THE NEWBERG REPORT — May 12, 2008

I finally decided, a few weeks ago, that I needed to make
time for “Lost.”  As big a fan
as I was of “Carnivale,” I knew that “Lost” would grab me,
but I’d just never gotten aboard the train. 

I started a week or two ago with Season One, and I’m eight
episodes in now.  I’m hooked.  Love the concept, love the psychology, and –
for the most part — love the storytelling.

But there are two characters that bug me, and it has
nothing to do with their stories.  It has
to do with how they are written. 

Aside from my expectation any time now to see Sawyer break
into “Bawitdaba-da-bang-da-dang-diggy-diggy-diggy,” he gets on my
nerves because everything that comes out of his mouth is a bad punch line. 

I like Sayid’s story but can’t get past how badly he is
written, either.  He’d have been a
perfect Dan Brown character in “The Da Vinci Code,” overexplaining
everything, unnaturally and implausibly. 
(The show “Numb3rs,” same issue.)  Sayid is “Lost’s” Robert Langdon.

I’m going somewhere with this.

There have been sportswriters in this market whom I won’t
read any more, but when it comes to coverage of the Rangers, even the ones I don’t
enjoy as much — less because of their opinions than because of their style — are
basically Sawyer and Sayid.  I’ll fight
through it because it’s Rangers talk.  Just
as I’m not about to stop watching “Lost.”

The players in the newspaper/Web business are as
competitive as the athletes they cover, and that’s a good thing for all of us
who depend on what they produce.  But when
a writer’s agenda starts to look more like setting up a couple segments on the
next day’s talk radio show than reporting the truth, that’s not so good a thing.

On the subject of manager Ron Washington’s job security,
one writer wrote this on Thursday (and I suspect was actually standing next to Jon
Daniels when working up the story):

“Daniels made it clear that no changes are being
considered right now.  Daniels felt the
need to speak on the record about the subject because there still is
Internet-blog and talk-show chatter going on back in the Metroplex even as the
Rangers haven been on a decent roll.  ‘I’m
prepared to put this to bed,’ Daniels said.  ‘The team is playing better, and we’re
starting to get healthy.  I’m very tired
of all of this.’  If there comes a time
to review the Rangers’ field leadership, Daniels said it will not happen before
the All-Star break.  ‘Hopefully it won’t
happen then, either,’ the GM said.”

And this:

“‘The bottom line is nobody should alone shoulder
the responsibility for us getting off to a bad start,’ Daniels said.  ‘We did, though, and we owed it to the
organization and our fan base to review the situation.  There’s no secret we met.  We did.  Now we’re getting healthy and playing better
baseball.  You have to give credit to Ron
and the staff and the players for responding.  They’re playing hard, executing and playing
the game better.  We need to let the team
get out there and play baseball and get rolling.  If at some point we need to re-evaluate,
that’s part of the game.  But it won’t
happen before the All-Star break.'”

Another writer (who I’m sure also spoke directly with Daniels)
offered this:

“‘Nobody was pleased with our play in the first
month, but we’ve said all along that we do not want to have a knee-jerk
reaction,’ Daniels said from Arlington.
 ‘We are playing better now.  I hope this goes away permanently, but if
there is a need to revisit it, we’ll address it at the All-Star break and not
before.'”

And: “Daniels said the topic is not an ‘active
conversation.'”

But then, two days later, another writer gave us this
(and I’m guessing was never on the phone with or in the same room as Daniels,
if even in the same building):

“Ron Washington, we were told, might or might not
have his job security addressed ‘at the All-Star break [mid-July].'”

That writer went on to characterize the situation as Daniels
“hanging [Washington]
out there” and referring to the All-Star break as “a possible execution
date.” 

The way I read the first two stories, Daniels was
standing behind his manager and perhaps trying to preempt the same questions
after every two-game losing streak.  Basically,
I think, the general manager was saying the club won’t reevaluate the manager for
the next two months, so don’t bother asking — and hopefully, by that time
there won’t be any need to reevaluate him at all, or to ask the question.

Somehow, another writer turns that into Daniels “hanging
his manager out there,” as if Daniels has pronounced that the Rangers will
decide Washington’s
fate at the All-Star break.

Well, that ought to fire up the talk show lines today.

“I’m very tired of all of this,” Daniels said.

Me, too.

