The 48 hours leading up to this year’s Newberg Report Night were not the brightest of the Rangers’ season, much less the franchise’s history. A July slump had formed a cloud around the team’s on-field performance, culminating in back-to-back losses to the White Sox in which the offense sputtered to produce a combined one hit in 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position over the first two games of the series. The Angels had just bolstered their already formidable starting rotation by acquiring Zack Greinke. The Athletics pulled to within 3.5 games of the division lead after beating Baltimore to improve to 18-3 in the month of July. The never-moving, fast-approaching July 31st non-waiver trade deadline continues to loom large, and the perceived pressure for the Rangers to make a move to answer these growing instigators of doubt was seemingly mounting by the hour. Yet, stepping into the auditorium in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame museum was like stepping into a sanctuary, in which foundational beliefs were affirmed, and fear was replaced by a renewed pride in the organization and refreshed confidence in its leadership.
What followed was the most important part of the night, when a raffle and auction took place to support two organizations that hold a place close to the heart of the Texas Rangers franchise. The Mike Coolbaugh Diamond Dreams Foundation was created to honor Mike Coolbaugh (brother of Rangers’ hitting coach Scott), who was struck and killed by a line drive while coaching first base in a Double-A baseball game in 2007. Mike was often heard saying that “baseball takes care of its own”, and Diamond Dreams seeks to do just that through building safe practice facilities, providing equipment, and funding college scholarships for student-athletes. The Hello Win Column Fund was established in 2005 in memory of Mark Holtz, the long-time broadcaster for the Rangers who passed away in 1997 after a bone marrow transplant for the treatment of leukemia. In attendance was Desiree Smith, a young girl from Abilene who suffers from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and had a bone marrow transplant this past spring. It was her 14th birthday, and the 300 Rangers fans in attendance sang her a hearty round of “Happy Birthday to You”. That generosity of the heart from those in attendance translated to a generosity of the pocketbook as well, as more than $17,000 was raised in this one night to go towards the worthy work being completed by Diamond Dreams and Hello Win Column.
After the auction completed, it was time for the main event: the Q&A with Jon Daniels. Preceding his arrival came the news that Daniels would only be able to complete 45 minutes of a Q&A instead of 90 minutes, but of course to the Rangers faithful in the crowd that wasn’t a disappointment so much as a slice of information from which conclusions could be made concerning the temperature of trade deadline activity. The stadium seating style auditorium was packed to its brim, muggy from the anticipation of its occupants and subpar air circulation, and erupted into a standing ovation for the Texas Rangers’ General Manager. Daniels did not arrive alone, for tagging along, straight from the war room was Thad Levine (Assistant General Manager), Tim Purpura (Senior Director, Player Development), Josh Boyd (Director of Professional Scouting), Mike Daly (Director, International Operations), Kip Fagg (Director, Amateur Scouting), Matt Vinolla (Director, Baseball Operations), and Welke, whom Daniels referred to as “the godfather”. Except for perhaps the absence of A.J. Preller, this was the veritable Who’s Who of the Texas Rangers front office. It can be debated which players are the core of the Rangers team on the field, but there is no doubt that these men are the true core of this organization.
Any opportunity to hear Jon Daniels speak is worthy of any and all hype that it receives, and this occasion was no different. Daniels controlled the room with an understated confidence. Every question was answered clearly, and those that sought an answer that delved too deeply into confidential matters were given a balanced response that appeased curiosity without revealing that which should not be made public. He showed his commitment to recognizing the contributions of his entire baseball operations and player development staff, acknowledging that the strength of the people within the organization is the biggest competitive advantage the Rangers have today. Above all, the underlying theme of the evening was that Daniels and his team are relentless in their pursuit of all options and avenues and possibilities that may strengthen the Texas Rangers franchise. That means that yes, the Rangers will consider promoting Olt and Profar to the big leagues in September, and yes, the Rangers were in on Greinke until the very end, and yes, the Rangers want to win now, but will not mortgage the future to do so. Whether it be working within the confines of the new draft rules and international spending budget, utilizing advanced statistics and analytics, or scouting lesser-known parts of the world for premium talent, it seems a certainty that the Rangers will remain two steps ahead of the competition by finding the best people for the job, and then outworking the rest of the league.
Even if the Rangers didn’t close out the White Sox series with a 2-0 shutout victory thanks to a magnificent performance by Scott Feldman, and even if Zack Greinke had picked up a win in an Angels uniform instead of his first home loss of the last two years, and even if the Athletics hadn’t dropped to a more comfortable 4.5 games out of first place, there would still be no need to doubt the trajectory this franchise is travelling along. The ones who are steering the ship are turning over rocks that most don’t even know exist, and pursuing all opportunities while balancing making the Texas Rangers the best team in baseball this year, and keeping it that way for the next five years.
I must include a hearty thank you to Jamey Newberg. If not for his passion, dedication, and inspiration, I am fairly confident that I would not be writing about the Rangers today. His annual event is the pinnacle of what a fan site could ever hope to piece together; a forum for a franchise’s leadership and their fans to meet together to discuss that which all in attendance are most passionate about. Additionally, a tip of the cap must be given to those who were seated in the audience. Not only were the fans generous in their support towards two wonderful, charitable organizations, but the questions asked and knowledge displayed was of the highest caliber. The leadership of the front office in attendance was not the only testimony to the strides of progress the Texas Rangers franchise has made in recent years, but the maturity of the fan base was on full display as well. It is hard to select which one is the more satisfying result.