August 2010

Party.

Party like it’s 1999 (or 1998 or 1996)? 

 

If there’s a Newberg Report event, the Rangers win. 

 

Our record on Newberg Report Night, FSSW live in-game chats,
and Chuck & Chuck Game-Watching Parties this season: 6-0.

 

Maybe we’ll stage a Nickelback CD Demolition Night for Game
One on October 5.

 

Thanks to Steve Richardson and his crew at Sherlock’s for
taking care of us, Eleanor Czajka and Norma Wolfson and the Rangers’ Sean
Decker for organizing your contributions to the Rangers Foundation, to Ted
Price for live-streaming the event (archived footage should be up sometime this
week at

http://dallassportsnetwork.tv/live/),
and to Emily Jones and Brady Tinker for coming out to record segments for Fox
Sports Southwest “Rangers Insider” and “DFW Sports Beat.”  (I’ll let you
all know when the segments will air.) 

 

But thanks mostly to Chuck Greenberg and Chuck Morgan, who
were both in their wheelhouse all night (here’s a
couple highlights of what we learned
during the Q&A), to C.J. Wilson
and Andres Blanco, who were in theirs, and to the hundreds of you who came to
the event.  That was a good time.

 

We may try to do another one in September, schedules
permitting.

 

 

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

 

To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get
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recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to
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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter  @newbergreport

The rise of Michael Kirkman.

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Even spotted for the
most part against lefthanders, Jorge Cantu hasn’t done a thing since coming
over to Texas, hitting an RBI-less .211/.262/.263 in 57 Rangers at-bats – and just
.167/.242/.200 against lefties, with eight strikeouts in 30 at-bats.  Southpaws have forced Cantu to hit into
almost as many double plays (three) as he has hits against them (five), which
doesn’t include the game-ending twin-killing that ended yesterday’s game since
that one came off a righthander. 

 

The Rangers, as pointed out by Anthony Andro of the Fort Worth
Star-Telegram
, are 3-8 in their last 11 games started by opposing lefthanders.  That’s not all Cantu’s fault, but he’s not
helping.  The Rangers are going to run
into some among C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, David Price, Francisco Liriano,
and Brian Duensing in October, not to mention Brian Fuentes, Boone Logan, Randy
Choate, and maybe Jake McGee.  Right now I
can’t imagine feeling better about Cantu than I would about Mitch Moreland stepping
in against any of them. 

 

Not that Moreland (.200/.250/.267) has blown lefties up
himself.  I just have no confidence in
Cantu. 

 

I didn’t mind the trade to get him at the time, nor the one
to get Cristian Guzman, because I’m good with the people running this team to be
aggressive instead of guarded and because the organization was dealing from strength
in giving up Evan Reed and Omar Poveda and Ryan Tatukso and Tanner Roark to get
them.  But I’m up for some added
aggressive and wouldn’t be upset to see the club pick up another right-handed
first baseman today or tomorrow, just to give someone else a look with October
in mind.  Getting Ian Kinsler and Nelson
Cruz back will help against lefthanders, but there’s a defined role for a
right-handed bat that can play first base on this roster, and I’d be all for an
upgrade over Cantu.

 

If we’re to get that bat, no matter who it is, it might take
another prospect or two, but it won’t involve Michael Kirkman.

 

I say that not because the only team you could trade Kirkman
to in the next couple days would be Baltimore.

 

I say that not because Kirkman can’t be a player to be named
later since he’s in the big leagues.

 

I say that because, plain and simple, he’s not going
anywhere.  For now.

 

But this winter, if Cliff Lee signs elsewhere and Texas
decides to load up and trade for a veteran starter to head the rotation, you
can make up a list of the players other clubs will ask about – Martin Perez,
Tanner Scheppers, Alexi Ogando, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, Robbie Erlin . . .
Julio Borbon, David Murphy, Moreland, Engel Beltre, Chris Davis, Jurickson
Profar – and Kirkman fits on it.  In the
top half.

 

Texas drafted Kirkman in the fifth round 2005, on the
recommendation of second-year area scout Guy DeMutis, son-in-law of John Hart,
who was presiding over what would be his final draft as Rangers GM.  A quiet, humble kid out of Lake City,
Florida, the 18-year-old Kirkman had drawn interest in high school from Florida
State, Florida, Mississippi State, Miami, the University of Central Florida,
South Florida, Virginia, and Boston College before settling instead on a
commitment to his hometown community college. 
But he took slot money ($163,000) to sign with the Rangers even though
Baseball America,
for one, had projected him to go in the third round (ranked in Florida behind
Andrew McCutchen and Ryan Braun and Chris Volstad but ahead of Jordan Schafer
and Yunel Escobar and Josh Bell, not to mention Shane Funk, whom Texas drafted
in round four), which would have called for at least double that amount.

 

Since that time, as perfectly
chronicled last week by Mike Hindman
, Kirkman’s story has been as compelling
as any in the Rangers system, swinging from promising to baseball-tragic to resurgent
to dominant, all of it almost implausible, and he sits right now as a favorite to
suit up in the playoffs for Texas. 

