The Best, Most Frustrating Team, Ever
By Eric Reining
Let’s get a few things out of the way:
(1) The Rangers are 67-48. They hold a 6-game division lead on the Athletics, and are 7
on top the third-place Angels.
(2) Right now Texas is 1.5 games behind the Yankees in the race for the top seed in the
American League playoff pool.
(3) I’m not mad.
However, I do not understand this team, and I’m not sure — between now and the end of the regular season — if I will at all. I don’t understand the erratic performances of some of the players, and I don’t understand some of the choices Ron Washington has been making, particularly of late. Suffice to say: I. Don’t. Know.
I wish I could say I had a reference to look back at as some sort of tool of guidance to better help my confoundedness, but the fact remains that the Rangers have never been this good, or this talented. For nearly the entirety of my existence as a Rangers fan, which began back in ’96 (their first playoff season), they’ve kept company with some of the worst teams in baseball. They could hit with anyone, sure, but that meant nothing when the team ERA perpetually hovered around the 5.5 mark. I admit the Rangers were much more
interesting to watch when it felt as if every game had some special intrinsic value; now that the Rangers are good, I’ll likely never feel that way again watching a regular season game. From 2000-2009, the Rangers were expected to lose more often than they won. And to that end, the wins seemed to hold more weight than they actually should have, because the expectations were so low. Being that, now, the expected result on any given night is a win, the losses tend to lead to knee-jerk overreactions and pseudo-pessimism amongst a fan base that’s far less appreciative than it should be, and far more greedy than it ought to be.
But I understand. It can be frustrating.
We’ve seen incredible individual performances this year. Josh Hamilton’s production in the first two months of the season may very well not be duplicated by an individual for the next ten years. He was that good. Then, unbeknownst to anyone (other than himself, maybe), his bat fell off the face of the earth through June and July. He’s started to pick it up in August, hitting at a triple slash line of .320/.382/.580 (158 wRc+), but I’m not sure if any of the conspiracy theories relating to his lack of performance justify what was happening with him. Just strange.
How about Yu Darvish? I’ll be the first to admit that my expectations for him could have been considered irrational before the season began, but all that would be saying is that I’m like most every other Rangers fan who saw some of his highlights from Japan. He’s put together a sample size large enough to give a fair rookie assessment, and in his 140.2 innings he’s complied an ERA of 4.54, juxtaposing some great strikeout totals (10.36/9IP) by an atrocious walk rate (5.05/9IP). His xFIP (3.9) and SIERA (3.92) indicate that his ERA should shoot down a tad before the season ends, but for a guy known to have impeccable control while in Japan, his results have clearly not yet translated up to this point. Can we explain this discrepancy by the differently-sized American ball, or different-sized mound? Perhaps. Can we attribute the struggles to facing better competition? Again, probably. If I had to guess, I would say it’s a combination of all the above. He is a rookie, after all.
Lastly, Ron Washington. Every day before Wash’s lineup is released, I get that vague hopeless-excited feeling that maybe, just maybe, Michael Young won’t be a part of it. Sadly, I’ve been let down in 111 of the 115 games the Rangers have played thus far into the season. I’ve made no bones about my disliking for Young (the player), as it’s an inarguable fact that he’s been the worst DH in the American League this season, and the worst everyday player in all of baseball (-1.6 fWAR). Since Ron Washington declared last week that David Murphy will be something of an everyday player patrolling left field from here on out, we’re left with Craig Gentry (.324/.396/.416, 122 wRc+/2.7 fWAR), the club’s best defensive outfielder and most dangerous base-running threat, left in the cold doldrums of the Rangers current three-man bench. Oh, and remember that top-flight prospect, Mike Olt (Content courtesy of Joey Matschulat of Baseball Time in Arlington)? You know, the one that Jon Daniels was absolutely unwilling to offer up in any trades two weeks ago? Yeah, he’s not seeing playing time, either. Olt’s two greatest strengths are hitting for power and drawing walks. Michael Young’s two greatest weaknesses are, yeah, you guessed it, hitting for power and drawing walks. Now, think to yourself what primary offensive role the DH is supposed to carry, and then contemplate just what in the hell Ron Washington is doing with Young in that spot every day. I just don’t get it.
All this said, I still hold out some inexplicable, intuitive feeling inside me that says the Rangers are, somehow, going to find a way to conquer the American League again. I think, somehow, that Josh Hamilton is going to be the best September/October player in baseball, and prove to the masses why he deserves to be amongst the highest-paid ballplayers this offseason. I think, somehow, for all Yu Darvish’s control issues, that he’s going to be a dominant force by the time the postseason begins. And I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic that, somehow, Ron Washington will come to his senses for the betterment of the ball club, and substantially cut Michael Young’s playing time before the postseason begins.
Call me dumb, call me unrealistic, call me irrational, but that’s what makes me a Rangers fan, I suppose.