October 2008

The importance of Rick Adair.

The Detroit Tigers made Rick Adair their big league pitching coach with three weeks left in the 1996 season, after Jon Matlack resigned for personal reasons.  Adair was a sensible choice, not only because he’d served as Detroit’s AAA pitching coach in 1995 and roving minor league pitching instructor until the September promotion in 1996, but also because he had a couple seasons of experience not long before as Cleveland’s big league pitching coach.

Detroit’s 1996 ERA under Matlack was 6.38, baseball’s worst by nearly a full run.

Under Adair’s watch in 1997, the Tigers shaved nearly two runs off its team ERA, finishing sixth in the American League with a 4.56 mark.  

In what was the first full season in the bigs for each, Justin Thompson (age 24) went 15-11, 3.02 and made the All-Star Team, and Brian Moehler (age 25) went 11-12, 4.67.  Journeyman Willie Blair (age 31), pitching for his sixth major league in eight years and working as a full-time starter for the first time, went 16-8, 4.17.

The trio came into the 1997 season with a collective lifetime 4.72 ERA.  In 1997, the three combined to post a 3.88 ERA under Adair’s tutelage.

Solid.  

After three full seasons as Tigers pitching coach (the first under Buddy Bell, the second under Bell and Larry Parrish, and the third under Parrish — with infield instructor Perry Hill a fellow coach on all three staffs), Adair’s next post was as Atlanta’s minor league pitching coordinator, from 2000 through 2003.  

In those four seasons, Adair oversaw a farm system that pumped out a number of future big league pitchers, among which were Adam Wainwright, Horacio Ramirez, Jason Marquis, Matt Belisle, Kyle Davies, Matt Harrison, Chuck James, Jo Jo Reyes, and Dan Meyer (who keyed the Braves’ deal for Tim Hudson).  All but Ramirez, Marquis, and Belisle broke into professional ball at a time when Adair was in charge of Atlanta’s minor league pitching program.  Every one of them progressed under Adair’s supervision.

There was a story a few days ago noting that Nolan Ryan, when asked if Adair was considered a candidate for the Rangers’ open pitching coach post, said he “likes [Adair] where he is right now.”  I’m sure Adair would like the opportunity to return to the big leagues — where he has proven the ability to get results out of young starting pitchers — but the role that he’s filled here the last four years is a vital one, and it’s hard to argue with the idea that Texas has a superstar in place.  Right where he is.

In 2008 alone, the Rangers saw pitchers like Harrison, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Martin Perez, Michael Main, Tommy Hunter, Jared Hyatt, Doug Mathis, Wilfredo Boscan, Blake Beavan, Neil Ramirez, Carlos Pimentel, Kyle Ocampo, and Kennil Gomez take big steps forward developmentally, which is to say nothing of the strong debuts of draftees like Tim Murphy, Joe Wieland, and Corey Young.  Credit the players, of course, and the scouts and the baseball operations officials who acquired them, but don’t overlook the job that those putting the minor league pitching program in place, and implementing it, have done.  

The Rangers are fortunate to have Adair around, not to mention Andy Hawkins (in whatever role he’ll fill in 2009) and minor league pitching coaches Keith Comstock, Terry Clark, Dave Chavarria, Danny Clark, Mike Anderson, Carlos Pulido, and John Burgos.  Nobody doubts that the long-range plan here is predicated on the depth that Texas has built in minor league pitching, and on developing those pitchers so that they are capable of contributing, and ready to do it, at the big league level.  

In a Dallas Morning News interview that Adair gave Mike Hindman a couple weeks ago, the 50-year-old said of Main: “Mentally he’s easily the most polished guy out of high school I’ve ever been around.  The only comparison I can think of is [Adam] Wainwright when I had him, and you know where Wainwright is.”  

Where Wainwright is now is St. Louis, locked up by the Cardinals — before he’d even reached arbitration eligibility — on a four-year contract with two club options, as a career 27-16, 3.48 pitcher.  Where he was, in 2006, was on the mound for the Cardinals in the post-season, as a rookie, permitting no Padres, Mets, or Tigers runs over nine appearances, winning one game and saving four others, walking two in 9.2 innings while striking out 15, the final of which was Brandon Inge on three pitches, to end the World Series.

Wainwright spent the first four years of his professional life being carefully developed by Adair and his crew, before the Braves traded the then-22-year-old after the 2003 season to St. Louis with Marquis and Ray King for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero.  

Whoever the new Rangers pitching coach will be, whether it’s Rick Peterson or Dave Wallace or Mike Maddux or someone else, is going to be expected, more than anything, to help Main and Holland and Perez and Wieland and all those other young arms — a deeper stable than the Braves had from 2000 to 2003 and certainly more critical — make the transition where others in the past have failed.  

