Celebrating 50 years of Texas Rangers baseball
2010’s: World Series Bound and Adrian Beltre’s Influence
It finally happened, this is the decade where the Rangers finally make it to the World Series, and even though they made it twice, unfortunately they lost both(one in one of the most thrilling World Series’ ever played). The beginning of this decade was filled with competitive baseball, as the Rangers opened the decade with 2 straight World Series appearances, making the playoffs 5 times out of the first 7 years of the 2010s(Including losing a game 163 that kept them from making it 6 of the first 7 years of the decade. They finally established an expected culture of competition, and while they didn’t do great over the 2017-2019 stretch, those years are still pivotal in telling the story of the Texas Rangers. So lets take a look at the most exciting moments in the most exciting decade in Rangers history.
2010 World Series Run:
The 2010 Rangers won the AL West division with a 90-72 record on the back of a lineup featuring Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Vladimir Guerrero, Nelson Cruz, and 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton. The team as a whole led the league in hits and batting average, drawing comparisons to the potency of the 90’s lineups. Except this time, they also had pitching, as Wilson, Lewis, and mid season acquisition Cliff Lee all were in the top 20 in the AL in ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, and WHIP. They also had Neftali Feliz put up 40 saves with a 2.73 ERA, and had a very strong back end of the bullpen. The 2010 season was a storybook run for a team who had not experienced winning like this in many years, filled with all sorts of quirky things, such as; team bankruptcy, the Claw and Antler T-shirts, and a Bengie Molina Cycle.
After securing the division, the Rangers played the Rays in the ALDS, a series that was also full of quirks as it’s the first series ever where only the away teams won games and the first time since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1928 that two players on the same team hit 3 home runs each in the same series(Kinsler and Cruz). The Rangers concluded the series with their first playoff series win in history and went on to play the dreaded Yankees in the ALCS, where Feliz went on to take out years of Rangers fans frustration by striking out none other than Alex Rodriguez to send the Rangers to the World Series for the first time ever. While the Rangers would ultimately end up losing the World Series 4 games to 1, the real win was the Rangers emergence into true relevancy, and they weren’t done yet.
2011 World Series Run:
On the heels of the most successful season in franchise history how would the Rangers respond? In the off-season they lost Guerrero, Cliff Lee, and Bengie Molina, but what they brought in was perhaps one of the best free agent signings in MLB history in Adrian Beltre. The move caused the Rangers to request Michael Young to make yet another position change by moving to DH, causing trade request to be made by Young, but anger aside, Young would remain in Texas.
Along with Beltre, the Rangers brought in via trade another fan favorite in Mike Napoli, and they were off to the races. While barely holding onto first place through June with a record of 43-39, the Rangers sprinted to the end of the season going 53-27 through the months of July, August, and September, finishing the season with a 96-66 record and securing the division title for the second consecutive season.
The Rangers were back in the playoffs and were not going down easy this year. They beat the Rays in the first round 3 games to 1, and beat the Tigers 4 games to 2 off the back of ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz and his legendary walk-off grand slam in game 2, as it was the first walk-off grand slam in postseason history. The Rangers were back in the World Series, this time against the St. Louis Cardinals, who they led 3 games to 2 after a masterful performance in game 4 by Derek Holland, and a hard fought win in game 5. Thus came the game that will forever live in infamy to Rangers fans, game 6. Perhaps the craziest game in World Series history, as it contained 7 different lead changes, a 1 strike away triple by David Freese in the bottom of the 9th, a Josh Hamilton Kirk Gibson-like home run in the top of the 10th, a game tying single in the bottom of the 10th, and a heartbreaking walk-off home run by David Freese in the bottom of the 11th. A home run which essentially lost the Rangers the World Series, and thus ending the highest peak the Rangers have ever reached.
The Ensuing Playoff Years:
After reaching the highest peak in baseball and ultimately failing to bring home a championship, the Rangers couldn’t follow up with the same elite level of play. In 2012 with much of the same roster the Rangers looked to rebuild their previous magic. After leading the division for most of the entire season they eventually spiraled down the stretch and lost in the first-ever single game Wild Card game. Struggles in this season caused the separations of Michael Young and Josh Hamilton in the offseason.
The following years saw the Rangers lose in a game 163 tie breaker to the Rays in 2013, the first season without Michael Young leading the club and then a disastrously bad 2014 where the Rangers only won 67 games, resulting in the loss of manager Ron Washington.
Many thought the Rangers weren’t in a position to compete until they eventually rode incredible seasons from Beltre, Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, and Cole Hamels who was picked up half way through the season, to an incredible second half run and a division championship which ultimately ended when Jose Bautista broke the Rangers in the ALDS after the Rangers blew a two game lead in the series. What Bautista did through created a ton of hostility between the teams, that when the Rangers came back to face them in 2016 Rougned Odor absolutely rocked Bautista in one of the most memorable sports fights in history. Ultimately the Rangers faced the music again in the ALDS in ’16, as the stacked lineup and rotation that won them 95 games in the regular season failed to show up, as the Rangers were swept, thus being the last season the Rangers have seen postseason.
Adrian Beltre 3,000th hit:
While the following seasons weren’t near as interesting as the first 6 years of the 2010’s, Rangers fans still got the opportunity to witness their Hall of Famer close out his career and put his name as lock for the MLB Hall of Fame. As on July 30th, 2017 Beltre stepped up to plate in the 4th inning and hit a double, allowing him to become the 31st player in league history to hit 3,000 hits and the 1st ever Dominican born player to do so. While Beltre retired after the 2019 season, this milestone truly felt like the closing moment of this amazing era of baseball, as the Rangers best generation saw their best player essentially ride off into the sunset.
Who Best Represents This Decade?
One could write a novel about the importance of Adrian Beltre to not only the Rangers, but to the game of baseball itself. The man who didn’t like his head being touched played the kids game with the enthusiasm of someone who is forever young. From toying with Andrus constantly in the middle of games, to doing his signature knee drop home runs, to his crazy legs, to him moving the on-deck circle, he never let Rangers fans come to a game without getting their money’s worth. We often forget just how ridiculously good he was, because he was just so entertaining, but goodness was he incredible. 3,166 career hits, 477 career home runs, a career .286 average, 4 Silver Sluggers, 5 Gold Gloves, 2 Platinum Gloves, and a career WAR of 93.5 which ranks 40th in MLB history. As a Rangers fan myself, I would argue there has never been a player who combined the words entertaining and talented as much in Rangers history, and to that I say thank you Adrian Beltre for providing us with so many amazing memories.
Other notable players/people in the era:
Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Derek Holland, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Colby Lewis, Yu Darvish, Mike Napoli, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor(Mainly for the Bautista punch), Cole Hamels, Joey Gallo