So what is there to
do as you sit imprisoned at home by this apocalyptic arctic blast (take a look
out that window: those sunny skies will help illuminate the paralyzing
conditions), cut off from civilization by your local telecast’s warnings of
devastation and imminent doom? A few
Pop over to http://www.BBTIA.com, where Professor Jason Parks has an excellent interview
up with four of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects, each of whom participated
in last week’s pitching mini-camp at Rangers Ballpark. No matter how much of a Kasey Kiker fan you
are, you’re about to become more of one.
Be thankful that the mini-camp took place last week rather than this week, when
this wintry mix might not only have cut into the work the 19 pitchers could get
done, but also could have threatened extended disabled list time, if not prompted
thoughts of retirement.
Be thankful that the Rangers’ front office team made plans to jet to the Dominican Republic
yesterday, rather than today. (Though
isn’t Nolan Ryan supposed to return to Texas
today? His flight might need to be
rerouted to Poughkeepsie.)
By the way, today is BBTIA founder (and severe weather hound) Joey Matschulat’s
22nd birthday. The fact that
it’s marked by today’s cataclysmic weather event is akin, in my case, to those
frequent years in which the Rangers’ spring training Cactus League schedule kicks
off on March 3rd.
Want to see where everyone has Rangers prospects ranked this off-season, from
respected publications to national writers who know what they’re talking about
to the bloggers here in town who spend time writing about the organization’s
minor leagues? Scott Lucas has gathered
the data in one place: http://rangers.scottlucas.com/site/09prospects.htm. (There’s also a link on that page to the 2008
chart, where you can see how many of the 10 entrants had Chris Davis at number
one at this time last year.)
Ask yourself if you’d start unpacking today if you were former Rangers draft
pick Virgil Vasquez, who – since the season ended – has been designated for assignment
by Detroit, claimed by Boston, designated for assignment by Boston, claimed by San
Diego, designated for assignment by San Diego, and claimed by Pittsburgh. The strangest part? The righthander still has an option.
Fire off a note of congrats to former Rangers righthanders Tanyon Sturtze and
Jason Standridge, who scored minor league deals with the Dodgers and Marlins,
and outfielder Ruddy Yan, who got one with the Rockies.
The Brewers are out on Oliver Perez. The
Mets appear to be getting closer to a deal with the lefthander. Andy Pettitte is a Yankee, Jon Garland is
about to be a Diamondback. Ben Sheets,
if you can hear me through the lack of precipitation: Go read Jason’s mini-camp
interview on BBTIA. Remind yourself how
much you’ll miss Mike Maddux if you sign with anyone other than your hometown
Hey, it’s a great day to keep emailing me your questions about the Rangers farm
system for our first Prospect Q&A. I’ll
take questions until Friday and post my answers sometime next week – assuming my
brain thaws out and I regain feeling in my extremities.
Those suggestions in
several local stories that a Ben Sheets deal could happen today are evidently
based on the fact that Jon Daniels and some of his high-end executives leave
tomorrow for their annual visit to the club’s Dominican
Whether Texas has made a concrete
offer to Sheets or not, I still don’t see him signing before the Mets and
Yankees take themselves out of the mix by signing Oliver Perez and Andy
And I think the Rangers’
cell phones probably work from San Pedro de
I also suspect you can
get a flight back to North Texas, if necessary,
a day or two early.
There might even be
someone in the organization with access to a private
Keith Law followed up
his Top 100 Prospects feature for ESPN.com by pointing to players in each system
with the potential to move from off the 2009 list to a spot somewhere in the top
half of the 2010 rankings (as Neftali Feliz did from last year’s list to the
current one). Righthander Wilfredo Boscan is Law’s choice from the Texas system, with
lefthander Kasey Kiker also getting a mention.
Nick Cafardo of the
Boston Globe writes that even
though the Rangers haven’t backed off their insistence on Boston righthander Clay Buchholz, “Adam Melhuse signing
could be a signal that Taylor Teagarden or Jarrod Saltalamacchia are en route to
the Red Sox.”
Cafardo also reports
that Texas is
in on Eric Gagné.
Here’s Grant Schiller’s
of Friday night’s Sluggers of the West Awards Dinner and Saturday’s Fan
Eleanor Czajka has added
Scott Lucas’s photos from our Fan Fest autograph table to the Minor Details
Finally, you need to
excellent Prospect Q&A that Jason Parks of Baseball Time in Arlington posted a few
days ago, as he answered a bunch of prospect-related questions submitted by
And then allow me (as
Jason has) to shamelessly steal the idea, as I invite your questions about the
Rangers farm system or particular prospects for our own Prospect Q&A, which
I will post on the Newberg Report website and send out via email as well.
Just respond to this
email with any questions you have about the players who make up baseball’s
number one farm system. I’ll close questions on Friday, and sometime next week
I’ll post my answers – hopefully to all of them but, depending on the volume and
possible overlap of questions, I might not get to every one of them. If this
feature works out well, we may do it several times a
stood at the podium at Eddie Deen’s Friday night, making a cameo appearance to
the complete surprise of all but a small handful of the nearly 800 Rangers fans
in attendance. Among those who had no
idea Wells would be at the Sluggers of the West Awards Dinner that night was
his best friend, Michael Young, who sat stunned as Wells presented him, on
behalf of Major League Baseball’s players as a whole, the Marvin Miller Award
that Young won in October.
It was an
award that Young has said means as much to him as any he’s ever won, because it
comes from the players and because it honors both him and his wife, Cristina,
for the people they are and the priorities they place off the field. The Rangers’ first-class effort to sneak
Wells to the event to make the presentation?
some memorable moments Friday night, an event glued together by the genius
Chuck Morgan and the smooth Eric Nadel, from the impressive acceptance speech
of Derek Holland (Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year) and the
infectious enthusiasm of Jose Vallejo in receiving the club’s first Minor League
Defender of the Year award, to the comedy stylings of Gloria Barron and “Baby
Jim” Sundberg, and of the tag team of Richard Durrett and Chris Davis.
