September 2006


Of course, I’m sad that my baseball season will be just about over this time tomorrow, and it’s disappointing that the Rangers won’t be televised today, but I’ve had a great baseball day.

I watched the Arlington Eagles and the Plano Starcats play ball. No contract disputes, no steroid controversies, no CBA negotiations or clubhouse chemistry issues or holdouts. And there was plenty of mental toughness.

Some of the players wore their baseball pants hiked to the knee, like Ian Kinsler. Others had their caps slightly crooked (said one: “Like Dontrelle”). They all smiled, and laughed. A lot.

Baseball at Oran Good Park offered the exquisiteness of a force at second, a ball bounded just inside the line, a cleanly caught toss from the catcher. The power of wearing the same uniform, the pride of being part of a team.

Sometimes people try to get me worked up and make me feel guilty for keeping my homer’s hat on when my team is 80-80 and out of the race. But I won’t. Baseball is one of the things I count on to be a positive in my life, a dependable, unpredictable, energizing positive. There are plenty of other things to get stressed about, bitter about, worked up about.

Usually it’s the Rangers that I look to for those positives, small if not big. But sometimes it’s the thrill of seeing Danny stand up and energetically tug his Starcats catcher’s mask down before every pitch. Of catching Gabriel’s pure smile as he crosses home plate. Of seeing Pamela wearing number 12 like I did, batting from the left side like I did, going oppo better than I ever did. Of Scott pointing to his Mom in the bleachers as he walks to the plate, telling her, “This hit’s gonna be for you.”

Of all the Eagles and Starcats being Brave in the Attempt, even if they didn’t win.

It’s the Great Game, and we’re lucky to have it.

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Terrell Owens has been with four NFL teams: San Francisco, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Dallas. The only big leaguer to play for San Francisco, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Texas was lefthander Jim Poole, who was drafted by the Dodgers out of Georgia Tech, among whose most notable baseball alums is Mark Teixeira, who is tied with David Ortiz for the American League home run lead since the All-Star Break with 23 bombs. Teixeira (who is listed at 6’3″, 220, just like Terrell Owens) drove in five runs (on a pair of homers off Jered Weaver) on Wednesday, pushing him to second in the league (next to Frank Thomas) with 60 RBI since the Break. Teixeira leads the AL with 19 game-winning RBI.

Terrell Owens is saying he might be able to play this Sunday against Tennessee despite his broken hand, but Rick Bauer won’t play Sunday in Seattle, or tonight or tomorrow. Texas is shutting him down with shoulder tendonitis.

Even if Owens can’t go this weekend, you can bet he’ll be back the following weekend to try to stick it to his third team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Chris Young is sorta sticking it to his third team as well. It’s been 10 starts since Young has permitted more than three runs, going 5-4, 2.66 in that stretch, punching out 50 hitters in 50.2 innings and limiting the opposition to a sick .155 batting average. He’s San Diego’s hottest pitcher as the Padres head toward a likely playoff berth.

Give Terrell Owens and Hank Blalock credit: They play through pain. But Blalock’s September OPS is only 485 points higher than Owens’s is.

Terrell Owens can look to Emerson Frostad for inspiration as the third baseman-turned-catcher builds on the breakthrough season he had after his own hand injury when the Hawaii Winter Baseball League kicks its schedule off on Sunday. Frostad, John Mayberry Jr., Johnny Whittleman, and Jose Vallejo will play for the West Oahu CaneFires.

According to Terrell Owens’s calculations, Mark DeRosa needs to go 5 for 12 (or 4 for 8) this weekend to get back to .300 for the season. Gerald Laird needs to go 3 for 8, or 2 for 4.

Terrell Owens was born in Alexander City, Alabama. The only baseball player born in Alexander City, Alabama was outfielder Johnny Watwood, who played for the White Sox, Red Sox, and Phillies between 1929 and 1939. There are 17 players in major league history who have played for those three teams, including late lefthander Ken Brett, who was one of the owners of the Rangers’ Short-Season A affiliate, the Spokane Indians, which placed three players on Baseball America’s Top 20 Northwest League Prospects list, revealed on Wednesday: lefthander Kasey Kiker (number 7), first baseman-outfielder Chris Davis (number 12), and catcher Chad Tracy (number 13).

Terrell Owens went to Alexander City’s Benjamin Russell High School, where he lettered in football, track, baseball, and basketball. That school has produced three minor leaguers, including righthander Jerome Gamble, whom Boston chose with its fourth-round pick in 1998. Texas used its fourth-rounder in 1998 on Alameda (Cal.) Encinal High outfielder Antown Rollins, whose brother Jimmie is one season into a five-year, $40 million deal to play shortstop for the Phillies. You now know where the jumping point probably is with regard to talks on a long-term extension with Michael Young.

