Déjà vu and history are staring the Texas Rangers in the face, but 2016 may be the year they conquer October.
Though Texas clinched the American League West for the second year in a row Friday after beating the Oakland A’s 3-0, after a disappointing division series playoff loss to the Toronto Blue Jays last season, manager Jeff Banister and the Rangers might be a mite tentative to enter the postseason.
One of the differences between the past and the present may be how this season is ending.
The team punched their way back to the top of the AL with a 92-64 record, which is the second best record in the MLB. Not including Monday's scheduled game against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Rangers have won 12 of its 22 games in September, has a 10.5 game lead and is the champion of the American League West.
Last season the team won 18 of 28 during the same time frame.
Banister and the boys are also showcasing one of their most talented teams yet and with only two All-Stars, could be compared to the best Rangers' teams in history — including the one in 2011 that lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the World Series.
Compared to the 2011 season where Texas' sent five to the midseason spectacle, the team has All-Stars Ian Desmond and Cole Hamels. That number was the fewest for the team since in a decade when only Michael Young made the All-Star team in 2006.
One of the most commonly asked questions about the Rangers this year may be, “Will they finally win a World Series?” To Rangers' naysayers, a World Series title in Arlington is not the craziest thing a fan can dream.
The Rangers have championship-quality swagger right now, with a record 11-9 and 28 home runs in their last 20 games, but the eleven comeback wins the team has had in the last 20 games shows they are taking their team’s motto, "Never Ever Quit," to heart.
The Rangers have been winning any way they can and with nine walk-off wins, Texas usually shocks us all.
A difference maker for Texas during those wins and throughout the season has been second baseman Rougned Odor. The fact he is batting .277 and has hit 31 home runs, only scratches the surface of the value he brings to an organization like the Rangers.
He is a proverbial powder keg of baseball emotion, lighting a fire under his teammates and never failing to surprise fans with a clutch home run. Despite the mental errors pundits criticize, there may only be a few better players a franchise can build a championship team around.
Odor's .970 fielding percentage ranks tenth in the majors. He will turn 23 in February and according to spotrac.com., is controlled by Texas — through arbitration — until 2020.
Though Ian Desmond (.980 fielding percentage) is a first-year outfielder, he has proven moving from middle infield to center field has been a good idea. Desmond has far surpassed expectations, batting .287 and scoring 104 runs, which is the most on the team. Most though he would translate to a good defensive replacement for Leonys Martin, who hit .219 last year, few thought he'd produce this kind of value.
In less than a year, he has turned into one of the best outfielders in the game today. Desmond has a .338 OBP, but he ranks 10 in the MLB in stolen bases with 20. With a slugging percentage of .454, and 84 RBIs, Desmond is ranked second in runs and batting average, and is ranked third in RBIs, OBP, and slugging percentage amongst AL center fielders.
Arguably the most talented Ranger is 37-year-old third baseman Adrian Beltre, who most baseball analysts expect to enter the Hall of Fame when his career ends.
Always a lift up in the clubhouse, Beltre's most valuable addition has been through making this team into a winning ball club. He not only leads the team in batting average, RBIs, on-base percentage, and walks, since Texas signed him away from the Boston Red Sox for $80 million in 2011, he's mentored younger Rangers in how to win and play the game the right way.
Despite the loss of Prince Fielder to injury and corresponding retirement, the Rangers have been able to keep their reputation as an offensive team. Texas has the fifth most home runs (205) in Major League Baseball — behind only Baltimore, Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Seattle— which helps the team live up to their reputation of being one of the best hitting teams in the MLB.
The Rangers are the most talented since 2011, and this may be the year their possession of a championship-quality attitude could blend with their talent and crown Arlington World Series champions for the first time in franchise history.