Watching the Texas Rangers win the AL pennant last night brought a number of thoughts to my mind. There’s the obvious stuff about the underdogs taking down the Yankees, but there’s quite a bit more this team represents, and the more I see of them, the more compelling I think they’ll be in the World Series.
First, there’s little doubt the Rangers wouldn’t be here if not for the Cliff Lee trade, if only because of his stellar postseason and the fact that Texas kept him from going to New York in July, allowing the Rangers to overtake the Yankees in the ALCS. In this year where pitching has reigned, the trade, quite simply, changed the face of the AL pennant race.
But Lee wasn’t all that good in the regular season for Texas - he had a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts - and his Game 3 win, though a masterpiece, was his only contribution to the ALCS. No, the Rangers deserve credit for developing a key starter in C.J. Wilson and unearthing another in Colby Lewis, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2007. This team is more than Cliff Lee - though it should get credit for making the bold move of going after him to win now, particularly in a year where it went through bankruptcy and an ownership change.
Second, I know a Rangers-Giants World Series would be a ratings disaster, but for a baseball purist, isn’t that the best matchup available? Lee, who will pitch Game 1, would match up against Tim Lincecum, and between Lewis, Josh Hamilton, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey, there are good stories and reclamation projects galore. And after a Yankees-Phillies World Series, you’d have a matchup between two cities that have never experienced a championship. Sounds plenty interesting to me.
And of course, the local angle is alive and well here. The Rangers, of course, were the last team to play in Washington before the Nationals arrived in 2005, having left RFK Stadium for Arlington, Tex., following the 1971 season. How do the old Senators fans feel about this, especially after watching Senators I (the Twins) and Senators II (the Rangers) both make the playoffs this year?
Finally, Orioles fans, there’s the Showalter Effect: The Rangers are the third team to reach the World Series under the manager that succeeded Buck Showalter. Unlike the Yankees and Diamondbacks, it didn’t happen the year after he left, but with 50 seasons of futility to overcome, maybe the effect takes a little longer to kick in.
So take heart, O’s fans: You might only be a couple bad seasons and a managerial change away from that parade down Eutaw Street.