 

After a dazzling debut summer that began with a five-start
ERA of 6.06, followed by a five-start run at 2.50 and finally a four-start
finish at 2.00 (58 strikeouts and 19 walks in 52.1 innings all told, zero home
runs, a top six league finish in both ERA and strikeouts), an evil loss of
command (impacted, doubtlessly, by elbow and hamstring injuries) crippled his
2006 and 2007 seasons (88 walks, 22 wild pitches, and eight hit batsmen in 74.2
innings) and, almost surprisingly, didn’t cause the organization or the young
man to move on.  Texas had released Funk in
spring training 2007, less than two years into his pro career.  The club showed far more patience with
Kirkman.

 

In 2008, Kirkman restored his confidence and his ability to
locate, in some order, posting a 3.84 ERA in 16 starts and a relief appearance between
Short-Season A Spokane and Low A Clinton, the latter of which was where his
problems had begun in 2006.  He walked 25
batters in 84.1 innings, fanning 67.  The
strikeout total was encouraging.  But the
walk numbers – fewer than three per nine innings – were eye-opening,
considering where Kirkman had been the previous two years.

 

What happened in 2009 was remarkable.  Led by minor league rehab pitching coordinator
Keith Comstock – a former big league lefthander and fifth-round pick himself -
under the oversight of pitching coordinator Danny Clark, the organization brought
back some of the old elements in Kirkman’s delivery and reintroduced the slider
to his arsenal after ditching it before, and he exploded.  Starting the season in the hitter-friendly
California League, Kirkman made seven starts and one relief appearance for Bakersfield,
never allowing more than three earned runs and sitting as the 10-team circuit’s
ERA leader (2.06) and strikeout leader (54 in 48 innings, with only 18 walks) late
in May, when Texas promoted him to Frisco.

 

In 18 RoughRider starts, Kirkman went 5-7, 4.19, but he got
markedly better as the summer wore on, firing quality starts six of his final
seven times out (2-2, 2.51) and sitting 91-94, several miles per hour higher
than he’d worked at the year before.  When
it came time to add players to the 40-man roster in November, Kirkman was unquestionably
the Rangers’ easiest call. 
BA
ranked him as the Rangers’ number 16 prospect over the winter.  (I had him at number 15.)

 

Assigned to Oklahoma City to start the season, Kirkman was
extraordinarily consistent, going 12-3, 3.00 in 22 starts without a monthly ERA
over 3.75.  Moved into the RedHawks’
bullpen three weeks ago in an obvious effort to get him ready for big league
work in that role, he pitched twice in relief before getting the call to the
big leagues on August 20, in what was by all appearances going to be a short
stay – giving the bullpen an extra arm between Holland’s August 18 start and what
would be Rich Harden’s return from the disabled list on August 23.

 

But Scott Feldman’s knee acted up on August 21, and Kirkman replaced
him that afternoon, facing four Orioles and getting all of them out, three on
strikes.  When Feldman landed on the
disabled list two days later, Kirkman’s stay was extended, and he’s been
brilliant. 

 

In four games pitched, he’s scattered three singles (.136
opponents’ average) and two walks in 6.1 scoreless innings, punching out
seven.  Four inherited runners have each failed
to score.  Among the hitters he’s retired:
Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton, Adam Jones, Jim Thome, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel,
Michael Cuddyer (twice), Denard Span (twice), and Orlando Hudson (twice).  Joe Mauer has two of the three hits off
Kirkman, though one was an infield single, and he did get Mauer to ground out
once.  Jack Cust has the other hit.

 

That’s right: While Kirkman was never viewed developmentally
as a left-on-left specialist in the making (like Ben Snyder, for instance), he’s
shown, at least in an extremely small sample size (but also in AAA), that his
varied repertoire can be effective against righthanders, who are 0 for 11 in the
big leagues.  He’s a starting pitcher
prospect who’s getting a look in relief because that’s where he can help right
now, and possibly in October.

 

There have been 486 pitchers who have appeared in a Pacific
Coast League game this season.  None has
more strikeouts than Kirkman’s 130 (in 131 innings) – even though he’s been out
of the league for a week and a half.  Only
two have lower ERA’s.  

 

While scouts all over baseball surely had a book on Kirkman during
his time at Oklahoma City (league coaches recently ranked his slider the best breaking
pitch in the 16-team league in a
BA survey), the evaluations
might be getting new cover sheets after what’s he’s shown against the likes of
Thome and Span and Scott and Young, each of whom the 23-year-old has set down
on strikes.  Scouts can learn plenty when
you’re doing it in AAA against Ruben Gotay and Kila Ha’aihue and Brock Bond,
but there’s an extra layer in the recommendation when you flash even a small
sample of the fearlessness Kirkman has shown in his first shot against veteran
hitters, in big spots, in important games.

 

There have been stories written this last week suggesting Kirkman
has passed Holland in the pecking order here. 
Not sure that’s fair to either of them. 
And this isn’t Davis/Justin Smoak, or Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Taylor Teagarden,
or Troy Aikman/Steve Walsh.  There’s room
for both Kirkman and Holland, and different ways for each to factor in. 

