Tag Archives: Texas Rangers

Lovable Losers: The Baseball Edition

30 Oct

Are you a heart-broken baseball fan? Has your favorite ballclub been eliminated from the playoffs? Well only one team a year that can win a championship. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair– especially when a team is thoroughly fun and the brand of ball is oh-so-entertaining. Entertaining doesn’t always win championships or bring accolades, but cult followings have started on far worse premises than entertainment–just ask Jim Jones. Here are five of my favorite post season “losers” from the past 3 decades of playoffs.

2010-2011 Texas Rangers  

2011 World Series Game 5 - St Louis Cardinals v Texas Rangers

This was a particularly cruel era for Rangers fans. Front office guru and Texas legend Nolan Ryan put together a squad that was exciting and talented enough to make their first trip to the World Series in franchise history.

The 2010 season was a bit of a novelty because it was the first time in a long time Rangers fans had something to cheer about. Most were glad to finally be out of the Tom Hicks, “bad contracts to sullen players”era (they were floating the Yankees on a good chunk of Alex Rodriguez’s salary for years after he was traded). Players like Vlad Guerrero and Cliff Lee join Josh Hamilton gave Texas some nationally recognized star power.

It looked like they would give the San Francisco Giants a run for their money after disposing of the Yankees and Devil Rays, but Tim Lincecum and that vaunted pitching staff took care of the Rangers in five games. Fans were just happy that they made it so far, and the season was considered a success.

The 2011 Rangers team picked up where last season left off, winning the West with a 96-66 record. Though one of the best offenses in the majors, their pitching staff lacked consistency, as their best pitcher at the time was C.J. Wilson. This didn’t keep them from beating the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Detroit Tigers on their way to the World Series, and getting to within one strike of a World Series title. Although Nelson Cruz gets scapegoated for the play that effectively cost the Rangers the season, the truth is they wouldn’t have gotten that far without Nelson Cruz’s offensive production–that was his only real gaffe during that run–albeit his biggest (one wonders why Cruz was in the game at that point anyway. Despite Cruz’s strong-arm, Manager Ron Washington could have put in a defensive replacement for the bottom of the 9th inning).

Everyone knows what happened in extra innings, setting up one of the biggest sports letdowns for a fan base since the 1986 World Series. It took me almost a week to tear down the protective plastic I’d hung up in my apartment for the post game celebration I’d had planned. A case of Budweiser went unopened–not for drinking, but for spraying around my living room (In case you’re wondering, yes I planned to throw and attend that party alone).

1993-94 Philadelphia Phillies

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Although not the prettiest of baseball teams (stylistically or physically), the 1993 Phillies were an entertaining bunch. Lenny Dykstra was the type of player I’d envisioned myself as. Scrappy, down and dirty,and often overlooked, but he did whatever it took to win.

Dykstra had 6 HR’s and 10 RBI as a lead-off hitter and would have been the World Series MVP had they somehow managed to win. He wasn’t the fastest, nor the strongest, but whenever a big play was needed, “Nails” made it happen.

John Kruk was also easy to love. He was a fantastic contact hitter, who barreled around the bases in his big and burly frame. Darren Daulton and Dave Hollins were big hitters, and with a platoon of players to insert around them (including former Ranger great Pete Incaviglia) they could score runs in bunches.

Their patchwork pitching staff often let them down as 14 runs were sometimes not enough to guarantee a win. Left hander Terry Mulholland was their most consistent pitcher, and this was the post-season where Curt Schilling started making a name for himself as a clutch pitcher; delivering goose eggs in the biggest moments of both the LCS and World Series.

The Phillies’ run inevitably ended when Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams came in to pitch with a 6-5 lead after a big 7th inning( sparked by yet another Dykstra home run)–setting up this World Series moment that would be the backbone to an Adam Sandler movie and a hip-hop diss record.

1991 Atlanta Braves

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Before the general public turned on the Braves organization from overexposure, Atlanta had a very likable roster. Their worst to first back story was a charming change of pace for the baseball media, and even non baseball fans got infected with “Tomahawk Chop” fever (my own mother always greeted each David Justice at bat with an exclamation of “cutie pie” to no one in particular).

After they dispatched the Los Angeles Dodgers (next to last day of the regular season) and Pittsburgh Pirates to emerge as National League champions, the Braves continued to amaze with their timely hitting and rotation of young pitchers. Steve Avery, John Smoltz, and Tommy Glavine would become household names after this season, and young guys  like Ron Gant, Deion Sanders (yes that one) and vets like Otis Nixon and Terry Pendleton made them a good team, but not too good to the point of being annoying.

As destiny would have it, the Braves would match up against another worst to first team, the Minnesota Twins. If Atlanta was one of the more lovable baseball teams of all time, then the Twins were one of the easiest teams to hate of all time. Put aside the off the field stuff written about Jack Morris and Kirby Puckett, and you still had villains like Chuck Knoblauch and Kent Hrbek. Plus, I hated Danny Gladden’s mullet, and Mike Pagliarulo’s mustache made him look like a dirty cop from an episode of Hill Street Blues.

