So with my perpetual nerd-ness in all things relating to (a) the Texas Rangers, (b) mathematics and (c) the dichotomy involved when a snowflake-colored white guy listens to the most gangster-ish of all rap music, I’ve decided to generate a compendium of the 9 most iconic Rangers’ moments since I began watching the team in the Spring of 1996. To simplify, because I’m biased, these are basically just 9 of my favorite things that have ever happened. (This post will have nothing to do with hip hop music, but since I mentioned it, here’s a song for you to enjoy. Or don’t. Whatever works.)
On this day, December 21st 2012, the world is purportedly supposed to end. So even if it doesn’t, at least I will have gotten these 9 memories off my chest. Whew. I feel better already.
#9 – May 9th, 2004
The Rangers trailed the Detroit Tigers 14-4 heading into the bottom of the 5th inning, tied it the same inning, and eventually won it on a walk-off Michael Young single in the 10th. Alfonso Soriano went 6-6 in the game, raising his batting average from a respectable .302 to a whopping .336. Such Rangers’ greats as Herbert Perry and Francisco Cordero even contributed to the win, though it’s been argued that such an event never happened again.
#8 – January 19th, 2012
Yu Darvish officially signed with the Texas Rangers. After a much-ballyhooed posting fee that reached an historic $51.7 million, he inked a 6-year, $56 million deal on top of that, and the early returns have been fruitful. Darvish accumulated 5.1 fWAR in his first season, posting the 2nd-best strikeout rate in the Major Leagues. To put his WAR figure into perspective with his contemporaries, it was precisely the same as 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price, more than the NL Cy Young-winning R.A. Dickey, and exactly equal to Zack Greinke and Cliff Lee.
#7 – July 31st, 2007
The Rangers traded 1st baseman Mark Teixeira and bullpen arm Ron Mahay to the Atlanta Braves for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Elvis Andrus, LHP Matt Harrison, RHP Neftali Feliz and LHP Beau Jones. With the exception of Jones, all four others have played near-elite roles at various points in their young careers. With a handful of years to reflect on the move, it can be considered the most lopsided trade of the new millennium, but, hey, at least Atlanta found their replacement for Teixeira a year later when they traded him to the Angels for the legend that is Casey Kotchman. Wait what …
#6 – December 22nd, 2007
Speaking of trades, and speaking of the importance of 2007 vis a vis the Rangers, this date marks when the Rangers sent their top pitching prospect, Edinson Volquez, to the Reds in exchange for Josh Hamilton. Volquez, a former member of the Rangers vaunted “DVD” trio (along with Thomas Diamond and John Danks), was part of what was supposed to be a quartet of top-of-the-rotation pitchers. All of Diamond, Volquez, Danks, and right-hander Eric Hurley, were the wrinkle of hope for Rangers fans, though whether it was through trade (Danks/Volquez) or injury washout (Diamond/Hurley), none of the four ever did significant damage on the big league roster.
Hamilton, of course, before he was recently minted with a 5-year, $125 million contract from the Angels, was one of baseball’s most productive hitters in his 5-year stint in Texas. Over the life of his stay in Arlington, he generated 22.4 fWAR, which was second-most on the Rangers in that interval next to Ian Kinsler, who received a 5-year deal of his own last season.
#5 – August 22nd, 2007
On this night, the Rangers scored a robust 30 runs to defeat the Orioles in Baltimore, 30-3. After leading 5-3 after 5 innings, the Rangers posted 9, 0, 10, and 6 runs in the remaining four. The Rangers’ 8 and 9 hitters, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez, combined to go 8-12 with 4 HR’s and 14 RBI, accumulating 9 runs between themselves. Reliever Wes Littleton recorded a three-inning save, and, hell, that’s why keeping track of such meaningless stats is important. PROOF.
#4 – July 9th, 2008
Josh Hamilton hits a two on, two out walk-off home run against Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels. No, there was nothing significant about the game itself — it was another losing season — but rather all the emotion I had when it actually happened. There’s always been something sweet about defeating the Angels, but I’m not sure why. I guess it just satisfies some strange perverse pleasure of mine. Anyway, the home run was terribly unexpected, like it wasn’t supposed to happen, and I remember jumping up and down in the living room at my girl’s house, which was prime example #1 of how I live vicariously through my sports teams. About a month later I left to go to school at Virginia Tech, but that moment, because of when it happened, sticks out stronger than almost any other walk-off.
#3 — The 2010 Postseason
Sure, you never forget your first. My interest in the Rangers was only passive until the early 2000 years, so I never truly got to enjoy the playoff runs of the late 90′s. In October, 2010, Cliff Lee almost single-handedly carried us past Tampa Bay and New York with his virtuoso-like performances. It was more than pitching; it was using a scalpel to carve through the strike zone; it was art.
In the final at bat of the ALCS, Neftali Feliz completed the Rangers ‘cycle, striking out the most iconic Ranger of all-time, Alex Rodriguez, on a 1-2 breaking ball, sending the franchise to its first World Series in history.
#2 – The 2011 Postseason
This was my favorite Rangers’ team, ever. Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Elvis Andrus: They were simply the finest collection of talent I’ve ever seen assembled from an offsenive standpoint. It was “The Year Of The Napoli,” it was Nelson Cruz banging out one of the finest Championship Series performances in history, it was the World Series that got away. It seemed like every player on the roster was making a name for himself just as quickly as the franchise ascended. We were officially on the map. I will never forget that team, and it’s just too damn bad they couldn’t finish the job.
#1 – September 23rd, 2004
This was one of the most overachieving, lovable teams I’ve ever rooted for. 2004 was the season that the Rangers, despite a terrible pitching staff, found a way to stay in postseason contention through the final week of the season. On this day, I was a freshman in high school, updating the scores on my little brick Nokia phone.
It was 4-2, Oakland, heading into the bottom of the 9th inning. After Eric Young led off the inning by lining out, up stepped Hank Blalock, and he smashed an incoming Octavio Dotel fastball deep into the right-center Arlington sky, reducing the lead to 4-3. After a Michael Young double and an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira, Brian Jordan hustled out a fielder’s choice, putting men on 1st and 3rd with two outs.
Finally, in an at bat that still lives luminously in my head, David Dellucci cranked a 2-2 fastball just beneath the dive of right-fielder Jermaine Dye, scoring two runs, and winning the game. Josh Lewin had a pretty epic call, to boot. The win didn’t mean anything in the big picture, because the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs a few days later, but it gave me some sense of hope, and that hope really wasn’t revisited again until the team made the playoffs some six seasons later.
Anyway, that’s my list. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. Now make sure to hug your loved ones and stock up on canned goods that won’t expire until at least the next time the world ends.