My lines on my wheelhouse are as blurry as Vladimir Guerrero’s, with a similar level of comfort in the chaos. I’m usually not in my zone unless I’m doing three things at once.
But last week, in a country whose name is loosely translated as “rich in springs,” or “land of wood and water,” or Land of Rolando Roomes (and Devon White, and Chili Davis, and . . . Justin Masterson?), the number of things I wanted to juggle at any given time was exactly zero, with occasional flashes of one.
Virtually off the grid, I left the TV off and the newspapers to others, checking in only occasionally with Twitter to keep surface tabs on Flight MH370, on a couple go-to takes on the “True Detective” finale, and on the latest developments in the Cowboys’ systematic program of robbing Peter to owe Paul and grease the skids on the team’s steady course of embraced mediocrity. There was very little in the way of electronic means — unless you count my introduction to Anton Chigurh via e-reader — and I’m pretty sure in five days I gave back everything I’d gained over the preceding 21-day cleanse, but hey, it’s easier to rationalize forfeiting a draft pick to sign Shin-Soo Choo when you know you’ll get one back for Nelson Cruz.
I’m a big proponent of the stabilizing effects of extended nothingness (nap status: lost count), even if I seek it out so rarely that it’s practically as much of a bucket list box to check off as a two-hour zipline canopy tour. I’m rejuvenated, so stinkin’ ready now for the 162 that we’re just two weeks from, and that was true before Lewis Brinson (can he be the next Devo?) doubled on the first big league spring training pitch he ever saw Saturday afternoon, two minutes after which Nick Williams (the next Chili?) homered in his first-ever big league spring training at-bat, two innings after which Williams maintained his perfect 5.000 OPS by going deep yet again, tying the video-game score but more importantly, on the second bomb, displaying that elite bat speed and barrel control as he rifled a pitch low and in over the right field fence with the pop time of a Jorge Alfaro throw to second.
Nick Williams is going to be special, but temper your enthusiasm for now, because he’s not going to help Texas in 2014.
Unless he helps make Giancarlo Stanton a Ranger.
It was a meaningless final third of a meaningless exhibition game, and two Williams blasts should carry no more weight than Joey Gallo’s five strikeouts in six trips in the same game, but then again this is the time of the spring training schedule when you see things like Nelson Cruz getting a start in center field for the first time since his current Orioles manager shifted the rookie to center for the final two innings of a blowout Rangers win over Oakland on August 9, 2006, and we latch onto moments like Williams’s — and left-handed reliever Rafael Perez’s bases-loaded faceoffs with lefties Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick in the second inning Saturday, and Ronald Guzman’s Williams impersonation Sunday, going deep in his own first-ever big league exhibition at-bat late in that game — as the novelty of camp wears off and the imminence of the regular season still feels not imminent enough. Overreactions in mid-March are sort of unavoidable.
The way you feel about what Michael Choice continues to do in Arizona, seemingly every day if not every at-bat and every defensive chance, is not an overreaction. He’s the story of camp at this point.
The positive one, at least.
The negative ones have zero to do with wins and losses and slash lines and almost everything to do with health, but even the red lights on those are starting to turn yellow in several cases, even as rival clubs’ pitchers take a number to visit Dr. James Andrews.
And yeah, since his first full season I’ve had less confidence in Neftali Feliz than most, and yesterday’s 92-94 in a result-clean eighth concerns me almost as much as the issues Colby Lewis and Nick Tepesch had locating on Sunday.
But we have enough experience as baseball fans in mid-March to know that concerns over Feliz’s velocity and Adrian Beltre’s quad muscle and Neal Cotts’s ineffectiveness could end up fading away with all the evanescence of Rolando Roomes’s big league career. The good stuff from Arizona could be desert mirage, too — remember how we felt a year ago this time, as David Murphy was taking .313/.348/.453 camp numbers into his contract year.
