Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eric Nadel Interview

TR Sullivan came to my house earlier this week to do an article on my autograph collection for the Rangers website. It was very nice of him and I would like to thank him for doing it. The article is at TR is the Rangers’ beat writer for and also has a great blog at

This week I am beginning voting for the second annual Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year Award on the poll (on the left-hand sidebar). The winner will get an award, so please vote to make it more meaningful.

This week I did an interview with Rangers radio broadcaster Eric Nadel. He is a great guy and has always been very nice to me. He took a lot of time answering these questions and I would like to thank him for doing this interview.

1. What was your favorite team growing up and why?

I rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers, because I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. But they moved to LA in 1958 when I was 7. I continued rooting for them from long distance. But when the N Y Mets came into existence in 1962, I became a Mets fan and went to a lot of their games. I also went to Yankee games, but rooted against them.

2. Did you play baseball growing up? If so, for how long and at what position?

Yes, I played baseball from a very early age, even sneaked into Little League one year early by writing a fake birthdate on my application. I was a first baseman and catcher, mostly. I played until freshman year in college.

3. How did you prepare yourself to be a broadcaster? What education did you have?

I first attended a broadcast summer program for high school students at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois after my junior year in high school. In college, at Brown University, I learned to be a broadcaster at the college radio station, where you learned from the upper classmen. We did not have any broadcasting courses, but I did take Voice & Diction, and lots of English classes to learn how to use the language. I learned on-the-air skills by working on the radio station, doing play-by-play of hockey and football, along with shifts as a disc jockey, newscaster and sportscaster. You can really learn to be an announcer only by doing it. I spent a lot of hours practicing play-by-play into a tape recorder at hockey practice while the team scrimmaged.

4. What are the three best things about your job?

The best thing is that my job is fun. Let's face it, I get paid to go to a ballpark and watch major league baseball games. I also love being the person who informs people about interesting events. And the job is never boring, as every game is different.

5. What are the three toughest things about your job?

The grind of 162 games in six months is difficult, physically and mentally. It is tough sometimes to make a game seem worth listening to if the Rangers are bad, or the game itself is one-sided. And finally, the travel, while fun and interesting, presents various challenges, most notably in getting enough sleep.

6. What is the most fun season you’ve announced and why?

The best by far was 1996, when the Rangers won the West and made the playoffs for the first time. It seemed truly magical, as the Rangers almost blew the lead with a week to go, but rallied again to win the title. The players on that team had a wonderful sense of togetherness and I felt personally close to many of them.

7. What is the most fun game you’ve announced and why?

I would say that the first Rangers' playoff game, a win at Yankee Stadium, was the most fun. It was an incredible feeling to beat the Yankees in their park. I had gone to many games at Yankee Stadium while growing up, so broadcasting a post-season game there was quite a thrill. Nolan's two no-hitters with the Rangers weren't bad either.

8. What is the best play you’ve announced and why?

I think the single most exciting play was David Delucci's walk-off triple against Oakland late in the pennant race in the 2004 season. The most exciting defensive play was Ken Griffey smashing face first into the wall to rob Juan Gonzalez of an extra base hit at the Kingdome in Seattle, in a game that had no bearing on the pennant race. Josh Hamilton made a very similar play last year in Oakland. And of course, there was Nolan Ryan's 5,000th strikeout, which was probably the most significant call that I have had historically. One more worth mentioning was Ramon Vazquez' 3-run homer that pushed the Rangers' run total to an all-time record 30 in August, 2007 at Baltimore.

9. Who have been the best and most fun players to interview and why?

Charlie Hough always had funny things to say, and was a pleasure to talk to. Interviewing Nolan Ryan after his 6th and 7th no-hitters, 5,000th strikeout, and 300th win, was a lot of fun. Of opposing players, Dan Quisenberry of the Royals was always clever and funny. Many opposing stars were both intelligent and friendly. Among those who stand out are Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, and Kirby Puckett.

10. What is a typical day like in your job?

I usually wake up between 9 and 10am, spend a couple of hours on the Internet reviewing what went on in baseball the previous night. I then work out, eat lunch, relax or walk or surf the web until about 3pm, then go to the ballpark. When I get there, I spend an hour or two talking to our manager, players, and also to players, coaches, and media members from the other team. I go up to the booth around 5:30, prepare my scorebook for the game by writing in the lineups and some notes, read the press notes, have a quick dinner around 6:15, then I'm ready to go on the air live at 7pm. (By then, I have already recorded the manager's show, and recorded a broadcast "open" from the booth that comes on the air at 6:30pm.) After the game it takes me a couple of hours to wind down, and I usually go to sleep between 1-2am.

