September 2007

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 28, 2007

Mark Teixeira’s season won’t last any longer than the Rangers’ season, but you can’t blame him. Teixeira, who has homered in Atlanta’s last three games, including last night’s 6-4 loss to Philadelphia that eliminated the Braves from playoff contention, is a .320/.403/.621 hitter as a Brave, with 17 home runs and 55 RBI in 52 games.

It’s going to be interesting to see whether Atlanta gears up to try and lock Teixeira up long-term this winter, and even more interesting to see if he’d be receptive to the idea, forgoing the chance to shop himself in free agency in a year.

Texas has caught Oakland in the AL West standings. The two clubs are tied for third in the division, with the A’s hosting the Angels this weekend to wrap up their season, while Texas travels to Seattle for three.

The Rangers’ next official game will be in Seattle as well, as Texas opens the 2008 season at Safeco Field, making it an inexplicable seven years out of eight that the club opens on the road. The Rangers will also finish the regular season on the road — for the fifth time in the last six years. Seriously, what’s going on here?

Texas opens at home on April 8 against Baltimore. Houston, Philadelphia, and Teixeira’s Braves will be the National League teams to visit Arlington.

The Yankees and Red Sox each visit Rangers Ballpark for just one series.

The Rangers finished 2007 with a 47-34 home record, tied at the moment for fifth among AL teams in home wins.

The club has set a franchise record by turning 177 double plays, eclipsing the old mark of 176 set in 1975.

Righthander Scott Feldman will replace righthander Josh Rupe on the Surprise roster when the Arizona Fall League gets underway in October. Rupe is coming back from elbow surgery (though he did pitch three Arizona League innings late in August), while Feldman will continue to work on his new three-quarters delivery.

Vicente Padilla will pitch this winter in Nicaragua. Jason Botts will play in Mexico, and Luis Mendoza might as well. Playing in the Dominican Republic will be Joaquin Arias, Omar Beltre, Joaquin Benoit, Nelson Cruz, Frank Francisco, Freddy Guzman, Robinson Tejeda, Edinson Volquez, and Bill White.

According to Eric Nadel, a published report that Marlon Byrd will play in Mexico was false.

Baseball America’s ranking of this season’s top 20 Northwest League prospects, based on input from league managers and scouts, not only contains three Rangers righthanders — Fabio Castillo (number 5), Tommy Hunter (number 7), and Jake Brigham (number 20) — but according to BA writer Alan Matthews, another two would have made the list if they’d amassed enough innings at Spokane to qualify. In fact, Matthews said that Michael Main would have been the number one prospect in the league if he’d qualified, and Neftali Feliz would have been somewhere in the top 10.

Midwest League rankings will be revealed today. Kasey Kiker, Zach Phillips, Omar Poveda, Johnny Whittleman, and Marcus Lemon all have a chance to figure in somewhere. Brennan Garr put up dirty numbers as well, but relievers generally don’t show up on these lists.

Torii Hunter last week: “I’m hoping the Texas Rangers make some moves and I’ll be right there. . . . Whatever moves they’re making, if they’re good, then I’m going to do it because they really do have a better chance than anybody [of signing me].”

Torii Hunter this week: “I don’t favor Texas. My family doesn’t even favor Texas, but we’re just going to kind of wait and see.”

Guess even sheriffs have to be politicians.

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

Swapping Stories: The Scott Podsednik Trade of 1995

August 8, 1995: Texas trades two players to be named later to Florida for righthander Bobby Witt; August 11, 1995: Texas sends righthander Wilson Heredia to Florida; October 8, 1995: Texas sends outfielder Scott Podsednik to Florida to complete the trade.

You could put together a pretty solid lineup of players who had multiple stints with the Texas Rangers. Jim Sundberg behind the plate. An infield of Rafael Palmeiro, Steve Buechele, Toby Harrah, and Buddy Bell. Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra, and Oddibe McDowell in the outfield. A rotation of Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Kenny Rogers, Jim Bibby, and Rick Helling, backed by a bullpen featuring Tom Henke and Jeff Russell.

Lots of teams can probably boast a similar collection of encore performers. But there probably haven’t been too many that have a made a three-player trade in which each player made multiple swims through the organization, as the Rangers did when they re-acquired Marlins righthander Bobby Witt late in the 1995 season for two players to be named later, righthander Wilson Heredia and outfielder Scott Podsednik.

The fact that Podsednik was twice property of the Rangers is not nearly the only bullet point that marks his unique career.

Podsednik was the Rangers’ third-round draft pick in 1994, the only player ever drafted out of the small Czech community of West, Texas. The organization envisioned the 18-year-old as a catalyst at the leadoff spot and weapon on the basepaths, but in his first two seasons, despite his speed, he put very little pressure on opposing defenses. In two short-season leagues, Podsednik hit .248 with only 12 extra-base hits in 463 at-bats.

The Rangers were in second place in the division on August 8, 1995, when Doug Melvin decided he couldn’t continue with the revolving door at the number five spot in the rotation, with Scott Taylor (1-2, 9.39 in three starts) the latest to get a look. Melvin called Florida, who was nearly 20 games out and running the 31-year-old Witt out every fifth day. The former Ranger had been effective, going 2-7, 3.90 in 19 Marlins starts, but he was going to be a free agent after the season. Florida GM Dave Dombrowski agreed to trade Witt to Texas for two players to be named later.

Heredia, who had pitched six times for Texas in relief that season (0-1, 3.75), cleared revocable waivers and was sent to the Marlins three days later. (He would return to Texas on a waiver claim after the 1996 season.) As for the second player to be named, Dombrowski took a little more time to decide. On October 8, 1995, he chose Podsednik.

Two mediocre years in the Marlins system followed for Podsednik, and in the winter following the 1997 season, his first in which he was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, the Marlins not only left him off the club’s 40-man roster, but chose not to protect him on the 38-man AAA roster either, which meant he could be drafted in the minor league phase of the draft. Melvin took that low-risk opportunity to bring Podsednik back.

Assigned to High A Charlotte in 1998, Podsednik had his best offensive season yet (.285/.369/.391), prompting a promotion to AA Tulsa late in the year. He was back with the Drillers in 1999 and 2000, struggling to stay healthy (groin, leg, and wrist injuries) and failing to produce much, but he did get an emergency call-up to Texas in early June 2000 when Ruben Mateo sustained his brutal leg injury.

But Podsednik proved to be merely a placeholder, active for just two days without getting into a game before Ryan Glynn was called up to start in Darren Oliver’s spot. Podsednik returned to Tulsa, and a few weeks later was designated for assignment, run through waivers, and outrighted to the Drillers roster.

Podsednik had six-year minor league free agency rights after the 2000 season and signed with Seattle, where he was assigned to AAA for the first time, and he was having a good enough year that the Mariners called him up for a three-week stint in July – though he got only six at-bats. Outrighted again after the season, he had the right to find a new team but chose to stay with Seattle, proceeding to have his best season in 2002 and earning a 20 at-bat big league look in September.

Seattle tried to slide him through waivers once more that winter, but Melvin – who had been named GM of the Brewers three weeks earlier – put in a $20,000 waiver claim on the 26-year-old. It turned out to be one of the finest moves of Melvin’s career. Podsednik, a veteran of 26 big league at-bats, played everyday for Milwaukee in 2003 and hit .314/.379/.443 with 43 steals – all statistical levels that he’d never managed as a minor leaguer – and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting to Marlins lefthander Dontrelle Willis.

Podsednik’s numbers slipped a bit in 2004 but he did steal a Major League-leading 70 bases that year. After the season, the Brewers traded him to the White Sox, along with (onetime Ranger) Luis Vizcaino, for (future Ranger) Carlos Lee. Podsednik’s career took another step forward.

In Chicago’s storybook 2005 season, Podsednik hit .290/.351/.349, stole 59 bases, and finished 12th in the AL MVP race. But his biggest contributions were reserved for the post-season. He homered in Game One of the Division Series against Boston, becoming only the second player in baseball history to hit a home run in the playoffs after hitting none in at least 500 regular-season at-bats. Then, in Game Two of the World Series against Houston, Podsednik claimed the record for himself, hitting a walkoff bomb off of Brad Lidge to give Chicago a 7-6 win and a 2-0 Series lead.

Four months after his World Series heroics, the West product who had bounced around the minor leagues for almost 10 years before getting a legitimate shot married a former Playboy Playmate, Fox Sports correspondent Lisa Dergan.

That probably also puts him on a short list of former Rangers.

Unlike a number of trades that have been covered in this column, it’s unfair to look back with regret on the 1995 trade that sent Podsednik to Florida, because in return Texas got Witt (a contributor on the 1996 Texas playoff team) and was able to get the fleet outfielder back two years later. The fact that the Rangers didn’t hang onto him the second time isn’t an issue, because he had the right to leave on his own after not distinguishing himself enough as a minor leaguer to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.

The man who deserves the most credit as far as the Scott Podsednik story is concerned, next to Podsednik himself, is Doug Melvin, who had him twice while with the Rangers, believed there was something there despite the numbers, and gave the outfielder his first real chance in Milwaukee. Podsednik capitalized on it, paved the way for a major league run that has already provided a couple moments of historical significance, and for a kid from West, you probably can’t ask for a whole lot more.

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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 26, 2007

I’m at my desk at work, not in the yard, not in front of a TV. But I’ve got chills, courtesy of a little radio baseball.

Another 200-hit season is not the same thing as a September 26 game that could help determine whether you get to keep playing into October, and Michael Young will be the first tell you that, but it’s a testament to the consistency and, this year, the resilience of a player around whom a winner is going to be built here.

The process is underway, and while the groundswell effort this summer to create horizontal and vertical depth in prospects is going to be a big part of that, the March decision to lock Young up through 2013, by which time the best of those prospects will have arrived or been moved for impact veterans, is just as important.

If you’d have told me on May 3 that Young, who sat at .198 for the season, would reach 200 hits for the fifth straight year, I would have said you might want to consider tapping the brakes.

If back on May 3 you’d have told Michael Young the same thing, to his face, give yourself some credit: You pretty much locked those 200 hits up. Don’t ever tell him what he can’t do.

It’s cool that Young got those three hits today, to get to 200 in the season’s final home game. And while Young admits that 200 hits means something to him – because it’s evidence that he’s healthy enough to post up just about every day – the only significance he’ll place on the fact that it happened today will be that those three hits drove in two runs and led to him scoring three of his own, all contributing to what, for the moment, is a 16-2 Rangers lead.

Count on another 200-hit season for Michael Young in 2008. Here’s hoping that next year’s 200th hit, no matter what stadium it comes in, helps this team to a win that pushes Texas closer to the post-season appearance that its shortstop deserves, and soon enough that he will get.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 25, 2007

I really don’t hate Jamey Wright. I didn’t hate Jack Morris, either. But for whatever reason, Morris was my baseball anathema in the formative years of my baseball consciousness, and I can no more easily handle watching Wright than I could Morris. I can’t explain it.

So when I learned that it would be A.J. Murray taking the hill tonight rather than Wright, I was ecstatic, since I was going to be in the ballpark. I figured the best we could expect was four or five innings out of Murray, since he hasn’t really been stretched out, but that was cool with me.

And Murray was solid. Five innings, five hits, one walk, four strikeouts, and one run — on a solo home run in the fifth. There was no shame in the 1-0 deficit that Murray left behind in what was his first big league start.

But just my luck (because it’s all about me), in trotted Wright.

And he reels off four scoreless innings, giving up two singles, walking nobody, and fanning two. A seemingly impossible 73 percent strike rate. Eight groundouts, one infield pop-up, one flyout.

He was no Jack Morris.

When the Rangers win, I never start toward the aisle until the handshakes are underway near the mound. Just a habit, I guess. Tonight, strangely enough, it wasn’t until I was filing out of the stadium that it occurred to me that the next Rangers game I’ll be at will be in Surprise, and the next one that counts will be in April.

That’s always a saddening moment for me, that last exit from the ballpark for the year. But I’ve had a second wind this season, even if the end results were disappointing. It was prompted by the June that the amateur scouting department had, the July that Jon Daniels had, the second half that this remade team has had. The Tuesday night that Ian Kinsler (.306 for the month) had at the plate. The throw that Jason Botts made on Juan Rivera’s single off the wall in the fourth. More basebally goodness out of David Murphy. And yes, the brilliance of Jamey Wright, for a night.

Baseball doesn’t end for me in September, even if it will again this year for my team. There’s a book to write, a quick trip to Instructs, a fascinating Rangers winter ahead. My thoughts as I pulled away from 1000 Ballpark Way tonight turned to that first home date in April, a day just over six months away that will offer up all the sights and sounds and smells and adrenaline that get packed away for the winter but that baseball always delivers, dependably, like a breaking ball that catches the black for a called strike three from a pitcher who is zoned in.

I can’t wait for Opening Day, and can hardly contain myself at the thought of what it’s going to be like the next time that that 30,000-strong crowd I just sat among at the last home night game of the regular season will instead be a standing-room only affair, with everyone in attendance knowing that there’s another stage of the season, and more home night games, just a few days away.

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

NEWBERG REPORT PLUS — SEPTEMBER 23, 2007

Kevin Millwood delivers 72 strikes out of 104 deliveries, mixes up his cadence, keeps the Orioles off balance all day, and gets through seven. That’s what he was paid to do. Five strikeouts and 11 groundouts among his 21 outs.

Joaquin Benoit, scoreless eighth.

C.J. Wilson, scoreless ninth.

The maturation continues.

Impressive work at the plate and in the field by Ian Kinsler.

The way Michael Young has hit the ball over the last week, he should already have those 200 hits.

Nelson Cruz finishes the Orioles series with multiple hits in all four games. Fourteen total bases. He’s far from making his lack of additional options a non-issue, but give me nine hits and two strikeouts instead of the opposite.

NFL Draft, 2005: Cedric Benson goes in the first round, fourth overall (second running back taken). Marion Barber III goes in the fourth round, 109th overall (tenth running back taken).

NFL Draft, 2003: Rex Grossman goes in the first round, 22nd overall (fourth quarterback taken). Tony Romo hunts for a job after not being among the 262 players (and 13 quarterbacks) drafted.

And Roy Williams “tackling” in the open field is the football equivalent of a Jose Canseco header in right field, but we’re getting away from the point.

The Barber and Romo point, in the context of a baseball newsletter, is to reinforce the idea that, in this sport and in that one and in most others, a commitment to scouting and player development, and faith in young players figuring things out, is usually a commitment worth making.

A good sports day around here.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 23, 2007

Ron Washington’s unvarnished outspokenness with the press was a refreshing change over the winter and when spring training got underway, but some of his comments lately have been a little curious.

Asked on a talk show on Friday morning whether he wanted Vicente Padilla back in 2008, Washington responded: “I don’t think I have a choice there.” Honest? Sure. Tactful? Not sure.

Asked this weekend to assess his wish list going into 2008, Washington listed center field, first base, right field, and closer, adding: “Will we get them all? I don’t know. But we certainly need a closer. You’re not going to go into a season expecting to win without somebody who can close a ballgame down. It’s that simple.”

C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit have struggled a bit as they’ve surpassed career high appearance totals this month, but do they deserve that sort of comment from their manager?

Does Gerald Laird deserve to read that his manager makes first base a priority this winter, a pretty obvious signal as to where he wants Jarrod Saltalamacchia to suit up in 2008?

There’s probably even an argument that Marlon Byrd and David Murphy, with the way they have played this summer, might have done enough not to have to see quotes from their manager that among the club’s top off-season priorities, in his opinion, are the acquisition of two outfielders.

(Wonder who he considers his left fielder, since that’s the one outfield spot he didn’t list.)

Wilson and Benoit and Byrd and Murphy have all stepped up for their first-year manager this season, and each is among the best developments of an otherwise disappointing year. Theoretically, a decision hasn’t yet been made as to whether Saltalamacchia figures in at catcher or first base, but if I’m Laird and I see that Washington calls first base his number two off-season priority, I know where I stand.

I’m not saying I disagree with the wish list. Just not sure it’s up to the manager — during the season — to articulate it publicly. Not even sure it’s the manager’s place to weigh in on it publicly at all, since putting the roster together is someone else’s job. Getting the best out of his players, however he can, is up to the manager.

Regarding his current closer tandem, Washington said: “I’m not saying C.J. or Benoit can’t do it one day, but they don’t have the experience. They have the stuff to do it, but they have to earn their way to that position.”

Fine.

But that other comment: “We certainly need a closer. You’re not going to go into a season expecting to win without somebody who can close a ballgame down.”

Seems unnecessary.

And a few days ago, asked by a local columnist about the idea of going into 2008 without Sammy Sosa, Washington said: “If a young player is sitting in that DH spot, he’s got to be a hitting machine.” Got any young hitting machines on your club, Wash? “Not up here. You see any? Let me know so I can put them on my roster here.”

Not sure that was needed, either. I doubt Billy Gardner made public comments along those lines when rookie Ron Washington — 30-year-old rookie Ron Washington — led the Twins in games at shortstop in 1982.

It’s no secret that this club needs a couple impact bats and could probably use a veteran reliever. I’m just not sure how constructive it is for the leadership of the organization to get any more specific than that with the press right now.

Six months ago Luis Mendoza wasn’t anywhere near the radar, and Edinson Volquez was hurtling in the wrong direction. What a great year it’s been for those two.

In Mendoza’s case, kudos to Tom Giordano, Russ Ardolina, and the Rangers’ pro scouting staff for recommending a pitcher who was released by two organizations in 2005 and was a 1-5, 6.38 AA pitcher when the Rangers chose him as the return last July for 32-year-old journeyman reliever Bryan Corey. Mendoza was solid on Friday, dirty at times, as he earned his first major league win.

In Volquez’s case, kudos to Jon Daniels and his crew, and to Mark Connor, Scott Servais, Rick Adair, Mike Anderson, Terry Clark, and Andy Hawkins for planning and implementing such an unconventional approach to rebuild the 24-year-old. Daps to Volquez for buying into the plan every step of the way.

Mendoza, according to Washington, is most likely going to be in Oklahoma when camp breaks next year. Volquez is a strong bet to be in Arlington.

Ian Kinsler’s 20th home run last night puts him in the company of Toby Harrah, Bobby Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Pudge Rodriguez, and Alfonso Soriano as the only hitters to have 20-homer, 20-stolen base seasons as Rangers. Jose Canseco didn’t do it. Ruben Sierra didn’t, either.

Righthander Armando Galarraga will start tomorrow since he wasn’t needed in relief last night.

The Rangers have shut Kameron Loe down, opting not to push things with his elbow.

Michael Young needs to go 6 for 29 (.207) the rest of the way to reach 200 hits.

According to Kat O’Brien of Newsday, the Rangers traded Eric Gagné to Boston only because the Yankees refused to part with center fielder Melky Cabrera or minor league righthander Ian Kennedy in exchange for the reliever.

Since the Gagné trade, he is 2-2, 7.88 with the Red Sox, getting hit at a .333/.403/.493 clip and blowing all three save opportunities he’s had.

Cabrera has hit .267 with 29 RBI in 47 games, including five driven in over the final four innings yesterday as the Yankees came back to win, 12-11, in 10 innings. Cabrera’s singled Jorge Posada in with two outs in the 10th to end the game.

Kennedy, who went 12-3, 1.91 between High A, AA, and AAA this season, his first full year as a pro, was summoned to New York on September 1 to replace the struggling Mike Mussina, and he’s 1-0, 1.89 in three impressive starts.

Great finish to the Milwaukee-Atlanta game yesterday. It was tough watching Francisco Cordero blow the save with two outs in the 10th, but great to see Mark Teixeira single in the winning run off of Brian Shouse in the 11th.

Forty-two home runs and 92 walks for Carlos Pena (.278/.400/.610). Incredible.

The New York Post cites a New York Magazine report suggesting that Scott Boras has approached an unnamed potential new owner of the Cubs — reportedly not Mark Cuban — about the idea of Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract with the Yankees and hooking up this winter with the Cubs on a 10-year, $300 deal. A huge portion of the contract would be backloaded and include a provision allowing A-Rod to buy into the ownership of the club at the contract’s conclusion.

This ought to be interesting: 36-year-old Angels reliever Darren Oliver made his 59th appearance of the season yesterday. One more and his $2 million option for 2008 vests.

Scouts and Arizona League managers placed three Rangers prospects on Baseball America’s list of the league’s top 20 prospects. Center fielder Engel Beltre (who came over in the Gagné trade) was number two, righthander Wilmer Font was number five, and catcher Cristian Santana was number nine. BA’s John Manuel said in a chat session that righthander Michael Main would have been number three in the league if he qualified (but his late start on the mound and subsequent promotion to Spokane limited him to just 12.2 AZL frames).

San Francisco and Barry Bonds have announced the cutting of ties, and the national writers are already trying to fit him in his 2008 uniform, with Texas on some lists along with Oakland, Detroit, the Angels, Baltimore, and Seattle. The Rangers, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, made no offer to Bonds last winter even though he was interested in coming here.

Ron Washington is telling reporters he thinks Bonds will end up with the A’s. Fine with me if Wash publicly plays GM — as long as it’s not for his own team.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 21, 2007

Brandon McCarthy says it’s “50-50″ whether he makes his two final starts, telling reporters that he was dealing with tendinitis in his forearm in the days leading up to last night’s effort, adding that “durable pitchers pitch through soreness. They know when it’s too painful to push it, though.”

McCarthy has fought all year to get his ERA under 5.00 for the first time since his second start of the season. The 24-year-old brought it down to 4.79 for one start in August before seeing it creep back up, and last night’s four scoreless innings lowered his ERA to 4.87.

I’d like to see him finish under 5.00. And to prove to himself that he can pitch, and pitch well, even if the grind of the season has him feeling less than 100 percent.

Armando Galarraga is slated to pitch on Monday in place of Vicente Padilla, who has dropped his appeal of the seven-day suspension levied by the league. Ron Washington has already said Padilla won’t start again once he is reactivated.

I was flat wrong about Padilla’s effort on Sunday, when I wrote that I was fired up by his drilling of Nick Swisher and concluded: “Padilla hasn’t done anything to earn the benefit of the doubt. But he’s still getting it, at least from me, at least today.”

I didn’t fully understand what Padilla’s teammates really think of him until reading quotes from a handful of them the next day. I wrote: “I get it that Padilla is no Clemens, no Nuschler, no Stottlemyre. He’s been a great disappointment on the mound this year and will never be branded (at least as far as we know) as a leader in the room. I’m not sure that Padilla drilling hitters rallies his teammates as much as it sets them up. I don’t know how he’s viewed by the guys who wear the same uniform he does.”

I’m pretty sure I now know how he’s viewed by them. It’s more than a little disappointing how little Padilla seems to get it, but what are you going to do at this point? It’s been suggested in the papers and on the radio that Texas might try to move the final two guaranteed years and $24.75 million on Padilla’s deal for someone else’s bad contract (Carl Pavano [two years, $24 million] and Jose Contreras [two years, $20 million] have been mentioned) or for nothing, with Texas gift-wrapping Padilla with a $20 million subsidy.

Here’s an idea: How about Boston outfielder J.D. Drew, who is owed $56 million over the next four years? The 31-year-old has been a major disappointment in the first year of his five-year deal, and is annually an injury risk, but he’s still an on-base machine and, if right, gives his team a legitimate number five hitter who is also capable of leading off.

Would Boston bury Padilla in long relief just to get out from Drew’s mega-contract?

Would Texas take a $31.25 million chance that Drew could stay healthy and productive into his middle thirties, just to eradicate Padilla from the roster?

The quotes I read after the start Padilla made two nights ago, a start in which he got away from his fastball and relied on a peculiarly steady array of loopy curves, stunned me.

Washington: “He’s more effective when he uses his fastball. I don’t know why he went to the off-speed stuff as much as he did.”

Mark Connor, on the same subject: “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Jarrod Saltalamacchia: “Honestly, I don’t know why he went to the [slow curve]. He had some trouble locating early, and it was one of those nights where he thought that was what was the best thing to go with.”

The comments from teammates after Padilla’s bench-clearing pitch and the remarks from his manager, pitching coach, and catcher after his subsequent start said a ton. No more benefit of the doubt from me, and I’m ashamed I ever extended it to him in the first place.

Torii Hunter fired off a couple interesting quotes of his own, confirming baseball’s worst-kept secret — that he wouldn’t mind playing 50 miles south of his Prosper, Texas home as he enters free agency this winter. Now, it’s not out of the question that comments like “I almost bet you that the Texas Rangers have a better chance than anybody” are manufactured to make sure that the Rangers get involved so that he can get a couple big market teams to throw big market numbers at him.

But when he adds, “I’m hoping the Texas Rangers make some moves and I’ll be right there,” and “I’m just watching. Whatever moves they’re making, if they’re good, then I’m going to do it because they really do have a better chance than anybody [of signing me],” that does sound more like a player who actually wants to be here.

I’m on record saying I’d rather commit less to 29-year-old Aaron Rowand than the 32-year-old Hunter to play center field here. (Did you realize that Rowand’s OPS is .901, compared to Hunter’s .858? And that the rangy Rowand has 11 assists to Hunter’s five?).

But what about the thought of signing both of them? Can you imagine an outfield of Hunter, Rowand, and a David Murphy/Marlon Byrd platoon? Defensively, it would be the best outfield this franchise has ever had and one of the best in baseball. Think it would leave the lineup too bare? Rowand has 43 doubles and 26 home runs this year. Hunter, 43 and 28. Extrapolate Murphy and Byrd to a platoon-based number of shared at-bats, and based on their 2007 numbers they’d give you 51 and 13. That’s obviously based on Murphy doing over 350 at-bats what he’s done in his seven weeks here, which is unrealistic, but I’m starting to really believe he can be Rusty Greer with a plus arm if everything breaks right.

Would Texas pay $16 million a year to get Hunter, and $11 million a year to get Rowand (probably for five years on each)? Big commitment. But I’m a huge Rowand fan, and while I don’t think Hunter is going to be this productive for the last half of his upcoming contract, I’m starting to buy into the idea that he can have a Will Clark impact on his next team even once his numbers start to decline. This team needs more Clark types in the room, more Greer’s, more Mark McLemore’s and Mickey Tettleton’s and Mark DeRosa’s and Dave Valle’s.

Another thought (which presupposes Hunter or Rowand but not both): Eric Hurley, Taylor Teagarden, and Elvis Andrus for Adam Dunn, assuming Cincinnati exercises its 2008 option early in October and Texas can work out a long-term extension with Dunn during a brief window leading up to the trade. Which team refuses?

Would Saltalamacchia have to be in the deal rather than Teagarden? Would that be a deal-breaker from a Rangers standpoint?

Last night’s disgusting 10th inning, along with Tuesday’s game in Minnesota, reminded me how much I miss Mark Teixeira’s defense at first base.

Michael Young needs to go 8 for 40 (.200) in the Rangers’ final nine games to reach 200 hits for the fifth straight season, a feat that only Wade Boggs and Ichiro Suzuki have achieved since 1940.

Akinori Otsuka is officially done for the season. Scott Feldman probably is. Kameron Loe may not be.

It’s still undetermined whether Hank Blalock will play defensively before the season ends.

Baseball America has kicked off its minor league top 20 prospects features, with scouts’ and league managers’ assessment of Arizona League talent slated for later today.

Low A Greenville manager Gabe Kapler told the Red Sox he’d like to make a comeback as a player in 2008.

The Sioux City Explorers of the independent American Association released lefthander Seth Hill.

Righthanders Luis Mendoza and Edinson Volquez take the hill the next two nights in the Ballpark. I’m pretty pumped to see them make their final home starts and extend two of the better Rangers stories of the 2007 season, as it nears its conclusion.

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

Swapping Stories: The Jeff Fassero Trade of 1999

August 27, 1999: Texas trades a player to be named later to Seattle for lefthander Jeff Fassero; September 22, 1999: Texas sends outfielder Adrian Myers to Seattle to complete the trade.

There’s a natural timeline break in Rangers history, the November 1999 trade of Juan Gonzalez that followed a four-year run which included the club’s only three division titles and preceded four straight last-place finishes in the AL West. While the trade of Gonzalez wasn’t supposed to trigger such a dramatic collapse, the fact is that Texas was one of baseball’s most consistent contenders before the trade, and hasn’t finished above third in the division in the eight seasons since.

Few trades in franchise history had more impact than Doug Melvin’s trade of Gonzalez, Danny Patterson, and Gregg Zaun to Detroit for Justin Thompson, Francisco Cordero, Frank Catalanotto, Gabe Kapler, Bill Haselman, and Alan Webb. Few had less impact than the last trade Melvin made before the Gonzalez blockbuster. On August 27, 1999, four days before the deadline to acquire playoff-eligible players, Texas agreed to send Seattle a player to be named later for left-handed veteran Jeff Fassero. Almost a month later, on September 22, AA Tulsa outfielder Adrian Myers was shipped to the Mariners to complete the deal.

