August 2010

Rangers sale approved.

It’s never over ’til
it’s over, as we were reminded 12 hours ago, but according to several local reports,
it’s over.  

 

In the last 30 minutes
MLB owners conducted the league vote on the sale of the Texas Rangers, and the Greenberg-Ryan-Simpson-Davis
Group has been approved.  Rangers
Baseball Express now owns your baseball team.

 

Official word from
the Commissioner’s Office and the organization should come later this morning.

Tweeting Texas 4, New York 3.

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@newbergreport

 

Top of 1st inning: Reminder
to CJ:  See how many pitches the Yanks
took that inning? Channel your Cliffly and pound, pound, pound.

 

Bottom of 1st inning: I’m
pretty much ok with that Andrus AB.
 Deep count, oppo
approach.

 

T3: Terrible play by Cantu.  (Saved by CJ.)

 

T3: Poundage. More, please.

 

B3: Bunting here makes less than zero
sense, Cristian Guzman.

 

B3: If Guzman didn’t start another
game as a Ranger, I’d be fine with that.  Rather have Freddy.  Or Luis.

 

B3: Ha…used to get only the
opposite.  RT @txtechgooner @NewbergReport u might be the most
negative ranger fan there is.  & mike
rhyner exists.

 

T4: Brutal defensive inning.  CJ now shoots for his second save of the night.

 

T4: This is Very Good CJ tonight, so
far.  Despite inconsistent zone from the
AAA ump.  Tremendous.  #doingwork

 

T4: RT @jennifersterger @NewbergReport  I concur.  Mr. Wilson is as Yankees announcers love to
say “effectively wild.”  That’s
code for a bad @$$

 

T4: Nick Swisher as Keanu Reeves.  RT @jennifersterger @NewbergReport –so wait.. they have
baseball in the matrix??

 

B4: Good grief I love this X-mo super
slow motion stuff.  Love it.

 

T5: Pretty elementary when CJ is
commanding the curve like that, and locating his FB.

 

T5: Commanding the toss to 1B
apparently another matter.  F.

 

T5: That’s a freakin’ All-Star play
by Molina.  Very good throw.  Extraordinary catch.

 

B5: RT @rangersfanwhit  Are y’all joking?  @NewbergReport
is extremely positive but if ppl don’t produce they lose jobs.  Baseball’s no exception.

 

T6: This one has the feel of a
Rangers-Yankees playoff game.  #notallgood

 

B6: If only we had a 5th infielder
nearly as good as our 4th outfielder.

 

T7: Ogando to Swisher & Thames:
AO…K  #swish  #mt  #crushingthezone

 

B7: RT @dwcook  I love important baseball.  So much.

 

B8: Ok.  Go to Feliz in the 9th even if tied — off day
yesterday and “off day” tomorrow.

 

T9: Jamey gets his wish, as Feliz is
in. (via @aandro)

 

B9: The next Texas pitcher I want to
see on the mound is Cliff Lee.  End it.

 

T10: Credit Molina
for staying with the slider with AO and Neffy as often as he has.

 

T10: All those
high-octane innings and big K numbers…yet that last inning may have been one
of Feliz’s best ever.  #5pitchesagainstheartoforder

 

B10: What did Murph
*not* do tonight?  What a game.  What a Game.

 

Two more things, non-Twitter variety:

 

·        
Seattle 2, Oakland 0. 
(Just ended.)

·        
Cliff Lee vs. Javier Vazquez on Wednesday, for the sweep.

 

OK, OK.

 

One more thing:

 

Why
we care so much
.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

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Twitter 
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Things I think.

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1.      Oakland has a starting five, and an August
schedule, that ought to make every one of us think about the real possibility
that Texas isn’t going to coast to a playoff berth.  You know what?  Good.

 

Are the
Rangers going to the playoffs?  Yes.  But the last thing this team needs (well,
next to another injury setback) is to take the foot off the gas (think about
how that’s killed the Mavericks more than once going into the post-season), and
I’m good if there’s not a temptation – even a natural, subconscious impulse -
to ease up for any more than maybe one final turn through the rotation going
into Game One.

 

Sure would be
nice to have that game in Arlington.

 

2.      Nolan Ryan said last week that while Ron
Washington is under contract only through 2010 but will be back next season,
Jon Daniels has one more year on his deal, mirroring Ryan’s own. 

 

It’s no
longer necessary, even symbolically, for Daniels’s contract to track Ryan’s in
length. 

 

This is not meant
to be a message to the ownership group, which I expect is already several steps
ahead of this, but instead just a thing I think: Daniels needs to be extended,
before the season ends, for a long time. 
Ryan is now a certainty to be around here for the long haul, and thank
goodness for that.  High on the list of
this franchise’s top assets are its general manager and lots of people who work
here because of him. 

 

It’s time: To
lock Jon Daniels up.

 

3.      Oklahoma City lefthander Michael Kirkman
fanned eight in 5.2 innings on Sunday, but walked four and served up two home
runs.  If the club doesn’t want to give
Derek Holland this Saturday’s start against Boston, Rich Harden’s spot could just
be skipped and given to Colby Lewis, who – because of two intervening off-days -
would still be going on an extra day of rest. 