Texas won its second straight game yesterday for the first time this spring, and if you’d like to get worked up about that, be my guest, but spring training, of course, is less about moments than it is about process, and unless you’re Brent Lillibridge or Kevin Kouzmanoff fighting for a bench spot, or Engel Beltre or Michael Kirkman trying to make an absence of options stand up, the moments and results just don’t matter a ton.
Still, coming back home this weekend to see Nick Williams and Ronald Guzman do loud things to a baseball, and to see Rafael Perez remind us momentarily of the Rafael Perez we used to know, and to see Pat Cantwell shake Joakim Soria’s hand at the end of a game (which may happen again before Williams and Guzman arrive in Arlington), and to see Michael Choice make baseball his wheelhouse, those things do tend to work on me, in a yearly bucket list kind of way, and I’m going to go ahead and hit “send” on this report, because I’ve got about three things I’ve gotta go do.
This is not for very many of you. The ones who it’s really for don’t need me to go into detail about what went on this weekend in Trophy Club, because they were there to experience it themselves.
And the rest of you don’t care.
But this is what I want to say today, if it’s cool with you:
“DFW teams could all use more edge. Kins has some of it. I miss Tyson Chandler and Steve Ott.”
I tweeted that nine months ago. I thought about Chandler and Ott again yesterday.
And about Mike Napoli and Cliff Lee.
Maybe they all had issues with local management, for not offering more money or years, or for trading them to Buffalo. Maybe they were bitterly livid. Felt like name-calling. Wished 82 straight losses on their former teammates, or 162.
But they didn’t voice it into an unconcealed dictaphone.
Name all the great athletes, in any sport, in your lifetime, who would have said the things Ian Kinsler did for the ESPN The Magazine article that was posted yesterday and who don’t play for the Angels. Give Kinsler benefit of the doubt, and assume there were some context issues with how his comments come across — and still, ask yourself how many star ballplayers would have chosen the words he did.
There’s nothing subtle about Kinsler’s game. Nothing soft. From the 17th-round pick’s first spring training, 10 years ago this month, until now, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen quicker hands at the plate. He got under opponents’ skin, and we loved him for that. He hit for power and he ran the bases and he turned the double play at second as well as anyone in the game. He would fall into sporadic ruts where the pop-ups and the pickoffs piled up, but he was also the guy who was capable of putting his teammates on his back, and seemed to relish that.
What he didn’t embrace, we now know, was the responsibility of leading in all those other ways, evidently. I can’t get my head wrapped around Kinsler telling ESPN that Rangers management “wanted me to lead these young players, teach them the way to compete, when the only thing I should be worried about is how I’m performing in the game.” I can’t understand Kinsler thinking that way, let alone choosing to verbalize it to someone whose job is to share words with a world of sports fans.
My thoughts turned to Alex Rodriguez and the comments he made to that same magazine, during that first Ian Kinsler spring training, weeks after the Rangers had traded the star shortstop. “I remember driving home with my wife, Cynthia, after a game and telling her, ‘I just don’t see the light. Where is the light? What am I in this for? I would have never gone to Texas if they had told me, ‘Alex, it’s going to be you and 24 kids.’ Never. For no amount of money.”
You and 24 kids.
The Kinsler/Profar angle that some reporters are focusing on reminds me a bit of Palmeiro/Teixeira.
After Kinsler’s comments were shared with his former teammates and former manager and former general manager yesterday, they all took the high road. Every one of them.
Over the final year of Kinsler’s 10-year run with this organization, a franchise that’s sure to offer him enshrinement into its own Hall of Fame one day, there was an envisioned position change designed to make the baseball team better. It didn’t happen, because Kinsler didn’t want it to. Later on, and not unrelated, there was a trade, also designed to make the baseball team better. On that, time will tell. That’s where the general manager’s batting average gets defined.
Ron Washington said yesterday, confronted with Kinsler’s comments about the Texas GM: “Opinions [are] just that. It doesn’t make it reality. To me, Jon Daniels has been one of the best general managers in the game and everything that he’s ever done, he’s done it simply because it’s going to make our team better. That’s where his head is and that’s where his head has always been.”
It’s Daniels’s job to make the Texas Rangers better. It wasn’t Ian Kinsler’s job. At least that’s how he saw it, according to the ESPN article. And that stands out a lot more than 0-162, or the word “sleazeball.”
Dale Hansen, maybe more outspoken locally than any athlete has ever been, said this last night on his 10 p.m. sportscast: “Kinsler’s one of those guys — and there’s a lot of them — when they’re negotiating a contract or chasing the free agent dollars, they want you to know it’s a business. And then they get really upset when they find out it actually is.”
That part doesn’t really bother me. I’m sure Mike Napoli was “really upset,” and Tyson Chandler, too.
But they didn’t comment publicly.
There are degrees of edge.
Emmitt Smith said some pretty caustic things on his way out, too. And we’re all good now, right?
The thing about Kinsler is, for all the baseball beasting he provided this team, there were the occasional flat-footed pickoffs and the big-game ejections, and when those things happened, the reaction was never about his baseball acumen. It was instead along the lines of “What was he thinking?”
I wish Kinsler didn’t say what he said during that ESPN interview. I wish he thought about what was worth making public, and what was better off kept to himself.
I wish he didn’t balk at the responsibility — the opportunity — a veteran has to teach young players the way to compete, the way others had done for him. Because no matter what you think right now about Ian Kinsler, you can’t deny he was one of the greatest competitors that the greatest teams in Rangers franchise history ever put on the field. His competitive edge helped define this team’s best seasons, even if he didn’t want any part of taking the initiative to pass some of that along to eager teammates.
That’s part of what could have been an even greater legacy for Kinsler with this club, delivered right over the heart of the plate, and for some reason it was a pitch he didn’t want.
THE 2014 eEDITION OF THE NEWBERG REPORT
** NOW AVAILABLE **
The 2014 eEdition of the Newberg Report, my 15th annual book on the Texas Rangers — but only the second in e-format — is now available for immediate digital download. It’s more than 400 pages commemorating the 2013 Rangers season and the impact off-season that followed it, all chronicled in the book, in daily, exhaustive, emotional detail. For any Rangers fan, this book will be one to look back on for years and years.
More than 3,000 of you on this mailing list are past customers of the Bound Edition, but for those of you who are relatively new to the Newberg Report, here is what you can expect from the book:
The book picks up right where the 2013 Bound Edition left off, taking you from October 2012 through December 2013 and containing every report I wrote in that span (including every “Trot Coffey” rumor dump).
The eEdition is the most thorough account you’ll find of the many twists and turns that the 2013 season took, and of the implications of the personnel moves that highlighted it.
For just the second time, we are offering the annual Newberg Report book in an e-book format. The 2014 eEdition is $9.99 per copy.
I also have all the previous editions of the Newberg Report Bound Edition for sale. The price breakdown is as follows:
- 2014 eEdition – $9.99
- 2013 Bound Edition – $20.00 (free shipping)
- 2012 Bound Edition (2011 World Series edition) – $20.00 (free shipping)
- 2011 Bound Edition (2010 World Series edition) – $20.00 (free shipping)
- 1999/2000 through 2010 Bound Editions – $15.00 each (free shipping)
- A gift set of all 15 Bound Editions (including the 2014 eEdition) is available for $200, which is a $35 discount
You can order by credit card through PayPal. Just go to www.newbergreport.com/BoundEdition and follow the instructions there, or click the “Store” link on the top menu at http://www.NewbergReport.com.
You can also order by check or money order, payable to “Jamey Newberg,” at:
Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.
1601 Elm Street, Suite 4100
Dallas, TX 75201
I’m extremely biased but, trying to pretend to be slightly objective, I think this is the kind of book that any Rangers fan’s library should include. I’m happy to answer any questions you have.
Ice on the ground . . . kids home from school . . . March. A new reminder that you can’t predict ball.
Another year in the books, and a fresh legal pad.
