The singular travels of Gil Kim.

Various reports indicate that the Blue Jays have been in contact with Yovani Gallardo this week, as they look for a reliable veteran to fit with J.A. Happ at the bottom of their rotation.  Short-term memory is a factor, as the 29-year-old pitched 13.2 scoreless innings (2-0, 0.00, slash line of .136/.224/.136) against the Jays in 2015, not including his Game One win in Toronto when he gave Texas five innings of two-run ball, the final run coming in his final frame, when Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar doubles cut the score to 4-2.

They were the only extra-base hits Gallardo allowed Toronto in 69 plate appearances last year.  The other eight were singles.

If Toronto signs Gallardo — or if Baltimore or Kansas City or Houston or anyone other than Texas signs him — the Rangers will be awarded a supplemental first-round pick in this year’s draft as compensation.  They’re probably pulling for the Orioles, as their slot ahead of Texas in the first round would be forfeited and allow the Rangers to move up from what is now the number 20 spot.  Houston drafts ahead of Texas as well, but my guess is the Rangers would prefer that Gallardo not land there.  The Jays and Royals would lose a first as well, but further back in the round than where Texas sits.  

In any event, if Gallardo ends up joining the Blue Jays, they’d be taking from the team that nearly eliminated them from the playoffs last year, in a sense, but Texas wouldn’t be left empty-handed.  

Unlike in the case of Gil Kim.

You might not have heard of Kim before this week, but as Director of International Scouting for the Rangers the last two years, his sixth and seventh seasons in scouting with the organization, you know his work.  The Blue Jays thought enough of it that they hired Kim this week as their new Director of Player Development.  

Texas will get nothing in return, aside from the opportunity to promote or to add, on the heels of Kim’s departure.

And that’s how baseball works.  On extremely rare occasions, high-level executives are traded, but generally speaking, when one team offers someone else’s official the opportunity to advance his career, the incumbent team doesn’t stand in the way even though it gets nothing back — not even nominal cash consideration, as when minor league players are drafted via Rule 5.  The Rangers didn’t have to give anything to Pittsburgh for Jeff Banister, and they got nothing from San Diego when A.J. Preller left to become the Padres’ GM.  

Kim moves on to Toronto, and on a personal level the Rangers organization is probably thrilled for the 34-year-old.  Administratively, it’s a loss.

Kim’s history is fascinating.  Undrafted as a high school ballplayer in Philadelphia, the 5’6”, 150-pound, switch-hitting middle infielder played one year at Middlebury College in Vermont before transferring to Vanderbilt, where in three seasons he got all of 21 at-bats.  

One of which resulted in a base hit.  A single.

As a sophomore, Kim played alongside outfielder Antoan Richardson, who spent most of 2015 on the Rangers’ disabled list.  As a senior, his Commodore teammates included freshman David Price.

In 2006, a year after Kim graduated from Vanderbilt (with a B.A. in U.S. History), he landed an opportunity to play professionally for the Hoofddorp Pioniers, a minor league club in the Netherlands.  The following spring, after spending five months volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans, Kim earned $250 a month playing for the Beijing Tigers in China.  That winter, he moved on to the Western District Bulldogs in the Greater Brisbane Baseball League in Australia, working a construction job on the side to help make ends meet.  

In the spring of 2008, Kim played in the Spanish National Baseball League, on a team owned by soccer monolith FC Barcelona, and that winter he took his career to Venezuela, where he played one season for Tiburones de La Guaira (though his name doesn’t show up on that club’s 2008 statistics page).  He lived in the club’s locker room, sleeping on a mattress in the bathroom.  He studied Spanish with the clubhouse attendants every day.

Kim’s time with La Guaira ended in November 2008.  A little more than a month later, he had a baseball operations internship with the Pirates. 

That lasted three months.  The Rangers hired Kim away from Pittsburgh in March of 2009, offering him an opportunity to scout for the club in Mexico, and later in the Dominican Republic, before moving him into leadership roles in the club’s effort scouting ballplayers internationally.  

And now, after “[running] one of the top international scouting programs” in baseball (in the words of Baseball America’s Ben Badler), Kim is now working in yet another country, settling in as the Blue Jays’ farm director.  It’s a similar career progression to that of Rangers’ Senior Director of Player Development Mike Daly, who before being promoted was the Rangers’ Director of International Scouting from 2010 to 2013 — after which Kim assumed that post. 

Toronto envisions Kim overseeing an organizational effort to help Jays minor league players “creat[e] and realiz[e] their physical, mental, and fundamental goals.”  It’s part of what he did here, and if and when Venezuelan shortstop Yeyson Yrizarri and Nicaraguan catcher Melvin Novoa and Dominican outfielder Jose Almonte refine their particularly high upsides to the point at which they get to the big leagues, you’ll hear that Kim played a big role in putting Rangers uniforms on those teenagers in the first place.   

Kim’s tremendous work in Texas probably never put him on a path that crossed with Gallardo.  Maybe they’ll end up in Toronto together, maybe not.  The Rangers can’t prevent the righthander from signing with the Jays — short of re-signing him themselves — and the truth is they’re just hopeful that he gets a big league deal somewhere (he will), because it will add a premium draft pick to the inventory in Texas as a result.

There’s no such compensation when you lose a frontline baseball operations official, and while there are positives — a tremendous reflection not only on Kim (who is younger than Adrian Beltre and Colby Lewis, a little older than Chris Gimenez) and his impressive rise in the game but also on the Texas organization and its ability to develop people off the field just as it does between the lines — the Rangers’ loss in this case is the Blue Jays’ gain.      

Slow clap for the Rangers, for finding Kim and developing the man.  Slow clap for the Jays, for this week’s hire.

Slow clap for Gil Kim, who has quite clearly paid his dues, and continues to earn new opportunities.

Painting like a child.

I was watching a show the other day when a Picasso quote I’d never heard was referenced:

It took me four years to paint like Raphael — but a lifetime to paint like a child.

My first reaction was shock that I’d never heard it before.  My second was the embarrassment that it’s probably because I don’t read enough.  My third?  

Well, yeah.

I thought about the baseball card show I went to with Max and a few of his friends two days ago, and how awesome it was to see that world through 11-year-old eyes, that world that 35 years ago was my own 11-year-old nirvana, a world that on many days I wish I could still paint in.