 

Harden (who
threw more balls than strikes on Saturday) told reporters after the game that
he “never got a feel for his release point,” which is so frustrating to hear,
and that he “know[s] what [he] need[s] to do to get back.”

 

It’s August. 
 

 

4.      Chris Davis has still played more third base
at Oklahoma City than first base.  And
now he’s the RedHawks’ starting left fielder, seeing his first time in the
outfield the last two days since his first minor league season (2006).  Local reports suggest the Rangers are getting
“much trade interest” in Davis, from Boston, among others.

 

Texas shouldn’t
trade him.  Not now, at least.  Because I think he has a good chance to
follow the Nelson Cruz path and bloom late, in a new setting?  (Carlos Pena and Russell Branyan have also
been suggested.)  I do still believe in Davis’s
future, but that’s not why he shouldn’t be traded now.

 

He won’t
clear revocable trade waivers this season, and that creates two problems: (1)
Texas would have only one club to negotiate a trade with, and why limit your
suitors?  (2) Even if, say, Kansas City
were the team that claimed Davis, there’s no chance that someone like the disgruntled
Zack Greinke reaches Texas on waivers (let alone the timing issue, which makes
it difficult to have roster members on both sides of an August trade, unless
really bad contracts are involved). 

 

Save Davis
for the winter, when the club should be in a position to make an impact trade
for a starting pitcher or impact hitter and can capitalize on Davis’s apparent popularity
- if not with the team Texas is talking trade with, then with a third team that
can fill a gap in the trade or in the Rangers’ own system.

 

I still don’t
rule out the possibility that Davis figures it out here (even as a bench bat that
can play at four corners) (and no, I’m not giving up on the catcher idea), but
given the mounting number of failed big league chances, if he’s drawing real
interest then his greatest value may be in a deal.     

 

5.      Looks like Taylor Teagarden, in something of
an upset, has not only gotten a chance to prove himself once again in Texas but
is, at last, capitalizing on it.  He
doesn’t need to keep up this power surge to be a solid number two catcher.  He’s starting to gain the confidence of his
manager.

 

6.      According to John Perrotto of Baseball
Prospectus, the Dodgers are thinking about non-tendering catcher Russell Martin
this winter to cut costs.  Martin makes
$5.05 million this year, and I believe he has two more arbitration seasons
before he can opt for free agency.  Hmmm.
  

 

7.      I’m not seeing much of anything out of
Cristian Guzman, who initially turned down the deadline trade to Texas before
reconsidering.  Not sure what he does
better than Andres Blanco. 

 

Wish we could
have gotten in on Arizona’s Kelly Johnson before the trade deadline.  Can’t imagine he’d slip through just about
the entire league and get to Texas on waivers to facilitate a trade.

 

Sure wish
things had worked out with Khalil Greene this year.

 

Ian Kinsler’s
injury history and the organization’s added flexibility financially are going
to result in an upgrade at the utility infield spot next year.  It’s becoming a priority.  Right?

 

8.      Joe West is an irritating umpire to watch.

 

9.      How confident are we that Vladimir Guerrero
is going to bounce back?  Since the
beginning of July, he sits at .213/.278/.336 in 122 at-bats.  Justin Smoak was more productive as a Ranger
than Guerrero has been over July and August. 

 

Let’s say he pulls
out of it a bit, but doesn’t do anywhere near the level of damage he did in the
first half (.319/.364/.554)?  What do you
offer him this winter to make sure he doesn’t shop around?  Tricky.

 

10.  Smoak since his demotion to AAA Tacoma: .207/.314/.448.  Josh Lueke (AA West Tenn and AAA Tacoma): one
run on seven hits and zero walks in 11.1 innings, 20 strikeouts.  Blake Beavan (AA West Tenn and AAA Tacoma): four
starts, 3-1, 4.50, 25 hits and two walks in 24 innings, 13 strikeouts.  Matt Lawson (AA West Tenn): .363/.414/.525 in
80 at-bats.  Chris Ray (San Francisco):
2.84 ERA with eight strikeouts and five walks in 12.2 innings.  Michael Main (AA Richmond): 13.83 ERA with 21
hits, 14 walks, and seven strikeouts in 13.2 innings; hasn’t pitched in 12
days.  Evan Reed (AA Jacksonville): 1.2
scoreless innings in one appearance, left with tightness in his elbow.  Omar Poveda is out for the season.  Ryan Tatukso (AA Harrisburg): one start – one
run on five hits and four walks in 4.2 innings, six strikeouts.  Tanner Roark (AA Harrisburg): one start – three
runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings, four strikeouts.   

 

Roman Mendez made
his second Spokane start yesterday, giving up four runs (all unearned) on seven
hits (including two home runs) and one walk in 4.2 innings, fanning five.  Seven groundouts, one flyout.  Chris McGuiness sits at .261/.433/.304 for
Bakersfield, with six walks and four strikeouts in 23 at-bats.

 

11.  Yes, Tanner Scheppers has been solid most
nights since returning to the bullpen for the RedHawks.  But nowhere near as dominant as (40-man
roster member) Pedro Strop, who since returning to AAA from Texas has put up
these video game numbers: 8.2 innings, zero runs, four hits, zero walks, 16 strikeouts.
 Both are going to be here in September,
but if one gets here before then, I’m not so sure it shouldn’t be Strop.

