THE NEWBERG REPORT — MAY 3, 2007
The first weatherman I see who says he has no idea whether a tornado might be coming, or that he had no clue that it was going to hail like that, will become my go-to weatherman. But I’m not holding my breath. Mixed among the use of stilted phrases like “rain event” is a whole lot of overconfidence, exaggeration, and fear-mongering. Sure wish one of them would come clean and admit that, especially more than a day or two out, they don’t really know what’s going to happen.
Which brings me to the Rangers.
I’ve received a handful of emails the past few days, ranging from politely interested to outraged, asking that I explain what’s wrong with this baseball team and whether it’s going to get better.
How am I supposed to explain an offense hitting .230/.299/.392, a year after it hit .278/.338/.446?
Mark Teixeira with six RBI, after a month? Michael Young hitting .207/.228/.333? Hank Blalock with one home run, and a strikeout for every four official at-bats? Brad Wilkerson with a strikeout for every three, including strikeouts in nine of his first 10 games played?
Gerald Laird going 7 for his last 20 — to lift his average to .169?
A team ERA (5.53) that is the second-highest in baseball — more than half a run worse than the third-highest — and only one starting pitcher (Robinson Tejeda) whose ERA is that good? A young, battle-tested rotation acquisition off of whom hitters are teeing off at a .356/.433/.522 rate?
Vicente Padilla in search of his first 2007 win, sitting at 20 walks and 14 strikeouts despite coming into the season with a career 2-to-1 ratio of whiffs to walks?
It doesn’t help to see what Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez are doing in San Diego. Or Padres AAA right fielder Vincent Sinisi, for that matter, who could figure in if Terrmel Sledge doesn’t break out of his slide. And over in Chicago, John Danks and Nick Masset are more than holding their own. Neither would have made the Rangers’ Opening Day staff.
But that’s getting away from the primary point. Collectively, the 30 players who have suited up for the Rangers this year aren’t this bad. They’re just not this bad.
I’m excited about Johnny Whittleman (leading the Midwest League in slugging and reaching base, committing errors at half his 2006 rate) and Emerson Frostad and John Mayberry Jr. and Tug Hulett and Eric Hurley and A.J. Murray and Ezequiel Astacio (seriously: four hits, one walk, and 17 punchouts in 13.2 scoreless innings??) and Omar Poveda and Kendy Batista and Glenn Swanson. I’m fired up about the news that Fabio Castillo and Kasey Kiker could be graduated from extended to Clinton before the end of the month, looking forward to Ben Harrison’s imminent return to action, and relieved that Taylor Teagarden’s elbow MRI revealed no tear and no structural damage.
I’m starting to get pumped about the June 7 draft with all the ammunition the Rangers have.
But a month into the season, minor league developments and draft talk should be no more than incidentals.
Is this crisis time for the big club? Of course not. The team will be one-sixth through the schedule once the first of two is completed today. It’s very, very early.
But to subscribe to that sort of optimism, you have to have faith that Teixeira and Young and Blalock and Wilkerson won’t repeat April, that Padilla will start to get run support and better results, that Brandon McCarthy is significantly better than this. And that Tejeda and Ian Kinsler and Sammy Sosa and the eighth and ninth innings will be as good all year as they have been so far.
I said in January that I thought Texas could win the division if the club were to get 27 wins out of McCarthy and Tejeda.
If Tejeda wins today, those two will have five wins. Through a sixth of the season.
You know me. The glass is always at least half full as far as I’m concerned, until someone takes the glass away. There are several players on this club who will almost certainly turn things around, and when they do, it’s not a huge stretch to speculate that the team’s fortunes might follow.
But here’s the point. I don’t know why things have gone so wrong this past month, and I don’t really know whether they’re going to get markedly better. Still, you can bet that I’m going to hang in there and find out.
If there aren’t enough answers for you in this report, please accept my humble apologies. I don’t have the answers.
If what you need is someone promising certainty, go watch the weather.