January 2010

Stuff.

You can listen to a Rangers-centric radio segment I did with Ben & Skin on ESPN Dallas last night by clicking this link:

http://www.zshare.net/audio/71823071fe489e0a/

I’ll send out an email later today once the Rangers announce the autograph lineup for tomorrow’s Fan Fest.  We’ll have a Newberg Report set-up with a bunch of players in the Cuervo Club (which used to be the Gold Club).

BA’s number two
Good and all, but rank that counts
Is now AL West

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

Great expectations.

“My expectation is that we will be extremely competitive, and if we don’t win our division, I will be disappointed, because I think we’ve positioned ourselves to be right there with everybody else.”

So says Nolan Ryan.  Quite a bit different from the message of “managed expectations” delivered to us after an 89-win season five years ago.

“JD made some very smart moves at the winter meetings. . . . [Then] we were able to get Vlad. . . . The signings we had before that were exciting, but to be able to get Vlad, it just got us all excited.  We realize that this is our year.  It’s all up to us now.”

That’s from Ian Kinsler, one of this team’s leaders.

JD agrees that the expectations are now ratcheted up – not managed:

“As a group, we expect to win, and now that we’ve put a plan in place to do so, we hold ourselves to that standard.”

Chuck Greenberg has arrived on the battlefront late – and of course has yet to officially join the ranks – but his eyes are already getting big:

“If we succeed on the business side and continue on path on the baseball side and combine it with a dynamic market like this is, we can be and should be one of the powerhouse franchises in baseball. . . . [I]n a community as wonderful and dynamic as Metroplex with a franchise and fans who waited patiently to have their moment, to have a chance to try to deliver on that promise is awfully exciting.”

Josh Hamilton thinks that delivery could be imminent: “We’ve got so much talent it’s crazy.  The key is staying healthy. . . . If we can stay healthy as a team, we’ve got such a great lineup from 1-to-9, and then the pitching obviously stepped up big time last year with Nolan Ryan coming in and Mike Maddux.  It was such a dramatic difference from ’08 to ’09, and even if we can improve just a little bit on that going into ’10, it will be a great year.”

And Michael Young, whose character and mental toughness and tenacity have always set a tone, has been unusually ebullient with reporters as far as his immediate outlook is concerned:

“You look at every great baseball town, whether it’s New York or Boston or Chicago or St. Louis, and there’s always this great relationship between the team and the fans.  The fans are supportive and they come to see winning baseball and that’s where we’re heading to right now. . . . I’ve served time for about nine years now.  I’m ready to kind of bust out a little bit and be a part of something that’s going to be memorable and fun.  This [organization] is going to be one of those jewels of baseball.”

Finally, consider another Daniels remark:

“I feel a tremendous obligation to the owner to deliver.  He’s given me and our group an opportunity to mold the franchise, spend resources against our vision.  It’s more pride than pressure, if that makes sense.”  

It’s an interesting comment, since his words and Ryan’s and Young’s unquestionably create – invite – a certain degree of pressure with regard to the job to be done between the lines.  Pressure is something everyone on this club has played through at every level, from Darren Oliver on down to Michael Kirkman.  But the pride part, which Ryan and Young always exhibited as much of as any of their playing peers, if an extra concentration of that starts to rub off and take hold up and down the roster, then, yes, it will be important to stay healthy and catch a break or two, but there’s no reason 2010 can’t be the kind of season the players and the front office and the prospective owner expect it to be.

Greenberg said on a radio talk show yesterday, specifically asked about cash infusion into the roster, that the business models that the Rangers look to as the paradigm belong to the Angels and Phillies.  The answer is more textured than looking strictly at player payroll (Greenberg told Richie Whitt of the Dallas Observer: Los Angeles and Philadelphia “are smart, clever, have resources and use them wisely – those are types we can emulate”), but just for grins, USA Today had those two clubs’ 2009 Opening Day payrolls ($113,709,000 and $113,004,046) as sixth and seventh highest in baseball, while Texas ($68,178,798) sat at 22nd.  

Something else to tuck away about zeroing in on Los Angeles and Philadelphia as models: both clubs were aggressive in July and August, adding Cliff Lee and Scott Kazmir to their rotations, respectively, to provide a pennant race boost.

It brings to mind a point that Tom Verducci made on MLB Network last night: The Rangers’ ownership situation could very well position Texas to make an impact splash at the trade deadline, armed not only with a tremendously deep farm system (that is, trade ammunition) but also an ability (and motivation, if the club is in the race) to increase payroll that hasn’t existed this winter.

That depth of prospects led ESPN’s Keith Law to judge the Rangers’ system, for the second straight year, as baseball’s best.  Law summarized yesterday: “The AL West has suddenly become very competitive, with four well-run organizations all trying to balance immediate contention with long-term building goals, but Texas remains the best-positioned team there for long-term success.”

MLB Network ran a Top 50 Prospects special last night, featuring Jonathan Mayo and John Hart as the lead analysts, and the Rangers were among the most dominant clubs featured, placing Neftali Feliz (number 7), Justin Smoak (9), Martin Perez (18), and Tanner Scheppers (39) on the list.

