For the first time in franchise history, the Texas Rangers are World Series Champions, winning the series 4-1 over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The series wasn’t particularly close aside from the Roman Gladiator-esque walk-off home run from Adolis Garcia in Game 1 to make his mark as one of the defining heroes of October.
They won a hard-fought game 3 in which Max Scherzer and Adolis left early with injuries, but the depth of having Jon Gray available, a starter they signed in their rebuild, to come in out of the bullpen made all the difference to win a short-handed duel.
Even without Adolis and Scherzer the rest of the postseason heading into game 4, they got off to a 10-0 start by the third inning in game 4 in what was the lowest-watched World Series game in TV ratings history, but with the unpredictable nature of baseball and how much heartbreak the team has endured, do you think the Rangers fans weren’t loving every single second of that rout where Marcus Semien and Corey Seager gave them their money’s worth?
To cap it off, in due part because of a heartbreaking Alek Thomas error in center field in the ninth, they won a 5-0 pitcher’s duel in which Nathan Eovaldi shoved for 6 innings and won the most starts in a single postseason run. It was highlighted by a Semien mash into center, Josh Sborz going from shaky bullpen arm to earning the euphoric strikeout to win it all, and Corey Seager becoming the first player in World Series history to win a World Series MVP in both leagues with the Dodgers and now the Rangers, almost certainly cementing his Hall of Fame case as one of the most-steady, intelligent bats and minds of this generation. In the NBA, Nikola Jokic’s star power is comical due to how little he cares about anything aside from playing ball, preferring to be at home with his horses and family. Corey Seager, the Charlotte country boy in a similar vein, visibly despising any media theatrics, is that equivalent in the league, which only made his game-tying homer in game 1 in the bottom of the ninth in which he belted out a yell right as it screamed off the bat even that more emotional during this run.
The World Series featured a one-sided affair with the Rangers, a baseball team in a football-hungry city, facing off against the Diamondbacks, the surprise Cinderella from a team that’s won one World Series and is still one of the youngest franchises in Major League Baseball. It was never going to be a national media bonanza from the casuals that would love to see the large market organizations make the World Series every year, but if it’s the stories that we ultimately are rooting for in sports, what’s more romantic than a team that’s endured as much as the Rangers have, went out and drafted well, built their fans a new stadium, spent money to build a team, and overcome as much heartbreak as they have?
This wasn’t just the first World Series title- it was for Nelson Cruz, who, as talented as he was, misplayed a fly ball to right field in the 2011 World Series. This was for Adrian Beltre, one of the best fielding third basemen in history that reached 3000 hits, was one of the faces of the franchise, and never got to hoist the trophy with them. This was for the fans that somehow stuck with the team in spite of being one strike away from winning a World Series due to David Freese. This was for the fans that endured season after season following that up with failing to spend money competently to build a team that could compete with the Astros in the midst of an identity crisis after back-to-back championship heartbreaks. This was for the fans that endured the embarrassment of a Jose Bautista slam-dunk bat flip, a Fernando Tatis Jr. grand slam, and general irrelevance for nearly a decade.
This one just means more in Texas.
In a season full of surprise storylines, from a plethora of 100-loss teams making the postseason, to new rules with a pitch clock that made the game a lightning rod of paced-energy, to titans crumbling before our eyes, it was always the Rangers that were at the heart of it all in 2023, for better and for worse, that makes it fitting that they’re the ones lifting the trophy.
The franchise was ridiculed for the amount of spending it used in years past with a bevy of contracts that didn’t work out- suddenly it went from 100+ loss team to investing in Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, and signing an aging and broken Jacob deGrom with Bruce Bochy coming out of retirement to join the team sent one message: in a sport where many conservatively hold off and play the long game, we are going to invest in winning now.
The “go and take it” mindset, the bringing in experienced veterans, the environment where the young rookies like Josh Jung and Evan Carter are encouraged to be themselves and make mistakes amongst the old guard, and the collective awareness that the window is right now all made the team special.
They thrived when having an Astros dynasty within the division making them the hunter rather than the hunted; the first half had a pitching rotation that was nails in Eovaldi, Gray, and even Andrew Heaney looking like all-star caliber pitchers paired with the most runs-driven in by an offense in the league. The critics not used to seeing the red white and blue uniform fly so high assumed that the formula of having historic numbers on both sides of the plate was not sustainable for a 162-game season; the breakdown of Jacob deGrom needing another Tommy John surgery only amplified those voices, as they were proven right as they came back to Earth.
They never wavered and remembered their mantra: go and take it. They acquired Aroldis Chapman, Max Scherzer, and Jordan Montgomery, who surely will cash out this year hitting free agency after his postseason run. These were all win-now moves as veterans or upcoming free agents, but the desperation of these adds sent the message to those amplified voices that it was indeed all hands on deck for the run.
They had no momentum going into the postseason, limping in with injuries, having a bullpen that blew more saves than held leads, and got passed up by the great white shark of the Astros in the division before having a 6-game win streak, a called-up 21 year-old in Evan Carter with superpowers suddenly batting third in their lineup, and dethroning “American League Beast” teams in Tampa and Baltimore and ironically jamming to Creed in the process.
Game 5 of the ALCS against the Astros should have been the nail in the coffin; after having a moment of triumph with Adolis Garcia’s home run only for the benches to clear and Jose Altuve hitting a go-ahead home run, that was heartbreak the Rangers’ fans knew all too well.
But they kept listening to Creed.
And they kept winning.
That’s the romance of baseball.
For the first time ever, congratulations to your 2023 World Series Champion Texas Rangers.