February 2011

Party.

Join us tonight from 6:00 until 8:30 or 9:00 at Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub (9100 N. Central Expressway, at the northeast corner of Central and Park Lane) for the off-season’s second Newberg Report Book Release Party.  Come early if you’d like and get something to eat and drink.  Admission is free.
We’ll start things off with fan Q&A with Rangers Managing Partner/CEO Chuck Greenberg, new TV play-by-play man John Rhadigan, and Senior Special Assistant to the GM Don Welke, moderated by emcees Ben Rogers & Skin Wade of ESPN 103.3 FM.  
At 7:00 we’ll break for a live auction, conducted by Luther Davis of Davis Auctioneers, to raise money for the Rangers Foundation.  The list of items includes the following (and may continue to grow):
? “It’s Time” banner that hung on the streets during the playoffs, donated by the Rangers Foundation
? Bat signed by Ian Kinsler, donated by the Rangers Foundation
? Limited edition 16 x 20 print of Nolan Ryan by artist Pat Payton, signed by Nolan Ryan, Chuck Greenberg, Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, CJ Wilson, Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, and Jackie Moore, donated by Walt Garrison Foods
? Frameable 20 x 30 photo of Josh Hamilton leaping to rob a HR, taken and donated by Rangers team photographer Brad Newton
? Frameable 20 x 30 photo of Chris Davis leaping at plate after walkoff home run, taken and donated by Brad and signed by Chris  
? Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Neftali Feliz jumping into Bengie Molina’s arms after the ALCS-ending strikeout of Alex Rodriguez, taken and donated by Brad 
? Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Mitch Moreland’s home run swing in Game 3 of the World Series, with an inset shot of Moreland rounding the bases, taken and donated by Brad 
? Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Elvis Andrus in a posed leap-throw, taken and donated by Brad 
? Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Pudge Rodriguez with mask off, pouncing on a bunt, taken and donated by Brad 
? Fan Fest Official Pass signed by Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry
? Fan Fest Official Pass signed by CJ Wilson
? Nolan Ryan signed baseball, donated by the Rangers Foundation 
? Tanner Scheppers signed baseball, donated by Allen Cordrey
? Cliff Lee signed baseball, donated by Allen Cordrey
? 2011 Bound Edition signed by Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, Tanner Scheppers, Joe Wieland, and Matt Thompson
Every dollar raised during the auction will go to the Rangers Foundation to help support area kids in need.  Cash or checks only, please.
Once the auction ends, we’ll jump right back into more Q&A with Chuck, John, and Don.
We’ll also have copies of the 2011 Bound Edition and the brand new Newberg Report T-shirts on sale – but unlike the December event, you don’t need to buy a book to attend.  
See you tonight.

Fracture.

“I hate seeing Mom & Dad fight” is how a friend put it yesterday.  
It’s bordering on war now, and not only that, but it’s being waged through the media, which is completely out of the ordinary for both sides.  As the curtain was pulled back yesterday, it became fairly clear that the Rangers and Michael Young disagree not only on what his role should be, but also on how things have played out this winter to get us to this point.
But like the Mom & Dad thing, the versions and explanations aren’t as important as the fracture itself.  You can’t convince me that this isn’t true:  The ultimate objective for both sides is to win here, in Texas, and both believe with total conviction that they know the right way, in their role, to go about getting that done.  But they have different ideas on what that right way is, and it’s become personal.  Publicly personal.  
No matter where you fall on this situation, no matter where anyone falls on it, it’s really too bad it’s come to this.  Nobody’s going to be thrilled with the outcome.
So the speculation, replaced not by resolution but instead by ringside seats, moves away from “Is there really something going on here?” and toward the Rockies, Angels, Dodgers, Padres, Twins, Yankees, Cardinals, and Astros, and maybe one of the other 21 teams “on a case-by-case basis” (some of whom have already approached Texas), and toward what’s likely an eight-figure sum that might be as much of a moving target as the names of infielders, relief pitchers, and prospects who could be involved in a deal, if that’s where all of this leads.  
But maybe the outcome is that both sides ultimately decide that the best solution is to find a way to repair relationships, to reconcile differences, at least to a workable scale, and keep at least this part of the Texas Rangers’ World Series roster intact.  Neither side would rule out the possibility yesterday of getting past this (if you consider “I don’t know” as a glimmer of hope on one of the two sides).
Whatever makes this team better.  That’s the next development in this story I want to hear about.
I didn’t think I’d be craving next week’s scrape of cleats and leather pop as a refuge, but here we are, seeking asylum in the reporting of pitchers and catchers, and then position players, maybe with one position player in particular and maybe not, while in the meantime my head hurts trying to make sense of the divergent paths of good intentions.

