Saturday, July 10, 2010

How The Cliff Lee Trade Unfolded in the Rangers Clubhouse

The timeline of the Rangers/Mariners trade was fascinating.  Watching this franchise-defining moment develop in the clubhouse was even better.

The Rangers clubhouse opens to the media at 3:35 before a 7:05 game.  Our first order of business is to check the lineup posted on the wall.  I noticed Joaquin Arias was playing first base instead of Justin Smoak.  Not unusual but interesting.

Manager Ron Washington typically does his media interviews shortly after we get in but not on Friday.  While we were waiting for Washington, we got some interviews with pitcher Matt Harrison, who was scheduled to start on Saturday, and Michael Young.

About 10 minutes later, still no call from Rangers PR man John Blake to talk to Washington.  Very curious.  Around that time, our ears are straining to try to hear anything being whispered.  Blackberries are working overtime with some of us, me mostly, overtweeting.  I sent the following around 3:50-ish or so, knowing something was going down: interesting day in rangers clubhouse. #anythingcanhappen. #fb


About that time a Rangers assistant grabs Justin Smoak from the batting cage to escort him to Ron Washington's office and we see him walking through the clubhouse.  He later said that he knew he was either being sent down or traded.  Any time a player is escorted by team personnel, a move is  happening.

More players get on their phones both calling and texting people to find out what the hell is going on. 


A few minutes later Smoak comes out of Washington's office escorted by another member of the team's staff and it was clear he had just been informed.


One player engaged in a bit of a game with me and asked me what was up.  "I think you can figure it out," I responded.  

"Is this really happening?" he asks.  

"You definitely know more than I do but it looks like it," I say. 


More phones calls, text messages and overtweets. 


About 4:20-ish or so a clubhouse tv monitor tuned into the MLB network flashes the "BREAKING NEWS" banner and announces the Rangers have traded for Cliff Lee.  Players gather to watch the story and get the details of the trade.  You could hear the clubhouse erupt.  One player shouts "We got him!"

Blake announces the clubhouse is now closed and that there will be a 5pm press conference in the Rangers media room.  More players cheer.  Many more do their best Dallas Cowboys impersonation and shout for us to "Get the hell out!!!"

Throughout the course of being a nosy reporter, I witness a few things.  I caught Michael Young on the phone with someone giving an almost Tiger Woods-like arm pump, barely able to contain his excitement.  I hear and see a Rangers executive who's beaming ear to ear on the phone with another team executive who was one of the decision makers in the trade.  The beaming exec was congratulating the other exec for pulling the trigger. 


When the clubhouse re-opened after the 5pm press conference there was a definite change, a reinvigorated vibe.  Darren Oliver told me he'd never seen Ron Washington smile so much.  Players were elated, smiling just as widely as Washington and that Rangers exec.  

Everyone was thrilled, except for Justin Smoak.  He was understandably a little shocked. He maturely met with the media and exhibited some real poise in answering our questions.  Most of the players came to shake his hand.  Tommy Hunter spent a fair amount of time talking to Smoak at his locker.  The Rangers traveling secretary came to give Smoak some travel plans and with that, his time with the Rangers was done.

In chatting with Nolan Ryan before our TXA21 pregame show, he told me that Thursday was about as low a day as he'd had with the recent developments on the team's ownership situation.  

He then smiled and added that what happened Friday afternoon made up for it. 
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