One thing that may have gotten lost over the past couple of
years of success by the Texas Rangers is perspective.
So much has gone right for Texas since 2010 that it’s now easier to find out
what’s wrong than to focus on what’s right.
A lost series in New York is a good example. The Rangers dropped three of four
games against the Yankees, who figure to stand between Texas and a third trip
to the World Series in the postseason. But somehow the Rangers left New York
with a six-game lead over the Oakland Athletics and are tied for the best
record in franchise history after 117 games.
That six-game lead is just ½ game off the team’s high-water mark for the year.
On Aug. 17, 2010, the Texas lead in the American League West was eight games.
Just like a year ago, the Rangers opened Aug. 17 with a six-game lead.
The difference between 2012 and the last two seasons is that the teams chasing
Texas this year are better. That’s been lost in the shuffle of inflated
expectations in Arlington.
So have injuries.
No one wants to hear about the losses of Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis, or time
missed by Derek Holland, Mark Lowe and Koji Uehara. The 2010 and 2011 Last
year’s Opening Day rotation combined to make 158 of 162 starts. This year the
starting five has made 87 of the 117 starts.
Before the season if someone said the Texas Opening Day staff would account for
just 75 percent of the team’s starts so far, the next question would likely be
how far are the Rangers behind the Angels?
Sure, Yu Darvish has been inconsistent, Holland has failed to build off his
2011 season and Roy Oswalt has been a bust. Ryan Dempster has yet to make a big
impact, but there’s still the homestretch.
Darvish can turn it around; Holland, too. Dempster has
shown flashes of making adjustments to the AL already.
A playoff rotation of Matt Harrison, Darvish, Dempster and Holland sounds better
than last year’s four of C.J. Wilson, Holland, Lewis and Harrison — which
pitched the Rangers to within one game of a World Series title.
The bullpen is better now than it’s been in either of the last two seasons and
should get better if Uehara returns to form when he comes back from the
disabled list. Having Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and Joe Nathan at
the back end of games is a luxury that neither of the last two AL champs had.
Offensively the Rangers have scored more runs than any other team in the AL.
Sure, they don’t always execute with a runner on third and less than two outs.
Sure, Ian Kinsler pops up too much, but the bottom line is scoring runs and no
team does it better than Texas.
The hand wringing over Josh Hamilton’s struggles have ended now that he’s
producing like it’s April and May. If all is right in Hamilton’s head, then
there’s not a lot to worry about offensively because the Rangers are only going
to go as far as the slugger can take them. When Hamilton is right, he can take
them to the World Series.
Maybe that’s why the biggest questions surrounding the offense now seem to
center on Michael Young, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar.
No one can deny that Young is having his worst full season. He’s not producing
in the No. 5 or No. 6 spot, but manager Ron Washington said he’s going to stick
with Young because his track record says he’ll produce. If that’s the biggest
problem the offense has, it’s not such a bad thing.
The Andrus concerns seem to be more on where he’ll spend the 2015 season than
on what he’s doing at the plate this year. Living in the moment isn’t good
As for Profar, if he can help the team even win one game down the stretch or in
the postseason, then it’s worth starting his big league clock if and when the
Rangers call him up to sit on the bench as a utility infielder.
The critics need to step back and look at the other contenders.
The Yankees have issues surrounding their rotation. The Washington Nationals,
owners of the best record in baseball, will be without their No. 1 pitcher for
the postseason because of a pitch count.
The Cincinnati Red have the biggest lead in baseball, but their best player is
still hurt and they struggle with runners on base. The San Francisco Giants may
be sunk now that their All-Star outfielder is out for the rest of the year
after flunking a drug test.
Sure, it’s not perfect for the Rangers. But it’s Aug. 17 and the team is in
first place by six games.