The Worst-Case Scenario


Okay, one last article before I leave on my endeavor into Surprise. I can only hope the weather stays sunny and in the low 60’s like it’s predicted to. Anyway, I’m not quite sure if I’m writing this for the caution of the general fan, or if I’m doing it to temper my own excitement. Lately I’ve felt pretty optimistic about the 2013 season, despite some of my nit-picky criticisms of various Ranger’s. Heading into Surprise, I feel almost like I’m eagerly trying to convince myself that I’ll be watching firsthand a team that could be making a deep postseason run. I truly believe this team has enough talent to make the playoffs. After that? It’s a crapshoot, so we can only wish for our team to be invited to the dance.

Unfortunately baseball rarely works out the way you want it to, so there is also a severely ominous foreshadowing of the new year. Here are a few players we are counting on to bang and not bust:

1. Lance Berkman. What exactly are you expecting him to be? To me, he’s more of a single’s and double’s hitter who will supply occasional home run power (15-20, let’s say). Based on most I’ve read from the Durrett’s and Sullivan’s, he will play defense only sparingly; maybe 5-10 starts at first base, at the most.

The flip side to Berkman’s season is that his knees are in worse shape than we are aware of, and that he can’t stay healthy enough to be in the lineup every day. He has an elite career walk rate (~15%), so at the very least, when he’s in the lineup, he should be able to get on base at a solid frequency. But if he proves not to be healthy enough, we essentially sank $11 million of payroll that could have been used elsewhere.

2. The starting rotation plummets into oblivion, leaving the rest of us smashing our palms against our foreheads. Let’s face it, although we — as Rangers fans — believe in our starting staff, there is a twisted scenario where Yu Darvish can’t locate, Matt Harrison comes back to earth, and Derek Holland fails to improve. This could be one of the stronger rotations in the American League. It could also be the team’s achilles heel.

3. Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz turn into complete wastes of money. 2013 is the last year of Nelson Cruz’s contract; it’s also the beginning of Ian Kinsler’s 5-year, $70 million extension. Being that 2012 appeared to be a down year for each of them, perhaps it was more a sign of what’s to come. Cruz and Kinsler each evolved past the level of “good” player into finer air around the time Texas reached the World Series in 2010 (and 2011). They each gave their share of magical moments. Maybe that was their peak. Right there. Maybe 2012 is a better representation of what’s to come than their impressive track records. Maybe Nolan Ryan will take matters into his own hands and sign himself to a prorated contract while the team flounders mid-April. Who knows? It could happen.

4. Leonys Martin stinks, and Craig Gentry reincarnates into something less productive. As much as we throw dirt on the legacy of Josh Hamilton in Texas, his +4.0 fWAR production cannot go unnoticed. Craig Gentry has greatly overachieved since he’s been on the Rangers, and all Leonys Martin has proved himself to be is a AAAA outfielder. We are banking a lot on this platoon filling the Hamiltonian-sized void in the outfield. Maybe they wilt.

Will all of this happen? No. Will any of it happen? Possibly.

If the Rangers were in the story of the 3 Little Pigs, their house would definitely be stronger than hay, but not quite rock solid. Malleability is at play. The only constant in a game like baseball is change; players will constantly rise and fall; a player or two will break out; a player or two will underachieve. It’s all about suppressing the leaks in the machine.

Just like in life, there are very few guarantees. There are probabilities and near certainties, but minimal absolutes. For instance, I think it’s safe to say that if the Rangers fail to make the postseason in 2013, Ron Washington will be fired. I’ve always been under the assumption that Mike Maddux will be the next Ranger manager, with his Hall-of-Fame brother Greg sliding in as the pitching coach. (Maybe that’s too obvious.)

Washington would take the fall for the team’s (lack of) success, but not before some of his players are shipped out of town. If the Rangers are out of contention come trade deadline time, you can pretty much kiss Elvis Andrus, David Murphy and Nelson Cruz goodbye. Same goes for Joe Nathan. And if the prospect haul was enough, either Alexi Ogando or Derek Holland as well. The Rangers would look vastly different.

It would be an apocalypse of unfathomable measures.

The Texas Rangers, as we know them, would crumple up into a consolidated little ball and get sucked into a black hole, erasing itself from existence. Literally. Every time you drove by the ballpark, all you’d see is a bunch of fires illuminating off in the distance, and a hurricane of tumbleweeds bombarding your SUV. Utter chaos.

It would be crazy, your honor.

Also, slightly off topic — NolanWritin’ has recently started an Instagram page, so if you are familiar, I encourage you to follow @nolanwritin.