Party.

We’re now within single-digit sleeps of Pitchers & Catchers, and in the last few days the wait has gotten a lot more interesting, with the media standing vigil on more than just the departure of the equipment trucks for Surprise, Arizona.  
Regardless of what develops over the next few days, Thursday night should be pretty energetic.  Our second Newberg Report book release party of the winter will be at Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub in Dallas (9100 N. Central Expressway, at the northeast corner of Central and Park Lane), three nights from now, February 10, starting at 6:00 p.m. and going until 8:30 or 9:00.   
Rangers Managing Partner/CEO Chuck Greenberg and new TV play-by-play man John Rhadigan will join us for a couple hours of Q&A (your questions), and I’m expecting to have someone from the Rangers’ Baseball Operations crew as well.  We’ll also conduct a live charity auction of some unique Rangers memorabilia, which I’ll detail before that night.  Ben Rogers & Skin Wade, from the ESPN 103.3 FM morning show, will emcee the evening, and Luther Davis of Davis Auctioneers will preside over the auction.
Proceeds from the auction will go to the Rangers Foundation to help support area kids in need.
I’ll also have copies of the 2011 Bound Edition on sale – as well as the brand new Newberg Report T-shirts – but unlike the December event, you don’t need to buy a book to attend.  
Hope to see you Thursday night – though I’m guessing we’ll be talking before then . . . .

The Rockies. And Michael Young. Again.

