Remembering Jay Novacek.

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I always liked Jay Novacek and Mickey Tettleton a little
more because of the way they carried themselves.  The way Novacek’s first act after hauling in
a touchdown pass from Troy Aikman would be to simply hand the football to the back
judge.  (Jason Witten has some of that in
him, too.)  The way Tettleton would round
the bases on a huge home run with the same tempo and same facial expression he’d
have if he were jogging back to the dugout after a lazy F-8.

 

Novacek and Tettleton always acted like they’d been there
before, as the sports saying goes.  They were
extraordinary in their ordinariness.

 

As I hit the send button on Sunday afternoon’s
report
to get ready to head to the Rangers’ Triple Play event, I had an
idea of what the atmosphere would be like. 
I figured Josh Lewin and Eric Nadel would be at their campy-best, the highlight
of the evening would be the rookie
song
, the players would be embarrassed more than once by their wives.  All turned out to be true.  But I was wrong about one thing.

 

Hours after the completion of a sweep of the Angels and a seventh
straight win, sitting with a division lead and the best stretch of crisp team baseball
this franchise has put together in years, I expected it to feel like a frat
party.  Players strutting around, basking
in the glow of what’s going on.  There’s
no question that the fan energy at the event was very different from past years.  There was a quiet but palpable electricity in
the room.  But the players?

 

Flipping the ball to the ref.  Circling the bases with their head down.

 

I’m not sure I can explain it any better than that.  I talked to a bunch of them Sunday night, and
to a man they’re treating this run like it’s what they expected of
themselves.  Not parading around because they’d
just fended the Angels off for three days, but instead acting like they’re just
taking care of business.  No “Hope we can
keep this up” mindset that lots of fans have right now; instead, “We’re ready for
Detroit.”

 

I said something to Marlon Byrd about sitting for seven
innings that day on the bench, coming in unexpectedly when the wall collision
forced Josh Hamilton’s exit, and promptly delivering a run-scoring double in
the eighth to extend the lead to 3-0. 
Byrd’s response, with a casual smile? 
“It’s what I do.”

 

It’s that attitude from one of the team’s emotional leaders
that everyone who wears the uniform, or a crushed velvet sportscoat at a Sunday
night charity event, is driven by right now. 
There’s a contrast between the buzz and energy we’re all feeling as fans
and the focused confidence of the players, but I’d suggest we ought to be
inspired by the latter just as much as the team is motivated by the former.

 

Texas
kicks off three with the Tigers tonight. 
The Rangers have lost eight straight in Comerica Park,
dating back to September 2007, half of them in blowout fashion.  The average score in those eight games: Detroit 9, Texas
3.  Dontrelle Willis makes just his
second big league start of the season, having given up four Twins runs in 4.1 innings
(eight hits, two walks, no strikeouts) on Wednesday.  Willis, who made four rehab starts (1-2,
3.86) while on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder, faces Brandon
McCarthy, the one member of the Rangers rotation not on a serious roll right
now.  Both have something to prove.

 

But you get the feeling that this really isn’t a statement
game, or a statement series, as far as the players are concerned.  Given where this thing sits right now, every
series means something.  No opponent is
to be overlooked, and none is viewed as a team we’d be lucky to scratch out a win
against.  Seems like 2009 has become a
statement season.

 

Magglio Ordonez, who entered the season as the fifth
all-time leading hitter against the Rangers (.360, trailing only Vlad Guerrero,
Nomar Garciaparra, Geronimo Berroa, and Carlos May), will miss at least tonight
and tomorrow’s games (and the finale is a day game, so it’s certainly possible
that he misses the whole series) to be with his wife as she has surgery.

 

Armando Galarraga’s turn doesn’t come up during the series,
and his hold on a rotation spot is reportedly loosening.  After going 3-0, 1.85 in his first four
starts of the season (24.1 innings, 24 strikeouts, 11 walks, .218 opponents’
average, one home run), he has gone 0-3, 10.90 in his four starts since (17.1
innings, nine strikeouts, 12 walks, .329 opponents’ average, six home
runs).  Galarraga’s recent work makes him
a candidate to cede his spot to Jeremy Bonderman, who is expected to return
from the disabled list soon.

 

Frankie Francisco, on the disabled list with biceps
tendinitis, threw a bullpen yesterday without problems.  He’ll throw a simulated game tomorrow and is
on track to be activated for the Friday opener of the club’s series in Houston.

