Tag Archive: AL West


Hamil-done: Hit It and Quit It

-Obligatory disclaimer that I wish Josh Hamilton all the best and that his recovery is the most important thing. Pretend it’s an entire paragraph if you like.-

This is not the place to debate whether drug and alcohol addiction is a disease akin to cancer, or a result of a weak moral constitution. Because the truth is, when it comes to Josh Hamilton, it doesn’t matter. Both possibilities are damning to the point where it is time for the Rangers to seriously consider cuttting ties with their most popular player.

It seems that there are many fans out there that are once again willing to forgive and embrace. For them, Hamilton is the tragic hero, constantly at war with his inner demons that threaten always to ruin him once and for all. Many will point to his religious zeal as proof that he really is a “good person” (whatever that means) whose mistakes are unfairly amplified because of his place in the spotlight. But there is another growing faction of people out here in Ranger nation that is simply tired of all the drama. There are those of us “skeptics” who tend to see Hamilton’s Christianity as nothing more than an attempt to replace one addiction with another. Most importantly, there are probably more than a few fans, players, and front office people who have grown weary of the constant distractions. The fact that this team has proven to be incredibly resilient in the past doesn’t mean that it should have to be all of the time. But on the eve of what is arguably the most important season in Texas Ranger history, on the eve of what is unquestionably the most important season of Hamilton’s professional career, he once again found his way to a bar, then called a teammate to come–what? Save him? Help him? Dote on him? Who knows any more.

We know he drank. We know he makes bad decisions when he drinks. The rumors indicate that this particular story could get much, much worse for Hamilton before it is all over. Two months after losing his babysitter accountability partner, he can be found drinking and allegedly having sex in a public restroom. Considering the timing of this incident, one thing has become perfectly clear; you cannot trust Josh Hamilton. Maybe he can’t stop. Maybe he can’t control himself. Maybe he chooses not to. But whether he can’t or he won’t, one thing has become abundantly clear: he isn’t. If his marriage, his family, his career, and reputation are all at the mercy of alcohol, then his story truly is tragic. If he too short-sighted, too weak-willed, too immature to deal with life’s difficult issues head on and instead chooses to resort to drunken oblivion, then his story is pathetic. It may matter in the way you judge him as a person, but it is completely irrelevant from a baseball standpoint.

There is simply no way the Rangers can commit to Hamilton long term any more. Think about it; is it really that difficult to imagine a scenario where this latest alleged incident costs him his marriage (after all, even the Bible allows for divorce in the case of infidelity) and his family? If that happens, does anyone really trust him to handle it responsibly? The possibilities are terrifying.

Hamilton has said more than once that he is trying to take responsibility for his actions. But that would include acknowledging that one of the reasons he cannot be counted on to play 150 games a season is because of the incredible trauma he’s put his body through by injecting and ingesting untold amounts of poison. Maybe someone will overlook his fragility and break the bank for him if he makes it to free agency in 2012. But he shouldn’t be asking the Rangers to do it. Not after the faith they’ve shown in him despite what he continues to put them through.

Maybe Josh Hamilton is the victim of a terrible disease. Maybe it’s his own fault. Either way, that ancient dating rule applies; you can date crazy, you can have a little fun with crazy, but you don’t marry crazy. Signing Hamilton to anything other than a 2-3 year deal would be marrying crazy, and it’s something this Rangers organization cannot afford to do. It doesn’t matter why he can’t stop. It only matters that he can’t.

 

Obligatory “Yu” Pun

Yu is here. You are here. Grammatically, his presence confuses me. But as a Rangers fan, I have never been more excited for a season. Even going into 2011, I did not really consider the Texas Rangers to be the favorite to return to the World Series. 2010 felt magical-like lightning in a bottle. The story was perfect: from bankrupt to flush with cash, from lacking a true ace to Cliff Lee, etc. Granted, they fell just short to San Francisco, but that almost didn’t matter. More than any other sport (except maybe college football), the series that decides the champion feels like an exhibition; the rules literally change from game to game, based on a home field advantage that is decided in a nonsensical format. In baseball, the league championship is almost enough, and the way the Rangers dominated the Yankees, culminating in the most memorable at bat A-Rod ever had at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, brought most of us a singular moment that even a World Series championship might not match.

There were greater forces at work in 2010. Without an ace, the Rangers entered 2011 as playoff hopefuls, but certainly not favorites to return to the World Series. We all watched, wondering if the pitching staff would hold up, wondering if Beltre would be worth the new contract, wondering how Michael Young would respond to his new role after another rocky off season, wondering about the depth of the bullpen, wondering if we really needed Mike Napoli.

This year looks different. With the addition of Darvish, it is hard to find a serious question mark on this Rangers roster. The infield is young, has incredible range, and remarkable chemistry. The outfield is deep. The starting rotation has enough depth that the phrase “6-man rotation” has been thrown around, and with Ogando likely back in the bullpen taking the ball from the starters, then handing off to Adams who hands off to Nathan, opposing line-ups will have to be more aggressive earlier in the game. The Rangers boast the best pitching coach in baseball, the best motivational manager, the best GM, and still have depth to spare in the farm system. All that adds up to the Texas Rangers entering 2012 as the clear favorite to win the AL for a third straight year.

There are certainly plenty of question marks for the skeptics to point to. But as we’ve learned over the past few years, whenever the Rangers have questions, the answer is almost always a resounding “yes”. So expect Nathan to be an above average closer. Expect Feliz to hold down the 5th spot in the rotation, with occasional flashes of brilliance. Expect Hamilton to miss 30-50 games, but expect Murphy, Gentry, and maybe Martin step in and hold down the fort (maybe Moreland as well, especially if there is a new 1st baseman on the roster on opening day…). And then there’s Yu. I expect Yu to be dominant early, given his stuff and that MLB hitters have never seen him. He will likely hit a wall around July, and perhaps be skipped in the rotation a few times (assuming that pitching depth is still in tact, this won’t be a problem). How he responds after half a season of ballpark heat, 4-day rest, and the inevitable adversity that will come once hitters get a book on him will tell us how great he can truly be. But here’s the bottom line; if JD wants him, you should too. Yes, he could fail. He could be Chan Ho Park II. But the worst part about the Park years wasn’t Chan Ho himself; it was the Rangers ownership deciding that because Chan Ho failed, they would no longer spend on free agents. That won’t happen under this ownership.

The future is bright, but the time is now. If you and I are still haunted by game 6, imagine how the Rangers brain trust must feel. I still have this sneaking suspension that they will steal Fielder and deal with the financial consequences later. At any rate, the longer Oswalt and Fielder sit on the market, the more likely it becomes that the Rangers get the one they want. But even without them, this Rangers season will be the most entertaining one in history. Sell your Cowboys season tickets; it’s time to re-invest in the best run franchise of the city. It’s time to become a baseball town.

Miggs and the Rangers

Musings, Insight, Guffaws, Guidance and Shortcomings (MIGGS): Flinging my Rangers thoughts at your sports face for a Jackson Pollock of a blog post

1. The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Rangers appear to be the clear winners. It will be interesting to see just how long Feliz is allowed to struggle in the closer’s role before Washington considers making a change now that he has two other guys who can close. If that happens, what becomes of Feliz? Can he recover to be an effective 8th inning reliever, or is it all or nothing with Nefti? Will the trade energize him or discourage him? It is hard to predict how young players will react, and anyone who believes that part of Feliz’s struggles stem from the spring training-starter experiment must have serious questions about his mental make up.

2. This is how I know that I am a “glass half empty” kind of Rangers fan: every time I heard about Jurickson Profar being untouchable at the trade deadline, it made me sad. Not because I think he’ll be a bust, or because I think the Rangers should have moved him, but because I realize that the team might need him in 2014. I hope that Texas isn’t just grooming Elvis Andrus to be Jeter’s heir-apparent in New York, but there has to be some part of the Rangers front office that is considering this possibility. I’m not saying that is the only reason Profar is untouchable, but it might be a factor.

3. If the playoffs started today, my rotation would be Ogando, Wilson, Harrison, Holland, with Lewis in the bullpen prepared to back up Holland, who would be on a very short leash. When the Dutch Oven is on, he can be dominant. When he’s not, it’s obvious from the start (if he struggles through 2 innings, pull him…even if he’s working out of jams).¬† I’m pretty sure the Rangers will go Wilson, Lewis, Ogando, and Harrison because of the experience factor, but I really believe Ogando’s power will translate well to playoff baseball, and I think Holland is a risk worth taking. With all due respect to Colby Lewis, he simply isn’t the same pitcher as last year. His numbers are a bit skewed (positively) because of the high percentage of solo homers allowed, but playoff teams will get runners on base.

4. It’s time to move Kinsler from the lead-off spot. His .344 OBP is right around the league average, but his swing is gone. Dropping him in the line up will take some pressure off and hopefully allow him to find his stroke again. Andrus can easily transition back into the lead off spot until Ian gets back on track. There is no question Kinsler is having a gold glove caliber season defensively, and that’s why Washington can’t afford to sit him too often. His only real option is to drop him in the order.

