January 2008

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 13, 2008

Our dog just unleashed an extremely discourteous emission. I now know Pocus is a Cowboys fan.

I sent an email to a friend last night, finishing with this:

“DAL 21, NYG 17. Big day for MBIII.”

I nailed it. That is, other than a little sequencing problem in the first sentence. Good stinkin’ grief.

I’ve deleted six paragraphs about that game, mainly because you don’t care about what I think about football. Comments about a couple overmatched offensive lineman, about a fringy trash-talking receiver who was awful, about an unbelievably bad day by the special teams, about the most overrated defensive back in the league (who filled the box score with one tackle), about how the Giants were clearly better in the trenches in the second half when the first-half time of possession should have dictated the opposite.

That loss had nothing to do with Cabo, and nothing to do with T.O.’s health. MBIII was great for most of the day, but – suddenly installed as the starter (reminiscent of the Mavericks against Golden State, where the favorite decided it needed to shake things up instead sticking with what dominated all year) – he didn’t have as much left in the second half as he normally does. But that wasn’t to blame for this one, either.

We simply got spanked by a better team, in our house. Pathetic.

The last few Rangers seasons have been disappointing, but I’ll take them over what the Cowboys and Mavs turned in this year. Everything those two teams accomplished this year was a complete waste. I feel stupid for letting 67-15 and 13-3 give me confidence that my team was going to come out and take care of business. The Cowboys, like the Mavs, lost in the intensity game and the execution game and the concentration game and, ultimately, on the scoreboard. There’s a lot less disappointment, at least for me, in watching a team that isn’t supposed to win show signs that it’s going to get there one day soon, than there is in seeing a team that’s supposed to win spit it up.

Good riddance to that football season.

Pitchers and catchers, one month from tomorrow.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 12, 2008

Elijah Dukes, Mark Grudzielanek, Hanley Ramirez.

Brandon McCarthy, Mark Loretta, Pablo Ozuna.

Aaron Cook and Jim Thome.

San Francisco Seals outfielder Joe DiMaggio.

Minnesota Twins team leaders, and Series Two checklist 1 of 3.

Thirty-two years and a little under six miles separated my first pack of Topps and Max’s. I was six or seven years old when our regular Saturday morning drive to Schepps convenience store with Dad transitioned from Fudgsicles to baseball cards, but I figured today that Max, almost three and a half, was ready to get his collection started.

Of course, what that really means is that I was ready to get Max’s collection started, but if he ends up digging the stuff the way I did as a kid, he’ll be glad one day that it got underway sooner rather than later.

As we walked out of Nick’s Sports Cards on Campbell and Coit this morning with that pack of 2007 Topps, Hobby Edition, Series 2, and ripped the foil open, I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t crazy about the fact that Dukes was the player to launch Max’s baseball card collection.

And Max, plainly unimpressed with the Ramirez rookie card or the throwback DiMaggio, wasn’t crazy about the fact that, insultingly, Michael Young was nowhere to be found in the pack of 11 cards. I may have slip a Young card into next week’s pack, just to make sure he doesn’t give up the hobby before age four.

When I say Max wasn’t crazy about his Young-less pack of cards, I’m sort of minimizing his reaction. We weren’t even out of the Nick’s parking lot when Max decided to do his best Len Barker, rearing back and firing them in a general direction. Velocity was the objective, with a complete disregard for location.

I stopped the car, and turned around. Before I could say anything, Max already had that look on his face, fully anticipating that he was about to be divested of the afternoon ice cream shop visit I’d promised or, worse, the appointment we had later in the day at the indoor batting cages.

It probably wasn’t textbook parenting for me to crack a smile at that point, but I was suddenly sledgehammered with a memory of standing in my backyard as I reinventoried that first 1976 Topps pack, once again finding only one Texas Ranger in it – third baseman Roy Howell – and disgustingly throwing the remaining cards to the wind, without a care for where that Dave Giusti and that Jack Brohamer and, yes, that George Brett landed.

(I’m almost positive Brett was involved in that incident. Giusti and Brohamer, can’t swear to it. [Though they should have been.] If only my Dad had been a baseball blogger back then.)

