I hear a lot of media and fans saying how big this series is with the Angels and can’t understand why the players won’t just admit how important every series the rest of the way against the Angels are. There’s a reason and good one.
If a team builds up a series as a bigger than all of the rest, then what happens next? Do you relax against your next opponent because that series doesn’t mean as much? What if you get swept in the big series? Do you lose confidence that you’re not the best team in the division? How do you get up for the next big series and how long down the road is that series?
The players know who they are playing and what it means. You could see it after the 3-2 win against the Angels in the high five line. And the players can feel the energy in the crowd that this isn’t the Cleveland Indians they are playing. But in a 162 game season you can’t build up a July series as a division clincher or a catastrophic changing series.
There is a magic number of wins to win the division, but it doesn’t matter who you beat as long as you get to that number. Sure, beating the Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees feels better than beating the Orioles and Royals but they all count the same. Ian Kinsler said it best a few days ago “We beat the Angels last year but they won the division by 8 games.”
As fans it’s great to build up games as bigger than they are because that is what we do. The Rangers sales staff is paid to build up the “important series” more than the “just another team” series. But players must be careful of this because they have to fight the feeling that this game or series is more important because that leaves you with 65 games left to play and you’re looking for that next high. Baseball is the most important sport not to get to high when things are going good and not to hang your head when things are looking bad.
The football mentality can mess up our baseball brain. Football is the ultimate fan sport. Every game means so much. Six games in and you have an idea if your team can or can’t make the playoffs. Hell, there are only 10 games left. I remember talking to one of my strength coaches who had also been a strength coach for the Colts. I asked him if NFL players took uppers (Rip Fuel, Greenys) before a game. He said only once did a player do it and he couldn’t play in the game because the drug made him to hyper and he had to go to the hospital. He also told me the locker room before a NFL game is scary. There are literally a couple dozen players in there going crazy, throwing up, hitting things, hitting each other, the adrenalin before a NFL game is nothing like a MLB game. Guys are taking little naps, playing cards a couple hours before the game, watching TV, watching film. It was awesome hearing him talk about the energy of a NFL locker-room but there’s no way you could create that atmosphere 162 out of 184 days. And yes, some baseball players try to create that high by taking uppers but not that many now because of testing.
That is why it is so important to have some players who have been through the pennant races. The young players really want to build up this series or that series as the big one. We are all fans at heart, but the more you get up for the Angels or Yankees the lower your energy and focus will be for the Orioles and Royals. It is a battle to fool yourself that this isn’t the end of the world or mission accomplished because we beat the Angels 3 out of 4 but it is necessary if you want to be a winner. This Rangers team looks like a winner and I’m glad that the players are trying to look at this series as just another one in July that we’re going to win.