Pudge Rodríguez, Juan Gonzalez and Michael Young never made it to this magic moment.
The bubbly never did spray for Toby Harrah, Rusty Greer or Adrián Beltré.
The parade floats never stopped to pick up Danny Darwin, Rick Helling or Neftalí Feliz.
But on a perfect, star-spangled Wednesday evening in someone else’s baseball heaven, the ghosts of Texas Rangers past faded into the night.
For Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, for Nathan Eovaldi and Jose Leclerc, for Bruce Bochy and Chris Young, this is now their time. This is now their team.
And, at precisely 10:01 p.m. CT, this was now their World Series.
Now here’s a little secret. I didn’t write those words Wednesday night. I wrote them (or at least most of them) 12 years ago, sitting in a press box in St. Louis, watching the 2011 Rangers almost finish that job the 2023 Rangers finally polished off Wednesday.
But then David Freese happened to that team. And those words remained frozen in alternate-history laptop time, for all these years.
Every once in a while, I’d stumble upon them and shake my head. But then, on a big, bright Wednesday evening in Arizona, that story — Rangers Win the World Series — finally happened. So what’s a more fitting way to kick off the final Weird and Wild column of this season and postseason than by finally releasing those words from captivity (with a few minor tweaks and updates)?
Now here come 10 more of my favorite Weird and Wild World Series nuggets.
1. Bochy joins the Odd Squad
Let’s talk about the biggest Bruce Bochy story no one seems to be talking about. It’s still 2023, right? Which means … he just won a World Series in an odd year.
C’mon. How was that not the biggest story of this whole postseason?
Bochy’s Curse of the Odd Years never seemed to get quite as much attention as, say, the Curse of the Bambino. But it was there, it was real, and it was just as powerful. You don’t have to be a Giants fan to know I’m onto something.
His Giants won a World Series in 2010 … and 2012 … and 2014. What kind of years were those? Repeat after me: Even years. Clearly, something weird was going on even then, don’t you think?
“We actually didn’t think of it that way,” his longtime Giants bullpen secret weapon, Jeremy Affeldt, told the Weird and Wild column, when we mentioned it to him this week. “We were like, ‘We’re just giving somebody else a chance (in the odd years).’”
But Bochy’s Curse of the Odd Years went way beyond that little run. The first team he ever took to the playoffs? The 1996 Padres. Repeat after me again: Even year.
The first team he ever took to the World Series? The 1998 Padres? What’s the common thread there? Even year.
So we read off the wacky even/odd numbers to Affeldt. He was laughing before we could even get through them.
Bochy’s career postseason record in even years: 44-13!
Bochy’s career postseason record in odd years before this one: 0-3! (He’d never won a game in an odd year. Not even one!)
AFFELDT: “Oh, that’s crazy. That … is … CRAZY. Well, maybe the reason why he’s doing this in an odd year is because he retired on an even year and then he came back in an odd year.”
Sure. So now it’s all (ahem) evening out.
But however you explain this, whatever it was that was going on in those odd years, it’s all ancient history now. So our challenge, after watching him win it all again in 2023, was trying to make sense of what just happened.
WEIRD AND WILD: “So for him to win, NOT in an even year, would that be ODD?”
AFFELDT (LAUGHING): “Yeah, it’s a great headline for your article, actually: ‘BOCH WINS IN ’23. … THAT’S ODD.’”
2. More Bochy magic
All right, now that we’ve got that oddness out of the way, a few more reflections on the greatness of Bruce Bochy:
He’s ended two half-century title droughts! When Bochy arrived in San Francisco, the Giants had never won a World Series since exiting New York. So much for that! Their 2010 title ended that 52-year drought.
Then he came to Texas this year and wiped out another 52-year title drought (62 if you count the years in Washington).
And how many other managers in history have finished off two droughts that long, with two different franchises? Not a single one … of course!
His teams have won 15 of their last 16 postseason rounds! This amazing Bochy streak began with the Giants’ ouster of Jonny Venters’ 2010 Braves, on a game-winning single by Cody Ross, in the 2010 National League Division Series. … The only loss along the way was to the 2016 Cubs. … And now here’s the important part:
How many other managers have ever won 15 out of 16 postseason series? Once again, that would be nobody! Obviously. Only the Joe Torre Yankees came close, from 1996 to 2001, with 14 of 16.
