Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Rangers' Several Months in Review: Mr. Bright Side

In keeping with the intermittent tradition of using song lyrics in the title, I've also found a very suitable topic of discussion for today's entry. As most of you know, the all star break festivities are imminently approaching in all of their splendorous glory, and we would be remiss to display our nonconformist attitude in this case. So as we continue to refer to single entities in the plural third person, the staff at PSTR brings you... a list of reasons for the formerly red-shoed Rangers to maintain a glass half full attitude. Do not fear, good readers, we will revert to our usual forms within a few days, ripping the Rangers just as passionately as before. But let's be happy and cheerful! The world is a happy place when Kenny Lofton hits home runs, right? Or maybe It's those Brownies I had... those Brownies, with all the weird filings... hmm.
First and foremost is a player most regarded with well-placed skepticism. This is a player who had pitched only on rare occasions throughout his previous two seasons, was taking the place of a well-liked, proven veteran, and was getting a fairly large contract with no stipulations to detract from it. A month or so into the year, I wrote Eric Gagne off as a bad signing. 12 pristine save opportunities later, I've changed my tune. Gagne hasn't received as many opportunities as most would have liked, but his mettle has been proven intact whenever he got the call. I realize that he's most valuable to this team in the form of a prospect or two, but I really do love seeing him pitch for Texas. If a long term deal can be worked out, JD, get to work.
Following close behind is a man who barely registered on the radars of most. Much like Gagne, he hasn't given us a large enough sample size to be truly awestruck. But when on the field, Marlon Byrd has been peerless in his ability to simply hit.
Yes, I said Marlon Byrd.
The same Marlon Byrd who acquired a well-deserved reputation as a journeyman; a spare part best taken in very limited quantities. The guy labeled as possessing every physical tool necessary, but never having the skill to utilize his ability. Well, Rudy Jaramillo's talents manifested themselves in yet another willing pupil. Byrd is hitting-double check this if you like- .378. That's enough to win a batting title in 90% of the seasons I can recall.
I do realize this is the part when people point out to me that he only has 143 at bats-and believe me, I'm not oblivious to that fact. But I can't disregard a man who's hitting damn close to .400 since obtaining the starting job in right field. If he can keep a pace remotely SIMILAR to this up, he'll be a type A free agent this offseason. Much like with the previous addressed subject: JD, get a pen and lawyer-authorized paper and force said utensils into your player's hands.
It's a sign of how lacking this category is when the third player mentioned has an ERA over 5. But Kameron Loe has exhibited consistent excellence since returning from his short stint as an Okie. If you're desperately seeking a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak figurative tunnel, Kameron will leave the light on for you. As I stated in my latest Rangers entry, he could very well be going through Ryan Drese syndrome. But in my wild, grasping desire to accept even the smallest tidbits of happiness as three-course tons of pleasure, I will stand by Kameron Loe and his contributions to the bleakness that this squad has become.
I feel there is only one player I can really put on the list. I know many will point to Brad Wilkerson and his outstanding HR/AB ratio as well as his tendency to look at more pitches during his at bats than most fans see all game long (take it as you will, personally I don't have that much of a problem with it as long as the walks pile up). But I can't put him on this list with a .228 batting average. It simply feels wrong. So instead I'm going to reference another guy who started slow but has worked his way up. I am speaking of the career journeyman who has maintained near-star status despite his city-hopping tendencies, Kenny Lofton. I was pleased when he was brought in, and my suspicions were proven correct. Kenny is simply a baseball player; he will hit, cover center field like a champ, and record steals like a pauper who's managed to disable the security cameras. I don't think he'll be traded, because most teams will see him as the guy they could have had for free this offseason. But from a purely statistical standpoint, there aren't many CFs I'd rather have for a stretch run than Kenny. He's hitting over .300, putting up an OBP 80 points higher, and he's stolen 20 bases. I can't remember a Ranger as active on the basepaths since... Tom Goodwin? Good lord, it seems to have been an eternity. Good times... but I digress. Kenny has done nothing but perform. And while a 40-year old may not be what your team should build around, It's a damn nice sight to see someone competent roaming the vast expanses.

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