Last Tuesday night, my dad, my granddad, and I went to the second Newberg Report Bound Edition Release Party, at Sherlock’s Pub in Dallas. It was a great night, with Michael Young, Chuck Greenberg (the new Rangers owner), and Jake Krug (Rangers assistant director of player development) answering questions for over two hours. Chuck Morgan emceed the Q&A to make it even better. And there was a charity auction for Wipe Out Kids Cancer that raised over $12,000.
We got there at about 5pm so that we could get a good table and eat dinner before the event. The Q&A session started at about 6:15 with Jake Krug and he was quickly joined by Chuck Greenberg. Michael Young arrived later and started taking questions after the charity auction was over.
Chuck Morgan and Jamey were nice enough to let me ask the first question to each of the three guests. Here are the four questions I asked.
To Jake: Can you please say what the major focus areas are for developing players at each level, beginning with the Rookie level and going to triple-A?
Answer: I think there are a lot of different dynamics to that question. There are different types of players, from 16-year-old Dominican players who have no feel for the English language to 18-year-old high school players that come in many different forms as far as maturity level to your polished college guys, and even then you can have some college guys who need time to mature. Our philosophy is that everyone has their own path and their own timeframe on when they’re going to get there. Some guys move very fast, some guys move very slow, and that’s fine either way. Obviously, we prefer guys to move fast. You’ve got guys like Martin Perez and Neftali Feliz who are special and can skip a level and other guys who go level-to-level or even repeat levels. Every guy’s different and one of our major focuses is to realize that everybody’s different and each guy goes at their own pace and to be patient with them.
To Chuck Greenberg: What ideas have you implemented at the minor league level related to the fan experience that you might suggest implementing at the major league level?
Answer: That’s a great question. I think the fan experience is a very broad subject because it goes beyond the walls of the ballpark. I think the fan experience is about a feeling that exists between a franchise and the community, a feeling that it’s a shared journey, that we’re all in it together, that we have the same objectives, that we care in the same way, and that this is important to us and enriches all of our lives. That’s a feeling that transcends geographic boundaries. In terms of the fan experience within the ballpark, I think it has to do with having an obsessive desire to do everything we can to make the experience perfect, recognizing that it’s impossible to be perfect but it’s essential to strive to be the very best you can be. It’s being open to suggestions, whether they come from fans or from the media or from our business partners. If there’s an idea that can make us better, we want to hear about it because we want to be the best that we can be. We certainly take what happens between the white lines very seriously but we’re not going to take ourselves seriously at all. We’re going to have fun, we’ll always have the utmost respect for the game, and we’re going to do everything we can to try to bring our players to the community. Because the players are great guys. One of the best parts of being involved in baseball is the people in the game - the managers, the players, the scouts, the coaches, everybody. And the more that we can bring forth everyone’s personalities to our fans, the more there is that shared experience between the organization and the fans and the more we’re all one, and that’s the way I try to do things.
To Chuck Greenberg: There’s already been talk about moving the High-A team from Bakersfield next year, so is there a good chance that we’ll see the High-A team in Myrtle Beach next year?
Answer: That’s far too professional a question. In Myrtle Beach, our organization has a great relationship with the Braves. We’re looking forward to this season. All of my attention has been focused on what we need to do to get this (the Rangers deal) done and we’ll turn to that later. Obviously we’ll look at everything with an open mind.
To Michael: Is there anything specific that you’ve been working on this offseason and if so what is it?
Answer: Having a healthy hamstring to start. To be honest with you, really just sharpening up parts of my game that I think are weaknesses. Base stealing is still a weakness for me and I know I can get much better at it. Going in knowing I’ll be working at third base is a huge advantage for me as opposed to last year where I had to get in there and get used to it. I do have a lot of clear goals heading into this year but defense and base running are probably tops on the list.
Here are some of the other highlights from the Q&A session.
From Chuck Greenberg:
- When asked by Jamey why he bought the Rangers now instead of waiting for Pittsburgh to go on the market, he said he believes that the Rangers are the most attractive opportunity on every level in all of sports right now. Baseball’s his favorite sport and he believes the Rangers are the greatest sleeping giant in major league baseball and all of sports.
