July 2007

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 23, 2007

Dear Terry, Omar, and Brian:

Sammy hit the ball real hard tonight. He’s 11 for his last 30 against lefthanders (.367/.441/.667) with 10 RBI. If you think that’s fluky, he’s hitting .338/.438/.622 in 74 at-bats against southpaws for the year, with 20 runs slammed in.

He’s not a great hitter anymore, but he’ll get a handful of big hits for you over the next two months. Maybe three months.

We want to do right by Sammy and right by you, and we want to do what’s right for us. We don’t need a ton in return. It can be a pretty easy negotiation.

This unlikely chapter can end well. First come, first served.

Call us.

Sincerely,
The Texas Rangers

c: Jason Botts

P.S. Turn on SportsCenter tonight and watch what Marlon Byrd – and Mark Teixeira – did to end tonight’s game. Loves me some great defense.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 22, 2007

I suspect I wasn’t the only one who sniffed out the unintended double meaning in this Dallas Morning News headline today: “Sosa says he hopes to finish career with the Rangers.”

Here’s what I don’t get, and I offer this without any intellectual arrogance…I’m sure there’s a legitimate reason…I just don’t have a feel for what it is: If all Texas can hope for is to get Minnesota or the Mets or anyone to call and say, yeah, we can use Sammy Sosa to help us out against lefties, isn’t all that we can expect in return another Enrique Cruz or Rick Asadoorian?

If so, are we really holding out for that sort of offer?

Is it a matter of respect for Sosa, choosing not to release him because of what he’s contributed here and how good a clubhouse guy he’s been? Is there a concern that it might send a negative message to his teammates or to future free agent targets? I don’t see it. He’s not producing. Would designating him for assignment so he can get an opportunity to help a contender – see Matt Stairs, 2006 – really be a sign of disrespect?

Sosa is hitting .239/.297/.441. That’s ninth on the team in batting average among players with more than 100 at-bats. Tenth in reaching base. Seventh in slug.

Ron Washington said on Saturday that he hopes Sosa can get himself going because the Rangers are set to face a bunch of left-handed pitchers. Yes, Sosa is a .320/.435/.571 hitter against southpaws. This month he’s 2 for 12 against them, with six strikeouts.

Yes, Jason Botts (.364/.446/.627 against lefties in AAA [and just about as dominant against righthanders]) is unavailable right now because of a finger injury. So platoon Victor Diaz (.212/.222/.538 against big league lefties, .323/.344/.581) or Nelson Cruz (.176/.250/.216, .341/.408/.477) with Frank Catalanotto (.229/.310/.400 against righties) until Botts is ready.

And then give Botts 20 at-bats a week as soon as he’s healthy. It’s imperative that we figure out in 2007 – against big league pitchers who are pitching to win every night, as opposed to next March, when the veterans against whom he needs to be tested are pitching just to ramp up to Opening Day – whether Botts deserves a spot on the team in April. Because that decision will be irreversible, since Botts will be out of options.

Wish I understood whether the reason for Sosa’s continued place on this roster is something more than a hope that someone else’s need for a right-handed bat might free up an Enrique Cruz.

Peter Gammons reports that Phillies general manager Pat Gillick and his sidekick Mike Arbuckle were at the Rangers-Indians game on Thursday. One would think that Philadelphia (4.5 games out of the Wild Card) is a buyer rather than a seller, and if that’s true then Gillick and Arbuckle were likely in town to see Joaquin Benoit or Ron Mahay or Kenny Lofton (Sosa? Nah.) – not someone like Indians rookie outfielder Ben Francisco.

Imagine Jon Daniels and Thad Levine going together to a National League game in late July. Gillick and Arbuckle showing up in Texas isn’t exactly pro coverage scouting.

Lefthander John Rheinecker will start Game One of Tuesday’s doubleheader against Seattle. Rheinecker is 4-2, 3.57 in nine Oklahoma starts, including 3-0, 2.28 in his last four.

Frisco righthander Armando Galarraga, who came to Texas in the Alfonso Soriano trade with Washington after the 2005 season, gave up nine runs in 2.1 innings on June 21. In his last seven starts other than that debacle, his record is 5-1, 1.13, with 28 hits (.171 opponents’ average) and 11 walks allowed to go along with 51 strikeouts in 47.2 innings of work.

He’s back: Check Mike Hindman’s blog for his latest thoughts on Botts.

The Yankees have converted 23-year-old Rudy Guillen – who was one of the minor leaguers that the Rangers chose shortstop Joaquin Arias over in the Alex Rodriguez-Soriano trade before the 2004 season – from outfielder to pitcher. Guillen made his mound debut on Friday, pitching a scoreless inning and two-thirds (one single, one walk, one plunk, one wild pitch, one strikeout) for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees.

Phillies 2006 first-round pick Kyle Drabek will undergo Tommy John surgery this week. The Rangers opted for lefthander Kasey Kiker with their 2006 first-rounder (12th overall), passing on the Houston native Drabek (18th overall) among others.

A reminder for those interested: NBC’s Newy Scruggs is airing a story on the Newberg Report during tonight’s Channel 5 sportscast, which I believe starts at 10:25 p.m.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 21, 2007

Just a few days ago, in more than one article about the possibility of Texas getting together with Eric Gagne on a contract extension this summer, Gagne’s agent Scott Boras offered this, while chuckling:

“‘Extension’ is not a word I, uh, understand.”

