June 2011

We’re now ready to start taking reservations for the Eighth Annual Newberg Report Night at Rangers Ballpark, which will be on Sunday, July 24, when Texas wraps up a three-game series against the Blue Jays.  As always, we’re doing this right around the conventional trade deadline – and getting a 90-minute pre-game Q&A session in the Hall of Fame Theater with Rangers GM Jon Daniels.

We have several different price point options this year:

  • Admission to all the pre-game events plus a game ticket (we’ll be in two sections in Upper Reserved seating, first base side) costs $35 per person (parking is not included)
  • Admission to all the pre-game events plus a luxury suite ticket (we’ll be in two sections in Upper Reserved seating) costs $125 per person (parking and catering are not included) – the suites hold 20 people each, so if you have a group (of anywhere between two of you and 20 of you), just let me know so I can be sure to put you together in the same suite . . . but you can certainly buy one suite ticket as well
  • Game ticket only (that is, no admission to the pre-game events): $15 per person
  • Suite ticket only (no admission to the pre-game events): $100 per person
  • [Admission to the pre-game events without a game ticket costs the same as it would if you bought a game ticket: $35 per person]

We have about 300-350 people attend this event every year.  Once we reach Hall of Fame Theater capacity, we’ll have to close registration (though we can continue to sell spots for the game only: $15 for stadium seating and $100 for suite seating).  Last year we sold the event out in two days, so please make your reservations as soon as you know you’ll be attending.

Here’s what we tentatively have planned (the details tend to get better as we get closer to the event):

 

3:00     Doors open

We’ll gather in the Hall of Fame Theater at Rangers Ballpark.  You’ll get your game tickets once you enter the Museum – no need to go to Will Call or anywhere else.

You’ll have the opportunity in the front lobby of the Hall of Fame to make a donation to our designated charities, which this year will be (1) the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and (2) the Hello Win Column Fund.  You may donate any amount; for every $10 you donate, you will get one ticket for a memorabilia raffle we’ll have during the event.

As usual, I would recommend getting there as early as you can in order to get a good spot in the auditorium.  Some of you might have to stand – the theater capacity includes not only the room’s 235 permanent seats but also extra folding chairs and standing room.

 

4:00     Kevin Goldstein & Jason Parks Q&A

Baseball Prospectus prospect experts and podcast tag team Kevin Goldstein, who has joined us the last two years, and Jason Parks, whose work at www.texasfarmreview.com backs up his claim that he’ll always be a Rangers guy at heart, are set to join us as the opening act.  They’ll conduct a Q&A session officially beginning at 4:00 p.m., as the theater starts to fill up – though typically this part gets rolling closer to 3:30.

 

4:45     Raffle/Auction, charitable presentation

More details on this later.  As we’ve always done, we use this event to raise money for charitable efforts, including through your purchase of raffle tickets that day.  For every $10 you donate, you will get one ticket for the raffle.  Whoever makes the largest donation at the event will get his or her choice of any of the prizes.  The remaining prizes will be raffled off.

We’ll likely also have a few special items to put up for a quick live auction.

After the auction we’ll make a quick charitable presentation.

 

5:00     Jon Daniels Q&A

While it’s not possible this far out to guarantee his availability, Rangers GM Jon Daniels is expected to join us, as he has the seven previous Newberg Report Nights, for a lengthy Q&A session.  The fact that the event is a week before the conventional trade deadline makes the possibilities even cooler (though don’t expect him to take other GM’s calls on speakerphone).  This is a really unique opportunity, one of my favorite days on the baseball calendar every year.

JD is expected to arrive at 5:00 and take your questions in the auditorium for about 90 minutes.

6:30     Adjourn to the stadium

At about 6:30, we’ll conclude in the auditorium and head to the seats/suites for the 7:05 first pitch.  (Again, you’ll pick your game tickets up just inside the Hall of Fame entrance when you arrive.)

Please sign up and pay as soon as you know you’ll be coming.  Spots are first come, first served, and again, last year we sold out in just two days.

The cost, once again, is $35 (pre-game plus Upper Reserved ticket) or $125 (pre-game plus suite ticket), and you can pay in one of two ways:

1. You can order by credit card through PayPal by going to www.paypal.com, selecting the “Send money” option, and typing in GJSneaker@sbcglobal.net where you are prompted for the e-mail account.

2. Or you can send a check or money order, payable to “Jamey Newberg,” to:

Jamey Newberg

Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.

1601 Elm Street, Suite 4100

Dallas, TX 75201

If you’re paying by check, I’d recommend mailing it right away so the event doesn’t close before your payment arrives.

If you’re buying multiple tickets, I don’t need to know every attendee’s name, but if you’re paying separately from someone you want to sit with for the game (whether in seats or a suite), let me know their names in an email or in a note with your payment (PayPal or check).

 

One last thing: Just like last year, we’re opening up sponsorship opportunities for the event.  There are $500 and $1,000 sponsorship levels, both of which include two suite tickets, an autographed 2011 Bound Edition, and mentions in all event-related email ($500 level) and Twitter blasts and the 2012 Bound Edition ($500 and $1,000 levels).

