2012 Rangers Season is Here

With predictions come expectations, and with expectations come the hope of accomplishment, but with the hope of accomplishment comes the opportunity for disappointment. For the majority of the Texas Rangers franchise history, too many seasons have ended in disappointment, which has meant the start of many seasons begin with little hope, and low expectations. Those days are done. After two straight trips to the World Series (and not in a 1997 or 2003 Florida Marlins fashion), the Rangers have established themselves as one of the premier organizations in all of Major League Baseball. The attitude entering the 2012 season is justifiably one of excitement, high expectations, and hope.

Not since the 1923 Yankees has a team lost consecutive World Series, and returned to the World Series to win for a third year. In 1923, there were a total of 16 teams, and only two teams made the playoffs each year. Two teams made the playoffs, which meant if you made the playoffs, you were in the World Series. The Rangers are attempting to accomplish a feat that hasn’t been done in 89 years, and the degree of difficulty is exponentially higher in 2012 than 1923. The addition of 14 more MLB teams and two more rounds of playoff series has shrunk the odds of multiple World Series berths. When you include macroeconomic factors of 2012 into the analysis – namely, the addition of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder to the AL – the Rangers are certainly up against it.

However, every team has the same odds to be the champion at the start of the year. That is the great thing about sports; every year, every team gets a blank slate no matter how big of a success, failure, accomplishment, or disappointment their prior year was. No matter what the history books may say, the 2012 Texas Rangers are in position to claim their first World Series title in franchise history.

Over the last couple of weeks, we at Shutdown Inning have provided you with a position-by-position breakdown of the Rangers roster. You may have noticed that this is a roster with no noticeable weaknesses. There isn’t a single player on this team that is unequivocally the best at his position in the sport, but there isn’t one position that you can point to as an obvious soft spot. This is a group that operates as a team, and the bonds of the unit as a whole have only grown stronger over the past two seasons of playing more playoff games than any team in baseball.

The leader of this team mentality is Ron Washington, who has clarified time and time again that he is only interested in his players “doing what the game asks you to do”. There is no focus on anything but winning baseball games. No superhuman efforts are required and no individual accomplishments are prioritized. This manifests itself in Wash’s roster manipulation and management. Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Mitch Moreland, Josh Hamilton, David Murphy, and Craig Gentry are all asked to play different positions on this team. Washington has mastered the craft of handling all of those egos, and getting these athletes to all push in one direction: winning.

The architect of this team-focused roster is of course, Jon Daniels. The coach and the general manager are rarely included in the pre-season projections conversation, but in the case of the Rangers these are two assets that are simply too significant to omit. Every MLB team will finish the season with a different roster than the one with which they started, and Rangers fans can have confidence in Jon Daniels and his team to make the kind of moves within the season that will make the team better, and provide an additional edge over the competition. So while the Angels may have made the big offseason splashes of acquiring Pujols and C.J. Wilson, don’t expect the Rangers to remain quiet throughout 2012. While other teams may have sacrificed flexibility for the sake of bulking up rosters in the offseason, the Rangers still have the assets and dexterity to make the critical in-season moves.

Of the last three years, the Rangers begin 2012 with their most complete and strongest roster yet. The front office has been improved upon by retaining its top talent and adding Greg Maddux to the fold. The fans are becoming so ravenous that the D/FW metroplex is on the cusp of being called a baseball town. This franchise, this organization has renewed the standard that was set over the course of 40 years. The new standard is a championship. This is not a standard built on false hope, or expectations that have become too lofty, or that will inevitably end in disappointment. No, this is a standard that exists in reality. The Rangers are a championship-level team, and 2012 looks brighter than any other to be The Year.

The following are the predictions of the ShutDownInning staff:

AL MVP: Evan Longoria
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander

NL MVP: Joey Votto
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay

AL East: New York Yankees
AL Central : Detroit
AL West: Texas Rangers
Wildcard: Los Angeles Angels
Wildcard: Tampa Bay Rays

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
Nl West: Arizona Diamondbacks
Wildcard: San Francisco Giants
Wildcard: Cincinnati Reds

AL Champ: Texas Rangers over New York
NL Champ: Philadelphia Phillies over St. Louis

World Series Winner: Texas Rangers over Philadelphia (4-2)

Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @Peter_Ellwood
Peter Ellwood

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