August 2008

What might've been.

An incredible game in an incredible season, it sort of feels like Boston 19, Texas 17 epitomized the 2008 season in the space of nine innings.

The resilience.  The energy.  The wild unpredictabilty.

The hitting.

The pitching.

The game itself unfolded and then, almost impossibly, changed direction, much in the same way the season has, and as we head into what is essentially the final two innings of the regular season, the way tonight’s game ultimately came up short – when realistically the Rangers should have never have been able to put themselves in a position where the game was on the line at all – it may end up microcosmically looking like the campaign as a whole, when we have the chance to look back at 162.

No easy out in the lineup, even a lineup decimated by injury.  

But no shutdown pitcher, either, outside of Eddie Guardado, to whom the club couldn’t quite get the ball tonight.

This game, not unlike this season, was marked both by nausea and by tons of adrenaline.

Which sure beats indifference.

The feeling of “what might’ve been” is one of the most frustrating for an insane sports fan, but even if 2008 ends for Texas with the final game of the regular season, the way this club fights every night in the face of adversity and injuries and long odds, I’m going to look back at this edition of the Rangers as one that happily, at long last, brought “what might’ve been” back.

We’re getting a lot closer.

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

Big week.

Big week ahead, both in the short term and the long term.  All that Texas has before returning to town Friday for a nine-game homestand is a three-game series in Boston, but after that quick set with the Red Sox the Rangers will be anywhere from three games back in the Wild Card race to 10 games back.  Obviously a massive difference.  

Friday is also the deadline for clubs to sign 2008 draft picks, which in the Rangers’ case means we’re days away from knowing whether first baseman Justin Smoak and lefthander Robbie Ross will be part of the organization, not to mention righthanders Charlie Robertson and Jack Armstrong, shortstop Harold Martinez, outfielder John Ruettiger, and catcher Ben Petralli.  Smoak and Ross are the key negotiations, however, and in a few days the speculation will give way to resolution.

But first things first.  Scott Feldman against Michael Bowden (or Devern Hansack or Charlie Zink), Luis Mendoza against Jon Lester, Vicente Padilla against Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Big, big, big.

With the rotation, bullpen, and lineup decimated, Texas managed to score only one run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday combined (the first time since 1992 that the club scored just once in a three-game stretch) while permitting 21 runs, but busted out for 15 runs on 20 hits today, salvaging a game in Baltimore with a 15-7 win.

The notable thing there is that, even in this afternoon’s blowout, the Rangers gave up as many runs as they did on average in the three ugly losses that preceded it.  For the Wild Card chase to continue to include Texas, the pitching has to be better, because the offense – even if it were completely healthy, which it’s not – can’t be counted on to outscore an opponent putting seven runs up each night.

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, when Texas and Florida got serious in trade discussions involving Gerald Laird near the July 31 trade deadline, Jon Daniels insisted on 21-year-old righthander Chris Volstad, a 6’8″ horse who started the season with a 4-4, 3.36 run in 15 AA starts and is now 3-2, 2.67 in five starts and a relief appearance for the Marlins.

Some have suggested that Daniels asked Florida for too much.  If that’s how you define his demand for Laird, then I’m glad he asked for too much.  Texas has a leverage point at catcher right now, and it made sense for Daniels to use the trade deadline as added leverage to see if a contending club would part with a potential rotation leader.

Take a look at the list of catchers who can be free agents this winter – there’s nobody who comes anywhere close to Laird or Jarrod Saltalamacchia in terms of ability, age, and affordability (Laird is under arbitration control for two more years, Saltalamacchia for one more pre-arbitration season and then [assuming no significant time in the minor leagues in 2009] four arbitration years after that).  And there are plenty of teams who ought to be interested in Laird or Saltalamacchia, or Taylor Teagarden or Max Ramirez, which means Texas should be in a very good position this winter as it fields calls on its catchers.

Righthander J.B. Diaz has been scored on once in 13 appearances since a promotion to Frisco late in June.  The 25-year-old’s RoughRiders numbers: 1-1, 0.87, two earned runs on nine hits (.129 opponents’ average) and three walks in 20.2 innings, 17 strikeouts, 1.75 groundout-to-flyout rate.