My kids call this the greatest weather they’ve ever seen, while others insist it’s the worst winter weather to ever hit North Texas.  The fact that the ice is starting to thaw today means different things to different people.  And against that backdrop, I gather the following from the last 12 or 15 hours:
? Troy E. Renck (Denver Post) reports that while the Rangers haven’t spoken to the Rockies regarding Michael Young since the Winter Meetings, Colorado’s “desire for the player is clear,” and the Rockies are “ready if [the] Rangers want to talk.”  The key impediment to any deal, should Texas revive talks, would apparently be that the Rangers “would have to eat a huge chunk of money, which they are currently not interested in doing.”  Renck suggested via Twitter that Texas would have to agree to subsidize the remaining $48 million of Young’s contract with at least $18-20 million — though the amount of cash would surely be dependent in part on what player(s) Colorado would put into the deal.  Renck believes that infielder Jose Lopez would go to Texas in the trade — and possibly released by Texas before the season started — but that the Rockies are unwilling to include righthander Aaron Cook (though “that’s subject to change”).  Hard-throwing 25-year-old righthander Esmil Rogers has been mentioned, too.
? A Renck tweet this morning: “Here’s why think Young deal will happen w Rox or someone else.  There’s motivation from a lot of parties.  That’s when trades get done.”
? Renck put some stock in a tweet by Jon Heyman (Sports Illustrated) that suggested Vladimir Guerrero’s deal with Baltimore could solidify Young’s role as the Texas DH, making Mike Napoli a backup catcher.  But the Rangers didn’t just trade Frankie Francisco for someone to compete with Matt Treanor for number two catcher duties.
? Then Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) got in on the fun this morning, reporting that Texas is in fact talking to the Rockies (and only the Rockies) about Young, and that, “according to one source, the talks have reached an advanced stage, and a deal could be in place as soon as Monday.”  Rosenthal does note, however, according to other sources, that the Rockies “are confused by the Rangers’ ‘mixed messages.'”
So do you know where I stand on all of this?
Because I don’t.
I’m not going to speculate on what would happen in the clubhouse if Young is traded — or, hell, if he isn’t — until something goes down, or until it looks reasonably certain that nothing will.  
You all know my stance on the leadership thing.  Many of you put a lot less stock in it than I do.  (Some of you, on the other hand, make an even bigger deal of it than I do.)  As I spent far too much time getting into on Twitter in the wee hours last night, I don’t consider it the most important aspect of any team (far from it), but it is a factor, in my opinion, especially over 162, and triple-especially on a team that expects to contend.
And for me, Michael Young’s greatest asset, at this stage of his career, is his leadership.  That’s not to say he’s no longer a contributor between the lines.  It’s to say he means a lot to this team in terms of the edge it plays with, its resiliency, its even keel, its refusal to back down.  And there are new issues created now that it’s a team that’s won a pennant.  
Does that make him indispensable?
Nope.  No player is.  
But while one way to respond to failing to land an ace is to make your pitching better by adding defense, the only acceptable way to address a subtraction in leadership is to have a new leader step forward.  I’m not going to take the time to get into the specifics of that issue here, and now, but it concerns me.  If Young is traded, particularly in what will appear to his teammates to be a salary dump, what player is going to step up and see to it that his teammates don’t go to Surprise perpetuating, embracing, rallying around some form of disconnect?
Young would be that guy, were he not the subtraction.
Again, this is always about team for me.  Not about any one player.  
My allegiance to Young is no secret, but it has nothing to do with the fact that he’s played catch with my kid.  Young’s character, and the important times it has revealed itself, after losing streaks and after big wins with big games to play the next day and after confessions by the manager and after a shelling of Tommy Hunter early in the game and after moments and incidents none of us will ever know about, are part of the reason I’m a Michael Young guy and, more importantly for the purposes of what I’m trying to say here, part of the reason that I think Texas played in the World Series in 2010 and can be counted on to be in the mix to return for a foreseeable number of baseball seasons.
OK, but at this point, if Young wants out and isn’t traded, couldn’t that be a problem in the room in its own right?  Can’t rule that out.
I don’t know what I hope happens here.  It feels sort of like there’s no truly positive outcome at this point.  Which leaves me simply hoping for resolution to replace speculation.
But to revert to a point I tried to make a few paragraphs up, my allegiance in any of these debates is more to the team than to any one player (or any one executive).  If it makes the Texas Rangers better, that’s where you’ll find my vote.
And as this icy mess seems like it’s about to thaw, that’s what I suppose I’ll ask myself if and when the Rangers trade Young: Whether it made the team better.
And I don’t mean at DH and backup infielder.

Curses.

