Friday night I was watching the Rangers game with my parents. As Sam Dyson closed down the game, I turned to my mom. For context, my mom has been a baseball fan her entire life.
We don’t talk in the context of WAR or defensive value or anything like that. We cheer when good things happen, we lament when misfortune befalls the home team. It’s simple, beautiful, and I’m grateful for her imparting that whimsy into my life.
All of this is important because when I looked at my mom, the lifelong baseball fan, and said the Texas Rangers had home field advantage throughout the playoffs her reaction surprised me.
Not in a mocking way. A genuine, event inspired guffaw.
It took a minute to understand why she laughed. Once I figured it out, I admit I laughed some also.
She’s laughing because of 1972, when the newly minted Texas Rangers rewarded their new home with a .351 winning percentage.
She’s laughing because of 1988, the year she got married, the Rangers gave her a wedding gift of 70 wins and a bottom barrel performance in the division.
She’s laughing because of 1992, the year her son was born, the team showed up to the baby shower with only 77 wins reeking of mediocrity.
Above all else though, she’s laughing because of 2016: The most ridiculous Rangers season of all time.
There’s no denying it. 2016’s regular season has drawn its curtain, but not without taking us all on a roller coaster ride more befitting Six Flags than Globe Life Park. Twist, turns, new characters, the whole kit and caboodle. The best part is we’re getting an encore. If you peddle Toprol, you’ve signed a new mortgage by now the way 2016 has treated Ranger fans.
Ridiculous means being the best team literally ever in games decided by one run (36-11,) yet being under .500 in 5+ run games(18-24). It means playing .700 baseball in June, but .400 baseball in July. It means playing .500 or better baseball against the other AL division winners(.500 vs. Boston, .714 vs. Cleveland), but sub .400 against two of baseball’s worst squads(.333 vs CWS, .286 vs. MIN).
That’s all before you even consider the story of Elvis Andrus, playoff goat turned top 10 AL shortstop by WAR (7th with 2.2). A man bombarded by ill-mannered complaints about overpayment and under delivering, complaints that grew a megaphone mouth after a trio of errors across the border last season. One year later he anchors a lineup where, despite names like Adrian Beltre and Rougned Odor taking front stage, all the talk is how the man they called E rebounded so much Rick Carlisle tried to stick him on his bench.
All before you consider the story of Ian Desmond, gambler of self who busted out hard with all the chips on the table yet came back for one more score. He found a kindred spirit, in a plaid shirt wearing GM in need of an outfielder as February drew to a close. $8 million later, the GM had his player and the player had his second chance. As October starts, Desmond goes into this offseason knowing the only way his next contract starts with an 8 is if a 0 follows directly behind it.
All before you consider the story of Carlos Gomez. A man exiled in a city where futures shine bright, but the realities more dull. He’s cast out, told to go away albeit it not unfairly. He lands in points north, in a short time span adds ~100 points to his average and on base along with over 200 points to his slugging, and suddenly the rat Houston drove out of their root cellar with a shovel is now the big cheese in their rival’s mansion.
All of that ignores the manager who beat cancer and paralysis, the high octane reliever who went to prison and came out with a fastball honed in a buffet parking lot, the Cerberus like catching monster who carried the club until they acquired the best catcher in baseball at the trade deadline, the underage outfielder who still had 20 jacks, and the returning KKKKKKKKKKKKing who combined with the battle tested ace forms a pair most teams can’t beat.
All of this defies logic. There’s no explaining it, and it’s not even worth trying to. Some fans grasp for a rope of certitude to clutch, wanting to understand why. This isn’t the year for that, because so much of it falls within the bounds of Oscar winning blockbuster not World Series contending baseball team.
That’s what they are though. They’re the best team in their league. A better team than the ones who already stopped twice at the Fall Classic, yet forgot to bring home the thing they had at the top of their list.
So what else is there to do but laugh? Mom’s seen it all but a championship, every level of bad and almost every level of great. If anyone would be locked into the season with an intensity, a title or bust mindset, it’d be her. Yet she laughs when they’re the best team in the league.
Because that’s all you can do.
That’s all we should do. Laugh at this year, because it’s ridiculous. Enjoy this year, because it could bring an entire Metroplex of 6+ million people the final piece in a four trophy set. There’s no need to sweat, even though we will. There’s no reason worry, even though we will. The natural reaction is to sit back, look at how absurd the journey is that brought us to this point was and smile.
And laugh. Always laugh.
Check out Samuel on Twitter @thesamuelhale for more of his thoughts as this crazy summer for the Rangers transitions to Autumn.