June 2008

Why this could be a tough trading season for Texas.

With Mark Teixeira back in town, aside from the appeal of a series against the Braves and an opportunity to shave down the Angels’ division lead and the Rays’ Wild Card lead, two things bubbled to the surface of my Rangers brain.

Number one: I loved it when Teixeira was on this team.  I’ll be the first to tell you that, based on what Jon Daniels was able to do with him 11 months ago, the Rangers are certainly better off with the five players acquired in the trade than they would have been with two 2009 first- or second-round draft picks.  But I loved having that guy in this lineup and manning first base.  He played his tail off while he was here, and he played well.

Number two: Partially because of the Braves trade, Texas could find itself in a tougher position this July than the club has been in, as far as trades are concerned, in a long time.

Stay with me.

In the NFL, Oakland can let it be known to the league that Randy Moss can be had for an early fourth-round pick.  There were probably a dozen teams, maybe more, who could have satisfied the Raiders’ price on Draft Day in 2007, and the fact that they made the deal with New England is basically because Miami at number 108 overall didn’t bite, and neither did Atlanta at number 109.  The Patriots offered number 110, and it was time to do the paperwork.  Pretty simple.

In the NBA, the playing field is also leveled by virtue of the tradeability of draft picks, even if the salary cap guidelines make it a little more complicated.  Still, Seattle didn’t trade Ray Allen to Boston a year ago because the Sonics had keyed on Wally Szczerbiak or Delonte West.  It was the number five overall pick that the Celtics held.  Had Memphis offered the number four pick and their own matching contracts, Allen probably would have ended up with the Grizzlies (and maybe we’d have crowned a different league champion last night).

Presumably, it didn’t really matter to Seattle which team held the pick that they wanted to flip Allen for.  And the Raiders didn’t care whose fourth-rounder they moved Moss for, as long as it was in an area of the draft that they were seeking.

But in baseball?  You can’t trade draft picks, and thus there’s no Jimmy Johnson draft chart that arguably equalizes teams’ trading assets.

And that’s bad for the Rangers right now.

Hypothetical: Texas pinpoints Padres middle reliever Heath Bell as a July trade target.  He’s 30 years old and has never pitched in a role more leveraged than the eighth inning, but he has lots going for him: over the last two years, his ERA is 2.03, he’s punched out 135 hitters in 133.1 innings, and opponents are hitting a flimsy .188/.260/.245 against him, going deep just three times in 469 at-bats.  Plus, he’ll be under team control in 2009, 2010, and 2011, as this winter will be his first with enough service to qualify for arbitration.

You can substitute Pittsburgh’s Damaso Marte or the Mets’ Aaron Heilman or Washington’s Jon Rauch if you’d like, or San Diego’s Cla Meredith.  This part isn’t particularly important.

Do you think Omar Poveda, Jose Vallejo, and Brennan Garr should be enough to get Bell?  That Zach Phillips and Manny Pina should be enough to get Rauch or Meredith?  That if you add Marcus Lemon, you should have enough to get Marte or Heilman?

Now change “should” to “would.”

What do you think the chances are that San Diego or Washington or Pittsburgh or New York would not tell Texas that unless Chris Davis or Max Ramirez or Elvis Andrus or Neftali Feliz or Wilmer Font is on the table, there’s no sense in having a conversation?

The problem that the Rangers could conceivably have next month is that, because of the Atlanta and Cleveland and Boston trades last July, the organization’s surge the last few years in Latin America, and the better drafting it has done recently, other teams may not accept reasonable trade proposals that, if they came from teams without a stronger top tier, might be good enough to get a deal done.  
 
It strikes me as plausible that if St. Louis went to Toronto and asked for left-handed reliever Scott Downs (under control through 2010), and if the Cardinals happened to have John Mayberry Jr. (.303/.361/.539 in AA/AAA this season) in their system, the Blue Jays might be more inclined to entertain the idea of a one-for-one deal than they would be if Texas called and offered Mayberry straight up, if that makes sense.

I certainly don’t long for the days when every Rangers fan knew that we’d have to trade one of an obvious two or three minor league players in order to make an impact trade.  That’s far from the point here.  I’m just suggesting (hopefully mistakenly) that, because this system has gotten so much stronger than it was the last time the club was a potential July buyer, other teams are going to try and hold Daniels up over the next seven weeks.

(But also remember this, before you decide that every prospect in the system can go ahead and turn down vacation plans for the 2011 All-Star Break: Yes, the Dominican righthander Feliz is 7-6, 2.71 as a 20-year-old pro, with jaw-dropping stuff, more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings and fewer than four walks, and just three home runs allowed in three seasons.  But heed the cautionary tale of Dominican righthander Jovanny Cedeno, who, at age 20, was 15-4, 2.16 as a pro, with jaw-dropping stuff, nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings and just over three walks, and just two home runs allowed in two seasons – and saw his career end before he could get out of Class A.)

(No, forget that.  Feliz is The Goods.)

On a related topic, ESPN’s Peter Gammons wrote, on the subject of possible trade partners for Cleveland should the Indians decide to shop lefthander C.C. Sabathia:

“How about the Texas Rangers.  General manager Jon Daniels has rebuilt the farm system, owner Tom Hicks has the cash, it’s a left-handed ballpark, the fact that C.C. was throwing 98 mph in the ninth inning of his second to last start tells us he’s completely healthy and the Rangers might be able to do a trade and sign for the No. 1 starter they need to compete in the next three years.”

Sure, but what if it took Feliz, Andrus, Kasey Kiker, and Warner Madrigal just to get to the second round of the sweepstakes – without any guarantee that you could keep Sabathia from hitting free agency this winter?

And then, when the Yankees reluctantly agreed to include both Phil Hughes and Jesus Montero in their four-player offer, Cleveland came back and said Davis or Ramirez or Font needs to be in the conversation to stay in the game?

Not happening.

Not an unrelated thought: I’m coming around to the idea that a trade of Gerald Laird is no longer inevitable, and that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not necessarily untouchable.

Milton Bradley suffered a mild strain of his left quad muscle on his bases-loaded single in the third inning last night.  He’s day to day.

Vicente Padilla is now 9-3, 3.73 – a 20-win pace – after going 6-10, 5.76 in 2007.  His career best in wins came in 2006, his first Rangers season, when he went 15-10, 4.50.

Hank Blalock’s rehab assignment has been pushed back to this weekend, and his return to the Texas roster could now arrive on June 24.

Davis is number five on Baseball America’s current Hot Sheet.

BA named Rangers’ first-rounder Justin Smoak its First-Team All-American first baseman.

The Rangers have brought right-handed reliever Joselo Diaz back.  He’ll work out of the Frisco bullpen.

Feliz got a groundout from the one batter he faced in last night’s Midwest League All-Star Game.  Lefthander Derek Holland fanned two and allowed one hit in a scoreless inning of work.  Left fielder Tim Smith homered in the top
of the 10th for the ultimate game-winner.  First baseman Ian Gac and right fielder Mitch Moreland each singled and walked, while third baseman Jonathan Greene doubled and catcher Jose Felix singled.  Shortstop Renny Osuna was hitless in three trips.

Gac finished second in the league’s home run derby.

The reason Texas activated righthander Thomas Diamond from the disabled list and optioned him to Frisco is that Diamond’s rehab assignment had expired.

In his last three starts, Oklahoma righthander Luis Mendoza has permitted one earned run on 10 hits and one walk while fanning 12 in 15 innings.

Poveda, who missed two months with arm soreness, one-hit Inland Empire through seven innings on Monday, before tiring in the eighth.  It was his second Bakersfield appearance since returning from the disabled list.