Look, I don’t know whether Washington is the right manager for this
team.  But do know that there’s only one real
Rangers story at the moment, at least at the big league level, and that’s the
five straight series wins and phenomenal pitching this club is getting despite a
crazy number of days lost to the disabled list, not the manipulated creation of
an hourglass that apparently doesn’t really exist.

But of course it’s the latter that makes us talk about newspaper
writers as opposed to the stories they write (and I’m guilty of doing that with
this report), and that feeds talk show energy, which, I suppose by design,
makes the writer himself more of a talking point today than Josh Hamilton or
Milton Bradley or Brandon Boggs or Doug Mathis. 
Irritating.

Mathis wasn’t given a non-roster invite to big league
spring training this year but midway through camp he earned one, and right then
it became apparent that the Rangers had him squarely on the radar.  His solid 5-0, 3.55 start with Oklahoma (after a poor
0-3, 10.66 showing at the AAA level in 2007) was the reason that he (and not
Eric Hurley, for instance) got the call yesterday when a potential emergency
long man was needed. 

There’s no question that Mathis was headed for a winter
addition to the 40-man roster anyway, but now his options timetable will start
one year early, once he is presumably sent back to the RedHawks upon Kevin Millwood’s
return from the disabled list, where his strained groin muscle should only cost
him the minimum 15 days.

Millwood’s turn will be skipped Thursday, when the
Rangers have an offday, so Mathis should be available during the Mariners series
for long relief work.  He’s expected to
start in Minnesota
a week from tomorrow, which is the next time Millwood’s spot comes up. 

Just six weeks into the season, Vicente Padilla is the
only member of the rotation Texas
expected to start the season with who hasn’t spent time on the disabled list.

The addition of Mathis to the roster momentarily brought
it to a full 40, but Texas had quietly gotten
Kazuo Fukumori through waivers over the weekend (at least one source reports
that he was released) and outrighted him to Oklahoma, where he’s been pitching for more
than two weeks.  Accordingly, the roster
is back down to 39 players. 

I hate when a pitcher like C.C. Sabathia or Dontrelle
Willis gets compared to Vida Blue, because it’s lazy, so understand that when I
say this, it’s strictly because of Boggs’s swing mechanics from the right side,
the way that he seems to choke his swing off on its upward plane, finishing
with the bat pointed toward the field rather than following all the way through,
and not because of anything else: Boggs reminds me of Ellis Burks.

(Here — this is what I’m talking about: http://www.alexsautographs.com/ellisburks1.jpg)

You just can’t take your eyes off of Boggs, the way he
plays the game.

Marlon Byrd struck out four times in four trips in his
first rehab appearance for Oklahoma
on Saturday, but he went 3 for 4 with a double and a walk yesterday.

Remember our discussion in December about how unfortunate
it was that Akinori Otsuka’s ominous medicals reportedly killed a deal with the
White Sox for Class A first baseman Chris Carter — whom Chicago
instead traded to Arizona
for outfielder Carlos Quentin?  Quentin
leads the American League with nine home runs and with a 1.001 OPS.

As good as the Rangers’ outfield has been this season, imagine
what it would be like if Texas
had been able to move Otsuka for Carter and to flip Carter for Quentin.

Milwaukee
has removed Eric Gagné from the closer’s role.

St. Louis
outfielder Ryan Ludwick is hitting .347/.407/.733 with 11 doubles and eight
home runs in 101 at-bats.  If he wasn’t 20
at-bats short of qualifying, his 1.140 OPS would rank third in baseball, behind
Lance Berkman and Chipper Jones.

The Joliet Jackhammers of the independent Northern League
traded infielder Johnny Washington (and righthander Mike Colacchio) to the Florence
Freedom of the independent Frontier League for two players to be named.

Seattle
is in town, and we have encores tonight (Padilla vs. Erik Bedard) and tomorrow
(Kason Gabbard vs. Felix Hernandez).  And
no Richie Sexson.  His appeal has already
been heard, and the league reduced his suspension from six games to five.  He began serving it on Saturday, meaning
he’ll miss the entire three-game set in Arlington.

But I won’t.  I’ll
be there for all three Mariners games (the finale pits Carlos Silva against Scott
Feldman, who has three straight quality starts), and I can’t wait to see what
unfolds.  The way the Rangers are playing
right now, the big club’s story is, or at least should be, what’s happening on
the field.  Unlike “Lost,” one
writer’s creative interpretation of what the flash-forwards might look like for
this team doesn’t really add to the story, and as far as I’m concerned it
detracts from it, presumably in the name of the almighty ratings book.

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

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