July 2010

Saltalamacchia traded to Boston.

The Rangers have announced that catcher Jarrod
Saltalamacchia has in fact been traded to Boston, in exchange for righthander Roman Mendez, first baseman Chris
McGuiness, a player to be named later, and cash considerations (reported by ESPN’s
Jayson Stark to be $350,000).

 

Mendez is a projectable 20-year-old from the Dominican
Republic, toting a big fastball that’s reportedly touched 97.  He’s pitched at two levels this year,
including the short-season New York-Penn League, where he’s fanned 35 and
walked 19 in 33 innings.  He’ll join Short-Season
A Spokane.

 

McGuiness, hitting .298/.416/.504 for Low A
Greenville, will be promoted to High A Bakersfield by the Rangers.  The 22-year-old was Boston’s 13th-round
pick out of The Citadel in 2009.  He’s
hitting .337/.477/.566 in 83 July at-bats, with 20 walks and 18 strikeouts, so
the decision to challenge him right away at a higher level seems reasonable.

 

As for the player to be named, I wonder if it’s
someone Boston drafted last year but signed in August, since drafted players
can’t be traded until a full year after they sign. 

 

The Sox are assigning Saltalamacchia to AAA
Pawtucket.  He was hitting .244/.326/.445
for Oklahoma City.

 

Saltalamacchia’s departure creates a 40-man
roster spot that infielder Cristian Guzman now fills.  According to a local report, infielder Joaquin
Arias heads to the disabled list (with a strained back muscle) to clear room on
the active roster for Guzman.

 

Finally, according to Brian McTaggart of
MLB.com, the only teams Lance Berkman would have waived his no-trade clause for,
other than the Yankees, were Texas and St. Louis (and possibly San Diego and
Tampa Bay).

 

More on the Saltalamacchia trade in the next Newberg
Report.

 

Jamey

Cristian Guzman and the 2007 draft.

Jorge Cantu: A minor(s) pickup.

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Bengie, Cliff, Cantu

Busiest team in baseball

Bankruptcy be
damned

 

The 2010 season has been the one in which I’ve written more
than ever before, but at the same time have written less about the minor leagues
than ever before.  But that’s where I want
to focus today.

 

Dial back four years. 
Despite hovering between third and fourth place in the division, a few
games behind first place Oakland, rookie G Jon Daniels made three trade deadline
deals in 2006, one major trade (getting Carlos Lee) and two smaller ones (picking
up Matt Stairs and Kip Wells). 
Ultimately, Texas played .500 baseball after the three deals, and
finished the season in third place in the West, 13 games back.

 

The Rangers, owning a comfortable division lead this year, are
taking no chances, having made three trades this month as well, again one of
the blockbuster variety (Cliff Lee) and two that were smaller in scope (Bengie
Molina and Jorge Cantu). 

 

In each case, Texas would be right to expect a greater impact
than it got from its 2006 counterpart. 

 

The Rangers are in bankruptcy, a story that’s filled a
thousand column inches over the last two months.  It is what it is.  The team is playing its best baseball in
years, if not ever, in spite of it.  Where
the team’s financial condition and unclear ownership situation have had an impact
is in the nature of the three trades the club has made in July, each
necessitating the inclusion of cash from the other team to help fit the deals
within a tight, immovable budget.  So from
that standpoint, Texas has had to part with greater prospects than it did in
2006, not only because the club acquired more significant players, but also
because the cost of acquiring cash was added prospect consideration.

 

Nonetheless, the effect of these trades on the club’s
prospect depth may ultimately be only slightly greater than it was in
2006.  I’ve tried to make the point over
and over, and many others have as well: The benefit of building a strong farm
system shows up not only in the infusion of young talent and resulting cost
containment, but also in the development of ammunition to trade for veterans for
the stretch run. 

 

In 2006, Texas had what Baseball America
tabbed as the number 16 farm system in baseball.  That relative thinness on the farm meant
that, in order to acquire Lee (and change-of-scenery 4-A outfielder Nelson
Cruz), the Rangers had to part with young, affordable big league talent (Francisco
Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix), and to pick up an extra hitter and extra arm
without giving up one of the club’s few true prospects, they were limited to
acquiring Stairs (for reliever Joselo Diaz) and Wells (for reliever Jesse
Chavez).

 

Clearly, the group including Chris Ray, Michael Main, Justin
Smoak, Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan, Matt Lawson, Omar Poveda, and Evan Reed, all
traded away this month, is exponentially more valuable than what Texas gave up
in 2006.  But only Ray and Smoak came off
the big league roster, and each was replaceable (at least in terms of what they
were providing at the time), and the Rangers were able to make these three
deals without touching their top minor league prospects (Martin Perez, Tanner
Scheppers, Engel Beltre, Robbie Erlin, Wilmer Font, Mitch Moreland, Jurickson
Profar, more).

 

We now learn that Daniels, while talking to Florida to get
the Cantu deal done, was (according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com) apparently “willing
to part with [the club's] top three prospects, just to get the conversation
rolling” about ace Josh Johnson, only to be told that Johnson was “unmovable.” 

 

Different situation, of course.  A rotation headed by Lee and Johnson now, and
Johnson for the next three seasons after this one, would have made it tolerable
seeing Perez and Scheppers pitch for the Marlins, and Beltre patrol center
field for that club.  Johnson is the kind
of player you load up for and don’t look back.

 

But Daniels got Lee (controllable only for a half a season
and the playoffs) for considerably less than that, and Molina and Cantu, too,
obviously.  Even considering the premium
cost imposed to get cash thrown in.

 

How big a dent have these three trades put in the Texas
system?  Not much of one, if you asked
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus.  Goldstein
ranked the Texas system number two in baseball before the 2009 season and
number two again before the 2010 season (when all of the eight players traded
this month other than Ray were part of the crop), and he told us at our event Sunday
that the system is still top three in the game. 
Yesterday’s move of Poveda and Reed, whom Goldstein projects as middle
relievers, certainly doesn’t change that.

 

Could the 22-year-old Poveda and 24-year-old Reed develop in
such a way that Florida can count this trade as a win?  No question.  What if Poveda, out for the year due to Tommy
John surgery, regains his velocity (not a plus to begin with) and command (a
key to his game) and his promising changeup plays up like Armando Galarraga’s
slider and he turns into a back-of-rotation starter Texas wishes it had
back?  What if Reed’s mid-90s four-seamer
carries him to Florida, he refines his slider, and, like Matt Capps or Kevin
Gregg, one day earns a chance to save a small market team’s games, or even
short of that, turns into Jesse Chavez, the reliever who Texas traded for Wells
and who would later get traded for Rafael Soriano, straight up?

 

It could happen.  But the
fact remains, even if both righthanders are decent bets to pitch in the big
leagues, that both had a good amount of folks to pass in this system, which
makes the trade sensible if for that reason alone.  Whether Cantu (rather than another corner bench
bat Texas had the opportunity to acquire) helps is something we have to trust Daniels
and his pro scouts on, or not.  But
moving Poveda and Reed to get him is fine.

 

Think back a year to reliever Matt Nevarez and second
baseman Jose Vallejo to Houston for Ivan Rodriguez.  Same idea. 
Nevarez and Vallejo were outside the Rangers’ top 30 prospects.  Nevarez ended up ranked by
Baseball America
this winter as Houston’s number 15 prospect. 
Poveda and Reed will rank higher for Florida than they did here. 

 

Incidentally, the Marlins will need to reinstate Poveda to
the 40-man roster after the season, and add Reed to the 40, unless they want to
risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft. 
Here, it’s highly doubtful Reed would have been added, and Poveda was a candidate
to be outrighted.  In my
column for MLB.com a week ago
, I suggested that we could see Texas trade a
couple draft-eligible prospects for a corner bat this week, especially given
the deep Rule 5 Draft class the club has to make roster decisions on this winter.  That’s exactly what the Rangers did
yesterday.

 

You can read any number of stories today about Cantu, so I won’t
dig too deep on what he brings.  His 2010
season (.262/.310/.409) hasn’t measured up to his 2008 (.277/.327/.481) or 2009
(.289/.345/.443) campaigns, when he drove in 195 runs with 45 homers, but he’s
still capable of driving in runs in bunches (he set a big league record with
RBI in each his first 10 games this year) and fills a roster void here.  While he’s hitting lefties at an
underwhelming .256/.296/.422 rate this season, he punished them in 2008 (.293/.359/.510)
and 2009 (.322/.389/.503).  He’s not a
great defender at either infield corner, but will be more dependable at first
base than Joaquin Arias. 

 

Cantu doesn’t play second base any more – leading some to wonder
whether Texas has yet another trade in the works with Ian Kinsler expected to
miss more than the minimum 15 days due to his groin strain – but that’s not
what he’ll be asked to do here.  He’ll figure
in at first base with the newly recalled Moreland, and give Ron Washington something
he hasn’t had all season: a capable right-handed bat off the bench on nights
that he doesn’t start.  (Small sample
size alert: Cantu is a healthy .323/.400/.452 hitter in 35 career pinch-hitting
plate appearances.)

 

Will Cantu (who projects to be a non-compensation free
agent, for those of you wondering if the Rangers could have a chance to recoup
a draft pick for him this winter; don’t count on it) contribute any more than
Stairs (.210/.273/.370) or Rodriguez (.245/.279/.388) did in their late-season runs
with Texas?  The Rangers (on the hook for
about $1.5 million of the $2.1 million remaining on his 2010 contract) obviously
hope so.  But given the club’s depth in
minor league arms, assuming you like what the bat does for the 25-man roster,
it’s a trade that makes a lot of sense.