Baseball America’s top 10 Rangers prospects:

1.    Neftali Feliz, RHP
2.    Justin Smoak, 1B
3.    Martin Perez, LHP
4.    Tanner Scheppers, RHP
5.    Jurickson Profar, SS
6.    Kasey Kiker, LHP
7.    Robbie Ross, LHP
8.    Mitch Moreland, OF/1B
9.    Danny Gutierrez, RHP
10.    Wilmer Font, RHP

The Rangers agreed to terms on a one-year deal with closer Frankie Francisco, avoiding arbitration.  Francisco will be eligible for free agency next winter.  Righthander Scott Feldman is the lone remaining arbitration case on the club, but count on him settling as well.

Texas will attend lefthander Noah Lowry’s throwing session on Tuesday.  The 29-year-old, who hasn’t pitched since 2007 due to shoulder problems (stemming from thoracic outlet syndrome), was the Rangers’ 19th-round pick in 1999 but didn’t sign.

Baltimore designated righthander Dennis Sarfate for assignment.  Texas took Sarfate in the 15th round of that same 1999 draft, a stellar crop even without Lowry and Sarfate coming to terms.  Among the Rangers’ picks were eventual big leaguers Colby Lewis, Aaron Harang, Hank Blalock, Kevin Mench, Jason Botts, Nick Regilio, Andy Cavazos, and Jason Jones, plus Justin Echols, who would go to Montreal in the 2004 trade for Chris Young.

Officials from two other big league clubs told ESPN’s Jayson Stark that the Rangers’ signing of Lewis to a two-year, $5 million deal was among the best under-the-radar moves of the winter.

Veteran corner infielder Chad Tracy’s non-roster deal with the Cubs is not good news for Blalock.

Ben Sheets at a surprising $10 million (and as much as $12 million if he reaches several workload incentives, all short of 200 innings) – given what a number of healthy, reasonably effective starting pitchers have pulled in on the open market this winter – is a pretty clear indication that the league gave Oakland the same dictate that it gave Florida: Spend your revenue-sharing money on the roster.  If he pitches well, the A’s can trade off a third of that commitment in July for prospects (or at least recoup a pair of first-round picks when he signs elsewhere next winter).

Seventeen-ye
ar-old Dominican righthander Rafael DePaula, coming off a one-year suspension by MLB for lying about his age, is drawing interest from the Yankees and Red Sox, and ESPN’s Jorge Arangure suggests Texas is in the mix, too.

University of Florida wide receiver Riley Cooper reportedly no-showed his Rangers physical a week and a half ago, an appearance that would have netted him half of his $250,000 signing bonus.  Cooper has apparently decided to pursue an NFL career instead of playing minor league baseball.  He’ll presumably land on the Rangers’ restricted list, which currently houses Alexi Ogando and Omar Beltre and for years included Ricky Williams.

A “friend and business associate of Ryan” told the Austin American-Statesman that he expects the Round Rock Express to replace the Oklahoma City RedHawks as the Rangers’ AAA affiliate after the 2010 season.

The Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League signed righthander Ryan Schlecht.  The New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League signed infielder Myron Leslie.

Chuck Morgan has offered to emcee Tuesday’s Newberg Report Book Release Party at Sherlock’s in Dallas, which will include Q&A sessions with Chuck Greenberg, Jake Krug, and Michael Young as well as a live auction of various Rangers players’ equipment plus Young-autographed copies of Carson Leslie’s book, “Carry Me,” and of the 2010 Bound Edition.  (Copies of Carson’s and my book will be on sale as well.)  Winning bid proceeds will benefit Wipe Out Kids Cancer.

Hope to see you there, and maybe at the awards dinner tomorrow night and Fan Fest on Saturday.  Once the Rangers release the autograph schedule for Saturday, I’ll let you know.

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link

Chuck Greenberg to make Newberg Report appearance on Feb. 2.

Well, this oughtta be cool.

One week from tonight, Tuesday, February 2, Chuck Greenberg is going to make a public appearance.

At the second Newberg Report Book Release Party.

Michael Young and Rangers assistant director of player development Jake Krug have already committed to do Q&A sessions with us that night, and now Mr. Greenberg has agreed to do the same.  He’ll have a microphone in hand and will take your questions, too.

The party will begin at 6:00 p.m. at Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub (9100 N. Central Expressway, at the northeast corner of Central and Park Lane).  We’ll plan to go until 8:30 or so.  

We’ll have the 2010 Bound Edition for sale, as well as Carson Leslie’s book, “Carry Me.”  This won’t be an autograph event, but Michael will sign five of my books and five of Carson’s and we’ll auction the signed books off live to the 10 highest bidders.  Professional auctioneer Luther Davis will help us get the job done, and there’s a strong chance we’ll also have some baseballs, bats, batting gloves, and other good stuff donated by a number of Rangers players up for auction.

All winning bid proceeds will benefit Wipe Out Kids Cancer.

I’ll get back to you with more details.

Make plans to join us Tuesday night.

Set sale.

It’s basketball season.  It’s hockey season.  College football is finished, and so is pro football for most in these parts, although this was the ultimate weekend each year on the NFL schedule.

At halftime of Colts-Jets, I threw a red cap on backwards and drove to Tom Thumb to pick up a couple things.

As I got to the front of the checkout line, the checker – late teens, maybe early 20s – looked up and said, “Rangers cap?”

Me: “Yep.”

Checker: “All RIGHT. . . . You know, the Angels are tough to beat, but they had a rough winter.  This could be our year.”

I smiled, and said I thought he was right.

The thing that struck me was not so much the kid’s optimism, but instead that he saw a the back of a red ballcap, assumed it had a “T” on the other side, and wanted to talk Rangers baseball with a complete stranger. 

I’m not sure I remember that happening during the summer, let along conference championship weekend in January. 

This is good.  I’ve mentioned how there seem to be more Texas caps and T-shirts and bumper stickers around town over the last year, and while I get hit with plenty of Rangers small talk around the office and the kids’ soccer games and dinner with friends, it’s different when one stranger brings it up to another. 

It feels like there’s a difference these days, maybe subtle, but noticeable. 

There are those phrases that seem to turn up whenever Chuck Greenberg is interviewed.  This fan base is a “sleeping giant.”  It’s time “to awaken the beast.”  And in the press release issued by the Rangers on Saturday night, his comment:

“We are fortunate to be assuming the stewardship of a franchise poised for greatness.  The tremendous foundation of talent that has been assembled on both the major and minor league levels, combined with our passionate commitment to achieve excellence in every facet of the organization’s operation, and the pent-up thirst for success we observe from our fans every day, creates the opportunity for the Rangers to become one of the great franchises in baseball.”

The fans’ pent-up thirst for success. 

I think there’s more of that, and less baseball cynicism, than there’s been around here in a long time, no matter what your favorite columnist is telling you.  Rangers Baseball Express, LLC isn’t the reason for the growing buzz – this groundswell has been developing for a while – but the Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan investment group, funded primarily by Co-Chairmen of the Board Ray Davis and Bob Simpson and a number of other local investors, comes in at a time when there’s a barrage of arrows flying in the right direction, and the group seems motivated to push this thing forward, not derail the momentum by giving in to an urge to shake things up just because it can.  Ryan’s continued presence is key in that regard.

This is an exciting time.

There’s really not a lot I can add about the latest hurdle cleared in the sale of the team – it’s all been said by people closer to the situation than I am (and unlike the games played on the field, we don’t get to see what the writers are privy to) – but I will refer back to something I wrote back in May:

==============================

Word broke yesterday that Tom Hicks is open to selling a majority stake in the Rangers.  I don’t have much to say about that other than (1) I hope Nolan Ryan chooses to be a big player in this (it’s clear that Hicks wants him to be) and (2) it’s crucial that, whatever transition takes place, the baseball operations crew is allowed to stay on the course that it laid out two years ago and has this franchise poised to be where we all want it be. 

Hicks gets far too much criticism from the mainstream media, who choose not to recognize the guts and foresight it took to make Jon Daniels, who at the time had less than five years in baseball, his general manager, and the patience and lack of ego it took to authorize the plan that Daniels presented to him in May 2007 to trade Mark Teixeira and shift focus and resources to scouting and player development and a wholesale effort to load up on young talent through the draft and international market and trades, a philosophy that’s a lot less flashy and far more gradual than many owners would have signed off on. 

Baseball America‘s Jim Callis in an ESPN chat session yesterday:

     Q: Bedard trade for Orioles . . . best trade in baseball in 10 years?

     Callis:  Check out the Mark Teixeira trade to the Braves.

The Herschel Walker trade wasn’t the Herschel Walker Trade until the Cowboys turned the Minnesota draft picks into Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland and Kevin Smith and three Lombardi Trophies.  The Teixeira trade is no Herschel Walker Trade – yet.  But there’s no question that without it, this franchise wouldn’t be in nearly as good a position as everyone agrees that it is.  Hicks should get some credit for believing in, and consenting to, the plan that Jon Daniels and his crew proposed and have now been executing for two very good years.

Don’t count on the general columnists recognizing Hicks’s role in that, however.

Or acknowledging in print the millions of Hicks dollars that may not have gone to player payroll (a favorite topic of the media, rarely mentioning Ben Sheets or Torii Hunter or Daisuke Matsuzaka or Barry Zito or Carlos Delgado as free agent acquisitions he has consistently greenlighted even though they’d have busted the budget) but did go to annual decisions to pay out of slot to pave the way for the drafting and signing of the right high school and college players (Teixeira, Derek Holland, Justin Smoak, Taylor Teagarden, Julio Borbon, Jake Brigham, Neil Ramirez, Marcus Lemon, Robbie Ross, Clark Murphy, Johnny Whittleman, Kyle Ocampo, Matt Thompson, and others), to outspend the competition in Latin America (examples: Martin Perez, Fabio Castillo, Cristian Santana, and Richard Alvarez, plus the aggregate of a Preller/Welke/Batista class like 2006′s Wilmer Font/Wilfredo Boscan/Kennil Gomez/Carlos Pimentel/Geuris Grullon/Macumba haul), to pay top dollar to make sure we had the hitting coach and pitching coach we’d zeroed in on, and to hire Nolan Ryan.

The Ryan hiring was, of course, an inspired one that has paid off in many ways and will continue to do so, and though the media has been wholly supportive of Ryan’s arrival and impact, rarely is Hicks credited for bringing him in at what had to be a significant financial investment.

Hicks wants to win, and though some with newspaper space will continue to disparage the team payroll (for a roster that today maintains the best record in the American League) and ignore all else, if Hicks wasn’t interested in spending to win, would we have Holland and Smoak and Perez and Mike Maddux . . . and Ryan?

What I’m hoping for, if Hicks does indeed sell controlling interest in the Rangers, is continuity.  I would have faith in a Ryan-led ownership to insist on that and to make it happen.  So might someone coming in from the outside, but if that’s where this is headed, I sure hope that stability is a priority for whoever that might be. 

I guarantee you that the Angels and A’s and Mariners would be thrilled to see someone come in here and push massive changes.

==============================

I get the sense that the Greenberg-Ryan group is all about continuity and stability, in building rather than rebuilding, and I’m confident that the progress of the last couple years is about to be boosted, that is, on the field, just like the checker at Tom Thumb sees it, and not only without the interference of a new ownership group dying to make widespread changes, but instead with that group’s
full support of what’s happening here and the contributions it’s positioned to make to help this team take the next step, and the one after that.

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link

 

The rotation arrow.

The Rangers’ top eight starters in 2005, in order of games started, were Chris Young, Kenny Rogers, Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio, Ryan Drese, Ricardo Rodriguez, Juan Dominguez, and Joaquin Benoit.  Despite the club’s middle-of-the-road 79-win finish, the rotation was bad, compiling a composite 5.04 ERA.

Jon Daniels was promoted to general manager at the end of that season.  To suggest that overhauling the rotation was among his priorities would be grossly understating things.  Astonishingly, the top eight Texas starters in 2006 had not one name in common with the previous season’s eight: Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, John Koronka, Kameron Loe, Robinson Tejeda, Adam Eaton, John Rheinecker, and Edinson Volquez made the club’s most 2006 starts.  

Still, lots of journeymen.

The top eight starters in 2007: Millwood, Padilla, Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Tejeda, Jamey Wright, Kason Gabbard, and Rheinecker.  

McCarthy, Wright, and Gabbard in place of Koronka, Eaton, and Volquez (whose 2006 ERA was 7.29, after a 14.21 debut in 12.2 innings in 2005).  Without hindsight, it was probably a slight upgrade going into 2007.

The top eight starters in 2008: Millwood, Padilla, Feldman, Matt Harrison, Gabbard, Luis Mendoza, Sidney Ponson, and Jason Jennings.  

Feldman, Harrison, Mendoza, Ponson, and Jennings in place of Loe, McCarthy, Tejeda, Wright, and Rheinecker.  Push at best.

Big changes going into 2009: a commitment to youth over journeymen, an improved defense, and the arrival of Mike Maddux.

The top eight starters in 2009: Feldman, Millwood, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Padilla, McCarthy, Harrison, and Dustin Nippert.  And they were the top eight of just 10 starters overall (Doug Mathis and Kris Benson started two times each).  That’s after Texas averaged 14 starters a year from 2005 through 2008.

Better.  Much, much better.

Going into 2010, the probable top eight at the moment: Feldman, Rich Harden, Colby Lewis, Hunter, Holland, Harrison, McCarthy, and Neftali Feliz.  

Maybe even C.J. Wilson, but he’s going to be either top five or not on the list at all (hard to imagine him joining the rotation mid-season).  Bet on him returning to the bullpen.  Eric Hurley won’t be ready Opening Day, but he should be before the All-Star Break.  

Compare the 2010 group to 2009.

Can Feldman repeat?  Don’t know, but he’s a far better bet going into 2010 than he was going into 2009.

Holland and Hunter and McCarthy and Harrison: Probably fair to expect more out of the first three with 2009 under their belts.

Harden instead of Millwood: Works for me.

Lewis instead of Padilla: As much of an unknown as Lewis might be this second time around, there’s no question which of those two you’d take.

Feliz instead of Nippert: There’s a reason that, though both are still around, the 21-year-old is the one getting the rotation shot.

I’m not sure I’d be able to argue that the 2009 starter crop, at least in advance of the season, was in better shape than the 2010 group.

Assuming Feldman, Harden, and Lewis are locks, the competition for the final two spots coming out of camp will leave four of Hunter, Holland, Harrison, McCarthy, Feliz, and Wilson to evaluate for bullpen roles alongside Frankie Francisco, Darren O’Day, Darren Oliver, Chris Ray, Mathis, and Nippert.  

And that doesn’t even account for Rule 5 selection Ben Snyder, or Guillermo Moscoso and Pedro Strop, who showed flashes in 2009, or Warner Madrigal, who did so in 2008.  Big depth.

While Texas is probably done for the winter (with the exception of adding a backup catcher – probably of the non-roster variety – and possibly another non-roster starting pitcher willing to take a AAA assignment), there the Rangers were on Tuesday, among at least eight teams attending Ben Sheets’s two-inning simulated game in Monroe, Louisiana.  Maddux and Don Welke were on hand to evaluate Sheets, who had agreed in principle to a two-year contract with the Rangers last year before a failed physical scuttled the deal.

One unidentified scout in attendance suggested the Rangers, Mets, and Cubs were the leading candidates to sign Sheets.  Other stories have the Mariners and A’s in the mix.  I have my doubts that he’ll end up here.

Yes, Texas is looking to Lewis to replace Millwood’s innings and production (an average the last three years of 11 wins and a 4.58 ERA over 180 innings) at a dramatically lower cost.  But that overlooks the addition of Harden.  Look at it this way: The Rangers were on the hook to pay Millwood $12 million in 2010 once his contract vested last summer.  Instead, they will pay Lewis $1.75 million this year, will send $3 million to the Orioles to help pay Millwood, and will owe Harden a guaranteed $7.5 million (including the buyout).  Lewis and Harden are here at virtually the same cost to the club as Millwood would have been himself.

Another point to clarify: Yes, McCarthy and Ray both have options (I believe each has two, despite what you might have read elsewhere) but would have to clear waivers in order to be optioned, because they reached the active big league roster more than three years ago.  However, the waivers are revocable, and thus teams generally don’t block waivers of that kind.  (Also, neither has the requisite five years of big league service needed to decline an option.)

Outfielder Greg Golson was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for infielder Khalil Greene on the 40-man roster.  (Another player will have to be removed from the roster to make room for Lewis.)  

Golson, acquired last winter from Philadelphia for outfielder John Mayberry Jr., has a plus arm and plus speed, can play all three outfield spots well, and has the type of raw power that completes a package that has had scouts waiting for the reincarnation of Ron Gant for years.  But he hasn’t hit, regressing from .282/.333/.434 with 13 home runs in AA in 2008 to .258/.299/.344 with two homers in AAA in 2009, and not only did Julio Borbon predictably race past him on the club’s depth chart, but fellow speed/defense type Craig Gentry got the September nod rather than Golson, notable in that Gentry’s addition cost Texas an extra roster move (the loss of Thomas Diamond on waivers).  

Golson has two options remaining and would seem to be a strong candidate to be claimed off waivers.  If Texas perceives that to be the likely result, the club could look to trade the 24-year-old for a non-roster prospect during this 10-day window before running him out on the waiver wire in hopes of keeping him.

The Rangers settled on one-year deals with Josh Hamilton ($3.25 million, with several award-based incentives), Wilson ($3.1 million), and Ray ($975,000), and two arbitration-eligibles remain: Feldman (seeking $2.9 million, club offering $2.05 million) and Francisco ($3.6 million vs. $3 million).

John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus recently reported that Texas and San Francisco could be the leading contenders to sign catcher Yorvit Torrealba, since which time the Giants signed Bengie Molina.  Perrotto suggests San Diego and Seattle could also be in on Torrealba.

Rest in peace, Bobby Bragan.

The early buzz on Colombian 16-year-old catcher Jorge Alfaro has been considerable.  He flashes tools at the plate and behind it.
 
Texas named Joe Furukawa coordinator of Pacific Rim operations.

Padilla signed a one-year deal to stay with the Dodgers.  It will pay $4.025 million, with a deferred $1 million signing bonus.

Seattle locking Felix Hernandez up through 2014 isn’t great news for Texas, but something about that guy makes me think a Carlos Zambrano path isn’t out of the question.&nbs
p;

I’ve always been a Joel Pineiro fan as well, and the Angels did well to land him for two years and $16 million. 

Milwaukee and Todd Coffey avoided arbitration.  I mention that as much for the reason that the contract settlement is for the unusual figure of $2,025,002 as for his pseudo-cousinhood to the Newberg Report.

ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote that “[a] numbers-oriented friend recently ran a 1,000-season simulation of the AL West, and in most cases, the Rangers won the division, and in most cases, the last-place team was the Mariners.”

Outfielder Engel Beltre is one of 11 players on Baseball America‘s “All-Non-Top 10 All-Stars,” comprised of prospects who missed their clubs’ BA top 10 lists.  ANTTAS alums include Josh Hamilton, Chris Davis, and Howie Kendrick.

The Rangers released minor league righthanders Dustin Brader, Jake Geglein, and Brock Piper.

Boston signed righthander Edwin Moreno.  Houston got utility man Jason Bourgeois through waivers and outrighted him to AAA Round Rock. 

The Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League re-signed first baseman Jim Fasano.

Does anyone have a iPod of 40 GB or more you want to sell?  I’ve got a 20 GB iPod I’d put into the deal and would pay you the difference.

We’ll be set up at Fan Fest at Rangers Ballpark on January 30, hosting autograph guests this year in the Cuervo Club rather than the Diamond Club.  We’ll have the player list at some point as we get closer to the event.  (Last year, we had Michael Young, Michael Ballard, Holland, Kasey Kiker, Tim Murphy, Blake Beavan, Andrew Laughter, Feliz, Michael Main, and Kevin Richardson.) 

Overall, more than 50 current and former Rangers players and coaches will be at Fan Fest to sign autographs.  There will also be the standard activities, including Q&A sessions with players, club officials, and announcers; opportunities to run the bases, catch pop-ups, and hit in the indoor batting cages; pitching, hitting, and catching clinics led by Rangers coaches and alumni; silent auction and memorabilia sales; and season ticket and mini-plan Select-A-Seat sales.  Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children 13 and under.  Parking is free.

Eleanor Czajka has gathered links to stories and photos from last month’s Newberg Report Book Release Party at this link.

It’s confirmed: The second book release party will be on Tuesday, February 2, at Sherlock’s in Dallas (9100 N. Central Expressway, at the northeast corner of Central and Park Lane).  Time to be determined, but most likely starting at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m.  We’ll have the 2010 Bound Edition for sale, as well as Carson Leslie’s book, “Carry Me.”  Michael Young will appear for a Q&A session, and we might have another Q&A guest or two as well. 

This will not be an autograph event, but I think we’re going to have Michael sign five of my books and five of Carson’s and make the signed books available to the 10 highest bidders.  We might even bring a professional live auctioneer out to liven things up.  All winning bid proceeds will benefit Wipe Out Kids Cancer.

Yes, I know “Lost” premieres that night.  TiVo is your friend.

Harden & Lewis
Both for no more than Millwood
Does that work for you?

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link

 

Bonds.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Max, next to me on the couch, checking me out from the corner of his eye, either startled by how steamed I was that Terence Newman left Gerald Sensabaugh hung out to dry or, more likely, measuring how steamed I was as a way of figuring out how steamed it was OK for him to be.  License to fume.

But this isn’t about Minnesota 34, Dallas 3, which, along with Alabama 37, UT 21, I think, has been Max’s Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17 entry into Sports Matterdom.  

I didn’t have it in mind that Sunday’s playoff game or the BCS Championship would be bonding moments for me and Max.  I did think about how good it was to have him care that much, at about a year younger than I was for Super Bowl X.  I’m not great company when there’s a game on that I care a lot about – unless it’s with someone else who cares that much.  Max is growing into that role.  Good.

I didn’t think of those as bonding moments any more so than a week ago when Erica’s frustration at not grasping the new improper fraction exercises gave way to mastery, proven by the huge smile on her face.

But they could have been bonding moments for them.

There are things we’re lucky to be able to share with our kids.  Not enough, maybe.  But they’re there.  Sometimes the simple ones are the most lasting.

Nothing’s guaranteed.  Not playoff wins, math making sense, time with your kids.

I’m not sure why a couple moments late in Super Bowl X have never faded from my memory, even after 34 years to the day.  Maybe it was the first time I felt gut-punched by Sports Matterdom, and saw that Dad was experiencing the same thing, giving me all the approval I needed at age six, without even knowing he was doing it.  His disgust authorized mine, empowered it.  It was a bond, early on.

Ballgames don’t really matter, of course.  The outcomes don’t, at least, not to most people.  But there are many reasons sports are super-important to me, and I think to Max, and I know they were to Carson Leslie, too.  Maybe in the moment it’s about the final score or the play-calling or the execution on the 6-4-3.  Ultimately, though there’s character being forged.  Focus.  Competitive spirit, leadership, professionalism.  Learning to handle adversity and use it to your advantage.  Persistence, resilience, and heart.

Three things that struck home today, not unrelated to each other: I’m over Minnesota 34, Dallas 3.  I wish I knew Carson Leslie a lot longer than I did.  And I’ve never looked forward to a baseball season more, or to the next set of decimal coefficients to tackle, together.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link

Jan. 17 Newberg Report

32 sleeps.

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Twitter  @newbergreport
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Is this the 11th hour?

As the league’s December 15 deadline for a potential Rangers buyer to be identified and granted exclusive negotiating rights approached, we were prepped for that to be the Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan group.  Then, on December 2, according to some reports, the Dennis Gilbert group seemed to break from the pack and settle into the lead.  Then, Greenberg/Ryan again.  Jim Crane then emerged on the 15th as the new frontrunner.  Then, late in the day, Greenberg/Ryan got the nod.

Those of you who negotiate or mediate as part of your day-to-day know that, no matter how much progress is made early on, no matter how things seem to be going, and most notably no matter how much time has been set aside for the negotiations, the 10th and 11th hours are almost always the most productive.

Just as I refrained from commenting on the ownership story before the December 15 announcement that the Greenberg/Ryan group had secured the 30-day negotiating rights, I’m not going to fire off status updates on whether the two sides look like they’re going to get this done.  I’ll let you know when there’s actual news.  As we talked about yesterday, that may be today.  But it might not.

Righthander Colby Lewis’s two-year deal, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, will apparently pay $5 million with another $1 million in incentives.  It’s less guaranteed money than Jason Kendall, Danys Baez, and John Grabow are getting this winter on their two-year contracts.  Based on what Lewis has done in Japan the last two years (15-8, 2.68 and 11-9, 2.96, leading the league in strikeouts both seasons with a combined 369 in 354.1 innings – while issuing only 46 walks), and recognizing that Texas has had Jim Colborn in place scouting the Pacific Rim that whole time (that is, it’s not as if the Rangers are just reading stat lines and relying on second-hand accounts), I feel good about this Lewis move, particularly with its relatively modest financial commitment.

The competition for rotation spots in camp is going to be interesting. 

Once the Lewis and Khalil Greene signings are made official, two players will come off the 40-man roster.  Candidates would seem to include Joaquin Arias, Luis Mendoza, and Joe Inglett, none of whom have options, and maybe Greg Golson and Brandon Boggs.

Yes, it was disappointing (though not surprising) to see Florida and Josh Johnson to come to terms on a four-year ($39 million) extension yesterday, but I’m not fully discouraged.  It might turn out that it’s easier to trade for Johnson (who did not receive a no-trade clause) a couple years from now than to battle the usual suspects at free agency time.  Especially with the deal being heavily backloaded (to replicate Johnson’s arbitration years up front), expect the Marlins to try to move him during the last two years of the contract, which call for $13.75 million each.  A trade would cost Texas several important young players rather than just a forfeited first-round draft pick, but Johnson, as long as he stays healthy, will be worth it.

I’ll let you know if there’s any ownership news, whenever any of it comes down.

          Peek in that window
          Hurry!  Before it slams shut!
          Or, you know, doesn’t.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

 

What does the lack of news about ownership negotiations mean?

I heard on one talk show yesterday that because there’s been media speculation but next to no news filtering out of the negotiations to transfer ownership of the Rangers from Hicks Sports Group to the Greenberg-Ryan Group, the deal therefore must be in trouble and we ought to brace ourselves for some bad news.

Really?

This is not a Texas walkoff win over Boston, or a trade between the Rangers and Reds, or the hiring of a new hitting coach, where the principals have some level of responsibility to bring the press up to date, and maybe even talk about the process that led to the result.  This is a complicated transaction, with large moving parts, time-sensitive and issue-sensitive.  To expect the parties to spend any time updating the media on negotiations is crazy.  

Think about what Jon Daniels and nearly every other general manager in sports will say when asked by a reporter for a remark or two about rumored trade discussions or free agent negotiations: “Not going to comment on that.”  There are plenty of reasons that should be the only response.

Why would anyone expect there to be any comment, any public progress reports, any news regarding a process that’s a similarly unfinished work in progress, only on a much larger, more complex, more consequential level?  Don’t blame the press for the absence of concrete developments to report so far.  

Maybe we’ll hear some news today, maybe we won’t.  (Actually, we don’t really know for sure if the 30-day window that was triggered on December 15 shuts today or tomorrow.  Reports differ.)  And if we don’t hear anything, it’s not necessarily catastrophic.  It’s been reported in a number of places that the 30-day window isn’t inflexible – it may turn out that the deadline gets extended for some period of time.  

Hang in there.  

Khalil Greene passed his club physical and his acquisition should be made official soon.  When it is, someone (the optionless Joaquin Arias?) will have to come off the 40-man roster to make room.  

Greene played nothing but shortstop in the big leagues until last June, when he slid over to third base for St. Louis, but he’s expected to prepare himself in Rangers camp to play all four infield spots.

What do these players have in common: Roy Halladay, John Lackey, Javier Vazquez, Edwin Jackson, Aroldis Chapman, Chone Figgins, Jason Bay, and Curtis Granderson?

The Angels were reportedly interested in every one of those players this off-season, and in each case on a short list of the leading contenders to get them.

Not one will go to camp with Los Angeles.

Speaking of the Angels, here’s something I wrote almost 10 years ago (in the August 26, 2000 Newberg Report):

The cover story in the current issue of Baseball Weekly is on the coming of age of Vladimir Guerrero.  After discussing the fact that the Dodgers signed his brother Wilton but passed on Vlad, then age 16, despite scouting him for eight months, the article has the following to say:

“The same year, 1992, the Rangers gave him a tryout.  Their scouts agreed with the Dodgers: He wasn’t big-league material.  ‘Hector Acevedo of the Rangers saw me and said I was a tigrazo.  That I had una cara de tigre (face of a tiger),’ Guerrero says.  In the Dominican Republic, the word tigre can mean a streetwise kid, but it also can mean an undisciplined young boy, a thug, a hood.  To call him a tigrazo was an insult. ‘I didn’t say anything back to him,’ Guerrero says, and smiles.  ‘If someone does not know you, they should not put a label on you.  But, thanks to God, I’m here in the big leagues with another team.  And now (the Rangers) wish I was playing with them.’”

Acevedo spent about ten years in the Ranger organization as an international scout, leaving last season.  

Some more detail on Guerrero’s Rangers contract: He’s reportedly set to make $5.5 million in 2010, with an added $900,000 in incentives for days spent on the active roster.  The mutual option for 2011 is apparently for $9 million, with the $1 million buyout payable if either side opts out.

