|It's been a long winter for baseball fans especially
fans that root for teams that perennially end up
at the bottom of the standings. The cry is always: "Wait 'til
next year! That's where I have found myself for the past several
years with the Texas Rangers.
Hope is never ending for Ranger fans as they have teased us with the
long ball and all kind of potential, but we always seem to
under-achieve. Alex Rodriguez was added to a division winning
team a few years ago. Look out World Series here we come.
That was to be our year and the result was (gulp) last place.
Surely, it would get better, right? Think again:
I'm not saying that 2008 looks any better. We do however have a
going into the season than we had last year, so maybe that will
help. The pitching is again a question mark. Pitchers Kevin
Millwood and Vicente Padilla have the potential and a track record that
says that they can compete. Both had injuries las year so it has
been a while since they have been on top of their game.
Jason Jennings has potential, but is also coming off an injury marred
with the Houston Astros last year, so who knows what we can expect from
him? If he can get
back to where he was in 2006, 212 innings and a 3.78 ERA, he will be a
good addition to the rotation.
- Last place in 2001
- Last place in 2002
- Last place in 2003
- Third place in 2004 and a
winning record. All right, things are getting better, right?
- Third place again in 2005, but
a losing record. Now we're going backwards
- Third place again in 2006 and
we still had a losing record. No October games for the Rangers
- Last place in 2007. this
has not been a good decade
The fourth and fifth starter had a little experience in 2007 and did
OK with Texas, but will be starting out this season as rookies holding
back of the rotation. Louis Mendoza opened a lot of eyes in
September last year, but that is just September. The good news is
strong performance this spring has convinced the club that he is ready
to make the jump from Double A to the majors permanent.
Kason Gabbard, a left handed pitcher who came to the Rangers last year
in the Eric Gagne' trade has had a tough spring, but his last couple of
outings has looked like he is starting to get his rhythm. If he
and Mendoza can start the season and live up to expectations, this
could be a year of imporvement for the Rangers. I admit that that
is a pretty big "if."
The first full year for a young pitcher is not always a promise of
stellar performances. Usually, this will be a time of growing
starters position for these two youngsters, but that should bode well
In addition, Brandon McCarthy is a pitcher with talent that we are
excited to see pitch this year when he is healthy. Unfortunately,
Brandon will start
the season on the disabled list. Hopefully, he won't be needed,
but Rangers history tells us that he will get his chance to pitch
extensively this year due to injury or the ineffectiveness of the other
Reasons for Encouragement
No, I am not giving up on this season before it begins. The team
has good position players who, if they play up to their potential, will
good offensively and will score a lot of runs. In addition, the
teams bullpen is a bright spot with J.C. Wilson as closer and Joaquin
Benoit as the primary set up man. Veteran starter Jamey
Wright seems to have made the transition to the bullpen after a late
season audition in the pen last year. He has pitched well from
the pen, both last year and during the spring this year and most
important is that he seems to be excited about the change. He is
looking forward to being a part of the team this year and using his
time more productively.
In addition, Hank Blalock will be back at third base after losing most
of the season last year due to injury. Early indication is that
he has fully recovered from surgery and is pounding the baseball again
as he did before the injuries.
Good new players making the club this year including David Murphy, Josh
Hamilton, and Jason Botts have great promise. Other players with
great potential are on the doorstep waiting for the Rangers call.
Players like catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia,
second baseman German Duran and
pitcher Eric Hurley at Triple A Oklahoma and first baseman Chris Davis
at Double A may be the best of the almost ready for the major leagues
players. We anticipate that any one or all of these players may
be with the club before the season is over. If they are that
means the big club has had some problems with injuries or they are out
of the race for meaningful September games or post season games.
If that happens, we'll see some player changes and we will also
probably see some of these new players on the Rangers as well.
Ultimately, that will help them get their feet on the ground in the
major leagues for next year and for years to come.
Returning veterans are also reasons for hope. Michael Young has
developed into a hitting machine with five straight years with 200 or
more hits and an average of 97 RBI's over the past four years which
makes him one of the best players in the league. Ian Kinsler
looks like he has made the transition to the major leagues and is
fitting into the lead off spot this year after a 20 home run, 20 stolen
base season last year and Gerald Laird at catcher looks ready to assert
himself this year. New addition Milton Bradley is coming off knee
surgery during the off-season. If healthy, he will add pop in the
line-up possibly in the DH role to begin with and the field as
his knee allows. Bradley has a history as a solid player with a
high on base percentage and RBI's throughout his career.
Realistically however, the Rangers will be continuing their rebuilding
process this year and probably even next year before we can expect any
advances towards post season play. The good news is that the farm
packed with potential and many are getting close to being major league
ready even though they may still a couple of years away. That
gives us all a reason for hope.
Whichever way you look at it, this is
going to be an exciting year for
the Rangers. They may end up in last place again, but they will
be a better club at the end of the year than they are now. It
also help set the stage for next year with more good young players and
a greater chance to see the post season. In the meantime, we are
predicting a better than expected third place finish for the team with
a record of 82 and 80.
By the way, the 2008 season starts this Monday March 31st in
Seattle. The opening day pitcher
for the Rangers this year will be Kevin Millwood. He seems to be
healthy after a hamstring pull early in spring training and pitching
well so let's hope we get the year off to a good start with a win over
a division rival.