Happy New Month.

“Veteran scouts are blown away by [the] Rangers’ farm system, counting 16 legitimate prospects, easily the most in MLB, giving them ammo for trades.

“So, yes, the Rangers, who need bullpen help, have plenty of prospects to land whoever they desire at the trade deadline.” 

So tweeted USA Today’s Bob Nightengale yesterday.

San Diego traded closer Fernando Rodney to the Marlins, also yesterday, for Low A righthander Chris Paddack, a Cedar Park product whose last three starts, presumably some of which the Padres had pro scouts sitting on, went like this: 15 Greensboro Grasshopper innings, zero hits, one walk, 28 strikeouts.  

In the third of those three starts, this past Saturday, your Hickory Crawdads scored three times in the ninth and tenth to pull out the win.  Does the scout Nightengale talked to count that day’s Hickory starter, righthander Pedro Payano (.213/.296/.285, 25 walks and 75 strikeouts in 69 innings), among his 16?  Debatable.

If Texas hadn’t made its trade with Philadelphia this month last year, that scout would have his number over 20.

But the Rangers wouldn’t have Cole Hamels (9-1, 2.60), or Jake Diekman (.173/.256/.288, 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in 29.2 innings), or a playoff berth in 2015, and who knows what in 2016.

Prospect inventory is meant to be built and to be spent.

On July 2, 2011, Texas signed 16-year-olds Nomar Mazara, Ronald Guzman, Yohander Mendez, and the aforementioned Payano, a few months after signing Rougned Odor, a 2010 J2-eligible player who signed late because teams weren’t stepping up financially over concerns about his size, average speed, and defensive limitation to second base.  (Texas paid Odor $425,000, less than a tenth of the record-setting amount it paid Mazara.)

Mazara and Odor aren’t on that scout’s list because, just five years later, the 21- and 22-year-old are established big leaguers, but Guzman and Mendez surely are, even if Payano may or may not be.

Texas added more punch from Venezuela and the Dominican Republic in its 2011 J2 class than the Angels have in their entire system.

As for the Rangers’ 2011 draft, a month before that J2 splash, it was disappointing at the top (first-rounders Kevin Matthews and Zach Cone have been released), but tremendously strong in the middle (8th-rounder Kyle Hendricks, 11th-rounder Connor Sadzeck, 14th-rounder Andrew Faulkner, 15th-rounder Jerad Eickhoff, 17th-rounder Ryan Rua, 18th-rounder Nick Martinez, 30th-rounder Phil Klein), and forever anecdotal late (48th-rounder C.J. Edwards).

While Texas went to its second straight World Series that year, in the trenches the franchise was adding layers and layers of prospect ammunition.

Tomorrow is July 2, and the Rangers will again make noise.  Rumors tie them to the top catcher on the international market, Venezuelan 16-year-old David Garcia.

The big club coming away with a split this week in New York (arguably acceptable given that three of the games were started by reinforcements Martinez, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and A.J. Griffin), failing to coming away with a winnable three or even four, might have the Yankees, at least for the moment, deciding not to put their late-inning relievers on the trade market.  That’s notable, including here.

Rodney has moved, which theoretically opens the bullpen market for business, but the price is going to be high — for now — until a few more teams fall out of perceived contention over the next few weeks.

There isn’t going to be an equivalent Sam Dyson deal for Tomas Telis and Cody Ege — two players that Nightengale’s source wouldn’t have included on his list a year ago — early this July.  

Texas could use some help in the bullpen.  Keone Kela is the best bet for now, and he’s getting closer.  

You can count on a boost from outside as well.  This month.  

But the Rodney trade removes one chip from the market — not that he was on the Rangers’ radar, but whoever else might have been interested besides Miami theoretically now gets in on whoever Texas is targeting — and there are a lot more buyers (or at least non-sellers) for now than there will be in four weeks.  And everyone needs bullpen help.

The point is this:

Jon Daniels and his crew are going to add significantly to the pipeline tomorrow.

And subtract from it, likely significantly, very soon.

Happy New Month.

I’m not writing today.

So, what, you think I’m gonna write every day?  

Just because there’s another victory to recount and celebrate, another series not lost, with two opportunities to plug it into the win column? 

I’ve got a life, you know.

(Debatable.)

Cole Hamels was outstanding . . . blah blah blah . . . Ian Desmond was tremendous . . . yeah yeah yeah . . . Prince Fielder is coming out of it and so is Shawn Tolleson and Adrian Beltre is a damn treasure and the Rangers are damn good . . . how many times do you want this stuff reissued?

I could sit down this morning and talk instead about the historical significance of the Rangers’ record and their division lead or the makeup of this 25-man roster or that Ryan Rua story I’ve been wanting to write or the “unplugging” effect or Ronald Guzman and Travis Demeritte going to the Futures Game or Ryan Cordell MVP’ing the Texas League All-Star Game, or I could roll out a TROT COFFEY or deliver another quip in the developing Joe Girardi Joke Series or give you a heads-up about Newberg Report Night (circle August 14 on your calendar for now) or the new Newberg Report T-shirts that Paul Ylda designed and that you can buy right this second if you want, or I could say something stupid like kick-ass baseball is kick-ass.

But maybe I could use a break every once in a while.  Did you think about that?  

Someone suggested last night that if I take the day off from writing and then Texas loses tonight, it’s on me.

That’s fair.

Yeah, I’m baseball-superstitious.

No mismatched socks this season, but I’m making up for it with daily mismatched quads.

Not that I’m planning on bringing those back in 2017.

I’m not going to write today.

I’m just not.

Let’s go, Nick Martinez.

Give me something to write about tomorrow.

Great baseball is great.

Top of the heap.

Wake up.

The City That Never Sleeps is home to a current pinstriped edition with sorry, whiny, entitlement-driven leadership that earned every bit of this:

TEXNYY

Sorry, Joe.

Sorry.

Also: The Texas Rangers, man.

sally-omalley-im-50

Lifting a finger.

When the Rangers come back home, we’ll be at Game 87.  When Texas finished off Boston yesterday, the final home game of the first half of the schedule had been played.

Over that first half of home games in 2016, know how many series Texas lost in Arlington?

Nick Pants

Nick Pants

Know how many other teams in all of baseball, aside from the Rangers, have won 49 ballgames?

banister #1 midsize

Know how many wins over 103 Texas is on pace for?

banister #1 midsize

Know what the exit velo was on Prince’s home run cannon yesterday?

banister #1 small

banister #1 small

banister #1 small

Know what the Rangers’ longest losing streak is in the last 40 days?

banister #1 midsize

Know how many career victories Clay Buchholz has in Arlington?

banister #1 midsize

Wrong, Banny.  It’s zero.

Banny smile

In the first two games in the Red Sox series, know how many of the 18 batters in the Rangers’ starting lineups failed to hit safely?

banister #1 midsize

Know how many teams, including the Rangers, have a division lead as big as theirs?

banister #1 midsize

And what’s that lead again?

Andrus 10

The worse heat in Houston.

Relatively speaking, the Rangers were reeling.

After a strong 7-2 run outside the division, against the Tigers and White Sox and Blue Jays, culminating with The Brawl, they’d grabbed their first AL West lead in a couple weeks, primed for nine straight in the division and a chance to create some distance.  

And then they dropped three straight in Oakland on May 16-18: (1) Scored one run late against winless rookie Sean Manaea, who was coming off an effort in which he gave up eight Boston runs in 2.2 frames; (2) surrendered a walkoff grand slam, leading to a change in roles for closer Shawn Tolleson; and (3) managed four hits, all singles, in an 8-1 getaway day loss they were never in.

Swept in Oakland in front of 37,000 fans — in the three games combined — and out of first place in the division.

Rougned Odor was suspended by the league during that series.  

Delino DeShields had just played his way into a ticket to AAA, as had Tom Wilhelmsen, whose winter acquisition to boost the pen cost Texas its other center fielder.

