In 2010, Jurickson was a first-year pro with Short-Season A Spokane.
Desi was a rookie shortstop with the Nationals, Luc a rookie catcher with the Brewers, Mitch a rookie first baseman with the Rangers.
Tony was a rookie gaijin for the Yakult Swallows.
Drew was a second-year big leaguer in Cincinnati, and had his career year.
Banny was the minor league field coordinator for the Pirates.
And in October, in St. Pete, on one day in particular, Elvis ran wild.
In 2011, Cole had his best Cy Young finish as a Phillie.
Carlos was traded at the deadline from the Mets to the Giants and put up insanely strong pennant run numbers.
Jake had his breakout prospect campaign in the Arizona Fall League.
Rougie and Nomar signed contracts at age 16 to play baseball professionally.
And in October, in St. Pete, on one day in particular, Adrian wasn’t satisfied with just one home run.
Texas 6, Tampa Bay 2 didn’t have nearly as much riding on it as those two October series against the Rays, in 2010 and in 2011.
But it had that feel.
Day off today, another one Monday, and then the sprint.
Seven left against Seattle, and six remaining with the Astros, who I still refuse to write off.
We’re now in the final quarter, with bad teams in Tampa and Cincinnati up next, but then again Texas is 21-24 in games against teams who currently have losing records, while 45-25 against winning teams (and 6-1 against the .500 Royals).
The Rangers sit with the best record in the American League, second in baseball only to the Cubs, and so if you’re wondering whether Texas might land an everyday outfielder on the trade market this month, consider that the only useful players who stand a chance to get to them on revocable trade waivers will have awful contracts that nobody’s going to want to touch — including Texas.
If they based waiver priority on run differential, seven AL teams would rank ahead of the Rangers and seven others behind.
But they don’t.
In fact, 14 MLB teams have a better run differential than Texas, while 15 teams are worse. The Rangers are 72-50 in spite of having scored just seven more runs than they’ve allowed.
And a big reason the bullpen has been worked so hard. Texas tends to win its games close. Not a whole lot of comfortable ones.
That’s why the arrival of Jeremy Jeffress and the emergence of Alex Claudio (0.47 ERA since returning to Texas on July 9) has been so big.
Last night the club was able to send Matt Bush out for the ninth with a four-run lead. Jeffress has taken a good number of the high-leverage, late-inning assignments, allowing the Rangers to back off of Sam Dyson and Bush and Tony Barnette a bit, and Claudio’s ability to go through a lineup more than once affects more than just that night’s game — Jake Diekman and Bush were each fresh last night, throwing good strikes and shutting Texas 6, Oakland 2 down cleanly.
Bush needed only 12 pitches to strike out the side, which is crazy efficiency.
He and Jonathan Lucroy struck Marcus Semien out on a 93 mph cutter. Swinging.
He and Lucroy then struck Ryon Healy out on a 99 mph fastball. Swinging.
He and Lucroy then struck Jake Smolinski out — after showing a curveball up in the zone (swinging strike two), another curveball off the inner half (ball one) — (they’ll never go to a third straight curve) on an 81 mph curve down in the zone. Swinging.
Speaking of which . . . .
In Yu Darvish’s last six starts: 48 strikeouts and four walks in 39 innings.
And how weird is this: In that stretch, he’s allowed eight home runs.
And 11 earned runs.
He was, once again, outstanding last night.
After which he said: “I think one of my strengths is that I’m able to make adjustments. But, with Lucroy, we are always on the same page and it’s easy to do it. . . . He works and studies so hard, it gives me so much confidence. There’s an extreme trust that I feel out there.”
Darvish has allowed nine runs (seven earned) in the four starts he’s made with Lucroy behind the plate.
In those four games, Lucroy (7 for 16) has driven in nine runs.
Lewis Brinson (who is back on the DL with a hamstring strain) is hitting .391/.375/.543 in 48 AAA Colorado Springs plate appearances since the Lucroy/Jeffress trade. Luis Ortiz has a 0.00 ERA in three starts (12.1 innings) for AA Biloxi. There’s still a player to be named later due to the Brewers, and it’s supposedly a legit one.
No worries. Nothing wrong with a win-win trade. Those guys are gone; they might as well perform, which continues to brand the Rangers’ player development program around the league the way you want it to be branded.
Dillon Tate for Low A Charleston: three runs (one earned) on six hits and three walks in six relief innings, fanning four. He hasn’t pitched since August 10. Nick Green, now with Charleston after two starts with Short Season A Staten Island: three earned runs on 12 hits and four walks in 16.2 innings over three combined starts, fanning 13. Erik Swanson, in three appearances (two starts) for Charleston: five earned runs on nine hits and five walks in 12 frames, punching out 13.
