The Indians (55-48) shutout the Rangers (56-48) 1-0 on Saturday night, dropping Texas 5.0 games behind Oakland for the AL West lead — the second-widest gap between a 1st- and 2nd-place team in MLB — and is the 11th Ranger loss in their last 14 games.
In those 14 games, the team has scored 36 runs (2.57 runs/game), but if you take out Friday night’s 11-8 loss in Cleveland — as well as the 7-1 win they mustered in Detroit on July 13th — it means the Rangers have scored just 21 runs over the remaining 12 match-ups (a gaunt 1.75 runs/game).
It’s literally been a “power struggle,” and the product has been a 3-11 record, which is slightly worse than the 4-11 mark the team posted from June 1st through the 15th.
If you take a look at Baseball Prospectus’ 3rd order win percentage — which takes into account the strength of schedule, the league, etc. — the Rangers projected record translates to 55-49. Oakland’s is a game better, 56-48.
Texas’s playoff odds are down to 54.3%, a 19.8% drop from last week.
If you are given the keys to the Rangers organization, you are greeted by 3 doors, and they look like this:
(1) Trade for a bat. Trade for two bats. Anything it takes to win go for a World Series right now.
(2) Stand pat. Don’t trade away any more Minor League talent for marginal upgrades. The team may make the postseason, or it may not. You aren’t willing to jeopardize any more of the future for stopgap replacements for a roster that, as currently constructed, essentially has coin-flip odds to make it to October.
(3) Sell players you can get value for. Contenders always need bullpen help around this time. Perhaps someone is willing to overpay for Joe Nathan. Maybe a team is looking for catching help so they come calling for A.J. Pierzynski.
This isn’t a concession of the 2013 season. It’s more a shrewd way of allocating your assets in the current climate baseball is in.
. . .
Door #1 is too obvious, too desperate. Jon Daniels has stated several times in the past that he doesn’t want to create an front office environment that acts out of emotion. If he goes out and acquires a bat, it will be at his price. Daniels knows the value of young, controllable talent as well as any general manager in baseball, so you’d have to believe his level of motivation isn’t exactly bursting through the roof to trade another hefty sum of prospects like he did for Matt Garza.
Door #2 is conservative — something the Ranger Front Office is not — but it could also prove to be the most deft option of the three. Logically speaking, it’s hard to imagine the Garza trade was something Daniels & Co. envisioned standing on its own; all signs pointed to improving the club for a 2013 stretch run.
However, since the trade went down (through no fault of Matt Garza), the Rangers have lost 2.0 games in the standings to the Athletics. A 5.0-game lead probably isn’t substantial enough to abandon all hope, but with a mere 58 games (36%) left on the schedule, it’s only going to get tougher.
Door #3 is probably too radical to actually occur in reality, but it wouldn’t be the craziest concept to exercise. If you can receive over-market value on players like Nathan, Pierzynski, or even Alexi Ogando, it would help the Rangers stock up on more Minor League currency to inevitably flip in an offseason trade for David Price or Giancarlo Stanton.
But the impact would be seen as negative. Ostensibly it would be taken as the Rangers giving up on their season … and that’s why it won’t happen.
You be the judge.
You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead— your next stop, the Twilight Zone . . . .