pettitte.jpg
Andy Pettitte now has time for snowball fights.
One of the Rangers’ finest draft picks of the last generation came in Round 10 of the 1990 draft, when they found outfielder Thurman Clyde “Rusty” Greer at the University of Montevallo in Alabama, on the recommendation of accomplished area scout Rudy Terrasas and crosschecker Doug Gassaway.  
Texas went back to Alabama in Round 18 (University of North Alabama righthander Rodney Busha, recommended by Terrasas and prolific area scout Randy Taylor) and Round 23 (University of South Alabama outfielder Keith Murray, recommended by Gassaway and national crosschecker Bryan Lambe), but Busha and Murray lasted only two years before their careers ended, only a couple decades (at least) short of another Alabama draftee that the Rangers passed over, Calhoun State Community College shortstop Jorge Posada, whom the Yankees took in Round 24 as a draft-and-follow and started experimenting with behind the plate the following summer.
The Rangers ventured into their home state only once in the first half of that year’s draft, taking Schreiner College outfielder David Hulse (Taylor and Gassaway) in Round 13, ignoring Deer Park High School lefthander Andy Pettitte with the rest of the league until the Yankees took a draft-and-follow flier on the southpaw in Round 22 (minutes after Texas popped Waldorf Junior College righthander Jarod Juelsgaard), signing Pettitte 11 months later after he spent one season pitching at San Jacinto Junior College.
Pettitte faced the Rangers in the 1996, 1998, and 1999 playoffs (2-0, 2.61), beating Rick Helling in nearly identical 3-1, Game Two wins in Yankee Stadium in 1998 and 1999, caught in each case by Joe Girardi rather than Posada, who did make appearances in both of those series.  
In those three Texas-New York playoff series, nobody other than Pettitte recorded more than one of the Yankees’ nine wins.
The Rangers and Yankees both had their draft hits in Alabama in 1990, but New York — as was the case more than once in those days — did a better job amateur scouting in Texas than the Rangers did that year.
By the end of that 1999 series, when for the second straight year the Rangers scored only one run in three playoff games, whether the Yankees gave a second thought to the Rangers or not, it felt here like New York had a spell on Texas, a curse that we were reminded of every time the Rangers managed to get back to the post-season and were fed right back to the same team, the one that had traded David Wells, Graeme Lloyd, and Homer Bush for Roger Clemens just before that 1999 season, when Texas was sure it had its own deal with Toronto (Esteban Loaiza, Ruben Mateo, and Jonathan Johnson).  
After that 1999 season, Texas signed Alex Rodriguez, and we all know what happened over the next three awful years, before A-Rod engineered his way to New York — and to add injury to insult, when the trade was made in February 2004, the Rangers had a choice of five minor leaguers to take in addition to Alfonso Soriano, and they settled on Joaquin Arias, rather than Robinson Cano.
The Yankees then went 25-10 against Texas from 2004 through 2007.
The Rangers started to ease their way out of the Yankees’ steamroller path after that, going 12-12 against them in 2008 through 2010, but the real turn of the tide came after one of the 2010 season’s deepest lows, a disgusting April 16-18 weekend series in New York in which the Rangers were disposed of easily in three straight.  
In July, the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee when the “livid” Yankees thought they had a deal with the “double-dealing” Mariners for the ace lefthander.  
On September 10-12, the first-place Rangers took three straight from the first-place Yankees in Arlington, the first Texas sweep of New York since April 1996, months before that ALDS loss that, on one hand, capped the greatest Rangers season ever, but on the other, launched a franchise nightmare.
Texas wrapped up the September 2010 sweep with a 4-1 comeback win, with eight strong from Lee (one run on two hits) and a three-strikeout ninth from Neftali Feliz.
Five weeks later, Lee faced Pettitte in New York, again going eight, again yielding only two hits, again giving way to Feliz for the final three outs, only this time it was to give the Rangers their first playoff series lead since John Burkett outpitched David Cone in Game One in 1996.  Lee’s masterpiece (13 strikeouts, one walk, improving his post-season record with Texas to 3-0, 0.75) led to lots of frameworthy columns out of New York and lots of photos of Lee that we’ll still be seeing decades from now. 
Four days after that Game Three, 8-0 Rangers win, Texas put New York away, as Feliz froze A-Rod with a slider that sent Texas to the World Series and the Yankees back home.  
Mark Prior and Rougned Odor and Warner Madrigal and Erold Andrus notwithstanding, there was one Rangers-Yankees turf war left to play out over the winter (unless the fact that Pettitte called Nolan Ryan to wish the Rangers luck against San Francisco gets you more worked up than it should).  
Although the Yankees made it very clear, publicly, that “for someone of [Lee's] stature, it would certainly behoove him to be a Yankee,” he had different ideas.  
Yankees GM Brian Cashman told a crowd of reporters (as if he needed to reassure his bosses, or his fan base) that he “flew into Arkansas especially to meet with Cliff Lee and his wife and his agent . . . very early in the process” and that he “was the first one out of the gates there” and “so everybody knows I got ahead of everybody else.”  But that didn’t matter, ultimately.  
Though “pestered by Texas,” New York lost out to Philadelphia in landing Lee — and apparently in not getting Pettitte back, as the retiring lefthander reportedly told at least one teammate, “If we sign Lee, I’m coming back for one last run at a title.” 
With Lee a Phillie and New York still rummaging for pitching help, the Yankees took another opportunity to lash out at Texas last week, through the press.
New York isn’t quite sure what to do at number four and number five in its rotation behind C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett, bringing in Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to battle for jobs with Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova — the same Ivan Nova who, unbelievably, would have made Lee a Yankee in July, probably would have made the Yankees the AL representative in the World Series in October, and likely would have made Lee and Pettitte rotation-mates with Sabathia and Hughes and Burnett today, if only the Yankees had agreed in July to send him (or infielder Eduardo Nunez) to Seattle, in place of injured second baseman David Adams, as the second player in the Lee deal — a much less significant piece than headliner Jesus Montero.
Instead, Pettitte’s outstanding career ended in the third base dugout at Rangers Ballpark, as Lee hopped the rail across the field on October 22.  And at that moment, the Yankee curse over the Rangers, or whatever that thing was, felt
like it came to a long-awaited end, much as this scattered, delusional post about the Rangers and Yankees does with this sentence.

