Move over, Yankees -- it's Texas' turn
Baseball needs more of the Rangers, and less of the Yankees, in the Fall Classic
NEW YORK -- Texas pitcher C.J. Wilson spent Tuesday afternoon in Central Park, where a Yankees fan recognized him and offered the classic New York salutation of "You suck, C.J.!" He spent Tuesday evening at Yankee Stadium cheering on his teammates the entire game until his voice was hoarse -- a better, louder and longer show of support than the Yankees fans gave their team. And after leaving the stadium, he planned to spend Tuesday night in his hotel room with his laptop playing soothing rain noises to help him sleep soundly before he takes the mound Wednesday for what he called the most important game in team history.
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Of course, that's a description that Wilson said applied to every previous game during the Rangers' postseason, but that's the way it is when you're boldly venturing where no team has gone before in franchise history.
"All you're able to do is imagine what it's like until you get there," Wilson said. "I'm 29, so it's been probably 20 years of imagining me getting to this point. Although I always dreamed of being an outfielder, so it's a little different. But here we go."
Here they go. After beating the Yankees 10-3 in Game 4 on Tuesday night, the Rangers are one victory from their first World Series. And we should all root for them getting that last necessary win. Baseball needs the Rangers in the World Series, not the Yankees.
We don't need another World Series with a team so rich and smug that the New York mayor announced two weeks ago that he already was planning its world championship parade route. We don't need another World Series with a team that feels so entitled to every great player that it has probably already taken Cliff Lee's inseam, chest and hat measurements. We don't need another World Series with a team that has spent more time on Fox than Homer Simpson, Kiefer Sutherland and the cast of "Glee" combined.
We don't need a team whose fans are so spoiled that 40 percent of them had already left the stadium when the Yankees loaded the bases and brought the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning.
Good Lord. The Yankees are selling a T-shirt that reads "Win One For the Boss." Really? George Steinbrenner's team won seven world championships when he owned them and reached the World Series 11 times during his ownership. Does he really need yet another championship now that he's in the grave before Texas fans get one aboveground?
And forget the ratings. I'm tired of hearing about ratings justifying New York's World Series appearances. World Series ratings have been dropping over the past 15 years even with all the Yankees series. Ratings might actually rise if fans didn't have to sit through four-hour games that drag on past midnight because Yankees hitters step out to get more network face time between every pitch and Jorge Posada walks to the mound to personally deliver the sign for every fastball and cutter.
Besides, who cares whether the network bigwigs who give us "American Idol" won't be happy? The rest of us will welcome a fresh new team.
The Rangers have been in existence for 50 years, beginning in Washington as the Senators. They moved to Texas in 1972, playing in a former minor league park so exposed to the sun that a Twins coach once compared the bullpens to the punishment sheds in "The Bridge on the River Kwai." They've played nearly four decades in Texas; been owned by a future U.S. president and a Hall of Fame pitcher; been managed by a Ted, a Billy, a Whitey and now a Ron, but had never even won a postseason series until last week.
And The Boss needs another World Series? Please.
The Rangers have Josh Hamilton, who continued baseball's most improbable comeback (drug addiction and broken ribs) since Roy Hobbs. Hamilton hit two home runs Tuesday to seal Game 4 and give him four for the series. "It took him a little bit to get going, but the way he's swinging the bat and what he did tonight, he's showing he's coming around," Lee said. "Seventy or 80 percent of him is better than everyone else. Everyone knows his history. He's a complete player who plays every aspect well. He's the best player I've ever played with. That's the best compliment I can give him."
Texas has Lee, who is on the sort of run (7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in the postseason during his career) that draws comparisons to Gibson and Koufax. If the Rangers can't nail down the series in the next two games, they have Lee ready for Game 7. The last victory is always the hardest, a radio reporter said to Hamilton. "We've never been here before," Hamilton replied. "How would we know?"
The Rangers have a Hall of Fame-caliber DH from the Dominican Republic named Vladimir (who is still seeking his first World Series), a shortstop from Venezuela named Elvis (who made a superb and crucial diving stop Tuesday) and a catcher from Puerto Rico named Bengie (who hit a stadium-silencing three-run homer). And of course, they have an owner from Texas named Nolan, who opened this series by firing the ceremonial first pitch with such smoke that co-owner Chuck Greenberg said "I wonder whether he's available for duty later in this series."
Win one for The Boss or win one for Nolan? Win another one for New York or win a first one for Texas? Boy, that's a tough one.
The Rangers aren't there yet, and series have a way of turning around when a team fails to close them out when given the chance. Plus, Wilson and the Rangers must beat CC Sabathia on Wednesday or go back to Texas for Game 6 and, possibly, Game 7. Asked whether it would be special to win the pennant in Yankee Stadium, Wilson said, "If you won it in Kansas City and got to the World Series, you would be just as happy."
That's the attitude, C.J. Baseball has had too much of the Yankees' hype and lore and mythology lately. It's time for someone new. It's time for Texas.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.