I caught the first half of the Red Sox-Rangers game at a bar last night, a rare treat for a guy with two kids.
I briefly chatted up a fellow Red Sox fan who, unsurprisingly, had less-than-wonderful things to say about the team. Take away Dustin Pedroia and Cody Ross and there’s not much to like. This is all subjective, of course, but it was easy to see the energy around this team from 2003 to 2008 or so, when Theo Epstein and Terry Francona were at the helm, guys like Orlando Cabrera and Trot Nixon thrilled fans with their hard-nosed play and boisterous personalities, and Jason Varitek represented everything that was right about baseball.
Watching the Rangers for the first time since the World Series, it occurred to me again just how likable a team they’ve assembled. It’s hard for a Northeastern kid to support a team from Texas with Georges Bush in the owners’ box, especially when their rise has corresponded with Boston’s decline and the Rangers routinely pound the Sox head-to-head.
Look around the field, though, and it’s full of guys I’d love to root for. It starts with a Dominican shortstop named Elvis who makes impossible plays and steals bases with abandon. Ian Kinsler is a SABR darling, a high-OBP, efficient-base-stealing second baseman with great range. Adrian Beltre is one of the game’s more underrated players, perhaps the best defensive third baseman in the game and a guy with a little pop and an absurd toughness quotient.
I don’t feel exactly as the media tells me I should about Josh Hamilton, but I have to admit his comeback story is inspiring. And Nelson Cruz, while I wish he’d caught David Freese’s liner in Game 6, can be a blast to watch when he’s launching homers in bunches.
The rotation is a starless outfit that regularly ranks among the league’s best despite pitching in a bandbox. Yu Darvish is not only electrifying, striking out well over a batter an inning, but apparently modest, based on his comments about not deserving to be an All-Star. And Derek Holland, with his wispy mustache and spot-on impersonations of Harry Caray and manager Ron Washington, may be the most lovable of them all.
Speaking of Wash, he’s a fun guy himself, dancing in the dugout and inspiring confidence in his players.
It’s very possible that this team will reach something like 6 of the next 8 World Series and we’ll all get sick of them, but for the moment, I’m glad the best team in baseball is stocked with fun-to-watch players with reasonable contracts and modest self-images.
Just don’t look at the owners’ box.