September 2010

Trading for a catcher: A Nouveau-Bergeron Report.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

I’ve been a little under the weather the last
couple days, so I’ve reached out to our pal north of the border to pinch-hit
today.  You might remember this guy from
a couple entries he shared with us in 2006.

 

But first, two quick things.

 

Huge thanks to Scott Lucas for his best year
of daily reporting on the Rangers minor league system yet.  I doubt we’ve seen his ceiling yet, though – instead
of eight AAA games a season to report on in his backyard, he’ll now get more
than 70.  Awesome work this year,
man.  Thanks.

 

The video of Thad Levine’s Q&A with us at
Sherlock’s last week is now
online at DallasSportsNetwork.tv (click here)
, thanks to Ted Price.  Among the highlights: a fascinating
explanation of the process the club goes through when pursuing a trade, with a
specific walk-through for us on the Cliff Lee deal, and some comments on how the
organization views the catcher position in the short term.

 

(By the way, not only did that night’s Game-Watching
Party boost this season’s Newberg Report event record to 7-0, it also broke the
team’s five-game skid and kicked off what is now a six-game win streak.)

 

OK.  Behave
for the sub. 

 

 

 

THE NOUVEAU-BERGERON
REPORT

 

The tragic number for the Jays is now down to four.  It would be a waste of time talking about
tonight’s game in Baltimore or the weekend series in Boston.  This isn’t a bad team – we’d be in second
place in the AL West – but there’s plenty of work to be done if we’re gonna
make any noise the next few years in the East. 
Let’s look at something two of the four teams who will be in the playoffs
this year did in 2007 to help get them where they are now.

 

Texas traded Mark Teixeira (and Ron Mahay) to Atlanta at the
July trade deadline that year, getting future cornerstones Elvis Andrus and Neftali
Feliz, neither of whom had yet reached Class AA, plus rookie catcher Jarrod
Saltalamacchia and lefthanders Matt Harrison (AA) and Beau Jones (Low A).   

 

That November, Tampa Bay traded Rookie of the Year runner-up
Delmon Young to Minnesota for young righthander Matt Garza and shortstop Jason
Bartlett.  (The Rays also gave up utility
infielder Brendan Harris and minor league outfielder Jason Pridie, who the
Twins had drafted via Rule 5 two years earlier but sold back to the Rays, and
the Twins parted with relief prospect Eduardo Morlan.) 

 

You think the Braves would like a do-over on that first one?  General Manager John Schuerholz, about to vacate
his post, got super-aggressive, trading for Teixeira, Mahay, Octavio Dotel, and
Royce Ring on July 31, but ended up missing the playoffs for just the second
time in 13 years.  And the Braves haven’t
been to the post-season since.

 

They’re two games out of first in the NL East right now.  But how much better off would they be if they’d
held onto Andrus and Feliz?  Or moved
those two in separate trades from each other and from Saltalamacchia, who lots
of teams wanted, and Harrison, who was Atlanta’s top pitching prospect coming
into that season and second maybe only to Tommy Hanson at the time of the
Rangers trade?

 

For one thing, if they’d kept Andrus they wouldn’t have had
to trade the player they felt made him expendable – the regressing Yunel
Escobar – two months ago for middle-aged shortstop Alex Gonzalez.  (As a Jays fan, I couldn’t be happier that
they did.) 

 

Toronto has a unique surplus at a key position and an opportunity
to get better because of it. 

 

Tampa Bay had Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton in its outfield,
Rocco Baldelli bouncing in and out of health, and Desmond Jennings coming when
they decided in November 2007 to trade Young, who had some rumoured makeup
issues, for a young starter with top-of-the-rotation potential.  (They had Elijah Dukes, too, but he would be
traded five days after Young was.)

 

When Atlanta traded Andrus in July 2007, the club had veteran
shortstop Edgar Renteria locked up through 2009, and the 24-year-old Escobar two
months into his rookie season, hitting .314/.358/.400. 

 

The names aren’t as glitzy, but the depth we have in
catchers may be almost as strong as what the Rays had in the outfield and the
Braves had at shortstop three years ago.

 

This year at AAA Las Vegas, we had J.P. Arencibia, MVP of
the Pacific Coast League.  At High A
Dunedin, there was Travis d’Arnaud, ranked by Florida State League managers as
the circuit’s best defensive catcher.  At
Low A Lansing, A.J. Jimenez was ranked as the Midwest League’s best defensive
catcher.  Some people think Short-Season
A Auburn catcher Carlos Perez will be the best of the whole group.

 

It’s the kind of strength behind the plate that the Rangers
seemingly had two years ago . . . which illustrates the importance of not holding
onto everyone too long. 

 

At the end of the 2008 season, every newspaper in the Boston
market and in North Texas, not to mention the ESPN and Fox folks among others, had
Gerald Laird and Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez lined up
on one side, and Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden and
Daniel Bard and Nick Hagadone on the other, and constructed a thousand trade
rumours.  Who knows if the Rangers had
any real opportunities to make a catcher-for-pitcher deal with the Red Sox that
winter?  But if they did, it’s too bad
for them that they didn’t pounce.

 

And in short order, Texas has gone from catching-rich to completely
unsure about the position going forward.

 

There’s a lesson there.

 

And for Toronto, I think, an opportunity.

