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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The 'Somebody Hexed us' Rangers...



Well, Rangers fans, we're now 2 months 2 days and 57 games into the 2014 campaign and this team continues to keep us guessing. What we have learned is that they haven't given up and are clearly fighting in these games despite the baseball gods' continued smiting. Even so, the Rangers are treading water in the West and the first win of June, at the very least, put us back over .500...





Way back at the end of April, the Rangers were sitting at 15-13 and there was still plenty of reason to be optimistic about our chances going forward. Then disaster struck...AGAIN...





Both were lost for the season with Martin opting for Tommy John surgery and Matty opting for spinal fusion surgery which may, sadly, even cost him his career...



 


Mid-May this news came down...




As distressing as this was, the news would get worse...




Which led to this...





Haha. Back in January of this year I wrote on this very blog...



"What simply cannot be overstated about Fielder is the fact that he's missed ONE game of playing time since 2009. That level of durability will be a welcome sight in Arlington."


It should have been a welcome sight anyway. Our luck, I tell ya. Here's a player that had NEVER been on the disabled list in his career. Even though he turned 30 this year the Prince is still nothing if not reliable. Even when the team started dropping like flies I quietly thought to myself, "well at least Prince will never be a scratch."




What's unfortunate is that he really seemed to be swinging the bat a little better in early May despite his continued lack of power. Now we hear the Rangers being criticized for not conducting a full physical prior to the trade. Well, if you asked me which player would be injured first Ian Kinsler or Prince Fielder, I'd unequivocally say Ian. I mean, Prince Fielder? 547 games in a row Prince Fielder? I honestly think nothing of that and, to me, it's just an effort by the media to already declare this move a bust...




Anyway before all of this attrition, the Rangers began the month by taking 2 of  3 against the hated Angels on the road, and with series with Colorado, Boston, Houston, Toronto, and Seattle coming up, even while decimated, you just figured this team would circle the wagons and find a way to win at least half of their only 10 home games all month and for sure their 3 at Houston. Well, they didn't. In fact, they went 5-10 over this stretch and I wasn't feeling very good about the team, let me tell you...





Last month I told you a better indicator of whether a team is trending up or down is run differential. Well, how about we use domination against the Astros as our 'rest position'. Here's a team that we've just destroyed since 2009 with a record of 38-8 including an April 2014 series in Arlington. In addition, the Rangers were on a stretch of 20 of 23 wins at Minute Maid which included a 10 game winning streak all while outscoring Houston 61-27 in said 10 games. The Rangers had won 15 straight series against Houston. 15!



So to say that losing 2 of 3 to Houston was our lowest point in the young season is an understatement. We were even shutout 8-0 in one contest (when we lost Matty for the year). Although the Astros appear to be much improved, that's a 3 game set that the Rangers absolutely should have and could have won. Also, back in Mid-May who knew Toronto would go on an 11-2 tear on their way to first place in the AL East? It appeared to have all started in Arlington for them. Same weekend I was present for a game, Prince was scratched, and MY was honored, by the way...


Still glorious! No matter what you call it...

Team MY!


Yea, yea they lost while I was there. Whilst in Dallas and among the Ranger faithful I definitely felt the deflation. The team and fans seemed downtrodden. The prevailing sentiment? The season is over! We were already done in May and everyone felt the same; the local media, the talking heads, the radio shows, everyone. Everyone was jumping off the bandwagon....





While I love my city, our teams, and our fans (for the most part) this was definitely a case of the "Cowboys" culture/mentality at its worst. Fire the coach! Fire the GM! Blow up the team! I don't typically deal directly with this type of knee jerk fan. I'm much more the pragmatist. Well, usually...





Haha. So here were the decimated 22-24 Rangers embarking on a season long 11 game road trip with 13 players on the DL including their biggest off-season acquisition. To top it all off it would begin with 4 against the best team in the AL at the time. Oh, also Ian Kinsler's new team if you had forgotten...




A funny thing happened on our way to last place though (no offense to Houston haha). The Rangers and their next man up philosophy continued to pay dividends. Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas, Chris Gimenez, Robinson Chirinos, Donnie Murphy. These definitely weren't the names that were supposed to be our difference makers back in April! This team just did what it's always done...minus the long ball. It's the team Ron Washington always wanted and never wanted. They got on base and ran the bases well once they did. They sacrificed. There were timely hits, runs with 2 outs, double steals, hit and runs, you name it. I mean, after all here's a Wash lineup that lacks a 'He-Man' for, probably, the first time in his tenure...


I have the power!!

The onus definitely now fell on players like Elvis and Beltre to be the leaders of this team, on the field and off. You may have heard Ian Kinsler recently commenting on how much of a relief it is for him to 'just play'. "I'm not worried about taking care of any young kids...I'm here to play ball and help the team win.", said Ian. Well guess what, Ian? Sometimes it IS up to you to rally your teammates in times of hardship. What if Verlander, Scherzer, and Miggy were all on the flippin' DL. What would YOU do then, Ian? Keep on whining, I'd presume...




I also feel like Beltre will have to emerge, and probably already has, as the star of this team. He's probably the best defensive 3rd baseman ever and he's easily the greatest 3rd baseman in Rangers history, wouldn't you say? I mean, what can't Beltre do?


The one thing this team has ALWAYS been able to do is stay loose and rally around each other. You might have seen this team even resurrecting the old antlers...





