October 2006

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — OCTOBER 22, 2006

I was flipping channels to try and catch some postgame press conferences, and landed on Kenny Rogers on ESPN News.

Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram asked a question, and Kenny refused to answer it. Clearly had nothing to do with the question.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News asked a question. Kenny answered it.

Kat O’Brien of the Star-Telegram asked a question. Kenny refused to answer it.

The questions Reeves and O’Brien posed were the only two he dodged of the dozen or so I caught. And his response to their two questions was the same curt reply: “Anyone else?”

That’s really, really sad. Petty, childish, and sad.

I still really look forward to his next time to take the ball, and I’m happy for him, but man, those feelings I had 15 months ago are all coming back to me right now.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — OCTOBER 22, 2006

More Kenny and Keystone.

Maybe you’re disgusted to see Kenny Rogers succeed, or maybe it breaks your heart. Maybe you couldn’t be happier to see him do this.

But no matter how you feel about the guy, you have to be awed by his October. He is, right now, the epitome of an ace.

I’m just disappointed in the circumstances that led to his departure, for the third time, from the organization he really didn’t want to leave. Make no mistake: he’s far from blameless, he’s not a victim. He made his bed. I won’t forgive him for screwing up his place in this thing.

But as much as I hate that he’s not part of the Rangers rotation, I’m thrilled to see the way he’s risen to this occasion, as much as any underdog pitcher in this league has in a long time.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — OCTOBER 22, 2006

According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, baseball’s new labor deal will NOT eliminate draft pick compensation after all, contrary to what Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News reported yesterday, though the existing plan will be modified in some unidentified way.

Sure hope Rosenthal is right.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — OCTOBER 21, 2006

Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News reports that the Players Association and MLB will finalize an agreement on a new deal before the World Series ends, two months before the current CBA is set to expire, and that, as part of the new deal, draft pick compensation for teams losing free agents will be eliminated.

Sure hope he’s wrong about that last part.

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

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.

NEWBERG REPORT UPDATE — OCTOBER 18, 2006

Ron Washington interviewed for the Rangers’ managerial post yesterday, a six-hour session that kicked off the club’s plans to sit down with the five candidates they have pinpointed to succeed Buck Showalter. John Russell is set to interview tomorrow, and Manny Acta and Trey Hillman will follow as their post-season schedules permit. Don Wakamatsu will get the fifth and final interview, after which the candidate list will be narrowed down for further discussions.

I’ve been tied up with some things the past few days but will get you a new Newberg Report on Thursday morning to talk about this and some other Ranger-related news and thoughts. Thanks for your patience.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — OCTOBER 13, 2006

If things had worked out for the Detroit Tigers the way they envisioned seven years ago, Juan Gonzalez would right now be at the tail end of that $140 million contract the club put on the table after picking him up from Texas.

Instead, he lasted just one year in Detroit, and spent one in Cleveland, before returning to the Rangers in February 2002 on a two-year deal.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Gonzalez, the Rangers designated a young outfielder for assignment, one who was sort of on the fringes, at best, of any plans the club had going forward.

And today it’s Texarkana’s own Craig Keystone Monroe, whom Detroit prevented from getting through waivers that February, contributing the big October hits for the Tigers that they had visions of Gonzalez providing.

A few of you might remember Monroe keeping his commitment to us, stunningly, by showing up at the Rangers’ Winter Carnival on February 2, 2002, to sign autographs at the Newberg Report booth even though he’d been put on waivers by Texas and claimed by Detroit a day earlier. Classy gesture from the former eighth-round pick.

And then there’s that former Rangers 39th-round pick. While there are certainly plenty of things that Kenny Rogers has done in his baseball life that he regrets, at this particular moment he can’t be anything but grateful for the circumstances that put him in this place, at this time, doing what he’s doing.

He’s going to be the ace of a World Series rotation in a few days. I’ll be pulling for him, as, I suspect, will Long Island Duck Juan Gonzalez.

