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A Newberg Report Valentine.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Diamonds are green
And there are just two sleeps before Pitchers & Catchers Report.

Tommy Hanson, Nelson Cruz, and the amateur draft.

Would the Rangers have reached the World Series in 2010 without Cliff Lee?  Without Bengie Molina coming in to upgrade the Matt Treanor/Taylor Teagarden mix behind the plate?

Does Texas win the pennant in 2011 without Mike Adams, or get to the playoffs without him in 2012?

Same goes for Koji Uehara, notwithstanding his brutal first half of October the first of those two years.

Although his run here fell short of expectations, if Matt Garza wasn’t around in 2013, do the Rangers still win eight of those 13 starts he made, and do they get all those innings (he averaged getting an out in the seventh), relieving a little pressure on the pen? Without Garza, is Texas around for Game 163?

Does the club get past 162 in 2012 and again in 2013 without Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross?

How does the farm system look right now without Chi Chi Gonzalez, Nick Williams, Luke Jackson, Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, Travis Demeritte, Akeem Bostick, Alec Asher, David Ledbetter, and Cole Wiper?

All of those players, from Cliff to Cole, were brought to Texas because of the Rangers’ draft power in the top few rounds.  Some were drafted in rounds 1 through 4, sometimes because Texas stayed away from signing more compensation free agents (either others’ or its own).  Some were signed well above slot in a later round due in part to the bonus pool boost the Rangers got because they had extra picks.  Some were acquired by trading players drafted in those first few rounds.

We’d all feel better if the Rangers added a more reliable rotation option that Tommy Hanson.  Like free agent Ubaldo Jimenez, for example.

Sure, adding Nelson Cruz would theoretically put this lineup into rarefied territory.

But sign Jimenez, or Ervin Santana, or a bat like Kendrys Morales, and maybe you miss the chance to draft the next Williams.

Bring Cruz back and you might not get the chance to bring in the next Scheppers.

Yes, that forfeited second-rounder to sign another compensation free agent could turn into Tommy Mendonca instead of Williams or Ross.

And losing the opportunity to get that extra supplemental first if Cruz signs here rather than somewhere else could mean no Julio Borbon rather than no Scheppers.

But the best way to maximize the drafts hits is to draft more players.

Granted, there are no-compensation free agents still out there — A.J. Burnett and Suk-Min Yoon, for instance — but they aren’t going to be affordable for what might end up being a depth piece once Derek Holland returns.

If you were to drill down on the list of the Rangers’ top 32 prospects according to Baseball America, here’s what you will find:

Fifteen were signed internationally.

Nine were drafted in the first two rounds.

Three more were chosen in Rounds 3 or 4.

Five were taken in later rounds.

Look solely at the top 10, and every one of them was international (four) or taken in the top two rounds of the draft (six).

You can make the argument that the premium draft picks (and the associated draft bonus allotment), from a pipeline standpoint, are even more important for the Rangers this summer, as the club will be capped at $250,000 per player on the Latin American market this year as a result of blowing past the cap last year.

I get the argument that ending up with Kevin Matthews and Zach Cone because you didn’t sign Cliff Lee doesn’t always mean you’ve managed to extend the window.  And that having enough farm strength to add Ryan Dempster (or Garza, arguably) isn’t always suitable for framing.

But draft power is a huge, huge priority for this organization, and there’s plenty of evidence to support the idea that without it, these last four years — and the next four and more — end up going not nearly as well.

If Texas didn’t have its second-round pick last summer, Bostick is not a Ranger.

And without Bostick — who signed for $400,000 under slot — the Rangers wouldn’t have had enough in their bonus pool to take Wiper in the 10th round and sign him (for more, as a matter of fact, that it took to sign Bostick).

You better believe money isn’t the only reason Texas hasn’t jumped out to sign Cruz or Jimenez, or Morales or Santana.

Maybe Michael Choice is ready to handle the short side of a DH platoon with Mitch Moreland.  Maybe he’s not.  And maybe there’s another right-handed bat who isn’t yet in the mix, but will be.

And maybe Hanson, rumored to be in agreement on a roster deal with a $2 million big league split (plus incentives), will be closer to Colby Lewis than Brandon Webb on the reclamation scale.  Maybe another year removed from his shoulder problems and the death of his stepbrother encourages the Rangers that 2014 will be better for Hanson than 2012 or 2013 were, and that he’s a candidate to return to his 2009-2011 form, when he was fulfilling the potential he was thought to have when Atlanta reportedly refused to include him in the trade talks in 2007 that led to the Braves parting with Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Neftali Feliz.

Or maybe he’s Webb, or Rich Harden, and as a result Nick Tepesch will be real important in the first half.  And in that case, all you lost on Hanson — if he’s even in the big leagues — will be $2 million, which would be something like the 15th-highest salary on the roster.  If Hanson end up earning more, that’s probably good news.

What you would not lose, whether Hanson pans out or not, is one of those premium draft picks, and in a year when the Rangers will have their hands relatively tied in Latin America, maintaining a certain level of draft power — and what that could mean to the inventory of future big league pieces and trade ammunition — is just something that can’t be ignored.

All academic.

