After I got finished dumping a Gatorade cooler on my head and busting myself with a shaving cream pie to the face, I thought about two guys who watched everything unfold last night, each from 100 feet away.
For the first time in more than four months, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was back in Rangers Ballpark, the place where his career was supposed to take off. He'd been a first-round draft pick out of high school. He'd gotten to the big leagues on his 22nd birthday, an almost inconceivably young age for a catcher. He was Atlanta's number one prospect for two straight years, ahead of Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz and Tommy Hansen and everyone else in the Braves system.
But he was blocked in Atlanta by Brian McCann, just a year older and already a two-time big league All-Star when the Braves decided to load up for a chance to trade for Mark Teixeira.
That was a perfect opportunity for Saltalamacchia. Texas needed a long-term answer at catcher, and targeted him as a major piece to one of the biggest trades the franchise had ever made. The stage was set.
But there were issues, both physical and mental, and ultimately he was blocked here, too, not so much by another player but by expectations that weren't met and setbacks that followed every instance of new hope.
Saltalamacchia was rescued again, in a way, by last month's trade to Boston, a deal that, in stark contrast to the one three years earlier, barely registered headlines outside the market he departed and the one he was headed to. The Red Sox had interest in Saltalamacchia for two years that we know of, and probably more. Looking for a candidate to step in after this season for at least one of Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez, both free agents this winter, Boston bought low on Saltalamacchia, trading three prospects to Texas, the two of whom that were named hardly more identifiable at the time to fans outside Boston than the still-unspecified player to be named later.
The Red Sox moved him laterally, from AAA Oklahoma City to AAA Pawtucket, recalling him this week when backup catcher Kevin Cash got hurt.
Saltalamacchia got his first Boston start under his belt on Thursday, going 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles against Toronto, scoring a run and gunning down one of two would-be basestealers in what was a devastating Red Sox collapse won by the Jays, 6-5, as they scored four runs in the ninth off Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard and knocked Boston six games back in the AL East, four back in the Wild Card hunt.
So as it turned out, Saltalamacchia's second start of the season featured a walkoff in a game against Toronto - just like his only other start of 2010, when his shot laced up the right center field alley brought David Murphy home and helped Texas come back to defeat the Jays on Opening Day.
It was probably a pretty lousy plane ride to Texas for Saltalamacchia and his new teammates on Thursday, with Boston's roster decimated and its playoff chances eroding, coming off an epic disaster of a loss. This would be a huge series with the Rangers, a three-game set the Sox really needed to win.
Friday night the house was packed, just as it had been for Saltalamacchia's other 2010 start. And this, like April 5, would in a sense be another Opening Day for Rangers fans, with new ownership at long last in place.
Saltalamacchia, still carrying his blue Rangers bat bag, wouldn't start Friday night, but probably will tomorrow afternoon (if not tonight). The building will be packed again.
But last night he watched from the dugout, the other dugout, as his former teammate Josh Hamilton put together one of the great single-game performances any of us has ever seen and his former teammate Nelson Cruz boomstuck a Tim Wakefield floater, sending the ball into orbit and the Red Sox off the field, shuffling toward the trench where Saltalamacchia stood watching so many of his former teammates scrum on the field, just as they'd done when he ended Opening Day with that walkoff rifle to right center off Jays closer Jason Frasor.
It had to suck, watching that and hearing what was happening in the stadium, 47,000 strong. It's not hard to imagine him wondering why he wasn't part of the mob at the plate, part of the energy.
Standing at the plate, having bounced out of the other dugout, was Cliff Lee, and next to the Rangers' new owners, there's nobody in the stadium I was happier about getting the chance to experience that win firsthand. Not because Lee had undergone his own adversity a few years ago, coming off 46 wins in three seasons but failing to make Cleveland's playoff roster in 2007, the same year that Texas had hoped Saltalamacchia's arrival had solved a problem long-term. But because of the experience of the moment.
The run support for Lee has been lousy.
The heat is less than optimal.
The opportunities this winter for Lee, who was traded three times in less than 12 months, will be many, and for the first time he'll be able to decide where he pitches. For a long, long time.
But there's some magic here, something possibly special developing, a chance to do some great things over the next three months and next several years. We (Rangers ownership and management inclusive) all hope he wants to be part of that, an integral part of what's happening here, for many years.
That's something I'm sure Jarrod Saltalamacchia wanted for himself as well, but last night only one of them got to celebrate a Rangers win at home plate.
I may never forget that game.
An update on the Lexus Club Infield tickets that Jeff & Cindy Kuster are selling at $50 each ($70 face value) to raise money through the Hello Win Column Fund, helping local families touched by a battle with cancer. There are now 44 tickets remaining from yesterday's 128. They are:
Saturday, August 28 vs. Oakland at 7:05 PM (includes Mercy Me Pregame Concert): 34 tickets remain (3 sets of 4 tickets, 1 set of 6 tickets, 2 sets of 8 tickets)
Wednesday, September 15 vs. Detroit at 7:05 PM: 6 Tickets
Thursday, September 30 vs. LA Angels at 7:05 PM: 4 Tickets
Also, reader Alan McNally is donating these five tickets to the Hello Win Column Fund:
Monday, August 23 vs. Minnesota at 7:05 PM: 5 tickets in Section 234 ($200 total; face value $225)
If you're interested in any of the above, email Jeff at Jeff@hellowincolumn.com.
Thirteen minutes of highlights from Chuck Greenberg's press conference yesterday: here.
Thanks again to those of you who have responded with "honor system" contributions to the Newberg Report this week. If you're still interested in participating, you can find details here. But again, this is voluntary and I don't want anyone to feel compelled to do it.
No Cliff Lee tonight, and probably no Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but we do get Colby Lewis vs. Jon Lester, and one of the great greatnesses of this sport is that, after a crushing loss like Wednesday's, you can wipe it away with a win like last night's, and after that epic win, we get to do it all again tonight.
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