The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.
* * *
These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.
Those are lines from the first pages of Tuck Everlasting, which I read a couple weeks ago when I found out my daughter’s high school would be the first ever to perform the musical version in a couple months.
Those lines resonated with the baseball writer in me.
Wish they didn’t.
It was 2:58 yesterday, locally, when Fort Worth Star-Telegram beat writer Jeff Wilson tweeted:
“Jeff Banister is out on the field playing catch with his son. Looks like business is done, one way or the other.”
The elevated heartbeat that had metronomed the 2:00 hour for me slowed a tick when I read that. I figured at that point that the Rangers must have allowed the deadline to pass, with no activity beyond the previous night’s Jonathan Lucroy trade and the lunch hour’s return of Jeremy Jeffress to Milwaukee.
Now, in retrospect, I feel like that’s exactly what I would have done, if I were the manager, and just found out one of the best players in the game was being sent away, a loud end to his time with the Rangers and an unmistakable diagnosis, internally, of the Texas season. Grab a glove, grab a ball, find my kid, have a catch.
We will never forget this season, and that doesn’t necessarily mean good things.
Yu Darvish’s final start as a Ranger was his pass to Herb Scott. It was his worst game as a big leaguer, and that’s a terrible way to leave. It even came on a night when an umpire thought the fans paid to see him grandstand rather than see Adrian Beltre play.
There was no way for Darvish to leave, of course, that wouldn’t be terrible.
I’m not at all saying trading Darvish was the wrong thing to do, and I’m not going to pretend I have the answer to the question of whether Willie Calhoun can overcome defensive limitations to be an impact player or whether A.J. Alexy can overcome inexperience to settle in as a frontline starting pitcher or whether Brendon Davis can overcome his big bag of raw to the point that the tools will play.
I’m not saying trading Darvish was the wrong thing to do, but nothing’s going to wipe out the sadness. I loved that Yu Darvish wore my team’s uniform.
I’d have headed out to play catch, too.
I knew Walker Buehler was a pipe dream and that Alex Verdugo, for various reasons, wasn’t likely to end up here, and that Francisco Mejia would be a longshot even if Cleveland wasn’t on the no-trade list, but I held out hope that, if it were the Dodgers, either Calhoun or Yadier Alvarez could have been paired with Mitch White or D.J. Peters or, man, Keibert Ruiz, but (1) maybe the Rangers held out the same hope but were only able to get what they got (as opposed to just a pick between Round Two and Round Three next June) and (2) what do I know?
Willie Calhoun isn’t Jeff Banister’s concern, yet, and A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis won’t be for a long time, if ever. Banny’s got to replace Darvish’s innings, without a shot at replacing his presence, and he still believes he has a tournament to earn entry in. As he should.
He gets it, but that doesn’t shut down the sadness. You, me, same.
“In that clubhouse we fight together and do life together,” Banister told Eric Nadel in his radio pregame manager’s show, with a heaviness in his voice that was unambiguous. “Then we have to say goodbye.”
Banister wants to win with his guys and he believes he can win with his guys and Yu Darvish was one of those guys, as were Lucroy and Jeffress and Sam Dyson and Pete Kozma.
But none of those other guys were Darvish. None brought a buzz with him to every game he played in, the promise that something special was possible.
I never had to cope with Dirk leaving. When that does happen, it won’t be for another uniform. Yu was Dirk without the local longevity (and before those of you in that embarrassing camp that felt Yu couldn’t handle pressure, wasn’t a winner, think back to what was said about Dirk until Dallas finally won in 2011).
I’m not enjoying the reality that there’s now a gravestone on Yu’s Rangers career. Maybe he’ll be back. I’m not going to count on that because I don’t want to feel like this again if it doesn’t happen.
On October 29, 2011, Darvish threw seven strong innings for Nippon Ham, exiting with a lead in the opener of the Pacific League playoffs, only to see his bullpen allow Seibu to tie things in the ninth and win the game in the 11th inning, 5–2. It was his final game as a Fighter.
The day before that, the Texas Rangers lost a playoff game, 6–2, and that one ended the World Series.
Six weeks later, Darvish was posted, and weeks after that, it was revealed that the Rangers had won the right to negotiate a contract with the righthander, and a month later a contract was signed, one that covered 2012 and 2013 and 2014 and 2015 and 2016 and, most likely, 2017.
That contract will expire in a couple months, and that’s what led to Ken Rosenthal’s tweet, at 3:12 yesterday, locally, announcing a dozen minutes after we’d all decided Darvish hadn’t been traded after all, that he was instead headed to Los Angeles, where he’ll team up with Clayton Kershaw, whose Dallas home is about two miles from Darvish’s.
The 2012 Rangers team that Darvish joined was the club’s best on paper, Jon Daniels has routinely said, but there wasn’t a third straight World Series, or a third at all while Darvish was here, and the fact that Nelson Cruz was in uniform in Arlington last night and Yu Darvish wasn’t makes me think about and feel sports things I’m sort of tired of thinking about and feeling.
He’s got a place on the list of greatest pitchers this franchise has suited up, even if you use just one hand to count. I loved watching him toe the rubber against Rangers opponents. It fired me up, every time.
I’ll let Scott and Tepid and Keith and Baseball America write about Calhoun and Alexy and Davis, and I’ll be plenty excited to see how they figure into the plans here. I’m confident that Calhoun, a little younger than Rougie and Joey and a bit older than Nomar, will be a core piece of the next really good Rangers team, and I’ll be happy about that.
Maybe he’ll be teammates with Yu.
Right now I’m of the opinion that the Rangers are too old, and too young. More on that another time.
But it won’t stay that way.
Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is.
* * *
Dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born.
This isn’t death. It’s sports. And Yu Darvish will keep doing great things, not every time out but lots of times. And I’ll celebrate that, less so certainly than if it had happened in the last five and a half years. But I’ll celebrate that.
And I’ll refrain from dumping another stupid U2 song title email on you (“Some Days Are Better Than Others”? “Numb”? “Stay (Faraway, So Close)”? “Is That All”?), because that’s not really the mood I’m in right now.
The baseball wheel ushered Yu Darvish in after C.J. Wilson left, just as it ushered Adrian in after Cliff left, and the wheel has now shoved Yu off to the west, turning and turning and never stopping, and here come Willie and A.J. and Brendon ashore, or at least in sight.
The first week of August is motionless and hot, strange and breathless. These are the dog days, and in this game it’s not always zero-sum, but there are people who have just done things they may be sorry for after.
Maybe that’s the Dodgers. Sometimes late-July buys don’t work out.
Of course, considering the wheel was irreversibly set to send Yu Darvish somewhere else anyway, if not yesterday then five months from now, maybe the only lasting sorrow here, from an objective standpoint, will be if Joaquin Arias has just been chosen over Robinson Cano.
But there’s the subjective, too, and I know when Jeff Wilson saw Jeff Banister playing catch with Jacob at 2:58 — six minutes after the trade had been made, and 14 minutes before we all found out — Banny had to be sad, in spite of his full understanding of the game and its business, at levels exponentially more profound than my own sadness, which on a sports level was deep for the rest of the day and remains so, not just because Yu is gone but because of what it means about the four months that led the franchise to even consider it.
My sadness persists. At least this morning it does. It persists, with a heartbeat that turns and turns, never stopping, but unlike the hour leading up to yesterday’s trade announcement, it has slowed, needing a boost of some sort, even one delivering the smallest fraction of the feelgood that Adrian and Pudge delivered a day earlier, or maybe just a healing game of catch.