Failures of the Fall

Failures of the Fall

 

By: Brandon Ford

For the second consecutive year, the Texas Rangers reached the World Series and for the second consecutive year, the Rangers failed to bring home a world championship.  Last year, the Rangers were eliminated in five games by the San Francisco Giants and were sent into the offseason with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths.  In every game but Game 3, the Rangers were out hit and out pitched at every turn and overall outclassed by the Giants.  In almost every sport, the runner up usually has a hangover that lasts at least a year and prevents them from reaching the heights that they reached the previous year.

 

But that didn’t apply to the Texas Rangers.

 

            On October 15th 2011, the Texas Rangers dismantled the Detroit Tigers 15-5 to reach their second consecutive World Series.  The Rangers received the rare chance at redemption that so few teams get.  Fifty years after the team first came to Texas, the Rangers were primed and ready to win their first World Series and on October 27th 2011 in the ninth inning, the Rangers were one strike away from doing so.  Manager Ron Washington was about to prove everybody wrong and win his first World Series as manager.  Owner and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, who purchased the team last season, was on the verge of getting his first World Series ring since 1969 when he was with the New York Mets.  Josh Hamilton was about to accomplish something he never thought he would accomplish five years ago.  Five years ago, Hamilton doubted he would live to even play in the Major Leagues, much less in the World Series.

 

            Josh Hamilton was an addict.  Once the first overall pick by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 1999 MLB draft, Hamilton descended into a life of drug addiction and depression and was regulated to being a mere cautionary tale to other young players.  “Not that long ago, there were nights I went to sleep in strange places praying I wouldn’t wake up”, Hamilton wrote in an article on ESPN.com in 2007.  Hamilton was an addict for nearly four years and didn’t get clean until he was confronted by his grandmother.  Hamilton has been clean since October 6th 2005.

 

            Even after he got clean, no Major League teams gave Hamilton a shot.  It wouldn’t be until 2006 that Hamilton would play a game of baseball, when he played fifteen games with the Hudson Valley Renegades, a minor league affiliate for the Tampa Bay Rays.  However, Hamilton would soon get his break when he was placed on the Major League roster of the Cincinnati Reds as their fourth outfielder.  The Reds, who acquired Hamilton from the Chicago Cubs for $100,000, were forced to keep Hamilton on their Major League roster due to the rules of the Rule 5 draft.  When Hamilton made his first Major League at bat on April 2nd 2007 against the Chicago Cubs, he received a twenty two second standing ovation.  While waiting for his at bat, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett told him: “You deserve it, Josh. Take it all in, brother. I’m happy for you”.

 

            Hamilton recorded his Major League hit on April 10th 2007, a home run off of Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Edgar Gonzalez.  After the 2007 season, Hamilton was traded to the Texas Rangers and the rest is history.  While with the Rangers, Hamilton has been an All Star four times and won the 2010 American League MVP award.  Ever since he made his return to baseball, Hamilton has become one of the premier players in all of baseball and showed that he is “proof that hope is never lost”, as Hamilton described himself in 2007.

 

            Fast forward four years and the Texas Rangers are one strike away from winning their first World Series.  Rangers closer Naftali Feliz is on the mound facing St. Louis Cardinals third basemen David Freese is at bat.  The Rangers lead 7-5 and men are on first and second base with two outs.  The count is one balls and two strikes.  Feliz’s pitch is hammered by Freese and bounces off the wall and over the head of Rangers Right Fielder Nelson Cruz.  Feliz, who has been flirting with disaster the entire postseason, was finally burned.  Two runs score and the score is 7-7 going into extra innings.  In the 10th inning, Josh Hamilton hits a two run home run to make the game 9-7 and silence overcomes Busch Stadium, which just ten minutes ago was about as loud as any baseball field could be with the Cardinals comeback in the bottom of the ninth. 

 

About fifteen minutes later, the cheers return as the Cardinals once again tie the game up with a Lance Berkman single and once again, the game is tied up.  Once again, the bullpen of the Texas Rangers has let them down with one strike to go and the second blown save in two innings had taken place, this second blown save being credited to Scott Feldman.  One of the biggest collapses in World Series history has taken place and the fall is completed six pitches into the bottom of the eleventh inning, when Ryan Freese, the man who just two innings ago tied the game 7-7, hit a 428 foot bomb off of Rangers pitcher Mark Lowe and over the center field fence as Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck made the simple call of: “We’ll see you tomorrow night”.

 

            The momentum had shifted to the St. Louis Cardinals and the Rangers’ spirit was crushed.  In Game 7 however, the Rangers jumped out to a shocking 2-0 lead and the Rangers seemed to have forgotten about the Game six collapse just twenty hours earlier.  They had silenced Busch Stadium and momentum seemed to have switched right back to the Texas Rangers and it seemed that they might redeem themselves after all.  The Rangers had not lost back to back games since August and they didn’t plan to start in the World Series.

 

The Rangers didn’t score a run for the rest of the game.

 

            The Rangers pitching let them down once again and at the end of the first inning, the game was tied 2-2 after David Freese, the hero of game six and the eventual MVP of the World Series, hit a two run double that scored both Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman.  After a rocky first inning, Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter held the Rangers scoreless for five innings and at 11:23 PM, Jason Motte closed the door on the Rangers and their shot at redemption and the Cardinals won game 7 of the 2011 World Series 6-2.

 

            The 2011 Rangers were supposed to be a team of redemption.  Josh Hamilton, a man who had overcame so much adversity in his life, was supposed to get a World Series ring.  Instead, the Texas Rangers, a team who throughout the year was exciting to watch, went out with a whimper on Friday night when a pop up, a ground out and a routine fly ball ended up being the final stand of the team who at two points, were one strike away from winning the World Series.  The dream of redemption for the Texas Rangers died in St. Louis Friday night and the chance of winning a World Series title might have been buried alongside with it.