THE NEWBERG REPORT — OCTOBER 1, 2007
“There’s always room for optimism,” said Michael Young to reporters over the weekend, “but the simple fact is this is getting old.”
“I don’t want the topic of conversation to be who’s in third place.”
“That’s not what I play baseball for.”
“This is by far my toughest year in baseball.”
I believe it.
“I hope this gets turned around immediately.”
That’s the comment that some of you evidently have an issue with.
Do you really want the leader of your team to say that 75-87 was a blast? That he’s comfortable with personal achievements and a nice contract?
Do you want him saying, expressly or implicitly, that he doesn’t think he and his teammates are capable of playing beyond 162 in 2008 like Arizona and Cleveland and Colorado are going to do in 2007?
Those three teams won between 76 and 78 games last year.
Do you even want him thinking that?
You better believe I want Michael Young hoping that this team’s fortunes turn around immediately.
As disappointing as the last three games in Seattle were, as the season ends I’m feeling as good about this team’s long-term health as I have in a long time. The general manager is intent on emphasizing player development, having already engineered huge strides in that area, through trades and through the draft and through international scouting. And the owner is on board. As long as those two people are committed to the plan, I’m good.
But the players? I want them focused on the present, believing they can win. What do you think the chances are that Kevin Millwood will ever wear the same uniform as Engel Beltre or Neil Ramirez? It’s not up to the players to think about building a winner. It’s up the players to win.
And that’s exactly what I want the player whose lead every other Texas Rangers player follows to think, and to say. Let’s win. Now.
The Dallas Cowboys last won a division title in 1998, a longer drought by a year than the Rangers. The Cowboys last won a playoff game in 1996, same as the Rangers.
This start to the football season feels so good not just because of a 4-0 start and a weak conference, but more so because the best players on the team, for the most part, are still young and getting better, and because the fact that they’ve gotten to this point while being developed by this organization gives us hope that the scouts and the coaches responsible for finding and sculpting football talent here are on to something — something that’s going to last for a while.
There are no Yankees and no Red Sox in football. The salary cap has created an arguably level playing field, where good drafting and limiting mistakes in free agency are crucial.
In baseball, there’s more than one way to get there. We can’t be New York or Boston. (On the other hand, nobody in the league should feel real good about Chien-Ming Wang and Philip Hughes and Joba Chamberlain wearing pinstripes, or pre-arbitration pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz and Jonathan Papelbon forming a long-term pitching base in Boston.)
But we don’t have to be the Yankees or Red Sox. Arizona and Cleveland and Colorado are far from the New York/Boston payroll stratosphere, and those teams are full of relatively young players, mostly homegrown, with a key veteran or two brought in each year by trade or free agency.
Detroit, too. A young core, brought in by draft or trade and developed internally. Pudge Rodriguez added through free agency in 2004, Carlos Guillen acquired in a trade that same year. Magglio Ordonez (free agency) and Placido Polanco (trade) in 2005. Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones (both through free agency) in 2006. Gary Sheffield (trade) in 2007.
San Diego, too, though it’s less likely that you’ll hear the Rangers reference them since part of the young core there features Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez and the scouting and player development resurgence is led in part by Grady Fuson.
The point is that there are just as many teams, if not more these days, winning by developing talent than by buying star players. Truthfully, even in the Yankees’ case, despite a payroll close to double any other team’s outside of Boston, they seem to have gotten key contributions from as many young, internally developed players as at any time since the mid-’90s franchise revival.
Yet even Don Mattingly, if asked at the end of the 1993 season — the 12th straight out of the playoffs for both him and the Yankees — what he thought about Class A and Class AA players Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, surely didn’t tell reporters on the last day of the season that he couldn’t contain his excitement over the club’s long-term future.
But when each of those players contributed to a 1995 Yankees team that reached the playoffs for the first (and only) time in Mattingly’s playing career, you can bet he believed in the process.
Even if in the back of Michael Young’s mind is what his boyhood idol Don Mattingly went through and finally accomplished (one playoff series, in which he hit .417/.440/.708 in a five-game loss to Seattle), if you’re expecting Young to be comfortable, to be satisfied with any season that ends before October, to say anything other than “I hope this gets turned around immediately,” then you don’t understand Michael Young.
I’m thrilled that my team’s GM and owner are committed to methodically building a core from within.
And I’m just as pumped about the restlessness of my team’s leader.