Five days ago I wrote that maybe the way to trigger a win streak is not necessarily by nailing down a victory with a huge moment or by overcoming objectively tall odds to steal a win.
Instead, I hypothesized that maybe the key to kicking off a good run is to simply win a game by executing, by going out and doing exactly what you’re capable of, by taking advantage of opportunities. By proving to yourself that if you just go out and perform, you can beat anyone.
Texas managed to do both today against Minnesota.
Santana won his 10th game of the season.
But it wasn’t Johan, who suffered his fifth loss, courtesy primarily of Mark Teixeira and Gary Matthews Jr.
It was Ervin, whose 10th win for the Angels dropped Oakland into a tie for first in the West going into the Break.
That’s a heck of a good win, heading into a three-day vacation that will be followed by 11 straight on the road and then three at home against the Yankees. Will the type of win that this was, combined with a few days to decompress, be psychologically meaningful?
No telling. But as I kick back along with all of you and with 23 Rangers players for half a week, watching Michael and Gary play a little bit in Pittsburgh, it sure feels a lot better having won that game, both heroically and methodically, to set a little tone heading into the so-called second half.
Relax for a few days, then buckle up.
I’m sitting here answering emails sent to me in response to this morning’s report, most commenting on those age-12 memories of mine that were rekindled at Ameriquest Field yesterday afternoon, when ESPN SportsCenter airs a story featuring — completely coincidentally — a 12-year-old kid in New York City named Charlie Pena. Charlie suffers from sickle cell anemia.
Through the “Make-A-Wish Foundation,” Charlie got his wish, acting as coach for a day for his favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Erica and Max smiled a lot as we watched Charlie live what was for him an impossible dream. The story brought me to tears.
The Eagles are Charlie’s heroes. But he was the real hero, to Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb and anyone who watched that story this morning.
ESPN is a wispy shadow of its former self. The list of things I can’t stand about what the network has become, on its own volition, is long. But one of the things it does really, really well, maybe as well as anyone, is produce and present a human interest story. I encourage you to catch Charlie’s story on SportsCenter.
The story of that spirited 12-year-old and the dream he lived out makes me want to take back what I wrote this morning, in a way. But in another way, it sorta makes me appreciate yesterday even more.
Saturday was a really cool day. I had the opportunity, along with close to 100 other Rangers fans, to throw in the outfield at Ameriquest Field. I’m at the stage of my life where my happiest moments all involve my children one way or the other, but yesterday afternoon’s was one of those where I was the kid, where I enjoyed and appreciated and absorbed the experience just as if I were 12 years old again.
And five hours later, Francisco Liriano was as menacing as Juan from El Zarape. There was actually a scandal in the North Dallas Chamber over whether Juan was 12 like the rest of us, or a 15-year-old ringer.
From the July 28, 2005 Newberg Report: “Several stories have Minnesota close to cutting ties with Bret Boone and possibly interested in [Alfonso] Soriano. Fine: offer me Francisco Liriano. Yankees? Put Philip Hughes on the table. And then I’m calling the Mets back [about outfielder Lastings Milledge].”
July 30, 2005: “The Twins[, having lost Torii Hunter,] not only need a second baseman now, they also need another big bat. And if they’re willing to part with 21-year-old lefthander Francisco Liriano, then I probably tell the Mets I’ll call them back. I’m taking Terry Ryan’s call first.”
July 31, 2005: “In the space of two days, I changed my mind as to how badly I wanted Liriano to be traded to Texas. He’s now number one on my list, ahead of Mets outfielder Lastings Milledge.”
It’s pretty clear that the Twins were never going to make Liriano available, and that Texas simply wasn’t going to trade them Soriano unless they did. Both teams played it correctly. What a monster that guy is. And he’s just 22.
The Rangers lineup seemingly had as much of a chance against Liriano last night as Corpus Christi had against Thomas Diamond (complete-game, five-single, one-walk shutout) or as my Dallas Piping bunch had against Juan from El Zarape.
Scary thing is Liriano is actually six months younger than Diamond, unless the Dominican lefthander is fudging his age like Juan — if that was even his real name! — did. Maybe we should launch an investigation, calling Chamber Commissioner Quentin Altizer (though I’m afraid he’s passed) or possibly his successor, David Curliss.
The best player on El Zarape, next to Juan, was the Tigers’ catcher, Vincent Perez. He was an athlete behind the plate in the Pudge Rodriguez mold (though it should be noted that Vincent and I and certainly Juan are all older than Pudge), and I was in awe of his defense. It was really cool when, in eighth grade, it turned out that Vincent went to E.D. Walker Middle School just like I did. Suddenly we were teammates. Catching Vincent’s throws at shortstop on attempted steals was something I haven’t forgotten.
Speaking of catchers, Francisco Liriano is Exhibit A for the proposition that you can never draft, sign, acquire, and develop enough catchers. Bravo, Terry Ryan.
Michael Young got his 1,000th big league hit in his 827th game, a fourth-inning single on Tuesday. No Ranger hitter in the franchise’s 35 years has gotten there more quickly.
For a little context, consider this: Young has amassed 1.21 hits per game as a major leaguer. Over a 162-game season, that’s 196 hits.
Only seven Ranger hitters besides Young have ever collected 200 hits in a season. Each of them did it once.
Young, on the other hand, has eclipsed 200 hits three times in his four full seasons. Three months from now, it will be four out of five.
In classic Young fashion, he commented on Tuesday’s achievement with a mixture of humility, respect, and drive, all of which he comes by naturally: “Knowing how many good hitters they’ve had in Texas, it does mean something. But to me, 1,000 hits isn’t that many. I want to keep going.”
The owner of the top two base hit seasons in franchise history, Young is on pace to make it the top three.
And he does it all without the flair of six of the other Rangers who have turned in 200-hit campaigns — Mickey Rivers, Al Oliver, Rafael Palmeiro, Ruben Sierra, Julio Franco, and Alex Rodriguez — instead going about his business in a perfectly unassuming manner, intense but not animated. He’s more of a throwback to Buddy Bell, the seventh other Ranger to reach the plateau (collecting exactly 200 hits in 1979) and the hitter whose record Young broke on Tuesday as the fastest Ranger to get to 1,000.
Fifty-seven of Young’s hits have come with Bell in the opposing dugout, as manager of the Rockies and Royals with a two-plus-year stint as Indians bench coach in between. Young is a .375/.410/.553 hitter against Bell clubs.
And you know which of the two of them is more impressed with it.
Righthander Adam Eaton made his first game appearance of the 2006 season last night, firing two near-perfect innings for Oklahoma. Kicking off his rehab assignment with the RedHawks, three months after surgery on a tendon in the middle finger of his right hand, Eaton struck out former big leaguers Ruben Gotay and Chad Allen, got two ground ball outs and two flyouts, and permitted one baserunner, on an error by third baseman Aarom Baldiris. Promising start for Eaton, who threw 25 pitches (19 fastballs [touching 92] and six cutters), 16 for strikes.
Michael Young has no hits off Eaton. But that’s because Young has never faced Eaton. In the big leagues, that is. The two faced off twice in the High A Florida State League in 1999; Clearwater’s Eaton held Dunedin’s Young hitless on May 20 while Young doubled and walked twice on June 4. Mobile’s Eaton held Tennessee’s Young hitless again on May 9, 2000, in the Class AA Southern League.
The Rangers named Oklahoma righthander Edinson Volquez (1-0, 0.84 in five starts, nine hits and 15 walks allowed in 32 innings, 39 strikeouts) and Bakersfield outfielder Ben Harrison (.364/.443/.586 in 99 at-bats, with five homers and 27 RBI in 25 games) their minor league pitcher and player of the month for June. Rob Cook and Eric Carter will have the related Newberg Report features within a few days.
Young never won the award in his four months as a Ranger minor leaguer.
The Rangers’ unsigned 22nd-round pick, Ohio State lefthander Cory Luebke, has gotten off to a great start in the prospect-laden Cape Cod League. In three starts for the Falmouth Commodores, the 6’4″ Luebke is 2-0, 0.98, with 18 strikeouts and just 12 hits and six walks allowed in 18.1 frames. Drafted by Texas as a sophomore-eligible, Luebke (who was chosen out of high school by Pittsburgh in the 18th round in 2004) went 4-2, 3.55 as a Buckeye freshman and 7-6, 3.38 as a sophomore this year.
Young never played in the Cape Cod League. He did, however, play for the Alaska Goldpanners in the Alaska Summer Baseball League after his Cal Santa Barbara sophomore season in 1996, hitting .335/.416/.479 and earning team MVP honors.
The Rangers’ 32nd-round pick last month, Lewis-Clark State College righthander Shannon Wirth, was the Goldpanners’ pitching MVP in 2005, going 5-1, 1.90 in six starts and three relief appearances that summer, fanning 56 in 52 innings while walking only nine. A 36th-round pick of the Giants in 2003, Wirth signed with the Rangers a week after this year’s draft, and in two Spokane relief appearances he’s yielded three runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks in three frames, fanning two.
The latest excellent installment of Bakersfield righthander Michael Schlact’s 2006 player diary is now posted on Eleanor Czajka’s Minor Details page.
We once did an “Ask the Prospect” feature with Michael Young, about a month after Texas acquired him from Toronto with righthander Darwin Cubillan for righthander Esteban Loaiza.
(The interview includes this exchange:
Q: What is it with you and multi-hit games? Who do you think you are, Shannon Stewart?
A: If I’m ever put in Stew’s category as a hitter, I’m doing good things. I feel as though any hitter should want to have a solid plan at the plate and not give away at-bats. If I accomplish that, I’ll be in good shape.
Think he’s attained Shannon Stewart status?)
Former Ranger farmhand Will Smith, released late last month, has hooked on with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League.
There have been three William Smiths to appear in the big leagues.
And two Michael Youngs.
Center fielder-second baseman Ruddy Yan was dropped from Oklahoma to Frisco. Michael Young was never demoted, but he was a center fielder-shortstop in college.
In conjunction with the Yan demotion, Frisco outfielder Luke Grayson was sent down to Bakersfield, replacing right fielder Steve Murphy, who landed on the disabled list with a hamstring pull. Corner infielder Mauro Gomez, who spent two weeks with the Blaze in late April and early May before returning to extended, hit .409/.480/.682 in 44 Arizona League at-bats, earning a return to the California League. He replaces Phillip Hawke, who was released after hitting just .220/.318/.303 in 132 Bakersfield at-bats, a far cry from the impressive .310/.430/.576 numbers he put up at the two short-season levels last summer after being drafted in the 29th round.
Hawke’s 2005 production was better than the .308/.392/.493 line Michael Young put together in his first pro summer.
Kevin Millwood won’t start tonight. (Michael Young will.) He hasn’t been able to get his side work in since a biceps strain chased him from his Sunday night start.
Righthander Wes Littleton made his big league debut on Tuesday, throwing six strikes in eight deliveries to retire All-Stars Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus in the ninth inning.
Wells, an Arlington native, is Michael Young’s best friend, dating back to their days together in the Toronto system. The Blue Jays drafted Young in 1997 in the fifth round, after taking Wells fifth overall in that same draft. The two were teammates at Short-Season A St. Catharines in 1997, at Low A Hagerstown in 1998, and at High A Dunedin in 1999.
It’s easy to imagine that Young and Wells will both be in Ranger red (yes, red) when Young becomes the first player to collect 2,000 hits as a Ranger, and on August 14, 2019 (see page 290 of your 2006 Bound Edition), when the 42-year-old Young reaches 3,000, maybe even with the 39-year-old Wells on deck.
