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.
First, thanks for the wonderful comments so many of you left on my last post. I try always to have a positive outlook on life even when I’m struggling at the plate. How can I not have a positive outlook? I am so blessed to be playing this game.
But sometimes, when the balls aren’t falling and you don’t come through when your teammates need you, it’s difficult not to get frustrated and disappointed. So your comments truly lifted my spirits. I carry your thoughts with me every day onto the field. I play so hard because I know I’m playing not just for myself. I’m playing for my teammates and the Giants organization, of course, but it’s so important to me to play hard for the people who come out to our games and watch us on TV or listen on the radio and send us all their great energy. I can’t thank you enough for always being in my corner.
Second, sorry I haven’t written much lately. I’m trying to do better.
Going back to Randy Johnson’s 300th, it was awesome to be part of that. As you know, it wasn’t the greatest setting: wet and dreary and only a few thousand fans on hand in Washington, D.C. But Randy was unbelievable: He allowed just one unearned run in six innings, and even at the age of 45, he dove at a comebacker and barehanded it to throw the guy out.
My adrenaline about the historic milestone didn’t kick in until the eighth. We were ahead 2-1 and Brian Wilson was facing Adam Dunn with two outs and the bases loaded. Wilson had a 3-2 count on Dunn. That’s when you start thinking about the 300th game. How could we possibly walk in the run that ruined Johnson’s victory. Wilson threw a fastball that crossed the plate at Dunn’s knees. The umpire didn’t call anything, and I held the ball a little longer, showing that the ball was in the strike zone. The ump called a strike and we were out of the inning. I’m sure it’s lot of weight off Randy’s shoulders to have the 300th win under his belt.
It’s been fun to watch this team develop its personality. If you walked into our clubhouse, you’d always hear someone laughing – most likely Juan Uribe or Pablo Sandoval. Those two guys always find a way to have fun. They’re always making comments to make the rest of us laugh, even in the middle of a game. When Pablo hit a double recently and I ran from first to third, he yelled from second base about me needing some oxygen and covered his face as if he were holding an oxygen mask. When Juan hit his first home run of the season a few weeks ago in Arizona, it was Pablo’s idea to give Juan the silent treatment when he came back into the dugout. Everybody just sat in the dugout, ignoring Juan. He didn’t know what to do. He kept saying, “I don’t care, I don’t care.” Then we all got up and laughed and congratulated him.
That’s what makes a team come together. You can laugh and tease each other like a family because the truth is for eight months we’re around each other more than we’re around our families. We have a good balance of veteran guys, young guys, quiet guys, loud guys. Everyone, the Latin players and the American players, all get along and don’t break off into little groups like on some teams.
That’s one of those little things that keep a team together during rough times. We’re playing right now the way I knew we could play. Our starting pitching is the best in the league, and our bullpen is right up there, too. We get hits from different guys in the line-up every night. We’re just going to keep chipping away at the Dodgers’ lead.
We’re in Oakland tonight, which is great for me: Closer commute from Lafayette!
See you at the ballpark.