I have been meaning to fulfill my promise, but didn’t have the time till NOW. I did mention recently that since my team is out of it, I am a Rangers fan from here on out. It was an easy choice. Although I support ex-Rays and San Francisco has a few in their starting line-up, I could never back the Giants so they are out.
Even though the Phillies were one of the first teams I followed back in the early 1980’s, Steve Carlton retired a long time ago and the Phillies now sit near the top of my most hated teams. In fact, the only team I really hate more than the Phillies is the freaking Yankees.
Yeah, backing Texas was an easy choice for me. I can remember going to Yankee Stadium (the original one) with my Great Uncle Julius in the mid-80s. I wore a jacket on the subway and when we got to our seats I took off my coat and had a #1 Scott Fletcher Rangers jersey on underneath. My Uncle was FURIOUS, but I wore the shirt all game and the Rangers won. Both teams were cellar dwellers back then, but that was my first taste of backing Texas against New York.
If I still had (and could fit into) my Scott Fletcher jersey I would have worn it this morning when I watched the game this morning.
Yes, this morning. I work nights and missed the game, BUT my neighbor DVRed it for me and I woke up early and just finished watching it. Josh Hamilton quieted the Yankees fans early and Cliff Lee was AMAZING! He made the Yankees batters look like the Rays hitters did against Lee. I had followed the Rangers a little bit this season, mostly reading about them on PatP and the Texas Rangers Cards blogs. Even before this season, Texas is my 5th favorite American League team. If you care, my favorites in order are: Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Minnesota, Chi Sox (long story) and Texas. I don’t mind Toronto or Kansas City, but I would say every other team falls into the column of teams I hate OR teams l am indifferent about like the Mariners or Angels.
So, I am a Rangers fan (now). Midseason I thought they had a shot. My eyebrows raised a little this July when they made smart trades to pick up Bengie Molina AND Cliff Lee. I had wished the Rays had made moves like that, but I really didn’t think those two moves would have THIS MUCH IMPACT. They turned out to be genius. Molina’s leadership, defense and skill and no how in handling a pitching staff has proved huge. Their acquisition of Jorge Cantu endeared them to me, but that move hasn’t provided much of a dividend yet, but I am holding out hope that he will play hero.
Of course before those midseason pick-ups, the Rangers showed they were serious this offseason by signing up 9-time All Star Vlad Guerrero to boost up the middle of the lineup. His 115 RBIs this season were a big reason they made it this far. Unfortunately every October Vlad the Impaler’s bat falls asleep and his .154 batting average isn’t helping Texas’ cause too much.
When you talk about wise moves the Rangers have made to help their cause you need to mention the move they made after the 2007 season to pick up Josh Hamilton from the Reds. The former first player chosen in the 1999 draft was a bust for the Devil Rays, but succeeded in making the big leagues with the Reds in 2007. The Rangers saw his potential and he has blossomed in Texas. In 3 seasons he has been an All Star each year, he led the AL in RBI in 2008 and his .359 average this year earned him a batting title.
In the ALDS the Rays pitching staff had his number and held him to a .111 clip with no power. After rooting against him I was cheering hard for him this morning and was delighted to see his first inning long ball. It looked like he had a second homer, but it was just a long fly out. In 3 games against New York Hamilton is batting .300 with 2 homers, 5 walks, 3 steals and 5 RBI. I think he is just getting warmed up.
Of course as fun as the long balls are, it is all about pitching and Lee has been the story. In 8 postseason games the dude is 7-0 and has hit double digits in strikeouts in each of his 3 starts. I wanted to see him get the complete game shutout against NY, but after the long top of the 9th and big lead, it made sense to let him sit and the pen kept the Yankees from coming back. I don’t recall how many Rays Cliff Lee K’ed in his 2 starts, but I remember that 11 of them looked at the 3rd strike. I think everyone’s game plan against Lee is to just hope for a walk. I wished the Rays would just swing the damn bat, but man did I love watching the Yankees batters look like fools last night.
Okay, this concludes my Rangers love fest for the day.
Actually it doesn’t. I mentioned all of the smart choices that Texas management made. Ron Washington was named the BBA Connie Mack Manager of the Year and he has been genius this season. Their front office brought the team Vlad, Cliff Lee, Bengie Molina and Jorge Cantu this season. They snagged Hamilton in ’07 and in 2006 they traded for Nelson Cruz who has been amazing! (Thanks by the way to Madding from Cards on Cards for this much needed SP of Cruz...) His rise to prominence totally reminds me of Carlos Pena’s success when he got to Tampa Bay. Very similar hitters. Unkike Pena, Cruz batted .318 this year and is a huge part of the Rangers offense. Of course getting Neftali Perez as part of the Teixeira deal was huge!
Beyond those moves it is the homegrown talent that really makes this team. I have always been a quiet Ian Kinsler fan. At the All Star break I proclaimed Elvis Andrus as the BEST shortstop in the American League and he is a super exciting player to watch. Michael Young is awesome. CJ Wilson is amazing and Scott Feldman is a great story. His numbers dropped badly in ’10, but to think he was a 30th round pick – that is great player development! A testament to a good system.
It wasn’t a part of the bet, but I have decided to temporarily rename this blog "Troll at the Plate". After the beating they gave the Yankees last night it felt like the thing to do. The name will remain until the Rangers raise the trophy in a proper champagne celebration. What was part of the bet were 1956 Topps cards. I will be posting those later today or tomorrow... After that, I will post the surprise package I got from Play at the Plate last week. Good shiny stuff. Stay tuned for the ‘56s and the mail day goodies. As far as this post – I believe all of the Hamilton Rays cards came from my buddy Wicked Ortega who has provided me with half of my collection. Thanks to him and thanks to everyone who has filled my mailbox these past few weeks. I will get your stuff posted up very soon. I think that Shannon Stewart agrees when I scream GO RANGERS!!! Troll at the Plate out.