Meanwhile, Carlos Beltran: .315/.351/.500 in 57 Rangers plate appearances, with zero World Series rings.
They don’t always end up like Tomas Telis (.297/.352/.410 in AAA) and Cody Ege (designated for assignment by the Marlins last week and claimed by the Angels) for Dyson. Sometimes they end up like the Cole Hamels/Diekman deal and both sides are thrilled.
And sometimes Tom Wilhelmsen returns to the Mariners and, in nearly as many innings as he posted with Texas, has a wildly different ERA (1.56 vs. 10.55), now throwing 96 for strikes.
Lucroy and Beltran have driven in 22 of the Rangers’ 65 runs in the 16 games since they’ve arrived.
And have hit nine of the club’s 15 home runs.
Meanwhile, the Astros claim they went after Lucroy and they went after Beltran but, ultimately, they “were not prepared” to make an impact trade at the deadline.
Since the deadline, Houston is 5-10, sitting 10 games out of first in the division (furthest out since June 28), and 5.5 games and four teams back in the Wild Card standings.
Same stretch: Texas, with Lucroy and Beltran and Jeffress, is 10-6.
Since returning to AAA when the trades were made: Joey Gallo is hitting .268/.397/.661 with five home runs in 14 games. He’ll be back September 1, if not sooner.
Thanks to those who attended Newberg Report Night on Sunday, when we raised more than $23,000 for Assist the Officer and Jose Luis Felomina’s family. Incredibly great.
You can listen to the latest edition of the Spitballin’ podcast that Ben Rogers and I recorded this week here: atmlb.com/2b064Il
And thanks to those of you who have responded with “honor system” contributions for the Newberg Report team. If you’re interested in participating (we do this once a year), you can find the details here.
I feel bad that I haven’t said enough about Jonathan Lucroy today, so here’s another note:
Rangers-killer Khris Davis went 2 for 13 (.167/.231/.333) with four strikeouts in the Rangers’ sweep of the A’s the last three nights.
Lucroy and Davis were teammates for three years in Milwaukee.
And that’s this morning’s combined edition of (1) Jonathan Lucroy Is Awesome and (2) Today in Stuff.
I send one of these each year and it’s typically early in August, but didn’t want to do it this year until after our event this past weekend to support the Assist the Officer Foundation and the Jose Luis Felomina Family, because I didn’t want to take focus or dollars away from our efforts to support those folks. In fact, if you read the rest of this, I would encourage you to continue to support Assist the Officer at https://atodallas.org or the Felomina family via the Texas Rangers Foundation at http://texas.rangers.mlb.com/tex/community/foundation.jsp . . . and then, and only then, consider what follows if you see fit. Thanks.
As you know, the content on the Newberg Report website and newsletter is free of charge and always has been. It’s never been a subscription-based product and I don’t want it to be, because that might mean some of you would stop reading Scott’s reports and mine, which I don’t want.
Once a year, in August, we announce an “honor system” program, for you to respond to, or not respond to, as you wish. I’ll share your contributions with folks who put significant time and talent and energy into the Newberg Report — including Scott, as well as Norma & George & Ryan Wolfson, Don Titus, Ed Coffin, Devin Pike, and Marty Yawnick — to help improve the product, some of whom do so every day. Without their efforts, the newsletter and website and book and our events wouldn’t be what they are today, and probably wouldn’t even exist.
What we ask for is modest, I think: a contribution of $15 to $25, or whatever you feel is appropriate, if you think it’s worthwhile. Don’t feel compelled to participate. Take part in this only if you want to.
The easiest way to do this is to go to www.newbergreport.com and click the “Donate” button near the top right.
Or you can send a check or money order to:
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With your positive response to this “honor system” program, we’ve never had to seriously think about heading down a subscription-based path. That said, I want to reiterate that I never hold it against anyone who chooses not to participate. This is totally voluntary.
Thanks to each and every one of you for your continued support of the Newberg Report.
“It’s one of his best pitches. They turned on a couple fastballs pretty good the first couple innings. I decided, OK, we’re gonna start mixing in that changeup a lot.”
Jonathan Lucroy said that last night in the clubhouse, after Martin Perez delivered seven of the club’s nine innings in Texas 5, Oakland 2.
He said more.
“I told him earlier: The changeup is an equalizer pitch. When a guy has a really good changeup, you can’t just go up there and sit fastball and then react to curveballs or sliders. . . . [The changeup] looks like a fastball. You swing at it, and it’s not there.”