 

12.  I hope that Torii Hunter Jr.’s friends at Prosper
High School aren’t making fun of him because of where his Dad is playing.  (Or not playing, while he serves his
four-game suspension.)

 

13.  Texas gets a bit of a break tomorrow, as A.J.
Burnett was scratched yesterday with back spasms and will go for the Yankees in
Arlington tomorrow night rather than Phil Hughes.

 

14.  Several new prospects should enter the fold
soon: The deadline to sign 2010 draftees is a week from today (two hard-throwing
righthanders, supplemental first-rounder Luke Jackson and fifth-rounder Justin
Grimm, are the key unsigned picks), and Daniels has suggested the Red Sox
prospect to be named later in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal could be announced
before long.

 

15.  Sometime soon, when the club is on the road, we’re
going to have a game-watching Newberg Report event with Chuck Greenberg (who is
temporarily
physiologically incapable of being elated
).  We’ll charge some sort of
admission fee but it will all go to charity. 
Stay tuned for details.

 

16.  There’s been lots of talk, particularly since
the All-Star Break, about how Texas was facing a really tough part of its
schedule.  Does anyone ever take the time
to think about the idea that other teams are now at the point at which they
have to say the same thing when Texas comes up on their schedule?

 

This sort of
success is still taking some time to get used to. 

 

And that’s
fine with me.  Give me a battle over the
next eight weeks rather than a whole lot of cruise control.

 

OK.  Maybe seven.

 

 

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Twitter 
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Unproductive.

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A few hours after
Rich Harden gave it all back yesterday, Oklahoma City lefthander Derek Holland fired
six scoreless innings in Salt Lake City (four hits, two walks, three strikeouts).  His day was ended after 95 pitches, despite a
comfortable 4-0 lead.  (He’d thrown 60
and 87 pitches in his two previous starts, upon his return to AAA from his
rehab stint in Arizona.) 

 

Fellow Oklahoma City
lefthander Michael Kirkman has five straight quality starts (4-0, 1.74, with 25
hits and 10 walks in 31 innings, and 30 strikeouts).  He goes for the RedHawks today.

 

By virtue of two
Texas off-days in the next five days, Harden’s next scheduled start doesn’t
arrive until Saturday, the middle game of three against Boston in Arlington,
with the Red Sox slated to send Jon Lester to the mound.  Holland and Kirkman are both on the 40-man
roster and would be able to go that night on extra rest (same with Omar Beltre,
but he’s been inconsistent lately at AAA).

 

Enough. 

 

Given the division lead,
I get the idea of giving Harden the ball one-fifth of the time to see if he can
get himself straightened out in time for October.  If he’s right, he has playoff stuff (even if
not playoff success: 1-3, 6.35, with more walks [10] than strikeouts [9] in
11.1 innings).  But yesterday . . . .

 

Well, I’ve got
nothing productive to say.  And I don’t
want to be in a bad baseball mood, not with everything else that’s going
on.  Everything.

 

So how about something
else?

 

On April 25, 2007,
the Indians staked C.C. Sabathia to a 6-0 lead, bouncing Rangers starter Vicente
Padilla after four, but Texas clawed back. 
Michael Young doubled Kenny Lofton in with two outs in the ninth to tie
the game, but after an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira, Matt Kata couldn’t
push another across.  In the 11th,
with Willie Eyre on the mound, Jhonny Peralta singled Victor Martinez home, giving
the Indians an 8-7 win.  Cleveland
improved to 11-7.  Texas dropped to 8-12.

 

The next day, Cleveland
jumped on Kameron Loe for three runs in the first and never trailed.  Texas outhit the Indians, 10-9 (including two
Sammy Sosa home runs), but went 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position and lost
the game, 9-4, getting swept for the second time in Ron Washington’s first
month as Rangers manager.

 

The day after that, April 27, Cliff Lee, coming off 14-, 18-,
and 14-win campaigns for the Indians – his first three full big league seasons -
made a rehab start for AA Akron, having started the season on the disabled list
with an abdominal strain (an injury that had also cost him the first two months
of his rookie season in 2003 and would cost him the first month of the 2010 season
as well).  He’d made a two-inning, scoreless
start for High A Kinston on April 10. 
And then a four-inning, two-run effort for AAA Buffalo on April 21.

 

On April 27, 2007, Lee took the hill for Akron against the
hated Reading Phillies.  Working with
catcher Tim Gradoville, who would play for Frisco in 2008, the 28-year-old fired
five scoreless innings, scattering two hits and a walk while punching out
seven.  The Aeros came out on top, 5-1,
as relievers Jake Dittler (who would also play for Frisco in 2008) and Jensen Lewis
closed things out.

 

Lee returned to Cleveland after that start, and hung in the
rotation through July, but after four bad starts in a row (the third of which
came in Texas, as the Rangers slapped five runs on Lee in the first inning, on
three doubles and three singles), he found himself back in AAA on July 27,
along with outfielder Ben Francisco.  Their
two roster spots were taken by reliever Edward Mujica and Lofton, who was
acquired that day from Texas for catcher Max Ramirez.