 

To make room for Cantu on the 40-man roster, righthander
Brandon McCarthy was shifted to the 60-day disabled list.  (Righthander Mark Lowe was moved to the
60-day DL earlier in the day to make room for Moreland.)  To clear space on the active roster for
Cantu, Texas optioned Chris Davis (.189/.267/.245 since his return three weeks
ago) again.  It’s pretty clear (as I
discussed in one of yesterday’s TROT COFFEY’s) that Davis is on the Nelson Cruz
path (at best) and will likely get included in a trade this winter, needing
that change of scenery that Cruz needed when the Brewers sent him to Texas in
the 2006 Carlos Lee deal.

 

I’m guessing Davis was probably in play in the Rangers’ recent
talks with Houston about Roy Oswalt and with Milwaukee about Prince Fielder (efforts
that, in both cases, were described by Jon Heyman of
Sports
Illustrated
as “aggressive”).  Houston
ended up getting a young first baseman for Oswalt yesterday, flipping outfielder
Anthony Gose (packaged from Philadelphia) to Toronto for Brett Wallace, as that
club prepares for life after Lance Berkman, an eventuality that could arrive as
soon as this weekend.

 

A thought: I wonder if a club shopping a versatile second
baseman this weekend approaches Texas about Davis.  

 

Moreland’s time is now, and while his two singles and deep
fly to center last night were a refreshing change from what we’d seen out of Davis
this summer (and what Seattle has seen out of Justin Smoak, who sits at
.159/.169/.270 with one walk and 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats), he’s a player
who has exploded onto the scene the last two years but still needs to prove that
he’s a starting bat on a good big league club. 

 

The 2007 17th-rounder, whom the Rangers experimented
with on the mound after the 2008 season (he occasionally closed games at
Mississippi State), was leading all of minor league baseball in hits in 2009 when
he broke a bone in his foot with three weeks left in the season.  He’s short to the ball, barrels pitches with
remarkable consistency, draws walks and doesn’t strike out a lot, and is
athletic enough to handle himself on an outfield corner (with plenty of arm,
not surprising since he worked in the low 90s on the mound).  A comp if it all comes together?  Lyle Overbay is the one I keep coming back
to.

 

Moreland, the Rangers’ 2009 Tom Grieve Minor League Player
of the Year, is a .313/.383/.509 hitter in four minor league seasons, and a
.500/.500/.500 hitter for one big league night. 
Nice start.

 

Moreland’s splits in 2010 are reasonably even, as are Cantu’s.  It’s not clear how Washington will allocate
time at first base between the two, and that may be something that Washington
hasn’t yet figured out himself.

 

But as Texas makes this road swing through Anaheim, Seattle,
and Oakland over the next 10 days, before coming home to host New York and
Boston, sitting at a season-high 18 games over .500 and having won 13 series out
of 16, there’s one thing that’s unmistakable. 
Well, a few.

 

Jorge Cantu makes the first base situation and bench
stronger.  Bengie Molina has strengthened
catcher considerably.  Cliff Lee has
overhauled every spot in the rotation, all by himself, and has changed the October
outlook for this club.

 

And despite the fact that the Rangers had to dig even deeper
in players than they should have had to in order to acquire all three, given
the financial handcuffs on the organization that have yet to be removed, the impact
that the Lee, Molina, and Cantu roster upgrades have had on the extraordinary depth
this club has on the farm has been relatively minor, in a manner of speaking.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Exceptional Lee.

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Don’t feel sorry for
Cliff Lee.  I don’t think he’s feeling sorry
for himself.

 

Because what counts
is the win, not the win-loss record.

 

Did he deserve a
victory tonight?  Obviously.   Nine
innings and no earned runs and five hits and zero walks and 13 strikeouts is
what happens when you’re eight years old and you rig your video game.

 

But Lee had to be that good, or else Texas probably loses
that game in regulation.

 

Then again, if Ian Kinsler had covered second base in the
sixth (and such a strange moment: neither Kinsler nor Elvis Andrus, who
theoretically was charged with backing Kinsler up on any attempted steal,
budged an inch), maybe Lee gets the shutout he earned.

 

On the other hand, if Nelson Cruz doesn’t keep Kevin
Kouzmanoff’s shot to right in the park later in that inning, Texas would have
been down 3-1 instead of tied at 1-1 and, even though everything would still have
been unearned, it nonetheless would have been a home run off Lee at a very bad
time.  (As for Cruz: No kid even dares to
dream of a game like that, short of post-season heroics.  Right?)

 

But forget all the if’s, and don’t feel sorry for Lee.

 

Yeah, he’s got one win in four Rangers starts.  But he’s gotten 27 outs in each of the three he
didn’t win, and 25 outs in the other one. 
You know how many batters Lee has walked in his 35.1 Texas innings?  One.

 

And it was an intentional
walk.

 

Don’t feel sorry for Lee. 
He’s been a mind-blowing addition, he’s going to pitch in massively huge
games for this team in September and October, and, no matter where free agency takes
him this winter, he’s going to get his money and he’s going to get to pitch
exactly where he wants to pitch for the next pile of years.

 

Tonight’s 13 strikeouts were a career high for the
31-year-old.  No Texas pitcher has had at
least that many with no walks since Nolan Ryan punched out 15 over 10 walkless frames
in a 13-inning, 1-0 win over the White Sox on August 17, 1990, when Lee was 11.

 

Lee is the first big league pitcher since Joe Niekro in 1982
to throw eight or more innings with two walks or fewer in eight straight starts.

 

Lee faced 32 Oakland hitters tonight.  And threw 30 balls.

 

Less
than a ball per hitter.

 

And I demand to know how many pitchers this year or over the
last two or three or ten have had 88-
strike games.  Get back to me on that, please.

 

You shouldn’t feel sorry for Lee when you see how happy he looked,
standing at home plate, awaiting Cruz with his teammates as Boomstick circled the
bases to send the A’s off the field.  Lee
is no Todd Stottlemyre.  There’s some
degree of fit here.  Not sure yet how much.  But there’s something.

 

True, the Rangers have scored a total of seven runs while Lee
has been the pitcher of record in his four starts, an embarrassing absence of
run support.  But don’t feel sorry for
him.  Nobody discounts what he has meant
to this team.

 

The next time Lee does his windmill/air toss/double ankle touch/rosin
application/mound landscape/warmup pitch routine each inning, the next time he
sprints off the field after the third out, the next time he talks his manager
into leaving him in to finish the ninth, appreciate the extraordinariness of
what you’re seeing, particularly in that he’s doing it with “Texas” sprawled
across his jersey.  Appreciate it; don’t
feel sorry for the man.

 

Nah, screw that.

 

I feel sorry for him, at least a little bit.

 

What a freakin’ beast that guy is.

 

Texas               59        41       

Oakland          50        49        8.5

Los Angeles     52        51        8.5

 

 

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recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
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(c) Jamey Newberg

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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Recapping Newberg Report Night.

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There are things that don’t surprise you, but still blow you
away, like a Josh Hamilton rocket shot that eludes the second baseman’s
horizontal reach by maybe two feet and turns into a standup triple, and like your
generosity and the ability of Kevin Goldstein and Jon Daniels to hold an audience.

 

Last year we raised a little over $8,000 for the Hello Win
Column Fund and the Wipe Out Kids Cancer Foundation at our annual in-season
event, a record amount for us.  But Sunday,
the seventh time we’ve organized a Newberg Report Night at Rangers Ballpark, we
raised more than $12,000 for HWC and Genesis Women’s Shelter.  You all are amazing.  But not surprising.

 

This will be an ineffective attempt to paint a picture of
what happened Sunday afternoon, for those of you who weren’t among the 400-plus
in attendance.  But I’ll try.

 

Last year, the day after our sixth Newberg Report Night, which
took place two days after the conventional trade deadline, and three days after
Derek Holland’s 8.2-inning, 10-strikeout, two-hit gem against Seattle, I wrote
a report that began this way:

 

A
couple exchanges into Jon Daniels’s 90 minutes of straight answers to a lot of
excellent questions, one of you raised your hand and said, “First, I want to
thank you for not trading the players we’ve heard you would have had to trade
to get Roy Halladay.”

 

The
room erupted into a wild ovation that shook the walls.

 

JD
smiled and said, before the fan who made the comment could get to his question:
“I should do nothing more often.  That
was awesome.”

 

Awesome as he said it was, this year he leaned over a couple
minutes before his turn to take the microphone and said to me, as Luther Davis
was wrapping up the auction: “Don’t get up there and embarrass me.”

 

It didn’t matter what I said.  My introduction lasted maybe 20 seconds, but I
could have saved my energy and gone only with the final five words: “Ladies and
gentlemen: Jon Daniels.”

 

The 2009 ovation barely Richtered compared to what happened in
that room when JD stepped to the podium Sunday. 

 

His response once he was permitted to speak: “I’m still the guy
who traded Adrian Gonzalez.”

 

Daniels walked us through the Cliff Lee trade talks, which
he said began while the Rangers were in Milwaukee June 11-13, and ended with a
number of phone exchanges with Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik and high fives around
the room three Fridays ago.  He told us
he expects Josh Lueke to be in the Seattle bullpen in September and for years
to come, maybe eventually in the ninth inning. 
(To date: 6.1 AA West Tenn innings, no runs on three hits and zero
walks, 12 strikeouts, 77 percent strikes.) 

 

He reacted to the Angels’ Dan Haren acquisition – the news of
which broke during his Q&A – the same way he responded to the question about
competing against teams with payrolls like the Yankees: We embrace the
challenge.  He said they expected Los
Angeles to do something – which is part of why he wanted to act quickly this
month, rather than be put in a position of having to react – and the Angels
were last on his list of who he was hoping Haren would end up with, but it
sounded as if he’s more concerned about Haren the next three years than he is
in 2010.

 

Is there a chance that we sign Lee long-term?  The Rangers decided, and told Lee, that they
aren’t even going to raise the subject during the season, out of fairness to the
lefthander, who has been traded four times – three in the last 12 months – and has
worked his whole career to get to this point, where he has some control over
his future.  JD’s hope is that Texas has
a good October run, which is the best possible recruiting tool there is, and if
Lee likes his situation here, the club is obviously interested in talking to
him about a new contract. 