Through scouting, drafting, trading, and — unquestionably — developing, there’s never been an armada this strong of pitching prospects bearing down on Arlington, and even if Adair is not a finalist to get what would be his third big league pitching coach assignment, he doesn’t get enough credit for the strength and depth of the pitching crop that the new pitching coach will have entrusted to his care.

I was initially a bit disappointed to learn that Adair wasn’t part of the lineup of interviews for the big league job.  

But not nearly as disappointed as I’d be if he weren’t part of this organization, in some very important capacity.

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

Bound Edition announcement.

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This year’s Bound Edition of the Newberg Report will be the
10th edition of the book, and to commemorate the anniversary, the
two forewords for this year’s book come from the greatest Texas Ranger, Nolan Ryan, and the player who, in a
way, was the impetus for the late ’90s birth of the Newberg Minor League
Report, Jeff Zimmerman. 

 

I couldn’t be more honored.

 

Pre-sales for the book will kick off late this month.

 

The Book Release Party will be on Thursday evening, December 11 (the final day of the Winter Meetings,
as well as Eleanor Czajka’s birthday), at a site to be determined.  We’re working on location now.  We hope to have food and drinks like in past
years, and we’ll also collect Toys for Tots for the holidays as we’ve always
done.

 

We’re planning on having the party at a larger venue than we’ve
had before, because among the guests who will appear to sign books and visit
with us will be Zimmerman, who is coming in from Canada to do this . . . and Derek
Holland, whose meteoric rise to elite prospecthood doesn’t register on the
unlikeliness scale quite as high as Zimmerman’s, but it’s up there.

 

I’m betting we’ll have more than Zimmerman and Holland in attendance
(last year we had Chris Davis, Taylor Teagarden, Doug Mathis, German Duran, and
Johnny Whittleman), but for now those two are the confirmed guests.

 

Admission will be free. 
The “cost” for getting player autographs will be a 2009 Bound Edition,
which you will be able to buy in advance or at the event. 

 

More details as they develop.

 

Jamey

 

 

 

 

Coaching interviews underway.

Coaching interview update, piecing together multiple local reports:

Perry Hill interviewed for the infield instructor position (and probably a base coach assignment) yesterday.

Jackie Moore interviews for the bench coach post today.

Rick Peterson interviews for the pitching coach post tomorrow.

John McLaren interviews for the bench coach post tomorrow, though he also has experience as a bullpen coach and third-base coach as well.

Dave Wallace interviews for the pitching coach post on Monday (though one report out of Seattle suggests the Mariners declined the Rangers’ request to talk to him).

Andy Hawkins is the leading candidate for bullpen coach, reportedly.  But Brad Fischer will apparently get an interview at some point, too.

Jon Daniels has reportedly asked Milwaukee for permission to interview Mike Maddux for the pitching coach opening but the Brewers haven’t granted it yet.

Marcel Lachemann remains a possibility as a pitching coach candidate.  There’s also a report that his brother Rene Lachemann is a potential bench coach candidate, and Ken Macha might be as well.  Ron Romanick is apparently a longshot pitching coach candidate.

According to one report, when asked whether Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair would be a pitching coach candidate, Nolan Ryan said he likes having Adair right where he is, overseeing the development of the organization’s deep crop of pitching prospects.  It’s a crucial position.

Ideally, Daniels would like to have the staff in place by sometime next week.

One local reporter, responding to a fan email, said: “[Vicente] Padilla is considered far and away the hardest worker on the pitching staff.  Seriously.  He retired that trophy.”

Nothing official yet, but speculation is that Jamey Wright will have a Type B classification, which would mean that if Texas offers him arbitration and he instead signs elsewhere, the Rangers would get a compensatory June draft pick between rounds one and two.

Still no word on whether Milton Bradley will be a Type A (which would net two picks) or Type B.

I think I wrote a couple weeks ago that Texas will draft 13th in next year’s first round.  We’ll actually get pushed down to the 14th selection, since Washington will get slot 9A for failing to sign first-rounder Aaron Crow this year.

According to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, one scout said Hank Blalock was “the best hitter I saw in the second half.”  

Chad Tracy is writing an Arizona Fall League blog (and taking fan questions) at aflrangers.mlblogs.com/.

Spotted on Baseball America’s 2008 All-Independent Leagues Team: first-team DH Carl Everett, second-team first baseman Phillip Hawke, and second-team starting pitcher Joel Kirsten.

Righthander Joselo Diaz, first baseman Chris Shelton, infielder Ryan Roberts, and outfielder Jason Ellison are minor league free agents.  

San Diego righthander Bryan Corey took minor league free agency as well.  

Florida released righthander Marc LaMacchia.

Imagine if Tampa Bay still had Josh Hamilton.

Speaking of Hamilton, the high bids for the two free copies of his book “Beyond Belief” are currently $500 and $300, and there is a *chance* that we’ll be able to get those two books autographed by Hamilton.  Since I know from lots of your emails that you’d enter the bidding if the books were signed, I’m going to move the bidding deadline back.  Instead of tomorrow at 5 p.m., we’ll move the deadline to some time next week, and of course once I have confirmation on the autograph situation, I’ll let you know.

