AL West champs want road to Fall Classic to run through Arlington
By Mike Bauman
ARLINGTON -- The Texas Rangers are closing in on home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
That advantage doesn't guarantee October success, but it beats the alternative.
The Rangers (94-65) open their final regular-season series, a three-game set against Tampa Bay, on Friday night at Globe Life Park. Texas will enter that series with a two-game lead over Boston for the best record in the American League.
What kind of a priority do the Rangers place on securing home-field advantage?
"It's No. 1," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Our first step was to clinch [the division title]; the second step is home-field advantage. So we're not done yet."
"For us to be here for the first two games, that's something any team wants," said left fielder Carlos Gomez. "We play in our own facility, in front of our crowd. We need to get this and we're going to get it."
The team with the league's best record draws the winner of the AL Wild Card Game in an AL Division Series matchup. As pitcher Cole Hamels noted, to reach the World Series (where the AL team will have the home-field advantage by virtue of the Junior Circuit's 4-2 victory in the All-Star Game in San Diego on July 12), the best postseason opposition has to be faced sooner or later. But Hamels also sees winning the home-field advantage as a tribute to Texas' fans.
"If you get that home-field advantage, it's great for the fans," Hamels said. "Sleeping in your own bed, that's kind of nice. But at the same time, we're in and out of hotels, and we'd know how to handle ourselves, even if we weren't the home team.
"It's more of a gift for the home crowd. And we'd love to show that to them. They come here and support us day in and day out; we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them."
What advantage has home-field advantage historically held? Since the advent of the expanded postseason format in 1995, of the 42 teams that had the best record in their league, 14 (33.3 percent) have advanced to the World Series.
That does not represent overwhelming success, but with two series to win to get to the World Series, it's still a substantial record.
Since Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig successfully pushed to have home-field advantage in the World Series determined by which league won the All-Star Game, in nine of 13 years, the Series has been won by the team whose league won home-field advantage by winning the All-Star Game.
The All-Star Game tie-in is relatively new, but the success of the team with home-field advantage is not a recent development in the Fall Classic. Of the past 30 World Series, 24 have been won by the team with home-field advantage.
But first things first. The Rangers are on the verge of clinching home-field advantage for the AL postseason. This is not an absolute guarantee of postseason success, but being the best team in the league and gaining the home-field edge points a team in exactly the right direction.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.