Chuck: Welcome to texasrangers.com and this month's web chat. Remind you that next month we'll have Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. Submit your questions by midnight on September 21. We're honored to have with us as this month's special guest, Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels.
JD: Chuck, how are you doing?
Chuck: JD, I'm doing great.
We all have ballpark memories when we're going up and we know you grew up in the New York area and a couple of ballparks are closing up in that area this season. What are your memories of Shea Stadium?
JD: Mostly good, mostly good. Not all good though. I actually had a chance to go back when the team went there this year this June. It was the first time I'd been there not as a fan. People in the game don't talk about it too fondly. It's one of those cookie cuter parks that was built in the 60's and 70's that didn't have a lot personality. To me it always did as a kid growing up there. Once I had a chance to go behind the scenes, I realized what people were talking about. It doesn't have a lot of character there, but my biggest, best memory was in 1999, the NLCS went up there with some buddies of mine. We had what we thought were terrible seats, way in the back in the mezzanine under the overhang; you couldn't even see the farthest parts of right field. They turned out to be the best seats because there was about a two hour rain delay. It was Game 5 that forces them, they were down 3-1 and they went back to Atlanta, and we were one of the few dry people in the stands. What stood out for me in that game was the Mets were down a run in extra innings, the rain was pouring and they were still playing, of the 50-something-thousand fans, only 35,000 to 40,000 were still there, but it was very quite. Because they were down and they had just given up a run in extra innings, but bottom of the inning, Shawon Dunston comes up and has a tremendous at bat off of Kevin McGlinchy and actually ends up singling up the middle, started a rally, and the crowd really got into at that point. On the way home, after they had won, Robin Ventura's walk-off grand slam single, Shawon Dunston was on the radio talking about how the fans had really fired him up and he though the fans were the difference in that game. It kind of reminded me that you're an active part of the team when you come to a game.
Chuck: Are the Rangers going to try to trade for a pitcher for the 2009 season? Question submitted by: Tyler Powell
JD: Well, it's a good question, Tyler. It's certainly at the top of our priority list to upgrade the starting rotation. Now, I hope a lot of that improvement comes from within. But we'll also look at the free agent marketing and certainly at the trade market. And I think the attributes we'll be looking at, if we do acquire someone via trade, it would be some body that would be here for an extended period of time and can become part of our core. Someone that fits with where we are going from an age stand point, with where they are at in their career, and someone that can pitch at the top of the rotation. It's going to be a tough thing to come by; those guys aren't traded all that often. You saw where Dan Haren did get traded last year to Arizona. That would be the type of deal we'd be looking for if that's available, we're certainly interested.
Chuck: We've had a great playoff run in the minor leagues, some great players down there. Jerry has a question about a pitcher we're very proud of. Any chance Neftali Feliz will be tried as a closer next spring and beyond? He's looking pretty good as a starter. Question submitted by: Jerry Barnett
JD: Yes, I certainly think he can succeed in that role, but our priorities are to develop starting pitchers. So we'll be give Neftali every opportunity to start and most of our evaluators think he can start. So we'll see. Ultimately it will be up to Neftali and how he makes the transition, how his breaking ball develops, how his fast ball command continues to come along. He's made great strides and it's important to remember how youthful he is for the level he's at and the strides he's already made to this point. I'd rather be patient with him and develop him as a starter. He certainly could come up here right now and perform in a short inning stint with his fast ball alone and he has an excellent change up as well but we want to develop starting pitchers.
Chuck: JD, C.J. got hurt and Frankie Francisco has done a great job, right now where we are in September, it's kind of early to be thinking about who will be our closer next year, right?
JD: For me it is. Frankie has done an excellent job and right now he's done nothing to make us think he couldn't handle it on a full time basis. But we're in evaluation mode and it's a little premature to start locking guys in at that point.
Chuck: When do you expect Derek Holland to be in the big leagues? Question submitted by: Seth Embry JD:
I got a chance to see Derek recently in Frisco in the playoffs and he was outstanding. His fastball command was easy, mid 90's velocity, really pounded the ball in on right handers. They couldn't extend and do anything with it. He's got an excellent change up and a developing slider and everything just comes real easy. Even more than the stuff, what I love about Derek was he competed. That's one thing we pound home to our guys, compete even when you don't have your best stuff, even when you're down, or whatever the case may be - compete. He really did that, kept the team in the game and ultimately won a playoff game. As far as when he'll be in the big leagues, I'm not sure. There's a decent chance he'll get a look in spring training next year, not necessarily to make the team, which will be up to him, but it wouldn't surprise me if he forced his way on the scene sooner rather than later. But again, we want to be patient with these guys and make sure they're ready when they get here.
Chuck: Can you give us an idea of next year's rotation? Question submitted by: Ray Uptmore
JD: I think there are five or six guys that have, at different points this year, preformed at levels that make me think they can handle it for next year. If we're talking just internally, I'm not going to speculate on free agents and trades, certainly Millwood and Padilla; we'd be looking for full, healthy seasons from them. Brandon McCarthy has certainly been encouraging the last few weeks since he's been back. Matt Harrison, to have a left hander in there is encouraging. Scott Feldman has really saved our pen this year and he wasn't a guy we were counting on in the beginning of the season but came in after changing his arm slot and transitioning from the bull pen. And, Eric Hurley, who we have high hopes for. Those six guys will certainly all be in the mix and we've talked about the Feliz's and Holland's and guys that are a little farther off but certainly something to be excited about.
Chuck: JD, I know you're probably involved in some of this, but with fantasy football and fantasy baseball, we all get to be general mangers, but Sean McEnany has a question about analyzing your decision-making process in regards to trades and I've (Chuck Morgan) always wondered about the trading process and now being involved in some fantasy stuff, do you sit there and say 'maybe we should try to get this guy or I'd like to have that guy on my team', how does that all work? Question submitted by: Sean McEnany
JD: In the industry right now, there are kind of two schools of thought about evaluating players. There is the saber metric or the statistical way of going about it, looking at their track record, performance, and how that translates based on the level of the ballpark they're in. The more traditional way of looking at it is to have scouts go out and evaluate their abilities. Being a younger GM, people assume we go straight stats, straight numbers and that's not the case at all. I believe in blending the two. If I was going to lean one way or the other, I would probably go about trusting our scouts more than just straight numbers. I do believe in that and I feel like we have a good quality scouting staff with a good bunch of guys. As far as the decision making process it's self, I'm very collaborative. I like to hear a lot of opinions. I like to get input from guys out in the field that have history with players as amateurs, that have recent history with them as professionals; guys that know their make-up. We do medical homework on them. We look at how they perform and how they might perform in this ballpark if their pitching style or batting style is conducive to that. A lot of things go into it. At the end of the day you have to make a decision with the best information on hand and the best way to have the best information is to have a lot of it.
Chuck: The way it works is another GM calls you and say 'hey, what do you think about this' or 'we're interested in this guy' and you kind of take it from there and send you're guys out and do all that homework.
JD: Yes, go back to the trade deadline 2007. We had Mark Teixeira that we decided we would consider trading at that time. So we went out an identified about a half dozen teams that we thought could match up well with us. There were more than a half dozen teams that had called with interest in Mark, but we had to identify who we though had the best fits based on our needs and how we projected their players. It was at that point that we engaged specifically with those clubs and we let them know exactly what we were looking for. There were probably three or four teams that were willing to meet that price and we really bear down on their systems and ultimately picked the Braves and felt like they were the best fit for us.
Chuck: And Sean wants you to keep up the good work, he says.
JD: Thanks, Sean.
Chuck: Jon, will the Rangers try to ink Josh Hamilton to a long term contract? Congratulations on that trade. Question submitted by: Larry Stimac
JD: Yes, it was fun seeing both Josh and [Edinson] Volquez at the All-Star Game. Josh is a guy that has obviously been tremendous for us this year and we want him in a Rangers uniform for a long time, hopefully the rest of his career. I think he's fit in great in the clubhouse, on the field, and in our community. We did talk to Josh at one point about a multi-year deal, just the concept of it and let him know we were thinking about it that. At some point this off season, it's something we might revisit. We didn't want it to be a distraction during the year, so we didn't pursue it at that point.