Oklahoma lefthander John Danks started tonight’s game by striking out the first two Omaha batters. It was a sign of what was in store for the Royals.
Danks, the PCL’s youngest pitcher, has finished his night, handing a 3-0 lead to Josh Rupe after six shutout innings in which he scattered four hits, didn’t walk anyone, and punched out eight.
The first seven to go down on strikes went down swinging. Five of the future big leaguer’s strikeout victims were onetime big leaguers.
Danks is in line to win his second AAA game in three tries and has his RedHawks ERA down to 2.00. In 18 Oklahoma frames, he’s permitted 10 hits (.161 opponents’ average) and six walks, fanning 17.
“Hey, Max, who is that?”
“Mike-Oh Ung! Hit the bat, hit the ball!”
“And who’s that?”
“And that big guy?”
“Oh! Dat’s Daydee Botts.”
You have to understand; the fact that Max is now naming players is no more impressive than the fact that it’s no longer the case that every player, regardless of position and sometimes regardless of team, is identified, energetically, as “Mike-Oh Ung!” At least not always.
Many of our conversations start with me saying, “Heeeeere’s the pitch!” and with Max responding with a swing of his bat, or a golf club, or a crayon or board book or sock, followed by a click of his tongue, and a dash around the room, sometimes properly counterclockwise, sometimes in a very cricket-esque north-south pattern, but always ending in the exact spot where he started, with a “slide” that looks more like an elbow drop performed by one of those pro wrestlers that his Uncle Barry worshiped as a kid.
Sometimes the “slide” is punctuated with Max’s signature call: “Homerun! Awesome-cool.”
It can be a simple game if you let it. I thought about that last night as Texas threw two strikes for every ball, took walks, ran the bases aggressively but sensibly, and maybe most importantly, didn’t appear to be taking an approach at the plate that looked like a bunch of guys loading up for the six-run home run.
It was a 6-1 win that didn’t have an impossible catch or an umpire’s call or any ninth-inning heroics at its core. It was a simple win, well executed.
As fans we always latch onto dramatic wins with big moments as potential triggers for a healthy win streak; I’m as guilty of it as anyone. But I wonder if a win like that one, a win that was achieved because the guys on the mound and the guys at the plate stayed within themselves, went out and did exactly what they’re capable of, relaxed, and took advantage of opportunities, might be as likely a catalyst for a team to get into a groove as a walkoff win would be.
Sure would be nice to put together a solid little run over these six with Toronto and Minnesota going into next week’s All-Star Break.
Michael Young and Gary Matthews Jr. won’t get that Break, not that they’re complaining. For Young, it’s the third straight All-Star Game selection for a guy who’s finally getting national recognition as a rock. For Matthews, who is the oldest position player on the Rangers and yet in the midst of what’s really his first season as an everyday starter, it’s a great, great story.
Matthews is going to get paid this winter. Great timing on his part, heading into his first shot at conventional free agency (as opposed to the kind that smacked him in the face at the end of March 2004, when Atlanta released him out of camp and he peddled his wares around the league until Texas offered him a Class AAA job a week later).
What’s he going to get this off-season, at age 32, assuming he’s as good in the second half as he’s been in the first? Three years, $20 million? Four years?
He’s a year older than Torii Hunter, who will also hit the market this winter. But seriously, who would you rather have?
Vernon Wells will hit free agency after the 2007 season. Do you resist locking Matthews up long-term because Wells, an Arlington product and Young’s best friend, would be a perfect fit here? Nope. You never know if Wells ever gets to free agency, you do know that every team with money to spend will be after him, and even if you have confidence that you can bring Wells here, Matthews can play on a corner, too.
Matthews and his father become the 14th father-son duo to become Major League All-Stars.