 

C.J. Wilson has been responsible for charting Lee’s
starts.  Not by accident.

 

(Incidentally, I don’t want to let this note get away: Ken
Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported this morning that Texas has called Houston
about Roy Oswalt
since
trading for Lee, though the clubs couldn’t find a match.)

 

Asked about the recent stories that Texas didn’t participate
in Latin America this year because of financial constraints, Daniels pointed two
things out: (1) while the club did make a decision this summer to reallocate
some budget items toward the big club, given the real chance to get to October,
the Rangers did make a significant international splash in January when they
signed 16-year-old Colombian catcher Jorge Alfaro (for a reported $1.3
million); and (2) the organization didn’t believe this year’s Latin American
class was a very strong one, relatively speaking. 

 

Was Jake Skole a signability pick, as many (including
Goldstein an hour earlier) have insisted? 
Daniels said there was nobody on their board at pick number 15 whom they
passed on because of money, and in fact there were only a few players higher on
their Draft Day board than Skole at all.

 

Has the club decided not to look at Neftali Feliz as a
starter down the road?  Can’t rule it
out: See Wilson. 

 

At Oklahoma City, Tanner Scheppers from the rotation to the bullpen
and Mitch Moreland from the outfield to first base: Both moves were made with
possible big league impact this summer in mind (though less likely with
Moreland).  Scheppers is one move we
might see around August 1, when the club is going to be thinking about getting its
12 best arms in Texas, positioned for the stretch run. 

 

One fan reminded Daniels that, two years ago at the same event,
he pegged Tommy Hunter as a pitcher a little bit under the radar who shouldn’t
be, and then asked him to answer the same question this year.  Daniels turned to Senior Director of Player
Personnel and television star A.J. Preller and asked for his candidate.  Preller tabbed Hickory lefthander Robbie
Erlin, who Daniels noted is dominating the Low A South Atlantic League at age
19 (5-2, 1.67, 57 hits and 13 walks in 81 innings, 88 strikeouts) with terrific
command, a mature approach, and an advanced ability to spin the ball.

 

Daniels asked Assistant GM Thad Levine to weigh in on one
fan’s request to name the single biggest surprise in the starting rotation.  Levine’s quick-twitch response: “Lewis,
Wilson, and Hunter.”

 

As for the idea that Josh Hamilton may not be back in 2011
because of club finances, Daniels suggested that’s highly unlikely, and that
Nolan Ryan’s comment to that effect last week was merely an extreme possibility
of what could happen if the club were to remain in bankruptcy much longer.  (Daniels added that the club remaining in
bankruptcy in the off-season would be more disruptive than it is right
now.)  If economic issues were to force the
club to make any drastic cost-cutting personnel decisions, Daniels said, even
contemplating a move to dispose of Hamilton (who has two arbitration seasons
left) would be way down the list.

 

There wasn’t a prospect in the Rangers system Kevin
Goldstein wasn’t asked about, and there wasn’t one that he didn’t have complete
command of.  Goldstein may not be as high
on Elvis Andrus as the rest of us, and he may have missed, he readily admits,
on Ian Kinsler (even though he saw him play repeatedly during his two-month, .402
run through the Midwest League in 2004), but nobody in Goldstein’s business was
strong on Feliz (who he now describes as “absolutely terrifying”) before he was,
and I don’t think I’ve heard anyone as bullish on Engel Beltre as he is right
now. 

 

Beltre, a potential lockdown center fielder with 20-20
potential in Goldstein’s view, is four years younger than Julio Borbon, but
there’s no question which of the two (who were acquired by Texas within a month
of each other in the summer of 2007) Goldstein believes is the long-term answer
here in center.  (He also sees Martin
Perez as a potential number one, but isn’t alone there.)

 

Goldstein loves Jurickson Profar, largely because of unsolicited
comments he heard from two scouts from other teams, days apart, about the way the
16-year-old was standing out at Fall Instructs last year.

 

But my favorite Goldstein comment, made well before Daniels,
Levine, and Preller arrived, was when it was not the Rangers’ farm system that
he referred to as being loaded (still a top three system, he believes), but
instead the Rangers front office, which he described as “scary smart.”  He emphasized how fortunate we should understand
we are to have the people in charge of baseball decisions here that we do, and
while I think we generally recognize that, it resonates even more when coming
from someone with Goldstein’s credibility who is so tuned into all 30 organizations.

 

Thanks to OSAR
Consulting
and Leapfrog Executive Search
for sponsoring the event; to Pat Payton for donating his original artwork, which
fetched two of the three highest bids in the auction (you can go to his website to order the Nolan Ryan
and C.J. Wilson prints yourself); to Eleanor Czajka, Norma & George &
Ryan Wolfson, Allen Cordrey, and Luther Davis for making the event click; to
teammates Scott Lucas, Devin Pike, Marty Yawnick, and Ted Price for being there;
and to the Rangers, foremost among them Rob Matwick, Paige Farragut, Paul
Morrow, Chris Bielinski, Taunee Taylor, Heather King, Delia Willms, Chuck Morgan,
and Sherry Flow; and to Cindy & Jeff Kuster and the Hello Win Column Fund
and the folks at Genesis Women’s Shelter, for doing what they do.   

