THE NEWBERG REPORT — JULY 7, 2007
On July 29, 2004, the Rangers promoted Jon Daniels from director of baseball operations to assistant general manager.
Kameron Loe made his AAA debut that night, and it wasn’t a pretty one. In six innings of work he allowed five runs on seven hits (including two home runs), three walks, and a wild pitch, fanning four.
Michael Young was in the midst of his first season as a big league shortstop and his breakthrough 99-RBI season at the plate. Two weeks earlier he’d appeared in his first All-Star Game.
On July 29, 2004, Travis Metcalf was six weeks into his pro career, going 0 for 5 in a road game in Eugene and seeing his Spokane batting average, which had been .300 just 11 days earlier, dip to .264.
Montreal outfielder Brad Wilkerson was in the midst of a breakthrough 32-home run, 106-walk season.
Dodgers closer Eric Gagné, whose streak of 84 consecutives saves without blowing one had been snapped three-and-a-half weeks earlier, saved his 30th 2004 game on July 29, getting four outs in Colorado (two on strikes, two on the ground), lowering his season ERA to 1.50. He was three weeks away from one more blown save that season.
On July 29, 2004, it had been 11 months since Paul Shuey had thrown a big league pitch. His career was presumably over.
Grant Schiller was eight.
On July 29, 2004 we held the first Newberg Report Night at the Ballpark. Texas lost to Oakland, 7-6. Chad Bradford got the win for the A’s, whose catcher, Adam Melhuse, contributed two singles and a walk. Young singled three times. Rookie Frankie Francisco entered in the ninth and struck out Bobby Crosby, the only batter he faced.
Will Carroll flew in from Indianapolis for the event, and Daniels, despite having been at a press conference announcing his promotion as well as those given to Dom Chiti and Ron Hopkins, and a contract extension for Francisco Cordero, came by as well and worked the room during the game.
Nearly three years later, JD and Kameron and Michael and Travis and Brad and Frankie, and Shuey and Bradford and Melhuse, and Grant and Will, and a whole lot of you re-converged, coming from all those different places to Rangers Ballpark to take part in a really cool night.
The final act began with another brilliant turn by Loe, who fired six-plus scoreless innings, scattering five hits and three walks (one intentional), fanning three, and inducing 12 groundouts out of 15 outs put in play.
Wilkerson did his thing again, going deep for the fifth time in five games (12 RBI in that span). Melhuse made a huge play on a wild pitch, tagging Chris Gomez out at the plate in a 3-0 game in the seventh (a call that umpire Brian Knight admitted after the game that he blew). After a Nick Markakis double cut the lead to 3-2, Francisco entered the game, and got four very big outs, needing just 10 pitches, eight of which were strikes.
Bradford got five big outs of his own, starting with a comebacker off Metcalf’s bat in the seventh and ending with a Young roller to second and a Sammy Sosa punchout in the eighth.
Metcalf and Young would redeem themselves.
In the top of the ninth, in the space of just six pitches Gagné blew his first save since those two in 2004, but he managed to strand runners on first and third with a strikeout of Kevin Millar to send the game to extra innings, tied at 3-3.
Joaquin Benoit made quick work of the Orioles in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the frame, Metcalf singled sharply up the middle off Shuey, who is in the big leagues for the first time since 2003 (when Metcalf was a redshirt sophomore at the University of Kansas). Jerry Hairston Jr. dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line, nearly beating it out. With one out and first base open, Shuey issued what had to be an unintentional-intentional walk, giving Ramon Vazquez little to hit in a situation in which the smart play probably would have simply been to put him on and set up the potential double play. Up came Young.
It almost seemed like a foregone conclusion, a great way to finish a great day and night at the yard, evening our Newberg Report Night record at two wins, two losses. Young got the Shuey pitch he wanted immediately, rifling the first pitch he saw by a diving Gomez, sending Metcalf racing home from second, his teammates hopping over the dugout rail and racing onto the field to mob him, and thousands of us into a little hysteria that we’re allowed, even if the walkoff win only pulled us to within 12 games of .500.
I gave up after that first Newberg Report Night on July 29, 2004 trying to fully summarize the event. It would take me hours to write, and maybe nearly as long to read. I’ll leave it to the Newberg Report and LoneStarBall message boards for you guys to recap what went on. Grant is going to write about the event on his blog (http://texasrangerstrades.blogspot.com/) at some point as well.
But I do want to thank a lot of people. JD and Will, first and foremost. They’re the reason 300 of you signed up for this event, and they were great, as always. JD took questions for more than an hour, and if I hadn’t been the one to call an end to it so we could get things wrapped up in time for the first pitch, he’d have kept going. He was candid as usual, even blunt. And your questions were great, starting with Grant kicking things off (automatic) and rolling through what was about 80 minutes without a break.
The ovation you guys gave JD at the end of those 80 minutes lasted as long as a Bob Sturm interview question. It was very cool.
Will continues to fly in for this event every year and put a good face (no, not in the Buck Showalter sense) on all the great work that Baseball Prospectus does and that he does as an author and sports injury expert. He acts like it’s always his privilege to come in each year, but clearly that belongs to us.
Thank you to Cindy and Jeff Kuster, whose work through the Hello Win Column Fund is such an inspiration. Sharae Horton, a single mother of four who is battling cancer, was unable to make it at the last minute because of illness, but the Rangers and Allen Cordrey put together a really groovy gift bag to give to Sharae and her kids, and Cindy and Jeff shared a few moving stories about the families that the Hello Win Column Fund has helped.
We raised $2,700 last night for the Fund, through your donations. That’s really cool.
We raffled off about 30 prizes, and auctioned off another three — the Kusters surprised us with three extra sets of Mark Holtz’s marked up scorebooks and media guides. You can’t imagine how cool those are.
Charles Holden, who made the largest individual donation, took the grand prize from the raffle — a game-issue Rangers warm-up jacket signed by Young, Loe, Wilkerson, Ron Washington, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Ian Kinsler, Gerald Laird, Jason Botts, Jamey Wright, John Rheinecker, Desi Relaford, Joaquin Arias, Freddy Guzman, Drew Meyer and Kevin Richardson — and gave it to the Kusters so they could raise more money. It was a great gesture by Charles.
We’ll auction that jacket off through the Report in the next week or so. I’ll give you details soon.
Thanks to Allen, Eleanor Czajka, Devin Pike, and Rob Cook, everything went smoothly from our standpoint. Rangers folks Lindsey Welsh and Jason Sampsell made everything easy for us.
Devin had what was probably a routine night for him: He helped collect donations, set up some A/V equipment in the auditorium to accommodate a last-minute change in the program, and officiated at a wedding in one of our 15 suites during the fifth inning.
I’m not joking.
Thanks also to Jeff Cogen, Andy Silverman, Chuck Morgan, Heather Hansen, Taunee Taylor, Paige Farragut, Donnie Pordash, Rush Olson, Hugo Carbajal, and Kate Jett of the Rangers.
Thanks to Scott and Courtney Lucas for coming up from Austin. I imagine for most of you, it was your first chance to meet Scott, who is doing an outstanding job on the daily farm reports. For Courtney’s sake, I think next year we’ll schedule Newberg Report Night for a bobblehead giveaway game.
And thanks to all of you who attended, many from out of town (and even out of state) yourselves. The pregame events were a ton of fun for me, the ballgame was memorable, and it’s always great to see so many of you in person.
I’ll let everyone know when the Channel 5 story on our event will run. Newy Scruggs and his cameraman Noah came out to get some footage, and I’m told the package will probably run on Sunday night, July 22. When I get confirmation, I’ll pass the details along.
If anyone can YouTube the bit that Jim Knox did from our suite (the fourth inning, maybe?), please send me the link.
This season isn’t progressing in the same way that that 89-win season 2004 was unfolding when we had our first event. But baseball is pretty good about delivering snapshot moments, and gathering a bunch of diehard fans like we did, getting an opportunity to spend more than hour of our time talking baseball with the general manager, raising lots of money for an important cause, and seeing Michael Young finish what Kameron Loe started made me feel like those two dozen blue shirts pouring out of the dugout at 10:45 to celebrate a win on the field.