As the Rangers’ equipment truck continues its westward slalom, eyeing a Tuesday arrival in Surprise, there’s word that Texas and righthander Tommy Hanson are in talks at a level reportedly as serious as those that Seattle and Nelson Cruz are supposedly engaged in, though the Rangers are said to be on the periphery, at least, with Cruz as well as Korean righthander Suk-Min Yoon, a pitcher whose health and effectiveness have trended in the wrong direction the last couple years, which is the same that can be said for Hanson.  Baltimore is believed to have the inside track on signing Yoon.

Soon enough Yoon and Cruz and Hanson are likely to know where they need to be in the next week or so, whether it’s the same North Bullard Avenue address that the Rangers truck is drawing its four-day bead on, or somewhere else in Arizona, or Florida.

It’s just about that time, but even seven sleeps feel like too many, and if you need some baseball to help cut through all this fog and get you through it, I can tell you that the 2014 e-book is getting closer to rolling out, but in the meantime, I’d strongly recommend to you some of the strongest local baseball journalism we’ve been treated to in years — Jeff Wilson’s exceptional series of Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports from the Rangers’ Dominican academy in Boca Chica.

The fifth and final of Wilson’s stories was published this morning, and if you’ve missed any of them, take some time between now and Pitchers & Catchers to read them.  Links:

It’s just about that time.

Naming rights, and wrongs.

In about three hours, the Rangers will announce that they have forged a deal with an unidentified company on the naming rights for Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  From a business standpoint — and potentially a player personnel standpoint —  this stands to be a pretty significant development.  These rights agreements aren’t handed out impulsively, and they’re generally lucrative deals.

There’s some symmetry to the timing here, as the stadium was called The Ballpark in Arlington when it opened in 1994, was renamed Ameriquest Field in 2004 (though that didn’t last long), and will evidently take on a new name in 2014.

No idea what the announcement will be, though Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) speculates that the naming rights partner could be a Korean-based company, such as Samsung.

I’d rule out “Chan Ho Park,” and would note that the pitcher by the same name had a Rangers career of three-plus years, half of which overlapped half of Ameriquest’s three-year run, and both of their runs with the Rangers ended prematurely and not well, shortly before their runs overall ended prematurely and not well, and that’s all I have to say about that.

Seriously, this is a pretty big deal.  If handled well — and this front office and ownership group is excellent at handling things well — this could help the baseball team add (and keep) better baseball players, and we’re all in favor of that.

For those of you connected to the news world only by email during the work day, I’ll send something out once the new naming rights partner is announced.

Next . . . my annual National Signing Day clarification, take 16:

jamienewberg

Nope

JDN ballpark

Yep.

I’m not gonna write about Jerrod Heard.  (Well, for now.)

He’s not gonna write about Yeyson Yrizarri.  (Ever.)

Finally, in case you missed yesterday’s Ben and Skin Show on 105.3 The Fan, Michael Young was in studio for about an hour, and it was really outstanding radio.  Here are Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 for your ears to listen to.

All-time leader.

My plan in writing up the Michael Young retirement announcement was to keep it short.  That’s never an easy task for me, of course, but in this case, the right thing to do seemed to be a quick entry.  Say what I want and get out.  No frills.

Then an unexpected thing happened on Twitter, and then underground at Rangers Ballpark Friday, and so much for that plan of mine.

There were a bunch of cool ballplayer tweets praising Young as a teammate (Josh Hamilton, Mark DeRosaFrank CatalanottoA.J. Ellis).  As an opponent (Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kipnis, Ozzie Guillen, David Aardsma).  As an example (Dustin PedroiaIan Desmond).

As a mentor (Elvis Andrus).

But then there was one that made me think an extra second or two, from Diamondbacks righthander Brandon McCarthy, whose tweets are generally more in the Larry David category (that’s meant to be a huge compliment) than of the reflective variety:

A career’s worth of teammates are saddened to hear that Mike Young is retiring.

McCarthy’s career started with high expectations as a White Sox prospect.  Today he’s an established, fairly reliable, well-paid veteran starting pitcher.  In between was his four-year stint in Texas, which can only be qualified as a disappointment.

A pitcher.  A pitcher who didn’t get it done in Texas.  A pitcher who spent half his Rangers career on the disabled list, including basically the whole 2010 season, as he watched his teammates win the franchise’s first playoff series and first AL pennant and battle in its first World Series.

Paying tribute to the veteran position player who never spent a day on the DL.

Hard to imagine McCarthy and Young having less common ground as ballplayers.  I thought of that Tommy Hunter story that stayed with me from years ago, but still:  What prompted that tweet from McCarthy?

Why was Michael Young so revered by those who played with him and against him, so important to this franchise, so identifiable for Rangers fans with the era of this team that grew up and became a legitimate, consistent contender?

Was it the kind of light tower power or defensive artistry or video game athleticism that fans and teammates and media will talk about when other veteran players hang the cleats up?

It was not.  It was none of those things.

Maybe it’s as simple as a recognition that he made players better.  Teams better.  Baseball better, in Texas.

With Pudge, I’ll never forget the feet and arm behind the plate.

Cliff: That Draper/assassin thing.

Beltre: The wizard’s work at third base.

With Young?  They talked Friday about him holding the franchise mark in games played, hits, multi-hit games, total bases, doubles, triples, and home batting average.

I’ll remember him for none of those things.

There are specific moments that Neftali Feliz and Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz will be remembered for as Rangers.  Michael Young?

Check Richard Durrett’s list of Young’s top 10 moments in Texas.  It starts not with a big hit or a great play, but a team moment.  There are career milestones and awards, and further down the list a couple big plays in very big games.

But it started with a team moment, and it’s probably the one most of us think of first, too.

He was a lightning rod for some fans late in his Rangers career, and that’s part of the story, to be sure.

There are those who loved him unconditionally, those who overlooked the weaknesses in his game that started to become more evident just as the team got great and who ignored the publicized tension between player and management.

There are those who focused on those weaknesses — and the sense that the manager and the media gave him a pass — when the franchise had reached a level at which every moment and every decision mattered like never before, and that’s a faction that tended to overlook (or deny with the sabermetric force of a thousand squared up lasers to the opposite field) his role in helping brand the clubhouse with a resilience and a shoulder chip that helped a mediocre team learn to be very good, a very good team grow to be great.

The reality is that Young was not as perfect and not as flawed as some fans believe unshakably — with all the stubbornness of Michael Young the baseball player — and that’s OK.

Young’s was a career marked by durability and consistency, and part of that consistency was that stubborn streak, one that paid huge, teamwide dividends and also caused an occasional problem, a point of focus regardless of which part of Michael Young’s career you choose to think about most.

I know which one mattered most to me.

Roger and Troy had their detractors toward the end of their careers, too.

Sports.

Unlike Roger and Troy, though, Young — despite being the Rangers’ all-time leader in playoff at-bats — didn’t have a stack of huge game moments, post-season or otherwise, to build a retrospective highlight package around.  But, again, where Young’s career lagged in huge moments and singular displays of baseball awesomeness, it lapped the field in other not-so-apparent areas.

Texas got to the World Series in 2010 despite a subpar Young season at the plate (.284/.330/.444) and in the field (as a second-year third baseman).

And again in 2011 with Young turning in one of his best (.338/.380/.474, while DH’ing and filling in on the infield corners and second base).

His imprint was all over both clubs.  Its stability and its toughness and its resilience.  Ask every veteran and every rookie and every coach and every clubbie who was a part of either team.

Ask McCarthy or Chris Davis, who were watching from the sidelines with the rest of us in 2010, and with other clubs in 2011.

Ask DeRosa or Mark Teixeira (“This was a guy who had to work his way up, had to earn everything . . . , and played the game the right way”), who were gone well before 2010, whether they think Michael Young had anything to do with helping turn the Rangers from what they were for almost 40 years into a World Series team.

Ask Ron Washington.

Jon Daniels alluded to it at Young’s retirement gathering on Friday, talking more than once about how he was a central part of the best teams in Rangers franchise history, both on the field and in the clubhouse.

“He was the first to embrace Elvis,” Daniels noted, referring to the time that the organization moved Young off of his position, against his wishes, not the last time that that would happen.

“He embraced Adrian.  He embraced Mike Napoli.  Those guys became some of his closest friends on the team.  In large part, the way that the clubhouse remained strong and, in many ways, got stronger was due to the way he handled those situations.  Despite their arrivals having a personal impact on him [in terms of his own role on the club], he made those guys feel welcome and brought them into the fabric of the team.  They had success together, but in no small part because of that.”

Two weeks before Young turned 34, had hadn’t appeared in so much as one playoff game.

After that, he was a post-season player in 2010 and 2011 and 2012 and 2013.

That’s not to say the Rangers wouldn’t have made it to the Wild Card Game in 2012, or that the Dodgers would have missed the 2013 playoffs without him.

But I’ll always believe he was as responsible as anyone on the field for the Rangers playing in October 2010 and and in October 2011 (“We don’t have rings — and that still eats at me — but that was a championship team”), and not just because of what he contributed before our eyes those two years.  He’s the Rangers’ all-time leader in all those statistical categories I listed above, but, more importantly, as far as I’m concerned, he’s this franchise’s all-time leader.

Period.

I’ll believe forever that what he meant to this team off the field, for so many years, helped a lot of players get the most out of what they had (as Wash said, he “lifted teammates to levels they maybe didn’t know they had”), and helped this team win.

I mean win.

He’s going to help this team in 2014, too, and I don’t mean because of what Michael Choice and Lisalverto Bonilla might contribute.

And I don’t mean because of what he might actually contribute himself in 2014.  I’d be surprised to see Young join the franchise in a non-playing role this year.

I’d be surprised to see Young not join the franchise in a non-playing role before too long, though.

It’s just too soon to expect him to do anything but hang with his family right now.  As much as I’d love the idea of him being around Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor, Prince Fielder and Joey Gallo, Luis Sardinas and Chris Bostick, Martin Perez and Akeem Bostick, sharing some of that old-school wisdom and competitive drive and hallmark mental toughness, right now he needs to be with Cristina and Mateo and Emilio and Mateo, and not just for just a few days here and there.

He’s earned that, and so have they.

But eventually?

He said several times on Friday that he’d love to get back into the game in some capacity, at some point, and looks forward to talking with the Rangers about that.  “I think it’s important to pass things down,” he said, pointing to his experiences being on the other side of that exchange.  “There are fine points of the game that I’d love to pass on.  There are some things you have and some things that you have to be taught, but there is a chance to learn something every year.”

Daniels, after noting that Young was a player who “constantly proved people wrong,” added: “He only said about a dozen things today that our young players could learn from.”

I counted more.

Coaches, too.  And fathers.

