The Rangers in Perspective
By Eric Reining
Being a fan of the Rangers has changed with the success of the ball club. In past years it felt good to beat teams like Kansas City and Cleveland and Baltimore. To reel off five or six wins consecutively felt more like Christmas in the middle of the summer than just another small patch of a baseball season, which is all it really was. Taking two of three from the Angels was an accomplishment. Seeing the Yankees or Red Sox on the schedule meant I’d have to fill my weekday evenings focused on other matters, because I’d be tuned out of the opponent’s onslaught of the Rangers by the third inning.
It’s not really like that anymore. At all.
Now, taking a series against the Angels is expected. Sweeping a series against any team — good or bad — doesn’t merit getting overly joyful. Winning is no longer a relief or surprise; it’s what is supposed to happen. It’s the reason even the regular season doesn’t get me biting on my nails while I sit nervously on the edge of my couch.
You could pick from any of the litany of Rangers’ teams that preceded the 2010 World Series team, and a meaningless game in May would have felt like the Super Bowl. To me, at least.
It’s why I wrote the piece a few days ago about how Spring Training doesn’t deserve any hyperbole. I’m anticipating a fantastic season of baseball in the American League in 2012, but I’m still hard pressed to find a better team on paper than we are. My mental tabulator still says the Rangers are six games better than the Angels in 2012.
I’m getting off-topic. The main point to all of this is I’m not big on Spring Training and the overreactions that always seem to somehow manifest this time of the year, and that the regular season is where the main focus should be. (Though, knowing how I am, by the time the regular season comes around I’ll already be looking forward to the way the playoff picture is setting up.)
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I live in Southern California. Among the generation that’s around my age, I feel pretty safe in saying about 7 out of 10 people would tell you they are Angels’ fans rathan than the Dodgers (who primarily dominated that ratio during their glory 90’s). The kid I spent the majority of my childhood growing up with was an Angels’ fan. Pretty much, everything was screwed when the rally monkey popped off during their 2002 World Series season, and the otherwise fringe fans picked the Angels side of the fence over the team from LA. (However, to push merchandising sales, the Angels claim Los Angeles as well. They still play all their home games in Anaheim, though Anaheim is about as much like Los Angeles as a PC is a Mac. It’s dumb.)
What’s so great, being that I’ve been a Rangers’ fan since I can remember following baseball, is that no one can point their finger at me for jumping on the Rangers’ bandwagon after they made the 2010 World Series without hearing something about it from me. Furthermore, it’s ironic, because the World Series year is exactly how so many people became Angels’ fans in the city I’m from and those that surround it.
So yeah, I feel like I have the right to be a little arrogant about my team, because that’s all I’ve known coming back at me from Angels’ fans. And someday, maybe ten more years from now, fans of other teams can poke fun at the guy that became a Rangers’ fan around the time of . . . right now. But that guy is not me. To fully appreciate success — in this case, winning — one first has to understand what losing is like. I’ve been a fan of a team that’s never won anything, so I know both sides as clearly as crystals.
What I’ve yet to grasp is why so many Angels’ fans, along with many national media media members, actually believe Anaheim is indeed the team to beat in the West this season. A couple month ago, the Angels’ blogger for ESPN wrote about the Yu Darvish effect, with one line I found particularly interesting:
“If Darvish transitions as well as Daisuke Matsuzaka did, he could make things surprisingly close again between the AL West rivals.”
I’m not a doctor, but last I checked it was the Rangers coming off back-to-back American League pennants, not the Angels. But hey, these are the same people who said the Rangers’ signing of Darvish was simply a response to the Angels signing CJ Wilson away from us.
All I know is that right now, the Rangers are the class of the American League. Until one the many capable teams actually takes that title away from them, it won’t just dissolve. It’s an intangible yet true designation for a team that has still yet to win anything, and for their fans who still believe in the dream the front office laid down a handful of years ago. This is 2012. It’s a very exciting time to be a Rangers’ fan.
And it’s okay to be a little cocky about that. After all, the Rangers are, as of now, the best out there.