Perez threw 40 changeups last night. The most he’d thrown in a game this season before Lucroy arrived was 26. That was in mid-April. In Perez’s 20 starts after that, he averaged 13 changeups a start, culminating with his final effort paired with someone other than Lucroy, on August 5 in Houston. He threw all of three changeups that night, in a 5-0 loss.
Lucroy called for and got 32 Perez changeups on August 10.
And then he got 40 last night, at least according to this PITCHf/x breakdown.
More Lucroy, a big part of whose job description (and track record) is to help make his pitchers more effective:
“I knew if we could locate it down and away, we could get some pretty decent soft-contact swings on it. We did. [Perez] was really good, mixed it well. We threw it ahead in the count, behind in the count.”
Yes, you did.
“Whenever a guy’s doing that, he’s probably gonna have a pretty good night.”
Of Perez’s 40 changeups, 26 went for strikes, and not always because they caught the zone. The A’s swung at 20 of them, and missed eight (swinging through only three of his other 51 offerings all night).
Oakland put just five of those 40 changeups in play, hitting safely only twice.
According to that same data, last night Perez threw the fewest four-seam fastballs (eight) of any start he’s made this year. He was on the high side with the curveball (17), but he threw the fewest sinkers (24) he’s thrown all year, and he threw the fewest sliders (one) he’s thrown all year.
He started 20 of 26 hitters off with a strike, which is huge. He fanned six, walking just one, and got 11 outs on the ground (four in the air). He needed just 13 pitches per inning, a super-economical number, especially for a pitcher whose occasional tendency to nibble can be super-frustrating.
And he faced the minimum amount of A’s possible in the fourth through seventh innings, thanks to a couple double-play ground balls.
The second one came on a changeup. As did four of the six punchouts.
One helluva job, Mr. Perez. Pretty good night, as your catcher said.
And maybe no fluke.
And that’s today’s edition of Jonathan Lucroy Is Awesome.
A phase of your life comes to an easily defined and well-publicized end, and you’re around for the opportunity to move on, something not everyone is lucky enough to be.
A roomful of friends whose bond will last forever are there for you on that day, nearly five dozen of them, the type of friends with whom you’ve spent spend entire days for entire weeks for more months than not, for what’s been nearly half your your life.
You have your kids by your side, and millions of fans you’ve never met are there for you, too, in other rooms all over the country, at least, the same rooms where you’d made their lives better many days without thinking about that, taking their minds off their own stresses and giving them joy for a minute or more here and there, and they’re there sitting down to watch you talk about moving on, and everyone of them remembers you well at that moment, and the truth is for many of us that level of appreciation got turned up another couple notches on that day.
Nearly five dozen of those close friends, the friends who you call “family” without a hint of cliché or drippiness, are in the room, just for you.
The people you care the very most most about, the people you are blessed to care so much about in numbers that many would covet, are all there, in one room. And when you say your things, the way you want to say them, with everyone’s intense attention, and you drop the mic — literally, deliberately — you stand up to make the slow, 30-foot shuffle out of that room, and you get about four feet into those 30 before one teammate starts to clap, and then two more and a coach, and then the owner and the clubbies and everyone else, and you don’t look up but it clearly registers. For sure. It registers.
Applause. No hollers and no leaps or fist pumps. This isn’t a baseball moment. It’s basic, consummately quiet, ordinary yet extraordinary, unified applause. As a television audience in perhaps the millions experiences it with you, in real time.
Or was it awful?
In sports it’s pretty much never a sign of happy things when teammates and coaches and trainers and front office officials all stop down from their routines to file into a room open to the media and, by extension, the public, as you take center stage.
Those five dozen were locked in on you, that is, other than the fraction who were staring at their clubhouse shoes, unable to look up.
That was the scene on one side of the room. There was another just like it on the other side.
Mortality is a weird, sort of incomprehensible thing at any level. It’s a thing in professional sports — hell, in high school sports or college sports or weekend warrior sports — that, though inevitable, isn’t normal. It usually arrives not because of health but because of ability bumping up against its ceiling or because the reflexes and reactions and trigger aren’t so sharp any longer, even if life’s prime is still ahead.
But sometimes, it’s because of health.
In that room among those five dozen were Jeff Banister and Colby Lewis and Matt Bush and Doug Brocail and Tony Beasley, men who have faced their own challenges to stay in uniform, and more, and they have survived and thrived.
They watched (or at least heard) Prince Fielder tell them, and the world, his world, with his sons at his side and a devitalizing brace on his neck, that his doctors told him he can’t play baseball anymore.
Done playing baseball.
Before Prince entered that room, while other baseball players started filing in and taking seats while there were still empty ones, it was incredibly quiet. Solemn, reflective, quiet. Appropriate, but still jarring, shrill if quiet can be shrill.
The only noise, faint but certain, was the sound of someone’s tee work, the repetitive and sometimes tedious but sports-beautiful sound of bat on ball, reverberating even though muted by its distance down the hall. That sound, as we waited on Prince, made me sad. It’s never made me sad.
He walked in and (after touching Adrian Beltre’s head, with impunity) he sat, between his agent and his boys, and he cried. Man, he didn’t want to cry. He didn’t tell his teammates for a baseball eternity that he was hurting physically, and he didn’t want to show the world he was hurting in every possible way at that table in that room. But his tears betrayed him, and that’s OK. It was real.
The sniffles in the room, faint but certain, were his, but not only his. And not only his sons’.
He talked, as much as he felt he could, and in what was a relatively short amount of time, he said so much. Nothing about numbers and nothing about awards and nothing about legacy. No. Prince talked about his teammates. A lot. About what they mean to him, about how much he will miss being around them every day, competing with them. About them, more than about him.
If you don’t think chemistry and brotherhood play a role in success in sports, you can hang onto your opinion. I’ll stick with mine.
Later, Banister — whose voice carries as much command as anyone’s in the game, whose words always calibrate the room — with a noticeably shaken voice of his own that I’d heard only when he talked in camp about the battle Beas would be going through, talked about the human being Prince Fielder is. The leader. The teammate. The things that a second neck fusion doesn’t take away.
Even if the spinal issues that resulted in it and the May 2014 operation that preceded it took away the raw power that, despite his .410 slugging percentage in three seasons here, still resulted in a career-ending .506 slug. Few hitters consistently let it eat the way Brewer Prince Fielder and Tiger Prince Fielder did and, in flashes, Ranger Prince Fielder did.
Prince’s final game was 25 days ago. He grounded out to the second baseman (stationed in shallow right field), grounded out to second again, grounded out to first, and, in the final plate appearance of more than 7,000 (counting 185 in the playoffs) in his big league career, he put the ball on the ground on the right side again, reaching first on an E-3.
Four grounders, pull side. Too familiar of late, if completely foreign as far as the pre-surgery slugger with the pronounced uppercut that no hitting coach dared castrate was concerned.
Emily Jones commented, as the presser was underway, that the “raw emotion” Prince showed as he “announce[d] his retirement [was] beautiful and heart-breaking all at the same time,” and that’s exactly what it was.
It was a man conceding his mortality. Far too soon.
The man with 80-grade raw the minute the high school grad put on a pro uniform in Ogden, Utah, and who put it on display as regularly and prodigiously as anyone in the game for so many years, was putting a completely different brand of raw on display Wednesday.
You may have as difficult a time wrapping your head around this as I did, when I looked it up:
When Texas traded Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder on November 20, 2013, a full 1,322 games into Fielder’s big league career — 1,361 if you count the post-season — and 1,066 games (or 1,100) into Kinsler’s time in the Major Leagues, Kinsler had spent 230 days on the disabled list.
Fielder had spent 230 fewer days than that on the DL.
That’s Michael Young territory.
In fact, as of the day Fielder arrived, he was baseball’s reigning iron man, having played all but one game in the preceding five seasons.
Since the trade, over two-and-a-half seasons:
158 days deactivated for Fielder. Zero for Kinsler.
Prince told everyone on Wednesday, forcing a smile, that this year had been “the most fun I’ve ever had and the best I ever felt mentally about baseball.”
But not physically, and when the man paid extremely well to hit baseballs thrown in his direction at 96 miles an hour with life had trouble last month walking a straight line for doctors because of his neck issues, and lacked strength in an arm because of his neck issues, and felt awesome mentally but broken physically because of his neck issues, he wasn’t going to let on to his teammates.
But his doctors let on to him: Playing ball was no longer something they could stand behind.
He’s 32 years old.
Names like Eddie Murray and Darryl Strawberry and Juan Gonzalez show up on age-similarity measures. They played until they were 35, 37, and 41.
A man with a uniquely and gorgeously violent swing can’t do it any longer. Mortality is reality for any athlete. It usually arrives before he’s ready for it. But this one came far too prematurely.
Prince concluded his remarks with this: “I’ve got some cheerleading to do. And hopefully we’ll win the World Series. And pop some champagne.”
Then he took a few questions, and with that he picked the mic up and dropped it, he stood and his boys Jadyn and Haven stood, and he walked first out of the room that he had walked last into.
And his teammates applauded.
It had to be one of the best things Prince Fielder has ever heard, and possibly the worst.
Half of their hits came in the ninth.
And three of their four runs.
It was the Rangers’ fifth win when trailing as the ninth inning started.
That leads the Major Leagues.
So does their 34 comeback victories.
Which accounts for more than half of the win total (66) that paces the American League by three, and is less only than the Cubs.
More than half.
Incredible . . . but maybe less so than scoring nearly half the game’s runs in the top of the ninth last night, a ballgame as well as the latest statement in a season befitting of Jeff Banister’s and this team’s hashtagged mantra.
The present lineup of auction and raffle prizes for Newberg Report Night (Day) this Sunday, August 14 at Globe Life Park:
* Autographed Pudge Rodriguez baseball
* Autographed Michael Young baseball
* Autographed Bob Feller baseball
* Autographed Cole Hamels baseball
* Autographed Juan Gonzalez bat
* Autographed Jurickson Profar bat
* Lunch or dinner with Brad Sham at Cane Rosso (up to 12 people)
* In-game visit to Rangers radio broadcast and game tickets, visit to BP, and dinner in press box (up to 4 people)
* Pregame meet-up with Jeff Banister for four, including game tickets and one signed Banister bobblehead
* Behind-the-scenes home game experience with Rangers field reporter Emily Jones, including game tickets, dinner in press box and TV booth visit (up to 4 people)
* Behind-the-scenes Ballpark experience with Rangers pre-/postgame TV host Dana Larson (up to 4 people)
* RoughRiders experience package: includes Lazy River party for 25, including ceremonial first pitch, pregame BP viewing, 10 RoughRiders baseballs, and 10 RoughRiders mini-bats (available in 2017 or mutually convenient date for 2016)
* Studio sit-in with Ben and Skin (105.3 The Fan), followed by dinner at Shooter’s (up to 4 people)
* Studio sit-in with BAD Radio (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket), including lunch catered by Cane Rosso (up to 4 people)
* Studio sit-in with Norm Hitzges & Donovan Lewis (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket), including pre-show prep session and station tour (up to 4 people)
* Studio sit-in and station tour with the Hardline (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket) (up to 6 people)
* In-studio dinner and game-watching with Diamond Talk hosts Sean Bass and Ty Walker (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket) (up to 4 people)
* Autographed Darvish jersey, with custom framing
* Dallas Wings team-signed basketball plus four game tickets
* Framed Michael Young piece, with piece of game-used ball
* Framed Ian Kinsler piece, with piece of game-used ball
* Four seats in Section 23 for August 25 Rangers game
* Framed Josh Hamilton piece, with facsimile signature
* Game-used seat back with image of Nolan Ryan, President George H.W. Bush, and President George W. Bush
* Extra-life-size Limited Edition Power Ranger (six feet tall), brand new from creator
* The two “Grubes” seats in front row behind home plate, plus pregame buffet for two, for future game
* Four “Grubes” seats in rows 2 and 3 for future game
* Lunch with Grubes
* Lunch for four from Rudy’s BBQ during on-site Dunham & Miller (Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket) remote on August 31
* Newberg Report Bound Editions from the two Rangers World Series seasons
* Two tickets 11 rows directly behind home plate for that day’s Rangers game
* Gift cards to Rudy’s BBQ (four separate winners)
If you have anything you’d like to donate to the event to be raffled or auctioned off to raise money for the Dallas Police Department foundation and the Felomina family, please let me know as soon as possible.
I’m asked this every year — you have to be present to bid on auction items and participate in the raffle. It’s a benefit of signing up to attend. If you won’t be at the event but wish to support the Felomina family or Assist the Officer, please email me and I will let you know how you can go about doing that.
The sponsors for this year’s Newberg Report Night (Day) event are:
🔹Paranoid Fan (www.paranoidfan.com @paranoidfan)
🔹The Vested Group (www.thevested.com @thevestedgroup)
🔹Donna & David Gamble of SFMG Wealth Advisors
🔹Craig & Brooke Couch of Couch & Russell Financial Group
🔹The Law Office of Greg Jackson, PLLC
🔹Mark & Barbara Maness
🔹Cary DeLong, Tonya Britton, & Meaghan DeLong
There’s only one way to win a two-game series.
And you’ve gotta start by scoring more than the other guys in Game One, as improbable as that might have seemed.
Let’s go, A.J. Griffin.
Yesterday was mostly about Yu Darvish, who was crazy great, scattering five Houston hits in seven scoreless and walkless innings, punching out eight — every one of them swinging.
On a day when Texas seemingly had men all over the bases every inning, the Astros managed to get two runners to second and one to third over Darvish’s seven frames.
It was also about Ian Desmond coming up big in the 11th, driving in the decisive run in what would be his first two-hit game in a week and a half.
There was Jurickson Profar, delivering two hits of his own after sitting three straight days, the first driving in two big runs in the eighth and the second setting up an insurance run in the 11th.
Which was driven in by Rougned Odor, on his third hit of the day.
Which Matt Bush made stand up with his huge relief effort, facing nine Astros in the two extra innings, starting every one of them off with a strike, and earning the win after none of them crossed the plate.
Big credit to all those guys, and to Delino DeShields, whose effort in the eighth inning — six-pitch leadoff walk, jog to second on Choo hit-by-pitch, steal of third on 2-1 count to Desmond, tremendous work on the 4-2-5 rundown that allowed Choo to take third and Desmond to get all the way to second — set up the massive Profar knock, even if very little of it shows up in the box score.
With all that, another Dang Series Won. Which effectively gives Texas home field over Houston in the unlikely instance that it’s needed in October.
Speaking of things that don’t show up in the box score, though, one of the big takeaways for me Sunday — and the Saturday and Thursday and Wednesday and Tuesday before it — was Jonathan Lucroy’s impact on the game.
Never mind the single and run-scoring double, which improved his Rangers slash line to .300/.333/.800 in 21 trips.
What fires me up is the blocking and the framing and the throwing and the athleticism — and the plain conviction with which he calls a game and connects with and leads his pitcher, and the confidence he gives his staff to bury a pitch even with a runner 90 feet away — and let me just say this:
Though they are wildly different players in wholly different situations and jumped out to tremendously different starts as Rangers, the way I feel about Jonathan Lucroy’s arrival is not a whole lot different from the way I felt when Cliff Lee showed up.
I’d very much like to know whether the Astros (who, like the Rangers and unlike the Indians, were not on Lucroy’s partial no-trade list) called Milwaukee to make a legitimate effort to trade for Lucroy a week ago.
And if so, what they offered.
And if not, why not.
With no disrespect intended toward the guys who have competed behind the plate and helped Texas get to two World Series and play 162+ five times in the last six years, I haven’t been able to write this in a very long time:
Having a great catcher — and I mean an established, versatile, athletic beast of a catcher who’s in command of every phase not only of his game but also that of some of his teammates as well — is a damned baseball pleasure.
Jeff Luhnow, to the Houston media on Monday: “Texas took three of their top five prospects out of their system to improve today, and that’s a decision they made for their benefit. We are not prepared to do that for our organization at this point. I feel like we’ve got a young team that’s going to be here for a while. We don’t have any windows closing. We’re just getting into our window, if you want to call it that, and we want to keep it open for as long as possible and have as many shots to go to the playoffs as possible.”
We don’t have any windows closing . . . .
Colby Rasmus, to the same reporters on the same day: “That shows that [the Rangers are] wanting to go out and better their team. They’ve already beaten us with what they had. I don’t doubt . . . that we can beat them on a given day. But that does show something that they’re going out and doing that.”
They’re wanting to go out and better their team . . . .
Carlos Beltran, on being traded to Texas on Monday: “The feeling is that I’ve got to go there and help. Help as much as I can. . . . It’s fun, honestly. . . . Every game that you play is a meaningful game and you try to continue to win ballgames and increase that lead.”
Win . . . .
Jonathan Lucroy, as part of his lengthy and awesome comments to ESPN about his own trade to the Rangers: “Texas made a sacrifice to bring me in. They gave up some good prospects. By making that sacrifice, they’re telling me they need me here to win.
“When a player’s on a team, wherever it is, you want to have that wanted and needed feeling. It makes you feel like you’re part of something. We aren’t in the playoffs yet, but we have all the pieces. I’m already falling in love with this roster. We have two players in our lineup who are Hall of Fame guys: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran. Those two dudes are unbelievable. I’m honored to play with them, and I know I’m going to be a better baseball player being around them. I’ve only played on the road for Texas, but I can’t wait to play a home game.
“When I step to the plate there, I’m going to take it all in. I’m going to take all of this in. I know I had nothing to do with the Rangers getting to where they are now, but I want to have a lot to do with finishing the job.”
Yeah, so, all of that . . . .
In the five games Texas has played since the Beltran and Lucroy/Jeremy Jeffress trades, the Rangers have scored only 11 runs.
Beltran and Lucroy have driven in seven of them.
Seven of 11.
Those two are hitting .324/.343/.765 in 35 trips to the plate, with four homers.