Righthander Neil Ramirez made his pro debut last night, holding Everett to two runs on one hit and four walks in three innings of Spokane’s season opener, striking out four.  He also balked four times.  Eleventh-round pick Cliff Springston pitched the seventh and eighth in Spokane’s 15-3 win, yielding no hits or runs, walking one, and getting five of his six outs on the ground (and the sixth on strikes).  Third baseman Matt West, finished with his 50-game suspension for testing positive last summer for a performance-enhancing substance, singled twice and drove in two runs.  The 2007 second-rounder out of Houston Bellaire hit .301/.397/.388 in 103 Arizona League at-bats last season.

Tom Grieve is shooting for a June 27 return to the TV booth.

The Mets, having promoted AAA New Orleans manager Ken Oberkfell to serve as big league first base coach in place of the fired Tom Nieto, named Marty Scott as Oberkfell’s replacement at the helm of the Zephyrs.  Scott has had a fascinating baseball career, starting with five seasons (1977-1981) as a corner infielder in the Rangers farm system, followed by three seasons as a minor league manager and then 10 years as the Rangers’ director of player development (1985-1994), when he forged a relationship with Mets general manager Omar Minaya.  Scott then managed the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association for six years (1995-2000) and Team USA for a couple years.  For the last four years, he has been a baseball recruiter for EBS Sports Management, a sports agency based in the Metroplex.

I finally got the chance to see Edinson Volquez pitch for the Reds over the weekend.  It was really eye-opening.  The violence in his mechanics hasn’t died down much, which might help explain why he threw only 62.5 percent of his pitches for strikes, but here’s the thing: in truth he probably didn’t throw 50 percent of his pitches for strikes, or even for balls intentionally out of the zone in spots he wanted them to be.  His stuff is so wicked right now that he gets out of trouble because he forces major league hitters to do stupid things.  At least six or eight times he sailed a fastball high and outside to a left-handed Red Sox hitter that ended up flailing at it for a really ugly swing and miss.

I bet a dozen Volquez pitches missed the plate by at least two feet, and yet Saturday’s box score reveals just one walk, to go along with nine strikeouts in seven innings.

If the 24-year-old (9-2, 1.64) starts to command his fastball just a tick better, one day they might start calling young fastball-change slingshot righthanders “Little Edinson.”

Eleanor Czajka has posted the results of your vote on the Rangers’ minor league player and pitcher of the month for May.

The Cubs signed Ben Broussard to a minor league deal.

A free Bound Edition (you choose the year) to the first person willing to let us borrow Season Two of “Lost” on DVD for a few weeks.

In an effort not to fan any flames, I won’t name the writer or his employer, but a national baseball scribe, in assessing David Murphy recently, wrote: “I don’t see a ton of upside.  If there was, then the Red Sox wouldn’t have dealt him and Kason Gabbard to rent Eric Gagné for two months.”

Another example of the mystifying deference that Boston and a few other teams get from the national media.  Is it not possible that the Red Sox made a mistake on Murphy’s ceiling?  Or conceivable that Boston thought Murphy could become this and were willing to roll the dice on Gagné anyway, knowing that with Jacoby Ellsbury arriving to play center and J.D. Drew holding the club up through 2011, and with Manny Ramirez a player whom Boston would go out and replace with another superstar if he were to leave, Murphy was never going to have a defined role with them?

Does it categorically mean that Murphy has “not a ton of upside” simply, by definition, because Boston included him in a trade for two months of Eric Gagné?

I guess Theo Epstein wasn’t in charge when Boston sent Edgar Renteria to Atlanta for Andy Marte, but I’m pretty sure he signed off on Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena.  The Red Sox aren’t quite perfect on the trade ledger.

Regardless of any bias you might have against Boston, if you’re inclined to try and unseat Dustin Pedroia and make Ian Kinsler the starting American League second baseman in next month’s All-Star Game, as it should be, and to try and get Bradley voted in, and so on, Chuck Morgan has a pretty cool plan for Newberg Report readers to help continue the voting surge that Rangers fans have engineered.  Head to http://forum.newbergreport.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4986#p93141 for Chuck’s message.

