Of Derrick Turnbow, Josh Karp, and monolithic satellite providers.


If you’re
employed by either Dish Network or MLB Network, delete this right now.  If you can’t get your stuff together or get
over yourself, then you don’t get to read this, either.  Take the five minutes you would have spent
here and go figure out a way to make a deal. 


Which of
you thinks it’s a better idea for 14 million families not to have access to the
new MLB programming?  You both lose.




Turnbow has pitched in 257 major league games, and has made one start.  It came on September 23, 2000, at what was
then known as The Ballpark in Arlington. 


It had been
a relatively successful year for the 22-year-old, in what would have been his
draft year if he’d gone to college instead of signing out of high school with
the Phillies as their fifth-round pick in 1997. 
In his three minor league seasons, his ERA had come down from 7.40 to
5.01 to 3.35, but that’s not what prompted the Angels to make him the seventh
player chosen in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft. 
It was the late life and the projectability in that low-90s fastball.


The season
was essentially over for both the Angels and Rangers when they suited up for
the Saturday matchup, the next-to-last home game for Texas in a disappointing year that had
followed two straight playoff seasons, and three out of four.  Coming into the game, Turnbow had pitched 22
times in his Rule 5 year, all in relief, posting a 4.09 ERA and holding opponents
to a .252 average.  But he’d issued 27
walks in 33 innings, and notably Anaheim’s
record in those 22 games was 3-19.  The
club was careful about the situations in which Turnbow, who came into the year
having never pitched above Low A, was being used.


stepping to the mound in front of 45,000 fans hoping to see Rafael Palmeiro hit
his 400th home run, Turnbow game-planned with catcher Matt Walbeck on how to
approach a Rangers lineup that would include Ricky Ledee, Pedro Valdes, and
B.J. Waszgis, not to mention Ruben Sierra, who four months earlier had been
playing for the Cancun Lobstermen. 
Michael Young was still four days away from his big league debut.


gave up a Royce Clayton walk and a Palmeiro single in the first, but escaped
any lasting damage by inducing a Gabe Kapler 6-4-3 to end the inning.


Coming out
for the second inning after his teammates had put up six runs off Rick Helling,
Turnbow permitted a Valdes double but nothing more. 


Clayton walk was all Texas
could muster off Turnbow in the third. 
Chances are the Angels didn’t expect much out of the 22-year-old that
day, but it had been eight days since he’d last pitched, he’d had four relief
appearances over the season of at least 50 pitches, and suddenly he was heading
out for the fourth with a 7-0 lead. 
Having thrown 58 pitches in the first three innings, it was looking like
the righty was possibly headed for a victory in his first major league start.


But he
never got to the fifth inning, and the win eluded him.  Kapler led the fourth off with a five-pitch
walk.  Ledee fouled out (but not before
Kapler took second on a wild pitch) and Sierra skied out to left, but Valdes
then watched four straight pitches miss the zone, and second-year Angels manager
Mike Scioscia came out and got the ball, handing it off to lefthander Scott
Karl, who was making what would turn out to be the penultimate appearance of
his big league career.


Karl got
Mike Lamb to fly out to left, keeping the shutout intact.


An inning
later, after walks to Waszgis and Frank Catalanotto and a Clayton strikeout,
Karl gave the Saturday crowd what it came to see, as Palmeiro reached the front
row of the right field seats to become baseball’s 32nd hitter to hit 400
homers.  Karl had also surrendered number
222 to Palmeiro, four years earlier in Milwaukee,
where the lefty spent most of his career.


Later in
the game, Darwin Cubillan made what would be the 13th and final Rangers
appearance of his career, giving up four runs while getting three outs. 


Young, who came over from the Toronto organization with Cubillan for Esteban
Loaiza two months earlier, was six days away from his big league debut, when he
would pinch-run in the ninth for Valdes, who had walked as a pinch-hitter for
catcher Randy Knorr.  Two pitches after
Young ran out of the visitors’ dugout in Oakland
to take his place on first base, would-be tying run Scott Sheldon — who had
oddly come in to pinch-run after Luis Alicea drew a walk to start the game —
fouled out behind the plate to end the 7-5 Rangers loss.)