Today is 3-3, the day in Surprise on which 3 is taking grounders at 4, thanks to Rule 5.
It’s Russell Wilson Day. The day on which the Seahawks quarterback becomes a local story.
Because of how I’m unapologetically wired, it makes me think of the last Seahawks quarterback who, for me, had a local tie-in (excluding the Jon Kitna stint in Dallas, which moved the needle as much as the Stan Gelbaugh era here) — this guy:
And because I was six years old when Zorn was cut by the Cowboys and ended up on Seattle football cards, the first of which was that 1977 Topps, you’ll forgive me if there was a time when I conflated that transaction with the one not much later in which Dallas sent a late first-round pick, two seconds, and receiver Duke Ferguson to the Seahawks for the second pick in the 1977 draft, which the Cowboys used to take Tony Dorsett.
That Dallas-Seattle trade doesn’t really make me think about Texas-Seattle trades, like Smoak and Beavan and more for Cliff, as much as I try bringing things back to baseball.
But thinking about Dorsett does make me think about Herschel Walker.
And thinking about Herschel Walker makes me think about Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz, and baseball.
Today is one of those days each year that I think about Herschel anyway, as he was born on March 3.
As was Jose Oliva (an infielder that the Rangers once shipped to the Braves in something less than a Herschel Walker Trade between the two teams).
As was Matt Treanor.
As was I.
I could take advantage of this day off with my family and stack up 3,500 sit-ups and 1,500 push-ups, Herschel style, or get in some fungo/pancake infield work, Russell Wilson style.
Or maybe just run into an obnoxiously big stack of pancakes, after which I’ll probably feel like this:
Here’s to 45 and guys who don’t stop at one sport — which is not a tribute to Birmingham Barons-issue Michael Jordan — and to the power of the word, delivered not by actors butchering Broadway stars’ names in front of an audience of tens of millions but by Super Bowl winning quarterbacks challenging and inspiring fellow minor league baseball players before an audience of tens.
In sharp contrast to the parade of plastic surgery disasters that graced my TV screen last night, I’m rejuvenated by the thought of Russell Wilson taking grounders and instruction this morning, and delivering a message this afternoon to Rougned Odor and Michael Choice and Drew Robinson and Keone Kela, a moment that six of the seven guys in the above photo enabled for the cost of $12,000, which I imagine is less than the wardrobe of any of the folks wolfing down pizza on last night’s self-congratulation-fest.
One more episode of True Detective to go (sad), one more day of all these smarmy political ads (happy), one more day of surviving icemageddon (hold me), one more year in the books.
Among the many solid quotes attributed to Russell Wilson the last few months is this one: “I don’t think I’ve arrived. I think I’m continuing to get there, getting closer and closer to where I want to go. But I’m not there yet.”
For a hundred minor league ballplayers, that’s today’s 3,500 sit-ups, man.
Here’s to a great year.
Or something like that.
I’m not sure I’m allowed to post the spectacular photo taken yesterday afternoon by Rangers Manager of Photography Kelly Gavin the instant before that 360 in 360, but the least I can do is share a link.
It’s a flippin’ work of art:
Have a great weekend.
The eEdition of the 2014 Newberg Report, covering the 2013 Texas Rangers season plus the off-season through the late-December signing of Shin-Soo Choo, will be available for orders soon. While it’s tough to quantify a page count in electronic form, in a standard hard copy format the 2014 book would be more than 100 pages longer than the 2013 book, which was 308 pages.
The 2014 eEdition will be available in downloadable formats for Kindle, Nook, iPads, other eBook readers, desktop computers, and smartphones, for $9.99.
The covers, featuring the design of Marty Yawnick and the photography of USA Today’s Kevin Jairaj, our own Scott Lucas, and Jairo Salazar:
More details very soon.
They’d both come off their first full big league seasons, in which they each did big enough things that they were picked to co-star in this TV commercial.