I thought about Sunny and Buddy and Toby and how the best Rangers cards ever were in 1976 (inspiration for the cover of the 2007 Bound Edition) and 1978 (those awesome shots, especially Sunny and Toby and Mike Hargrove).  I thought about Fergie and Gaylord and Bert and Jon.  I thought about the Jeff Burroughs trade that made me sad and the Sparky Lyle that made me happy . . . until I realized who Dave Righetti was.

I thought about John Henry Johnson’s incredible Rangers debut and everything it promised (whoops), and I thought about being nearly alone in Port Charlotte in March of 1990, when everyone on a 40-man roster had been locked out of spring training, but there, on a field 100 feet away from the one where Donald Harris and Dan Peltier were taking BP, was the pudgy teenaged catcher whose one Class A season (.238/.278/.355 for Low A Gastonia) failed to lead Baseball America to make room for him on its Top 10 Rangers Prospects list, but whose work next to the other four or five catchers in those throwing drills made my jaw drop.

And now he’s in the Cooperstown on-deck circle.

I wasn’t a kid anymore in 1990.  But I felt like one when I saw Ivan Rodriguez for the first time, separated by nothing more than a chain-link fence.  

Baseball, like nothing else, has the power to make me feel like a kid again.  

The daily adrenaline of the ups and the downs.  The innocence of the game, and the complexity.  The new hope it offers every day.  

And every year.

Baseball is what, for lots of us, packs the promise that we’re going to paint our tails off, like a child, when that World Series is won.

When.

Not if.

When.

Hopefully it happens for Belts, Rougie, and Yu, whose baseball cards and whose edge and whose artistry are inspiring some kid the way Sunny and Buddy and Toby inspired me.  

The way Belts, Rougie, and Yu still inspire me now.

When I heard that Picasso quote a couple days ago, I thought in particular about one thing I’d written before, something I’d emailed to a fraction of you on this mailing list shortly before we left the house to take our daughter, now a high school sophomore who inspires me every day, to her first day of Kindergarten, a day after her brother’s first birthday.

If it’s OK with you, I’m going to self-indulgently run that 3,801-day-old report again, because it was about childhood and baseball and, I think, the pursuit of a sort of painting.

The Newberg Report, August 15, 2005

When I was five years old, we had this Saturday morning tradition.  Dad would take me and my two-year-old brother Barry to 7-Eleven, or Schepps, for something out of the ice cream freezer.  I think I usually went with a Banana Fudgsicle, Barry one of those orange Push-Ups, or maybe a Drumstick.

There were four games in town in the mid-’70s, one of which was king.  My parents were religious Dallas Cowboy fans.  Fall Sundays were devoted to football, usually at our house or the Donskys’, with Halleck’s chicken, chips and El Fenix queso, and Pepsi as the everyday lineup, and a mess of all kinds of other stuff in rotation around it.  

I’ve told the story before about pulling up to Schepps on one of those Saturday mornings, asking Dad how many of the Cowboys he knew personally, and upon learning that the answer was zero questioning why he cared so much whether Dallas won.  I have no recollection what his answer was.  But the question, and the parking space we pulled into while my question hung in the air, are etched permanently in my memory.

There were also the Texas Rangers and Dallas Tornado and Dallas Blackhawks.  The latter two were never televised.  The Rangers were televised roughly once a week, which made them no different from the Cowboys in that respect.  They were different in just about every other possible way, though.  Rather than serve as the focal point of the day, the televised Ranger game, if anything, was generally background scenery while we got ready to go swimming somewhere.  

My most vivid memories of Ranger games on TV in the mid-’70s involve Mark Fidrych firing a gem against Texas (while at either the Kreislers’ or Bruckners’ house, waiting to swim); Eric Soderholm driving in a game-winner against Texas in the ninth (ruining my mood as I dove into the pool at the Viroslavs’); and Willie Horton hitting three home runs in a game (while at Grandma and Papa’s, about to head to the pool).  I have it stuck in my mind that Adrian Devine pitched in the game that Horton went nuts in.

When I was seven, we graduated from weekly ice cream to a pack of Topps, baseball half the year and football the other half.  (I can’t remember whose idea it was to make the switch, but I like to think it was mine.)  I still remember the older man who ran the Schepps grabbing the cardboard box full of wax packs off the top shelf of the candy aisle, pulling out not the top pack but one near the bottom of a stack and promising me and my brother that there’d be a Cowboy in it.  And he was right: a few cards in (seems like Lem Barney and Vern Den Herder delayed the gratification, though there’s no way I actually remember that part), Rayfield Wright’s All-Pro face smiled at me, keeping to himself the secret of how Schepps Man knew.  The bookmark-grade slab of “gum” was an afterthought, if that.

The love affair with sports no longer belonged only to Dad.  

I’m not sure when baseball separated itself from football for me.  My parents weren’t really baseball fans.  If I’m really honest with myself, the time when football was no longer riding shotgun, and instead began to take a backseat, was probably 1984, when the Cowboys started missing the playoffs — until that time I was as crazy a football fan as I was a baseball fan.  As demoralizing as it was to have my football year end with the regular season, I look back on it and realize how it set me up to be somewhat of a snobby fan.  It’s easy to slither off the bandwagon when a team you expect as a child to go to the Super Bowl every year has as awful a win-loss record as 9-7!

Further back — and the fact that I vividly remember this tells you how snooty a Cowboy fan I was . . . how entitled I felt . . . even at age eight — the Cowboys had a 1977 home game against Tampa Bay blacked out because they failed to sell out Texas Stadium.  (The horror!)  What I remember about that is the stroll on which Mom took us (including my five-month-old sister Mandy) around Pennystone and Blue Trace, with the game on the radio, courtesy of Verne Lundquist and Brad Sham.  (I’ve always been a radio guy anyway, in both sports, from those days until now.)

I was profoundly sad.  The blackout shook my eight-year-old soul like a stock market crash.  Because in those days, Dallas Cowboy ups and downs were Jamey Newberg ups and downs.

But Dallas went on to smack the Broncos in the Super Bowl that year.  I celebrated by working and reworking my jigsaw puzzle that winter of Randy White and Harvey Martin mauling Norris Weese.  A thousand times.

So how was it that baseball kept up with football in those years?  Dallas was winning 11 or 12 games every season, finishing atop the division almost without exception, while the Rangers would annually hover around .500 (with the exception of the 1977 Willie Horton club, which won 94 times but still finished eight games behind the Royals).  How was it that my affection for the Rangers didn’t keep as company the Tornado and Blackhawks, rather than the Cowboys?

Because of the tosses with Dad or Barry, or the daily games of streetball, or the pitchback in the backyard?  Doubt it; they were all just as likely to involve a football as a baseball.

I think it was a few things.  Football was a once-a-week event, baseball a daily ritual.  Though we never missed an opportunity to meet Roger Staubach at Neiman’s or Drew Pearson at Joske’s, it was a lot easier to catch Jim Sundberg and Mike Hargrove at John Mabry Clothiers, or Jim Fregosi and Bill Fahey and Roy Smalley at Northaven Field to kick off the Little League season.  And the world of baseball cards proved to be limitless, football cards not so much.

(Anytime I hear “Philadelphia Freedom” [Elton John], or something by Cliff Richard [thank goodness that’s pretty much a non-existent possibility these days], or “Steal Away” [Robbie DuPree], or “Too Much Time on My Hands” [Styx], or “Still the Same” [Bob Seger], I immediately think I’m in the car with Mom, as she’s about to drop me off at whatever mall the baseball card shop “Remember When” was located at.)

Once I was old enough to play organized ball, there was lots of baseball, no football.  There were summers when the game was part of my routine every day, either games at Northaven or practices at Walker or scorekeeping at Churchill.  And Risenhoover and Merrill on the radio at night, bringing me Rangers baseball as I drifted to (or fought) sleep.  

And as for the Rangers, those years of mediocrity probably solidified a loyalty that Cubs fans made an art, and that Cowboy fans have never really shown, or understood.  Those of you who were with this team before the Red Years know what I mean.  It’s easy to root for a perennial winner; there’s more character, though, in standing behind Sisyphus and helping push.

The game itself has always captivated me.  You can’t find a book about football in the same league as “Nine Innings” or “Men at Work” or “Three Nights in August,” none of which I imagine would show up on a list of the 100 best baseball books ever written.  I’m a competer — which I know isn’t a word but which still connotes something different from “competitor,” I think — and I find irresistible the chess matches that make up the at-bats and the innings and the games and the series and the seasons and even the off-seasons in baseball.  I say that now as a fan; once upon a time it was as a player.

There was a photo of Bucky Dent one ’70s spring in Street & Smith’s, hurdling a runner trying to break up a double play, and a shot in the same magazine of Robin Yount ranging into the hole, and they made me want to be a shortstop.  It was my home on the baseball diamond for 12 years, until my high school coach put me on the mound as a junior and made me a pitcher-outfielder my senior year.  (My day to pitch?  “Bullet the Blue Sky” on my headphones, on the bus headed to Loos Fieldhouse or Reverchon Park.)

I hated Coach for moving me to the outfield.  And then I wished someone had moved me sooner.  It’s where I ended my baseball career one year later and two years after that, in that one week in Austin, that one day in Georgetown, and that one final week again in Austin.  I love the outfield.  I loved shortstop more; but I was better as an outfielder.

To this day there are guys I played with in Little League and middle school and BBI and high school and those 10 days at Disch-Falk and that one at Southwestern and on the intramural softball fields with whom I keep in touch.  Maybe that’s what it’s been, more than the baseball cards and the transistor radios and the Street & Smith’s and even the chess matches, that’s responsible for my latching so acutely onto baseball.  I’ve been able to share it with so many people.  Including, for the past eight seasons, you.

This fully selfish and tangential exercise has been your present to me.  You’ve indulged me on what’s an enormously nostalgic and proud day.  Erica’s first day of Kindergarten (which comes a day after Max’s first birthday — thanks for all the notes yesterday) begins in a little more than an hour, and though she hasn’t known any of her classmates for as much as a week, it won’t surprise me if she sits down to eat lunch this afternoon with someone who one day will stand up at her wedding.  

And on that day when her mother and I give her away, I hope to remember this day well, and the things I was thinking about as I was getting ready to head out the door.  One of which was which kind of ice cream she’ll pick out this afternoon.

Holding fourth.

When the Cowboys make their first selection in the draft on April 28, as long as they don’t trade out of the number four slot it will be the third time that they and the Rangers have called names in the same first-round position in adjacent drafts.

In June of 1973, Texas took Houston high school lefthander David Clyde first overall, seven months after which Dallas used the draft’s number one selection (acquired from Houston for defensive end Tody Smith and receiver Billy Parks, I kid you not) on Tennessee State defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones.  (The Cowboys also got the Oilers’ third-rounder in the trade, using that pick on quarterback Danny White.  I’m serious.) 

(Two picks after the Rangers drafted Clyde, Milwaukee took California high school shortstop Robin Yount.  A pick after that, San Diego chose University of Minnesota outfielder Dave Winfield.  Don’t worry about that.)

In June of 1974, Texas stayed home again and used the number two overall pick on Austin high school righthander Tommy Boggs (passing on the likes of fellow high school first-rounders Dale Murphy, Willie Wilson, Lance Parrish, Rick Sutcliffe, Lonnie Smith, and Garry Templeton).  

Seven months later, Dallas had the second overall pick in its draft (picked up from the Giants along with a second-rounder for its 31-year-old backup quarterback Craig Morton, who had also signed a deal giving him an option to play in the WFL the following season) and used it on University of Maryland defensive tackle Randy White.

Seven months ago, in June 2015, the Rangers had the fourth pick in the MLB draft (after picking no higher than 23 the previous four drafts), collectively bargained consolation for a 2014 season brutalized by a record number of games lost to injury.  They used the opportunity to draft UCSB righthander Dillon Tate, the first pitcher to come off the board (after the first three teams went with shortstops).

Three months from now, barring a trade, the Cowboys, besieged themselves this season by a handful of key injuries they couldn’t overcome, will also draft in the fourth slot.  

Maybe they’ll take a quarterback (Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch), or perhaps the best player available approach will lead them to Joey Bosa or Laremy Tunsil or Jalen Ramsey or Laquon Treadwell or Myles Jack.  They’ve got to get the pick right, more so than in baseball, given the salary cap implications and immediate roster needs, not to mention the fact that NFL players are almost all brought into the league via the draft, dramatically unlike MLB, where a huge segment of high-end talent arrives outside the draft, internationally, and where roster-retrenching trades for young talent are far more feasible.  

