Another classic fall: Texas back in it to win it
Rangers 22nd team to return to World Series year after loss
On the night the 2010 World Series ended, with Texas on the short end of a five-game series against the San Francisco Giants, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels ambled through the home clubhouse in Rangers Ballpark and was struck by how quickly his players appeared to have turned the page."Most of the guys had hung around," Daniels recalled. "They were sitting there, kind of digesting it. You got a sense that, instantaneously, they had shifted their focus to next year." The senior Rangers player, Michael Young, assured that, telling teammates, "Enjoy your winter, but don't turn it off mentally. We're capable of getting back." This is not breaking news. A team loses the big one, its players resolve to return the following year to again be sized for the ring. They always vow to be back. "We've got that [World Series] experience," said Ian Kinsler, the leadoff spark plug. "It wasn't a very good one, but we have the experience." Relatively few actually get to keep the promise, as have the Rangers with their convincing triumph over a feisty Detroit bunch in the American League Championship Series -- the first team in 20 years to get an immediate shot at reversing a World Series loss.
"Behold," said Texas manager Ron Washington, only the sounds of trumpets missing, "here we are with another opportunity."But if you do return, you have a slightly better-than-even chance of reversing the outcome, of seeing the satisfying end of your year-long mission. Since the first World Series in 1903, the Rangers are the 22nd team to return after being defeated in the prior installment. Of the previous 21, 12 won in their second coming, usually facing different competition -- as will the Rangers, who this time will meet the St. Louis Cardinals. History gives the Rangers an even better shot than the odds: AL teams simply aren't in the habit of dropping consecutive Series, none having done so since the 1963-64 Yankees lost to the Dodgers and Cardinals in succession. The fact the NL hasn't won back-to-back Fall Classics in two decades -- since the Pirates, the Phillies, the Dodgers and the Cards ripped off four in a row from 1979-82 -- is more Rangers karma. "It was a group commitment," Washington said. "We weren't very happy with [the last Series] results, and we certainly knew that we were a better team than we showed." The Chicago Cubs pioneered the role reversal, back when they actually made regular World Series appearances. The legendary Tinker-Evers-Chance 1906 Cubs dropped the Classic to the White Sox, and came back to win in 1907 and '08, both times over the Tigers. No team has perfected the art of retaliation more than have the Yankees, which only makes sense considering they have appeared in more World Series (40) than anyone else (the Cardinals are about to tie the Dodgers for a distant second, when they take the field in their 18th Classic). The Bombers have won "only" 27 of those 40, and have done pretty well avenging the occasional defeat: 1922 (lost to Giants) to 1923 (beat Giants).
1926 (lost to Cardinals) to 1927 (beat Pirates).
1955 (lost to Dodgers) to 1956 (beat Dodgers).
1957 (lost to Braves) to 1958 (beat Braves).
1960 (lost to Pirates) to 1961 (beat Reds).
1976 (lost to Reds) to 1977 (beat Dodgers).
In the 34 years since the Yankees' most recent rebuttal, it has happened only once, when the 1989 A's swept the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series the October after losing to the Dodgers in the Kirk Gibson Series. For that matter, the Rangers are the first to get a crack at redemption in 20 years. When the 1992 Braves returned to face the Blue Jays, all they could do was duplicate their '91 defeat at the hands of the Twins. Understandably, repeat World Series appearances became particularly rare after Major League Baseball entered the division era in 1969. It is extremely difficult to sustain dynasties through preliminary playoff tiers before you even get to the Fall Classic. In that 42-year span, the Rangers are only the sixth to make a return appearance after a loss. Three of the previous five reversed the outcome: the 1969-70 Orioles, the 1976-77 Yankees and the 1988-89 Athletics. The 1977-78 Dodgers and 1991-92 Braves could merely repeat the previous fall's downfall. Are the 2011 Rangers capable of joining the short list of avengers? Daniels had the only reliable response: "I'll tell you in about two weeks."