The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best thingsabout being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?
As we near the end of our little experiment, we're glad to hear that so many of you are enjoying the ride. Up next is our old pal Benjamin Morris of Lone Star Ball.
1. Yu Darvish. We all know what happened the last time a big league club paid a huge posting fee to obtain a Japanese pitcher, but Yu Darvish is not Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K put a lot of miles on his arm at ages 18 and 19 while growth plates were still developing, leading to a spate of injury-shortened seasons and becoming a disappointment in Boston.
ZIPs projects Darvish at a 125 ERA+ for 2012, which would have been good for somewhere around 3.5 - 3.8 WAR last year. Also, there's this and this and this. Tuning in to watch Darvish throw every fifth game is going to be a treat.
2. The rest of the rotation. They're young. They're not awful. They're not even Kevin Millwood! Sure, Derek Holland did some goofy imitations last year, has a ridiculous "bit-stache," and isn't someone I would trust watching my dogs over a weekend, but a power lefty on the right side of the development curve is a good problem to have, and we have two of them with him and book aficionado Matt Harrison. Throw in Neftali Feliz, and you have a high-upside rotation that erases memories of all the awful rotations before it, even factoring in Colby Lewis' apparent degenerative hip problem.
3. A lot of us were fans before you'd even heard of them. As your Facebook friend who is always publishing his obscure hipster playlists from Spotify to his newsfeed knows, there's a certain satisfaction to being ahead of the curve. Sure, we're back-to-back American League champs, but a whole bunch of us were fans when Richard Hidalgo was our designated hitter. Look, we've earned this through our suffering.
4. Our "problems" are not "problems" in the sense that they were five years ago. The major question going into spring training this year was how to resolve the outfield situation, and, more specifically, how to align the outfield against left handed pitching. Considering that as recently as three years ago, we were wondering if it would be better to play Hank Blalock or a pile of putrefying corpses at first base, I think we can safely label this year's outfield question marks as #firstworldproblems.
5. Our castoffs have value now. Several years ago, if a player couldn't hack it on the Rangers' roster, the next stop was the glue factory (thanks for the memories, Blalock). Today, not fitting into the Rangers' plans doesn't carry near the same sting of failure. Tommy Hunter, a decent and serviceable starter, didn't have a place on the team, but he and intriguing but frustrating Chris Davis brought back someone from the Orioles who had very respectable numbers in Koji Uehara. Likewise, Julio Borbon got the message this spring, but is someone who will likely be involved in a transaction more meaningful than "organizational soldier traded for organizational soldier."
6. Jairo Beras. A lot of non-Rangers fans may be asking "who is Jairo Beras?" And in the big scheme of things, Jairo Beras is is not that big of a deal. Toolsy 17-year-old outfielders are a long way from the big leagues, and there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. But, like the older brother who slips in one last punch before the "hit your brother one more time and I'll tan your hide" enforcement goes into effect, the Rangers were able to sign him to a deal that included a $4.5 million signing bonus despite the fact that bonuses of that size will be prohibited in this year's J-2 class. Supposedly, one of the Rangers' scouts remembered Beras' father playing in the Dominican league, and thus they were able to ascertain that Beras' reported age of 16 was inaccurate. MLB may ultimately void the contract, but I like that the organization seeks information asymmetries in creative and unique ways. If we can never hope to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox on payroll, we can always hope to continue overpowering them with superior process and evaluation.
7. Our team is not the definition of corrupt municipal rent-seeking (with bonus ugly homerun statue). Of course, we're known for a completely separate example of malfeasance and fecklessness. Cough, um, moving on…
8. The pantry that has been repeatedly raided still has some Dinty Moore Beef Stew in it. Despite being tapped over the past few years for resources to acquire, among others, Cliff Lee, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, and Bengie Molina, the farm system still has enough depth and high end talent to be ranked No. 1 by Baseball America.
9. The organization seems to have internalized the good process, bad process paradigm. Whether it's identifying amateur talent, front office personnel, or professional players worth targeting, the organization seems to know what it's doing. We've gone from being a fan base so abused by questionable decisions that we had come to believe that we somehow deserved it to a fan base that, seeing a move that seems odd or out place, responds by saying "they probably know what they are doing." The meme at LonestarBall is "Ninja'd." As in, "Who can we convince to trade an aging outfielder to the Angels for Peter Bourjos? Then he's ours, ninja'd."
10. Though our most terrifying outfielders are nearing the end of team control, I feel fine. Management has shown a heartening ability to be creative in talent acquisition, replacing Cliff Lee with internal candidates and replacing C.J. Wilson with Yu Darvish. I'm pretty confident that Josh Hamilton will be gone in 2013 and Nelson Cruz will bid us adieu in 2014, but I'm equally confident that something equally terrifying (even if terrifying in a totally different way) will replace them.
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What are your favorite things about being a Rangers fan?
Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants,Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals