Credit: Getty Images
Elvis Andrus: One of the prime reasons there's no reason to worry about the AL West race. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Thursday, Oct 24 at 4:08 PM
Midway through a seemingly uninspired, but successful, month for the Rangers (9-6 isn't bad) and in the midst of a lackluster series in the Bronx, the dog days of the mid-summer have me thinking: how awesome is it that the Angels kinda suck?
It's interesting how expectations can temper or inflame the beholder's notion of a team's success or failure, because, by the same token, I could be asking: how is it possible that the A's are so good?
The A's and the Angels are one game apart after playing 115 of them. One game. That's literally the smallest difference you can have between two teams who have played the same number of games, but the figurative burden of preconception opens a chasm of difference between them in the way that their respective records are perceived. All of which is to say, the A's… surprisingly good. The Angels…well, I'm pointing at their team photo and laughing.
So what does that all mean? Get to the point! Do the A's worry me? No, they score barely 4 runs a game and I had heard of 3 of their position players before the season started. Should the A's worry me? Of course they should, they have a team ERA of 3.54, almost half a run better than the Rangers (Low-scoring teams from the Bay Area with stingy pitching staffs should always scare Rangers fans, if you know what I mean…). I don't know how the hell they're scoring enough runs to win ballgames, but they are (or were in July anyway). Success.
And the Angels? Do they scare me? I'll put it this way, I don't think anybody who follows the AL West would've thought that in mid-August the Angels would be sitting in third place, 7 games out of first. I didn't. Mike Scioscia probably didn't. Mike Trout…well, the rookie phenom is probably just happy to be here, bless his heart. The point is, the Angels are buckling a bit, perhaps, under some heady expectations -- the hangover of the off season spending party hurts more now, with time dwindling (even with Albert Pujols hitting), than it did in May. On paper, in the stats, the Angels are achieving strikingly similar results to the Rangers, scoring around 5 runs a game and giving up about 4. But in the real world, they're 7 games back and not playing the same ball as the club that was 3 games back to start the month of August. Not where they want to be. Fail.
Soooo, what does this mean for the Rangers? They had some pretty lofty expectations going into the season, for obvious reasons. Anything short of unconditional domination, especially after twice falling short on the biggest stage, becomes, in a sense, abject failure. The reality of baseball -- how things actually play out-- however, skews toward perseverance over brute domination* (that's why the Yankees win it sometimes but not always). On the pitching staff alone, this Ranger club has suffered losing 40% of its opening day starting rotation for the year (along with myriad other arm related DL stints), ineffective roster band-aids in Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster, fatigue from its big off-season acquisition, and from what has become a frustrating enigma in Derek Holland. And yet, they're looking down from a 6 game perch at two teams battling for the wild card play-in. Perseverance**. Whether you like the look of how they got here or not, they are where they wanted to be at this point in the season. Success. Sort of.
Ultimately, expectations and subjective analysis don't matter. They're just the libations emboldening the keyboards of blow-hard sports bloggers (wait a sec...). That's why the Super Bowl is more exciting than the ESPY's. Winning and having the wikipedia entry to prove it for all of history are all that do matter. Is this the Rangers' year? Dude, who knows? Right now, it looks like they're good enough to coast to a 3rd straight division title. That's a success, but make no mistake, for this team, this season, the only thing that will carry out that success is hardware. And, really, that's the way it should be.
*That may even be true when it comes to subjective accolades -- Bert Blyleven is in the Hall of Fame; Barry Bonds, we'll soon see...
**The same kind of perseverance that has shaped Scott Feldman's second half after a disastrous beginning to his season.