Someone should ask Boras sometime if “agent” is a word he understands.

Theoretically, an “agent” works as a representative of another.

We all know examples of Boras getting the best deal for taking his clients that were, in actuality, the best deal for Boras, and anything but for the player.

The latest word is that Texas is now focused more on pursuing an extension with Gagne than on shopping him leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. And he sounds, at the very least, receptive to the concept, telling reporters: “I want to stay here, and they know that. I think we will be a winner next year, not the year after. I wouldn’t want to stay if I didn’t think that. I think we are really, really close.”

Is that Eric Gagne acting as ventriloquist Scott Boras’s prop?

Doubt it.

Now, I’m sticking with my original proposal from a month ago, which is to trade Gagne if the offers are as good as they ought to be, and letting him know we’ll be right there at the front of the line of clubs attempting to re-sign him this winter. The risk is not the draft pick compensation – the most Texas would surrender to sign Gagne if he finishes the season with another team is going to be one second-round pick – but instead that negotiating with him in December gives the Rangers no exclusivity like they have now. So I’m fine with a contract extension rather than a trade, but I wouldn’t refuse to take calls from clubs interested in the 31-year-old.

Let’s say Gagne demands a three-year deal to extend now. (He’d definitely get at least that on the open market.) Do you walk away given his significant injury history? Not if it’s up to me. While the past elbow and low back issues may have affected his velocity, they haven’t resurfaced and they haven’t affected his effectiveness (2-0, 1.23, .157/.246/.216 opponents’ line; 29.1 innings, 16 hits, one home run, 11 walks, 25 strikeouts, 14 saves in 15 opportunities). He’s a different pitcher from the man who claimed baseball history in 2002-2004, but he’s still dominant.

And I love the idea of having Gagne around to be to Frankie Francisco and C.J. Wilson what John Wetteland was to Jeff Zimmerman. Gagne is a leader, a proven winner, and a great teammate. What he could mean to the rest of the relief corps – aside from the obvious, which is that the bullpen has a great chance to continue to be very good as long as he is its anchor – is worth a lot to me.

It’s looking more and more like Akinori Otsuka is not going to be moved this month, as he’ll have only a few appearances at most before the non-waiver trade deadline a week from Tuesday. But relief pitchers who close games or strike guys out or throw left-handed always have more value in the final week of July than they do any other time of the year, and so the reports that Joaquin Benoit is drawing lots of attention from other clubs shouldn’t be surprising. Since June 15, the righthander who turns 30 next week has a 1.10 ERA, scattering 11 hits and three walks in 16.1 innings while punching out 17. All at an ultra-reasonable $1.05 million salary.

I’ve been a critic of Benoit for years but have admitted that he’s been a changed pitcher in 2007. He’s trusting his stuff, not nibbling, and though his tempo isn’t what it was early in the season, he’s still getting batters out. It’s no longer relevant that he’s out of options. What’s significant now is that he has one year of arbitration left before he can be a free agent. After the 2008 season, if he’s as solid next year as he has been this year, he’s likely going to shop himself as a free agent, and chances are that he’ll get a three-year offer from a lower-division team that might consider him a potential closer, or a contender that sees him as its eighth-inning man, as New York did two winters ago with Kyle Farnsworth. Either scenario would involve more dollars than Texas would want to (or should) pay him to set up whoever the closer is.

If there’s an opportunity to trade Benoit now for a young hitter or a legitimate pitching prospect, I think you have to do it.

Same goes for Ron Mahay, though you wouldn’t expect to get the same level of return as you would with Benoit.

Kenny Lofton left Friday’s game in the third inning after fouling a pitch off his right big toe. X-rays were negative and he was diagnosed with a bruised big toe and listed as day-to-day. Terrible break if this keeps him out of the lineup more than a couple days. Until the injury Lofton seemed to be the most likely of the Rangers’ veterans to be traded by the deadline.

There’s at least one report suggesting that Atlanta, which had a scout at last night’s game, may well be in the mix for Mark Teixeira. A package that starts with Jarrod Saltalamacchia would help turn the stakes up as far as Teixeira’s trade value is concerned.

Keep in mind that any team trading for Teixeira not only gets him for two pennant races, but if that club fails to keep him after 2008, it would get two draft picks in the first two rounds in 2009 (almost surely a first and a supplemental first, unless Baltimore signs him) as compensation – mitigating the loss of whatever prospects it would take to acquire Teixeira in the first place.

There have been a couple stories up East that the Mets had minor interest in Sammy Sosa, but even those reports seem to have fizzled out. Ugh.

Frisco’s German Duran is the second baseman on Baseball America’s Minor League All-Surprise Team, published Thursday.

We just stayed in a hotel for a few days, and while it was a little disappointing when we saw that our view included a busy light rail line and some active construction, it turns out that those two things made Max very happy.

