THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 23, 2006

I’m in the small camp that says, without hesitation, that “The Shield” is the best show on
television. I feel totally invested in it even though I never watched an episode before

this season.

That makes me, I suppose, the type of fan that, in sports, I hate: The bandwagoner. I

waited through four seasons, knowing the show was around but never giving it any of my

time. Then, succumbing to the recognition that everyone who watches that show considers it

TV’s best kept secret, I decided to lock in each week for season five.

It’s not at all how I am as a baseball fan. I’ll admit to a little bandwagon action with

the Sidekicks in 1987 and the Stars in 1999. But not the Rangers. (Or the Cowboys or

Mavericks, for that matter.) I’ve been there all along with them, and always will be.

Though not in my case, it’s probably most challenging in the Metroplex to be a baseball

loyalist, at least from the standpoint that, locally, the sport hasn’t had as consistent a

history of winning as football and basketball have had. But more than 2 million Rangers

fans visit Ameriquest Field each year, and when it feels like a hair dryer at 9:15 p.m. in

July, you know it’s not because they’re looking for a comfortable place outdoors to kick

back.

I wrote this last August: “[A]s for the Rangers, those years of mediocrity probably

solidified a loyalty that Cubs fans made an art, and that Cowboy fans have never really

shown, or understood. Those of you who were with this team before the Red Years know what

I mean. It’s easy to root for a perennial winner; there’s more character, though, in

standing behind Sisyphus and helping push.”

I guess, in a way, so few people know about “The Shield” that I shouldn’t consider myself a

bandwagon fan of the show. I’ll still try to push it on you like I’ve pushed Jellyfish and

Michael Chabon and “Carnivale,” but that’s not the same as campaigning for you to get into

Coldplay or Stephen King or Oprah (none of which I’ll ever do).

I do have a couple good friends whose minds I’ve tried over the years to open to the Great

Game. It’s tougher, I think, at least for my generation and the next, to make a baseball

fan out of someone who’s not, than it is to make a Rangers fan out of a local baseball fan.

If you believe in baseball, there are days like September 23, 2004 in winning seasons that

lock you in and reward you, and days like September 17, 2005 in other seasons that do, too.

There will be days like that in 2006, too.

As for last night’s episode of “The Shield,” it was a lot like those Yankee series in

October 1996, October 1998, and October 1999. Exhilirating. Stressful. Upsetting. And

unforgettable.

To borrow a phrase from Bob Sturm, it was an ice cream headache.

I’m irritated that I won’t get to see a new episode of “The Shield” until January. But it

sort of fits, in a way: the show is stepping aside for six, and maybe even seven, months of

meaningful baseball games before coming back into my house. The bandwagon is on stilts

until next winter. Old Reliable is back.

It certainly didn’t have the same magnitude, but on its own scale yesterday’s Rangers

spring training game was as anticipated as last night’s mid-season finale of “The Shield.”

I won’t suggest that Edinson Volquez’s day or Juan Dominguez’s day went as badly as Curtis

Lemansky’s, but in what was basically an audition for both righthanders, neither had the

kind of effort that moved him closer to securing the fifth spot in the Rangers rotation.

Volquez went two innings-plus (he faced three Brewers in the third without retiring any of

them), getting charged with five runs on five hits (including a home run) and three walks.

After Antonio Alfonseca finished the third, Dominguez went the next 3.1 frames, permitting

five runs on six hits (two homers) and three walks. Neither registered a strikeout.

According to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, Dominguez is no longer in the race for the fifth

spot, while Volquez remains a candidate. (The local papers aren’t as definitive on

Dominguez’s status.) R.A. Dickey could be back in the mix.

Knowing what we know about Jon Daniels, it’s probably safe to assume he’s exceeded his cell

phone minutes for March surveying the trade landscape for a possible fifth starter.

In case it’s on your mind, Dominguez can be optioned. So can Volquez.

