Most experts won’t pick the Texas Rangers to win the 2023 World Series when they make their preseason predictions. Despite the hiring of three-time World Series champion manager Bruce Bochy and the expectation that Texas will invest significant money in free agency for the second offseason in a row, the Rangers still have a long way to go before the rest of the league takes them seriously as a container.
However, we’ve seen multiple teams in the past several years respond to a losing season with a World Series championship in the following year. In fact, since the playoffs expanded in 1995, five teams have won a championship after finishing with a record below .500 the year before. In this article we’ll take a look at who these five teams are and consider how the Rangers might bear similarities to each one.
How would the 2023 Texas Rangers stack up to past cinderella story World Series winners?
The 1997 Florida Marlins
1996 Record – 80-82, 3rd in NL East
1997 Record – 92-70, NL Wild Card
What changed? The Marlins signed Bobby Bonilla to a four-year deal after the 1996 season. Bonilla was coming off a 114 OPS+ season and a championship series appearance with the Baltimore Orioles. They also traded for Cliff Floyd, but he didn’t truly break out until the 1998 season.
How did they get there? After winning the NL Wild Card, the Marlins swept the Giants in the NLDS before besting the Braves in six games in the NLCS. The Marlins had home field advantage in the World Series and won in seven games. Livan Hernandez was named the MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series.
What could they have in common with the Texas Rangers? The Marlins had three managers during the 1996 season. After the season ended, they hired Jim Leyland, who had spent the past eleven seasons managing the Pittsburgh Pirates. During that time, Leyland won two Manager of the Year awards and finished as the runner-up two other times.
Leyland’s presence impacted the team in more ways than one. Bobby Bonilla said himself that he signed with Florida because Jim Leyland was their new manager. Could Bruce Bochy have a similar effect on the Rangers?