Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Watching as the Ryan Express Whistles Past Me
You have to wonder if sometime during the off season in the Winter of 2009 if Texas Ranger Team President Nolan Ryan did not take a secret mission trip to the Middle East, near the site of the old empire of Persia and possibly found a very generous Genie in a lantern during a desert trek. To some within the baseball hierarchy that is the only way this Texas team could have changed their destiny so drastically in the last 365 days. You have to immediately consider an outside influence, or maybe even a few “wishes would have been granted for such a grand unexpected Rangers rise to prominence .
How else could the Rangers have had this purely magical season transpire in 2010 without three huge changes in the team karma, and we are not talking about Rangers pitching Ace Cliff Lee either. There has to be some other form of metaphysical reasoning that the final stamp of approval for change of ownership in the fire sale for the Rangers would have ever levitated towards the Ryan group of investors.
The big bets were placed firmly on the big money mob headed by NBA millionaire Mark Cuban, not Ryan’s posse` If you were a big wheel within the circles of Major League Baseball, or even a judicial member in charge of this millionaire’s garage sale, you had to see the fat and bulging wallet in Cuban’s back pocket and summarize immediately the endless possibilities of another Cuban led success story in sports.
Ryan and his group seemed on the outside like just another smart Texas born “Good Ol’ Boys” network compared to the flashing and high profile Cuban conglomerate that wanted to push the image of this team skyward in a New York minute. There had to be some sort of wishing, praying and possibly rubbing of an old lantern to facilitate such a change of rationale towards the soft spoken Ryan finally getting the final approval to taking over the Rangers.
The second item rubbed out by the new Ryan group might have further cemented this Rangers franchise into the MLB bright spotlight for a long, long time right after Ryan announced from the podium of a economic epiphany by the local Fox Sports Network affiliate (FSN Texas) to a thunderous Rangers broadcast package that could be valued as high as $ 3 billion dollar over the length of the deal. It would essentially push a huge wheel barrel load of cash of possibly over $ 80 million a year into the coffers of the Texas club to use as they see fit, or generally guarantee themselves a secure payroll foundation just a touch under the cusp of the “Big Boys”.
That figure would give them a bit more fiscal stability to possibly resigning Starter Cliff Lee, or even the thought of possibly entertaining a secure long-term deal with a player like Josh Hamilton. Heck, that kind of extra chicken scratch could make someone like Rangers catcher Bengie Molina put off his recent retirement chatter and suddenly decide to play one more season, adding some extra large pieces of cheddar to his retirement nest egg. The revenue could do wonders to solidify a roster that could contend for years based solely on the extra coinage.
Ryan’s third wish by the genie in the bottle might have been the best one of all. It would have centered around Ryan’s new troops getting a chance to showcase their style of pitching and hitting to the baseball World. Because you know Ryan wished for this talented Texas squad to go against the “mighty ones” in the postseason.
Ryan as a pitcher was never afraid of pitching a bit close in on the eyeballs or even dusting you with a 100 mph fastball in the ear hole. With that same reasoning spewing out of his heart for his Rangers wranglers’, you knew that Ryan did not want to skirt taking on a huge challenge in the postseason, and got this wish with flying colors.
Ryan’s squad was considered the fourth best option in the American League by most people around baseball even days before the Major League Baseball season ended. For some unforeseen reason, his Texas team was never seen to stand a chance in the postseason or somehow earned the respect due to a team that won the American League Western title. The same Rangers team who initially celebrated before the two major players (New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays) his team faced in the ALDS and the ALCS.
His Texas team firmly sandwiched 5-1 victories between three additional games against the Rays and came away with a Game 5 victory that further established them as the team to watch closely this postseason. Even as their National League Western Division second cousin, the San Francisco Giants were taking their own bit of revenge on some of MLB’s elite, this Rangers squad began to show signs of being a Ryan inspired team that could never be counted out until the 27th out.
Even during their current match-up against the high and mighty New York Yankees, there have been moments over the first 5 games of this series, that showed this young Texas squad was as ornery and feisty as the vintage Ryan to take it to the Bronx set and dish out their own forms of Western justice. But Ryan’s third granted wish did not ends here, it is still evolving and transforming.
There is still another plateau to ascend to yet. Another stage for Ryan and his band of urban cowboys to step onto and accept its challenges. It is a pristine spot where Ryan himself only ventured once during his Major League career. Back in1969 when Ryan was a young pup reliever with the New York Mets was the only other time he has ventured this close to the Fall Classic. Even his bulging resume` of an MLB leading 5,714 punch-outs or his 7 No-Hitters, Ryan could not seem to get him back to this final stage. Another trip at this juncture in his new role running his favorite franchise would just be magical.
The sudden escalation of this Texas franchise in such a short period of time might not even have a single Persian influence after all. It might not come from wishing on a brass lantern or even praying to a higher power for the chance to again dance and celebrate on the green grass of the Ballpark at Arlington with his team. It might just be heralded by so many as just another chapter written in the never ending saga that is Ryan’s baseball World. But his fingerprints and nuances are all over this Texas team. Ryan is the behind-the-scenes sculptor that has molded and kneaded this piece of formed pottery into a cherished Texas heirloom.
I do not know about you, but I am definitely excited to see what transpires as the Rangers and Yankees change their focus from the bright lights and big city environment of New York back to the slower and more cherished home-style cooking of this Texas 25 as they two-step towards America’s heart. Where the mannerisms of claw and antlers will make up the backdrop, and increasing sounds of the homestead crowd should push them towards checking off another item on Ryan’s “Wish List”.
Ryan might have dusted off and spit polished his old competitive moniker of “The Ryan Express” and again became the lead conductor on this epic journey towards baseball’s promised land. Ryan has done almost everything imaginable as a player, including his 1999 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Maybe it is that time in baseball history for Ryan and his charges to also write their names upon the roll of baseball’s greatest surprises and shed that title of “underdogs” forever.
I am pulling inside for Hamilton, Lee and Ryan to get that special gift of moments in the baseball World’s spotlight. To thrust themselves firmly into the minds of all baseball fans around the World, and to possibly bring home a new Tiffany masterpiece for their stone fireplace mantle sitting just under that monstrous 15-point bucks huge antlers. Some say that baseball is entering into a closer version of parity than every before, but I do not see it that way. I think it is just time for some home cooking…Texas style.
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