Along the way, Bochy’s teams beat juggernauts managed by Bobby Cox, Charlie Manuel, Ron Washington, Dusty Baker (twice), Mike Matheny (twice), Jim Leyland, Clint Hurdle, Matt Williams, Ned Yost, Terry Collins, Kevin Cash, Brandon Hyde and Torey Lovullo. They topped at least one former manager of the year in every one of those postseasons except 2016.
Bochy’s four-peat! I know you’ve seen others mention that Bochy is now one of just six managers in history to win four World Series. But hold on. What he did, versus what most of them did, is not the same thing.
• One of those five — Connie Mack — managed his first game nearly 13 decades ago, in 1894!
• Two of the other four — Joe McCarthy and Casey Stengel — managed their first games more than 85 years ago … and haven’t managed a single game in any of the past 58 seasons!
• Only Bochy has managed every game (and every postseason game) of his career in the wild-card era.
• Just two others — Torre and Walter Alston — ever managed a postseason game after the invention of the LCS.
• But mostly, there’s this. Everyone else on that list won all four titles with the same team. Only Bochy has ever been there, done that with one team … and then did it again with another team. I think he might get a plaque in Cooperstown out of this!
3. The team that won the World Series had an unusual journey
If you were going to draw up the perfect formula for how to win a World Series, would you have drawn it up like these Texas Rangers? I don’t think so!
The team that won the World Series had a losing record in its last 102 games (50-52) after a sizzling 40-20 start. You know who had a better record than the Rangers over those last 102 games? Oh, only the Tigers … and Reds … and Marlins … and Padres (among others).
The team that won the World Series lost 102 games two years ago and 94 last year. And how many teams had ever lost 196 games in the two seasons before they won the World Series? Right you are. That would be none.
The team that won the World Series had a bullpen with more blown saves (33) than actual saves (30). And how many teams have ever won a World Series (or even a postseason game) with a bullpen like that? Once again, that would be zilch.
The team that won the World Series laid out $185 million to sign Jacob deGrom last winter. He pitched six times this season.
The team that won the World Series sent two of its best prospects to the Mets in July for $43 million starter Max Scherzer. In the 53 days they were still playing baseball after Sept. 12, he got a total of 29 outs.
The team that won the World Series led its division for 149 straight days, blew that lead in August … fell all the way to third place in September … then charged back to lead again by 2 1/2 games with four to play, only to blow that lead, too, on the final day of the season … and lost its first-round bye in the process … which meant having to fly 2,582 miles to Tampa to open a wild-card series it thought it wasn’t going to have to play … then found a way to win an American League Championship Series in which it managed to lose all its home games … and then, in the middle of the World Series, lost a guy (Adolis García) who was pretty much hitting a home run every at-bat … and then, after all that, that team …
Still won the World Series? Wow. Does it get much weirder or wilder than that?
4. The franchise that won the World Series had quite a ride
I don’t know why some star-crossed franchises finally win a World Series and it becomes a raging American phenomenon, complete with NOW I CAN DIE IN PEACE T-shirt sales … while others do that very same thing, accompanied only by …
LOWEST-RATED WORLD SERIES IN HISTORY headlines.
But for whatever reason, you know which category those Texas Rangers fall into. The poets of America are not impressed. But here at Weird and Wild World HQ, we think they deserve their due. So why should you care about the first title in Rangers history? Here’s why:
• Because this is a franchise that took 36 seasons just to win a postseason game, if you include the 11 seasons in which it was known as the Washington Senators 2.0.
• Because this is also a franchise that took 50 seasons — and four trips to October — just to win even one stinking postseason series.
• Because this is a franchise that has lost more games (5,217) since it first came into being, in 1961, than any other team in baseball — and would be a mere 839 games behind the Yankees if we were keeping track of the last 63 seasons as if they were one never-ending season. (Let’s not do that, OK?)
• Because, until Wednesday night, not a single franchise in baseball had been in existence as long as the Rangers/Senators without winning at least one World Series.
• Because only two franchises in baseball have ever gone longer, from the invention of the World Series (in 1903) to their first title, than the 63 seasons it took the Rangers to do that — the Phillies (78 seasons, from 1903 to 1980) and Orioles/Browns (64 seasons, from 1903 to 1966).
• Because just one franchise in this sport is still suffering through a longer title-free stretch than this one. And that would be Drew Carey’s Cleveland Guardians, currently looking forward to season No. 77 since that last title in (gulp) 1948.
