If the Boys in Blue (or that horrendous bright red, depending on which night you catch them) can get through the upcoming AL East gauntlet of Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and yes, Buckified Orioles, and remain 3-4 games up in the division, you may very well see a twinkle of optimism in my cynical Ranger fan eye.
Reasons for stretch-drive optimism:
1. Ding-Dong, the Hicks is Dead
It appears, save for a few formalities, that this club ownership ordeal is over. Tom Hicks has been vanquished, and Chuck Greenberg/Nolan Ryan are poised to take us to the promised land. This is a huge load off the players minds… now everyone can focus on the stretch drive, and not on whether their paychecks will clear the bank.
2. Cliff “Bad Mo-Fo” Lee
Since his acquisition the dude has gone at least eight innings in all of his starts. His strikeout to walk ratio is downright Kryptonian. If the bats would just wake up on a consistent basis, it’s almost a guaranteed “W” every time he takes the mound. Barring a complete Rangers meltdown between now and October, Lee’s presence alone could very well mean getting past the ALDS for the FIRST TIME EVER.
3. The AL West is full of Suck.
I’m purdy sure the Angels are done and we can stick a fork in ’em. I doubt that even His Scioscianess can right the sinking ship that is Los Anaheim.
The Oakland A’s, especially Trevor Cahill, have definitely got the Rangers number, and with seven more games remaining with the Oaklanders this thing could get scary quick. Unfortunately for the future San Jose A’s (it could happen), they just don’t have the bats to get-er-done, IMHO.
The Mariners? I weep for Seattle baseball fans.
All of this is well and good. The 2010 Texas Rangers are easily the best iteration I’ve seen in Arlington during 30+ years of following this team.
Reasons for stretch-drive pessimism:
1. The aforementioned schedule.
I only mentioned the upcoming 12 game stretch with the AL East (who the Rangers are a mere 9-16 against this year). Even if they come out of said stretch alive, four out of the next five series are against teams that have kicked Ranger butt the last few years: 4 vs. Minnesooota, 3 against Oakland, 3 more at Minnesooota, 4 at Toronto, and 3 more at home against the Ranger-killing Yankees. This ain’t good, folks.
I’m not even talking about the infamous Texas heat here. The Rangers arrived at this August eight game lead on the backs of their bullpen, who have logged ten zillion innings thus far, and it is starting to show. Darren Oliver, who was pretty much lights-out before the All Star Break, has seen his pitch control deteriorate of late and he pretty much cost Colby Lewis what should have been win numero ten-o on Sunday. I hope Oli can turn it around, I really like this dude.
At the plate, and “god” I hope I’m wrong about this, Vladdy looks downright worn-out. Which is a good lead-in to…
3. Inconsistent Offense
I never know what version of the offense is going to show up these days. I’ll give ’em a pass against Trevor Cahill, that dude just has their number. But against everyone else, this on-again/off-again crap has got to stop. Otherwise, even if the Rangers make it into October, they’ll be partying like it’s 1999. (not a good thing, folks)
4. Starting Rotation
Even with his Leeness leading the rotation, this bunch is spotty at best. When they do manage to shine, the offense usually drys up. CJ Wilson can look brilliant one night and frightening the next. Rich Harden, unfortunately, is toast. Scott Feldman, now in the bullpen because of a gawd-awful season, is not the answer.
On the bright-side, Lee-Lewis-Tommy Hunter might just be enough to stave off the usual August meltdown and POSSIBLY get this team past the first round.
For this reason, the Jonestein Outlook Alert System will remain at:
It’s a start, folks.
Hilarious 2001 Texas Rangers Comic Book pic from here.
Recently I’ve gotten into a few mini-debates regarding the level of talent in Japan’s Nippon Professional League(NPB) vs. the level of talent in Major League Baseball. The debate/misunderstanding began when the Texas Rangers re-acquired Colby Lewis from Japan’s Hiroshima Carp in the off-season and the Rangers’ front office indicated that Lewis will be the presumed number three starter in the rotation.
Myself and others have opined that this move is probably the equivalent of being called up from AAA, or at best, AAAA, if there were such a thing, and that the true test for Lewis will come when he once again faces MLB caliber hitters regularly. There are those that disagree, saying that I am underestimating the NPB, after all, Japan did beat the U.S. WBC team and has won two straight World Baseball Classic(WBC) tournaments.
I say these folks are comparing apples with oranges, or given the knee-jerk nature of message board responses, just trying to be politically correct. Either way they are wrong, and their “But Japan has won TWO straight WBC’s” argument is irrelevant.
1. Japan’s WBC championship teams were made up of players from the NPB and Major League Baseball (Ichiro, Dice-K, etc.), so this was not a NPB-Only team. Even without the MLBers, this was still a NPB All-Star team. Colby Lewis did not face this level of talent day-in, day-out during his tenure with Hiroshima.
2. The U.S. WBC team was indeed made up of MLB players, but they were all U.S. MLB players. Major League Baseball fields the best players in the world, not just from the United States. The Japanese WBC did not defeat a MLB All-Star team, they defeated a team of U.S. MLB players. There is a HUGE difference.
3. The NPB fields primarily Japanese players, allowing only four foreign players on the roster per team. These foreign players are playing in Japan because they either can’t make an MLB roster, or at best, are bench-warmers at the MLB level. THIS is the level of talent Colby Lewis faced in Japan, NOT the hybrid NPB All-Star/Japanese MLB player team that won the WBC. NPB = Apples, Japanese WBC Team = Oranges. Now, are there MLB caliber players playing in the NPB? Yes, but their numbers are few compared with the number of MLB caliber players playing in, well, MLB.
(Side Note: Can you imagine the howling outrage from the P.C. Gestapo if MLB tried to institute a four non-U.S. player limit? Yet it’s ok if the Japanese do it, and nary a word from the P.C. thugs.)
Does my opinion mean I don’t want the NPB to have the same level as talent as MLB? Of course not. Competition is a good thing and makes the game better, IMHO. I just don’t think they are there right now, and given that they limit their talent pool to Japan and bench-warming MLBers, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
However, I would love to see a NPB/MLB championship series, that would settle a lot of the debate.