If you or your business might be interested, give me a shout.

Looking forward to this.

Let me know what questions you have.  I look forward to seeing lots of you there on the 24th.

Jamey

Where do relievers come from?

Pitcher A was drafted in the 42nd round out of a major college program but didn’t sign.  He transferred to Canisius College (which it appears had not produced a big league ballplayer).  He went undrafted as a senior.  He signed a minor league deal.  He was released after one minor league season.

Pitcher B also signed as an undrafted free agent, pitched for four organizations in 2006 – traded (for former Ranger Jeremi Gonzalez) and waived and traded again (for former Ranger Brian Sikorski) within eight weeks that summer, was released the following spring, and signed a minor league deal with his current club.

Pitcher C was undrafted out of a major college program himself, run through waivers and outrighted two years later, drafted via Rule 5, made his new club’s Opening day roster, and lasted a couple weeks before being designated for assignment.

Pitcher D was a junior college shortstop when he was drafted in the 69th round, which doesn’t even exist anymore, then signed the following year as an undrafted free agent, was placed on the 40-man roster four winters later but designated for assignment less than a month into the next season, cleared waivers, and was outrighted, and was traded with another player three years later for Jon Adkins and Ben Johnson.

Who are they?

  1. Brewers closer John Axford
  2. Padres lockdown set-up man Mike Adams
  3. Rangers middle reliever Darren O’Day
  4. The prize of this July’s relief market and winter free agent closer market, Padres closer Heath Bell.

 

Pitcher E was added to his team’s 40-man roster one November and then taken back off the roster that March.  No team claimed him off waivers.  Two years later he was allowed to walk away as a minor league free agent.

Pitcher F reached the big leagues in his fourth pro season after signing as a 28th-round draft pick, had a 2.35 ERA after 15 big league appearances, gave up five runs in one inning in his 16th game and was designated for assignment, sliding through waivers unclaimed.

Pitcher G was designated for assignment in 2006.  And 2007.  And 2008.

  1. Orioles closer Kevin Gregg
  2. Giants reliever Sergio Romo
  3. A’s set-up man Grant Balfour.

 

Pitcher H was drafted in the 26th round and released midway through his third minor league season, finishing the year in the independent leagues.  Since then he’s been released once more, and designated for assignment once after that.

Pitcher I was released by his first team after three minor league seasons, spent the better part of the next two years pitching in Mexico City, and was then left unprotected by his second organization in the Rule 5 Draft and lost to a third team.

Pitcher J was designated for assignment, released, and sold to a Japanese club, with whom he signed a one-year deal with a club option for a second but made just five total appearances.

Pitcher K was released two years into his minor league career by the A’s, released again two years ago by the Royals, run through waivers unclaimed by the Rockies a year and a half ago, and non-tendered last winter by the Nationals.

  1. A’s middle reliever Craig Breslow
  2. Royals closer Joakim Soria
  3. Brewers set-up man Kameron Loe
  4. Rays set-up man Joel Peralta

 

Pitcher L was an outfielder-catcher who was converted four years into his minor league career to the mound, and undrafted through three Rule 5 Drafts for which he was eligible before being added to the 40-man roster.

Pitcher M was a first-round pick as a shortstop, a position he stayed at for seven years before being run through waivers unclaimed and shopping himself around the league as a minor league free agent.

  1. Cubs closer Carlos Marmol
  2. White Sox closer Sergio Santos

 

Pitcher N was outrighted twice in the space of one year, taking minor league free agency the second time.

Pitcher O was left off his team’s 40-man roster four straight winters in which he could have been drafted via Rule 5, but never was.

Pitcher P, a 30th round draft pick, was left unprotected the first year he was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, and was not chosen.

  1. Marlins set-up man Brian Sanches
  2. Blue Jays sometimes-closer Frankie Francisco
  3. Braves turbo-stinky-filthy set-up man Jonny Venters

 

Pitcher Q, who signed as a 47th-round draft pick, had 27 saves in 12 big league seasons with eight organizations coming into 2011 (well, six clubs if you don’t count the two he’s been with twice), and now sits among the league leaders in saves.

Pitcher R was traded two years ago for Justin Sellers and Richie Robnett.

Pitcher S spent four years in the minor leagues without getting out of Class A, and was traded for Benito Santiago, who would play six more big league games before retiring.

  1. Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth
  2. A’s middle reliever Michael Wuertz
  3. Marlins closer Leo Nunez

 

Pitcher T was a hyped Yankees starting pitcher prospect for years before a failed six-game big league debut in 2007 led New York to trade him to Washington in the off-season for a rookie middle reliever.

Pitcher U was nearly 22 years old, with no minor league experience, when he was purchased from a Mexican League club and assigned to Class A.

Pitcher V is 38 years old.  He logged only eight big league innings in 2009 and 2010 combined.  And just 16.2 minor league innings.

  1. Nationals set-up man Tyler Clippard
  2. Cardinals closer Fernando Salas
  3. Mets set-up man Jason Isringhausen

 

Pitcher W was designated for assignment, cleared waivers, was outrighted, and allowed by his club to take six-year minor league free agency.