Terrell Owens is not the son of a former big league All-Star like Mayberry is, which was not a factor in Midwest League managers and scouts ranking Mayberry as the circuit’s number 15 prospect in the BA survey.

It’s unconfirmed that the new Midwest League franchise known as the Great Lakes Loons named themselves after Terrell Owens, but according to Baseball America it’s true that the Loons have chosen to affiliate with the Dodgers rather than the Rangers for at least the next two years. Texas, to date, has reupped with each of its 2006 farm clubs besides its Midwest League club in Clinton, though they could still come to an agreement. I believe the way the rules work, any clubs that haven’t signed a player development contract by tomorrow will be assigned an affiliate during the first week of October.

I doubt Terrell Owens knows Ron Mahay (even though both have acting credits), but if they ever meet, I’d want him to ask Mahay — one of three players who have been big league teammates of both Kevin Millar and Josh Rupe — whether he sees any Millar in Rupe.

No baseball player has ever had the same middle name as Terrell Eldorado Owens, but that didn’t stop Akinori Otsuka from deciding he may try acupuncture this winter to address the migraine headache problem that prevented him from finishing the season.

Terrell Owens probably knows no more than the Rangers about whether righthander Edinson Volquez will report to instructs in Surprise. Volquez is reportedly eager to return home to the Dominican Republic because of a family health issue.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which is where Terrell Owens played collegiately, discontinued its baseball program in 1989, which was the birth year of Dominican catcher Cristian Santana, who has reportedly recovered enough from shoulder surgery that he’s back on the field at instructs. Same goes for catchers Taylor Teagarden and Manuel Pina, each returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Terrell Owens was born on December 7, 1973, the birthdate of only one player who would reach the major leagues, righthander Brian Schmack. Twenty-seven Decembers later, Owens made his first Pro Bowl appearance and Schmack was traded as part of a two-player package to Texas for Royce Clayton, along with fellow White Sox righty Aaron Myette, who was traded two Decembers after that as part of a two-player package, with fellow Ranger rookie Travis Hafner, to Cleveland for smoldering-haired catcher Einar Diaz and righthander Ryan Drese. And I don’t want to talk about that any more.

Three more: Vicente Padilla vs. Ryan Feierabend, Kevin Millwood vs. Felix Hernandez, and Robinson Tejeda vs. Jake Woods, after which there will be even more space in the local papers and on the local air to devote to Terrell Owens talk.

Boy. Can’t wait.

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There can’t be any question at this point: Two spots in the 2007 rotation are cemented. Kevin Millwood and Robinson Tejeda, both under Rangers control for another four years, are undoubtedly locked in as February starters. That’s not to say that Tejeda goes in as the number two starter — he’s more likely a four on paper — but he’s done an outstanding job since his return from Oklahoma.

Command of a good fastball is a beautiful thing.

It’s what has made Tejeda dependable, and it’s exactly what prevents Edinson Volquez right now from being able to do the same.

Wes Littleton surely has a spot locked down himself. He didn’t face his first big league hitter until July, but he’s been spectacular since that time, permitting runs only four times in 32 appearances. His first big league win and last night’s first big league save each came in Anaheim, in front of dozens of relatives and friends.

Littleton sits at 2-1, 1.54 as a Ranger, holding hitters to a line of .181/.273/.233 (including an improving .243/.370/.324 by lefties). In 35 innings, he’s scattered just 21 hits, including one double, one triple, and one home run, with a silly 3.74 groundball-to-flyball rate.

Akinori Otsuka won’t pitch again this season, due to persistent migraine headaches and the drowsiness caused by the medication doctors have prescribed to control them.

Mark Teixeira delivered his 30th bomb last night, raising his season numbers to .277/.368/.499 with 44 doubles, 88 walks, 95 runs, and 104 RBI.

Mark DeRosa is up to 74 RBI for the season, one more than the total he amassed the last three years (his only three full big league seasons).

There’s an emptiness in the Rangers organization, with the passing on Saturday of Judy Johns, the club’s director of major league administration and a member of the organization since 1973.

The Rangers considered sending Josh Rupe to round out their Arizona Fall League contingent but ultimately decided against it. Rupe’s wife is expecting their first child in a few weeks.

