Mark Teixeira is an impact player — and not just with the New York Yankees. Teixeira has been a major factor in the Texas Rangers feeling they have a chance in the AL West, as well as a key factor in the fact that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and his staff are on solid ground in Texas despite some early missteps in player evaluations.
The Rangers did what teams are wise to do when they reach a point of no return in efforts to retain a potential free-agent player. They deal them for a package of players who wind up making an even bigger impact than the player they gave up and, in the process, keep payrolls from getting out of hand.
What Texas did was not unlike what Colorado did with Matt Holliday after the 2008 season, Minnesota with A.J. Pierzynski back in November 2003; or Cleveland with Bartolo Colon in July 2002.
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With Teixeira slightly more than a year from reaching free agency, the Rangers dealt him on July 31, 2007 to Atlanta for Elvis Andrus, who has become Texas’ shortstop; right-hander Neftali Feliz, the closer; left-hander Matt Harrison, who is in the rotation; catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, currently on the disabled list, and minor-league pitcher Beau Jones, the Braves’ No. 1 draft pick in 2005. The addition of that group of players pumped life into a Rangers farm system that was shaky at the time, and provided a foundation for a young core for the future. Atlanta, meanwhile, kept Teixeira for 363 days and dealt him to the Los Angeles Angels for minor-league pitcher Steve Marek and first baseman Casey Kotchman, who in turn was dealt a year later to Boston for Adam LaRoche, who left last fall as a free agent.
Saltalamacchia has been a puzzle for the Rangers. His defense and ability to stay healthy have become major concerns. Jones has yet to make a statement in the minors.
Harrison, however, has shown he is capable of being a solid rotation arm. Feliz simply overpowers hitters with a fastball that runs the radar gun past the century mark. And Andrus was runner-up in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last year. The Rockies already have felt the impact of their trade of Holliday. A year ago, Huston Street was the dependable closer and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was the second-half catalyst to an offense that carried the Rockies to the NL wild card. And this season, while Street is on the disabled list, the third player in that deal, lefthander Greg Smith, has stepped into the rotation in place of injured Jeff Francis.
Back in the summer of 2002, when Omar Minaya was appointed by Major League Baseball to run Montreal, in what he felt was a chance to show he could run a team, the Expos were in contention in the NL East, and Minaya wanted pitching help. To acquire Bartolo Colon, who left after the year as a free agent, along with Tim Drew, who pitched in only 13 games for the Expos, Minaya gave up outfielder Grady Sizemore, left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, second baseman Brandon Phillips and first baseman Lee Stevens.
When the Twins decided to move Pierzynski, they re-armed a pitching staff that has won three division titles in six years with the additions of Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser.
Rocky Mountain low
Colorado hasn’t been a kind place to Mets managers. In 2002, it was in Colorado that Mets manager Bobby Valentine had his verbal meltdown, claiming there was a faction that was out to get him fired, which some felt was the key component in the decision to let him go after that season. And then, in 2008, the Mets were in Los Angeles, on their way to a series in Colorado, when Willie Randolph was fired.
With the Mets in Colorado this week and struggling, there was plenty of speculation about the tenuous status of manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya. Firing managers or general managers early in a season is a great sign of the inability of an organization to properly self evaluate. Having had the entire offseason to evaluate a situation, and to decide that the manager in place is the man for the job, how can a couple weeks into a 162-game season suddenly change the confidence in the man who fills out the lineup card?
Manuel and Minaya could be scapegoats, but as long as Jeff Wilpon, son of owner Fred Wilpon, is allowed to use the Mets as his playtoy the team has no chance of being successful.
Philadelphia officials are not concerned about the delay to closer Brad Lidge’s season. Lidge is on the disabled list, recovering from offseason surgery. The Phillies are being very patient this time, not wanting a repeat of last year when Lidge said he was OK and kept on pitching even though it was evident by season’s end that he was favoring his sore knee, which led to shoulder problems.
This time around, the Phillies want to be absolutely convinced Lidge is healthy because they know from 2008 — when Lidge never failed in a save situation — that he can be worth the wait. Lidge also opened the season on the disabled list, although he was active by the second week of the season.
Carlos Delgado, rehabbing in Vail, Colo., from a second hip surgery that he said was unrelated to the first one, dropped by Coors Field for a visit with his former Mets teammates. Delgado is still on crutches, but said he still has a desire to play. Delgado tried to create a free-agent market in the offseason by playing winter ball in his native Puerto Rico, but the continued pain in his hip finally led him to give in to the surgery.
“You figure that if you start the season and it’s a little sore, it’s going to be a long season, so I figured the best thing was to get it fixed instead of dealing with all the symptoms.”
Delgado said he is optimistic he can rehab and find a team to play for this year, but if that doesn’t work out, he declined to answer questions about whether he would try a comeback in 2011
“Let’s start by walking first and see where we are,” Delgado said.
Did you know?
• Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett hit safely in both of the games he played in Baltimore this week, extending his hitting streak at Camden Yards to 18 games, equaling the longest active hitting streak in a road park. Shortstop Julio Lugo of Baltimore has an 18-game hitting streak at Philadelphia, and outfielder Andruw Jones of the Chicago White Sox has hit in 18 in a row at Milwaukee.
• Wonder why San Diego lost four of its first six games? The top two hitters in the lineup managed to reach base in only five of 55 plate appearances. And then, in a 17-2 win against Atlanta on Monday, the Padres’ top two were a combined 5-for-11 with a walk. The eight runs that Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens allowed in 3-1/3 innings of that game were two more than he allowed in 36-1/3 innings combined from last April and his first start this April.
• Texas right-hander Richard Harden managed to retire only 11 batters in his debut against Toronto, but struck out eight. That’s one shy of the most strikeouts for a pitcher failing to go four innings in the last 50 years. With Seattle, in 1982, Jim Beattie struck out nine Oakland batters in 3-2/3 innings.
• St. Louis went into Wednesday night with a 493-319 record at home since 2000, tops in the National League. Atlanta was second at 468-343 followed by the Giants at 469-348.
• Cincinnati has used 13 starting third basemen since the start of the 2008 season, one more than St. Louis. Oakland has used 11 and Seattle 10.