May 2010

The experts mock the draft.

It’s with some
amount of satisfaction that I realized this morning that the draft’s a week away
and I’ve barely written a thing about it. 
As demoralizing as the big club’s last week has been, give me a season
every time in which we grumble about every pinch-hitting decision and every
bullpen move and the makeup of the bench, rather than spend weeks debating on
what the club is going to do in rounds one and two because the games that count
have been swallowed by a surge of indifference. 

 

The beauty of
surgically examining every moment of every game, even when it’s an exercise in
heartburn, is that the season has given us reason to agonize over every pitch,
to care about what’s happening.  There
have been years, some not long ago, when draft speculation began to leak into
the Newberg Report before Mother’s Day, rather than on Memorial Day.  Not this year, I’m happy to say.

 

Tommy Hunter goes
this afternoon for Oklahoma City, putting him line to make Saturday’s start against
Tampa Bay if Derek Holland isn’t able to take the ball that night.

 

As for the draft,
here’s a few recent projections of what Texas might do at number 15 and number
22 in the first round a week from tonight:

 

Jim
Callis, Baseball America (May 28)
: Bryce Brentz (OF, Middle Tennessee State)
and Justin O’Conner (C, Cowan [In.] HS) (previous
mock, May 14: Brentz and Ball State second baseman Kolbrin Vitek
)

 

Keith
Law, ESPN (May 24)
: Brandon Workman (RHP, University of Texas) and Kellin
Deglan (C, Langley (British Columbia) HS)

 

Jonathan
Mayo, MLB.com (May 26)
: Kaleb Cowart (3B/RHP, Cook County [Ga.] HS) (mock stopped at number 20)

 

MLB
Fanhouse (May 31)
: Karsten Whitson (RHP, Chipley [Fla.] HS) and Cowart (previous mock, May 26: Workman and Cowart)

 

Obviously, with six
names identified in seven guesses, there’s little consensus on where Texas goes
with its first two picks next Monday night. 
Things ought to zero in as we get closer, but we should also keep in
mind that the Rangers (like most teams) are bunkered down right now, not taking
time to whisper to writers what their board looks like.

 

Next week’s draft is
important.  They all are.  The Rangers wouldn’t be where they are today and
going forward if they hadn’t killed it in the draft the last few years. 

 

But it’s still
secondary to the next six against the White Sox and Rays, thankfully.

 

 

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Tired.

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I’m tired of feeling
overmatched and outsavvied by good, not great, teams.  I’d forgotten how much I really don’t care
for how that feels.

 

I’m tired of seeing number eight and nine hitters working
walks against our guys, while our 3-4-5 hitters roll over or pop out, a lot.

 

I’m tired of watching other teams find ways to put together sustained
rallies while we kill the chance of any by running into outs.

 

I’m tired of envying nearly every other offense I’ve seen
this season.

 

I’d be interested if someone who has more time than I have could
figure out where Texas ranks in the number of innings with, say, at least seven
batters sent to the plate.

 

It would be OK with me not to see our guys signaling
whatever that overhand claw thing is back to the dugout after a bases-empty
single when we’re down three runs in the ninth. 

 

I find myself wondering how things might have been different
if physical and mental health issues hadn’t killed deals to make Mike Lowell and
Khalil Greene members of the Rangers’ bench.

 

Texas is now 8-15 on the road, and was hitting .237/.297/.336
away from Arlington going into tonight’s game. 
The road offense is a big bag of Nyjer Morgan (if his slump continues another
day or two, that is).

 

I’m thinking about all those things because I don’t want to
think about why Derek Holland couldn’t feel the ball in his hand tonight.

 

Another lousy day off on Monday, after which Mark Buehrle
and the White Sox host Rich Harden and the Rangers. 

 

Harden against his 2010 opposition the first time through
the lineup: a slash line of .197/.352/.338.

 

The second time through: .224/.344/.368.

 

The third time through: .415/.490/.634.

 

(Not surprisingly, no hitter has faced him a fourth time this
year.)

 

That convictionless report I sent out yesterday is taking firmer
hold.

 

 

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Twitter 
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(Big) trade embargo.

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I say what I’m about
to say without a lot of conviction.  I
may reverse course in two days.

 

Even once my Google Reader ceases to cough up as many
articles each day containing the word “lenders” as about the last night’s game,
I don’t think I want to see a trade for Roy Oswalt.  Or Cliff Lee. 
Or Lance Berkman.  Or Paul
Konerko.  Or anyone else who would cost
even one player from among Derek Holland, Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, and
Justin Smoak.

 

It’s not time. 

 

Not time to break that group up, that is. 

 

It may still be Time to nail down a playoff spot in
2010.  Probably not with the roster as
presently constituted, but I have faith in Jon Daniels and his staff and scouts
– who, driven by inventive and often unconventional ways of thinking, brought
us Scheppers and Vladimir Guerrero and Alexi Ogando and Colby Lewis and Pedro
Strop and Robbie Erlin and Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz and Tommy Hunter and
Darren O’Day and who wouldn’t surprise me if they asked Chris Davis to give
catcher a AAA shot – to improve the club this summer. 

 

By that I mean something like last summer’s Matt Nevarez and
Jose Vallejo for Ivan Rodriguez.  Ray
Olmedo for Matt Treanor.  Jose Marte for
Dustin Nippert.  Ricardo Rodriguez for
Vicente Padilla.  Joselo Diaz for Matt
Stairs, and Jesse Chavez for Kip Wells.