 

To draw a comparison, John Buck is probably our Laird.  Nice player, but he’s not the long-term
answer, both because he’s 30 years old and a free agent, and because Arencibia,
the offense-first Saltalamacchia equivalent, is probably ready.  While he’s not as close to the big leagues, d’Arnaud
is what Teagarden was in 2008, an agile defender who throws well and profiles as
a regular despite less upside with the bat. 
There’s not really a Ramirez equivalent in the Toronto system, just as
there wasn’t a Perez down below two years ago in the Rangers organization (though
in retrospect maybe Jose Felix was that guy). 

 

So if the idea is to take advantage of that depth now,
rather than hope our guys’ value builds even further, the question becomes
whether to trade one of the catchers in a huge deal, like the Braves did with
Andrus, or to move one in more of a value-for-value swap, like the Rays more or
less did with Young.

 

The Jays system is average. 
There are high-end righthanders Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart, plus a
leadoff center field type in Anthony Gose, all of whom were acquired in trades,
plus 2010 first-round righty Deck McGuire, Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria,
and the catchers.  Toronto needs to be
building its young core, not loading up for one veteran player and mortgaging
the top tier of the farm to do it. 

 

So I like the Rays-Twins model better.

 

Which catcher do I trade? 
Depends on which one it takes to get the player we want, of course, but
it seems that d’Arnaud should be the guy. 
Traded a year ago himself in what was Philadelphia’s own Teixeira deal -
Drabek, d’Arnaud, and Michael Taylor from the Phillies to the Jays for Roy
Halladay (Taylor was flipped to Oakland for Brett Wallace, who was then sent to
Houston in July for Gose, who had come from Philadelphia in the Roy Oswalt
trade) – the 22-year-old was having a strong year at High A before a back
injury cut his season short at the end of July. 
Would we be selling low since d’Arnaud finished the year hurt?  Maybe so, but given the weak state of the
position across the league, there could be a team willing to step up on him.

 

I don’t move Arencibia. 
Let Buck sign elsewhere, and give J.P. the job.  Keep Jose Molina around to back him up. 

 

I’d rather not move Perez, and at age 19 with only
short-season experience he’s not going to key a deal yet anyway.

 

Jimenez isn’t on the same tier as the others.

 

For me, Arencibia is the answer in Toronto right now, and we
can be patient with Perez as he develops. 
If d’Arnaud isn’t so devalued by the back injury that clubs are trying
to steal him from us, it would make sense that he’d be the one to move.

 

Speaking of how the Rangers’ catching depth turned upside
down the past couple years, that’s the team I want to deal with.  They could use a long-term answer behind the
plate.  And they’re loaded with trade
pieces.

 

(Also speaking of Texas, you ought to read this outstanding
article
that good Canadian Jonah Keri published this week on pitching
injuries, with its focus on what the Rangers are doing to build and protect
their young arms.  It’s remarkable work.)

 

You know, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Rangers, who
have used Matt Treanor, Bengie Molina, Teagarden, Ramirez, and Saltalamacchia
this year, go after Buck this winter, just as they did last off-season.  Maybe they go with Buck and Treanor, and keep
Teagarden at AAA since he’ll have one option left.

 

Felix will be at AA.  Texas
can pair him up with d’Arnaud and develop them together.  Maybe that’s the tandem in Arlington one day.

 

What do we target from the Rangers?  What does Toronto need?  In the short term, maybe a first baseman or
DH (whichever spot Adam Lind doesn’t fill) and some major bullpen help (several
key guys are likely gone this winter). 
Long term, the way this lineup strikes out, we could use some guys who
reach base, and probably another outfielder to develop. 

 

But you can’t solve every need in one trade.

 

And you have to trade wisely.  I don’t even want to look back at what we did
with Michael Young, Felipe Lopez, Cesar Izturis, and Brent Abernathy when we
had all of them coming up as middle infield prospects.  We traded all of them, and lost in every
deal.

 

I want Tanner Scheppers or Alexi Ogando.  Jason Frasor and Scott Downs are probably
gone after this season, and who knows if we keep Kevin Gregg around?  Either Scheppers or Ogando steps into the
bullpen right away and eventually settles in as our Neftali Feliz. 

 

I’d like Mitch Moreland, too, but I’m not sure the Rangers would
move him unless they have a plans to bring in a big bat at first base this winter.
 David Murphy would be a great fit, but
that’s another player I’d have a hard time seeing the Rangers part with for a future
piece, given their plans to contend again in 2011.

 

I like Pedro Strop, too. 
He hasn’t done it in Texas, but neither did Robinson Tejeda. 

 

And I love Engel Beltre, a five-tool center field talent who
started to put things together this year. 

 

Ramirez will be out of options and I like the bat, but if
Arencibia settles in as the starter here, his backup needs to be a more
dependable veteran.  Again, Jose Molina
is a perfect fit.

 

How about this: Travis d’Arnaud and John McDonald (yeah, he’s
36, but he’s under contract for $1.5 million next year and would give Texas a
lockdown defender who can back up at every infield position, plus he’s shown a
little pop this season) for either Scheppers or Ogando, plus Chris Davis, who
has an option left and needs a change of scenery? 

 

Is that too much to ask Texas for?  If it is, they’re the kind of organization
that would probably take a high-reward kid even if he’s years away, maybe one
from Latin America.  OK, give them 20-year-old
Dominican righty Misual Diaz.

 

Or how about d’Arnaud and McDonald for Beltre and Strop?