You can submit your bids by emailing me, and can monitor the bidding status here.

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

Bidding on Josh Hamilton's new book.

Hundreds of
you responded last week when I asked for suggestions on what to do with the
free copies of Josh Hamilton’s new book, “Beyond Belief,” that the publisher
sent me to distribute to the Newberg Report community.  There were a lot of really good suggestions,
but the one I liked the most – which came from at least 10 of you – was to put
the books up for bidding, with 100% of the winning bids going to a charity of
Josh’s choice.

 

So that’s
what we’ll do.  I have two books to put
up for bid, and will close the bidding at 5 p.m. this Friday (Oct. 17).  Simply email your bid(s) to me between now
and then.  I’m not going to send out
constant emails updating the high bid amounts, but have started a thread on the
Newberg Report message board so you can see whether your bid is in the top two
at any given time (in case you want to up your bid).  (I will post the bids anonymously – just amounts,
not names.)  The message board thread is
at http://forum.newbergreport.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6663.

 

I apologize
if this method knocks some of you who were interested in the books out of the
running, but there was no perfectly equitable way to do this, and of course you
can always go to your local bookstore or Amazon.com and buy a copy, as the book
was released publicly yesterday.

 

Once the
two winning bids are determined, I’ll have you send payment directly to the
Rangers or to me (I’d be happy to submit them to the Rangers together).  I suspect checks would be made out to the
Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and earmarked for Josh Hamilton’s charity of
choice, but between now and Friday I’ll found out for sure how to go about
doing that.

 

When and if
you are prepared to bid, just respond to this email.

 

Thanks for
your excellent suggestions.

 

Jamey

 


 

Believing.

“I felt like part of the team in Cincinnati, and I believe God put me there for a reason to start my career in a baseball-crazed city.  But from the moment Ian, Michael, and Hank sat down in the back of the room during my spring training press conference, I felt at home with the Rangers.  It just felt right, like this, too, was meant to be.”

– Josh Hamilton

I finished “Beyond Belief: Finding the strength to come back” yesterday.  It’s a quick read, a fascinating, frightening, detailed account of Josh Hamilton’s incredible story.  The way it is told, I imagine the book would appeal just as much to someone who is religious but not a fan of baseball as to a baseball fan who isn’t religious.  

The highs of Hamilton’s two big league seasons take on new meaning when you get to relive them through his own words.  As for the lows, we all have a sense of how dark those five years were, but you’ve probably never seen it laid out in nearly this much stark detail.  I certainly never had as strong a sense before reading the book that Hamilton is truly fortunate to be alive.

Tomorrow is the release date for “Beyond Belief.”  (Incidentally, if you plan to buy it and plan to go through Amazon.com to do so, consider taking the one extra step of clicking the Amazon link at the top of the NewbergReport.com website.  Costs you nothing extra.)  Hamilton will make two public appearances next week to promote the book: October 21 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano (6801 W. Park Blvd., 11:30-1:00 p.m.), and October 22 at Barnes & Noble in South Arlington (3881 S. Cooper, near I-20, 7:00 p.m.).

When Hamilton wrote this about the chance Cincinnati took on him in 2007 — “It was easy to place a bet on my ability to hit a baseball and track down a fly ball.  But based on my personal history, it took serious guts to believe I could stay clean and sober” — my thoughts turned to the Rangers, who paid not $50,000 but Edinson Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera to get Hamilton.  Knowing more now about what Hamilton put himself through and how you might consider his triumph on the other side a perpetually tenuous one, the trade seems even gutsier in retrospect.

This was a kid who, despite being paid nearly $4 million out of high school because Tampa Bay, like so many other teams, believed in his once-in-a-generation, Mantle-esque talent, had never had a beer, been to a strip club, or tried cocaine — until that one night in 2002, when at age 20 he did all three for the first time, after a back injury just before spring training resulted in a change in environment.  He found acceptance in a tattoo parlor, and the impressionable kid ended up following the lead of a couple guys who set him on a path that destroyed his life, almost permanently.  

That he bounced back from what followed — even if he never played baseball again — is hard to believe.

Think about the Hamilton you know, the one who always seems to have a smile on his face, who plays the game with an obvious looseness, physically and emotionally, who never seems to take himself too seriously.  That same guy recalls that, just three years ago: “I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed or even smiled or felt a flutter of joy pass through me.  I was living like an animal.”

Fast forward to spring training 2008, the press conference at which Hamilton noticed Kinsler, Young, and Blalock in the back of room in street clothes, figuring they were just waiting their turn for their own press conferences.  When a reporter asked Hamilton if he’d ever had teammates show that sort of support, through welling tears he said no, thinking to himself that the lack of outward support from his Reds teammates never registered with him nearly as much as the effort his new Rangers teammates were making.

