It was a game that felt lost for so much of it, even though at no time during the daytime contest (so shifted because of a Taylor Swift concert (?!!)) did Seattle have a lead.
It felt that way because of all those outs on the bases. Because of a coughed up opportunity for a shutdown inning in the fourth, marked by a couple crazy cheap base hits. Because of a couple sloppy errors. Because of a series of replay results that — after last night’s mess — felt like a never-ending pile-on with a couple gut punches mixed in.
But Texas shook all of it off (I promise: I had to look up Taylor Swift song titles. Really. I promise.) and won the game, drawing to within 4.5 games of the division lead, the closest the club has been in six weeks, and just three back in the Wild Card chase.
Man, that was a tense, often frustrating baseball game, but that made the finish exponentially more awesome.
As the Rangers and Mariners went to the 11th, after 18 of the game’s 20 half-innings had gone scoreless (each club scored three times in the fourth), I tweeted: “Two-run inning, right here.”
I was never so happy to be so incredibly wrong.
Four Mariners relievers had put zeroes up in the game — including rookies David Rollins and Mayckol Guaipe, who came into the day with ERA’s of 9.28 and 9.95 — when fellow rookie Rob Rasmussen, who has been traded five times in three years (once for Carlos Lee and once for Michael Young and once for Mark Lowe), entered and surrendered single-single-single-single-single-double before getting pulled, after which former Ranger draftee and later two-time Ranger camper Joe Beimel was greeted by single-lineout-homer before retiring two more to end the carnage.
Meanwhile, three Rangers relievers put up zeroes of their own: Sam Dyson going walk, groundout, groundout, groundout; Jake Diekman facing the Kyle Seager-Nelson Cruz-Robinson Cano gauntlet and going groundout, strikeout, E-4, flyout, and then striking out the side on 12 pitches in the 10th; and Shawn Tolleson, surviving what seemed sure to be a fatal Ryan Strausborger error to lead off the 11th by striking out Mike Zunino and Seager, intentionally walking Cruz and Cano (I liked the gutsiness of the moves — making Jesus Montero beat you rather than Cruz or Cano, and ensuring that Cano wouldn’t hit in the 11th if you got out of the 10th), and freezing Montero for strike three to end that frame.
After the super-lengthy top of the 11th, Jeff Banister sent Tolleson back out to close things out — a surprising decision given his 26-pitch 10th (19 if you discount the intentional wide ones), the eight-run lead, and the opportunity to get Luke Jackson out there for his debut under little pressure — and it took Tolleson another 22 pitches to finish. He wasn’t going to pitch Sunday afternoon regardless.
Or Monday, since Texas doesn’t play.
It was a career-high pitch count for Tolleson, but I trust he’ll shake that off, too.
I thought Jon Daniels had a great game today. Aside from the solid start out of Martin Perez, scouted and signed and developed just as the organization was renewing its presence internationally, the bullpen allowed one hit (the game’s penultimate batter) while punching out nine of 21 batters faced over five scoreless innings.
Those relievers: Dyson (acquired last week for Tomas Telis and Cody Ege), Diekman (a trade tack-on by the seller, evoking memories of Daniels’s Cruz acquisition in 2006), and Tolleson (a waiver claim).
Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields had three hits and drove in two runs.
The former 16th-round pick Strausborger singled and drew two walks.
Mitch Moreland, whom Daniels has refused repeatedly to sell low on, improved his pinch-hitting line to 5 for 7 and added another hit in the 11th. He sits at .294/.346/.508 for the season.
Josh Hamilton, whom the Angels are paying tens of millions to be a Ranger, singled twice and drove in two runs.
Prince Fielder raised his season line to .324/.390/.501 with a homer and double, and he owns a share of the big league lead in multi-hit games with Ian Kinsler, the player he was traded for.
Rougned Odor, who assumed second base duties in Kinsler’s absence, improved to .352/.385/.588 (180 plate appearances) since returning from his early May demotion to AAA with a three-hit effort today.
And journeyman Chris Gimenez, who has changed teams via minor league free agency or waivers a thousand times, doubled twice to raise his Rangers line to .375/.412/.750, which in tandem with Bobby Wilson’s .455/.455/.636 should be viewed through the seriously-small-sample-size filter but which should nonetheless make you wonder what happens when Carlos Corporan is ready to return. (Robinson Chirinos is in no danger.)
Gimenez and Wilson have come up big over and over in this stretch of time when the Rangers’ two catchers have been down. Credit to the Rangers’ scouting folks and to Daniels.
And though Banister will draw questions about his use of Tolleson today, I count his arrival as another huge move for Daniels. He entrusted his roster to Ron Washington after nobody had given him that chance in 15 years of coaching. That worked. He then entrusted the club to Banister, who had 22 years of coaching experience without a big league managerial opportunity.
This is working.
I could not feel any better about the direction of this team, on the field or in the front office.
There’s probably another Taylor Swift song title (is there one called “Win the Damn Series”?) that I could shoehorn in to finish this one, but I’m not going to find out because I’m not going to Google “Taylor Swift” again.
The compound featured an element of embarrassment and one of catalysis, or maybe it was just baseball cycle at work, and not the Adrian Beltre variety.
On Tuesday the Rangers were battered at home (21-5, Yankees). On Wednesday, the front office delivered Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman.
Since then, Texas has played eight games and won seven, all in Arlington, and shouldn’t have lost the one.
It’s the first feeling of Castle Doctrine this team has provided all season, and as long as baseball’s best road club doesn’t reverse its fortunes the way it has at home, this race is on.
The bullpen remains a vulnerability — and how would these last eight have gone without Diekman (a tack-on by the seller) and Sam Dyson (why would Miami trade a guy with that kind of stuff for a backup catcher and minor league left-handed specialist?) — but here comes Luke Jackson, an intriguing addition to a bullpen sorely lacking in swing-and-miss, and maybe Tanner Scheppers gets a quick turn with either Brad Holman (Round Rock) or Jeff Andrews (Frisco) to work some mechanical things out before he returns.
And maybe Nick Martinez joins the bullpen once Derek Holland makes his sometime-in-August return. Unless the Rangers opt to deploy Holland in relief himself, at first.
Yes, Nick Williams (7 for 13 with two homers and two doubles and two walks and one strikeout) and Jake Thompson (7-6-1-1-0-1) and Jerad Eickhoff (6-6-1-1-1-7) have gotten off to very good starts in the Phillies system, even if Alec Asher’s debut (6-9-4-4-3-2) wasn’t as sparkling, but that’s a good thing the way I look at it, not just because I’m a fan of those guys and want them to do well, but also because a reputation of mirage development is the last thing you want your team to have. You want other clubs to covet your prospects and believe in your development process.
Cody Ege fanning six in his first 3.1 frames for the Marlins’ AA affiliate? Good.
In the meantime, I’m plenty good with Diekman’s four hitless appearances and one single allowed in the other, and with Dyson’s two saves in four appearances, dicey as they were. The sink and run and the velo and the zero walks and the five remaining years of control — yes, please.
As for Hamels, there was plenty to dig in spite of the clunky 7.2-8-5-5-1-6 line in his debut, and I can’t wait to see the encore against Hisashi Iwakuma tonight.
Maybe Jackson debuts tonight late, bringing high 90s and a hammer curve that generated 54 strikeouts (17 walks) in 37.2 AAA innings (.187/.278/.266) since his conversion to relief.
We’ll need to exercise a little patience on Leonys Martin and Joey Gallo returning to the big club, but a combined five home runs last night (not a typo) is encouraging. With Martin (who added two singles and a walk to his two Thursday bombs) in particular, if he can make half the adjustments that Rougned Odor made when he played his way into a demotion in May, we’re in business.
Chi Chi Gonzalez needed a lot less than three Gallo homers and Martin’s two, holding New Orleans to one run last night on eight singles and a walk in seven frames. He’ll be back at some point.
If Williams were a right-handed hitter, maybe the Rangers wouldn’t have been willing to move him at all, but Lewis Brinson hits from the right side, plays a legitimate center field (actually an understatement), and since his promotion to Frisco that basically coincided with Williams’s departure, he’s hit in six of seven games (.393/.367/.679 in 30 plate appearances) — with multiple hits in five of those — and reportedly sent his home run last night approximately 2,000 feet while 10 Republican hopefuls beat up on each other and shortly before Jon Stewart left the air to the interestingly chosen tune of “Born to Run.”
Williams has a chance to be a frontline two-phase outfielder in the big leagues. So does Brinson, who hit .337/.416/.628 in the often misleading California League. And Brinson, again, hits right-handed. And plays a lockdown center.
(Psst: Attend Newberg Report Night.)
(Psst: Support the Newberg Report.)
It’s Cole Hamels Day. The Rangers are back on the road, where they’ve been fantastic all year, and a week away from a return back home, where they’re suddenly playing strong baseball.
The fear that Rangers baseball would give way to Oxnard, as used to regularly happen a decade ago and earlier, is gone. We’ve got ourselves a pennant race, and you can be sure that the Astros and Angels and Blue Jays and Orioles and Twins and Rays and Tigers are keeping close tabs on Texas, in spite of a record one game over .500 heading into tonight’s game, which marks the two-thirds point of the season. A very good road team has suddenly become a force at home as well.
It’s Cole Hamels Day. Let’s go.
That’s four wins in a row and seven of eight — all but the squandered Cole Hamels start — and Texas now sits five games back in the West and two back in the Wild Card chase. We’ve got ourselves a race.
Off-day today, Hamels tomorrow to kick off a trip to Seattle and Minnesota. But let’s talk real quick about when the Rangers return home, where they’re suddenly playing like good teams should.
We’re now ready to start taking reservations for the 11th Annual Newberg Report Night at Globe Life Park, which will be on Monday, August 17, the opener of the Rangers’ series with Seattle. This year our event will benefit the family of Julie McGraw, the wife of Rangers scout Gary McGraw. You can read more about Julie here.
Newberg Report Night will include our usual extensive pre-game program in the Hall of Fame Theater, featuring a roundtable Q&A with the Newberg Report’s own Scott Lucas and local minor league junkie Michael Tepid, followed by our annual Q&A session with Rangers GM Jon Daniels, plus our yearly memorabilia raffle/auction, conducted by local professional auctioneer Bret Richards.
There are several different price point options to attend:
• $40 per person: Admission to all the pre-game events plus an Upper Reserved game ticket (parking not included)
• $200 per person: Admission to all the pre-game events plus a Luxury Suite ticket (parking and catering not included)
• $20 per person: Upper Reserved game ticket only (that is, no admission to the pre-game events)
• $175 per person: Suite ticket only (no admission to the pre-game events)
• For those who already have tickets to the ballgame: Admission to the pre-game events without a game ticket costs the same as it would if you bought a game ticket: $40 per person
We typically have from 250 to 350 people attend this event every year. Once we reach Hall of Fame Theater capacity, we’ll have to close registration (though we can continue to sell spots for the game only). Many years we’ve sold the event out in less than 24 hours, and while I wouldn’t necessarily expect the same sort of rush since we’re having to hold the event on a weekday this year, I can’t promise it won’t sell out that quickly, and I would strongly recommend that you make your reservations as soon as you know you’ll be attending.
Kids are welcome.
Here’s what we tentatively have planned (the details tend to get better as we get closer to the event):
3:00 Doors open
We’ll gather in the Hall of Fame Theater. You’ll get your game tickets once you enter the front lobby of the Hall of Fame — no need to go to Will Call or anywhere else.
You’ll have the opportunity in the lobby to make a donation to our designated charitable cause, which this year will be the Julie McGraw Rehabilitation Fund. You may donate any amount; for every $10 you donate, you will get one ticket for a memorabilia raffle we’ll have during the event.
As usual, I would recommend getting there as early as you can in order to get a good spot in the auditorium. Some of you will have to stand — the theater capacity includes not only the room’s 235 permanent seats but also extra folding chairs (not pictured below) and standing room.
