What a difference a year makes.
This time last year, the Rangers were sneaking into the backdoor of the season, hoping nobody had noticed what happened to them the previous year.
ESPN The Magazine noticed. They picked the Rangers to finish in fourth place in the West, winning one more game than the Houston Astros.
They were wrong, of course. Texas finished two games ahead of Houston.
Oh, and in first place instead of fourth.
Now the Rangers head into the season as the favorite to repeat by most accounts. Tim Cowlishaw is the only Rangers reporter for The Dallas Morning News not to have the Rangers either winning the West or drawing a wild card. One writer from the Houston Chronicle, Jerome Solomon, picked Boston to win the American League. So much for expertise.
But, as I wrote here back in February, this might be the best season ever for baseball in the state of Texas.
For the first time since both teams were in the same division, both teams go into the season expected to battle it out for the division championship. There isn’t a Washington Generals to Harlem Globetrotter relationship going on like so often has been the case, especially in 2013 when the Rangers beat the Astros seventeen out of nineteen times. That’s not a rivalry, it’s a mercy killing.
A golden era of baseball in Texas is upon us. We haven’t seen that since the late 90s when both teams were good but in different leagues.
Last year showed us something about the Rangers front office that we hadn’t seen in a while, either. A killer instinct. The trade deadline became the season’s lifeline.
Heading into this year, I suspect nothing is out of the question. If the Rangers starting pitching falters like it very well could, Daniels proved he is not afraid to dip into his stack of chips and buy another Cole Hamels. All it will cost is prospects.
Like trading pesos for gold.
Last year going into the season, Daniels had totally ignored his bullpen. And it self destructed.
Any misgivings one would have at the roster—and there aren’t many other than question marks in the rotation, which, when you think about it, are big—will be addressed in-season.
Like building the plane while it’s flying. It’s always more fun that way.
A strong team heads into the season knowing holes will be patched if leaks are sprung.
I will be at the Ballpark today when the season awakens yet again. There’s nothing better than baseball when the season has been reset. Nothing better than looking at that long road ahead and having the confidence that you have what it takes to go all the way.
I cannot see a better team in the American League right now than the Texas Rangers. And they haven’t even pulled over for refueling.
Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington
Felix Hernandez (18-9, 3.53) vs. Cole Hamels (13-8, 3.65)
Game Time: 3:09
How the Rangers hit against Hernandez.
How the Mariners hit against Hamels.