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Late Thursday morning things

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Sorry for the lateness of a morning post...there are a whole lot of things out there this a.m.

Evan Grant has some notes on contract extensions, as does Dave Sessions in the S-T, though both Michael Young and Mark Teixeira were pretty non-commital about it. Still, I'm coming around to the point of view that I think a Michael Young extension is going to get done in the next week or so.

Grant also has a couple of bloggy notes on Ron Mahay and Torii Hunter. Right now, if I had to guess who the Rangers' 2008 centerfielder will be, I'd say Hunter.

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, suggests that Jermaine Dye may be the Rangers' 2008 right fielder.

T.R. Sullivan says everyone is in camp except Sammy Sosa, Jose Vargas, Victor Diaz, and Joaquin Arias.

Sullivan also suggests that John Hart and Buck Showalter blew it in 2003, when they put Mark Teixeira on the Opening Day roster. If they'd let him spend 6 weeks in AAA, and called him up in mid-May, he'd be eligible for free agency after 2009, instead of 2008.

Of course, neither Hart nor Showalter is around now, which is why those considerations rarely factor into the decision making process. A manager isn't likely to last the six years a player is going have prior to free agency, so why does he care when the clock starts?

Jean-Jacques Taylor has a column on the Rangers needing Hank Blalock to be the "real" Hank Blalock again.

Taylor's trying, but he's still a football guy trying to cover some non-football sports. And this jumped out at me:

It helps that his manager believes in him. Whenever the subject turns to Blalock, Washington's smile grows wide as he considers the possibilities. He believes Blalock can be one of the game's best young hitters.

So he's even going to give Blalock an opportunity to bat against left-handers, something that's rarely happened in the past.

People keep saying that, but it is just not true. Blalock has been hitting against lefties and righties since his second season in the league.

Jim Reeves has a column up, that says, in essence, that Buck Showalter was scapegoated for a bad pitching staff, and that Buck wasn't really any different than any other managers. He seems to suggest that the players were in the wrong for not getting along with Buck:

As new manager Ron Washington has made abundantly clear, it's the players' clubhouse now. More importantly, it's their team.

The good news comes with a caveat: So shut up and win.

"The first thing I said when I came here, I want to eliminate all the excuses, all the crutches and put the game back where it belongs, in their hands," Washington said Wednesday. "Make sure they get what they need, and then they go out there and apply it. Now, go get it. Now, it's up to them."

To be fair to the players, I can honestly say that not one time over the past four seasons did any of them seek me out to complain about Showalter, certainly not after the 2004 season, when he was named American League Manager of the Year. Yet, the reports of a tense, unhappy clubhouse became accepted fact.

Did the players' unhappiness with Showalter contribute to their inability to win? I remain skeptical. Show me the player whose numbers suffered because he didn't like the manager and I'll show you someone looking for an alibi.

Still, there's no question that the players' unhappiness with their manager is essentially the reason why he was fired and why second-year general manager Jon Daniels is focused on a "family atmosphere" in the clubhouse.

* * *

Trust, or lack of it, was the principal issue with Showalter. It might seem petty -- it did to me at times -- but trust is vitally important between players and manager. Showalter had a tendency to tell players, and even the media, what he thought they wanted to hear, and if that meant shading the truth a little, well... who's counting?

Example: Showalter might tell reporters that he had had a conversation with a player about failing to run out a groundball, when everyone else in the clubhouse knew the conversation never happened. Or he might say he had talked to a player on the phone about giving him a day off when all he had done was leave a message.

Sure, little things, but they added up. Showalter was his own worst enemy. He just couldn't make himself shut up. It wasn't that he had rules or made demands that were any different from any other major league manager. The problem was strictly personality.

Like a lot of leaders in sports -- former Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, a brilliant tactician, comes to mind -- Buck simply has a short shelf life with players.

* * *

Did Showalter want something different than that? Of course not. But, when the Rangers didn't improve after winning 89 games in '04, someone had to take the blame. It couldn't just be lack of pitching, right?

"How did the players down in Texas become so empowered?" a longtime baseball man asked me recently. "If I'm the owner or the general manager and they come to me complaining about the manager, I'd tell them to get their [butt] back downstairs and talk to the manager if they have a problem."

This isn't real surprising...Reeves backed Buck to the very end, even when just about every other media person -- along with most Rangers fans and, seemingly, all of the players -- wanted Buck gone.

Richard Durrett, meanwhile, has a piece on Buck's new role as advisor to Mark Shapiro in Cleveland. As I've said before, unless the Indians start off hot and stay hot all season, I'll be surprised if Eric Wedge doesn't get the axe, with Buck replacing him, sometime this summer.