The Texas Rangers have been one of the surprise stories of the 2023 MLB season from the very beginning. This was a team that had not seen much success over the past half-decade, but this year they burst onto the scene, leading the AL West division for an impressive 159 days of the regular season. Though they ultimately lost their division title to a tiebreaker based on their regular-season record against the Houston Astros, the Rangers' resurgence has ignited hopes that have long lay dormant in the hearts of Texas baseball fans.
The Rangers, once a powerhouse in the early 2010s when they reached back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011, had experienced a prolonged period of mediocrity. To add to the frustration, the franchise has never won a World Series in its history, dating back to 1961 when they began as the new Washington Senators. However, in 2023, the Rangers' fortunes look to have begun to change, yet still with immense challenges ahead.
Building a championship team
The team's ownership and management has made significant investments in recent seasons, getting the team ready for this opportunity ahead, like bringing in star players like Corey Seager and Jacob deGrom. Seager, in particular, has had an outstanding year and in normal years, would probably be a heavy favorite for the AL MVP award, had it not been for Shohei Ohtani's historic season. Despite deGrom's early-season, unsurprising injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery, the Rangers continued to perform at a high level, thanks mostly in part due to their high-powered offense, along with some notable acquisitions at the trade deadline to help replace deGrom.
Starting and relief pitching woes
Now, as the Rangers find themselves in the postseason against the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Series, the pressure is mounting. Their journey to October glory will largely hinge on their bullpen's performance, which, unfortunately, ranks among the worst in the league, according to FanGraphs. Will Smith lost his closer role, and former Kansas City Royals' closer Aroldis Chapman and Jose Leclerc have had to share closing duties, often struggling with control issues in their own right. Therefore, their lack of bullpen depth makes it imperative for the starting pitchers to go deep into games, which, needless to say, is a mounting challenge given how there's a minimum at that as well.
Really, the pressure is on AL Wild Card Game 1 starter Jordan Montgomery, who has been the stand out for the Rangers since acquiring him at the trade deadline. He's proven he can go the distance by getting quality innings through games. Outside of that, it's up to Nathan Eovaldi and Max Scherzer. Eovaldi will be the Game 2 starter for Wednesday's game against the Rays, and while he undoubtedly helped the Rangers this season, he sometimes has trouble getting deep into games. Scherzer on the other hand is out at least through the Wild Card Series and probably even longer.
Rangers offense has to get them to the World Series
Adolis Garcia, a diamond in the rough acquired by the Rangers for cash considerations, has been a revelation. As the team's power hitter, Garcia has become a significant part of the Rangers' offensive firepower. In a postseason where every run counts, Garcia's contributions could be pivotal.
The Rangers' offense has been a force to be reckoned with this season, garnering national attention. The Rangers' lineup boasts remarkable depth and power, led by Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, who has had an extraordinary offensive season despite missing some games. Their ability to hit for average, power, and get on base puts them at the top of the American League in various offensive categories. While their pitching staff, especially the bullpen, must step up, it will ultimately be the bats of Semien, Seager, and others like Adolis Garcia in the lineup that will determine their fate in October.
After the heartbreaks of a decade-plus ago, this is the best the Rangers have looked since. While management has proven they will go out and spend and make the necessary moves necessary to build a winning team. there's still no guarantees this team can be as good as it at this moment. The Rangers are one of the few teams this offseason that will have a number of free agents on the market, including Montgomery and Chapman. Plus, there's not guarantee Seager and Semien could replicate their career-best seasons. If the Rangers can't win now, more heartbreak and suffering could lie ahead. This is why the Rangers must win the 2023 World Series.