 

When the Rangers looked into Wigginton or Mike Lowell or
Troy Glaus or Xavier Nady or Wes Helms over the last two months, and when they
picked up Cantu, Jon Daniels was probably asked about Kirkman (the Marlins were
“believed to be looking for [a] young [lefthander]” for Cantu, according to Ken
Rosenthal of Fox Sports), but even if someone like Glaus or Lowell is on the
table today and tomorrow, Kirkman is procedurally unavailable and wouldn’t be
up for discussion anyway.

 

It may be tougher for Texas to keep his name out of the mix this
winter, though, if trying to revive talks about Josh Johnson or Zack Greinke or
Ricky Nolasco, for instance. 

 

But that’s a wildly different situation from the one that
involved adding Cantu and Guzman and Bengie Molina last month.  It would make sense that the Marlins and
Nationals and Giants – and probably the Mariners, too, in the Cliff Lee talks -
asked Texas at some point about Kirkman, a AAA arm with an imperfect past on a crowded
40-man roster in a system boasting what most believe are bluer chips.  A lefthander who looked in 2007 like he might
have been done as a baseball player, just as Blake Beavan and Michael Main were
being drafted in the first round with limitless ceilings and enthusiastic talk
of timetables.

 

I’m all for the Rangers’ aggressive contenders’ approach (it’s
clear now that Manny Ramirez would be a Ranger today or tomorrow if Chicago
hadn’t placed a claim, as the Dodgers apparently are going to let the White Sox
take his contract without insisting on players in return), but I’m also
confident by virtue of the fact that Kirkman’s still here that the club is just
as aggressive now when it comes to hanging onto certain prospects.

 

And that when there’s one like Michael Kirkman who has
pushed his ceiling a little bit higher every year for the last three, getting
better with the competition, he’s not going to be flipped for a bench bat, even
when it might have made the playoff push conceivably stronger, because one way
or another he’s the kind of arm the Rangers might be able to turn soon into a
frontline big league starting pitcher.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Manny.

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If the objective, or
at least part of it, was for Texas to ensure that Manny Ramirez didn’t replace
Willie Aybar as Tampa Bay’s designated hitter, then everything worked out.  If the White Sox hadn’t claimed Ramirez on
revocable waivers yesterday, and no National League team did either, someone
among Texas, Minnesota, and Boston would have had to place a claim to ensure that
the Rays didn’t get a chance.

 

The Rangers’
reportedly placed a claim, but it didn’t matter, because the White Sox had the first
shot among those teams.  So Ramirez will hit
for the White Sox or Dodgers the rest of the way.  Not the Rays.

 

If the objective, or
at least part of it, was to add Ramirez to a roster that includes a rejuvenated
Vladimir Guerrero and an imminently reappearing Nelson Cruz and a productive
David Murphy (.316/.404/.539 in August), that’s not happening. 

 

But another plus, if
Los Angeles decides that it’s either out of the race or, at 4.5 games and four
teams back in the Wild Card chase, doing just fine with Scott Podsednik rather than
Ramirez, and decides to trade him to the White Sox, could surface.  Form September 14 to September 26 there’s a
12-game stretch in which the White Sox, sporting a lineup that would include
Ramirez in place of Mark Kotsay or Andruw Jones, take on Minnesota (against whom
Ramirez is a career .331/.389/.605 hitter) for three at home (.338/.448/.601), then
after a set against Detroit go to Oakland for three on the road (.319/.417/.534),
and to the Angels for three on the road (.312/.396/.614).   

 

Ramirez won’t face
Texas in 2010, but if he ends up in Chicago before Tuesday’s deadline he’ll
face the three teams the Rangers care most about right now.  And while I can’t root for the White Sox,
ever, simply because of the unbearable Hawk Harrelson, I’m a Manny Ramirez fan,
and if he’s wearing the black and white I can at least imagine his opportunity to
do damage against the Twins on September 14-16 ending up as big for the Rangers
– in spite of any metrics that diminish the significant of home field in the
playoffs – as the fact that he won’t be suiting up for the Rays . . . who the
Rangers could face at home in Round One if they do catch the Twins again and
hold them off (or on the road if they don’t).

 

Quick update on Monday’s game-watching gathering at Sherlock’s
in Arlington: Chuck Morgan will join Chuck Greenberg and us for the event, and
Fox Sports Southwest is planning to record a couple video segments for “Rangers
Insider.”  See you there.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Stuff.

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A few idle thoughts
and notes:

 

1.      Upon replacing Joaquin Arias on the roster
with Alex Cora, Texas assistant general manager Thad Levine said: “The general
thought going down the stretch is there is some value of having another guy who
is playoff-tested and has a little more experience.”

 

Cora’s
presence frees Ballplayer Andres Blanco up to play third base if needed.  Jorge Cantu has no playoff experience (and no
RBI, perhaps emasculating the handedness factor).  Brad Hawpe has 51 post-season playoff appearances.  Clint Hurdle saw all of them.  Hawpe cleared waivers yesterday and is now a
free agent. 

 

Math.

 

2.      Don’t forget the game-watching party and
Q&A with Chuck Greenberg at Sherlock’s in Arlington on Monday.  We’ll get going at 6:00.