11. What are some of the differences between broadcasting college hockey, college baseball, college football, major league baseball, and women’s basketball?

Baseball is different from all the other sports because of all the "dead time" when the ball is not in play. It is the most conversational sport and requires that you use much more of your personality and background materials in order to be an entertaining broadcaster. In all the other sports, there is not much dead time to fill, so your ability to do play-by-play is by far the most important part of the job.

12. What are some major changes in broadcasting since when you started broadcasting the Rangers in 1979?

The advent of the Internet changed completely the way we prepare for games. So much information is available online that it's much easier to know a lot before I even show up at the ballpark. Another major change is that the players used to hang out socially with the broadcasters and sportswriters. That is not the case anymore.

13. What is the experience of being in a movie like?

In my case, only my voice was used. I flew to Austin for the day and spent a few hours in a sound studio recording my lines. As it turned out, the script for The Rookie was poorly written when it came to the play-by-play re-creation, so the director encouraged me to re-write the lines to fit my own style, which made it a lot easier. The director did not claim to know more than me about my job, and since I was basically re-creating my job, he gave me tremendous freedom in the way I did it. The weird part was not knowing how the movie was going to turn out, until actually going to the theatre to see it when it opened.

14. What is the experience of calling games in Latin America like?

The passion of the fans in Latin America is very different than it is here, much more intense. And the ballparks are much smaller than major league stadiums, in most cases. At times, you can actually feel the ballpark moving when the fans start going crazy. The games themselves are much less disciplined, and the strategy is much less predictable.

15. Will you be putting out a new edition of your 1997 book ‘The Texas Rangers: The Authorized History’? Why or why not?

I originally planned to put out a new edition if and when the Rangers win the World Series. Now I am not sure if I will do it, even if the Rangers win the World Series. It took an entire off-season to do the book, and I don't know if I am willing to give up that much time to do another book.

16. What adjustments do you have to make when you change broadcast partners? How do you feel about Victor Rojas’ move to the MLB Network?

I am very happy for Victor as it is a great career move for him. Adjusting to a new partner is always fascinating. The main thing is getting the timing down, so that you don't talk over each other. It sometimes takes a little while for the two personalities to blend. That's why it really helps to do some spring training games with a new partner.

17. What do you think are the keys to the Rangers’ success in 2009?

I have heard that pitching might be the key. Seriously, since it appears the Rangers probably will not sign any major free agents, the development of young pitchers like Harrison, Hurley, Feldman, McCarthy, etc., will determine if the Rangers have a chance to seriously contend. I think that Nelson Cruz will be a huge factor offensively. If he can offset the loss of Milton Bradley, the Rangers will be able to contend if their pitching staff can rank around the middle of the league in ERA.

18. I’ve heard that you prefer broadcasting on radio over TV. Why is that?

The beauty of the radio job is that you get to describe everything for the audience, something that the TV announcer does not need to do. It's the most satisfying part of the job, for me. Also, on radio, there is no director telling you what to do. You have the freedom to talk about whatever you want, without paying attention to a TV monitor. And of course there is no dress code on radio, and no need to wear make-up or make sure your hair (if you have any) is combed.
I would like to thank Eric again for allowing me to interview him and for the great answers to my questions.

Results of last week’s poll:
Do you think the way Rafael Furcal handled himself (using the agreement with the Braves to up the Dodgers’ price and then signing with the Dodgers) was wrong or okay?
Wrong – 80%
Okay – 20%

Come back next week for the beginning of my list of the top 50 Rangers of all time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trade Analyses

This week I’m going to catch up on analyzing recent Rangers trades.

The Rangers traded Gerald Laird to the Tigers for Guillermo Moscoso and Carlos Melo on December 7th.

Guillermo Moscoso: Guillermo went 8-2 with a 2.18 ERA throughout Oneonta, West Michigan (Low-A), and Lakeland (High-A). He only pitched 90.2 innings that year, though, with 79 strikeouts and 16 walks. He had shoulder surgery in 2005 and that explains the low number of innings because they wanted to bring him back slowly. In 2008, Moscoso pitched 86.2 innings between Lakeland and Erie (AA). He struck out 122 batters and walked only 21. He was named the #10 prospect in the Detroit minor league system by Baseball America. Moscoso had a 3.72 ERA out of the bullpen and a 1.65 ERA as a starter. He has more strikeouts than innings and five times more strikeouts than walks in his career. The only downside is that he’s a fly ball pitcher, but seems like a pretty good prospect.

Carlos Melo: In 2007, the Tigers signed Carlos out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old. He didn’t pitch that year. In 2008, he had a 5.14 ERA with 61 strikeouts and 20 walks in only 49 innings. He’s only 17 years old, but reportedly is already throwing 93-96 miles an hour.

Trade Evaluation:
Laird wasn’t going to be our best catcher or our catcher of the future. If I was going to trade one of our catchers it would have been Laird. Fortunately it was him (and not more). Guillermo Moscoso seems like a very good prospect who isn’t all that far away from the majors, and can both be a relief pitcher and a starter. Carlos Melo seems to have a great upside, but is far from the majors and will need a lot of attention to speed up his process and to become a successful major league pitcher. This seems like a pretty return for Laird.
Grade: A-

The Red Sox sent Beau Vaughn over to the Rangers to complete the Wes Littleton trade on December 11th.

Beau Vaughn: In 2008, Beau went 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA and 17 saves between Portland (AA) and Pawtucket (AAA). He pitched 58 innings and struck out 69, walking 24, and giving up an opponent’s batting average of .233. He is 27 years old.

Trade Evaluation:
Wes Littleton had a good year in 2006 with a 1.73 ERA in 36.1 innings. But in 2007 he had a 4.31 ERA and in 2008 he had a 6.00 ERA. I think that he could still pitch in the major leagues and that Beau Vaughn is more of a minor-leaguer-to-back-part-of-the-bullpen type guy, so I think that this trade wasn’t necessary, except to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
Grade: B-

Results of last week’s poll:
Where do you think Manny Ramirez will go?
Yankees – 62%
Dodgers – 25%
Other – 12%

Come back next week for an interview with Rangers broadcaster Eric Nadel.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Newberg Report Bound Edition Release Party

On Wednesday night Jamey Newberg held his annual Newberg Book Release Party. It started at six and ended at nine and was a blast. It was held at Sherlock’s Pub & Grill in Arlington. The crowd was the biggest yet and the players there were Michael Young, Taylor Teagarden, Chris Davis, Derek Holland, and Jeff Zimmerman. They signed autographs and did a Q&A session. They were all very nice and it was very kind of them to be there.

Eleanor Czajka, her mom, and her sister were selling the books at the party. My dad and I got to hang out with them and talk to them a lot. Eleanor is one of my friends and I always enjoy seeing her. Jamey, his wife Ginger, and his two kids Max and Erica were all at the party. Max and Erica wrote the section ‘About My Dad’ and were signing autographs at the party with Jamey and all the players. I got my first Max Newberg autograph and my second Erica Newberg autograph (she wrote it last year, too). Max is four years old, a huge baseball fan, and has a great arm. I played catch with him at Spring Training. Erica is eight years old, is very smart and has pretty eyes. Devin Pike was also there. He works for the new sports radio station 105.3 The Fan and runs the website ( Devin ran the Q&A session and let me ask four questions.

Jamey’s book is terrific as always. The forewords this year are by Nolan Ryan and Jeff Zimmerman. Jamey included his prospect rankings (top 72, plus breakdowns of the players in each position that are on those lists), his breakdown of down 2008, what to look forward to in 2009, his 20 players who could break out in 2009, all his reports for the season, the final 2008 statistics, the 2008 draft, all the transactions from November 2007 to October 2008, and the portion that Max and Erica wrote. It is well worth the $25.

My dad and I got there at about 5:30. The autograph session started at about 6:30 and went until around 8:30. After that, the Q&A session started. Below is a recap of the session.

Q&A Session:
Q: Who are the three toughest pitchers (or toughest hitters) you’ve faced and why? (This was one of my questions.)

