Baseball hasn’t had a repeat World Series champion since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000. Can the Rangers pull off a feat so many other teams have failed this century?
Well, they didn’t spend more than $750 million on free agent signings over the past few offseasons to just take one shot at a title then go quietly into the night. If anything, in fact, the Rangers winning the 2023 World Series title is at least a year ahead of even the most optimistic projection, so, yeah, they’re certainly going to be one of the teams in the mix.
October, of course, can be wildly unpredictable. In no world did anyone expect a team that was under .500 on the road in the regular season to set a record by going 11-0 on the road in the playoffs. How can you expect a reliever who had a 5.50 ERA in the regular season, made a couple trips to the IL and had a 7.98 ERA in the second half to have a 0.75 ERA in 12 playoff innings? You absolutely cannot. Sometimes, Josh Sborz pitches like Mariano Rivera.
It happens every year. So we cannot say with certainty that the Rangers will repeat as World Series champions. What we can offer, though, are reasons they should be right back in the mix when October rolls around next year.
The Rangers’ lineup
That group is just absolutely relentless. Even watching Zac Gallen’s masterful performance in Game 5, as the Diamondbacks kept wasting opportunity after opportunity, you just kept waiting for the Rangers’ lineup to strike. And that’s exactly what happened, with the three consecutive hits to break the scoreless tie, then post a crooked-number 4 on the scoreboard in the eighth inning to remove drama from the equation.
Before the World Series started, I asked Mitch Garver about the Texas lineup. Garver could, I thought, provide a unique perspective. He was part of that 2019 Twins lineup, the group that set an MLB record — broken by the Braves this year — with 307 homers (31 by Garver). I asked him if this Rangers lineup reminded him of that Twins group.
“Somewhat,” he said. “I think what the Twins did in’19, it kind of exposed us for the postseason. The pitching gets so much better, it’s harder to hit those home runs. I think this lineup is built quite a bit better.”
Quick reminder: Those Twins were swept out of the postseason by the Yankees.
“We have on-base skills. We have slug. We don’t chase,” Garver said. “I think there’s a lot more components to this offense, and that’s what made us successful up to this point. And that’s kind of the key to where baseball is going nowadays. You can’t free swing in the playoffs. You’ve gotta have more discipline.”
That discipline, that refusal to chase, is a big reason why the lineup is so relentless. It starts with the two up top, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, of course. But the arrival of Adolis Garcia as an All-Star — and playoff superstar, craving the biggest moments — was really something to watch.
And, of course, the baby of the bunch, Evan Carter. The lefty with the sweet swing just turned 21 at the end of August, then made his MLB debut about a week later, on Sept. 8. You would think that might be the highlight of any rookie’s debut season. Not this guy. Carter immediately became a fixture up high in the playoff lineup and finished with nine doubles in the postseason, an MLB record.
“He’s surprising everybody. He’s a superstar, man,” Garver told me before the World Series started. “He’s 21 and he’s out here playing like he’s done it for 10 years. It’s amazing. When I was 21, I was still in college and here he is playing in the World Series. He has outperformed all expectations.”
And for the most part, the lineup is locked up. Garver’s the primary free agent among the position players, though Robbie Grossman and Travis Jankowski are, too. The rest of the group — Seager, Semien, Garcia, Carter, Josh Jung, Nathaniel Lowe, Jonah Heim and Leody Taveras — are all under contract or club control for another three years.
Think about that. To have a group that talented, now with a World Series title already under their belts, together for potentially the next three years?
Oh, and get ready for Wyatt Langford to enter the equation. Rangers fans know all about Langford. The outfielder was the club’s first-round pick out of Florida in this year’s MLB Draft (fourth overall) and all he did was play at four levels — from Rookie ball all the way to Triple-A — and crush the ball the whole time. In exactly 200 total plate appearances, he batted .360 with a .480 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 17 doubles and 12 stolen bases.
He’s the real deal.
The pitching staff
Things are less certain here, but that’s mostly because it’s tough to compete with the certainty the Rangers have with their group of position players. Playoff hero Nathan Eovaldi has one year and a player option left on his contract. Max Scherzer’s under contract for 2024, but to count on him for 30 starts seems foolish, at 39 years old. Jacob deGrom is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and an optimistic return is next August, though it’s fair to wonder if he’ll be vintage deGrom coming off that major surgery. It’s best not to bet on that.
Jon Gray, Dane Dunning and Andrew Heaney were all respectable in the rotation during the season, though they weren’t looked at as capital S “Starters” in the postseason.
Upgrades are possible, via free agency or the trade market.
Speaking of free agency, Chris Young should just hand Jordan Montgomery a blank check. The lefty proved to be the very best trade-deadline acquisition at the August 1 deadline this summer, and the Rangers don’t sniff this title without him. Also, it’s not like he just caught lightning in a bottle. Montgomery has been — had been, sorry — a wildly underrated starter, posting a 3.34 ERA in 64 starts the past two season.
And, no doubt, the much-maligned Rangers bullpen was magnificent in the postseason. But imagine how good the group might be over the 162-game grind if, let’s say, they went out and signed free-agent closer Josh Hader this offseason. No reason to think that’s out of the realm of possibility. There are other relievers available, too.
So, can the Rangers repeat?
Can they? Absolutely. Will they? Finding out is part of the fun.
It’s not a perfect roster. It wasn’t this month, either. Lots of unexpected things had to go right for the Rangers to win the 2023 World Series. But that’s the case almost every year.
Looking at the upcoming offseason, consider this truth: Players want to play where they can win. When the Rangers signed Seager and Semien a few years ago, they were selling a vision (and offering more money than anyone else). But now, they’re offering free-agents a legitimate chance to win a championship, an opportunity to step into a winning culture, to play for a winning manager, for a front office committed to doing what it takes to win at the highest level.
That’s pretty appealing. The chance to go back-to-back? That’s not so bad of a motivation, either.
Source : ESPN.com