Pitcher X was drafted as an outfielder, converted to the mound in his third minor league season, and pitched in Japan at age 25.

Pitcher Y is just 30 but is already with his sixth organization, and didn’t get to the big leagues until his ninth pro season.

Pitcher Z was released midway through his third minor league season, traded by his second organization, left off the 40-man roster by his third organization, drafted via Rule 5 by a fourth organization and, six weeks into his Rule 5 season, was designated for assignment, not claimed by anyone off waivers, and not repurchased by his third organization, who let his fourth organization keep him on the farm in exchange for a little cash.

  1. Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan
  2. Pirates reliever Chris Resop
  3. Pirates reliever Jose Veras
  4. Pirates reliever Evan Meek

 

Just some things to think about before you decide Texas needs to trade Joe Wieland and Engel Beltre and Hanser Alberto for Grant Balfour.

Remember, as we talked about back on April 22:

Who are Wilson Ramos, Joe Testa, Matt Gorgen, Matt Cusick, Andrew Shive, Andrew Lambo, James McDonald, Joe Martinez, John Bowker, Rick Vanden Hurk, and Daniel Turpen?

One organizational top 10 prospect (Ramos), one who was so ranked a year ago but isn’t now (Lambo), and a bunch of journeymen and fringy minor leaguers.

That group was traded, last July 29 and 30 and 31, for closer Matt Capps, closer Chad Qualls, closer Kerry Wood, closer Octavio Dotel, and fellow veteran relievers Javier Lopez, Will Ohman, and Ramon Ramirez.

The Texas bullpen needs fixing, no question, but O’Day (who struck out the side in his one AAA inning last night) and Scott Feldman (one earned run on five hits and no walks with five strikeouts in six innings in the same game) and Tommy Hunter are getting closer, Tanner Scheppers and Eric Hurley might be, too, and you can now count me in the camp that believes Alexi Ogando may be the right guy to start thinking about giving the eighth inning to.

And then there’s the matter of Pitcher AA, who has a 9-2, 1.37 record this season in 11 starts, four of which have been complete-game shutouts, scattering 60 hits and 10 walks in 92 innings (so he’s averaging 8.1 innings per start) while setting 106 down on strikes.  Now in his seventh season, he has a career mark of 84-34 with a 2.06 ERA, and per-nine averages of 6.5 hits, 2.4 walks, and 8.6 strikeouts, plus one home run allowed for every 20.5 innings pitched, and a complete game every third time to the mound.

He’s 24 years old.

It was reported Friday that Jon Daniels was in Japan to see Pitcher AA – Yu Darvish – punch out 13 in eight innings, which isn’t really shocking news given that the Braves and Twins were spotted at Darvish’s previous start, and the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Rays, Mariners, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Nationals have all been connected to Darvish to some degree over the last year, along with the Rangers and probably just about every other team in the Major Leagues.

Despite a couple reports suggesting otherwise, Darvish won’t be a free agent this winter.  He won’t have the right to leave on his own until after the 2014 season.  He did say in November, however, after signing a one-year renewal with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters for about $6 million (the Japanese League’s top salary), that he wants to pitch in the Major Leagues in 2012.  But the 6’5” righthander will still need to be posted by the Fighters.

Says Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker: “I have my doubts that he would get posted after this season but I could kind of see it happening.  This is the first year I can say that.”

There’s some sentiment that Daisuke Matsuzaka’s disappointment in the States could depress posting fees on players like Darvish (the Red Sox reportedly paid Matsuzaka’s team, the Seibu Lions, $51.1 million just to have the right to negotiate with the pitcher, whom they then paid another $52 million over six years).  But Darvish, who will be 25 if and when posted this winter, is more highly regarded than Matsuzaka was at 26,

So Texas would need to submit the highest sealed bid just to secure the right to negotiate with Darvish, before they can even try to use Yoshinori Tateyama, who was Darvish’s Fighters teammate for four years, as a recruitment tool.

But that’s a process that won’t even arrive, if this year at all, until after 162 and the playoffs and World Series, and all that’s more pressing at the moment.

The Rangers’ bullpen, and perhaps the rotation, are in need of an upgrade, and we’re going to see changes before long, starting internally and probably by way of trade over the next five weeks as well.

But tap the brakes on any idea you might have of moving Neil Ramirez and Chris Davis to Baltimore for Koji Uehara, or Christian Villanueva and Matt West for Chad Qualls.  Frontline starting pitchers take millions of dollars to bring aboard, or a stack of blue-chip prospects, and sometimes both, but relief pitchers, even some of the best of them, come from unexpected places.  There are probably better ideas than paying scalpers’ prices, certainly like you’d have to in June, to go get an impact arm for the bullpen.

Delayed relief.

Nolan Ryan talked to the Star-Telegram’s Randy Galloway about why the trade market for relief pitching has been slow to fully develop:

There’s a couple of things happening.  One, there are clubs that two or three weeks ago appeared to be slipping out of it, but they have surged again.

