Question: If the definition of insanity is truly doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then what does that say about the mental integrity of homer-weary Angels right-handers Ervin Santana and Rich Thompson, who combined to feed Andruw Jones high fastballs not once, not twice, but thrice during Wednesday evening's series finale in Anaheim?
Yes, that would be the same Andruw Jones who presently ranks as one of the very best fastball hitters in the majors this season on a rate basis, producing 2.29 runs above average per 100 fastballs thus far in 2009 -- his best mark since his penultimate campaign in a Braves uniform some three years ago, during which he collected a justifiable Gold Glove trophy and clobbered National League pitching to the tune of .262/.363/.531 in 156 games.
If his inexplicable loss of aptitude in being able to turn around a major league-quality fastball played a significant role in his precipitous offensive decline in the time that has since passed, then all indications currently point towards Andruw having found the panacea at some indeterminate point over the last six months -- and in no way could he have better exemplified that than by taking those three aforementioned fastballs, each of which sat around 93-94 mph according to Angel Stadium's Pitch f/x camera setup, and hitting them in such a way that his only responsibility henceforth was the slow jog:
[Direct link available here.]
While none of that is to say that Andruw can necessarily continue banging 20-plus percent of his fly balls over the fence or sustain one of the best seasonal walks-to-strikeouts ratios (0.62) of his major league career, it's certainly time to publicly admit to myself that he hasn't been the disaster I had once feared he might be. Rather, he's a solid-average outfielder whose sheltering from blatant lineup over-exposure has likely worked to his benefit, who is collecting a relative pittance from the Rangers and who has not really put the playing time squeeze on David Murphy or Nelson Cruz -- or at least not to a degree where it warrants major criticism. Yet.
But whatever minor quantity of trade value Jones has managed to accumulate isn't likely to come into play if the Rangers retain their first-place standing in the AL West too terribly much longer, and it certainly isn't going to come into play in the increasingly unusual case of Blue Jays right-hander Roy Halladay, who has evolved into prime fodder for those news-starved sports media sensationalists armed with local and/or national platforms through which they can disseminate their messages.
Allegedly cash-strapped club owner Tom Hicks asserted before Wednesday evening's game that he would contemplate green-lighting any prospective deadline deal that would recoup a front-line player, albeit doing so while simultaneously including the qualifier that the Rangers would only consider pursuing such a deal if it helped them become a "contending team over each of the next five years." On the surface, this final qualifier would appear to be a huge impediment to the completion of any deal for Halladay -- barring a long-term contract extension, of course, which definitely wouldn't be in the cards so long as the incumbent ownership regime was still intact, and a new ownership group may not be terribly inclined to add the burden of millions upon millions of dollars of future payroll obligations so soon after the acquisition of majority ownership.
And what of this sudden Halladay-n'-Rangers connection, anyway? FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal was, not surprisingly, the first notable journalist to unite the pair of names in recent days, albeit in a rather speculative and roundabout fashion (he summarily dismissed Texas as a viable candidate in the Halladay sweepstakes on the basis of Hicks Sports Group's financial woes), and the New York Post's Joel Sherman further fanned the flames on Wednesday, quoting baseball executives who appear to express skepticism over the Rangers' cash-flow issues on the basis of Texas investing heavily in the 2009 amateur draft and international free agency.
[Of course, if one subscribes to the notion that these talent acquisition budgets were set well in advance, then I'm not really sure how aggressive spending at the ground floor reflects a capability to expand the major league payroll. That's quite the jump in logic.]
As I'm sure you've already been made cognizant of, Halladay will command approximately $4.75 million through the final two months of the 2009 regular season and then bank an additional $15.75 million in 2010, which may or may not end up being a legitimately prohibitive sum -- forecasting the composition and financial breakdown of the 40-man roster six months from now is a nigh-impossible task, particularly when you consider that this season's Opening Day payroll of $68,178,798 may not be sustainable going forward; case in point, a more cost-conscious ownership group looking to pare debt from the books might well elect to sell off arbitration-eligible talent to accommodate Halladay's salary, which is obviously bad from a competitive standpoint.
As we noted yesterday, also consider that Halladay would almost certainly demand cash enticements to waive his full no-trade clause (further ballooning the total cost of his acquisition), and even then there appears to be this supposition floating around that incentives alone would impel Halladay to abandon his first and only organization. It's simply not that easy. For every Rangers All-Star representative who will approach Halladay with the idea of convincing him to come to Texas if circumstances allow for it, there will be three more All-Star teammates or opponents of Halladay's pitching a similar line in his direction next week.
And then you get into the entire issue of what Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi would demand in exchange for Halladay's services, which is certain to be a Mark Teixeira-caliber bounty of young talent; according to one anonymous source quoted by MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, Toronto's asking price "would start" with left-hander Derek Holland and minor league first baseman Justin Smoak, which sounds like a reasonable foundation for a deal that would likely require the addition of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden and perhaps a mid-range prospect in the vein of outfielder Engel Beltre, right-handers Wilmer Font and Omar Poveda or southpaw Kasey Kiker.
That might actually be talent overkill in terms of actually sealing a deal, but my suspicion is that it's not miles astray from what will probably be required; ace-caliber pitchers of Halladay's stuff, pedigree and results are going to fetch inordinate quantities of talent. That's a given. Tossing about the names of third- or fourth-tier prospects such as Marcus Lemon and Warner Madrigal as though their impact as a pot-sweetener would be significant is just absurd, as well as an exercise in futility. Seven-win players are precious commodities.
For the second consecutive morning, I find myself back where I started with the Halladay notion -- back at square one. It's a certainty that the Rangers are going to perform their due diligence and attain a firmer grasp as far as what Halladay will cost, but this is, in my mind, the longest of long shots. That reality alone won't prevent me from talking about this story as it further develops over the next three weeks (during which Texas will presumably continue to be linked with Toronto), but anybody harboring even the slightest inkling of expectation is setting themselves up for disappointment.
Injury Updates: Right-hander Vicente Padilla (6 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) was diagnosed with a bruised right palm after his ill-advised attempt at barehanding a sharp one-hopper with nobody out in the top of the seventh inning on Wednesday evening, but due to the timing of the All-Star break is not expected to miss any starts ... Right-hander Brandon McCarthy (stress fracture, right scapula) is currently throwing from 60 feet without pain and is scheduled to embark upon a long-toss program next week.
Left-hander Matt Harrison (left shoulder inflammation) is currently throwing in Surprise, Arizona and is scheduled to throw in the bullpen in Seattle on Saturday; a visit to the neurologist on Monday revealed no existing nerve damage ... Triple-A Oklahoma City catcher Max Ramirez (left wrist tendinitis) presently resides on the minor league disabled list and is rehabbing his injury in Surprise; an MRI exam determined surgical repair was not necessary.
Quick Hits: Texas has not yet named a starter for the first-half finale in Seattle, with the possibility existing that manager Ron Washington will simply throw every available pitcher that he's got at the Mariners ... Second baseman Ian Kinsler received a much-needed evening of rest on Wednesday; utility infielder Omar Vizquel, who had reportedly been dealing with shoulder soreness, went 1-for-4 with a walk in his stead.
As reported previously, outfielder Josh Hamilton will not participate in next week's All-Star Home Run Derby ... Major League Baseball investigators are slated to conduct a phone interview with outfielder Marlon Byrd on Thursday regarding his reported usage of Victor Conte-supplied nutritional supplements ... Triple-A Oklahoma City first baseman Nate Gold has been released ... Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram pays homage to the greatness of venerated Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel, who is expected to resume his broadcasting duties after the All-Star break.