ARLINGTON, TX - JUNE 21: The Texas Rangers celebrate Mitch Moreland #18 of the Texas Rangers walk off home run during the bottom of the eleventh inning to win the game 5-4 against the Houston Astros at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on June 21, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
For one -- and the first -- moment in history, Rangers fans are the ones other fans get to be envious of.
You can forgive any Rangers fan if optimism may come a little bit slowly. For nearly four decades, it was hard to find a franchise in sports more irrelevant.
Few legendary players, outside of a catcher who went elsewhere to get a ring, a pitcher who rolled in to town just to finish off his resume, and a shortstop only around long enough start a legendary contract.
From the time they moved to Texas in 1972 until the last couple of years, they were the oldest franchise to have never been to a World Series; the only one not even to win a postseason series. The height of their history was their only three postseason appearances, all in a brief four-year period.
Late in the last decade, they were a team without any reason to take notice. They were not bad enough to get national attention or great draft picks, not good enough to give their fans any immediate hope. The farm system was barren, the owner was cutting costs. Oh, and then he went bankrupt. It looked like an unremarkable franchise was going to stay that way.
Suddenly, a commitment by the front office to youth resulted in a turnaround towards one of the elite farm systems in baseball 2007. At the same time, the Major League club was improved, leaping in to a stunning year of contention, followed by back-to-back League pennants.
Unless you are a new Rangers fan (welcome!) or a non-Rangers fan who stumbled on to the site today, you know this already, but it is worth the brief history lesson to fully remind us of how incredible it is to see something like this: ESPN Predicts Rangers As Baseball's Best Over Next Five Years.
Frankly, that just should not come as any sort of surprise. If you glance at the numbers Christopher has in his post, it did not even come out very close. That's simply because the Rangers are set very well, today and tomorrow. You could fill a paragraph with different ways say it, or you can just state it as plainly as that.
We know, of course, the Rangers have the talent right now. They are a squad that was good enough to repeat as AL Champions, were quite possibly the best team in baseball in 2012, and just needed a strike (twice) to win the World Series. Without a cataclysmic decline (and the loss of one pitcher is not cataclysmic), that talent is still there. If a club that won a pennant is mostly intact, it stands to reason they can (not will) be that good again if we want to be simple about it. (If you don't want to be simple, CAIRO and Davenport agree as far as the projections that are out.)
On top of that, they have the talent for the future. Lots of it. Brett pointed out the Rangers rank second among all farm systems in the latest Baseball America Handbook, behind the Nationals prior to their trade for Gio Gonzalez. SB Nation's own Jon Sickels ranks them third. Neither of these rankings include Yu Darvish, who may well make the Rangers the deepest franchise in all of baseball in terms of players yet to lose their rookie status, and they just won two pennants. You're not supposed to be that good on the farm while you're that good in the Bigs.
The front office that has made all the calls that put this team together stays intact, and seemingly has full support of ownership. An ownership that has shown a willingness to spend, with pockets continuing to be lined by the spoils of success and impending gigantic TV contracts.
Then there's how much fun the team is to watch. Electrifying young pitchers fill nearly the entire rotation, with another that would make most teams' rotations sitting in the bullpen. The dynamic double play duo pulls magic in the infield, and on the basepaths. One of the greatest Texas Rangers ever continues to add base hits to his resume past an age when many of us thought he'd be done. One of baseball's most destructive hitters can even play catcher, and two of the toolsiest talents in the league man the corners (cross your fingers for health!). It is hard to imagine a team with more excitement to offer on the field.
And it's just impossible to really comprehend that we've come to this place so fast. That in nearly no time flat, the Rangers have gone from long-time nobodies to a model franchise in baseball. A team with the talent to compete for a championship, the future talent to keep that up long-term, the front office with the brains to replenish that pool, and an ownership with the willingness to keep it here.
Yes, "two strikes! TWICE!!" hurts. For most of us, it will always hurt, at least a little. But all these things should make it at least a little better. It is hard to be in a more realistic position to deliver on that promise of a championship down the line.
The past frankly sucks, but the present is bright, and the future is nearly as bright as it can be in a sport where so little is guaranteed.
It's easy to say there has never been a better time to be a Texas Rangers fan. There are not often better times to be an anyone fan.