“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): The Texas Rangers shouldn’t claim all of Texas

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. This is the Rangers’ entry.

Okay, this is something that, while not the April Fool’s joke of Continuuvideo, is still on the irrelevant side:

Why does the team in the Dallas-Arlington metropolitan area, the “Texas Rangers”, claim all of Texas, when the Houston Astros exist?

To be sure, the act of claiming an entire state even while there are other MLB teams in it isn’t new. It took awhile for the Marlins to stop being the “Florida Marlins” and instead the Miami Marlins, and the Angels renamed themselves the “California Angels” even though multiple other teams had already been in California. And yet, now, the Texas Rangers remain of Texas, even though at no point were they the only MLB team in the Lone Star State.

It’s obvious, of course, why they remain that way: there’s no such thing as a “Dallas Ranger” or “Arlington Ranger”, and the team has been around too long and seen too much success (most of it recent) to go and change it now, there’s too much merchandise and cache attached to it. It’s the same reason why a certain Los Angeles NBA team is named the Lakers even though there are no natural lakes in LA and why Salt Lake City’s NBA team is called the Utah Jazz even though Utah is probably one of the least jazzy states of the union (my apologies to all Utah-based jazz musicians). Or how a certain NFL team has a racial slur for it’s nickname even though every sane person who isn’t actively being paid by that or wasn’t literally raised as a fan of that team knows it is a slur (and even those people know it’s a slur, they just won’t admit it). The inertia of the brand is too much.

But still, c’mon, Rangers. Why are you pretending Houston doesn’t exist? Not cool.


The Best Unofficial Baseball Shirts for Postseason Teams!

Last month’s look at unofficial and unlicensed baseball shirts was a big hit, even being picked up by SI.com’s Extra Mustard. So, since I’m never the type to quit while I’m ahead, I’ll do another. So, with the postseason starting tomorrow, here are the best unofficial and/or unlicensed (or, in extreme circumstances, just plain cool) t-shirts for those teams. Click the links to be brought to the stores that are selling them.

(Note: Some of these are not technically unofficial, but are rather licensed by individual players or the Hall of Fame. You’ll see, for example, a HOF Reggie Jackson shirt that conspicuously doesn’t have any Yankees logos on it.)


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AL Wild Card Tiebreaker Preview

Well, Game 163 is tonight, as the Texas Rangers host the Tampa Bay Rays for the right to advance to the Wild Card Game against Cleveland on Wednesday.

It is, of course, folly to try and predict a single baseball game. There are so many actors and factors (a rhyme!) that are in play, and a single strange hop or blown call can change everything. Luck will have just as much to do with the result of this game as skill.

That said, the old axiom that good pitching beats good hitting suggests that the Rays have the advantage tonight. Why? Because they have David Price on the mound. While Price was only 9-8 this year while Texas’ Martin Perez was 10-5, win-loss records are misleading. Instead, look at how Price has a lower ERA than Perez, and how Price has a better WAR than Perez, and how Price has experience pitching in big games while this will be Perez’s first rodeo.

Of course, that experience could cut both ways. You see,  Price’s relative veteran status means that the Rangers have had plenty of times to face him. They know him firsthand, and while that might not save them if he is having a good day, it certainly evens the odds a bit. Alex Rios, for example, is a career .435 hitter against Price in 23 at-bats, including two home runs. Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre also have good numbers against Price, and Nelson Cruz– back from his Biogenesis suspension- has had three home runs in his career against the Rays’ ace, including one in the 2010 postseason.

By comparison, only four members of the Rays have ever faced Perez, so they will be going mainly on scouting and video. Maybe this will mean nothing, as the Rays’ contain plenty of hitters who are just naturally gifted.

Which, of course, leads to how these two lineups stack up. In general, I’d say this is a slight advantage to Texas, especially with Cruz back. Texas, statistically, has hit better for average and power this year than Tampa, although not overwhelmingly so, while Tampa has a edge in getting on base. The two are ridiculously close when it comes to OPS, with Tampa at .737 and Texas at .736. However, Texas didn’t have Cruz these past few months due to his suspension, so I hypothesize that his addition will provide the ever-so-slight edge for the Rangers.

So, the starting matchup favors Tampa, but the lineups will likely favor Texas. What does that leave us with? Bullpens, fielding and managing.

Starting with the last of the three: Joe Maddon is unquestionably the better strategic mind than Ron Washington, using advanced metrics and unconventional tactics while Ron Washington… doesn’t.

Next, fielding. This is tough, as the advanced fielding statistics are really complicated, Gold Gloves are subjective and the traditional statistics are often misleading. And, I got to say, it all depends on what stat you look at… so I’m calling this one a push.

And so, finally, the bullpens. I give a slight advantage to the Rangers, at least assuming there aren’t any screwups. Their bullpen was better statistically than the Rays’ bullpen this season, although admittedly Fernando Rodney was erratic all year for Tampa, going from Cy Young to Cy Yuk and back again several times, so who knows?

So, there you go, it looks like a very evenly-matched contest, but I’m going to go with the Rays, 4-2. I just don’t feel like going against David Price.