 

Lee pitched reasonably well for Buffalo for a month (1-3,
3.41), striking out at least a batter per inning in each of his seven starts (but
walking multiple hitters each time out). 
He was brought back to Cleveland in September, but he worked strictly
out of the bullpen, and not in key spots. 
His first three appearances were 10 days apart.  All four of his appearances were Indians losses,
with Lee entering at least three runs behind each time.

 

Cleveland won 96 games, taking the AL Central.  But they didn’t take Lee with them to the
playoffs, leaving him off the post-season roster.  The Indians downed the Yankees, three games
to one, before dropping the dramatic ALCS to Boston, who came back from being
down three games to one to win in seven. 

 

And then in 2008, one year after having split the season between
High A, AA, AAA, the Cleveland rotation, and the Cleveland bullpen, watching from
home as his teammates battled New York and Boston in the playoffs, Lee went
22-3, 2.54, leading the league in wins and ERA and walks per nine and home run
infrequency, and bagging the Cy Young with 94 percent of the vote.

 

I don’t really have a point, other than: (1) to point out
that, just three years ago, in what was Lee’s sixth big league season, the man
who reached 100 career wins on Friday in fewer decisions than any active big league
pitcher other than Tim Hudson, Roy Oswalt, Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, and
Andy Pettitte, and who hasn’t walked a left-handed hitter in 2010, and whose
14:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is the best in Major League Baseball in its 110
years of modern history, couldn’t make his club’s 11-man playoff staff; and (2)
to avoid talking about Rich Harden’s Saturday effort.

 

I feel better now.

 

 

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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

The water, on a burning beach.

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Run to the water

On a burning
beach

And it brings me
relief

 

We saw Crowded House, my girlfriend and I and two of our
good friends, in Austin at The Backyard in April of 1994, the first year of
Nolan Ryan’s retirement from his playing days, the first year of The Ballpark
in Arlington.

 

It was probably not very cool to be a fan of Crowded House
back then, or for that matter to be a fan of the Texas Rangers, whose 23-year history
was so sad that what was about to be their first-ever first-place season was pathetic
in a way, as the club finished with a record of 52-62 that would be frozen by a
work stoppage that killed the stretch run and the playoffs.  On the night we saw Crowded House, the
Rangers lost to Toronto, 13-3, one of five losses of 10 runs or more by Texas in
just the first two months of the season. 

 

It was a bad baseball team, one whose manager (Kevin
Kennedy) got fired despite that division “win” that had eluded the 22 Rangers
clubs that preceded it, the last five of which featured Ryan, who went 51-39,
3.43 with 10 strikeouts per nine innings over that span, all in his 40s.  A proud five-year run with Texas ended
without crossing the goal line into the playoffs.  An extraordinary 27-year career ended in
September 1993 with a torn elbow ligament, but not before a 98-mph fastball to
Dave Magadan on the next pitch. 

 

Whether Ryan would have pitched in the new ballpark the
following year, we don’t know.  It was
probably a disappointment for the warrior to go out the way he did, a man of iconic
durability shut down by an injury, a ballplayer who didn’t get back to the
playoffs in this final run on the field.

 

I was in a room with Nolan Ryan yesterday, and six hours
after that in another with Crowded House (again with those same two friends and
my girlfriend, who I’ve now been married to for 13 years).  Ryan looks a little different these days, as
does Neil Finn, now sporting a McFeely moustache.  But they both looked very happy on Thursday,
happy to be at a microphone before a relatively small group, the latter because
he’s still able to do it, before his own private universe, however diminishing
in size, the former because it was probably the
last time he’d have to talk formally about what he was talking about
, able now
to focus fully on the business of getting a baseball team back to the playoffs.

 

When Finn brought his son on stage for a few songs last
night, I’m guessing most of the 1,500 in the room (just about all of whom I probably
deceived myself into thinking looked older than me) thought it was pretty cool.
 The segment of people living around here
who cared enough about what Crowded House once was is a lot smaller than it was
in Austin 16 years ago, and even then it was pretty small. 

 

As small as what some in the mainstream media continue to
assume makes up the core of Rangers baseball fans.  They’re wrong, of course.  But just as it wasn’t about record sales, or
however it is that you quantify rock and roll coolness (an often opposite
measure), it’s not about whether the baseball team hangs more banners than the
football team, or sells more local advertising spots during the local news. 

 

It’s cooler to be a Rangers fan now that Nolan Ryan is part
of things – and will stay that way – but he’s not in this because of ego, or power,
or money.  He’s in this because he’s passionate
about winning, like his new co-owners and this organization’s baseball
operations team and its players and its coaches. 

 

And a quietly large core of baseball fans that’s getting less
quiet.

 

After last night’s win over Felix Hernandez and Seattle, the
2010 Rangers season is exactly two-thirds over. 
Billy Beane, whose second-place team Texas visits for these next three,
was supposedly the first to suggest that you spend the first third of the
season evaluating your team and figuring out what you are, the middle third addressing
needs, and the final third kicking into that next gear.

 

The new owners of the Texas Rangers, one of whom sat yesterday
afternoon at a podium with a tie on and a huge smile on his face, had hoped to
be in place by Opening Day, but instead they now head into this final third,
like the rest of us, no longer having to distract ourselves with baseball games
so as not to get worn down by court proceedings. 