I didn’t congratulate Max for his up and in, low and outside, down-the-middle, worm-killing, exploding backseat fastball. But it wouldn’t have been fair to punish him, either, for being as Rangers-centric as his father was 32 years earlier, about six miles away.

Another thing. It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve bought any baseball cards, but Topps is clearly kicked its airbrushing up to a new, less hilarious level.

1977 Topps:

Rickjones77t_1

1978 Topps:

Kingman78t_1

2007 Topps:

Mccarthy07t_1

Not a bad job on the McCarthy reimaging. Pretty sure Topps went to press before the newly acquired McCarthy had the chance to throw even a spring training pitch for Texas in 2007, but even if not, uniform number guru Joe Siegler doesn’t think he ever wore the number 55 that he sported with Chicago.

That card, for Max, will always be his 1976 Topps Roy Howell.

Royhowell76t_1

When we pulled back into the garage at home, Max and I picked the cards up from the floorboard and the back seat and the front seat and the CD changer and an A/C vent or two. I’ll hang onto them for a while until a few more Saturdays have passed, when that stack of 11 will be 33 or 44 and look more substantial, interesting enough that Max will probably want them back so he can stage his own baseball game on the playroom floor.

When he gets older, those cards and the ones that follow will help him learn math and how to read, reinforce his drive to become a shortstop and give him an idea or two at the plate, feed a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, and fill his head with a treasure chest of useless facts and spindly trivia that, if preserved and nurtured, will do him absolutely no good unless he decides years from now to blog about baseball.

For now, the meaning of today’s father-son time is probably lost in its entirety on Max, aside from the fact that he got that strawberry with sprinkles at Baskin-Robbins early in the afternoon, sitting across from Dad and Uncle Marv while everyone else in town made the sensible decision not to go for ice cream on a fairly dreary, cloudy, 40-something degree day.

I did, incidentally, tell Max as I put away a cup of Heath Bar Crunch that I’d appreciate it if he didn’t throw the cards the next time. He gets the one mulligan I once gave myself.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 11, 2008

According to multiple local reports, Texas appears to be on the verge of signing righthander Jason Jennings, pending the passing of a physical, which wouldn’t be a formality in the 29-year-old’s case.

The Dallas native was completely healthy over his six years with Colorado (2001-2006), with the exception of a fractured finger that cost him the final two and a half months of the 2005 season. Jennings went 58-56, 4.74 as a Rockie, with a strong 1.52 groundout-to-flyout rate, and was particularly good in 2006, going 9-13, 3.78 with a career high 212 innings over 32 starts. In the last four seasons, Texas has had just one pitcher turn in that kind of workload, Kevin Millwood in 2006 (215 innings).

Colorado traded Jennings to Houston last December (with pitcher Miguel Asencio for pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh and outfielder Willy Taveras), and he had an extremely disappointing 2007 season for the Astros, going 2-9, 6.45 in 18 starts and a relief appearance and missing two chunks of the season with elbow issues: seven weeks in April and May due to flexor tendinitis and the final six weeks of the season due to a tear in the flexor tendon (not nearly as serious as the ulnar collateral ligament). Jennings had surgery to repair the tendon on September 1.

More significant last year than the drop in velocity from his normal 89-91 was the loss of bite on his plus sinker, as his G/F rate turned upside down and he surrendered 1.73 home runs per nine innings, compared to the 0.98 he posted in his six years pitching for the Rockies.

If Jennings is healthy, he profiles well in Rangers Ballpark, but clearly this is a move designed at this point simply to create competition for Luis Mendoza, Armando Galarraga, A.J. Murray, Kameron Loe, and perhaps Robinson Tejeda for the final spot in the rotation (assuming Brandon McCarthy and Kason Gabbard go into the season healthy). If he’s both healthy and right, he probably fits more as the number four, with Gabbard at the five spot.

There’s been no indication whether Jennings would command a big league contract or if instead it would be a non-roster deal, but if it’s the former, it would likely be a relatively modest base salary with significant appearance incentives, much like last winter’s Eric Gagné contract.