 

The Daniels trade that pushes up against that line the closest
without crossing it is probably Francisco Cordero, Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, and
Julian Cordero for Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz.

 

Just not Holland and anything else for Oswalt.

 

Or Scheppers for Konerko.

 

Why?  Because even if
this club fulfills on its pledge that It’s Time, this is a franchise whose
window is opening, not closing.  I’m all
for getting aggressive in July, addressing a hole or two and sending a strong
front office message to the clubhouse that we’re all in, but Atlanta did that
in 2007 when, on July 31, a general manager motivated by window he’d already
bought shutters for traded for Mark Teixeira, Ron Mahay, Octavio Dotel, and
Royce Ring, without much ultimately to show for it.

 

The Braves are doing just fine now.  But they’d be better with Andrus and Feliz.

 

There are too many holes on this Rangers roster to think
that a number one starter or a number five hitter would catapult them from AL
West contenders to challengers for the pennant. 
Back to the Braves three years ago. 
Going into its July 31 game against Houston, Atlanta had lost nine of 14
and was 4.5 games back in the NL East (as far back as the club had been all
season) and 2.5 games back in the Wild Card chase.  Julio Franco (.217/.327/.289) and Scott
Thorman (.220/.262/.402) were sharing first base.  Its bullpen was led by Bob Wickman and backed
by Rafael Soriano and a nondescript collection of righthanders Oscar
Villarreal, Peter Moylan, Tyler Yates, and Chad Paronto. 

 

That club’s holes were as obvious as the bottom third of the
Rangers’ lineup.

 

After the massive July 31 overhaul, Atlanta went 29-27 the
rest of the way, finishing 5.0 games back in the division and 6.0 games (and
three teams) back in the Wild Card standings. 
The Braves missed the playoffs for the second time in 13 years.

 

Teixeira turned into Casey Kotchman (who turned into Adam
LaRoche, who left without an arbitration offer) and Steve Marek.  Mahay turned into 2008 draft pick Brett
Devall, a high school lefthander whose has fought elbow and forearm injuries
since signing.  Ten days after arriving,
Dotel landed on the disabled list for six weeks with a shoulder strain.  He left for the White Sox that winter, having
given Atlanta 7.2 innings of work and zero parting compensation.  Ring threw 27.1 largely ineffective innings
for the Braves in 2007 and 2008 before being designated for assignment,
clearing waivers, and leaving in the winter via minor league free agency. 

 

John Schuerholz, having already decided 2007 would be his
last season as Braves GM, made one last run at a pennant.  It failed. 

 

You think Braves fans were any less pumped about the idea of
Teixeira “coming home” than some Rangers fans are at the prospect of landing
Oswalt, who has reportedly included Texas as just one of three teams he’d waive
his no-trade clause to join?  Or that the
average Atlanta fan knew any more about Neftali Feliz then than the average
Metroplex general columnist knows now about Matt Thompson, if not Martin Perez?

 

Ask a Braves fan now whether he’d want a July 31, 2007
do-over.

 

Two things make this July’s trade deadline sticky for
Texas.  One is the club is obviously
immobilized financially.  But even when
that gets cured, by the end of July or not, in order to address the various glaring
problems the active roster has, and address them in such a way that the team
becomes a legitimate threat in October, the top tier of the farm system will have
to get ransacked.  It’s not a realistic
plan.

 

Very good baseball teams tend to break in one inexperienced
position player a year, maybe two if at different times.  They might introduce a couple young pitchers
into key roles each season.  There are
far more Justin Smoak’s than Jason Heyward’s. 
Young players usually struggle to keep up with the adjustments that
league makes against them, as the book develops. 

 

Holland and Feliz were the two kid pitchers Texas planned to
count on in 2010.  But neither was thrust
out of camp into a role he wasn’t thought to be quite ready for (a luxury, you
might say, this team has rarely created for itself on the pitching side). 

 

The Rangers knew that the rotation, coming off a season in
which it was more reliable than it had been in years, could be better.  The club basically turned Kevin Millwood into
Lewis and Rich Harden, and while the latter hasn’t worked out to date, there’s
no second-guessing that exchange.  C.J.
Wilson was given an opportunity to start, an opportunity that was made possible
in part by the targeting and signing of Darren Oliver away from the
Angels.  Depth (and Matt Harrison’s
spring) allowed Texas to give Holland some added minor league seasoning.

 

Texas also added Chris Ray in the Millwood deal, strengthening
a bullpen that needed another power arm with late-inning experience and giving Feliz
a safety net in case he wasn’t ready to hold down the eighth inning.  But early struggles by Frankie Francisco gave
Feliz an opportunity to step into a bigger role, and so far the move looks like
it was the right one.  (Did you realize
he has yet to allow a hit on the road this season?  Opponents are 0 for 25, with two walks.)

 

On the offensive side of things, the one young player that
Texas was expecting to count on was Julio Borbon, who was coming off an
impressive 157-at-bat debut last summer (.312/.376/.414, 19 stolen bases in 23
tries), primarily in the leadoff spot.  In
camp, the main questions tended to revolve around his readiness to hold center field
down.  Not until the final three games of
the 2009 season did Borbon start in center for Texas, having worked primarily
in left field.  He actually started at
designated hitter 21 times, starting defensively in only 17 games. 

 

Given Borbon’s minor league track record at the plate
(.321/.362/.425 and .307/.367/.386 in his two seasons after signing late in
2007), even accounting for an expected regression in 2010, more people were
concerned coming into 2010 about his ability to patrol center field and limit
the extra base than about his chances to lock down the leadoff spot.  His work in spring training (.326/.368/.427 in
a team-leading 89 at-bats) did nothing to trigger concerns about his bat.

 

Then the regular season got going.  Borbon’s tremendous struggles at the plate (he’s
been helpless against lefthanders, he’s not hitting at all on the road, he’s
drawn two walks in 139 plate appearances, he’s hit an excessive amount of lazy
flies to left, he’s worked the count to 2-0
just two times all year)
have been mitigated to an extent by Andrus’s seizing of the leadoff spot, but in
spite of Borbon’s moderate progress of late, I’d still expect Endy Chavez’s
name to start showing up with more regularity in the notes columns in the next couple
weeks.

 

But that’s the nature of young players, and we must remember
that Borbon reached the big leagues in his second full pro season.  He’s still learning, and good teams can live
with that.  What becomes problematic is
when there are multiple players in that category.

 

Borbon, right now, is where Chris Davis and Jarrod
Saltalamacchia were a year ago.

 

And that’s leads us to the problem. 

 

This whole thing, the entire outlook for this team, at least
for 2010, would be in colossally better shape if first base and catcher had
taken a different progression than they have. 

 

Davis, coming off an impressive 2008 debut (.285/.331/.549
with 88 strikeouts in 295 at-bats) that was no less promising than Borbon’s
2009 summer, regressed terribly in the first half last year (.202/.256/.415
with 114 strikeouts in 258 at-bats).  But
he refound himself over seven weeks in Oklahoma City (.327/.418/.521 with 39
strikeouts in 165 at-bats), and then put together a largely overlooked,
resurgent finish over the final six weeks of the season with Texas
(.308/.338/.496 with 36 strikeouts in 133 at-bats), suggesting he might have locked
in the adjustments that had eluded him in the spring. 

 

As late as this March, there was apparently internal debate
as to whether Davis or Cruz should be the one hitting sixth behind Guerrero and
Ian Kinsler.  Davis then hit
.364/.395/.494 in spring training, and he was nowhere near the list of roster questions
coming out of camp.

 

Saltalamacchia, after posting big league OPS’s in the low .700’s
in 2007 and 2008 (at young ages for a starting big league catcher), was being counted
on to take the next step in 2009.  He did
make obvious improvements defensively, but he didn’t hit.  In April, Saltalamacchia hit .276.  In May, .241. 
In June, .239.  In July, .204.  In August and September before being shut
down for good, .143.  A winter of health
setbacks followed, and the job behind the plate was thrown open in camp. 

 

But Saltalamacchia got only 25 at-bats due to upper back and
neck issues, Taylor Teagarden struck out 21 times in 40 Cactus League at-bats, and
the club made a late-March trade with the Brewers for journeyman Matt Treanor, who
was expected to serve as AAA insurance until Toby Hall was physically ready.

 

Instead, Treanor has nearly three times as many big league
at-bats this season as Saltalamacchia and Teagarden combined, and hasn’t done a
whole lot with them (.207/.295/.283).  I’m
a Matt Treanor fan, and would be more than happy if he were my number two
catcher the next however-many years.  But
he’s not an everyday player on a contender, at least not one with other holes
offensively.

 

It would have been a lot better if Saltalamacchia had nailed
down the job envisioned for him three years ago. 

 

And if Davis had picked up where he left off in August and
September and March, allowing Smoak to continue to punish AAA pitching.

 

If those two things – not slam dunks but also not longshot
expectations coming into the season – hadn’t become major problems, with what
have proved to be inadequate solutions, then this team would have a much
healthier lead on the division, and would be better able to fight through
Borbon’s struggles as long as he was showing some signs of improvement.

 

Instead, Smoak is proving not to be ready (Nolan Ryan has
said the organization thinks 150 plate appearances is a fair trial period, and
Smoak is at 126 and seemingly regressing in his command of the strike zone and pitch
recognition, if not confidence).  Treanor
is what he is.  And Borbon is a .243
base-reacher. 

 

Collectively, those three are hitting .201/.270/.282.

 

And the 7-8-9 slots (thanks in part to Andrus’s 11 solid games
in the bottom third of the order) sit at .219/.289/.279.

 

I’m not in the mood to check to see if there’s a team in
baseball (National League included) with a blacker hole at the bottom of the lineup. 

 

Or in the mood to imagine Tanner Scheppers relieving John
Danks in the ninth, or Derek Holland as the Astros’ ace by time Roy Oswalt
returns to that club in 2012 to finish his career.

 

It might be Time.  If
that means Texas should take a couple second-tier prospects (many of whom could
headline other franchise’s systems) to improve the roster in July, I’m all for
that and would be disappointed not to take that shot. 

 

But this is not John Schuerholz’s Braves.  It’s a team that’s getting better with
promise for a lot more, promise that’s not too far off and in many cases that
we’re all able to see, as opposed to just reading about. 

 

If this team can settle its financial position by winter (if
not by August) and add a couple impact pieces, and then internally add a rookie
pitcher or two each year to the core, and maybe one young hitter, then we’re in
serious business.

 

But adding Cliff Lee or Lance Berkman wouldn’t do enough to
change where this club is headed in 2010, at least not enough to stomach the loss
of Holland, or Scheppers, or Perez, or Smoak, not given the number of immediate
holes that need fixing. 

 

Give me an opportunity to add Josh Willingham for Wilmer
Font, David Murphy, and Miguel Velazquez, and I’m all over it, as long as the
Nationals will cooperate. 

 

Blake Beavan and Braden Tullis for Jake Westbrook?  OK.

 

Chad Tracy for Mike Lowell and a bunch of cash?  I’d do it.

 

But anything this summer that spoils my vision of Derek Holland
and Martin Perez in the 2012 Rangers rotation, with Tanner Scheppers in the
bullpen, and Neftali Feliz in one or the other, with Justin Smoak at first base
and hitting third, and every key member of the club’s current core still under
control (with the exception of Vladimir Guerrero and C.J. Wilson, whose
situations I’d vote to be addressed as the first order of Greenberg-Ryan business),
would upset my stomach.

 

At least for the next couple days.

 

 

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Twitter 
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Stuff, and STUFF.

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Rangers in on Roy?

Just don’t see it happening

Watch out for L.A….

 

Speaking of the Angels, there remains one confirmation I need
to firm up, but we’ve tentatively targeted Sunday, July 25, for Newberg Report
Night at Rangers Ballpark, when Texas tees it up against the Angels for the
fourth of seven head-to-head battles in a huge 10-game span. 

 

Maybe the ownership transfer will be complete by then.  Maybe a new impact player or two will be in
uniform.  Maybe it will be as big a July
game as we’ve had here in years.

 

Expect the usual stuff: late-afternoon Q&A sessions with
a couple of the best baseball writers in the country and some of the top
officials in the Rangers organization – less than a week before the trade deadline
– plus a raffle and auction of baseball memorabilia to raise money for charity,
and tickets for close to 300 of us to sit together at the game.

 

We hope to lock the date in soon.  Stay tuned.

 

In the more immediate future, our second live, in-game chat
session hosted by Fox Sports Southwest will be this Wednesday, June 2, when
Texas visits the White Sox for a 7:10 game pitting 2-5 righthanders Scott
Feldman and Gavin Floyd against each other.

 

Finally, while I’d continue to suggest that Roy Oswalt isn’t
likely to be a Texas Ranger by time we gather on July 25, there are two other righthanders
who pitched yesterday that just might be. 

 

At Oklahoma City, in Game One of a doubleheader against
Seattle’s AAA affiliate in Tacoma, 2007 supplemental first-rounder Tommy Hunter
(making his fifth start of the season) held the Rainiers to one run on four
hits and two walks in four innings (68 pitches), fanning five.  Jon Daniels said in a chat session yesterday
that Hunter is ready to go whenever the need in Arlington arises.

 

Relieving Hunter was 2009 supplemental first-rounder Tanner
Scheppers, making his sixth RedHawks appearance after six Frisco games pitched. 

 

First Scheppers inning: strikeout swinging, strikeout
swinging, lineout to right field.

 

Second Scheppers inning: walk, strikeout swinging, shortstop
error to put runners on first and third in what was a one-run game, strikeout
swinging, strikeout swinging.

 

Third Scheppers inning: strikeout swinging, strikeout
swinging, 3-1 putout to close out the 2-1 victory.

 

Seven strikeouts and zero hits in three innings. 

 

Overall, in 13 AAA frames, Scheppers has scattered two runs
(1.38 ERA) on eight hits (.174 opponents’ average) and seven walks while
setting 22 hitters down on strikes.  In
his 11 Frisco innings, he permitted one run (0.82 ERA) three hits (.079
opponents’ average) and zero walks while fanning 19.

 

Combined: An ERA of 1.13, a .131 opponents’ batting average,
seven walks and 41 strikeouts in 24 innings. 

 

With one exception, Scheppers has pitched on three or four
days of rest every time out this year, so he’s probably going to get the
holiday weekend off in New Orleans before he takes the mound again, probably
when Oklahoma City returns home to host Memphis. 

 

But at the rate things are going, both in Oklahoma City and
in Arlington, where the starting pitchers continue to fail to get out of the
sixth inning on average and the current long man is walking far too many
batters, I once ask the question I first posed on Twitter on May 13:

 

Alternate
spelling for “Nippert” before long : S-C-H-E-P-P-E-R-S?

 

 

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A better Big Bad.

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If you’re an Angels
fan, delete this email now, without reading further.

 

What is an OPS of
.794?

 

1.      It’s a number that signifies a player whose
on-base percentage plus slugging percentage totals .794.  Looking solely at players with enough at-bats
to be on pace to qualify for a batting title, there are 84 with 2010 OPS’s higher
than .794.  Nearly three per team.

 

2.      Among those with OPS’s above .794: Placido
Polanco, Gaby Sanchez, Martin Prado, Alberto Callaspo, David Freese, Andruw
Jones, and Johnny Damon. 

 

3.      Yes. 
Johnny Damon.

 

4.      Michael Young’s OPS is .825.

 

The point of all
this?

 

Vladimir Guerrero’s
OPS in 2009 was .794.

 

He was an Angels hitter
who produced, by that measure, at a rate that Prado and Callaspo and Freese and
Damon are producing at this year.

 

Los Angeles, seeing that, at age 34, Guerrero played only
100 games and OPS’d at that rate after an .886 in 2008 and 10 consecutive years
before that over .934 or greater, let him go. 
Didn’t even offer him arbitration to secure a compensatory pick.   

 

Guerrero’s OPS right now is .974.  Only three hitters in the American League
(Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis, and Miguel Cabrera) have higher marks. 

 

The last season that Guerrero’s OPS was this high was his
MVP season of 2004. 

 

Last year (albeit in only 383 at-bats), Guerrero hit 15 home
runs and drove in 50.

 

This year, in fewer than half as many at-bats (176), he has
12 homers and 42 RBI.

 

His doubles rate hasn’t changed much (16 last year, eight
this season), but the RBI two-bagger he swatted down the left field line in the
seventh inning last night to extend the Rangers’ lead to 8-6, on a sinking
mid-90s fastball a foot inside, bearing in on his back knee, was just
silly.  (Said Young after the game: “He
has the best set of hands I’ve ever seen. 
He just kept his hands inside and hit it.”)

 

Which raises one other Guerrero improvement from 2009: Last
year his swing-and-miss percentage on pitches outside the strike zone was
27.6.  This year, according to ESPN Stats
& Info: 16.9.

 

We’re lucky to be able to watch that guy play baseball every
day.

 

I’ve gotten lots of question marks about last night’s
postgame email.  Pictured was former
Rangers manager Doug Rader.  The reason:
He coined the term “Winning Ugly.”  That may
have been the ugliest Rangers win I can remember.  Bad plays, plays unmade, fundamentals blown.

 

Amazing stat, courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s
Anthony Andro: Last night was the first time all season that Texas has homered
more than once in a road game.

 

Rich Harden’s inability to put .146-hitting Willie
Bloomquist away in the sixth inning demonstrated how different a pitcher he’s
become. 

 

Harden led all starting pitchers in strikeouts per nine
innings in 2009.  And in lowest opponents’
percentage of contact made when swinging. 

 

And yet Bloomquist, who strikes out every fourth at-bat,
never swung and missed in an 11-pitch at-bat, fouling eight Harden deliveries off
(one slider and eight fastballs) and watching two settle outside the strike
zone.  The final pitch – Harden’s last of
the night – was slammed to left field, over Josh Hamilton’s head, for a two-run
triple that cut a three-run Rangers lead to two and led to a game-tying suicide
squeeze.

 

Harden threw lots of strikes last night (73 out of 104
pitches) but once again didn’t get the job done.  It’s sort of obvious to say he’s no longer
the pitcher he used to be, but the Bloomquist at-bat alone typifies how
different he is from just last year.

 

This is sort of silly: seven of the Rangers’ last eight
games have been decided by one run. 
Happily, Texas has won five of those seven, but there’s going to be a residual
effect from all these close games the Rangers have played in 2010 (without
checking, I believe I heard they’re tied with Cincinnati for most one-run
decisions this year). 

 

My MLB.com column tomorrow will focus on a growing problem that
all these close contests, and the inability of Harden and several others to get
deeper into games, could be bringing on, with the possible solution not as
obvious as you might think.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Rangers sale developments.

The
Rangers and the Greenberg Ryan Group have announced a plan to complete the sale
of the franchise, by way of a “prepackaged” Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan that
would permit the club to maintain normal baseball and business
operations.  Under the plan, the sale would be completed by “mid-summer.”

 

I
haven’t tried to analyze this situation in this space and won’t begin to
now.  Here’s the substance of the team’s press release, issued minutes
ago:

 

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

 

Arlington,
TX, May 24, 2010
-Texas
Rangers Baseball Partners, the current owners of the Texas Rangers Baseball
Club, and Rangers Baseball Express, the local investor group led by team
president Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg, today announced a plan to facilitate
completion of the previously announced sale of the Club to the Greenberg-Ryan
group.  The sale of the Club and its lease of the Rangers Ballpark in
Arlington, together with the separate sale of the land around the Ballpark,
have an aggregate transaction value of approximately $575 million.

 

The
Rangers sale will be accomplished through a voluntary, “prepackaged,”
court-supervised process under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code pursuant
to a plan previously negotiated and agreed to by the current Rangers owners and
the Greenberg-Ryan group.  The prepackaged plan, which is supported by
Major League Baseball, current Rangers ownership, and the Greenberg-Ryan group,
provides sufficient sale proceeds for the Rangers creditors to recover 100
percent of the portion of HSG Sports Group’s debt that is guaranteed by the
Rangers and for all Rangers creditors to be paid in full.

 

Texas
Rangers Baseball Partners has requested that a hearing be held in 45 days to
confirm the proposed sale and plan of reorganization.  The sale is
expected to be completed by mid-summer, subject to court approval, which will
then allow the franchise to exit the Chapter 11 process. 

 

“This
plan to complete the sale of the Texas Rangers serves the best interests of the
team, its fans, MLB and all other parties involved,” said Baseball Commissioner
Allan H. (Bud) Selig.  “This agreement assures an orderly process to
expeditiously transfer Rangers ownership to the Greenberg-Ryan group, and it
protects the franchise’s baseball operations.  Rangers fans can have
confidence that their team has the resources it needs to compete. 
Clearly, this could not and would not have happened without Tom Hicks’
leadership and hard work over a long period of time.”

