Thursday, May 15, 2008

Genuine or Imitation?

Diamond or Zirconia?
Platinum or Polished Tin?
Sugar or Splenda?
Victory Park or Glory Park?
Montblanc or Papermate?
Dilithium Crystals or Crystal Lite?

The Texas Rangers, contenders or pretenders? I can’t decide.

Think about it: since Spring Training four of the five projected starting pitchers (Kevin Millwood, Jason Jennings, Kason Gabbard and Justin Thompson…I mean Brandon McCarthy) were or are still spending time on the DL.

They've gone 12-5 over the last 3+ weeks with a pitching staff that includes:
  • a mecurical enigma (Vincente Padilla)
  • a guy who didn’t even have a job in Spring Training (Sidney Ponson)
  • a pitcher who prior to this season had pitched almost exclusively as a reliever his entire time in the organization (Scott Feldman)
  • two pitchers whose combined major league experience was less than 50 IP (Luis Mendoza and AJ Murray)
  • a bullpen that is less experienced and little less dependable than last season’s

If Rudy Jarmillo gets all the headlines for being good at what he does --then in my never humble opinion -- pitching coach Mark Connor is a Miracle Worker ( and since I don’t have a picture of Mr. Connor – you get the late, great Anne Bancroft from the movie “The Miracle Worker”).

The regular third baseman has been hurt most of the season so far, there is absolutely no production from 1B, the catching situation is an unhappy merry-go-round and the current position players include two who barely appeared in AAA (Boggs and Duran) before being called up to the majors.

The half glass full optimist in me says that the baseball gods have finally smiled a little on this franchise that they’ve routinely ignored and their luck might continue.

Meanwhile, my half empty glass skeptic side says: they are still two games under .500 and they had to go into extra innings twice with a team with only a marginally worse record (Seattle). Their last 13 games have been against the mild, mild AL West opponents. I’m still of the opinion that this division is Angels in first – and then everyone else in a dogfight to stay out of the cellar.

Let’s see what happens when the Rangers face a some new, different and a little more formidable teams like the surprising Astro’s, as well as the Twins, the first place Indians and very stong Tampa Bay Rays – then maybe I’ll be able to decide – are the Rangers for real?

Minor Matters: Checking the leader boards finds Ranger prospects in the top ten in all four minor leagues.

PCL: OF Nelson Cruz is #10 in the batting race with a BA of .336
Texas League: C “Monster” Max Ramirez is # 2 in BA at .383, teammate 1B Chris Davis is # 7 with a .322 BA. Davis also leads the Texas League with 10 HR and his 31 RBIs are 3rd in the TL.
California League: OF and 2007 Draftee Julio Borbon is #8 in the Cal League batting at .321
Midwest League: Three Clinton players are in the top 10 batting wise: coming in at #3 IF Ian Gac hitting .351, at #5 is SS Renny Osuna at .333 and #10 is OF Tim Smith with a .318 BA.

(The picture on the right of Tim Smith - also from the 2007 Draft Class - is courtesy of our good friend and Lumberkings baseball goddess Lacey)

Random Thoughts ---

You should have been there: There are those who scoff at the Newberg Report events – “just minor leaguers” I’ve been told. Well, if you had attended this past December’s or January’s events you’d have met (current) major leaguers IF German Duran and RHP Doug Mathis.

Let’s have another meeting and start on yet another new plan: Scribblings and innuendo in both the Dallas Observer and DMN point to the fact that Tom Hicks and Nolan Ryan have been “meeting” and if the Rangers fortunes hadn’t changed so quickly the past two weeks both Jon Daniels and Ron Washington would have been out of work by now, and may still wind up on the unemployment line no matter what happens this season. What did I expect? It’s Tom Hicks, his sports business philosophy is akin to that old saying about Texas weather – “wait ten minutes and [he’ll] change [the plan] again”.

I told you it was a bad idea: According to the headlines in today’s Startlegram – plans for Glory Park have been delayed “indefinitely”. Arlington Mayor Bob Cluck says “We’ll not invest any money in parking garages or anything else until the project is started." Tom Hicks says: “ I think it’s a place where people will want to go to have fun instead of shopping, at least that what the markets are telling us.”

Oh really.

Warning sign: When AJ Murray uncorked a Nuke La Loosh type ball at the LF seats about 2 feet away from me during warm-ups on Sunday – I should’ve figured he didn’t have his best control – (see the game report below this entry from May 13). The ball flew over catcher Taylor Teagarden’s head into the stands then banged off the metal seats loud enough to wake anyone up who was sleeping late at the Marriott across the street from the ballpark.

Speaking of signs: OKC’s Bricktown Ballpark is celebrating their 10th anniversary with banners honoring “fan favorites”. Looking at the banners was like reading the archives of the old “Newberg Minor League Report” forum with names like Greg Biagini, Andy Barkett, R.A. Dickey and Brian Hayes' favorite Pedro Valdez.

Indy Ball: I work in Grand Prairie, right across the street (literally) from the new stadium built for the Grand Prairie Air Hogs of the American Association Independent League. That stadium construction cost me a new tire – but all was forgiven when I walked out to my car for lunch the other day and they were playing “Centerfield” on their PA system. As of the day I’m writing this they are 0-4 – not an auspicious start for new manager Pete Incaviglia.

Finally: One more “Indy” note, only seven days until the premiere of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull".

Still hoping I'll find the “Real Thing” -- Marla Hooch


Micah said...

If I lived closer, I would be at all the Newberg events. Minor players are no minor deal to me. I'm excited to be going to see RedHawks next weekend and the Lumberkings at the end of the month :D

This has been a strange season thus far. I've enjoyed the wins, but I'm not ready to believe we're contenders yet. Maybe I'm afraid to believe it.

Ernie said...

I am a couple of days late in reading your blog but I want to comment on your comparison of Jennings to Justin Thompson. That's exactly what I have been saying. We've got another pitcher who will use his damaged paw to sign the back of a bunch of Tom's paychecks and then express his gratitude by declaring for free agency. Anyway, it's nice to see that someone agrees with me. That makes you a genius.

So, as a genius, let me ask you looks like the Padres GM is about to blow up his underperforming team and start over. I don't know about you, but I would like to see Adrain Gonzales and Chris Young (after the swelling goes down) back with the big club. I would offer Southern Californian Hank Blalock and some prospects. Do you think that we are deep enough to make this deal? If so, would you? Who would you give up?