Kinsler asked him to get dinner a few days later.  It was the first time a teammate had ever asked him to do anything away from the ballpark.

He would wind down at the end of those days in Surprise by playing video games or watching TV with Kinsler and Jason Botts.

He went to movies during the season with Kinsler.  Milton Bradley regularly asked him to get breakfast on the road.  

For all the resentment that his Reds teammates had exhibited (publicly so by Brandon Phillips), what he found instead in Texas was acceptance, just as addicting as the acceptance he’d reached out for in a Florida tattoo parlor, but this time overwhelmingly healthy.  

On the back cover of the book, Nolan Ryan offers this quote: “Josh is one of the most talented baseball players I’ve ever seen, but his life experiences transcend baseball.  His ability to be one of the best players in the game after all he’s been through is amazing — and inspiring for everyone who knows his story.”

Meanwhile, as I was finishing the book over the weekend, there were Internet stories adding detail to Ryan’s reported plans for the Rangers to implement an amplified set of expectations for the organization’s pitchers.  Aside from higher pitch counts, live batting practice, and better conditioning, there’s work to be done in the mental side of the game.  The Rangers intend to challenge their young arms even more going forward, to cultivate a fearlessness in them, with no room for excuses.  

Jon Daniels commented late last week, in the context of what the club might be looking for in its new pitching coach, that one thing he’d like to see is a coach who might be able to help Texas pitchers develop the same confidence — even swagger — that the hitters always have here.  

I thought about Hamilton, and the Kinsler/Young/Blalock triumvirate that sat in the back of the room as he was introduced to the Rangers press in February.  They all have that swagger, but it’s a quiet confidence that stops short of arrogance, or self-importance.  

We’ve seen it in Marlon Byrd and Mark DeRosa and David Murphy, too.  And Chris Davis and Taylor Teagarden.  The Rangers have a habit of bringing hitters to Arlington — whether from other clubs or from their own farm system — and getting almost immediate results, often far greater than you might have expected from a non-roster invite, or another club’s first-round disappointment, or a 17th-round pick, or someone who many thought would never hit enough to start in the big leagues, or a kid with basically two years in the minor leagues.  

Or someone whose drug addiction cost him nearly four years of his baseball life, if not worse.

There have been so many examples in recent years of hitters doing more than they were supposed to in Texas, and that undoubtedly feeds into that swagger.  

Without being in the clubhouse, I’d guess that the example that Young and Kinsler set, the leadership that they provide, helps feed that quiet swagger, too.  I also get the sense that, without oversimplifying things, on most teams position players typically have their own leader or leaders while pitchers have their own.  I’m not sure who the leader is among the pitchers on this team, but part of that equation is leading by example, and in 2008 there wasn’t the pitching equivalent (as far as we know) of a guy who played through two broken fingers or a knee that should have been operated on, and produced.

Fearlessness.  No excuses.  Swagger.

Josh Hamilton exemplifies all those things, and after you spend 256 pages reading about what he’s made it through, you’ll understand better.  

The things that the Rangers’ young pitchers have to overcome are far different, obviously far less bleak and unstable and scary, but in a way it’s all about believing in yourself and meeting challenges head-on.  The core of this team is in its growing supply of young, confident, productive hitters, as it alway
s has been.  If the franchise starts to add pitching not only with comparable talent but also with just as good a chance to produce — helped by a stronger mindset — then we can look forward to better things from this baseball team.

And if it all plays out right?  Maybe a second book from Josh Hamilton.

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

We're gonna be here awhile.

“The
Cowboys got nothing more than a huge handful of Minnesota smoke.  And who knows if there’ll
ever be any fire.  Love that steal for Minnesota.

 

“[G]ive
it a year, or two, maybe three, then allow us to gather once again for a replay
of Thursday’s events.  Roll will be called as we are taking names and checking
close to see who is doing the beaming and the gloating.  We definitely will find
out whose train was really robbed.”

 

― Randy Galloway,
Dallas Morning News, Oct. 13,
1989

 

So many easy punch
lines. 

 

After those three years
he had so proudly calendared, as Dallas was in the midst of its first of three
Super Bowl title seasons out of four, Galloway was probably neither beaming, nor
gloating, nor owning up to the fact that he’d pounded his chest ridiculing the
Cowboys for the Herschel Walker Trade and congratulating the Vikings for pulling
off such a slam-dunk heist: “It’s a textbook example of how the strong fleece
the weak in a blockbuster trade,” Galloway had declared.  “All they had to do
was find somebody dumb enough to fall for it.”

 

Thank goodness the
Cowboys were dumb enough.

