THE NEWBERG REPORT — APRIL 13, 2006

One of the biggest disappointments of my life was when, at age six or eight or ten, I completely forgot to tell my Dad that Joe had called earlier in the afternoon. Turns out Joe had had two extra tickets to the Cowboys game, two tickets that some other friend of Joe’s probably got to use for himself and his six- or eight- or ten-year-old kid since I failed to give my Dad the message. If you doubt how devastating that was to a young sports fan like I was, ask yourself how many phone messages from 25 or 30 years ago you remember failing to pass along.

The Rangers disappointment that I know will gnaw at me a generation from now has to do with the development of catchers. More specifically, the seemingly complete absence of an effort to do so until the past two years.

Since January 2004, the Rangers have signed Rod Barajas as a minor league free agent. Developed Gerald Laird into a complete player. Used high draft picks on Mike Nickeas and Taylor Teagarden. Put big bucks into the signing of Dominican Republic wunderkind Cristian Santana. Got San Diego to patch the Adam Eaton-Akinori Otsuka trade with Billy Killian. Outbid at least a couple other teams to land free agent Nick Trzesniak. Catching is now an organizational strength.

When Pudge Rodriguez was here, Rangers management did very little to address catching depth. As a result, the club made a terrible miscalculation. It bugs me today, and always will.

A few days ago, T.R. Sullivan suggested in an MLB.com article that these were the five worst trades in Rangers history:

1. April 1, 1982: minor league pitchers Ron Darling and Walt Terrell to the Mets for outfielder Lee Mazzilli.

2. November 10, 1978: pitchers Dave Righetti, Mike Griffin, and Paul Mirabelli and outfielders Juan Beniquez and Greg Jemison to the Yankees for pitchers Sparky Lyle, Larry McCall, and Dave Rajsich, catcher Mike Heath, and infielder Domingo Ramos.

3. July 29, 1989: pitcher Wilson Alvarez, outfielder Sammy Sosa, and infielder Scott Fletcher to the White Sox for outfielder Harold Baines and infielder Fred Manrique.

4. June 20, 1985: pitcher Frank Tanana to Detroit for minor league pitcher Duane James.

5. Winter following the 1975 season: pitcher Ferguson Jenkins to Boston for pitchers Craig Skok and Steve Barr and outfielder Juan Beniquez.

T.R. missed one that surely fits in the top five, and might end up being the worst ever.

Had Texas been in a position to sign Barajas in January 2003 rather than January 2004, maybe the club would have resisted trading hitter Travis Hafner and pitcher Aaron Myette to Cleveland for catcher Einar Diaz and pitcher Ryan Drese that winter.

How different would this offense look with Hafner, who won’t finish the season hitting .433/.541/1.067 but who just might be the most well-rounded hitter in the American League?

It’s easy to look back and say Texas gave up too much for Diaz, which is unquestionably true. But what drives me crazy is that we were so staggeringly unprepared for Rodriguez’s departure that we even thought we needed Diaz in the first place.

The funny thing is, and it’s really not funny at all, that the Rangers’ offense isn’t pulling its weight, while the rotation has been pretty good. Vicente Padilla and Kameron Loe have done their jobs. Kevin Millwood will be fine. John Koronka and Rick Bauer have been surprisingly effective. Toss out R.A. Dickey’s disastrous effort — and you can do that because he probably won’t be back in the rotation — and the club has probably gotten better starting pitching than it should have, given the injuries to Eaton and Josh Rupe and C.J. Wilson and the trade of Juan Dominguez, which effectively meant Texas had to go nine-deep to field a rotation out of the gate.

But the offense, before last night’s healthy assault, was hitting an anemic .261/.312/.404, striking out a fifth of the time and walking only one-third as frequently. And on Tuesday night, the club’s leader in hitting, slugging, and reaching base — Ian Kinsler — busted his left thumb sliding into second base.

Imagine this lineup with Hafner hitting fourth. Unless you don’t want to feel sick to your stomach.

Laird has to start here next year, doesn’t he? Has to.

Texas placed Kinsler on the 15-day disabled list yesterday, activating outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. from the 15-day DL. The club also reinstated infielder Marshall McDougall from the DL and optioned him to Oklahoma, where he’d already kicked off a rehab assignment.

Kinsler is expected to miss three weeks, at most. His thumb ligament is strained, not torn.

It’s the first time Kinsler has been on a disabled list in his four pro seasons.

Outfielder Kevin Mench was flown back to the Metroplex to get a cortisone shot in his foot. The second toe on his right foot is sprained.

You probably knew that Mark Teixeira hit his first home run of the season last night, but did you realize that he also hadn’t struck out all season until he fanned in his fourth trip to the plate in the Texas win, his 43rd plate appearance of the year? He’s drawn seven walks.

