Dirk Nowitzki – the Big German, the Dunking Deutschman, Dallas’ Chosen One – once emphatically screamed, “Shut it down – let’s go home” after a Brandan Wright alley-oop during a 2012 Mavs television broadcast. Dirk knew it, the fans knew it, the Minnesota Timberwolves knew it: the game was over.
The calendar may say August, but the Texas Rangers are smack dab in the middle of March, mixing and matching rookies in the starting lineup like a patchwork quilt. Accompanying the carousel of rookies is a staple of veterans enduring Texas’ worst season in decades. Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios, and Shin-Soo Choo have managed to fight the injury bug plaguing the Rangers’ dugout and remain in the starting lineup for the majority of the 2014 campaign. The veterans’ tenacity and dedication to their craft is duly noted, but at this point, with the season handcuffed to baseball’s cellar, what’s the point?
What’s to gain from trotting out the 1st, 4th, and 8th oldest players on the roster every day in the blistering heat during a lost season?
There’s quite a bit to lose, actually.
- Adrian Beltre’s oft-injured hamstrings, which have spent more time out of baseball than Alex Rodriguez.
- Elvis Andrus’ arm, which prevented him from a throwing program last offseason.
- Shin-Soo Choo’s fragile ankle, which has clung on like a needy ex since an injury four months ago.
- The investment in Alex Rios, who was not traded despite abundant interest in an effort to bolster the 2015 starting lineup.
According to Thad Levine in last week’s Reddit.com’s AMA, the Texas Rangers Front Office instructed Ron Washington to adjust his goals for this season, to focus instead on the development of younger players. The main benefactor of this adjustment is Jim Adduci, who has seen substantial playing time despite lackluster performance.
However, simply handing Adduci more playing time is not enough. Once the rosters expand on September 1st, the Big 4 (Beltre, Andrus, Rios, and Choo) should be relegated to part-time bench duty for a week until being shut down altogether for the concluding weeks of the season.
Because, right now, winning is our enemy.
The Texas Rangers currently star in the role of Worst Team in the League, previously held by the Chicago Cubs and our unfriendly neighbors, the Houston Astros. But being the worst has its perks:
- 1st overall pick in the June 2015 draft
- Largest draft budget for the first 10 rounds
- Largest international free agent budget
- 1st pick in the Rule 5 Draft
- Top waiver claim position for the entire off-season and April 2015
By forcing – and I mean forcing – the Big 4 to grab some pine, there is a two-fold benefit: (1) the ability to play developing players in the major leagues to better understand their role in 2015 and (2) the preemptive strike against injury to ensure the Big 4 among others are ready and healthy for Opening Day 2015.
So shut it down and go home. Let the rooks get their chance.