Houston, we have a problem! The oft quoted phrase from the Apollo 13 crew may undergo some changes after the American League Championship Series. Guess what Houston this is not our problem, this is your problem. The Astros best days are behind them and the Rangers are just beginning.
Still, this is how rivalries are born. For a decade the Rangers and Astros have played in the same division. For much of that decade they played each other nineteen times per year. For some two decades the teams have battled for the Silver Boot where the team that wins the season series wins the coveted Silver Boot Trophy. Actually, neither team has ever coveted it. I’m not sure either team knows where it is.
The ALCS finally lit the fire that Tom Hicks hoped to ignite back in the early 2000’s. As a longtime supporter of the University of Texas, Hicks knew a little something about rivalries. The Red River Rivalry is one of the best in college football to this day. As owner of the Rangers, Hicks was hoping to one day see the stadium half red and half orange. Not crimson and burnt orange but Rangers Red and Astros Orange. Never mind that the Rangers color is predominately blue now. Hicks has almost gotten his wish.
Baseball is different from college football, of course. But since both lone star baseball teams are very good right now, this may be the beginning of a long and healthy rivalry.
Consider this; each team finished the 162 game 2023 season with exactly the same record 90-72. Each team has a power hitter in the middle of the line-up that no pitcher really wants to face. Each has a quadragenarian at or near the top of the rotation. Each has a future Hall of Fame manager who has seen it all.
Obviously, the Astros immediate past success creates a blinding glare. But the Rangers’ future appears to be much brighter. Josh Jung has just completed his rookie year. Jung’s September call up last season did not provide enough service time to disqualify him from rookie status this year. The same is true of Evan Carter this fall. He got called up in September but got so much experience during the playoffs that it almost seems unfair to call him a rookie next season but that is what he is. Can you say Rookie of the Year?
The farm system is still well stocked too. Outfielder Wyatt Langford is knocking on the door, so is outfielder Sebastian Walcott. Better yet there are pitchers near the top of the rankings too, Brock Porter is top 100 in all of MLB and Jack Leiter is right behind him.
General Manager Chris Young has done a masterful job since coming home to Texas. Young pitched for thirteen years in MLB and won a World Series with the Royals in 2015. His major league debut was with the Rangers who traded him to the Padres in 2006. It was in San Diego that he played for Bruce Bochy. Young remembered the calm demeanor of his manager, the baseball knowledge and reassurance that Bochy provided on the bench. So Young hired his former manager out of retirement last off season. It will live as one of the best hires the Rangers have ever made.
So let’s take inventory; the Rangers have a great veteran corps of pitchers and position players. They have a front office that has proven to be one of the best in baseball. A manager who lowers the heart rate of everyone in the dugout no matter the pressure packed circumstances. And an ownership group that has come through at every turn. Add it all up and I would say it is not “we”, it is “you”. Houston you have a problem. It’s the Texas Rangers.
Sports columnist John Rhadigan is an anchor for the Bally Sports Southwest television network.