"I wish the Rangers would start playing better. I wish this would start being fun again." - Are We Having Fun Yet? (August 1st, 2012)
It's the morning of October 3rd, a chillingly morose morning from the vantage point of this fan base, and that once-improbable scenario where the Rangers fumbled away the AL West title at the goal line is now likelier to actualize than drawing one side or another on a coin flip. They'll run Ryan Dempster out on the bump later today in a less-than-favorable pitching matchup against Adrian Griffin (in a hostile road environment, to boot), and they'll hope some good things will happen and they'll manage to clinch the deal that they should have clinched before now -- and the thing is that it could happen. Even if you lack for confidence in the offense or the pitching right now, this is still a game hugely driven by luck, and, rationally, they are by no means dead in the water as of this moment. Today could still be a day of triumph and relief.
But think about where we, as a fan base, are in terms of our collective state of mind right now. Think about the doom and gloom pervading the blogosphere and the Twittersphere right now. Think about the fact that public confidence in this offense -- and, to some extent, Ryan Dempster -- is so low right now that we're so inclined to skip over Game 162 and proceed straight ahead to the wild-card playoff. * And think about the fact that this fan base is not completely unjustified in its growing sense of panic, because the emotional wounds from last year's ending are still fresh and deep and painful, and, in the view of many, what's happening at this year's regular-season finish line is just way too similar to what happened at last year's World Series finish line for us to simply shrug it off.
[* And to be clear on my position about this, no, I don't regard clinching a wild-card berth as "clinching a playoff spot," even though that is technically what is going on. The only thing securing a wild-card berth does is throw an additional 50-50 coin flip onto the front end of what is already a post-season crapshoot -- it guarantees nothing more than a one-game matchup where the winner obtains the right to actually play out a full, multi-game post-season series. If the Rangers lose on Wednesday and then lose the wild-card playoff game on Friday, they will not be remembered as a playoff team, nor should they be.]
I'm not despairing at this point, nor do I think anyone else should resort to such depths of hopelessness just yet. I can get why some people are feeling it right now, though. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I do get it. I'm also disappointed and frustrated by the fact that the Rangers have put themselves in this sort of position in the first place, and I'm having a lot of difficulty steering clear of the second-guessing game at this juncture. The nightmare scenario of the season being over within 72 hours isn't so unrealistic anymore, and you chew on that, and then you launch into that classic game of wondering how things might be different if the Rangers' regulars had gotten a bit more rest this year, or if Michael Young hadn't been utilized as an everyday player, or if Josh Hamilton hadn't overdosed on caffeine ... you could probably go on all night with that game. It's a depressing game.
And, honestly, I can't play that game any longer this morning. The Rangers, that little team that could, that team that used to bring such joy to our evenings and won over our hearts by time and time again battling down to the wire, is now backed up against the wall, and we're justifiably worried. It doesn't have anything to do with them not caring, either ... not from my view, at least. I don't buy into the notion that the team, as a whole, just doesn't care anymore. I won't buy into it.
I do, however, wonder if they're just about out of gas, if there's no more fuel left in their reserves. If that's the case, then they're in big trouble beyond Games 162-63. And even if that's not the case, even if they do actually have whatever it's going to take to win it all this year, it just won't matter unless they win one of their next two games.
I wish the Rangers would start playing better. I wish this would start being fun again.