Your long-awaited Jon Lieber report.

T.R. Sullivan blogged last night about the Ben Sheets saga, titling his entry "Don't Expect Sheets," and, although acknowledging that he's merely speculating ("Hard evidence? None to offer."), he finishes with this: "Something just doesn't feel right. This just isn't going to get done."

This is clearly all about the righthander's health, particularly projecting forward. I'm not nearly as plugged in as Sullivan, but I'm holding out hope that something does get done, maybe a deal reminiscent of the one the Yankees gave righthander Jon Lieber six years ago yesterday - knowing he would miss an entire season at the outset of the contract.

Lieber, who'd gone 20-6, 3.80 for the Cubs in 2001, was a 6-8, 3.70 pitcher in 2002 when he came out after the seventh inning of a 2-2 matchup against Jake Peavy on August 1. He'd scattered five hits, walked nobody, fanned six, thrown 75 percent of his pitches for strikes, and even hit his first double of the year and scored his second run. Bothered all season with elbow tendinitis, however, it was determined after that game (with the Cubs 14.5 games back in the division and 24 games out of the Wild Card spot) that Lieber's worn ligaments needed surgery, and the Cubs shut him down, operated on him a week later, and declined a $6.25 million 2003 option on the 32-year-old two months after that. He wouldn't pitch for another 21 months.

Six months after the Tommy John procedure, Lieber sat on the free agent market and, unsurprisingly, nobody would touch him.

Until New York got creative and, on February 4, 2003, signed Lieber to the following terms:

$500,000 signing bonus (half payable at signing, half in January 2004)

$300,000 in 2003 (league minimum)

$2.45 million in 2004 (he would also earn another $4.75 million in bonuses, during a season in which he went 14-8, 4.33 and made three playoff starts)

$8 million club option in 2005 (which the Yankees would eventually decline and buy out for $250,000 in November 2004)

The dollars aren't important to focus on, other than to the extent that New York agreed to pay Lieber the minimum for the season during which they knew he wouldn't pitch, and loaded the deal with enough incentives that he basically tripled his salary the second year by pitching healthy.

Is that sort of deal possible with Sheets? No idea. First, there's been no indication that Sheets is going to miss the 2009 season, or even need surgery - which is not to say that those aren't possibilities; we just don't know. Second, while there are health issues, they're not as concrete as Lieber's were, as he'd already had surgery when signing the Yankees contract. So there's less reason, arguably, for Sheets to accept a deal that presumes he won't contribute meaningfully in 2009. The 2009 incentives would have to be as meaningful as the 2010 incentives.

Bottom line: I'm hoping that there's a deal to be made here. Everyone involved in the negotiations is creative enough to make something work, assuming that the player wants to be in Texas and that the team isn't completely warded off by the long-term assessment of the medicals.

That Josh Hamilton-to-right field story in one of the local papers over the weekend? Not happening. Not this spring, at least, say the Rangers.

No comment on Jon Heyman's new blog entry suggesting Scott Boras client Andruw Jones would be a great fit in Texas, which "could emerge as a possibility" for the 31-year-old whose career has hit a brick wall and whose last team, the Dodgers, just released him with $22.1 million still owed. Interestingly, the headline on the entry interprets the "could emerge" phrase liberally: "Rangers emerge as suitor for Andruw."

I'd suggest that Heyman doesn't write his own headlines, but there's this: tucked in among dozens of Heyman blog entries over the last week or so, all but one of which have 100 percent neutral, objective headlines, is one bearing this head: "Giants, Twins attend [Boras client] Crede's impressive workout" (parenthetical added, emphasis added).

I don't need to comment further (and further and further) on the subject because Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts already has.

I think the episode of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" that was recorded in Keller in December will air at 7:00 p.m. on February 15, the day after pitchers and catchers report. Not sure if Kevin Millwood's participation or the Rangers' additional presence at the project will be featured.

Boston signed outfielder Brad Wilkerson to a minor league deal.

The Mets named Robert Ellis pitching coach for High A St. Lucie.

This week's Dallas Observer cover story is on the Rangers' effort to return to contention by building from within.

It's been a couple months since I mentioned this, but with spring training a week and a half away, if you're craving some Rangers reading to get you ready for the season, the second printing of the 2009 Bound Edition is done and I can ship books the same day I receive payment.

To order, you can pay by credit card at www.PayPal.com, sending payment to the gjsneaker@sbcglobal.net account. That should take about 30 seconds, or even less if you go to http://www.newbergreport.com/buythebook.asp and click the "Pay with PayPal" button beneath the image of the cover.

Or you can send payment by check or money order to:

Jamey Newberg

Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C.

2001 Bryan Street, Suite 2000

Dallas, TX 75201

The specials are still in place as well: (1) if you buy at least two 2009 books, you get a free copy of any previous year's edition (your choice); and (2) a gift set of all ten years of the Bound Edition is available for $125 (which is a $35 discount).

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http://www.newbergreport.com

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title_authors

Jamey Newberg

Dallas attorney Jamey Newberg has been commenting on Rangers from the big club down through the entire farm system since 1998.

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas was born in Arlington, Texas, to Richard and Becky Lucas. He lived mostly in Arlington before moving to Austin, where he graduated from The University of Texas. Scott works for Austin Valuation Consultants, Ltd., and has published several boring articles about real estate appraisal and environmental contamination. He makes a swell margarita and refuses to run longer than ten kilometres.

Eleanor Czajka

Eleanor grew up watching the AAA Mudhens in Toledo, Ohio. A loyal Ranger fan since 1979, she works "behind the scenes" at the Newberg Report.

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