Kevin Goldstein evaluates the Rangers farm system.

A few quick notes, and then onto Kevin Goldstein’s Rangers Top 11 Prospects list, which rolled out this morning on Baseball Prospectus.
According to a Major League source who spoke to Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports), the offer that Texas made to Vladimir Guerrero (presumably between the Winter Meetings and the holidays, based on other hints that have been dropped) was for one year and $8.5 million, an amount rejected by Guerrero, who now stares at a Baltimore offer for one year between $3 million and $5 million.
Bruce Levine (ESPN Chicago) said in a Tuesday chat session that the White Sox offered Jermaine Dye to the Rangers for Michael Young three years ago, which Texas countered by asking Chicago to add lefthander Aaron Poreda to the deal.  Levine mentioned the same thing in January 2009 (so actually two years ago), about the time that it became public that Young had asked the Rangers to explore trade possibilities, days after which he backed off of that stance and agreed to move to third base.  
Buster Olney (ESPN) predicts that Texas will repeat in the AL West and that Oakland will be the AL Wild Card team. 
Baseball America, in ranking the top college players in 2011, unsurprisingly ranks Matt Purke number one among the nation’s sophomores, and also has two other picks from the Rangers’ 2009 draft class on the list: Florida State third baseman Jayce Boyd (19th round) is the publication’s number 29 sophomore, and Nebraska righthander Tom Lemke (10th round) is number 44.  
Several Rangers picks from 2008 are on BA’s list of the nation’s top juniors, all of whom are draft-eligible this June: Arizona State outfielder John Ruettiger (Rangers’ 35th-rounder) is number 24 overall, Clemson shortstop Brad Miller (39th round) in number 32, Miami third baseman Harold Martinez (19th round) is number 33, and Vanderbilt righthander Jack Armstrong (36th round) is number 42.
Among seniors, Clemson outfielder Jeff Schaus (Rangers’ 35th-rounder, 2007) is number two overall, Notre Dame righthander Brian Dupra (Rangers’ 36th-rounder, 2007) is number four, Alabama-Birmingham righthander Ryan Woolley (Rangers’ 39th-rounder, 2010) is number 27, and Florida International outfielder Yoandy Barroso (Rangers’ 46th-rounder, 2007) is number 49.
Stanford third baseman Brian Ragira, whom the Rangers drafted in the 30th round last year out of Arlington Martin, is the number 13 freshman.
The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks of the independent American Association signed first baseman Jim Fasano.
On to the buried lead.
Today Goldstein ranks the Rangers farm system, which he characterizes as one that “has dropped dramatically [from one of the best in the game] due to a combination of graduations, trades, and disappointments” and that boasts “a wealth of young, high-ceiling talent, but the majority of their prospects are just that, extremely young . . . plenty to dream on, but very little reality, and even less that can help them in 2011.”  
Goldstein’s rankings:
Five-Star Prospects
1. Martin Perez, LHP (my Bound Edition ranking: 1) (nuggets from Goldstein’s lengthy analysis: “scouts saw through the uneven [2010] results and remained high on his future . . . armed with three plus pitches, Perez has the ability to become an impact starter . . . could reach the big leagues before his 21st birthday [which will be in April 2012]“
Four-Star Prospects
2. Jurickson Profar, SS (3) (“more than held his own in a college player-heavy short-season league . . . not only fit in with the much older Spokane club, he emerged as a team leader . . . does not have star-level tools as much as he simply lacks any obvious weaknesses . . . ETA: 2014″)