Just four years later, and on the same late-February afternoon, with camps in full session all around the league, Andrew Bailey signed a minor league contract, and Nelson Cruz took a one-year deal from Baltimore for about what the Mets paid Chris Young and the Red Sox paid A.J. Pierzynski, a one-year guarantee of $8 million with only an added $750,000 available in incentives, in a winter when Scott Feldman got three years and $30 million from a low-payroll club; Marlon Byrd, with his own PED history and three years of extra age, got two years and $16 million, with a vesting option for a third year that could push his deal to $24 million; and Jhonny Peralta, whose suspension mirrored Cruz’s own, landed $53 million over four years from a contending club.
Maybe Texas, arguably in need of another right-handed bat to keep Mitch Moreland from having to face the best lefthanders in the league, was in it with Cruz until the end.
Maybe Cruz was insistent on finding a club that would let him play a meaningful amount in the outfield, thinking maybe he’d be able to reestablish (establish?) the value that he thought he had four months ago, when he declined the Rangers’ qualifying offer of $14.1 million in early November.
Maybe Texas simply didn’t want to give up what would be that supplemental first-round draft pick in June (somewhere in the low 30s overall) by signing Cruz now.
Maybe Cruz feared, even if he were to accept a DH-heavy role, that he’d get only part-time at-bats since Moreland is in place and no team is ever going to assure a free agent that it’s going to trade another player on its roster to ensure there’s no logjam.
Maybe the Rangers made Cruz a second offer (later in the off-season than the November qualifying offer), one that was larger than the one he ultimately took from the Orioles, but Cruz turned that one down, too, all of which Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) reports. Whether or not that crazy story about Seattle offering five years and $75 million in December was true, Jerry Crasnick (ESPN) reported yesterday that “[e]xecs from rival clubs say [Cruz] turned down multiple two- and three-year offers” before settling for Baltimore’s one-year deal.
Maybe Cruz got very bad advice from his agent.
They both have to feel sick about this.
I’m sure at least one of them does. The other one should.
And as much as I would have liked to see Cruz back here for one more year, especially at the dollar level his market turned out to be, maybe that’s a bullet dodged, if you believe analysis like this. He’s a 33-year-old player with skills likely entering their decline.
Still, he’s not only been a huge part of two World Series teams for a franchise that’s made just two World Series appearances — he’s also provided a huge amount of massive moments for this organization, many in the post-season, all since that MLB2K10 ad ran four years ago.
Nelson Cruz represents one of the great trades early on in the Jon Daniels era, and one of the great player development successes this franchise has had.
All I know is this:
Cruz had a chance to take a $14.1 million deal that was on the table. But didn’t.
The Rangers theoretically had a chance later in the winter to bring Cruz back for something in a range slightly above $8 million. But didn’t.
And that says a whole lot about how differently the two sides viewed his value — going forward.
The Baseball America Top 100 was unveiled last night, featuring five Rangers prospects, only one of whom had been on the list before.
That’s outfielder Michael Choice, who was number 80 on the list in 2012 while with Oakland, fell off the list in 2013, and resurfaces this year at number 98, months after coming to the Rangers in the trade that sent Craig Gentry the other way.
Would you like to have seen Choice higher? Sure, but (1) while that’s also Dan Peltier (number 100 in 1991) and Ryan Dittfurth (99/2002) territory, it’s also around where Ian Kinsler (98/2005) and Matt Harrison (90/2007) made their lone appearances on the BA list, and (2) these lists don’t matter.
There’s outfielder Nick Williams at 97. He was the 33rd player taken in the second round of the 2012 draft. Nobody else in that second round shows up on the BA list (though two college lefthanders chosen, Paco Rodriguez and Alex Wood, have reached the big leagues).
That 97 slot is also where Leonys Martin landed a year ago, when he was 25. Williams is 20.
Joey Gallo is the game’s number 60 prospect, according to BA. If his career ends up like the 14-year run turned in by fellow third baseman Dean Palmer, who was number 60 himself back in 1991, that’s probably OK. Then again, (then-)third baseman Chris Davis was number 65 in 2007.