 

3.      Colin Cowherd:  Whatever. 
Jackwagon.

 

4.      The Rangers, according to the Los Angeles Times, scouted Manny Ramirez
on his Cal League rehab assignment last week and at Dodger Stadium over the weekend.  Why haven’t the Dodgers run Ramirez out on
waivers yet?  If he were to clear
National League waivers, the White Sox are almost certainly the first team based
on claim priority who would be interested. 
Texas is next.  Has Los Angeles
possibly been stalling in hopes that Chicago caught the Rangers in the
standings, giving Texas claim priority over the White Sox?  That theory would make sense only if the
Dodgers had reason to believe the Rangers would not only claim Ramirez, but
would do so out of interest in the player (rather than just to block him from
reaching the Rays, for instance) (and again, Texas has reportedly been scouting
Ramirez), and only if the Dodgers knew what Texas was willing to offer in trade
and they prefer it to whatever Chicago would offer. 

 

With Texas
winning three straight, the Sox are now three games behind the Rangers, so if
the above had anything to do with the Dodgers’ timing strategy, it’s probably
moot now.

 

5.      The fact that Boston made the prevailing
waiver claim on Johnny Damon means Texas passed.  (Not sure how devastated the Sox are that
Damon decided to stay in Detroit.  I’m
guessing the opportunity to block him from reaching Tampa Bay was a significant
reason they made the claim, and they succeeded on that front.)

 

6.      According to at least one local report,
Houston and AA Corpus Christi have reupped on a four-year player development contract.  No such deal yet between the Astros and the
Ryan family’s other minor league club, AAA Round Rock, and the story quoted
Houston GM Ed Wade as saying that he’s not optimistic the relationship will
extend, and that Round Rock could end up affiliated with Texas (in place of
Oklahoma City).  Not a new story, but the
first time I can recall an Astros official going on record.

 

7.      One of Chuck Greenberg’s minor league clubs,
the State College Spikes of the New York-Penn League, will extend with the Pirates,
according to Baseball America (not
that there was any hint that Texas was   thinking
about leaving Spokane).  No word yet on Greenberg’s
other club, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, which are the Braves’ High A (Carolina
League) affiliate.  The Rangers’ PDC with
High A Bakersfield expires this season, as does Atlanta’s with Myrtle Beach.

 

Pittsburgh,
by the way, assigned top picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie to State
College.  The Pirates signed the
righthanders for $6.5 million and $2.25 million this month, respectively.

 

8.      The two largest bonuses given to college
pitchers in this year’s draft: Cleveland lefthander Drew Pomeranz ($2.65
million) and Boston righthander Anthony Ranaudo ($2.55 million).  Texas drafted both pitchers out of high
school in 2007.

 

9.      BA reports that Texas, despite everything,
spent the seventh-largest amount of draft bonus money ($8.4878 million) in the
league this summer, and has been top 10 over the last three years even without
reaching an agreement last summer with first-rounder Matt Purke.

 

10.  Tommy Hunter beat Kevin Millwood on
Sunday.  Would you take Millwood’s career
(157 wins to date, an average of 13-11, 4.12 and 208 innings over a full
season) for Hunter?

 

11.  Mitch Moreland played a very good game last
night.  That’s a solid ballplayer, who at
worst is going to be this team’s next version of David Murphy, with a slightly
different versatility.  But for now, can’t
Texas feel good about going to camp with him as the frontrunner at first base?

 

12.  Boston released lefthander Kason Gabbard and
infielder Tug Hulett.

 

13.  The Rangers are on pace for how many
wins?  Say it with me, in your best Nolan
Ryan tones: “92.”

 

14.  I haven’t yet discussed the K-Rod Rules on
playoff eligibility as they pertain to Tanner Scheppers because I’d be
surprised at this point to see him in Texas at all this season.  Back on August 14, Texas ran the righthander
out to the mound on consecutive days for the first time.  In that outing and the three since: five
innings, seven runs (six earned), eight hits, nine walks, one hit batsman, two
strikeouts, 56 percent strikes.  He’s a
fantastic prospect.  But he’s struggling with
his command right now.

 

Mark Lowe is
a better bet to factor in.

 

15.  Taylor Teagarden will surely be back in
September, though.  He impressed Ron
Washington with his defense in this last run with the big club, and he started
hitting a bit.  For his career, Teagarden’s
March/April/May/June OPS is .469.  In
July, it’s .670.  In August, it’s
820.  In September/October, it’s .947.

 

16.  Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Cristian Guzman,
and Dustin Nippert could all go out on rehab assignments this week.

 

17.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia was hospitalized (and
DL’d by Boston) with a mystery leg infection. 
Doctors ruled MRSA out.  That guy
is cursed.

 

18.  Cincinnati is thinking about moving Edinson
Volquez to the bullpen.

 

19.  The Dodgers signed righthander Geoff Geary to
a AAA deal.  The Grand Prairie Airhogs of
the independent American Association traded catcher Ben Petralli to the Normal
Cornbelters of the independent Frontier League for a player to be named.