Oklahoma reliever Wes Littleton was brought back up before yesterday’s game to reinforce the bullpen. Outfielder Freddy Guzman was optioned back to the RedHawks. Since his late-May promotion to AAA, Littleton has gone 4-1, 2.16 with two saves, scattering 14 hits and five walks in 16.2 innings while fanning 15. Most impressive has been the sidewinder’s gaudy 3.71 groundball-to-flyball ratio.
Kevin Millwood left Sunday night’s start with a strained biceps, and was examined yesterday by team physician Dr. Keith Meister, who found no serious issues. Millwood will still lay low for another day or two. It’s not been determined whether he’ll skip a start.
Dr. Meister also saw Frankie Francisco and gave the righthander an anti-inflammatory cortisone injection in his elbow on Sunday.
Kameron Loe, rehabbing his elbow-area bone bruise in Surprise, got a cortisone injection on Sunday as well.
Adam Eaton threw 30 pitches to Jason Botts, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Freddy Guzman in a simulated game on Sunday, reporting no pain in his finger afterwards. He’ll join Oklahoma and pitch for the RedHawks this Thursday, scheduled to throw 30 pitches. Assuming no setbacks, he’ll then throw 45 pitches on Monday, 60 pitches on July 15, 75 pitches on July 20, and 90 pitches on July 25, putting him on schedule to pitch when Kansas City wraps up its visit to Texas on July 30.
Brian Anderson, age 34, has decided to have Tommy John surgery on July 14, one week short of the one-year anniversary of him having the same procedure.
At Oklahoma, C.J. Wilson (left biceps soreness) has been activated from the disabled list, and R.A. Dickey (shoulder strain) and Kelvin Jimenez (elbow soreness) have been DL’d. Outfielder Adrian Brown was placed on the DL with a lacerated left pinky finger, and Ruddy Yan (hamstring) was activated. After playing all but one of his 16 April games in the RedHawk outfield, Yan has played second base once and DH’d another time since returning to action, though he did play outfield in his five rehab appearances late last month in Surprise.
Lefthander Shane Wallace was demoted from Frisco to Bakersfield, where he’d pitched twice in May.
Clinton righthander Juan Carlos Garcia was placed on the disabled list with a groin injury.
Texas traded Oklahoma infielder Tim Olson to Toronto for Class A righthander Joey McLaughlin Jr., assigning the 24-year-old product of Oklahoma City University to Clinton. McLaughlin, whose father pitched in 15 games for Texas in 1984, was the Blue Jays’ 18th round pick in 2004. He went 6-3, 2.77 with seven saves in his first two pro seasons, all in relief, with an impressive opponents’ batting average of .196 to go along with 96 strikeouts in 91 innings. Repeating Low A Lansing this season, McLaughlin had a 3-1, 3.04 mark in 16 relief appearances, holding the Midwest League to a .255 clip while fanning 17 in 26.2 frames.
Bakersfield left fielder Ben Harrison hit his 17th and 18th home runs last night, adding a single and two walks and driving in seven runs. He’s now hitting .296/.393/.547 with 68 RBI in 75 games.
Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman hit no home runs in his first 425 pro at-bats, dating back to June 2005 when he was drafted in the second round. He has four bombs in his last 34 at-bats. After a particularly slow start to this season, he’s hitting .370 over the last week, pulling his numbers up to .230/.327/.353 for the season.
LumberKing righthander Josh Giles, signed last summer as an undrafted free agent out of New Mexico Junior College, where he was a teammate of reliever prospect Johnny Lujan, still hasn’t permitted a 2006 run. He’s allowed 12 hits and four walks in 23.1 innings, punching out 27.
The Rangers signed 11th-round pick Craig Crow, a righthander from Rice, and 29th-rounder Dan Hoben, a southpaw from Chandler-Gilbert Community College, bringing to 25 the number of draft picks they’ve come to terms with.
Philadelphia reporters took the fact that Texas had a scout at Friday’s game between the Phillies and Blue Jays to mean that the Rangers were showing interest in David Dellucci. They failed to note that it was Rangers advance scout Bob Johnson, who was there to watch Toronto just before that club headed to Arlington for the current series.
I still wouldn’t rule out a Dellucci return, though.
A day after Philadelphia acquired him from Texas, Fabio Castro was called on to mop up in the third inning of an 8-0 game and fired three hitless innings, walking one and fanning two Blue Jays.
The Phillies agreed yesterday to pay The Woodlands High School righthander Kyle Drabek $1.55 million to sign. Drabek was taken six slots after Texas chose Kasey Kiker, who signed for $1.6 million.
San Diego’s Chris Young was named National League Pitcher of the Month for June, posting a 1.17 ERA for the month.
According to MLB.com and the Washington Times, the Rangers were in on Dominican 16-year-old shortstop Esmailyn Gonzalez, along with Boston, the Yankees, and Minnesota, before Washington outbid them all and signed him Sunday for $1.4 million.
Righthander Carlos Almanzar will undergo a second Tommy John surgery and is done for the year. He’d made only four appearances this year, all in June, for AA Mississippi and AAA Richmond.
The Reno Silver Sox of the independent Golden Baseball League, counterattacking in response to the San Diego Surf Dawgs’ acquisition of Jose Canseco, traded the Yuma Scorpions a player to be named in exchange for catcher Jason Dewey, the face of the inaugural Frisco RoughRiders squad.
The latest edition of my “Going Deep” feature is now posted on MLB.com, focusing on what Texas did with Castro in the context of Rule 5.
The Yankees released Erubiel Durazo from his AAA contract. He was hitting .290/.400/.419 in 62 Columbus at-bats.
Tonight’s pitching matchup:
With fireworks: Awesome-cool.
Something like that.
Keep it simple.
Our first Newberg Report Night was in 2004. It drew 100 people, and I wrote a lot about it the next day.
Last year’s drew 200, and I wrote a little less about it the next day.
Last night’s drew just short of 350, and I’m not going to write much about it.
I expect there will be plenty of discussion on the message board today, where you can get a taste of what Jon Daniels said in his 90-minute Q&A with us — as always, he was remarkably candid and always interesting; of how Will Carroll, a Cubs fan from Indianapolis, played the role of Rangers expert as effortlessly as he does no matter what team he’s discussing; of how 10-year-old Grant Schiller got to add another notch to his baseball belt that the rest of us were lucky enough to enjoy vicariously.
We were very fortunate to be part of what Cindy Kuster and her family did for invigorating five-year-old Ryan Armstrong. Very fortunate.
Over 400 toys. Thanks.
And thank you to Allen & Barcy Cordrey, Eleanor Czajka, Kevin McBrayer, Brady Tinker, Rob Cook, Thad Levine, Jeff Cogen, Andy Silverman, Taunee Taylor, Jason Sampsell, and you.
Things might have turned out differently if Wandy Rodriguez didn’t get his glove in the way, and if the umpire realized that Craig Biggio didn’t make contact. That’s the breaks.
But otherwise, it was a really cool day and night, and it was my privilege to be part of it. Thanks.
P.S. Tune into Kia Sports Talk on KFWD-Channel 52 tonight at 7:00. They filmed the gathering and I’m told will run a package on it on tonight’s show.
P.P.S. I’m a loser. Like clockwork, I generally forget to thank at least one person every time we have an event like yesterday’s, and I’ve done it again.
We could have pulled Newberg Report Night off without his help, but it would have been far more ordinary, far less organized, and far, far, far less memorable.
Thank you to the great Chuck Morgan. We as Rangers fans are incredibly fortunate.
You’ve seen the remarks the past couple days from within the clubhouse and upstairs: “We’re better than this.” Yep.
Halfway through the season, and Texas is 41-40. Disappointing.
As for today’s amazing nothingness, maybe we should recognize that, after all, we were up against Bartolo Buchholz and Vladimir Lamb.
It’s got to get better. Got to.