December 2012

Windows, ’13.

“I’m really disappointed in Texas,” said an AL exec.  “It’s unbelievable to me, how they allowed themselves to miss out on everything they had on their radar.”

But another AL exec said there’s a logical explanation for that – and a moral to all that swinging and missing: “They had too many balls in the air.  They had too many things going on.  You have a chance to get shut out when you do that.  And that’s exactly what happened.”

– Jayson Stark (ESPN)

The temptation is there to upbraid an organization that not long ago was widely judged as baseball’s best.  But it’s far too early to do that.  The Rangers will swing from their heels in these final offseason at-bats.

– Jon Paul Morosi (Fox Sports)

The wrong reaction for the Texas Rangers would be an overreaction, a course correction that takes them off a trajectory that has carried them through two World Series appearances in the last three years. . . .

The Rangers’ significant resources in prospects and money are still available.  Maybe the Rangers will make their move before the July 31 trade deadline, or maybe they’ll contend without a major move – and still be in position to be one of the teams with a legitimate shot at David Price when the Rays trade the left-hander; rival executives view that as inevitable, because of Tampa Bay’s financial limitations.

The Rangers are not going to alter their long-term plan.

The Rangers are biding their time.

– Buster Olney (ESPN)

Texas was very much in the red zone on Zack Greinke, perhaps “within an eyelash” (as Don Welke put it Wednesday night) of signing the righthander before he opted to become a Dodger.

The Rangers, having missed out on Greinke, were thought to be the team to beat as far as

trading for James Shields was concerned.  Kansas City instead pulled a deal off with Tampa Bay.

After that, every national writer had Texas squarely in the mix for R.A. Dickey before Toronto stepped up with a shocking offer that made it easy for the Mets to decide to trade the underpaid Cy Young Award winner.

And of course, the overwhelming consensus was that the Angels’ new left fielder was going to stay in Texas, but that didn’t happen, either.

There’s something telling about those deals.

Forget the Dodgers for now.  They belong in a category of one, and since they have only eight players making $10 million (if not double that), and are still saddled with two non-marquee everyday players, I halfway expect them to trade Dee Gordon, Zach Lee, and Yasiel Puig for Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano to fix that.

What do the other three teams making those deals that were seemingly primed for Texas – the Royals, Blue Jays, and Angels – have in common (besides Willie Mays Aikens and Rance Mulliniks)?

Windows.

For Kansas City, the idea was pretty clear:  Go for it.  Baltimore and Oakland getting it done in 2012 provided the inspiration.  No sense in waiting for the next wave of kids.  Win before Alex Gordon and Billy Butler leave.  Gird the thing as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Sal Perez, and Alcides Escobar take that next step.  Take advantage of the solid young bullpen and a division that at least allows for dreams of a Wild Card berth, and add some veteran arms to the rotation.  Stop waiting for Luke Hochevar to figure it out and for Danny Duffy to get well and for Jake Odorizzi to arrive.  Trade for Ervin Santana.  Re-up with Jeremy Guthrie.

And then go get a guy to give the ball to in the opener against the White Sox.  Trade for James Shields.  Get Wade Davis in the deal, too, because agreeing to put a blue-chip young hitter like Wil Myers and more on the table allows you to do that.

When a pitcher like Shields is on the free agent market, he ends up getting a contract north of $100 million, while the Royals are left chasing guys like Guthrie and Bruce Chen and rolling the dice with Luis Mendoza.  This was their chance.

It was a tremendous deal for the Rays, who can slide Chris Archer or Alex Cobb into the rotation in Shields’s absence, wait on Odorizzi (who also came in the deal) to develop, and envision Myers joining Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist to form the core of Tampa Bay’s lineup for years.  (Such a good deal, in fact, that the Rays weren’t open to the Rangers’ overtures unless they were getting Jurickson Profar, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan.)

I didn’t mind the deal for the Royals.  They’ve been awful forever.  They have a core of young hitters who are capable of contributing to a winner, and the sputtering treadmill of constantly waiting on the next wave that they’ve been running on includes the reality of eventually losing the better ones as they reach their prime and, with it, free agency.  They don’t have a monster TV deal, nor one on the horizon.

My one regret as far as the Royals-Rays deal is concerned is that Ryan Dempster didn’t take Kansas City’s two-year, $26 million offer in late November, wanting the club to go to three years (he’d later accept two years and $26.5 million from Boston).  Had the Royals signed Dempster, theoretically they would have kept Myers and not traded for Shields – perhaps leaving Texas to get something done with Tampa Bay without having to include Profar.

But aside from that, this arguably makes some sense for Kansas City.  I’ve heard some things about Myers that has me less enthusiastic about his future than maybe I should be, but even if he turns out to be Chipper Jones rather than Nick Markakis, the Royals believe they have a window of opportunity here, and securing two years of control over Shields (and thus two summers of flippability in case the bigger plan doesn’t work out) plus five years of Davis matches up well with where their lineup strength is right now, not to mention the state of the division.

For the Jays, the price to obtain Dickey was just as steep, as they parted with catcher Travis d’Arnaud – thought to be untouchable – and their next-best prospect, 20-year-old righthander Noah Syndergaard (of Mansfield), in a seven-player deal to get the 38-year-old knuckleballer.  Why go that length to get Dickey?

Again, the window.

The Yankees and Red Sox haven’t been this big a combined question mark in a whole generation, certainly not since Toronto won its two World Series in 1992-93.  Tampa Bay, having moved Shields and Davis, arguably takes a step back, even if Myers and Odorizzi arrive sometime in 2013.  The Orioles, 2012 notwithstanding, are the Orioles.

And as Keith Law (ESPN) points out, with the Maple Leafs on ice and the Raptors brutally bad, the Blue Jays – another club without the benefit of a TV windfall – have a chance for dramatically higher attendance revenue (they haven’t drawn three million fans since eclipsing the four million mark in those two World Series seasons) if they win.

Hence, kids to Miami for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and more, and d’Arnaud/Syndergaard-plus to the Mets for Dickey-plus.  That influx of talent increases the odds that Toronto wins something during Jose Bautista’s own window, at a time when the division competition appears to be as vulnerable as it’s been in a long time or can be expected to be after another winter of prospect development and reloading opportunities for the Jays’ rivals.

The concept of a window to win is a bit different for the Angels.  It’s not so much about taking advantage of a competitive opportunity – though signing that outfielder accomplished the objective in part, by removing him from the Rangers’ attack – as it is about going all in while Albert Pujols is still productive (whether he’s 33 right now, or 37), not to mention Jered Weaver, who is under contract the next four years, his age 30 through age 33 seasons.

Five years from now, Mike Trout is going to get paid.  (He’s surely going to get locked up well before that, but the deal, whenever it’s made, will likely have ramp-up salaries in 2015, 2016, and 2017, before the game-changing numbers set in.)  Until then, it’s all about winning while Pujols is still Pujols, and while Weaver is still Weaver – Trout is exceptionally great but one Andrew McCutchen does not a contender make – and given that the Los Angeles farm system, according to Baseball America, “might be the worst in baseball,” throwing that kind of commitment at that new right fielder (massively backloaded, as a matter of fact: 15-15-23-30-30, with a $10 million signing bonus paid up front) was all about taking another big chunk of that Fox Sports West cash and loading up to win . . . right . . .  now.

Interestingly, Olney reports that it’s “evident that [the] deal [for the outfielder] was made over the head of the Angels’ baseball operations department.”

It wasn’t a great baseball move for Los Angeles, given the risk associated with the player and the manner in which a budget that already basically guarantees one substantial anchor three and four and five years from is now going to be weighed down even further in those seasons.

This has the appearance of Angels ownership looking for ways to grease through a window that’s going to start closing pretty soon.

(I think if I were the Angels, I might have loaded up for Greinke instead of the outfielder, but two things there: (1) Maybe they thought they had no chance to force the Dodgers to fold on Greinke; and (2) going in the other direction had the added allure of a direct kick to the Rangers’ gut.  I do wonder, though, if the Angels might have waited until Greinke signed to make their move, so that Texas wouldn’t have the chance to respond by kicking up their own proposal to Greinke.)

(Interesting comment on MLB Network Radio by Jon Daniels, by the way: He notes that it was around December 7, six days before the player signed with the Angels, that he first suggested to Daniels that it “might be time to move on” – in part because of “things that had been said” – though Daniels didn’t think at that point that the situation was intractable, and believed there was a “chance to repair” things.  According to Jon Heyman [CBS Sports], Texas ultimately made an offer “that could have gotten [the outfielder] to five years,” even if not guaranteed for five like the Los Angeles proposal was.)

