My friend Ben Rogers, who along with Jeff
“Skin” Wade is taking the Ben & Skin Show from the Ticket taxi
squad over to Live 105.3 for a fulltime slot (weekdays, 11-3, starting a week
from Monday), is taking a big chance.  He’s
giving up something that’s relatively safe (his normal job, which looks a lot
more like most of ours) in exchange for more upside.  Risk: potential reward.

Ben said it best: “Nobody is going to brag at my
funeral about the awesome conservative decisions I made.”

Maybe it would have been safer for Texas to have used the
number 11 pick in June’s draft on a college pitcher like TCU’s Andrew Cashner
or a high school arm like Ethan Martin, than to draft Justin Smoak, both
because he was unquestionably going to command a couple million dollars over
slot to sign, and because the Rangers’ top prospect was Chris Davis, a first
baseman himself and roughly the same age as Smoak.

could have even made an awesome conservative decision like the Astros did at
pick number 10, when they chose eminently signable Stanford catcher Jason
Castro, passing over Smoak.  But that’s
not how the Rangers think, or act.

Were there nervous moments on Friday as the late-night deadline
neared, real possibilities that the club wouldn’t come to terms with Smoak and would
be left with slot 11A (which will be the 13th pick) as consolation next summer?  Absolutely. 
But Tom Hicks stepped up financially, as he has done every year at draft
time, Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan stayed true to the game plan — which meant both
going significantly above slot but not limitlessly and refusing to offer a
major league contract — and a $3.5 million deal got done just as the hourglass
was nearly emptied.

As for the issue that the right-handed-throwing Davis
appears to be this club’s long-term first baseman despite the versatility to play
elsewhere, while the left-handed-throwing Smoak is an above-average defender at
first base but not likely to profile in the outfield?  That question is answered easily. 

As Daniels said late last night: “There are worse
problems to have than to have to figure out a way to get both bats in the
middle of our lineup down the road.”

Whether that means that Davis could eventually slide over to third
base or an outfield corner, or that one of them will ultimately figure in at
designated hitter — or that we bring the name of Matt LaPorta up again in 2009
— it’s a non-issue right now.

Right now the key is that Justin Smoak’s pro career is
about to launch, and it will be as a Texas Ranger, with stops in either Spokane or Clinton
this month and then Surprise in the fall. 

Where it goes from there, that is, when and how soon and
in what capacity, isn’t as important now as the awesome aggressive decision
that Texas made on June 5, and last night, to add another impact talent to the

I’ll try to remember to pay attention to who is on the
board next June at pick number 13, when the switch-hitting Smoak is terrorizing
one of the minor leagues in a Rangers-issued uniform.


One other thing.  If the season were to end today, the 2009 draft order would be as follows:

Washington     44     79     .358    
Seattle     46     75     .380    
San Diego     47     75     .385
San Francisco     51     70     .421
Cincinnati     54     69     .439    
Pittsburgh     55     67     .451    
Kansas City     55     67     .451    
Atlanta     55     67     .451    
Colorado     55     69     .444
* Washington (comp pick for failure to sign Aaron Crow)
Cleveland     55     66     .455    
Oakland     56     65     .463    
Detroit     59     63     .484    
Baltimore     59     62     .488    
Texas         61     62     .496    
Houston     62     60     .508    

Toronto     62     60     .508    
Florida     63     60     .512    
Dodgers     63     59     .516
Arizona     63     59     .516
Yankees     64     58     .525    
* Seattle (comp pick for failure to sign Joshua Fields)
Philadelphia     65     57     .533    
Mets         66     56     .541    
St. Louis     69     56     .552    
White Sox     68     53     .562    
Minnesota     68     53     .562    
Milwaukee     70     53     .569    
Boston         71     51     .582    
Tampa Bay     74     47     .612    
* Yankees (comp pick for failure to sign Gerrit Cole)
Cubs         75     47     .615    
Angels         75     45     .625    

I would never root for Texas to lose games, but keep an eye on this.  If the Rangers finish with one of baseball’s 15 worst records — they are at number 14 right now — then if they sign a Type A free agent this off-season, they’ll forfeit their second-round pick, which could be around the 60th pick overall. 

If Texas finishes with one of baseball’s 15 best records — a group from which the club is separated right now by just 1.5 games — it will instead forfeit its first-rounder by signing a Type A.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at

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