Just a heads-up — I’m going to wrap up “In their Footsteps” this week and then launch a new weekly column for the Rangers MLB.com site in which I will rank the Top 20 prospects in the system and adjust the list weekly, as appropriate, with bullet point notes on each player.

You’ll find at least one surprise high up on the list.

But the Top 20 feature won’t show up until August 21.  While I have a pretty good sense of how that 20-deep list will look 11 days from now, the state of the 2008 season is not nearly as clear.  The Rangers’ backs are against the wall, but they’ve shown us so many times in 2008, maybe more than ever before, that it’s in exactly that situation when the best in this club comes out.  How this season is ultimately shakes out hasn’t been determined yet, but one of the ways it will be defined, no matter what happens from this point forward, is as one of the most resilient clubs in franchise history.

As Texas makes its way to Boston, it’s time for a big dose of that resilience.

Slumps.

While
they didn’t really factor into why Texas lost
tonight, or why New York
won, who had the worse four-game series:

Bob
Davidson, Andy Fletcher, Alfonso Marquez, & Rob Drake?

Or
Alex Rodriguez, who went 0 for 14 in the series and created 18 outs?

Disappointing
loss, and a shame that Texas
had to settle for a split after the way the first two games went.

But
we shouldn’t lose sight of what two Rangers pitchers did in the two losses:
Warner Madrigal on Wednesday (3.2 scoreless innings, two hits, no walks, two
strikeouts, 70 percent strikes) and Scott Feldman tonight (a seven-inning
quality start, two runs on seven hits and two walks, four strikeouts, 13 groundouts
and four flyouts, an economical 103 pitches). 

Madrigal
has a 2.45 ERA in the nine games since his forgettable big league debut in New York on July 2.

Feldman’s
performance loudly disagrees with the perception that his innings count needs
to be monitored.  His resilience mirrors
that of this entire team.

I
halfway expected to see Davidson, Fletcher, Marquez, and Drake converge in the
middle of the infield after the final out and get a group hug, overjoyed that
they can get out of town after their collective four-game slump.

I
just hope they’re not headed for Baltimore.


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

Stuff.

If you have ever been a C.J. Wilson fan, I think this would be worth your time to read:

http://tinyurl.com/6h94dl

The Rangers are better with a healthy C.J. Wilson.  Hope this all works out.

Just before yesterday’s game, after Wilson reportedly addressed his teammates and coaches apologetically, we got this from leader Ian Kinsler (whose pregame encounter with Stars captain Brenden Morrow, according to Rangers Podcast in Arlington host Ted Price, “cause[d] a tear in the fabric of space and time and create[d] a force so powerful that it collapsed onto itself from the sheer weight of its awesomeness”):   

“This team doesn’t hold grudges.  This team has a lot of positive things going on.  We want [Wilson] to be a part of it, and he needs to show he wants to be a part of it.”

While nobody was able to come up with any video of Kinsler’s Monday night dugout rail dismount, Joe Siegler of Rangerfans.com did pull this together:

http://www.rangerfans.com/archives/2008/08/for_jamey.html

Wish there was a shot between number three and number four in the sequence, but you can imagine what it might have looked like.

Eric Nadel’s walkoff call: http://boomp3.com/listen/bzqd2odpn_r/eric-nadel-s-walkoff-call

Josh Lewin’s walkoff call (with video): http://blip.tv/file/1146696

The one thing about that Monday clip that takes some of the air out of it is seeing David Murphy bouncing along with his teammates around the plate.  I wish Murph had tried going around Pudge last night . . . or over him . . . or through him, as he would have been within the rules to do.  We’re going to miss that guy in the lineup.

The top candidates to replace Murphy are non-roster outfielder John Mayberry Jr. (who must be added to the roster this winter unless the club chooses to expose him to the Rule 5 Draft) and Jason Ellison, with roster member Julio Borbon having an outside shot.

Nelson Cruz would be the automatic choice if he weren’t sidelined with a strained quadriceps muscle.  Instead, he’s expected to start a rehab assignment in Surprise soon.  