But the two
moments I’ll remember most were T.R. Sullivan’s powerful presentation of the
Player of the Year Award to Josh Hamilton (followed by Young, Ian Kinsler, and
David Murphy helping present Hamilton with the AL Players’ Choice Award), and
Wells honoring Young, on behalf of their peers.
things that Wells, Toronto’s first-rounder in 1997, said about Young, the Jays’
fifth-rounder the same year and his 1997 and 1998 and 1999 teammate and
roommate, was: “He’s the same guy. He’s
got a little more money now. But he’s
the same guy.”
morning I saw, along with hundreds of you, that same guy. Watching Young engage the fans the way he did
for a hour, you wouldn’t know if he was a kid who had just established himself
as a big league baseball player, or a veteran of five All-Star games with a
batting title and Gold Glove to his credit.
who has been through the most challenging off-season of his career, a situation
made worse by a crew of local columnists bent on spreading divisiveness.
same guy. Focused, humble, and always
zeroed in on his responsibilities, to family and to teammates and team and to
Rangers fans and his community.
thing about his career: With all that change, there’s all that stability.
leaguers followed Young at the Newberg Report tables at Fan Fest yesterday,
eight pitchers and a catcher, each spending an hour signing autographs and
meeting fans. First was a trio of
lefthanders, Michael Ballard, Holland,
and Kasey Kiker. Fellow southpaw Tim
Murphy joined big righties Blake Beavan and Andrew Laughter in the second
group. We finished with Neftali Feliz,
Michael Main, and Kevin Richardson.
quiet confidence they all share, but in different ways.
In Holland, you get this
funky naivete that lies somewhere between “Really? They’re saying that about me?” and “Hey, I haven’t done anything yet.”
it’s the smile that never relaxes, not the kind that says “I’ve touched 102 and
you haven’t” but more one that suggests he couldn’t be happier to be in this
organization, with these teammates, blessed with that talent and with that
future. (Exactly what Juan Dominguez
Kiker have an unmistakable swagger, but it’s not brash. It’s more Chris Davis than Buck
arrived in pro ball with a bit too much strut, has toned it down well – but
still knows he can beat you.
Main: Jason Witten. Quiet
but commanding presence.
Laughter have a very unassuming poise.
Easy to pull for guys like that.
there’s Richardson, the lone catcher in the bunch. He’s 28, closer in age to Young than to the
eight pitchers who joined us. An
undrafted player, flanked by first-rounders and blue-chippers. There’s a reason he’s been at Frisco or Oklahoma for the last
four seasons, catching this organization’s bright young pitching
prospects. The pitchers and the Rangers’
coaches and instructors deserve the most credit for the progress that the
system has made in pitching depth, but don’t overlook Richardson’s
contributions, part of which lies in the confidence he exudes and, I assume,
breeds in the pitchers he catches. He
will coach in this game one day, if he wants to.
There was a
really good vibe at the Ballpark yesterday, a current that sort of ran through
everything that was going on, a palpable energy despite temperatures that
topped out at 40 degrees lower than the day before (and still drew more than
5,000 people, up by 500 from last year).
You could see it in the players who are fired up that there’s something
really good building here, in the team officials who understand that it’s
moving in the right direction but there’s more work to be done, and in the fans
who know, despite what the columnists and talk show hosts are preaching to the
lowest common denominator, that much better times are around the corner. And we’re getting really close to that
Chuck Morgan, Taunee Taylor, Dale Petroskey, Sherry Flow, Rose Swenson,
Caroline James, Ashleigh Greathouse, and Karin Morris from the Rangers, Gavin
Spittle and Ben Rogers and Mike Ogulnick and Richie Whitt from 105.3 The Fan,
and of course my friends Eleanor Czakja and Scott Lucas. Eleanor has a couple dozen photos from
yesterday up at this link: http://picasaweb.google.com/EleanorCzajka/TheNewbergReportBootAtRangersFanFest2009#.
We’ll have more to share from Scott soon.
it’s worth pulling in the next few days for the Mets to get something done with
Oliver Perez, and for the Yankees to re-sign Andy Pettitte, because those two
things could significantly impact what the Rangers could look like right now
and over the next couple years.
But at the
same time there are a bunch of things already in place that we can feel really
good about going forward, and right at the center of that are the character and
stability of Michael Young, and the confidence that a wave of young Rangers
pitchers pack onto the obvious talent that they’re marching toward Arlington
Robb Nen went 7-4, 2.41 for Low A Gastonia in 1989, striking out 146 batters in
138.1 innings, which catapulted him from number eight in Baseball America‘s ranking of the Rangers’ top 10 prospects going
into that season all the way to the number two spot going into 1990.
troubles limited Nen to 80.1 innings in 1990, but he held the number two spot
on BA‘s Rangers list going into
1991. More arm troubles in 1991 resulted
in just 28 innings pitched that season, and he was off the list going into 1992
(when he managed only 25 innings pitched), ultimately traded in 1993 with
fellow fallen prospect Kurt Miller to Florida
for reluctant reliever Cris Carpenter.
Jovanny Cedeno, according to BA, was
the Rangers’ number nine prospect going into the 2000 season, coming off a
stateside debut in which he posted a 1.12 ERA in seven starts between the Gulf
Coast League and High A Charlotte, fanning 37 and walking five in 32.1 innings
of work. After a dazzling 11-4, 2.42
mark for Low A Savannah in 2000 (153 strikeouts, 53 walks, and one home run
allowed in 130 innings), Cedeno earned BA‘s
number two Rangers nod going into 2001.
was Cedeno’s last suggestion of the limitless ceiling he promised, as he was
limited by injury to 9.2 innings in 2001, five frames in 2002, and 32.2 innings
in 2003 before fading out of professional baseball – taking with him, just as
Nen had done when he couldn’t stay healthy, what at the time was a sizable
chunk of the organization’s minor league pitching hopes.
