An opening day like no other.

One more look back before we look ahead.

Defending World Series champions.

It’s still hard to believe that happened. But it did. Adolis Garcia carried this team on his back through the playoffs, turned it over to one swing of the bat by Corey Seager, some great glove work by Evan Carter, and a bullpen that arrived just in the nick of time.

And, unbelievably as it sounds, for the first time in the fifty-two-year-history of the Texas Rangers, they come into the season as defending World Series champions, with an opportunity to do what is so hard to do. Win back-to-back. The last team to do it was the Yankees, who did it three years in a row, 1998, 1999, and 2000.

When Josh Sborz struck out Arizona’s Ketel Marte for the final out of the final game, decades of Rangers futility disappeared. Nelson Cruz disappeared. The 102 losses in 2021 disappeared. It wasn’t so much tears of joy Rangers fans were shedding but the pain of fifty-two years of futility finally leaving our collective, persecuted souls.

Opening day is finally here. An opening day like never before. An opening day where hope is not just a pipe dream and a general manager’s empty promises. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the lack of action the Rangers had in the offseason. Desperately needing a quality starter, they signed an injured one in Tyler Mahle, who won’t be ready until the season is three quarter over. 

But don’t let that fool you. The Rangers opening day rotation last year was Jacob deGrom (speaking of pipe dreams), Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, and Martin Perez. Accounting for deGrom’s injury history and not his page, meaning they had no real hope of him lasting for more than a handful of starts, Texas’s 2024 opening day rotation isn’t much different. Eovaldi, Gray, Heaney, Dane Dunning (who stepped in admirably for deGrom), and Cody Bradford. It’s about the same. And, considering the Rangers ran away with the division for a few months until their bullpen finally dragged them back to earth, the Rangers have a rotation that isn’t scary, but it can win. Plus, they have a general manager that can find the quality starter if he needs one.

Need a reminder? Compare that opening day rotation above to the rotation at the end of the season: Eovaldi, Jordan Montgomery, Max Scherzer, Jon Gray, and Dane Dunning. The rotation will improve.

The Rangers bullpen is miles ahead of where it was last year’s bullpen that blew more saves than it converted. The addition of Kirby Yates, David Robertson, Michael Lorenzen, and Jose Ureña vastly improves the pen.

But the real story is the upgraded lineup, highlighted by the emergence of super-rookies Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford.

Compare the starting lineup from last opening day (every starter played the entire game except Josh Smith, who was replaced by, gulp, Bubba Thompson) to what it will probably be this year. A vast improvement. Gone are Brad Miller, Robbie Grossman, and Bubba Thompson. Smith is still around but not starting.

And, just for fun, look at the lineup on opening day last year and for Game 162 last year.

This is a strong team to start the season. With Chris Young at the helm, it will only get stronger. Oh, and the Rangers have baseball’s best manager.

Opening day is finally here. At long last. 

The Texas Rangers are defending World Series champions. At long long long long long long last.

Let’s go for two.