January 2009

Michael Young asks Texas to explore trade possibilities.

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Don’t expect me to
hatch any trade ideas, as I might have done under similar circumstances in past
situations.

 

Don’t expect me to
weigh in on yours if you email them to me.

 

Don’t
expect me to be objective about Michael Young. 
Ever.

 

Yes,
I read the Ken Rosenthal report just a couple hours ago.  And the beat reporters who have now all
blogged and reported on it.  I heard Jon
Daniels and Ron Washington address the situation, confirming the gist of the
Rosenthal story – that Michael Young has asked the club to explore trade possibilities
for him after Daniels and Washington (with Nolan Ryan on the same page)
approached him before the holidays about an immediate transition to third base -
and a thousand thoughts rushed to mind, none of them clear, even though I (and probably
Michael) knew this day would come, soon.

 

The
idea, Daniels said, was that the organization intends to get as many of its
championship-caliber players on the field at the same time – and moving Young
to a position that would allow 20-year-old defensive whiz Elvis Andrus to
settle in at shortstop would be the best way to achieve that – and based on
where Andrus’s development is, the belief is that he’s either ready to do that
now, or at least ready to be pushed.

 

Because
here’s the thing – this has to happen now, or a year from now.  Unless Young or Andrus is traded.

 

This
is from the Andrus feature in the 2009 Bound Edition:

 

While Andrus does many things well, it’s
unquestionable that to maximize his value, he needs to play shortstop.  Every day. 
Moving Soriano to the outfield would have been possible to do during the
season (cf., Mark Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez, German Duran).  Moving Michael Young to another infield
position — whether it would also involve a position switch for Kinsler — is
something that would need to happen in an off-season.  Settling in at a new infield position
involves too many different actions, too much nuance, to attempt to tackle with
a series of hour-long pregame fungo sessions.

 

So is Andrus ready now?  If so, do you approach Young this winter,
fresh off his first Gold Glove, about a position switch?   If not, you have to be prepared to wait a
full year before breaking Andrus in . . . .

 

When
the club felt Chris Davis was ready, he was here, in the middle of the season.  But you can’t ask Young to move in the middle
of a season, and so unless the determination is that Andrus will play on the farm
another full year, transitioning Young to third now makes sense.  Even if Andrus proves in camp he isn’t quite ready,
I suppose the idea would be to roll with a short-term shortstop (the equivalent
of Ben Broussard or Chris Shelton, though hopefully with better results) until
whatever point in time Andrus, like Davis in 2008, tells the organization with
his development that he’s ready.

 

Alex
Rodriguez was not quite 19 when he reached the big leagues.  Jose Reyes debuted a day before he turned 20.  Derek Jeter was a month short of his 21st
birthday, Edgar Renteria three months short. 
Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins, each a few months short of turning 22.  They were pushed by their clubs, and responded.

 

But
this isn’t about Andrus, of course.  It’s
all but a consensus that he’s going to play shortstop in the big leagues for a
very long time, starting soon.  The issue
is what “soon” means, leading to the bigger issue, and that is how to handle
the situation with the heart and soul of the franchise, when he’s reluctant to
change positions right now, when it’s a move that, as of mid-December and also tonight,
he clearly doesn’t agree with.

 

Daniels
in particular went on and on about Young’s leadership and character, about how
much respect he has for Young personally, on the field and in the clubhouse and
in the community – and how a big part of the team’s long-term commitment to him
22 months ago was his team-first approach and how, because it’s Young, the team
would not issue an ultimatum like the Nationals did to Alfonso Soriano three
years ago (change positions or we’ll suspend you).

 

What
Daniels is counting on is that this gets resolved before spring training.  That Young, drawing on some of that
team-first attitude, buys into the plan. 

 

But
another way it could be resolved is by a trade. 
And while Daniels said Young has not “demanded” a trade, he acknowledged
that Young asked the club to explore the possibility, that there is interest
around the league – though no team has proposed an idea that Daniels says makes
sense for the Rangers, and that he’ll continue to look at trade options.  Young, according to Rosenthal, has given Texas “a small list of teams
for which he would waive his no-trade clause” – and would consider returning to
second base if traded.

 

Still,
Daniels says, the ideal resolution is for Young to play third base for the
Texas Rangers in 2009.  Willingly.