 

Nineteen years later,
Galloway wrote, in the September 24, 2008
edition of the Fort Worth
Star-Telegram
: “What the Rangers will attempt to sell you for ’09 is
a strong farm system.  What can’t be sold is the idea any pitchers on the farm
will arrive ready to go before 2010, and even 2010 might be overly optimistic.” 

 

And two days after that:
“No one is re-inventing the game here.  Any good baseball man can attempt to
build through a minor league system.”

 

A familiar, hollow
Galloway theme.

 

And this: “The next
Arlington excuse for keeping Daniels will come next week when Baseball America names the Rangers’ farm
system as No. 1, or at least in the top three out of 30 clubs.  That’s nice, but
a good farm system can be judged only by how many major leaguers eventually
surface, and in this case, how many pitchers show up.  Prospects are nice.  But
the final verdict on prospects comes much later.”

 

Yes, Randy, it does.  In
some cases not as much later as others, though. 

 

In 2006, Texas drafted Chris Davis and Derek Holland out of junior
college, signing Davis that summer and Holland the following
spring as a draft-and-follow.  Two years later, Davis not only arrived in the big leagues but
served notice that he’s going to be a force for a long, long time.  Holland finished his first
full pro season in Class AA, and will probably show up right at the top of that
number one farm system in baseball when the industry lists come
out.

 

I wouldn’t expect
Galloway – or any other local columnist – to have known a year ago whether Derek
Holland was a Rangers farmhand or a linebacker who came over from the Vikings in
1989.  I wouldn’t expect Galloway to know today
who Martin Perez or Wilfredo Boscan are.  Or Michael
Main.

 

But he’s telling local
sports fans that building through the minor leagues is simple, if not
meaningless, in part I guess because the payoff isn’t immediate enough for
tomorrow’s column, or this afternoon’s throwaway talk show segment between
football rants.

 

Galloway chided the
Cowboys for trading the 27-year-old Walker for that “huge handful of Minnesota
smoke”: five players (linebackers Jesse Solomon and David Howard, corner Issiac
Holt, defensive end Alex Stewart, and tailback Darrin Nelson) and seven draft
picks – a first-rounder plus six conditional picks not only tied to the status
of the five players, but spread out over four drafts. 

 

With those picks, some
of which were packaged in trades for more draft picks, Dallas brought Emmitt
Smith and Darren Woodson aboard.  And Russell Maryland and Kevin Smith. 

 

And three Lombardi
Trophies.

 

Dumb
enough.

 

Now, the Rangers haven’t
won a Commissioner’s Trophy.  Or a playoff series.  Or, in the last nine
seasons, a playoff-clinching game.  But that’s not the
point.

 

The point is
this:

 

Jon Daniels made a
decision a month or two into the 2007 season to implement a plan.  A long-range,
methodical, disciplined, meticulous plan.  At the heart of the plan was a
commitment to building from within, a systematic approach centered on the
revitalization of the Rangers farm system and dedication to challenging young
players and giving them opportunities to succeed here. 

 

For all the outcry that
Galloway and others are encouraging, consider the
following:

 

1. Despite the decision
to trade Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagné, and Kenny Lofton (not to mention Eddie
Guardado) for much younger players, most of whom had not even reached AA when
acquired, the Rangers went from a 46-59 record (.438) at the July 31, 2007 trade
deadline to a 29-28 mark (.509) the rest of that season, and were better overall
in 2008 (79-83) than in 2007 (75-87) even though virtually every key member of
the 2008 pitching staff and starting lineup either missed a month or more, or
played through lingering injuries that probably should have sidelined them. 

 

Forget 2008’s extreme
valleys (April and August) and peaks (May through July) and look at the bottom
line.  Texas
got younger this year, and got better, and the club developed an identity of
resilience that should get only stronger going forward.  This is where the early
2007 plan was supposed to be all along.

 

2. The Rangers had the
league MVP over the first half (Josh Hamilton).  They had what was probably the
league MVP over the second half before he got hurt (Ian Kinsler).  They have a
young corner infielder with elite power (Chris Davis) and another on the way
(Justin Smoak).  They have two of the top 10 upper-level pitching prospects in
baseball.  They have four catchers with significant value, one or two of whom
are likely going to be moved at some point for pitching. 

 

Other than Gerald Laird,
all the above players are under club control for at least the next four
years.

 

3. As the 2007 season
got underway, the Rangers farm system was the 28th strongest out of 30,
according to Baseball America
Following that season, the system had vaulted to number four.  A year later, the
buzz is that Texas will be given BA’s number one or number
two tag this off-season.

 

“That’s nice,” Galloway
says, but consider this: Coming into 2008, the top two farm systems in baseball
according to BA belonged to Tampa
Bay and Colorado.  In 2007, Tampa Bay and
Boston.  In
2006, Arizona
and the Dodgers.  In 2005, the Angels and Dodgers.  In 2004, Milwaukee and the Dodgers. 

 

Notice anything about
those teams?

