Dear Mr. Hicks: If you've been entertaining the idea of hiking ticket prices to help offset your financial losses in the stock market, you might want to hold off from announcing such a hike for a while.
And given the present economic climate, you might want to make that a really, really long while.
Not Going Well at the Minor League Level: Other than the catching, the Rangers don't have much up-the-middle talent, as their two best non-catching prospects at those four positions�shortstop Elvis Andrus and center fielder Julio Borbon�are generally overrated speedsters without secondary skills. Beyond Feliz and Holland, the rest of the pitching will require patience.
Cashflow: It's solid yet not ideal, with payroll under $70 million last year, but owner Tom Hicks has a track record of being willing to spend when the situation warrants. That said, they do still have some questionable contracts on the books. Padilla and Kevin Millwood will earn a combined $23 million in 2009, and they're on the hook for another $12 million to Millwood the following year. Their most questionable deal is the $16 million per year owed to a declining Michael Young through 2013. That one could look like a dead albatross in a few years.
Outlook: They have committed ownership, a nice young talent base, a loaded minor league system, an excellent recent track record in the draft and with their international signings, and a smart front office. All the ingredients are there to make the Rangers a clear winner in the "next big thing" race. That said, I expect this to be a slow burn as opposed to a sudden Rays-like leap forward. I wouldn't categorize them as a strong buy for 2009. Expect a winning record, but I don't think they'll be a real threat in the West until 2010.
"He's pretty good," said Northwest Arkansas manager Brian Poldberg, whose team was one of [Derek] Holland's late-season victims. "He and (Josh) Outman from Midland are two guys that would probably move quick. I don't think we're going to see him next year."
Thanks to a 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame, Holland pounded the zone with a fastball that sat roughly 93-94 mph, topping out at 98 once. A slider with nice tilt proved as much a weapon, and he enhanced it all by showing a feel for a changeup.
[...] "I don't think we were surprised. We felt like going into the season he had a chance to do something special," Rangers pitching coordinator Rick Adair said. "The consistency of his command and the fact he has gotten stronger and pitched deep into ballgames have been impressive."
Adair added, "I saw (Scott) Kazmir in Double-A in 2004. There are a lot of similarities in terms of stuff."
[...] A point of emphasis this season was his slider as well as tempo. Because his fastball naturally cuts, Adair encouraged Holland to smooth out a herky-jerky delivery with his slider, allowing the lefty to snap it off at the last second. "It was more of a lollipop kind of thing," Holland said.
Even better, his game tempo jumbled hitters' comfort zones. It was an edict in the Rangers system this year.
"Derek's probably the model of what we're wanting to do, eliminate time between pitches," Adair said. "He's at between 12 to 15 seconds between pitches. Our emphasis is using your tempo as a weapon."
Conditioning, as mandated by [Nolan] Ryan, is the No. 1 focus of Instructional League and will be for the Rangers year-round. That's the foundation of the program he is implementing to fix the Rangers' pitching problems.
"They're going to step it up a notch," [Michael] Main said. "They're going to enforce some conditioning. He's real big on that. He just came in and talked to the pitchers one day during one of the meetings. When he spoke ... it's pretty significant when he speaks, trying to listen to every word he has to say."
Ryan and [Gary] Pettis aren't the only ones commanding attention. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is back in Instructional League. He had knee replacement surgery at the All-Star break but is back doing what he does best.
And finally, a special bonus quote of the week courtesy of Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Cubs fans are still in mourning after their team was swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers, so for the 100th time in the past 100 years, they are searching for reasons to be happy.
Mark Cuban could be one of them if his bid to purchase the Cubs is accepted and approved. So when he was approached before the game by three Chicago-area reporters, the questions were not about new Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and how the Mavericks might adjust to his up- tempo offense.
The Cubs and their future are the issue and the people want to know, what�s up, Mark?
"I have no idea," Cuban said. "I�ve got a better chance of telling you about a transgender operation [than the status of the sale]."