When I think back and ponder the 2014 Texas Rangers season, I’m quickly reminded of a quite terrible team that managed the third worst record in all of Major League Baseball. Any time you finish a season 67-95, you don’t have much to celebrate other than high draft position the following June. But, when I think back on the 2014 season and consider more than all the injuries and the horrific baseball outcome of the year, I also recall several games in Arlington for which I made the drive down from Oklahoma so I could get my baseball fix… whether or not the team was any good.
Last year, I made the trip in June for the Braves series and again in September for the Indians series. I made both trips with my then-girlfriend. I brought along my 10 year old son to the Indians series. I also drove down for the Angels series at the end of July and the Royals series in August with a buddy, all with full knowledge that the Rangers didn’t have much chance of making a run for anything that year. Maybe during that Braves series in June I might have still held onto some hope for great things. Just look at 2015 – our boys were 8 games out of first place and 2 games under .500 on August 2 and still managed to win the division.
I’ve been a Texas Rangers fan since 1991, and I’ve never looked back. Some years since then were better than others, but most seasons along the way honestly haven’t been very good until 2010. Whether or not your team is good any given year, being a fan is something you carry with you. When the team is horrible, you still wear their T-shirt and ball cap in the summer and their hoodie in the fall and early spring. When you spend much time at all with someone that’s not a baseball fan, I’ve learned that it usually either rubs off on them or it rubs them the wrong way.
Last year, I dated a woman for several months that wasn’t necessarily a baseball fan before we began dating, and I thought maybe the Rangers had rubbed off on her after watching dozens of games at home together and making the 4 hour drive for 2 different weekend series. I know she enjoyed the Saturday afternoon Braves game, but that may have been in large part because we got to walk to the George Strait concert at Jerry World directly after the game.
As it turns out, it seems like I was wrong, oh so very wrong. But that’s okay. If nothing else, it’s actually funny.
She was born in Houston and lived there before moving to Oklahoma, so it stands to reason that her natural fandom would have been with the Astros. So, what’s funny about all this? I’m glad you asked. In early June of this year – more than 7 months after we’d broken up – she posted on Twitter “Haven’t been to a real baseball game in forever! #Astros” along with a picture from what appears to be pretty good seats at Minute Maid Park, only maybe 10 or 15 rows behind the first base dugout. (No, I’m not going to link to the tweet; there’s no need to drag her into this or call her out publicly like that. Trust me, it’s there.)
When I first saw what she’d posted about 4 months ago, honestly it made me mad. My first thought in that instant was “Are you crazy?! It hasn’t been THAT long!” I had to tell myself that I already knew the answer to that question – thus the reason she’s an ex–girlfriend – but I couldn’t help but be upset by the suggestion that those Rangers games last year weren’t “real baseball.” Maybe part of that aggravation comes down to a strangely subjective interpretation of the meaning of the word “real”, or maybe it was a backhanded shot at me personally. I hope Rangers fans won’t take as strong of objection to that comment as I did, because in hindsight I’m sure it was intended as a slight directly against me more than it was directed at Your Division Champion Texas Rangers.
Poetic justice is a glorious thing. The Astros motto this season was “Come and take it”, and after the Rangers strung together a 38-21 run over 9 weeks in August, September and early October, they did just that. I heard someone mention the term “real baseball” yesterday and that caused me to think of the tweet from June, and set this entire train of thought in motion. All I could think about was the Rangers jumbotron immediately after Cole Hamels secured the 27th out of game 162 trolling the Astros and their cart-before-the-horse slogan.
It was a moment to sit back, sip on my drink, put a grin on my face and remember that flags fly forever – except when that flag bears a seemingly unwise motto that served as a rallying cry for the Rangers and was effectively beaten into submission over the final few weeks of the season. The Texas Rangers are the 2015 American League West Champions, and that ladies and gentlemen, that is real baseball.