 

“Dreaming of glory/Miles above the mountains and plains/Free
at last,” Finn sang, hours after Ryan had talked about the last 15 months, a time
during which he probably would have substituted a couple words other than “mountains”
and “plains,” but the President and soon-to-be Co-Owner of the Texas Rangers looked
very ready for these two months ahead of him and us, and maybe another after that,
free at last of a kind of battle that he never imagined having to fight and instead
geared up to do the kind of battle true baseball fans are in this for.

 

Break it into
thirds –

Assess it, and address
it,

Now floor it: It’s
time.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

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Twitter 
@newbergreport

 

Stuff.

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Going into last night’s games, the worst team in the
American League was Baltimore.  Next
worst was Seattle.  Kansas City was tied with
one other club (Cleveland) for the next-worst spot after that.

 

Last night those three teams beat the Rangers and the two
teams chasing them.

 

Another Texas loss with several missed opportunities, though
for some reason it didn’t get under my skin like a loss normally does (maybe because
nothing was lost in the division, which when you’re ahead is a small
positive). 

 

But hopefully the team isn’t dismissing it the way I am.

 

No, Mike Lowell cannot be the player to be named later in the
Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal.  Players to
be named can’t appear in the big leagues between the announcement of the trade
and the completion of the deal.

 

Lowell came up big last night, in what was his first 2010 big
league appearance since June.

 

Cubs righthander Thomas Diamond was pretty good, too, striking
out 10 Brewers in his six-inning big league debut, giving up three runs on
seven hits and three walks.

 

By the way, remember that rumored Boston-Texas-New York Lowell
rumor from the weekend?  According to Alex
Speier of WEEI.com out of Boston, the deal would have sent Lowell to New York,
Saltalamacchia to Boston, and prospects to Texas.  But the Yankees apparently backed out late
last week based on Lowell’s medicals – and Lowell’s no-trade clause included
New York (his original team), though the deal never got to the point at which the
veteran had to decide whether to waive it. 
Texas and Boston got together on Saturday without New York’s involvement.

 

According to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, righthander
Roman Mendez (who came over from Boston in the deal) touched 98 in his impressive
Spokane debut on Monday.

 

Today’s Cliff Lee stat: Texas has scored 10 runs in support
of Lee in his five starts (eight while he’s been in the game), spanning 48 innings. 

 

In his two best seasons (his 2008 Cy Young campaign and this
year), Texas has scored 10 runs
off Lee in four starts,
spanning 27.2 innings.

 

Righthander Evan Reed, sent along with righthander Omar Poveda
to Florida for Jorge Cantu last week, left his AA Jacksonville debut on
Saturday with tightness in his elbow.

 

Boston manager Terry Francona and Cleveland third base coach
Steve Smith, who got into it last night at the tail end of the clubs’
bench-clearing shove and shout, were on Buck Showalter’s Rangers coaching staff
together in 2002.

 

Philadelphia recalled outfielder John Mayberry Jr.
(.258/.321/.410 for AAA Lehigh Valley) to replace the injured Ryan Howard on
the Phillies’ roster.

 

Thanks to photographers McCall Money and John Setzler, as
well as webmaster Don Titus, for our Newberg Report website photo overhaul.  Lots of new players featured on both the
front page and the forum banner.

 

August 4 is notable in Texas Rangers history for being the day,
17 years ago, when Nolan Ryan put it to Robin Ventura.  Today August 4 will go down in Rangers
history as another landmark date, for another, very different reason.

 

Reminder: We chat again tonight.  Our latest live in-game chat session at http://www.FOXSportsSouthwest.com/pages/chat
will start a few minutes before the first pitch and roll until after the final
pitch.  See you then.

 

 

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(c) Jamey Newberg

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@newbergreport

 

The Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade.

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Matthew Emmons, US Presswire

 

That moment was the first like it for Texas in 2010. 
And the last like it for Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

 

It happened on Opening Day, as Texas came back from getting
no-hit into the seventh inning to walk off with a 5-4 win on Saltalamacchia’s
bases-loaded single off Toronto closer Jason Frasor.

 

He would pinch-hit for Taylor Teagarden in game two of the
season, brought in to face Frasor with one out and one on in the bottom of the
ninth, Texas down by three.  Frasor got him this time, punching him out
looking. 

 

It would be Saltalamacchia’s final appearance as a Ranger.

 

There have been very few baseball operations disappointments
here since the five-step plan was implemented in the spring of 2007. 
Saltalamacchia ranks near the top of a short list.

 

But that’s part of what makes yesterday’s deadline trade of
Saltalamacchia to Boston for three prospects (righthander Roman Mendez, first
baseman Chris McGuiness, and a third to be named) plus $350,000 so fascinating
for me.

 

On April 19, 1990, three days before that year’s NFL Draft,
Jimmy Johnson traded second-round and third-round picks to San Francisco for
defensive end Daniel Stubbs, running back Terrence Flagler, and picks in the
third and 11th rounds.  Johnson used the third-rounder he got
in the deal to move up four spots in the first round to take Emmitt Smith, but
it’s the other part of the trade with the Niners I want to focus on.