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

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.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — OCTOBER 7, 2006

Bittersweet:

Former Ranger pitchers Kenny Rogers, Chris Young, Justin Duchscherer, Chan Ho Park, Rudy Seanez, and Randy Flores are 2-0, 0.39 in the playoffs, giving up one (Duchscherer) run on 13 hits and five walks in 23 innings, and punching out 24 playoff hitters. Young’s scoreless 6.2 frames today may not have been as electrically charged as Rogers’s 7.2 last night, but statistically he might have been even better.

Sweet, sweet, sweet:

Thanks to the upstart Detroit Tigers, who got big contributions from four players that the Rangers got nothing in return for, those 25 Yankee cab rides are, today, 25 plane tickets. It is such a wonderful thing to see $200 million get bounced that forcefully.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — OCTOBER 7, 2006

From the Newberg Report, four years and three days ago, regarding the Rangers’ last managerial opening:

“The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News don’t agree on all the primary candidates (they both identify [Trey] Hillman, Buck Showalter, and DeMarlo Hale, but the Star-Telegram adds Ken Macha, Buddy Bell, and Terry Francona, and the News makes Jim Fregosi a strong candidate), but the Star-Telegram in particular suggests that Hillman has knocked some important socks off in the Ranger front office. The interesting thing about this situation is that Tom Hicks may want a theoretical ticket draw like Showalter, while the baseball operations people (headed by Grady Fuson) may be in favor of Hillman — whose background is intriguingly similar to the one Showalter had when George Steinbrenner stunned the baseball world in 1992 by making the then-35-year-old the replacement for Stump Merrill as Yankee manager.

“Hillman, I think, is the right choice here, for a load of reasons that I won’t get into now (many of which are obvious, anyway). The question, even if the organization agrees, is whether the Nippon Ham Fighters present an obstacle, and if so, whether it is one that can be overcome.”

I love the idea of Hillman here. All I hope is that he gets an interview, and we’ll see where it goes from there. I’m a Don Wakamatsu fan as well, but I recognize that my sense of whether either of them would make a good Texas Rangers manager, or whether Ron Washington or Rudy Jaramillo or Bud Black or DeMarlo Hale or Bobby Jones would, is limited. It’s limited because there’s no real sample to judge off of for any of them, and it’s limited because I don’t know enough about the dynamic in the clubhouse to know what type of manager would work best, or to know which candidate best fits that profile.

I have my guesses, but they’re just guesses, and as a fan my trust is in Jon Daniels to know far better what hire makes sense and to get the right guy in here. If that’s Hillman, or Wakamatsu, or Washington or Jaramillo or Hale, fine. Whatever Daniels thinks. I’m just rooting at this point for Hillman to get a chance.

Daniels told Kat O’Brien of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the primary quality he’s seeking is the ability to manage people, which is to say, “to cultivate a positive and winning environment; facilitate trust with the players; keep players motivated for 162 games, which is easier said than done; [and] be a spokesman for the organization.” In-game management is important to Daniels, but “X’s and O’s [are] behind the managing people factor,” which, as he described it to the Star-Telegram’s Jim Reeves, can also be summed up as “set[ting] the tone for the club.”

O’Brien wrote yesterday that the Japanese press was reporting that Hillman had “an under-the-table agreement to manage the Rangers,” a story that Hillman denied, adding that he hadn’t spoken to Texas about the job opening. T.R. Sullivan noted in his blog on MLB.com, however, that the Rangers had “already reached out to” Hillman, who asked that the club hang tight until after his Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters squad is finished with the Japanese Pacific League playoffs.

The Fighters, awaiting the winner of the current series between the Seibu Lions and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, won’t start their series until October 11.

This morning’s Japan Times reports that Hillman held a press conference yesterday to quash the Texas rumors, saying: “There have been reports that I was offered the job, that I have taken the job, and they are not true. One Japanese report said something about a secret under-the-table deal, and there is no substance to it.” He added that he wouldn’t answer any more questions about his managerial future after yesterday.

