Everybody has that one job in their lives that they hate.
You know, that one with the boss who drives you absolutely insane and doesn’t listen to what you have to say no matter how insightful you may think your opinions may be. What do you do, though? Do you give your boss a piece of your mind? Do you try to turn all the other co-workers against him/her? Do you quit putting forth your best effort on the work assigned to you hoping your superior will notice how disgruntled you are?
You do your job because everybody knows how difficult it is to find a job in this economy and you don’t want to be the one who gets canned and is out on the street.
Enter 34-year-old Rangers pitcher Roy Oswalt.
Acquired by the Rangers on May 29th, Oswalt had made a full comeback from back inflammation that landed him on the disabled list twice with the Philadelphia Phillies and affected his performances in 2011. He was 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts last year, a far cry from his 1.74 ERA in 2010 in 13 starts. Most of the baseball world -including myself- viewed this acquisition as a huge opportunity to bolster a pitching rotation that had been ravaged by injuries and was looking for some continuity. Former closer-turned-starter Neftali Feliz was already on the DL for a sprained elbow -later it was revealed Feliz would need Tommy John surgery- and in his place, long-reliever Scott Feldman had taken up his rotation spot.
However, after Feldman’s ERA was hovering around 6.00, the Rangers decided it would be in the clubs best interest to give Oswalt a shot in the rotation. He debuted on June 22, which happened to be my birthday and a game I was in attendance for. To be honest, Oswalt looked pretty good. He was facing a potent Colorado Rockies offense and held them down. His final line was 6.2 Ip, 9H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO’s. Using a combination of an Eephus-esque curveball and pinpoint command, Oswalt got the win in his first start as a Ranger. It was a good step and everybody was optimistic that this would be one of those patented Ranger front office moves that would only help Texas on its quest for a third consecutive World Series berth.
24 ER, 26.6 IP in five starts after that.
Wow, NOBODY expected things to drop off that quickly. Granted, he faced teams like the Tigers and Angels in that stretch, but it became apparent that Oswalt was no longer a starting-caliber pitcher. He was moved into the long-reliever role and replaced by the very man whose spot he originally took in the rotation, Scott Feldman. Let’s move ahead in the story to Aug 5th when the Rangers were on the road playing the Kansas City Royals. Derek Holland had been replaced to start the seventh inning by Oswalt in a 6-6 game. Oswalt looked fantastic in his appearance. He went two innings, striking out four and allowing no one to reach base.
Here is where the “Wheel of Controversy” began its rotation. Rangers manager Ron Washington apparently attempted to bring Oswalt out for a third inning with the game still tied and not wanting to use weapons such as Robbie Ross or Mike Adams against the bottom of the order. Oswalt refused to come in. According to Wash after the game, Roy simply said he’d had enough and that he was done.
Enter yesterdays game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Oswalt got the start because of supposed passport problems for pitcher Ryan Dempster (odd, since Dempster is Canadian) which prevented him from even making the trip with the team. Oswalt was cruising through the first two innings before a walk with one out in the third to Blue Jays center fielder, Anthony Gose. Gose promptly stole second and then was advanced to third because of a balk by Oswalt before eventually scoring on a base hit. The following inning, Oswalt hit Edward Encarnacion with a breaking ball on the first pitch of the inning and then advanced him to second base on another balk.
When is the last time you have seen a pitcher balk in consecutive innings?
That is not something I had ever seen and indicated to me that Oswalt may not be as focused as he needed to be. Roy got out of that inning unscathed, but allowed a leadoff single in the fifth. After a sacrifice and a pop-up bunt attempt, I was astounded to see Wash making his slow walk out to the dugout, and as emphatically as I had ever seen him, make the usual tap on the arm to bring in a new pitcher. The camera was zoomed in on Oswalt as Wash took the ball from his glove and he did NOT look happy and barely even acknowledged his skipper before walking back to the dugout and sitting on the side of the bench away from his teammates.
Now, obviously, Roy wasn’t overjoyed to be pulled from the game with two outs in the fifth inning, but even worse was that he was also one out away from qualifying for a win in a game that he had pitched well in so far. You can make the case that the batter for the Jays, Colby Rasmus, had Oswalt’s number in his career (5-10 lifetime against him) and that Washington wanted to go with the lefty-lefty matchup out of the pen with Robbie Ross, but all I could think about was that Royals game and Oswalt saying that he was “done” and refusing to go out for that third inning. It seemed like Wash getting a little bit of revenge by saying “you can’t get the win” before cackling maniacally like a cliche villain in a James Bond movie. The whole thing had a very vindictive feel to it.
No team wants a conflict between a manager and a player to be brought to the forefront, Wash said after the the game that Oswalt was “out of gas,” but out of gas after 62 pitches in a game he was cruising through? Doubtful.
This is all just one man’s opinion. I am far from a deity who can foresee these things before they happen, but from the perspective of this viewer: Oswalt is a disgruntled employee who isn’t locked in on his job.
The Rangers don’t need this. Anything that could be considered a complication/distraction to the team is bad news.
They have plenty of pitchers who stepped up during the early, injury-ravaged summer months. Martin Perez is a future star, he would be a more than serviceable long-reliever for Texas come post-season time and showed his talents in a few starts for the Rangers.
In this situation, the manager of the back-to-back AL Champions is going to get the benefit of the doubt over the veteran pitcher brought on mid-season.
It isn’t that I don’t like Oswalt, I just do not believe he is in it for the long haul and that he is truly buying in to the team’s way of doing things. You have to put TEAM first always, this is a matter between ego vs ability and Oswalt’s ability is just not what it used to be despite his belief that it is. He can be a valuable bullpen piece for the Rangers, but he has to accept his role and do whatever it takes to win.
If not, Oswalt may want to pack his bags because Texas will not be the place for him.