 

Even though young catching is thin right now around the
league, there are several teams with a surplus like we have.  The Reds have Yasmani Grandal and Devin Mesoraco.  The Nationals have Wilson Ramos and Derek
Norris.  The Rockies have Wilin Rosario,
Jordan Pacheco, and Michael McKenry.  The
Yankees, behind Jesus Montero (man, Seattle screwed up on that Cliff Lee deal),
have Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez.  Cleveland
has Lou Marson (who Philadelphia traded as part of its package for Lee a year
ago) behind Carlos Santana.

 

The point is there are other teams out there with a high-end
catcher prospect they can trade.  I think
the Jays need to jump on this before they find themselves like the Rangers did
when they held onto their depth too long.

 

The Texas catching situation, with Buck and Treanor in the big
leagues, Teagarden and Ramirez at AAA, and d’Arnaud and Felix at AA (with Jorge
Alfaro and Kellin Deglan developing below, and maybe Vin DiFazio or Tomas Telis
if his arm bounces back or Leonel De Los Santos if the bat comes around at all),
would suddenly look pretty good again.  And
Scheppers or Ogando can be our Matt Garza – or we can bring in an upside
position player like Beltre that fills a bigger developmental need than d’Arnaud
does right now.

 

So: (1) d’Arnaud, McDonald, and Diaz for Scheppers or Ogando
and Davis or (2) d’Arnaud and McDonald for Beltre and Strop.  Who says no?

 

Thanks to my Jays buddies T.A. Seiber, Doron Barbalat
(FrontOfficeFans.com), and Mick Doherty (Battersbox.ca) for talking this stuff through
with me.  Good day.

 

 

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

 

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

Big steps.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

We were reminded all weekend of Step One, as Mark Teixeira manned first base in the road grays, going 2 for 13 with no extra-base hits.  He’s a tremendous player, who made this team a lot better when he was moved.

We saw a whole lot of Step Two today, as Julio Borbon (added to the organization in June 2007) and Elvis Andrus (July 2007) and Neftali Feliz (July 2007) played up to the moment and looked like anything but second-year big leaguers in helping Texas complete an impressive sweep of baseball’s best team. 

And, of course, we saw today what Step Five was all about, as Cliff Lee carved up the team everyone expects him to join three months from now.  Eight-plus innings from Lee, just two hits, and an uncharacteristic three walks – including to the first batter he faced and the last (Derek Jeter in each case).  Just five strikeouts, but 14 groundouts and an efficient 109 pitches.  Outstanding.

You and I made as many plays today as David Murphy did.  Borbon and Nelson Cruz had a combined four touches: Two flyouts to right, Eduardo Nunez’s single to center that broke up Lee’s no-hitter in the sixth, and Jeter’s RBI double to right center.

Nunez is the player the Yankees refused to part with in order to get Lee from the Mariners in July.

It was only the second time in Lee’s 12 Texas starts that he delivered a strong effort and also got run support, and it now feels, just maybe, that we’re about to see a string of those. 

The last time Texas swept the Yankees at home was in 1996, a season in which the Rangers would eventually win Game One of the ALDS, in New York.  The Rangers-Yankees karma since then has been lousy, but none of the players or coaches or baseball operations folks here now were here then, and maybe this little three-game set did a little bit to minimize whatever stigma might still be attached, if there’s actually any of that which exists other than with the fan base and media.  (Then again, there’s that 0 for 3 in New York this season.)

Up against Texas high school football Friday, college football Saturday, and NFL Sunday, the Rangers averaged nearly 46,000 per game for the series, the second-most ever for a three-game series in 39 seasons of baseball in Arlington.  And now the Rangers get what amounts to two nights off.  They can catch Dallas-Washington later this evening and some Monday Night Football tomorrow night, like the rest of us.  Then it’s back to work.

The magic number stands at 12, as Oakland just fell to Boston, 5-3.  The A’s kick off their series in Kansas City tomorrow afternoon, while Texas kicks back and waits for Detroit to arrive for a Tuesday-Wednesday series.  The A’s next travel to Minnesota, while Texas will be in Seattle for a series that Lee should close out on Sunday.

The Rangers won’t seal a playoff spot that weekend, but they’ll be a bunch closer to it by then, and the way Lee pitched today, they suddenly look a bunch more like a team that has a chance to do something big in the post-season.

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

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

(c) Jamey Newberg
http://www.newbergreport.com
Twitter  @newbergreport

Drill bits.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

Tampa Bay drills Toronto, 13-1.

 

Mariano Rivera drills Jeff Francoeur, reenacting the Randy
Johnson GEICO commercial.  (Only with slightly less of a flesh wound.)

 

And just like that, as Texas reduces its magic number to 14,
the Rays pull to within half a game of the Yankees and a possible first-round
matchup with the Rangers.  New York travels to Tampa after today’s series
finale in Arlington.

 

Francoeur is now 5 for 13 (.385/.400/.385) with one big
hit-by-pitch and three RBI as a Ranger, which is two more than Jorge Cantu and
Cristian Guzman have in a combined 121 Texas plate appearances.

 

He was 1 for 1 lifetime against Rivera, with a single to
center on June 28, 2006, his first full season in the big leagues, a year in
which he hit 29 homers and drove in 103 runs at age 22, looking like he was
embarking on a extraordinary career, one that would look nothing like a series
of events that would see him traded unceremoniously for Joaquin Arias in an
August 31 waivers trade four years later. 

 

If you recorded the game, go back and look at what Ian
Kinsler did with the first pitch he saw from Rivera, grounding it foul. 
Look at Kinsler’s swing.  Look at it.

