From Salt Grass Steak House, I set off for the stadium. It was sunny and warm -- what else? -- and I found that part of the charm of The Ballpark, as it's called by the locals, was in walking to its doors. From Lamar Boulevard, where you'll find Arlington's hotels and restaurants, I hung a left onto Ballpark Way, and walked south over Interstate 30, The Ballpark visible ahead in the distance.
Rangers Ballpark is grand; tremendous. And it only gets bigger and better the closer you get to it. They weren't messing around: everything is bigger in Texas. See Cowboys Stadium next door, if you're harbouring any doubts.
Public transit? Fuhgeddaboutit. You're driving, hence the large parking lots that litter the surrounding area. But, in a nice contrast, the area also boasts a park: Richard Greene Linear Park. It features biking, jogging, and hiking trails, and even a large pond. Hell, you could have a picnic there before the game if you so desired. That's what I'm doing next time. ("Next time" will be when the Rangers and Blue Jays face off in the ALCS.)
After passing Richard Greene's place, I made a right onto Nolan Ryan Expressway, and headed for the box office; the ballpark's brick exterior, with stone carvings on its walls, looking simply majestic on my left.
Ballpark Way. Nolan Ryan Expressway. No flashing lights: "Rangers Ballpark in Arlington" etched into the wall at the home plate entrance below two flags, one American, and one Texan. The baseball field, and its green seats, essentially dropped down into a red-bricked and Texas Sunset Red granite square facade. (Check out this picture from Manhattan Construction, general contractor of the stadium, to get a better sense of what I mean.) It all felt rather perfect. All I could think was: be still my baseball beating heart.
It cost me only $7 for a seat in the upper deck, in The Ballpark's right field grandstand, to watch what is today baseball's fourth-best team. I didn't have a great view of the right field scoreboard from my chair, and couldn't see the right field corner at all, but for $7, I wasn't about to complain. I didn't plan on being there long, anyway. Plus: as long as I wasn't at my "hotel," I was a happy man.
During my visit, the bankrupt, yet now Cliff Lee-bolstered, Texas Rangers put on an offensive show, scoring 13 runs on 20 hits, including home runs from Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz. I'll let you guess who the Rangers were playing. A hint: it starts with an "O," and ends with "rioles."
The Texas batting display got me thinking: "Man, I'd love it if the Blue Jays played in the American League West. No Yankees, no Red Sox, no problem." So I struck up a conversation with a couple of Rangers fans sitting two rows down from me, and asked them if they were enjoying what is most everyone's favourite baseball pastime: picking on the Baltimore Orioles.
"Of course, who doesn't?" one of them replied. My type of people. I then went off on my patented divisional realignment rant, which I have mastered (trust me). Sure, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are great year after year, and they've got a World Series pennant hanging at home, but I'd much rather my team face the Oaklands and Seattles of the baseball world every year, I argued.
"The AL West isn't a joke like most of you AL East folks think. Do your homework. I'm not saying the AL East is a picnic, because it's obviously not. But it ain't no picnic down here, either, buddy."
He was right. And he rightfully put me in my place. That night, I dutifully completed my homework assignment, and what I found left me humbled. And feeling like quite an idiot. In the baseball decade ending in 2009, the Los Angeles Angels won 90 or more games six times; they even hit the century mark in 2008. Over those same 10 years, Oakland, thanks to Moneyball, won 90-plus games six times, as well. The Athletics twice eclipsed the hundred plateau themselves, in 2001 and 2002. Even the Seattle Mariners were invited to the 90-win playoffs party. They turned the trick four times, at the turn of the century, and won a ridiculous 116 games in 2001. Contemplate that for a second: 116 wins. That's about as many dubyas the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates accumulate in one season combined. In a good year.
Wait, there's more. My foray into the history of the American League West uncovered an even nastier truth about the Texas Rangers: they've never won a playoff series. Ever. Not a series, not a pennant, nothing. Not since they became the Texas Rangers in 1972, and not while they were the Washington Senators from 1961-1971, either. The Rangers, as a franchise, have played all of 10 playoff games, and won only one of them. They lost the 1996 Division Series 3-1, and were swept out of the same series' in 1998 and 1999. All those years, and only one playoff victory to boast. Not a series; a game. One stinking game. My baseball heart wept, and continues to weep, for the Texas Rangers.