Texas named Cruz the organization’s minor league player of the month for July, during which he hit .316/.371/.705 with 12 home runs (and one double!) and 28 RBI in 24 games.  Lefthander Derek Holland, who went 3-1, 1.66 (with a phenomenal 22 hits, five walks, and 47 strikeouts in 38 innings) in six starts between Clinton and Bakersfield, was named the pitcher of the month, and Clinton catcher Jose Felix was named the defensive player of the month.

Allen Cordrey has taken his footage of the pregame events at Newberg Report Night (Will Carroll & Joe Sheehan, Hello Win Column Fund presentation, Jon Daniels) and cut 14 separate excerpts for your viewing, at http://www.sportsnetworklive.com (see the “Videos” section near the bottom of the front page).  

There are 14 video excerpts on the Sports Network Live site.  Here’s a 15th, which appears on Grant Schiller’s website: http://www.sportsnetworklive.com/videos/jdgrant.wmv

Carroll says he’ll have the Newberg Report Night code for a free month of Baseball Prospectus’s subscriber content for us soon.

Here’s a rundown of all the Newberg Report Night recaps I’ve found:

Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=976

Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=7904

Grant Schiller of Texas Rangers Trades:
http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/

Newberg Report message board thread:
http://forum.newbergreport.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5899

Lone Star Ball message board thread:
http://www.lonestarball.com/2008/8/3/585991/what-jd-had-to-say

Righthander Brandon McCarthy was scratched from yesterday’s scheduled AAA start.

The Rangers were reportedly among as many as half the teams in the league attending free agent righthander Freddy Garcia’s pitching audition on Tuesday.  One writer, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, suggests Texas might have the most interest in signing Garcia, who is attempting a comeback from shoulder surgery.

Carroll noted on Sunday (as you’ll see in one of the SportsNetworkLive.com video files) that Garcia won’t sign anything more than a 2008 deal, so this apparently won’t be a Jon Lieber-type deal should the Rangers bring him aboard.

Several media reports indicate that the Rangers are looking around for a situational left-hander now that the bullpen is down to one southpaw, closer Eddie Guardado.  The Cubs have designated former Rangers farmhand Scott Eyre (due about $1.2 million over the remainder of the season) for assignment.  Mets lefthander Scott Schoeneweis has reportedly cleared revocable trade waivers, but he has another $1 million left on his 2008 contract and $3.6 million coming his way in 2009.

Hank Blalock is throwing without pain and expects to be activated from the disabled list next week.  

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that, prior to last Thursday’s trade deadline, Texas discussed the idea of trading for Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez, which presumably would have been a function of weighing the cost in prospects (plus the nearly $2 million Ibanez is due the rest of the year) against the two draft picks the club would have gotten back when he departed as a free agent this winter (akin to Carlos Lee in 2006).  (Of course, the two picks would probably have also cost $2 million or more in signing bonuses.)

Rosenthal adds that John Hart is “thinking about pursuing a third stint as a GM,” and suggests Hart could be a candidate in Seattle and Washington.

Since Philadelphia purchased outfielder Kevin Mahar from the independent Kansas City T-Bones in mid-July, the 27-year-old has hit .310/.394/.379 for Class A Clearwater.

Did anyone notice whether Josh Hamilton tagged up at third last night on the disputed Robinson Cano snare of Gerald Laird’s bases-loaded line drive in the second inning?  I could have sworn he did (and then scored), but after I got home from the game I couldn’t find a clip of the play to clear that up.

It wouldn’t have mattered since Hamilton came home on Chris Davis’s two-run single that followed, but it looked like yet another instance of this umpiring crew sustaining what has been an absolutely brutally officiated series.  

But aside from the work of that foursome, this has been an incredibly energizing, intense baseball series, one that wraps up tonight as Scott Feldman and Mike Mussina get the starting assignments.  Texas has already clinched the season series against the Yankees, the first time that’s happened since 2003, but there’s bigger work to be done.  

Geared up.

Wilson to DL.

Word has just been handed down that closer C.J. Wilson,
who has been trying to pitch through bone spurs, is headed to the disabled list
and to Los Angeles
for a consultation with elbow specialist Dr. Lewis Yocum.  Elbow surgery, according to Wilson, is inevitable, though it’s not
certain how soon he’ll have the procedure done.

