On April 13th, 2015, I wrote the Texas Rangers would win the American League West. The problem is my editor cut it out of my column, so it never actually appeared in print.*
(* That may not be true.)
We are finally in October, and the Rangers have won the AL West. They clinched a postseason appearance with a defeat of the Los Angeles Angels a week ago, then won the division Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Park.
This team that looks nothing like the crew that came limping out of Surprise at the end of spring training. This surprise of a season kicked the hamster in my brain back on its wheel to compile the 10 most surprising seasons in DFW since 2000.
10. TCU defeating Wisconsin to win the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011
This makes the list because so many events had to happen in order for TCU just to be in the game. At the time, TCU was a member of the Mountain West Conference, which was not one of the automatic qualifying conferences of the BCS. The Horned Frogs needed a perfect season to have a shot, and then a handful of other events had to occur, namely the Pac-10’s representative had to be playing for the BCS title, which Oregon did.
TCU was favored to defeat Wisconsin, but the Frogs were never actually expected to be playing in this game.
9. 2003 Dallas Stars lose in Western Conference semifinals
This was arguably the last great Stars team; the Stars had Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher, Jere Lehtinen, Sergei Zubov, Jason Arnott, Bill Guerin and Marty Turco, among others. The team’s 111 points led the Western Conference, and the top seed in the West.
But they were upset in the Western Conference semifinals by the Anaheim Ducks, who would eventually lose in seven games in the Stanley Cup Finals to New Jersey.
8. Dallas Cowboys win 2014 NFC East title
The Cowboys were coming off three straight 8-8 seasons, and at best looked to repeat that record. Instead, DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing, the offensive line was the best in the league, and Tony Romo and Dez Bryant had career seasons. The Cowboys won 12 games, the division title, and barely lost in the NFC’s divisional round at Green Bay.
7. Texas Rangers return to World Series in 2011
The Rangers were expected to be good in 2011 because they had reached the World Series in 2010. To return to the World Series, statistically, is the surprise. How the 2011 World Series ended ... well, let’s not go there.
6. 2007 Dallas Mavericks lose in first round
The Mavs were coming off an NBA Finals appearance against the Miami Heat, and in the following season led the NBA with 67 wins. They had home court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs in a regular season for which Dirk Nowitzki would later be named the MVP.
Instead of cashing in, Golden State coach Don Nelson exploited every hole the Mavs had, and Baron Davis killed the Mavs in a shocking first-round series win.
5. 2008 Dallas Stars reach the Western Conference Finals
The Stars were not expected to do much more than reach the playoffs. The Stars had not won a playoff series since 2003.
In the second round, captain Brenden Morrow delivered one of the most inspiring performances ever in this town — he willed that team over the San Jose Sharks. Against the Red Wings, they were exposed and lost in six games.
4. Rangers win AL West in 2015
The Rangers “led” the American League the previous season in losses with 95, and longtime manager Ron Washington quit late in the season for personal reasons.
The Rangers lost ace Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery during spring training, and No. 2 starter Derek Holland was gone for four months after hurting his shoulder in his first start of the season. The bullpen was a mess, and they had a Rule 5 guy (Delino DeShields) on their roster.
First-year manager Jeff Banister figured some things out, and big cash veterans such as Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre started to hit. To GM Jon Daniels’ credit, he never stopped tinkering and eventually compiled a quality roster that produced.
3. Cowboys reach the playoffs in the first season under Bill Parcells in 2003
The Cowboys were 5-11 in the three previous years under coach Dave Campo. In coach Bill Parcells’ first year, with Quincy Carter as his quarterback, the team began the season 7-2 and reached the playoffs before losing at Carolina. It was arguably Parcells’ best coaching season in his Hall of Fame career — this team was not that good.
2. Texas Rangers reach the World Series in 2010
In the previous few seasons under Ron Washington, Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan, the Rangers had steadily improved, but no one saw a World Series team coming from a franchise that was in bankruptcy.
The likes of Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Vlad Guerrero, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young all came together at the same time for the best season in club history that included playoff-series wins against Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees. The Rangers lost against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
1. Dallas Mavericks win 2011 NBA title
The Mavs were good, but no one expected this team to defeat the Spurs, the Lakers and the Miami Heat to win this franchise’s first NBA title. They had to beat two of the three.
The Mavs’ first-round series against Portland was tied at two before it all came together, and Dirk became the best player in the world. It really helped that the top-seeded Spurs were upset in the first round against the Grizzlies; the Lakers were exhausted and at the end of their run for their West semis series against the Mavs, which ended in a sweep.
The Mavs advanced to the NBA Finals where they upset LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in six games.