THE NEWBERG REPORT — SEPTEMBER 16, 2007

From the October 23, 2000 Newberg Report:

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What Roger Clemens did was low. Loathsome. Uncouth. And I loved it. I just knew, right after he slung the business end of Mike Piazza’s bat back in his direction, that he was going to shut the Mets down, just as he did. I wish Texas had the kind of swagger that Roger Clemens brings to a team.

Michael Jordan had it. Michael Irvin had it. Todd Stottlemyre has it. Will Clark had a little bit of it, but his game was so emasculated for most of his Ranger career that it mattered not what kind of attitude he took onto the field. There is no question that the Rangers have had the bats over the past five years to win playoff games. They have had the pitching in October, even if it was questionable whether they did between April and September. One thing they have clearly lacked is a strut, a swagger, a bravado. It seems to me that whether or not you were in the camp that said it was worth trading Ruben Mateo-plus or Rusty Greer-plus or whatever to get the Rocket (and for the record, I was not, at least to the extent that it would have taken Mateo), you must admit one thing: a team playing behind Roger Clemens has a slightly, even if intangibly, better chance to win than it would behind a pitcher that had Clemens’ stuff but lacked his demeanor.

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I understand that I’m not supposed to applaud what Vicente Padilla did today, that it’s the sort of thing that happens too often with him on the mound and that it makes his teammates vulnerable to retribution and that it taxes the bullpen and makes the manager’s and coaching staff’s and front office’s job harder when laying out pitching plans for the next few games.

But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t fire me up a little bit.

Texas needed nine relief innings to pull that one out and avert a sweep in Oakland, not to mention a career RBI day from Michael Young (who now needs to go 14 for 53 [.264] the rest of the way to reach 200 hits). But only two pitchers (Jamey Wright and Mike Wood) threw more than 35 pitches, and with a couple extra available arms to begin with (since it’s September) it’s not as if the staff is going to be decimated, although it’s probably true that a couple rookies are going to need to be ready to go long if Edinson Volquez gets chased early on Monday.

But that’s fine with me. Nothing wrong with finding out, at this stage of the season, what Luis Mendoza or Armando Galarraga can do, if it comes to that. More important, at least to me, than when Wright and Wood will be ready to go again is whether the Rangers can take some swagger into 2008.

Trying to decide how a handful of young pitchers fit, how the catcher situation is going to shake out, what exactly we have in David Murphy, what to do contractually with Joaquin Benoit, and whether Jason Botts can be a part of this thing going forward all continue to be very much on the table over the 11 remaining games. But just as a team’s parts for the next season can come into better focus in September, so can its attitude.

I get it that Padilla is no Clemens, no Nuschler, no Stottlemyre. He’s been a great disappointment on the mound this year and will never be branded (at least as far as we know) as a leader in the room. I’m not sure that Padilla drilling hitters rallies his teammates as much as it sets them up. I don’t know how he’s viewed by the guys who wear the same uniform he does.

But just as stupid as it might sound that Marion Barber III is probably my favorite football player, ever, I’m here to tell you that I’m glad Padilla did what he did to Nick Swisher in the first inning today. It’s been a frustrating year on the field, and maybe those frustrations had more to do with today’s imbroglio than some effort to announce to the baseball world that this team won’t be messed with. But I know what my honest, instinctive reaction to what happened was. I was glad to see it.

Padilla hasn’t done anything to earn the benefit of the doubt. But he’s still getting it, at least from me, at least today.

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

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