It was not a trade made out of desperation. Going into an off-day on August 26, the Rangers had won eight of 11, extending their lead over Oakland from 4.5 games to 6.5 games with five weeks left to play. But Melvin, who had lost Eric Gunderson to a season-ending injury in May, was looking for an extra left-handed arm to complement Mike Venafro and Mike Munoz on the post-season roster, as he wasn’t prepared to count on young southpaws Doug Davis, Matt Perisho, or Corey Lee in the playoffs.

Seattle was hovering around .500, out of the race, when the Rangers expressed an interest in the 36-year-old Fassero, who had been the club’s Opening Day starter despite off-season elbow surgery to remove bone chips. Fassero was in the midst of a terrible year, going 4-14, 7.38 for the Mariners and losing his rotation spot as he neared the end of a two-year contract worth a little more than $10 million. Seattle wasn’t going to bring him back.

Texas wasn’t interested in bringing Fassero aboard for any more than the end of the 1999 season. More specifically, the Rangers looked at him as a veteran who would upgrade their October staff. While right-handed hitters were spanking Fassero at a .341 clip, lefties were hitting just .252. If the Rangers were to draw the Yankees in the playoffs for the third time in four years, the thought that Fassero might be able to come in to get Paul O’Neill or Tino Martinez out in the middle innings was what drove Melvin to trade for the free-agent-to-be. Even that idea took a leap of faith, however. New York had scored 12 times in 10.1 innings against Fassero in 1999.

The Rangers and Mariners agreed to the trade on August 27, and Seattle took almost a month before deciding on Myers, a fleet 24-year-old outfielder, to complete the deal. The Rangers’ 21st-round pick in 1996, Myers hit a punchless .235/.323/.300 for the Drillers in 1999, his first season in AA. He would spend four years in the Mariners system, reaching the AAA level in 2002 and earning eight spring training at-bats in 2003, which would turn out to be his final year in pro ball. Myers never reached the big leagues, but his eight pro seasons were seven more than his cousin, outfielder Mandell Echols, enjoyed after being drafted by Texas in 1995’s 41st round out of the same school (William Carey College in Mississippi).

Texas went 4-3 in the seven games in which Fassero appeared down the stretch in 1999, but he wasn’t very good. In 17.1 innings he posted a 5.71 ERA – and that included a scoreless, one-hit effort in a four-inning spot start against his former Mariners teammates – allowing 20 hits and 10 walks while fanning 13. In the club’s three-game playoff sweep at the hands of the Yankees, he appeared one time, giving up a run on two hits and a walk in the eighth inning of the Rangers’ 8-0 loss in Game One.

Fassero signed with Boston that off-season, kicking off an odyssey that saw him pitch for six teams in seven seasons. The 43-year-old’s career came to an end when San Francisco designated him for assignment in May of 2006, clearing a roster spot for young lefthander Noah Lowry.

The Giants had drafted Lowry in the first round of the 2001 draft, two years after Texas selected the Ventura Junior College southpaw in the 19th round but failed to convince him to sign rather than transfer to Pepperdine.

No media attention was paid at the time to the Rangers’ inability to sign Lowry in the summer of 1999. Texas had one of its most promising draft classes in franchise history, coming away with high-ceiling righthanders Colby Lewis, David Mead, and Nick Regilio with its first three picks, and landing third baseman Hank Blalock (third round), outfielder Kevin Mench (fourth round), and righthander Aaron Harang (sixth round), all of whom had debut seasons as dominant as any in the minors that summer.

Plus, of course, the Rangers were headed for their third playoff berth in four seasons, relegating that June’s draft to footnote status – a fate that would also be reserved for the team’s late-season trade of Adrian Myers for Jeff Fassero.

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.

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 19, 2007

Just when it seemed like the awful defense of the first half of the season was a distant, bad memory, there it was the past two nights, two narrow losses, made even more stomach-turning when contrasted with the crisp, athletic, aggressive defense turned in by the Twins.

On Sunday, Vicente Padilla got himself tossed without getting an out.

On Monday, he apologized to his teammates (though, reportedly, not on his own initiative).

On Tuesday, the league suspended him for seven games.

On Wednesday, he will nonetheless pitch.

Padilla gets the ball tonight because his 10-pitch effort on Sunday leaves him fresh enough to start the series finale in Minnesota, and because his appeal of the suspension stays his deactivation. What the pending suspension does mean is that, with 11 games to go, tonight is probably the final appearance of Padilla’s inadequate 2007 season.

Unless he’s needed in long relief tonight, righthander Luis Mendoza should get Friday’s start against Baltimore.

Lefthander Kason Gabbard has been shut down for the season because of forearm stiffness. That’s a scary story given Gabbard’s elbow history, but the team is characterizing the decision as simply precautionary. Gabbard has already turned in a career-high workload, and there’s no sense putting him back on the mound with a minor injury, which through compensation could lead to something far worse.

Righthander Edinson Volquez should get two more starts, two more opportunities to prove that his late-season audition is as indicative of his long-term dependability as Chris Young’s September 2004 was, and not the tease that Kameron Loe’s September 2005 was or the absolute mirage that Robinson Tejeda’s September 2006 was.

These last two series have killed any thought of reaching .500 for the season. The Rangers have now lost 81 games.

Jason Botts’s September OPS: .924.

Michael Young needs to go 10 for 45 (.222) over the final 11 games of the season to reach 200 hits.

I had a game against Adamson my junior year when I made three errors at shortstop. I’ll never forget it, much as I try to.

But my kids still love me. True, they weren’t around back then, but they weren’t in front of the set last night for Young’s tough game in the field, either (and even if they saw it, they’d still love him, too).

I’m guessing Cristina and Mateo aren’t in Minnesota with Michael, and he probably went to bed thinking about those three errors (not his three hits) and will wake up this morning thinking about the same thing. I wish he had his kid with him to help take his mind off that game. I wish it happened in May, rather than with a week a half to go before a five-month off-season.

There are flaws in Young’s defensive game, but throwing the ball and making the play coming in have never been among them. Last night was an aberration, even if Young isn’t the type who would ever look for a way to shrug it off. He’s going to get that 200th hit sometime next week, but he won’t have another defensive game like last night’s, not next week, not next year, probably not ever.

My guess is that Young’s going to think about last night’s game for a long time. But I’m confident that it won’t affect his play going forward, unless it’s to make him even more dependable on those same plays than he already is. One of the great things about Young’s game, and his personality, is that he doesn’t let a bad day in the field, or a rough first month of the season, or general manager’s opinion that he wouldn’t hit enough to be a starting big league infielder get him down.

He always uses adversity to get better, to get stronger, to prove his detractors wrong, and that’s one of the main reasons I’m so happy he’s Erica and Max’s favorite baseball player.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 16, 2007

From the October 23, 2000 Newberg Report:

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

What Roger Clemens did was low. Loathsome. Uncouth. And I loved it. I just knew, right after he slung the business end of Mike Piazza’s bat back in his direction, that he was going to shut the Mets down, just as he did. I wish Texas had the kind of swagger that Roger Clemens brings to a team.

Michael Jordan had it. Michael Irvin had it. Todd Stottlemyre has it. Will Clark had a little bit of it, but his game was so emasculated for most of his Ranger career that it mattered not what kind of attitude he took onto the field. There is no question that the Rangers have had the bats over the past five years to win playoff games. They have had the pitching in October, even if it was questionable whether they did between April and September. One thing they have clearly lacked is a strut, a swagger, a bravado. It seems to me that whether or not you were in the camp that said it was worth trading Ruben Mateo-plus or Rusty Greer-plus or whatever to get the Rocket (and for the record, I was not, at least to the extent that it would have taken Mateo), you must admit one thing: a team playing behind Roger Clemens has a slightly, even if intangibly, better chance to win than it would behind a pitcher that had Clemens’ stuff but lacked his demeanor.

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

I understand that I’m not supposed to applaud what Vicente Padilla did today, that it’s the sort of thing that happens too often with him on the mound and that it makes his teammates vulnerable to retribution and that it taxes the bullpen and makes the manager’s and coaching staff’s and front office’s job harder when laying out pitching plans for the next few games.

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t fire me up a little bit.

Texas needed nine relief innings to pull that one out and avert a sweep in Oakland, not to mention a career RBI day from Michael Young (who now needs to go 14 for 53 [.264] the rest of the way to reach 200 hits). But only two pitchers (Jamey Wright and Mike Wood) threw more than 35 pitches, and with a couple extra available arms to begin with (since it’s September) it’s not as if the staff is going to be decimated, although it’s probably true that a couple rookies are going to need to be ready to go long if Edinson Volquez gets chased early on Monday.

But that’s fine with me. Nothing wrong with finding out, at this stage of the season, what Luis Mendoza or Armando Galarraga can do, if it comes to that. More important, at least to me, than when Wright and Wood will be ready to go again is whether the Rangers can take some swagger into 2008.

Trying to decide how a handful of young pitchers fit, how the catcher situation is going to shake out, what exactly we have in David Murphy, what to do contractually with Joaquin Benoit, and whether Jason Botts can be a part of this thing going forward all continue to be very much on the table over the 11 remaining games. But just as a team’s parts for the next season can come into better focus in September, so can its attitude.

I get it that Padilla is no Clemens, no Nuschler, no Stottlemyre. He’s been a great disappointment on the mound this year and will never be branded (at least as far as we know) as a leader in the room. I’m not sure that Padilla drilling hitters rallies his teammates as much as it sets them up. I don’t know how he’s viewed by the guys who wear the same uniform he does.

But just as stupid as it might sound that Marion Barber III is probably my favorite football player, ever, I’m here to tell you that I’m glad Padilla did what he did to Nick Swisher in the first inning today. It’s been a frustrating year on the field, and maybe those frustrations had more to do with today’s imbroglio than some effort to announce to the baseball world that this team won’t be messed with. But I know what my honest, instinctive reaction to what happened was. I was glad to see it.

Padilla hasn’t done anything to earn the benefit of the doubt. But he’s still getting it, at least from me, at least today.

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

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