Also, to be fair on some level, drafting in baseball is much, much tougher than in football, as even the most decorated amateur baseball players generally spend years of development between signing a pro contract and reaching the big leagues, while football players who go early in the draft typically step right into a starting NFL lineup.  The slugging percentage in the baseball draft is a lot more challenging.

But the other thing is this: The Rangers are much better at scouting and drafting and developing than they were 40-plus years ago.  Not that Clyde was necessarily the wrong pick at the time, for example, but the organization’s decision to immediately thrust the 18-year-old into a big league rotation just wasn’t real smart.  

Maybe the Cowboys will come away in April with a player at number four who earns All-Pro recognition at the rate White and Jones did.

Doubt it. 

Maybe Tate will top out as a mediocre big league pitcher never reaching 162+, just as Clyde and Boggs did.

Doubt that, too.

There’s really no point to my decision to write this report (and to hit “send” rather than “delete”), other than to commemorate the humane euthanasia of a dreadful football season, one significance of which, aside from the resulting draft position bonanza, is a happy reminder that, at least locally, football is over, and Pitchers & Catchers will Report to complexes all over Arizona and Florida in a month and a half, which on the one hand is real, real soon — and on the other can’t get here soon enough.

Auld lang syne.

Times long past, I think it means.

A year ago, it sort of felt — possibly — like that perennial World Series chase was a time long past for the Rangers.  We were all pretty sure those 95 losses were freakishly anomalous, due in large part to record-setting injury numbers, but then again there were healthy veterans whose numbers had cratered, too, plus a first-time manager coming in, a couple division rivals who had what appeared to be impact winters, and then, in March, the loss of Yu Darvish for the year.

Instead, it’s now that brutal 2014 that feels like an outlier, an aberration, a time long past.  Texas re-earned a place at the tournament table in October, and once again this has the look and feel of a contender, as has been the case every year this decade, other than 2014.

Jim Bowden ran an ESPN piece yesterday attempting to identify “[w]hat’s missing for all 30 MLB teams.”  This is what Bowden said with respect to the 10 teams coming off playoff baseball:

* A power bat and bullpen depth (NYM)
* Starting pitcher (CHC)
* Patience to wait for farm system to deliver (LAD)
* Impact bat (STL)
* Starting pitcher, first base (PIT)

* Corner outfielders (KC)
* Bullpen depth, backup middle infielder (TOR)
* 1B or 3B (HOU)
* Starting pitcher (NYY)

* And Texas: Their players returning to good health

It’s been a relatively quiet off-season for the Rangers, but as we’ve talked about over and over, Texas got a four-month (and half-season) jump on its winter in July, plus it’s not as if the off-season is over.

But, as Bowden noted: “If everyone is healthy, the Rangers have a strong, deep club; now it’s just a matter of getting all hands on deck.  All-Star starting pitcher Yu Darvish is expected back as early as mid-May from Tommy John surgery (surgery was in March), Derek Holland and Martin Perez would be another year beyond their surgeries, and Josh Hamilton has comeback player of the year potential if he can return from his long list of ailments.”

I might tap the Hamilton brakes, but you get the point.  The Rangers, at least in the perception of Bowden and others, don’t need that added impact starter or a corner bat to contend.  They may just need to be healthy.

The Yankees made a splash this week trading four prospects to Cincinnati for closer Aroldis Chapman — but as Sweeny Murti (WFAN) notes, New York was 66-3 this season when leading after six innings, 73-2 when leading after seven, and undefeated in the 81 games it led after eight.  How much better, Murti wonders, does Chapman really make that team?

This isn’t exactly the 1997 Rangers replacing Mike Henneman with John Wetteland.

Some reports suggest the Rangers are lurking on Yoenis Cespedes (who wouldn’t cost a draft pick to sign, incidentally), and could turn loose a high-end bullpen arm for the right return (maybe a young, controllable starting pitcher with mid-rotation projection).  But it doesn’t sound as if Texas plans to play big in free agency, and by all accounts the club isn’t proactively looking to move a reliever, or Mitch Moreland.  The Rangers — as always — will look to be opportunistic, but that’s not the same as pushing the issue.

Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) reports that Cliff Lee is “completely recovered from his flexor tendon tear and has been cleared to throw,” and he suggests the 37-year-old could be “a great gamble” for Texas, Baltimore, Kansas City, or Houston.  That’s one situation I’m really interested in monitoring, but given the dollars it would take, even if heavily incentive-based, I’m not so sure the non-roster deal the Rangers signed righthander A.J. Griffin to a couple weeks may not be the more prudent risk to take.

Still: Would love to see Cliff back here.

Last winter was mostly quiet for Texas as well, headlined by the mid-January trade for one year of Yovani Gallardo and — in retrospect — the Rule 5 drafting of Delino DeShields.

But recognize that aggressive is always right around the corner when it comes to Jon Daniels.

I rank the Rangers’ top 72 prospects every winter for my book.  Looking back at the list from a year ago, which I shared last New Year’s Day, and focusing on just the 24 that make up the top third, Daniels moved 10 of them in 2015, with another three not only graduating to the big leagues but lasting long enough to exhaust rookie status and remove themselves from this year’s list.  None of them fell out of the top 24.

More than half of those two dozen from a year ago today are now with new organizations, or have established themselves in Texas.

More than half.

And as a result, Cole Hamels and Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman are also here, each for a long time, not to mention a supplemental first-round pick that the Rangers will recoup once Gallardo — whose 184.1 innings and the best ERA+ of his career helped Texas reach 162+ last year, when he was the de facto ace for the first half of the season — signs elsewhere this winter.

I’m not sure I’d predict that 10 of the 24 players who top the list in this year’s book get traded between now and New Year’s Day 2017, but I do agree with Bowden’s assessment that the Rangers don’t have much more to do this winter to position themselves to contend in 2016 — and knowing Daniels, that means we could be looking at another big trade deadline move or two this summer, as he once again gets a head start on the winter while boosting a pennant run in the meantime.

And making sure that 2014 feels, even more, like a time long past.

