The Time Is Now
When the 2010 season began, the Rangers, much like this season, weren’t set for many expectations. Yes, the Rangers finished 2009 12 games over .500 and in second place in the AL West but they were still 10 games behind the Angels and a full eight games out of the Wild Card race. So maybe there was a sense of hope for 2010 but as far as expectations, there weren’t many.
With every new season comes a new slogan. This year, it’s been “Never Ever Quit” the phrase from Jeff Banister that pretty much describes his life’s motto. When 2010 rolled around, the slogan ended up fitting better than anyone had ever anticipated.
In 2010, it sure was time. We all know the story, the Rangers rode the bats of Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Vladimir Guerrero all the way to the franchises first ever World Series appearance. It didn’t have a happy ending but for the Rangers and their fans, it was time.
It was time to start winning. It was time to turn a franchise riddled with mediocrity, no expectations, and a laughing stock off the league label into a Major League Baseball Powerhouse.
2011 came around and the Rangers were even better. Many say the Rangers were the best team in baseball. They led the league in nearly every offensive category, their pitching was great and they crushed the Tigers in the 2011 ALCS. Nelson Cruz was the absolute definition of unconscious. Hamilton was one of the best players in baseball, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young blistered the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff like a summer storm and Colby Lewis was suddenly Pedro Martinez.
Much like 2010, the season didn’t end the way we all wanted it to. In fact, the season was over a night before it really ended. It ended in the absolute most gut wrenching way possible. The roller coaster of emotions still frustrates me and many Rangers fans out there. 2011 ended in sorrow and heartbreak. Eventually the sorrow and heartbreak turned into anger and we wanted revenge. We wanted retaliation. We wanted war.
The Rangers were the best team in baseball in 2011. I can confidently say that. Michael Young has gone on record as saying that. Everyone knew it, even the Cardinals.
We weren’t finished.
2012 looked to be the revenge tour. The team went out and signed Japanese phenom Yu Darvish and returned most of the core. The Rangers entered September as the American Leagues best team and a four game division lead.
It ended in heartbreak. Again.
The Rangers monumental collapse has been widely publicized since then. They blew a three game lead with five to play. One win in the final three game series against the Oakland Athletics and the Division Crown was staying in Texas for a third consecutive year. In game 162, Josh Hamilton, the should-have-been-hero of 2011, infamously whiffed on a routine fly ball to center and just like that, A’s Magic was born.
The Rangers would go on to lose the AL Wild Card game to Baltimore and there would be no war, no revenge. There would only be an out of control downward spiral.
2013 brought more anguish. The team was a game up on Oakland on September 1st but a second straight September collapse saw the team finish behind the A’s by five games despite ending the season on a seven game winning streak. They tied the Tampa Rays for the second Wild Card spot and a game 163 was needed.
Well, David Price messed with Texas.
And just like that, 2013 ended just like 2012 did. And 2011. And 2010.
In heartbreak. Anger. Emptiness.
Yet another spring arrived in 2014. This year was different though. The core was gone, some had been gone already. Hamilton moved on to a real “Baseball Town” in Anaheim, Ian Kinsler was traded to Detroit, Mike Napoli bolted for Beantown, Michael Young hung up his spikes, Nelson Cruz walked to the East Coast, and David Murphy took his talents to Cleveland.
2014’s mantra started in December of 2013 when Derek Holland was hit with the Wrigley Curse – tripping over his dog and jacking up his knee. By the time Holland was healthy enough, it was far, far too late.
Colby Lewis, after missing most of 2012 and all of 2013 made his return, but wasn’t the same pitcher. Matt Harrison broke his back, Martin Perez blew out his elbow as did Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers screwed up his elbow, Joe Ortiz broke his foot, Adrian Beltre strained his quad, Yu Darvish didn’t sleep on a Sleep Number Bed, Jurickson Profar fell alseep on his shoulder and tore the labrum, oh and newly acquired Prince Fielder had the Peyton Manning surgery.
2014 sucked. It was ultimately the demise of the winningest Manager in Rangers history, Ron Washington.
That brought us to 2015. There was some hope. Some hope that when the team got fully healthy, they could compete.. to not be cellar dwellers for the second straight year. No one predicted the Rangers to make the playoffs and it sure did start out in a bad bad way.
Yu Darvish blew out his elbow, Derek Holland stained his shoulder, and Jurickson Profar kept sleeping on his shoulder and jacked it up again.
Enter Jeff Banister.
The man who once had cancer in his leg, broke his neck on a home plate collision and was told he’d lose his leg and never walk again, walked out of the dugout, on both legs and cancer free, on Opening Day. He walked out with a purpose. He knew what this club had endured. He coached under Clint Hurdle in Pittsburgh. Hurdle, of course, was the Rangers hitting coach in 2010. Banister knew.
We’re here. 1.5 games out of first, mid-way through September, in a division the Rangers had no business competing in. Despite the injuries, despite the naysayers, despite Dave Cameron, despite every single damn “expert” who said the Rangers were trash – they’re here. Houston, who will always be DFW’s little brother, is the unlikely opponent standing in our way. That just adds to the fire.
We remember, George Springer. We remember you stealing from us earlier this season. We don’t take too kindly to that sort of thing around here.
No one tells Stinky what to do.
We remember, AJ Hinch. We remember you thinking you were some kind of rhinestone cowboy attempting to corral Prince Fielder. Good luck with that.
We remember, Luis Valbuena. We remember you trying to hip check Rougie while he was attempting to round third. Ok, if that’s how it’s going to be, we got you.
Jeff Banister remembers. The Rangers remember. We, the fans, remember.
Rougned Odor and his bat flips remember.
Tonight, it begins. Four games. In Arlington. A “red-out” at The Globe will leave the Astros seeing Red.