Even if the front offices of those clubs don’t think they can hang in it, they can’t send a message right now to their fans that they are already packing it in for the season.  That’s understandable.

But even a bigger problem for us is it’s surprising how many clubs are looking for bullpen help.  At the moment, it’s a strong sellers’ market for bullpen guys.  That tends to slow things down.

The first comment’s gotta be about two 37-37 clubs: Pittsburgh, whose 12-9 June has that club three games out of first in the NL Central, and Washington, whose current 10-1 run puts the club in Wild Card race (4.5 games back) amidst the bizarre news that manager Jim Riggleman quit yesterday because the front office wouldn’t meet with him about his 2012 contract option.

Ryan’s second comment reflects something we’ve talked about here for a couple months: Not only would the Pirates and Nationals never send a message to their fan bases that they’re not capable of competing this year – especially given the extended futility that both clubs seem to be breaking out of this year – but there’s also the matter of the clubhouse.  This isn’t Rotisserie League baseball.  A front office simply can’t trade key pieces of a surging team, one that hasn’t sniffed contention at any time with its current players in that uniform, without driving a wedge internally between management and players that could have long-term ramifications.

That’s why Joel Hanrahan and Chris Resop (and Evan Meek, though he’s not healthy at the moment) aren’t reasonable targets, at least not now, and why all the Tyler Clippard and Todd Coffey talk should probably be shelved for the moment.

It’s also why it might be worth it, as a Rangers fan, to keep an eye on the scoreboard each night, to monitor not only what’s happening in the AL West but also whether Pittsburgh and Washington can hang in there over the next five weeks.

As for Ryan’s final comment, lots of folks went into the season figuring it might be a buyers’ market when it came to mid-season bullpen help, as Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, and Ryan Franklin were all set to become free agents next winter, with Francisco Cordero and Joe Nathan having 2012 club options that could be bought out.

But injuries to closers (David Aardsma, Brad Lidge) and key set-up men (Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, Aroldis Chapman, Jose Contreras, Darren O’Day, Bobby Jenks) have thinned out bullpen depth for a handful of clubs thought to be well fortified in relief, and simply bad bullpen situations among teams in the hunt (Texas, St. Louis, Seattle) have created perhaps more need for relievers among contenders than foreseen a few months ago.

We’re just going to have to be patient with this situation, and hope that the Rangers can take advantage of this huge schedule opportunity (16 of 19 at home, with the other three in Houston) without too many more bullpen collapses heading into the All-Star Break, which is when the market should start to materialize.  Last year, Texas traded for Bengie Molina on July 1 and Cliff Lee on July 9, both just before the Break.  But because of the two things Ryan hit on yesterday, it seems less likely that a key bullpen trade can be closed that early this year, unless you’re willing to meaningfully overpay.

The Rangers go to Seattle and Los Angeles coming out of the Break, before 10 with Toronto and Minnesota take the club right up to the July 31 trade deadline.  You can bet that Texas will want to have the bullpen reinforced before those seven division games out West, but that’s going to depend on a few more teams falling out of the race between now and then.

For now, the hope is that O’Day and Scott Feldman and Tommy Hunter (perhaps in that order) are ready to help soon.  Whether the front office is whiteboarding a scenario in which Alexi Ogando, up to 88 innings, returns to the eighth inning is a subject better saved for another report, but you have to think that every option is being discussed as the club tries to figure out the best way to get the back third of the game fixed.

Gerry Fraley (Dallas Morning News) breaks a number of bullpen acquisition candidates into several categories: impact relievers (Bell, Hanrahan, Carlos Marmol, Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson); capable veterans (Kerry Wood); and minor league vets (Josh Kinney, Chuck James, Scott Mathieson).  (In four Round Rock appearances, recent veteran acquisition Manny Delcarmen has allowed opponents to hit .412 [7 for 17] while walking two and fanning five in four innings.)  Fraley also mentions Clippard and Coffey as options for Texas.

T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com) notes that Baltimore would move right-handed relievers Kevin Gregg and Koji Uehara, but probably not Jim Johnson, and that the Orioles have shown interest in Chris Davis.

According to Sullivan, Kansas City might listen on Joakim Soria and “have had interest” in Rangers outfield prospect Engel Beltre.  Hmm.

Sullivan also suggests that Sean Marshall of the Cubs “is the best left-handed reliever who might be available.”

K-Rod told Kristie Ackert (New York Daily News), “If I am going to be traded, obviously I want the opportunity to close out games, but if it’s going to be good teams like the Yankees or the Rays, and it’s going to be for two months, I can go out there and help them out.”

Davis homered for the fifth time in four games when Round Rock completed Tuesday’s weather-suspended game yesterday, giving him 15 bombs in 27 Express games.  He’s at .368/.420/.868 in 106 AAA at-bats, and has fanned only twice in his last six games (21 at-bats).

According to Brittany Ghiroli (MLB.com), Texas and Cleveland have shown interest in Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Feldman followed his five-inning, no-hit rehab effort for AAA Round Rock with two scoreless innings (two hits, no walks) on Tuesday.  A signal that his cutter is cutting again is that left-handed opponents are hitting just .206/.250/.294 off Feldman in 34 at-bats.

