The Texas Rangers are becoming the Chicago Cubs of the American League minus seventy years of playoff failures. The other main difference is the Rangers aren’t cursed like the Cubs and are making a serious run at the AL West division title.
My loyalty will always go to the Minnesota Twins, but as long as they’re not playing the Rangers, I’ll be rooting for Texas for the rest of the season.
There are many reasons to root for Texas this season. It’s a low-profile team and not many know their history. Here is why I’m rooting for the Rangers (when they’re not playing the Twins).
Vladimir Guerrero is on a tear at the age of 35 after many considered him washed up after an injury-plagued 2009 season featuring his lowest OPS in his career. He’s one of the most enjoyable players to watch. I’ve already written how great this guy is: https://tripleinthegap.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/the-class-and-talent-of-vladimir-guerrero/ .
The fourth-year manager has improved the team’s record every season and is on pace to again this year. In an era where players have continuously abused drugs (mostly steroids) and then denied their actions, Washington showed everyone how to handle a bad mistake. After testing positive for cocaine last season, before the results were in Washington approached the upper management of the Rangers, admitted his mistake and accepted responsibility. Perfection shouldn’t be expected of anyone, but responsibility for ones actions should. Washington showed class in a situation that could have been a lot worse.
Anyone who’s followed baseball in the last three years knows the story of Josh Hamilton. He was drafted No. 1 by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. After an injury in the minors, Hamilton turned to drugs and eventually cleaned himself up and is playing better than ever in 2010. He’s putting up triple crown like numbers (.358 avg, 23 HR, 74 RBI) to compliment Guerrero, giving the Rangers a nasty 1-2 punch.
Nolan Ryan and the pitching revolution
After Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were overused during the 2003 season, it seemed every manager was babying his starting pitchers. Pitch counts ruled the mound and the complete game was becoming extinct. With hall of famer Nolan Ryan as the Rangers GM, all rules were thrown out. No, Rangers pitchers aren’t completing every game, but if they’re still throwing well late in the game, they’re likely to be left on the mound. Texas has been a team known for a lot of offense and little pitching, but no more today. The Rangers rank third in the American League in ERA this season with a mark of 3.80 (Tampa Bay leads at 3.65).
The addition of Cliff Lee via trade with the Mariners only makes the pitching staff better – much better – and will make them dangerous in the postseason.
A rock in the treads of the Yankees’ shoe and the main reason I’m rooting on the Rangers
The Washington Senators moved and became the Rangers in 1972. Texas combined for a 111-205 record those first two seasons. In 1977 the Rangers won 94 games, but Kansas City won 102 and took the AL West crown. The next season they won 87, but those pesky Royals took the title again with 92. The same difference in standings occurred in 1986, except it was the California Angels on top. The first time the Rangers did find themselves in first place after the last game of the season, they were under .500 (52-62) and the strike of 1994 was ahead of them. It was the first year major league baseball had six divisions and it really didn’t matter as there would be no playoffs because of the strike.
It wasn’t until 1996 that Texas would find its way to the postseason. Things looked great when Juan Gonzalez homered to help the Rangers to a 6-2 win at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, this was the last and only postseason win for Texas. They’d lose the next three to the eventual Word Series champions, New York. They’d run into the Yankees in the division series again in 1998 and 1999 and both times New York would sweep the Rangers and go on to win the championship. The Rangers were just a stepping stone on their way. Texas was outscored in their three games in 1998 by a score of 9-1 with the one run on a single from Ivan Rodriguez. The next season didn’t get any better as the Yankees outscored the Rangers 14-1 with Gonzalez providing the single run with a homer.
Texas is one of three teams never to reach the World Series (along with Washington/Montreal and Seattle) and are the only team never to win a postseason series. It’s their time. Everytime the Rangers assemble a World Series-ready team, they run into the Yankees. This year will probably be no different. Here’s hoping Texas can cast aside the evil empire.