I’ve been working on a project lately that’s led me to dig up lots of memories from 2010 and 2011, and it’s been pretty great.
There are lots of baseball things I remember from those two years, but as far as 2010 is concerned, foremost among them is not Justin Smoak’s first season in the big leagues, or C.J. Wilson’s first season as a big league starter, or Vladimir Guerrero’s one season as a Ranger.
The things that stick out from 2010 are the shockingly awesome strike in early July to go get Cliff Lee from Seattle. Elvis Andrus and his teammates running wild the first week in October. Cliff Lee jumping into Bengie Molina’s arms in Tropicana Field. Cliff Lee vs. Andy Pettitte, with that laugh after he’d beat a sliding Brett Gardner to first base. Lotsa Cliff Lee.
And that disastrous eighth inning in San Francisco, Game Two.
The great moments persist, and so does the pain.
2011: I don’t really remember Alexi Ogando, All-Star, or the Torrealba Era, or that, behind Neftali Feliz, the Rangers’ relief innings leaders were, in order, Darren Oliver, Mark Lowe, Yoshinori Tateyama, Michael Kirkman, and Dave Bush.
What I remember is the arrival of Adrian Beltre, the Year of Napoli, the Andrus-Kinsler fist pump at second base in the Trop, Nellie’s throw in Detroit, Elvis’s impossible glove-flip in Busch Stadium, Derek Holland in Game Four, and Napoli in Game Five.
And, yes, a hundred things about Game Six.
From 2007, because of what it all led to, I remember Texas trading Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne and Kenny Lofton, and drafting Blake Beavan, Michael Main, Julio Borbon, Neil Ramirez, and Tommy Hunter, and signing the best international pitcher available, a 16-year-old from Venezuela named Martin Perez, about two decades after the Rangers had last been considered a force in Latin America. I don’t really remember Sammy Sosa’s second run with Texas, or the 5.50 rotation ERA, or that Ramon Vazquez was the club’s primary third baseman.
In 2009 the Rangers finished 10 games out but won 87 games, and I do remember the feeling that something special was coming together, and part of that had to do with the arrival of Andrus and Holland and Feliz.
The flip side of that is, in 2012, what sticks with me is that lazy Yoenis Cespedes fly ball to Josh Hamilton in Game 162, and that Hamilton first-inning at-bat against Joe Saunders two days later. Those memories crowd out the four bombs Hamilton hit against Baltimore one night in May. Because sports.
When I think of 2011, I hear “Written in the Stars” in my head, not Josh Hamilton’s walk-up music or Feliz’s coming-in music or Pat Green’s “I Like Texas” after a win. And that’s OK.
In the wake of the demise of the Cowboys season on Sunday, someone reminded Bob Sturm about something he’d written back in 2008, after the team’s loss to the Ravens dropped its record to 9-6, en route to 9-7 and a failure to reach the playoffs:
As I was leaving a frigid Texas Stadium after the game, I was walking right behind a Dad and his boy. The boy must have been 7 or 8 years old and was crying about the result. Some people might roll their eyes, but I knew how the boy felt. When you are young, and you love a sports team, you believe the games and the seasons will all have the happy endings of the Disney movies that you watch. Guess what, son, if you are going to pledge allegiance to a team as it appears you have with the Dallas Cowboys, I want to welcome you to the fellowship of the die-hards. Understand, that once you do, you are not allowed out of this commitment, and you should also understand that most seasons are going to end in tears. A favorite team is the only thing a male human feels the same about when he is 5 and when he is 45 and when he is 75. You will change your mind on everything else. Girls, money, hobbies. But, you will always still feel the adrenaline rush of a win, and the gutting sadness of a horrible loss. I didn’t say anything to the boy, as his Dad was handling it (and he might not have welcomed my advice) but I felt for him. Welcome to sports, young man. Someday, you may live to see a championship or five, but most years will end with your guts spilling onto the floor.
The Cowboys’ 2014 season hurt more than the four ugly years that preceded it, but I’ll take it every time. Sports pain over sports indifference, in a blowout.
I’m not giving October 2010 or October 2011 back, no matter how much those two months, and especially one of them, hurt. Still.
Rangers Baseball 2014 will soon be forgotten, mercifully. Gone will be memory of the 95 losses and the record number of players and DL days and Mike Carp hitting third and Saunders getting the ball — to start the game — eight different times.
The resignation of the manager won’t be, though.
And I hope, years from now, we also remember 2014 for the arrival of Ryan Rua, the acquisition of Jake Thompson, the breakouts of Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara and Keone Kela, and the Dawning of Odor.
Some of you, like me, are both Rangers fans and Cowboys fans, and while 2014 was a tough year for both, it was tough on completely different levels, and I’d rather be talking 20 years from now about Dez’s overturned catch or Nellie in Game 6 than about the year the Rangers needed 40 pitchers to get through 162.
I’m counting on much better baseball in 2015.
And more pain, if that’s what’s in store.
Pain for us, that is. I’m not up for another year of 26 disabled list assignments.
Bring on the chance at more sports heartbreak, at guts spilling onto the floor. Because without it, the winning — and I mean the winning — wouldn’t be nearly as awesome.
Pitchers & Catchers: 38 sleeps.