Of all the franchises in MLB, the Texas Rangers evoke the fewest memories for me. I don't mean that as an insult, but they were just a team that was never on the national radar. They didn't make a post-season series until 1996 and didn't win one until 2010, and hardly ever seemed even to be in the running. And as far as great player go, only a handful of names even spring to mind when I think Rangers: Nolan Ryan (who was only a ranger for a few years), Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro and, for some reason, Bump Wills. I guess I just liked the name.
But quietly the Rangers have risen from obscurity to stake a claim as the best franchise in baseball right now, with back-to-back World Series appearances, another 90+ win season and likely division title on the way and a an absolutely punishing lineup headlined by bombers Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre. So it seems appropriate enough that they get an “Essential Games” release and equally appropriate that half of those games occurred in the past couple years.
NOLAN RYAN'S SEVENTH NO-HITTER vs. TOR, May 1, 1991
I remember prepping for a baseball simulation draft in 1991 and realizing that the top pick just might be a 44 year old pitcher. Nolan Ryan wasn't tossing quite as many IP in his twilight years, but he was actually improving his control while remaining as unhittable as ever; the days of 200 walk seasons were well behind him.
Ryan had just thrown 130+ pitches in his previous start and the Rangers had briefly considered skipping the old man's turn in the rotation, but decided to let him take the hill against the Blue Jays and see what he had in the tank. He had 16 strikeouts, only two walks, and not a hit to spare. He already owned the career record for no-hitters, but adding a seventh one at an age where virtually everyone else had retired was the only way he could actually have increased his reputation around the league.
1996 ALDS GAME 1 vs. NYY, Oct 1, 1996
In nearly a quarter century since moving from Washington to Arlington, the franchise had never even appeared in a playoff game. They weren't a dominant team in 1996, but an MVP campaign by Juan Gonzalez, a fine season from Rusty Greer, one of the unheralded stars of the 90's, and quality pitching from a nondescript rotation (Ken Hill was the ace) earned them 90 wins, a division title, and their first-ever post-season appearance.
They sent mid-season acquisition John Burkett to face off against David Cone and the vaunted Yankees in Game 1 and came away with a convincing 6-2 win despite the apparent mismatch. The rest of the series didn't go so well, but just taking one from the Evil Empire was a good start.
2010 ALCS GAME 6 vs. NYY, Oct 22, 2010
It took 14 years but revenge was sweet. The Rangers had been a .500 club for much of the last half of the 2000's, but in '09 they surged to 87 wins and in 2010 they took the AL West with 90 wins. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays for their first-ever playoff series win and then stomped the heavily favored Yankees, also the defending WS champs.
The pitching matchup wasn't exactly a duel for the ages with Colby Lewis posting up against Phil Hughes, but Lewis was brilliant and the Rangers sent Hughes to an early shower with Nelson Cruz continuing his furious post-season performance. And having the clincher be a strikeout of Alex Rodriguez? That was icing on the cake.
2011 ALCS GAME 6, Oct 15, 2011
If anybody thought the 2010 Rangers were a fluke, they put any doubts to rest with a 96-win campaign and another AL West title. They blasted the Rays once again and then squared off against a hard-hitting Tigers lineup for the AL pennant.
The Rangers didn't have much trouble, moving out to a 3-1 series lead before sending Derek Holland out to face Max Scherzer in the closer. Scherzer has his flat-out dominant days, but this was not one of them. The Rangers tallied 9 runs in the third, and kept on hitting their way to a 15-5 win and a second consecutive World Series appearance.
The first two games are presented in a 1.33:1 format, the other two in wide-screen. All games are shown as originally broadcast though with slight edits, often between at-bats and no commercials. The image detail on all of the transfer is about average, with the two most recent games being stronger than the first two.
Unlike many other MLB releases, there are no alternate audio streams available here. Each disc just comes with the Television Play-by-play. Ranger fans might be disappointed that the Nolan Ryan game is actually a version of the Blue Jays broadcast even though the game was in Arlington. I don't know why MLB chose to use this one, unless there wasn't a Texas home broadcast available. The 1996 game features the national broadcast headlines by Bob Costas. For 2010, you get the TBS broadcast, and in 2011, it's the Fox broadcast with everybody's favorite team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.
No extras are offered.
Each game disc is housed in its own slim keepcase. Each case features cover art of various Rangers' program books or yearbooks.
The Rangers can't be ignored anymore. It's possible we'll even talk about this current team as dynasty one day. The last few years have brought a small bonanza of DVD offerings for Rangers' fans who probably have a couple of the games in this set already. But for those who don't, this would make a great gift.