Saturday, May 17, 2008

One Of Those Jamey Newberg - Like Short Posts

Josh Hamilton: non est ei simlis

The Rangers have a better record than the last place Yankees.

I get to watch Monster Max and Chris Davis in person, at Frisco tonight.

Don't you just love baseball? -- Marla Hooch

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pretty In Pink

If you were around in the 80’s then you have to admit that the lead singer of the Psychedelic Furs, Richard Butler, had one of the best voices in Rock ‘n Roll … at least until Eddie Vedder came along.

So what is the connection to baseball?

Well, I like typing Psychedelic Furs – it makes me giggle – one of their best known songs is "Pretty In Pink" which inspired the John Hughes film by the same name (Harry Dean Stanton is the best part of an otherwise so-so movie). The photo gallery is full of pictures of Ranger minor leaguers wearing pink uniform tops to support women’s charities.

May 3rd – Midland @ Frisco: I went to Frisco expecting to see Michael Ballard pitch, instead we got a Kason Gabbard’s rehab start. When I read the next day on that the rehab start had gone really well – I thought – was I watching the same game?

Granted, Gabbard breezed through the first 3 innings – but then again he was facing Oakland’s AA team. But he struggled with his control in the 4th – giving up a hit and 3 walks (walking in a run) – coincidentally it was the second time through the Rockhounds batting order and they weren’t swinging at the same pitches they did in the first three innings. I’d have called that start – inconsistent.

Ben Harrison and Chris Davis both hit HR’s. The game went into extra innings, the Riders won one of the oddest plays I’ve seen in a while: with one out and the bases loaded in the 10th Steve Murphy hit an IF squibber that the first baseman couldn’t handle – Thomas Berkey scored from 3rd – game over the Riders win.

Speaking of Steve Murphy he is pictured above in his pink uniform top – this was the Riders “Paint The Park Pink” weekend sponsored by the Mary Kay Corporation with proceeds going to the Mary Kay charity that works with victims of domestic abuse. More pictures from the game at this link.

May 11 – Fresno @ OKC: It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in OKC – no sign of the stormy weather that moved through the state the previous night. Doug Mathis was the scheduled starting pitcher, however, I found out when I arrived at Bricktown Ballpark that he’d been called up to the major league team. In his spot we were going to watch AJ Murray, sporting a new full beard, on the mound. Marlon Byrd was rehabbing and playing LF.

The RedHawks were wearing pink uniform tops in honor of the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Fighting Breast Cancer. They conducted an auction during the game for the uniform tops and the OKC players presented the tops to the winners after the game - the proceeds of the auction going to the Komen foundation. Click here to see more pictures of the boys in there groovy pink uniform tops.

The good news first: Marlon Byrd on a rehab assignment looked fine in OF – no lingering knee problems and just as fine at the plate going 3 for 4. Nate Gold, who has struggled early this season, was a perfect 4 for 4 with 2 RBI’s. OF Jason Ellison is as much fun to watch as his counterpart in the majors (Brandon Boggs), and it was good too see Taylor Teagarden crouching behind the dish, getting a hit and a walk. Plus you gotta love Ryan Roberts – the only professional baseball player whose walk up music is Celtic reel.

Now for the bad news: the game was a disaster for OKC’s pitchers. AJ Murray gave up 10 hits in 5 innings (and 5 runs) Bill White recorded 1 out and then couldn’t get anyone else out giving up 5 more runs on 4 hits and 1 walk in just 1/3rd of an inning. Kameron Loe and Yuki Maeda pitched much better than their lines in the box score. Both pitchers gave up runs that should have been unearned due to atrocious fielding by John Mayberry Jr.

In the 6th Fresno’s Clay Timpner hit a fly ball to RF – it’s debatable if Junior could have caught the ball. What is not up for debate is the absolute lack of hustle Mayberry showed going after the ball when it fell to the ground. He jogged – no maybe a better description is walked after the ball – while Timpner ran to 3rd . Meanwhile one of the RedHawks IF visibly gestured his frustration to pitcher Loe and I whole heartedly agreed with him.

In the 8th with Maeda pitching Mayberry again missed a fly ball that fell in maybe 2 or 3 feet front of him. Instead of moving (one foot in front of the other) in front to catch the ball he just stood in place and tried to reach out to catch the ball – it fell to the ground and so did Junior – and a run scored. Extremely frustrating to watch. Many in the crowd were … um…. very vocal with their thoughts on the play. I was shocked reading the box score the next day – all the runs were earned, no errors charged to Mayberry.

Finally: Why was I in Oklahoma City on Mother’s Day ?

I’ll have you know Baseball Mom sent me to OKC with a big hug for Ol’ Number 25 on the RedHawks – which I gladly delivered. Besides, New Mexico Bean, Mrs. Schmenge, and I (along with special guest Aunt Cath-eye) had already celebrated Mother’s Day on Saturday night with Baseball Mom at a terrific dinner at Ruffino’s in Fort Worth – lots of good food, wine and laughter made it a perfect Mother’s Day Eve.

Back with the regular blog nonsense on Thursday.

Have to say it: sorry major leaguers – pink bats are a cop out. Real men, like the Riders and RedHawks, wear pink uniform tops look and “pretty” good doing it. Thank you guys -- Marla Hooch