(I have
time to research and write all of this nonsense, by the way, because I have
Dish Network, by which I mean I don’t have MLB Network.)


Back to the
Turnbow start: Cubillan’s sad swan song preceded a 2.1-inning effort from
Francisco Cordero that looked pretty good in comparison to what Helling, Matt
Perisho, and Cubillan had given Texas
on the day.  Cordero, spending most of
his first Rangers season working the sixth and seventh innings, learning in a
bullpen manned by John Wetteland, Jeff Zimmerman, Mike Venafro, and Tim
Crabtree, gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in the 15-4 loss, the club’s
second-worst defeat of the season.


At the
time, that is.  Texas
would drop the next-to-last game of the season to Oakland, 23-2.  Young got into that game, too, this time
getting to do more than stand on first base for two pitches.  Entering the game in the bottom of the sixth
to play second base, with the Rangers down 15-1, he had no defensive chances in
the scoreless sixth or in the seventh, when Jonathan Johnson and Doug Davis
struck out the side — but also allowed eight runs to score.


Young hit
in the eighth, striking out on six Scott Service (not Scott Servais) pitches,
and again in the ninth, flying to deep left off Todd Belitz in the fifth of his
13th big league pitching appearances to end the game.


(By now,
you’re probably wishing you’d deleted this report even if you’re not employed by
either Dish Network or MLB Network.)


That loss
to Oakland, which gave Barry Zito his seventh big league win just 15 months
after he’d been drafted, was the Rangers’ seventh defeat in eight games, a
stretch that was pivotally responsible for Neftali Feliz and Elvis Andrus (who
were both 12 at the time) being Rangers today.




This is
from the May 31, 2001 Newberg Report:




On December 18, 1988, one of
the most important games in Dallas Cowboy history
took place, as the Green Bay
Packers defeated the then-Phoenix Cardinals, 26-17, salting the win away on a
Don Majkowski-to-Clint Didier touchdown pass.


I kid you not.


The significance of that
GB-PHO game — the Pack’s second straight win — was that it improved the
Packer record to 4-12, while the Cowboys were busy dropping to 2-14 with a 23-7
loss to Philadelphia.  Had Dallas won and Green Bay lost, the teams
would have been deadlocked and facing some sort of tiebreaker or maybe a coin
flip to determine which of them would get the number one pick in the 1989


With the unlikely two-game
win streak for Green Bay, the Cowboys picked
first, taking Troy Aikman.  The Packers picked second, landing Tony


Why do you care?


Because in my opinion, the
final week of the Rangers’ 2000 season might ultimately prove to be similarly
significant in its effect on this club’s immediate future.


The Baltimore
Orioles were a bad baseball team last year, at 67-86 with nine games remaining
against Boston, Toronto, and the Yankees.  Texas wasn’t so great either, as its record
stood at 70-83 with nine to play against Anaheim, Seattle, and Oakland.  And then something strange happened.  The O’s reeled off seven wins out of the nine
games, including the final four games straight — by the average score of
13-2.  At the same time, the Rangers lost
eight of nine, including the final three — by the average score of 11-2.  And as a result, in the space of nine days, Baltimore went from three games worse than Texas in the AL
standings to three games better, and accordingly Texas ended up with the third-worst record
in the league.


In baseball, the draft is
conducted with the AL and NL alternating picks, and so the result of the
Texas-Baltimore standings flip at the 2000 finish line was that the Rangers
will pick fifth overall in the June 5, 2001 draft, and the O’s will pick
seventh. This could be very, very important.


That is because in my
opinion, which I will state right out front is worth very little since I have
not seen any of these guys play, four players are worth getting excited about
— USC righthander Mark Prior, Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira, Middle Tennessee
State righthander Dewon Brazelton, and
Baltimore high
school righthander Gavin Floyd.  And even
though Texas
drafts fifth, I feel pretty comfortable that one, and maybe two, of those
players will be there when the Ranger selection comes up.  Were the Rangers picking seventh, those four
would likely be gone.


