The New York-Boston trip began with Bad Padilla and ended
with Good Padilla. If not Worst Padilla
and Best Padilla.
It started with Texas 4.5
games ahead of the Angels, who were set to face Toronto
and Detroit as the Rangers traveled to Yankee
Stadium and Fenway
Park. It ended, after a 3-3 trip that went L-W-L-W-L-W,
still 4.5 games up.
But with six fewer games for Los Angeles to close the gap, so it’s not as
if nothing was gained. Magic number:
The Rangers went into Boston,
without what most people coming into the season considered their best player
and best relief pitcher available, and won a Fenway series for the first time
since 1997 (which was Boston’s
last season with a losing record). The wins
weren’t mistake-free, but this team – for the first time in memory – seems to
be one capable of outplaying their mistakes from time to time.
Even in New York and Boston.
Against two teams each coming home after winning five out of
seven on the road. The Red Sox had won four
straight. The Yankees, 15 of 19.
Bravo, Nelson Cruz, the player on whom no team in the league
was willing to expend $20,000 and a roster spot 14 months ago, who got knocked
down with a 93-mph four-seamer at the head in the fifth inning on the trip’s
first game, yet finished the six games with three home runs among his six hits
(in fact, he was a single short of the cycle today). A year ago, the question was whether Cruz would
survive his lack of options. Today, it’s
whether he has enough juice (.292/.356/.614 with an American League-leading 17
homers, good defensive speed to go along with a plus plus arm in right field, and
nine steals in 10 attempts) to be squarely in the mix for an All-Star Game appearance.
He should be.
As you ask yourself where this thing is headed, consider the
following as you step back and look at the bigger picture:
1. Michael Young is well known for expecting young teammates,
no matter what they’ve done to get to the big leagues, to earn their way, to
prove themselves, to pay their dues. It’s
part of his brand of leadership.
He said this after Derek Holland’s uneven start on Saturday:
“It was a lot of fun to see him to watch [Boston
lefthander Jon] Lester pitch and react to it.
He’s got a great future. He’s got
a chance to be a dominant-stuff type lefty and Lester is already there. I’d like to see us keep running him out there.
I’m not big on pumping up rookies, but
he competes hard and he really wants to be good.”
2. A Newberg Report message board regular who goes by “Doug”
posted this a few days ago:
The exec I talk to
says to me that the Rangers have more room for error like [nobody] except the
big teams in the NE (NYY, NYM, and Boston).
Those teams have room for error because
of $, the Rangers have it because of the deepest farm system this exec has ever
seen in 20 years of professional ball. He
said you’d always like a few more top end guys like Feliz and Holland, but that there are just so damn many
good prospects, that he just can’t believe it. He told me that there is not a single farm
system in both leagues that wouldn’t take a Ranger prospect in the 20-30 range
and be able to replace someone in their own top 10 and be better off for it. He said some teams could replace almost their
whole top 10 with the Rangers 11-20 and be better off.
He said, and this is a
quote, “The juggernaut is already built, now it’s playing the hand they’ve got
and not screwing it up. They are going
to be THE team to deal with in the AL
for a long time. We’re all freaked out
by it.” I said, what about the Rays? He said, “They’re better than the Rays.”
BTW, it shouldn’t
surprise you that this exec, who deals with JD, has high praise for him. He says JD made some early mistakes, but says
he is so, so smart, knows how to do strategy, and is a great judge of talent –
not baseball talent necessarily, but exec talent – the Adair’s, the Servais’,
the Clark’s, etc. He said JD’s biggest
challenge will be replacing the development talent he will be losing year after
year (Adair was just the start) and not betting for an inside straight, i.e., not risking too much to go for it all in
any particular year. He said if they
continue to feed the golden goose, and don’t risk too much in any particular
year that they will be there year after year for a long, long time.
I enjoyed that.
I’m working on a lengthy report that I hope to have done
before Tuesday evening’s draft, not on the draft itself as much as a view from
30,000 feet on what this organization has achieved and what could be next.