 

Hamilton
is day-to-day with the right groin strain he suffered on his ridiculous catch
on Sunday.  No word yet on his readiness
for tonight’s game.

 

Willie Eyre, on the DL with his own groin strain, throws a
bullpen today.

 

Dustin Nippert, on the DL with a muscle pull in his back, is
reportedly ready to start throwing.

 

Lefthander Mike Hinckley’s first two Oklahoma City appearances: 2.2 scoreless
innings, three hits, three walks, three strikeouts, two inherited runners stranded.  Left-handed hitters are 0 for 5 against Hinckley but have drawn all three of his free
passes. 

 

Bakersfield
outfielder Engel Beltre in April: .178/.221/.267.

 

Beltre, who is the California League’s second-youngest
player, in May: .340/.386/.472.

 

Frisco first baseman Justin Smoak is ninth in minor league
baseball in reaching base (.463).  Frisco
catcher Manny Pina is 15th (.440). 
Bakersfield
first baseman-outfielder Mitch Moreland is 15th in slugging (.618).

 

It may not happen until mid-season, but at some point Smoak
will be in Oklahoma City
and Moreland will take his spot in Frisco.

 

Righthander Ben Sheets meets with Dr. James Andrews today.

 

Some local reports have indicated that if a club were to
sign Sheets before the June 9 draft, it would forfeit its second-round pick to Milwaukee.  Not completely true.  The Rangers would forfeit their second-rounder,
yes, but the Cubs, for instance, would surrender their first-rounder, as would
all other teams who draft in the second half of each round (i.e., the best 15 teams in 2008).  Exceptions: The Dodgers, Mets, Yankees, Phillies,
and Angels wouldn’t forfeit their firsts, having already done so for Type A
free agents who ranked higher than Sheets.

 

Cleveland
would reportedly be willing to trade Mark DeRosa.  I was vocal over the winter about how much I’d
like to have DeRosa back here, but there’s not really a roster fit (or need) at
the moment.

 

Lefthander John Koronka struggled in two Marlins starts over
the last week (0-2, 11.05) and has been designated for assignment. 

 

Pittsburgh
signed Adam Melhuse to a AAA contract.

 

Seattle released AAA outfielder
Freddy Guzman and Boston
signed him.

 

Detroit
released AAA Toledo righthander Nick Regilio. 
The 30-year-old had returned to the game last year (pitching in relief
for AAA Round Rock in the Houston
system) after being out of baseball since his 2005 release by the Rangers.

 

The Dodgers released infielder Johnny Washington from High A
Inland Empire.  The 25-year-old managed
to last for four years in the Rangers system (2003-2006) despite hitting just
.183, a credit to the Compton
product’s off-the-charts intangibles.  Following
his March 2007 release, Washington
hit .246 and .186 in two indie league seasons but earned a job with his
hometown Dodgers this spring.

 

Are you still interested in a 2009 Bound Edition of the Newberg
Report?  I still have some available.  You can find details on the “Buy the Book” page.

 

In case you missed it, Eleanor Czajka has uploaded the eighth installment of
Ryan Tatusko’s Back Field Diaries
.

 

Want to know what some of the Rangers hitters’ at-bat music
is?  Chuck Morgan visited
the message board to tell us
a couple days ago.

 

The Frisco RoughRiders are hosting the ‘Riders Classic Golf
Tournament and auction on Tuesday, June 9 at The Tribute Golf Club.  All proceeds benefit the RoughRiders
Foundation, a nonprofit organization benefitting the North
Texas community in the areas of education, good health and
community service activities.  If you’re
interested in playing (Frisco players and coaches will participate), contact
Mara Simon-Meyer, Director of the RoughRiders Foundation, at 972.334.1978 or msimonmeyer@ridersbaseball.com.

 

Finally, not many of you liked the idea I proposed (though didn’t
necessarily advocate) of Matt Harrison and Smoak for either Matt Cain, Chris
Volstad, or Josh Johnson (though I’d like to point out that the percentage was
about the same as the eight percent of you last summer who would have done Jarrod
Saltalamacchia, Eric Hurley [or Harrison], John Mayberry Jr., Joaquin Arias,
and Zach Phillips for Zack Greinke and reliever Ramon Ramirez).

 

Focusing on Florida, who is probably less in need of a first
baseman with Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez in the system, how about Harrison,
catcher Max Ramirez (whom the Marlins reportedly showed interest in over the
winter), and righthander Wilfredo Boscan for Volstad or Johnson?

 

Weigh in at the
message board
.

 

 

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

 

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