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It's Time

For the past ten years, followers of the Texas Rangers have had their loyalty and patience rewarded with a decade of disappointment, frustration, and letdown. Mediocrity can't even rightfully define this era in Rangers history. To put it mildly, since 1999, the Texas Rangers can be described as failures. They have failed to win a division title, failed to capture a wild card berth, and made losing seasons seem like the norm. Since '99, our lone winning season in 2004 seemed like nothing more than a flash in the pan. Then of course came the Alex Rodriguez faux pas, which seemed to drain the soul out of the organization. But if you are a Rangers fan, you have felt the blow of misfortune for nearly the entire existence of the organization. Only three playoff appearances, which only brought us a single victory in the very first playoff game in team history. For those fans that have remained loyal to the club, a World Series would be a dream, but at this point, a simple division title would feel like heaven.

That brings us to this year, 2010. Undoubtedly by now, any follower of the Rangers has seen or heard the team slogan for this season. And those remaining loyal fans would have to agree..."It's Time!" It's time to push past the point of mediocrity and failures of the past. It's time to strike fear into the opposition. And it's time to finally take our seat on the throne of the A.L. West. But even the biggest baseball enthusiast could be skeptical of Nolan Ryan's prediction of 92 wins. After all, these are the same 'ole Rangers, right?

History would tell us that as we venture into August, this is the point in every season where all optimism melts away into the summer heat as the Rangers fall apart and watch their postseason hopes tumble with them. But this year that optimism is as high as the temperature in Texas, due not only to the largest division lead in the league going into August, but also because of the genious that is GM Jon Daniels, who has to be the frontrunner for Executive of the Year. Daniels was responsible for the most effective trade deadline deals in the league this year, and perhaps the best deals in the history of the club within a season. In July alone, Daniels orchestrated deals for a veteran catcher in Bengie Molina of the Giants, who has 2 Gold Gloves, on top of a World Series ring. Daniels also helped fill the hole at first base with the acquisition of Jorge Cantu of the Marlins. Cantu should be able to step in and provide an instant impact at the plate, the area Chris Davis just couldn't seem to improve upon at the Major League level. Christian Guzman of the Nationals was brought in to fill in for an injured Ian Kinsler at second base, which is a step up from Andres Blanco and Joaquin Arias. Guzman's experience and consistency is a good fit for a run into October. But without a doubt, the biggest move of the summer by any team was the acquisition of the best pitcher in the American League, Cliff Lee. Not only does it provide an ace to an already solid pitching staff, but it helps solidify Texas as a true player in the pennant race. What makes it more exciting for Texas fans is that Daniels stole Lee out of the grip of the Yankees, who were the favorites to land the ace. For once, the Rangers played hardball on the market and came out winners in July, which could translate into being winners in October, as well.

Another reason hopes are at an all-time high is due to a lineup that would frighten any opposing pitcher in the league. The heart of the lineup stretches from the lead-off man all the way to the 6th man in the order. Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz are those 6. All but one was an all-star this season, and that was Michael Young, who many argue was the biggest A.L. snub. Here is a more in-depth look at what makes the Rangers the most feared lineup in the league today.

*Elvis Andrus is the only one of the 6 stars that isn't hitting .298 or above, yet still earned his first all-star nod. His defense is outstanding and has made him an elite player. He is only batting .272 this season, but is still a dangerous option to lead off the order. And when on base, he is one of the most intimidating baserunners in the game today. He currently has 27 stolen bases, and though he can be careless on the base path at times, the distraction he causes to the opposing pitcher while on base helps provide more walks and hits for batters that follow him in the order.

*Michael Young has been the most consistent Ranger of the past decade, and one of the best in team history. He is currently batting .300, but it is his ability to come through in the clutch that makes him such a dangerous hitter. In tight situations, most fans would tell you that Young is the man they would choose to have at the plate. To further his legacy in Texas, he also became the all-time hits leader in club history back in June, passing Pudge Rodriguez for the honor. His career is the definition of greatness.

*Ian Kinsler is headed back to the DL for the second time this season, but his overall production this year already outshines that of last season. He is currently batting .298, but only has 6 homers this season. That may be blamed on his time spent on the DL, but most would point to Clint Hurdle molding Kinsler into a more well-rounded hitter. Last year, we saw Ian chase a 30/30 season, which he acheived. But in the process, his batting average declined, while his strikeout rate inclined. That seems to be behind him now, though, as he has regained his form and is proving why he is one of the best second basemen in the league at the plate and on the field.

*Vladimir Guerrero has seemed to ressurect his career in Texas as a DH, batting .305, with 21 home runs and 85 RBI. Though he only batted .210 in July, he is still a threat to put any ball into the stands and his struggles over the past month haven't seemed to affect his RBI total, which is still tied for 2nd in all of baseball. If he can regain his form that he had through June, he could end up being the best acquisition any team made in the offseason.

*Josh Hamilton is still a threat for a Triple Crown, but has now emerged as an even bigger threat to capture his first MVP award. His numbers this season are astounding, batting .362 (league leader), with 23 home runs and 75 RBI. But maybe his most amazing stat is his .636 slugging percentage. He may be the most frightening batter in the league for any pitcher and seems to just now be hitting his stride as we enter August.

*Nelson Cruz is batting .328, with 15 homers and 58 RBI. He is seeing the ball better than he ever has, and is playing some of the best defense of any outfielder in the league this season. In many lineups across the league, he would be a perfect cleanup hitter, but bats 6th in the Rangers lineup, which shows just how deep they are.

Indeed, Texas has one of the most dominant offenses in baseball. But let's not forget about a solid pitching rotation that possibly became a great rotation after the trade for Cliff Lee. For the first time since the Nolan Ryan era, the Rangers have a true ace in the staff and are set up to make a long playoff run if their pitching holds strong. The consistency of Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson, as well as the emergence of Tommy Hunter have helped make this perhaps the greatest starting rotation the Rangers have ever had. And with Rich Harden returning from the DL and having an exceptional outing against the Angels, the optimism continues to hold strong.

Even with the ongoing sale of the Rangers and an uncertain future, the success of this year's squad has brought the fans much needed enthusiasm, excitement, and hope to shadow over the failures of the past decade. When it comes to other teams in the league, the Rangers have finally found a way to strike some fear across the board. Whether it's at the plate, in the field, or on the mound, the Rangers may be the most well-rounded team in the league. But to fight off their past demons, they must find a way to keep momentum rolling through August and September. If they can accomplish that, then they can once again wear the crown as kings of the West. Regardless of the outcome, the next 2 months should provide plenty of drama and excitement, as we race towards October. It may be time to jump on the Rangers bandwagon. Let's just hope that at this time in 2 months, the Cowboys will be taking a back seat to the Texas Rangers. After all..."It's Time."

Dylan White
dylanation37@hotmail.com