The New York-Boston trip began with Bad Padilla and ended with Good Padilla. If not Worst Padilla and Best Padilla.
It started with Texas 4.5 games ahead of the Angels, who were set to face Toronto and Detroit as the Rangers traveled to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. It ended, after a 3-3 trip that went L-W-L-W-L-W, with Texas still 4.5 games up.
But with six fewer games for Los Angeles to close the gap, so it's not as if nothing was gained. Magic number: 103.
The Rangers went into Boston, without what most people coming into the season considered their best player and best relief pitcher available, and won a Fenway series for the first time since 1997 (which was Boston's last season with a losing record). The wins weren't mistake-free, but this team - for the first time in memory - seems to be one capable of outplaying their mistakes from time to time.
Even in New York and Boston.
Against two teams each coming home after winning five out of seven on the road. The Red Sox had won four straight. The Yankees, 15 of 19.
Bravo, Nelson Cruz, the player on whom no team in the league was willing to expend $20,000 and a roster spot 14 months ago, who got knocked down with a 93-mph four-seamer at the head in the fifth inning on the trip's first game, yet finished the six games with three home runs among his six hits (in fact, he was a single short of the cycle today). A year ago, the question was whether Cruz would survive his lack of options. Today, it's whether he has enough juice (.292/.356/.614 with an American League-leading 17 homers, good defensive speed to go along with a plus plus arm in right field, and nine steals in 10 attempts) to be squarely in the mix for an All-Star Game appearance.
He should be.
As you ask yourself where this thing is headed, consider the following as you step back and look at the bigger picture:
1. Michael Young is well known for expecting young teammates, no matter what they've done to get to the big leagues, to earn their way, to prove themselves, to pay their dues. It's part of his brand of leadership.
He said this after Derek Holland's uneven start on Saturday: "It was a lot of fun to see him to watch [Boston lefthander Jon] Lester pitch and react to it. He's got a great future. He's got a chance to be a dominant-stuff type lefty and Lester is already there. I'd like to see us keep running him out there. I'm not big on pumping up rookies, but he competes hard and he really wants to be good."
2. A Newberg Report message board regular who goes by "Doug" posted this a few days ago:
The exec I talk to says to me that the Rangers have more room for error like [nobody] except the big teams in the NE (NYY, NYM, and Boston). Those teams have room for error because of $, the Rangers have it because of the deepest farm system this exec has ever seen in 20 years of professional ball. He said you'd always like a few more top end guys like Feliz and Holland, but that there are just so damn many good prospects, that he just can't believe it. He told me that there is not a single farm system in both leagues that wouldn't take a Ranger prospect in the 20-30 range and be able to replace someone in their own top 10 and be better off for it. He said some teams could replace almost their whole top 10 with the Rangers 11-20 and be better off.
He said, and this is a quote, "The juggernaut is already built, now it's playing the hand they've got and not screwing it up. They are going to be THE team to deal with in the AL for a long time. We're all freaked out by it." I said, what about the Rays? He said, "They're better than the Rays."
BTW, it shouldn't surprise you that this exec, who deals with JD, has high praise for him. He says JD made some early mistakes, but says he is so, so smart, knows how to do strategy, and is a great judge of talent - not baseball talent necessarily, but exec talent - the Adair's, the Servais', the Clark's, etc. He said JD's biggest challenge will be replacing the development talent he will be losing year after year (Adair was just the start) and not betting for an inside straight, i.e., not risking too much to go for it all in any particular year. He said if they continue to feed the golden goose, and don't risk too much in any particular year that they will be there year after year for a long, long time.
I enjoyed that.
I'm working on a lengthy report that I hope to have done before Tuesday evening's draft, not on the draft itself as much as a view from 30,000 feet on what this organization has achieved and what could be next.
To join the free Newberg Report mailing list so you can get e-mail deliveries of every edition of the newsletter, daily minor league game recaps, and frequent Newberg Report News Flashes, go to www.newbergreport.com and click the "Mailing List" link on the top menu bar.
(c) Jamey Newberg
If you want to be removed from this list, please e-mail me at email@example.com