THE NEWBERG REPORT — OCTOBER 13, 2006
Lyman Bostock wasn’t a star. He was a pure hitter as soon as he arrived in the big leagues, though, maybe along the lines of a Frank Catalanotto or Kal Daniels or Rocco Baldelli. He finished in the American League’s top five in batting his first two full seasons of 1976 and 1977, which were the first two years of my baseball-collecting life and which therefore made him a little larger than life to me.
I was nine years old when Bostock was shot and killed by a man who didn’t know him. It happened about a year before Thurman Munson, a much bigger star than Bostock by any measure, died in a plane crash. Bostock’s death shook me. It was hard for me to understand, at that age, why someone still in his 20s, someone physically gifted enough to be great at playing baseball, wasn’t going to be around any longer.
Those were the days of one or two televised baseball games a week, and since Bostock played for Minnesota and California, I bet I didn’t see him play more than half a dozen times, if that. He existed, for me, on those 1976 and 1977 Topps Twins cards on which his pose was nearly identical. Those frozen cardboard poses that were all I had of Lyman Bostock would remain all I had of him.
I thought about Bostock for the first time in years when I heard the news that Cory Lidle was in the plane that crashed into a 50-story apartment building in Manhattan on Wednesday. Lidle wasn’t a star. I always liked him as a player, though, probably more than I should have (April 13, 2001 Newberg Report, hours before his Oakland debut in what would be his second full season in the big leagues: “Cory Lidle is my sleeper pitcher in the entire American League this year”).
My daughter is too young, and not obsessed enough about baseball, to know who Cory Lidle was. But there are probably thousands of nine-year-olds, in New York and Tampa and Oakland and Toronto and Cincinnati and Philadelphia, to whom Lidle was meaningful — and, given today’s media saturation, to whom Lidle was very real — and who are probably struggling with what this all means.
And then there’s Lidle’s six-year-old son, Christopher, who was born three months after Erica was.
God, that *****.
Mets third base coach Manny Acta lives in the building that Lidle’s plane hit. He’d left his apartment 45 minutes before the crash.
Acta is one of four finalists for the Rangers managerial post, according to multiple reports, along with Don Wakamatsu, Trey Hillman, and Ron Washington. Jon Daniels has said he plans to interview Wakamatsu last since he’s the lone internal candidate and thus the one the Rangers already know most about, and that means that the interview process hasn’t yet begun — because Acta, Hillman, and Washington are all coaching teams that remain alive in the playoffs.
Hillman’s Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters won their first Japan Pacific League title in 25 years when they swept the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in a best-of-three. Get this: After completing the sweep yesterday, Hillman’s club will have to wait nine days before facing the Central League champion Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Series. Wonder what the protocol is in Japan (or what Hillman’s personal stance is, for that matter) about him talking to Major League clubs while stuck in this Super Bowl-esque waiting period. It may not matter — Daniels has said he intends to wait until Hillman’s Fighters season is over before interviewing him, not wanting to cause any distractions for the Arlington native and former Rangers director of player development.
The Japan Series could last until October 29.
Washington may be the first to be available for an interview. Detroit doesn’t seem interested in letting Oakland get any footing.
Acta managed the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic in March, and has managed for years in the Dominican Winter League, which adds an intriguing twist to his candidacy.
Interestingly, Acta is supposedly on the coaching staff for the big league team that will tour Japan in early November. His window to interview could be small.
I like the list of four a lot. There’s not a candidate in there who I’d be disappointed to see emerge with the job. As for who I want to get the job, I have no idea. There’s something about each of them that I like, but I admit I don’t know nearly enough about any of them to confidently say I have the answer as to who should succeed Buck Showalter.
Look at it this way: A 37-year-old third base coach for the White Sox interviewed for the Rangers’ managerial post after the 1982 season, only to finish third behind Doug Rader, who got the job, and Bobby Valentine, who would replace Rader two and a half years later. Would the course of Rangers history have been altered at all if Jim Leyland got the job that Rader instead was given? More to the point, how many fans do you think felt Leyland was the right man for the Texas job 24 years ago?
I trust Daniels to make the correct decision. I’m just glad the candidates don’t include a Lou Piniella or Dusty Baker or Jim Fregosi.
Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo removed himself from consideration, telling Daniels that he preferred to remain in his current position.
There was a report on Wednesday that Angels pitching coach Bud Black told Texas that “he’s not interested in managing right now,” but another story on Thursday in which he denied making that comment.
The Rangers were evidently told that former Twins manager Tom Kelly doesn’t want to manage again.
Speaking of the Twins, Minnesota exercised its $12 million option for 2007 on center fielder Torii Hunter, which does nothing but help Gary Matthews Jr.: Supply down, market up.
Texas claimed two righthanders off the waiver wire, Francisco Cruceta from Seattle and Mike Wood from Kansas City. The Rangers designated utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. (who was set to become a free agent later this month anyway) for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for the pair; the roster was already at 39 after the departure of Matt Stairs in September.
The 25-year-old Cruceta has had cups of coffee with Cleveland in 2004 and the Mariners this season. He went 13-9, 4.38 in 28 starts for AAA Tacoma in 2006, leading the Pacific Coast League with 185 strikeouts, which was three short of the entire minor league lead (behind Milwaukee prospect [and Fort Worth native] Yovani Gallardo). No PCL pitcher permitted more homers than Cruceta’s 25, however, and he was second in the circuit with 76 walks.
Cruceta, who is out of options, throws in the low-to-mid-90s but tends to work up in the zone. Is he a better bet than Joselo Diaz was? Probably. As good a bet as Rick Bauer? Probably not. But you never know. Low-risk opportunity here.
Wood, whom Grady Fuson drafted in the 10th round in 2001 for Oakland, reached the big leagues in his third pro season and was traded in his fourth, going to the Royals with Mark Teahen in the three-team deal that sent Carlos Beltran (who shook Manny Acta’s hand last night) to Houston. The 26-year-old has been an ordinary big league pitcher in parts of four seasons (13-20, 5.52) but a spectacular minor leaguer, going 40-17, 3.11 over six years.
Not overpowering, Wood missed a couple months of the 2006 season with back problems.
The Seibu Lions (who were eliminated from the Pacific League playoffs by the Softbank Hawks before the Hawks were disposed of by Hillman’s Fighters) will reportedly post 26-year-old world-class righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka this winter, paving the way for him to be a very wealthy Major Leaguer in 2007.
The Rangers’ final delegate to the Arizona Fall League was not John Rheinecker, but instead lefthander A.J. Murray, who missed the regular season due to injury.
Texas, as it turns out, has a fourth option it can use on Rheinecker.
The AFL season is just underway. Travis Metcalf has homered and singled twice in his first 10 trips.
Emerson Frostad is 6 for 18 in Hawaii Winter League play, with a home run and three doubles. He has caught twice, played first base once, and DH’d two times. John Mayberry Jr. has played only two games for some reason, contributing an impressive two singles and two walks in seven plate appearances. Johnny Whittleman (.059) and Jose Vallejo (.158) have struggled at the plate.
Texas eliminated its advance scout position, opting to rely on video for its big league scouting. Bob Johnson, who had served as the Rangers’ advance scout, has joined the Mets.
The Rangers promoted Western Crosschecker Kip **** to National Crosschecker, which basically makes him the “bench coach” for scouting director Ron Hopkins.
The Rangers hired former big league outfielder Gary Rajsich (brother of former Rangers reliever Dave Rajsich) away from Boston to join their pro scouting department.
Lefthander John Danks was named the Pacific Coast League’s number 14 prospect (and number one southpaw) in a Baseball America survey of league managers and scouts. Danks was number seven (top southpaw and number two pitcher) in the Texas League. Righthander Edinson Volquez was the PCL’s number 19 prospect.
Chris Davis, the Rangers’ fifth-round pick and Baseball America’s Short-Season All-Star first baseman, is working at third base at instructs. According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, shortstop Marcus Lemon has been the Rangers’ “most impressive” player at instructs.
Clinton righthander Jake Rasner’s 16 losses were the second-most in the minor leagues this year. Outfielder Terrmel Sledge had the minors’ fifth-highest slugging percentage, slugging .583 for AAA Portland.
According to Baseball America, lefthander Erasmo Ramirez has decided to test free agency, as has outfielder Adam Hyzdu. Texas placed lefthander Cory Vance on the restricted list.
Detroit righthander Colby Lewis and Washington righthander Travis Hughes and outfielder Tyrell Godwin elected to become free agents as well.
Kansas City outrighted Diaz. Philadelphia outrighted first baseman Randall Simon and released righthander Julio Santana. Colorado outrighted lefthander Mike Venafro. Milwaukee released Jeremi Gonzalez, and San Diego released Manny Alexander. Cincinnati will not bring bullpen coach Lee Tunnell back in 2007.
Kenny Rogers against Rich Harden this afternoon, as the Tigers bring a 2-0 series lead back home. Should be electric.