It is fairly clear, however, that Wilson will miss a meaningful amount of time.

Lousy news.

What does Texas 9, New York 5 mean?

I’ve said all year that, no matter what happens in 2008, if this team is playing meaningful games in August and September, it’s going to serve the Rangers really well, considering how many young players are learning how to be big leaguers in the midst of 59-54.  It’s not only about learning how to compete against the most consistent players in the world, how to get the job done when you’re not at your best, how to make adjustments when the league starts to figure you out.

It’s learning how to win.  Learning how to win for five months, maybe six.  Hopefully, one day soon enough, seven.

This one featured everything.  

Some really awful umpiring (and not just to the Yankees’ benefit).  There’s a reason Andy Fletcher leads the league in ejections.

A fourth outfielder (just ask the national experts) takes a Hall of Fame-bound 22-year-old (ask them about that, too) deep as an answer to the two solo shots that New York had hit 10 minutes earlier.  The fourth outfielder later triples off one of the best left-handed relievers in the league.

Michael Young muscles a 95-mph fastball the opposite way and over the fence, turning a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead, with only eight or nine fingers not broken.

Josh Hamilton goes 0 for 4 and has a huge impact on the game anyway.

Texas hasn’t had a starting pitcher with as much polished talent as Vicente Padilla since Kevin Brown.  No telling how good he could be if it weren’t for what all comes with that special arm.  (Of course, without the baggage, we never get him for Ricardo Rodriguez.)  

Fletcher’s terrible first inning cost Padilla about 10 pitches, and, ultimately, maybe a seventh inning of work.  Probably doesn’t change the result.  We probably see Frankie Francisco in the eighth and Eddie Guardado in the ninth regardless, and just don’t get Jamey Wright’s inning.

If Marlon Byrd had gotten another two inches off the ground in the eighth, he never even comes up to hit in the ninth.  

But his marginally inadequate jump made possible the most amazing dugout rail leap you’ve ever seen.  If you didn’t catch Ian Kinsler’s aerobatics the second that Byrd’s ninth-inning blast left the yard, I hope you TiVo’d the game.  What Kinsler pulled off in that moment is probably contractually prohibited.

When Jon Daniels spoke to our group on Sunday, one of Grant Schiller’s questions for him was pin down his biggest surprise of the season.  Daniels said the resilience of this team.  Not even the most optimistic among us could have expected, or hoped for, this.

It’s not just the general youth of this team and the strength of the farm system that ought to be making the Angels, A’s, and Mariners increasingly nervous.  This club’s toughness, its ability to fight back late, when the game’s most dominant short-dose pitchers are typically on the hill, is scary.  And it’s not like a David Ortiz team that’s jumping on one player’s back for the comeback heroics.  It’s a different guy every night.

Doing it against the Yankees, of course, makes it a little different from the other nights that have ended this way.  The Rangers may not be consequential to New York in the grand scheme, but the kids that Alex Rodriguez ran away from have a score to settle with his club, mainly because of the post-season history between Texas and New York.  A footnote for the Yankees, it’s a big deal here.

When we get back to the playoffs, whenever that is, I want the Yankees.  Round One.

The Wild Card standings, up to the minute:

Boston        –
Chicago    1.5 GB
Minnesota    1.5
New York    2.5
Texas        5.0

After finally reaching that elusive five-games-over-.500 mark, and finally beating the Yankees at home (breaking a 10-game skid), in one crazy night the Rangers registered their biggest win of the year and made this thrilling season just a little bit more interesting.

And regardless of where this thing is headed, wins like tonight’s, in that sort of atmosphere and in the season’s final third, are really good for Chris Davis and Brandon Boggs and Travis Metcalf and Luis Mendoza and Eric Hurley and Matt Harrison and Tommy Hunter and Warner Madrigal to experience.

But there’s a pretty cool opportunity these next three days, and next two weeks, to make this more than just about the development of a team preparing to win in 2009 or 2010.

A callback to May 17:

It’s not about this year.  

But it is about tonight.

And it may be about this year.

