It’s that time of year again.
The formerly glistening tides of the offseason have begun to fade. The vast sea of optimism has now receded into streams of actuality. These streams flow ever deliberately and sluggishly towards the fields of spring lore, thusly establishing storylines for the 2013 season.
Storylines such as the Rangers’ annual search for a starting CF (a platoon of Leonys Martín and Craig Gentry seems most practical), or the mundane search for a #5 starter (an open competition between Martín Pérez, Justin Grimm, Robbie Ross, etc.)
But what most interests me as it has come into fruition that the offseason is essentially complete, is the identity of the 2013 Rangers. I am not one who puts much merit in the intangibles, but teams do indeed have identities. Having traded away media darling Michael Young to the Phillies, losing Josh Hamilton to the Angels and waving goodbye to fan favorite, Mike Napoli, the Rangers head into 2013 season with a few players from the core of the roster gone.
Is it necessarily important whom the Rangers have lost as people? No. But what is important is what each player’s production represented to the team.
Between Hamilton and Napoli, the Rangers have lost a projectable 60 HRs from the lineup. Of course, new DH, Lance Berkman, and new starting catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, will help offset some of that load, but let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely that those two can replicate such power numbers. But what Berkman and Pierzynski can do is provide a strong, joint on-base percentage. That, together with an athletic core of incumbent players spells the identity of a team that relies on playing small ball, which in my opinion is a more beautiful form of offense, as compared to the sexy variety of long balls.
It’s no secret that the San Francisco Giants, winners of two of the last three World Series, has thrived with teams with strong starting rotations and offenses that can generate their own runs through small ball, as contrasted to a team that obliges home runs to score runs.
The Rangers could definitely surprise the media pundits in 2013. With a strong starting rotation led by Yu Darvish, and a core of position players who possess a solid mixture of speed, defense and the ability to get on base, the Rangers have devised the kind of team that typically succeeds in October baseball.
That said, it’s no secret that the Angels have assembled a juggernaut offense, but the Angels’ starting rotation is very suspect and devoid of depth. The A’s again project to be a formidable adversary, led by a young and talented starting rotation and an underestimated lineup. The Mariners have added some power, but Seattle is still a couple of years away from competing, as long as Jack Zduriencik doesn’t attempt to destroy the farm again (Justin Upton saying “no” to Seattle probably saved the immediate future of that franchise), and then there are the Astros, who are obviously still rebuilding.
The point is that despite what the media pundits have crammed down your throat thus far, the Rangers are still a very strong baseball team with one factor that is not being given enough credence: The fact that if the Rangers are in the middle of things come the trade deadline, the team has the necessary prospects to address areas of the need on the MLB roster, a luxury that the Angels most certainly do not possess.
The tides of optimism have certainly regressed for many fans, given the lack of blockbuster acquisitions this offseason, but in 2013, look for a team that is solid in nearly all facets of the game. The kind of team that is built to surprise both the media pundits, and their believers.