3. Tanner Scheppers, RHP (2) (“has a history of arm troubles and his delivery is far from pretty, leaving many scouts wondering why he didn’t stay in the bullpen, where he’s nearly big-league ready . . . Rangers are still convinced that Scheppers can be a big-league starter, but few scouts contacted for this piece agreed with that assessment”)
Three-Star Prospects
4. Engel Beltre, CF (4) (“best tools of any position player in the system . . . 60 runner on the 20-to-80 scale, and a very good center fielder with a true plus arm . . . capable of 20/20 seasons . . . swings at pitches in his eyes, constantly chases breaking balls out of the strike zone, and rarely puts himself in a position to get a pitch to drive”)
5. Michael Kirkman, LHP (6) (“everything about Kirkman’s game improved in 2010″)
6. Robbie Erlin, LHP (5) (“owner of the best command and control in the system, not only treating walks as if they’re a criminal offense, but also using both sides of the plate effectively . . . emotionless cyborg on the mound who never gets rattled, working at a consistent pace with a calm demeanor . . . could find himself on the fast track”)
7. Jake Skole, OF (11) (“baseball was always Skole’s second sport, so he’s still raw”)
8. Luis Sardinas, SS (7) (“loaded with tools . . . [in a perfect world he's] [a]n above-average everyday shortstop with great glove and decent bat . . . [i]f he plays in 2011 [due to an Instructional League shoulder injury that required surgery], it will be at Spokane”)
9. Jorge Alfaro, C (12) (“big, athletic catcher with the potential to be well above-average, both offensively and defensively . . . ability to shut down an opponent’s running game with arm strength that already rates amongst the best in the minors . . . still learning the nuances of catching, and his arm will become more of a weapon with improved accuracy . . . will spend his first year stateside in Arizona, beginning in extended spring training and then playing in the complex league”)
10. Mike Olt, 3B (19) (“classic third-base profile: he’s big, strong, and athletic . . . plenty of raw power and projects to hit 20-plus home runs annually while also drawing a good number of walks . . . considered one of the top defensive third basemen in the 2010 draft, with outstanding instincts, soft hands, and a strong arm . . . [but] swing is long and has more uppercut than loft in it”)
11. Roman Mendez, RHP (21) (“[acquired from Boston in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade, he has] one of the best arms in the system, throwing heat that sits at 94-97 mph and touched 99 at times last year . . . [will] flash a plus power slider at times, and has some sense of a changeup . . . ideal frame for a young pitcher, and an extremely loose arm . . . considerable effort in his delivery, which gives him some control issues . . . has the raw stuff to be an impact-level pitcher . . . role is still to be determined, but he could potentially close”)
These nine players would round out Goldstein’s top 20: 
12. Robbie Ross, LHP (8)
13. Miguel De Los Santos, LHP (18)
14. Kellin Deglan, C (26)
15. Luke Jackson, RHP (16)
16. David Perez, RHP (9)
17. Miguel Velazquez, OF (23)
18. Christian Villanueva, 3B (17)
19. Fabio Castillo, RHP (13)
20. Wilmer Font, RHP (10) (“He would rank higher if not for [Tommy John surgery]; he had earned some Carlos Zambrano comps for both his stuff (good) and body (bad)”)
Goldstein’s sleeper is righthander Matt Thompson (m
y number 15), “an athletic righthander with projection and a silky-smooth delivery” that some scouts are high on despite a 4.66 ERA and 11.6 hits allowed per nine innings for Low A Hickory in 2010.  
I’ll let you check out Goldstein’s “Top 10 Talents 25 and Under” rankings to see where he folds Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Julio Borbon, and Mitch Moreland in among the abovementioned prospects.
I highly recommend the entire feature.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers