The fact that Cliff Lee has been dealing with a mild oblique strain is a reminder, overlaid against the reports that Brandon Webb is being taken off a standard mound routine to throw long toss for now, that: (1) devoting six years and $120 million (and possibly $135 million) to a 32-year-old is scary, but so is giving one year and $3 million (and possibly $8 million) to a 31-year-old coming off a major injury – pitchers are risks – and (2) this is the time of the year, with baseball in session but no game performances to overreact to, when every single physical issue is made into news (Lee is reportedly at 100 percent, and Webb could still be on schedule to take the ball on April 5 against Seattle).
But given Webb’s immediate history, this can’t just be written off like a John Wetteland spring training neck strain. Like Josh Hamilton’s bruised shoulder this time last year, Webb’s arm strength, deemed after his first bullpen session to be insufficient at this stage for throwing off a mound, is going to be a story for several weeks, at least. Even if he’s allowed to throw downhill soon, he’ll be behind others, and it’s probably a fair bet that he starts the year on the disabled list, even if briefly and only as a precautionary measure – and that may be optimistic.
Michael Young (who addressed his teammates before the club’s first full-squad workout yesterday) is expected to sit down with Ron Washington and infield coach Dave Anderson today to outline his workout schedule for camp, mapping out his drills at first base, second base, and third base. He won’t be considered a backup at shortstop or in the outfield.
Chris Davis will work primarily at third base in camp.
Tanner Scheppers is working on a starter’s schedule and will pitch out of the Round Rock rotation, unless he makes the Rangers’ Opening Day bullpen.
Righthander Alexi Ogando is throwing without pain, fully past the strained abdominal muscle he suffered in Game Four of the World Series.
(Given the good news on Ogando, I don’t mind saying the last part of that sentence was pretty cool to be able to write.)
Texas is hopeful that Scott Feldman, who had microfracture surgery on his right knee in November and is throwing on flat ground, will be able to throw off a mound late in March. He won’t be ready for Opening Day.
Righthander Omar Beltre, diagnosed last week with spinal stenosis, a genetic disorder marked by abnormal narrowing of the spine, will undergo surgery tomorrow and won’t resume baseball activities for another two months.
Outfielder Craig Gentry isn’t yet at full strength after right wrist surgery in August. He had a cortisone shot a couple days ago and should get rolling this week.
First baseman Chad Tracy won’t work in the outfield for now, limited after “clean-up” surgery on his right shoulder this winter.
Of the four prospects added by Texas to the 40-man roster in November, three are dealing with injuries. Righthander Fabio Castillo is sidelined indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. Lefthander Miguel De Los Santos is recovering from off-season biceps tendinitis. And Wilmer Font had Tommy John surgery at the end of last season. Only outfielder Engel Beltre is fully healthy.
Righthander Brett Tomko, signed over the weekend to a minor league contract (without an invite to big league camp) (and arguably the longtime Face of the Hardline’s “Future Ranger” Franchise), was singled out many years ago as perhaps the only free agent starting pitcher Texas ever approached only to be told he wasn’t crazy about the idea of pitching in Rangers Ballpark.
Kevin Millwood rejected the Yankees’ offer of a minor league contract.
Rich Harden has been shut down for a couple weeks by the A’s, complaining of pain in his right side.
The Mets signed first baseman Chris Shelton to a minor league deal.
Righthander Chris Ray says he turned down another club’s big league contract offer before agreeing to a minor league deal with Seattle, claiming he did so because he believes the Mariners will give him a shot at closing games or at least setting up late.
San Diego released infielder Gregorio Petit, who had injured his knee in winter ball.
The Dodgers signed righthander Geoff Geary to a minor league deal.
The Baltimore Showalters signed righthander Ryan Drese to a minor league contract, which I found strange. The club also signed outfielder Joe Gaetti to a minor league deal.
The Mets gave righthander Johnny Lujan a non-roster invite to big league camp. San Francisco signed infielder Edgar Gonzalez to a minor league deal but with no invite.
The great Jason Parks has launched his new website, offering scouting-based analysis of the Rangers farm system, at http://www.texasfarmreview.com. Sign up, and you’ll learn a lot.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman, asked by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times whether trading for Cliff Lee in July might have led the lefthander to sign long-term with New York this winter, said: “Maybe. Or maybe he would have hated it. Who knows? It goes both ways. He went there (Texas) to help them win a World Series, but he lost two games in the World Series to the Giants. You just don’t know how this stuff plays out.”
Cashman’s not very good at quotes.
Seattle and New York both screwed up on that trade. The Yankees should have thrown Eduardo Nunez or Ivan Nova into the deal, and the Mariners should have taken Jesus Montero – regardless of the secondary pieces – instead of Justin Smoak.
It’s sort of amazing how badly Lee has been traded in his career. All four times the team getting Lee (Cleveland, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Texas) won the deal handily (which of course means that the first three of those clubs, along with Montreal in 2002, were guilty of being on the other end).
The Phillies have acquired Lee a second time, and like every other team that has added the lefthander, they probably won’t regret it, at least for a few years. But given the level of their investment, when his muscular issue led the club to shut him down for a week in January (after he’d missed time early in the 2007 and 2010 seasons with abdominal strains), you can understand how there might have been a sleepless night or two in the Philadelphia front office.
Even with nothing but minor dings and occasional barks, no team can ever expect to get through a season with fewer than eight or nine starting pitchers. Brandon Webb’s early-camp setback, if it can be termed that, shouldn’t come as a great surprise, given what he’s coming back from, and that’s one reason that this club, even with a decent amount of depth in back-of-rotation candidates, has made agate-type news the last few weeks with veterans like Dave Bush and Brett Tomko, and theoretically may not be finished.
They were both disappointed that things had become so public, but Jon Daniels and Michael Young each took a turn speaking publicly once more on Saturday, in separate press conferences, declining to get into the details and preaching closure, preferring to move on with the business of getting ready for Rangers baseball.
It’s a very different situation from the one last March in which the manager made a staggering admission, and he and his bosses and his players talked about getting it out there and moving on, though like that story, this one won’t go away over the next six weeks – but I do expect the players and coaches and club officials to stay focused on what they’re supposed to be focused on.
There were stacks of interesting comments on Saturday from Daniels and Young, which all of the local beats thoroughly delivered yesterday and today, so I’m not going to take up the space to lay them out here, but I will say that for all of the versatility and depth that the Rangers have built this winter, no team has more versatility and depth in its Team President than this one.
The team had just won a 10-inning, 6-5 game on April 19, 2009, then a franchise with one playoff game victory in 37 seasons, yet 18 months away from a World Series that nobody could have imagined would come so quickly.
Moments like that one make us forget, as they should, that this is a business. A business in which an mind-blowing amount of money is tied up, in which different people, in spite of sharing an ultimate goal, have very different jobs to do in pushing toward that goal, and are paid very well to do those jobs. Different jobs, different agendas.
Since that photograph was taken, Vladimir Guerrero arrived, and left. Cliff Lee, same thing. Bengie Molina. Clint Hurdle. Matt Purke hadn’t yet been drafted, hadn’t yet not signed, hadn’t yet been Baseball America Freshman of the Year, hadn’t yet thrown four innings of one-hit ball in TCU’s 2011 season opener to kick off his sophomore, draft-eligible season.
When Michael Young took Kyle Farnsworth deep in the bottom of the ninth on April 19, 2009 and sprinted across 355 feet of baseline, leaping to cover the final five, C.J. Wilson was in the Rangers bullpen, and in fact entered in the seventh inning that day, with Texas behind, 5-3. Neftali Feliz was in the Oklahoma City rotation. Alexi Ogando was in extended spring training in the Dominican Republic. Colby Lewis was in Japan.
Taylor Teagarden, then in his first full big league season and a key part of the club’s catching tandem, now faces the likelihood that his final option will be exercised before Opening Day, with an assignment to AAA Round Rock, in the shadow of the college town where he’d established himself as a strong bet to carve out at least a steady big league career as a backup catcher.
Chris Davis, also then in his first full big league season and the number five candidate in all of baseball to put together a breakout season (according to 60 big league execs that Peter Gammons talked to in spring training), now also stares at a final option to Round Rock.
There were Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison, the Braves’ number two and number three prospects (per Baseball America) when they came over in the July 2007 trade, one 10 games into a career that’s going to last a very long time (without an option ever being used), the other now an outside candidate to earn a roster spot in camp and more likely to be pitching to Teagarden in April, 200 miles south.
We pretty much knew what Ian Kinsler and David Murphy were, but Josh Hamilton? More than 50 plate appearances into the season, he was hitting .229, with a slug at the time (.354) less than his batting average would be a year later (.359). And Nelson Cruz? Coming off a season in which he had cleared waivers and was outrighted to AAA, 2009 was supposed to be (and was) the year in which he’d turn the corner.
Today, those two could be on the verge of talks that would replace their current contracts with lengthier, more lucrative ones, as could Wilson and Andrus, keeping them in Texas for many more years, even as nearly half of their teammates in that 2009 photo have already moved on.
Things change in baseball, routinely and sometimes significantly, often purely on merit but other times as necessarily dictated by the business of the game.
Say what you will, based on the reporting that’s out there, about how Young and the organization have handled their business with each other this winter, but the consensus from the clubhouse, with something closer to expectation than hope, is that when he arrives today he’s going to be the same teammate, with the same motivations, the same approach, no matter what his role is on the field and whether or not it’s what he wanted it to be.
Kinsler and Andrus are counting on that from him, at least. And that’s what he needs to do.
The slogan has come and gone, but for a World Series club coming off what’s been a noisier winter than anyone hoped for, I think we can all agree that we could use some baseball.
The business aspect of this off-season is largely over with. The front office will probably continue to address roster depth, as it did in spring training a year by adding Matt Treanor and Andres Blanco and others during camp. While Omar Beltre and Craig Gentry and Fabio Castillo probably weren’t going to make strong pushes for Opening Day roster spots, their setbacks affect depth, always a management focus. But for Treanor and Blanco’s teammates, the focus shifts.
The writers aren’t going to let the Michael Young story die, and they shouldn’t. But for the players, cell phone and Twitter season is over. It’s fungo and L-screen season now. What the Rangers need from everyone who wears the uniform, starting with Michael Young, who has always set the tone for his teammates, is to go about the business of preparing to contribute to notches in the win column, because that’s what the game asks baseball players to do.
For those of you who plan to be in Surprise between March 12 and March 17: If I were to try and organize a “Chalk Talk” type of gathering one evening in that stretch, maybe at the stadium, would you be interested in attending?
My thought was making it similar to the Sherlock’s event we had last week – a group of maybe three-to-five folks from among the players, front office, and TV/radio broadcast teams for an hour or two of fan Q&A with us.
I’m pitching the idea to the team but first need to get a very general sense of how many of you might be there. If you’ll be in Arizona and would be interested in attending, let me know how many would be in your group.
On Michael Young’s 34th birthday, he singled in a third-inning run in Yankee Stadium to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead in a game they eventually won, 10-3, to give Texas a 3-1 advantage in the ALCS.
When Texas hosts New York this May, Young will reach another milestone. If my math is right,* he’ll attain 10/5 rights on Sunday, May 8, when the Rangers and Yankees wrap up a three-game set with an afternoon game in Rangers Ballpark.
[* I've seen at least one article suggesting the vest date is instead May 25. Not sure what the correct date is, but I'll try to find out.]
The day Young’s 10/5 rights (10 years of big league service, the last five years of which have been with the same team) lock in, he’ll have a full no-trade hammer the rest of his career.
Now, if Young is not traded before then, and he still wants to play somewhere else, there’s certainly an argument that ultimately he wouldn’t use his no-trade rights to impede a deal. But it could also, theoretically, handcuff Texas from the standpoint that Young could slash the club’s leverage with potential trade partners by dictating which teams it can do business with – the flip side of which is that his demand for a trade could then go unfulfilled.
It’s more likely that Young is traded before whatever the key date in May is than afterwards. But there’s not a great probability that he gets dealt in March, April, or May, either.
In the past few days, as national columns and local beats around the league were expected to turn over as many stones as possible (and maybe scatter a few that needed turning over) with the reporting of pitchers and catchers, we got this story any number of times:
“[Team] is interested in Michael Young but, because they would need Texas to kick in [some multiple of A Whole Lot] dollars, talks have [stagnated] [broken off] [never really materialized in the first place].”
The list of teams about whom that basic story has not been written this month is probably shorter than the list of those who have been linked loosely to Young.
It’s been widely reported that the Rangers are talking to clubs (at least the eight to which Young can’t block a deal per his contractually set partial no-trade clause, if not more clubs than that) in an effort to accommodate his request to be moved – as long as the deal makes Texas better. It would stand to reason (and I think it’s been reported) that the Rangers will de-prioritize that effort once the full squad report date arrives this Saturday, after which the business of getting the team ready for Opening Day, with Young as the DH and super utility infielder, will take precedence.
At the moment, agent Dan Lozano is in the news because of yesterday’s apparent breakdown in contract extension talks between his client Albert Pujols and the Cardinals, and because Nick Swisher (who will be a free agent next winter if the Yankees don’t exercise a $10.25 million option for 2012) just fired his representative Joe Bick in order to join Lozano’s stable.
But Lozano could be busy with Young these next couple days, too, as you’d think that if he’s going to be traded before the next off-season – an exceedingly big “if” – it will happen before this weekend, when Young is expected in camp with the rest of his teammates, focused as the front office is on putting this friction behind them and moving forward with preparations to defend an American League title.
You know well enough what Chuck Greenberg and John Rhadigan bring to expect that they’d be as solid, as easygoing and energetic, as they were last night. Ben Rogers and Jeff “Skin” Wade: consistent awesomeness. Luther Davis running an auction, Ted Price live-streaming things, Norma & George & Ryan Wolfson helping move things along seamlessly, you guys generously stepping up to help raise thousands of dollars to help local kids – if you’ve been to any Newberg Report events, there are certain things that are known quantities.
But, for me, what stood out last night like an excessively red sportcoat was the presence of Don Welke, who was establishing himself as one of baseball’s most well-respected scouts and advisors before many of us, including the Texas Rangers franchise, were born.
I’ve been around Don (who even the people he works with every day refer to as “Coach”) a lot the last six years, and if I had to put together one of those dream dinner tables and the category was people to talk baseball with, he’d be there. But all those times I’d been around him, he was almost invisible, in a stadium seat or pacing on the back fields behind a chain-link fence, wearing standard issue scouts’ attire and watching, quietly. I’d never seen him speak to a group of 10 people, let alone the couple hundred we packed into the room last night.
But Coach was the star of the show. I didn’t count but I bet he ended up fielding as many of your questions as Chuck or John did. He talked about the Rangers’ farm system as a whole and about specific prospects, about scouting philosophies, about what he thinks this team needs, about Michael Young. In holding forth about Elvis Andrus and what he gave the team in October, one of the things he keyed on was a young player’s capacity for stepping up when the lights go on.
It may be strange to say the same thing about someone who has had 45 years in the game, but for me, Coach was the one who put things into a gear last night that I didn’t realize he had. In a jacket that ought to keep our local optometrists’ phone lines busy today.
In a couple days, I believe Ted will have the video of the two-hour Q&A with Ben & Skin, Chuck, Rhads, and Coach uploaded at http://dallassportsnetwork.tv/. I’ll let you know when it’s up.
Thanks as always to Marcus White and his staff at Sherlock’s, to Karin Morris of the Rangers Foundation and Brad Newton and Allen Cordrey and Pat Payton, who provided most of the auction items, to Fox 4 News, who came out and grabbed some footage for last night’s sportscast, and to all of you who were out there with us.
I’m more ready than ever for some Rangers baseball.
By the way, here’s a writeup that blogger Brandon Wilson did from last night’s event:
Join us tonight from 6:00 until 8:30 or 9:00 at Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub (9100 N. Central Expressway, at the northeast corner of Central and Park Lane) for the off-season’s second Newberg Report Book Release Party. Come early if you’d like and get something to eat and drink. Admission is free.
We’ll start things off with fan Q&A with Rangers Managing Partner/CEO Chuck Greenberg, new TV play-by-play man John Rhadigan, and Senior Special Assistant to the GM Don Welke, moderated by emcees Ben Rogers & Skin Wade of ESPN 103.3 FM.
At 7:00 we’ll break for a live auction, conducted by Luther Davis of Davis Auctioneers, to raise money for the Rangers Foundation. The list of items includes the following (and may continue to grow):
?“It’s Time” banner that hung on the streets during the playoffs, donated by the Rangers Foundation
?Bat signed by Ian Kinsler, donated by the Rangers Foundation
?Limited edition 16 x 20 print of Nolan Ryan by artist Pat Payton, signed by Nolan Ryan, Chuck Greenberg, Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, CJ Wilson, Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, and Jackie Moore, donated by Walt Garrison Foods
?Frameable 20 x 30 photo of Josh Hamilton leaping to rob a HR, taken and donated by Rangers team photographer Brad Newton
?Frameable 20 x 30 photo of Chris Davis leaping at plate after walkoff home run, taken and donated by Brad and signed by Chris
?Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Neftali Feliz jumping into Bengie Molina’s arms after the ALCS-ending strikeout of Alex Rodriguez, taken and donated by Brad
?Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Mitch Moreland’s home run swing in Game 3 of the World Series, with an inset shot of Moreland rounding the bases, taken and donated by Brad
?Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Elvis Andrus in a posed leap-throw, taken and donated by Brad
?Frameable 11 x 14 photo of Pudge Rodriguez with mask off, pouncing on a bunt, taken and donated by Brad
?Fan Fest Official Pass signed by Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry
?Fan Fest Official Pass signed by CJ Wilson
?Nolan Ryan signed baseball, donated by the Rangers Foundation
?Tanner Scheppers signed baseball, donated by Allen Cordrey
?Cliff Lee signed baseball, donated by Allen Cordrey
?2011 Bound Edition signed by Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, Tanner Scheppers, Joe Wieland, and Matt Thompson
Every dollar raised during the auction will go to the Rangers Foundation to help support area kids in need. Cash or checks only, please.
