Let me preface this... I am 100% rooting for the Giants. My family knows this. We've wished each other luck.
The Texas Rangers are my hometown team. I grew up 15 minutes away from the ballpark. I remember the old stadium, where the upper decks (I swear) swayed in a strong breeze. I coached youth teams playing in the exhibition youth park attached. My fondest family dinners were at Bobby Valentines sports bar, about a mile from the house I grew up in. By all rights, I should be a Rangers fan. I'm not. The team that has existed since my youth was largely undefendable. Sadly for us, the 2010 Rangers are not that team.
We're going here:
Growing up. going to Rangers games meant fighting traffic on 360, waiting in a long, long line for parking, bringing in an ice chest of food so as not to pay the concession stand prices, watching the Rangers build up some amazingly promising start, then bring in the bullpen, COMPLETELY melt down, and decide it was time to beat the rush out of the parking lot (along with everyone else) in the 7th, as we listened to the meltdown continue on the radio on the drive home. "No lead is Rangers bullpen-proof," we used to say.
Tom Hicks did horrible things to this team. We watched unspeakable trades happen for years. "We're paying HOW MUCH???!!!?? for this A-Rod Guy?" "Do we at least have any pitching yet?" "Well then HOW is a shortstop going to help us?" We've brought so many aging sluggers back for round whatever-the-hell while they were already doing Viagra commercials that I've lost count. I've been known for the last couple of years to not-so-jokingly refer to them as a farm team for the Yankees, teaching players how to be overpaid and entitled before they don their stripes. The article on Nolan Ryan and the club's history here - (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/03/magazine/03Ryan-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=magazine) tells the story well.
This is a new team. One with striking similarities to our own. Misfits and mercenaries. Guys who believed their careers were over, guys whose careers WERE over.. Here are a couple of links, but I highly recommend you read up on Josh Hamilton and Colby Lewis, a couple of the best comeback stories I've ever heard:
And there are more. Our trade meant that Bengie Molina got to reunite with Guerrero (still a fearsome hitter). They spent two years together with the Angels. Michael Young is their Aubrey Huff, a veteran who has never been *here* before and the captain of the team. Elvis Andrus hasn't cut his hair since spring training. Their 22 yr old closer, Neftali Feliz, is capable of a 101 mph fastball, though he usually pitches in the 94-98mph range. Just replay the look on Derek Jeter's face after he watched the first at bat against in him in that last game. Cocky, but you can see he was impressed.
They are young. Even including Darren Oliver, Molina, and Guerrero, the oldest players on the squad, the team's age averages to just over 28. Six of them are 24 or younger. And to meet Texas stereotypes, they are LARGE BOYS. Seventeen of their 25-man roster is 6'2" or over. Eight of them are 6'4" or taller. EIGHT. Most of those are on their pitching staff.
I'm not saying we're old or short, but I am saying that this matchup hits so many stereotypes it's not even funny (ok, it's kind of funny).
- Their pitching is probably going to be better than we think.
- I cannot wait to see what they try to do with Lincecum. I believe he is an alien species as far as they are concerned.
- These boys can hit, but the fences are longer and taller in SF and we have home field advantage, hopefully with Torres roving that warning track like a gator in a moat. That's going to suck for them.
- If they do start hitting 'em out, unless some magic transformation happens, we will not be able to even it up. These guys pile on runs relentlessly and feed off the tears of opponents.
- That said, we feed off stress.
- They're going to be REALLY cold here.
- Lincecum may physically melt if it's that kind of October in Texas.
The Rangers fans are going out of their MINDS. A year ago, this team botched BANKRUPTCY. There was just total despair and disgust. And their old hero, Nolan Ryan, who really didn't even spend that much of his career in Arlington, came back on a white horse and spurred a turnaround so much faster than anyone imagined. The Rangers have never even had a chance to lose a World Series. They've never been there period. This is all brand new and unbelievable. Texas is going NUTS right now with all of this.
I have some great fears about the fans, though, on both sides. I've already seen some really distasteful stuff on twitter and blogs about the Rangers and their fans being a bunch of bible thumping right-wing fundies. I'm sure there is equivalent talk in Dallas about our beaded band of maniacs from the "land of fruits and nuts." I think the ginger ale celebration (out of respect for Hamilton) is one of the classiest things I've seen in baseball, maybe ever. That's a TEAM right there, willing to modify their celebration so that everyone can be included. I saw some Giants fans attribute this to the religious angle, and it pissed me off. On the flipside, I am sure that none of the Texas fans have figured out that Wilson's tattoos are religious and his arms crossed gesture is his own take on the "point to the sky" move that's become so popular.
In short, these are a couple of the most fun, most lovable, and most cohesive teams I've seen in baseball in ages. Neither of their fanbases expected to be here this year. There is no entitlement. Everyone is just going out of their skin excited. These teams are both so good in such different ways that I can wait to see how this turns out. I just hope that the fans on both sides can put the politics and religious debates aside for a bit, just enjoy baseball and not try to turn it into a culture battle. I want to see everyone be respectful and just really revel in some potentially incredible October baseball. Hope that's not too much to ask.
There may be some bets with my sister about next children being named things like Buster Ross [her last name] and Colby Cruz [my last name]. I don't think my little nephew (who we're already training to switch hit and jaw at umpires) is ever going to know he got a Buster Posey jersey from his auntie for his 2nd birthday. The trash talk with my parents has begun. No matter which way this goes, it's going to be a ride.