With less than a week to go
before Major League Baseball’s 30 scouting directors make the decisions they
get paid to make, Team One Baseball staged a mock draft on its website.  I played Tim Hallgren and took Floyd with the
Ranger pick.


In the mock draft, Prior went
first, Teixeira went second, Brazelton went third, and Casey Kotchman was the
fourth pick.  I don’t see it actually
shaking out that way next week — I think Minnesota will end up shying away
from Prior’s demands and take either Brazelton or Joe Mauer, the Cubs will nab
Prior, Tampa Bay will take Brazelton (if there) or Alan Horne or Colt Griffin
or maybe Roscoe Crosby, and Philadelphia will go with Floyd or Teixeira.  Under that scenario, either way the Twins go,
Floyd or Teixeira will be there for the Rangers.  The Dallas Morning News suggested yesterday
that Teixeira or UCLA righthander Josh Karp could be the pick, but from the
things I have read — and again, the fact that I am reading the assessments of
other people renders my judgment worthless to an extent — Karp seems to have
disappointed a lot of scouts this season and could be slipping to the middle
part or even back half of the first round.


Let’s talk about Teixeira and
Floyd.  And to kick the discussion off,
how about these two interesting notes:


1. They both attended Mount
St. Joseph High School in Severna Park, Maryland.  Teixeira was drafted in the ninth round by
Boston in 1998, but failed to sign and became a Yellow Jacket.  Floyd, incidentally, has committed to South Carolina but is
expected to sign a pro contract.


2. A year ago, in assessing
the top prospects in the Delaware/Maryland/West Virginia/D.C. region for the
2000 draft, Baseball America noted that if Teixeira and Floyd became the top
college and high school selections when the 2001 draft rolled aruond, it would
mark the first time that one high school produced the top college and high
school player in the same draft.  BA then
went on to rank the top players in that region who were eligible for last year’s
draft.  Number one?  Delaware
high school righthander Randy Truselo. 
Number two?  Towson State
lefthander Chris Russ.  Both, as you
know, became Ranger selections, both on the ledger sheet of Ranger scout Doug


On to Teixeira and Floyd.


Teixeira is, by all accounts,
one of the most polished hitters to come out of college in years, a
switch-hitting Troy Glaus/Lance Berkman type. 
A Scott Boras client, the Twins won’t take him.  The Cubs won’t unless Prior goes first.  Tampa
Bay cannot pay its own major league roster, so forget Teixeira — plus they
have never — never — taken a college player in the first three rounds.  The Phillies? 
Would they choose to run into Boras
again, after the J.D. Drew disaster a few years ago?


Would the Rangers take
Teixeira, when (1) the need for pitching is so glaring for this organization,
(2) they do not pick again until the fourth round, and (3) third base seems to
be fairly well accounted for on the farm with Mike Lamb at AAA and Hank Blalock
making huge noise again, this time at High A Charlotte?  The way I look at it is this: you take the
best player available.  If you are not
crazy about the pitchers available to you at number five, you don’t “settle” on
someone with that pick.  Were there
hitters that Texas
preferred over Jonathan Johnson in 1995, such as Todd Helton or Geoff Jenkins,
who were the two players taken immediately after the Ranger pick?  In 1996, do you wonder whether St. Louis (3rd pick: Braden Looper), Montreal
(5: John Patterson), Detroit (6: Seth
Greisinger), or San Francisco
(7: Matt White) actually liked Mark Kotsay (9th pick) or Eric Chavez (10th
pick) more but felt they needed to go with a pitcher?  In 1997, according to the Baseball America
draft preview issue I am staring at right now, Anaheim had the third pick and
was split between Glaus and righthander Jason Grilli — they took Glaus, and
Grilli went with the next pick to the Giants. 
Think the Angels are happy they made that decision?  In the 1998 draft, Kansas City took Stanford righthander Jeff
Austin with the fourth pick. J.D. Drew went fifth, Austin Kearns went seventh,
Sean Burroughs went ninth, and Carlos Pena went tenth.


