Kirschman: Refreshing to see Rangers, Giants in World Series

By Lauren Kirschman

Boston Red Sox. Philadelphia Phillies. New York Yankees.

These are the past three winners of… Boston Red Sox. Philadelphia Phillies. New York Yankees.

These are the past three winners of the World Series, the baseball powerhouses: the boring, the expected, the rich and the powerful.

The Yankees checked in at No. 1 on the 2010 baseball total payroll list. The Red Sox were No. 2, and the Phillies were the lowest of the three at No. 4. It’s no wonder that at the beginning of this season, most assumed that one of these teams would be the last standing.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox three times a week.

After all, it’s been that way for the past three years. Last year, we got the added bonus of watching the overexposed faces of the Phillies face off against the overexposed faces of the Yankees.

But tonight, baseball fans are getting something different. That’s because the World Series begins tonight between two teams that aren’t supposed to be there.

I, for one, can’t wait.

Team No. 1: the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers are playing in their first World Series in the 49-year history of the franchise. They have the fourth lowest payroll in baseball above only the Oakland Athletics, the San Diego Padres and our very own Pittsburgh Pirates.

They’ve got one of the best players in the game, Josh Hamilton, whose arms are covered with more tattoos than most people on “LA Ink,” who struggled with injury and drug addiction throughout his career and missed nearly four years on the field between battling the two.

Hamilton often tells the story of his recovery: about finding faith, finding God and eventually finding his way to becoming one of baseball’s superstars.

Some might condemn him for his past, and if that’s the way you think, then so be it. But Hamilton’s so incredibly grounded that it’s hard not to root for him. He’s so far from arrogant he can’t even see Alex Rodriguez from where he’s standing.

Hamilton isn’t the only person in a Rangers uniform who received another opportunity from the franchise. Rangers manager Ron Washington tested positive for cocaine during the 2009 season.

Washington admitted his mistake and apologized, even telling his bosses and the commissioner’s office that he would fail the test before the results became known.

The Rangers didn’t fire Washington. And as you can see, he made the most of his second chance.

Hate on Hamilton and Washington for their pasts if that’s what you choose — or if you’re a Yankees fan and you’re bitter. Me? I couldn’t be happier to see them moving on from their mistakes to the sport’s biggest stage.

But there’s another team playing in this World Series, too, and it’s just as likable: the San Francisco Giants.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy called the group “a bunch of castoffs and misfits.” And, in a way, that’s exactly what it is.

Gone are the years of the admittedly great but also conceited and disrespectful Barry Bonds.

Instead, the Giants have Tim Lincecum, the star pitcher with the long locks who looks like he should be going to a high school prom instead of throwing in the World Series. Then there’s the rookie catcher who bats cleanup. His name is Buster. Buster Posey, to be exact. Enough said.

The team is made of several players getting what could be their last chance. But Aubrey Huff and his $3 million free agency contract and Pat Burrell checked their egos at the door.

In July, Burrell wasn’t even playing baseball after being released by the Phillies. But like the Rangers, the Giants seem to be big on second chances.

Outfielder Cody Ross wanted to be a rodeo clown when he was little; now he’s a National League Championship Series MVP. Brian Wilson’s black-as-night beard looks like it belongs on a Halloween costume and not on the face of a feared closer. The Giants switch around their lineup like it’s a game of mix and match.

It’s a team full of underdogs. And if there’s one thing that sports fans love, it’s an underdog. If that’s not enough to make this World Series interesting to Pittsburgh, the Giants are home to former Pirate Freddy Sanchez. Come on, Pittsburgh, you know you still love Freddy.

So, you can have your Bostons, New Yorks and Philadelphias. I’ll take the Rangers making antlers with their hands when a teammate steals a base — because they ran like a deer, get it? — and Lincecum forcing fans to scratch their heads, wondering how a guy so skinny can throw a ball like that.

I’ll take the misfits and the little guys over the superstars of the teams we all expected to be here. Give me goofy, give me that feel-good story. I’ll enjoy watching a World Series and debating over which team I like best as opposed to choosing between the lesser of two evils.