Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Andrus has reached career crossroads

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 season has been a very disappointing one for the Texas Rangers.

I’m definitely not surprising anyone by opening with that. I don’t feel the need to go down the path of explaining how injuries have upended what, at first, looked like a very promising campaign.

I’d be doing nothing but beating the dead horse and repeating what many writers, fans and Rangers personnel have said. So, I’ll leave it at that.

But not only has it been a disappointing season because of the numbers that stand in the win and loss columns, it has been a disappointing season – so far – for a few guys who were expected to take that next step in their careers.

We’ll focus on one Elvis Andrus.

Andrus was called up to the Major Leagues in 2009, when he was just a pup at 20 years old. He had a slash line of .267/.329/.373 that first year, numbers that are very solid considering his inexperience at the big league level, and his youth.

His glove was also a plus. He has great range, a lethal arm and can make that jump-throw deep in the hole between third and short that mirrors the legendary Derek Jeter.

Andrus’ only issue at the time was his maturity level, which was understandable considering his young age. Unfortunately, that is still his problem in 2014.

Ron Washington and the coaching staff had to stay on him about his focus, attention to detail and overall effort. Andrus would make the tough plays look easy, but he would also be lackadaisical on the routine plays and make silly errors.

Unfortunately, that is still the problem in 2014.

The thought on Andrus at the plate was that he would eventually progress into a very good gap hitter to both fields, with his innate ability to drive the ball to the opposite field at will.

The belief was he would have some more pop in his bat – he wasn’t going to ever hit a lot of home runs, by any means – but his body would fill out over the next few years and it would only add another dimension to his offensive game.

While he has filled out physically, his preparation at the plate took a back seat. It’s been talked about how he treats batting practice.

According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the first round of Elvis’ batting practice sessions involved nothing other than getting loose, which included simply nubbing a few dribblers off his bat.

After a heart-to-heart meeting with Washington and hitting instructor Dave Magadan recently, that approach has changed.

You hear a lot about the greats and how seriously they said the preparation part of the game was. How Cal Ripken would take grounders as if it were Game 7 of the World Series and treated each batting practice pitch as if it were a 3-2 pitch with two out in the bottom of the ninth.

The physical tools are there. Andrus just needs to make the most out of them.

To see a prime example of getting the most out of your talent, Andrus need not look any further than former teammate Michael Young.

Young was an average baseball talent, at best, but he got every drip of that talent out and it is what has made him one of the greatest players to ever put on a Rangers jersey.

The remainder of the 2014 season just may be a tryout for Andrus all over again. His contract extension that was signed just after his career year in 2012, all eight years and $118 million of it, kicks in next season.

There have been whispers of the Rangers considering dealing Andrus in the offseason – or even at this year’s trade deadline – and eating a portion of that contract as they did Alex Rodriguez when they dealt him to the Yankees prior to the 2004 season.

Whether or not those rumors are true doesn’t really matter. Andrus has some self-evaluation to do, and hopefully that “look yourself in the mirror” moment has already happened.

The only person that can get Andrus back on the right track, play up to his potential and show he is worth that contract extension is, you guessed, Andrus himself.

Regardless of their record, there are many storylines to keep Rangers fans entertained throughout the remainder of the season. Where Andrus goes from here is certainly one of them.

Hopefully, he gets things back on track and he stays on track. If not, I hear the Yankees will be looking for a shortstop this fall.

Tags: Elvis Andrus Ron Washington Texas Rangers

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