 

Cliff Lee against Dustin Moseley (off of whom the Rangers
have hit .347/.411/.520 in 24.2 innings) today, and New York will certainly
give Rivera the day off. 

 

If Lee, who says his back is better, returns to form this
afternoon, Texas stands a real chance of sweeping New York in a series the
Yankees needed, without Josh Hamilton.  In a season full of mind-blowing
moments, that would rank up there, even if not as high as the greatest closer
of all time losing a game on a hit batsman.

 

 

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

 

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

Cruz missile.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

C.J. Wilson’s short night led Texas to use a franchise-record
11 pitchers, who combined to allow one run (on Pedro Strop’s bases loaded walk
in the sixth) over 10 innings.

 

Ron Washington summoned Matt Harrison, Strop, Alexi Ogando,
Michael Kirkman, Dustin Nippert, Clay Rapada, Neftali Feliz, Darren O’Day,
Darren Oliver, and Scott Feldman, and he might have even slipped Gary Mielke,
Rosman Garcia, Mike Bacsik Sr., Mike Bacsik Jr., DeWayne Vaughn, and the feared
combination of Dale Mohorcic and Cecilio Guante in there at some point.

 

If Tommy Hunter doesn’t go deep tonight, maybe we’ll see Duff
Brumley, Eric Moody, Danilo Leon, and Tanyon Sturtze come to the rescue.

 

If those guys aren’t available, Texas could summon Guillermo
Moscoso and Zach Phillips from Oklahoma City, whose season and 28-year run as the
Rangers’ AAA affiliate came to an end last night.  (More on that in Scott Lucas’s report later
today.)  Doug Mathis is on the 40-man
roster, too, but he started last night’s playoff loss to Memphis.

 

Chris Davis is heavily rumored to be on his way back to
Arlington as well.  He pitched a bit at
Navarro College, you know.

 

But really, only Strop and Oliver and Feldman and O’Day are probably
in need of a night off. 

 

If the audio file attachment of Eric Nadel’s walkoff call
didn’t work for you last night, you can click the “Media/Audio” link on the
Newberg Report website and listen to it – and also to Cruz’s extra-inning, walkoff
blast against Boston on August 13 and a couple other things. 

 

You can also click this
link
for a TV spot that my voice did on SportsNet New York yesterday, helping
host Ted Berg preview this series.

 

The Rangers probably won’t catch Minnesota for home field,
and the A’s probably won’t catch Texas for a post-season berth, but one thing
that got lost a bit in last night’s awesome awesomeness was that, with New York
losing and Tampa Bay winning its own game in the ninth, the Rays have pulled to
within a game and a half of the Yankees as those two clubs battle for home
field and Wild Card, with the loser in that race likely hosting Texas when the
playoffs get underway. 

 

Hunter’s job tonight is to eat innings.  His teammates’ job is to continue punishing
A.J. Burnett, whose ERA is 8.10 in his last four starts. 

 

Six Rangers have homered off of Burnett, though that
includes Josh Hamilton, who’s out indefinitely but was right in the middle of
the home plate scrum last night, awaiting Cruz, whose three-run bomb off
Burnett on June 2 last year was all that Texas could muster in what was a 12-3
loss to the Yankees.

 

Burnett may not end up in New York’s playoff rotation, and
tomorrow’s starter Dustin Moseley won’t either, and as we’ve discussed this
series in many ways shouldn’t really be thought of as a playoff preview. 

 

But there’s a playoff atmosphere in Arlington this weekend,
and if the Yankees can hold off the Rays over these next three weeks – and maybe
even if they can’t – tonight and tomorrow won’t be the last time these two
teams tee it up in Texas this year. 

 

One thing that last night reinforced: I’m not going to sit
here and predict we might have a new Senor Octubre, but Nelson Cruz sure likes
bringing the Boomstick out when the moment is big.

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

Yes.  I screwed up this morning and wrote that the
loser of the battle between the Yankees and Rays for the AL East crown will
host Texas in Game One of round one of the playoffs.  That’s 100 percent wrong.  The winner of that race hosts Texas, and the
loser goes to Minnesota.  (There’s still
a small chance that the loser will travel to Texas, if the Rangers manage to catch
the Twins in win-loss record, but there’s no chance that the Wild Card would
host Texas.)

 

Sorry for the
mistake.  I was probably still
intoxicated by my outstanding Cecilio Guante reference.


 

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

 

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

Stuff.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}


 

Colby’s last nine starts

Stuck on nine wins all that
time

9-9-10: Win ten

 

Texas didn’t blow Toronto out, but as Lewis spearheaded the split
of the four-game series, the final time that the Jays had so much as the tying
run at the plate in the 4-2 Rangers victory was with one out in the fifth, when
Fred Lewis singled after a John Buck strikeout and was left stranded there as the
Rangers righthander fanned both Travis Snider and Dewayne Wise to close out the
frame.

 

So Texas is now 77-63, sitting 7.5 games up on Oakland,
which was idle Thursday and kicks off a three-game set against Boston tonight. 

 

Last year after 140 games, the Rangers were 79-61 – but 5.5
games behind the Angels (and three behind Boston for the Wild Card spot).  They were post-season longshots in the second
week of September, even though they were within a game of a 92-win pace, something
Nolan Ryan projected for the 2010 version, whose magic number is now 16 in
spite of what’s now just an 89-win pace.

 

And we know that last year’s club didn’t come close to that
win total, running out of gas over the final three weeks (8-14) to finish with
what was, in the end, a disappointing 87-75 record.

