|Third Consecutive Pennant Possible for Rangers||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on November 01, 2011
Of all the powerhouse teams in the AL, who would have thought at the beginning of 2010 that the Texas Rangers would represent the league in back-to-back World Series?
However, the Rangers were easily handled by the San Francisco Giants last year and came up short to the St. Louis Cardinals in an epic series this year. While most of the attention is paid to the winning team, the Rangers appear in prime position to reach the Fall Classic for the third straight year, despite the consecutive World Series losses.
Of course, the 2011 season just ended, so making predictions for the 2012 season is in its extremely preliminary stages. But looking at Texas compared to the other AL teams, Nolan Ryan's bunch may be able to prove that "the third time's the charm."
Though pitching and defense apparently win championships, the Rangers showed over the past two years that offense is just as important. When Mike Napoli, a .320 hitter, bats seventh in the order, something must be going right.
So the team mostly relied on its offense. Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Napoli will all be back next season. That heart of the order will continue producing runs as long as they all stay healthy.
Hamilton and Cruz have had an injury history, and Young will be another year older. Still, the lineup will be extremely balanced, especially with Kinsler and Andrus only expected to get better.
In addition to the lineup, the bullpen, which was arguably the best in the playoffs for a time, should remain intact. Relief pitching is usually a volatile position, but expect Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz to have strong seasons again.
The major question heading into 2012 for Texas will be the starting rotation. Wilson is a free agent, and he's touted as the best starting pitcher available on the market. He's also left-handed, which always is an added plus.
Based on the market, Wilson is set to cash in. He'll likely command a four-five year deal, worth in the neighborhood of $60-75 million. The Rangers may opt to let him walk rather than overpay. Though he's best suited as a No. 2 starter, Wilson will be paid like an ace.
While Wilson may call somewhere else other than Texas home, the Rangers can rely on their two young lefty starters: Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, both of whom have the potential to be staff aces.
Holland was a hero for Texas in the postseason after surprising everyone this season -- 16-5, 3.95 ERA, four complete game shutouts. Harrison, meanwhile, finished 14-9 and wound up as the World Series Game 7 starter. These two young studs can carry the load over the long haul with Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando contributing as well.
Texas is a balanced team with a manager, Ron Washington, committed to winning. There may be a few new faces sprinkled into the mix, but the Rangers will be one of the favorites to capture the 2012 AL pennant in hopes of securing their first-ever World Series title.
All the other teams in the history of the game who have lost back-to-back World Series eventually won a title.
Are the Rangers next on the list?