3:30 Roundtable Q&A featuring Scott Lucas and Michael Tepid
As the theater fills up, Scott and Michael will field your questions on Rangers prospects. These are really smart baseball guys with an 80-grade sense of humor (maybe 70 in Tepid’s case), and were fantastic last year. Should be fun.
4:30 Raffle/auction, charitable presentation
As we’ve always done, we use this event to raise money for charitable efforts, including through your purchase of raffle tickets that day. For every $10 you donate, you will get one ticket for the raffle. Whoever makes the largest donation at the event will get his or her choice of any of the prizes. The remaining prizes will be raffled off.
We’ll then also have a few special items to put up for a quick live auction, presided over by award-winning local auctioneer Bret Richards. If you have anything you’d like to donate to the event to be raffled or auctioned off to raise money for the McGraw family, please let me know as soon as possible.
After the auction we’ll make a quick charitable presentation.
5:00 Jon Daniels Q&A
While it’s not possible this far out to guarantee his availability, Rangers GM Jon Daniels is expected to join us, as he has the 10 previous Newberg Report Nights, for a lengthy Q&A session. The fact that the event is shortly after the trade deadline activity that brought Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, and Sam Dyson to Texas makes the possibilities even cooler, and if you’ve ever been to one of our events, you know how extraordinarily open and honest JD is with his answers. This is a really unique opportunity, one of my favorite days on the baseball calendar every year — and as JD has told us in the past, one of his as well.
Jon is expected to arrive around 5:00 and take your questions in the theater for about an hour and 30 minutes.
6:30 To the game
At about 6:30, we’ll conclude in the theater and head to the seats/suites for the 7:05 first pitch. (Again, you’ll pick your game tickets up just inside the Hall of Fame entrance when you arrive.)
Please sign up and pay as soon as you know you’ll be coming. Spots are first come, first served — your spot is only locked in once I receive payment — and again, in recent years we’ve sold out in less than 24 hours.
The cost, once again, is $40 (pre-game plus Upper Reserved ticket) or $200 (pre-game plus suite ticket), and you can pay in one of two ways:
• You can order by credit card through PayPal by going to www.paypal.com, selecting the “Send money” option, and typing in GJSneaker@sbcglobal.net where you are prompted for the e-mail account. (Make sure to specify what types of tickets and in what quantity.)
• Or you can send a check or money order, payable to “Jamey Newberg,” to:
Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.
1601 Elm Street, Suite 4100
Dallas, TX 75201
If you’re paying by check, I’d recommend mailing it right away so the event doesn’t close before your payment arrives.
If you’re buying multiple tickets, I don’t need to know every attendee’s name, but if you’re paying separately from someone you want to sit with for the game (whether in seats or a suite), let me know their names in an email or in a note with your payment (PayPal or check). The suites hold 20 people each, so if you have a group (of anywhere between two of you and 20 of you), just let me know so I can be sure to put you together in the same suite . . . but you can certainly buy one suite ticket as well.
One last thing: Just like the last two years, we’re opening up sponsorship opportunities for the event. There are $500 and $1,000 sponsorship levels, both of which include two suite tickets and an autographed Bound Edition (year of your choice). At the $500 and $1,000 levels you will get mentions in all event-related email; at the $1,000 level you will also get mentions in Twitter blasts and in the 2016 Bound Edition.
If you or your business might be interested, give me a shout.
Let me know if you have questions. And let’s raise a lot for Julie and her family.
Adrian Beltre is the first player since 1933 to hit for the cycle three times.
Rangers hitters have four of the last eight cycles in the big leagues.
Awesome, but not as important as Beltre’s club winning five of its last six, the lone aberration being the Cole Hamels start that Texas should have taken as well.
And, as Gil LeBreton (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) points out, ever since the Rangers dropped to a season-low eight games under .500 on May 3, they have a 44-37 record — while Houston is 42-40.
Beltre’s fifth-inning homer got me off the couch, but so did this tweet from ESPN analyst and recent Rangers managerial candidate Alex Cora: “The Rangers might be two games from the second wild card at the end of the night and just traded for an ace.”
And they did.
Mark your calendars, at least in pencil: We are planning to hold Newberg Report Night at the ballpark on Monday night, August 17. That’s just two weeks from now. As always, I expect we’ll have Jon Daniels for a pregame Q&A in the Hall of Fame theater, and I’ll announce our chosen charitable effort in the next couple days. Texas hosts Seattle that night.
More details on our event very soon.
And thanks to those of you who have responded with “honor system” contributions for the Newberg Report team. If you’re interesting in participating, here are the details:
As you know, the content on the Newberg Report website and newsletter is free of charge and always has been. It’s never been a subscription-based product and I don’t want it to be, because that might mean some of you would drop out of the audience, which I don’t want.
Once a year, in August, we announce an “honor system” program, for you to respond to, or not respond to, as you wish. I’ll share your contributions with folks who put significant time and talent and energy into the Newberg Report — including Scott Lucas, Eleanor Czajka, Norma & George & Ryan Wolfson, Don Titus, Ed Coffin, Devin Pike, and Marty Yawnick — to help improve the product, some of whom do so every day. Without their efforts, the newsletter and website and book and our events wouldn’t be what they are today, and probably wouldn’t even exist.
What we ask for is modest, I think: a contribution of $15 to $25, or whatever you feel is appropriate, if you think it’s worthwhile. Don’t feel compelled to participate. Take part in this only if you want to.
Or go to www.newbergreport.com and click the “Donate” button near the top right.
Or you can send a check or money order to:
Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.
1601 Elm Street
Dallas, TX 75201
With your positive response to this “honor system” program, we’ve never had to seriously think about heading down a subscription-based path. That said, I want to reiterate that I never hold it against anyone who chooses not to participate. This is totally voluntary.
Thanks to each and every one of you for your continued support of the Newberg Report.
