The 2011 World Series: History vs. History Of Disappointment

The Rangers and Cardinals are two teams that represent something very different, which might influence who you root for.

You don't care that the Colorado Rockies haven't won a World Series. Well, if you're a Rockies fan, you sure do, but that's not a team that should be included in the pantheon of postseason droughts. My personal benchmark for whether or not I care about a World Series drought is whether or not I have a concert t-shirt that's older than the drought. Sorry, Rockies. Sorry, Rays. You must be this old to ride the sympathy roller coaster.

The Texas Rangers are well past that. If you include their decade as the Washington Senators, they've been around for over 50 years. And until last year, they hadn't won even a single playoff series. It was an impressive stretch of 7,797 regular season games with just a single playoff win. In 1996, John Burkett pitched a complete game in Game 1 of the ALDS, getting Wade Boggs to fly out to left to end the game. For almost five decades, that was the defining postseason moment for a franchise.

So what the Rangers represent is a team that's stealthily cursed. Oh, they don't have the Curse of Toby Harrah or something catchy to blame it on, but when a team goes a half-century without a championship, they have the right to complain. And if it's important for you to root for a team that hasn't won it before, the Rangers are your team. The list of postseason droughts in order: Cubs, Indians, then Rangers. That's impressive.

The Cardinals aren't stealthily cursed. They're stealthily obnoxious. Everyone knows that the Yankees win an average of 1.73 World Series every season, that they're the franchise with the most championships, and it isn't especially close. But the Cardinals have won more championships than any team other than the Yankees. They have 10, and they've spaced them out pretty well. They won one five years ago, for example. There is no such thing as a long-suffering Cardinals fan.

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The Cardinals have history. They're one of the premier franchises in baseball. Their history is filled with legends and Hall-of-Famers -- Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Rogers Hornsby ... and Albert Pujols. The best of the best, the gold standard for their respective positions in a lot of cases.

The Rangers have, well, a bunch of Rangers on their list of all-time greats. Here are the top 20 Rangers hitters based on Wins Above Replacement:

Rk Player WAR/pos From To
1 Ivan Rodriguez 48.6 1991 2009
2 Rafael Palmeiro 40.1 1989 2003
3 Buddy Bell 34.3 1979 1989
4 Toby Harrah 30.0 1969 1986
5 Jim Sundberg 29.9 1974 1989
6 Frank Howard 29.5 1965 1972
7 Juan Gonzalez 28.5 1989 2003
8 Michael Young 27.2 2000 2011
9 Ian Kinsler 24.7 2006 2011
10 Alex Rodriguez 23.9 2001 2003
11 Ken McMullen 20.5 1965 1970
12 Rusty Greer 19.8 1994 2002
13 Julio Franco 19.5 1989 1993
14 Ruben Sierra 18.4 1986 2003
15 Josh Hamilton 17.1 2008 2011
16 Mark Teixeira 17.0 2003 2007
17 Mike Hargrove 16.5 1974 1978
18 Pete O'Brien 16.4 1982 1988
19 Will Clark 14.5 1994 1998
20 Bump Wills 13.9 1977 1981
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used Generated 10/17/2011.

At first I wanted to stop at ten, just to show that the player who supposedly set the franchise back a decade made the list. But then that would mean I'd ignore Ken McMullen at #11 (Lou Brock is #11 for the Cardinals). This isn't a perfectly ordered list, but it gives a pretty good idea of who the best hitters in Rangers history were. The pitching list for the Rangers is borderline depressing. Bert Blyleven cracks the top ten for career WAR for a Rangers pitcher. He was on the team for two seasons.

So the Rangers haven't won anything in their lengthy existence, but the Cardinals have been around for a century, adding to the richness of baseball history. All due respect to Jim Sundberg, of course. 

Picking a rooting interest, then, is a personal choice. You can root for the team -- or even the state -- that has never had a parade to celebrate their baseball-related accomplishments. You can go with the everyone-gets-a-turn philosophy of sports.

Or you can root for the team that's been there before, and that will probably keep getting there, adding to their legacy. Baseball needs storied franchises. An 11th championship for the Cards will add to that legacy. A vote for the Cardinals is a vote against Yankees hegemony. 

Or you can be a politically besotted weenie and base your entire decision on whether or not you like George W. Bush.

If you're not a Rangers or Cardinals fan, your decision probably says more about you than you think. 

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