 

While BA has yet to
reveal its Organization of the Year, the publication has already issued 2008 Top
20 Prospects lists for each of the minor leagues, from AAA down to the
rookie-level circuits.  Oakland and Atlanta tied Texas for the most players (14 each) on the
various league lists (and several obvious winners were left off because they
lacked innings or at-bats because of promotions).  Looking solely at the top 10
players in each ranking, Texas had 11 players
show up; San
Francisco was next with eight.  Focusing only on each
league’s top five, Texas had five, while
Oakland and Florida had four
each.

 

4. While not as
important as the improvement in Arlington and the depth of prospects on the
farm, Rangers minor league clubs won a lot in 2008.  Despite aggressive roster
turnover throughout the system, four of six affiliates reached the playoffs
(five of seven if you count the organization’s primary Dominican Summer League
entry), and collectively the seven clubs went 431-331 (.566). 

 

Winning helps build
winners. 

 

5. Scouting director Ron
Hopkins and his team of crosscheckers and area scouts are cooking, and have been
since before the 2007 plan was launched: Taylor Teagarden, German Duran, Doug
Mathis, Renny Osuna, Johnny Whittleman, John Mayberry Jr., and Steve Murphy in
2005.  Chris Davis, Derek Holland, Kasey Kiker, Danny Ray Herrera, Marcus Lemon,
Chad Tracy, Jake Brigham, and Brennan Garr in 2006.  Michael Main, Julio Borbon,
Neil Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Tommy Hunter, Matt West, Jared Hyatt, Evan Reed,
Kyle Ocampo, Andrew Laughter, Mitch Moreland, Tim Smith, Josh Lueke, and Ryan
Falcon in 2007.  Justin Smoak, Robbie Ross, Tim Murphy, Joe Wieland, Corey
Young, Clark Murphy, Mike Bianucci, Joey Butler, Jared Bolden, and Matt Thompson
in 2008.

 

6. The Rangers hired
A.J. Preller and Don Welke away from the Dodgers after the 2004 season (and
brought Welke back in 2007 after he left to work with longtime associate Pat
Gillick in Philadelphia in 2006).  Their impact on the
long-term plan cannot be overstated.  Not only are they overseeing the
franchise’s significant resurgence in Latin America, most of which is on the
pitching front, but their familiarity with kids like Neftali Feliz and Engel
Beltre from their amateur days meant that when it came time to close the July
2007 trade deadline deals with Atlanta and Boston, the Rangers were going on far
more than 66.1 pro innings or 125 relatively underwhelming at-bats when they
insisted on those two teenagers.  Preller and Welke knew the players, knew their
upside, knew their character, probably knew their
families.

 

7. A plan put in place
in 2008 by the organization as a whole, steered by Nolan Ryan and executed by
Rick Adair and the Rangers’ minor league pitching coaches, saw a significant
number of starting pitchers challenged with heavier workloads and multiple
in-season promotions.  By and large, the pitchers responded well.  In some
cases, extremely well.

 

8. And then there are
those July 2007 trades. 

 

If Dallas hadn’t traded
Herschel Walker, there’s probably no Emmitt Smith and no Darren Woodson and no
stretch of Super Bowl dominance. 

 

If Texas hadn’t traded
Mark Teixeira, he finishes the 2007 and 2008 seasons here, and even with the
production he would have given this club, it wouldn’t have been enough to close
the 16-game deficit in the Wild Card chase or the 21-game gap in the division
this year, or the 19-game deficit in both races in 2007.  Texas would have gotten
two 2009 draft picks for him, one likely in the late first round and another in
the supplemental first.  Instead, we have Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz,
Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones.  Four will play in the big leagues,
possibly five, and two or three could star.  And if Texas hadn’t traded
Teixeira, we wouldn’t yet know whether Chris Davis could play at the big league
level.

 

If Texas hadn’t traded Eric Gagné, he finishes the 2007
season here, and (especially if he limped down the stretch as he did in
Boston), we
probably let him go for nothing.  Even if we offered him arbitration, however,
as the Red Sox did, the compensation for the Type B reliever would have been one
supplemental first-round pick this past June.  Boston used its compensatory pick
(45th overall) to take Rice righthander Bryan Price, and signed him
for $849,000.  Instead, we have David Murphy (whom Boston paid $1.525 million to sign), Engel Beltre (whom
Boston paid
$600,000 to sign), and Kason Gabbard. 

 

If Texas hadn’t traded Kenny
Lofton, he finishes the 2007 season here, and we let him go for nothing. 
Instead, we have Max Ramirez.

 

Randy, you do realize
that flipping Teixeira, Gagné, and Lofton for nine young players last summer
rather than recouping three draft picks for losing them actually accelerated the process by years. 

 

You do realize that. 
Right?

 

And that would have been
true even if only one or two of the players acquired took steps forward in
2008.  In actuality, eight of the nine (Gabbard being the lone exception) did
so.