 

Coming off a one-win season, the Cowboys had a pair of
rookie quarterbacks in Troy Aikman and Steve Walsh, a promising second-year
receiver in Michael Irvin, and a deep inventory of draft picks.  Johnson
knew that the draft ammunition was key to the big picture, and so when he
essentially parted with a second-rounder to get Stubbs (who had become the
University of Miami’s all-time sacks leader under Johnson’s watch) and Flagler
(who had amassed only 145 yards rushing in three NFL seasons), he was making a
pretty bold investment in those two.

 

Johnson released Flagler on September 2, 1990, one week
before what would have been his first game as a Cowboy.

 

That may have been because the drafting of Smith made
Flagler expendable, but Johnson still wanted a veteran tailback around, and on
the day after Johnson released Flagler, he traded a 1991 second-rounder and
fifth-rounder to Houston for Alonzo Highsmith, who had also starred for him in
college at Miami. 

 

Johnson released Highsmith one month into the 1991
season. 

 

And he released Stubbs one month after that.

 

I remember thinking how easy it would have been for Johnson
to hang onto Stubbs and Flagler and Highsmith for a couple more years (on what
were then still thin, developing rosters), and how most general managers
probably would have, if for no other reason than to ward off the talk show
segments pointing out how much they’d given up to get those players and how
little they’d gotten out of them before dumping them back onto the
street. 

 

But Johnson didn’t give a damn about how it would
look.  All he cared about was whether they could help him win.  I
loved that about him.

 

Despite media reviews of the July 2007 Mark Teixeira trade
suggesting that Saltalamacchia was the key to the deal (and a blogger or two making the same
claim
), the Rangers were quick to point out that this was not
“Saltalamacchia plus four prospects” for Teixeira and Ron Mahay.  We now
know that Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones were all
specifically targeted, and if Atlanta hadn’t agreed to part with the minor leaguers
in that deal, Texas might have moved Teixeira to Arizona or the Angels instead.

 

But Jon Daniels still had lots riding on Saltalamacchia, who
was Atlanta’s reigning number one prospect according to
Baseball America
(ahead of Andrus [2], Harrison [3], Jones [14], and Feliz [18]) and was viewed
as the Rangers’ long-term answer at catcher, eventually replacing incumbent
Gerald Laird.  Switch-hitter.  Raw power, enough bat to be a
candidate at first base.  Athletic behind the plate, with a strong arm and
quick feet.  A hard worker.  In the big leagues on his 22nd
birthday, and in the eight weeks leading up to the trade, a .284/.333/.411
major league hitter.  Six and a half years of control, at least.  So
much to like.

 

But what happened after that is well documented.  The
.745 OPS he put up in those two months with Atlanta became .721 in the final
two months with Texas.  Then .716 in 2008.  And .661 in 2009. 

 

And then five at-bats in 2010.

 

Saltalamacchia’s time here was marked by a rash of injury
issues, mostly tied to forearm soreness and numbness that led to thoracic
outlet surgery late in 2009, and a lingering problem thereafter throwing the
ball back to the pitcher, a struggle that may or may not have started out as a
physical issue but that unquestionably became a mental one.  At one point
the Rangers reportedly set him up for daily work with the organization’s
performance enhancement staff.

 

And going back to that first series of the season, when he
failed to disclose an upper back injury he’d sustained in the opener – leading
Ron Washington (after the game two loss, in which Saltalamacchia never took the
bat off his shoulder during his four-pitch, pinch-hit strikeout in the ninth)
to tell reporters that the 24-year-old “put us in a bad situation” and “needs
to mature,” you have to assume that the young catcher lost some standing with
the organization.  Catchers need to be leaders, and setting an example is
part of that.

 

An interesting comment yesterday from Boston GM Theo
Epstein, regarding his new acquisition: “We feel like

he’s a classic guy with a high ceiling who needs a change of
scenery.  
He’d
kind of been butting heads with the organization over there a little bit.

 

(And some
interesting observations today
from Bob Hersom of OKCRedhawks.com, who
quotes Oklahoma City manager Bobby Jones as saying of Saltalamacchia: “He’s
different.  I don’t know how many friends he had in the clubhouse, but he
was never disruptive and never a jerk.  I mean, he’s just in his own
little world.”  Jones added, however, that Saltalamacchia worked his tail
off in AAA.)

 

Most reports have suggested that Saltalamacchia had gotten
past the yips while with Oklahoma City this spring, but after hitting early on
(.377/.424/.623 in his first 14 games), he went cold, hitting .258/.290/.455 in
May and .179/.291/.343 in June.  Matt Treanor solidified the position in
Texas once he replaced Saltalamacchia in April.  Once Saltalamacchia was
deemed healthy in April, and Taylor Teagarden was not hitting, Texas made the
eye-opening move to option both to the farm, bringing Max Ramirez (a player
they’d agreed to move over the winter to Boston for Mike Lowell and who never
made much of a case in spring training for a roster spot) up from AAA to back
Treanor up.  Bengie Molina was acquired in July.  When Treanor got
hurt shortly after that, the recall went to Teagarden, not Saltalamacchia. 

