Co-writer: Trevor Rathbun
As you can tell if you have visited my blog the past weekend, being an avid sports fan in the Dallas metroplex has been nothing short of miserable this past decade. I understand that a very prominent team in Dallas won the NBA Championship only two years ago. (Trust me, I wouldn’t forget that.) However, do not let the championship hangover fool you into believing that these sports teams have accomplished anything more than mediocre and choke-job seasons. I’m simply telling you how it is.
Before you begin to yell at me for criticizing the Rangers, let me say this: I understand they have come a long way. Just four years ago, they were doing what they were supposed to do by having a great start to the season up to the All-Star Break only to finish with a record around .500 and no playoff games. The fact that they have had three straight 90-win seasons, which equals the amount they had the previous 49 years, should be considered a remarkable improvement for the franchise.
But at this point, the Rangers shouldn’t be given any leeway. They improved as an organization and elevated their level of play comparable to the best teams in the MLB, and that’s how we should view them – with elite status.
So, we are discussing the dominant Texas Rangers’ teams of late that reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011, as well as the 2012 team that led the entire major league in terms of record for multiple weeks during the season. Dominating only begins to illustrate this team in terms of regular season play the past three years.
These past three seasons are the biggest examples of rapid misery in the Dallas area. After their remarkable emergence as a playoff team behind the bats of Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young in 2010, the Texas Rangers looked as if the sky was the limit. As “potential” became the favorite adjective to describe this ball club, most analysts couldn’t help but talk about the likelihood that a championship was inevitably and most certainly just around the corner.
Nolan Ryan took over as the president for the Rangers under owner Tom Hicks in 2008. With Ryan getting involved, the club was beginning to produce young-talent from their farm system and making acquisitions that actually benefitted the club instead of helping out the Yankees. If anyone should be left out of the DFW disappointment melting pot, Ryan might have himself a case.
2010 brought with it another management transformation, as the Rangers were sold to Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan after the franchise filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy under owner Tom Hicks. That year, the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee and exceeded expectations by making it to the World Series.
Eventually, the San Francisco Giants would go on to take the series 3-1 under tremendous pitching from Tim Lincecum and the Giants bullpen and abysmal hitting from Josh Hamilton and the Rangers lineup. Since this was the first time the team faced any sort of pressure at this high level, you can only be so disappointed in them… at this point.
The following season, the Rangers found themselves in the World Series yet again, but with a few new faces. Cliff Lee decided to return to the Phillies via free agency and the Rangers added third baseman Adrian Beltre and catcher Mike Napoli. With his stellar performance during the regular season, Josh Hamilton was named the AL MVP as the streaking Rangers were looking as if they had the ability to accomplish what they couldn’t a year before.
A hungry Albert Pujols and St. Louis Cardinals stood in their way. The series eventually came down to seven games, with Game 6 going into eleven innings as the Cardinals fought back twice with the Rangers being one strike away from winning their first ever championship twice. One. Strike. Away. David Freese hit a solo shot in the eleventh inning while having two strikes already in the count to complete the unfathomable comeback.
The heartbreak was seen on the faces and body language of the Rangers, as the Cardinals went on to celebrate an easy 6-2 win in Game 7 and steal the World Series. Once again, the Rangers came up short and were being compared to the NCAA Butler Men’s basketball team that lost in the championship two years in a row. What’s the difference between the two? Butler exceeded expectations while the Rangers failed to reach them.
With two championships being taken away, this team stormed out of the 2012 season and never looked back. Even with an offensive slump midway through the season, the Rangers led the AL West division for the entire year and dominated the baseball headlines as well. Josh Hamilton even had a four home run game during the regular season that sparked the interest of the nation. It seemed as though this team was determined to shake off their newly established image and avoid becoming the Buffalo Bills of baseball.
Yet, as the season moved along, the much lower paid Oakland Athletics played ferociously and fearlessly with nothing to lose the entire time the Rangers dominated the division. When all the attention was on the Rangers and Angels, the A’s just went about their business. A business of winning.
A September slump from the Rangers came at the worst possible time, all while the A’s were riding their momentum into the closing days of the season. Oakland played and defeated Texas the last three games of the season, taking the series as well as snatching the AL West title away from the slumping Rangers. They led the division one day, but that one day was enough when dealing with a team like the Rangers.
Instead of playing like the pre-September Texas Rangers, they continued their tremendously aggravating slump into the AL Wild Card game and lost to the Orioles 5-1 in a rather disappointing effort.
No matter the fact that the starters might have been work down by Washington or that the momentum might have been lost down the stretch, the Rangers were a better baseball team than both the A’s and the Orioles. If you watched these three teams play during the regular season and you see the makeup of the ball clubs, this realization becomes very clear.
But they ended up being farther away from winning it all than the previous two years. This collapse is regarded as one of the most epic and prolific fallouts in all of baseball and sports history. We all just experienced three straight years of coming up short while having enough tremendous talent to get the job done. The collapse at the end of the season was just the cherry on top of the choke pie the Rangers served to their avid fan base.
So, why did the Texas Rangers fall apart and fail to play like they should have? As the season came to a close, why did it feel oddly fitting the this team would undoubtedly choke at the worst possible time? Why did these Rangers fail again?
They unfortunately couldn’t help but fit into a pattern that a metroplex can’t break out of. They couldn’t help but find a way to let down their fans by providing them with false hope that each consecutive year would be the year they finally put all the pieces together.
They couldn’t help but be one of the failures of DFW sports.
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