September 2009

‘The Dog’ is flashing its teeth

Sometimes you’ve got to shake it up to wake them up. I didn’t have any plan or anything when I said what I said in Boston, about how we needed to forget all this Boston talk and just play our game. I was reacting emotionally to what was going on – I was upset, and I let it be known.

I don’t think it hurt, judging by the way we responded in that last game and then here in Texas on Friday night after a long trip on Thursday night. People don’t realize we got into Texas around 3 in the morning, then when we got to our hotel, there was no air conditioning, so some guys weren’t getting to sleep until about 5 in the morning.

That can make you less than on top of your game, and it might have had something to do with my error, the first one I’ve made in a long time – 265 regular-season games. I was making an aggressive play trying to keep a man at first, but it sailed and I got the error. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right?

As for what I said after that loss on Wednesday night in Boston when we didn’t get those calls at the end of the game, I really meant it. It shouldn’t have come down to those calls. We didn’t make plays earlier in the game, and we paid for it.

That wasn’t like us, making mistakes like that, and I let it be known that’s not us. We have to play the game the way we always do and forget about all the Boston hype, the Boston media talking about history and all that. It was a regular-season game, and we made some mistakes and got beat.

The next night, we came back and played much better and won a game. It was a good experience, as a whole, because we showed we know how to respond after a rough night. And they don’t come much rougher than that 9-8 game we lost.

We were facing one of the best in the game, Josh Beckett, the next night, and we got it done. We battled and battled and battled. Next thing we knew, we came up with a win. That was a big win. I’m really proud of our guys, the way we responded. It shows what we’re all about and how good this team can be.

One thing I didn’t do and will never do is call out a guy, an individual. I always say us or we. I’ve never done that, put the blame on one guy. When I said what I said, it was to get some of the guys to kind of check themselves, look in the mirror – whether it was me or anybody. It was to say, hey, I’m not playing the game I love the way I should play it. That was the point, and I hope it did some good.

This has not been an easy trip. We fly cross country, to New York, for one game, then go up to Boston for three, play a night game and fly to Texas, get in at 3 in the morning, get to sleep at 4, 5, and get up and play the next day.

I was really impressed with Scott Kazmir, the way he handled himself. He got through six scoreless innings without much of a breaking ball or changeup, putting his fastball in good spots and showing how tough he is. I think he is really going to be big for us.

There’s a mental toughness I’m seeing in this team now. We’re getting that “dog” I’ve been looking for, that mentality. We talked about it last year during the playoffs. Once you’ve done it, you know you can do it. That’s the dog I’ve been looking for, and I’m starting to see it.

I have so much faith in this ballclub. We’ve been through a lot this year. I really have a good feeling about where we are right now – and where we’re going.  

 

The Dog is flashing its teeth

Sometimes you’ve got to shake it up to wake them up. I didn’t have any plan or anything when I said what I said in Boston, about how we needed to forget all this Boston talk and just play our game. I was reacting emotionally to what was going on – I was upset, and I let it be known.

I don’t think it hurt, judging by the way we responded in that last game and then here in Texas on Friday night after a long trip on Thursday night. People don’t realize we got into Texas around 3 in the morning, then when we got to our hotel, there was no air conditioning, so some guys weren’t getting to sleep until about 5 in the morning.

That can make you less than on top of your game, and it might have had something to do with my error, the first one I’ve made in a long time – 265 regular-season games. I was making an aggressive play trying to keep a man at first, but it sailed and I got the error. Hey, nobody’s perfect, right?

As for what I said after that loss on Wednesday night in Boston when we didn’t get those calls at the end of the game, I really meant it. It shouldn’t have come down to those calls. We didn’t make plays earlier in the game, and we paid for it.

That wasn’t like us, making mistakes like that, and I let it be known that’s not us. We have to play the game the way we always do and forget about all the Boston hype, the Boston media talking about history and all that. It was a regular-season game, and we made some mistakes and got beat.

The next night, we came back and played much better and won a game. It was a good experience, as a whole, because we showed we know how to respond after a rough night. And they don’t come much rougher than that 9-8 game we lost.

