It’s been a year to remember for the Texas Rangers.
First the cocaine confession of manager Ron Washington during last year’s All-Star break. Plus, you have the entire situation concerning the sale of the team. Throw in various injuries to key players throughout the season and you come to one conclusion, A-L West division champions.
After Saturday’s 4-3 win over the A’s, the Rangers are playoff bound for the first time in 11 years. I guess that “It’s Time” slogan really has some meaning to it after all.
No question the Rangers earned the playoff birth on the field. Despite the off the field drama, they played championship caliber baseball all season long. Most of the time while sitting on top of the division.
The influx of new ownership also provided a little spark. The Rangers Express Baseball Group, led by Pittsburgh sports attorney Chuck Greenberg and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, has made it known that winning is the top priority. If anybody knows a little something about winning, it’s Ryan and all 7 of his no-hitters.
Washington has kept his troops in line despite some issues himself. He admitted to using cocaine at one point last year, and publicly apologized for it. Management stuck by Washington, feeling he was the best option to lead the team.
General Manager Jon Daniels made all the right moves to keep the Rangers contenders. One of the biggest and most surprising moves of the year came prior to the trading deadline, when Daniels snuck in and snatched pitcher Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners before the vaunted New York Yankees could. Daniels also acquired Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants, Jorge Cantu from the Florida Marlins and Jeff Francoeur from the New York Mets to name a few, all adding depth to the roster. The Rangers were going all in for the season, without depleting their minor league system.
The changes also affected the minors, with the Rangers parting ways with Oklahoma City and adding Round Rock and Myrtle Beach to the organization. Round Rock is now the Triple-A affiliate and Myrtle Beach moves to Single-A.
The team has be able to play through the injury bug, with the middle of the lineup banged up during different stretches of the season, Josh Hamilton has suffered various injuries, and Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz have made trips to the disabled list. However, the Rangers never missed a beat.
The biggest surprise has been the pitching staff. In spring training, CJ Wilson basically begged for a chance to be in the starting rotation. He has done nothing but prove it was a right move, putting up Cy Young caliber numbers. Colby Lewis returned from playing in Japan the last couple of seasons and makes quality starts practically every time he takes the mound. Tommy Hunter came into his own this season and Derek Holland pitched well during the home stretch. Expect to see Lee start Game 1 in the ALDS, with Wilson going in Game 2 and Lewis for Game 3.
All that remains is who they will face in the first round. Right now it will be the winner of the A-L East between the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. The winner gets the division, the loser gets the wild card spot. It should be interesting if they draw the Yankees. The 3 playoff series the Rangers were in, from 1996-1999, they faced the Bronx Bombers and lost all 3 times.
Right now, the Rangers are making a case to be a force in the metroplex sports scene. And if there is one thing you can’t deny, it’s the fact that the division flag is now flying in Arlington, Texas.
Written by C. James