 

Yes, the 2006 John Danks
trade looks awful right now.  There’s no getting around
that.

 

And Jimmy Johnson
forfeited the first pick in the entire 1990 draft by taking Steve Walsh in the
1989 supplemental draft.  With Troy Aikman already in place. 

 

Repeating your words of
warning to the fans a week ago: “What the Rangers will attempt to sell you for
’09 is a strong farm system.  What can’t be sold is the idea any pitchers on the
farm will arrive ready to go before 2010, and even 2010 might be overly
optimistic.” 

 

Don’t tell ESPN’s Keith
Law it can’t be sold, Randy.  In a piece he wrote this week about Holland, the
lefthander who signed out of junior college in 2007 but will probably be in
Rangers Ballpark before the next time you are, Law said this about the pitcher,
and the company he keeps: “Holland is so polished and has been so dominant that
he might appear in the majors by mid-2009, but that just puts him in the vanguard of the strongest
and deepest crop of pitching prospects of any organization in the game,
something that is to the credit not just of general manager Jon Daniels but his
amateur and international scouting staffs as
well.

 

And the system’s
pitching instructors.

 

This long-term plan
doesn’t work without continuity.  Continuity in guidance, and in
execution.

 

Galloway, now 10 years
into a Star-Telegram stint that
followed 32 years with the Morning
News
, said when he changed papers that the Morning News was uncomfortable with, even
scared of, his penchant for infuriating its customer base.  The folks at the
Morning News “don’t like angry
readers,” said the self-proclaimed iconoclast in an October 1998 D Magazine article about his departure for
what was at the time the largest contract ever paid to a newspaper writer in
this market.  “And boy, I could make them angry.”

 

Isn’t that basically
what this, like so many other Galloway themes,
boils down to?  He wants to make you angry.

 

The great Blackie
Sherrod, who penned the Morning
News
counterpoint alongside Galloway’s column on the Herschel Walker Trade, offered
this: “So, the humble suggestion here is that the Jaybirds had to trade Mr. Walker – the sooner the
better or watch his value decrease and, in the case of injury, vanish
altogether.  Whether they made a profit will not be immediately apparent.  Like
one detective said to the other on a stakeout: Might as well loosen our belts
and get comfortable.  We’re gonna be here awhile.”

 

Yep.

 

Jon Daniels was smart to
trade Mark Teixeira when he did.  He was smart to trade Eric Gagné and Kenny
Lofton when he did.  Time will tell whether that trio of deals will collectively
be his Herschel Walker Trade.  Still, however popular or unpopular those moves
were at the time, they were made out of a commitment to a long-range plan, a
plan that is working not only because those tough decisions were made, but also
because the Rangers have a general manager and a baseball operations crew and a
team of pro scouts (not to mention amateur scouts) and minor league coaches and
instructors in place who are talented at spotting young talent, and developing
it. 

 

As Sherrod said, we’re
gonna be here awhile. 

 

That is, it may very
well take a while for this plan to play out all the way.  There’s still plenty
of work to be done.  But if it continues to work the way it has the last 18
months, the idea is not just that the Rangers will contend again, but that when
that time comes, we’re gonna be here
awhile
.

 

That’s not good enough
for Galloway (whose Herschel-to-the-Vikings column featured the after-jump
headline “Cowboys wear smiles now, but they blew Walker deal”), who will surely
write another version or two of the same column before December’s Winter
Meetings, suggesting as he did last week that “Nolan Ryan blundered . . . by
keeping the GM and the manager for next season.” 

 

He’ll roll the same
stuff out again, hoping to make you angry, declaring as he did in 1989 that the
weak are getting fleeced by the strong, only he had it backwards 19 years ago,
and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he’s got it backwards again.  We’ll
call roll in a year, or two, maybe three, and check to see who is doing the
beaming and gloating.

 

The right people are in
place in Arlington, making the decisions that, for the
last year and a half, have had this franchise on track to being good again. 
Contrary to what Randy Galloway would have your friends and co-workers
believe.

 

Steal a Galloway line and suggest to them one thing:

 

Hear him out if you
must.

 

But don’t be dumb enough
to fall for it.


 

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

 

More BA honors.

Baseball America has
revealed its 2008 Classification All-Stars, recognizing minor league baseball’s
best performances from this season for each of the six levels (AAA, AA, High
Class A, Low Class A, Short-Season, and Rookie). 

 

Lefthander Derek
Holland and righthander Neftali Feliz both show up on the four-man Low Class A rotation,
and righthander Wilfredo Boscan makes the four-man Short-Season rotation.  Texas joins Tampa Bay
and San Francisco
as the only franchises with three starting pitchers honored from the total of
24.

 

Righthander
Dexter Carter, the Rangers’ unsigned 12th-round pick from 2005,
landed on the Rookie level squad, after going 6-1, 2.23 for the White Sox’s Great Falls club this
summer.

