It’s strange, and intangible. There was some bad baseball on the Rangers’ recent homestand, and yet Texas came out of it with an even 5-5 record. The Royals series has followed with improbable wins Tuesday and Wednesday night, the kind that we’d grown accustomed to Boston, for instance, inflicting on the Rangers in the late innings in recent years.
And spare me the “Hey, big deal, we’re supposed to beat Kansas City” excuse — unless you were saying “Hey, big deal, the Red Sox are supposed to beat us” when Akinori Otsuka got Big Papi’d and every time since then that Boston came back to steal a win from Texas.
We’ve talked about how this club is finding ways to win. Ian Kinsler talked after Tuesday night’s game about how he loves Milton Bradley because they both play on emotion, and I think right there is something that hasn’t gotten enough attention.
Yes, this has been the Season of Josh. No discounting that.
Vicente Padilla and Kevin Millwood have rebounded, no doubt.
The next time David Murphy is referred to as a fourth outfielder should be well on the other side of 30.
Michael Young annually identifies consistency as his ultimate goal, and he’s giving us that again.
But as for the addition of Bradley and the growth of Kinsler — aside from the huge production both are giving this club on offense — those are two things that ESPN and Sports Illustrated aren’t going to recognize, but for those of us who watch this team every day, it’s pretty clear there’s something happening. Watching this team develop a new attitude has been really cool, and for all the overuse that the term “chemistry” gets in sports, I think that’s what’s going on here. The Rangers and Bradley found each other at the right time in his career. His arrival coinciding with Kinsler’s maturation is chemistry, and it seems to have changed the way this team goes about its business.
I’ve talked about how Kinsler reminds me of a certain hockey player in town. Bradley is a hockey player, too. His intensity never wanes, his energy is pure, his leadership is effortless. He not only seems to thrive in pressure situations but gives off the vibe that every moment of a baseball game, for him, is an internal pressure situation.
Happily, Ron Washington and Jon Daniels were there last night to intercept Bradley and make sure he didn’t get chippy with Royals TV announcer Ryan Lefebvre after the game, regarding derogatory comments Lefebvre made on the Kansas City broadcast. Lefebvre evidently insinuated on the air that Bradley has failed to turn his life around the way Josh Hamilton has and that Bradley has been “out of control.”
Reporters were there to hear Bradley, moments later, fighting back tears, tell his teammates: “I’m tired of people bringing me down. It wears on you. I love you guys, all you guys. I’m strong, but I’m not that strong. All I want to do is play baseball and make a better life for my kid than I had. That’s it.”
By all accounts, many of his teammates came over to console him after that.
For all you’ve read about Bradley’s history with umpires, you’re not going to find stories about him being a bad teammate. I’m not sure where he fit on previous teams as far as veteran leadership is concerned, but there’s no question that the fit here is exactly right, both on the field and off of it.
For years Texas has been on the wrong side of games like the last two nights’ wins in Kansas City. For years Texas has gone 2-8 when playing the way it did in the 10-game homestand that it took into this month.
Maybe it’s nothing but fluke, maybe it’s the law of averages, maybe it’s the good fortune of running into pitchers and defenders on the other side who are out of sync. But this team is taking what’s given like it hasn’t done in a long time, is making things happen when nothing’s given at all, is finding ways. Long exploited, the Rangers are starting to exploit.
Worship Hamilton, yes, but save some of those frontline props for Bradley and Kinsler. They are a big, big reason that there’s a different psyche on this team right now, and while the overall record isn’t going to push this club to the first half of SportsCenter yet (except, I’m sure, to twist last night’s postgame incident the wrong way), I dare say this team is, right before our eyes, turning into a group of winners.
It’s almost crazy — we’re more than two months into the season, and not even every local media outlet seems to understand that Bradley is leading the American League in hitting, in slugging, and in reaching base. (The last American Leaguer to finish a season atop those three categories? George Brett, in 1980.) A career durability question, he’s fifth in the league (three off Hamilton’s lead) in home runs, third in doubles, fourth in total bases, second in walks, third in runs (Rangers stunningly occupy the top four totals in the league), and seventh in RBI.
A few weeks ago I was of the opinion that you don’t entertain the idea of trading Bradley unless you get overwhelmed, meaning something clearly more valuable than the two premium draft picks you’ll get if you offer him arbitration this winter and he leaves. Now? I can’t even imagine listening to offers unless they look like the one Atlanta made for Mark Teixeira. Bradley, who just turned 30, needs to be here for the next two or three years.
And I don’t have the stomach to hope that we could trade him and bring him right back in the winter (forfeiting a first- or second-round pick of our own in the process). What if we trade Bradley to the Cubs, who just lost Alfonso Soriano for at least six weeks, and he helps Chicago win a World Series? As much as Bradley loves being here, if he becomes the toast of the town in Chicago and the Cubs throw a three-year offer at him, is he going to turn that down?