Along similar lines, there are people heading out to the ballpark tonight who probably chose to do so because of the pregame Sammy Sosa tribute. Whatever works. For me, tonight is more about seeing whether Jamey Wright can keep us in the game and continue to create possible trade value, and whether we can solve Cliff Lee. Michael Young’s return tonight is more meaningful as far as I’m concerned than the Sosa festivities, which are basically a rail line and a contstruction site to me.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be a fascinating 10 days.

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

Newberg Report Mentions

Friends:

NBC’s Newy Scruggs is airing a story on the Newberg Report on this Sunday night’s Channel 5 sportscast, which I believe starts at 10:25 p.m.

Richie Whitt of the Dallas Observer has once again come out with his “Fab Fifty” list of the “50 Most Powerful People in Metroplex Sports”….it’s not exactly tearing up the charts with a bullet, but I’m honored to have moved from Number 46 in 2006 to Number 40 this year, overtaking Don Hooton (who drops from Number 18 to Number 46), Gil Brandt (32 to 41), Dr. Kenneth Cooper (34 to 45), Larry Lundy (37 to 47), Gordon Jago (40 to 44), Pat Summerall (holding at 43), and Nancy Lieberman (45 to 48), and laying some guy named Nolan Ryan (39 to 42) in my stinkin’ wake.

Swapping Stories: The Michael Young Trade of 2000

July 19, 2000: Texas trades righthander Esteban Loaiza to Toronto for middle infielder Michael Young and righthander Darwin Cubillan.

Toronto didn’t know what it had in Michael Young.

To be fair, neither did Texas.

But regardless of what the two clubs envisioned Young’s upside to be, the Rangers will unapologetically claim the sequence that led to the July 2000 acquisition of Young as one of the highlights of Doug Melvin’s tenure as General Manager.

In 1998, Melvin sold high on righthander Todd Van Poppel – who changed organizations nine times but was traded just this once – and second baseman Warren Morris, sending them to Pittsburgh two weeks before the trade deadline for unheralded righthander Esteban Loaiza, a pre-arbitration 26-year-old who had gone 27-28, 4.63 for some very bad Pirates clubs.

In Loaiza’s third start as a Ranger, he held Toronto to one run on four singles and two walks over eight innings, fanning nine in a 1-0 loss. Five days later, he limited the same Blue Jays club to two runs on five hits and two walks in eight innings, striking out five. He wouldn’t start against Toronto in 1999 or 2000, but it’s safe to say he made an impression on the Jays with those two 1998 starts.

Texas went to the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, but the 2000 season was a different story. Though the Rangers were hovering around .500 in July, their three AL West division-mates were off to strong starts, leaving Texas firmly entrenched in last place. Unlike the previous two summers, Melvin was in a selling mode as the 2000 trading deadline approached.

Loaiza had gone from that unknown, inexpensive commodity in 1998 to a 28-year-old earning $2.65 million who reportedly clashed with pitching coach **** Bosman and ignored game plans with his pitch selection. He’d fallen into a middle relief/spot starter role and was likely going to be non-tendered at the end of the season.

As of July 19, Toronto was 1.5 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, locked in second place with Boston. Sporting a rotation that included David Wells, Kelvim Escobar, Chris Carpenter, and Frank Castillo, the Jays decided they could no longer fight through the struggles of 23-year-old Roy Halladay, whose ERA stood at 10.90. Toronto General Manager Gord Ash called his good friend Melvin. He wanted Loaiza, who had been so good against his club two summers earlier.

The Jays had what was perceived to be the deepest inventory of middle infield prospects in baseball at the time. At AAA Syracuse were shortstop Cesar Izturis and second baseman Brent Abernathy. At AA Tennessee were shortstop Felipe Lopez and second baseman Michael Young. Ash had told Melvin several weeks earlier he was prepared to move one of them to get Loaiza.

Ash valued Lopez the most, as did Melvin. Ash ranked his other three prospects in the order of Izturis, Abernathy, and Young. That’s where Melvin, based on the reports of pro scout Rudy Terrasas, disagreed.

“We didn’t feel we could get Lopez,” Melvin said. “And we were not real high on Izturis. Abernathy looked like he might have been a better hitter than Young at the time, but he was a one-position guy who was going to have to hit. Young’s athleticism and ability to play both sides of the bag was the difference for us.”

The fascinating part of that evaluation is that the Rangers were just a year and a half into a four-year commitment to Royce Clayton at shortstop, which might have led one to believe that the versatile middle infielder would have been passed over for the second baseman who projected to hit more. But Texas opted for the 23-year-old Young.

“We thought he had a chance to a regular player,” said Melvin, who suggested at the time that Young could develop into a Mark Loretta type. “But we didn’t think he’d be an All-Star.”

On July 19, 2000, the Rangers sent Loaiza to Toronto for Young and 25-year-old Venezuelan righthander Darwin Cubillan, a live-armed reliever who had posted huge strikeout numbers in the Yankees and Blue Jays systems. Cubillan, who had debuted in the big leagues two months earlier, was assigned to AAA Oklahoma. Young was sent to AA Tulsa.

Young had hit .275/.340/.426 for Tennessee that summer, playing second base, batting mostly second or fourth in the order, and earning a spot in the AA All-Star Game one week before the trade. Texas had different plans. With Jason Romano entrenched as the Drillers’ second baseman (and possibly the Rangers’ future answer at that position), the Rangers moved Young back to shortstop, and installed him atop the batting order.