Of course, if it is a big league deal, there will be two more players that Texas will need to remove from the 40-man roster, one for Jennings and one for Eddie Guardado (assuming his too is a big league deal).

Stay tuned.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 10, 2008

Jon Daniels apparently shared some interesting news at a Rangers fan event yesterday, responding to a question about Akinori Otsuka’s status by noting that the righthander, who turns 36 this Sunday, is headed for elbow surgery that will cost him the 2008 season. Certainly makes last month’s non-tender a lot more understandable.

The Otsuka situation factored into the Rangers’ determination that they could use another veteran presence in the bullpen, someone else with late-inning experience for the last run through an opponents’ lineup who could also act as sensei to C.J. Wilson and Joaquin Benoit. In the next day or two, Eddie Guardado is going to be introduced as that pitcher.

Guardado’s left-handedness is probably one reason that the decision was made yesterday, in conjunction with the addition to the roster of reliever Kaz Fukumori, to drop southpaw Bill White. The velocity that the 29-year-old flashed in his nine Rangers appearances in September was intriguing, but with lefties Wilson, Guardado, and the optionless John Rheinecker around, White didn’t stand a very good chance of being any more than an injury reinforcement in 2008.

Texas signed White last March, after he’d been released in camp by Washington following a seven-year run in the Arizona system during which he never got past Class AA. The Rangers turned the scrap-heap pickup into a serviceable big league reliever, getting a 4.29 ERA and 11.8 strikeouts-per-nine from him in 43 appearances for Frisco and one for Oklahoma, and then the nine September games for Texas in which he struck out nine hitters in 9.1 innings (4.82 ERA), though he coupled eight hits allowed with an unsightly seven free passes.

When the Rangers placed White on waivers for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release yesterday, it wasn’t because the club had no interest in hanging onto the lefthander, who still has three options remaining. Baseball’s rules simply didn’t permit the Rangers to try and run him through waivers and outright his contract to Oklahoma.

The rules dictate that a player who is added to the 40-man roster after August 15 (White was purchased on September 4) can only be outrighted off the roster until October 10. After that, outright waivers are unavailable for that player until mid-March, the apparent rationale being to prevent teams from purchasing a bunch of their potential minor league free agents late in the season, thereby thwarting their free agency rights and shielding them from the Rule 5 Draft, and then turning around after December and running them through waivers with an ensuing outright to get them back off the roster.

As a result, the only way to get a player like White off the roster between October 10 and mid-March is to trade him (which you can expect Texas tried to do over the last few weeks) or release him. For now, players like Nelson Cruz, Robinson Tejeda, Chris Shelton, and Jason Botts (all of whom are out of options) survive, as do Scott Feldman and Josh Rupe, though one more player will need to be removed when the Guardado signing is made official, by all accounts sometime this week. This second decision is going to be a tougher one that the decision to release White.

If it were me, I think Cruz or Tejeda would be the next to go.

And I bet both play for at least four more big league clubs. Too much talent with both not to get plenty more chances from organizations who think they can unlock it consistently.

Incidentally, I don’t think there’s any reason that White, should he clear waivers, can’t return to Texas later in the off-season on a minor league deal, if he so chooses.

On Monday the Mets signed eight players to minor league contracts. Five were former Rangers property: righthanders Joselo Diaz and Andy Cavazos, lefthander Ryan Cullen, infielder Fernando Tatis, and catcher Salomon Manriquez.

Houston signed outfielder Victor Diaz to a minor league deal, and Baltimore signed righthander Ryan Bukvich to one.

San Diego hired Todd Greene to scout.

Evan Grant is ranking the Rangers’ top prospects, counting down from number 20, on the Dallas Morning News’s “Seamheads” blog. So far he has lefthander Zach Phillips at number 20, righthander Wilmer Font at 19, third baseman Johnny Whittleman at 18, and righthander Luis Mendoza at 17.