My Top 72 Rangers Prospects list, as found (with full write-ups on every player) in this year’s Bound Edition:

 

  1.  Nomar Mazara, OF
  2.  Joey Gallo, 3B-OF-1B
  3.  Lewis Brinson, OF
  4.  Dillon Tate, RHP
  5.  Luis Ortiz, RHP
  6.  Andrew Faulkner, LHP
  7.  Brett Martin, LHP
  8.  Luke Jackson, RHP
  9.  Eric Jenkins, OF
  10. Ryan Cordell, OF-3B
  11. Leody Taveras, OF
  12. Michael Matuella, RHP
  13. Ariel Jurado, RHP
  14. Josh Morgan, SS-2B-3B
  15. Connor Sadzeck, RHP
  16. Jairo Beras, OF
  17. Yohander Mendez, LHP
  18. Yeyson Yrizarri, SS-2B
  19. Andy Ibanez, 2B
  20. Ronald Guzman, 1B
  21. Tyler Phillips, RHP
  22. Jose Trevino, C
  23. Travis Demeritte, 2B-3B
  24. Phil Klein, RHP
  25. Sam Wolff, RHP
  26. LeDarious Clark, OF
  27. Scott Williams, RHP
  28. Jake Lemoine, RHP
  29. Jose Leclerc, RHP
  30. Chad Smith, OF-1B
  31. Chris Garia, OF
  32. Jonathan Hernandez, RHP
  33. Victor Payano, LHP
  34. David Perez, RHP
  35. Drew Robinson, 2B-SS-3B-OF
  36. Luke Tendler, OF
  37. Michael De Leon, SS-2B
  38. Frank Lopez, LHP
  39. Jose Almonte, OF
  40. Chad Bell, LHP
  41. Tyler Ferguson, RHP
  42. Ti’Quan Forbes, 3B-SS
  43. Will Lamb, LHP (traded to White Sox for minor league righthander Myles Jaye after I went to print)
  44. Evan Van Hoosier, 2B-OF
  45. Luis Marte, SS-3B-2B
  46. Pedro Payano, RHP
  47. Jose Valdespina, RHP
  48. Richelson Pena, RHP
  49. Royce Bolinger, OF
  50. Jesus Pirela, RHP
  51. Samuel Zazueta, LHP
  52. Melvin Novoa, C
  53. John Fasola, RHP
  54. Miguel Aparicio, OF
  55. Adam Parks, RHP
  56. Jared Hoying, OF
  57. Kelvin Vasquez, RHP
  58. Anderson Tejeda, SS-2B-3B
  59. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, 2B-SS-3B-OF
  60. Cole Wiper, RHP
  61. Pedro Ogando, OF-2B-1B
  62. Collin Wiles, RHP
  63. Eduard Pinto, OF-1B
  64. Pat Cantwell, C-OF
  65. Ryne Slack, LHP
  66. Kellin Deglan, C
  67. Pedro Brito, LHP
  68. Jimmy Reyes, LHP
  69. Preston Beck, OF-1B
  70. Seth Spivey, 3B-2B-OF
  71. Yohel Pozo, C-1B
  72. Brett Nicholas, C-1B

Happy New Year, you guys.  Here’s to good health and to more moments like this one, and to even better ones.

The force.

I think the science is that the days start, little by little, to get longer on December 22 each year.  A little more light, each day.

It felt that way Tuesday night.  The weather, and just about everything else, couldn’t have been better.

We packed in about 325 people at the really cool Bedford Ice House for the Newberg Report Book Release Party, and you guys donated hundreds of toys to help make sure lots of kids had better holidays than they would have otherwise.  

Jeff Banister, Eric Nadel, Darren Oliver, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Freeman, and Josue Perez signed autographs and answered fan Q&A and posed for photos — Banny also formed a brand new Rangers cap at my request (scroll down through this stack of Marty Yawnick’s photos from the event to watch the video) — and it was a great night of baseball.  

All those guys sacrificed family time to be with a few hundred hungry Rangers fans.  The energy was incredible.  Baseball can’t get here soon enough.

Jared Sandler and then Ben and Skin helped run things, Steve Richardson and his staff took care of everyone, Dawn Shepard and Billie Jo Davis classed up the joint, and this dramatic reenactment happened:

Banny Luke

Banister Astros

Thanks for everyone who came out to the party.  Most of all, I want to thank Banny, Eric, Ollie, Robinson, Sam, and Josue, because the grind those guys go through — in large part for us — for eight or nine months every year leaves very little time to decompress, to reconnect with family and build on that part of their lives before the grind gets set to start up all over again.  I think that’s probably lost on lost of folks.  It’s no longer lost on me.

I’m super-grateful to those guys.  They made a cool night really come together. 

Now, I’m about to ruin today’s entry, because I walked out of a movie theater about 12 hours ago and can’t help myself.

No spoilers, I promise.

This is going to be terrible, but here we go.

Episodes one through three of the Star Wars franchise were the equivalent, maybe, of the Rangers’ first-ever taste of playoff baseball, when the club was mauled by the Yankees three times but still reached new territory.  October 1996 (Juando: Rise of Vader), 1998, and 1999 = May 1999, 2002, and 2005.  Yeah?

(This works better if you pretend for a minute that Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith were actually released first, just as they fall in the story.)

(Actually, it probably still doesn’t work.)

Maybe Episodes four through six line up with the 2010 World Series season (1977’s breakthrough A New Hope), the 2011 World Series season (1980’s awesome The Empire Strikes Back), and the extraordinary 2015 Rangers season (1983’s Return of the Jedi), which may not have soared the way 2010 and 2011 did but which was still a phenomenal experience . . . leaving us fired up, wanting more.

We saw Episode VII: The Force Awakens last night.  

There’s a World Series parade ahead, one year soon, that will complete this analogy.  That film was awesome.

Awesome.

The Star Wars portion of this report wasn’t awesome, but I ruined a “Mad Men” episode a few years ago by actually commenting on specifics, so I won’t make that mistake again.

(I just made a different mistake, by not deleting the last eight paragraphs.)

Thanks to all those who came out to Bedford Ice House on Tuesday.  Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

Seriously: Happy New Year.

Star Wars -- Rangers small copy

[Nick Pants]

Update on tomorrow’s party.

Since I announced Friday that Jeff Banister, Sam Freeman, and Josue Perez will join us Tuesday night at Bedford Ice House for the Newberg Report Book Release Party, we’ve added several more autograph guests.   

