THE NEWBERG REPORT — AUGUST 23, 2006
Brutal eighth and ninth last night. Brutal. First two get on in the eighth, nobody scores. First two get on in the ninth, facing a brand new closer, a third gets on with one out, nobody scores. A chance to shave a game off Oakland’s lead, squandered.
I was listening to Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)” on the way to work yesterday morning. There’s a couple lines in that song (“You can laugh / A spineless laugh / We hope your rules and wisdom choke you”) that always make my hair stand on end. I turned the volume up too loud, just for those 30 seconds. It got my adrenaline chugging.
I wanted to go running; and I hate running. It was the feeling of seeing a baserunner take that arc between second and third that tells me he’s going to try to score on that line single to me in the outfield. The feeling when the lights go down and the concert is about to start. It was the intro music from “The Shield,” the last 10 minutes of the “Six Feet Under” finale, the turning to page one of a Thomas Harris novel. The opening, as a kid, of the season’s first pack of baseball cards.
Those words from “Exit Music,” every time I hear them, make me momentarily forget about everything good or bad going on in my life. I’m in the song. (Hmm: Maybe I should stop listening to it while driving.) The way Yorke pronounces the second syllable of “wisdom” conveys so much anger and bitterness. It doesn’t make me angry or bitter. But it makes me feel alive. So strange.
I’m not sure if I’m angry or bitter about last night’s Ranger loss, or Monday’s. I think I am. Coming off three of four on the road against baseball’s best team, the Rangers have dropped two straight to its third worst. Sure, both were good baseball games, and the Rangers gave themselves opportunities late. And yeah, it’s hard to be bitter at a Gold Glove center fielder for one bad misplay (or for flailing flat-footed on 0-2 with the bases loaded), or at the team’s leading basereacher watching a huge 3-2 pitch for strike three, or at the team’s leading hitter for swinging at a critical 3-0, or at the world’s best close-and-late, bases-loaded hitter not getting another hit in that situation.
But I know this: despite my efforts to convince you and evidently myself during this baseball season that it would be constructive not to get too high or too low after a single game, I can’t continue to preach it. I’ve never felt more fired up about Ranger wins or more distraught about Ranger losses than in 2006.
Maybe it’s because this team is no longer all about this year’s rookies or last year’s draft picks, and not about a handful of 36-year-old free agents, but instead about a core of players entering their baseball primes. Maybe it’s because the West seems to be unusually winnable this year. Maybe it’s because my kids, in the last six months, have really become baseball fans.
Maybe it’s because it’s been a very emotional year for me and my family.
I don’t know why exactly this year has been different, but emotionally, I’ve never felt more alive as a baseball fan. It’s been a real good alive 65 times, a frayed one 62 others. Last night’s hurts a lot because the club chased Scott Kazmir relatively early but couldn’t close the deal against a bullpen that is dead last in Major League Baseball in ERA, opponents’ average, and strikeouts.
(The scout who graded my outfield arm a 57 at the Reds tryout in 1990 — Ray Corbett — is the one who, unbelievably, camped out at Houston’s Cypress Falls High School in the spring of 2002 and recommended to the Expos that righthander Clint Everts, and not his teammate Kazmir, was the kid to pop at number five overall in that June’s draft. Unreal. I’m now questioning the 57.)
Surely we weren’t already looking ahead to the weekend confrontation with Oakland. We’ve got to position ourselves to make that series meaningful. Three of four in Detroit is energizing. Three of six in Detroit and Tampa Bay is ordinary.
Brad Wilkerson had his non-throwing shoulder successfully operated on yesterday, Carlos Lee fired Andy Katz and hired Scott Boras (which could actually help Texas keep Lee), Nick Masset is back in the big leagues, and 70 percent of the Rangers’ delegation to the Arizona Fall League has been identified. John Danks and Thomas Diamond were pretty good yesterday, Danny Ray Herrera dealt again, and Marcus Lemon keeps doing good things. And there’s a rules issue involving the Rangers that all the papers are getting wrong.
But those are things I’ll get to another time, if at all. Right now, the only baseball I can manage to think about is Kevin Millwood, Casey Fossum, tonight. When I’ll want to turn the volume up too loud.