 

Also, the
publishers of Josh Hamilton’s new book, “Beyond Belief,” have sent me a copy to
read and review, which I will do soon, and they are also giving me five copies
to give away to the Newberg Report community. 
(The book’s publication date is October 14.)  I haven’t decided how to award the free
copies, but am open to your suggestions.

Notebook dump.

The reports have been slow lately, due to a combination of things:

1. Been out of town a bunch lately.

2. Heavy into work on the 10th Bound Edition.

3. Not a whole lot of Rangers news at the moment.

4. The notebook where I stash things to discuss is pretty thin at the moment, with the exception of a couple big issues, which (partly because of 1 through 3) I haven’t had the time to get to yet.

So for now, a couple notes that would generally fall near the end of a full-scale report (“emptying out the notebook,” as it’s become fashionable to say):

One local reporter wrote last week that Andy Hawkins, who served as Rangers pitching coach for the final two months of the season, “likely will end up as the bullpen coach.”  I’m not here to report it as fact.  I merely pass the note along.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, in a note regarding the decision facing the Royals on whether to trade righthander Zack Greinke, reports that Texas “made a big offer for him before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.”  According to Rosenthal, Kansas City says it won’t move Greinke unless overwhelmed.

Some have speculated that Arizona assistant general manager Peter Woodfork could be a candidate for Seattle’s general manager job.  Woodfork was a finalist for the assistant general manager position here that went to Thad Levine.

The Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association re-acquired lefthander Joel Kirsten from the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League, and the American Association’s Grand Prairie AirHogs re-acquired infielder David Espinosa from the Atlantic League’s Camden Riversharks.  The excellent part is that the Cats and AirHogs had sent Kirsten and Espinosa to the Patriots and Riversharks for players to be named later just last month.  Love the indie leagues.

If you need more of a team-centric fix right now, you owe it to yourself to go read Mike Hindman’s Q&A with Rangers minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair and Part I of Jason Parks’s observations from his time in Surprise to take in a few days of the organization’s Fall Instructional League program

Both are well worth any Rangers fan’s time.

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

Jake Peavy? Don't count on it.

I’m on a lunch break at a seminar, so this one will be quick.

There are reports that San Diego, which lost 99 games this year, may check around to see what the trade market for Jake Peavy is.

You can absolutely bet that the Padres, who could use help just about everywhere other than first base, will have Texas on their list, to the extent that they’re really open to the idea of trading Peavy, one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Don’t get too excited.

For all I know, Peavy, reportedly frustrated with San Diego management, would waive his full no-trade clause (which lasts through 2010) to come to Texas, but that’s not the issue.  

He’s signed to a relatively appropriate contract ($8 million in 2009, $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011, $17 million in 2012, and $22 million in 2013 [or a $4 million buyout]), and at age 27 he should be in his prime throughout the deal.  So that’s not the holdup.

The reason I don’t think there’s any sense in getting hopes up is that the Padres are going to want someone like Ian Kinsler or Josh Hamilton or Chris Davis (if they like him at third base) to key the deal, along with Derek Holland or Neftali Feliz, and then probably Elvis Andrus or Taylor Teagarden.  And then another pitching prospect or two.

They should ask for that.  Peavy is a proven number one.

For me, the better plan, if the idea is to go get someone who can step in immediately to front your rotation, is to give up less than that for Matt Cain ($13.15 million for the next three years, assuming the 2011 club option is exercised) or Zack Greinke (two arbitration years remaining).  The two 24-year-olds are not at Peavy’s level, but when Peavy was their age he wasn’t quite was he is today, either.

If Cain were to come here now and justify Peavy money after the 2009 and 2010 and 2011 seasons, then we’ll be glad to pay it.

If Greinke were to come here and put himself in that sort of position after the next two years, nobody will complain.

There are plenty of other pitchers that could be in the Rangers’ trade sights (Boston, Florida, Cincinnati, and Tampa Bay have some possibilities, and the Giants have Jonathan Sanchez as well), but if you’re thinking as big as Peavy, I’d suggest it might make more sense to focus instead on Cain or Greinke, whose teams should be in similar restocking modes to the one that San Diego is apparently thinking about.

At least one local report suggests the Rangers have identified their top candidates to fill out the big league coaching staff, and interviews could begin next week.

One potential candidate for pitching coach is no longer available, as Toronto has signed Brad Arnsberg to a two-year extension to stay.

Back to the seminar.

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

Roster adjustments.

The Rangers have gotten four pitchers through league-wide waivers and have outrighted each off of the 40-man roster: lefthanders A.J. Murray, John Rheinecker, and Bill White, and righthander Brian Gordon.  Based on service time, all four pitchers will become minor league free agents five days after the World Series ends.

The moves bring the roster down to 38 players (Murray and Rheinecker had been on the 60-day disabled list and thus did not count against the 40-man roster).

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