Chris Davis:
Jon Lester – lefty on lefty – he’s got dirty stuff
Scott Shields – I remember facing Shields and walking back to the dugout several times. He has a good slider and it seems like he knew what I was thinking the whole time. It was pretty frustrating.
Dice-K: It seems like I could never really get it on the barrel with that guy. It seemed like everything he threw, I thought I was going to crush it but it just disappeared.
Those were probably my top three. I didn’t get to face Sabathia but maybe next year.

Derek Holland:
The toughest guy is probably myself.

Jeff Zimmerman:
Michael Young, of course, Bengie Molina, and Cal Ripken.

Michael Young:
Pedro Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Pedro Martinez

Taylor Teagarden:
I would go with Jon Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Joe Nathan.

Q: For Michael: Can you describe the process of being traded, like how you found out, how you felt, and how quickly you had to get to your new city? (This was also one of my questions.)

Michael: I got traded when I was in the minor leagues so that’s, first of all, a lot easier than being in the major leagues. I was in Greenville, NC. My manager brought me in about a half-hour before the bus left and told me I had been traded to Texas. I called my agent, packed my stuff, got on a plane to Knoxville, packed my stuff, got on a plane to Tulsa, played, and went 0-for-4.

Q: What would you do if you weren’t playing baseball?

Michael: If I weren’t playing baseball, I think I’d just be a full-time dad.

Taylor: I think I would be a veterinarian or something.

Jeff: I’m trying to be a full-time dad but my wife’s going to kick me out of the house. So if anyone has any suggestions, just let me know.

Derek: I think I would be a firefighter.

Chris: If I wasn’t playing baseball… I really got nothin’. I’m not very good at anything else. I guess I could… no, I got nothin’.

Q: For Michael: What was it like being on the field at Yankee Stadium during Josh Hamilton’s home run derby clinic?

Michael: It was pretty incredible. The things he does in batting practice - he really does put on an absolute show. As far as pure power, Alex and Josh are kind of in a class by themselves. It was incredible to have a Yankee Stadium crowd cheering for a guy I play with. It was pretty fun. It seemed like Josh really fed off it. The crowd was going crazy and it was just a lot of fun.

Q: For Taylor: Now that Laird’s not here, are you preparing to be the catcher on opening day?

Taylor: I’m gonna approach camp like that. I’m going to do everything I know I can do and let upper management make the decision. In my mind, I’m going in there to crack the starting lineup. That’s my mindset.

Q: For Chris: With Justin Smoak’s arrival in the organization, do you think you’ll be moving back to third base? Do you have a preference?

Chris: I’m comfortable at either position. Right now I probably have more experience at first. I played there in college and in high school. I feel I can play any position. Justin’s a good player, a good prospect for us. If our names are in the lineup together at some point in the future, I imagine I’d probably be at third. But either first or third would be a good fit for me.

Q: For Jeff: What’s your favorite memory from the 1999 season?

Jeff: Signing my first big-league autograph. I signed an autograph for a guy and he looked down to read it and said ‘Whoa! You’re going to have a great year for me. I have you on my fantasy team.’ I said ‘There’s no way. No one even knows I exist.’ He said ‘Yeah – Todd Zeile, you’re the best third baseman!’ My favorite memory was around the Fourth of July. My brother and I pitched against each other in the same game. He was with the Mariners. I pitched the top of the ninth. He came in the bottom of the ninth and gave up a walk-off double to Rusty Greer. My dad was there. He passed away a year later. It was the first time he’d seen us both pitch in the same game.

Q: For Jeff: What are the three best things and the three worst things about playing in the independent league? (This was one of my questions.)

Jeff: Wow, that’s a very insightful question. Three best things: First, it’s all about winning. There are no organizational politics or depth charts or prospects. Second, the fans are rabid and know all of your stats. They adopt you and you’re allowed to go out and drink beer with the fans after the game. I can’t think of a third. The three worst things: First, the paychecks – you make less than A-ball players make. Second, the travel is really tough with the long bus rides. I can’t think of a third. Good question – you stumped me.

Q: For Michael: For the 2009 season, what’s the most important thing for the team to move forward?

Michael: It’s really difficult to single out one thing. You always have a number of priorities to address. For me, it’s about our young players getting a lot of experience last year. Next year, we’ll have the chance to build and grow more as a team. I think the biggest thing is making sure we have a little bit of continuity as a team, with our coaching staff and the players.

