This is no longer the year before the year.
This, finally, is the year.
After Neal McCoy's National Anthem and the obligatory military flyover and Roger Staubach's ceremonial first pitch, Texas Rangers' starter Scott Feldman will at 1:07 p.m. officially launch against the Toronto Blue Jays what I believe will be a championship season. Seems like forever Rangers' fans have been told to sit tight, to endure the big-league losses while baseball's best minor-league talent matures. (Feldman, by the way, is only the fifth pitcher in 39 seasons signed and developed by the Rangers to start on Opening Day.)
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Don't be fooled by the team-record 19 Spring Training losses, your patience is about to be rewarded.
Despite a manager who will likely hear some boos today in the wake of his shocking cocaine admission and a pitching rotation reliant upon a converted reliever (C.J. Wilson) and a guy who's been in Japan the last couple years (Colby Lewis), these Rangers have as much talent as anyone in the American League West. Team president Nolan Ryan predicts 92 wins. General manager Jon Daniels expects the first division title since 1999.
It's nice that - for the first time in a long time - Opening Day is actually a meaningful chapter instead of filibustering foreword.
You, me and team management may believe in these Rangers, but the wise guys aren't so convinced. Which either means A) Our desperation has spawned gullibility, or B) It's time to make some serious money. This betting site, for example, has set the over/under for Rangers' wins this season at 84.5. Considering they won 87 last year and have added Vladimir Guerrero (though he went homer-less in 63 spring at-bats) and a healthy Josh Hamilton, give me the over. Some other proposition wagers that might entice Rangers' fans: Home Runs - Josh Hamilton Over/Under 25.5 Home Runs - Nelson Cruz 34.5 Home Runs - Chris Davis 27.5 Home Runs - Vladimir Guerrero 20.5 Batting Average - Michael Young .309 RBIs - Ian Kinsler 90.5 Wins - Rich Harden 10.5 Wins - Scott Feldman 14.5 Saves - Frank Francisco 30.5