It’s also where Shin-Soo Choo (61 in 2003) was at the same age (20) that Gallo is now.
Jorge Alfaro’s debut on the list (at number 54) won’t be his final entry. He may not ascend as high as Pudge’s number 7 ranking (1991) before getting to the big leagues — but he might. And there’s so much development as far as catchers go that doesn’t show up in the numbers, and it may be the position at which rankings can be the most misleading. Taylor Teagarden made the BA list twice (number 80 and 73). J.P. Arencibia (43) and Geovany Soto (47) each showed up once, but so did Max Ramirez (84) and the unforgettable Cesar King (31 in 1998, seven spots ahead of Roy Halladay).
And Yadier Molina never made a Top 100 list.
Rougned Odor leads the Rangers contingent with the number 42 spot on BA’s 2014 list, at the same age (20) that Elvis Andrus was when he was BA’s number 37 prospect. That was Andrus’s final year on the farm (he’d been number 61, 65, and 19 on the list the previous three years), and though nobody thinks Odor is going to get the 130 big league plate appearances this year that would make him ineligible for next year’s list, nobody thinks he’s going to drop off the list on merit, like the similarly positioned Donald Harris (43 in 1990) and Brian Bohanon (45 in 1990) did before unremarkable big league careers.
Yu Darvish was a number 4 (2012), and so was Tommy Hanson (2009). Ruben Mateo got as high as number 6 (2000), and so did Alex Rios (2004). Braves-Rangers lefthander prospect Ben Kozlowski (80 in 2003) was ranked higher the one time he made the list than fellow Braves-Rangers lefthander prospect Harrison was in his one appearance.
Hank Blalock was the number 3 prospect in the game in 2002.
Adrian Beltre was the number 3 prospect in the game in 1998.
You never know.
Mitch Moreland never made the list, and neither did Neal Cotts or Joakim Soria.
But Benji Gil made it four times, and he’d probably have traded places.
Julio Borbon never made the list, either, and he needed fewer than 200 minor league games before he made it to Arlington, turning in an exceptional rookie effort (.312/.414/.790 in 179 plate appearances, and 19 steals in 23 tries over 46 games in 2009) and giving rise to long-term expectations that were nearly as high as Martin’s.
Four years later, Borbon was chosen in the Rule 5 Draft.
In the minor league phase.
Borbon celebrates his 28th birthday today, a note that allows me to dig out my buried lead.
Today is also Jurickson Profar’s birthday. He’s 21. He’s younger than nine of the top 12 players on the Top 100 list that Baseball America rolled out last night.
Profar was number 74 on the list after his debut in the minor leagues, around the same area that Prince Fielder was (78 in 2003).
Fielder was number 10 after his first full season on the farm. Profar was number 7.
Fielder was number 15 and number 11 his final two years as a minor leaguer.
Profar was number 1 last year. There won’t be another year in the minors.
There are some who are down on Profar right now and upset he wasn’t traded sometime the last two years, all because his arm is barking right now and the team is taking precautions with him as camp gets going. The Venn diagram showing that set of fans and the set who expects a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper to arrive every year or two probably has a pretty decent overlap.
This shoulder tendinitis thing isn’t something to ignore, and you’d much rather have Profar fully ready to go as he settles in as a first-time everyday player.
But when I hear Ron Washington cliché us with his comment about a player who is “in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in,” I’m happier that he’s talking about Neftali Feliz than I would be if it were Profar.
Given that the reason for the Fielder trade was largely to get Profar into the lineup, this is going to be among the headline stories in camp, as we’re a week away from games that don’t count but whose results — the individual performances, that is — will be overanalyzed. But don’t overreact. Not yet, at least.
Chances are that when the Rangers and Royals play next Thursday and next Friday, Profar won’t be in the box score. Texas is going to handle him with extreme care, not because he was Baseball America’s number one prospect in the game a year ago, but because he’s the team’s starting second baseman and one of its most important player assets, for all kinds of reasons.
Happy Birthday, Jurick. Take it easy tonight.