As far as the big strikes the Royals, Jays, and Angels have made this month, you might quibble with the execution, but there’s no debating the plan.  Windows-based, all of them.

So we turn to Texas.  There’s TV money coming.  There are winning players here and high-end prospects ready to reinvigorate the lineup, behind which there’s still plenty of farm system muscle.  There’s a creative and tireless front office, and the support of a hungry ownership group.

On the one hand, the window here appears to be so wide open that you can’t even see it framed, with waves of minor league talent coming that promises (one way or another) to keep it that way.

On the other, how much longer will Nolan Ryan want to do this?

How much longer will Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, and A.J. Preller all be working together?

Yu Darvish’s contract, Adrian Beltre’s prime, Elvis Andrus’s situation.

The defections this winter that have yet to be fully addressed, with the options out there getting more limited.

Maybe there is a sort of window here after all.  There’s going to be another one right after this one narrows – as surely as one can say that about any organization – but with a core that’s already been chipped away at this winter without a title, this is no time to be thinking about a retrenching year.

Oakland will have to show it can repeat.

Seattle has work to do before that club is Tampa Bay (pitching depth, a few lineup pieces, a number one starter to ride . . . while he’s still around).

Houston is there.

Los Angeles can just bring it.

Yeah, the Rangers are still right there, and the winter’s not over.

Daniels and his crew regularly talk about the dual one-year and five-year plans, a concept that Welke rebranded at our event Wednesday night, referring to them instead as two-year and six-year plans.  The idea, I suppose, is that even labeling a strategy as having a one-year design could be interpreted as possibly militating toward the occasional emptying of the upper tier of the farm system for two months of Greinke, or dealing James McDonald and a prospect for two months of Octavio Dotel.

Two (no, three) months of Cliff Lee – that’s different.

And so is two third-tier prospects for Dempster, and one of them for Bengie Molina.

Otherwise, control is king, which is why Mike Adams made so much more sense than Heath Bell (aside from being a better pitcher), why Koji Uehara was a tremendous fit, why targeting Mike Napoli was more than just rolling the dice on a one-year breakout.

It’s why persistent rumors that Arizona and Texas talk regularly about Justin Upton are completely credible, as the Rangers look for long-term control over an impact outfield bat to replace the one that they once acquired when he promised five years of club control himself.

Upton – at the right cost – would boost that two-year plan.  And fit a good chunk of the six-year version.

But the cost is obviously key, and presumably why Upton remains a Diamondback, for now.

The Mets reportedly wanted Mike Olt or Leonys Martin – if not both – in any deal for Dickey.  Texas declined.

Profar in a deal for Shields?  No thanks.  Love Shields, but no.

Four years for Edwin Jackson?  Texas was apparently never interested.

Three for Napoli, or Cody Ross?  Too much.

Three years – and a forfeited first-round draft pick – for Adam LaRoche?  He’d presumably be a Ranger right now if Texas wanted to do that.

Four and a pick for Nick Swisher?  Thad Levine told MLB Network Radio that Texas wasn’t in on that mess.

(Well, he didn’t say “mess.”)

The Rangers could have afforded to do any of the above.

Can they afford not to do any of them?

Too soon to grade the winter.  Way too soon.

But here’s the thing about what the Royals, Jays, and Angels have done, and they’re not alone.  This mantra we’ve heard the last few years about teams hoarding their prospects, and overvaluing them, because of cost certainty and payroll containment, seems to have given way to, or at least made room for, a different stratagem: To overpay in prospects in order to take advantage of windows to win.

As Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said after the Dickey deal: “Sometimes we forget . . . it’s all supposed to be about winning . . . . That’s the end goal.”

Jason Parks (Baseball Prospectus) offered more texture to the same idea.

The Blue Jays “feel they have a chance to win,” Parks wrote, “and they are willing to part with some of the currency they’ve been saving up to enhance their odds.  It’s a risk, but you can’t always rest on the accomplishments of your farm system when the product at the highest level is paramount to your own survival.  Eventually, you have to play your hand.”

Is this new baseball carpe diem the smart way to go?

No matter how you answer that, is it becoming the only way to play ball on the big stuff?

The idea of Profar for Shields, or Olt and Martin for Dickey, is just as preposterous as committing four expensive years to Jackson, or three to Shane Victorino.

Right?

You can bet Kansas City and Toronto sold a bunch of tickets these last few weeks, and that they feel much better about winning in 2013 and 2014.

You can also bet that a significant chunk of hard-core Royals and Jays fans aren’t crazy about seeing Myers and d’Arnaud set to launch their eagerly awaited careers somewhere else.  It’s not as if those trades brought David Price over, or Giancarlo Stanton.

Speaking of which, if it takes Myers to get Shields, and d’Arnaud to get Dickey, and Didi Gregorius for one year of Shin-Soo Choo, where does the ask start on Price or Stanton?

Sure, Price probably isn’t thrilled to see Shields and Davis moved for unproven pieces while he’s helping prop open the Rays’ window, and we know how Stanton feels about Marlins management blowing the thing up around him, but if that marginally chips away at any leverage Tampa Bay and Miami has with those two gold pieces, the Shields and Dickey trades boost it a hundredfold.

For Stark, a Texas offer for Stanton would probably require Profar, Olt, Martin, “and more . . . [and] even then [I’m] not sure [the Marlins] do it.”

Still, if the Marlins decide to move Stanton, or if the Rays decide to move Price, few clubs could afford to part with what it would take – and survive it developmentally – especially given this new landscape in which the bluest of prospect chips are being traded.

What could Texas get for Andrus in this new sort of trade market?

Don’t answer that.  Don’t think about it.  I take it back.

Instead: Extend the window, and make a lifetime deal.

(If you’re wondering whether I’m directing that plea toward the team or toward the player, the answer is yes.)

Morosi says the Diamondbacks, even having targeted the shortstop prospect Gregorius and landing him, would still trade Upton for Andrus.

Yeah, I bet they would.

Morosi also says to keep an eye on Texas and Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

OK.  But look at the cost to get one year of Choo before spitballing a trade for Gonzalez and his five years of reasonably salaried club control.  Morosi suggests the price could be merely Martin Perez “and some other arms.”  Given CarGo’s uninspiring road splits away from Coors Field, maybe so.  But given the very current landscape, I’m unconvinced.

I’m also unconvinced when Morosi says Texas could jump in on Michael Bourn, who turns 30 this week with a game predicated on speed, who doesn’t get on base, and who would cost a first-round pick even if his ask on the length of term necessarily comes down.

Pierzynski’s one-year deal doesn’t fit a two-year or six-year plan, but at his age and at the relatively modest salary it took, you make that move because it doesn’t compromise anything and fills a hole.

Trading for Jason Kubel’s one year of inexpensive control?  Same idea, I suppose, as long as the pitching prospect price that Arizona reportedly seeks is closer to the package Texas gave up for Dempster than the one the Angels surrendered for Greinke.

The Diamondbacks trading Kubel, if they end up doing that as expected, would be the latest example of another trend we’re seeing this winter: Signing a player to create a surplus, and trading out of that surplus to address other needs.

The Angels sign a power-hitting outfielder, making Mark Trumbo a DH, and then trade Kendrys Morales for lefthander Jason Vargas.

The reverse: Cleveland trades Choo to get a package headlined by young righthander Trevor Bauer – and signs Swisher to replace Choo.

Toronto stockpiles catchers early in the off-season.

Seattle’s acquisition of Morales could prompt that club to trade Justin Smoak.

Arizona signs Cody Ross, and may trade Kubel for pitching.

Detroit re-signs Anibal Sanchez, and may move Rick Porcello to one of what’s being reported as a whole bunch of interested clubs.

The Dodgers sign Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and may trade Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano for something.

If Texas were to get Upton, maybe Nelson Cruz gets moved elsewhere.

Which to me would represent more than just a reallocation of assets, as I tend to think of Upton not so much as a superstar to climb on the back of but instead as a younger and slightly better version of Cruz.

Even if the Upton-to-Texas concept, which has gotten more media play than any bet-on-it scenario since the Texas-catching-for-Boston-pitching theme of four winters ago, similarly falls short of reality, it seems likely that the Rangers’ next impact move will be via trade rather than free agency.  Levine intimated as much on MLB Network Radio a few days ago.