Young got off to a phenomenal start for Tulsa. He had two hits in each of his first four games, and six of his first seven. Overall, in his 43 games for the Drillers, he had a phenomenal 23 multi-hit games – and only 11 single-hit games – and never went two games without a hit. The Rangers rewarded his .319/.368/.457 run, which included a sturdy 32 RBI batting mostly from the leadoff spot, with a five-day big league stint at the end of the year.

Texas sent Young to the Arizona Fall League in October, but it was a development two months later that dramatically changed Young’s career path.

On December 11, 2000, the Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez. Grooming a replacement for (or even an alternative to) Royce Clayton was one thing. But the arrival of A-Rod meant there was no need for an everyday shortstop to be groomed at the upper levels of the farm. Texas moved Young back to second base, assigning him to Oklahoma to start the 2001 season. Romano returned to Tulsa as its starting second baseman.

Randy Velarde was acquired to man the position in Arlington. He was off to a solid start, hitting over .330, when he pulled his left hamstring on a groundout to shortstop in the first inning of the Rangers’ May 24 game in Tampa. Young, who was hitting .291/.358/.460 for Oklahoma, was pulled in the first inning of the RedHawks’ game against New Orleans minutes later and flown to Baltimore to meet the club the following day. Velarde landed on the disabled list, and would remain sidelined for seven weeks. Romano was promoted to AAA to step in at second base while Young was in Texas.

It’s the last Young would ever see of the minor leagues.

It wasn’t until 2003 that Young – and Loaiza – stepped into big league stardom. Young, who was the subject of intense internal debate in 2002 as to whether he’d hit enough to remain at second base everyday, erased all questions in 2003 with his first of four straight seasons surpassing 200 hits and a .300 average. Loaiza went 21-9, 2.90, led the American League in strikeouts, and was runner-up in the Cy Young vote to Halladay.

But Loaiza was no longer Halladay’s teammate. Toronto got two and a half mediocre seasons out of the Loaiza (25-28, 4.96) before he was reduced at age 31 to signing a minor league contract with the White Sox in 2003. While he was providing that career year to Chicago for a $500,000 base, the Blue Jays were looking back at having paid him over $11 million and getting very little other than an acute case of nausea over having traded Young to get him.

Toronto would later trade Lopez, Izturis, and Abernathy, too, in packages to get Steve Trachsel, Mark Guthrie, Jason Arnold, Luke Prokopec, and Chad Ricketts, none of whom contributed much of anything while in a Jays uniform. It was a bad series of moves for Gord Ash – who is now Melvin’s assistant GM in Milwaukee.

But Melvin’s series of moves, which first made Loaiza a key contributor to the club’s last two playoff teams, and then converted him into one of the greatest players the Rangers have ever had, rank among his finest in Texas.

Even if he underestimated Young almost as much as Toronto did at the time of the trade.

Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

NEWBERG REPORT ALERT — JULY 17, 2007

Bakersfield 3B Chris Davis just hit a run-scoring double in the fourth inning, extending his hit streak to 35 games, which ties the California League mark set in 1992 by former A’s second baseman Brent Gates.

Oklahoma LF/DH Jason Botts was lifted from the RedHawks’ game in the eighth inning tonight with some sort of finger injury.

T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that trade talks involving Mark Teixeira “have picked up considerably over the past few days,” according to Major League sources. The Red Sox, Angels, Braves, Yankees, and Giants have apparently shown interest, while the Dodgers have turned their focus to their pitching needs.

“Flight of the Conchords” is greatness.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 17, 2007

I had this dream last night that the Rangers were nursing a two-run lead over the Angels, with the bases loaded and Vlad at the plate. Someone fired a fastball up and away, and Vlad tomahawked it on a line the opposite way, and the right fielder scrambled in to snare it, only to have the ball dive under his glove and bound all the way to the fence, clearing the bases as the right fielder chased it down.

It was then that I saw the name on the back of the right fielder’s Texas jersey: “Vizquel.”

Setting aside the idea that Omar Vizquel would be playing right field (doubt I was tucking his ninth-inning appearance in right on August 31, 1999 away for just the right time), I guess it wasn’t all that surprising a dream, with all the national columns the past few weeks insisting that teams are no longer willing to trade their prospects at trade deadline time. Several of the most prominent baseball writers in the country have based entire columns on the premise that teams aren’t making their best minor leaguers available in July for overpriced veterans any more.

I guess subconsciously I was getting prepared for the Rangers to trade their key veterans this month for declining 40-year-old infielders.

But I was glad to see one of the national columnists I respect the most, Ken Rosenthal, write yesterday that there’s a growing sense that some teams are going overboard in overvaluing their own prospects, given the attrition rate of even the most highly regarded kids.

Rosenthal points out that the Dodgers could have traded righthander Edwin Jackson and lefthander Greg Miller to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano shortly before New York traded Soriano to Texas, and that they could have traded Jackson alone to Cincinnati for Adam Dunn. But Los Angeles branded both Jackson (who is 1-9, 7.14 for Tampa Bay this year) and Miller (who has yet to reach the big leagues due to arm problems) as “untouchable.”