What’s the point?  These examples illustrate that at times,
deciding in the top of the first round to draft for need can be dangerous.  It may very well be that the Rangers like
Prior and Brazelton and Floyd and Karp more than Teixeira, and if so, I hope
they take the pitcher.  But if they
evaluate Teixeira to have a higher and more projectable ceiling than whatever
pitchers are undrafted by the time the fifth pick comes around, then I think
Teixeira needs to be the pick.




And so
began the “Glaus vs. Grilli” theme that resurfaces in the Newberg Report from
time to time.


In that
1997 draft, incidentally, Grilli went fourth overall and Vernon Wells went
fifth, to Toronto.  Four rounds later, the Blue Jays used the
149th overall pick on a middle infielder who would become best friends with
Wells: Michael Young.


Three picks
before the Jays took Young, Philadelphia
chose Derrick Turnbow.


(Thank you,
Dish Network and MLB Network, for giving me the time to bring this full


Turnbow’s wildly effective start against Texas,
which lowered his rookie-season ERA to 3.68, he made his final appearance of
2000 a week later, giving up five runs on two doubles, a triple, and five walks
in an inning and a third, throwing fewer than half of his 52 pitches for
strikes.  It ratcheted his ERA up by more
than a run, giving him a season-ending mark of 4.74.


Despite the
spurts of success, Anaheim
opted to return Turnbow to the farm in 2001, having satisfied the Rule 5
requirement of a full season in the big leagues in 2000.  He was touching 98 in camp and the club was
excited, assigning him to the rotation at AA Arkansas.  Three starts into the season, he had a 2.57
ERA, having allowed 12 hits (no home runs) and five walks and no wild pitches
in 14 innings, fanning 11.  He’d induced
20 groundouts and eight flyouts with upper-90s velocity and boring action and a
much-improved hard curve, and was every bit the prospect that Travelers
teammate John Lackey was. 


But in that
third start, Turnbow broke the ulna in his throwing arm, and he wouldn’t pitch
again that season or in the first half of 2002. 
He logged only 20 innings that summer (split between the rookie leagues
and High A), and in 2003 the Angels returned him to AA, where he’d looked so
good two years earlier before the forearm fracture.  In seven relief appearances, he didn’t allow
a run (14 innings, four singles, five walks, 19 strikeouts), and it looked like
he was back on track.  Anaheim called him up to make two bullpen
appearances three weeks into the season (one run in 2.1 innings), and then
returned him to the farm, but this time to AAA.


strictly in relief, Turnbow wasn’t particularly effective for Salt Lake,
posting a 5.73 ERA and permitting opponents to hit .300, but there were a
couple decent signs: His ERA, starting with an 11.70 May and finishing with a
4.05 August, improved each month, and he did feature a 63/24 strikeout-to-walk
ratio in 55 innings of work.  He was back
with the Angels when rosters expanded in September, and he pitched in nine
games, holding the opposition scoreless — and walkless — in each of them,
including four perfect innings in two games against Texas, striking out five.  Including the two April appearances he
finished with a big league ERA of 0.59 in 2003, permitting seven hits, walking
three, and fanning 15 in 15.1 innings.


The 2004
season was key for Turnbow from the Angels’ standpoint, as he was on his final
option when the club sent him back to Salt Lake
out of camp.  He got off to a good start,
posting a 2.87 ERA in nine April relief appearances, but he couldn’t sustain
his success, getting torched for a 9.42 ERA in a May that included 12 walks and
nine strikeouts in 14.1 innings.  Turnbow
got hot again in June (0.90 ERA in six games), prompting a oddly effective
four-game run with the Angels (6.1 scoreless innings, just two hits, but seven
walks and three strikeouts) before he was returned to the Pacific Coast League.


second-half Salt Lake
ERA of 5.45 sealed Turnbow’s fate with
Anaheim.  Despite the fact that he would be out of
options going into 2005, the club didn’t bring him back to the big leagues in
September 2004 for one final look.  The
Angels designated him for assignment days after the season ended.


Milwaukee, coming off a 94-loss season, put in the prevailing claim
on Turnbow when Anaheim,
unable to stir up any trade interest from the Brewers or anyone else, tried
sliding him through waivers.  All-Star
Danny Kolb headed a Brewers bullpen that didn’t have much else.  Turnbow was a longshot, given where his
command and effectiveness issues had been since the ulnar fracture, but this
was the type of team that had little to lose by asking pitching coach Mike
Maddux — who had turned Kolb’s career around — to give Turnbow a spring
training look before worrying about that lack of options.