 

Because
having an unhappy Michael Young in the room is not a good thing, not with the respect
he commands, the example and the tone he sets, the impression he can make on a growing
team with his attitude and leadership and actions and pride. 

 

What
worries me is that other teams may get enough of an impression that Texas is in a corner now
that they’ll offer less than fair value for him, possibly putting the Rangers
in a position of choosing between an unattractive trade and an unhappy leader.

 

Solution:
Get multiple teams involved, taking away the leverage that one team clearly more
interested than everyone else thinks it has.

 

No,
the better solution: Bygones.  I
desperately want Young and the Rangers to be on the same page here.

 

I’m
done reading stories online tonight, done reading message boards, done thinking
about where this thing is headed.  This is
one of those reports where, a minute after I hit “send,” three things will
instantly occur to me that I should have included.  I’ll wake up in six hours with another half a
dozen thoughts I wish I’d had before finishing this report.  But this cloud of mild shock that I feel
right now is something I didn’t want to dissipate before I wrote. 

 

I
get the chance to read to my son’s class tomorrow morning, and that couldn’t
come at a better time for me.

 

I
don’t know how I’m going to feel if and when Michael Young, who is a role model
to me and a hero to my kids, which makes us no different from thousands of
others around here, is traded to another baseball team. 

 

Don’t
expect me to sort that out ahead of time.

 

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

 

Sluggers of the West Awards Dinner

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The 2009 Sluggers of
the West Awards Dinner is in less than two weeks, and as they have done in the
past, the Rangers are extending a special for the Newberg Report community to
attend. 

 

The event, which benefits
the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, is on Friday, January 23, at Eddie Deen’s
Ranch just south of downtown Dallas,
starting at 6:30 p.m.  If you’re
interested in attending, and sitting with fellow Newberg Report readers, call
Karin Morris at 817-436-5933 – you’ll get the season ticket holder price of $40
per ticket (or $400 per table), discounted from the $50 price ($500 per table)
that non-season ticket holders pay to attend. 

 

The purchase of a
table includes a Rangers celebrity (and guest) at your table, so if you want to
round up a group of eight – I know in the past folks have put together a group
on our message board – you’re assured of having a Rangers representative and
guest seated with you.

 

This year’s Awards Dinner
will honor:

 

* American League
Outstanding Player of the Year/Silver Slugger/ Rangers Player of the Year:  Josh Hamilton

* Marvin Miller Man
of the Year/Gold Glove Winner:  Michael
Young

* Rangers Pitcher of
the Year:  Vicente Padilla

* Rangers Rookie of
the Year:  Chris Davis

* Harold McKinney
Good Guy Award:  Ron Washington

* Jim Sundberg
Community Achievement Award:  Ian Kinsler

* Nolan Ryan Minor
League Pitcher of the Year:  Derek
Holland

* Tom Grieve Minor
League Player of the Year:  Nelson Cruz

* Minor League
Defender of the Year:  Jose Vallejo

* Mark Holtz Alumni
Award Winner:  Mark McLemore

 

The great Chuck Morgan
puts on a memorable show every year, almost always with a surprise or two in
store.  And all net proceeds of the event
benefit the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, which does outstanding work in
the community, which we’ve talked about a bunch this off-season.

 

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

Trends.

With Boston’s signing of free agent Takashi Saito, the Red Sox now have the following relievers on the roster: Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Ramon Ramirez, David Aardsma, Javier Lopez, Wes Littleton, Miguel Gonzalez, Devern Hansack, David Pauley, and Saito.

And the following starters:

Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny,  John Smoltz, Justin Masterson, Clay Buchholz, and Michael Bowden.

Plus Junichi Tazawa and Nick Hagadone not too far off, not to mention reliever Daniel Bard.

Whether or not the crazy depth Boston has created with its off-season additions makes a trade for a Texas catcher more likely, it does make one thing less likely — that the Rangers will get a second player from the Red Sox to complete the late November Littleton trade.  Most reports regarding that trade suggested that the second player to be named (in addition to reliever Beau Vaughan, who was conveyed to Texas after the Rule 5 Draft) was conditioned on Littleton making Boston’s Opening Day roster.  

Saito had an injury-marred season with the Dodgers but did return to the mound in September, and has cleared Boston’s physical.

According to one local report, reliever Derrick Turnbow’s minor league deal with Texas has dual out clauses, permitting the righthander to ask for his release if not on the big league roster as of March 31, and again on May 1.

