I was recently on a cigarette break with a couple of my dealer friends; one of them is older, in his mid-30’s. He’s been a dealer for about 5 years. The other is a bit younger and heavy set. He’s my best buddy in the industry. (He also doesn’t smoke. He was just hanging out on a break.)
So he asked me — this being my closer friend of the two — “How’s business been, or, I mean, your Rangers website?”
I said, “Good, actually. Well, except the Rangers have been playing like shit. But that’s usually a good thing for writing purposes: It makes me feel like I’m a little depressed teenager again. I write better that way.”
You can question my ability or non-ability as a writer. That’s your right either way, but it’s not really the point.
The point is, the Rangers have been stinking up the joint in September, and it’s always easier — for me, at least — to write when my team is playing poorly as opposed to well. That’s just the way it is. When I’m happy, it’s harder to produce content without sounding annoyingly repetitive and homer-ish.
Friday night’s loss in Kansas City doesn’t sting as much as, say, two nights ago in Tampa, but it does leave an impression. Notably, Ron Washington‘s decision to bring on Neftali Feliz in the bottom of the 8th inning, with two outs, a 1-1 tie, and the bases loaded. Feliz threw four pitches — all balls. And the game’s eventual winning run scored. The Rangers lost 2-1.
If I’m surprised by anything at this stage of the season, it’s the unwavering support many Ranger fans still have for Washington. It’s become an annual struggle within the fan base, whether it be the pro-Michael Young crowd vs. the anti-Michael Young faction, or the pro-Jon Daniels vs. anti-Jon Daniels crowds. Now it’s Wash supporters against the Wash detractors.
It’s true, the Rangers only scored 1 run on Friday. Teams don’t win many games that way. But again, that’s not the point.
We have to take every game, every situation, for what it’s worth. Last night in Tampa Bay, Ron Washington summoned Tanner Scheppers into the game with a 7-2 lead in the 8th inning. In the 9th, he brought on his closer, Joe Nathan, to lock down an 8-2 advantage. Both relievers had thrown two days in a row before those appearances, and as it played out, neither were available on Friday. It was both predictable and fitting that the game would hinge on high-stress at bats in the game’s penultimate inning where neither of Texas’s two late-inning guns would be able to pitch.
And, as such, it was Jason Frasor who threw 30 pitches, loaded the bases, and forced Washington’s hand to bring on his former closer to try and shut the door. That being Neftali Feliz:
Hell of a time to call on Neftali Feliz. First five appearances this year: down two, down eight, down six, down seven, down four. #rangers
— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) September 21, 2013
Sure, Neftali is/was a “closer” by trade. Yet, in 2011 — the last year he closed games out for the Rangers — he inherited 7 runners in scoring position all season long. Essentially, Ron Washington asked a pitcher freshly removed from Tommy John surgery to come on in a high-leverage moment he rarely experienced even when he was the team’s shutdown arm.
Sure, I know what you’re thinking: This author will go out of his way to shit on the Rangers manager, no matter what. He can’t accept that the player failed.
The thing is, I’m big on process. If the process is reasonable and the player fails, fine. But if the process is poor, if the decision-making is flawed, then yeah, your team deserves for the worst-case scenario to happen. Sometimes the process is awful and the player comes through, but that doesn’t mean it was the right decision.
On Friday, Ron Washington had neither his setup man nor his closer available because he chose to pitch them both the night before — for the 3rd day in a row, apiece — in a game that was already secure. That is a poor process, and the Rangers deserved to lose on Friday.
They deserved the lose because their manager failed to put his players in the best position to succeed.