Between July 29, 2002 and September 29, 2003, the Rangers lost 121 games, traded Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette for Ryan Drese and Einar Diaz’s blazing hair, dealt Ugueth Urbina for Adrian Gonzalez (a .216/.286/.288 AAA hitter at the time, but with some upside) and two others, and finished two Alex Rodriguez seasons a combined 56 games out of first place in the four-team AL West.
That was also the C.J. Nitkowski Era in Arlington.
The first one.
The Rangers announced yesterday that Nitkowski, a veteran of 10 big league seasons (with eight clubs, not counting the one in Japan and three in Korea that followed) who has since made his mark in the game nationally in print and on TV and radio, will join the club’s television broadcast crew, working alongside play-by-play man Dave Raymond (and occasionally doing play-by-play himself, alongside Tom Grieve), for approximately 100 regular season games this season.
Maybe you remember Nitkowski from his 18 games out of the Texas bullpen in 2002–03 — he pitched more often in Chan Ho Park starts than in relief of any other Rangers starter — a middle relief run (4.63 ERA) over which the lefthander earned no wins and no saves but two holds, both in Park starts.
Maybe you remember Nitkowski as the onetime first-round draft pick (chosen seven slots after Tom’s son Ben Grieve) who was traded with Brad Ausmus twice — first from Detroit to Houston, and then from Houston back to Detroit. (The first time, Rangers pitching coach Doug Brocail was sent the other way.)
Maybe you remember Nitkowski as an Oklahoma RedHawk pitcher who managed to survive Jose Dominguez in 2002 (the season before he became “Juan” [Dominguez, that is, not Nitkowski]) and John Rocker in 2003.
Maybe you remember Nitkowski from this:
Yeah, probably that.
He’s going to be more of an impact add this time around, compared with the 14-month stint a decade and a half ago when he was signed to a AAA deal, purchased by the big club, released, signed to another AAA deal, purchased again, designated for assignment, outrighted, and released, throughout which he was given the ball 18 big league times, usually with Texas behind.
That’s not to diminish Nitkowski’s playing career. Ten years in the big leagues is legit. His career was long enough that he played with both Frank Viola (a fellow St. John’s alum) and Jeurys Familia.
Rafael Palmeiro and Wilmer Flores.
Barry Larkin and Hanser Alberto.
And, while with Texas, Alex Rodriguez, with whom he would later share the Fox studio desk these last two post-seasons.
Now he’ll aim to call baseball games this post-season, in the Rangers booth.
Emily Jones is returning to the Rangers broadcast in 2017, and that’s exceptionally good news as well.
Emily has been with the team for 10 years. No World Series titles.
Adrian Beltre, 19 years, four teams, no titles.
Elvis Andrus, no titles.
Michael Young, no titles.
Tyson Ross, come on over and join the guys in chasing your first.
(Mike Napoli: You’re still invited, even though you’ve got one in the bag now.)
C.J. Nitkowski (eight big league clubs) played with Young (three) and played with Alberto (one) and played with Brocail (four) and Hector Ortiz (two) and Darren Oliver (nine) and spent time in the Pirates’ farm system when Jeff Banister (two) and Tony Beasley (two) were in player development there and for a time sported a Fox Sports microphone flag at the same time Emily Jones (one) did.
Nitkowski didn’t play with Yu Darvish (one) in Japan, but I’m guessing he faced Darvish’s Nippon Ham Fighters as a Fukuoka Softbank Hawk in 2007 and 2008.
None of them has a World Series ring.
None of them.
Time to fix all that.
And Nitkowski is bound to capture it, when it happens here, in a way few others can, or would, with a tasteful YouTube reprise, featuring one man, many stuffed animals, one bad-ass shiny ring, and, if I may put in my two cents, a lean-in photobomb from the all-time hits leader.