Final Rangers Thoughts

In the three days since the World Series ended and I watched the San Francisco Giants lift the championship trophy, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what to say about the end of the season and how I feel about it. I wrote about that sense of despair I felt the moment the ball left Aubrey Huff’s bat in Game 4, because I knew that the Rangers would not overcome the deficit. As Edgar Renteria’s three run shot in Game 5 left the yard, I didn’t experience that same sensation. I accepted that it signaled the end of the 2010 World Series and the season for the Rangers. But instead of disappointment and frustration, I felt pride. I’d done my mourning for the season and all that was left was love for this team. What a ride it was this year.

In the early stages of the season, things didn’t look so great. A horrific road trip in April left them a game under .500 and in last place in the division a day before the end of the month. It seemed like the team slogan “It’s time” wasn’t referring to winning ways. But a good string at the start of May quickly put them in first place on May 2, and they held onto that spot for the rest of the season with the exception of five days. Their play in June is the stuff of legend. Josh Hamilton hit over .450 for the month.

But they went into the All-Star Break being swept by the Baltimore Orioles, the worst team in baseball at the time. I feared that the Rangers annual “Post All-Star Break Slump” (another phrase my grandfather used and popularized by my family) came a few days early. But the Rangers responded by winning five of seven on the road against the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers.

All the while, the organization’s future was in doubt, with the ownership putting the club into bankruptcy. It looked as if Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan would take over, but a last-minute entrance by Mark Cuban and friends nearly spoiled the party. It looked for a bit as though Cuban had the better offer and would end up owning the club. But on the 17th Anniversary of Nolan Ryan’s famous encounter with Robin Ventura, Ryan’s group prevailed and the Rangers emerged from bankruptcy with new ownership. I could go on, but you know the rest.

I’ve always been a Rangers fan. Growing up in West Texas, if it was a summer night, the Rangers were on the television in our house. My parents and I would have the game on in the background while we worked on other projects or read books, occasionally looking up to see how the boys were doing. Then we’d have ice cream. It was tradition. But while I’ve always loved this team, I’ve never fully expected them to really achieve much. Their playoff experience was limited to meeting (and being dismissed by) the New York Yankees, and had one win in three series with the boys from the Bronx.

But for some reason, this year felt different. While I couldn’t quite bring myself to say it out loud, deep down I felt that this team was different, that maybe they would do something greater. My interest didn’t wane as the season progressed. It intensified. In a recent post, Jamey Newberg put it best, I think, when he said, “This was a year when the non-fan in the Metroplex became a casual fan. Casual became locked in. Locked in became hardcore. Hardcore became combustible.” That’s what happened to me. I don’t know where I was on the fan spectrum, but I know that my fandom has intensified since the season began. Wherever I was before, I’m not there anymore. Now, I’m gobbling up every bit of information I can on the resigning of Cliff Lee and watching with great interest what moves will unfold once the free agent market opens up. I’ll be keeping tabs on the team in the offseason, and watching the minor league reports to learn about prospects. The 2010 season ended three days ago, and yet I’m excited about Spring Training. I’m a different fan, I’ve changed.

I believe.

Thank you, Texas Rangers, for an amazing 2010 season. Let’s win it all in 2011.

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