Cool note from ESPN’s Buster Olney: When Bradley got his spring training season underway, he tripled one day against Seattle and, “standing at third base, he realized he would be fine. When Bradley returned to the dugout, he hugged a strength coach and thanked him, and shortly thereafter, presented all of the Rangers’ trainers with gift cards from Starbucks.”
Keith Law’s ESPN.com chat, June 4, 2008:
Wes (Austin): Is David Murphy really a 4th outfielder? Name me 5 teams right now where he would not deserve to start. The guy is second in the AL in extra-base hits, as a rookie!
Keith Law: You’re right, let’s overweight two months of good-not-great performance in a raging hitter’s park. That seems like a good idea.
Good grief. If Murphy were doing this for Boston, which drafted him, the national media would already have the Rookie of the Year trophy engraved.
Hamilton will be on the Ticket (1310 AM or http://www.theticket.com/listen.htm) at 9:30 this morning.
Righthander Eric Hurley makes his big league debut this afternoon in Kansas City. Reign in your expectations, but it’s a better situation that when Texas threw Edinson (then “Edison”) Volquez against the 79-50 (and eventual World Champion) White Sox for his debut in Arlington in August 2005.
Bravo to Daniels and his advisors for believing in Eddie Guardado, who was coming off of 2006 Tommy John surgery and a 7.24 ERA in his 2007 return to the mound when Texas approached the 37-year-old with a guaranteed contract with a $2 million base. He’s been scored on only four times in 24 appearances (3.05 ERA, .203 opponents’ average, six walks in 20.2 innings) and has seized the eighth-inning role. At this rate, that $2 million base is going to be padded by another $1 million in appearance incentives.
First baseman Hank Blalock is fielding ground balls and throwing to second base. He’ll start swinging a bat this weekend, and if that goes well he’ll probably head out on a brief rehab assignment with a goal to join the big club in Washington on June 20.
Righthander Elizardo Ramirez cleared waivers and was outrighted back to Oklahoma. He’s reportedly accepted the assignment.
Texas activated righthander Luis Mendoza from the disabled list and optioned him to Oklahoma.
Tom Grieve is recuperating from successful prostate surgery on Monday and hopes to be back in the TV booth in two or three weeks.
Redhawks first baseman Chris Davis is quietly pulling his AAA numbers (.293/.369/.517) up to a level approaching the neighborhood of his AA domination (.333/.376/.618).
Righthander Brian Gordon, 29, has been promoted to Oklahoma. He’d allowed one earned run (0.38 ERA) on 11 hits (.136 opponents’ average) and five walks in 24 Frisco innings, fanning 19.
Bakersfield righthander Omar Poveda, out since April 15 with arm soreness, returned to action last night, giving up four runs on four hits and three walks in three innings, fanning six.
Ben Broussard was hitting .326/.420/.558 in 43 at-bats for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Yankees system when he requested, and received, his release. Presumably he is led to believe he has a big league job awaiting him somewhere else. Possibly Baltimore, though the Orioles are reportedly willing only to offer him a AAA job at this point.
John Danks and Jordan Danks have fired Scott Boras.
According to the Rangers (and in a couple cases, the Spokane Indians), Texas has signed at least 18 of its 50 draft picks so far, pending physicals:
Tim Murphy, LHP, UCLA (3rd round)
Joe Wieland, RHP, Bishop Manogue High School (4th round)
Richard Bleier, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University (6th round)
Jared Bolden, OF, Virginia Commonwealth University (9th Round)
Cliff Springston, LHP, University of Arkansas (11th round)
Ed Koncel, SS, Joliet Illinois Junior College (13th round)
Joey Butler, OF, University of New Orleans (15th Round)
Doug Hogan, C, Clemson University (18th Round)
Dustin Brader, RHP, Arizona State University (21st round)
Eric Evans, LHP, Radford University (23rd Round)
Adam Cobb, OF, Louisiana Tech (24th Round)
Tanner Roark, RHP, no school (25th Round)
Chris Dove, OF, Elon University (26th Round)
Justin King, RHP, Jacksonville State (30th Round)
Kyle Higgins, SS, Monmouth University (31st Round)
Ryan Schlecht, RHP, Mount Olive College (34th Round)
Cody Eppley, RHP, Virginia Commonwealth University (43rd Round)
Kevin Torres, C, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (45th Round)
Erik Morrison, SS, University of Kansas (46th Round)
Texas has also signed catcher Zach Zaneski as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Rhode Island, according to the roster released by the Spokane club. He hit .355/.449/.498 for the Rams this year.
Spokane’s season begins Tuesday. The Arizona League kicks off on June 22.
Atlanta is two games under .500, sitting 6.5 games back in the NL East and 7.5 games out in the Wild Card race. Not what the Braves envisioned when they traded five prospects for Teixeira and Ron Mahay last July (and failed to reach the playoffs in 2007).
Texas is only a game and a half better than the Braves now, but if you’re into the idea that teams tend to trend up or trend down, if you look at what’s going on in the Rangers farm system and, I’d suggest, what’s happening as far as the psyche of the big club is concerned, you ought to feel pretty good about what’s happening in Arlington.