Some World Series Thoughts…

…as the Rangers enter their third World Series:

ADOLIS GARCIA
Texas acquired him for beer money in late 2019 and designated him for assignment on February 12, 2021, to create room for free agent pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. The move barely preceded the date when teams could stash injured players on the 60-day list, making a waiver claim slightly more difficult, but realistically just about any team could have found a spot for him if desired. But to what purpose? Garcia was 28 (!) with prodigious power but so-so contact and a 7:1 ratio of strikeouts to walks in AAA. I took scant video of Garcia and no notes during the “alt site” minor leagues games between the Rangers and Astros preceding the delayed start of the minor league season, in part because he was quickly called up when Ronald Guzman was injured, but mostly because he was a DFA’ed 28-year-old.

EVAN CARTER
Is Carter here if Garcia hadn’t injured himself trying to rob a Houston homer in early September? It’s easy now to say “don’t be silly, just look at him, he would have forced his way on regardless,” except that he really wasn’t forcing anything at the time. In the six weeks prior, he was walking at will but batting .273 with one homer and a .396 slugging percentage. I wasn’t worried about his composure in MLB at all, given his otherworldly maturity, but I can’t say I expected such an impact. And in fact, he cooled to a more modest .240/.321/.360 in the ALCS, but the timeliness of his hitting and fielding exploits has been heroic.  

JONAH HEIM
He’s a Ranger because a duffel bag crammed with 13,500 hundred-dollar bills accompanied Elvis Andrus to Oakland. He’d already been traded twice and was entering is ninth professional season. I was hoping he’d become a plus backup, like a “#1b” instead of a “#2.”

JOSH SBORZ
Whew, fans were tired of Josh Sborz in early 2023. When he was activated from the IL in April, out of options, my comment was “if you hate him, you should be glad he was called up, because if he’s bad he’ll be DFA’ed and you won’t ever see him again.” I was never a Sborz supporter, per se, but he had terrific stuff, certainly the best among the AAA options, so I thought he deserved another shot.

JOSE LECLERC
Leclerc has a chance to save more games in the postseason than regular season. He saved four games during the 2023 regular season. Four! After Will Smith’s 22nd and final save on August 11, only six of Texas’s 21 regular season wins involved a save, split equally by Leclerc and Aroldis Chapman. Incidentally, Leclerc is the only current player who was in the organization the last time Texas played in the World Series.

JOSH JUNG
He’s pretty much who I imagined offensively. While he was in the minors, I insisted he’d be the perfectly average defender, someone who’d rarely elicit an emotional reaction. He’s been better than that, sometimes shockingly so.

JORDAN MONTGOMERY
How much future money has he earned this month? Even if Thomas Saggese becomes a starting 3B and TK Roby a #3 starter, the Rangers have won their half of the trade, irrespective of where Montgomery lands in 2024. They aren’t here without him. The Rangers are making a strong organizational case for retaining him, but he’d be foolish not to test the market, and the Rangers would be foolish to bid against themselves while on an emotional high. Cliff Lee moved on, but he’s still a hero around these parts. Life goes on. Enjoy Jordan while you can.

MATT BUSH

Bush’s last MLB outing was with the Brewers in June. He’ll get a playoff share and maybe a ring despite not having thrown a pitch in for Texas since 2021.

MOMENTUM!
On a Diamond Pod immediately after Houston’s three-day demolition of the Rangers in early September, I said:


I don’t believe in momentum, and certainly the events of 2023 are a convincing argument against it.

Both Texas and Houston are good but flawed teams that kind of backslid into the postseason. The Rangers were 50-52 over their last 102 games and lurched into a wild-card spot with a collection of stomach-churning winning and losing streaks. Houston seemingly had the division in hand but lost seven of nine games to KC and Oakland before closing with four straight wins to reclaim it on the final day. Then the Rangers swept the 99-win Rays and 101-win Orioles before capturing the pennant against the Astros.

Meanwhile, Arizona began the season 50-36 and closed 34-42, a period during which only the Giants and Rockies lost more in the NL. The Diamondbacks were 10-3 against lowly Colorado and under .500 with a negative-46 run differential against everybody else. Getting into the playoffs depended heavily on the Cubs posting an NL-worst 7-15 record down the stretch. Then, then!, they swept the 92-win Brewers and 100-win Dodgers before capturing a pennant against the Phils.

Nobody knows anything.

Texas is a good if flawed team that got hot at the perfect time. The Dbacks… I don’t know. The totality of their 2023 is pretty much average. But their peaks have been lofty, and they’re unquestionably good enough to win the World Series.

As I’ve gotten older, I no longer have any expectations. The MLB postseason is not designed to crown the best team. Some of that is due to an ever-expanding number of teams permitted to play in October. Mostly though, the nature of baseball prohibits it. Bad teams can and do take two of three or even sweep good teams. Even elite teams lose a third of the time. There is no series of plausible length that can truly decide who’s best.

Much as I love minor league ball, it’s almost never a visceral, edge-of-seat experience. This certainly is: a lifetime of fandom and memories, years of occasional semi-glory and dashed hopes condensed into a handful of games.

It’s a heck of a thing to want something so badly and not only have no control over the desired result but not even be able to calculate its likelihood with any confidence. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Ah, well. I’m in this deep, I’m not getting out now. I don’t even want to. It’s an experience I want to share with family, friends, and y’all. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Go Rangers.

Ranger, 2010. Still with us, waiting for a championship.