• And because only one other franchise in any major North American professional sport — those Minnesota Vikings — has been in existence as long as the Rangers/Senators without winning at least one championship. At least the Vikings had spent the last 62 years knowing they had the Rangers drifting along in that same trophy-free sea. But now, thanks to Corey Seager and Bruce Bochy, it looks like those Vikings had better get their act together!
5. Josh Sborz saved the last game of the World Series?
As Ken Rosenthal and I seem to write about every fall, that pitcher who gets the final out of the World Series is almost never that pitcher you’d expect would get the final out of the World Series. But even with that as the preamble …
On one hand, the Rangers’ trusty right-hander had himself a fantastic postseason (43 hitters faced, four hits allowed and a 0.75 ERA). But on the other hand …
How many games did Sborz save all season? Uh-huh. That would be nada. But in even bigger news …
What was the ERA this season of The Guy Who Saved the Last Game of the World Series? That would be … 5.50!
And if you’re thinking (as I was), that’s gotta be a record, well, you have thought correctly.
The great Katie Sharp, of Baseball Reference, looked into this for me. And it turned out Sborz’s 5.50 regular-season ERA was the highest in history, by the pitcher who saved the World Series finale, by more than half a run.
The old “record-holder”: Will McEnaney, of the 1976 Big Red Machine, at 4.85.
6. At least Sborz finished off a historic shutout
The Diamondbacks were far from the first team to get shut out in the game that ended the World Series. But they did do this:
Zero runs … 11 runners left on base!
Did you know that just one other team in history has gotten shut out in the final game of a World Series and left that many runners dancing around the bases? And that other time happened as recently as … 1943! That was Harry (The Hat) Walker’s ’43 Cardinals, who also abandoned 11 runners on the bases, in a 2-0 shutout by Yankees ace Spud Chandler. This Spud’s for you!
7. The Rangers: Kings of the big inning
How perfect was it that the Rangers put up a four-spot in the last inning of this postseason? If it felt as though they had an inning like that every day … um, pretty close!
I started writing these down a few days ago. The list of four-run and five-run innings started getting shockingly long:
So what’s up with that?
• As Rangers radio voice Jared Sandler reported, the Rangers had as many five-run innings in two innings Tuesday as the 11 other playoff teams had combined, in the entire postseason: Phillies one, Diamondbacks one, Rangers five.
• And what about those 10 innings of four runs or more? According to Katie Sharp, that’s the most innings of four runs or more — by far — that any team had ever scored in a single postseason. The old record was only seven, by David Ortiz’s 2004 and 2007 Red Sox, and by Eric Hosmer’s 2015 Royals.
8. You’re Josh-ing, right?
Four months ago, Josh Jung started the All-Star Game for the AL at third base. Wednesday night, Josh Jung started for the Rangers at third base on the night they won the World Series. Think about this for a second. It doesn’t happen much.
Katie Sharp reports she was asked exactly how rare this was, by loyal X/Twitter follower Elie Adler. Now here it comes, the complete list of rookies who started an All-Star Game and won a World Series in the same season:
Joe DiMaggio, 1936
Fernando Valenzuela, 1981
Josh Jung, 2023
9. We should all shop at Ketel Marte
Baseball. It’s amazing.
Ketel Marte in the postseason: Rolls off a 20-game hitting streak.
Ketel Marte in the regular season: Owner of no 20-game hitting streaks.
In fact, Marte only has one streak longer than 12 games in his nine-year career — a 16-gamer in 2022. But that’s not the Weird and Wild part.
The Weird and Wild part is, check out the longest postseason hitting streaks by this streaky kind of group:
Joe DiMaggio — 7
Pete Rose — 9
Tony Gwynn — 8
Ty Cobb — 7
Paul Molitor — 8
But Ketel Marte ripped off 20 in a row … in October. How crazy is baseball!
10. Here’s to the old guys!
Finally, here we are, in an age when baseball has never skewed younger. And here we are, in an age where teams have never been more convinced that there’s a hot-shot young manager ready to reinvent the game, just waiting to be discovered. And yet …
We present, for your consideration, the last three managers to win the World Series:
2023 — Bruce Bochy, age 68
2022 — Dusty Baker, age 73
2021 — Brian Snitker, age 66
According to Katie Sharp, it’s the first time in history that three different managers, all age 60-plus, won the World Series in three consecutive years. So hmmm, it’s almost as if experience running a team actually matters. What a wacky concept, in 2023, right here in …
(Top photo of the Rangers celebrating after winning the World Series: Daniel Shirey / MLB Photos via Getty Images)