- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

The Next Line of Defense

I’m a diehard Texas Rangers fan since just after 11 o’clock last night [1].

HOOK ’EM HORNS! Or whatever it is we diehard Texas Rangers fans have been known to say.

Ten things I know and like about the Texas Rangers besides the obvious [2]

1. Mike Shropshire wrote two of the funniest books ever written about a team that had never won a postseason series until just now: Seasons in Hell [3] and The Last Real Season [4]. To the extent you’ve ever considered Pete Broberg, you’ll never think abut him the same way again.

2. Dan Ziegler from the sadly dormant Lonestar Mets [5] was a helluva blogger circa 2006 and an extraordinarily nice guy to boot (as they presumably say in Texas). When I learned his favorite A.L. team was the Rangers, I told him how much I liked the Ballpark in Arlington. He said it was fine there but that those retro parks didn’t hold a candle to Shea in terms of the passion generated. Dan wrote in April 2006 that “Shea Stadium is a wonderful stadium and, although few will admit it, will be missed in 2009.” This from someone who had just made his first trip to Flushing in 21 years.

3. The Ballpark in Arlington, or whatever it’s called this week, is a great place to watch a ballgame, too, based on my lone experience there. It’s a strong No. 17 [6] on my countdown, held back mostly by its middle-of-nowhereness and the volumes at which they cranked the P.A. in 1997.

4. Stephanie’s cousin Lisa couldn’t have been lovelier in getting us those tickets 13 years ago. I hope she gets to an ALCS game (if she wants to).

5. Jeff Burroughs, 1974 A.L. MVP. Mike Hargrove, 1974 A.L. Rookie of the Year. Billy Martin, 1974 A.L. Manager of the Year. Ferguson Jenkins, 1974 A.L. Comeback Player of the Year. I was crazy for the Texas Rangers in 1974. They improved by 28 games over 1973 and gave the Oakland A’s a run for their dynastic money all summer long, pulling to within four games of first in the middle of September. It didn’t happen for them, but they captured my 11-year-old imagination as few American League teams ever have.

6. Lenny Randle‘s proto-Francisco Rodriguez actions (punching out not his girlfriend’s father but his manager Frank Lucchesi) made him available to any taker early in the 1977 season and the Mets, of all teams, took a shot on (not at) him. Randle instantly became the Mets’ most dynamic player — which wasn’t saying much in 1977, but he was the goods for that one year: .304 average, a then team record 33 steals, the misfortune of batting when the lights went out during the July 13 blackout (admitting later he thought the Lord had come to get him). Lenny Randle went on to have a mediocre 1978, and that would be that, but for one year, the one year we needed somebody or something not to be dismal, Randle was the man.

7. Ron Darling and Walt Terrell for Lee Mazzilli. Thanks!

8. Bobby Valentine honed his managerial skill set in Texas. I seem to remember reading that as he led the Rangers into first place for a while in 1986 that he was in greater demand in the Dallas-Fort Worth area than any Cowboy. Those folks showed some good taste.

9. Jeff Francoeur actually said in the victorious clubhouse after Game Five last night that he always wondered what it would be like to play in the playoffs in New York, and now he perversely gets to satisfy his curiosity. At least Frenchy gave the subject some thought when he was a Met. By the way, Jeff continues to work his personable magic on the local media, whomever they may be. This [7] from Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News: “Loosest of loose bunch of pregame Rangers was Jeff Francoeur, who started in right field after sitting out last three games. His looseness didn’t translate into much production on the field (he was 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play), but it did help keep the team in the right frame of mind.” When a Francoeur team goes to an LCS, everybody’s frame of mind is right.

10. Cliff Lee: another great pitcher [8] to watch and drool over in this pitching-rich postseason. And what better use for him than what lies ahead?

I sure hope there are four of seven even better reasons to know and like the Texas Rangers soon enough.