 

It would take that sort of collapse, and a 16-7 finish by the
A’s, for the two clubs to finish with a 162-game tie atop the division. 

 

Not happening.

 

But thank goodness the rest of the AL West has been crummy
this season.

 

How about seven wins in these next 11 (three games against
the Yankees and two against the Tigers at home, followed by three in Seattle
and three in Los Angeles) before Texas visits the A’s for four?  Starting tonight, when C.J. Wilson faces
Javier Vazquez, against whom the game plan should be clear.  Vazquez has averaged 19 pitches per inning
the last month, a span in which his ERA is 6.53 and opponents’ OPS is
.929.  Texas needs to work counts and get
to the weak part of the New York pen early.

 

It’s true that Wilson’s last effort, Sunday in Minnesota, was
one of his two worst all year, but it came after four straight quality starts,
and he’s been decent in two starts against New York this year (3.97 ERA), while
the Rangers spanked Vazquez in their one 2010 matchup (six runs on eight hits
and two walks in 4.1 innings).

 

Elvis Andrus is expected to return to the lineup tonight.

 

The best part of Vladimir
Guerrero’s box score
last night: 3 for 4 with two runs scored.  That .301/.345/.500 on the right side is a
whole bunch of simple slashy goodness, too. 
But tucked toward the middle, in a game in which Rangers hitters saw a not-so-great
3.49 pitches per plate appearance, is the eight that Guerrero forced Toronto
pitchers to throw him in four trips, including just five Shawn Hill pitches in
his first three at-bats.  The only player
in baseball who sees fewer pitches per plate appearances than Guerrero’s 3.17
is the awful Yuniesky Betancourt (3.13).

 

Of course, when you’re 4 for 5 lifetime against Shawn Hill, which
Guerrero happens to be, sporting a batting average that no other big league
hitter can match against the 29-year-old, plate patience is probably an
unnecessary bone to pick (one that shows up lower on the list than Guerrero’s
baffling insistence on continuing to run wild on the bases).

 

Guerrero against Toronto this season: .541/.564/.784 in 37
at-bats.  Don’t be fooled by the edge his
on-base percentage has on his batting average. 
Guerrero didn’t work a walk against the Jays in 2010 – but he was
drilled twice.

 

Darren O’Day has allowed four home runs this year.  All came in his four appearances in Toronto’s
Rogers Centre.  Jose Bautista hit two of
them, and Vernon Wells and Jose Molina chipped in with one apiece.

 

Mitch Moreland’s .817 OPS is fourth highest on the Rangers, behind
only Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Guerrero. 

 

(Yes, Chris Davis was pretty good his first summer, too, clocking
in at .880.  I’m not saying it’s time to
offer Moreland an eight-year contract.  But he’s had a very good rookie summer.)

 

There was a story written this week suggesting that Esteban
German won’t be eligible for the playoff roster since he wasn’t brought up until
after August 31.  Simply not true.  He’s eligible, as a replacement, for
instance, for Craig Gentry, who sits on the disabled list.

 

Hope you were able to catch Thad Levine’s hour-long Q&A at
the Sherlock’s game-watching party on Wednesday night, whether in person or by
tuning into Ted Price’s live stream over the Web, but if you didn’t, Ted should
have the video uploaded soon.  Lots of
good stuff.  I’ll give you a heads-up
when it’s available.

 

I’d very much like to see left-on-left specialist Clay Rapada
(10 batters faced, zero hits, one walk, three strikeouts, very little good contact)
with this club when camp reopens in February. 
He fits. 

 

Hope you’ve been following Scott Lucas’s coverage of the
minor league playoffs.  A Rangers franchise-record
six farm clubs out of seven reached the post-season.  Win-loss records are never the priority as
far as player development is concerned, but there is a certain value placed on
prospects learning how to win, and given that this is a system that regularly pushes
its players aggressively, making many of its clubs among the youngest in their
leagues, and that has seen an extraordinary number of productive players traded
away during the season, this has been a remarkable year on the farm.

 

Wait until you see in Scott’s report today what Martin Perez
did for Frisco last night.

 

Although nothing’s official yet, the Austin
American-Statesman
speculates that the Rangers’ expected AAA move from
Oklahoma City to Round Rock won’t result in the Astros assuming the RedHawks
franchise.  Instead, Houston is expected
to take over the Nashville Sounds in place of Milwaukee, which would in turn
move into Oklahoma City.

 

As Scott has detailed, Spokane outfielder Jared Hoying, the Rangers’
10th-round pick this summer out of the University of Toledo, was
named the Northwest League MVP, on the strength of his .325/.378/.543
slash.  The left-handed hitter added 20
stolen bases in 62 games.  Spokane
manager Tim Hulett is the league’s Manager of the Year for the second time in
three years.

 

The Rangers’ Arizona Fall League (Surprise Rafters) contingent
will include righthanders Adalberto Flores, Danny Gutierrez, and Eric Hurley, lefthander
Tim Murphy, catcher Jose Felix, infielder Davis Stoneburner, and outfielders Engel
Beltre and Joey Butler.  Hickory pitching
coach Brad Holman will serve in that role same capacity for the Rafters.  The AFL begins play on October 12.

 

Boston claimed Matt Fox off waivers, after Minnesota designated
the righthander for assignment following his standout big league debut against Texas
a week ago.

 

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has three hits in 10 Boston at-bats -
and they’re all doubles.  He also has
four walks, and no strikeouts.  He’s
caught one of four runners attempting to steal.

