ARLINGTON -- After 52 long years in the Metroplex, the Rangers finally won the World Series for the first time in franchise history. Now the challenge becomes trying to defend that title.
At the Rangers Fan Fest at Globe Life Field last month, players acknowledged the roadblocks that come with attempting to repeat, while also pointing out that it’s part of the fun of it all.
And for all of Bruce Bochy’s accolades as a manager -- just the fourth manager in MLB history with at least four World Series titles and the third manager to win a World Series with both an American League and National League team -- he hasn’t done one major thing: go back to back.
In fact, no club has won back-to-back World Series since the Yankees took three in a row from 1998-2000.
So what’s the key to attempting to repeat?
“You hope, No. 1, they stay healthy,” Bochy said. “You know these guys, there's no question that they're going to do their thing. It’s just keeping them on the field. We did a pretty good job of it, but we still have our injuries. So that's No. 1.
“I don't worry about the other part, as far as staying hungry and those types of things. I just don't see that with these guys. You know what they did at the end [of the season] and how determined they were. I think that's always going to stay there.”
One thing the Rangers do have going for them is the returning core. Corey Seager and Marcus Semien are locked up in long-term contracts. Adolis García, Nathaniel Lowe and Jonah Heim still have arbitration years left. Young stars Leody Taveras, Josh Jung and Evan Carter have even more years to come. That’s eight of the nine offensive regulars from the World Series squad.
At the very least, a full season of Carter -- the Rangers’ top prospect and No. 5 overall, per MLB Pipeline -- should provide positive immediate return.
That being said, it still takes more than that. Injuries happen, and guys go down. Guys in the upper levels of the Minors need to be ready.
“The other thing is that you have to add your guys coming up from your system and helping me out,” Bochy said. “Those are the guys that fill in, and we have some pretty good talent coming up here. They're knocking on the door, as far as helping us. So I'm excited about seeing some of them in the spring.”
The 2023 World Series MVP, Seager made multiple World Series appearances with the Dodgers. So he has an informed perspective on the challenges of repeating -- which Los Angeles didn’t do following its 2020 title.
“It's very hard to do,” Seager said. “It's a long year -- it's longer than you're used to, being able to recover and start working out again. But, honestly, the hardest part is April's tough. To be able to go from that -- intensive games and that dedicated and just the intensity and the atmosphere, all that stuff [in the postseason] and go back into regular-season games -- it’s hard. It's different. So being able to kind of get back in the groove knowing it's a long season, how it operates, that's probably the biggest challenge.”
While the Rangers are more than set on the offensive end, the pitching remains to be seen. Nathan Eovaldi returns atop the rotation, but Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Tyler Mahle are delayed until at least midseason.
The season-opening rotation currently lines up Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning and Cody Bradford, but there’s minimal big league depth behind them. If you ask Eovaldi, pitching wins championships. It did for the Rangers last year.
“For me, on my side of it, it's pitching,” Eovaldi said. “That’s the thing that we're going to have to rely on and make sure that we pick up our slack. The offense was incredible last year and the defense, but, obviously, we had our ups and downs as a team. I think that in the pitching we can go out there and give us good quality starts, six or seven innings, and then have the bullpen come in and do their job. That's going to be the key for us.”