Team Mexico has invited Luis Mendoza to pitch in the World Baseball Classic.  Probably not the best idea for Mendoza, who has to prove himself from scratch here, not only to a new pitching coach but to the organization as a whole.

The Rangers have signed outfielder Nathan Haynes to a minor league contract with an invite to big league spring training.  The 29-year-old Haynes, taken 32nd overall in the 1997 draft by the A’s (seven slots before Texas chose Jason Romano), has bounced from the Oakland system to the Angels to the Giants, back to the Angels, and finally to the Rays.  Haynes got big league looks with Los Angeles and Tampa Bay the last two seasons.  Solid speed, no power, good defense, capable in all three outfield spots.  This year’s Jason Ellison.

One interesting aspect of the rumblings that Joe Crede may be down to deciding between Texas and San Francisco is that, if the third baseman chooses the Rangers, it could prompt the Giants to reengage Texas about the idea of a Hank Blalock trade.  Blalock would presumably play first base for San Francisco, with Pablo Sandoval sliding across the diamond to third.

Phil Rogers speculates in today’s Chicago Tribune that Bobby Valentine, whose contract in Japan expires in 2009 and reportedly won’t be extended, could be a candidate to return to Texas if a managerial need arises.

San Diego claimed righthander Virgil Vasquez, the Rangers’ seventh-round pick in 2000, off waivers from Boston.

New Rangers radio voice Dave Barnett did Mavericks play-by-play for seven seasons.  The team’s results?

1981-82:  28-54 record

1982-83:  38-44 record

1983-84:  43-39 record, playoffs

1984-85:  44-38 record, playoffs

1985-86:  44-38 record, playoffs

1986-87:  55-27 record, playoffs

1987-88:  53-29 record, playoffs — one win away from the NBA Finals

(Dallas missed the playoffs the season after Barnett departed.)

Barnett then did Spurs games for nine seasons:

1988-89:  21-61 record

1989-90:  56-26 record, playoffs

1990-91:  55-27 record, playoffs

1991-92:  47-35 record, playoffs

1992-93:  49-33 record, playoffs

1993-94:  55-27 record, playoffs

1994-95:  62-20 record, playoffs

1995-96:  59-23 record, playoffs

(San Antonio missed the playoffs the season after Barnett departed.)

Barnett’s one season doing Rangers TV — 1990:

First half:  40-44 record (.476)

Second half:  43-35 record (.551)

Good trends.

More trends?

From the October 8 Newberg Report:

“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?”

Answer: All but Arizona made the playoffs this year, and the Diamondbacks made it to the National League Championship Series in 2007.

But there’s more.

We all know the Texas farm system was ranked number four by Baseball America last winter, after coming in at number 28 the previous year (the largest jump in the publication’s history).  BA has all but confirmed in a number of columns and chat sessions over the last three months that Texas will be number one or number two when this off-season’s rankings come out (sometime this month).  

Consider the following.

All nine organizations ranked number one by BA this decade have made the playoffs in short order, with an average timetable of two seasons after the honors.

Checking in with the 70 organizations who have ranked somewhere in the top 10 from 2001 to 2007, 62 have made the playoffs since.  

The farm systems of six of the eight 2008 playoff teams were in BA’s top 10 at least once in the past three years.

Finally, in this decade, 17 organizations have landed in BA’s top 10 rankings in consecutive years, as we will learn within the month that Texas will have done.  Of those 17, 16 went on to make the playoffs — 10 of them doing so within two years.

Top 10 rankings aren’t the end game here.  But the correlation, and the trends, are unmistakable.

Thirty-four days.

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

Josh Hamilton's "Homecoming."


The
last report I sent out was 2,554 words, yesterday morning.  It wasn’t until 1,863 words in that I mentioned
to you that the first episode of ESPN’s new series, “Homecoming with Rick
Reilly,” would air tonight at 7 p.m., featuring Josh Hamilton. 

 

I
didn’t know the format of the series or the nature of the story they were going
to tell, and I’m sorry that I didn’t learn more about it in advance so I could
pass that along to you.  I didn’t even
know it was actually going to be on ESPN*2*,
and I’m sorry about that, too.  More than
anything, it shouldn’t have been buried 1,800 words into a report that probably
got deleted halfway through by those of you who managed to stick it out for
that long, and I apologize for that.