 

The Rangers’ highest unsigned pick in 2006, lefthander Kevin
Angelle, was traded by the Wichita Wingnuts of the independent American
Association to the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League. 

 

Playoff preview in Arlington this weekend?  Texas and New York aren’t at full strength,
but since we’re less than a month from playoff baseball, the undercurrent will
be there, with three near-sellouts in store. 
Make no mistake: this series is sort of a big deal.

 

 

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

 

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

 

What it takes.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

When I was 20 years
younger, after a bad exam or a frustrating Cowboys loss or an awful stretch of
Rangers baseball I would grab my keys and head to the batting cages, hitting
fastballs until I’d raised a couple blisters. 

 

These days it’s easier, just as therapeutic, more
productive, and less self-flaggellating to go read with my kids.

 

Pick your catharsis. 
Grab a carton of Blue Bell.  Pop
in Season 5 of “The Shield.”  Blog, with
the iPod set to random shuffle. 

 

Get your mind off of this, because it’s not good for you.

 

Then get your head right with ball again, and make plans to
be at Sherlock’s on Park Lane at Central Expressway on Wednesday. 

 

Yes, because you can ask Assistant GM Thad Levine questions
from 5:00 until the 6:00 first pitch (and maybe get some one-on-one time after
that, too), but that’s not the key reason.

 

Yeah, Rangers-Jays will be on every TV set for us all to
watch together, and the event is free. 
But that’s not what I’m getting at.

 

We’ll raffle off two tickets behind the plate to this
Sunday’s Rangers-Yankees game and three separate pairs of  Lexus Club Level tickets to the September 27
Rangers-Mariners game.  Still not why I
bring this up.

 

Here’s why:

 

May 19, 2010: Newberg
Report/Fox Sports Southwest live in-game chat –
Texas 4, Baltimore 3

 

June 2, 2010: Newberg
Report/Fox Sports Southwest live in-game chat –
Texas 9, Chicago 5

 

June 30, 2010: Newberg
Report/Fox Sports Southwest live in-game chat –
Texas 6, Los Angeles 4

 

July 25, 2010: Newberg Report
Night at the Ballpark –
Texas
6, Los Angeles 4

 

August 4, 2010: Newberg
Report/Fox Sports Southwest live in-game chat –
Texas 11, Seattle 6

 

August 30, 2010: Newberg Report
Game-Watching Party v.1 –
Texas
3, Kansas City 0

 

There was a walkoff win in that mix, a Rich Harden start, a
Scott Feldman start (and a separate Feldman vulture win), an Omar Beltre start,
a Rangers victory (a shutout, no less) in the last 10 days.  Plenty of games that didn’t look good on
paper, but when we’ve had an event of any sort this season, we’re 6-0.

 

It seems like there’s no game these days that looks good on
paper, but we’re getting the band back together Wednesday night, and maybe
that’s enough.  Call it a playoff
beard.  Hopping the baseline.  Not talking to the pitcher putting up
zeroes. 

 

This man asks you: “Are you willing to do what it takes to
win?”

valle.jpg

 

 Please make it out to Sherlock’s on Wednesday.  A pennant race may be depending on you.

Hydroplane.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

The American League
West got off to a decent start this season. 
As the schedule approached mid-June, three of four teams were over .500.

 

But imagine if the standings
looked like this in the middle of that month:

 

Tm       W        L          W-L%             GB     

OAK   34        29
       .540                         

TEX    31        34
       .477                 4.0      

LAA    25        38
       .397                 9.0      

SEA    24        42
       .364                 11.5    

 

Pretty ugly.

 

That’s what has happened in this division since June 24 (when
the Rangers’ 11-game win streak came to an end).

 

Among the things I tweeted as yesterday’s third inning was
falling apart:

 

Right
now it’s hard to put a finger on how this team was able to do what it did in
June.  But thank goodness it did it.

 

Texas went 21-6 in June, a historically dominant month for
this franchise.  The rest of the season:
two games under .500.

 

There’s rain in the forecast here tomorrow, but not under
the roof in Toronto, when the Rangers, after sending Scott Feldman out tonight
against Shawn Marcum in a recurrence of the two clubs’ Opening Day matchup, will
give the ball tomorrow to Derek Holland, who will face “To Be Determined” for
the second straight time out. 

 

The last one didn’t work out so well, when Holland was
decent enough but Minnesota emergency starter Matt Fox shut the Rangers down
before getting designated for assignment afterwards.  Early word is that Jays lefthander Marc
Rzepcynski could go on short rest, after lasting just four innings Saturday against
the Yankees (five runs on six hits and three walks and a hit batsman, 74
pitches overall).

 

On paper tomorrow’s game looks like a better bet than
tonight’s, as Feldman returns from the disabled list and Marcum comes in on a
streak of four straight quality starts (1-1, 1.93) against Oakland, Boston,
Detroit, and Tampa Bay.  The same Shawn
Marcum who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against Texas on Opening
Day, only to see the Rangers bust open for five runs late to walk off with the
first improbable win of the season. 

 

When we gather tomorrow at Sherlock’s/Dallas for our second game-watching
party in a week and half, we’ll raffle off three separate pairs of Lexus Club
Level tickets to the September 27 game against Seattle.  The significance of that one is that it’s the
Rangers’ first home game after a 10-day trip to Seattle, Los Angeles, and
Oakland – which means either that Texas will have clinched a playoff berth by
then (making it the home crowd’s first chance to celebrate that in 11 years),
or that the game will be huge, with seven regular season games to go.

