The Final Stretch
I’m on my way to the ballpark in Anaheim to play the Angles, my old team. I have such great memories of that 2002 season when we won the World Series. With the Rangers’ magic number at six, there’s nobody on this club who doesn’t believe we’re headed to the playoffs and, we hope, the World Series. We have the players and coaches to get there.
But you have to be careful about making too big of an assumption. You can’t take anything for granted. You have to keep playing with intensity during the last couple weeks of the season, even if the games don’t mean anything, because you want to hit the ground running once the playoffs start. Each series are so short that you don’t have the luxury of ramping up the intensity. It has to be there from the first pitch. And it has to continue for every pitch, every swing, every moment. Not many guys on this team have played the post-season so Vladdy and I and the few that have been there will talk to the younger guys about how one play, one lapse in concentration, can knock you out of the playoffs. Everything gets amplified.
I don’t worry about this Rangers team on that issue, though. The intensity is there on the field. And maybe that’s because everyone is so loose in the clubhouse. I’ve never been on a team that has more fun. You walk into this clubhouse, and everybody’s joking. They’re talking about what’s on the television or playing cards together. Even guys who seem kind of quiet, like Michael Young, is still joking with everybody. I’ve been in a lot of clubhouses and I’m very, very impressed with these guys. It doesn’t matter what color you are and where you’re from, we’re going to make fun of you and you’re going to make fun of us. It’s like a family.
If this is my last year of baseball, I’m so glad I’m spending it with these guys. Not only are they a lot of fun, they’re so hungry to win. The lack of hitting in the last few games is probably due more to pressing than to letting our guard down. Hitting is the key to this team. When we hit, we win. Yesterday we pitched well but we couldn’t get anybody home. Pitchers can keep you in a game but only hitters can win it.
Of course, not having Josh Hamilton in the line-up hurts. The whole year he’s been the backbone of this team. He’s such a key part of our success. But we can’t sit back and moan about it. We have to battle and find ways to win without him. It helps that Josh is in the dugout with us, cheering everybody. Just his presence makes a difference.
We finish up in Anaheim tonight then fly to Oakland for a four-game series. We could clinch in Oakland. We’d rather do it in Arlington but we’ll take it however and wherever we can. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and neighbors from the Bay Area. Jamie is already there with Jayda, so for me this weekend will be a little like being home.
See you when we’re back in Texas. Thanks for checking in.