At the moment, Texas will draft 15th, 22nd, 43rd, and 47th in June.  I believe the third pick will fall to number 45 (once Type A free agent Jose Valverde and Type B Rod Barajas sign with new teams), and the fourth pick to 49 (not 50 since Type B Brian Shouse signed a minor league contract with Boston rather than a roster deal).

(Think Shouse is second-guessing his decision to turn down Tampa Bay’s arbitration offer?)

Something to tuck away:

Oklahoma City’s player development contract with the Rangers expires after the 2010 season.  So does Round Rock’s PDC with the Astros.  Nolan Ryan, of course, owns the Express.

Bakersfield’s PDC with Texas expires after 2010 as well . . . and so does Atlanta’s PDC with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans – a High A franchise that Chuck Greenberg owns.

How about this note from Kevin Goldstein in his Rangers Top 11 Prospects feature: 16-year-old shortstop Jurickson Profar drew 26 walks while striking out only eight times over 91 at-bats in a secondary Dominican League this summer.

MLB has reportedly chastised the Marlins for bending the rules of the Basic Agreement by pocketing too much of the revenue sharing dollars they receive each year rather than allocating the money toward player salaries.  If forced to boost payroll by another $10 million or so, the two most likely beneficiaries could be second baseman Dan Uggla, who is set to land something in the range of $8 million in arbitration, or righthander Josh Johnson, with whom the club has been unable to come to terms on a multi-year extension.  (Of course, the sticking point in those negotiations was reportedly a fourth guaranteed year, not the level of commitment for the 2010 season.)  

Do you doubt the sweeping influence of the weekly Newberg Report haiku?  Yahoo! Sports just kicked off its off-season series of team features with a Jeff Passan story that ended this way:

Royals in Haiku
One hundred losses
A Kansas City birthright
Futility lives

John Sickels, in reviewing the Astros’ farm system earlier this week, named righthander Matt Nevarez that organization’s number 11 prospect.  

If Nevarez (traded with infielder Jose Vallejo for Ivan Rodriguez last summer) were still in the Rangers system, he’d have fallen somewhere in the 40s for me.

Judging all 30 clubs’ drafts over the last four years, only two teams (San Francisco and Tampa Bay) are in the midst of a stronger three-year run than Texas, according to Baseball America.  (The Rangers and Dodgers were tied for third.)  In the four-year study, only Houston ranked lower overall than Seattle and the Angels.

University of Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy Jr. is not only the son of the former Rangers marketing director, but was apparently also a Rangers batboy himself.

Righthander Derrick Turnbow is expected to throw for 16 teams tomorrow in Phoenix.
 
Houston, making room for newly signed righthander Brett Myers, designated infielder/outfielder Jason Bourgeois for assignment.  The Astros also signed first baseman Chris Shelton to a minor league deal.

Lefthander Scott Eyre retired.

The Grand Prairie Airhogs of the independent American Association named Curtis Wilkerson bench coach (for manager Pete Incaviglia).  The Airhogs also resigned infielder David Espinosa, who would have become a Rangers prospect had Kenny Rogers not vetoed a trade to Cincinnati in 2002.

Doug Harris is the new director of player development for the Nationals.

Jon Daniels will be the keynote speaker at the Hickory Crawdads’ “2010 Hot
Stove” event next Wednesday.

Stay tuned for news on the Rangers’ ownership transfer.  But not on the edge of your seat.

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(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link
 

Happy to be here.

When you watch the 10:00 local sportscasts tonight, if the Rangers manage to elbow in for 30 seconds between Cowboys and Mark McGwire, you’ll probably see one of two automatic shots from a day like this: Vladimir Guerrero trying on number 27 in his home whites, or Guerrero shaking the hand of his new manager, or general manager.

Those aren’t the shots I hope you get to see.

Guerrero, conducting himself with what has to be the least swagger of any sports bad-*** you can imagine, was polite, reserved, seemingly almost ashamed of his greatness throughout today’s press conference.  His keel was totally even.

Until the presser ended, and he stepped down from the head table, and got bear hugs from three new teammates who’d been standing in the back of the room during the whole presser, along with one old teammate.  From the look on Vlad’s face as he hugged it out with Josh Hamilton, then Michael Young, then Ian Kinsler, and then Darren Oliver, you’d think these were his old frat brothers, not longtime rivals.  It wasn’t an exchange of respect as much as it was a “welcome aboard / damn glad to be here” thing, with a bigger smile frozen on Guerrero’s face than you’ll probably ever see from him between the lines.  It was very cool.  

It’s what I choose to imagine we’ll see a year from now when Josh Beckett is introduced to the local press.

The great Brad Newton was there today, and I’m only disappointed that his vantage point during that impromptu moment, as luck would have it, was behind Guerrero rather than in front.

Newton_Vlad_presser.jpeg 

If we’re fortunate, at least one of the many TV cameras on hand had their lenses trained on Guerrero’s face and captured the moment, and their producers will decide tonight to run that footage in place of the clichéd handshake or shirt fitting.

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to http://www.newbergreport.com and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport
If you want to be removed from this list, please e-mail me at newbergreport@sbcglobal.net
Post your own review of the 2010 Bound Edition: Amazon link

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