Mike Leake was really good, throwing all his pitches for strikes, keeping the ball on the ground, and seemingly finding another gear when Texas mounted its few threats. He hung one looping curve middle-middle to Josh Hamilton, with two outs in the scoreless sixth — the first home run Leake had allowed in 41 innings — but otherwise the 27-year-old looked like an outstanding trade pickup in his Giants debut, half a day after his new teammates had spoiled the debut of the Rangers’ own trade deadline strike.
But Martin Perez was better.
While Leake needed 93 pitches to get through 6.1 innings on a furnace day in Arlington, Perez needed only 80 to get all but the final two outs, which Sam Dyson collected on one Hunter Pence swing of the bat — an expertly turned bases-loaded 6-4-3 that featured a tremendous Elvis Andrus feed and crazy pop time on Rougned Odor’s pivot to retire Pence by a quarter step on what was a slow bouncer that otherwise would have tied the game.
Only 80 pitches — the lowest pitch count for a big leaguer recording 25 outs in more than six years (Kansas City’s Luke Hochevar on June 12, 2009) — an 80-grade 76 percent of which were strikes, a number that would stand out even from a pitcher not returning from Tommy John.
Of the 28 Giants Perez faced, he started 25 off with a strike. (The three he offered ball one to each ended the at-bat by grounding out.)
The only base hit he allowed before the Angel Pagan double that chased him in the ninth was a fifth-inning infield single in the 5.5 hole that Andrus nearly prevented with a strike to Odor at second — and that at-bat would have never happened if Odor hadn’t made a clumsy two-out error the previous at-bat, letting his throw from short right sail high on Brandon Belt’s two-out grounder.
Despite the Odor error that extended his inning by two hitters, Perez needed only 11 pitches (rather than five) in that San Francisco fifth, an elite number that nonetheless was the most he’d thrown in an inning all day at that point. In the first four frames, Perez threw five, 10, nine, and 10 pitches, and after his 11-pitch fifth, he followed it with just nine deliveries in the sixth, and as brilliant as that is from a pitching and defense standpoint, it can’t be discounted on a day as hot as Sunday afternoon was that it had to have an impact on Leake, whose time in the dugout between innings to recover and regenerate was consistently abbreviated.
Leake, who walks a little more than two batters per nine innings this season and for his career, issued ball one to start the third. Then three straight balls to start the fourth. Ball one to start the fifth.
And three straight balls to start the sixth. He then threw four consecutive strikes, recording two outs and yielding a Mitch Moreland single to center, before going ball one to Hamilton, then strike one, then ball two, then the mistake curve he left up and out over the plate, which Hamilton waited on long enough to keep fair, well over the fence in right.
It was Leake’s sixth straight quality start, but Hamilton ensured it would be a loss.
There are so many good things about pitching efficiently and with tempo, and on a day like yesterday, Perez getting Leake back out of the dugout so quickly all day long may have been pretty big.
Ever since Perez’s previous start, the 21-5 loss to New York that might have been the worst of the year, Texas has now won four of five against playoff-bound teams — the only loss in this last run through the rotation was the crusher in Cole Hamels’s start on Saturday, a game Texas should have won — and maybe the most encouraging part about that is this has happened at home, where the Rangers have been as ineffective this year as any team in baseball. I’m not sure many clubs have any many home games remaining as Texas does. Fun to think that might be turning into the kind of positive it should be.
The Angels lost yesterday — that’s six in a row and nine of 10 — and so did the Twins, bringing Texas a game closer to the two Wild Card teams. Baltimore and Toronto still stand in the way, and Tampa Bay is virtually tied with Texas, but the Rangers now sit just three games out of a playoff spot.
Houston arrives tonight for three, and while the Astros aren’t the team Texas is chasing, this is an opportunity series, even if it’s not necessarily a statement series.
Perez got me thinking about next year — Cole and Yu and Martin and Derek, maybe Colby or Chi Chi in the fifth slot — but the really cool thing about these last five days the Rangers have put together is they should have us thinking about this year, and when it’s August that’s exactly where you want your head to be.
It’s the season’s final third, a new trading season with new rules, and, for Texas, a huge opportunity.
The Giants for two more.
Houston in for three.
Seattle away for three, and then three in Minnesota to face the Twins, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot that the Rangers are three games short of.
The Rays (virtually tied with Texas) here for three, then four in Detroit (currently half a game behind the Rangers), after which Texas hosts Toronto and Baltimore — each two games ahead of the Rangers in the Wild Card chase — for three each, getting us to August 30.
Texas plays 28 games in August.
Seventeen are at home.
That’s a massive opportunity, especially if the club has regained a little Castle Doctrine edge. (The Rangers still have baseball’s fewest home wins . . . and most road wins.)
The bullpen now has Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson, and the rotation should have Derek Holland soon.
And will have Cole Hamels tonight.
Facing Giants righthander Chris Heston.
The last time a game featured a pair of starting pitchers who’d thrown no-hitters earlier that same season was 2010, when Arizona’s Edwin Jackson faced Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay on July 28, and Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza faced Oakland’s Dallas Braden on August 22.
Hamels, who watched Halladay beat the Diamondbacks, 7-1, a day after his own start against that same club (in which he’d entrusted a 4-3 lead to the Phillies bullpen, only to see it squandered), was in his fifth year as a big league starting pitcher.
Chris Heston, San Francisco’s starter tonight, was in his first full pro season, in the midst of what would be a 5-13, 3.75 campaign for Low A Augusta.
Since that day when Hamels watched Halladay and Jackson face off, he’s twice been on a Phillies club that finished with baseball’s top regular-season record.
In 2010, the Phillies won an MLB-best 97 games. And then were eliminated in the NLCS by the Giants, who went on to face Texas in the World Series.
In 2011, the Phillies won an MLB-best 102 games. And then were eliminated in the NLDS by the Wild Card Cardinals, who went on to face Texas in the World Series.
Cole Hamels was on baseball’s best team, at least by one measure, in 2010 and again in 2011, and, after going 2-1, 0.86 in those two post-seasons, with 25 strikeouts and three unintentional walks in 21 innings, sat at home watching the Rangers play in the World Series. Twice.
Yesterday he told Rangers reporters: “This team is great, and I’m excited to be a part of it. That’s all I want to do, to be a part of it with these guys and help them continue to win and get to the post-season and go from there. I think that’s all I’m going to try to do tomorrow and the next couple days and every five days. That’s what I do.”
On Friday he attended a presser in Philadelphia and a presser in Texas and, in between, joined his new teammates outside the dugout, first to stand up to whatever it was that a struggling Madison Bumgarner was whining about and then to line up for handshakes, after a third straight Rangers win over a team holding down a playoff position.
Tonight Hamels shoots to make it four straight.
There’s a huge opportunity here, not just in seven hours but over the next two months as well.
Having a newfound edge at home, and having Cole Hamels and a fortified bullpen in place, not to mention another frontline starter nearing his own return and a chance to grab a right-handed bat this month, could make things very interesting, as Hamels and his new teammates look to continue to win, and get to the post-season, and go from there.
They didn’t even have to play the X.
If it weren’t for that shiny no-trade clause that allowed Cole Hamels to have the final say in the case of 20 other teams, there would have been 29 of them interested in trading for the lefthander, especially with the Phillies willing to help pay for him to pitch somewhere else.
But there were 20 that had that added hurdle, and in at least one case — Houston — Hamels apparently exercised his right to kill a deal that his club was interested at some level in making.
That left nine teams.
There were clear contenders: the Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees, Nationals, Cubs, and Mets.
There were teams plainly looking to next year: the Braves and Padres.
And there was Texas.
Whether the others were looking for rentals instead (lower cost in prospects) or focused on different roster needs, none of those nine teams (and presumably some number of teams who were on the no-trade list but undaunted, like the Giants and Red Sox, two clubs Hamels was reportedly willing to go to despite his veto power) were able — or, in the Dodgers’ case, willing — to come up with a collection of cost-controlled talent matching what Texas put on the table.
And yet . . . .
Joey Gallo is still here.
And so is Nomar Mazara.
And Chi Chi Gonzalez and Luis Ortiz and Luke Jackson and Andrew Faulkner and Brett Martin and Yohander Mendez — and Dillon Tate and Michael Matuella.
And Lewis Brinson and Ryan Cordell and Jurickson Profar and Hanser Alberto and Yeyson Yrizarri and Michael De Leon.
And, not to be overlooked, Rougned Odor and Delino DeShields and Keone Kela and Nick Martinez and Tanner Scheppers, and Shawn Tolleson, somewhat shockingly a pre-arb guy himself.
They’re all here.
And so are Cole and Yu.
Behind whom will be Derek and Martin, and then someone from a group likely including Chi Chi and Colby and Nick and Nick. (Maybe even Yovani.)
That assumes everyone is healthy.
It also assumes Texas is done putting together its stable of 2016 starting pitchers, which is a bad assumption.
Catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams, righthanders Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, and Alec Asher, and lefthander Matt Harrison for lefthanders Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman and an undisclosed amount of cash, believed to be between $9.5 million and $12 million.
I regularly write too much.
This time I won’t write enough.
I could write a couple thousand words each on half the pieces in this deal, but will spare you. It’s a tremendous validation of the job this organization does on the scouting and player development side, and the Phillies have to be as thrilled with the potential of this deal as the Rangers.
Texas saw Alfaro on the left side of the infielder as a teenager in Colombia, and signed him with the determination to make him a catcher. That was in 2010.
Williams was drafted in the second round in 2012, and Asher in the fourth round that same year. It was a draft that also produced Gallo. And Brinson. And Kela. (And Jameis Winston, unsigned.) And Pat Cantwell and Preston Beck and a handful of other players working their way up the system.
Eickhoff was taken in the 15th round in 2011, sandwiched between Faulkner (14th round) and Ryan Rua (17th) and Nick Martinez (18th).
Harrison came over in the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007.
And then there was Thompson.
A year and a week ago, Detroit sent Thompson and reliever Corey Knebel to the Rangers for Joakim Soria, whom Texas had signed out of the trainer’s room before the 2013 season.
Knebel (along with Luis Sardinas and Marcos Diplan) was flipped six months later to Milwaukee for Gallardo.
Thompson helped Texas get Hamels.
Think about that sequence.
There aren’t many people who get any more fired up about prospects than I do, but there are many reasons you aim to develop heavy depth on the farm, and one of them is to give yourself a chance to add a player like Cole Hamels without having to commit free agent dollars and years to do it.
According to several local and national reports, when you do the math on the cash the Phillies are including in the deal, plus their 100 percent assumption of Harrison’s contract (nearly $33 million remaining), the Rangers will effectively be on the hook for about $40 million of what Hamels is owed this year and in 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2019, Hamels is owed $20 million, with a $6 million buyout — but it vests at $24 million if he’s healthy enough in 2017-18 to hit specified inning totals.
Boiled down, on the assumption that the Rangers wouldn’t get meaningful production out of Harrison going forward (but would still be paying for it), they appear to be getting Hamels for something like $12 million a year for the next three or four full seasons.
In the first two of those seasons, Texas will pay Yu Darvish $10 million and $11 million.
So in 2016, the Rangers will basically pay Hamels and Darvish — two number one starters — a combined $22 million. And then $23 million in 2017.
What do you think it will take to sign Jeff Samardzija, for instance, this winter?
Or David Price or Johnny Cueto or Zack Greinke or Jordan Zimmermann, who are more on the Hamels level?
And how many years will you have to commit?
Remember that Max Scherzer got seven years and $210 million last off-season.
Jon Lester got six years and $155 million.
James Shields got $75 million, Ervin Santana got $55 million, and Brandon McCarthy got $48 million, each for four years. And Rick Porcello got $82.5 million for the same term — starting next year — after extending with Boston the day before his first start this season. He’s 5-11, 5.81 in 2015.
Pittsburgh gave Francisco Liriano three years and $39 million last off-season, probably in the neighborhood of what someone’s going to give Gallardo this winter — and not far from what Texas is into Cole Hamels for.
While Hamels would probably get something between the Scherzer and Lester commitments if he were on the open market.
As for the cost in prospects, take a look at what Cincinnati and Detroit are getting from Toronto and Kansas City for two months of Price and Cueto.
Yes, the prospect haul Texas is sending to Philadelphia hurts. Some of it will hurt less with time, some could hurt more.
But this isn’t two months of Price, or Cueto, or Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza or Cliff Lee.
This is three full seasons, and maybe four, of an established number one starting pitcher, to put alongside another number one and in front of two young, high ceiling lefthanders in Derek Holland and Martin Perez, to form a front four — an extremely affordable front four — that any club would go to battle with.
And you didn’t play the X.
In part because you have a farm system deep enough that your third and fourth best prospects are more coveted than many other clubs’ first and second, and in part because, as Buster Olney (ESPN) pointed out, the Phillies “had far less leverage than expected,” especially once Detroit put Price on the market, “and were greatly boxed in by [Hamels’s] no-trade provision.”
Philadelphia bears responsibility for both — the club didn’t have to give Hamels the no-trade clause and didn’t have to wait as long as it did to move him (Jeff Passan [Yahoo! Sports]: “Two executives earlier this week said [the] Phillies should trade Hamels soon so potential Price availability doesn’t change their market. Oops.”) — and the Rangers, because of the stable of young players it has acquired and developed, were in a position to take advantage of the spot the Phillies were in.
The decisive position, as it turns out, and whether that’s because the Dodgers were instead prioritizing Price (whoops) or because they couldn’t line up with the Phillies on names outside of Corey Seager and Julio Urias, whom they reportedly wouldn’t discuss, we may never know.
Jonah Keri (Grantland) points out that Hamels has not only maintained his velocity as he’s entered his 30’s — he’s actually throwing harder now than he has in at least eight years (he touched 96 in his no-hitter on Saturday), and also missing bats at a greater rate than at any time since 2007.
Keri’s conclusion: “In short, Hamels was good, he is good, and given his combination of stuff, results, and durability, he projects to keep being good.”
According to Bob Nightengale (USA Today), Michael Young’s former Phillies teammate “was thrilled earlier about potentially going to [the] Rangers. His wife has relatives living in [the] Dallas area. Also, no state taxes.”
I could run down all the great things we all envisioned Alfaro and Williams and Thompson and Eickhoff and Asher doing in Rangers uniforms — I’ve unabashedly done it before — or I could pinpoint the limitations that some scouts red-flag, but the bottom line is the same as always with frontline prospects. They dash expectations as often as they meet projections, at best.
With his his video game raw tools, Alfaro could develop into the most electric both-sides-of-the-ball catcher since a guy who once played here for a very long time but whose name would be wholly unfair to even mention.
Or he could be Cesar King.
Williams barrels baseballs at dizzying rates with his elite bat speed, but even with improvements this year in his plate approach and defensive instincts, there remain questions as to whether he’ll continue to make the necessary adjustments to fulfill his All-Star ceiling.
But maybe he’ll be a better big leaguer than Mazara.
(There’s almost no chance Texas was going to keep all three of Mazara, Williams, and Gallo going forward, since all three hit from the left side and the big club already tilts too heavily to the left.)
Some see Thompson as a potential number two starter. Others believe the fastball-slider combination and the effort in his delivery will ultimately be more suited to late relief.
Unquestionably, he carried more value this month than he did a year ago at this time. And I’m a big fan.
But is he Colby Lewis? Or Thomas Diamond?
Eickhoff and Asher: Back of the rotation? Middle of the pen? Or swingmen whose options put them on the AAA-MLB shuttle into their late 20s?
Or will one of them turn into Kyle Hendricks, or Tanner Roark?
And then there’s Harrison.
What a warrior. The scoreless six he threw in Colorado last week was as uplifting a moment as this season has offered, given what that guy has gone through medically and put himself through to get back, when could have simply collected the guaranteed $40 million-plus he was owed in 2015 through 2018. We’re all fans and always will be. Good dude, good pitcher, bad break.
And if things get to a point at which the Phillies view Harrison as a sunk cost and cut ties before his contract expires, there will probably be a non-roster invite to come back to Texas for one last shot, and not just ceremonially.
The Phillies did well here. They were willing to eat a ton of money (both Harrison’s contract and the subsidy they sent Texas) in order to load up on talent. Jim Callis (MLB.com) believes Philadelphia might have added a number two starter (Thompson), two All-Star position players (Alfaro and Williams), and two workhouse starters for the back of the rotation (Eickhoff and Asher) — if they all hit their ceilings.
They won’t all do that, but the Phillies aren’t having to bank on just one or two players panning out. There’s quality and quantity in this trade, and Philadelphia acquired that with an infusion of cash — and three-plus years of a number one starter.
MLB.com revealed an updated list this week of the top 100 prospects in baseball, and no organization had as many as the Rangers’ eight. Texas has just moved the fourth, fifth, and sixth players on that list (Thompson, number 60 overall; Williams, 64; Alfaro, 69) to get Hamels.
But the top three (Gallo, 8; Mazara, 17; Tate, 55) weren’t touched, nor were the other two on the list (Brinson, 78; Ortiz, 100) in completing the deal.
Mike Ferrin (MLB Network Radio) tweeted: “Not sure there’s another organization that could send away that much talent and keep [its] top two bats. Testament to [the] Rangers organization.”
Of course, the only rankings that matter are the ones on the whiteboards in the front office you’re dealing with, and maybe the Phillies evaluated Thompson, Williams, and Alfaro even higher in the Texas system, and might have had Eickhoff and Asher in their own top 100 mix, even if MLB.com didn’t.
But I’m thrilled Texas came away with the most valuable trade asset on the market without having to move Gallo, or Mazara, or Brinson, or Gonzalez, or Ortiz. Especially with a number of teams (understandably) in the mix, and with the Phillies willing to kick in cash, I’m a little surprised that Mazara in particular wasn’t an insistence on Philadelphia’s part.
