The Year of Yu
Worthless preseason polls will be found in periodicals near you soon, likely tabbing the Rangers as World Series favorites. It’s hard to argue with though; they are the team most poised to crash the Fall Classic. But c’mon, three straight trips to the World Series, that’s a lot to ask for, but it is also the inevitable hope of all Rangers fans to win the ring.
Its one thing to be in the driver’s seat of the four passenger AL West division, but you would need a cargo license to drive all 30 teams to the finale. From the moment Yu Darvish sets foot on Surprise soil, to the last out in October, the Rangers will be the story of all baseball.
Even in the last two years of American League dominance, the Rangers have been an afterthought. With two straight World Series trips, and the addition of a Japanese rock star, it’s time for the Rangers to step onto the center stage.
This is the time when people will look back and say “I loved those Rangers of the 10s”. This is the time when the Rangers become the team that nomadic baseball fans gravitate toward. This is the time the Rangers become a global team. This is a time when the Rangers “T” could replace the ever en vogue “NY” caps.
The Rangers could capitalize on the paramount season ahead of them, or they could revert back into the crowd of normalcy. If the Rangers finish this year celebrating, then they could potentially ride the wave of true success for upcoming decades.
All eyes are on Texas this year, if they can win the World Series, meeting expectations, then it’s an incredible accomplishment. Fans and media always set the bar of expectations so high that whenever someone reaches the bar or exceeds it, they become legendary.
For example, Ken Griffey Jr. has a place in every baseball fan’s heart because he met and crushed the expectations placed on him at age 17. He only needed 129 minor league games, and was an All-Star at age 20. He is a no-doubt Hall-of-Famer, even though after age 30 he was very injury-prone.
And on the flip side, first overall pick of the 2004 draft, Matt Bush, hasn’t even made it to the majors yet. His career to this point is an unequivocal disappointment compared to his expectations.
It is unavoidable and it is human nature to align our expectations with potential. And no team has more potential to win the 2012 World Series than the Texas Rangers. It’s sad because an excellent and memorable season may be washed away in the sorrows of unmet expectations.
The wild expectations and hope pinned to the 2012 season will all be placed on Yu Darvish. And this, I think, is brilliant. Put all the pressure pent up of over two years of near finishes upon a foreigner who doesn’t speak the native language. This way he will likely only get easy questions from his Japanese brethren. It’s even possible he will face less public exposure in America than he did in Japan, where he was the sports icon.
Of all the assets Darvish brings to the table, I believe his media savvy will prove to be invaluable this season. Darvish is said to thrive on pressure, and seek the limelight. Coincidentally that’s exactly what the Rangers need; for him to serve as a buffer from the media scrutiny the Rangers success has developed.
Looking backward, Yu will ease our pain. He makes you forget of yesterday, he makes you hope for tomorrow. Gone are the visions of Nelson Cruz and David Freese. They are replaced by hopes of Darvish dominating the American League.
With the way the Rangers season ended, it was important to put that season to bed. Fortunately it was sublime timing, when the 25 year old preeminent pitcher from Japan was made available. What better way to turn the page than to spend $117 million on a stud starting pitcher, in his mid-20s.
There’s a myriad of concerns surrounding the Rangers’ best hitter, Josh Hamilton. Yu will ease that pain too. Darvish is now the headliner, and Josh has become an opening act. He is no longer the main attraction at the Ballpark.
Hamilton’s impending free agency and off the field issues might have been a hot topic in other years, but once the season starts, it will become all Darvish, all the time.
The Rangers might not expect Darvish to be the #1 starter this year, but I believe the Rangers will expect dividends from their investment in the clubhouse, and off the field immediately.
There’s no telling what the 2012 season holds for the Rangers; but regardless it will be remembered as the “Year of Yu”, and I think that’s best for everyone.