Nen first appeared on the Rangers’ top 10 ranking, he and Kevin Brown and
Darren Oliver were the only pitchers on the list. In the ensuing two years when Nen was the
team’s number two prospect (behind Juan Gonzalez in 1990 and Ivan Rodriguez in
1991), he was by far the system’s brightest pitching prospect, joined on the
top 10 list only by Brian Bohanon and Eric McCray in 1990 and by Dan Smith,
McCray, and Brian Romero in 1991.
Cedeno soared to number two, trailing only Carlos Pena, the other pitchers in
the Rangers’ top 10 were Joaquin Benoit (coming off arm trouble), Colby Lewis,
Aaron Myette, and Andy Pratt.
and Cedeno, who each landed a spot on BA‘s
top 100 prospects list one time (Nen was number 86 in 1991, Cedeno was number
65 in 2001), were huge losses because the Rangers, in those days (which can
essentially be restated as “at all times in franchise history”), had no more
than two or three legitimate pitching hopefuls coming up on the farm.
Eric Hurley was BA‘s number 68
prospect going into 2007, judged at the time to be the top prospect in the
Rangers organization. He was number 77
in 2008. Nen and Cedeno earned their
status with huge performances in Class A.
Hurley, on the other hand, was terrific at every level up to AA, and
good enough in AAA to earn a big league look at age 22.
yet Hurley isn’t on BA‘s list of the
Rangers’ top 10 prospects this off-season, nor ESPN’s. I have him at number 14 myself.
not to say Hurley isn’t every bit the prospect that Nen and Cedeno were. It’s just that in this system, not only the
deepest and most highly acclaimed Texas
has ever had but one that is heavier in pitching than anything else, he’s not
nearly as alone as Nen and Cedeno were.
shoulder injury is brutal news, for him and for the team and for the prospects
of his baseball future. Pitchers do come
back from arm surgeries, but recovery from rotator cuff tears and labrum frays isn’t
as predictable as it is in Tommy John cases.
He’s certainly young enough for us to hold out hope that his shoulder
will rehabilitate well and that, maybe two years from now, when he’ll still
just be 25, he’ll turn out to be what he was on his way to becoming.
the point of this discussion is that you can never have enough pitching
prospects, because some percentage of them will always have their careers
stalled due to injury like Nen, or Jason Isringhausen, if not effectively
derailed like Cedeno or Ben Kozlowski, or Mark Fidrych. (But there are bouncebacks, even from
shoulder surgeries – though they vary in severity: Curt Schilling, Chris
Carpenter, Jimmy Key, Orlando Hernandez, and Grant Balfour, to name a few. John Smoltz is about to try and join the
the removal of Nen or Cedeno from the mix due to injury probably would have
prompted BA or anyone else assessing
farm systems to drop Texas in the overall rankings at the time, the Hurley
injury, while it conceivably impacts the 2009 rotation picture (Jon Daniels
predicted a month ago that Hurley would win the number five spot coming out of
camp), doesn’t change the fact that BA
and ESPN each rank the Rangers farm system as baseball’s best at the moment (“far
and away the best” according to ESPN’s Keith Law).
back to 1990 (which is as far back as I can get data), Texas has had pitchers
land among the top 40 players on BA‘s
annual top 100 prospects list four times.
In 1992 and 1993, Miller (who been acquired from the Pirates late in the
1991 season) finished 14th and 11th. In
2000, Francisco Cordero (two months after he’d been acquired from Detroit) was number
29. In 2003, Lewis was number 32.
BA‘s 2009 list isn’t out
yet, but Law’s ESPN list is, and he has three Rangers pitchers in the top 40:
Neftali Feliz at number four, Derek Holland at number 21, and Martin Perez at
in a span of 19 years.
three at the moment.
incidentally, ranks the Rangers’ top 10 prospects as follows:
Justin Smoak, 1B (number 15 in baseball)
Elvis Andrus, SS (number 39 in baseball)
Michael Main, RHP (number 64 in baseball)
Taylor Teagarden, C (number 70 in baseball)
Max Ramirez, C (number 77 in baseball)
Julio Borbon, OF (number 85 in baseball)
Engel Beltre, OF
Hurley now out of the mix, the number five man could come from a competition
between Scott Feldman and Dustin Nippert, with Holland and Feliz and Luis Mendoza and Thomas
Diamond candidates as well, not to mention the possibility of a non-roster
addition like Jason Jennings.
that changes, of course, if Texas
signs Ben Sheets, which Peter Gammons suggested on ESPN Radio could be a
probability. One league official told
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports this week that Sheets’s market value might end up
somewhere in the range of $6-8 million for one year (possibly attaching a club
option for a second season), with significant workload incentives that could
push it past the $14 million level.
Sheets reportedly told the Mets he wanted two years at $18 million with an
option for a third year (that would surely include a sizable buyout). New York, on
the other hand, is apparently hoping the 30-year-old would take a deal not
unlike the one-year contract Boston
gave Brad Penny, which will pay a guaranteed $5 million and could escalate to
$8 million if he contributes 200 innings.
into the idea of bringing Sheets in here, but my concern about the idea that
he, like so many other free agents in this winter’s unusual market, might be
inclined to take a heavily incentivized one-year contract so he can hit the
market again next off-season is that Arlington may not be a place that a
starting pitcher would choose for a one-year audition in front of the league,
particularly a year before contention seems more like a solid bet for this
adds that the Rangers have zero interest in Oliver Perez. He’s one of my favorite pitchers to watch,
but even I’ll admit he’d be a bad fit here, given his inconsistency even in
pitchers’ parks and his flyball tendencies.
