THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 15, 2007

"My contractual lifetime is a year and a half, and I think we have a lot of work to do.  No doubt about it.  I don’t know what the team’s plans are.  In 2003, they were rebuilding.  In 2007, you still hear the same things."

     — Mark Teixeira 

"As far as wins and losses are concerned, it’s unacceptable.  I don’t want to rebuild, I want to fix it immediately.  Winning is my concern.  I know it’s not going to be easy, but that’s what we all signed up to do."

"I’m not trying to guess what I think a rebuilding process is — I know exactly what it is.  I’ve been a part of it."

"What do you want me to do?  Say we accept losing?  Not a chance.  I don’t.  This organization is just capable of too much."

     — Michael Young 

The theme is the same.  Mark Teixeira and Michael Young aren’t interested in being part of a rebuilding process.  They’re in it to win, now.   

But there’s an implicit difference in those comments.  There’s always a danger in interpreting player quotes as filtered through the media, because without being in the room yourself you can’t always be sure what the context was, but in this case?  Seems pretty clear, both because of the subject matter and because of the fact that Teixeira and Young always pack a lot of substance in what they have to say.   

The difference?

Teixeira is aggravated by the losing and seems to be signaling the inevitability of his departure, one way or the other.

Young is aggravated by the losing and is demonstrating the following:

1. An expectation, as with every at-bat and every game and every series and every season, that he’s going to win.

2. An expectation that everyone around him, in uniform and upstairs, has the same objective.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Next week.  Next year.

3. An acceptance of his responsibility, as a leader, to have his teammates’ backs.

Look, I wasn’t happy to see Teixeira’s comments on Wednesday.  More than anything, I was disappointed, because it sort of drove home the mortality of his time here, something I think I refused to accept until a couple months ago.   

But Young’s remarks didn’t bother me.  I want the players on my team believing in themselves, and I **** sure want my team’s leader to set the tone.   

What else do we want Young to say?  That, yeah, we’ve got the Angels this weekend and the A’s after that, but it sure feels like we should tear this thing down and start over?  That yeah, I like the guy sitting here to my left and that one to my right and those three across the room, but I’d sorta like to see them kicked to the curb so we can get younger?

Michael Young will never say those things out loud.  Ever.  If he were traded to the Oakland Raiders tomorrow, the first thing he’d say would be, "I’m here to win."

I interpret Teixeira’s comments and Young’s comments this week, while addressing the same subject with generally the same stance, as coming from different places.  And when Young says, regarding Teixeira’s provocative remarks about the idea of rebuilding, "Mark is my teammate, and I support him 100 percent," I believe him.  It’s not Young’s job to figure out today how to make this team better in 2008.  It’s to figure out a way to solve Jered Weaver this afternoon and get on the plane with a win.

To Young, I get the sense that "rebuilding" is simply a dirty word, a disparagement, a signal that someone doesn’t believe the players currently on the team can get the job done.  That’s not to say that that’s what rebuilding means — but it sure is how I want Young to react to it, and how I want every one of his teammates to see him reacting.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that Cleveland and Milwaukee are showing "significant interest" in Kenny Lofton.

Frisco’s Edinson Volquez last night: seven innings, one run on four hits and zero walks, 10 strikeouts.  In his last three starts, he’s fanned 24 and walked two in 18 innings.

An infield single in the seventh inning last night extended Bakersfield third baseman Chris Davis’s hit streak to 32 games.  The night before, he homered twice, doubled, and singled (and committed four errors).  The Navarro Junior College product has 20 homers and 83 RBI in just 85 games.

Speaking of Navarro, Rangers’ first-rounder Blake Beavan has signed a letter of intent to pitch there in the spring, but it means no more than the commitment he made to the University of Oklahoma before being drafted.  He’s still eligible to sign with Texas by the August 15 deadline.  The key significance is that if Beavan does go to Navarro, he can be drafted again next June.  If he were to go to a four-year school like OU, he’d be ineligible for the draft until the end of his junior year.

Oklahoma left fielder Jason Botts keeps filling the box score.  He hit his 34th double of the season last night (off Round Rock’s Chan Ho Park), drawing a walk off of Park and another one off reliever Jose Rodriguez.

Lefthander Mark Redman opted for his release yesterday after going 2-4, 5.34 in nine RedHawk starts, permitting the Pacific Coast League to hit .315 off him.  Righthander Brennan Garr was promoted to Bakersfield from Clinton, where he’d posted a 2.31 ERA with five saves in five chances, punching out 50 in 39 innings while scattering just 25 hits (.177 opponents’ average) and 16 walks and coaxing groundouts 2.58 times more often than flyouts.  Garr takes the spot of righthander Matt Farnum, who retired.  Righthander Ivan Izquierdo was activated from the Clinton disabled list to fill the spot vacated by Garr’s departure.

Frisco outfielder Todd Donovan, who suffered vision problems after a collision with the center field fence on April 22, was released.  The 28-year-old made two rehab appearances in the Arizona League three weeks ago but hadn’t played since.

T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the Rangers are close to signing University of Alabama righthander Tommy Hunter, the draft-eligible sophomore they took in the supplemental first round last month.

Interesting: A day after they hired Rickey Henderson to be their hitting coach, the Mets announced that he would instead move in as first-base coach, with Howard Johnson shifting from first-base coach to the hitting coach post. 

Mark Cuban wants to buy the Chicago Cubs.  He’s submitted a formal application to MLB to express his interest.  Fascinating.

A month from now, imagine Michael Young being joined in the lineup not by Sammy Sosa but by Jason Botts.  Imagine Nelson Cruz playing everyday, and maybe someone like James Loney.  That’s A.J. Murray, not Ron Mahay, trotting in from the pen to protect a seventh-inning, 4-2 lead.  Murray’s taking the ball from Ron Washington, who just took it from Edinson Volquez.

Think Young will be unhappy, surrounded by all those relatively inexperienced major league ballplayers in what many in the media will describe as a rebuilding phase?

Not if he and his new teammates won that night.  He’ll have their backs, too.

======================================

ADDENDUM

The bandwagon fans and most of the columnists in town probably weren’t watching.  That one was for us. 

Brandon McCarthy may not have been great, but he was pretty darn good, fighting through Chuck Meriwether’s inconsistent strike zone (as every pitcher did today) and managing to throw not only his seventh quality start but doing so with an acceptable 15.8 pitches per inning, which is three fewer pitches per inning than he’d averaged for the season coming into today’s start.

Five relievers combined to blank the Angels on two singles and three walks in five innings of work, including a brilliant 2.1 frames from Joaquin Benoit, who got his afternoon started by inducing two straight bases-loaded infield pop-ups in the eighth, with the game tied at 4-4.

The final pitcher to take the mound was Eric Gagné.  I’m no more sure that he’ll be here next week as I am that he’ll be back in 2008, but it sure is good watching him deal for my team, as an ever-increasing population of pro scouts fill in the gaps left by fair-weathered fans who have already checked out.

Which brings me to Mark Teixeira, whose address at month’s end is similarly no more predictable than it will be next season.  He’s 4 for 12 since returning from his five-week layoff, showing no signs of residual bark in that strained quad muscle: all four of his hits have gone for extra bases, including three off of Kelvim Escobar, Scot Shields, and Justin Speier — three of the hottest pitchers on what is arguably baseball’s best team.   

Teixeira came up huge in the eighth today with a two-out, run-scoring double off Shields.  He came up even bigger in the 11th, working Speier until he lined up the seventh pitch of the at-bat, located down and away, and jerked it into the right field seats to deliver the decisive run.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with Teixeira or when, but for the one of you misunderstood my point about Teixeira in this morning’s report (and for the dozens of you who I’m sure I also misled, even though you didn’t write me to point it out), I wasn’t throwing Teixeira under the bus.  Far from it.

Just because I don’t think he’s going to be a Texas Ranger for the long haul and just because I’m disappointed that he’s all but saying so through the press, he’s a great baseball player, a difference-maker, a guy who will be a key part of a winner one day.

I don’t know how much longer he’ll be here.  But there was a game to win today, and that was my fist pumping in unison with his as that baseball cleared the fence.  I’ve got his back.

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

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