Hunter got spanked in a Wednesday relief appearance for the Express, giving up three runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning.

Hunter’s rehab assignment cannot go past July 3.  Feldman’s expires July 10 but he ought to be ready, at this rate, before then.  Brandon Webb’s ends July 13 and Eric Hurley’s is done July 19.

Tanner Scheppers wasn’t as good Wednesday (two walks and a hit batsman amidst two outs, both on strikes) as he was on Sunday (two perfect innings, four strikeouts).

The move of Frisco righthander Jake Brigham to the bullpen is an interesting one, giving rise to a thought that maybe a team with a veteran bullpen piece to move might want to see how Brigham’s fastball-curve repertoire works in relief.  But I found this fascinating – take a look at Brigham’s results this season in each of the first five innings of the game:

First inning: .328 opponents’ batting average, 9.64 ERA

Second inning: .288/6.59

Third inning: .224/3.46

Fourth inning: .178/2.08

Fifth inning: .136/.1.38

Another interesting Brigham split is the .214/.269/.353 slash that he’s holding right-handed hitters to, compared with a gaudy .323/.447/.527 lefties’ slash.  Even if there’s not a showcasing going on, taking a look at Brigham (who must be protected on the 40-man roster this winter to be shielded from the Rule 5 Draft) as a power right-on-right option for the late innings may not be such a bad idea developmentally.

Speaking of the Riggleman resignation, though John McLaren has temporarily taken his place at the helm of the Nationals, three men with Rangers ties are among the names being tossed around as candidates for the permanent hire: Bo Porter, Randy Knorr, and Bobby Valentine.

Jurickson Profar is the youngest of the 50 players announced yesterday to appear in the July 10 Futures Game.  Martin Perez, the other Rangers prospect selected to play, is the fourth-youngest pitcher.

Profar has an .868 OPS for Hickory and more walks (32) than strikeouts (29) – and will be 18 years old all season.

Happy Birthday to Jason Romano (32) – and Minka Kelly (31).

And Happy 33rd to Dirk Nowitzki, whose week-long birthday party culminates tonight when he throws out the first pitch before Rangers-Mets, likely close to his final local appearance before he heads back to Germany for what ought to be a pretty great summer.

Texas is going to make the playoffs again this season, but to get where Dirk got in 2011, it’s going to take a significantly improved bullpen.  We’re going to see that start to take shape soon enough, but probably not until well after the Mavericks’ closer has been carted through a parade in Wurzburg.

Newberg Report Night is July 24.

Two quick things:

  1. This is not an advertisement in the commercial sense, but a completely unsolicited recommendation.  Locally renowned baseball coach Mike Tovar, who has been at Hillcrest High School in Dallas since 1989, is running a second Hillcrest Baseball Camp during the week of July 5-8 (Tues.-Fri.), and I can’t endorse his ability to coach young kids enough.  He’s a tremendous teacher of the game and has a unique ability to connect with young ballplayers.

If you’re interested in the camp, which is open to kids going into the second grade through the eighth grade, it’s only $85 for the four days.  Camp goes from 9 a.m. until noon each day.

  1. The eighth annual Newberg Report Night is going to be on Sunday, July 24.  It will involve all the things it’s always involved: A pregame Q&A with Jon Daniels (a week before the trade deadline); a pre-JD Q&A with Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein (and very likely a second guest); a memorabilia raffle and auction that, along with the greater part of the admission fee, will go to support local charities; and tickets for that evening’s Rangers-Blue Jays game, with both seats and suites available.

I’m not taking payment yet for the event, as we have to get a couple details worked out before we can nail down the cost for a game seat or suite, but since we’ve chosen the date, I wanted to get that to you now so you can check your calendar – and for those who might be interested in sitting in a suite, I know from past years that some of you will want to round up a group to do that (though you can certainly buy just one or two suite tickets or any other number, too).

Two years ago, once we opened the event for payment, we sold out of the 300+ spots in eight days.  Last year, we sold out in less than 48 hours.  So rather than spring all of this on you without giving you any time to figure out if you and your friends/family can go, here’s some advance notice.

I would expect we’ll open things up within the next few days – and payment is the only way to reserve your spot (doing it via PayPal is the safest bet, since payment is relatively instant).  This thing fills up so fast that I can’t hold spots.

More details soon.

And Mitch Moreland hits good big league pitching.

Wayne Pinkerton.

Yesterday afternoon the phone rang at the office and the Caller ID window said “Mississippi Ba.”  It’s not that unusual in litigation to get calls from out of state, but I couldn’t think of who from Mississippi might be calling.  Still, unless I’m away or otherwise tied up, I answer my own phone at work.  I picked it up.

“Mr. Newberg, this is Wayne Pinkerton.”

Wayne Pinkerton . . . Wayne Pinkerton . . . I know that name . . . expert witness, maybe? . . . what case is he involved in?

“I played baseball for the Texas Rangers a long time ago, and I found an article you wrote in 2006 where you mentioned my name.  I was so thrilled to see it that I had to call you.  It made my day.”