Righthander Eric Hurley makes his home debut tonight, facing a Braves team whose first-round pick Texas inherited and used on Hurley when the Braves signed righthander John Thomson as a free agent before the 2004 season.  It doesn’t exactly have the same full-circle drama surrounding Mark Teixeira’s return, but I’m looking forward to seeing if Hurley can build off his encouraging debut in Kansas City, get deep into the game, and help Texas win another series.

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

June 17

Hank Blalock didn’t play first base for Oklahoma tonight, but Chris Davis did.  

He homered again, off of former Tampa Bay hurler Brian Stokes.

In his last 162 games, dating back to mid-May 2007 in Bakersfield, Davis has hit .327/.378/.636.

With 42 doubles.

And 49 home runs.

And 156 RBI.

The left-handed-hitting Davis against left-handed AA pitchers in 2007: .229/.308/.543.

Davis against left-handed AA pitchers in 2008: .276/.276/.379.

Davis against left-handed AAA pitchers in 2008: .286/.348/.667.

 

The only place Davis has worn blue since high school has been in Surprise, Arizona.

The 22-year-old from Longview is playing like he misses the blue.

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

June 15

The Rangers have recalled lefthander Kason Gabbard from Oklahoma to start Game Two of today’s doubleheader against the Mets.  To make room for Gabbard, the club has designated righthander Robinson Tejeda for assignment.

Texas has 10 days to trade, release, or outright Tejeda to the minor leagues, but it should be noted that if he clears waivers and is outrighted, he has the right to decline the assignment (since he’s been outrighted before — in April) and take immediate free agency.  Plus, if he chooses to accept such an assignment and doesn’t return to the roster this season, he can leave in October as a minor league free agent.

We’ve probably seen the last of Tejeda in Arlington.  He seemed to have turned a corner at Oklahoma this spring but failed to capitalize on what was likely one last chance with the big club.

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

June 15

Happy Fathers Day.

hamilton-rupe-slide.jpg

 

To Tony and Roger, and to everyone else it applies
to.

For me, it’s four
ballgames.  Got a doubleheader in Plano in about an hour, then a doubleheader in
Shea on the tube.

Whether your day
involves Flushing or Torrey Pines, hope you get
the chance to do exactly what you want today, with the people you
want.

alg_rangers_dive.jpg

 

 

 

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

 

June 14

Chris
Davis in 639 Class A at-bats: (age 20-21): 
.290/.341/.557, a strikeout every 3.40 AB, a walk every 14.20 AB

Chris
Davis in 295 Class AA at-bats (age 21-22): 
.319/.374/.644, a strikeout every 4.15 AB, a walk every 11.35 AB

Chris
Davis in 64 Class AAA at-bats (age 22):  .344/.411/.625,
a strikeout every 4.27 AB, a walk every 9.14 AB

 

Hourglass.jpg

June 13: Law's Murphy

The Rangers (34-34) visit Shea Stadium to take on the Mets (31-34) tonight, tomorrow night, and Sunday afternoon.

Keith Law of ESPN will probably suggest that the pitching matchups (Scott Feldman [4.31 ERA] vs. Oliver Perez [5.37 ERA]; Kason Gabbard [4.75] vs. Pedro Martinez [6.91]; Kevin Millwood [4.91] vs. John Maine [3.60]) promise a Mets sweep, especially if Texas foolishly sticks that fourth outfielder David Murphy in the lineup.

Recall that Law said during a live ESPN chat last week, when asked whether Murphy deserved some recognition once and for all as more than just an outfield reserve: “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.”

Murphy’s career in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington:  .283/.308/.474.

Murphy’s production everywhere else:  .314/.369/.518.

Have a great weekend.