Once the auction ends, we’ll jump right back into more Q&A with Chuck, John, and Don.
We’ll also have copies of the 2011 Bound Edition and the brand new Newberg Report T-shirts on sale – but unlike the December event, you don’t need to buy a book to attend.
“I hate seeing Mom & Dad fight” is how a friend put it yesterday.
It’s bordering on war now, and not only that, but it’s being waged through the media, which is completely out of the ordinary for both sides. As the curtain was pulled back yesterday, it became fairly clear that the Rangers and Michael Young disagree not only on what his role should be, but also on how things have played out this winter to get us to this point.
But like the Mom & Dad thing, the versions and explanations aren’t as important as the fracture itself. You can’t convince me that this isn’t true: The ultimate objective for both sides is to win here, in Texas, and both believe with total conviction that they know the right way, in their role, to go about getting that done. But they have different ideas on what that right way is, and it’s become personal. Publicly personal.
No matter where you fall on this situation, no matter where anyone falls on it, it’s really too bad it’s come to this. Nobody’s going to be thrilled with the outcome.
So the speculation, replaced not by resolution but instead by ringside seats, moves away from “Is there really something going on here?” and toward the Rockies, Angels, Dodgers, Padres, Twins, Yankees, Cardinals, and Astros, and maybe one of the other 21 teams “on a case-by-case basis” (some of whom have already approached Texas), and toward what’s likely an eight-figure sum that might be as much of a moving target as the names of infielders, relief pitchers, and prospects who could be involved in a deal, if that’s where all of this leads.
But maybe the outcome is that both sides ultimately decide that the best solution is to find a way to repair relationships, to reconcile differences, at least to a workable scale, and keep at least this part of the Texas Rangers’ World Series roster intact. Neither side would rule out the possibility yesterday of getting past this (if you consider “I don’t know” as a glimmer of hope on one of the two sides).
Whatever makes this team better. That’s the next development in this story I want to hear about.
I didn’t think I’d be craving next week’s scrape of cleats and leather pop as a refuge, but here we are, seeking asylum in the reporting of pitchers and catchers, and then position players, maybe with one position player in particular and maybe not, while in the meantime my head hurts trying to make sense of the divergent paths of good intentions.
We’re now within single-digit sleeps of Pitchers & Catchers, and in the last few days the wait has gotten a lot more interesting, with the media standing vigil on more than just the departure of the equipment trucks for Surprise, Arizona.
Regardless of what develops over the next few days, Thursday night should be pretty energetic. Our second Newberg Report book release party of the winter will be at Sherlock’s Baker St. Pub in Dallas (9100 N. Central Expressway, at the northeast corner of Central and Park Lane), three nights from now, February 10, starting at 6:00 p.m. and going until 8:30 or 9:00.
Rangers Managing Partner/CEO Chuck Greenberg and new TV play-by-play man John Rhadigan will join us for a couple hours of Q&A (your questions), and I’m expecting to have someone from the Rangers’ Baseball Operations crew as well. We’ll also conduct a live charity auction of some unique Rangers memorabilia, which I’ll detail before that night. Ben Rogers & Skin Wade, from the ESPN 103.3 FM morning show, will emcee the evening, and Luther Davis of Davis Auctioneers will preside over the auction.
Proceeds from the auction will go to the Rangers Foundation to help support area kids in need.
I’ll also have copies of the 2011 Bound Edition on sale – as well as the brand new Newberg Report T-shirts – but unlike the December event, you don’t need to buy a book to attend.
Hope to see you Thursday night – though I’m guessing we’ll be talking before then . . . .
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