July 2006

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 25, 2006

Seven years ago, our family roster was a lot different. We had no kids yet. Grandma Flo was still around, as was Uncle Bernie. So was Pete.

The Rangers were coming off two playoff seasons in three years, and were 10 weeks away from making it three of four. Pudge and Juando and Raffy and Aaron Sele were the heart of that 1999 team, Rusty and John Wetteland and Jeff Zimmerman its soul.

And now all seven of them are gone, each in a measurably different place.

Sort of.

Not really.

They’re not really gone.

Right now, that’s how I feel about my father-in-law. He’s gone. But not really.

Pete passed away yesterday morning, following a courageous, challenging battle with cancer. He died peacefully, with his daughters at his side. He spent his final days with his children and his grandchildren, the equivalent for Pete, whose love of baseball was certainly strong enough to earn my admiration very early on, of a sellout crowd.

I’ve known Pete for 16 years. In that time, he redefined himself (though I knew him only one way) with the type of courage, character, and heart that his Astros showed last summer, when they defied the odds and reached the playoffs. Last fall brought the franchise’s first World Series, and Pete’s, too. Days after his first cancer surgery, he was in the ballpark, experiencing the Fall Classic at Minute Maid Park.

Before long, Craig Biggio will be gone, as will Roger Clemens and Jeff Bagwell.

Sort of.

But not really.

I halfway expect to get an email from Pete this morning, with him making a prediction about tonight’s Clemens start at home, and pointing out that he bets Adam Eaton’s Rangers debut will be unusually short since the Yankees are so disciplined at the plate and will probably be especially so tonight, knowing that Eaton will be limited by a pitch count.

I already miss Pete, but there’s a level of comfort in knowing his discomfort has passed.

And I take additional comfort in the fact, one that I’m completely certain of, that while this baseball analogy is clunky and forced, maybe even crass, I know a few people will understand, and maybe even appreciate it. Pete is one of them.

It will be Pete’s and my corny, awkward, clichéd baseball exchange to share. It’s not the first, and I don’t think it will be the last. Because while he’s gone, I don’t feel like he’s really gone.

We used to privately get a kick out of the fact that, at some point during a momentous family occasion, Pete would almost invariably salute the event with the following words, as if he were gracing us with the passage for the first time — every time:

May your troubles be as light as the sea spray.
May your life sail in a well founded vessel.
Full sails in a sea of love,
As deep and strong as the blue ocean.

You always offered those words to celebrate a certain time in the lives of those you loved, Pete. Today they comfort us, and with those very words we pay our deepest respects to you, and gain strength from all the good times we shared.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 21, 2006

One year ago today, John Hart made the first of two July trades to try and give a boost to a club that sat seven games out of first in the West, trading righthander Matt Lorenzo for righthander Kevin Gryboski. He claimed righthander James Baldwin off waivers the same day.

Nine days later, Jon Daniels played the key role in engineering the trade of Chan Ho Park to San Diego for Phil Nevin.

It’s a tough trade market right now — it’s going to be that way most years as long as the Wild Card system remains in place and the conventional, non-waiver trade deadline continues to be July 31 — but the likelihood is that Daniels makes a trade this month that impacts the roster more like his Park-Nevin deal than Hart’s deal for Gryboski, who pitched 11 times in three weeks before being optioned to AAA, never to be heard from in Texas again.

Part of that may be due to an impression that Daniels is a greater risk-taker than Hart was while with the Rangers. Part of it is because the Rangers have more near-ready pitching prospects to trade than they did last July. And part is because the Rangers — and their general manager — have far more reason to believe that they will be in this thing down the stretch than they did a year ago.

But, again, as we’ve discussed for several weeks now, it takes a lot more than motivation to make an impact deal in July these days. It takes a willing partner, and that probably means a team that will do business with you as long as you overpay — especially if it’s for pitching.

In the meantime, it’s no coincidence that Adam Eaton pitched on the same afternoon as John Rheinecker yesterday, as the Rangers prepare for the return of Eaton, just as important a late-July addition as a lot of contenders will be able to claim. In Rheinecker’s last three appearances, despite one quality start, he’s been extremely hittable (.407/.444/.593), which may be a function of his having been around the league enough now that teams are catching on, or maybe because the balls are finding holes where they didn’t a month ago, or two. He’s had only two strikeouts in his 13.1 innings in those three starts.

Meanwhile, Eaton was sharp for Oklahoma yesterday, holding Iowa to one run (which scored after he departed) on three singles and two walks in four-plus frames, fanning six Cubs (four swinging). He threw 49 of his 77 pitches for strikes.

In his four rehab appearances, two for Frisco and two for the RedHawks, Eaton has a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings, scattering 10 hits (.208 average) and three walks while setting 13 down on strikes. He will apparently start for Texas on Tuesday against the Yankees at Ameriquest Field. It stands to reason that Rheinecker will be optioned to Oklahoma, where he’ll slip into the rotation spot that Eaton vacates.

No Ranger player is finding his name in published trade rumors more than Kevin Mench, and it’s not all that close.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Texas has been monitoring Philadelphia righthanders Jon Lieber and Cory Lidle and would be interested in Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Lee if the Brewers decide to shop him. Several stories suggest that Texas is among the clubs showing interest in corner infielder-DH Shea Hillenbrand, whom Toronto designated for assignment on Wednesday after the relationship between the player and the club had deteriorated to the point that a breakup was inevitable.

Brad Wilkerson says he expects to have surgery on his right (non-throwing) shoulder this off-season.

Edinson Volquez is two free passes short of having the highest walk total of any pitcher in the Pacific Coast League. (He trails former Ranger unsigned draftee Dennis Sarfate.) Thomas Diamond has walked the most hitters in the Texas League. Texas is placing Diamond on the disabled list with forearm tightness, though the organization doesn’t believe the injury is serious.

Get this: since the Rangers moved Nick Masset from the RedHawks rotation to the bullpen a week ago, he’s appeared three times, with these results: 5.2 scoreless innings, five hits, no walks, 10 strikeouts. As a AAA starter (and in one four-inning relief outing in his RedHawks debut in May), he’d walked 20 and fanned 39 in 44 innings.

Bakersfield catcher Justin Hatcher has landed on the disabled list with a thumb injury. Arizona League catcher Carlos Dominguez (.281/.304/.359) has been promoted to the Blaze to fill Hatcher’s roster spot.

Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman hasn’t played since Monday, when he homered twice in a 3 for 6 effort against Dayton.

Jose Canseco pitched a third of an inning in Tuesday’s Golden Baseball League All-Star Game, getting his one out on a grounder to third by former Ranger Desi Wilson (whom Texas traded to San Francisco [with Rich Aurilia for John Burkett the first time] 15 days after the club traded Canseco to Boston for Otis Nixon and Luis Ortiz). Canseco gave up four runs, the first of which was scored by former Ranger catcher Marcus Jensen (2001), who had doubled to greet Canseco.

Righthander David Elder has joined the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League for what’s at least his third stint with the club.

I’ll be on the Ticket with Greg Williams next Wednesday from 5:30 until 6:10. We’ll talk trade deadline and Rangers prospects, and we’ll take phone calls.

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that we’ll have an actual trade to talk about.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 19, 2006 ADDENDUM

You can count on it: Whenever a Rangers hitter comes to the plate – no, whenever a baseball player comes to the plate – Max will respond in one way, and one way only:

“MichaelHitTheBatTheBall-MichaelHitTheFireworks-HomeRun-DropTheBat!!!!”

Every time.

Big league corollary: Count on this – the formula for winning is apparently to go silent against the other team’s ordinary starter, lulling everyone into thinking the game is a lost cause, and then proceed to open a can late, and win the thing before anyone realizes what hit them.

Clockwork.

Rheinecker vs. Schilling tomorrow. Schilling’s too good for the formula to fit, so Texas is just going to have to find another way to win.

Maybe Max will come up with a new command, too.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 19, 2006

It obviously doesn’t have the same importance, but this road trip was starting to
feel like October 1996, 1998, and 1999.

The 15-run explosion to kick off the second half in Baltimore was the 6-2 win in

Yankee Stadium on October 1, 1996. The Rangers had won a huge game against Johan

Santana to finish the first half, rested for a few days, and picked things right back

up with the big win against the Orioles and then a hard-fought 2-1 victory after

that, creating a vibe that they might have been poised to go on a pretty good run.

It wasn’t unlike 1996, when the club finished strong, winning six of eight, took a

day off, and then downed the Yankees in New York, 6-2. Texas had stolen the home

field advantage in its first-ever playoff series, and things looked pretty good.

But then a Dean Palmer throwing error set off a chain of events that began with a

12-inning loss in Game Two in 1996, followed by two straight losses to end the

series, a three-game sweep in 1998 in which the Yankees held Texas to a total of one

run, and another disaster in 1999, when the Rangers again managed just one run in a

three-game whitewash.

The final two games in Baltimore this weekend, Monday’s blowout loss in Toronto, and

the first seven innings of last night’s Blue Jays tilt felt like those playoff series

all over again. The lineup wasn’t hitting, the pitching wasn’t sharp, the team was

erratic catching the ball and throwing it and running the bases.

But the distinction between the past six days of baseball and the Rangers’

demoralizing playoff history doesn’t end with the magnitude of the games. An

improbable, out-of-nowhere eighth last night stopped this stunning skid, and Texas

has actually knotted up the series as well as the road trip with what Michael Young

called the “biggest win of the year.” The club has a chance to build on that with

Kevin Millwood on the mound tonight, against rookie Casey Janssen.

The Rangers name starting to pop up more than any other as far as potential July

trades are concerned is Kevin Mench, and it could be that Mench figures in whether

Texas is buying or selling, so to speak. After his unconscious stretch in late

April, his production has dropped off precipitously. In fact, these are his numbers

by month this season (going into last night’s game):

April: .342/.354/.671
May: .276/.336/.429
June: .219/.313/.301
July: .184/.262/.263

You might think that Mench’s severe down trends have emasculated any trade value he

has, but evidently not, according to media reports. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com notes

that the Yankees scouted Mench over the weekend, and that Pittsburgh, Kansas City,

and the Dodgers have had interest in him in the recent past. Sullivan also suggests

that Washington could kick the Mench tires once they trade Alfonso Soriano (though

the Nationals did just add Austin Kearns) and are intrigued by Joaquin Benoit as

well. Houston has shown interest in Mench in the past, too.

Sullivan identifies Livan Hernandez, Jon Lieber, Freddy Garcia, Miguel Batista, and

Matt Clement as potentially available starting pitchers in whom Texas could have an

interest. The Rangers also like groundball machine Jake Westbrook, but Cleveland is

reluctant to move him.

Let’s say that Texas is five games out in 10 days. (Hey, the way I’ve jinxed this

team the last couple weeks every time I get fired up, I don’t mind working a

reverse-jinx here.) If Vicente Padilla really has made it clear that he’ll work in

2007 for whoever offers to pay him the most, and the Rangers aren’t inclined to get

into a bidding war with him, would they make him available in trade? If so, and if

he keeps this current run up (that’s five straight quality starts, and seven of

eight), he might be as valuable as any pitcher on the trade market at the end of the

month. He’s a safer bet than Victor Zambrano was two July’s ago, when Tampa Bay

shipped him to the Mets for Scott Kazmir in a four-player deal.

Don’t get your hopes up. Even if the Rangers fall out of it before the month is up

– which they won’t — there’s not going to be another Kazmir out there for the

taking.

And there’s this to consider as well: Padilla could very well be a Type A free agent

this winter. If so, the trade offers would have to be more attractive than two of

the first 60 or so draft picks next June would be — though, of course, those two

picks could cost $2 million to sign.

I’d say the chances that Padilla gets moved are extremely remote.

Whether Mench goes or not, I’m still in the camp that thinks adding a hitter is

probably the way to go right now, considering the Rangers recent struggle to score

runs, the supply of major league arms that could be close to a return to Arlington,

and the relative cost that it would take to add a position player as opposed to a

pitcher.

Another look at the Cincinnati-Washington trade proves the point, on both sides: the

price for a couple decent middle relievers right now is steep, as in Kearns and

Felipe Lopez; the price for a couple young hitters with some upside is more modest,

as in Bill Bray and Gary Majewski. Aubrey Huff for Mitch Talbot and Ben Zobrist:

same point, basically.

According to a report out of Detroit, Texas is interested in Cubs second baseman Todd

Walker. He’d be a left-handed bat off the bench, or at DH, here. I’d rather have

David Dellucci back.

Texas recalled lefthander C.J. Wilson before yesterday’s game and optioned

righthander Scott Feldman to Oklahoma. Feldman’s ERA had gone from 4.76 in April to

5.40 in May to 6.75 in June, and while it had fallen to 2.84 this month, batters were

hitting .393 off him in July, by far the highest mark of any month in his big league

career. Wes Littleton (4.2 scoreless innings, .133/.235/.133) has been very good

since rejoining the team two weeks ago, and he survived the move while Feldman

returns to AAA.

Wilson’s been on a solid run at Oklahoma lately, throwing six straight scoreless

outings in relief. In seven innings over that span, Wilson has allowed five hits and

two walks while fanning 11. Overall, he’s got a 2.45 ERA as a RedHawk, coaxing 11

groundouts and five flyouts, though right-handed hitters (.321) have given him more

trouble than lefties (.067).

Righthander Frankie Francisco threw from flat ground on Sunday, but the chances of

him helping at the big league level this season are apparently slimming.

The Rangers have promoted Bakersfield outfielder Ben Harrison to Frisco, after the

third-year pro laid waste to California League pitching for three months. The

24-year-old out of the University of Florida hit .293/.397/.520 for the Blaze,

hitting 18 home runs (third in the league) and 19 doubles and drawing 49 walks (fifth

in the league). His slugging percentage was eighth in the circuit, and his OPS was

seventh.

Harrison pinch-hit in his AA debut last night, singling the other way in the eighth

inning of Frisco’s 5-4 win over San Antonio. Jake Blalock was cut down trying to

score from second on the play.

To make room for Harrison on the RoughRiders roster, 25-year-old outfielder Jayce

Tingler was released. After hitting .330/.432/.375 for Bakersfield in the first

half, his third straight season in High A, the minor league Rule 5 pick from Toronto

hit just .227/.306/.227 (no extra-base hits) in 97 Frisco at-bats. A phenomenally

disciplined hitter, Tingler drew 177 walks while fanning just 70 times in the Blue

Jays system in 2003-05, and compiled a similar ratio with the Blaze, walking 36 times

with only 16 strikeouts. Texas League pitchers walked Tingler eight times and set

him down on strikes nine times.

This is getting absurd (even if not out of character): Tug Hulett is now hitting

.550/.667/.700 in his first 20 RoughRider at-bats, with seven walks and just three

strikeouts.

Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman didn’t homer yesterday.

He didn’t play.

Righthander Armando Galarraga, out since late May, started a rehab assignment on

Monday in Surprise, pitching one inning against the Giants’ Arizona League squad.

Galarraga struck out the leadoff hitter swinging, issued a walk to the next hitter

(who was promptly cut down stealing), and induced a fly to right.

After I discussed Dominican Summer League outfielder-turned-pitcher Alexi Ogando’s

arm strength on Monday, it was reported locally that he’s been clocked several times

recently at 100 miles per hour. Ogando is now up to 9.2 scoreless innings,

scattering eight hits and punching out 14 without issuing any walks.

The results of the study conducted by the Toronto engineering firm RWDI & Co.

regarding the effects of the Gold Club on wind currents at Ameriquest Field were

inconclusive. The Rangers have requested further testing and expect a more

definitive conclusion by season’s end.

San Diego designated righthander Brian Sikorski for assignment and then traded him to

Cleveland for righthander Mike Adams.

Cincinnati released lefthander Mike Venafro.

Lefthander Clint Brannon, whom Texas traded to the Cubs for Jon Leicester this

spring, has retired. He’d undergone rotator cuff surgery since the trade and was

also suffering from back problems.

You can sign an oversized All-Star MVP card congratulating Michael Young at one of

four times and places, starting today: at Shady Oak Barbeque on Copeland Road in

Arlington from lunch through dinner today; at the RaceTrac store on Jupiter Road in

Plano tomorrow from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; at the Starbucks location in Sundance

Square in downtown Fort Worth all day on Friday; or on the concourse of Ameriquest

Field during the Monday, July 24 game against the Yankees. The cards will be

presented to Young during a special ceremony the next night, Tuesday, July 25, prior

to the second game of the Texas-New York series, which stands to be Adam Eaton’s

debut as a Ranger.

Here’s what lies ahead, between now and then:

Millwood vs. Janssen
John Rheinecker vs. Curt Schilling
John Wasdin vs. Mark Buehrle
John Koronka vs. Freddy Garcia
Vicente Padilla vs. Jon Garland
Millwood vs. Randy Johnson

I desperately want to go into next week’s Yankee series not feeling like I did during

the three Yankee playoff series, when I was worried not about the pitching but

instead about the lineup’s ability to pressure New York.

It would be a good thing, in that regard, for the offense to get busy tonight.

Janssen, the only opposing starter in that bunch who hasn’t been an All-Star since

2002, has two quality starts in the last two months. This is no time to allow him a

third.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg

at www.NewbergReport.com.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 17, 2006

The Rangers bust out for a season-high 15 runs on a season-second-best 19 hits in Baltimore to open the second half on Thursday. The next three games? Against Kris Benson, Erik Bedard, and Rodrigo Lopez, who came into those starts permitting opponents to hit .282 this season, Texas hit .205 with one extra-base hit.

Thanks to Kevin Millwood, the Rangers took one of those three to manage a series split, but Oakland took care of business and now has a one-game division lead over Texas, with the Angels just a half-game behind the Rangers.

The A’s now replace Texas in the visitors’ clubhouse in Baltimore, as the Rangers move into Toronto. The Angels, who have won 11 of 12, host Cleveland for three. After three with the Blue Jays, the Rangers have a Thursday matinee in Boston, followed by three in Chicago and three at home against the Yankees.

There will be five days left before the trade deadline when the New York series concludes. These next 10 games are obviously very big. One way or another, they could be help shape what the short-term and long-term look of this club will be. And yet, there’s a significant chance that Jon Daniels will have a specific Plan A and Plan B in place and yet won’t be able to execute what he wants to because of a grossly undersupplied trade market.

Let’s say Plan A is to be a buyer, which is the most likely scenario for Texas. Do you prioritize the lineup, despite Thursday’s hint of what this offense is theoretically capable of?

Or the rotation, despite Adam Eaton’s progress on rehab (one run on seven hits and one walk in 8.1 innings, seven strikeouts)?

Or the bullpen, which seems pretty stable in the eighth and ninth and has Rick Bauer and Bryan Corey going pretty well, with C.J. Wilson rolling at AAA (six scoreless innings in his last five appearances, five hits, two walks, 10 punchouts), Kameron Loe rounding back into form, Josh Rupe dealing right now, Nick Masset becoming a candidate as he moves into a relief role at Oklahoma, and Frankie Francisco evidently throwing again?

Yes, yes, and yes. All three could stand an impact upgrade.

Me? Give me the hitter first.

A starting pitcher would undoubtedly help — John Rheinecker has held his own but that .333/.376/.465 line is going to catch up with him, John Wasdin should probably be the long man, and Eaton can only replace one of them — but given the supply shortage, it’s going to cost something crazy to get a pitcher dependable enough to help you get to October and then fit in a playoff rotation.

A reliever makes sense, but there aren’t going to be many key bullpen guys available. Looking at in another way, maybe the possibility exists to go get a Joe Borowski/Jeremy Affeldt (.184/.289/.250 as a reliever)/Mike MacDougal type without such a high cost in prospects that it would prevent making a larger deal for a run producer.

If there’s a way to improve a corner outfield spot with a big bat, that’s what I’d make my primary objective. Seeing what the returns for Aubrey Huff and Austin Kearns were last week gives me hope that it wouldn’t come at a stupid cost. The thing to realize is that, given the state of the Rangers farm system on the position player side of the ledger, Texas will almost certainly have to part with young pitching to get an impact hitter.

Texas hasn’t scored an earned run in its last 23 innings. In the last 14 seasons, the Rangers offense has had only one longer such streak (25 innings on September 1-4, 2004).

Eaton will start Thursday afternoon for Oklahoma and then, assuming no setbacks, the righthander will make his Rangers debut on July 25 against the Yankees. He’ll be limited to six innings that night, unless he reaches 90 pitches before that.

Texas received cash considerations from Milwaukee, in lieu of a player to be named later, to complete the May 13 trade that sent lefthander Brian Shouse to the Brewers for minor league infielder Enrique Cruz.

Frisco first baseman Nate Gold is fourth in the Texas League with 17 home runs. He’s fifth in slugging (.542) and seventh in OPS (.912). He’s gotten better every month of the season.

So has his Gonzaga teammate Kevin Richardson, who has settled in as the RoughRiders’ primary catcher and is hitting a silly .321/.548/.857 in July. Richardson, who racked up 21 strikeouts and just two walks in May, has more walks (14) than strikeouts (11) this month.

Oklahoma’s Robinson Tejeda (ankle), Nick Trzesniak (groin), and Jace Brewer (finger), Frisco’s Ryan Jensen, and Bakersfield’s John Bannister have landed on the disabled list. RedHawks Kelvin Jimenez and Adrian Brown were activated, as were Clinton’s Josh Giles and J.C. Garcia.

Adam Morrissey moves up from Frisco to Oklahoma. Tug Hulett and Lou Pote head to Frisco from Bakersfield. Wandy Morla and Johnny Washington depart Spokane for Bakersfield. Julio Santana, Brian Nelson, Joey Hooft, and Joe Napoli head from the Arizona League to Spokane, the latter two on rehab assignments.

Sure wish righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando weren’t quarantined in the Dominican with visa issues. The 24-year-old Beltre has a microscopic 0.90 ERA in six DSL starts, permitting only 24 hits and five walks in 40 innings while punching out 45. The 22-year-old Ogando, obtained from Oakland in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft in December and converted from outfielder to pitcher, has pitched out of the bullpen five times, throwing 7.2 scoreless frames, striking out 10 while scattering six hits and not walking anyone. Considering he was advertised to have one of the strongest right field arms around while developing in the A’s system, you can safely guess that he lights up the radar gun off the mound.

According to a Baseball America story, the Rangers have signed more players from Latin America — 18 — than any other organization this summer.

The Newberg Report Player and Pitcher of the Month for June were Oklahoma righthander Edinson Volquez and Bakersfield outfielder Ben Harrison. Check EMC’s Minor Details page for Rob Cook and Eric Carter’s features.

San Diego activated righthander Doug Brocail, who had angioplasties in March and April. Amazing.

Minnesota signed Erubiel Durazo to a contract with AAA Rochester.

Washington purchased the contract of righthander Kevin Gryboski.

Tampa Bay released Jason Romano from AAA Durham.

Oakland will give righthander Jason Windsor his debut against the Orioles tonight. The Rangers drafted him in the 43rd round in 2001 out of West Valley Junior College, but didn’t sign him. Windsor went on to Cal State Fullerton and was Oakland’s third-round pick in 2004, when he was MVP of the College World Series.

Hopefully the Orioles give Windsor and the A’s as much trouble as they gave Texas this weekend.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 14, 2006

If the strain on your conscience gets under your skin
And leads you to making a sacrifice
Sacrifice me (with a fly to right field)
Let there be peace.

If the strain on your conscience gets under your skin
And leads you to making a sacrifice
Sacrifice me (with a fly to right field)
Let there be peace.

If the strain on your conscience gets under your skin
And leads you to making a sacrifice
Sacrifice me (with a fly to right field)
Let there be peace.

Yosshaa.

– Bob Mould, “Sacrifice/Let There Be Peace,” Black Sheets of Rain

(OK, maybe not the “Yosshaa” part.)

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 13, 2006

Even a member of the national media paying just enough attention to the Rangers could tell you that Texas has a terrific shot to win the West if the following four realistic things happen with the offense:

1. Mark Teixeira has a better second half.
2. Brad Wilkerson has a better second half.
3. Gary Matthews Jr. proves his first half was no fluke.
4. Mark DeRosa proves his first half was no fluke.

Tonight:

1. Teixeira hit three home runs (nearly four) and drove in seven. Think those three days off with Leigh and Jack, followed by a trip to his hometown to kick off the second half, were exactly what he needed?
2. Wilkerson homered, doubled, drew two walks, and drove in four. Think that cortisone shot helped?
3. Matthews singled, reached on a hit-by-pitch, and scored twice, but his main contribution to the 15-1 rout was more spectacular defense in center field.
4. DeRosa reached bases in all six trips to the plate, hitting his fifth homer and three singles and adding two walks. He drove in three runs and scored three times.

It’s just one game.

And a helluva good way to pick up where this club left off on Sunday, when Teixeira and Matthews keyed a win over Johan Santana and the Twins.

This is probably a good time to issue a reminder, which I’ll lead into by first sharing with you something that Dallas Morning News beat writer Evan Grant wrote in his weekly “Inside the Rangers” feature yesterday:

“When you become a journalist, you stop being a fan. It doesn’t impact your enjoyment of the game, but it does affect your rooting interests. I’m there to cover the Rangers, good and bad. I can’t let myself get so caught up in the team that it makes me lose perspective of what I’m supposed to do.”

As for me, I will not stop being a fan. Whether I’m “covering” the Rangers is hard to say. I get caught up in pulling for this team, and I don’t think it makes me lose perspective, because what I’m “supposed to do” is not to remain objective, or to respect the inverted pyramid, or to be guided by journalistic canons.

I’m not a journalist. Never have been. I’m the most insane Rangers fan you know, and it’s always been a privilege that I don’t take for granted that I have this opportunity to clobber you with the excitement and the dejection that a baseball season always delivers and, unmistakably, the overreaction that I can’t help but engage in on both ends of that spectrum.

As I prepare to send this email, Oakland and Boston are knotted up at 3-3 in the 10th inning. When that game ends, the Rangers will share the division lead with the A’s or will be up on Oakland by a game. But because of the way the Rangers played baseball in Baltimore tonight, it feels better than that.

A return to form by Teixeira and Wilkerson, not to mention a possible pitching boost from Adam Eaton or Josh Rupe or Kameron Loe or C.J. Wilson or Frankie Francisco or a few of them, could provide the kind of impact that a trade deadline deal or two are counted on to provide.

And you can bet Jon Daniels will still make a deal.

A few days ago, as we headed into the All-Star Break with the defeat of Santana, I suggested we all relax for a few days, then buckle up.

Now floor it.

Melodramatically yours,
Jamey

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 12, 2006 ADDENDUM

The coolest thing about being included in Richie Whitt’s article on the “50 Most Powerful People in Sports” (locally) in this week’s Dallas Observer is being on a list that includes Michael Young and Brad Sham.

The worst thing about it is the list is headed by Terrell Owens (though Whitt does admit it’s based on “subjective criteria about as scientific as dryer lint”) while Tom Landry sits all the way down at number 50.

The weirdest thing is being sandwiched (at number 46) between Nancy Lieberman and Carly Patterson.

Seriously, very flattering, though unwarranted: http://www.dallasobserver.com/Issues/2006-07-13/news/whitt.html

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 12, 2006

It no longer feels like validation. There were a couple years, after Texas had acquired Michael Young, that I felt like the lone guy in his corner. That wasn’t completely true, of course, but back when he was “Mike” Young and a guy who “wouldn’t hit enough” to play every day in the big leagues, I did come close to questioning what it was that I was missing, what mirage I must have been duped by when I saw a guy who was a multi-hit monster all the way back to Tulsa, a guy whose arm could take runs off the board, a guy whose approach at the plate — whose bat control and ability to go the other way — seemed ideal for a lineup that was thin on that type of hitter. Baseball people and baseball experts had reservations about how much upside was there. What was I thinking?

I came close to second-guessing myself, but I didn’t. There have been two players to come up through the Rangers system, in all nine seasons of my writing the Newberg Report and the 20-plus years before that, who I had an unwavering belief in, a complete confidence that they were going to fulfill every possible expectation and exceed them: Ruben Mateo and Michael Young.

I’m batting .500, which is what it seems like Young is hitting in clutch situations.

ESPN Radio’s Dan Shulman was on the local air yesterday morning, and among the things he said was that if Michael Young were a New York Yankee, he’d be bigger than Derek Jeter. I’ve made similar comments before, but then again I don’t completely agree with it.

Because I know one thing about Michael Young that Shulman doesn’t: Michael Young doesn’t want to be bigger than Derek Jeter. He’d be everything on the field that Jeter is. Off the field, even if he were a Yankee, he’d be more like Bernie Williams.

But I think he’s one of those rare guys that, regardless of the opportunity, would probably cross the Yanks off his list. What’s important to him is Cristina, Mateo, and winning baseball games. Anything beyond that just gets in the way.

There are players whose legacy in baseball is marked by a moment in the All-Star Game. There might be some corners of the baseball world that consider last night to be the highlight of Young’s career. But it’s not (in the last 75 years, the only hitters with four straight 200-hit seasons are Wade Boggs, Kirby Puckett, and Ichiro Suzuki — Young will join them in a couple months), and it will continue to be pushed down the list of the most important achievements of his career as time goes on.

He’s so good.

Young continues, almost absurdly, to get labeled as one of baseball’s most underrated players (ESPN’s Jayson Stark referred to him as a “buried treasure”), but that’s only because he doesn’t crave the spotlight, because he never makes news off the field, and admittedly because he hasn’t had the opportunities to make noise in many games that have league-wide significance.

Last night was a start. You can already tell by the media reaction that he gained a ton of mainstream repute last night, but his stature within the game didn’t change a bit. His peers already considered him as great a player, for all the right reasons, that locally we consider him to be. Every All-Star teammate, opponent, and coach confronted last night with the question responded by saying they knew Young would deliver.

Is there a greater compliment in baseball? Not to Young.

It almost seemed routine, that 0-2, two-out, opposite-field rifle that cleared the bases, ended up with Young making a quiet “celebratory” fist, and gave his teammates, a strike away from losing the game, a lead that would stand up. Routine to you and me and Ozzie and Derek and Vernon, and even to Trevor. Jerry Narron, too.

The baseball media should be caught up by now. This is the greatest Rangers baseball player of all time, something that will be solidified as his career goes on, and something that the national press will recognize once he helps earn some more hardware: not so much for his individual accomplishments, but for what he will help his team achieve.

Jason Botts was optioned to Oklahoma yesterday, having gotten only 15 at-bats in the last three weeks. No corresponding move was announced, though outfielder Freddy Guzman is expected to be recalled in time for Thursday’s series opener in Baltimore. The continued roll that Mark DeRosa is on (he hasn’t dipped below a .330 average since June 3), combined with the need to get Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench rolling, meant Botts wasn’t going to get any more frequent work coming out of the Break than he has lately, and he needs at-bats. On top of that, Guzman will give the bench more versatility.

Only two American League players with at least 200 at-bats this season haven’t had a hitless streak of at least 10 at-bats: DeRosa and Gary Matthews Jr.

Since May 1, Francisco Cordero has a 1.99 ERA, permitting 25 hits (.221 opponents’ average) and nine walks in 31.2 innings, setting 34 down on strikes.

Kevin Millwood should be good to go in Baltimore this weekend.

Kameron Loe starts for Frisco tonight.

Adam Eaton started for the RoughRiders on Monday, giving up one run on four hits, a hit batsman, and no walks in 2.1 innings, fanning two and throwing 31 of his 45 pitches (all fastballs and cutters, with the exception of four or five curves) for strikes.

Eaton should start again in Frisco on Saturday, with a pitch limit around 60 or 65, and then a week from tomorrow for Oklahoma. If everything goes well, he could then draw his first Rangers start on July 25, against the Yankees at home.

Josh Rupe has allowed one run on two hits and two walks in 4.2 frames since joining the RedHawks at the beginning of the month. He could be up soon.

Not so much for Frankie Francisco, whose arm didn’t respond well to a cortisone shot last week.

C.J. Wilson has given up one hit and two walks in three scoreless innings since returning to action in the Oklahoma bullpen a week ago. He has five strikeouts in that span.

Eric Hurley threw 15 pitches (only eight of which were strikes) in Sunday’s Futures Game, allowing a hit and a walk and getting two outs.

Joaquin Arias sat the game out due to his sprained ankle, though he did attend. The shortstop rolled his ankle on July 4 sliding back into second base on an attempted pickoff.

Hurley was placed on Bakersfield’s temporary inactive list while in Pittsburgh, and June draftee Danny Ray Herrera, a left-handed changeup specialist, was promoted from the Arizona League to take Hurley’s place on the Blaze staff. In his first two Bakersfield outings, the 45th-round pick threw four scoreless innings.

John Danks has hired Scott Boras.

Danks’s brother Jordan is playing summer ball in the M.I.N.K (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas) League, hitting a three-run blast in his first at-bat for the Beatrice (Nebraska) Bruins.

Thomas Diamond fired a complete-game shutout for Frisco on Saturday, scattering five hits and one walk while fanning seven. He now leads the Texas League in punchouts by 13. Interestingly, it’s his second complete-game shutout as a pro — both came right after Danks and Edinson Volquez were promoted ahead of him, the first coming last summer for Bakersfield.

One thing to consider as far as Blaze outfielder Ben Harrison (.299/.399/.538, 19 doubles, 18 homers, 73 RBI in 314 at-bats) is concerned: He’ll be Rule 5-eligible this winter. Seems like a longshot for him to be added to the 40-man roster in November, even if he moves up to Frisco soon and tears it up (he doesn’t profile as a typical Rule 5 pick), but tuck that away, especially since the Rangers are thin in position player prospects.

Seventeen-year-old Dominican wunderkind Johan Yan is hitting .345/.472/.690 in 29 Arizona League at-bats, having made starts at shortstop, third base, and second base. Sick.

The Rangers released righthander Shane Bazzell, who hadn’t pitched this year due to an elbow injury, and placed once-promising righthander Erik Thompson and 2006 15th-round shortstop Cody Himes on the restricted list.

Watching the All-Star Game got me thinking, and I’m going to turn this exercise on you. Take off your Rangers cap for a second, and ask yourself, objectively, what Texas players you would ask for if you were shopping a bigtime pitcher or hitter this month? Leave out names like Young and Mark Teixeira and Millwood — just as you wouldn’t go ask the Mets for David Wright or the Red Sox for David Ortiz, we’re not talking about who the Rangers’ best players are. We’re talking about who teams are going to ask Jon Daniels for as the trade deadline approaches.

My guess, in no particular order:

Ian Kinsler, Gerald Laird, Cordero, Danks, Volquez.

I don’t include Akinori Otsuka or Hank Blalock or Matthews because teams surely wouldn’t even ask for guys like that from a team in contention.

You don’t trade Kinsler. Or Laird. Or Cordero. It’s hard to imagine a deal that makes sense for Texas that has one of them going the other way.

Danks or Volquez? Better be for an impact player who would be under control beyond 2006.

Daniels has an incredibly tough job to do the next three weeks. You know, even though this is his first July as general manager, that he will want to deal, to add a key piece or two to this club, which sits tied for first with several veterans already here who should have better second halves than their firsts. But the Wild Card world means there are only a few teams who will be motivated sellers, and two to three times as many who will want to buy. It means Daniels, just like every other GM, will probably have to overpay to get a July deal done, and given how thin Texas is in blue-chip prospects, the last thing he’ll want to do is empty the cupboard (trading more than one of those guys) and see the team fall short of the post-season.

Yes, there are others who should have trade value. Arms like Wilson and Rupe and Diamond and Hurley and Nick Masset. Hitters like Botts and Arias and Johnny Whittleman and maybe Anthony Webster.

And if you think a guy like Omar Poveda is too young and too far away to have trade value, remember that there was an 18-year-old third baseman in Low A named Edwin Encarnacion that Texas traded to Cincinnati a year after drafting him, to close a deal that sent Mateo to the Reds for Rob Bell.

But Wilson and Diamond and Botts and Poveda and the others are the types that round out big trades. Laird and Danks are the ones that front deals.

This isn’t going to be easy. You don’t want to overpay with your best prospects in exchange for anything less than an impact player, and on the other end of the spectrum you have to be careful not to trade someone you consider excess inventory to get a player that has just as much chance of not helping your club as he does helping it get to October.

Texas would probably like to undo — or at least try to redo — the trades that sent Travis Hafner to Cleveland and Encarnacion to Cincinnati.

And Toronto would probably like to revisit its July 19, 2000 trade of AAA righthander Darwin Cubillan and AA infielder Mike Young to Texas for Esteban Loaiza.

Michael_young

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 11, 2006

From the June 18 Newberg Report:

=====================================
For all the ill will that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen harbors towards the Rangers, he said this to reporters about Michael Young on Thursday: “They’ve got one player over there that’s everyone’s wish, the shortstop. That’s everybody’s dream. A lot of people talk about Derek Jeter. A lot of people talk about Miguel Tejada. A lot of people talk about other players at that position, but he’s a manager’s dream. He’s the best. This kid can do anything in baseball that he wants to.”

Guillen added: “I’d take that kid everywhere with me.” Which I suspect will include the All-Star Game in three weeks in Pittsburgh.
=====================================

It’s the most sensible thing Guillen has said in a long time.

Congrats to second baseman Michael Young, All-Star Game MVP.

I swear, that is not the last time Michael will shake Bud Selig’s hand.

Unless Bud gets bounced before Michael hangs ’em up.

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

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