There is absolutely no Game Six hangover for the Texas Rangers. None. They look like baseball's best team so far and a clear favorite to represent the American League in the World Series for the third straight year. It would be a historic three-peat. No team has gone to the Fall Classic a third time after losing it in back-to-back years since the Yankees responded to consecutive losses to the New York Giants in 1921-22 by beating John McGraw's Giants in six games in 1923.
But remember the Rangers hardly lost a routine World Series last October. In the previous 106 Series, the '86 Red Sox were the only team to be a strike away from winning the title and failing to close it out. Then it happened to the Rangers in back-to-back innings in about 15 minutes in Game Six in St. Louis before they finally lost in the 11th on David Freese's home run.
And when they dropped Game Seven, the prevailing wisdom over the winter and all spring was their window was closing and there was no way for them overcome their disappointment.
Wrong. Josh Hamilton is chasing a Triple Crown in the wake of his four-homer game in Baltimore. The starting pitching won its first 10 decisions for the first time in club history and the bullpen is again solid. The Rangers entered the weekend leading the big leagues with a .291 batting average and were tops in runs, slugging percentage and OPS. Their team ERA of 3.24 led the American League.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they were the first defending pennant winner since the 1938 Giants to not have a two-game losing streak during the first 25 games of the following season.
"I know that we weren't advertised to be able to do anything. You know, Game Six was supposed to kill us," manager Ron Washington told MLB.com last week in Toronto. "You ain't telling us how to feel. You ain't telling us how we're supposed to feel, because you weren't in the dugout, you weren't on the field, you weren't in the clubhouse."
Just since January 18, the Rangers signed Japanese star Yu Darvish to anchor their rotation and extended the contracts of Washington (through 2014), shortstop Elvis Andrus (2014), outfielder Nelson Cruz (2013), pitcher Derek Holland (2016) and second baseman Ian Kinsler (2017). That's a ton of talent locked up well into the future. Imagine if they figure out a way to keep Hamilton.
Washington is naturally pleased but also is hesitant to make comparisons to the previous two years. This club looks terrific but those two did it for 162 games and two more playoff rounds.
"We've been playing good baseball for the most part but I think it's too early to tell if we're going to be better," Washington said as the Rangers hit Cleveland. "The season goes through phases and right now we're still in the early phase of the season. I like what I've seen for the most part.
"I do know this much: Our guys' awareness is better than it's ever been. They truly understand the things that need to be done in order to be a championship club."
The schedule gives the Rangers a good chance to the make the AL West a runaway too. Once they get home June 10 from a 10-game roadie that concludes with a 2010 World Series rematch in San Francisco, the Rangers play 19 of the next 25 prior to the all-star break at home.
To stink or not
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News took an offbeat approach Friday to writing an off day story on struggling Mets first baseman Ike Davis.
Martino recounted a chance meeting with Davis outside the clubhouse at Citi Field a few games ago where Davis first joked with him, "When are you going to write a story that says I [stink]?" and then followed up with "Actually, write that they should send me to Buffalo. Then I'll get fired up. Yeah, write that I [stink]."
Well, Davis has continued to, um, stink with a .179 average heading into the weekend and an OPS of .548 that's 22nd among big-league first basemen. Manager Terry Collins has been asked about a trip back to the Bisons but has said that's not in the cards for Davis. After Davis hit a three-run homer to clinch Wednesday's 10-6 win in Philadelphia, Martino approached him and recounted the conversation like this:
"Why do you want a story written that says you [stink]?"
Davis: "Wait. It's not like I really wanted a story written that says I [stink}."
Martino: "You asked for it. So do you [stink] or not?"
Davis: "I wouldn't say I [stink], but I'm bad this year so far."
As the interview continued, Davis turned more serious but insisted he'll snap out of his funk.
"I am going to get better. I am going to be better," he said. "I'm going to get back to where I normally am. That might take a little time, but I'm going to be there. I'm a good baseball player. I know I am. If I thought this was the best I could do, then I would tell you that: 'This is the best I can do.' And then this wouldn't be as frustrating."
Beckett just clueless
Fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse during games, golf when he's supposed to be nursing an injury. Which part of "bad impression to give" does Josh Beckett not get?
The crisis du jour in Boston on Thursday was Beckett's curt, John Tortorella-like press conference after he got ripped by the Indians for seven runs before the end of the third inning and walked off the Fenway Park mound to a chorus of boos.
Beckett, remember, missed his previous start due to a sore lat muscle. Then a Boston radio station broke the story that he was playing golf with teammate Clay Buchholz the day after he reported the soreness and two days before he missed a start because of the injury and then wasn't available to throw in the 17th inning Sunday against Baltimore as the Red Sox lost the game with outfielder Darnell McDonald on the mound.
"We get 18 off days a year. I think we deserve a little bit of time to ourselves," said Beckett, who denied golf had anything to do with his performance.
Seriously? Throw out the fact that Beckett is a starting pitcher who only plays once out of every five days anyway. When you're injured, you work to get back on the field. You don't play golf. But this is a guy who clearly put himself over the team when things were collapsing last September.
Wrote Julian Benbow in the Boston Globe: "When his day was done, Beckett walked off the mound looking like the guy who was too ashamed to sign his scorecard. The Indians teed off on him."
The Red Sox fell to 19-39 since Sept. 1. That's no small sample size. They're terrible. We're all waiting for the inevitable fall of the Orioles but they have starting pitching and a great bullpen. The Red Sox actually might be the worst team in the AL East.
Herd price points
I'm a little confused at the number of emails/tweets I'm getting crabbing about high prices at Bisons games this year. I haven't noticed any drastic jump in concession fees and the highest-priced ticket -- a Friday game purchased that day -- can be had for $12.50. Most games, you can get into for less, often much less.
You can easily find coupons and discount deals out there for most games and the $1 day-of-game ticket surcharge is unpopular but it's just that. A buck.
The Bisons even put out a release recently noting that the average cost of attending a game for a family of four was $60 -- well below the Triple-A average of $63.85. The totals were calculated using the standard fan cost index of two adult tickets, two child tickets, four hot dogs, two sodas, two beers and a program.
The figures released by Triple-A and the Bisons, of course, don't include parking or other souvenirs. So that will push the cost up some. But they're all relative and the Bisons are below the average.
My advice is simple: Check their web site for the daily discount promotions or scour coupon books for discounts on weekday games. And if you're going with the family, by all means get a four-pack: For only $56, you get four tickets, four dogs, four Coca-Cola products and 25 percent off at the gift shop. That's one of the best deals out there.