Sometimes it takes the games starting for the compass needle in my heart to flicker and point me to my true north. My true north this year lies a few miles outside of Dallas. In other words, I want the Rangers to win the World Series.
This is news to me. A professor friend of mine would tell me not to worry about the fact that I am suddenly a Rangers fan — that we are all animals and sometimes we feel strange feelings and that’s all there is to it. But explaining secondary fandom (or postseason adopted fandom) is one of our favorite pastimes here at P&P so I won’t follow my professor’s hypothetical advice. Instead I will just try desperately to explain why I am rooting for the Rangers instead of the perfectly likable teams in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Tampa.
The first thing about the Rangers is that last year I picked them to make the postseason, then to win the World Series. I had little attachment to the franchise before 2010, but the prediction (which had no stakes, I admit) gave me a rooting interest. Maybe that interest is lingering because they were so fun to watch last season and because they came so close to making me look brilliant and because they fell to my sworn baseball enemies the Giants.
The 2011 edition of the Rangers is very similar. They lost Cliff Lee, who is my favorite starting pitcher in all of baseball to watch, but they replaced him with Adrian Beltre, who is my favorite defensive player to watch and sort of a mascot for my baseball fandom. I had my Bar Mitzvah the year Beltre debuted in LA. I moved to college in Seattle the year he moved to Seattle. I had a bunch of terrible personal crises and got laid off the year Beltre was hit in the groin by a grounder and missed a bunch of games.
Anyway, surrounding Beltre they have the most exciting top to bottom lineup in all baseball. Ian Kinsler just completed the quietest 7.7 WAR season ever. Elvis Andrus is still called Elvis and still brilliant to watch in the field and on the bases. Hamilton is a flame-tattooed superstar. Michael Young is a pissy non-MVP candidate who batted .338 out of spite. Nelson Cruz is himself. And Mike Napoli is basically Mike Piazza.
And this is before I get to the fact that their remaining starting pitchers (fare the well in bullpen duty, Ogando) are an ex-reliever, a guy from the Japanese league, and two tallish guys with plain names who throw really hard. Three of them are lefties! Three!
The animal inside me is not a beast but some clawed and antlered thing.
But wait, you say. The Rangers were once owned by the unpopular pre-presidential George W. Bush who often sits smiling in a box on the field level. Their current CEO, Nolan Ryan, is the scowliest jowliest man in all of baseball and more than likely a fascist. And the two are friends! Plus there was that whole Tom Hicks/MLB Rescue debacle. Cheering for the Rangers, you say, is basically the baseball equivalent of voting for Rick Perry in an important primary straw poll.
To this I give you Hank Steinbrenner. And Tony LaRussa. And Chase Utley’s hair. The negatives are out there for every team (though they are harder to spot for the Rays and Brewers, I admit). But Hank Steinbrenner’s asshole comments don’t make Curtis Granderson any less exciting. Tony LaRussa’s faux-intellectual over-managing doesn’t make me want Lance Berkman to lose at what might be his last shot at a ring. And Chase Utley’s hair doesn’t make Vance Worley any less surprising.
So what I’m telling myself here — because really I am who I’m talking to — is that it’s okay to root for the Rangers because Nolan Ryan’s pompous arms-crossed in a windbreaker aura is not enough to cut into the joy of a Ron Washington press conference or Neftali Feliz fastball. The needle in my heart has flickered. The animal inside me is not a beast but some clawed and antlered thing. And though most of my exes don’t live in Texas, my favorite one does. That’s enough. Go Rangers.
In Reading Club news, we continue this week with chapters 18-33 of The Art of Fielding. Try to have them read by Wednesday!