Stay tuned for an update when the Rangers announce the signing of Guardado, and — assuming he commands a big league deal (as opposed to a non-roster deal that perhaps permits him to take free agency if not added to the roster by some fixed date in March) — the accompanying move to take someone off of the 40-man roster to accommodate the veteran lefty’s addition.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 8, 2008

The four most unpopular positions I’ve taken in the nine years I’ve done this:

1. Rookie Michael Young deserved to be the everyday second baseman.

2. Rusty Greer, a few years into his big league career, was no longer a very good defender.

3. Alfonso Soriano wasn’t a good fit.

4. Roger Clemens could play for my team any day.

I really wanted to believe Clemens on “60 Minutes” Sunday night and during yesterday’s press conference, but the minute he kicked off the Mike Wallace interview by insisting, indignantly, that he didn’t deserve this sort of treatment after all he’s done for the game of baseball, I found myself turning on him. Innocent or guilty, he lost my allegiance with his Rogercentric huff. His natural, inherent ability to throw a baseball the way so many of us wish we could (yes, he works freakishly hard — but those genetics factored in) has put more than $170 million in salary alone in his family’s pocket. Baseball has done plenty for Clemens.

ESPN’s Rob Neyer put it best: “[I]f the Rocket really does want to defend himself, change the minds of a lot of people, it sure would help if he’d learned at some point to come across as something other than a spoiled, petulant millionaire who thinks he did something for baseball. Rather than the other way around.”

Exactly.

While not totally analogous, the way Clemens has come across the past couple days reminded me of the celebrity self-importance that Ricky Gervais’s character slammed in his genius, vitriolic, self-deprecating soliloquy at the end of the “Extras” series finale (which I mentioned briefly in last Thursday’s report). It’s three minutes of gold (though with language that’s not safe for work or with your kids in earshot), and worth your time:

I’m sort of fighting an instinctive urge to want Roger Clemens to turn into a train wreck. There’s an impulse to want to see him suffer through this, but that’s not where I am. I want to see Clemens beat this rap, not because I’m still a fan of his but because I’m tired of the black eyes baseball seems to have a monopoly on lately as far as pro sports are concerned.

I do hope Clemens is not guilty. But less for his sake at this point, more for the game that’s made him important. For Clemens to fall wouldn’t be good for baseball, which is what matters most.

As far as the man himself is concerned, I’m just having a hard time getting past his obvious inability to accept that the game is bigger than even the most gifted among the players who are fortunate enough to play it.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 5, 2008

T.R. Sullivan posted an article yesterday on TexasRangers.com about the state of the catching depth on the Rangers farm.  In it he shared the following remarks from Jon Daniels:

"If you look at the industry and the quality of catching at all levels — big league, minor league, amateur — it’s all over the place.  For us, it’s a strength.  Some people may look at it as a logjam or that we have decisions to make, but I look at it as you can’t have enough of a good thing."

The Daniels summation:

"Catching certainly is the strength of our organization.  We’ll just let it play out."

I’ve got a mild Saturday morning stomach ache thinking about how nice it would have been if Daniels’s three predecessors did as good a job emphasizing developmental depth behind the plate — a Moneyball-esque exploitation of a market weakness — and doing so as skillfully.

Perhaps seduced by the fact that the club had baseball’s best catcher durably playing 150 games a year, the Rangers signed the following catchers in the top 10 rounds of the draft from 1992 until 2002, which were the Ivan Rodriguez years in Texas:

1992: Scot Sealy (10)
1993: none
1994: Kevin L. Brown (2)
1995: Juan B. Rivera (9)
1996: nada
1997: Jason Grabowski (2); Mike Lamb, sorta (7)
1998: zippo
1999: Chris Jaile (4)
2000: Scott Heard (1)
2001: zero
2002: zilch

Not counting Lamb’s experimental cameo in 2002 (four appearances in AAA, three in Texas [including one start]), the only player from those eleven drafts to get past Class A with the Rangers as a catcher was Brown.  That’s awful.

Outside of Cesar King, signed by Omar Minaya in 1994, the Rangers didn’t do a very good job of supplementing the position internationally during that time, either.

Texas was able to trade Brown in March 1998 for reliever Tim Crabtree (a onetime catcher himself, incidentally).  That trade alone should have driven home the point.  You can never have too many catchers, even if you have the world’s best at the big league level.  Because he won’t be there forever.  And because catchers make very good trade ammunition.