 

20.  C.J. Wilson (12-5, 3.02) against Brian
Duensing (7-1, 1.92) tonight, maybe the league’s two biggest surprise
lefthanders this season.  Each has won
five straight decisions.  Duensing’s ERA
over his last three starts is 1.48, while Wilson’s is 1.25. 

 

Even if the
term “dog days” gets thrown around, late August games that matter are such
greatness.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

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Harden.jpg

 

Twin
Killing.

Dog gone.

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I’m gonna say this
now, on Saturday, because I try to write from a raw place, as a fan prone to
emotional swings before reason takes over, not as a journalist bound to objectivity.
 I’ll cool down in the morning, just as I
tend to do after huge wins, and a month from now I may recall that our ace had
a bad day in Baltimore but may not remember much else from Orioles 8, Rangers 6,
especially if the first 162 end up, as they should, with Texas getting ready to
play on. 

 

But I write this
tonight because of what I’m thinking right now, as much as I hope that I’m
wrong about it, and in spite of the fact that I’m not sure I really believe it
in the first place.

 

I wonder if this
team isn’t much better as an underdog. 

 

They’ll be that
again in October, but that doesn’t help now. 
Especially with seven left head-to-head against Los Angeles, and seven
against Oakland, which is six outs away from drawing to within six games of the
Rangers.

 

The personality of this team, from its manager to its
leaders to some of its star players who have come from other teams, is to prove
people wrong, to fight its way out of a corner, to be motivated by adversity
and to overcome it.  It’s a team marked
by its resilience as much as anything else.

 

But there’s not a whole lot of experience with a big
lead.  And right now – depleted by injury
or not – Texas doesn’t appear to be playing as loose, and is making more mental
and focus mistakes than usual.  That concerns
me.  You don’t want to coast into the
playoffs, having to turn the intensity back up from zero, but at the same time
it would be pretty lousy to have to fight for your life over the final six
weeks after building what seemed, and still seems, to be a virtually insurmountable
lead.

 

I hope I’m wrong.

 

And in the morning I’ll probably feel differently.

 

(I’m pretty sure I know how this will play with the Sabermetricians
out there.  To unsubscribe to this
mailing list, email listserv@listserv.tamu.edu
and in type “Signoff NMLR” in the body of the message.)

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

Mound siege.

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Rangers_Orioles_Buck_2.jpg

 

HOW CAN THAT
POSSIBLY BE THE SAME PITCHER WHO WAS

0-5, 12.05 AS A
STARTER WHEN I MANAGED HIM?!??

 

That was exquisite pitching.  C.J. Wilson had great stuff, located everything,
exploited the outer edges of a big Jeff Nelson strike zone, struck out a career
high 12 (with 10 strike threes down in the zone), got 36 called strikes.  He went to 2-0 just one time (a sixth-inning
Julio Lugo at-bat at a time when Lugo had Baltimore’s only two hits), and only
three times all night went to a three-ball count.

 

Twice this year Wilson has walked as few as last night’s
one.  The first time was a zero-walk
effort against the Angels four weeks ago, a night on which he registered only
three strikeouts in eight innings.  The second
was in his last start – and the Rangers’ last win – when he set eight Red Sox
down on strikes and issued one walk in 7.2 frames.

 

Wilson’s 12:1 ratio last night was Cliff Lee style, particularly
after the third inning, when his pitches per inning dropped from 19.0 to 10.8.  Wilson was perfect in the 4th
through 8th, getting seven of his 15 outs on strikes, and five of
those looking.  He was drilling his spots
all night, staying away from the wheelhouse.

 

When Wilson is locked in the way he was in that game, with
stuff that’s better than Lee’s, that’s unquestionably a guy who fits in a
playoff rotation.

 

But the offense, once again held down, remains a concern.

 

If you’re glancing at today’s pitching matchup and thinking
this is the day that the lineup wakes up a bit – and gives Lee some run support
for a change – Brad Bergesen’s 5.80 ERA is a little deceptive.  Since July 31, Bergesen has a 2.22 ERA in
four starts, holding opponents to a .206/.257/.392 slash.  By way of comparison, Lee in the same
stretch: 4.50 ERA and a .277/.298/.370 slash.

 

Dan Haren got torched by Minnesota last night, falling to
1-4 in six Angels starts, and Los Angeles gave back the game it had gained on
Thursday, dipping again to eight games out. 
Oakland escaped with a win over Tampa Bay (with an eighth inning I wish I
didn’t see), to stay within seven.

 

The Rangers are cited as one of the teams interested in
outfielder-first baseman Brad Hawpe, whom the Rockies are letting go, but various
sources have also linked the Giants, Rays, Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, and
Yankees to the 31-year-old.  One issue:
Hawpe isn’t very good defensively.  I’m open
to the
Manny Ramirez idea
, but short of that kind of bat, I’m not sure how good an
idea it would be to bring in another position player whose glove would be an
issue, especially since Hawpe hasn’t hit or reached base this season the way he
had prior to 2010.

 

If the thought is that Hawpe could give the team more situational
offense than Jorge Cantu, that’s OK as long as third base is covered on the
bench (and second base as well, because you can’t just hope Andres Blanco won’t
be needed at both spots in a given game). 
Easier to plan for as of September 1, but that’s still a week and a half
away.

