by Cleveland’s GM – Mark Shapiro.

Lofton may be a 40-year-old rent-a-player to the Indians, but I think his value to them is more than a Class-A catcher that the Braves already gave up on last year to acquire Bob Wickman. To be clear, Ramirez is good prospect.  But it’s a long, long road from being a Futures-Game Class A catcher to a big league contributor. Projecting Ramirez into the big leagues is a very cloudy calculation.  I do think the Rangers need to stock up at Catcher because I doubt even Rudy Jaramillo will be able to fix Laird, and the Rangers would be nuts to put all their stock in Teagarden is being THE answer. But this looks like very low return on Lofton.

With Lofton continuing his 16-year run as a top leadoff man this season and last, going to a team for which he is best known and adored by fans, where they’re trying to chase the power-house Tigers or a Wild Card birth, JD should have been able to get more in return. 

This does not bode well for our hopes that Little Jon DanielsHart (I’d stopped calling him that for a while because I thought he was earning it) will be able to make a bloackbuster deal for Tex (much less Gagne, Benoit or Mahay).

(One way this might make more sense is if JD is hoping that by pulling the trigger early with Cleveland – before they might have upped their offer – it will put more pressure on the Tigers, Angels, Yankees and Red Sox (who would each have to compete with the Indians either to get a playoff spot or in the playoffs) to get more serious about acquiring Tex to help hold off the Indians.  And maybe also pressure Seattle and Minnesota to think more about Gagne, Benoit or other Rangers who are available to help them in them chase the Indians for the Wild Card.  This move could have that kind of domino affect – especially if Shapiro and the Indians follow it with another move. If JD’s gotten that savvy, though, I’ll let him slap me across the face at home plate during the seventh inning stretch. Happily.)