It just speaks to the depth in prospects that the Rangers are able to get business done with, and if most of the prospects going to Philadelphia reach their projections, that’s fine. I’d rather trade a guy too soon and see things work out for the other team than fail to trade him before it’s too late to get much value out of him, on the field or on the trade market. The last thing we’d want as Rangers fans would be for this club’s traded prospects to regularly prove to be mirages.
The Diekman piece in this trade is a bigger deal than getting Mark Lowe tacked onto Cliff Lee was five years ago. The big reliever throws 97 from the left side, combines it with a wipeout slider, and keeps the ball on the ground. Command has been an issue, and his 2015 numbers (5.15 ERA, 24 walks in 36.2 innings) aren’t pretty, but he figured some things out after an early-June demotion to AAA. Sent down with a 6.75 ERA (.292/.417/.449 slash), he spent a week in the International League and came back strong. Since returning on June 18, Diekman has held hitters to a .233/.313/.317 slash, with 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 15.1 frames (2.93 ERA).
Texas controls the 28-year-old for three seasons (via arbitration) after this one.
(I mentioned Diekman at the end of the second of the four JD-Ruben phone call reenactments. Several readers asked yesterday if I would send links out to all four of them. Here you go:
The Diekman acquisition is a quiet aspect of the trade, but it could end up big over these next three-plus years.
Is Gallardo the next to go? He’s slated to start tonight, and the non-waiver trade deadline is tomorrow afternoon. Texas stands to recoup a supplemental first-round draft pick (and the associated bonus pool money) if he finishes the season here and declines a qualifying one-year offer from the Rangers before signing elsewhere this winter. Clubs know they’ll need to offer the Rangers something today or tomorrow that’s more valuable than the supplemental first, or Texas will have no incentive to move him.
The Dodgers and Blue Jays had reportedly shown interest in Gallardo before addressing the rotation elsewhere. The Cubs and Yankees and Giants have been mentioned, and a good showing against New York tonight certainly can’t hurt, especially with today’s news that Michael Pineda is headed to the DL with a forearm strain.
Gallardo has limited no-trade protection, but reportedly said he was willing to waive it had talks progressed with Toronto. Whether he’s open to waiving it in all cases remains to be seen.
Maybe Gallardo will move on by dinner time tomorrow. Maybe the Rangers will acquire a right-handed bat. Maybe there’s something else cooking that will catch us completely off guard.
But if not, it’s been an exceptionally good trade deadline for Texas, to the extent that those can be graded right away.
It would have been fantastic if the Hamels trade happened with Texas four games up on the division rather than four games back in the Wild Card chase.
But it’s a great thing that, even in the midst of a season that hasn’t met expectations at this point, the Rangers remained aggressive with an eye toward improving the team they’ll field over the next few years. I’d rather be a fan of a team that goes for it than one that freezes up.
Texas played ball in a big way on Wednesday, and Cole Hamels is a Ranger.
As is Nomar. As is Joey.
As is Yu.
This franchise is deep enough in young talent that they didn’t have to play the X, not even for a controllable, affordable, established ace, which makes it look more and more like those X pieces are going to stay right here, eventually playing right field and third base behind a proven big league number one, and another one of those.
Yesterday’s trade was several years of exceptional scouting and player development in the making, and executed by a front office that’s as creative and aggressive as they get, and today, with the reality that Cole Hamels is a Texas Ranger settling in, the result of a move that didn’t compromise the top of the prospect inventory or set the club back financially the way that acquiring multiple years of an ace should, I’m having a hard time feeling like this was anything but an awesome opportunity to take advantage of, an opportunity that Texas alone was able to create for itself.
Ring tone sounds (“Unforgettable,” by N.K. Cole). Ruben picks up his phone.
As with the post last week, this momentary tangent might interest you only if you have a son who will be an 11U ballplayer this fall and next spring, or know of one.
As far as the Rangers are concerned, you can count on another busy day on the rumor mill and maybe more, and there’s also very good news on the minor league affiliation front. I’ll get to that later today or tomorrow — and will certainly blast the list if there’s breaking news at any point in the meantime.
For now, however, for those of you who know of a very good ballplayer in the North Texas area heading into the 11U age bracket, the following may be of interest. Thanks.
** Dallas Pelicans 11U (Majors/AAA) Fall 2015 Tryouts **
The Dallas Pelicans 11U (Majors/AAA) Select tournament team will conduct tryouts to complete our roster for the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 seasons. If your son (DOB 5/1/04 or later) is a frontline ballplayer interested in an opportunity to join our team, please plan to attend — tryouts will be at 6:45 p.m. on both Sunday, August 2 and Tuesday, August 4, at Richardson High School, 1250 W. Belt Line Road, Richardson, TX 75080. It is not necessary to attend both sessions, though it’s optional to do so.
In our two years of existence, the Pelicans have played strictly tournament ball at the AAA and Majors levels, winning 70 games and losing only 25. In 2014, we finished the season taking second place in the 76-team AAYBA World Series, which featured teams from Texas and neighboring states. In 2015, we took third place in the same World Series, this time featuring 62 teams.
We have had tremendous success in our two years of play and are looking to build on that. We have our own dedicated facilities at Richardson High School and one of the finest head coaches in North Texas, Mike Tovar, the varsity head coach at RHS. Coach Tovar has 30 years of coaching experience, and his mission as far as select baseball is concerned is to develop our players, starting at this age, into impact high school players, if not more, capable of playing multiple positions. Our pitching coach, Chris Callicutt, pitched four years of college ball and has been a tremendous addition to the Pelicans this past year.
The Pelicans pride ourselves on putting our uniform on good kids from good families, athletes with strong baseball IQ and character and a willingness to work and grow as baseball players and teammates. (Allowances are made for multi-sport athletes who are playing other sports in the fall.) Emphasis is on learning to compete and to play the game right and with respect. Your son will be challenged to reach the next level, constantly.