Benson throws for Texas
and a host of other clubs tomorrow.
Texas will unveil new home,
road, and alternate uniforms at 11:30 this morning.
Vizquel’s non-roster deal converts to a $1 million contract (plus incentives)
if he makes the team. San Francisco paid him $300,000 this winter
to buy him out of a $5.2 million club option.
a smart move, from so many angles.
Dependable glove should Andrus need a little more seasoning on the
farm. Off-the-charts makeup, a surefire
mentor for Andrus not only on shortstop play but preparation and mindset and
big league responsibility. A teacher that
allows Michael Young to concentrate on his crash course at third base rather
than worrying about bringing Andrus along (which of course he’ll still do to an
extent). A future coach at the end of a
long, illustrious, potential Hall of Fame career who is motivated to work with
young players. Inexpensive, and potentially
versatile; the 11-time Gold Glove shortstop has virtually no experience
anywhere else (nobody has played more games at shortstop in major league
history) but he’s prepared to add second base and third base to his repertoire
– though of course Young and Ian Kinsler almost never rest, so the ability to
play second and third is essentially just an emergency need.
another way, the key for this team’s utility infielder at this point is to be
able to play a solid shortstop. The
Rangers have filled that role well.
Ryan will be featured on Fox Sports Southwest’s 30-minute program “In His Own
Words” at 10 p.m. Sunday night.
Aaron Thompson whom BA recently
reported that Texas
signed to a minor league deal is an Australian teenaged righthander with no pro
San Diego is the latest club to
designate righthander Virgil Vasquez for assignment.
Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League signed righthander Bear Bay.
will send a separate email out later this morning detailing autograph, Q&A,
and clinic times for tomorrow’s FanFest festivities at Rangers Ballpark. See you tomorrow, if not tonight at the
this in tomorrow’s Newberg Report, but following Baseball America‘s confirmation last week that it will anoint the
Rangers’ farm system as the best in baseball, ESPN has now done the same.
In a pair
of features for ESPN.com, Scouts Inc.’s Keith Law has called the Rangers’ minor
league talent the best in the league (“The Rangers have far and away the best
farm system in the game right now . . . the wave of arms coming through Texas
over the next five years will give the Rangers the best chance in their history
to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs”) and has included the following
players in his ranking of baseball’s top 100 prospects:
4. Neftali Feliz, RHP (number two pitcher,
behind Tampa Bay lefthander David Price)
15. Justin Smoak, 1B (number two first baseman, behind
21. Derek Holland, LHP (number four lefthander)
37. Martin Perez, LHP ((Pedro Alvarez, the second
overall pick in the 2008 draft, is number 38)
39. Elvis Andrus, SS (number four shortstop)
64. Michael Main, RHP
70. Taylor Teagarden, C (number five catcher)
77. Max Ramirez, C (number seven catcher)
85. Julio Borbon, OF
More in tomorrow’s
According to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, Ben Sheets has
reportedly asked the Mets for two guaranteed seasons for something in the
neighborhood of $18 million, with a third-year option. Verducci thinks that New
York, on the other hand, is thinking more along the lines of the
one-year, $5 million, heavily incentivized deal Boston gave Brad Penny. Big gap.
At this point, if Texas were to sign Sheets (or any other Type A free
agent), the second-round pick the club would forfeit would sit at number 56 -
and it could end up being as late as pick number 69. The players that Texas has chosen in that range this decade
include Robbie Ross, Johnny Whittleman, K.C. Herren, Jason Bourgeois, and Randy
Marlon Byrd, the Rangers’ lone remaining arbitration-eligible, has
submitted an arbitration figure of $3.6 million, while the club has submitted a
$2.7 million figure. Expect a settlement
of $3.15 or $3.2 million, maybe with some plate appearance incentives that
would kick it to the latter number, or slightly higher.
C.J. Wilson’s deal is for $1.85 million, with incentives tacked on.
Detroit avoided arbitration with Gerald Laird by settling for $2.8 million.
Brandon McCarthy, who stands 6’7″, has reportedly increased his weight
(intentionally) from 195 pounds to 220 pounds, thanks to a daily 7,000-calorie
diet. He says he’s healthy.
Thomas Diamond proclaimed his health as well.
In his 2009 Baseball Prospect Book, which should be released soon, John
Sickels has the following Rangers among his top 50 hitting prospects and top 50
pitching prospects in the game:
Top 50 Hitting Prospects
10. Justin Smoak, 1B (only one
first baseman [Boston’s Lars Anderson] is ranked higher; Cincinnati’s Yonder
Alonso, drafted four spots before Smoak in June, was number 30 on Sickels’s
list; catcher Jason Castro, chosen immediately before Smoak on Draft Day, is
nowhere to be found – in fact, there’s not one Houston Astro on either top 50
11. Elvis Andrus, SS (number one
shortstop in the rankings)
39. Taylor Teagarden, C (number
42. Max Ramirez, C-1B (I’ll say it
again; I have Ramirez as number eight overall in the Rangers system – but there
are probably several organization’s for whom he’d be number one)
48. Julio Borbon, OF
Top 50 Pitching Prospects
2. Neftali Feliz, RHP (behind
October hero David Price)
12. Derek Holland, LHP (Sickels has Oakland
righthander Trevor Cahill and lefthander Brett Anderson 4th and 6th)
32. Michael Main, RHP
Ramirez is one of six catchers assigned to Venezuela’s provisional roster for
the World Baseball Classic. The other
five (Dioner Navarro, Ramon Hernandez, Humberto Quintero, Henry Blanco, and
Pablo Sandoval [who like Ramirez is more of a bat and could figure in at an
infield corner for the Giants]) all have more big league experience than
Ramirez, who I’d just assume see in Rangers camp from start to finish.