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

In Their Footsteps: The designated hitter

The most prolific week a Rangers general manager has ever had was 20 years ago, at the 1988 Winter Meetings in Atlanta.  At those Meetings, Texas acquired the man who settles in as the designated hitter on my all-time Rangers team.  

One day, the final week of July 2007 may be viewed as equally momentous from a player acquisition standpoint.  Among the players the Rangers picked up is a slugger who could become the club’s first steady DH in a decade.

And Texas acquired both from the same team.

Coming off the club’s second consecutive sixth-place finish in the AL West in 1988, a gaudy 33.5 games behind Oakland in the standings, Tom Grieve took a look at his offense and knew he needed to infuse a lineup headed by young sluggers Ruben Sierra (.254) and Pete Incaviglia (.249) with guys who would hit for average and give the club a better shot at sustained offense.  Following the season Grieve talked with the Yankees about a 10-player deal involving Don Mattingly, with Boston about Wade Boggs, and with San Diego about John Kruk.  

Ultimately, on December 5, after those other talks had died, Grieve agreed to trade six players, including Mitch Williams, to the Cubs for 24-year-old hitter Rafael Palmeiro and two pitchers.  The following day (and a day before signing Nolan Ryan), Grieve sent Pete O’Brien, Oddibe McDowell, and Jerry Browne to Cleveland for star hitter Julio Franco, who was thought at the time to be 27 years old (but in truth was apparently 30).

In six Indians seasons (after breaking into the big leagues with Philadelphia), Franco had been a .295 hitter, a burner with almost as many career triples (31) as home runs (45).  A shortstop who had slid over to second base in his final year with Cleveland, Franco had hit .300 in each of the three seasons leading up to the trade.  He had become an elite hitter but had never been to an All-Star Game.

That would change.  Right away.

In each of Franco’s first three seasons with Texas, he made the All-Star team as a second baseman.  In that span he hit .318 (the second-best career mark as a Ranger at the time, next to Al Oliver’s .319), culminating with a batting title in 1991, when he hit .341, a mark that remains the best in franchise history.  

A knee injury limited Franco to 35 games in his fourth Rangers season, but he came back with a solid season in 1993, hitting .289/.360/.438 as the club’s designated hitter.  Texas had to move Jose Canseco in from right field to DH for the 1994 season, however, and the club let Franco, who by then was actually 35 years old, move on.  

Stunningly, of course, he wouldn’t retire for another 14 years, finishing a 23-year career with a lifetime .298 batting average.  The 173rd and final home run he would hit came at age 48, off of Randy Johnson.

Franco hit good pitching, used all fields, was difficult to strike out, and squared up and hit the ball harder and with more consistency than any hitter that this or too many other franchises have ever had.  There’s never been a tougher out to wear the Rangers uniform.

One of the toughest outs in the Rangers system in recent years has been catcher Max Ramirez, who like Franco was picked up by the Indians from a National League East team before Texas stole him from Cleveland.

On July 27, 2007, Jon Daniels shipped Kenny Lofton to Cleveland for his third tour with the Indians, getting Ramirez in return.  (A year earlier, Atlanta traded Ramirez to Cleveland for closer Bob Wickman just before the trade deadline.)  Four days after the Lofton deal, Texas sent Eric Gagné to Boston for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy, and Engel Beltre, and Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to Atlanta for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, and Beau Jones.

The trades with the Red Sox and Braves made more headlines, then and now, but the deal that brought Ramirez to Texas could end up having just as much impact.  

The 23-year-old hit .307/.420/.500 for High A Bakersfield upon his arrival in the Rangers system last summer, lifting his career line over five seasons to .304/.400/.489.  That’s impressive production for any hitter, let alone a catcher.  The Venezuelan has obliterated those numbers in 2008.

Ramirez is hitting .360/.451/.650 for AA Frisco, leading the Texas League in reaching base and slugging and sitting at second in hitting.  His 15 home runs (one short of his 2007 total) lead the league.  There’s not a key offensive category that doesn’t find him in the league’s top 10.  