Yu Darvish was still out and A.J. Griffin was out and Shin-Soo Choo was out and Robinson Chirinos was out and Keone Kela was out and Tanner Scheppers was out and Andrew Faulkner was back in AAA.

As Texas was getting swept in Oakland, Houston — which had the second-worst record in the American League — won the first two of three on the road against the White Sox, who had led their division 23 straight days.  The Astros had just gotten Lance McCullers back from injury and Evan Gattis back from a brief minor league reintroduction behind the plate.  They were suddenly feeling pretty good about a season that, to date, had been nothing but brutal.

One more game in Chicago, and then the Astros would get to host Texas, a chance to get a suddenly wobbly team in their own building and an opportunity to continue cutting meaningfully into their division deficit, which sat at 6.0 games, the closest to the top Houston had been all month. 

Where was this thing headed over, say, the next five-and-a-half weeks?

Houston has gone 22-12 since then.  Its rotation has stabilized, its bullpen has shoved, and its offense has awakened.  Only three teams in baseball have won more games in that time. 

That 22-12 record, of course, includes 21-6 against every opponent that wasn’t Texas.

Still, 22-12.

Including, at the moment, seven in a row, and nine of 10.  The Astros are on a tear.

That 6.0-game division deficit (5.0 behind Texas) that immediately preceded Houston’s insanely hot five-and-a-half weeks?

It sits now at 9.0 games back.

Because one of those three teams with a better record than Houston since May 18 is Texas.

Which hasn’t lost consecutive games since that May 16-18 series in Oakland, and sits with an MLB-best 48 wins, a distinction shared with the Cubs and Giants only because the club wasn’t able to hold a six-run lead against Boston on Friday.

Boston catcher Christian Vazquez’s insanely strong pop time and seed to second base as Odor took off for second base with two outs in last night’s second inning?

That’s Houston.

AP/LM Otero

AP/LM Otero

Odor’s physically genius slide around Dustin Pedroia’s hapless tag attempt?

That’s Texas.

MLB.com

MLB.com

And that’s this morning’s edition of Today in Whatever.

A loss.

Boston has the American League’s fourth-best record, but you’d have a tough time convincing me they’re not one of the two best teams in the AL.

They were visiting the best team in the league last night.

Two beasts going toe to toe.  

Both offenses knocked around some very good big league pitching, and capitalized a bunch.  On a night when there were 25 hits, seven for extra bases, the teams combined for more runs (15) than runners left on base (14).  

The other guys were slightly more opportunistic.

That’s all.

The best players in the game don’t always get it done, because there are often extremely good players on the other side counter-punching.

Sports.

It wasn’t the best night for the Rangers, as far as the ultimate measure goes, and as a result, with still another week to go before the season’s midpoint, they’re 20 games over .500.

The other guys capitalized more Friday night.

OK.

Another baseball game awaits.  And then 87 more after that.

And then, because this is one of the best teams in baseball, more after that.

Let’s go.

Surpluses and deficits.

There are too many middle infielders, and there will be a trade.  

The 23-year-old could go in July or the winter.  The 27-year-old could go, but in the winter only.  The 22-year-old almost surely doesn’t go at all.

Not fun to think about, but one is going to go away and it’s going to improve some other area of the club significantly.

There are too many catchers, and before long one will be with another team.

Also unfortunate, in a way, but it’s far better than the opposite problem. 

Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland are probably moving on after 2016, two guys who are three months from their 31st birthday and five months from entertaining offers to land the longest-term contracts of their careers.

Lewis Brinson and Ryan Cordell and Delino DeShields are keeping an eye on where center field goes from here.

Joey Gallo and Ronald Guzman envision first base with “Texas” across the chest.

The Stars wonder where they’re going to find a goaltender.

The Cowboys wonder where they’re going to find their next quarterback.

The Mavs wonder where they’re going find young players who are good at basketball.

Where the other local teams have crucial big-picture holes to fill, the Rangers have crucial logjams to sort out.

And the most wins and the biggest division lead in baseball, which is also the first lead of double-digit games the Rangers have ever had in the first half (or in fact at any time before September).

Last night’s win over the Reds put Texas there, and while the two-game split broke a string of 10 straight series wins and 11 straight at home, Wednesday was a day headlined not by Texas 6, Cincinnati 4 but instead by Derek Holland (shoulder inflammation) landing on the disabled list and Colby Lewis (lat muscle strain) headed there himself, joining Yu Darvish and leaving only Cole Hamels and Martin Perez as healthy members of the envisioned rotation.

And if the news on Holland and Lewis wasn’t enough, we were also treated to the announcement that minor league righthander Michael Matuella, returning from collegiate Tommy John surgery (that knocked him from the top of the first round last summer to the third round, where Texas took him), came out of his pro debut on Friday with a sprained ligament in his elbow.  His year is done after three innings, though no surgery is expected.

The big club’s win silver-lined an otherwise really cloudy day.

Nick Martinez will start for Darvish tomorrow against Boston.  

A.J. Griffin will start for Lewis on Saturday.  

Monday’s starter in Yankee Stadium could be Chi Chi Gonzalez or Kyle Lohse or, I suppose, the interesting Connor Sadzeck.

Not entirely pleasant — the Lewis injury in particular was bemoaned by Jon Daniels as a “kick in the gut” given what the warrior has been through, what he has accomplished this season, and the respect he commands in the clubhouse — but this is the nature of pitching and, fortunately, Texas has built a commanding win-loss cushion that it may need in order to withstand what’s to come.

Or the club may keep cooking.  Griffin, Martinez, and Cesar Ramos have made 11 of the club’s 73 starts, part of a rotation that boasts an American League-best 3.61 starters’ ERA (and an impressive opponents’ slash of .244/.313/.391, good for a .704 OPS).  That trio’s ERA in their 11 starts: a more-than-acceptable 3.88.

Exactly one year ago today, Jon Morosi (Fox Sports) tweeted that the Rangers and Phillies were discussing Hamels, who was willing to waive his no-trade clause to come to Texas.  Morosi noted at the time that the Rangers “expect to have Perez, [Matt] Harrison, and Holland back in [the] rotation this season, but they view Hamels as [an] elite upgrade worth pursuing.”

Today, it’s not Perez, Harrison, and Holland that Texas waits on, but instead Holland, Darvish, and Lewis.  

The Rangers are 10 games up.  

A year ago today, they were 3.5 games back.  And played 162+.

The pitching doesn’t boast the surplus that the middle infield or catcher position does, and maybe not the long-term blueprint depth that there is in center field and at first base.  It never does, for any team.  That’s the nature of pitching.

But those two situations are intertwined.

Morosi tweeted yesterday, on the heels of the Holland announcement and before word came down on Lewis: “[The] Rangers [are] solidly in [the] market for [a] starter, now that Derek Holland has joined Yu Darvish on the disabled list.” 

Having Cordell and Guzman reemerge this spring, for instance, gives Texas added trade pieces.  Cordell isn’t at Brinson’s level as a center field prospect and Guzman isn’t Gallo, but they’ve boosted their own trade value and, if a blockbuster trade opportunity emerges that necessitates Brinson or Gallo in the conversation, there’s now some added protection on the farm at their positions.

And as far as center field goes, if that 27-year-old shortstop is moved in the winter, which would likely be on the table only if the 23-year-old is still here and has given the organization confidence that the shoulder can handle the everyday workload at that position, maybe the contract savings is allocated toward keeping Desmond around to hold center field down for the first half of a four- five-year deal, before he moves to a corner.

There’s an entire column I want to write about what Ryan Rua’s greatest value to this team is, but that will have to wait, and I’m guessing someone else may write it first anyway.

What will also have to wait is a breakdown of what it might take to get Chris Sale or Sonny Gray or Jose Fernandez or Julio Teheran or Jake Odorizzi or Drew Pomeranz, and how all those surpluses Texas has developed could come into specific, targeted, viable play.  This is not yet the time for that discussion.

Unless, perhaps, you are Jon Daniels.

Texas 4, Baltimore 3 and alternate endings.

The Texas Rangers are great at baserunning and great at comebacks and great at baseball, and I want to tell you a story.

Jonathan Schoop is from the same hometown as Jurickson Profar, the budding baseball hotbed of Willemstad, Curacao.  They were Little League World Series teammates.  

Mark Trumbo is 30 and Ian Desmond is 30 and both were drafted out of high school in 2004 (Trumbo in Round 18 by Anaheim, Desmond in Round 3 by Montreal), a few weeks before Schoop and Profar’s team beat the Thousand Oaks, California club to win that year’s Little League World Series championship, and at the moment Trumbo and Desmond are the quintessential examples of how a pillow contract is supposed to work out for a player.

It was the ninth inning last night, and with two outs Chris Davis was on third base as the tying run and Trumbo was on first base as the lead run and Schoop, 2 for 4 on the night, stood in at the plate, facing Sam Dyson.

Schoop stepped in, not Profar, and Profar likes to win baseball games in the ninth but Schoop isn’t Profar.

Trumbo was on first, not Desmond, and I’m going to suggest the game might have ended differently if the roles were reversed.  

Texas was one out away from another come-from-behind victory and a one-game sweep (as well as a club-record 10 straight series wins).  Baltimore was 90 feet away from tying the game.

Schoop fouled off Dyson’s first pitch, his 13th of the night and 33rd in the space of about 30 hours.

Dyson likes to make batters hit ground balls, but Trumbo didn’t think that likelihood through the way I’d like to believe Desmond — the most productive player in baseball this year as far as FanGraphs’ Win Probability Added metric is concerned (and the league’s best baserunner) — would have.

Schoop pounded Dyson’s 34th pitch in two days, 96 and diving, low and away, into the ground just in front of the plate, pull side.  

Adrian Beltre, ranging directly toward second base just as an equally unspeedy Trumbo did so from the opposite corner, waited for the chopper to float down into his glove.

Davis dashed home, hoping to arrive as the tying run.

Beltre halted the bounding ball’s insane hang time, gathered it from his glove, and two steps toward second later short-armed a toss to Rougned Odor, stretched toward Beltre in an effort to meet ball before Trumbo met bag.

Trumbo hadn’t thought it through.

This is what was happening a split-second before the scorekeeper looked down to record the official game time.

Trumbo slide

Had Mark Trumbo done what I have faith Desmond (or Profar) would have done, the game would have lasted another few minutes (when Desmond would have driven Shin-Soo Choo home with a walkoff double to right center in the bottom of the ninth).

Desmond wouldn’t have slid. 

Desmond would have fired off first base at full speed when the ball was hit on the ground.

He would have closed in on second base at full speed.

And he would have run right through the bag at full speed.

He would have been safe at second — even if bearing in on the bag at the same time that Trumbo did, ignoring foot-speed — because he wouldn’t have taken the split second to break into a slide and his final stride to the bag would have been a split-second faster than a slide would have been.

Desmond would have been safe at second and torn by the outstretched second baseman and the bag, cutting his route toward third.

The second baseman would have dutifully tossed the ball at that point to the shortstop, who would have dutifully tagged Desmond out, and Desmond wouldn’t have even made all that valiant an effort to elude the inning-ending tag.  

Inning-ending, but game-extending.

Desmond would have beaten the toss to second because he didn’t slide, and in doing so would have removed the force play, allowing the tying run to score a second before he willfully ran into a tag for out number three.

Desmond would have done all that because he’s great and because he’s got court sense and because this is my story.

Trumbo didn’t.  

And the game, accordingly, ended right there.  

A game in which Derek Holland needed 27 pitches to get through the third inning, a frame in which the Orioles scored three times after scoring no runs before that inning — or after it.

Even though they out hit Texas, 15 to 9, and left runners on base in every inning.

A game in which the heroes included Shawn Tolleson and Tony Barnette and Bobby Wilson, because these are the 2016 Rangers and why not.

The pace is 105 wins.  The division lead is 9.5 games, all gained in the last 18 days.  

Jonah Keri (Sports Illustrated) writes that the Rangers “are playing out of their minds right now.”  

Maybe so.

But their latest win, the way I see it, might have needed a different ending if Mark Trumbo wasn’t out of his mind himself, in a different manner of speaking.

Trumbo is no Ian Desmond.

Right now, maybe nobody is.

And the way Texas is playing baseball right now . . . well, I don’t want to overstate things.

But these days, it’s almost automatic to expect that the Rangers are going to do the productive thing when needed.

At the plate.

In the field.

On the mound.

Including from the back and middle of the bullpen, on those rare nights when the starter falters.

And on the bases.

My story, at least.  Sticking to it.

Longest.

It’s the longest day of the year, and it would have been even longer if the schedule-makers’ off-day for Texas wasn’t filled by tonight’s raincheck game against Baltimore.

It’s being called a one-game series, meaning the Rangers need to take the Orioles down tonight to extend their franchise-record 10 straight home series wins (and then would have to sweep the Reds tomorrow and Wednesday to extend the record further).  

Derek Holland faces Baltimore power righthander Kevin Gausman, which isn’t quite the same as Holland facing Mike Wright, which was the pitching matchup when this game was first slated to be played on April 17, but Holland has a really strong track record against Baltimore, who will be without the suspended Manny Machado . . . . 

And yet, you can’t predict ball.

The Rangers own the second-largest division lead in baseball, at 8.5.

It trails only the cushion the Cubs have on the Cardinals, who just lost three straight one-run games at home to drop to 12.5 games out in the NL Central.

They dropped those three straight one-run games at home to Texas.

Two were late-inning comebacks.

The other was a 1-0 ballgame.

The Rangers are now on a 104-victory pace, which would blow away another franchise mark.

They’ve never had this big a division lead before the All-Star Break, and in fact they’ve only had a bigger lead at any point in the schedule in four other seasons:

1996, 1999, 2010, and 2011.

Playoff season.  Playoff season.  Playoff season.  Playoff season. 

But beware of dog days: After tonight against Baltimore and the next two against Cincinnati and three against Boston, the Rangers head out for 19 of 23 on the road, and 27 of 38, through August 9.  

The division could very well be a whole lot tighter at that point.  See 2015.

But all the uniformed guys can do is take care of the business at hand, and the Rangers have been doing that.  They’ve built an unprecedented cushion, at least as far as this club is concerned.  

And now Shin-Soo Choo is back and Yu Darvish should be soon and A.J. Griffin and Keone Kela, too.  So should Tanner Scheppers and Drew Stubbs and, in all likelihood, by time that insane road stretch comes to a close there will also be at least one name to add to this paragraph whose potential impact may lag only Darvish’s.  

Fun baseball is fun.

It’s the longest day of the year, but man, it would be just fine with me if first pitch was in about half an hour.

Profar STL

Happy Father’s Day.

My favorite baseball team battles.  Competes.  Is never out of a game.

Never.

Works its tails off, and plays with a passion for the game.

Plays hurt from time to time, but when necessary, the next man up steps in and contributes.

Really, it’s different contributors all the time.  No one player carrying the team on his back, and not just two or three.

It’s a team.

Chemistry matters.  Great teammates make a difference.

Those things go hand in hand with the battle, the collective resilience and toughness that feeds that never-out-of-the-game identity.

My favorite baseball wins a lot.  Wins far more than it loses.

Losses happen.  That’s OK.  Can always learn from those.  Adjust.  Get better.

Good baseball players can always get better.

Very good baseball players are driven to get better. 

Match players like that with great coaches — coaches who believe in their players and who teach and motivate and challenge and do what they do for the right reasons — and you’re on your way. 

My second favorite team has a chance to sweep St. Louis today.

Happy Father’s Day.

Photo: Elaine Payne

                                                                                             Photo: Elaine Payne

 

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