I can’t think of a more apropos recent example of a roller coaster during baseball’s regular season than this year’s Texas Rangers. In the month of August, the Rangers were viewed both as the American League’s leading contender to make the World Series and also had a large swath of their fan base throw in the towel for how crap they looked against average, at best, teams. Texas started hot, cooled off, got hot again — six players were selected to the All-Star game — sucked, turned red hot, grunted through a 12-out-of-10 on the mondo-dook-o-meter, and now are one game away from sweeping the Blue Jays, one of its main competitors for a Wild Card spot, in Canada.
Not to mention, after crapping away the 3.5-game lead in the AL West the Rangers had over the cheatin’ Astros and a 7.5-game lead over the third-place Mariners they had a month ago at this time, mainly due to losing 16 of 20 between Aug. 16 and Sept. 6, they’ve won their last five, with another round of manageable matchups coming down the pike. Aside from tonight’s game in Toronto, the Rangers have one opponent left on their schedule that’s not hovering around .500 or worse. Texas’ remaining seven games against Seattle, including a 4-game series in the Pacific Northwest to end the season, will likely determine both teams’ playoff destiny, or lack thereof.
The Rangers’ current turnaround was unexpected because before they went north of the border, the Blue Jays weren’t slumping, winning eight of their last 10 games. It was two teams going in opposite directions who then employed a double reverse uno card. This all comes while Texas’ big trade-deadline acquisition, Max Scherzer, hasn’t done a damn thing for the team and got booed in Queens during the team’s recent series against the Mets. Then Scherzer gets hurt on Tuesday night and is likely done for the year, because the Rangers can’t have nice things or flaming bags of poop. How this journey will end for a resurgent team under a first-year manager who’s still somehow disappointing will be one of the most interesting stories in baseball over the last several years.
It would shock no one if the Rangers made the playoffs. At their best, they’re clearly one of the best teams in baseball. It would also shock no one if Texas missed the playoffs, because, at its worst, it’s as effective as washing your hands with mustard. But it’s still better than Oakland with those yellow-drenched (Rollie) fingers. It’s anyone’s guess which version of the Rangers will show up on any given night. Through three games in Toronto, Texas has outscored the Blue Jays 26-7. Against Houston earlier this month, the Rangers were outscored 39-10 in a 3-game sweep. It’s hard to know where to gauge expectations for the team, because blatant examples of both have been so easy to see and analyze.
I still have a hard time believing the Rangers won’t be in the playoffs, even though they’re a game back of Houston in the AL West and only a game ahead of Toronto in the Wild Card standings. There’s just too much quality in Arlington compared to the rest of the American League to believe otherwise. That is, when the Rangers are good, they have that much potential and they’ve shown they can’t be trusted.