 

I
don’t know when tonight’s episode of “Homecoming” will re-air, if at all, but I’m
not deleting that DVR timer, and every time it does show back up, I will watch
it again. 

 

Every
time.

 

I’ve
read Josh’s book, and probably every article out there that’s been written about
him.  But I learned a lot more tonight,
and got the chance to put faces and voices and stories to names.

 

One
person’s absence from the packed auditorium at Josh’s high school for the
taping of the show stood out.  His wife
and one of their daughters were there, and so was their pastor, and Josh’s parents
and more family, high school teammates and coaches and Ashley Pittman, and Johnny
Narron and Jerry Narron and other instrumental people in his recovery, and
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Clay Council. 

 

But
Josh’s grandmother Mary Holt wasn’t there, and since the show was filmed minutes
from where she lives that makes me less than optimistic that we might see her
one day in Arlington.  The footage of Mary and Josh sitting together
on a couch in her home, talking about what they went through together, was
unforgettable, but she wasn’t in the auditorium with everyone else.

 

For
22 years the Rangers have had a “Texas Hero” throw out the first pitch on
Opening Day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  There have been police officers and
firefighters who have saved lives.  A
World War II pilot who received the Bronze and Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.  A 10-year-old boy who pulled his unconscious
sister from the bottom of a swimming pool. 
Tom Landry and Jessica McClure and military leaders and an entire
platoon.

 

She’s
not from Texas,
but if there were any way to get Mary Holt onto that mound to bring in the next
new baseball season, I promise that I will respond with the longest standing
ovation I have ever given anybody, anywhere.

 

Sorry
I didn’t alert you to the “Homecoming” episode any more prominently than I did
on Thursday morning, but I had no idea what we’d be getting.  When I learn when it will air again, I will
let all of you know, in its own email, not buried a million words down.

 

 

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

Stratego.

It wasn’t the first thought I had when word came down that the Cubs had agreed to pay Milton Bradley’s three-year, $30 million demand, but after imagining the defensive issues that a Soriano/Fukudome/Bradley outfield could present, thinking about the wisdom of a National League giving Bradley his first multi-year contract when he managed to play defensively in only 20 games last year, wondering which player in Texas steps up to bring Bradley’s intensity in 2009, and hoping that Bradley has a really good year in Chicago, it occurred to me that the 2008 season he had, as frustrating as it was from an injury standpoint, can be comfortably placed on this list:

a. Gary Matthews Jr., minor league contract at age 29 + Rangers Ballpark in Arlington + Rudy Jaramillo = five years, $50 million at age 32

b. Mark DeRosa, minor league contract at age 29 + Rangers Ballpark in Arlington + Rudy Jaramillo = three years, $13 million at age 31

c. Milton Bradley, one year, $5.25 million at age 29 + Rangers Ballpark in Arlington + Rudy Jaramillo = three years, $30 million at age 30

Restating the obvious: This may be a tough place to attract premium starting pitchers, but it’s a spectacular landing spot for a hitter to establish (or reestablish) himself.

Texas will be compensated for the loss of Bradley with a supplemental first-round pick in June.  The slot is currently number 41, but that will drop as more unsigned free agents find homes.

Bradley’s right-handed-hitting replacement in the lineup, for now, will be Nelson Cruz, who hit .330/.421/.609 in 115 at-bats after Texas called him up in late August; .362/.417/.638 in 105 Dominican Winter League regular season at-bats; and .447/.488/.632 (so far) in 38 DWL playoff at-bats (including a 4 for 4 night yesterday).  All told, in 258 at-bats since his late-season call-up to Arlington, the rough equivalent of half a season, the 28-year-old with no options left has combined to hit .360/.429/.624 with 17 home runs and 67 RBI, and 31 walks and 54 strikeouts.  

Max Ramirez led the Venezuelan Winter League in regular season home runs, with 15 (in 191 at-bats).  He hit .298/.391/.618, finishing with the second-highest slug and third-highest OPS in the league, and his 53 RBI were also second most, trailing Jesus Guzman by 14 runs driven in (though in 41 fewer at-bats).

In his first three Venezuelan Winter League appearances after being sent to Texas in the Gerald Laird trade, righthander Guillermo Moscoso fanned 12 in seven scoreless innings, scattering four hits and two walks.  Since then, the 25-year-old has made one playoff start, giving up two runs on four hits and a walk in 3.1 innings, setting one hitter down on strikes.

Mercurial righthander Luis Mendoza has been pretty solid in the Mexican Pacific League this winter, going 4-1, 2.68 with a save in 40.1 regular season innings (35 hits and 13 walks, 19 strikeouts, 2.41 G/F).  Mendoza earned a win in his one playoff start, giving up three runs (one earned) on 10 hits and two walks in six innings, punching out nine.  

Two thoughts on the deal Jason Giambi struck to return to Oakland, reportedly for a guaranteed $5.25 million (or $9.5 million over two years at the option of the A’s): (1) not a good development for Hank Blalock’s trade market, as his $6.2 million contract for 2009 (plus whatever a team would have to part with in trade) suddenly doesn’t look like such a bargain, with Giambi coming off an .875 OPS (Blalock had an .846) and hitters like Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Ken Griffey Jr., Ty Wigginton, Moises Alou, Garret Anderson, and Eric Hinske still on the market, and Pat Burrell agreeing to a similarly sensible two-year, $16 million deal with Tampa Bay earlier this week; and (2) I sure like Giambi landing with the A’s more than some of the other names they were rumored to be in on (Rafael Furcal, Burrell, Abreu, Orlando Cabrera).  Fine with me if Oakland signs someone nearing the end of his productivity, and not likely to fetch much in July (like Matt Holliday will).  Anderson, another rumored Oakland target, would have been even better.

San Francisco still needs a corner infielder with power — most of the above names are outfielders — and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this week that Texas is keeping an eye not only on Jonathan Sanchez but fellow Giants lefthander Noah Lowry as well.   

Next to the Giants, Baltimore has probably been linked to Blalock as prominently as any other club this off-season.  The latest word is that the Orioles are considering Richie Sexson as a first base candidate.  

Seriously.  Really?

Really?

At least one local report indicates that Texas is considering third baseman Joe Crede, who has been limited by back problems for a couple years.  Pretty good defensive player when he’s healthy, and he’s had a couple reasonably productive years at the plate.  (His game is actually not entirely different from what Travis Metcalf’s projects to be, if everything breaks right.)

Given Crede’s back issues, he’s probably only going to get a one-year deal (and as a Scott Boras client, that’s probably all he wants anyway), and that fits the ideal profile of any external third base acquisition, given the blueprint in Texas.  Wigginton, who is going to get multiple years from someone and who isn’t a quality defender, doesn’t.

Various reports have Texas in on Chad Cordero, Eric Gagné, Eddie Guardado, Akinori Otsuka, Will Ohman, Jason Isringhausen, Guillermo Mota, Joe Beimel, Dennys Reyes, and Brian Shouse as possible bullpen additions.

Cordero will throw for teams this week.  The list of teams not planning to attend his workout is likely shorter than the list of those who will be on hand.

According to one local report, Texas “made a strong push” to sign Joe Nelson “and almost got something done right before Christmas,” before he opted to sign with Tampa Bay.  The 34-year-old reliever signed a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Rays.

Nelson’s ERA in 2008 was 2.00.  He struck out 10 batters per nine innings, issuing three unintentional walks per nine.  Opponents hit just .207/.291/.325 off him.  He induced more groundouts than flyouts.  And yet, as a first-time arbitration-eligible who didn’t even pitch in the major leagues in 2007, he was non-tendered by the Marlins.

Say what you want about the economy.  Blow off the impact of the Sabathia and Teixeira and Burnett signings since there were only four or five teams conceivably in play for those guys.  Where deals like those have the most effect on teams all across the league is in the salary levels that their contracts and those on the next tier and the tier after that set, resulting in escalating arbitration projections that cause players like Nelson, Daniel Cabrera, and Wigginton to get non-tendered.  All-Star-level players?  No.  But they can help teams, and the impact that free agency has had on arbitration is the reason a pitcher like Nelson was on the open market at all this winter.

There appears to be mutual interest in Jason Jennings coming back here, this time on a non-roster deal.

Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald suggests that if the Red Sox don’t sign Rocco Baldelli or Gabe Kapler as a fourth outfielder, they’ll probably turn to the trade market, in which case Marlon Byrd could be a candidate.  Latest word, however, is that Baldelli (who grew up an hour southwest of Fenway Park) could land in Boston as soon as today.

