Fans are reactionary. Even when they’re fans of a winning team. Sometimes even more when they’re fans of a winning team.
If you read the message boards of most of the Rangers fan sites out there, you would have seen a familiar theme Saturday morning. Calls for Ron Washington to take Michael Young out of the #4 hole in the line-up and move someone else in there. Forget that the Rangers were up 3-2 on the Tigers in the ALCS, this move MUST be made in order for the Rangers to win.
Thank goodness Washington stuck to his guns. Young was a hitting machine in the decisive Game 6, knocking in five runs with two doubles and a home run. Four of the RBI’s came in the 9-run third inning that pretty much decided things at just the 1/3 point of the game.
Wash’s decision was easy to understand. You don’t want to move people out of areas where they’re comfortable. In the work world, if you’re a clerk in a store and you’re suddenly asked to be a department head, odds are you’ll get off to a slow start. The same is true of a batting order in major league baseball. Players are comfortable when the manager places them in a certain slot for a long period of time and asking Young to move lower or asking someone else to move up to the 4 hole isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes mental adjustments. It takes understanding that pitchers will pitch you differently at a different place in the line-up. Young has been in the clean-up spot since Adrian Beltre went on the DL in August. He’s thrived there and he will stay there until the World Series plays its last game.
Amazing. The first 12 runs scored by the Rangers were all without benefit of a home run. I’ve been saying all year this Rangers team is as complete a team as I’ve seen. Everyone has a role to play and no matter who Wash decides to go with, there’s a powerful line-up for the opposition to wade through. They can beat you by playing long ball, or they can beat you with speed and line drives. In the regular season, the starting pitching picked up the slack when the offense went into a rare slump. In the playoffs, the relief pitching picked up the starting pitching during their slump. And in Game 6, the offense was on full display.
Here’s a big difference between the Rangers and Tigers and how deep Texas is. The Rangers’ #5 starter, Alexi Ogando, was a vital piece of the post-season bullpen. The Tigers’ #5, Brad Penny, was the mop-up guy, the one you only want to bring in in a blow-out.
The defense was on full display as well. Josh Hamilton’s catch against the left field wall on one drive was as good a defensive play as any in this series. Nelson Cruz had another great catch when he almost collided with center fielder Craig Gentry.
Once again, the Rangers couldn’t get five innings out of a starter. This time, it was a shame, because Derek Holland was pitching so much better than he did in Game 2. His command was better, he was striking out batters. He was just giving up gopher balls. After the third home run cut the lead to 9-4 in the 5th, Wash decided not to take any chances and brought Scott Feldman in. In a regular season game, Holland would’ve still been out there.
Nelson Cruz got the ALCS MVP. Nobody even came close. Cruz set post-season records for home runs and RBI’s in a 6-game series.
That being said, I remarked to my wife how incredibly awesome it must feel for Mike Napoli to be coming up to bat at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and hearing 50,000 fans screaming, “Nap-O-Li, Nap-O-Li, Nap-O-Li!” That boy’s going to be getting a massive raise in the off-season.
The Rangers now become the first team in ten years to represent the AL in the World Series two consecutive years, and the first AL West team in 20 years to accomplish the feat. For a fan who’s seen more bad times than good over 41 years of following this franchise, it is very strange to hear national talking heads say they should be favored to win the World Series this year. Rangers fans are not used to being considered the favorites. Very weird.
Next up: either the Cardinals or the Brewers. I’m not sure which, if any, I prefer. All I know is, my team is there for the second consecutive year. This time, I think the Rangers aren’t happy with the idea of just being there. This time they’re in it to win it.