I talked for 20 minutes with the man, now 57 years old and a minister in Mississippi, and told him he’d gotten it backwards.  He’d made my day.  Pinkerton never got to the big leagues, but he spent five years in AAA with the Rangers, and for some reason his was a name that stuck with me when I was an eight-year-old starting to care about baseball and the Texas Rangers a lot.  The time I’d written about him was in an article for MLB.com that introduced my first year of weekly columns on TexasRangers.com, five years ago.

I’ve been blessed by baseball with a thousand moments I won’t forget.  For many years, I probably would have traded all of them just to have gotten as far as Wayne got as a player.  That didn’t happen, but the Great Game keeps delivering, and that phone conversation, taking me back of one of my earliest baseball memories, fits in among the small moments I’ll remember for a long time.

Derek Holland and the offense delivered last night, too, and while there were no real spectacular individual efforts in the game (aside from Mitch Moreland’s missile halfway up the upper deck), it was a rare victory that Texas was basically able to coast in.

With 16 of these 19 (starting with last night) leading up to the All-Star Break at home – the three road games in that stretch coming in Houston – this feels like a run over which the Rangers have a real chance to get well on the field and in the AL West.  You can look at these last couple weeks as a disappointing failure to pull away from what’s been a bad division, or you can look at this first half as one in which so many things have gone wrong and yet Texas has held onto first place for most of it.  Either way, the pitching staff is about to get healthier, more teams around the league are going to join the ranks of “sellers “ pretty soon,* and the way the schedule lays out right now for the Rangers, they have a real chance to start making things a lot tougher on the rest of the division.

(* Although, on the trade front, it’s worth noting that once Texas acquired Cliff Lee last summer, the team was only four games over .500 the rest of the way in the regular season.  The Rangers did most of their 2010 damage before the roster upgrades, which had a much greater impact in October than during the first 162.)

Texas has now won a modest three of four, with C.J. Wilson the mound tonight to keep things rolling.  At age 30, Wilson is the most experienced of the club’s starters, but he wasn’t born until months after Wayne Pinkerton’s final professional game (with AAA Charleston in the Rangers system), a fact that makes me feel annoyingly old, given that Pinkerton was a role player in the early stages of my baseball timeline – and now the latest stages of it, as well.

Winning.

Fantastic W.

No dramatics.  Effective pitching, timely hits, brilliant defense, a reawakened Hamilton, vintage Feliz.  Good baseball, really good win.

And forgive me for straying off the big league page, but there’s no way I wasn’t going to get this in (in fact, it’s what convinced me to send something out tonight rather than in the morning).

Remember last night’s report, which included this?

“Meanwhile, in Spokane, extremely important righthander David Perez sits tonight and waits, waits for his first official stateside baseball game, which comes tomorrow as he gets the Opening Day nod for the Indians.”

Spokane is in the third inning right now, trailing Salem-Keizer, 1-0.

But here are Perez’s nine outs:

Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging.  Flyout to center.

Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging.

Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging.  Strikeout swinging.

There’s a walk and three third-inning, groundball singles mixed in, but man.  There’s not a pitcher in the Rangers system I’m more excited about than the 18-year-old Perez.

The 18-year-old.

It’s been a good night of baseball.

It’s not easy.

Tweeted:

Rewind.  Watch which Cano hand pitch came closest to.  Then watch which hand he shakes as if hit.  Then watch game-ending scrum.  Cano laughing.

Also watch Teixeira and Alex and Nunez frat-partying and big-talking with Cano in the middle of the scrum.  You know why.

And:

@sbass1310 Texas didn’t deserve a win today.

Don’t disagree, but they had chances to win one they didn’t deserve.  Need some of those.

Reminder to self:  It’s not easy.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  It wouldn’t have the chance to be as great if it were easy.

Painful set in New York.

Sixteen-hundred miles away, they were busy celebrating a title with a parade and a party, something that was within grasp seven months ago for this baseball team, a reality that even the most jaded and cynical among us embraced after Texas beat the Yankees soundly in six.

It wasn’t that long ago, really.  And the teams don’t look all that different.

Off in Hickory, North Carolina, they’re busy hosting Charleston, and all they’re thinking about is trying to win a first-half title, which is the same thing they’re aiming to do this weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, as the hated Frederick Keys visit historic BB&T Coastal Field.

In Corpus Christi, Frisco third baseman Tommy Mendonca aims to put together his seventh straight multi-hit game tonight, working on a cool 18 for 27 stretch and knowing, surely, that he’s playing as much right now for 29 other clubs as he is for Texas.

In Nashville, Scott Feldman will watch his Round Rock teammates take first cuts as he gets set to throw another rehab outing, and maybe Chris Davis will jog out to left field behind him, just as he did last night for the first time since four appearances in August, which was his first time in the outfield since his pro debut in 2006 with Spokane.

Meanwhile, in Spokane, extremely important righthander David Perez sits tonight and waits, waits for his first official stateside baseball game, which comes tomorrow as he gets the Opening Day nod for the Indians.