 

This
process and sale are expected to have no impact on Rangers baseball
operations.  While the sale is being completed, the current owners will
continue to have control of the Club.  Motions have been filed with the
court in order that:

 

?          
The Rangers will be able to operate within their existing budget to sign and
acquire amateur, international and professional players

?          
Ticket prices remain the same and purchased tickets will continue to be honored

?          
The fan experience at Rangers Ballpark will be unchanged, with all current
amenities and promotions continuing as usual

?          
All salaries will be paid

?          
Rangers vendors and suppliers will be paid in full

 

“Since
1998, our family has taken great pride and joy in our association with the
Rangers,” said Tom Hicks, who will be Chairman Emeritus of the Rangers. 
“We are proud to play an active role in resolving the deadlock in this complex
sale process.  Rangers fans deserve management’s full focus on baseball
operations, and Nolan, Chuck and their colleagues will be outstanding stewards
of the Rangers.  We stand ready to support them in every way possible, and
as huge fans we will continue to cheer the Rangers on to the ultimate goal of a
World Series championship.”

 

“Our
goal is to move forward with our plan to create a long-term record of success
and championships,” said Nolan Ryan, who will continue to serve as Rangers
president.  “We will achieve that by being active in the player
acquisition market as well as our ongoing commitment to develop players through
one of the league’s best farm systems.” 

 

“We
are pleased to take this important step towards completion of our transaction,”
said Chuck Greenberg.  “Tom Hicks has laid the groundwork for this sale in
a manner that best addresses the interests of the Texas Rangers as well as all
parties that have a stake in the team.  His agreement to sell the land
around the Ballpark  in order to facilitate the sale of the Rangers is
just one example of how he has been instrumental in achieving a result that is
best for the franchise and its fans.  For our group, the focus will be on
rewarding Rangers fans with great performance on the field and memorable
experiences in the stands and in the community.”

 

“Nolan
Ryan has a proven track record with MLB club owners and I am prepared to submit
this to the owners promptly for their approval,” said Selig.  “Chuck
Greenberg and this group of local investors are dedicated to building the
franchise’s value and continuing the team’s contributions to the Dallas-Fort
Worth community.”

 

MLB
has agreed to provide the Rangers with a new credit facility to ensure that the
Club continues to meet all of its obligations while the sale is being
completed.

 

In
a separate transaction, Ballpark Real Estate, L.P., an independent investment
vehicle controlled by Tom Hicks, whose family also controls HSG Sports Group
and its subsidiary Texas Rangers Baseball Partners, entered into an agreement
to sell or transfer to the Greenberg-Ryan group approximately 153 of the 195
acres around the Ballpark and Cowboys Stadium that is owned or controlled by
Ballpark Real Estate or the Hicks family.  Rangers Baseball Express
required this land as a condition to its willingness to purchase the Texas
Rangers.  In return for the transferred land, Ballpark Real Estate will
receive cash, notes, and an ownership position in Rangers Baseball
Express. 

 

HSG
Sports Group and its other primary asset, the Dallas Stars hockey team, are not
included in the filing.

 

The
filing took place in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of
Texas in Fort Worth.  The Rangers filed customary “First Day Motions” with
the Court, which are intended to ensure that the process is seamless and has no
adverse impact on the Club’s operations, employees and suppliers.

The astronomical odds against trading for Roy Oswalt.

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Dustin Nippert faced
five Cubs hitters Saturday.  He started
all five with ball one. 

 

For the season, he’s
faced 115 batters.  He’s started 62 with ball
one.  That’s 54 percent of Nippert’s
opponents that start off with a 1-0 count. 
The league as a whole gets behind 1-0 just 42 percent of the time.

 

Enough of that. 

 

OK, OK, OK.  I get it. 
You want to know whether Roy Oswalt will be a Texas Ranger.

 

I haven’t gotten
this many emails on one subject since St. Patrick’s Day’s off-the-field news.

 

Would Texas want Roy Oswalt? 
Of course.  At 32, he remains one
of the most consistently effective starting pitchers in baseball.

 

Would Houston trade Oswalt? 
Maybe.  On the heels of the
righthander’s announcement that he’d waive his full no-trade clause to “try[ ]
to get back to the playoffs,” and that he thinks a trade might be “a good thing
for both [him and the team],” Astros GM Ed Wade has pointed out that his ace “has
a no-trade clause, not a ‘trade-me’ clause,” as a way of saying he’s not going
to be forced by the player into trading him. 
Still, you’d have to think that Oswalt’s apparent assurance to Astros
owner Drayton McLane that, if traded, he’d “love to come back and finish [his]
career” in Houston theoretically makes the idea of springing him for a
mini-foundation of young talent more palatable. 

 

Would Oswalt agree to come to Texas?  Evidently. 
He’s apparently told friends and reporters that there are three teams for
whom he’d waive the no-trade and accept a deal to – Texas, Atlanta, and St.
Louis – with some suggestion that the Dodgers and Red Sox might be on his list
as well. 

 

And don’t discount the prospect for Oswalt of pitching for
Nolan Ryan and his former Round Rock manager Jackie Moore and his former Round
Rock pitching coach Mike Maddux, with a club that sits in pretty good position
as far as the standings are concerned.

 

There.  It’s on a tee,
right?

 

Absolutely not.

 

Here’s why you shouldn’t hold your breath:

 

1.     
OWNERSHIP: Continuing to hide behind my policy not to
comment on a mess situation I really know nothing about (and not to rely
on or report any of the high-spun position statements fired off by the
creditors bloc), I’m not going to predict where this is headed or when it gets
resolved, but it seems relatively clear that a club that will have to draft a
little more carefully than it might have otherwise in a couple weeks is not
going to be able to take on a pitcher owed a guaranteed $29 million over the
next two years while ownership remains unsettled.

 

OK.  A turn of the
donkey wheel, and the ownership chaos has vanished.  Time to stitch up an “Oswalt 44″ jersey in Rangers
red?

 

No.

 

2.     
THAT $29 MILLION: Yes, I expect Rangers Baseball Express to be
ready to infuse a chunk into the payroll when it takes the ownership reins,
whenever that time comes.  Yes, it makes sense
that a playoff-caliber starting pitcher would be targeted.  Yes, Oswalt fits the description.  But even if $2.5 million per month the rest
of the way this season is tolerable, is spending $16 million on Oswalt in 2011
(really, $18 million, since there’s a $2 million buyout to void another $16 million
commitment in 2012) the smartest way to improve next year’s club, given where
its perceived strengths and holes will be?

 

3.     
YEAH, BUT SURELY HOUSTON WILL PUT SOME CASH IN THE DEAL: Or maybe
not.  Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports says
McLane won’t do it.  But let’s say he
changes his mind.  Every chunk of cash the
Astros are asked to chip in cranks up the level of young players and prospects
Houston will demand in return.  Case in
point: It’s arguable that the package Toronto got from Philadelphia in December
in exchange for Roy Halladay – AA pitcher Kyle Drabek, Low A catcher Travis D’Arnaud,
and AAA corner infielder Brett Wallace (via Oakland, who received minor league
outfielder Michael Taylor from the Phillies) – wasn’t as strong as the Derek
Holland/Justin Smoak package the Jays reportedly sought from Texas in July, but
a key reason that Toronto wouldn’t take less from the Rangers is that they were
likely (and necessarily) needing a greater subsidy from the Jays for a year and
two months of Halladay than the $6 million that Toronto sent Philadelphia for the
2010 season.  (Another way to look at this,
however: It might be that Toronto was using the Rangers all along to leverage better
trade offers from other clubs, knowing that Halladay would ultimately veto any
trade to Texas.  If that’s true, it
wouldn’t have made sense for Toronto to ever back down from the Holland/Smoak
demand.)  

 

The point?  The more cash Texas asks the Astros for, to reduce
its commitment to Oswalt, the more it will take in players to get him.

 

4.     
TEXAS MAY BE AT A DISADVANTAGE: Each of the last two years (June 18, 2008
and July 10,
2009
), I’ve written a report pondering whether the strength of the upper
tier of the Rangers’ pre-arbitration roster depth and farm system might lead
other teams to try and hold Jon Daniels up in trade talks.  It’s still a concern.  It’s even more of an issue when it’s Houston
on the other end.  McLane lost Ryan to
the Rangers.  He may be about to lose AAA
Round Rock (and with it, conceptually, the Austin market) to the Rangers.  Houston isn’t competitive on the field right
now.  If McLane considers Texas
competition off the field, and there have long been logical suggestions that he
does, there’s zero chance he’s going to take the chance of trading Oswalt
in-state without a strong pitch from Wade that the deal is set up as a slam
dunk to favor the Astros long-term.

 

Along the same lines,
though, St. Louis and Atlanta aren’t exactly perfect matches, either.  You’d expect McLane and Wade would bristle at
the thought of Oswalt piching for the division-mate Cardinals for the next two
years, a team that visits Houston nine or 10 times a season and that the Astros
are obviously chasing.  (Plus, their
rotation is fairly well set right now.)  As
for the Braves, the rotation is far from their biggest need, they’ll probably have
a tough time catching Philadelphia or the Wild Card, and loading up for yet
another Mark Teixeira trade that doesn’t pay off probably isn’t the best idea.

 

5.     
BACK PROBLEMS: Big concern? 
Not if you’re trying to win now, as Oswalt is pitching healthy and
averaging seven innings over his last seven starts.  He’s pitched nine times this year.  All nine games have been quality starts.  But then we get back to that $29 million through
2011, and back problems usually don’t get better.  Still, if the history of injections for low back
issues were the reddest flag, it probably wouldn’t hold a deal up.

 

6.     
BAD MATCH: Aside from pitching, chances are Houston is most
interested in middle infield help, an area where Texas is relatively thin.  But rewind to the Halladay trade:
Philadelphia got Oakland involved in order to get the Jays the first baseman they
wanted in Wallace.  There are creative ways
to meet the other team’s needs.

 

Let’s assume the ownership
impediment is lifted.  Would you offer
Houston a package of Holland, righthander Blake Beavan (who is quietly having a
very good encore season at Frisco, and in fact fired eight scoreless innings [four
hits, no walks, eight strikeouts] against Houston’s Corpus Christi affiliate
last weekend, after throwing two gems against the Hooks in four starts against
them in 2009), right-handed reliever Alexi Ogando, and a top middle infield prospect
picked up for Chris Davis or Engel Beltre from a third club?

 

Not me. 

 

And probably not
Houston, either.

 

For all the reasons that Texas and Oswalt seem like a really
good fit, and that it would make a ton of sense for Houston to accommodate his
wish to go somewhere else for a year and a half before coming back to finish
his career where it started, accelerating a desperately needed rebuilding
process, this one appears to have a bunch of hurdles that may be too difficult
to clear.