Wilson fanned one in a scoreless inning of work last night, giving him 3.1 innings of one-run ball in four Frisco appearances, with two walks and an impressive six strikeouts. He could return to the big club tomorrow for the start of the Oakland series.

The Rangers got lefthander Erasmo Ramirez through waivers and outrighted him to Oklahoma.

Righthander Ryan Bukvich, coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery, could depart extended and join Frisco or Oklahoma next week.

Jason Botts (.444/.469/.889, three homers in seven games) is at or near the top of just about every offensive category in the Pacific Coast League, but he’s chasing teammate Drew Meyer (.448/.448/.621) in the league batting race.

Adam McCloskey conducted an offbeat, 20-minute interview with Botts a few days ago. You can listen to it by going to Eleanor Czajka’s "Minor Details" page on NewbergReport.com.

Righthander Robinson Tejeda and lefthander John Rheineicker haven’t fared nearly as well as Koronka since the injury to Eaton triggered trades for all three. In two starts each, Tejeda’s Oklahoma ERA is 9.00 and Rheinecker’s is 9.31.

In two RedHawk relief appearances each, John Hudgins has allowed one unearned run in five innings, scattering two hits and no walks while punching out seven, and Ron Mahay has given up an unearned run in three frames, permitting one hit and no walks while setting six down on strikes.

Righthander Michael Schlact, pitching in High A at age 20, debuted for Bakersfield by getting nine of his 15 outs on the ground and another four on strikes on Tuesday. Clinton lefthander Zach Phillips, pitching in Low A at age 19, blanked Burlington on four hits and no walks over seven innings on April 8, punching out four.

Bakersfield second baseman German Duran, making a two-level jump, has driven in seven runs in his first five Blaze games, hitting .381/.435/.619.

Clinton first baseman Freddie Thon’s homer last night was the LumberKings’ first of the seven-game-old season. Thon was the Northwest League home run king in 2005.

Righthander Chris Young yesterday, in his second San Diego start, following a sloppy debut: six shutout innings, one hit and three walks, six strikeouts, first win.

Righthander Juan Dominguez yesterday, in his second AAA Sacramento start, following a sloppy debut: five shutout innings, one hit and three walks, four strikeouts, first win.

Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .393/.433/.607.

San Diego righthander Doug Brocail had a second angioplasty on Tuesday, after doctors discovered additional coronary blockage.

This week’s edition of "Goin’ Deep" is now posted on the Rangers website. This edition was our monthly Q&A turn, where I fielded some of your questions on baseball’s procedural rules. Here’s the link: Goin’ Deep

One of the issues covered in the Q&A regards Oklahoma DH Erubiel Durazo, who can in fact be brought up to the big club before May 15 since he’d been released from a minor league contract in March, rather than a big league deal.

Durazo can, however, leave if Texas doesn’t bring him up by that date. The Rangers have granted him that out in his deal.

The Rangers have published their 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, and it includes the following:

1970s: Jeff Burroughs, Tom Grieve, Mike Hargrove, Toby Harrah, Al Oliver, Gaylord Perry

1980s: Steve Buechele, Danny Darwin, Pete O’Brien, Larry Parrish, Mickey Rivers, Jeff Russell

1990s: Will Clark, Mark McLemore, Dean Palmer, Roger Pavlik, Mickey Tettleton, Bobby Witt

Independent league moves: The Somerset Patriots (Atlantic League) signed lefthander Nick Bierbrodt. The Joliet Jackhammers (Northern League) released lefthander Seth Hill. The Gateway Grizzlies (Frontier League) announced the retirement of catcher Ben Margalski.

If you’re interested in the National Baseball Hall of Fame Golf Classic, set to take place on May 5 at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, there’s now one more perk. Attorney Lee Vendig will take you to the Rangers-Yankees game on May 4 if you sign up for the tournament. You can call Lee for more details at 214-683-8702.

The inaugural issue of Total Texas Baseball magazine, a project headed by Rangers director of publications Kurt Daniels, is now out, featuring articles on the Rangers, Astros, the state’s minor league clubs, and all Texas college programs, and it boasts the most in-depth coverage of Texas high school baseball coverage that you’ll find anywhere. There are also feature articles on Nolan Ryan and his sons, Tris Speaker, and the legend of the Texas fastball (authored by Baseball Prospectus’s Will Carroll).

For more information, go to http://www.totaltexasbaseball.com/.

Jonah Keri, editor of the new book "Baseball Between the Numbers" and an author at BaseballProspectus.com, will chat with us at noon tomorrow. Make plans to click "Chat" on the NewbergReport.com side menu to join the chat session.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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