Particularly if Texas
trades Hank Blalock, as Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune suggests is still
something the club is trying to do.
Should that happen, Ramirez could figure in as the Rangers’ designated
hitter, perhaps in a shared arrangement at the outset with Frank Catalanotto
(who, incidentally, is the only other Rangers player on a provisional WBC
roster, slated to join Team Italy
as he did in 2006).
Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports that Florida continues to show interest in Ramirez
as a catcher, particularly now that its effort to sign Gregg Zaun fell short.
Texas signed veteran catcher Adam Melhuse to a minor league deal for the
second straight January (after trading for him in June 2007). He’ll likely mentor Ramirez behind the plate
at AAA, though if Texas were to trade Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Melhuse could find
himself as Taylor Teagarden’s backup in Arlington.
According to Baseball America, Texas released outfielder Victor Barrios,
who didn’t play in 2008 after a solid 2006 rookie season in the Arizona League
and a disappointing 2007 in the Northwest League. BA also reports the minor league signing of a
righthander named Aaron Thompson. It’s
not the lefthander that the Marlins took in the first round in 2005 out of a Houston high school. I have no idea who it is.
Rangers released details about individual-game ticket prices, national
television appearances, and the promotional schedule for 2009. You can find it all here: http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090120&content_id=3751657&vkey=news_tex&fext=.jsp&c_id=tex
now listen to the latest episode of Rangers Podcast in Arlington at http://rangerspodcast.blogspot.com
or at http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=277027197. Evan Grant
of the Dallas Morning News joined host Ted Price,
Adam Morris, and myself for a little over an hour of Rangers talk.
I should have details for you today or tomorrow about Saturday’s player
autograph schedule at FanFest.
never really bought it when managers and front office execs and players say
they don’t read the sports page. To me
it’s always seemed sort of akin to 450,000 people claiming they were in the
stands for Nolan’s 7th no-hitter. Some
are telling the truth. Most aren’t.
this week I retreated a little on that.
It started to make sense to me why ballplayers and team personnel might
choose to ignore what’s being written about them. This week, I felt like trying the boycott
out. Never did, but I was tempted, at
least on one particular subject.
been stunning to me how abruptly the Michael Young story, which began on Sunday
evening with a national Fox Sports article that everyone in the local press had
the same access to, and was followed by a conference call with Jon Daniels that
everyone in the local press was on, rotted into a self-righteous column-inch
scrap between writers who cover the Rangers.
I get the possible irony, the potential for coming across as self-righteous
myself here. I’m sure I’m guilty of it
at times, though on this story I’ve tried to keep my eye on the ball and not
try to make what someone else wrote
the story, or even part of it.)
are lots of writers in town whose opinions I respect a lot and, more
importantly, whose access and diligence and writing ability I depend on. But this has turned into Kenny Rogers &
the Cameraman, a story that has writers taking sides and taking shots (some
less veiled than others) at each other because of what they did or didn’t do
(or get to do) and because of the stance they are taking.
as if these writers decided that this story required them, after taking sides
on the issue at hand (assigning guilt to one party or the other, ignoring the
less provocative possibility that all who were involved could have handled
things a bit better), to throw a low blow at the writers in town who took a
different position. “I’m Bloggy
McColumnist, and I approve this message.”
the object, for at least one of the writers in question, is to attempt to drive
a wedge at the top of the Rangers’ front office, or at least create a
perception among Rangers fans that such a wedge already exists, that’s pretty
sorta funny offshoot of this is that we now have columnists training bloggers
in their crosshairs; meanwhile, the style some of them have resorted to this
week smacks of blogging at its worst (and to some who don’t pay better
attention, blogging as a whole).
the last time the local media has behaved so badly on a baseball story? I suggested to a fellow blogger yesterday
that it was the Rogers
fiasco. He said no, this has been
worse. He’s probably right.
do get that nerves are probably on edge like never before in that
industry. Hours after the Young story
broke, the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram acknowledged
in print a development that had been rumored for weeks: that in February the
two papers – the two rivals – would
begin to collaborate on a huge chunk of their sports coverage. The Star-Telegram
will be responsible for the Rangers beat.
The News will keep the
Mavericks and Stars beats. Each will
cover the Cowboys.
really sad. A survival tactic, sure,
given the deathbed that many have suggested the newspaper industry was on even
before the economy fell apart. But sad.
following happened the morning after the Cowboys’ final game of the season.
watched the pathetic game, I watched the postgame interviews, I watched the
studio shows. I read the papers the next
morning. But the best piece of reporting
I heard after the disaster came not from any of the above, but rather a radio
Ticket’s Mark Friedman said on Norm Hitzges’s air on Monday morning, December
29, that he was on the team plane the night before, coming back to Dallas from
Philadelphia, and that a significant fraction of the players who had just
embarrassed themselves and their organization, arguably worse than any
collection from the nearly 50-year-old franchise had ever done in a 60-minute
span, were goofing around during the flight, laughing, playing games, acting as
if it were the last day of school.
didn’t raise a megaphone and bluster on about what Jimmy Johnson would have
done about it if he were still coaching here, or whether a team with Bob Lilly
or Roger Staubach or Lee Roy Jordan or Michael Irvin or Troy Aikman on it would
ever have acted like that.
simply reported, and I thought it was a pretty useful piece of
information. Said a lot, by itself,
about what the Cowboys are, and what they aren’t. There were interesting columns written that
week, but none I appreciated more than that one brief report I got by listening
to the radio that morning.
newspaper beat merger is very disappointing, as a Rangers fan. I have no doubt that the Star-Telegram‘s Jeff Wilson and Anthony Andro will continue to do a
great job, as will MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, but as fans we’re all better off if
Evan Grant and Richard Durrett are out there on the beat as well.
is not a flare crying for baseball bloggers to get more credibility, more
credit. Far from it. Really, it’s just the opposite. Without beat reporters, good ones, columnists
are emasculated. And so are
bloggers. And so are fans.
is also not a comment on the bigger picture, the advent of a newspaper as
established and influential as the Dallas Morning News dropping one of its
major pro sports beats. That’s another
issue, a larger one. Nothing about it
signals anything good. But that’s not
what this is about.
been fortunate to have very good beat reporters covering the Rangers for
years. The idea that the two lead papers
are trading in good old-fashioned competition and all the good that that
entails in exchange for a joint enterprise, in the name of economic measure,
means several things to us, some by definition: the result will be less volume
of information, fewer feature stories (which generally don’t overlap), fewer
it also mean the reporters surviving the transition, faced with less
competition, will be less aggressive, in their sense of urgency if not in their
know. Hope not.
nobody would dispute that heightened competition tends to bring out the best in
beat reporters, why read the sports page?
I have friends among this market’s columnists, but if I want to read
analysis on the Texas Rangers, I’m not sure there’s one of them whose work I’d
seek out before checking Adam Morris’s
daily blog work, or Mike Hindman’s, or Joey Matschulat and Jason Parks’s.
not a knock on our local columnists (at least not all of them), but while those
who write with a major newspaper byline have more access to the organization
than the blogging community, that’s less of an issue considering how
infrequently most of them use that access.
There’s so little hard-hitting baseball column-writing done in DFW – not
because the baseball columns are weak, but because they are non-existent (or at
least were until this week’s story that everyone weighed in on). Go grab a stack of local papers from any
given July – July! – and scoreboard the number of Rangers columns against the
number of Cowboys training camp columns.
Bet even in the baseball team’s playoff years, the tally wasn’t close.
the beat reporters are there every day.
Talking to the players, to the General Manager, to the President, to the
Owner. No team’s General Manager or
President is as accessible, cooperative, or candid as Jon Daniels and Nolan
Ryan. Having fewer good reporters on the
beat to take advantage of that availability is no good.
the “beatwriter co-operative” idea that Mark Cuban floated last month (www.blogmaverick.com) the
solution? I don’t know. Cuban’s idea is to create a company that
funds multiple writers in each market, charged with covering multiple sports
but in greater print-only depth than space permits in their current situations.
if it has legs, it’s impossible to imagine that anything would be in place this
there are some smart, bold folks out there already working on ways to keep the
Rangers beat from depopulating.
few quick things:
Vizquel is from Caracas, Venezuela, which is closer to Elvis Andrus’s
hometown of Maracay than Andrus’s 2008 home
(Frisco) is to his expected 2009 address (Arlington).
some merit to this speculation that Texas
could sign the 41-year-old Vizquel now that Young has agreed to become the
Rangers’ third baseman. Young will be a
terrific mentor to Andrus (he’s already begun: check out the pointed remarks he
made this week about how unfair the media treatment of this story has been to
the 20-year-old), but on the field he’ll be busy working his tail off to get
comfortable with the nuances of his new position. Ian Kinsler will surely be to Andrus what
Alex Rodriguez was to Young, and what Young was to Kinsler, taking Andrus under
his wing as they grow into a long-term double play combination. But as for the mindset and the actions of a
shortstop, it makes huge sense to have the 11-time Gold Glove winner, who
should be very affordable and happy to take a one-year deal, around to work
with his fellow Venezuelan in camp.
for whether it makes sense to have a player like Vizquel on the bench in April
is another question. He offers less
versatility than a player like Joaquin Arias or German Duran would, but if
Andrus hits .150 for a month and prompts an option to Oklahoma (whether that’s
in March or May), neither Arias nor Duran is likely to be counted on to play
shortstop every day – and you certainly wouldn’t move Young back to shortstop
and interrupt the rhythm he’ll be developing at third base. Vizquel would be an ideal stopgap.
hey: maybe having Vizquel around in March as a mentor makes it less likely,
even slightly, that Andrus gets overwhelmed and overmatched in his first run
through the American League.
Vizquel has been a 20-year favorite of mine.
Stupid little story; I may tell it if he signs here.
thought to tuck away: unless the CBA were to change in this regard over the
next six years (which I’d guess is unlikely), if Andrus spends a dozen days in
the minor leagues this year, he can’t become a free agent until after the 2015
season. If he never sees another day on
the farm, he’ll be a free agent after the 2014 season, at age 26.
Andrus has an outstanding camp, I expect him to be the Opening Day shortstop,
but remember: Evan Longoria had an OPS over 1.000 for the Rays in spring
training last year and didn’t make the team.
Tampa Bay purchased his contract on April 12,
and while that club probably didn’t admit that it was securing an extra year of
control by doing so, it was obviously a factor, given the almost immediate
purchase less than two weeks into the season.
(Although, six days after that, the Rays signed Longoria to a six-year
contract with three club option years, wiping out the issue except to the extent
that the first option year, if declined, becomes an arbitration year rather
than a free agency year.)
Andrus were to spend close to two months on the farm, it could also prevent him
from becoming a Super Two arbitration-eligible after the 2011 season. But that’s less significant, obviously, than
the free agency issue.
the way, Arias has one option remaining.
Travis Metcalf, same.
Freddy Garcia – also from Caracas – has
reportedly narrowed his choices for his next employer down to the Rangers,
White Sox, Yankees, and Mets, with Chicago
considered the possible frontrunner.
Righthander Kris Benson is apparently considering the Rangers,
Cardinals, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks.
He’ll throw for scouts a week from today.
Scott Lucas pointed out on Wednesday, Texas signed catcher Brandon Harrigan to
a minor league contract (surely he’s related to former Rangers farmhand Hunter
Harrigan, also a catcher – both attended the same Colorado high school and
played collegiately at Cowley County Community College), and released
righthander Keisuke Ueno, lefthander Ryan Turner, and outfielders Rafael Hill
and Kyle Murphy.
Rangers also signed infielder Royce Huffman to a minor league contract. The 32-year-old TCU product spent the first
eight of his 10 pro seasons in the Astros chain.
Florida signed lefthander John Koronka (who spent part of
2008 pitching in Japan)
to a minor league deal. The White Sox
signed righthander Franklyn German and catcher Chris Stewart to minor league
deals. Pittsburgh signed outfielder Craig Monroe to
a minor league deal. Seattle signed outfielder Freddy Guzman to a
minor league deal. Kansas City gave catcher Cody Clark a new
minor league deal.
Seattle hired Steve Hecht
to be its performance coach. Tampa Bay
named Todd Greene its quality assurance coach.
Sioux Falls Canaries of the independent American Association released
outfielder Will Smith.
need to read Jason Parks’s spectacular interview with lefthander Martin Perez,
whose upside is as great as Derek Holland’s and Neftali Feliz’s and Michael
Main’s. Check it out at http://www.bbtia.com/home/2009/1/13/prospect-interview-series-martin-perez.html.
Texas invited Holland,
Feliz, Andrus, first baseman Justin Smoak, and catchers Manny Pina and Kevin
Richardson to big league spring training (no surprises there), joining
righthanders Casey Daigle, Brian Gordon, Doug Mathis, Elizardo Ramirez, and
Derrick Turnbow and lefthander Joe Torres as non-roster invites so far.
club is holding a Winter Development Camp Monday through Friday, with 19
pitchers and three catchers (Richardson, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Taylor
Teagarden) attending. One pitchers’
group (John Bannister, Blake Beavan, Thomas Diamond, Matt Harrison, Holland, Kasey Kiker,
Luis Mendoza, Guillermo Moscoso, and Tim Murphy) will throw on Monday and
Wednesday. The second group (Michael
Ballard, Feliz, Tommy Hunter, Eric Hurley, Andrew Laughter, Warner Madrigal,
Michael Main, Mathis, Brandon McCarthy, and Omar Poveda) will throw on Tuesday
and Thursday. The Friday session is
optional. There will be on-field
workouts, conditioning drills, and classroom sessions.
list of 19 pitchers appears to encompass the group slated to be at Bakersfield or higher
this spring with the best chance of impacting the big league rotation in the
next few years. The two names I might
have expected to be included that weren’t: left-handed relievers Beau Jones and
if not all, of the campers will be on hand for next Saturday’s FanFest, and
historically players not on the 40-man roster end up at the Newberg Report
booth to sign autographs. I’ll have a
lot more detail to share with you about FanFest on Monday, with updates as the
Max Ramirez, who led the Venezuelan Winter League in regular season home runs
and hit .298/.391/.618, finishing among the league leaders in almost every key
production category, was named VWL Rookie of the Year.
apparently won’t show the “Homecoming with Rick Reilly” episode featuring Josh
Hamilton again until April 22.
won’t get into the debate I had with Norm Hitzges Thursday night at the House
of Blues, which he took briefly to the air on Friday morning and which I spent
too much time talking about on message boards on Friday afternoon. All I’ll say here is two things: (1) I don’t
understand his preference of moving Young to second base, Kinsler to left
field, Chris Davis to third base, and Ramirez to first base (and David Murphy
or Nelson Cruz to the bench) – seems to me that you’d be putting half your
lineup at positions that wouldn’t be their best, and asking that many players
to learn new positions at once would be a recipe for some very bad defensive
nights early in the year; and (2) as for his argument that Young would be
less-than-average at third base offensively, so what? Your lineup is your lineup.
you want your best defensive lineup on the field, not worrying about how your
players compare offensively to others in the league at their position? Let’s say, hypothetically, that Young’s
offense measures up better vis a vis others at his position if he were at
second base, and that Kinsler’s production looks more like a third
baseman’s. Either way, Young and Kinsler
are in your lineup – don’t you want them at that point at the defensive
positions that make the most sense?
again hypothetically, let’s say your offense suffers some, for whatever reason,
because Young is at third instead of second (which makes no sense to me). So you go from the game’s best offense to,
what, its third or fourth best? Doesn’t
seem like a big problem.
I’m just disagreeing with Norm, respectfully as I can. If that’s pot addressing kettle, considering
how I started this report, my apologies.
Michael Young told reporters Thursday afternoon that, “After some
careful consideration over the last month and in an effort not to let
this thing drag out and move forward on the task at hand, I decided to
put an end to this and start bearing down and play third base.”
He has rescinded his request to be traded and goes into spring training as the Rangers’ third baseman.
If your interest in
the Rangers goes back 20 years, take a look at this list of what, in 1990, was considered
by Baseball America to be the
organization’s top 10 prospects:
1. Juan Gonzalez, OF
2. Robb Nen, RHP
3. Donald Harris, OF
4. Dean Palmer, 3B
5. Brian Bohanon, LHP
6. Kevin Belcher, OF
7. Dan Peltier, OF
8. Scott Coolbaugh, 3B
9. Monty Fariss, SS
10. Eric McCray, LHP
Then take a look at BA‘s 2009 ranking of the
Rangers’ top 10 prospects:
1. Neftali Feliz, RHP
2. Derek Holland, LHP
3. Justin Smoak, 1B
4. Elvis Andrus, SS
5. Martin Perez, LHP
6. Taylor Teagarden, C
7. Engel Beltre, OF
8. Michael Main, RHP
9. Julio Borbon, OF
10. Max Ramirez, C/1B
If you’re able to remember what you thought the ceilings of guys like Harris,
Bohanon, and the rest were, which of these groups resonates more with you:
Gonzalez, Harris, Palmer, Belcher, Peltier, Coolbaugh, and Farris – not
in retrospect, but going into the 1990 season?