In 10
spring training innings . . .


with MLB Network at his disposal would be wasting time tracking down statistics
from spring training 2005.)


. . .
Turnbow gave up seven runs, five of which were earned (4.50 ERA), on 14
hits.  But the more important result was
this: 12 strikeouts and four walks. 
Turnbow made the team.


Before long
he was much more than just a Maddux project. 
Kolb had a 7.20 ERA in April, saving six games, while Turnbow posted a
1.59 ERA in the month — allowing only four hits in 11.1 innings (.108
opponents’ average) but seven walks — earning three saves of his own.  And then, in May, even though Kolb’s ERA was
a respectable 4.22, he walked 10 batters in 10.2 innings, and suddenly he’d
become the team’s co-closer with Turnbow. 
Kolb saved five games in May, and Turnbow saved four.


More notably,
Maddux had taken a pitcher who, even in his good stretches as a pro, had
cover-your-eyes command issues, and unlocked this: in 11 May innings, Derrick
Turnbow struck out 16 batters.  And
walked zero.


There was a
new Brewers closer.


finished that 2005 season with a 7-1, 1.74 record and 39 saves (matching the
franchise record Kolb had set the year before) in 43 chances.  In 67.1 innings, he fanned 64 and issued 24
walks.  Opponents hit
.199/.273/.309.  His G/F ratio was 1.72,
a special number even for a pitcher who didn’t have the kind of velocity Turnbow
was brandishing.


Still short
of arbitration eligibility, in February Turnbow signed a $488,000 contract for
2006, but Milwaukee tore it up the day before the season opener, replacing it
with a three-year deal (effectively buying out the first two of his three
arbitration years), agreeing to pay him $1 million in 2006, $2.3 million in
2007, and $3.2 million in 2008.  The
guaranteed $6.5 million carried another $900,000 in workload incentives.  Kolb was back in 2006 as well, but as a
set-up man.


went out and saved each of Milwaukee’s
first four
games of the season — not just the first
four wins — becoming the first pitcher in major league history to do so.  He would save 23 games in the first half,
earning an All-Star Game appearance.  


But the
scoreless seventh at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park (a Paul Konerko single, a 5-4-3 double
play off the bat of Troy Glaus, and a Michael Young flyout to right — two
innings before Young would win the game with a two-run triple off Trevor
Hoffman) was far and away the July highlight for Turnbow, who gave up 15 runs
in 6.1 innings for the Brewers and blew four of five save opportunities. 


On July 21,
having blown his last four chances, Turnbow entered the ninth inning of a game
against Cincinnati,
asked to protect a 5-3 lead. 
Single.  Walk.  Sacrifice bunt.  With Royce Clayton — the batter he’d walked
twice in 3.2 innings in that one big league start in Arlington six years earlier — waiting on
deck, Turnbow issued another walk.  Ned
Yost came out and took the ball, handing it off to Dana Eveland, who proceeded
to walk in a run (courtesy of Javier Valentin, pinch-hitting for Clayton) before
serving up a walkoff, two-run Ken Griffey single.


The Brewers
were in third place in the NL Central at the time, nine games back and five
games out of the Wild Card perch. 
Turnbow pitched one time over the next week, mopping up in the ninth
inning of a 6-1 loss on July 25. 


On July 28,
the Brewers made a trade with Texas,
shipping outfielders Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz to the Rangers to get Francisco
Cordero (and Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and Julian Cordero).  Cordero had lost the closer’s job in Texas to Akinori Otsuka,
and the Rangers weren’t going to pick up the $5 million option they had on
Cordero for 2007.  The day he arrived in Milwaukee, Cordero pitched
a scoreless eighth before Turnbow entered and pitched a scoreless ninth,
preserving a 6-3 win over the same Reds that had blown him up a week earlier.