- When asked how he determines the value of a franchise, he said there’s no science to it. You look at what’s happened with other franchises, revenue of the franchise, and what you think the potential is. He said that this is an incredible market, the largest in baseball to only have one team, and there’s a lot of potential.
- He expects to win the division and wouldn’t trade our roster or farm system for anything. It has outstanding young players and great veterans.
- When asked whether he plans to spend equal to the size of the market, he said ‘absolutely’ but pointed out that it doesn’t happen day one. He said the best role models are the Phillies and the Angels.
- He thinks the ballpark is beautiful but that it needs to be refreshed and updated. The best example is the need for a new video board, which is very dated. We won’t see it in 2010 but he expects to have some changes in place by opening day 2011.
- One of Chuck’s fondest memories is from when he was a kid and went to Photo Day at Forbes Field. He still has pictures of himself with Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, and Maury Wills.
- He’s in favor of mass transit to the ballpark but hasn’t had the chance to look into it yet.
- He has a mindset that this is the fans’ franchise and he’s just operating it for them.
- Regarding the heat in Texas and how it impacts fans and attendance, he said that if people are connected emotionally to the team, it will be compelling and people will come.
- Chuck feels it’s important for baseball to be fun affordable family entertainment and they’re going to be looking at opportunities to make the Rangers experience even more affordable than it is now.
- When asked who his favorite Ranger is, he said he loves them all equally. He said this team reminds him of the ‘We Are Family’ Pirates of 1979 as far as their personality and character.
- He’s planning to get a copy of Eric Nadel’s Rangers book to help educate himself on the team’s history.
- Minor league attendance isn’t impacted too much by team performance. In 2008, Myrtle Beach had the best record in professional baseball and set an attendance record. In 2009, he thinks they had the third worst record in professional baseball and they set another attendance record.
From Michael Young:
- The biggest difference this year is that they completely expect to win.
- He doesn’t care where he hits in the batting order. His approach will always be dictated by the game situation.
- When asked whether he hated Vladimir Guerrero based on what he’s done to the Rangers in the past, he joked that he didn’t hate him but he definitely disliked him. He said at the All-Star game, he was asked if he had any good Vladimir Guerrero stories and he said he had no good ones but a ton of least favorite Vladimir Guerrero stories. He said that he never hated him but that he expects he’ll love him pretty soon.
- Their excitement level with adding Rich Harden to the team is on the level of their excitement with adding Guerrero.
- He thinks he gets too much credit for moving to third base to allow Elvis to play shortstop. (I disagree by the way - he deserves a lot of credit.)
- He doesn’t believe in days off. If he doesn’t play, it’s because he can’t go that day.
- When asked who his favorite Ranger is, he said he’d go with Ian Kinsler just because he knows how good he wants to be. He thinks Kinsler’s going to have a monster year.
- His experience with A-Rod was great. He also mentioned Randy Velarde and Rusty Greer as veterans who had an impact on him early in his career.
From Jake Krug:
- When asked by Eleanor about his expectations regarding where Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando will start out and what their path will be, Jake said that he thinks both will probably start in Frisco. He said Alexi was more of a bullpen guy and Omar will most likely also be in the bullpen but could be an option as a starter. He said neither of them are far away and both have electric stuff.
- They expect to win the West and anything less than that would be a disappointment. The whole mindset has changed. It’s gone to expecting to win 90+ games. The mentality’s turned and that’s the way it should be.
- We’re eight deep in the rotation, which hasn’t been the case in the past. After Feldman, Harden, and Lewis, there’s competition.
- A fan asked whether Colby Lewis has been penciled in for the number three spot and how confident the Rangers are that his success in Japan will translate to success here, given his struggles in the US previously. Jake said that where he falls in the rotation is still to be determined, but as far as what’s different, Colby has a different delivery and attitude than the player we saw a few years ago.
- Regarding the change from Rudy Jaramillo to Clint Hurdle, Clint’s approach is a little more high energy and in your face and he thinks the players are really responding to it.
- When asked who his favorite Ranger is, he said Dean Palmer.
It was a great night and I would like to thank Jamey, Eleanor Czajka, Ted Price, Chuck Morgan, Chuck Greenberg, Michael Young, Jake Krug, and everyone else involved with putting it on.
Come back next week for the beginning of my Rangers spring training roster analysis.