Wash, turning his gaze at the podium away from the full room of reporters and toward Young, looking him in the eye: “The game of baseball’s gonna miss you.  I certainly hope you don’t stay away from the game of baseball.  Because there’s some kid out there — don’t know it yet — that one day is gonna have the influence of Michael Young.  It would be a shame if you didn’t stay in the game in some capacity after you figure out exactly what you want to do.”

Wash was probably talking about a kid like Travis Demeritte, or Yeyson Yrizarri, when he said that.  But it goes beyond that.

I’ve shared this picture with you before.  My wife took it in Arizona, when Max was three years old.

 

IMG_4035

 

Some folks unsubscribed from the mailing list when I sent that out, and I get it.  (I shared it as much for the Blalock and Wright stopdowns as anything.)  But it made an indelible impression on me, and I know it did on my kid.

Less so, by a thousand times, than what happened on March 21, 2012, at halftime of the Mavericks-Lakers game.  I’m not going to tell that story here (yeah, I know that will probably cause a few more unsubscribes), but the few of you I’ve shared it with know why it’s something I’ll never forget and which, for me, helps define what separates Michael Young, and what Wash was talking about, and what JD was talking about, and what Brandon McCarthy was talking about.

Wash said, “I don’t think this game will be able to survive without Michael Young in it.”  A little strong, maybe, but yeah, if Young decides he wants to stay in baseball, that needs to happen.

And, as Daniels, similarly aged and like Young a transplant (Young from California, Daniels from New York) who is raising a family in the Metroplex and now calls this his home, unambiguously said, aside from noting that he admires Young most as a husband and father who was always able to balance that with his career: “If Michael Young wants to be involved in the game, it should be here in Texas.”

Yep.

It’s one thing for the team press release to say: “We want [Michael and his family] to know there will always be a place for the Youngs in the Texas Rangers family.”  Sincere, to be sure.  But hearing Daniels say what he said (and seeing him get choked up when talking about Young being able to walk away from the game on his own terms and about his priorities in life) — that carried so much good weight.

If you watched the Friday presser, you saw evidence that Young and Daniels put in the work to get past what was not the cleanest relationship toward the end of Young’s time here as a player, and to patch things up.  Tip of the cap to two good dudes.

Young said Friday that, as far as legacy goes, all he ever demanded of himself was effort.  To give it everything he had every day.

It’s probably fair to assume that Young and Daniels reconciling — to put the “bumps in the road” (Young’s words) behind them — took effort, on both sides.

“You fail, you get up, you learn,” Wash said, about something else.  “You fail, you get up, you learn.”

I wrote 14 months ago, when Daniels traded Young away: “It was possible to be fans of both Michael Young and the front office, even as the tension and drama between the two mounted, because both, in their own way, and according to their own very different job descriptions and accountabilities, have always been relentlessly determined to win.”

It’s easier now.

After the lineups are introduced on Monday afternoon, March 31, and Daniels is up in his seat, Michael Young should be walking onto the field, with a baseball in his hand, and he should be the one to throw the season’s first pitch, before his former teammates Yu Darvish and Cliff Lee throw theirs.

As he makes that walk to the mound, Chuck Morgan should play “Sure Shot” over the P.A. system.  (And for the record, I nearly titled this report “Because you can’t, you won’t, and you don’t stop.”)

A year ago, David Brown (Yahoo! Sports) interviewed McCarthy, who, answering a snarky question about a team’s grittiness quotient, said he wished there were a way to quantify mental ability and explained as follows:

“There are people that are just better mentally than anybody else.  Talent is pretty evenly spread through the game — even from the elite players to the players who are Triple-A starters.  There’s not a big gap at all and I know it’s cliche, but there’s really not.  And there are just people that are really good mentally.

“I know Michael Young is kind of a dividing point for all of the metrics, but he’s one of the best mental players I’ve ever been around.  Not just from the teammate or “super teammate” aspect, but he’s absolutely locked in mentally and so, so good at focusing on taking it day to day, at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch.  And that’s one of those things — it always gets passed over because most people can’t see inside.  You only the see the performance [and the result] and what you can quantify.  And I wish there was a way to quantify mental ability.  Some guys are just better at that, when everybody else would kind of fall apart.”

Michael Young is one of those local athletes we all feel like we grew to know.  Part of that is he was here 13 years, an eternity in pro sports.  Part is because he wasn’t any bigger or faster or more powerful than he was, which I suppose made him seem more like one of us.  Part is because he was at his locker every night, win or lose, and so we heard from him after almost every game.

But I feel like I learned a little more about him after reading this week what McCarthy had to say, and Catalanotto and Cuddyer and Pedroia, and hearing JD and Wash talk on Friday, and then Michael himself.

Leadership is learned in different ways, and taught in different ways, too.  Sometimes it comes from a guy in uniform, whether he plays next to you or behind you — or was just displaced by you.  Sometimes it comes from a guy who wore the uniform once upon a time, passing along the things he learned along the way himself.

Michael Young led here, and we all benefited from that.  Elvis Andrus did, Tommy Hunter did, Josh Hamilton did, Ron Washington did, you did and I did.  So many people and organizations in this community did.

That doesn’t end now, and I mean that not only because of the imprint he left on so many people still working to get this team back to the World Series, but also because, one day, he’s going to be back with this franchise, making an impact on any number of young players who don’t know it yet, but are going to benefit from the influence of Michael Young, and that’s a really good thing for every single one of us.

MYSilhouette_White[2]

Locos.

You won’t ever convince me that this isn’t the worst sports week of the year, ranked firmly behind last week and next week because, while there’s no baseball and no football action moving the needle, this week the sports world has decided it has no choice but to descend on the Super Bowl site for non-stop programming that offers non-stop garbage.  Bits that aren’t funny, news that’s barely news, stories that get recycled so many unapologetic times that they lose whatever marginal meaning they might have had through the first cycle.

It’s a super-sized bag of RedBullExtreme-Infused Doritos Locos Tacos Turbo-Supreme.  An industry deciding “Pitbull featuring Ke$ha” should be the wether bearing the bell.

Love the NFL.  But . . . Uncle.

I suspect it’s not by accident that the folks for whom baseball is a 12-month venture chose this week to ping our dulled sports senses with the unveiling of the prospect lists they’ve been working on all winter.

Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus has seven Rangers in his Top 101 — second baseman Rougned Odor (39), catcher Jorge Alfaro (41 — Parks believes he “could crack the top 10” a year from now), righthander Chi-Chi Gonzalez (70), shortstop Luis Sardinas (72), outfielder Michael Choice (79), outfielder Nick Williams (88), and third baseman Joey Gallo (95) — which is seven more than the Angels, and in fact nearly as many as the rest of the AL West (Houston 5, Seattle 3, Oakland 1) combined.  Parks adds that Texas, Houston, Minnesota, and Toronto are among the teams with the strongest minor league depth outside the Top 101.

MLB.com has Alfaro at 39, Odor at 59, Choice at 72, Sardinas at 76, and Gallo at 92, with Jim Callis calling Alfaro’s the strongest arm of any position player prospect in the game, at any position, with Gallo’s arm second only to Alfaro’s and his power second only to Minnesota’s Miguel Sano.  Callis has righthander Luke Jackson among 15 players who just missed the Top 100 list.

Baseball America won’t reveal its list until later but its ranking of the top 10 Rangers’ prospects landed this morning: Odor, Alfaro, Choice, Williams, Gallo, Gonzalez, Sardinas, Jackson, Travis Demeritte, and Ronald Guzman.  Ben Badler suggests the club’s “[t]op-end talent [is] lighter than usual but [there’s] plenty of depth, especially from the international program.”

ESPN’s Keith Law will reveal his Top 100 later today, but yesterday pegged Texas as the number 13 farm system in the game (Houston 1, Seattle 21, Oakland 26, Los Angeles 29).  His Rangers rankings will be revealed tomorrow.

Thank goodness there’s no “Media Day” leading up to the World Series.  I suppose if there were two weeks off after the two pennants were won, rather than just two or three days, baseball coverage might get so tricked up that news would be delivered by dudes wearing Colonial wigs or capes (tights for both), TV Azteca babes (no tights), or Regis (not sure).

Not every sports journalist was hitting it hard at the Prudential Center yesterday, interviewing each other.  Some were in Texas (probably in jeans and a North Face) spotting Nolan Ryan leaving a meeting of some sort at Minute Maid Park in Houston.  Others were checking in with Michael Young and discovering that his decision is apparently down to Chavez Ravine or retirement.  Jeff Baker is reportedly close to choosing the Marlins, Nationals, or Orioles, and A.J. Burnett has evidently decided he’s not quite ready to hang them up, and between Baker and Burnett I know which one I’d be a whole lot more interested in as far as the Rangers are concerned.

What I really need to know is what some D-list “celeb” thinks the most important Justin Bieber question to ask a nickel corner is.  Brought to you by VH1.

Baseball prospect lists are what they are.  Whether your publication(s) of choice think Carlos Correa should be ranked higher than Taijuan Walker doesn’t mean anything.  Just because Parks believes Gonzalez projects to be a “2/3 starter; most likely a 3” for Texas, and possibly sooner than you might think, isn’t “news.”

But it’s an absolute gift from the sports gods when it’s delivered in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, and if you’ll excuse me I’m gonna turn the radio off and go chase down some predictions on where Derek Fisher and Max Pentecost are slotted to go in this June’s Rule 4 Draft.  No thanks on the Mountain Dew-flavored Cheetos.

Dazed, confused.

The TV locked me in Sunday night and Monday night, three times.  One of the shows I watched was designed to make you think back 20 years.  The other two only did it by accident.

If you’re in college now, you never know: That new band that grabbed every bit of your attention, that made you slam the brakes, may stick around more than 20 years, still making music and making awesome documentary films, too.

That other new band that seemed at first like it had something won’t last nearly as long, but that doesn’t mean the lead singer will necessarily give up, not as long as he can find cool venues that hold 500 to keep doing his thing.

Twenty-plus years from now, that frat guy at your dorm, no matter what you happen to think of him at the moment, may turn into one of the best actors in the world.

Maybe you’ll have kids one day and you’ll cross paths with others who had kids around the same time and they’ll become friends and you’ll become friends and baseball may be a big reason why.

And you’ll see those kids start to learn that what matters is the team, and that’s an awesome thing.

You’d never dream that the 17-year-old kid taken first in the draft would, 20 years later, epitomize whatever the absolute opposite of the team concept is.

Eddie Vedder is a baseball fan, and so is Matthew McConaughey, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to guess that those two guys have a greater respect for the Great Game than Alex Rodriguez does.

If you’re in college now, you’ll write something that you think is the best thing you’ve ever written, and it probably is, and in 20 years you won’t be able to look back at it without cringing.

In 20 years maybe you’ll blog, and some entries will suck more than others, like maybe one you spit up on a mid-January morning when you’re tired of “60 Minutes” stories dominating MLB Network content, and 20 minutes after you hit “send” you won’t be able to look back at it without cringing.

But there’s no shame in the effort.  Sometimes the path leads to rock and roll royalty and other times it leads to The Kessler.  Sometimes the trail to “True Detective” is littered with “Sahara” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.”

As a friend shared this morning, one of the world’s great forward-thinking companies has decided to reach back to a movie which came out around the time that Pearl Jam and Live debuted, that Matt McConaughey lived at The Castilian, that Alex Rodriguez was drafted out of high school, and ask: “What will your verse be?

The answer to that question, in Rodriguez’s case, is so sickening, and it didn’t need to be.

There’s no shame in the effort.  Except for when there is.

Whatever.

Avoiding the knee-jerk reaction.

The news hit Twitter a little after 5:00 yesterday afternoon, news that Derek Holland had fallen on a staircase at home on Tuesday and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Friday morning to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, which is not the knee that he injured twice in 2010.  He’ll miss the start of the regular season, with the club reportedly making plans conservatively for a mid-season return.

I’ve gained about 30 new subscribers and Twitter followers since the news broke, and I’m about to disappoint all of them and most of the rest of you.

My first thought was to speculate about what Texas could do in response, as far as winter acquisitions are concerned.  I quickly dismissed that thought. Maybe the Rangers were already in on Masahiro Tanaka, maybe not.  But they’re already over budget, and Holland’s injury isn’t going to change whether they’re in the mood to step out even further on Tanaka.  They will, or they won’t, but I’d be shocked if that plan is different today from what it was a week ago.

Step up in David Price trade talks with Tampa Bay?  If that’s where your head is on this, my response is, as usual: You’re the Rays.

I’d bet it’s more likely that Tampa Bay calls Texas in light of the Holland development than it is that the Rangers call the Rays.  And the demand isn’t going to come down from wherever it had been.

Holland isn’t the Rangers’ ace, but he did lead the club in starts and innings pitched in 2013, and was very good (though less effective at home, which could lead to a bad joke in light of this new development, a place I’m going to avoid because I’m better than that, even though I’m obviously not).  You don’t replace him with Robbie Ross or Tanner Scheppers or Nick Tepesch or Michael Kirkman or Jose Contreras and expect to get comparable production (to say nothing of the void a Ross or Scheppers shift would leave in the pen), but don’t expect Texas to go out and devote nine figures or four blue-chip prospects or a number one draft pick to go out and find a starter of Holland’s caliber.

The Rangers will probably add another depth piece between now and camp, probably on a non-roster veteran who can come in and compete for a rotation spot.

They were going to do that anyway.

I thought maybe I’d write about the idea that you survive for three months and then you get Holland back, in a pennant race, with a fresh arm.  But I decided against fleshing that out, because last year there was optimism in camp that Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz would be back by mid-season, and after Matt Harrison’s April surgery the half-full glass gave hope of a similar timetable.

As Jon Daniels has pointed out, the rotation that the organization expects to roll out at Frisco in April may be the strongest at that level since this front office arrived.  But Chi-Chi Gonzalez and his crew-mates aren’t going to get here any time before Holland gets back.

I thought maybe I’d write about where falling on stairs fits on a list that includes butter knives (Oddibe McDowell), sunflower seeds (Greg Harris), pinky-shaking (Charlie Hough), and high fives (Jeff Baker), but why pile depressing on top of freaky?

I considered writing about the risk of giving long-term deals to starting pitchers, even relatively young ones (Harrison, Holland, Feldman), but I wouldn’t want a redo on the Martin Perez contract, so I’m not going down that path.

It’s been a tremendous winter of aggressive growth at 1000 Ballpark Way, and maybe we’ll look back at the Holland injury as one that gave a young pitcher like Ross an opportunity that he ended up seizing like C.J. Wilson did four years ago.  Or one that blunted the Rangers’ first half so much in 2014 that they resisted overpaying for a tier two starter in July, like it turns out they did this past summer.

Or maybe Texas pieces things together in the rotation for a few months, the revitalized offense goes on a tear straight out of the gate, and Holland comes back in the second half with something to re-prove, and he proves it.

But for now, I don’t have the energy to dig deep on any of it.  I wanted, at different times in the last 18 hours, to focus this report on the next pitching move Texas might make, on the opportunities opened up even further for a handful of Holland’s teammates, the idea of the lefthander giving Texas a boost himself in July and August, and the risks associated with committing long-term to big league starting pitchers and with overtrading for pitching to accommodate what might appear to be a needy rotation.

I wanted to write something thoughtful, something unemotional, something that stepped away from the immediate gut-punch of the story and examined what this could mean, or lead to.

But I can’t.

It just sucks.

New year.

The Tyler Seguin Trade wasn’t supposed to haunt the Bruins this quickly, Oklahoma wasn’t supposed to do that to Alabama, and Charlie Strong may not have been the first choice, but Adrian Beltre was basically a fallback, too.