 

Oh, and the Bartolo Colon reference the other day?  Two of the four players Colon was traded for
eight years ago are higher on my trade-for list right now than Roy Oswalt.

 

 

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

 

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
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Happy numbers.

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Five of the Rangers’ last six wins have been by one run (and
the other one was two nights ago, when the closer was brought in to nail down a
13-7 win).  After starting the season 1-4
in one-run games, the club has won 9 of its last 11 decided by one.

 

Texas is now 18-7 at
home.  It’s the best home record in
baseball, and the best through 25 games in franchise history.

 

That includes seven
straight at home, and 11 of the last 12.

 

Overall, the Rangers have won 11 of 15, 17 of 24, and 20 of
29.  That final number trails only Tampa
Bay (by one game) in the American League.

 

Josh Hamilton’s pivotal sacrifice bunt (yes, his own idea,
not a bench call) was the first of his big league career.

 

And the third of his pro career.  He had one in 1999 for the Princeton Devil
Rays of the short-season Appalachian League, and another for the Bakersfield
Blaze (then a Tampa Bay affiliate) in 2002. 
Elvis Andrus was 13 years old the last time Hamilton moved a runner by
squaring around.

 

Tonight, Derek Holland (2-0) vs. Randy Wells (3-2).  Tomorrow, C.J. Wilson (3-1) vs. Carlos Silva
(5-0, lifetime ERA against Texas of 5.20 in 13 starts, and an .844 OPS -
including 9.09 and 1.060 in seven Arlington starts).  Packed houses expected for both.

 

The Angels are 5.5 back. 
Oakland 4.0, Seattle 8.5.

 

Happy.

 

feliz.jpg

 

 

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

 

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
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

You like boom, and I like boom.

NC-17

Graphic violence, bat and arm

Boomsticks 1 and 2

 

I was there for all 20 runs and all 35 hits, but my friends
were right: The moment I won’t forget from Texas 13, Baltimore 7 was the throw
Nelson Cruz made to the plate in the fifth, on Adam Jones’s flyout to right
with nobody out, men on the corners, and what felt like a teetering 8-4 Texas
lead.  Scott Feldman escaped the inning without
further damage and retired five of the next six, starting all but one of them
with strike one, throwing 17 strikes out of 23 in that span, and ending his
night on a positive note. 

 

Luke Scott didn’t run on Cruz.  There was no assist.  It goes into the books as an F-9, and nothing
more.  But it was majestic.

 

Cruz might have been a triple short of the cycle (or as Jim
Knox put it, “one hit” short of the cycle), but defensively he was nothing
short of awesome.

Chatter.

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I’m gonna beg off
writing this morning, not to give a little phony weight to my common suggestion
that I write three or four times per week, but instead because a complete Newberg
Report might be full of big league game thoughts, emotional overreactions, trade
ideas, minor league notes and prospect comp’s, massive amounts of Tanner
Scheppers talk, a couple Juan Moreno references, and so on – and all of that
was packed into a lively in-game chat session at FOXSportsSouthwest.com last
night. 

 

If you had time to
read a report this morning, you’ll have time to read the transcript from last
night’s chat
.  I’m not sure how long
the transcript will be up, but surely at least the morning.

 

Thanks to the more
than 600 of you who stopped by.  For obvious
reasons, I could only get to a tenth of your questions at best, but it was a
blast to do and we’re already looking at dates for the next one.  Thanks also to Ben Rebstock and Brian Smith
for their help setting the chat up and moderating it, and to John Rhadigan and
Emily Jones and Dana Larson and Josh & Tom for touting it all night. 

 

One note buried in the chat: I’m looking tentatively at Sunday,
July 25 for Newberg Report Night at the Ballpark this year.  I still have to check that date with the
organization and with our keynote guests. 
Stay tuned.

 

A couple quick things to share:

 

1.     
Baseball
America
‘s initial mock first round has Texas drafting Middle Tennessee
State righthander Bryce Brentz at number 15 overall (the Matt Purke comp pick)
and Ball State righthander Kolbrin Vitek at number 22 in two and a half weeks.  Other notable first-round projections: University
of Mississippi lefthander Drew Pomeranz at number two, Woodlands High
righthander Jameson Taillon at number three, UTA outfielder Michael Choice at
number 11, University of Texas righthander Brandon Workman at number 14, and LSU
righthander Anthony Ranaudo at number 20.

 

2.     
A free Bound Edition to the first two readers who correctly
identify why Bartolo Colon is going to be referenced in one of the next few Newberg
Reports.

 

3.     
With all the talk about how bad Josh Hamilton has been in
day games – and he has – shouldn’t we acknowledge that his no-doubter blast to
center field last night and the should-have-been shot to left field two innings
later both came in daylight?  Those two
shots will get filed under the “Night” split since it was a night game, but unless
the analysis has something to do with Hamilton’s circadian rhythms, if we’re
strictly talking about how he sees the ball in natural light as opposed to
under the lights, then maybe his second- and fourth-inning crushes on Wednesday
are good signs.

 

Finally, I submitted this week’s MLB.com, ranking the top 10
secondary pitches in the Rangers’ farm system, late last night.  When it goes live sometime today, I’ll send
out a link.

 

 

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

 

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
www.newbergreport.com
and click the “Mailing List” link on the top menu bar.

 

 

(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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