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

 

 

Thinking about the firing of Mark Connor and Dom Chiti.

As
the adage goes: “Coaches are hired to be fired.”

More
often than not, there’s no single incident that’s responsible, no specific misstep
that easily explains the decision to let a coach go.  We all know why Sidney Ponson was kicked off
the team.  Cowboys fans can tell you
today exactly why Curvin Richards was released in 1992, why John Roper was in 1993,
why Mike Vanderjagt and Marcus Coleman were in 2006.  But 99 percent of the time, particularly with
coaches, it’s the result of inadequate win totals, of underachieving, of a
porous pass defense or a stagnant offense or an unacceptably high team ERA.

A
lot of you emailed me Friday night wanting an explanation for the dismissal of
Mark Connor and Dom Chiti.  All I know is
what you know, largely based not on what the writers have written or the talk
show hosts have theorized, but on what the central players in the story have
said.  You can speculate all you want,
but the key to trying to understand what happened is in the reliability of the quotes.

Jon Daniels: “We need to try a different direction with the pitching staff.  A different voice.  A different message.  It’s not that anything Mark and Dom said was
doing anything wrong with these guys.  In
fact, in another situation, another group, another time, I would love to work
with these guys again.  Sometimes people
and players respond to different voices, different messages.”

There’s
no question that that’s true in some cases. 
The question here will be if the pitchers respond differently, better,
as a result of this change.

It
makes sense that the players were evidently (according to reports) not thrilled
about the change, given that Connor and Chiti are not only good guys but also
two men who have battled through things with them to go from a club on the
brink of a more drastic overhaul three weeks into the season to one that sits
in second place in the division now, owning the fourth-best record in baseball in
the three-plus months since a 7-16 low point going into play on April 25.

The
players, some of whom have been here for years, have probably never felt better
about where the Rangers are headed.  From
that standpoint, it probably surprised them to see the coaching staff reconfigured
now. 

But
the pitching has been bad.  In the club’s
miserable April, the staff compiled a 5.68 ERA and allowed the opposition to
hit .302.  The numbers were much better
in May (3.90, .259) and moderately better in June (5.08, .279) but, despite a
winning record in July, the pitching that month (6.63, .311) was the worst of
the year.  The staff’s 5.27 ERA for the
season going into Saturday night was baseball’s worst.

And
of course, it’s not as if the pitching had been otherwise effective through
Connor’s tenure.  He’s certainly not to
blame for the arms with which he was entrusted in his time here, but the bottom
line – fair or not – is that the results have been inadequate. 

As
for the present, there’s no way to imagine this team continuing to compete for the
Wild Card unless the pitching were to improve significantly.  There apparently wasn’t a reasonable trade opportunity
last week, and improving one spot on the staff wasn’t going to be enough
anyway.  The following comment sort of
sums that up:

Nolan Ryan: “We felt we weren’t seeing the progress we wanted to see.  We’re serious about the Wild Card race, and
in fairness to our offense, we needed to try to do something to improve our
pitching.  We owe them that.”

And
there’s another factor to consider.

This
was the pitching staff on April 25, the low point of the season, when no
changes were made to the coaching staff, as close as the organization might have
been to doing so:

Joaquin
Benoit, Scott Feldman, Frankie Francisco, Kazuo Fukumori, Franklyn German,
Eddie Guardado, Jason Jennings, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Josh Rupe,
C.J. Wilson, Jamey Wright

This
is the pitching staff today:

Scott
Feldman, Frankie Francisco, Eddie Guardado, Matt Harrison, Tommy Hunter, Warner
Madrigal, Luis Mendoza, Dustin Nippert, Vicente Padilla, Josh Rupe, C.J.
Wilson, Jamey Wright

So
Harrison, Hunter, Madrigal, Mendoza, and Nippert
are here, in place of Benoit, Fukumori, German, Jennings, and Millwood.  Nearly half the staff is different, and all
five of the replacements have spent significant time in Oklahoma this season, under the tutelage of
new Rangers pitching coach Andy Hawkins. 
In fact, the three of those five who have made their major league debuts
this season – all three of whom are key prospects, not coffee-cuppers – have logged
more RedHawks innings than Rangers innings in 2008.

