November 2008

An inspired, inspiring hire.

For
all their flaws, I used to love to listen to Buck Showalter and Bill Parcells
and Don Nelson talk shop.  I always felt
a little smarter about the game after listening to Showalter conduct his daily
pregame discussion with Eric Nadel, to Parcells deliver his daily training camp
briefing, to Nellie kick back for his weekly radio segment with Norm Hitzges.

 

There
are a couple lawyers I’ve worked with whose advice and whose critique I always depended
on, whose judgment and perspective made me a better lawyer, whether by
intention or by osmosis.  (One’s name is
on the ballot for Dallas County District Judge in the morning.)

 

I
have several friends whom I count on to tell me when I’ve got it all wrong, and
who know that.

 

I
had the chance to listen to Mike Maddux for about 20 minutes tonight, talking
about the job he just accepted, the challenges he’s eager to take on and how he
plans to confront them, the things that made this organization and this
opportunity so appealing for him.

 

And
man, my day has come and gone, but I want
to pitch for that guy
.

 

I
couldn’t be more excited about this hire.

 

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

Mike Maddux: A huge deal.

If Mike Maddux is in fact on the verge of being announced as the Texas Rangers’ new pitching coach, you have to wonder what would have happened had Milwaukee named Ken Macha as its new manager before the World Series — or if the weather had cooperated and the Series had ended on Monday rather than Wednesday.

The league discourages major personnel announcements during the Series, but if Game Five had finished on the 27th rather than the 29th, and Macha was announced on the 28th rather than the 30th, would Maddux have felt more pressure to give Doug Melvin his decision before his Brewers contract expired on the 31st?  Could that rain delay have worked in the Rangers’ favor?

Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last night that Texas has “overwhelmed [Maddux] with a huge deal” that dwarfed the multi-year contract the Brewers had offered him, and that Maddux couldn’t afford to turn the Rangers down.  No terms were even guessed at in the story, but Melvin said “he’s probably going to be one of the top-paid pitching coaches” in baseball.

The younger brother of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, Mike pitched the final game of his 15-year big league career on July 4, 2000, pitching the sixth and seventh innings of a 10-4 Astros loss to Arizona (for whom rookie Vicente Padilla pitched the eighth).  Houston released him the next day.  He retired a week after that.  

And then came a move that probably led to this day.  Maddux had barely cleared his Houston locker out when he agreed to take a job as the pitching coach for the organization’s AA affiliate, the Round Rock Express.

Which was owned by Nolan Ryan.

And managed by Jackie Moore.

The reputation that Maddux has secured for himself after three seasons in Round Rock and six in Milwaukee speaks for itself.  He’s known for a calm, cerebral approach and an ability to get the best out of his pitchers.  For his emphasis on preparation and pitch sequencing.  For his work with young arms, which was obviously a key aspect of the job description here going forward.  

And for his results.  In his six seasons coaching in Milwaukee, the Brewers staff had a 4.39 ERA, including a 3.87 ERA in 2008, second best in the National League.  The Rangers’ ERA over the same span has been 4.98, including last year’s 5.97, baseball’s worst.

Of course, you don’t chalk a disparity like that up to the pitching coach alone.  The two clubs have run completely different sets of pitchers out to the mound.

But the Rangers and Maddux-coached Brewers had Doug Davis in common, for example.  Davis went 21-21, 5.09 in five Rangers seasons.  Picked up by Milwaukee in 2003 — Maddux’s first season there — after both Texas and Toronto had given up on him, Davis went 37-36, 3.92 in four Brewers seasons.  It was under Maddux’s watch that Davis established himself as a big league starting pitcher.

Also in his first year with the Brewers, Maddux took Danny Kolb, whom Texas had let go after he’d compiled a 5.01 ERA in parts of four frustrating seasons as a Ranger, and in his first year with Milwaukee he posted a 1.96 ERA and became the Brewers’ closer.  The following year he had a 2.98 ERA and made the All-Star Team.  Traded to Atlanta, Kolb saw his ERA balloon back up to 5.93.  

Francisco Cordero was awful in his final Rangers season, posting a 4.81 ERA, the worst of his career since his rookie campaign six years earlier.  Traded that summer to Milwaukee, he put up an ERA the rest of the way of 1.69, a career best.  

After pitching himself out of the big leagues in 2003, Rick Helling resurfaced with Milwaukee in 2005, and under Maddux’s tutelage he unleashed a new cut fastball and posted a 2.39 ERA in seven starts and eight relief appearances.

But more to the point is the work Maddux has done with young starters Yovanni Gallardo and Manny Parra, and Ben Sheets and Davis and Chris Capuano before them.

Will this make it more likely that free agents C.C. Sabathia or Sheets (a Dallasite) could end up in Texas?  Sabathia: No.  Sheets: Maybe, but still a longshot.

Are the Brewers still interested in Gerald Laird, as they reportedly were in July?  And if so, how if at all does Maddux’s arrival impact what pitcher we’d be willing to take back?

Will this mean that Milwaukee could now hire Rick Peterson, who had seemingly been the pitching coach frontrunner here, given Macha and Peterson’s time together — with Ron Washington — in Oakland?  Would seem to make sense, though the Journal Sentinel identifies Brewers bullpen coach Bill Castro as the leading internal candidate for the job and suggests that Macha’s first choice if given the opportunity to bring someone in from the outside would be Chuck Hernandez, recently dismissed by Detroit as its pitching coach.

But those questions are less important than how Maddux might get through to Brandon McCarthy and Matt Harrison, Eric Hurley and Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz and Martin Perez, Matt Cain or Zack Greinke or Clay Buchholz or Homer Bailey or Insert Name of Other Winter Acquisition Here.  How well he’ll mesh with Washington (who reportedly recommended Peterson) and Andy Hawkins (or whoever the bullpen coach will be).  How closely his pitching philosophies fit with those of Nolan Ryan and Rick Adair.

If Maddux can be to a Rangers pitcher or two each year what Rudy Jaramillo has been to Mark DeRosa and Gary Matthews Jr. and Marlon Byrd and David Murphy, then whatever the “huge deal” from Texas was that has apparently “overwhelmed” the 47-year-old will be considered a steal.  And I say that without having any idea what Maddux will be paid.

This is another step in the right direction, an aggressive move to get better on the mound, which we all know amounts to an aggressive move to get better, period.

=========================

ADDENDUM: Well, at least I know you all are reading.  Many of you have correctly pointed out that I decided for some reason this morning to identify Mike Maddux as the younger brother of Greg Maddux, which of course is a mistake.  Yes, they are brothers.  But Mike is five years older.

(Trivia: Both debuted in the big leagues in 1986, Mike three months before Greg.  They faced each other as opposing starting pitchers on September 29 of that season, with Greg earning his second big league victory and Mike his seventh big league loss in an 8-3 Cubs win over the Phillies.  Neither struck the other out.  Mike flew to right in his lone at-bat; Greg sacrifice-bunted Shawon Dunston to second base in the one at-bat he had before Mike got chased.)

Because Justin Smoak wasn’t getting adequate playing time as a member of the Surprise Rafters’ Arizona Fall League taxi squad (eligible to play only on Wednesdays and Saturdays), he has been reassigned to the league’s Peoria Javelinas roster.  Since the move, Smoak is 5 for 15 with a home run and a double.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated predicts landing spots for dozens of free agents, suggesting that Texas will sign Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez for five years and $75 million.

Doubt it. 

But then again, I’m the guy who told you a few hours ago that Mike Maddux is Greg’s younger brother.

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

Maddux on the way?

One local report and another out of Milwaukee indicate tonight that the Rangers will name Mike Maddux as their new pitching coach, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, according to Brewers general manager Doug Melvin as well as another unnamed source.  

More in the next Newberg Report, particularly if and when anything official is confirmed by the Rangers.

Unsalted.

Based on what baseball sources are telling reporters and what reporters are telling us, San Francisco and Seattle have shown some interest in Hank Blalock, but the Giants probably wouldn’t entertain moving Matt Cain or Jonathan Sanchez to Texas unless Chris Davis were involved; the Rangers have asked Florida about lefthander Scott Olsen but don’t appear to be willing to give Jarrod Saltalamacchia up for him, at least not straight up; Texas might also have interest in Marlins reliever Kevin Gregg but that could depend on who the Rangers’ pitching coach hire is; Tampa Bay would probably want David Murphy if the Rangers were interested in Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine; and Cincinnati needs a catcher and might be willing to discuss Homer Bailey.

Lots of appetizers, each needing a dash of salt.  The GM Meetings start on Monday, and that’s when we might see some things come into sharper focus.

Still no word on what pitching coach candidate Mike Maddux wants to do.  He’s a free agent as of today, and Milwaukee doesn’t want him to leave.

According to the Elias rankings, which came out yesterday, Josh Hamilton was the number four outfielder in the American League, but remember that the formula is based on two seasons of statistics rather than one, which also helps explain why Ian Kinsler was only the number four second baseman in the American League.  Michael Young, on the other hand, was ranked not only as the top shortstop in the league but number one overall in the big leagues.

Type B’s included not only free agent Milton Bradley and the soon-to-be-contracted Blalock, but Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Frankie Francisco, C.J. Wilson, and Marlon Byrd as well.

The Dodgers have named Damon Berryhill manager of their short-season A Pioneer League affiliate in Ogden, Utah.  Berryhill managed the Rangers’ Bakersfield squad in 2008 after three seasons as the organization’s roving catching coordinator.  The Dodgers also named Carlos Subero manager at High A Inland Empire and Aaron Sele minor league pitching instructor, and promoted Mike Brumley from Ogden manager to organizational field coordinator.  

Houston promoted scouting director Bobby Heck to assistant general manager/scouting.  

Boston claimed righthander Virgil Vasquez off waivers from Detroit.

Asked in a chat session yesterday to identify the franchise who has had the best combination of draft and international signings over the last two years, Baseball America editor in chief John Manuel responded: “Texas stands out here, by quite a bit.”

If you were to make a list of every free agent going into the next season, ranking them from most likely acquisition to least, I’d say Brad Johnson would be the very last name on the Cowboys’ list, and Ken Griffey Jr. would be on the bottom for the Rangers.

Reminder on the current 2009 Bound Edition specials:

1. If you pay for the book by November 15, the price of the 2009 Bound Edition is reduced from $25 to $23.

2. A gift set of all ten Bound Editions is $125, which is a $35 discount.

3. If you buy at least two 2009 books, I’ll throw in a free copy of a previous year’s edition, your choice.

More details on the book (including a PayPal shortcut) here

Have a great weekend.

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

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