Fresh off taking 3 of 4 in Kansas City, a venue that gave us a few more scares than we were probably expecting, the Rangers now head off to Tampa Bay for the final series of this, the last extended road trip of the season. Combined with the 2 of 3 Texas took from Cleveland, the Rangers have assured themselves an even .500 trip even if worst comes to worst and they happen to get swept by a desperate Rays team in search of victories, as Tampa sits two games back of the co-division leaders in the East — with a measly 29 left to play. I must say, it’s all kind of sad, really. It seemed like just yesterday I was giving my preseason outlook, but no, time must go on. And it’s here we play witness to another glorious season of Rangers baseball dissolving before our eager eyes.
I’ve pounded away on my keyboard enough to depict playoff odds for the Rangers, so I don’t think it’s necessary to keep jiving about and raving about all that. Instead, I’ll simply deliver a more accurate and easy to follow version, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus. You might notice that right now they have Texas strapped to a 99.9% figure, which might help explain the whole “easy to follow” bit.
So yeah, if you’re a perpetual downer on life, you may still find enough pessimism left in the tank to find fault with our starting rotation, Ron Washington, or some other aspect of the team that I may altogether be unfamiliar with. But if that’s the case, I’m not going to try to argue or stop you; I’ll just assume you endured the same hopelessness as I did during the 2000′s but never got over it. You are beyond repair.
Since this article has no particular direction other than saying, “Yeah, the Rangers are a virtual lock to make the playoffs, have the best record in the league, and are the most complete team in the league, you’re right,” I’ll just delve into my own thoughts.
A lot of people throw the word “fan” around, like yeah, “I’m the biggest fan of team X_,” but I generally have a hard time taking them seriously. Sports fans generally gravitate towards each other in a very organic way, and it makes the sports world go round in a beautiful sort of way. Your only real conception of what it’s like to be a fan of a particular sports team is how you yourself have always gone about it. When I was younger I thought every sports fan was something of the same, but even then, internally, I thought But you’re not a fan like I’m a fan.
It wasn’t until I went to Virginia Tech from 2008-2009 that I truly witnessed my perception to be more on-point with reality than I had first expected. The whole reason I chose that school was because I grew up watching Michael Vick run circles on the Big East, and I decided right then and there: That’s where I wanted to go, being a born and raised Southern Californian and all. When I actually made it on campus, I assumed every other student shared the same passion and fanaticism that I did, like they waited hand and foot on every play, every second of the clock, nail-biting with sweaty armpits, pacing back and forth like true mad men. I was severely disappointed by what I saw. Kids laced themselves in face paint and wrote the school’s initials on their stomachs, cheered at a raucous pitch, yet didn’t know a damn thing about the history of the program or any of its players. These are the people portrayed as “true fans” when you turn on your television sets, and it couldn’t be any further from the truth.
I think it creates an interesting parallel with the Rangers because of the vast expansion of the fan base. Winning brings fans to the games, money in the pockets of the owners running the teams. The Texas Rangers have always been an afterthought in the landscape of baseball. Well, until 2010 when they finally won their first playoff series and eventually made it to the World Series. All of a sudden Rangers fans started blossoming up out of nowhere, and then there were those that actually had to endure an entire generation of ineptitude, or, in my case, 16 of my 22 years of existence. In a weird way I have a sense of envy for kids and adults who only started paying attention when the Rangers transmogrified into a winner, but I’d never trade those years where they failed so miserably. After all, you only reach a true level of appreciation when you go through enough heartache.
That, I believe, is the main point to get out of all this. It’s so much easier to write when things are going wrong, when all hope is lost, when the Rangers aren’t this damn good. The best you’ve got will always come out of despair, which is why you’ll have to forgive me for not having very much Rangers writing material at the moment.
This isn’t just a time to anticipate what should be a fantastic rush to the end of the season. It’s a time to remember and appreciate everything that brought you to become a Rangers fan in the first place, along with the futility that you no longer have to put up with. It’s a wondrous time of the year, and it has an indescribable way of bringing out the child in all of us.