There are a hundred other examples of untouchables who never made it, and of blue-chip prospects traded in July who eventually bombed.

Rosenthal’s article centers on Mark Teixeira, suggesting that the supposed trend of teams refusing to trade key prospects for players like him is just silly.

Rosenthal concludes: “Enough about prospects. Enough industry paralysis. Let’s see some deals.”

Hope he’s onto something. Hope there are GM’s who recognize this market overcorrection and are prepared to step up with meaningful trade offers over the next couple weeks.

Stunningly, Texas might even field an offer or two for Jamey Wright, who is 3-1, 2.28 in his last four starts, with a ratio of 39 groundouts to 20 flyouts.

Edinson Volquez has been promoted to Oklahoma, according to multiple reports.

This is interesting: Frisco second baseman German Duran has appeared at shortstop twice in the last five days, including a start there last night. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn Texas is trying to assess his possibilities as a utility player.

Bakersfield third baseman Chris Davis singled in the fourth inning last night to extend his hit streak to 34 games, one short of Brent Gates’s 1992 California League record.

Davis hit a grand slam on Sunday, his sixth of the year. No big leaguer has ever had more than six grand slams in a season.

Supplemental first-rounder Tommy Hunter’s signing bonus was reportedly $580,000-$585,000, which is right at slot. He’ll join the Spokane bullpen.

Righthanders Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando are still unable to get into the United States but are pitching for the Dominican Republic in the Pan Am Games in Brazil.

Here’s hoping that some legitimate trade talk starts to heat up.

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

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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 12, 2007

Any visions that Mark Teixeira had of the 2007 season that included him standing in the on-deck circle with the Astros’ Brad Lidge on the mound probably involved a mid-May matchup in Houston or a late-June confrontation in Arlington, with the game on the line. If not a ninth inning in late October. It surely didn’t have Teixeira wearing a RoughRiders jersey and Lidge in Corpus Christi Hooks garb, and regardless of the circumstances, you can bet that neither Teixeira nor any of us envisioned the iron man playing anywhere over the All-Star Break other than San Francisco.

But it’s been a season full of dashed visions, of course. Teixeira made that very clear in his comments to reporters before yesterday’s rehab appearance in Frisco, in which he played first base and grounded out, flew out, and drew two walks. He talked about being tired of losing, and about Rangers fans deserving better. Nobody will take issue with him there.

But when he says he hopes winning here “will happen this year or next year, but the window is closing,” and “when a player has the chance, they’re going to go with a winner,” it’s hard not to interpret Teixeira’s comments as a signal that he’s planning to leave when he can become a free agent after the 2008 season — if not traded first.

And it’s likely that he’ll be traded first. Rumors are just rumors, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported yesterday that one that was circulating at the All-Star Game had the Braves among a handful of teams showing interest in Teixeira. The fact that the story erroneously pointed out that Teixeira is eligible for free agency after this season calls the reliability of everything else in it into question, but if the Braves are in fact in the mix, that’s good news.

It was suggested in the article that Texas “would probably accept nothing less than top Braves prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia and another young player,” but more important than the names being exchanged (if any are) would be the simple presence of Atlanta in the talks in the first place. For the Rangers to get what Teixeira is worth, at least two teams need to be seriously interested, preferably two with a healthy inventory of upper-level prospects. The Braves fit the description.

While most national journalists are claiming that this trade market is different from most because teams aren’t as willing to part with top prospects anymore, check back in two weeks. There are several heated division races, and when the opportunity comes the last few days of July to shake things up by adding an impact bat or arm, we’ll see how attached teams are to their minor league and rookie talent.

And then we’ll see how long it takes before Texas is judged to have a stronger farm system than it is right now. An organization can change its perception in that regard fairly quickly. Not long ago, a weak Dodgers system was headlined by Joey Thurston, Koyie Hill, and Chin-Feng Chen. Then they drafted James Loney, Greg Miller, Jonathan Broxton, and Russ Martin in 2002; Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, and Chuck Tiffany in 2003; Scott Elbert and Blake DeWitt in 2004; Jonathan Meloan in 2005; and Clayton Kershaw in 2006, and now Los Angeles is considered perhaps the elite system in baseball.

The Rangers’ last few drafts have a chance to pay solid dividends, not to mention the work A.J. Preller, Don Welke, and Manny Batista are doing in Latin America. Add a couple key prospects by way of trade this month (Dodgers example: Andre Ethier from Oakland), and there’s no reason this system can’t be considered one of the better ones in the league within a couple years. There’s that opportunity, at least.

Teixeira, who has been out since June 9 with a strained left quadriceps muscle, is expected to fly out with the big club today, rejoining the lineup when Texas opens in Anaheim tomorrow night.

Incidentally, one local media outlet claims that the Rangers have not approached Boras about a long-term extension. Another two say the club has in fact approached Teixeira and Boras but that he and Boras prefer to wait.

Albert Pujols reacted to his All-Star Game DNP-CD a bit differently from the manner in which Michael Young reacted.

Oklahoma lefthander A.J. Murray over the last six weeks: four saves in four opportunities, 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings, 16 hits (.246 opponents’ average), zero home runs, seven walks, 16 strikeouts. The reason that’s meaningful is that southpaw Ron Mahay is quietly having a sensational season (1-0, 2.35, .200/.320/.343, 24 strikeouts in 30.2 innings, and fairly even lefty-righty splits), and despite virtually no mention by the media in terms of the Rangers’ trade commodities, it could be that the 36-year-old Mahay (who is halfway through a $1.2 million contract for 2007) has as much trade value as anyone on the club outside of Teixeira, Eric Gagné, and Akinori Otsuka. With Murray pitching well, Texas might not hesitate to move Mahay if a solid trade offer comes along.

Actually, the pitcher who might have the most trade value on the team right now is C.J. Wilson, but he isn’t going anywhere. I remember being caught slightly off-guard when I realized that young Cowboys lineman Larry Allen was not only considered a budding star but perhaps the finest guard in football, just a couple years into his career. I remember similar reactions when I first learned how much peer acclaim Tom Petty, Beck, and Trent Reznor had earned. No such blindsiding with Wilson. We all know what we’ve got here. We may not know the limits to his potential, but we know he’s going to get a chance to realize it here.

So the New York Daily News (Bill Madden) and the Bergen Record (Tara Sullivan) cite a “major league source” as supplying intelligence that Tom Hicks has expressed interest in reacquiring Alex Rodriguez. I’d be stunned if the Rangers reentered those waters. And as for the “major league source” — do agents trying to shape a player’s market qualify?

When Texas resumes play tomorrow, the club will go forward with a rotation order of Kevin Millwood, Kameron Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Jamey Wright, and Robinson Tejeda.

An off-day coming out of the Break. Weird.

Bakersfield third baseman Chris Davis singled in the second inning last night, extending his hit streak to 29 games. Davis (.307/.350/.575) added another single and a walk on the night.

Frisco right fielder John Mayberry Jr. starred in Teixeira’s rehab game last night, homering twice and driving in four in the RoughRiders’ 5-2 win. Mayberry is now hitting .286/.355/.548 with six homers and 17 RBI in 24 AA games, after hitting .230/.314/.496 with 16 homers and 45 RBI in 62 Bakersfield contests.

Clinton third baseman Johnny Whittleman homered in Sunday’s Futures Game, taking 18-year-old Mets righthander Deolis Guerra deep. In a Baseball America survey of scouts, Guerra was ranked as the number two pitching prospect dispatched to the Futures Game, with one scout offering the following remarks: “Just unbelievable stuff with great life and movement late in the zone. His breaking ball is very good right now, but it has a chance to be plus-plus. He pounds the zone, repeats well for a big-bodied guy, and really has a chance to be special.”

Whittleman walked in his other trip. Frisco’s German Duran started at second base for the World Team and went 0 for 2, fanning once.

When RoughRiders righthander Armando Galarraga fired his complete-game gem on July 4 (one hit, one walk, nine strikeouts), he needed only 103 pitches despite the high punchout total. All nine strikeouts were swinging, seven on his plus slider.

The Rangers named Oklahoma outfielder Jason Botts (.360/.488/.650, 19 extra-base hits, 26 walks, 23 strikeouts) and Clinton lefthander Zach Phillips (3-0, 2.37 in five starts, .193 opponents’ average, 28/3 strikeout/walk ratio in 30.1 innings, 1.95 G/F) the organization’s Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for June. Eleanor Czajka and Rob Cook’s counterpart awards will be posted soon.

Clinton shortstop Marcus Lemon may be on his way to July recognition. In April he hit .203. In May he hit .220. In June, .309. So far in July, the 19-year-old is hitting .378/.442/.514, with five steals in seven attempts (he was six for 11 coming into the month). Interestingly, the left-handed hitter is faring better against southpaws (.297/.378/.406) than against righthanders (.259/.344/.341). He’s hitting .268/.352/.356 overall but is a .344/.429/.467 hitter when starting in the leadoff spot.

LumberKing righthander Omar Poveda was brilliant yesterday, striking out 12 in a dominant seven-inning start in which he scattered three hits and one walk, allowing one run. The 19-year-old is now 9-3, 2.41 for the season. Righthander Brennan Garr closed out the 2-1 victory to earn his fifth save. In 39 innings, Garr has allowed just 25 hits (.177 opponents’ average) and 16 walks while punching out 50 and producing an extremely impressive 2.58 G/F rate.

Oklahoma right fielder Nelson Cruz — who like Botts will be out of options at the end of the season — opened his stance since his early June demotion to AAA, and he’s hitting .340/.405/.708 in 106 at-bats, striking out just 22 times. Half of his 36 hits have gone for extra bases, including 10 home runs, and he has 29 RBI in 30 games.

I was thinking the other day that maybe it’s just as well if Texas doesn’t sign Blake Beavan or Neil Ramirez until closer to the August 15 deadline, because the Arizona League regular season ends on August 30, meaning a deadline signing would almost surely mean a 2008 contract. The upside there, from the organization’s standpoint, would conceivably mean that it could stagger the Rule 5 eligibility of all its high school players taken early in last month’s draft.

