Gearing Up For Wednesday

So it’s the Rangers and the Giants for all the marbles and here’s a new twist- my beloved Rangers are going into a playoff series as the FAVORITE!

I don’t think the Rangers have EVER been favored in a playoff series, unless they were tabbed to win their first ever appearance in 1996, a year in which they beat the Yankees in the regular season.

The question is, how will the Rangers respond as the favorites?

Being picked to win can sometimes have an adverse mental effect on a team. It can allow them to get overconfident and just expect to win instead of going out and doing the work to make it happen. Some say that’s what happened to the Yankees in the ALCS.

For this group? I don’t think so. To a man, this team talks about the last game being over, it’s time to focus on this one.

Another adverse effect is the “First Time World Series” syndrome. This is when a team is so star struck by being in the championship round they get sidetracked by all the media attention. Examples here would be the Astros in 2005, the Rockies in 2007 and maybe even the Rays in 2008. All were on hot streaks going into the WS and were disposed of in short order in the Big One.

I would be more worried about this if the Rangers were playing the Phillies, since they’d be the big boys in the Big Show for the 3rd straight year. Instead, it’s the Giants who are here. That’s not meant to disparage the Giants, it just puts them in the same boat as Texas. As a result, I don’t think we’ll see either team in awe of their surroundings.

From a TV standpoint, this is the worst of the 4 possible scenarios for World Series participants. We just have to accept that Yankees-Phillies is what Fox was most hoping for, followed by Yankees-Giants, Phillies-Rangers and Rangers-Giants. It’s true. Ratings nationwide would have been higher for Yankees-Phillies than they’ll be for this one. But at least Fox can be grateful it didn’t end up a Twins-Reds Series. That would have been ratings poison. Again, not throwing darts at other teams. They all are talented and earned playoff berths. They just don’t translate right now into nationwide ratings winners.

On the face of it, the Rangers should be favored. Offensively, they have a lot more firepower than the Giants. Starting pitching is pretty equal, if not in favor of the Rangers slightly. Defense is about equal. Relief pitching gives a slight edge to the Giants.

Pitching and defense, they say, win championships. I think the Rangers have enough of both to win it all, but I do have great respect for the Giants pitching. Seeing their relief corps throw six plus innings of scoreless ball against arguably the National League’s most potent offensive team sure makes you take notice.

Tim Lincecum-Cliff Lee in Games 1 & 5 could be all time classic duels.

Texas will also be at a disadvantage when they play in San Francisco. The choice is either to sit Vlad Guerrero with no DH or play him in right field, where he’s not bad, just slow enough to be a bit of a liability. This also leaves a capable left-handed bat in David Murphy on the bench.

This will not be a cakewalk. Still, I have to go with my boys and say Rangers in 6.

1 Comment

I have my paper bag supply ready for when I hyperventilate.

On another note, I read an interesting passage in BBTiA today – Mike Hindman writing (emphasis mine):

“Evan Grant used to tell me that one of the things that used to leave Buck Showalter’s Rangers clubhouses so beaten down was his obsessive focus on what players could not do. Ron Washington is the opposite in that he stubbornly believes that his guys can do things that statisticians are virtually certain they can’t do.

Jon Daniels repeatedly describes this characteristic of his manager by saying that if something happened to the big club and you told Washington he had to take on the Angels with the Bakersfield roster, he’d post up and expect to win.

Does this sort of thinking backfire on Washington from time to time? You bet. But in the end, that optimism inspires confidence among the players and has as much to do with where the Rangers find themselves right now as anything else.”

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