The window is partly why.  Sacrifice prospects rather than too many years or too much money to get the player, and hang onto the first-round draft pick that, in some cases, would be lost, making sure not to compromise the pipeline just to add a free agent with a commitment that instantly doesn’t feel right.

We don’t know what the Rangers will do next.  They’re very good about virtually ensuring that that’s the case.

But we do know they’ll do something big.

Well, we don’t know that.

But pretty close.

Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) wrote, recently: “One way or another, the Rangers are going to be good.  They’re also going to be different.  Whether they end up better remains to be seen.”

Yes, it does.

It remains to be seen not only because the winter isn’t over, but also because the games haven’t been played.  If you think the Royals, Blue Jays, and Angels have positioned themselves to go ahead and make October reservations, ask the Angels how that worked out last year, and the Marlins and Red Sox if you need more convincing.

And if you’re wondering, like I am, whether this new trend of taking presumably untouchable prospects and converting them into immediate help has set a new market that Texas is going to have to succumb to in order to keep up, lots is uncertain, but this isn’t: The Rangers have shown restraint this winter, which is not a compliment or a complaint, but instead an observation that while some clubs are absolutely going all in, and others are happily taking advantage of the emergence of clubs absolutely going all in, Texas lurks, with something laid out on a whiteboard that none of us can see.

Without ever mentioning the Rangers, Ken Davidoff wrote something a week ago in the New York Post that seemed to be squarely about this franchise:

I think it’s worth noting that the best-run teams, payroll be darned, don’t seem to think in terms of windows.  They look at the endless expanse of the future and strive to contend each and every season.

It’s only words.

But just as the Angels’ Pujols strike and the Marlins’ Reyes/Buehrle/Bell offensive didn’t work last winter – and in fact in Miami’s case became part of this new story a year later – we don’t yet know how moving Wil Myers or Travis d’Arnaud will work out in the short term, we don’t yet know how overcommitting to an age-risky hitter will pan out in the long term, and we don’t yet know how refusing so far to go down paths like those will turn out for Texas, in the short term or the long term or in terms of the concept of sports windows, which may or may not drive this franchise after all and which therefore makes me question dumping almost 4,000 words on it and, hey, now it’s snowing a whole lot outside so catch you later.

Thanks.

Usually after a Newberg Report gathering of any sort, I try to take the time in a report to publicly thank the folks by name who helped host and manage the event, but as for Wednesday night’s event at Sherlock’s to support the Emilie Parker Memorial Fund, if I didn’t thank all couple hundred folks who showed up and who helped to run things and who contributed, and the couple dozen people who donated items to raffle or auction off, and the print, radio, and television media who caught word of what we were doing and spread it, and those of you who couldn’t make it that night but have donated since, it would be incomplete and unacceptable.

So thanks to everyone who fits into one of the above categories, or more.  Thank you very much.

Randy Galloway took the time and devoted his space to some comments about the event, and I wanted to share them with you if you haven’t yet read his Friday column.  It was a special night on Wednesday.

Here is Randy’s column: http://tinyurl.com/Galloway-on-Emilie-Fund-Event

We’re now over $21,000 in donations.  I’m going to wait until after Christmas Day to forward them to the Parker family, so if you’d still like to contribute, there are different ways to do so, one of which is by sending whatever amount you’d like to my PayPal account (go to www.paypal.com and send payment to the GJSneaker@sbcglobal.net account).

As I mentioned Thursday, the Parker family has said that they’re going to share the proceeds collected in the Fund with other Newtown families stricken by last Friday’s tragedy.  They wanted me to pass along that “the love and support that the people of DFW have shown has been overwhelming.”

I should also mention that, as the auction gained incredible momentum on Wednesday, Ben Rogers offered to open up his and Jeff “Skin” Wade’s contribution – a studio sit-in during the airing of their show and lunch with them afterwards – to anyone who wanted to match the winning $1,100 bid.

Two Rangers fans matched it that night.  Two more have matched it since then.

If you want in, Ben & Skin’s deal is still on the table.

Emily Jones did the same thing with regard to her “behind the scenes, all-access” experience during a home game at Rangers Ballpark, which auctioned off at $1,500.  She agreed to contribute a second one of those, and then a third, and those have been grabbed now as well.

Galloway offered up a second sit-in for his show Wednesday night, too, and it was quickly taken up on.

Angels broadcaster and old friend Victor Rojas caught wind of what we were doing on Twitter, and while we were at Sherlock’s, he committed $500 of his own to the cause.

Inspiring.

I’ve got a Rangers-centric story idea in my head that’s now more than a week old, and a barrelful of Coffey notes to organize and share, but not now.  (And if you have questions about picking up a Bound Edition before Christmas, just email me.)

I’ll get back to musing about baseball soon.

First things first.

And I feel fine.

So you may not be able to read this, since apparently the world might have ended at 5:11 a.m. Central, but even if we’re still around, we have this to look forward to: Today is the darkest day of the year.

I mean that in the most science-dropping manner possible, but against the backdrop of both the Mayan heads-up and the claustrophobia of the Winter Solstice, I share with you the news that A.J. Pierzynski is a clean physical away from joining the Texas Rangers.

My thoughts on Pierzynski are of record.  The things that stack up in the wrong column as far as his reputation in the game is concerned have long seemed to me like they’d be an ill fit on this team, a group that in this run of contention has prided itself on exceptional chemistry, and it’s not as if he’s put up Barry Bonds or even Jeff Kent levels of production to overshadow the other stuff.

When people talk about the veteran, the conversation usually starts with his brash streak that tends to venture beyond that line that separates swagger from offensiveness.

(I wish he’d pull an Artest and insist that, instead of initialing Anthony John, he be referred to as “Tony Pierzynski.”  That would be outstanding.)

In spite of his reputation as a premier agitator, he did shift the spotlight a bit in 2012, when at age 35, in his 15th big league season, he managed to put up a career-best .827 OPS, boosted primarily by a career-high .501 slug.  Over his previous 10 seasons, in each of which he played between 128 and 140 games and got between 469 and 570 plate appearances, the left-handed hitter averaged a dozen home runs and 202 total bases.

This past year, in 520 trips to the plate, Pierzynski went deep 27 times and racked up 240 total bases.

That’s good.

As was his .287/.338/.536 slash against right-handed pitching, a needed element in a lineup that’s lost a big part of its left-handed-hitting presence.

And so is the fact that, despite the career year he comes off of, it only took a one-year commitment and a mere $7.5 million (compare the two years and $17 million Pittsburgh is giving Russell Martin) to get Pierzynski to agree to terms.

And so is the argument, which I’m open to buying into, that the Rangers’ clubhouse could stand to get a little edgier.

Which it will.

In their own, different ways, first-time teammates Pierzynski and Joe Nathan are going to take on bigger roles in the Rangers clubhouse, nine years after they were traded for each other in what was a landslide win for Minnesota, who added the pre-arbitration Nathan and blue-chip prospect Francisco Liriano (plus Boof Bonser) for Pierzynski, who lasted one year in San Francisco before wearing out his welcome, getting non-tendered, and taking a pay cut to sign a one-year free agent deal with the White Sox.

I listened to a radio interview last night with ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine, who covered Pierzynski on a daily basis for the last eight years, and while he addressed the personality issues that we’ve come to associate with the catcher, and noted that Pierzynski was extremely inconsistent with the media, a source of frustration that Levine might have implied between the lines has not helped the way he’s characterized in the press, he also said a few things that caught my attention.

He’s a pure leader, Levine said, and “all about winning.”

There’s not a smarter guy in the game, Levine suggested.

And nobody works harder.

And he’s super-durable (his lone career disabled list stay was due to a fractured wrist in late 2011 that he returned from in three weeks), having caught more than 100 games 12 straight seasons, tied for the fourth-longest such streak in baseball history.

And his huge ego (which Levine, the child of a single parent himself, believes he can relate to) leads to boos that he absolutely feeds off of.

(Which will add yet another layer to the intensity of Rangers-Angels baseball this season, as Los Angeles fans have it in for Pierzynski like no other team’s fans have it in for any other player.)

(By the way, while Pierzynski’s career slash at Rangers Ballpark [.271/.331/.421] is right in line with his overall lifetime numbers, he’s been better in Anaheim [.327/.380/.447].)

Levine also admitted that he talked to Rangers officials this off-season about Pierzynski, a very interesting added layer to what we might normally envision as an organization’s standard exercise in due diligence.

Is Pierzynski going to repeat his career year at the plate?  Hard to call it likely.  Is he an exceptional catcher?  While he gets good marks for his handling of pitchers (even by those who over the years haven’t particularly cared for him personally), he’s not going to shut down a running game, but he’s going to start more games than Geovany Soto and most likely relegate Eli Whiteside to Round Rock duties, and that’s a much stronger situation behind the plate than Texas had yesterday.

Soto will probably continue to work with Yu Darvish, and aside from that we could see a rough platoon, where Pierzynski faces most right-handed starters and Soto draws lefties most often.

And, as we’re getting used to here, we may very well be looking at a completely different catching tandem a year from now.  At some point that will end.

For now, Pierzynski will probably give this team some offense, will handle the intangibles behind the plate in a way that should stand out from the negative stuff since we’ll get to watch him every day, will operate on a manageable one-year deal that doesn’t cost the Rangers a draft pick, and will add an element of edge to the Texas club that won’t be unwelcome at all.

Hey, I was cool with Milton Bradley’s one year here.

I went into this winter not wanting the Rangers to sign A.J. Pierzynski, but they have, and as far as I can tell the world hasn’t come to an end.

And I’ll have to admit, what he did in that 2005 playoff game against the Angels (which I sorta liked) didn’t beat me down as much as his pregame and postgame work on Fox’s national broadcasts the last couple post-seasons.

I never liked Pierzynski as a Fox analyst during the playoffs, and now that he’s joined the Rangers, who needed a frontline catcher and some left-handed pop and, despite a slow winter on the transaction wire, unquestionably remain a World Series contender, I know one real good way to make sure he’s not back doing television commentary in October this year.

Final details for tonight’s Newberg Report Book Release Event.

Slight change in plans for tonight.  Due to the volume of auction items and an effort to give everyone a chance to come away with some memorabilia or other cool stuff, we’re going to raffle off a bunch of the items, saving the rest for the live auction.

And former Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench wants in on this.  He’ll be with us tonight to sign autographs along with our other guests.

Full event details are below, but first here’s the information on the raffle and auction.

For every $10 you donate to the Emilie Parker Memorial Fund upon arrival, you will get one ticket for the raffle.  Whoever makes the largest donation will get his or her choice of any of the following 12 items.  The remaining 11 will be raffled off by drawing at 7:30 (we’ll sell raffle tickets until 7:30 but will continue to take donations after that as well).  The raffle list:

  • Giant canvas 2010 World Series ticket autographed by Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, Josh Boyd, and Don Welke (courtesy of Allen Cordrey)
  • Autographed Adrian Beltre baseball (courtesy of Allen Cordrey)
  • Autographed Nolan Ryan baseball (courtesy of Corey Smith)
  • Autographed Pudge Rodriguez baseball (courtesy of Keeli Garza)
  • Autographed Rafael Palmeiro baseball (courtesy of Keeli Garza)
  • Autographed Gaylord Perry baseball (courtesy of Autographs Ink)
  • Autographed Fergie Jenkins baseball (courtesy of Autographs Ink)
  • Autographed Jeff Burroughs baseball (courtesy of Autographs Ink)
  • Autographed Hank Blalock baseball (courtesy of Autographs Ink)
  • Autographed Kenny Rogers baseball (courtesy of Greg Holland)
  • Autographed Orange Bowman Chrome Kellin Deglan baseball card, # 14/25 (courtesy of the Deglan family)
  • Approximately 20 autographed Topps baseball cards donated by Connecticut native Mike Olt

The following 15 items will be auctioned off by Luther and Caleb Davis of Davis Auctioneers right after the 7:30 raffle drawing.  The auction list:

  • Framed original Yu Darvish drawing  (courtesy of local artist Pat Payton)
  • Full catered dinner for 40 people from Cane Rosso’s mobile oven – appetizers, salads, pizza, and desserts (value $1000) (courtesy of Jay Jerrier)
  • Mickey Mantle/Joe DiMaggio signed photograph (courtesy of Caleb Davis of Davis Auctioneers)
  • Private dinner with Baseball Prospectus staff on April 20, ticket to BP’s April 21 event at Rangers Ballpark, copy of the BP2013 annual, one-year BP subscription, & personalized Rangers replica jersey of your choice (courtesy of Joe Hamrahi)
  • Game-used lineup card from Frisco RoughRiders’ inaugural 2003 season, signed by entire team (courtesy of Allen Cordrey)
  • Opportunity to hang out with Ben & Skin during the airing of their 9-noon show on ESPN 103.3 FM (courtesy of Ben Rogers and Jeff “Skin” Wade)
  • Opportunity to hang out with Galloway & Company during the airing of their 3-6pm show on ESPN 103.3 FM (courtesy of Matt Mosley)
  • Opportunity to hang out with Emily Jones for an “all-access, behind-the-scenes experience” at a Rangers home game (courtesy of Emily Jones)
  • Opportunity to hang out at taping of DFW SportsBeat with host Brady Tinker and Everson Walls (courtesy of Brady Tinker)
  • Dallas Stars home jersey, autographed by Joe Nieuwendyk, Marty Turco, Gerald Diduck, and Bob Bassen (courtesy of Dallas Stars)
  • Four tickets to a mutually agreed-on Sunday Rangers game, plus a half-inning on the P.A. system for a child (courtesy of Chuck Morgan)
  • Autographed Jurickson Profar Pro-model bat (courtesy of Allen Cordrey)
  • Autographed game-used bat donated by Mike Olt
  • Autographed new bat donated by Mike Olt
  • Autographed game-used infield glove donated by Mike Olt

All proceeds from the raffle and auction will go to the Emilie Parker Memorial Fund.  Participation in the raffle and auction are reserved for folks present at the event.

However, if you can’t make it to the event and want to contribute to the Memorial Fund, you can go to Adam’s LoneStarBall website or Joey’s Baseball Time in Arlington site and do so.  Several of you have also sent donations to my PayPal account (GJSneaker@sbcglobal.net), which is also fine.  I’ll pass those along to the Memorial Fund along with tonight’s donations.

Other things to know:

  • The party is at the Arlington location of Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub & Grill, at 254 Lincoln Square, a few blocks west of Rangers Ballpark.
  • The autograph line will get moving at 6:00 pm, but you can arrive earlier if you’d like.  We’ll plan to be at Sherlock’s until 9:00 pm.
  • There will be a set-up when you arrive where you can donate to the Memorial Fund (and get your raffle tickets) and can buy Newberg Report Bound Editions (I’ll have the 2013, 2012, and 2011 books on hand, and will ship any other editions to you at my cost tomorrow, so that you have everything in time for the holidays).
  • Again, though, while we’ve required the purchase of a Bound Edition in past years in order to get autographs, that is not necessary this year.  I’d rather you donate to the Memorial Fund first, and then if you want I’m certainly happy to sell you a book. 
  • We can take cash or checks, and I’m hoping to be set up to take credit cards as well.
  • You can bring your own stuff to get autographed, but please limit it to two autographs per baseball guest as you go through the line.
  • At 7:30 we’ll take a break from autographs so Luther and Caleb Davis of Davis Auctioneers can conduct the raffle and live auction.  Autographs will resume after that.
  • Throughout the evening, Ben Rogers of ESPN 103.3 FM will emcee things, which will include interviews with our guests, Rangers minor league outfielder Preston Beck (a product of Bishop Lynch High School and UTA), Senior Special Assistant to the GM Don Welke, International Scouting Director Mike Daly, and former Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench. 
  • Once the autograph line subsides, we’ll open up the floor for a Q&A/roundtable discussion.

Don’t hesitate to bring your kids, especially this year.  The room will be non-smoking. 

Thanks to everyone who has stepped up in such a huge way on this, and especially to those of you who are coming tonight or supporting the effort in some other way.

 

Emilie Parker Fund / AP

Emilie Parker Fund / AP

Robbie & Emilie.

The book release event is Wednesday.

The book release event for the 2013 Bound Edition is this Wednesday, December 19, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Sherlock’s Baker Street Pub & Grill in Arlington (254 Lincoln Square, a few blocks west of Rangers Ballpark).

In past years, we’ve required a purchase of the book in order to get autographs from our guests.  While I’ll have plenty of books on site, there’s no purchase required this year.

This is a photo of Robbie Parker and his daughter Emilie, taken at Rangers Ballpark:

 

Emilie Parker Fund / AP

Emilie Parker Fund / AP

Emilie, age six, was one of the 20 children whose life was senselessly taken on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  You might have seen footage of Robbie speaking about the tragedy, and about Emilie, on Saturday evening.

Robbie lived in Arlington as a child, and remains a Rangers fan.  The Parkers have family in the Metroplex as well.

We’re going to collect donations for the Emilie Parker Memorial Fund at Wednesday night’s event.  If you want to buy a Bound Edition at the event, you can do that (I’ll have the 2011 and 2012 books there, too), but please consider donating to the Memorial Fund first and foremost.

If you can’t make it to the event and are interested in contributing to the Memorial Fund, you can go to Adam Morris’s LoneStarBall website for instructions on how you can do that.  Props to Rangers fan Cormac Kelly, a Connecticut resident, for bringing the idea to Adam.

Our featured guests at Sherlock’s, at the moment, will be UTA and Bishop Lynch product Preston Beck, who was the Rangers’ fifth-round pick in June (and possessor of the best outfield arm in the entire Rangers system, according to a Baseball America feature this month), as well as Rangers Senior Special Assistant to the GM Don Welke and International Scouting Director Mike Daly.  There may be others.  I’ll keep you posted.

Ben Rogers of ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM might be on hand to emcee the event.  Not sure on that just yet.

As usual, we’ll do a Q&A session with Preston, Coach, and Mike once everyone interested in getting autographs has done so.  The private event will be non-smoking – definitely kid-friendly.

Let me know if you have questions.  Hope to see you Wednesday night.

Goodbye, Halo.

I did want him to sign here.  I really did.  I’m sports-sad that he didn’t.

Back in late July, when he was deep into those two months he would jokingly admit to having taken off, during an 0-5 effort in which he saw 19 pitches, took only four for balls (three in his final at-bat), fanned three times, and left runners on base in four of those trips in a 7-4 loss to the Angels, the Twitter conversation got a little jacked up and at one point I said that for about a year I’d had a theory about him that I wouldn’t ever write about.

And I won’t now, because I wrote about him on Friday and I’m done writing about him.

But when he said at his Hollywood premiere yesterday that it would have been easy and comfortable to stay in Texas, and that sometimes you just need to be taken out of your comfort zone so you can impact a whole lot of lives in a different place, well, yeah.

It was a blessing in disguise, he said on Saturday, that Texas didn’t jump out early in the winter to sign him (which his wife is “so glad” about).

I’m not sure I’m buying the disguise part.  Maybe “time to move on” really was a post-Thanksgiving relevation, a “blessing” that came to him masquerading as not-enough-love.  Maybe none of that occurred to him until the last few weeks.

Maybe.

I pass no judgment on his priorities.  They’re very different from lots of pro athletes, and that’s cool.  His ultimate goal as a ballplayer – if he had to single out one – is probably not to win a World Series.

OK.  Is what it is.  Part of the package.

Hearing what we heard yesterday, and understanding what we do about him, I’m not sure the decision he made this week should be surprising at all.

He made $28.2 million in five years here.  He’ll make $125 million in five years there.  I’m not going to say those numbers will end up looking backwards in terms of the production he provides, but I’m sorta confident about which team will have gotten the better deal.

I won’t boo him when he comes to Arlington in April.

But I won’t stand up and cheer his return, either.

He’s just another Los Angeles Angel now.

Blown away.

The thing about the Hot Stove season is that when it seems to be going well for your team, it feels like a stack of the best presents ever to unwrap.

And when it’s not, it’s just really cold outside.

I’m (pretty sure I’m) not going to waste any space here bullet-pointing all the reasons that it makes tremendous sense not to commit five years and an eighth of a billion dollars to Josh Hamilton, a 31-year-old with more age than that on his body.  Or listing a small sample of the moments of extraordinary greatness that Hamilton provided the Texas Rangers.  Or pointing out examples of the extraordinary accommodations and support that the Rangers provided Hamilton.

I’ve already spent too much space talking about some of those things.

And anyway, it’s all history, and under that bridge there’s a rip current moving in the other direction that’s not worth dwelling on now.

I’m sure it will all be in the second autobiography.

And some of it will survive the cut during movie post-production.

He’s streaky.  He’s undisciplined.  He’s brittle, if not unreliable.

He can be, as he’s reminded us, “very deceptive, very sneaky in a lot of ways” when he wants.  His unpredictability is completely predictable.  It’s him, Josh, it’s gonna be something weird.

He’s deeply flawed to the point at which he’s an unusually risky long-term proposition.

And I wanted him back here.

But not at any cost.

Texas and Los Angeles clearly approached this with differing philosophies, and that’s really all I have the energy to talk about this morning as far as what just happened.

The Angels obviously went all in on Hamilton.  There was little sense, even going into the winter, that he would get anything close to the seven years and $175 million that he was rumored to be seeking, a package so preposterous under the circumstances – even for a player so gifted – that any mention of it in the press was followed by the caveat that no team was ever going to come close to those numbers.  Los Angeles came closest.

The near-consensus as late as last week’s Winter Meetings was that the Rangers had played things right, choosing not to open the off-season with a formal offer on the premise that they didn’t want to establish a market floor for a player who might have trouble stirring up a huge competition for his past-prime years of service.

But Los Angeles, who we now know discreetly met with Hamilton at his off-site Nashville hotel last week and then met with him again at his Metroplex home this week, came in and made Hamilton an offer that wasn’t so startling in the AAV as in the term of commitment.

We may never know whether Texas would have ventured outside its comfort zone and offered Hamilton the fifth year that the Angels did, but Los Angeles made the offer and, according to some trying to piece together the chain of events, might have told Hamilton that if he was planning on taking it to the Rangers and shopping it that they’d pull it off the table.

There’s a handful of reasons that the 5/125 deal is far more understandable from the Angels’ standpoint than it would have been for the Rangers.  The Angels are fighting not only to catch Oakland and Texas in the division, but also for market relevance as the Dodgers go crazy (including making off with Zack Greinke, interestingly enough for a lesser AAV than Hamilton will get).  They have a TV contract that dwarfs even the landmark deal that the Rangers will soon move into.

And they have the Albert Pujols window during which they simply have to win, with a bad farm system that hardly promises opportunities to extend the window by way of anything other than big cash and Mike Trout.

I don’t blame Hamilton for chasing the money.  They all do, by which I mean they all do.

I don’t blame the Angels.  They have to win now, even if it means they’re paying Pujols and Hamilton more than a combined $50 million for seasons in which both will be shells of themselves physically and productively.

There’s an Icarus feel to what the Angels have done these last two winters.  But I don’t blame them.

And I don’t blame the Rangers.  It’s a bad contract, at least on the back end.

Again, I wanted Hamilton back, and could live with an extra year beyond the three that felt about right, but at five years I’m guessing the club would have walked away even if he’d come to them (as he’d reportedly said for months he would) for a last chance to come to terms after he had the Los Angeles offer in hand (even if whichever Rangers official said in October he wouldn’t bring Hamilton back “even if he wants to play here for free next season” backed off of that stance).

Plus, even if Texas did come back with a reasonably competitive proposal (Jon Daniels told reporters that he presented a deal with less guaranteed money – reportedly four years and $108 million – but the potential for more than Los Angeles via incentives and/or options), it sounds as if Hamilton might very well have thanked his old club for the offer and the last five years, and moved on to Anaheim.  (Even though, as New York Post columnist Joel Sherman puts it, he “is leaving a cocoon he knows for something nearer TMZ Central,” an issue that Hamilton, as much as any player in baseball, probably ought to have factored in.)

Despite yesterday’s rankling events, this is probably where things were going to end, one way or another, once the Angels resolved to back up the truck.

But here’s the itch I can’t seem to scratch away, and it has less to do with Hamilton, maybe, than this off-season as a whole and an even larger view of things.

Grantland’s Jonah Keri wrote just before the Winter Meetings, regarding the Rangers: “This is a team with big-market resources that plays in the fourth-biggest market in the country, but still maintains the small-market discipline that helped it build a winner.”

I view that as a really great thing about this organization.  Best of both worlds.  The kind of restraint and fiscal poise that bodes well.

Just as St. Louis GM John Mozeliak was “privately lauded by other GM’s” when he allowed Pujols to walk a year ago, writes Buster Olney (ESPN), “Daniels [is] sitting in that seat now.”  In the long term, which Texas always has an eye on, the decision not to pay Josh Hamilton elite superstar money for his age 36 and 37 seasons, especially when he’s shown year after year that his body is breaking down (will this contract be even partly insurable?), makes all kinds of rational sense, even if the move runs counter to emotional attachment and marketing imagination.

The thing I’m starting to wonder about is this whole idea of overpaying.

Let’s take the Angels out of the discussion so there’s no irrational, rivalry-fueled aspect to what I want to get into.

After the 2007 season, Detroit traded center fielder Cameron Maybin and lefthander Andrew Miller – both of whom went into that season among the top 10 prospects in all of baseball – plus righthander Burke Badenhop and a couple other prospects for corner bat Miguel Cabrera and albatross reclamation project Dontrelle Willis.  A month earlier, the Tigers had also traded righthander Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, both legitimate prospects, for one year of aging shortstop Edgar Renteria.

After the 2011 season, Detroit gave far too many years and too much money to Prince Fielder.

In July 2012, the Tigers traded three solid prospects, headed by righthander Jacob Turner, a top 20 prospect in the game, to Miami for rental righthander Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante.

Depending on how you viewed things, what Detroit did to get Cabrera, and Renteria, and Fielder, and Sanchez and Infante was either gutsy or genius.  Maybe the Tigers overpaid.

Maybe they’d even admit that.  Without a shred of remorse.

Look at what Cincinnati gave up this week (Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs) to get one year of control over Shin-Soo Choo, and what Arizona parted with (righthander Trevor Bauer and more) to get Gregorius.

Or what San Francisco traded in July 2011 (righthander Zack Wheeler) to get two months of Carlos Beltran’s service.

Or the prospect haul (Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, Patrick Leonard) the Royals just gave up for Rays righthanders James Shields and Wade Davis.

Texas was reportedly interested in Torii Hunter early this off-season, before Detroit heard his price and immediately met it.

Pittsburgh blew catcher Russell Martin out of the water.  Texas had been interested.

Boston blew Mike Napoli out of the water.

Kansas City blew Tampa Bay out of the water to get Shields.

The Dodgers blew Greinke out of the water.

The Angels, and Hamilton.

It goes against my instinctive focus on allocating trade-chip assets carefully, but would it make some sense for Texas, as steeped in minor league prospects as any organization, to just go out and blow someone away?

No, I wouldn’t have traded Jurickson Profar to get Shields.

Or Elvis Andrus for Justin Upton.

But would a roll of the dice to seriously boost the short term while unquestionably compromising the long term to some degree – and I’m not talking Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks for Ryan Dempster, but something a lot bigger – be in order?

Easier said than done, of course.  If teams are going to hold Texas up for one of the two shortstops for a number two starter with two years of control, or for an enigmatic and (surprisingly?) very available outfielder who’s probably just a younger version of Nelson Cruz, you’re not going to do that.

But do you think the Tigers regret Maybin and Miller for Cabrera – or that they would even if Maybin and Miller had fulfilled expectations?

It goes back to the idea of never looking back when you move Justin Smoak and more for Cliff Lee, no matter what Smoak was thought at the time to be.  Flags fly forever.

This comes from Joe Frisaro (MLB.com): “At the Winter Meetings, the Marlins told teams that Giancarlo Stanton is not available.  That was then, prior to Hamilton relocating to Southern California.  The Rangers have a loaded farm system, and if they are willing to offer some of their top young players, the Marlins may be in position to cash in, if they don’t consider Stanton part of their long-term plans.  Would Miami be tempted to move Stanton if suddenly Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Olt are centerpieces in a deal?”

David Price.

Travis d’Arnaud.

Felix Hernandez.
Carlos Gonzalez.

Not Josh Hamilton.

But the others, yeah.

This is no time to panic.  The Rangers have a very good roster, with a number of players who ought to produce more in 2013 than they did in 2012.  Texas has money to spend, and there are still free agents out there, and probably trade opportunities, that can make this team better, even if not at an impact level of Hamilton or Greinke.

But maybe that sort of impact acquisition is out there after all, escaping the shine of the national Twitterati.  It just might involve the type of cost – in prospects – that causes some amount of long-term panic to set in, offset by potentially super-awesome implications in the short term.

Texas made a great decision five Decembers ago to acquire Hamilton and all the associated  risks.

And a good one to let him go.

The Rangers saw him elevate his game into a prime that was dominant as anyone’s – and you can argue the franchise had a lot to do with him reaching those heights – and then saw signs that the prime may now be a closed chapter.

I’ll miss Hamilton.  At some level most of us have a soft spot for him, I imagine, even if the events of this summer chipped away at that.  The redemption story, the Superman feats, the flawed child that he is – the stuff movies are made of played out in Arlington these last five years, and now he’s chosen to spend as many years in Hollywood as he’s spent in Texas and push the story line forward.

My farewell to Hamilton is part fond, part #bringit.

Some of you may be devastated that he’s leaving.  Those of you who are happy to see him go away probably didn’t feel that way until the last half of this year, but this isn’t a good week for you, either, especially since he’s going to suit up for the rival Angels, and you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think he’s got a rebound in him on some level.

It hasn’t been a good week for the Rangers, or a good month – really, the last three months have been pretty terrible – but the winter’s not over, this front office isn’t conceding anything, and I’m starting to think that I’d be pretty OK with things if there’s an opportunity cooking for a trade that might hurt to make but almost needs to be made, a deal in which Texas might just decide to blow another team away, and in the process do that for you and me, too.

The e-Book is now available, plus a little COFFEY.

 

  • The 2013 Bound Edition is now ready in e-Book format.  If you go to the book order page, you can order the Bound Edition in either hard copy ($24.95) or e-format ($9.99) – and if you buy both I’ll send you a $5.00 rebate.

(It will take two separate order entries since hard copies are ordered directly from the publisher and e-Books are ordered directly from Amazon or other outlets – but I can send you the $5.00 right away, by PayPal or check.)

At the moment, the e-Book is available via Amazon (Kindle), Apple (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch), and Kobo (desktop, various eReaders and tablets).  It will eventually be available from Barnes & Noble (Nook), Sony Reader, Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, and eBookPie, once those folks get their act together like Amazon, Apple, and Kobo already have.

Regarding the $5.00 discount, you don’t have to order the hard copy and the e-Book at the same time.  That is, if you already ordered the hard copy, you can now order the e-Book and then just email me the two email receipts – I’ll then send you the rebate right away.

  • Arizona’s acquisition last night of Reds shortstop Didi Gregorius in a three-team trade with Cincinnati and Cleveland – a deal in which the Diamondbacks seemed to settle for a young shortstop not on the level of the others they’d reportedly been seeking (Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, Asdrubal Cabrera, Andrelton Simmons, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts) but also in which they didn’t have to move Justin Upton – does two things as far as Josh Hamilton and the Rangers are concerned.

On the one hand, with Upton now likely off the market (according to Buster Olney [ESPN], Ken Rosenthal [Fox Sports], Bob Nightengale [USA Today], and John Gambadoro [Sports 620 KTAR Phoenix] – though Nightengale suggests Arizona will continue to consider offers), it would stand to reason that the Rangers’ interest in bringing Hamilton back now intensifies.

On the other, it gives Hamilton added leverage, for the same reason.

  • Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) offers this take: “If [the] Rangers don’t go get Hamilton, I think they withdraw from the market and look at the kids all year long (Martin, Perez, Profar, etc.). . . . If [the] Rangers make no more additions, ’13 [is] not necessarily [a] rebuilding year, but, to win, would require significant growth by many players. . . . [I a]lso think that if Hamilton lands elsewhere, it does give [the] Rangers [the] ability to make a long-term offer” to Elvis Andrus.
  • Twitter was atwitter last night with speculation on the reasons that Mike Napoli’s introductory presser in Boston didn’t happen Friday as originally scheduled and then didn’t happen yesterday . . . after his physical didn’t happen last Wednesday as planned and then, when it went forward Monday morning, would have produced results by Monday evening to pave way for the Tuesday announcement that didn’t happen.
  • Rosenthal wonders openly whether the Red Sox saw something in the results of the physical that they didn’t like, and whether it could jeopardize the three-year, $39 million deal the two sides agreed to a week ago.
  • Gordon Edes (ESPN Boston) tweets that neither the Red Sox nor Napoli’s camp were responding to his calls last night, which “[m]akes you wonder.”
  • Jim Duquette (MLB Network Radio) believes the delay indicates some sort of medical concern, and notes that the Mariners apparently backed off of Napoli earlier in the winter over concerns about his hip condition.  Duquette hears that only the Red Sox and Indians made concrete offers to Napoli before he accepted Boston’s deal.
  • This morning, Rob Bradford (WEEI) suggests that “[t]here were whispers that Napoli’s leg issues (quad, ankle) were more serious than initially thought.  When doing due diligence on Napoli, the physical concerns were certainly something on the Red Sox’s radar.”
  • Sorta adds a layer to the hindsight on the Rangers’ decision not to tender Napoli a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer.
  • Bradford wonders whether the two sides might be “working out contract language that protects [Boston] against any physical concerns, such as was the case in the J.D. Drew and John Lackey contracts,” and that’s why there’s been a delay.
  • Bradford also reports that the Red Sox have maintained contact with free agent Nick Swisher, and that if the Napoli deal gets banged, Boston could sign Swisher or Adam LaRoche and then bring Cody Ross back as a right-handed bat in Napoli’s place.

That would also, of course, make Napoli a free agent again.

Hmm.

  • Joel Sherman and Mike Puma (New York Post) report that Texas and every AL East team have expressed varying degrees of interest in trading for R.A. Dickey (though the Yankees were “mainly just doing due diligence”).  The Mets, according to Sherman and Puma, “have made it clear (a) they want a high-end prospect such as Texas’s Mike Olt to front a deal and at least one other very good prospect to complete a deal and (b) they would consider providing an acquiring team a window to negotiate an extension with Dickey if that would improve the prospect haul.
  • Regarding all this talk about Olt (and maybe necessarily more) for Dickey: I’m cool with the idea of adding Dickey here.  It makes personnel sense.  And maybe Olt is the appropriate ask, from the Mets’ standpoint – since they aren’t in a position where they need to trade the righthander at all.  (And I’m still betting, as we talked about yesterday, that New York’s interest in Olt is less as a corner outfielder than as an instant flip piece.)

My reservation is about the opportunity cost of moving Olt in a deal for Dickey.  Asset allocation, and all that.

  • The Dodgers can’t even button straight.

greinke dodgers

  • The Cubs have hired Storm Davis, who served the last two years as pitching coach for the Rangers’ Low Class A affiliate at Hickory, to be the pitching coach at High A Daytona.
  • Ben Badler (Baseball America), responding on Twitter to a fan asking which organization currently has the best farm system in baseball: “Hard to beat Texas.”
  • Four minutes after that, Badler on which organization has the game’s worst farm system: “Angels have a strong case.”
  • Look, I’m as eager as any of you to see the Rangers make their next winter move.  But the off-season isn’t over – Napoli and Adrian Beltre didn’t arrive two winters ago until January – and as we talked about last night on Twitter, a comeback win is still a win.

Hang in there.  This front office has earned our trust.

  • For those of you who jump in on the Bound Edition e-Book, I’m eager to hear your feedback.  Thanks.

Michael Young, gone.

From 1976 through 1981, the Yankees went to the playoffs five years out of six, reaching the World Series four times and winning three of them.

From 1996 through this season, New York reached the post-season 16 times out of 17, getting to the World Series seven times, winning five.

In between those two stretches of basically unparalleled baseball dominance were the years 1982 through 1995, a 14-year stretch during which the Yankees went to the playoffs only one time – and even then it was as a Wild Card – and they were knocked out in the first round.

That particular run of Yankees baseball, from 1982 through 1995, was also Don Mattingly’s big league baseball career.

From 1978 until 1992, Paul Molitor was putting together a Hall of Fame career as a Milwaukee Brewer.  His club earned playoff berths in the strike-shortened 1981 season and again in 1982, his age 24 and age 25 seasons, reaching the World Series in the second of those years but losing to St. Louis.  And that was it.  In his 15 years in Milwaukee, Molitor never won a title.

He left after the 1992 season, amid a conflict with management, and at age 36 he joined Toronto.

In his first year with the Blue Jays, Molitor was runner-up in the AL MVP race and won that first title – and a World Series MVP Award.

Mattingly never got that chance.  A bad back and wrist, knee, and elbow problems ended the brilliant career of a player as beloved as anyone in his generation.

In fact, there are probably more players today who count Don Mattingly as their childhood baseball idol as anyone else.  He wasn’t particularly toolsy, and maybe that was part of the allure, a sense in every 10-year-old kid that he just might be able get to the big leagues like that slow, unimposing, 6’0”, 175-pound 19th-round pick who looked perfect in pinstripes as he perennially challenged for MVP hardware.

One of those who idolized Mattingly growing up was Michael Young, who for many years seemed to be on a Mattingly path of leading his teammates in a way that wasn’t meant for the cameras and retiring in the same uniform he wore when he reached the big leagues, and who – for all his strengths and his weaknesses and all the off-the-field drama of the last few years – may be as respected by his peers as any player in the game today, much as Mattingly was a generation ago.

Suddenly Young is no longer in that Don Mattingly category, no longer the Ripken or Brett or Biggio or Trammell or Gwynn who stayed with one team an entire career, not the Robin Yount who was a Brewer for life while his co-star Molitor moved on.

Molitor, whose career has been a pattern for Young’s.  The singles-doubles approach, the use of the whole field.  The move from second and short, and then to third, and then to DH and first base.  The businesslike style, the preparation, the raves from teammates.

And, now, the change in uniforms, at the same age of 36.

I can’t yet imagine seeing Michael Young in Philadelphia pinstripes, but then again I don’t remember Emmitt Smith or Mike Modano in red, and until just looking it up I’d forgotten that Troy Aikman was released by the Cowboys even though he wanted to keep playing.

I’m not sure whether Young’s career ends with this five-year contract, the final year of which Texas will pay a larger portion of than Philadelphia, although I doubt he has another six seasons in him like Molitor did.

Whether 2012 – a bad year for Young, the worst of his career at the plate and with the glove – was a glimpse of the end or instead just a lousy year that he’ll bounce back from in a new environment, we’ll all keep tabs.

Part of what’s so frustrating about seeing a veteran like that struggle is the Mattingly effect.  This wasn’t Nolan Ryan losing something off his fastball, or Juan Gonzalez no longer punishing baseballs the way he used to, or Rusty Greer no longer being able to throw.  Young’s physical tools, at least the easily recognized ones, haven’t changed much.  The one plus tool he’s always had is the arm strength, and that’s still there.  But some of the more subtle things, like the bat speed and the first-step reactions defensively, started to regress in 2012, like they always do at some point when players in their 20’s become players in their mid-30’s.

And maybe those things were more frustrating to watch because Young was never one of those players with off-the-charts power or speed or a tight end’s physique to begin with.  He was more like us, and it’s not a comfortable thing to see someone we like to think of as somehow like us to start to slow down.

For lots of Rangers fans, Michael Young is our Don Mattingly.

For years I’ve gotten lots of emails from lots of you about Young.  There are two distinct camps.

There are those who feel like the Rangers just traded Roger Staubach.

The others are those who saw yesterday’s events as Texas finally moving on from Bill Bates, or Brad Davis.

But even the latter group would probably admit that things might have gone better for Young, and for the Rangers, had Ron Washington not played him 156 times this season – and three of the six games he didn’t appear in took place while he was away from the team on paternity leave.

This is no exaggeration: Those three games Young missed in August for the birth of his and Cristina’s third son were the only games he didn’t play in over the Rangers’ final 100 regular-season games.  And only twice in those 100 games did he enter the game off the bench.

He hit fifth and sixth in the order far more than anywhere else, despite a career-low .682 OPS and by far the worst sabermetric season of his career and one of the worst of any regular in baseball in 2012.

But the fact that he hit in the lineup where he did despite those numbers, and as often as he did, those things are on the manager.  We all wonder whether Texas would have been forced into a one-and-done Wild Card Game corner if Washington hadn’t ridden his veterans so hard down the stretch, especially having young players with upside at his disposal, and Young (even though his best month was the final one, when he hit .313/.360/.478 as his teammates withered around him) was the poster child for the skipper’s stubborn refusal to rest his regulars.

