Date: Thursday, September 14th, 2017
Opponent: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (75-72)
Starters: Cole Hamels (10-3, 4.05) vs. Parker Bridwell (7-2, 3.94)
In 2015, Cole Hamels exercised his right to veto a trade, and refused to go to the Houston Astros. On the last day of that 2015 season, he beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to clinch the AL West for the Rangers. Again in 2016, it was Hamels on the mound–this time in Oakland–when Texas defeated the A’s and clinched for the second straight year.
This year? Well, Rangers fans, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you went to bed before the end of last night’s 7-6 loss to the Angels, and have thus far successfully avoided baseball news today, I have bad tidings: the Texas Rangers have officially been eliminated from the AL West contention. We’ve seen this coming since around mid-May, when the Rangers stumbled out of the gate, then fell into a mud pit, then someone put a big metal circle over the mud pit and stood on it, declaring “I’M KING OF MUD MOUNTAIN”
That someone was the Astros.
Want a plot twist before we even finish the intro? With the A’s and Mariners likewise eliminated from divisional contention, if the Rangers beat the Angels tonight, Anaheim will also be eliminated and the Astros will indeed be Kings of Mud Mountain. Two years after refusing to be traded to them, Cole Hamels has the chance to clinch the AL West for the Astros.
It’s the September 16th Baseball Texas Daily.
[INT. LEVI’S BRAIN, DAY]
[As Baseball Texas Daily theme music is nearly over, LEVI’S HOMUNCULUS appears on screen and the music stops abruptly. Levi, is aging poorly, and in his early 60s, wearing light stage makeup. He is wearing a wide pinstripe suit and a fashionable hat from the 1950s, and the cigarette smoke of an off-camera sound engineer lingers in the air under the yellow glow of incandescent bulbs. He removes his hat to reveal a slicked-back hairdo.]
[waves hand at camera in a “cut it--- cut- turn the camera off” motion] I can’t--- c’mon, stop this.
I just-- (loudly whispering to someone off-screen) I just don’t think they want to do this today! [a laugh track begins, but slows down in the reel so as to take on the ghoulish sound of bigger and slower hands clapping, the echoes rumbling lower for a second or two, then stopping]
(Still whispering) No, I’m serious! Okay, fine-- I’ll ask them. [turns to audience, squinting to see past the hot stage lights and beyond the camera] Do you want… (sigh) do you really want to read about… [silence, a few scattered boos]
Okay, turn that camera off off. Turn it off now.
[camera is switched off, remainder of scene is experienced in person, without the glow of a screen. As the stage lights turn off, your eyes take a second to adjust. When they do, Levi is now in modern clothing; a t-shirt and jeans. His glasses are black-rimmed, and the two of you-- the two of us are sitting in a mostly-empty coffee shop, present day, catching up like old friends]
I’m sorry for that intro. I am. The bold letters, the big reveal. It was unnecessary. It's just-- you see... [motions around rest of brain, and as my hand moves, the walls and ceiling temporarily disappear to reveal that they are but a mental construct in a vast library of disordered books, baseball cards, some music theory, and more than a few black doors with block white letters reading “STAY OUT”. In chalk, someone has crossed out “OUT” and scribbled “IN”. As my hand completes the circle, the coffee shop reappears in its wake]
There are dozens of us up here, and at least two of them are jerks. Sometimes they just look for ways to be miserable.
But hey- you’ve been keeping up; you know there’s not much else to say about this season. We knew the Astros were going to be good. In all honesty, I think the best we were hoping for was a Wild-Card berth and a hot run, weren’t we?
Yeah Anything can happen in the playoffs.
Sure, if Texas had the same luck they had in 2016-- They went 95-67 with a +8 run differential!! This year’s team is 72-75 and they’re +18 for the year. If they just had a little of that luck. But they didn’t. That’s the long and the short of it.
And look around. [We are in lawn chairs behind home plate at Globe Life Park. It’s nighttime now, and we have hot dogs and sodas. A Jose Leclerc fastball sails past Jonathan Lucroy’s mitt and directly at us. You scatter, flinching your your hot dog and soda into the air. But they don’t land. As you open your clenched eyes, you see the baseball suspended in animation, an inch from your face. Chirinos, too, is frozen, mid-spin. I pluck your cup from mid-air and begin to calmly catch all the suspended mid-air soda and ice as I continue, nodding my head towards the frozen oncoming catcher]
Remember Jonathan Lucroy? Man, what a disappointing tenure in Texas he had. Did you know his OPS was .635 this year? I had no idea. Had to look it up. That’s the worst on this year’s team of any of the regulars, actually. The next two lowest were both over there on that side of the infield [pointing to Rougned Odor (.664) and Mike Napoli (.713)]
You know what these guys OPS’d last year? Napoli was .800, Odor was .798, and Lucroy was .855.
Yeah, you’re right, let’s not. [Jonathan Lucroy calcifies into a statue, matte Colorado Purple and Black]
[turning to the left side of the infield] But hey, what about this? Elvis Andrus has had the best year of his career. It’s too bad it will be just the third season he has ever played that doesn’t end in an elimination game. But 20/20 with 40 doubles and 84 RBI so far? That’s special.
[we are now walking to third base. Adrian Beltre is standing by the bag, awaiting a throw that will never arrive] You guys were there for 3,000, right? What a moment. But you're right: he’s not moving much better in real life than he is here in this projected brain state.
[There are five outfielders playing three positions. Joey Gallo, Delino DeShields, Carlos Gomez, Nomar Mazara and Shin-Soo Choo] How many of you can run at full-speed right now? [DeShields and–from the dugout–Willie Calhoun, Jared Hoying, and Drew Robinson raise their hands. Joey Gallo raises his as he vacates the outfield and walks to third base… no, pardon, he’s walking over to first base now. In the bullpen you notice three more calcified ceramic statues. They are Black and Orange, Blue and White, and Blue and Gold.
The ballpark lights flash brightly, and we are at a booth in a nondescript diner. A woman comes to refill our coffee. You can’t make out any recognizable facial features, but her voice reminds you of a road trip you took with your parents for a funeral in 1987. You do not recognize the waitress, but you recognize the smell of the coffee in the white truck-stop cup.]
So there we have it. Too many players hurt, traded, or underperforming. Sometimes baseball just does that. A lot of times, actually; we've been pretty lucky in the last eight years.
Speaking of lucky - I've been really lucky to write these for you this year, but this is the end of the Daily.
Not just today's Daily, but conceptually. It’s time to work on a couple of other baseball projects I’ve been putting off and need to get done before the season is over. We’ll still have the game stories, and I’ll still keep you up to date as stories break, but just - no more of these compilations, at least not this season, barring a playoff miracle.
But before I go-- do you have time for one more? [I motion to the waitress and point politely to my empty cup] Can I tell you what my favorite stories were this year? I had three.
Alright, so the first one was Jake Diekman’s return after he had his entire colon removed. We still think he’s the first one to ever do that. Man, I wanted his return to be just the boost the team needed, and on the field, he has been. He didn’t allow a run in his first five games back. I’m happy he made it back.
The second, of course, is Adrian Beltre’s 3000th hit, and the way the team had his kids run out and pull down the veil on the sign. That was classy, and I definitely consider it one of my biggest career privileges to have been there that day.
But neither of those are #1, because I expected those. I knew the math on Beltre's march to 3,000, and once Jake’s surgery was announced, I expected he would be back, and I expected he would be good again. But for a story to be my favorite one of the year, it has to be a surprise. A good surprise is harder to find, the older you get. Like last year when Bobby Wilson hit two grand slams in one week.
So here’s my favorite story from this year: when Austin Bibens-Dirkx faced Max Scherzer… and won. A 32-year-old rookie beating perhaps the game’s best right-handed starting pitcher.
Those were my favorites. What were yours? [the waitress arrives, and I lean back in my seat]
We did get one more player recommendation to end the Daily for the year. New arrival Willie Calhoun was kind enough to recommend “Butterfly Effect”, the newest single from Travis Scott. Thanks to everyone who suggested songs for this thing. (Spotify, Apple Music, Website)
During the regular season, these recommendations occasionally come from Rangers players, broadcasters, or other people around the team (here’s a complete list). If there’s a player or person you’d like Levi to ask for a music recommendation, shoot him an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet here.
You can follow Levi Weaver on Twitter at @ThreeTwoEephus, or for fewer puns and more straight-forward Baseball News updates, you can follow us at @BaseballTX, or download the app and get in-game updates and notifications by clicking on the logo below!
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