Last night: 5 for 8, with two Lucroy homers and, together, all three runs driven in to pace the Rangers’ 3-2 win over Houston — not to mention the beast work Lucroy did blocking and framing and throwing all night, in a game in which 15 Astros reached base and 13 hitters stepped in with runners in scoring position.
And for good measure, Jeffress threw the biggest inning of the night, punching out Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve and getting Carlos Correa to roll out to second in the bottom of the seventh inning, nursing a 2-1 lead.
Texas 3, Houston 2 shouldn’t bother the Astros, though — or at least their GM — since neither the loss nor the club’s trade deadline inactivity does anything, evidently, to endanger keeping their window “open for as long as possible and hav[ing] as many shots to go to the playoffs as possible.”
As long as you’re comfy kicking the can, wholly indifferent to the fact that your window’s actually already open.
I’ve been doing this for more than 18 years. I started before Mark Teixeira was a professional baseball player, and there’s at least a decent chance I’ll be doing it after that, too.
He and a fellow Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket are the two greatest first-round draft picks in Texas Rangers history, but Teixeira, for me, gets the nod over Kevin Brown not just because of his exceptional career but also because of how he impacted the Rangers in the way that, fair or not, most of us will remember him.
Back when the Newberg Report started in 1998 (the Newberg Minor League Report, actually), I committed to writing seven days a week, mostly about the Rangers’ farm system, and kept that up for years, as we had no kids yet (a poor justification since Mike Hindman and then Scott Lucas would take the minor league recaps on and keep going well into fatherhood).
Mark Teixeira was the first Rangers minor leaguer who truly justified the floor-it hype that I’d habitually dispensed on the likes of Cesar King and Jovanny Cedeno and (sigh) Ruben Mateo.
Texas had been a playoff team, finally, in 1996 and 1998 and 1999. Each October the club had been stepped on and over by the Yankees, and in fact after winning their first-ever playoff game on October 1, 1996, the Rangers dropped the next nine to New York over those three post-seasons.
A month after the 1999 playoffs ended, Texas traded Juan Gonzalez because he wouldn’t take the Larry Walker-like contract (six years and $75 million) the Rangers offered him. Aaron Sele was gone, John Burkett was gone, and so were Tom Goodwin and Todd Zeile. The Rangers finished last in the division in 2000 (as they would in 2001 and 2002 and 2003 as well: the A-Rod Years), and as a result of having baseball’s fifth-worst record they were awarded the fifth pick in the June 2001 draft.
Minnesota took Florida State quarterback recruit Joe Mauer first. The Cubs selected Mark Prior. Tampa Bay chose Dewon Brazelton and Philadelphia went with Gavin Floyd.
The Rangers chose Mark Teixeira, and just before the minor league seasons ended that summer, inked him to a big league, four-year, $9.5 million contract, $4.5 million of which was his bonus for signing. He would play 86 minor league games — all in 2002 — before debuting in the big leagues the following April, ranked universally at the time as the number one prospect in baseball.
On April 9, 2003, Teixeira doubled down the left field line off Oakland lefthander Mark Mulder.
He’d been 0 for 16 as a big leaguer going into that at-bat.
It was an inauspicious start to a spectacular five-year Rangers run that ended with a .901 OPS (.283/.368/.533), 153 home runs, 499 RBI, two Gold Gloves, and two Silver Slugger awards.
And a monumentally important trade.
Though Teixeira helped breathe new life into a franchise that was fully retrenching after the late-90s playoff years, the Rangers hadn’t finished better than third in the West in his four full seasons here.
In his fifth, which began with Ron Washington newly at the helm and a teardown blueprint in place upstairs if the season had gotten off to a certain type of start, Texas was 13 games under .500 and in last place in the division on July 31, 15.5 games back, when Jon Daniels, in his second season as Rangers GM, traded Teixeira — even though he was still more than a year away from free agency — to Atlanta, where he’d played his college ball.
Texas, which sent veteran reliever Ron Mahay to the Braves as well, got 18-year-old Class A shortstop Elvis Andrus, 18-year-old Rookie-level righthander Neftali Feliz, 21-year-old AA lefthander Matt Harrison, 22-year-old big league rookie catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and 20-year-old Class A lefthander Beau Jones in return.
A year later, the Braves traded Teixeira badly (to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek), and five months after that he left Los Angeles for the Yankees, the culmination of a fascinating bidding war between New York (where his father John’s high school teammate Bucky Dent had played) and Boston (which had drafted Teixeira out of high school but failed to sign him in what was apparently an ugly negotiation that went public). The Yankees agreed to pay him $180 million over eight seasons, the eighth of which is this one.
