When the Orioles took the field for Game 1 of the American League Division Series, we would be watching the eventual World Series champion. It just would not be the team in Orange and Black.
But the Texas Rangers, a team that lost 102 games in 2021 and went 68-94 last year. A team that won just 90 games this year and a team that from Aug. 16-Sept. 8 went 4-16 and was outscored by 61 runs. Yep, that team. A team that went 1-3 on the season’s final weekend to let the AL West get away and enter the playoffs as the No. 5 AL seed.
The Rangers had a losing record on the road during the regular season, going 40-41. So of course, they went 11-0 on the road in the playoffs. They had a losing record in one-run games (14-22) during the regular year. So of course, they went 3-1 in one-run games during the postseason and 2-0 in two-run games. A team that entered the postseason with the bullpen ranked 11th in the AL. And of course, during the postseason, the trio of Jose Leclerc, Aroldis Chapman and Josh Sborz pitched to a combined 2.14 ERA.
Remember when we thought the O’s might find an edge in that while Texas’ team OPS at home ranked first in the AL, they were just seventh on the road.
The Rangers this year had the 10th-best team ERA in the American League at 4.28. That is 10th as in better than just five clubs. We should all remember that the next time someone says the O’s pitching is not good enough to win the WS.
Texas went 13-4 in the playoffs. And they went 9-1 versus the Rays, Orioles and Diamondbacks. They fell behind Houston 3-2 in the ALCS, but then won games six and seven. So even when facing elimination, twice, Texas won. They were not the best team for the full year. They were the clear best team in October.
It's the people you meet: For me one of the best things about my job is the people you get to know. So many that are so nice and become friends along the way. There are three that work in off-the-field roles for the Rangers that I call friends and am so happy for each one.
John Blake is the Rangers' executive vice president for public affairs. Blake went to work for the Rangers in 1984 and has been with them all but three years since then when he was with Boston. I first met Blake when he was the Orioles assistant director of public relations from 1979-1984 and worked alongside the great Bob Brown.
Back in 1979, as a young buck at the then Towson State University, I worked for the campus radio station. When the WCVT Sports Director said we could go to Memorial Stadium to interview any Oriole, I raised my hand and asked to talk with Earl Weaver. A few days later, while working at the A&P on York Road, they tracked me down to tell me the next day I had an interview they had setup with Weaver. I had to tell my boss I could not work the next day as I had to go interview Earl Weaver.
Off me and my exceptionally large tape recorder went to Memorial Stadium. The guy that met me there that day to take me to the dugout was … John Blake. For the next few years John was nice to a young reporter like me who had almost no idea what he was doing. But he treated me with the same respect he might have shown a national reporter or the biggest name in Baltimore. Class, then and now.
While Blake has spent many years with the Rangers, Joe Jordan joined the organization as a pro scout in January of this year. Less than 12 months later he’s with a WS winner. Jordan was the Orioles' director of scouting from 2005-2011 and later was the Phillies director of player development from 2012-2017. He worked for the Atlanta Braves before joining Texas.
When Jordan worked for the Orioles, he took too many calls from me to mention. Always available, always courteous, always helpful. One of the real good guys in the sport and a respected evaluator. If Joe offers an opinion on any player, I listen intently to every word. It was nice to see him in the Camden Yards press box late this season when he was doing some advance scouting of the Orioles ahead of the postseason.
Matt Hicks is in his 11th year as one of the Texas Rangers radio broadcasters. When I interviewed him for a Rangers preview for this story earlier, I noted how we first met in the mid 80s when we were broadcasting high school football. Hicks is a 1983 University of Maryland grad and was the voice of the Frederick Keys from 1989-94. Between the minors and majors, he has broadcast baseball for 34 years.
Hicks is a great guy and broadcaster and so happy he’s going to get a ring. Hicks is a native of Washington, D.C. who grew up rooting for his hometown Senators until they moved after the 1971 season to become … yep, the Texas Rangers. For a few years the Senators move soured Hicks on baseball. But he later got back into the sport and became an O’s fan traveling with friends to 33rd Street to watch the Orioles.
Bochy’s fourth title: I wrote earlier this postseason how impressive it was to watch veteran manager Bruce Bochy and the quiet confidence he carried himself with during the ALDS. And now Bochy has become the sixth manager to have four or more World Series titles.
He joined a list that includes Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack, Walter Alston and Joe Torre. All the others are in the Hall of Fame. McCarthy and Stengel led the way with seven WS titles. But now Bochy is the only skipper of that group of six to win four or more with more than one team. He earlier won with the San Francisco Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014. When Texas beat Arizona Wednesday night to end this World Series, the win came 13 years to the day that Bochy got his first title.
He now seems certain to make the Hall of Fame. And yet, and yes this is very surprising, he has a losing record as an MLB manager. He is 2,093-2,101 (.499). He had several losing seasons while managing the Padres and had three at the end of his Giants tenure. But he can fix that by the end of next season.
Another Gunnar honor: The Orioles Gunnar Henderson last night was named the winner of the Players Choice Award as AL Outstanding Rookie. The award is meaningful to players as it is voted on by their peers in the MLBPA.
Gunnar led MLB rookies in bWAR (6.3), home runs (28), and extra base hits (66). The BBWAA ROY award comes out later this month.
Henderson set Orioles rookie records with 100 runs scored and a .489 slugging percentage. As a shortstop and third baseman, he led the team with 13 defensive runs saved, per Sports Info Solutions. Henderson was the first rookie in O's history to record 20+ doubles, 5+ triples, 20+ homers, and 10+ stolen bases in a season. He was AL Rookie of the Month in June.
Also yesterday, Gunnar, Anthony Santander and Adley Rutschman were named Silver Slugger finalists.
This via Twitter is really cool with the other award winners talking about Gunnar.