We were facing one of the best in the game, Josh Beckett, the next night, and we got it done. We battled and battled and battled. Next thing we knew, we came up with a win. That was a big win. I’m really proud of our guys, the way we responded. It shows what we’re all about and how good this team can be.

One thing I didn’t do and will never do is call out a guy, an individual. I always say us or we. I’ve never done that, put the blame on one guy. When I said what I said, it was to get some of the guys to kind of check themselves, look in the mirror – whether it was me or anybody. It was to say, hey, I’m not playing the game I love the way I should play it. That was the point, and I hope it did some good.

This has not been an easy trip. We fly cross country, to New York, for one game, then go up to Boston for three, play a night game and fly to Texas, get in at 3 in the morning, get to sleep at 4, 5, and get up and play the next day.

I was really impressed with Scott Kazmir, the way he handled himself. He got through six scoreless innings without much of a breaking ball or changeup, putting his fastball in good spots and showing how tough he is. I think he is really going to be big for us.

There’s a mental toughness I’m seeing in this team now. We’re getting that “dog” I’ve been looking for, that mentality. We talked about it last year during the playoffs. Once you’ve done it, you know you can do it. That’s the dog I’ve been looking for, and I’m starting to see it.

I have so much faith in this ballclub. We’ve been through a lot this year. I really have a good feeling about where we are right now – and where we’re going.  

 

Thrilled to be up for Aaron, Clemente awards

I’ve been told I’m up for a couple of prestigious awards, named after two of the greatest players ever, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente. Just being mentioned in the same sentence with these two men is enough of a reward, never mind winning.

The Hank Aaron Award is for all-around offensive contribution. Hank Aaron, he’s done a lot in this game — the 755 home runs, everything he went through to break Babe Ruth’s record of 714 for a career, including death threats. He’s a great man, a quiet man who is a symbol of having integrity, doing things right.

Being nominated for this award along with my teammates, Bobby Abreu and Kendry Morales, is a thrill for me. I’m pretty sure it’s my first time, and I’m thankful to be recognized like this.

It is a little bittersweet, the season I’ve had. I was on my way to career highs in just about every category – from walks to RBIs, batting average, slugging, on-base – when I just happened to get knocked down by a groin injury. I ran into two walls too many, I guess. I’ve never been out five weeks in a season like this, except for 2005 when I fractured my ankle and was out from July 30 to the end of the season.

Coming back after missing all that time, I’m now trying to fight back using straight athletic ability – not a great feeling.

As for the Roberto Clemente Award, it’s given out every year to a player for making generous contributions to society. I’ve been up for this before. To be singled out for helping out, that’s an honor. This guy died helping others, flying relief goods into Nicaragua after an earthquake. He’s a big inspiration.

Everything I do comes from having certain values instilled in me by my mother and grandmother. They always taught me to treat others the way I want to be treated, and that’s something I’ve always done. I’ve been blessed to be able to help others not as fortunate, not just in baseball but in life. I’ll be doing this until I die. It’s something I feel strongly about.

If you’re blessed and work hard, treat yourself, don’t cheat yourself. But be smart about it. I’m not an extravagant person. I get a lot of pleasure out of helping people through The Torii Hunter Project and in other ways. I’d like to see more players do a lot more as far as helping out the community, whatever they can.

You don’t hear a lot about guys doing that, but maybe that’s because the media focus is on more negative things or whatever. I’d like to think a lot of guys are quietly doing things to share with others not as blessed. I think we all should carry the spirit of Roberto Clemente with us and do whatever we can to help a community, to lift it any way we can.

My message to everyone is what my mother and grandmother instilled in me: Always treat people like you want to be treated, and you can never go wrong. That great feeling you get after helping somebody is a feeling you want for the rest of your life.

These are great awards, and I’m truly honored to be considered for them – for what I do on the field and off the field. My focus, 100 percent, is on a World Series ring. Right now it’s winning our division, the first big step. Our main focus right now is winning the AL West and getting to the playoffs. That gives you a shot at going all the way, and that’s our goal.

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