I doubt Beltre is giving much thought to Florida State-Auburn, where 2012 Rangers draft pick and Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston will celebrate his 20th birthday on the national stage Monday night, and he probably doesn’t find it very interesting that J.P. Arencibia, whose birthday is tomorrow (on the three-year anniversary of Beltre’s signing with the Rangers), played his first minor league season for Auburn (New York, that is) and kicked off his second minor league season in the Florida State League, where he took off as a prospect.

Winston is from Alabama but committed to Florida State, while Arencibia is from Florida but committed to Tennessee, but if Arencibia had gone to Florida State, history likely changes for at least one player, as Buster Posey arrived in Tallahassee a year after Arencibia’s own college career began, and I’m fairly sure Beltre doesn’t care.

Beltre is probably thinking more about Prince Fielder, and how even in a massive down year in 2013 (.819 OPS) he outproduced every hitter Texas tried in the number three hole, namely (in order of appearances), Lance Berkman, Ian Kinsler (.677 OPS in that spot), Nelson Cruz, Alex Rios, and A.J. Pierzynski, and I’m guessing Beltre likes that a lot.

Fielder is probably thinking about Shin-Soo Choo, and how none of the primary leadoff hitters he’s played with in his nine seasons (Brady Clark, Rickie Weeks, Felipe Lopez, Austin Jackson) could do that.

Choo, who says he’d bat anywhere in the lineup and it wouldn’t alter his approach, is probably thinking about kicking off each game with Elvis Andrus, Fielder, and Beltre grabbing helmets behind him, and about how, if Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin take that next step, maybe for some stretches in 2014 that leadoff role for Choo in the first inning will seem in later innings like he’s hitting in the three hole himself.

Profar and Martin probably aren’t thinking much quite yet about getting back on the field, coming off their first (basically) full big league seasons and then winter stints together on Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Republic, where their teammates included Julio Borbon and Engel Beltre, who is some respects is this year’s version of Julio Borbon, but not really, and Dee Gordon, whose father Tom faced Fielder’s father Cecil 51 times in the big leagues, holding the slugger to a .213 batting average and a strikeout every fourth time up, which Arencibia’s detractors would say sounds pretty familiar.

I know Chase Cutler and Drake Detherage and Kendall Gill and Ty Holt and Will Kriska and Dominic Mele and Max Newberg and Preston Payne and the injured R.J. Ruais and Jake Storey and Preston Stout aren’t thinking about Arencibia or Beltre or Charlie Strong this morning, but instead about the Pelicans, and not the version that Andrus played for while in the Braves system or that Profar skipped while a Rangers farmhand.  Those 11 are thinking about two hours from now, when they’ll play their first game together as Dallas Pelicans, not that this game counts, but then again not that any of them “count” when your eight- and nine-year-olds are simply out there playing the game and getting better at it, even on the first weekend in January, not that I’m trying to get all solipsistic on you.

Buster Olney (ESPN) thinks the Rangers have the best lineup in baseball (and the seventh-best rotation and fifth-best defense), Bob Nightengale (USA Today) predicts Texas returns to the World Series this year (against St. Louis), as does Gil LeBreton (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) (against the Dodgers), Neftali Feliz never wants to be a starter again (which I’m good with), Peter Gammons has Texas among at least six teams checking in with San Diego on right-handed-hitting outfielder Chris Denorfia, and after all this time there’s hardly any more certainty where Cruz will land than there is about Masahiro Tanaka’s eventual address, which will be determined no later than the afternoon of January 24, hours before the Rangers’ annual Awards Dinner at the Gaylord Texan.

The baseball winter is on the back stretch, but there’s still plenty that’s up in the air, and all those 2014 projections are just that, really, because sports, and even if we thought we knew how things would play out, the underdogs then haul off and get on a BCS winning streak that Winston and the Seminoles will try to snap Monday night in Pasadena, at the same time that Seguin and the Stars will try to take the Islanders down in Uniondale, New York, a mere five hours downstate from Auburn, home of the Doubledays, whose uniform was the first Arencibia wore professionally, which has me thinking again about 11 kids who are playing ball here in a little bit, after which we’ll have 43 sleeps left until Rangers pitchers and catchers report, which is about 42 sleeps too many, if you asked me, but you didn’t, so, you know, Happy New Year and all that and I’ll catch you later.

My latest spitball.

Rule number one, as always, for reading these spitball ideas: Understand that this will not happen.

Rule number two: I do my best to think these through, not only from the Rangers’ standpoint but — more importantly — from the perspective of the other team.  It’s real easy to propose Nick Tepesch, Wilmer Font, and Joey Butler for Chris Sale (you should see some of the email ideas I get from time to time), but it’s pointless unless you can give it some thought as if you were on the other side and it passes the giggle test.

Rule number thr—

Nah, forget it.

Just remember: This isn’t happening.

Texas trades outfielders Alex Rios and Michael Choice, second baseman Rougned Odor, righthanders Luke Jackson and Connor Sadzeck, and corner bat Joey Gallo and $8 million to Miami for outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna.

Here’s why it won’t happen:

Because Miami isn’t open to trading Stanton yet, evidently.  That club’s hoping that a resurgence headed by ace Jose Fernandez and a handful of other ceiling arms, the arrival of 22-year-old outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick, and the off-season addition of players who have won like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rafael Furcal might lead to a better 2014, building off a decent finish in 2013 (49-59 ball after a 14-40 start to the season), and convince Stanton not to push for a trade.  Though it will be expensive, he’s under club control through 2016.  The Marlins don’t need to trade him now.