 

The thought four months ago that four players would see more
time behind the plate for Texas this year than Saltalamacchia, when he’s really
only been shut down due to injury for a couple weeks, was probably as unlikely
as his Opening Day battery mate, Scott Feldman, pitching himself out of the
rotation.  But at this point, to say the writing was on the wall as far as
Saltalamacchia’s place in the organization was concerned would be an
understatement.  Injuries, high expectations, centerpiece media treatment
in a blockbuster trade.  Whatever the reason, this was a player needing a
fresh start.

 

A year and a half ago, when Jason Varitek was a free agent,
rumors (mostly out of Boston) were rampant that the Red Sox wanted
Saltalamacchia or Teagarden, and media speculation centered on one of Clay
Buchholz, Daniel Bard, Justin Masterson, or Michael Bowden coming back. 
While the rumors were never substantiated by club sources, Epstein did tell
reporters yesterday that Saltalamacchia “came with a really heavy price tag in
the past.”  (Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted yesterday that the
Rangers’ ask 18 months ago was in fact Buchholz, and several Boston beat
reports suggest the same today.)

 

The Sox (whose catchers Varitek and Victor Martinez are both
free agents this winter) took advantage of an opportunity to acquire him at a
time when he’d seemingly fallen out of favor with Texas.  Saltalamacchia
(who will have only one option remaining after this season) will report to AAA
Pawtucket this week, but is a good bet to join the Red Sox when rosters expand
in September, if not sooner.  Boston is banking on him figuring things out
in his new environment.

 

Epstein’s comment: “He’s someone we hope
we’re buying low on right now, as he’s battling a few different issues.”

 

Epstein hopes so, having traded Engel Beltre (along with
David Murphy and Kason Gabbard) to Texas for Eric Gagné, later on the same day
that the Rangers had picked Saltalamacchia up in the Teixeira deal.  The
Beltre acquisition three years ago had A.J. Preller stamped all over it, and so
does yesterday’s addition of Mendez.

 

Signed by Boston for a relatively modest $125,000 in July
2007 (weeks before the Saltalamacchia and Beltre trades), the Dominican
righthander turned 20 just last week and is still filling his 6’4″ frame out,
suggesting that the mid-90s velocity he sits at now could project for
more.  He’s touching 98 now – and reportedly registered triple digits at
least once for Short-Season A Lowell this summer (the first pitcher in at least
four years to do so) – and has a slider that some describe as an out pitch with
plus potential.  The changeup apparently needs work.  If it doesn’t
come along, Mendez could project as a late-inning reliever.  For now, he
starts.

 

Pitching in the Dominican Summer League in 2008, Mendez
fanned 46 and walked only 16 in 51 innings of work, scattering 43 hits and
posting a 2.65 ERA.  Pitching stateside in 2009, he dominated the Gulf
Coast League, walking only eight in 49.2 innings, holding the league to a .184
batting average and finishing with an ERA of 1.99.  Only one player took
Mendez deep all season (in his next-to-last inning of work), and in 10 starts
and two relief appearances he allowed more than one run just two times. 
Baseball America
named him the number 12 prospect in the league, and after the season tabbed him
as Boston’s number 23 prospect.

 

Boston challenged Mendez with a season-opening assignment to
Low A Greenville in the South Atlantic League this spring, and the experiment
didn’t go particularly well.  Facing hitters two and three years older, he
made six starts, the final one of which came against Hickory on May 7.  An
Ed Koncel grand slam was among four hits he gave up to the Rangers affiliate in
two-plus innings, during which time he also issued a walk, threw a wild pitch,
and drilled Cristian Santana and Matt West.  Sitting with an 11.40 ERA and
a .392 opponents’ average (but 18 strikeouts in 15 innings), he was sent back
to extended spring training and reassigned to Lowell once that club’s season got
underway in June.   

 

In eight Spinners starts, Mendez went 2-3, 4.36, holding the
New York-Penn League to a .240 average while fanning 35 and walking 19 in 33
innings.  He’ll make a lateral move, joining Short-Season A Spokane for
that club’s final month-plus of play.

 

Is Mendez the next Neftali Feliz?  Don’t count on
it.  There’s a spectrum of explosive arms in this system that includes
Tanner Scheppers and Wilmer Font and Pedro Strop on one end, and Carlos Melo on
the other, and it’s too early to plot where Mendez belongs.  But that’s an
outstanding arm to add to a system always looking for more.   

 

Keep in mind that of the 10 players Texas traded this month
to add Cliff Lee, Mark Lowe, Molina, Jorge Cantu, and Cristian Guzman, eight
were pitchers.  You can never have enough good ones.

 

The addition of McGuiness is a little different from the
prototype prospect targeted by Texas the last few years.  Whenever the
club has zeroed in on something other than pitchers, they’ve typically been
up-the-middle players.  McGuiness, Boston’s 13th-round pick in
2009, is not that.  But given Justin Smoak’s departure and Chris Davis’s
struggles, adding a first baseman with upside to the system makes some sense.

 

McGuiness stands 6’1″, 210.  Hits and throws
left-handed.  Short to the ball.  Hits for average but flashes some
power as well.  Knows the strike zone; walks a ton, strikes out
sparingly.  Solid if unspectacular defensively.  Not much of a
runner.  Pitched some in college. 