Teixeira’s Yankees reached the playoffs the first four of his eight seasons there. He was an iron man, missing almost no time until the final month of that fourth year (2012). Since then, he has struggled with his health, having played just 327 games over the ensuing three-and-two-thirds seasons. He didn’t play the one time New York has reached the post-season in that time, which was last year’s Wild Card Game.
Meanwhile, over those same eight years, the Rangers have also reached the playoffs four times. In the first of those, they slew the Yankees to get to the World Series, in an ALCS whose symbolic weight had more to do with those 1990s playoff series and with Alex Rodriguez than with Teixeira. In the second of those seasons, Texas reached the World Series again, eliminating the Tigers, who had eliminated New York.
Two straight World Series, with Andrus and Feliz and Harrison at the core.
The Rangers haven’t had as high-profile a drafted player since Teixeira was chosen in 2001. Justin Smoak (2008) came closest, and he was traded well, too.
The Mark Teixeira Trade headlined this franchise’s turning point. It epitomized the concept of the window, which Daniels and his inner circle knew wasn’t going to arrive until after Teixeira had likely moved on via free agency.
The trade didn’t work out for Atlanta, which missed the playoffs in 2007 and would in 2008 as well, after moving him to the Angels.
Things worked out just fine for Los Angeles, which won 100 games and the West with Teixeira on board (.358/.449/.632) before falling to the Red Sox in the ALDS, a series in which he went 7 for 15 (.467/.550/.467).
The Angels recouped a draft pick when Teixeira left that winter for the Yankees.
With that pick, 25th overall in 2009, Los Angeles drafted Mike Trout.
Teixeira will be remembered as a Yankee. And like fellow former Yankees Mickey Mantle, Carlos Beltran, Tim Raines, Bernie Williams, and Jorge Posada (OK with you if I don’t include Lance Berkman?), he’ll be remembered as one of the great switch-hitters the game has ever seen.
Along with Eddie Murray, his childhood hero.
I would have bet that Teixeira would eventually play in Baltimore, his hometown team, reunited at some point with his first big league manager, Buck Showalter. But Teixeira announced yesterday that he’s not going to play baseball anymore once the 2016 season ends, and so if he does go back home to Baltimore this winter, it’s going to be for good, with Leigh and their kids Jack, William, and Addison.
Because two Larry Walker references are better than one, here’s another: In 2004, when Teixeira was in his second season as a Ranger and on his way to a top 20 MVP vote (.281/.370/.560, 38 home runs, 112 RBI), the club was good, and — if you listened closely enough to Showalter and John Hart — perhaps illusorily so. Hart made an effort in July to bolster a division lead that had dwindled from 4.5 games to half a game, agreeing to send AA shortstop Ian Kinsler and AA righthander Erik Thompson to Colorado for Walker.
But Walker vetoed the trade.
Without which I would never have been able to put together my favorite (non-World Series season) Bound Edition book cover ever:
Two have retired (one on his own terms), a third is about to, and that leaves Kinsler, whom the Rangers traded twice, saved from doing so only once.
All that makes me feel old.
But not as old as this photograph does:
That baby in the corner? She watched a minute of Teixeira’s emotional press conference with me yesterday. She’ll be a junior in high school in a couple weeks.
Next to my wife, of the people in that photo, taken at a Newberg Report event when he had yet to play his first minor league game, Teixeira has aged the least.
Like Kevin Brown (drafted fourth overall), Teixeira (drafted fifth overall) won one World Series. Not here, obviously.
But he helped Texas get to two of them, their only two to date, and if Texas hadn’t drafted him and signed him and gotten crazy-great production out of him, not even the team in the town where he played his college ball would have loaded up to make that kind of trade for him, a trade that didn’t work out on one end but, man, did it ever work out on the other.
He’s had a tremendous 14-year big league career. Though the relatively recent introduction of the Gold Glove may warp the note a bit, MLB Network pointed out yesterday that Teixeira is the only first baseman in big league history with at least 400 home runs, 1200 RBI, 900 walks, a .500 slug, and five Gold Gloves.
Singular or not, that’s an extraordinary set of bullet points.
The Rangers’ “Mount Rushmore” has on it one player who was traded for, two others who signed as big league free agents, and one who signed as a teenager out of Puerto Rico. None were drafted by Texas.
Mark Teixeira wouldn’t get votes himself, and if Cooperstown is in his future, the Rangers will be mentioned in the speech (as they were yesterday) but not depicted on the plaque.
But his importance to this franchise cannot be overstated, and regardless of what’s next for the Rangers’ 2001 first-round draft pick, he’ll be well remembered here, including by a blogger who’s been plugging away at this for Teixeira’s entire career — and then some, with all luck, on both ends.