It has been a long time since the Texas Rangers were in the playoffs, 11 years to be exact.
It was the 1999 season and the Rangers won the American League West, they went on to be swept 3-0 by the Yankees. It wasn't a good, successful or long playoff run, but it was the playoffs. Following the 1999 season the Rangers finished dead last in the division four years in a row.
That season Texas was led by Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmero on offense and Rick Helling, Aaron Sele and Mike Morgan on the mound. This season the Rangers are led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, C.J. Wilson, Cliff Lee and Tommy Hunter. The similarities between the two teams are apparent. But what is even more apparent are the differences.
The 1999 Rangers could get people on base, hit a homerun and score three runs with the swing of the bat. They would do that regularly and often. This season with players like Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon the rangers are playing some "small ball."
Borbon his 13 bunts for base hits; two have been with a runner on third and two outs, he also has two suicide squeezes this season. Andrus has 30 stolen bases and 16 sacrifice bunts.
It's also fun for the fans because the players are having fun out there. It is a bunch of young guys playing baseball and having fun. You get a hit, you show the claw to the dugout, you steal a base, hustle for extra bases or beat out a play at first and you put up the antlers. It is all just part of the game within the game that makes it fun for the players to play, and fun for the fans to watch.
The fun hasn’t just been on the field this season, it has also been in ownership and management. In the off-season the Rangers signed veteran outfielder, designated hitter and known Ranger killer Vladimir Guerrero turning the saying from “if you can’t beat them join them,” to “if he beats you, go out and get him.” Then before the trade deadline was even approaching the Rangers were making deals to help them not only make the playoffs, but also help them once they got there. Trading for Lee has been one of the best mid-season moves for the Rangers for a long time, and then they bolstered the bench picking up veteran catcher Bengie Molina and corner infielder Jorge Cantu. Then, even if he is known for nothing more than being hit by Yankee closer Mariana Rivera with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, the Rangers picked up veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur off waivers after the deadline.
Then there was the ownership battle. For years Rangers fans, and Stars fans, have complained that Tom Hicks was hurting the team, he didn’t have the money to spend on talent and wasn’t helping in other ways. In steps Nolan Ryan. In his second season as the team president, he and business partner Chuck Greenberg made an offer for the Rangers, Hicks accepted it and that was that…well, not quite. There was an auction at a Fort Worth courthouse that put Ryan and Greenberg against Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and a business partner Jim Crane. In the end the Greenberg-Ryan group won the rights to buy the team and Major League Baseball approved the sale.
That is the way the season has gone for the Rangers in 2010, a lot of little battles going on, and as long as the Rangers keep winning, the fans keep winning too. The magic number for the Rangers is down to eight. It looks like the Rangers will be making their way to the playoffs with power, speed, claw, antlers, a new owner and a happy, excited fan base.