Good grief: If I were Clay Buchholz, I’d begin to question how important I am to the Red Sox, who are apparently about to add John Smoltz to a mix that already includes Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, and Brad Penny, not to mention Junichi Tazawa, Justin Masterson (who was reportedly being shifted to the rotation u
pon Boston’s acquisition of reliever Ramon Ramirez earlier this winter), Michael Bowden, and Nick Hagadone.  Even if Smoltz is unlikely to pitch before June, seems like a strange move.

Not a great development for Wes Littleton, either.

Could the Smoltz defection inch Atlanta closer to making an offer for Kevin Millwood or Vicente Padilla?  I don’t know.

Yeah, I hated seeing Cleveland getting Mark DeRosa for a seemingly modest price in prospects.

Outfielder Jason Ellison signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia.

Baseball America editor in chief John Manuel, chatting about the publication’s ranking of the Phillies’ top 10 prospects this week, said that outfielder Greg Golson would have been his number nine or number 10 Philadelphia prospect had he not been traded to Texas.  Manuel added that John Mayberry Jr., whom the Rangers swapped for Golson, figures in outside the Phillies’ top 20.

BA executive editor Jim Callis wrote this week that Justin Smoak is his number 19 prospect in baseball.  

BA’s Ben Badler, in an article about the game’s best defensive prospects behind the plate, said of Taylor Teagarden: “Voted the best defensive catcher in the both the Double-A Texas League and Triple-A Pacific Coast League, Teagarden has a solid case as the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues.  He rarely allowed a passed ball and committed only two errors in the minors.  He has all the tools scouts look for in a top-flight defensive catcher: an outstanding arm, quick pop times, good hands, athleticism and strong blocking skills.”

Righthander John Patterson retired.  Texas had signed the 30-year-old to a minor league contract in March, but he never bounced back from nerve problems in his forearm that wiped out most of his 2006 and 2007 seasons and all of 2008.   

Some notes on new Frisco pitching coach Joe Slusarski:

The veteran of seven big league seasons (Oakland, Milwaukee, Houston, Atlanta), he pitched collegiately at the University of New Orleans, pitched for AAA New Orleans in both the Brewers and Astros systems, and, upon retirement, was the pitching coach back at UNO — where his staff included freshman righthander Thomas Diamond.  The Astros then brought Slusarski back to be the pitching coach at AA Round Rock (2003-2004) — where he succeeded Mike Maddux on Jackie Moore’s Express coaching staff (which also included Spike Owen) — and, once Round Rock moved to AAA, he stayed at the AA level as pitching coach for Corpus Christi (2005-2006).  Both farm clubs, of course, were owned by Nolan Ryan.  

Slusarski was reported to be a candidate for the Houston big league pitching coach job that ultimately went to Dave Wallace.  

This, I thought, was a very cool note: Luis Ortiz, who came to Texas in 1994 from Boston, along with Otis Nixon, for Jose Canseco, and who joined the Spokane coaching staff in July before a promotion to roving minor league hitting instructor this off-season, is apparently the only native of the Dominican Republic ever to both play in the major leagues and earn a college degree.  Ortiz, whose .911 career slugging percentage at Union University remains an NAIA record, returned to Union after retiring as a player in 2004 to get his degree.

Grant Schiller did a great interview with Eric Nadel on his blog at http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/2008/12/eric-nadel-interview.html.   
 
ESPN debuts a new hour-long series, “Homecoming with Rick Reilly,” this Friday at 7:00 p.m., with the first episode featuring Josh Hamilton. 

I’ve got some thoughts on what’s happening to the local Rangers newspaper beat, which I’ll get to when the time is right, but for now I’m happy to see Jim Reeves starting to blog baseball for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  The more baseball reporting we’re treated to, the better.

In a blogged interview he gave Richard Durrett of the Dallas Morning News, Chris Davis said his goal going into 2008, his second full season as a pro, was to hit .315 with 40 home runs and 130 RBI.  Even though he spent more than half of the year getting acclimated to big league pitching and taking on the tall order of making adjustments against the best pitchers in the game, Davis’s combined numbers in AA, AAA, and the Major Leagues were .309 with 40 home runs and 128 RBI.

Read Durrett’s blog entry (http://rangersblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/01/qa-with-chris-davis.html).  You might see in Davis’s words a glimpse of why I think he’s on his way to being much more than a fan favorite.  He’s going to be an exceptional leader on this team.  Soon.

The Rangers have announced details on this off-season’s Winter Caravan, which will include over 50 appearances by club executives, players, coaches, and alumni at Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana schools, civic clubs, and military installations over the next month.