 

And, of course, to you all, for helping support HWC and
Genesis and whoever else benefits from your generosity.

 

It’s probably worth thanking Hamilton and Hunter and everyone
else in uniform that night, for taking the Angels down for the third time in
four nights.  There was no surprise Feliz/backpack
sighting, which highlighted last year’s event, but there was more at stake on the
field this year, almost 40,000 people in the building, and an electricity in the
crowd that was unlike last year’s, or any other in memory.  I initially chose July 25 for the event
because it was the only home Sunday that was anywhere near the trade deadline (always
the most fascinating time to put a microphone in front of Daniels), but it
turned out to be an ideal day for other, bigger reasons, thanks to what this
team is doing on the field.

 

Rob and Paige and I are working on trying to figure out a way
to accommodate a bigger group next time, as this year’s event sold out in 48
hours and probably could have doubled in size if we had the space. 

 

And Baseball Prospectus writer Will Carroll, who missed the
event for the first time in its seven years, called me yesterday to tell me he’ll
be at the next one – not next July or August, but this October. 

 

The seed’s been planted. 
Stay tuned.

 

 

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Leads, walks, and whiffs.

Just a quick shot this
morning.

 

Which is more mind-blowing?

 

That ESPN SportsCenter led off this morning with the Texas
Rangers, even though at least one local sportcast (and I bet more) led off last
night with the Cowboys’ blue jeans party in San Antonio?

 

That Justin Smoak, who despite his offensive struggles drew
38 walks in 70 games with Texas, has played every inning of every Mariners game
since The Trade and is up to 44 plate appearances with that club, but didn’t
draw his first Seattle walk until last night (in what was Josh Beckett’s first
big league inning in more than two months)?

 

Or that C.J. Wilson (104 pitches, 63 strikes) didn’t register
a strikeout last night until the seventh inning, when he set Bobby Abreu and
Torii Hunter down on strikes, and then in the eighth, when he ended his own
night by punching Maicer Izturis out on strikes . . . and that
those three strike three’s were the only three
swinging strikes he recorded all night
?

 

Ceej artillery.

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No Angels player
reached second base.

 

Think about that.

 

What is C.J. Wilson right
now?  This team’s number three?  Number four?

 

No Angels player reached second base.

 

This team has the
league leader in ERA (Cliff Lee) and the league leader in saves (Neftali
Feliz), but it also has the league leader in walks.

 

And that man didn’t
walk anyone tonight.

 

Wilson also came into the game as nearly the worst in the
league in pitches per inning, at 17.1 (Justin Masterson paces the AL with 17.6
per inning).

 

Tonight: 13 per inning, which is better than what the league
leader averages.

 

That league leader is Lee, who throws 13.3 pitches per
inning, an obvious reason he’s able to consistently go at least eight, which is
what Wilson did tonight, for just the second time as a big leaguer.

 

We’ve all seen shots of Wilson attached to Lee’s hip in the dugout
on nights neither is pitching, just as Tommy Hunter was situated tonight.  It’s clear that Lee is rubbing off on Wilson
and Hunter and the way they’re approaching lineups, yet another reason that the
Lee acquisition is such a huge thing, and will be for years to come, even if
Lee is no longer around.

 

Wilson’s effort tonight, while not a carbon copy of a typical
Lee start, looked a lot more like vintage Lee than vintage Wilson.  Only three strikeouts (none until the
seventh), but only four baserunners.  He was
tremendous.  Facing the team about whom
he said, three weeks ago, following a 2-1 Los Angeles win that he took the loss
in, “We’re the better team, 100 percent – when we play up to our capabilities,
it might not even be that close,” he made his words stand up.

 

Said his manager afterwards: “I really believe C.J. came
into his own tonight.”

 

When Wilson blew Maicer Izturis away swinging to end the
eighth and marched toward the dugout, the first player to slide across the
dugout to meet him with a pat on the back side? 

 

Cliff Lee. 

 

He may not be here next year, but he’s looking like a part
of this team, even outside the lines.

 

As does Bengie Molina, whose fist pump after he squeezed the
27th out fired me up. 

 

I don’t love Molina.  But
I sure do like him.

 

Think about this: What if Andy Pettitte and Jason Varitek got
hurt before Jon Daniels made his moves to get Lee and Molina this month?

 

There are a number of good reasons to strike early on the July
trade market if you’re a contender.  That’s
one of them.

 

The players on the current Angels roster are now 0 for 23 lifetime
against Feliz, who has saved all five Rangers wins over the Angels this season.  The sound of the crowd during his inning
tonight, the deafening din that the announcers on TV and radio were both fighting
through, would be my new ringtone if I could make that happen.

