Yu is here. You are here. Grammatically, his presence confuses me. But as a Rangers fan, I have never been more excited for a season. Even going into 2011, I did not really consider the Texas Rangers to be the favorite to return to the World Series. 2010 felt magical-like lightning in a bottle. The story was perfect: from bankrupt to flush with cash, from lacking a true ace to Cliff Lee, etc. Granted, they fell just short to San Francisco, but that almost didn’t matter. More than any other sport (except maybe college football), the series that decides the champion feels like an exhibition; the rules literally change from game to game, based on a home field advantage that is decided in a nonsensical format. In baseball, the league championship is almost enough, and the way the Rangers dominated the Yankees, culminating in the most memorable at bat A-Rod ever had at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, brought most of us a singular moment that even a World Series championship might not match.

There were greater forces at work in 2010. Without an ace, the Rangers entered 2011 as playoff hopefuls, but certainly not favorites to return to the World Series. We all watched, wondering if the pitching staff would hold up, wondering if Beltre would be worth the new contract, wondering how Michael Young would respond to his new role after another rocky off season, wondering about the depth of the bullpen, wondering if we really needed Mike Napoli.

This year looks different. With the addition of Darvish, it is hard to find a serious question mark on this Rangers roster. The infield is young, has incredible range, and remarkable chemistry. The outfield is deep. The starting rotation has enough depth that the phrase “6-man rotation” has been thrown around, and with Ogando likely back in the bullpen taking the ball from the starters, then handing off to Adams who hands off to Nathan, opposing line-ups will have to be more aggressive earlier in the game. The Rangers boast the best pitching coach in baseball, the best motivational manager, the best GM, and still have depth to spare in the farm system. All that adds up to the Texas Rangers entering 2012 as the clear favorite to win the AL for a third straight year.

There are certainly plenty of question marks for the skeptics to point to. But as we’ve learned over the past few years, whenever the Rangers have questions, the answer is almost always a resounding “yes”. So expect Nathan to be an above average closer. Expect Feliz to hold down the 5th spot in the rotation, with occasional flashes of brilliance. Expect Hamilton to miss 30-50 games, but expect Murphy, Gentry, and maybe Martin step in and hold down the fort (maybe Moreland as well, especially if there is a new 1st baseman on the roster on opening day…). And then there’s Yu. I expect Yu to be dominant early, given his stuff and that MLB hitters have never seen him. He will likely hit a wall around July, and perhaps be skipped in the rotation a few times (assuming that pitching depth is still in tact, this won’t be a problem). How he responds after half a season of ballpark heat, 4-day rest, and the inevitable adversity that will come once hitters get a book on him will tell us how great he can truly be. But here’s the bottom line; if JD wants him, you should too. Yes, he could fail. He could be Chan Ho Park II. But the worst part about the Park years wasn’t Chan Ho himself; it was the Rangers ownership deciding that because Chan Ho failed, they would no longer spend on free agents. That won’t happen under this ownership.

The future is bright, but the time is now. If you and I are still haunted by game 6, imagine how the Rangers brain trust must feel. I still have this sneaking suspension that they will steal Fielder and deal with the financial consequences later. At any rate, the longer Oswalt and Fielder sit on the market, the more likely it becomes that the Rangers get the one they want. But even without them, this Rangers season will be the most entertaining one in history. Sell your Cowboys season tickets; it’s time to re-invest in the best run franchise of the city. It’s time to become a baseball town.

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