While Gerald Laird, Saltalamacchia, and Taylor Teagarden are ahead of Ramirez on the catching depth chart, at some point Ramirez is going to force his way into the picture with his bat.  In recent weeks he has seen some time at first base for the RoughRiders.  It’s not out of the question that the organization made that move with the thought in mind that Ramirez, with just two months of AA experience, might be ready to help offensively at the big league level in 2008.

A move from behind the plate, while seemingly inevitable if Ramirez is going to remain a Ranger, doesn’t mean he’ll be any less valuable an asset.  Dale Murphy, Craig Biggio, Carlos Delgado, Justin Morneau, Mike Sweeney, and B.J. Surhoff did all right for themselves after ditching the shin guards.

The thought that Ramirez, who stands at under six feet in height, could give Texas a long-term answer at first base is similarly questionable since Chris Davis is crushing at AAA and the franchise just spent its first-round pick in this year’s draft on University of South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak, whose advanced glovework and left-handedness make his path pretty clear.

There was once a stigma associated with putting a young player at designated hitter, but there shouldn’t be.  If Ramirez can settle in as a player who produces in the middle of the lineup, playing first base or catcher once or twice a week and serving as the DH every other day, he could do a lot of damage in a Rangers uniform.  

I’m not about to suggest that Ramirez is about to kick off a 23-year career in the Major Leagues.  But I don’t think it’s out of the question that, like Franco, he could give Texas a multi-year run as a .300 hitter with an .800 OPS — and end up as one of the great trade acquisitions in Rangers history.  

 

Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com.  A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger.  He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com.  This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

June 12

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.

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

June 10

redfoamfinger.jpg

 

 

Don’t
ask.

 
Because
I don’t know.

 

 

Solved
- this comes from
Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth
Star-Telegram
, in a sidebar written on Thursday:

 

SPOTLIGHT PUTTING A FINGER ON WOES

Anytime a Rangers player does something extraordinary
in the field or on the mound, they get the finger.

A foam finger, that is.

It was during a series against the Royals at the end
of April with the Rangers struggling when Hank Blalock got the idea for some
team spirit.

Maybe it’s working. Since the finger’s first
appearance, the Rangers have gone 21-12.

The youngest player on the bench who’s not playing
that day is in charge of the finger.

If a stellar defensive play is made, that player is
greeted with a finger in his face when he returns to the dugout, third-base
coach Matt Walbeck said. The same goes for a pitcher who goes out and shuts
down the other team.

The foam finger was in Brandon Boggs’ locker before
Wednesday’s game, but he said he’ll pass it over to David Murphy, who had the
night off.

“There’s no ceremony,” Boggs said.
“They just need to come get it and make sure it’s down there. It’s
something that’s fun and helps us loosen up in the field.”

What if things go south?

“We don’t think about that,” Walbeck said.
“We’re not going there. For now, the finger is working.”

June 9, 2008

The
schedule says it’s an off-day, but there was baseball at 1000 Ballpark Way today.

Max Rangers minicamp 060908 001.jpg

 

Big
thanks to Ramon Burris and Josh Bynum, Katie Purcell and Sarah Grimmer, Jim
Sundberg, the folks at Extreme Photography, and, most of all, Breon Dennis, who
made today’s Rangers Mini-Camp at Dr Pepper Youth Ballpark (stretching,
hitting, throwing and catching, an intrasquad game, individual photos with
Rangers Captain and Jim Sundberg, and an awards ceremony recognizing every kid)
one of the coolest days of Max’s life, and therefore of his Dad’s.

For
more information on the camps that the Rangers are putting on this summer for
kids as old as 12 and as young as four (or, shhhh,
Super Three [you know, in salary arbitration terms]), check the last part of my
May 23 Report
or call Breon at 817-273-5297.


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