Debunking.

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I read a column in yesterday’s
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
, not by the general columnist with the Mad Libs piece
he churns out every few weeks when it’s time for a Rangers theme, but instead
by the venerable Jim Reeves.  The
headline, which Reeves probably didn’t write himself, blares out that the
Rangers are “studying ways to trim their payroll.”  The lede, after suggesting that Tom Hicks would
like to cut another $20 million from the team’s payroll before 2010, declares
that, if it were to happen, “[i]t might just incite a riot among an already
restless and frustrated Rangers fandom.”

 

That’s exactly what the column was designed to do.

 

But read the quotes, which there are many of, in the
story. 

 

I don’t see where Hicks said he is looking to cut payroll as
an objective in itself.

 

I do see where he tells Reeves: “There’s no direction for [Nolan
Ryan and Jon Daniels] to cut payroll.”

 

I do see where Ryan notes: “We’re in the mind-set that we’re
going to be in the race this year and not in the mind-set of dumping salaries,
because we feel like if we’re successful on the field, what we haven’t been
able to accomplish this off-season in [season ticket] renewals we can make up
with walk-up attendance if we’re in a pennant race.”

 

As for the one significant 2010 salary that could transform
from a club option to a guaranteed contract – Kevin Millwood’s $12 million if
he reaches a workload threshold this year – Reeves acknowledges that “Hicks
said he hopes Millwood hits his 180 innings and will be back next season, ‘but
it’s up to him.'”

 

Doesn’t sound like an owner trying to find ways to cut payroll.

 

In fact, didn’t Hicks authorize a two-year deal for Ben
Sheets last month, for a reported $20 million, before the righthander failed his
physical?  There have been similar go-aheads
to bust payroll to sign players like Carlos Delgado, Barry Zito, Daisuke Matsuzaka,
and Torii Hunter in recent years.

 

Said Hicks to Reeves: “If we have a chance to get a great
Ben Sheets type player at the right price, we’d do it.  All of this is different than saying, ‘I want
you to cut the payroll.'”

 

But that point gets buried halfway into the column.

 

Ryan adds: “Tom wants to see us try to hit our budget this
year.  We feel like under the current
economic environment, we need to be in the pennant race and need to be
competitive this year.”

 

What’s wrong with that comment?  Particularly considered in light of the
effort to sign Sheets in February?

 

Hicks tells Reeves: “I like the energy of the young guys.  I like [Justin] Smoak.  I like Max Ramirez.  Next year, I think you’ll see [Neftali] Feliz
and [Derek] Holland
in the rotation.  It would be nice to see
[Brandon]
McCarthy step up this year.”

 

If that means some combination of Smoak and Ramirez could
change the Rangers’ situation at designated hitter, where Hank Blalock will go
into the off-season as one of two things – (1) a player who once again wasn’t
able to give the team a full season or (2) a dependable veteran bat who finally
put together a solid year from start to finish and will hit free agency – where’s
the problem with that comment?

 

As for Feliz and Holland impacting the rotation in 2010, is
that a signal that the Rangers simply want to get out from under Millwood’s and
Vicente Padilla’s eight figures a year and will stick any minimum-salary
pitchers they can find in there to replace them?  C’mon.

 

I think we’d all agree that McCarthy stepping up this year
is something worth hoping for.

 

Someone challenged me yesterday on the subject of the
Rangers’ payroll approach. 

 

This isn’t the Carl Pohlad-era Twins.

 

I’m in favor of spiking expenditures in scouting and player
development, going above slot for Smoak, Holland,
Taylor Teagarden, Julio Borbon, Neil Ramirez, Marcus Lemon, Robbie Ross, Clark
Murphy, Johnny Whittleman, Kyle Ocampo, Matt Thompson, and others, and kicking
tail in Latin America, rather than spending
cash on Jay Powell.

 

I appreciate that nobody offered Michael Ynoa or Junichi Tazawa
more than the Texas Rangers did.

 

I don’t know what the payroll strategy has been, or will be.
 But there’s evidence that the Rangers
are spending more (and spending wisely) internationally, and that whatever
budget gets set for the big league roster, it’s always subject to exception for
the right player.

 

But yeah, dang — I wish we’d signed Gary Matthews Jr. a
couple winters ago for that five years and $50 million the Angels gave him,
rather than take the two draft picks.  Maybe
the Angels would consider taking Michael Main and Neil Ramirez for him.

 

There were baseball writers in this market who criticized the
Rangers for letting Matthews “get away” at that price.  One of them, Reeves, wrote this a few days
into the 2007 season, after Los Angeles had
swept Texas
in the season’s first three games:

 

“Tom Hicks flew in
here from Liverpool, England, on Monday, presumably with the $10 million he
saved by not re-signing Gary Matthews Jr. this past off-season jingling around
in his pocket with a few extra British pounds in his loose change.

 

“What the Angels got
for their $10 million was Matthews’ usual spectacular defense in center field
and a three-game sweep of the Rangers to open the season.

 

“I’ll let you figure
out who got the best end of the deal.”

