DALLAS - There’s not a great way to explain the shift in Rangers enjoyment Texas fans will soon need. So I chose the best way I know.
In my downtime, I like to play League of Legends. It’s engaging and fun. When I’m playing, there are two distinct moods I find myself in.
One is wanting to be good, the other is having fun.
When I want to be good, a lot more effort and focus is put forth. I make more deliberate choices, I work a lot harder, and I only have fun if I win. If I lose, I’m crabby. My experience with the game is a lot less fulfilling unless I’m achieving my goals of climbing and succeeding.
When I play for fun, it’s a lot more relaxed. I break out character choices just because they amuse me, I come in with a more playful attitude, and the result is largely irrelevant to my enjoyment. I’ll win some, I’ll lose some, but it’s more about the journey within and whether I enjoyed what I was doing.
Since the turn of the decade, the Rangers and their fans have fallen into the “be good” classification. That’s what happens when you make back to back World Series while building an organization that’s a model for the rest of the league. You expect to be good because you are good, and that clouds how we consume games because of where our focus lies.
2017 looks to be the year where that perspective should shift.
Yu Darvish has been traded. Injuries to players like Cole Hamels, Carlos Gomez, and Adrian Beltre froze the team’s potential. Poor years from Rougned Odor, Mike Napoli, and the revolving door in left field helped none. As Texas chugs along to the finish line, an uncomfortable reality is setting in:
This team isn’t good, and it might not be good again for a while.
Fans aren’t going to be happy about that. They’re going to want more trades, firings, assorted changes that they think will deliver Texas back to good’s promised land. Which is natural; you get used to a certain baseball way. When that’s removed, it’s different and uncomfortable. We crave consistency as a species, abhorring change while avoiding it at all costs.
That change is coming whether you want it or not, so the best bet is embracing and enjoying.
Yes, the next couple of years have the potential to not be good. The playoffs might not be feasible, let alone being title contenders.
In place of that though is a team that will be a whole lot of fun.
For one more year at least they’ll have the recurring buddy comedy of Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. As long as those two are on the same field, hijinks and shenanigans will ensue. They’re both good at what they do also, and will represent the highest quality at the plate and in the field.
Joey Gallo is still here, and last night showed off exactly why he’s must see TV every plate appearance. Gallo will only improve with time and experience, but the light tower power isn’t going anywhere. Texas has one of the pre-eminent power hitters in the game that turns baseballs into vapor. That’s fun.
Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor aren’t going anywhere either. Both have had some…adventures at their defensive positions this year. Odor has looked rough at the plate also, lacking discipline while showing off pop
Let’s have a pop quiz. How old are they?
No Googling please, this is a competition of knowledge.
Got it, or think so at least?
Rougie is 23, Nomar is 22.
Yes, there are things they’ve done this year that are disappointing. But you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone worth their baseball salt who is writing this pair off. They’re young, talented, and have shown they are good in the past. There’s no reason not to think as they grow that they won’t get better.
Even the bullpen for all its struggles is loaded with fun. I mean the “closer” is a guy that doesn’t crack 90. In 2017! How crazy is that?! Between Alex Claudio’s pitches not earning speeding tickets, Keone Kela and Matt Bush bringing gas, and the anticipated return of power lefty/potential bringer of the end times Jake Diekman the bullpen has plenty to watch. Even if it’s, you know, hard to watch sometimes.
Those are all folks at the major league level also.
There’s a whole minor league full of fun on the way.
For example, Condor Guzman. First off, his name is Condor. That’s just 80 grade awesome right there. He’s six foot seven with a seven foot wingspan and you can’t teach that. What Texas did teach him is how to play first. They also taught him how to hit; at Round Rock this year Condor has soared to a .312/.384/.470 slash line with 12 homers and 17 doubles.
Plus, just look at this photo!
(Credit to Scott Lucas [@scottrlucas] who took this museum quality piece of human art)
Look at those majestic wings in action! I can’t wait until he’s doing that in a big league stadium, and if I was a betting man you won’t have to wait much longer.
There’s the newest Texas prospect Willie Calhoun, who is the human personification of swag in a 5 foot 7 frame. He’s starting to amass stories of an almost mythical nature. There’s the story about him swinging like Babe Ruth and hitting a home run, there’s the one where he told Andrew Friedman and other Dodgers higher ups “get ready for the laser show” before a BP session, and many others.
The guy oozes confidence from every pore, and he backs it up at the plate. A .922 OPS at Triple A this year with a .861 through his entire minor league career to go with 20+ doubles and homers in his stops at Double and Triple A shows one thing: this dude can hit.
After a year where the offensive was so stale it had blue fuzz growing on it at times, Calhoun’s bat will be a loud and welcome addition.
What, where’s he going to play in the field?
Eh, don’t worry about that.
There are others in the pipeline. From Spokane to Frisco Texas is spoiled with high ceiling arms like Jurado, Ragans, Speas, Hernandez, Mendez, Martin and countless others. Baby hitters like Taveras, Tejada, Thompson, Enright, Seise, Garcia, Perez, and others are starting their journeys.
Yes, I know those are names you don’t know now. Some of them you’ll never know, because they’ll never make it. Do you know why we dream on the potential of young men like these?
Because it’s fun.
That’s what this all comes back. The Rangers as an organization may not show a lot of success in the ways of wins and playoff berths over the next couple of years. Don’t let anyone tell you that they’re not about to be a whole lot of fun however.
Which when you think about it, should be our eternal standard. After all, these are baseball games. Games are supposed to be fun. Sure, winning is fun but that can’t be everything.
It’s not everything.
So as a fan base let’s drop the serious auspices. Let’s take a step back, breathe a few times, letting the inhalations remove the poison of expectations and rage from those not met. Let’s bring this back to what it should always be about.
Let’s go out and have some dang fun.
© 2017 WFAA-TV