Once again, for more information regarding our program or philosophy, or questions regarding tryouts, please contact Jamey Newberg at JNewberg@vilolaw.com or GJSneaker@sbcglobal.net or 214-392-3968. If you will let us know in advance that you’re planning to come on Sunday and/or Tuesday, it will shorten the process for you once you arrive — if you don’t reach out to us in advance, please consider arriving at 6:30 so we can get some information from you.
Dallas Pelicans-Tovar 11U
Ring tone sounds (“Canary in a Coal Mine” by the Police). Ruben picks up his phone.
“R.A.J. here, yo. Who dis?”
“Jon! What up, Broseph?!? Thanks for calling back! Cole pitched yesterday.”
“Yeah, man. I know. Whatcha got, Ruben?”
“He was really good and now I want a lot more for him.”
“Ruben, you didn’t say you’d take less after those two eggs he laid the two times before.”
“We’ve gone down this path, and you know what we’ll give up and what we won’t.”
“Deal with us or don’t. We both need to move on.”
“All the writers are saying you guys are the frontrunners!”
“I think I need to ask Pat and Andy that.”
“Have I what?”
“One of those writers, Ken Something, said he has sources telling him there’s ‘momentum building toward [a] Hamels trade’ and that ‘offers have improved since [the] no-hitter’ and that ‘teams [are] asking for less money [and] offering better players.’ Like how I added those bracket-y things?”
“I have a good idea where that source came from, Ruben.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Chief.”
“Why’d you call, Ruben?”
“Dodgers! Cubs! Giants! Yankees! Red Sox!”
“What if Friedman is targeting a reunion with Price? Would cost less since he’s a rental, plus I bet they think they can extend him in the winter. Stark says they’re the favorites along with us on Cole — this makes more sense for us because we’re more focused on the long term that LA is. They’re in on rental pitchers we’d never consider. They’re also interested in Gallardo and he’d cost exponentially less in prospects.”
“Gallardo has had a couple rough ones lately.”
“As did Cole, before yesterday.”
“What if Maddon is pushing for Price? Or Shields?”
“No-trade clause. Red Sox, too.”
“And the Yankees can’t give you what you want, especially if Severino and Judge and Bird are off the table.”
“Hey, Boss, there’s a local writer here in Philly, Jim Salisbury or something, who just wrote: ‘For beleaguered general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who did not accompany the team to Chicago, Christmas came on July 25.’ A couple things about that, Dude, just so you don’t get the wrong idea . . . . ”
“First, who’s he calling a B Leaguer? I played in THE BIGS, man.”
“Second, I didn’t understand the Christmas thing, but Pat told someone at the Hall of Fame ceremonies that Cole’s ‘price just went up’ after his no-hitter. Did you know Cole threw a no-hitter?”
“Anyway, I asked Andy what that meant and he said that’s what the Christmas thing was about. I have no idea what he’s talking about but I wanted to make sure you knew I don’t really think yesterday was Christmas.”
“OK, man. Gotcha.”
“Trade for Cole, Jon. [sobs] Get him out of the National League, Jon.”
“Well, I can help you out there, but you gotta help me, too.”
“I know he hasn’t pitched well lately — I saw his ERA is 8.22 over his last three starts . . . ”
“Yeah, well . . . ”
“I know he’ll bounce back, Jon. He’s a good pitcher. He’s good at pitching.”
“He’s nails in the post-season!”
“And I know he threw 129 pitches yesterday, but know what he did last time he followed up a 120-pitch effort?”
“Not sure. Was hoping you could tell me.”
“There are websites, Ruben.”
“What does 7-4-0-0-1-12 mean, Boss?”
“Is that what he did after his last 120-pitch game?”
“Last year he hit 120 pitches four times. The totals for the four starts after those: 29.2-19-4-4-5-35. I don’t think that’s terrible.”
“Nomar Mazara homered yesterday, Jon.”
“Give him to me!!”
“Don’t think so, Ruben. But what’s the whole deal? Money too.”
“You think I’m gonna tell you that?!?”
“That’s how this works.”
“The writers in your town are saying the deal would have to include Mazara or Alfaro.”
“Is that true?”
“You think I’m gonna tell you that?!?”
“Jeff Passan says the ‘industry sentiment has Rangers as favorites for Cole Hamels. Long-term motivation, prospects to swing a deal, and Hamels can’t block trade.’ How about that?”
“It’s sort of up to you, Ruben.”
“That Salisbury dude says you guys are in the lead on this. So does Danny Knobler.”
“Again, Ruben . . . . ”
“Johnny Cueto is off the market — one less pitcher I gotta compete with!”
“And one less team that the Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Yankees, and Red Sox have to compete with to get their guy.”
“See what the Reds got for Cueto?”
“Yep. Solid haul.”
“I’m offering a better package.”
“As you should.”
“As I have.”
“And that Ken guy wrote that Houston had a scout at Cole’s game yesterday, too. He said the Astros are ‘staying on [the] periphery, knowing that not many teams can offer what [the] Phillies want.’ Houston, too, Jon — they’re in!”
“One, no-trade clause. Two, circle back on the last part of Rosenthal’s comment. That’s my leverage, not yours.”
[A different voice is heard. Quiet. Almost a whisper.]
“Hey, man. Nice job yesterday.”
“Get me out of here, Jon.”
“We’re trying to line up, Cole. Up to your bosses if it works out.”
“Get me out of here, Jon. Play the X.”
“Looking at it, man.”
“I want to play with Yu, man.”
“That would be the idea. Hear ya.”
“My next start is Friday. The trade deadline expires a few hours before it. Get me out of here.”
“We want you here, man. If it makes sense.”
“Ruben is twirling my moustache. Get me out of here. And make Ruben stop twirling my moustache.”
“Working on it.”
[scampering metal cleats heard, at diminishing volumes]
“Jon, still there?”
“Never left, Ruben.”
“Back atcha in a bit — got a couple national writers to go feed first!”
“I’ll be here.”