Righthanders Johnny Lujan and Scott Feldman pitched the final inning and two-thirds without

allowing a hit. Lujan is this year’s Feldman, not in profile but in terms of their

anonymous emergence. Lujan’s surge onto the map has been as quiet as Feldman’s was in

2005; while their stuff couldn’t be more different, Lujan has a chance to reach the big

club in 2006 under certain circumstances, just as Feldman did last year.

Righthander Akinori Otsuka is expected to make his Rangers debut in today’s game.

Righthander Adam Eaton will miss his Friday start because of the bruised elbow he sustained

last time out, but his April 4 start against Boston shouldn’t be in danger.

Lefthander C.J. Wilson had trouble getting his shoulder loose for a Tuesday minor league

relief appearance in 50-degree weather, but he’s apparently fine.

Progress for Laynce Nix, who played defensively in a minor league game on Tuesday. None

for Gary Matthews Jr., whose strained side muscle continues to keep him out of action. He

tried taking batting practice on Tuesday but cut his session short when he felt a twinge in

his side.

Alfonso Soriano willingly played left field for Washington yesterday. Had he refused to do

so, as he did on Monday, the Nationals evidently planned to place him on the disqualified

list, without pay and without accrual of service time. The latter would prevent Soriano

from earning free agency rights next winter.

An ESPN story noted that Soriano had to borrow a teammate’s outfielder’s glove for the

game. He’s just now asking his agent to get him one of his own.

Juan Gonzalez had agreed in principle to a minor league deal with Boston last weekend but,

after the Red Sox obtained outfielder Wily Mo Pena from Cincinnati, Gonzalez changed his

mind, didn’t show up to sign the contract, and instead signed a minor league deal with

Oakland.

Kansas City assigned righthander David Elder and outfielder Chad Allen to AAA. The White

Sox assigned righthander Agustin Montero to minor league camp, Pittsburgh did the same with

righthander Matt Whiteside, and the Mets did so with righthander Jeremi Gonzalez (who might

have lost out on a bullpen spot to lefthander Darren Oliver). Cincinnati designated

righthander Jason Standridge for assignment.

Milwaukee optioned righthander Dennis Sarfate to AAA.

Reigning Golden Baseball League MVP Desi Wilson signed with the independent league’s Chico

Outlaws.

Local attorney and baseball historian Talmage Boston is helping organize the National

Baseball Hall of Fame Golf Classic, which benefits the National Baseball Hall of Fame and

Museum. Hall of Famers scheduled to participate in the tournament, which will take place

on May 5 at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, include Wade Boggs, Steve Carlton,

Rollie Fingers, Fergie Jenkins, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew, Bill Mazeroski, Phil Niekro,

Robin Roberts, Don Sutton, and Earl Weaver. Brooks Robinson and Ryne Sandberg may

participate as well.

Each participant will receive a custom-framed, autographed Hall of Fame jersey, a personal

photo with all the attending Hall of Famers, and a bat autographed by the Hall of Famers.

The registration fee is tax-deductible.

Email me if you’re interested in more information. I have a copy of the tournament

brochure and registration form that I can send you by email.

This week’s installment of “Going Deep,” with a focus on the rules pertaining to trades

that involve players to be named later, is now posted on the Rangers official website, at

http://www.rangers.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060319&content_id=1356490&vkey

=news_tex&fext=.jsp&c_id=tex.

The fifth installment of Michael Schlact’s Spring Training Diary is now posted on Eleanor

Czajka’s “Minor Details” page.

We’ll have a transcript up soon of our Wednesday chat session with Victor Rojas.

Carmelo Anthony. Carmela and Tony Soprano. Weird.

Check the message board for a special offer that the Rangers are extending the Newberg

Report community for next weekend’s arrival in town of the big league club and Saturday’s

Welcome Home Luncheon.

One of our own is going to star at the Luncheon. He’s a kid who has his biggest fan in me

– feel free to jump on the bandwagon. I’m driving.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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