Me with 2 of my older brothers, Oct. 2010

I was always a "Ducks on the Pond" guy though. Haha...


I digress. Lest we forget that this team lost 3 of its best starting pitchers to injury and 2 of those for the season. Their opening day starter? Also on the DL.  Here's a team that as of today has used 22 different pitchers including 9 different starters. That would bury anyone's season. What does this team do though? They roll out Nick Tepesch, Colby Lewis, Nick Martinez, Scott Baker, even Joe Saunders and these guys keep us in games. They're at least giving our improving bullpen a shot. That's all we can ask for at this point since we don't appear to have the kind of offense that's going to light up the scoreboard. The straw that stirs the drink is still, of course, Yu Darvish...



Don't ever leave me!

Back to that season long road trip though. At the outset I was hoping for a 5-6 record at best and I would have been perfectly fine with that. The Rangers had other plans. They took 3 of 4 from both Detroit and Minnesota before succumbing (I believe) to fatigue (and sorry ass NL ball) and losing 2 of 3 at Washington. The Rangers somehow salvaged what was left of May with a 7-4 roadtrip which easily could have been 8-3 if not for a rare Soria blown save. You really have to tip your cap to Wash for somehow managing this mess...




So after what shockingly feels (to me) like a successful 14-15 month of May, given the circumstances, here's how we stand today...





The good news is that the M's and Halos have been just as up and down as the Rangers, and the A's haven't proven that they're a Juggernaut yet...


I'm the Juggernaut, Bitch!


We, also, seem to be trending upward, but what do the #s say? Their run differential is still in the minus at 23. We're still middle of the pack in runs, but hitting .266 as a team which is good for second in the AL. Their 34 HRs are good for next to last in the AL. So, they're still not hitting the ball out of the park. You knew that already. If we, once again, compare that to some of our old friends you'll immediately find Nelly Cruz leading the world with, 20, count 'em 20 flippin HRs! Ex-Rangers Ian, Murph, and even Mike Olt have chipped in a collective 18 HRs for their new teams. You do the math...




The pitching staff as a whole ranks poorly in just about every major category, yet somehow have the most shutouts in the AL with 10. I'm also shocked there are actually 2 teams that have a worse fielding percentage than we do, but given all the moving parts in our infield it's almost to be expected at this point. Can't spell Texas without the E...

Although, the MLB might say hey on second thought...that's a hit



So what lies ahead for June?





Well, it's definitely looking more and more like a make or break month for our team. Not only are we playing the most home games (15) in a month until September, but including yesterday the Rangers will enjoy 4 off days. If the Rangers can have a reasonable homestand (where we'll see 2 of our aforementioned old friends, Nelly and Murph) over the next 9 days, say 6-3; it really sets us up nicely to make a decent early run at it in the West as we'll travel to Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim for a 9-game west coast road trip right after. I know it may sound like too much to ask of this team, but...




So what can the Rangers do in the short term to get better? Sign Kendrys Morales? It's definitely a suitable (albeit the only) option out there and he'll be wildly pursued. He'll definitely be signed after this week's draft so his new team can avoid surrendering a pick since Morales rejected a qualifying offer from the Mariners ala Nelly Cruz. He's a fit on many teams, including ours, and we're no strangers to him as he spent most of his career in Anaheim and last year in Seattle. He turns 31 this year and has averaged around 22 HRs and hit in the .270s the last 2 seasons while slugging .449 and .467 in those seasons. He did blast 34 homers back in 2009 as well...




Haha. Sooo...would he help? I'm sure he would, but I'm not counting on that move. Another 30 something player might be the answer for this team, but strictly in the short term. So, what if this team is still struggling when July rolls around? We haven't waved the white flag yet, but is it time to do just that, Rangers fans? The Rangers have, after all, been buyers for the last 4 years with varying degrees of success and failure. Is it time to reload the farm system?




I'm all for shaking up the roster and we definitely did that this year, but you also have to keep an eye on the future while trying to win in the present, constantly trying to keep your team relatively young. What's unfortunate is that we can't even judge how the new look Rangers lineup (except Choo individually) would have fared due to injury after injury after injury. I loved that nucleus of Josh, Nelly, Ian, MY, and Elvis of 2010-2012 as much the next guy, but we just weren't getting it done anymore...


Not a one left...


I even hesitate to speculate how this team would look right now with Ian still at 2nd, a re-signed Nelly in lieu of Choo, and say...another piece that came via a trade of Profar. Sounds like an aging team, no? I actually think something else would have to go horribly wrong (if that's possible) for us to be sellers (Rios and Soria probably lift right out) at the deadline, but what if we're buyers AGAIN? Ask yourself what THIS team would need to make another run. Another bat? Another arm? Maybe 2 of each? Might as well stand pat if that's the case. Sheesh...





ALL of that being said, everyone still says this has the feel of a lost season. That there's simply too much for this Rangers team to overcome. Well we say there's 105 games left to play, we have players that WILL get healthy and contribute for us, we're a mere 6 games behind in the West, and there are only 4 AL teams with better records than the Rangers. Long way to go, Rangers fans, and I'm not ready to call it a season or have a fire sale. No sense in giving up because, what if we turn this thing around? You don't want to be the Rangers fan that missed the fireworks...















...and to steal a line from Jamey Newberg...







Hey June, don't let me down...







Bring on the O's!!!!!




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