Even though game 7 of that series will go down as one of the best World Series games of all time, in one of the greatest World Series of all time, I will always remember the unsettled feeling I had going to bed after the final run was tallied and the game ended. Lonnie Smith going for the Okie Doke was the difference maker, and Jack Morris was as clutch as clutch can be; pitching 10 scoreless innings of ball. In all honesty, the Braves just didn’t have the horses to win it all.

Kirby Puckett was transcendent and his game 6 heroics set up the most memorable World Series moment of my lifetime. One last bit of trivia that will forever be null and void is Braves’ 2nd baseman Mark Lemke’s World Series leading .720 batting avg. that had almost guaranteed him a vote or two for MVP had Atlanta won. Of course, the Braves would finally get their title in 1995, after beating Cleveland, but that ‘95 team was supposed to win. They had Fred McGriff and Greg Maddux, and had a stacked lineup. It was much harder to be happy for that squad.

1990-1992 Pittsburgh Pirates

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The first MLB game I ever attended in person was a Pirates vs. Astros game at the Astrodome. When I first started collecting baseball cards, Bobby Bonilla (I would pronounce it so that it rhymed with Vanilla) was one of the first in my collection. The Pirates outfield of Andy Van Slyke, Barry Bonds, and Bobby Bonilla was my favorite in this era of baseball, and I thought Doug Drabek (from Victoria,Texas) had cool looking hair because they were silver streaked.

The light hitting, but sure fielding double play combo of Jose Lind and Jay Bell (who nearly always led the league in sacrifice bunts) were steady and dependable. The Pirates were a good fundamental team with a likable manager in Jim Leyland, and I had not problem at all rooting for them when they came to town to face the Astros (mockingly called the “Disastros” or”the Lastros” depending on where they were in the standings).

The year that the Texas Rangers let Steve Buechele go to make room for Dean Palmer, I was happy for both Buechelle and Pittsburgh, and part of me wanted to see the Pirates make the World Series for Ranger fandom alone. It almost happened too. After losing to the eventual champion Cincinnati Reds in 1990, then again to the Atlanta Braves, the Pirates were one out away from finally getting out of the NLCS. Then this happened. Although Yankees fans will disagree, I still to this day can’t think of a better ending to an LCS elimination game.

1999-2000 New York Mets

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Though this wasn’t the Mets teams of 80’s folklore (Doc Gooden, Daryl Strawberry, and David Cone were long gone), this new Mets team was a fun bunch to watch. The strength of this squad was their Gold Glove winning infield with 3B Robin Ventura (yes THAT Robin Ventura), SS Rey Ordonez, 2B Edgardo Alfonso, and sweet swinging, sure handed John Olerud. Bobby Valentine had a couple of throwback names in his outfield platoon with Rickey (the GOAT) Henderson, and Shawon Dunston.

Their pitching staff was hit or miss. Orel Hershiser and Al Leiter, their aces, both had an ERA well into the mid 4’s, and their best 2 relievers were lefthanders Dennis Cook (former UT Longhorn great) and John Franco. Mets fans got a little dose of what past and future franchises would endure with high stakes appearances by Kenny Rogers and Armando Benitez; both of whom are legitimate red flags that you have a suspect pitching staff.  

For every exciting grand slam single the Mets produced, there was Kenny Rogers giving up a frustrating game ending (and series ending) walk, or Mike Piazza letting opposing pitchers punk him get into his head.

History is not kind to losers. At best, one gets a footnote in some book somewhere detailing one’s  valor in the face of defeat. If a fanbase is lucky, those losses are assuaged by a win the following year (with luck, it may even be against the previous year’s opponents) . These wins have a way of negating that empty feeling one gets when they realize they care way too much about the success and failure of millionaires playing a kid’s game. I’d personally rather root for players like Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount than cheaters like Alex Rodriguez and Kent Hrbek.

I mean sure the latter two won championships with their respective teams, but both are renowned cheaters. I bet you that if either Hrbek or A-Rod were invited over to a teammates’ house for dinner, that their wives were counting silverware the minute the guests were out the door.  Hopefully this post helps to reposition the perspective that these are only games, and that winning and losing is less important than playing the game with enthusiasm and integrity. This is the core of being a fan of your favorite teams. You want your team to play hard, and do their best, but win or lose, there is always the possibilities that come with the next season.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Root Root Root for the Home team

4 Nov

Let me start off by saying I’m very proud of the Texas Rangers. I grew up a Cowboys fan and was 14 the first time we won a Super Bowl. It was a big deal. I lived in Dallas for three Super Bowl wins.

It was cool, but after the first one, everyone always expected the Boys to win. We were used to it. Texas is a football state. And Dallas was a Dynasty even before I was born. My dad and my uncles were alive when they won titles in the 70’s.

They always told me stories of when they were great. Legends of Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, Mel Renfro.

And because of that I was just waiting my turn for my own moments to witness “Super Bowl Greatness” and in 1992 it came.

But I never in my life imagined or dreamed that there was a chance the Rangers would ever make it to the World Series in my lifetime.

Well I realized a couple of weeks ago, that truly anything is possible.

I was rooting for the Mavs in ’06 and I ‘d have been happy if they’d have won. But I’ve never really been a Mavs fan like I was Rangers and Boys, they just sucked too much during my formative sports years. They were atrocious. The joke around Dallas was that they’d win less games than the Dallas Cowboys. In fact I think they won one more game I think in 1993. They were terrible.

So when I started watching basketball my favorite player was Philly’s Charles Barkley and when he got traded to the Suns I rooted for them and the New York Knicks (for whatever reason I really liked Xavier McDaniel who played for them then–plus I hated Jordan)

But before the Cowboys became relevant again, I was in love with the loveable losers, the Texas Rangers. They were always a pitcher or two from making some noise in the AL West (this was back when the A’s won the division every year for like six straight years)

They always had the bats but never enough pitching and always lacked the fielders. But they were charming. I used to go to old Arlington Stadium. My first game there was a double header experience with Nolan Ryan pitching the nightcap after Charlie Hough pitched during the day game. We brought food and drinks into the bleachers and it was a big party. Wally Joyner and Dave Winfield played for the Angels back then–as did Luis Polonia.

This was 1989. I spent the next 6 summers in agaony watching those guys lose. But they had personalities and good players and would score 8 runs but give up 11.

But Nolan then was the big draw. Everything he did was legendary. No hitters, big curveballs for strikeouts and high heat. I remember him striking out Wade Boggs four times in a game once. It was incredible.

A true Texas Legend

Every fifth day was pure excitement. What was going to happen? What milestone were we going to see? Who could he strike out next? Alomar? Bo? Rickey? If I didn’t watch many games, I always made sure to tune in when Nolan pitched. The Rangers (and baseball) were a bigger part of my teenage years than anything else.

I even had my senior prom at The Ballpark in Arlington. Where I spent half of it looking out at the field in awe instead of dancing.

They finally made the playoffs in 96 and I was on board but the Yankees then stood in our way and the extra round of playoffs seemed to cheapen the whole affair for me. So it didn’t hurt at all during those years. I was heavy into my own life and there was the strike of ’94 and I had bigger fish to fry at that point. College was looming and as well as the necessity of getting out of my Dad’s house.

So I kept up with them but always at a distance and I didn’t even watch baseball for at least a couple of years. I knew they were good this year but in the back of my mind was a wait and see approach. They had to get through the summer first, then past the first round to peak my interest.

And sure enough they did. And sure enough they did again. And sure enough they did again.

I watched World Series and rooted for other teams and it was always great when someone beat the Yankees but it wasn’t until last month when I really understood what its like to see your hometown actually get “in.”

I almost cried after the last Yankee out. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
And it’s only now that I really understand. And its really changed my perspective on what it means to be a sports fan. I can root against the Lakers and root for the Celtics because they have a lot fo my favorite players. I was extremely happy when the Celts won the title in ’08. Because it was against the Lakers and because I liked the Celtics team.

But it wasn’t nearly the sense of satisfaction of seeing my hometown Rangers win against the dreaded Yankees (the team that always drubbed us in the mid ’90s). I felt like I had a stake in the team’s destiny. I felt like they’d won it for my grandmother who didn’t quite make it to see our favorite team make the World Series.

This girl at my job is a Yankees fan and and she’s not from New York. She’s from Tulsa. If they ‘d have won, she’d have been happy but how happy could she have been in comparison to sombeone who’s hometown wins? She’s never even been to New York. She has no real stake in it other than hating Texas (and why would anyone hate Texas? It’s the greatest country in the world)

It aint the same man. Not even close.

Now I know what it feels like to root for my home team in the World Series and now I know how it feels to be dealt a crushing blow when that World Series opponent hits a game winning home run. It hurts. And I felt it immediately, but also I felt grateful just to be in the position to feel that pain–kinda like yer first true love and consequent heartbreak.

And it hurt to see the Giants celebrate the title. It hurt almost as badly as when the Niners took the title away from the Cowboys in 1994.
(And now I have even more reasons to hate the city of San Francisco. And I thought it was because they’re stuck up and pretentious– but it runs deeper than that doesn’t it?)

Watching those teams celebrate was like watching my worst enemy get married to my one true love, and having to watch helplessly from the pews.

All you kept hearing was how SF was a baseball town and how there was gonna be a huge party when they won. I’m sorry. I’m calling bullshit. I’ve spent lots of time in San Francisco and I know their definition of a party.

It involves a lot of wine and a little bit of dope and everyone leaves around 11pm , and the party dies down around 1:15 and then people go to sleep. Fuck that. THey don’t know what partying is. I’m from Texas and I went to college in Denton and in Austin. I know a good party when I attend one and I can honeslty say that they do not know how to party in San Fran. (L.A. maybe but that usually involves cocaine–and that to me is cheating)

I’m proud of my boys though. I just wanted them to beat the Yankees and everything else was a bonus. I can’t say they’ll be back because you never know. But I thoroughly enjoyed this playoff run and I’m grateful that the Rangers gave me a reason to tune into baseball again. Congratulations on a great season fellas.

Our first true ace since the legendary Nolan Ryan

Mick