The season ahead. 523 comments

I have not seen a publication or article yet that doesn’t have the Rangers finishing last or fourth. ESPN the Magazine is the latest publication to come out with their predicitons, and they have the Rangers finishing fourth, winning one more game than the Houston Astros.

“We’re number four, we’re number four!” is not really cause for rejoicing. You don’t see too many foam fingers holding up four.

I hope everyone is wrong about the Rangers, but I suspect we are in for a long, challenging season.

I’ve been in Dallas since 1994. The first year of the Ballpark was my first year as a Rangers fan. I have not experienced the long, painful suffering that most Rangers fans have, although I am catching up quickly.

While there is nothing quite as wonderful as going to the Ballpark to watch baseball, there is also nothing quite as depressing as going there to see so many empty seats.

Every empty seat is a reminder that this team is not worth the time or effort.

There were games last season when the majority of the few fans that were there were there for the opposing team. The Ballpark offers home-away-from-home field advantage for the Red Sox, the Yankees and, of all teams, the Royals.

And that’s a shame.

But it’s also the unavoidable effect of playing losing baseball in a town that tolerates baseball only when it wraps them up in the warm blanket of victories.

When Tom Hicks owned the team, he complained that there were more Yankees and Red Sox fans in the Ballpark than Rangers fans. What he failed to get was, they were loyal baseball fans that the team hadn’t done enough to convert into Rangers fans.

Other than football, Dallas/Fort Worth sports fans don’t love sports as much they love swagger. Take away the swagger and you take away the fan.

The out-of-nowhere World Series appearance in 2010, and the electric World Series team of 2011 where wonderful times for this franchise. The Ballpark was packed. A ticket to the Rangers game was a hot item. There was a collective joy of being a Rangers fan. Suddenly, where you used to see Cowboys shirts, you saw Rangers shirts. Red was the new blue.

It seems like such a long time ago.

Just like that, the swagger was replaced with sulking in the shadows. As quickly as the ray of hope shined above the Texas Rangers, the black cloud of disappointment parked itself over this franchise. And it doesn’t appear to be blowing away any time soon.

I’ll be at the Ballpark on Opening Day when the season awakens for another year.  I’ll be there the following day, and a whole lot of days after that. And if this year is anything like last year, as April winds its way to September, and the season just wants to crawl back into bed and go to sleep, I will be there, in a half-empty stadium, wondering what happened to all the Rangers fans who were just here a few short years ago.

They left with winning.