The Rangers’ unpleasant inventory led to the following two unpleasant moments in franchise history:

October 28, 2002: Ivan Rodriguez declares free agency.

December 6, 2002: Texas trades hitter Travis Hafner and righthander Aaron Myette to Cleveland for catcher Einar Diaz and righthander Ryan Drese.   

Rangers general manager John Hart made that deal with the Indians the day before the club did this:

December 7, 2002: Texas declines to offer salary arbitration to Ivan Rodriguez.

Leaving aside the issue of whether the Rangers should have made a different effort to keep Rodriguez, the absolute absence of internal fallback options led to one of the worst trades in franchise history.

Daniels, who had been with the Rangers since January 2002, saw all of that unfold.  My guess is he would have hatched his own plan when his time as GM came to develop aggressively at catcher, both to build depth and facilitate trades, and didn’t need to live through the Hafner experience to get there.

Look at how things have changed.

In 2004, Texas signed Manuel Pina out of Venezuela.  Drafted Mike Nickeas in the fifth round.   

In 2005, Texas drafted Taylor Teagarden in the third round.  Signed Cristian Santana out of the Dominican Republic.

In 2006, Texas drafted Chad Tracy in the second round.  Moved Emerson Frostad from the infield to catcher.  Signed Leonel de los Santos ("Macumba" to some) out of the Dominican Republic.  Got San Diego to add Billy Killian to the end of the Chris Young trade.

In 2007, Texas traded for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  Traded for Max Ramirez.  Traded for Chris Stewart.  Signed Tomas Tellis out of Venezuela and Jose Felix out of Mexico.  Drafted Jonathan Greene in the eighth round.

Five years ago, Texas was unprepared to replace Ivan Rodriguez, a direct result of which is the fact that Travis Hafner is a star in Cleveland.  Jon Daniels has thankfully taken things to the opposite extreme, posturing this organization so that it can take advantage when other clubs are similarly unprepared behind the plate.

Daniels decided that trading Gerald Laird to this point wasn’t right, but not because of a lack of organizational depth at catcher.  The fact is that he’d be selling Laird low right now, coming off of his awful offensive season in 2007.  If someone gets hurt in another club’s camp in March, or if Laird starts to hit like he can in the first half, the idea is that Texas can get more for Laird then than the club could now.   

So for now, Laird is one of three Rangers players (Marlon Byrd and Ben Broussard are the others) who can file for arbitration, starting today.  They have until January 15 to do so, after which an exchange of arbitration figures will begin on January 18. 

Texas also signed 27-year-old catcher Patrick Arlis to a minor league deal.  Arlis, who finished the 2007 season with the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League, was Florida’s 11th-round pick in 2002 and spent six seasons in the Marlins system, hitting .225/.303/.308.  Strong defensively, Arlis cut down 34 of 53 would-be basestealers while with the T-Bones last summer.   

Arlis said the Marlins scout who signed him is who sold him on joining the Rangers.  I suspect he’s referring to Scot Engler, whom Texas recently hired away from Florida.

The Rangers, on the recommendation of new director of Pacific Rim scouting Jim Colborn, have also signed 18-year-old Australian righthander Tim Stanford.  I believe Stanford is not only the Rangers’ first Colborn signing but also their first-ever venture into Australia.  Colborn also played a part in Seattle’s signing of Chris Snelling, Travis Blackley, and Craig Anderson out of Australia.   

Eric Chavez has to be disgusted at what Billy Beane is doing to the A’s roster, given where he is in his career, but coming off of two awful seasons Chavez isn’t exactly in a position to get himself traded.  If he weren’t contracted to make $11 million this year, $11 million in 2009, and $12 million in 2010, with a $3 million buyout of a $12.5 million salary in 2011, Beane probably would have found away to trade him already.   

Piecing together all those rumors coming out of Milwaukee, what about this scenario?  Chavez (a devoted Ron Washington disciple) to Texas, Vicente Padilla to Oakland (owed $24.75 million over the next two years, if bought out of the third, as opposed to Chavez’s $37 million over the next three, if bought out of the fourth), and Hank Blalock to Milwaukee for one of the middle-rotation starters that have been rumored (David Bush, Chris Capuano) — or even high-profile rookie Manny Parra.  Sweeteners added where necessary.