But under the new CBA, I think it’s a moot point. I’m pretty sure that all 2007 high school picks who sign will be Rule 5-eligible in 2011 if not added to the 40-man roster by that November — even if they sign 2008 contracts rather than 2007 deals. Under the old Rule 5, the date of the effective contract dictated eligibility. But I’m pretty sure it now revolves solely on the year that the player signs, no matter when the effective date of the contract is. The exception is if the player signs after the minor league season has ended, but since players have to sign by August 15 of their draft year, it’s not really possible any longer to sign after the season.

So the bottom line is that, even if Beavan and Ramirez sign as late as August 15 and their deals are for 2008, they will need to be added to the 40-man roster by 2011 just like Michael Main to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft.

Main, who is hitting .217/.269/.261 in 23 Arizona League at-bats as a designated hitter, will apparently make his pitching debut on Tuesday.

Oklahoma righthander Francisco Cruceta was activated off of the suspended list, following a 50-game Major League Baseball suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

The Indians and Travis Hafner have reportedly agreed to a four-year, $57 million contract extension.

This caught me by surprise: Milwaukee released lefthander Julian Cordero over a month ago. The 22-year-old went 1-0, 7.82 for Low A West Virginia in the Brewers system following last July’s Carlos Lee trade, giving up 20 hits and five walks in 12.2 innings, fanning a dozen, and he never appeared in an official game in 2007. Cordero went 2-5, 2.91 for Clinton in 2006, including 0-1, 2.08 in five starts leading up to the trade, scattering 19 hits and five walks in 26 innings while fanning 18.

Fort Worth Cats catcher Kelley Gulledge, the son of Rangers P.A. announcer Chuck Morgan, was selected to appear in the American Association All-Star Game.

The Traverse City Beach Bums of the independent Frontier League signed lefthander Jared Locke.

Former Rangers prospect Edwin Moreno was pitching for Petroleros de Minatitlan in Mexico when San Diego signed him late in June. He’s apparently been placed on the restricted list since then, having not yet pitched stateside for the Padres.

The Coastal Bend Aviators of the independent American Association released righthander Juan Jimenez.

Righthander Ryan Dittfurth is 1-4, 4.55 in nine starts for the Sussex Skyhawks of the independent Can-Am League.

The Mets hired Rickey Henderson last night to replace Rick Down as hitting coach.

Wow.

Later this morning, this week’s “Swapping Stories” column will be posted on the Rangers’ MLB.com site. This edition focuses on the Rangers’ 1993 trade of Robb Nen and Kurt Miller to Florida for Cris Carpenter.

The quality isn’t spectacular, but here’s a YouTube clip of my Jim Knox encounter during the Newberg Report Night game on Friday.

The auction of the autographed game-issue Rangers warm-up jacket came to a close last night, with the prevailing bid coming in at a spectacular $1,502.00. We ended up raising over $4,000 for the Hello Win Column Fund in conjunction with Newberg Report Night, which will go to help a lot of local families who have been impacted by cancer.

Thank you for your inspiring support.

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

Swapping Stories: The Robb Nen Trade of 1993

July 17, 1993: Texas trades righthanders Robb Nen and Kurt Miller to Florida for righthander Cris Carpenter.

One of the most difficult decisions an organization faces arises when one of its top prospects runs out of options and the club isn’t convinced he’s ready to contribute.

Do you invest all the patience, discipline, and guts you can summon up, keep the player in the big leagues and live with the bumps in the road, because you believe in the player and want to be sure that if it all comes together, your investment rewards you — and not some other team?

Or do you cut bait, trading potential for immediate production — taking on lesser risk in exchange for surrendering greater potential reward?

It was an easy decision for the Florida Marlins to make in 1993, less clear-cut for the Texas Rangers.

In November 1992, the National League conducted an expansion draft to help stock the rosters of the Marlins and Colorado Rockies in advance of their inaugural season. Among the 36 players Florida chose was righthander Cris Carpenter, a 27-year-old middle reliever who had been somewhat of a disappointment since St. Louis drafted him in the first round in 1987 out of the University of Georgia, where he’d been a star closer (not to mention a punter on the Bulldogs football team).

Carpenter went from being the 14th overall pick in the amateur draft — netting what was then the highest signing bonus ($160,000) that St. Louis had ever paid a draft choice — to being the 37th pick in the expansion draft five years later. There were 16 other unprotected pitchers chosen by the Marlins and Rockies before Florida got around to picking Carpenter, who had posted a 3.66 ERA for the Cardinals in five big league seasons, pitching primarily in middle relief.

Eight months after drafting Carpenter, Florida traded him to Texas, for young righthanders Robb Nen and Kurt Miller.

Texas had acquired Miller (along with righty Hector Fajardo) from Pittsburgh two summers earlier for third baseman Steve Buechele, and he was considered the prize in both that deal and the 1993 Marlins trade. Nen was graded by Baseball America as the Rangers’ number two prospect in both 1990 (behind Juan Gonzalez) and 1991 (behind Pudge Rodriguez) but fell off the top 10 altogether in 1992, when the newly acquired Miller (who was the fifth overall pick in the 1990 draft) occupied the top spot. Going into the 1993 season, Miller was number two (behind Benji Gil). Nen was not on the list.

