Destiny is a two-timer

October 29, 2011

My friend Steve J. told me yesterday that Curt Schilling once said that Destiny is a stripper. I’m not sure of that, but I do believe she is a two-timer, at least in baseball.

If one team’s destiny is to win, the other team’s destiny must be to lose, right? It’s the sporting equivalent of theology’s double predestination, but that’s another story. The story last night was that the team that wouldn’t lose beat the team that couldn’t win.

That can only be the fulfillment of the 2011 Cardinals’ destiny – world championship #11, second only to the Evil Empire’s 27, and the Rangers’ destiny – heartbreak #2 in year 51. How else can you explain a World Series win for a team that was 10.5 games out of the wild-card (!) play-off spot on August 25 and 3 games out with 5 to play?

Let’s be honest. The Cards ultimately made it to October solely due to the Braves’ collapse – triple destiny? Then they needed a nearly perfect game from Chris Carpenter to prove the 2011 Phillies to have the best pitching staff never to win a play-off series. They followed that up with a surprisingly routine smack-down of their brash division champion Milwaukee. That earned them a trip to the World Series where they would have home field advantage thanks to Prince Fielder, a member of the vanquished Brewers, who in classic irony (destiny?) hit an All-Star game-winning homer off of CJ Wilson, the staff ace for the AL defending champion Texas Rangers, soon to be back-to-back AL champs and the Cards’ World Series opponent. (That Wilson is the Rangers’ ace is a telling omen. He would soon become the only pitcher in MLB history to lose the All-Star Game, a division series game, an LCS game and a World Series game in the same year. Epic fail?)

All of this was occurring in the NL while the Rangers were putting away those other darlings of destiny the Rays in the AL division round and overcoming the crusty Jim Leyland and his flame-throwing Cy Young shoo-in Justin Verlander in the ALCS. After finally proving themselves to be a legit organization with a 2d straight AL pennant, this was surely Texas’ year, right? No Yankees. No Red Sox (remember them?) No  2011 Phillies pitching staff. No 2010 Giants’ pitching staff. Just a team that was 10.5 games out of the wild-card…..

And the Rangers showed some destiny-material themselves with a miracle come-back to take Game 2 in St. Louis (thanks to Pujols’ Little League-like error of failing to cut off an outfield throw) and then shook-off a Game 3 humiliation to go up 3 games to 2, spurred on by one the best games ever pitched in the Series by a left-hander. They went back to STL needing to win only one of two games, and they hadn’t lost 2 games in a row in 46 games! “Hello, win column!” at least once, right?

Then Destiny showed her hand, or rather her pitching arm – (and maybe her legs and body, too, Curt Schilling).

The Cardinals needed two miracle at-bats in a heart-stopping game 6 to force a deciding Game 7. Forget the two pitches where there were 2 strikes on Freese and Berkman. There were nine pitches in those at-bats, 4 of which could have become out #27 in the 9th, and 5 of which could have become out #30 in the 10th. That’s NINE times the Rangers were ONE PITCH from being World Champions. Destined to lose? Had to be. (And I didn’t even mention the rain-out called by the meteorologist hours before the game on Wednesday and before any rain was falling. That extra day allowed Carpenter to pitch game 7. Carpenter was 6-0 in home play-off starts and the home team had won the last 7 Game 7’s. Destined to win? Had to be. Does the meteorologist get a ring?)

But the truth is that when it counted the most, in Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, the Rangers’ pitching just wasn’t good enough. And hasn’t that always been the destiny of the Texas Rangers – inadequate pitching? The only truly great pitcher they ever had -Nolan Ryan – could only sit in the front row with a pained look on his sagging face. The bull-pen blew 3 saves in Game 6 and allowed 2 runs to score in the 6th inning of Game 7 without the Cards even putting the bat on the ball – 3 walks and 2 HBP’s! Sure, they could argue about the ball 4 call that forced in the first run, but when your staff has issued a record 41 walks in the Series, how can you expect to get a borderline call?

So was it Destiny or just wildness? Are there deeper questions here or was the old adage simply proven true again – that pitching and defense win championships? This one certainly wasn’t won with defense, so it had to be the pitching. Or lack of it.

The question of Destiny, like pre-destination, will go unanswered until the Great Commissioner in the Sky decides to answer it. But in my book the Cards were destined to win. Yet that doesn’t mean the Rangers aren’t destined to win sometime. They clearly aren’t the old Rangers. Believe me, I know because I experienced over a thousand of the Old Rangers’ games.

Even in the face of crushing defeat these new Rangers should recognize their rightful position as a baseball powerhouse. Is there any team in the AL that should be expected to beat them next year? None that I see.

So, despite fulfilling a destiny of losing a title they should have won, the Rangers can still come back again and again. Heck, they would be trying to come back to the Series even if they had won, so now they have even greater incentive. All they need is a little more pitching….

The 3 other MLB franchises that have lost back-to-back Series (Dodgers, Braves, Giants) each have won multiple championships. Why not become one of them, or the Denver Broncos instead of the Buffalo Bills or Minnesota Vikings? Since I’ve brought football into the discussion, I might as well use a football quote from Duane Thomas: “if it’s the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?” Also, “It ain’t over til it’s over” applies to time just as it does to a single game. (Think Yogi actually meant it that way?)

Win? Lose? I have learned that it doesn’t matter to me as long as there is another baseball season to look forward to. I agree with Billy Beane’s wisdom expressed in Moneyball: “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.” Romance, like Destiny, can be a painful two-timer, but who would want to live without her?

© JSR 2011

Dewey defeats Truman!

October 28, 2011

In the great journalistic tradition of the Chicago Tribune, I started writing about the Rangers winning their first World Series in the 7th inning last night. How could I forget that it ain’t over til it’s over?

There is so much to say about what happened in the 9th, 10th and 11th innings that I won’t even try for now. Instead, I’ll send you what I thought was the story: the changing forever of a pathetic franchise. Will that finally come true tonight or are we actually watching the confirmation of that fact in the cruelest way imaginable: NINE times being only one pitch away from glorious vindication.

Stay tuned, and read on about what may – or may not – become true tonight.

“Hello, win column!”

Back in the ’80’s when I was a die-hard Rangers fan I used to see about 20 games a year but would listen to at least 150 on the radio (including those I attended). The Rangers were terrible but Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel were the best broadcast team I had ever heard, always finding interesting angles to often dreadful performances (remember my prior reference to Nadel’s call: “what a bonehead play!”). On the rare occasions when the Rangers would record the last out while leading on the scoreboard Mark Holtz would exclaim “Hello, win column!”

Well, last night we witnessed several bonehead plays by the Rangers but even more by the Cardinals (Matt Holliday’s performance was straight out of Bad News Bears or, worse, Eight Men Out) that contributed mightily to a call that even Holtz and Nadel could only dream of back in the 80’s – “Hello, win column” after the last game of the World Series. Yep, that can only mean one thing: the Rangers are World Series Champions!

Following their second consecutive AL pennant, this championship doesn’t seem so incredible, but here are a few facts from espn.com’s Jayson Stark that put the Rangers’ title run in proper historic perspective:

– this franchise has lost more games (4,270) in its 50 year existence than any other team in baseball. The Rangers would be 704 games behind the Yankees in the standings if this last half-century had been one long season. (704!)

– this franchise played 50 seasons and made four trips to October baseball before winning it’s first post-season series.

- no other franchise in baseball has been in existence as long as this one without winning at least one championship.

- only one other franchise in any major American sport – the Minnesota Vikings – has been in existence as long as this franchise without winning at least one championship. (The Vikings, coincidentally, have also been around for 51 years, but have not been known for futility like the Rangers, only for not being able to win the Big One.)

- There are only two other franchises in baseball that have staggered through a longer title drought than this one – the Cubs, of course (1000 years or so) and the Indians (63 years).

Well, all that is history now. Not even TWO 2-out, 2-strike blown saves could deny these Rangers. The franchise may still be 704 games behind the Yankees in the win column, but it is now only 26 behind them in the championships column. 27-1 isn’t a great stat but when the conversation is about comparing championships with the Yankees rather than futility with the Cubs you know the Rangers are truly in a new column, the World Series win column. Hello, 2d half-century of Rangers baseball. You are off to a great start.

© JSR 2011

That’s why we call him “Mr. President”

October 17, 2011

A man of vision with the courage of his convictions. An unabashed “homer” for the state of Texas and a tireless worker for our firm that resides within its borders.  And the only one of us who correctly picked either team that will compete for the 2011 World Series trophy. How could we not be proud of JW’s president, Wade C.?

Take note, Nolan, you have another Texas executive who believes in what you are doing in Arlington.  Even with a run to the World Series last year and a better-than-advertised off-season (NAP-O-LEE! Cliff who?), Wade was the only one of our 16 experts willing to put the Rangers back in the Fall Classic. That’s the kind of frontier loyalty you, Big Tex, can appreciate (and by the way, do you need any help with your legal work?)

The six points Wade gets for picking the AL champ moves him up a bit in the standings, but Leo still leads.  If the Rangers win the Series, that will give Wade 12 more points and put him in front, but I don’t think he’ll stay there considering his individual picks.  But once again, I must tip my hat to our leader.  Not so long ago we would have questioned his sanity if he picked the Rangers to win the Series (come to think of it, I think I did even this past March).

Leo G. – STL (1), PHI, TEX, DET,  NYY(1), Cabrera  – 21  points

Gus P. – PHI, TEX, NYY (1), Cabrera – 17  points

Pete H. – MIL, PHI, STL, TEX,  NYY (1)  – 13 points

Wade C. – TEX, DET, NYY (1)  – 7 points – TEX (6) 13 points

Eric H. – STL (1), PHI, TEX, DET, NYY (1) – 11 points

Bill C. – STL (1), PHI, TEX, NYY – 10 points

Rip L. – MIL, PHI, TEX, NYY (1) – 10 points

Marc W. -  MIL, PHI, DET, NYY (1) – 10 points

Rocky W. –  PHI, TEX, TBR – 9 points

Jed M. – STL (1) PHI, TEX, NYY (1)  – 8 points

Scott R. -  STL( 1), PHI, TEX, NYY (1) – 8 points

Tony L. – PHI, DET, NYY (1) – 7 points

Tom M. – PHI, MIL (1) NYY (1) – 5 points

Steve J. –  PHI,  NYY (1)  4 points

Rob C. – MIL – 3 points

Rick G.  – PHI (1), NYY (1)  – 2 points