But keep this in mind: the University of Texas at Arlington product, who was the Rangers’ director of player development in 2002 after 12 years managing in the Yankees farm system, has called managing the Rangers his “dream job.”

And if you’re concerned that he might not get as fair a shake as you’d like because his champion here was Fuson, recognize two things: Daniels would never hold that against him, and more importantly, Daniels and Hillman were actually here at the same time. Hillman was with the Rangers from November 2001 until October 2002. Daniels arrived in January 2002. He was an assistant in the baseball operations department here when Hillman interviewed for the managerial post, just before leaving for Japan.

Daniels doesn’t need to go on word of mouth as far as Hillman is concerned.

Reports this morning indicate that Daniels intends to settle on a list of five or six candidates soon so the club can begin interviews, narrow the list to two or three and bring Tom Hicks into the process, and ideally have a decision made within “a couple weeks,” though that could be extended if a key candidate remains involved in the post-season.

Presumably that isn’t limited to the Major League post-season.

Alex Rodriguez in the 2005 and 2006 playoff: 3 for 26 with one double, which equates to a batting average of .115 and a slugging percentage of .154.

(Ugly apparition, God’s gift to oxygen
The puffed up immortal son
How they love him ’cause he’ll become
The ghost at number one.

How does it feel
To be the only one?
How does it feel
To be the only one that knows that you’re right?
How does it feel
To be a chalkline dollar sign?
How does it feel
Up at the address all the widows write?

– Jellyfish, “The Ghost at Number One”)

I’m enjoying A-Rod’s struggles colossally, but with one nagging worry: I don’t want him to play himself into a trade to the Angels.

I wish Kenny Rogers was still pitching to Pudge Rodriguez here. Got freakin’ chills when Jim Leyland left him on the mound after his first eighth-inning visit. That’s one of those games that gets sold short by the box score — you had to see it to fully appreciate what an extraordinary game Rogers pitched.

I don’t remember ever being happier about a baseball game not involving the Rangers than I was last night.

Gary Matthews Jr. is doing good work on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

D’Angelo Jimenez is now a key component in Oakland’s post-season push, following the broken finger second baseman Mark Ellis suffered on Wednesday.

Milwaukee exercised Francisco Cordero’s $5.4 million option for 2007. The way he pitched for the Brewers, that wasn’t much of a surprise. The bigger mystery is whether the club will tender arbitration-eligible Kevin Mench.

Washington released righthander Ryan Drese, who pitched 68.1 innings in the year and a half since the Nationals claimed him off waivers from Texas. He’ll be out until late in the 2007 season after Tommy John surgery.

The White Sox outrighted righthander Agustin Montero to AAA. Cincinnati outrighted lefthander Chris Michalak to AAA.

Atlanta dismissed bench coach Pat Corrales, the former Rangers manager, and replaced him with Chino Cadahia, a former Rangers minor league manager. Cadahia, a onetime minor league catcher, is credited with nicknaming Pudge when the prodigy first arrived stateside from Puerto Rico.

Texas reached an agreement with Clinton to keep the LumberKings in place as the club’s Low A affiliate for the next two years. The entire chain of farm clubs remains intact.

Gerry Fraley’s final article for the Dallas Morning News was titled, “Hey UT, why the bully act?” So much irony in those final four words, even though Fraley probably didn’t pen the headline himself.

From new Morning News general columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor, who was recently elevated to the gig from the Cowboys beat: “No one obsesses over the Rangers.”

Ahem.

Taylor continues: “There’s no passion for a team that has one playoff win in 35 years and hasn’t been to the postseason since 1999. If the Rangers disappeared today, would anyone circulate a petition to bring them back? Would anyone sign it?”

The Morning News takes you for granted. No, that’s not true. The Morning News disrespects you.

By the way, if you doubt how realistic it would be for Trey Hillman to want to leave Japan and come home to manage the team that you have a passion for, read the following chat session we had with him in late October 2002, after he’d taken the Fighters job:

http://www.dickiethon.com/newberg/trey_hillman.htm

Thanks to Eleanor Czajka for hanging onto the transcript.

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

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