Nen had been one of the greatest enigmas in Rangers player development history to that point. The club’s 32nd-round pick in 1987 out of a California high school, the lanky righthander posted an ERA of 8.09 his first two seasons but went 7-4, 2.41 for Low A Gastonia in 1989, starting 24 games and fanning 9.5 hitters per nine innings, cutting his walk rate from over eight free passes per nine innings to under five. Texas added Nen and his upper-90s fastball to the 40-man roster that winter.

There was no question that Texas needed to protect Nen on the roster after that breakout season, but it meant that the options clock began ticking for the 20-year-old. He had an uneven 1990 season (1-4, 3.69 for High A Charlotte and 0-5, 5.06 for AA Tulsa) and then two injury-marred AA seasons in 1991 (28 innings, elbow problems) and 1992 (25 innings, shoulder problems), and suddenly his three options had been exhausted, without so much as an inning in AAA, or even a full season in AA.

The 1993 Rangers had a rotation fronted by Kevin Brown and Kenny Rogers, a bullpen anchored by Tom Henke, and an offense that featured Gonzalez, Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Julio Franco, Dean Palmer, and Jose Canseco. New manager Kevin Kennedy got the club off to a good start. Nen, forced to make the roster since he was out of options, was basically the 25th man, used just twice in April and five times in May before a disastrous outing on May 29.

Having lost four out of five going into a Saturday afternoon game in Boston, Texas fell behind the Red Sox early. Boston scored six times before starter Todd Burns could get out of the fourth. Kennedy called on Nen (to avoid using up his key bullpen parts) and things started off well. Nen finished the fourth and got through the fifth quietly, but the sixth was a different story: Walk. Walk. Wild pitch. Single. Single. Strikeout. Walk. Single. Single.

Dressing down.

When Kennedy came out to take the ball from Nen, he screamed at his 24-year-old mop-up man, the kid with the huge arm that, realistically speaking, wasn’t ready to contribute to a contender.

After Boston stretched its lead to 12-1 off of Brian Bohanon, Kennedy entrusted the ball to Canseco to pitch the eighth inning, one of the most embarrassing episodes in franchise history.

Canseco would never pitch again. Nen would pitch only one more time as a Texas Ranger.

Left to atrophy in the bullpen for the next two weeks, Nen pitched a scoreless ninth in an 8-3 loss to Cleveland on June 11. The next day he was placed on the disabled list with what was reported as a right groin injury, dispatched to AAA Oklahoma City on rehab assignment nine days after that. In five starts and a relief appearance, he was awful, going 0-2, 6.67 with 45 hits allowed and 26 walks in 28.1 innings of work.

Meanwhile, the Rangers got extremely hot. Reeling off 15 wins in 18 games, they were within a game of the division lead on July 17.

The expansion Marlins, on the other hand, were hopelessly out of contention, and General Manager Dave Dombrowski was in trading mode. Three weeks earlier, he’d traded shortstop-turned-pitcher Trevor Hoffman to San Diego in a multi-player deal that brought Gary Sheffield to Florida. When Texas showed an interest in Carpenter (2.89 ERA in 29 Marlins appearances) as a set-up man for Henke, Dombrowski asked for Miller, who was struggling in his second run at AA hitters (6-8, 5.06), and Nen, whose rehab assignment would soon expire and who was clearly not going to get much of a chance to redeem himself in Texas as long as Kennedy was managing. A deal was made.

Nen’s options status remained the same, of course, and the Marlins were forced to keep him in the big leagues. Over the season’s final 11 weeks, Nen pitched 15 times (1-0, 7.02), but notably the club’s record in those games was 2-13, suggesting he was used mostly in low-leverage situations. Only three times did he keep the opponent off the scoreboard.

But something clicked for Nen the next spring. After Bryan Harvey and then Jeremy Hernandez suffered season-ending injuries in the 1994 season’s first two months, Nen seized the ninth-inning post, harnessing his high-octane stuff and converting every one of his 15 save opportunities. The man who walked nearly a batter per inning as a minor leaguer and as a rookie in 1993 issued only 17 walks in 58 innings in 1994, punching out 60 and making his lack of options a non-factor going forward. Nen would save 299 more games over the next eight seasons in Florida and San Francisco, making three All-Star teams. He would play in three post-seasons, saving 11 games and winning another.

Carpenter pitched reasonably well for Texas following the trade, going 4-1, 4.22 with a save in 27 appearances in 1993. In late May 1994, Henke landed on the disabled list with a sore lower back, and in the three weeks while he was sidelined, Carpenter assumed closing duties, going 0-1, 2.38 in 10 games and converting three of five save opportunities. He said after one game that he didn’t consider himself a great closer but was simply doing what the team asked of him. The comment was taken out of context, and he was branded by some in the media as a recalcitrant.

Carpenter finished 1994 with a 5.03 ERA, left via free agency after the season, and spent the next two seasons in AAA with St. Louis and Milwaukee (getting 8.1 big league innings with the Brewers in 1996) before retiring.

Miller managed only 80.2 big league innings of his own, seeing time in parts of five seasons with Florida and the Cubs but never pitching a full year in the bigs.

Nen never saw the minor leagues again. He last pitched at age 32, prematurely forced out of the game by a bad shoulder. Still, he earned over $50 million in his career, after a nine-year run as one of the game’s most dominant and dependable closers, a stretch that began just a year after the Rangers decided they couldn’t depend on him at all.

Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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