Texas Ranger fans posts, essays, blogs and views, and all manner of statistical analyses with weird hieroglyphic acronyms, have bounced all over the Internet this off-season like a demented, drunken cursor.
Okay, some of those posts were mine.
Sure, the debate on signing – or not signing – Prince Fielder was entertaining…same for the Yu Darvish situation. Thank goodness we live in a country where people can still luxuriate in a passionate laptop arm wrestle over whether signing Mike Gonzalez makes more sense that relying on Michael Kirkman’s unsteady left arm. Count me in the former group, by the way.
But spring sneaks up, closer every day. So, let’s take a different look at the enormity of the task the Rangers take on during 2012.
That is…making it to three straight World Series. Never mind actually winning one…just getting there.
Very doable, you might say. The Yankees do it all the time. And, guess what? The Yankees really do. Looking at roughly the last sixty years or so…since 1949, the New York Yankees have made it to the World Series three straight years, or more, on four different sequences: 1949 – 1953, 1960 through 1964, 1976 through 1978, and most recently 1998 through 2000. Obviously, they also qualified for other World Series appearances during those years, but again, this view looks only at consecutive appearances. That is a staggering accomplishment when considering the rise of free agency, injury, the marked improvements of the Red Sox teams and the years where either Baltimore, (usually with pitching), or Toronto fielded powerful, deft line-ups.
So, the Yankees show that it is doable, right? Not so fast.
Since 1949, the only other teams to attend three straight World Series are the Oakland A’s of 1972 through 1974, and actually Oakland won all three of those. That’s probably a better story than “Moneyball” if it could be told properly. And the Baltimore Orioles of 1969 through 1971.
The Atlanta Braves get honorable mention by appearing in four out of five World Series from 1991 through 1996, recalling there was no World Series in 1994. That is still a stinging wound for a lot of fans.
Teams numbering as many as twenty-six others have all tried, and failed to do this. Many have not reached even one World Series since 1949, let alone two in a row.
Solid are the arguments that free agency works very hard to prevent lasting baseball dynasties, and rewards teams with bottomless pockets…like the Yankees and Red Sox. Many would say that expansion over the years has offered players more choices of appealing cities: be honest…Phoenix in April is a lot more attractive than Cleveland or Pittsburgh. The rise of specialists in short relief, in pre-scouting an opponent, in statistical analysis of each player on sunny days…or rainy…indoors…on Tuesday…how they perform in EVERY situation (at least historically) have all injected “new” variables making sustained winning more of a challenge.
There may be hundreds of cogent reasons for why it is very, very hard to make it to three Series consecutively. You can think of a dozen right away; only a few are mentioned here.
Maybe the biggest reason is the bulls-eye the league champions sport on the back of their uniforms every day, every game: for the Rangers, two consecutive years of being the American League Champion. Not the Yankees. Not the Red Sox. Not the Angels. The Rangers.
Last year, and again this year, every team lining up against Texas is playing the reigning champion. Improbably, unbelievably, and magically…the Texas Rangers. That is a tough test to face for 162 consecutive games.
Is there a silver bullet answer? Sure, buy up all the talent you can as the Yankees do. Engineer eye-popping trades for players like Adrian Gonzalez like the Red Sox do. Oh wait…those didn’t guarantee a Series dugout seat, did they?
In short, no: there is no guarantee. There is not a single remaining free agent piece that makes this a dead certainty. What we are left with is hope and it springs eternal. Hope that Michael Young can deliver one more 200 hit season. Hope that Josh and Adrian and Nelson and Ian can all play a minimum of 140 games. Hope that Mike Napoli continues to be a jaw-dropping wrecking ball of a hitter. Hope that the starters stay healthy and achieve the same level of success as last year, that is, keep the game close and the offense and bullpen will win it late in the game. Hope that Mike Adams and Joe Nathan, and most likely Alexi Ogando, will make the last three innings of a game a lock-down situation. Hope that Elvis and whoever plays center-field contribute just a little bit offensively while choking off opponent runs with stellar defense. Hope that the bench coaches do their studying and set the outfielders properly to prevent game-tying hits in the bottom of the 9th inning when one run doesn’t kill you…but two runs tie the game.
Hope springs eternal. And it will take all of those things and more for Texas to get back to the World Series in 2012.
You heard it here first: should Texas accomplish that feat…it really doesn’t matter what happens in the Series. They will have already etched the team name in stone as achieving a Ruthian feat. Okay, it would be better if they WIN the Series.