Harrison,
Hunter, Madrigal, Mendoza, and Nippert have a
collective 3.90 ERA in Oklahoma (2.2 walks per
nine innings, 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings), compared with a 7.75 ERA in Texas (4.6 walks per
nine innings, 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings). 
And that doesn’t count the currently disabled Eric Hurley, whose splits -
3.98 ERA, 2.3 BB/9, 6.1 K/9 in AAA, and 7.96 ERA, 5.4 BB/9, 6.9 K/9 in Texas – are right in
line with those composites.

Yes,
a pitcher should fare better in AAA than in the big leagues, but that’s a
meaningful disparity, and maybe the Rangers think Hawkins – who has experience with
these young pitchers at the top of their games – can help unlock some things in
them that, for whatever reason, haven’t emerged under Connor’s tutelage.

There’s
no question that Feldman, Francisco, and Rupe have had terrific resurgences
this season, and that Padilla and Wright have straightened things out for the
most part, and Connor and Chiti have to be credited for that.  But going forward, the ability of the Rangers’
young pitchers to contribute here the way that some who have departed recently (Edinson
Volquez, John Danks, Armando Galarraga) have contributed elsewhere is going to
be massively important. 

Ron Washington: “People respond to different people differently.  We hope that this will be that situation.  Being aggressive, having a presence out there
and attacking the zone and keeping the ball in play.  That’s part of the message that we’ll continue
to send and we’ll see how it goes.”

More
on the message – from a manager who called the decision the toughest thing he’s
had to go through in his life in baseball – plus an emphasis on mound presence,
attacking the strike zone, aggressiveness. 
Something else Washington
said on the radio pregame show Saturday night, paraphrasing: “I love [Connor] and
Chiti but our pitchers weren’t responding.  Maybe Hawk and Colborn can come in and preach the same things but in a different way.”

Dick
Motta, John MacLeod, Avery Johnson. 
Barry Switzer.

Buck
Showalter.

Should
tolerance be given to athletes making millions of dollars to respond differently
to the same message, simply preached in a different way?

Happens
all the time.

Connor: “I know how it works.  Our
pitching hasn’t been very good.  I’m the
guy responsible for it.  I accept the
responsibility.  Hopefully they can get
some things straightened out.”

Call
it class.  Call it pragmatism.  Call it whatever you want.  Connor, who had no preexisting ties with Daniels
or Ryan or Washington, understands the game’s realities and offered no excuses
or scorched-earth bitterness.  Daniels said
Friday night that he’d like to have Connor back in the system in some capacity
once he spends some time in Tennessee
recharging.  This was no personality
clash.

Hawkins: “I’m replacing a fine man.  I
have a lot of respect for him.  But we’ve
got to go on.  This is not the last time
a lot of these guys will see changes made in the middle of the season.  But whether you agree or disagree, we’ve got a
ballgame tonight, and we’ve got to finish the season.  We’re 4 1/2 games out of the Wild Card and in
the middle of a pennant race.  It’s
exciting.”

Connor
was Hawkins’s pitching coach with the Yankees in 1990 and 1991.  There’s a mutual respect there.  Connor will be the first to tell you that he
hopes Hawkins can get more out of this staff. 
And Hawkins will be the first to recognize, no matter what he accomplishes
here, that Connor helped turn a lot of these guys from prospects or journeymen into
big league pitchers.

Newberg Report, Dec. 1,
2004:
“Wire reports indicate that Andy Hawkins has
been named pitching coach of the High A High
Desert Mavericks, a Kansas
City affiliate (owned by the Brett Sports Group, which also owns the
Rangers’ short-season A club in Spokane).
 Over the years that I’ve been writing
this newsletter, there have been no more than two or three minor league coaches
that I’ve encountered to be as consistently praised by Ranger prospects as
Hawkins, who served as pitching coach for Low A Savannah in 2001 and 2002, Low
A Clinton in 2003, and High A Stockton in 2004.”