 

There have been more years than not when a late July report
would probably have led off with the note that Derek Holland, trying to ramp up
to rejoin the big league rotation, went three hitless, walkless, scoreless rehab
innings tonight against a bunch of teenage Royals in Surprise, setting six down
on strikes.  It’s a worthwhile note, particularly
laid against the reality that Scott Feldman has to be approaching a point at
which he’s pitching for his rotation life.

 

But it’s a footnote, not a lead.

 

The Channel 8 News sportscast led off tonight with the
Cowboys camp kickoff party in San Antonio. 

 

Screw that. 

 

I love football, but not the way I love baseball, and right
now the thing I love most about one that the other can never give me is that,
after the awesome awesomeness of these last two nights, we get to do it all
over again tomorrow night, and the night after that.

 

I love this game, and I love this team.

 

Especially when no Angels reach second base.

 

Perhaps the dream

Is dreaming us.

                        – “When the Angels Fall,” Sting

 

 

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Twitter 
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Texas 1, Angels 0.

7up2.jpg

Cliff Lee, tone-setter.

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Lee vs. Weaver

October
intensity

Texas sets the
tone

 

What an amazing, edgy, compelling baseball game.  Great pitching, great defense, a crowd that sizzled
for nine, as tied to their seats as the Rangers bullpen was most of the night.  The fifth one-run margin in six
Rangers-Angels games this year, and in this one, as much as any, it really felt
like every pitch mattered.  Intensely tense.

 

Texas has a six-game lead on the division now, for the first
time since 1999, the club’s last playoff season.

 

It’s the first time since 2006 that the Angels have been as
many as six games out of first.  (And
they’re now only a game and a half up on Oakland.)

 

I didn’t care for the decision to pinch-run Joaquin Arias for
Vladimir Guerrero with one out in the eighth and found myself brooding in my seat
for the next 10 minutes. 

 

And then I realized how much I loved that it upset me that much. 

 

Cliff Lee and Jered Weaver did what they do, but here’s one
key difference: in the third through sixth, Weaver threw 23, 19, 21, and 26
pitches.  Lee never had an inning with as
many pitches as any of those four Weaver frames. 

 

As a result, Texas got Weaver out of the game after six.  Granted, the Rangers did all their scoring
while Weaver was on the mound, not pushing anything across against Francisco
Rodriguez, but chasing Weaver by making him work was a solid gameplan, one that
no Rangers opponent has been able to accomplish against Lee.

 

Weaver needed 118 pitches to get through six.  Lee needed only 78 pitches over the same span,
and he threw just 99 pitches as he came two outs short of going the distance. 

 

And Lee threw nearly as many strikes (68 to Weaver’s 72). 

 

Five times he went to three balls on an Angels hitter.  Overall, Lee threw eight pitches with a
three-ball count – all for strikes, obviously.

 

He’s as methodical as the pre-pitch routine he goes through behind
the mound nine times a night.

 

Lee’s streak of seven straight starts of at least eight innings
is the longest in baseball since Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen did it for Toronto
in 1996.

 

His streak of seven straight starts of at least eight innings
and no more than one walk is the longest in baseball since Cy Young Award
winner Greg Maddux did it for Atlanta in 1994.

 

Lee leads baseball in pitch-per-inning economy.

 

Ace.

 

Nelson Cruz’s defense was pivotal in the 3-2 win, but how
about the double he hit to center in the fourth?  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Torii Hunter pull
up to play a carom off a wall that wasn’t several stories high.  Cruz hit that ball so hard that even Hunter
didn’t have time to get back on it.  Few
humans are capable of hitting line drives like Cruz can.

 

Good grief, Elvis Andrus is having an awful year on the
bases.  Worst I’ve ever seen.

 

The walkup crowd last night totaled a reported 8,600.  The walkup in Lee’s first home game was
apparently over 14,000.

 

Texas drew just short of 40,000 last night.  Shouldn’t these next three all sell out?

 

Sunday’s game, which concludes Newberg Report Night, will
evidently feature Angels rookie Trevor Bell, making his fifth career start and first
in 2010, necessitated by yesterday’s Los Angeles trade of Sean O’Sullivan (and minor
league pitcher Will Smith) to Kansas City for third baseman Alberto Callaspo.  Bell’s big league ERA is 7.94, and his
grandfather played Bozo the Clown for 24 years. 

 

He’ll face Tommy Hunter, who will attempt to improve to 8-0
for the season.

 

At the end of that game, Texas will be 3, 5, 7, or 9 games up
on the Angels. 

 

And there will have been three more nights of spontaneous, synchronized,
passionate “Beat L.A.” chants fired off by an electric, hungry home crowd whose
sports thoughts are preoccupied with thoughts of Game 163, having been given no
reason this summer to have this weekend’s opening of a football camp in San
Antonio circled on the calendar.

 

 

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Hunter, and stuff.

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The entirety of last
Thursday’s report read:

 

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

Since
2008, Texas has a 3-10 record in Boston. 