Each of the following events are at Academy Sports and Outdoors locations and are free to the public:

Friday, January 9: Town Hall/Autograph Session, 1523 State Highway 114 West, Grapevine, 6:30-8:00 p.m. (scheduled to appear: German Duran, Ian Kinsler, Jackie Moore, Jim Sundberg, Josh Lewin)

Saturday, January 10: Autograph Session, 3677 Emporium Circle, Mesquite, 11:30-1:00 p.m. (scheduled to appear: Chris Davis, David Murphy)

Tuesday, January 13: Town Hall/Autograph Session, 2428 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, 6:30-8:00 p.m. (scheduled to appear: Jon Daniels, Scott Feldman, Taylor Teagarden, Jim Sundberg, Eric Nadel)

Tuesday, January 13: Autograph Session, 2801 Beene Blvd., Bossier City, Louisiana, 4:00-5:00 p.m. (scheduled to appear: Ron Washington, Thomas Diamond, Jackie Moore, Josh Lewin)

Wednesday, January 14: Autograph Session, 3201 Lawrence Road, Wichita Falls, 5:00-6:00 p.m. (scheduled to appear: Thomas Diamond, German Duran, Travis Metcalf, Josh Lewin)

Thursday, January 15: Town Hall/Autograph Session, 7441 NE Loop 820, North Richland Hlls, 6:30-8:00 (scheduled to appear: Jon Daniels, German Duran, Matt Harrison, Kevin Millwood, Jim Sundberg, Tom Grieve)

Friday, January 16: Autograph Session, 2501 South Broadway, Edmond, Oklahoma, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (scheduled to appear: German Duran, Matt Harrison, Tommy Hunter, Bobby Jones, Mike Coolbaugh)

Saturday, January 17: Autograph Session, 4045 North Central Expressway, Plano, 10:30-12 noon (scheduled to appear: Travis Metcalf, Kevin Millwood)

Tuesday, January 20: Autograph Session, 8668 South Broadway Ave.,Tyler, 6:00-7:00 p.m. (scheduled to appear: Brandon Boggs, Chris Davis, Tom Grieve)

Thursday, January 22: Town Hall/Autograph Session, 1101 West Arbrook Blvd., Arlington, 6:30-8:00 p.m. (scheduled to appear: Ron Washington, Mike Maddux, Josh Hamilton, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jim Sundberg, Tom Grieve)

Monday, January 26: Autograph Session, 210 New Road, Waco, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (scheduled to appear: Andy Hawkins, David Murphy, Taylor Teagarden, Eric Nadel)

TBA: Autograph Session, 5400 Brodie Lane, Sunset Valley (Austin area)

In addition, the Rangers will have autographs sessions at Brookshire’s in Tyler (100 Rice Road) on Tuesday, January 20, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. (Brandon Boggs, Chris Davis, Tom Grieve) and in Lake Worth (6708 Lake Worth Boulevard) on that same day from 6:30-7:30 p.m. (participants to be announced).

Also, the Rangers’ Round Up Caravan will make stops at the organization’s minor league affiliates in Oklahoma City on Saturday, January 17 from 10:00-11:00 a.m. (including a Rangers/RedHawks Clinic; call the RedHawks at 405-218-1000 for more information) and at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco on that same day from 1:00-4:00 p.m. (including a 1:30-3:00 autograph session that is scheduled to include Ian Kinsler, Chris Davis, Thomas Diamond, German Duran, Eric Hurley, and David Murphy).

Finally, t
he Rangers will be visiting military installations at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana; Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, and will make appearances at a number of elementary and high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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

 

Quiz.

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What do Warner
Madrigal, Jared Abruzzo, and Colt McCoy have in common?

 

Rather, who do Warner Madrigal, Jared Abruzzo, and
Colt McCoy have in common?


quan_cosby.jpg


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.

 

Ridiculous.

 

Derrick
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.

 

Before
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.

 

Turnbow
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. 

 

Another
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. 

 

(Michael
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.

 

Why?

 

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
draft.

 

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

 

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
Harris.

 

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
circle.)

 

After
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.

 

Pitching
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.

 

A
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 . . .

 

(Nobody
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.

 

Turnbow
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.

 

Turnbow
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.

 

Turnbow
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.

 

Nobody
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. 

 

Anyway,
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.

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