Or Smoak, Andrus, Teagarden, Beltre, Borbon, and Ramirez – today?
On to the pitchers:
Nen, Bohanon, and McCray?
Or Feliz, Holland, Perez, and Main?
No comparison, right?
Even in the hitters’ group.
But dramatically so in the pitchers.
No matter how you felt about this club’s farm system in 1990, you have
to admit that the 2009 crop is significantly deeper and offers more potential
impact than the list from 19 years ago.
yesterday that it ranks the 2009 Texas Rangers farm system as the best in
The only other time that the publication ranked Texas number one?
The second tide of comments had a lot more for those of us who
look to sports for optimism to embrace:
From Jon Daniels: “I
understand Michael is frustrated, he’s upset.
I have all the respect in the world for the guy, and you’re never going
to hear me or anyone who works here say anything negative about the guy. We hope, with some time, we can get back on
the same page.”
From Michael Young: “I hope
we’ll just continue to talk and see where each other stand.”
From Nolan Ryan: “Obviously,
if [a move to third base is] going to be done, it needs to be agreed upon.”
From Daniels: “We think
[this move] will bring our club, his team, closer to a World Series, and that’s what it will be about. At the end of the day, I think that will
resonate with him, as it does with any competitor.”
From Young: “The ball is in
their court right now. Tomorrow, I’m
going to wake up, I’m going to do my workouts, I’m going to go get ready to
play winning baseball. As far as what
happens at spring training, time will tell.”
From Daniels: “I still
believe there is a likelihood that we can come together on this and put it
behind us. We want to have further
discussions with Mike and talk to him about it.
We’re all preparing for Michael to be an integral part of our team going
From Young: “Having been
here as long as I have been, I would love to be here when this team finally
breaks through. And I think it could
I believe in Michael Young, I believe in Jon Daniels, and I
believe in Nolan Ryan. And I am counting
on a resolution to this, a positive one, because I know they all want the same
thing: To win in Texas.
A little story, one that I hadn’t thought about in a long time but
makes me realize, just maybe, why this development has been a tough one for me
to get my head wrapped around, why it resonates with me though I’m struggling
to find any clarity in it.
I was a pretty even-keeled high school kid. I was more passionate on the baseball field
than I was in class, which in retrospect I think was mostly because, socially,
I was trying to distance myself from being known as “the smart kid.”
I’d been a shortstop and pretty much nothing else since T-ball,
with only two interruptions: my freshman year at Hillcrest, when I played
second base and third base, and my junior year, when Coach Price decided to
make me a pitcher for the first time in my life.
As a sophomore, I was Honorable Mention All-District at
shortstop. As a junior, I earned Second-Team,
playing there on days I didn’t pitch. I
liked pitching (I struck out 29 batters in 14 innings in my first two games
pitched, maybe the greatest adrenaline rush I’ve ever had playing ball). But I loved shortstop.
I couldn’t wait for my senior year. I had it all mapped out – I’d take that next
step and earn the first-team district recognition, I’d pitch with more of a
plan than I had that first year on the mound, and we’d return to the playoffs,
which we’d missed the year before after having reached the post-season my
But then school started in the fall of 1986, and two unexpected
things happened: (1) Coach Price disappeared, after more than a decade at
Hillcrest, and suddenly we had a new coach, a guy who had run a junior varsity
team across town for a couple years; and (2) a kid had transferred to Hillcrest
from Iowa, a hotshot sophomore who apparently had some pretty good chops at
shortstop. I wasn’t crazy about Coach
Schrantz taking over, but I was pumped about Tony Olson arriving. The kid was evidently a ballplayer, and he
was going to make us better.
I can’t remember when it was that Coach Schrantz told me (over the
beaten-up Boston cassette tape of his that I think played only “More Than a
Feeling” and “Don’t Look Back”) that I was no longer going to be the starting
shortstop and number two starter, but instead an outfielder and relief pitcher.
But I remember my reaction.
I was absolutely livid.
Who was this guy coming in here and telling me, a lifelong
shortstop and two-year captain of the team, that we were going to be better
with a younger kid playing short, and with me playing in the outfield – the outfield – something I’d barely done in
13 years of playing ball? This was
probably going to be my final year as a baseball player, and I was being told I
needed to be at a less critical position, to make room for a kid who nobody had
seen play. It was a slap in the face.
As even-keeled as I was, this set me off (privately).
Then I went out and had more fun playing baseball than I’ve ever
It turned out my arm, which was my best tool, was more reliable
from 250 feet than from 120. Going in, I
thought of the outfield as an insult, an eviction, a death sentence. But Tony was
pretty dependable at shortstop, I made First-Team All-District as an
outfielder, and, most important to me, then and now, we made it back into the
When I tried in 1987 and 1989 to walk onto the baseball team at
the University of
Texas, I did so as an
outfielder. I didn’t make the team
either time. I remember thinking to
myself, during those two experiences and a thousand times since, I wonder how
things might have worked out differently if someone had made me an outfielder
before I was 18.
Not that I would have been any less outraged – at the time – when
I was told my team would be better with me moving away from shortstop.
There’s probably more to this latest Rangers story than we know,
but I think I’m at the point that it
doesn’t matter to me who said what, how it was delivered, or how it was
received. What I care about now is how
it gets resolved, by people who care about the same things, the right things.
I’m going to draw on some of that old even keel of mine and calmly
bank on the leaders of the Rangers organization – the Player and the GM and the
President – getting this thing worked out, moving forward, getting along, and