Five days ago, I wrote an article about adjusting our expectations due to all the injuries the Rangers have sustained this spring training (here). At the time, the Rangers had been beset by a number of seeming small, nagging injuries. There seemed to be no reason for alarm, it’s just spring training after all. The injuries in question seemed to be the type that players would play through once the games mattered.
That was then, as they say. Since I wrote that article, Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto have each gone down for 12 weeks, Engel Beltre broke his tibia and Yu Darvish was scratched from his Opening Day start and could be headed to the Disabled List. Yeah, just your typical spring training.
So now, as the team prepares to pack up and (thankfully) leave Arizona behind for the friendly confines of Arlington, you can’t blame Ranger fans for waiting for the other shoe to drop. By other shoe, I mean, like an entire truck full of shoes. Cement shoes.
It’s hard to imagine that things could get worse, but if this spring training has taught us anything, there’s always something worse. So, with a great deal of trepidation, I look into my Magic 8 ball and ask: What else can go wrong?
1. Mike Maddux has to consider coming out of retirement just to fill out the pitching staff.
I’m not being funny. Yu Darvish’s injury could land him on the DL. It is still unclear if Colby Lewis will be an effective big league pitcher again. Matt Harrison still isn’t ready. Derek Holland is out for half a season and Tommy Hanson is still hoping to regain the ability that once made him a rising star. All the injuries have allowed/forced Texas to convert two of their best relievers, Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross (probably) into starters. Can they sustain the increased workload or will they also break down? Jon Daniels, in an effort to bolster pitching depth, is in contract talks with former Twin Scott Baker, who is trying to overcome elbow injuries. Yeah, just what we need, another injured pitcher.
2. The bullpen crumbles after being lights out in 2013.
The high hopes for a return to form for Neftali Feliz are rapidly deflating. Joakim Soria has earned the closer’s job and Feliz is headed to Round Rock to try to get his stuff back online. Scheppers and Ross will be starters and Joe Nathan is a Tiger now. It’s already unrealistic to expect the Ranger ‘pen to duplicate their fantastic 2013 campaign. Now, with some of the best arms from that ‘pen in different roles or different uniforms, it becomes harder to see the bullpen as the plus it was a year ago.
3. Prince Fielder is a bust
The Fielder-Kinsler trade has never sat quite right with me. Admittedly, I’ve never really followed Prince Fielder’s career, but I always viewed him as a mouthy malcontent and doubted that he would ever be happy here. I’ve also feared that a guy that big was a career altering leg injury just waiting to happen. Could one or both of those reasons be why the Tigers were so happy to get rid of him?
Let’s face it, as much as we all loved Ian Kinsler, before he started talking anyway, Fielder for Kinsler straight up was a pretty uneven trade. Now, how one-sided is a Kinsler for Fielder AND $30 million deal? There has to be something we’re not seeing, right?
Fielder appears to be a great pickup, he fills a major need both offensively and defensively and Globe Life Park seems to fit him perfectly. What if he does turn out to be a clubhouse cancer and his trade was addition by subtraction for the Tigers? Worse yet, in the year of the injury, what if Fielder does finally breakdown from carrying all that weight? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
4. The kids aren’t alright
The 2014 Rangers look to be young, and good. Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, Robinison Chirinos, Michael Choice, Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross. Those guys look like a pretty good nucleus for the next decade of Real Texas Baseball. There’s even more young talent, like Nick Williams, waiting in the wings. Yet history tells us that most of those guys probably won’t realize their full potential. As it stands now, the Rangers will need to rely heavily on those young guys, with the exception of the injured Profar, at least in the early season. If those young guys can’t at least hold their own in the early going, this season could be over before it starts.
5. The Ron Washington hot seat starts to heat up
Wash’s name is already being bandied about. Now imagine that the Rangers stumble out of the gate while one of our division rivals starts hot. An Angels-like start to the season could doom the team’s playoff hopes quickly. The result would be a season full of will they or won’t they drama that would only serve to make matters worse. Or, the team could make a quick change and the Rangers would have to adjust to a new leader. Neither scenario paints a pretty picture for the season.
6. Old ghosts come back to haunt.
C.J. Wilson wins 25 and a Cy Young. Josh Hamilton is born again, again, and is AL MVP as the Angels run away with the division title. In Detroit, Ian Kinsler finds himself and Joe Nathan continues to shut down opponents as the Tigers win the Central. Ranger fans are forced to sit home and watch as two of our rivals, led by some of our former heroes, battle each other for the World Series trip that was supposed to be ours this year.
7. The Rangers make it to the World Series and lose. To the Cubs.
No. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. This will not happen. WILL NOT. You hear me baseball gods? You can’t do that to us. Don’t even joke about it.
I’m scared now. What do you think Ranger fans? What are the nightmare scenarios that keep you up at night?