While Washington's baseball team (the Nationals) appears to be on the verge of their first playoff appearance in their current form, their team is not the first to adorn the Nation's Capital. Previous Washington Senators teams have moved to Minneapolis, where the Twins experienced World Series success. But the second team which moved to Arlington, Texas in 1971 and had not really realized much in the way of notable wins until recently. Regardless of this fact, Major League Baseball video and A&E decided to give Rangers fans an "Essential Games" set similar to other teams, but the pool of games to pick from was fairly shallow.
This is in part because save for the Rangers' back to back World Series appearances in the last two years (which they lost to the Giants and Cardinals, respectively), there was not a lot to cheer about. The team saw some players come and go through the years like Buddy Bell and Toby Harrah, and more recent players like Sammy Sosa and Mitch Williams who came up through the Rangers' organization would for the most part reach stardom with other teams as the result of trades. Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan came to the team to play closer to his home, and he proceeded to rack up no-hitters and other insurmountable pitching records. And when they signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million contract, the initial thoughts were of optimism, but when the eventual expectations became too much to bear, he was eventually traded and won a World Series with the New York Yankees, while the Rangers continued to flounder. They quietly undertook an effort to build their farm system and once owner Tom Hicks divested himself of the club (and a retired Ryan was part of an ownership team which took the Rangers over) is when the team started to see some consistency in performance, which they still enjoy at the moment with an American League West lead.
The set includes four games, the first one being a May 1, 1991 game where the 44-year old Ryan pitched his seventh no-hitter (a record unlikely to be broken), striking out 16 Toronto Blue Jay hitters en route to a 3-0 victory. Disc Two included the Rangers first ever postseason appearance, a 1996 American League Divisional Series against the Yankees. While the Yankees won the series and eventually the title, the Rangers won the first game 6-2, powered by home runs by outfielder Juan Gonzalez and third baseman Dean Palmer. While John Burkett allowed 10 Yankee hits, the damage was mitigated. Discs Three and Four are the American League Championship clinching wins against the Yankees (in 2010) and Detroit Tigers (in 2011). In 2010, the Rangers won 6-1 behind a two-run homer by outfielder Nelson Cruz and three runs batted in from designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, while Colby Lewis allowed just three Yankee hits. The 2011 ALCS was a 15-5 Rangers win, where the Rangers scored nine runs in the third inning (including separate two-run doubles by first baseman Michael Young, the first player to have multi-base hits in the same inning) and never looked back.
If there is a flip side to not having a lot of notable games to pick from, it's that the list of games that would appear in an 'Essential' set are fairly easy to pick out. While the Rangers had been disappointing in past years, occasionally venturing into the 'good, but not good enough' territory, picking many other games may have only served as a painful reminder to many Rangers faithful. The 1996 ALDS may be nice to see, but since they lost the series, maybe another game would be better in its place? I personally was a fan of the 1993 game where the 46-year old Ryan would rain fists on Robin Ventura's head in a bench clearing brawl, but to each his own I suppose.
In a way, it would be nice to see the Rangers get to the Series again, this time to face the Washington Nationals. The version 2.0 and 3.0 of the Washington baseball franchise would be nice to see and both rosters are currently constructed to succeed in the regular season and (at least in the Rangers' case) go deep in the playoffs. But it would reward either city with a long-desired World Series title, something that Rangers fans have been enduring the lack of for quite some time.
Discs One and Two are in full frame video, with discs Three and Four appear in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, consistent with their original broadcast format. All of the image noise and distortions are inherent in the source material and the games look like transferred videotape copies to a large extent, but being well-versed in MLB/A&E video releases, I expected this in all honesty, and the games are as good as they are going to look. And yes, the Major League Baseball logo is watermarked in the upper right corner of each of the games.
Like the similar Essential set of games for the Philadelphia Phillies, all of the games include two-channel Dolby stereo soundtracks. Unlike said set though, there is a noticeable lack of alternate audio tracks. To be fair, there may be the possibility that the Rangers either did not have a radio team for their games, or such tapes could not be found for these sets. But it does not take away from it being a noticeable minus on these sets.
Big donut here.
The Essential Games of the Texas Rangers has the luxury of providing Rangers fans with a set that there may be little qualm over based if nothing else on the history the Texas franchise has endured to date. Technically is it nothing special and the lack of extras on an "Essential" set continues to be mildly disappointing, but for fans of the team there is a slight nod towards buying the set with the hope that some new history will make it as obsolete as possible.