After leaving Virginia Tech in the spring 4 years ago, I spent the next couple years bouncing around various community colleges in Southern California trying to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my life. One of the CCs I attended was Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga — the city Workaholics is filmed in, for what it’s worth — where I took two writing classes and a philosophy course taught by a little man whom I can only describe as an Aziz Ansari doppelgänger.

The class itself wasn’t significant in the slightest; it was your typical collection of 18-to-early-20-somethings who were either dying to let the rest of the class know precisely how they saw each aspect of the world, or just really pissed off that their parents were still making them go to school. I was the guy who arrived as late as possible; I believe I was only in the class for 4 weeks, just long enough to get the girl’s phone number I told myself I would get before I stopped going.

Anyway, I’m sitting here in my backyard thinking about a college class taught by a professor whose name I can’t remember, whose appearance doesn’t ring a concrete bell, and it all has to do with the concept of doubt, or skepticism, which I’m sure was introduced by some existential nut-bag who was making way too much sense back in the day for his contemporaries to believe him.

Usually when you think of doubt it means probably not, or no. Doubt, as you can imagine, originally referred to select individuals doubting the existence of Christ, or God. Though its intention wasn’t to say no, it isn’t there, but rather show me the proof.

Through any process or endeavor, skepticism is necessary to reinforce why you are doing whatever you happen to be doing in the first place. If you never doubted yourself, your surroundings, then you would be a zombie traveling blind through life.

I didn’t think I’d have to spend five paragraphs explaining something you could easily look up on Wikipedia, but that’s just the way we roll here at Nolan Writin’.

* * *

After allowing Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara and Mike Adams to walk in free agency — and trading Michael Young to the Phillies — then, sure, you could say I had quite a bit of doubt going into the 2013 season. Before knowing Colby Lewis wouldn’t pitch a single inning, or that Matt Harrison would virtually have a lost year, I had the Rangers pegged for an 87-win season on March 22nd.

I just needed to see proof that I was wrong, that Texas was better than my (perhaps) underwhelming projection. Considering the health struggles, some under-performances from certain key offensive positions, and a player lost for 50 games due to a PED suspension, I would say I sold this Rangers team quite short.

That said, I don’t doubt just to be a skeptic, or a contrarian. I doubted the Angels rotation, and they still haven’t done anything to change my mind, even remotely; I also wasn’t fooled by Seattle’s mirage of adding fringy players like Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales, whose perceived values are much greater than what they are in reality.

And Houston, well, projecting their season didn’t require much of a leap of faith.

Oakland, like the Rangers, surpassed my expectations — since I’m one of those people who adheres to the whole “lightning won’t strike twice in the same spot” theory — and now they are the only thing that remains between Texas and the division crown.

FanGraphs projects the Rangers to go 25-21 between now and the end of the regular season — good for a 91-71 record — while they have Oakland finishing 90-72.

Baseball Prospectus has Texas projected at 90.8 wins, 71.2 losses, and Oakland at 90.1 wins, 71.9 losses.

In both cases, virtual toss-ups.

To be continued at a later date. Maybe.