THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 14, 2006

We witnessed Rangers history last night, a stunning, nearly impossible achievement that defied baseball odds.

We’ll all remember where we were when we saw Joaquin Arias draw a walk in his first big league plate appearance.

Sure, the Gary Matthews Jr. natural cycle — only the 13th in major league history and the first since Brad Wilkerson turned the trick for Montreal in 2003 — was pretty spectacular. But the probability of that feat couldn’t have been much smaller than Arias, who has drawn exactly 100 unintentional walks in five pro seasons, coaxing number 101 the first time he stepped up to the plate in the bigs.

Seriously, what a game for Matthews, and what an incredible year. He’s more important to keep in Texas than Carlos Lee. The Rangers may very well make an effort to keep both, but if you have to choose one, considering the dollars it will take, the years it will take, the positions they play, and how well they defend, give me Matthews.

Each is playing for his first opportunity to shop himself on the open market (unless you count the years that Matthews was hunting for non-roster invites), but I have no concerns about contract year syndrome with Matthews. Whether he’ll be the same center fielder at age 34 and 35 as he is now? Sure, that’s something to think about. But I don’t worry about him losing any intensity or appetite (sincerity, I think the manager calls it) just because he has financial and professional security.

And on that age thing? He’s certainly playable on an outfield corner if he loses a couple steps, which should also alleviate your concerns if you think locking Matthews up would mean we’d automatically be out of next winter’s market for Vernon Wells.

How great would it be to have three center field-capable defenders roaming the outfield here? I crave the thought of Wells, Matthews, and Nelson Cruz turning doubles into outs. Crave it.

I wonder if there’s ever been a faster cycle in baseball history. Matthews completed the feat with no outs in the sixth.

Even in a two-game series, the streak rolls on: That’s 12 of the last 14 series in which Texas has lost the opener and won the finale. Weird.

Listen, I want to apologize for something. For the report I wrote on Friday.

To those who thought I came on too strong in that report: Sorry.

To those who thought I didn’t come on strong enough: My bad.

To those who misinterpreted parts of it, that’s all on me. My fault for not being more clear.

It wasn’t driven by any agenda. It was a report I didn’t want to write in the first place because, as a fan, I was cheesed off that the top story when it came to the Rangers was not Michael Young’s steadiness or Mark Teixeira’s sensational second half or Mark DeRosa or Matthews coming into their own, but instead, for the third summer in a row, an off-the-field situation. The only thing calculated about what I wrote was an effort to express how frustrating it was to be talking about comments rather than results.

I’ll be at several games during this final homestand of the season, enjoying the Great Game and starting to miss it in a way, like those last couple weeks of summer vacation when we were in grade school.

I’d like to be there when Young gets his 200th hit of the season, but if not I know I’ll be there when he’s past it. I’d like to see Teixeira turn another pitch or two around and get to those 30-homer, 100-RBI marks that seemed unreachable at the Break. It’s good knowing that, as long as the Rangers don’t decide otherwise, Young and Teixeira will be around at least two more years (and hopefully many, many more). Kevin Millwood and Akinori Otsuka and Ian Kinsler and Gerald Laird are sure to be around longer than that.

Will Matthews? DeRosa? Lee? Adam Eaton or Vicente Padilla?

What a huge winter for Jon Daniels. Can’t wait to see what steps he takes to make this club better. Might as well heat the burners up now.

Those are the things that I want to read about, and write about. Young and Teixeira. Kinsler and Laird. Josh Rupe and C.J. Wilson, Cruz and John Danks. Eric Hurley and John Mayberry Jr., Chris Davis and Alexi Ogando, Kasey Kiker and Fabio Castillo and Joaquin Arias’s first big league plate appearance. Not mental toughness.

Nobody asked me to apologize for what I wrote on Friday, or to write about it again. Maybe that would have been a good thing for me to have thought about in the first place. Venting can be therapeutic, but it usually doesn’t do any good when it’s dumped on others.

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

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