Bird that Sings

October 27, 2010

The Series

Filed under: Sports,The Philadelphia Perspective,Uncategorized — admin @ 2:14 pm

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve noticed that once your home team get knocked out, baseball becomes less subjective.

One of these teams, Texas or San Francisco, will lose the World Series and, depending on the manner of their defeat, go back to being the bums we knew they were in August: Literally in the case of both these teams.

Now they both stand to represent something more than their parts, and bigger than themselves.

As I wrote about San Francisco previously, (see below, A tale of two cities revisited) not a great team but good enough to win.

Texas though, might be the story of this Series. Unlike the Giants, the Rangers did not play in a competitive division this year. The California Angels had injuries and basically threw in the towel sometime after the All Star break. The Oakland A’s might have been the most offensively challenged team in baseball since the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies, albeit with good young pitching that could see them contend in the near future.

Seattle had a horrible start and was finished by June. When they traded Cliff Lee to the Rangers around the trading deadline their last place finish was already a fait accomplis.

So Texas was not competing against the division this year, but basically against itself. This, in an often dead Stadium, in football country, in a city that long ago gave up on them, with a owner who went bankrupt after purchasing the team at a discount from George W. Bush who made out like a bandit himself on the deal.

It’s a pretty unsavory story but its’ effect on the team seems to have been at the margins. With power and dangerous hitters up and down the line-up, good team speed, and good defense the Rangers feel like a throw back to the Cleveland Indians team of the late 90’s, and not completely by accident. Those Indian teams, which at various times featured Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Dave Justice, Brian Giles and Sandy Alomar Jr, were put together by John Hart, former General Manager and current “senior advisor” to the Rangers. Hart’s protégé, 33-year-old Jon Daniels, is the current Texas GM.

The Indians, so dominant during the season back in their prime, never managed to win a World Series and for that reason are a bittersweet memory to their fans.

The big thing the Indians lacked was a great starting pitcher, which is also what the Rangers lacked at the beginning of this season.

The Rangers, however, don’t lack a great starting pitcher anymore.

When Cliff Lee gets hit, he can look pretty bad. His fastball never gets past the low 90s and he needs to keep hitters off balance with a variety of speeds and cutters. But when Lee’s on, he practically unhittable and he’s been nothing but these past two post-seasons.

The Rangers other two main starters, CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis have both pitched well enough this season, but without Lee, Texas would not be here.

The Rangers line-up featuring All-Stars and former All-Stars like 3rd baseman Michael Young, DH Vladimir Guerrero, 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler, and outfielder Nelson Cruz is impressive, but the team revolves around outfielder Josh Hamilton, or as he’s called at my house, The Natural.

The first time I saw Josh Hamilton was in 2008 and, despite his big numbers, I wasn’t that impressed. Boy, was I blind. Josh Hamilton is what Shoeless Joe Jackson would have been if he had played in the live ball era. Think a left handed Matt Holliday with the power of Pujols, the speed of Johnny Damon — and of course, a dark side.

Cliff Lee’s performance in the 2009 World Series not only made him a folk hero in Philadelphia, but a bona fide superstar. The 2010 World Series might do the same for Josh Hamilton. Catch Josh Hamilton while you can, this guy was born to play baseball.

Between Lee and Hamilton, not to mention the serendipity of having ex-Giant Bengie Molina at catcher — who not only knows the book on the Giant pitching staff, but wrote it — I think you’ve got to pick Texas to win this Series… in five, six or seven.

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