 

Who do you think got the best end of the deal? 

 

Who do you think the Angels think got the best end of the
deal?

 

I like Jim Reeves.  There’s
nobody in this sportswriting market who does a better job with the human
interest story.  But it bothers me when a
column like yesterday’s, something I’d expect instead from his one-trick
colleague, ends up manufacturing a misleading message that the casual sports
fan might blindly adopt. 

 

There are players on this team with sizable contracts who
will come off the books in seven months. 
If the team will be better – not cheaper, but better – by going with
younger players already in the organization and ready to contribute, is there
anyone who would reasonably argue that that’s a bad plan?  Especially for a team that believes it will contend
in 2010, and for years after that?

 

Are we to believe that Texas aren’t busy approaching Josh Hamilton with
a huge offer to be a Texas Ranger for life? 
It would increase payroll, you know.

 

And does anyone really think that if there’s a Ben Sheets
out there to sign in 2009 – either a starting pitcher on the free agent market (like
John Lackey if he doesn’t extend with the Angels, or Sheets himself), or a Josh-Beckett-from-the-Marlins
trade to get in on, that Texas will stay away because it would bust the budget?

 

We know – not on faith but on the evidence – that that hasn’t
been the case, and I’d bet it won’t be going forward.   

 

Done ranting.

 

A few things I’d love to see in Surprise:

 

1. Concession stands – even one little kiosk – on the back
fields.  Water, soft drinks, ice cream, sunscreen,
Rangers caps and visors and T-shirts. 
Maybe even Rangers baseball cards, since the players are so good on
those back fields about signing autographs for kids each morning.  Wouldn’t it be a huge win-win to get
something like that set up?

 

2. T-shirts and jerseys in the Surprise Stadium gift shop
that have players’ names on the back.  We
went into the gift shop during one game hoping to buy a new Michael Young shirt
for Max, who had outgrown his last one.  The
selection of shirts was sparse (it’s a tiny gift shop, shared by the Royals, of
course), and none of them had a name or even a number on the back. 

 

3. More Jim Sundberg. 
You should have seen the kids program he was running on the batting practice
field one day.  What a great Rangers ambassador
he is.  And with alumni already around as
part of the Legacy Program (I saw Rusty Greer, Mark McLemore, and Jeff Russell,
and I’m sure there were others in town at different times), there are some
great opportunities for your kids to meet and learn from the same Rangers
players you cheered for 10 or more years ago. 

 

Set your DVR’s: The MLB Network Rangers episode of “30 Clubs
in 30 Days” will re-air three times: (1) this Friday, March 27, at 1:00 a.m.;
(2) Friday, April 3, at 11 a.m.; and (3) Sunday, April 5, at 11 a.m.

 

Also, MLB Network will show “Josh Hamilton: Resurrecting the
Dream” again this Friday, March 27, at 7 p.m.

 

I misled you by mistake when I noted on Sunday that Jimmy
Gobble is out of options.  That’s true,
but he’s here on a non-roster deal.  So
there’s no issue in terms of having to outright him in order to assign him to a
minor league deal.  I’m just not sure
whether he has an opt-out date in his deal.

 

Michael Young, back in action yesterday after injuring a quad
muscle on Saturday, came out after the second inning after aggravating the quad.
 He’s day-to-day, but it’s not expected
to be an injury that would endanger his readiness for Opening Day.

 

McCarthy, after giving up only one hit in his previous eight
innings, was touched for six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in 4.2 innings
yesterday, fanning three.

 

C.J. Wilson struck out one Mariner in two perfect innings yesterday.  No blister issues, evidently.

 

New Angels closer Brian Fuentes, who has been dealing with
back stiffness in camp, reportedly topped out at 89 miles per hour in a minor
league game on Monday.  He hasn’t pitched
in a big league exhibition game yet, and his ERA against minor leaguers is
12.27.

 

Local lawyer and baseball historian Talmage Boston will have
a book signing at the Barnes & Noble on S. Cooper Street in Arlington this Saturday from 1:00-2:30 for his
new book, “Baseball and the Baby Boomer.” 
You can learn about the book at www.talmageboston.com.

 

Mike Hollander, the LSU shortstop drafted by Texas in the 20th
round last year, is getting a look in camp at catcher.  The 23-year-old hit .353/.410/.588 in an abbreviated
nine-game run with the Arizona League squad late last summer, after returning
from a broken thumb that he suffered in his second game with Spokane.

 

The Sioux City Explorers of the independent American
Association traded outfielder Juan Senreiso to the Victoria Seals of the independent
Golden Baseball League for a player to be named.

 

Twelve sleeps.

 

 

2 Comments

wtg Jamie, tell it like it is. Newpapers are tying to sell papers and you are telling like you see it. That is why many of us would rather read your column than the newpaper although both are worth reading but you gotta learn how to read them. I cannot tell you how much I enjoy your column and keep up the good work.

AL

Hicks wants investors, I nominate you as the voice/owner of the fan. How much would it take for the fans to to buy part of the team, say 1%.

John

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