 

In that stretch, Texas will play 11 games.  Cliff Lee’s got three of those (Baltimore, Minnesota,
Kansas City) and C.J. Wilson’s got another two (Minnesota and Kansas City).  There’s a three-game home set against the A’s
in there as well (next weekend), a series that could effectively bury Oakland’s
chances if the Rangers can hold ground until then.

 

But the bats have to do their part.  Credit Wilson for carrying the offense last
night, but over the next six weeks, the Rangers will need to find a way to start
clicking across the board.  Getting some
key guys back from injury will help, but there’s room for improvement all over
the lineup.

 

 

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

 

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
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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Futility infielder.

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Ron Washington said before
Monday’s game that he planned to rest Elvis Andrus on Tuesday and get Joaquin
Arias a start (at second base, with Andres Blanco getting the nod at
shortstop).

 

Michael Young’s neck
injury notwithstanding, I’m going to be surprised at this point if that’s still
the plan. 

 

If Josh Hamilton’s
game on Friday was one of the greatest in Rangers history, Arias’s game last night
– actually, his bottom of the eighth alone – pushes the needle on the other end
of the spectrum.

 

I don’t want to talk about what Arias did, and didn’t do.

 

But Washington did. 

 

After the game, in what I assume was a sanitized version of
whatever he said to the team and probably even cleaned up compared to whatever
he told the print media, Washington told Emily Jones, when asked on the Fox
Sports Southwest telecast what message he had for the team: “Get your head
outta your butt and let’s play baseball.”

 

Washington didn’t name Arias when he said, “We just didn’t
support Cliff Lee. . . . He deserved a better fate than that,” or when he offered
that Lee should have been out of that inning in four batters.  But he didn’t need to name names, nor did Lee
when he said, repeatedly, that it was just a “weird” “blur of an inning.”

 

I was very interested in what Lee had to say, but he’s an
absolute professional and I didn’t expect any harsh words.  I saw all I needed to see, as we all did,
when the cameras found him in the dugout a dozen times in the eighth and ninth
after he’d been removed from the game.  The
look on his face was pure Don Draper, a stoic seethe that seemed to mask a mix of
exasperation and resignation. 

 

(From my Twitter barrage last night: “I refuse to mention
the famous quote in Rangers history that the look on Cliff Lee’s face is
reminding me of right now.”)


You know what?  I hated that loss only
because it was Lee’s game.  Otherwise it would
have been a massively irritating loss that I would have gotten over as soon as I
wrote about it.  But the fact that it -
once again – wasted a Lee gem, giving him, it seems, as I overreact, another
five days to think about whether he wants his next five or six years to be with
this team, makes me almost nauseous.

 

Yes, I know that Arias won’t be here over any of the next
five or six years.  He won’t be here in
October, when it matters.  He may not be
here in September. 

 

If he’s not here tonight, I’m quite sure I’d be OK with
that.  Esteban German, fine.  (It’s not as if Arias is a great gloveman any
more.)  Hernan Iribarren or Gregorio
Petit, sure.  Alex Cora, said by Fox
Sports’s Ken Rosenthal to be on the Rangers’ radar, come on down. 

 

The man whose neck somehow retreats into his shoulders whether
he’s scampering around second for an uncontested triple or flailing back aimlessly
on a catchable Texas Leaguer that isn’t caught needs not be entrusted with
another defensive assignment in a Rangers uniform.  Arias is very fast (yet somehow still appears
“unathletic”).  He can do a couple things
with the bat.  But he’s not a very good
baseball player, and will certainly never be called a smart or instinctive one.

 

But that’s not really the point. 

 

I hate every single moment that makes me wonder whether Lee
is a tick less likely to choose to be here after this season.  He’s not going to care whether Arias is among
the 55 or 60 players in big league camp in March, but I would have been much
happier if we’d gone into Tampa Bay and beaten David Price, with Lee shaking
hands with Bengie Molina halfway between the mound and plate after delivering the
game’s final pitch.  

 

Amazingly, that has happened one single time in his eight
Rangers starts.  Eight starts in which
he, stunningly, has only two victories (and the team has only three). 

 

And Texas has two straight really lousy losses in Lee starts.

 

I would have been very happy if that game had ended in a
Rangers win.  Lee would have been, too.  I would like for Lee to be happy.  I’d like that very much.

 

Monday was a good day for the Rangers on another front, as
they officially came to terms with Florida high school righthander Luke Jackson
(supplemental first round) and University of Missouri righthander Justin Grimm
(fifth round) on the deadline to sign 2010 draft picks, a day after agreeing
with University of Missouri righthander Nick Tepesch (14th round).  All three should be key additions to a system
that moved a number of pitching prospects in the last six weeks.  

 

Jackson reportedly signed for $1.545 million, slightly more
than double the recommended $764,100 bonus for the slot where he was drafted
(and only slightly less than Texas paid first-rounder Jake Skole, taken 15th
overall).  Twelve first-round picks
signed for less than Texas paid Jackson. 
Grimm reportedly got $825,000, more than five times his estimated
$147,600 slot (and supplemental first-round money).  Tepesch’s $400,000 bonus was third-round money.

