Something which merits admiration: Entering Thursday evening's series finale against the Twins, the Texas Rangers have swiped 114 bases in 134 attempts, good for a league-best success rate of 85.1 percent -- a success rate which no American League team in the last 40 years has managed to replicate:
● The most notable -- but not necessarily most trustworthy -- assertions presented by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Randy Galloway in his highly-trafficked Wednesday morning column: (a) Major League Baseball is "bankrolling" the Rangers while Hicks Sports Group and the league seek a $600 million bounty, which has greatly diminished the previously reported interest of local car dealership mogul David McDavid, (b) team president Nolan Ryan has been suspiciously mum about his potential leadership of an ownership consortium, (c) the Rangers did indeed make a $4 million offer to first-round pick Matt Purke, but without the commissioner's blessing, because (d) the league imposed a $2.3 million ceiling on the Rangers' bonus offer.
A source reportedly told Baseball America's Jim Callis that the league did permit the Rangers to offer $4 million to Purke (whose father, Lawrence, evidently told all 30 teams from the outset that the Purke camp sought a contract worth between $7.2 million and $7.5 million), and why the Rangers would knowingly disregard that purported league-imposed directive and offer $4 million anyway, knowing that the league would not green-light it, doesn't really make sense on a fundamental level, unless key top-level executives were prepared to engage in a stare-off with the commissioner's office.
It also fails to explain why the Rangers were allowed to spend in excess of $3 million to sign Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas earlier this summer, much less the organization's reported $425,000 expenditure on Dominican right-hander David Perez; furthermore, the extent of MLB's subsidizing of the Rangers' remains something of an object of mystery, as different media outlets have portrayed the league's financial support as either an actual loan or an advance on revenue-sharing payments that would have been due to the ballclub after the regular season's conclusion anyway. These two are not tantamount in significance, and the former is more closely tied to the connotation of "bankrolling" than the latter.
The complete, unvarnished truth about the downfall of Hicks Sports Group and the entity's consequential entanglement with any number of unhappy third-party stakeholders is a story that's begging to be told from start to finish and with full disclosure, but don't expect that story to be told in its entirety just yet.
● A big part of the problem with living -- and, as it turns out, dying -- by a low-strikeout, pitch-to-contact philosophy is that sometimes not even an above-average defensive cast can bail you out, and when taken in conjunction with the inherent season-to-season and game-to-game volatility of relief pitching ... well, things can end up going south in very short order.
Right-hander Jason Jennings has proven no stranger to this reality, for his sparkling pre-All-Star break ERA (3.26) has ballooned by nearly three-quarters of a run over the last month -- the product of being shelled to the tune of .370/.438/.685 over a seemingly innocuous 12-inning sample, a testament to his hittability and deterioriating command during that span.
Some major league relievers -- such as the Athletics' Michael Wuertz and the Marlins' Kiko Calero -- can throw their sliders 40-plus percent of the time and maintain moderate-to-high-level effectiveness; that heavily slider-reliant backwards pitching style has lately ceased paying similar dividends for Jennings. And you know what? Perhaps this is simply random variation flaring its ugly head and he's destined for a pronounced final-month recovery, but pitchers who work with thin margins for error are scary by nature.
There are no immediate indications that veteran right-hander John Smoltz -- who signed on with the Cardinals on Wednesday -- even entertained the possibility of remaining in the American League after his unceremonious exit from Beantown, but his acquistion -- and Jennings' ouster -- would have made some sense if he had been willing to settle for a middle relief role in Texas. Both the predictive indicators (strikeouts and walks per nine innings) and luck-based indicators (home runs per fly ball and strand rate) indicate that Smoltz is not only a much, much better pitcher than his current 8.33 ERA would suggest, but also that he likely would have represented a meaningful upgrade over Jennings.
● A crash course on what a major league deal would entail for an amateur draftee such as oh, say, No. 44 pick Tanner Scheppers, whose signing eligibility does not expire until one week before the 2010 amateur draft: first, as most are already aware, he would immediately be placed on the 40-man roster, and he would not immediately accrue major league service time, for it cannot be accrued without first residing on the active roster or on the major league disabled list.
Additionally, Scheppers would burn through his first of three minor league option years the moment he was assigned to a minor league affiliate -- which, at this stage, might provide a little extra motivation for waiting until after the 2009 minor league season's conclusion to hammer out a final deal, although it would make the most sense to simply send him to extended spring training in that scenario -- and would lose one additional option year in each subsequent season wherein he was assigned to a minor league affiliate.
However, Scheppers would attain eligibility for a fourth minor league option year if he had already burned through his previous three minor league option years and had not yet amassed five years of professional experience, which doesn't seem terribly likely given his "polish" and standing as a relatively advanced pitching prospect.
Finally, with regard to the financial component of a major league deal, a hypothetical four-year, $1.3 million deal -- contractual parameters which are conveniently identical to those which Julio Borbon agreed to almost exactly two years ago -- for Scheppers would dispense pre-assigned salaries from 2010-2013, after which his salaries would be determined by the arbitration process (same as with any other arbitration-eligible player with more than three years but less than six years of major league service time), with no negative ramifications as far as the Rangers' ability to control him for six full major league seasons.
● General manager Jon Daniels gave 15 valuable minutes of his time to "The Hardline's" Mike Rhyner and Corby Davidson on KTCK 1310 AM The Ticket on Wednesday afternoon; click the 'play' button below to listen:
[Direct link available here.]