Because, as Jon Daniels pointed out at yesterday’s Shin-Soo Choo press conference, Texas is able to step out on players like Choo not only because ownership is willing to go big for the right fit, but also because the farm system is in strong enough shape that, looking ahead three to five years, the club won’t need to rely on free agency to fill every key roster spot.  Without players making pre-arbitration money to count on over the next few seasons, you can’t commit to Choo and Prince Fielder.  In other words: Moving Choice and Odor and Jackson and Sadzeck and Gallo — even for a player like Stanton — would make it more difficult at some level to keep this roster together, and to imagine (for instance) being able to keep Yu Darvish around past this contract, or Elvis Andrus when he opts out after the 2018 season.

But here are the things that got me thinking about this idea, and why I decided to spend an hour writing about it:

Next winter’s free agent hitter class is shaping up to be terrible.  Chase Headley and Brett Gardner will get paid, but there’s no Robinson Cano or Jacoby Ellsbury, no Fielder or Albert Pujols

And lots of teams with money to spend.

Texas has a $14 million club option on Rios for next year, and a $1 million buyout to void it.  Even though he’s not a star player, assuming he has a reasonably standard Alex Rios season in 2013, he’s the type of player who would get paid well in free agency, especially given how he’d stand up compared to what else will be available.  If you didn’t want to keep him at that price point, you could probably risk making him a qualifying offer next winter, expect that he’d decline it, and recoup a supplemental first-round draft pick as compensation.

Of course, the Rangers, given their current makeup, might exercise the option and keep him one more season.

But the Marlins wouldn’t have to.

They could tender whatever next winter’s qualifying offer will be (it was $13.3 million a year ago, and $14.1 million this winter) and feel reasonably certain that he’d decline it, which would result in that compensatory supplemental first-round pick.

And in the meantime, they’d get a year out of Rios (not the same as a year out of Stanton, of course, but legitimate production) alongside Yelich and Marisnick, and Choice would step in a year later.  Assuming Marisnick spends the beginning of the season in the minor leagues, he and Yelich would be a year apart in terms of eventual free agency, and Choice would probably fit in with Marisnick.

If Miami doesn’t think it can win in the next two years, and doesn’t think Stanton will sign an extension at the level it’s able to pay, trading Stanton before his walk year stands to bring back more in return than waiting until then.

The other thing about the CBA compensation rules is that the order of those supplemental first-rounders is based not on the formulaic value of the player who went away (like it used to, when players had Elias rankings), but instead solely on the team’s win percentage from the previous season.  The supplemental first-rounder Miami would get will be near the top of that sandwich round, and that’s going to be true whether Rios turns down a qualifying offer after a pedestrian season or turns in Stanton-esque numbers.

You also can’t make a qualifying offer to a free agent you didn’t have for the full preceding season.  That’s why Texas couldn’t extend one to Matt Garza — and why Miami wouldn’t be able to flip Rios into a first-round pick next winter if they traded for him in July.  The trade, at least for purposes of this Rios draft pick compensation angle, would have to happen before Opening Day.

The $8 million chip-in that I proposed would cover the difference between Stanton’s 2014 salary (expected to land somewhere in the $5 million range via arbitration) and Rios’s $13 million commitment.

Yelich, Marisnick, and Choice would theoretically man Miami’s outfield for years.  Odor becomes the Marlins’ everyday second baseman by 2014, Gallo is groomed to play first base down the road (2013 first-rounder Colin Moran will play third base), and Jackson (who is from half an hour outside Miami) and Sadzeck give the club two more big right-handed arms to plug into the pipeline.

Choo, Andrus, Fielder, Stanton, Beltre, Moreland, Soto/Arencibia, Profar, Martin.

Drool.

(Ozuna fits in for Texas as the right-handed bat who can play all over the outfield and offer a little pop.  A poor man’s Michael Choice, perhaps.)

The Rangers didn’t have to part with any prospects to get Fielder or anyone else this winter.  They forfeited a late first to sign Choo but will recoup a supplemental first when Nelson Cruz signs somewhere else.

But Texas isn’t the type of franchise who will refuse to trade a prospect, and even though it’s critical to have minor leaguers on the way who can help balance the payroll, even with a trade like this one you still have catcher Jorge Alfaro and shortstop Luis Sardinas and outfielders Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara and Jairo Beras and shortstop/third baseman Travis Demeritte and first baseman Ronald Guzman and plenty of arms, headed by righthander Chi-Chi Gonzalez.

I would hate losing Odor.  But it’s difficult to see where he’s going to fit with Andrus and Jurickson Profar in place for years to come.

And trading for Giancarlo Stanton is why you build the kind of depth that would allow for a silly spitball exercise like this one, an idea that:

  1. Makes at least a shred of sense for the Marlins if they don’t think they can win before Stanton’s trade value passes its peak — though it’s probably still not enough to pry him loose;
  2. Makes a good amount of sense for the Rangers because they’d be acquiring the prime years of one of the game’s elite power hitters — though moving that many prospects in one deal does put a big dent in the necessary depth the club has built to enable its recent big spending; and
  3. For some of the reasons above, and notwithstanding others, just isn’t going to happen.
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