 

More cool news on the development front: The Rangers’ Dominican
Summer League squad (40-21) clinched a division title yesterday, defeating the
Braves, 5-0, behind winter signee Victor Payano and two relievers.  It was the 20th  win in 22 games for the Rangers (including a
run of 15 straight), and over those 22 games the club scored 119 runs and
allowed only 37.  The Rangers have now won
the San Pedro division title three straight years.

 

Director of International Scouting Mike Daly is in charge of
the daily operations at the Rangers’ Dominican academy.  First-year manager Kenny Holmberg skippers
the DSL club, taking over for Jayce Tingler, who held the post the last two
division-winning years before getting promoted to the Arizona League this
season.  Former Rangers farmhand Jose
Jaimes, a rising coaching star, is in charge of a pitching staff whose 2.01 ERA
is best among the 34 DSL clubs.  The staff
has more strikeouts (531) than innings pitched (529), a punchout total that is
second most in the league, and 168 walks, which is second least.   

 

Foremost among the club’s pitching prospects is probably righthander
David Perez, who is 4-4, 1.41 in 13 starts, with 62 strikeouts and eight walks
in 64 innings, a 2.38 groundout-to-flyout rate, a .202 opponents’ batting average,
and zero home runs allowed.  Perez hasn’t
allowed a run in his last 33 innings, scattering 14 hits and two walks in that
stretch while punching out 29.

 

Perez has pitched to Jorge Alfaro more often than any other
catcher, and the 17-year-old has made huge strides behind the plate as the season
has gone along, with the help of catching instructor Ryley Westman.  Alfaro is probably the key position player
prospect on the club, though 17-year-old shortstop Hanser Alberto (second in
the league with a .358 average and a stunning 26.9 plate appearances for every strikeout
– seven total strikeouts in 188 trips) is interesting.   

 

Even the best players to emerge from the DSL program will
take four or five years to get to Texas, at best – when Joaquin Arias is likely
to be out of baseball, and Cliff Lee is on the back half of the megadeal he’ll
sign this winter.

 

I promise right now that I won’t complain if Hanser Alberto
throws to the wrong base late in a 2015 game, even if it costs Cliff Lee a win -
as long as Lee is wearing Rangers red at the time.

 

I should have news in the next day or two on where and when
we will stage our first game-watching Newberg Report event with Chuck Greenberg.  It will happen sometime on the Rangers’ next
road trip.

 

 

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

 

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
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(c) Jamey Newberg

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Burning rubber game.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka
has a 5.09 career ERA against Texas, which has hit a robust .311/.376/.578 off
the righthander.  The numbers swell to
9.00 and .350/.435/.850 in his one Rangers Ballpark start. 

 

Yet today’s lineup
will be without Ian Kinsler, who is on the disabled list; Nelson Cruz, who isn’t
but is sidelined after tweaking his left hamstring last night (though there’s a
report this morning that Brandon Boggs will be recalled this morning [Craig
Gentry broke his wrist in a collision with the outfield wall on Friday; surgery
is set for Tuesday], likely for Pedro Strop, while the club monitors Cruz); and
Vladimir Guerrero, who is expected (according to at least one local report) to
get the day off.

 

Still, the club’s most productive hitters against Matsuzaka
have been Michael Young (7 for 11, including two doubles and a homer) and David
Murphy (3 for 5 with a double).

 

C.J. Wilson against Boston lifetime: 1.50 ERA (including
0.68 in two starts), .152/.295/.190 in 24 innings. 

 

Today’s game is expected to be the hottest in Rangers Ballpark
history.  Both 29-year-olds are a bit
better at night than during the day. 

 

The Angels sit 7.5 games back, nine in the loss column.  They send Dan Haren out to face Toronto’s Ricky
Romero today, and after a day off tomorrow (which will take those pesky
half-games out of the standings, barring rainouts, for about a week and a half),
they travel to Boston, while Texas is in Tampa Bay.  Los Angeles gets Clay Buchholz, old friend John
Lackey, and Josh Beckett, while the Rangers draw David Price, Matt Garza, and
James Shields. 

 

It looks almost like playoff baseball this week. 

 

I’ll feel pretty good if this team wakes up Thursday in Baltimore
with a seven-game lead on Los Angeles, who will travel to Minnesota after
finishing up in Boston Thursday afternoon.

 

Taking this afternoon’s game would be a very good start.

 

 

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

 

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

http://www.newbergreport.com

Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

The RBE era begins.

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Friday the
Thirteenth:

Exorcise Yanks
finale,

Massacre Boston

 

And to further commemorate the spirit of the day: Here comes
Chucky.

 

Yesterday morning, every Major League owner approved the
sale of the Rangers to the investment group headed by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan
Ryan and financially backboned by Bob Simpson and Ray Davis.  It was a
welcome moment of unanimity, and finality, completing a lengthy process that
had so little of either. 

 

Tonight’s series opener against Boston will mark the first
official game of the Rangers Baseball Express era, but before that Greenberg
will announce various ballpark initiatives focused on improving the fan
experience, improvements that he and the ownership group were probably ready to
put in place Opening Day. 

