THE NEWBERG REPORT — March 31, 2008

Those first five innings were a thing of beauty.  Kevin Millwood was sharp and efficient, moving his fastball inside and out with great command of his breaking ball.  

Meanwhile, the offense was executing a solid approach against a pitcher that it couldn’t touch last year, chasing Erik Bedard after those five frames and not with a barrage of base hits.  With few exceptions the Rangers weren’t offering at bad pitches and were spoiling lots of good ones, and through five Bedard had thrown 106 pitches (44 percent for balls), Millwood just 75.  Of the first 22 hitters Bedard faced, 16 made him throw at least four pitches.

But I’m not suggesting we take comfort in any silver lining or chalk up a moral victory.  A loss is a loss, and while Millwood’s effort fires me up, and the way we gameplanned Bedard was a massive improvement over 2007, ultimately four or five plays unmade on defense hurt a lot, Kaz Fukumori was markedly different from the pitcher who shut down the opposition all month in Arizona, and until David Murphy’s RBI single in the eighth I’m pretty sure the lineup was no-hit with runners on base.  We’re 0-1, and that stinks.

Chalk this up to “What do I know?” but for some reason I trust David Murphy more than Marlon Byrd, not just at the moment but long-term, and for me it’s not particularly close.  Byrd seems really out of rhythm.

I’m not about to measure Ben Broussard’s ability to hit lefthanders on the sole basis of how he fared against Bedard, one of baseball’s nastiest, but at best he looked like he’s not very used to facing lefties, and not very comfortable doing it.

I suppose I should back off of Byrd a little bit for the same reason (Bedard, regardless of his handedness), but the 30-year-old looked somewhat out of sync to me in camp, too.  

The ability to check-swing is not the sixth tool, but if it were Josh Hamilton would be a 70-80 on that scale, too.  He held up one swing early in the game that showed phenomenal strength.

I’m still hoping to come home with three wins on this six-game trip that started with Bedard and includes Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, and while dropping a close game to Bedard certainly doesn’t kill that possibility, it doesn’t help me get past my grumpiness over the fact that the first pitch in three of the remaining five games on this trip will be thrown later in the evening than tonight’s final pitch was.

That’s great marketing by the league.  Have Seattle open at home in 13 of the last 14 seasons — I’m not exaggerating — and Texas open on the road in seven of the last eight.  Do the Mariners get that sort of nod because they have a roof?  Then make them start the games earlier in the season’s first week (like they did today), at least when playing teams in other time zones.  Though that still doesn’t begin to explain why Texas is sent away just about every single stinkin’ year to open the season.

Max got to see a really good baseball game tonight before heading to bed, which was about the time both teams went to the bullpen.  As for Game Two and Game Three and Game Four and Game Five, I’ll just have to tell him in the morning how his team played.  He won’t see one pitch of any of those games, and neither will his friends, and neither will most kids in Texas as old as his sister Erica, who is four years older.  Great way to try and make baseball as accessible to today’s kids as it seems like it was to my generation.  

The league scheduling is a joke, something that I probably wouldn’t care as much about and definitely wouldn’t spout off as much about if it weren’t for that fact that the Rangers just suffered their fifth straight Opening Day defeat, four of which came on the road.

End of knee jerk.


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

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