As I begin, part of me wonders why I'm bothering with this. I know I don't have the words or prose that others posess to fully describe what this team went through this season or how I feel about it. And I know nobody cares about my take, really. But, for some reason, sitting here tonight I feel like making an attempt at it anyway. If nothing else, I feel like I need to get it out of my system and off my chest, even if all it winds up being is a collection of generic platitudes. So...
I honestly don't have nearly as many memorable moments from the regular season stored up in my head as I feel like I should, for some reason. Opening day feels like another season ago now. Of course, whatever happens in April always does by the end of the year, especially with the Aprils this team has become notorious for putting up over the last three or four seasons. But the fact that Jarrod Saltalamacchia won us our first game of the year and now, 7 months later can be mentioned in the same sentence as Jason Botts, Travis Metcalf and and Kason Gabbard only makes it seem even farther away than it should. Even Rich Harden, Tom Hicks and first half Vlad seem like they're already further in the past than they should be.
For all the weird, improbable and amazing things that happened this season, I think the only one that truly sticks out is Matt Treanor's 2-run triple off Leo Nunez in Florida. I don't really know why that's the one at the top of the laundry list - it's not like there's a lack of candidates, once you look at the gamelogs and start dredging them up - but that's probably the only regular season moment that I'll automatically remember when I look back on 2010 a decade or two from now. Part of me feels like I should be able to do better than that, and part of me uses that as evidence to worry that I'm going to be a senile mess if I make it past 60 or 70 - but I like to think it's because this postseason completely overshadowed everything else that happened this year, no matter how epic.
It still feels somewhat surreal, really, the whole postseason experience. The first round was both everything I could have hoped for and everything I knew I'd hate about the playoffs - the joy at the improbable success of winning the first two games on the road in Tampa, and then the anger at shitting the bed in the next two games in Arlington and allowing the Rays to force game 5, despite having been in the best possible position any team could be in after two Division Series games.
I should probably apologize for shitting on the moment when Chuck Greenberg himself stopped by and dropped the big "believe" cliche on us after the abortion that was game 4. I still hate that kind of thing with a passion, don't get me wrong. It's the biggest cliche in sports history, and no matter how sincere it might be, it always rings of phoniness to me. Mainly because it really shouldn't need to be said, in my opinion. Even the most pessimistic assholes like me "believe" if they're still intently watching the games. No matter your outward demeanor toward the whole thing, if some small sliver of you didn't truly believe the team could win, you wouldn't actually bother. I don't see the point in needing to make that universal fact into a big speech or to-do.
But despite what I think about it, I guess normal people will still want it to be said, want it to be made into a to-do. I still don't really understand it. We all seem to find it strange and annoying when fans of other teams do it, but I guess the difference is I'm the only one who still finds it strange and annoying when our own fans do it. But even so, I don't know why I was surprised, or why I felt like everyone around me was betraying one of my silly principles - I should've just let you guys run with your bone.
After all as it turned out, Chuck's cliche was justified as Cliff Lee marched into the Anteroom of Death in Tampa and made a win-or-go-home situation look like the Marianas Turkey Shoot. He turned a close call into a storybook ending, and we prepared to face the nine-headed hydra that was the Yankees.
Game one of the ALCS was a terrible kick to the gut, but before it could manifest into a confirmation of all our fears about the Yankee lineup and whatever lingering decade-old stigma there might've been about the Rangers and the Yankees in the postseason, Colby Lewis and the bats showed up and immediately stamped it down in game 2. Lee, Josh Hamilton, Bengie Molina and Derek Holland took care of the next two games, and we became the first team in history to beat the Yankees by 5+ runs in three straight postseason games. Even the hiccup in game 5, blamed mostly on CJ Wilson's blister, wound up doing us a favor by sending it back to Arlington. Colby took care of the vaunted Yankee offense one last time, Vlad provided his only tangible contribution of the entire postseason, and Nelson Cruz finally stepped on the opposition's throat (as the media had been begging someone to do since game 3 of the ALDS), allowing the Rangers to celebrate their first pennant on the field with the fans.
For the next week, I got to ride the biggest, most incredible high I'd ever experienced as a Ranger fan. I remember thinking I was almost sorry the World Series was still left to play, if only because the accomplishment of beating the Yankees would be somewhat dulled, at least for awhile. I hate it when I turn out to be prophetic like that.
Going in even I felt incredibly good about this world series matchup, however. Not to cheapen the Giants victory, but if you ask me I'll still tell you we probably have the better ballclub. But that's the thing about the postseason, the better ballclub doesn't always win. In fact, that might be what happened in both of the previous rounds for the Rangers. And the Giants spanked us, from taking advantage of Michael Young's error to start the bottom of the third in game one on.
I personally feel like it was the bullpen, or at least Darren O'Day that cost us game one, however. Yeah, Cliff Lee was bad (thanks in part to MY) but Darren O'Day was the one who came in and gave up the 3-run bomb that capped the 5th inning. Mark Lowe and Michael Kirkman would of course later allow three more in the 8th, but if O'Day just minimizes the damage, that's a different game.
But horseshoes and hand grenades, and cliches of the like. That was only one game, and the offense slipped into a coma after that. You can't score 5 runs over the four remaining games and expect to win anything. Credit to the Giants pitching staff of course - they good, real good - but partial credit to the Rangers hitters for being their hacktastic selves. With the exception of Mitch Moreland, they looked like they where having a flashback to June 2009 up there. (Sidebar - I will never know why Ron Washington insists on batting Mitch Moreland 8th/9th, behind the fucking catchers. Not I'm claiming it had any bearing on the outcome of anything, mind you, it's just mind boggling to me that Mitch Moreland bats behind Matt Treanor and Bengie fucking Molina [who is still Bengie fucking Molina, despite his having a good postseason as well]).
It should also be noted that outside of Moreland, Colby Lewis was the only guy who never really let us down this postseason. Despite never really looking Cliff Lee-dominant, he was downright heroic in each of his last three starts in the postseason, and for that (and his swinging strike percentage) I think I'll always be somewhat fond of him. If I get the money to blow on a Rangers jersey this Christmas, it's going to be a home white Lewis #48. Or maybe I'll just find out where Carson Cistulli lives, and swipe one from him. I'm pretty sure he's got one for every day of the week (plus one more for church on Sundays).
For all of Lewis and Moreland's heroics in game 3 however, I had a sick feeling they would prove futile if we couldn't pull out game 4, and indeed it was. Between Mike Winters insane strike zone and his own unfortunate shortcoming of being unable to miss bats, Tommy Hunter never really had half a chance. And after losing that game, neither did we.
LSB tried to keep the faith and do the whole "believe" bit again of course - and given the situation wasn't half-hearted about it either. Chuck even showed up again with a Hail Mary of sorts in "Believe Part II". And maybe, given the strength of our top 3, we really did have as good a shot at coming back from 1-3 as any team might have. But that's not really much of a chance either way, and deep down, I think we all knew the end was nigh. I made my peace with it early last night, which made game 5 a lot more watchable than I thought it would be. In fact, I might even go as far as saying I'm glad it ended tonight. If we where going to lose, I kind of wanted the last ballgame I saw this season to be in the familiar confines of the Ballpark in Arlington, with Cliff Lee on the mound.
I should say congrats to the Giants, who deserve to celebrate for now - I'm likely always going to obsess over what the Rangers didn't do in this series instead of what the Giants did do, but that's just a product of perception. In the end the bottom line is they beat us, and they deserve this.
Looking ahead to 2011, I can't help but feel apprehensive at the present - going into a season as defending AL Champions with lofty expectations is as scary as it is beautiful after a season like 2010, especially for me. But you can't be the underdogs forever, and we've been saying for a long while now that this is too good an organization to remain so for very long.
Right now though, all I really want to do is enjoy the offseason. I think the truth is I'm as burned out as I am disappointed with the Rangers performance this series - I don't know about the rest of you, but I need this time off to heal, savor the good times and then get bored as hell without my baseball fix so I'm clamoring for that first spring training game. This post is the first step in that direction I think - so I guess I should end this gigantic monologue, hit post, make dinner, watch Chuck (the TV show, not stalker footage of our esteemed owner) and try to forget about baseball for a few hours.