Now joining us for the event, which will be emceed by Jared Sandler, Ben Rogers, and Jeff “Skin” Wade of 105.3 The Fan, will be:

* Rangers manager Jeff Banister

* Hall of fame broadcaster Eric Nadel

* Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos

* Rangers lefthander Sam Freeman

* Former Rangers lefthander (and current front office exec) Darren Oliver

* Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Josue Perez

We may not be done as far as the autograph guest list is concerned.  Stay tuned on Twitter and on the website, where I’ll post any updates regarding new guests.  Admission is free.

The event officially starts at 5:30 tomorrow (Bedford Ice House is at 2250 Airport Freeway, Bedford, TX 76022, about nine miles north of the Ballpark), and though we plan to go until 9:00 with autographs and fan Q&A, you might want to make sure you’re there on the early end, as some of our autograph guests will have to leave at around 7:00.  

Also expected to be on hand: Rangers superfan Dawn Shepard, featured on every Rangers televised postgame show, and Billie Jo Davis, featured in this month’s D Magazine

Bedford Ice House is a non-smoking establishment, and the event will be very kid-friendly.  Have your kids bring some new and unwrapped toys to help support the Rangers Foundation’s Cowboy Santas Toy Drive effort.  And plan to eat, if you’d like.  

The Mavs and Stars will be on TV there as well, and I can almost rule out that the Mavs will trade for Rajon Rondo during the party, like they did last year.

The 2016 Bound Edition will be on sale ($25) at the event, and I’ll also have copies of the Bound Editions from the two World Series seasons on hand ($20 each).  There will be a very limited amount of Newberg Report T-shirts ($15) available as well.  Cash, checks, and credit cards accepted.

If you’re not able to attend and still need the 2016 book for holiday gifts, the publisher tells me that if you place your order by Tuesday mid-afternoon, you’re ensured FedEx delivery no later than Thursday (Christmas Eve).

But the forecast calls for a high of 72 degrees tomorrow and a low of 61, which leaves me about zero reasons I can think of for you not to join Banny, Eric, and the rest of us at Bedford Ice House tomorrow for a much-needed night of baseball.

Ripple effect.

Sometimes the press release reverberates with a cannonball splash, like four years ago today, when Texas was awarded the exclusive rights to negotiate with Nippon Ham righthander Yu Darvish after submitting a record posting bid of $51.7 million.

Other times it registers with a mild ripple, like the anticipated reunion with Colby Lewis, the free agent signing of 33-year-old journeyman Justin Ruggiano, or last spring’s trade, days before the season opened, of a player to be named later or cash for out-of-options and out-of-the-Cardinals’-plans lefthander Sam Freeman.

The thing about that second category is those moves often make the whole greater than the sum of its parts — without wiping out the chance at that cannonball. 

Freeman — who will join us Tuesday night at Bedford Ice House for the Newberg Report Book Release Party, along with (so far) Jeff Banister and Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Josue Perez — wasn’t going to make the St. Louis roster coming out of camp last spring, as the Cardinals were going with southpaws Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist in their pen.  

The Rangers acquired Freeman on March 28, got him into three spring training games, and after he gave up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits in two innings, they designated him for assignment, opting to go with zero lefties in their bullpen on the Opening Day roster.  The Carrollton Hebron product slid through waivers unclaimed, was assigned to AAA Round Rock, and after eight effective appearances through early May, he was purchased by Texas.

A couple uneven weeks followed, but after May 28 Freeman was nails for the club, posting a 2.18 ERA (and stranding 82 percent of the 39 runners he inherited) the rest of the way, limiting hitters to a .198 batting average and .298 slug and punching out 37 in 33 innings of work.  

The “player to be named later or cash” that Texas owed St. Louis turned out to be $75,000, which is pocket lint on the MLB scale.  

If Houston and Washington get that sort of production out of lefty specialists Tony Sipp and Oliver Perez, respectively, they won’t regret the three years/$18 million and two years/$7 million they agreed, respectively, to pay those two veterans earlier this month.  

Meanwhile, Freeman will make a little more than $500,000 in 2016.

Ruggiano, a veteran of seven big league seasons and five big league clubs, signed a one-year, $1.65 million deal with the Rangers this week.  According to Jon Heyman (CBS Sports), only $500,000 is guaranteed.  Ruggiano can get up to another $1.25 million if he reaches six plate appearance incentives, the final one of which is 500 trips to the plate.  

Texas had only five hitters make 500 plate appearances in 2015.  

Five in 2014.  

Six in 2013.

It’s a modest contract.

And one that makes a lot of sense.

You can imagine that the profile for one of the bench pieces Texas went into the winter seeking looked something like this:

* Hits right-handed

* Hits left-handed pitching

* Capable of playing center field

* Capable of everyday duties in left field for stretches of time

* Capable of playing right field

* Inexpensive, given that ideally he’s part of the bench — which would also keep the possibility of a bigger splash alive

Ruggiano checks every box.  Hitting from the right side, he’s a career .272/.336/.520 (.856 OPS) hitter against left-handed pitching, including a robust .301/.370/.578 (.948 OPS) in 83 plate appearances in 2015.  He’s appeared in all three outfield spots in every one of his big league seasons, and was primarily a center fielder as recently as 2012 and 2013.  Traded by Seattle to the Dodgers this year on August 31 (the deadline to acquire players and have them eligible for the playoffs), the Austin native and Texas A&M product played in 21 of Los Angeles’s final 32 games and hit .291/.350/.618.

This move gives Texas added insurance against Josh Hamilton’s health.  He’s got a track record that fellow left field candidates Ryan Rua and Patrick Kivlehan don’t yet have, and he promises substantially more offensively than fellow center field candidate James Jones.  There’s even talk that Ruggiano could get some work in Surprise at first base (he logged one minor league inning at that position for AAA Oklahoma City in the Houston system in 2012), to see how that looks, especially now that Mike Napoli has taken Cleveland’s guaranteed $7 million, which could stretch to $10 million.  

(I have July 20 down as the date on which Texas sends 20-year-old righthander Jonathan Hernandez to the Indians to bring Napoli back here for a third term.) 

The Rangers tend to face lots of lefthanders, and adding a right-handed bat like Ruggiano — especially at those dollar levels — can help balance the lineup on those days.  

Lewis returns on a one-year, $6 million contract, pending a physical.  It will be the most the 36-year-old has ever earned in a season, stateside or in Japan.