He’ll get more rest in Philadelphia, where there’s no DH, and he’s bound to have some degree of a bounceback year offensively, probably not at the level of his .338/.380/.474 2011 but also not as unproductive as 2012’s .277/.312/.370.  A consistent, familiar role won’t hurt.

He won’t be in completely unfamiliar surroundings.  Young shares an agent with his friend Jimmy Rollins.  He shared a World Series run with Cliff Lee.  He was once in the Blue Jays system with Roy Halladay, was briefly teammates with Laynce Nix (and John Mayberry Jr., but not really), and could be reunited with Mike Adams soon if the rumors on the veteran reliever pan out.

And he’ll be there all year.  He insisted that the Phillies grant him a no-trade clause (his 10/5 no-trade rights vanished with the trade, because even though he’s amassed the 10 years of service time, the “5” part of the equation requires five straight seasons with one’s current club), and also reportedly refused to extend his contract beyond 2013.

That means, of course, he wants to control where he plays for all of 2013, and where he plays after that.

It won’t be shocking to see him in Los Angeles in 2014, should he choose to keep playing.

But we’re talking about 2013.  The trade not only gives Texas an extra $6 million to play ball with this winter.  It also frees up 600 at-bats that can be split among Jurickson Profar, if he’s given the shot to win the second base job, and others.  The extra payroll flexibility could help bring in a new bat that factors into the equation.

This opens things up on several levels, for Texas and for Young.

What happened yesterday wasn’t life and death, like yesterday’s news from the local football team.  But it’s also not fantasy baseball, and the decision on whether or not to accept a trade when you’ve procedurally earned the right to control that decision involves more than just playing time and loyalty to teammates and doing what’s “right.”  It involves family and other matters that don’t show up on a baseball card or in a WAR calculation.

(And if you’re like the one emailer who insisted that Young’s deliberation over several days cost the Rangers the chance to keep Zack Greinke from signing with the Dodgers, forget it.  Greinke took the money, and if the Rangers had offered more than they did, the Dodgers would have simply increased their offer accordingly.)

(Meanwhile, the Angels will go to camp having traded three of their top five prospects from an already thin farm system for Greinke, failed to make the playoffs with him, and now lose him to their cross-market rivals without any draft pick compensation to show for it.  That club’s fans have a bigger Greinke gripe.)

I tried to pin down Young’s signature moment here, and it’s not easy.  That’s not a knock.  His hallmark was steadiness.  The will to win and refusal to accept whatever else there was.  A stubbornness that rubbed off in all kinds of good ways on his teammates, even as it cropped up a time or two when something different might have been called for.

He’s on top of so many all-time statistical categories for this franchise because, using a Buck Showalter term, he posted up.  He always went into a season claiming his goal was to be out there every day.  Young always met the goal.

He played hurt.  He set a tone of accountability in the room.  He fought.  (Including in more than one off-season, not his finest moment nor the front office’s, which I think both might admit.)  He always fought, and still will.

And here’s the thing.  It was possible to be fans of both Michael Young and the front office, even as the tension and drama between the two mounted, because both, in their own way, and according to their own very different job descriptions and accountabilities, have always been relentlessly determined to win.  That got in the way of good feelings between the two, made the tension even more tense (especially once it spilled out onto the public record), and that was no fun.  We didn’t have to pick sides, but it was a real drag at those times when it felt like we had to.

That’s over now, too.

Ian Kinsler and David Murphy will take every chance they get to tell everybody the kind of impact that Young’s approach had on them and everyone else in uniform here.  So will Derek Holland and former Ranger Tommy Hunter, who have nothing in common with Young in just about every category but who will tell you stories about how a simple Michael Young gesture drove something home that changed more than just one start on the mound.

I can’t fully get my head wrapped around how much of an influence Young has had on Elvis Andrus, and I’d like to think that the kid who moved Young off of shortstop four years ago is now the man ready to settle in as the glue guy behind whom a contender charges out of the dugout every night and onto the field.

I’d been a father for a month when Doug Melvin traded the mercurial Esteban Loaiza for Toronto’s third- or fourth-best minor league middle infielder (depends on which Brent Abernathy camp you fell in) and a 27-year-old bullpen flier named Darwin Cubillan.  And now our daughter is in Junior High.

It’s just not the time to talk about Josh Lindblom or Lisalverto Bonilla, which I’ll get around to eventually.  Not yet.

Roger Staubach played in Dallas for 11 years, Aikman for 12.

Mattingly was a Yankee for 14 seasons, Molitor a Brewer for 15.

Michael Young played 13 years as a Texas Ranger.  And that’s where that number ends.

The sting of losing Mike Napoli was different, closer to what it felt like to lose Lee.

Losing out on Zack Greinke is different, obviously.

This loss, the end of an era in a way, is a sadness.  A sadness because the Rangers team that grew up with Young as its rock didn’t win it all, more narrowly so than it’s possible to imagine.  A sadness also because the manner in which the manager was bent on using him, with no indication that that was going to change, is partly what led to this.

It was the right baseball move, for the Rangers and for the Phillies and for Young.  It’s bittersweet, no doubt, but players move on in this game exponentially far more often than they don’t, and we’ll move on, too.

There have been more than a couple times in the last four years that I thought I’d have to write this report.  Even a couple days ago, I didn’t want to piece it together in my head in advance.  I didn’t know exactly how I’d react when something real happened, and I wanted to wait on that before deciding how to write about it.

When I saw a fake tweet a couple days ago suggesting that Young had killed the trade, before I realized less than a minute later that it was in fact from a fake account, I knew.

This trade had to happen.  For everyone involved.

While driving yesterday, the 35-year-old image occurred to me of Obi-Wan Kenobi shutting down the tractor beam, and then powering down his light saber (he’d lost a little bat speed himself), choosing to move on as he allowed the others to do the same, and I’m gonna get out of this awful analogy before someone gets hurt.

Players here might have a better chance to win now, not just because the manager will be given a roster from which his lineup will necessarily get younger and more energetic, but also because Young helped teach Kins and Elvis and Holland how to win, and Mitch Moreland and Robbie Ross and Profar, too, and a segment of those guys how to lead a clubhouse without forcing it.

Texas has lost a rock.  Michael Young is a ballplayer.

The decision had to be more difficult than many of us can appreciate.  It was a lot larger than just a baseball decision.

Whether or not it was a factor, and we’re all pretty sure it had to be, maybe Young has given himself a better opportunity to contribute full-time to a World Series win, something Don Mattingly didn’t get the chance to do, but Paul Molitor did.

And in the process not only helps his new team get back and win one, but maybe his old team, too.

Interpretation, and catchers.

I’m taking a COFFEY break this morning.

I’m sure that means something big will break shortly, and if that’s the upshot it’s totally cool with me.

If it’s not, that’s cool, too.

But not as cool as knowing the direction of this team is in the hands it’s in.  Man, that’s so great.

A couple real quick things, just because I can’t help myself, on this December 7th, a day which will live in infamy and could also be a day on which the Rangers’ all-time leader in games played could put himself in line to play his first game for another team.

Bob Nightengale (USA Today) tells us this morning that the “Yankees, but not GM Brian Cashman, [are] quietly running [a] background check on Josh Hamilton, [a] rival GM says.”

How quiet is it if someone knows that someone else’s club is investigating an unaffiliated player’s background?

Somebody wanted Nightengale, and the Rangers and Red Sox and Mariners and Brewers and Orioles, and you and me, to know that the Yankees, apparently, are (shhhhhh) sniffing around.

Part of the winter game is the manipulation of information and of things that aren’t quite that.  A big part.

As club officials left Nashville yesterday and fed reporters some carefully crafted parting thoughts, the two Los Angeles clubs made noise that they were pulling out of the Zack Greinke chase, were no longer optimistic about their chances to sign the righthander, were prepared to move on.

Think back to what unnamed Rangers sources were telling reporters as the Yu Darvish bids were on the verge of being sealed and submitted a year ago.

This is not over.  Don’t rule out the Dodgers.  Don’t rule out the Angels.

And don’t believe a word they’re saying.

But while you’re not believing a word coming from the Los Angeles folks, here’s an indisputable fact that I’m presently building up to be more important than it is.

Greinke has pitched to 16 catchers in the big leagues.  The two who have caught him the most are John Buck, recently acquired by Toronto, which is expected to trade at least one big league catcher this winter, and Miguel Olivo, a free agent.

Texas still needs a second big league catcher.

So there.

Later.

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