Should There Be Optimism in Arlington?

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Should There Be Optimism in Arlington?
(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

This May has created all kinds of optimism amongst fans of the Texas Rangers.  Outsiders looking in on the Rangers are still nay-sayers because of the history of the Rangers.

The Rangers have not been what you might call a great, good, or perhaps even mediocre franchise for pretty much their entire history. 

The high point for the entire Rangers franchise came in the mid to late '90s when they won the division title three times in four years. However, they were never able to advance out of the first round, falling every year to the eventual World Series champion Yankees.

The start of the new millennium brought a new level of futility to the Rangers organization, but also a new level of prolific offense. 

We have witnessed, through the last nine years, some of the worst pitching teams that you could possibly field at the major league level. 

However, the level of high powered offenses that the Rangers have toted around for the last decade have always offered a sort of false sense of hope that perhaps the bats could make up for the arms. 

Obviously, they have always failed.

So, while over the last decade we have seen our divisional rival Mariners string together a record number of wins one season, the A's win divisions and wild cards with a smaller payroll than what the Rangers were paying A-Rod, and the Angels win a World Series and several division titles, the Rangers have managed to parlay poor drafts and trades into mediocre season after mediocre season.

The trend seems to be reversing itself, finally, to the delight of all Rangers fans. Texas boasts the strongest farm system in the majors, and we are starting to see that pay dividends this season.

The trades that were so terrible in the past like, Chris Young and Adrian Gonzales for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otskua, have now started to turn in favor of the Rangers giving the organization players like Matt Harrison, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamaachia, and Neftali Feliz.

With the Rangers having a dominating May thus far is there really reason for optimism or should we just listen to the rest of baseball, and know that the Angels will eventually catch the Rangers? 

I think there is definitely reason for optimism in Texas. No, it's not because the pitching staff seems to finally be carrying their share of the load, but it helps.

No, it's not because the defense has gone from 30th in the league in fielding efficiency last year to fourth this year, but it helps.

And no, it's not because they boast a high powered offense that leads the league in home runs, but it helps. 

It's because they have, to this point, been a dominating force within their own division.

Baseball today is the age of the unbalanced schedule. That means that roughly half of your games will be played against a division rival.

The opportunity to play games against your division rival always gives you the chance to put distance between you and your division opponents. Sure, winning outside the division is always nice, but if the Rangers win and the Angels win then there is no ground gained.

But, if you can take the 19 games you play against the Angels and win 15 of them then you have just separated yourself by 11 games. That's 11 games where the Angels have to make up ground on you by hoping that other teams can help them out.

If you can do this against your entire division then there is no doubt that you will win your division, and right now that is exactly what the Rangers are doing.

As I'm writing this right now the Rangers sit three games ahead of the Angels. That just happens to be because the Rangers just pulled off a three-game sweep of the Angels this past weekend. 

Still don't believe that divisional matchups are important?

The Rangers right now sit at a dominating 10-2 in the division and are 8-0 against their closest competitors, the Mariners and the Angels.

If you ask me, that series this weekend, while only three games out of 162 meant more than the Angels let on because in reality it's not three games out of 162, but it's three games out of 19. 

Anyone who downplays the importance of baseball in April and May doesn't really understand the game of baseball.

When you do play 162 games and lose your division by five or fewer games, I guarantee you there are at least that many games you can look back on that you could have won in April and May, but didn't because I guess you just thought the game wasn't important.

Well, I hope the Rangers think every game is important, and judging from the way they have played thus far in the division they know those games are important, and that is the best news that any Rangers fan can take solace in and find a reason for optimism this summer.

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