Chuck: What is your favorite thing to do during the offseason? Question submitted by: Stephanie Bickley
JD: There isn't that much of an off season for those of us that work here. I don't play golf so I think my favorite thing at this point is to just spend time with my family. I have two young kids and unfortunately I don't get to see them a lot during the season. When the team is home, I'm here all the time. When the team is on the road, I'm gone half the time. I'm looking forward to some late mornings on the couch with my kids and spending some time with them.
Chuck: I'm guessing your cell phone is always on and always ringing?
JD: Yes, but I have it on vibrate, so it's always buzzing.
Chuck: Please, please, PLEASE!!! Mr. JD, is there any way to keep this roster together? They have the best chemistry I have ever seen in that clubhouse in 20 years as a fan! Question submitted by: Patricia Cole
JD: The chemistry has been great. That's because the players take the lead and personality of their leader, Ron Washington. I think that Ron has done an excellent job of creating that atmosphere in the clubhouse by giving the players a lot of autonomy. As far as keeping the roster together, our first priority is to improve the ball club. A lot of that improvement is going to come from with in with the young players. We don't have a lot of free agents. We do have a couple of guys with Milton Bradley being the most significant one that we'll have some discussions with. I don't see a ton of turn over on the roster. I see us bringing a lot of these guys back. We did introduce a lot of young players to the team and to our community this year. I would imagine that most of them would be back and in more prominent rolls. Again, we want to improve the club and if that opportunity is out there, we are going to do it.
Chuck: How is Michael Main progressing in the minors? Question submitted by: Steven Abell
JD: He was one of our first round picks last year, number 24 overall selection in the country, out of Florida, a high school kid. He is a centerfielder and a pitcher. He wanted to do both but we told him to concentrate on the mound, we don't want to run the risk of injury. As it happens, he hurt himself with a little stress fracture in his ribs in spring training. He's fine now but it delayed his start to the year a little bit. He ended up going out to Clinton and having a very good season, albeit a little shortened. Not as many innings as we would have liked to have gotten. But he pitched in the playoffs and preformed well. He'll come through instructional league and be ready for his next challenge next year.
Chuck: I know you have been apart of baseball for many years and have encountered many great coaches. My question is, besides coaches, were there any teachers that helped you become the person that you are today. If so who, when, and how did they impact your life? Question submitted by: Julian Bernal
JD: I hope this doesn't come across as a cop-out but it was actually my father. My father was my first principal. He was the elementary school principal at the first school I went to. First of all, I think he was stricter on me than the other kids but I think he was stricter than any of the other teachers and administrators I dealt with.
Chuck: Are you telling us you couldn't do anything then? You didn't get away with anything?
JD: Nothing, no, nothing. I think I might have still slipped a few through the cracks, but I heard about it and other such things when I messed up. My dad was definitely a disciplinarian. We have a great relationship. It wasn't like he was cold-hearted, far from it. We have a tremendous relationship. He helped me to really understand to prioritize and how to make decisions and the consequences of your decisions. It's certainly an important lesson that I hope to pass on to my kids.
Chuck: We talked about this earlier, JD. We've both got to work hard when we're here and you're always working. I'm sure your mom and dad had an impact on how hard you work, too.
JD: Yes, no doubt. My dad still to this day has his own business and works seven days a week. My mom is a teacher and my dad was in education but now has his own company. They are Americans, you know. They are middle-class Americans on the east coast that have worked their whole life and love it. It's that work ethic that they instilled in me that hopefully I bring to the Rangers.
Chuck: Do they keep an eye on that Rangers score every now and then?
JD: I get text messages from my mom every night. The best and worst thing I did this year was I bought her the extra innings package on DirecTV. She watches it relentlessly. It's the best when we're winning because I'm getting positive text messages but when we're losing, I'm getting big time suggestions on what we need to do.
Chuck: Is the reason there is so little good pitching in the Majors, because in high school and college, they overwork the pitchers? Question submitted by: Martha Cameron
JD: I see some of it. I remember when we drafted John Hudgins out of Stanford in 2003 and watched the College World Series that was on the next couple of days. I think we saw him pitch 145 or 150 pitches and he was a smaller frame guy. I think there are certainly some examples of guys that maybe get a little over worked. I actually tend to look at it the other way. I don't think guys are conditioned from a young enough age to do what they are asked to do at the Major League level. In other cultures, especially the Asian cultures in Japan, kids throw a lot in their youth and they throw a lot up through high school, college, and professional. Now, they certainly get hurt, some guys do. They almost look at it as survival of the fittest. They weed out the guys that don't have the mechanics that can allow them to do it. Now our society, American society, we don't have the risk tolerance to do that and we probably shouldn't. These are our kids and we want to protect them, they're not all going to be big league players. But because of that, because of that mentality that we don't want to hurt them at a young age, we don't really let them extend themselves to find out what they are capable of. So the high school kid goes to college and he hasn't done that. Then the college kid goes to pros and all of a sudden we're not going to push him to a new level that we don't know if his body can handle because we have a big investment in them. I do think it starts with youth baseball because of our societal low level of risk tolerance, which is probably appropriate; it has affected each subsequent level.
Chuck: You know the thing I've seen in guys as old as I am, I was lucky to get to play at least 20 games a year. I'm sure now that some of your scouts are seeing guys that are 13 and 14 are playing 100 games a year.
JD: There is a statistic that Jamie Reed, our head medical director, showed me a stat that I think in the history of the Little League World Series, there is only one pitcher that has pitched in the Little League World Series, as primarily a pitcher, and then gone on and pitched in the big leagues and that was Wilson Alvarez. I think there are others in the minors right now may get there but that tells you something. That's not a scientific survey or anything like that. Bottom line is the best pitchers that are 13 and 14 years old are not becoming the best pitchers in the big leagues. Now is that because we're not working them enough or because we're working them too much? I think we need to look into that more.
Chuck: JD, I speak for all the fans out there, we've had a lot of fun this year watching this team and a lot of celebrations at home plate. I've had the Marlon Byrd home run and the Josh Hamilton home run against the Angels, but what about Jon JD? Is there a favorite moment from the 2008 season as you look back and you say 'wow, boy that was a lot of fun'?
JD: A couple of moments stand out. Certainly the Marlon Byrd one that took us to a high water mark on the season when we beat the Yankees there and went six games over and unfortunately David Murphy gets hurt the next day and then [Ian] Kinsler gets hurt and things have a way of snowballing on you. That was a tremendous win right before we went on national TV and it was a lot of fun. Actually, there was one in May that wasn't as consequential because it didn't get as much national publicity but it started the turn on our season a little bit. That was with David Murphy, I think it was against the Twins, doubled home German Duran, who was pinch-running, Hank [Blalock] had just gotten hurt. Murphy doubled him home; it was a walk-off double. It really started to turn the worm a little bit for us because, obviously, we'd had that rough April. It was kind of the point where the team took off and we preformed a little bit. That was symbolic for me. I think the two things of this year was about for me was the resilience of the ball club, which you've mentioned, how many walk-off wins we've had, and the way we've rebounded from some injuries. And the number of young players we've introduced. I love the moments when the young players stand out to me. Matt Harrison dominating the Angels and beating the Yankees stands out. Chris Davis having the home run surge early and then Brandon Boggs did the same thing. Taylor Teagarden catching the shut-out, the one-nothing shut-out, and then they won on his home run in Minnesota. Again, the resiliency of the club, the heart that we showed, and introducing the young players, those really stand out to me this year.
Chuck: JD, we appreciate your time today.
JD: Thanks, Chuck.
It's texasrangers.com, your home for everything Texas Rangers. You can get your tickets, find out about all information about Texas Rangers baseball right here on texasrangers.com. Next month we're going to have Michael Young, Rangers All-Star Shortstop, in the hot seat and Ian Kinsler, Rangers All-Star Second Baseman in November. Submit a question for these two All-Stars today. Questions will be accepted until midnight on September 21.
Chuck Morgan is the voice of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.