Last night, the Texas Rangers did what we all hoped and, to some degree, we all expected the Phillies to do when the playoffs began a month ago.
They won the World Series.
You know what? Good for Texas. If you want to talk about a fanbase that deserved a championship, it’s hard to find a longer-suffering one than Rangers fans.
Born into existence in 1961, the Rangers had been one of six existing franchises never to have won a World Series — the Padres, Brewers, Mariners, Rays and Rockies are the others — and the one that had gone the longest without .
Not only had the Rangers experienced this long drought, they also lost two Fall Classics, in 2010 and 2011, the latter in one of the most crushing defeats in baseball history. In Game 6, they were one strike away from winning it all until the Cardinals mounted three late-game comebacks to steal away victory and take home the title.
Two seasons ago, Texas lost 100+ games. They became the first team to win it all after finishing 25 or more games below .500 the year prior. Last night’s victory in Game 5 was cathartic.
This time, the Rangers won the series with relative ease, and one couldn’t help but watch and rue the Phils’ seven-game loss to a highly beatable Arizona team that simply couldn’t stop Texas from smoking the ball all over the park.
The D-Backs tried to small-ball their way to a title, stealing bases and using sacrifice bunts, and relying on their bullpen to deliver them their second championship, but Texas’ patient power bats were too much.
So now the off-season is upon us, and Phillies fans are desperate to find solutions to win those last few games they haven’t been able to secure. Is Rob Thomson the problem? Kevin Long? Do the Phillies need to trade one of their core veterans in order to get some of the streakiness out of the lineup and bring in more plate discipline? Do they need Aaron Nola back or would it be better to get someone else? Is getting rid of Craig Kimbrel the answer to a better bullpen?
At the end of the day, some combination of those things will happen, but there is no secret formula. If there was, the Braves or Dodgers would have been facing Texas in the Fall Classic.
If you’re a wild card team, you have to win 13 games against the best teams in baseball in order to cinch a parade. It’s 11 games if you skip the wild card round, although we saw the five-day layoff for doing that can have negative consequences, too. There are just so many games in which so many things can go wrong. For the Phillies, their red-hot lineup simply stopped hitting. It got in their heads and they started pressing, and chasing, and getting themselves out.
There may not be a magic bullet to fixing that. It may just be that some really good hitters got themselves out at the worst possible time. It’s an unsatisfying answer, but the fact remains, it is really, really hard to win a World Series.
Heck, it’s hard to even get there.
The Phillies are doing the best thing they can do. They will go into the 2024 season with a World Series-worthy roster. They will make additions and change the mix a bit, but make no mistake, next year’s Phils will look a lot like this year’s. And that’s a good thing.
The end of the 2023 season was frustrating, and watching the Rangers celebrate their title was bittersweet (or maybe just bitter). But they have company. Twenty-nine other teams suffered a similar fate, and all the Phillies can do is load up, and try again.
On the latest edition of Hittin’ Season, I talked a little more about what the Rangers’ World Series could make Phils fans feel, and gave a letter grade to virtually every member of the team. Check it out!