Playoff-clinching thoughts.

We all have our histories with this team, some longer than others, with different levels of emotional investment and varying stations on the spectrum that ranges between belief and cynicism.  But we’re all together tonight, rewarded, and now we wait for what’s next, and it feels damned good.

Right now I think about Josh Hamilton, without whom we’re not here, and whose postgame experience and commitment happened to be somewhere else today, in some ways by choice, and I think about what all had to be going through his mind today, not that they were things that don’t go through his mind every day. 

I think about the manager, who last year made an unbelievable choice of his own, an awful mistake, the kind that even those who can forgive probably still can’t fathom, and I think about the job he’s done cultivating this team’s personality and resolve.

I think about the general manager, who if Dennis Gilbert had bought this team last December would probably be GM’ing right now at 401 E. Jefferson Street in Phoenix or 12301 Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing.  I think about what that must have felt like today, wearing the beer and champagne and looking on a frat-like celebration by a team that he was in charge of putting together, sometimes under extraordinary constraints.

I think about the team president, whose legendary career as a player included only one World Series appearance – when he was younger than Michael Kirkman – and just three other playoff appearances in 27 seasons, and whose excitement today would have been quite a bit different had the results been different in the courtroom, a place I bet he had as much interest hanging out in as on an operating table.  I think about what a bad result it would have been if he, and the general manager, were not around, or even if they were around but possibly not for long.

I think about the aging slugger whose last team thought he was closer to Cooperstown than to his prime, and who, rather than anything approaching done, was a huge part of what this team accomplished, as it plays on while his former club plays out the string.

I think about how I have absolutely no idea what goes through the head of someone like Alexi Ogando as he takes his rightful place spraying champagne and pulling on a cigar, months after a wondering if he’d ever get the chance to play baseball in Surprise or Frisco, let alone Arlington.

I think about us. 

I think about Eric Nadel and Chuck Morgan and Tom Grieve and John Blake and Jim Sundberg and Brad Newton, and how much they’ve given this organization for so many years, and deserve this.

I think about Josh Lewin, whose previous 13 seasons doing televised play-by-play (Cubs, Tigers, Rangers) never gave him the chance to call a game for his team like today’s.

I think about Thad Levine, A.J. Preller, Scott Servais, and so many others whose fingerprints are all over this thing but who don’t get enough credit.  We’ll miss them when they’re gone.

I think about Carson Leslie.

I think about Nelson Cruz, whose past is nothing like Hamilton’s, but who had lots of failed chances of his own and kept battling, and now rewards a team that showed plenty of patience in him and stands as good a chance as anyone else to be the team’s key weapon in October.  And about David Murphy, a 2010 hero in his role.

I think about Chuck Greenberg, who unquestionably comes in at a great time (not by accident) but whose strengths and energy and passion for the game are going to help make this great time great for a longer period than it might have been had someone else bought the team.  He talked during the postgame celebration about how the game was sort of a microcosm of the season.  I’m not so sure the 2010 season won’t be a microcosm, at least on the field, of where the Greenberg-Ryan Group keeps this franchise for years.

Nonetheless, I think about Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz and Tommy Hunter and Julio Borbon, and hope they understand it doesn’t always come together like this.  Ask Nolan.

I think about Derek Holland, whose 2010 season will probably be highlighted by what he did today, as he may not travel east with the team a week from now.

I think about Darren Oliver and Colby Lewis coming back to where it all started, and contributing in such a big way.

I think about Matt Treanor and Andres Blanco, and who’s more fortunate – them or us.

I think about Jorge Cantu, who broke a historically ugly RBI drought with what appeared to be a historically decisive one, and then when that wasn’t enough, did it again two innings later.

I think about Cliff Lee, and what he’s thinking about.  And about how huge that trade was for this team, in so many ways.

I think about Tom Hicks.

I think about the career disappointment that the Mets couldn’t wait to get rid of three and a half weeks ago, and who seems like he’s been part of this thing for years.

I think about C.J. Wilson, and the extraordinary year he’s had.  I could make the argument that fewer pitchers should rank higher than Wilson in the AL MVP vote than in the AL Cy Young vote.

And, of course, I think about the veteran who bounced up and down like a kid as the ball began its downward arc toward his teammate in left field, the typically stoic ballplayer who leads because he’s supposed to, not because he insists on it, the untoolsy infielder whose steadiness has him all over the Ranger record books but who also sat far too high on a list that he’s a week away from coming off of forever, as his playoffless career will no longer be so.

I think the thing I’ll remember most about Texas 4, Oakland 3 on September 25, 2010, even more so than Cantu’s go-ahead single and stay-ahead homer or Andrus’s baserunning heroics, will be the way Michael Young reacted to the moment that went from game-on-the-line to ballgame, and the way his teammates reacted after the scrum was over, every one of them lining up to pay tribute to him on the field, a sign of the kind of respect most of us have for him but to a greater degree, as he’s set an example and set a tone for a group of players that have earned the right to play on.


                                          Louis DeLuca/Dallas Morning News


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(c) Jamey Newberg
Twitter  @newbergreport

1 Comment

Well said!

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