Living in Dallas, Texas, this time of year is all it takes to drive a sports fan insane. It’s still baseball time at present, and the Texas Rangers are surviving, and the hopes of a decent season from the boys with the stars on their helmets (Dallas Cowboys) are running high among the rabid and dreadfully low among the realists like myself who have been in Dallas since day one in 1960.
The famous Texas heat wave of 2011 is not over yet. Unfortunately, the only things not catching fire right now are Rangers pitching and hitting, the Cowboys defense, and a lackluster fan base who is excruciatingly tired of disappointment. My pulling for the Green Bay Packers last night as it opened the 2011 NFL season against the New Orleans Saints would cause my father to turn over in his grave, but that’s how far desperation has come to find a brand of football that resembles the glory days.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have a decent shot at finishing out the season as the AL West Division winners despite themselves, thanks to an equally inconsistent season from the L.A. Angels and the dismal performance by the other two teams (Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners) this year.
The killers for the Rangers this year have been the big innings early in games against starting pitchers. Jon Daniels, the Rangers’ GM, upgraded their bullpen before the trade deadline, and it was a good move. However, it hasn’t done anything to solve the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the starting pitchers. Colby Lewis is not pitching like the “Yankee Killer” of a year ago. For the most part, the fans like our pitchers, our coaches, our GM, and the ownership group. It’s not personal … yet. But, our tolerance for roller coaster pitching is getting tiresome.
On the other hand, big innings on the offensive side have helped the Rangers on occasion, but there has also been enough small ball to win some games with risk and speed. This has probably made the difference between being a contender for the AL West and a no-show in the playoff picture.
The Rangers, should they indeed make the playoffs, will have to count on inconsistency in Boston Red Sox pitching, a New York Yankees collapse, or their own explosion of big inning offense to take a five-game series from either, or they will be knocked out in the first round. Small ball will not be enough to win it. The careless errors in the Rangers infield this year, if they continue, will offset any potential small ball victories in the playoffs. Rangers hitters will have to show up with their big-boy britches on and pound away at every rare opportunity they may have. This will be the reality for the entire playoff run for Texas.
As for the Cowboys, I’ll have my new just-in-time-for-football 50″ Panasonic Viera GT30 tuned in with high hopes, but 8-8 looks likely for Jerry’s boys.
More and more folks around North Central Texas have been keeping an eye on their calendars the past few years, wondering when the (defending NBA champion) Dallas Mavericks tip off. It is becoming a main attraction, and it should be. Mark Cuban will probably never overcome Nolan Ryan in the popularity vote locally, but the man does spend his money wisely, unlike Jerry Jones, and he has a lot of it.
The insanity begins in earnest this Sunday night when the once-dominant sporting interest in Dallas kicks off against the Jets. I’m counting the hours, but I’m not holding my breath.