By Mike Brandyberry
The Texas Rangers have made two straight trips to the World Series, only to return home with no trophy. This year, they returned to the Lonestar State without the title and one of the worst heartbreaks in baseball history. If any franchise can relate to the World Series plight of the Rangers, it might be Indians fans, who still can’t shake the visions of that tragic Sunday evening in Miami in 1997.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Dan Edmonson of Chicken Fried Baseball, a blog covering the Texas Rangers, to talk heartbreak, Yu Darvish and moving ahead.
DTTWLN #1-How do fans perceive the disappointing World Series loss, for the second straight year? The Rangers remind me of the Indians of the mid-90s who were so close. We have Jose Mesa as a scapegoat figure. What is the feeling with the fans?
It took me a while to recover from the World Series. Actually, I’m not sure if I’ve fully recovered yet. Case in point: I heard the song “Written in the Stars” on the radio last week, and it made me cringe. I guess the fact that the door still appears to be wide open for the Rangers to get back takes the edge off to some degree, but it’s been tough.
I think the 1997 Indians are actually a pretty good comp to the 2011 Rangers – stacked lineups, balanced rotations, deep bullpens, similar fates. Fortunately, the Rangers don’t have a true, single scapegoat for collapse. The starters outside of Derek Holland didn’t get the job done. Neftali Feliz blew a critical save in game six, but Nelson Cruz could have saved him by catching the final out. Josh Hamilton gave Texas the lead right back, only for Scott Feldman to blow the team’s second save opportunity in two innings. And of course, Mark Lowe surrendered a walk-off home run to force another game. And after all of that, the Rangers had a 2-0 lead in game seven before the game’s first out was recorded.
The collapse was a team effort, but at least there’s still hope.
DTTWLN #2-How are the moves by the Los Angeles Angels viewed by fans and the organization? Does everyone still see the Rangers as the team to beat in the West, or do you feel the window is closing?
The Angels got a lot better. While the Rangers finished ten games ahead of Anaheim in both 2010 and 2011, the division should be much closer over this year. I still think the Rangers are the team to beat in the West, but it should be close, and the Angels would be a scary team to face in the postseason.
DTTWLN #3-Why were the Rangers rather content to let C.J. Wilson leave, but spend $100 million to obtain Yu Darvish? Wouldn’t it be a safer use of funds to invest in the proven MLB pitcher?
I think the Rangers are confident in their scouting. Last season, they scouted every game Darvish pitched, and GM Jon Daniels even traveled to Japan to watch him personally. Darvish is different from most “free agents” in that he is only 25. Adding him will give the Rangers a deep collection of young, club-controlled, hard-throwing starting pitchers for years to come. At the same time, I think Wilson signed a pretty reasonable deal with L.A. The Rangers really seemed more interested in Darvish’s higher upside.
DTTWLN #4- Josh Hamilton is a free agent in a year. Are the Rangers going to try and extend him this winter, and if not, how confident are you that he will be in a Rangers’ uniform after 2013?
There are some recent reports that the Rangers are trying to lock Hamilton up to a long-term contract. I’m skeptical. I think the Rangers will ultimately perceive more health risk than Hamilton will himself. Signing him to an extension would be very risky. I’m not confident they will retain him unless he accepts a team-friendly deal.
DTTWLN #5-At this point, where do you honestly see the Rangers finishing in 2012? Can they still win the West, or return to the World Series?
I think they’ll be back in the playoffs. That could be as a Wild Card winner or division champs. It’s anyone’s guess after that, but while I don’t think the Angels are the team to beat in the West, they might be in the postseason.
Interesting views and ideas from Dan as to where the Rangers feel they are headed. Certainly the American League West will be the most watched division in baseball in 2012. How the Rangers and Angels stack up will most likely have a major impact on the postseason and potential 2012 World Series champion.
Next week, we continue our blog swap with the Indians interleague opponents.