THE NEWBERG REPORT — OCTOBER 19, 2006

The first of the five round one interviews that the Rangers plan to conduct on the path to choosing their new manager took place on Tuesday, when A’s third base and infield coach Ron Washington visited with Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, and A.J. Preller for six hours. According to local reports, the session went well. Whether Washington remains a candidate by time all five candidates have come in is tough to say; he’s certainly a core candidate for the Oakland job that has now opened up.

The latest addition to the mix, former Rangers catcher John Russell, is set to interview today, and Manny Acta will interview tomorrow. According to Major League Baseball custom, coaches are able to interview once the Championship Series conclude, and since Game Seven of the NLCS is tonight, Texas is permitted to talk to Acta starting tomorrow, whether his post-season is over or just on a one-day break.

Trey Hillman will follow, as his post-season schedule permits. The Japan Series begins Saturday and could last until October 29.

Rangers bench coach Don Wakamatsu will get the final round one interview, after which the candidate list will be narrowed down. Once the list is down to two candidates, Tom Hicks will get involved and visit with the finalists.

Acta, according to multiple reports, might have interviewed with Texas on Tuesday had Monday’s game between the Mets and Cardinals not been rained out. The postponement, however, turned Tuesday from an off-day into a game day, making Acta unavailable. He’s also expected to interview for the Giants’ and Nationals’ openings, but evidently San Francisco and Washington will have to wait a little longer than Texas if the Mets win tonight.

As I’ve said since the original list of four was made public, I’m comfortable with the pool of candidates and will feel good about whichever one gets the nod from Daniels. This is one of those processes where each candidate seems to be gaining steam, rather than the opposite; every story that is written about each of them has added a new dimension, a new and positive dimension, to what we know about the five, all of whom are vying to become first-time big league managers.

There are a number of similarities among the five candidates, both on their resumes and in their expected managerial styles. As for their differences? As fans we don’t really know — and the Rangers are taking this opportunity to make sure they know themselves — but here’s one thing that separates each of the five:

Washington is the only one in line for an internal promotion with another club.

Russell, for whatever reason, was a late addition to the mix — assuming it wasn’t just a case of the media finding out about his candidacy later than that of the other four.

Hillman is the only one who has never coached in the big leagues.

Acta is the only one who has no history with the Rangers.

Wakamatsu is the only internal candidate.

Does any of those reasons, by itself, distinguish the guy so much that he becomes an odds-on favorite or a relative longshot? I don’t think so. It’s things like Wakamatsu’s familiarity with the players (and the rapport and respect he’s established in the clubhouse), Hillman’s history of winning and his local ties, and Acta’s substantial connections to the Dominican Republic baseball pipeline that could eventually separate them from the group. It’s a solid pool of candidates.

Speaking of a strong mix with different backgrounds, here’s how you build a World Series rotation:

Make a genius trade (Jeremy Bonderman, along with Franklyn German and Carlos Pena, for Jeff Weaver).

Make a smart free agent signing (bringing in Kenny Rogers for his age 41 and age 42 seasons).

Stockpile young pitchers in trades (Josh Robertson, along with Gary Knotts and Rob Henkel, for Mark Redman).

Lose a thousand games in a season (putting you in position to draft Justin Verlander).

On top of that, you can build a heck of a bullpen even if it’s keyed by a 38-year-old who has pitched for eight teams in six years (Todd Jones) and the very astute use of an 11th-round pick (Joel Zumaya), along with another one of those trade pickups (German) and a Rule 5 pick (Wilfredo Ledezma). Put an offense around it that’s, on paper, passable at best, and you’re all set.

You don’t have to spend $16 million per starter or three-year deals on relievers in their mid-30s to get this done.

The Rangers have reportedly made contract offers to three of their nine free agents: center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa, and righthander Vicente Padilla, though the club expects all three to test the market when open negotiations kick off a couple weeks after the World Series ends. (The Rangers’ other six free agents are righthanders Adam Eaton and Kip Wells, catcher Rod Barajas, outfielder Carlos Lee, and utility men Eric Young and Jerry Hairston, though Hairston has already been designated for assignment.)

Some stories from the Bay Area suggest that Orel Hershiser could be among the candidates for the Oakland managerial post.

The Arizona Diamondbacks website identifies Rangers radio analyst Victor Rojas as a candidate for the Snakes’ television play-by-play gig, which was vacated two weeks ago when Thom Brennaman left to join his father in the broadcast booth for the Reds. The article notes that Rojas is under contract with Texas through 2010 but that the Rangers have permitted him to interview for the Arizona spot since it would be a promotion.

He’d be a big loss.

Aaron Sorkin channeling Bill Parcells. Enjoyed that.

The most irritating thing about waiting as long as I did to give “South Park” a try is that I’ll never get caught up.

Righthander Nick Masset has appeared three times for Mazatlan in the Mexican Pacific League, registering a save with a scoreless frame each time out. He’s permitted three hits, fanned three, and walked none.

Bet Masset’s name gets mentioned a lot by general managers calling Daniels this winter.

In five games for Los Caribes de Oriente in the Venezuelan Winter League, outfielder Ben Harrison is hitting .444/.524/.778, with two home runs among his eight hits, and three walks and three strikeouts. Harrison continues to make a push for a 40-man roster spot, a month before some important decisions will have to be made with regard to the Rangers’ Rule 5-eligibles.

But at least for today, the bigger Rangers news out of Venezuela is that Las Águilas del Zulia manager John Russell won’t be with his club, but will instead be in Arlington to pitch Daniels, Levine, and Preller on why he should be named the Rangers’ 17th full-time manager. The process marches on.

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

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