Perez’s start on Friday highlights a slate of five key Rangers prospects taking the ball: Perez for Spokane, Roman Mendez for Hickory, Joe Wieland for Myrtle Beach, Martin Perez for Frisco, and Neil Ramirez for Round Rock, all five of them waverunners.

And on Saturday, the Rangers will hold a pregame press conference in Atlanta, introducing 2011 draft picks Kevin Matthews (LHP, first round), Zach Cone (OF, supplemental first round), and Johnathan Taylor (OF, 33rd round), who is partially paralyzed and working his tail off not to be.

All the while, Jon Daniels will place calls and send emails and texts and field them, too, as he continues to explore trade opportunities, and Josh Boyd will dispatch the team’s pro scouts to zero in on affiliates from that club or another, moving the process forward.

They all have their own things to take care of right now, and not all of them will have been aware that the Rangers managed to scored just twice in the nine innings turned in today by Brian Gordon, Hector Noesi, and Cory Wade, each of whom has spent more time this year in AAA than in the big leagues.

There are hundreds of moving parts everyday in a big league organization, every one of which I forget about as I try to read Wash’s lips as he argues with umpire Mike Everitt, or Mark Teixeira’s and Alex Rodriguez’s as they celebrate Robinson Cano’s Oscar.

It’s not easy, I remind myself, just as it wasn’t last year, and I hit “send” on this email ready to forget about the last few days of baseball and look forward to better things going forward.

The good face.

You know those cool Batter vs. Pitcher charts, the ones that generate those “loves to face/hates to face” notes each morning in the paper?  Not that encouraging a rundown when you look at what the active Yankees have done against Derek Holland in his career, collectively hitting a vicious .323/.400/.585:

PA

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

SH

SF

IBB

HBP

GDP

Mark Teixeira

13

12

6

0

0

2

6

0

0

.500

.462

1.000

1.462

0

1

0

0

0

Robinson Cano

12

12

4

1

1

1

5

0

1

.333

.333

.833

1.167

0

0

0

0

2

Nick Swisher

12

10

3

1

0

0

0

2

4

.300

.417

.400

.817

0

0

0

0

0

Alex Rodriguez

11

7

2

1

0

0

0

4

1

.286

.545

.429

.974

0

0

0

0

0

Jorge Posada

9

7

2

0

0

1

4

2

1

.286

.444

.714

1.159

0

0

0

0

0

Brett Gardner

5

5

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

.200

.200

.200

.400

0

0

0

0

0

Curtis Granderson

5

4

1

0

0

0

0

1

1

.250

.400

.250

.650

0

0

0

0

0

Andruw Jones

5

5

2

0

0

0

0

0

2

.400

.400

.400

.800

0

0

0

0

0

Russell Martin

3

3

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

1

Total

75

65

21

3

1

4

15

9

12

.323

.400

.585

.985

0

1

0

0

3

(Courtesy www.baseball-reference.com)

But none of that includes the post-season.

Take a look at what the active Yankees have done against Holland in the playoffs:

PA

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

SH

SF

IBB

HBP

GDP

Mark Teixeira

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Robinson Cano

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Nick Swisher

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Alex Rodriguez

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

1

Jorge Posada

2

2

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Brett Gardner

3

3

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Curtis Granderson

3

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

.000

.667

.000

.667

0

0

0

0

0

Andruw Jones

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Russell Martin

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Francisco Cervelli

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

.000

.000

.000

.000

0

0

0

0

0

Total

16

14

0

0

0

0

1

2

4

.000

.125

.000

.125

0

0

0

0

1

A crisp 0 for 14.  The one RBI was a fielder’s choice (Andrus to Young) after Holland had inherited a bases-loaded, one-out situation from starter Tommy Hunter.

The only hits Holland surrendered to New York in the ALCS were a pair to Derek Jeter, who’s on the disabled list, and one to Marcus Thames, who’s now a Dodger.

Texas did enough offensively to beat C.C. Sabathia last night.  But the pitching didn’t get the job done.

Holland’s got some work to do tonight, and if recent results – the most recent results – are any indication, he just might be up to the task.

The Winners.

“And if there’s one thing that Mavericks-Heat is teaching us in common with what the Rangers taught us in 2010 and are still reminding us this season, it’s that it’s never easy to win, especially at the highest level, and truth be told, in looking back at things, even if not in the instant moment, I’m pretty sure we really wouldn’t want it any other way.”

That’s what I’m reduced to right now, plagiarizing myself from a couple days ago.

I’ve now watched most of the postgame pressers for a third time, thinking about what I wanted to write tonight, in this baseball newsletter about a basketball game and basketball team, and I’ve got nothing.

I remember thinking during Rangers-Yankees, Game 6, at some point after Nelson Cruz sent a missile into the night, that it might never again be like this.  Texas was about to go to the World Series, and I wondered, regardless of how things went against the Giants or Phillies, whether it could ever be the same, could ever feel as great, the second time or third or sixth, assuming it wasn’t going to be a onetime shot.  There was no clarity after San Francisco piled on in the middle of the field in Arlington.

