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.

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