 

We’ll have three winners (two tickets each).  Raffle tickets will be $10 apiece at the door,
with 100 percent going to the Rangers Foundation.  We’ll conduct the raffle at the end of the
Thad Levine Q&A, which gets going at 5:00 p.m. and will be emceed by ESPN
Radio’s Ben Rogers and his close, personal homeboy Jeff “Skin” Wade.

 

Details for the party:

 

WHO: Thad Levine, Rangers Assistant GM;
Q&A emceed by Ben & Skin

WHAT: Q&A session followed by Rangers-Blue
Jays on every TV

WHERE: Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub (9100
N. Central Expressway, northeast corner of 75 and Park Lane)

WHEN: Wednesday, September 8, 2010;
Q&A begins at 5:00 p.m., game time is 6:00 p.m.

COST: Admission is free ($10 raffle
tickets available to win tickets to TEX-SEA on Sept. 27)

 

If you’re coming tomorrow night and want to lend a hand with
a couple things, let me know. 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Peaks, valleys.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

From the August 13, 2006 Newberg Report, about something
that happened 10 years before that:

 

 

On Friday I went to the Alumni Legacy Luncheon, honoring
the 1996 playoff team, and I wish the room held 50,000 rather than 500.  Table
number 33 was near the back of the room, but I’m certain we had the best seats
in the house, because eight of us had a full hour and half with Dave
Valle.  I asked him if the story Rusty Greer told on the Ticket a couple
weeks ago was true — the story about Valle calling a team meeting on August 9,
1996, telling Johnny Oates that he and his staff were not excused from the
meeting, and neither were the trainers or the equipment guys or the bullpen
catcher.

 

Coming off two losses in Detroit, which cut the Rangers’
division lead over Seattle to two games, Valle told teammate Dennis Cook on the
plane to Toronto that he felt like he needed to say something to the team but
wasn’t sure it was his place.  “Cookie” told Valle, at the time a 12-year
big league veteran with all of 62 at-bats in four months as Pudge’s backup,
that he’d earned the right to speak up.

 

Valle got in the face of every man in that clubhouse, the
players and the trainers and the equipment guys and the bullpen catcher — and
the manager — and challenged each of them: “Are you willing to do what it takes
to win?”

 

Picture a second lieutenant lining up the troops, side by
side, barking the same question, the same command, at each of them. 
Starting with the Senior General.  “Are you willing to do what it takes to
win?”

 

Johnny Oates, who had just granted Valle permission to
hold the meeting and asked when the coaches should vacate the room, only to be
told by Valle that
nobody was excused from the room, responded to his
backup catcher: “Yes, sir.”

 

The Rangers reeled off seven straight wins.  The
division lead was extended to seven games, a season high (and without checking,
probably a franchise high for the 25-year-old club).

 

Valle talked about the lead that subsequently almost
disappeared, a nine-game cushion on September 11 that shrunk to one game on
September 20 when Garret Anderson hit that two-run double that I’ll never
forget, that shot to left-center that turned a win into a loss in five
seconds.  Mark McLemore had given Texas
a 5-4 lead in the top of the 10th.  Mike Stanton
got Jim Edmonds
and Tim Salmon out to start the bottom of the inning, but then gave up singles
to George Arias and Rex Hudler.  And then Anderson almost cost me my life.

 

Valle said he was the most shocked person in the
clubhouse when he saw his name in the starting nine the next day.  Oates
was notorious for his etched-in-granite lineups.  Valle, as he put it
himself, was like a backup quarterback, “getting to play every third
Sunday.”  But with eight games to go and the team reeling, seemingly about
to squander its chance at a first-ever playoff berth in cataclysmic fashion,
Oates sat Pudge and put Valle in the lineup to catch John Burkett.

 

Valle homered to left off Jim Abbott in the seventh,
highlighting a 2 for 4 night and a 7-1 Rangers win.  It was the last of
Valle’s 77 lifetime home runs.  And, in his words, maybe the biggest.

 

Texas would finish the year with six wins in those final
eight games, and an invitation to the American League playoffs.  The
clincher came on September 27, a surreal 15-inning loss to the Angels that was
dissected by a simple flip of the out-of-town scoreboard, late in the game,
from “9″ to “F,” next to “SEA 1″ that stood above “OAK 8.”  The Mariners
were done, and the Rangers played on, losing the game that wouldn’t end and
then hugging each other on the field as fireworks went off forever and we all
heard Holtzie’s voice over the P.A. system, narrating the moment and failing to
disguise that he was as overcome as any of us.  I was in the stands until
2 a.m. that night.

 

Dave Valle said the best moment of his baseball career
was when his boys were doused in champagne on September 27, 1996 (well,
September 28), during a clubhouse celebration that didn’t end until 5
a.m. 

 

*         
*          *

 

I don’t know what’s going to happen the next seven weeks,
and neither do you and neither does Michael or Mark or Aki, or Buck or
JD. 

 

I can see Valle’s finger in my face, asking if I’m
willing to do what it takes to win. 

 

I am.  See you at the yard.

 

 

I’ve always hated the last two paragraphs of that report,
because even on my own cheesiness scale it stands out as pathetic. 

 

But every season, every decent season at least, there’s a
moment when that Valle story is one I can’t get out of my head, and right now it’s
there, and I need to go get something to eat to stop thinking about the last 30
minutes, and the last 10 games.

