What a touching, classy celebration by the Texas Rangers after their first postseason series win in their 50th season. They knew that American League MVP candidate Josh Hamilton had to take a pass on the champagne drenched AL West clinching party because he is a recovering drug and alcohol addict, so they planned and pulled off a tribute to him. They began celebrating their AL Division Series win over the Rays Tuesday night with a ginger ale shower directed at Hamilton.
"This stuff burns your eyes just like the other stuff does,” Hamilton told reporters later. “It meant a lot. It just says a lot about my teammates, them understanding the sensitivity of my situation.”
The Rangers are easy to pull for, given that episode and the players’ and management’s decisive support during spring training for manager Ron Washington when it was revealed that Washington had used drugs.
You have to admit, the whole thing is a compelling story: The former Washington Senators having been the only major league team never to win a postseason series before this week, their climb back from bankruptcy under the Gary Cooper-like strong and silent leadership of Nolan Ryan, the creative leadership of young GM Jon Daniels from Queens and the indomitable Cliff Lee.
It’s just that, unlike Lee, “compelling” can’t go the distance. It seems pretty much impossible to predict that they will beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
Their greatest edge, Lee, did beat the Yankees twice in the World Series last year and appears unbeatable in the postseason. But he doesn’t get to throw until Game 3 and by then the Yankees could have a strong foothold in the series. And if not, what about the other games? C.J. Wilson is a very good lefthanded starter—and isn’t the postseason all about lefthanded starters?—but he is matched against an even better one in CC Sabathia.
Hamilton, who led the major leagues with a .359 batting average and .633 slugging percentage, would figure to provide Texas’ ace in the hole. But he just hasn’t looked right since missing most of September with cracked ribs. He hit only .111 against the Rays.
Otherwise, at what positions do the Rangers have an advantage? Defensively at catcher, with Bengie Molina. In leftfield with Nelson Cruz, perhaps. Vladimir Guerrero at designated hitter maybe. The bullpen? No shot. Third base? Not when you match Alex Rodriguez against his good buddy and former Rangers teammate Michael Young.
Texas has the home field advantage, but this postseason has proven that means nothing. Road teams are 11-4 in the playoffs. The Yankees and Rangers are a combined 5-0 on the road.
Does this mean the Rangers have no chance? No. They do have talent. Maybe Hamilton will feel healthier after a couple days off and an emotional lift from that Canada Dry shower.
Just don’t bet on it.
Unless they can get it to Lee in a Game 7, then all bets are off.