Q: For Derek: Can you describe the process of moving through three levels of baseball in one season, like what were some of the biggest challenges and some of the main differences between levels? (This was my last question.)

Derek: The jumps were tough because you tried to get settled at one spot and were moved to another spot. It was rough just trying to get comfortable. The toughest would probably be when I got to double-A – the hitters are a lot smarter than in single-A. They’re a lot more patient. That was one of the biggest challenges for me.

Q: For Michael: How are your injuries?

Michael: I’m doing fine. My first break has healed. The second break is slowly but surely getting better. I can make a fist and get my hand around a bat finally. That’s a definite positive for me. I’ll be going into spring training 100%.

The party was a lot of fun as always. I would like to thank Jamey and everyone else involved in putting it on.

Results of last week’s poll:
Who do you think will get Mark Teixeira?
Red Sox – 33%
Nationals – 26%
Yankees – 20%
Angels – 13%
Other – 6%
Orioles – 0%

Come back next week for an analysis of all the recent Rangers trades.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Winter Meetings Preview

This week I will analyze what the winter meetings will look like and what might go down.

Hot Stove Info:
Greg Maddux will retire on Monday after 355 career wins. The Braves signed catcher David Ross to be their back-up behind Brian McCann. The Giants signed SS Edgar Renteria. Rafael Furcal rejected the A’s four-year offer. The Cardinals traded for SS Khalil Greene. The Indians signed Tomo Ohka to a minor-league deal and the Rangers signed Joe Torres to a minor-league deal. The Rangers also re-signed Elizardo Ramirez to a minor league contract.

Winter Meetings:

K-ROD: K-ROD’s agent has said that the serious negotiations would start at the Winter Meetings. It seems that there is a pretty good chance of him signing with the Mets during the Winter Meetings or shortly thereafter.

Rafael Furcal: After the Giants signed Edgar Renteria to play shortstop, it seemed like he would be going to the A’s, but he turned down the A’s offer of a four-year deal. It seems at this point that he will start over from scratch at the Winter Meetings, and the market will be wide open again.

Kerry Wood: Both the Mets and the Tigers are interested in Kerry Wood, and the Rangers have shown some amount of interest also. The market will probably be larger since the Cubs offered him arbitration which takes away the draft pick the team that signs him would have to lose in the process. He will probably come close to making a decision at the Winter Meetings.

Adam Everett: The Tigers are going after Everett hard and have a good shot at signing him during the Winter Meetings.

Mark Teixeira: Mark is looking for at least $20 million dollars a year for multiple years. He is even hoping for a ten year contract. Because of this he probably will not sign at the Winter Meetings, but only start getting into serious negotiations.

Manny Ramirez: Manny is also looking for at least $20 million dollars a year for multiple years, but he probably has a better chance at getting it in offers from multiple teams than Teixeira does. He probably will not get signed at the Winter Meetings.

Adam Dunn: The Nationals, Mariners, Cubs, Rays, and Angels are all interested in Dunn. He probably will not sign at the Winter Meetings due to the number of teams that want him, but he should get it down to two or three teams.

Bobby Abreu: Bobby only has four teams interested in him right now ( the Cubs, Mets, Yankees, and Rays). He will not get all that much money (in baseball terms) but will get a pretty decent sized contract.

Raul Ibanez: Only the Cubs and Mets are interested in him now and since he’s 36, he’ll probably sign late, after all the big-name targets are gone and he’s the last solid outfielder available.

Pat Burrell: The Phillies seem to be letting him go without even really trying to keep him in Philly. He probably will come reasonably close to signing at the Winter Meetings, but probably will still be a free agent at the end of the meetings.

CC Sabathia: There is a good chance that CC will sign during the Winter Meetings. He has probably been waiting for these meetings to see if he can get even more than $140 million, which is unlikely. If there is not a higher offer, he will probably sign at the meetings; if there is, it will probably be a long process for him to sign.

Nationals: The Nationals are expected to attempt to sign Ryan Zimmerman to a multi-year contract at the Winter Meetings. They are also trying to convince both Teixeira and Dunn to sign with them, so this might be the time to get on their list of possible teams. The Nats are also interested in Milton Bradley.

Results of last week’s poll:
Where do you think Rafael Furcal will go?
San Francisco Giants – 50%
Oakland Athletics – 37%
Other – 13%

Come back next week for a recap of the Newberg Bound Edition release party.