Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rangers: Season in Perspective

Ebbs and flows.
Is there a more appropriate way to describe the 2007 Rangers? This had to have been one of the streakiest squads I've ever seen assembled. In fact, I honestly can't recall the last several times the Rangers had a winning or losing streak of less than three games throughout this year. The problem was as such: The season started with such a precipitous slide that the rest of the campaign became unsalvageable. The first months were absolutely awful, as Ron Washington's team compiled a record of 20-35. They proceeded to not have another losing month, but as stated above-the slide left this team beyond repair.
Despite all that, there are bright spots on the horizon. The one most oft quoted is the sudden surge of young talent. This is a valid point, as Eric Hurley is really the only player considered as one of the organization's top seven or eight players both prior to the season and in the current state of matters. The system depth behind the plate is fantastic. There is a shortstop prospect the likes of which we haven't seen in this city for quite some time. There are multiple promising outfielders at the low levels of the minors. And most importantly, there are pitchers accumulated to the point of overflow at all levels of the minor leagues.
Fortunately, though, hope stems not solely from the prospects. Players like Brandon McCarthy and Edinson Volquez exhibited flashes of talent to demonstrate the reason for the organization's commitment to them.
Michael Young somehow recovered from a forgettable slump, hitting .335 in the last five months to put up another 200-hit season. Jason Botts posted an on base percentage of .380 in September, holding true to his trend of acclimating to a league after a month or two of adjustment.
While good sense advises me to temper my enthusiasm for a 25 year old with few enough at bats to still be considered a rookie next season, David Murphy has me very excited.
Ian Kinsler posted the highest OPS on the team, stole successfully in 23 of his 25 attempts, and emerged from an injury a new defensive man- he who obviously had butter spread all over his glove during the first half of the year had replaced the condiment with gorilla glue.
Joaquin Benoit had the breakout year we'd all been waiting for, pitching seventy times, striking out eighty seven hitters, and posting a stellar 2.85 ERA. In a pressure role.
C.J Wilson came veritably out of nowhere to emerge as the closer in waiting, finishing 12 of his 13 real save attempts. His numbers were equally impressive to Benoit's until a late-season burnout inflated them substantially, but he's a young player whose workload potential will gradually rise.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has already attracted his share of detractors,most of them pointing at his high strikeout rates and defensive incompetence. But keep this in mind: At the age of 22, the player Salts is most often compared to was still in the minor leagues, undergoing a position switch that left him frustrated. Mark Teixeira turned out alright.

Don't get me wrong, this team has needs. It didn't have a 25 home run hitter, nor a 100 RBi man, nor a starter with an ERA under five. Only two full-time players hit above .270.
Keep this in mind, though. This team suffered through a horrible series of injuries evidenced by only Michael Young playing more than 140 games, only Kevin Milwood logging 150 innings, and still posted a Pythagorean W-L record of 79-83. It's not difficult to imagine this team contending with only a couple of additions.
Believe in Jon Daniels, folks. I have confidence in his ability to assemble this team the right way, whether by signings, drafts, or trades.
Believe in Ron Washington, folks. His lineups are unconventional, some of his decisions spotty.
But he's the natural leader this team has lacked since Johnny Oates.
I won't ask you to believe in Tom Hicks, but I will allude to Daniels. I bet he can be pretty persuasive, even when it entails convincing grouchy old men to give dozens of millions to young club swingers.

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