Upon learning that dynamic 23-year-old center fielder Julio Borbon would be consigned to the bench for a second time in as many days -- and that he would likely not log another start before Josh Hamilton's impending return from the 15-day disabled list -- before Wednesday evening's imperative series finale against the first-place Angels, the instinctive reaction amongst the ever-growing legion of obsessive Texas Rangers fans seemed to largely be one of incredulity.
The promotion and subsequent perceived neglect of several notable young players by Rangers management in recent years has bred something closely resembling suspicion in the minds of some fans -- suspicion which, without fail, activates in situations such as these. Promoting the best under-25 outfielder in your organization to the majors and then neglecting to play him even for a brief period of time invariably stirs some dissension (regardless of the circumstances), and it is indeed fair to ask exactly why the Rangers summoned Borbon from the RedHawks if he wasn't going to start in the outfield the majority of the time.
But then there are moments like the one which unfolded during the bottom of the sixth inning, one which had to have left an indelible positive mark on Borbon's baseball consciousness, that begin to put things into perspective. If not for the decision to give him that first taste of the big league stage, we never would have witnessed Borbon deliver a pinch-hit RBI single in the stead of injured right fielder Nelson Cruz (sore lower back) that simultaneously doubled the Rangers' lead and electrified a 27,142-fan contingent as Julio leveraged some of his God-given speed en route to swiping an extra base on the play, then punctuated the achievement of his first major league hit with a single clap of his white-gloved hands.
How could we even think to deprive him of that moment? Moreover, how selfish would we have been if we had?
Three action-packed frames later, after closer Frank Francisco yielded a stunning three-run blast from the lumber of the Angels' Juan Rivera and potentially reopened the debate as to whether or not he's healthy enough to pitch in such a high-leverage role, Borbon could be seen on the outskirts of a writhing pile of Rangers who had converged upon the night's uncontested hero -- Hank Blalock, the Rangers' oft-maligned designated hitter who was fortunate enough to receive an 86 mph slider down the heart of the plate from right-hander Justin Speier, with the decision to pitch to Blalock potentially going down as one of the great single-game blunders in the managerial tenure of Mike Scioscia:
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Blalock's park-adjusted wOBA had slipped beneath the .330 mark before his monster 3-for-5, two-homer effort, underscoring his overall ineffectiveness as the Rangers' designated hitter, but if we've learned one thing about this game over the years, it's that fortunes can be reversed in an instant. His single-game WPA (Win Probability Added) of .530 was his best since April 25th, 2006 (a game in which Blalock smacked a walk-off RBI single that plated Mark Teixeira from second base, ironically coming off Athletics right-hander Chad Gaudin), in essence meaning that his offensive contributions have not been so vital to the outcome of a single game in nearly 3 1/2 years, so the assertion that Wednesday night was a career night for Blalock is not remotely far-fetched.
For Borbon, it was a night he's not likely to forget for the rest of his life.
RANGERS FINANCIAL CRISIS LOOMING?
As speculation continues to swirl that the financial misfortunes of team owner Tom Hicks will inhibit the ballclub's ability to take on payroll as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline looms less than a month away, multiple prominent figures in the organizational hierarchy have declined to comment on an XM Radio report -- relayed by Rangerfans.com's Joe Siegler -- in which it was stated that Major League Baseball had resorted to funding the cash-strapped Rangers so that they could meet their payroll obligations.
While team sources -- via D Magazine's Evan Grant -- indicated that this was not the case, that the Rangers had indeed paid their employees for the most recent pay period and that standard operating procedures remained intact, there has reportedly been a contingency plan in place for several weeks under which the Rangers would have been permitted to borrow cash from the league, which wouldn't have placed the team under the control of MLB -- an absolute worse-case scenario if there ever was one -- but would have presumably granted the league influence over how the ballclub elected to allocate its financial resources.
The severity of Hicks' financial problems were further underscored by the dissolution of Hicks Sports Marketing Group, the de facto advertising arm of Hicks Sports Group, over which former Rangers team president Jim Lites presided until the expiration of his contract on Tuesday. Billed as a "streamlining" move with the seemingly impending transfer of majority ownership of the Rangers, Hicks' other Metroplex sports team, the Dallas Stars, was also affected by the entity's dissolution, and has reportedly been subjected to a significant budget reduction, although Hicks insists that both teams have latitude to complete transactions so long as they "make sense for the general managers" and ensure profitability.
A more extensive editorial on the situation is obviously in order, but this much is certainly clear: Despite improved revenues across the board -- via ticket, merchandise and concession sales, parking, etc. -- resulting from improved attendance and improved television ratings, the Rangers inexplicably remain deprived of any sort of financial flexibility with which they could conceivably improve their post-season chances via baseball's trade marketplace.
The implications of these developments are incredibly disturbing, to the point that even if veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood might actually merit placement on the American League All-Star team, one has to wonder if the probable payout of All-Star bonuses to Millwood, second baseman Ian Kinsler and center fielder Josh Hamilton would further exacerbate the financial crunch to the point where the organization would have to resort to laying off more diligent, hard-working employees in the vein of John Lombardo.
Quick Hits: Vicente Padilla (sore right shoulder) has been scratched from his scheduled Saturday evening start against the Rays and tentatively pushed back to next Tuesday, preceded by a bullpen session on Saturday; the move is reportedly precautionary and not related to the prior right deltoid muscle strain which disabled him for 14 games; Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, Scott Feldman and Kevin Millwood are scheduled to start on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, respectively.
Right-hander Dustin Nippert (strained right rhomboid muscle) tossed five innings of one-run baseball for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday evening and will make one more 90-to-100-pitch minor league rehab start before the Rangers decide whether to employ Nippert as a starter or reliever; he does not currently reside on the 40-man roster, and it's not inconceivable that Jason Grilli's active roster spot could be in peril once Texas activates Nippert ... Center fielder Josh Hamilton (abdominal surgery) went 1-for-7 with a single and two strikeouts in his medical rehab start with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday evening.
Quick Hits: High-A Bakersfield right-hander Ryan Tatusko came within two outs of notching the ballclub's first no-hitter since 1994 on Wednesday evening, and ultimately completed a one-hit shutout; according to Baseball Time in Arlington's and TexasLeaguers.com's Trip Somers, the 24-year-old Tatusko wields a low-90s heater and what has the appearance of a "good, hard curveball."