THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 20, 2007
It was the lone off-day in the Rangers’ Cactus League schedule, but Monday was hardly quiet. News broke in the afternoon that the Ballpark was being renamed, and that righthander Thomas Diamond would miss the 2007 season due to a torn elbow ligament that would require Tommy John surgery.
Three years after negotiating a 30-year, $75 million deal to rename The Ballpark in Arlington as "Ameriquest Field in Arlington," the Rangers and Ameriquest Mortgage Company agreed that the subprime lender would relinquish the naming rights to the club. The club had reportedly approached Ameriquest a year ago but it wasn’t until recent months that the company was open to the idea of a split. The Ballpark will now be called "Rangers Ballpark in Arlington." The baseball team is the brand.
If the avalanche of responses I got when I sent that news out yesterday afternoon is a good indication, this is a very popular move. No more Liberty Bell in left field courtesy of the California-based company that has been entangled in litigation, massive layoffs, and widespread branch closings in the time since the deal with the Rangers was hammered out. The name never felt right to me, even before Ameriquest’s hard times set in.
One month after TBIA became Ameriquest Field in the spring of 2004, Texas used its first-round pick, 10th overall, on Diamond, a hard-throwing bulldog of a righthander who was thought to be a little polishing away from getting to the big leagues. A dominating first summer was followed by a 2005 season in which he was named the Rangers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and a 2006 campaign in which he led the Texas League in wins and strikeouts. Diamond came to camp this spring without a real shot to break camp with the big club, but the sense was that he would start the season in Oklahoma’s rotation and would probably break into the big leagues sometime in 2007.
On March 6, in the Rangers’ fifth game of the exhibition season, Diamond — who had impressed coaches with his side work in camp — made his first game appearance of the spring, entering a matchup against Seattle in the sixth inning. His ledger looked like this:
Groundout, 1-3. Strikeout, swinging. Walk. RBI Double, batter cut down at third, 9-4-2-5.
Walk. Single. Single, chasing Diamond.
Somewhere in that sequence, Diamond — who two weeks earlier had reported elbow soreness that was diagnosed as tendinitis — felt further discomfort in his elbow area. An MRI was administered, revealing an apparent ligament tear that prompted the club to seek a second opinion before concluding that the 23-year-old would need a season-ending operation. The second opinion matched the first, and Tommy John surgery is set to take place today.
These days, the success rate for pitchers returning from Tommy John is pretty good. Generally the rehabilitation process calls for about a year before pitching resumes, and another six months before the pitcher typically regains velocity and command.
Some pitchers come back even stronger after TJ than they were before getting hurt (C.J. Wilson), others never make it back at all (Jeff Zimmerman). This isn’t a death knell on Diamond’s career, but it’s certainly a setback, and a disappointment. Some think that he was one of the Rangers’ key trade chips going into 2007; if you were one of those who considered him virtually untradeable (a position you’d have to retreat from after seeing John Danks dealt), you’d at least have to admit that Diamond’s presence helped the Rangers’ trade position by perhaps making someone else expendable.
Developments like this one are why acronyms like DVD set up unfair expectations and why acronyms like TINSTAAPP gain momentum. This is why you never have enough pitching on the farm.
And while seeing a kid like Danks traded — which I described when it happened as "a slug to the gut" — hurts as a fan, at least there’s the hope that your team got something useful in return, and the ability to continue to root for the kid against 28 other teams. In Diamond’s case, the hope is that he attacks his rehabilitation with the same intensity and drive that he summoned in stretches as a Rangers pitching hopeful, and that, after a couple years during which he won’t be what we had envisioned, he’ll come back as good as before, and maybe even better than ever.
Like the name of a ballpark.