I have a bit of an idea now.

It will be different.  And it will be great.

At the end of the NBA TV postgame show, the host signed off by telling us to stay tuned, because they’d be coming back with full press conferences “from the winners and the Miami Heat.”

The winners, and the Miami Heat.

I’m not sure why I expected any different description from the national media, for whom this basketball season was one big LeBron & Dwyane reality TV show, with a bunch of one-off characters showing up along the way, the last of which happened to be The Winners, somehow getting tagged as the supporting actors as the league’s captive network closed out its final studio show of the season.

But it doesn’t bother me too much, because I know the Mavericks are cool with it, a team that’s not about shoe deals or sports drinks or The Decision, but about winning as a team and competing for what they earned tonight, not for Madison Avenue cred and whatever else they can pile up along the way.

I know a little bit more tonight about what it’s going to feel like the next time the Texas Rangers are playing for a title.  I thought seven months ago that I couldn’t be any hungrier for it.  I was wrong.

I love how difficult it is to get a ring, and how indispensable toughness and accountability and resourcefulness and the concept of “team” are to earning that moment when a national network refers to you, simply, as The Winners.

Waiting on the pitch.

This is the one-year anniversary of one of the most important weekends of the 2010 season and, by extension, among the most significant in franchise history.

Texas headed out for the second leg of interleague play, rolling into Milwaukee for a June 11-13 series that kicked off a road trip that would take the club to Florida and Houston, before returning to Arlington to host the Pirates and Astros.

The Rangers would lose the opener against the Brewers (a Rich Harden special that featured four home runs allowed in a six-inning effort) before rattling off a season-high 11 straight wins (the second-longest club win streak ever).  Texas went into that stretch 1.5 games up on the Angels (two ahead of the A’s, 10 ahead of the Mariners), and came out of it 4.5 games ahead of Los Angeles (with both the A’s and Mariners more than 10 games out).

But most crucial development over that weekend in Milwaukee took place off the field.  As Jon Daniels told us at Newberg Report Night last summer, it was during the Brewers series that the club first approached Seattle to express interest in Cliff Lee.  The trade wouldn’t be consummated for another four weeks, but the process began in earnest on this same weekend one year ago.

Former big league general manager Jim Bowden wrote yesterday for ESPN that GM’s “usually begin more serious trade discussions the weekend after the June draft.  The communication within the GM family increases dramatically during this time period with phone calls, texts and emails. . . . If the clubs feel like there is an obvious fit, initial trade proposals will be exchanged.  These proposals are normally low-ball type offers that begin the process.”

Seattle reportedly wanted a young hitter like Jesus Montero or Desmond Jennings or Ike Davis or Aaron Hicks or Smoak to front a deal for Lee last summer, and so any proposals that Texas put on the table before agreeing to part with Smoak on July 9 (the day that a Mariners-Yankees deal involving Lee had hit a snag) were probably, in the Mariners’ minds, exactly the type of early “low-ball” offers that Bowden described.

Maybe that’s what going on now even though ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that “[t]he good thing for the Rangers and the Cardinals and the Yankees and all the other teams looking for relief help is that there probably will be bullpen help available – immediately.”  It’s the weekend after the draft, the one on which Bowden says trade talks start getting more serious, the one on which Daniels first reached out to Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik last year to let him know the Rangers wanted Lee.

Olney acknowledges that very few teams will admit to being out of contention this early, but San Diego (Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson – on the DL with a strained oblique), Oakland (Grant Balfour, Michael Wuertz), and the Cubs (Kerry Wood) could be ready to deal.

I’d probably add Minnesota (Matt Capps) and Washington (Tyler Clippard, Todd Coffey – whom ESPN’s Jayson Stark says is “clearly on [the] list” for the Rangers, who “are stepping up their hunt for a right-handed set-up man”) and Houston (beats me), but not Pittsburgh (Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop, Jose Veras, Evan Meek – DL/shoulder tendinitis), at least not yet, because Clint Hurdle has that club hovering around .500 and just 5.5 games out of first (and five back in the Wild Card chase) and you’d think the front office would be disinclined to send a message to the clubhouse or Pirates fan base that it’s time to tear this year’s roster down.

I’d like to be able to offer some concrete thoughts on a deal or two that could make sense for Texas and its trading partners – and you know me, I’ll always throw those darts (and will get back around to it before long) – but for now, we’re going to read columns, locally and nationally, suggesting in general terms that the Rangers are targeting relievers and this team or that one is just about ready to transition into seller mode.

But we can also look to Jim Bowden’s column, or to the comments Jon Daniels made to our group in the theater at Rangers Ballpark last summer, and deduce that specific trade talks are now underway.  History tells us that it may be a few weeks before anything happens, either because mid-June proposals tend to be of the “low-ball” variety or because teams aren’t ready to play for next year – in other words, neither the buyers nor the sellers are willing yet to go somewhere that they might a month from now – but with the draft behind us, the Rangers’ next Cliff Lee deal (not in magnitude, but priority) is probably starting to get whiteboarded in two different war rooms right now, if not more.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers