What is your opinion of the A.J. Pierzynski signing?
MJH on accountability
Any fan of the Texas Rangers must have felt complete optimism heading into the 2011 season. After Neftali Feliz struck out Alex Rodriguez to clinch the American League pennant and a berth to the 2010 World Series, Rangers fans, myself included, were filled with confidence that 2010 was just the beginning of a long winning tradition. It's amazing how quickly a strange offseason can diminish the confidence and optimism. The focus of the offseason surrounded resigning the ace Cliff Lee. Instead he packed his bags for a return to Philadelphia. Naturally Jon Daniels looked to replace Lee with another ace-caliber pitcher. Instead, Zack Greinke was dealt to the Brewers. And amidst the winter meetings, there were talks of a trade that would send Michael Young to the Rockies. Michael Young was told he would not be traded and that was that. Jon Daniels then presented us with Brandon Webb. A low-risk, high-reward signing. Webb, who has basically missed two whole seasons due to injuries says he feels great but who knows if he can ever pitch at the level when he was considered one of the leaugue's best pitchers. Having missed out on Lee and Greinke, the Rangers targeted Adrian Beltre. Beltre eventually signed with Texas and Michael Young agreed to move to the DH/Utility infielder slot. This was seen as a minor upgrade, but an expensive upgrade at that. The Rangers were soon rumored to have targeted Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Thome headed back to Minnesota and Ramirez signed with the Rays. Apparently, behind closed doors, the Rangers interest in a DH-type player angered Michael Young. As news of Vernon Wells heading to the Angels arose, the Blue Jays were obviously in a mode to reduce their payroll and Toronto dealt newly-acquired Mike Napoli to Texas for set-up man Frank Francisco. Napoli was seen as a nice addition. A versatile power hitter off the bench who could also DH, catch, and play first base if needed. Then rumors began to burn like a wildfire of the Rangers' sudden intent to trade Michael Young. Days passed and the news arose that Young was "misled and manipulated" by the Rangers' front office and requested a trade. And that leaves us where we are now. The defending American League champions without a true ace, a disgrunteled captain, and several questions heading into 2011. Is Neftali Feliz ready to start? If so, who will close? Is Mitch Moreland legit? Can Julio Borbon adjust? Can C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis repeat their 2010 performances? All in all, this has been an interesting and strange offseason. So much uncertainty yet some optimisim. As any Rangers fan would know, the 2011 team is certainly better than the team that headed to spring training in 2010. The only questions is, can the 2011 team win three more games?
After reading this, I went back and watched some of my favorite highlights of 2010, and you know what I noticed? About 90 percent of them didn't include Cliff Lee, Michael Young, or Vlad Guerrero. The core of this team is still here, and I have plenty of faith in Colby and CJ to duplicate, if not exceed their 2010 seasons. You have to remember that the team that finished the 2010 season was quite a bit different than the one that opened it. That was the magic of last season. Holes were filled from unlikely sources, we got the big arm that we needed to make it deep in the postseason, and guys stepped up when others failed.
We have upgraded our defense while no less than remained equal offensively. We lost our "ace", but we have lots of candidates to fill the back end of the rotation, plus a couple guys coming off injuries that have the potential, and some history of being very high level starting pitchers. Then there is Feliz, Ogando, Scheppers, Kirkman, Hurley, etc... The list is long for rotation candidates and our bullpen is very strong.
The Michael Young situation is unfortunate, but remember this: He is a Ranger currently, and there is no deal even remotely close for him. As angry as he may be, I don't see him allowing the situation to affect what he does on the field. I fully expect him to hit the ball like he always has, and play below replacement level defense like he has for the past few years. Honestly I think he'll get over it when the Rangers are up by 10 or 12 games around the break, and the only likely trade partner is some team nowhere close to making the postseason. Winning cures everything. I think Michael will realize that.
At the same time I am optimistic about improvement that have been made I am worried about the team.
The will to win and baseball and ability to execute that will is derived form a fragile mixture of a complex of factors. The mixture that makes a winning team, a team that can get to the playoffs and go deep into them can never be reduced to having good players simply. Time and time again a team with good players fails in baseball. It is obviously the biggest ingredient to a winning team but the complex and unpredictable nature of the game of baseball due to its more intense mental component can often make fools of GM's who must think on more quantifiable levels. Remember how the Orioles turned their play around when they got a new manager last year. Are they really considered a team with high talent. And they were winning in the AL East too. I am optimistic about our players and our improvements but I worry about intangibles related to many of the things Michael talked about here.
When all is said and done I think the Rangers will make the playoffs regardless of whether they obtain a true ace or whether MY stays or goes. But that is a prediction that I come to very tentatively recognizing that any major league baseball team no matter how talented is always teetering on the edge of failure because of the complex reality of the game we love that owes much more to deeper mental elements than other games such as football or basketball do.
Isn't that why we love to hate our favorite team or hate to love it? Because the possibility of success is so deliciously multi-faceted, so wonderfully uncertain, and at times, yes, unexpected in both defeat and triumph. In short, baseball is a lot like life, and that is a roller coaster we can't resist cherishing. Honestly, I relish our young pitchers with high upside, and I prefer them to more proven pitching talent because Texas is the place to make it this year, its the place to put it all together, the place where challenge meets determination and success meets with glory. Or not?
There's are some more reasons to remain optimistic about the 2011 Rangers. In 2010, Texas came into the season with Scott Feldman and Rich Harden leading the rotation. Feldman struggled and Harden was an absolute disaster to say the least. Coming into this season, we pretty much know what to expect from C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. That said, there is still PLENTY of room for Derek Holland to harness his potential and improve dramatically. Then we have Tommy Hunter who was pretty reliable during the season and he can still improve. Next we have a guy like Brandon Webb who, if healthy, has the track-record to be an ace but if he is not, it's just a one-year deal. Also for the final spot in the rotation we have some interesting names competing....Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman, Alexi, Ogando, Dave Bush, Eric Hurley, and Matt Harrison. Not to mention we have potential studs like Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers in the minors. There's plenty of hope for 2011. Our defense has improved. Our pitching has room to improve/mature. And our offense is a lock to be one of the league's best. That being said, the Oakland A's are young, with an EXCELLENT starting rotation and bullpen, and some decent additions to their offense. The A's should be very competitve in 2011. The Angels missed out on Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre but added a high-priced outfielder in Vernon Wells. They'll be getting Kendry Morales back, guys like Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana can only improve from 2010, they'll be getting a full season out of Dan Haren, and Jered Weaver is very tough to beat. The Angels have improved even without making that many additions during the offseason. The Mariners should be a pre-season lock to finish last in the division but who knows....they were predicted to win or finish 2nd in the AL West last year but had a terrible season due to an anemic offense. That being said, the Rangers are still the favorites but our other two main competitors have improved from last year. The 2011 AL West should be a competitive division to say the least. I'm thinking the Rangers will win the division, followed by the Angels in 2nd, and the A's at a close 3rd.
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