Rangers on rare mission

Russ Espinoza

It was just 13 months ago that the Texas Rangers were a punch line for their postseason futility. Today, they’ve joined an elite class of franchises like Joe Torre’s Yankees, the ‘Bash Brother’ Athletics, and the ‘Big Red Machine’ of the 70s who have reached the World Series in consecutive seasons. But prior to 2010’s Divisional Round versus Tampa Bay, the Rangers had only made three playoff appearances—1996, 1998, and 1999—since their Dallas-Fort Worth debut in 1972. The real humiliation, however, arose out of a combined 1-9 record in those three Divisional Rounds, each against the Yankee dynasty of the late 90’s and early 00’s. The fixtures of that checkered era were Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Rusty Greer, and manager Johnny Oates; a cast of stars remembered more for being star-crossed than star powered come October.

To magnify this generation’s accomplishment, the 2010-11 Rangers became the first American League franchise not based in The Bronx to make back-to-back World Series’ since the 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays, who took both Fall Classics from Atlanta and Philadelphia, respectively.

Performing in baseball Armageddon is pressure enough, but the Rangers must contend with the heaviness of staving off a second straight World Series loss, a la the 90s Atlanta Braves–who became comedy fodder as a result. Professional athletes commonly depict their championship round appearances as either the best thing that ever happened to them, or the worst. How will Josh Hamilton speak of this one when it’s time to write the story of his life?

For all the bluster over how the Yankees and Red Sox have monopolized the game’s best talent with their bottomless coffers, it’s the St. Louis Cardinals who’ve enjoyed the most World Series appearances in the last decade–2004, 2006, and 2011. The Red Birds are vying for their second championship of the 21st century and will brandish home field advantage via the National League’s victory in the 2011 All-Star Game.

The Cardinals will throw righty Chris Carpenter against Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Series’ ensuing pitching matchups have yet to be determined as of press time.