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Hamstrung.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

In a season full of you-gotta-be-kidding-me,
Ron Washington apparently pulled a hamstring muscle during this afternoon’s Twins
Old Timers’ Game in Target Field.  He
took himself out of the game defensively, though he did proceed to take his
second at-bat after that (singling off Jack Morris after singling earlier off
Bert Blyleven), exiting for a pinch-runner . . . and then reentered the game
again, settling in defensively at second base after playing earlier in center
field.

 

When Eric Nadel
recorded his daily pregame spot with Washington, which aired seconds ago but
was taped before the Old Timers’ Game got underway, he finished the interview
by saying: “Wash, take care of those hamstrings.”  Funny. 
Almost.

 

Not as amusing is
word from Minneapolis that Josh Hamilton could miss a week, more or less, due
to the bruised ribcage he suffered in yesterday’s collision with the center field
wall, an injury he said this morning makes him “feel like [he's] been in a car
wreck.”

 

Or reports that
Elvis Andrus will miss two or three games with his own hamstring tightness.  Cristian Guzman, not Andres Blanco (or Alex
Cora), will get the start at shortstop against his former teammates this
afternoon (after looking in his first stint with Texas last month like his own
invitation to the Twins Old Timers’ Game may not be far off).  Guzman will also lead off.

 

C.J. Wilson is 11-4,
2.98 in 18 starts following a Rangers loss this season.  In his last 12 such starts, Texas has won 11
times (including seven straight).

 

That righty Matt
Fox, who virtually shut the Rangers offense down Friday night in his big league
debut, permitting two runs over 5.2 innings? 
Minnesota designated him for assignment this morning, according to Joe
Christensen of the Minneapolis
Star-Tribune
, to make room for pinch-runner and defensive sub Ben Revere.

 

Speaking of pinch-runners,
Oklahoma City clinched a playoff berth last night (with Albuquerque’s
loss).  Free Willy Taveras.

 

For what it’s worth,
the RedHawks game notes no longer list Scott Feldman as today’s scheduled
starter, instead denoting “TBA” for the afternoon assignment.  Whether that’s because Texas is holding
Feldman back in case he’s pegged to make Cliff Lee’s Tuesday start (Lee was reportedly
scratched from that start this morning, once and for all), or for some other
reason, it might be interesting to see who takes the ball when that game begins
at 4:05. 

 

Mark Prior is
supposed to make his Oklahoma City debut in relief at some point in that game.

 

Among the baseball
things I’m most grateful for: That Oakland traded Carlos Gonzalez (and Huston
Street and Greg Smith) to Colorado for Matt Holliday two years ago.  Oakland’s 2007 trade of Dan Haren and Connor
Robertson to Arizona for Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Chris Carter, Aaron
Cunningham, Dana Eveland, and Smith was that club’s Teixeira trade, but moving CarGo
a year later – who at age 24 is an MVP candidate – did the American League a
huge favor.

 

According to Patrick
Newman of NPB Tracker, the Rangers, Mets, and Rays were among the teams who
were on hand to scout 24-year-old Japanese righthander Yu Darvish
yesterday. 

 

We’ll have some more
news on this Wednesday evening’s Game-Watching Party and Thad Levine Q&A
before long.

 

 

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

 

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

 

Concern does not equal panic.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

 

The team that lost
four at home to the team with the worst record in Major League Baseball in July
and yet bounced back after the All-Star Break to win five of seven in Boston
and Detroit is now 0-11 in Minnesota, New York, and Tampa Bay in 2010, with one
more shot at avoiding a winless season in those three teams’ ballparks tomorrow
(C.J. Wilson against Nick Blackburn) before they play again in one of those
buildings a month from now, when the stakes are higher. 

 

Hope they’ve got
another, bigger bounceback in them.  And I
don’t mean Sunday afternoon.

 

But as for tomorrow’s
effort to salvage something in this series, they’ll evidently go to battle without
Josh Hamilton, though precautionary postgame X-rays on his ribs have apparently
come back negative.  And probably without
Elvis Andrus, who exited the game in the fourth inning with tightness in his
right hamstring. 

 

I understand that
Oklahoma City, which lost today to Omaha, 2-0, still needs to win tomorrow or
Monday to secure its playoff berth, and I understand the mindset between giving
the RedHawks a chance to see things through, but if it’s all the same, I’d like
to see runner Willy Taveras (who’s only been with OKC for three weeks anyway) waiting
for the big league team in Toronto before Monday’s four-game series gets
rolling. 

 

If the 40-man roster
is the issue, there’s really no need for both Alex Cora and Cristian Guzman to
be here now that Andres Blanco is back on the bench.  One of them is fine.  A player who does what Taveras can do stands a
far greater chance to help Texas win a game these final four weeks (and possibly
in October) than Cora or Guzman, and while I see the benefit of having one of
them around, having both around at the expense of a real pinch-runner doesn’t add
up.

 

Injuries, if minor ones, to Hamilton and Andrus and Cliff
Lee and Frankie Francisco.  Colby Lewis in
a bit of a rut these last couple starts. 
Julio Borbon’s inexperience showing up in the outfield and on the
bases.  All of these things can be easily
forgotten in a few weeks, but at the moment there’s a bunch of sputtering going
on, and while the division doesn’t seem to be at risk, the importance of finding
some momentum as a club seems to be a little further out of reach right now, as
I allow myself to knee-jerk just a bit.

 

Concern is not the same thing as panic.

 

 

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

 

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

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers