Pumas, mules, carrots, Lindsey Buckingham, and other stuff.

[So Texas has apparently signed Lance Berkman.  When the news broke, I was finished with the Berkman part of the report that follows, but not the rest of it.  So I finished the rest before sending this out.  I’m not going to change any of the Berkman stuff, because (1) I want to preserve my thoughts on him before learning he’d signed and (2) I’m ready to do something else today besides starting a report over.  So there.  Read on if you want.  Or don’t.]

It’s been a week since I mentioned owing you some month-old thoughts on the two relievers Philadelphia sent to Texas for Michael Young as well as on the Rangers’ results in the Rule 5 Draft and in Baseball America’s feature on the organization’s top prospects.

In a few minutes.

Lots of Lance Berkman talk spilling out the last couple days.  Seemingly minutes after Jason Frasor got through telling local media that his decision to sign with Texas really came down solely to wanting to play for a winner – and perhaps that’s to be translated differently when coming from a player who agreed to his smallest salary since 2009 – Berkman was telling reporters that, yeah, joining a contender matters, but so does the money.

Berkman has a tendency – almost shocking these days – to eschew his Crash Davis and share exactly what’s on his mind, unvarnished, media swarm be damned.


In January 2011, a month after Berkman had signed with St. Louis – and six months after he’d been traded by Houston to the Yankees and said the only other teams he’d have waived his no-trade clause for other than New York were the Rangers and Cardinals – he told a Houston radio station that even though he chose that winter to take one year from the Cardinals rather than opt for the Rangers, Astros, Braves, Rockies, or retirement, he probably could have squeezed more out of Texas than the $8 million he got from St. Louis, especially given the crazy contract the Rangers gave to another hitter on the wrong side of age 30:

They were itching to spend some money.  I probably could have gotten the best deal out of them, especially in light of what they gave Adrian Beltre, which I think is pretty much of a reach for him.

Plus, you know, Berkman sorta thought that 2010 World Series season was kinda fluky:

I felt like if they didn’t re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that’s probably what’s going to end up happening.  It’s all about your pitching.

I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle, and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year.

The Rangers and Cardinals would meet nine months after that in the World Series.

And now, Berkman again talks about selling his retirement to the highest bidder, or something like that.  Having received at least two contract offers in December, possibly from among the Rangers, Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox, according to Derrick Goold (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and Jon Heyman (CBS Sports), or maybe the Astros, whom Brian McTaggart (MLB.com) says have reached out even though they already signed Carlos Pena, or the Yankees, whom Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports) reports are interested in a reunion, the 36-year-old is apparently just about ready to decide between playing baseball again or helping coach the Rice University team.

Though Berkman has had recent discussions with Nolan Ryan about DH’ing in Texas, according to T.R. Sullivan (MLB.com), mere proximity to his Houston home and the chance to win aren’t alone at the top of the outspoken veteran’s list.  Dude wants to get paid.

In that regard, don’t you have to sort of respect the honesty?  Even if he did hit that single off Scott Feldman?  You mad at Lance Berkman for that single to center and those stupid comments the way you were mad at Vladimir Guerrero for destroying Texas pitching all those years?

Lance Berkman speaks – aloud – for Everyplayer.

In a way they have to buy me out of retirement, and I know that sounds crass — I wish it didn’t — but it’s a big commitment.  It can put a strain on the family.  If I’m going to play, I’m going to give my heart and soul to the team.  But if the carrot’s not big enough, the mule isn’t going to want to go.

Mules.  Carrots.

Compare the words of free agent righthander Javier Vazquez, who is reportedly being scouted by the Red Sox, Rays, Nationals, and Royals (per Rosenthal) while pitching winter ball in Puerto Rico, sitting 93 mph and striking out lots of hitters, and leading one scout to tell Tim Brown (Yahoo! Sports) that the 36-year-old “[p]hysically looks great . . . ball coming out of his hand well . . . could be a sneaky good pickup.”

Vazquez, who fired six scoreless playoff innings for Caguas last night (after five starts for Ponce, whose catchers included Rangers farmhands Jorge Alfaro, Zach Zaneski, and Kevin Torres, the latter two of whom caught all but one of Vazquez’s starts), told Ralph Pagan Archeval (ESPN Deportes), as translated by Nick Collias (MLB Trade Rumors), that he wants to return after sitting the 2012 season out, for one reason and one reason alone:

Winning the World Series, quite simply, is the only thing (I’m interested in).  It’s a team award, since I’m not interested in individual awards.  In truth, what I’m missing is a World Series victory. . . . If I decide (to play), it doesn’t matter for what team, as long as they have a good possibility to get to the championship.  I’m not going to sign with a team knowing that I’m going to lose.

Not a thing about mules or carrots.

Are Berkman’s comments unbelievable?

Are Vazquez’s and Frasor’s – that winning is really the only factor – believable?

Bygones on the comments.  Those guys aren’t paid based on Quotability Factors, or sincerity percentage.

Bygones on the Berkman single, too.

But only if he signs here.

Darren Oliver doesn’t want to play for the $3 million he told Toronto a year ago he’d play for in 2013.  He wants a new deal, or to be traded to Texas, or he may just retire.  Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, according to Chris Toman (MLB.com), isn’t interested in redoing Oliver’s contract, making Oliver’s decision tree fairly simple, I guess.

Baltimore intercepted catcher Luis Martinez on waivers yesterday – because they’re the Orioles and he was a Ranger – and Eli Whiteside escaped further mail-forwarding forms, but not really, since he’s now on the Round Rock roster rather than Texas’s 40-man roster, having cleared waivers.

This is what the catchers row on the Rangers’ 40 has looked like since the 2012 season ended:

October 6: Mike Napoli, Geovany Soto, Martinez

November 1: Napoli, Soto, Martinez, Konrad Schmidt

November 3: Soto, Martinez, Schmidt

November 30: Martinez, Schmidt

December 3: Soto, Martinez, Schmidt

December 12: Soto, Martinez, Schmidt, Whiteside

December 14: Soto, Martinez, Whiteside

December 20: A.J. Pierzynski, Soto, Martinez, Whiteside

December 26: Pierzynski, Soto, Whiteside

January 3: Pierzynski, Soto

I’m still hoping for a little full-circle action to round that carousel out.

The Rangers announced their 2012 Minor League Award winners yesterday.  Mike Olt is the Tom Grieve Player of the Year.  Cody Buckel is the Nolan Ryan Pitcher of the Year.  Engel Beltre is the Defender of the Year.  Ben Rowen is the Reliever of the Year.  They’ll be appropriately honored at the Dr Pepper Awards Show on Friday.

I named Jurickson Profar and Buckel the Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year in this year’s Bound Edition, but you could certainly make a strong case for Olt, plus Profar was so honored a year ago by the organization and there might have been some motivation to (1) spread the recognition around, (2) not slap any sort of prospect label on Profar again if he’s in fact about to be a starter for the club, and/or (3) give Olt the nod before he’s traded.

Not that I’m suggesting he’s about to be traded.

But if he’s coveted as so many reports seem to indicate, and if the club does sign Berkman or another bat to further limit Olt’s immediate opportunity to contribute, and if some team out there maintaining a refusal to back off a demand for Profar or Elvis Andrus eventually modifies the ask to include Olt instead, well, do the math.

Or don’t.

Commercial break: Speaking of the book, which is available in both hard copy and e-Book formats, it contains 26 pages of commentary on Profar and Olt and Alfaro and Buckel and Beltre and 67 other Rangers minor leaguers, with photos of a handful of them.  It also has a rundown of the “best tools” in the system, in 41 categories.  And a six-page “40-Man Roster Conundrum” chapter breaking down the roster decisions that faced Texas as the winter got underway.  And predictions on breakout 2013 seasons for 12 position players and 12 pitchers on the Rangers’ farm.

Baseball America’s ranking of the top 10 Rangers prospects (with “best tools” in 15 categories) is here.

Jonathan Mayo’s top 20 for MLB.com is here (you might have to click “Rangers” on the dropdown team menu).

John Sickels runs down his top 20 (with 25 others mentioned) here.

Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus will run his Rangers list out in early February.

Buster Olney (ESPN) has been doing a bunch of top ten lists lately, and on Friday he rolled one out power-ranking the 10 best teams in baseball, at the moment.  His list:

1. Giants

2. Nationals

3. Tigers

4. Reds

5. Athletics

6. Dodgers

7. Cardinals

8. Blue Jays

9. Braves

10. Yankees

One National League evaluator took issue with the exclusion of the Rangers: “They still have really good pitching, and they’re really only one left-handed bat short of a potent offense.”

Another NL voice: “I personally struggled with [you] excluding Texas, the Angels and Arizona from the top 10.  Texas still has a very deep pitching and the addition of Joakim Soria should at some point make a very good bullpen even better.  Both Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar could really impact that lineup.”

Potentially sort of related to that Olt note above, potentially not: Olney says that “[i]t may turn out that Arizona’s best [Justin] Upton deal could come from the Rangers, who earlier in the offseason refused to part with either Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus for Upton.  Other teams say the Rangers are willing to trade Derek Holland in the right deal.”

Well . . . the Berkman news that I flashed in a separate email just broke.  Sorry, Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla, for today you’re Matt Damon.  And Coty Woods and Chris McGuiness and Marquez Smith and Tommy Mendonca and Hector Nelo, enjoy a momentary turn as Lindsey Buckingham, won’t you?


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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