Josh Hamilton after hitting a 3-run homer against Oakland on Saturday

The First 80 Games, and the All Star Game Joke

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It’s July already? Like, really?

The Rangers are 20 games over .500 (50-30), the first team in baseball to reach the 50-win mark. After a quite remarkable run of baseball by the Angels over the last month and a half, they’ve merely been able to shave just 3.5 games from Texas, and — as it stands tonight — are 5.5 games back in the American League West. I understand it must be at least a little frustrating to play so well and see really no mammoth change in the standings, particularly when you factor in that the Rangers are basically pitching with 3/5 of their Opening Day rotation (Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Neftali Feliz) shelved on the disabled list. But hey, this isn’t a website dedicated to what the Angels are doing, so who cares?

Josh Hamilton after hitting a 3-run homer against Oakland on Saturday

Even with the injuries to players like Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe, and Mitch Moreland, the Rangers have still won 17 of their last 22 games, and have been the hottest team in baseball since the inception of the Giants’ series nearly a month ago. That’s a testament to the strength and depth of the organization, and doesn’t omit the fact that players like Mike Napoli, Michael YoungNelson Cruz, and Scott Feldman have basically been shells of the players they were even a year ago, so one could easily argue this team has yet to really hit its optimal stride in the season.

It is also a tip of the cap to the guys that have outperformed expectations. Guys like Craig Gentry (142 wRc+/2.7 fWAR) and David Murphy (135 wRc+/2.1 fWAR) have been paramount to lubricating the offense in various lefty/righty situations, and pitchers Justin Grimm and Martin Perez have each delivered strong spot starts when their opportunities arose. And rookie Leonys Martin? Well, he’s looked about every bit as good as we all hoped he would be when the Rangers delved out a 5-year/$15.5M Major League contract to him last May.

The moral to the story is that the Rangers are good. How good? I guess the second-half will paint us a more vivid, accurate picture. But the fact that they’ve won each of their last seven series playing with a less than ideal roster should suffice as some kind of answer. This team is good, and they are only going to get better.

* * * * * *

The All Star game comes around every year. That’s obvious. And every year I have to come to grips with myself that the Mid-Summer classic just isn’t what it used to be. Is it because the fans vote in the starters? Is it because the game decides which league holds home-field advantage? Is it because everything is better when you’re a little kid? I really don’t know. I assume the answer to all those questions is a resounding “YES,” and I imagine they each combine into a terrifying bundle of mess that makes everything about the game completely shitty, and makes me hate it that much more. Then again, maybe I just don’t like the fact that the Rangers are playing so well and it will be interrupted by an exhibition game that actually means something. But I digress.

The Rangers have 7 players on roster this year, and after Yu Darvish gets voted in as the “Fan’s choice,” that number will grow to 8. Among them are:

C- Mike Napoli (106 wRc+/1.0 WAR)

2B- Ian Kinsler (111 wRc+/2.1 WAR)

3B – Adrian Beltre (134 wRc+/2.8 WAR)

SS- Elvis Andrus (118 wRc+/2.9 WAR)

OF- Josh Hamilton (167 wRc+/3.7 WAR)

SP- Matt Harrison (3.16 ERA/3.89 xFIP/2.5 WAR)

RP- Joe Nathan (1.87 ERA/2.2 xFIP/1.3 WAR)

Okay, I get it. Mike Napoli is getting rewarded by the fans for his amazing second-half and hitting like a man possessed in the World Series last year. And Ian Kinsler, okay, he’s had a nice year. He hasn’t been as good as he has been in years past, statistically, and is sure to pick up his production in the second-half this season. And Matt Harrison. He’s been good; stable. But he’s more getting voted in for being the league-leader in wins, and less because he’s been flat out dominant.

There’s absolutely no question about the other 4. Andrus leads baseball in wins above replacement (WAR), Adrian Beltre has been the true face of the organization this year, Josh Hamilton is on pace to win his second MVP, and Joe Nathan is on an historic run of domination as a closer.

Yu Darvish will get voted in the last spot because he’s going up against 4 people he’s better than, and produces more fanfare. People want to see what Darvish has against the best competition.

It’s nice to see the Rangers getting such strong representation, but let’s not all kid ourselves into thinking these Rangers are all deserving. Part of being a baseball fan is recognizing greatness in players on other teams. And if you are reading an entry on here with my name attached, you’re going to get the objective truth, not just a bunch of crap spewed out because the Rangers are my favorite baseball team.

So where do we go from here? Nowhere. Just enjoy the best team in baseball. Please.

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