 

If all of that reminds you of Mitch Moreland, it’s no
accident.  Nothing wrong with adding another Moreland to the ranks, if
that’s what McGuiness is.

 

The 22-year-old from James Island, South Carolina (half an
hour from Smoak’s Goose Creek hometown) hit .367/.525/.667 for The Citadel as a
junior in 2009, leading the nation with 65 walks (against only 22 strikeouts in
207 at-bats) and finishing 12th in on-base percentage.  After
signing with Boston for $100,000, he hit .255/.374/.434 for Lowell last summer,
drawing 36 walks while fanning 40 times in 196 at-bats.

 

This season, playing first base for Greenville, McGuiness
hit .298/.416/.504 with 53 walks and 59 strikeouts in 282 at-bats, swatting 20
doubles and 12 home runs.  He was third in the South Atlantic League in
reaching base, and fourth in slugging.  His season included a ridiculous
.337/.477/.566 run in 25 July games, prompting Texas to decide he’s ready for a
new level.  He’s being promoted to High A Bakersfield.

 

Incidentally, McGuiness went 9 for 28 off Hickory pitching
this summer, hitting three home runs (off Neil Ramirez, Joe Wieland, and Tyler
Tufts) in seven games. 

 

We don’t yet know the identity of the player to be named
later, or the nature of the designation.  One possibility is that it’s a
player that Boston drafted last year but didn’t sign until August, which means
he wouldn’t yet be eligible to be identified (per the Incaviglia Rule, which
makes drafted players untradeable until 12 months after signing).  I
believe six 2009 Red Sox draftees signed last August: third baseman David
Renfroe (round 3), righthander Madison Younginer (7), righthander Kendal Volz
(9), first baseman Miles Head (26), righthander Eric Curtis (28), and
lefthander Tim Webb (31).  I don’t see any way one of the first three are
included, and the latter three don’t seem to stand out.

 

Another possibility is that the player to be named hasn’t
been selected yet (meaning the Rangers have a specified pool of players to
choose from within a certain amount of time), or that there’s another reason
procedurally that the two teams haven’t announced the name.

 

The $350,000 that Boston put into the deal shouldn’t be
overlooked.  Daniels told reporters yesterday that it will be earmarked to
try and get another two or three of the club’s 2010 draft picks signed before
the August 16 deadline.  Key among the club’s unsigned picks are two
hard-throwing righthanders – supplemental first-rounder Luke Jackson, who has a
commitment to the University of Miami in the bag, and fifth-rounder Justin Grimm,
who has one year of eligibility left at the University of Georgia – not to
mention University of Oklahoma third baseman Garrett Buechele, the club’s 18th-round
pick. 

 

If the cash component of the Saltalamacchia trade does
enable Texas to lock up another two key draft picks, Daniels has pointed out
that the trade will have effectively added five prospects we like to the
system, capping off a month in which the club traded 10 young players away to
get Lee, Molina, Cantu, Guzman, and Lowe. 

 

Saltalamacchia may figure it all out and come into his own
in Boston, and if that happens, so be it.  I think we all had a good sense
that, for whatever reason, it wasn’t going to happen here, and it’s encouraging
to me that, much like Jimmy Johnson, Jon Daniels not only had that sense as
well, but didn’t let the past investment influence the current evaluation.

 

 

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

 

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

 

Rich Harden as Cliff Lee: The first of two Sunday reports.

Seven innings, five hits, two walks, just three strikeouts.  An economical 7.5 pitches per inning.  First-pitch strikes to 21 of 29 batters.  A tremendous 70 percent strike rate.

 

Sensational effort from Rich Harden.  A great, great win, and yet another Cliff
Lee-like performance from one of his new teammates. 

 

For what it’s worth, a reminder: last year Harden’s ERA
before the All-Star Break was 5.47. 
Afterwards it was 2.55. 

 

Justin Smoak doubled and drove in a run
yesterday.  For AAA Tacoma.  Seattle has optioned the first baseman, who
had 10 hits and one walk (.159/.169/.270) and 23 strikeouts in 63 at-bats since
coming over in the Lee trade.

 

Thomas Diamond will make his big league debut against
Milwaukee on Tuesday, replacing the departed Ted Lilly in the Cubs’ rotation.  Diamond was 5-4, 3.16 for AAA Iowa, striking
out 104 in 108.1 innings and holding the Pacific Coast League to a .218 batting
average.  (His worst effort of the year
came against Oklahoma City two weeks ago, when he gave up eight RedHawks runs
in four innings, including a two-run Saltalamacchia triple.) 

 

Before wrapping this mini-blast up and getting back to today’s
standard report – about Jon Daniels’s third trade in three days and fifth in a
month, different from the other four but genius in its own right – there’s this,
tweeted this morning by new Nationals AA righthander Ryan Tatukso:

 

There
will be one last @NewbergReport article written and I am talking with @MLB to
move my blog over there…stay tuned.

 

Lee vs. Jered Weaver this afternoon, as Texas goes for its 14th
series win out of 17, which would knock the Angels back under .500, down to 10
games back and 11 in the loss column, and all but out of the race.

 

I should have today’s full report out before first pitch.

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