Having earlier delegated the Clinton trio of outfielder John Mayberry Jr., third baseman Johnny Whittleman, and second baseman Jose Vallejo to the West Oahu CaneFires of the Hawaii Winter League, Texas has added Bakersfield catcher Emerson Frostad to the Oahu roster.

Managers and scouts named shortstop Marcus Lemon the number four Arizona League prospect this summer in a Baseball America survey.

One Rangers prospect made a BA Minor League All-Star squad: Spokane first baseman Chris Davis was named the Short-Season A All-Star first baseman.

Alex Rodriguez is 3 for 18 (two singles and a double) since Tom Verducci’s illuminating Sports Illustrated cover story hit the stands.

Detroit got righthander Colby Lewis through waivers and outrighted him to AAA.

Twins candidates for 2006 MVP: (1) Justin Morneau; (2) Joe Mauer; (3) Johan Santana; (4) Giants GM Brian Sabean. Maybe not in that order.

The New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League released righthander Willy Espinal.

I spent Tuesday in Roanoke, Indiana, my first time in that town of fewer than 1,500 folks. Byron Nelson passed away on Tuesday, at his Roanoke, Texas home. Weird. To me, at least.

The final edition of my “Going Deep” column for covers the rules and timetables for clubs to offer arbitration to their own free agents in the off-season, a very important aspect of the Rangers’ winter plans.

Tejeda has made the Rangers’ winter work a little bit easier.

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Seeing that big smile on Carlos Lee’s face today as he stepped into the box to a chorus of boos with one out in the bottom of ninth, down five runs, it occurred to me that the parting of ways between Lee and the Rangers this winter will probably be exceedingly mutual.

Love the trade, but there’s no way we can bring that guy back for anywhere near the money he already turned down from the Brewers. Whoever pays Lee to play left field for multiple years, in a decent-sized park, is going to be disappointed.

The dribbler to the mound to end the game was sort of a fitting way to end the home season. Only Texas and Kansas City were on the wrong side of .500 in their own yard among American League teams this year. Very frustrating.

As far as Lee is concerned, let’s hope the CBA provision that governs draft pick compensation survives at least one more winter.

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Mark Teixeira has 108 fewer at-bats since the All-Star Break than he had before it.

That’s 108 fewer.

He has four more RBI post-Break than pre-Break.

Three more walks.

He has twice as many home runs post-Break (20 vs. 9).

Remember the few of us who suggested those first-half doubles would become second-half bombs? Teixeira had 31 doubles before the Break, a dozen since.

Tex is a .269/.380/.563 hitter in the second half.

He’s going to have a huge 2007.


P.S. Chris Young is pretty good.

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From the “September 16 Plus” Newberg Report:

“Michael [Young’s] 200th hit of 2006 drove in his 94th run of the season, five short of a career best. Chances are he’ll knock in number 100 three doubles from now, when he collects two-bagger number 51 for the year, breaking Juan Gonzalez’s franchise record.”

Setting up pretty well. Young has doubled twice since then to give him a franchise-record-tying 50, and he drove in four runs tonight, raising his RBI total to a career-best-equaling 99.

Double number 51 comes off of Brian Slocum tomorrow, driving in Gary Matthews for RBI number 100.

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Highlights of the Rangers’ 2007 schedule, released yesterday:

April 2: Open on the road, at Angels

April 6: Open at home, against Boston

May 1-3, 8-10: Only six games all year against Yankees, 10-day span

June 20: Middle game of Cubs’ three-game set at Ameriquest Field; Kerry Wood pitches the eighth

June 23: Middle game of Astros’ three-game set at Ameriquest Field; Carlos Lee hits two home runs

July 12: Off-day coming out of All-Star Break; strange

July 27-August 5: Nine-game road trip to Kansas City, Cleveland, and Toronto; first of two trips of that length, after having five in 2006

July 31: First game of above-mentioned Indians series; big day for Thomas Diamond

September 18: Michael Young gets his 200th hit in Minnesota; Boof Bonser joins a club that now includes Rich Harden, Mark Mulder, Jeff Harris, and Chris Bootcheck

September 28-30: Close the regular season on the road, at Seattle; John Danks wins his seventh game

If it all falls right, the six at Ameriquest Field against Baltimore and the Angels that precede the three season-enders in Seattle won’t be the final home games of the year.

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Bartolo Buchholz is 2-0, 0.00 (.130/.175/.130) lifetime against the Rangers, and 4-10, 6.87 (.265/.321/.515) against everyone else.

Cha Seung Clemens is 3-0, 0.83 (.147/.190/.227) lifetime against Texas, and 3-5, 6.39 (.284/.370/.528) against everyone else.

