THE NEWBERG REPORT — OCTOBER 3, 2006

Thinking about someone else’s dinner plans doesn’t sound very constructive, or considerate, so rather than looking forward, here’s a little looking back.

Inspired by the new post on T.R. Sullivan’s “Postcards from Elysian Fields” MLBlog, a few thoughts on the 80-82 Rangers:

1. Who was the Rangers Most Valuable Player this year and why?

Michael Young was the most valuable. There is no MVP in the standard sense on a team that finishes under .500 and out of the race. But Young is the most valuable person in this organization, on the field and off of it.

You know about the four straight 200-hit seasons and the select group that that puts Young in, historically. You probably know about the 52 doubles, a team record.

But you might not have heard about the 691 at-bats, which broke his 2004 franchise record by one, or the 748 plate appearances, which eclipsed his 2004 franchise record by nine. If those marks aren’t exciting enough for you, know this: they probably mean more to Young than the doubles or any other personal achievement.

Because they mean he was steady, he was healthy, and he was out there, for his teammates, every day.

That’s the guy you build a winning organization around.

2. Pitcher of the Year?

Aki. His steadiness allowed Texas to find out about a whole lot of other relievers in the 6th through 8th.

3. What positives do you take away from this season?

Tejeda. Tex’s second half. GMJ’s season, in all aspects. DeRo’s importance. Laird and Kinsler and Cruz. Wes and Rupe and C.J. and Masset.

4. What was the most frustrating aspect of the season.

Eaton’s injury. Wilkerson.

5. Professor Marvel looks into his Crystal Ball and tells you that a pitcher within the Rangers organization will win the Cy Young Award in the next five years. What is his name?

Mark Buehrle.

Or maybe Mark Mulder.

Which is not to say that it can’t be Kevin Millwood or John Danks or Eric Hurley or Robinson Tejeda.

The point is this: Of the top 10 workloads on the Rangers staff in 2006, only two were owned by pitchers who were here 12 months ago: Joaquin Benoit (who finished the year a lot closer to the back of the staff than the front) and Kameron Loe (who finished the year trying to refind himself in the minor leagues). The other eight — Millwood, Vicente Padilla, John Koronka, Tejeda, Rick Bauer, John Rheinecker, Eaton, and Otsuka — were acquired by Jon Daniels between the end of the 2005 season and the start of the 2006 campaign.

In some past Rangers regimes, general managers tended to tweak the middle and back of the club’s pitching corps. Daniels will aim higher, aggressively.

Bad news. Texas and Cincinnati finished with identical 80-82 records, and the issue is not only which will draft higher next June. The Rangers and Reds had the 15th and 16th best records in baseball, between which the demarcation between upper half and lower half sits.

So it comes down to a tiebreaker: Because the Reds were worse than the Rangers in 2005 (73 wins vs. 79), Cincinnati will draft ahead of Texas in June.

As a result, based on the current CBA, if the Reds sign a Type A or Type B free agent this winter, they will forfeit their second-round pick. The Rangers, on the other hand, would forfeit their first. The difference is huge: Cincinnati could sign the top free agent in baseball this off-season and lose, say, the 60th pick . . . while Texas could sign a player ranked at the bottom of the Type B category and surrender pick number 16.

Of course, draft pick compensation could be history, and it won’t matter that the Rangers pick 16th rather than 15th. But that wouldn’t be good news, either — with the number of high-profile free agents Texas has, the club is poised to add several first- and second-round picks to its arsenal. Despite the unfortunate outcome as far as the Reds’ finish is concerned, if you’re a Ranger fan, you should be pulling for draft pick compensation to survive the CBA talks — or at least to have the negotiations drag on long enough that any compensation changes don’t take effect until next winter.

Hank Blalock had his right shoulder scoped yesterday to clean up and repair some frayed ligaments. He’s expected to resume baseball activities by the end of November.

The 5.1 innings that Padilla threw on Friday gave him an even 200 for the year. It was the third time he’s reached that level, after doing so in 2002 and 2003 for Philadelphia. Padilla won 14 games in each of those two seasons, a career best until he recorded 15 victories this year.

Hurley was named the number five prospect in the California League by managers and scouts, according to a Baseball America survey. Outfielder Ben Harrison, who like Hurley finished his season in Frisco, was ranked 14th in the Cal League.

Rheinecker might be the Rangers’ final delegate to the Arizona Fall League.

John Mayberry Jr. went 1 for 2 with a walk in West Oahu’s Hawaii Winter Baseball opener on Sunday, and Johnny Whittleman went hitless in five trips.

The forewords for the 2007 Bound Edition are being written by C.J. Wilson, Lorrie Masset, and Alan Schlact.

Bon Appé***.

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

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