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:


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.”


room erupted into a wild ovation that shook the walls.


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
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


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
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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(c) Jamey Newberg



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