 

And
an 0-9 record in Detroit.

 

Time
to see what this Rangers team is made of.

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

 

Answer: Two series wins, and five wins in six games at the
moment, the lone loss coming on a night when Cliff Lee gave up two runs on six
hits and one walk (remember that it was intentional when his season walk
numbers are referenced) in nine innings and was one out away from a victory.

 

Unbelievable. 

 

But getting closer, each series, to believable.

 

A few quick things:

 

1.     
Tommy Hunter is now 7-0, the first Rangers starting pitcher
to begin a season with that record.

 

a.       Only
twice in Hunter’s starts did he not win. 
On June 16, he left in third with a strained hip flexor, having allowed
one run (which actually didn’t come across until he’d already exited).  In fact, it’s the only one of Hunter’s nine appearances
that wasn’t a quality start (though Texas ended up winning the game).  And on July 8, he went six-plus innings against
Baltimore, leaving a 4-2 lead in the hands of the bullpen (one of Hunter’s
runners came across with Alexi Ogando on the mound).

 

b.      Only
twice in Hunter’s nine starts has Josh Hamilton not homered: (1) on July 3, a
3-1 Rangers win over the White Sox in which no Texas hitter managed an extra-base
hit off John Danks and three Chicago relievers; and (2) on July 15, a 7-2
Rangers win over Boston in which Hamilton doubled three times.

 

c.       Almost
as freaky: Since Hunter has joined the active roster, Hamilton has 13 home runs
. . . seven coming in Hunter starts. 

 

d.      Hunter’s
next start: Newberg Report Night, this Sunday.

 

2.     
Two interesting AAA role changes in the last week: (1)
righthander Tanner Scheppers has moved from the Oklahoma City rotation back to
the bullpen and (2) hitter Mitch Moreland has moved from the outfield back to
first base. 

 

Said Assistant GM Thad
Levine of the Scheppers transition: “With our current pitching depth and our
goal for Tanner for innings pitched this year, we feel that he can make the
most impact as bullpen depth for the major league team as we try to best
position ourselves for playing meaningful games in September and beyond.”  Scheppers, who struggled in six RedHawks
starts (5.84 ERA, .330 opponents’ average, 19 strikeouts and eight walks in
24.2 innings), gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in two relief innings
last night, fanning none.  His arrival in
Texas isn’t imminent, but it’s clearly in the plans.

 

Just don’t expect it
to be as soon as Newberg Report Night, like last year’s surprise call-up of Neftali
Feliz that was announced just as Jon Daniels completed his Q&A with us.

 

As for Moreland, who
played his first 82 games of the season in left or right field, we speculated even
before Chris Davis’s return struggles
that the trade of Justin Smoak could
prompt a Moreland move back to first base.  It has. 
In his five games since the transition, Moerland is hitting
.294/.391/.471, right in line with his overall .286/.369/.475 line.  (Of course, Davis hit .354/.403/.555 in Oklahoma
City this season.)  Moreland’s monthly
OPS numbers: .668, .824, .880, .989.  And
since April, he has almost as many walks (38) as strikeouts (39).

 

Last night’s solid Davis
game notwithstanding, I expect another first baseman added to the roster in the
next 10 days, but it won’t be Moreland, a fellow left-handed hitter.  The Rangers are going to get another
right-handed bat in here, and it will be a veteran who can play first (Ty
Wigginton, Mike Lowell, Jorge Cantu, Wes Helms, Xavier Nady).  If Davis can build off last night’s effort,
he won’t necessarily be replaced in the lineup, but he’ll likely give up some
meaningful at-bats.

 

Still, Moreland is on the
radar.

 

3.     
Baltimore
Sun
reporter Jeff Zrebiec speculates that the Orioles could
accept a middle infielder like Joaquin Arias or Leury Garcia or Luis Sardinas for
Wigginton.  I doubt the Rangers would
make Sardinas available in a deal like that. 
Texas is also on the hunt for a left-handed reliever, according to Ed Price
of AOL FanHouse.

 

4.     
An addition to the auction list for our event on Sunday: A
visit to Chuck Morgan’s control room and booth during that night’s game.

 

5.     
Justin Smoak (.267/.267/.500) has struck out in nearly half
his Seattle at-bats (14 of 30).  Maybe
more astounding: zero walks.

 

6.     
Josh Lueke has made two relief appearances for Seattle’s AA West
Tenn club: 3.1 scoreless innings, two hits, no walks, six strikeouts.  Thirty of his 36 pitches have gone for
strikes.  Blake Beavan’s first start for
the same club: five runs on six hits and one walk in four innings, three
strikeouts.  Michael Main has a 7.84 ERA
in three AA starts for the Giants, with seven walks and four strikeouts in 10.1
innings.

 

7.     
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has thrown out six of 51 would-be AAA base-stealers. 

 

8.     
Dear Cowboys Fan:  Save
me a spot.  I’m gonna be running late
this year.

 

And feel free to stay
a while.

 

 

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To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
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(c) Jamey Newberg

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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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