Don’t ask me.

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The way things shake out, last night was my final trip to Ameriquest Field for a 2006 Rangers game, and it turned out to be the night on which Texas was eliminated from the race. The magic number formula doesn’t say so — if Texas were to win out and the A’s lost the remainder of their games, both teams would have 87 wins — but that would also mean that Oakland would have lost seven times to the Angels, giving Los Angeles a minimum of 88 wins.

So it’s over, mathematically.

Exciting game and all, but the Mariners threw just 60 percent of their 172 pitches for strikes, and Texas threw just 62 percent of their 215 for strikes. Not pretty.

Rod Barajas singled Carlos Lee in with two outs in the fifth to extend the Rangers’ lead to 7-5. After that, Texas hitters finished the game 0 for 17. A J.J. Putz error in the 10th was all that marred what was otherwise a perfect five and a third from the Mariners bullpen after the Barajas flare.

Six of Seattle’s nine runs scored after there were two outs.

Edinson Volquez had trouble not only with two outs, but with two strikes. Maybe the most important key for him is learning how to bury a hitter. The stuff is there.

Gary Matthews Jr. didn’t thank home plate ump Jeff Nelson for (in his opinion) blowing the call on the 3-1 pitch that would have resulted in a walk, rather than a next-pitch bomb to left.

Matthews is the reigning American League Player of the Week. One of the two finalists was Kansas City infielder Esteban German.

Sure hope German for Fabio Castro for Daniel Haigwood doesn’t turn out to look like Justin Duchscherer for Luis Vizcaino for Jesus Pena.

Mark Teixeira’s blast to left center in the third not only rang the bell — it **** near put a dent in it. Wow.

The 1929 Tigers, the 1932 Phillies, and the 2006 Rangers are the only three teams to have had four players with at least 40 doubles. Mark DeRosa joined Michael Young, Matthews, and Teixeira with his two-bagger off the left field wall in the third inning.

The only player in baseball with more games of at least four RBI’s than Teixeira has since he debuted in 2003 is David Ortiz.

Ian Kinsler is on pace to get 35 more at-bats. He’d have to get 18 hits in that span to finish at .300.

Jason Botts isn’t returning to the big club this month after all. He’s headed to instructs (which opened yesterday) before playing winter ball in Puerto Rico.

Games begin at instructs on Sunday and last through October 14.

The Hawaii Winter League begins on October 1. The Arizona Fall League kicks off on October 10.

The Rangers, according to Baseball America, released 18-year-old Venezuelan infielder Jose Rodriguez, who was getting a little hype last winter, and Oklahoma catcher Tom Gregorio.

Dominican righthander Yeyser Marinez will have (or had) Tommy John surgery. He pitched in the Dominican Summer League in 2004 and in the Arizona League in 2005, but didn’t pitch this season.

“Hannibal Rising” will be published on December 5.

I think “Studio 60” has got something.

NPR’s Robert Siegel has the best voice. Ever.

Rangers manager of media relations Jeff Evans notes that Jim Hickman’s natural cycle (August 7, 1963) was the only one achieved as swiftly as the Matthews feat last week. Both hit their home run with no outs in the sixth.

Lefthander Julian Cordero went 1-0, 7.82 for Low A West Virginia in the Brewers system following the Carlos Lee trade. He gave up 20 hits and five walks in 12.2 innings (one start and four relief appearances), fanning a dozen.

I hope it’s not the Astros who sign Lee, since they’re under .500.

Detroit designated righthander Colby Lewis for assignment.

If Ichiro grew up in the United States, I bet he wouldn’t have come close to what he’s accomplished in baseball. Some coach would undoubtedly have changed that “step in the bucket” approach of his at age 15.

Those Batter vs. Pitcher tables say that Ichiro is now 2 for 4 lifetime against Akinori Otsuka. That’s not completely true, now, is it? The 34-year-old Otsuka and the 32-year-old Ichiro were on opposing Japanese Pacific League clubs from 1997 through 2000.

Aki next spring: Less WBC, more PFP.

Grant Schiller interviewed me.

In some ways, I feel this morning as if baseball season has ended. But in another way, it seems like it’s just begun again. You owe it to yourself to read this

The baseball winter just got a lot better.

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And he did it in style, with a line drive single to center, scoring a run. Michael’s 200th hit of 2006 drove in his 94th run of the season, five short of a career best. Chances are he’ll knock in number 100 three doubles from now, when he collects two-bagger number 51 for the year, breaking Juan Gonzalez’s franchise record.

