erik lundegaard

Thursday November 02, 2023

And Then There Were Five

The Texas Rangers celebrate winning the first World Series in franchise history after beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-0 last night.

I feel a little like Flat Nose Curry, the member of the Hole in the Wall Gang played by future “Police Woman” actor Charles Dierkop, who, after the KNIFE FIGHT(???) between Butch and Harvey (“Adams Family” actor Ted Cassidy), runs up to Butch, the surprise winner, and exults:

Flat Nose: I was really rooting for ya, Butch!
Butch: Well, thank you, Flatnose. That's what sustained me in my time of trouble.

That's me after the Texas Rangers won the World Series last night. I was really rooting for ya, Texas! Well, only after the Mariners were knocked out, of course. And I guess I was iffy on the Rays series, and definitely wanted the Orioles in there, and at times, with Houston, it was like, “A replay of 2022, Houston/Philly, wouldn't be too bad.” And once the Series started, I mean, I do like Ketel Marte.

But I was really rooting for ya, Texas!

OK, so Texas I have no use for, particularly electorally, since it's anti-American and pushing us toward fascism. But Adolis Garcia and Corey Seager, the fire-and-ice of the club? And Dad-bod model Jordan Montgomery, Bradley Cooper doppelganger Nathan Eovaldi, and the eerily quiet and calm and beautiful Jose Leclerc? And above all Evan Carter, the kid who went from AA ball in August, to AAA in September, to making his Major League debut on Sept. 8 against Oakland (the shallow end of the pool), and for the rest of the season went .306/.413/.645, and in the postseason kept hitting doubles and climbing the ladder of the batting order until he was ensconsed in the Griffey spot, third, the spot of all spots, and handled it all with aplomb? Well, those guys were fun.

The Texas Rangers, began, of course, as the second iteration of the Washington Senators, and followed the great tradition of the first by being first in war, first in peace and last in the American League. I've posited that no team began as ineptly as the Seattle Mariners, who didn't poke their head above .500 until their 15th season, and still haven't won a pennant after 47 mostly meh years, but Texas has an argument. They lost 100+ games each of their first four seasons, so didn't poke their heads above .400 until Season Five. They did get to .500 sooner, going 86-76 in 1969 under new skipper Ted Williams, but the next season, with the same skipper, they were back underwater. They moved to Texas in '72 and show the fans there what they were all about by losing 100+ their first two seasons. Then they got Billy Martin as manager and had a winning season. Then they lost Billy Martin and submerged again. 

This is brutal: they didn't make the postseason until 1996—their 36th season—and didn't win a postseason series until 2010. That was the year they won their first pennant but lost the WS in five to the Tim Lincecum-led San Francisco Giants. But the next year was theirs ... until it wasn't. They were one out away from a title but Nelson Cruz couldn't track down David Freese's line shot into the corner and it went into extras and they kept running into David Freese and at the end it was the Cardinals with their 11th title rather than the Rangers with their first. In the mid-2010s, they made the postseason a few years in a row but were at the tail-end of the Jose Bautista bat flip, and never got into the ALCS. Two season ago, they lost 100+ again. Last season they lost 90+. Then they hired Bruce Bochy as manager. 

I've been wondering a lot lately how much a manager helps. They're not like football or basketball coaches, forever drawing up plays and new strategies, but Bochy seemed like a good guy to play for: calm, smart, he liked his gum. Joe Posnanski's Poscast prediction about Texas last March was something along the lines of “I think they're good?” He saw them leading the division but stumbling after June. Turns out they led the division but stumbled after August, then righted themselves, then lost the division on the last game of the season—to my Mariners, playing for pride—meaning rather than resting up they had to take on the Tampa Bay Rays who had home-field advantage. But these Rangers turned “home-field advantage” on its head. They didn't lose an away game the entire postseason. Took two from Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay, beat the O's twice of two in Balmer, beat the Astros four of four in Houston, and came into Phoenix tied 1-1 with the D-Backs and swept the table. Pretty amazing run.

So who's left among the have-nots, the scroungy and sad and title-less teams? These five: 

  • Brewers (est. 1969)
  • Padres (est. 1969)
  • Mariners (est. 1977)
  • Rockies (est. 1993)
  • Rays (est. 1998)

The Rangers finally won it in their 63rd season, which is the third-longest any team has taken—after the Phillies (78 seasons), and the Browns/Orioles (64 seasons). Celebrate, Texas, because you can. I feel a little badly for the D-Backs, and for former M's closer Paul Sewald, so good in the playoffs, so not in the World Series. I feel a little badly, too, or bemusedly badly, for the likes of Evan Carter. I hope he knows runs like this are rare beasts. I hope someone tells him, “You know, it's not usually like this around here.”

Posted at 08:59 AM on Thursday November 02, 2023 in category Baseball  
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