The way I feel about Lewis is probably no different from any of you.  He’s a beast, a warrior, the kind of veteran you want young players to learn from, an emblematic member of the best Rangers teams in franchise history.  While he’s a back-of-rotation type at this stage of his career, it would have been disappointing to see him pitching in anyone else’s uniform.

Texas will open the season (hopefully) with Lewis added to a rotation of Cole Hamels, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Chi Chi Gonzalez — though Jon Morosi (Fox Sports) reported yesterday that the Rangers were “still trying to trade for a starter, [with Tampa Bay’s Jake] Odorizzi, [Cleveland’s Carlos] Carrasco [and Danny] Salazar, [and San Diego’s Andrew] Cashner among [the] possibilities.”  Yu Darvish is expected to return in the second half of May.  Nick Martinez is still around.

Lewis’s return ensures that Texas isn’t faced with relying on Hamels, Holland, Perez, Gonzalez, and Martinez for a quarter of the season, in case no trade materializes.  He may never again approach the career-high 17 wins or career-high 204.2 regular season innings he contributed last year (pitching much of it with a torn meniscus in his right push-off knee, which was recently repaired), but he offers a certain level of reliability — especially at that relatively modest financial commitment — and a ton of toughness, and that’s significant.  Big difference having him back on board.

At the end of the Winter Meetings, Jon Daniels told reporters: “We have a good club.  We’re not looking to shake it up, to make major changes. . . . There’s no sense of urgency or necessity to make a big splash.” 

That’s because the big splash for 2016 (and beyond, not to mention before) was in July, when Texas brought in Hamels and Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman to a club that will be getting Darvish back.

But the thing about adding Colby Lewis and Justin Ruggiano to this club is that, while moves like that add stability to the rotation and flexibility and balance to the lineup, they don’t preclude the possibility of another one of those splashes.  

Like adding Dyson and Diekman and a subsidized Napoli and Freeman and Delino DeShields and Chris Gimenez and Ross Ohlendorf and Will Venable’s and Drew Stubbs’s gloves and even Wandy Rodriguez and Kyle Blanks last year (Hamilton, too, I guess, given who’s funding his paychecks), and perhaps Tom Wilhelmsen and Tony Barnette and Kivlehan and Jones so far this winter, it’s not only the moves designed to put you over the top that have a significant impact.

It’s also the additions that quietly, and methodically, help round things out to better your chances to be in a position, come July, to go after that over-the-top, explosive, cannonball move.

Do. Or do not.

On May 25, 1977, the Rangers and Yankees split a doubleheader, with Texas falling, 3-2, behind Bert Blyleven in Game One before Gaylord Perry blanked the eventual World Series champs in the nightcap, 1-0.  Jim Sundberg’s second-inning sac fly brought Dave May in for the game’s lone run.  

Mickey Rivers played in both games of the twinbill for the Yankees, as did Bucky Dent.  Sandy Alomar Sr. played in both for Texas.

On May 21, 1980, Texas lost to California, 9-8, featuring a disastrous seventh inning pitched by Dave Rajsich, Jim Kern, and Sparky Lyle.  

Rivers played in that game, too, but this time for Texas, and he filled the box score, contributing two singles, an RBI, two runs, and two assists from center field, once throwing Carney Lansford out at third and another time gunning Rod Carew down at home.  

I probably missed that game, and can’t swear I wasn’t sitting in a movie theater for two straight showings, which I’ll now admit to on the assumption that the statute of limitations is less than 35 years.

On May 25, 1983, Kansas City called lefthander Bud Black up from AAA Omaha to make his 1983 debut (he’d appeared some with the Mariners and Royals the previous two years), and he went 7.2 innings strong in a 5-2 win over Texas.  Danny Darwin, who was probably teammates eventually with everyone who played in that game, went the distance for the Rangers.

Dent played in that game, too, but this time for Texas, and he went 0 for 4, including a line-drive double play with George Wright on first that registered as 5-3-1, something I’d sure like to see a replay of. 

On May 19, 1999, Texas beat Tampa Bay in its second year of existence, 9-8, a game started by Mark Clark and Bobby Witt, whom I swear I have zero memory of as a Devil Ray.  Rafael Palmeiro took Witt deep twice, and Pudge Rodriguez and Todd Zeile homered off Witt as well.

It was a game in which none of 1999 Rangers contributors Esteban Loaiza and Ruben Mateo and Jonathan Johnson appeared, but not because they’d been traded before the season to Toronto for Roger Clemens, who was supposed to come to Texas for that trio in February and drop the puck at a Stars game that same night in what would be Dallas’s Stanley Cup season but was instead traded to the Yankees for David Wells and Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush, and these nine paragraphs really weren’t teeing up that note about Bush, who was named yesterday as the Rangers’ new director of youth baseball programs, nor did I have any special interest in noting that Clemens beat Texas in the ALDS elimination game that same year, allowing New York to advance and knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs for what would be 11 years.

On May 16, 2002, Texas fell to the White Sox, 4-0.  Future Ranger Sandy Alomar Jr. caught Chicago righthander Dan Wright’s only career complete game (64 starts).  

Wright got Rangers center fielder Calvin Murray to strike out swinging and ground out twice, and these 11 paragraphs really weren’t teeing up that note so I could comment on Uncle Calvin’s nephew Kyler, who made huge news in College Station yesterday and will be making more huge news very soon, possibly touching the baseball page.

On May 19, 2005, Texas didn’t play.  It was an off-day that preceded a nine-game win streak that catapulted the Rangers into first place in the division for the first time since the previous year’s August 5th.  

I’m not sure what Justin Ruggiano did that day for Class A Vero Beach, but there’s a decent chance it was something good as the Texas A&M product was in the midst of his breakout .930 OPS season (High A/AA) in the Dodgers system, and these 13 paragraphs really weren’t teeing up a note on Ruggiano, who formally signed yesterday with the Rangers, a development I’ll comment on another time, nor was it meant to give me an opportunity to talk again about Kyler and bag on the Aggies.

Today is December 18, the date in Rangers history on which Texas signed Bobby Jones and Bill Stein (1980), Mike Jeffcoat (1986), Rob Ducey (1992), Bill Ripken (1993), Geremi Gonzalez (2001), Doug Glanville (2002), Brad Fullmer (2003), Endy Chavez (2010), and Justin Germano (2013).

I don’t know if Jon Daniels has anything momentous in store to mark today’s official release date of Star Wars: Episode VII, but it wouldn’t take much on the scale of Rangers happenings on the release dates of the previous six films in the series.  

Though I would suggest that if JD does nothing today, it would be a solid upgrade over his predecessor gifting us with David Elder to Cleveland for John Rocker (and his Rangers ERA that’s right out of a movie script), December 18, 2001.

(And perhaps doing nothing today would have been solid advice for me to take.  Unsubscribe if you must — I’ll understand.)

Book release party details.

Don’t have much time today but wanted to quickly share this with you.

Six days from now, on Tuesday, December 22, we will host the Newberg Report Book Release Party at Bedford Ice House, at 2250 Airport Freeway, Bedford, Texas 76022.  We will get rolling at either 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.

As always, we will collect toys and books (new and unwrapped, please) to support the Rangers Foundation’s Cowboy Santas Toy Drive effort.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister will attend to sign autographs.  We hope to have other Rangers guests on hand as well; stay tuned for added details.

Jared Sandler (pre/postgame host for the Rangers Radio Network) and his 105.3 The Fan buds Ben Rogers and Jeff “Skin” Wade (of the Ben and Skin Show) will emcee the event, which will include fan Q&A with our guests. 

Bedford Ice House is an awesome new family-friendly, non-smoking venue with a large main room plus a huge patio – with a forecast that day calling for a high of 72 degrees. 

Admission is free. 

Your kids will be on Winter Break. 

The food there is all made from scratch, and there’s plenty to wash it down with. 

You can get books autographed by Rangers folks for yourself and to give as awesomely unique holiday gifts.  (I’ll have not only the 2016 Bound Edition on hand but also plenty copies of the 2011 and 2012 Bound Editions, covering the Rangers’ two World Series seasons.)

Every box is checked, right?

More details soon.  But for now, mark your calendars for next Tuesday.

 

Another report about Zack Greinke.

One Los Angeles team joins the other in being made to look bad by Donald Zackary Greinke, as the 32-year-old made the stunning decision last night to sign a six-year, $206.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks.  The Dodgers, playing with Monopoly money, saw Greinke predictably take advantage of the third-year opt-out in the six-year contract they gave him in December 2012 — but instead of agreeing to a new landmark deal to stay, the righthander signed with a division rival for money LA surely had the wherewithal to pay.

Back when the Dodgers sign Greinke to that six-year deal in December 2012, he was coming off a failed pennant race with the Angels, who had picked him up that July from Milwaukee by stripping its farm system (which would be ranked dead last by Baseball America going into 2013) of Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg, and Ariel Pena.  Greinke went 6-2, 3.53 in 13 starts for the Angels, but they finished fourth in the Wild Card race behind Texas and Baltimore.

Because Greinke had played less than a full season with the Angels, they were ineligible to recoup draft pick compensation for him that winter when he left for the Dodgers for six years and $147 million — $76 million of which was payable over the three years before the opt-out.  

The Angels opted instead, three days after Greinke signed with the Dodgers, to give Josh Hamilton five years and $125 million.

They got no post-season out of the Greinke trade, no draft pick when he left, and lost Segura from a system that was already barren.

They lost Greinke and added Hamilton, and when Hamilton’s current deal is done they will have paid him $42 million to play and $68 million to leave.

Now, to be fair, Texas had its chances to land Greinke (a player I’ve been trying for almost eight years to spitball-acquire and have probably written more about over the years than any non-Ranger), as chronicled by Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) at the end of that off-season when Greinke switched LA employers.  He’s been my favorite pitcher in baseball for a long time, and I’m sad he hasn’t worn the Rangers uniform.

I’d be a lot more sad about Greinke if I were an Angels or Dodgers fan.

Arizona is set to pay more than $34 million per year for Greinke’s next six seasons.

Texas is effectively on the hook for a little more than $12 million per year for the next three Cole Hamels seasons (before a fourth season that will pay him $20-24 million unless he doesn’t hit specified workload numbers in 2017-18 and the Rangers choose instead to pay a $6 million buyout), when taking into account the cash subsidy that the Phillies sent Texas and the Matt Harrison contract they took off the Rangers’ books.

Imagine what Hamels, who is Greinke’s age, would get today on the open market.  He wouldn’t get Greinke’s $34 million AAV, or David Price’s $31 million AAV, but he’d probably land more than Jordan Zimmermann’s $22 million AAV.  

As a free agent today, Hamels would probably be worth twice annually what Texas is committed to pay him for the three-and-a-half guaranteed seasons they acquired.

It’s another indication of how forward-thinking the Rangers’ Hamels trade was.  By accelerating their 2015-16 off-season work, they not only made a July trade without which it’s fair to assume they wouldn’t have been a playoff team in 2015, but also acquired a pitcher whose trade value (and presumably whose number of suitors) would only have increased once Price and then Greinke raised the market bar even further. 

(As for what this means for Yu Darvish’s market two winters from now, it probably increases the likelihood that the Dodgers will go heavy on him, but otherwise it’s no surprise to see the AAV projections ticking up.)  

The Diamondbacks forfeit their first-round pick (13th overall) for signing Greinke, and the Cubs forfeit theirs (28th) for (thankfully) giving John Lackey two years and $32 million.  The Arizona forfeiture moves the Rangers’ first-round slot up from 23 to 22, and chances are it will move up even higher as the winter unfolds — assuming they don’t forfeit the pick themselves by signing a free agent who declined his 2015 club’s qualifying offer.  

(Boston doesn’t lose a pick because Price, with Toronto less than a full season, didn’t get a qualifying offer, and Detroit forefeited its second-rounder for signing Zimmermann, not its first, because the Tigers have a top 10 pick in June.)

In a slightly less earth-shaking move, yesterday the Diamondbacks hired MLB Network Radio’s Mike Ferrin (who wrote one of the two outstanding forewords for the 2016 Newberg Report Bound Edition, along with Jeff Banister) to be their new pre- and postgame radio broadcast host and secondary play-by-play announcer.  

Two really great acquisitions by Arizona on Friday, one of which is an absolute gut-punch for the one Los Angeles team that the game’s best pitcher hadn’t already helped to gut-punch over the last three years.

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