Saturday, October 23, 2010

MLB 2010: The Texas Rangers Win AL Pennant

Alex Rodriguez at bat, called strike 3, the New York Yankees fall to the Texas Rangers earning the Rangers their first trip to the World Series since becoming a franchise as the Washington Senators in 1961. For most of the year, the New York Yankees had the best record in baseball defending their 2009 championship, but as the season entered the September stretch drive, it was becoming clear that the Yankees pitching was not performing up to expectations. Andy Pettitte, the dean of the pitcher’s mound in post season spent much of the summer on the disabled list. A.J. Burnett completely lost control of his game leaving the rotation in the hands of C.C. Sabathia who certainly lived up to his roll as the team’s ace until his first loss in the League Championship series and Phil Hughes who was no match for Texas.

Texas just dominated in every facet. How ironic it is that Alex Rodriguez would be the last out. Rodriguez had been a Texas Ranger, but the team realized they could not support the long term contract they signed with their stellar shortstop. They traded him to the New York Yankees as the beginning of a rebuilding program that yielded the champs they are today. His trade to the Yankees was supposed to secure the Yankees as perennial world champs, but from 2004-2008, the Yankees failed to accomplish the top honor even not making the playoffs in 2008. In 2009, a Yankees-Texas connection surfaced again regarding one of the Rangers’ top players, and unwillingness to tender a huge contract was the issue again. Mark Teixeira was to be one of the young homegrown stars that the Rangers would build their team around after trading away A-Rod. In 2007, they sensed they would not be able to retain their all-star first baseman and traded him to the Atlanta Braves who then traded them to the Los Angeles Angels to help their post season run. The Yankees won the bidding war before the 2009 season to get the slick fielding slugger who played a critical roll in the Yankees offensive attack the past two seasons. How ironic it was then that he should pull a hamstring muscle in game 4 of the Championship Series putting his former team up with a 3-1 game advantage.

Cliff Lee, a former teammate of C.C. Sabathia in Cleveland and pitcher in last year’s World Series serves as the Texas Rangers’ ace in their starting rotation. What could be another strange irony could be that his fine performance in the playoffs could serve as his audition to earn a lucrative free agent contract with the Yankees who will stop at nothing to augment their suddenly vulnerable rotation.

Josh Hamilton was selected as the Championship series Most Valuable Player. How valuable was he? He was strong enough that the Yankees to intentionally walk him three times in the final decisive game.

The Rangers will start the World Series either in Philadelphia or in San Francisco with Cliff Lee ready to do the honors. For the Texas Rangers who’ve called Arlington, Texas home since 1972, this occasion will seem long overdue. Now only the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals (former Montreal Expos) have never played in the World Series and how much of the US population was alive that last time the Chicago Cubbies earned such honors? Every other team aside from these three has made the World Series since the divisional era began in 1969.

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