There
are some pitching instructor stars in this system, starting with Hawkins and minor
league pitching coordinator Rick Adair.  Was
it right to let Connor go?  I don’t know the
answer to that question.  But he has
been, and I’m excited that Hawkins is the man pegged to replace him.  He isn’t the type who will come in here and
try to overhaul things mechanically or try to implement some convoluted new
mental or metaphysical approach.  Hawkins
preaches mound presence, pounding the zone, pitching with tempo.  He wants his guys to compete.

None
of those things are revolutionary.  It’s the
same, simple message, but maybe it will be preached differently, and maybe the
response will be more inspired, more productive.  That’s the idea, at least.  Part of the equation will be Hawkins earning
the trust of his pitchers, and if the handful of conversations I’ve had over the
years with various pitchers in the Rangers system about Hawkins are any indication,
that’s not going to be a problem.

As
for Colborn (who like Hawkins has a big league no-hitter to his credit, his
coming against the Rangers in 1977 – the second ever in Royals Stadium, following
Ryan’s first career no-hitter in 1973), he moves in the bullpen coach position
from a scouting role, having served since November as the Rangers’ Director of
Pacific Rim Operations.  He’s been a
pitching coach for the Dodgers (five seasons) and Pirates (two seasons) – all for
manager Jim Tracy – as well as the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese Pacific
League (four years). 

Hawkins
(age 48) and Colborn (age 62) will have the rest of the season to prove whether
they should return in 2009, but that’s not much different from most big league
coaches.  Daniels has said they should not
be considered “interim” coaches.

Keith
Comstock, who served as the Rangers’ Arizona League pitching coach in 2007 and
as the organization’s rehab pitching coordinator in Surprise this season, replaces
Hawkins as the Oklahoma
pitching coach.

For
what it’s worth, while Colborn was a Daniels hire and so was Hawkins in his
return to the Rangers organization in 2006, Doug Melvin was responsible for originally
bringing Hawkins to the system before the 2001 season.  Connor was brought here by Buck Showalter (with
whom he’s had a long history), and Chiti was hired by John Hart (with whom he
goes way back) and entrusted with various high-level scouting and player
development positions from 2002 through 2005 before joining the coaching staff.

Setting
aside the work Hawkins (a Waco native who now lives in Bruceville) has done with
various Rangers pitchers in spring training and fall instructional league, he coached
C.J. Wilson at Low A Savannah in 2001, A.J. Murray at Savannah in 2002, Josh
Rupe and Kameron Loe at Clinton in 2003, Rupe and Wes Littleton with High A
Stockton in 2004, and any number of Rangers pitcher at Oklahoma the last three
seasons.

Whatever
the reaction was from the players, one of the team’s leaders made it clear that
they’ll be pulling the oar in the same direction as Hawkins and Colborn.

Kevin Millwood: “These two guys are going to get the same level of respect
Dom and [Mark] got from everybody here.  We’re
definitely going to listen to them and try to learn from them.  I know Hawk from spring training and being
around here and having talked to him.  He
was a major league pitcher, so it’s good from that perspective.  I know he’s a good guy.”

Good
to hear, especially from a veteran whose decision to sign here long-term came
one month after Connor was elevated to pitching coach. 

Another
comment from Connor: “It’s a tough league
to pitch in and these young kids have growing pains.  The experience will pay off, it’s just going
to take some time.  I had a good time
there.  It’s a good place, good people,
great area.”

Washington,
on tonight’s radio pregame show, made his own reference to the subject of growing
pains, telling Eric Nadel that he expected some degree of growing pains with the
transition of Connor and Chiti to Hawkins and Colborn. 

That’s
fine.  Growing pains are acceptable, as
long as there’s growing.


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

Connor & Chiti fired.

According to MLB.com and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Rangers have just fired pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.  

The new pitching coach is Andy Hawkins (who had been in that role with Oklahoma) and the new bullpen coach is Jim Colborn (who was the organization’s Pacific Rim scout and is a former big league pitching coach).

Wow.

 

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

Game. Winners.

To Wanda & Keith L.:

Don’t show me a piece of paper full of numbers.

David Murphy is a Winner.

Brandon Boggs is a Winner.

Don’t show me that printout full of numbers.

But keep showing it to the guy in the other dugout.

 

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

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