It was a great, great night at the yard for my family and me and lots of our friends. The 20 of us, along with more than 40,000 others, were on our feet as Chuck Morgan announced what Michael had just accomplished with the seventh-inning base hit, his third of the night.

Moments later, after Mark Teixeira drove in a run with his fourth hit of the game and moved Michael to third base, chasing Angels reliever Chris Bootcheck, Chuck put up a montage on the Jumbotron to honor Michael and what he had done, and what he is. All 40,000-plus had our eyes glued to the screen.

But Michael, the Leader of My Team, stood on third, looking at the ground, to nobody’s surprise. When he notches another 200 next year, going from the fourth player since 1940 to do it four straight years to the third to do it five straight, he’ll once again kick at the dirt, and do everything he can not to soak in the extra attention that he genuinely believes belongs to everyone who wears the same uniform he does. He’ll look down at the ground, unassuming, almost embarrassed, ready to get the game back on.

The man is so damned consistent.

The following is reprinted from last October.


October 2, 2005

I have this vision.

It’s August 14, 2019, Max’s 15th birthday. His sophomore year in high school won’t begin for another week or two. He’s got his running buddies, but it’s a Wednesday, and what he wants to do that night for his birthday is spend it with Dad at Ameriquest Field. Whether Mom joins us probably depends on whether Erica is home that summer, having just finished her freshman year in college.

My vision is a little fuzzy on whether John Danks is pitching that night, and whether that’s Mike Nickeas or Taylor Teagarden or Cristian Santana he’s pitching to, but I’m pretty sure Johnny Whittleman is hitting second and playing third. And though my gut tells me it’s overly optimistic, there’s first baseman Mark Teixeira, wearing Rangers red.

Hey, it’s my vision.

And there Max sits with his 50-year-old Dad, in that place that through his childhood and adolescence remained a constant for us, a haven where we could always connect regardless of what else was going on in each of our lives.

The scoreboard is blurry and so I’m not exactly sure what inning it is, but I’m going to say it’s the seventh, because it’s clearly dark outside.

And we’re all standing and cheering wildly as 14-year-old Mateo Young, running out onto the field from his seat in the Owner’s Box, gives Dad a hug at second base, where he just pulled up on a double that he rifled to right center, the 3000th base hit of his career. I should note that it’s the bottom of the inning. That part is crucial.

It will be the final big league season for 42-year-old Michael Young. Twenty seasons, all spent as a Texas Ranger.

The next part of the vision is me and Max in Cooperstown, in July of 2025, the first trip there for both of us. It’s Ginger’s first time there, too. Same for Erica (having just finished the bar exam?), who has the same cheerful look on her face and twinkle in her eyes as she did at age five every time she saw “Michael !!” come up to the plate.

As a family, we see Michael Young enshrined. He goes into the Hall of Fame as part of a class that includes his friend Alex Rodriguez, the man he replaced as shortstop for the Texas Rangers way back in 2004 and almost as quickly surpassed as a team leader.

In this vision of mine, Michael is appropriately appreciative of the Hall of Fame recognition, a validation of the conviction he always had that he could do absolutely everything on the baseball field that his ever-decreasing set of doubters doggedly said he couldn’t. Three thousand hits is no longer a lock for induction by the ’20s, but there are extra bullet points that made Michael’s entrance a slam dunk, including those three batting titles and the World Series MVP trophy. Plus the fact that the only things he ever gave the media reason to write about occurred on the field.

He was also appreciative of that August 14, 2019 ovation from a sellout crowd full of kids and their parents, for most of whom Michael Young was the embodiment of the Texas Rangers for as long as they’d cared about their team. I don’t say a word and neither does Max, and we don’t need to. The smile on each of our faces is identical.

Appreciative as Michael was of that reception from nearly 50,000, it didn’t mean as much to him as that hug from Mateo on the field, and it didn’t mean as much to him as the fact that that double to right center drove in two runs to give his team a 4-3 lead in the seventh. Once Michael headed to the Owner’s Box and kissed Cristina and their other kids, and hugged Anna and Fred and the rest of his family, Mateo found his seat again and Michael found his place back on the bag at second base. The ovation still hadn’t died, and there were tears in a lot of eyes in that building and on lots of living room sofas, but not in Michael’s eyes.

With the ovation only marginally losing steam, and most everyone in the ballpark thinking only about the history they were experiencing in that spectacular moment, what instead was apparent in Michael Young’s eyes was that he was zeroed in on the pitcher and the second baseman, methodically extending his lead to improve his chances of scoring on a single and extending the Texas lead to 5-3.


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