Two die, two advance, and four more play on in the Junior Circuit.
The current dearth of mainstream Texas Rangers news will likely persist until some new coaching hires are made or some fresh trade talk crops up, so given that your baseball wiring is already being short-circuited by the continued minor league greatness from BTiA's own Jason Parks and the DMN's Mike Hindman, we'll keep this one short and sweet:
? The season-concluding edition of the Baseball Prospectus "Hit List" features the Rangers at 18th overall (one spot behind their intrastate rivals, the Houston Astros), and includes this one-paragraph summation from Jay Jaffe:
With a 23-30 record over the season's final two months, the Rangers finish under .500 for the fourth year in a row and eighth out of the last nine. Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, and Ian Kinsler all place in the league's top 10 in VORP, but their pitching is so offensive�last in the majors in combined win expectancy (SNLVAR + WXRL)�that the Rangers accomplish the ignominious feat of leading the majors in both runs scored and runs allowed.
Yeah, maybe they should have kept Edinson Volquez instead, to say nothing of John Danks and Chris Young.
It has been said before (and will be said again), but I simply fail to comprehend how it can be automatically assumed that Volquez would have flourished in 2008 even if the Rangers hadn't dealt him to acquire the supremely talented Hamilton.
Mark Connor assuredly did something right to retain his job as the Rangers' pitching coach for two-plus years (though I'm not exactly sure what), but we've seen very little evidence in recent months to suggest that Connor was at all adept at handling the organization's younger hurlers, evidently exhibiting a disturbing penchant for tinkering where none was needed - most notably with Brandon McCarthy, but with several of his peers as well.
Recall that the big league coaching staff, according to an SI.com article authored by Melissa Segura back in May, was allegedly the driving force behind Volquez altering his arm slot from the "instinctive" low three-quarters angle he employed as a top prospect to a high three-quarters delivery that ultimately hindered his overall effectiveness. Even if Orel Hershiser was the catalyst behind that mechanical alteration, Connor certainly didn't do much to remedy the dilemma.
None of that is to say that Volquez wouldn't have been an asset for Texas if he had stayed put (heck, it wouldn't have taken much to have been an asset for the Rangers' pitching staff in 2008), but it's a bit hard to take into consideration the last questionable coaching regime, the more offense-friendly league and the oppressive summer heat, and definitively conclude that he would have been even a league-average starting pitcher for the Rangers this past season.
Regret trading Danks and Young if you wish, but don't regret trading Volquez.
? Compelling stuff from ESPN.com's Gare Joyce, who penned an in-depth article three days ago on the intersection of the economic downturn and professional sports. If you've got a few minutes to spare, this is a must-read.
? Remember how Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome once projected as a Bobby Abreu/J.D. Drew/Milton Bradley-caliber corner outfielder, with solid-average defense, quality gap power and superb on-base skills? Remember how the Rangers reportedly submitted the top bid to acquire his services last December, but were bested by the Chicago Cubs' winning four-year, $48 million bid?
Well, as if being hyped as a potential World Series champion and then being unceremoniously swept out of the NLDS by the Los Angeles Dodgers wasn't humiliating enough, Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune has even less welcome news for Cubs fans:
According to scouts, Fukudome would have no value if [Cubs general manager Jim] Hendry tried to shop him. He isn't going to go back quietly and resume his career with the Chunichi Dragons, walking away from his deal with the Cubs. That would send a terrible signal as teams around the majors become more aggressive in pursuing players from Asia.
"He has to go to the minors," the scout said. "He has to get rid of all those habits, pulling out on pitches, collapsing. He'll never hit the way he's hitting now, and this is a tough place to work out your problems. Always has been."
The solid-average defense stood up, but the expected offensive production vanished not long after May 1st; after a torrid opening month in the majors, Fukudome batted an unacceptable .231/.335/.344 from May 4th through September 27th, spanning a total of 121 games and 459 plate appearances.
A remedial stint in the minors for a 31-year-old outfielder that is on the verge of exiting his prime and is still owed $38 million over the next three years is most certainly not a good thing for any team, but would be even more of a disaster for the Rangers, particularly given that their payroll is expected to remain in the $65-70 million range in 2009. There's not a great deal of financial flexibility right now, but there would be even less if Fukudome had opted for that extra bit of cash last December.
There's still plenty of time for Fukudome to right the ship, but the early results are not at all promising, and, based off of what we know right now, Texas ostensibly dodged a huge bullet when they failed to ink the prized Japanese talent - talent that has yet to (and quite possibly never will) translate into Major League results.
? MVN 3.0 launches on October 15th. I'm pumped. So is Jason.
? And finally, assuming that ESPN.com's Buster Olney was correct when he pegged San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy as a potentially attainable trade commodity this winter, here's a little sampling of what the Rangers would probably have to relinquish to obtain his services: Elvis Andrus, Julio Borbon, Neftali Feliz (or Derek Holland), Matt Harrison (or Eric Hurley) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (or Taylor Teagarden).
Other possibilities? Blake Beavan. Michael Main. Justin Smoak.* Or perhaps even relatively young, cost-controlled big league assets in the vein of Chris Davis or Ian Kinsler. Everyone's on the table when you're talking about acquiring a true number one.
But one great starting pitcher alone isn't going to be enough to get this team over the hump.
[Editor's note: Thanks to the great Jamey Newberg, who was kind enough to correct my erroneous inclusion of Justin Smoak as a potential trade chip. Indeed, Smoak cannot be traded until August 15th, 2009 (though he can be dealt as a player to be named later beforehand), a reality which momentarily escaped my mind.]