After this season, I’m done with predictions. In April, I wrote a series of articles about why this season still mattered, despite having no chance of a postseason birth. I gave four. The fifth, apparently, was to develop a taste for crow. I wrote a series in May on how to enjoy watching bad baseball. I was sure this was the beginning of a trend, not an aberration. I was 180-degrees off.
I always believed in this team, but I couldn’t make the logic work, and my mind won over my heart. As with most matters of love, that’s a recipe for trouble.
I believe every season offers us a lesson. Sometimes, it is to make memories, because not every season is sunny; the moments and memories of greatness, individual or team, can get one through a great deal of turmoil. Sometimes it is how good winning feels, after long stretches of losing. Sometimes it is the power of collective emotion, the way a stadium can flex, pulse, and breathe with the drama. Sometimes it is how to shape a bag to fit one’s head.
This season’s lesson: always savor the ride. You have no idea where it’s headed, but if you savor the moments of the game, the destination means a good deal less.
Remember where you were when Delino DeShields finally went deep. Savor Mike Napoli’s welcome-back homer and the way a stadium all but exploded with it. Marinate in the three-game stretches of beauty that has been this lefty trio of Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, and Derek Holland. Shake your head and smile in wonder, because the improbable is reality: this team is, and will remain, in a Divisional and post-season race. Period.
Enjoy every moment of it. It’s a rare beauty, one whose luster only improves when emotions are fully invested, in good times and bad. That this team, this year, with the fans reading here.
This is the payoff. This pennant race baseball. The payoff is not the post-season. That’s the gauntlet, the extra month of drama and dreams where all bets are off and any heart can swell or break at any moment. But a pennant race is the payoff for a season’s emotional investment. Enjoy it, because you’ve earned it.
You know you’ve earned it, and it shows: your Rangers flag is tattered. Your car decal is worn and dirty. Your shirt is a bit worse for wear, a bit tighter than it was those years ago.
Your hats carry luck with them; the one you wore during their last home stand still has plenty in it; the one from Game 6, if you haven’t destroyed it, hasn’t seen action since October 2011.
All things considered, luck might be the best merchandise sales trick of them all.
I own more bats than any other person I know, and most were bought because of luck. The idea that I might just be a .220 hitter never factored in. In the same way, Derek Holland will win because I have my lucky hat and my 90’s undershirt and the same socks I wore during his shutout of Baltimore. That’s just how this stuff works. It’s part of the magic we live, part of the tradition we pass down.
So what will I savor this September? What should we all savor in these last two weeks of brilliant baseball?
I’ll savor the Charge of the Left Brigade, that trio of Holland, Hamels, and Perez that has shown the ability to stop teams cold, especially at home. There’s something to the idea that Colby Lewis is pitching with such great support this year, and such seeming luck, really has to do with the lineup-chilling effect of all those bats seeing three straight days of curves and cutters from the other side. No matter who you are, that much conditioning has an effect, and serves, on occasion, to make a bulldog like Cobra into a greyhound.
I’ll savor the discovery of Shin-Soo Choo’s lost swing, and hope that Mike Napoli’s consistent power stroke might be lying around here somewhere, too. In that same corner of the equipment trunk – no, I don’t think they still use those – I’m thinking we can dig up some late-season endurance for Prince Fielder. He seems to have embraced the same, as he’s re-discovered his swing after seemingly testing whether terminal velocity really doesn’t vary, no matter how high your average starts or how much weight is behind its fall. He’s in full bounce-back mode after that clutch homer Monday. That’s not a prediction (as noted, I’m out of that business), but the results that his swing and maturity, alike, portent.
I’ll savor Adrian Beltre because he’s Adrian Beltre. Watching him play baseball is one of those things that makes America great, right up there with Whataburger, the Rocky Mountains at sunset, people-watching in New York City, and seeing Springsteen live.
I’ll savor Jeff Banister, because he’s got 100 reasons why he should never have managed to manage a team like this to the spot they’re in. Now that he has, he’s clearly loving every minute, and bringing that to his clubhouse every day.
I’ll savor Chuck Morgan, Eric Nadel, and Tom Grieve, because they’ve lived through the lean years, and now make the ballpark and broadcast experiences feel like they need to feel at times like these: indelible.
Mostly, I’ll savor the nights at the ballpark. I’ll savor every chance to disprove everyone who ever said this isn’t a baseball town.
I’ll savor the opportunity to see just how long my voice can last. I’ll savor every dog and every beer, and every drop spilled leaping to my feet because of something Rougned Odor or Mitch Moreland just did RIGHT when I needed them to do it. I’ll savor gaining a half-dozen friends among the patrons in the Church of our Lady of Improbable Promise, otherwise known as Globe Life Park, on September evenings that somehow feel endless.
So wear your red, stock plenty of film for that camera in your mind’s eye, and come ready to yell.
Show up hell-bent on opening up every eye in the sports world to something we know as fact: this is a baseball town.
Yes, this is A Baseball Town. All caps, no qualifiers or quotation marks needed. And we don’t just own or represent that; we savor it.