5. Beltre cannot come back soon enough.

6. Before the start of last season, the Rangers could have fired Ron Washington after his failed drug test became public. They chose not to, and the team went to its first World Series. Had they chosen to let Washington go, however, they likely would’ve promoted hitting coach Clint Hurdle to the manager position. I’m not saying I’d rather have Hurdle than Washington, but given the success he is having in Pittsburgh…well, let’s just say I think we’d be in good shape either way.

7. If the Rangers do make the playoffs, Torreabla better be glued to the bench. Napoli is hitting–but more importantly, he is calling one hell of a game right now. The Rangers pitchers have a collective ERA of around 2.4 when Napoli is behind the plate and is an every day must start in the post season.

8. This team sacrifices too much. The line up is too good to be surrendering outs to opposing pitchers. Ron has to learn to trust his hitters more.

Touched by the Angels

(just pretend I made a clever pun on "Wells")

It’s hard to get too worked up over one loss in July, especially when it signals the end of a 12-game winning streak. Sooner or later, someone in the rotation was bound to have an off night. The past 3 weeks of Ranger baseball shifted so much focus onto the talent of this rotation that it may have caused many to forget¬† just how young it actually is. Maybe there is no reason for angst over 1 game in July that marked the end of a historic run of pitching, defense, and winning; after all, this team has shown incredible resiliency under Ron Washington, whether it be in the face of on-field adversity or real life tragedy.

On the other hand, last night certainly felt like more than just .62% of the 2011 season. The fact that it came against the only other credible threat in the division hurts. With more than half of the game complete, the Rangers had a five run lead, and the Angels were reeling. The top of the 5th could have easily been a catastrophic moment for the Angels season, culminating in Wells’ humiliating misplay in left field where he simply lost the ball in the lights, turning an out into a 2 run double for Torrealba. Finish that game off, and the Angels are 6 games back and on the verge of getting swept at home. Maybe doubt starts to creep in. Maybe the Angels front office is pushed one step closer to making another desperate move in the trade market and over-paying for a rental player. At worst, it would have guaranteed that the Rangers leave Los Angeles/Anaheim with a larger lead than they had when they arrived. Instead, the Angels will throw Jared Weaver in the rubber match of a home series with a chance to pull within 3 games of the division lead.

For those who would argue that July is too early in the baseball season to worry about one game, remember this: a game is a game, regardless of when it happens (Yogi Berra wishes he would’ve thought of that). It doesn’t matter when it was played. Adding one game to a division lead is critical, especially early on, and precisely because no one knows what will happen during the season. God forbid one of the starting pitchers gets injured, or Hamilton goes down again, or Kinsler gets mired in another slump, or Cruz pulls another hamstring, or Ogando wears down at the end of the season–but any of those things can happen, and odds are at least one of them will. When a team has a five run lead past the 5th inning, it simply must take advantage. Win the games now, and when Hamilton misses two weeks, it doesn’t mean the difference between playing in post-season and watching it. When the Rangers game against Oakland was called because of weather despite being two outs away from an official game and having built a 7-0 lead, it hurt. Sure, it was only May, but when the team does that much work to build a lead, it stings to lose that opportunity. Whether the game is played in April or September, it all counts the same. If you wait until September to play meaningful ball, there is usually no meaningful ball left to play.

For Whom the Bell Tolls?

But beyond that, a game like last night hurts the Rangers because it once again exposed the soft underbelly of the bullpen to the rest of the league. It is no secret that the Rangers are in the market for an impact bullpen guy, and teams like San Diego, Oakland, Washington, etc. are looking to deal. In one sense, Texas is dealing from a position of strength because their farm system is so incredibly stocked with talent that they could put together a package that no other contenders could match, if they chose to do so. More importantly, the 12 game (pitching-led) winning steak made the Rangers appear more as a team that could afford to pass on any deal if they felt it was mortgaging too much of the future. Last night’s bullpen failure reminded the league that Texas needs bullpen help, which can only serve to drive up the price of a Heath Bell, Mike Adams, or a Tyler Clippard. The fact that it happened in such a high profile divisional game and in such dramatic fashion can only hurt the Rangers’ chances of acquiring an impact pitcher without giving up too much.

The bottom is, last night stung. It makes it more likely that Texas will have to win one, two, or even three of those games in LA at season’s end, instead of using those games to rest Andrus, Hamilton, and Cruz while setting up the playoff rotation. It reinforced the idea around the league that the Rangers need bullpen help, instead of being a team that is open to a deal for the right price. The mentality of the Rangers is not in question. They will bounce back immediately from such a disappointing loss. Would the Angels have been able to do the same? I guess we’ll never know.