Now that the Astros have reached the World Series, the Texas Rangers have inherited the title of Least Successful Expansion Era team. But that could change this year. If this team can stay competitive in the American League West through June, a 43-year-old savior could swoop in and deliver them elusive October success.
In 1961, the Texas Rangers — then the second Washington Senators team — were the new kids in town. The original Washington Senators had just pulled up stakes and moved to Minneapolis, and Major League Baseball awarded Washington another Senators team and Gene Autry got his Angels in Los Angeles. These two new additions to the Major League Baseball roster kicked off a period of expansion that would see baseball go from 16 teams in 1960 to 30 teams by 1998. The sport’s rapid expansion was a testament to the ever-growing population in America (and eventually Canada) and its increasing popularity in society.
Eleven unremarkable seasons after their creation, the second Washington Senators team left the socially struggling and stagnant District of Columbia for greener (or is that whiter?) pastures in Arlington, Texas. By 1994, after 33 seasons of futility, October baseball games seemed to be in Texas’ future. Even with a 52-62, the Rangers on August 11 were one game ahead of the second-place Oakland Athletics.
But fate in the form of a lockout intervened, and the Rangers would not see October ball until 1996 when they were swept by the Yankees in the Divisional Series. The Rangers would make the playoffs again in 1998 and 1999, but they would be on the receiving end of the great Yankee Dynasty of the 1990s. They managed just one playoff victory in 1996 and went 1-9 against the Yankees during their three futile attempts at reaching the ALCS.
Since losing in 1999, the Rangers have finished last in the division four times and third twice. Despite an explosive offense, the Rangers just haven’t found the pitching they need to win in the highly competitive American League West. But this year the stakes are higher: Roger Clemens’ return to baseball looms large in the minds of the Rangers…