 

Fortunately, the atmosphere tonight and this weekend will
feel in some ways like Opening Day, in other ways even better.  The annual
promise of a great season is still there nearly three-quarters of the way
through, and for once the confidence is justified, not ridiculed. 
Attendance is spiking, viewership is breaking local records, and the buzz is
swelling. 

 

I’m sure the team is more resilient and more forgetful than
I am, and was able to erase Wednesday night’s mess from short-term memory on
yesterday’s day off.  A lousy loss is still just a loss, and even the best
teams in baseball lose more than a couple games a week, on average.  I need
to keep reminding myself of that.

 

I looked back this morning on what I’d led off with on
August 13 in past years of doing the Newberg Report:

 

·        
1998: Julio Santana’s impressive run of starts for Tampa Bay
and a great Oklahoma start by current RedHawks pitching coach Terry Clark

·        
1999: Promotions for Danny Kolb (Texas), Corey Lee (AAA),
and Hank Woodman (AA)

·        
2000: Gabe Kapler breaking the franchise hit streak record

·        
2001: The awfulness of the (Rob) Bell Curve

·        
2002: The Union’s decision not to set a strike date

·        
2003: A great Juan Dominguez start (in a game that Texas
lost, dropping the club to 20 games back in the West)

·        
2004: Didn’t write (Max was born the next day)

·        
2005: Didn’t write (but the day before: “What an awful
baseball week.  You go into Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium and score 26
runs in four games and lose every one of them,” and a reminder that the front
office had preached “managed expectations” over the winter)

·        
2006: A recounting of the 1996 Dave Valle clubhouse story

·        
2007 (two weeks after the trades of Mark Teixeira, Eric
Gagné, and Kenny Lofton): A photo of John Danks, Chris Young, and Thomas
Diamond from a 2005 Newberg Report event, and how whatever we might have
envisioned then about the 2007 season turned out dead wrong

·        
2008: A recap of one of the two of three greatest minor
league games I’d ever seen pitched – a Derek Holland effort for Frisco that
night with a line score that looks in retrospect like a Cliff Lee start (other
than those Holland 97’s that lit up the radar guns)

·        
2009: How well the Rangers’ number seven, eight, and 10
starters (Holland, Tommy Hunter, and Dustin Nippert) pitched in the previous
three games

 

A lot of mid-August attempts to distract myself from what
was going on with the big club.  Not necessary this year. 

 

It’s pretty cool that whatever Rangers Baseball Express
rolls out today won’t be gimmicks to try and get people to think about coming
out to the Ballpark, but instead improvements for those who are already filling
the stadium and anyone else ready to jump on board for should be a memorable
stretch run.

 

Speaking of which, Jeff & Cindy Kuster, on behalf of the
Hello Win Column Fund, are making available 128 tickets to upcoming Rangers games
in a fundraising effort to help a local family that has been touched by a
battle with cancer.  They will use the money raised from the sale of these
tickets, along with money raised at Newberg Night last month, to help single
mother Maria Aldana and her four children find a new home.  Maria was
diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2008 and has been undergoing
treatment.  Her present home is in such poor shape that the costs to
repair it would exceed the value of the home. 

 

The Kuster’s are selling the tickets (face value $70) for
$50 each, with the full amount going to the Hello Win Column Fund.  All
the seats are located in the Lexus Club Infield (Sections 222-230).  Here
are the available games:

 

Thursday, August 26 vs. Minnesota at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets

Friday, August 27 vs. Oakland at 7:05 PM (Postgame
Fireworks): 8 Tickets

Saturday, August 28 vs. Oakland at 7:05 PM (Mercy Me Pregame
Concert): 48 tickets

Tuesday, September 14 vs. Detroit at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets

Wednesday, September 15 vs. Detroit at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets

Thursday, September 30 vs. LA Angels at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets

Friday, October 1 vs. LA Angels at 7:05 PM (Postgame
Fireworks): 24 Tickets

Saturday, October 2 vs. LA Angels at 7:05 PM: 8 Tickets

Sunday, October 3 vs. LA Angels at 2:05 PM: 8 Tickets

 

If you’re interested, email Jeff at Jeff@hellowincolumn.com.  Let
him know what date and how many tickets you would like and he’ll let you know whether
the tickets are still available and details on how to pay.  

 

In the meantime, Jarrod Saltalamacchia comes to town tonight
as the latest member of the Darnell McDonald-Ryan Kalish-Daniel Nava Big Boston
Debut Club, after doubling twice in four at-bats yesterday (he’d entered
Wednesday’s game as a late-inning defensive replacement).  If he gets
tonight’s start, he’ll catch Josh Beckett and face Hunter, who joined the
Rangers organization two weeks before Saltalamacchia did back in July of 2007,
a month of renewed hope for a franchise that’s now turning hope into promise.

 

Tonight will be another symbolic moment in that process, as
Greenberg and Ryan and Simpson and Davis take their seats as official owners of
the team, seats in a building that will be almost fully occupied not because of
anything happening off the field (in fact, despite it), but because of what
this baseball team has proven these last four and a half months that it is, and
just might be.

 

 

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

 

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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