Some of you may think I’m lazy, or that I’m constantly taking jabs at the media — or baseball fans in general — with many of the things I write. And that would be completely accurate. The baseball season is a long season; it’s not like football or college basketball, two of my other favorite things, in which each regular season game carries a substantially greater impact in comparison.
Forever a skeptic, I still feel like I can watch the first month of the baseball season and more or less have a reasonable expectation of which teams will and will not be competitive for the rest of the year. So, even though I certainly shared the same doubts I imagine the majority of Rangers fans experienced before 2013 got underway, those doubts were squashed after a 17-9 April, and even more so when the club was 34-20 by the end of May. It was obviously apparent that the Rangers were one of the 3- or 4-best teams in the American League, and at the very least would earn the right to partake in the one-game Wild Card playoff. I don’t think one could provide the logical evidence necessary to dissuade me of that belief.
To that end, the only thing left to be decided is a narrative to accompany to club along the way.
2013 has held as much uncertainty as any Rangers season I can remember, and, in the absence of such organizational staples as Michael Young and Josh Hamilton, there has been significantly more latitude for the narrative to be taken in any number of different directions. When there are fewer sure-things, there is more mystery, and thusly more cognitive dissonance amongst the media and fan base.
As human beings, we are persistent in our quest to rationalize events that have already taken place for them to better make sense. Even if there isn’t a reason, we invent one to the best of our rational abilities, because there is something intellectually dissatisfying at the thought that an event could simply occur with no tangible explanation behind it.
I can only assume that is why, for many years, the excuse as to why the Rangers were so bad was due to the heat in Texas, or that the team could never attract impact starting pitching on the free agent market, or that — even if they did draft and develop their own starting pitching — it could never be effective in a bandbox like The Ballpark in Arlington.
Even present day you could turn on a broadcast of the opposing team Texas is playing, or tune in to ESPN or MLB Network, and the “analysts” will still tell you the Rangers were an offense-centric team as recently as last year, as if 2013 was the first season they thought it might be a halfway-decent idea to invest in some starting pitching. They will still tell you Rangers Ballpark is a haven for offense in spite of the fact that Texas’s lineup has produced about the same on the road (.254/.313/.402 [96 wRC+]) as they have at home (.270/.336/.426 [98 wRC+]), or that the club has been slightly better on the road (36-26) than they’ve been at home (36-27).
Can’t forget the Rangers have scored 34 runs in their last 3 home games, either, which has certainly helped those averages.
One of the old baseball adages is a team is never as bad as they look when they aren’t playing well, and never as good as they look when they’re hot. It’s a cliche, but it’s the most efficient way of explaining how the Rangers (72-53) somehow find themselves 19 games over .500 after two horrendous stretches of baseball — going 6-14 from May 26th-June 16th, and a 3-12 mark from July 10th-28th — that had both the fans and media scrambling for answers.
If we’re playing the selective endpoints game and throwing out those two slumps, the Rangers would be 63-27 (.700) right now, which is pretty remarkable, but sadly not how baseball works.
Whichever way you slice it, having won 16 of their last 20, it’s safe to say Texas is playing its best baseball of the season right now, the type of thing you should love to see at this stage of the year. And yes, we will still have our reasons to help justify how and why the team is playing so well, how and why the team was playing so poorly earlier in the year.
But let’s not mistake what we’re witnessing. This is a really good, really talented, really fun team to watch play the game of baseball. As Rangers fans, in particular, we should feel lucky for that.