Twenty-four interesting aspects of this year's World Series teams
Texas has two major redemption stories: Josh Hamilton and Ron Washington
Bengie Molina is guaranteed a ring (and a win share) no matter who wins
The two surprise teams have many surprise heroes, including Ross and Guerrero
This is only the second time in 90 years that two teams never to win a World Series for the city they currently represent will meet in the Fall Classic. The only previous time was in 1992, when the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves.
The Texas Rangers have been around since 1972 after starting as the second incarnation of the Washington Senators (who also never won the World Series) in 1961. The Giants have been in San Francisco since 1958. So a lot of losing will be put behind, by someone at least.
As Clint Hurdle, himself a two-time loser in the World Series, would say, something's got to give.
By the way, with the Rangers' coronation as the American League entry, the Mariners and Nationals are now the only teams never to reach a World Series. Sound good for next year's World Series matchup?
But first, in honor of Giants legend Willie Mays and the jersey number he made famous, here are 24 interesting things about this year's entrants:
1. Rangers manager Ron Washington is looking for vindication. Washington had a rough spring training when he was identified as having failed a league-mandated test for cocaine during the 2009 season. The Rangers decided to keep him at the time of the test and also the revelation and will sign him to an extension after the Series, win or lose. Giants GM Brian Sabean is looking for vindication himself, after talk radio callers bombarded San Fran airwaves with rips of him for years, as the San Francisco Chronicle recounted in Tuesday's editions. Sabean, who became the team's GM in 1996, started his Giants tenure on a long winning streak of good deals, then seemed to have a losing streak of trades gone awry. Now he looks like a genius of the moment again.
2. Talk about redemption stories -- the Rangers' Josh Hamilton, who was out of the league for five years with drug problems, is in the World Series on the heels of winning ALCS MVP honors and is a leading contender for AL MVP. "The Commissioner's Office deserves a lot of credit for letting him back in. It's awesome,'' said teammate and friend C.J. Wilson. "He's the best baseball player I've ever seen."
3. C.J. Wilson could become a star on the big stage. He is definitely already a role model. He shows his charitable side with his smart tweeting as @str8edgeracer. "I make an effort to connect with the fans to let them know we're normal human beings,'' Wilson said. "I want to show kids they can have a cool life, too." Wilson is a great tweeter who wonders how the Yankees' Nick Swisher, or @nickswisher, has 30 times the followers he does, at a ridiculous 1.25 million despite saying nothing beyond "Great Game by CC," or "We'll get 'em tomorrow." Said Wilson, "It's been eating at me for two years.'' (Me, too, apparently.)
4. Excellent Padres manager Bud Black didn't make the World Series despite a great season of overachievement this year, but he is here in spirit. He was Wilson's mentor when the Rangers pitcher was growing up in Black's San Diego neighborhood as a close family friend (Black was also a left-hander who had success in the majors as a reliever and starter). Few have done it quite like Wilson, though, who moved from being a fine closer the last four years to an excellent 200-innings starter this season.
5. Before Wilson gets to pitch Game 2 against engaging Giants star Matt Cain, we have yet another great pitching matchup this postseason in Game 1, featuring aces Cliff Lee of the Rangers and Tim Lincecum of the Giants. This has been the postseason for great pitching matchups, with this one following the Lincecum-Roy Halladay showdown in the NLCS, Lee vs. Andy Pettitte in the ALCS and two David Price-vs.-Lee games in the ALDS.
6. This is a rare time both team names, the Rangers and Giants, are used in other sports. Hockey has the New York Rangers and football has the New York Giants.
7. Both these teams have been overwhelmed by football teams at times in their towns (in the Rangers' case, it's basically all the time). But coincidentally, the Cowboys and 49ers are both off to horrible starts, allowing those cities to focus on their excellent baseball teams.
8. This is only the third time that two teams that train in Arizona have reached the World Series, the first two being the Giants' last two World Series appearances of 1989 and 2002, when they faced the A's and Angels, respectively. Everyone remembers that the first of those was interrupted by an earthquake, and I recall the second one for being unbearably cold and for the Mets announcing they were hiring Art Howe as manager (they are doing better this year by hiring Sandy Alderson as GM).
9. The Giants are to be commended for financing their own beautiful stadium, AT&T Park, which sits on the water and is one of the most picturesque settings in all of baseball. Meanwhile, the Rangers were financed to some degree by Major League Baseball before finally being taken over earlier this season by impressive new owner Chuck Greenberg. MLB fronted the club an alleged $60 million, which was later paid back, and also allowed them to add to their payroll while in bankruptcy before the July 31 trade deadline, 12 days before Greenberg took over for the overextended Tom Hicks. And add they did, obtaining the great Lee and several others who've helped them.
10. The Rangers didn't waste much money. They beat the $210 million Yankees in the ALCS with a payroll of less than $80 million. The payroll for the key Giants would actually be even lower than that, but San Francisco also spent $214.5 million on veterans Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria. To his credit, Zito was excellent in the first half and played a big role in the Giants getting here (they only won the NL West by one game), but he has been left off the postseason roster for each of the three rounds and has understandably mixed feelings. Zito said he feels good about his early contribution but "to not be a part of what we play for is disheartening. I have no one to blame but myself for not getting it done in August and September. It's about accountability, and it hurts."
11. Bengie Molina, yet another excellent midseason acquisition by the Rangers, gets a ring either way because he spent the first three months of the season with the Giants. He gets a share either way, as well. He gets a full share if the Rangers win, but with the Giants, Molina's share is a closely guarded secret. The Giants voted, and it isn't known whether he will get a half share, a full share or something else. They aren't saying. Molina said earlier he plans to retire, but said on Tuesday, "Maybe yes, maybe no." He gave a hint how he's leaning, though, when he said, "My family misses me so much."
12. Both Bruce Bochy and Hurdle are in the World Series for the third time, having lost once each as a player and as a manager. Combined they are 0-for-4. Bochy lost in 1984 as player with the Padres and in 1998 as the manager of the Padres team that was swept by the Yankees. Hurdle lost as a player in 1980 with the Royals and then as a manager in 2007, when his Rockies were swept by the Red Sox.