Actually, I doubt the A’s or Rangers make that deal.

There are reports that the Angels and White Sox are discussing a trade that would send Paul Konerko to Los Angeles, with Howie Kendrick and Ervin Santana as possibilities to go to Chicago.  I really hope that happens.

Boston signed lefthander Michael Tejera to a minor league contract.  The Mets signed righthander Andy Cavazos to a minor league contract.  San Diego named Shane Spencer hitting coach for High A Lake Elsinore.

Don Titus has updated the photo section on the front page of NewbergReport.com.  Check it out.

Of the five players depicted, one is a catcher, and deservedly so.  If only we could have said the same thing five years ago.

 

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

NEWBERG REPORT UPDATE — JANUARY 3, 2008

I’ve always liked righthander Jason Davis more than I should. The 6’6″ righthander has big stuff and has shown the ability to get ground ball outs, but he’s never been the kind of strikeout pitcher he looks like he should be. Now 27, he’s no longer a prospect but instead reduced to a guy who has to audition for a job out of camp, and he’s going to do so for Texas in February and March, as the Rangers have signed the reliever to a non-roster deal with an invite to big league camp.

Davis, whose lifetime ERA in parts of six big league seasons with Cleveland and Seattle is 4.79, is more likely to start the year in Oklahoma than in Arlington, but that’s a pretty nice arm to bring in as depth, someone who will get a chance to compete for an in-season job in a Willie Eyre sort of way.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 3, 2008

There’s no telling what lies ahead for Jason Botts, who is out of options and part of a group of players (possibly including Nelson Cruz, Robinson Tejeda, Scott Feldman, Bill White, and Josh Rupe) whose roster spots could be up for consideration as Texas nears the official additions of relievers Kazuo Fukumori and Eddie Guardado to the club.

But if Botts is part of that equation, he isn’t going to make the Rangers’ decision any easier.

The Mexican Pacific League isn’t the Major Leagues, but Botts’s run through the MPL regular season was a lot like his four-month pillaging of the Pacific Coast League in 2005, 2006, and 2007. He dominated.

In 242 at-bats over 64 games for the Yaquis of Ciudad Obregon, Botts hit .326/.414/.500 (in a league that hit .259 on average) with 15 doubles, nine home runs, and an impressive 54 RBI, which not only led the circuit but broke Willie Mays Aikens’s franchise record that was about as old as Botts himself. The 27-year-old was especially damaging from the right side, tuning left-handed pitching up at a .381/.447/.548 rate.

After splitting the first month of the winter season between left field and DH, Botts spent his final 32 Obregon games in left. In his 48 defensive games, he committed four errors.

Jon Daniels, managing a full 40-man roster that needs space for Fukumori and Guardado, has a couple big decisions to make. We’d all like to think he’d be able to move Botts or Cruz or Tejeda or Feldman or White or Rupe to another team for another Luis Mendoza, particularly since the alternative of running them through waivers in an effort to outright them would, in most cases, likely fail. But the question is less about what Texas can get in return for the two players the club needs to remove from the roster than it is about which two are the most dangerous to give up on.

It’s obviously a good sign in terms of the increasing strength of the system that there’s no dead weight at the end of the Rangers’ roster, but it’s equally obvious that you don’t want to make mistakes when deciding which players are the ones to subtract.

In T.R. Sullivan’s critique of my Top 72 Prospects list in his MLBlog, I learned something new: Scott Boras evidently represents both Elvis Andrus and Engel Beltre (each of whom was acquired in July for a Boras client). If true, I think that means the top four position player prospects in the system, at least in my estimation (Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden, Andrus, and Beltre), are all Boras clients.

According to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune, new Padres starter Mark Prior said the Rangers were among four teams (the Astros, Cardinals, and Mets were the others) that made lucrative proposals to sign him before he opted for the one-year deal to pitch for San Diego.