It was
Turnbow’s final save of 2006.  Cordero
earned a save the following day, the first of his 16 in the season’s final two
months.  Cordero posted a 1.69 Brewers
ERA, and Milwaukee
picked up what had become a $5.4 million club option for 2007 (due to games
finished thresholds that he met). 
Turnbow’s final 2006 ERA was 6.87.


produced a 4.63 ERA in set-up duties in 2007, the second year of that
three-year contract.  He walked 6.1
batters per nine innings. 


In 2008,
after Cordero had left for a monster Reds contract, Turnbow was a $3.2 million
pitcher working behind $10 million closer Eric Gagné and $3.2 million set-up
man Salomon Torres in the Brewers bullpen. 
He would pitch in eight games in April — seven of which were losses —
and give up 11 runs on 12 hits and 13 walks in 6.1 innings.


Milwaukee designated Turnbow for assignment
on May 2.


claimed him off waivers — a slam dunk since any team doing so would have been
saddled with the $3.2 million contract — and after an outright to AAA
Nashville, where he was pitching 20 miles from his hometown of Franklin,
Tennessee, he was just as ineffective, giving up 21 runs on 17 hits and
41 walks (and 10 wild pitches) in 18 innings of work.  After giving up five runs in a third of an
inning on July 12, Turnbow was shut down for the season.  It was discovered that he had a shoulder
injury that has been described as tendinitis in some places, a muscular
imbalance in others, a slight undersurface rotator cuff tear elsewhere.


But the
Rangers say they’re comfortable with the medical reports, at least to the
extent that they were willing to give him a non-roster deal that carries very
little club risk.  (Interestingly, though
Florida and Pittsburgh
were said to be finalists along with Texas for
Turnbow’s services, a story out of Pittsburgh
two weeks ago suggested at least one large-market club offered him a big league
contract at some point in December). 


If Turnbow,
who is on a regular long-toss schedule now and will be throwing off a mound
before the end of the month, shows in camp that he’s healthy and hitting his
spots and worthy of a spot in the big league bullpen, a $925,000 contract will
kick in with another $325,000 in performance incentives.  He’s been known to throw in the upper 90s, he
gets ground balls, and he’s back on the recommendation of Maddux, who had a
great description of his philosophy as a pitching coach the day he was
introduced to the Metroplex press early in November:


“I don’t
have a standardized system when it comes to working with this pitcher vs. that
pitcher.  When it gets right down to it,
you just set up guardrails.”


Don’t get
all worked up about the move, whether you favor it or not.  If the Maddux guardrails once again operate
to allow Turnbow (who hasn’t allowed a run in 7.2 lifetime innings in Rangers
Ballpark, spanning four appearances) to harness his massive stuff, there’s
obviously some upside here. 


And he’ll
have one final year of arbitration eligibility in 2010, so if things work out
well in 2009, Texas
will control him for a second season.  If
things don’t work out in March, that $925,000 will never be payable.  And if the results are in the middle — with
Turnbow making the squad but not distinguishing himself — it’s just not a lot
of money, relatively speaking.


By way of
comparison, Joaquin Benoit will make $3.5 million in 2009.  Frankie Francisco and C.J. Wilson will make
more than Turnbow too, by way of arbitration. 
Turnbow’s deal — if he makes the club — will be less than half of the
average salary on the Rangers’ roster.


Which begs
the question of why I spent this much time and space writing about this
move.  To say the above was more than you
needed to know about a 30-year-old non-roster invite is understating things
just a bit. 


there’s the only Derrick Turnbow backstory you’ll get that includes a Don
Majkowski reference and a B.J. Waszgis sighting.  To the 10 of you who have signed up for the Newberg
Report since my last report 38 hours ago, please understand I’m usually not
this scattered.  Usually.


As for who
to blame for the failure of MLB Network and Dish Network to get something done,
and accordingly for the massive time waste that this report was for me (not to
mention you), I doubt I’ll find a story where anyone calling the shots for
either monolith takes responsibility, so I guess I’m left to fault Todd Zeile,
Mike Macfarlane’s hair helmet, Flip Boone, Nickelback, or that girl who plopped
down next to me on the flight home from Houston a week ago.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: