In 1999, the veteran Texas Rangers were in the process of winning their third division title in four seasons while a young an improving Oakland Athletic team stayed close. The Rangers eventually secured another postseason date with the New York Yankees by defeating the scrappy A's at The Ballpark in Arlington.
The A's, with a young rotation of little known guys like Tim Hudson and young hitters Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi, finished the season eight games behind the Rangers.
Does this sound familiar?
It sounds an awful lot like the 2009 Rangers.
The 1999 Rangers were once again swept in the first round by the Yankees while the A's carried some momentum into the offseason. In the 2000 season, those same Oakland A's battled the Seattle Mariners down to the wire, winning the division by a half game with 91 wins.
Now, I understand the impatience the Rangers fan base has with this team and the idea of looking ahead is simply unacceptable to some. That's fine, but with the team fading out of contention, it's time to look ahead to the last two weeks of the season and the offseason.
Can the Rangers win 90 games?
Scott Feldman is closing in on a rare accomplishment for a Rangers pitcher: 20 wins.
Will Kevin Millwood's adjustments lead to a strong finish and a spot in the rotation next season?
Can Julio Borbon lock down the lead off spot for 2010 and can Elvis Andrus handle the two hole in front of Michael Young?
Does Pudge Rodriguez still have enough gas in the tank for the Rangers to resign him for 2010 and demote Taylor Teagarden back to AAA?
Can Derek Holland put it back together and finish strong?
These are just a few of the things I'll be watching for these last two weeks, and those are just the questions off the top of my head.
Now, for the biggest question of all: How will the Rangers look in 2010.
They won't have Hank Blalock or Andruw Jones and Marlon Byrd isn't likely to come back.
The early rotation prediction would be Scott Feldman, Tommy Hunter, Matt Harrison, Kevin Millwood and either Neftali Feliz or Brandon McCarthy; that of course depends on how the Rangers want to use Feliz next season.
The bullpen will lose Eddie Guardado, leading to a free agent pickup or trade acquisition for another lefty. Darren O'Day, Frank Francisco, CJ Wilson, Pedro Strop, Jason Grilli, and Doug Mathis would likely make up the rest of the bullpen.
The one area the Rangers have to address this offseason is a veteran bat for the middle of the lineup. It's no coincidence the Rangers struggled offensively this season without that veteran stick in the middle of the order.
If they add a veteran hitter to the lineup who can provide protection for Hamilton, the Rangers could get back on track and score the runs Rangers fans are used to seeing from them.
Add it all up and the 2010 Rangers could be a force in the American League. With the right additions they could be the favorites in the AL West and a contender to win the World Series.
Management has targeted 2010 for the Rangers to return to the playoffs and that vision is poised to become a reality with the incredible step forward they have made in 2009.
Call me crazy, but I think the over/under for the Rangers next season could be 100 wins.
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