Baseball America’s Jim Callis is the latest to heap praise on the Rangers’ rejuvenated farm system. In a chat session yesterday, he divulged that the 2008 BA Prospect Handbook will rank Texas as the number four system in baseball, behind Tampa Bay, Boston, and Cincinnati.

In last year’s book, BA ranked the Rangers number 28. It’s a phenomenal turnaround, paced by the July trade acquisitions from Atlanta, Boston, and Cleveland but also a reflection of the better drafts the club has had the past few years and the franchise’s renewed presence in Latin America, not to mention the strides a number of players have made at the hands of the Rangers’ player development program.

Mike Hindman is up to number three on his ranking of the Rangers’ top starting pitcher prospects. Great reading.

MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s cool book about Roger Clemens is now available for preorder at http://www.jonathanmayo.net/. Mayo interviews a ton of big league hitters (including Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr., Julio Franco, and Chipper Jones) on the plan they took into the batter’s box when stepping in against Clemens (who wrote the foreword). Should be fascinating.

The final 15 minutes of “Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale” were genius. Bet Ricky Gervais created the entire series simply to build up to those last couple scenes.

As “Extras” went out with a bang, I’m looking forward to what Gervais has in store for us as he moves on to the next stage of his career.

I’m hoping that’s not where the Jason Botts story is headed.

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

THE NEWBERG REPORT — JANUARY 1, 2008

My top 72 Rangers prospects, as laid out (with commentary on each player) in the new Bound Edition:

1. Chris Davis, 3B
2. Eric Hurley, RHP
3. Taylor Teagarden, C
4. Elvis Andrus, SS
5. Kasey Kiker, LHP
6. Michael Main, RHP
7. Blake Beavan, RHP
8. Engel Beltre, OF
9. Matt Harrison, LHP
10. Neftali Feliz, RHP
11. German Duran, 2B
12. Max Ramirez, C
13. Fabio Castillo, RHP
14. Cristian Santana, C
15. David Murphy, OF
16. Johnny Whittleman, 3B
17. Luis Mendoza, RHP
18. Omar Poveda, RHP
19. Neil Ramirez, RHP
20. Tommy Hunter, RHP
21. Thomas Diamond, RHP
22. Julio Borbon, OF
23. Josh Rupe, RHP
24. Wilmer Font, RHP
25. Joaquin Arias, SS
26. Brandon Boggs, OF
27. Zach Phillips, LHP
28. John Mayberry Jr., OF
29. Omar Beltre, RHP
30. A.J. Murray, LHP
31. Armando Galarraga, RHP
32. Marcus Lemon, SS
33. Carlos Pimentel, RHP
34. Brennan Garr, RHP
35. Jose Vallejo, 2B
36. Evan Reed, RHP
37. Michael Schlact, RHP
38. Danny Ray Herrera, LHP
39. Wilfredo Boscan, RHP
40. Derek Holland, LHP
41. Beau Jones, LHP
42. Steve Murphy, OF
43. Jorge Quintero, RHP
44. Nate Gold, 1B
45. Alexi Ogando, RHP
46. Matt West, IF
47. Doug Mathis, RHP
48. Bill White, LHP
49. Kea Kometani, RHP
50. Jake Brigham, RHP
51. Kennil Gomez, RHP
52. Tug Hulett, 2B
53. Emmanuel Solis, 3B
54. David Paisano, OF
55. Martin Perez, LHP
56. Manuel Pina, C
57. Andrew Laughter, RHP
58. Miguel Velazquez, OF
59. Josh Lueke, RHP
60. Geuris Grullon, LHP
61. Miguel Alfonzo, OF
62. Chad Tracy, OF
63. Tim Smith, OF
64. Eric Fry, OF
65. Johan Yan, 3B
66. Jesse Ingram, RHP
67. Mitch Moreland, 1B
68. Glenn Swanson, LHP
69. Emerson Frostad, 1B
70. Kevin Mahar, OF
71. Jonathan Greene, C
72. Mike Ballard, LHP

I finalized the list before the acquisition of Warner Madrigal, the re-signing of Kendy Batista, and the trades that sent Danny Ray Herrera and Tug Hulett away.

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

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